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The ''Annals'' ( la, Annales) by Roman historian and senator
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
is a history of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
from the reign of
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titl ...

Tiberius
to that of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
, the years AD 14–68. The ''Annals'' are an important source for modern understanding of the history of the Roman Empire during the 1st century AD; it is Tacitus' final work, and modern historians generally consider it his greatest writing. Historian Ronald Mellor calls it "Tacitus's crowning achievement,” which represents the "pinnacle of Roman historical writing". Tacitus' ''Histories'' and ''Annals'' together amounted to 30 books; although some scholars disagree about which work to assign some books to, traditionally 14 are assigned to ''Histories'' and 16 to ''Annals''. Of the 30 books referred to by
Jerome Jerome (; la, Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος; – 30 September 420), also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Christian priest A priest is a religious leader authoriz ...

Jerome
about half have survived. Modern scholars believe that as a Roman senator, Tacitus had access to '' Acta Senatus''—the Roman senate's records—which provided a solid basis for his work. Although Tacitus refers to part of his work as "my annals", the title of the work ''Annals'' used today was not assigned by Tacitus himself, but derives from its year-by-year structure. The name of the current manuscript seems to be "Books of History from the Death of the Divine Augustus" (').


Background and structure

The ''Annals'' was Tacitus' final work and provides a key source for modern understanding of the history of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
from the beginning of the reign of
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titl ...

Tiberius
in AD 14 to the end of the reign of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
, in AD 68. Tacitus wrote the ''Annals'' in at least 16 books, but books 7–10 and parts of books 5, 6, 11 and 16 are missing. The period covered by the ''
Histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * Histories (Herodotus), ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus (historian), Timaeus * The Histories (Polybius), ''The Histories'' (Polybius), ...
'' (written before the ''Annals'') starts at the beginning of the year AD 69, i.e. six months after the death of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
and continues to the death of
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
in 96. It is not known when Tacitus began writing the Annals, but he was well into writing it by AD 116.''The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero'' by Cornelius Tacitus and J. C. Yardley Oxford pages ii to xxvii Modern scholars believe that as a senator, Tacitus had access to '' Acta Senatus'', the Roman senate's records, thus providing a solid basis for his work. Together the ''Histories'' and the ''Annals'' amounted to 30 books. These thirty books are referred to by
Saint Jerome Jerome (; la, Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus; grc-gre, Εὐσέβιος Σωφρόνιος Ἱερώνυμος; – 30 September 420), also known as Jerome of Stridon, was a Christian priest A priest is a religious leader authoriz ...

Saint Jerome
, and about half of them have survived. Although some scholars differ on how to assign the books to each work, traditionally fourteen are assigned to ''Histories'' and sixteen to the ''Annals''. Tacitus' friend Pliny referred to "your histories" when writing to him about his earlier work. Although Tacitus refers to part of his work as "my annals", the title of the work ''Annals'' used today was not assigned by Tacitus himself, but derives from its year-by-year structure. Of the sixteen books in ''Annals'', the reign of Tiberius takes up six books, of which only Book 5 is missing. These books are neatly divided into two sets of three, corresponding to the change in the nature of the political climate during the period. The next six books are devoted to the reigns of
Caligula Caligula (; 31 August 12 – 24 January 41 AD), formally known as Gaius (Gaius Gaius, sometimes spelled ''Gajus'', Cajus, Caius, was a common Latin praenomen The praenomen (; plural: praenomina) was a given name, personal name chosen by th ...

Caligula
and
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
. Books 7 through 10 are missing. Books 11 & 12 cover the period from the treachery of
Messalina Valeria Messalina or Messallina (; ) was the third wife of the Roman emperor Claudius. She was a paternal cousin of Emperor Nero, a second cousin of Emperor Caligula, and a great-grandniece of Emperor Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 Septem ...

Messalina
to the end of Claudius' reign. The final four books cover the reign of
Nero Nero ( ; full name: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68) was the fifth . He was by the Roman emperor at the age of 13 and succeeded him to the throne. Nero seems to have been popu ...

Nero
and Book 16 cuts off in the middle of the year AD 66.''Tacitus and the Writing of History'' by Ronald H. Martin 1981 pages 104–105 This leaves the material that would have covered the final two years of Nero's reign lost.


Content and style

Tacitus documented a Roman imperial system of government. Tacitus chose to start his work with the death of
Augustus Caesar Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variet ...

Augustus Caesar
in AD 14, and his succession by
Tiberius Tiberius Caesar Augustus (; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March AD 37) was the second Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titl ...

