Tacitus & Suetonius

Mind Map by ShelleyL, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by ShelleyL over 6 years ago


All the things Tacitus & Suetonius that you could possibly need if you were answering a question regarding them.

Resource summary

Tacitus & Suetonius
  1. Bias
    1. Tacitus
      1. TIBERIUS: Hortensius Hortalus: states that Tiberius wasted no time in refusing to give Hortalus money because the Senate looked so favourably to the idea. Tacitus portrays Tiberius as a spiteful. BUT he may have declined so that the status of the Senate was not reduced to that of charity; the Senate House was also used to discuss political state matters not personal affairs.
        1. CLAUDIUS: The rise of Agrippina: Tacitus suggests that full dominance was accorded to one woman, putting a negative spin on it. But this seems unlikely as we also see Claudius making his own decisions, and was perhaps not dominated at all (Gauls in the Senate).
          1. TIBERIUS: Domitian: Tacitus lived under the tyrant Domitian, who admired and read the diaries of Tiberius, so it makes sense that Tacitus would not like Tiberius as he was associated so much with Domitian, who was awful!
            1. His view of psychology: Tacitus believed that character was consistent over time. If you were bad in the end, you were always bad, but in Tiberius' case concealed it very well.
            2. Suetonius
              1. Claims to have no bias in his writings, but only stated the facts. This is convincing as he often gives several interpretations regarding one event.
                1. TIBERIUS: His retirement to Capri: he gives several possible answers to this: Livia? His family full of intrigue? He also suggests that Sejanus may have been responsible for this, having convinced Tiberius to go so he could gain more power.
                  1. TIBERIUS: the role of Sejanus: he also raises questions regarding his position. He suggests that Tiberius felt no affection for Sejanus and used his as a tool to get rid of Germanicus' children. But then he also suggests that Sejanus had been plotting to usurp Tiberius, stating that the emperor has made him consul to prevent him from realising he knew he was plotting.
              2. Accuracy
                1. Suetonius
                  1. TIBERIUS: Accession: states that Tiberius was hesitant to take the principate due to the rise of Clemens and the case of Libo Drusus. This is likely wrong as Tacitus states that Libo Drusus didn't make an appearance until 16CE, and Clemens 17CE.
                  2. Tacitus
                    1. TIBERIUS: you can compare his recording of Piso's trial with the Senatus Consultum on Piso found in Spain.
                      1. CLAUDIUS: you can compare his recording of Claudius' speech on letting the Gauls into the Senate with an inscription found in Lyon.
                    2. Speculative Recording
                      1. Tacitus
                        1. CLAUDIUS: Asiaticus: the trial was held in corbiculo, therefore not even the senators at the time knew what had occurred. Tacitus only writes what he believes would have been said, but this does not mean that he is correct.
                          1. CLAUDIUS: Freedmen debates: the debate on who should be the next wife was likely held in the Senate House or Imperial household. Tacitus knows that Agrippina was selected as that was common knowledge, but he doesn't know what else was said, though he records it anyway.
                            1. TIBERIUS: Accession: he states that Tiberius hesitated to take power due to his fear of Germanicus, and wanting to be selected by the Senate as emperor. But Tacitus does not know what he was thinking; Tiberius may have declined as the rule of the empire was the job for one man alone and so wanted help from the Senate, but Tacitus neglects this interpretation.
                            2. Suetonius
                              1. TIBERIUS: states that Tiberius left for Capri due to his sexual tendencies, that he trained young children to entertain him. But this is most likely based on rumour.
                                1. CLAUDIUS: Agrippina: states that she initiated her rise to power by exercising a "niece's privileges" and sitting on his lap and entertaining Claudius. But this most likely happened inside the imperial household and most definitely not in public for everyone to see.
                              2. Moral Purpose
                                1. Suetonius
                                  1. He records thematically, according to the emperors' virtues and vices.
                                  2. Tacitus
                                    1. In Book 6 he diverges from his recordings and tells us that the examples he uses are only the ones particularly praiseworthy or particularly bad. This is so the reader can follow the good examples and avoid being like the bad people.
                                  3. Genre
                                    1. Tacitus
                                      1. Annals: a chronological retelling of the emperors' reigns, covering their personal, provincial and political affairs.
                                        1. Advantages: can easily date things. Accuracy is high as everything is in order. Focus is holistic, which allows us to see how Tiberius operates in terms of succession etc.
                                          1. Disadvantages: fragmented events (e.g Tacfarinas)
                                        2. Suetonius
                                          1. Biography: separated into themes but focusses solely on the character of the emperors.
                                            1. Advantages: everything is grouped together so there are no fragmented events like you have in Tacitus.
                                              1. Disadvantages: hard to date. Neglects provincial factors.
                                          2. Life & Sources
                                            1. Tacitus
                                              1. Was a senior senator, and Governor of Asia.
                                                1. Had access to Senatorial Archives. In the recording of Messalina and Silius' affair, he also takes a moment to tell the reader that he has in fact checked his sources; he says "Older men heard and recorded it." (p246) suggesting he also had access to contemporary sources as well
                                                2. Suetonius
                                                  1. Had access to Imperial Archives. We see this as he often includes personal letters from the emperors (e.g Augustus' letter to Livia regarding Claudius, Augustus' letter regarding Tiberius).
                                                    1. Was the the secretary of Hadrian and in charge of the libraries of Rome.
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