Wareh Wiki

Tacitean techniques

140pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share

Note to students: (1) You do not have to copy exactly the sentence structure "In order to..." (2) If you do so, go for something more specific than "to write history"! What is the author's technique for approaching some particular kind of subject, issue, or situation? Wareh 14:18, May 4, 2011 (UTC)

  • In order to understand Tacitus' view completely, the reader must pay close attention to the specific words he uses. When describing the year when Galba and Agrippa were consuls, he first points out why it was a successful year. "The year was peaceful abroad" (Annals p. 143). However, he then says that not everything was fine, thus diminishing the accomplishments of the consuls. "But the capital was nervous" (Annals p. 143). Tacitus is almost trying to say that although things can seem like they are going well, there is always something that is going poorly. Tacitus tends to portray things in a neutral matter - for everything that goes well, something bad happens - there is no middle ground or "perfect year." Tacitus even admits that he tends to stick to the polar opposites when writing his Annals. "The only proposals in the senate that I have seen fit to mention are particularly praiseworthy or particularly scandalous ones" (Annals p. 151). I found this quote particularly interesting because it shows that he is admitting to only giving the highlights and lowlights of Rome. By giving opposite accounts of the times, he feels that he can give the full picture. However, by neglecting smaller details (things that were not "praiseworthy" or "scandalous") he is not giving the full picture. Pearlmanspencer 19:41, May 25, 2011 (UTC)
  • While reading Tacitus' Annals one must recognize the loose poetic style in which he presented every event. It almost seems like this was not his final draft, but much like a rough draft or a run-on diary. For example, one sentence that seemed very awkward while reading was "At the feast which immediately preceded the rising Segestes had advised Varus to arrest Arminius and the other chiefs, and also himself, on the grounds that their removal would immobilize their accomplices and Varus could then take his time in sorting out the guilty from the innocent" (64). I understand he wrote in Latin, but the translation to English is very loose and tough to understand reading only once or twice through. This style occurs throughout the pages I've gone through so far which makes it a hard read. Also, the Annals were written much less sinuously compared to Tacitus' Histories but seem to be more severe with the use of strong adjectives and verbs such as "clamoured (84)" and "This disaster was proportionally terrible.. (86)". When continuing to read to the rest of the book, I expect to see the same poetic style and loose English translation with more uses of strong adjectives, verbs, and adverbs in order to excite the reader. Cpao03 01:11, May 24, 2011 (UTC)
  • To understand the problems Rome was facing during the time of Tacitus’ The Histories, one must know the multitude of problems taking place throughout the Roman Empire. Even before Tacitus wrote his book, there were problems within the Roman state (Pisonian conspiracy attempted to remove Nero and restore the republic). The biggest problem was the lack of control. “Allowed no proper trial or defence, these two had perished by what seemed a miscarriage of justice” (1.6). The state was in complete disarray and there was no clear sense of justice. The laws that once bound the state were no longer able to control the people. Similar to the problems that the generals faced with the plebeians when the plebs refused to go to battle as a way to protest, the commanders were unable to control his soldiers during these times as well. “The upper army despised its commander-in-chief, Hordeonius Flaccus…he was unable to maintain discipline…if the men were in an ugly mood, his feeble attempts to control them merely added fuel to the flames” (1.9). The soldiers protested the commander because they did not like him. Due to the lack of control in the political system, justice system, and military, Rome was heading down the wrong path and with every misstep, one could see that Rome’s eventual demise was certain and coming soon. Pearlmanspencer 14:43, May 11, 2011 (UTC)
  • In order to understand ambition in a Tacitean way, one must consider the good or bad motivations that influence someone to undertake a certain cause that will result in an increase of their power. It is one thing to have ambitious thoughts and desires, but what actually moves a person to act on them? Otho doesn't just wish to be emperor out of the blue; his chances are very likely at first due to his relationship with Nero - the "seed" of his ambition - and "now each passing day saw his ambition intensified" (1.13). When Piso is chosen to be adopted, however, Otho's initial hopes are not completely dashed but instead prompt him to resort to an alternate path. His hatred of Galba and annoyance of Piso are not adequate to stimulate him to attempt a coup yet, however; he literally deludes himself into thinking it is justifiable for him to kill Piso because everyone dies in the end anyway. "If guilty and innocent must await the same end, it showed more spiritin a man to die for a purpose" (1.21). Tacitus' neglect to make a personal comment on this ridiculous statement demonstrates his scornful attitude or at least amusement at the idea that Otho convinces himself he's doing a favor to Piso by killing him. Finally, as is always a danger to men in the eyes of Tacitus, the external influence of others adds to his confidence and serves as the catalyst for him to "take the fatally easy step from evil ambition to evil deeds" (1.22). Tacitus denounces the astrologers that use their "profession" to sway people this way and that for their own benefit and personal gain, in the same way that the people use flattery not out of true affection but to get on their leader's good side. All these factors serve to compel Otho to act on his ambition and use bribery, deceit, and finally murder to attain his goal; without these influences the risk of such an undertaking would likely have kept him complacent. Aglids 15:51, May 12, 2011 (UTC)

Tacitus on Prodigies

  • A Tacitean history has some pretty distinct features. For example, his style is unmatched in previous histories. However, another Tacitean technique is one that we have seen in a few other authors' writing. The use of omens, auguries and prodigies is a prevalent part of both Tacitean history, and those of Livy and Herodotus. Tacitus uses these "events" as pretexts or causes for events or decisions made by characters in the history. One example is the array of "alarming prodigies" (Tac. 1.86) that preceeded Otho marching to war. Tacitus lists a decent amount of prodigies that were, "of the kind that in primitive centuries were noted in even peace time, but are now only heard of when men are afraid." (1.86). Tacitus then goes on to describe the major "prodigy" which was the flooding of the Tiber. It killed many people and collapsed many buildings, but Tacitus was more concerned with the fact that it blocked Othos' exit from the city. Tacitus wrote that " the mere fact of its occurrence was interpreted as a sign from heaven and an omen of imminent disaster." (1.86). Diestelt 22:17, May 18, 2011 (UTC)
  • Tacitus’s style, especially when discussing the Julio-Claudian emperors in the Annals, is one of irony and somewhat bitter resentment. He considers the true motives behind emperor’s actions to be based off of personal desires instead of the interest of the people. When discussing Augustus’ choice in Tiberius as a successor, he states, “His [Augustus’] appointment of Tiberius as his successor was due neither to personal affection nor to regard for the national interests” (Annals 39). The conviction with which he conveys this statement promotes a sense of bitterness of the power of an emperor to act upon his own desires. Later when discussing Tiberius, writes, “It was typical of Tiberius to use antique terms to veil new sorts villainy” (Annals 166). While this statement mentions Tiberius in coming up with new tricks to carry out his plans, it also indirectly attacks all emperors in general, for the policies of emperors usually involve looking towards past traditions and roots in order to justify their actions. This anti-imperial sentiment which makes itself present on occasion may have been due to Tacitus’ own experience under Domitian, who led a rather tyrannical reign himself. Zaidi2013 01:20, May 20, 2011 (UTC)

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.