Study Guide for Tacitus

Annals and the Emperors:

Augustus, introduced through his funeral; note summing up of his achievements in Annals 1.9-10
Tiberius; Tacitus usually writes of him in terms of appearance vs reality
[Gaius: this part of the work is missing, as is some of the rest]
Claudius, the cipher (according to Tacitus)
Nero: decide for yourself how Tacitus describes him

Other noteworthy introduced people in Annals book 1 include many names familiar from the Republic (the emperor Tiberius is Tiberius Claudius Nero):

Paullus Fabius Maximus 1.5 (d. 1.5)
C. Sallustius Crispus, adopted son of the historian 1.6 (d. 3.30)
Asinius Gallus, son of Asinius Pollio 1.12 (d. 6.23)
M'. Aemilius Lepidus 1.13 (d. 6.27)
Cn. Calpurnius Piso 1.13 (d. 3.18)
Mam. Aemilius Scaurus 1.13 (d. 6.29)
Sempronius Gracchus 1.53 (d. 1.53)

Newer Names:

Germanicus (Nero Claudius Drusus, son of Tiberius' brother Drusus)
Drusus (Drusus Julius Caesar, son of Tiberius)
L. Aelius Seianus (Sejanus) 1.24
C. Silius 1.31 (d. 4.20)

Some Things to Notice

Importance of women
Emphasis on affairs in the senate or on military events
Relations between emperor and senators
The two mutinies in book 1 and how differently Germanicus and Drusus handle them
The importance of pietas and cleansing rituals to the army
Treason trials and informers, especially from Book 4 on

Book 1

1-10  After an abrupt beginning, the death and funeral of Augustus
11-15  Tiberius' recusatio (cf. 1.7) and acceptance of his position, and other matters
16-30  Mutiny in Pannonia; Drusus with a little divine assistance
31-45  Mutiny in Germany; introduction of Germanicus and Agrippina (the Elder)
46-52  Tiberius' policies; how an army cleanses itself of guilt from misbehavior
53  Deaths of Julia and Sempronius Gracchus
54  The Augustales
55-72  Germanicus vs Arminius and other military actions; triumphs
72-81  Maiestas trials and other domestic incidents, "a show of freedom"

Book 2

82-84  Illness and death of Germanicus, honors given to him
85  Legislation: Upper class prostitution (not encouraged), foreign religions (also not encouraged)
86  Choice of a new Vestal
87  Price of grain and Tiberius' deprecation of honors
88  Death and epitaph of Arminius

Book 3

18  Aftermath of Piso's suicide (introduction of future emperor Claudius)
19  Death of Vipsania, mother of Drusus, and foreshadowing
20-21  Tacfarinas and African war
22-25  Various domestic matters and scandals
26-28  Digression on the origin of law
29-36  More on affairs at Rome and discomfort between princeps and senate; note activities of Corbulo in section 31
49-51  Priscus dies for a poem
52-55  Luxury, legislation, Tiberius' intelligent commentary, and background by Tacitus
56-59  Tribunician power for Drusus, son of Tiberius, and related matters
60-64  Senate decides some matters of foreign policy, and Livia's illness prompts Senate to decree a supplication
65  The purpose of history
66-69  Prosecution of Silanus, Tiberius' moderation and Tacitus' restrained praise
70-74  Other matters in the senate: religion, prosecutions; praise for Blaesus' handling of Tacfarinas
75  Deaths of Asinius Saloninus and Ateius Capito
76  Death of Junia, niece of Cato, sister of Brutus, widow of Cassius

Book 4

Fortune changes everything, even Tiberius
1-4  The evil influence of Sejanus
5-7  Digression on the armies and Tiberius' administration
8-12  Murder of Drusus, funeral, honors, and gossip
13-21  Other domestic matters; growing danger to window and children of Germanicus and attacks on their supporters by Sejanus
22  Tiberius investigates the murder of Apronia by her husband Plautius Silvanus
23-26  End of Tacfarinas but no triumph for Dolabella
27  A slave war in Italy is averted
28-30  The trial of Vibius Serenus
31  But C. Cominius is spared; qualified praise for Tiberius
32-33  Tacitus apologizes for the unremitting tedium of early imperial history compared to that of the Republic, with a digression on constitutions
34-35  Cremutius Cordus prosecuted for writing a history; his speech and his suicide; his books ordered to be burned
36  More prosecutions and the growing power of informers

