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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. 60-73.




By Cornelius Tacitus

[ Part 1 ]

Apology for Writing the Life — Retrospect — A New Freedom — Birth of Agricola  — In Britain under Suetonius Paullinus — Magistracy and Marriage in Rome — Joins the Party of Vespasian — Assumes Command of the Twentieth Legion in Britain — Raised to the Patrician Order, Policies as Governor of Aquitania —  Britain —  Inhabitants of Britain —  Climate and Soil

1.  THE ancient custom of transmitting to posterity the actions and manners of famous men, has not been neglected even by the present age, incurious though it be about those belonging to it, whenever any exalted and noble degree of virtue has triumphed over that false estimation of merit, and that ill-will to it, by which small and great states are equally infested. 2 In former times, however, as there was a greater propensity and freer scope for the performance of actions worthy of remembrance, so every person of distinguished abilities was induced through conscious satisfaction in the task alone, without regard to private favor or interest, to record examples of virtue. 3 And many considered it rather as the honest confidence of integrity, than a culpable arrogance, to become their own biographers. Of this, Rutilius and Scaurus1 were instances; who were never yet censured on this account, nor was the fidelity of their narrative called in question: so much more candidly are virtues always estimated, in those periods which are the most favorable to their production. 4 For myself, however, who have undertaken to be the historian of a person deceased, an apology seemed necessary; 61 which I should not have made, had my course lain through times less cruel and hostile to virtue.2


2.  We read that when Arulenus Rusticus published the praises of Pætus Thrasea, and Herennius Senecio those of Priscus Helvidius, it was construed into a capital crime:3 and the rage of tyranny was let loose not only against the authors, but against their writings; so that those monuments of exalted genius were burned at the place of election in the forum by triumvirs appointed for the purpose. 2 In that fire they thought to consume the voice of the Roman people, the freedom of the senate, and the conscious emotions of all mankind; crowning the deed by the expulsion of the professors of wisdom,4 and the banishment of every liberal art, that nothing generous or honorable might remain. 3 We gave, indeed, a consummate proof of our patience; and as remote ages saw the very utmost degree of liberty, so we, deprived by inquisitions of all the intercourse of conversation, experienced 63 the utmost of slavery. With language we should have lost memory itself, had it been as much in our power to forget, as to be silent.

3.  Now our spirits begin to revive. But although at the first dawning of this happy period,5 the emperor Nerva united two things before incompatible, monarchy and liberty; and Trajan is now daily augmenting the felicity of the empire; and the public security6 has not only assumed hopes and wishes, but has seen those wishes arise to confidence and stability; yet, from the nature of human infirmity, remedies are more tardy in their operation than diseases: and, as bodies slowly increase, but quickly perish, so it is more easy to suppress industry and genius, than to recall them. For indolence itself acquires a charm; and sloth, however odious at first, becomes at length engaging. 2 During the space of fifteen years,7 a large portion of human life, how great a number have fallen by casual events, and, as was the fate of all the most distinguished, by the cruelty of the prince; while we, the few survivors, not of others alone, but, if I may be allowed the expression, of ourselves, find a void of so many years in our lives, which has silently brought us from youth to maturity, from mature age to the very verge of life! 3 Still, however, I shall not regret having composed, though in rude and artless language, a memorial of past servitude, and a testimony of present blessings.8

The present work, in the mean time, which is dedicated to the honor of my father-in-law, may be thought to merit approbation, or at least excuse, from the piety of the intention.

4.  CNÆUS JULIUS AGRICOLA was born at the ancient and illustrious colony of Forumjulii.9 Both his grandfathers were 64 imperial procurators,10 an office which confers the rank of equestrian nobility. His father, Julius Græcinus,11 of the senatorian order, was famous for the study of eloquence and philosophy; and by these accomplishments he drew on himself the displeasure of Caius Cæsar;12 for, being commanded to undertake the accusation of Marcus Silanus,13 — on his refusal, he was put to death. 2 His mother was Julia Procilla, a lady of exemplary chastity. Educated with tenderness in her bosom,14 he passed his childhood and youth in the attainment of every liberal art. He was preserved from the 65 allurements of vice, not only by a naturally good disposition, but by being sent very early to pursue his studies at Massilia;15 a place where Grecian politeness and provincial frugality are happily united. 3 I remember he was used to relate, that in his early youth he should have engaged with more ardor in philosophical speculation than was suitable to a Roman and a senator, had not the prudence of his mother restrained the warmth and vehemence of his disposition: for his lofty and upright spirit, inflamed by the charms of glory and exalted reputation, led him to the pursuit with more eagerness than discretion. Reason and riper years tempered his warmth; and from the study of wisdom, he retained what is most difficult to compass, — moderation.

