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[The appropriate section numbers, and links to the online citations have kindly been provided by Bill Thayer, the modern icon for Classical Rome, and pioneer of the Online Texts Movement. — Elf.Ed.]



From The Germany and the Agricola by Tacitus; The Oxford Translation, Revised, with Notes; The Handy Book Company: Reading, Pennsylvania; undated; pp. 87-105.


[87]

THE

LIFE OF CNÆUS JULIUS AGRICOLA.

By Cornelius Tacitus
___________________

[ Part 3 ]


He Reaches the Grampians —  Calgacus’ Address to the Britain :  Introduction — Calgacus Continues His Harangue — Calgacus’s Concluding Remarks — Agricola‚Äôs Address before the Battle :  Introduction — Agricola Continues His Harangue — The Order of Battle of the Britons and Romans — Battle of the Grampians — Defeat of the Britons — The Aftermath of the Battle — Reaction of Domitian to the Victory — His Recall from Britain — Popular Support for Agricola — He Retires from Public Life — His Death — His Eulogy by Tacitus — Withdrawn from Impending Evils — Tacitus Consoles His Mourners





29.  In the beginning of the next summer,1 Agricola received a severe domestic wound in the loss of a son, about a year old. He bore this calamity, not with the ostentatious firmness which many have affected, nor yet with the tears and lamentations of feminine sorrow; and war was one of the remedies of his grief. 2 Having sent forward his fleet to spread its ravages through various parts of the coast, in order to excite an extensive and dubious alarm, he marched with an army equipped for expedition, to which he had joined the bravest of the Britons whose fidelity had been approved by a long allegiance, and arrived at the Grampian hills, where the enemy was already encamped.2 3 For the Britons, undismayed by the event of the former action, expecting revenge or slavery, and at length taught that the common danger was to be repelled by union alone, had assembled the strength of all their tribes by embassies and confederacies. 4 Upward of 88 thirty thousand men in arms were now descried; and the youth, together with those of a hale and vigorous age, renowned in war, and bearing their several honorary decorations, were still flocking in; when Calgacus,3 the most distinguished for birth and valor among the chieftains, is said to have harangued the multitude, gathering round, and eager for battle, after the following manner: —

30.  “When I reflect on the causes of the war, and the circumstances of our situation, I feel a strong persuasion that our united efforts on the present day will prove the beginning of universal liberty to Britain. For we are all undebased by slavery; and there is no land behind us, nor does even the sea afford a refuge, while the Roman fleet hovers around. Thus the use of arms, which is at all times honorable to the brave, now offers the only safety even to cowards. 2 In all the battles which have yet been fought, with various success, against the Romans, our countrymen may be deemed to have reposed their final hopes and resources in us: for we, the noblest sons of Britain, and therefore stationed in its last recesses, far from the view of servile shores, have preserved even our eyes unpolluted by the contact of subjection. 3 We, at the farthest limits both of land and liberty, have been defended to this day by the remoteness of our situation and of our fame. The extremity of Britain is now disclosed; and whatever is unknown becomes an object of magnitude. But there is no nation beyond us; nothing but waves and rocks, and the still more hostile Romans, whose arrogance we can not escape by obsequiousness and submission. 4 These plunderers of the world, after exhausting the land by their devastations, are rifling the ocean: stimulated by avarice, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor: unsatiated by the East and by the West: the only people who behold wealth and indigence with equal avidity. 5 To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.4

31.  “Our children and relations are by the appointment of nature the dearest of all things to us. These are torn 89 away by levies to serve in foreign lands.5 Our wives and sisters, though they should escape the violation of hostile force, are polluted under names of friendship and hospitality. Our estates and possessions are consumed in tributes; our grain in contributions. Even our bodies are worn down amidst stripes and insults in clearing woods and draining marshes. 2 Wretches born to slavery are once bought, and afterward maintained by their masters: Britain every day buys, every day feeds, her own servitude.6 And as among domestic slaves every new-comer serves for the scorn and derision of his fellows; so, in this ancient household of the world, we, as the newest and vilest, are sought out to destruction. For we have neither cultivated lands, nor mines, nor harbors, which can induce them to preserve us for our labors. 3 The valor too and unsubmitting spirit of subjects only render them more obnoxious to their masters; while remoteness and secrecy of situation itself, in proportion as it conduces to security, tends to inspire suspicion. Since then all hopes of mercy are vain, at length assume courage, both you to whom safety and you to whom glory is dear. 4 The Trinobantes, even under a female leader, had force enough to burn a colony, to storm camps, and, if success had not damped their vigor, would have been able entirely to throw off the yoke; and shall not we, untouched, unsubdued, and struggling not for the acquisition but the security of liberty, show at the very first onset what men Caledonia has reserved for her defense?

