[<< wikiquote] Tacitus
Publius Tacitus (or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus; c. 56–after 117 AD),  Roman orator, lawyer, and senator. He is considered one of antiquity's greatest historians.


== Quotes ==


=== Agricola (98) ===
In De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, Tacitus describes and praises the life of his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola, an eminent Roman general. It covers briefly the people and geography of Britain, where Agricola was stationed.Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.
Because they didn't know better, they called it "civilization," when it was part of their slavery.
Book 1, paragraph 21
Variant translation: Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance they called civilisation, when it was but a part of their servitude.
As translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson BrodribbAuferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire, and where they make a desert, they call it peace.
Close of chapter 30, Oxford Revised Translation
Variant translations:
They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.
Loeb Classical Library edition
To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.
As translated by William Peterson
More colloquially: They rob, kill and plunder and deceivingly call it "Roman rule", and where they make a desert, they call it "peace".
This is a speech by the Caledonian chieftain Calgacus addressing assembled warriors about Rome's insatiable appetite for conquest and plunder. The chieftain's sentiment can be contrasted to "peace given to the world" which was frequently inscribed on Roman medals. The last part solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (they make a desert, and call it peace) is often quoted alone. Lord Byron for instance uses the phrase (in English) as follows,
Mark where his carnage and his conquests cease!  He makes a solitude, and calls it — peace.
Lord Byron, Bride of Abydos (1813), Canto 2, stanza 20Et maiores vestros et posteros cogitate.
Think of your forefathers and posterity.
Chapter 32Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem laeseris.
It belongs to human nature to hate those you have injured.
Chapter 42; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)Tu vero felix, Agricola, non vitae tantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis.
Thou wast indeed fortunate, Agricola, not only in the splendour of thy life, but in the opportune moment of thy death. [1]
Chapter 45


=== Germania (98) ===
The Germans themselves I should regard as aboriginal, and not mixed at all with other races through immigration or intercourse. For in former times, it was not by land but on shipboard that those who sought to emigrate would arrive; and the boundless and, so to speak, hostile ocean beyond us,is seldom entered by a sail from our world.
Chapter 2They even say that an altar dedicated to Ulysses, with the addition of the name of his father, Laertes, was formerly discovered on the same spot, and that certain monuments and tombs with Greek inscriptions, still exist on the borders of Germany and Rhaetia.
Chapter 3On the whole, one would say that their strength is in their infantry, which fights along with the cavalry; admirably adapted to the action of the latter is the swiftness of certain foot soldiers, who are picked from the entire youth of their country, and stationed in front of the line.
Chapter 6Scutum reliquisse praecipuum flagitium, nec aut sacris adesse aut concilium inire ignominioso fas; multique superstites bellorum infamiam laqueo finierunt.
To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes; nor may a man thus disgraced be present at the sacred rites, or enter their council; many, indeed, after escaping from battle, have ended their infamy with the halter.
Chapter 6Mercury is the deity whom they chiefly worship, and on certain days they deem it right to sacrifice to him even with human victims.
Chapter 9Quanquam severa illic matrimonia
However the marriage is there severe.
Start of chapter 18
This is in the sense that the matrimonial bond was strictly observed by the Germanic peoples, this being compared favorably against licentiousness in Rome. Tacitus appears to hold the fairly strict monogamy (with some exceptions among nobles who marry again) between Germanic husbands and wives, and the chastity among the unmarried to be worthy of the highest praise. (Ch. 18)....ibi boni mores valent quam alibi bonae leges. [2]
...good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere. [3]
End of chapter 19No one in Germany laughs at vice, nor do they call it the fashion to corrupt and to be corrupted.
Chapter 19Indeed, the crowning proof of their valour and their strength is that they keep up their superiority without harm to others.
Chapter 35Dwelling on one side of the Chauci and Chatti, the Cherusci long cherished, unassailed, an excessive and enervating love of peace. This was more pleasant than safe, for to be peaceful is self-deception among lawless and powerful neighbours. Where the strong hand decides, moderation and justice are terms applied only to the more powerful; and so the Cherusci, ever reputed good and just, are now called cowards and fools, while in the case of the victorious Chatti success has been identified with prudence. The downfall of the Cherusci brought with it also that of the Fosi, a neighbouring tribe, which shared equally in their disasters, though they had been inferior to them in prosperous days.
Chapter 36Their shields are black, their bodies dyed. They choose dark nights for battle, and, by the dread and gloomy aspect of their death-like host, strike terror into the foe, who can never confront their strange and almost infernal appearance.
Chapter 43All this is unauthenticated, and I shall leave it open.
Chapter 46 (last text line)


