The life of Tacitus
Cause of death:
Early life & reign
Tacitus was born around the year 200 in Interamna, Italia. With both the Senate and the military backing him he was elected to replace Aurelian after his assassination in 275. In the years prior to this the military had had significant influence in the choice of Roman Emperor. Between the reigns of Aurelian and Tacitus there was a brief period of time when Rome had no official government or ruler in place. There is some evidence that during that time the wife of Aurelian, Ulpia Severina, ruled from Rome before Tacitus could be formally elected by the Senate.
One of Tacitus' first acts as Emperor was to integrate the Senate more closely with the ruling of the Empire. The Senate was responsible for deifying Aurelian while Tacitus went after his murderers, eventually apprehending them and ordering their executions.
Tacitus also had to deal with barbarian's ransacking various towns in the provinces in the east of the Roman Empire. The barbarians had initially been hired as mercenaries by Aurelian for a campaign, but after his death they were left without work and pay and therefore turned to pillaging. Tacitus appointed his half brother Florianus as Praetorian Prefect who joined him in his mission to end the barbarian threat, in which they were successful.
Death & Legacy
After his victory in the east, Tacitus headed back westward to combat an invasion of Gaul by the Franks. On his way to Gaul Tacitus contracted a fever from which he died in June 276. Some accounts claim Tacitus was assassinated, however this is unlikely as there are no accounts of him having had any close enemies with a reason to or being capable of murdering him.
- Tacitus was the last Roman Emperor to be appointed by the Senate of Rome.
- Tacitus gained the title of Gothicus Maximus after his victory against the barbarian mercenaries.
- There are accounts of Tacitus acting erratically prior to dying from his fever, declaring that he would alter the names of the months to honour himself.
- Tacitus claimed descent from the famous historian of the same name, however modern scholars say this is merely a fabrication likely in an attempt to boost his reputation.