Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tacitus on History and Economy of Truth

Last night I watched the White Sox save grace from the hands of the Cubs. A.J.
Pierzynski's triple was the touchstone. Man, is that kid a tough hombre. Following the 2-1 Crosstown Series win, I returned to the Annals of Tacitus.

The Annals focus upon the Roman world following the death of Ocatvian-Augustus Caesar. Their were two powerful families -dynasties not unlike the Kennedys or the Bush Family. Families were joined to consolidate power. The two most powerful families at the time of the death of Augustus were the Julians ( The line of Gaius Julius Caesar) and the Claudians: The Romans passed the family name down from the father, but if a family was with a son an adoption could take place. Julius Caesar had no male heir so he adopted his nephew Ocatavian - a Julian. Ocatavian became Caesar's heir; thus, locking in the power for the Julian Family. Octavian married Julia, as foul an old bitch as ever drew on a skirt. She had previously been married to a Claudian and had a son Tiberius, who in turn was adopted by Octavian, Now Augustus Caesar and so Tiberius - Julio/Claudian - is Caesar.

Tiberius was a mope, but a good soldier and an able administrator who wanted only to swim naked with little boys and murder anyone he perceived to be a threat to him. His mom Julia encouraged Tiberius to be all he could be, while being what he wanted to be - a sexual and moral deviant.

This was the time of the Pax Romana - the Peace of Rome. There were plenty of slaughters and genocide going on in Germania (Nato), Armenia (Turkey), Judea (Gaza/Israel), and Parthia (Iraq), but Tiberius was more than happy not to extend the borders of Rome any more. He wanted to "focus on nation-building here at home," They had five wars going on and were putting down Arab Springs all over the Mideast. The professional army had suffered many setbacks - competent generals were removed and replaced by yes-men. The wars were fought politically in order to maintain power at Rome (home).

Nation building to Tiberius and those who succeeded him meant having his Chief Law Dog - Sejanus and later Macro under Nero - the attorneys general, if you will, get and keep folks in line. Taxes were killing the economy, but thepowerful maintained a velvet rope lifestyle. Books were burned and history carefully maintained by those in power. Tacitus knew how dangerous it was to present the truth.

Here is a wonderful passage:

33. For every nation or city is governed by the people, or by the nobility, or by individuals: a constitution selected and blended from these types is easier to commend than to create; or, if created, its tenure of life is brief. Accordingly, as in the period of alternate plebeian dominance and patrician ascendancy it was imperative, in one case, to study the character of the masses and the methods of controlling them; while, in the other, those who had acquired the most exact knowledge of the temper of the senate and the aristocracy were accounted shrewd in their generation and wise; so to‑day, when the situation has been transformed and the Roman world is little else than a monarchy, the collection and the chronicling of these details may yet serve an end: for few men distinguish right and wrong, the expedient and the disastrous, by native intelligence; the majority are schooled by the experience of others. But while my themes have their utility, they offer the minimum of pleasure. Descriptions of countries, the vicissitudes of battles, commanders dying on the field of honour, such are the episodes that arrest and renew the interest of the reader: for myself, I present a series of savage mandates, of perpetual accusations, of traitorous friendships, of ruined innocents, of various causes and identical results — everywhere monotony of subject, and satiety. Again, the ancient author has few detractors, and it matters to none whether you praise the Carthaginian or the Roman arms with the livelier enthusiasm. But of many, who underwent either the legal penalty or a form of degradation in the principate of Tiberius, the descendants remain; and, assuming the actual families to be now extinct, you will still find those who, from a likeness of character, read the ill deeds of others as an innuendo against themselves. Even glory and virtue create their enemies — they arraign their opposites by too close a contrast. But I return to my subject.
( emphases my own)

You gotta love the classics and not just the Cross-town Classics.

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