What were Tacitus' reasons for writing the Annals? 

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The overall message of Tacitus, in the Annals, appears to be the same as the one articulated by Lord Acton some nineteen centuries later—that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Tacitus sees the dissolution of the Roman Republic as a tragedy, partly because he regards the Republican system as having been ideal for Rome, but also because human weakness and folly prevent any single leader from wielding power properly—especially given the immorality of most of the Julio-Claudian family which took over the Roman government beginning with Augustus in 27 BCE. Tacitus's purpose in writing the Annals is thus to give a clear presentation of the facts, without the kind of reliance on rumor and gossip that marks, say, Suetonius's account of the same period, but also to attempt explaining why things went so wrong during the hundred years or so after the assassination of Julius Caesar and the Civil War that followed it.

Though Augustus himself was a competent leader and basically a...

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