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Title:Oaths and Greed in Tacitus' Histories
Author(s):Dee, Nicholas M.
Director of Research:Augoustakis, Antony
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Augoustakis, Antony
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Manolaraki, Eleni; Tzanetou, Angeliki; Walters, Brian; Williams, Craig
Department / Program:Classics
Discipline:Classical Philology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Roman historiography
The Year of Four Emperors
69 CE
Roman military
Abstract:In Tacitus’ treatment of the various military conflicts of 69-70 CE, the military oath of allegiance (sacramentum) assumes tremendous significance throughout. The historian pointedly begins his narrative with Galba’s failure to properly compensate his soldiers for their loyalty. This expectation of financial reward for swearing allegiance, a phenomenon which I call the “sacramentum-donativum contract”, arose earlier in the Julio-Claudian period and is still, in Tacitus’ view, the bedrock of the soldier-emperor relationship in 69. Vespasian and his close supporter Mucianus appreciate this contract and understand the vital role the sacramentum ought to play, as the rise of the Flavian challenge in the east demonstrates. Yet, notably, it is instead the brutal and greedy campaign of Antonius Primus that allows for Flavian rule. In Histories 4, after the civil wars have officially ended, Julius Civilis and his fellow rebel Batavians prove adept at administering oaths in order to garner support and subvert loyalties, thereby forcing Roman (and reader) to reckon with the source of Flavian power. The extant text ends with no guarantees that the new regime will ever strike the correct balance between a soldier’s greed and an emperor’s demand for loyalty. In fact, there is every indication that no full reconciliation is on the horizon.
Issue Date:2017-04-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Nicholas Dee
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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