5.  He learned the rudiments of war in Britain, under Suetonius Paullinus, an active and prudent commander, who chose him for his tent companion, in order to form an estimate of his merit.16 Nor did Agricola, like many young men, who convert military service into wanton pastime, avail himself licentiously or slothfully of his tribunitial title, or his inexperience, to spend his time in pleasures and absences from duty; but he employed himself in gaining a knowledge of the country, making himself known to the army, learning from the experienced, and imitating the best; neither pressing to be employed through vainglory, nor declining it through timidity; and performing his duty with equal solicitude and spirit. 2 At no other time in truth was Britain more agitated or in a state of greater uncertainty. Our veterans slaughtered, our colonies burned,17 our armies cut off,18 — we were then contending for safety, afterward for victory. 3 During this period, 66 although all things were transacted under the conduct and direction of another, and the stress of the whole, as well as the glory of recovering the province, fell to the general’s share, yet they imparted to the young Agricola skill, experience, and incentives; and the passion for military glory entered his soul; a passion ungrateful to the times,19 in which eminence was unfavorably construed, and a great reputation was no less dangerous than a bad one.

6.  Departing thence to undertake the offices of magistracy in Rome, he married Domitia Decidiana, a lady of illustrious descent, from which connection he derived credit and support in his pursuit of greater things. They lived together in admirable harmony and mutual affection; each giving the preference to the other; a conduct equally laudable in both, except that a greater degree of praise is due to a good wife, in proportion as a bad one deserves the greater censure. 2 The lot of quæstorship20 gave him Asia for his province, and the proconsul Salvius Titianus21 for his superior; by neither of which circumstances was he corrupted, although the province was wealthy and open to plunder, and the proconsul, from his rapacious disposition, would readily have agreed to a mutual concealment of guilt. His family was there increased by the birth of a daughter, who was both the support of his house, and his consolation; for he lost an elder-born son in infancy. 3 The interval between his serving the offices of quæstor and tribune of the people, and even the year of the latter magistracy, he passed in repose and inactivity; well knowing the temper of the times under Nero, in which indolence was wisdom. 4 He maintained the same tenor of conduct when prætor; for the judiciary part of the office did not fall to his share.22 In the exhibition of public games, and the idle 67 trappings of dignity, he consulted propriety and the measure of his fortune; by no means approaching to extravagance, yet inclining rather to a popular course. 5 When he was afterward appointed by Galba to manage an inquest concerning the offerings which had been presented to the temples, by his strict attention and diligence he preserved the state from any further sacrilege than what it has suffered from Nero.23

7.  The following year24 inflicted a severe wound on his peace of mind, and his domestic concerns. The fleet of Otho, roving in a disorderly manner on the coast,25 made a hostile descent on Intemelii,26 a part of Liguria, in which the mother of Agricola was murdered at her own estate, her lands were ravaged, and a great part of her effects, which had invited the assassins, was carried off. 2 As Agricola upon this event was hastening to perform the duties of filial piety, he was overtaken by the news of Vespasian’s aspiring to the empire,27 and immediately went over to his party. The first acts of power, and the government of the city, were intrusted to Mucianus; Domitian being at that time very young, and taking no other privilege from his father’s elevation than that of indulging his licentious tastes. 3 Mucianus, having approved the vigor and fidelity of Agricola in the service of raising levies, gave him the command of the twentieth legion,28 which had appeared backward in taking the oaths, as soon as he had heard of the seditious practices of its commander.29 68 This legion had been unmanageable and formidable even to the consular lieutenants;30 and its late commander, of prætorian rank, had not sufficient authority to keep it in obedience; though it was uncertain whether from his own disposition, or that of his soldiers. Agricola was therefore appointed as his successor and avenger; but, with an uncommon degree of moderation, he chose rather to have it appear that he had found the legion obedient, than that he had made it so.

