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The Annals

by P. Cornelius Tacitus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,073263,027 (3.93)28
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.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Tacitus provides a good overview of the first five Roman emperors, albeit with sometimes large gaps where portions of the manuscript have been lost. There's an intriguing article floating around about the Vactican turning up missing parts, but this was only a well-done April Fools' joke. As the Penguin edition's introduction says, we've lost some of the highlights that we know only from other sources. This was a good edition to read, but sometimes I felt misled by word choices. Ballet' did not begin in Ancient Rome, it was actually pantomime dancing. I also object to slingers described as firing 'bullets'.

Augustus: little time is spent on him but from what I gather, the machinations and strategies he employed to become Rome's first emperor were followed by forty years of peace. He also took more trouble than most emperors later would to ensure a worthy successor. I am sorry he was glossed over so quickly. Looked back on with so much adoration in the following reign, he becomes an almost mythic figure. Perhaps even in the time of Tacitus it was still not wise to interrogate this venerated figure's life too closely.

Tiberius: nearly half the volume is dedicated to his rule, and Tactitus seems less than objective. I believe Tiberius was fairly wise and tried to be decent, but was surrounded by tiresome sycophants who kept deferring everything to him. This was at least partly his own fault since he was increasingly too quick to side with and reward informers, encouraging more of them. Perhaps the years of peace under Augustus didn't prepare him to suspect others' motives. He did not do enough to investigate the deaths of his sons, but I'm cautioned not to readily to side with Tacitus in believing the emperor plotted against Germanicus. I largely sympathized with him, but then the pedophilia kicked in. He went downhill from there.

Caligula (Gaius): all the coverage by Tacitus of Caligula's brief four-year rule has been lost. If you turn this up, I'll give you five bucks for it.

Claudius: we've also lost coverage of the first six years for Claudius, and then what we learn most is how bad Claudius was at choosing his wives. Also that Claudius was a bit scatterbrained and easily marshalled by those closest to him. The result is a setting up for the worst emperor of the bunch.

Nero: his eventful reign makes for the easiest reading. Coming to power at the ripe old age of seventeen (with a helping hand from mom), he was far more interested in power than responsibility. In speech he seemed imperial enough, but this was in large thanks to Seneca's tutoring that otherwise came to naught. As a bully at heart he was fearful of any rival for power and resorted to the most obvious solution. On the eastern front with Parthia, I felt manipulated into admiring the exploits of Domitius Corbulo and despising Paetus, but I do. It's almost a mercy the manuscript ends before we see Corbulo's enforced suicide, after every other devastation of Nero's reign, but a pity we can't witness Nero's final downfall. ( )
  Cecrow | Jun 28, 2020 |
It's Tacitus. Not much more needs to be said than that, surely? ( )
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
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. ( )
1 vote 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (66 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tacitus, P. Corneliusprimary 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
Koestermann, ErichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meijer, J.W.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, A. J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When Rome was first a city, its rulers were kings.
It seems to me a historian's foremost duty to ensure that merit is recorded, and to confront evil deeds and words with the fear of posterity's denunciations.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140440607, 0140455647

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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