Marcus Claudius Tacitus
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“I am the other Tacitus”
There are a couple of remarkable facts to be written down about Marcus Claudius Tacitus. He became Roman Emperor at the advanced age of 75 (or older) in a time when most people in the Roman Empire were pushing up the daisies by their 21st birthday. To get this in context, it would be like having as a leader aged about 140 years as President of the United States in the modern era. Tacitus was also elected to the post by the Roman Senate, which for the first time in years were able to choose an imperial candidate instead of rubber stamping any idiot a Roman army had proclaimed as 'Divine Ruler'.
This fate, at least Marcus Claudius Tacitus was anxious to avoid. He appears to have had some family connection to the Roman historian Gaius Cornelius Tacitus whose biographies of 1st century Roman rulers remain the adored subject matter of film, television and game creators. Perhaps this background explains why he survived as emperor as long as he did when the life expectancy of a 'Divine Ruler' was approximately two years.
edit In Brief
After a long career in the middle management of the Roman political system, Tacitus had retired to the Senate to improve his golf handicap. Whilst there, news arrived in Rome that Emperor Aurelian had in fact been dead for the last six months but no one had noticed as his wife Ulpia Severina had been impersonating him successfully. That the Roman army hadn't noticed either probably explains their extreme embarrassment and decision not to put forward their own for the top job. So instead the empire got old Tacitus and his equally aged , red faced brother Florianus Floridus as his unofficial deputy.
Emperor Tacitus tried as much as possible to promote the cult of his supposed ancestor and re-published the writer's work. This was distinctly odd because in the historian Tacitus's work, he made a very good case about having no one as emperor and observed the maxim that if you give someone supreme power, they tended to act a bit like a bloody minded tyrant. For a short period the Roman empire was at peace. The previous soldier-emperors had reconquered the Eastern provinces and the Gaul-based rival empire had agreed to return to central authority. But the frontiers were still wild and it wasn't long before another mob of Germans were disturbing Pax Romana.
Emperor Tacitus marched out of Rome and up to the frontiers. A glowing report claiming a massive victory against the Goths, Vandals and the Hurli, a particularly unpleasant tribe of Germans who would vomit their breakfast (at distance) against enemies. Perhaps it was that that unhinged the old boy because soon he was asking where Roman Emperor Septimius Severus was (answer - dead since 2011) and why he hadn't been invited to Rome's 1,000 year anniversary party (answer - it happened in 248). Soon he was sitting around in his pants and obviously mentally unhinged.
The official story was that Emperor Tacitus had then died but had chosen his brother Florianus Floridus as his successor. Other historians suggested Floridus had stuffed his brother's mouth with grass or flowers and claimed his late brother had died eating like a horse. What ever, Floridus was now emperor but in the east the army agreed Rome was No Empire for Old Men and selected General P.J. Probus as their champion. There was going to be a Roman rumble!
edit Weird Postscript
Mentioned above, Emperor Tacitus claimed the historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus as his distant forefather. During the brief rule of Tacitus, as emperor he got a compliment of busts and statues carved to flatter/curry favour etc. The ones that survived are now used to celebrate the work of the writer Tacitus! These people should no better, Emperor Tacitus is dressed like a regular Roman emperor of the time with a beard and a haggard look. Historian Tacitus was just a humble scroll scribbler and no one now knows what he looked like.