1. FAMOUS men have from time immemorial had their life stories told, and even our generation, with all its stupid indifference to the present, has not quite abandoned the practice. The outstanding personality has still won an occasional triumph over that blind hostility to merit that poisons all states, small and great alike. But mark two points of difference. In the past, the road to memorable achievement was not so uphill or so beset with obstacles, and the task of recording it never failed to attract the man of genius. There was no question of currying favour or grinding one's own axe. The consciousness of an honourable aim was reward enough. Men even felt that to tell their own life's story showed self-confidence rather than conceit. Rutilius and Scaurus told theirs, and were neither disbelieved nor criticised. How true it is that noble character is best appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop. But, today, as I set out to recount the life of one no longer with us, I have had to crave an indulgence which I should not have asked for an invective. So savage and hostile to virtue are our times.
2. (Reign Of Terror) Eulogies, indeed, were written by Arulenus Rusticus and Herennius Senecio —the one, of Thrasea Paetus, the other, of Helvidius Priscus. But both were treated as capital offences, and the savage punishment was extended beyond the authors to their books. The police, under official instructions, made a bonfire in Comitium and Forum of those masterpieces of literary art. So much is on the record. In those fires doubtless the Government imagined that it could silence the voice of Rome and annihilate the freedom of the Senate and the moral consciousness of mankind; it even went on to banish the professors of philosophy and exile all honourable studies, so that nothing decent might be left to vex its eyes. We have indeed set up a record of subservience. Rome of old explored the limits of freedom; we have plumbed the depths of slavery, robbed even of the interchange of ideas by the secret police. We should have lost our memories as well as our tongues had it been as easy to forget as to be silent.
3. Now at long last our spirit revives. In the first dawn of this blessed age, Nerva Caesar harmonized the old discord of autocracy and freedom; day by day Nerva Trajan is enhancing the happiness of the times; and the public security, ceasing to be merely something hoped and prayed for, is as solid and certain as a prayer fulfilled. Yet our human nature is so weak that the cure lags behind the disease. Our bodies, which grow so slowly, perish in a flash; and so too the mind and its interests can be more easily crushed than brought to life again. Idleness develops a strange fascination of its own, and we end by loving the sloth that at first we loathed. Think of it. Fifteen whole years —no mean fraction of our human life —taken from us. Many have died a natural death, all the most irrepressible have fallen victims to the cruelty of the Emperor. Even we few that survive seem to have outlived, not only our fallen comrades, but our very selves, in those years stolen from our manhood that have brought us from youth to age, from age to the far end of life's journey —and no word said. Yet even now I shall find some satisfaction, however unskilled and unpractised my tone, in recording the servitude we once suffered, and in gratefully acknowledging the blessings we now enjoy. In the meantime, this book, which sets out to honour my father-in-law, Agricola, will be praised, or at the worst pardoned, for the loyal affection which is its title-deed.
4. Gnaeus Julius Agricola was a scion of the old and famous colony of Forum Julii. Both his grandfathers were procurators of the Caesars —the equivalent of nobility in the equestrian order. His father, Julius Graecinus, was a member of the Senate and won fame by his practice of eloquence and philosophy. By those very accomplishments he incurred the wrath of Gaius Caesar; he received orders to impeach M. Silanus and, later, lost his life for refusing. His mother was Julia Procilla, a paragon of feminine virtue. Brought up under her tender care, he passed his boyhood and youth in a training in all the liberal arts. He was shielded from the temptations of bad companions, partly by his own sound instincts, partly by living and going to school from his very early years at Marseilles, a place where Greek refinement and provincial puritanism meet in a happy blend. I remember how he would often tell us that in his early manhood he was tempted to drink deeper of philosophy than a Roman and a Senator properly may, but that his mother, in her wisdom, damped the fire of his passion. It was only natural that such a fine and manly soul should be attracted strongly, if not too wisely, by the fair ideal of fame in its higher and nobler aspects. In time, discretion growing with age tamed him; he came away from philosophy with her hardest lesson learned —a sense of proportion.
5. (First Service) He served his apprenticeship in the army to the satisfaction of Suetonius Paulinus, that sound and thorough general, and was picked by him to be tried out on his staff. But Agricola was no loose young subaltern, to turn his military career into a debauch; nor would he make his staff captaincy and his inexperience an excuse for asking long leave with its relaxing pleasures. He got to know his province and be known by the army. He learned from the experts and chose the best models to follow. He never sought a service for self-advertisement, never shirked one through cowardice. He was always energetic; careless never.
Neither before nor since has Britain ever been in a more uneasy or dangerous state. Veterans were butchered, colonies burned to the ground, armies isolated. We had to fight for life before we could think of victory. The campaign, of course, was conducted under the strategy and leadership of another, and the decisive success and the credit for recovering Britain fell to the General. Yet everything combined to give the young Agricola fresh skill, fresh experience and fresh ambition, and his spirit was invaded by the passion for military glory —a thankless passion in an age in which distinction was misconstrued and a great reputation was as dangerous as a bad one.
6. From Britain Agricola returned to Rome to enter on his career of office, and married Domitia Decidiana, die child of an illustrious house. It was a union that lent him both distinction and material aid to his ambitions. They lived in rare accord, maintained by mutual affection and unselfishness; but in such a partnership the good wife deserves more than half the praise, just as a bad one deserves more than half the blame. In the draw for the Quaestorship he got Asia as his province and Salvius Titianus as his proconsul —and yet escaped being corrupted by either, though the province with its wealth invited abuses, and the proconsul, an abject slave to greed, was prepared to indulge his subordinate to any extent: 'You wink at my offences and I will wink at yours.' While in Asia he was blessed with a daughter, and his position was thus strengthened and his heart consoled for the early loss of a son and heir, born a year before. He passed the interval between Quaestorship and Tribunate of the people, and his own year of office as Tribune, in quiet inactivity; he understood the age of Nero, in which you were a philosopher if you lay low. His Praetorship ran the same quiet course, for no administration of law had fallen to his lot. Over the games and other vanities of his office he compromised between economy and excess, steering clear of extravagance but not missing popular approval. He was then chosen by Galba to check over the gifts in the temples, and, by his searching scrutiny, achieved a striking success; the State experienced no permanent loss from any sacrilege but Nero's.
