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Editor’s Note39

  • Editor’s Note Link 1Critical Apparatus10Hunc rerum cursum, quamquam nulla verborum iactantia
  • Critical Apparatus11epistulis Agricolae auctum, ut erat Domitiano moris, fronte
  • Critical Apparatus12laetus, pectore anxius excepit. inerat conscientia derisui
  • 13fuisse nuper falsum e Germania triumphum, emptis per
  • Critical Apparatus14commercia quorum habitus et crines in captivorum speciem
  • 15formarentur: at nunc veram magnamque victoriam tot mili-
  • Editor’s Note Link 216bus hostium caesis ingenti fama celebrari. id sibi maxime
  • 17formidolosum, privati hominis nomen supra principem
  • 18adtolli: frustra studia fori et civilium artium decus in silen-
  • 19tium acta, si militarem gloriam alius occuparet; cetera
  • 20utcumque facilius dissimulari, ducis boni imperatoriam
  • Editor’s Note Link 3Critical Apparatus21virtutem esse. talibus curis exercitus, quodque saevae
  • 22cogitationis indicium erat, secreto, suo satiatus, optimum in
  • Critical Apparatus23praesens statuit reponere odium, donee impetus famae et
  • 24favor exercitus languesceret: nam etiam tum Agricola
  • 25Britanniam obtinebat.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
39–42. The Recall and Last Years of Agricola
Agricola was recalled in the winter of a.d. 84–85. He died nine years later on 23 August a.d. 93 without having been employed again in the public service. The circumstances of his last years are clothed by Tacitus with such a cloak of innuendo that grave doubt has been cast upon the veracity of these chapters. It is important to distinguish the actual facts from the surrounding tissue of rumours and inferences. He says that Domitian rewarded Agricola's success but at the same time tried to belittle it (c. 40, 1; 40, 3): this is confirmed by the character of the imperatorial salutation (see note on c. 40, 1 triumphalia). He says that Agricola was forced to decline the province of Asia and was refused the salarium: there is no reason to disbelieve this (see note on c. 42, 2). For the rest he does not commit himself to the truth of the story about the offer of the province of Syria: it was merely a topical belief (c. 40, 2 credidere plerique). He does not say that Agricola should have been appointed to Pannonia or Dacia: it was a popular agitation (c. 41, 3–4 'ore vulgi … sermonibus aures verberatas'). He does not allege that Agricola was poisoned: he only attests a rumour to that effect (c. 43, 2 constans rumor) which in the climate of the year a.d. 93 was natural enough. Such gossip and rumours may well have circulated: we cannot dispose of them but we can see how Tacitus has used them to blacken Domitian. Discreditable motives are throughout attributed to Domitian (cf. c. 39, 1–3; 40, 2; 40, 3; 41, 1; 41, 3–4; 43, 1–2). It is, for instance, implied that jealousy inspired Domitian to recall Agricola and not to employ him further. In fact Agricola had already served for an unprecedented time in Britain and could not in the normal course of events have anticipated another command. Nor would his experience as a specialist in British affairs have suited him for a Danube command. The decision to limit the Roman commitment in Britain was sensible strategy when the Danubian frontier was a source of anxiety and when Britain was likely to involve a further drain on manpower. We do not know how fair Tacitus' estimate of Domitian's motives in general was. Tacitus saw Domitian as a tyrant and his view of human nature led him to assume that Domitian must have reacted and behaved like a tyrant. Jealousy of a successful general (c. 39, 2), patient accumulation of grievances (c. 39, 2), the façade of success (c. 39, 1) are characteristic of tyrants and are, therefore, assumed for Domitian too. But these are not facts of the same kind as the objective details of Agricola's life. There may be doubts about Tacitus' picture of Domitian but not about his biography of Agricola.
Editor’s Note
39, 1. hune. Cf. c. 18, 1 and note for this use of hie to introduce a new section.
