Text: "Rome, as far away as the moon --"

Text: 1. Heiner Müller on Tiberius's death / 2. The rigor of the Roman RES PUBLICA / 3. How old is Rome? / 4. On the pronunciation of Latin words / 5. "In the Ruins of Roman Virtue" / 6. Modernism in Cornelius Tacitus' texts

Text: Tiberius' death 37 A.D.

Kluge: …this is the death of Tiber?

Müller: Yes, Tiber is Tiberius – just to clarify. "Tiberius's bodily powers were now leaving him, but not his skill in dissembling. There was the same stern spirit; he had his words and looks under strict control, and occasionally would try to hide his weakness, evident as it was, by a forced politeness. After frequent changes of place, he at last settled down on the promontory of Misenum in a country-house once owned by Lucius Lucullus. There it was noted, in this way, that he was drawing near his end. There was a physician, distinguished in his profession, of the name of Charicles, usually employed, not indeed to have the direction of the emperor's varying health, but to put his advice at immediate disposal. This man, as if he were leaving on business his own, clasped his hand, with a show of homage, and touched his pulse. Tiberius noticed it. Whether he was displeased and strove the more to hide his anger, is a question; at any rate, he ordered the banquet to be renewed, and sat at the table longer than usual, by way, apparently, of showing honour to his departing friend. Charicles, however, assured Macro that his breath was failing and that he would not last more than two days...."

Kluge: Macro is the freedman?

Müller: Yes.

Kluge: Practically the first private secretary.

Müller: Yes. Yes. "All was at once hurry; there were conferences among those on the spot and despatches to the generals and armies. On the 15th of March, his breath failing, he was believed to have expired, and Caius Caesar was going forth with a numerous throng of congratulating followers … "

Kluge: Caligula?

Müller: Caligula Cesar, yes. Although he tends to write K where it is usually a C. "... to take the first possession of the empire, when suddenly news came that Tiberius was recovering his voice and sight, and calling for persons to bring him food to revive him from his faintness. Then ensued a universal panic, and while the rest fled hither and thither, every one feigning grief or ignorance, Caius Caesar, in silent stupor, passed from the highest hopes to the extremity of apprehension. Macro, nothing daunted, ordered the old emperor to be smothered under a huge heap of clothes, and all to quit the entrance-hall. And so died Tiberius, in the seventy eighth year of his age. ."  -- Strange customs ...

Kluge: Yes. They say the same about Stalin, by the way, that …

Müller: … his death was helped along, yes.

Kluge: Do you believe that this is all true anyway?

Müller: Yes, I think so.

Kluge: But it's written by a biased author, a contemporary of the following imperial generation, and it's also an educational text. What does it say? "This I regard as history's highest function …" Tacitus wrote that. What does he say here?

Müller: "This I regard as history's highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds."

Kluge: Not the historian, but history itself!

Müller: Yes. Yes.

Kluge: History itself is the teacher! But history might not be conscious of that. Maybe it doesn't want to be or can't. So it's entirely possible that these emperors aren't actually such monsters. How would you approach that question?

Müller: Well, there's not really a counter-narrative.

Kluge: No, no. There's no counter-narrative ...

Müller: ... although that doesn't really prove anything either.

Text: Roman cruelty / Devastation of Germania / Attack of the Punic elephants at Zama / Rome's "objectivity" / Collapse of an amphitheater / Rome, as far away as the moon -

Text: Cato speaks

Text: Senate in session: "Carthage must be destroyed!"

Text: The adulterer Tarquinius and the beautiful Lucretia - -

Text: "Fornication with a dependent - -!" (6 A.D.)

Moderator: Silence, Senators, please! Let Minutius continue!

Text: Senate in session: "Hannibal before the gates of Rome"

Moderator: Minutius, please.

Minutius: I repeat: Only a fool would try to cross the Alps with thousands of soldiers and 50 elephants, in the middle of winter. Believe me, we have more reason to be happy about it than to worry. And we should praise the gods. Because even before our legion will face this arrogant barbarian in battle, snow and freezing cold will have weakened his army severely, without us even losing a single man.

