166+ Best Tacitus Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. He is known for the brevity and compactness of his Latin prose, as well as for his penetrating insights into the psychology of power politics. Thought-provoking Tacitus quotes will encourage you to think a little deeper than you usually would and broaden your perspective.

If you’re searching for life quotes and sayings that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of famous Marcus Tullius Cicero quotes, memorable Julius Caesar quotes, and inspiring Marcus Aurelius quotes.

Most Famous Tacitus Quotes

It is always easier to requite an injury than a service: gratitude is a burden, but revenge is found to pay. – Tacitus

Old things are always in good repute, present things in disfavor. – Tacitus

The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government. – Tacitus

The lust for power, for dominating others, inflames the heart more than any other passion. – Tacitus

Things forbidden have a secret charm. – Tacitus

Christianity is a pestilent superstition. – Tacitus

Neglected, calumny soon expires, show that you are hurt, and you give it the appearance of truth. – Tacitus

None make a greater show of sorrow than those who are most delighted. – Tacitus

We extol ancient things, regardless of our own times. [Lat., Vetera extollimus recentium incuriosi.] – Tacitus

The most detestable race of enemies are flatterers. – Tacitus

None grieve so ostentatiously as those who rejoice most in heart. [Lat., Nulla jactantius moerent quam qui maxime laetantur.] – Tacitus

Nature gives liberty even to dumb animals. – Tacitus

The grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient. – Tacitus

The worst crimes were dared by a few, willed by more and tolerated by all. – Tacitus

Modern houses are so small we’ve had to train our dog to wag its tail up and down and not sideways. – Tacitus

So as you go into battle, remember your ancestors and remember your descendants. – Tacitus

This I regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds. – Tacitus

An honorable death is better than a dishonorable life. [Lat., Honesta mors turpi vita potior.] – Tacitus

The most seditious is the most cowardly. – Tacitus

If you would know who controls you see who you may not criticise. – Tacitus

Following Emporer Nero’s command,Let the Christians be exterminated!:. . . they [the Christians] were made the subjects of sport; they were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. – Tacitus

The Romans brought devestation, but they called it peace. – Tacitus

Auctor nominis eius Christus,Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum, supplicio affectus erat. Christ, the leader of the sect, had been put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. – Tacitus

An eminent reputation is as dangerous as a bad one. – Tacitus

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure – Tacitus

In valor there is hope. – Tacitus

A man in power, once becoming obnoxious, his acts, good or bad, will work out his ruin. – Tacitus

Remedies are more tardy in their operation than diseases. – Tacitus

The Germans themselves I should regard as aboriginal, and not mixed at all with other races through immigration or intercourse. For in former times, it was not by land but on shipboard that those who sought to emigrate would arrive; and the boundless and, so to speak, hostile ocean beyond us,is seldom entered by a sail from our world. – Tacitus

Who the first inhabitants of Britain were, whether natives or immigrants, remains obscure; one must remember we are dealing with barbarians. – Tacitus

Reason and judgment are the qualities of a leader. – Tacitus

More faults are often committed while we are trying to oblige than while we are giving offense. – Tacitus

I am my nearest neighbour. – Tacitus

Bottling up his malice to be suppressed and brought out with increased violence. – Tacitus

The gods are on the side of the stronger. – Tacitus

Falsehood avails itself of haste and uncertainty. – Tacitus

The injustice of a government is proportional to the number of its laws. – Tacitus

Whatever is unknown is magnified. – Tacitus

The lust of fame is the last that a wise man shakes off. – Tacitus

A bad peace is even worse than war. – Tacitus

The hatred of those who are near to us is most violent. – Tacitus

No one in Germany laughs at vice, nor do they call it the fashion to corrupt and to be corrupted. – Tacitus

Secure against the designs of men, secure against the malignity of the Gods, they have accomplished a thing of infinite difficulty; that to them nothing remains even to be wished. – Tacitus

The persecution of genius fosters its influence. – Tacitus

Conspicuous by his absence. – Tacitus

Cassius and Brutus were the more distinguished for that very circumstance that their portraits were absent. [Lat., Praefulgebant Cassius atque Brutus eo ipso, quod effigies eorum non videbantur.] – Tacitus

Flatterers are the worst kind of enemies. [Lat., Pessimum genus inimicorum laudantes.] – Tacitus

It is common, to esteem most what is most unknown. – Tacitus

The sciences throw an inexpressible grace over our compositions, even where they are not immediately concerned; as their effects are discernible where we least expect to find them. – Tacitus

Perdomita Britannia et statim omissa. Britain was conquered and immediately lost. – Tacitus

Custom adapts itself to expediency. – Tacitus

Rumor is not always wrong – Tacitus

Benefits received are a delight to us as long as we think we can requite them; when that possibility is far exceeded, they are repaid with hatred instead of gratitude. – Tacitus

Everything unknown is magnified. [Lat., Omne ignotum pro magnifico est.] – Tacitus

Traitors are hated even by those whom they prefer. – Tacitus

Such being the happiness of the times, that you may think as you wish, and speak as you think. – Tacitus

