Romans and barbarians in Tacitus' battle narratives
Seeger, Ryan Michael
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The purpose of the study is to examine how Tacitus constructs ethnic stereotypes, namely those of the Romans and of the barbarians, in his battle narratives. The first section of the study explores his descriptions of technical aspects of the battle narrative, such as topography, use of weaponry, battle formations, and sieges. The second section examines the value judgments that Tacitus makes about the combatants and their actions, discussing the themes of discipline and virtus, as well as the leaders’ ability to lead by example and stifle dissent. In his descriptions of both the technical and the “moral” aspects of battle, Tacitus shapes his Romans quite differently from his barbarians. Tacitus constructs identities in his battle narratives possibly to satisfy his audience’s expectations or to make the scenes more understandable. Such constructions indicate that ethnocentrism plays an important role in Latin historiography, revealing racial prejudice in Roman society.