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Alto funcionario romano. Hombre íntegro. Desinteresado servidor de la patria. Irreprochable en su conducta. "El mayor pintor de la antigüedad" ¿De origen romano, itálico, gálico? Historiador latino de las dinastías Julio- Claudia y Flavia, poseído por un genio que sabía penetrar, se ha dicho que como Balzac, incluso lo más recóndito del corazón humano. Difícil tarea sin du Alto funcionario romano. Hombre íntegro. Desinteresado servidor de la patria. Irreprochable en su conducta. "El mayor pintor de la antigüedad" ¿De origen romano, itálico, gálico? Historiador latino de las dinastías Julio- Claudia y Flavia, poseído por un genio que sabía penetrar, se ha dicho que como Balzac, incluso lo más recóndito del corazón humano. Difícil tarea sin duda, la de trasladar del latín a cualquier otra lengua moderna, una obra literaria intencionalmente a veces oscura, a veces recargada de giros ajenos aun a la norma hasta entonces vigente de la lengua latina misma, y, sin embargo, el profesor José Tapia Zuñiga aquí ha traducido las Historias de Tácito en un español correcto , de tal modo que los lectores podrán percibir la idiosincrasia de la lengua de Tácito, ya que la traducción, libre, en lo posible, de la interpretación personal del traductor, ciertamente refleja las características del estilo latino.


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Alto funcionario romano. Hombre íntegro. Desinteresado servidor de la patria. Irreprochable en su conducta. "El mayor pintor de la antigüedad" ¿De origen romano, itálico, gálico? Historiador latino de las dinastías Julio- Claudia y Flavia, poseído por un genio que sabía penetrar, se ha dicho que como Balzac, incluso lo más recóndito del corazón humano. Difícil tarea sin du Alto funcionario romano. Hombre íntegro. Desinteresado servidor de la patria. Irreprochable en su conducta. "El mayor pintor de la antigüedad" ¿De origen romano, itálico, gálico? Historiador latino de las dinastías Julio- Claudia y Flavia, poseído por un genio que sabía penetrar, se ha dicho que como Balzac, incluso lo más recóndito del corazón humano. Difícil tarea sin duda, la de trasladar del latín a cualquier otra lengua moderna, una obra literaria intencionalmente a veces oscura, a veces recargada de giros ajenos aun a la norma hasta entonces vigente de la lengua latina misma, y, sin embargo, el profesor José Tapia Zuñiga aquí ha traducido las Historias de Tácito en un español correcto , de tal modo que los lectores podrán percibir la idiosincrasia de la lengua de Tácito, ya que la traducción, libre, en lo posible, de la interpretación personal del traductor, ciertamente refleja las características del estilo latino.

30 review for The Histories of Ancient Rome

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    For all the detail Tacitus goes in to, this is a fast paced introduction to a turbulent year in Roman history. Emperor Nero has recently committed suicide and has been replaced by the elderly Galba who in short order is murdered by Otho who seizes the imperial crown only to commit suicide himself when Vitellius declares himself Emperor and marches on Rome, defeating Otho's army with an army drawn from the Rhineland frontier, but Vitellius doesn't get to enjoy being Emperor for long before he is For all the detail Tacitus goes in to, this is a fast paced introduction to a turbulent year in Roman history. Emperor Nero has recently committed suicide and has been replaced by the elderly Galba who in short order is murdered by Otho who seizes the imperial crown only to commit suicide himself when Vitellius declares himself Emperor and marches on Rome, defeating Otho's army with an army drawn from the Rhineland frontier, but Vitellius doesn't get to enjoy being Emperor for long before he is executed by supporters of Vespasian who has left the siege of Jerusalem for his son to complete while he launches his claim for the Imperial throne. Pause for breath. This has taken place over the years 68 to 70AD. Tacitus' account of the course of the war is shaped by the role of the unpredictable and unforeseeable. Plans are made and the Generals have a fixed course of action but troops panic or are unexpectedly successful, battles develop almost by chance and loyalties change. Particularly enjoyable are Tacitus' prejudices. Natives are cowardly and fickle (although despite this opinion, they fight no less bravely). The plebeian soldiers are prone to swing from one extreme mood to the its opposite. While members of the upper classes have vices that are sadly too appalling to be detailed. Occasionally someone will meet with Tacitus' approval, generally for having committed suicide with appropriate dignity. On the subject of suicide, apparently if you are a messenger in Imperial Rome and your news is not believed, killing yourself is a sure way to convince people that you were telling the truth. This happens a couple of times during the course of the narrative. As unlikely as it sounds Suetonius mentions this in his life of Otho (one of The Twelve Caesars). Reading between the lines Tacitus' views seem unusual even in the Roman world. For all his negative comments about Otho and Vitellius, both are described as having been cronies of Nero. If Vitellius is frequently shown eating and being greedy both he and Otho seem to have inspired affection and support from parts of the army and from the people of Rome. You are left with the feeling that perhaps the people of Rome liked these extravagant, larger than life figures and that their massive appetites better reflected the Roman way of life than Tacitus' ideas on virtue and old-fashioned discipline. If you enjoy The Histories then there is more along similar lines in The Annals of Imperial Rome, although admittedly the pace of it is somewhat less intense.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    A Feast of Thrones 29 June 2016 Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome, with all of its political maneuverng, backstabbing, plotting, and of course sex (was there sex in the Annals? Actually I'm not really all that sure, it's not like it was some sort of Roman novel, it was a history, and from my experience the Histories tend to be nowhere near as sexually explicit as the one and a half Roman novels that we have), reminded me a lot of an episode (or a season – or the entire show) of A Game of Thrones, A Feast of Thrones 29 June 2016 Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome, with all of its political maneuverng, backstabbing, plotting, and of course sex (was there sex in the Annals? Actually I'm not really all that sure, it's not like it was some sort of Roman novel, it was a history, and from my experience the Histories tend to be nowhere near as sexually explicit as the one and a half Roman novels that we have), reminded me a lot of an episode (or a season – or the entire show) of A Game of Thrones, or at least the television series, since I haven't read the book. Well, now we come to the sequel, which isn't actually a sequel because Tacitus wrote the Histories before he wrote the Annals, but it pretty much starts where the Annals end (or at least where it was supposed to end, if somebody hadn't lost it). Also, like the Annals, and the Song of Fire and Ice, the Histories are also unfinished – it fact from what I gather we only have about 30% of the Histories, namely because some monk in the 10th century found it and thought it might be a good idea to preserve it, it was just that he couldn't remember where he placed the remaining parts of the book. Mind you, it's probably not a bad thing that we have lost the remaining parts of the Histories because it is supposed to chronicle the period between Nero's fall and, well, up to the point that Tacitus decided to start writing the Histories, or even up to the point where he finished writing the Histories because we can be assured that history didn't stop simply to allow Tacitus to chronicle it. Mind you, the part of the book that is missing sounds as if it was emperor ascends throne, emperor does emperorish things, emperor dies, next emperor ascends the throne – and so on and so forth. Well, maybe the scene where they decide that Domitian is a bit of a prick and decide they want to kill him might have been interesting, but it probably doesn't beat the murder of Caligulia and the praetorian guards then dragging Claudius out from the closet, kicking and screaming, and crowning him emperor (not that we have that section of the Annals because, you guessed it, some monk lost it). So, you might be wondering what the connection between the Histories and Game of Thrones is (other than the fact that both are unfinished)? Well, from what I recall from the television series (I haven't read the books, and am unlikely to do so because, well, with the number of books on my too read list, they sort of find themselves on the 'might get to one day in the future if I can be bothered, and if George R R Martin bothers to finish them' pile), when Eddard Stark is murdered the armies of the North rise up in rebellion against Kings Landing, and the two Baratheon brothers also rise up in rebellion, and there is a forth dude rising up in rebellion as well, not that I can remember who it was because it was a while ago when I watched the second and third seasons, and we entered a period known as the war of five kings where people are running all over Westeros pretty much killing each other at will (as if anything else happens in Westeros). Well, a similar thing happens when Nero abdicates the throne (and then kills himself, I believe, though since I haven't read the end of the Annals because some Monk lost it, I am only going by some pretty shocking TV mini-series that I watched about Nero and according to the mini-series Nero killed himself), the Romans suddenly realise that there actually isn't anybody to take over from him because Nero doesn't have any heirs (not that he Romans particularly wanted a Neronian heir to take the throne, if their father was anything to go by), so some guy named Galba takes the throne, but another guy named Otho objects, kicks him out, and installs himself as emperor. However some guy named Vitellius objects, goes to war against Otho, kicks him out, and takes the throne, and then Vespasian, who is busy crushing a Jewish uprising in the east, marches his troops over to the Italian Peninsula (leaving his son Titus to mop up the mess), and goes to war with Vitellius. Vitellius then decides that being emperor isn't as crash hot as he thought it was going to be, and attempts to abdicate, except the people of Rome refuse and force him back into the Palace, where he is subsequently defeated by Vespasian. As you can probably tell, Rome was pretty chaotic around this time. In fact, after 70 to 80 odd years of stability (with a few mad emperors to make things interesting, including one who made a horse a senator – though a horse would probably do a better job that half the senators we have today – hey, lets start nominating horses for the senate, though Michael Moore did try that with a Ficus, and unfortunately it didn't work – we ended up getting stuck with a politician instead), the entire Roman experiment looks like it it was pretty much on the verge of collapse (much like the EU experiment is today). Actually, Rome's enemies saw it as much, especially over the Rhine in Germanica, because the Germans suddenly launched an invasion of Gaul (or at least the provinces of Upper and Lower Germania) during this time. So, when the Histories aren't talking about the Romans going at each other, its talking about the Germans invading Rome and causing them no end of trouble. Actually, it wasn't just the Germans who saw an opportunity because the Jews, who didn't particularly like the Romans, despite everything the Romans had done for them, decided that it might be a pretty good idea of go to war against the Romans and liberate their country. As it turned out, despite the fact that Rome was embroiled in an almost never ending civil war, it still seemed as if they were able to hold out on their own. Mind you, it probably at a lot to do with Vespasian being a pretty strong, and capable leader, as he was able to bring peace to the Empire, and then not only drive back the Germans, but also crush the Jews, and to bring grain to the city to ward off starvation. As we know, after this one dreadful year, known as the Year of the Four Emperors, Rome when on to last for another 150 odd years. One final interesting thing is what Tacitus says about the Jews. It is actually really interesting hearing the theories of the Jewish origins from the point of view of a Roman. Mind you, having had the Old Testament history drummed down my through for most of my life, reading Tacitus' opinion makes me want to scream out in objection, however what we are seeing are suppositions coming from somebody who lived at the time, giving us a rundown on the various beliefs at the time, which I believe helps us understand, much better, how the Jews were perceived by the Romans. The other thing is that it provides a background for the Jewish War. Up until I read the Histories (this is the second time), I didn't realise that the Jewish revolt, and the Roman civil war, occurred around the same time. In fact it is my belief that the civil war that broke out after Nero's fall actually provided the catalyst for the Jewish revolt. It certainly does put things into perspective.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A meaningless rating, that just means "I didn't really enjoy reading this, but I'm glad I did." There's just too much movement of arms and men in the story Tacitus tells to really grab me, too many generals moving and shaking. When he focuses away from generals and onto people, I'm all in. The one-liners, of course, are fabulous. The introduction to the World's Classics edition is well worth reading, too, which is something you can't normally say for these introductions. This one makes an intere A meaningless rating, that just means "I didn't really enjoy reading this, but I'm glad I did." There's just too much movement of arms and men in the story Tacitus tells to really grab me, too many generals moving and shaking. When he focuses away from generals and onto people, I'm all in. The one-liners, of course, are fabulous. The introduction to the World's Classics edition is well worth reading, too, which is something you can't normally say for these introductions. This one makes an interesting argument about what's happening in Tacitus' writings, without banging on about current obsessions (except to make the reasonable point that Tacitus isn't anti-semitic, even though he's no fan of the Jews in Palestine at this time). The argument is, basically, that Tacitus is most interesting in his attention to the power of rumor. He does have his own interpretations of events, and he backs them up, but he also rarely describes an event (say, general Y concedes a battle) without pointing out how other people understood that event at the time. And those understandings are often the result of ignorant speculation, but sometimes people get it right. It's a nice reminder that our actions and reactions are entirely mediated by our interpretation of actions, and that those interpretations are often undertaken with very little evidence or knowledge. Plus ca change...

