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display this fault quite as conspicuously as our author. Admitting, however, thus much to his disadvantage, and allowing the value of his works to be so far impaired, we still believe that he must always occupy one of the highest places among historical and political writers. We have been induced by this consideration, perhaps too by the fascination which belongs to all dangerous enterprises, to attempt the translation of a portion of his works, though we fear that we may be only adding to a list of previous failures. We have selected the History because, though only a fragment, it presents a complete picture of a very interesting period of the one long year,” to quote the historian's own words, which saw the fall of three Emperors, and the establishment of a new dynasty. When we see the fatal facility with which the legions were learning “the secret of empire, that Emperors could be made elsewhere than at Rome,” we are being prepared for centuries of anarchy and confusion. Nor is it less significant to find the Prætorians appearing for the first time as the supporters of.a pretender to the throne. Apart, too, from the interest which attaches to these indications of the future fortunes of the Empire, the period has special claims on the attention of every student of history. The old world was passing away amidst tremendous convulsions, and though we have unhappily lost the narrative of what was perhaps the most important event the age, the fall of Jerusalem, we still possess a singularly graphic and minute record of a great crisis in the history of mankind.
We would say a few words on existing translations. So far as we have examined them they appear to us very unsatisfactory. The best known to English readers is, we believe, that of Murphy, which was published at the beginning of the century. This is a perfectly readable book, and is written in fairly good idiomatic English, and not without a certain vigour ; but its great fault is its excessive diffuseness. The forcible and sententious brevity of Tacitus quite disappears in its lengthy periods. In fact it is a fair paraphrase, but not in any sense a translation. A work which may better claim the latter character is the Oxford Translation, of which Mr Bohn has published a revised edition. We cannot, however, think that it is an improvement on Murphy. It is not literal and exact on the one hand, nor is it good English on the other. Besides these, there are the translations of Greenewey, and Sir Henry Savile, and of Gordon. The first was published in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Greenewey translating the Annals with the Germany, Sir Henry Savile the History (except the fragment of book v.) and the life of Agricola. Sir Henry Savile was, no doubt, a scholar and a learned man, as his notes testify, but his translation, though generally accurate, is bald and unidiomatic. Gordon's translation appeared in the reign of George II., and was dedicated to Sir Robert Walpole. He seems to have entered on his work with considerable confidence in his own powers, and he takes great pains to disparage the labours of his predecessors. His own work, however, was a complete failure. Though he claims to imitate the style of his author with peculiar exactness, his pedantic language bears no resemblance to the terseness and dignity of Tacitus. There is one more translation, which we just mention because Dryden took a part in it. It was published in 1698, and was undertaken by several persons. Dryden translated the first Book of the Annals, but his translation is altogether disappointing. It is in fact a careless version of the French translation of Amelot de la Houssaye.
We would not omit to express our obligations to the French translator, Louandre. He is nearly always accurate, and frequently represents the original with a truthfulness and vigour which cannot be surpassed. We have often envied the sharpness and precision of the language in which he writes.
With respect to our own translation, we can only say that we have endeavoured to adhere as closely to the original as we have thought consistent with a proper observance of English idiom. We have written for English readers, and have tried to avoid whatever might grate harshly and unpleasantly on their ears. At the same time we have made it our constant aim to reproduce, as exactly as we have been able, the precise expressions of the Author.
We have added a few explanatory notes. They do not pretend to be anything like a complete critical apparatus. We have, where it has seemed necessary, defended our own reading of obscure or corrupt passages. We have also tried to make allusions which only scholars could understand intelligible to general readers. In two instances we have departed from the brevity at which we have generally aimed. The History is almost entirely a record of military operations, and we have therefore given as complete an account as we could collect of the Roman army as it was constituted at that time. The campaign too of Civilis, the narrative of which is, in the opinion of Mr Merivale, one of the historian's least successful episodes, seemed to require some elucidation. This we have endeavoured to furnish in a note of some length, which we have illustrated with a map containing only the names of places and of tribes occurring in the work.
