One of the earliest and richest engagements with the Roman historian Tacitus was in Scotland. In order to complete his ambitious seventeen-book history of the Scots, the Scotorum Historia (1527), Hector Boece turned to a variety of classical authors, and most especially to the Roman historians. Boece relied on Tacitus for his depiction of Rome’s earliest interactions with Caledonia, drawing on a wealth of material from the Annales and Agricola. Through a careful process of omission and adaptation, Boece presented Rome’s engagements with the Scots in a distinctly positive light, quietly diluting Tacitus’s cynical portrait of Roman imperialism. Besides an historical record, Boece also found in Tacitus an idiom with which to treat the themes of liberty and patriotism, both of which were central to his account of the Wars of Independence. This article explores the presence and function of Tacitean source material in the Scotorum Historia, as well as its treatment by two translations commissioned by James V, undertaken by John Bellenden and William Stewart respectively. By translating the speeches which Boece quoted from the Agricola and the Annales, Bellenden and Stewart produced, albeit indirectly, the earliest extant translations of Tacitus in any dialect of English.


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pp. 111-136
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