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The Annals of Imperial Rome

3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,704 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
In "The Annals of Imperial Rome", his last and greatest work, Tacitus (AD c.55-c.117) covers the period from AD 14, just before the death of Augustus, to the death of Nero in AD 68. Not all the passages have survived, but in those that have the depth and diversity of genius are manifest. From a vicious, vituperative biography of Tiberius to the more straightforward account ...more
Mass Market Paperback, L60 , 464 pages
Published 1959 by Penguin Classics (first published 116)
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Jan 14, 2015 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
David Sarkies
Sep 26, 2015 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing
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,
Apr 15, 2013 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
J.G. Keely
Apr 01, 2011 J.G. Keely rated it really liked it
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)
May 26, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2011 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
Oct 13, 2009 Jeremy added it
Shelves: philosophy, politics
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
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
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
Jeff Mcneill
Aug 30, 2012 Jeff Mcneill rated it it was amazing
Grand politics has not changed since Rome. Don't believe me? Read this and then we can talk...
Erik Graff
Sep 07, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 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.
Aug 20, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
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.
Dec 08, 2008 Alcyone rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 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
Jan 27, 2010 Tess rated it really liked it
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
Stuart Aken
Oct 20, 2013 Stuart Aken rated it really liked it
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.

Dec 28, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 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
Dec 01, 2007 Martine rated it really liked it
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'
Sep 21, 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
Jan 29, 2016 Philip rated it it was amazing
A Reflection On The Annals Of Imperial Rome by Publius Cornelius Tacitus

History changes when it is re-read. The casual reader, as opposed to the historian, always reads history with one eye on the present: there is always comparison at work whenever we reflect on events we assume are faithfully recorded from the past. And this past is not itself fixed, since our appreciation of it has already been formed as an amalgam of contemporary interpretations. On re-reading Tacitus, therefore, the reader
Dec 30, 2014 Robert rated it it was amazing
I mentioned in a recent review of a book about Nero and Seneca (Dying Every Day by James Romm) that I was concurrently reading The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus. I have now finished Tacitus’s masterwork and want to reflect on two aspects of it: the challenges of writing history in ancient times and the brutal severity of Tacitus’s judgments on the emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero.
Tacitus’s Annals, like the four gospels of the New Testament, were composed decades after the fact. We do
Aug 15, 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.
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.
Tara Calaby
Sep 15, 2015 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?
Tony Gualtieri
Jan 04, 2014 Tony Gualtieri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2014 Marc rated it liked it
Much more dry and hands off than I expected. You can see Tacitus set a scholarly and rational, and, if we try and get beneath the surface of the text, (of what kind of censorship he might have been up against?)an honestly harsh standard for all the coming wave of observational history since with his critical stance combined with rigorous detail to bureaucratic minutia.
Was its prose as beautiful and tragic as the work on Napoleon I read a few months ago by Emil Ludwig? Of course not.
But is it a
Aug 31, 2014 N rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
1) ''Rome at the beginning was ruled by kings.''

2) [Tiberius; letter to the Senate on Roman luxury.] ''Why then in old times was economy in the ascendant? Because every one practised self-control; because we were all members of one city. Nor even afterwards had we the same temptations, while our dominion was confined to Italy. Victories over the foreigner taught us how to waste the substance of others; victories over ourselves, how to squander our own.''

3) ''Much of what I have related and shall
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  • The Rise of the Roman Empire
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  • The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus
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  • The Jewish War
  • The Letters of the Younger Pliny
  • From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68
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  • Selected Political Speeches
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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.” 186 likes
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