Anthony R. Birley (ed.), Oxford World's Classics: Tacitus: Agricola and Germany
Triumphal decorations, a public statue, and all the insignia that go with an honorary triumph were therefore decreed by the senate on the emperor's command, coupled with a flattering speech. Further, the impression was to be conveyed that the province of Syria was intended for Agricola, it being then vacant through the death of Atilius Rufus the consular and reserved for senior men. Many people believed that a freedman from one of the senior palace departments had been sent to Agricola, bearing an imperial letter of appointment to the Syrian command, under instructions to hand it to Agricola if he should still be in Britain. The freedman, it was said, met Agricola actually in the Channel crossing and, without even speaking to him, returned to Domitian. The story may be true, or it may be a fiction invented to suit the emperor's character. Agricola handed over to his successor a province peaceful and secure.
Agricola's Retirement and Last Years
So that his entry would not attract attention by crowds flocking to welcome him, he avoided the friends who wanted to pay their respects and came into the city by night, and by night also, just as he had been instructed, to the Palace. He was greeted with a perfunctory kiss and then dismissed without a word, into the crowd of courtiers.
From now on, to play down his military reputation, distasteful to civilians, he departed into the depths of calm retirement. His style of life was modest, he was courteous in conversation, with only one or two companions in public. As a result, most people, who always measure great men by their display, when they saw or noticed Agricola, asked why he was famous. A few understood.