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Tacitus in Tartan: Textual Colonization and Expansionist Discourse in the Agricola.

Tacitus' Agricola is frequently cited in discussions about Roman imperialism, but has yet to be read as a text that serves the actual process of expanding Roman power. (1) In this paper I shall demonstrate that Tacitus' work turns the alien and distant land of Britain into a Roman space, with a Roman identity, whose peoples share and embrace Roman values and ideology with varying results, and that the ultimate aim of Tacitus' text is to perpetuate the further expansion and spread of the Romanitas Agricola imposes on Britain. (2) The two major rhetorical methods Tacitus employs to achieve this aim are what I will refer to with the term textual colonization, inasmuch as those methods, working in unison, are intended to advance imperial expansion; the text, in short, acts as an abettor in the colonial process. To illustrate how the process of textual colonization functions in the Agricola, I shall examine here the two main rhetorical strategies Tacitus uses to generate such discourse, their relationship to one a nother, and how they serve to reaffirm Roman authority in Britain, as well as to perpetuate the perceived need for Roman conquest and colonization there. The major rhetorical strategies that are particularly at work in the text and that will make up the central focus of this study may be divided, for convenience, into two major categories. Through the first, negation, Tacitus emphasizes Britain's shapelessness, the presence of nothingness in and around Britain, and depicts Britain as a place that is paradoxically full of "absence," to the point where "absence" becomes one of Britain's essential realities. Within this strategy of negation Tacitus deploys a series of substrategies: surveillance (in which Britain is simultaneously mapped and conquered), naturalization (which reduces the Britons to a natural resource for exploitation), and affirmation (in which Tacitus asserts the desirability of Roman as opposed to barbarian control of the island). (3) Tacitus presents Britain as verging on a negative space, ful l of nothing, whose form is incomplete, whose people lack an individual identity, lack coherent and collective political unity, and have only a marginal history at best; as such, Britain and its people are something to be surveyed, subdued, and exploited. Such a rhetorical strategy opens the way for the imposition of a Roman identity on the island, as well as for its conquest. Tacitus also employs this rhetorical strategy with a view to reaffirming and asserting the need for Roman order and authority over Britain's peoples. The second rhetorical strategy is appropriation. Defined succinctly, appropriation is the method Tacitus uses to establish cultural solidarity between Romans and Britons, while at the same time maintaining the need for the Romans' presence in the province and asserting Rome's cultural superiority. (4) This results in various internal contradictions and instability within the text, entailing simultaneously both the denigration and idealization of the Britons based on Roman cultural values. Such discourse, taken as a whole, creates numerous perceived contradictions and tensions within Tacitus' work; however, as the conclusion of this study will suggest, Tacitus' presentation is essentially consistent with his larger rhetorical program. In the conclusion I shall argue that these strategies are, in part, the result of the aesthetics of the medium in which Tacitus works, in which the literary form of the Agricola emerges as a rhetorical strategy in its own right; it is used not only to reaffirm, but to expand Roman power.5


Tacitus conceives of Britain, prior to Agricola's conquest, in negative terms; it is a place which verges on nothingness, whose shape is incomplete, which has only a marginal, nebulous history and is full of nothing. (6)

That Britain verges on nothingness Tacitus initially implies when he describes its geographic position on the edge of the world, where the great wastes of the northern sea commence: septentrionalia eius, nullis contra ferns, vasto atque aperto man pulsantur ("Its northern boundaries are pounded by the desolate and open sea, with no lands opposite," 10.2). The implication of Britain as standing on the very verge of nothingness is reiterated several times in Tacitus' text, most notably in the speech of Calgacus: nos terrarum ac libertatis extremos recessus ipse ac sinus famae in hunc diem defendit ("Our remote position itself and our distant renown defend us to this day--we who live where both the world and liberty end," 30.3). Calgacus takes his stand, as he himself notes, at the very end of Britain (terminus Britanniae, 30.3), beyond which there are no lands (nullae ultra terrae, 30.1). We see something similar again in Agricola's corresponding oration to his army, where he states to his men that they have re ached the end of nature itself: nec inglorium fuerit in ipso terrarum ac naturae fine cecidisse ("Nor will it have been inglorious to have fallen at the very end of the world and nature," 33.6). For Tacitus, the northern sea that lies beyond is the novissimum mare, the furthermost sea that bounds the earth (10.4). (7) Tacitus represents the vast waste of sea bordering Britain as a part of the natural element of the land itself, since the sea merges with the very landscape, with the effect of further negating it: nusquam latius dorninari mare, multum fiuminum huc atque illuc ferre, nec litore tenus adcrescere aut resorberi, sed influere penitus atque ambire, et iugis etiam ac moniibus inseri velut in suo ("Nowhere does the sea hold wider rule, its great current set in various directions, nor does it rise and fall back up to the shore, but flows deep inside and winds about [sc. the land], even inserting itself along the ridges and mountains, as if into its natural element," (10.6). (8) Even Calgacus himself is made to render his native land into a negative space characterized by the absence of material resources: neque enim arva nobis aur metalla aut portus sunt, quibus exercendis reservemur ("We have no fields, no mines, no harbors which we are reserved to exploit [Sc. as slaves]," 31.2). The overall impression Tacitus gives is that the land Agricola seeks to conquer is (paradoxically) full of absence, an immense space (inmensum spatium) devoid of form (enorme, 10.3), penetrated by the vast nothingness of Oceanus, lacking in any vital resources. Tacitus, by rendering Britain an empty space, sets the groundwork by which the island can be filled with specifically Roman matter.

Not only does Britain stand on the verge of empty space, but the land itself, Tacitus' narrative implies, would be without its complete shape were it not for Agricola's conquest. Previous historians wuo have written Britain, according to Tacitus, lacked full knowledge of Britain's form: ita quae priores nondum comperta eloquentia percoluere rerum fide tradentur ("Those things not yet discovered, which earlier writers adorned with eloquence, will be recounted [by me] with the trustworthiness of fact," 10.1). Indeed, according to Tacitus, they could not even state for certain, only having knowledge of its geography up to the Forth-Clyde as Tacitus acknowledges, whether Britain was indeed an island. (9 )It is Agricola who establishes both Britain's final shape and its insularity:

sed transgressis inmensum et enorme spatium procurrentium extremo iam litore terrarum velut in cuneum tenuatur, hanc oram novissimi mans tunc primum Romana classis circumvecta insulam esse Britanniam adfirmavit, ac simul incognitas ad id tempus insulas, quas Orcadas vacant, invenit domuitque.

