In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Tacitus

  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Collections of Papers
  • Specialized Studies of Multiple Works
  • Rhetorical and Stylistic Aspects
  • English Translations
  • Sources
  • Later Reception

Classics Tacitus
Dylan Sailor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0084


Publius Cornelius Tacitus (the name Publius is likely, but not certain) was born around 56 CE, probably in Narbonese or Cisalpine Gaul. By 75 CE he would have moved to Rome, and in the years that followed he enjoyed a successful political career under each of the Flavian emperors in turn. Probably in 81 he held the quaestorship; if a fragmentary inscription thought to be part of Tacitus's epitaph has been correctly identified, he was one of the two quaestors marked out by the emperor for special honor (the quaestores Augusti). He held the office of praetor in 88, and by then had also been made a priest on the Board of Fifteen for Sacrifices. He held a suffect consulship in 97 CE, during which year he also delivered the funeral oration of the distinguished consular L. Verginius Rufus. His next official duty of which we know was the governorship of the province of Asia in 112/3 CE. The date of his death is contested, but the balance of scholarly opinion sees him dying after 117 CE. His five preserved literary works are known as Agricola, Germania, Dialogus, Histories, and Annals.


On Tacitus's life and career, see Syme 1958 and Birley 2000.

  • Birley, A. R. 2000. The life and death of Cornelius Tacitus. Historia 49:230–247.

    An excellent overview of our data regarding Tacitus's life. Exploits the information offered by the inscription recently shown likely to be part of his epitaph.

  • Syme, Ronald. 1958. Tacitus. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Reprinted in 1997. The essential work, brimming with insights on nearly every imaginable aspect of Tacitus, his times, and his work.

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