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In all of Roman history there was never a more turbulent year than A.D. 69, the ill-omened "Year of the Three Emperors". By some miracle, the greatest historian of the age, Tacitus, was able to chronicle those momentous events in a work he called
The History. In its pages are some of the most memorable events of Roman history described in some of the most intensely passionate prose ever devised. Tacitus was a genius of the highest rank and his searing epigrammatic style has never been equaled, nor put to greater use.
The History opens with the events following the assassination of Nero. Galba, an elderly senator of noble lineage, is the first to claim the crown. But his reign is short...only one month. Civil war immediately breaks out. Defying him is the rakish Otho, an aristocrat of singularly corrupt morals, both in his public and private life. Since the troops favor him over Galba, they murder the old emperor and elevate Otho. But Otho, in the mistaken belief that his troops have deserted him, cannot keep the throne in the face of Vitellius' emerging challenge and he commits suicide rather than face war. Vitellius, as corrupt and weak as his predecessor, is challenged in his turn by a successful general who has been proclaimed emperor by his own troops in Egypt, Vespasian. As civil unrest spirals out of control in Italy, renewed war breaks out in Germany, Illyria, and Judaea. As it turns out, Vespasian is the only man who can command the kind of respect and loyalty to keep the tottering empire on its feet.
This production uses the famous translation by Church and Brodribb, considered the finest in the English language.
The Complete Works of Tacitus continues in Volume 4 with three short works: "The Life of Agricola", "Germany and its Tribes", and "The Dialogue on Oratory".