8.  Vettius Bolanus was at that time governor of Britain, and ruled with a milder sway than was suitable to so turbulent a province. Under his administration, Agricola, accustomed to obey, and taught to consult utility as well as glory, tempered his ardor, and restrained his enterprising spirit. 2 His virtues had soon a larger field for their display, from the appointment of Petilius Cerealis,31 a man of consular dignity, to the government. At first he only shared the fatigues and dangers of his general; but was presently allowed to partake of his glory. Cerealis frequently intrusted him with part of his army as a trial of his abilities; and from the event sometimes enlarged his command. 3 On these occasions, Agricola was never ostentatious in assuming to himself the merit of his exploits; but always, as a subordinate officer, gave the honor of his good fortune to his superior. Thus, by his spirit in executing orders, and his modesty in reporting his success, he avoided envy, yet did not fail of acquiring reputation.

9.  On his return from commanding the legion he was raised by Vespasian to the patrician order, and then invested with the government of Aquitania,32 a distinguished promotion, both in respect to the office itself, and in the hopes of the consulate to which it destined him. 2 It is a common supposition that military men, habituated to the unscrupulous and summary processes of camps, where things are carried with a strong hand, are deficient in the address and subtlety of genius requisite for civil jurisdiction. Agricola, however, by his natural prudence, was enabled to act with facility and 69 precision even among civilians. 3 He distinguished the hours of business from those of relaxation. When the court or tribunal demanded his presence, he was grave, intent, awful, yet generally inclined to lenity. When the duties of his office were over, the man of power was instantly laid aside. Nothing of sternness, arrogance, or rapaciousness appeared; and, what was a singular felicity, his affability did not impair his authority, nor his severity render him less beloved. 4 To mention integrity and freedom from corruption in such a man, would be an affront to his virtues. He did not even court reputation, an object to which men of worth frequently sacrifice, by ostentation or artifice: equally avoiding competition with his colleagues,33 and contention with the procurators. To overcome in such a contest he thought inglorious; and to be put down, a disgrace. 5 Somewhat less than three years were spent in this office, when he was recalled to the immediate prospect of the consulate; while at the same time a popular opinion prevailed that the government of Britain would be conferred upon him; an opinion not founded upon any suggestions of his own, but upon his being thought equal to the station. Common fame does not always err, sometimes it even directs a choice. 6 When consul,34 he contracted his daughter, a lady already of the happiest promise, to myself, then a very young man; and after his office was expired I received her in marriage. He was immediately appointed governor of Britain, and the pontificate35 was added to his other dignities.

10.  The situation and inhabitants of Britain have been described by many writers;36 and I shall not add to the number with the view of vying with them in accuracy and ingenuity, but because it was first thoroughly subdued in the period of the present history. Those things which, while yet unascertained, they embellished with their eloquence, shall here be related with a faithful adherence to known facts. 2 Britain, the 70 largest of all the islands which have come within the knowledge of the Romans, stretches on the east toward Germany, on the west toward Spain,37 and on the south it is even within sight of Gaul. Its northern extremity has no opposite land, but is washed by a wide and open sea. 3 Livy, the most eloquent of ancient, and Fabius Rusticus, of modern writers, have likened the figure of Britain to an oblong target, or a two-edged axe.38 And this is in reality its appearance, exclusive of Caledonia; whence it has been popularly attributed to the whole island. But that tract of country, irregularly stretching out to an immense length toward the furthest shore, is gradually contracted in form of a wedge.39 4 The Roman fleet, at this period first sailing round this remotest coast, gave certain proof that Britain was an island; and at the same time discovered and subdued the Orcades,40 islands till then unknown. Thule41 was also distinctly seen, which winter and eternal snow had hitherto concealed. 5 The sea is reported to be sluggish and laborious to the rower; and even to be scarcely agitated by winds. The cause of this stagnation I imagine to be the deficiency of land and mountains 71 where tempests are generated; and the difficulty with which such a mighty mass of waters, in an uninterrupted main, is put in motion.42 6 It is not the business of this work to investigate the nature of the ocean and the tides; a subject which many writers have already undertaken. I shall only add one circumstance: that the dominion of this sea is nowhere more extensive; that it carries many currents in this direction and in that; and its ebbings and flowings are not confined to the shore, but it penetrates into the heart of the country, and works its way among hills and mountains, as though it were in its own domain.43

