2015 UWICAH Postgraduate Conference (University of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History)

  • Leen Van Broeck (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Talk: "Down with that sort of thing!": shared discourses of libertas between Roman mutineers and Batavian rebels in Tacitus

Scenes of conflict in Roman historiography are often neglected or dismissed as formulaic. I contend that there are detailed thematic and lexicographical similarities in Tacitus between the discourses used by the protagonists of the Rhineland and Pannonian mutinies in AD14 (Annales 1.16-52) and Julius Civilis and his followers during the Batavian rebellion of AD69-70 (Histories 4-5), which have not been noted before and go well beyond a ‘paint by numbers’ approach. The shared discourse of legionaries and Batavians on these two occasions of regime change reveals them, in Tacitus’ representation, to be advocates of Republican-style libertas as non-domination, neither of their physical bodies nor of the language they use to describe their experiences, in opposition to the unbridled freedom of imperial autocracy which is shown to be at the root of their mistreatment. Instead of arranging these scenes around a central conflict between Roman and non-Roman, as one might expect, Tacitus presents them as between those with and those without power, regardless of nationality. I propose that he does so sympathetically but without illusion and ultimately condemns the attempts at forcing a new way of engaging with autocracy in favour of a more quietist, resigned attitude. Where there are topoi, such as soldiers displaying their wounds, these are deployed by Tacitus to reinforce these themes, which he saw as being at the heart of the political life but also the imperialism of the early Empire.
Period21 Nov 2015
Event typeConference
LocationCardiff, United KingdomShow on map