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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Annals of Imperial Rome (Classics)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2009
I must agree with some of the other reviewers who note the annoying habit of Grant to use division, brigade and colonel instead of the Roman terms which of course are now in common use. Other than that Grant is an excellent translator, see for example his numerous other books on Roman history/Emperors. Thankfully, these terms are defined in an appendix.

This book by Tacitus much like his other "Histories" approaches the subject in the same way which varies considerably from the more light hearted approach of "Agricola and the Germania". However, unlike the Histories, Tacitus does not yet give the overwhelming impression of an Empire which is degrading and falling apart at the moral seams. This impression is present strongly throughout the Histories. Instead, in this fascinating journey through the times of Tiberius, Claudius and Nero extending from the dates: 14-66 AD we are presented not only with the lives of the Emperors but also some of the knights and senators who played a role in the affairs of the time. In addition, there are numerous excerpts about events which take place on the frontier e.g. the revolt in Germania and the revenge of the Teutoburger Forest disaster and remarkably enough a very interesting account of the Royal family and trouble on the Eastern frontier with Parthia.

I am always fascinated by Tacitus's ability to make the barbarians seem like Romans, they often have Roman names and Roman weaknesses such as greed and corruption, it brings them closer to the Romans as human beings rather than alienating them. Here again we are met with the bravery and courage of the ordinary Roman soldier much as it was described by Caesar in his Gaulish Wars. The legionary has lost none of his stalwartness and stoic characteristics e.g. "The Germans were as brave as our men ..." (p 86). Tacitus speaks glowingly of Germanicus and rather disparagingly of Tiberius who he considers an emperor lacking in moral fibre. It is interesting to note his favouritism for certain people such as Germanicus and to some degree Claudius and his strong bias against both Tiberius and Nero (who no doubt deserved this).

It too is unfortunate that some of his works were lost which of course interferes with the flow of the account and interrupts the reader's concentration. Nonetheless, Tacitus is a brilliant hostorian writing in an entertaining style, in spite of his bias, thereby describing the time well rather than presenting a series of facts lacking a sense of place and culture.

Excellent as usual.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2015
The perfect companion for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Anyone who has even casually read about Roman imperial history will have encountered Tacitus. He is, according to translator and noted classicist Michael Grant, virtually the only Latin historian we have for the early days of the Roman Empire. This work, generally considered Tacitus' greatest, covers the period from shortly before Augustus' death to AD 69, about three years before Nero's death. Unfortunately, we don't have the entire work. (The Annals only survived into the Middle Ages through two manuscripts, one for each half of the work.) The section on Caligula is totally missing, and we only have parts of Tiberius' and Claudius' reigns.

It's history with a moral purpose: to punish evil and reward virtue through the judgement of posterity. Grant calls Tacitus' Latin "unusual and difficult", possessing a pungent simplicity in the original. Has Grant rendered it accurately? Not knowing Latin, I have no idea. (The problem of translation is further complicated by possible corruption in those two manuscripts.) As it appears here, it's a stylish history, particularly in its many speeches.

Tacitus himself was a noted orator and wrote about the art. The speeches he gives us range from mutinous Roman soldiers and Agrippina (wife of Tiberius' nephew Germanicus) reacting to said troops, German barbarians, and some of Nero's victims before they "opened their veins" after his condemnation. I say Tacitus gives us those speeches because they are all invented. There's no way Tactitus would have a verbatim record of what was said. However, as Grant makes clear, he's operating in a tradition of ancient historical writing as well as trying to tell a compelling story.

Grant claims that Tacitus' account of Tiberius' reign is usually considered the highest example of his art. There is certainly art there. I didn't find the condemnation of Tiberius entirely convincing though, and Grant argues that Tacitus is reacting to his experiences as a senator under the tyrannical reign of Domitian rather than Tiberius' who died before Tacitus was born. There is much on Rome's intervention in Parthian and Armenian politics. I found the reign of Nero the most interesting with Tacitus noting the craven, cowardly flattery of most of Rome's nobility along with a few who would not abase themselves. (The amount of people who pliantly committed suicide after facing Nero's disapproval is explained by their effort to protect surviving family members and to preserve at least a portion of their estate.)

Grant helpfully footnotes some of the allusions to missing parts of the work or earlier episodes of Roman history. Still, I wouldn't attempt this work without first reading a general history of the period. Grant does put in a nice glossary of Roman political and military terms. Frankly, I didn't need to look at it, but I did happen to glance at some of the entries. Grant chooses, here, to make some unconventional translations of some terms, particularly the military ones. I'm not sure why. I haven't seen things like "company-commander" for centurion in his other work including his later _The Army of the Caesars_.