11.  Who were the first inhabitants of Britain, whether indigenous44 or immigrants, is a question involved in the obscurity usual among barbarians. Their temperament of body is various, whence deductions are formed of their different origin. 2 Thus, the ruddy hair and large limbs of the Caledonians45 point out a German derivation. The swarthy complexion and curled hair of the Silures,46 together with their situation opposite to Spain, render it probable that a colony of the ancient Iberi47 possessed themselves of that territory. They who are nearest Gaul48 resemble the inhabitants 72 of that country; whether from the duration of hereditary influence, or whether it be that when lands jut forward in opposite directions,49 climate gives the same condition of body to the inhabitants of both. 3 On a general survey, however, it appears probable that the Gauls originally took possession on the neighboring coast. The sacred rites and superstitions50 of these people are discernible among the Britons. The languages of the two nations do not greatly differ. The same audacity in provoking danger, and irresolution in facing it when present, is observable in both. 4 The Britons, however, display more ferocity,51 not being yet softened by a long peace: for it appears from history that the Gauls were once renowned in war, till, losing their valor with their liberty, languor and indolence entered among them. The same change has also taken place among those of the Britons who have been long subdued;52 but the rest continue such as the Gauls formerly were.

12.  Their military strength consists in infantry: some nations also make use of chariots in war; in the management of which, the most honorable person guides the reins, while his dependents fight from the chariot.53 The Britons were formerly governed by kings,54 but at present they are divided in factions and parties among their chiefs; 2 and this want of union for concerting some general plan is the most favorable circumstance to us, in our designs against so powerful a people. It is seldom that two or three communities concur in 73 repelling the common danger; and thus, while they engage singly, they are all subdued. 3 The sky in this country is deformed by clouds and frequent rains; but the cold is never extremely rigorous. 55 The length of the days greatly exceeds that in our part of the world.56 The nights are bright, and, at the extremity of the island, so short, that the close and return of day is scarcely distinguished by a perceptible interval. 4  It is even asserted that, when clouds do not intervene, the splendor of the sun is visible during the whole night, and that it does not appear to rise and set, but to move across.57 The cause of this is, that the extreme and flat parts of the earth, casting a low shadow, do not throw up the darkness, and so night falls beneath the sky and the stars.58 5 The soil, though improper for the olive, the vine, and other productions of warmer climates, is fertile, and suitable for corn. Growth is quick, but maturation slow; both from the 73 same cause, the great humidity of the ground and the atmosphere.59 6 The earth yields gold and silver,60 and other metals, the rewards of victory. The ocean produces pearls,61 but of a cloudy and livid hue; which some impute to unskillfulness in the gatherers; for in the Red Sea, the fish are plucked from the rocks alive and vigorous, but in Britain they are collected as the sea throws them up. For my own part, I can more readily conceive that the defect is in the nature of the pearls, than in our avarice.


1  Rutilius was consul B.C. 104; and for his upright life and great strictness was banished B.C. 92. Tacitus is the only writer who says he wrote his own life. Athenæus mentions that he wrote a history of the affairs of Rome, in the Greek language. Scaurus was consul B.C. 114, and again B.C. 106. He is the same Scaurus whom Sallust mentions as having been bribed by Jugurtha. As the banishment of Rutilius took place on the accusation of Scaurus, it is possible that, when the former wrote his life, the latter also wrote his, in order to defend himself from charges advanced against him.