Tiberius
.''The annals'' by Cornelius Tacitus, Anthony John Woodman 2004 pages x to xx As in the ''
Histories Histories or, in Latin, Historiae may refer to: * the plural of history * Histories (Herodotus), ''Histories'' (Herodotus), by Herodotus * ''The Histories'', by Timaeus (historian), Timaeus * The Histories (Polybius), ''The Histories'' (Polybius), ...
'', Tacitus maintains his thesis of the necessity of the
principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republ ...
. He says again that Augustus gave and warranted peace to the state after years of civil war, but on the other hand he shows us the dark side of life under the Caesars. The history of the beginning of the principate is also the history of the end of the political freedom that the senatorial aristocracy, which Tacitus viewed as morally decadent, corrupt, and servile towards the emperor, had enjoyed during the republic. During Nero's reign there had been a widespread diffusion of literary works in favor of this suicidal ''exitus illustrium virorum'' ("end of the illustrious men"). Again, as in his ''
Agricola AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) is an online database created and maintained by the United States National Agricultural Library of the United States Department of Agriculture. The database serves as the catalog and index for the collections ...
'', Tacitus is opposed to those who chose useless martyrdom through vain suicides. In the ''Annals'', Tacitus further improved the style of portraiture that he had used so well in the ''Historiae''. Perhaps the best portrait is that of Tiberius, portrayed in an indirect way, painted progressively during the course of a narrative, with observations and commentary along the way filling in details. Tacitus portrays both Tiberius and Nero as tyrants who caused fear in their subjects. But while he views Tiberius as someone who had once been a great man, Tacitus considers Nero as simply despicable.


Provenance and authenticity

Since the 18th century, at least five attempts have been made to challenge the authenticity of the ''Annals'' as having been written by someone other than Tacitus,
Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (; 21 November 169430 May 1778), known by his ''nom de plume A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a ...

Voltaire
's criticism being perhaps the first. Voltaire was generally critical of Tacitus and said that Tacitus did not comply with the standards for providing a historical background to civilization. In 1878, John Wilson Ross and, in 1890, Polydore Hochart suggested that the whole of the ''Annals'' had been forged by the Italian scholar
Poggio Bracciolini Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (11 February 1380 – 30 October 1459), usually referred to simply as Poggio Bracciolini, was an Italians, Italian scholar and an early Renaissance humanism, Renaissance humanist. He was responsible for rediscover ...

Poggio Bracciolini
(1380–1459). According to
Robert Van VoorstRobert E. Van Voorst (born 5 June 1952) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly kn ...
this was an "extreme hypothesis" which never gained a following among modern scholars.
Robert Van VoorstRobert E. Van Voorst (born 5 June 1952) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly kn ...
''Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence'' 2000 page 42
The
provenance Provenance (from the French ''provenir'', 'to come from/forth') is the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object. The term was originally mostly used in relation to works of art but is now used in similar senses i ...

provenance
of the manuscripts containing the ''Annals'' goes back to the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
. While Bracciolini had discovered three minor works at
Hersfeld Abbey Hersfeld Abbey was an important Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticism, monastic Religious order (Catholic), religious order of the Cat ...
in Germany in 1425,
Zanobi da Strada Zanobi da Strada (1312 – 1361 in Avignon Avignon (, ; ; oc, Avinhon, label=Provençal dialect, Provençal or , ; la, Avenio) is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the Vaucluse Departments of France, department in the Provence-Alpes-C ...
(who died in 1361) had probably earlier discovered ''Annals'' 11–16 at Monte Cassino where he lived for some time.''Latin Literature: A History'' by Gian Biagio Conte, Don P. Fowler, Glen W. Most and Joseph Solodow (Nov 4, 1999) Johns Hopkins University Press page 543 The copies of ''Annals'' at Monte Cassino were probably moved to
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

Florence
by
Giovanni Boccaccio Giovanni Boccaccio (, , ; 16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian writer, poet, correspondent of Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or angliciza ...

