THE LIFE OF AGRICOLA.
With an Account of the Situation, Climate, and People OF BRITAIN.
To His GRACE JOHN Duke of Argyll and Greenwich.
BY never yet denying me any favour, Your Grace has only taught me a confident habit of still presuming upon future condescension, and the same success. Hence I hope to be pardoned, even for my vanity, in publishing, as I do to the world, that I can boast of Your Grace as my Patron and my Friend, such a Friend as the world will allow never to have been exceeded in acts of friendship.
From the same vanity, but vanity accompanied with faithful affection, I am ambitious of having Your Name stand in my Works as long as any Work of mine remains. Indulge me, My Lord, in gratifying this pleasing ambition, and favourably accept a Dedication which intirely comes from the heart: nor indeed is any Dedication which doth not, worthy of acceptance.
As therefore the following Treatise, one so charming and instructive, is in the original consecrated to the memory of the excellent Agricola, that polite and most accomplished Patrician, that Great Commander, great Statesman and, which is above all, that Great Honest Man: Be it henceforth in English, from a just resemblance of characters, for ever sacred to the Name and Person of the Duke of Argyll, as well as a public, I hope a lasting testimony, with what high, and sincere regard, I ever am,
My Lord,Your Grace’s intirely Devoted, and most Obedient, Humble Servant,
THE LIFE OF AGRICOLA.
AMONGST the Ancients it was common to transmit to posterity the characters and exploits of memorable men: Nor, in truth, in our own times has the age, however indifferent about what concerns itself, failed to observe the like usage, whenever any spirit eminent for great and signal virtue has vanquished and triumphed over the blindness of such as cannot distinguish right from wrong, as well as over the spite of malignants; for spite and blindness are evils common to great States and to small. But, as in those early times there was found greater propensity to feats of renown, and more scope to perform them; so whoever excelled in a happy genius was naturally led to display the merits and memory of the virtuous dead, without all view to court any favour, or to gain advantages, but only by the motives and recompence flowing from a benevolent and conscientious mind. Indeed there were several who, in recounting their own lives, concluded, that they thence shewed rather a confidence in their own integrity and demeanour, than any mark of arrogance. Neither was the account which Rutilius and Scaurus gave of themselves, thence the less credited, or the more censured. So true it is, that the several virtues are best understood and most prized, during the same times in which they are most easily produced. But to myself, who am going to relate the Life of a person deceased, I find pardon necessary; which I should not have asked, were I not about to revive and traverse times so sanguinary, and baneful to all virtue.
We find it recorded, that for celebrating the praises of Pætus Thrasea, Arulenus Rusticus suffered a deadly doom, as did Herennius Senecio for those of Helvidius Priscus. Nor upon the persons of the Authors only was this cruelty inflicted, but also upon the Books themselves; since to the Triumvirate of Justice orders were sent, that in the Forum, and place of popular Elections, the Works of men so illustrious for parts and genius should be burned. Yes, in this very fire they imagined that they should abolish the voice and utterance of the Roman People, with the liberty of the Senate, and all the ideas and remembrances of human-kind; for they had besides expelled all the professors of Philosophy, and driven every laudable Science into exile, that nought which was worthy and honest might any-where be seen. Mighty surely was the testimony which we gave of our patience; and as our forefathers had beheld the ultimate consummation of Liberty, so did we of Bondage, since through dread of informers and inquisitions of State, we were bereft of the common intercourse of speech and attention. Nay, with our utterance we had likewise lost our memory, had it been equally in our power to forget as to be silent.
Now indeed at length our spirit returns. Yet, though from the first dawn of this very happy age begun by the reign of Nerva, he blended together two things once found irreconcilable, public Liberty and sovereign Power; and though Trajan, his adopted Successor, be daily augmenting the felicity of the State; insomuch that for the general security not only hopes and vows are conceived, but even firm assurance follows these vows, and their full accomplishment is seen; such, however, is the frailty of man, and its effects, that much more slow is the progress of the remedies than of the evils; and, as human bodies attain their growth by tedious degrees, and are subject to be destroyed in an instant, so it is much easier to suppress than to revive the efforts of Genius and Study. For upon the mind there steals a pleasure even in sloth and remissness, and that very inactivity which was at first hated, is at last loved. Will it not be found that during a course of fifteen years, (a mighty space in the age of mortal man) numbers perished through fortuitous disasters, and all men noted for promptness and spirit were cut off by the cruelty of the Emperor? Few we are who have escaped; and, if I may so speak, we have survived not only others, but even ourselves, when from the middle of our life so many years were rent; whence from being young we are arrived at old age, from being old we are nigh come to the utmost verge of mortality, all in a long course of awful silence. I shall, however, find no cause of regret from having framed an historical deduction of our former bondage, as also a testimony of the public blessings which at present we enjoy; though, in doing it, my stile be negligent and unpolished. To the honour of Agricola my Wife’s Father, this present Book is in the mean time dedicated, and, as it is a declaration of filial duty and affection, will thence be commended, at least excused.
Cnæus Julius Agricola was born in the ancient and illustrious Colony of Forojulium, and both his grandfathers were Procurators to the Emperors; a dignity peculiar to the Equestrian Order. His father Julius Græcinus was a Senator, and noted for Eloquence and Philosophy. By these his virtues he earned the wrath of Caligula. For he was by him ordered to accuse Marcus Silanus, and put to death for refusing. His mother was Julia Procilla, a Lady of singular chastity. Under her eye and tender care he was reared, and spent his childhood and youth in the continual pursuit and cultivation of worthy accomplishments. What guarded him from the allurements of the vicious, (besides his own virtuous disposition, and natural innocence) was, that for the seat and nursery of his studies, whilst yet very little, he had the City of Marseilles, a place well tempered and framed, as in it all the politeness of the Greeks and all the Provincial parsimony are blended together. I remember he was wont to declare, that in his early youth he studied Philosophy and the Law with more avidity than was allowable to a Roman and a Senator, till the discretion of his mother checked his spirit engaged with passion and ardor in the pursuit. In truth, his superior and elevated genius thirsted, with more vehemence than caution, after the loveliness and lustre of a name and renown so mighty and sublime. Reason and age afterwards qualified his heat; and, what is a task extremely hard, he satisfied himself with a limited measure of Philosophy.
The first rudiments of war he learnt in Britain, under that prudent and vigilant Commander Suetonius Paulinus, by whom he was chosen and distinguished as his domestic companion. Neither did Agricola behave licentiously, after the manner of young men, who turn warfare into riot, nor assumed the title and office of a Tribune without the sufficiency, in order to use it slothfully in feats of pleasure and absence from duty, but to know the Province, to be known to the Army, to learn of such as had experience, to follow such as were worthy and brave, to seek for no exploits for ostentation, to refuse none through fear, and in all his pursuits was equally zealous and active. Indeed, at no time had Britain been under greater combustions, nor our affairs there more precarious. Our Veterans were slaughtered, our Colonies burned down, our Armies surprized and taken. At that juncture the struggle was for life, afterwards for victory. Now, though all these affairs were transacted by the counsels and conduct of another than Agricola, and though the stress of the whole, with the glory of recovering the Province, accrued to the General; they all, however, proved to the young man matters of skill, of experience and stimulation; and there seized his soul a passion for military glory, a spirit disgustful to the times, when of men signally eminent a malignant opinion was entertained, and when as much peril arose from a great character as from a bad.
Departing from hence to Rome for the exercise of public dignities, he there married Domitia Decidiana, a Lady splendid in her descent, and to him who was aspiring to higher honours this marriage proved a great ornament and support. In marvellous unanimity they also lived, in a course of mutual tenderness and mutual preference; a temper commendable in both, only that the praise of a good wife rises in proportion to the contumely of a bad. His lot, as Quæstor, fell upon Asia, where Salvius Titianus proved to be Proconsul. But neither the Province nor the Proconsul corrupted his probity, though the country was very rich, nay, prepared as a prey for men corruptly disposed; and Titianus, a man bent upon all acts of rapine, was ready, upon the smallest encouragement, to have purchased a mutual connivance in iniquity. In Asia he was enriched by the birth of a daughter, tending at once to his consolation, and the support of his family; for the son born to him before, he very soon lost. The interval between his bearing the office of Quæstor and that of Tribune of the People, and even the year of his Tribuneship, he passed in repose and inactivity, as well aware of the spirit of the times under Nero, when sloth and heaviness served for wisdom. With the like indolence he held the Prætorship, and in the same quiet and silence. For upon him the jurisdiction of that dignity fell not. The public pastimes, and the empty gaieties of the office, he exhibited according to the rules of good sense, and to the measure of his wealth, in a manner though remote from prodigality, yet deserving popular applause. As he was next appointed by Galba to make research into the gifts and oblations appertaining to the Temples, he proceeded with such diligence and an examination so strict, that the State suffered from no sacrilege save that of Nero.
