Front Page Titles (by Subject) Power and Servility - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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Power and Servility - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Power and Servility
“Tacitus: On Power.” In Empire Without End. Translated by Joan McConnell and Mario Pei. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976, pp. 143–208.
The tragedies and corrupting social controls wrought by political power were the melancholy themes in the works of the Roman historian Tacitus (c. 55–120 A.D.): Annals, Histories, Germania, Agricola, and Dialogue Concerning Oratory. His Dialogue, for example, attributed the decline in rhetoric and the arts under the empire to the inhibiting self-censorship which power imposed on culture and the individual conscience.
In all his works Tacitus chronicled how power and autocratic emperors led to ever-degenerating stages of individual and national subjection: patientia, adulatio, and servitium. “Patience” meant enduring the vicious aspects of autocracy to enjoy peace and order. “Flattery” to power encouraged hypocritical worship of matricidal, incestuous, and mad rulers. “Servitude” harnessed the free man's spirit to acquiescence and pusillanimity. The Tacitean drama of power portrays somber tableaux of individual consciences making choices when confronted by force. In lurid colors, Tacitus paints the Roman imperial system as successive scenes of violence, intrigue, corruption, greed, and sycophancy.
In his Agricola (a digest of his major themes) Tacitus outlines the choices open to nations and individuals under a regime of total power. Rebel nations, such as Britain, had the cruel alternatives of open war or slavery. Individuals could choose withdrawal, a vainglorious martyr's death for twitting power, or an ambitious servility. Tacitus's father-in-law, and pacifier of Britain, the Roman general Agricola, endeavored to escape the emperor's displeasure by a moderate and deferential attitude. His moderation failed to assuage the dissimulating Domitian. Agricola's untimely death, Tacitus insinuates, was brought about by the tyrant's poison. In this sorrowful meditation on absent liberty, Tacitus sought vestiges of liberty among the noble savages of Germany and Britain. He opposed Roman colonialism for importing Roman luxury and vice to the simple, virtuous peoples of the conquered lands. Through the rebel British chieftain Calgacus, Tacitus projected his own protest to the evils perpetrated against both truth and humanity by Roman imperialism: “Auferre, trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant” (Agricola 30: “They misname plundering, butchery, stealing as empire: they create a wilderness and they label it peace.”) Even the imported cultural refinements of Roman imperialism (e.g., the baths and cuisine) could control and debilitate the colonized Britons: “The unsophisticated natives called it ‘culture’, whereas it was a part of their servility.” (Agricola 21).