Livy’s Cato and Commodities at Centre and Periphery
This paper is part of a larger project on how Livy represents the Elder Cato, from his entrance into the text in Book 29 to his last witticism preserved in the summary of Book 50, the longest biographical arc in this first third of Livy’s text. It views Cato through the lens of his relationship with objects, and with Livy’s narrative as an object as well. This paper focuses on one episode in the life of Livy’s Cato, the debate over the repeal of the Lex Oppia, and builds on previous scholars’ work to unite three arguments: 1) Livy weaves together textual space and Roman topography so as to emphasise the simultaneous marginality and centrality of this debate; 2) Livy’s Cato and Valerius fill Rome’s urban topography with images of things so as to draw attention via women’s bodies to the relationship between luxury and Rome’s imperium; 3) Livy uses this episode to make an argument about his own historical writing and its active relationship to the expansion of empire. This project focusing on Livy’s Cato is itself part of an even larger reexamination of how we read, and might read, Livy.