The space of the land advancing to the furthest shore extends, as it were, into a wedge for those crossing it. The Roman fleet, having then for the first time circumnavigated this shore of the outermost sea, determined that Britain was an island, and at the same time Agricola discovered and conquered some previously unknown islands, which they call the Orkneys. (10.3-4) (10)

Britain's nature is fully established only through conquest, which Tacitus closely links with the process of Agricola's discovery (inventa Britannia et subacta ["Britain was discovered and subdued," 33.3]). (11) Tacitus further links the process of discovery and conquest through Agricola's remark that what was once known only from report or hearsay was now occupied by arms and encampments (33.3), while in the summer of Agricola's sixth year of campaign his men demand that Caledonia and Britain's terminus be discovered in one continuous course of battles (penetrandam Caledoniam inveniendumque tandem Britanniae terminum continuo proeliorum cursu fremebant, 27.1). Calgacus' speech leaves the reader with a similar impression, where the overall implication of the first section of his oration (30.1-5) is that the Romans have simultaneously subdued and reached nature's furthest boundaries. In his initial description of the island, Tacitus presents his readers with a map--abstract though it may be--as a first step in the final narrative conquest of the island, a conquest in which his text will come to impose a geography, history, and culture that emanate not from Britain but from Rome, and whose ultimate aim is the cultural and commercial domination of the island. (12) Tacitus reinforces this notion at various points throughout his narrative as he forms an inextricable nexus between discovery and conquest. Indeed, Agricola's act of giving a complete shape to Britain and Tacitus' description of its form constitute acts of domination: it is not the Britons themselves who ascertain the shape of the very land in which they live, but a foreign power, which exhibits superiority not only through conquest, but through its ability to survey, circumnavigate, map, and have more general knowledge about the land it conquers than the native inhabitants themselves have. (13)

If the space and geography of Britain are presented in negative terms, the case is similar for the historical space Britain occupies, for Tacitus essentially deprives the Britons of their past. Value is placed instead on Roman sources, such as Livy or Fabius Rusticus, for the knowledge and history of the Britons (10.3). Tacitus devotes five chapters (13-17)--over ten percent of his work--to the history of Britain, yet the sum total of British history before Roman conquest is summed up in five terse words: singulos sibi olim reges fuisse ("Once they had individual kings," 15.2). His historical excursus, moreover, begins very deliberately, not with the Britons, but with Julius Caesar, "the first of all the Romans" (primus omnium Romanorum, 13.1) to encounter the Britons. Not a single British name emerges, mythical or otherwise, prior to Caesar's advent, nor is there mention of any written text from a native Briton's hand. History has been, for the Britons, almost completely negated except for British confrontat ions with the Romans. (14) All we are told of the Britons' history prior to the Romans' arrival is that they were once ruled by kings and were governed in Agricola's day by chieftains (12.1, 15.2). Even the reference to their governance by chieftains is really addressing the nature of their current form of government, not their history. Calgacus himself, in whose exhortation prior to battle we might expect to find ancient historical exempla, cites only the recent episode of Boudicca's revolt, and he refers to no historical episode disassociated from Rome (30-32). The inhabitants of Britain are, for the most part, denied any previous history except in the most vague terms: (15) ceterum Britanniam qui mortales initio coluerint, indigenae an advecti, ut inter barbaros, parum compertum ("But what mortals first inhabited Britain, whether indigenous or from elsewhere, as is the case among barbarians, remains uncertain," 11.1). (16) These are not merely the words of the non-committal historian; Tacitus' phrase ut in ter barbaros is loaded, for it tells his readers how to interpret the text. His words imply that it is a natural state for Britain's inhabitants to have a limited history at best, and the only story left to tell of the island prior to Roman conquest is a highly conjectural and abstract ethnographic excursus--deduced from the physical appearance of the Britons themselves--that is used to conjecture about their origins; the bodies of the British natives are used as texts by which Tacitus interprets for his readers Britain's prehistory, which is to say pre-Roman history (11). Any history that can be told about Britain is almost exclusively a Roman one, and so the history of the island is limited to include only its Roman conquest and its subsequent administration by Agricola and his predecessors, an administration in which the Britons themselves have only a peripheral role. (17) The virtual absence of history puts British destiny into Roman hands. (18)

A distinct identity is also absent for the Britons. For Tacitus, Britons are merely an organic part of the landscape whose physical appearance reflects Britain's own geographical situation. They are in fact a composite, defined in terms of the peoples around them. (19) Thus the red hair and large limbs of the Caledonians indicate their proximity to the Germans (11.2), while the swarthy faces of the Silures and their curly hair indicate (incorrectly as it happens) their close proximity to Spain and its peoples (11.2). (20) The Britons near Gaul are like the Gauls, on whom especially the climate of Britain has left its mark (11.2). At first glance this appears similar to what we find in such ancient treatises as Airs, Waters, Places, in which an author would assert that the climate or geography of a region leaves an imprint on human character and physique. Here, however, Tacitus develops this topos still further. (21) The use of comparison may be a standard strategy in discussing other peoples in ancient writer s, but Tacitus' use here of several peoples--the Iberians, the Gauls, and the Germans--results in a lack of firm or individual identity for the Britons, about whom Tacitus really has nothing to say. In a very real sense Tacitus has negated the Britons' identity, since they are merely "like" others around them, and there is no sense of Britons as a unique people with their own culture or identity. Hence the description of their language, religious ceremonies, and behavior in battle is presented as merely analogous to the Gauls' (11.3). Moreover, not only are the Britons a product of their geography and landscape, they are in fact an inseparable part of it, offering yet another natural resource to exploit. Thus Tacitus' ethnographic excursus is followed by a listing of the resources of the island as a whole: fert Britannia aurum et argentum et alia metalla, pretium victoriae ("Britain produces gold, silver, and other metals, the reward of victory," 12.6). Inextricably tied to the mineral and agricultural resour ces of the island are its human resources: ipsi Britanni dilectum ac tributa et iniuncta imperii munera impigre obeunt, si iniuriae absint ("The Britons themselves eagerly offer up men for military service, tribute, and the duties enjoined by empire--provided injuries are absent," 13.1 which follows 12.6). The two categories--natural and human resources--form an inextricable link, reducing the Britons to yet another naturalized element of the island to be used as one more pretium victoriae. Moreover, it is significant that Tacitus' discussion in chapters 10 through 12 constitutes the island's geography, ethnography, climate, and resources, all of which are of the same piece. The ordering of Tacitus' material simply reduces the Britons to yet another one of Britain's resources for Roman conquest and consumption; indeed, it is perhaps no accident that the only resource to which Calgacus can point that the Romans could possibly want from northern Britain are human ones in the form of slaves (31.2). We may note, too, that Tacitus' presentation results in a tension in his text, arising out of the need to negate Britain while simultaneously occupying and exploiting it.

