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Classics 3 Paper 1 The ways in which history is recorded and expressed is an art itself. There is only one truth to the past, but there are infinite ways in which an author can convey the truth. Focusing on a subject like Rome where the records are scarce and the legitimacy of those records are challenged; Livy and Polybius use two different methods to express the past. Although these authors differ in their methods, similar explanations of ideal roman virtues can be seen through comparison. These various records of Rome’s history allow readers to better understand the context based on their interpretive preferences. Essentially, Livy expresses ideal roman virtues through a narrative context, while Polybius uses a more analytical context. Livy could be labeled as a storyteller when you analyze the books he wrote. The history of the time periods which he covers are all told through a narrative context. This method is easy to comprehend and is appealing to the average reader because it tells a story of the past, rather than an analysis of the past. These stories include Romulus’ founding of Rome, Horatious’ heroic act, Mucius Scaevola, the Punic wars, and many more. Buried in the text of these stories he reveals the characteristics of the Roman man. From Rome’s founding in 753 BCE to the Punic wars romans build up their respect and dedication to their republic. A famous story told by Livy involving Mucius Scaevola compiles the virtues of the ideal Roman. On his quest to kill King Porsena he successfully infiltrates the Etruscan camp and kills a slave deemed important to the Etruscans; however is captured immediately after. After being taken prisoner he stated to the King, “I am Gaius Mucius, a citizen of Rome. I came here as an enemy to kill my enemy, and I am as ready to die as I am to kill. We Romans act bravely and, when adversity strikes, we suffer bravely. Nor am I the only one who feels this way; behind me stands a line of those who seek the same honour” (Livy, 2, 12). For this particular excerpt the significance of Mucius Scaevola’s story illustrating roman virtues is not hard to grasp. Staring death in the face Scaevola puts his state in front of his own life. This selfless act soon becomes a recurring Roman ideal of bravery. His single act of bravery represents the state at large and strengthens the ties of Romans to their republic. Livy uncovers this virtue held by the Romans through his narrative skills. You could say that he appeals to the reader’s pathos. Approaching the history of Rome at a different perspective Polybius thoroughly analyzes the functioning of Rome’s Empire. His interpretations of Rome are very lucid and are the reason why he is known as a pragmatic historian. Because of this, those readers who are rational and interpret in that sense find Polybius’ books more serviceable. In the majority of Polybius’ text he stresses the importance of Rome’s government in its rise to power. This is seen in his very in-depth definition of the Roman Constitution. Supporting his idea that government supplies the roots to overall success he states, “Now in all political situations we must understand that the principal factor which makes for success or failure is the form of a state’s constitution: it is from this source, as if from a fountainhead, that all designs and plans of action not only originate but reach their fulfillment” (Polybius, 6, 2). Rome follows a cycle of failure before reaching success. This cycle they go through represents the perseverance and strive to be the best that each Roman possesses. With this cycle broken the republic of Rome is solidified. Polybius states, “The consequence is that this peculiar form of constitution possesses an irresistible power to achieve any goal it has set itself” (Polybius, 6, 15). In context, Polybius says that this constitution, by dividing the power with checks and balances, gives the people the ability to achieve anything. This Roman ideal of being able to achieve anything was illustrated throughout Rome’s conquering of the Mediterranean. Polybius reaches this understanding of Roman virtue by dissecting the foundation of Rome, its constitution. While comparing this to Livy’s work, this evidence of Roman virtue is as rational as you will get. Logical appeal is what helps his work persuade the reader into believing.
The periods of Livy’s and Polybius’ historical records do overlap and thus do contain similarities in lessons to be learned. However, the virtues are brought up through different contexts, which do constitute slight differences in their beliefs. History being a story itself, allows Livy to build upon it and give it a greater meaning. Through historical characters and major events linked to Rome he promotes the ideal roman virtues. Polybius takes narrative historical records and contextualizes it in an analytical fashion. Like I said previously, there is only one truth about the past, but many ways to articulate it. Given these differences, both authors successfully embed the ideals of the Romans.

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