30+ Tacitus Quotes From The Great Roman Historian

Tacitus 'Germania' quotes help us relive history in contemporary times.
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Roman history is incomplete without Publius Cornelius Tacitus.

One of the greatest historians in the world, Tacitus wore many hats. He was an orator, historian and a public official with close ties among the elite political class.

He is the author of some of the greatest works in history, including 'Germania', which describes the Germanic tribes. His other book 'Histories' describes the history of the Roman Empire during AD 69-96. Similarly, 'Annals' is another book that describes the Roman period of AD 14-68. 'Agricola' is a book written on the life of Julius Agricola, his father-in-law. Tacitus wrote extensively on the Roman empire and its governance, tactics and values behind war and peace, philosophical ideas and ethics, among other works. This makes Tacitus important, as we can learn a lot from his work. Take a trip down Roman history with a collection of the greatest Tacitus quotes, all in one place!

If you liked these quotes on history, check out Livy quotes and [Piny the Elder quotes].

Cornelius Tacitus Quotes On State And Law

Cornelius Tacitus lived during the time of Roman emperor Nero, and later Nerva. Marrying into the Agricola family, he rose in ranks and reputation in the political circle. Given his close ties with the political elites, his book 'Histories And Annals' explore a first-hand account of the state and day-to-day functioning. Here are some of the best prominent quotes from the historian that are relevant to modern times.

1. “Great empires are not maintained by timidity.”

- Tacitus.

2. “The injustice of a government is proportional to the number of its laws.”

- Tacitus.

3. “In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous.”

- Tacitus.

4. “The more corrupt the state, the more laws.”

- Tacitus, Annals.

5. “In all things, there is a law of cycles.”

- Tacitus.

6. “Our magistrates discharge their duties best at the beginning; and fall off toward the end.”

- Tacitus.

7. “Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws.”

- Tacitus.

Cornelius Tacitus Quotes On War And Peace

Tacitus quotes about Jesus and religion put things in perspective.

Tacitus is among the league of  historians who talk about peace and war strategies. He gives primacy to peace, as can be observed in his works. We’ve rounded up some hard-hitting Tacitus quotes on war and peace that’ll make you appreciate the greatness of his mind as a historian and talented author.

8.  “He realized that monarchy was essential to peace, and that the price of freedom was violence and disorder.”

- Tacitus, 'Histories'.

9. “War will of itself discover and lay open the hidden and rankling wounds of the victorious party.”

- Tacitus.

10. “To ravage, to slaughter, to steal, this they give the false name of empire; and where they create a desert, they call it peace.”

- Tacitus, 'Agricola'.

11. “A bad peace is even worse than war.”

- Tacitus.

12. “In seasons of tumult and discord, bad men have the most power; mental and moral excellence require peace and quietness.”

- Tacitus.

13. “Once killing starts, it is difficult to draw the line.”

- Tacitus.

Cornelius Tacitus Quotes on Philosophy

Cornelius Tacitus was not only a Roman historian but also one of the greatest minds of that time. His wise words of advice projected his philosophy towards life. Some of the wisest words you’ll ever come across are Tacitus quotes on power, life, truth and fear. Which quotes inspire you the most? Find your favorite quote from this historian down below.

14. “Greater things are believed of those who are absent.”

- Tacitus.

15.  “Forbidden things have a secret charm.”

- Tacitus.

16. “Seek to make a person blush for their guilt rather than shed their blood.”

- Tacitus.

17. “It seems to me a historian’s foremost duty to ensure that merit is recorded, and to confront evil words and deeds with the fear of posterity’s denunciations.”

- Tacitus, 'Annals'.

18. “All ancient history was written with a moral object; the ethical interest predominates almost to the exclusion of all others.”

- Tacitus, 'Histories'.

19. “If we must fall, we should boldly meet the danger.”

- Tacitus.

20. “Noble character is best appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop.”

- Tacitus.

21. “Truth is established by investigation and delay; falsehood prospers by precipitancy.”

- Tacitus.

22. “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.”

- Tacitus, 'Annals'.

23. “Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth; when perfect sincerity is expected, perfect freedom must be allowed; nor has anyone who is apt to be angry when he hears the truth, any cause to wonder that he does not hear it.”

- Tacitus.

24. “In the struggle between those seeking power, there is no middle course.”

- Tacitus.

25. “The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all.”

- Tacitus.

Quotes On Human Nature

Tacitus quotes from 'Histories' and 'Annals' inspire people of all ages.

Most historians and philosophers were great observers, and Tacitus was too. His contributions to the literature of understanding humans and society are immense. As a historian, he spoke his mind, and his wise works reflect that. We bring to you some of the best Tacitus quotes to guide the human soul.

26. “It is the nature of the human disposition to hate him whom you have injured.”

- Tacitus.

27. “For it is the rare fortune of these days that a man may think what he likes and say what he thinks.”

- Tacitus, 'Histories'.

28. “Noble character is best appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop.”

- Tacitus.

29. “Even the bravest men are frightened by sudden terrors.”

- Tacitus.

30. “Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.”

- Tacitus.

31. “Posterity gives every man his true value.”

- Tacitus.

32. “A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man.”

- Tacitus .

33. “Lust of power is the most flagrant of all the passions.”

- Tacitus.

34. “The brave and bold persist even against fortune; the timid and cowardly rush to despair though fear alone.”

- Tacitus.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly quotes for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 30+ Tacitus quotes from the great Roman historian, then why not take a look at Thucydides quotes, or Virgil quotes.

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