The Annals Background

The Annals Background

The Annals was written by the ancient Roman orator and historian Tacitus between the years 118 and 123. Divided into 18 books (some divisions place it at 16 volumes), The Annals is a history of Rome in the first century stretching from the demise of Augustus to Nero’s suicide. Unfortunately, more than a third of the original text has been claimed by the ravages of time and that which survived often falls victim to the ravages of historical inaccuracy. Nevertheless, The Annals is typically ranked very high on the list of histories of ancient Rome by those writers who were eyewitnesses to much of what still remained standing.

The strong point of The Annals is almost always consider the insight Tacitus brings to the state of Rome’s politics in the first century. Although exceptions to even this status—his portrait of Tiberius has been almost completely disregarded—his research and analysis remains a pillar of the critical worth of the histories.

Far less supportable is the insight that Tacitus brings to understanding and appreciating the military strategy of which he writes. His inability to convey a deeper analysis of the military engagements of which he writes often leave the reader deeply situated with an obscure appreciation of the greater subtleties at work.

When all is said and done, what the cynical Tacitus really provides in The Annals is the poetry of intrigue in the form of creating a record of the various political conspiracies and scandals that marred the order of succession during the first century A.D. in Rome.

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