Annalists is the name given to a class of writers on Roman history
History of Rome
The history of Rome spans 2,800 years of the existence of a city that grew from a small Italian village in the 9th century BC into the centre of a vast civilisation that dominated the Mediterranean region for centuries. Its political power was eventually replaced by that of peoples of mostly...

, the period of whose literary activity lasted from the time of the Second Punic War
Second Punic War
The Second Punic War, also referred to as The Hannibalic War and The War Against Hannibal, lasted from 218 to 201 BC and involved combatants in the western and eastern Mediterranean. This was the second major war between Carthage and the Roman Republic, with the participation of the Berbers on...

 to that of Sulla. They wrote the history of Rome from the earliest times (in most cases) down to their own days, the events of which were treated in much greater detail. Annalists were different from historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

s, in that an annalist was more likely to just record events for reference purposes, rather than offering their own opinions of events. There is, however, some overlap between the two categories and sometimes annalist is used to refer to both styles of writing from the Roman era.

Different generations

For the earlier period, the authorities of annalists were to record state and family records—above all, the annales maximi
Annales maximi
The Annales maximi were annals kept by the Pontifex maximus in the Roman Republic. The chief priest of the Capitoline would record key public events and the names of each of the magistrates...

(or annales pontificum), the official chronicle of Rome, in which the notable occurrences of each year from the foundation of the city were set down by the Pontifex Maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

. Although these annals were no doubt destroyed at the time of the burning of Rome by the Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

, they were restored as far as possible and continued until the pontificate of P. Mucius Scaevola
Mucius Scaevola
Mucius Scaevola is the name of:* Gaius Mucius Scaevola, a legendary hero at the beginning of the Roman Republic* Quintus Mucius Scaevola , praetor 215 BC and gernor of Sardinia* Quintus Mucius Scaevola , consul 174 BC...

, by whom they were finally published in eighty books.

Two generations of these annalists have been distinguished—an older and a younger. The older, which extends to 150 BCE, set forth, in bald, unattractive language, without any pretensions to style, but with a certain amount of trustworthiness, the most important events of each successive year. Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 (De Oratore, ii. 12. 53), comparing these writers with the old Ionic logographers, says that they paid no attention to ornament, and considered the only merits of a writer to be intelligibility and conciseness. Their annals were a mere compilation of facts.

The younger generation, in view of the requirements and criticism of a reading public, cultivated the art of composition and rhetorical embellishment. As a general rule the annalists wrote in a spirit of uncritical patriotism, which led them to minimize or gloss over such disasters as the conquest of Rome by Porsena and the compulsory payment of ransom to the Gauls, and to flatter the people by exaggerated accounts of Roman prowess, dressed up in fanciful language. At first they wrote in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, partly because a national style was not yet formed, and partly because Greek was the fashionable language amongst the educated, although Latin versions were probably published as well.

The first of the annalists, the father of Roman history, as he has been called, was Q. Fabius Pictor
Quintus Fabius Pictor
Quintus Fabius Pictor was one of the earliest Roman historians and considered the first of the annalists. A member of the Fabii gens, he was the grandson of Gaius Fabius Pictor, a painter . He was a senator who fought against the Gauls in 225 BC, and against Carthage in the Second Punic War...

; contemporary with him was Lucius Cincius Alimentus
Lucius Cincius Alimentus
Lucius Cincius Alimentus was a celebrated Roman annalist and jurist, who was praetor in Sicily in 209 BC, with the command of two legions. He wrote principally in Greek. He and Fabius Pictor are considered the first two Roman historians, though both wrote in Greek as a more conventionally...

, who flourished during the Hannibalic war (not to be confused with L. Cincius, the author of various political and antiquarian treatises (de Fastis, de Comitiis, de Priscis Verbis), who lived in the Augustan age
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, to which period Mommsen
Mommsen is a surname, and may refer to one of a family of German historians, see Mommsen family:* Theodor Mommsen , great classical scholar, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature* Tycho Mommsen...

, considering them a later fabrication, refers the Greek annals of L. Cincius Alimentus). Like Fabius Pictor, he wrote in Greek. He was taken prisoner by Hannibal (Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 xxi. 38), who is said to have given him details of the crossing of the Alps. His work embraced the history of Rome from its foundation down to his own days. With M. Porcius Cato
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

 historical composition in Latin began, and a livelier interest was awakened in the history of Rome.

Notable writers

Among the principal writers of this class who succeeded Cato, the following may be mentioned:
  • L. Cassius Hemina
    Lucius Cassius Hemina
    Lucius Cassius Hemina, Roman annalist, composed his annals in the period between the death of Terence and the revolution of the Gracchi.He wrote in Latin around 146 BC, including the earliest chronicle concerning the career of Mucius Scaevola....

     (about 146 BCE), in the fourth book of his Annals, wrote on the Second Punic War. His researches went back to very early times; Pliny
    Pliny the Elder
    Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

     (Nat. Hist. xiii. 13 [27]) calls him vetustissimus auctor annalium.
  • L. Calpurnius Piso
    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (consul 133 BC)
    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi was a Roman consul in 133 BC, historian and representative of older Roman annalists. He was of plebeian origin....

