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Tacitus. Life of Cornelius Tacitus We do not know who his parents where, year of birth or death or praenomen Born c. A.D. 56 of Gallic or North Italian.

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Presentation on theme: "Tacitus. Life of Cornelius Tacitus We do not know who his parents where, year of birth or death or praenomen Born c. A.D. 56 of Gallic or North Italian."— Presentation transcript:

1 Tacitus

2 Life of Cornelius Tacitus We do not know who his parents where, year of birth or death or praenomen Born c. A.D. 56 of Gallic or North Italian stock Began his official career under Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) Married Agricola’s daughter in 77 and became praetor in 88

3 Life of Cornelius Tacitus continued Away from Rome when Agricola died in 93 Returned to witness last years of Domitian’s savagery Consul suffectus in 97 Delivered funeral oration over Verginius Rufus In 100 led Pliny in prosecuting Marius Priscus for extortion

4 Life of Cornelius Tacitus continued May have governed a military province Was proconsul in Asia (Turkey) in 112/113 Not known whether he lived to finish the Annales Died sometime after 115 A.D.

5 From MS. of Agricola

6 Tacitus’ Writings: Agricola Agricola published in 98 A.D. describes life of his father-in-law Most of it concerns Agricola’s achievements in Britain A laudatio of Agricola and an apology for the loyal administrator under Domitian

7 Tacitus’ Writings: Germania Also published in 98 A.D. Description of the tribes north of the Rhine and the Danube An ethnological treatise Themes include that of the noble savage, contrasting the Germans with the corrupt Romans Also writes of the constant threat to the Empire that they pose

8 Tacitus’ writings: Dialogus Discusses decline of Roman oratory Shows mastery of argument and characterization May be dated to around 100

9 Tacitus’ Writings: Histories No manuscript title Begins in 69 and presumably ends with Domitian’s assassination in 96 A.D. Four books and parts of fifth survive Give a comprehensive picture of Civil War, full of intrigue and incompetent rulers

10 Tacitus’ Writings: Annales History of the Julio-Claudian emperors after death of Augustus (14 A.D.) We know of 16 books Arranged annalistically by year Each year contains sections on home and provincial affairs Tacitus used as his sources historical works now lost, on public records, and on own experience

11 Tacitus’ Writings: Annales Tacitus reacts against the Principate and looks back longingly at “free” institutions of the Republic Power centered in one man blunted the moral sense of even experienced rulers The Emperors neglected military glory Laments lack of independence and courage of most nobles and senators

12 Portrait Bust of Nero

13 Annales continued Views wrath of the gods working to punish “His task is gloomy, to record the suspicions of Tiberius, played upon by informers; Claudius the helpless tool of freedmen or wives; the vanity and vice of Nero - all resulting in baseless accusations and judicial murders.” OCD

14 Tacitus’ Style Vocabulary large and varied Words grouped in strange and striking order Uses new word forms and echoes of poetry Prefers shortness of sentences and rapidity to periodic structure Omits verbs, compresses Intensity and brevity are characteristic of his style

15 Tacitus’ Style continued Employs an elevated style, powerful style Suits his belief in dignity and moral effect of history Keen sense of irony

16 The Manuscript Tradition Hangs on a slender thread Was little read in succeeding centuries Reappears in 9th Century among monks at Fulda We depend upon one manuscript for Annals 1-6 (discovered about 1510) And one for Annals and Histories 1-5

17 A Short Biography of the Emperor Nero

18 Nero’s Reign Emperor Claudius had married his niece Agrippina She persuaded him in 50 to adopt her son Nero Claudius died in 54, probably poisoned by Agrippina Nero succeeded him and reigned until 68

19 Nero’s Reign Seneca was appointed tutor to young Nero and Burrus made prefect of Praetorian Guard With Nero’s succession in 54 Seneca became political advisor First 8 years empire enjoyed good governemnt Death of Burrus and retirement of Seneca in 62 left Nero uncontrolled

20 Nero and Agrippina in an unflattering 19th century engraving

21 Nero’s Reign Otho, friend of Nero, encouraged him to free himself from his imperious mother Poppea, Otho’s ambitious wife, wished to marry Nero She planned to eliminate both Agrippina and Nero’s wife, Octavia In 59 A.D. Nero had Agrippina murdered

22 Portrait Bust of Poppea A.D

23 Nero’s Reign continued Octavia was divorced and murdered Poppea married Nero and in 63 she married him and bore him a daughter who soon died Poppea died in 65 Conspiracy to assassinate him and make Calpurnius Piso emperor was betrayed in 65 Piso and his accomplices were executed or committed suicide This included Seneca and Petronius

24 Peter Paul Rubens. The Death of Seneca. c.1615

25 Nero’s death in 68 A.D. Praetorians proclaimed Galba emperor and deserted Nero He fled from Rome and committed suicide


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