A question that has intrigued me for some time now is “Why does a given person write about what they write?” Within this question one may look at all places and genres, including modern works writing reviews of other authors and on down through the ages. For me this interested primarily manifests itself in the purposes behind ancient historians, which is significantly aided by the admittance as to purpose in the author’s own introduction.
The task of writing a history of our nation from Rome’s earliest days fills me, I confess, with some misgivings, and even were I confident in the value of my work, I should hesitate to say so. I am aware that for historians to make extravagant claims is, and always has been, all too common: every writer on history tends to look down his nose at his less cultivated predecessors, happily persuaded that he will better them in point of style, or bring new facts to life…
…I am aware, too, that most readers will take less pleasure in my account of how Rome began and her early history; they will wish to hurry on to more modern times…My own feeling is different; I shall find antiquity a rewarding study, if only because, while I am absorbed in it, I shall be able to turn my eyes from the troubles which for so long have tormented the modern world…
~Livy, The Early History of Rome
Translated by Aubrey de Selincourt
As a student of Ancient History and in particular one whose desire is to study in a history department, this passage is incredibly warming to me. Even today there is more enthusiasm for ‘modern’ history than there is for antiquity. Granted, this means there are fewer people job hunting in the field, but it also leads to less recognition.
Livy is admitting he is a dork in this passage. Despite what is trendy and popular, Livy is writing about something he is interested in and love. If there is a better reason to study something, I have not yet heard of it and it is the same reason I am intending to stay in school for years to come.