  4. 5 out of 5

    AB

    Well, there goes the last major work of Tacitus. Over the last month and a bit its been a fun experience going through the Annals and the Histories. The histories is an extremely chaotic book both in content and narration. Tacitus constantly switches back and forth between events. Sometimes this change can be quite unforgiving and without the footnotes I would have probably struggled to notice the change (especially for the discussion of Vitellius time in Rome). Overall, I would divide this book Well, there goes the last major work of Tacitus. Over the last month and a bit its been a fun experience going through the Annals and the Histories. The histories is an extremely chaotic book both in content and narration. Tacitus constantly switches back and forth between events. Sometimes this change can be quite unforgiving and without the footnotes I would have probably struggled to notice the change (especially for the discussion of Vitellius time in Rome). Overall, I would divide this book into two parts, both in terms of themes and my enjoyment. The first portion of the book spans book 1 to book 3 and this is by far my favourite part of the histories. Tacitus is at his most cynical and brutal in this section. There are very few redeeming moments. Tacitus very clearly deals with what he perceives to be a disruption of Roman traditions. At the centre of this narrative is the crowd. They are fickle, sycophantic and quick to change sides. Galba and Piso are brutally murdered in the forum, senators degrade themselves by dressing as slaves or freedmen. Galba, Otho and vitellius are all shown as incompetent in commanding troops and dealing with sycophants. Even the victorious Vespasian is treated in a negative light. By far my favourite part of this section is book 3. No where else is Tactius' absolute disgust at this period more clearly seen than in the destruction of Cremona and the burning of the capitol. This disgust created one of the best books written by a classical historian I have ever read. The second major part of this book comes from books 4 to 5. The themes of the first 3 books give way to new ideas: the Senate dealing with Neros former informers, a precursor to the tyranny of Domitian and the revolts of Germany and Judea. This part was not as good as the first section. Perhaps this is because this section is so incomplete. After reading the first part I cannot say that this part was as good. In fact, I would be lying if I did not say that I found Civilis' revolt to be boring. That being said, Tacitus' discription of Jews and Jewish history was very fascinating. I've decided to come back after a month of really letting this work sink in. I still stand by my stance that the 'second half' of the book is not as good as the first but I do believe there is a real importance to it. Yes, the narrative is cut off. All we get is the rebellion of Civilis and a history of Judea, but there is the essence of some really intriguing ideas. It always seems to me that a focus is placed on the actions of the major parties during a civil war and not so much the effects of said civil war on the provinces. Perhaps this is the case because Marius and Sulla are immediately followed by the mithridatic war and the rise of Pompey. The same can be said with the war between Octavian and Antony, the brilliance of the beginning of the principate takes centre stage. With the histories, we get the sense of the real damage that a civil war can have on volatile regions of the empire. Tacitus really helps to answer the question of what happens when large number of troops are moved away from the Rhine, or political instability threatens Romes control of her borders. This may be a somewhat incoherent ramble, but I've really come to appreciate this second half. Civilis may be insignificant in the grand scheme of Roman history, but he shows just how precarious the relationship between Rome and tribes of Gaul and Germany really are.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    ”I am entering on the history of a period rich in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by civil strife, and even in peace full of horrors. Four emperors perished by the sword. There were three civil wars; there were more with foreign enemies; there were often wars that had both characters at once...Never surely did more terrible calamities of the Roman People, or evidence more conclusive, prove that the Gods take no thought for our happiness, but only for our punishment.” – The Histories, Book ”I am entering on the history of a period rich in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by civil strife, and even in peace full of horrors. Four emperors perished by the sword. There were three civil wars; there were more with foreign enemies; there were often wars that had both characters at once...Never surely did more terrible calamities of the Roman People, or evidence more conclusive, prove that the Gods take no thought for our happiness, but only for our punishment.” – The Histories, Book I. The Histories are an account of the “Year of the Four Emperors” (69 AD) by the Roman Historian Tacitus. Unlike most Roman histories, including Tacitus’ own Annals, the book doesn’t cover a broad slice of history, instead diving deep into a specific period of crisis. This is partly by chance – the Histories originally covered the entire Flavian Dynasty (69 to 96 AD), but only the first few books have survived down to the modern era. Still, the heightened focus on a smaller period probably makes this Tacitus’ most inviting book for modern readers. An Empire Divided Tacitus has an excellent eye for detail and a great sense of the dramatic, and he’s at his best in the Histories. The story itself is naturally compelling. After the death of Nero, the most powerful empire in the world underwent a period of crisis where three pretenders fell in quick succession, before Vespasian seized power and was finally able to stop the bloodshed (sort of like A Game of Thrones with togas). His writing is famously fun to read, thanks to the knack Tacitus has for inserting memorable little aphorisms and moral judgments (on Licinius Mucianus: “he was the sort of man who found it more congenial to make an emperor than to be one.”) Ancient historians considered it acceptable (even necessary) to insert speeches into the mouths of their subjects in order to liven up the narrative, and Tacitus was one of the best at this. Take this speech he shoves into Otho’s mouth: ”So the state takes its stand here: over there, against us, are the enemies of that state. Do you really imagine that this most beautiful city depends on mansions, buildings, and piles of masonry? These are dumb, lifeless things, and one or all can fall or be rebuilt. The survival of our empire, peace between the nations and your life as well as mine find a firm support in the continued preservation of the senate. The senatorial order was solemnly instituted by the patriarch and founder of our city. From the regal period up to the principate it has survived in unbroken continuity. We received it from our fathers. Let us as surely transmit it to our sons.” Book IV.73 Good stuff. Tacitus also has a way of conveying the horror of civil war; his description of the decapitation of political victims, and the way the victim’s relatives would pay a ransom to recover the heads in order to keep them from becoming trophies, was particularly chilling. Tacitus language can be naturally disapproving, even cynical (on the Germans: “they use 'liberty' and other fine phrases as their pretexts [for invading Gaul]. Indeed, nobody has ever desired to enslave others and gain dominance for himself without using this very same language.”) This fits in perfectly with his choice of subject here, which offers up plenty of examples of human folly. The Histories are also notable for Tacitus’ controversial description of the Jews. Before winning the principate, Vespasian was fighting Jewish rebels in Judea, which leads Tacitus to a discursion on Judaism early in Book V. Tacitus’ opinions are not particularly well informed in this area, and he comes across sounding like a bit of a bigot. But the passage is valuable as a window into how Romans perceived Jewish culture, and helps shed some light into why the two peoples butted heads so fiercely in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Overall, this book is ancient history at its finest. The Annals is generally considered Tacitus’ masterpiece, but for my money the Histories is the author’s best surviving work, and the second best ancient history I’ve read behind Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. 4.5 stars, highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    3 Stars - Good book Lots of information in a pretty small book. The amount of information was slightly overwhelming, but overall fascinating. Tacitus takes us back to aftermath of the fall of Nero. He gives us a detailed history of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian - father of the Flavian Dynasty. The years covered are 68 CE to 70 CE. There are a lot of names in this book that are unknown to most - though nonetheless fascinating. The writing isn't hard to understand, just jam-packed with info 3 Stars - Good book Lots of information in a pretty small book. The amount of information was slightly overwhelming, but overall fascinating. Tacitus takes us back to aftermath of the fall of Nero. He gives us a detailed history of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian - father of the Flavian Dynasty. The years covered are 68 CE to 70 CE. There are a lot of names in this book that are unknown to most - though nonetheless fascinating. The writing isn't hard to understand, just jam-packed with information. I wouldn't necessarily say I enjoyed this one, more like I'm glad I read it. Would I recommend it? If you really like ancient history/Ancient Rome/ancient writers then yes. If not, no.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    It's like a soap opera (but with swords): Part II. It's like a soap opera (but with swords): Part II.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Excellent background for reading Lindsay Davis’s mystery series about a Roman detective—Tacitus is relating the story of the turbulence after Nero’s death when there was no clear line of succession to the position of emperor and military discipline was beginning its long years of decline. It’s the year of four emperors, ending with Vespasian. The events in Gaul and Germany described by Tacitus are woven into Davis’s plots. But of course it’s good background in general as well. Who should I suppo Excellent background for reading Lindsay Davis’s mystery series about a Roman detective—Tacitus is relating the story of the turbulence after Nero’s death when there was no clear line of succession to the position of emperor and military discipline was beginning its long years of decline. It’s the year of four emperors, ending with Vespasian. The events in Gaul and Germany described by Tacitus are woven into Davis’s plots. But of course it’s good background in general as well. Who should I support? Would I be better off selling him out or pretending to be loyal while secretly negotiating just in case? How depraved can someone be? How much loot can I carry off? All good but, of course, historical questions.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    After defeat in battle, Otho commits suicide and Vitellius is proclaimed emperor. An unrestrained hedonist, he and his forces fall into despicable practices in Italy. Vespasian is persuaded to proclaim himself emperor by his supporters and immediately gains the support of the Egyptian, middle Eastern and Asian parts of the empire, while the Balkan legions, angry at their treatment by Vitellius join him. Vespasian and his commanders, in particular Mucianus and Antonius, launch an offensive, defea After defeat in battle, Otho commits suicide and Vitellius is proclaimed emperor. An unrestrained hedonist, he and his forces fall into despicable practices in Italy. Vespasian is persuaded to proclaim himself emperor by his supporters and immediately gains the support of the Egyptian, middle Eastern and Asian parts of the empire, while the Balkan legions, angry at their treatment by Vitellius join him. Vespasian and his commanders, in particular Mucianus and Antonius, launch an offensive, defeat Vitellius and take Rome. Vitellius is executed in the same place where Vitellius watched Vespasians brother' murder. With Vespasians acension to principate the year of the 4 emperors ends and the Flavian dynasty established.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Genni

    3.5 Stars “Mighty and wretched, Rome had endured an Otho and Vitellius in the same year and suffered every variety of humiliations at the hands of men like Vinius, Fabius, Icelus and Asiaticus, until finally Mucianus and Marcellus succeeded them-fresh faces rather than a new outlook.” Mighty and wretched. Tacitus writes almost like a dramatist. There is no melodrama here, though. Just vivid descriptions and hard observations that perfectly capture what happened from April 68AD to September 70AD. ( 3.5 Stars “Mighty and wretched, Rome had endured an Otho and Vitellius in the same year and suffered every variety of humiliations at the hands of men like Vinius, Fabius, Icelus and Asiaticus, until finally Mucianus and Marcellus succeeded them-fresh faces rather than a new outlook.” Mighty and wretched. Tacitus writes almost like a dramatist. There is no melodrama here, though. Just vivid descriptions and hard observations that perfectly capture what happened from April 68AD to September 70AD. (The end of Book five is lost, making the work incomplete.) For Books 1-4, he really had me hooked. However, Book 5 happened, and it caused me to doubt Tacitus's complete reliability as a historian. There were occasional anti-semitic comments in the earlier books. But when he begins describing Jewish customs, it is absolutely clear that he did not do his homework. His blasé treatment reveals also that he did not care to. He has some strange offerings as to where they came from, his main one being that they came from Crete. He also claims that “the charms of idleness made them devote every seventh year to indolence.” He informs us that they keep an idol of an asses head in the inner temple, but later says they believe it is sinful to make idols (this was under his list of “sinister and revolting” practices) and that Pompey had discovered that there was no image or idol in the inner temple. This is a really strange charge to me, especially since it is one that apparently stuck around for a long time. Tertullian addresses this charge at some length over one hundred years later. However, he does grudgingly admit that "the physical health of the Jews is good, and they can endure hard work." Glowing words. I could really go on and on with all of the errors in this book, but I suppose this is enough. There is no doubt that this is an important work, and it is engaging, but it should definitely be read with caution.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The death of Nero begins a Roman bloodletting that Augustus had thought he had completely ended as four men will within a year claim the title Emperor. The Histories by Tacitus follows the aftermath of Nero’s death as a succession of men claimed the throne until the Flavians emerge to return the Roman Peace. Tacitus begins his work with those who had prospered under Nero worrying for themselves while the rest of the populace celebrated and setting the stage for the eventual assassination for Galb The death of Nero begins a Roman bloodletting that Augustus had thought he had completely ended as four men will within a year claim the title Emperor. The Histories by Tacitus follows the aftermath of Nero’s death as a succession of men claimed the throne until the Flavians emerge to return the Roman Peace. Tacitus begins his work with those who had prospered under Nero worrying for themselves while the rest of the populace celebrated and setting the stage for the eventual assassination for Galba and the rise of Otho, who the former had passed over as his chosen successor. Yet at the time of his death Galba was facing a mutiny on the German frontier that had installed Vitellius as their choice as emperor, a task that Otho took to quash and retain his own throne. The invasion of Italy by Vitellius’ legions brought war to the core of empire for the first time in almost a century and witnessed the defeat of Otho’s forces before he committed suicide. The rise of Vitellius brought Vespasian, the leader of the legions fighting the Jewish War, into the fray as he accepted the proclamation of his legions as emperor and soon found the supporters of Otho and others joining him. After the crushing defeat of his forces, Vitellius attempted to abdicate but the Guards wouldn’t let him resulting in his death by Vespasian’s soldiers. On top of civil war in Italy and the final phase of the Jewish War under Titus, a Gallo-German uprising at first claiming support for Vespasian became an invasion and rebellion that took numerous legions to suppress and the aftermath would be alluded to in Tacitus’ own Germany. Although The Histories are incomplete, from the beginning Tacitus brings his aristocratic ideology and politics in focus early by showing only someone with political realism and firm hand on the legions can prevent civil wars and the rioting of the masses. The writing is quick-paced, going hand in hand with the rapid succession of events but Tacitus does give excellent portraits on the prime actors in this historical drama the played across the Roman world. The only thing a historian would have against Tacitus would be the twisting of the chronology to suit his own purposes. Yet like Agricola and Germany, my biggest complaint is how Oxford World Classics edition is structured with the Notes at the very end of the piece and making the reader use two bookmarks so they could go back and forth. The Histories, the first of Tacitus’ two large scale historical works, shows the horrors of civil war and the according to Tacitus the dangers of leader who cannot control the legions and masses. Even though the we are missing over two-thirds of the overall work, the portion we have that covers the Year of Four Emperors shows the breakdown of society in vacuum of strong leadership that is important not only in that time but throughout all of history including down to our own time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Edward Walker

