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The Histories

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4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,863 ratings  ·  44 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, 349 pages
Published February 28th 1964 by Penguin Classics (first published 110)
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Jan-Maat
Apr 27, 2014 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 Nero has recently committed suicide and has been replaced by the elderly Galba who in short order is murdered by Otho who seizes the imperial crown only to commit suicide himself when Vitellius declares himself Emperor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
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
Darran Mclaughlin
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
Jesse
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
umberto
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.
...more
Yann
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
Owen Duffy
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
...more
Matt
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
Vanessa
Jan 13, 2012 Vanessa rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
Laura
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
Matt
"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.
Ali
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
Liam
"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
...more
Rick Florio
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
Louis W
Does drinking five beers and reading Tacitus' spare and terrifically human account of the circular violence following the death of the Emperor Nero in 69 A.D. help heal the pain of the Jets' embarrassing 27-19 loss to the Bears? Yes, a little.
Jolanda
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.
The
...more
Witek
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Jim
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 -
Srp
Geweldige vertaling van Hunink, zoals altijd. Jammer dat er geen paginaverwijzingen in het register zijn opgenomen.
Frederick
The writing, or the translation, is fast-paced and very readable.
Graham Lee
Aug 04, 2014 Graham Lee added it
Shelves: history
My mistake was to read a translation that had no introduction or other critical notes, which is support I would have benefited from.
Matt Howard
Published approximately 105 A.D., The Histories recounts the turmoil in the Roman Empire after the death of Nero, the first year of which was the Year of the Four Emperors. Murder and suicide end the Emperors' lives as civil war follows Nero's death without a recognized heir. Vespasian, known to history as the general who defeated the last Jewish attempt to revolt and reestablish independence and who also participated early in his career in the conquest of Britain.
Rob Roy
Tacitus set the standard for historical writing. You have to accept that he was a Roman, so battle was a main issue in his histories, but then the two years (69-70 ACE) covered by his Histories are a period of civil war. Of particular note is his introduction which every history writer should read and heed. Also in Book 5, he covers the war in Judea from the Roman view point.
Meredi
This was an interesting, though at times fairly confusing read. Nearly every person's name ends in 'us'. Hardly anyone dies of natural causes. It is one treachery after another, one battle after another, one emperor after another, interpersed with touching speeches. My copy has endnotes and I really hate endnotes
sologdin
an illustration of the roman constitution's remarkable flexibility, insofar as the head of state is openly assassinated four times in approximately a year, with barely a hiccough otherwise. one wonders therefore if assassination is constitutionally required and peaceable succession infirm.
Matthew Lippart
Tacitus is great. His histories of Rome are an enjoyable read, even in translation. In readsing all this stuff, one always gets the depressing feeling that we haven't changed at all over the years, which is part of what makes it such an enjoyable thing to spend an afternoon churning through.
Rdt
Reading Tacitus after reading Thucydides and Xenophon is like reading Virgil after Homer. You can see the merit, but it pales by comparison. A silver age in the wake a golden one.
Willie Whelan
If you have to read one 2000 year old history book this should be it. Tacitus is not without his prejudices but boy does he bring Rome to life. It is Roman history as current affairs.
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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
More about Tacitus...
The Annals of Imperial Rome The Agricola and The Germania Germania Complete Works of Tacitus The Annals/The Histories

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“It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.” 21 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.” 6 likes
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