The Annals & the Histories
Publication Date: April 8, 2003
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Cornelius Tacitus brilliantly chronicles the moral decline and rampant civil unrest in the Roman Empire in a period when the earliest foundations of modern Europe were being laid. The Annals commence in a.d. 14, at the death of Augustus, recounting the reigns of Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula), Claudius, and Nero, and conclude in a.d. 68, the year of Nero’s suicide. The Histories document the tumultuous year a.d. 69, when Emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all perished in quick succession, ushering in Vespasian’s ten-year reign. According to historian Will Durant, “[We must] rank Tacitus among the greatest. . . . The portraits he draws stand out more clearly, stride the stage more livingly than any others in historical literature.” This Modern Library Paperback Classic includes newly commissioned endnotes.
S. J. V. Malloch is Lecturer in Roman History at the Department of Classics, University of Nottingham.
AESCHYLUS: A complete fifth-century Athenian, he was the creator of her proudest artistic achievement, tragedy. By using more than one actor he changed the form of plays from recited poetry to true dramatic dialogue, thereby making possible the sweeping grandeur of his great trilogy, THE ORESTEIA.<br><br>SOPHOCLES: The most popular tragedian of the Golden Age, he expanded the scope of classic drama by his technical innovations and lyric intensity, leaving the world such masterpieces as ANTIGONE and OEDIPUS THE KING, the play Aristotle called the perfect model of Greek tragedy.<br><br>EURIPIDES: A prolific author, Euripides wrote some one hundred plays. In contrast to his contemporaries, he brought an exciting-and, to the Greeks, a stunning-realism to the "pure and noble" form of tragedy. His influence altered drama forever, and he is regarded today as the originator of modern dramatic sensibility.<br><br>ARISTOPHANES: The most famous comic playwright of ancient Greece, he wrote what are now the only extant representative of Greek Old Comedy. His three outstanding characteristics-gross obscenity, exquisite lyricism, and a serious concern for decency and morality-may seem a strange combination to the modern reader. Aristophanes is still regarded by modern audiences as a master of risqué wit and brilliant comic invention.