Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. XII.: Of the several Commentators and Translators of Tacitus. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon's Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3)
Sect. XII.: Of the several Commentators and Translators of Tacitus. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 1 - Gordon’s Discourses, Annals (Books 1-3) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 1.
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- To the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole,
- Discourses Upon Tacitus.
- Discourse I.: Upon the Former English Translations of Tacitus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Translation By Greenway and Sir H. Savill.
- Sect. II.: Of the English Translation By Several Hands.
- Sect. III.: Of the Last Translation of the First Annal.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Last Translation of the Second Annal.
- Sect. V.: Of the Last Translation of the Third Annal.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Annal.
- Sect. VII.: Of the Last Translation of the Eleventh Annal.
- Sect. VIII.: Of the Last Translation of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Annals.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Last Translation of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Annals.
- Discourse II.: Upon Tacitus and His Writings.
- Sect. I.: The Character of Tacitus.
- Sect. II.: How Much He Excells In Description and Force.
- Sect. III.: Further Instances of the Justness of His Genius, and of His Great Thoughts.
- Sect. IV.: The Morality of Tacitus, and His Spirit Virtuous and Humane.
- Sect. V.: The Stile of Tacitus, How Pertinent and Happy: His Obscurity, a Charge of the Moderns Only.
- Sect. VI.: A General Character of His Works.
- Sect. VII.: Tacitus Vindicated From the Imputation of Deriving Events From Counsels Too Subtle and Malevolent.
- Sect. VIII.: More Proofs of the Candour and Veracity of Tacitus.
- Sect. IX.: Mr. Bayle ’ S Unjust Censure of Tacitus; and How Well the Latter Knew and Observed the Laws of History.
- Sect. X.: An Apology For the Wrong Account By Tacitus Given of the Jews and Christians, and For His Disregard of the Religion Then Received.
- Sect. XI.: The Foolish Censure of Boccalini and Others Upon Tacitus.
- Sect. XII.: Of the Several Commentators and Translators of Tacitus.
- Sect. XIII.: A Conjecture Concerning the Modern Languages, More Largely Concerning the English.
- Sect. XIV.: A Conjecture Concerning the Present State of the English Tongue, With an Account of the Present Work.
- Discourse III.: Upon Cæsar the Dictator.
- Sect. I.: Of Cæsar’s Usurpation, and Why His Name Is Less Odious Than That of Catiline.
- Sect. II.: Of the Publick Corruption By Cæsar Promoted Or Introduced; With His Bold and Wicked Conduct.
- Sect. III.: Cæsar Might Have Purified and Reformed the State; But Far Different Were His Intentions. His Art, Good Sense, and Continued Ill Designs.
- Sect. IV.: The Probability of His Waxing More Cruel, Had He Reigned Much Longer.
- Sect. V.: Cæsar No Lawful Magistrate, But a Public Enemy.
- Sect. VI.: Of the Share Which Casualties Had, In Raising the Name and Memory of Cæsar. the Judgment of Cicero Concerning Him.
- Sect. VII.: How Vain It Is to Extol Any Designs of His For the Glory of the Roman People.
- Sect. VIII.: Of His Death; and the Rashness of Ascribing to Divine Vengeance the Fate of Such As Slew Him.
- Discourse IV.: Upon Octavius Cæsar, Afterwards Called Augustus.
- Sect. I.: Of the Base and Impious Arts By Which He Acquired the Empire.
- Sect. II.: Of the Vindictive Spirit of Octavius, and His Horrid Cruelties.
- Sect. III.: Of the Treachery, Ingratitude, and Further Cruelties of Octavius. That the Same Were Wanton and Voluntary.
- Sect. IV.: Of the Popular Arts and Accidents Which Raised the Character of Augustus.
- Sect. V.: Though Augustus Courted the People, and Particular Senators, He Continued to Depress Public Liberty, and the Senate.
- Sect. VI.: What Fame He Derived From the Poets and Other Flattering Writers of His Time.
