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Agricola and Germany (Oxford World's Classics)
 
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Agricola and Germany (Oxford World's Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Tacitus , Anthony Birley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Cornelius Tacitus, Rome's greatest historian, was inspired to take up his pen when the assassination of Domitian ended `fifteen years of enforced silence'. Agricola is the biography of his late father-in-law and an account of Roman Britain. Germania gives insight into Rome's most dangerous enemies, the Germans, and is the only surviving specimen from the ancient world of an ethnographic study. Each in its way has had immense influence on our perception of Rome
and the northern `barbarians' and the edition reflects recent research in Roman-British and Roman-German history. - ;`Long may the barbarians continue, I pray, if not to love us, at least to hate one another.'

Cornelius Tacitus, Rome's greatest historian and the last great writer of classical Latin prose, produced his first two books in AD 98. He was inspired to take up his pen when the assassination of Domitian ended `fifteen years of enforced silence'. The first products were brief: the biography of his late father-in-law Julius Agricola and an account of Rome's most dangerous enemies, the Germans. Since Agricola's claim to fame was that as governor for seven years he had completed the conquest
of Britain, begun four decades earlier, much of the first work is devoted to Britain and its people. The second is the only surviving specimen from the ancient world of an ethnographic study. Each in its way has had immense influence on our perception of Rome and the northern `barbarians'. This
edition reflects recent research in Roman-British and Roman-German history and includes newly discovered evidence on Tacitus' early career. -

