The Germany and the Agricola of Tacitus

Part 3 out of 3

inhabitants of the most northern parts of Europe.

[274] As it is just after mentioned that their chief dependence is on
the game procured in hunting, this can only mean that the vegetable food
they use consists of wild herbs, in opposition to the cultivated
products of the earth.

[275] The Esquimaux and the South Sea islanders do the same thing to this

[276] People of Lapland. The origin of this fable was probably the
manner of clothing in these cold regions, where the inhabitants bury
themselves in the thickest furs, scarcely leaving anything of the form
of a human creature.

[277] It is with true judgment that this excellent historian forbears to
intermix fabulous narrations with the very interesting and instructive
matter of this treatise. Such a mixture might have brought an
impeachment on the fidelity of the account in general; which,
notwithstanding the suspicions professed by some critics, contains
nothing but what is entirely consonant to truth and nature. Had Tacitus
indulged his invention in the description of German manners, is it
probable that he could have given so just a picture of the state of a
people under similar circumstances, the savage tribes of North America,
as we have seen them within the present century? Is it likely that his
relations would have been so admirably confirmed by the codes of law
still extant of the several German nations; such as the Salic, Ripuary,
Burgundian, English and Lombard? or that after the course of so many
centuries, and the numerous changes of empire, the customs, laws and
manners he describes should still be traced in all the various people of
German derivation? As long as the original constitution and
jurisprudence of our own and other European countries are studied, this
treatise will be regarded as one of the most precious and authentic
monuments of historical antiquity.


[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. Athenaeus 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 cannot 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, 'Cnaeus Julius Agricola,' &c., assured that no one
would question the propriety of his course. But now, after a long and
servile silence, when one begins again 'facta moresque posteris tradere,'
when he utters the first word where speech and almost memory (c. 2) had 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 suits the connection, that by the complexion of his
language even, he might paint the audacity 'cursandi tam saeva 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
quaestor, 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 Paetus 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

[10] Of the procurators who were sent to the provinces, some had the
charge of the public revenue; 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 at the
administration of the revenue. This was the case in Judaea.

[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 Graecinus, an excellent person, whom Caius Caesar 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 MS
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
stayed 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 Graecinus 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 Phocaeans; 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 Caesar made
his first campaign in Asia as tent-companion to Marcus Thermus the

[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

[19] Those of Nero.

[20] The office of quaestor was the entrance to all public employments.
The quaestors 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 praetors, the number of whom was different at
different periods of the empire, were the Praetor Urbanus, and Praetor
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 praetors, whose
dignity, as Tacitus expresses it, consisted in the idle trappings of
state; whence Boethius justly terms the praetorship "an empty name, and a
grievous burthen 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 Caelius. 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 Caesar, Livy, Strabo, Fabius Rusticus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny,

[37] Thus Caesar: "One side of Britain inclines towards 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

[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, in.
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

[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] Caesar 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 Glamorgan, 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 Caesar.
"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.

[48] From the obliquity of the opposite coasts of England and France, some
part of the former runs further south than the northern extremity of the

[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

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

[55] Caesar 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 further part of Norway, and so
also again in Iceland 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 towards 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'
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 in Wales of 1773," pp. 51-66.

[61] Camden mentions pearls being found in the counties of Caernarvon 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 mussel, in the vicinity of Perth, from whence 10,000_l._ 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 breastplate which he dedicated to Venus Genitrix, and placed in
her temple, was made of British pearls."--ix. 35.

[62] Caesar's two expeditions into Britain were in the years of Rome 699
and 700. He himself gives an account of them, and they are also mentioned
by Strabo and Dio.

[63] It was the wise policy of Augustus not to extend any further the
limits of the empire; and with regard to Britain, in particular, he
thought the conquest and preservation of it would be attended with more
expense than it could repay. (Strabo, ii. 79, and iv. 138.) Tiberius, who
always professed an entire deference for the maxims and injunctions of
Augustus, in this instance, probably, was convinced of their propriety.

[64] Caligula.

[65] Claudius invaded Britain in the year of Rome 796, A.D. 43.

[66] In the parish of Dinder, near Hereford, are yet remaining the
vestiges of a Roman encampment, called Oyster-hill, as is supposed from
this Ostorius. Camden's Britain, by Gibson, p. 580.

[67] That of Camalodunum, now Colchester, or Maldon.

[68] The Mona of Tacitus is the Isle of Anglesey, that of Caesar is the
Isle of Man, called by Pliny Monapia.

[69] The avarice of Catus Decidianus the procurator is mentioned as the
cause by which the Britons were forced into this war, by Tacitus, Annal.
xiv. 32.

[70] Julius Classicianus, who succeeded Decidianus, was at variance with
the governor, but was no less oppressive to the province.

