VH_Livy - Livys Writing By Vicki Herde Titus Livius, more...

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Livy’s Writing By Vicki Herde Titus Livius, more commonly known as Livy, wrote a great work about the history of Rome called The War with Hannibal , detailing Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps and his subsequent war with Rome. In his writing, he not only teaches the reader the history of Rome but dramatizes it—giving it excitement and adventure. He fulfills the roles of both storyteller and historian; although due to these split functions he writes inconsistently, often switching from to the other periodically. His writing beautifully expresses many scenes in the work as a result of his storyteller aspect, but these scenes suffer historically when he adds his own flair and substance to enhance the drama. Conversely, many parts appear historically accurate, but lack the elegant flow created by the dramatized version. Livy tries to combine two very different modes of writing with varying success. Livy excels at describing natural scenes, making them appear vivid in the reader’s imagination. When Hannibal first begin to cross the Alps, Livy impresses upon the reader the immensity and challenge of the mountains even before directly describing them. “The nature of the mountains was not, of course, unknown to his men by rumour and report—and rumour commonly exaggerates the truth; yet in this case all tales were eclipsed by the reality” (56). With this simple statement, Livy communicates the awesome sight of these towering peaks to the reader, calling upon their imagination to complete the picture. He continues describing the “dreadful vision” invoked in the reader with words such as “towering peaks”, “snow-clad pinnacles” and “shriveled life”. He completes the reader’s perception of grandness and terror, saying the staunch Carthaginian soldiers felt apprehension at the “sights of horror which words cannot express” (56). This ability to describe such grand spectacles is exceptionally notable when, as Betty Radice pointed out in her
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introduction, he “never held any office of state which would take him abroad or enable him to move freely inside Italy” and “Romans did not travel for the mere pleasure of sightseeing” (14). Most likely, any view he had of the Alps, if any, was from a great distance and his ability to describe such grandeur adds to his prowess as a writer. Later Livy’s storytelling aspect brings more vivid imaginings to the reader, not just in sights but in sounds as well. Hannibal’s men begin to cross a mountain with a narrow path and a steep cliff on one side. As they near the middle, tribesmen appear and attack, throwing stones and shooting arrows. The chaos is heightened by “the din, echoing and re-echoing from the hollow cliffs and woods” (58), driving the horses to panic and injure the men. One can almost hear the shouts of men, the panicking horses, the war cries of the tribesmen and the trumpeting of the elephants, all mixing and rebounding off the mountainsides in a deafening thunder. Livy
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2012 for the course ECON 202 taught by Professor Gilllete during the Spring '08 term at Kentucky.

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VH_Livy - Livys Writing By Vicki Herde Titus Livius, more...

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