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01/30/2018 06:00 PM ISAW Lecture Hall

Cutting Rome Down To Size

The Gentle Art of the Historical Summary

David Levene

Three-quarters of the monumental work of the Roman historian Livy (59 B.C.-A.D.17) is lost. The single most important source to enable us to reconstruct the contents of the missing volumes is a summary known as the "Periochae," composed in (probably) the 4th century A.D. This summary, reducing each volume of Livy to a single paragraph, appears on its surface a mechanical exercise. However, this lecture will show that a comparison of the "Periochae" of the surviving books with Livy's original work reveals many subtle alterations and distortions, which reflect a distinctive historical outlook on the part of the summarizer. Armed with this knowledge of the summarizer's techniques, we gain a clearer picture of the missing books for which the "Periochae" provides us with our primary evidence, and can refine our knowledge of the events of Roman history that Livy described in the books now lost.
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