Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Livy's engaging style of history

In case anyone is interested, here is a sample extended response answer I wrote for the Livy extended response from my trial HSC paper this year. I welcome all comments, corrections or criticisms!

Sed dique et homines prohibuere redemptos vivere Romanos. Nam forte quadam priusquam infanda merces perficeretur, per altercationem nondum omni auro adpenso, dictator intervenit, auferrique aurum de medio et Gallos submoveri iubet. cum illi renitentes pactos dicerent sese, negat eam pactionem ratam esse quae postquam ipse dictator creatus esset iniussu suo ab inferioris iuris magistratu facta esset, denuntiatque Gallis ut se ad proelium expediant. Suos in acervum conicere sarcinas et arma aptare ferroque non auro reciperare patriam iubet, in conspectu habentes fana deum et coniuges et liberos et solum patriae deforme belli malis et omnia quae defendi repetique et ulcisci fas sit. Instruit deinde aciem, ut loci natura patiebatur, in semirutae solo urbis et natura inaequali, et omnia quae arte belli secunda suis eligi praepararive poterant providit. Galli nova re trepidi arma capiunt iraque magis quam consilio in Romanos incurrunt. Iam verterat fortuna, iam deorum opes humanaque consilia rem Romanam adiuvabant. Igitur primo concursu haud maiore momento fusi Galli sunt quam ad Alliam vicerant. Iustiore altero deinde proelio ad octavum lapidem Gabina via, quo se ex fuga contulerant, eiusdem ductu auspicioque Camilli vincuntur.

Analyse the ways in which this extract is typical of Livy’s engaging style of history.

Livy’s history, and especially the first ten books, is characterised by dramatic, often significantly embellished, episodes, vivid descriptions and moral exemplars which seek to both engage and inspire his audience. This episode, in which Camillus appears at the last moment to save Rome and drive off the Gauls is in many ways typical of this style of history.

The character of Camillus provides this extract with its most engaging feature. His entrance onto the scene is made more dramatic by Livy’s periodic style. The abrupt announcement of his arrival (dictator intervenit) is postponed, coming after a subordinate clause and extended ablative absolute. This has the effect of taking the reader almost by surprise, capturing the reader’s interest and providing a strong note of hope after the bleak scenes previously described. Camillus is also portrayed as a compelling, authoritative figure. His actions are described in the present tense (iubet… negat… denuntiat etc.) which give them a sense of immediacy, and the polysyndeton of auferrique… et… submoveri conveys the speed and decisiveness with which he acts. The simple language with which Camillus dismisses the Gauls’ objections also shows his authority, and contributes to the picture of a compelling and engaging character.

Livy also highlights Camillus’ skill as a military leader. Camillus’ speech to his troops, reported in indirect statement, is simple but effective in inspiring his troops. The assonance of arma aptare, the juxtaposition of ferro… non auro and his emotional appeal to the soldiers’ religious devotion (fana deum, ulcisci fas sit), to their love for their families (coniuges et liberos) and to their patriotism (solum patriae) gives his speech a very moving tone, and would have been successful in engaging his Roman audience. Livy also remarks on Camillus’ sound battle tactics (ut loci natura patiebatur, omnia… providit) and emphasises the totality of his victory in not one but two battles (fusi Galli sunt, altero deinde proelio… vincuntur). This highlights Camillus’ skill as a military leader, and further adds to Livy’s portrayal of Camillus as a compelling and engaging character.

That the character of Camillus, as portrayed in this extract, is largely fictional is also a typical element of Livy’s style of history. Livy does not here record direct speech of Camillus as he does elsewhere in Book V, but his recount of Camillus’ orders and actions is certainly invented, and aims to portray Camillus in a particular way in order to add drama and interest to his narrative. Livy’s embellishment of the basic story found in the annalistic tradition perhaps even extends as far as changing the outcome of the siege of Rome; other versions of the story suggest that the ransom was paid to the Gauls, who were then defeated on their way home. Livy’s version which has Camillus turn up in the nick of time to prevent the ransom being paid (nondum omni auri adpenso), is a much more dramatic, engaging and patriotic version, typical of Livy’s stated purpose to show the greatness of Rome.

Another typical feature of Livy’s style which helps him to hold his audience’s attention is his use of religion and religious language. In this extract the religious elements of the story suggest that the gods are at work in the history of Rome, giving the events a significance that goes beyond the human level. This can clearly be seen in three places in the extract, where Livy says firstly that both gods and humankind (dique et homines) were responsible for the saving of Rome, secondly that the power of the gods was helping the Roman army (deorum opes… adiuvabant) and finally that victory over the Gauls was achieved not just by the leadership of Camillus, but by the kindness the gods showed to him (auspicio). Livy’s ambiguous mention of chance (forte quadam) also suggests that fate is at work behind the scenes, as does his assertion that fortune was on the side of the Romans (verterat fortuna). The use of religion in this way is typical of Livy’s style and helps him to invest this episode with greater meaning and significance, and therefore make it more engaging for his Roman audience.

Lastly Livy’s periodic style, that is his construction and arrangement of sentences, is typical of his engaging style of history. Livy’s extensive sentences, made up of multiple subordinate clauses, arranged in a logical and orderly way (e.g. cum… dicerent…, negat… ratam esse quae postquam… creatus esset… facta esset, denuntiatque… ut… expedient) and finely balanced (e.g. dique et homines, ferroque non auro, iraque magis quam consilio) help his prose to flow smoothly in a way which is pleasing to the ear and engages the reader with the beauty of his language. Livy’s use of poetic or archaic (e.g. deum for deorum) or figurative language (fusi Galli sunt) and rhetorical techniques such as tricolon (defendi repetique et ulcisci, fana deum et coniuges et liberos et solum patriae), chiasmus (Galli nova re trepidi) and alliteration (praepararive poterant providit) also achieve a similar effect, raising the register of the passage and drawing particular attention to certain elements of the story in order to create a more memorable and engaging history.

(851 words)

1 comment:

Mike Salter said...

Very much appreciated JM. Hope you don't mind, have passed the link to my Year 12s.

How have your hols been so far? Care for a catch-up some time next week?