[46.1] Sī quis piōrum mānibus locus, sī, ut sapientibus placet, nōn cum corpore extinguuntur magnae animae, placidē quiēscās, nōsque domum tuam ab īnfirmō dēsīderiō et muliebribus lāmentīs ad contemplātiōnem virtūtum tuārum vocēs, quās neque lūgērī neque plangī fās est. [46.2] Admīrātiōne tē potius [temporālibus] et laudibus et, sī nātūra suppeditet, similitūdine colāmus: is vērus honōs, ea coniūnctissimī cuiusque pietās. [46.3] Id fīliae quoque uxōrīque praecēperim, sīc patris, sīc marītī memoriam venerārī, ut omnia facta dictaque eius sēcum revolvant, fōrmamque ac figūram animī magis quam corporis complectantur, nōn quia intercēdendum putem imāginibus quae marmore aut aere finguntur, sed ut vultūs hominum, ita simulācra vultūs imbēcilla ac mortālia sunt, fōrma mentis aeterna, quam tenēre et exprimere nōn per aliēnam māteriam et artem, sed tuīs ipse mōribus possīs. [46.4] Quidquid ex Agricolā amāvimus, quidquid mīrātī sumus, manet mānsūrumque est in animīs hominum, in aeternitāte temporum fāmā rērum; nam multōs veterum velut inglōriōs et ignōbilēs oblīviō obruit: Agricola posteritātī nārrātus et trāditus superstes erit.

Overview: “Death makes no conquest of this conqueror: For now he lives in fame but not in life.” (Stuart)

Professor Gudeman says of this concluding chapter: 'This wonderful passage with its piercing tenderness and solemn eloquence is -- we shrink from saying it -- a veritable mosaic of stereotype ideas, characteristic of this particular kind of epilogus or consolatio.’ (Pearce)


sī quis piōrum mānibus locus: sc. est. (Damon); expressed as a hypothesis, not as a conviction. This sceptical attitude was typical of the cultivated classes in the late Republic and the early Empire. (Stuart); Tacitus' hope of immortality is necessarily vague in the conflict of philosophical systems. He seems here to cling, rather despairingly, to the teaching of the Stoic Chrysippus, that the good alone lived after death. Below (voces) he hints at the possibility of communication between the survivors and the spirits of the departed. (Pearce)

ut sapientibus placet: i.e. the philosophers, more particularly, it would seem, the Stoic Chrysippus. (Gudeman)

magnae animae: the belief in a future life for the good and great had been held by the Stoic Chrysippus, although it was not a universal doctrine of his school. (Stuart)

nōsque domum tuam: himself as well as his wife and his mother-in-law. Legally Tacitus was not a member of the house of Agricola, a fact, however, which affection and sentiment prompt him to ignore. Thus in chapter 45.4 and 45.5 he ranges himself in a filial relation. (Stuart)

dēsīderiō … lāmentīs: correspond chiastically to nos and domum (Agricola's wife and daughter). See ... Introd. p. xix. (Gudeman)  muliebribus lāmentīs: similarly of an extravagant manifestation of grief, chapter 29.1: per lamenta ... muliebriter tulit. (Stuart)

quās neque lūgērī neque plangī fās est: "for which we may neither feel nor show regret." (Pearce)  quās: i.e. virtutes tuas iam in locum piorum translatas. (Gudeman)  fās est: this religious term, in place of licet or the like, seems intentionally chosen, for it was a widespread belief among the ancients that loud and excessive lamentations disturb the peace of the dead, hence also placide quiescas above. (Gudeman)


[temporālibus]: this word appears to be a garbled repetition of te potius and is generally excised from the text. (Damon)

sī nātūra suppeditet, similitūdine: observe the force of the subjunctive, implying that while their admiratio was boundless, they might possibly not be able to reach the standard set by his lofty character. (Gudeman) [A&G 447.3]

is … honōs, ea ... pietās: contrast with the unattracted illud in 43.2. (Pearce)


id … praecēperim: "this thought ... would impress upon." Potential subjunctive. The infinitive after praecipio occurs again in Tacitus in ch. 38.3, but it may here have been used because of the ut clause following. (Gudeman) praecēperim: subjunctive of modesty, a form of the potential subjunctive. The tense here is the aorist, which in this use does not differ appreciably in meaning from the present. (Pearce) [A&G 447.3]

facta dictaque: the usual order of this phrase, common in both Greek ... and Latin, is reversed to emphasize the deeds of Agricola as the more important. (Gudeman)

sēcum revolvant: "turn over in their minds." ... The figure seems to be taken from the ancient method of reading, the papyrus having to be unrolled on the left, if a reperusal was intended. (Gudeman)

