The Agricola and the Germania

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Tacitus, in the book “The Agricola and The Germania,” explains two different tales of ancient Rome and Germany. As a historian, he touches on many aspects of leadership, warfare, and culture of the people of Germany and Rome. The story of Agricola tells about how a man rises to power and then fall from the force due to jealousy while the Germania tale describes the culture of the people of Germany.

            Barbarian methods of fighting are described in the Germania by Tacitus. The author shows that the chief of the barbarians was highly regarded mostly in the battlefield. It could be disgraceful for a leader to be defeated, to be abandoned by his group of warriors or to give a retreat during his time of ruling (88). The chief’s companions are to provide protection and aid to the leader in his reign, and this was seen as a sacrosanct engagement. The barbarians like engaging in war even if their native nation is in harmony. The weapons used are mainly spears; other weapons such as broad lances are rarely used because there is a scarce supply of iron (38). The weapon is used when fighting with the people near or far (40). Tacitus explains that the fight is of primitive nature as the warriors are lightly covered or naked when engaging in a fight. Moreover, barbarians are less equipped with shields, helmets, and spears as the coat of mail are only provided for a few (44). Besides, they color their shields with the colors of their choice while their horses are not remarkable and neither are they trained for the war. When starting a fight, barbarians all over, this is seen as a form of cowardice and even after the fight, they pull away from their slain although the fight has not been decided (48).

            On the other hand, Romans methods of warfare are explained in Agricola. The military power of the Romans included infantry; other states maximized the support of chariots when fighting; and unlike the chiefs of barbarians, the Romans’ war was led by a person who was honored and led the fight using chariots (53). The British were by then led by kings which latter subdivided into small groups led by chiefs. Electing a leader was to obtain an energetic individual to lead during a war. When fighting against the barbarians, the British and Romans never collaborated, and therefore they were defeated. Tacitus feared the British tribes because these people were loyal to providing services to their government and when they encountered injuries while fighting they could bear with the government till they get medication. On top of that, their behavior was outstanding in that they were obedient and subjective (60).

            Agricola is regarded as an ideal leader during his reign as a general and a governor. As he was well proficient with the state of his province; gaining lessons and experience from his predecessors, Agricola paved the way for the elimination of the war instigators as the war was full of injuries. And as an exemplary leader, he restricted his households, action hard for any leader of his rank. He never favored or compromised on any situation, and for that case, he released all the captives and his slaves. Moreover, while recruiting soldiers to his service, he was not intimidated when making choices neither did he take advice or recommendations of centurions but instead he chose the most faithful people as his best men (89). The fact that he understood and even noticed the most concealed things didn’t make him too authoritative (90). Agricola let small faults go away without punishment, but he used harshness for great mistakes. However, his harshness didn’t make him punish, but instead, he forgave individuals who repented.  He preferred harmony at work and thus condemned less those who erred. He promoted equality and justice in the administration of taxes by checking all the loopholes and special considerations which were more serious, and that led to injustices and biases (91). For instance, the natives had long suffered mockery in buying and selling of corns. They were forced to sell corn at the stipulated price and made to travel long distances while carrying their grains to less secure places to sell instead of supplying to the nearby areas. This is a clear depiction of previous injustices where a few only gained from procurement services.

            The predecessors of Agricola had not addressed these issues, and this made Agricola the best governor of his time. By defeating all these forms of abuses in his early times of administration, Agricola created an atmosphere of peace in which by laxity and cruelty of his predecessors, was all the time feared war. During the summer seasons, he arranged his army thus making it orderly and protected from the attacks. Furthermore, he discovered camping areas where by surprise he explored the bushy lands and the forest on his own. Continuously, he strained the efforts of the opponents by carrying out regular intrusions, alerting them and alluring them to make a peace treaty. Through this kind of leadership, other nations who were independent were forced to eradicate their rivalry and to release the hostages. Agricola’s attributes are rational, and his actions prove that Tacitus biases none of the explanations.

            On culture, Germania and Agricola give an account of the lives of the barbarians. The election of a king was based on birth while the leader of war (general) was regarding the bravery of a person (50). The kings were mighty as they were authoritative while the generals gave commands concerning the power they get from the juniors. For instance, if they are courageous, exploratory and have the determination to carry out the laid down duties, they get respect from others. The kings and the generals had no power to give judgment to an offender, but only the priests were permitted (52). The discipline awarded was aimed to be seen as godly, but not a military control and thus many tend to be disciplined. Besides, the warriors carried portray or some parts of their sacred groves whenever they went to battle.  The culture dictated that whenever the armies were ready to carry out a fight, females could first lead them to prayers with sincerity while inter-positioning their bodies as they display pictures of the impending slavery if their army could be defeated. Through this, the army was motivated to fight to safeguard their families and prevent their women and daughters from being held hostages (55).  According to Tacitus, this part of the culture is admirable.

            On the other hand, Tacitus founds some cultural practices distasteful. The Barbarians acknowledged mercury as the chief object for adoring their gods which they also used to appease the offenders (63). They also sacrificed animals chosen for Mars and Hercules whereas, some Suevis also carried out spiritual rites to Isis (65). However, the people were not brainwashed by lots and omens as they did not pay much attention to them. Lots were practiced where a twig of a fruit-tree was cut and chopped into pieces differentiated by specific marks, then laid on a white garment. The canton priest then lifted his eyes to the sky as he picks the pieces three times making interpretations of the significance of the marks made on the sticks. Priests presided on public functions while for private lots, the master of the family presided over. The results of the lots were obtained once in a day and a failure to get results on a day could lead to postponing the ritual. However, the results obtained were subjected to approval by omens.

            Tacitus compares the culture of the Romans and British to that of the Barbarians, and a vast contrast is significant on how they organized themselves most concerning rituals. Tacitus sympathizes with Barbarians as they led the primitive way of living. For one, the Barbarians were cowards who fled from the war instead of dying to save their families, wives, and children from anguish. Besides that, the Barbarians were indigenous and thus had distinct characteristics. For instance, they did not value hard work as were the Romans and they neglected tough and tiresome task. They only relied on livestock as a source of wealth because they neither had silver nor gold-rich lands.

            Furthermore, Rome is seen as a political decline during the period. The military actions carried out gave Romans a discovery of nations, and thus they extended their intrusions to far countries as the Tay Estuary (94). With the fear that the Roman army could hinder the building of fortresses, the opponents were scared, and thus they didn’t offend them though they suffered frustrations.  The political decline of Rome was so powerful because it was led by Agricola who was deemed a person of great valor and with unlimited skills; for none of his sacred places were conquered by force or made to surrender through defeat (96).  The seasons passed without the enemy having fortune as they were driven to anguish. Agricola was not arrogant and never gave himself the glory that belongs to others but instead applauded the efforts of his officers. As a political leader, Agricola helped to secure the nation which had been infested in the fourth summer (97).  If not for the strength and courage of the Roman army, the glory of the defeats could be mounted to the British.

            In conclusion, Tacitus through the text “The Agricola and The Germania” describes the life of the Imperial Rome during the early AD. Romans expanded their boundaries to the north conquering Europe and Great Britain aided by a strong army. From the above explanations, we get to understand the warfare of the Romans, how it was arranged and as well as the warfare of the Britons. Different traits of the culture of the people are compared and contrasted, as well as the leadership of Agricola, has been explored as defined by Tacitus.

November 13, 2023

History Literature

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