Bryn Mawr Classical Review 95.09.13

Christina Shuttleworth Kraus (ed.), Livy, Ab Urbe Condita Book VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. x + 356. $64.95 (hb). $22.95 (pb). ISBN 0-521-41002-9 (hb). ISBN 0-521-42238-8 (pb).

Reviewed by T. Davina McClain, Loyola University (New Orleans) (

In the tradition of the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, Christina Shuttleworth Kraus offers a detailed commentary on Book VI of Livy's AUC, updating H. M. Stephenson's 1892 Cambridge commentary. The 30-page Introduction combines a review of the standard topics (the evidence for Livy's life, his relationship with Augustus, the characteristics of his prose, the basics of the manuscript tradition for Book VI and its pentad) with a fresh approach that values Livy for his ability to draw the reader into the historiographical process. Pp. 33-82 contain the text of Book VI. Kraus has included a sparse apparatus criticus only on those passages in which she has emended the reading of the Oxford Classical Text. The Commentary itself runs some 250 pages and is followed by an extensive bibliography which will be of use to everyone working on any part of Livy's history.1 A General Index of names and topics and an Index of Latin words close out the volume. Kraus' work is part of a growing movement in Livian scholarship which looks closely at parts of Livy's AUC other than Books I and XXI-XXII.2

Kraus' Introduction is recommended reading for anyone about to explore the intricacies of Livian prose and historiography. Three of the four sections ("Livy: Life and Works," "Livian Historiography," "Language and Style") are devoted to a general introduction to Livy as a man, as a historian, and as a writer. The fourth section is specific to Book VI. Kraus divides her discussion between the text of the Introduction and the footnotes, making it vital and valuable to read both carefully.

In "Livy: Life and Works" Kraus brings together the external information about Livy -- the inscriptions at Padua and the mentions of him in the works of Seneca, Quintilian, and Suetonius -- with the glimpses of himself that Livy offers in the praefatio and throughout the historical narrative. What emerges is a shadowy figure who has left little trace of himself either in the physical record or in his historical narrative.

Kraus addresses the standard topics of Livian scholarship -- patavinitas, the relationship between Livy and Augustus, the composition and publication dates of the early pentads, and the debate surrounding the composition and publication of Books CXXI-CXLII -- by summarizing previous arguments and offering her own view, when it differs.

For example, with regard to the link between Livy and Augustus, Kraus counters the view that Livy was an pro-Augustan propagandist with the suggestion that Livy may have been sympathetic to the Augustan program of re-forming Rome because he too was "creating a written Rome" from its historical past "to save the real Rome by providing it with precedents to imitate and avoid" (p. 8). Kraus does not try to answer every question, recognizing that sometimes we just do not know. The belief that Livy expected his reader to learn from his history and to participate in a sort of inventio to make connections between the past and the present, between past actions and consequences and similar contemporaneous situations guides Kraus' approach throughout the Introduction and the Commentary.

Kraus offers a clear statement of the historian's task. "As a historian, L. is engaged in putting past events into an interpretive framework that not only explains but also legitimates them, and that legitimates the authority of the state under whose rule they have happened" (p. 6). In "Livian Historiography" Kraus explores the tools Livy uses to achieve this goal. She characterizes Livy's narrative as one which moves between res internae and res externae within the larger structure of the year, marked by the elections of magistrates. More important than the elucidation of these elements, however, is Kraus' clear description of historiography. "Ancient historiography aimed at the vivid re-presentation of events .... Stories with pictures and conversation are intrinsically more lifelike and interesting -- and thus more effective -- than stories without, and a classic Livian episode is no exception..." (p. 12). Kraus points out, however, that the attention Livy calls to the year divisions through the placement of annalistic material at the beginnings and ends of years serves to disrupt the narrative illusion and to draw the reader into the historigraphical process. By recounting lists and documentation, by posing questions and expressing doubts, Livy forces the reader to participate in constructing the past by deciding for herself what is appropriate and accurate. "Reading history is as active a process as writing it -- or even making it" (p. 14).

In addition to her discussion of the annalistic form and mimetic narratives, Kraus gives examples of the topoi which appear in Book VI: namely battle descriptions, exhortations, the restive crowd, the proud patrician, and the jealous wife (although I think that Kraus' application of the last term to Fabia is misleading). These elements, she suggests, produce a certain familiarity between the reader and the text. Yet, at the same time they signal that the world of the historical narrative is paradigmatic and coded, and therefore, unreal. Kraus finds topoi especially intriguing because the historian has the option of following the standard paradigms, or challenging them -- Livy does both. On the whole, Kraus compares Livy's narrative to a funeral procession in that many generations, many periods of the past come together as family members don the ancestral masks. The deeds of these individuals who created Rome are Livy's narrative.

In "Language and Style" Kraus explores the ancient statements about Livian lactea ubertas and offers an analysis of his variation of style, use of words, and sentence structure. With regard to lactea ubertas Kraus accepts Hays' argument3 that this phrase refers to the "nourishing qualities" of reading Livy as part of Quintilian's educational curriculum, maintaining her emphasis on the didactic function of Livy's narrative. Kraus argues that Livy's narrative is not like a smoothly flowing river, rather that Livy used a variety of styles "to force his reader both to think about the potential differences between the surface and the 'real' world ... and to work at understanding the kind of men [no women?] and mores that built Rome -- and were destroying it" (p. 18). Although I agree that Livy used varied styles, I think that variation has more to do with attempting to move the reader through the harmony of style and subject. Kraus offers a number of examples of the care with which Livy chose his words, constructed sentences, employed rhetorical devices, and repeated patterns to establish and announce "his authority as an interpretative guide through his Urbs" (p. 24).