fōrmamque ac figūram: "the aspect and attributes." (Stuart); an alliterative collocation, especially frequent in Cicero, and not rare elsewhere. (Gudeman)

complectantur: "cherish." (Stuart); "holds fast to," in their memories. (Pearce)  nōn quia ... putem: subjunctive of rejected reason. The classical usage would rather require non quo or non quod. With sed the construction passes naturally into the form of an independent statement, instead of proceeding with quia to introduce the real reason for complectantur. (Pearce) [A&G 540 note 3]  intercēdendum: sc. esse, impersonal gerundive. The dative imaginibus completes the sense of intercedendum; it is not a dative of agent with the gerundive. (Damon) [A&G 500.3]

imāginibus: "portrait-statues." (Stuart)

marmore … finguntur: the ablative of material without ex is poetical and post-classical. (Pearce) [A&G 403]

fōrma mentis aeterna: we generally emphasize a contrast by 'while' or 'whereas,' the Roman by means of asyndeton. (Pearce)

aliēnam: "not your own," in contrast to tuis ipse moribus. (Stuart)

tuīs ipse: "your own." See note on 1.3. (Gudeman)


quidquid ... rērum: note the equilibrium of clauses, the anaphora, and the sonorous rhythm of this fervent passage. (Gudeman)

manet mānsūrumque ... est: "abides and shall abide." This combination of present and either simple or periphrastic future is often affected in stately and impressive assertion. (Stuart)

fāmā rērum: ablative of means, "through the glory of his achievements," which will keep alive his memory. (Pearce) [A&G 408]; this ablative expression, though used elsewhere in statements about posthumous reputation, sits awkwardly at the end of a sentence, and various emendations have been proposed, including that explained by Gudeman below. (Damon)  in fāmā rērum: "in the story of his deeds." (Gudeman)  

veterum … obruit: observe the three successive alliterative groups. (Gudeman)

Agricola: the asyndeton intensifies the effect of the antithesis. (Stuart)  nārrātus et trāditus superstes: correspond respectively and in the same order to in animis hominum, in aeternitate temporum, and in fama rerum, i.e. Agricola's life, made known to men and handed down to posterity, will survive in this story of his deeds. (Gudeman)  superstes erit: because of the place he has made for himself in animis hominum, in fama rerum, as already stated, not because his biography will always live. Tacitus is not claiming immortality for his work ..., an assertive attitude which he could not with propriety assume at the end of his book after the diffidence with which he entered upon his task. See chapter 3. However, the fact remains that had the Agricola not been written, the name of the subject would have meant no more to us than the names of a hundred other public men of the Empire. The only other mention of him in literature is found in the Roman history of Dio Cassius, a work written in Greek at the beginning of the third century of our era. (Stuart)  Agricola … superstes erit: by the irony of fate Agricola's name has come very near oblivion. Besides Tacitus, one writer only -- Dio Cassius -- has mentioned it, and his notice is short and inaccurate. (Pearce)

quis quid after si, nisi, ne, or num: anyone, anything, any

mānēs –ium m. pl: spirits

ex(s)tinguō exstinguere exstinxī exstinctus: to extinguish

placidus –a –um: calm

īnfīrmus –a –um: weak

dēsīderium dēsīderi(ī) n.: longing

muliebris muliebris muliebre: feminine, womanish

lāmenta –ōrum n.: mourning

contemplātiō –ōnis f.: contemplation

lūgeō lūgēre lūxī lūctum: to mourn

plangō –ere –plānxī –planctus: to mourn

fās n.: right

admīrātiō –ōnis f.: admiration

suppeditō suppeditāre: to help

similitūdō similitūdinis f.: imitation

coniungō coniungere coniūnxī coniūnctus: to unite

veneror venerārī venerātus sum: to revere

revolvō –ere –volvī –volūtus: to ponder

figūra figūrae f.: shape

complector complectī complexus sum: to embrace, include, hold fast

intercēdō intercēdere intercessī intercessus: to forbid, veto (+dat.)

marmor –oris n.: marble

simulācrum simulācrī n.: image

imbēcillus –e: weak, perishable

mortālis –e: mortal

exprimō exprimere expressī expressum: to give shape to, to express in form

Agricola –ae m.: Agricola

aeternitās –tātis f.: eternity

inglōrius –a –um: without honor, without fame

ignōbilis –e: obscure

oblīviō –ōnis f.: forgetfulness

obruō obruere obruī obrutum: to overwhelm, crush

posteritās posteritātis f.: posterity

superstes superstitis: remaining alive after another's death, surviving; (as a noun) a survivor

Text Read Aloud
article Nav

Suggested Citation

Cynthia Damon, Tacitus: Agricola. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-947822-09-2. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/tacitus-agricola/46