Helvidius Priscus, Eprius Marcellus, and Iudicium Senatus: Observations on Tacitus, Histories 4.7–8

Classical Quarterly 42 (01):235- (1992)
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Abstract

‘E veramente quella sentenzia di Cornelio Tacito è aurea, che dice: che gli uomini hanno ad onorare le cose passate e ad ubbidire alle presenti, e debbono desiderare i buoni principi, e communque ei si sieno fatti, tolleragli’ – so Niccolò Machiavelli in 1531. Some four hundred years later a young Oxford scholar remarked: ‘that bad man, Eprius Marcellus, could have turned out a fine speech on the necessity for monarchy and tolerance, if we believe Tacitus – “ulteriora mirari, praesentia sequi; bonos imperatores voto expetere, qualescumque tolerare” ’. It may be asked, however, to what extent the opinions of Eprius Marcellus can be regarded as those of Tacitus himself; this is, beyond doubt, a part of a major question, i.e. to what extent the utterances of historical personalities can be seen as a means of conveying Tacitus' own judgements. It is not my intention here to deal with this large problem; rather, I think it useful to look more closely at the Tacitean passage as a whole: not only the speech of Marcellus but also that of Helvidius as well as the historical context of the affair. It is to be hoped that such examination will render the quest for the historian's own opinions a little less difficult.

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References found in this work

Das vierkaiserjahr bei tacitus.Manfred Fuhrmann - 1960 - Philologus: Zeitschrift für Antike Literatur Und Ihre Rezeption 104 (1-2):250-278.
Claudius in Tacitus.Miriam Griffin - 1990 - Classical Quarterly 40 (02):482-.
Claudius in Tacitus.Miriam Griffin - 1990 - Classical Quarterly 40 (2):482-501.
The Trial of P. Egnatius Celer.J. K. Evans - 1979 - Classical Quarterly 29 (01):198-.

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