In the year following he suffered a grievous blow in his spirit and family. For, Otho’s Fleet, which continued roving upon the coast, and pursuing rapine, whilst they were ravaging Intemelium (a part of Liguria) slew the Mother of Agricola upon her estate there, and plundered the estate itself with a great part of her treasure, which had indeed proved the cause of the murder. As he therefore went from Rome to solemnize her Funeral, he had tidings upon the road, that Vespasian was pursuing the Sovereignty, and instantly espoused his party. In the beginning of this reign all the exercise of power, and the government of the City, were intirely in the hands of Mucianus; for Domitian was yet extremely young, and, of the Imperial fortune of his father, assumed nothing further than a latitude for debauchery. Mucianus, who had dispatched Agricola to levy forces, and found him to have acted in that trust with uprightness and magnanimity, preferred him to the command of the twentieth Legion, as soon as he was informed that he who commanded it before was engaged in seditious practices. Indeed that Legion had with great slowness and reluctance been brought to swear allegiance to Vespasian; nay, was grown over-mighty and even formidable to the Commanders in chief: so that their own Commander was found void of authority to controul them; though it is uncertain whether from the temper of the Man, or from that of the soldiers. Thus Agricola was chosen, at once to succeed him, and to punish delinquency in them; and exercising moderation altogether rare, would rather have it thought, that he had found them unblameable than made them so.
Over Britain at that juncture Vettius Bolanus bore rule, but with more complacency than suited a province so fierce and untamed. Hence Agricola restrained his own heat, and held within bounds the ardor of his spirit, as he was well skilled how to shew his obedience, and had thoroughly learned to blend what was honourable with what was profitable: Soon after this, Britain received for its Governor Petilius Cerialis, one of Consular quality. The virtue and abilities of Agricola had now ample space for producing suitable effects. But to him at first Cerialis communicated only the dangers and fatigues: with him anon he likewise shared the glory; frequently, for trial of his prowess, committed to his conduct a part of the Army; sometimes, according to the measure of his success, set him at the head of forces still larger. Nor did Agricola ever vaunt his exploits to blazon his own fame. To his General, as to the Author of all, he, as his Instrument and Inferior, still ascribed his good fortune. Thus, from his bravery in the execution of his orders, from his modesty in recounting his deeds of bravery, he escaped envy, yet failed not to gain glory.
Upon his return from commanding a Legion, the deified Vespasian raised him to the rank of a Patrician, and afterwards invested him with the government of the Province of Aquitaine, a government of the foremost dignity, and given as previous to the Consulship, to which that Prince had destined him. There are many who believe, that to military men subtlety of spirit is wanting; for that in camps the direction of process and authority is rather rough and void of formality, and that where hands and force are chiefly used, there the address and refinements usual to Courts are not exercised. Yet Agricola, aslisted by his natural prudence, though he was then engaged only with men of peace and the robe, acquitted himself with great facility, and great uprightness. He carefully distinguished the seasons of business and the seasons of recess. Whenever he sat in Council, or upon the Tribunals of justice, he was grave, attentive, awful, generally addicted to compassion. The moment he had fulfilled the duties of his office, he personated no longer the man of power: He had then cast off all sternness, all airs of state, and all rigour. Nay, what is very rarely to be seen, his complaisance neither weakened his authority, nor did his severity make him less amiable. It were an injury to the virtues of so great a man, to particularize his just dealings, his temperance, and the cleanness of his hands. In truth, glory itself was what he pursued not by any ostentation of bravery, or by any strain of artifice or address, though of that pursuit even the best men are often fond. Thus he was far from maintaining any competition with his equals in station, far from any contest with the Procurators of the Prince: Since, to conquer in this contention he judged to be no glory; and to be crushed by them were disgrace. His administration here lasted hardly three years, ere he was recalled to the present possession of the Consulship. With this employment there accrued the public opinion, that for his province Britain would be assigned him, from no words which had dropped from him about it, but because he was deemed equal to the Office. Common fame does not always err; sometimes it even directs the public choice. To myself, yet very young, whilst he was Consul, he contracted his daughter, a young Lady even then of excellent hopes, and, at the end of his Consulship, presented her in marriage. He was then forthwith promoted to the Government of Britain, as also invested with the honour of the Pontificate.
The account which I shall here present of the situation and people of Britain, a subject about which many Authors have written, comes not from any design of setting up my own exactness and genius against theirs, but only because the country was then first thoroughly subdued. So that such matters as former Writers have, without knowing them, embellished with eloquence, will by me be recounted according to the truth of evidence and discoveries. Of all the Islands which have reached the knowledge of the Romans, Britain is the largest. It extends towards Germany to the East, towards Spain to the West. To the South it looks towards Gaul. Its Northern shore, beyond which there is no land, is beaten by a Sea vast and boundless. Britain is by Livy and Fabius Rusticus, the former the most eloquent of the ancient historians, the latter of the moderns, compared in shape to an oblong shield, or a broad knife with two edges. And such, in effect, is its figure on this side Caledonia, whence common opinion has thus also fashioned the whole. But a tract of territory huge and unmeasurable stretches forward to the uttermost shore, and straightning by degrees, terminates like a wedge. Round the coast of this Sea, which beyond it has no land, the Roman Fleet now first sailed, and thence proved Britain to be an Island, as also discovered and subdued the Isles of Orkney, till then unknown. Thule was likewise descried, hitherto hid by Winter under eternal Snow. This Sea they report to be slow and stagnate, difficult to the Rowers and, indeed, hardly to be raised by the force of Winds. This I conjecture to be because land and mountains, which are the cause and materials of tempests, very rarely occur in proportion to the mighty mass of water, a mass so deep and uninterrupted as not to be easily agitated. An inquiry into the nature of the Ocean and of the Tide, is not the purpose of this Work, and about it many have written. One thing I would add, that no where is the power of the Sea more extensive than here, forcing back the waters of many Rivers, or carrying them away with its own; nor is its flux and ebbings confined to the banks and shore; but it works and winds itself far into the country, nay, forms bays in rocks and mountains, as if the same were its native bed.
For the rest; who were the first inhabitants of Britain, whether natives of its own, or foreigners, can be little known amongst a people thus barbarous. In their looks and persons they vary; from whence several arguments and inferences are formed: For, the red hair of the Caledonians and their large limbs, testify their descent to be from Germany: The swarthy complexion of the Silures, and their hair, which is generally curled, with their situation opposite to the coast of Spain, furnish ground to believe, that the ancient Iberians had arrived from thence here, and taken possession of the territory. They who live next to Gaul are also like the Gauls; whether it be that the spirit of the original stock from which they sprang, still remains, or whether in Countries near adjoining, the genius of the Climate confers the same form and disposition upon the bodies of men. To one who considers the whole, it seems however credible, that the Gauls at first occupied this their neighbouring Coast: That their sacred rites are the same, you may learn from their being possessed with the same superstition of every sort: Their speech does not much vary: In daring of dangers they are prompted by the like boldness, and with the like affright avoid them when they approach: In the Britons, however, superior ferocity and defiance is found, as in a people not yet softned by a long peace. For we learn from History, that the Gauls too flourished in warlike prowess and renown: Amongst them afterwards, together with peace and idleness, effeminacy entered; and thus, with the loss of their Liberty, they lost their spirit and magnanimity. The same happened to those of the Britons who were conquered long ago. The rest still continue such as the Gauls once were.