7.(Joins Vespasian) The following year dealt a grievous blow to his heart and home. The men of Otho's fleet, while savagely plundering Intimilium in Liguria in their piratical career, murdered Agricola's mother on her estate, and pillaged that estate and a large part of her fortune. Her wealth had inspired the crime. Agricola had accordingly set out to pay the last dues of affection, when he was overtaken by the news of Vespasian's bid for Empire, and without a moment's hesitation joined his party. Mucianus was in control of the initial policy of the new reign and of the ordering of Rome; for Domitian was a very young man, and only drew on his father's credit for leave to enjoy himself. Mucianus sent Agricola to hold levies and, when he had performed that task with scrupulous zeal, put him in command of the twentieth legion. It had been slow to transfer its allegiance, and its commander was reported to be disloyal. As a matter of fact, the legion was a problem and a menace even to consular legates, so naturally its legate, being merely of praetorian rank, was impotent to control it: perhaps he was to blame, perhaps his troops were. Agricola was thus chosen, not merely to succeed, but to punish. But he showed a rare self-denial; he let it appear that he had found in his legion the loyalty he created.
8. Britain at that time was governed by Vettius Bolanus with a hand too gentle for a war-like province. Agricola reined in his energies and restrained his enthusiasm, for fear of trespassing on his chief; he was a master of tact, and had schooled himself to regard expediency as well as honour, Soon afterwards Britain welcomed Petillius Cerealis, the ex-consul. Agricola's worth now found scope for its display; but at first it was hard work and danger that Cerealis shared with him —glory only came later. Cerealis often divided the armies with him, to test his quality, and when he had stood the test sometimes put him in command of larger forces. Yet Agricola never bragged of his achievements; as a mere subordinate he credited every success to his inspirer and leader. Thus by his gallantry in action and by the modesty of his reports he evaded envy without missing renown.
9.(In Aquitania) On Agricola's return to Rome from the command of the legion the deified Vespasian enrolled him among the patricians, and then placed him in command of the province of Aquitania. It was a brilliant promotion to a post important in itself and implying an expectancy of the consulship, for which Agricola was in fact marked out. It is a common belief that soldiers lack the finer points of intelligence; and indeed the law of the court-martial, knowing no appeal and proceeding bluntly to its usually summary decisions, gives no scope to the chicanery of the law-courts. But Agricola, even in dealing with civilians, had enough good sense to be natural and just. He made a clear division between hours of business and relaxation. When the assizes demanded attention, he was dignified, serious and austere, though still inclined to mercy. When duty had had its due, he put off the official pose; harshness, arrogance and greed had long ceased to be part of his make-up. He succeeded where few succeed; he lost no authority by his affability, no affection by his sternness. To mention incorruptibility and self-denial in a man of his calibre would be to insult his virtues. The desire for fame is often a secret weakness even of the good, but Agricola never courted fame by advertisement or intrigue. Scorning all rivalry with his colleagues, all bickering with the procurators, he deemed it no triumph to override others, but ignominious to be overborne himself. He was kept in this command for less than three years and then called home to the immediate prospect of the consulship. Public opinion insisted that the province of Britain was intended for him, not because he said anything to suggest it, but because he was obviously the right man. Rumour is not always at fault; it may even prompt a selection. In his consulship he betrothed to me, in my early manhood, his daughter, a girl of rare promise, and after its close gave her to me in marriage. Immediately afterwards he received the command of Britain, coupled with the priestly office of 'pontifex'.
10. Though the geographical position and peoples of Britain have been described by many writers, I am going to describe them again, not to match my skill and research against theirs, but because the conquest was only completed in this period. Where my predecessors relied on style to adorn their guesses, I shall offer assured fact. Britain, the largest of the islands known to us Romans, is so shaped and situated as to face Germany on the East and Spain on the West, while to the South it actually lies in full view of Gaul. Its northern shores, with no land confronting them, are beaten by a wild and open sea. The general shape of Britain has been compared by Livy, the best of the old writers, and by Fabius Rusticus, the best of the younger, to an elongated diamond or a doubleheaded axe. Such indeed is its shape south of Caledonia, and so the same shape has been attributed to the whole. But when you go farther North you find a huge and shapeless tract of country, jutting out towards the land's end and finally tapering into a kind of wedge. This coast of that remotest sea was first rounded, at this time, by a Roman fleet, which thus established the fact that Britain was an island. At the same time it discovered and subdued the Orkney Islands, hitherto unknown. Thule, too, was sighted by our men, but no more; their orders took them no farther, and winter was close at hand. But they do report that the sea is sluggish and heavy to the oar and, even with the wind, does not rise as other seas do. The reason, I suppose, is that lands and mountains, which create and feed storms, are scarcer there and the deep mass of an un-broken sea is more slowly set in motion. To investigate the nature of Ocean and its tides lies outside my immediate scope, and the tale has often been told. I will add just one observation. Nowhere does the sea hold wider sway; it carries to and fro in its motion a mass of currents, and, in its ebb and flow, is not held by the coast, but passes deep inland and winds about, pushing in among highlands and mountains, as if in its own domain.
11.(The British) Who the first inhabitants of Britain were, whether natives or immigrants, remains obscure; one must remember we are dealing with barbarians. But physical characteristics vary, and that very variation is suggestive. The reddish hair and large limbs of the Caledonians proclaim a German origin, the swarthy faces of the Silures, the tendency of their hair to curl and the fact that Spain lies opposite, all lead one to believe that Spaniards crossed in ancient times and occupied the land. The peoples nearest to the Gauls are correspondingly like them. Perhaps the original strain persists, perhaps it is climatic conditions that determine physical type in lands that converge from opposite directions on a single point. On a general estimate, however, we may believe that it was Gauls who took possession of the neighbouring island. In both countries you will find the same ritual, the same religious beliefs! There is no great difference in language, and there is the same hardihood in challenging danger, the same subsequent cowardice in shirking it. But the Britons show more spirit; they have not yet been softened by protracted peace. The Gauls, too, we have been told, had their hour of military glory; but then came decadence with peace, and valour went the way of lost liberty. The same fate has befallen such of the Britons as have long been conquered; the rest are still what the Gauls used to be.
12. (Britain) Their strength is in their infantry. Some tribes also fight from chariots. The nobleman drives, his dependants fight in his defence. Once they owed obedience to kings; now they are distracted between the jarring factions of rival chiefs. Indeed, nothing has helped us more in war with their strongest nations than their inability to cooperate. It is but seldom that two or three states unite to repel a common danger; fighting in detail they are conquered wholesale. The climate is objectionable, with its frequent rains and mists, but there is no extreme cold. Their day is longer than is normal in the Roman world. The night is bright and, in the extreme North, short, with only a brief interval between evening and morning twilight. If no clouds block the view, the sun's glow, it is said, can be seen all night long. It does not set and rise, but simply passes along the horizon. The reason must be that the ends of the earth, being flat, cast low shadows and cannot raise the darkness to any height; night therefore fails to reach the sky and its stars. The soil can bear all produce, except the olive, the vine, and other natives of warmer climes, and it is fertile. Crops are slow to ripen, but quick to grow —both facts due to one and the same cause, the extreme moistness of land and sky. Britain yields gold, silver and other metals, to make it worth conquering. Ocean, too, has its pearls, but they are dusky and mottled. Some think that the natives are unskilful in gathering them. Whereas in the Red Sea the oysters are torn alive and breathing from the rocks, in Britain they are collected as the sea throws them up. I find it easier to believe in a defect of quality in the pearls than of greed in us.
