AGRICOLA, GERMANIA, A DIALOGUE CONCERNING ORATORY
These three vibrant texts show different sides of the Roman historian Tacitus (c56–c102 CE) best known for his principal (and much longer) legacies of The Annals and The Histories. Agricola was a successful general and Governor of Britain (77-83CE), a task which he carried out with firmness and probity – in contrast to much of the corruption and repression in place during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Included in his account are the pre-battle speeches of both Agricola and the Briton Calgacus. Tacitus’s account of Germania shows a very different land with its many tribes, their habits and qualities in a strongly rural and resistant environment. The Dialogue, by contrast, is placed decidedly at the heart of Roman culture, a survey of rhetoric and the art of eloquence. The ability to speak clearly and well was admired throughout the Greek and Roman eras; educated men were expected to have received training in form and delivery: exordium, narration, period. Tacitus presents individuals who display the art of oratory in various forms, referring to the giants of the past – the speeches of Cicero, Brutus, Caesar and many others were kept in volumes and studied. And they question whether eloquence and the skills of oratory had declined in the age.
Translation: John Aiken
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