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Tacitus (Facial Reconstruction)

Tacitus (Facial Reconstruction)

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Bog body

A bog body is a human cadaver that has been naturally mummified in a peat bog. Such bodies, sometimes known as bog people, are both geographically and chronologically widespread, having been dated to between 8000 BCE and the Second World War. [1] The unifying factor of the bog bodies is that they have been found in peat and are partially preserved however, the actual levels of preservation vary widely from perfectly preserved to mere skeletons. [2]

Unlike most ancient human remains, bog bodies often retain their skin and internal organs due to the unusual conditions of the surrounding area. Combined together, highly acidic water, low temperature, and a lack of oxygen preserve but severely tan their skin. While the skin is well-preserved, the bones are generally not, due to the dissolution of the calcium phosphate of bone by the peat's acidity. [3] The acidic conditions of these bogs allows for the preservation of materials such as skin, hair, nails, wool, and leather which all contain the protein keratin. [3]

The oldest known bog body is the skeleton of Koelbjerg Man from Denmark, who has been dated to 8000 BCE, during the Mesolithic period. [1] The oldest fleshed bog body is that of Cashel Man, who dates to 2000 BCE during the Bronze Age. [4] The overwhelming majority of bog bodies – including examples such as Tollund Man, Grauballe Man and Lindow Man – date to the Iron Age and have been found in northwest European lands, particularly Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, Poland, and Ireland. [5] [6] [7] Such Iron Age bog bodies typically illustrate a number of similarities, such as violent deaths and a lack of clothing, which has led archaeologists to believe that they were killed and deposited in the bogs as a part of a widespread cultural tradition of human sacrifice or the execution of criminals. [1] [8] Bogs could have indeed been seen as liminal places positively connected to another world, which might welcome contaminating items otherwise dangerous to the living. [8] More recent theories postulate that bog people were perceived as social outcasts or "witches", as legal hostages killed in anger over broken treaty arrangements, or as victims of an unusual death eventually buried in bogs according to traditional customs. [8]

The German scientist Alfred Dieck published a catalog of more than 1,850 bog bodies that he had counted between 1939 and 1986 [9] [10] but most were unverified by documents or archaeological finds [11] and a 2002 analysis of Dieck's work by German archaeologists concluded that much of his work was unreliable. [11] Countering Dieck's findings of more than 1400 bog body discoveries, it seems that after a more recient study the number of bog body finds is closer to 122. [12] The newest bog bodies are those of soldiers killed in the wetlands of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. [1]

Holy wrath, 4

In Old Norse mythology, the einherjar means literally ‘army of one’ or ‘those who fight alone’ those who have died in battle and are brought to Valhalla by valkyries.

A nother quality that was attributed to the berserkergang possessed was the ‘disable the arms of the adversary’, which probably implied that the berserkers were so fast, so invulnerable and inspired such terror in their enemies that they seemed to be paralysed with fear or that their blows were not effective.

Also, it is very likely that the aura of anger from a charging group of berserkers was ‘felt’ at a great distance by enemy soldiers as if it were an expansive wave, as the Roman historian Tacitus wrote while speaking of a Germanic männerbund whose members were called Harii, a word that, among Iranians and Indo-Iranians, meant ‘blondes’ and which is related to the einherjar of Valhala:

It will be enough to mention the most powerful, which are the Harii, the Helvecones, the Manimi, the Helisii and the Nahanarvali. Among these last is shown a grove of immemorial sanctity. A priest in female attire has the charge of it. But the deities are described in Roman language as Castor and Pollux. Such, indeed, are the attributes of the divinity, the name being Alcis. They have no images, or indeed, any vestige of foreign superstition, but it is as brothers and as youths that the deities are worshipped.

The Harii, besides being superior in strength to the tribes just enumerated, savage as they are, make the most of their natural ferocity by the help of art and opportunity. Their shields are black, their bodies dyed. They chose dark nights for battle, and, by the dread and gloomy aspect of their death-like host, strike terror into the foe, who can never confront their strange and almost infernal appearance. For in all battles it is the eye which is first vanquished [1].

We observe here the importance of the symbolism about the dark among these men. The night is essential in this symbolism because it symbolizes the dark age, this dark winter in which we were born for good or bad. The day, with the rays of the sun, the gold, is propitious for the will, for the courage, for the conscious struggle, to drive the spear into the enemy, to plunge the sword into the earth in a word, to possess, to take over. The day represents the right hand the order, the ritual and the ‘dry way’. The night, on the other hand, with its darkness, moon, stars, water and silver is more propitious to magic, to a certain chaos, to be allowed to be possessed, to raise arms to heaven instead of sinking them into the earth and therefore it is more related to the left hand and the ‘wet way’.

Since man is no longer a god, he must strive to become, at least, a blind instrument of the gods. For this, he must be emptied of all egocentric individuality in order to allow the divine outburst, that is, ‘to propitiate Odin to touch him with the tip of his spear’. And the first way to achieve this was through the establishment of severe discipline, asceticism and organisation.

Let us remember, with respect to the importance of the night, that Adolf Hitler himself spoke in Mein Kampf about the difference of the effect of his speeches among the crowds in the morning and at night. For him, the afternoons, and especially the evenings, were the ideal moment to give a speech and to assert his magnetism. Let us also note that, in the SS, the predominant colours in the uniforms and in their symbolism were black and silver. Symbolically, they were covered by night with darkness, with thunder and with lunar and star light.

Whoever had once been possessed by the berserkergang was already marked with a lifetime sign. From then on, the trance not only came to be invoked before the fight, but could also fall on him suddenly in moments of peace and tranquillity, transforming him in a matter of seconds into a ball of hate, adrenaline and subhuman cries striving for destruction.

Thus, Egil’s Saga describes how Egil’s father, a berserker, suddenly suffered possession of the berserkergang while peacefully playing a ball game with his son and another small one. The warrior, horribly agitated and roaring like an animal, grabbed his son’s friend, lifted him into the air and slammed him to the ground with such force that he died instantly with all the bones of his body broken. Then he went to his own son, but he was saved by a maid who, in turn, fell dead before the possessed.

In the sagas, the stories of berserkers are dotted with tragedies in which the uncontrolled berserkergang turns against those closest to the possessed. If we had to find a Greek equivalent, we would have it in the figure of Hercules, who during an attack of anger killed his own wife Megara and the two children he had with her, which motivated his twelve tasks as penance to expiate his sin.

