September 18, 2008


Just thought I'd mention two blogs by two friends of mine- Doug and the Organic Viking- both are interesting and thoughtful and both of their blogs are worth reading. Anyway I thought I'd introduce them by providing an examination of two of their posts. The Organic Viking has recently posted what looks like a delicious courgette fritter recipe (she is running the risk of being as bad for me as Welshcakes Limoncello- whose blog I can never read without feeling hungry) however that is not the post of hers I wanted to highlight.

She works on Vikings- and a couple of days ago spent her time in Cafe Nero on King Street in Cambridge working on her thesis and knitting at the same time. One of the things that I think is underrated in working life today is the ability of people to relax and get more out of what they are doing. I know exactly what she was up to- in the sense that what you do as a historian is absorb texts and then try and work out what in that morass of pages is interesting and what provides something that you can work with. Often when you are doing that, changing your surroundings and doing something else whilst you are doing it helps- because it keeps the mind active and also supple. The mind in a sense is a muscle that you need to keep in exercise- one of the things that I wonder about modern jobs in offices is that whilst they provide you with assurance that all your employees are there all the time, I'm not entirely sure that they provide work of the best quality.

Doug on the other hand is a lawyer- a breed not known for their ability to relax and for whom lateral thinking is called all sorts of names (don't worry Doug is the kind of lawyer who can see minature golf courses in ancient monuments!). What Doug provides though is an example of the way that lateral thinking benefits a group of the best entrepreuneurs in the world- the Italian mafia. In times of financial crisis with food prices rising, they have diversified into the smuggling of bread and mozarella. Its interesting to reflect on the capacity of crime to change its nature depending on the law throughout history- people are often after the fast buck whether that's drink in the Great Depression or the corporations of crime that emerged after the second world war. The nature of crime tells us a lot about the society we live within- in a society in which commodity prices are rising, where health and safety laws are proliferating- it was only a matter of time before someone decided to ignore the latter in order to keep the former down: the fact its the latest evolution of the Italian Mafia is merely a testament to their creativity.

Anyway back to Livy!


by universal consent the greatest soldier and statesman of his day

The Federalist Papers were published anonymously. Hamilton, Maddison and Jay wrote under the pseudonym Publius. When they did this, they did it deliberately and they brought to mind the great Roman statesman about whom Livy wrote the comment I quoted above. What is significant is that that statesman- Publius Valerius- was a contemporary of Brutus and a founder of the Roman republic- yet he is often forgotten today, obscured by the fame of Lucius Junius Brutus and the splendour of the immediate resistance to Tarquin. But for Livy and for the authors of the Federalist Publius was equally if not more important: when Plutarch wrote his lives of the Romans and Greeks, he paired Publius with the famous Athenian constitutional lawgiver, Solon. The implication was obvious- Solon's fame remains to this day as the possibly fictional lawgiver of Athenian democracy- to place Publius beside him was to place him in a similar position within the history of the Roman republic. He not Brutus the regicide was the instigator for Plutarch of the successes of Rome.

What about Livy though? The quotation above demonstrates the high esteem with which Livy held Publius. And what I want to do in the rest of this essay is demonstrate that Publius for Livy was an archetype of what a Republican statesman looked like. Brutus was killed soon after Rome was converted from a monarchy. Valerius became sole consul and then served four further times in the supreme office of the Republic. Valerius was important both as a general and as a leglislator. As a leglislator he brought in measures which made it possible for any man to ascend to the consulship, which allowed the people to kill without judgement in court any man who desired to gain the crown and gave people the right of appeal against the magistrate. (II 8) Valerius was responsible for a number of Roman tactical victories when the city was invaded by the King of Clusium: he constructed an ambush in which several Etruscan soldiers died (II 10) and was responsible for driving away the first invasion of the Tarquins and the citizens of Veii (II 6). From Livy, we can derive the impression that Valerius was the most important citizen in Rome for a time: he was consul four out of the six years that he lived after the foundation of the Republic and in one of the years in which he was not consul, his brother Marcus held the honour. (II 15) It is significant as well that Rome created the office of dictator after the death of Valerius- the office was explicitly linked to the defence- and in previous years when under pressure, Rome, Livy tells us, elected Valerius to the consulship. (II 15)

