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Tacitus: Annals: Book 15

2. The Life of Nero: 54 - 62 AD

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About this Lecture


In this module, Ed looks at the first half of Nero's reign, a period in which Nero was a relatively stable ruler. He was well-advised by his tutor, Seneca, and the commander of the Praetorian Guard, Burrus. When Burrus dies in 62 AD, however, he is replaced by the altogether less scrupulous Tigellinus - a changing of the guard that may be seen as a turning point in Nero's life.


In this course, Dr Ed Bispham (University of Oxford) explores Book 15 of Tacitus' Annals. We begin by considering Tacitus as a historian. How does he construct his history, and how much can we trust him? We then give a general overview of Nero's life and times, from his accession to the throne in the mid-50s AD to his death in 68 AD. Finally, we look at the three main episodes of Book 15 of the Annals: the conflict with the Parthians in Armenia, the Great Fire of Rome, and the Pisonian Conspiracy.


Ed is interested in all areas of antiquity, the classical world and its interlocutors. At Oxford, he teaches most ancient history papers. For the past decade and a bit more he has been thinking about how historians should and can use archaeological data, and vice versa. He has been very lucky to be able to go to the mountains in central Italy and think about this while other people shovel large amounts of soil around. Currently he is chairman of the Sub-Faculty of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology: his present project involves trying to find out what this means in practice.

His research interests fall broadly into three categories at the moment: the history, archaeology and epigraphy of Italy, especially the impact of the Roman conquest; the political and cultural history of the Roman Republic; early Roman historiography. He is Co-Director of the Sangro Valley Project (Phase II), with Prof. Susan Kane, of Oberlin College, Ohio.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Bispham, E. (2018, August 15). Tacitus: Annals: Book 15 - The Life of Nero: 54 - 62 AD [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bispham, Ed. "Tacitus: Annals: Book 15 – The Life of Nero: 54 - 62 AD." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,