ANALOGOUS CHARACTERS: TACITUS’ LIVIA AUGUSTA AND AGRIPPINA MINOR

M Dircksen

Abstract


Scholarship has recognised Tacitus’ preoccupation with character
and his use of rhetorical stereotypes even at a time when historiography was examined with the overriding aim of discovering the historical ‘truth’. The search for empirical validity revealed Tacitus’ historical unreliability and his manipulation of material.  Historical theory has since evolved toward an acknowledgement of ancient historiography as a form of literary art and belonging to the domain of narratology. This article is based on the premise that the Annals of Tacitus closely corresponds to a modern literary text and that the ‘manipulated material’ requires of the reader to fulfil an active role in the interpretation process. A narratological analysis of Tacitus’ characterisation of Livia Augusta and Agrippina Minor reveals a sophisticated use of the narratological device of ‘analogy between characters’. The analysis is limited to identical nouns and adjectives used in the direct description of both these women and the reinforcement of these characteristics by indirect presentation.  Tacitus’ mastery of subtle narratological devices becomes evident and his portrayal of Livia as analogous to Agrippina reiterates his deeply seated hatred of the Julio-Claudian regime.

Keywords


Tacitus’ character portrayal; narratological analysis; Livia; Agrippina Minor; analogy between characters

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/65-0-1025

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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