M Dircksen


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.


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

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

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

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2011.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help