Agricola and Germany

019953926x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Agricola and Germany by Tacitus
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Every one of Roman’s greatest historians began their writing career with some piece, for one such man it was a biography of his father-in-law and an ethnographic work about Germanic tribes. Agricola and Germany are the first written works by Cornelius Tacitus, which are both the shortest and the only complete pieces that he wrote.

Tacitus’ first work was a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who was the governor of Britain and the man who completed the conquest of the rest of the island before it was abandoned by the emperor Domitian after he recalled Agricola and most likely poisoned him. The biography not only covered the life of Agricola but also was a history of the Roman conquest of Britain climaxed by the life of the piece’s hero. While Agricola focused mostly one man’s career, Tacitus did give brief ethnographic descriptions of the tribes of Britain which was just a small precursor of his Germany. This short work focused on all the Germanic tribes from the east bank of the Rhine to the shores of the North and Baltic Seas in the north to the Danube to the south and as far as rumor took them to the east. Building upon the work of others and using some of the information he gathered while stationed near the border, Tacitus draws an image of various tribes comparing them to the Romans in unique turn of phrases that shows their barbarianism to Roman civilization but greater freedom compared to Tacitus’ imperial audience.

Though there are some issues with Tacitus’ writing, most of the issues I had with this book is with the decisions made in putting this Oxford World’s Classics edition together. Namely it was the decision to put the Notes section after both pieces of writing. Because of this, one had to have a figure or bookmark in either Agricola or Germany and another in the Notes section. It became tiresome to go back and forth, which made keeping things straight hard to do and the main reason why I rate this book as low as I did.

Before the Annals and the Histories were written, Tacitus began his writing with a biography of his father-in-law and Roman’s northern barbarian neighbors. These early works show the style that Tacitus would perfect for his history of the first century Caesars that dramatically changed the culture of Roman.

2 thoughts on “Agricola and Germany

  1. Making the notes accessible is a wicked hard job to do correctly. You’d think something like an Oxford World Classic would have a system that they use across the whole series that they know works.
    Oh well *shrug*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well here’s the thing. A “chapter” (just a bold number) could be a paragraph and the Notes for that one “chapter” could be a whole page. So I understood they couldn’t put the Notes at the bottom of the pages because it would be impracticable.

      But then again some of those Notes could have been shorter or in hindsight not necessary.

      Plato’s Republic was 379 pages of text = 79 pages of Notes; Tacitus 62 pages of text = 71 pages of Notes. Both OWC editions.

      Oh and Plato had an * for something in the Notes, so you could flip to the Notes to see what it was. Tacitus didn’t have anything denoting what was in the Notes so after every chapter, you had to go see what was important.

      Unfortunately I have Tacitus’ Histories in the OWC edition and it looks like it’s the same way, without an *. Though it doesn’t look like the Notes take up the majority of the book, which is a whole lot better.

      Liked by 1 person

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