LAT30200 Tacitus Histories

Academic Year 2023/2024

This module focuses on Tacitus' ‘Histories’, to be studied in the original Latin. Tacitus was one of the finest writers of Latin prose, and in the surviving sections of his ‘Histories’ he begins with the death of Nero in A.D. 68 and offers a detailed narrative of the civil war and imperial power struggles of A.D. 69, the Year of the Four Emperors which ended with the accession of Vespasian. Focusing on the reign of Nero’s successor, the emperor Galba, students will be invited to assess the literary qualities of the work and to evaluate it as a historical source against the backdrop of Roman imperial politics. The module is suitable for students who have studied the Latin language for at least two years. It is open to programme students in Latin and also to elective, international, and postgraduate students with knowledge of Latin.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students will:
– have developed their Latin reading skills;
– have developed their understanding of the history of the period ;
– be able to produce well-argued written work that engages with the original Latin text and with modern scholarship on Tacitus.

Indicative Module Content:

The sections of Tacitus, Histories, Book 1 that will be read in Latin are Chapters 1-50 (up to the death of the emperor Galba).

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In-class translation of the set text, students having prepared sections in advance, with focus on the Latin sentence structure, and translating into accurate and idiomatic English. Class discussion will also focus on points of historical interest, e.g. politics, civil war, and imperialism; the literary qualities of Tacitus' style; and his approaches as a historian. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Requirements:

Students taking this module should have studied Latin for at least two years.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
LAT40010 - Advanced Latin Texts

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Commentary/Source Analysis 1500-2000 words Week 9 n/a Graded No


Examination: Final Examination (translation and essay) 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer Yes - 1 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

- Detailed written feedback on coursework assignment using School template.

Set text:
Tacitus, Histories Book 1, edited by Cynthia Damon (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Further Reading:
R. Ash, Ordering Anarchy: Armies and Leaders in Tacitus’ Histories, London 1999.
R. Ash, Tacitus, London 2006.
A R. Birley, ‘The life and death of Cornelius Tacitus’, Historia 49 (2000) 230-47.
C. Damon, Tacitus, Histories Book 1, Cambridge 2003.
M. G. Morgan, 69 AD: The Year of the Four Emperors, Oxford 2006.
R. Syme, ‘How Tacitus Came to History’, Greece & Rome 4 (1957) 160-167.
R. Syme, Tacitus, Oxford 1958.
A. J. Woodman (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Tacitus, Cambridge 2009.