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7. Tacitus as Historian: The Purpose of History
About this Lecture
In this final module, we think about what Tacitus thought was the purpose of history—both his own Annals, as well as history more generally. Why is it that we should read Tacitus’ Annals?
In this course, Dr Ed Bispham (University of Oxford) explores Book 4 of Tacitus’ Annals. As we move through the course, we think about the position of Book 4 in the Annals as a whole, the structure of the book itself, the character of Sejanus, and the idea of Tacitus as a historian. Does he really write, as he himself claims, ‘sine ira et studio’ (without anger or prejudice’)? What, in his mind, is the purpose of his Annals? And what is the purpose of history as a whole?
Ed is interested in all areas of antiquity, the classical world and its interlocutors. At Oxford, he teaches most ancient history papers. For the past decade and a bit more he has been thinking about how historians should and can use archaeological data, and vice versa. He has been very lucky to be able to go to the mountains in central Italy and think about this while other people shovel large amounts of soil around. Currently he is chairman of the Sub-Faculty of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology: his present project involves trying to find out what this means in practice.
His research interests fall broadly into three categories at the moment: the history, archaeology and epigraphy of Italy, especially the impact of the Roman conquest; the political and cultural history of the Roman Republic; early Roman historiography. He is Co-Director of the Sangro Valley Project (Phase II), with Prof. Susan Kane, of Oberlin College, Ohio.
Cite this Lecture
Bispham, E. (2018, August 15). Tacitus: The Rise and Fall of Sejanus (Annals 4) - Tacitus as Historian: The Purpose of History [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/tacitus-annals-book-4/tacitus-as-historian-the-purpose-of-history
Bispham, E. "Tacitus: The Rise and Fall of Sejanus (Annals 4) – Tacitus as Historian: The Purpose of History." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/tacitus-annals-book-4/tacitus-as-historian-the-purpose-of-history