Several, jumbled: Yes, that is going to be his downfall. Only a fool would try something like this.

Minutius: And the Carthagans who survive this lethal venture despite all trials are going to be so exhausted and starved at the end of their journey, that they are going to be swept away like dry leaves by our troops at the border.

Several, jumbled: Yes, he is right. Our border legions are going to defeat them.

Fabius Cunctator: Senators! I am happy to let you disabuse me of my notions, Minutius. I might be mistaken, but I get the impression that our alpine legions are very busy fending off the Gauls.

Text: Fabius Cunctator

Fabius: And now they are supposed to take on Hannibal as well?

Minutius: Don't forget Scipio's army that we are going to send as back-up.

Fabius: Of course, but it is not going to help. He has four legions.

Senator: I feel insulted for everyone in this room. Quintus Fabius seems to have as little confidence in Rome as in himself.

Fabius: Within a few years, Hannibal has conquered all of Spain, and not so much with the help of soldiers and weapons than rather by means of clever diplomacy. A man of his caliber will also be able to lead an army across the Alps, even if this might seem impossible to us now.

Minitius: I assume that the Punic would feel very flattered if he knew that you are such an ardent admirer.

Messenger: Senators, listen, I have news!

Fabius: Quiet, please!

Messenger: Hannibal is marching across the Alps with his entire army.

Several, jumbled: What? But that is impossible!

Messenger: Our troops are retreating, the garrisons are scattered.

Fabius: Is no one resisting? 

Messenger: Just Rotario.

Fabius: But Rotario has never been reliable!

Text: The attack of the Punic elephants at Zama - -

Text: The elephants are lured into the trap and slaughtered  - -

Text: Triumphal meeting of the senate: "Carthage is destroyed!"

Text: Rome's deep-rooted cruelty has one source: objectivity / Over 5 centuries of clear-cut discrimination: "This is an enemy, this is not an enemy" / The strength of the empire lies in its acting not like a sovereign, but a machine / S.P.Q.R.

Text: The metaphor as coping mechanism to help deal with the experience of cruelty

Müller: What is difficult to make out is the transition from chronicle to literature in Tacitus' work. This is obviously literature, and that affects the style and even the syntax of his writing. In comparison to Livius, for example, who is still a pure chronicler, or at least has the air of a chronicler, Tacitus is already a mannerist. And his delight at the horrors he describes or selects is apparent in his writings, just like in Ovid's.

Kluge: Why did you tell me to focus on Tacitus? Two years ago you assigned me the task of reading his text. What was your reasoning? What did you have in mind?

Müller: Well, first of all, I read Tacitus pretty early; I think that really influenced me …

Kluge: But that doesn't explain why I should read him?!

Müller: … and that's why you have to read him too. That is, of course, if we want to work on a project together. But no, no. The main reason is that … I'm trying to figure out whether reading Tacitus wasn't always more of an aesthetic pleasure than a historical interest. These emperors are of no concern to me, I don't care about them either. I'm just interested in how they became part of Tacitus, how they became part of his work. And this text, this mix of …

Kluge: Colportage?

Müller: ...mannerism and yes, colportage, but also laconicism, is incredibly modern or at least seems very modern to me, and I feel very connected to it. And his laconicism and mannerism is perhaps also just a form that allows for the verbalization of experiences that would otherwise render us speechless. That's an important point, I think. Even if he didn't personally experience these situations like Seneca, the need for experience Tacitus felt was so strong that this crystalline form was necessary to even verbalize the experiences. And that is something that is also relevant for my own work – there is simply a need for experience that asks for condensation … I recently read a sentence that I found quite interesting in this context. Some philosopher wonders why Shakespeare didn't go insane, and suggests: He didn't go mad because he had at his disposal the instrument of the metaphor.

Kluge: "The metaphor in the Elizabethan Age" you called it once. What is its function?

Müller: The metaphor enables us to express experiences that are impossible to understand, that are hard to put into words because of the rapid succession of very different or conflicting experiences. The metaphor ties them together and preserves them, and the creator of the metaphor is protected from collapsing under the weight of these experiences, for example.