In the field of mythology we have many examples of the fury of the berserkers. The Saga of King Hrólf Kraki speaks of the hero Berserker Bjarki, who fought for the king and who, in a battle, was transformed into a bear. This bear killed more enemies than the five select king champions. Arrows and weapons bounced off him, and he tore down men and horses from the forces of the enemy King Hjorvard, tore apart with his teeth and claws anything that stood in his way so that panic seized the enemy’s army, disintegrating their ranks chaotically.

This legend, which is still a legend, represents the fame that the berserkers in the North had acquired as small groups but, by their bravery, perfectly capable of deciding the outcome of a great battle.

Now, what is the explanation for these events, which far exceed the normal? How should we interpret the berserkergang? In our days, those who always look with resentful distrust at any manifestation of strength and health, have wanted to degrade it. For many of them, the berserkers were simply communities of epileptics, schizophrenics and other mentally ill people.

This ridiculous explanation is altogether unsatisfactory, as epilepsy and schizophrenia are pathologies whose effects cannot be ‘programmed’ for a battle like the berserkers did, and under epileptic or psychotic episodes it is impossible to perform valiant actions or show warlike heroism. An epileptic does more damage to himself by biting his tongue and falling to the ground than destroying the ranks of a large enemy army, and can also be reduced by a single person. Others have suggested that, as in the movies, the berserkers were alliances of individuals who had undergone genetic mutations, or the survivors of an old disappeared Germanic lineage, organised in the form of sectarian communities. Others even take into account the ‘shamanic’ explanation, according to which berserkers were possessed by the totem spirit of a bear or a wolf.

[1] ‘Germania’ in Germania and Agricola by Tacitus, translated by Alfred J. Church, Ostara Publications (2016), page 17.

Introduction To The Histories of Cornelius Tacitus by the Translator

In the troubled history of Europe the Roman Empire seems an era of comparative order, peace and legality. It can hardly fail to exert a certain fascination amid the turmoil of the present century. If the average man is content to view the Romans through the eyes of the novelist and film-director, the curious observer will have questions to ask. He will wish to get a little nearer to the sources of our knowledge. He will turn in the first instance to The Annals of the senator Cornelius Tacitus. Now mutilated, the Annals originally comprised sixteen or eighteen short 'books', spanning the fifty-four years from the accession of the second emperor, Tiberius, to the death of the fifth, Nero (A.D. 14-68). Not less instructive, however, is an earlier work of Tacitus, the Histories. These deal with the three short-lived emperors of A.D. 69, Galba, Otho and Vitellius, and with the three emperors of the succeeding Flavian dynasty (Vespasian, 69-79 Titus, 79-81 and Domitian, 81-96). Originally twelve or fourteen books in length, the Histories survive to the extent of the first four and a portion of the fifth, covering the 'Year of the Four Emperors' A.D. 69, and some nine months of A.D. 70. Tacitus seems to have been planning the work as early as A.D. 98, and it may have been published, perhaps in instalments, between A.D. 105 and 108.

It follows that the scale of treatment was more generous in the Histories than in the Annals, and is most generous of all in the surviving portion of the former translated in the present volume. The reason for this abundance is not hard to guess. The year 69, 'that long but single year' as Tacitus had earlier called it, offers a wealth of dramatic incident. After the solid and prosperous security of the first or Julio-Claudian dynasty, the ground opens. The vast edifice of the world empire is shaken. Pretender rises against pretender. The frontier armies move on Rome from Spain, Germany, the Balkans and the East. The frontiers themselves are breached by the barbarian. There are palace conspiracies, sudden assassinations, desperate battles, deeds of heroism and perfidy. The scene shifts continually from one end of the empire to the other, from Britain to Palestine, from Morocco to the Caucasus. Three emperors — Galba, Otho and Vitellius — meet their end. The fourth, Vespasian, survives by fate or chance or merit, and founds his dynasty for good or ill. Here, in the clash of Roman with Roman, the civilized world seemed for the moment about to perish. Ancient or modern, the reader who delights in history as story could scarcely find the narrative dull, however inexpert the narrator. And the narrator is Tacitus. He rises to his theme, and as stylist, statesman and critic of human nature has the skill and knowledge to make words live.

In all the records of Rome there can scarcely be another year that is so full of calamity, or that displays so clearly the strength and weakness of the Romans. In the Histories we can follow events from month to month, from day to day, sometimes even from hour to hour. We stand close to the picture. The canvas is restricted but the details fascinate. Nor are broader masses and more distant perspectives lacking.

At first names crowd upon us Tacitus must set the scene. The actors are numerous, the plot already thick He starts at 1 January 69, the year of destiny, with backward glances at the six months or so that have elapsed since Nero's death we too must look back, and a little further.

Since the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., the Roman world has been ruled by Augustus and his family, the Julio-Claudians. The ruler is called imperator ('commander') or princeps ('leader'). The principate is an autocracy with some republican trappings. As in the days of the republic a hierarchy of elected officials ('magistrates') continues to hold office in Rome and act as army commanders or provincial governors for longer or shorter periods thereafter. The senate, a chamber composed of these officials and numbering some 500 members, continues to handle a considerable mass of public business. Many rich and important provinces, with Italy itself, still lie under its superintendence. But the armed forces are now controlled by the emperor, and with them the provinces in which these forces are stationed, mostly on the periphery of the empire. Such are Britain, the Rhineland, the Danubian countries, Egypt and the East. In a state where an official career alternates between civil and military appointments, the emperor's patronage is essential to advancement. In the association of princeps and senate, the former is inevitably the dominant partner. As brake or spur, the effectiveness of the senate depends upon its own cohesion and public spirit. As for the 'people of Rome', the full citizens living in Italy or scattered throughout the empire, their political power has shrunk almost to nothing, and that of non-Romans has never existed except at the level of local politics. The positions of eminence are occupied by senators, who in private life are rich landed gentry, and by knights (the 'equestrian order'), who possess a less exalted birth and are delimited by a lower property qualification. Both these orders have open to them official careers in which merit may rise in regular but flexible patterns of promotion. We must add to them a class hardly less important, that of the imperial freedmen, ex-slaves often of Eastern origin, men of talent acting as imperial civil-servants under the immediate control of the emperor.

