Friday, 13 April 2012

Tacitus made it up

Review of Christopher B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011)

Christopher B. Krebbs, author of A Most Dangerous Book, describes Cornelius Tacitus (56 AD – 117 AD) as the “the leading Roman senator” of his time and “the greatest historian in Latin literature”. Tacitus nevertheless played fast and loose with the truth when it suited him. He wanted to score domestic political points in his Germania by contrasting the treachery of Roman affairs with the simplicity, integrity, courage and freedom of the Germani: “The – often only implicit – antithesis between Imperial Rome and life in Germania pervades the whole of Tacitus’ account.” Trouble was, all those fabulous sociological details about the Germani were bogus. Tacitus simply made it all up, borrowing from standard Roman stereotypes about foreigners.   

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