Their principal force consists in their foot. Some Nations amongst them make also war in Chariots. The more honourable person always drives: Under his leading his followers fight. They were formerly subject to Kings. They are now swayed by several Chiefs, and rent into factions and parties, according to the humour and passions of those their Leaders. Nor against Nations thus powerful does aught so much avail us, as that they consult not in a body for the security of the whole. It is rare that two or three Communities assemble and unite to repulse any public danger threatening to all. So that whilst only a single Community fought at a time, they were every one vanquished. The sky, from frequent clouds and rain, is dull and hazy: Excessive cold they feel not: Their days in length surpass ours: Their nights are very clear, and at the extremity of the Country, very short; so that between the setting and return of the day, you perceive but small interval. They affirm, that were it not for the intervention of clouds, the rays of the sun would be seen in the night, and that he doth not rise and fall, but only pass by: For that the extremities of the earth, which are level, yielding but a low shadow, prevent darkness from rising high and spreading; and thence night is far short of reaching the stars and the sky. The soil is such, that except the olive and the vine, and other vegetables, which are wont to be raised in hotter climes, it readily bears all fruits and grain, and is very fertile. It produces quickly, but its productions ripen slowly; and of both these effects there is the same cause, the extreme humidity of the earth and of the sky. Britain yields Gold and Silver, with other metals, all which prove the prize and reward of the Conquerors. The sea also breeds Pearls, but of a dark and livid hue, a defect by some ascribed to the unskilfulness of such as gather them. For, in the Red Sea they are pulled from the rocks alive and vigorous. In Britain they are gathered at random, such as the sea casts them upon the shore. For myself; I am much apter to believe, that nature has failed to give the Pearls perfection, than that we fail in avarice.
The Britons themselves are a people who chearfully comply with the levies of men, with the imposition of taxes, and with all the duties enjoined by Government, provided they receive no illegal treatment and insults from their Governors: Those they bear with impatience. Nor have the Romans any farther subdued them than only to obey just Laws, but never to submit to be slaves. Even the deified Julius Cæsar, the first of all the Romans who entered Britain with an army, though by gaining a battle he frightened the natives, and became master of the coast, yet may be thought to have rather presented posterity with a view of the Country, than to have conveyed down the possession. Anon the civil Wars ensued, and against the Commonwealth were turned the arms of her own Chiefs and Leaders. Thus Britain was long forgot, and continued to be so even during peace. This was what Augustus called Reason of State, but what Tiberius stiled the Ordinance of Augustus. That Caligula meditated an invasion of Britain in person, is well known: But he possessed a spirit, as precipitate and wild, so presently surfeited with any design whatever; besides that all his mighty efforts against Germany were quite baffled. The deified Claudius accomplished the undertaking; having thither transported the Legions, with a number of auxiliary forces, and associated Vespasian into the direction of the design: An incident which proved the introduction to his approaching fortune. There, Nations were subdued, Kings taken captive, and Vespasian placed to advantage in the eye of the Fates.
The first Governor of Consular quality, was Aulus Plautius, then Ostorius Scapula, both signal in war. And, by degrees, the nearest part of Britain was reduced into the condition of a Province. To secure it, a Colony of Veterans was likewise settled. To the British King Cogidunus certain Communities were given, a Prince who, even till our times, continued in perfect fidelity to us. For, with the Roman People it is a custom long since received, and practised of old, that, for establishing the bondage of Nations, they are to employ even Kings as their instruments. Afterwards followed Didius Gallus, and just preserved what acquisitions his Predecessors had made; only that further in the Island he raised some Forts, and very few they were, purely for the name and opinion of having enlarged his Government. Next to Didius came Veranius, and died in less than a year. Then immediately succeeded Suetonius Paulinus, who, during two years, commanded with success, subdued fresh Nations and established Garrisons. Trusting to these, he went to assail the Isle of Anglesey, as a place which supplied the revolters with succours, and thus left the Country behind him exposed to the enemy.
For, the Britons, when through the absence of the Governor they were eased of their fear, began to commune together concerning the miseries of bondage, to recount their several grievances, and so to construe and heighten their injuries as effectually to inflame their resentments. “Their patience, they said, availed them nothing, further than to invite the imposition of heavier burdens upon a people who thus tamely bore any. In times past they had only a single King: They were now surrendered to two. One of these, the Governor-General, tyrannized over their bodies and lives; the Imperial Procurator, who was the other, over their substance and fortunes. Equally pernicious to their subjects was any variance between these their Rulers, as their good intelligence and unanimity. Against them the one employed his own predatory bands, as did the other his Centurions and their men; and both exercised violence alike, both treated them with equal insults and contumely. To such height was oppression grown, that nothing whatever was exempt from their avarice, nothing whatever from their lust. He who in the day of battle spoiled others, was always stronger than they. But here it was chiefly by the cowardly and effeminate that their houses were seized, their children forced away, and their men obliged to list; as if their Country were the only thing for which the Britons knew not how to die. In truth, what a small force would all the soldiers arrived in the Island appear, would the Britons but compute their own numbers? It was from this consideration that Germany had thrown off the same Yoke, though a Country defended only by a River, and not like this, by the Ocean. To animate themselves to take arms, they had their Country, their Wives, their Parents; whilst these their oppressors were prompted by nothing but their avarice and sensuality: Nor would they fail to withdraw from the Island, as even the deified Julius had withdrawn, would the natives but imitate the bravery of their forefathers, and not be dismayed with the issue of an encounter or two. Amongst people like themselves reduced to misery, superior ardor was ever found, as also greater firmness and perseverance. Towards the Britons, at this juncture, even the Gods manifested compassion, since they thus kept the Roman General at such a distance, thus held the Roman Army confined in annother Island. Nay, already they themselves had gained a point the most difficult to be gained, that they could now deliberate about measures common to all: For, doubtless, more perillous it were to be discovered forming such counsels, than openly to put them in execution.”
When with these and the like reasons they had animated one another, they unanimously took arms under the leading of Boudicea, a woman of Royal descent: For, in conferring Sovereignty they make no distinction of sexes. They then forthwith assailed on every side the soldiers dispersed here and there in Forts, and having stormed and sacked the several Garrisons, fell upon the Colony itself, as the Seat and Center of Public Servitude: Nor was any kind of cruelty omitted, with which rage and victory could possibly inspire the hearts of Barbarians. In truth, had not Paulinus, upon learning the revolt of the Province, come with notable speed to its relief, Britain had been lost. Yet, by the success of a single battle, he reduced the Country to its old subjection, though several continued in arms, such, namely, as were conscious of inciting the rebellion, and under personal dread from the spirit of the Governor. He, though otherwise a signal Commander, yet treated such as had surrendered themselves in a manner very imperious; and, as one who likewise avenged his own particular injury, thence exerted the greater rigor. Insomuch that in his room Petronius Turpilianus was sent, as one whose behaviour would prove more relenting, one who being unacquainted with the delinquencies of the enemies, would be more gentle in accepting their remorse and submission. Turpilianus, when he had quite appeased the late commotions, ventured upon nothing further, and then delivered the Province to Trebellius Maximus. He, still more unwarlike and inactive than his Predecessor, and no wise trained in camps and armies maintained the tranquillity of the Province by a method of softness and complaisance. The Barbarians had now likewise learned to forgive such vices as humoured them in pleasure and ease. Moreover, the civil Wars which then intervened, furnished a proper excuse for the lazy behaviour of the Governor. But he found himself greatly embarrassed with faction and discord; for that the soldiers, who had ever been inured to expeditions and feats in the field, were, through idleness, grown turbulent and licentious. Trebellius, by flight and lurking, escaped the present fury of the army: He afterwards resumed the Command, but with an authority altogether precarious, without all spirit, and destitute of all dignity; as if between him and them articles had been settled, that the soldiers should retain their licentious behaviour, and the General be permitted to enjoy his life. During this mutiny no blood was spilled. Neither did Vettius Bolanus, as the civil War yet subsisted, exert any discipline in Britain. Towards the enemy there still remained the same sloth and negligence, with the same insolent spirit in the camp: This difference only there was, that Bolanus was a man perfectly innocent; and being subject to no hate, as he was free from all crimes, he had instead of authority over them, only gained their affections.
But, when Vespasian had, with the possession of the World, also recovered Britain, in it were seen great Commanders, noble Armies, and the hopes of the enemy quite abated. Petilius Cerialis, particularly, at his first entrance, struck them at once with general terror, by attacking the Community of the Brigantes, reckoned the most populous of the whole Province. There followed many encounters, such as sometimes proved very bloody. So that he held most part of their Country as his conquest, or continued to ravage it by war. In truth, though the exploits of Cerialis would have eclipsed the vigilance and fame of any other Successor, yet Julius Frontinus sustained in his turn the mighty task; and, as he was a man as great and able as he found scope and safety to be, he, by the sword, utterly subdued the powerful and warlike Nation of the Silures; though, besides the bravery of the enemy, he was likewise obliged to struggle with the difficulties of places and situation.
