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Ancient Historiography and its ContextsStudies in Honour of A. J. Woodman$
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Christina S. Kraus, John Marincola, and Christopher Pelling

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199558681

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199558681.001.0001

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The Art of Losing: Tacitus and the Disaster Narrative

The Art of Losing: Tacitus and the Disaster Narrative

(p.331) 19 The Art of Losing: Tacitus and the Disaster Narrative
Ancient Historiography and its Contexts

Elizabeth Keitel

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyses Tacitus's narratives of natural and man-made disasters, with special emphasis on those perpetrated by the principes against their own people. Tacitus consistently shows compassion towards Romans of all classes and does not stress the breakdown of social order among the masses during such disasters. He repeatedly evokes the sack of cities, the quintessential man-made disaster, when describing the tyrannical behaviour of principes such as Tiberius and Nero. Through allusions to Aeneid 2, Tacitus creates a portable, repeatable sack of Troy during the civil wars of AD 69 to underline the gravity of the situation as Italy and Rome suffer serial abuse from various contenders; the common motives of all leaders and armies in making war on their own country; the vicissitudes of fortune during civil war, and the profanation of Rome itself.

Keywords:   Tacitus, principes, civil war, narrative, Nero, sacks of cities, Tiberius, Troy

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