A discourse relation or rhetorical relation is a description of how two segments of discourse are logically connected to one another. I am interested in the question to what degree, in the process of conveying information in the factual description of events in Roman history, Tacitus offers possibilities for structuring the facts and contents in such a way that the reliable knowledge expected is cast into doubt or fundamentally called into question.
Focusing on passages in the Nero books in the Annales, I ask by which strategies of conveying information the role of Agrippina is defined in relation to other historical figures, such as Burrus and Seneca: Who is endowed with which knowledge, which points of view are attributed to whom? To what extent are these different levels of knowledge relevant for the generation of a ‘narrative meaning’? How is an item of factual information, by being recounted at several different places in the text, charged with meaning and ‘re-propositionalised’? My aim is to show that the Tacitean text aims to avoid an unequivocal interpretative stance and, by means of a carefully ordered narrative, tries to ambiguate the extra-textual and seemingly unequivocal discourses. Yet, the explicitness of discourse that is called into question in this way is not replaced by a new form of explicitness; Tacitusʼ text aims rather to erode mental schemata so as to allow other interpretations of the historical events to come into play.