Van Republiek tot keiserryk : die vir bonus volgens Tacitus

De la Bat, Hetta Conradie (2008-03)

Thesis (MA (Ancient Studies)--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


The term vir bonus as a comprehensive concept is nowhere precisely defined, yet the Romans clearly understood its meaning. To give substance to it, the role that the good Roman or vir bonus was expected to play in the Roman Republic, was examined. By his extensive descriptions of the evils of the Empire, Tacitus confirms this concept by emphasizing the absence of these exemplary qualities. The development of Rome from city state to Monarchy to Republic is steeped in legend. The foundation of the Roman constitution was believed to have been laid during that period, and adjusted to prevent the recurrence of a monarchy. This system of government was closely structured and demanded a high moral standard from its participants. While Roman territory was limited, this constitution functioned well. However, when after the Punic Wars Rome became master of almost the whole area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, it was impracticable. A long and often bloody strife followed between the advocates of change and those who would not accept it. Augustus won out and established an Empire, calling it by the euphemistic term of Principate. His successors automatically acceded to their powers as emperor. During the Empire the political structures of the Republic were disempowered and the moral fibre of the ruling classes perverted. It is this process that Tacitus examines critically. He does so by describing how different people reacted under different circumstances. Some behaviour he roundly condemns, but often he makes us realise that the participants did not have much leeway, and that this consequently affected their behaviour .

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