The Hutchinson Encyclopedia of the Renaissance

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Tacitus, Publius Cornelius (c. AD 56-c. 120)

Ancient roman historian. A public orator in Rome, he was consul under Nerva in 97-98 and proconsul of Asia in 112-113. He wrote histories of the Roman empire, Annales and Historiae, covering the years AD 14-68 and 69-97 respectively. He also wrote a Life of Agricola in 97 (he married Agricola's daughter in 77) and a description of the Germanic tribes, Germania, in 98.

The works of Tacitus were all but lost from view for several centuries. A manuscript at Monte Cassino of the Histories and part of the Annals was noticed and removed in the mid-14th century by either Zenobi da Strada or Boccaccio. It somehow passed into the hands of Niccolò Niccoli who showed it to Poggio Bracciolini. Poggio himself in 1425 found a manuscript of the Germania and Agricola, in (appropriately) a German monastery, but he was (for once) not brazen enough to remove it; the codex only reached Italy (by the agency of Enoch of Ascoli) in the 1450s. The first books of the Annals, however, did not circulate until the early 16th century when Filippo Beroaldo the Younger produced the editio princeps in 1515.

Use of Tacitus was made from leonardo Bruni onwards. For Bruni (and for Poggio Bracciolini), Tacitus provided evidence for the decline of letters under the Roman Empire -- which gave one of their supporting arguments for the superiority of republican government. Tacitus was used for less political reason by both Flavio Biondo (in Roma Instaurata) and Leon Battista Alberti (in De Re Aedificatoria). In the early 16th century, Tacitus received more interest: Francesco Guicciardini may not have been convinced of his use, but Niccolò Machiavelli certainly made use of Tacitus in his republican Discourses. Indeed, later in the century, Machiavelli and Tacitus were considered to provide similar insights into politics, with the latter being read while the former was censured.

The vogue for Tacitus was a phenomenon created in northern Europe. From the 15th century, there was a tradition of understandable local interest in the Germania (but seemingly less so, curiously, in the Agricola): Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, when at the imperial court, quoted the Germania, Conrad Celtis lectured on it at Vienna, commentators on it included Philip Melanchthon. One Briton who did show interest in the Agricola was the Scotsman William Barclay who produced a commentary printed in Justus Lipsius's 1599 edition of Tacitus. It was, indeed, Justus Lipsius who turned Tacitus into a fashionable author, both for his terse, acerbic comments and his political outlook. Both were imitated, for example, by Ben Jonson whose play Sejanus is based on the Annals.

Cornelius Tacitus teaches very well the man who lives
under a tyrant how to live and conduct himself wisely and
just as well teaches the tyrant how to secure his tyranny.

FRANCESCO GUICCARDINI'S view on Tacitus


Tagliacozzi, Gaspare (1546-1599)

Italian surgeon who pioneered plastic surgery. He was the first to repair noses lost in duels or through syphilis. He also repaired ears. His method involved taking flaps of skin from the arm and grafting them into place.


Tallis, Thomas (c. 1505-1585)

English composer. He was a master of counterpoint. His works include Tallis's Canon ('Glory to thee my God this night') ( 1567), the antiphonal Spem in alium non habui (c. 1573) for 40 voices in various groupings, and a collection of 34 motets, Cantiones sacrae ( 1575), of which 16 are by Tallis and 18 by Byrd.

Tallis was organist at the Benedictine Priory, Dover, in 1532, and held a post at Waltham Abbey before its dissolution in 1540. He became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal about 1543. He was one of the earliest

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