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Seminar 4 - Tacitus' Agricola




Seminar debate:

Tacitus’ Agricola is of no historical value.

The seminar this week is designed to challenge you in several ways:

  1. to familiarise yourself in detail with a complete literary work
  2. to reflect on the genre and literary aims of Tacitus’ Agricola
  3. to develop detailed knowledge of the historical and historiographical contexts of Tacitus’ Agricola
  4. to develop a sense of your own independence as a historian and some idea of how modern approaches to Roman history have changed over the decades by reading articles relating to the work written over the last 60 years and critically evaluating them

Section A

First of all, everyone should read carefully Tacitus’ Agricola, considering the following questions:

  • is it history or biography?
  • what are Tacitus’ aims in writing this work?
  • how does it fit into the development of Tacitus’ historical writings?
  • what picture of the emperor Domitian emerges, and why?
  • how does Tacitus represent Britain and its inhabitants?
  • does the work tell us more about politics in Rome than about the history of Roman Britain?

The text is available in translation on the web (links below), as well as being accessible in the usual translations from the library (Penguin - PA 6707.A7; Loeb, Oxford World Classics). Q800 Classics students should also read some of the work in Latin (perhaps the following chapters: 1-3, 10-12, 21, 30-34, 40-42, 46).

Section B

Then, everyone should also read ONE work on the Agricola’s historical context; ONE work on Tacitus as a historian; and TWO articles on the Agricola itself.

Historical context (read ONE)

  • Braund, D. (1996) Ruling Roman Britain, ch.9 [DA 145.B7] Chapter 9 - Agricola and Tacitus
  • Hanson, W.S. ‘Tacitus’ ‘Agricola’: an archaeological and historical study’, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (ANRW) II 33.3: 1741-84 [DG 210 A8]
  • Hanson, W.S. (1987) Agricola and the Conquest of the North ch.1 [DA 145.H2]
  • Ogilvie, R.M., et al. ‘An interim report on Tacitus’ ‘Agricola’, Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (ANRW) II 33.3: 1714-1740 [DG 210 A8]
  • Salway, P. (various dates/editions) Roman Britain look up ‘Agricola’ in index (there are lots of copies of this in the library) [DA 145.S2]

Tacitus as a historian (read ONE)

  • Ash. R. (2006) Tacitus (BCP) [PA 6716.A84]
  • Dorey, T.A. (1969) 'Agricola and Germania', in T.A. Dorey, ed. Tacitus [PA 6716.D6]
  • Goodyear, F. (1970) Tacitus [PA 6716.Z5]
  • Martin, R. (1981) Tacitus ch.3 [PA 6716.M2]
  • Mellor, R. (1993) Tacitus [PA 6716.M3]
  • Ogilvie, R.M. & Richmond, I., eds. (1967) De Vita Agricola - introduction [PA 6706.A3]
  • Syme, R. (1958) Tacitus 2 vols (use index) [PA 6716.S9 + e-book]

You can use the standard reference books too (such as Oxford Classical Dictionary, Cambridge Ancient History, Cambridge History of Classical Literature vol 2).

The Agricola (read TWO)

All of these articles are available online, and in the Library, in the Arts Periodicals section.