Augustus and Tiberius were cautious and intelligent rulers, under whom Rome and her dominions prospered. The calm of a benevolent autocracy had succeeded the fever and anguish of the last century of the free republic. But Gaius, Claudius and Nero were less successful. Eccentric or megalomaniac in their various ways, these men, and particularly Nero, brought the Julio-Claudian dynasty — and to a certain degree the principate itself — into disrepute. The execution in A.D. 67 of a distinguished commander in the East, Domitius Corbulo, was an indication of the sort of gratitude that prominent Romans could expect of a suspicious and unbalanced tyrant. There were conspiracies. In March 68came the rebellion of the governor of Central Gaul, Julius Vindex , himself of Gallic origin. But there was a more important malcontent. In early April, the governor of Nearer Spain, Sulpicius Galba, member of an ancient aristocratic family, was hailed as emperor by his troops. Vindex, who had only a local militia at his disposal, was soon crushed by the governor of Upper Germany, Verginius Rufus. But on 9 June, Nero , feeling his position desperate, committed suicide Thereupon, Galba was recognised as princeps by the senate.

The credentials of a historian who is our main source for this period must be scrutinized. In writing the Histories, Tacitus enjoyed many advantages. He was himself a senator whose official career had begun and developed under the Flavians. He must necessarily have known much of the political history of the time at first hand. In the Year of the Four Emperors, he was only a boy of fourteen. But of course sources were plentiful. The events of A.D. 69 evoked a rich literature in both Greek and Latin, much of it tendentious and propagandist. There is no reason to doubt that Tacitus faithfully consulted these written sources, noting agreements and discrepancies. Two writers only are mentioned by name others can be guessed. But in A.D. 98-105, when Tacitus was planning and writing his work, oral testimony was available from many survivors. Such was Vestricius Spurinna, a soldier with a long and distinguished career whose beginning Tacitus gracefully notices. Like many other possible informants, Spurinna was on friendly terms with the younger Pliny, and hence probably with his friend Tacitus. Pliny speaks warmly of the old man's character and love of reminiscence. Much of the detailed information in Books Two and Three concerning events in Liguria Tacitus may have retained from recollections of talk with his father-in-law Agricola, who was there at the time. Some state papers were certainly available to one who was a senator, particularly the Roman Hansard, the Transactions of the Senate — obviously put to good use in Book Four. These he seems to have supplemented by the evidence of surviving participants.

How conscientious and unbiased is he? Can we rely upon the facts, if not the interpretations that he provides? Any answer to this question must face the basic difficulty that the historian's sources, both primary and secondary, are lost to us. We have neither the Transactions of the Senate nor the historical works of the elder Pliny or Messalla. Independent evidence — a coin, an inscription, an archaeological find — is too slight to provide an effective criterion. Comparisons with parallel authorities are favourable to Tacitus. By and large, we must judge by internal evidence.

No reader of the Histories can be in doubt that the writer's emotions are involved in his account of the recent and controversial past, written, it may be, with an eye to the present and to the inscrutable and perhaps ominous future. There are King Charles's heads, themes that recur with suspicious and predictable frequency: the irresponsibility and corruption of the metropolis, the excessive influence of imperial freedmen, the selfish ambitions of competing courtiers, a senate riven and helpless, an emperor suspicious and uncertain. Some small slips in matters of fact may be detected, but they are few. The love of speed and brevity, or an assumption of knowledge in the reader, leads to omissions. There are sentences of Delphic ambiguity and antitheses more striking than clear. Epigram is not likely to be the best vehicle of truth. We may lament, while we enjoy, a sly innuendo. But these defects, if defects they are, lie on the surface. The more we study Tacitus, the more he rises in our esteem.

It would, however, be optimistic to suppose that his historical research was more than superficial. It is true that he consulted his friend the younger Pliny concerning the circumstances of the death of the latter's uncle in the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79: the source was excellent and close at hand. In areas of dispute, however, he more than once tells us that inquiries would be difficult or impracticable. His task, it seemed to him, was to denounce implicitly or explicitly the grosser lies of partisan historians. When conflicting versions baffled solution, it was fairest and certainly easiest to state the alternatives, perhaps with a hint of what the writer himself considered most credible in the light of general probability. This preference is often, though not always, given to the less flattering version.

Since Tacitus cannot fall back upon his own research, many small and some vital issues remain in doubt. Was the acclamation of Vespasian engineered or spontaneous? Who was responsible for the sack of Cremona? Who for the firing of the amphitheatre at Placentia or of the Capitol at Rome? Did Vespasian connive at the incitement of Civilis to rebel? Was Antonius Primus the victim of Mucianus' jealousy, or was his fall from favour richly deserved? This and much else remain obscure. But the reason is not only the difficulty of establishing the truth. It is also a conviction that truth is not simple. Motives are complex, chance unpredictable, fate or the gods supreme. Will it not be better, where so much is dark, to leave the reader to ponder?

Indeed, the academic pursuit of knowledge for its own sake appeared to Tacitus, as to many of his countrymen, a dangerous form of dilettantism. Philosophy is particularly suspect if it fails to result in good works. Men often devote their gifts to it, he says, in describing the character of Helvidius Priscus, in order to disguise ease and idleness under a pretentious name. Those who claim to teach the art of living may be wolves in sheep's clothing, like Publius Celer, or out of touch with the hard realities of life, like Musonius Rufus, who preached peace to men who carried arms. So with learning in general. When the world needs leaders, study cannot be disinterested. Historians must not be antiquaries. They must teach by examples, denouncing evil and honouring virtue. One or other of the seven deadly sins — pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth, to which we may add an eighth, cowardice — confronts us on almost every page of the Histories. But the vices of the early empire are known to us chiefly through the Roman delight in self-criticism. In a moment of gloom Tacitus suggests that the moral climate of A.D. 69 was such as to render any possibility of a peaceful settlement between the Othonian and Vitellian forces quite chimerical. This is special pleading, belied by the context. In any case such generalisations are practically meaningless. They belong to the tradition of Roman puritanism and the doctrine of progressive and galloping decline from an idealized past. It is in accordance with this moralizing attitude that the civil war is represented less as a political hazard than as evidence of the corruption of the age.

