42 Livy Quotes – Inspiring Wisdom from Ancient Rome

We’re about to dive into 42 Livy quotes… and the mind of a Roman historian, an intellect born two millennia ago. And it’s not just any historian, it’s the infamous Livy!

Livy, or Titus Livius if we’re being formal, lived from 59 BC to AD 17—right smack in the middle of Rome’s glorious heyday. He’s famous for something hefty called “”Ab Urbe Condita Libri,”” or if you’re not fluent in Latin, “”Books from the Foundation of the City.”” It’s a chronicle, a detailed one, of Rome’s history, from its mythical founding to Livy’s present day.

In this introduction, it’s not the grand historical narrative we’re after, but Livy’s philosophical nuggets. His words traverse human experiences, power, justice, fear, the whole deal. As we wade through these quotes on Wisdom, deception and betrayal, envy and ambition and fortune and fate, we’re basically connecting the dots of past wisdom to our present, maybe even future. And now, well, it’s showtime. Let’s see what Livy’s got to say.

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Best, Most Popular and Famous Quotes by Livy aka Titus Livius

“Toil and pleasure, dissimilar in nature, are nevertheless united by a certain natural bond.”  ~  Livy

“He will have true glory who despises it.”  ~  Livy

“The sun has not yet set for all time.”  ~  Livy

“From abundance springs satiety.”  ~  Livy

“The result showed that fortune helps the brave.”  ~  Livy

“It is easier to criticize than to correct our past errors.”  ~  Livy

“The populace is like the sea motionless in itself, but stirred by every wind, even the lightest breeze.”  ~  Livy

“Luck is of little moment to the great general, for it is under the control of his intellect and his judgment.”  ~  Livy

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”  ~  Livy

“The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.”  ~  Livy

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”  ~  Livy

“It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shores the struggles of another.”  ~  Livy

Find more fascinating quotes by Roman historians on our other posts: Tacitus quotes, Publilius Syrus quotes and Boethius quotes.

Livy quotes time

Livy Quotes on Wisdom and Reflection

“No law can possibly meet the convenience of every one: we must be satisfied if it be beneficial on the whole and to the majority.”  ~  Livy

“There is always more spirit in attack than in defence.”  ~  Livy

“Truth, they say, is but too often in difficulties, but is never finally suppressed.”  ~  Livy

“Many difficulties which nature throws in our way, may be smoothed away by the exercise of intelligence.”  ~  Livy

“There is nothing worse than being ashamed of parsimony or poverty.”  ~  Livy

“There are laws for peace as well as war.”  ~  Livy

“Men are slower to recognize blessings than misfortunes.”  ~  Livy

“Temerity is not always successful.”  ~  Livy

“In difficult and desperate cases, the boldest counsels are the safest.”  ~  Livy

“Under the influence of fear, which always leads men to take a pessimistic view of things, they magnified their enemies’ resources, and minimized their own.”  ~  Livy

“This above all makes history useful and desirable; it unfolds before our eyes a glorious record of exemplary actions.”  ~  Livy

“We can endure neither our vices nor the remedies for them.”  ~  Livy

“Resistance to criminal rashness comes better late than never.”  ~  Livy

“The troubles which have come upon us always seem more serious than those which are only threatening.”  ~  Livy

“All things will be clear and distinct to the man who does not hurry; haste is blind and improvident.”  ~  Livy

“It is easy at any moment to surrender a large fortune; to build one up is a difficult and an arduous task.”  ~  Livy

“They are more than men at the outset of their battles; at the end they are less than the women.”  ~  Livy

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Livy Quotes on Deception and Betrayal

“Men are only clever at shifting blame from their own shoulders to those of others.”  ~  Livy

“It is better that a guilty man should not be brought to trial than that he should be acquitted.”  ~  Livy

“A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally, in the end, betray itself.”  ~  Livy

“No crime can ever be defended on rational grounds.”  ~  Livy

“There is nothing that is more often clothed in an attractive garb than a false creed.”  ~  Livy

Livy Quotes on Envy and Ambition

“Favor and honor sometimes fall more fitly on those who do not desire them.”  ~  Livy

“The old Romans all wished to have a king over them because they had not yet tasted the sweetness of freedom.”  ~  Livy

“There is nothing man will not attempt when great enterprises hold out the promise of great rewards.”  ~  Livy

“Envy like fire always makes for the highest points.”  ~  Livy

Livy Quotes on Fortune and Fate

“Fortune blinds men when she does not wish them to withstand the violence of her onslaughts.”  ~  Livy

“Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness.”  ~  Livy

“Woe to the conquered.”  ~  Livy

“Nowhere are our calculations more frequently upset than in war.”  ~  Livy

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Livy quotes fear

What Are The Quotes All About?

We hope you have enjoyed these quotes by Livy… as you will have noticed reflect many different human experiences and traits including perseverance, wisdom, fear, ignorance, glory and luck. As a historian, Livy used his experience and perspective to explain humans innate desire of power and success and how we respond to defeat.

The duality of human nature is a recurring theme, with emphasis on the strengths and weaknesses inherent in all of us. Another recurring theme is the importance of understanding history and learning from the past.

This ranges from understanding the behaviour of society and the crowds (“”The populace is like the sea…””) and the brutal and unpredictable nature of war (“”Nowhere are our calculations more frequently upset than in war””).

What Can We Learn From These Quotes?

So, what can we learn from these quotes? Here are five take-home messages:

1.            Strive for wisdom and understanding instead of temporary glory or wealth.

2.            Livy stresses the benefit of learning from history – suggesting it offers us ideas to emulate and warnings to avoid.

3.            His quotes also stress the importance of courage, intellect and judgment – especially in uncertain and hard times.

4.            They remind us that our perception can be negatively influenced by ignorance or fear and that we should try our best to understand the true nature of the world around us.

5.            Finally, Livy suggests that we should aim for self-improvement (haven’t we all got work to do?) and try to get a clearer sense of our actions and their consequences – both to ourselves and those around us.

Livy emphasizes that we should take personal responsibility to ensure our own growth. He believed that every setback could be transformed into an opportunity if we strive for greatness and make the most of it. Courage is essential in this situation, as it will provide us with the strength and motivation to overcome difficulties and better ourselves. We must remind ourselves not to get bogged

How Can We Apply This Wisdom In Our Own Lives?

How can we put Livy’s philosophy and words into action in our day-to-day lives? Firstly, try embracing patience and thoughtful action rather than rushing into decisions or judgements (of situations, people and ourselves!).

Now don’t let this put you off … but by studying history, we can better understand the consequences of actions and make better and more informed decisions. This does not have to be dry, and you don’t have to be a history buff – reading and contemplating Livy’s quote above and other ancient philosophers is a good start.

Also, Livy would encourage us to work on our courage in the face of adversity and thereby make decisions for better outcomes. Let’s try to recognize our blessings and work on our vices, rather than just focusing on misfortunes.

Livy emphasizes that we should take personal responsibility to ensure our own growth. He believed that every setback could be transformed into an opportunity if we strive for greatness and make the most of it. Courage is essential in this situation, as it will provide us with the strength and motivation to overcome difficulties and better ourselves.

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