Gnaeus Julius Agricola

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Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Statue of Agricola at Bath.jpg
A statue of Agricola erected at the Roman Baths at Bath in 1894
Born13 June 40
Gallia Narbonensis
Died23 August 93 (aged 53)
Gallia Narbonensis
Allegiance Roman Empire
Years of service58–85
Rank Proconsul
Commands held Legio XX Valeria Victrix
Gallia Aquitania
Britannia
Battles/wars Battle of Watling Street
Battle of Mons Graupius
Awards Ornamenta triumphalia

Gnaeus Julius Agricola ( /əˈɡrɪkələ/ ; 13 June 40 – 23 August 93) was a Gallo-Roman general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. Written by his son-in-law Tacitus, the De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae is the primary source for most of what is known about him, [1] along with detailed archaeological evidence from northern Britain. [2]

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, with the city of Rome as capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Roman conquest of Britain

The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Roman Britain.

Tacitus Roman senator and historian

PubliusCornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. Tacitus is considered to be one of the greatest Roman historians. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature, and is known for the brevity and compactness of his Latin prose, as well as for his penetrating insights into the psychology of power politics.

Contents

Agricola began his military career in Britain, serving under governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. His subsequent career saw him serve in a variety of positions; he was appointed quaestor in Asia province in 64, then Plebeian Tribune in 66, and praetor in 68. He supported Vespasian during the Year of the Four Emperors (69), and was given a military command in Britain when the latter became emperor. When his command ended in 73, he was made patrician in Rome and appointed governor of Gallia Aquitania. He was made consul and governor of Britannia in 77. While there, he completed the conquest of what is now Wales and northern England, and led his army to the far north of Scotland, establishing forts across much of the Lowlands. He was recalled from Britain in 85 after an unusually lengthy service, and thereafter retired from military and public life.

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus Roman general

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was a Roman general best known as the commander who defeated the rebellion of Boudica.

Quaestor type of public official in Ancient Rome

A quaestor was a public official in Ancient Rome. The position served different functions depending on the period. In the Roman Kingdom, quaestores parricidii were appointed by the king to investigate and handle murders. In the Roman Republic, quaestors were elected officials who supervised the state treasury and conducted audits. It was the lowest ranking position in the cursus honorum. However, this means that in the political environment of Rome, it was quite common for many aspiring politicians to take the position of quaestor as an early rung on the political ladder. In the Roman Empire, the position, which was initially replaced by the praefectus (prefect), reemerged during the late empire as quaestor intra Palatium, a position appointed by the emperor to lead the imperial council and respond to petitioners.

Asia (Roman province) Roman province

The Roman province of Asia or Asiana, in Byzantine times called Phrygia, was an administrative unit added to the late Republic. It was a Senatorial province governed by a proconsul. The arrangement was unchanged in the reorganization of the Roman Empire in 211.

Early life

Agricola was born in the colonia of Forum Julii, Gallia Narbonensis (now Fréjus, France). Agricola's parents were from noted Gallo-Roman political families of senatorial rank, and his ancestors were Romanised Gauls of local origin. [3] Both of his grandfathers served as imperial governors. His father, Lucius Julius Graecinus, was a praetor and had become a member of the Roman Senate in the year of his birth. Graecinus had become distinguished by his interest in philosophy. Between August 40 and January 41, the Emperor Caligula ordered his death because he refused to prosecute the Emperor's second cousin Marcus Junius Silanus. [4]

Colonia (Roman) Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it

A Roman colonia was originally a Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it. Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of a Roman city.

Fréjus Commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Fréjus is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France.

Gallia Narbonensis Roman province

Gallia Narbonensis was a Roman province located in what is now Languedoc and Provence, in southern France. It was also known as Provincia Nostra, from its having been the first Roman province north of the Alps, and as Gallia Transalpina, distinguishing it from Cisalpine Gaul in northern Italy. It became a Roman province in the late 2nd century BC. Its boundaries were roughly defined by the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Cévennes and Alps to the west and north. The western region of Gallia Narbonensis was known as Septimania.