The desire to preach sometimes comes close to malice. Tacitus finds some good things to say even of Vitellius: he was generous, and a good family man, however poor an emperor. But the historian presses home the charge of gluttony in season and out. Along the roads of Italy clatter the wheels of his commissariat. This keynote is struck early, at the very beginning of the reign. News of the revolt of the legions of Upper Germany from Galba reaches Vitellius in the governor's palace at Cologne after dark on 1 January 69: the messenger has ridden hard all day to cover the 105 miles from Mainz. But Tacitus cannot resist the temptation to add that Vitellius is at the dinner table. The information is gratuitous, the insult studied. Before entering Rome the Vitellian troops receive an issue of rations. Nothing, one would think, could be more normal, nor better designed to forestall hunger or looting. But this will not do for our moralist. Vitellius, he writes, 'was engaged in issuing haversack rations as if he were fattening up a lot of gladiators'. Some of these absurdities may be plausibly attributed to Flavian pamphleteers anxious to stress the enormities of an emperor against whom Vespasian rebelled. Tacitus realizes that much contemporary history is propagandist, but does not always succeed in freeing himself of its influence. Some of the mud sticks.

Nor, as Tacitus himself admits, is the picture one of unrelieved gloom. The world is naughty, but good deeds shine out. The reader is duly reminded of examples of patriotism, loyalty, friendship, independence of spirit, modesty, courage. The names of those faithful unto death are carefully recorded, or regret expressed if the names have perished. The lower the station of the hero, the greater the gratification of his historian. Senators are expected to set an example they often fail to do so. How much the more must we admire the sacrificial devotion of a governor's slave or the courage of a defenceless woman of Liguria!

The story of A.D. 69-70 is a complex web of contemporary events widely separated in space, yet possessing a causal or chronological relationship to one another. Their interaction must be made clear. Selection, grouping, arrangement and emphasis present the historian with manifold difficulties and opportunities. Tacitus dominates the chaos with an unfaltering hand. The annalistic tradition of Roman historiography made it natural that each year should be introduced by the mention of its consuls, that is, its date. Within the year, it was necessary to find some compromise between two conflicting ideals — strict chronological sequence and the grouping of events into episodes. Tacitus' method is to present us with a succession of longer or shorter 'chapters': the murder of Galba, the march on Rome, the Jews, and so on. Matter which coheres he is reluctant to break up without strong reasons. Neighbouring chapters precede, succeed or overlap each other in time. Transitions are often ably managed the reader moves in imagination from place to place in the company of imperial couriers. There are surprisingly few explicit dates, and we are not even told, though we can deduce, when the battles of Cremona were fought, and this too, despite the stern reproof administered to Vitellius for forgetting a fatal anniversary —that of the Battles of the Allia and Cremera. Yet the historian is always conscious of his time-scale, and examination shows that he is faithful to it and that it is substantially correct. Literary critics are sometimes puzzled by the sudden and brief intrusion of Titus at the beginning of Book Two. Should this not have been relegated to a later point — the description of the rise of Vespasian? The truth is that the journey of Titus took place in the early months of A.D. 69 : it cannot be postponed to midsummer.

Once the arrangement of his material had been planned, it remained to render it in words harmoniously, pointedly and with variety. The leading characters — the emperors and their chief supporters — are kept well to the foreground. Their salient attitudes are repeatedly stressed. Behind them stand a host of lesser figures, sketched in rapidly but incisively. Particular attention is paid to the psychology of hope and fear. The atmosphere is highly charged with emotion. At times, the imaginative reconstruction borders upon the technique of the historical novelist. No conceivable source except his own imagination can have told Tacitus the thoughts that passed through the mind of Vespasian as he hesitated before the fateful decision to rebel. But this is what brings history to life, and no Roman critic could have taken exception to it. In the same way, and in accordance with a convention of high ancestry, eloquent and impressive speeches are invented with the greatest freedom. They serve to clarify issues, relieve the monotony of factual narration, and allow the orator Tacitus to speak at once in the person of his hero and of himself. There are other devices to secure variety. Certain scenes of terror and pathos lend themselves to highlighting. Striking or casual phrases disclose the visual imagination of the artist and the poet. Nor does Tacitus deny himself the wilful digression: Paphos, Veleda, Serapis, the Jews. Indeed the Year of the Four Emperors offered infinite possibilities. Later, when Tacitus came to write the history of the Julio-Claudians, the long catalogue of the Tiberian treason-trials seemed tedious even to their narrator. He looked back regretfully to the colourful scenes of the Histories:

A well-constructed book conceals the art of its construction. The reader of Tacitus' Latin is much more immediately aware of his verbal dexterity and of a style almost without parallel in the literature of his nation. The formal patterns and figures which the concise and unambiguous inflexions of the Latin language permit and encourage are employed by Tacitus with consummate skill. In a modern English setting these adornments parallelism, variation, alliteration, chiasmus and a dozen more — are inevitably sacrificed or retain only a ghostly existence. How far they are to be allowed to survive is a question of taste or prejudice where scarcely two critics will agree. I have tried to keep as close as possible to the brevity, point and speed of the original.

My occasional departures from the standard texts of Fisher (1910), Giarratano (1939) and Koestermann (1961) have not been noted: they are obvious to those familiar with the Latin, and of little interest to others.

No translator of Tacitus can view his labours without some feeling of guilt and remorse. He may prove to have butchered his victim. He has inevitably robbed the original of its peculiar virtue, the living word.

2.3 Tacitus’ oeuvre: opera minora and maiora

14 From the very beginning of Roman historiography in the late third century BC political achievement and authoritative prose about historical events or figures had gone hand-in-hand. The composition of historical narratives in a range of genres was very much the domain of senators. As Ronald Syme puts it:22

In the beginning, history was written by senators (first a Fabius, and Cato was the first to use the Latin language) it remained for a long time the monopoly of the governing order and it kept the firm imprint of its origins ever after. The senator came to his task in mature years, with a proper knowledge of men and government, a sharp and merciless insight. Taking up the pen, he fought again the old battles of Forum and Curia. Exacerbated by failure or not mollified by worldly success, he asserted a personal claim to glory and survival and, if he wrote in retirement from affairs, it was not always with tranquillity of mind.

