jeudi 7 avril 2016

Ten Extra-Biblical Writers or Sources on Reign of Tiberius (Silent Historians Argument Revisited)

Silent Historians Argument Revisited : 1) Ten Extra-Biblical Writers or Sources on Reign of Tiberius · 2) Two of These Quoted

Of the authors whose texts have survived, only four describe the reign of Tiberius in considerable detail: Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio and Velleius Paterculus. Fragmentary evidence also remains from Pliny the Elder, Strabo and Seneca the Elder. Tiberius himself wrote an autobiography which Suetonius describes as "brief and sketchy," but this book has been lost.

I disagree about counting Velleius Paterculus as giving "considerable detail". He gives a few names and a lot of fancy words (fancy as in praise, not as in unusual words), and a few comparisons to (much more detailed) accounts of reign of Augustus.

I Tacitus
The most detailed account of this period is handed down to us by Tacitus, whose Annals dedicate the first six books entirely to the reign of Tiberius. Tacitus was a Roman senator, born during the reign of Nero in 56 AD, and consul suffect in AD 97. His text is largely based on the acta senatus (the minutes of the session of the Senate) and the acta diurna populi Romani (a collection of the acts of the government and news of the court and capital), as well as speeches by Tiberius himself, and the histories of contemporaries such as Cluvius Rufus, Fabius Rusticus and Pliny the Elder (all of which are lost).

II Suetonius
Suetonius was an equestrian who held administrative posts during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian. The Twelve Caesars details a biographical history of the principate from the birth of Julius Caesar to the death of Domitian in AD 96. Like Tacitus, he drew upon the imperial archives, as well as histories by Aufidius Bassus, Cluvius Rufus, Fabius Rusticus and Augustus' own letters.

III Velleius Paterculus
One of the few surviving sources contemporary with the rule of Tiberius comes from Velleius Paterculus, who served under Tiberius for eight years (from AD 4) in Germany and Pannonia as praefect of cavalry and legatus. Paterculus' Compendium of Roman History spans a period from the fall of Troy to the death of Livia in AD 29. His text on Tiberius lavishes praise on both the emperor[9][97] and Sejanus.[98] How much of this is due to genuine admiration or prudence remains an open question, but it has been conjectured that he was put to death in AD 31 as a friend of Sejanus.

Own comment
There is a reason why VP is not among the sources of Tacitus or Suetonius. Rich in lavish praise, POOR in detail.

Let's get out of the article on Tiberius and look why :

IV Acta Senatus
Acta Senatus, or Commentarii Senatus, were minutes of the discussions and decisions of the Roman Senate. Before the first consulship of Julius Caesar (59 BC), minutes of the proceedings of the Senate were written and occasionally published, but unofficially; Caesar, desiring to tear away the veil of mystery which gave an unreal importance to the Senate's deliberations, first ordered them to be recorded and issued authoritatively in the Acta Diurna. The keeping of them was continued by Augustus, but their publication was forbidden.[1] A young senator (ab actis senatus) was chosen to draw up these acta, which were kept in the imperial archives and public libraries.[2] Special permission from the city prefect was necessary in order to examine them.


Own comment
Oh, so Julius Caesar wanted Acts of the Senate to be PUBLIC. Accessible to everyone.

Augustus wanted them to be OFFICIAL but CLASSED INFORMATION. Accessible only by derogation, except to Emperors.

V Acta Diurna
Acta Diurna (latin: Daily Acts sometimes translated as Daily Public Records) were daily Roman official notices, a sort of daily gazette. They were carved on stone or metal and presented in message boards in public places like the Forum of Rome. They were also called simply Acta or Diurna or sometimes Acta Popidi or Acta Publica. The first form of Acta appeared around 131 BCE during the Roman Republic. Their original content included results of legal proceedings and outcomes of trials. Later the content was expanded to public notices and announcements and other noteworthy information such as prominent births, marriages and deaths. After a couple of days the notices were taken down and archived (though no intact copy has survived to the present day).

Sometimes scribes made copies of the Acta and sent them to provincial governors for information. Later emperors used them to announce royal or senatorial decrees and events of the court.

Other forms of Acta were legal, municipal and military notices. Acta Senatus were originally kept secret, until then-consul Julius Caesar made them public in 59 BC. Later rulers, however, often censored them.

[This contradicts the info on previous article that Caesar initiated them and made them public, but Augustus made them secret.]

Publication of the Acta Diurna stopped when the seat of the emperor was moved to Constantinople.

Source for this article is:

Thank you for visiting the 1911 encyclopedia. This site is no longer available.

