Sunday, May 30, 2021



Tacitus, Agricola 2.3 (tr. Maurice Hutton, with his note):
Assuredly we have furnished a signal proof of our submissiveness; and even as former generations witnessed the utmost excesses of liberty, so have we the extremes of slavery; wherein our "Inquisitors"2 have deprived us even of the give and take of conversation. We should have lost memory itself as well as voice, had forgetfulness been as easy as silence.

2 The delatores, informers, who reported to Domitian all slighting references real or imagined.

dedimus profecto grande patientiae documentum; et sicut vetus aetas vidit quid ultimum in libertate esset, ita nos quid in servitute, adempto per inquisitiones etiam loquendi audiendique commercio, memoriam quoque ipsam cum voce perdidissemus, si tam in nostra potestate esset oblivisci quam tacere.
The same, tr. Harold Mattingly (rev. J.B. Rives):
We have indeed left an impressive example of subservience. Just as Rome of old explored the limits of freedom, so have we plumbed the depths of slavery, robbed by informers even of the interchange of speech. We would have lost our memories as well as our tongues had it been as easy to forget as to be silent.
A.D. Leeman, "Structure and meaning in the prologues of Tacitus," in Thomas Cole and David Ross, edd., Studies in Latin Language and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973 = Yale Classical Studies, 23), pp. 169-208 (at 202-203):
Dedimus profecto grande patientiae documentum has a very effective double meaning, patientia having a negative sense of slavish meekness, but also, especially in a Stoic philosophical context as here, the more heroic sense of endurance, καρτερία. The latter would be more in the spirit of the forty-second chapter (obsequium ac modestiam, but with industria ac vigor). Ultimum in libertate during the Republic (licentia quam stulti libertatem vocant says Maternus in a boutade, Dial. XL.2) and ultimum in servitute, extreme dominatio under the Empire, are again contrasted; and in the attached ablative absolute, loquendi audiendique take up the vox theme again, continued in the paroxysm of the last sententia. Under Domitian, people were stunned into lethargy; not only was their vox silenced, but they even wished to lose the faculty of memory.

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