[41.1] Crēbrō per eōs diēs apud Domitiānum absēns accūsātus, absēns absolūtus est. Causa perīculī nōn crīmen ūllum aut querēla laesī cuiusquam, sed īnfēnsus virtūtibus prīnceps et glōria virī ac pessimum inimīcōrum genus, laudantēs. [41.2] Et ea īnsecūta sunt reī pūblicae tempora, quae silērī Agricolam nōn sinerent: tot exercitūs in Moesiā Dāciāque et Germāniā et Pannoniā temeritāte aut per ignāviam ducum āmissī, tot mīlitārēs virī cum tot cohortibus expugnātī et captī; nec iam dē līmite imperiī et rīpā, sed dē hībernīs legiōnum et possessiōne dubitātum. [41.3] Ita cum damna damnīs continuārentur atque omnis annus fūneribus et clādibus īnsignīrētur, poscēbātur ōre vulgī dux Agricola, comparantibus cūnctīs vigōrem, cōnstantiam et expertum bellīs animum cum inertiā et formīdine cēterōrum. [41.4] Quibus sermōnibus satis cōnstat Domitiānī quoque aurēs verberātās, dum optimus quisque lībertōrum amōre et fide, pessimī malignitāte et līvōre prōnum dēteriōribus prīncipem extimulābant. Sīc Agricola simul suīs virtūtibus, simul vitiīs aliōrum in ipsam glōriam praeceps agēbātur. 

Overview: Agricola repeatedly becomes the object of accusation; defeats inflicted on Roman arms create a popular demand for his services as leader; the notoriety thus thrust upon him puts him in jeopardy. (Stuart) 


per eōs diēs: after his return. (Stuart)

absēns &c.: i.e. not by legal procedure, but by whispered insinuations in Domitian's ear. The repeated absens lays a bitter emphasis on the arbitrary nature of Domitian's rule. (Pearce)

laesī cuiusquam, sed īnfēnsus ... prīnceps: the stress of meaning falls on the participle or adjective, and should be brought out in English by means of two nouns, "hurt done to any one," "hostility of the prince"; the Latin substantive being rendered in our English idiom by the dependent and defining substantive. See note on 45.4, parentis erepti, and note on 11.2. (Pearce)

pessimum … genus: in apposition to laudantes. (Gudeman)

inimīcōrum genus laudantēs: thereby the jealousy of Domitian was increased. (Stuart)

laudantēs = laudatores, “flatterers.” (Gudeman)


et: “and indeed;” it adds a statement strongly confirmatory of the last sentence. (Pearce)

silērī: “to be ignored.” Rare with persons. (Gudeman)

Moesiā Dāciāque: joined closely by -que as forming together one threatened part of the empire. The Dacians, under their king Decebalus, invaded Moesia in A.D. 85, and won two great victories in this year and the next. (Pearce); for the narrative of these events along the lower Danube, we are all but wholly dependent upon Dio Cass. 67.7ff. and Suet. Domit. 6, for the story of Domitian's reign in Tacitus's Histories has not come down to us. These conflicts began as far back as 81 A.D. and culminated about the years 85-88, the final subjugation of the Dacians, however, not occurring till the reign of Trajan. Excepting a few temporary successes, these years were signalized by the most disastrous reverses which Rome had sustained since the defeat of Varus in 9 A.D. Domitian himself repeatedly went to the seat of war, but his attack upon the German Marcomanni and Quadi was repulsed and he himself had to agree to a humiliating peace with Decebalus, the great leader of the Dacians. (Gudeman)

Germāniā et Pannoniā: Domitian attempted to chastise the Marcomanni for their refusal to support the cause of Rome against the Dacians. The Romans suffered a serious reverse, one legion being annihilated in Pannonia by the Sarmatians. (Stuart)

mīlitārēs virī: a phrase of frequent occurrence in Tacitus, designating men of rank and military experience as opposed to the common milites of the cohort. Here it may be rendered “officers.” (Gudeman)

expugnātī: here of those dislodged from a fortress. (Stuart); expugnare, properly used of places, is often, as here, used of the garrisons. See 22.1. The frontier-posts along the Danube and between the Rhine and the Danube are meant. (Pearce)

līmite: the celebrated limes Romanus or frontier line of defenses, stretching from the Rhine near Cologne to Ratisbon on the Danube, a distance of 350 miles. Domitian had built and laid out a considerable part of it. (Gudeman)

et rīpā: here and Germ. 28.3, of the Danube, but elsewhere in Tacitus, when used absolutely, it refers to the Rhine, the context preventing any ambiguity. The et is epexegetic, “that is to say.” (Gudeman)

possessiōne: “the retention of whole provinces.” See note on 5.3, in ambiguo Britannia fuit. (Pearce)

