Annals of Tacitus, Book I:I-III

I haven’t received a full list of what we will cover in Roman Historians, but the first assignment was the first three chapters of the Annals of Tacitus.

I. At the beginning, kings held the Roman city; L. Brutus instituted liberty and the consulate. Dictarorships were taken up for the occassion; and neither did the power of the decemviri extend beyond two years, nor did the consular right of the military tribunes flourish for long. Neither the rule of Cinna, nor of Sulla were lengthy; the might of Pompey and Crassus yielded quickly to Caesar1, as did the arms of Lepidus and Antonius to Augustus, who received under his imperium the whole, wearied by civil wars, with the title of Prince2. But the prosperity of the ancient Roman people, and their adversities have been recounted by illustrious writers; befitting genius was not lacking for describing the days of Augustus, until it was hindered by swelling flattery. The matters of Tiberius and Gaius, and also Claudius and Nero while those men flourished were false on account of fear, and afterward were composed in fresh hatred. Hence my resolve to transmit little concerning Augustus and only towards the end of his affairs, and go directly to the principate of Tiberius and the rest, without anger or zeal, the causes of which I am far from holding.

II. Afterward, once Brutus and Cassius were cut down and there was no public army, Pompey3 was suppressed near Sicily and with Lepidus stripped bare, and Antonius killed, there was not even a leader left for the Julian factions except Caesar4. Having set aside the title of triumvirate, he made himself consul and he was contented with the tribunitial right for preservation of the plebs. When he had enticed the whole people with the sweetness of leisure—the soldier with gifts, the people with grain—he increased his power bit by bit; he drew to himself the functions of the senate, the magistracies, the law, with no-one opposing him, since the fiercest had fallen either at the battle-lines or to proscription. The rest of the nobility, by the degree each man was readier for slavery, were elevated by riches and honours, and thus increased by these new affairs they preferred the secure and at hand to the old and perilous. Nor did the provinces reject this state of affairs, since the imperium of the people and the senate was mistrusted, due to the struggles for power and the avarice of the magistrates, and since the protection of law was inadequate, which by force, by electoral corruption, and finally by wealth was in upheaval.

III. Meanwhile, as auxiliaries to his dominion, Augustus appointed Claudius Marcellus, son of his sister, to the pontificate and to the curial aedileship, though he was far too young, and Marcus Agrippa, a man of undistinguished position, but a good man who shared with him warfare and victory, to twinned consulates, and then, when Marcellus died, acquired him as a son-in-law; he promoted his step-sons Tiberius Nero and Claudius Drusus with imperial titles, although his own house was still whole. For those born to Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius, were brought into the family of Caesars, and while they had not set aside the child’s praetexta5, he had most fervently desired, with a pretense of objecting, that they be called the Princes of Youth, and be destined for consulships. After Agrippa passed away, when Lucius Caesar went to the Hispanian army, and Gaius was returning from Armenia, weakened by a wound—either a quick death took them by chance or the guile of their step-mother Livia did; and since Drusus had long since been killed, Nero alone remained of the step-sons; on him turned the whole: he was adopted as son, as a partner of the imperium, as consort of the tribunitial power, and paraded through all the armies, not by the hidden arts of his mother, as before, but by open urging. For she had so very much bound old Augustus that he had cast out his singular grandson, Agrippa Postumus, to the island Planasia, a boy devoid, to be sure, of the gentler arts and stupidly arrogant in the oaken strength of his body, but never exposed in any scandal. But Germanicus, by Hercules! Him born to Drusus he appointed to eight legions at the Rhine, and ordered that he be associated to Tiberius by adoption, even though Tiberius already had a young son in his house, but in this way he might tread upon more bulwarks. No war remained at that time except against the Germans, and that more to wipe away the infamy caused by the army lost with Quintilius Varus than for any desire to extend the imperium or on account of any worthy profit. At home, affairs were tranquil and the titles of the magistrates were the same. There were now young men born after the victory of Actium, and even many born during the civil wars were old: how many and who remained who had seen the Republic?

1. The Caesar here is Gaius Julius Caesar.
2. Princeps. Literally this translates as something akin to first citizen. An American equivalent might be first among equals.
3. Not the same Pompey as above, but his son.
4. The Caesar here is Augustus. When Julius Caesar adopted him (in his will), he added his adopted father’s name into his own, including the cognomen, Caesar. This was a pretty common practice in Roman society and could lead to some very burdensome names! Note also that he did not actually become Augustus until 27 BC, when he received the title as an accolade from the Senate.
5. The striped toga for royal youths before they were allowed to wear the toga virilis, (toga of manhood).

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3 Responses to Annals of Tacitus, Book I:I-III

  1. dianabuja says:

    Reblogged this on DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture and commented:
    First of several blogs translating the Annals of Tacitus – follow the intreagues of these roman elite! From Spain and Germany, to Armenia and beyond…

  2. Oldcat says:

    Note that in Paragraph I “Caesar” is Julius Caesar, but in Paragraph II it is Augustus, who was adopted and took the same name Gaius Julius Caesar after 44 BC.

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