Some People in the Later Books (first appearances):

Imperial freedmen: Callistus 11.29, Narcissus 11.29, Pallas 11.29
Stoics: Barea Soranus 12.53, Thrasea Paetus 13.49, Helvidius Priscus 16.28
Imperial advisors or praetorian prefects: Seneca 12.8, Burrus 12.42, Tigellinus 14.48
The great military man Domitius Corbulo 3.31, 11.18

Book 11

The end of book 6 has Tacitus' epitaph of Tiberius; books 7-10 and a part of the beginning of book 11 are missing and thus book 11 appears to begin in medias res with Messalina pursuing Poppaea, a rival, and others. Claudius is emperor in books 11 and 12 and Tacitus seems to lose no chance to portray him as unaware of what his wives are doing, and of many other things.
1-5  Prosecutions of Valerius Asiaticus (for adultery with Poppaea) and two knights (for a dream); suicide of Poppaea; Suillius and Vitellius for the prosecution
6-7  Senators debate compensation for lawyers
8-10  Changing rulers in Armenia and Parthia
11-12  Celebration of secular games (recalculated); Tacitus mentions his own role in celebrating these games when Domitian was emperor; appearance of Britannicus and L. Domitius (later called Nero)
13  Claudius as censor; his introduction of new letters for the alphabet
14  Origin of writing
15  Concern over the haruspices
16-17  The Cherusci apply to Rome for a king; Italicus
18-20  Corbulo in Lower Germany chases off the Chauci, restores harsh discipline to the Roman army, is recalled to Roman territory by Claudius
21  Curtius Rufus
22  History of the quaestorship
23-25  Gauls as Roman magistrates and senators; Claudius' speech on history of extension of Roman citizenship; enrolling new patricians
26-38  Messalina and Silius; the freedmen take charge; deaths of Messalina, Silius, and others

Book 12

1-7  Choosing a new wife for Claudius; the masculine rule of Agrippina
8  Suicide of Silanus, recall of Seneca
9  Engagement of Domitius Ahenobarbus (Nero) and Octavia
10-14  Parthians fetch a king (Meherdates) from Rome; Claudius' disquisition on kingship; the excellent qualities of C. Cassius
15-21  Vicissitudes of Mithridates of Bosporus
22  Agrippina vs possible rivals
23-24  Provincial arrangements; enlarging the pomerium and the history of the boundaries fixed by Romulus
25-26  Adoption of Domitius, now called Nero; pity for Britannicus
27-30  Military issues in European provinces (Upper Germany, Pannonia) and changes of regime in German territories
31-40  Uprising in Britannia: Caractacus; his eventual defeat, capture, pardon; panegyrics; further problems in Britannia
      Note the speech of Caractacus in section 37, and where Agrippina is sitting
41-42  Special honors for Nero; Agrippina has supporters and friends of Britannicus removed; Agrippina has Burrus appointed PPO; her chariot
43  Prodigies
44-51  Affairs of Armenians, Iberians, Parthians; murder of Mithridates; adventures of Rhadamistus; incompetence of Julius Pelignus in section 49
52-53  Condemnation of Furius Scribonianus for consulting astrologers; senate decrees (ineffectual) removal of astrologers from Italy; Claudius encourages the impoverished to resign from senate; honors and gross flattery for Pallas for proposing a law regarding marriages of free women and slaves
54-55  Minor problems in Judaea and Cilicia
56-57  A mock naval battle, with real blood, on the Fucine Lake; Agrippina vs Narcissus
58-59  Marriage of Nero and Octavia; Nero's oratory gains him credit while Agrippina's misbehavior gains Claudius discredit. Suicide of Statilius Taurus and expulsion from senate of his accuser Tarquitius Priscus
60-63  On law courts and makeup of juries, a history back to the time of the Gracchi; details of imperial bureaucracy; on Cos and Byzantium
64-69  Many prodigies portending change in power; Agrippina's fear of Claudius, destruction of Lepida, Nero's aunt; Agrippina and Locusta the poisoner; death of Claudius, accession of Nero with a donative to the praetorians

