Cornelii Taciti Historiarum
I. Initium mihi operis Servius Galba iterum Titus Vinius consules erunt. Nam post conditam urbem octingentos et viginti prioris aevi annos multi auctores rettulerunt, dum res populi Romani memorabantur pari eloquentia ac libertate: postquam bellatum apud Actium atque omnem potentiam ad unum conferri pacis interfuit, magna illa ingenia cessere; simul veritas pluribus modis infracta, primum inscitia rei publicae ut alienae, mox libidine adsentandi aut rursus odio adversus dominantis. Ita neutris cura posteritatis inter infensos vel obnoxios. Sed ambitionem scriptoris facile averseris,1 obtrectatio et livor pronis auribus accipiuntur; quippe adulationi foedum crimen servitutis, malignitati falsa species libertatis inest. Mihi Galba Otho Vitellius nec beneficio nec iniuria cogniti. Dignitatem nostram
The Histories of Tacitus
I. I begin my work with the second consulship of Servius Galba, when Titus Vinius was his colleague.1 Many historians have treated of the earlier period of eight hundred and twenty years from the founding of Rome, and while dealing with the Republic they have written with equal eloquence and freedom.2 But after the battle of Actium, when the interests of peace required that all power should be concentrated in the hands of one man,3 writers of like ability disappeared; and at the same time historical truth was impaired in many ways: first, because men were ignorant of politics as being not any concern of theirs; later, because of their passionate desire to flatter; or again, because of their hatred of their masters. So between the hostility of the one class and the servility of the other, posterity was disregarded. But while men quickly turn from a historian who curries favour, they listen with ready ears to calumny and spite; for flattery is subject to the shameful charge of servility, but malignity makes a false show of independence. In my own case I had no acquaintance with Galba, Otho, or Vitellius, through either kindness or injury at their hands. I
- 1Jan. 1, 69 a.d.
- 2To be meticulously exact, the period was 822 years, according to the Varronian date of the founding of Rome, 753 b.c., which was generally accepted in Tacitus’s day.
- 3Tacitus thus dates the beginning of the Empire at 31 b.c.; yet the position of Augustus was not made wholly constitutional until January, 27 b.c.