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ACITUS is best known to us as the historian of the

first century of the Roman Empire, from the death

of Augustus to the accession of Nerva; but his reputation in his own time rested on his powers as an orator, although none of his speeches remain. In public life he attained to the rank of a consul.

His book entitled ' Agricola’ was written to perpetuate the memory of his father-in-law, who, he tells us, was educated at the University of Marseilles, and served his military apprenticeship in Britain, during a period when the island was in a most disturbed state. On his return to Rome he was elected a quæstor, and went to Asia. He was afterwards commissioned to audit the accounts of the various temples, and to report on the condition of their property. When Vespasian became a candidate for the throne, he sent Agricola to gain over the legions in Britain, and he was then appointed to the province of Aquitaine, and raised to the rank of patrician. At the expiration of this command he was made a consul, and the government of Britain was assigned to him. There he found full employment, and, with the aid of some native auxiliaries, annexed the island of Mona to the territory held by the Romans. The next summer he advanced to the Humber and Tyne, and the following year as far as the Firth of Forth, securing his progress by a chain of forts. discovered Ireland ; but, instead of invading it, he fitted out a fleet to follow up his attack on the Caledonians. Tacitus here puts a defiant speech in the mouth of their general Galgacus, whose army was nevertheless routed, and many states laid aside their animosity. Agricola then encouraged the building of temples and houses, arranged for the education of the chiefs' sons, and even created a taste among the Britons for the Roman style of dress, as well as for their luxurious baths and banquets. His army and household were kept under due restraint, neither freedman nor slave were allowed to take part in any public business, and promotion was determined by merit alone. He lightened the exaction of corn and tribute from the natives by an equal distribution of the burden, and by preventing extortion. He was recalled after having ruled the province for nearly eight years, and his public career then terminated, as he prudently declined another command, and henceforward shunned publicity, knowing Domitian's jealousy of his popularity, which draws from Tacitus the remark that, under bad emperors, men may attain glory by obedience and submission. Agricola died at the age of fifty-six ; and, as an act of flattery, he made Domitian his co-heir with his wife and daughter. Tacitus eloquently recounts his virtues, and deprecates any weak regrets for a noble soul which has not perished with its body, but can still be honoured by cherishing the memory of his words and acts. Agricola has the credit of being the first circumnavigator of Britain, but this is not altogether clear from the historian's text. The exploits of the generals who preceded him are enumerated, and the romantic story of Boadicea is introduced; whilst we are told that, under his successors, the products of the island were exported to Gaul, and the youths of Britain were drafted into the legions, and dispersed throughout the empire. In remarking on the climate Tacitus observes that severity of cold is unknown, but their sky is obscured by continual rain and cloud ;'-a description of the English weather which foreigners in general still believe in.

Next in order is his essay on Germany,' in which he covertly satirises some of his countrymen's weaknesses, and draws freely upon other writers for his facts. The Romans appear to have possessed very little knowledge respecting the inhabitants of the north of Europe, their information being chiefly obtained from deserters and spies, or from hawkers and pedlars. Tacitus says of the Germans, “I regard them as aboriginal, and not mixed at all with other races through immigration or intercourse.' He describes them as having fierce blue eyes, red hair, and huge frames, and as being inured to cold and hunger, but unable to bear heat or thirst. The auburn hair, he tells us, of the German girls fetched high prices in the Roman market

