Tacitus in Roman Biography
Kr. Tacite, tS'set'; It. Tacito, ta'che-to,]
(Caius Cornelius,) a celebrated Roman historian, was
born about 55 A.D. The events of his early life have
not been recorded. He entered the public service in
the reign of Vespasian, and married a daughter of C.
Julius Agricola, the famous general, in 78 A.I). He was
an intimate friend of Pliny the Younger, from whose
letters we derive a large part of the knowledge which
we have of his life. In the year 88 he obtained the
office of praetor. He was one of the most eloquent
orators of his time. In the reign of Nurva he became
consul, 97 A.D., and about the same date he wrote his
work on Germany,-"On the Situation, Customs, etc.
of Germany," (" DeSitu, Moribuset Populis Germanise.")
Tacitus and Pliny conducted the prosecution against
Marios Priscus, who was convicted of cruelty and other
crimes in too A.D.
Among his earlier works is a " Life of Agricola,"
which is much admired. After the death of Ncrva, he
wrote "The Histories," (" Historiarum Libri XIV.,")
which treat of the period from 68 to 96 a.d. This work
is lost, except the first five books. His reputation is
chiefly founded on his "
Annals," (" Annales,") in sixteen books, which record the
history of the Roman empire from
the death of Augustus, 14 A.D., to the death of Nero, 68
A.D. This excellent work is extant, except the seventh,
eighth, ninth, and tenth books, and parts of three other
books. His "Annals" were completed about 116 A.D.
The date of his death is not known. He was a Stoic in
philosophy, and probably knew nothing of Christianity.
According to Gibbon, " he was the first historian who
applied the science of philosophy to the study of facts."
(" History," vol. i. 225.) He displays profound insight
into the motives of human conduct and the dark recesses
of character. His style is eminently concise and vigorous.
"Of the Latin historians," says Macaulay, "Tacitus
was certainly the greatest. His style, indeed, is not only
faulty in itself, but is in some respects peculiarly unfit
for historical composition. . . . He tells a fine story
finely, but he cannot tell a plain story plainly. He
till all stimulants lose their power. ... In the
delineation of character, Tacitus is unrivalled among
historians, and has very few superiors among dramatists
and novelists." (Essay on "
History," published in the
"Edinburgh Review," 1828.)
"Tacitus," says F. W. Farrar, "towered like a giant
above all his contemporaries, isolated and unapproachable.
. . . The little we know of his private life is in
perfect accordance with the noble standard of his recorded
sentiments." (" Encyclopaedia Britannica.")
" De Vita. Scriptis ac Sii!o Tacili," 1834 ; Sievers,
"Tacitus und Tiberius," 1850; Di'buis-Gucuan, "Tacite et
son Siecle," 2 vols., 1857; Baylk, "Historical and Critical
D. W. Mollhh, *
Disputatio de C C. Tacito,
: ' 16S6;
Discorsi sopra Tacito," 1622; "Nouvelle Biographie