32.  “Can you imagine that the Romans are as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? Acquiring renown from our discords and dissensions, they convert the faults of their enemies to the glory of their own army; an army compounded of the most different nations, which success alone has kept together, and which misfortune will as certainly dissipate. 90 Unless, indeed, you can suppose that Gauls, and Germans, and (I blush to say it) even Britons, who, though they expend their blood to establish a foreign dominion, have been longer its foes than its subjects, will be retained by loyalty and affection! 2 Terror and dread alone are the weak bonds of attachment; which once broken, they who cease to fear will begin to hate. Every incitement to victory is on our side. The Romans have no wives to animate them; no parents to upbraid their flight. Most of them have either no home, or a distant one. Few in number, ignorant of the country, looking around in silent horror at woods, seas, and a heaven itself unknown to them, they are delivered by the gods, as it were imprisoned and bound, into our hands. 3 Be not terrified with an idle show, and the glitter of silver and gold, which can neither protect nor wound. In the very ranks of the enemy we shall find our own bands. The Britons will acknowledge their own cause. The Gauls will recollect their former liberty. The rest of the Germans will desert them, as the Usipii have lately done. Nor is there any thing formidable behind them: ungarrisoned forts; colonies of old men; municipal towns distempered and distracted between unjust masters and ill-obeying subjects. 4 Here is a general; here an army. There, tributes, mines, and all the train of punishments inflicted on slaves; which whether to bear eternally, or instantly to revenge, this field must determine. March then to battle, and think of your ancestors and your posterity.”

33.  They received this harangue with alacrity, and testified their applause after the barbarian manner, with songs, and yells, and dissonant shouts. And now the several divisions were in motion, the glittering of arms was beheld, while the most daring and impetuous were hurrying to the front, and the line of battle was forming; when Agricola, although his soldiers were in high spirits, and scarcely to be kept within their intrenchments, kindled additional ardor by these words: —

2 “It is now the eighth year, my fellow-soldiers, in which, under the high auspices of the Roman empire, by your valor and perseverance you have been conquering Britain. In so many expeditions, in so many battles, whether you have been required to exert your courage against the enemy, or your patient labors against the very nature of the country, neither 91 have I ever been dissatisfied with my soldiers, nor you with your general. 3 In this mutual confidence, we have proceeded beyond the limits of former commanders and former armies; and are not become acquainted with the extremity of the island, not by uncertain rumor, but by actual possession with our arms and encampments. Britain is discovered and subdued. 4 How often, on a march, when embarrassed with mountains, bogs, and rivers, have I heard the bravest among you exclaim, ‘When shall we descry the enemy? when shall we be led to the field of battle?’ At length they are unharbored from their retreats; your wishes and your valor have now free scope; and every circumstance is equally propitious to the victor, and ruinous to the vanquished. 5 For, the greater our glory in having marched over vast tracts of land, penetrated forests, and crossed arms of the sea, while advancing toward the foe, the greater will be our danger and difficulty if we should attempt a retreat. We are inferior to our enemies in knowledge of the country, and less able to command supplies of provision; but we have arms in our hands, and in these we have every thing. 6 For myself, it has long been my principle, that a retiring general or army is never safe. Not only, then, are we to reflect that death with honor is preferable to life with ignominy, but to remember that security and glory are seated in the same place. Even to fall in this extremest verge of earth and of nature can not be thought an inglorious fate.

34.   “If unknown nations or untried troops were drawn up against you, I would exhort you from the example of other armies. At present, recollect your own honors, question your own eyes. These are they, who, the last year, attacking by surprise a single legion in the obscurity of night, were put to flight by a shout: the greatest fugitives of all the Britons, and therefore the longest survivors. 2 As in penetrating woods and thickets the fiercest animals boldly rush on the hunters, while the weak and timorous fly at their very noise; so the bravest of the Britons have long since fallen: the remaining number consists solely of the cowardly and spiritless; 3 whom you see at length within your reach, not because they have stood their ground, but because they are overtaken. Torpid with fear, their bodies are fixed and chained down in yonder field, which to you will speedily be the scene of a glorious 92 and memorable victory. Here bring your toils and services to a conclusion; close a struggle of fifty years7 with one great day; and convince your countrymen, that to the army ought not to be imputed either the protraction of war, or the causes of rebellion.”

