[32.1] "An eandem Rōmānīs in bellō virtūtem quam in pāce lascīviam adesse crēditis? Nostrīs illī dissēnsiōnibus ac discordiīs clārī vitia hostium in glōriam exercitūs suī vertunt; quem contractum ex dīversissimīs gentibus ut secundae rēs tenent, ita adversae dissolvent: nisi sī Gallōs et Germānōs et (pudet dictū) Britannōrum plērōsque, licet dominātiōnī aliēnae sanguinem commodent, diūtius tamen hostēs quam servōs, fide et adfectū tenērī putātis. [32.2] Metus ac terror est, īnfirma vincla cāritātis; quae ubi remōverīs, quī timēre dēsierint, ōdisse incipient. Omnia victōriae incitāmenta prō nōbīs sunt: nūllae Rōmānōs coniugēs accendunt, nūllī parentēs fugam exprobrātūrī sunt; aut nūlla plērīsque patria aut alia est. Paucōs numerō, trepidōs ignōrantiā, caelum ipsum ac mare et silvās, ignōta omnia circumspectantēs, clausōs quōdam modo ac vīnctōs dī nōbīs trādidērunt. [32.3] Nē terreat vānus aspectus et aurī fulgor atque argentī, quod neque tegit neque vulnerat. In ipsā hostium aciē inveniēmus nostrās manūs: adgnōscent Britannī suam causam, recordābuntur Gallī priōrem lībertātem, tam dēserent illōs cēterī Germānī quam nūper Usipī relīquērunt. Nec quicquam ultrā formīdinis: vacua castella, senum colōniae, inter male parentēs et iniūstē imperantēs aegra mūnicipia et discordantia. [32.4] Hic dux, hic exercitus: ibi tribūta et metalla et cēterae servientium poenae, quās in aeternum perferre aut statim ulcīscī in hōc campō est. Proinde itūrī in aciem et maiōrēs vestrōs et posterōs cōgitāte."

Overview: “The previous successes of the Romans have been due to our dissensions. Their army will disintegrate at the first blow. Everything favors our victory; afterwards we have nothing to fear. It is yours to choose between vengeance and death.” (Stuart); this chapter begins on f. 61r of the codex Aesinas.


dissēnsiōnibus: Tacitus utilizes rhetorically the criticism expressed in chapter 12.5-6. (Stuart)  dissēnsiōnibus ac discordiīs: can be construed as a hendiadys. Tr. “quarrelsome discord” or “discordant conflict.” (Fox)

quem contractum ... ut = et ut eum (sc. exercitum) contractum. The conjunction ut is long postponed. (Damon)

tenent = continent. (Pearce); “hold together.” (Sadarananda)

nisi sī (ironical) = nisi forte. Notice that the mood in such uses is the indicative. (Pearce) [A&G 437]

Germānōs: e.g. the Batavi and Tungri mentioned in ch. 36.1. (Gudeman)

pudet dictū: a unique combination of the two constructions pudendum dictu and pudet dicere. This phenomenon of two possible constructions occurring to the mind at once and resulting in a combination (“contamination”) of the two is the explanation of very many syntactical irregularities in language. (Pearce)

plērōsque: as so often in Tacitus means “very many.” (Pearce)

licet: concessive “although.” (Stuart) [A&G 527]

commodent: “put at the service of.” (Stuart)  sanguinem commodent: “shed their blood.” (Gudeman); i.e., they risk their lives for or fight for. (Sadarananda)

diūtius tamen, &c.: "having however been longer." (Pearce); sarcastically, substituting amicos with servos. (Gudeman)

fide et adfectū: “loyalty and attachment.” (Gudeman); may also be an example of hendiadys in which one noun is subordinated as an adjective for another. Tr. “affectionate loyalty” or “loyal affection.” (Sadarananda)


terror: probably not fear of the Romans, but fear inspired in the Romans. (Pearce)  metus ac terror: “dread and awe.” The terms are synonymous, for not only is “terror,” with but few exceptions, never used in the singular in the sense of ‘inspiring’ fear, but this meaning is excluded by the context, as timere, below, shows. They are combined to balance and contrast fide et adfectu, which also accounts for their position as predicate nominatives. (Gudeman); another example of hendiadys. Tr. “fearful terror” or “dreadful fear.” (Sadarananda)

īnfirma: a sarcastic understatement; metus ac terror do not cement affection at all. (Stuart)

remōverīs: perfect (or more properly future perfect) subjunctive of the “indefinite second person.” (Pearce) [A&G 447.2]

quī timēre dēsierint ōdisse incipient: a variation from a common proverb of the Romans: quem metuunt, odere. (Stuart)

prō nōbīs: “on our side.” (Gudeman)

Rōmānōs: notice the emphatic position. (Gudeman)

nūlla … patria aut alia: i.e. many are mere adventurers with no fixed habitation, or they are foreigners (see ch. 32.1). (Gudeman)  alia: true of the cohorts of auxiliaries, such as the Batavi and the Tungri. The soldiers of the legions were actually recruited at this time from all corners of the Roman world. (Stuart); i.e. other than Rome, “alien.” (Pearce)

paucōs … circumspectantēs: as a rule, when the last member in an enumeration is amplified, it is either joined by et to a preceding asyndeton, or else the asyndeton is retained throughout, but rounded off by chiasmus. (Gudeman)

vīnctōs: i.e. panic-stricken, because hampered by insurmountable obstacles. A similar statement is made about themselves in Agricola's speech, in ch. 34.1-2. (Gudeman)