Before turning to the text and commentary, Kraus also offers an introduction specific to Book VI. Kraus points out that Livy presents Book VI as the beginning of a more "historically verifiable" narrative of events. For Kraus, Livy's statement about greater access to information combined with the rebuilding of Rome after its destruction by the Gauls constitutes a wholly new beginning. After pointing out the parallels between Book VI and Books I and II, Kraus seems to separate Book VI from its predecessors: "In all senses, then, we are starting over again" (p. 26). This statement somewhat contradicts her earlier correct assertions about the interweaving in Livy's historical narrative of different times, patterns, and topoi and about the duty of the reader to participate in drawing so many threads together in order to learn from the past. To understand the Manlius or Camillus of Book VI, the reader must know the Manlius and Camillus of Book V. Kraus' references throughout the commentary to episodes and events in the earlier books testify to the need for the reader to remember the past as Livy has represented it. Rome did, perhaps, enter a new phase in 390 B.C., but Book VI is better described as a chapter in the plebeian struggle for access to political offices and for freedom from debt-slavery.

In the Commentary itself Kraus brings together stylistic, historiographical, and grammatical analyses. She frequently points out rhetorical devices which give evidence to Livy's stylistic artistry. I would have liked to see a list of these terms and their definitions somewhere in the Introduction. Kraus opens her commentary on narrative units with a general discussion of the section. The more detailed examination follows. Within Kraus' detailed and valuable commentary are some passages which deserve special note for the insight to which they testify: the discussion of the single figure as a transition between books (p. 88), the analysis of dictatoremque dici at 2.5 (p. 97), the discussion of Sutrium at 3-4.3 (p. 101), the argument against reading Camillus or anyone else as Augustus (p. 108), the effect of authorial comment at 9.3 (p. 139), the analysis of the entire Manlius episode (p. 146ff), and the discussion of the tribunes C. Licinius and L. Sextius (p. 278). Kraus' work on these sections add much to the reader's understanding of Livy's representation of the past.

There are only a few areas which merit a critical comment or which call for further investigation: Kraus' discussion of religion as social control (p. 93) lacks any reference to Numa's (I.19.4) institution of religious ritual as a means of controlling the people in times of peace.4 In her comment on Livy's reference to the month Sextilis at 1.1, Kraus states that month had in 8 B.C. been renamed Augustus and that Livy here "uses the old name to avoid anachronism" (p. 93). According to the dates offered in the Introduction (p. 5), Books VI-X were published by 23 B.C., some fifteen years before the name of the month was changed. Livy's use of Sextilis has nothing to do with avoiding anachronism -- it is the proper name of the month at the time of composition. (Kraus' note (p. 94) that the month of Quintiles had already been changed to Julius is, however, correct.) Forte first appears at 2.10 but does not receive attention until 9.10 and there only briefly. There is also no reference at 2.10 or 8.5 to the information at 9.10, although the comment on 3.4 does point the reader to 9.10. Livy's use of forte deserves further comment. Kraus argues (p. 240) that the word order of puerorum et mulierum at 6.25.9 suggests that the pueri here are slaves rather than children. Even though the word order is unusual (it does compare to 39.49.8 pueri quoque cum feminis), the scene -- Tusculum's attempt to appear as unwarlike as possible -- requires the presence of children. Their complete absence would have been cause for suspicion. By changing his usual word order, Livy calls attention to their presence and effectively conveys the scene of vulnerability willingly created by the Tusculans.

Finally, I was disappointed to see that Kraus' comments on Fabia 34.5-11 maintain the standard negative attitude toward the depiction of a woman who is concerned about public honor and the reputation of herself and her household. There is nothing in the text that associates Fabia directly with ambitio or invidia. Livy very carefully presents her as struggling with her desire to have what her sister has and her knowledge that publishing this desire would be contrary to her duty as a sister and wife. Contrary to Kraus' assessment that Fabia knew she was "behaving like a bad wife" (p. 275), Fabia attempts to hide her feelings and in fact does the most appropriate thing in the situation. That she hesitates even to speak to her father -- when he meets her "by chance" -- is a better testimony to Fabia's character. In this episode Livy shows that the way family members, here sisters, treat each other has changed. Fabia Minor does not respond to her own desire for prestige in the same way that Tullia Maior did in Book I (I.46.1-48.9). Unlike Tullia, Fabia does not murder her sister or husband or father to get what she wants. Instead, Livy presents her as speaking to her father in terms that a man of importance and power respects.

These criticism are, however, minor when compared with the great need that Kraus' commentary fills in the context of Livian scholarship. Kraus uses her insight and appreciation for all that Livy accomplishes as a historian and as an artist to teach the reader how to read. Her vast knowledge of Livian scholarship and the text of the AUC make it easier for the reader to grasp the intricacies of Livian historiography, to see how intertwined the past, present, and future are. I, for one, look forward to more of Christina Kraus' work on Livy.


  • [1] The only typographical errors noted occur within the Commentary. On pg. 134 fugient should be in boldface. On pg. 168 Cerceiensium should be Circeiensium.
  • [2] Walsh's work on Books XXXVI-XL, the recent Bryn Mawr Commentary on Book XXXIX by Gary Forsythe, and Stephen Oakley's forthcoming commentary on Books VI-X are welcome additions.
  • [3] CJ 82 (1987): 107-16.
  • [4] See also D. S. Levene, Religion in Livy (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993), p. 136.