Slavish Obedience

“He seduced the army with bonuses, and his cheap food policy was successful bait for civilians.  Indeed, he attracted everybody’s goodwill by the enjoyable gift of peace.  Then he gradually pushed ahead and absorbed the functions of the senate, the officials, and even the law.  Opposition did not exist.  War and judicial murder had disposed of all men of spirit.  Upper-class survivors found that slavish obedience was the way to succeed, both politically and financially.  They had profited from the revolution, and so now they liked the security of the existing arrangement better than the dangerous uncertainties of the old regime.  Besides, the new order was popular in the provinces.  There, government by the Senate and the People was looked upon sceptically as a matter of sparring dignitaries and extortionate officials.  The legal system had provided no remedy against these, since it was wholly incapacitated by violence, favouritism, and – most of all – bribery.” Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, trans. Michael Grant (London: Penguin, 1956, reprint 1996),  p. 32.  {British spelling is used in this translation.}  [Emphasis added]

In this manner, Tacitus (b.c. A.D. 56) described how Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) became the ruler of the Roman Empire.  The Annals cover the period from Augustus’s last years to the death of Nero. While he claimed to write without indignation or partisanship, Tacitus included harsh criticism of early Imperial Rome.  The late Roman Republic had been evolving into a real empire for 200 years by this time.  When Romans realized how wealthy they could become through conquest and plunder, they could not be satiated.

This entry was posted in Rome, Tacitus. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.