His mother was Julia Procilla. The Roman historian Tacitus describes her as "a lady of singular virtue". Tacitus states that Procilla had a fond affection for her son. Agricola was educated in Massilia (Marseille), and showed what was considered an unhealthy interest in philosophy.

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 852,516 in 2012. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.

Political career

He began his career in Roman public life as a military tribune, serving in Britain under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus from 58 to 62. He was probably attached to the Legio II Augusta , but was chosen to serve on Suetonius's staff [5] and thus almost certainly participated in the suppression of Boudica's uprising in 61.

Tribune elected Roman officials

Tribune was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome. The two most important were the tribunes of the plebs and the military tribunes. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs acted as a check on the authority of the senate and the annual magistrates, holding the power of ius intercessionis to intervene on behalf of the plebeians, and veto unfavourable legislation. There were also military tribunes, who commanded portions of the Roman army, subordinate to higher magistrates, such as the consuls and praetors, promagistrates, and their legates. Various officers within the Roman army were also known as tribunes. The title was also used for several other positions and classes in the course of Roman history.

Legio II Augusta Roman legion

Legio secunda Augusta was a legion of the Imperial Roman army that was founded during the late Roman republic. Its emblems were the Capricornus, Pegasus, Mars.

Boudica Queen of the British Iceni tribe

Boudica or Boudicca was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61. She died shortly after its failure and was said to have poisoned herself. She is considered a British folk hero.

Returning from Britain to Rome in 62, he married Domitia Decidiana, a woman of noble birth. Their first child was a son. Agricola was appointed as quaestor for 64, which he served in the province of Asia under the corrupt proconsul Lucius Salvius Otho Titianus. While he was there, his daughter, Julia Agricola, was born, but his son died shortly afterwards. He was tribune of the plebs in 66 and praetor in June 68, during which time he was ordered by the Governor of Spain Galba to take an inventory of the temple treasures.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Domitia Decidiana was a Roman woman who lived in the 1st century. She was a well-connected woman of illustrious descent.

Lucius Salvius Otho Titianus was the elder brother of the Roman Emperor Otho. As a Roman senator, he was consul in the year 52 as the colleague of Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, and appointed consul as his brother's colleague for the period from Galba's murder to the end of February. Titianus was present at the First Battle of Bedriacum.

During that same, the emperor Nero was declared a public enemy by the Senate and committed suicide, and the period of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors began. Galba succeeded Nero, but was murdered in early 69 by Otho, who took the throne. Agricola's mother was murdered on her estate in Liguria by Otho's marauding fleet. Hearing of Vespasian's bid for the empire, Agricola immediately gave him his support. Otho meanwhile committed suicide after being defeated by Vitellius.

After Vespasian had established himself as emperor, Agricola was appointed to the command of the Legio XX Valeria Victrix , stationed in Britain, in place of Marcus Roscius Coelius, who had stirred up a mutiny against the governor, Marcus Vettius Bolanus. Britain had revolted during the year of civil war, and Bolanus was a mild governor. Agricola reimposed discipline on the legion and helped to consolidate Roman rule. In 71, Bolanus was replaced by a more aggressive governor, Quintus Petillius Cerialis, and Agricola was able to display his talents as a commander in campaigns against the Brigantes in northern England.

When his command ended in 73, Agricola was enrolled as a patrician and appointed to govern Gallia Aquitania. There he stayed for almost three years. In 76 or 77, he was recalled to Rome and appointed suffect consul, [6] and betrothed his daughter to Tacitus. The following year, Tacitus and Julia married; Agricola was appointed to the College of Pontiffs, and returned to Britain for a third time, as its governor ( Legatus Augusti pro praetore ).