Valerius faced one major crisis that Livy sees fit to explain in his rule of the Republic and this explains a recurrent theme in Roman history. After Brutus's death for a while Valerius was sole consul: Livy tells us that when he was sole consul suspision grew about his motives, people feared that he might desire the crown. 'Rumour' Livy tells us 'had it that he was aiming at the monarchy' (II 7) because he had constructed a great house on the hill at Velia and because he had failed to replace Brutus with another consul. Valerius addressed this by making a speech to the Roman population- tieing in usefully another great theme of Roman history, the importance of oratory- and
dwelt on the good fortune of his colleague who, having set Rome free, had held the highest office in the land and had died fighting for his country at the very peak of his fame, before the breath of envy could tarnish its brightness. 'While I,' he went on 'have outlived my good name. I have survived only to face your accusations and your hate. Once hailed as the liberator of my country, I have sunk in your eyes to the baseness of traitors like the Aquilii and Vitellii. Will you never find in any man merit so tried and tested as to be above suspision? How could I, the bitterest enemy of monarchy, ever have believed I should have faced the charge of covetting a throne? If I lived in the fortress of the capitol itself, could I ever have thought that my own fellow-citizens would be afraid of me? Can my reputation be blown away by so slight a breath? Are the foundations of my honour so insecure that you judge me more by where I live than what I am? No my friends, no house of mine shall threaten your liberties. The Velia shall hold no dangers. I'll build my house on the level- more I'll build it at the very base of the hill so that you can live above me and keep a wary eye on the fellow citizen you mistrust. Houses on the Velia must be reserved for men better to be trusted with Rome's liberty than I. (II 7)

This speech, crafted by Livy rather than Valerius, demonstrates in my opinion the historian's sagacity in that it shows the way that image not reality dominates politics. It is the house on the Velia that infuriates and the consul's destruction of that house led to the recovery of his reputation. But there is more to this than merely that. What Livy is also considering here is a set of problems at the heart of any republic- a set that Livy's own contemporaries had cause to consider deeply.

Valerius stood so high in the state that he overtook any other rival. Eminence and distinguished service made him the priniciple citizen- the title of course that Octavian took rather than King when he became Emperor (hence the fact that historians call the early empire, the Principate). The problem here is simple- that it is easy to make the transition from Valerius to Octavian. Eminence is the enemy of Republics. Something that Livy would have known from the many examples before him in more recent history- Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Octavian, even perhaps Cicero. That problem of eminence and too much power being attracted by it is one that dominates Roman history as we have it. But Roman history is dominated by another force- also given testament by Valerius's speech and that is the fickle mob (II 6) who had begun to distrust the consul. The problems of the Republic are compounded by the presence of the mob and the man of greatness- we have seen that the one can create tyrants, the second creates Kings and Kings lead inexorably to tyrants. So the history of the Republic was a search for an accomodation- for moderating the passions of the mob through institutional frameworks and accomodating the greatness of individuals within the legal forms of constitutionalism. Livy thus in his first account of Rome's formation offers us in Valerius Publius a model of the problem that politicians created in the Republic. It is interesting to reflect therefore on the choice of Publius by those great readers of Livy, Hamilton, Jay and Maddison as their pseudonym.