=== Histories (100-110) ===
Rara temporum felicitate, ubi sentire quae velis, et quae sentias dicere licet.
Translation: It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.
Book I, 1Indeed, when a ruler once becomes unpopular, all his acts, be they good or bad, tell against him.
Book I, 7Once killing starts, it is difficult to draw the line.
Book I, 39He possessed a peculiar talent of producing effect in whatever he said or did.
Book II, 80Expugnatae urbis praedam ad militem, deditae ad duces pertinere.
The soldiers have the plunder of a city that is stormed, the generals of one which capitulates.
Book III, 19; Church-Brodribb translationDivisa inter exercitum ducesque munia: militibus cupidinem pugnandi convenire, duces providendo, consultando, cunctatione saepius quam temeritate prodesse. ut pro virili portione armis ac manu victoriam iuverit, ratione et consilio, propriis ducis artibus, profuturum.
There is a division of duties between the army and its generals. Eagerness for battle becomes the soldiers, but generals serve the cause by forethought, by counsel, by delay oftener than by temerity. As I promoted your victory to the utmost of my power by my sword and by my personal exertions, so now I must help you by prudence and by counsel, the qualities which belong peculiarly to a general.
Book III, 20; Church-Brodribb translationSome might consider him as too fond of fame; for the desire for glory clings even to the best men longer than any other passion.
Book IV, 6Deos fortioribus adesse.
The gods are on the side of the stronger.
Book IV, 17Vitia erunt donec homines
There will be vices as long as there are men.
Book IV, 74; Church-Brodribb translation


