Callus Tacticus

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General Tacticus
Name Callus Tacticus (also A. Tacticus)
Race Human
Occupation Military leader (Ankh-Morpork), Duke (Genua)
Physical appearance
Residence Ankh-Morpork, later Genua
Death long time ago
Marital Status
Books Mentioned in several books, most notably Jingo, Wintersmith
Cameos Hogfather, Carpe Jugulum, Feet of Clay, Monstrous Regiment

The greatest military theoretician in the history of the Disc (as opposed to Carelinus, the greatest conquerer), tactics are named after General Tacticus. He has been seen as too competent for his own good. The general wrote a number of military journals, most famously Veni Vidi Vici: A Soldier's Life with very practical advice for the aspiring commander, such as the following section on what to do if one army occupies a well-fortified and superior fortress and the other does not:

"Endeavor to be the one inside."

At the height of his renown, the royal family of Genua died out and Genua requested that Ankh-Morpork nominate a suitable new duke. They rewarded Tacticus with the selection; his first act after assuming the throne was to declare war on the biggest rival: Ankh-Morpork. This led to the downfall of the Empire of Ankh-Morpork, which at that time stretched all the way into Klatch and across the Sto Plains. His horse, Thalacephalos, is mentioned in Monstrous Regiment as a legendary stallion, although its namesake is in fact a bad tempered mare.

The General has also been referred to as A. Tacticus.


"Tacticus" is a play on the name of the famous Roman writer and military leader Tacitus. Known for his spare and concise prose, Tacitus was considered required reading for young British boys taking elementary Latin and thus conforms to the TP tendency to send up the British educational system. Tacitus (whose name in Latin literally means "reticent") was noted for his pithy quips and impassive recording of facts, a characteristic not common among Roman historians, who tended to embellish their work with colorful and highly opinionated glosses. The confusion over Tacticus' first name may even be based on Tacitus, whose first name may have been either "Publius" or "Cornelius."

Although it is almost certain that Tacitus is the basis for this character, his many qualities are drawn from a number of famous generals and historians, including of course Julius Caesar, famous for the quote, "Veni, vidi, vici."

"A. Tacticus" could also derive from Aeneas Tacticus, (4th century BC) who was one of the earliest Greek writers on the art of war. His book How to Survive under Siege (Greek: Περὶ τοῦ πῶς χρὴ πολιορκουμένους ἀντέχειν), deals with the best methods of defending a fortified city.

See also Aelianus Tacticus, a Greek military writer of the 2nd century, resident at Rome. Aelian's military treatise in fifty-three chapters on the tactics of the Greeks (Περί Στρατηγικων Τάξεων Ελληνικων), is a handbook of Greek, i.e. Macedonian, drill and tactics as practiced by the Hellenistic successors of Alexander the Great. The author claims to have consulted all the best authorities, the chief of which was a lost treatise on the subject by Polybius. Perhaps the chief value of Aelian's work lies in his critical account of preceding works on the art of war, and in the fullness of his technical details in matters of drill.

The numerous epigrams of Tacticus may, at least in part, have been inspired by the author and general Sun Tzu.

Another Roundworld referent could well be the Byzantine general Belisarius, who in the 500's progressively reconquered lands thought to have been lost to the Roman Empire after the fall of the West. After reconquering the whole of North Africa and bringing the Visigoths and Vandals to submit to Constantinople, he wrote to the Emperor explaining he was about to reconquer Italy, and could the august Caesar please see his way clear to paying the following bills incurred as a result? He repeated his request from what is today southern Switzerland, explaining that with sufficient finance, he could be on the Channel coast in a week having re-conquered Gaul, and could the Byzantine Navy sail round to the Channel, please, so as to ferry the army over to re-conquer Britain? The results of his polite inquiries was a recall and subsequently, his removal.

His horse Thalacephalus is named in reference to Alexander the Great's horse, Bucephalos; this is odd given that Discworld has an analogue for Alexander in Carelinus.

Oh, and "Callous" in English means "Emotionally hardened; unfeeling". Calluses are toughened areas of skin, especially those which developed into horns.


  • "Let us take history by the scrotum." (Of course, he was not a very honourable man. (Lord Rust))
  • "It is always useful to face an enemy who is prepared to die for his country. This means that both you and he have exactly the same aim in mind."
  • "...A crucial factor, I have always found, is NOT the size of the forces. It is the positioning and commitment of reserves, the bringing of power to a point..."
  • "Don't Have a Battle." -- Tacticus on the topic of 'ensuring against defeat when out-numbered, out-weaponed and out-positioned'.
  • "If you want your men to spend much time wielding a shovel, encourage them to become farmers." -- Tacticus on the topic of beachheads.
  • "After the first battle of Sto Lat, I formulated a policy which has stood me in good stead in other battles. It is this: if the enemy has an impregnable stronghold, see he stays there."