Tacitus and Agricola

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Analysis of Tacitus and Orwell’s Anti-Imperialistic Views Classic 1010: Ancient History While the Romans loved to flaunt their conquest of a land they also did not lack intellectual voices willing to question the purpose and results of an expanding empire. One Roman historian, Tacitus (56-117AD), did performed such flaunting. One of Tacitus’ earliest work, the Agricola, though not as famous as some of his other works, is a biography of his father in-law, Gn. Julius Agricola, who developed into the rank of Governor of Britain (77-85AD). The biography goes into detail about how Agricola made it to a victory against the forces of Calgacus in the Battle of Mons Grapius and his unexpected murder of a jealous emperor Domitian. In the Agricola there are two speeches that are opposed to Roman expansion, the Britons (61 AD) and Calgacus (83 AD), and represent how Tacitus portrays his resistance to Roman imperialism. The following paper will examine the aims and assumptions from the speeches of Calgacus and the Britons in the Agricola and compare them with the anti-imperialistic assumptions from the essay Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. The comparison being, demonstration of similarities and differences of anti-imperialism, and their aims and assumptions between the two passages. The essay will also provide evidence as to why Tacitus’ depiction of anti-Roman Briton’s motives, does not fit with the portrayal of the British Empire in the Orwells Shooting and Elephant text. Despite the two speeches by the Britons and Calgacus likely to be fictional representations, they do express Tacitus’ criticisms towards Imperial Rome. Keeping in mind everything that occurs between the two speeches is technically coming from the mouth of Tacitus. One example of Tacitus’ aim is to show the injustice put towards them by the Roman people and how they do not deserve the
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