35.  While Agricola was yet speaking, the ardor of the soldiers declared itself; and as soon as he had finished, they burst forth into cheerful acclamations, and instantly flew to arms. 2 Thus eager and impetuous, he formed them so that the centre was occupied by the auxiliary infantry, in number eight thousand, and three thousand horse were spread in the wings. The legions were stationed in the rear, before the intrenchments; a disposition which would render the victory signally glorious, if it were obtained without the expense of Roman blood; 3 and would insure support if the rest of the army were repulsed. The British troops, for the greater display of their numbers, and more formidable appearance, were ranged upon the rising grounds, so that the first line stood upon the plain, the rest, as if linked together, rose above one another upon the ascent. The charioteers8 and horsemen filled the middle of the field with their tumult and careering. 4 Then Agricola, fearing from the superior number of the enemy lest he should be obliged to fight as well on his 93 flanks as front, extended his ranks; and although this rendered his line of battle less firm, and several of his officers advised him to bring up the legions, yet, filled with hope, and resolute in danger, he dismissed his horse, and took his station on foot before the colors.

36.  At first the action was carried on at a distance. The Britons, armed with long swords and short targets,9 with steadiness and dexterity avoided or struck down our missile weapons, and at the same time poured in a torrent of their own. Agricola then encouraged three Batavian and two Tungrian10 cohorts to fall in and come to close quarters; a method of fighting familiar to these veteran soldiers, but embarrassing to the enemy from the nature of their armor; 2 for the enormous British swords, blunt at the point, are unfit for close grappling, and engaging in a confined space. When the Batavians, therefore, began to redouble their blows, to strike with the bosses of their shields, and mangle the faces of the enemy; and bearing down all those who resisted them on the plain, were advancing their line up the ascent; the other cohorts, fired with ardor and emulation, joined in the charge, and overthrew all who came in their way: and so great was their impetuosity in the pursuit of victory, that they left many of their foes half dead or unhurt behind them. 3 In the mean time the troops of cavalry took to flight, and the armed chariots mingled in the engagement of the infantry; but although their first shock occasioned some consternation, they were soon entangled among the close ranks of the cohorts, and the inequalities of the ground. Not the least appearance was left of an engagement of cavalry; since the men, long keeping their ground with difficulty, were forced along with the bodies of the horses; and frequently, straggling chariots, and affrighted horses without their riders, flying variously as terror impelled them, rushed obliquely athwart or directly through the lines.11

94

37.  Those of the Britons, who, yet disengaged from the fight, sat on the summits of the hills, and looked with careless contempt on the smallness of our numbers, now began gradually to descend; and would have fallen on the rear of the conquering troops, had not Agricola, apprehending this very event, opposed four reserved squadrons of horse to their attack, which, the more furiously they had advanced, drove them back with the greater celerity. 2 Their project was thus turned against themselves; and the squadrons were ordered to wheel from the front of the battle and fall upon the enemy’s rear. A striking and hideous spectacle now appeared on the plain: some pursuing; some striking; some making prisoners, whom they slaughtered as others came in their way. 3 Now, as their several dispositions prompted, crowds of armed Britons fled before inferior numbers, or a few, even unarmed, rushed upon their foes, and offered themselves to a voluntary death. Arms, and carcasses, and mangled limbs, were promiscuously strewed, and the field was dyed in blood. Even among the vanquished were seen instances of rage and valor. 4 When the fugitives approached the woods, they collected, and surrounded the foremost of the pursuers, advanced incautiously, and unacquainted with the country; and had not Agricola, who was every where present, caused some strong and lightly-equipped cohorts to encompass the ground, while part of the cavalry dismounted made way through the thickets, and part on horseback scoured the open woods, some disaster would have proceeded from the excess of confidence. 5 But when the enemy saw their pursuers again formed in compact order, they renewed their flight, not in bodies as before, or waiting for their companions, but scattered 95 and mutually avoiding each other; and thus took their way to the most distant and devious retreats. Night and satiety of slaughter put an end to the pursuit. 6 Of the enemy ten thousand were slain; on our part three hundred and sixty fell; among whom was Aulus Atticus, the præfect of a cohort, who by his juvenile ardor, and the fire of his horse, was borne into the midst of the enemy.

38.  Success and plunder contributed to render the night joyful to the victor; while the Britons, wandering and forlorn, amidst the promiscuous lamentations of men and women, were dragging along the wounded; calling out to the unhurt; abandoning their habitations, and in the rage of despair setting them on fire, choosing places of concealment, and then deserting them; consulting together, and then separating. Sometimes, on beholding the dear pledges of kindred and affection, they were melted into tenderness, or more frequently roused into fury; insomuch that several, according to authentic information, instigated by a savage compassion, laid violent hands upon their own wives and children. 2 On the succeeding day, a vast silence all around, desolate hills, the distant smoke of burning houses, and not a living soul descried by the scouts, displayed more amply the face of victory. After parties had been detached to all quarters without discovering any certain tracks of the enemy’s flight, or any bodies of them still in arms, as the lateness of the season rendered it impracticable to spread the war through the country. Agricola led his army to the confines of the Horesti.12 3 Having received hostages from this people, he ordered the commander of the fleet to sail round the island; for which expedition he was furnished with sufficient force, and preceded by the terror of the Roman name. He himself then led back the cavalry and infantry, marching slowly, that he might impress a deeper awe on the newly conquered nation; and at length distributed his troops into their winter-quarters. 4 The fleet, about the same time, with prosperous gales and renown, entered the Trutulensian13 harbor, whence, coasting all the 96 hither shore of Britain, it returned entire to its former station. 14