Such was the condition in which Agricola found Britain, such to have been the vicissitudes of the war there, upon his arrival about the middle of summer, a time when the Roman soldiers, supposing the service of the season to be concluded, were securely bent upon inaction and repose, as were the enemy, upon any opportunity, to annoy the Romans. The Community of the Ordovicians had not long before his coming slaughtered, almost intirely, a band of horse stationed upon their confines; and by an essay so notable, the Province in general became roused; while such as were intent upon present war, commended the action, as an example and a call to the whole, and others were for delaying till they had discovered the spirit of the new Lieutenant-General. Now though the summer were over, though the troops were severed and lay dispersed over the Province, though the soldiers had assured themselves of rest for the residue of the year (a heavy obstacle and very discouraging to one who is commencing war) nay, though many judged it better only to guard the places which were threatened and precarious; yet Agricola determined to meet the danger. Hence drawing together the choice bands of the Legions, with a small body of Auxiliaries, he led them against the Ordovicians; and as these dared not descend into equal ground, he, who by sharing equal danger, would inspire his men with equal courage, marching in person before his army, conducted them to the encounter upon the ascent. Almost the whole Nation was here cut off; but as he was well aware, that it behoved him to urge and maintain this his fame, and that with the issue of his first attempts all the rest would correspond, he conceived a design to reduce the Isle of Anglesey, a conquest from which Paulinus was recalled by the general revolt of Britain, as above I have recounted. But, as this counsel was suddenly concerted, and therefore ships were found wanting, such was the firmness and capacity of the General, that without ships he transported his men. From the Auxiliaries he detached all their chosen men, such as knew the fords, and, according to the usage of their country, were dextrous in swimming, so as, in the water, at once to manage themselves, and their horses and arms. These, unincumbered with any of their baggage, he caused to make a descent and onset so sudden, that the enemy were quite struck with consternation, as men who apprehended nothing but a Fleet and Transports, and a formal invasion by sea, and now believed no enterprize difficult and insurmountable to such as came thus determined to war. Thus they sued for peace, and even surrendered the Island; and thence Agricola was already considered as a very great and even renowned Commander: For that, at his first entrance into the Province, a time which other Governors are wont to waste in shew and parade, or in courting compliment and addresses, he preferred feats of labour and of peril. Nor did he apply this his good fortune and success to any purpose of vain-glory: So that upon the bridling of such as were vanquished before, he would not bestow the title of an expedition or of victory; nor, in truth, would he so much as with the bare honour of the laurel distinguish these his exploits. But even by disguising his fame, he enlarged it; as men considered how vast must be his future views, when he thus smothered in silence deeds so noble.
For the rest; as he was acquainted with the temper of the people in his Province; as he had also learned from the conduct and experience of others, that little is gained by arms where grievances and oppressions follow, he determined to cut off all the causes of war. Beginning therefore with himself, and those appertaining to him, he checked and regulated his own houshold; a task which to many proves not less difficult than that of governing a Province. By none of his domestics, bond or freed, was aught that concerned the Public transacted. In raising the soldiers to a superior class, he was swayed by no personal interest or partiality, nor by the recommendation and suit of the Centurions, but by his own opinion and persuasion, that the best soldiers were ever the most faithful. All that passed he would know; though all that was amiss he would not punish. Upon small offences he bestowed pardon; for such as were great he exercised proportionable severity. Nor did he always exact the punishment assigned, but frequently was satisfied with compunction and remorse. In conferring offices and employments, he rather chose men who would not transgress, than such as he must afterwards condemn for transgressing. Though the imposition of Tribute and of Grain had been augmented, yet he softened it by causing a just and equal distribution of all public burdens; since he abolished whatever exactions had been devised for the lucre of particulars, and were therefore borne with more regret than the Tribute itself. For, the inhabitants were forced to bear the mockery of attending at their own barns, locked up by the Publicans, and of purchasing their own corn of the Monopolists, nay, of selling it afterwards back again at a poor price. They were moreover enjoined to take long journies, and carry grain cross the several Countries to places extremely distant; insomuch that the several Communities, instead of supplying the Winter-quarters which lay adjoining, must furnish such as were remote and difficultly travelled, to the end, that what was easy to be had by all, might produce gain to a few.
By suppressing these grievances immediately in his first year, he gained a high character to a state of peace; a state which, either through the neglect or connivance of his Predecessors, was till then dreaded no less than that of war. But, upon the coming of summer, he assembled his army; then proceeded to commend such of the men who in marching observed their duty and rank, and to check such as were loose and straggling. He himself always chose the ground for encamping: The salt marshes, friths and woods he himself always first examined, and to the enemies all the while allowed not a moment’s quiet or recess, but was ever distressing them with sudden incursions and ravages. Then, having sufficiently alarmed and terrified them, his next course was to spare them, thus to tempt them with the sweetness and allurements of peace. By this conduct, several Communities, which till that day had asserted a state of equality and independence, came to lay down all hostility, gave hostages, and were begirt with Garrisons and Fortresses, erected with such just contrivance and care, that no part of Britain, hitherto known, escaped thenceforward from being annoyed by them.
The following Winter was employed in measures extremely advantageous and salutary. For, to the end that these people, thus wild and dispersed over the Country, and thence easily instigated to war, might, by a taste of pleasures, be reconciled to inactivity and repose, he first privately exhorted them, then publicly assisted them, to build temples, houses, and places of assembling. Upon such as were willing and assiduous in these pursuits he heaped commendations, and reproofs upon the lifeless and slow. So that a competition for this distinction and honour, had all the force of necessity. He was already taking care to have the sons of their Chiefs taught the liberal Sciences, already preferring the natural capacity of the Britons to the studied acquirements of the Gauls; and such was his success, that they who had so lately scorned to learn the Roman language, were become fond of acquiring the Roman eloquence. Thence they began to honour our apparel, and the use of the Roman gown grew frequent amongst them. By degrees they proceeded to the incitements and charms of vice and dissoluteness, to magnificent galleries, sumptuous bagnios, and all the stimulations and elegance of banqueting. Nay, all this innovation was, by the unexperienced, stiled politeness and humanity, when it was indeed part of their bondage.
During the third year of his command, in pursuit of his conquests he discovered new people, by continuing his devastations through the several nations quite to the mouth of the Tay: So the Frith is called. Whence such terror seized the foe, that they durst not attack our Army though sorely shaken and annoyed by terrible tempests: Nay, the Romans had even time to secure possession by erecting forts. It was observed of Agricola by men of experience, that never had any Captain more sagely chosen his stations for commodiousness and situation; for that no place of strength founded by him, was ever taken by violence, or abandoned upon articles or despair. From these their strong holds frequent excursions were made; for, against any long siege they were supplied with provisions for a year. Thus they passed the Winter there without all apprehension: Every single Fort defended itself. So that, in all their attempts upon them, the enemies were baffled, and thence reduced to utter despair; for that they could not, as formerly they were wont, repair their losses in the Summer by their success in the Winter; since now, whether it were Winter or Summer, they were equally defeated. Neither did Agricola ever arrogate to himself the glory of exploits performed by others: were he a Centurion, or were he Commander of a Legion, in the General he was sure to find a sincere witness of his atchievements. By some he is said to have been over-sharp in his reproofs, since he was one who, as to them that were good he abounded in courtesy, appeared withal stern and unpleasant to the bad. But from his anger no spleen remained. In him you had no dark reserves, no boding silence to fear. More honourable he thought it to give open offence, than to foster secret hate.
The fourth Summer was employed in settling and securing what territories he had overrun: Indeed, would the bravery of the Armies, and the glory of the Roman Name, have suffered it, there had been then found in Britain itself a boundary to our conquests there. For, into the rivers Glota and Bodotria the tide, from each opposite sea, flows so vastly far up the country, that their heads are parted only by a narrow neck of land, which was now secured with garrisons. Thus of all on this side we were already masters; since the enemy were driven, as it were, into another Island.
In the fifth year of the War, Agricola passing the Frith, himself in the first ship that landed, in many and successful encounters subdued Nations till that time unknown, and placed forces in that part of Britain which fronts Ireland, more from future views than from any present fear. In truth, Ireland, as it lies just between Britain and Spain, and is capable of an easy communication with the coast of Gaul, would have proved of infinite use in linking together these powerful limbs of the Empire. In size it is inferior to Britain, but surpasses the Islands in our sea. In soil and climate, as also in the temper and manners of the natives, it varies little from Britain: Its Ports and Landings are better known, through the frequency of Commerce and Merchants. A petty King of the Country, expelled by domestic dissention, was already received into protection by Agricola, and, under the appearance of friendship, reserved for a proper occasion. By him I have often heard it declared, that with a single Legion and a few Auxiliaries, Ireland might be conquered and preserved; nay, that such an acquisition were of moment for the securing of Britain, if, on all sides the Roman arms were seen, and all national Liberty banished, as it were out of sight.
