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Former good article nominee Tacitus was a History good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Undue weight[edit]

I cannot say emphatically enough that it's undue weight in this article to expand the section on a single passage referring to Christianity so that it's longer than the section on the entire Germania. Frankly, I don't think it belongs in this article at all, except in the "See also" section. Cynwolfe (talk) 22:45, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

Reverts back to Valentine's Day[edit]

I have reverted edits by User:Snow Rise back to Valentine's Day. While one or two look okay and benign, I begin to be concerned when I see words like "oratory" changed to "oration", when a preposition is left out of a sentence, when a CN template's correct date format isn't even used. Please try to understand my concerns. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 02:29, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Paine Ellsworth, I always appreciate another editor's concern for the quality of an article, and I'm glad you you reached out via discussion here to discuss the matter. But both of those points being said, the wholesale reversion of a significant number of edits because you have vague qualms about some of those edits is not an appropriate or allowable methodology on Wikipedia. If you have specific concerns about specific edits, then, by all means, fix or otherwise address them. So, for example, if you see a cn tag for which the dating format was in error, then fix the date -- and, if you suspect for whatever reason that the mistake was made because the editor in question is unfamiliar with the appropriate syntax (rather than it just being a simple oversight in that instance, then perhaps reach out to them an remind them of the format, if you feel so inclined. (And btw, AnomieBot corrects those tags anyway, though of course this is no reason not to apply due attention to get it right the first time However there's no doubt that the claim in question is an unsourced one in a context in a context that requires verification, so removing it outright is throwing the baby out with the bathwater and not an appropriate way to go about editing if your concern is for the article's accuracy.
The same goes for the other edits which you reversed. I removed, softened, or tagged a number of elements of original research in those edits, all of which were appropriate changes per our policies on that topic and that of neutral wording. To revert them en masse without discussion or any kind of explanation (here or in the edit summary) of why you thought they were not productive changes strains the edges of good-faith approach. This article deals with one of the most important historians of antiquity and we can reasonable assume it to get decent traffic from those concerned with classical topics, so concerns about original research are significant here (not that there's an article on which they are not, of course). I'm reverting your edit, an re-instating these changes, which I believe to be supported by policy. I'll then make an attempt to address those concerns you raised, and I'll remain engaged here for discussion if you think issues remain, but please do not make the assumption that just because an editor made a couple of edits that you're uncertain about that you can therefore treat the balance of their work on an article as suspect and remove it all. That's just not the Wikipedia way, as an editor of your experience should know. Snow talk 04:50, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Ok, actually, it looks as if two of the three issues you raised was actually already attended to before you reverted the rest of my changes.
  • The cn tag dating format was actually fixed by AnomieBot (as it generally would be -- not that this is reason not to try to get it right the first time, of course. Still, errors don't get more common or minor than this).
  • Oration was changed by another editor back to oratory. Mind you this not actually an error; "oration" is a common morphological transformation of the word "oratory" and was entirely acceptable given the syntax of that sentence. Mind you I don't have any strong feelings on which of the two should be applied here; oratory works fine, and I only changed it in the first place because oration fit the syntax better in my opinion. However, CorrinneSD feels that "oration" refers only to specific events of public speech and not to the form of activity as a whole (and apparently you agree?) -- and while this is not a universal stance (as "oration" can and is used as a synonym for this topic) by no means do I feel this issues is worth debatingg with regard to the content. But justification for reverting a large number of unrelated edits, it most certainly is not.
  • I'm actually not seeing the preposition in question. Can you point it out, please?
Snow talk 05:35, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Please be patient as I intend to cover all your edits one-by-one. You are obviously more concerned for this article than I had originally thought; however, until discussion is ended, this article should remain at status quo. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 06:50, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

