Most helpful positive review
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Excellent as usual
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.