[22.1] Tertius expedītiōnum ānnus novās gentēs aperuit, vastātīs usque ad Taum (aestuāriō nōmen est) nātiōnibus. Quā formīdine territī hostēs quamquam cōnflīctātum saevīs tempestātibus exercitum lacessere nōn ausī; pōnendīsque īnsuper castellīs spatium fuit. [22.2] Adnotābant perītī nōn alium ducem opportūnitātēs locōrum sapientius lēgisse. Nūllum ab Agricolā positum castellum aut vī hostium expugnātum aut pactiōne ac fugā dēsertum; nam adversus morās obsidiōnis annuīs cōpiīs firmābantur. [22.3] Ita intrepida ibi hiems, crēbrae ēruptiōnēs et sibi quisque praesidiō, inritīs hostibus eōque dēspērantibus, quia solitī plērumque damna aestātis hībernīs ēventibus pēnsāre tum aestāte atque hieme iuxtā pellēbantur. [22.4] Nec Agricola umquam per aliōs gesta avidus intercēpit: seu centuriō seu praefectus incorruptum factī testem habēbat. Apud quōsdam acerbior in convīciīs nārrābātur: ut erat comis bonīs, ita adversus malōs iniūcundus. Cēterum ex īrācundiā nihil supererat sēcrētum, ut silentium eius nōn timērēs: honestius putābat offendere quam ōdisse.

Overview: In the campaign of the third year, Agricola pushes beyond the erstwhile limits of Roman conquest and overawes the foe; he secures his conquered territory by fortresses; Agricola never appropriated the glory which another had earned; he had no patience with wrong-doers, but he never nursed a grudge. (Stuart); this chapter begins on f. 58v of the codex Aesinas.


tertius annus: 79 CE. For the date see Introduction. (Damon); Titus, elder son of Vespasian, was now emperor. (Stuart)  ānnus ... aperuit: ānnus is personified, as in 7.1. (Pearce)

vastātīs ... nationibus: for the expression vastāre nātiōnēs, instead of vastāre agrōs nātiōnum, see 41.2 mīlitārēs virī ... expugnātī. (Pearce)  vastātīs = devastatis is rarely applied to persons except in Tacitus. (Gudeman)

Taum: the river Tay, on the east coast. This is the reading of a marginal correction in the manuscript (see the left-hand margin). Editors often follow the corrector, who seems to have a good textual source (see Introduction). Tanaum is the reading of the manuscript itself, but, as can be seen from the notes below, it leads to confusion about Agricola's route. (Damon)  Tanaum: an unidentified tidal bay, erroneously supposed … to be the Frith of Tay. Agricola had not yet advanced beyond the Forth. (Stuart); if Agricola advanced along the east coast, this may be the Tyne; if along the west, the Solway Firth. But the statement that he discovered new tribes and the implication in 23.1, that the next year's advance to the line of the Clyde and Forth was little beyond a more thorough subjugation of country already traversed, seem to demand a more northerly locality. It is quite impossible to determine its position with certainty. (Pearce); the location of this alleged estuary is undeterminable, except that it was in the west, and, as novās gentēs shows, north of the territory of the Brigantes, and not far from the Clota (Clyde). (Gudeman)

quā formīdine = cuius clādis formidine. A very common brachylogical use of the pronoun, occurring as early as Plautus. (Gudeman)

quamquam cōnflīctātum: see note on quamquam incuriosa, 1.1. (Pearce)

spatium: “time.” (Gudeman)


adnotābant: "called attention to the fact." (Stuart)  adnotābant, etc.: the same is predicated of Hannibal (Liv. 35.14.9), of Philopoemen (id. 35.28.1), and of Vespasian (Tac. Hist. 2.5). (Gudeman)  periti: “experts.” (Stuart)  opportūnitātēs locōrum = opportuna loca. (Gudeman)  aut ... aut pactiōne ac fugā: ac is used for aut in the third member, because the two nouns form one group, opposed to vi ... expugnatum, the former (pactione) preceding the actual attack of a besieging enemy, the latter (fuga) his arrival. (Gudeman)  pactiōne ac fugā: “retreat as a result of negotiations;” hence, “capitulation.” (Stuart)

nam: like enim, often implies an ellipsis. So far from sustaining any losses, the Romans frequently assumed the offensive (crēbrae ēruptiōnēs), for they were well supplied with provisions, which rendered them secure against a protracted blockade. (Gudeman)


intrepida: the winter passed without disturbance from the enemy. In this sense, the word is found in Tacitus only here. (Gudeman)

quisque: i.e. each commander of a garrison. (Pearce)

inritīs: used by Tacitus of persons as well as of things. (Stuart); poetic. (Gudeman)

solitī plērumque: a pleonasm of frequent occurrence. (Gudeman)

eventibus: here, "successes." See note ch. 8.2 ex ēventū. (Gudeman)

pēnsāre: for the fact see 18.1 cum ... hostēs ad occāsiōnem verterentur. (Pearce); = compēnsāre, which does not occur in Tacitus. ... chiefly poetic and post-Augustan. (Gudeman)

iuxtā = pariter, aequē. (Gudeman)


