Episode 40 – Livy and Virgil

— Instead, people die the day nobody ever talks about them, or even thinks about them.

A biography episode in The Tale of Rome. We compare and contrast two giants of their time. Livy and Virgil.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 40 — Livy and Virgil.

Virgil and Livy — Livy and Virgil. At the end of the day, the order of these two names doesn’t really matter. However — I felt like sharing why I chose to name this episode, the way I did.

Our podcast started with a story where a guy named Aeneas was fleeing from a city called Troy. This was obviously brought to us by Virgil.

Still — I decided to put Livy’s name first, on the cover of the episode.

And no — the reason is NOT their looks. I can promise you that. This is not a beauty contest!

But, after I picked the two pictures that would illustrate this episode’s cover, I ended up having Livy — full front, and Virgil, seen from a side.

So…

Had I placed Virgil on the left side of the cover, he would be facing away from Livy. Not nice!

And since we — and when I say “we,” I mean the vast majority of readers in the western world — since we usually write from left to right, the title ended up being “Livy and Virgil,” because — well… Livy was on the left, and Virgil was on the right.

All right, that’s sorted out!

And now, let’s start this story, and let’s start it this way…

We are in the year 18 AD — AD, as in ANNO DOMINI, or “after the birth of Christ.”

A ship was arriving in Rome’s port. And I am not talking about the port of Ostia, the one built by the fourth king of Rome — Ancus Marcius.

I am talking about another port — a few hundred miles south.

Portus Julius.

[…]

SIX — While Livy would sometimes write up to 20 pages a day, Virgil had days where not even a single sentence was created.

Furthermore, if it wasn’t that Virgil’s death wish was deliberately disobeyed, today we would not have his works. Nothing.

That’s right. The whole Aeneid would have been burned. That was the wish of Virgil, on his deathbed. And what’s even more curious, Virgil never considered his Aeneid as a complete work of art.

On a personal note, that’s understandable. Artists are often like that.

[…]

Episode 28 – The Tarpeian Rock

— No one wanted a king — not even Plebes, full of debts.

The second start of Rome, after the ashes. Marcus Furius Camillus and Marcus Manlius Capitolinus are the two undisputed heroes of Rome, but one of them will end up a villain. We will also see a miracle at Aeliana’s home.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 28 — The Tarpeian Rock.

Last week we saw the end of our trilogy of Rome’s darkest hour, so far.

The attack, the siege, and the plunder of Rome.

We saw how the Gauls finally left Rome, and how Camillus became the person who truly led the city’s destiny.

And here, I think it’s a good time to tell you guys, what Livy wrote on the front page of his sixth book, that gigantic work he did, called Ab Urbe Condita, or “From the Founding of the City” in English.

I am reading this from the first page, Book 6:

The transactions of the Romans, from the creation of the city of Rome to the capture of it, first under Kings, then under Consuls and Dictators, Decenvirs and Tribunes with consular powers, their wars abroad, their dissensions at home, all of this, I have exposed in five books.

Themes and events were obscured, both because of their great antiquity, as if they were objects that from their great distance I can hardly perceive, as well as because in those times the use of the letters, the only faithful guardian of the memory of events, was inconsiderate and rare.

Moreover, what was contained in the remarks of the Pontifex, and other public and private records, was all lost during the fires that our city had to endure.

Henceforth, from this second origin of the city, which was born from its own ashes, this time healthier and more vigorous, the achievements of Rome — within Rome and abroad, will be narrated with more clarity and authenticity.

OMG.

I believe that even Livy himself must have smiled the day he wrote that.

[…]

And this is where Manlius saw an opportunity.

Although Manlius came from a family of Patricians himself, he began to help Plebeians.

He first began by telling them that the treatment that Plebeians were getting for not being able to repay their loans on time, was not fair, and then he began to create agitations along the streets of Rome.

On one occasion, in the year 387 BC, a Centurion was being arrested for this same cause, and as people started to gather protesting, Manlius showed up at the scene, and paid the debt of the Centurion, out of his own pocket.

The government of Rome decided that Manlius was creating too much mess in the city, and they arrested him the day after that.

But then the people of Rome made an even bigger protest, and the Senators of Rome had no other choice, than to let Manlius go free.

Manlius even sold some of his properties, with the purpose of helping people in situations like that.

But the Patricians saw this whole thing with twisted eyes, because during the agitations that Manlius created among the Plebes, he began to mention that Rome didn’t really need a Senate.

Well — that was a crime!

[…]