The past and historical change in Tactitus' "Annales" and "Historiae"

Jeanette Elizabeth Doronzo, Fordham University


This dissertation purported to demonstrate how Tacitus' recording of events in the Historiae and Annales are in keeping with an "ideology of values" which he espoused and which served as a framework for his evaluation of change in Roman history. In chapter one, the Historiae, I have shown that Tacitus records events of the year A.D. 68-69 in terms of a pervasive moral decline which encompassed every level of society. This deterioration is manifest in the emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, all of whom in varying ways demonstrate a lack of "virtus" and reveal themselves unequal to the power and dignity of their office. Each of these "principes" is motivated by "cupido potentiae," that destructive human instinct which, in Tacitus' view, lies behind the recurrent lapse of Rome into civil strife and fratricide. All the major episodes that Tacitus treats, such as the murder or the Galba, the sack of Cremona, and the burning of the Capitol, reveal not only the depth of the moral degradation that has gripped the Romans, but also the extent to which the army, its commanders, the senate, and the "principes" participate in the moral anarchy which drives men to acts of unreason and violence. In the Annales, divided into the reign of Tiberius, and the reigns of Claudius and Nero, I have demonstrated that Tacitus carried his themes of demoralization and decline back to the origins of the Julio-Claudian dynasty itself. The emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero in their administration of the Roman state reveal a degeneration parallel to that of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Likewise, Tacitus presents the spectacle of a senate and aristocracy, already submissive and compliant under Tiberius, slipping further into acquiescence and servitude under Claudius and Nero. In addition, from within each reign, I have selected for discussion those significant debates, digressions, and speeches which reflect the prevailing attitudes and conflicts of the time and demonstrate the evolution of mores during this period.

Subject Area

Classical studies

Recommended Citation

Doronzo, Jeanette Elizabeth, "The past and historical change in Tactitus' "Annales" and "Historiae"" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9628332.