Book 13

Agrippina takes over, for a time, and with the assistance of Burrus and Seneca. Tacitus describes the great deeds of Corbulo in the east (compare Corbulo's disgust at being recalled by Claudius at 11.20).
1-2  First death: Junius Silanus (descendant of Augustus and brother of L. Silanus already destroyed); suicide of Narcissus
3-5  Seneca and Burrus maintain order vs Agrippina and Pallas; deification of Claudius; Nero's funeral oration, written by Seneca; Nero's promises to the senate and other arrangements
6-9  Parthian threat (accompanied by gossip); appointment of Corbulo
10-11  More on Nero, senate, and Seneca's speeches
12-23  Agrippina's waning influence, death of Britannicus, various plots; accusation (and acquittal) of Pallas and Burrus
24-29  Nero's escapades; senate's discussion of uppity freedmen; senate discussions, especially regarding running the treasury; an appearance by Helvidius Priscus, tr. pl.
30-33  Prosecutions of various officials; internal affairs of Nero's second consulship, the glorious mourning of Pomponia Graecina, other prosecutions, including that of Eprius Marcellus (acquitted)
34-41  Corbulo vs Parthia; his severity; his successes, for which Nero gets the credit
42-43  Condemndation of P. Suilius and abuse of Seneca
44  A crime of passion; the prepetrator, tr. pl., prosecuted after his year in office was over
45-46  Poppaea: her history, second marriage to Otho, conquest of Nero, who sends Otho to be governor of Lusitania
47  Accusation and exile of Cornelius Sulla
48-52  Administrative issues and senate debates: problems at Puteoli; a decree concerning Syracuse opposed by Thrasea Paetus; complaints about taxes and publication of tax tables and regulations
53-57  Germany, Belgica, Gaul; conflicts of various German peoples against each other
58  A final portent

Book 14

The need to destroy Agrippina's influence, followed swiftly by her permanent removal, opens the book, and the murder of Octavia ends it.
1-9  End of Agrippina
10-13  Nero's fears and justification (written by Seneca, who is blamed for a bad writing job), thanksgivings decreed by the senate and Thrasea Paetus walks out
14-16  Nero's return and worse behavior: driving a chariot, and singing; various ways of forcing others to share in his disgrace; time for poetry and philosophy also
17-21  Fighting between people of Nuceria and Pompeii; prosecution of Pedius Blaesus; (natural) deaths of Domitius Afer and M. Servilius; gossip about the new theatrical games
22  A comet appears and people speculate about Nero's successor, naming Rubellius Plautus (cf. 13.19-20 on a supposed plot between Agrippina and Rubellius Plautus); Nero advises Plautus to retire to his estates in Asia; Nero pollutes the source of the Aqua Marcia (aqueduct) by bathing in the spring
23-26  Corbulo's success in the east
27-28  Affairs of various cities and Tacitus' disapproval of the change in peopling of colonies; other internal matters
29-39  Suetonius Paulinus in Britain; women and Druids among the opponents; revolt in Britain under Boudica; eventual Roman victory followed by pacification of Paulinus
40-47  Crimes and scandals at Rome; speech of C. Cassius and execution of an entire household of slaves; prosecution of Tarquitius Priscus (cf. 12.59), death of Memmius Regulus
48-50  Prosecution of Antistius for writing and performing unflattering poetry about Nero; activity of Thrasea Paetus in mitigating punishment; cowardly behavior of A. Vitellius; prosecution of Veiento on a similar charge
51-56  Death of Burrus (poisoning suspected); appointment of Faenius Rufus and Sofonius Tigellinus as praetorian prefects; retirement of Seneca complete with speeches by Seneca and Nero
57-59  Tigellinus raises suspicions against Faenius Rufus; suggests and has accomplished the deaths of Sulla (cf. 13.47) and Plautus (cf. 14.22); senate offers thanksgivings
60-64  Nero divorces Octavia (twice) and marries Poppaea; has Octavia murdered; the usual thanksgivings, and an explanation of why Tacitus includes these in his narrative
65  Nero destroys two powerful freedmen, Doryphorus and Pallas

