Livy and Polybius on Ancient Rome History

Published: 2021-07-02
683 words
3 pages
6 min to read
Sewanee University of the South
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The Twelve Tables in the ancient Rome formed the code for regulation of the societys behavior and maintenance of peace and order. Considered as the foundation of Roman Law, the Tables contained the Romans ancient traditions that defined procedures and different private rights. Titus Livius and Polybius are among ancient authors who discussed Romes history in depth and in regard to the rule of law of the State. According to Livy in his book The Early Years of the Republic, the Tables were the most influential evidence of justice and symbols of peace during the ancient Rome. Polybius, a Greek author, formulates a theory of the constitution and types of governments. Writing between 265-150 BCE, Polybius analyzed the different forms of government and the superiority of the mixed constitution (Beard, 2016). Therefore, this paper discusses Livys account on the Twelve Tables in his second series of books on history of Rome, Polybius notions on government and constitution, and conclude with the similarities or nexus between the two.

The Early Years of the Republic basically focus on the selfishness of Roman leaders to remain in power. Livy expresses his contempt of, Brutus, who made the people take an oath to allow only him, and no one else could reign in Rome. He even beheaded his own brother and sons who had conspired to bring back kingship in the Empire. Brutus fell into battle with the Arruns, who he killed and this brought a lot of resentment to the people (Beard, 2016). Livy goes ahead to give other examples of leaders who conquered and killed their relatives, friends and allies for the sake of power. He doesnt fail to account that campaigns against Hernici, Volsci and Veintes. Livy expresses his discontent on the violation of the Twelve Tables code that arose from a series of quarrels between the plebs and patricians.

Notably, Livy commented on the Twelve Table not only on this book but also others like book three, five, six and nine. In the Early Republic book, Livy notes that Brutus and other leader violate the Twelve Tables intention to bring peace in Rome. He notes that the love for power goes beyond the bronze inscribed laws, which give only God the ultimate and supreme power over Rome. In Book 6, the Reconciliation of the Orders, Livy questions the power that newly elected leaders have to change the rules of religion and worship, which he connects to Brutus did in Book 2 (Beard, 2016). Further, in the narration of the Early Republic, Livy observes that the Tables gives only the people the democratic power to elect the consuls, something that Brutus violates when he makes them take an oath of allegiance to his reign.

Polybius notions of the constitution and government focused on the elements of. Published forty volumes of Roman notions of mixed constitution and government, Polybius believed that the Roman government had three integral types: democracy, monarchy and aristocracy. Democracy, evidenced during the Plato and Aristotle period where people had the knowledge that they have the power to elect leader (Beard, 2016). The monarchy, which still exists today in the United Kingdom, entailed a family which conquered other cities as a dynasty that has all the sovereign power. For aristocracy, the Polybius suggestion was that it was a government ran by the wealthiest and best in the state. On the mixed constitution, Polybius connotes that the Roman Constitution maintained superiority because it incorporated the three elements of governments that made a clear distinction between the Roman Law, Culture and empire. This at the end maintained peace and order in ancient Rome.

The nexus between Livy and Polybius is the notion of democracy. Both believe that there is ultimately one absolute law that overrules other legislations and protects the sovereignty of the people. Polybius notion of mixed constitution levels up to the Twelve Tables, as Livy notes, to contain different elements that divides a monarchy from an aristocratic government. Therefore, though in different ages of ancient Rome, both Livy and Polybius believe in government for the people and by the people.


Beard, M. (2016). SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

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