I'll be patient and allow you time to present your arguments, but I want to be clear that I feel your approach here (especially in once again reverting all of those changes again prior to discussing how they are against the interests of improving the article) continues to be highly in conflict with policy and normal protocol. The fact that you were concerned that another contributors edits incidentally left out a preposition and resulted in cn tag that didn't have a proper date format does not then entitle you too remove all of that editor's unrelated edits from the article, nor to then edit war to keep those changes out. If you have concerns about specific edits, you should be addressing them in isolation. But you don't get to pass a hasty judgement upon another editor (without discussion or consensus) based on superficial evidence and then just assume that the rest of their (much more numerous and substantial) changes "must" be in error and revert them all without taking the time to investigate and provide discussion for each change reverted.
I'm not trying to be excessively bitey here, but I think you must know you erred in this case. You've cited WP:BRD in your most recent (and still inappropriate) reversion, but you've done so in error in that A) these are not really in any sense "bold" edits, being pretty cut-and-dry interpretations of WP:OR and other central and well-established policies, and B) your edit summary and comments here failed to in any way discuss the vast majority of the changes you made in one large edit which reversed 8 distinct edits that themselves addressed multiple different issues; you referenced three trivial errors (two of which had already been fixed) and then implied that this was sufficient argument to revert all other (completely unrelated) changes that another editor had made over the last two weeks. That's not what is meant by "discussion" as that policy treats it, nor does said policy support your current approach of trying to shift the burden of proof to me in circumstances where policy clearly puts it on you. I provided explanations for my changes in my edit summaries; you did not provide counter-arguments for the bulk of those edits when you reverted them, either in your edit summary or your comments here as you should have. Instead, the sum total of your justification basically amounted to "I'm not sure about this editor; better revert all of their edits, just to be on the safe side.", which is not in any sense a valid policy argument.
In any event, I'll wait for you to present your concerns, but if what I find is no more substantial than the way you've approached procedure in this case so far, and you continue with these bulk reversions without showing why the entirety of the changes you are eliminating are not consistent with policy, I'm afraid I'll probably have no choice but to take the matter to 3RR or ANI, though I'd really rather not. [Nevermind that; while I disagree very strongly with your approach here so far, from what I've observed you would probably accede to the view of additional parties, so it's unlikely to go to administration, if I'm honest. I'm just trying to find a way to express here how far outside of the proper way to handle content disputes I view your approach to be... But you seem civil enough I'm sure we can work this out, with time. Maybe it will even generate some extra eyes for the article if we have to solicit additional opinions to break a deadlock.] Snow talk 08:04, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

WP:BRD is a quite ineffective essay, compared to the WP:EDITCONSENSUS policy:

  • @Paine Ellsworth: try to avoid reverting apparent improvements (even when minor and included in larger scale edits you can't agree with); also, don't remove {{cn}}'s unless they're dealt with – removing them because you don't like them, or on a minor technicality, is not an option.
  • @Snow Rise: about the more intrusive changes without immediate consensus (re-arranging section headers etc.) Paine Ellsworth is right: a consensus is needed before implementing, so explain your case and wait on what others have to say about such proposals.

