Essay on Tacitus

Essay on Tacitus

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Tacitus lived under the reign of Domitian, twenty years after Nero. His family originated from southern Gaul. After becomng a barrister he was promoted to the position of provincial governor in 112-113AD in Asia. Under the reign of Domitian, Tacitus was incredibly lucky that he managed to survive, unlike many of his colleagues. Domitian disposed of rivals and opposition, thus making him a very paranoid man. The killings of these men started Tacitus' anti-emperor feelings. Domitian's reign was modelled on Tiberius' who Tacitus also heavily criticised. But, in Annals 13 and 14, Tacitus concentrated n Nero, whom he despised.
Tacitus' personal career as the provincial governor had revealed to him, at court and in administration, the play of power that lay behind the imperial facade of rule. He was especially familiar with the effects of dynastic control. It tended to corrupt the rulers as it had in the period from Vespasian to Domitian, and to reduce the supporting nobles to servility, while only military revolt within Rome or from the frontier legions could change the situation, as it had done at the end of Nero's reign.
An example of his negative outlook on emperors is in AD55 when Nero excempted Lucius Vetus from swearing allegiance. This act of supposed good will had completely the opposite effect on Tacitus. Nero's name is often tarnished throughout the Annals as Tacitus saw fit, for example, he described Marcus Julius Silanus as being 'the first casualty of the new reign (Nero's reign).' The opening sentence in AD56 explains 'the year was a time of peace abroad, but disgusting excesses by Nero in Rome.' The emperor went round the city dressed like a worker and he used to beat people up. When a senator fought back he was later forced to commit suicide by Nero. These two extracts are not just observations by Tacitus, but heavy criticisms against a man who was unworthy for his post.
Tacitus stood against self - indulgence and extravagant displays of wealth as he saw these as being major flaws of the aristocracy and nobility. Although Tacitus was far more interested in moral behaviour, he saw these flaws as the basis for Rome's decline at the time of Nero. An example of this decaying Rome was in Ad60 when the people of Pompeii and Nuceria assaulted each other at the gladiatorial event. Nero passed the investigation onto the Senate, who subsequently made the c...


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...ardships. He was greatly respected by Tacitus, not only for his skills as a commander, but for his brilliant discipline. Corbulo may have been strict, but he was a very fair leader and his troops followed him devoutly. In the later Annals, Tacitus expressed displeasure when Nero 'forces him to commit suicide.' Out of all the characters Tacitus has shown the reader that Corbulo is the one who he feels should have been emperor.
Overall, my impression of Tacitus is one who has had his views tainted and distorted by tyrannical rulers and unjust emperors. He heavily criticises Nero for his extravangance and habits, but especially for his short - sightedness. The omens, his hatred of megalomaniac women like Poppaea and his brilliant creation of speeches (Agrippina's death) all contribute to his unique narrative style. Tacitus goes far beyond the philosophers and his Roman compatriots in his focus on political, social, and psychological evil, and, for him, it was Rome's own moral failure engendered all the evils that led to the decline of freedom. I personally think that he was a brilliant literary artist, and his account of the significant period in Roman history is vivd and searching.

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