Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

23. Fabula and History in Livy's Narrative of the Capture of Veii

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World - John Baines

Christina Kraus [+-]
Yale University
Christina S. Kraus is Thomas A. Thacher Professor of Latin at Yale University; before that she taught at Oxford, University Collge London, and New York University. She is the author of a commentary on Book 6 of Livy’s History and a contributor to a commentary on Tacitus’ Agricola; she has also edited or co-edited several collections, most recently Classical Commentaries (Oxford University Press 2016), with C. A. Stray. Her main interests are in the scholarly genre of commentary, Latin prose, and ancient historiographical technique.

Description

Livy’s fifth book narrates the years from 400 to 386 BC, from the third year of the 10-year siege of the Etruscan city, Veii, to the sack of Rome by the Gauls and their subsequent defeat. One theme that structures the book is the reliability and correct reading of signs, with its concomitant implications of who holds, or usurps, authority. This chapter concentrates on this broad theme, reading (primarily) chapters 15–22. The author focuses on the pattern of alternative possibilities raised by prodigies and forecasts, which invite historiographical choices operating explicitly both on the level of story (what’s being narrated) and discourse (how it is narrated). In the incident of the praeda Veientana (Veian booty), Livy investigates how political motives give rise to varying interpretations of signs. In the stories of the Alban Lake and the capture of Veii, he concentrates more overtly on the status of auctores (authors/authorities). To a certain extent, the first half of Book 5 can be said to be ‘about’ the question of political and religious authority, reaching necessarily beyond the story, to a meta-narrative level, when one is dealing with—as here—plural versions of a story. The author concludes by suggesting that one writes history only when there is a question of right and wrong versions, where there is more than one possible narrative of events. If there is no need to choose and evaluate, no contestation of the record, no chance for the historical memory to take a wrong turn, as it were—then historians are hardly needed.

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Citation

Kraus, Christina. 23. Fabula and History in Livy's Narrative of the Capture of Veii. Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 345-358 Jun 2019. ISBN 9781781796566. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=33739. Date accessed: 17 Oct 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.33739. Jun 2019

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