The several included maps show almost all the referenced places, and there are four very necessary pages covering the complicated genealogies surrounding the Julio-Claudian emperors.
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73 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2002
For all the merits of Michael Grant as a sholar and translator, it is utterly unpalatable to refer to a Roman legion as a "brigade" or a "division"; to a centurion as "company commander" or "junior staff officer"; or to a pro-consul or a legate as "governor". If one wished to read about these positions, one would naturally read books on Generals Lee, Grant or Patton! This point has taken all the enjoyment out of reading a classical writer of the stature of Tacitus. I am now awaiting the publication of Professor A J Woodman's translation, due later this year, hoping that he will understand that anyone wishing to read the Annals would expect some faithfulness to the Latin terms..
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2001
Tacitus (ca 56-120) was not only great contemporary historian but the statesman who earned both consulship (AD 97) and governorship (AD 112). So he was uniquely positioned to give us the overview of the intricate behind the scene manoeuvering and back-stabbing of the Roman politics.

The "Annals" can not give the smooth account of historical events as some parts of the original book are missing. Nevertheless the book gives us superb picture of the life of Roman rulers with all the benefits and anxieties that come with the position.

The excellent translation of Mr Michael Grant makes the book easily readable.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2002
This is a must for history students and buffs alike. In fact is is a great read full stop! Many books of this genre are dry but Tacitus takes you there and his commentary is both concise, and at times caustic and witty.
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on 23 August 2015
5 stars for Tacitus and the seller. 2 for the translation. Refer to a Roman legion as a "brigade" or a "division", or to a centurion as "company commander" or "junior staff officer" at a lecture, you'll be a laughing stock. Even as a 16 year old with no formal education in classical antiquity, I know this. An excellent read, but an unpalatable translation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Though I am no classicist, I have read quite a bit of original Greco-Roman history, from Thucydides to Cassius Dio, and I was looking forward to Tacitus, perhaps the most reputed Roman writer and Gibbon's favourite source. I fear however that part of Tacitus' reputation relies on his style, whose uniqueness gets lost in an English translation. Nor had I realised, firstly, that significant parts of the Annals are missing, and secondly that the book is in format a chronicle, not a history.

Covering the scandal-ridden years AD 14-66, the Annals takes the reader through the reign of Tiberius, the last years of Claudius, and most of Nero. The reign of Caligula, the early Claudius years, and the last of Nero are missing, and one must turn to Suetonius for that. That, with a few exceptions, Tacitus chose to tell his story year by year, or consulship by consulship, is meanwhile no-doubt invaluable to historians, but it makes the book more difficult to follow and less coherent to the general reader. The Annals do have an overarching theme, namely the corruption of absolute power, both among those at the top and among courtiers and aspirants. Yet as an account they are burdened with countless obscure affairs whose protagonists are hard to recognise, and by the marches and counter-marches of military campaigns whose significance is not always established. By contrast, though Thucydides also follows a loosely year-by-year structure, I found his narrative far more absorbing. I am thus only giving the Annals - shockingly, I know - four stars. At the same time, this is well worth reading and is filled with engrossing reading, such as the Germanicus campaigns or Nero's ruthless assumption of total power. And I am turning to the Tacitus Histories, covering the years AD 69-96, with unabated eagerness and anticipation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2012
This is pure literary gold and fascinating, if perhaps one-sided, history as well.

Tacitus takes us on an historical walk through the period of Roman history from Emperor Augustus to the death of Emperor Nero ((AD14 to AD 68). Apart from Augustus, this covers the emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. You can get the same period of history and more form Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars" but Tacitus is a more engaging writer and seems to have access to better source material (probably the Roman Senate records or Acta Senatus).

As well as providing an excellent historical overview of a very dramatic period in Roman history, Tacitus adds a lot of colour and is unafraid of dishing the dirt on corruption, sexual foibles and scandals, family squabbles and suggestions of imperial skullduggery and murder. How much of this is true is probably not knowable but it makes for great reading.

Tacitus is a clear writer and whilst inevitably there is detail here that is meaningless to the modern casual reader, this work overall is a thrill ride not to be missed. However, if you really can't face the idea of reading the source material but want to work through the history then try Robert Graves' books I Claudius and Claudius the God, which are effectively tidied up versions of Tacitus told as a story, and brilliantly done as well.
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on 9 May 2014
Eloquently complied by Tacitus with an interesting foreword, this is a great book for study and individual enjoyment alike. It gives a good sense of Roman society, values and beliefs.
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on 19 April 2013
Bought in conjunction with Histories, (Tacitus) this is an excellent day by day account of a fascinating period in history.
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