Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Early History of Rome, by Livy (books I to V)

This is a tedious read beginning with the legends of the founding of Rome and Romulus and Remus and covering a few centuries. The main source of records was destroyed by the Gauls in their conquest of Rome in the 4th century BC, so this is a reconstruction based on other historians. It covers the initial founding and problems of the Roman Republic, which makes this one of the documents that was almost certainly referred to as America was being established.

The main observation I have is that twice Rome had a major change of government due to women being violated. The first was the end of the initial period of the kings due to a rape. The second brought an end to the rule of the Decemvirs when the judge Appius tried to have a young lady, Verginia, kidnapped as a runaway slave so that he could rape her. Verginia's father eventually killed his daughter to preserve her chastity, and a revolution of the plebs followed.

A few centuries later, in the time of the Caesars, no woman's chastity was safe, and many didn't seem to care. Laws against adultery from earlier eras were still on the books, however, and routinely used to eliminate rivals. Much of the rot in moral standards was probably linked to the growing prosperity as Rome became an empire.

No comments: