Fictional character biography[edit | edit source]
He was a soldier of the Ankh-Morpork Empire, and is widely proclaimed to be the greatest general of all time. In fact, on the Discworld the word 'tactics' was derived from his name. Though he is long dead at the time of the events portrayed in the series, his legacy lives on.
He is an amalgamation of various actual historical characters, including Alexander the Great, Marcus Aurelius and Julius Caesar, which latter is referred to by the title of his autobiography, VENI VIDI VICI: A Soldier's Life. "Veni Vidi Vici" - "I came, I saw, I conquered" is arguably the most famous thing Julius Caesar ever said and "A Soldier's Life" seems to be a popular title for a number of military biographies and autobiographies. Tacticus' name, while most likely a reference to the Roman historian Tacitus, possibly refers to two early Greek writers on the art of war, Aeneas Tacticus and Aelianus Tacticus. These men gained this name through being tacticians; the Discworld etymology reverses this. Much of the advice in General Tacticus' autobiography reflects Sun Tzu's The Art of War, as well as certain remarks attributed to General Patton.
Tacticus conquered a large area of the Discworld, both around the city of Ankh-Morpork and well into the rimward continent of Klatch. Since his campaigns were as expensive as they were effective, the rulers of Ankh-Morpork tried to get rid of Tacticus in a respectful and appropriate way. When at one point the far-flung city of Genua, having run out of royalty of their own, asked Ankh-Morpork for a Duke, Tacticus was promoted and sent there. Immediately upon becoming a Genuan citizen, he evaluated the question of the greatest military threat posed by any single other nation. Tacticus therefore declared war on Ankh-Morpork, which (it is implied) was the reason why Ankh-Morpork lost its large empire. This later career is reminiscent of that of General Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, later King Charles XIV John of Sweden.
When Vimes got a copy of Tacticus' autobiography from the Librarian, he formulated a characteristically cynical opinion as to why Tacticus, although respected, was not much liked by history: Tacticus didn't get a huge number of his men killed by his own arrogance and incompetence. Snippets of Tacticus' advice turns up in various Discworld chronicles, and it can be gathered that he was a very realistic, down-to-earth general. For example, the section of his autobiography entitled "What to Do When One Army Occupies a Well-Fortified Fortress on Superior Ground and the Other Does Not" begins with the sentence "Endeavour to be the one inside." Another good example of Tacticus' sense of pragmatism would be his maxim "It is always useful to face an enemy who is prepared to die for his country. This means that both he and you have exactly the same aim in mind." This is a rather more genteelly expressed version of a quote attributed to George S. Patton. It is most likely because of this realism that otherwise "honorable" generals considered Tacticus to be a dishonest and dirty fighter, as evidenced by his quote, "We must grab history by the scrotum".