Unit: A032: Option 1: The origins of Rome: The kings, 753–508 BC
This handbook is designed to accompany the OCR GCSE in Ancient History specification for teaching from September 2009.
Unit A032: Option 1: The origins of Rome: The kings, 753–508 BC
The set sources for this option are; Livy, The History of Rome Preface; Livy, The History of Rome 1.3-29, 1.39-40, 1.49-59; Virgil, Aeneid Book 1, 1-11; Book 6, 752-859 and Book 8, 626-651. We have also translated Livy 1.1 – 1.2. This is not part of the sources set for this option, however it may be useful as background and context, and for this reason it has been included here. It is in italics to make clear that it is not part of the set sources. Candidates are only expected to have studied the set sources and are not required to study this extra section, though it may be useful as background and context.
Livy, The History of Rome Preface
I do not know for sure (and if I did, I wouldn’t dare to say) whether the job I have taken on – writing the story of Rome and the Roman people from the very beginning – will be worth the effort. Since I see that it is an old and common practice that the new writers always think they will either write more truthfully or write more skillfully than the older writers. Anyway, I shall be pleased to set out, as best I can, the record of the things the greatest people on earth have done and if I am not noticed in the crowd of writers, I shall comfort myself because they are such great and talented writers who put me in the shade. Besides, this is a really big job. It goes back more than seven hundred years and having started from humble beginnings it has grown so much that the job may be too big. I have no doubt that most readers will find the earliest times, and those just after, less enjoyable and they will hurry on to the modern times when for a long time by being so powerful the state has worn itself down. But I shall enjoy this work since as long as I am looking back at the old days in my mind, it will take away from my sight the bad things which our generation has seen for so many years. I shall be free from the concern which can cause anxiety in the mind of a writer, even if it does not push him away from the truth. What happened before the foundation of the city or while it was being built has been passed down in a way more suitable for the stories of poets than an authentic historical record of what happened and I don’t intend to prove it right or wrong. The stories of old days can be allowed to mix human events with supernatural ones since it makes the origins of the city more impressive and if any people should be allowed to say they are descended from supernatural beings and trace their founders to the gods, Rome’s glory in war is so great that when they say that Mars is their first ancestor and the father of their founder, the countries of the world accept it in the same spirit as they accept their power. But no matter how these things and ones like them are considered and judged, I don’t think they are very important. Instead I would like people to think carefully about what sort of lives and morals the people had, and the men and their skills which they used at home and in wars to win power and extend it. Then I would like people to notice the discipline slipping gradually, first the sinking morals then them slipping more and more, then beginning to fall steeply, until we arrive at these days when we can’t put up with either our faults or the ways to fix them. There is something especially beneficial and useful in studying what happened long ago, because you can look at examples of everything that can happen clearly set out in a record. From this you can take for yourself and your country, things to copy, and things which are rotten from start to finish which you can avoid. On the other hand, unless my love for this job which I have started has tricked me, there has never been a country either more powerful or with better morals or with so many good examples to follow. There has never been a place where people have moved so slowly towards greed and extravagance or where there has been respect for such a long time for living without luxury and being economical. Really, the fewer possessions people had the fewer they wanted. Recently, riches have brought greed and the huge quantity of pleasure has brought a desire for ruining and destroying everything because of self-indulgence and lust. But unwanted complaints, even when perhaps they are necessary, really must not appear at the start of such a grand piece of work. I would much rather begin by using the poets’ way of doing things, with good omens and wishes and prayers to the gods and goddesses to ask them to give a favourable and successful outcome to the great task before me.
Livy, The History of Rome 1.1–1.2