For the rest; on the summer which began the sixth year of his Administration, as it was apprehended, that the Nations forward would universally take arms, and that the ways were all infested with the enemy’s host, his first step was to coast and explore the large Communities beyond Bodotria by the means of his Fleet, which was from the beginning employed by him as part of his forces, and in attending him at this time made a glorious appearance, when thus, at once, by sea and land, the war was urged. In truth, the same camp often contained the foot, and the horse, and the marines, all intermixed, and rejoicing in common, severally magnifying their own feats, their own hazards, and adventures: Here were displayed the horrors of steep mountains and dismal forests; there the outrages of waves and tempests. These boasted their exploits by land, and against the foe: Those the vanquished Ocean; all vying together, according to the usual vaunts and ostentation of soldiers. Upon the Britons also, as from the captives was learned, the sight of the Fleet brought much consternation and dismay; as if, now that their solitary Ocean and recesses of the deep were disclosed and invaded, the last refuge of the vanquished was cut off. To action and arms the several people inhabiting Caledonia had immediate recourse, and advanced with great parade, made still greater by common rumour, (as usual in things that are unknown) for that they daringly assailed our forts, and by thus insulting and defying us, created much fear and alarm. Nay, there were some who, covering real cowardise under the guise of prudence and counsel, exhorted a return to the nether side of Bodotria, for that it were more eligible to retire back, than to be driven. He was apprized the while, that the enemy meant to attack him in divers bands: So that, as they surpassed him in numbers, and in the knowledge of the country, he too divided his army into three parts, and thus marched, to prevent their surrounding him.
As soon as this disposition of his was known to the enemy, they suddenly changed theirs, and all in a body proceeded to fall upon the ninth Legion, as the least sufficient and weakest of all; and, as the assault was in the night, they slew the guards and entered the trenches, aided by the general sleep or general dismay there. They were already pursuing the fight in the camp itself, when Agricola having from his spies learnt what rout the enemy had taken, and closely following their track, commanded the lightest of his foot and cavalry to charge them, whilst yet engaged, in the rear, and the whole army presently after to give a mighty shout. Moreover, at break of day, the Roman Banners were beheld refulgent. Thus were the Britons dismayed with double peril and distress; and to the Romans their courage returned. Hence, seeing their lives secure, they now maintained the conflict for glory. They even returned the attack upon the enemy: Insomuch that in the very gates of the camp a bloody encounter ensued, till the enemy were quite routed; for both these our armies exerted their might, the one contending to shew that they had brought relief, the other to appear not to have wanted assistance. Indeed, had not the woods and marshes served for shelter to the fugitives, by this victory the war had been determined.
By this success, with such valour gained, and followed with such renown, the army was become elated and resolute. With fierce dinn they cried, “That to their bravery nothing could prove insurmountable. They must penetrate into the heart of Caledonia, and advance in a continual succession of battles, till they had at last found the utmost limits of Britain.” Thus it was that they, who a little before had been so wary and so wise, were now, after the event was determined, grown full of boasts and intrepidity. Such is the lot of warfare, very unequal and unjust: In success all men assume part: The disasters are all imputed to one. Now the Britons, conjecturing the victory to proceed not from superior courage, but from circumstances well improved, and from the address of our General, lost nothing of their spirit and defiance, but armed their young men, removed their wives and children into places of security, and in general Conventions of their several Communities engaged them in a league ratified by solemn sacrifices. And thus they mutually retired for the winter, with minds on both sides abundantly irritated.
During the same summer, a Cohort of Usipians, levied in Germany and thence transported to Britain, adventured upon a feat very desperate and memorable. When they had slain the Centurion and soldiers placed amongst them for training them in discipline, and to serve them for patterns and directors, they embarked in three pinnaces, forcing the pilots to conduct them; and since one of these forsook them and fled away, they suspected and therefore killed the other two. As the attempt was not yet divulged, their launching into the deep was beheld as a wonder. Anon they were tossed hither and thither at the mercy of the waves: And, as they often engaged for spoil with several of the Britons, obliging them to defend their property thus invaded, in which conflicts they frequently proved victorious, and were sometimes defeated, they were at last reduced to want so pressing, as to feed upon one another, first upon the weakest, then upon whomsoever the lot fell. In this manner were they carried round about Britain, and having lost their vessels through ignorance how to manage them, they were accounted robbers and pyrates, and fell into the hands first of the Suevians, afterwards of the Frisians. Nay, as they were bought and sold for slaves, some of them, through change of masters, were brought over to our side of the Rhine, and grew famous from the discovery of an adventure so extraordinary.
In the beginning of the summer, Agricola suffered a sore blow in his family, by losing his Son born about a year before: A misfortune which he neither bore with an ostentation of firmness and unconcern, like many other men of magnanimity, nor with lamentations and tears worthy only of women. Besides that for this affliction war proved one of his remedies. When therefore he had sent forward the Navy, which by committing devastations in several places, would not fail to spread a mighty and perplexing terror, he put himself at the head of his army lightly equipped, and to it had added some of the bravest Britons, such as had been well proved through a long course of Peace. Thus he arrived at the Grampian Hills, upon which the enemy were already encamped. For, the Britons, nothing daunted by the issue of the former battle, and boldly waiting either to take vengeance or to suffer bondage, taught withal at last, that a general union was the best way to repel common danger, had, by embassies and confederacies drawn together the forces of all their Communities. Even then were to be seen thirty thousand men in arms, and their youth from every quarter were still continuing to flock in, as were also such of their elderly men as were yet vigorous and hale, they who were signal in war, and now carried with them their several ensigns of honour formerly gained in the field. And now Galgacus, he who amongst their several Leaders surpassed all in valour and descent, is said to have spoke in this strain to the multitude all very pressing for battle.
“Whenever I contemplate the causes of the War, and the necessity to which we are reduced, great is my confidence that this day and this union of yours will prove the beginning of universal Liberty to Britain. For, besides that Bondage is what we have never borne, we are so beset that beyond us there is no further land; nor, in truth, is there any security left us from the sea whilst the Roman Fleet is hovering upon our coasts. Thus the same expedient which proves honourable to brave men, is to cowards too become the safest of all others, even present recourse to battle and arms. The other Britons, in their past conflicts with the Romans, whence they found various success, had still a remaining source of hope and succour in this our Nation. For, of all the people of Britain we are the noblest, and thence placed in its innermost regions; and, as we behold not so much as the coasts of such as are slaves, we thus preserve even our eyes free and unprofaned by the sight of lawless and usurped rule. To us who are the utmost inhabitants of the earth, to us the last who enjoy Liberty, this extremity of the Globe, this remote tract unknown even to common fame, has to this day proved the only protection and defence. At present the utmost boundary of Britain is laid open; and to conquer parts unknown, is thought matter of great pomp and boasting. Beyond us no more people are found, nor aught save seas and rocks; and already the Romans have advanced into the heart of our country. Against their pride and domineering you will find it in vain to seek a remedy or refuge from any obsequiousness or humble behaviour of yours. They are plunderers of the earth, who, in their universal devastations, finding countries to fail them, investigate and rob even the sea. If the enemy be wealthy, he inflames their avarice; if poor, their ambition. They are general spoilers, such as neither the Eastern World nor the Western can satiate. They only of all men thirst after acquisitions both poor and rich, with equal avidity and passion. To spoil, to butcher, and to commit every kind of violence, they stile by a lying name, Government, and, when they have spread a general desolation, call it Peace.
