The Histories (Penguin Classics) - Tacitus 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.