ricardienne: (tacitus)
Seriously Pliny, keep your Trajan-RPF to yourself...

Now I picture that future triumph: dripping not with plunder from the provinces or gold extorted from our allies, but with enemy arms and the chains of captive kings. I picture myself noting one by one the impressive names of chieftains and the bodies appropriate to those names. I imagine gazing on the litters burdened with barbarians’ massive and bold works, each one, his hands bound, following his own deeds. Then you yourself on high, standing on a chariot on the backs of conquered peoples, and before your chariot shields that you yourself pierced. Nor would you lack the “richest spoils”, if any king should dare to come within range, to shrink back as your throw not only your spear, but your threatening eyes across the whole field and the whole army.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Atque in eam se consuetudinem adduxerunt ut locis frigidissimis neque vestitus praeter pelles haberent quidquam, quarum propter exiguitatem magna est corporis pars aperta...

"Furthermore, they have made themselves accustomed -- in the coldest parts of the world! -- to have no clothing apart from animal pelts, on account of whose scantiness the greater part of their body lies bare..."
--Caesar, BG IV.1
Cf. Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, s.v. "Costume":
It is a curious fact that, in Fantasyland, the usual Rules, for Clothing are reversed. Here, the colder the climate, the fewer the garments worn. In the Snowbound North, the Barbarian Hordes wear little more than a fur loincloth and copper wristguards...
ricardienne: (tacitus)
...and I still don't have a suitable sight-reading passage to put on the exam I'm giving on Friday.

I have, however, been reading Valerius Maximus's "Memorable Deeds and Sayings," book two of which is a lot of random anecdotes about the way things were in back in the good old days (ValMax* is Tiberian), including things about how Back In the Good Old Days women weren't allowed to drink wine, and always sat at banquets instead of reclining. People don't usually give Valerius credit for a facultas snarkendi**, but I'm pretty sure that we need to give him snark points for things like "our era preserves this kind of strictness more carefully in the temples of the Capitoline [where Jove gets a ritual couch but Juno and Minerva get ritual chairs] than in our own homes; doubtless because it is more important to control the behavior of goddesses than mortal women."***

There's also a long section about how it used to be that What Happened in the Senate house Stayed in the Senate house," and it was all serious business.

Then there's this one:

2.2.2 How strenuously the ancient magistrates acted to preserve their own majesty and that of the Roman people can be see from this: that among other means of maintaining their dignity, they were especially careful that they would never speak to the Greeks expect in Latin. In fact, they even forced them to shake off their fluency -- which is their greatest strength -- and speak through interpreters, not only in our city, but even in Greece and Asia, so that the glory of the Latin language would spread with even more reverence among all the peoples of the world. They did not lack interest in learning, but they judged that there was no instance in which the pallium should not be made subject to the toga, thinking it improper that the weight and authority of empire be endowed with the enticements and literary elegance.

Way to be jerks about everything, Romans!

Then there is this one, one of my favorite Romans Doing Their Thing anecdotes:

2.2.4 [Fabius Maximus] was sent to Suessa as a legate to his son, who was then consul. Arriving, he noticed that he had come out of the city walls to meet him, and, offended that out of his son's eleven lictors none had ordered him to get down from his horse, he remained sitting, full of rage. When his son realized what was going on, he ordered his nearest lictor to get on with his duty [and command the legate to show respect to the consul and dismount]. As soon as he heard the order, Fabius said, "I was not being disrespectful of your authority, son, but I wanted to see if you knew how to act like a consul. I know what respect is due to a father, but I judge that public institutions are more powerful than filial piety."

*I do not originate this portmanteau. I think it would be more to the point if we also portmanteaued "Valerius Flaccus" into ValFlax"

**It's an objective genitive of the gerund. You're welcome.

***The definitive modern study on issues of dining posture and proper social relations is Matthew Roller's Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status (Princeton, 2006), which is really awesome and breaks down the implicit clearly-defined dining roles implied by anecdotes like this one.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
No seriously. This was an actual thing in a respected commentary:

Henry Furneaux, Cornelii Taciti Vita Agricola (Oxford, 1898):
ad Agr. 30.7: auferre, trucidare, rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi desertem faciunt, pacem appellant.
pacem, the ' pax gentium ' of H. 1. 84, 9, 'pax Romana' of Seneca (de Prov. 4, 14), Pliny (N. H. 27.1, 3), &c.; the peace and order established through the Roman world, which warlike and predatory races naturally abhorred. Cp. 'additis qui pacem nostram metuebant,' A. 12. 33, 2.

That's right, guys! People don't like being conquered and added to empires because THEY HATE PEACE. Trufax, as they say.

So context: this is maybe the most famous moment of the big speech of the British chieftain Calgacus as he rallies the Britons to fight (and lose, by the way) against the Roman invaders in Tacitus' biography/euology/monograph on his father-in-law. Who is the Roman general, so obviously this is a complicated and problematic set-piece on How We Need to Defend Our Freedom, and people who go around saying things like "the great Roman historian Tacitus said of empires, that they "make a desert and call it peace" are talking, so to speak, out of their hats and probably horrifying the manes of dear Publius Cornelius T. But it's long, it's complex, it's rhetorically and emotionally compelling, and it is very much part of the debate on whether/how to fight or/and comply with (bad) power that Tacitus is rather interested in, at least.

Anyway, times have really changed. Not least because, as I was rereading the speech and translating it, I couldn't help but think that it would have worked really well during WWII, with very little changed.

Here's a translation of Calgacus's speech up to that point, for the interested:
Whenever I consider the the reasons and our necessity of war, I am completely of the opinion that this day today and your alliance will be the beginning of freedom for all of Britain; for both are we devoid of the universal state of enslavement and is no land and not even the sea secure, while the Roman fleet hangs over us. So battle and to arms, which are an honorable course to the brave and the safest course even to cowards. The previous skirmishes, where the fighting against the Romans fell out with varying success, kept hope and help in our hands, because we, the noblest men of all Britain and therefore set in her innermost corner itself, since we do not see the shores of the enslaved, have kept even our eyes from violation by the miasma of arbitrary power. The remoteness and seclusion of our reputation has protected us, inhabitants of the outermost lands and freedom, until this day; (that is because since anything unknown is considered magnified.) But now the boundary of Britain lies open; no race of people further out, nothing but rivers and stones, and -- even more inhospitable -- the Romans, from whose arrogance compliance and moderation would provide you with useless avenues of escape. Rapists of the world, after there is nothing left on the land they have destroyed, they turn their gaze even to the sea; if an enemy is rich, they are greedy, if poor, then ambitious. Neither the east nor the west has sated them; they alone of all people lust with equal passion for one's wealth and one's want. Plunder, slaughter, rape get the false name "empire," and where they make a desert, they call it "peace."


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