Giovanni Boccaccio
(1313–1375), a friend of da Strada, who is also credited with their discovery at Monte Cassino.''Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia'' by Christopher Kleinhenz (Nov 2003) page 1174''The Scriptorium and Library at Monte Cassino, 1058–1105'' by Francis Newton (29 Apr 1999) Cambridge University Press page 327 Regardless of whether the Monte Cassino manuscripts were moved to Florence by Boccaccio or da Strada, Boccaccio made use of the ''Annals'' when he wrote ''Commento di Dante'' c. 1374 (before the birth of Poggio Bracciolini), giving an account of
Seneca Seneca may refer to: People and language *Seneca (name), a list of people with either the given name or surname *Seneca the Elder, a Roman rhetorician, writer and father of the stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger *Seneca the Younger, a Roman Stoi ...
's death directly based on the Tacitean account in ''Annals'' book 15.''Boccaccio's Expositions on Dante's Comedy'' by Giovanni Boccaccio, Michael Papio 2009 University of Toronto Press page 233, also se
PDF file
/ref> Francis Newton states that it is likely that ''Annals'' 11–16 were in
Monte Cassino Monte Cassino (today usually spelled Montecassino) is a rocky hill about southeast of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of ...

Monte Cassino
during the first half of the rule of Abbot Desiderius (1058–1087) who later became
Pope Victor III Pope Victor III ( 1026 – 16 September 1087), born Dauferio, was the head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 24 May 1086 to his death. He was the successor of Pope Gregory VII, yet his pontificate is far less notable than ...

Pope Victor III
.''The Scriptorium and Library at Monte Cassino, 1058–1105'' by Francis Newton (29 Apr 1999) Cambridge University Press pages 104–105 ''Annals'' 1–6 were then independently discovered at
Corvey Abbey The Princely Abbey of Corvey (german: Fürststift Corvey or Fürstabtei Corvey) is a former Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a Christian monasticis ...
in Germany in 1508 by Giovanni Angelo Arcimboldi, afterwards Archbishop of Milan, and were first published in Rome in 1515 by Beroaldus, by order of Pope
Leo X Pope Leo X (born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, 11 December 14751 December 1521) was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the List of Christian denominations by number of members, ...

Leo X
, who afterwards deposited the manuscript in the Medicean Library in Florence.


In popular culture

In
Donna Leon Donna Leon (; born September 28, 1942, in Montclair, New Jersey Montclair () is a township A township is a kind of human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in ...

Donna Leon
's third Commissario Brunetti novel '' Dressed for Death'' (1994), the protagonist reads Tacitus' ''Annals'' in his spare time in the evenings, and various references to that material are made throughout the novel. In
Mikhail Bulgakov Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov ( rus, links=no, Михаил Афанасьевич Булгаков, p=mʲɪxɐˈil ɐfɐˈnasʲjɪvʲɪtɕ bʊlˈɡakəf; – 10 March 1940) was a Russian writer, medical doctor and playwright active in the first ...
’s ''
The Master and Margarita ''The Master and Margarita'' (russian: Мастер и Маргарита) is a novel by Russian language, Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime. A censored version was publishe ...

The Master and Margarita
'' Tacitus’ ''Annals'' is referenced, as the MASSOLIT editor Berlioz asserts that its mention of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a spurious interjection, added later, and not written by Tacitus. Tacitus is also mentioned briefly in ''
The Mysteries of Udolpho ''The Mysteries of Udolpho'', by Ann Radcliffe, appeared in four volumes on 8 May 1794 from George Robinson (bookseller), G. G. and J. Robinson of London. Her fourth and most popular novel, ''The Mysteries of Udolpho'' tells of Emily St. Aubert, ...
'' by
Ann Radcliffe Ann Radcliffe (née Ward; 9 July 1764 – 7 February 1823) was an English author and a pioneer of Gothic fiction. Her technique of explaining apparently supernatural elements in her novels has been credited with gaining Gothic Novel, Gothic ...

Ann Radcliffe
, volume VI, chapter VIII.


See also

*
Tacitean studies 's 1598 edition of the complete works of Tacitus. Tacitean studies, centred on the work of Tacitus Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman h ...
* Tacitus on Christ *
Virius Nicomachus Flavianus Virius Nicomachus Flavianus (334–394 AD) was a grammarian Grammarian may refer to: * Alexandrine grammarians, philologists and textual scholars in Hellenistic Alexandria in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE * Biblical grammarians, scholars who stud ...
, who wrote a lost historical work entitled ''Annals'', probably a continuation of Tacitus' work.


References


Further reading

* * Damon, Cynthia (2012) ''Tacitus, Annals'' (Penguin Classics)


External links

* * * *
Annals 15.20-23, 33-45
at Dickinson College Commentaries - Latin text with notes and vocabulary * Owen, Matthew and Ingo Gildenhard
''Tacitus, Annals, 15.20-23, 33-45. Latin Text, Study Aids with Vocabulary, and Commentary''.
Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers. 2013. http://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0035

{{Authority control 2nd-century history books Chronicles Latin histories Works by Tacitus History books about ancient Rome