Book 15

The book opens with Parthian aggression and a fairly extensive account of the war and Corbulo's rivalry with his colleague Caesennius Paetus, briefly recounts the great fire at Rome, and ends with the conspiracy of Piso and its aftermath
1-18  Parthian war, including a loss suffered by Paetus
19  On fictitious adoptions
20-22  Prosecution of Claudius Timarchus of Crete; discussion of honors voted to Roman proconsuls, and a speech of Thrasea Paetus
23  Birth of Nero's and Poppaea's daughter; the child lived only 4 months; flattery for the birth and death; Nero's excessive joy and excessive grief (note insult to Thrasea Paetus)
24-31  Parthian difficulties over Armenia continue; Corbulo's measures and comparisons of Corbulo to Pompey and Lucullus
32-37  Internal affairs, including Nero's appearances on stage, an account of Vatinius the informer, the forced suicide of Torquatus Silanus; Nero's fears, parties, and show of marriage to Pythagoras (Nero playing the bride)
38-44  The fire, Nero's building of the Domus Aurea afterwards, and blaming the Christians
45-46  Financial ruin of Italy and the provinces; Seneca's Spartan diet; attempted rebellion of gladiators at Formiae
47  Prodigies, including appearance of a comet
48-74  Conspiracy of Piso; its discovery, the punishment of those involved and some not involved, most by death but some by banishment; the inevitable donatives to the soldiers and thanksgiving from the senate

Book 16

The book is not complete but what remains encompasses for the most part Nero's actions against prominent Stoics
1-3  The false dream and nonexistent gold of Caesellius Bassus (who ends the tale with voluntary suicide)
4-5  Quinquennial games; Senate attempts to forestall Nero's appearance on stage by offering him the prize in advance; Vespasian dozes off during the emperor's performance
6  Death of Poppaea
7-12  C. Cassius sent into exile; deaths of L. Silanus, L, Vetus and his mother-in-law Sextia and daughter Pollutia (cf. death of Rubellius Plautus his son-in-law at 14.58); P. Gallus exiled; renaming of months
13  Plague (but bringing ordinary deaths)
14-20  More deaths; Tacitus' disgust with the monotony and tedium of his account; special mention of C. Petronius
21-35  Nero takes aim at Thrasea Paetus and Barea Soranus, who are allowed to choose their own deaths, along with Soranus' daughter; Helvidius Priscus and Paconius are exiled; rewards for the prosecutors Eprius, Cossutianus, Ostorius

The Histories

Tacitus introduces his themes and most of the major players at the beginning; he does not describe the death of Nero and accession of Galba because those events belong to an account of the reign of Nero (not yet written, as Tacitus wrote the Annals after he wrote the Histories)

Book 1

1  Preface; "when Servius Galba was consul for the second time and Titus Vinius was his colleague" is echoed at the end of 1.11: "when Servius Galba, consul for the second time, and Titus Vinius his colleague, inaugurated the year which was their last, and almost the last for the commonwealth of Rome."
2-7  Reasons for Galba's unpopularity at Rome
      Human and natural disasters, like bad omens, followed by actual bad omens; the degeneracy of people and soldiers under Nero does not augur well; the year reveals the arcanum imperii (secret of empire); in section 6 the actual statement about the deaths of Cingonius Varro and Petronius Turpilianus is "unheard and undefended, like innocent men, they perished." Also in section 6 is first mention of Fabius Valens, who will be prominent in books 2 and 3
8-12  State of the provinces; especially noteworthy are the split in Gaul between haves and have-nots, the first mention of Verginius Rufus, mutiny in Germany
      In section 10 Tacitus introduces first Licinius Mucianus (with at least two neat sententiae) then Vespasian, and in section 11 Tiberius Alexander
13-19  Galba adopts Piso Licinianus; Galba's speech in sections 16-17; announcement first to army camp (most react sullenly because Galba gave no donative), then to senate (servile reaction, often false as well). Note bad omens and Tacitus' comments
20  Discussion of recovering money from Nero's favorites
21-44  Usurpation of Otho
      Otho's monologue arguing himself into treason; he is also urged on by his freedmen and slaves, and by astrologers, although Tacitus suspects (based on his courting of soldiers) he had long plotted against Galba; bad omens at Galba's sacrifice; Otho's usurpation and the reaction of most who knew about it; confusion and rumors; people demand action as if in the amphitheatre; deaths of Galba, Piso, and others
45  Servile reaction of the senate and people
46-47  Praetorians order affairs as they wish; celebrations end the day. First appearance of Flavius Sabinus (Vespasian's brother) in section 46
48-49  Epitaphs of Piso, T. Vinius, Galba
50  News of Vitellius' rebellion reaches Rome and everyone (even common people) panics, not sure if Otho or Vitellius is worse; they recall civil wars of the Republic and find this one worse; rumors about Vespasian and Tacitus' judgment
51-70  Origin and course of Vitellius' rebellion under leadership of Fabius Valens and Alienus Caecina
       Valens urges Vitellius to declare himself emperor; what he says of Verginius might equally be said of Vespasian; execution of loyal centurions; Vitellius' cause attracts Britain and Gaul. First mention of Julius Civilis in section 59. The threatened or actual mistreatment of various Gallic peoples (familiar to those who have read Caesar) speaks ill of Vitellius' army
71-75  Otho's energetic reaction (and exercise of clemency on Celsus; cf. 1.45); end of Tigellinus; Otho and Vitellius negotiate by letters and each tries to undermine the other's support, and to have the other assassinated
76  Balkan provinces recognize Otho, as do Vespasian and Mucianus, and the provinces of the east and Egypt
77-78  Otho bestows offices on those in Rome, and benefits on provinces and cities
79  Sarmatians take advantage of the situation to raid Moesia
80-85  Riotous behavior of soldiers in Rome; Otho sees the dilemma and gives a speech, but the problems will continue
86  Prodigies
87-90  Otho plans his attack; loses some of his most able supporters to slander (first mention of Suetonius Paulinus in 1.87); Otho leaves Rome