    A very detailed look at the events around the Year of the Four Emperors following the death of Nero. Moreso perhaps than Livy, the narrative in the book can occasionally get a little bit bogged down in all of the detailed information Tacitus attempts to chronicle in this, but overall it provides a pessimistic, sometimes sarcastic, and often critical view of Rome, its military and its leaders in 69 AD. As with many other Roman texts, the idea of decadence is a recurring theme. While Tacitus wrote A very detailed look at the events around the Year of the Four Emperors following the death of Nero. Moreso perhaps than Livy, the narrative in the book can occasionally get a little bit bogged down in all of the detailed information Tacitus attempts to chronicle in this, but overall it provides a pessimistic, sometimes sarcastic, and often critical view of Rome, its military and its leaders in 69 AD. As with many other Roman texts, the idea of decadence is a recurring theme. While Tacitus wrote this several decades following the events, it is clear throughout that he thinks very little of the morality, competence and efficiency of much of the key players during this period. Galba is presented as a moderate, but ineffective and obsolete ruler. Otho and Vitellius appear as decadent, weak rulers: barely competent enough to gain power, utterly unable to exercise it or retain it. Vespasian appears as the best of the lot, although the surviving text also seems to hint at an Emperor already overshadowed by his two sons Titus and Domitian. Overall, the book portrays an era in which uncontrollable legions dictate Roman politics, often engaging in contradictory actions and changing sides on the basis of personal interest or in reaction to speeches and promises. In many respects, the Year of the Four Emperors serves as yet another example of the disproportionate strength of the Roman military in Roman politics, dating back to the Marian reforms almost two centuries before the period in this book. The final part focuses largely on the Batavian rebellion led by Civilis and on the war in Judea led by Titus. While Tacitus is often praised for his relative accuracy on Roman events and history, the accuracy of his descriptions drops off somewhat when he begins to describe both the Germanic tribes and the Jews. TL;DR An information-rich look into one of the most turbulent eras of the early Roman Empire. Rich in facts, and infused with Tacitus' pessimism and critical view of the Rome's politicians, generals and legions of the period.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    While not typically a fan of audio books, I must admit this collection far exceeded my expectations. I found the narrator to be pleasant to listen to, and was able to maintain enough focus to understand and retain the material presented even while driving. While Tacitus may not be for everyone, I found this audio book to be a great introduction for folks who might not be into reading the dry texts. The audio also gives a professional pronunciation to the multitudes of Roman and barbarian names t While not typically a fan of audio books, I must admit this collection far exceeded my expectations. I found the narrator to be pleasant to listen to, and was able to maintain enough focus to understand and retain the material presented even while driving. While Tacitus may not be for everyone, I found this audio book to be a great introduction for folks who might not be into reading the dry texts. The audio also gives a professional pronunciation to the multitudes of Roman and barbarian names that can often confuse readers. Overall I really enjoyed this experience, and the Blackstone work gets a well deserved 5 Stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    I really enjoyed this book, especially compared to Tacitus's Annals, and I also liked it compared to other treatments of AD 69. Although The Histories originally covered everything from Galba to at least the end of Domitian, what is left is mostly the exciting year of AD 69, plus a bit of 70. AD 69 is the famous Year of the Four Emperors, and I've encountered the four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, in other writings before - Plutarch's Lives of Galba and Otho, and Suetonius's L I really enjoyed this book, especially compared to Tacitus's Annals, and I also liked it compared to other treatments of AD 69. Although The Histories originally covered everything from Galba to at least the end of Domitian, what is left is mostly the exciting year of AD 69, plus a bit of 70. AD 69 is the famous Year of the Four Emperors, and I've encountered the four emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian, in other writings before - Plutarch's Lives of Galba and Otho, and Suetonius's Lives of all four. I found Tacitus's treatment of the year, rather than the lives, to be a lot more interesting and easy to follow. Instead of chopping up 69 into four difficult-to-disentangle parts, treating it as a single continuous narrative makes for easier and more interesting reading (although Tacitus still has to resort to some tricks to make the narrative easier to follow, such as postponing his description of Vitellius's rebellion until after Otho has already deposed Galba). I also liked this book a lot compared to The Annals. The Annals, as Tacitus himself admits, is boring, dry, repetitive, and depressing, as it catalogues the increasing tyranny of the Julio-Claudian dynasty and the painful sycophancy of the Senate. By contrast, in describing The Histories, Tacitus says, "The story which I am approaching is rich with disasters, grimly marked with battles, rent by treason and savage even in peacetime. Four emperors perished violently. There were three civil wars, still more foreign campaigns, and often conflicts which combined elements of both." "There were death scenes equal to those praised in the history of early Rome." I mean, who's going to complain about that? 69 was the 2020 of the (early) Roman Empire. The story starts with Galba, the new emperor who is too severe and stingy to win friends and too old, feeble, and incompetent to deal with his enemies. He serves as an unfortunate foil to the later emperor Nerva, who is also an old man who becomes emperor after a tyrant (Nero, Domitian) is deposed. Galba adopts Piso as his heir, while Nerva much more successfully adopts Trajan. Galba and Piso quickly get murdered by troops loyal to Otho, a former pal of Nero who was banished to Aquitania for being too close with Nero's lover/wife Poppaea. One of the themes of this history is the unreliability of troops during a civil war. "Although Roman soldiers had once competed in courage and discipline, now their rivalry was in insolence and insubordination." Up until this point in my history readings, the Roman legions have been famous for their discipline. 69 is where we really start to get a taste for what will eventually become a recurring pattern in Roman history, where generals simply cannot get a handle on their poorly disciplined soldiers, who flex their muscle to win pay raises and slacker camp discipline. Galba's refusal to bribe the praetorians, and Otho's own generosity with them, enabled Otho to lead a revolt that ended in some soldiers chopping off Galba's head and putting it on a stick. By the time Otho seized power, Vitellius's troops in Germany had already rebelled in favor of Vitellius. Tacitus portrays Vitellius as an incompetent glutton, and it seems like he is only able to win power due to the complete absence of any competent leaders on the field at this point (Vespasian is still biding his time). There was one description of the Vitellian generals' strategy that struck me: "Caecina and Valens did something that is a substitute for shrewd action – they waited for other people to make stupid mistakes." Kind of like Biden during the presidential debate. So yeah basically, after making tons of unforced errors and despite having the advice of experienced generals like Suetonius Paulinus (who put down Boudicca's rebellion), Otho & co manage to disastrously lose the Battle of Bedriacum. Tacitus describes the scene when Vitellius visits around a month later: "It was a dreadful and revolting sight. Less than forty days had elapsed since the engagement, and mutilated corpses, severed limbs and the decaying carcasses of men and horses lay everywhere. The ground was tainted with gore, the trees and crops had been trampled down – the devastation was appalling." At this point, Otho still had quite a few things going from him - reinforcements were coming from Dalmatia, and his fleet in Transalpine Gaul was causing a lot of trouble for the Vitellians. But Otho does something completely out of character with himself and literally every other Roman commander of his time - he decides to limit the bloodshed by killing himself. After this, Tacitus depicts Vitellius rolling into Rome at the head of a huge column of debauchery. He apparently bankrupts the empire in distributing gifts and buying off his soldiers and throwing really amazing banquets. "Nobody in that court sought distinction by honesty or hard work. The one route to power was to try to gratify the insatiable appetites of Vitellius with lavish banquets, expenditure and gluttonous meals." The troops, meanwhile, apparently completely lose their vigor and discipline and health as they party away in Rome, catching all sorts of diseases from the dirty environment and the prostitutes. Meanwhile, Vespasian, the governor of Judaea, finally decides