Monday, July 14, 2008

Tacitus on In Our Time

Last week's In Our Time on Radio 4 dealt with Tacitus:
“The story I now commence is rich in vicissitudes, grim with warfare, torn by civil strife, a tale of horror even during times of peace”. So reads page one of The Histories by the Roman historian Tacitus and it doesn’t disappoint.

Tacitus’ Rome is a hotbed of sex and violence, of excessive wealth and senatorial corruption. His work is a pungent study in tyranny and decline that has influenced depictions of Rome, from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall to Robert Graves’ I, Claudius.

But is it a true picture of the age or does Tacitus’ work present the tyranny and decadence of Rome at the expense of its virtues? And to what extent, when we look at the Roman Empire today, do we still see it through his eyes?


Catharine Edwards, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London

Ellen O’Gorman, Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol

Maria Wyke, Professor of Latin at University College London
You can listen again on the web, or you do what I do and download the podcast. In fact, why not subscribe while you are at it?

1 comment: said...

You've listened to it Mark, what surprised you then? I'm interested to know, because I don't have too much faith in Roman historians close to the Flavian dynasty, especially when I read the writings attributed to Josephus. There seems to be a growing band of skeptic historians of Roman history, distinct from the clever-Dicks with good memories who trot-out the texts with machine-gun certainty as though citing the words of God himself, especially on TV documentaries.