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The Annals of Imperial Rome

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,426 ratings  ·  164 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 ...more
Mass Market Paperback, L60 , 464 pages
Published 1959 by Penguin Classics (first published 116)
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Feb 20, 2012 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, while his own experience as a
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
David Sarkies
Apr 25, 2014 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,
Dec 31, 2010 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
Jan 21, 2010 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
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, latin, ancient, rome
It all sounds strangely like something Steven Erikson would write.

Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease,
Gary Inbinder
The Annals is Tacitus’s final history. It covers the Julio-Claudian emperors from the death of Augustus (14 A.D.) almost to the end of Nero’s reign (68 A.D.). Sections of the Annals were lost, e.g. Caligula, Nero’s death and events leading to Galba’s accession, and what historians believe was a planned section covering the forty-one-year reign of arguably the greatest of all Roman emperors, Augustus.
Tacitus (55? A.D. to 117 A.D.) was an orator and politician, as well as historian, and it’s
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 24, 2012 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
Scriptor Ignotus
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
Dec 25, 2010 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 ...more
Oct 06, 2009 added it
Shelves: politics, philosophy
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 ...more
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 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 5 star rating is not enough for this book. How I could possibly give credit to this book in a review is beyond me but I feel like I should get some thoughts out. In my opinion this is the greatest work of history from Antiquity (sorry Thucydides). The Annals covers not just one war or one political event but spans a 54 year period in immense detail. At first, it is easy to get bogged down in the Annalistic style of the work. Contrary to the stereotypes of Annalistic histories that I had ...more
Justin Evans
Dec 02, 2012 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
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Tacitus was considered, by ancients and moderns alike, the greatest Roman historian (along with Titus Livius [AKA Livy]). Tacitus himself looked to Livy, whose work, at times, he considered a bit fanciful, as his predecessor, picking up his Annals largely where Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita left off, in the final years of Augustus’ life. The last great historian of Rome, Ammianus Marcellinus (c.325-c. 395 CE), took up his Res Gestae where Tacitus’ Histories left off, with the accession of Nerva in 96 ...more
Jun 23, 2014 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 must 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.
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very thorough and detailed account of the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero. Meticulously researched and drawing on information from the imperial archives, Tacitus creates and vivid and rich narrative of the period. That being said, I would not recommend for those who don't already have a relatively firm footing in the subject already, as I can see the density of the work making it difficult for beginners to grasp fully.
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 ...more
Jan 16, 2011 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
Dec 12, 2009 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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
Erik Graff
Sep 07, 2010 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 ...more
Dec 08, 2008 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.
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tacitus is a difficult read, but this book is chock-a-block with interesting facts and insights. Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars) is an easier read, but more sensational and less detailed. Tacitus includes a lot of information on the "barbarian" tribes and the Parthians--which at times I found hard to follow but is a valuable resource. The translation by Prof. Damon (Penguin ed.) is excellent and lacks anachronisms I have found in other recent translations of Classical literature. She is honest ...more
Jenn Phizacklea
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-rome
Though it took me a long while to get through, this was well worth the effort to read purely for the history. Four stars for that alone.
For the purposes of casual reading, this is a good edition - but for study purposes, less so.
The translation is probably what slowed me down - it is more formal that some other translations I’ve read of Tacitus (both Agricola/Germania & the Histories were easier reads) but there is just so much fascinating detail in the Annals, it’s compelling reading
Garrett Shelburne
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Indisputably of immense historic and literary value. But is it fun to read?

Mostly, yes. A good portion of it fascinating and even suspenseful--especially those parts involving the imperial families directly. Other sections (frontier skirmishes, fates of minor politicians, etc.) are a bit of a slog and doesn't feel particularly relevant today. If you can deal with constant vacillation between fun and tedious, then definitely give it a shot.
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ancient
What a great read! Tacitus is not only elegant with the historical prose, but also manages to detail the history of Rome through the personalities. The intrigue of corruption, betrayals, tyranny and fascinating glimpses of imperial politics, all of this is truly page turning. Not only do I wish to praise the Annals, but the Penguin Classics version translated by Micheal Grant is very helpful. The Introduction lays out the perfect historical background needed for an introduction to Tacitus and ...more
Stuart Aken
Sep 29, 2013 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 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
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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 ...more
“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” 283 likes
“Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.” 31 likes
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