The Annals of Tacitus Essay

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Tacitus tells us in the introduction to his Annales that his intent is to “relate a little about Augustus, Tiberius, et cetera” and to in fact do so “sine ira et studio” -- without bitterness or bias.1 Experience, however, tells us that this aim is rarely executed, and that we must be all the more suspicious when it is stated outright. Throughout the Annales, Tacitus rather gives the impression that his lack of bias is evidenced by his evenhanded application of bitterness to all his subjects. But is this really the case? While Tacitus tends to apply his sarcastic wit universally – to barbarian and Roman alike – this is not necessarily evidence of lack of bias. Taking the destruction of Mona and Boudicca's revolt (roughly 14.28-37) as a…show more content…
The Vergilian references continue throughout the passage. Chapter 14.31 features an unusual use of rebellio (“rebellationem”), used to describe rebelling tribes, only seen elsewhere in the Aeneid (12.186), again in relation to the Trojans.5 Skipping ahead to the end 14.33, Tacitus describes the rebellious Britons as being uninterested in “belli commercium,” or the commerce of war, i.e., the trading and selling of hostages. This is another phrase borrowed from Vergil (Aeneid 10.532), used in fact by Aeneas in denouncing the practice. The last Aeneid reference occurs in 14.34, immediately preceding Boudicca's rallying speech which begins in 14.35: the use of exultabant to describe the Celtic armies' battle strategy.6 This is a usage derived from 11.663 of the Aeneid, which describes the warrior Camilla, enemy of Aeneas, in a passage comparing her to Penthesilea and the Amazons, who actually defended Troy during the war. Tacitus reminds his reader that there is a long tradition of comparing enemies of Rome to noble allies of the past, and prepares us to see Boudicca as the heir of female warriors like Camilla and Penthesilea. While Tacitus' allusions are a relatively straightforward way of transmitting his

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