from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Melker annals in Melk Abbey

Annalen ( Latin (libri) annales , to: annus = year) is an educational plural word for chronological records of important incidents and events of a year. The term annals is also often used for annual reports, historical works and as the title of journals - for example, the Annales d'histoire économique et sociale and the Annalen der Physik .


The word annals ( plural ) stands for “year books, records sorted by year”. The Latin annālēs has the same meaning , which would have to be added to librī ("books") and is a noun plural of the adjective Latin annālis ' lasting a year, concerning the year' (from Latin annus , "year"). This Latin name was adopted unchanged in German texts in the first half of the 16th century. Occasionally, the Germanized form of annals appears at the same time , which has only been customary since the 18th century.


Ancient Orient and Egypt

Historical records for annual events can already be found in ancient oriental times. The Assyrian annals, which were written on behalf of the respective king and were intended to record his deeds for posterity , are particularly well known . The first Assyrian annals are for the 14th century BC. BC and were initially kept very brief, but developed over time to more detailed descriptions.

Such historical records are also documented for ancient Egypt (see e.g. King Annals of the Old Kingdom ).


Before the literary Roman historiography, the highest priest in Rome (pontifex maximus) wrote down the most important events of each year (including the price of grain, solar and lunar eclipses) on plaster-covered wooden tablets. They were called annales maximi and annales pontificum maximorum , respectively . This tradition was kept up into the Gracchen era . The annales maximi were structured in strict chronological order and mostly consisted of short main clauses. This style was mainly retained by the first literary annalists.

Older annals

The older annalists first wrote in Greek. The first of them was Quintus Fabius Pictor . It described the First and Second Punic Wars and served as a source for the Greek historian Polybius and the famous Roman historian Livy . Pictor mixes truth and mythology. However, this was a popular form of representation with the annalists, especially the older ones.

After Marcus Porcius Cato founded Latin prose with his non-annalist work Origines , the annalists soon wrote in Latin (from the Gracchi period). Worth mentioning are the names Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi , Sempronius Asellio , and Lucius Coelius Antipater . The latter is clearly differentiated from the others. His work has no political or moral claim. Rather, he attaches great importance to an appealing style. His portrayal of the Second Punic War is therefore also referred to as an “epic in prose”.

Younger annals

In the 1st century BC the annalists wrote more extensively and embellished their works more strongly. Three representatives of the younger annals are Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius , Gaius Licinius Macer and Valerius Antias . The latter, however, falsified a great deal of information in his works and often greatly exaggerated them.

At the same time the autobiographies and histories developed . Both pushed the annals into the background. However, all annalists, autobiographers and historians are dwarfed by the famous Roman historians Sallust , Livius and Tacitus ( Annales ) . In Roman historiography, historiae (histories) were generally understood to be contemporary historical representations, while in contrast to this, annales were understood to be descriptions of the more distant past.

middle Ages

The annals of the Middle Ages were initially noteworthy records for the personal use of monasteries and were mostly kept without a title by monks for generations . In addition to their original purpose for calculating the Easter date of each year, important events such as natural disasters and wars were recorded in chronological order like in a diary in these widespread works. In the course of time these reports grew more and more and at the end of the 8th century they developed into a genre of historiography that was undemanding in literary terms . If the annals have a protocol-like character and if there are close ties to the ruler in one place, then they have a high scientific value for historians, such as the imperial annals of Charlemagne . However, this cognitive value must be assessed very critically, since the error rate in the annals is to be classified as high due to the frequent circulation in the various monasteries; Another problem is the tendency towards representation in some annals (such as the aforementioned Reichsannals ).

The order of events according to years (annalistic principle) is still often used today in reference works (handbooks and others) to highlight the temporal coexistence (for example the same year of birth of writers, the same year of publication of books).


Greek and Roman antiquity

Medieval Roman-German Empire



East asia


Origins and ancient works

  • Robert Drews: Pontiffs, Prodigies, and the Disappearance of the "Annales Maximi". In: Classical Philology 83, 1988, ISSN  0009-837X , pp. 289-299.
  • Dieter Flach: Roman historiography. 3rd edition, WBG, Darmstadt 2001.
  • Bruce Woodward Frier: Libri Annales Pontificum Maximorum. The Origins of the Annalistic Tradition (= Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome. 27, ZDB -ID 433281-7 ). American Academy, Rome 1979.
  • John Marincola (Ed.): A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography. Two volumes, Blackwell, Oxford 2007.
  • Elizabeth Rawson: Prodigy Lists and the Use of "Annales Maximi". In: The Classical Quarterly . 21, 1971, pp. 158-169.
  • GP Verbrugghe: On the meaning of annales, on the meaning of the word annalist. In: Philologus. 133, 1989, pp. 192-230.

Annals in the Middle Ages

Web links

Wiktionary: Annals  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Annalen in, accessed on August 25, 2014.
  2. Annals. In: Digital dictionary of the German language . Retrieved August 25, 2014
  3. ^ Mario Liverani: Later Mesopotamia. In: The Oxford History of Historical Writing. Edited by Andrew Feldherr a. a. Volume 1. Oxford 2011, here p. 35 ff.
  4. ^ Piotr Bienkowski, Alan Millard (Ed.): Dictionary of the Ancient Near East. London / Philadelphia 2000, pp. 21f. (sv Annals and chronicles ).
  5. ^ Aulus Gellius : Noctes Atticae . 5, 18, p. 1 ff.
    Michael von Albrecht : History of Roman literature. Volume 1 (of 2), 3rd edition. Munich 2003, p. 290 f.