No Comment, Quotation — December 8, 2007, 12:00 am

Livy on the Rise of the Republic and of Civic Liberty

the_rape_of_the_sabine_women

Liberi iam hinc populi Romani res pace belloque gestas, annuos magistratus, imperiaque legum potentiora quam hominum peragam. Quæ libertas ut lætior esset proximi regis superbia fecerat. . .

Quid enim futurum fuit, si illa pastorum conuenarumque plebs, transfuga ex suis populis, sub tutela inuiolati templi aut libertatem aut certe impunitatem adepta, soluta regio metu agitari coepta esset tribuniciis procellis, et in aliena urbe cum patribus serere certamina, priusquam pignera coniugum ac liberorum caritasque ipsius soli, cui longo tempore adsuescitur, animos eorum consociasset? Dissipatae res nondum adultæ discordia forent, quas fouit tranquilla moderatio imperii eoque nutriendo perduxit ut bonam frugem libertatis maturis iam uiribus ferre possent. Libertatis autem originem inde magis quia annuum imperium consulare factum est quam quod deminutum quicquam sit ex regia potestate numeres. Omnia iura, omnia insignia primi consules tenuere; id modo cautum est ne, si ambo fasces haberent, duplicatus terror uideretur.

Henceforth I shall tell the deeds of a people, the Romans, who valued liberty first, and of their accomplishments both in peace and war, the magistracies that passed from year to year–the story of a state in which no man stood above the law. They valued their liberty so much precisely because their last king had been so great a tyrant. . .

For what would have happened, had that crowd of shepherds and strangers, outcast from their own peoples, found, under the protection of an absolute sanctuary, either freedom, or at least impunity for former offences, and, freed from the fear of the king’s authority, had begun to be attracted to the rising power of the tribunes, and had begun to challenge the fathers in a strange city, before the pledges of wives and children, and love for the land itself, to which people become accustomed
only by the passage of time, had united their attentions? Their condition,
not yet matured, would have been destroyed by discord; but the
tranquillizing moderation of the government so fostered their condition, and by proper nourishment brought it to such perfection, that, when their strength was now developed, they were able to bring
forth the wholesome fruits of liberty. The first beginnings of
liberty, however, one may date from this period, and most remarkably they arise from the limitation placed on the consular authority–by its being made annual, rather than a circumscription of the power of the kings. The first consuls kept all the privileges and outward signs of authority, care only being taken to prevent the terror appearing doubled, should both have the fasces at the same time.

Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita lib ii, cap i (ca. 5 BCE) in: Loeb Library ed. vol. 114, pp. 118-20 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

March 2015

A Sage in Harlem

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Man Stopped

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Spy Who Fired Me

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Giving Up the Ghost

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Invisible and Insidious

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
William Powell published The Anarchist Cookbook in 1971. He spent the next four decades fighting to take it out of print.
“The book has hovered like an awkward question on the rim of my consciousness for years.”
© JP Laffont/Sygma/Corbis
Article
The Fourth Branch·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw student politics as a proxy battleground for their rivalry.”
Photograph © Gerald R. Brimacombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Article
Giving Up the Ghost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Stories about past lives help explain this life — they promise a root structure beneath the inexplicable soil of what we see and live and know, what we offer one another.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
The Spy Who Fired Me·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In industry after industry, this data collection is part of an expensive, high-tech effort to squeeze every last drop of productivity from corporate workforces.”
Illustration by John Ritter
Article
Invisible and Insidious·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly.”
Photograph © 2011 Massimo Mastrorillo and Donald Weber/VII

Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:

1

Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.

An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today