[71] By the slaughter of Varus.

[72] The Rhine and Danube.

[73] Boadicea, whose name is variously written Boudicea, Bonduca,
Voadicea, &c., was queen of the Iceni, or people of Suffolk, Norfolk,
Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire. A particular account of this revolt
is given in the Annals, xiv. 31, and seq.

[74] Of Camalodunum.

[75] This was in A.D. 61. According to Tac. Hist. i. 6, Petronius
Turpilianus was put to death by Galba, A.D. 68.

[76] The date of his arrival is uncertain.

[77] He was sent to Britain by Vespasian, A.D. 69.

[78] The Brigantes inhabited Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland,
Cumberland, and Durham.

[79] The date of his arrival in Britain is uncertain. This Frontinus is
the author of the work on "Stratagems," and, at the time of his
appointment to the lieutenancy of Britain, he was _curator aquarum_ at
Rome. This, probably, it was that induced him to write his other work on
the aqueducts of Rome.

[80] This seems to relate to his having been curtailed in his military
operations by the parsimony of Vespasian, who refused him permission to
attack other people than the Silures. See c. 11.

[81] Where these people inhabited is mentioned in p. 355, note 5.

[82] This was in the year of Rome 831, of Christ 78.

[83] Inhabitants of North Wales, exclusive of the Isle of Anglesey.

[84] _I.e._ Some were for immediate action, others for delay. Instead of
_et quibus_, we read with Dr. Smith's edition (London, 1850), _ut quibus_.

[85] _Vexilla_ is here used for _vexillarii_. "Under the Empire the name
of Vexillarii was given to a distinct body of soldiers supposed to have
been composed of veterans, who were released from the military oath and
regular service, but kept embodied under a separate flag (_vexillum_), to
render assistance to the army if required, guard the frontier, and
garrison recently conquered provinces; a certain number of these
supernumeraries being attached to each legion. (Tac. Hist. ii. 83, 100;
Ann. i. 36.)"--Rich, Comp. to Dict. and Lex. s. v. Vexillum.

[86] A pass into the vale of Clwyd, in the parish of Llanarmon, is still
called Bwlch Agrikle, probably from having been occupied by Agricola, in
his road to Mona.--_Mr. Pennant_.

[87] From this circumstance it would appear that these auxiliaries were
Batavians, whose skill in this practice is related by Tacitus, Hist. iv.

[88] It was customary for the Roman generals to decorate with sprigs of
laurel the letters in which they sent home the news of any remarkable
success. Thus Pliny, xv. 30: "The laurel, the principal messenger of joy
and victory among the Romans, is affixed to letters, and to the spears and
javelins of the soldiers." The _laurus_ of the ancients was probably the
baytree, and not what we now call laurel.

[89] _Ascire_, al. _accire_, "To receive into regular service." The
reference is to the transfer of soldiers from the supernumeraries to the
legions. So Walch, followed by Dronke, Both, and Walther. The next clause
implies, that he took care to receive into the service none but the best
men (_optimum quemque_), who, he was confident, would prove faithful

[90] In like manner Suetonius says of Julius Caesar, "He neither noticed
nor punished every crime; but while he strictly inquired into and
rigorously punished desertion and mutiny, he connived at other
delinquencies."--Life of Julius Caesar, s. 67.

[91] Many commentators propose reading "exaction," instead of
"augmentation." But the latter may be suffered to remain, especially as
Suetonius informs us that "Vespasian, not contented with renewing some
taxes remitted under Galba, added new and heavy ones: and augmented the
tributes paid by the provinces, even doubling some."--Life of Vesp. s. 19.

[92] In the year of Rome 832. A.D. 79.

[93] Many vestiges of these or other Roman camps yet remain in different
parts of Great Britain. Two principal ones, in the county of Annandale, in
Scotland, called Burnswork and Middleby, are described at large by Gordon
in his Itiner. Septentrion, pp. 16, 18.

[94] The year of Rome 833, A.D. 80.

[95] Now the Firth of Tay.

[96] The principal of these was at Ardoch, seated so as to command the
entrance into two valleys, Strathallan and Strathearn. A description and
plan of its remains, still in good preservation, are given by Mr. Pennant
in his Tour in Scotland in 1772, part ii. p. 101.

[97] The year of Rome 834, A.D. 81.

[98] The Firths of Clyde and Forth.

[99] The neck of land between these opposite arms of the sea is only about
thirty miles over. About fifty-five years after Agricola had left the
island, Lollius Urbicus, governor of Britain under Antoninus Pius, erected
a vast wall or rampart, extending from Old Kirkpatrick on the Clyde, to
Caeridden, two miles west of Abercorn, on the Forth, a space of nearly
thirty-seven miles, defended by twelve or thirteen forts. These are
supposed to have been on the site of those of Agricola. This wall is
usually called Graham's dike; and some parts of it are now subsisting.