A last thing remains to be said about Publius- because of course he was able to diffuse that feeling of suspision and he did not create or seek to create a monarchy- though he did Livy tells us seek popularity (II 8). Publius became known as Publicola- the people's friend- and in a sense that was because he had, in Livy's terms, presented the perfect model of the way a man of eminence should behave. Giving up more than the population wanted in terms of recognition to avoid the fear that he might desire more than they were willing to give- serving and not subjugating the state so that even after his demise the legal forms of republicanism survived to another generation. Whether Livy also means this career as a warning is an interesting question- there is an element in Livy's story that implies Publicola was rare as a man of distinction and true Republican ethics- by Livy's time men of distinction were still available but few had the ethics to turn away from cementing a position of principal citizen into a position as Princeps and Emperor.

September 17, 2008

Fathers and Sons

Tyrannies for Livy were the regimes of families. When Tarquin was driven from Rome, he appealed to the Etruscan cities for aid on the basis of his children and their new found poverty (2.6), when the untrustworthy young rich Romans rebelled they rebelled to find a regime of friends instead of one of laws (2.2). Livy found that the early history of the republic demonstrated that this regime was different. The character in particular of two of the early consuls- Lucius Junius Brutus and Marcus Horatius Pulvillus demonstrated that Republican politicians had to separate their private and their public personas.

Let us take these two incidents in which Brutus and Horatius rejected claim of family for that of public duty. Both are interesting- one demonstrates the way that Republican politicians in Livy's view should act, the other the way that they have to act. In the first year of the Republic, as we have already seen, various young noblemen decided to plot against the new regime. They were swiftly found out. Amongst them were two of the sons of Brutus- they were both prosecuted, and then:

The Consuls [including Brutus] took their seats upon the tribunal; the lictors were ordered to carry out their sentence. The prisoners were stripped, flogged and beheaded. Throughout the pitiful scene all eyes were on the father's face where a father's anguish could be seen. (2.6)

Brutus's action in allowing his sons to fall victim to the law is one that we are supposed to admire- the actions of his sons, according to Livy, had 'betray[ed] the entire population of Rome, high and low alike, and all her Gods.' (2.6) Brutus performed the action and demonstrated through performing it that the law rose above his personal feelings, despite his anguish, he executed his sons.

Brutus's example was important in later history- in comparison the second incident I wish to narrate is almost forgotten. However it is almost as important in demonstrating the way that Livy wished to portray the change in Roman history. After Brutus died in battle (which I will deal with elsewhere), Marcus Horatius Pulvillus was appointed consul. Horatius was consul with Publius Valerius. When the two consuls first met, they drew lots as to which would conduct the continuing war against the Tarquins and which would dedicate the temple of Jupiter- Livy leaves us in no doubt that the more prestigous service was the latter. Valerius's family went and told Horatius that his son was dying, Horatius though preferred to continue consecrating the temple- rather than go to seek his son. Public duties came first in Roman republicanism- not merely in terms of ideology but in terms of politics too. The only use for private emotion was an attempt to deceive a consul into losing a prestigous post.

Both of these instances though demonstrate that peculiar Roman quality of stoicism in a particular context- that of family. I think what they really are about is the idea that the state for public officials comes first. In this sense Livy is endorsing an idea which would acheive its full expression centuries later in the work of Machiavelli that the moral world of the statesman and the moral world of the citizen are very different. The priorities of the statesmen are to support the law and carry out his duties- that of the citizen are to enact his private duties. What the case of Brutus demonstrates is that Livy thinks that the first state is morally preferable, what he demonstrates in the case of Horatius is that the magistrate is politically advantaged by adopting the first stance too. In this sense tyranny brings together the private and the public- a tyrant is a man who can afford private passion- whereas a republican has to put the state first whilst he is acting in a civic fashion. This argument is one that will reappear through Livy's history- and if I have not captured it well here- there will be plenty of occasions when we return to it in this commentary.

