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Reconsidering Livy's Relationship to Valerius Antias

David Chu

University of Colorado Boulder

          Much ink has been spilled over Livy’s relationship with his fellow historian Valerius Antias. In chapter twenty-six of his Ab Urbe Condita, Livy famously criticizes his source with the phrase ...adeo nullus mentiendi est, “so unlimited are his lies” (Livy 26.49.3). Work on Livy and Antias first saw scholars side with Livy in regards to his accusations of falsehood against Antian figures: thus, early twentieth century scholars such as R.B. Steele and Albert Howard argued that Livy was right to reject Antias’ figures. More recent scholarship has, however, more typically turned to the task of justifying or explaining away Antias’ figures. John Rich, for his part, has shown both that Livy does not entirely reject Antias’ information and that Livy’s accusations of exaggeration and falsehood were not limited to this particular predecessor (Rich 1979): Antias thus by no means represents a case apart. Building on Rich’s work, this paper shows that Livy’s relationship with Antias is a complex and a nuanced one, with his criticisms calibrated by the nature of the evidence cited.

            The paper’s argument is based on an analysis of Livy’s thirty-five citations of Antias, categorized according to the type of evidence being presented. There are in principle three categories of evidence for which Livy cites Antias: (1) battle-figures and statistics; (2) financial accounts/quantifications of booty and plunder; and (3) information/events lacking in figures. Analysis of these categories reveals that accusations of exaggeration and unnecessary elaboration are focused primarily on the first category, while Livy saves accusations of deliberate deceit for the second. Finally, the third category generally sees Livy undermine Antias by citing evidence contrary to his claims, while refraining from direct critique. This last category also tends to see Livy use Antias as his sole source for the information in question.

            To illustrate: common to three instances in the first category (FRHist 25. Valerius Antias F36, F45, and F48 = Livy 33.10.8, 36.38.5-7, and 38.23.8) is the use of the verb augere to suggest that Antias has manipulated his figures. Livy 33.10.8 (FRHist 25. F36) sees him suggest that Antias has exaggerated the casualty counts for the battle of Cynoscephale in 197 BCE; a similar accusation of exaggeration occurs in Livy 36.38.5-8 (FRHist 25. F45), which concerns the defeat of the Boii by Publius Cornelius in 191. Livy 38.23.8 (FRHist 25. F48) sees a slight shift in tone, as Livy remarks that Antias is usually more unrestrained in exaggeration, but provides a smaller casualty count of the dead in the battle between Cn. Manlius’ troops and the Galatians in 189 than Claudius Quadrigarius does. By contrast, three of the four citations of Antias fragments concerning financial matters (FRHist 25. Valerius Antias F57, F62, and F63 = Livy 40.29.6-8, 45.40.1, and 45.43.8) see either the direct or indirect accusation of falsehood by Livy. The word mendacium occurs in the first instance, with Livy writing that Antias’ information is a mendacium probabile. Mendacium also shows up in Livy 38.55.5-9 (= FRHist 25. F51), where Livy reports Antias’ figures on the supposed bribery of Lucius Scipio by Antiochus in 190; here, however, we see some restraint on Livy’s part, as he states that he finds the error more due to a copy error than a lie on Antias’ part. Finally, the third category sees Livy criticizing Antias via contrasting evidence rather than an explicit accusation of falsehood; for instance, Livy 30.3.4-6 (= FRHist 25. F32) sees Livy cite unnamed auctores against Antias, while Livy 39.52.1-3 (= FRHist 25. F50) has Livy refute Antias via a speech against Marcus Naevius by Scipio Africanus.

            The analysis these examples represent thus confirms that Livy’s use of Valerius Antias is both extensive and more carefully calibrated than has yet been recognized. While Antias is a source that Livy clearly routinely treats with caution and criticism, his rather frequent explicit engagement suggests how deeply he is engaged with this particular predecessor.

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Livy and Tacitus

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