  • 23 See Agricola 2, where Tacitus envisions all the pursuits (such as the writing of history) that wer (. )

15 It is thus telling that Tacitus’ literary career begins in earnest only after he had reached the pinnacle of public life: the Agricola or De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae appeared in the year after he held the consulship (AD 98). His literary debut also coincided with a major upheaval at the centre of power. AD 96 saw the end of the Flavian dynasty through the assassination of Domitian and the crowning of Nerva as emperor at the age of 65, after years of loyal service under Nero and the Flavians. Pressure from the Praetorian Guard and the army more generally soon compelled Nerva to adopt Trajan as his eventual successor, and Tacitus’ first literary activities fall within this period of transition and change, which he himself marks out as a watershed in politics and culture. In fact, he explicitly links the demise of Domitian (and his oppressive regime) to the renaissance of creative efforts in the literary sphere.23 His writings in and of themselves thus advertise the current system of government as a good one (or at least an improvement over what had come before) and signal Tacitus’ (new) political allegiances. (Much of the bad press that has come down to us on the last Flavian comes from writers in the reign of Trajan – Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, above all – keen to paint the past in black and the present in white, thereby promoting both the reigning emperors and themselves.)

16 The Agricola is difficult to classify in generic terms. Prima facie, it is a ‘biography’ of his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola but it also sports striking affinities with various forms of historiographical writing, not least the works of Sallust (the last ‘republican’ historiographer) or, in its year-byyear account of Agricola’s governorship of Britain, annalistic history. It also includes a brief ethnographic excursion on the British (10–12). But arguably the most striking features are the three chapters of prologue (1–3) and epilogue (44–46) that Tacitus devotes almost exclusively to an attack on the principate of Domitian, which had just come to a violent end.24 The historical material, the overall outlook, and the timing of the publication all reek of a republican ethos.

  • 25 There was a sinister side to the treatise’s history of reception as it inspired many a German nati (. )

17 Tacitus’ next work builds on the ethnographic pilot paragraphs in the Agricola. His Germania or De origine et situ Germanorum is an ethnographic treatise on the German tribes, which he uses as a mirror to reflect on contemporary Rome.25 Soon thereafter Tacitus published the so-called Dialogus (Dialogus de oratoribus), in which he employed yet another genre (the dialogue) to explore whether or not the quality of public oratory had deteriorated under the principate – a traditional preoccupation going back to Cicero who already diagnosed the rise of autocracy as fatal for high-quality speech in the civic domain owing to a disappearance of freedom of expression. These three works are often labelled Tacitus’ opera minora, his ‘minor works.’ They are all ‘historical’ in one way or another and thus set the stage for the two major pieces of historiography: the Histories and the Annals.

Long Blog Post: Tacitus’ Annals and the death of Germanicus – Magic in Literary Sources

The death of Germanicus in 19AD, as described by Tacitus in his Annales, highlights the problematic dynamic within Rome’s elite body that had become prevalent with the establishment of the Principate and the rise of an imperial dynasty. With the powers of the emperor lacking a clearly delineated framework, members of the senatorial class and others in the upper echelons of the roman political machine (including the emperor’s own relatives) had to adapt to the new status-quo (Talbert, 1996, p.331-333). Political maneuvering, the forming of alliances and the realization of higher offices were now all inextricably linked to the autocratic one-man rule of the emperor, a person who must neither be challenged nor outdone (Talbert, 1996, p.335-337). Tacitus, whose moral history harks back to Republican values amidst the predominance of Imperial rule, portrays Germanicus as an individual who fails to recognize the danger of his own success in the face of Tiberius’ suspicious nature (Tac. Ann. 2.72 Cass. Dio. Rom. Hist.57.19 ). Indeed, as Germanicus falls victim to the political machinations of his enemies, who did not hesitate to use magic and poison, and subject him to “the worst of deaths” (Tac. Ann. 2.71), Tacitus emphasizes the ruthlessness that had emerged under the new political system.

It is this use of magic in the political realm of the Roman Empire that I hope to explore more fully in my paper. However, the question of what could be considered magic (especially when distinguishing it from religion), or what defines political is a task undertaken by many, most of whom have presented different results, given that both ancient and modern scholars see “magic [as] largely a rhetorical category rather than an analytical one” (Kevin Henry Crow, 339). In the case of Tacitus’ account, both categories are clearly determined. On the one hand the actors are primarily concerned with the preservation of their offices and the powers associated with them. Tiberius is visibly concerned with threats to his position as emperor while Piso can either be seen to act under Tiberius’ instructions, out of his own aspirations for power. Cassius Dio, who provides a similar version of Germanicus’ death in his Roman History, also places particular emphasis on the political threat of Germanicus’ rise to the authority of his adoptive father (Cass. Dio. Rom. Hist.57.19). In the case of magic, Tacitus (and Dio for that matter) goes about clearly outlining the means which caused Germanicus’ death:


Jackson, Nicholas. "Grauballe Man." Atlas Obscura. Atlas Obscura, 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grauballe-man

Nicholson Museum. "Bog Bodies: The Grauballe Man." Human Remains from the Dawn of History. The Nicholson Museum, 2016. Web. 01 Nov. 2016. http://humanremainsfromthhdawnofhistory.weebly.com/grauballe-man.html

Silkeborg Public Library. "Grauballe Man: A Face from Prehistoric Denmark." The Tollund Man. Silkeborg Public Library, 2004. Web. 01 Nov. 2016. http://www.tollundman.dk/grauballemanden.asp

Kerry Sullivan

Kerry Sullivan has a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts and is currently a freelance writer, completing assignments on historical, religious, and political topics.

Do Gods Exist? ➤ 41 Jesus By Tacitus

Michael Nugent with the forty first in a series of pieces on whether gods exist.

Image: reconstruction of face of Jesus by
British medical artist Richard Neave

A second independent record of Jesus was written about 110 ad by Gaius Tacitus, a Roman Consul who turned his attention to writing in his forties.

His first major work, the Histories, was written around 105 ad. It chronicled the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Roman Empire during the final third of the first century.

His second major work, the Annals, was published about five years later. It covered the quarter century leading up to the Flavian dynasty, from the death of Augustus Caesar to the suicide of Nero.

Here’s what Tacitus had to say about Jesus in the context of the spread of Christianity, and the burning of Rome, in 64 AD:

Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.

The Ultimate Bad Rap: Emperor Nero, the Great Populist, Savior of the Ancient City of Rome

Professor Edward Champlin, writing in “Nero, Reconsidered,” deconstructs the bum rap about Nero being selfish and puts it to rest. Certainly Nero at this point was a megalomaniac and built a 30-meter-tall statue of himself, the Colossus of Nero. But architecture has always been used by effective leaders to project power. Champlain explains:

Nero’s Golden House and its park had always been essentially open to the public. I think that this is right, for all sorts of reasons. When the graffito said that one house was taking over Rome, it was merely distorting something Nero himself had proclaimed just before the Fire: he meant to treat the whole city as his house and the citizens as his closest friends – that is, the intention was to include, not exclude, everyone. To the annoyance of the aristocracy, Nero was in fact positioning himself as the great patron and friend of his people, offering them banquets all over the city and grand public spectacles in the theater, in the circus, in the forum, and now in his own home.

