Agricola and Germania
October 2, 2012
Agricola and Germania
The Agricola and Germani is a novel that serves two purposes: The Agricola is a eulogy praising Tacitus's father-in-law, and commander of Britian, Agricola. The Germania is an ethnography on German people. Both stories are told through the eyes of Tacitus as he indirectly criticizes Roman politics and society. His reason for snaking in these criticisms in such a crafty manner had been due to his friendship with high ranking Roman officials whom he did not want to upset. His criticisms were derived from his experiences with Agricola, speeches given by Calgucus, and his ability to compare and contrast cultural differences of Rome and Germania, targeting Germania as a threat to Rome. Tacitus praises German culture throughout the Germania, and allows readers to applaud them for their stress on the importance of freedom, instead of bashing on them. Tacitus's opinion became an utmost crucial part of the story, that sometimes his viewpoints were stated as facts, which could dupe the reader. Also, his personal connection with Agricola added to a biased opinion on him, and an exaggeration of his accomplishments, which alter the facts. An example from the text that reveals Tacitus's biased feelings toward Agricola is evident through his theory that Agricola died by poison from Domitian, who had been apparently envious of Agricola's fame, although this theory was never proved. As a historian, military history and geographical knowledge was absent in Tacitus's work. Whereas he makes up for that as a biographer with the knowledge he did attain from his closely knit relationship with Agricola, and his ability to powerfully recite these incidents.
The Agricola serves to criticizes Rome on a political level. Tacitus discretely paints Rome to be a corrupt empire with greedy, tyrannical rulers who held complete control over all aspects of Roman life. They held an impervious belief that it was their certainty to rule the world, and so they sought to do just that. Tacitus discouraged this insatiable ambition. An excerpt from Calgucus's speech reveals the greed of Rome, "The wealth of an enemy excites their greed, his poverty their lust for power…Robbery, butchery, rapine these liars call "empire": they create desolation and call it peace"(Tacitus, 20). It was not of any concern to the Romans that other nations were in poverty, any land that they could gain the Romans wanted, regardless of the condition. Calgucus's speech was used by Tacitus as a leeway to keep himself out of trouble. Calgucus was a leader of the British force and gave his speech to the British forces at Mount Graupius , therefore Tacitus could not be held responsible for making this depiction of Rome, yet it is obvious to readers today why it is included.
If Tacitus believed that there was one good thing about Rome, it was Agricola. Agricola, as seen by Tacitus was a general and governor, who's footsteps every other ruler should follow."He succeeded where few succeed: to mention incorruptibility and self-restraint in a man of his calibre would be to insult his virtues"(Tacitus, 7). Tacitus depicted Agricola as a leader by example of how even though Rome was in a dangerous state, the possibility of making improvements and behaving correctly was much better than acting in the extreme opposite. "Neither before nor since has Britannia ever been in a more uneasy or dangerous state: veterans butchered, colonies burned to the ground, armies isolated…Yet everything combined to give the young Agricola fresh skill, fresh experience and fresh ambition, and his spirit was invaded by the passion for military glory" (Tacitus, 4). Tacitus was not greedy or tyrannical like other rulers of Rome had been. Under the government of the despised Domitian, Agricola remained imperial and uncorrupted until his death.
Correspondingly to political criticisms, social criticisms were also buried in the...