The histories of Roman senator Cornelius Tacitus constitute the most influential examination of tyranny, political behavior and public morality from the classical age. For centuries these portraits of courageous martyrs to freedom, of paranoid tyrants, and of sycophantic flatteres and informers shaped modern political attitudes. Ronald Mellor provides a compelling analysis of the ideas of the greatest historian of evil in the western intellectual tradition.
In Tacitus, Ronald Mellor passionately argues for reclaiming this ironic genius whose cynical world view is particularly well-suited to an analysis of the tyranny and brutality in our own century.
Tacitus is presented as a moralist, psychologist, political analyst and literary artist. Tacitus' greatest impact has never been on historians. Rather, his political vision and dramatic images left their mark on painters, poets and thinkers.
Ronald Mellor is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published From Augustus to Nero: The First Emperors of Imperial Rome and The Worship of the Goddess Roma in the Greek World.
"Professor Mellor offers a lucid introduction to the later influence, no less than to the ideas and methods, of the last great mind of Roman paganism." -- Colin Haycraft, The London Evening Standard
"This is a distinguished work of scholarship, written with energy of thought and clarity of style. It is worthy of its subject and will surely make some of its readers turn to the original and admire `the most profound moral and political philosopher that pagan Rome ever produced'." -- Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Sunday Telegraph
". . . all will be glad to be obliged by this biography to concern themselves with Tacitus the man." -- Enoch Powell, The Guardian
"Going beneath the surface of the dramatic stories told in the Annals and Histories, [Mellor] examines issues of historical reliability, psychological motivation, and above all, Tacitus' repute as a gloomy moralist." -- Gilbert Taylor, ABA Booklist
"[Mellor] has set out to write a book about Tacitus for the non-specialist reader `to convey why Tacitus's histories exercised a powerful fascination over centuries of dramatists, philosophers and even politicians'." -- Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Professor Mellor has written a splendid introduction . . . His writing is erudite, humane, measured, and yet enthusiastic. . . . It ought to be prescribed reading in schools and universities." -- Daily Telegraph
"Professor Mellor['s] . . . discussion felicitously combines scholarship with lucidity and is accessible to any interested reader. Along the way, he offers many insights, often encapsulated in telling details, into the ways of Tacitus and the world in which he lived. Although by no means averse to criticizing his subject when it is in order, Mellor nonetheless shows full appreciation of Tacitus' singular achievement and writes of it with a dramatic verve not unlike Tacitus' own." -- Vasily Rudich, The New Criterion