It is a part of the nature of man to resist compulsion. – Tacitus

It is found by experience that admirable laws and right precedents among the good have their origin in the misdeeds of others. – Tacitus

He (Tiberius) was wont to mock at the arts of physicians, and at those who, after thirty years of age, needed counsel as to what was good or bad for their bodies. – Tacitus

It is the rare fortune of these days that one may think what one likes and say what one thinks. – Tacitus

Power acquired by guilt was never used for a good purpose. [Lat., Imperium flagitio acquisitum nemo unquam bonis artibus exercuit.] – Tacitus

When a woman has lost her chastity she will shrink from nothing. – Tacitus

Candor and generosity, unless tempered by due moderation, leads to ruin. – Tacitus

Valor is of no service, chance rules all, and the bravest often fall by the hands of cowards. – Tacitus

Be assured those will be thy worst enemies, not to whom thou hast done evil, but who have done evil to thee. And those will be thy best friends, not to whom thou hast done good, but who have done good to thee. – Tacitus

There was more courage in bearing trouble than in escaping from it; the brave and the energetic cling to hope, even in spite of fortune; the cowardly and the indolent are hurried by their fears,’ said Plotius Firmus, Roman Praetorian Guard. – Tacitus

Flattery labors under the odious charge of servility. – Tacitus

To rob, to ravage, to murder, in their imposing language, are the arts of civil policy. When they have made the world a solitude, they call it peace. – Tacitus

They make solitude, which they call peace. – Tacitus

Neglected, calumny soon expires, show that you are hurt, and you give it the appearance of truth. – Tacitus

Indeed, the crowning proof of their valour and their strength is that they keep up their superiority without harm to others. – Tacitus

Wise Cornelius Tacitus Quotes

Posterity will pay everyone their due. – Tacitus

A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all. – Tacitus

Abuse if you slight it, will gradually die away; but if you show yourself irritated, you will be thought to have deserved it. – Tacitus

When the State is corrupt, then the laws are most multiplied. – Tacitus

A desire to resist oppression is implanted in the nature of man. – Tacitus

Other men have acquired fame by industry, but this man by indolence. – Tacitus

Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty. – Tacitus

A woman once fallen will shrink from no impropriety. – Tacitus

The most detestable race of enemies are flatterers. – Tacitus

Cruelty is fed, not weakened, by tears. – Tacitus

That cannot be safe which is not honourable. – Tacitus

No one would have doubted his ability to reign had he never been emperor. – Tacitus

The unknown always passes for the marvellous. – Tacitus

Great empires are not maintained by timidity. – Tacitus

He (Tiberius) was wont to mock at the arts of physicians, and at those who, after thirty years of age, needed counsel as to what was good or bad for their bodies. – Tacitus

In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous. – Tacitus

Viewed from a distance, everything is beautiful. – Tacitus

The wicked find it easier to coalesce for seditious purposes than for concord in peace. – Tacitus

People flatter us because they can depend upon our credulity. – Tacitus

It is less difficult to bear misfortunes than to remain uncorrupted by pleasure. – Tacitus

Many who seem to be struggling with adversity are happy; many, amid great affluence, are utterly miserable. – Tacitus

The worst hatred is that of relatives. – Tacitus

The hatred of those who are near to us is most violent. – Tacitus

To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it. – Tacitus

Formerly we suffered from crimes; now we suffer from laws. – Tacitus

Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth. – Tacitus

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges. – Tacitus

To plunder, to slaughter, to steal, these things they misname empire; and where they make a wilderness, they call it peace. – Tacitus

When men are full of envy they disparage everything, whether it be good or bad. – Tacitus

Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity. – Tacitus

Augustus gradually increased his powers, taking over those of the senate, the executives and the laws. The aristocracy received wealth and position in proportion to their willingness to accept slavery. The state had been transformed, and the old Roman character gone for ever. Equality among citizens was completely abandoned. All now waited on the imperial command. – Tacitus

They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace. – Tacitus

One who is allowed to sin, sins less – Tacitus

Things are not to be judged good or bad merely because the public think so. – Tacitus

Every recreant who proved his timidity in the hour of danger, was afterwards boldest in words and tongue. – Tacitus

It belongs to human nature to hate those you have injured. – Tacitus

Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit, because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure –

The customs of the Jews are base and abominable and owe their persistence to their depravity. Jews are extremely loyal to one another, always ready to show compassion, but towards every other people they feel only hate and enimity. As a race (the Jews are not a race, because they have mingled with the other races to the point that they are only a people, not a race), they are prone to lust; among themselves nothing is unlawful. – Tacitus

Power won by crime no one ever yet turned to a good purpose. – Tacitus

He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again. – Tacitus

All things atrocious and shameless flock from all parts to Rome. – Tacitus

Prosperity is the measure or touchstone of virtue, for it is less difficult to bear misfortune than to remain uncorrupted by pleasure. – Tacitus

All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigor at first, but are sure to collapse in the end. – Tacitus

We see many who are struggling against adversity who are happy, and more although abounding in wealth, who are wretched. – Tacitus

