Jul 11, 2019 in Literature

Ancient Texts Essay Sample

Tacitus was a roman writer whose biography is not well known. In fact, there is a controversy surrounding his name, with some people arguing that he was known as Publius Tacitus, and some arguing that he was Gaius Cornelius Tacitus. However, he made great literatures of history that have helped the world to understand the lives of Romans during the early centuries, and how the lives of people have transformed from then to the present day. The greatest of his works was The Annals of Tacitus where he gives an account of Romans for a period of 54 years. In this essay, a choice of two of his works has been made and evaluated. The choice of Agricola and The Germania follows the fact that the two are different yet they are also similar due to the relatively similar topics. In this evaluation, the aim is to show how these works have been used in history as references, and change that these use has brought to nations in Europe and other parts of the world.

Agricola and the Germania

Germania gives an account of the lives of people of the Roman Gaul, the current day France. One thing that should be noted from the title of the book is that an individual can confuse Germania from the current day Germany. This is an important thing because it helps the reader to differentiate the two, and think the two as two separate entities, as they indeed are. Simplicity values have infested the people of Romanian origin for quite sometime and this can only be understood by reading the two works of literature as done by Tacitus. It worthwhile to mention that Germania is based on the lifestyle of the Romans while Agricola is a story, in fact, a semi autobiography of his father in law, and at that time a governor of Britain.

The two, being true accounts, offers an insight into the simplistic lives of the Romans, a lifestyle that has persevered to this generation. Germania covers the Romans wholly, including presenting all the traditions and tribes of the people in the border of Roman Empire. It indicates that the people were so virtuous, including the barbarians, due to their simplicity of freedom. Additionally, the life of Agricola shows virtue by the simple facts shown by the author concerning the personality of the British governor. Closer evaluation of the two works shows that the Roman state was oppressive and arbitrary and expected the people to pay tribute to the nation. Apparently, the people were willing to serve their nations at republican capacity which makes it Germania a unique nation where corruption and usury were non existent while the two vices were quite rampant in the neighboring nations. Reading from the two books, one can notice that Tacitus was an advocate for virtue.


Influences of Germania and Agricola

Some historians and critiques have labeled Germania “one of the most dangerous literatures” ever written. Perhaps, it would be necessary to point out that this is quite wrong, since the author did not have any malice when he made the book. It is worth mentioning that the author, Tacitus, had never at any time visited Germany, and therefore his knowledge of the country and its people had originated from other writers on the same subject. However, the virtues that he conjured up concerning the Germans were later used by the barbaric Germans to form Nazis.

It is therefore for this reason that many critics can argue that the book is dangerous. As has been indicated, there are other scholars who think that the Germania was altered by other communities, most especially the Italian scholars, who now combined the mendacity and the fantasy from the book to trace the origins of Germans to Noah[2]. This means that the book also had an influence on the religious practices of Germans in the later years. A clear manifestation of these is the swastika, the symbol for German Nazi. On the other hand, Agricola also had some of its influences in Germany and Europe as well.

 According to the story, Agricola was a Briton by birth but became a governor of the western Gaul, Asia. His character indicates that the Britons were not as united as the Germans, they differed in their cultures and also they had mixed their origins with other people, like the Gaul, French, with whom they shared common language and religious practices. It therefore comes to no surprise that the story is of great importance in outlining the traditions of the Germans as well as juxtaposing those with those of the Britons. It therefore comes to the simple fact that the literature of this book has been used to separate the culture and political interaction of Britons even in the current world and times. Furthermore, it comes without surprise that the Nazis took the works of Tacitus to spread the propagandas and incite the people into war. It is worth mentioning that the works of Tacitus, since he was a campaigner for virtues, has depicted the Germans as highly virtuous and united, creating as if an ideal breed of people, which was not the case with the barbaric Nazis.

On the other hand, Agricola portrayed Britons as a community of people that were ruthless, without virtues and in deed lacked unity. As a result of this literature, the Nazis were in a better position to manipulate the feelings and perception of people concerning Britain and Germany, and this is how the works of Tacitus were used in a villain way to bring about a war, which would otherwise not have been. The Nazis were the most ruthless and bloodthirsty terrorists but they hid behind the shadow created for them by Tacitus in his glorification of Germans, both in Germania and Agricola, and indeed many of the books that he wrote. It is my opinion that even warriors in Nazi camps were cheated by the literature so that they thought that there was no way a country like Britain and her people could rise to defend themselves when they were not united. The perception, as shown by Agricola, is that the Britons would fight with everybody taking care of him and not for the benefit of the nation. This is the perception that the Nazis went with into the war, and what kept them moving, knowing that they could not be defeated by such a seemingly weak army.

The basic means that the Germanic literature shows is that Germans were fierce and warlike, but in the defense of their freedom and dignity whereas Romans were cowardly and tainted with intermarriages and other interrelations. Following these arguments, Hitler had good grounds to have a war with the Britons, who according to the arguments of the Nazis had no rule of law; they had exchanged good values, laws and morals for good habits, which was not acceptable in Germany. According to Agricola, Germans had law not good habits, the two were separate. Using the words of Germania and Agricola, the Nazis and revolutionaries in Germany committed so many atrocities. However, it would not be wise to argue that the works of Tacitus were dangerous, and they cannot be condemned or blamed for the atrocities committed in their name, rather, the people, and the readers of the works, made it bad and dangerous. They used the words in the wrong way.

The basis of the war by the Germans was not only based on the fact that they were shown as a virtuous people that had struggled so hard to the restoration of their empire but also there is importance in keeping in mind the fact that Germania, as indicated in the introduction was not the present day Germany, but a larger empire. The portrayal of Germania in the works of Tacitus were like a bait to Hitler and his allies who thought that they could once again gain the title of the noble savages, as had been described by Tacitus, to claim back their empire, which was not to be.One cannot argue that the presence of a bigger empire was an illusion, but it can rightly be said that the book influenced greatly the decision of Hitler and many Germans in the actions they took, and going to war.


An English saying indicates that you can give a dog a bad name and hang him, and this is exactly what critics of the works of Tacitus do. He was not in malice or ill will when he wrote the works, but the Nazis saw in these books an opportunity to manipulate them for their own benefits without caring what effects that these would be to the works. To argue that his works were not great influence to the Nazis and subsequent differences between Germany and Britain would be a lie, but also claiming that Tacitus was the influence would be a greater lie, in fact, like Perry Mason would have put it, this would be crucifying Tacitus upon the cross of coincidence, a fatal mistake to the great historian.

Related essays

banner banner banner