Subject: Classics. Title: How is Nero Portrayed in Book XV of "The Annals" by Tacitus. Refer to the text in detail with your answer.

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Tacitus was very much a traditional Roman and he objected to the warping of Roman values seen during his own lifetime. He had experienced tyranny first-hand under Domitian and wished his histories to be a judgement on the tyrants of the past. The Annals are therefore not as impartial as Tacitus claims in his prologue, and we see this clearly in his depiction of Nero. Through subtly suggestive language and the deployment of pithy, often acerbic, observations, Tacitus focuses on everything negative about Nero, whilst carefully retaining the appearance of impartiality. Thus our perception of Nero after reading book XV is one of an emperor excessively cruel, yet paranoid, cowardly and weak-willed; a shameful artist, untalented and even laughable, whose vanity and naïveté encourage sycophantic courtiers; and finally a depraved and profligate monster who has brought chaos to Rome.

The sadism of Nero is most strongly conveyed in the description of the persecution of the Christians (chapter 44).

Tacitus makes it clear that he detests the Christians for "odio humani generis", though he does not allow Nero this motive for their persecution. Instead, Tacitus tells us that Nero is targeting them to "abolendo rumori" - a purely selfish motive. Not only is Nero persecuting them for selfish reasons, his methods of execution are barbaric. Nero adds "ludibria" to their dying, and Tacitus expands on their suffering in an emphatic tricolon ("laniatu canum...crucibus adfixi aut flammandi"). Indeed, Nero's "saevitiam" is so great that "miseratio" arises for the guilty. We see further evidence of Nero's cruelty in how he handles the plot. Plautius Lateranus, a man who Tacitus admires for his "constantia" and "amor rei publicae" is murdered "adeo propere" that he cannot even say goodbye to his family. Furthermore, Lateranus is a "consul designatus" and yet is murdered "in locum...