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The Histories

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,418 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Edward Gibbon called The Histories an 'immortal work, every sentence of which is pregnant with the deepest observations and the most lively images.' Its author, Cornelius Tacitus, widely acknowledged as the greatest of all Roman historians, describes with cynical power the murderous 'Year of the Four Emperors' - AD 69 - when in just a few months the whole of the Roman Empi ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 28th 1964 by Penguin Classics (first published 110)
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Jul 02, 2015 Jan-Maat added it
Recommends it for: Romans and aspirants to the imperial throne
For all the detail Tacitus goes in to, this is a fast paced introduction to a turbulent year in Roman history. Nero has recently committed suicide and has been replaced by the elderly Galba who in short order is murdered by Otho who seizes the imperial crown only to commit suicide himself when Vitellius declares himself Emperor and marches on Rome, defeating Otho's army with an army drawn from the Rhineland frontier, but Vitellius doesn't get to enjoy being Emperor for long before he is executed ...more
David Sarkies
Jun 29, 2016 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A Feast of Thrones
29 June 2016

Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome, with all of its political maneuverng, backstabbing, plotting, and of course sex (was there sex in the Annals? Actually I'm not really all that sure, it's not like it was some sort of Roman novel, it was a history, and from my experience the Histories tend to be nowhere near as sexually explicit as the one and a half Roman novels that we have), reminded me a lot of an episode (or a season – or the entire show) of A Game of Thrones,
Justin Evans
Mar 25, 2016 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-etc
A meaningless rating, that just means "I didn't really enjoy reading this, but I'm glad I did." There's just too much movement of arms and men in the story Tacitus tells to really grab me, too many generals moving and shaking. When he focuses away from generals and onto people, I'm all in. The one-liners, of course, are fabulous.

The introduction to the World's Classics edition is well worth reading, too, which is something you can't normally say for these introductions. This one makes an intere
Evan Leach
”I am entering on the history of a period rich in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by civil strife, and even in peace full of horrors. Four emperors perished by the sword. There were three civil wars; there were more with foreign enemies; there were often wars that had both characters at once...Never surely did more terrible calamities of the Roman People, or evidence more conclusive, prove that the Gods take no thought for our happiness, but only for our punishment.” – The Histories, Book ...more
Rob Atkinson
Apr 12, 2016 Rob Atkinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed account of the 'year of four Emperors' which followed Nero's suicide in 68-69 AD, this is a very readable translation with excellent notes and maps to augment and clarify the text. Sadly, like the Annals, it only survives in incomplete form, just four and a fraction of its 12 original books still extant. While originally documenting Roman history from Nero's death through the reign of Domitian (to 96 AD) the remaining text ends abruptly at the start of Titus's siege of Jerusalem in 70 ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Yann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Les événements relatés ici par Tacite couvrent la période qui suit la mort de l’empereur Néron. Aux turpitudes des frasques des empereurs viennent à présent s'ajouter les malheurs de guerres civiles d'un nouveau genre, mettant aux prises différentes factions armées de la ville éternelle. Galba, Othon, Vitelius, Vespasien sont les principaux acteurs des drames qui se nouent, et qui menacent la stabilité de l'empire jusqu'à ses fondements. Les guerres en Germanie et en Judée sont également évoquée ...more
Feb 13, 2011 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nero commits suicide and Tacitus leads the reader through the turbulent years of Galba, Otho, Vitellus and the founder of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian. Five books covering three years- 68 AD to 70 AD. In some ways, The Histories stands in contrast to the subsequent (but substantively antecedent) The Annals. Where The Annals meandered through the corridors of Roman imperial politics, The Histories covers the military maneuvers of competing generals during the civil war of the Year of the Four ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
Feb 13, 2013 Darran Mclaughlin rated it liked it
Shelves: roman, history
I struggled with this, but liked it overall. It was tough to keep up with everything that was going on and keep track of all the people and places Tacitus refers to. His writing is really dense and concise, which on the plus side means this book is reasonably short but on the other hand means that a lot of meaning is packed into each paragraph. Tacitus is a stern, moralistic writer. He attributes the causes of the historical events he portrays to personal qualities such as courage or venality, h ...more
Jan 13, 2011 Jesse rated it it was amazing
69 C.E. was the year of the four emperors. If you are from Argentina, this is not very interesting, but it does have some interest in relation to the myth of Roman imperial stability historically and empire in general. The First Century B.C.E. found Rome in the grip of political coups left and right, and the Augustan Pax Romana was supposed to be the necessary tyranny to deal with this instability. Unfortunately, tyranny brings with it a different form of corruption, and so Nero completely trash ...more
I think this book by Tacitus is worth reading since (from my note), according to Gibbon, he wrote history based on philosophy. This may stimulate some of his readers to think/find some reasons or evidence to this interesting remark. As for me, I've no idea and would like to hear from my Goodreads friends who read/are familiar with him, in a word, as Tacitus readers.

