[45.1] Nōn vīdit Agricola obsessam cūriam et clausum armīs senātum et eādem strāge tot cōnsulārium caedēs, tot nōbilissimārum fēminārum exilia et fugās. Ūnā adhūc victōriā Cārus Mettius cēnsēbātur, et intrā Albānam arcem sententia Messālīnī strepēbat, et Massa Baebius etiam tum reus erat: mox nostrae dūxēre Helvidium in carcerem manūs; nōs Mauricī Rūsticīque vīsus <notāvit>, nōs innocentī sanguine Seneciō perfūdit. [45.2] Nerō tamen subtrāxit oculōs suōs iussitque scelera, nōn spectāvit: praecipua sub Domitiānō miseriārum pars erat vidēre et aspicī, cum suspīria nostra subscrīberentur, cum dēnotandīs tot hominum pallōribus sufficeret saevus ille vultus et rubor, quō sē contrā pudōrem mūniēbat. [45.3] Tū vērō fēlīx, Agricola, nōn vītae tantum clāritāte, sed etiam opportūnitāte mortis. Ut perhibent quī interfuēre novissimīs sermōnibus tuīs, cōnstāns et libēns fātum excēpistī, tamquam prō virīlī portiōne innocentiam prīncipī dōnārēs. [45.4] Sed mihi fīliaeque eius praeter acerbitātem parentis ēreptī auget maestitiam, quod adsīdere valētūdinī, fovēre dēficientem, satiārī vultū complexūque nōn contigit. Excēpissēmus certē mandāta vōcēsque, quās penitus animō fīgerēmus. [45.5] Noster hic dolor, nostrum vulnus, nōbīs tam longae absentiae condiciōne ante quadriennium āmissus est. Omnia sine dubiō, optime parentum, adsīdente amantissimā uxōre superfuēre honōrī tuō: pauciōribus tamen lacrimīs complōrātus es, et novissimā in lūce dēsīderāvēre aliquid oculī tuī.

Overview: Happy Agricola to escape the bloody days of the Terror when a glance from the tyrant blanched our cheeks and we were the tools of his cruelty; magnanimous wast thou even in death; sorrow is thy daughter's lot and mine because we could not hear thy last “Good-by.” (Stuart)


Nōn vīdit, etc.: such passages are typical of rhetorical consolationes, species of composition much cultivated in ancient literature. Introd. p. xviii. (Gudeman) 

obsessam cūriam et clausum ... senātum: on some occasion about which we are not otherwise informed. (Stuart)  obsessam cūriam: similar intimidation was practiced by Pompey at the trial of Milo, and by Nero at that of Thrasea. (Pearce); this, according to Tac. Ann. 16.27, occurred under Nero at the trial of Thrasea. Here the same seems to have been related merely on rhetorical grounds to round out the picture. (Gudeman)

cōnsulārium caedēs: of the twelve victims of Domitian, mentioned by Suet. Domit. 10-15, nine were ex-consuls. Agricola’s name is not among them, doubtless because the author did not regard the emperor as in any way responsible for his untimely death. See note ch. 43.3. (Gudeman)

fēminārum: e.g. Gratilla, the wife of Arulenus Rusticus, Arria and Fannia, respectively the wife and daughter of Paetus Thrasea. (Gudeman)

exilia: i.e. after trial; fugas, to escape trial. Or the latter word may merely include the forms of banishment which were not so severe as exilium. (Pearce)  exilia et fugās: the latter is added as the wider term, including exilium, relegatio, and other modes of banishment. See Introd. p. xxx #17. (Gudeman)

