1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agricola, Gnaeus Julius

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1322081911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1 — Agricola, Gnaeus Julius

AGRICOLA, GNAEUS JULIUS (A.D. 37–93), Roman statesman and general, father-in-law of the historian Tacitus, was born on the 13th of June A.D. 37 (according to others, 39) at Forum Julii (Fréjus) in Gallia Narbonensis. His father, Julius Graecinus, having been put to death by Caligula, Agricola was brought up by his mother Julia Procilla. After studying philosophy at Massilia, he entered the army and served (59) under Suetonius Paulinus in Britain. In 61 he returned to Rome, where he married Domitia Decidiana, a Roman lady of distinction. In 63 he was quaestor in Asia, in 65 tribune, in 68 praetor, and when Vespasian was proclaimed emperor, he immediately declared himself his supporter. In 70 he was appointed to the command of the 20th legion in Britain, then stationed at Deva (Chester). On his return to Rome at the end of three years he was made censor, raised to the rank of patrician, and appointed governor of Aquitania (74–78). Appointed consul suffectus in the following year, he was admitted into the college of pontiffs and made governor of Britain. In the same year he betrothed his daughter to Tacitus. Although the legation of Britain lasted as a rule only three years, Agricola held the post for at least seven and succeeded in reconciling the inhabitants to Roman rule and inducing them to adopt the customs and civilization of their conquerors. His military achievements were equally brilliant. After conquering the Ordovices in North Wales and the island of Mona (Anglesey), during the next two years he carried his victorious arms to the Taüs (Tay; others read Tanaus, perhaps the north Tyne), and in his fourth campaign fortified the country between Clota and Bodotria (the firths of Clyde and Forth) as a protection against the attacks of the Caledonians. Having explored the coasts of Fife and Forfar, he gained a decisive victory over the Caledonians under Galgacus at the Graupian hill (see Britain, Roman.) His successes, however, had aroused the envy and suspicion of Domitian. He was recalled to Rome, where he lived a life of studied retirement, to avoid the possibility of giving offence to the tyrant. He died in 93, poisoned, it was rumoured, by the emperor’s orders. The Life of Agricola by his son-in-law Tacitus is practically a panegyric or funeral oration.

See Urlichs, De Vita et Honoribus Agricolae (1868); Dio Cassius xxxix. 50, lxvi. 20: Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire (Eng. trans., 1886), i. 183-184, 194.