Some of my remarks:

1) His description on war scenes are simply fantastic, realsitic and amazing. For instance, on pages 254 onwards.
Jemiah Jefferson
Apr 08, 2016 Jemiah Jefferson rated it really liked it
Excellently bitchy survey of kingdoms and the fall of Rome. Having seen "I, Claudius" the summer before having to read this for class REALLY helped me keep track of everything. Come for the Caligula; stay for the Christian persecutions!
Owen Duffy
Jun 21, 2011 Owen Duffy rated it really liked it
Readable and well paced. This is a million miles from the dull history textbooks you remember from high school.

My only complaint is that the sheer number of names, and their occasional similarity (the Romans didn't have very many to choose from) makes it difficult to follow exactly what's happening.

I read this on my Kindle and made ample use of highlights. I also jotted down some notes on a pad as I went, which helped to keep track of events. This might sound like a lot of effort just to read a
Apr 30, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
"Any sluggard can start a war."

Tacitus is amazing. I've never read anything quite like this. The factual account is lightning quick; I'm not sure I retained half of it. The drama was intense--beheadings, suicides, wars, intrigue, betrayal and four emperors in one year!. Tacitus's analysis was pithy, aphorismatic, and brilliant. If you aren't overwhelmed by the cast of characters and the intricate geography, it's surprisingly accessible.
Matt Pelikan
Sort of like reading celebrity gossip columns where you don't recognize the name of a single celebrity. No doubt an important historical document, and it has its moments of wit. But it's a bit of a chore for the 21st-century non-specialist. The translation of the Kindle edition I read was outdated and barely adequate; this book really calls out for an edition with extensive notes.
Apr 27, 2015 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
While so many ancient histories offer sweeping surveys of broad periods, this work by Tacitus instead offers a tight, in-depth descriptions of the year 69AD and all of its power players: from the elderly and arrogant Galba to the indulgent Vitellius to the surprisingly peripheral Vespasian.

Since it covers a single year, this history is definitely not for beginners, as Tacitus at times becomes bogged down in detail and his chronology sometimes slows to a day-by-day breakdown. For those who have d
Jan 13, 2012 Vanessa rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun
Tacitus' Histories was the first ancient text I ever read. Or, at least, it was the first I ever managed to get all the way through. Tacitcus is far more accessible than the much more recent Gibbon as an author (to be honest, I'm still struggling with Decline and Fall, and hope to finish sometime within this century). Therefore, I'd recommend The Histories to anyone with an interest in Rome or ancient history who wants to tackle some of the ancient sources directly, rather than relying solely on ...more
May 19, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
The saying goes, “History is written by the victors,” and never is this more apparent than when reading the earlier histories written by Romans. The Roman Empire was the greatest civilization to ever exist, and it was expected that historians would present it as such in their writings. That said, Tacitus makes a valiant attempt (at first) to present historical events without moral or political commentary. Unfortunately this attempt results in a spewing of dates and names, without being very inte ...more
Markus Sakoschek
Mar 22, 2016 Markus Sakoschek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, classic
Tacite nous fait ici le récit de l'histoire de la Rome Impériale depuis Galba, a Orthon, a Vitellius, a Vespasien. Guerres civiles de succession, meurtres sans nombre, anarchie militaire, révoltes de la Gaulle.
Inutile de répéter le magnifique résumé de Emmanuel Berl dans la préface.
La maturité de l’écriture n'est pas encore celle des Annales mais le récit des batailles est émouvant, la destruction de Cremone est bouleversant.
J'ai toujours du mal a m'imaginer la cruauté des hommes. Même pas la
Mar 25, 2011 Ali rated it really liked it
Tacitus is accessible and a brilliant writer of history, but keeping track of the scores of Roman politicians, generals, freedmen and rebels can make this a bit of a slog at times - particularly if you read this book off and on, as I did. My advice is to read it all in one go and to have Wikipedia or a Roman encyclopedia and several maps on hand. I thoroughly enjoyed the recounting of the year of Four Emperors with Tacitus's political commentary, although I have some doubts about its partisanshi ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Liam rated it it was amazing
"The story I now commence is rich in vicissitudes, grim with warfare, torn by civil strife, a tale horror even in times of peace." (2)

