Voltaire on Tacitus. Is Tacitus a forgery?

Is Tacitus a forgery?

  • No, how can you possibly think such a thing!

    Votes: 15 68.2%
  • Possibly but I'm not going to say it in polite company.

    Votes: 2 9.1%
  • Ok, this is interesting.

    Votes: 4 18.2%
  • Yes he was.

    Votes: 1 4.5%

  • Total voters
  • Poll closed .
Mar 2013
Breakdancing on the Moon.
Lol nah. No offence but Voltaire is hardly an expert witness. Also I'd be interested in how Ol' Poggio (the rediscoverer or Lucretius no less) was able to fake early MSS' and write in a Latin so markedly different from his own or what anybody else was able to produce at the time. As well as interpolate all those early quotations and fragments. Btw I'm not knocking Poggio's style as it is very good for the day and his handwriting is an absolute godsend but there's a reason most conspiracy theorists always arise from non professionals and exist on the fringe. No one who knew Latin or textual criticism or palaeography or even basic Roman history could think of this.

On the other hand the environment from which such things come is a very interesting question for intellectual historians and says a lot about later readings and the reception of Tacitus.
Mar 2013
Yes those are the things you would have to address. On my basic knowledge of Roman history though I cannot rule it out. Of course you might drag Pliny the Younger along as well, as his letters were found by the same source in the late Middle Ages along with Tacitus.

So is there any independent reference to Tacitus (other than Pliny)? I don't have the Latin to address the style of Latin. Nor do I have the original (because it's not is it?) to go on for analysis of the materials used. We just have the copy from the Middle Ages to go on.

So I'm going 'ok, this is interesting' for the moment.
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Dec 2013
Scholars of the 3rd/5th century (Tertullian, Jerome, Orosius and others) mentioned and quoted Tacitus in their own-works; And thus it is highly doubtful (impossible) for Tacitus to stem from the 13th century;
Mar 2013
Well it would be unlikely that Tacitus did not exist then.

That doesn't mean the work that we have now is not from the Middle ages. We only have one source as far as I know. Tacitus could have been reworked and the originals destroyed.

What did Voltaire say exactly, I don't seem to have been able to find that?
Mar 2013
Tacitus' use of 'quod' and 'esse' is interesting as that seems anachronistic. It often seems to be stated that his latin was bad too.
Mar 2014
Do we have contemporary sources that mention Tacitus or Pliny?

Pliny's letters to Trajan and their talk about Christians always struck me as convenient
Mar 2013
I believe Tacitus was unknown until later.

I see that Tertullian, Jerome & Orosius are all christian writers. Do we have a pagan one?

And Pliny's letters to Trajan were discovered (let's be generous here) in the same parcel as Tacitus' annales.
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Jan 2011
Supposedly Voltaire stated that Tacitus was a fake dreamed up by a monk called Poggio Bracciolini. For example see here;

Is Tacitus a forgery?
Tacitus and his manuscripts

Do we have some original sources for this?
Voltaire didn't doubt the existence of Tacitus. He doubted what he wrote. So you will find sources showing that Voltaire doubted Tacitus writings, but no sources showing that Voltaire thought that Tacitus didn't exist.