Barbarians II: Tacitus’ Jews

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Any large-scale history of the Romans is inevitably a history of conquest. Livy, for example, defines his subject as the "men and arts, through which, at home and abroad, power/empire was born and increased" (praef. 9). So too Sallust can distinguish between Rome’s moral flourishing and decline on the basis of military success against foreign enemies (cf. Cat. 2.4-6; 51.42). The importance of military victory as an affirmation of political and moral well-being gives a special importance to the portrayal of non-Romans in Roman historiography. This function appears most transparently in one of the monumental records of the Roman past, the Fasti triumphales, an inscription recording all triumphs from the time of Romulus, which formed the military counterpart to the "domestic" list of consuls within the triumphal arch erected by Augustus in 19 BCE in the Roman forum. In this compendium of Roman imperium, culminating in the return of the standards captured by the Parthians at the notorious defeat of Carrhae, the data recorded are simply the date of the ceremony, the name and office of the commander, and the people over whom he triumphed. The function of non-Romans in such a record is to be defeated, and by their defeat they affirm the identity of the Romans in both a negative and a positive sense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002714
ISBN (Print)9780521854535
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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