Cains Cornelias Tacitus, a Roman historian, born probably about A. D. 55, died probably after the accession of the emperor Hadrian (117). He was early appointed to a public office under Vespasian, and married a daughter of Julius Agricola. He held a prretorship under Domitian, and was consul suffcctus under Nerva. Nothing positive is'known of his subsequent career. He was famous as an orator and a lawyer, and the rhetorical studies of his earlier years led him to compose his first work, the Dialogus de Oratoribus, which contrasts strongly with his later writings for diffusoness and negligence. His Vita Julii Agricola is the masterpiece of ancient biography, and specially valuable for the account it gives of the early condition and history of Britain. The Getmania (De Origine, Situ, Moribus ac Populis Germanke) appeared soon after, both probably in 98. It is based on the works of Pliny and the most trustworthy sources obtainable at the time, and as such is of great importance to students of German antiquities. Numerous theories have been broached in regard to the author's purpose in writing it, but there is every reason for supposing that one of his main objects was to remind the Romans of the virtues of their former days, and to warn them of the dangers threatening them from the north.
Its geographical and historical accuracy has often been attacked, and as often successfully vindicated, though he has frequently exaggerated or idealized the customs and morals of the German people. About the year 105 appeared the first portion of his history of Rome after the time of Augustus, embracing Historian of the years 69-96, or from the last days of Galba to the death of Domitian. Only the first four books and a part of the fifth, reaching to the year 70, are extant. Next appeared the Annales, a concise history of the events from 14 to 68. Its original title was Ab Excessu D. Augusti Libri. Of the original 16 books, only nine complete and parts of three others are extant. The portions relating to the last two years of Nero are wanting. Tacitus is commonly compared to Tbucydides; but the latter has none of the psychological characteristics of the former. There is a greater resemblance between Tacitus and his forerunner Sallust. His style is remarkable for its vigor and conciseness. A melancholy and almost tragic earnestness pervades his pictures of imperial history.
Numerous interpolations disfigure his writings, especially the last portion of the Annales and the Historioe. The editio princeps of Tacitus, which is far from complete, was printed at Venice in 1469 by Vindelin de Spira; and of the numerous subsequent editions that of Er-nesti (Leipsic, 1752), successively revised by Oberlin, Bekker, Walther, Ruperti, and others, and Halm's (Leipsic, 1874), are esteemed the best. The best translations are: in German, by Roth (Stuttgart, 1855-7); in French, by Louandre (Paris, 1858) and Dureau de la Malle (1874); and in English, by Church and Brodribb (London, 1864). German literature abounds with hermeneutical treatises on Tacitus; Pfitzner's Die Annalen des Tacitkis kri-tisch beleuchtet (Halle, 1869) is very thorough.