Book 2

1-7  Fortune introduces a new dynasty, and Tacitus begins with Titus, sent by his father to Galba, returning to the army, with a stop at Paphos
      Short digression on worship of Venus of Paphos; Titus consults the oracle and receives two answers, one private; Vespasian, Mucianus, what their soldiers want
8-9  The adventures and end of the false Nero
10  Vibius Crispus prosecutes the delator Annius Faustus
11-16  Extent and placement of Otho's forces, who treat some Italian towns like hostile foreign territory. First mention of Julius Classicus in 2.14; he will reappear in book 4
      In section 13 Otho's maritime troops attack the town of Albintimilium. In Agricola 7 he calls it Intimilii; Tacitus omits the personal connection of this incident
17-26  Caecina holds Italy north of the Po; various encounters with Otho's armies commanded by Vestricius Spurinna, Annius Gallus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Marius Celsus. A victory for Otho's side, but not complete (Tacitus passes on the common opinion that Suetonius Paulinus could have done better)
27-31  Flashback to disciplinary problems in Vitellian forces, rivalry between Fabius Valens and Caecina Alienus, the laxity required in civil war. In section 31 talk of mutual insults between generals leads to faults of Otho and Vitellius; cf. 1.50 where Tacitus says people believe that whichever of the two wins will turn out to be worse.
31-33  Otho's forces now united, Suetonius Paulinus offers advice to delay battle and wait for additional reinforcements from the provinces; the better generals agree, the worse, and Otho, disagree. Tacitus marks the decisions made here as the beginning of the end.
34-36  Battle at the Po River goes badly for the Othonians.
37-38  Tacitus' sources (not named) offered evidence that troops on both sides, unhappy with their emperors, thought about joining forces and looking for a better ruler; Tacitus does not believe this, nor that Suetonius Paulinus had ambitions of his own, mostly because he was too sensible. Section 38 is a famous summing-up of the degeneracy of a military society under its generals, from the time of Marius and Sulla.
39-40  Back to Otho's soldiers; better advice from better generals again ignored.
41-45  Battle near Bedriacum: hard fighting, great slaughter (in section 44 Tacitus observes that one cannot sell captives from a civil conflict). A loss for Otho's side; his men at first swear to fight on, then surrender to the Vitellians
46-50  Otho finally learns the news, discourages remaining forces from fighting again, takes measures to protect his supporters, and suicides. Example of Tacitean irony at end of section 48. The epitaph of Otho, and the story of the odd bird
51-55  Confusion, anger, rumors, and changes of heart in the aftermath. Verginius Rufus once more offered the empire. The dilemma of the senators who had accompanied Otho. An attack on Eprius Marcellus (his first appearnce in the Histories) in section 53. Amazing reaction at Rome (but they were celebrating a festival anyway).
56  Vitellian forces make a raid through Italy after their victory
57-60  Vitellius hears of Otho's death; promotes his freedman Asiaticus. Various administrators murdered in Mauretania, including Lucceius Albinus (encountered also in Josephus BJ, beginning of chapter 8, p. 149) and Asinius Pollio. Junius Blaesus helps Vitellius but has no joy of it (see 3.38-39). Execution of Otho's best centurions; trials of Suetonius Paulinus and Licinius Proculus, who acquit themselves of the crime of loyalty
61-72  Vitellius advances toward Rome and makes various dispositions of troops (especially some that had supported Otho)
      Mariccus rebels in Gaul but is suppressed; Cornelius Dolabella is put to death; Cluvius Rufus leaves Spain, his province; at one of Vitellius' dinner parties at Ticinum, where Verginius Rufus is a guest, the soldiers are angry; Vitellius inspects the battlefield at Bedriacum where so many dead have not yet been buried