Ultimately, the elitists in the Roman Senate unified in a scheme to depose Nero in 0068 A.D., and he committed suicide. His downfall may have been signaled by too many gestures of mercy and lack of ruthlessness against his enemies. This is typified by what was thought to be a mad speech about Gaul to the Senate. Nero in his own wonderful theatrical way was suggesting friendship, collaboration and the tool of high culture might work better than bloodshed.

Contemporary Views About Nero

The smear version of history of Nero that we all grew up with is well known. But other than his enemies, who rewrote the history, what did his contemporaries say?

The “Annals” by Tacitus (c. 0056 – 0117) is the most detailed and comprehensive history on the rule of Nero. By Tacitus’ own admission, he owed much to Nero’s rivals. Realizing that this bias may be glaringly apparent to others of that age, Tacitus doth-protests-too-loudly that his writing is true.

Tacitus mentions that Nero’s death was welcomed by Senators, nobility and the upper class. He then grudgingly admits the lower-class, the slaves, the frequenters of the arena and the theater and “those who were supported by the famous excesses of Nero,” on the other hand, were very upset with the news.

Members of the military were said to have mixed feelings, as they had allegiance to Nero but had been bribed to overthrow him.

Lucanus (c. 0039 – 0065) has one of the kindest accounts of Nero’s rule. He writes of peace and prosperity under Nero in contrast to previous war and strife.

Philostratus II in the Athenian (c. 0172 – 0250) spoke of Nero in the “Life of Apollonius Tyana“(Books IV – V). Though he has a generally bad or dim view of Nero, he speaks of others’ positive reception of Nero, especially in the Hellenic East.

Josephus (c. 0037 – 0100), while calling Nero a tyrant, was also the first to mention bias against Nero. Of other historians, he addressed the concept of ignoring original research and just circle jerking the same historical script. Nero revisionism was suppressed.

But I omit any further discourse about these affairs for there have been a great many who have composed the history of Nero some of which have departed from the truth of facts out of favour, as having received benefits from him while others, out of hatred to him, and the great ill-will which they bore him, have so impudently raved against him with their lies, that they justly deserve to be condemned. Nor do I wonder at such as have told lies of Nero, since they have not in their writings preserved the truth of history as to those facts that were earlier than his time, even when the actors could have no way incurred their hatred, since those writers lived a long time after them.

The Nero Redivivus Legend

There is further evidence of his popularity among the Roman commoners, especially in the eastern provinces of the Empire, where a popular legend arose that Nero had not died and would return. At least three leaders of short-lived, failed rebellions presented themselves as “Nero reborn,” to enlist popular support.

This popular belief started during the last part of the first century. The legend of Nero was so strong that it persisted as a common belief as late as the fifth century.

Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) wrote that some believed “he now lives in concealment in the vigor of that same age which he had reached when he was believed to have perished and will live until he is revealed in his own time and restored to his kingdom.”

Dio Chrysostom, a Greek philosopher and historian, wrote, “Seeing that even now everybody wishes [Nero] were still alive. And the great majority do believe that he still is, although in a certain sense he has died not once but often along with those who had been firmly convinced that he was still alive.”

National Geographic Channel came up with a very good hidden-history version of Nero that I can recommend (first video below).

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19 Comments on The Ultimate Bad Rap: Emperor Nero, the Great Populist, Savior of the Ancient City of Rome

“The now inverted, warped history that portrays the Judeo proto-Christians as gentle, benign people couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Yep, and they got theirs in 70A.D. when Titus destroyed Jerusalem. Early “Christians” believed the book of Revelations was the foretelling of this event, and therefore all things foretold there have ALREADY HAPPENED.
Joseph Atwill believes that the gospels(new testament) are simply the history of Titus Military campaign and the destruction of the second temple, and were not written by the early Christians but by the Romans themselves. After reading his book “Caesars Messiah” I must say I tend to agree.
And now we stand at the precipice of more death and destruction thanks to these same religious zealots as we watch events play out in Jerusalem and Palestine this very day. When will we learn?

Gerhard Baudy’s analysis is most likely the correct one – that Jews/Christians resident in Rome deliberately burned the city. Nero certainly took this view. He could not very well prosecute Jews for the crime, as his own wife, Poppaea, was Jewish, but the Christians definitely took the rap.

The only alleged ‘christians’ or ‘jews’ still living in or around Jerusalem at this time were “Edomites”. Converts to Israelite religion. Thus it would make sense that those pesky jews were simply the same pesky creatures we are still dealing with today — Edomites/Canaanites Khazars and Sephardi.

But we are talking about Rome, not Jerusalem , correct? Still, I think that true Christians were not involved in the political system or trying to overthrow it. It’s easy to blame anyone that is convenient.. As we see constantly today. It would have been easy for Romans to frame christians, or Jewish rebels , etc.
The book of Revelation is mostly symbolic, and contains no dates, AND the early Christians knew that God hated astrology so they would not have used to to make predictions.

In 64 AD the early proto-Christian religion was just one more in a series of Jewish Messanic movements the Romans has already dealt with and would continue to deal with. They would not have made any particular distinction.

Mention of Christ in contemporary Roman histories didn’t occur until Josephus mentioned it in a peculiar off handed way in 73 AD, “the stoning of “James the brother of Jesus” (James the Just) by order of Ananus ben Ananus, a Herodian-era High Priest.”

Rome — there would not have been very man self-identifying ‘christians’ in Rome. However, there would have been “Edomites” in Rome infiltrating and subverting as they always do. Not very many Israelites returned to Palestine during the time of Jesus. The majority of Israelites had already dispersed into Europe and Western Europe by this time.
‘Jew’ and ‘Israelite’ is not synonymous. Pretty much whenever the Scriptures speak of ‘jews’, it is referring to Edomite converts.
If you are interested theologically, check out — “Who is Esau-Edom” by the late Charles Weisman. A free pdf exists online.

A much needed article Russ, which deserves much more reception than it currently has. Nero certainly wasn’t a Donald Trump populist type, as he set himself against the Jewish “nation” by ordering it’s suppression.

