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Editor’s Note46

If there is a place for the spirits of the just, if, as philosophers believe, great souls do not perish with the body, may you rest in peace. May you call us, your family, from feeble regrets and the weeping that belongs to women to contemplate your noble character, for which it is a sin either to mourn or to shed tears. May we rather honour you by our admiration and our undying praise and, if our powers permit, by following your example. That is the true respect, the true duty, of each of us closest to you. That is what I would enjoin on his daughter and his wife, that they revere the memory of a father and a husband by continually pondering his deeds and his words in their hearts, and by embracing the form and features of his soul rather than of his body.

Not that I would think of banning any statues in marble or bronze. But images of the human face, like that face itself, are weak and perishable. The beauty of the soul lives for ever, and you can preserve and express that beauty, not by the material and artistry of another, but only in your own character. All that we have loved in Agricola, all that we have admired in him, abides and is destined to pg 34abide in human hearts through the endless procession of the ages, by the fame of his deeds. Many of the men of old will be buried in oblivion, inglorious and unknown. Agricola's story has been told for posterity and he will survive.

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Notes

Editor’s Note
46 If there is a place for the spirits of the just: that the soul may survive is a conventional sentiment found, e.g. in Sulpicius Rufus' letter consoling Cicero, Ad familiares 4. 5. 6, on the loss of his daughter, in the poets, such as Ovid, Amores 3. 9. 59, and on tombstones. Hence it need not reflect personal belief by Tacitus in an afterlife.
Editor’s Note
weeping that belongs to women: cf. ch. 29 above, Agricola's loss of a son, borne without 'the loud expressions of grief that belong to women', and Ger. 27, where German men are more restrained than their women. Unrestrained grief was regarded as unmanly, cf. Seneca, Letters 99. 24 and other passages cited by Ogilvie–Richmond, 312f. Tacitus is here urging that 'we', Agricola's family, and thus, albeit female, his daughter and wife as well, as made explicit a few sentences later, should all refrain from 'feeble regrets and the weeping that belongs to women'.
Editor’s Note
Many of the men of old will be buried in oblivion: this is not just Horace's thought, Odes 4. 9. 25 ff.: there were many heroes before Agamemnon but no one knows about them because they had no Homer to sing their praises. Tacitus proclaims that many of those who are still heroes when he is writing will eventually be forgotten about, but this is not the case with Agricola.
Editor’s Note
Agricola's story has been told for posterity and he will survive: Tacitus is confident about the likely survival of this, his first work. If we did not have Agr., then the three lead pipes from Chester (RIB ii. 2434. 1–3), the fragmentary stone inscription from St Albans (AE 1957. 169), and the two short passages in Dio, 39. 50. 4 and 66. 20, would have ensured that Agricola's existence, his governorship of Britain in ad 79, and his honorary triumph were none the less registered. It would presumably also have been accepted that 'he was murdered by Domitian', as the second Dio passage claims, cf. above on ch. 43, the persistent rumour … But nothing else about the man would have been known—and far less about the first four decades of Roman rule in Britain.
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