Tacitus in Roman Biography

Tac'I-tua, [ 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 stimulates 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.") See Botticher, " 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 Dictionary;" D. W. Mollhh, * Disputatio de C C. Tacito, : ' 16S6; Malvezzi, " Discorsi sopra Tacito," 1622; "Nouvelle Biographie Generale."

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