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Tacitus (Oxford University Press academic monograph reprints) Hardcover – Dec 1958

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 874 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Reprints distributed by Sa (Dec. 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198143273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198143277
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,775,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This study places Tacitus in his social and political context, emphasizing that he was not merely a writer of genius but a senator and consul, a man familiar with empire and government.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a slightly dated (1st printed 1958) study but remains absolutely essential to anyone studying or interested in Tacitus. All modern works still use Syme as their starting point and all refer to him persistently. You will not find a more comprehensive study of Tacitus' works anywhere to date.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
More Genius from Syme 28 Feb. 2002
By Graham Henderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is not for the faint of heart -- and I hesitated for some time over how to rate this book. One does require a working knowledge of Tacitus' life and of Roman history and traditions. The book was written in the late 1950's when, annoyingly, certain classicists felt that it was beneath them to translate their citations from the original latin. Today we often regard this practice as having the patina of snobbishness and elitism. Again and again one encounters paragraphs where the key thought is embodied (entombed is more like it!)in one of Tactitus' remarks -- but in Latin!
This however, is a quibble. There is enough of this book that is readable to render it a vastly worthwhile undertaking. But be prepared! Have a good translation of Tacitus to hand -- together with a classical dictionary, a latin dictionary and Barrington's recently published Atlas of the Ancient World (which, by the way, was one of the most wondrous things to be published in the last few decades).
If you are prepared to put the work in, Syme, and Tacitus, will reward you. Victor Davis Hanson referred to The Roman Revolution, Syme's more accessible work, as a work of "Tacitean brilliance". And there is no question that Tacitus style and wit have rubbed off on Syme.
Here is Syme, encapsulating Cicero, on the writing of history:
"Now the fundamental laws of history, as all men know and concede, are veracity and honesty. But history calls for style and composition. It is not enough to record the events, they must be interpreted and judged, with movement and eloquence in keeping. The orator will supply what is needed."
And on the Roman view of the afterlife:
"The shadowy hope of a shadowy existence did not convince the traditional Roman of the governing order. The sole and solid propect of survival lay in good deeds, with good repute thereafter to posterity. Hence the preoccupation with fame -- sharp, insistent, and dominant. Even philosophers, who impugned the validity of the opinion, could not deny or repel the tempations of glory."
Let there be no mistake about it, Syme was one of the most thought-provoking and influential scholars of the last century. His death was a terrible loss. Syme's Tacitus is an excellent study (for it is not a biography)of Tactius, his work and his times. But the road to this book lies through The Roman Revolution -- read that first. If it is to your taste, drive on!
New Zealand's Greatest Son 19 July 2012
By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What Theodor Mommsen was to the Nineteenth Century, Ronald Syme was to the Twentieth: the Master of the Field. Both men bestride the world of Roman studies like colossi while their rivals walk under their huge legs and peek about in the hope of being remembered in mere footnotes. Even AHM Jones, no mean scholar, must defer to such sovereignty.

Syme's two volume study on Tacitus is just as revelatory as his The Roman Revolution. One of its attractions is that Syme has masterfully modelled his prose and indeed his mindset on Tacitus himself. This is no gimmick: it's genius. Such be the complexity of Syme's thought, this is not an easy read in any way. It could almost be labelled Variations on a Theme by Tacitus, where Syme swoops unerringly on a comment and links it with information from another source. Our knowledge of the Principate expands exponentially.

Volume II famously includes ninety five vignettes on miscellanea: "Tacitus' Knowledge of Narbonensis", "The Speeches of Tiberius" and "Words Tacitus Avoids" being representative. They could be likened to a ninety five round bout with Muhammed Ali.

These volumes might go out of print one day but never out of currency. Thy eternal summer shall not fade.
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