Friday, June 3, 2022

Quote of the Day (Tacitus, on Roman Servility and Hypocrisy Under the Emperors)

“Meanwhile at Rome people plunged into slavery—consuls, senators, knights. The higher a man’s rank, the more eager his hypocrisy, and his looks the more carefully studied, so as neither to betray joy at the decease of one emperor nor sorrow at the rise of another, while he mingled delight and lamentations with his flattery.”—Ancient Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56 – c. 120 AD), “The Annals” and “The Histories,” translated by Alfred Church and William Brodribb

This passage, on virtually the first page I opened to in this volume by Tacitus, transfixed me. You can sense the barely contained anger at the opportunism, cravenness, and cowardice of his time.

Many of us will find such behavior all too familiar in contemporary Washington, particularly among GOP politicians, as they weigh, tremblingly, just how much distance they should put between themselves and a certain former President without incurring his wrath, or how much they can continue to do the bidding of the National Rifle Association without losing their self-respect.

(The image accompanying this post comes from the 1964 film, The Fall of the Roman Empire. Many would say that the empire’s collapse was presaged by its widespread corruption.)

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