dubitātum: sc. est. (Damon); “was in question, at stake.” (Gudeman)


damnīs: dative. (Pearce) [A&G 362 and 365]  damna damnīs continuārentur: “when one disaster followed closely upon the other.” (Gudeman)

omnis annus: there was a series of defeats extending from 86 to 92, interrupted only by one victory won by Tettius Julianus over Decebalus in 89. (Stuart); “year after year.” (Gudeman)

fūneribus: “deaths.” In this signification, the word is poetic. (Gudeman)

poscēbātur ... Agricola: observe the effective word-order and sonorous rhythm, in keeping with the significance of the statement itself. (Gudeman) 

comparantibus cūnctīs: Tacitus, for euphonic reasons, habitually avoids omnibus after forms in -ibus, using cunctis or universis instead. (Gudeman)

cōnstantiam: “intrepidity,” opposed to formido, as vigorem to inertia. (Gudeman)

expertum: passive. (Pearce)  expertum bellīs animum: unless Tacitus wrote belli ... it will be preferable to take bellis in the sense of proeliis ..., for Agricola's military experience was confined to the war against the Britons. On et after an asyndeton, see Introd. p. xxviii #11.c. (Gudeman)

cēterōrum: "the other generals." (Stuart); an emendation for the baffling reading of the manuscript, eorum, a demonstrative with no clear antecedent. Both words are typically abbreviated, which may have facilitated the confusion. But other emendations are possible, and some editors print eorum. (Damon)


aurēs verberātās: sc. esse. (Damon); “the ears were tormented,” a colloquial metaphor. (Gudeman)

dum: “while,” with the imperfect indicative, for temporal cum. (Gudeman)

amōre et fide ... malignitāte et līvōre: both pairs of ablatives may be explained as causal. Some were impelled by real loyalty to Domitian to urge him to stem the tide of disaster by putting Agricola in command. Others, out of envy of Agricola's renown, kept playing on the worst impulses of the emperor and arousing his resentment against the popular idol. (Stuart) [A&G 404amōre et fide: sc. erga Domitianum. Adhortabantur must be supplied by zeugma out of exstimulabant. See Introd. p. xxxii. (Gudeman)  malignitāte et līvōre: sc. in Agricolam. Instrumental ablatives, joined to balance the synonymic group preceding. (Gudeman) [A&G 408]

prōnum: a favorite word of Tacitus, construed also with ad or in. With dative as here, ch. 33.4. (Gudeman) [A&G 384]

dēteriōribus: dative neuter. (Pearce)

extimulābant: “kept goading on” to open display of his hostility. (Stuart) 

vitiīs aliōrum: i.e. the malignitas and livor just mentioned, and the incompetence of other generals. (Pearce)  suīs virtūtibus … vitiīs aliōrum: on the alliterative antithesis combined with chiasmus, see Introd. p. xxviii. (Gudeman)

praeceps agēbātur: “hurled headlong.” The prominence now acquired is represented, not as a lofty goal to be sought, but as a dangerous abyss. (Gudeman)

crēbrō: often

Domitiānus –ī m.: Domitian, emperor 81-96

accūsō accūsāre accūsāvī accūsātus: to accuse

absolvō –ere –solvī –solūtum: to acquit

querēla querēlae f.: complaint

īnfēnsus –a –um: hostile

prīnceps –ipis m.: emperor

īnsequor īnsequī īnsecūtus sum: to follow up

sileō silēre siluī: to leave unmentioned

Agricola –ae m.: Agricola

Moesia –ae f.: Moesia, a Roman province in the Balkans

Dācia –ae f.: Dacia

Germānia –ae f.: Germany, the Roman province; Germany proper

Pannonia –ae f.: Pannonia, one of the Balkan provinces of Rome

temeritās temeritās f.: rashness

ignāvia –ae f.: cowardice

mīlitāris –ris –re: military

expūgnō expaugnāre expūgnāvī expūgnātus: to storm

līmes –itis m.: boundary, frontier

hīberna –ōrum n.: winter-quarters

possessiō possessiōnis f.: occupation, keeping hold of

continuō continuāre continuāvī contiunātus: to keep up without interruption

clādēs clādis f.: defeat, disaster

īnsīgniō –īre –īvī or iī –ītus: to mark

vigor vigōris m.: energy, vigor

cōnstantia cōnstantiae f.: firmness, steadiness, determination

inertia inertiae f.: inactivity, idleness

formīdō formīdinis f.: dread, fear

verberō verberāre verberāvī verberātus: to lash

lībertus lībertī m.: freedman

fidēs –eī f.: loyalty

malignitas –tātis f.: wickedness, malice

līvor –ōris m.: spite

prōnus –a –um: inclined

dēterior –ius: worse

exstimulō –stimulāre: to goad, urge

praeceps: headlong

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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/41