On the content of the matter: major/minor works is a somewhat artificial subdivision for Tacitus. Renaming "minor works" to "monographs" could be considered. Histories and Annals should get the major focus though. --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:13, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm afraid you're taking the other editor's words for my actions. I reverted merely five edits, not a "significant number of edits", most of which I was fairly certain at the time that I did not support, and am now certain of it as I've shown below. The CN was just a temporary removal until I had time to assess its need based upon the other editor's "edits". I also think that the ditty about "the greatest" vs. "one of the greatest" is incorrect as it is now, at least until the already existing sources can be assessed as to what they support. It's only OR if the sources don't support it, but those sources were for "the greatest", not for the other. Joys! – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 11:44, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
To Francis Schonken: I was able to locate both sources. The first source does actually say, "Cornelius Tacitus is generally considered the greatest Roman historian,..." on page 39. The second source says that he, "is the major source for the history of the empire in the first century," on page 116. It is not original research to return that sentence to what it was (status quo). – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 12:14, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Source one at Amazon and source two at Google – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 12:34, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
So your perspective then is that "is the major source for the history of the empire in the first century" is directly equivalent to saying that he is "the greatest of the Roman historians"? Because those are not, to my eyes, even remotely the same statement. If it is your stance that these are analogous, can you at least concede that the vast majority of your fellow editors probably will not, accept this as a likely WP:SNOW issue and give a little ground here so we can move on to the next content issue? If not, the only real option is an RfC, which seems like a waste of time to me, as the finding strikes me as a foregone conclusion. Snow talk 08:10, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, I don't disagree with the relative weight that is currently attached to each section (aside from to say that they could all be augmented a tad), but it seems non-neutral to me to separate them along a subjective "major/minor" scheme, unless such were supported by our sources.
As to the matter of BRD and the proper workflow for formation of conensus, I'm afraid I feel you are mistaken. I provided a case for each edit I made. He reverted those edits en mass without an explanation that addressed the particular for each one of them. And he's reverted again prior to supplying that case. Even then, if he would have handled each edit's reversion in an isolated fashion, I'd have had no complaint. But reverting each and every edit I've made here at once, with no other explanation than a vague "this person seems fishy". No, I'm sorry, that's just not the way you are meant to handle edits you disagree with or aren't certain about. You either take the time to investigate each individual issue and handle it in a policy-consistent fashion or you wait until you can. There's no middle-ground "I just think these edits had issues, so I'll assume the rest are problematic without presenting evidence of it." approach allowable under policy. Only in extreme cases governed by community sanctions is one editor allowed to remove all of another editors contributions on a general principle. Otherwise you give evidence for each change you want to revert.
Buuuut, with a third pair of eyes here I really do think we can work this out civilly, so let's just put procedural arguments to the side for a moment and when Paine presents his concerns, we can form a consensus.Snow talk 09:33, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Okay wonderful – I have been working on this much of the night and there are two editors who decide to completely ignore the notice at the top of this section. Thank you for your consideration. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 09:28, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Paine, a few thoughts here. First, that template is not in any way binding, nor is it common usage, especially when you are in the midst of a content dispute; you can't expect everyone else on this project to be able to contribute on your schedule or to hold their thoughts on your actions until you are ready for them. Second, if you're ever working on a post that is that long and involved that you fear losing it, you should back it up (or work on it in a sandbox) rather than assuming that no one else will edit the page in question before you finish it. Third, for most contemporary browsers, you are probably going to be capable of recovering that text by backing up to the edit field; it's not universal to every context, but give it a try.
Regardless, I'm not feeling particularly apologetic for responding to you once again reverting contributions en masse without providing your case first. It's pretty clear that in this case you judged my edits collectively from a couple of trivial formatting errors and then felt justified in removing them in their entirety. Even if you succeed in convincing me that you actually read each individual edit before reverting (and that doesn't seem to be the case from your comments above), you still failed to provide an explanation for that act, which is otherwise in conflict with reversion policy. So, yeah, I wanted my position plain. I'm sorry you lost work (and I know how frustrating that can be), but I suggest the solution here is that you take a more stable approach to the material you are working on rather than blaming other editors for being active in the hours that they can... Snow talk 09:41, 19 February 2015 (UTC)


Re. the {{cn}} sentence in the lede:

  • "brevity" is not very a accurate description imho: Tacitus can be very elaborate in his descriptions;
  • "compact" is the more accurate description imho, details and nuances are "compacted" in terse sentences.

Yes, we need more sources on the nature of Tacitus' prose. Can anyone provide them and/or give a more appropriate summary of what these sources have to say on the matter in the lede? --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:58, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Now that you mention it, I have a couple compendiums of his work around here somewhere. Maybe one has a foreword that would be useful in this regard. Snow talk 10:05, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

To continue:[edit]

(edit conflict)

Reverting per explanation on talk page;Paine,it's in fact you upon which the burden of discussion rests if you are going to revert a large number of edits for which policy rationale is going to vary;
"A large number of edits", which by my count equals a total of five edits plus a CN template at the time I reverted. The "burden" in a BRD debate is upon both the bold editor and the reverter. There is no such thing as one or the other carrying the burden of discussion, which is why it is called "discussion".
...the wholesale reversion of a significant number of edits because you have vague qualms about some of those edits is not an appropriate or allowable methodology on Wikipedia.
Please support this claim with a policy or guideline quote. When I edit vital articles like this, there are "red flags" that go up, and I merely described those red flags caused by your edits. These are not "vague qualms", especially when one considers that I was quite clear about my concerns when I opened this discussion. Be glad this is editing and not baseball.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Edits in question[edit]

It would be good to keep in mind that there are basically three types of edits:

  1. improvements,
  2. those that neither improve nor worsen article quality, and
  3. worsenings.