A man who has been thoroughly trained in architecture cannot conceivably renege on his training, unless he turns insane, which is extremely unlikely (as he has cultivated an instinct for beauty) and which is an accusation often used as a convenient tool of slander by his enemies. There was no one better suited than Otto Wagner, in his book Modern Architecture, to describe the life and pursuit of the architect. He leaves no room for the destructive tendency. The Jew Lombroso was the one who introduced the ridiculous idea that a man can be both insane and a genius at the same time.

Also consider how Seneca was undoubtedly a good influence on Nero, as his letters sufficiently demonstrate. The myth that he had Seneca, his own mentor, put to death is almost maddening. If that were Dietrich Eckart and Hitler, no one in their right mind would believe it.

Mostly notably, all the Roman emperors before Nero had despised foreign cults, Nero was no exception to this. In putting down the Jewish rebellion, he demonstrates that he hadn’t deviated from the policies set by his predecessors (Tiberius, Claudius, Caligula), who tried to diminish Jewish influence by various means (expulsions, defiling the temple, physically weakening Jews by introducing them to mild climates), and later successors.

It should be obvious to most thinking people today that the Jew Chrestus (mentioned during the reign of Claudius by Suetonius) and the sect Chrestians are two peas in a pod, later modified by early Jewish-Christians to refer to Jesus and Christians and Porcius Festus was substituted by Pontius Pilate, all this in order to establish a Christian presence in the first three centuries (other interpolations are found in the writings of Pliny, Longinus, the Jew Josephus, Aurelius) and to scream persecution (they did, after all, the exaggerate the losses from Diocletian’s persecution).

Yes, was going to touch on Seneca’s being suicided being more problematic lying-history, but the post was getting a bit long as it was.

I see, yes that’s a good point. In any case, it prompted me to do more reading. I hadn’t at all been aware that Philostratus had mentioned Nero.

Some say the Book of Revelation was written in the 90s AD by John the Apostle, which is likely impossible since he would have been imprisoned on Patmos in his late 80s (he was born likely around between 10 and 20 AD since as an Apostle he began as a teenager and was the youngest of Christ’s Apostles). The Preterists (all things fulfilled folks) claim it was written around the time of John’s release from Patmos in 68 AD when Nero was dethroned. (Roman law was that when the Emperor who imprisoned someone died or was deposed, anyone imprisoned under that Emperor was released.) I’d agree with the Preterists on this one. the 70AD event did fulfill some of Christ’s prophesies, but not all of them. As for “Christians” burning Rome, it could be, since at John’s death and Paul’s and the others killings by the Romans (likely), it was then that Christianity started to “fall away” so to speak. Though I believe in Christ, I do not do religion…and I’m not the only one who thinks this way! All religion is, is man-made doctrines.

“Both Judaism and its offshoot, Christianity then and now, have history-influencing, crackpot, apocalyptic, end-of-world elements that historians ignore.”
Almost 2000 years later and these crackpots are still running the world, and would gladly do to the entire world today what they did to Rome in 64 AD. Unreal!!

(((ADL))) added “bowl cut” style haircuts to its “hate symbols” list. Nero has the Ultimate bowl cut. Fits in with the “hate” jews had for Rome and, IMO the same “hate” the jews have for the USA today, i.e. jew impeachment circus.

‘What an artist the world is losing.’

Speaking as a professional artist of much success until blindness did me in, if Rembrandt himself said that to me I’d hope to vomit in his face.

Does the conceit escape Winter Watch?

I hail from an Irish/Norweigian Freemason family who exalt themselves for their intelligence – mathematical brilliance in particular. Shattered math test scores – a people of record-setting genius, many triumphantly strode into the Ivy League embrace. Most were conceited pricks who behaved despicably towards their own kin. Their raw intelligence and subsequent conceit blinded them to triflings such as morality.

Conceit destroys family every time. Yet we are bidden here to genuflect before sheer intelligence as though it were a virtue?

What is our great international problem with the Screws (those embracing “Jewishness” with satanic intention): they are, in fact, far more intelligent than the public.

So WTF are we doing exalting the “great minds” who are our destroyers? US edumacation bids us to venerate our very destroyers. We thought we’d found respite on Winter Watch. Have we come so far up the Matterhorn of understanding world events only to be dashed against this fecal crag Nero?

An aspect of Nero’s imperial “populism” was his penchant for self-expression on the lute – probably much of the basis for “artistic” pride. He strode into the contests to show off as a bard. Although by most accounts he had talent in inverse ratio to ambition. No problem: he always won. To withhold applause might be fatal among the audience.

He would have been right at home with the self-adulating hijinx at deafening decibel levels known as rock and roll concerts (doesn’t the worshipful format of the inebriated masses facing a stage disturb anyone else?). Chopin trodden underfoot by Frankfurt School-drenched US academia, the entire Romantic movement banished from mention at university level. Much rock is all about idolatry, music be damned. Music you can play while drunk.

When – not if – Nero returns, expect him in such a setting.

“There shall certainly be a resurrection both of the righteous and the wicked.” Acts 24:15

Babylon too. En masse. One and the same horde who in their prior incarnation as Chaldea twice leveled the Temple in Jerusalem.

Older editions of the Encyclopedia outline ancient belief that Nero was previously Nebuchadnezzar.

A uniquely informative page online once described the heads on the beast as referring to prior and subsequent reincarnations of a same ruler.

For the scholarly, this discussion of past/future reincarnation has conflated (Vatican take a bow – dominionist Christendom here’s your laurel wreath) separate issues – the resurrection OF the dead freely confused with resurrection FROM the dead. Read New testament scripture in languages other than English – in which verbs denoting case have all but perished. Romance languages have a finely nuanced system of case in verb usage. A review of the two phrases reveals that ‘resurrection OF the dead’ is written in the imperative. ‘Resurrection FROM the dead’ is subjunctive. The first is mandated for every soul. The second is conditional, said of the post-mortem transformation of Christ as physically immortal.

Whole societies reincarnate en masse. Babylon serves as the chosen universal object lesson on karma. When the world realizes there is a rigorously reciprocal payday for what is done in life, people will be inclined to make more careful choices. A natural morality.

Imposters among the Jews have been ubiquitous. If those who burned Rome had any idea of the true law of God – karma – they would likely have made different choices than to harm the innocent.