“Dearest to every man are his Children and Kindred, by the contrivance and designation of nature. These are snatched from us for recruits, and doomed to bondage in other parts of the earth. Our Wives and Sisters, however they escape rapes and violence as from open enemies, are debauched under the appearance and privilege of friendship and hospitality. Our Fortunes and Possessions they exhaust for tribute, our Grain for their provisions. Even our bodies and limbs are extenuated and wasted, whilst we are doomed to the drudgery of making Cuts through woods and Drains in bogs, under continual blows and outrages. Such as are born to be Slaves are but once sold, and thenceforward nourished by their Lords: Britain is daily paying for its Servitude, is daily feeding it. Moreover, as in a tribe of houshold Slaves, he who comes last serves for sport to all his Fellows; so in this ancient state of Slavery to which the World is reduced, we, as the freshest Slaves, and thence held the most contemptible, are now designed to final destruction. For, we have no Fields to cultivate, nor Mines to dig, nor Ports to make; works for which they might be tempted to spare us alive: Besides that ever distastful to Rulers is magnanimity and a daring spirit in their Subjects. Indeed, our very situation, so solitary and remote, the more security it affords to us, does but raise the greater jealousy in them. Seeing therefore you are thus bereft of all hopes of mercy, rouse now at last all your courage, both you to whom life is dearest, and you to whom glory. The Brigantes, even under the leading of a Woman, burned their Colony, stormed their entrenchments, and, had not such success degenerated into sloth, might have quite cast off the yoke of slavery. Let us who still preserve our Forces intire, us who are still unsubdued, and want not to acquire Liberty, but only to secure it, manifest at once, upon the first encounter, what kind of men they are that Caledonia hath reserved for her own vindication and defence.
“Do you indeed believe the Romans to be equally brave and vigorous in war, as during peace they are vicious and dissolute? From our quarrels and divisions it is that they have derived their renown, and thus convert the faults of their enemies to the glory of their own Army; an Army compounded of many Nations so different, that as it is success alone which holds them together, misfortunes and disasters will surely dissolve them. Unless you suppose that the Germans there, that the Gauls, and many of the Britons (whom with shame I mention) men who however have been all much longer their enemies than their slaves, are yet attached to them by any real fidelity and affection, whilst presenting their blood to establish a domination altogether foreign and unnatural to them all. What restrains them is no more than awe and terror, frail bonds of endearment; and when these are removed, such who cease to fear, will immediately begin to manifest their hate. Amongst us is found whatever can stimulate men to victory. The Romans have no Wives to hearten and to urge them. They have here no Fathers and Mothers to upbraid them for flying. Many of them have no country at all, or at least their country is elsewhere. But a few in number they are, ignorant of the region and thence struck with dread, whilst to their eyes, whatever they behold around them, is all wild and strange, even the air and sky, with the woods and the sea; so that the Gods have in some sort delivered them enclosed and bound into our hands.
“Be not dismayed with things of mere shew, and with a glare of gold and of silver: This is what can neither wound, nor save. In the very host of the enemy we shall find bands of our own. The Britons will own and espouse their own genuine cause. The Gauls will recollect their former Liberty. What the Usipians have lately done, the other Germans will do, and abandon the Romans. Thereafter nothing remains to be feared. Their Forts are ungarrisoned; their Colonies replenished with the aged and infirm; and between the people and their magistrates, whilst the former are averse to obedience, and the latter rule with injustice, the municipal Cities are weakened and full of dissentions. Here you see a General, here an Army: There you may behold Tributes and the Mines, with all the other train of calamities and curses ever pursuing men enslaved. Whether all these are to be for ever imposed, or whether we forthwith avenge ourselves for the attempt, this very field must determine. As therefore you advance to battle, look back upon your ancestors, look forward to your posterity.”
They received his speech joyfully, with chantings, and terrible dinn, and many dissonant shouts, after the manner of Barbarians. Already too their bands moved, and the glittering of their arms appeared, as all the most resolute were running to the front: Moreover, the Army was forming in battle array; when Agricola, who indeed saw his soldiers full of alacrity, and hardly to be restrained even by express cautions, yet chose to discourse to them in the following strain. “It is now the eighth year, my fellow-soldiers, since, through the virtue and auspicious fortune of the Roman Empire, and by your own services and fidelity, you have been pursuing the conquest of Britain. In so many expeditions that you have undertaken, in so many battles as you have fought, you have still had constant occasion either to be exerting your bravery against the foe, or your patience and pains even against the obstacles of nature. Neither, during all these struggles, have we found any cause of mutual regret, I to have conducted such soldiers, or you to have followed such a Captain. We have both passed the limits which we found, I those known to the ancient Governors, you those of former Armies, and we possess the very extremity of Britain, not only in the bruitings of fame and vulgar rumor, but possess it with our camps and arms. Britain is entirely discovered, and intirely subdued. In truth, as the Army has been marching, whilst, in passing morasses, and mountains, and rivers, you have been fatigued and distressed, I was wont to hear every man remarkably brave ask, When shall we see the enemy, when be led to battle? Already they are come, roused from their fastnesses and lurking holes. Here you see the end of all your wishes, here scope for all your valour, and all things promising and propitious, if you conquer; but all cross and disastrous, should you be vanquished. For, as to have thus marched over a tract of country so immense, to have passed through gloomy forests, to have crossed arms of the Deep, is matter of glory and applause whilst we advance against the enemy; so if we fly before them, whatever is now most in our favour, will then prove most to our peril. We know not the situation of the country so well as they know it; we have not provisions so abundant as they have; but we have limbs and arms, and in these all things. For myself; it is a rule long since settled by me, that safety there is none, either to the Army or to the General, in turning their backs upon the foe: Hence it is not only more eligible to lose life honourably than to save it basely, but security and renown both arise from the same source. Neither would it be a fate void of glory to fall in this the utmost verge of earth and of nature.
“Were the people now arrayed against you such as were new to you, were you to engage with bands never before tried, I should animate you by the examples of other Armies. At present, only recollect and enumerate your own signal exploits, only ask and consult your own eyes. These are they whom but the last year you utterly discomfited, only by the terror of your shouting, when, trusting to the darkness of the night, they by stealth attacked a single Legion. These are they who of all the Britons are the most abandoned to fear and flight, and thence happen thus long to survive all the rest. It is with us as with those who make inroads into woods and forests: As beasts of the greatest strength there, are driven thence by the superior force of such as pursue them, and as the timorous and spiritless fly even at the cry of the pursuers: In like manner, all the bravest Britons are long since fallen by the sword. They that remain are only a crowd, fearful and effeminate: Nor can you consider them as men whom you have therefore reached, because they have persisted to oppose you, but as such whom you have surprized as the last and forlorn of all, who struck with dread and bereft of spirit, stand benummed in yonder field, whence you may gain over them a glorious and memorable victory. Here compleat all your expeditions and efforts: Here close a struggle of fifty years with one great and important day, so that to the Army may not be imputed either the procrastination of the War, or any cause for reviving it.”
Apparent, even whilst Agricola spoke, was the ardor of the soldiers, mighty their transport and applause at the end of his speech, and instantly they flew to their arms. Thus inflamed and urging to engage, he formed them so that the strong band of auxiliary foot, who were eight thousand men, composed the center. The wings were environed with three thousand horse. The Legions without advancing stood embattled just without the entrenchments; for that mighty would be the glory of the victory, were it, by sparing them, gained without spilling any Roman blood; and they were still a sure stay and succour, should the rest be repulsed. The British Host was ranged upon the rising grounds, at once for shew and terror, in such sort that the first band stood upon the plain, and the rest rose successively upon the brows of the hills, one rank close above another, as if they had been linked together. Their cavalry and chariots of war filled the interjacent field with great tumult and boundings to and fro. Agricola then, fearing, from the surpassing multitude of the enemy, that he might be beset at once in the front and on each flank, opened and extended his host. Yet, though thence his ranks must prove more relaxed, and many advised him to bring on the Legions, he, who rather entertained a spirit of hope, and in all difficulties was ever firm, dismissed his horse, and advanced on foot before the Banners.
In the beginning of the onset the conflict was maintained at a distance. The Britons, who were possessed at once of bravery and skill, armed with their huge swords and small bucklers, quite eluded our missive weapons, or beat them quite off, whilst of their own they poured a torrent upon us, till Agricola encouraged three Batavian Cohorts and two of the Tungrians, to close with the enemy, and bring them to an engagement hand to hand; as what was with those veteran soldiers a long practice, and become familiar, but to the enemy very uneasy and embarrassing, as they were armed with very little targets and with swords of enormous size. For, the swords of the Britons, which are blunt at the end, are unfit for grapling, and cannot support a close encounter. Hence the Batavians thickened their blows, wounded them with the iron bosses of their bucklers, mangled their faces, and, bearing down all who withstood them upon the plain, were already carrying the attack up to the hills: Insomuch that the rest of the Cohorts, incited by emulation and sudden ardor, joined with those, and made havock of all whom they encountered. Nay, such was the impetuosity and hurry of the victory, that many were left behind but half dead, others not so much as wounded. In the mean time their troops of cavalry took to flight: The chariots of war mingled with the battalions of foot; and, though they had so lately struck terror, were now themselves beset and entangled with our thick bands, as also with the unevenness and intricacy of the place. Of a combat of cavalry this bore not the least appearance: Since here, standing obstinately foot to foot, they pressed to overthrow each other by the weight and bodies of their horses. Moreover, the warchariots, now abandoned and straggling, as also the horses destitute of managers, and thence wild and affrighted, were running hither and thither, just as the next fright drove them; insomuch that all of their own side, who met them, or crossed their way, were beaten down by them.
