Required Reading Analytical Essay
Cornelius Tacitus, The Agricola and the Germania, edited by James Rives, translated by H.
Mattingley, New York: Penguin, 2010. ISBN 978-0140455403
Read the Introduction to the book, skip the part on Germania, read the background on the Roman Empire, and then read Agricola itself.
Tacitus web site
Agricola Analytical Essay Assignment
Analyze the Agricola and write a standard essay that interpret Agricola’s meaning
by answering the questions below. The questions are meant to guide and focus
your inquiry. You may answer the questions in any order you choose and you may
combine questions but make it clear to the reader that you are still covering the
topic asked by the question. A brief answer to the more general questions (2 and 9)
could serve as your paper’s thesis statement but those answers need to be
developed with evidence later in the paper. That is, none of the questions can be
adequately answered in only one or two sentences but such sentences can serve as
your paper’s thesis statement or the topic sentences of paragraphs that then need
further development and exposition.
1. The Agricola is a biography. What do we know about Tacitus, its author?
2. What motivated Tacitus to write a biography of his father-in-law? Is it more
than a biography?
3. How does he begin and end the book? What do the beginning and ending tell
you about his purpose in writing it?
4. What major issues or problems of 1st-century CE Roman society, culture,
and politics does he address in the book?
5. What is the book’s tone? What words or phrases convey it? Does the tone
change with the subject matter? Explain.
6. What are Tacitus’ key points (information, assertions, judgments,
conclusions) in the book? Does anything surprise you?
7. What assumptions does Tacitus make? Are they reasonable ones? Give some
8. What values animate the book? With whom or what does his sympathies lie?
How can you tell?
9. What do you think is the Agricola’s historical significance? What can it tell
you about the early Roman Empire and the elites who governed it? What
may be its limitations as an historical source?
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