to make his move. Vespasian has his faults but is characterized as basically being a competent guy who has good, non-backstabbing associates. His son Titus has cemented a strong relationship with Mucianus, the governor of neighboring Syria, and the prefect of Egypt is also on his side. From this strong and reliable base of power, it is not difficult for Vespasian to persuade other armies throughout the empire to join his side. Of particular note are the armies of Pannonia, with their general Antonius Primus. In my opinion Primus is the most exciting figure in this history. The official Vespasian strategy is to delay - Mucianus is heading to Italy with powerful legions from the East, and Vespasian is working on halting the grain supply to Rome. But Primus takes the initiative and storms Italy with his smallish army. After this, Primus beats the odds again and again, as the Vitellians make mistake after mistake. The number of times Tacitus says, "If the Vitellians had done this, they would have crushed Primus, but instead they did this..." is amazing. Desperate action is followed by desperate action, ultimately leading to victory. "Had [Caecina, Vitellius's general] been a loyal general, he could have used his concentrated Vitellian forces to crush the two enemy legions not yet reinforced by the army of Moesia; or else he could have driven back the Flavians and inflicted on them an ignominious retreat and the evacuation of Italy. However, Caecina contrived various delays..." Later, suspecting Caecina of treachery, the Vitellian troops imprison him but are rendered leaderless. The Second Battle of Bedriacum was ferocious and lasted all day. "However, when luck turned against [the Vitellians], they did not open out their ranks, they did not receive their disorganized comrades and they did not advance, nor take the initiative in attacking an enemy exhausted by marching and fighting over such a great distance. If they had, perhaps they would have won." Primus chased the Vitellians to Cremona: "As for the Vitellian army, reason dictated that it should rest at Cremona. After some food and sleep to recover its strength, it could have attacked and annihilated the shivering and hungry enemy on the next morning. Yet it had no leader and no plan of action." Instead, they fought through the night. The next day, Primus decided to storm their camp outside Cremona. "Climbing on one another’s shoulders and mounting on top of the re-formed testudo, they grasped at the enemy’s weapons and limbs. The unwounded and wounded, the maimed and the dying were all piled together in a shifting kaleidoscope of death and destruction of every variety." Meanwhile, the other Vitellian general Valens came too late to help: "If Valens, who had just started on his journey, had hurried, he could have caught up with Caecina in time to confront his wavering loyalty, or overtaken the legions before the decisive battle." Instead, Primus and his troops stormed the camp, then stormed the city of Cremona, infamously sacking a rich Italian city. Primus then headed down to Rome and killed Vitellius. Tacitus wrote for Vitellius one of the most damning obituaries I've ever read: "He was fifty-seven years old when he died, having won the consulship, various priesthoods and a name and place among the leading figures of Rome, all thanks to his father’s eminence and without the slightest effort on his own part. The principate was offered to Vitellius by men who did not know him personally. Few commanders have made themselves so popular with the army by good actions as he did by doing nothing. However, he displayed frankness and generosity, although these qualities can prove disastrous if unchecked. Thinking that maintaining friendships depended on the lavishness of gifts, not on the steadiness of one’s character, he deserved friends but did not have any." Primus was in an awkward situation after this - he had performed heroics and almost single-handedly won victory in a way that alienated the most powerful people at the time, Vespasian and Mucianus. So he basically got sidelined. The moral of this story is that being a hero doesn't always pay off. Tacitus also includes an interesting ethnology of the Jews (as the prelude to describing Titus's crushing of the Jewish rebellion in AD 70). The first striking thing is that Tacitus really hates the Jews - when describing the Germans, for example, he sounds disdainful and condescending, but when describing the Jews his words are full of hatred. He says many things like "the ritual of the Jews is discordant and degrading," "they allow things which we consider immoral," and he finds ways to describe everything they do negatively, even when it is contradictory - for example, he criticizes the Jews for NOT killing off "surplus children" and for donating money to their Temple. He also criticizes the Jews for lechery but at the same time criticizes them for only having sex with other Jews. I think the thing that really repulses him is the "otherness" of the Jews - even at that early date (Tacitus wrote this around AD 100), the Jews seem to have had a reputation for being unlike other peoples in ways that made other people uncomfortable. "They have introduced the practice of circumcision to show that they are different from others." "The Jews believe that there is just one divine power which exists only in spiritual form" - Tacitus says that when Pompey visited the inner sanctum of the Temple, "there was no image of any god... the shrine was empty and the innermost sanctuary was vacant." The fact that they refused to worship images of any people or gods was very disturbing to Tacitus. Tacitus also relates an interesting origin story about the Jews - that they were originally lepers driven from Egypt. "Most authorities, however, agree on the following account. Throughout Egypt there arose a wasting disease which caused bodily disfigurement. So King Bocchoris went to the oracle of Hammon to ask for a cure, and was told to purify his kingdom by expelling the victims to other lands, as they were hateful to the gods. Therefore, a crowd of sufferers was rounded up, herded together, and abandoned in the wilderness. While the other exiles were numb and weeping, one man, Moses, urged his companions not to wait passively for help from gods or men, for both had deserted them: they should rely on their own leadership and accept as heaven-sent whatever guidance first helped them to escape from their present sorrows. They agreed, and set off in complete ignorance along a random route. However, nothing tormented them more than their lack of water. They were already close to death and had collapsed all over the plains when a herd of wild asses left their pasture and made for the shade of a wooded crag. Moses followed them and after making a deduction from a grassy patch of ground, he discovered some abundant channels of water. This relieved their thirst. They travelled on for six days without a break, and on the seventh they drove out the natives, took over their lands and there consecrated their city and temple." "In order to strengthen the bond with his people in the future, Moses prescribed for them novel religious rites which were quite different from those practised by other mortals. Among the Jews everything that we hold sacred is regarded as sacrilegious; on the other hand, they allow things which we consider immoral." "They abstain from eating pork in memory of their adversities, as they themselves were once infected with the disease to which this creature is subject. They still fast frequently as an acknowledgement of the hunger they once endured for so long, and as a symbol of their hurried meal, Jewish bread is unleavened. People say that the seventh day was set aside for rest because this marked the end of their toils. Later, the charms of idleness made them devote every seventh year to indolence as well." "Whatever their origin, these observances are sanctioned by their antiquity." He also includes an interesting description of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. "This third lake [the Dead Sea] has a vast circumference and resembles a sea, but its water is even nastier to the taste and pestilent to the local inhabitants because of its unhealthy smell. It is never ruffled by the wind, and neither fish nor the usual water birds can live there. The sluggish water bears the weight of objects thrown onto it as if it were solid, and swimmers and non-swimmers find it equally buoyant." As for Jerusalem, "the city occupied a commanding position, and it had been reinforced by engineering works so huge that they might have made even a flat site impregnable. Two extremely lofty hills were enclosed by walls skilfully built with projecting or retreating angles so as to leave the flanks of any attackers exposed. At the edge of the rocky crags was a sharp drop, and there was a series of towers, 60 feet high where the rising ground helped, and 120 feet high on the lower contours. These were a marvellous sight and appeared from a distance to be the same height. There were further walls inside around the palace, and a conspicuous landmark was the lofty castle of Antonia, so named by Herod to honour Mark Antony." "The Temple was like a citadel and had its own walls, which had been built even more laboriously and skilfully than the rest. The porticoes around it consituted in themselves an excellent defensive position... Its builders had foreseen only too well that the Jews would face constant wars as a result of their strange practices."