2  Venia opus fuit. This whole passage has greatly perplexed the critics. The text is disputed, and it is not agreed why Tacitus asks indulgence. Brotier, Dronke, and others, say he asks indulgence for the inferiority of his style and manner (incondita ac rudi voce, c. 3), as compared with the distinguished authors (quisque celeberrimus) of an earlier and better age. But there would have been no less occasion to apologize for that, if the times he wrote of had not been so hostile to virtue. Hertel, La Bletterie, and many French critics, understand that he apologizes for writing the memoir of his father-in-law so late (nunc), when he was already dead (defuncti), instead of doing it, as the great men of a former day did, while the subject of their memoirs was yet alive; and he pleads, in justification of the delay, that he could not have written it earlier without encountering the dangers of that cruel age (the age of Domitian). This makes a very good sense. The only objection against it is, that the language, opus fuit; seems rather to imply that it was necessary to justify himself for writing it at all, by citing the examples of former distinguished writers of biography, as he had done in the foregoing introduction. But why would it have been unnecessary to apologize for writing the life of Agricola, if the times in which he lived had not been so unfriendly to virtue? Because then Agricola would have had opportunity to achieve victories and honors, which would have demanded narration, but for which the jealousy and cruelty of Domitian now gave no scope. This is the explanation of Roth; and he supports it by reference to the fact, that the achievements of Agricola in the conquest of Britain, though doubtless just as Tacitus has described them, yet occupy so small a space in general history, that they are not even mentioned by any ancient historian except Dio Cassius; and he mentions them chiefly out of regard to the discovery made by Agricola, for the first time, that Britain was an island. (Vid. R. Exc. 1.) This explanation answers all the demands of grammar and logic; but as a matter of taste and feeling, I can not receive it. Such an apology for the unworthiness of his subject at the commencement of the biography, ill accords with the tone of dignified confidence which pervades the memoir. The best commentary I have seen on the passage is that of Walther; and it would not, perhaps, be giving more space to so mooted a question than the scholar requires, to extract it entire: — “Venia,” he says, “is here nothing else than what we, in the language of modesty, call an apology, and has respect to the very justification he has just offered in the foregoing exordium. For Tacitus there appeals to the usage, not of remote antiquity only, but of later times also, to justify his design of writing the biography of a distinguished man. There would have been no need of such an apology in other times. In other times, dispensing with all preamble, he would have begun, as in C. 4, ‘Cnæus Julius Agricola,’ etc., assured that no one would question the propriety of his course. But now, after a long and servile silence, when one begins again ‘facta moreque posteris tradere,’ when he utters the first word where speech and almost memory (c. 2) has so long been lost, when he stands forth as the first vindicator of condemned virtue, he seems to venture on something so new, so strange, so bold, that it may well require apology.” In commenting upon cursaturus — tempora, Walther adds: “If there is any boldness in the author’s use of words here, that very fact that suits the connection, that by the complexion of his language even, he might paint the audacity ‘cursandi tam sæva et infesta virtutibus tempora’ — of running over (as in a race, for such is Walther’s interpretation of cursandi) times so cruel and so hostile to virtue. Not that those times could excite in Tacitus any real personal fear, for they were past, and he could now think what he pleased, and speak what he thought (Hist. i. 1). Still he shudders at the recollection of those cruelties; and he treads with trembling footstep, as it were, even the path lately obstructed by them. He looks about him to see whether, even now, he may safely utter his voice, and he timidly asks pardon for venturing to break the reigning silence.” — Tyler.

3  A passage in Dio excellently illustrates the fact here referred to: “He (Domitian) put to death Rusticus Arulenus, because he studied philosophy, and had given Thrasea the appellation of holy; and Herennius Senecio, because, although he lived many years after serving the office of quæstor, he solicited no other post, and because he had written the Life of Helvidius Priscus.” (lxvii. p. 765.) With less accuracy, Suetonius, in his Life of Domitian (s. 10), says: “He put to death Junius Rusticus, because he had published the panegyrics of Pætus Thrasea and Helvidius Priscus, and had styled them most holy persons: and on this occasion he expelled all the philosophers from the city, and from Italy.” Arulenus Rusticus was a Stoic; on which account he was contumeliously called by M. Regulus “the ape of the Stoics, marked with the Vitellian scar.” (Pliny, Epist. i. 5.) Thrasea, who killed Nero, is particularly recorded in the Annals, book xvi.

4  The expulsion of the philosophers, mentioned in the passage above quoted from Suetonius.

5  This truly happy period began when, after the death of Domitian, and the recision of his acts, the imperial authority devolved on Nerva, whose virtues were emulated by the successive emperors, Trajan, Hadrian, and both the Antonines.

6  Securitas publica, “the public security,” was a current expression and wish, and was frequently inscribed on medals.

7  The term of Domitian’s reign.

8  It appears that at this time Tacitus proposed to write not only the books of his History and Annals, which contain the “memorial of past servitude,” but an account of the “present blessings” exemplified in the occurrences under Nerva and Trajan.

