The Info List - Gnaeus Julius Agricola

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Gnaeus Julius Agricola
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] 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
Plebeian Tribune
in 66, and praetor in 68. He supported Vespasian
during the Year of the Four Emperors
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.


1 Early life 2 Political career 3 Governor of Britain

3.1 Agricola in Ireland? 3.2 The invasion of Caledonia (Scotland)

4 Later years 5 See also 6 References 7 Sources 8 External links

Early life[edit] 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, 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
Roman Senate
in the year of his birth. Graecinus had become distinguished by his interest in philosophy. Between August 40 and January 41, the Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
ordered his death because he refused to prosecute the Emperor's second cousin Marcus Junius Silanus.[4] 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. Political career[edit] He began his career in Roman public life as a military tribune, serving in Britain under Gaius Suetonius Paulinus
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. 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 on June 68, during which time he was ordered by the Governor of Spain Galba
to take an inventory of the temple treasures. In June 68, the emperor Nero
was deposed and committed suicide, and the period of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors
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 suffered revolt 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[edit]

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?[edit] 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
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)[edit]

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
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 he 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
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[edit] 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
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[edit]

(Roman Fort) History of Northumberland


^ Tacitus, Agricola; Dio Cassius (Roman History 66.20) and three inscriptions found in Britain (including the Verulamium Forum inscription) also make reference to Agricola. ^ Hanson, W.S. (1991), Agricola and the conquest of the north (2nd edn), London: Batsford. ^ On Agricola's life and career, see A.R. Birley, The Roman Government of Britain (Oxford, 2005), pp. 71-95, with further references. ^ Birley, Anthony R. (1996), "Iulius Agricola, Cn.", in Hornblower, Simon, Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press  ^ Agricola 5 ^ D.B. Campbell, "The consulship of Agricola", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 63 (1986), pp. 197-200, for the possible dates. ^ Agricola 24 ^ W.S. Hanson 1991 Agricola and the conquest of the north, (2nd edn) Batsford, London, pp. 93-96 ^ Campbell, Duncan B. (2010). Mons Graupius AD 83: Rome's battle at the edge of the world. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 9781846039263.  ^ Di Martino, Vittorio (2006). Roman Ireland. Cork: Collins. ISBN 9781905172191.  ^ See, in general, Campbell, Duncan B. (2014). "Did the Romans invade Ireland?". Ancient Warfare. 8 (2): 48–52.  ^ Warner, R. B. (1995). "Tuathal Techtmar: a myth or ancient literary evidence for a Roman invasion?". Emania (13).  ^ On the battle in general, see Duncan B. Campbell, Mons Grapius AD 83 (2010), pp. 57-83. ^ Tacitus, Agricola 29 ^ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0081%3Achapter%3D36 ^ On the battle's location, see Duncan B. Campbell, "Search for a lost battlefield", Ancient Warfare Vol. 8 issue 1 (2014), pp. 47-51. ^ William Roy, The Military Antiquities of the Romans in Britain, 1793 ^ C. Michael Hogan, Elsick Mounth, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham Megalithic.co.uk ^ St Joseph, J.K. (1978). "The camp at Durno, Aberdeenshire, and the site of Mons Graupius". Britannia. 9: 271–287.  ^ 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" ^ Excavations at Cawdor


Anthony Birley (1996), “Iulius Agricola, Cn.”, in Hornblower, Simon, Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press Duncan B Campbell, Mons Graupius AD 83, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2010. 96pp. "Agricola's Campaigns", special issue of Ancient Warfare, 1/1 (2007) Wolfson, Stan. Tacitus, Thule and Caledonia: the achievements of Agricola's navy in their true perspective. Oxford, England: Archaeopress, 2008. 118pp. (BAR British series; 459).

External links[edit]

has original text related to this article: Agricola

Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Gnaeus Julius Agricola
at the Roman-Britain.org capture by Internet Archive Germania and Agricola at Project Gutenberg Agricola at Dickinson College Commentaries - Latin text with notes and vocabulary

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

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 12290061 LCCN: n50059480 ISNI: 0000 0001 0855 118X GND: 118501054 SELIBR: 281146 SUDOC: 027523144 BNF: cb11954531h (data) NDL: 00649