ANNALS, in Latin Annales, is de rived from anus, a year. Cicero, in his second book, ' On an Orator' (De Oratore, 12), informs us, that from the commencement of the Roman state down to the time of Publius Mucius, it was the custom for the Pontifex Maximus annu ally to commit to writing the transactions of the past year, and to exhibit the ac count publicly on a tablet (in alto) at his house, where it might be read by the people. Mucius was Pontifex Maximus in the beginning of the seventh century from the foundation of Rome. These are the registers, Cicero adds, which we now call the Annales Maximi,' the great annals. It is probable that these annals are the same which are frequently re ferred to by Livy under the title of the Commentarii Pontifieum,' and by Diony sins under that of iipal Wenn, or Sacred Tablets.' Cicero, both-in the passage just quoted, and in another in his first book On Laws' (De Legibus), speaks of them as extremely brief and meagre documents. It may, however, be inferred from what he says, that parts of them at least were still in existence in his time, and some might be of considerable an tiquity. Livy says (vi. 1) that most of the Pontifical Commentaries were lost at the burning of the city after its capture by the Gauls. It is evident, however, that they were not in Livy's time to be found in a perfect state even from the date of that event (B.c. 390); for he is often in doubt as to the succession of magistrates in subsequent periods, which it is scarcely to be supposed he could have been, if a complete series of these annals had been preserved.
The word annals, however, was also used by the Romans in a general sense ; and it has been much disputed what was the true distinction between annals and history. Cicero, in the passage in his work De Oratore,' says, that the first narrators of public events, both among the Greeks and Romans, followed the same mode of writing with that in the Annales Maximi ;' which he further describes as consisting in a mere statement of facts briefly and without ornament. In his work De Legibus' he characterizes his tory as something distinct from this, and of which there was as yet no example in the Latin language. It belongs, he says, to the highest class of oratorical composi tion (" opus oratorium maxime").
This question has been considerably perplexed by the division which is com monly made of the historical works of Tacitus, into books of Annals and books called Histories. As what are called his Annals' are mainly occupied with events which happened before he was born, while in his History' he relates those of his own time, some critics have laid it down as the distinction between history and annals, that the former is a narration of what the writer has himself seen, or at least been contemporary with, and the latter of trans actions which had preceded his own day.
Aulus Gellius (v.18), in his discussion on the difference between Annals and History, says that some consider that both History and Annals are a record of events, but that History is properly a narrative of such events as the narrator has been an eye-witness of. He adds that Verrius Flaccus, who states that some people hold this opinion, doubts about its soundness, though Verrius thinks that it may derive some support from the fact that, in Greek, History (Irrropla) properly signifies the obtaining of the knowledge of present events. But Gellius considers that all annals are histories, though all histories are not annals ; just as all men are ani mals, but all animals are not men. Accordingly Histories are considered to be the exposition or showing forth of events ; Annals, to contain the events of several successive years, each event being assigned to its year. The distinction which the historian Sempronius Asellio made is this, as quoted by Gellius "Between those who had intended to leave annals, and those who had at tempted to narrate the acts of the Roman people, there was this difference :—Annals only affected to show what events took place in each year, a labour like that of those who write diaries, which the Greeks call Ephemerides. To us it seemed appropriate not merely to state what had been done, but also with what design and on what principle it had been done." Accordingly Annals are materials for History. [HisTonr.1 Tacitus has himself in one passage in timated distinctly what he himself under stood annals to be, as distinguished from history. In his Annals' (commonly so called) iv. 71, he states his reason for not giving the continuation and conclusion of a particular narrative which he had com menced, to be simply the necessity under which he had laid himself by the form of composition he had adopted of relating events strictly in the order of time, and always finishing those of one year before entering upon those of another. The sub stance of his remark is, that "the nature of his work required him to Five each particular under the year in which it ac tually happened." This, then, was what Tacitus conceived to be the task which he had undertaken as a writer of annals, "to keep everything to its year." Had he been writing a history (and in the in stance quoted above, he insinuates he had the inclination, if not the ability, for once to act the historian), he would have con sidered himself at liberty to pursue the narrative he was engaged with to its close, not stopping until he bad related the whole. But remembering that he pro fessed to be no more than an annalist, he restrains himself, and feels it to be his business to keep to the events of the year.