9  There were two Roman colonies of this name; one in Umbria, supposed to be the place now called Friuli; the other in Narbonnensian Gaul, the modern name of which is Frejus. This last was probably the birth-place of Agricola.

10  Of the procurators who were sent to the provinces, some had the charge of the public revenues; others, not only of that, but of the private revenue of the emperor. These were the imperial procurators. All the offices relative to the finances were in the possession of the Roman knights; of whom the imperial procurators were accounted noble. Hence the equestrian nobility of which Tacitus speaks. In some of the lesser provinces, the procurators had the civil jurisdiction, as well as the administration of the revenue. This was the case in Judæa.

11  Seneca bears a very honorable testimony to this person. “If,” says he, “we have occasion for an example of a great mind, let us cite that of Julius Græcinus, an excellent person, whom Caius Cæsar put to death on this account alone, that he was a better man than could be suffered under a tyrant.” (De Benef. ii. 21.) His books concerning Vineyards are commended by Columella and Pliny.

12  Caligula.

13  Marcus Silanus was the father of Claudia, the first wife of Caius. According to the historians of that period, Caius was jealous of him, and took every opportunity of mortifying him. Tacitus (Hist. iv. 48) mentions that the emperor deprived him of the military command of the troops in Africa in an insulting manner. Dion (lix.) states, that when, from his age and rank, Silanus was usually asked his opinion first in the senate, the emperor found a pretext for preventing this respect being paid to his worth. Suetonius (iv. 23) records that the emperor one day put to sea in a hasty manner, and commanded Silanus to follow him. This, from fear of illness, he declined to do; upon which the emperor, alleging that he staid on shore in order to get possession of the city in case any accident befell himself, compelled him to cut his own throat. It would seem, from the present passage of Tacitus, that there were some legal forms taken in the case of Silanus, and that Julius Græcinus was ordered to be the accuser; and that that noble-minded man, refusing to take part in proceedings so cruel and iniquitous, was himself put to death.

14  Of the part the Roman matrons took in the education of youth, Tacitus has given an elegant and interesting account, in his Dialogue concerning Oratory, c. 28.

15  Now Marseilles. This was a colony of the Phocæans; whence it derived that Grecian politeness for which it was long famous.

16  It was usual for generals to admit young men of promising characters to this honorable companionship, which resembled the office of an aide-de-camp in the modern service. Thus, Suetonius informs us that Cæsar made his first campaign in Asia as tent-companion to Marcus Thermus the prætor.

17  This was the fate of the colony of veterans at Camalodunum, now Colchester or Maldon. A particular account of this revolt is given in the 14th book of the Annals.

18  This alludes to the defeat of Petilius Cerialis, who came with the ninth legion to succor the colony of Camalodunum. All the infantry were slaughtered; and Petilius, with the cavalry alone, got away to the camp. It was shortly after this, that Suetonius defeated Boadicea and her forces.

19  Those of Nero.

20  The office of quæstor was the entrance to all public employments. The quæstors and their secretaries were distributed by lot to the several provinces, that there might be no previous connections between them and the governors, but they might serve as checks upon each other.

21  Brother of the emperor Otho.

22  At the head of the prætors, the number of whom was different at different periods of the empire, were the Prætor Urbanus, and Prætor Peregrinus. The first administered justice among the citizens, the second among strangers. The rest presided at public debates, and had the charge of exhibiting the public games, which were celebrated with great solemnity for seven successive days, and at a vast expense. This, indeed, in the times of the emperors, was almost the sole business of the prætors, whose dignity, as Tacitus expresses it, consisted in the idle trappings of state; when Boethius justly terms the prætorship “an empty name, and a grievous burden on the senatorian rank.”

23  Nero had plundered the temples for the supply of his extravagance and debauchery. See Annals, xv. 45.

24  This was the year of Rome 822; from the birth of Christ, 69.

25  The cruelties and depredations committed on the coast of Italy by this fleet are described in lively colors by Tacitus, Hist. ii. 12, 13.

26  Now the county of Vintimiglia. The attack upon the municipal town of this place, called Albium Intemelium, is particularly mentioned in the passage above referred to.