This exploitation is rendered an easier task for the Romans in part through the absence among Britain's tribes of organizational skill and a distinct dearth of order and unity that could lead to concerted action. The Britons' lack of capacity for acting in concert also leads, according to Tacitus, to a state of disorder that allows for their easy conquest: nunc per principes factionibus et studiis distrahuntur. nec aliud adversus validissimas gentes pro nobis utilius quam quod in commune non consultunt. rarus duabus tribusve civitatibus ad propulsandum commune periculum conventus ("Now because of their chieftains they are torn apart by faction and partisanship. Nor is there anything more useful for us against the strongest races than that they do not take counsel in common. Rare is the harmony between two or three states which allows for repulsion of a common danger," 12.1-2). That Tacitus makes this remark a part of his discussion about the geography, ethnography, and natural resources of the island is no mi stake, for it shows the hostile, chaotic nature of Britain's inhabitants as a somehow natural state of affairs. Calgacus himself remarks that it is barbarian discord that feeds Roman success: nostris illi dissensionibus ac discordiis clari vitia hostium in gloriam exercitus sui vertunt ("With us quarrelsome and discordant, those illustrious men turn the vices of their enemy to the glory of their own army," 32.1). (22) Confidence in the Britons' ability for concerted action is by no means bolstered by Calgacus' lack of political acumen in reading the sentiments of his fellow Britons (despite his astute observations about native discord), for he misreads the attitudes of his fellow countrymen fighting on the Roman side, who, he asserts, would desert the Roman cause and refuse to fight fellow Britons (adgnoscent Britanni suam causam, 32.3). (23) In the wake of the battle, the Britons find themselves incapable of united action: miscere in vicem consilia aliqua, dein separare ("They took some counsels together in turn, then separated," 38.1). (24) It is noteworthy, moreover, that while Calgacus does indeed express the hope that the barbarian auxiliaries will come over to his side, signs of strain in unity among the Britons emerge at one point, when he remarks on the shame the Britons serving in the Roman army incur (32.1). While by no means directly connected, Tacitus reinforces his overall picture by bringing up the Britons' lack of organizational skill in other areas throughout the course of his narrative; hence, they are stymied by Roman fortifications (22.2-4) and marvel at the fleet's ability to penetrate their lochs (25.2), and in the battle of Mons Graupius the barbarians are ultimately defeated by superior Roman organization and military technology (36.1-2). This is a significant element in Tacitus' presentation: Agricola's enterprise is idealized in a sense by setting it against a backdrop of disorder, thereby establishing the need for, and desirability (not to mention superiority) of, Roman authority. Chaos in the form of political discord and military disorganization in tribal Britain becomes the precondition for Roman military success and administrative control.


Appropriation is the second rhetorical method evident in Tacitus' text. As noted briefly in the introduction, appropriation is the method Tacitus uses to establish cultural solidarity between the Romans and the Britons, while at the same time maintaining the need for the Romans' presence in the province and asserting Rome's cultural superiority. This is not exclusively a rhetoric that simply constructs others in a way understandable for the Romans; rather, it is a rhetoric that creates tensions within the text, since it tries simultaneously both to efface and to maintain differences between Roman and barbarian. Appropriation demands sympathy with Roman culture, even as the author attempts to disparage (with varying degrees of subtlety) such sympathy. In the process Tacitus presents us with two faces of the native Briton: he is presented either as a member of a decadent imperial culture or, as in the case of Calgacus, as an anachronistic holdover from the republic. The result of such a presentation, in the end , is to reduce Britain to a backdrop against which Roman values are reaffirmed, and the Britons themselves are constructed in such a way to constitute little more than an act of self-reflection about the role of men like Tacitus and Agricola under the principate.

The attempt to efface while simultaneously maintaining differences is perhaps best illustrated in the two very different versions Tacitus gives of the acculturation into Roman society of Agricola, himself a provincial, and of the Britons living in the newly acquired Roman province. The early life and career of Agricola recount what we might call his integration into the Roman ruling class, and prefigure his conquest of Britain and his own bestowal of that same culture on the Britons. Agricola was given a staunchly "republican" education by his mother at Massilia; she was rather strict and prevented him in particular from pursuing what she deemed his excessive interest in philosophy--something considered inappropriate to a Roman of the senatorial class (4.2-3)--in order to advance in his career. (25) The strict pedagogical regimen overseen by his mother recalls the traditional upbringing of children under the republic, much praised elsewhere by Tacitus. (26) A significant portion of Agricola's education was th en taken up by military training, including a tour of duty in Britain, during which Agricola came to know the province and to learn the arts of war; it was during this tribuneship under Suetonius Paulinus that he conceived a desire for martial glory (5). For Agricola, acculturation into a Roman way of life clearly meant empowerment, domination, and the spread of Roman culture, for that is how one obtained militaris gloria. That his was ultimately a lesson in expanding Roman control Tacitus illustrates by his summary of the lessons Agricola took away from his first tour of duty: quae cuncta etsi consiliis ductuque alterius agebantur ac summa rerum et reciperatae provinciae gloria in ducem cessit, artem et usum et stimulos addidere iuveni, intravitque animum militaris gloriae cupido ("All things [during Agricola's early career in Britain], although they were done through the plans and leadership of another, and although the main credit and glory for the recovery of the province went to his commander, gave the y oung Agricola skill, experience, and incentives, and the desire for military glory entered his spirit," 5.3). Agricola moves from a provincial who, Tacitus states significantly, knows how to strike the perfect medium between Greek refinement and provincial thrift (4.2), to an exemplum of an imperial administrator (42.4); as such, Agricola is both an inheritor of imperial culture and a bestower of it on others.

Agricola stands in direct contrast to the Britons, for whom the adoption of Roman culture means servitude, not empowerment. Indeed, it appears that the Britons and Agricola move in polar opposition to one another, for Agricola progresses from the refinements of civic life to a mode of life that is warlike, while the inhabitants of Britain see their way of life transformed from one that is scattered and bellicose to one based on the civitas. (27) The Britons thereby mirror Agricola's integration into the imperial system, but with a significant difference: Agricola was integrated through studied provincial simplicity and military training, while the Britons were introduced to "quiet and leisure by means of pleasures" (quieti et otio per voluptates, 21.1). Their ruling class was exposed to the liberalis artes (21.2) and to Latin and eloquence. They imitated Roman customs, wore the toga, and gradually became attracted to the delenimenta vitiorum ("the enticements of vice"): porticoes, baths, and the elegantia con viviorum ("the elegance of banquets"). (28) Their identity is Roman, but it is associated with imperial decadence (voluptates), not provincial simplicity (such as the industria ac vigor of Agricola), and it provokes the famous sneer from Tacitus: idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset ("This was called humanity among the ignorant, although it was a part of their servitude," 21.2). (29) Tacitus insists on the superiority of the Roman conqueror who is bent, not on morally improving the conquered, but on morally seducing and thereby breaking them. (30) The contradiction of Tacitus' rhetoric is inescapable: Rome is a more civilized alternative to what came before, even as aspiration to certain aspects of its culture is seen as a sign of weakness or servility or of a degraded nature. The barbari are enticed by the same luxus Agricola, with the help of his mother, carefully avoided.