39.  The account of these transactions, although unadorned with the pomp of words in the letters of Agricola, was received by Domitian, as was customary with that prince, with outward expressions of joy, but inward anxiety. He was conscious that his late mock-triumph over Germany,15 in which he had exhibited purchased slaves, whose habits and hair16 were contrived to give them the resemblance of captives, was a subject of derision; whereas here, a real and important victory, in which so many thousands of the enemy were slain, was celebrated with universal applause. 2 His greatest dread was that the name of a private man should be exalted above that of a prince. In vain had he silenced the eloquence of the forum, and cast a shade upon all civil honors, if military glory were still in possession of another. Other accomplishments might more easily be connived at, but the talents of a great general were truly imperial. 3 Tortured with such anxious thoughts, and brooding over them in secret,17 a certain indication of some malignant intention, he judged it most prudent for the present to suspend his rancor, till the first burst of glory and the affections of the army should remit: for Agricola still possessed the command in Britain.

40.  He therefore caused the senate to decree him triumphal ornaments,18 — a statue crowned with laurel, and all the other 97 honors which are substituted for a real triumph, together with a profusion of complimentary expressions; and also directed an expectation to be raised that the province of Syria, vacant by the death of Atilius Rufus, a consular man, and usually reserved for persons of the greatest distinction, was designed for Agricola. 2 It was commonly believed that one of the freedmen, who were employed in confidential services, was dispatched with the instrument appointing Agricola to the government of Syria, with orders to deliver it if he should be still in Britain; but that this messenger, meeting Agricola in the straits,19 returned directly to Domitian without so much as accosting him.20 Whether this was really the fact, or only a fiction founded on the genius and character of the prince, is uncertain. 3 Agricola, in the mean time, had delivered the province, in peace and security, to his successor;21 and lest his entry into the city should be rendered too conspicuous by the concourse and acclamations of the people, he declined the salutation of his friends by arriving in the night; and went by night, as he was commanded, to the palace. There, after being received with a slight embrace, but not a word spoken, he was mingled with the servile throng. 4  In this situation, he endeavored to soften the glare of military reputation, which is offensive to those who themselves live in indolence, by the practice of virtues of a different cast. He resigned himself to ease and tranquillity, was modest in his garb and equipage, affable in conversation, and in public was 98 only accompanied by one or two of his friends; insomuch that the many, who are accustomed to form their ideas of great men from their retinue and figure, when they beheld Agricola, were apt to call in question his renown: few could interpret his conduct.

41.  He was frequently, during that period, accused in his absence before Domitian, and in his absence also acquitted. The source of his danger was not any criminal action, nor the complaint of any injured person; but a prince hostile to virtue, and his own high reputation, and the worst kind of enemies, eulogists.22 2 For the situation of public affairs which ensued was such as would not permit the name of Agricola to rest in silence: so many armies in Mœsia, Dacia, Germany, and Pannonia lost through the temerity or cowardice of their generals;23 so many men of military character, with numerous cohorts, defeated and taken prisoners; while a dubious contest was maintained, not for the boundaries of the empire, and the banks of the bordering rivers,24 but for the winter-quarters of the legions, and the possession of our territories. 3 In this state of things, when loss succeeded loss, and every year was signalized by disasters and slaughters, the public voice loudly demanded Agricola for general: every one comparing his vigor, firmness, and experience in war, with the indolence and pusillanimity of the others. 4  It is certain that the ears of Domitian himself were assailed by such discourses, while the best of his freedmen pressed him to the choice through motives of fidelity and affection, and the worst through envy and malignity, emotions to which he was of himself sufficiently prone. Thus Agricola, as well by his own virtues as the vices of others, was urged on precipitously to glory.