September 16, 2008

The establishment of the Roman Republic

My task from now on will be to trace the history in peace and of a free nation, governed by annually elected officers of state and subject not to the caprice of individual men, but to the overarching authority of law. (II.1)

Livy begins his second book with these words, marking the transition from a Kingdom to the Republic. Of course this transition is crucial to Livy's theme- he wants us to observe the Republic at work, its principle and eventually its fall. His enterprise changes its nature with the expulsion of Tarquin- and one can see that very clearly, before the events of 509BC, Livy describes the Roman state by reference to its rulers, afterwards he describes it by reference to the annual consuls. The form of the state changes and therefore the form of Livy's dating- the most essential part of any history- changes- the frame of the work becomes Republican.

Livy's description of this transition is not merely the description of a long awaited revolt. Indeed he tells us that all the Kings of Rome from Romulus to Servius Tullius might have considered themselves the founder of Rome (II.1) and it is Livy's opinion that 'it cannot be doubted that Brutus, who made for himself so great a name by the expulsion of Tarquin, would have done his country the greatest disservice, had he yielded too soon to his passion for liberty and forced the abdication of any of the previous Kings' (II.1). It is worth us asking why this is true- for what it establishes is the basic condition upon which a Republic can be established. Livy's argument is not that Republics are always better than Monarchies or Tyrannies, rather it is that they are better given a precise set of circumstances.

It is important that we understand Livy's meaning here. There are two elements I wish to draw attention to- and both are contained within the quotation I gave above, though Livy clarifies what he means below in the text. The first is that Livy beleived that there could be no republic without a free people. He argues that the 'rabble' that early Rome was composed of would have 'set sail upon the stormy sea of democracy' without the early Kings: and we should recall how close to a tyrant, Livy deems the Democratic leader. The people must be capable therefore of exercising their freedom with deliberation- and this aristocratic concern about republicanism casts a long shadow through Roman and later history. For Livy republicanism must rest on the sure foundation of a patriotism which 'comes slowly and springs from the heart... founded upon true respect for the family and love of the soil'. (II 1) Livy also argues that it took a while for Republicanism to develop fully in Rome- the first consuls for him 'exercised the full powers of Kings' (II 1).

When Livy describes a free people, he does not merely mean a people with the ability to deliberate. He also means that the people are free from domination by others. Brutus, by Livy's account, forced the people of Rome to swear an oath that they would never return the country to kingship (II 1), nobody therefore might fear the reimposition of royal authority. Furthermore the young Republic expelled Collatinus (Lucretia's husband) because he was related to the Tarquins- the entire family were driven out because of the danger of creating a reversionary interest (II 2). That as Brutus put it was an 'insuperable barrier' to liberty, mimicking the French and later Russian revolutionaries, Brutus argued that only the extermination of the royal house might preserve the revolutionary regime (II 2). It is in the opposition to this sentiment that we can descry its full features. The oppositiion to this movement was led, for Livy, by young aristocrats who reasoned that

'under a monarchy there was room for influence and favour; a King could be angry and forgive, he knew the difference between a friend and an enemy. Law, on the other hand, was impersonal and inexorable. Law had no ears. An excellent thing for paupers, it was worse than useless for the great, as it admitted no relaxation or indulgence to a man who ventured beyond the bounds of mediocrity.' (II 3)

These aristocrats were arguing against an equal republic- a republic in which favour and finance could not buy the relaxation of the law. The point about this Livyan construction is that popular freedom goes together with freedom from domination internally and the freedom to be equal. In a state without equality before the law- ie without the capacity to be sure that the rich man and poor man will be judged the same- there is no freedom. Livy beleived that such a state was analogous to tyranny.

This radical attitude towards the creation of a commonwealth through sentiment and towards freedom's identity with authority characterises Livy's commentary on the distinctions between the Roman Republic and the Roman monarchy. He digresses into this analysis in my view to make a point about the way that societies function. It is on the one hand their own fault if they decay into monarchy, but on the other when looking at a society the degree of its freedom can be assessed from the degree of the freedom of the poorest from relying on the favour of the richest both in terms of personal power and law. Livy was no socialist- this is not a socialist manifesto. Rather it is a small farmer's manifesto- calling everyone back to the family and to the soil- Livy is seeking to make an argument for an idyllic arcadian society that probably never existed, but from which Rome's decline can be inferred. There is one element though that we need to deal with in Livy's description of the Republic, and it is as Machiavelli saw much later, the element which makes for instability and that is the Republic's relationship with other Republics and Monarchies. That though takes us into a world Tacitus would have recognised- and the world that Gibbon was later to analyse.

