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The Annals by P. Cornelius Tacitus
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The Annals

by P. Cornelius Tacitus, Erich Koestermann (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Augustus might have established the Principate, but it was up to his successors to continue it and prevent Rome from once against descending into civil war. Tacitus in The Annals of Imperial Rome, the reigns of the Caesars from Tiberius to the death of Nero which would lead to the events in the writer’s The Histories.

The work begins with Tacitus reviewing the reign of Augustus and how Tiberius became his successor, over his more popular nephew Germanicus whose side of the family would eventual rule. Tiberius shrewdly attempts to be modest in claiming the Imperial title, but this hides his dark nature that he developed during his self-imposed exile before becoming Augustus’ heir. Under Tiberius is when the show trials and political persecutions of leading men that would begin that would become notorious under later Emperors. The middle and the very end of Tiberius’ reign, all of Gaius (Caligula)’s reign, and the first half of Claudius’ reign have been lost. Tacitus’ work picks up with how Claudius’ wife Messalina was brought down and his niece Agrippina shrewdly manipulating her way into marriage with her uncle so as to get her son, the future Nero, to become Emperor. Though the show trials and political persecutions continue, Claudius doesn’t instigate them and attempts to be lenient for those being wrongly convicted. Yet once Nero becomes an adult and Claudius’ son Britannicus still a child, Claudius’ days are numbered. Once his great-uncle and adoptive father is dead, Nero assumes the leadership and begins consolidating power including poisoning Britannicus at dinner one night. Though his mother Agrippina attempts to influence him, Nero humors her while attempting to get rid of her and finally succeeding. Though taught and tutored by the renowned Seneca, Nero has learned to rule in the guise of Tiberius yet with the ruthlessness of Gaius and soon anyone that offended him or could have been a threat to him or perceived to be by his hangers on. Though the end of Nero’s reign is missing, the trials and murders of senators were increasing in number to the point that later as mentioned in The Histories they decided to turn on Nero and proclaim Galba.

The unfortunate incompleteness of Tacitus’ work does not diminish the great historical account that it presents of early Imperial history as well as his critique of the Roman aristocracy during the reigns of Augustus’ Julio-Claudian successors. Though we know his opinions of Tiberius and Nero the best since their reigns survived the best, Tacitus critiques of those family members that did not rule were highly invaluable especially all those who in the writer’s opinion might have been more fitting successors to Augustus if not for political intrigue or bad luck. If there is a complaint with this book it is with a decision by translator Michael Grant decision to use modern military terminology in reference to Roman’s military was it, but his decision to use Roman numerals to help identify different historical actors who had the same name—a very common Roman practice—without a doubt help keep things straight. The biggest complaint that I had with Tacitus’ other works, which I had from Oxford World Classics, were non-existent with Penguin Classics and thus I encourage others towards that particular publisher.

The Annals of Imperial Rome is Tacitus’ finest work, showing the corruption of absolute power and how many choose to allow it overcome them instead of standing up to it. Although probably (at least) one-third of the work is missing, the portions we have covers how a politically stable Rome begins to slowly unravel through ever increasing fear of the most powerful man in the Empire. The end result of this is chronicles in Tacitus’ previous work. ( )
  mattries37315 | Dec 20, 2018 |
Read this after the Twelve Caesars. Tacitus is quite compelling. You won't be bored. ( )
  datrappert | Oct 17, 2016 |
For a book written during the Roman Empire, this particular translation of Tacitus isn't that bad. The flow is relatively easy to work with, and it is constantly informative. Tacitus often reminds his readers that much of what he writes is what that people say, and he warns to be wary of rumours. Still, it gives some idea of culture. I read this book for a course on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I found it to be the most enlightening book assigned. ( )
1 vote Morteana | Mar 20, 2016 |
I was distracted by the year-to-year history of the empire by an amazing amount of wrist slitting. Read in series of warming up for Gibbon. ( )
  kcshankd | Jun 18, 2015 |
Tacitus needs no recommendation. The five stars are for the translation by Cynthia Damon which was published in 2009. She captures what Kenneth Rexroth described as "the most mordant style in the history of prose." The bite and terseness of the writing, which seems amenable to English translation, can make Tacitus difficult reading. The year-by-year structure of the Annals and the lacuna of several books, add to the difficulty.

A few years ago, I tried reading the classic Victorian translation of Church and Brodribb. I thought it was fine, but I struggled to get through the work. In the older translation, it was hard to discern reported speech from Tacitus's narrative. Damon's translation sets off the reported speech in italics, an innovation which makes the text easier to follow while not cluttering the prose with verbal markers of speech. That and an updated syntax and less dated vocabulary make this new version preferable. ( )
3 vote le.vert.galant | Jan 26, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (251 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tacitus, P. CorneliusAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Koestermann, ErichTranslatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bötticher, WilhelmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brodribb, William JacksonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Church, Alfred JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damon, CynthiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dudley, Donald RTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fisher, Charles DennisEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Furneaux, HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grant, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heller, ErichEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heubner, HeinzEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kajanto, IiroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meijer, J.W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, A. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140440607, Paperback)

Tacitus' "Annals of Imperial Rome" recount the major historical events from the years shortly before the death of Augustus up to the death of Nero in AD 68. With clarity and vivid intensity he describes the reign of terror under the corrupt Tiberius, the great fire of Rome during the time of Nero, and the wars, poisonings, scandals, conspiracies and murders that were part of imperial life. Despite his claim that the Annals were written objectively, Tacitus' account is sharply critical of the emperors' excesses and fearful for the future of Imperial Rome, while also filled with a longing for its past glories.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:06 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

The ancient historian wrote this vital chronicle of Imperial Rome during the great civilization's decline. It spans A.D. 14-68, painting incisive psychological portraits of the era's major figures. Tacitus held high offices in the Roman government, allowing him firsthand views of the emperors and the effects of their tyranny. His chronicle begins with the death of Augustus and relates the moral decline and rampant civil unrest during the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. He also discusses in detail the period's many military campaigns. Masterful in his handling of dramatic narrative and trenchant in his discourse, Tacitus is the model historian. The Annals not only records the past but also re-creates it for modern readers.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140440607, 0140455647

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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