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Germania and Agricola

Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Book Overview: 

The Agricola is a book by the Roman historian Tacitus, which recounts the life of his father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola, an eminent Roman general. It also covers, briefly, the geography and ethnography of ancient Britain. As in the Germania, Tacitus favorably contrasts the liberty of the native Britons to the corruption and tyranny of the Empire; the book also contains eloquent and vicious polemics against the rapacity and greed of Rome. This translation by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, was first published in 1877.

The Germania, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire. Germania fits squarely within the tradition established by authors from Herodotus to Julius Caesar. Tacitus himself had already written a similar essay on the lands and tribes of Britannia in his Agricola. The Germania begins with a description of the lands, laws, and customs of the Germanic people; it then segues into descriptions of individual tribes, beginning with those dwelling closest to Roman lands and ending on the uttermost shores of the Baltic, among the amber-gathering Aesti, the primitive and savage Fenni, and the unknown tribes beyond them.

(Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Suevi. The Gothini and Osi prove themselves not to be Germans; the first, by their use of the Gallic, the second, of the Pannonian tongue; and both, by their submitting to pay tribute: which is levied on them, as aliens, partly by the Sarmatians, partly by the Quadi. The Gothini, to their additional disgrace, work iron mines. [235] All these people inhabit but a small proportion of champaign country; their settlements are chiefly amongst forests, and on the sides and summits of mountains; for a continued ridge of mountains [236] separates Suevia from various remoter tribes. Of these, the Lygian [237] is the most extensive, and diffuses its name through several communities. It will be sufficient to name the most powerful of them—the Arii, Helvecones, Manimi, Elysii, and Naharvali. [238] In the country of the latter is a grove, consecrated to religious rites of great antiquity. A priest presides over them, dressed in woman's apparel; but the gods worshipped there are . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Tacitus is most famous for his Histories and Annals, but three of his shorter works also survive. The Agricola and Germania are his first books, published in AD 98.

The Agricola is a short biography of Tacitus’ father-in-law. Gnaeus Julius Agricola served as governor of Britain from 77-85 an

I’ve been on a Celtic bent lately, as one of the family is taking Celtic Studies at Uni and I have a few books to pass on. I can’t remember when, or why, the Tacitus took up residence on my shelves, but I thought I’d at least glance through it before it found a new home. Somewhere I’d gathered the i

They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.

Tacitus as Graham Greene. Whether offering a biography or an anthropological survey, Tacitus remains both ter

For fans of the great Roman historian Tacitus who gave us "The Histories" and "The Annals," his two short works, "Agricola" and "Germania" will give you a mild fix.

"Agricola" is a short biography of Tacitus' father-in-law, Julius Agricola, who was governor of Britannia. This is the beginning of Taci

I don't read a lot of classics anymore (probably from having to binge on them in grad school) but these short works were both engaging and enjoyable. Like a lot of ancient writers, Tacitus is something of a jack of all trades.

He doesn't simply write history, or political commentary or cultural/anth

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