27  In the month of July of this year.

28  The twentieth legion, surnamed the Victorious, was stationed in Britain at Deva, the modern Chester, where many inscriptions and other monuments of Roman antiquities have been discovered.

29  Roscius Cælius. His disputes with the governor of Britain, Trebellius Maximus, are related by Tacitus, Hist. i. 60.

30  The governors of the province, and commanders in chief over all the legions stationed in it.

31  He had formerly been commander of the ninth legion.

32  The province of Aquitania extended from the Pyrenean mountains to the river Liger (Loire).

33  The governors of the neighboring provinces.

34  Agricola was consul in the year of Rome 830, A.D. 77, along with Domitian. They succeeded, in the calends of July, the consuls Vespasian and Titus, who began the year.

35  He was admitted into the Pontifical College, at the head of which was the Pontifex Maximus.

36  Julius Cæsar, Livy, Strabo, Fabius Rusticus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny, etc.

37  Thus Cæsar: “One side of Britain inclines toward Spain, and the setting sun; on which part Ireland is situated.” — Bell. Gall. v. 13.

38  These, as well as other resemblances suggested by ancient geographers, have been mostly destroyed by the greater accuracy of modern maps.

39  This is so far true, that the northern extremity of Scotland is much narrower than the southern coast of England.

40  The Orkney Islands. These, although now first thoroughly known to the Romans, had before been heard of, and mentioned by authors. Thus Mela, iii. 6: “There are thirty of the Orcades, separated from each other by narrow straits.” And Pliny, iv. 16: “The Orcades are forty in number, at a small distance from each other.” In the reign of Claudius, the report concerning these islands was particularly current, and adulation converted it into the news of a victory. Hence Hieronymus in his Chronicon says, “Claudius triumphed over the Britons, and added the Orcades to the Roman empire.”

41  Camden supposes the Shetland Islands to be meant here by Thule; others imagine it to have been one of the Hebrides. Pliny, iv. 16, mentions Thule as the most remote of all known islands; and, by placing it but one day’s sail from the Frozen Ocean, renders it probable that Iceland was intended. Procopius (Bell. Goth. ii. 15) speaks of another Thule, which must have been Norway, which many of the ancients thought to be an island. Mr. Pennant supposes that the Thule here meant was Foula, a very lofty isle, one of the most westerly of the Shetlands, which might easily be descried by the fleet.

42  As far as the meaning of this passage can be elucidated, it would appear as if the first circumnavigators of Britain, to enhance the idea of their dangers and hardships, had represented the Northern sea as in such a thickened half solid state, that the oars could scarcely be worked, or the water agitated by winds. Tacitus, however, rather chooses to explain its stagnant condition from the want of winds, and the difficulty of moving so great a body of waters. But the fact, taken either way, is erroneous; as this sea is never observed frozen, and is remarkably stormy and tempestuous. — Aikin.

43  The great number of firths and inlets of the sea, which almost cut through the northern parts of the island, as well as the height of the tides on the coast, render this observation peculiarly proper.

44  Cæsar mentions that the interior inhabitants of Britain were supposed to have originated in the island itself. (Bell. Gall. v. 12.)

45  Caledonia, now Scotland, was at that time overspread by vast forests. Thus Pliny, iv. 16, speaking of Britain, says, that “for thirty years past the Roman arms had not extended the knowledge of the island beyond the Caledonian forest.”

46  Inhabitants of what are now the counties of Clamorgan, Monmouth, Brecknock, Hereford, and Radnor.

47  The Iberi were a people of Spain, so called from their neighborhood to the river Iberus, now Ebro.

48  Of these, the inhabitants of Kent are honorably mentioned by Cæsar. “Of all these people, by far the most civilized are those inhabiting the maritime country of Cantium, who differ little in their manners from the Gauls.” — Bell. Gall. v. 14.

49  From the obliquity of the opposite coasts of England and France, some part of the former runs farther south than the northern extremity of the latter.

50  Particularly the mysterious and bloody solemnities of the Druids.

51  The children were born and nursed in this ferocity. Thus Solinus, c. 22, speaking of the warlike nation of Britons, says, “When a woman is delivered of a male child, she lays its first food upon the husband’s sword, and with the point gently puts it within the little one’s mouth, praying to her country deities that his death may in like manner be in the midst of arms.”

