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The Annals of Tacitus

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  6,340 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
Fancy faux-embellished leather edition. No real publication data.

The translation of Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb with the etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.
Hardcover, 375 pages
Published 1995 by The Franklin Library (first published 116)
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Feb 20, 2012 Jan-Maat added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: would be Romans
This is less accessible than Tacitus' Histories in which the narrative of the civil war and the German revolt, actually aided by the richness of detail, gives coherence to the whole work. By contrast The Annals covers a longer period fairly strictly year by year which breaks up the flows of particular events and works against analysis.

Tacitus may be working from sources that are less detailed in The Annals, he is certainly at a greater remove from the events and his own experience as a Senator
Roy Lotz
Posterity grants everybody the glory he is due.

In preparation for my trip to Rome, I decided that it was finally time to read Tacitus. I had been meaning to for a long while. Edward Gibbon, my favorite historian, always spoke of Tacitus in terms of deep reverence; and when your idols have idols, you had better see why.

The Annals is Tacitus’s last major historical work, considered by many to be his masterpiece. In it, he covers the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—though the boo
Dec 31, 2010 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing quite like the terse and clean prose of Tacitus—the leanness of which is apparently found in the Latin source as well as the English rendering—and the way it provides the reader with such a comfortable passage through his Annals. The coverage of the reign of Tiberius is liberal and thoroughly vituperative; the reluctant Caesar—he of the moving anecdote of pursuing the ex-wife he truly loved across a Roman marketplace whilst sobbing bitterly at the cruel fate which forced him to ...more
David Sarkies
Apr 25, 2014 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love history
Recommended to David by: My Univeristy
Shelves: history
A Game of Rome
27 September 2015

As I was reading this for the second time I simply could not believe how brutal this piece of literature was, and what is more impressive is that it is based on real life events. It is authors like Tacitus that make me want to throw modern historical fiction into the fire place. In fact he is the one reason that I simply won't write historical fiction because he has set the standard so high that at this stage in my life I simply could not even think of equalling,
J.G. Keely
Jan 21, 2010 J.G. Keely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The great benefit of a republic is the slowness with which it moves. In America or Rome, the long, careful consideration of matters by fractious, embittered rivals tend to assure that the only measures which pass are those which are beneficial, or those which are useless. In a dictatorship, much more may be achieved. In little time, a great man may do a great many things, and a lesser man make many errors.

As Tacitus, Machiavelli, Jefferson, or any proponent of the republic will tell you, great m
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 24, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Mavens
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Christy Tucker
A friend of mine who teaches Latin for a living says it was this book (and Suetonius' The Twelves Caesars) that led to her fascination with things Roman and a change in her concentration. I wasn't hugely enamored at first. As our initial conversation went:

Me: Well, so far this isn't five star love it, but not first star hate.

Her: Keep going. It's good for you.

Me: Like broccoli?

Well, in the end it was more like a feast. This does have its dry patches--I considered dropping it a star because of th
Dec 25, 2010 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a section from The Rite of Spring befitting each of the emperor's reigns here, and the first one, to my mind, is Tiberius with "Spring Rounds". Unfortunately, the section on Caligula is missing, and then we have Claudius with "Ritual of Abduction"! We end with Nero and the terrifying "Ritual of the Rival Tribes"! Tacitus is keenly aware, while documenting these reigns, of the influence of institutions on human behavior, and his assessment of everyone in the institutions of Rome is conse ...more
Justin Evans
Dec 02, 2012 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
In the year of the consulship of x and y, military events occurred, as did these notable moments of jurisprudence. There was the following scandal. The emperor plotted the deaths/punishment/exile of the following people. And so forth.

Tacitus himself apologizes for the monotony of some of the stories in 16.16, which is obviously a bit mischievous, since the continuous deaths, sexual escapades and military idiocies are, in their own way, pretty entertaining. He's great at telling small scale tale
It's pretty accessible for the same reasons that Livy is, a tight focus, with events juxtaposed so that they often seem to move organically into each other. I guess I never realized how Rome was so defined by the actions of just two or three extended families over the course of its early imperial history. At times it's kind of like an episode of 'days of our lives', but with orgies, and treason accusations, and suicide. Tacitus can be a surprisingly funny guy, and the humor actually translates r ...more
Roman history, straight from the horse's mouth.