42.  The year now arrived in which the proconsulate of Asia or Africa must fall by lot upon Agricola;25 and as Civica 99 had lately been put to death, Agricola was not unprovided with a lesson, nor Domitian with an example.26 Some persons, acquainted with the secret inclinations of the emperor, came to Agricola, and inquired whether he intended to go to his province; and first, somewhat distantly, began to commend a life of leisure and tranquillity; then offered their services in procuring him to be excused from the office; and at length, throwing off all disguise, after using arguments both to persuade and intimidate him, compelled him to accompany them to Domitian. 2 The emperor, prepared to dissemble, and assuming an air of stateliness, received his petition for excuse, and suffered himself to be formally thanked27 for granting it, without blushing at so invidious a favor. He did not, however, bestow on Agricola the salary28 usually offered to a proconsul, and which he himself had granted to others; either taking offense that it was not requested, or feeling a consciousness that it would seem a bribe for what he had in reality extorted by his authority. 3 It is a principle of human nature to hate those whom we have injured;29 and Domitian was constitutionally inclined to anger, which was the more difficult to be averted, in proportion as it was the more disguised. Yet he was softened by the temper and prudence of Agricola; who did not think it necessary, by a contumacious spirit, or a vain ostentation of liberty, to challenge fame or urge his fate.30 4 Let those be apprised, who are accustomed to admire every opposition to control, that 100 even under a bad prince men may be truly great; that submission and modesty, if accompanied with vigor and industry, will elevate a character to a height of public esteem equal to that which many, through abrupt and dangerous paths, have attained, without benefit to their country, by an ambitious death.

43.  His decease was a severe affliction to his family, a grief to his friends, and a subject of regret even to foreigners, and those who had no personal knowledge of him.31 The common people too, and the class who little interest themselves about public concerns, were frequent in their inquiries at his house during his sickness, and made him the subject of conversation at the forum and in private circles; nor did any person either rejoice at the news of his death, or speedily forget it. 2 Their commiseration was aggravated by a prevailing report that he was taken off by poison. I can not venture to affirm any thing certain of this matter;32 yet, during the whole course of his illness, the principal of the imperial freedmen and the most confidential of the physicians was sent much more frequently than was customary with a court whose visits were chiefly paid by messages; whether that was done out of real solicitude, or for the purposes of state inquisition. 3 On the day of his decease, it is certain that accounts of his approaching dissolution were every instant transmitted to the emperor by couriers stationed for the purpose; and no one believed that the information, which so much pains was taken to accelerate, could be received with regret. He put on, however, in his countenance and demeanor, the semblance of grief: for he was now secured from an object of hatred, and could more easily conceal his joy than his fear. 4 It was well known that on reading the will, in which he was nominated co-heir33 with the excellent wife and most dutiful daughter of 101 Agricola, he expressed great satisfaction, as if it had been a voluntary testimony of honor and esteem: so blind and corrupt had his mind been rendered by continual adulation, that he was ignorant none but a bad prince could be nominated heir to a good father.

44.  Agricola was born in the ides of June, during the third consulate of Caius Cæsar:34 he died in his fifty-sixth year, on the tenth of the calends of September, when Collega and Priscus were consuls.35 2 Posterity may wish to form an idea of his person. His figure was comely rather than majestic. In his countenance there was nothing to inspire awe; its character was gracious and engaging. You would readily have believed him a good man, and willingly a great one. 3 And indeed, although he was snatched away in the midst of a vigorous age, yet if his life be measured by his glory, it was a period of the greatest extent. For after the full enjoyment of all that is truly good, which is found in virtuous pursuits alone, decorated with consular and triumphal ornaments, what more could fortune contribute to his elevation? 4 Immoderate wealth did not fall to his share, yet he possessed a decent affluence.36 His wife and daughter surviving, his dignity unimpaired, his reputation flourishing, and his kindred and friends yet in safety, it may even be thought an additional felicity that he was thus withdrawn from impending evils. 5 For, as we have heard him express his wishes of continuing to the dawn of the present auspicious day, and beholding 102 Trajan in the imperial seat, — wishes in which he formed a certain presage of the event; so it is a great consolation, that by his untimely end he escaped that latter period, in which Domitian, not by intervals and remissions, but by a continued, and, as it were, a single act, aimed at the destruction of the commonwealth.37

45.  Agricola did not behold the senate-house besieged, and the senators inclosed by a circle of arms;38 and in one havoc the massacre of so many consular men, the flight and banishment of so many honorable women. As yet, Carus Metius39 was distinguished only by a single victory; the counsels of Messalinus40 resounded only through the Albanian 103 citadel;41 and Massa Bæbius42 was himself among the accused. Soon after, our own hands43 dragged Helvidius44 to prison; ourselves were tortured with the spectacle of Mauricus and Rusticus,45 and sprinkled with the innocent blood of Senecio.46 2 Even Nero withdrew his eyes from the cruelties he commanded. Under Domitian, it was the principal part of our miseries to 104 behold and to be beheld: when our sighs were registered; and that stern countenance, with its settled redness,47 his defense against shame, was employed in noting the pallid horror of so many spectators. 3 Happy, O Agricola! not only in the splendor of your life, but in the seasonableness of your death. With resignation and cheerfulness, from the testimony of those who were present in your last moments, did you meet your fate, as if striving to the utmost of your power to make the emperor appear guiltless. 4 But to myself and your daughter, besides the anguish of losing a parent, the aggravating affliction remains, that it was not our lot to watch over your sick-bed, to support you when languishing, and to satiate ourselves with beholding and embracing you. 5 With what attention should we have received your last instructions, and engraven them on our hearts! This is our sorrow; this is our wound: to us you were lost four years before by a tedious absence. Every thing, doubtless, O best of parents! was administered for your comfort and honor, while a most affectionate wife sat beside you; yet fewer tears were shed upon your bier, and in the last light which your eye beheld, something was still wanting.

