Agricola: And Germany

Agricola: And Germany

Agricola: And Germany

Agricola: And Germany

Synopsis

Cornelius Tacitus, Rome's greatest historian and the last great writer of classical Latin prose, produced his first two books in AD 98, after the assination of the Emperor Domitian ended fifteen years of enforced silence. Much of Agricola, which is the biography of Tacitus' late father-in-law Julius Agricola, is devoted to Britain and its people, since Agricola's claim to fame was that as governor for seven years he had completed the conquest of Britain, begun four decades earlier. Germany provides an account of Rome's most dangerous enemies, the Germans, and is the only surviving example of an ethnographic study from the ancient world. Each book in its way has had immense influence on our perception of Rome and the northern barbarians. This edition reflects recent research in Roman-British and Roman-German history and includes newly discovered evidence on Tacitus' early career.

Excerpt

Tacitus' wonderful Latin style, striking not least for brevity, compression, and sometimes for ambiguity, is hard to imitate, and the present translation is not intended to do this. It is hoped that at least his meaning comes across clearly. (In places this depends on what he actually wrote, not always certain.) For the translation itself and for the interpretation I have relied most of all, in many passages, on the Oxford editions, the first thirty years old, the second twice that age: of Agricola by Ogilvie and Richmond, of Germany by Anderson, both models of their kind. In addition, a variety of literature which has been of help--on Tacitus, especially by Ronald Syme, whose pupil I was fortunate to be, on Britain, and on Germany--is indicated in the Select Bibliography and the Explanatory Notes. I must make special mention of the commentary on Germany by Allan A. Lund, whose improvements to the text I have in many cases gratefully adopted and acknowledged, and of the collected Roman-German studies by Dieter Timpe, which have shed new light on some of the most debated passages. It would have been improper not to refer to these two books. But, conscious that English-speakers would not derive much benefit from further references to works in German, I have not cited e.g. those monuments of Wissenschaft, Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopädie (completed in 1978) and the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (of which a second edition is in progress).

It is proper to note that my interpretation of Tacitus' career is new in some particulars, exploiting the fragmentary inscription from Rome recently identified as his, but taking a rather more radical view than its editor, my friend Géza Alföldy, on the early stages. To be specific, I believe that there is a good case for Tacitus having served as a military tribune in Britain for the first two or three years of his father-in-law Agricola's governorship.

As for Agricola's career, I have interpreted it largely as in my own Fasti of Roman Britain (1981). The dating of his governorship to AD 77-84 rather than 78-85 has since been supported by others . . .

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