Cārus Mettius: Mettius Carus ... . He filed with Domitian an accusation of the Younger Pliny. Action, however, was frustrated by the emperor’s death. (Stuart)  ūnā adhūc victōriā Cārus Mettius: Mettius Carus, a notorious informer in the reign of Domitian, known as the accuser, e.g. of Senecio (see note ch. 2.1), of Fannia, and of Pliny the Younger (see Plin. Epist. 7.27.14). He was himself denounced by one Heliodorus and executed, probably shortly after the death of Domitian. He is frequently mentioned together with Baebius Massa. On the transposition of the cognomen, see Introd. p. xxv #1. (Gudeman)  ūnā ... victōriā: "on the strength of as yet but one victory." Ablative of value. The phrase, like censebatur, is sarcastic. The identity of this first victim is unknown. (Gudeman) [A&G 416cēnsēbātur: ironical; his rating as an informer was not what it afterwards became. (Stuart)  cēnsēbātur = aestimabatur, "he was held in esteem," a post-Augustan use of the verb. (Gudeman)

intrā: emphatic, "not beyond." (Pearce); "within the walls of." (Gudeman)

Albānam arcem: see note on dispositos, 43.3. Arx, as being the stronghold of tyranny. (Pearce); Domitian's favorite villa. (Gudeman)

Messālīnī: L. Valerius Catullus Messalinus, consul 73 CE, one of the most infamous delatores at the court of Domitian ... . He was blind and seems not to have survived Domitian.  (Gudeman)

strepēbat: "resounded." In this tropical sense the word is extremely rare. (Gudeman)

Massa Baebius: Baebius Massa, procurator of Africa in 70 CE. ... Agricola died just before the impeachment of Baebius by Pliny and Senecio for malfeasance in the government of Hispania. The trial resulted in his conviction, but the sentence was not carried out. (Gudeman)

etiam tum: even at the time of Agricola's death Massa as the object of accusation was still acting on the defensive, although soon afterwards the worm turned; he eluded punishment by a countercharge of impietas directed against Senecio and resumed his noxious activities as a delator. (Stuart)

nostrae ... manūs: i.e. the hands of senators. The Senate as a whole shared the shame of the one or two members who thus disgraced themselves.  (Pearce)

Helvidium: Helvidius Priscus, the son of the Helvidius Priscus mentioned in chapter 2.1. He was condemned to death on a charge of lèse majesté, brought because of a supposed slighting allusion to Domitian inserted in a dramatic work. (Stuart); the date of his death is fixed by this passage, i.e. shortly after August 23, 93 CE. (Gudeman)

Mauricī: Junius Mauricus, brother of Rusticus, whose execution is referred to in ch. 2.1, an intimate friend and correspondent of Pliny the Younger, and highly esteemed by Nerva and Trajan. In 70 CE he requested Vespian to submit to the senate the names of all informers found in the imperial records ... . He was banished by Domitian, but recalled by Nerva. (Gudeman)

vīsus <notāvit>: notavit, meaning "shamed publicly," has been added to the text. The loss may have been occasioned by nos, which begins similarly. The genitives Maurici Rusticique are subjective and visus means "gaze." Other repairs are possible, as is the zeugma mentioned below. (Damon)  vīsus: a very bold zeugma if the text be correct; supply some word like foedavit. The meaning is that the sight of the punishments meted out to the brothers disgraced the senators in that they had acquiesced in the outrage. (Stuart); sc. foedavit, to be supplied by zeugma out of perfudit, and this the more easily, because sanguis is often joined with both these verbs. I.e. "us the sight of Mauricus, sent into exile, and of Rusticus, led to execution, has polluted; us Senecio besprinkled with his innocent blood." (Gudeman) 