vānus aspectus: “the empty show.” (Stuart)

aurī fulgor atque argentī: added to define aspectus more closely. See note on Introd. p. xxx, #17. (Gudeman)

quod: the antecedent is the combined idea of externality. (Stuart); = quae res, for the antecedent cannot be adspectus et fulgor, which would require qui, nor aurum atque argentum, which would call for quae. (Gudeman)

nostrās manūs: the sympathizers who will become "coadjutors." (Stuart) nostrās manūs: “hosts that will take our part”; explained by what follows. (Pearce)

adgnōscent … recordābuntur … dēserent: note the emphatic position of the predicates, on which see note on Introd. p. xxvi, #3. (Gudeman)

tam … quam = ut, “in the same way as.” (Sadarananda)

dēserent ... relīquērunt: with the repetition of the verb, see note on ch. 37.6, caesa … cecidere. (Gudeman)

illōs: sc. Romanos. (Gudeman)

cēterī: a kind of prolepsis, very common in Tacitus. (Gudeman)

ultrā: i.e. beyond the Roman army, when once defeated. (Gudeman)

formīdinis: “cause of fear.” See ch. 36.3; 41.3. (Gudeman)

vacua: because their garrisons would be required to serve with the main army. (Pearce)  vacua castella: “abandoned forts.” Probably rhetorical plurals, like coloniae below, the statement being an intentional exaggeration. (Gudeman)

colōniae: probably as before, chapter 5.2, a rhetorical generality, since it cannot be shown that any other colony than Camulodunum was in existence at this time. Lindum (Lincoln) may have been founded in the Flavian period. (Stuart)

inter, etc.: “what with reluctant obedience on the one hand, and unjust authority on the other, the towns are,” etc. See note on ch. 31.1. (Gudeman)

parentēs … imperantēs = obsequium … imperium. On this usage see note ch. 4.2. (Gudeman)

aegra: “disordered”; in this metaphorical sense frequently applied to the “body politic.” (Stuart); “ill at ease.” An exceedingly common metaphor, both in Greek and Latin. The two adjectives are used predicatively, on which usage see Introd. p. xxv. (Gudeman)

mūnicipia: we only know of one, Verulamium. It is probably used vaguely in the plural like coloniae. (Pearce)


hic dux, hic exercitus, &c.: on this side you have all that appeals to a martial instinct; on the other side you have all the horrors of slavery. (Pearce)  hic dux: viz. Calgacus himself. (Gudeman)

metalla: they would be transported to work the mines in England or elsewhere. (Stuart); this contradicts ch. 31.2, unless we suppose that foreign or British mines are here meant to be distinguished from Caledonian. (Gudeman)

et cēterae: this phrase, usually after a polysyndetic enumeration, is characteristic of Tacitean style. (Gudeman)

ulcīscī: Calgacus speaks as though his hearers had already suffered. (Pearce)

in hōc campō: i.e. depends upon the battle to be fought on this field. The statement is common in speeches of this nature. (Gudeman)

est = positum est, “depends on.” (Pearce)

proinde: marking the climax of the appeal as is often the case in speeches. (Stuart)

maiōrēs ... cōgitāte: more emphatic than the more usual construction with de. (Gudeman)

Rōmānus –a –um: Roman

lascīvia –ae f.: riotous living

dissēnsiō –ōnis f.: disagreement

discordia discordiae f.: quarrel, disagreement

contrahō contrahere contrāxī contractus: to draw together, muster

dissolvō dissolvere dissolvī dissolūtus: to break up

: unless

Gallus –a –um: Gallic, pertaining to Gaul; (as a noun) a Gaul

Germānī –ōrum m.: Germans

pudet pudēre puduit/puditum est: (impersonal) it puts to shame

Britannī –ōrum m.: Britons

plērīque –aeque –aque: very many

dominātiō –ōnis f.: tyranny

commodō commodāre commodāvī commodātus: to lend, bestow

fidēs –eī f.: loyalty

affectus –ūs m.: longing, desire, affection

terror terrōris m.: fear

īnfīrmus –a –um: weak

cāritās cāritātis f.: affection

removeō removēre removī remōtus: to remove, take away

incitāmentum –ī n.: inducement

accendō accendere accendī accēnsus: to fire, kindle

exprobō exprobāre exprobāvī exprobātus: to unbraid, censure, taunt

trepidus –a –um: alarmed

ignōrantia -ae f.: ignorance

īgnōtus –a –um: unknown

circumspectō circumspectāre circumspectāvī circumspectātus: to look round upon

quōdammodo: in a certain way

vinciō vincīre vīnxī vīnctum: to bind

aspectus aspectūs m.: sight, appearance

fulgor –ōris m. or fulgur –ūris n.: flash

vulnerō vulnerāre vulnerāvī vulnerātus: to wound

āgnōscō āgnōscere āgnōvī agnitus: to recognize

Britannī –ōrum m.: Britons

recordor recordārī recordātus sum: to remember

nūper: lately, recently

Usipī, –ōrum m.: Usipi, a Germanic people

formīdō formīdinis f.: dread, fear

castellum castellī n.: fort

colōnia colōniae f.: colony

iniūstus –a –um: unjust

mūnicipium mūnicipi(ī) n.: township

discordō dāre –dāvī –dātum: to disagree

tribūtum –ī n.: tribute

metallum –ī n.: (pl.) mines

perferō perferre pertulī perlātus: to endure

ulcīscor ulcīscī ultus sum: to avenge

proinde: accordingly

maiōrēs maiōrum: ancestors

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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/32