Editor’s Note
epistulis. Probably only one dispatch concerning each campaign was sent, at its conclusion, though there will have been a regular series of dispatches on other business throughout the year; but Tacitus frequently uses this plural (as litterae is always used) of a single letter. For iactantia cf. note on c. 25, 1.
Editor’s Note
auctum is used in the sense of 'exaggerated' with cuncta (A. 2. 82, 1) and other words implying statements; so here with rerum cursum in the pregnant sense of 'the news of this course of events'. The MSS. actum (cf. note on c. 19, 4) in this context could only mean 'performed'.
Editor’s Note
ut erat Domitiano moris: for 'Domitianus, ut ei moris erat', an attraction apparently due to straining after conciseness. For moris est cf. c. 33, 1; c. 42, 4. Ut erat Domitianus (text of E) is probably a deliberate simplification of a difficult piece of syntax.
Editor’s Note
fronte, 'outwardly'. Cf. H. 2. 65, 1; the antithesis is very common (cf., e.g., Caecil. com. 79 'fronte hilaro, corde tristi').
Editor’s Note
inerat conscientia, 'he felt conscious'. So H. 4. 41, 1 'quis flagitii conscientia inerat'.
Editor’s Note
derisui, first found in Phaedr. 1. 11, 2, occurs nowhere else in Tacitus. Caesar uses irrisui, Livy risui.
Editor’s Note
falsum … triumphum. Domitian triumphed twice for successes in Germany (cf. Suet. Dom. 6). The first occasion, which is that here mentioned and came late in the year, the congiarium being paid early in a.d. 84 (Inscr. It. xiii, 1, p. 102), followed the expedition against the Chatti in a.d. 83, when the frontier was advanced and secured in the Taunus district. The war of a.d. 83 was celebrated by the conferment on Domitian of the title Germanicus early in the following year (Kraay, Am. Num. Soc., Museum Notes IX, p. 112). That the war was a sham (cf. G. 37, 5) is maintained by other writers hostile to Domitian, Dio 67. 4, 1 (μηδ' ἑορακὠς που πόλεμον‎), and Pliny, Pan. 16, 3 ('mimicos currus, falsae simulacra victoriae'); but there is no doubt about the substantial results attained, as excavation has shown. Frontinus, who may have served in the expedition, says: 'victis hostibus cognomen Germanici meruit' and speaks of Domitian's justice to the Germans (Strat. 2. 11, 7), and again (2. 3, 23) of his directing a battle. He also refers to the newly instituted system of frontier defence (see note on c. 41, 2 limite imperii). Domitian's ludicrous exploitation of his success (he regularly appeared in the Senate in triumphal dress and renamed September Germanicus) would have been enough to nauseate even unprejudiced judges.
Editor’s Note
per commercia, 'commercial transactions': cf. c. 28, 3; G. 24, 2.
Editor’s Note
quorum, etc.: a similar story had been told of Gaius (Suet. Cal. 47). Cf. c. 4, 1; 13, 2; Introd., p. 20 note. [The collective sing. crinis (E) is only used of a single individual.] The blond German hair (c. 11, 2 and note) was so much admired at Rome that it was often cut from the heads of captives to make ladies' wigs (Ovid, Am. 1. 14, 45–46; Ars 3, 165; Mart. 14. 27). A crude soap containing some dye-stuff (sapo; Pliny, N.H. 28, 191; Mart. 14. 26) was used to achieve the same colour artificially and this is no doubt what Domitian is alleged to have employed on his slaves.
Editor’s Note
at nunc (cf. c. 1, 4). This depends on inerat conscientia. The adjectives form the true predicate: 'the victory which was now extolled was real and great'.
Critical Apparatus
10 nulla E2: ulla E
Critical Apparatus
11 auctum Lips.: actum E Domitiano moris E2m: Domitianus E
Critical Apparatus
12 excepit Put.: excipit E
Critical Apparatus
14 quorum E2: quarum E crines Put.: crinis E
Editor’s Note
39, 2. id … formidolosum, developed from Sail. Cat. 7, 2 'regibus … semper aliena virtus formidulosa est'.
privati, 'a subject', as in H. 1. 49, 4, etc.
