Was There Any Basis for an Optimistic View of Rome in Livy and Ovid?

Livy and Ovid were two ancient Roman writers who wrote pieces of literature which one way or another revolved around Rome. Livy wrote a series of books on the history of Rome which were titled: History of Rome. Some of the aspects of this history recount are most likely mythological, but regardless it still was a history work. Ovid’s written work on the other hand: Metamorphoses included Ovid’s version of the Four Ages of Man, which was a tale also retold by an ancient Greek writer named Hesiod. Metamorphoses told a series of stories, including one on how Rome came to be in regards to the concept of the Four Ages of Man. With both pieces of literature in mind, was there any basis for an optimistic view of Rome in the figures of Livy and Ovid?

Livy’s History of Rome, began with a story of how Rome was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus. Their story began with them being raised by a she wolf, and ended in one murdering the other after they had created a town which eventually became the great city of Rome. The idea that a great ancient city and eventually empire was created with the shadow of murderis a pleasant thought. Another story which was included in this history piece was the story of how they brought women to Rome, preventing the dying out and ending of the city. At first this story sounds reasonable enough since the Roman men went to neighboring towns and asked for permission to marry some of the women, this request was rejected, which left these men to come up with a new plan, which was a plan to kidnap some Sabine women, and force them to marry them. This plan ended up working out, regardless of the displeasure of the women and their families, it all managed to work out in the end for the Romans. This story, though more optimistic than the first, is still surrounded with violence, which is not necessarily optimistic.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses, tells a retelling of the Four Ages of Man. This story went something more or less like this: the four ages of man began with the Golden Age which was an age of no sin, and was a successful age. This was followed by the Silver Age which was an age full of farming and animal husbandry; after this age came along the Bronze Age, which was an age full of war. After this age ended the last and final age in this list was the Iron Age, which unfortunately was full of sin and evil. The other stories in this collection of stories were full of violence and showed the evil and destructive nature of man.

Was there any basis for an optimistic view of Rome in Livy and Ovid? First of all to note there is only so much one can gather from someone’s written work but from what you can see through these pieces of literature there is very little basis for an optimistic view of Rome in Livy and Ovid. With Livy you see how Rome’s founding was shadowed by violence with the examples of Romulus and Remus, and the kidnapping of the Sabine women. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses it also shows the destructive nature of man, and how Rome eventually came to be. Neither of these examples are very optimistic and in many ways could be considered pessimistic or negative.

In conclusion, in my study of Livy and Ovid’s writing I have gathered that both men were not exactly optimistic in their view of Rome. In their writing there was very little basis on optimism. Rome’s founding in the accounts of the more factual and the mythological were shadowed with violence and destruction, which is not a good basis for optimism, in regards to Rome.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s