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Poison, politics, lunacy, lechery—the "I Claudius" version of Roman history! An initial perusal of Tacitus' Annales, in translation, confirms modern readers' prejudices about treacherous Emperors and their regicidal wives, for Tacitus constructed his brooding narrative with the themes, vocabulary, and imagery of Attic and Roman tragedy. Their incorporation into his history would have delighted his contemporary, rhetorically-trained readers. With the passage of 2000 years, however, Tacitus' verbal stratagems remain largely undetected, because he wove them into his vast narrative tapestry so adroitly that they are discernible only subliminally.
Tacitean scholars have thus far danced piecemeal around the question of poetic influences on Tacitus and the significance of such influences. Francesca Santoro L'hoir has taken the question head on, and, in the process, done a great service for Tacitean scholars and students of Roman historiography in general. Through a close reading of the text, the author looks at how Tacitus references the themes and language of tragedy and what the implications are for his historiography. The book will be of special interest to students and scholars of comparative literature and Greek and Roman language, literature, rhetoric, and historiography.