13.The Britons themselves submit to the levy, the tribute and the other charges of Empire with cheerful readiness, provided that there is no abuse. That they bitterly resent; for they are broken in to obedience, not to slavery. The deified Julius, the first Roman to enter Britain with an army, did indeed intimidate the natives by a victory and secure a grip on the coast. But though perhaps he hinted to posterity how the island might be won, it was not his to bequeath. After him came the Civil Wars, with the leading men of Rome fighting against their country. Even when peace returned, Britain was long out of mind. The deified Augustus spoke of this as 'policy', Tiberius called it 'precedent'. Gaius Caesar unquestionably planned an invasion of Britain; but his quick fancies shifted like a weathercock, and his vast efforts against Germany ended in farce. The deified Claudius was responsible for reviving the plan. He sent over legions and auxiliaries and chose Vespasian as his coadjutor —the first step towards his future greatness. Nations were subdued, kings captured, and the finger of fate pointed to Vespasian.
14. Aulus Plautius was the first ex-consul to be appointed governor, and soon after him came Ostorius Scapula —both of them fine soldiers. The nearest parts of Britain were gradually shaped into a province, and to crown all came a colony of veterans. Certain states were presented to King Cogidumnus, who maintained his unswerving loyalty down to our own times —an example of the long established Roman custom of employing even kings to make others slaves. Didius Gallus, the next governor, kept a firm hold on what his predecessors had won, and even pushed some few forts into outlying districts, so that he could say that he had extended his sphere of duty. Veranius succeeded Didius, only to die within the year. After him, Suetonius Paulinus enjoyed two years of success, conquering tribes and establishing strong forts. Emboldened thereby to attack the island of Anglesey, which was feeding the native resistance, he exposed himself to a stab in the back.
15. (The Britains Plot Revolt) For the Britons, freed from their repressions by the absence of the dreaded legate, began to discuss the woes of slavery, to compare their wrongs and sharpen their sting in the telling. 'We gain nothing by submission except heavier burdens for willing shoulders. Once each tribe had one king, now two are clamped on us —the legate to wreak his fury on our lives, the procurator on our property. We subjects are damned in either case, whether our masters quarrel or agree. Their gangs of centurions or slaves, as the case may be, mingle violence and insult. Nothing is any longer safe from their greed and lust. In war it is the braver who takes the spoil; as things stand with us, it is mostly cowards and shirkers that rob our homes, kidnap our children and conscript our men. Any cause is good enough for us to die for —any but our country's. But what a mere handful our invaders are, if we reckon up our own numbers. The Germans, reckoning so, threw off the yoke, and they had only a river, not the Ocean, to shield them. We have country, wives and parents to fight for; the Romans have nothing but greed and self-indulgence. Back they will go, as the deified Julius, went back, if only we can rival the valour of our fathers. We must not be scared by the loss of one battle or even two; success may foster the spirit of offence, but it is suffering that gives the power to endure. The gods themselves are at last showing mercy to us Britons in keeping the Roman general away, with his army exiled in another island. For ourselves we have already taken the most difficult step —we have begun to plot. And in an enterprise like this there is more danger in being caught plotting than in taking the plunge.'
16.(Weak Government And Indiscipline) Goaded by such mutual encouragements, the whole island rose under the leadership of Boudicca, a lady of royal descent —for Britons make no distinction of sex in their leaders. They hunted down the Roman troops in their scattered posts, stormed the forts and assaulted the colony itself, in which they saw their slavery focused; nor did the angry victors deny themselves any form of savage cruelty. In fact, had not Paulinus, on hearing of the revolt, made speed to help, Britain would have been lost. As it was, he restored it to its old obedience by a single successful action. But many guilty rebels refused to lay down their arms out of a peculiar dread of the legate. Fine officer though he was, he seemed likely to abuse their unconditional surrender and punish with undue severity wrongs which he insisted on making personal. The government therefore replaced him by Petronius Turpilianus. They hoped that he would be more merciful and readier to forgive offences to which he was a stranger. He composed the existing troubles, but risked no further move before handing over his province to Trebellius Maximus. Trebelius was deficient in energy and without military experience, but he governed his province like a gentleman. The barbarians now learned, like any Romans, to condone seductive vices, while the intervention of our Civil Wars gave a reasonable excuse for inactivity. There was, however, a serious outbreak of mutiny, for the troops, accustomed to campaigns, ran riot in peace. Trebellius fled and hid to escape his angry army. His self-respect and dignity compromised, he now commanded merely on sufferance. By a kind of tacit bargain the troops kept their licence, the general his life, and the mutiny stopped short of bloodshed. Vettius Bolanus, likewise, as the Civil War still ran its course, declined to disturb Britain by enforcing discipline. There was still the same paralysis in face of the foe, the same indiscipline in the camp —only Bolanus was a decent man, with no sins to make him hated, and had won affection where he lacked authority.
17. But when Vespasian, in the course of his general triumph, recovered Britain, there came a succession of great generals and splendid armies, and the hopes of our enemies dwindled. Petillius Cerealis at once struck terror into their hearts by attacking the state of the Brigantes, which is said to be the most populous in the whole province. After a series of battles, some not uncostly, Petillius had operated, if not actually triumphed, over the major part of their territory. Petillius, indeed, would have eclipsed the record and reputation of any ordinary successor. But Julius Frontinus shouldered the heavy burden, and rose as high as a man then could rise. He subdued by force of arms the strong and war-like nation of the Silures, laboriously triumphing not only over a brave enemy but also over a difficult terrain.