The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise. – Tacitus

The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. – Tacitus

It is human nature to hate the man whom you have hurt. – Tacitus

An eminent reputation is as dangerous as a bad one. – Tacitus

Noble character is best appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop. – Tacitus

Victor and vanquished never unite in substantial agreement. – Tacitus

Greater things are believed of those who are absent. – Tacitus

Those in supreme power always suspect and hate their next heir. – Tacitus

Love of fame is the last thing even learned men can bear to be parted from. – Tacitus

Legions and fleets are not such sure bulwarks of imperial power as a numerous family – Tacitus

A cowardly populace which will dare nothing beyond talk. [Lat., Vulgus ignavum et nihil ultra verba ausurum.] – Tacitus

All those things that are now field to be of the greatest antiquity were at one time new; what we to-day hold up by example will rank hereafter as precedent. – Tacitus

Nothing mortal is so unstable and subject to change as power which has no foundation. – Tacitus

In stirring up tumult and strife, the worst men can do the most, but peace and quiet cannot be established without virtue. – Tacitus

Tacitus has written an entire work on the manners of the Germans. This work is short, but it comes from the pen of Tacitus, who was always concise, because he saw everything at a glance. – Tacitus

Seek to make a person blush for their guilt rather than shed their blood. – Tacitus

What is today supported by precedents will hereafter become a precedent. – Tacitus

The images of twenty of the most illustrious families the Manlii, the Quinctii, and other names of equal splendour were carried before it [the bier of Junia]. Those of Brutus and Cassius were not displayed; but for that very reason they shone with pre-eminent lustre. – Tacitus

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes; nor may a man thus disgraced be present at the sacred rites, or enter their council; many, indeed, after escaping from battle, have ended their infamy with the halter. – Tacitus

Benefits are acceptable, while the receiver thinks he may return them; but once exceeding that, hatred is given instead of thanks. [Lat., Beneficia usque eo laeta sunt dum videntur exsolvi posse; ubi multum antevenere pro gratia odium redditur.] – Tacitus

Posterity gives to every man his true honor. [Lat., Suum cuique decus posteritas rependet.] – Tacitus

Our magistrates discharge their duties best at the beginning; and fall off toward the end. [Lat., Initia magistratuum nostrorum meliora, ferme finis inclinat.] – Tacitus

The brave and bold persist even against fortune; the timid and cowardly rush to despair through fear alone.
[Lat., Fortes et strenuos etiam contra fortunam insistere, timidos et ignoros ad desperationem formidine properare.] – Tacitus

This I hold to be the chief office of history, to rescue virtuous actions from the oblivion to which a want of records would consign them, and that men should feel a dread of being considered infamous in the opinions of posterity, from their depraved expressions and base actions. – Tacitus

It is the nature of the human disposition to hate him whom you have injured. – Tacitus

Experience teaches. [Lat., Experientia docet.] – Tacitus

Crime succeeds by sudden despatch; honest counsels gain vigor by delay. – Tacitus

Bodies are slow of growth but are rapid in their dissolution. [Lat., Corpora lente augescent, cito extinguuntur.] – Tacitus

They even say that an altar dedicated to Ulysses , with the addition of the name of his father, Laertes , was formerly discovered on the same spot, and that certain monuments and tombs with Greek inscriptions, still exist on the borders of Germany and Rhaetia . – Tacitus

Miseram pacem vel bello bene mutari. Even war is preferable to a shameful peace. – Tacitus

None mourn more ostentatiously than those who most rejoice at it [a death]. – Tacitus

Even honor and virtue make enemies, condemning, as they do, their opposites by too close a contrast. – Tacitus

War will of itself discover and lay open the hidden and rankling wounds of the victorious party. – Tacitus

Even the bravest men are frightened by sudden terrors. – Tacitus

So true is it that all transactions of preeminent importance are wrapt in doubt and obscurity; while some hold for certain facts the most precarious hearsays, others turn facts into falsehood; and both are exaggerated by posterity. – Tacitus

Lust of power is the most flagrant of all the passions – Tacitus

The repose of nations cannot be secure without arms, armies cannot be maintained without pay, nor can the pay be produced without taxes – Tacitus

Style, like the human body, is especially beautiful when the veins are not prominent and the bones cannot be counted. – Tacitus

Deos fortioribus adesse. The gods support those who are stronger. – Tacitus

Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant. They make a wilderness and they call it peace. – Tacitus

The word liberty has been falsely used by persons who, being degenerately profligate in private life, and mischievous in public, had no hope left but in fomenting discord. – Tacitus

Reckless adventure is the fool’s hazard. – Tacitus

The love of fame is a love that even the wisest of men are reluctant to forgo. – Tacitus

Rumor does not always err; it sometimes even elects a man. – Tacitus

It is of eloquence as of a flame; it requires matter to feed it, and motion to excite it; and it brightens as it burns. – Tacitus

In the struggle between those seeking power there is no middle course. – Tacitus

By general consent, he would have been capable of ruling, had he not ruled. – Tacitus

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

They terrify lest they should fear. – Tacitus

Zealous in the commencement, careless in the end. – Tacitus

The love of dominion is the most engrossing passion. – Tacitus