46.  If there be any habitation for the shades of the virtuous; if, as philosophers suppose, exalted souls do not perish with the body; may you repose in peace, and call us, your household, from vain regret and feminine lamentations, to the contemplation of your virtues, which allow no place for mourning or complaining! 2 Let us rather adorn your memory by our admiration, by our short-lived praises, and, as far as our natures will permit, by an imitation of your example. This is truly to honor the dead; this is the piety of every near relation. 3 I would also recommend it to the wife and daughter of this great man, to show their veneration of a husband’s and father’s memory by revolving his actions and words in their breasts, and endeavoring to retain an idea of the form and features of his mind, rather than of his person. 105 Not that I would reject those resemblances of the human figure which are engraven in brass or marble; but as their originals are frail and perishable, so likewise are they: while the form of the mind is eternal, and not to be retained or expressed by any foreign matter, or the artist’s skill, but by the manners of the survivors. 4 Whatever in Agricola was the object of our love, of our admiration, remains, and will remain in the minds of men, transmitted in the records of fame, through an eternity of years. For, while many great personages of antiquity will be involved in a common oblivion with the mean and inglorious, Agricola shall survive, represented and consigned to future ages.





The End of the Life of Cnæus Julius Agricola
by
Tacitus]

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FOOTNOTES



50  The year of Rome 837, A.D. 84.

1  The scene of this celebrated engagement is by Gordon (Itin. Septent.) supposed to be in Strathern, near a place now called the Kirk of Comerie, where are the remains of two Roman camps. Mr. Pennant, however, in his Tour in 1772, part ii. p. 96, gives reasons which appear well founded for dissenting from Gordon’s opinion.

2  The more usual spelling of this name is Galgacus; but the other is preferred as of better authority.

4  “Peace given to the world” is a very frequent inscription on the Roman medals.

5    It was the Roman policy to send the recruits raised in the provinces to some distant country, for fear of their desertion or revolt.

6  How much this was the fate of the Romans themselves, when, in the decline of the empire, they were obliged to pay tribute to the surrounding barbarians, is shown in lively colors by Salvian: — “We call that a gift which is a purchase, and a purchase of a condition the most hard and miserable. For all captives, when they are once redeemed, enjoy their liberty: we are continually paying a ransom, yet are never free.” — De Gubern. Dei. vi.

7  The expedition of Claudius into Britain was in the year of Rome 796, from which to the period of this engagement only forty-two years were elapsed. The number fifty therefore is given oratorically rather than accurately.

8  The Latin word used here, covinarius, signifies the driver of a covinus, or chariot, the axle of which was bent into the form of a scythe. The British manner of fighting from chariots is particularly described by Cæsar, who gives them the name of esseda: — “The following is the manner of fighting from the essedæ : They first drive round with them to all parts of the line, throwing their javelins, and generally disordering the ranks by the very alarm occasioned by the horses, and the rattling of the wheels: then, as soon as they have insinuated themselves between the troops of horse, they leap from their chariots and fight on foot. The drivers then withdraw a little from the battle, in order that, if their friends are overpowered by numbers, they may have a secure retreat to the chariots. Thus they act with the celerity of horse, and the stability of foot; and by daily use and exercise they acquire the power of holding up their horses at full speed down a steep declivity, of stopping them suddenly, and turning in a short compass; and they accustom themselves to run upon the pole, and stand on the cross-tree, and from thence with great agility to recover their place in the chariot.” — Bell. Gall. iv. 33.

9  These targets, called cetræ in the Latin, were made of leather. The broad sword and target were till very lately the peculiar arms of the Highlanders.

10  Several inscriptions have been found in Britain commemorating the Tungrian cohorts.

11  The great conciseness of Tacitus has rendered the description of this battle somewhat obscure. The following, however, seems to have been the general course of occurrences in it: — The foot on both sides began the engagement. The first line of the Britons which was formed on the plain being broken, the Roman auxiliaries advanced up the hill after them. In the mean time the Roman horse in the wings, unable to withstand the shock of the chariots, gave way, and were pursued by the British chariots and horse, which then fell in among the Roman infantry. These, who at first had relaxed their files to prevent their being out-fronted, now closed in order better to resist the enemy, who by this means were unable to penetrate them. The chariots and horse, therefore, became entangled amidst the inequalities of the ground, and the thick ranks of the Romans; and, no longer able to wheel and career as upon the open plain, gave not the least appearance of an equestrian skirmish: but, keeping their footing with difficulty on the declivity, were pushed off, and scattered in disorder over the field.