73-86  Affairs in the east: Vespasian contemplates his situation while his supporters urge him on; Mucianus delivers a speech (sections 76-77); Vespasian contemplates divine signs, past and present; his salutation as emperor comes about and he is joined by Tiberius Alexander, Mucianus, various client kings including Agrippa and his sister Berenice; Vespasian goes to Egypt, leaving Titus at Jerusalem and Mucianus to take a number of legionary forces to Italy
      Tacitus has little good to say about Mucianus' and Vespasian's avarice (section 84) but is otherwise not hostile (cf. sections 80 and 82); armies of Illyricum join Vespasian; Tacitus introduces Antonius Primus (section 86) and describes his character
87-89  Vitellius' sloth contrasts with the opposition's energy; his progress through Italy to Rome is marked by his soldiers' treating everyone they encounter as an enemy and his entrance to Rome seem at first like that of a conqueror into a conquered city
90-91  Vitellius' self-eulogy that nobody would believe if anybody cared; Helvidius Priscus does not agree (first mention of this prominent person, one of the few surviving members of the so-called Stoic opposition). Very bad omen in Vitellius' choice of day to become pontifex maximus
92-101  The remaining chapters of the book detail Vitellius' problems with finances, with the military men, and with his generals. The soldiers from Germany grow soft and demoralized in Rome, and all soldiers seem to give up on military discipline of any sort. Caecina and Valens are openly hostile to each other and effectively sabotage anything Vitellius tries to do. There is little enthusiasm in the western provinces (some of which have military problems anyway) to support Vitellius. While Valens stays at Rome because of illness, Caecina leaves with the army to prepare against Vespasian, but evidently starts to plot to desert Vitellius. Lucilius Bassus, commander of the fleet in the Adriatic, does the same

Book 3

1-5  The book opens with the more vigorous plans of Vespasian's adherents. To this detailed narrative of the invasion of Italy, up to the retaking of Rome, cf. Josephus 4.630-654 (pp. 284-286 in the translation)
       Antonius Primus drives events and argues against delaying the invasion of Italy; Cornelius Fuscus (introduced at 2.86) is equally enthusiastic; deals with Sarmatians and Suebi to protect the borders during the invasion
6-7  The invasion of northern Italy; an initial small victory for Antonius; restoration of Galba's statues
8  Statement that Antonius' advance was contrary to the orders and plans of either Vespasian or Mucianus, who preferred waiting and cutting off supplies, to avoid bloodshed (Tacitus attributes another motive to Mucianus); Tacitus seems to absolve Antonius of disobedience
9-11  Near Verona, Caecina is in a good position but does not use it; he writes letters to Vespasian's commanders and they reply; meanwhile they keep getting reinforcements
       Introduction of Vipstanus Messala, an important figure in Flavian Rome (see the Dialogus), "who alone brought good arts to this war". The Pannonian and Moesian soldiers riot, suspicious of treachery, against Tampius Flavianus and Aponius Saturninus, the two governors. Antonius Primus is left in charge; he does seem to be able to control the troops, but Tacitus says some thought he encouraged the riots to rid himself of superiors.
12-14  Upsets among Vitellian forces: the fleet at Ravenna, under Lucilius Bassus, declares for Vespasian; Caecina addresses his officers and deserts Vitellius but the soldiers of the German army reverse his decision, arrest him, and march to Cremona
15-25  A great and long battle outside Cremona, near the earlier battle at Bedriacum, in several parts
       Antonius Primus distinguishes himself as a general, although at first he has to kill one of his own standard bearers to do it; he argues his soldiers out of trying an immediate nighttime assault on Cremona (so they can loot the city); arrival of six legions loyal to Vitellius who attack the Flavian troops although it is late at night; battle lasts all night and is marked by Flavian victory, and the killing of a father by his son

