Highlights from Tacitus, Annals Book I



“When the fiercest nobles had fallen either in battle or during the proscriptions, the rest of the nobility were raised to the heights of wealth and honor in proportion to their promptitude to slavery, and having been increased by this new state of affairs, they began to prefer what was present and pleasing over what was established and dangerous. Nor did the provinces rebel against that state of affairs, since the power of the ‘Senate and People’ was suspected on account of the contests among the powerful, and the avarice of the magistrates, while there was no help from the laws, which, though previously violated by ambition and violence, were afterward violated by money.”

cum ferocissimi per acies aut proscriptione cecidissent, ceteri nobilium, quanto quis servitio promptior, opibus et honoribus extollerentur ac novis ex rebus aucti tuta et praesentia quam vetera et periculosa mallent. neque provinciae illum rerum statum abnuebant, suspecto senatus populique imperio ob certamina potentium et avaritiam magistratuum, invalido legum auxilio quae vi ambitu postremo pecunia turbabantur.


“Domestic affairs were calm, and the magistrates used the same titles. The younger set were born after Augustus’ victory at Actium, and even many of the older men were born during the civil wars: how many were left who had even seen the Republic?

Therefore, once the affairs of the city had been overturned, the ancient and unspoiled ways were nowhere to be found; equality was discarded and everyone looked to the orders of the emperor with no fear for the present as long as Augustus, still at a strong age, could sustain himself, his home, and the peace. But after his old age was advanced and his body fatigued, and there lay at hand both his end and some new hopes, a few people began vainly to discuss the goods of liberty, but most began either to fear, or to desire, the advent of war.”

domi res tranquillae, eadem magistratuum vocabula; iuniores post Actiacam victoriam, etiam senes plerique inter bella civium nati: quotus quisque reliquus qui rem publicam vidisset?

Igitur verso civitatis statu nihil usquam prisci et integri moris: omnes exuta aequalitate iussa principis aspectare, nulla in praesens formidine, dum Augustus aetate validus seque et domum in pacem sustentavit. postquam provecta iam senectus aegro et corpore fatigabatur, aderatque finis et spes novae, pauci bona libertatis in cassum disserere, plures bellum pavescere, alii cupere.


1.29: “There is no moderation in the common rabble: they incite terror if they are not terrified, but when they shake with fear they can be scorned with impunity.”

nihil in vulgo modicum; terrere ni paveant, ubi pertimuerint inpune contemni.


“[He urged him] to consider causes and merit in peace, but when war rushes in, to slaughter both innocent and guilty alike.”

nam in pace causas et merita spectari, ubi bellum ingruat innocentis et noxios iuxta cadere.


“The shouting, wounds, and blood were in plain view, the cause was hidden: Fortune ruled the rest.”

clamor vulnera sanguis palam, causa in occulto: cetera fors regit.


“A fight arising from the dramatic contest disturbed the Augustan games which were held then for the first time. Augustus had indulged that show while he let himself be guided by Maecenas’ effusive love for Bathyllus. Nor did he himself abstain from such pursuits, and he thought it the part of a citizen to take part in the pleasures of the rabble. The inclinations of Tiberius led elsewhere: but he did not yet dare to subject the populace, which was treated so gently through so many years, to sterner treatment.”

ludos Augustalis tunc primum coeptos turbavit discordia ex certamine histrionum. indulserat ei ludicro Augustus, dum Maecenati obtemperat effuso in amorem Bathylli; neque ipse abhorrebat talibus studiis, et civile rebatur misceri voluptatibus vulgi. alia Tiberi morum via: sed populum per tot annos molliter habitum nondum audebat ad duriora vertere.


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