Kluge: What's a metaphor?

Müller: I find that very hard to define …

Kluge: So just give an example.

Müller: Well, I'll give an example. It's one of mine, about my attempt to define the Berlin Wall as Stalin's memorial for Rosa Luxemburg. That's a metaphor.

Kluge: Because the river that Rosa Luxemburg was thrown in, the Landwehrkanal, runs right along the wall.

Müller: In certain spots, yes, yes.

Kluge: Uhuh.

Müller: But that's an example for the Elizabethan metaphor. Stalin's memorial for Rosa Luxemburg.

Kluge: In that text you say that when the pace of experience becomes too fast for people, they can't process it directly anymore and thus create a secondary image. Create a cousin, so to speak, a nephew of the real event. And this twist – putting different ciphers of reality next to each other, so to speak, dispersing reality, in a way – allows them to ...

Müller: Well, part of the metaphor is that structurally speaking, things that really don't belong together are connected in a phrase or an image. For example Stalin and Rosa Luxemburg are not exactly a couple of lovebirds.

Kluge: No, no.

Text: The Annals by Cornelius Tacitus, Book V, fragment 9: Sejanus' children

Müller: So Sejan was Tiberius' chief advisor, the head of the Praetorians, I think – kind of like who Beria was for Stalin …

Kluge: ... who was dispossessed from one day to the next …

Müller: ...who was dispossessed from one day to the next. But after Tiberius' death, I think?

Kluge: No, no. He is dispossessed by Tiberius.

Müller: Oh, by Tiberius himself, right. And then his children are sentenced to death …

Kluge: They are minors ...

Müller: ...minors. His daughter is still a virgin and there's this legal ban … a woman can't be executed before she's nubile. So the executioner has to rape her before strangulating her. That's the story.

Kluge:  That actually happens?

Müller: Yes, yes.

Kluge: That way, the law is upheld and at the same time violated. But the emperor doesn't have the power to break the law on a fundamental level?

Müller: No, at least on paper everything has to be in order.

Text: Tiberius dispossesses Sejanus, head of his guard, and has his children executed as punishment.

Müller: "It was next decided to punish the remaining children of Sejanus, though the fury of the populace was subsiding, and people generally had been appeased by the previous executions. Accordingly they were carried off to prison, the boy, aware of his impending doom, and the little girl, who was so unconscious that she continually asked what was her offence, and whither she was being dragged, saying that she would do so no more, and a childish chastisement was enough for her correction. Historians of the time tell us that, as there was no precedent for the capital punishment of a virgin, she was violated by the executioner, with the rope on her neck. Then they were strangled and their bodies, mere children as they were, were flung down the Gemoniae."

Kluge: Capital punishment? That's ... strangulation?

Text: Tacitus, Annals, Book I, Chapter 51

Text: "Caesar, to spread devastation widely, divided his eager legions into four columns, and ravaged a space of fifty miles with fire and sword / Neither sex nor age moved his compassion / Everything, sacred or profane, the temple too of Tamfana, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was leveled to the ground / There was not a wound among our soldiers, who cut down a half-asleep, an unarmed, or a straggling foe.  /

Text: turbabanturque densis Germanium catervis leves cohortes, cum Caesar advectus as vicesimanos voce magna hoc illud tempus obliterandae sedititionis clamitabat / pergerent, properarent culpam in decus vertere - - "

Text: "The light cohorts were thrown into confusion by the dense masses of the Germans, when Caesar rode up to the men of the twentieth legion, and in a loud voice exclaimed that this was the time for wiping out the mutiny. "Advance," he said, "and hasten to turn your guilt into glory." "


Text: Doomed in the battle at sea

We are outnumbered

God will guide our swords

Text: Tacitus, Book II, Chapter 24

Text: "Quanto violentior cetero mari Oceanus et truculentia caeli praestat Germania, tantum illa clades novitate et magnitudine excessit - -"

Text: Tacitus, Book II, Chapter 24

Text: "As the ocean is stormier than all other seas / and as Germania is conspicuous for the terrors of its climate / so in novelty and extent did this disaster transcend every other,  - -"

