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The History of Make-BelieveTacitus on Imperial Rome$
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Holly Haynes

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520236509

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520236509.001.0001

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An Anatomy of Make-Believe

An Anatomy of Make-Believe

(p.3) 1 An Anatomy of Make-Believe
The History of Make-Believe

Holly Haynes

University of California Press

This chapter introduces the main themes of this book through analysis of passages from the Histories and other parts of the Tacitean corpus. Each passage illustrates a facet of the relationship between Roman beliefs about reality during the early Empire and Tacitus's representation of those beliefs. The thesis is that Tacitus unifies the style and content of his historiography in order to produce in the reader the experience of believing and understanding as the actors in the text do. History for Tacitus is what the agents and patients of past events believed it to be; where he is paradoxical or confusing, he reproduces paradoxes and confusion within the ideology of the period. Because he draws attention to reality as neither subjective nor objective, Tacitus's merging of style and content illustrates an ideological process that in his parlance consists of “making things up and believing them,” where the subjective styling of reality is coterminous with the objective interpretation of it. Tacitus uses the verbal pair fingere and credere at strategic points in his narrative to illustrate this process.

Keywords:   Histories, Tacitus, Roman beliefs, reality, historiography, history, fingere, credere

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