    , surnamed Frugi, wrote seven books of annals, relating the history of the city from its foundation down to his own times. Livy regards him as a less trustworthy authority than Fabius Pictor, and Niebuhr
    Niebuhr is a German surname.* Barthold Georg Niebuhr, 19th century German statesman and historian* Carsten Niebuhr, 18th century German traveller, explorer and surveyor, and father of Barthold Georg Niebuhr * Reinhold Niebuhr and H. Richard Niebuhr, brothers and American Christian scholars...

     considers him the first to introduce systematic forgeries into Roman history.
  • Q. Claudius Quadrigarius
    Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius
    Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius, Roman annalist, living probably in the 1st century BC, wrote a history, in at least twenty-three books, which began with the conquest of Rome by the Gauls and went on to the death of Sulla or perhaps later....

     (about 80 BCE) wrote a history, in at least twenty-three books, which began with the conquest of Rome by the Gauls and went down to the death of Sulla or perhaps later. He was freely used by Livy in part of his work (from the sixth book onwards). A long fragment is preserved in Aulus Gellius
    Aulus Gellius
    Aulus Gellius , was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome, where he held a judicial office...

     (ix. 13), giving an account of the single combat between Manlius Torquatus and the Gaul. His language was antiquated and his style dry, but his work was considered important.
  • Valerius Antias
    Valerius Antias
    Valerius Antias was an ancient Roman annalist whom Livy mentions as a source. No complete works of his survive but from the sixty-five fragments said to be his in the works of other authors it has been deduced that he wrote a chronicle of ancient Rome in at least seventy-five books...

    , a younger contemporary of Quadrigarius, wrote the history of Rome from the earliest times, in a voluminous work consisting of seventy-five books. He is notorious for his wilful exaggeration, both in narrative and numerical statements. For instance, he asserts the number of the Sabine virgins to have been exactly 527; again, in a certain year when no Greek or Latin writers mention any important campaign, Antias speaks of a big battle with enormous casualties. Nevertheless, Livy at first made use of him as one of his chief authorities, until he became convinced of his untrustworthiness.
  • G. Licinius Macer
    Licinius Macer
    Gaius Licinius Macer was an official and annalist of ancient Rome.A member of the ancient plebeian gens Licinia, he was tribune in 73 BC; Sallust mentions him agitating for the people's rights...

     (died 66 CE), who has been called the last of the annalists, wrote a voluminous work, which, although he paid great attention to the study of his authorities, was too rhetorical, and exaggerated the achievements of his own family. Having been convicted of extortion, he committed suicide (Cicero, De Legibus, i. 2, Brutus, 67; Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Cicero, 9).

Other annalists

The writers mentioned dealt with Roman history as a whole; some of the annalists, however, confined themselves to shorter periods:
  • L. Coelius Antipater
    Lucius Coelius Antipater
    Lucius Coelius Antipater was a Roman jurist and historian. He is not to be confused with Coelius Sabinus, the Coelius of the Digest. He was a contemporary of C. Gracchus ; L...

     (about 120 BCE) limited himself to the Second Punic War. His work was overloaded with rhetorical embellishment, which he was the first to introduce into Roman history. He was regarded as the most careful writer on the war with Hannibal, and one who did not allow himself to be blinded by partiality in considering the evidence of other writers (Cicero, De Oratore, ii. 12). Livy made great use of him in his third decade.
  • Sempronius Asellio
    Sempronius Asellio
    Publius Sempronius Asellio was an early Roman historian and one of the first writers of historiographic work in Latin. He was a military tribune of P. Scipio Aemilianus Africanus at the siege of Numantia in Hispania in 134 B.C. Later he joined the circle of writers centred around Scipio Aemilianus...

     (about 100 BCE), military tribune of Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus
    Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

     at the siege of Numantia
    Numantia is the name of an ancient Celtiberian settlement, whose remains are located 7 km north of the city of Soria, on a hill known as Cerro de la Muela in the municipality of Garray....

    , composed Rerum Gestarum Libri in at least fourteen books. As he himself took part in the events he describes, his work was a kind of memoirs. He was the first of his class who endeavoured to trace the causes of events, instead of contenting himself with a bare statement of facts.
  • L. Cornelius Sisenna
    Lucius Cornelius Sisenna
    Lucius Cornelius Sisenna was a Roman soldier, historian, and annalist. He was killed in action during Pompey's campaign against pirates after the Third Mithridatic War. Sisenna had been commander of the forces on the coast of Greece....

     (119–67), legate of Pompey
    Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

     in the war against the pirates, lost his life in an expedition against Crete
    Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

    . He wrote twenty-three books on the period between the Social War and the dictatorship of Sulla. His work was commended by Sallust
    Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust , a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines...

     (Jugurtha, 95), who, however, blames him for not speaking out sufficiently. Cicero remarks upon his fondness for archaisms (Brutus, 74. 259). Sisenna also translated the tales of Aristides of Miletus, and is supposed by some to have written a commentary on Plautus
    Titus Maccius Plautus , commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus...

    . The autobiography of Sulla may also be mentioned.
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