Livy's “Diktatorbild”: Structure, style and language

Brian Thomas Walsh, Fordham University


This dissertation focuses upon Livy's narrative presentation of the individual holders of the constitutional dictatorship and seeks to identify the historiographical and rhetorical principles which guided his shaping of the material. The choice of subject is justified by the fact that dictators play central roles in a number of dramatic episodes throughout the early books. In these episodes, which embrace both the domestic and foreign spheres of Livy's presentation, the dictators confront—in both word and deed—a variety of antagonists in the context of numerous constitutional, legal, religious and military crises. Thus dictators serve to articulate and advance the historian's views on power, authority and conflict. As the title of the dissertation suggests, the study seeks to use the sum total of the individual analyses in order to present a comprehensive evaluation of the historian's conception of this important office. In addition to an introduction and conclusion, the three principle chapters are devoted to a chronological investigation of Livy's presentations of dictators in the first pentad, second pentad and second and third decades, respectively. The study treats questions of structure, focusing particularly upon Livy's establishment of a preferred pattern of recurrent motifs and topoi in the individual dictator-episodes, as well as the historian's scope and placement of these episodes within larger units, the book and pentad. Among a number of conclusions presented is that Livy consistently treated dictators in a largely favorable manner, and, when choosing between variant accounts, occasionally preferred those featuring dictators to those with consuls as the leading magistrate. It is also argued that Livy's presentation reflects an appropriate historical awareness of the evolution which the office underwent from its initial primarily military function to its final use in the supervision of elections. Lastly, convinced that Livy's artistry is particularly evident in his treatment of episodes which feature these special magistrates, the author applies the principles of prose ‘colometry’ as a means of exploring Livy's prose style in a selection of these linguistically rich episodes. These are presented in ‘colometric’ format and discussed at length in an in depth ‘Appendix’ to the dissertation.

Subject Area

Classical studies

Recommended Citation

Walsh, Brian Thomas, "Livy's “Diktatorbild”: Structure, style and language" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3017563.