As early as Tacitus, Livian scholarship has struggled to resolve the "Livian paradox," the conflict between Livy's support of the Roman Republic and his overt approval of Augustus, who brought about the end of the Republic. This paper addresses the paradox by attempting to place Livy's writings within their proper historical and literary context. An examination of Augustus' position during the early years of Livy's writing shows that the princeps cloaked his power within the precedent of Republican autocracy, in which imperium could be unlimited in power so long as it was limited by time. As a result, although Augustus' rule would ultimately prove the end of Rome's republic, nevertheless during Livy's early writings Augustus' reign and the Republic were not antithetical. Livy's preface and early exempla further demonstrate that Livy's writings, while condemnatory of his contemporary Rome, blame Rome's decline on the character of the Roman people rather than a corruption of the Republic's political forms. In his preface Livy blames vitia, not ambitio for the universal destruction of the civil wars, while his exempla from the monarchic period and beyond show praise or condemnation of individuals for their actions, not their political offices. Livy praises most of Rome's monarchs for their individual character and their establishment of mores, while also portraying the early Romans' defense of libertas as injuriously overzealous. Ultimately, Augustus' attempts to legislate conservative, "traditional" morality made him a contemporary exemplum of Livy's ancient mores. Thus, the Livian paradox is answered by understanding that Augustus and the Republic were not antithetical, Livy was not concerned with political forms but morality, and Augustus' morality aligned with that championed by Livy.
College and Department
Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
MacKay, Joshua Stewart, "Livy's Republic: Reconciling Republic and Princeps in Ab Urbe Condita" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 6668.
Livy, Augustus, Roman Revolution, mores, Livian paradox, Roman autocracy