People, Place, and Power in Tacitus' Germany

Leen Van Broeck

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis analyses Tacitus' account of Germany and the Germans through a re- reading of all passages in the Tacitean corpus set in Germany. The focus is on the nature of power exerted in spaces and by spaces. The aim is to uncover the spatial themes within Tacitus’ work and offer new perspectives on his treatment of space and power. Throughout, I see landscape as a powerful influence on those who inhabit it. That landscape can be managed and altered, but is resistant to imperial power.

Chapter one discusses the limits of violent Roman repression in overcoming the landscapes and people of Germany during the Batavian revolt. Chapter two demonstrates that the revolt’s ultimate demise can be located in Rome’s undermining of the unity of purpose and identity of the alliance created by Civilis. Chapter three traces lexical and thematic similarities in the discourses of Roman mutineers on the Rhine in AD14 and the German rebels of AD69-70, suggesting Tacitus – through repetition – sees imperial power as inevitably producing certain forms of resistance that are replicated in a variety of instances and circumstances, whatever the identities involved. Chapter four evaluates Germanicus’ campaigns in Germany as assertions of power and identity through extreme violence. I also show the difficulties of maintaining Roman identity in the German landscape of ruin, decay and terror through discussion of Caecina’s and Agrippina’s interventions to preserve Roman spatial integrity. Chapter five demonstrates the recurrence of landscape and power’s prominence throughout the later books of the Annals, through a consideration of Florus and Sacrovir’s revolt, the fluctuating fates of the Cheruscan king Italicus, and the migrations of the Frisii and the Ampsivarii. Chapter six argues that the Germania uses history and the landscape to show how Germany is ultimately inaccessible to Rome and hence unconquerable.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Alston, Richard, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Apr 2018


  • Tacitus
  • historiography
  • landscape
  • space and place
  • identity
  • Roman history
  • Roman Empire
  • rhetoric
  • power
  • revolt

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