Tacitus

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Publius Tacitus or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (ca. 56–ca. 117), Roman orator, lawyer, and senator. He is considered one of antiquity's greatest historians.

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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.
    • Translation: Because they didn't know better, they called it 'civilization,' when it was part of their slavery.[1]
    • Book 1, paragraph 21.
  • Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.
    • Translation: To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace. Oxford Revised Translation (at Project Gutenberg)
    • At the end of chapter 30.
    • This is a speech by British 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. w: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 20.
  • Et maiores vestros et posteros cogitate.
    • Translation: Think of your forefathers and posterity.
    • Chapter 32
  • Tu vero felix, Agricola, non vitae tantum claritate, sed etiam opportunitate mortis.
    • Translation: Thou wast indeed fortunate, Agricola, not only in the splendour of thy life, but in the opportune moment of thy death. [2]
    • Chapter 45

Germania (98)

  • Quanquam severa illic matrimonia
    • Translation: 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)
  • ...good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere. (translation)

Histories (100-110)

  • It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks.
    • Book I, 1
  • Once killing starts, it is difficult to draw the line.
    • Book I, 39
  • The desire for glory clings even to the best men longer than any other passion.
    • Book IV, 6
  • Deos fortioribus adesse.
    • Translation: The gods are on the side of the stronger.
    • Book IV, 17

Annals (117)

  • The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
    • Variant: The more corrupt the state, the more laws.
    • Original Quote: 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.
    • Book III, 27
  • He had talents equal to business, and aspired no higher.
    • Book VI, 39
  • What is today supported by precedents will hereafter become a precedent.
    • Book XI, 24
  • So 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.
    • 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.
    • Book III

Attributed

  • Abuse, if you slight it, will gradually die away; but if you show yourself irritated you will be thought to have deserved it.
  • Liberty is given by nature even to mute animals.
  • Great empires are not maintained by timidity.
  • The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.

External links

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