Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
of one man, there followed a dearth of literary ability, and at the same time truth suffered more and more, partly from ignorance of politics, which were no longer a citizen’s concern, partly from the growing taste for flattery or from hatred of the ruling house.  So between malice on one side and servility on the other the interests of posterity were neglected.  But historians find that a tone of flattery soon incurs the stigma of servility and earns for them the contempt of their readers, whereas people readily open their ears to the criticisms of envy, since malice makes a show of independence.  Of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, I have known nothing either to my advantage or my hurt.  I cannot deny that I originally owed my position to Vespasian, or that I was advanced by Titus and still further promoted by Domitian;[5] but professing, as I do, unbiassed honesty, I must speak of no man either with hatred or affection.  I have reserved for my old age, if life is spared to me, the reigns of the sainted Nerva and of the Emperor Trajan, which afford a richer and withal a safer theme:[6] for it is the rare fortune of these days that a man may think what he likes and say what he thinks.

The story I now commence is rich in vicissitudes, grim with 2 warfare, torn by civil strife, a tale of horror even during times of peace.  It tells of four emperors slain by the sword, three several civil wars, an even larger number of foreign wars and some that were both at once:  successes in the East, disaster in the West, disturbance in Illyricum, disaffection in the provinces of Gaul, the conquest of Britain and its immediate loss, the rising of the Sarmatian and Suebic tribes.  It tells how Dacia had the privilege of exchanging blows with Rome, and how a pretender claiming to be Nero almost deluded the Parthians into declaring war.  Now too Italy was smitten with new disasters, or disasters it had not witnessed for a long period of years.  Towns along the rich coast of Campania were submerged or buried.  The city was devastated by fires, ancient temples were destroyed, and the Capitol itself was fired by Roman hands.  Sacred rites were grossly profaned, and there were scandals in high places.[7] The sea swarmed with exiles and the island cliffs[8] were red with blood.  Worse horrors reigned in the city.  To be rich or well-born was a crime:  men were prosecuted for holding or for refusing office:  merit of any kind meant certain ruin.  Nor were the Informers more hated for their crimes than for their prizes:  some carried off a priesthood or the consulship as their spoil, others won offices and influence in the imperial household:  the hatred and fear they inspired worked universal havoc.  Slaves were bribed against their masters, freedmen against their patrons, and, if a man had no enemies, he was ruined by his friends.

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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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