Page images

if an interval of fifteen years is thought too much to be borne out by Pliny's propemodum (occurring, it must be remembered, in a complimentary letter, and from its very employment implying no inconsiderable difference), we must not anyhow fix a later date than A. D. 51 or 52.

The town of Interamna (now Terni) in Umbria has been named as the birthplace of Tacitus. There is no direct proof of the assertion, but it is known that this town was in the third century the seat of the family of the Emperor Tacitus. This prince, who occupied the throne for a few months after the death of Aurelian A.D. 275, was accustomed to claim descent from the historian, and honoured his memory by directing that ten copies of his works should be annually transcribed and placed in the public libraries.

If our conjecture as to the date of his birth be correct, Tacitus must have attained the period of youth in the great year (69) which witnessed the fall of three Emperors. His descriptions of some of the scenes of that time, among which we may specify the entry of the Flavianist troops into Rome (Hist. III. 83), look like the work of an eye-witness.

It has been suggested that Tacitus made the acquaintance of Agricola at some time in the three years (A. D. 74–77) during which that officer held the government of Aquitania. There is, it has been thought, a particularity about his description of Agricola’s administration which indicates the intimate acquaintance of one who either held some official position, or was otherwise closely connected with it. This position may possibly have included something of the intimate relation in which Agricola himself at the opening of his career had stood to Suetonius

thirtieth year.

Paulinus (Agr. 5). However this may be, it is certain that at or before this time an intimate acquaintance had been formed between the two men. In A.D. 77 Agricola returned to Rome to fulfil the duties of the Consulship. During his year of office he betrothed his daughter (born A.D. 65) to his young friend. Juveni mihi, says Tacitus, filiam despondit. Juvenis, like other Latin terms denoting age, is elastic in its signification, but it is particularly applicable to one who was between his twenty-fifth and

The marriage was celebrated in the following year, the same in which Agricola assumed his command in Britain.

The illustrious alliance thus formed was probably the means of introducing Tacitus to a career of public distinction. His elevation, he says (Hist. 1. 1) was “ begun by Vespasian, augmented by Titus, and still further advanced by Domitian.” What offices he may have held under the first and second of these princes, it is impossible to determine. Agricola himself was Quaestor and Tribune of the People before he reached the Praetorship. But the Quaestors were employed in the Provinces. If we suppose Tacitus to have remained at Rome we may conjecture that he filled the office of Aedile, and as Vespasian, his first patron died June 23, A. D. 79, that he was appointed to it early in that year. His next office was probably that of Tribune of the People, which, as Titus died Sept. 13, A. D. 81, he must have held either A. D. 80 or in the following year.

We know from his own testimony (Ann. XI. 11) that he was Praetor A. D. 88, in which year Domitian celebrated the Ludi Saeculares. In 89 or 90 he left Rome with his wife, and did not return till after the death of Agricola, which took place

by his

August 23, A.D. 93. (See Agr. ch. 45). It is certain, however, that he was in Rome during the last period of Domitian's reign. The language in which at the close of the Agricola he describes the horrors of that time is full of the bitterness, and even of the self-reproach of one who had been compelled to witness and to sanction

presence the cruelties of the tyrant. Domitian was assassinated Sept. 18, A. D. 95. Two years afterwards Tacitus was advanced to the dignity of the Consulship. Verginius Rufus had died in his year of office, and Tacitus was appointed to succeed him. He also delivered a funeral oration on his predecessor. “Hic supremus," says Pliny of Rufus (Epist. 11. 1), “ felicitati ejus cumulus accessit, laudator eloquentissimus."

In A.D. 100 he was appointed together with Pliny, who was then Consul elect, to conduct the impeachment preferred by the Province of Africa against their late Proconsul, Marcus Priscus. Pliny, who relates the trial at length (Epist. 11. 11), describes his oratory by the epithet oeuvớs. Here the public life of Tacitus terminated. We hear indeed in one of Pliny's letters (vi. 9) of his interesting himself in the candidature of one Julius Naso for some public office. We may gather from the letter that he was not then living at Rome, and, perhaps, as he was not aware that Naso had started under the auspices of Pliny, that he knew but little of what was going on in the capital.

The date of his death is not known, but that he at least lived down to the end of Trajan's reign, we may infer from Ann. II. 61, where he says that the Roman Empire “Nunc ad rubrum mare patescit,” an expression which must refer to the successes obtained by Trajan in his Eastern expedition (A.D. 114-117).

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]






Orcades Ins.





wa Aest.





London and Cambridge:

[All Rights reserved.]

« PreviousContinue »