|Publication Date||October 18, 1976|
Few years in history, certainly in the Roman Empire, have been so eventful as A.D. 69. Exceptional years invite exceptional scrutiny, of everyday life as well as the deeds of the great. The present work seeks to provide a plain narrative of the events of that crowded year. Interwoven by cause and effect, framed in time and space, they embraced the whole Mediterranean world and created the second dynasty of imperial Rome. The web is intricate and colourful. That an attempt to retell the story some nineteen hundred years later is possible at all is largely due to the chance survival of the early books of Tacitus' "Histories," supported by other information in as generous (or as meagre) a bulk as the historian of ancient Rome can now hope to enjoy. But the Long Year provides us with a thousand problems - dark corners into which only a dim light penetrates from feeble candles, and which we think we can explore by inference, conjecture and imagination. "We dispose of no exhaustive official records or revealing memoirs," notes the author in his preface. "All the literary sources are liable to be rhetorical, partisan, moralizing or trivial. From the rest, industry and scholarship can glean a few straws in a field whose once abundant harvest has irrevocably vanished." Wellesley draws skillfully on his famous source but by no means exclusively or uncritically. His own interpretation of the motives and characters of the chief contestants and of the much debated battles of Cremona will appeal to the classical student and scholar; but all can enjoy his elegant, imaginative retelling of an exciting story now more than nineteen hundred years old.