VI Marcus Cluvius Rufus
Cluvius was consul suffectus in AD 45, during the reign of the emperor Claudius.[2][3][4] He had been involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Caligula, but it is not known to what degree.[5]

As an ex-consul during the early part of Nero's reign, Cluvius knew many members of the emperor's inner circle,[6] He appeared as the emperor's herald at the games in which Nero made his appearance.[7][8]

During the year of the four emperors, Cluvius was governor of Hispania. Tacitus said "Spain was under the government of Cluvius Rufus, an eloquent man, who had all the accomplishments of civil life, but who was without experience in war." Nobody had been endangered by his actions during Nero's reign.[9] On the death of Galba, Cluvius first swore allegiance to Otho, but soon afterwards he became a partisan of Vitellius. Hilarius, a freedman of Vitellius, accused him of aspiring to obtain the government of Hispania independent of the emperor, but Cluvius went to Vitellius, who was then in Gaul, and succeeded in clearing his name. Cluvius is said to have pushed senators to demand more power from the emperor during the reign of Vitellius.[10][11]

  • [2] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.13
  • [3] Suetonius The Lives of Twelve Caesars Life of Nero 21
  • [4] Cassius Dio, Roman History LXIII.14
  • [5] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XIX.1.13
  • [6] Suetonius The Lives of Twelve Caesars Life of Nero 21
  • [7] Suetonius The Lives of Twelve Caesars Life of Nero 21
  • [8] Cassius Dio, Roman History LXIII.14
  • [9] Tacitus, Histories I.8, Histories IV.43
  • [10] Tacitus, Histories IV.43
  • [11] Plutarch The Parallel Lives, Life of Otho 3

Cluvius Rufus was an important historian whose writing and testimony, though now lost, certainly shaped modern understanding of first century Rome. He was a contemporary of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, but little is known of the extent of his work except that it related to events during the reign of these emperors. Cluvius was one of the primary sources for Tacitus' Annals and Histories, Suetonius' The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, Plutarch's Parallel Lives and probably for later historians.

Own comment
An intelligent guess: he knew too much, so his history was disposed of, but he was to close to power to be disposed of himself.

VII Fabius Rusticus
Fabius Rusticus was a Roman historian who was quoted on several occasions by Tacitus. Tacitus couples his name with that of Livy and describes him as "the most graphic among ancient and modern historians." Tacitus also said that he embellished matters with his eloquence.[1] Fabius Rusticus is described by Tacitus as a close friend of Seneca who was inclined to praise him in his work.[2]

Fabius Rusticus was a contemporary of Claudius and Nero, but little is known of the extent of his work except that it related to events during the reign of Nero. Fabius Rusticus was one the primary sources for Tacitus' Annals and probably for other later historians like Suetonius and Josephus as well.

Tacitus cites Fabius Rusticus when describing some of the most controversial aspects of Nero's life including Nero's alleged desire to kill his mother Agrippina the Younger,[2] Nero's alleged lust for his mother, [3] and Seneca's suicide.[4]


Own comment
Hmmm ... Tacitus had access to a rare lost copy of his work he's controversial and his work is lost?

Could it be that controversial historians about contemporary matters were not quite safe under, say, Nero or Tiberius?

VIII Aufidius Bassus
Aufidius Bassus was a Roman historian who lived in the reign of Tiberius.

His work, which probably began with the [-[Roman civil wars]] or the death of Julius Caesar, was continued by Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Elder carried it down at least as far as the end of Nero's reign. Bassus' other historical work was a Bellum Germanicum, which was published before his Histories.

Seneca the Elder speaks highly of Bassus as an historian; however, the fragments preserved in that writer's Suasoriae (vi. 23) relating to the death of Cicero are characterized by an affected style.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bassus, Aufidius". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Endnotes:

  • Pliny, Nat. Hist., praefatio, 20
  • Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus, 23
  • Quintilian, Instit x. I. 103.

IX Pliny the Elder
Own comment
Naturalis Historia, his surviving work, is not relevant, but these passages of article on him are:

a) Literary Interlude
At the earliest time Pliny could have left the service, Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, had been emperor for two years. He did not leave office until AD 68, when Pliny was 45 years old. During that time Pliny did not hold any high office or work in the service of the state. In the subsequent Flavian Dynasty his services were in such demand that he had to give up his law practice, which suggests that he had been trying not to attract the attention of Nero, who was a dangerous acquaintance.

Under Nero, Pliny lived mainly in Rome. He mentions the map of Armenia and the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea, which was sent to Rome by the staff of Corbulo in 58.[20] He also saw the building of Nero's Domus Aurea or "Golden House" after the fire of 64.[21]

Besides pleading law cases, Pliny wrote, researched and studied. His second published work was a biography of his old commander, Pomponius Secundus, in two books.[16] After several years in prison under Tiberius, AD 31-37 (which he used to write tragedies), Pomponius was rehabilitated by Caligula (who later married his half-sister, Caesonia) in 38, made consul in 41 and sent by Claudius as legatus to Germany, where he won a victory against the Chatti in 50 and was allowed a triumph. After this peak he disappears from history, never to be mentioned again, except by the Plinies, and is not among either the friends or the enemies of Nero.

