Tacitus Source Analysis
Cornelius Tacitus, known for his morally charged prose and notoriously complex style, is considered to be one of Rome’s greatest historians. He was born into an influential/provincial Roman equestrian Family and lived around AD 55 to 118.1 Tacitus had a lengthy political and legal career, being a praetor in A.D. 88, consul suffectus in 97, before becoming proconsul of Asia around 112.2 He lived through the reign of ten emperors, including the tyranny and terror of the emperor Domitian, during which it is believed some of his friends and colleagues were murdered.3 Tacitus was not able to write freely during this time. Some critics attribute Tacitus’s criticism of Rome’s emperors to his fearful experience under Domitian’s rule.
His most major work, the Annals, covers year by year, the period from Augustus death in A.D. 14, to Nero’s death in 68. He takes an ethical, terse, satirical and somewhat cynical approach to the early history of the Principate.4 As a senator, Tacitus is believed to have had access to the Roman senate’s records5, which he used as a base for his writings, it is believed.6 However, Tacitus relies on other sources throughout the Annals, and appears to used information from the oral collections of his elders, while the majority, ironically, comes from previous writers and historians, of whom he critiques for being overly biased.7 There are a numerous instances where Tacitus referrers to authors without naming them. Where exactly Tacitus got his material is subject to considerable debate within the academic community.8
Analysis: what does this passage tell us why he was writing? What was he trying to achieve by writing this passage? Effective analysis of the passage. Also, identification of author’s purpose in creating source.
Roman authors were restricted by the autocracies they lived under, and
Bibliography: Furneaux, H., ed, Cornelii Taciti Annalium Libri I-IV, 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1887. Goodman, Martin. The Roman World: 44BC- AD180. London: Routledge, 1997. Grant, Michael, trans, Tacitus, the Annals of Imperial Rome. London: Penguin, 1996. Harrer, G. A. “Tacitus and Tiberius.” The American Journal of Philology. 41 (1920): 57-68. Kapust, Daniel Lewis, Naphtali & Meyer Reinhold. Roman Civilisation : Selected Readings, The Republic and the Augustan Age, 3rd ed. New York: Columba University Press, 1990. Martin, Ronald. Tacitus. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. Shelton, Jo-Ann. As the Romans Did, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Woodman, A.J. Rhetoric in Classical Historiography. London: Routledge, 1988. Woodman, A.J. Tacitus Reviewed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.