Cornelius Tacitus: De vita Iulii Agricolae

(779 words)
  • Rhiannon Menai Evans (University of Melbourne)

De vita Iulii Agricolae is a laudatory biography of Tacitus’ father-in-law, Gnaeus Iulius Agricola (40-93 CE), which is dominated by the narrative of Agricola’s campaigns in the province of Britannia, but begins with some famous reflections on the dangers of writing biography in ancient Rome, and ends by celebrating the immortality this biography will grant Agricola.

The prologue (chs 1-3) is a defence of biography, which Tacitus uses to comment on moral decline: while the celebration of excellence was championed in the past (sc. the Republic), it is no longer appreciated. Although Domitian is not named, these chapters are both a savage critique of his regime’s literary repression, and an exploration …

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Evans, Rhiannon Menai. "De vita Iulii Agricolae". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 December 2009
[, accessed 29 November 2015.]