18.(The Conquest Of Mona) Such was the state of Britain, such the vicissitudes of war that Agricola found waiting for him when he crossed the Channel with the summer half spent, a season when campaigning seems to be over and our troops tend to relax, while our enemies seek to profit thereby. Shortly before his arrival the tribe of the Ordovices had almost wiped out a squadron of cavalry stationed in their territory, and this initial stroke had excited the province. The war-party welcomed the lead, and only waited to test the temper of the new legate. The summer was far spent, the irregulars were scattered over the province, the legionaries were assuming that there would be no more fighting that year. Everything, in fact, combined to hamper or thwart a new campaign, and many were in favour of simply watching where the danger lay. In spite of all, Agricola decided to go and meet the threat. He drew together detachments of the legions and a small force of auxiliaries. As the Ordovices did not venture to meet him in the plain, he marched his men into the hills, himself in the van, to lend his own courage to the rest by sharing their peril. Thus he cut to pieces almost the whole fighting force of the nation. But he realized that he must not lag behind his reputation and that the success of his first enterprises would decide how much his other enemies would fear him. He decided, therefore, to reduce the island of Anglesey, from the occupation of which Paulinus had been recalled by the revolt of all Britain, as I described in an earlier chapter. The plan was hastily conceived, and there was no fleet at hand; the resource and resolution of the general had to take the troops across. Agricola picked out the best of his auxiliaries, who had experience of fords and had been trained at home to swim with arms and horses under control beside them, and made them discard their whole equipment. He then launched them on a surprise attack, and the enemy, who had been thinking in terms of fleet, ships and naval warfare, completely lost their heads. What could embarrass or defeat a foe who attacked like that? They sued for peace and surrendered the island; and Agricola, in a flash, found himself enjoying reputation and respect. Had he not, at his very first entrance to the province, deliberately chosen a difficult and dangerous enterprise, at a time usually devoted to pageantry and ceremonial visits? Yet Agricola would not let success tickle his vanity. He had kept under control a conquered people; he would not represent that as a campaign of conquest. He did not even use laurel-wreathed dispatches to announce his achievement; but his very refusal to recognise his fame increased it. Men gauged his splendid hopes for the future by his reticence over so grand a triumph.
19.(Agricola's First Gains) Agricola, however, understood the feelings of a province and had learned from the experience of others that arms can effect little if injustice follows in their train. He resolved to root out the causes of war. Beginning with himself and his staff, he enforced discipline in his own household first —a task often found as difficult as the government of a province. He made no use of freedmen or slaves for official business. He would not be influenced by personal feelings, recommendations or petitions in choosing his centurions and men. The best, he was sure, would best justify his trust. He knew everything, but did not always act as if he knew. He could condone minor offences, but had no kind of mercy for major ones. Sometimes he would omit to punish and be satisfied by a change of heart. He preferred to appoint to official positions and duties men whom he could trust not to transgress, rather than punish the transgressor. He eased the levy of corn and tribute by distributing the burden fairly, and cancelled those charges, contrived by profiteers, which were more bitterly resented than the tax itself. The provincials had actually been compelled to wait at the doors of closed granaries, buy back their own corn and pay farcical prices. Delivery was ordered to destinations off the map or at a great distance, and states that had permanent quarters of troops close by them had to send to remote and inaccessible spots, until a service that should have been easy for all ended by benefiting a few scoundrels only.
20. By checking these abuses in his very first year of office, Agricola gave men reason to love and honour peace. Hitherto, through the negligence or arbitrariness of former governors, it had been as much feared as war. But when summer came and he had concentrated his army, he was present everywhere on the march, praising discipline and checking stragglers. Himself he chose the sites for camps, himself reconnoitred estuaries and woods; and all the time he gave the enemy no rest, but constantly launched plundering raids. Then, when he had done enough to inspire fear, he turned to mercy and proffered the allurements of peace. As a result, many states which had till then maintained their independence abandoned their resentful mood and accepted the curb of garrisons and forts; and so skilfully and thoroughly was the whole operation carried through that no fresh acquisition in Britain ever came off with so little challenge as this.
21. The following winter was spent on schemes of the most salutary kind. To induce a people, hitherto scattered, uncivilized and therefore prone to fight, to grow pleasurably inured to peace and ease, Agricola gave private encouragement and official assistance to the building of temples, public squares and private mansions. He praised the keen and scolded the slack, and competition to gain honour from him was as effective as compulsion. Furthermore, he trained the sons of the chiefs in the liberal arts and expressed a preference for British natural ability over the trained skill of the Gauls. The result was that in place of distaste for the Latin language came a passion to command it. In the same way, our national dress came into favour and the toga was everywhere to be seen. And so the Britons were gradually led on to the amenities that make vice agreeable — arcades, baths and sumptuous banquets. They spoke of such novelties as 'civilization', when really they were only a feature of enslavement.
22.(Establishment Of Forts) The third year of campaigning opened up new nations, for the territory of tribes as far as the estuary named Tanaus was ravaged. Our army was seriously buffeted by furious storms, but the enemy were now too terrified to molest it. There was even time to spare for the establishment of forts. It was observed by experts that no general had ever shown a better eye for ground than Agricola. No fort of his was ever stormed, ever capitulated or was ever abandoned. They were protected against long protracted siege by supplies renewed every year. And so winter in these forts had no terrors. Frequent sallies were made, and every commandant could look after himself. The enemy were baffled and near despairing. They could no longer retrieve the losses of the summer by the gains of the winter, but were equally hard pressed in both seasons.
Agricola was never greedy in stealing the credit for other men's work. Every centurion and prefect found in him an honest witness to his merit. By some accounts, he could be very bitter in reprimand; and certainly he was as nasty to the wrong kind of man as he was nice to the right. But his anger left no secret residue, and you had no need to fear his silence. He thought it more honourable to hurt than to hate.
23. The fourth summer was spent in securing the districts already overrun, and, if the valour of our armies and the glory of Rome had not forbidden a halt, a place for halting was found inside Britain itself. Clyde and Forth, carried inland to a great depth on the tides of opposite seas, are separated only by a narrow neck of land. This neck was now secured by garrisons, and the whole sweep of country to the south was safe in our hands. The enemy had been pushed into what was virtually another island.
24. In the fifth year of campaigning Agricola began with a sea passage, and in a series of successful actions subdued nations hitherto unknown. The whole side of Britain that faces Ireland was lined with his forces. But his motive was rather hope than fear. Ireland, lying between Britain and Spain, and easily accessible also from the Gallic sea, might, to great general advantage, bind in closer union that powerful section of the empire. Ireland is small in extent as compared to Britain, but larger than the islands of the Mediterranean. In soil, in climate and in the character and civilization of its inhabitants it is much like Britain. Its approaches and harbours are tolerably well known from merchants who trade there. Agricola had given a welcome to an Irish prince, who had been driven from home by a rebellion; nominally a friend, he might be used as a pawn in the game. I have often heard Agricola say that Ireland could be reduced and held by a single legion and a few auxiliaries, and that the conquest would also pay from the point of view of Britain, if Roman arms were in evidence on every side and liberty vanished off the map.