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Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1607 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, UK (March 4 1999)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005EEHMNU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #394,965 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Finally after 91 years of "scholarly" and mediocre translations of The Agricola by self appointed "learned academics" A. R. Birley has produced a work that demonstrates why Tacitus has been regarded as among the best historians and rhetoricians of antiquity. The beauty and the elegance of the original is apparent in this translation, that has been lacking since the translation of W. H. Fyfe in 1908. The love and the sense of loss that Tacitus had for his father in law is still apparent to us, who live two thousand years after them.
To illustrate the superiority of this translation a few examples follow:
The first example is the translation of the term "divus" as in "divus Augustus" or "divus Claudius". Fyfe translated this term as sainted, and Birley as deified. Both of these seem to be adequate renditions of the term. However the Leob Classical Library's translation, by M. Hutton, translates the term as "of happy memory." This is curious because in their edition they compare the original Latin on the left with the English on the right. One would think that one of Leob's editors would have just looked at the Latin to see if it at least resembled the English. But this is even preferable to the Penguin translation, by H. Mattingly revised by S. A. Handford, wherein they just dropped the term altogether. Apparently Messrs. Mattingly, Handford, and Hutton felt that we the reading public wouldn't understand roman titles of respect and sought to protect us from this pagan ritualism.
A second example occurs near the end of the third chapter when Tacitus laments the passage of fifteen years due to the tyranny of Domitian.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agricola and Germania Oct. 7 2000
Format:Paperback
This book contains a pair of early works by the great Roman historian Tacitus. Agricola is an homage to the historian's father-in-law, a Roman governor in Britain during the 1st century A.D. Germania describes the German people and their culture during the same period.
The author's admiration for his late father-in-law is manifest in Agricola. Sometimes his admiration comes across as tender, sometimes as fawning. Tacitus writes near the crest of Roman world-domination (Americans take note). He frequently adopts the tone of a tourist in a third-world country -- sometimes looking down his nose at local customs, sometimes in fascination at a primitive culture that compares favorably to a Roman empire suffering decay and corruption. He is a loyal Roman and an educated man. As such, he can glorify Rome and, in the same breath, criticize Rome's tyranny and empathize with the empire's victims. Tacitus lends an eloquent voice to Rome's enemies and those facing enslavement. The speech (probably apocryphal) of Caledonian warlord Calgacus before the climactic battle of the Graupian mountain may be the best section of either book. Backed up to the northern tip of modern Scotland, Calgacus tries to rally his men before battle. "Now there is no people beyond us," he says, "nothing but tides and rocks and, more deadly than these, the Romans ... They have pillaged the world ... They plunder, they butcher, they ravage, and call it by the lying name of empire. They make a desert and call it peace."
Tacitus has no personal connection to any person in the second book, Germania. His writing is more sterile here, but he provides a captivating description that seems part based on observation and part on rumor.
Tacitus is a pithy writer, given to understatement and the wry aside.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Paperback
Tacitus' opens up a lost world before the Christians in what was, for many of us, our mother countries - Britian and Germany. The book is divided in two; the first piece `Agricola' (farmer)is named after the father-in-law of Tacitus. Tacitus gives us part biography and part eulogy in order to confer immortality on Agricola's memory at the edge of Empire among the barbarians. Agricola was loved and honoured by Tacitus, and Tacitus gives an account of his military and political triumphs before being called to Rome. For anyone interested in early British history, warfare or pagan themes observed first hand, this is a must have.
The second part is an amazing series of geograpgical, religious, and general cultural observations among the Germans. In this age of political correctness, Tacitus' observations are a delicious treat of unfettered notation of racial difference and character that still ring guiltily true about the Germans (good and bad), especially in the first half of the last century. "Their holy places are the woods and groves, and they call by the name of god that hidden presence which is seen only by the eye of reverence." ... "They count, not like us, by days, but by nights." ... "No form of approval can carry more honour than praise expressed by arms."
Great stuff. Short, entertaining and informative of another time and place.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone interested in Rome needs to read Tacitus June 9 2000
Format:Paperback
This is a good edition of two of Tacitus' works, the Agricola, which is a short biography of his father-in-law, and the Germania, a look at the Roman view of the Germans (timely at the moment in view of the opening scenes of Ridley Scott's film "Gladiator"). I am especially fond of the Agricola, in particular the last few pages, where Tacitus is finished with the biography and can speak about Agricola like a son. His love and admiration for his father-in-law still reaches us, almost 2000 years later. Anyone interested in Rome owes it to themselves to read the source documents, and this is a good start.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review of A. R. Birley�s translation of Tacitus� Agricola Oct. 30 2000
By Robert Schneider - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Finally after 91 years of "scholarly" and mediocre translations of The Agricola by self appointed "learned academics" A. R. Birley has produced a work that demonstrates why Tacitus has been regarded as among the best historians and rhetoricians of antiquity. The beauty and the elegance of the original is apparent in this translation, that has been lacking since the translation of W. H. Fyfe in 1908. The love and the sense of loss that Tacitus had for his father in law is still apparent to us, who live two thousand years after them.
To illustrate the superiority of this translation a few examples follow:
The first example is the translation of the term "divus" as in "divus Augustus" or "divus Claudius". Fyfe translated this term as sainted, and Birley as deified. Both of these seem to be adequate renditions of the term. However the Leob Classical Library's translation, by M. Hutton, translates the term as "of happy memory." This is curious because in their edition they compare the original Latin on the left with the English on the right. One would think that one of Leob's editors would have just looked at the Latin to see if it at least resembled the English. But this is even preferable to the Penguin translation, by H. Mattingly revised by S. A. Handford, wherein they just dropped the term altogether. Apparently Messrs. Mattingly, Handford, and Hutton felt that we the reading public wouldn't understand roman titles of respect and sought to protect us from this pagan ritualism.
