Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


James Bacchus

First Page



What do we learn when, finally, we turn to Tacitus? Here, in our middle age, it is true that "the few of us that survive are no longer what we once were." Even so, we may be tempted, like some who opposed the oppressive rule in Rome, to see ourselves as "the last of the free.' If so, what, then, are we willing to do to preserve our freedom? What are we willing to sacrifice to save Rome?

Will we simply salute and shed a tear? Will it be said of us, as Tacitus said of the Romans during the time of the first treason trials: "Everyone refused. Their excuses were different, but they were all afraid."? And will it be said of us, as Tacitus said of the Gauls who were defeated by the Romans: "Their valour perished with their freedom"?

There is a price for valor, even as there is a price for freedom. The price for standing up for freedom is often high. Sometimes it is the ultimate price, and, yes, sometimes those who are willing to stand up and pay the ultimate price of freedom are forgotten. But sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are remembered ever afterwards. Tacitus tells us that, in a parade in Rome, in the days of the empire, "The effigies of twenty highly distinguished families ... headed the procession. But Cassius and Brutus were the most gloriously conspicuous--precisely because their statues were not to be seen.'

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