- Sect. VII.: Of the False Glory Sought and Acquired By Augustus, From the Badness of His Successors.
- Sect. VIII.: The Character of Augustus.
- Sect. IX.: Of the Helps and Causes Which Acquired and Preserved the Empire to Augustus. His Great Power and Fortune No Proof of Extraordinary Ability.
- Discourse V.: Of Governments Free and Arbitrary, More Especially That of the Cæsars.
- Sect. I.: The Principle of God’s Appointing and Protecting Tyrants, an Absurdity Not Believed By the Romans.
- Sect. II.: The Reasonableness of Resisting Tyrants Asserted, From the Ends of Government, and the Nature of the Deity. Opinions the Most Impious and Extravagant, Why Taught, and How Easily Swallowed.
- Sect. III.: The Danger of Slavish Principles to Such As Trust In Them, and the Notorious Insecurity of Lawless Might.
- Sect. IV.: Princes of Little and Bad Minds, Most Greedy of Power. Princes of Large and Good Minds Chuse to Rule By Law and Limitations.
- Sect. V.: The Wisdom and Safety of Ruling By Standing Laws, to Prince and People.
- Sect. VI.: The Condition of Free States, How Preferable to That of Such As Are Not Free.
- Sect. VII.: The Misery and Insecurity of the Cæsars From Their Overgrown Power.
- Sect. VIII.: A Representation of the Torments and Horrors Under Which Tiberius Lived.
- Sect. IX.: The Terrible Operation of Lawless Power Upon the Minds of Princes; and How It Changes Them.
- Sect. X.: The Wretched Fears Accompanying the Possession of Arbitrary Power, Exemplified In Caligula and Other Roman Emperors.
- Sect. XI.: What It Is That Constitutes the Security and Glory of a Prince; and How a Prince and People Become Estranged From Each Other.
- Sect. XII.: How Nearly It Behoves a Prince to Be Beloved and Esteemed By His Subjects. the Terrible Consequences of Their Mutual Mistrust and Hatred.
- Sect. XIII.: Public Happiness Only Then Certain, When the Laws Are Certain and Inviolable.
- Discourse VI.: Of the Old Law of Treason By the Emperors Perverted and Extended.
- Sect. I.: The Antient Purpose of That Law; the Politics of Augustus In Stretching It.
- Sect. II.: The Deification of the Emperors, What an Engine of Tyranny, and Snare to the Roman People.
- Sect. III.: The Images of the Emperors, How Sacred They Became, and How Pernicious.
- Sect. IV.: What a Destructive Calamity the Law of Majesty Grew, and How Fast Treasons Multiplied Under Its Name.
- Discourse VII.: Of the Accusations, and Accusers Under the Emperors.
- Sect. I.: The Pestilent Employment of These Men, Their Treachery and Encouragement.
- Sect. II.: The Traiterous Methods Taken to Circumvent and Convict Innocence. the Spirit of Accusing How Common, the Dread of It How Universal; and the Misery of the Times.
- Sect. III.: Plots Feigned Or True, an Ample Field For Accusations and Cruelty; and Upon What Miserable Evidence Executions Were Decreed.
- Sect. IV.: What Ridiculous Causes Produced Capital Guilt. the Spirit of the Emperor Constantius; With Somewhat of His Father Constantine.
- Sect. V.: The Black and General Carnage Made Under Constantius, By His Bloody Minister Paulus Catena, For Certain Acts of Superstition and Curiosity.
- Sect. VI.: The Ravages of the Accusers Continued; Their Credit With the Emperors; Yet Generally Meet Their Fate. the Falsehood of These Princes. the Melancholy State of Those Times.
- Sect. VII.: The Increase of Tyranny. Innocence and Guilt Not Measured By the Law, But By the Emperor’s Pleasure and Malice.
- Sect. VIII.: What Tacitus Means By Instrumenta Regni.