26-35  Capture and sack of Cremona. Fascinating reading

36-39  Vitellius dispatches Valens, then does little but receive news and react to it; Vitellius' much praised speech in the senate (senators avoid insulting Vespasian or his generals though); another one-day consulship; death of Junius Blaesus and the role of L. Vitellius (Vitellius' brother)
40-44  Valens' advance, lack of decisive action, misbehavior; he hears of the defeat at Cremona and forms a plan to go to Gaul and attack Italy from there, but is captured near Marseilles; the armies in Spain, provinces of Gaul, and Britain (less enthusiastically) support Vespasian
45-47  Insurrection in Britain: internal strife among Romans presents an opportunity; other problems break out in Germany (cf. 4.12 ff.), potential invasion of Dacians stopped by Mucianus; outbreaks of anti-Roman activity in Pontus, and at sea
48  Vespasian sends someone to deal with the pirates and Pontus, and hears of the victory at Cremona; he is anxious to arrive at Alexandria to cut off supply of grain to Rome, and to invade North Africa
49-53  Antonius Primus, feeling more secure, behaves much less well, vitiating military discipline and failing to worry about Mucianus; other signs of indiscipline and bad behavior by the military; growing animosity between Antonius and Mucianus, with letters sent to Vespasian.
54  Vitellius covers up news of Cremona and worse rumors spread; Vitellius kills his own spies; a faithful centurion, Julius Agrestis, investigates at Cremona, returns with a full report, and kills himself to gain credence
55-56  Vitellius wakes up, sends out some troops without a good general, gives protection of Rome to his brother L. Vitellius; then gives away many offices, immunities, grants of rights. At Mevania with the army there are a number of evil portents but Tacitus says the emperor himself is the worst of them
57  Due to an individual's daring, the fleet at Misenum becomes Vespasian's; some land forces also cause concern
58  L. Vitellius takes some soldiers to Campania to restore order; Vitellius is buoyed up by the shouts of the urban plebs. Vitellius attracts sympathy, not for himself but for his office; gradual desertion by senators and knights
59  Various parts of Italy choose to support Vespasian; first mention of Petilius Cerealis; Domitian and Flavius Sabinus could have escaped Rome but did not
60-63  Antonius Primus urges moderation and patience on his supporters; death and epitaph of Fabius Valens; Vitellius' troops surrender at Narnia
64-68  Senators confer with Flavius Sabinus, prefect of the city and brother of Vespasian; Vitellius attempts to abdicate after negotiation with Flavius Sabinus, but Vitellius' supports reject the arrangement
69-70  Flavius Sabinus and supporters seize the Capitol; Vitellius' supporters attack
71-76  Temple of Jupiter is burned down; Sabinus is captured; Domitian escapes and hides; death and epitaph of Sabinus
77-86  Antonius Primus hears the bad news while waiting for Sabinus, attacks Rome; death and epitaph of Vitellius; Domitian comes out of hiding

Book 4

1-3  Retribution and chaos at Rome
4  Mucianus writes to the senate; senators shower honors on him, Antonius Primus, and even thank the gods
5-8  The quarrel between Helvidius Priscus and Eprius Marcellus the informer
9-10  Financial problems; trial of the informer Celer
11  Mucianus arrives and draws power from Antonius Primus
12-37  Revolt in Germany
38  Worries at Rome over food supply and factional spirit mar the new year
39-40  Julius Frontinus, praetor urbanus, resigns so Domitian can hold the office; Domitian addresses the senate; Mucianus manages Antonius Primus with praise and promises
41-43  Senators take an interesting oath; accusations and counter-accusations (note Curtius Montanus); Helvidius Priscus attacks Eprius Marcellus once again
44-46  Domitian and Mucianus speak in terms of an amnesty; Mucianus deals with the disbanded soldiers (previously fighting for Vitellius)
47  Sabinus receives a censor's funeral
48-50  L. Piso, proconsul of Africa, attempts usurpation (or is thought to attempt it) and is killed
51-52  Vespasian hears the news from Italy, leaves Titus in charge of the siege of Jerusalem, and sets out for Rome; Titus puts in a plea for the sake of his brother

