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Tacitus

Tacitus, Caius Cornelius (b. circa 54 A.D.), an eminent Roman historian. The details of his own works must be gathered mainly from allusions in his own works and the letters of Pliny the Younger. He is supposed to have been the son of Cornelius Tacitus, procurator of Gallia Belgica, who belonged to a family of equestrian rank. Whilst still young he acquired celebrity by his eloquence as a pleader. In 78 he married the daughter of Cnaeus Julius Agricola, who was about to begin his brilliant career in Britain. Appointed quaestor by Vespasian in 79, the historian passed through the office of aedile or tribune to that of praetor (88) under Domitian, and in 97, during the reign of Nerva, was made consul suffectus. Two years later he and Pliny were engaged in the prosecution of the infamous Marius Priscus, who had been proconsul of Africa. This is the last event in his life of which we have any record, The surviving works of Tacitus are a dialogue, De Oratoribus; a life of his father-in-law, Agricola (an extremely picturesque and interesting piece of biography); a treatise, De Situ Moribus et Populis Germaniae (our earliest source of information concerning our ancestors and the races nearest akin to them); and two historical works of the first importance -- the Historiae, extending from A.D. 68 to 96 (of which we possess four books and part of a fifth), and the Annales, from 14 to 68 (comprising sixteen books, of which eight are still complete, and fragments of four others remain). The two latter works, which give a terrible picture of the decay of Imperial Rome, are marked by the utmost compression, abruptness, and vigour of style; but at the same time the language is ornate, and noble sentiments find their just expression in eloquent and sonorous periods. The occasional obscurity is probably intentional, the author's design being to attack the vice and political corruption of the time without endangering his own liberty or life. His fairness, however, has been much disputed, especially with reference to the treatment of Tiberius in the Annals.

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