[100] The year of Rome 835, A.D. 82.

[101] Crossing the Firth of Clyde, or Dumbarton Bay, and turning to the
western coast of Argyleshire, or the Isles of Arran and Bute.

[102] The Bay of Biscay.

[103] The Mediterranean.

[104] The year of Rome 836, A.D. 83.

[105] The eastern parts of Scotland, north of the Firth of Forth, where
now are the counties of Fife, Kinross, Perth, Angus, &c.

[106] This legion, which had been weakened by many engagements, was
afterwards recruited, and then called Gemina. Its station at this affair
is supposed by Gordon to have been Lochore in Fifeshire. Mr. Pennant
rather imagines the place of the attack to have been Comerie in

[107] For an account of these people see Manners of the Germans, c. 32.

[108] Mr. Pennant had a present made him in Skye, of a brass sword and a
denarius found in that island. Might they not have been lost by some of
these people in one of their landings?

[109] The Rhine.

[110] This extraordinary expedition, according to Dio, set out from the
western side of the island. They therefore must have coasted all that part
of Scotland, must have passed the intricate navigation through the
Hebrides, and the dangerous strait of Pentland Firth, and, after coming
round to the eastern side, must have been driven to the mouth of the
Baltic Sea, Here they lost their ships; and, in their attempt to proceed
homeward by land, were seized as pirates, part by the Suevi, and the rest
by the Frisii.

[111] The year of Rome 837, A.D. 84.

[112] 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.

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

[114] "Peace given to the world" is a very frequent inscription on the
Roman medals.

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

[116] 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.

[118] 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

[119] 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 Caesar, who gives them the name of _esseda_:--"The following
is the manner of fighting from _essedae_: 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.

[120] These targets, called _cetrae_, in the Latin, were made of leather.
The broad sword and target were till very lately the peculiar arms of the

[121] Several inscriptions have been found in Britain commemorating the
Tungrian cohorts.

[122] 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 meantime 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.

[123] People of Fifeshire.

[124] 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 cannot be the case, from the subsequent words.--_White_.

[125] 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.

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

[127] 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.

[128] 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."

[129] 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, statue, and other insignia which had distinguished the
person of the triumphing general.

[130] Of Dover.

[131] 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 despatched 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 as
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.--

[132] 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 palled
Lucullean.--Life of Domitian, s. 10.

[133] 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,"

[134] These calamitous events are recorded by Suetonius in his Life of

[135] The Rhine and Danube.

[136] The two senior consulars cast lots for the government of Asia and

[137] 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.)

[138] Obliging persons to return thanks for an injury was a refinement in
tyranny frequently practised 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.

[139] From a passage in Dio, lxxviii. p. 899, this sum appears to have
been _decies sestertium_, about 9,000_l._ sterling.

[140] Thus Seneca: "Little souls rendered insolent by prosperity have this
worst property, that they hate those whom they have injured."--De Ira, ii.

[141] Several who suffered under Nero and Domitian erred, though nobly, in
this respect.

[142] 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.

[143] Dio absolutely affirms it; but from the manner in which Tacitus, who
had better means of information, speaks of it, the story was probably

[144] 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_.

[145] Caligula. This was A.D. 40, when he was sole consul.

[146] 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 the copyists must probably
have written by mistake LVI. instead of LIV.

[147] From this representation, Dio appears to have been mistaken in
asserting that Agricola passed the latter part of his life in dishonor and

[148] 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 saevitiae: claras quibus abstulit Urbi
Illustresque animas impune, et vindice nullo.
Sed periit, postquam cerdonibus esse timendus
Coeperat: hoc nocuit Lamiarum, caede 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.

[149] This happened in the year of Rome 848.

[150] Carus and Massa, who were proverbially infamous as informers, are
represented by Juvenal as dreading a still more dangerous villain,

--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.

[151] 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 visae flagrabat amore puellae,
Grande, et conspicuum nostro quoque tempore monstrum,
Caecus adulator, dirusque a ponte satelles,
Dignus Aricinos qui mendicaret ad axes,
Blandaque devexae jactaret basia rhedae.--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,
Raised to a murd'ring minister of state.
Deserving still to beg upon the road,
And bless each passing wagon and its load."--DUKE.

[152] 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.

[153] Tacitus, in his History, mentions this Massa Baebius 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
Boetica in a prosecution of Massa Baebius; and that Massa after his
condemnation petitioned the consuls for liberty to prosecute Senecio for

[154] 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 crime 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 praetorian on a consular man, a judge on a
criminal."--B. ix. ep. 13.

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

[156] 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

[157] Herennius Senecio. See c. 2.

[158] 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."


Back to Full Books