East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Friday, April 28, 2006

Suetonius the strategist, Tacitus the tactician [random note]

Tactitus (tr. Church & Brodribb) is better at the level of the event and of the sentence. When Germanicus responds to mutineers who suggest he usurp Tiberius by threating suicide, and his attendants have to restrain him from running himself through, it's just the first of many images of rare incisiveness. (Whether it happened is another story.) Suetonius (tr. Graves) is better at the level of the life and of the chapter. He gives the big picture, demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses and totally evil traits of the Caesars.

Given the previous paragraph, it might surprise that I prefer Tacitus, but his sentences really do rule. After Germanicus's sword-waving:

"The remotest and most densely crowded part of the throng, and, what almost passes belief, some, who came close up to him, urged him to strike the blow, and a soldier, by name Calusidius, offered him a drawn sword, saying that it was sharper than his own."

I'd leave out the comma after "some", and use a semicolon after "blow", which I know is technically wrong; but I really like semicolons, though not as much as this guy.


Post a Comment

<< Home