Tacitus (टसीटस) (c. 56–117 AD) was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors (AD 69). These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus in AD 14 to the years of the First Jewish–Roman War in AD 70.
Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature. He is known for the brevity and compactness of his Latin prose, as well as for his penetrating insights into the psychology of power politics.
Details about his personal life are scarce. What little is known comes from scattered hints throughout his work, the letters of his friend and admirer Pliny the Younger, and an inscription found at Mylasa in Caria.
Tacitus was born in 56 or 57 to an equestrian family; like many Latin authors of both the Golden and Silver Ages, he was from the provinces, probably northern Italy or Gallia Narbonensis. The exact place and date of his birth are not known, and his praenomen (first name) is also unknown; in the letters of Sidonius Apollinaris his name is Gaius, but in the major surviving manuscript of his work his name is given as Publius.
His father may have been the Cornelius Tacitus who served as procurator of Belgica and Germania; Pliny the Elder mentions that Cornelius had a son who aged rapidly , which implies an early death. If Cornelius was his father, and since there is no mention of Tacitus suffering such a condition, it is possible that this refers to a brother. The friendship between the younger Pliny and Tacitus leads some scholars to conclude that they were both the offspring of wealthy provincial families.
The title page of Justus Lipsius's 1598 edition of the complete works of Tacitus, bearing the stamps of the Bibliotheca Comunale in Empoli, Italy.
Five works ascribed to Tacitus are known to have survived (albeit with some lacunae), the most substantial of which are the Annals and the Histories. The dates are approximate:
- (98) De vita Iulii Agricolae (The Life of Agricola)
- (98) De origine et situ Germanorum (Germania)
- (102) Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory)
- (105) Historiae (Histories)
- (117) Ab excessu divi Augusti (Annals)
The Germania (Latin title: De Origine et situ Germanorum) is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire. The Germania fits within a classical ethnographic tradition which includes authors such as Herodotus and Julius Caesar. The book begins (chapters 1–27) with a description of the lands, laws, and customs of the various tribes. Later chapters focus on descriptions of particular tribes, beginning with those who lived closest to the Roman empire, and ending with a description of those who lived on the shores of the Baltic Sea, such as the Fenni. Tacitus had written a similar, albeit shorter, piece in his Agricola (chapters 10–13).
- an Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Eerdmans Publishing ISBN 0-8028-4368-9 pages 39-42
- Backgrounds of early Christianity by Everett Ferguson 2003 ISBN 0-8028-2221-5 page 116
- OGIS 487, first brought to light in Bulletin de correspondance hellénique, 1890, pp. 621–623
- (Natural History (Pliny) 7.76
- Syme, 1958, p. 60, 613; Gordon, 1936, p. 149; Martin, 1981, p. 26
- Syme, 1958, p. 63
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