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Representations of EmpireRome and the Mediterranean World$
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Alan K. Bowman, Hannah M. Cotton, Martin Goodman, and Simon Price

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262764

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262764.001.0001

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In arto et inglorius labor: Tacitus’s Anti-history

In arto et inglorius labor: Tacitus’s Anti-history

(p.82) (p.83) 5 In arto et inglorius labor: Tacitus’s Anti-history
Representations of Empire


British Academy

In his Todd Memorial Lecture given in Sydney in 1997, Fergus Millar not only questioned the value of Tacitus as a source for the Principate, but also professed difficulty in discerning ‘what the purpose and subject of Tacitus's Annales really is’. This chapter responds to some of the issues raised by Millar both in his undergraduate lectures on Tacitus and in his Todd paper. It argues that one of Tacitus's preoccupations, particularly in the Annales, is a profound concern with the task in hand, a self-referential preoccupation not so much with the history of the Principate as an explicit theme, though that is undeniably one of Tacitus's self-imposed tasks, as with the writing of the history itself, the task of the imperial historian, and the possibilities for and limitations on historiography at this period.

Keywords:   Fergus Millar, Tacitus, Principate, Annales, history writing, historiography

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