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Tacitus

Roman Emperor A. D. 275 - 276

Tacitus was an old man of about seventy five years when he became emperor of Rome. He was a scholar, and had been a highly respected senator and consul.

After the murder of the very popular emperor Aurelian, the army swiftly punished Eros, Aurelian's personal secretary and the other conspirators in the plot to murder him by putting them to death. In a move that was totally out of character for the Praetorian Guard, these tough army officers sent a messenger to the Senate humbly asking them to appoint a successor to Aurelian. The Senate was not overly eager to get involved in this choice, and the process took about six months during which there was no Roman emperor. The Senate's reluctance to get involved was understandable, given the history of the past seventy five years. If the senatorial choice did not please the Praetorians, they would probably raise their own favorite to the throne, who would immediately put the Senatorial candidate to death and try and condemn all his supporters for treason! Several times the Senate offered the throne to Tacitus, who politely refused. &quotOf what use would I be, with my old and frail body, much used to the pleasures of a comfortable living, leading our legions in war. This is a job for a much younger, stronger man." While these were not his exact words, this is the basis of the argument he used in gently putting off those who would make him emperor.

After much pleading and convincing, Tacitus finally gave in and accepted the throne. He appointed his half brother Florianus to the post of Praetorian Prefect and another relative, Maximinus, as governor of Syria. Maximinus proceeded to make himself hated by the Syrians with his extreme harshness.

Tacitus marched the Roman legions to Cilicia, where Florianus led them to victory over the invading Goths. Soon afterward, the good old emperor died, having given up everything, including the prospect of a comfortable retirement and now even his life, for his country. After Tacitus' death, Florianus claimed the throne.


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