25.(Caledonia Invaded) In the summer in which his sixth year of office began, Agricola embraced in his schemes the states that he beyond the Forth. Fearing a general rising of the northern nations and threatening movements by the enemy on land, he used his fleet to reconnoitre the harbours. It was first brought in by Agricola to bring up his forces to the requisite strength. Its continued attendance on him made an excellent impression. The war was pushed forward simultaneously by land and sea; and infantry, cavalry and marines, often meeting in the same camp, would mess and make merry together. They would boast, as soldiers will, of their several exploits and adventures, and match the perilous depths of woods and mountains against the hazards of storms and tides, the victories on land against the conquest of the ocean. The Britons, for their part, as was learned from prisoners, were stupefied by the appearance of the fleet. The mystery of their sea was divulged, their last refuge in defeat cut off. The natives of Caledonia turned to armed resistance on the grand scale, exaggerated, as the unknown always is, by rumour. Without provocation they attacked one of our forts, and inspired alarm by their challenging offensive. There were cowards in the council who pleaded for a 'strategic retreat' behind the Forth, claiming that 'evacuation is preferable to expulsion'. But at that very juncture Agricola learned that the enemy was about to attack in several columns. To avoid encirclement by superior forces he himself advanced with his army in three divisions.
26. As soon as the enemy got to know of this move they suddenly changed their plans and massed for a night attack on the ninth legion. That seemed to them the weakest point. Striking panic into the sleeping camp, they cut down the sentries and broke in. The fight was already raging inside the camp when Agricola was warned by his scouts of the enemy's march. He followed close on their tracks, ordered the speediest of his cavalry and infantry to skirmish up to their rear, and finally made his whole army join in the battle cry. Dawn was now breaking, and the gleam of the standards could be clearly seen. The Britons were dismayed at being caught between two fires, while the men of the ninth took heart again; now that their lives were safe they could fight for honour. They even effected a sally, and a grim struggle ensued in the narrow passage to the gates. At last the enemy broke under the rival efforts of the two armies — the one striving to make it plain that they had brought relief, the other that they could have done without it. Had not marshes and woods covered the enemy's retreat, that victory would have ended the war.
27. Fired with self-confidence and the glory of this victory, the army protested that no obstacle could bar its brave advance; 'We must drive deeper and deeper into Caledonia and fight battle after battle till we have reached the end of Britain'. Even the conservative strategists of yesterday were forward and boastful enough after the victory. That is the crowning injustice of war; all claim credit for success, while defeat is laid to the account of one. The Britons, on their side, felt that they had not lost through any lack of courage, but through chance exploited by strategy. With unbroken spirit they persisted in arming their whole fighting force, putting their wives and children in places of safety and ratifying their league by conference and sacrifice. The campaign thus ended with the temper of both parties raised to fever-heat.
28.(The Usipi Sail Round Britain) That same summer a cohort of the Usipi that had been levied in Germany and transferred to Britain committed a crime remarkable enough to deserve record. They had had attached to them a centurion and soldiers, to teach them discipline in the first place and thereafter serve as models and directors. These they now murdered. They boarded three warships, constraining the pilots to do their will. Two of these incurred suspicion and were put to death, the third did as he was told. As their story was still unknown, they sailed along the coasts like a ship in a fairy story. But the time soon came when they had to put into land to get water and other necessaries. This brought them to blows with the Britons, who defended their property. Often successful, they were occasionally repulsed. They were finally reduced to such straits of famine that they first ate the weakest of their number and then victims drawn by lot. In this fashion they sailed right round Britain, then lost their ships through bad seamanship, were taken for pirates and were cut off first by the Suebi and then by the Frisii. Some of them were sold as slaves and passed from hand to hand till they reached our bank of the Rhine, where they gained notoriety from the circumstantial account of their great adventure.
29.(Calgacus Harrangues The Caledonians) At the beginning of the summer Agricola suffered a grievous personal loss in the death of the son who had been born the previous year. This cruel blow drew from him neither the ostentatious stoicism of the strong man nor the loud expressions of grief that belong to women. He had also war to help to relieve his sorrow. He sent his fleet ahead to plunder at various points and thus spread uncertainty and terror, and, with an army marching light, which he had reinforced with the bravest of the Britons and those whose loyalty had been proved during a long peace, reached the Graupian Mountain, which he found occupied by the enemy. The Britons were, in fact, undaunted by the loss of the previous battle, and welcomed the choice between revenge and enslavement. They had realized at last that common action was needed to meet the common danger, and had sent round embassies and drawn up treaties to rally the full force of all their states. Already more than 30,000 men made a gallant show, and still they came flocking to the colours —all the young men and those whose 'old age was fresh and green', famous warriors with their battle honours thick upon them. At that point one of the many leaders, named Calgacus, a man of outstanding valour and nobility, summoned the masses who were already thirsting for battle and addressed them, we are told, in words like these:
30. 'Whenever I consider why we are fighting and how we have reached this crisis, I have a strong sense that this day of your splendid rally may mean the dawn of liberty for the whole of Britain. You have mustered to a man, and to a man you are free. There are no lands behind us, and even the sea is menaced by the Roman fleet. The clash of battle —the hero's glory —has become the safest refuge for the coward. Battles against Rome have been lost and won before —but never without hope; we were always there in reserve. We, the choice flower of Britain, were treasured in her most secret places. Out of sight of subject shores, we kept even our eyes free from the defilement of tyranny. We, the last men on earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by the very remoteness and the seclusion for which we are famed. We have enjoyed the impressiveness of the unknown. But today the boundary of Britain is exposed; beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks and the Romans, more deadly still than they, for you find in them an arrogance which no reasonable submission can elude. Brigands of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder, and now they ransack the sea. The wealth of an enemy excites their cupidity, his poverty their lust of power. East and West have failed to glut their maw. They are unique in being as violently tempted to attack the poor as the wealthy. Robbery, butchery, rapine, the liars call Empire; they create a desolation and call it peace.
31.(The Slavery Of Britain) 'We instinctively love our children and our kinsmen above all else. These are torn from us by conscription to slave in other lands. Our wives and sisters, even if they are not raped by Roman enemies, are seduced by them in the guise of guests and friends. Our goods and fortunes are ground down to pay tribute, our land and its harvest to supply corn, our bodies and hands to build roads through woods and swamps —all under blows and insults. Slaves, born into slavery, once sold, get their keep from their masters. But as for Britain, never a day passes but she pays and feeds her enslavers. In a private household it is the latest arrival who is always the butt of his fellow slaves; so, in this establishment, where all the world have long been slaves, it is we, the cheap new acquisitions, who are picked out for extirpation. You see, we have no fertile lands, no mines, no harbours, which we might be spared to work. Courage and martial spirit we have, but 'the master does not relish them in the subject. Even our remoteness and seclusion, while they protect, expose us to suspicion. Abandon, then, all hope of mercy and at last take courage, whether it is life or honour that you hold most dear. The Brigantes, with only a woman to lead them, burned the colony, stormed the camp and, if success had not made them grossly careless, might have cast off the yoke. Let us, then, uncorrupted, unconquered as we are, ready to fight for freedom but never to repent failure, prove at the first clash of arms what heroes Caledonia has been holding in reserve.