By acculturating the native elite into Roman ways, Tacitus does not merely denigrate provincials, but paradoxically asserts the need for Roman control over the province. Throughout his historical works Tacitus reaffirms the desirability of Roman, as opposed to indigenous, authority by showing the results when native rulers aspire to Roman culture and then attempt to govern their own people. (31) Because rulers of indigenous peoples instilled with Roman values inevitably fail to maintain order and authority with their own peoples, they establish the need for a Roman presence in the province and for rule directly from Rome. This is, I would argue, very much what Tacitus had in mind in his caustic remark concerning the Britons' aspirations to Roman culture.

Ostensibly the case is different with Calgacus who represents not the degenerate but the idealized native. (32) On the surface he is indeed the quintessential noble savage, with that magnificent speech so much admired and commented on by scholars. Syme (528-29) characterizes it as "a fervid denunciation of imperial conquest," while some scholars have seen it as yet another example of Tacitean ambiguity, one that problematizes Calgacus' character, and still others see it as merely a rhetorical exercise. (33) Yet the very sympathy Calgacus evokes in his speech simultaneously and subtly undermines Calgacus and the sentiment he expresses. The speech evokes the values of the Roman republic, but these, shown up by Tacitus as generally undesirable in certain contexts, do not lead one necessarily to admiration of Calgacus; instead, they lead to a destabilized reading that calls into question a defiant republicanism as opposed to a compliant obsequium under the principate. Calgacus, as was the case more blatantly with his fellow Britons, does not know how to play the part of a Roman properly, resulting in an inconsistency in Tacitus' text where Calgacus is simultaneously idealized and disparaged.

Calgacus' sentiments place him decidedly in the milieu of Rome's republican past. (34) His speech contains major themes that, for Tacitus and his readers, recall the republic and its ethos by invoking libertas, virtus, and his maiores and contrasting native frugality with Roman rapacity. As such, Calgacus and his oration ought not to be read only in the context of Tacitus' views on imperialism and the Pax Romana, but in the context of such characters as Helvidius Priscus and Thrasea Paetus, that is, in light of those who aspire to and actually live ancient, republican values. There should be no doubt that Calgacus belongs in such a context; he represents the Roman past, not the present. Calgacus invokes virtus and libertas at several points and both are, for Tacitus, particularly evocative of the republic. First, virtus, given a great deal of prominence in the Agricola's opening chapter and being one of the cardinal virtues in Tacitus, is said to have persisted from the republic, despite periodic degradation, under the empire. (35) Indeed, Tacitus, at the very opening of his work, states that he is about to relate the deeds of noble men (clarorum virorum facta) arising through virtus. By that opening phrase, which recalls Cato's Origines, Tacitus instantly associates himself with the republic and one of its greatest representatives. Tacitus then makes the connections still more explicit by asserting that he is following a custom that looks back to Rome's antiquity (antiquitus usitatum), and makes reference to the republican precedents he will follow, such as the works of Aemilius Scaurus and Rutilius Rufus. (36) Virtus is invoked twice in Calgacus' speech and, perhaps most significantly, associated at one point with ferocia. Ferox and its cognates, although at times associated with savagery and barbarism, were also used by Tacitus to describe those fiercely independent souls whose republicanism was assertive, unapologetic, and confrontational. (37) Thus in the opening of the Annales (1.2), Tacitus states that "the fiercest had fallen through proscriptions or by the sword" (ferocissimi per acies aut proscriptione cecidissent), the ferocissimi referring doubtlessly to Cassius, Brutus, and other worthies from the republic. Later on (1.12), in des cribing the personality of Asinius Gallus, Tacitus refers to his ferocia, which was reminiscent of the ferocia of his father, Asiius Pollio, a man noted for his republican independence: Pollionisque Asinii patris ferociam retineret ("Pollio retained the ferocity of his father, Asinius Pollio"). (38) Given the political significance that ferocia could convey, it is likely that the word here, juxtaposed with virtus, was meant to evoke the republic. Another reason to believe that ferocia conveys such meaning in Calgacus' speech is that Tacitus states clearly that the Britons are feroces in part because they preserve their libertas: plus tamen ferociae Britanni praeferunt, ut quos nondum longa pax emollierit. nam Gallos quoque in bellis floruisse accepimus; mox segnitia cum otia intravit, amissa virtute pariter ac libertate ("The Britons display more ferocity, so that extended peace has not yet enervated them. Now we hear that the Gauls were also once vigorous in the arts of war; soon idleness came along with lei sure, with manliness having been lost together with their freedom," Agr. 11.3-4). Libertas is not only one of the central themes of Calgacus' speech (appearing four times), but something distinctly associated with the republic in the mind of Tacitus, for whom libertas is the first and most significant fact of the free state: libertatem et consulatum L. Brutus instituit ("L. Brutus instituted freedom and the consulship," Ann. 1.1). For Tacitus, libertas was essentially a phenomenon of the republic until Nerva and Trajan (supposedly) reconciled it to the new regime; thus, we may say that the Agricola is a discussion of how a good man exists under the principate and of how much liberty he can assert. (39)

As it turns out, Calgacus asserts too much and, unlike Agricola, refuses to make any compromises. (40) In one of the most striking remarks in his entire speech, Calgacus rejects explicitly the middle course advocated by Tacitus: sed nulla jam ultra gens. nihil nisi fluctus ac saxa, et infestiores Romani, quorum superbiamn frustra per obsequium ac modestiam effugias ("But there is no race beyond here, nothing--except waves and rocks, and the more hostile Romans, whose arrogance you shall flee in vain through obedience and modesty," 30.3). Now obsequlum ac modestiam are the very two qualities that Tacitus says are necessary under the principate:

sciant, quibus moris est inlicita mirari, posse etiam sub malis principibus magnos viros esse, obsequiumque ac modestiam, si industria ac vigor adsint, eo laudis excedere, quo plerique per abrupta sed in nullum rei publicae usum ambitiosa morte inclaruerunt.

