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Cornelius Tacitus Biography & Facts

Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( TAS-it-əs, Latin: [ˈtakɪtʊs]; c. AD 56 – c. 120), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars.The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals (Latin: Annales) and the Histories (Latin: Historiae)—examine the reigns of the emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD). These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus (14 AD) to the death of Domitian (96 AD), although there are substantial lacunae in the surviving texts. Tacitus's other writings discuss oratory (in dialogue format, see Dialogus de oratoribus), Germania (in De origine et situ Germanorum), and the life of his father-in-law, Agricola (the general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain), mainly focusing on his campaign in Britannia (De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae). Tacitus's Annals are of interest for providing an early account of the persecution of Christians and the one of the earliest extra-Biblical reference to the crucifixion of Jesus. Life Details about the personal life of Tacitus 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. The place and date of his birth, as well as his praenomen (first name) are not known. 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. One scholar's suggestion of the name Sextus has been largely rejected. Family and early life Most of the older aristocratic families failed to survive the proscriptions which took place at the end of the Republic, and Tacitus makes it clear that he owed his rank to the Flavian emperors (Hist. 1.1). The claim that he was descended from a freedman is derived from a speech in his writings which asserts that many senators and knights were descended from freedmen (Ann. 13.27), but this is generally disputed.In his article on Tacitus in Pauly-Wissowa, I. Borzsak had conjectured that the historian was related to Thrasea Paetus and Etruscan family of Caecinii, about whom he spoke very highly. Furthermore, some later Caecinii bore cognomen Tacitus, which also could indicate some sort of relationship. It had been suggested that historian's mother was a daughter of Aulus Caecina Paetus, suffect consul of 37, and sister of Arria, wife of Thrasea.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 (NH 7.76), which implies an early death. There is no mention of Tacitus's suffering such a condition, but it is possible that this refers to a brother—if Cornelius was indeed his father.The friendship between the younger Pliny and Tacitus leads some scholars to conclude that they were both the offspring of wealthy provincial families.The province of his birth remains unknown, though various conjectures suggest Gallia Belgica, Gallia Narbonensis, or Northern Italy. His marriage to the daughter of Narbonensian senator Gnaeus Julius Agricola implies that he came from Gallia Narbonensis. Tacitus's dedication to Lucius Fabius Justus in the Dialogus may indicate a connection with Spain, and his friendship with Pliny suggests origins in northern Italy.No evidence exists, however, that Pliny's friends from northern Italy knew Tacitus, nor do Pliny's letters hint that the two men had a common background. Pliny Book 9, Letter 23, reports that when asked whether he was Italian or provincial, he gave an unclear answer and so was asked whether he was Tacitus or Pliny. Since Pliny was from Italy, some infer that Tacitus was from the provinces, probably Gallia Narbonensis.His ancestry, his skill in oratory, and his sympathetic depiction of barbarians who resisted Roman rule (e.g., Ann. 2.9) have led some to suggest that he was a Celt. This belief stems from the fact that the Celts who had occupied Gaul prior to the Roman invasion were famous for their skill in oratory and had been subjugated by Rome. Public life, marriage, and literary career As a young man, Tacitus studied rhetoric in Rome to prepare for a career in law and politics; like Pliny, he may have studied under Quintilian (c. 35 AD – c.  100). In 77 or 78, he married Julia Agricola, daughter of the famous general Agricola.Little is known of their domestic life, save that Tacitus loved hunting and the outdoors. He started his career (probably the latus clavus, mark of the senator) under Vespasian (r. 69–79), but entered political life as a quaestor in 81 or 82 under Titus.He advanced steadily through the cursus honorum, becoming praetor in 88 and a quindecimvir, a member of the priestly college in charge of the Sibylline Books and the Secular Games. He gained acclaim as a lawyer and as an orator; his skill in public speaking ironically counterpoints his cognomen, Tacitus ("silent").He served in the provinces from c.  89 to c.  93, either in command of a legion or in a civilian post. He and his property survived Domitian's reign of terror (81–96), but the experience left him jaded and perhaps ashamed at his own complicity, installing in him the hatred of tyranny evident in his works. The Agricola, chs. 44–45, is illustrative: Agricola was spared those later years during which Domitian, leaving now no interval or breathing space of time, but, as it were, with one continuous blow, drained the life-blood of the Commonwealth... It was not long before our hands dragged Helvidius to prison, before we gazed on the dying looks of Mauricus and Rusticus, before we were steeped in Senecio's innocent blood. Even Nero turned his eyes away, and did not gaze upon the atrocities which he ordered; with Domitian it was the chief part of our miseries to see and to be seen, to know that our sighs were being recorded... From his seat in the Senate, he became suffect consul in 97 during the reign of Nerva, being the first of his family to do so. During his tenure, he reached the height of his fame as an orator when he delivered the funeral oration for the famous veteran soldier Lucius Verginius Rufus.In the following year, he wrote and published the Agricola and Germania, foreshadowing the literary endeavors that would occupy him until his death.Afterward, he absented himself from public life, but returned during Trajan's reign (98–117). In 100, he and his friend Pliny the Younger prosecuted Marius Priscus (proconsul of Africa) for corruption. Priscus was found guilty and sent into exile; Pliny wrote a few days later that Tacitus had spoken "with all the majesty which characterizes his usual style of oratory".A lengthy absence from politics and law followed while he wrote the Histories and the Annals. In 112 to 113.... Discover the Cornelius Tacitus popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Cornelius Tacitus books.

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