The New Student's Reference Work/Tacitus, Publius Cornelius

The New Student's Reference Work  (1914) 
Tacitus, Publius Cornelius


Tacitus (tăs′ ĭ-tŭs), Publius Cornelius, a Roman historian, was born probably about 55 A. D.  He enjoyed the favor of Emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, and married a daughter of Agricola (q. v.).  He held several public offices, became known as an orator, and was a close friend of the younger Pliny, through the appointment of the two to carry on the prosecution of Marius.  Eleven of his letters are addressed to Pliny.  Tacitus probably lived for a time after Hadrian came to the throne.  His Life of Agricola (A. D. 98) is one of the finest biographies ever written.  His other works are Histories (104–110), Annals, Germany (98), and his Dialogue on Orators (A. D. 79), the first and least valuable of his writings.  These histories rank among trusted sources of knowledge of the times of which they treat, and have given their author high rank among the world’s historians.  But Tacitus is not one of the authors in whom our confidence is increased by rereading.  His account of Tiberius is manifestly unjust, being steeped in the prejudices of the Roman aristocracy and drawn from a poisoned source.  He died, it is thought, in 120 A. D.