12  People of Fifeshire.

13  Where this was does not appear. Brotier calls it Sandwich, making it the same as Rutupium : others Plymouth or Portsmouth. It is clear, however, this can not be the case, from the subsequent words. — White.

14  This circumnavigation was in a contrary direction to that of the Usipian deserters, the fleet setting out from the Firth of Tay on the eastern coast, and sailing round the northern, western, and southern coasts, till it arrived at the port of Sandwich in Kent. After staying here some time to refit, it went to its former station, in the Firth of Forth, or Tay.

15  It was in this same year that Domitian made his pompous expedition into Germany, from whence he returned without ever seeing the enemy.

16  Caligula in like manner got a number of tall men with their hair dyed red to give credit to a pretended victory over the Germans.

17  Thus Pliny, in his Panegyric on Trajan, xlviii., represents Domitian as “ever affecting darkness and secrecy, and never emerging from his solitude but in order to make a solitude.”

18  Not the triumph itself, which, after the year of Rome 740, was no longer granted to private persons, but reserved for the imperial family. This new piece of adulation was invented by Agrippa in order to gratify Augustus. The “triumphal ornaments,” which were still bestowed, were a peculiar garment, a statue, and other insignia which had distinguished the person of the triumphing general.

19  Of Dover.

20  Domitian, it seems, was afraid that Agricola might refuse to obey the recall he forwarded to him, and even maintain his post by force. He therefore dispatched one of his confidential freedmen with an autograph letter, wherein he was informed Syria was given to him as his province. This, however, was a mere ruse; and hence it was not to be delivered if Agricola had already set out on his return. In compliance with these instructions, the freedman returned at once to Domitian, when he found Agricola on his passage to Rome. According to Dion (liii.), the emperor’s lieutenants were required to leave their province immediately upon the arrival of their successor, and return to Rome within three months. — White.

21  Agricola’s successor in Britain appears to have been Sallustius Lucullus, who, as Suetonius informs us, was put to death by Domitian because he permitted certain lances of a new construction to be called Lucullean. — Life of Domitian, s. 10.

22  Of this worst kind of enemies, who praise a man in order to render him obnoxious, the emperor Julian, who had himself suffered greatly by them, speaks feelingly in his 12th epistle to Basilius: — “For we live together not in that state of dissimulation which, I imagine, you have hitherto experienced; in which those who praise you, hate you with a more confirmed aversion than your most inveterate enemies.”

23  These calamitous events are recorded by Suetonius in his Life of Domitian.

24  The Rhine and Danube.

25  The two senior consulars cast lots for the government of Asia and Africa.

26  Suetonius relates that Civica Cerealis was put to death in his proconsulate of Asia, on the charge of meditating a revolt. (Life of Domitian, s. 10.)

27  Obliging persons to return thanks for an injury was a refinement in tyranny frequently practiced by the worst of the Roman emperors. Thus Seneca informs us, that “Caligula was thanked by those whose children had been put to death, and whose property had been confiscated.” (De Tranquil. xiv. ) And again: — “The reply of a person who had grown old in his attendance on kings, when he was asked how he had attained a thing so uncommon in courts as old age? is well known. It was, said he, by receiving injuries, and returning thanks.” — De Ira, ii. 33.

28  From a passage in Dio, lxxviii. p. 899, this sum appears to have been decies sestertium, about £9000 sterling.

29  Thus Seneca: “Little souls rendered insolent by prosperity have this worst property, that they hate those whom they have injured,” — De Ira, ii. 33.

30  Several who suffered under Nero and Domitian erred, though nobly, in this respect.

31  A Greek epigram still extant of Antiphilus, a Byzantine, to the memory of a certain Agricola, is supposed by the learned to refer to the great man who is the subject of this work. It is in the Anthologia, lib. i. tit. 37.

32  Dio absolutely affirms it; but from the manner in which Tacitus, who had better means of information, speaks of it, the story was probably false.

33  It appears that the custom of making the emperor co-heir with the children of the testator was not by any means uncommon. It was done in order to secure the remainder to the family. Thus Prasutagus, king of the Iceni in Britain, made Nero co-heir with his two daughters. Thus, when Lucius Vetus was put to death by Nero, his friends urged him to leave part of his property to the emperor, that his grandsons might enjoy the rest. (Ann. xvi. 11.) Suetonius (viii. 17) mentions that Domitian used to seize the estates of persons the most unknown to him, if any one could be found to assert that the deceased had expressed an intention to make the emperor his heir. — White.