32. 'Can you really imagine that the Romans' bravery in war comes up to their wantonness in peace? No! It is our quarrels and disunion that have given them fame. The reputation of the Roman army is built up on the faults of its enemies. Look at it, a motley agglomeration of nations, that will be shattered by defeat as surely as it is now held together by success! Or can you seriously think that those Gauls or Germans —and, to our bitter shame, many Britons too! —are bound to Rome by genuine loyalty or love? They may be lending their life-blood to foreign tyrants, but they were enemies of Rome much longer than they have been her slaves. Apprehension and terror are weak bonds of affection; once break them, and, where fear ends, hatred will begin. All that can goad men to victory is on our side. The enemy have no wives to fire their courage, no parents ready to taunt them if they run away. Most of them have no country, or, if they have one, it is not Rome. See them, a scanty band, scared and bewildered, staring blankly at the unfamiliar sky, sea and forests around! The gods have given them, spellbound prisoners, into our hands. Never fear the outward show that means nothing, the glitter of gold and silver that can neither avert nor inflict a wound. In the ranks of our very enemies we shall find hands to help us. The Britons will recognize our cause as their own, the Gauls will remember their lost liberty, the rest of the Germans will desert them as surely as the Usipi have just done. They have nothing in reserve that need alarm us —only forts without garrisons, colonies of grey-beards, towns sick and distracted between rebel subjects and tyrant masters. Here before us is their general, here his army; behind are the tribute, the mines and all the other whips to scourge slaves. Whether you are to endure these for ever or take summary vengeance, this field must decide. On, then, into action and, as you go, think of those that went before you and of those that shall come after.'
33.(Agricola Addresses His Men) This speech was received with enthusiasm, expressed, as barbarians express it, by shouting, singing and confused applause. Bodies of troops began to move and arms blazed, as the adventurous sallied out in front, and all the time their battle-line was taking shape. Agricola's soldiers were in good heart and fretting at confinement within their defences. For all that, he felt it desirable to put the final edge on their courage and addressed them thus:
'This is the seventh year, comrades, that you by your valour, by the divine blessing on Rome and by my loyal efforts have been conquering Britain. All these campaigns, all these battles, have made great demands —on courage in face of the enemy, on patient toil in face of Nature herself; but, in all, I have had no complaint to make of my men nor you of your general. And so we have passed the limits that held back former legates and their armies. Our grip on the ends of Britain is vouched for, not by report or rumour, but by our encampment there in force. Britain has been discovered and at the same time subdued. How often on the march, when you were making your weary way over marshes, mountains and rivers, have I heard the bravest of you exclaim; "When shall we find the enemy? When shall we come to grips?" Well, here they come, dislodged from their lairs. The field lies open, as you so bravely desired it. An easy path awaits you if you win, but a hard and uphill one if you lose. The miles of hard marching behind you, the woods you have threaded, the estuaries you have crossed —all redound to your credit and honour, while you keep your eyes to the front; but, if once you retreat, present assets become deadly liabilities. We have not the exact local knowledge that our enemy has, we have not his abundant supplies; but we have our hands and our swords in them, and, with that, we have all that matters. For myself, I made up my mind long ago that no army and no general can safely turn their back. It follows, then, that a death of honour is better than a life of shame, and safety and renown are to be sought in the same field; and, if we must perish, it would be no mean glory to fall where land and nature end.
34. 'If you were confronted by strange nations and an unfamiliar army, I would quote the example of other armies to encourage you. That is not the case; you need only recall your own battle-honours, only question your own eyes. These are the men who last year took advantage of night-time to attack a single legion, only to be broken by your battle-cry. These are the Britons with the longest legs —the only reason they have survived so long. When we used to plunge into the woods and thickets, all the brave beasts charged straight at us, the timid and passive slunk away at the mere sound of our tread. It is just the same now. The flower of Britain has fallen long since; what is left is a pack of spiritless cravens. You have indeed got them at last; but you have caught them —they never meant to stand. It is only extreme danger and deadly fear that have rooted them to this spot, where you may gain a great and memorable victory. Have done with campaigning, crown fifty years with one day of splendour, convince Rome that, if wars have dragged on or been permitted to revive, her soldiers were not to blame!'
35.(Battle Preparations.) Even while Agricola was still speaking the troops showed visible signs of their keenness, and a wild burst of enthusiasm greeted the end of his speech. Without delay they flew to arms. The troops were mad for action and ready to rush into it, but Agricola marshalled them with care. The auxiliary infantry, 8,000 in number, made a strong centre, while 3,000 cavalry were thrown out on the flanks. The legions were stationed in front of the camp wall; victory would be vastly more glorious if it cost no Roman blood, whilst, in case of repulse, the legions could restore the day. The British army was stationed on higher ground in a manner calculated to impress and intimidate its enemy. Its van was on the level ground, but the other ranks rose, as it were in tiers, up the gentle slope. The space between the two armies was taken up by the charioteers, clattering on in their wild career. At this point, Agricola, fearing that the enemy with their great superiority in numbers might fall simultaneously on his front and flanks, opened out his ranks. The line now looked dangerously thin, and many urged him to bring up the legions. But he was always an optimist and throve on adversity. He sent away his horse and took up his position on foot in front of the colours.
36. The fighting began with exchanges of missiles, and the Britons showed both courage and skill in parrying our shots with their great swords or catching them on their little shields, while they themselves rained volleys on us. At last Agricola called upon the four cohorts of the Batavi and the two of the Tungri to close and fight it out at the sword's point. The manoeuvre was familiar to those old soldiers, but most inconvenient to the enemy with their small shields and unwieldy swords —swords without a thrusting point, and therefore unsuited to the clash of arms in close fighting. The Batavi began to rain blow after blow, push with the bosses of their shields and stab at their enemies in their face. They routed the enemy on the plain and pushed on uphill. This provoked the rest of our cohorts to drive in hard and butcher the enemy as they met him. Many Britons were left behind half dead or even unwounded, owing to the very speed of our victory. Our cavalry squadrons, meanwhile, had routed the war chariots, and now plunged into the infantry battle. Their first onslaught was terrifying, but the solid ranks of the enemy and the roughness of the ground soon brought them to a standstill. The battle now looked anything but favourable to us, with our infantry precariously perched on the slope and jostled by the flanks of the horses. And often a stray chariot, its horses panic-stricken without a driver, came plunging in on flank or front.