Editor’s Note
frustra, etc., 'In vain had public eloquence and the grace of civilian professions been silenced if someone other than himself were now to seize military fame. Qualities of other kinds could be more easily overlooked, but good generalship was the Emperor's virtue' (that is, stamped its owner as fit for the purple and, therefore, a dangerous rival). Cf. studiis civilibus, used of a jurist in A. 3. 75, 1. By civiles artes (cf. Cic. Brut. 155; Livy 10. 15, 12) political (senatorial) activities in particular are meant. The suppression of 'omnis bona ars' (see c. 2, 2) probably does not here refer to the expulsion of philosophers, which took place in a.d. 93, but to the general repression of Domitian's rule as a whole (c. 3, 2; cf. Suet. Dom. 2). So Pliny says (Ep. 8. 14, 2) 'priorum temporum servitus, ut aliarum optimarum artium, sic etiam iuris senatorii oblivionem quandam et ignorantiam induxit'. Cf. also Pan. 66, 76. It is a characteristic trait of a tyrannical emperor in Tacitus to be jealous of his successful generals (cf. Claudius, A. 11. 19, 3). Tacitus' view is doubtless also coloured by the events of the last years of Domitian's reign. So Pliny (Pan. 14, 5) describes Domitian as 'alienis virtutibus invidus'.
For utcumque cf. A. 2. 14, 3; for dissimulari, A. 4. 19, 4.
Editor’s Note
39, 3. exercitus, 'agitated', a rare but classical use (e.g. Cic. Plane. 78); for exercitus curis cf. Ovid, M. 15, 768; Virg. Aen. 5. 779.
Editor’s Note
quodque, etc., 'which was a sign of his cruel purpose', in apposition to the following words, in which the stress is laid on secreto, as if Tacitus had written 'et secreto suo (quod … indicium erat) satiatus', 'after taking his fill of, indulging to the full in, his usual seclusion'. His periods of retirement and brooding are spoken of in Pliny, Pan. 48 ('ilia immanissima belua … velut quodam specu inclusa . . . . Non adire quisquam … tenebras semper secretumque captantem', etc.), and his seclusion in his Alban villa (c. 45, 1) in many places. Secreto 'seclusion' as in A. 4. 41, 2, etc. Cf. c. 22, 4.
Editor’s Note
in praesens, as in A. 1. 4, 1, etc. [In praesentia (E) is not found in Tacitus.]
Editor’s Note
reponere, 'to store up'. Similarly Tacitus speaks of Tiberius 'odia in longum iaciens, quae reconderet auctaque promeret' (A. 1. 69, 5) and Nero's 'dissimulatum ad praesens et mox redditum odium' (A. 16. 5, 3). It is another characteristic trait of a tyrant.
Editor’s Note
impetus … languesceret, 'the first burst … should die down': cf. A. 4. 21, 1 'impetus offensionis languerat'.
Editor’s Note
nam, etc., i.e. for he was still in command and was therefore to be feared. The words form a transition to the next chapter, in which Tacitus cannot bring himself to say plainly that Agricola was recalled. Nor does his fierce resentment allow him to judge fairly. Domitian had in fact nothing to fear from a middle-class official peritus obsequi (c. 8, 1). Tacitus veils the fact that his hero had governed for an unusually long period, and that soldiers were urgently needed on the Danube frontier (c. 41, 2, note), whither one legion (II Adiutrix) and doubtless a proportionate number of auxiliary troops were transferred soon after Agricola's recall. His resentment still burned six or seven years later when he wrote 'perdomita Britannia et statim missa'.
Critical Apparatus
21 quodque E2: quoque E saevae E2: saevire E
Critical Apparatus
23 praesens E2m: praesentia E
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