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I must admit, before reading this, I'd never properly read history with such speed and excitement. Even to when I was reading Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars just a couple of days ago, I read it with a fair pace; normally and naturally accustomed to my usual speed of reading. But the way Tacitus writes, and of the subject; I simply couldn't stop and as I progressed, read at a similar pace to how he describes the events at hand. The events in question, are that of the Year of the Four Emperors. By f I must admit, before reading this, I'd never properly read history with such speed and excitement. Even to when I was reading Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars just a couple of days ago, I read it with a fair pace; normally and naturally accustomed to my usual speed of reading. But the way Tacitus writes, and of the subject; I simply couldn't stop and as I progressed, read at a similar pace to how he describes the events at hand. The events in question, are that of the Year of the Four Emperors. By far one of the more colourful segments of Roman Imperial history. Of how, upon Nero's suicide, 3 successive emperors took to the throne before one other came and stabilized the ground once more. First, the feeble and disliked Galba. Then with his death comes the young yet incapable Otho, a former favourite of Nero. In the wake of his own suicide after failing to win in the Battle of Bedriacum. But then came Vitellius, one who synthesized some of the core evils. of his 3 preceding Emperors into one: the cruelty of Nero, the debility of Galba, and the incapability of Otho. And finally, with his death on the Gemonian stairs, Vespasian was left with an empire warring against itself and others. And the way Tacitus details the events is masterful. I thought his prose was good in the three prior works I've read of his, namely his The Agricola and The Germania and A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Corrupt Eloquence The Works Of Cornelius Tacitus, Volume 8 (of 8); With An Essay On His Life And Genius, Notes, Supplements. But in this, it is even more so. His way of historiography is terse, dense and lucid. And at times also quite humourous. He may attempt via his tone, to tell history via an objective standard, forgoing bias for truth. Yet, he often speaks with a very posh sense of standards. And has a view onto some individuals - Otho and Vitellius for example - that is of a way, as if they were inferior men. Un-human if you will. Of course, he does still persist on at least delivering a factual (or so it seems) representation of the events. Even with his occasional stiff-lipped comments and views. I will say this though, I don't recommend people immediately jump into this. I was quite right to do a bit of prefatory reading on the prior events before jumping in. Because, given Tacitus touches very little on it - as he would've done so already in his succeeding work The Annals of Imperial Rome, which now only partially survives - without the context, it might make some of it's events a bit odd for reason. And in mentioning The Annals, I don't properly intend to read them quite yet. As much as I've enjoyed Tacitus, a small break is now warranted.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob Atkinson

