Cornelius Tacitus, De vita Iulii Agricolae

Rhiannon Menai Evans (University of Melbourne)
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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 of how dangerous it then was to write biographies of great men. The book-burnings

779 words

Citation: Evans, Rhiannon Menai. "De vita Iulii Agricolae". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 December 2009 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=13474, accessed 05 March 2024.]

13474 De vita Iulii Agricolae 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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