- Sect. IX.: How Much These Emperors Hated, and How Fast They Destroyed All Great and Worthy Men. Their Dread of Every Man For Any Reason.
- Sect. X.: Reflections Upon the Spirit of a Tyrant. With What Wantonness the Roman Emperors Shed the Blood of the Roman People. the Blindness of Such As Assisted the Usurpation of Cæsar and Augustus.
- Sect. XI.: Why Under Such Tyrants, the Senate Continued to Subsist.
- Sect. XII.: How the Unrelenting Cruelty of the Emperors Hastened the Dissolution of the Empire. the Bad Reigns of Constantine and Constantius. the Good Reign of Julian. the Indiscreet Behaviour of the Christians. Continued Tyranny; and End of the Em
- Sect. XIII.: The Excellency of a Limited Monarchy, Especially of Our Own.
- Discourse VIII.: Of the General Debasement of Spirit and Adulation Which Accompany Power Unlimited.
- Sect. I.: The Motives of Flattery Considered. Its Vileness, and Whence It Begins.
- Sect. II.: Men of Elevated Minds Irreconcileable to Arbitrary Power, and Thence Suspected By It. the Court Paid to It Always Insincere, Sometimes Expedient, But Seldom Observes Any Bounds.
- Sect. III.: The Excessive Power of the Imperial Freed Slaves; With the Scandalous Submission and Honours Paid Them By the Romans.
- Sect. IV.: The Excessive Flattery of the Senate, How Ill Judged.
- Sect. V.: The Free Judgment of Posterity a Powerful Warning to Princes, to Reign With Moderation and to Detest Flatterers. the Name and Memory of the Roman Tyrants How Treated.
- Sect. VI.: How Lamentably Princes Are Debauched and Misled By Flatterers.
- Sect. VII.: The Pestilent Tendency of Flattering Counsels, and the Glory of Such As Are Sincere.
- Discourse IX.: Upon Courts.
- Sect. I.: Of Freedom of Speech; and How Reasonable It Is.
- Sect. II.: The Spirit of Courtiers What; Some Good Ones.
- Sect. III.: The Arts of Courtiers; Their Cautiousness, and Its Causes.
- Sect. IV.: Of Slanderers and Tale-bearers In Courts. the Folly of Craft.
- Sect. V.: How Much Worthless People Abound In Courts, and Why.
- Sect. VI.: The Remarkable Fickleness and Insincerity of Courtiers.
- Discourse X.: Of Armies and Conquest.
- Sect. I.: The Burden and Danger of Maintaining Great Armies.
- Sect. II.: Great Armies the Best Disciplined, Whether Thence the Less Formidable to a Country. Their Temper and Views.
- Sect. III.: Princes Ruling By Military Power, Ever At the Mercy of Military Men.
- Sect. IV.: Instances of the Boldness and Fury of the Roman Soldiery.
- Sect. V.: The Humour of Conquering, How Injudicious, Vain, and Destructive.
- Sect. VI.: The Folly of Conquering Further Urged and Exemplified.
- The Annals of Tacitus.
- Book I.
- Book II.
- Book III.
Of the several Commentators and Translators ofTacitus.
IT were almost endless to mention all who have written upon Tacitus, and their success; numbers have done it, many as Critics, some politically; and several of the former with sufficiency and applause, such as Lipsius, Freinshemius, old Gronovius, and Ryckius. From the edition published by this last I have made my Translation; the text is very correct, and his notes are judicious and good. Of all those who have commented upon his Politics, I can commend but very few; I mean such as I have seen; many of them are worse than indifferent; tedious compilations of common places, or heavy paraphrases upon the original, where its vigour is lost in superfluous explications; and the lively thoughts of Tacitus converted into lifeless maxims; frequently wrong converted; frequently trifling and affected; often such discoveries as are obvious to every peasant or child; or puffy declamations, tedious, laboured and uninstructive. Of one or the other sort are the Commentaries of Boccalini, Annibal Scoti, Forstnerus, Schildus, and divers others.
