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Reflection of Livy’s Ideas in Aeschylus’s Book

Individual ancient literary texts reveal specific stories in detail and serve as useful guidelines to interpret other works. As an example, one can discuss the role of Livy’s The History of Rome as an epic that contains important historical notes. Comparing his individual ideas with those of Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound can help explain specific events from the ancient Greek author’s book in a simpler and more understandable form.

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One of the most vivid plot events in the book of Livy is the suicide of Lucretia. The woman, the wife of a military leader, is a victim of one of the king’s sons, Lucius, who rapes her (Livy 80). Being depressed, she informs her husband and his companions about what has happened and, not having the strength to live with the grief that she has experienced, Lucretia kills herself with a knife (Livy 81). Previously, she addresses the men and reveals the identity of the rapist: “but give me your right hands and your word that the adulterer will not go unpunished. Sextus Tarquinius is the man” (Livy 81). This passage is a striking plot twist that greatly influenced the further history of Rome and captured the image of Lucretia as a strong spirit and courageous woman.

As a passage for comparison, one can mention Io’s meeting with Prometheus on the mountain where he is chained. Cowardly Zeus transformed her into a cow; she meets the titan captured by the same God and enters into a dialogue with him (Aeschylus 343). From the conversation, Io finds out that Prometheus is an oracle and predicts a favorable fate for her (Aeschylus 352). When she asks what will happen to him, he answers her that one of her descendants will free him: “As fate has it: one of your descendants… the tenth, tenth then third, of the line following from you” (Aeschylus 353). This passage plays an important role in the narrative, but one can take this plot twist differently while knowing the context of Livy’s story about Lucretia.

The context of Livy’s story shows that the sacrifice of one person can initiate a series of massive changes. When considering Io’s destiny, one can assume that she is a hostage to circumstances and has to endure torment while in the body of an animal. However, based on the consequences of Lucretia’s suicide, the interpretation of Io’s fate may be different. Sacrifice is a stepping stone on the path to achieving great goals. After killing herself, Lucretia initiated an uprising in Rome that transformed the existing political system, thereby changing the social order. Io’s story carries a similar subtext: not suffering is the main idea but its result. Prometheus’s prophecy came true, and the woman regained her former appearance and gave birth to the future king of Egypt. Nevertheless, when comparing the two suggested passages, one can state that Io’s wanderings were essential as a prerequisite for greater events changing the traditional view of her life as a series of humiliation and misery.

Works Cited

Aeschylus. Prometheus Bound. Translated by James Scully and C. John Herington, Oxford University Press, 1975.

Livy. The History of Rome. Translated by Valerie M. Warrior, Hackett Publishing, 2006.

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