, and ladies who could not afford to purchase a Teutonic wig dyed their own hair yellow. The German marriage code he represents as very strict, and neither beauty nor wealth could procure a second husband for a divorced woman or a widow. The women were often exposed to the chances of war, and they entirely managed the households, and tilled the land, living on curdled milk, fruit, and game, and making barley wine. Their families were large, and the children became hardy by growing up naked and dirty. The women were not permitted to vote, but their opinions and counsels were not despised. The Germans had no cities, and none of their dwellings were contiguous, but scattered, and surrounded by an open space. They used wood only for building purposes, and stored their crops in underground caves, in which they sheltered themselves from the winter cold. Mercury was their chief deity, but they sacrificed to Hercules and Mars, and the worship of Ibis was practised by some of them. Cæsar, however, denies the existence of any priestly caste among them, and Tacitus admits that the augury most trusted by all ranks was that derived from the neighing and snorting of their sacred white horses. "The Germans,' he adds, 'believe that the gods cannot be confined within walls, nor, by reason of the vastness of their nature, be represented under the similitude of any human figure.' They had, however, sacred shrines in the depths of the forests, where they approached the unseen powers whom they worshipped. Some of the tribes had kings, who led them in battle ; and there were two houses of parliament, the chiefs deliberating about minor matters, and the people on more important questions, sitting on benches of turf, fully armed. They lived more upon their cattle than their crops, and their horses were small, but hardy. Their vices were gluttony, drunkenness, and gambling. All their important deliberations took place at their feasts, and they were so venturesome in gambling that, when all other resources failed, they staked their freedom, and the loser suffered himself to be bound and sold. At Rome they formed the emperor's guard, and also served in the cavalry and legions. Tacitus, however, does not seem to have availed himself of the information which he might have obtained from them of the people about whom he was writing, and his treatise is, in fact, little more than an outline of a history which he never completed.

His . Annals' of Rome, from the death of Augustus to that of Nero, are far more interesting, but only portions of them have been preserved. The first six books relate to Tiberius, whom he represents as unpopular with all classes at Rome, but regarded in the provinces as a wise and beneficent sovereign. Tacitus describes him as ruling with absolute sway, as his predecessor had done before him ; but, whilst Augustus had the art of veiling with roses the chains he imposed, it was the ill-luck of Tiberius always to display them. He, however, restrained the farmers of the revenue, saying that his sheep might be shorn, but not flayed by them; and many of the patricians were far richer than their emperor. Tacitus accuses him of dissimulation in courting, instead of demanding, the suffrages of the Senate on his assumption of imperial power, and of unjustly suspecting his adopted son, Germanius, in the mutiny of the legions in Upper and Lower Germany. also hints that, in subsequently transferring him to the viceroyalty of the eastern provinces, with Piso as his coadjutor, Tiberius secretly connived at his death, which he accounted among the blessings of his reign. The following chapters detail the influence obtained over the emperor by Sejanus, the commander of the Prætorian guards, whom he caused to be encamped in the city, and so paved the way to their afterwards becoming the arbiters of the empire. In everything by degrees the will of the man who could rise no higher bent to that of the one who was still climbing ambition's ladder. By means of public informers many nobles became his victims, the prince-imperial was murdered with his connivance, and no one of rank, or wealth, or reputation, was secure from sudden imprisonment or a violent death, prosecutions being instituted on the most frivolous charges. At last the consciousness of his unpopularity, and the fear of conspiracies against him, induced the emperor to retire to the island of Capri, from whence, at the instigation of Sejanus, he issued the most tyrannical and cruel edicts. Tacitus, however, fails to adduce any direct proof of these imputations, and admits having gathered his facts from sources which suggest considerable doubts as to their truthfulness.

Passing on to Claudius, he speaks of him as cherished in plebeian obscurity to become, by some caprice of fortune, the master of the Roman world, and relates, with unconcealed bitterness, his promotion of freedman to the highest honours of the State. His admission, however, of the chiefs of the Ædui to the Roman Senate infused new blood into that decaying assembly, and many important and enduring public works were executed in his reign. Poisoned by his niece Agrippina, he was succeeded by her son Nero, and, for a few years, matters went smoothly, she managing the affairs of government, whilst the young emperor was attended by tutors, and devoted himself to pleasure

. But his vices and his crimes soon exhausted the patience and excited the hatred of his subjects. The Stoics, whose opinions prevailed on public affairs, were against him, and rumours of a conspiracy ensued; a private soldier reproached him as a murderer and an incendiary, and darker deeds followed which have rendered his name infamous for ever. Tacitus occasionally turns from scenes of vice and misery to episodes of domestic transactions and foreign campaigns, which are told with masterly skill. In the account of a war with the Parthians, he relates the difficulties of the general in restoring the legions to a state of discipline after the enervation of a long peace; and the pride of the Roman people when the Armenian king Tiridates laid down his diadem at the foot of Nero's statue.

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