Text: "Day and night, on those rocks and promontories Caesar would incessantly exclaim that he was himself responsible for this awful ruin  - -"

Text: "Caesar avidas legiones quo latior populatio foret quattuor in cuneos disperit; quinquaginta milium spatium ferro flammisque pervastat / non sexus, non aetas miserationem attulit / sine vulnere milites, qui semisomnos, inermos aut palantis cecide"

Text: Germania, the Dakians and the Parthians are defeated

Text: The commander and his troops march to the Capitol after a victorious campaign

Text: Jupiter Capitolinus

Text: "It was less of a secret that there were designs to murder Plautus  - - "

Text: Plautus' murderers

Text: The discovery of the assassination - -

Text: 50 000 victims in the collapse of the amphitheater / "In the year of the consulship of Marcus Licinius and Lucius Calpurnius, the losses of a great war were matched by an unexpected disaster, no sooner begun than ended / One Atilius, of the freedman class, having undertaken to build an amphitheatre at Fidena for the exhibition of a show of gladiators, / failed to lay a solid foundation to frame the wooden superstructure with beams of sufficient strength  / "

Text: "And so the calamity was all the more fatal. The building was densely crowded; then came a violent shock, as it fell inwards or spread outwards, / precipitating and burying an immense multitude which was intently gazing on the show or standing round. " /

Text: "As soon as they began to remove the debris, there was a rush to see the lifeless forms and much embracing and kissing. Often a dispute would arise, when some distorted face, bearing however a general resemblance of form and age, had baffled their efforts at recognition. Fifty thousand persons were maimed or destroyed in this disaster /For the future it was provided by a decree of the Senate that no one was to exhibit a show of gladiators, whose fortune fell short of four hundred thousand sesterces, and that no amphitheatre was to be erected except on a foundation, the solidity of which had been examined.  --"

Man: Why are you crying, Antonio? Are you afraid of dying?

Antonio: No, no, I am not scared. Everything will be fine. We are both going to start a new life.

Man: Yes, you and me both.

Text: "How old is Rome - - ?"

Text: Velleius Paterculus, Roman History, Book I, page 6 / THE SUCCESSION OF EMPIRES UP TO ROME / "In the following age — about eight hundred and seventy years ago — the sovereignty of Asia passed to the medes from the Assyrians, who had held it for ten hundred and seventy years  / In this period, sixty-five years before the founding of Rome, Carthage was established by the Tyrian Elissa, by some authors called Dido / Following closely upon the overthrow of Carthage, the world power passed to the Roman people / Between this time and the beginning of the reign of Ninus king of the Assyrians, who was the first to hold world power, lies an interval of nineteen hundred and ninety-five years  - -"

Text: What did Latin consonants and vowels sound like in the second century A.D.?

Wilfried Stroh: The most important source are the documents of ancient grammarians. We have a number of direct accounts regarding ancient pronunciation, by rhetoricians, but also by grammarians, that means basically philologists, linguists – where the individual sounds are described precisely, where deviations of pronunciation are discussed, where guidelines for proper pronunciation are given, orthoepy …

Text: Professor Wilfried Stroh

Stroh: … and the most important source is a 2nd-century educational poem by an African poet, Terentianus Maurus, which is hardly known, strangely. It is a very … I have it here. The latest critical edition was published more than a century ago, people are not very interested in him. Funnily enough, it is written by a man for whom Latin was not his native language, he only learned it as a foreign language and was particularly interested in pronunciation, and wrote an educational poem about …

Text: Professor Dr. Wilfried Stroh, Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Munich, about the Roman grammarian Terentianus Maurus - -

Stroh: … the pronunciation of the individual sounds as well as the syllables and meters, that is the next part, but for us, the first part about the sounds is particularly interesting, and he provides a detailed description of every single vowel and consonant, and all that in meter. It is funny, because it is extremely lascivious, there is a tension between the dry content and his extremely, well, almost lascivious rhythm. [reads in Latin]. "Swinging", as if you read phonetics in "swinging" rhythm, a funny idea … He describes the individual sounds very precisely, so that in regard to Latin pronunciation, the specific sounds are what we know  most about. But other issues are more difficult …

Kluge: Earlier you said "quamquam"? What does "quamquam" mean?