Let them know, whose manner it is to marvel at forbidden things, that there can be great men even under bad emperors, and that obedience and modesty can aspire to the same praise--provided industry and energy are present--by which many seek to become famous through an ostentatious death, following a perilous path, but one useless to the state. (42.4)

Such a striking echo cannot be accidental and, in the final analysis, reflects negatively on Calgacus, who is purely republican in nature; he ultimately refuses any accommodation with the present, the very accommodation (obsequium ac modestiam) Agricola had embraced. (41) Throughout his works, Tacitus is never ambiguous about the results when such characters refuse to soften their republican principles and to accommodate themselves to the new regime. For Thrasea Paetus and Helvidius Priscus, lack of compromise meant destruction, and Tacitus, while he may have had some sympathy for them, followed the course advised by the notorious delator, Eprius Marcellus: se meminisse temporum quibus natus sit, quam civitatis formarn patres avique instituerint; ulteriora mirari, praesetia sequi; bonos imperatores voto expetere, qualiscumque tolerare. non magis sua oratione Thraseam quam iudicio senatus adflictum; saevitiam Neronis per eius modi imagines inlusisse nec minus sibi anxiam talem amicitiam quam aliis exilium. den ique constantia fortitudine Catonibus et Brutis aequaretur Helvidius: se unum esse ex illo senatu, qui simul servierit . . . quo modo pessimis imperatoribus sine fine dominationem, ita quamvis egregiis modum libertatis placere.

He remembered the times in which he was born, what type of a city his fathers and grandfathers had instituted; he marveled at the past, followed the present; sought good emperors in his prayers, but endured whatever came along. Thrasea had no more fallen by Eprius oration than by the judgment of the senate. The cruelty of Nero they had parried by show trials of this sort, nor had that friendship with the Emperor been less anxious for him than exile had been for others. Finally, in his constancy and fortitude, let Helvidius be equaled to his Cato's and Brutus': he was but one man from that senate which lived together in servitude . . . As there was crushing tyranny with the worst emperors without end, so a limit of liberty, however much, pleased even excellent emperors. (Hist. 4.8)

For Tacitus, it is good to admire the republic, but one must work according to the times in which one lives. The republican values Calgacus asserts are anachronistic; hence, just as his counterparts who aspired to wear the toga and learn oratory were in error, mistaking servitude for culture, so Calgacus errs in his aspiring to libertas and virtus without the alloy of obsequium ac modestia. Even in this instance, where the barbarian aspires to ostensibly "good" (republican) Roman values, he comes up short. In the end, Calgacus' real role for Tacitus--in addition to that of inept barbarian--is as a commentator on contemporary Roman realities and the nature of Roman society; he is, in essence, a vehicle for Roman self-definition in Tacitus' day, through which Romans reflect not on barbarian, but on Roman society and politics. (42) He represents, to borrow a page from Pelling's book, a Roman "Self." (43) Otherwise, he is relatively divorced in the text from any other context, except for his aesthetic function, t o which we shall soon turn. The whole effect is to reaffirm the Roman social and political structure and Agricola's place in it.


The apparent contradictions in Tacitus' Agricola, including those detectable in his presentation of Calgacus, are embedded in the aesthetics of his text. The very story Tacitus tells brings with it the promise of drama, that his will be a narrative with tension, climax, and resolution--hence Tacitus' elevation of the battle of Mons Graupius to a do-or-die struggle for Agricola and his army, the exciting presentation of the battle, the reassurance of the Britons' final defeat, and the establishment of the Roman order it brings. That final confrontation is essential for the effective presentation of Tacitus' drama, the clash of the barbarian Other and the Roman. Everything that has come before--ethnographic excursus, geography, history--is all arguably a precursor to that final confrontation, the Agricola's dramatic apex that takes up a full quarter of the work. (44) As such, it is similar to what we find in other historians, such as Caesar or Sallust, in whose work ethnography and geography, inter alia, functi on as a buildup to what is usually a final triumph. (45)

In Tacitus' text this dramatic presentation results in certain contradictions and tensions. Britain is a negative space full of emptiness (itself a paradox); at the same time the Romans wish to exploit it. The barbarian is presented as a resource for exploitation, or as inept and servile; simultaneously he is glorified. That he aspires to Roman culture is represented as something that, while good per Se, reflects negatively on him: baths, porticoes, and rhetoric reduce the Britons to effete Asiatics on the Thames. In battle with the Romans, however, they transform themselves into valorous republicans who are ready to defend hearth and home. (46) The heroic republic is embodied in the noble Calgacus, only to be displayed as anachronistic. Tacitus also simultaneously represents the Britons (since they are enticed by Roman culture) as sympathetic to the Roman mission to colonize Britain, while the threat of hostility (since Agricola's mission was left unfinished) remains. Finally, there is tension in Tacitus' sy mpathetic presentation of the barbarian which is set against the future hope for their conquest. This final tension is deeply embedded in the work and ultimately serves to make the Agricola an open-ended text, despite the promise of closure brought by its drama. The tension is most explicitly illustrated in Tacitus' depiction of the battle of Mons Graupius. There, before the battle, we have the famous remark by Calgacus: auferre, trucidare, rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant ("To steal, to butcher, to pillage they call by false names empire, and where they make a desert they call it peace," 30.5). In the battle's aftermath, his assessment appears to be confirmed: proximus dies faciem victoriae latius aperuit: vastum ubique silentium, secreti colles, fumantia procul tecta, nemo exploratoribus obvius ("The next day revealed more widely the face of victory: everywhere there was a vast silence, the hills abandoned, houses smoldering from afar; Agricola's scouts met no one," 38.2). One scholar has argued that this passage, sounding more like the wasteland of peace than the pulchra et spectabilis victoria in Agricola's speech, confirms Calgacus' assessment of the Pax Romana, and that it redounds to Agricola's discredit, rendering his character ambiguous. (47) There is no doubt that Tacitus' presentation of the admirable but wrong-headed barbarian and the aftermath of battle create an exciting and pathetic scene. I would argue, however, that this seemingly contradictory presentation--which some see as calling into question Agricola and his mission--is primarily a result of the aesthetics of Tacitus' text, which necessitates this final and dramatic confrontation and defeat of the barbarian in order once again to affirm Roman authority in the province. What Agricola's creation of "a wasteland of peace" ultimately accomplishes is not yet another "ambiguous" Tacitean character; rather, it results in a tension within the text, one that leaves the audience in a reader's purgatory, between a closed dramatic structure and an open-ended reading. The solirudo Agricola creates takes us back to the original negation of the geographical space opened for Agricola to conquer; Agricola's wasteland, his creation of nothing out of nothing in Caledonia, his rapid withdrawal after conquest, and his subsequent recall from Britain by Domitian (40.3), all leave the reader with the sense that his mission was not quite finished. (48) The result is to leave the promise open to Tacitus' readers of future conquest, something that is fundamental to Tacitus' narrative. In the end, Agricola's subjugation of Britain concludes with a dynamic tension between volatility, in which the possibility of confrontation (and conquest) remains (exacta iam aestate spargi bellum nequibat ["With the year spent, the war was not able to be extended," 38.2]), and stability, with the assertion that all has been set aright (tradiderat interim Agricola successori suo provinciam quietam tutamque ["Meanwhile, Agricola handed over his province, safe and at peace, to his successor," 40.3]). (49) The reader is reassured, and the necessity of continued Roman occupation and military action reaffirmed. (50)