    A detailed account of the 'year of four Emperors' which followed Nero's suicide in 68-69 AD, this is a very readable translation with excellent notes and maps to augment and clarify the text. Sadly, like the Annals, it only survives in incomplete form, just four and a fraction of its 12 original books still extant. While originally documenting Roman history from Nero's death through the reign of Domitian (to 96 AD) the remaining text ends abruptly at the start of Titus's siege of Jerusalem in 70 A detailed account of the 'year of four Emperors' which followed Nero's suicide in 68-69 AD, this is a very readable translation with excellent notes and maps to augment and clarify the text. Sadly, like the Annals, it only survives in incomplete form, just four and a fraction of its 12 original books still extant. While originally documenting Roman history from Nero's death through the reign of Domitian (to 96 AD) the remaining text ends abruptly at the start of Titus's siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD at the end of the "Jewish War", and it's in this fragment of book 5 that Tacitus falls down a bit in his ethnographical account of the Jews. His hostility might be taken for granted, as Jewish monotheism and religious ritual -- and especially ithe Jews' social exclusivity and refusal to accommodate other traditions and gods -- was so inscrutable and even apparently antagonistic to a worldly, Roman polytheist of his era. However Tacitus' account of the Jewish people's origins and basic beliefs and traditions are surprisingly off base. After all, there was a Jewish community in ancient Rome, Rome had already ruled Judaea for well over a century, and one would expect him to be much better informed, if he'd made any serious effort. Indeed if he can get so much wrong about a people relatively close at hand, one wonders how much stock to put in his accounts of far-flung Celtic and German tribes in his "Agricola" and "Germania". But overall, this is a solid, credible, and fascinating history and the best account we have of the tumultuous civil wars which followed the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and eventually gave rise to the reigns of Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian -- the brief-lived Flavian dynasty.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    The scene throughout the city [of Rome] was hideous and terrible: on the one side fighting and wounded men, on the other baths and restaurants: here lay heaps of bleeding dead, and close at hand were harlots and their ilk—all the vice and license of luxurious peace, and all the crime and horror of a captured town. One might well have thought the city mad with fury and mad with pleasure at the same time. Armies had fought in the city before this, twice when Sulla mastered Rome, once under Cinna. The scene throughout the city [of Rome] was hideous and terrible: on the one side fighting and wounded men, on the other baths and restaurants: here lay heaps of bleeding dead, and close at hand were harlots and their ilk—all the vice and license of luxurious peace, and all the crime and horror of a captured town. One might well have thought the city mad with fury and mad with pleasure at the same time. Armies had fought in the city before this, twice when Sulla mastered Rome, once under Cinna. Nor were there less horrors then. What was now so inhuman was the people’s indifference. Not for one minute did they interrupt the life of pleasure. The fighting was a new amusement for their holiday. Caring nothing for either party, they enjoyed themselves in riotous dissipation and took a frank pleasure in their country’s disaster. What a terrible year 69 AD was for Romans! How can anyone mark the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as starting with Severus when you have years of violence and lawlessness like this? Tacitus himself died long before Severus, and was calling the end as early as Marius and Sulla, theorizing that the rot started as soon as Rome the city realized it could live parasitically off of its client states: “The old ingrained human passion for power matured and burst into prominence with the growth of the empire. With straighter resources equality was easily preserved. But when once we had brought the world to our feet and exterminated every rival state or king, we were left free to covet wealth without fear.” It’s no wonder that Burke and Hobbes, witnessing violence in their own times, could look back on classical writers like Tacitus and agree with his solution: a stable, albeit arbitrary, power. I can imagine Burke underlining this passage in his copy of The Histories: Or do you suppose that the race of tyrants came to an end in Nero? That is what the people believed who outlived Tiberius or Caligula, and meanwhile there arose one more infamous and more bloody still. We are not afraid of Vespasian. We trust his years and his natural moderation. But a good precedent outlives a good sovereign. But power unfairly earned never really wins its legitimacy. And even if Tacitus seems to accept the spoils of war for a Caesar, he certainly understands the importance of integrity elsewhere. For a historian like himself: But historians find that a tone of flattery soon incurs the stigma of servility and earns for them the contempt of their readers, whereas people readily open their ears to the criticisms of envy, since malice makes a show of independence. But while we instinctively shrink from a writer's adulation, we lend a ready ear to detraction and spite, because flattery involves the shameful imputation of servility, whereas malignity wears the false appearance of honesty. In fact, The Histories is packed with beautiful lines that judge human character. Flattery and servile compliments will break down its defenses and self-interest too, the bane of all sincerity. What though you and I can talk plainly with each other to-day? Others will address themselves not to us but to our fortunes. To persuade an emperor what he ought to do is a laborious task: any one can flatter him without a spark of sincerity. And Few voices were heard even in the front ranks; the rest were silent, each waiting for his neighbor to take some bold step. Human nature is always ready to follow where it hates to lead. And The crime was his country’s, he cried; what share had a single soldier in these civil wars? Meanwhile he lifted the body and began to dig a grave and perform the last rites for his father. Those who were nearest noticed this; then the story began to spread, till there ran through the army astonishment and many complaints and curses against this wicked war. Yet they never ceased busily killing and plundering friends and relatives and brothers; and while they talked of the crime they were committing it themselves. And The sight of the soldiers restored order. The smaller colonies were pardoned, but at Capua the Third legion was left in winter quarters and some of the leading families fined. Tarracina, on the other hand, received no relief. It is always easier to requite an injury than a service: gratitude is a burden, but revenge is found to pay. My favorite passage is one of a tragically underdeveloped character, Vocula, a general who was killed by his rebelling soldiers, but not before giving a crushing speech, chastising them. It’s too long to quote at length, but here’s an excerpt: ’Never before have I addressed you with such feelings of anxiety for you, or with such indifference to my own fate. That plans are being laid for my destruction I am glad enough to hear: in such a parlous case as this I look for death as the end of all my troubles. It is for you that I feel shame and pity. It is not that a field of battle awaits you, for that would only accord with the laws of warfare and the just rights of combatants, but because Classicus hopes that with your hands he can make war upon the Roman people, and flourishes before you an oath of allegiance to the Empire of All Gaul. What though fortune and courage have deserted us for the moment, have we not glorious examples in the past? How often have not Roman soldiers chosen to die rather than be driven from their post? ... Suppose the Germans and Gauls lead the way to the walls of Rome, will you turn your arms upon your fatherland? The mere thought of such a crime is horrible… And what will be the issue of your crime, when the Roman legions take the field against you? Desertion upon desertion, treachery upon treachery! You will be drifting miserably between the old allegiance and the new, with the curse of Heaven on your heads. Almighty Jupiter, whom we have worshipped at triumph after triumph for eight hundred and twenty years; and Quirinus, Father of our Rome, if it be not your pleasure that under my command this camp be kept clean from the stain of dishonor, grant at the least, I humbly beseech ye, that it never be defiled with the pollution of a Tutor or a Classicus; and to these soldiers of Rome give either innocence of heart or a speedy repentance before the harm is done.’