Stroh: I did not pronounce it 100% correctly earlier. "Quamquam": "even though"…

Kluge: Yes, "even though." And how did you pronounce it? Or, how are you supposed to pronounce it?

Stroh: The correct way would be to pronounce the "m" at the end very lightly and slightly nasally, that is, "quamquam", "quamquam" …

Text: Educational poem by Terentianus Maurus

Stroh: Then Terentianus Maurus describes how the individual vowels are articulated [reads in Latin]. That means we describe the placement of the individual sounds in the mouth, and how they get their – this is difficult to translate – "ictus", their modern swing, their tension , their strength, but the meaning of the text is debated ….  "This I want to demonstrate, as well as possible, at the example of the Sotadic verse." And for "to demonstrate" he uses the word "blaterabo" – I didn't say it quite correctly – a word that is usually used to describe camel sounds. So he's like a camel, because he is from Africa, he expresses himself in the way of the animals in his home country, so to speak. Here is the description of "A", very clever [reads in Latin]. "The letter A is formed by the mouth in the following way: the lips have to remain idle and wide open, A, and the levitating tongue has to be pulled back far enough for the vibration of the sound to transfer to it." So, if I understand it correctly, he is talking about the vibration we feel when we say "A", a light vibration, that is the "nisus" that is passed on to the tongue, about which he says later: "it can never touch the teeth." So he describes an "A" as precisely as possible!

Kluge: A Latin "A."

Stroh: A Latin "A."

Text: Love poem by Catullus

Stroh: [reads in Latin] Up to the moment when he's back in the country. And then a long poem in this rhythm follows, which conveys his lament. First, he calls out to the other priests of Cybele in ecstasy, to serve the goddess together with him, to roam the forests. And then later there is the lament where he wakes the next morning and realizes what he has done, that his former life is over for good. But the rhythm continues. Let me read another bit. [reads in Latin]

Text: Coin of L. Junius Brutus

Text: Aeneas, son of Venus and ancestor of Caesar, carries his father Anchises from the burning Troy - -

Text: Brute and his followers kill Caesar - -

Text: Caesar, blessed, immortal, because he is a descendant of Aeneas, enters the senate  - -

Text: The news of his murder reach the forum - -

Text: Incineration of Caesar's body - - 

Müller: Sorry, I just noticed something strange about Tacitus. But it's not just him: the short paragraphs. I think that's very important for the style of the narration, for the cadence of the narration …

Kluge: As if they are already fragments even in his lifetime …

Müller:  Yes, yes. And most importantly: they are paragraphs. He divides the reality he describes into paragraphs.

Kluge: But at the same time the paragraphs are not complete, unlike Livius who also uses paragraphs. He omits things. And the omission is his medium: everything he doesn't tell.

Müller: Yes, the way he tells his story is very elliptical – whereas Livius narrates serially.

Text: When he reports cruelties, Tacitus narrates "elliptically," in extremely curt, modern form - -

Kluge: Serially. He takes a redundant sentence: "Some authors say." That is his way of relativizing things … to say that it also could have been different. And then there's an extended debate among the lawyers about a question that even a prince, the emperor, can't simply ignore: Is it okay to kill these children – apparently there were attempts to save the daughter, at least. The daughter wouldn't be a threat to the emperor after all, because she couldn’t have succeeded her father as a consul or something, according to Roman law.

Text: Sejanus' daughter

Kluge: No, they have to take cruelty to its extreme and kill the sister too, because there's a possibility that she might have a son.

Text: 1. Heiner Müller on Tiberius's death / 2. The rigor of the Roman RES PUBLICA / 3. How old is Rome? / 4. On the pronunciation of Latin words / 5. "In the Ruins of Roman Virtue" / 6. Modernism in Cornelius Tacitus' texts

Text: "Rom, as far away as the moon - - "