Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Annals

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ANNALS (Annales, from annus, a year), a concise historical record in which events are arranged chronologically, year by year. The chief source of information in regard to the annals of ancient Rome is a passage in Cicero (De Oratore, ii. 12, 52), which has been the subject of much discussion. He states that from the earliest period down to the pontificate of Publius Mucius Scajvola (circa 131 B.C.), it was usual for the Pontifex Maximus to record the events of each year on a white tablet (album), which was exhibited in an open place at his house, so that the people might read it. These records were called in Cicero's time the Annales Maximi. After the pontificate of Publius, the practice of compiling annals was carried on by various unofficial writers, of whom Cicero names Cato, Pictor, and Piso. The Annales have been generally regarded as the same with the Commentarii Pontijicum cited by Livy, but there seems reason to believe that the two were distinct, the Commentarii being fuller and more circumstantial. The nature of the distinction between annals and history is a subject that has received more attention from critics than its intrinsic importance deserves. The basis of dis cussion is furnished chiefly by the above quoted passage from Cicero, and by the common division of the work of Tacitus into Annales and Historian. Aulus Gellius, in the Nodes AtticoB (v. 18), quotes the grammarian Verrius Flaccus, to the effect that history, according to its etymology (ia-Toptiv,inspicere, to inquire in person), is a record of events that have come under the author s own observation, while annals are a record of the events of earlier times arranged according to years. This view of the distinction seems to be borne out by the division of the work of Tacitus into the Historic, relating the events of his own time, and the Annales, containing the history of earlier periods. It is more than questionable, however, whether Tacitus himself divided his work under these titles. The probability is, either that he called the whole Annales, or that he used neither designation. (See Tacitus.) So far as the dis tinction between annals and history is real, it seems to arise out of the more restricted conditions imposed upon the annalist as compared with the historian. A narrative strictly aunalistic must necessarily be a mere register of isolated facts, and not a record of historical processes. Confined at each stage within the narrow limit of a single year, it cannot trace the progress of events or exhibit their connection and interdependence, as is done in history. (See on this subject an ingenious though somewhat fanciful paper by Niebuhr contributed to the liheinisches Museum, and translated by Thirlwall in the Cambridge Philological Museum, vol. ii.) In modern literature the title annals has been given to a large number of standard works which adhere more or less strictly to the order of years. The best known are Grotius s Annales et Historia de Rebus Belgicis (Arnst. 1557), written in imitation of Tacitus; Baronius s Annales Ecclesiastici, comprising the first twelve centuries of the Christian era; Hailes s Annals of Scotland from the Accession of Malcolm III. to the Accession of tlie Home of Stuart; Chambers s Domestic Annals of Scotland; and the Annales de Chimie, founded in 1789 by Lavoisier and others, and continued, with two interruptions, down to the present time.