Deciphering the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 'Tacitus' Reveal - Article

By Joseph Trotter, April 25, 2012
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Yesterday, a teaser image was tweeted by CallOfDuty.com revealing a grainy image with 'Tacitus' just about decipherable within the fuzz. What could it mean?

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

It should first be mentioned that 'Tacitus' has so far played a large part in the Black Ops 2 viral campaign, including this video of FPSRussia discussing the 'Protoype Quadrotor.' There have been suggestions that Tacitus is a reference to the same-named lunar impact-crater, and thus means that the next game will be named 'Eclipse,' or that the game will be released on the 13th November, the date of the next solar eclipse. Considering the cold war setting of the original, and the certainty that the next COD will be released during the Christmas run-up, this is both a logical and likely conjecture. I would, however, like to investigate another semantic possibility, one based upon theory and ideology.

The Roman imperial historian Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, active in the late 1st and early 2nd cAD, is famous as the author of the Annals, a history of the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius and Nero (14-68 cAD), the Histories, which relates the Year of the Four Emperors (69 cAD), and the shorter works the Agricola and the Germania. He is perhaps more famous for his devastatingly anti-totalitarian critiques, still held up by scholars today as some of the most destructive criticisms of autocracy ever written:

Thus the nature of the state had changed, and no trace of the old integrity of character was anywhere to be found. Equality had been discarded, and everybody focused on the emperor's commands . . . They (the Romans) would be slaves to a woman and two youngsters along with her; these would tyrannise the state for the time being, and later tear it to shreds.

Tacitus. Annals. 1. 4. (trans. J. C. Yardley)

This point is important if we are to understand any ideological suggestions from the use of Tacitus. As a great dissenter of autocracy (although he agreed it could work with a strong leader), his writings have been associated with dissident groups for centuries. In the Call of Duty: Black Ops universe, this could work in two ways:

1. It is the name of a Russian terrorist splinter (or not) group, fighting against the imperialist aggression of the United States.

2. It is the codename of an American undercover mission meant to bring down the Soviet totalitarian state.

If this is the case, I personally believe the latter would be more likely; American ideology of the period often associated itself with democratic rhetoric vs the autocratic Soviet regime, so Tacitus would be an obvious codename with obvious connotations for any attempts to subvert the communist state.

What do you think? Lunar crater or critiquing historian? Let us know below.

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