Seneciō: see note ch. 2.1. (Gudeman)

perfūdit: figuratively. (Pearce)


tamen: i.e. despite his cruel disposition. (Gudeman)

subtrāxit oculōs: the phrase ... and its analogue, subtrahere aures, seems to be Tacitean. (Gudeman)

vidēre et aspicī: i.e. to look on at the executions and meanwhile be watched by Domitian. (Pearce)  vidēre: sc. eum.  (Gudeman)  adspicī: sc. ab eo. (Gudeman)

subscrīberentur: i.e. were noted down as a charge, to which the informers would subscribe their names. (Pearce)

dēnotandīs tot hominum pallōribus: gerundive of purpose, "for marking out so many blanched cheeks." A glance from Domitian would strike pallor to the countenances of the senators, who were thus made to appear culpable; the watchful spies would then take the hint as to whom they should proceed against. (Stuart) [A&G 505dēnotandīs: "to make mental note of." On the final gerundive, see note ch. 23.1. (Gudeman)  pallōribus: abstract for concrete, see note ch. 16.2. Here perhaps influenced by rubor, with which it seems intentionally contrasted. Domitian's very look sufficed to drive the blood from many a face, which would not escape the delatores. (Gudeman)

vultus et rubor: "with its ruddy glow." (Gudeman)  rubor: conveniently rendered by an adjective joined to vultus. This is the standing description in contemporary writers of the complexion of Domitian. (Stuart)

contrā pudōrem mūniēbat: Tacitus pretends that Domitian made the most of his natural complexion by which blushes were rendered imperceptible. (Stuart); his ruddy complexion did not allow a blush of shame, which his atrocities should have called forth, to be seen or recognized as such. The passage seems slightly inconsistent with ch. 42.2 nec erubuit. (Gudeman)


This matchless epilogue (ch. 45.3ff.), so full of piercing tenderness and solemn eloquence, is in its reflections to a large extent made up of well-known and often recurring rhetorical commonplaces, but such is the consummate art of Tacitus that he has nevertheless breathed a new originality into borrowed material, and at the same succeeded in creating the indelible impression of a spontaneous and deeply sincere outburst of sorrow and affection. See also Introd. p. xix. (Gudeman)

cōnstāns et libēns: "with courage and cheerfulness."  (Gudeman)

fātum excēpistī: Tacitus has some thirty phrases for death and dying, he being fond of working variations upon commonplace expressions. (Gudeman)

tamquam ... dōnārēs: the interpretation put by those present at Agricola's bedside upon his heroic behavior. A general belief on the part of Agricola's friends in Domitian's culpability is thus implied. (Stuart); i.e. your fearless and ready acceptance of your approaching end as your "fate" was, as it were, a gift of acquittal to the Emperor; or, "you spoke of your 'fate,' as preserving the Emperor from the committal of the crime of murder." (Pearce); the tamquam clause, giving the inference of others, ... according to Tacitean usage, on which see note ch. 15.3, is based more particularly upon libens, for a man such as Agricola must be assumed to have met death constans, even there had been no suspicion of foul play. That he should by his manner have given the impression of exonerating Domitian would be quite in accord with his character, as drawn in this treatise. (Gudeman)

prō virīlī portiōne: apparently a new coinage to avoid the hackneyed pro virili parte (not in Tacitus). The phrase ... is generally very rare. See Introd. p. xxv. (Gudeman)

ēreptī: the use of perfect passive participle for an abstract noun is characteristic of Tacitean style. (Gudeman)

valētūdinī: so we talk of tending a person’s sickness, instead of the sick person himself.  But the more correct Latin idiom prefers the concrete expression. (Pearce); = aegro. See note ch. 16.3. (Gudeman)

vultū: "farewell looks." (Stuart)

contigit: contingit with the infinitive (instead of ut and subjunctive) is very exceptional in classical prose.  (Pearce)

animō: poetic ablative of place equivalent to in animo. (Stuart) [A&G 429]

fīgerēmus: final subjunctive. (Pearce) [A&G 531.2]


noster: imitate in translation the emphasis of the Latin. (Stuart)  noster hic: the demonstrative ... , which elsewhere always precedes, here follows, because of the anaphora—noster, nostrum, nobis. The reference is more particularly to Tacitus and his wife. (Gudeman)

condiciōne: "by the circumstance," i.e. ‘in consequence of.’ (Pearce); "owing to, through the circumstance," the noun taking the place of a preposition ... . On the absence of Tacitus between 89-93/4, see note ch. 42.1 and Introd. p. vi. (Gudeman)

