2018 Student Research Conference:
31st Annual Student Research Conference

An Inquiry into the Motive That Prompted Tacitus' Composition of the Germania


Christina M. Slipke
Dr. Bridget Thomas, Faculty Mentor

Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a highly educated man, a prominent political figure, and a influential historian who lived during a fascinating point in history, namely Ancient Rome in the first century AD.  It has perplexed scholars as to why Tacitus chose to publish as part of his literary debut the Germania: a small, obscure book that describes in detail the practices and customs of the Northern Germanic tribes.

Tacitus could have launched his writing career with any historical topic, yet he chose the Germanic tribes as his subject.  Even more confounding, he never witnessed these barbaric people himself, thus relying purely on second-hand accounts.  What, then, motivated Tacitus to devote his first work to a people wholly unknown to him? I argue that Tacitus used his Germania as an indirect avenue for criticizing Rome for its corrupt behavior.  I reach this conclusion by analyzing Rome’s history surrounding the time Tacitus wrote his Germania, and also by directly examining the Latin text using my own translations.

 

 

Keywords: Rome, Latin, Emperor, Historian, corrupt, history, Germania, author

Topic(s):Classics
History

Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 107-1
Location: VH 1212
Time: 8:00

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