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Long Ago and Far Away … The Uses of the Past in Tacitus’ Minora

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Chapter Summary

Each of Tacitus' works is concerned with the place and value of antiquity, both in its own terms and, more particularly, in how it informs our understanding of and affects the conduct in the present. Tacitus' current subject also lies in the past, but that is the recent imperial past, which poses particular challenges to the author and his readers, who may take offense at the implied comparison between Tiberian characters and men of the present. Tacitus' paradoxical formulation in Ann. 4.33.4 both holds the terms of contrast at arm's length and by means of verbal juxtaposition insists on their proximity. As Tacitus well knows, the historian does not have much control of how history is used: his evaluation of past data is only one strand in their reception and interpretation.

Keywords: interpretation; Tacitus' works; Tiberian characters; verbal juxtaposition



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