Livy's Written Rome
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Reviewed by
Mary Jaeger. Livy’s Written Rome. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. xii 1 205 pp. Cloth, $39.50.

How Livy went about writing his immense history has been a topic of keen interest, and recent work such as Jaeger’s directs our thinking in new and interesting ways. Livian historiography has traditionally focused on Quellenforschung and more recently on the rhetorical influences that often remain unrecognized by modern readers. A still newer kind of historiography, branching from rhetorical studies, considers the influence of space on a writer’s text, and it is attracted to both topographical and material issues. Indicative of such works in the last decade are Paul Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Ann Arbor 1988); Eleanor Winsor Leach, The Rhetoric of Space (Princeton 1988); C. Nicolet, Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire (Ann Arbor 1991); and Ann Vasaly, Representations: Images of the World in Ciceronian Oratory (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1993). Jaeger follows many historiographers in beginning with Livy’s preface, and then considering disparate episodes throughout Ab Urbe Condita before returning to the preface to reevaluate Livy’s method. By this approach, narrative is not just a chronological reflection of political and religious events; rather, spatial reminders (monumenta) may influence the organization of written narrative. Jaeger narrows her study to focus on “reminders that for various reasons fail to point unambiguously back to a particular person or event” (10). It is when Livy has restored in his text a [End Page 318] lost monumentum that his method is most readily observed: “when monuments fail and the text restores them, reminders of stories give way to stories about reminders” (11). This method of historiography, as Jaeger wields it, gives us a fresh look at an old text. It does not work equally well in all environments—witness the problems Sparta would offer such an approach, as both Jaeger (2) and, long ago, Thucydides realized. Yet more difficult would be monumental—in all senses of the word—societies such as those of ancient Egypt and Central America.

Jaeger’s discussion of method and historiography (the Introduction and chapter 1) is excellent. Her survey of Livian historiographical research is thorough and attested by a wealth of judicious footnotes which review the relevant scholarship. The discussion of monumenta is particularly illuminating. Jaeger explains how the “monumentum stands between the res gestae and their literary celebration, so that two layers, the monumental and the literary, come between event and reader” (16). That all share certain qualities make them suitable for historical evaluation: “In sum, we can assume of all monumenta some common characteristics: an absent person or thing commemorated; a present audience reminded; a memory or an exhortation that is socially relevant; and a meaning determined jointly by the reminder, its physical context, and the circumstances of each viewer” (18). Jaeger’s belief that Daedalus’ labyrinth in the Aeneid (Veneris monumentum nefandae, 6.24–27) is the only exception to her standard that monumenta are “exposed to the public view” (17) is a bit strained, even without considering that Vergil’s ecphrasis describing the doors of Apollo’s temple is not really Roman at all. Moreover, Columella recorded that Hyginus collected precisely that sort of evidence: Hyginus veterum auctorum placita secretis dispersa monimentis industrie collegit (De Re Rustica 9.2.1). And what of all the Roman religious elements that are also secret (i.e., not exposed to public view)? It would be difficult to believe that there were no hidden monumenta among all the Roman sacra. Nevertheless, Jaeger’s approach to monumenta reinforces the importance of visualizing narrative as written by classical historians, which results in an illuminating and novel way of examining Livy’s historical text.

After discussing the notion of monumenta in chapter 1 Jaeger proceeds to consider four separate episodes from Ab Urbe Condita, noting how Livy “maps the plot of a story onto the Roman landscape, then commemorates the particular enactment of the plot in a monument” (12). Chapter 2 considers the abduction of the Sabine women in AUC book 1, demonstrating a rhythmic flow of action between the Temple of Jupiter Stator...