"Human nature is always ready to follow where it hates to lead." (35)

"With straiter resources equality was easily preserved. But when once we had brought the world to our feet and exterminated every rival state or king, we were left free to covet wealth without fear." (80)

"[T]o plan rebellion is to have rebelled already." (102)

"Just one thing that he [Vitellius] w
Rick Florio
Oct 02, 2014 Rick Florio rated it really liked it
It's nice to read primary sources to get the full perspective on Roman history. This work covers the year of the four emperors (69 AD), a very exciting and tumultuous time. This was an enjoyable read, much more so than Livy, who tends to be very formulaic.
Czarny Pies
Nov 05, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History Lovers
Recommended to Czarny by: Prof. Robert Bothwell
Shelves: greek-and-roman
Tacitus was a great historian and a stylist as this wonderful translation commissioned by Penguin demonstrates. The best historians are often those closest to the events. Tacitus is a great treat for anyone who enjoys great historical writing.
Do not read this book, unless you have some basic understanding of the Roman Empire.

It's an interesting book, but quite hard. It gives a great description of the year of the four emperors and the following Batavian revolt. The biggest problems I find with this book, however, is that it's quite hard to figure out just where we are -chronologically speaking-. I found myself looking the events up on the internet to get a grasp of what was going on, where the events took place and in what order.
Gian Andrea
Jun 05, 2016 Gian Andrea rated it it was amazing
Tacitus became a sort of second father to me, master and teacher of life - through the stories and lives of some of the greatest emperors of the Roman Empire. Knowing the past is knowing your future.
Jan 13, 2015 Witek rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
It's an amazing example of ancient history writing. It is too bad that only a part of this great work has survived to this day, for Tacitus' style of writing is exhilarating. If you love history and/or have a passion for ancient Rome you simply must read it!
Robyn Blaber
Oct 18, 2010 Robyn Blaber rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Politicians.
Shelves: roman-classics
A man came from Galilee and gave the people hope. Through his miracles, he cured the sick and the blind. He united his people and ruled the known world. Of course I'm speaking of Vespasian, the last of the Roman emperors standing at the end of this tale of one of Rome's most brutal periods of history. When I think of Otho's ultimate sacrifice, falling upon his own sword to prevent Rome from falling deeper into civil war... I wonder how we have come to live in a society where our modern politicia ...more
May 11, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
The old adage that history repeats itself is made manifest in this work. Now, if I could read it in Latin to see what is lost in translation -
Jeffrey Christians
Jun 17, 2015 Jeffrey Christians rated it really liked it
Interesting but very dense contemporary history of the upheaval, civil war, and self proclaimed emperors that followed on the heels of Nero's death.
Aug 01, 2014 Srp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Geweldige vertaling van Hunink, zoals altijd. Jammer dat er geen paginaverwijzingen in het register zijn opgenomen.
Dec 05, 2014 Frederick rated it it was amazing
The writing, or the translation, is fast-paced and very readable.
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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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“It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.” 33 likes
“There was more courage in bearing trouble than in escaping from it; the brave and the energetic cling to hope, even in spite of fortune; the cowardly and the indolent are hurried by their fears,' said Plotius Firmus, Roman Praetorian Guard.” 9 likes
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