37.(Rout Of The Britons) The Britons on the hill-tops had so far taken no part in the action, and had had leisure to note the smallness of our numbers with contempt. They now began to make a slow descent and envelop our victorious rear. But Agricola had anticipated just such a move, and threw in their path four squadrons of cavalry, which he was keeping in hand for emergencies. He thus broke and scattered them in a rout as severe as their assault had been gallant. The tactics of the Britons now recoiled on themselves. Our squadrons, obedient to orders, rode round from the front and fell on the enemy in the rear. The spectacle that followed over the open country was awe-inspiring and grim. Our men followed hard, took prisoners and then killed them, as new enemies appeared. On the enemy's side each man now followed his bent. Some bands, though armed, fled before inferior numbers, some men, though unarmed, insisted on charging to their deaths. Arms, bodies, severed limbs lay all around and the earth reeked of blood; and the vanquished now and then found their fury and their courage again. Indeed, when they reached the woods, they rallied and profited by their local knowledge to ambush the first rash pursuers. Our excess of confidence might even have led to no inconsiderable disaster. But Agricola was everywhere at once. He ordered the cohorts to rally, discard their equipment and ring the woods like hunters. Where the woods were denser, dismounted cavalry went in to scour them; where they thinned out, the cavalry did the work. But the Britons, when they saw our ranks steady and firm and the pursuit beginning again, simply turned and ran. They no longer kept any formation or any touch with one another, but deliberately broke into small groups to reach their far and trackless retreats. Only night and exhaustion ended the pursuit. Of the enemy some 10,000 fell, on our side 360, among whom was Aulus Atticus, the prefect of a cohort, who in his young enthusiasm was carried by the charge of his horse deep into the ranks of the enemy.
38.(The Fruits Of Victory ) Night brought our men the satisfactions of victory and booty. The Britons wandered all over the countryside, men and women together wailing, carrying off their wounded and calling out to the survivors. They would leave their homes and in fury set fire to them, and choose lairs, only to abandon them at once. Sometimes they would try to concert plans, then break off conference. Sometimes the sight of their dear ones broke their hearts, more often it goaded them to fury. Some, it was afterwards found, laid violent hands on their wives and children in a kind of pity. The next day revealed the quality of the victory more distinctly. A grim silence reigned on every hand, the lulls were deserted, only here and there was smoke seen rising from chimneys in the distance, and our scouts found no one to encounter them. When they had been sent out in all directions and had made sure that everything pointed to indiscriminate flight and that the enemy was not massing at any point, Agricola led his army into the territory of the Boresti. Summer was almost over, and it was impossible for operations to be extended over a wider area. There Agricola took hostages and ordered his admiral to coast round Britain. The forces allotted were sufficient, and the terror of Rome had gone before him. Agricola himself, marching slowly in order to inspire terror in fresh nations by his very lack of hurry, placed his infantry and cavalry in winter-quarters. At the same time, the fleet, sped by favouring winds and fame, took up its quarters in the harbour of Trucculurn from which it had set out to coast all the neighbouring stretch of Britain and to which it now returned.
39. The news of these events, although reported by Agricola in his dispatches in the most exact and modest terms, was received by Domitian with the smile on his face that so often masked a secret disquiet. He was bitterly aware of the ridicule that had greeted his sham triumph over Germany, when he had bought up slaves to have their dress and hair made up to look like prisoners of war. But now came a genuine victory on the grand scale. The enemy dead were reckoned by thousands. The popular enthusiasm was immense. There was nothing Domitian need fear so much as to have the name of a subject exalted above that of his prince. He had only wasted time in silencing forensic eloquence and all that was distinguished in the civil career, if another man were to snatch his military glory. Talents in other directions could at a pinch be ignored; but the quality of a good general should be the monopoly of the emperor. Such were the anxieties that vexed him and over which he brooded till he was tired —a sure sign in him of deadly purpose; finally, he decided to store up his hatred for the present and wait for the first burst of popular applause and the enthusiasm of the army to die down. Agricola, you see, was still in possession of Britain.
40.(Return To Rome) Domitian therefore gave instructions that the external distinctions of triumph, the honour of a splendid statue and all the other substitutes for the triumph itself should be voted to Agricola in the Senate, coupled with a most flattering address; further, the impression was to be conveyed that the province of Syria, then vacant through the death of Atilius Rufus, the ex-consul, and always reserved for men of mark, was intended for Agricola. It was very commonly believed that one of the freedmen in Domitian's closest confidence was sent with dispatches offering Agricola Syria, but with instructions to deliver them only if he were still in Britain. The freedman, it is said, met Agricola's ship in the Channel and, without even seeking an interview, returned to Domitian. The story may be true, or it may be a fiction; at least it suits Domitian's character. Agricola, meanwhile, had handed over a province peaceful and secure to his successor. In order not to signalize his arrival in Rome by the publicity of a crowded welcome, he avoided the attentions of his friends and entered the city by night. By night, too, he went, in accordance with instructions, to the palace. He was welcomed with a perfunctory kiss and then dismissed, without a word of conversation, to join the crowd of courtiers
Agricola was anxious to tone down the military reputation which so easily offends civilians by displaying other qualities. He drank deep of peace and repose. He was modest in his dress, an affable companion, never seen with more than one or two friends. The result was that the majority who usually measure great men by their self-advertisement, after a close survey of Agricola, were left asking why he was famous; very few could read his secret aright.
41. Often during this period Agricola was denounced to Domitian behind his back, often behind his back acquitted. His danger did not arise from any charge against him or any complaint from a victim of his injustice, but from the Emperor's hatred of merit, Agricola's own fame and that deadliest type of enemy, the singers of his praises. And, indeed, the fortunes of Rome in those ensuing years were not such as to permit Agricola to be forgotten in silence. One by one came the loss of all those armies in Moesia and Dacia, in Germany and Pannonia, through the rash folly or cowardice of their generals, the taking by storm and capture of all those captains and their cohorts. It was no longer the frontier and the Danube line that were in question, but the permanent quarters of the legions and the maintenance of the Empire. So, as loss was piled on loss, and year after year was signalized by death and disaster, public opinion began to clamour for Agricola to take command. His energy, his resolution and military expertness were universally contrasted with the general irresolution and cowardice. Domitian's own ears, we may be sure, were stung by the lash of such talk. The best of his freedmen spoke out of their loyal affection, the worst out of malice and spleen; but all alike infuriated an emperor who was so ready to go wrong. And so Agricola was driven headlong by his own virtues and the vices of others to where glory lay —over the edge of a precipice.
