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16

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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Full resolution (JPEG) - On this page / på denna sida - The Roman Emperors in Marble - 1. Julius Caesar and Augustus

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1
6
ROMAN DA YS.
that stands out in strong relief against the zeal with
which later historians have tried to unveil his inmost
nature, and the security with which they have judged it.
More than any of his successors, has the author of
" Roman Annals " understood the difficulty of uniting
the scattered fragments of Augustus’ life into an entire
figure of psychological truthfulness. A seeming unity
can indeed be obtained, with limited perspicacity and
little art, if one stamp all the good with which he for
many decades gave an example to his time, as hypocrisy.
But to so cheap an explanation, Tacitus cannot accommo-
date himself. Neither will he, on the other hand, praise
a man whose very virtues seem to him adapted to
hasten the decline of the Roman people and state. On
this account he is sparing of judgments, or puts them
into the mouths of others. Too strictly moral to justify
or excuse him who carried out Caesar’s work, he never-
theless places the abhorred tyrant’s picture in the most
favorable light the truth allows. The shadow of this
man’s ambition is softened when it is seen by the side
of the people’s slavish disposition. Tacitus owns that
the people preferred the safety of bondage to the dan-
gers of freedom. It loved its chains, quite as well as
Augustus, his power. Tacitus throws the heaviest part of
the responsibility upon the shoulders of the people ; and
turns silently away from the man who lifted himself up
to be ruler of the state, by lowering himself to serve the
weakness of the people.
Gibbon might have learned something from the great
Roman historian’s caution, and Ampere from his eloquent
and haughty silence. But Gibbon grasps at once at the
idea of dissimulation, as the key to that riddle called Oc-
tavianus Augustus. This is a cool, calculating head, a

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