Whether acknowledged or not, the pedophocracy is the ultimate edition of Babylon. Winter Watch has them in the crosshairs. They are now trenching in underground. They will fall by their own devices. In this age of high tech it is not difficult to imagine transhumanized bodies twitching forever in fiery trenches. A centerpiece will be the megalomaniac Nero, returned to demonstrate to the world what a star he is.

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Recent political developments have generated renewed interest in the lessons that it may be possible to draw from ancient history and historians. 1 Given the fast-changing nature of current events, though, it is a relief that Victoria Emma Pagán eschews specifically contemporary points in this survey of Tacitus and his reception—especially as he 'can be pressed into the service of radically divergent ideologies' (31). Part of I.B. Tauris' Understanding Classics series, of which the aim is to 'introduce the outstanding authors and thinkers of antiquity to a wide audience of appreciative modern readers', this book combines close readings of selected passages, 2 discussion of the links between Tacitus' works and the time in which he wrote, and examinations of how he has subsequently been viewed. Pagán's approach, which swiftly moves between texts and their contexts and highlights the minor works and less well known examples of reception, contributes to an overall picture of Tacitus that goes beyond the familiar.

The first chapter, 'Prefacing a Life', uses the opposing opinions of two minor eighteenth-century readers to introduce what is known of Tacitus himself, before opening discussion of his works via their prefaces. A very clear concluding section previews the rest of the book, and indeed Pagán incorporates into each chapter a useful outline of its scope and structure. The second, 'Nobles and Nobodies', focuses on the cast of characters who feature in the Histories and Annals. While a Julio-Claudian family tree is provided, there is a refreshing emphasis on individuals peripheral to the dynasty, including Tiberius' former wife Vipsania and her new husband Asinius Gallus (it is rarely acknowledged that the tradition's emphasis on the emperor's continuing love means that very personal animosity must surely be read into the scenes in the Annals where the two men clash politically). Pagán also draws on Ellen O'Gorman's intriguing hypothesis that a counterfactual 'virtual Pisonian dynasty' can be discerned in the Annals and the Histories. 3 Like this theme, as Pagán shows, 'stock' Tacitean characters can also appear in more than one text or genre. A connection can be drawn from the anonymous Ligurian woman who does not reveal her son's hiding place to Otho's soldiers even under torture (Hist. 2.13.2), to the freedwoman Epicharis refusing to betray the Pisonian conspiracy (Ann. 15.57.2) and the mother of Agricola, who was murdered by, again, Othonians (Agr. 7.1).

In 'Words and Deeds', the third chapter, an explanation of the key differences between ancient and modern historiography precedes a discussion of how Tacitus engages in inventio, the 'imaginative reconstruction' (53) of events common in the former and generally anathema to the latter. The section on speeches includes persuasive and interesting vignettes on, for example, why and how the historian uses indirect speech (with the announcement to Galba of the Upper German legions' revolt in January at Hist. 1.12.1-3 a rich test case), the contrasting treatments of the Boudiccan revolt in the Agricola and the Annals, and the Lyons Tablet. The chapter's final pages look at the more colourful, earthy details in Tacitus' narratives that summary characterisations tend to overlook. Conversely, his famous sententiae privilege the general over the particular and necessarily 'have the potential to bury under self-evident and unquestionable truths any contest over the questionable distribution of power and unjust social practices that guaranteed inequality' (75).

The fourth chapter, 'Romans and Others', argues that the Germania's readers 'are bound to learn far more about the Romans and about Tacitus' philosophy of writing history than [they] will ever learn about the Germani' (83). Pagán sketches out the text's place in Roman ethnographical writing and shows how ideas within it reflect preoccupations in Tacitus' other works she also explores the thoughts expressed at Ger. 37.2-3 on Rome's history of German wars. She is right to assert that 'far from being an anomaly, the Germania contains themes and concerns that are central to Tacitus' way of thinking' (101) as manifest in his other works in, e.g., portrayals of non-Romans such as Calgacus, Caractacus, Arminius and the Batavian tribe. This conclusion reflects the increased scholarly interest during the last couple of decades in depictions of foreign individuals in the Germania and Agricola in particular, and what these may say about Rome. 4 Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there is a further angle from which the Germania is representative, namely, the significant presence of non-Romans in the narrative of Roman history. This can be seen in the blurred boundaries between Romans and auxiliaries in what survives of the Histories and in the frequent depictions of foreigners interacting with Romans in the Annals, among them freedom-fighters such as the North African Tacfarinas and the Gauls Florus and Sacrovir, as well as the Parthians and other Easterners. Even recent commentators have often treated these passages as res externae that merely break up the more serious res internae, but a case can be made for reading them as integral to the Roman historiographical narrative. 5

The fifth chapter, 'Then and Now', focuses on the Dialogus de Oratoribus. Pagán has a fine command of its complex structure and the individuals who speak or are mentioned in it. She also raises broader questions, juxtaposing Tacitus' ambivalent remarks elsewhere about the relationship between past and present with the way in which the Dialogus seems to pit 'a degenerate present against an honourable past' (108). She credibly proposes that Ann. 13.3, where Julio-Claudian eloquence reaches its nadir when Nero gives a eulogy (ghost)written by Seneca at Claudius' funeral, can be read as a parody of the Dialogus, a work that already claims to reimagine a real-life conversation (in which the historian himself is fleetingly present). It might be added that this intertext is further complicated by historiographical chronology: the Dialogus, written before the Annals, covers events that happened after the death of Nero, from the perspective of a contemporary era that is not the subject of direct coverage in Tacitus' extant writings.

The focus of the book's final chapter, 'Yesterday and Today', is Tacitus' reception. 6 Having considered the impact of his representations of Jews and Christians, Pagán moves on to the rediscovery of his manuscripts and the strong interest shown by Germans in particular (there are 82 German plays on the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and 75 operas about Arminius were performed between 1676 and 1910). On the subject of Tacitus in the twentieth century—and beyond—it is good to see the pervasive influence of Syme acknowledged. Outside academia, in recent years novelists and dramatists, painters, and poets have been inspired by Tacitus to produce work in which ethical and environmental issues loom just as large as politics and history.

Overall, this book offers much to ponder for specialists and general readers and is impressively full of detail about Tacitus' works and the characters who feature in them, in addition to providing many interesting nuggets about his reception. Indeed, details are a key strength: the overall structure of the Histories and Annals and the historiographical tradition in which they can be seen feature less heavily than the minor works and individual points about content and style. However, it is no bad thing to be reminded that Tacitus is not, or not only, the austere political historian he is often taken to be.