ante quadriennium = quadriennio ante, a very common idiom in Tacitus and post-Augustan Latin generally. ... Ante and likewise post gradually lost their adverbial character, and were regarded only as prepositions. (Gudeman); from this sentence we learn that Tacitus left Rome soon after his praetorship in 88 for service in a province. (Stuart)  

omnia ... superfuēre honōrī tuō: "all the minsitrations of affection were thine in abundance." In this sense honor is Vergilian, but rare. With the meaning of superfuere, see note ch. 44.2. (Gudeman)  superfuēre honōrī tuō: "more than filled the requirements of the respect due you." (Stuart)

pauciōribus: viz. than would have been the case had we (Tacitus and his wife) been present. (Pearce)

complōrātus = simul ploratus. The earliest instance of this usage, for cum in composition with a verb either intensifies or is equivalent to inter se. The present meaning of the compound is a Graecism especially common with verbs denoting sorrow or mourning, and hence the very few similar instances found in Latin ... occur in what are evident translations ... . (Gudeman)

dēsīderāvēre: "expressed an unsatisfied longing." (Stuart)

aliquid: pathetically expresses the condition of the sick man, who, already in the shadow of death, is yet dimly conscious of the absence of his only child. (Gudeman)

Agricola –ae m.: Agricola

obsideō obsidēre obsēdī obsessus: to block

cūria cūriae f.: senate-house

strāgēs –is f.: slaughter

cōnsulāris cōnsulāris cōnsulāre: of consular rank; (as noun) ex-consul

Cārus –ī m. : Mettius Carus

Mettius –ī m.: Mettius Carus

Albānus –a –um: Alban

Messālīnus –ī m.: Valerius Catullus Messalinus

strepō –ere –uī –itus: to bawl

Massa –ae m.: Baebius Massa

Baebius –iī m.: Baebius

Helvidius –ī m.: Helvidius Priscus

carcer carceris m.: prison

Mauricus –ī m.: Junius Mauricus

Rūsticus –ī m.: Rusticus

vīsus vīsūs m.: sight, look

notō notāre notāvī notātus: to mark, sign

innocēns: upright, innocent

Senecio –ōnis m.: Senecio

perfundō –ere –fūdī –fūsus: to sprinkle

Nerō –ōnis m.: Nero

subtrahō –ere –trāxī –trāctus: to withdraw

praecipuus –a –um: special

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

miseria miseriae f.: wretchedness, misery

suspīrium –ī n.: sigh

subscrībō –scrībere –scrīpsī –scrīptum: to register and add to the charge

dēnotō –āre –āvī –ātum: to mark down

pallor –ōris m.: paleness, pallor

sufficiō sufficere suffēcī suffectum: to suffice

rubor rubōris m.: redness, flush

mūniō mūnīre mūnīvī mūnītus: to fortify

tantum: only

clāritas –tātis f.: distinction

opportūnitās –ātis f.: right moment, suitableness

perhibeō –ēre –uī –itus: to relate, state

libēns –entis: willing

virīlis virīlis virīle: of a man

portio portiōnis f.: capability

innocentia –ae f.: uprightness, integrity, innocence

prīnceps –ipis m.: emperor

acerbitās –ātis f.: anguish

maestitia –ae f.: sadness

quod: in that, the fact that, because

assideō assidēre assēdī assessus: to sit by

valētūdō valētūdinis f.: sickness

foveō fovēre fōvī fōtus: to nurse, tend

satiō satiāre satiāvī satiātum: to glut

complexus –ūs m.: embrace, close-quarters

mandātum –ī n.: command

penitus: far within, deeply

fīgō fīgere fīxī fīxus: to fix

absentia –ae f.: absence

quadriennium –ī n.: period of four years

optimus –a –um: best

complōrō –āre –āvī –ātum: to lament, mourn

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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/45