Mr. Amelot De La Houssaye has made a large collection of political observations upon Tacitus, as far as the thirteenth Annal inclusive; some of them pertinent and useful; but many of them insipid, and little worth. The very first which he makes, is flat and poor; dés que la Roïauté commence a degénérer en tyrannie, le peuple aspire à la liberté. Little better is this; quand un Prince commence à devenir infirme, ou cassé, tout le monde tourne les yeux vers le soleil levant, c’est à dire, vers son successeur; or this; les refus du Prince doivent être assaisonnez de douceur & de courtoisie; or this; ceux même qui ont renoncé à leur honneur, & qui font gloire de leur sceleratesse, s’offensent d’etre appellez traitres; or this; un bon General ne doit jamais hazarder une bataille, qu’il n’ait mis bon ordre par tout; this too; il n’y a rien dont un Favori, ou un premier Ministre, doive se mettre plus en peine, que de bien connoitre l’humeur de son Prince; this too; un Prince dépoüillé de ses Etats ne reste pas volontiers entre les mains de celui qui en est emparé. All this is trite, void of force and instruction.
The Spanish Translation by Don Alamos De Barrientos, is accompanied with numerous Annotations, by him stiled Aforismos, which are as indifferent and impotent as the Translation it self is good and strong. His observation upon, cuncta discordiis civilibus fessa, nomine principis sub imperium accepit, is, Quando alguno se viniere a hazer Senor de una grande, y poderosa cividad libre, lo mas ordinario serà despues de una larga guerra civil; “the opportunity for any one to become master of a great and powerful free City, is most commonly at the end of a great civil war.” Tacitus says that Augustus left the first Lords of the Senate his heirs in the third degree, though most of them were hated by him; plerosque invisos sibi, sed jactantia gloriaque ad posteros.Don Alamos observes upon this; El principe muchas vezes haze honra a las personas que aborrece, para gagnar fama de modestia y sufrimiento; “a Prince often confers honours on those he hates, purely for the reputation of moderation and temper.” Tacitus says of Germanicus,anxius occultis in se patrui aviæque odiis, quorum caussæ acriores, quia iniquæ; El hombre inocente y bueno, (says Don Alamos by way of Annotation) de ninguna cosa recibe tanta congoxa, como de los secretos aborrecimientos que sabe le tienen sus parientos, sin merecerlo; “a worthy and innocent man feels so much anguish from nothing as from the secret hate which he knows his parents bear him, without deserving it.”
OF small value are such reflections, and small thought they cost to produce them; the less is the wonder that Don Alamos has vented such a myriad. Canini, an Italian, has however translated them into his own language, with high encomiums, and published them with the Italian Translation of Politi, a Translation which reads well, but hampers the thoughts of Tacitus, and from an affectation to be as concise as the original, loses much of its weight and spirit. Don Alamos, on the contrary, opens the sentiments of Tacitus fully, often over-fully, by supplemental parentheses, that are sometimes perfectly needless, and always mar and embarrass the reading.
These are the only Spanish and Italian Versions which I have seen of Tacitus. There are two more of the former, by Sueyro and Coloma, both well esteemed; and as many more Italian by Dati and Davanzati, not at all commended. Of French Translations there are five or six, all, except two, good for little, some of them good for nothing. These two are by Mr. D’Harlay De Chanvallon, who has done the whole, Mr. Amelot De La Houssaye, who has only gone as far as the thirteenth Annal. The former is vigorous and just, like that of a man of sense and observation; nor has the latter any advantage over him, save that his French is more modern, if that be any. Ablancourt is likewise one of the French Translators of Tacitus, a man of name and of a flowing stile; but if he has abused other Authors as he has abused and transformed Tacitus, it is fit they were all done over again. There is some life in him, and harmony, but no justness nor strength. All the force and fine ideas of Tacitus are lost in Ablancourt.