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Editor’s Note40

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.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
40 an honorary triumph: the last non-member of the imperial family to hold a triumph was Lucius Cornelius Balbus in 19 bc. The substitute devised by Augustus was the 'honorary triumph', with various honours of which the statue in triumphal dress was the most prominent: D. E. Eichholz, Britannia, 3 (1972), 149ff. Dio, 66. 20. 3, apparently says that Agricola was given the honour 'by Titus', but this may be a textual error.
Editor’s Note
the province of Syria … reserved for senior men: Syria had at this time some four legions, like Britain. Titus Atilius Rufus, whose death created the vacancy, had previously been governor of Pannonia, CIL xvi. 26, a province with several legions. Cf. FRB 28 f. It is not known who actually replaced Rufus in ad 84.
Editor’s Note
a freedman from one of the senior palace departments: the last three words render 'secretioribus ministeriis', literally 'the more secret ministries' or 'ministers', the latter retaining the sense 'servants' as well (cf. 'civil servant'). Ogilvie–Richmond (289) take the expression to refer 'to a personal freedman of Domitian's and not an official from one of the civil service departments'. They compare the sending of Polyclitus to Britain by Nero in ad 61, to inspect the conduct of Suetonius Paulinus (Ann. 14. 39), evidently overlooking this freedman's prominence, cf. e.g. Tacitus, Hist. 2. 95; Pliny, Ep. 6. 31. 9.
Editor’s Note
an imperial letter of appointment: 'codicillos', the word reserved for letters in the emperor's own hand, cf. ILS 8826; AE 1962. 183.
Editor’s Note
may be true, or it may be a fiction: a characteristic Tacitean alternative. The story can hardly have come from Agricola himself.
Editor’s Note
Agricola handed over to his successor a province peaceful and secure: Agricola's successor is unknown. The only other governor of Britain under Domitian so far on record is Sallustius Lucullus, put to death allegedly for naming a lance that he had invented after himself, Suetonius, Domitian 10. 2–3. That 'untamed' Britain (ch. 8) was now pacified was a special achievement. Whether newly conquered Caledonia was a 'desert', as Calgacus is made to claim (ch. 30), is another matter.
Editor’s Note
His style of life was modest: 'cultu modicus' might just mean 'he dressed simply', i.e. that he never wore the triumphal dress, cf. on an honorary triumph, above. But holders hardly ever did wear the regalia. Moderation and self-restraint are among Agricola's hall-marks, cf. n. on from philosophy … a sense of proportion in ch. 4 above, and on self-restraint, ch. 42 below.
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