September 15, 2008

The Rape of Lucretia

'What can be well with a woman who has lost her honour. In your bed, Collatinus, is the impress of another man. My body not only has been violated. My heart is innocent, and death will be my witness. Give me your solemn promise that the adulterer shall be punished- he is Sextus Tarquinius. He it is who last night came as my enemy disguised as my guest, and took his pleasure of me. That pleasure will be my death- and his too, if you are men. ' The promise was given. One after another they tried to console her. They told her she was helpless, and therefore innocent; that he alone was guilty. It was the mind they said that sinned, not the body: without intention there could never be guilt. 'What is due to him,' Lucretia said, 'is for you to decide. As for me I am innocent of fault, but I will take my punishment. Never shall Lucretia provide a precedent for unchaste women to escape what they deserve'. (I.58)

This is one of the most famous pieces of prose in Roman history- it became the centre point for Augustine's argument about virginity in the seige of Rome almost five centuries later. It is important though because Lucretia's suicide sanctifies the rebellion which sweeps away the monarchy in Rome and brings in the Republic. The story is easily told. One night at the seige of Ardea, a group of noblemen including Sextus Tarquin, were boasting of their wives. One of them proposed that they secretly visit their wives that night- all the other wives were found enjoying themselves- but Lucretia was found spinning and working. Sextus fell in love with her and a couple of days later returned to rape her. This is where it becomes interesting- because Lucretia's response to the rape was to summon her father, and her husband and their friend Brutus and deliver the speech I've quoted above. That speech became the model for the image of the virtuous classical and medieval woman in her reaction to rape- Augustine I have quoted citing it, Dante placed Lucretia in the circle of hell reserved for the virtuous pagans and Shakespeare used the text to form the basis of his Rape of Lucrece.

Analysing what Lucretia says reveals a lot about the way that women were viewed in Republican and Imperial Rome. Let us start with the simple point. Lucretia's language and Livy's for that matter during the whole episode of the rape is very visual- you can see the impress on the bed- we all know the sensation of getting into a bed that has been slept in. This vivid kind of language makes the rape more astonishing. But when it used it is used interestingly. I think there are three particular visual images to do with the rape that immediatly come to mind after reading Livy's story. The first is that Sextus puts his hand upon Lucretia's breast in order to wake her. The second is Lucretia's face when Sextus tells her that he is going to rape her- Livy gives a stage direction that her eyes widen in terror. The third is this impress on the bed. What I think is interesting is that none of them have anything to do with the actual rape- Livy is quite coy about the mechanisms of what happens. They are all though metaphors about the invasion of the household- something that Lucretia herself brings up here in the discussion of the guest and the enemy. Sextus has raped her- by invading the space reserved to Lucretia, her husband and her family. Indeed he does worse, because the way that he procures her consent is by threatening the dissolution of that unit- he tells her that he will kill her and leave her naked body next to that of a servant- something that he says and she beleives will destroy her household.

The images are interesting- but they are more interesting when combined with another aspect of what Lucretia and hence Livy is saying here. The problem that Lucretia faces at this point is that she needs to prove that the rape happened- that the household's unity and its hierarchy were fractured not from within but from without. Compare Lucretia to Helen- who it was often said was raped- the doubt remains about Helen because we never are certain that she didn't want to go off with Paris. At least ancient authors were never certain about that issue. Now Lucretia makes that issue absolutely clear. She says the punishment for lack of chastity is death- I have not been chaste- though it was not my own desire- and to prove that I will commit suicide. I will not live to benefit from the incident. By dying Lucretia creates another image which dominates over the image of the desicrated house and that is the image of the woman so intent on virtue that she would rather die than have her reputation stained.