These are used below as rating parameters. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)


"Other writings by him discuss..." → "Other of Tacitus' surviving writings include..."

ES = (no edit summary)
Rating = 3
  • In my opinion this was a 3 because, as noted to you by another editor, your change implies that the ensuing list comprises titles of the subject's works, when indeed those are topics about which the subject wrote. You seemed to agree, because you adjusted to:

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Yes, and I did not oppose changing "include" back to "discuss", because I saw the logic of the argument made for that change. But as regards the rest of the statement, "other writings by him...[verb phrase]" part of the sentence, I felt it should be changed because it's incredibly awkward sounding and not encyclopedic in form. "By him", in this syntactic context is a kind of childish construction that we can do better than. I don't care if my wording of "Other of Tacitus' surviving writings...[verb phrase]" is kept or not, but "by him" is an issue with tone. Snow talk 10:40, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

1) "Other writings by him discuss..." → "Other of Tacitus' surviving writings include..." was simply wrong, since topics rather than titles follow. I agree that "by him" was awkward. A better wording was needed and could have been worked out. that "oration" can also be used, but that's what the talk page is for.)

And Snow Rise's:

1) I've already said this multiple times, so hopefully this is the last any of us has to deal with this red herring. I have no objection to that wording -- I very much saw the logic of using that phrasing with regard to it being a list of topics rather than writings. As with you, my only qualm was with resolving the "by him" part and I agree that a combination of those features is what is called for. In fact, I employed just such a wording after your revert. It was amongst the edits that Paine culled out with his mass-revert. You and I are in complete agreement here.

Currently the second paragraph of the lede starts with: "Tacitus' other writings discuss ..." does anyone have a problem with that? My impression is that we're discussing here something that is moot by now for some time. --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Support - I dislike leaving the apostrophe in that position, because I believe people find that syntax (with the plural marker attaching to an existing /s/ phoneme) awkward even in written language, but it still seems the best of our options. Snow talk 08:19, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


"Other writings by him discuss [[Public speaking|oratory]]..." → "Other of his writings discuss [[Public speaking|oration]]..."

ES = (no edit summary) (BY THE WAY, SNOW RISE, NO RATIONALES IN EDIT SUMMARIES ARE YET ANOTHER RED FLAG – small, and yet significant when other red flags are present.)
Rating = 3
  • The first part (your adustment) is, in my opinion, even dodgier than the phrase you changed, which needs a little work; as a new paragraph about what the subject did, it should begin with the subject's name, as in "Other writings by Tacitus discuss...".
  • The second part, "oratory → oration" is moot, since you said, I don't have any strong feelings on which of the two should be applied here; oratory works fine,... – another reason "oratory" does work fine is because it is used as a synonym in the lead of the Public speaking article.
  • In regard to your edit summary in this reversion, if you yourself were to practice this admonition there would be fewer red flags to other editors.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Correct, I have no objection to "oratory" (and never did). The other content point is addressed above; suffice to say I disagree and believe that the large majority of editors would find my version to be more encyclopedic in tone.
As to "red flags", do you really think you are entitled on evidence like this to revert another editors contributions altogether? What do you say we keep this focused on the content for the moment and put the procedural bit aside while we try to reach consensus. Or if you prefer, we can seek an administrative opinion on which is really the disruptive behaviour, two of my edit summaries lacking appropriate detail or you removing another editor's contributions en masse with no more explanation than that they left out a preposition and didn't format the date for a {{cn}} tag... Snow talk 11:01, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

2) Regarding "oratory" vs. "oration", I felt it was wrong to use "oration" there, and I checked in the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary. Only one definition for "oration" was given (a speech). (You are always welcome to provide evidence that "oration" can also be used, but that's what the talk page is for.)