The Agricola's literary form ultimately supports this open-ended reading of Tacitus' text, since that form is itself one clearly didactic in nature. This is not only illustrated by Tacitus' oft-cited peroration, where he urges his readers to take heed from Agricola about how to serve the state under bad emperors (42.4), but also indicated by the text as a whole, which is intended to function not only as a biography, but as a eulogy whose stated purpose is to present an imago for its readers, not in bronze or marble, but in words for the purpose of emulation:

admiratione te potius et laudibus et, si natura suppeditet, similitudine colamus: is verus honos, ea coniunctissimi cuiusque pietas. id filiae quoque uxorique praeceperim, sic patris, sic mariti memoriam venerari, ut omnia facta dictaque eius secum revolvant, formamque ac figuram animi magis quam corporis complectantur; non quia intercedendum putem imaginibus quae marmore aut acre finguntur, sed, ut vultus hominum ita simulacra vultus imbecilla ac mortalia sunt, forma mentis aeterna quam tenere et exprimere non per alienam materiam et artem, sed tuis ipse moribus possis.

If nature allows, let us rather cherish you (Agricola) by our admiration, by our praise, and by imitation. This is true honor, this the piety of each one who was closest to you. I would also give this instruction to your wife and daughter, that they thus venerate a father's and husband's memory, so that they ponder all his words and deeds, and that they embrace the shape and form of his character rather than his body. Not because I think images made of marble and bronze ought to be forbidden, but, as the faces of men are mortal, so the images of a face are weak and fleeting, while that of the mind eternal, something you can neither grasp or express through other matter or art, but through your own character. (46.2-3)

These words are ostensibly directed to Agricola's wife and daughter, though Tacitus could have scarcely intended the lessons, which are to be learned from Agricola's life, to be appreciated outside the confined circle of men who governed Roman society. That Tacitus here compares his work to an imago and urges his audience to imitation (similitudo) is significant. The literary form of the Agricola derives, in no small part, from the funeral eulogy and is intended, as Tacitus stares, to replace the imago one might see at a Roman funeral where the words and deeds of the dead were recounted. The purpose of the imago, in the Roman funeral, was to exhort Romans to deeds of virtus, at home and, more importantly, on the field of battle with a view to expanding Roman domination. (51) Tacitus' purpose in presenting Agricola's imago here is the same: Tacitus recounts Agricola's actions on the field of battle and in the administration of his province, deeds that Tacitus deems worthy of imitation. As such, the Agricola ho lds out promise of future conquests, in which others will take up his example and continue to advance Rome's dominion. (52) The text exhorts, subdues, and leaves space for future expansion. Published early in Trajan's reign, its lessons could not have been lost on the generation that saw Rome's last great conquests. (53)

STEVEN M. RUTLEDGE is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has published articles on Tacitus and Roman rhetoric, and is currently completing a book on delatores and accusatores during the early Principate, entitled imperial Inquisitions: informants and Prosecutors from Tiberius to Domitian.

(1.) The number of works investigating what Tacitus thought of the Roman Empire are many; for an extensive bibliography see Benario 3332-53. I share the views expressed by Benario (esp. 3341), Kajanto 699-718, and Bastomsky 1988: 413-16 (esp. 415) that Tacitus approved of the Empire and generally admired the man of war. The most recent survey of the Agricola (Hanson 1742-84) emphasizes historical and archaeological, rather than literary and cultural, aspects of Tacitus' text.

(2.) The approach I take in this essay owes much to three studies in particular: O'Gorman, Spurr, and Pelling.

(3.) I am indebted to Spurr in particular for the terms used here; for surveillance see Spurr 13; for naturalization, 156; for affirmation, 109.

(4.) For "appropriation," see ibid. 28, 32.

(5.) Ibid. 11: "There is no real center to this discourse, apart from the historically central motive that authority must be maintained... It is rather a way of creating and responding to reality that is infinitely adaptable in its function of preserving the basic structures of power.

(6.) Tacitus takes a similar approach in the Germania. Hence O'Gorman 137: "The idea of Germany as a space to be described is intertwined with the idea of Germany as a place to be remoulded." Tacitus uses the image of "negative" landscapes elsewhere in his works, remarking on their emptiness or their want of shape (in addition to the Agricola and Germania see, e.g., Hist. 4.12 where the Batavians are defined by their geographic negation, inhabiting an area previously "empty"). Tacitus' representation here has analogies in other ancient writers and their depictions of other peoples, e.g., the Scythians in Greek writers; see Hartog 13. For a more contemporary use of the strategy of negation, see Said 297-98.

(7.) Cf. Tacitus, Ann. 2.24.1.

(8.) For the translation of multum fluminum ... ferre I follow Ogilvie and Richmond 173-

(9.) But Caesar and others knew that Britain was an island; see B Gall. 4.20.2; Cicero, Att. 4.16.7; Pliny, NH 4.102. For its shape, Tacitus, Agr. 10.3: formam totius Britanniae Livius veterum, Fabius Rusticus recentium eloquentissimi auctores oblongae scapulae vel bipenni adsimulavere. et est ea facies citra Caledoniam ("The most eloquent authors, Livy of the ancient, Fabius Rusticus among the recent, have likened the shape of the whole of Britain to a shoulder-blade or ax. And this is its shape up to Caledonia"). See Ogilvie and Richmond 168-71 for discussion.

(10) The connection between geography and Rome's imperialist project also works on a metaphoric level in this passage. Tacitus likens the shape of the island to a cuneus, which, although it can refer to any number of wedge-shaped objects such as a stone or a block of theater seats, frequently refers to a formation of soldiers; see OLD, s.v. cuneus 4; cf. the descriptions of Fabius Rusticus and Livy who likened Britain's shape to an ax (bipennis, Tacitus, Agr. 10.3); see also Caesar. B Gall. 5.13 for the island's shape.

(11.) Cf. what Tacitus says of the Orkneys as well: invenit domuitque ("He discovered and conquered them," Agr. 10.4; cf. 33.6).

(12.) As such, Tacitus' geographic description is akin to other instances in antiquity in which a geography, such as we find in Augustus' Res Gestae or Strabo, is put into the employ of imperial expansion. See Nicolet 15-27 for the Res Gestae; for Strabo, 73; also 149 (territory is organized, bounded, and defined for exploitation). The very description of the island already represents Roman domination and control if we think of Tacitus' description of Britain as a narrated map, setting down in words what was usually depicted on an actual farina ("map") such as the one that Ti. Sempronius Gracehus set up of Sardinia in the temple of Mater Matuta in 174 B.C.E. (Livy 41.28.8-10) as a memorial to his victory over the island; the map included painted scenes--doubtless like those carried in a triumphal procession. The map was a symbol of conquest and power.

