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Tacitus: Annals: Book 4

4. The Structure of Book 4: The Annalistic Structure

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About this Lecture


In this module, we focus on a third aspect of the structure of the Annals—namely, its annalistic structure, or division into years. In particular, we think about the suitability of a year-by-year structure when describing a political system in which officials are elected on a yearly basis (i.e. the Roman Republic) and the tensions that emerge when this inherently Republican structure is used to describe the workings of the Roman Principate.


In this course, Dr Ed Bispham (University of Oxford) explores Book 4 of Tacitus’ Annals. As we move through the course, we think about the position of Book 4 in the Annals as a whole, the structure of the book itself, the character of Sejanus, and the idea of Tacitus as a historian. Does he really write, as he himself claims, ‘sine ira et studio’ (without anger or prejudice’)? What, in his mind, is the purpose of his Annals? And what is the purpose of history as a whole?


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.

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APA style

Bispham, E. (2018, August 15). Tacitus: Annals: Book 4 - The Structure of Book 4: The Annalistic Structure [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bispham, E. "Tacitus: Annals: Book 4 – The Structure of Book 4: The Annalistic Structure." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,

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