42.(Wise Moderation Of Agricola ) At last the year arrived in which Agricola was due to draw for the proconsulship of Africa or Asia; and, with the execution of Civica still fresh in memory, Agricola was not without warning nor Domitian without precedent. Agricola was approached by some of the Emperor's confidants with the straight question whether he meant to take a province. They began with somewhat guarded praises of the life of peaceful retirement, went on to promise their good services should Agricola care to decline, and finally, throwing off the mask, pleaded and threatened in direct terms —until he was ready to go with them to Domitian. The Emperor had his hypocrite's part prepared. He put on a majestic air, listened to Agricola's request to be excused, and, after granting it, allowed Agricola to thank him, with never a blush for so odious a concession. He did not, however, assign him the pro-consular salary, usually offered in such cases and given by himself in some —perhaps from annoyance that Agricola had not asked for it, perhaps out of very shame, not wishing to appear to have bought an abstention which he had imposed. It is a sin peculiar to man to hate his victim. Yet even Domitian, prone as he was to plunge into fury and only the more inexorable if he tried to hide it, was appeased by the measured wisdom of Agricola, who declined, by a defiant and futile parade of freedom, to court the fame that must mean his fall. Let it be clear to those who insist on admiring insubordination that even under bad emperors men can be great, and that a decent regard for authority, if backed by ability and energy, can reach that peak of honour that many have stormed by precipitous paths, winning fame, without serving their country, by a melodramatic death.
43.(Last Hours) The end of his life was, of course, a bitter blow to us, his kindred, and a sorrow to his friends; but it deeply affected others outside his circle and even complete strangers. The masses and the commons of Rome, usually so bent on their own concerns, flocked to his house to enquire and gossiped in the markets and clubs. When his death was announced there was no one to exult, no one to forget too readily. The sense of pity was quickened by the persistent rumour that he had been poisoned. We have no definite evidence —that is all that I can say for certain. I must add, however, that throughout the whole of his illness there were more visits from prominent freedmen and Court physicians than is usual even with emperors, whose visits are regularly paid by proxy. Perhaps it meant genuine concern, perhaps mere espionage. On the day of his death the critical stages of his decline were certainly reported by a line of couriers, and no one could believe that tidings need be brought so quickly if they were unwelcome. However, Domitian made a decent show of genuine sorrow; he was relieved of the need to hate, and he could always hide satisfaction more convincingly than fear. It is quite certain that he was genuinely delighted when Agricola's will was read in public; he left Domitian as co-heir with his good wife and loving daughter. Domitian took it as a deliberate compliment. His soul was so blinded and corrupted by incessant flattery that he could not realize that no good father makes any emperor but a bad one his heir.
44. Agricola was born on June 13th in the third consulship of Gaius Caesar; he died in his fifty-fourth year on August 23rd in the consulship of Collega and Priscinus. Should posterity care to know what he looked like, he was attractive rather than impressive. There was a lack of forcefulness in his features, but abundant charm of expression. You could see at a glance that he was a good man, you were tempted to believe him a great one. Cut off though he was in the middle of a life of splendid promise, measured by glory his life was absolutely complete. He had wholly realized those true blessings which reside in a man's own character. He had held the consulship, he bore the ornaments of triumph; what more could fortune contrive for him? He had no taste for vast wealth, whilst a handsome competence had fallen to his lot. We may count him blessed, then, who left a widow and daughter to survive him, who, in the full enjoyment of his great position, at the height of his fame, leaving kinsmen and friends secure, escaped by death from the wrath that was to come. Happy he, had he been permitted to see the dawn of this blessed age and the principate of Trajan, a prospect of which he often spoke to us in wistful prophecy! Yet it was no small consolation for his untimely loss that he missed those final days, when Domitian no longer left interval or breathing space, but, with a succession of blows so continuous as to give the effect of one, drained the last strength of the Roman state.
45.(Domitian's Terror) Agricola did not live to see the senate-house under siege, the senators hedged in by soldiers, and that one fell stroke that sent so many a consular to death, so many a noble lady to exile or flight. A single victory was all that was yet credited to Carus Mettius, the screech of Messalinus was still confined to debate in the Alban fortress and Massa Baebius was at that very moment in the dock. Soon, Helvidius was to be led to prison by our hands, we were to send Mauricus and Rusticus to their several fates, Senecio was to drench us with his innocent blood. Even Nero forbore to witness the abominations he ordered. Under Domitian more than half our wretchedness consisted in watching and being watched, while our very sighs were scored against us, and the blanched faces of us all were revealed in deadly contrast to that one scowling blush behind which Domitian sheltered against shame.
Happy you, Agricola, in your glorious life, but no less happy in your timely death. We have the testimony of those who enjoyed your conversation at the last that you met death with a cheerful courage. You seemed glad to be doing your best to spare Domitian the guilt of killing you. But your daughter and I have suffered more than the pang of a father's loss; we still grieve that we could not tend your illness, cheer your failing powers and take our fill of fond look and embrace. We could not have failed to catch some words of admonition to be engraved forever in our hearts. It was our special sorrow, our peculiar hurt, that through the accident of our long absence from Rome we had lost him four years before he died. All, more than all, dear Father, was assuredly done to honour you by the devoted wife at your side; but there were tears due to you that were not shed and, as the night fell, there was something for which your closing eyes looked in vain.
46.(Eulogy) If there is any mansion for the spirits of the just, if, as the wise aver, great souls do not perish with the body, quiet, O Father, be your rest! May you call us, your household, from feeble regrets and unmanly mourning to contemplate your virtues, in presence of which sorrow and lamentation become a sin! May we honour you in better ways —by our admiration, by our undying praise, even, if our powers permit, by following your example! That is the true honour, the true affection of souls knit close to yours. To your daughter and widow I would suggest that they revere the memory of a father and a husband by continually pondering his deeds and sayings, and by cherishing his spiritual, above his physical, presence. Not that I would place an absolute ban on likenesses of marble or of bronze. But the image of the human face, like that face itself, is feeble and perishable, whereas the essence of the soul is eternal, never to be caught and expressed by the material and skill of a stranger, but only by you in your own living. All in Agricola that won our love and admiration abides and shall abide in the hearts of men, through endless ages, in the chronicles of fame. Many of the great men of old will be drowned in oblivion, their name and fame forgotten. Agricola's story has been told to posterity and by that he will live.