(13.) See also 22.2 where Agricola and his men know how to exploit the land for the purpose of fortification (and conquest) better than the native Britons themselves. Even the climate, which the Britons previously used to their own advantage, is subdued (in a sense) by Agricola, who, through a system of fortifications, nullifies the Britons' capacity to fight in winter (22.3). See also Calgacus' speech in which he mistakenly asserts that because the Romans are unfamiliar with the physical enviromnent they have been handed over to the Britons as bound prisoners (32.2); the Romans easily overcome the strange environment and defeat the Britons.

(14.) Such suppression of history--except as it concerns die dominating power--is by no means unique to the Romans; cf. Said 322-23: "The history of other cultures is non-existent until it erupts in confrontation with the United States; most of what counts about foreign societies is compressed into thirty-second items, 'sound-bites,' and into the question of whether they are pro- or anti-America."

(15.) As opposed to even the Germans, who could sing of their past histories in their lays (Tacitus, Ann. 2.88.4). It was not always the case that a Roman author would dismiss an indigenous source. Cf. Sallust Iur. 17.7: uti ex libris Punicis qui regis Hiempsalis dicebantur interpretatum nobis est, uuique rem sese habere cultores eius terrace putant, quam paucissumis dicam ("As a translation has been supplied to me from the Carthaginian books written by king Hiempsal, and as they concur with the inhabitants' version of the story, I will relate it in as few words as possible"). For a good discussion concerning the sources for the "authority" of Roman historians, see Marincola 76-79, 87.

(16.) But cf. Caesar, B Gall. 5.12.1-2 who notes that part of Britain's population is indigenous.

(17.) For a theoretical discussion concerning negative history, see Spurr 98; cf. Said xiii: "The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them." For the "Roman" history of Britain, see Hanson 1754, 1772-77 who astutely notes that previous governors may not have received fair treatment in Tacitus' work, Tacitus being interested in presenting Agricola in the best light possible by denigrating his predecessors.

(18.) Spurr 98: "The absence of history is in fact a double absence--of history as written text and of history as movement towards destiny. Hegel says of the Hindus, for example, that 'it is because the Hindus have no History in the form of annals (historia) that they have no History in the form of transactions (res gestae); that is, no growth expanding into veritable political condition.' Hegel sees writing not just as historical record but as a condition of the possibility of history in the teleological sense: writing fixes reality and imparts consistency to laws, manners, customs, and deeds, thereby creating the objective self-image of a people necessary for the creation of new institutions. To be incapable of writing is to have no historical destiny."

(19.) For a discussion of the use of comparison in describing other peoples, see Perl 25-28 who notes Tacitus' use of Roman analogies in the Germania to describe German customs; cf. Hartog 225 for a detailed discussion of this methodology of description.

(20.) Incorrectly because, as Ogilvie and Richmond 175 remark, "Tacitus' geographical argument about the ethnical affinities of the Silures is based on the false notion that Spain was opposite (posita contra) and near to Britain."

(21.) See Hippocrates, Aer. 23-24.

(22.) While the parallel perhaps should not be pushed too far, the discord in which the Britons live arguably reflects as well the chaotic nature of the physical environment they inhabit, where the land is shapeless (enorme), the flow of the tides goes in every direction (huc atque illuc ferre, 10,6), water merges with land (10.6), confusion reigns over the Britons' origins (indigenae an advecti, 11.1), the shapes of the peoples vary (habitus corporum varii, 11.1), and night is without darkness (infraque caelum et sidera not cadit, 12.4) and the sun is visible at night (aspici per noctem solis fulgorem. 12.4).

(23.) See too the reaction of the Britons to his speech, which is depicted as confused; they do not greet Calgacus' speech with one accord but with discordant shouting (clamoribus dissonis, 33.1); but cf. the response of Agricola's men to his oration, who afterwards dispose themselves in relatively meticulous battle formation (35.2).

(24.) Cf. 33.2: neque usquam canglobari hostes compertum ("nor was it found that the enemy united anywhere").

(25.) For Agricola's education and its "republican" basis, see Sage 3390; to Sage, Agricola's education may have a republican basis, but its ultimate purpose is to make a competent imperial functionary under the principate. It is worth noting that Massilia, the city that imparts such education (with the ultimate end of dominating and shaping the world) is bene compositum (4.2), as opposed to the incomplete, semi-amorphous form of the yet to be civilized Britain.

(26.) See, e.g.. Tacitus, Dial. 28.5.

(27.) As Tacitus tells us, Agricola avoided the snares of luxus and foreign excesses, since he lived in "a place well composed, a mix of provincial thrift and Greek refinement" (locum Graeca comitate et provinciali parsimonia mixtum ac bene compositum, 4.2).

(28.) The reference to porticoes and to elegantia conviviorum conjures up another contrast between the Britons and Agricola, since they evoke images of philosophical discourse--the portico recalling the Stoa and the philosophy to which it gave birth, and the elegantia conviviorum recalling a setting such as one might find in Plato's Symposium. This is in stark contrast to Agricola who was not allowed to pursue his philosophical interests, but instead trained for political and military affairs. For Britons wearing the toga see Seneca, Apocol. 3.

(29.) A remark that, incidentally, contradicts his previous assertion in 13.1: iam domiti ut pareant, nondum ut serviant ("Now they have been subdued so that they obey, but not yet so that they are subservient").

(30.) Cf., e.g., Tacitus, Hist. 4.64 for luxury and its corruption of barbarians.

(31.) This has been discussed by Gowing 320-21, who demonstrates that Tacitus shows, time and again, the disastrous results when client kings and princes are inculcated with Roman values and then set up to rule their own homeland; the end result usually is catastrophic. As for Roman education of provincials--especially the education of native chiefs' sons--this was long established as a principle; see Braund 12-17 for discussion.

(32.) For the assembled evidence of idealization of other peoples in ancient literature, see Lovejoy and Boas 287-367.

(33.) Martin 44: "It must be recognized that in all Tacitus' writings there seems to be an ambivalence in his judgments... Calgacus is therefore allowed his jibe at the Romans." See Ogilvie and Richmond 253-54 for commentary. Ogilvie and Richmond consider Calgacus' speech at odds with his "barbarian" background, since it presupposes too much knowledge by a barbarian of Roman institutions; this, I believe, misses the point. Bastomsky 1985: 388-93, although not citing this speech specifically, argues that the overall picture of Agricola is ambiguous, if not actually critical--an argument that I am generally not inclined to accept.