This image of Lucretia is the image of a woman who cares more about her reputation, her household and her husband than herself. It is not neccessarily anything that any Roman woman actually ever said. Historians of the ancient world were fond of constructing the speeches that their characters should have said. Lucretia represents less a real woman than an ideal of how a woman should respond to the rape of a tyrant. For Livy, women ought to respond to that by prioritising their household and their household's possession in them- their honour- over themselves. The subjugation of women to these ideals was the way that patriachal society functioned in Rome: Roman authors mercilessly attacked women who did meet these ideals. Moving back to Lucretia- what we see is a complex exchange of shame going on through the speech. Lucretia's shame is expunged by her blood and as soon as commits suicide, she forces her menfolk through their shame to avenge her murder. Lucretia was prompted originally to succumb to Sextus by the fear of shame (the ultimate ignominy of being presumed an adultress with a slave) and then she prompts her brother, her father and her husband to kill Sextus through the shame of leaving her unavenged.

We see in the death of Lucretia the expression of a sexist culture. As I have said, we cannot be sure that any of these events actually happened. If we dig further though into the sexism of this culture in which Livy wrote and Lucretia died- we find a deep admiration of honour and a deep fear of shame. For women this was connected to the idea that a pure woman maintained a good household: for a woman to be found in bed with a slave violated the idea of purity and also the natural hierarchy of the house, hence Lucretia's fear of that event. Livy wrote as Augustus began to launch a campaign for moral virtue in Roman society. Lucretia's worry that she might be seen as an example to the unchaste- and her unargued case that she might be doubted unless she died- was an example to call back Roman women to their duties to the household and to the state. Lucretia's death though does something else- because it reminds men of what Livy considers their natural duty to protect their womenfolk. Livy is making a final point about tyranny here too: remember why Lucretia was targetted by Sextus- it was because she alone was virtuous and spinning not partying like the wives of Tarquin's sons. The inference is obvious tyranny seeks out and destroys the family unit- it succeeded in Tarquin's sons through the destabilising form of luxury, in Lucretia's case it succeeded through rape and yet its success created in the latter case private tragedy and public civil war.

These attitudes are foreign to our experience. They are also in my view morally wrong. Yet they do tell us something interesting about the Roman world which is why I have seen fit to record them. What this demonstrates I think is a link between the political world and the private world in the mind of the Roman. The world of tyranny was a world in which the passions dominated honour, reputation became less important than desires. Tyranny is the reign of lust and pride. Republicanism rather is the reign of restraint. Tyranny furthermore is the reign of shame- Lucretia's rape is the last in a long line of insults. This is why when Brutus swears to avenge her, it is not on Sextus but upon Tarquin that he vows to take revenge- the issue goes beyond the sexual to the political. (I.58) Indeed one might argue that Lucretia's private tragedy- that of the rape- is not so important to Livy as the public tragedy, the violation of the family unit by a member of the royal family. Livy's attitude to rape is indisputedly sexist: Lucretia does not matter to him, her reputation does.

September 14, 2008

Tyranny and Poppies: Conjectural History

Accordingly he sent a confidential message to Rome, to ask his father what step he should next take, his power in Gabii, being by God's grace, by this time absolute. Tarquin, I suppose, was not sure of the messager's good faith: in any case, he said not a word to his question, but with a thoughtful air went out into the garden. The man followed him and Tarquin strolling up and down in silence, began knocking off the poppy heads with his stick. The messager at last wearied of putting his question and waiting for the reply, so he returned to Gabii supposing his mission to have failed. He told Sextus what he had said and what he had seen his father do: the king, he declared, whether from anger, or hatred, or natural arrogance, had not uttered a single word. Sextus realised that though his father had not spoken, he had by his action, indirectly expressed his meaning clearly enough; to he proceeded at once to act upon his murderous instructions. All the influential men of Gabii were got rid of (Livy I.54)