Governor of Britain

Agricola.Campaigns.78.84.jpg

Arriving in midsummer of 77, Agricola discovered that the Ordovices of north Wales had virtually destroyed the Roman cavalry stationed in their territory. He immediately moved against them and defeated them. He then moved north to the island of Mona (Anglesey), which Suetonius Paulinus had failed to subjugate in 60 because of the outbreak of the Boudican rebellion, and forced its inhabitants to sue for peace. He established a good reputation as an administrator, as well as a commander, by reforming the widely corrupt corn levy. He introduced Romanising measures, encouraging communities to build towns on the Roman model and educating the sons of the native nobility in the Roman manner.

Agricola also expanded Roman rule north into Caledonia (modern Scotland). In the summer of 79, he pushed his armies to the estuary of the river Taus, usually interpreted as the Firth of Tay, virtually unchallenged, and established some forts. Though their location is left unspecified, the close dating of the fort at Elginhaugh in Midlothian makes it a possible candidate.

Agricola in Ireland?

In 81, Agricola "crossed in the first ship" and defeated peoples unknown to the Romans until then. Tacitus, in Chapter 24 of Agricola, [7] does not tell us what body of water he crossed, although most scholars believe it was the Clyde or Forth, and some translators even add the name of their preferred river to the text; however, the rest of the chapter exclusively concerns Ireland, so southwest Scotland is perhaps to be preferred. [8] The text of the Agricola has been amended here to record the Romans "crossing into trackless wastes", referring to the wilds of the Galloway peninsula. [9] Agricola fortified the coast facing Ireland, and Tacitus recalls that his father-in-law often claimed the island could be conquered with a single legion and auxiliaries. He had given refuge to an exiled Irish king whom he hoped he might use as the excuse for conquest. This conquest never happened, but some historians believe the crossing referred to was in fact a small-scale exploratory or punitive expedition to Ireland, [10] though no Roman camps have been identified to confirm such a suggestion. [11]

Irish legend provides a striking parallel. Tuathal Teachtmhar, a legendary High King, is said to have been exiled from Ireland as a boy, and to have returned from Britain at the head of an army to claim the throne. The traditional date of his return is 76–80, and archaeology has found Roman or Romano-British artefacts in several sites associated with Tuathal. [12]

The invasion of Caledonia (Scotland)

Agricola.Campaigns.80.84.jpg

The following year, Agricola raised a fleet and encircled the tribes beyond the Forth, and the Caledonians rose in great numbers against him. They attacked the camp of the Legio IX Hispana at night, but Agricola sent in his cavalry and they were put to flight. The Romans responded by pushing further north. Another son was born to Agricola this year, but died before his first birthday.

In the summer of 83, Agricola faced the massed armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius. [13] Tacitus estimates their numbers at more than 30,000. [14] Agricola put his auxiliaries in the front line, keeping the legions in reserve, and relied on close-quarters fighting to make the Caledonians' unpointed slashing swords useless as they were unable to swing them properly or utilise thrusting attacks. [15] Even though the Caledonians were put to rout and therefore lost this battle, two thirds of their army managed to escape and hide in the Highlands or the "trackless wilds" as Tacitus calls them. Battle casualties were estimated by Tacitus to be about 10,000 on the Caledonian side and 360 on the Roman side.

A number of authors have reckoned the battle to have occurred in the Grampian Mounth within sight of the North Sea. [16] In particular, Roy, [17] Surenne, Watt, Hogan [18] and others have advanced notions that the site of the battle may have been Kempstone Hill, Megray Hill or other knolls near the Raedykes Roman camp; these points of high ground are proximate to the Elsick Mounth, an ancient trackway used by Romans and Caledonians for military manoeuvres. However, following the discovery of the Roman camp at Durno in 1975, most scholars now believe that the battle took place on the ground around Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. [19]

Satisfied with his victory, Agricola extracted hostages from the Caledonian tribes. He may have marched his army to the northern coast of Britain, [20] as evidenced by the probable discovery of a Roman fort at Cawdor (near Inverness). [21]

He also instructed the prefect of the fleet to sail around the north coast, confirming (allegedly for the first time) that Britain was in fact an island.