Following the precedent of former translators, which seems to be in accordance with English usage, we have adopted the title 'History,' in preference to the plural Histories,' which is the author's own designation. The singular word, which in English has probably a more extended signification than in Latin, properly represents a work which, like the present, possesses complete unity of design.
In preparing the present Edition we have had the advantage of being able to avail ourselves of several suggestions from friends and critics, and to these we owe not a few of the corrections which have been introduced. We have carefully revised our translation and notes, and we trust that no actual errors or omissions have escaped us. The notes, it will be seen, have been enlarged, with the view of rendering the work more intelligible and useful to the general reader, for whom it may not be easy or convenient to consult dictionaries and books of refer
LIFE OF TACITUS.
C. CORNELIUS Tacitus was probably born about the year 51 or 52 of the Christian era. The younger Pliny, to whom we are indebted for nearly all that we know about the historian, gives us some particulars that enable us to fix this date with tolerable certainty. Pliny himself we know to have been born A.D. 61 or 62, for he tells us (Epist. VI. 20) that he was in his eighteenth year when the famous eruption of Vesuvius took place (A.D. 79). Now between Pliny and Tacitus there could not have been less than ten years difference in age. The former thus expresses himself in a letter to his friend (Epist. VII. 20),“When I was a very young man (adolescentulus), and you were at the height of your fame and reputation, I earnestly desired to imitate you.” The signification of the term “adolescentulus” was, it is true, extended by rhetorical usage to very wide limits. For this case, however, it
may be definitely fixed by reference to another passage in the Epistles (v. 8), where Pliny tells us that he was in his nineteenth year when he began to speak in the Forum. Nor does it seem inconsistent with our conjecture, that in the letter first quoted we find Pliny speaking of himself and his friend as being nearly equal in age and rank (ætate et dignitate propemodum æquales). A difference of ten years would seem comparatively small when both had risen to the dignities of Prætor and Consul, and had been associated together in offices of public trust.
The town of Interamna (now Terni) in Umbria has been named as the birthplace of Tacitus. The conjecture rests upon no other evidence than the fact that, in the third century, this town was the seat of the family of the Emperor Tacitus. This prince, who occupied the imperial throne for a few months after the death of Aurelian, claimed to be descended from the historian, and manifested his respect for his great ancestor, by ordering that ten copies of his works should be annually transscribed and placed in the public libraries. It is possible that Tacitus belonged to the great patrician house of the Cornelii. That he bore the same name can, it is true, hardly be said to be even a presumption in favour of this possibility, for the gentile names had by this time become very widely diffused throughout the population. It seems probable, however, that his family was one of some distinction and opulence. So much may be inferred from his rapid advancement in the state, and from his alliance with the family of Agricola, which, though not possessing hereditary nobility, had become one of the most distinguished in Rome. The elder Pliny (Nat. Hist. VII. 17) speaks of himself as having been acquainted with one Cornelius Tacitus, who filled the office of Procurator in Belgic Gaul. This person, who, to judge from his employment, was probably of equestrian rank, has been supposed by some, but on no other ground than the similarity of name, to have been the father of the historian. Lipsius and the Delphin commentator on Pliny, with a singular forgetfulness of chronology, identify him with the historian himself.
Tacitus probably spent the first years of his life in Rome. He must have been nearly grown to manhood when the capital saw the fall of three Emperors in the space of a single year. When the scene of the narrative which he has left of that stormy period is laid in Rome, the description seems to possess the graphic power which only an eyewitness could impart to it. We may instance the death of Galba (Hist. I. 40), and the entry of the Flavianist troops into Rome (Hist. III. 83).
In the reign of Vespasian he entered upon public life, possibly under the auspices of Agricola, to whose daughter he was betrothed in the year 77, while her father was Consul. His marriage was solemnized in the year following (Agricola, c. 9).
He says of himself (Hist. I. 1), that his elevation was