And Snow Rise's:

2) Once again, I have no objection to this, which I've made repeatedly clear, but Paine repeatedly brings this up as if it's a matter I am being unreasonable upon. Mind you "oration" is an acceptable morphological conversion of that word, but I understand the preference for oratory and I never opposed it once it was put back. You and I are in agreement here.

Is everybody OK with "oratory" now? Seems we don't need to continue discussing this. --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Support Never had an issue with it to begin with, let's get it out of the way. Snow talk 08:21, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


The alterings of subheaders and deletion of three of Tacitus' works (just because they're minor?).

ES = Unless we have a source dividing Tacitus' works along this major/minor divide (and I'm unaware of any source that does so explicitly), it's WP:OR.
Rating = 3
  • I tend toward the status quo, here, but only because it is status quo in a vital article, and so probably should remain like it is. Sources may be requested and cited if you so deem.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Errr, no, that's not how WP:verification works, especially with regard to content that is suspected of being WP:original research. This is a claim that has been challenged. Evidence must be supported to keep it in. WP:Status quo does not override WP:V or WP:OR. This is an evaluative/non-neutral stance that requires sourcing if it is to remain. So, no, the reversion was not in order, unless such sources were present (or you independently knew about them, in which case you should have presented them, and should do so now if you wish this division to remain. And note that just one source using this division in it's own internal structure is not the same thing as it being an established trend in the scholarship on Tacitus. In any event, the only one editor aside from us to speak on the issue so far supports my interpretation, and I've little doubt the majority of other editors would as well. Snow talk 11:09, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

4) Regarding the division of Tacitus' works into "major" and "minor" categories, I thought it was a logical division made by modern editors familiar with his works. I'm surprised you consider it "original research", but that kind of change is something I would have suggested in a comment on the talk page.

And Snow Rise's:

4) It's not a major issue in any sense (pun unintended), but yes this edit does represent a kind of original research. A claim need not be explicit in order to violate WP:V and WP:NPOV; it can also at times be implied by how the structure of an article implies weight. Labeling some of Tactitus' works as "major" and some as "minor" is an evaluative claim that needs to be either sourced or removed. We disagree here, but I think this is cut and dry.

Does anyone have a problem with the current subsection headers, to wit:

===History of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus===



See also my comment above: "On the content of the matter: major/minor works is a somewhat artificial subdivision for Tacitus. Renaming "minor works" to "monographs" could be considered. Histories and Annals should get the major focus though."

Also here, if we can agree on the current situation, no need to continue discussing. If not: present your arguments (I mean: arguments to change the current situation, not arguments on a moot discussion about a prior situation). --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Support - This is an elegant solution in my opinion, in that it takes away any editorial evaluation of the importance of his work on our part, but maintains the current formatting by replacing the labels with divisions that reflect a (non-controversial) thematic division. Snow talk 08:24, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


"Tacitus is remembered first and foremost as the greatest Roman historian." → "Tacitus is remembered first and foremost as being amongst the greatest Roman historians."

ES = Listing him as -the- greatest is OR and an evaluative, non-neutral, and non-encyclopedic manner to describe his role, as clearly individuals and scholars will vary in this regard. This is a extraordinary claim that would require much more immense sourcing
Rating = dependent upon sources
  • Yes, that one needs work:
"Tacitus is remembered first and foremost as one of the greatest Roman historians who lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature." (which combines the first two sentences)
It is, however, important to see if the sources allow the change – if sources call him "the greatest" rather than "one of the greatest", then it is not OR and the sources should be followed.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

And our sources clearly do not use that wording (nor would one expect any serious academic to assert that one particular Roman historian was empirically "the greatest"). Any, I can't see many editors not supporting my version over the former one in this case, for sure. Snow talk 11:12, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Addendum:

The first cited source reads that Tacitus "is generally considered the greatest Roman historian", not "one of the greatest", on page 39. The second cited source reads that Tacitus, "is the major source for the history of the empire in the first century," on page 116. So the edit introduced bad information into Wikipedia. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 12:23, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, but I don't accept one quote directly addressing that claim (and only one of those does) establishes a scholarly consensus on that evaluation. This source says Tacitus -- I'm certain I can find a few that say the same for Suetonius or Livy, or Dio, (or Polybius if they want to be generous of the meaning of "Roman"). The vast majority, however, probably stake out no claim here (as is suggested by the proportions of our sources which make no such claim. If our sources reflect this neutral position, or simply refer to him as a great historian of the era, then that is the position we ought to be reflecting in our own prose, per WP:WEIGHT. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Snow Rise (talkcontribs) [1]
When are you going to get that what you or I do or don't accept doesn't amount to a hill o' beans on Wikipedia? This encyclopedia goes with the sources; it does not go with our opinions. Read the sources. The first source supports the original claim word for word, and the second source supports that claim via implication. Please set aside our erupted personal differences and try to be objective. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 12:51, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
That's exactly what I've been doing here from word go; I don't know why you feel compelled to assume (or in any event, imply) that I'm making my content decisions just to spite. My position as detailed above is clearly predicated on our sources and and a very cut-and-dry, non-controversial reading of WP:WEIGHT, a principle aspect of WP:NPOV. If you want to RfC the matter, I'm more than happy to, but I wish you'd take my word for it that few editors are going to agree to allow such an extraordinary claim based on one source. More so than that, I wish you'd believe that if at all possible I'd rather settle this amiably with compromise solutions that we both agree benefit the article on the whole. I'm just not prepared to abandon a pillar policy in the process. Snow talk 15:29, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

5) Regarding "the greatest historian" or "one of the greatest", I'm not going to voice an opinion other than to say that I think Paine is right, that in WP articles, we go with what the sources say. Obviously, you think that one source is not enough to say that kind of thing.

And Snow Rise's:

5) Of course we go with the sources; this has been the crux of my arguments as well. This is a matter of WP:WEIGHT, and even a generous reading of that policy can't get us past the fact that the statement Paine wants to retain is WP:UNDUE. You've abstained on this matter, and the only fourth opinion we've had on this has supported my reading. That's a weak consensus, of course, so we can always RfC it, but I can't see many editors disagreeing that this extraordinary claim cannot be supported by the balance of the perspectives of the sources, which Paine is playing fast and loose with; he feels that "[Tacitus] is the major source for the history of the empire in the first century" /equals/ "Tacitus is known as the greatest Roman historian". Do you?

I agree with Snow here, this is a WP:BALASPS issue. The sources quoted above discuss a single paragraph in Tacitus' substantial oeuvre, and that paragraph is discussed as part of a discussion on another topic (not from a "scholarship of Tacitus" angle). So, if mentioned, such opinions should not outbalance the prevailing view that there is no "competition" among classic authors in this sense (unless some research on the matter can be presented). The quotes from the "Christianity in antiquity" sources remind me rather of album sleeves or concert programs for classical music: how many of these claim Mozart to be the greatest? How many Bach? Beethoven? etc... I have my personal preference (as I do have on classical historians), but that is hardly something one can put as an absolute in such article. So we need to stop skewing this in the direction of the "Christianity in antiquity" sources, and look for better/addititional sources that can give a more balanced view. --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Those are my sentiments in a nutshell. I am not opposed to this label simply as a matter of principle (Tacitus' contributions to the historiography of the Roman epoch cannot be underestimated), but this statement is clearly not reflective of a position adopted but a substantial majority of scholarship in this area, nor is it supported by but one of our numerous sources. I can't see an argument that invalidates the reasonable compromise solution of simply softening the statement to say that he is amongst the pre-eminent historians of the era. Snow talk 08:35, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


"...for its prose style; but it is as a political theorist that he..." → "...for its prose style, but it is in the area political theory that he..." (here is where you left out "of")

ES = The dependent and independent clauses were not semantically consistent.
Rating = 3
  • First, both clauses are independent:
His work has been read for its moral instruction, dramatic narrative, and for its prose style.
It is as a political theorist that he has been and remains most influential outside the field of history.
If these are combined they should read:
His work has been read for its moral instruction, dramatic narrative, and for its prose style; however, it is as a political theorist that he has been and remains most influential outside the field of history.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

