[23] Quārta aestās obtinendīs quae percucurrerat īnsūmpta; ac, sī virtūs exercitūs et Rōmānī nōminis glōria paterētur, inventus in ipsā Britanniā terminus. namque Clōta et Bodotria dīversī maris aestibus per immēnsum revectae, angustō terrārum spatiō dirimuntur: quod tum praesidiīs firmābātur atque omnis propior sinus tenēbātur, summōtīs velut in aliam īnsulam hostibus.

Overview: In the fourth campaign a line of fortifications is extended between the Clyde and the Forth. (Stuart); this chapter begins on f. 58v of the codex Aesinas.


quārta aestās: 80 CE (for the date see Introduction). (Damon)

obtinendīs: “securing.” Dative of “aim” with insumpta; in with the ablative would be more usual. (Pearce) [A&G 505]

paterētur: the imperfect denotes that expansion was a standing feature of Roman procedure. Render: “if such were the practice approved by,” etc. (Stuart) [A&G 517]; on the singular predicate, see note ch. 4.3. (Gudeman)

inventus: sc. erat, rhetorically for esset; “here was a frontier ready to hand.” (Pearce); sc. erat, not esset, for, although the subjunctive of esse is frequently omitted when another subjunctive has preceded (see Introd. p. xxxii), the rhetorical use of the indicative in the apodosis of conditional clauses contrary to fact is one of the characteristic features of Tacitean syntax. Here it marks an emphatic contrast to the unreality of the protasis, which in all like instances, precedes. (Gudeman) [A&G 517b]

in ipsā Britanniā: in contrast to Caledonia on the other side of the Forth and Clyde. Strictly speaking, Caledonia was also in Britain. (Pearce)

Clōta et Bodotria: Friths of Clyde and Forth, the line itself stretching approximately from Greenock (near Glasgow) to Edinburgh. (Gudeman)

dīversī maris aestibus: “by the tides of two opposite seas,” the North and the Irish. On the notion of the tide carrying the ocean inland, see chapter 10. (Stuart)  dīversī maris: singular for plural, after the manner of poetry. (Pearce)  dīversī: “opposite.” See note ch. 11.2. (Gudeman)

per immensum = per magnum spatium. Such expressions are exceedingly common in Tacitus. See note ch. 10.3. (Gudeman)

spatio: “strip.” About 70 miles. (Gudeman)

praesidiīs: a line of castella was run across by Agricola. (Stuart)

propior sinus: “tract of land lying on our side.” (Stuart)  omnis propior sinus: “the entire stretch of territory nearer to us,” i.e. the southern portions previously occupied by the Romans. (Gudeman)

in aliam īnsulam: the enemy was shut off as effectually from the conquered territory as if England and southern Scotland had been entirely separated by water from the country north of the Clyde and the Forth. (Stuart)  velut in aliam īnsulam: aliam skillfully marks the transition to the next chapter, dealing with Ireland. If Caledonia had been meant here, Tacitus would have said velut in īnsulam. With firmābātur and tenēbātur the author indicates that the Caledonian campaign in the west was satisfactorily closed, and, as a matter of fact, the subsequent scene of the conflict is shifted to the east. (Gudeman)

aestās aestātis f.: summer

obtineō obtinēre obtinuī obtentus: to hold, maintain, secure

percurrō –currere –cucurrī –cursus: to traverse, overrun

īnsūmō īnsūmere īnsūmpsī īnsūmptum: to spend

Rōmānus –a –um: Roman

Britannia –ae f.: Britain

terminus –ī m.: bounds, limit

Clōta –ae: Firth of Clyde

Bodotria –ae f.: Firth of Forth

aestus aestūs m.: tide

immēnsus –a –um: boundless, immense

revehō –vehere –vexī –vectus: to carry back

angustus –a –um: narrow

dirimō –ere –ēmī –ēmptus: to separate

fīrmō fīrmāre fīrmāvī fīrmātus: to make strong, strengthen

summoveō –mōvī –mōtus: to clear off, remove

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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/23