Posts tagged ‘Latin’

The Twelve Caesars

A lively survey of Julius Caesar and some of his successors, The Twelve Caesars mixes history, politics and scandal. Suetonius obviously had a taste for salacious gossip, and few of these leaders led particularly straitlaced lives. (more…)

April 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm Leave a comment

The Annals of Imperial Rome

Review by Steve Savage

The surviving Annals of Tacitus cover the period from the death of Augustus to the middle of Nero’s period in power in Rome – a period of about fifty years. Not all the text has survived. The fall of Sejanus is missing; also the reign of Caligula and the first few years of Claudius’s reign; and the end of Nero’s reign.

Tacitus’s idea appears to have been to set down the events of each year – military, political, social – particularly events which might have been missed by other historians. Different things caught his attention in different years, and the modern reader will no doubt be less interested in the succession of treason trials than in the Roman credit crunch which Tiberius sorted out by distributing ‘a hundred million sesterces among specially established banks, for interest-free three-year State loans’.

September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Tacitus was born in about 54AD, was a student of Quintilian, and studied law under Aper and Secundus. He married Agricola’s daughter. He occupied a number of posts and was Consul in 97AD. A Dialogue on Oratory is attributed to him and he also wrote a biography of his father-in-law, a book on Germania, and two major historical works, the Histories and the Annals. In 112AD he became Proconsul of Asia, and he died about five years later. Parts of his writings survived in libraries in Europe and were rediscovered in the Middle Ages.

September 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Letters from a Stoic

Review by Steve Savage

Letters from a Stoic, the title of Robin Campbell’s selection from Epistulæ Morales ad Lucilium by Seneca the Younger, is one of those titles that seem unnecessarily offputting. (Two others that come to mind are Charles Reade’s The Cloister and the Hearth and Hugh Miller’s My Schools and Schoolmasters, and I shall leave the reader, if sufficiently interested, to find out why.) It is true that Seneca’s book consists of letters, and it is true that he was in the Stoic camp rather than the Epicurean, so the title is not inaccurate. However Seneca’s version of Stoicism is urbane and inclusive – he regularly quotes from Epicurus to make a point – and anyway at this distance his philosophical views are likely to be less interesting than his descriptions of his own life and environment. (more…)

October 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

Lucius Annæus Seneca

Lucius Annæus Seneca (Seneca the Younger) was born in Corduba (Córdoba) around 4BCE. He had a successful career in Rome, becoming a quaestor (i.e. overseer of public finances). Success was a risky business in ancient Rome — Seneca was condemned to death under Caligula and again under Claudius, but survived and was exiled to Corsica, where he wrote essays, poems and tragedies.

After eight years of exile, Seneca was recalled to Rome and given the task of tutoring the son of Claudius’s new wife Agrippina. This boy was to become the emperor Nero. When Nero succeeded the murdered Claudius, Seneca became one of the most powerful and wealthy figures in Rome, a power behind the throne, once more arousing envy on the part of others, which grew to the point that Seneca retired from public life, with Nero’s consent. He spent the next few years studying philosophy and writing, including the Epistulæ Morales ad Lucilium (a selection of which was published under the title Letters from a Stoic). In 65CE a conspiracy against Nero was uncovered, in which Seneca was implicated, and he was ordered to commit suicide.

October 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

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