52  In the reign of Claudius.

53  The practice of the Greeks in the Homeric age was the reverse of this.

54  Thus the kings Cunobelinus, Caractacus, and Prasutagus, and the queens Cartismandua and Boadicea, are mentioned in different parts of Tacitus.

55  Cæsar says of Britain, “the climate is more temperate than that of Gaul, the cold being less severe.” (Bell. Gall. v. 12.) This certainly proceeds from its insular situation, and the moistness of its atmosphere.

56  Thus Pliny (ii. 75): — “The longest day in Italy is of fifteen hours, in Britain of seventeen, where in summer the nights are light.”

57  Tacitus, through the medium of Agricola, must have got this report, either from the men of Scandinavia, or from those of the Britons who had passed into that country, or been informed to this effect by those who had visited it. It is quite true, that in the farther part of Norway, and so also again in Ireland and the regions about the North Pole, there is, at the summer solstice, an almost uninterrupted day for nearly two months. Tacitus here seems to affirm this as universally the case, not having heard that, at the winter solstice, there is a night of equal duration.

58  Tacitus, after having given the report of the Britons as he had heard it, probably from Agricola, now goes on to state his own views on the subject. He represents that, as the far north is level, there is nothing, when the sun is in the distant horizon, to throw up a shadow toward the sky: that the light, indeed, is intercepted from the surface of the earth itself, and so there is darkness upon it; but that the sky above is still clear and bright from its rays. And hence he supposes that the brightness of the upper regions neutralizes the darkness on the earth, forming a degree of light equivalent to the evening twilight or the morning dawn, or, indeed, rendering it next to impossible to decide when the evening closes and the morning begins. Compare the following account, taken from a “Description of a Visit to Shetland,” in vol. viii. of Chambers’s Miscellany: — “Being now in the 60th degree of north latitude, daylight could scarcely be said to have left us during the night, and at 2 o’clock in the morning, albeit the mist still hung about us, we could see as clearly as we can do in London, at about any hour in a November day.”

59  Mr. Pennant has a pleasing remark concerning the soil and climate of our island, well agreeing with that of Tacitus: — “The climate of Great Britain is above all others productive of the greatest variety and abundance of wholesome vegetables, which, to crown our happiness, are almost equally diffused through all its parts: this general fertility is owing to those clouded skies, which foreigners mistakenly urge as a reproach on our country; but let us cheerfully endure a temporary gloom, which clothes not only our meadows, but our hills, with the richest verdure.” — Brit. Zool. 4to, i. 15.

60  Strabo (iv. 138) testifies the same. Cicero, on the other hand, asserts, that not a single grain of silver is found on this island. (Ep. ad Attic. iv. 16.) If we have recourse to modern authorities, we find Camden mentioning gold and silver mines in Cumberland, silver in Flintshire, and gold in Scotland. Dr. Borlase (Hist. of Cornwall, p. 214) relates, that so late as the year 1753, several pieces of gold were found in what the miners call stream tin; and silver is now got in considerable quantity from several of our lead ores. A curious paper, concerning the Gold Mines of Scotland, is given by Mr. Pennant in Append. (No. x.) to his second part of a “Tour in Scotland in 1772,” and a much more general account of the mines and ores of Great Britain in early times, in his “Tour of Wales of 1773,” pp. 51-66.

61  Camden mentions pearls being found in the counties of Caernavon and Cumberland, and in the British sea. Mr. Pennant, in his “Tour in Scotland in 1769,” takes notice of a considerable pearl fishery out of the fresh-water muscle, in the vicinity of Perth, from whence £10,000 worth of pearls were sent to London from 1761 to 1764. It was, however, almost exhausted when he visited the country. See also the fourth volume of Mr. Pennant’s Br. Zool. (Class vi. No. 18), where he gives a much more ample account of the British pearls. Origen, in his Comment on Matthew, pp. 210, 211, gives a description of the British pearl, which, he says, was next in value to the Indian: — “Its surface is of a gold color, but it is cloudy, and less transparent than the Indian.” Pliny speaks of the British unions as follows: — “It is certain that small and discolored ones are produced in Britain; since the deified Julius has given us to understand that the breast-plate which he dedicated to Venus Genitrix, and placed in her temple, was made of British pearls.” — ix. 35.

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