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Publius Cornelius Tacitus was one of the prominent historians and writers who made a number of successful attempts to describe the conditions under which the Roman Empire had to develop and promote the relations with other countries.
For a long period of time, the Roman Empire was considered as a powerful country, and its power was so great, that the vast majority of enemies or simple envious countries were not able to notice how weak the political and economical situation in the country was. Tacitus’ involvement into the political world of the Rome helped him create several powerful works where he described the style of Roman life, the challenges its citizens faced, and some other problems Roman society used to solve.
The Agricola and the Germania are the two educative works which describe the achievements of the Roman Empire from different perspectives: the Germania is based on the traditions which were set by the Roman government for all those German people and helps to comprehend how the conditions of the Empire could influence the development of other countries; and the Agricola represents the story of a Governor of Britain that makes it possible to demonstrate Roman virtues and their impact on Roman style.
The Germania and the Agricola as the two significant works in Tacitus career. In spite of the fact that these two works written by Tacitus touch upon lives of different people, they both are about the Roman Empire, and to be more exact, about the lives of different people under the same conditions and with the same opportunities.
Different nations are united to achieve the same purpose – to confront the rules dictated by the Romans who have already suffered from its wealth and power. These books seem to be a magnificent insight into the Roman life and the style people have to follow.
On the one hand, the author underlines the cruelty of the times and focus on how “many have died by the chance happenings of fate; all the most energetic have fallen victims to the cruelty of the emperor” (Tacitus, Agricola, 53). On the other hand, the author says that the Roman impact on other societies’ lives remains to be integral: “it lay indeed like any other refuse of the sea, until Roman luxury made its reputation” (Tacitus, Germania, 139).
Political perspective helps to understand better the nature of Rome. To explain how terrible and unpleasant the conditions developed by the Roman Empire were, the author made a decision to develop his story around one character, Domitian, who was strict, prejudiced, and cruel. Even people around could cope with his cruelty because one of the most terrible torments for his people was “to see him with his eyes fixed upon use.
Every sigh was registered against us; and when we all turned pale, he did not scruple to make use marked men by glance of his savage countenance” (Tacitus, Agricola, 98). However, if in one book, Tacitus made everything possible to frighten the reader and to introduce the worst side of the problem, the same situations were described in a different manner in another book. “The power even of the kings is not absolute and arbitrary” (Tacitus, Germania, 107).
Agricola served as the best example of how it is possible to behave in a right way even under the most tyrannical conditions ever. In spite of the fact that Roman government was cruel for everyone around, there were people who wanted to prove the ideas of justice and to provide people with a chance to live better and safer. In the Germania, almost the same attempts were made, still, more attention is paid to some Roman virtues in accordance with which rulers and ordinary people should live.
Roman economy as an example of how to ruin everything in a minute. Though the Roman Empire was not destroyed in a minute, and this phrase should be regarded as a symbolic expression, there were a number of moments of human weakness led to unpredictable results.
One of the evident examples was the organization of public games and spending money on such entertainment. The Romans preferred to develop huge spaces to train and improve their physical conditions. “In ordering the public games and the other vanities”, the government found it more interesting to compromise “between economy and excess, steering clear of extravagance but not falling to win popular approval” (Tacitus, Agricola, 56).
In fact, Roman economy was based on slavery and the outcomes of slaves’ work: even “a loser willingly discharges his debts by becoming a slave” (Tacitus, Germania, 121). Romans did not want to focus enough attention on the problems which were formed inside society. They were burning with a desire to develop appropriate outside relations and power over other countries. This is why when the time came, they were weak enough to understand their own mistakes and gaps.
In general, the Roman Empire described by Tacitus was a powerful state where its citizens were able to develop ideas and styles in accordance with their own interests.
Tacitus’ papers help to understand the weaknesses of the kings and the methods used by the enemies to aggravate the situation and destroy the Empire. Tacitus proved that the power of word may sometimes be much more considerable then the power of a person because a human is not always able to weigh all pros and cons of his actions and be simply dispirited by personal failures.
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Tacitus, Julius. “The Agricola.” In The Agricola and The Germania by Tacitus and Handford. New York: Penguin Group, 1970.
Tacitus, Julius. “The Germania.” In The Agricola and The Germania by Tacitus and Handford. New York: Penguin Group, 1970.