ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Livy: Wishing for the Better Days of the Past when Ancient Rome was the Present

Updated on August 22, 2020

The Roman Historian Livy Longed for Yesterday When Rome Was an Empire

Titus Livius Patavinus is better known as Livy, and he remains one of the most important figures of Ancient Rome. Livy was not a general or one of the Caesars. Nor was be a famous Gladiator. Livy was a historian who recorded a significant amount of the history of the Republic and later Empire. While it is undoubtedly true that a great deal of myth and folk tales found their way into Livy's writings (which were originally crafted in wax), his work does provide an interesting insight into the age of Rome.

An Alternate Historical Perspective on Ancient Rome

While we rarely, if ever, look at Rome beyond its more militaristic history, the culture was far more profound than those only familiar with what they have seen in movies and television programs. A great many Roman historical features and programs, sadly, root themselves in exploitative aspects of the fallen society. Those that wallow in tales of the decadence of Rome ignore something that should be assumed - unless the nation was also educationally and culturally advanced, it would never have thrived for so many centuries. Decadence does not create an Empire. It brings empires down.

Just as not all tales of Rome are decadent, they often lack the expected adventurous grandeur.

In the writings of Livy, we also see a somewhat melancholy component to life in Ancient Rome. While the philosophers and playwrights of Ancient Greece receive much acclaim, those artisans of Rome don't always receive their much deserved due. We certainly do not often connect them with works of humor - be the humor intentional or not.

In many works, we simply seem the honest expressions of honest people.

The Profound and the Cliched: Roman Musing from Antiquity

In Livy's writings, he does make a rather profound quote that just might be the most cliché of all clichés.

Livy stated: ''I shall find antiquity a rewarding study, if only because, while I am absorbed in it, I shall be able to turn my eyes from the troubles which for so long have tormented the modern world.''

In this, we can see the true passion of Livy. He wishes to find an escape from the troubles of the modern world by escaping into the past where the vileness of recent times does not exist.

Or more aptly, Livy is saying, ''Things were a lot better in my day,'' which is among the most clichéd of all clichés that could ever be uttered. Those that utter it might feel surprised to find out people were saying that over a thousand years ago. It was probably a cliché even when Livy weaved the commentary into his historical documents.

There is likely a little more to this sentiment than the droning of someone wishing for yesterday.

Wishing for Better Days in the Ancient World

In my Game of Thrones essay, I alluded to the notion that the loner always dreams of fantasy realms where he or she can fit in better and does not have to be locked into not fitting into the society he/she is part of. Once you read Livy's words, you realize that the world the loner wishes to travel to does not have to a fantasy one. Often, it is merely the past.

An old Japanese saying notes that wallowing in the past is not always a good thing to do. The reason is that we end up mystifying the past and making it far better than what it was. The negative aspects of the past are eradicated, and only a romanticized version of the days gone by is left in someone's mind. This notion creates a distorted perception of the past that is no more extended history, which is supposed to be nonfiction. Instead, it becomes one of fantasy. Perhaps this is why Livy is so quick to weave myths and legends into his work of history.

Do we have to go so far as one of the characters in the HBO Rome series suggests and ''Forget about the past'' and leave it behind? Doing so would mean we would lose perspective of why we should study history. Livy did mention why we should study history, and that will be the subject of our next entry on the historian's work.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)