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Tacitus, Annals: An Introdutcio

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Sharon Marshall

on 11 January 2015

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Transcript of Tacitus, Annals: An Introdutcio

Tacitus,
Annals
: An Introduction

FONTS
Implication and alienation
Political and literary career overlap; Tacitus did not turn to writing in retirement
Unusual: 'respectable' history tends to come from outsiders, 'questionable' from insiders
Makes us question success as historian and political figure
Seems to critique imperial system, but owes successful career to that system
Works in his favour: criticism lends air of objectivity that gives credibility to work as a historian; implication in imperial system lends him necessary credentials to critique it
Characteristics of the
Annals
The story so far
Life of Tacitus
Imperial timeline
Augustus
27 BC- AD 14
Tiberius
14-37
Caligula
37-41
Claudius
41-54
Nero
54-68
Galba
68-69
Otho
69
Vitellius
69
Vespasian
69-79
Titus
79-81
Domitian
81-96
Nerva
96-98
Trajan
98-117
Hadrian
117-138
Tacitus

b. 56








d. 117
Annals
Began under Trajan c. 114
Not completed until after accession of Hadrian in 117
Covers period from death of Augustus to reign of Nero (14-68)
At least 16 books, but 7-10 and parts of 5, 6, 11 and 16 missing (just over half extant)
Tacitus c. 60 years old and Rome's leading political analyst
Required substantial research (Cluvius Rufus, Acta Senatus, memoirs of Agrippina, testimony of eye witnesses)
Previous works
Agricola
(c. 97-98)
Biography of Tacitus' father-in-law, governor of Britain
Germania
(98)
Ethnographic treatise on the Germani
Dialogus de Oratoribus
(c. 98-103)
Dialogue on the art of rhetoric (ends with speech that great oratory was only possible in chaos of the Roman Republic)
Histories
(c.105-6)
Claims to cover Year of the Four Emperors (69) to the Flavians (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian) but only Books One to Four and part of Five survive (covering events of 69 and 70)
Syme and Tacitus
Ronald Syme (1903-89)
Toher on Syme's
Tacitus
:
"It is fair to say that our understanding of Tacitus, who he was and why he wrote, is in significant part due to Syme's own analysis of him; much that is generally accepted by scholars of Tacitus is due to
Tacitus
."
Toher, M. "Tacitus' Syme" in A. J. Woodman, ed.,
Cambridge Companion to Tacitus
. Cambridge. 317-329.
Similarities between the two: backgrounds and terse writing style
What we know
Year and place of birth unknown, but dates of public offices suggest b. 56, most likely N. Italy or S. Gaul.
Teenager in 69 (Year of the Four Emperors)
Educated in Rome
Married 77 AD to Agricola's daughter
Obtained quaestorship in 81 or 82 (and membership of Senate along with it)
Praetor in 88
Quindecemvir - member of priestly college in charge of Sybilline Books and Secular Games
Governor of Asia in 112
Techniques
Chronological liberties taken through inclusion of digressions (e.g. digression on luxury in 3.52-5 which introduces discussion of Vespasian), usually for moralising ends
Pervasive comparison of honourable past and degenerate present
Contrast between Rome and provinces (but avoids simple moral dichotomy)
Major focus = struggle between individual and society (especially Princeps and Senate)
Tone
Very beginning of work sets tone of dissatisfaction - if not outright hostility - towards Principate
Claims objectivity by flagging up that he did not witness any of the Julio-Claudian emperors
Claims to write
sine ira et studio
(1.1.3)
Begins reign of Tiberius with:
primum facinus novi principatus fuit Postumi Agrippae caedes
(1.6.1)
Sets the tone for what follows
Books One to Three
Book One
:
sets scene in Rome and imperial house; takes us from death of Augustus to accession of Tiberius
1.16-30: Drusus and the mutiny of Pannonian legions
1.31-54: Germanicus and the mutiny of the German legions
Book Two
: success of Germanicus and jealousy of Tiberius
Tiberius recalls Germanicus, followed by Germanicus' tour of Asia
Rivalry betwee
n
Germanicus and Cnaeus Piso, ending in Germanicus' death
But
not before G. has suspected plot and charged wife, Agrippina and followers with bringing Piso to justice
Book Three
: trial of Piso and his suicide
Agrippina blames Tiberius and his mother, Livia
Medley of subjects tying up Tiberius' first nine years of rule
Book Four
Begins with inroduction of Lucius Aelius Sejanus, prefect of praetorian guard
Tacitus blames Sejanus - whose first crime is murder of Drusus - for turning point in Tiberius' reign
Other sources (e.g. Suetonius and Dio Cassius) have death of Germanicus as turning point
Contest between Agrippina and Sejanus to hold sway with Tiberius
Sejanus eventually wins, especially after saving Tiberius in collapsing grotto at Spelunca
Having persuaded a paranoid Tiberius to leave Rome, Sejanus consolidates his power
Full transcript