Book 5

Tacitus foretells the end of Jerusalem and relates the history of the Jewish people, as he knows it
1  Titus is in charge of the siege of Jerusalem; his forces, supporters, and moderate behavior
2  Origin of the Jewish people
3-5  Departure of the Jews from Egypt; leadership of Moses; description of their religious practices
6-8  Geographical description of their territory and the history of its conquest by other nations
9-10  Pompey and Jerusalem; subsequent dealings with the Romans
11-13  Difficulty of siege; fortifications of the city; prophecies and unexpiated prodigies


Tacitus introduces the biography of his father-in-law, Cn. Julius Agricola (40-93), with a lament for the loss of literature attendant upon the loss of freedom under Domitian
1-3  Justification of the undertaking and captatio benevolentiae; memories of book-burning when the praises of Thrasea Paetus and Helvidius Priscus were taken out of circulation; praise of Nerva and Trajan and apology for the length of time it has taken literary spirits (those few left) to recover
4  Agricola's birth; loss of his father under Caligula; upbringing by his mother in Massilia
5  First military service in Britain under Suetonius Paulinus (cf. Annals 14.29-39)
6  At Rome, marriage, early offices
7-8  Murder of his mother by people serving with Otho's fleet; Agricola give allegiance to Vespasian; Mucianus puts him in command of the 20th legion; service in Britain under Vettius Bolanus and Petilius Cerealis
9  Vespasian makes Agricola a patrician, and governor of Aquitania; his excellent service of three years, and his outstanding character; serves as consul and afterwards marries his daughter to Tacitus
10-12  Geographic and ethnographic excursus on Britain
13-15  History of Roman contact with and domination of Britain from the time of Julius Caesar; note role of Vespasian during the reign of Claudius until the time of Suetonius Paulinus as governor
16  The rebellion of Boudica, during which Agricola arrives; subsequent governors and their vicissitudes
17  Vespasian recovers Britain under Petilius Cerealis and then Sex. Julius Frontinus
18-23  Agricola's tenure as governor of Britain; military success and moderation in administration; encourages building, civic life, and Romanitas
24-27  Circumnavigation of Britain, Agricola's statement about ease of conquering Ireland; problems with Caledonia
28  Escape and misbehavior, then misadventures, of German conscripts to the Roman army
29-32  Agricola presses on the attack towards the north; opposition led by Galgacus, who has a fairly long speech
33-34  Agricola's speech
35-38  Battle of mons Graupius (a Roman victory) and its aftermath
39-40  Domitian's jealous reaction; possibly including a false offer of Syria to Agricola, who returns to Rome
41-42  Amid gossip and plots, Agricola lives quietly in retirement (to the end of section 40, cf. Annals 4.20)
43  Illness and death of Agricola
44-46  Eulogy, list of horrors that Agricola did not have to see, along with the brighter age that he also missed


The dramatic date of this dialogue is 75/76 CE (see section 17). It begins as a discussion of the pros and cons of writing poetry vs practicing as an orator, but soon becomes a criticism of oratory and political freedom.
1-4  Introduction of the situation and participants: Curiatius Maternus, M. Aper, Julius Secundus
5-10  Speech of Aper on the value and benefits of oratory (usually equated with pleading in court)
11-13  Maternus' rebuttal
14  Vipstanus Messalla enters, praises older orators
15-23  Aper disagrees and argues that newer orators are superior
24-27  Messalla's refutation on both stylistic and moral grounds; Maternus cedes the point and asks Messalla to explain why oratory has declined since the time of Cicero
28-41  The discussion contains a lacuna (see end of section 35) but covers matters such as teaching (teachers and parents as well as students come in for criticism), less value given to learning and the importance of broad learning for a good orator, but especially the impetus given to oratory by political strife

Last updated: 22 November 2009
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