=== Annals (117) ===

Tiberii Gaique et Claudii ac Neronis res florentibus ipsis ob metum falsae, postquam occiderant, recentibus odiis compositae sunt. inde consilium mihi pauca de Augusto et extrema tradere, mox Tiberii principatum et cetera, sine ira et studio, quorum causas procul habeo.
The histories of Tiberius, Caius, Claudius, and Nero, while they were in power, were falsified through terror, and after their death were written under the irritation of a recent hatred. Hence my purpose is to relate a few facts about Augustus - more particularly his last acts, then the reign of Tiberius, and all which follows, without either bitterness or partiality, from any motives to which I am far removed.
Book I, 1; Church-Brodribb translationJuniores post Actiacam victoriam, etiam senes plerique inter bella civium nati: quotus quisque reliquus qui rem publicam vidisset? Igitur verso civitatis statu nihil usquam prisci et integri moris: omnes exuta aequalitate iussa principis aspectare, ...
The younger men had been born after the victory of Actium; most even of the elder generation, during the civil wars; few indeed were left who had seen the Republic. It was thus an altered world, and of the old, unspoilt Roman character not a trace lingered. Equality was an outworn creed, and all eyes looked to the mandate of the sovereign, ...
Book I, 3-4; Loeb Classical Library translation by John Jackson (1931)Pacem sine dubio post haec, verum cruentam.
No doubt, there was peace after all this, but it was a peace stained with blood.
Book I, 10; Church-Brodribb translationNihil deorum honoribus relictum, cum se templis et effigie numinum per flamines et sacerdotes coli vellet.
No honour was left for the gods, when Augustus chose to be himself worshipped with temples and statues, like those of the deities, and with flamens and priests.
Book I, 10; Church-Brodribb translationNe Tiberium quidem caritate aut rei publicae cura successorem adscitum, sed quoniam adrogantiam saevitiamque eius introspexerit, comparatione deterrima sibi gloriam quaesivisse.
He had not even adopted Tiberius as his successor out of affection or any regard to the State, but, having thoroughly seen his arrogant and savage temper, he had sought glory for himself by a contrast of extreme wickedness.
Book I, 10; Church-Brodribb translationSo true is it that all transactions of preeminent importance are wrapt in doubt and obscurity; while some hold for certain facts the most precarious hearsays, others turn facts into falsehood; and both are exaggerated by posterity.
Book III, 19
Variant: So obscure are the greatest events, as some take for granted any hearsay, whatever its source, others turn truth into falsehood, and both errors find encouragement with posterity.Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.
The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
Book III, 27
Variant translations:
The more corrupt the state, the more laws.
And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.For I deem it to be the chief function of history to rescue merit from oblivion, and to hold up before evil words and evil deeds the terror of the reprobation of posterity.
Book III, 65Viginti clarissimarum familiarum imagines antelatae sunt, Manlii, Quinctii aliaque eiusdem nobilitatis nomina. sed praefulgebant Cassius atque Brutus eo ipso quod effigies eorum non visebantur.
The busts of twenty most illustrious families were borne in the procession, with the names of Manlius, Quinctius, and others of equal rank. But Cassius and Brutus outshone them all, from the very fact that their likenesses were not to be seen.
Book III, 76; Church-Brodribb translation
According to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine:This line is the origin of Lord John Russell's phrase "Conspicuous by its absence"; of which Russell said "It is not an original expression of mine, but is taken from one of the greatest historians of antiquity". Similar phrases also are found in the tragedy Tiberius of Joseph Chénier and in Les Hommes Illustres of Charles Perrault.Suum cuique decus posteritas rependit
To every man posterity gives his due honour
Book IV, 35; Church-Brodribb translationPunitis ingeniis, gliscit auctoritas.
When men of talents are punished, authority is strengthened.
Book IV, 35.He had talents equal to business, and aspired no higher.
Book VI, 39He upbraided Macro, in no obscure and indirect terms, "with forsaking the setting sun and turning to the rising".
Book VI, 52, referring to TiberiusWhat is today supported by precedents will hereafter become a precedent.
Book XI, 24Habet aliquid ex iniquo omne magnum exemplum, quod contra singulos, utilitate publica rependitus.
Every great example of punishment has in it some injustice, but the suffering individual is compensated by the public good.
Book XIV, 44nisi impunitatis cupido retinuisset, magnis semper conatibus adversa.
The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.
Book XV, 50, in his account of Subrius Flavus’ passing thought of assassinating Nero while the emperor sang on stage.
Variant translation: "but desire of escape, foe to all great enterprises, held him back."cupido dominandi cunctis adfectibus flagrantior est
Lust of absolute power is more burning than all the passions.
Book XV, 53


== Quotes about Tacitus ==
Tacitus appears to have been as great an enthusiast as Petrarch for the revival of the republic and universal empire. He has exerted the vengeance of history upon the emperors, but has veiled the conspiracies against them, and the incorrigible corruption of the people which probably provoked their most atrocious cruelties. Tyranny can scarcely be practised upon a virtuous and wise people.
John Adams, diary entry, 31 July 1796Tacitus has written an entire work on the manners of the Germans. This work is short, but it comes from the pen of Tacitus, who was always concise, because he saw everything at a glance.
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Book XXX, Section 2Tacitus I consider the first writer in the world without a single exception. His book is a compound of history and morality of which we have no other example.
Thomas Jefferson, to his grand-daughter Anne Cary Bankhead, in a letter dated 1808.


== External links ==

Complete works of Tacitus in Latin
The Annals, The Histories; English
The Histories, English and Latin