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Nero commits suicide and Tacitus leads the reader through the turbulent years of Galba, Otho, Vitellus and the founder of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian. Five books covering three years- 68 AD to 70 AD. In some ways, The Histories stands in contrast to the subsequent (but substantively antecedent) The Annals. Where The Annals meandered through the corridors of Roman imperial politics, The Histories covers the military maneuvers of competing generals during the civil war of the Year of the Four Nero commits suicide and Tacitus leads the reader through the turbulent years of Galba, Otho, Vitellus and the founder of the Flavian emperors, Vespasian. Five books covering three years- 68 AD to 70 AD. In some ways, The Histories stands in contrast to the subsequent (but substantively antecedent) The Annals. Where The Annals meandered through the corridors of Roman imperial politics, The Histories covers the military maneuvers of competing generals during the civil war of the Year of the Four Emperors. With impressive detail, Tacitus archives the players and movements of ancient Rome. Sadly, the work is incomplete and missing potentially seven additional books covering the reigns of Titus and Domitian. Though filled with a cast of unfamiliar names otherwise lost to history, Tacitus’ writing is accessible for the modern reader. The writing is crisp and moves at a steady clip. Even so, it is hard to stay focused as Tacitus details the dramas of various political camps- oftentimes involving a flurry of obscure Romans. The Penguin addition provides some guidance with its endnotes (always a frustratingly common editorial alternative to the preferred, and in my opinion far superior, footnote), but the layperson will probably still gloss over some of the more meticulously recorded events. Overall, Tacitus provides invaluable source material for historians and his writing seems more modern and, consequently, more enjoyable than other classical sources.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Darran Mclaughlin

    I struggled with this, but liked it overall. It was tough to keep up with everything that was going on and keep track of all the people and places Tacitus refers to. His writing is really dense and concise, which on the plus side means this book is reasonably short but on the other hand means that a lot of meaning is packed into each paragraph. Tacitus is a stern, moralistic writer. He attributes the causes of the historical events he portrays to personal qualities such as courage or venality, h I struggled with this, but liked it overall. It was tough to keep up with everything that was going on and keep track of all the people and places Tacitus refers to. His writing is really dense and concise, which on the plus side means this book is reasonably short but on the other hand means that a lot of meaning is packed into each paragraph. Tacitus is a stern, moralistic writer. He attributes the causes of the historical events he portrays to personal qualities such as courage or venality, honour or recklessness. Modern day historians would be more likely to inquire into the material circumstances behind the various actions. He seems fairly balanced and objective, offering praise or censure where it seems due. One thing that did surprise me was how undisciplined the Roman legions seemed. They are constantly mutinying, plundering and murdering their commanders in this book. I had always pictured them as a disciplined fighting force and this has made me revise my opinion. It seems from this that the military was a powder keg that was always ready to blow up. Funnily enough this book reminded me of Game of Thrones. 4 Emperors claim the throne in a year and the empire falls into a viscous civil war, the legions of the South warring against the legions of the north. An Emperor arises in the distant East to become the final victor after a bloody battle in Rome itself. The barbarian hordes of the north join together and rise up against the empire in spite of belonging to disparate tribes.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

    69 C.E. was the year of the four emperors. If you are from Argentina, this is not very interesting, but it does have some interest in relation to the myth of Roman imperial stability historically and empire in general. The First Century B.C.E. found Rome in the grip of political coups left and right, and the Augustan Pax Romana was supposed to be the necessary tyranny to deal with this instability. Unfortunately, tyranny brings with it a different form of corruption, and so Nero completely trash 69 C.E. was the year of the four emperors. If you are from Argentina, this is not very interesting, but it does have some interest in relation to the myth of Roman imperial stability historically and empire in general. The First Century B.C.E. found Rome in the grip of political coups left and right, and the Augustan Pax Romana was supposed to be the necessary tyranny to deal with this instability. Unfortunately, tyranny brings with it a different form of corruption, and so Nero completely trashed the state, setting the stage for Galba, then Otho, then Vitellius, and finally Vespasian, completely worthless human beings one and all. What was Rome to do? My historical guess is that the power politics of the Republic and, in this year, of the Empire could've been avoided if the Gracchi brothers weren't assassinated and their policies had been implemented; but I have not learned my Marxism, for the iron laws of history couldn't countenance such political developments because historical materialism is the only doctrine that accounts for the change blah blah.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Smiley

    I think this book by Tacitus is worth reading since (from my note), according to Gibbon, he wrote history based on philosophy. This may stimulate some of his readers to think/find some reasons or evidence to this interesting remark. As for me, I've no idea and would like to hear from my Goodreads friends who read/are familiar with him, in a word, as Tacitus readers. Some of my remarks: 1) His description on war scenes are simply fantastic, realsitic and amazing. For instance, on pages 254 onwards. I think this book by Tacitus is worth reading since (from my note), according to Gibbon, he wrote history based on philosophy. This may stimulate some of his readers to think/find some reasons or evidence to this interesting remark. As for me, I've no idea and would like to hear from my Goodreads friends who read/are familiar with him, in a word, as Tacitus readers. Some of my remarks: 1) His description on war scenes are simply fantastic, realsitic and amazing. For instance, on pages 254 onwards. 2) I think mentioning anyone's name should be systematic, that is, keeping it in a singular way. For example, on page 231, chapter 71, the name of 'Petilius Cerialis', he's called 'Petilius' in the third line, but 'Cerialis' in the next paragraph. This of course confused me while reading. 3) I wonder if Gibbon's meant 'historiography' rather than philosophy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    So much bloodshed. So many troop engagements, just one year. Groups of people, tribes, citizen alliances that have no trace on a modern map. So many political shenanigans that seem so modern, it could be yesterday, except for the literal executions (no, wait, that still happens in some parts of our “modern” world—) And the Bon Mots thrown here or there, tossed off by the narrator in a lightly ironic tone. snap! How can we still after centuries not have figured this out? How can a society be so o So much bloodshed. So many troop engagements, just one year. Groups of people, tribes, citizen alliances that have no trace on a modern map. So many political shenanigans that seem so modern, it could be yesterday, except for the literal executions (no, wait, that still happens in some parts of our “modern” world—) And the Bon Mots thrown here or there, tossed off by the narrator in a lightly ironic tone. snap! How can we still after centuries not have figured this out? How can a society be so organized and progressive to have a well ordered rule of law, but devolve into massacres and battle? Why am I still able to see parallels in life today without us having moved forward to resolve the political in-fighting? A conundrum for the ages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karthik Vaidyanathan

    The story of a pivotal year in Roman history and its aftermath. Most of Tacitus' Histories have been lost, but what we do have forms a fairly complete narrative. The Histories (what survives of it) is split into five books: the first three concern 69 C.E. (the year of the four emperors) and the last two focus on the revolts of Julius Civilis in Germany and Gaul and the Jewish War respectively (although the narrative stops in the middle of book five before the Jewish War is resolved). Out of the fiv The story of a pivotal year in Roman history and its aftermath. Most of Tacitus' Histories have been lost, but what we do have forms a fairly complete narrative. The Histories (what survives of it) is split into five books: the first three concern 69 C.E. (the year of the four emperors) and the last two focus on the revolts of Julius Civilis in Germany and Gaul and the Jewish War respectively (although the narrative stops in the middle of book five before the Jewish War is resolved). Out of the five surviving books, the first three are easily the highlight of the Histories. Tacitus starts on January 1, 69 C.E. with the emperor Galba naming his successor while the legions in Germany revolt. Fourteen days later, Galba dies and with him any hope of a peaceful year. The emperors come in quick succession: Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. The characters of the emperors are fleshed out through their attempts to keep the throne (Vespasian ultimately being successful at this). However, Tacitus imparts to the reader the horrors of civil war: the name of Rome becomes meaningless as soldiers and generals seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the state and families are torn apart in this precarious situation. Indeed, the soldiers are the ones who determine the course of battles and ultimately the course of events. The generals who command them are ultimately powerless to subdue their urges. Tacitus gives multiple examples of how foolhardy soldiers led armies into disaster and of how they overthrew their superiors violently. In seems that in civil war, nothing is sacred. Peace seemingly comes to the Roman Empire with the accession of Vespasian in December of 69 C.E., but it is peace in name only. Due to the civil war, tribes in Germany and Gaul rose up and attempted to assert their independence. I personally found that Book Four (about this revolt) dragged slightly although the portions about Vespasian asserting his rule in Rome were interesting. Book Five cuts off abruptly with the combined German-Gallic revolt about to come to a close. In the end, Tacitus conveys the destruction that comes about from civil war. I'm sure that, as Tacitus was writing his narrative, he knew individuals who had survived the bloody year of 69 C.E. and so he sought to convey the anguish they felt at the destruction of the Roman state and the breakdown of authority. I'd say that he succeeded in that.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Arnoldas Puodenas

