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

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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 to show Tacitus’ works to be the result of forgery. None of the attempts have done much to persuade the majority of scholars.

1 – In 1775, Voltaire was apparently the first person to suggest the works to be forgeries. Voltaire’s claims were than expanded upon by Linguet, a lawyer.

2 – In 1878, John Wilson Ross published Tacitus and Bracciolini: the Annals forged in the XVth century in London.

3 – In 1890, P. Hochart published De l’Authenticite des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite.

4 – In 1906, Eugene Bacha published Le Genie de Tacite.

5 – In 1920, Leo Wiener published Tacitus’ Germania and other forgeries.

6 – In 1923, T.S.Jerome published Aspects of the Study of History.

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[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.

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