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Document Details :
Title: The Figure of the Eyewitness in Tacitus' Histories
Author(s): JOSEPH, Timothy
Volume: 78 Issue: 1 Date: 2019
This essay examines Tacitus’ self-fashioning in the surviving books of the Histories as an historian with extraordinary access and privileged insight into the events he is narrating. Tacitus himself was too young to witness the events of these early books (in the years 69-70 CE); and so he employs the figure of the eyewitness, by which I mean two distinct but related narrative devices: (1) the development of characters as eyewitnesses to key events, and (2) the use of figurative language to invest the character of the narrator with powers of vision and insight. Tacitus’ use of these devices builds upon earlier historiographical practice, but has particular importance for his narration of the closed system of the principate. By creating the impression of insider access to interior spaces and critical moments, Tacitus establishes his credibility and authority, an important move here at the outset both of the Histories and of his historiographical career.