One trend in Livianscholarship, starting with Burck's landmark work, Die Erzählungskunst des T.Livius (1934), has focused on the author's narrative sophistication. My approach builds on his and more recent findings in this vein, but I focus less on thematic patterns, and more on lexical markers that, I argue, signpost coherent narrative strands that serve to organize the text and convey meaning.
I focus on words expressing joy in Livy’s first pentad, such as laetitia and ,em>gaudium, that, as I show, contribute to a conceptual substructure on which Livy situates his discourse on Roman libertas, its gestation, birth and its subsequent struggle to survive and thrive. The doublet of happiness and liberty first takes root approximately midway through Book One with the arrival of Tarquinius Priscus and Tanaquil at Rome, receives direct articulation in the preface to Book Two, and then recurs in a significant pattern throughout the remainingbooks of the pentad.
My essay explores how Livy weaves this nexus of key words and concepts into his narrative, and how form and content combine to channel meaning from the author to his readers. Specific episodes that I use to confirm this new way of reading Livy's text include the first struggle between plebs and patricians after the founding of the republic(2.21ff.), the extended Verginia narrative at the center of Book Three, and the disputes and resolutions over year-round military service, intermarriage, and the plebeian right to hold consular office that conclude Book Four and initiate Book Five.
I show, first and foremost, that joy is strongly linked with libertas, and serves as perhaps the single greatest theme organizing Livy’s presentation of Rome’s early history. This conceptual link is marked by the consistent collocation of some combination of the words libertas, laetitia, and gaudium, whether in these or related verbal forms. Second, the narrative presents joy as experienced by individuals, groups, the city as a whole or some vague intimation of divine will. By dividing the laetitia/libertas concept onto these different planes, Livy can explore the social dynamics of a society oriented towards a specific telos, the creation and preservation ofliberty. Third, by consistently coupling libertas with joy, an inherently voluble emotion (with the exception of divine joy), Livy demonstrates the volatility of freedom, presenting it as a process of continued conflict and negotiation rather than a stable product. Since Livy’s history analyzes this process in successive iterations, expressions of joy occurring repeatedly in recognizable patterns serve the narrative simultaneously in structural and theoretical capacities. In this way form and content merge artfully so as to become almost indistinguishable. Furthermore, the pattern of political process does not simply replicate itself, but shows development and increasing sophistication. In Books Four and Five, where the tribunate is operative, patricians show greater acumen in deliberation and the plebs prove quite able to resist the tribunes and look towards the common good. This progress is expressed and emphasized by the most inclusive and emotionally intense instances of joy in the pentad. I conclude by discussing how the frequency with which these passages recall the language from the two prefaces speaks to their importance in the overall scheme of the pentad. The prefaces, which claim a didactic and teleological purpose for the history, act as a sounding board by amplifying the laetitia/libertas concept, thus calling attention to its value in interpreting the narrative.