Tacitus' Annales (Latin), probably written between 110 and 117 AD, deal with virtue and vice through an account and analysis of the Julio-Claudian period from the death of Augustus and acession of Tiberius to the end of Nero's reign. Tacitus' prime purpose in Annales is to make a judgment on the moral condition of imperial Rome -- in particular, the corruption of politics and power which leads to tyranny and despotism.

Written after several tyrannical years under the emperor Domitian, many of Tacitus' tales seem to project many sentiments against absolutism and abuse of power upon the reign of Tiberius. These books cover the period from "The first crime of the new reign..." in Book I to the end of Book VI, where Tacitus describes the emperor as "having plunged into every wickedness and disgrace," signaling the lowest moral point and the end of Tiberius' rule. Likewise, Tacitus is critical of Claudius for his apathy towards his wife Messalina's misdeeds and extramarital affiars, and of Nero, who had been corrupted and enraptured by so much of the Greek culture that Tacitus despises.

In the Annales, Tacitus also seems to criticize the policy of non-expansion, which was started by Augustus and continued until the time of Trajan. At the opening of Book IV, Tacitus makes excuses for his own writing, that it cannot be compared with the writings of Rome "in old days" when they wrote about "great wars, of the storming of cities..." instead of Tacitus' labors, "circumscribed and inglorious." His description of a miserable empire and "an emperor careless about the enlargement of the empire" argue for his belief in imperialism, that conquest is beneficial to the Romans morally by building peoples' characters and focusing their attentions outward rather than into civil strife.

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