The “tyrants” of Rome in Tacitus’s work were the embodiment of what he felt was wrong with the imperial system of government. From Messalina, driven by her desire, to Nero, who might have tried to burn Rome or at least used the burning city as a backdrop for a rendition of the fall of Troy, the tyrants were used to show the descent of Rome and how it became its own greatest enemy . Unlike Greek Historians who tried to distance themselves from the events that they recounted, Romans viewed history as a form of moral instruction for future generations and wrote about it passionately . Thus, impartiality had a different meaning to them than it does to us today, when Tacitus promised to be impartial, he is not promising not to judge, because that would take away one of the most important aspects, he is promising to judge fairly “without either bitterness or partiality” . The “tyrants” mentioned in this essay, Nero, Messalina and Agrippina the Younger, were all used by Tacitus to show how far the Roman state had fallen and because Romans took their ideas of public morality from their ancestors to attempt to prevent such behaviour in future generations.
To Tacitus, Roman morality and the health of the Roman state were inexplicably linked and Rome had lost its virtue, something that was heavily linked to the presence of Emperors. In the golden age of the Republic before it began to decline, the right thing was done because it was honourable, according to Tacitus. In the age of the Roman Empire, the aristocracy took their cues from the Emperor’s behaviour, modelling their own on his , a very dangerous thing if there was a “tyrant” on the imperial throne. The Roman people and the army had also become lesser than they once were, they wer...
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...tion . The idea of the better civilization being conquered is one that can also be apply to the Roman Republic’s end. Tacitus idealised the Republic for its transparency and its freedom and though the power of the senate and the people was declining in the face of ambitious magistrates and pro magistrates by the end of the Republic, it must have seemed to Tacitus that the better form of government was again being given up. Nero was heavily linked by Tacitus to the Greek culture, in his homosexuality and his acting, both of which were not approved of in Rome at the time. His marriages to freedmen, once in the role of the woman, were, in fact, generally used as examples of his depravity .Tacitus used this to show how the “increased sexual license” of the emperor was turning the people away from the traditional moral values of Rome and so contributing to its decline.
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