You've actually mistaken which two clauses I was referring to (the second "clause" you reference is in fact two clauses, the second of which is made dependent through the use of the conjunction "that"). Nor do you seem to understand the inconsistency I am talking about, which concerns the fact that the first clause references a profession and the other references a field, and there is no semantic conversion through the syntax that allows for this switch while remaining grammatically correct in descriptive way. The clause should either read "it is in the area political theory that he has been and remains most influential outside the field of history." (as I put) or something along the lines of "it is his role as a political theorist that he has been and remains most influential, outside of his role as a historian." (which just sounds more awkward to me, but is technically grammatically correct). Sorry, but your patently wrong on this matter of grammar and the sentence reads as borderline gobbledegook in the form you want to preserve it as. Snow talk 11:26, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

6) Regarding this sentence:
  • His work has been read for its moral instruction, dramatic narrative, and for its prose style; however, it is as a political theorist that he has been and remains most influential outside the field of history.
Your quarrel is with the second half of this sentence. You say that, logically, one cannot use the noun ("a political theorist") in the first half of that clause and a field ("the field of history") in the second half. That doesn't bother me. I much prefer to use "a political theorist" rather than "in the area of political theory". I think what makes the clause muddy is "that he has been and remains most influential". First of all, there is no reason to use present perfect tense ("has been") for someone who lived 2,000 years ago. "Has been and remains" is wordy. Maybe there is a reason for it, but I don't see the reason for saying he remains influential. Do people today read his works and make decisions regarding politics and government based on what they read? I doubt it. Is he still influential in the field of political theory? I don't know. I think it enough to say that, outside of the field of history, he is known for being a political theorist.
3) In your re-wording of the sentence with "political theorist", you left out "of". These three edits (1, 2, and 3) showed a lack of care on your part with word usage and copy-editing. You could argue that they are minor, but, taken together, they draw the attention of experienced editors. That may have been what Paine called "red flags".

And Snow Rise's:

6) I think you pretty much have the right of this. There's no shortage of variations of the wording that might work here. My edit was intended to (and did) resolve the issue that the sentence was not semantically consistent.
3) I'm sorry I omitted the preposition, but seriously, mountains out of molehills here? Anyway, I don't know what is to be gained from discussing this, since this mistake (and errors on Wikipedia don't come any more minor than this) did not in any sense justify his actions under policy. In any event, I'm trying to move this situation forward, so let's let this issue die since clearly I do not object to a preposition being added where it is warranted? You and I are in complete agreement on this content issue, and the only possible reason to keep bringing this up is to provide justification for Paine's after-the-fact "red flag" theory, as if a preposition and a malformed date in a {{cn}} tag really empowered him to revert all of my edits (they don't). We are all in agreement that the preposition should be in, so...moving on.

Currently reads: "His work has been read as well for its moral instruction, for its dramatic narrative, as for its prose style. Outside the field of history, Tacitus' influence is most prominent in the area of political theory." Does this need further discussion, or can we all agree with this version? I oppose both versions proposed by Snow, as well as the one proposed by Paine. But if we can agree on the current version I see no need to put more effort in explaining why. --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Largely support - I'd change the first sentence to simply "His work has been read for its mo others may have objections to it on those groundsral instruction, for its dramatic narrative, and for its prose style." Though mind you, this statement is still unsourced and the {{cn}} tag should be maintained until it is -- and ultimately this may be judged as original research -- but the basic grammatical format of the statement seems fine. Snow talk 08:41, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

CN template[edit]

ES = (no edit summary) minor edit – Even the minors such as this would benefit from a rationale, which is like using a turn signal while driving even when your hand's broken.
Rating = 1

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

When one adds a cn template, it's pretty clear what it's there for; the statement which it is attached to requires a citation. What would you have had me say? Regardless, the lack of the summary doesn't empower you to remove this tag. It's clearly a claim that needs a citation. What's your argument for having reverted this? Snow talk 11:28, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
See also above #Brevity/compactness --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


Replaced parentheses with square brackets

ES = The appropriate parenthetical punctuation for editorial notation.
Rating = 2
  • Well, in my opinion these have no place in an encyclopedia article except as (sparingly) invisible comments. Wikipedia editors should find other ways to make these clarifications. My opinion, however, may be contentious in this respect, but there is probably a policy or guideline somewhere that may help us out on this one.

– Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

There is...WP:BRACKETS. I'll summarize: my use was consistent with this policy, whereas your "opinion" is not supported by community consensus on this matter, so you can either resolve yourself to this standard or try to change that community consensus. What you can't do is make a reversion based on what you personal think is appropriate for an encyclopedia, in defiance of that consensus. Nor should you be reverting content for which you (by your own admission) don't know the standard. Snow talk 11:37, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Copying CorinneSD's comment in order to continue a by topic discussion:

7) Regarding the replacement of curved with square brackets around the statement "Parentheses, linebreaks and comma added for clarity", I don't see anything wrong with curved brackets (parentheses). It's obviously not part of the English translation. I read the section of MOS to which you provided a link: WP:BRACKETS, and I could find nothing related to this type of statement.

And Snow Rise's:

7) Square brackets are the standard parenthetical punctuation when making editorial adjustments to quotes, as WP:BRACKETS references. But mind you, as is the case with a number of the specific edits reverted, I don't have particularly strong feelings on this; the standard parenthesis impart the information fine, and my adjustment was just a pro-forma approach. However, this is just one more edit that Paine reverted without a single word of discussion explanation.

Is this still a problem with the current re-arrangement of the quote? To wit:

Tiberii Gaique et Claudii ac Neronis res
florentibus ipsis (ob metum) falsae,
postquam occiderant (recentibus odiis) compositae


  Of Tiberius and Gaius and Claudius and Nero the events
while they themselves still flourished (out of fear) misrepresented,
after they had died (out of recent bitterness) recounted
(Parentheses, linebreaks and comma added for clarity)

I must say that I think neither the "literal" nor the "fluent" ("While Tiberius, Gaius [Caligula], Claudius and Nero were still living, the events of their times were misrepresented out of fear; and afterwards, they were recounted in bitterness.") translation very helpful here as an illustration for the point being made, so we'd need some rewrting anyhow if you ask me. --Francis Schonken (talk) 08:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

I have to admit that I didn't even take a close look at the translation itself (I just added the brackets because they are the standard punctuation in that scenario), but now that you've drawn our attention to the matter, I have to agree; that's an atrocious (and I suspect from the word order, a machine) translation. I actually happen to have a formal background in linguistics and, though Latin is not my strong suite, I'll make a review of this once the other issues are resolved and try to polish this a little. I'd do so now, but the more stable approach seems to be to wait until the current edits are resolved. On a side note, thank you for providing a third opinion on these matters and helping to get us back on track towards bridging the gap in perspectives here. Snow talk 08:48, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


In my humble opinion five of the edits (now six) I reverted should follow my suggestions as to ratings and replacements if any. The CN should be restored and then tackled. – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:02, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

I would have to agree with Snow Rise that it is I who should apologize for my above breaches of Wikipedia ettiquette, so I have done so on that editor's talk page. I also agree that this is the place only to discuss improvements to the Tacitus article. And now to the "real" summary. Everything seems to have been put right in this article as pertains to these edits, so I wish only the best to all who have participated in this unfortunate event. Joys! – Paine EllsworthCLIMAX! 10:04, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
PS. This is just to thank CorinneSD for your learned support and Francis Schonken for your esteemed, cool-headed and objective perspectives and edits in this matter. (PS added by Paine)

Just wanted to add my own sentiments that I'm glad we were able to return discussion to a mutually-respectful and civil place. Like Paine, I'd like to thank both of you other gentlefolk for offering your opinions on the content and helping to keep discussion on-track, and also to thank Paine himself for reaching out in the manner he did.
Well, that little bit of navel-gazing done, I guess this I means I need to do that translation now...ugh, Latin...tommorrow. Snow talk 11:17, 20 February 2015 (UTC)