Gaius(?) Cornelius Tacitus

(A.D. c.56 -c.120)

What little we know about the life of Tacitus comes from his own writings and from letters to him from his close friend, Pliny the Younger. He is believed to have been born, around A.D.56, into a provincial aristocratic family in Gaul (modern France) or nearby, in the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. We don't even know if his full name was "Publius" or "Gaius Cornelius" Tacitus. He probably lived through Trajan's reign as his “Annals”  hint at Trajan’s eastern campaigns in AD 115-117 , and an approximate date of c.120 is usually quoted for the year of his death, although it could possibly have been much later.

Tacitus had a successful political career, as first senator some time between AD 93 & 97, consul in AD97, and eventually governor of the Roman province of Asia in AD112 or 113. The surviving portions of two of his major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors (69 AD). These two works span the history of the Roman Empire from the death of Augustus, in 14 AD, to the years of the First Jewish–Roman War, in 70 AD. There are substantial lacunae in the surviving texts, including a gap in the Annals that is four books long.

For any student of Roman Britain, Tacitus’ most important work is The Life of Agricola, an account of the life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola (AD 40 - 93), Tacitus’s father-in-law. Agricola was governor of Britannia between AD78 and AD84, serving two consecutive terms in office which was highly unusual. Tacitus’s account of those six years have formed the basis of many histories of the Roman conquest of northern Britain, although it seems likely that  Agricola completed a process which began in AD71 under Petillius Cerialis.