Title: The Annals of Tacitus
Author: Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Alfred John Church (trans), William Jackson Brodribb (trans), Giovanni Piranesi (illus)
Publisher: The Franklin Library, 1982.
Condition: Hardcover, leather spine with cloth boards. Very good+, negligible wear.
This book features:
- Premium tooled blue quarter leather binding
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Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors. These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in AD 14 to (presumably) the death of emperor Domitian in AD 96. There are substantial lacunae in the surviving texts, including one four-books long in the Annals.
Other writings by him discuss oratory (in dialogue format, see Dialogus de oratoribus), Germania (in De origine et situ Germanorum), and the life of his father-in-law, Agricola, mainly focusing on his campaign in Britannia (see De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae).
Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature, and as well as the brevity and compactness of his Latin prose, he is known for his penetrating insights into the psychology of power politics.
The Annals is Tacitus’ final work, covering the period from the death of Augustus Caesar in 14 AD. He wrote at least sixteen books, but books 7–10 and parts of books 5, 6, 11 and 16 are missing. Book 6 ends with the death of Tiberius and books 7–12 presumably covered the reigns of Caligula and Claudius. The remaining books cover the reign of Nero, perhaps until his death in June 68 or until the end of that year, to connect with the Histories. The second half of book 16 is missing (ending with the events of 66). We do not know whether Tacitus completed the work; he died before he could complete his planned histories of Nerva and Trajan, and no record survives of the work on Augustus Caesar and the beginnings of the Empire with which he had planned to finish his work. The Annals is one of the earliest secular historical records to mention Christ (see Tacitus on Christ), which Tacitus does in connection with Nero’s persecution of the Christians.
Tacitus on Christ
In his Annals, in book 15, chapter 44, written c. 116 AD, there is a passage which refers to Christ, to Pontius Pilate, and to a mass execution of the Christians after a six-day fire that burned much of Rome in July 64 AD by Nero.
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
This narration has long attracted scholarly interest because it is a rare non-Christian reference to the origin of Christianity, the execution of Christ described in the Canonical gospels, and the persecution of Christians in 1st-century Rome. Almost all scholars consider these references to the Christians to be authentic.