(34.) It should be noted here that "republicanism" functions on several levels for Tacitus; most notably it constitutes a moral idea, a political idea (both concepts of which are illustrated in, e.g., Hist. 4.7-8), and a "literary referant" (that is, the republic contains subject matter suitable for the historian's pen and allows him to compose his subject freely). Cf. Ann. 4.32: ingentia illi bella, expugnationes urbium, fusos captosque reges . . . nobis in arto et inglorius labor; immota quippe aut modice lacessita pax, maestae urbis res et princeps proferendi imperi incuriosus erat ("They [(i.e. past writers) wrote of] mighty wars, attacks on cities, kings put to flight and captured . . . Our task is without glory and confined; to be sure, peace was unshaken or only moderately disturbed, the subject of the city was unhappy, as was a princeps uninterested in expanding power"). Arguably, the Agricola is based on something of a republican milieu, the subject of the work being war, conquest, and the proferendu m imperi. For a general discussion of Tacitus and the republic, see Sage, passim.

(35.) For a discussion of virtus in Tacitus see Martin 41; perhaps the best example of virtus as a "republican" characteristic is found in Tacitus, Ann 16.21.1: trucidatis tot insignibus viris ad postremum Nero virtutem ipsam excindere concupivit interfecto Thrasea Paeto et Barea Sorano ("After so many famous men had been slaughtered Nero at last desired to exterminate virtue itself, with Thrasea Paetus and Barea Soranus having been killed"). For Tacitus and his readers, Thrasea is clearly associated with the likes of Cato and Brutus, symbols of the republican past; Cf. also Ann. 16.22 and Hist. 4.8.

(36.) Ogilvie and Richmond 126: "Tacitus echoes the opening words of the elder Cato's Origines [fr. 1 Peter = Cicero, Planc. 66 'clarorum virorum atque magnorum non minus otii quam negotil rationem exstare oportere']." For discussion concerning the connections between Tacitus and his predecessors under the republic, see Woodman 180-83.

(37.) For the use of ferocia in Tacitus, see Traub 250-61.

(38.) See Dio 57.2.5; Velleius Paterculus 2.86.3; Suetonius, Aug. 43.2.

(39.) See Sage 3389. who notes that libertas is essential for the workings of virtus.

(40.) It is worth noting, in this regard, that the geographic boundary that delimits the furthest boundary of libertas (libertatis extremos recessus, Agr. 30.3) to which Calgacus appeals parallels Tacitus' reference to the ultimum libertatis reached under the republic (see Agr. 2.3): the reference in Calgacus' speech serves to ally him with the excesses of the late republic to which ultimum refers.

(41.) Tacitus considered obsequium a more admirable quality for provincials than libertas; see Ternes 112-22. It is worth noting that Tacitus sets up a binary opposition for Calgacus of servitudo versus libertas because neither choice, as expressed by Calgacus, is acceptable to Tacitus; a theme of the Agricola is empowering oneself through steering the middle course between slavery and freedom. By setting the terms of Calgacus' speech in such a polarized way--in which the alternative is only between liberty and enslavement--Tacitus further ensures that the Britons will be unable to formulate any acceptable response to Roman conquest since the middle ground is not presented as an alternative.

(42.) For self-definition through "Otherness" see Pelling: cf. Spurr 125. Pelling would argue in this instance that Tacitus has created an "internal Other"; Calgacus is a Roman, but one of the republic, and this type of Roman is incongruous to the current political milieu,

(43.) Indeed, it is doubtful whether Tacitus, outside a Roman context, could develop many of his notions concerning the Britons in his work, since they are comprehensible for Tacitus only when read against the Roman "Self"; cf. Pelling: "One cannot develop ideas about barbarians without also having ideas about Greeks." Pelling notes that the boundaries of Greek/barbarian discourse (and Greek/barbarian stereotypes) are blurred in Herodotus; the same is arguably true for Tacitus.

(44.) The battle is not mentioned in any of our other sources. Dio (66.20) only mentions that Agricola was a great general and that under his governorship Britain was circumnavigated for the first time. Stadele 130 has noted the need, for the sake of the drama of the text, to have Agricola confront Calgacus in a final battle.

(45.) Cf. Thomas 4-5 who quotes Ogilvie 701 on Livy 5.33.4-35.3: "Such digressions were inserted to heighten suspense and to focus attention on the drama which is about to unfold."

(46.) Cf. Pelling: "When Persians attack Greeks, the Persians constitute the Other, both in a certain nambypambiness and in their non-hoplite style of fighting . . . When they invade Scythia, they have to play the part of 'normal' [i.e. Greek] people who are thrown by the bizarre reversals of practice they find in nomadic Scythia." In the Agricola Tacitus presents us with a variation of this: barbarians are the "Other" when it suits Tacitus' purposes, but in the final confrontation with Agricola's army they are Roman in ethos (though not so in organizational skill).

(47.) See Laruccia 407-11, esp. 408.

(48.) Ogilvie and Richmond 31 see the geography as peripheral to Tacitus' narrative: "Geographical information in the Agricola is largely incidental to the biographical and rhetorical matter of the work." Quite to the contrary--it is fundamental to the Agricola's ultimate purpose.

(49.) For an excellent discussion of the tensions between closure and continuation, see also Pelling (citing, e.g., Herodotus 9.114.2; 9.121, the conclusion of the Odyssey, and the conclusion of Sallust's Bellum Iugurthinum).

(50.) Moreover, if all Roman conquests have the net result of creating such a solitudo, it also opens to question whether the Roman process of conquest is itself a task that can ever be completed. The process of conquest does not lead to the establishment of boundaries but more vast, boundless solitudines that await eventual shaping through Rome's imperial progress.

(51.) See Sallust, Jur. 4.4-8; Polybius 6.53-54; Vergil, Aen, 6.756-886. For analysis of this "didactic" aspect of historical writing (and other related genres), see Fornara 112-17; for the definition of imagines, Flower 32-40; for imagines as perpetuators of the power of the Roman elite, ibid. 21-22, 89-90; for a discussion of Vergil 6.756-886 as a funerary procession of imagines, ibid. 109-14. That the Agricola as a metaphorical imago is further contrasted to a work in bronze or marble (46.3) appears to conflate Sallust with Horace, Carm. 3.30.

(52.) As such, Tacitus sets himself up as an authority from which further texts will emanate. But his text not only facilitates the process of imperial colonization, it also colonizes the subject matter of future authors in the process. As authors such as Caesar, Livy, and Fabius Rusticus show, each author and text influenced in various ways (even if only to refute or correct one of these as a source) the next. The process of continued conquest not only serves to further colonize territory, but arguably to colonize as welt texts, their content, and their style. Presumably, if Tacitus sees his work as an imago to be imitated, not only will Agricola's deeds be emulated, but those deeds will want someone to record them. Tacitus' text, therefore, looks not only backward, but forward to the production of future texts based on his own, and so Tacitus establishes himself as an authority for (and himself a colonizer of) later writers.

(53.) 1 would like to thank Ellen O'Gorman, Victoria Pagan, C. Robert Phillips Ill, and the anonymous readers at Helios for their helpful comments and suggestions from which this essay has greatly benefited.

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Author:Rutledge, Steven H.
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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