34  Caligula. This was A.D. 40, when he was sole consul.

35  According to this account, the birth of Agricola was on June 13th, in the year of Rome 793, A.D. 40; and his death on August 23d, in the year of Rome 846, A.D. 93; for this appears by the Fasti Consulares to have been the year of the consulate of Collega and Priscus. He was therefore only in his fifty-fourth year when he died; so that copyists must probably have written by mistake LVI. instead of LIV.

36  From this representation, Dio appears to have been mistaken in asserting that Agricola passed the latter part of his life in dishonor and penury.

37  Juvenal breaks out in a noble strain of indignation against this savage cruelty, which distinguished the latter part of Domitian’s reign:

Atque utinam his potius nugis tota illa dedisset
Tempora sævitiæ: claras quibus abstulit Urbi
Illustresque animas impune, et vindice nullo.
Sed periit, postquam cerdonibus esse timendus
Cœperat: hoc nocuit Lamiarum cæde madenti. — Sat. iv. 150.

“What folly this !  but oh ! that all the rest
Of his dire reign had thus been spent in jest !
And all that time such trifles had employ’d
In which so many nobles he destroy’d !
He safe, they unrevenged, to the disgrace
of the surviving, tame, patrician race!
But when he dreadful to the rabble grew,
Him, who so many lords had slain, they slew.” — DUKE.

38  This happened in the year of Rome 848.

39  Carus and Massa, who were proverbially infamous as informers, are represented by Juvenal as dreading a still more dangerous villain, Heliodorus.

—— Quem Massa timet, quem munere palpat
Carus. Sat. i. 35.

“Whom Massa dreads, whom Carus soothes with bribes.”

Carus is also mentioned with deserved infamy by Pliny and Martial. He was a mimic by profession.

40  Of this odious instrument of tyranny, Pliny the younger thus speaks: “The conversation turned upon Catullus Messalinus, whose loss of sight added the evils of blindness to a cruel disposition. He was irreverent, unblushing, unpitying. Like a weapon, of itself blind and unconscious, he was frequently hurled by Domitian against every man of worth.” (iv. 22.) Juvenal launches the thunder of invective against him in the following lines: —

Et cum mortifero prudens Vejento Catullo,
Qui numquam visæ flagrabat amore puellæ,
Grande, et conspicuum nostro quoque tempore monstrum,
Cæcus adulator, dirusque a ponte satelles,
Dignus Aricinos qui mendicaret ad axes,
Blandaque devexæ jactaret basia rhedæ. — Sat. iv. 113.

“Cunning Vejento next, and by his side
Bloody Catullus leaning on his guide:
Decrepit, yet a furious lover he,
And deeply smit with charms he could not see.
A monster, that ev’n this worst age outvies,
Conspicuous and above the common size.
A blind base flatterer; from some bridge or gate,
Raise to a murd’ring minister of state,
Deserving still to beg upon the road,
And bless each passing waggon and its load.” —  DUKE.

41  This was a famous villa of Domitian’s, near the site of the ancient Alba, about twelve miles from Rome. The place is now called Albano, and vast ruins of its magnificent edifices still remain.

42  Tacitus, in his History, mentions this Massa Bæbius as a person most destructive to all men of worth, and constantly engaged on the side of villains. From a letter of Pliny’s to Tacitus, it appears that Herennius Senecio and himself were joined as counsel for the province of Bætica in a prosecution of Massa Bæbius; and that Massa after his condemnation petitioned the consuls for liberty to prosecute Senecio for treason.

43  By “our own hands,” Tacitus means one of our own body, a senator. As Publicius Certus had seized upon Helvidius and led him to prison, Tacitus imputes the crimes to the whole senatorian order. To the same purpose Pliny observes: “Amidst the numerous villanies of numerous persons, nothing appeared more atrocious than that in the senate-house one senator should lay hands on another, a prætorian on a consular man, a judge on a criminal.” — B. ix. ep. 13.

44  Helvidius Priscus, a friend of Pliny the younger, who did not suffer his death to remain unrevenged. See the Epistle above referred to.

45  There is in this place some defect in the manuscripts, which critics have endeavored to supply in different manners. Brotier seems to prefer, though he does not adopt in the text, “nos Mauricum Rusticumque divisimus,” “we parted Mauricus and Rusticus,” by the death of one and the banishment of the other. The prosecution and crime of Rusticus (Arulenus) is mentioned at the beginning of this piece, c. 2. Mauricus was his brother.

46  Herennius Senecio. See c. 2.

47  Thus Pliny, in his Panegyr. On Trajan, xlviii.: “Domitian was terrible even to behold; pride in his brow, anger in his eyes, a feminine paleness in the rest of his body, in his face shamelessness suffused in a glowing red.” Seneca, in Epist. xi. remarks, that “some are never more to be dreaded than when they blush; as if they had effused all their modesty. Sylla was always most furious when the blood had mounted into his cheeks.”

[This completes the online text of
Tacitus’ Germany and Agricola.]







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