Now those of the Britons who were lodged upon the ridges of the hills, and had hitherto no share in the encounter, like men yet pressed by no peril, looked with scorn upon our forces, as but few in number, and began to descend softly and to surround them in the rear, whilst they were urging their victory. But Agricola, who had apprehended this very design, dispatched to engage them four squadrons of horse, such as he had reserved near him for the sudden exigencies of the field; and, by this foresight of his, the more furiously they had advanced, the more keenly were they repulsed and utterly routed. Thus against the Britons themselves their own devices were turned; and, by the order of the General, the squadrons of cavalry which charged in front, wheeled about and assailed the enemy behind. Then in truth, all over the open fields was to be seen a spectacle prodigious and tragical, incessant pursuits, wounds and captivity, and the present captives always slaughtered, as often as others occurred to be taken. Now the enemy behaved just as they happened to be prompted by their several humours. Sometimes they fled in large troops with all their arms, before a smaller number that pursued them: Others, quite unarmed, rushed into peril, and desperately presented themselves to instant death. On all sides lay scattered arms and carcasses, and mangled limbs, and the ground was dyed with blood. Nay, now and then, even by the vanquished, was exerted notable wrath and bravery. When once they drew near the woods, they rejoined and rallied, and thus circumvented the foremost pursuers, such as, without knowing the country, had rashly ventured too far. Whence we must have suffered some notable disaster, from such confidence void of caution, had not Agricola, who was assiduously visiting every quarter, ordered the stoutest Cohorts, lightly equipped, to range themselves in the form of a toil to invest them, also some of the cavalry to dismount, and enter the strait passes, and the rest of the horse, at the same time, to beat the more open and passable parts of the woods. Now, as soon as they perceived our forces to continue the pursuit with ranks regular and close, they betook themselves to open flight, in no united bands as before, nor one man regarding or awaiting another; but quite scattered, and each shunning any companion, they all made to places far remote and desart. What ended the pursuit was night, and a satiety of slaughter. Of the enemy were slain ten thousand. There fell of our men three hundred and forty, amongst these Aulus Atticus, Commander of a Cohort, one by his own youthful heat, as also by a fiery horse, hurried into the midst of the enemies.
It was, indeed, a night of great joy to the conquerors, both from victory and spoil. The Britons, who wandered in despair, men and women uttering in concert their dismal wailings, dragged along their wounded, called to such as were unhurt, deserted their houses, nay, in a rage, even set them on fire; made choice of lurking holes, then instantly forfook them; then met to consult, and from their counsels gathered some hope: Sometimes, upon beholding their dearest pledges of nature, their spirits became utterly sunk and dejected; sometimes, by the same sight, they were roused into resolution and fury. Nay, it is very certain, that some murdered their children and wives, as an act of compassion and tenderness. The next day produced a more ample display of the victory; on all sides a profound silence, solitary hills, thick smoak rising from the houses on fire, and not a living soul to be found by the scouts. When from these, who had been dispatched out every way, it was learnt, that whether the enemy had fled no certain traces could be discovered, and that they had no where rallied in bodies; when the summer was likewise passed, and thence an impossibility of extending the operations of war, he conducted his Army into the borders of the Horestians. After he had there received hostages, he ordered the Admiral of the Fleet to sail round Britain. For this expedition he was furnished with proper forces, and before him was already gone forth the terror of the Roman power: He himself the while led on his foot and horse with a slow pace, that thus the minds of these new Nations might be awed and dismayed even by prolonging his march through them: He then lodged his Army in garrisons for the winter. The Fleet too having found a favourable sea, entered, with great fame, into the Harbour of Rhutupium: For, from thence it had sailed, and coasting along the nethermost shore of Britain, thither returned.
With this course and situation of things Agricola by letters acquainted the Emperor; tidings which, however modestly recounted, without all ostentation, or any pomp of words, Domitian received as with joy in his countenance, so with anguish in his soul: Such was his custom. His heart, indeed, smote him for his late mock-triumph over the Germans, which he knew to be held in public derision; as to adorn it he had purchased a number of slaves, who were so decked in their habits and hair, as to resemble captives in war. But here a victory mighty and certain, gained by the slaughter of so many thousands of the enemy, was universally sounded by the voice of fame, and received with vast applause. Terrible above all things it was to him, that the name of a private man should be exalted above that of the Prince. In vain had he driven from the public Tribunals all pursuits of popular eloquence and fame, in vain repressed the renown of every civil accomplishment, if any other than himself possessed the glory of excelling in war: Nay, however he might dissemble every other distaste, yet to the person of the Emperor properly appertained the virtue and praise of being a great General. Tortured with these anxious thoughts, and indulging his humour of being shut up in secret, a certain indication that he was fostering some sanguinary purpose, he at last judged it the best course, upon this occasion, to hide and reserve his rancour till the first flights of fame were passed, and the affection of the Army cooled. For, Agricola held yet the Administration of Britain.
To him therefore he caused to be decreed in Senate the triumphal Ornaments, a Statue crowned with Laurel, with whatever else is bestowed instead of a real Triumph, and heightened this his compliment with many expressions full of esteem and honour. He directed, moreover, a general expectation to be raised, that to Agricola was destined the Province of Syria, a Government then vacant by the death of Atilius Rufus, a man of Consular quality, since the same was reserved only for men of illustrious rank. Many there were who believed, that an Imperial Freedman, one much trusted with the secret designs of his Master, was by him dispatched to carry the instrument appointing Agricola Governor of Syria, with orders to deliver it to him, were he still in Britain; that the Freedman met Agricola crossing the Channel, and without once speaking to him, returned directly to Domitian. It is uncertain whether this account be true, or only a fiction framed in conformity to the character and genius of the Prince. To his Successor in the mean time Agricola had surrendered the Province, now settled in perfect peace and security. Moreover, to prevent all remarks upon the manner of his entry into Rome, from any popular distinction paid him, and any concourse of people to meet him, he utterly declined this observance of his friends, and came into the City by night, and by night, as he was directed, went to the Palace. He was there received by the Emperor with a short embrace, but without a word said, then passed, undistinguished, amongst the crowd of servile Courtiers. Now, in order to soften with other and different virtues the reputation of a military man, a name ever distasteful to those who live themselves in idleness, he resigned himself intirely to indolence and repose. In his dress he was modest; in his conversation courteous and free, and never found accompanied with more than one or two of his friends. Insomuch that many, such especially as are wont to judge of great men by their retinue and parade, all calculated to gain popular admiration, when they had beheld and observed Agricola, sought to know whence proceeded his mighty fame: There were indeed but few who could account for the motives of his conduct.
Frequently, during the course of that time, was he accused in his absence before Domitian, and in his absence also acquitted. What threatened his life was no crime of his, nor complaint of any particular for injuries received, nor aught else save the glorious character of the man, and the spirit of the Emperor hating all excellence and every virtue. With these causes there concurred the most mischievous sort of all enemies, they who extolled him in order to destroy him. Moreover, in the Commonwealth there ensued such times as would not permit the name of Agricola to remain unmentioned: So many were the Armies which we had lost in Mœsia, in Dacia, in Germany, in Pannonia, all by the wretched conduct of our Generals, either altogether impotent or fool-hardy: So many withal were the brave officers, with so many bands of men, overthrown and taken. Neither was the question and contest now about maintaining the limits of the Empire and guarding the rivers which served for its boundaries, but about defending the standing encampments of the Legions and preserving our own territories. Thus, when public misfortunes were following one another in a continual train, when every year was become signal for calamities and slaughters, Agricola was by the common voice of the populace required for the command of our Armies. For, all men were comparing his vigor, his firmness, and his mind trained in war, with the sloth and timidity of the others. With discourses of this strain, it is certain that even the ears of Domitian himself were teased; whilst all the best of his Freedmen advised and pressed him to his choice, out of pure affection and duty, as did the worst out of virulence and envy; and to whatever appeared most malignant that Prince was ever prone. In this manner was Agricola, as well through his own virtues, as through the base management of others, pushed upon a precipice even of glory.