An account which is missing large gaps, but still portrays the Empire through some of its most tumultuous times. A state which tears itself apart.

One of the best accounts of that era that we have - but it is still to be analyzed and read carefully, with an eye for bias, as with any history.
It's like a soap opera (but with swords).

I do not like the way it has been translated, using modern / anachronistic terms for cities and titles and modern phrases like "nip it in the bud". Aside from that it's good reading, just don't take everything Tacitus says to be true.
Jan 16, 2011 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tacitus covers the reign of Tiberius through most of Nero’s reign in The Annals of Imperial Rome. His writing is crisp and his narration rarely gets sidetracked away from the chronological recording. Unfortunately, significant sections have been lost to time and Caligula’s reign as well as the final years of Nero’s are absent.

The drama of the time was not so much in military conquests, but the political maneuverings of the Imperial court. Tacitus seems self-consciously aware of the mundane natur
Jeff Mcneill
Aug 13, 2008 Jeff Mcneill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grand politics has not changed since Rome. Don't believe me? Read this and then we can talk...
Jul 07, 2016 Dionysus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before there was George R. R. Martin, there was Tacitus. Though fragmentary and incomplete, the Annals have definitively captured the public imagination regarding the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the early years of the Roman Principate -- their sensationalist qualities and questionable historical accuracy notwithstanding. The surviving material covers the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. The absence of Caligula, perhaps the most notorious of all Roman emperors, is a notable disappointment; ...more
Erik Graff
Sep 07, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roman history fans
Recommended to Erik by: Louise Fischer
Shelves: biography
Never being able to intentionally memorize much of anything, my exposures to German, Spanish and French at elementary schools were increasingly unnerving. They started us in second grade with German. When the German teacher left to marry, it being a small, rural school, we switched to Spanish. Those weren't so bad as the teaching was directed towards conversationaly facility. Unfortunately, however, the family moved while I had just started fifth grade, taking me from the Spanish- to a French-or ...more
Dec 12, 2009 Tess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are so many things to say about dear Tacitus, but I'll be brief. So maybe Roman histories are a little boring at times and a little heavy on the "and then this group sent an envoy, and then that group sent an envoy" type of minutiae, but this is about 500% less boring than Homer. That's why they call him "Tacitus," see. He's tacit in his telling of these epic stories.

It is truly chilling to learn about the years leading up to the fall of Rome because it slowly starts to dawn on you that th
Jun 23, 2014 Zelda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Covering the better part of the Julio-Claudian dynasty this starts off as a very interesting history but devolves into a catalog of executions and suicides and sexual improprieties and somehow makes them very boring. By 2/3 of the way through I could barely muster up a horrified, "But, that's your niece!" or "There have to be easier ways to kill yourself!"

A much less entertaining read than Livy. Still worth the price of admission but I wasn't sorry to be finished.
Not the best historical writing, nor is it the most interesting. If you are looking for the basics of what happened (and not entirely all of them) or you have to read it for school it's definitely tolerable. However, I would recommend spending lots of time in it instead of having to breeze through, so if you are busy I wouldn't pick it up
Dec 08, 2008 Alcyone rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
It is ironic that Tacitus means "silent" because this book is the loud voice of soap opera society of early Rome.
Daniel Wright
Trying to construct the history of Imperial Rome from Tacitus is like trying to construct today's history using a few sparsely and randomly preserved copies of The Daily Mail. It almost defies belief that people do take him so seriously. He blatantly makes things up, he disclaims any interest in taking sides while transparently doing so, and he holds his nose over the misbehaviour of the emperors, condemning it while describing it in salacious and sensational detail. Moreover, the Annals only su ...more
Stuart Aken
Sep 29, 2013 Stuart Aken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been many translations of this classic; the one I read was the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Michael Grant. I came across the book, which I’d heard of but not previously read, whilst perusing the shelves of a wonderful little bookshop on the island of Santorini. (You’ll find Atlantis Books in Oia, should you ever visit the island). Hardly typical holiday reading, I nevertheless read most of the book whilst lounging beside the pool on a comfortable sunbed under a hot sun.