Sextus Tarquin might understand the message but do we. Well let us start with the situation. Sextus had arrived in Gabii pretending to be an fugitive from his father- actually he was working as his father's agent. Livy tells us that he had built up his position in Gabii and was slowly becoming their senior military commander not to mention an absolute ruler. Sextus was sending for instructions- and the instructions that he received were in the terms of an image- he was told to cut off the leading men in Gabii so they could not challenge him. As a message to Sextus it works- as a message to Livy's readers, that doesn't tell us much.

Historians have always cast doubt on this story- their main reason is that the same thing happens in a story from Herodotus- a historian writing five hundred years before Livy- who wrote of the tyrant Thrasybulus of Miletus sending a similar message to Periander of Corinth in the same fashion. Herodotus's story is important- because it is obviously the basis for what Livy writes here- and it reflects something very important about Livy and most ancient historian's practice as compared to modern historians. For a modern historian the fact that this story occurs in Livy and occurs in Herodotus makes it likely that one copied the story from the other (directly or indirectly) and suggests that the later story, in Livy, is untrue. For an ancient historian, the simularity suggested exactly the opposite.

We have come across the idea that Tarquin is a tyrant. The point about Herodotus's story is that it illustrated a general principle of how a tyrant governed- a tyrant had to chop the tall heads of his subjects if he were not to be destroyed. For Livy who may well have heard the story from another source (even from the gossip around Rome about Tarquin) the fact that the story was already in Herodotus would have reaffirmed its validity- this is how tyrants behave- rather than calling into question whether the story had been influenced by people reading Herodotus and borrowing from the tyrant of Miletus to describe the tyrant of Rome. Livy assessed his historical characters through a conjecture about the type of character that they were- the type of actions they might perform and made that plausibility his test- this is the type of thing that Tarquin might have done and the fact that other men in the same position had done the same thing in the past, does not call that judgement into question, but reinforces it.

We might deem this invention- it definitely does not meet the standards of historical practice today which is much more cautious about categorising the past in our terms- but in Livy's view it was merely the extension of a type backwards in time. Livy was making a conjecture, depending on the understanding of tyranny he had evolved from his reading, about the way that Tarquin might have behaved and hence presenting to us this story as one that, for him, fitted with the line of Tarquin's character and regime. The other thing that Livy was doing here was making a polemical point about the present day- describing Tarquin as an ideal tyrant and giving Romans a clear illustration about the attitude of the ideal tyrant to his coevals. The point of including the story is that it fits what Livy thinks about Tarquin: it also though provides a graphical illustration of how the Tarquins of the world behave, that Livy wants Romans to take from his history and learn from in the present day.

Reading ancient history, it is often as though the historian collapses time- the modern idea that historical time and attitudes are very different depending upon the period dissolves- and the argument of Livy or Tacitus or Thucydides is that a plausible course of action for a particular type in one era will be so in all others. History is concerned with examining these types. Thus whereas we might well doubt (rightly in my view) that this story has nothing to do with Tarquin and more to do with Romans borrowing from Herodotus: Livy sees the story from Herodotus not as a reason to doubt the tale, but as all the more reason to beleive it. All tyrants are the same and the fact that they do the same thing should not come as a surprise. This is a major and important difference between the way that a modern historian writes history and the way that an ancient historian writes history- and its important to understand when you assess the ancient's veracity, that their idea of historical plausibility may override our stricter notion of historical truth. Ultimately Tarquin for Livy might have done this because he was that type of man- whereas for a modern historian, we need to have a document which tells us that Tarquin did do this.

The two attitudes produce wildly different attitudes to the fact that Herodotus wrote the same story about someone else before hand- for Livy its a sign that tyrants really do behave like this- for us it is an indication to be sceptical- the Roman story could be an echo of Herodotus.