    Tacitus covers history with incredible depth and skill. His moralising style fits the subject matter perfectly, he shows you the horrors of civil war with such detail that you can picture them. Some historians write of horrors, Tacitus really shows them to you through the burning of cities, marauding bands of soldiers and endless opportunism and backstabbing that is prevalent in civil conflicts. The events presented might not always be fully accurate, and the order of them might sometimes be con Tacitus covers history with incredible depth and skill. His moralising style fits the subject matter perfectly, he shows you the horrors of civil war with such detail that you can picture them. Some historians write of horrors, Tacitus really shows them to you through the burning of cities, marauding bands of soldiers and endless opportunism and backstabbing that is prevalent in civil conflicts. The events presented might not always be fully accurate, and the order of them might sometimes be confusing but this is all done for the sake of presenting history as a story that is worth experiencing. Tacitus writes his history like Herodotus, but presents it in a truthful and analytical way like Thucydides. In this way he is never boring, and always enlightening. The cast of characters is huge, and is constantly shifting with rise and fall of new faces. People have their own motivations for wanting power, but what they do with it once they achieve it differs greatly. Some lose it through no fault of their own, others have no idea what to do with it once it's theirs. New challengers come and go, commanders shift their loyalties readily, no once can be trusted, legions arrest and murder their own generals fearing betrayal, civilians are murdered and towns are burned by soldiers greed. This is a history of one of the most turbulent years in human history, and Tacitus deals with it absolutely wonderfully. It is a true shame that the entire manuscript did not survive.

  25. 4 out of 5

    A. Sacit

    History texts run the risk of being bland and boring. But this book by Tacitus is a page turner, covering a blood-soaked, tumultuous period of civil wars in Roman history, following the death of Emperor Nero in 66 AD. In this book, written almost two thousand years ago, the author’s style is fast paced, insightful, Judicious, and eloquent. Tacitus does not mince words when someone gets on the wrong side of his graces, as he expresses strong dislike for the Jews, and some other prominent figures History texts run the risk of being bland and boring. But this book by Tacitus is a page turner, covering a blood-soaked, tumultuous period of civil wars in Roman history, following the death of Emperor Nero in 66 AD. In this book, written almost two thousand years ago, the author’s style is fast paced, insightful, Judicious, and eloquent. Tacitus does not mince words when someone gets on the wrong side of his graces, as he expresses strong dislike for the Jews, and some other prominent figures of the time. The only disappointment with the book is that it ends abruptly at a climax while addressing the Jewish uprising in Judea, and wars at the Rhineland. We learn many interesting facts about the society of the time that; corn was the main staple food of the legions and came mainly from Egypt, Dutch were called Batavians at that time and featured prominently among the northern “Barbarians”, Germans were fearsome warriors with large stature but reduced to a rabble when moved south to warmer Mediterranean climate, that Emperors were very expendable (four of them deposed in one year), and so on. This is the first book that I read by Tacitus, and hope to read the others.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tamas Czegeny

    I decided to read this after finishing a Hungarian book on Nero (Néro, a Véres Költő by Kosztolányi), as Tacitus is one of the few remaining sources on this particular period, and one that was undoubtedly used for the Kosztolányi novel. The first thing that will strike you is the extremely lucid account of the period, even going so far as describing where in the crowd the standards were, it blows the mind to think that the events of the New Testament in the bible only happened 60 years before. Mu I decided to read this after finishing a Hungarian book on Nero (Néro, a Véres Költő by Kosztolányi), as Tacitus is one of the few remaining sources on this particular period, and one that was undoubtedly used for the Kosztolányi novel. The first thing that will strike you is the extremely lucid account of the period, even going so far as describing where in the crowd the standards were, it blows the mind to think that the events of the New Testament in the bible only happened 60 years before. Much of it reads like the war segments of War and Peace, going into details how the successive vies for power emerged until the stability brought about by Vespasian. Interspersed throughout are tidbits of wisdom that hold water even today, many of which can be applied to today’s politics and the constructs of Western society. I would highly recommend to anyone who wishes to understand where the excesses of modern times began, but also to give more sense to the increasingly chaotic nature of contemporary politics.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Tacitus recounts the wars and rumors of wars that marked the Roman Empire in the later first century, including a bit of the Jewish War that led to the destruction of the temple. Several emperors held brief reigns after Nero as the empire fell into civil war. To make matters worse, a story spread that Nero had risen from the dead! A Nero doppelganger convinced many and even garnered an army for a short while. It was a time of confusion and uncertainty, and listening to it was like being a specta Tacitus recounts the wars and rumors of wars that marked the Roman Empire in the later first century, including a bit of the Jewish War that led to the destruction of the temple. Several emperors held brief reigns after Nero as the empire fell into civil war. To make matters worse, a story spread that Nero had risen from the dead! A Nero doppelganger convinced many and even garnered an army for a short while. It was a time of confusion and uncertainty, and listening to it was like being a spectator at a tug-of-war. The horrors mounted as reports came that a son had killed his father and that a brother had killed his brother - soldiers unfortunate to find themselves facing their own family members as (slain) rival soldiers. Some of the trials apparently subsided as Vespasian rose to power, leaving his son Titus to deal with Judea in the east. If only we had not lost the rest of Tacitus' text. . . .

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alison Zoccola

    "The bad find it easier to agree for purposes of war than to live in harmony during peace."--Tacitus, Histories 1.54. Since I read the Annals for a class on the Roman Empire, I thought I might as well read the Histories, too. The Histories are shorter, given that they focus on a single year in Roman history rather than the rule of multiple emperors, as the Annals do. The year in question in 69 CE, the Year of the Four Emperors which happened after the death of Nero in 68 CE, which as you can imag "The bad find it easier to agree for purposes of war than to live in harmony during peace."--Tacitus, Histories 1.54. Since I read the Annals for a class on the Roman Empire, I thought I might as well read the Histories, too. The Histories are shorter, given that they focus on a single year in Roman history rather than the rule of multiple emperors, as the Annals do. The year in question in 69 CE, the Year of the Four Emperors which happened after the death of Nero in 68 CE, which as you can imagine was a whirlwind year for the Roman Empire. It's also nice that it's in the public domain, so I could read it on my computer in a single sitting. It's much more compact than the Annals, and while it may seem scattershot at first, that's just because it's packed with so much information. If you're at all interested in history or ancient Rome, Tacitus' Histories (and his Annals) are well worth your time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Phizacklea

    Why, whims of fortune, do some parts of ancient books survive while others do not? I probably just said this aloud as I finished this book just now - I certainly thought it loudly enough. Besides the missing first part of Suetonius’ life of Divus Julius Caesar (including his assuming the toga and first marriage presumably), the missing books at the end of the Histories are (so far) the most frustrating tragedy of my reading in Ancient Rome. Which says a lot for how good I found this book. The Hist Why, whims of fortune, do some parts of ancient books survive while others do not? I probably just said this aloud as I finished this book just now - I certainly thought it loudly enough. Besides the missing first part of Suetonius’ life of Divus Julius Caesar (including his assuming the toga and first marriage presumably), the missing books at the end of the Histories are (so far) the most frustrating tragedy of my reading in Ancient Rome. Which says a lot for how good I found this book. The Histories, though they cover only 69CE and a fraction of 70CE, are well worth the read. Fascinating (and sometimes mind boggling) detail of the interior of a civil war, the movements of legions, the rebellions and uprisings of the oppressed or greedy, spurious ethnographic details - it’s all here. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    I had tried reading The Annals by Tacitus, and it struck no sparks with me. However, "The Histories" is superb. It shows Rome plunging into civil war and chaos, yet Tacitus keeps things coherent. He shows who the supporters are the different imperial candidates were, and we get a handle on their ambitions and personalities. Then there are moments when Tacitus speaks basic truths about human nature in times of conflict. such as "Defeated men must die, men who surrendered must die. The only importa I had tried reading The Annals by Tacitus, and it struck no sparks with me. However, "The Histories" is superb. It shows Rome plunging into civil war and chaos, yet Tacitus keeps things coherent. He shows who the supporters are the different imperial candidates were, and we get a handle on their ambitions and personalities. Then there are moments when Tacitus speaks basic truths about human nature in times of conflict. such as "Defeated men must die, men who surrendered must die. The only important thing was whether they were to breathe their last amid mockery and insult or on the field of honor." Of interest beyond the Roman Empire context. I kept thinking of the current Syrian conflict as I read this. I will probably have to give "The Annals" another try soon.

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