A second example occurs near the end of the third chapter when Tacitus laments the passage of fifteen years due to the tyranny of Domitian. Birley's (and Fyfe's was similar) translation reads; "So many years have been stolen from the middle of our lives, years in which those of us who were youths have become old men and the old men have reached almost the end of their allotted span - in silence." The Penguin translation reads; "since so many of our best years have been taken from us - years in which men in their prime have aged and old men have reached the extreme limit of mortality, without ever uttering a word." The Leob translation has, "for out of our prime have been blotted fifteen years, during which young men reached old age and old men the very bounds almost of decrepitude, and all without opening their lips." Apparently the Leob and Penguin translators wanted us (the reading public) to understand that the young are now old and the old almost dead, but in their haste to "dumb-down" the original they sacrificed the beauty, the brevity and the profound nature of Tacitus. Furthermore the Leob and Penguin translators apparently didn't realize that it was "us" that had aged and not other "young men" who had aged.
The final example is from the last paragraph of the Agricola. Birley's translation reads; "Many of the men of old will be buried in oblivion, inglorious and unknown. Agricola's story has been told for posterity and he will survive." The Penguin translation is close and reads; "With many it will be as with men who had no name or fame: they will be buried in oblivion. But Agricola's story is set on record for posterity, and he will live." But the Leob translation gives us; "Many of the ancients will forgetfulness engulf as though neither fame nor name were theirs. Agricola, whose story here is told, will outlive death, to be our children's heritage." The remarkable thing about the Leob translation is that it doesn't even resemble the Latin original with spurious details about children's heritage and engulfing forgetfulness. That is bad but Penguin is worse because the editors added a note that this last passage is "strange". They didn't realize that Tacitus had lifted a line from Horace. One must wonder why these "scholars" learned Latin in the first place if they weren't going read and study the classics. Maybe Penguin's editors simply thought we, the public, would be oblivious to other classical writers and would learn to hate the Romans as they so obviously do.
There are many other examples in both the Agricola and the Germania that I could quote however; that would serve no purpose. In conclusion this translation of the Agricola reminds me of why I admire and respect the writers of antiquity. Perhaps the reason that the ancients are no longer esteemed isn't because they are no longer relevant to our age but because of the miserable quality of recent translations.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agricola and Germania Oct. 7 2000
By Bob Dial - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book contains a pair of early works by the great Roman historian Tacitus. Agricola is an homage to the historian's father-in-law, a Roman governor in Britain during the 1st century A.D. Germania describes the German people and their culture during the same period.
The author's admiration for his late father-in-law is manifest in Agricola. Sometimes his admiration comes across as tender, sometimes as fawning. Tacitus writes near the crest of Roman world-domination (Americans take note). He frequently adopts the tone of a tourist in a third-world country -- sometimes looking down his nose at local customs, sometimes in fascination at a primitive culture that compares favorably to a Roman empire suffering decay and corruption. He is a loyal Roman and an educated man. As such, he can glorify Rome and, in the same breath, criticize Rome's tyranny and empathize with the empire's victims. Tacitus lends an eloquent voice to Rome's enemies and those facing enslavement. The speech (probably apocryphal) of Caledonian warlord Calgacus before the climactic battle of the Graupian mountain may be the best section of either book. Backed up to the northern tip of modern Scotland, Calgacus tries to rally his men before battle. "Now there is no people beyond us," he says, "nothing but tides and rocks and, more deadly than these, the Romans ... They have pillaged the world ... They plunder, they butcher, they ravage, and call it by the lying name of empire. They make a desert and call it peace."
Tacitus has no personal connection to any person in the second book, Germania. His writing is more sterile here, but he provides a captivating description that seems part based on observation and part on rumor.
Tacitus is a pithy writer, given to understatement and the wry aside. The translator does a tremendous job of carrying these qualities across in English. Important books both, Agricola and Germania provide some of our only glimpses of the early ancestors of the English people, the Anglo-Saxons and the Britons.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing. Fascinating. A very `readable' Classic. July 26 2000
By Craig G Cram - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tacitus' opens up a lost world before the Christians in what was, for many of us, our mother countries - Britian and Germany. The book is divided in two; the first piece `Agricola' (farmer)is named after the father-in-law of Tacitus. Tacitus gives us part biography and part eulogy in order to confer immortality on Agricola's memory at the edge of Empire among the barbarians. Agricola was loved and honoured by Tacitus, and Tacitus gives an account of his military and political triumphs before being called to Rome. For anyone interested in early British history, warfare or pagan themes observed first hand, this is a must have.
The second part is an amazing series of geograpgical, religious, and general cultural observations among the Germans. In this age of political correctness, Tacitus' observations are a delicious treat of unfettered notation of racial difference and character that still ring guiltily true about the Germans (good and bad), especially in the first half of the last century. "Their holy places are the woods and groves, and they call by the name of god that hidden presence which is seen only by the eye of reverence." ... "They count, not like us, by days, but by nights." ... "No form of approval can carry more honour than praise expressed by arms."
Great stuff. Short, entertaining and informative of another time and place.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anyone interested in Rome needs to read Tacitus June 9 2000
By Susan Paxton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a good edition of two of Tacitus' works, the Agricola, which is a short biography of his father-in-law, and the Germania, a look at the Roman view of the Germans (timely at the moment in view of the opening scenes of Ridley Scott's film "Gladiator"). I am especially fond of the Agricola, in particular the last few pages, where Tacitus is finished with the biography and can speak about Agricola like a son. His love and admiration for his father-in-law still reaches us, almost 2000 years later. Anyone interested in Rome owes it to themselves to read the source documents, and this is a good start.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tone and style are Tacitus' unique strengths Oct. 8 2008
By Martin H. Dickinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
When Tacitus speaks you feel his presence. This First Century Roman historian has a distinctive tone and a proud, superior point of view, as though disdainful of lesser mortals. Tacitus lets us know in the beginning of Agricola that he believes things were better and men more virtuous during the older period of Republican Rome:

". . .in former generatons the path to memorable achievements was less uphill and more open. Further, the most distinguished writers were attracted to publish accounts of meritorious achievement, without partiality or self-seeking. . . Of course, excellence can best be appreciated in those ages in which it can most readily develop. But in these times I needed permission when I intended to relate the life of a dead man. I should not have had to request this if I had been planning an invective. So savage and hostile to merit has this age been."

Agricola is a terrific tale about Tacitus' father-in-law completing the Roman conquest of Britain. In the process we learn about the ancient Britons and their ways, particularly how they behave in battle. Like Thucydides and other classical historians, Tacitus presents set piece orations. Before the Battle of the Graupian Mountain (A.D. 83), the Caledonian leader Calgacus makes a stirring oration to his troops about to confront the Romans. Agricola then makes an equally stirring speech to the Roman troops, who begin the battle as soon as he concludes. The bloody battle scenes that ensue are quite graphic.

Tacitus, who is often quoted, includes interesting pithy sayings in his writing:

"This is the unfairest aspect of warfare: all claim for themselves the credit for success, failure is blamed on a single man."

"It is part of human character to hate someone you have hurt."

The Germania, the more famous of the two works, is mostly descriptive of the geography and customs of the large region of Europe to the East of the Danube--a region never conquered by Rome.

Tacitus provides us with a terrific description of the German method of taking auspices prior to important decisions, a common practice among ancient peoples to determine the disponsition of the gods. They cut off branches from a nut bearing tree, slice it into strips and mark it with certain signs before throwing the strips on the ground. After praying to the gods, a priest picks up the strips and interprets the signs. Another method is for the chief or priest to walk behind a sacred white horse and determine the auspices from its whinnying and neighing. These divination horses are pure white and reside in sacred groves where they are kept from having to perform any other kind of work.

The Oxford World's Classics is a very compact edition of these two works with adequate maps both of Britain and the Roman Empire generally. It is somewhat difficult to use the explanatory textual notes in the back, refer to the maps up front and continue to make headway through the narrative. For the price, however, this is a good little edition that can travel easily with its reader--a great way to get to know Tacitus starting with his first two works. The biographical material and chronology are very good.
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