Later years

Agricola was recalled from Britain in 85, after an unusually long tenure as governor. Tacitus claims Domitian ordered his recall because Agricola's successes outshone the Emperor's own modest victories in Germany. He re-entered Rome unobtrusively, reporting as ordered to the palace at night. The relationship between Agricola and the Emperor is unclear; on the one hand, Agricola was awarded triumphal decorations and a statue (the highest military honours apart from an actual triumph); on the other, Agricola never again held a civil or military post, in spite of his experience and renown. He was offered the governorship of the province of Africa, but declined it, whether due to ill health or (as Tacitus claims) the machinations of Domitian. In 93, Agricola died on his family estates in Gallia Narbonensis aged fifty-three. Rumours circulated attributing the death to a poison administered by the Emperor Domitian, but no positive evidence for this was ever produced.

See also

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References

  1. Tacitus, Agricola; Dio Cassius (Roman History 66.20) and three inscriptions found in Britain (including the Verulamium Forum inscription) also make reference to Agricola.
  2. Hanson, W.S. (1991), Agricola and the conquest of the north (2nd edn), London: Batsford.
  3. On Agricola's life and career, see A.R. Birley, The Roman Government of Britain (Oxford, 2005), pp. 71-95, with further references.
  4. Birley, Anthony R. (1996), "Iulius Agricola, Cn.", in Hornblower, Simon (ed.), Oxford Classical Dictionary , Oxford: Oxford University Press
  5. Agricola 5
  6. D.B. Campbell, "The consulship of Agricola", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 63 (1986), pp. 197-200, for the possible dates.
  7. Agricola 24
  8. W.S. Hanson 1991 Agricola and the conquest of the north, (2nd edn) Batsford, London, pp. 93-96
  9. Campbell, Duncan B. (2010). Mons Graupius AD 83: Rome's battle at the edge of the world. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN   9781846039263.
  10. Di Martino, Vittorio (2006). Roman Ireland. Cork: Collins. ISBN   9781905172191.
  11. See, in general, Campbell, Duncan B. (2014). "Did the Romans invade Ireland?". Ancient Warfare. 8 (2): 48–52.
  12. Warner, R. B. (1995). "Tuathal Techtmar: a myth or ancient literary evidence for a Roman invasion?". Emania (13).
  13. On the battle in general, see Duncan B. Campbell, Mons Grapius AD 83 (2010), pp. 57-83.
  14. Tacitus, Agricola 29
  15. "Cornelius Tacitus, The Life of Cnæus Julius Agricola, chapter 36". www.perseus.tufts.edu. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  16. On the battle's location, see Duncan B. Campbell, "Search for a lost battlefield", Ancient Warfare Vol. 8 issue 1 (2014), pp. 47-51.
  17. William Roy, The Military Antiquities of the Romans in Britain, 1793
  18. C. Michael Hogan, Elsick Mounth, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham Megalithic.co.uk
  19. St Joseph, J.K. (1978). "The camp at Durno, Aberdeenshire, and the site of Mons Graupius". Britannia. 9: 271–287.
  20. Wolfson, Stan (2002). "The Boresti: The creation of a myth". Tacitus, Thule and Caledonia. In the manuscript of Agricola 38.2: In finis Borestorum exercitum deducit - He led his army down into the territory of the Boresti" may be emended to: in finis boreos totum exercitum deducit - He led his entire army down into the northern extremities"
  21. Excavations at Cawdor 1986

Sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Gaius Catellius Celer Gaius Arruntius Catellius Celer,
and Marcus Arruntius Aquila

as Suffect consul
Suffect Consul of the Roman Republic
77
with ignotus
Succeeded by
Decimus Junius Novius Priscus,
and Lucius Ceionius Commodus
Preceded by
Sextus Julius Frontinus
Roman governors of Britain
78–85
Succeeded by
Sallustius Lucullus