Agricola, etc.: this seemingly irrelevant paragraph is added at this particular point in the narrative, because the above-mentioned successes were won at some distance from headquarters, and without the general's previous knowledge or upon his initiative, a fact utilized by the biographer to emphasize certain noteworthy qualities of Agricola, which this circumstance had revealed, and his readiness to bestow praise in turn naturally leads to a brief statement concerning his temper generally. See Introd. p. xii. (Gudeman)

seu centuriō, etc.: seu (sive) generally connects verbs, not nouns. (Pearce)  centuriō ... praefectus: officers of the infantry and cavalry respectively. (Gudeman)  praefectus: the title either of a commander of a cohort of allied infantry or of an ala of cavalry; here probably the latter meaning is intended in order that each branch of the service may be included in the remark. (Stuart)

inconruptum ... testem habēbat: "used to find in him an impartial estimator (appraiser) of his deed," testis being here used in a very peculiar sense; for this conduct was, of course, not confined to achievements which he actually witnessed, as is clear from the context. (Gudeman)  testem habēbat: mentioned elsewhere as a mark of a great general. (Stuart)

apud = inter. (Gudeman)

ut ... ita: “while ... yet.” This is the only passage which contains even a slight criticism of Agricola's character. The censure is so tempered that it almost amounts to praise. (Stuart)

bonīs ... adversus malōs: on the change of construction, characteristic of Tacitus, see Introd. p. xxxiv, #2. (Gudeman)

iniūcundus: not elsewhere used in Tacitus, and very rarely applied to persons. (Gudeman)

nihil supererat sēcrētum: it is possibly intended that the reader should contrast Domitian's fondness for harboring resentment. See chapters 39.3, 42.3. (Stuart)  nihil ... sēcrētum: “no hidden resentment.” (Pearce)  secretum, etc.: i.e. unlike e.g. Domitian (ch. 39.3, 42.3) and Tiberius (Ann. 1.69, odia in longum iaciēns quae reconderet auctaque prōmeret), he gave expression to his indignation when in anger, but did not secretly cherish any further resentment. (Gudeman)

ut ... nōn timērēs: “so that you would not have feared.” On the potential subjunctive see notes on 12.3 internoscas and 44.2 crederes. (Pearce) [A&G 538 and 447.2]

offendere: “to give offence openly.” (Pearce)  offendere ... ōdisse: on the alliterative antithesis, see Introd. p. xxviii, #13. (Gudeman)

expedītiō –ōnis f.: active service, expedition, campaign

vāstō vāstāre vāstāvī vāstātus: to lay waste

Taum –ī n.: Firth of Tay

aestuārium –ī n.: estuary, firth, tidal creek

nātiō nātiōnis f.: tribe

formīdō formīdinis f.: dread, fear

cōnflīctō cōnflīctāre: to knock about, afflict

lacēssō lacēssere lacēssīvī lacēssītus: to attack first, provoke

īnsuper: further, moreover

castellum castellī n.: fort

annotō –notāre: to notice, remark

perītus –a –um: skilled, experienced; (as a noun) an expert

opportūnitās –ātis f.: suitableness; (with locorum) advantageous position

sapiēnter: prudently, knowledgeably

Agricola –ae m.: Agricola

castellum castellī n.: fort

expūgnō expugnāre expūgnāvī expūgnātus: to storm

pactiō –ōnis f.: agreement

obsidiō obsidiōnis f.: siege

annuus –a –um: a year's worth

fīrmō fīrmāre fīrmāvī fīrmātus: to make strong, strengthen

intrepidus –a –um: free from alarm

crebēr crēbra crēbrum: frequent

ēruptiō –ōnis f.: sally

irritus –a –um: ineffective

dēspērō dēspērāre dēspērāvī dēspērātus: to despair

aestās aestātis f.: summer

hīberna –ōrum n.: winter-quarters

ēventus ēventūs m.: issue, result

pēnsō pēnsāre: to balance

aestās aestātis f.: summer

iūxtā: alike, equally

avidus –a –um: greedy, grasping

intercipiō –cipere –cēpī –ceptus: to appropriate

centuriō centuriōnis m.: centurion

praefectus praefectī m.: commander (of fleet, cavalry, cohort of auxiliaries)

incorruptus –a –um: unbiassed, sincere

acerbus –a –um: harsh

convīcium –ī n.: censure

cōmis –e: kind, courteous, affable

iniūcundus –a –um: unpleasant

īrācundia īrācundiae f.: irascibility, rage

sēcrētus –a –um: hidden

silentium silenti(ī) n.: silence

offendō offendere offendī offēnsus: to give offence to, hurt

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Suggested Citation

Cynthia Damon, Tacitus: Agricola. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-947822-09-2. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/tacitus-agricola/22