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Reading classics of Antiquity VII: Tacitus: Annales

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Title page "C. Cornelii Taciti Opera quæ exstant Ex recensione Jacobi Gronovii". 1721 Center: Female figures hold a laurel crown and fasces with axe above a bust, text "JVL. Agricolae". Medallion shield picturing emperor Tiberius "TI. DIVI ... F. AUG. IMP." To the right: A vase with satyrs and a medallion of Roma Victrix on a pedestal. Below a putto holding a rectangular image of four German warriors (one leader) with winged helmet, arrows, swords and shield. Below two putti, one with a book, seated in front of a portrait medallion shield showing emperor Claudius emperor of Germania "TI.CLAUD.CAES.AUG.GERM." Both are sitting on and pointing to a map with inscription "Sol Rhenus ... Oriental...? Rheni". Above them a portrait shield of emperor Nero "IMP.NERO.CLAUD.CAES.AUG.GERM.". To the left: A queen with scepter and a winged angel with a writing stylus in hand. At her feet the Roman wolf with Romulus and Remus and two manuscript rolls. Above them Roman soldiers with eagle standard, insignia??, and a horn. Source Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 55–116/120); Jacobus Gronovius (1645–1716); Beatus Rhenanus (1485–1547): C. Cornelii Taciti Opera quæ exstant, Integris Beati Rhenani, Fulvii Ursini, M. Antonii Mureti, Josiæ Merceri, Justi Lipsii, Valentis Acidalii, Curtii Pichenæ, Jani Gruteri, Hugonis Grotii, Joannis Freinshemii, Joannis Frederici Gronovii, et selectis aliorum commentariis illustrata. / Ex recensione et cum notis Jacobi Gronovii Opera quæ exstant. Publisher: Trajecti Batavorvm : Apud Jacobum à Poolsum, et Johannem Visch. Printer: Poolsum, Jacob van, Utrecht, 1701–1761. Visch, Johan, Utrecht, 1702–1740. Series: C. Cornelii Taciti, Opera quae extant : ex recensione et cum notis Jac. Gronovii ; 1 By Creator: Jan Goeree - Peace Palace Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32931802. Tacitus: Annales Annals / Ab excessu divi Augusti historiarum libri [Books of History after the Death of Holy Augustus]. Written in Rome. The last work of Tacitus who died ca. 120 AD. Written in Latin. Covers the history of Rome from the death of Augustus (14 AD) until the death of Nero (68 AD). Originally published on papyrus in the scroll format (in tomes / volumines) in 16 (or 18) books. Long believed lost, most of the Annals were discovered during the Renaissance. Annals 1–6 survived at Corvey Abbey in Germany and Annals 11–16 at Monte Cassino. The rest is missing, only a few pages of Book 5 survive, Book 16 ends in the middle of a sentence, and the single manuscripts on which all translations are based are riddled with errors. The biggest gap is in the missing Books 6–10 (Caligula and the ascent of Claudius). Read in Finnish: Tacitus: Keisarillisen Rooman historia. Annaalit . Translated and edited into Finnish by Iiro Kajanto. Also the introduction, glossary, pedigrees and maps are provided by Iiro Kajanto. Series: Antiikin klassikot. 516 p. Helsinki / Porvoo: WSOY, 1969. Tacitus and Suetonius wrote their histories of the Roman emperors simultaneously. Suetonius covers the first twelve holy emperors from Julius Caesar until Domitian, Annales focuses on the four tyrants only, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (the holy emperors # 3–6), but from the surviving manuscripts Caligula is missing and from Claudius the account of his ascent to power has not survived. The remaining Annales essentially deal with Tiberius and Nero only. Tacitus's Histories covers the year of the four emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian), the also short-lived Vitellius, as well as the rise of the Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian), thus covering the holy emperors # 7–12, which means that Tacitus in these two books covers most of the same ground as Suetonius. This is grim reading. Tacitus is considered the greatest master of Roman historical writing. As a senator he had access to the primary documents, including the Acta Senatus. There is a much more sober approach in his account than in Suetonius's work which has sometimes a lurid tabloid perspective. But the focus on the main facts only makes Tacitus's story of the excesses of Tiberius and Nero even more devastating. Even reading this in translation it is possible to appreciate Tacitus's witty, laconic, elliptic and aphoristic style. Although based on documents, Tacitus's history has been written with real literary flair. He is a true storyteller who expresses himself in concise, precise sentences in a style called parataxis . There is timeless wisdom in Tacitus's matter-of-fact observations of the decadence that seems inevitable during a social order based on absolute, unchecked power. And the degradation, servility and adulation of the people around the despot. Germanicus is one of the rare positive characters in the Annales. Women are not better than men: the portraits of Livia, Messalina, and Agrippina are ruthless. There is also a callous touch in Tacitus's Annales. He has nothing but hate and contempt towards Jews and Christians in Book 15, chapter 44, one of the documents of the existence of the historical Jesus (" auctor nominis eius Christus Tibero imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat ").

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