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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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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 28 July 2021

Power and Simulacra

Power and Simulacra

The Emperor Vitellius

(p.71) 3 Power and Simulacra
The History of Make-Believe

Holly Haynes

University of California Press

Tacitus describes Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, as well as the volgus, as simulacra, because they represent imitations of imitations. Nero revealed the truth of the principate, but although he apparently had his critics, he was still a Julio–Claudian, which was enough to sustain the balance between fingere and credere necessary for the fiction still to work. In the aftermath of his death, however, the looking to which Nero had accustomed his people no longer corresponds to the fiction itself, but to a fiction of the fiction. As the specter of the Histories, Nero represents the absence of what is necessary to maintain “reality.” The look turns into the blank gaze, which no longer makes a symbolic connection between the image and that of which it is the image of. Tacitus associates this phenomenon particularly with Vitellius and the events that occur during his regime. This chapter shows how Vitellius embodies the most destructive aspect of the fingere/credere paradigm: a gaze that turns the images of an already distorted ideology into images at the second remove.

Keywords:   Tacitus, Vitellian narrative, fingere, credere, gaze, Nero, principate

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