The elder Pliny mentions that he saw "in the possession of Pomponius Secundus, the poet, a very illustrious citizen", manuscripts in the "ancient handwriting of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus".[22] The peak of Pomponius's fame would have been his triumph of 50 or 51. In 54 Nero came to power; at that time Pliny was working on his two military writings. Pliny the Younger says that the biography of Pomponius was "a duty which he owed to the memory of his friend", implying that Pomponius had died. The circumstances of this duty and whether or not it had anything to do with his probable avoidance of Nero have disappeared with the work.

Meanwhile, he was completing the twenty books of his History of the German Wars, the only authority expressly quoted in the first six books of the Annals of Tacitus,[23] and probably one of the principal authorities for the same author's Germania. It disappeared in favor of the writings of Tacitus (which are far shorter), and, early in the 5th century, Symmachus had little hope of finding a copy.[24]

Like Caligula, Nero seemed to grow gradually more insane as his reign progressed. Pliny devoted much of his time to writing on the comparatively safe subjects of grammar and rhetoric. He published a three-book, six-volume educational manual on rhetoric, entitled Studiosus, "the Student". Pliny the Younger says of it: "The orator is trained from his very cradle and perfected."[16] It was followed by eight books entitled Dubii sermonis, "Of Doubtful Phraseology". These are both now lost works. His nephew relates: "He wrote this under Nero, in the last years of his reign, when every kind of literary pursuit which was in the least independent or elevated had been rendered dangerous by servitude."

In 68 Nero no longer had any friends and supporters. He committed suicide, and the reign of terror was at an end; also the interlude in Pliny's obligation to the state.


b) Noted Author
During Nero's reign of terror, Pliny avoided working on any writing that would attract attention to himself. His works on oratory in the last years of Nero's reign (67, 68) focused on form rather than on content. He began working on content again probably after Vespasian's rule began in AD 69, when it was clear that the terror was over and would not be resumed. It was to some degree reinstituted (and later cancelled by his son Titus) when Vespasian suppressed the philosophers at Rome, but not Pliny, who was not among them, representing, as he says, something new in Rome, an encyclopedist (certainly, a venerable tradition outside Italy).

In his next work, he "completed the history which Aufidius Bassus left unfinished, and... added to it thirty books."[16] Aufidius Bassus was a cause célèbre according to Seneca the Younger,[38][39] a man much admired at Rome. He had begun his history with some unknown date, certainly before the death of Cicero,[40] so probably the Civil Wars or the death of Julius Caesar, ending with the reign of Tiberius. It was cut short when Bassus died slowly of a lingering disease, with such spirit and objectivity that Seneca remarked that Bassus seemed to treat it as someone else's dying.

Pliny's continuation of Bassus's History was one of the authorities followed by Suetonius and Plutarch. Tacitus also cites Pliny as a source. He is mentioned concerning the loyalty of Burrus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, whom Nero removed for disloyalty.[41] Tacitus portrays parts of Pliny's view of the Pisonian conspiracy to kill Nero and make Piso emperor as "absurd"[42] and mentions that he could not decide whether Pliny's account or that of Messalla was more accurate concerning some of the details of the Year of the Four Emperors.[43] Evidently Pliny's extension of Bassus extended at least from the reign of Nero to that of Vespasian. Pliny seems to have known it was going to be controversial, as he deliberately reserved it for publication after his death:[44]

[Quote within text:]
It has been long completed and its accuracy confirmed; but I have determined to commit the charge of it to my heirs, lest I should have been suspected, during my lifetime, of having been unduly influenced by ambition. By this means I confer an obligation on those who occupy the same ground with myself; and also on posterity, who, I am aware, will contend with me, as I have done with my predecessors.


Tacitus portrays parts of Pliny's view of the Pisonian conspiracy to kill Nero and make Piso emperor as "absurd"[42] and mentions that he could not decide whether Pliny's account or that of Messalla was more accurate concerning some of the details of the Year of the Four Emperors.

X Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus (consul 58)
Own comment
Not citing article, since it does not even mention any activity as a historian.

Also, Tacitus cites him about "year of four emperors", not about Tiberius.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle

See also:, belonging to an earlier series, where a few others make this argument. A k a:

somewhere else : What a blooper, Dan Barker from Atheist League!
[On appeal to the 500, "most of whom are still alive"]

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