Jul 11, 2014 J-Man rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Veliko delo od verovatno najznačajnijeg rimskog istoričara koje prikazuje turbulentne živote i vrednosti ljudi sa početka naše ere, kada se živelo surovo a ljudski život malo vredeo bez obzira na to da li je u pitanju bio rimski plemić ili pripadnik nekog germanskog ili britanskog plemena. Na svakom koraku vidimo podelu ljudi na dva tabora, oni kojima je sloboda draža od života i koji bi radije slavno poginuli nego bili robovi, i oni drugi koji poniznošću, laskanjem i potkazivanjem dobavljaju se ...more
Dec 28, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the big take-aways from this book is that Tacitus does *not* like Tiberius. Grant explains the possible reasons behind Tacitus's framing of Tiberius as a tyrant, but it's still a shock to get past the introduction and find such a relentless assassination in the Annals...

It is a very interesting book, though. Fans of historical fiction will certainly find it dry reading, as Tacitus lists power struggles and battles and senatorial purges with the same dry manner as a herald calling the name
Caleb Wilson
Feb 26, 2012 Caleb Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice epigrammatic style--I hear this is one of the best English translations. The characters of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero come across very distinctly, though I'm sad, and I'm sure that posterity is too, that the section about Gaius Caesar, AKA Caligula, is missing from the text. The hopeful monarchs in The Game of Thrones could learn some good tricks from Tacitus, such as the booby-trapped death boat Nero used in an attempt to assassinate his stepmother, or the venom-soaked vomit feather that ...more
It took me ages to finish this book, but boy, did it give me a wealth of ideas for my own book. A year-by-year account of the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius and Nero (sadly, the part about Caligula got lost), this is Roman history at its near-best, presenting us with an unrivalled story of greed, envy, ambition, sycophancy, fear, blood thirst and outright madness, not to mention a fascinating insight into the mores and rituals of Rome's upper class and the strange laws that governed Roman society. ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jul 13, 2011 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent historical account written by Tacitus who was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire (AD 56 – AD 117). This book covers the Roman Empire from the reign of Tiberius beginning in 14 A.D. to the reign of Nero ending in 66 A.D. Overall a well told story, lots of great accounts of sieges and battles by Roman Legions and lots of the politics in Rome although at times it gets a bit repetitive during Nero's reign of all the enforced suicides and murders but that's what happened I sup ...more
Amber Calkins
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 would it to be the most enlightening book assigned.
Aug 05, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I had previously started reading another translation of this, but found it a difficult read and eventually abandoned it. I found this edition much more readable, although that may have been in part due to the typesetting in addition to the translation. The footnotes were also very extensive and helpful.

While somewhat depressing in its nearly unbroken catalog of unjust deaths at the hands of despotic emperors, it's also a wonderful look at the history of the early Roman Empire.
Robert Sheppard


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to
Tara Calaby
Apr 20, 2008 Tara Calaby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, own, favourites
It's Tacitus. Not much more needs to be said than that, surely?
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  • The Early History of Rome: (The History of Rome, #1-5)
  • The Fall of the Roman Republic: Six Lives
  • The Rise of the Roman Empire
  • The Civil Wars
  • The Twelve Caesars
  • The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus
  • The Later Roman Empire (A.D. 354-378)
  • The Letters of the Younger Pliny
  • The Jewish War
  • The Civil War
  • The History of Alexander
  • The Campaigns of Alexander
  • From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68
  • Selected Works
  • The Persian Expedition
Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 56 – ca. AD 117) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors. These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in AD 14 t ...more
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“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” 219 likes
“Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” 22 likes
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