Tacitus Manuscripts

Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (56-120 CE) is commonly believed to have been a senator and historian of the Roman Empire.

Tacitus’ works:
1 – Annales, 1-6
2 – Annales, 11-16, Historiae
3 – Minor Works

“It was probably not until the nineteenth century that the recognizably modern age of Tacitean scholarship began. This was an era which saw the professionalization of history as a discipline in the universities, the establishment of learned journals for the publication of scholarly research and book reviews, and the institution of series such as the Teubner library of Greek and Latin Classics and the Oxford Classical Texts.”
Rhiannon Ash (2012)[5, p.4]


Annales 1-6, Annals

These 6 books survive in a single manuscript which is held at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence as MS. plut. 68.1. It has been referred to as:
– Codex Mediceaus, or M[1]
– Codex Laurentianus Mediceus 68.1[2]
– Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana MS plut. 68.1[3, p.190]

It contains Annals 1-6, Germanica, and Agricola.

Its provenance is:[1]

1508 – M was removed from the library in the monastery of Corvey, in Saxony.

c.1515 – Pope Leo X had ownership and lent it to Filippo Beraldo the Younger, who created the first edition of it in 1515.

Present – When did the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence acquire it?

M is typically believed to have been written around 850 AD in Germany. M appeared out of obscurity in the 16th century.


Annales 11-16, Historiae

There are reportedly 31 late Italian manuscripts which are copies of a single mediaeval manuscript. All the copies date from 1437 and later. The single original is in the Laurentian library marked as 68.2. It has been referred to as:
– “M. II” or “second Medicean”[1]
– Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 68.2[4]

Its provenance is:[1]

Sometime between 1331-1344 – Paulus Venetus, Bishop of Puzzuoli, used it while it was at Monte Cassino.

“How the MS came to leave Monte Cassino is a matter of mystery.”
-Roger Pearse[1]

1375 – Upon the death of Boccaccio, it was gifted to S. Spirito in Florence.

1427 – Niccolo Niccoli had possession of the MS.

1537 – Upon the death of Niccolo, the monastery of San Marco at Florence gained possession of it.

Present – When did the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence acquire it?

This manuscript is believed to have been written in the 11th century. The manuscript appeared out of obscurity in the 14th century.


Minor Works

1 – Dialogus

2 – Agricola

3 – Germania

The only surviving copy containing all of these is the Codex Aesinas Latinus 8 (E). This manuscript was discovered in 1902, it was thought lost, and then it reappeared in 1980. It was sold to the Biblioteca Nazionale in Rome in 1994 and is now held there as Cod. Vitt. Em. 1631.[1]

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Is Tacitus a Forgery?

There have been 6 main attempts in the modern era to show Tacitus’ works to be the result of forgery. None of the attempts have done much to persuade the majority of scholars.[6, p.219]

1 – In 1775, Voltaire lead the modern charge the first person to suggest the works to be forgeries. Voltaire’s claims were than expanded upon by Linguet, a lawyer.[6, p.219]

2 – In 1878, John Wilson Ross (1818-97) anonymously published Tacitus and Bracciolini: the Annals forged in the XVth century in London. In this work, he argued that Poggio Bracciolini forged the Annals in the C15th.[6, p.219]

* Ross is named as “W. R. Ross” in Mendell (1970).[6, p.219] I don’t know if this is an error or if Ross had multiple names he went by.

3 – In 1890, P. Hochart published De l’Authenticite des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite, arguing Tacitus’ Histories and Annals were forgeries.[6, p.219]

4 – In 1906, Eugene Bacha published Le Genie de Tacite, arguing that “Tacitus was the master of romantic fiction”.[6, p.220]

5 – In 1920, Leo Wiener published Tacitus’ Germania and other forgeries, arguing that Tacitus was written after Europe had been impacted by the Arabs.[6, p.219-220]

6 – In 1923, T.S.Jerome published Aspects of the Study of History, calling Tacitus a liar.[6, p.220]



[1] – http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/tacitus/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

[2] – https://www.bmlonline.it/en/la-biblioteca/manoscritti-della-riserva/facsimili/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

[3] – McKitterick, Rosamond. “History and Memory in the Carolingian World” (2004). https://books.google.com/books?id=EWj0ujGyGewC&dq=MS.+plut.+68.1&source=gbs_navlinks_s. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

[4] – Costantini, Leonardo. “AN EMENDATION TO APULEIUS, APOLOGIA 47.1″ (2018). https://search.proquest.com/openview/90ad2a4080911bb2909fedf5f1f730e1/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=40538. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

[5] – Ash, Rhiannon, et al. Oxford Readings in Tacitus (Oxford Readings in Classical Studies). 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2012. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

[6] – Mendell, Clarence. Tacitus,: The Man and His Work. Archon Books, 1970.

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4 Comments on “Tacitus Manuscripts

  1. What I find hard to understand is the immense work that must have been put into forging the annals, it seems more plausible that the manuscript is genuine, but that the dating is wrong.

    Does Fomenko claim that the Tacitus Manuscripts are forgeries?
    Or is he merely shifting the context of time and place?

    A shift in time may explain some of John Wilson Ross’ issues with anachronisms in Tacitus as a result of misdating, – that is – using Ockhams razor to cut away the assumption of forgery, the time shift hypothesis of Fomenko offers the simplest solution in that regard?

    But then again we are still left to deal the complex assumption of Fomenkos shift of geography (and the Russia-horde) so the argument of Ockhams razor does not lend itself to Fomenkos theory either.

    Maybe Gunnar Heinsohn provides the best explanation? If you haven’t already seen his presentation of “Catastrophe and Cronology”, you can find his lecture here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think page 25 @ http://chronologia.org/en/seven/1N01-EN-001-030.pdf might answer your first two questions.

      “We should just note that we deem the History by Tacitus to be an edited original – that is, a partial forgery and not a complete one. However, the events related in the History have been misdated and transposed far back in time.”

      So partly forgery, mostly true, completely misdated

      I’ve seen Heinsohn’s lecture but it’s been awhile. I’ll check it out again here soon

      Liked by 2 people

  2. In John Ross’ Tacitus and Bracciolini the Annals forged in the xvth century, he goes into many, many precise mistakes of both style and content, which together convince him the Histories and the Annals were written by two different people. It’s then a question as to whether Tacitus wrote the Histories. Who were these two?

    Liked by 1 person

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