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A.D. 56 or 57 - about A.D. 117

CORNELIVS TACITVS was a Roman historian who lived during the First Century and early Second Century A. D. His most famous works include The Histories and The Annals of Imperial Rome. He also wrote The Agricola, much of which is now lost.

Born into a wealthy family living in Gaul or Northern Italy, Tacitus received the best education available to a Roman from a good family. Public speaking skills, oratory and debate, were considered the most important areas of study for a young man destined for a career in imperial service or senatorial office. Tacitus was a senator during the reign of Domitian and was later to fill the post of consul, the highest office open to a Roman who was not emperor. After his consulship, he was given the governorship of the large province of Anatolia (much of modern Turkey).

Tacitus hated great concentration of power in the hands of the early emperors. Though he hated imperial power and in his writings tries to paint every emperor as a corrupt despot, he hated civil war and anarchy even more. He had a particularly heavy bias against the emperor Tiberius, whom he portrayed as a sinister and cruel emperor, purging his opponents from the Senate by having them tried for treason and executed. He showed scorn for Claudius and Nero, and even his writings about Augustus contained some belittling innuendoes and snide remarks. His writing is full of tales of corruption, government scandal, and innocent people being destroyed or having their good names ruined because of the emperor’s lust for power. It was Tacitus’ belief that the emperor had so much power in his hands that no man could occupy the throne without being corrupted by that power.

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