The year was now arrived when to the lot of Agricola was to fall the Proconsulship of Asia or of Africa: And, as Civica had been lately murdered, (even whilst Proconsul of the former province) Agricola was neither unprepared what course to pursue, nor Domitian unfurnished with an example to follow. It happened too, that certain persons, apprized of the secret purposes of the Prince, made it their business to accost Agricola, and ask him, whether he meant in earnest to take possession of his Province. Nay, they began, at first, indeed, with some reserve, to extol a life of tranquillity and repose; anon they proffered their good offices to procure his dimission and excuse: At last, throwing off all disguise, and proceeding at once to dissuade and to intimidate him, they prevailed with him to be carried with this as his suit to Domitian. He, already prepared to dissemble his sentiments, and assuming a mien of haughtiness, not only received the petition of Agricola to be excused, but when he had granted it, suffered himself to be presented with formal thanks. Nor was he ashamed of conferring a grace so unpopular and odious. To Agricola, however, he gave not the salary which was wont to be paid to Proconsuls, and which he himself had continued to some. Whether he were affronted that it was not asked, or whether restrained by his own guilty mind, lest he might seem to have purchased with money what he had hindered by his interposition and power. It is the nature of men, that whomsoever they injure they hate. Now Domitian was in his temper apt to be suddenly transported into rage, and, in proportion as he smothered his vengeance, the more irreconcileable he always certainly proved. Yet, by the prudence and moderation of Agricola, he was softened. For, by no contumacy of his, nor by any vain ostentation of a spirit of Liberty ill-timed, did he court fame or urge his fate. Let such who are wont to admire things daring and forbidden, know, that even under evil Princes, great men may be produced, and that by the means of modesty and observance, provided these be accompanied with application and vigour, they may rise to an equal measure of public estimation and praise with that of many, who, through a conduct very stubborn and precipitate, but of no advantage to the Commonweal, have distinguished themselves by dying only to gain a great name.
Afflicting to us his family proved the end of his life, sorrowful to his friends; and even to foreigners and such as knew him not, matter of trouble and condolence. The commonalty likewise, and such people as were void of employment , were not only frequent in their visits to his house, but in all public places, in all particular companies, made him the subject of their conversation. Nor, when his death was divulged, was there a soul found who either rejoiced at it, or presently forgot it. What heightened the public commiseration and concern, was a prevailing rumor, that he was dispatched by poison. That there was any proof of this, I dare not aver. Yet it is true that, during the whole course of his illness, Domitian caused frequent visits to be made him, indeed much more frequent than Princes are wont to make, both by his favourite Freedmen and most trusty Physicians; whether through real concern for his health, or solicitude to learn the probability of his death. It is well known that, on the day in which he expired, continual accounts were, by messengers purposely placed, every instant transmitted to the Emperor, how fast his end was approaching; and no one believed, that he would thus quicken such tidings, had he been to feel any sorrow from hearing them. In his face, however, and even in his spirit, he affected to shew some guise of grief; for, he was now secure against the object of his hate, and could more easily dissemble his present joy, than lately his fear. It was abundantly notorious how much it rejoiced him, upon reading the last Will of Agricola, to find himself left joint heir with his excellent Wife and tender Daughter. This he took to have been done out of judgment and choice, and in pure honour to himself: So blind and corrupt was his mind rendered by continual flattery, as not to know, that to no Prince but a bad one will any good father bequeath his fortune.
Agricola was born on the thirteenth of June, during the third Consulship of the Emperor Caligula. He died on the twenty-fourth of August, during the Consulship of Collega and Priscus, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. If posterity be desirous to know his make and stature; in his person he was rather genteel and regular than tall. In his aspect there was nothing terrible. His looks were extremely gracious and pleasing. A good man you would have readily believed him, and been glad to have found that he was a great man. Nay, though he was snatched away whilst his age was yet in full vigour, if, however, his life be measured by his glory, he attained to a mighty length of days: For, every true felicity and acquisition, namely, all such as arise from virtue, he had already enjoyed to the full. As he had been likewise dignified with the Consular and Triumphal Honours, what more could fortune add to his lustre and renown? After enormous wealth he sought not; an honourable share he possessed. As behind him he left surviving his Daughter and his Wife, he may be even accounted happy; since, by dying whilst his credit was no wise impaired, his fame in its full splendor, his relations and friends yet in a state of security, he escaped the evils to come. For, as before us he was wont to express his wishes, that he might survive to see this truly blessed age, and Trajan swaying the Sovereignty, wishes which he uttered with presages as of what would surely ensue; so it was a wondrous consolation attending the quickness of his death, that thence he evaded the misery of the latter times, when Domitian, who had ceased to exert his Tyranny by starts only and intermissions, was come now to rend the Commonwealth by cruelties without all respite, and to overthrow it, as it were, by one great and deadly stroke.
For, Agricola saw not the Court of the Senate besieged, nor the Senate enclosed by armed men, nor the butchery of so many men of Consular dignity, nor the flight and exile of so many Ladies of the prime Nobility, all effected in one continued havock. Till then Carus Metius, the accuser, was only considerable for having been victorious in one bloody process; till then the cruel motions of Messallinus rang only within the Palace at Alba; and in those days Massa Bebius (afterwards so exercised in arraigning the innocent) was himself arraigned as a criminal. Presently after we, with our own hands, dragged Helvidius to prison and execution: We beheld the melancholy doom of Mauricus and Rusticus: We found ourselves besprinkled with the innocent blood of Senecio. Even Nero withheld his eyes from scenes of cruelty; he, indeed, ordered murders to be perpetrated, but saw not the perpetration. The principal part of our miseries under Domitian, was to be obliged to see him and be seen by him, at a time when all our sighs and sorrows were watched and marked down for condemnation; when that cruel countenance of his, always covered with a settled red, whence he hardened himself against all shame and blushing, served him to mark and recount all the pale horrors at once possessing so many men. Thou therefore, Agricola, art happy, not only as thy life was glorious, but as thy death was seasonable. According to the account of such who heard thy last words, thou didst accept thy fate chearfully and with firmness, as if thou thus didst thy part to shew the Emperor to be guiltless. But to myself and thy Daughter, besides the anguish of having our Father snatched from us, it proves a fresh accession of sorrow, that we had not an opportunity to attend thee in thy sickness, to solace thy sinking spirits, to please ourselves with seeing thee, please ourselves with embracing thee. Doubtless, we should have greedily received thy instructions and sayings, and engraved them for ever upon our hearts. This is our woe, this a wound to our spirit, that by the lot of long absence from thee, thou wast already lost to us for four years before thy death. There is no question, excellent Father, but that with whatever thy condition required thou wast honourably supplied, as thou wast attended by thy Wife, one so full of tenderness for her Husband: Yet fewer tears accompanied thy coarse, and during thy last moments somewhat was wanting to satisfy thine eyes.
If for the manes of the just any place be found; if, as Philosophers hold, great spirits perish not with the body, pleasing by thy repose. Moreover, recall us thy family from this our weakness in regretting thee, and from these our effeminate wailings, to the contemplation of thy virtues, for which it were unjust to lament or to mourn. Let us rather adorn thy memory with deathless praises, and (as far as our infirmities will allow) by pursuing and adopting thy excellencies. This is true honour, this the natural duty incumbent upon every near relation. This is also what I would recommend to thy Daughter and thy Wife, so to reverence the memory of a Father, and a Husband, as to be ever ruminating upon all his doings, upon all his sayings, and rather to adore his immortal name, rather the image of his mind, than that of his person. Not that I mean to condemn the use of Statues, such as are framed of marble or brass. But as the persons of men are frail and perishing, so are likewise the portraitures of men. The form of the soul is eternal, such as you cannot represent and preserve by the craft of hands, or by materials foreign to its nature, nor otherwise than by a similitude and conformity of manners. Whatever we loved in Agricola, whatever we admired, remains, and will for ever remain implanted in the hearts of men, through an eternity of ages, and conveyed down in the voice of Fame, and in the Record of things. For, many of the great Ancients, by being buried in oblivion, have thence reaped the fate of men altogether mean and inglorious: But Agricola shall ever survive in his History here composed and transmitted to posterity.