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About this Lecture
In this module, we focus on the figure of Otho, the man who leads a successful coup against Galba but is himself overthrown by Vitellius. In particular, we think about: (i) the three defining features of Otho’s character – his taste for the finer things in life, his cleverness, and his ambition; (ii) the reasons for Otho’s rebellion, as outlined at 1.21; (iii) the people with whom Otho surrounds himself – including the freedman, Onomastus, and the Egyptian astrologer, Ptolemaeus; and (iv) the most positive aspects of his character, including his suicide at 2.51, one of the noblest deaths in the Histories.
In this module, Dr Chris Whitton (University of Cambridge) explores Tacitus’ Histories, Book 1. In the first module, we provide an introduction to Tacitus and the Histories at a whole, before turning in the second and third modules to the figures of Galba and Otho. In the fourth module, we think about the role of the Roman army in 69 AD and Tacitus’ views on the inversion of hierarchy, before turning in the fifth module to think about how truth and power work for Tacitus. Finally, in the sixth module, we consider how the events of 69 AD might have resonated with events of Tacitus’ own lifetime. In a short seventh module, we provide some ideas for further reading, including some of the highlights of the rest of the Histories, the work of Plutarch and Suetonius, Tacitus’ Annals, and some secondary literature.
Dr Christopher Whitton studied Classics at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he then wrote a PhD on the works of Tacitus and Pliny. He has taught at Cambridge since 2007, where he is now a Senior Lecturer in Classics and a Fellow of Emmanuel College.
His particular area of expertise is Latin imperial prose literature, in particular Pliny’s Epistles and the works of Tacitus. Among other things, he’s currently writing a commentary on Annals 14.
Cite this Lecture
Whitton, C. (2019, November 27). Tacitus: Histories: Book 1 - Otho [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/tacitus-histories-book-1-1d57d270-4633-4b7c-9c39-9311d40a4d01/otho
Whitton, Christopher. "Tacitus: Histories: Book 1 – Otho." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Nov 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/tacitus-histories-book-1-1d57d270-4633-4b7c-9c39-9311d40a4d01/otho