From Man to Book: The Close of Tacitus’ <i>Agricola</i>

Stephen Harrison

in Classical Constructions

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199218035
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191711534 | DOI:
From Man to Book: The Close of Tacitus’ Agricola

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At the close of Tacitus’ Agricola, the author famously apostrophizes his dead father-in-law with high emotional intensity. The apostrophe begins at 45.3 (Tu uero, Agricola), with an account of Agricola’s death and burial from which the author was absent (45.3-5), and then concludes the work by stressing the consolatory function of Agricola’s greatness for his grieving family, and Agricola’s lasting fame (46.1-4). This passage begins with what looks like an address to Agricola’s body resting in its tomb, a logical link with the death scene which it immediately succeeds. But by the end of the work, it could be maintained, a fundamental fusion has taken place between man and book: Agricola posteritati narratus et traditus refers both to the subject of the biography, and to the now completed biography itself. This chapter argues closely for this movement of textualization, and sets it in the context of other aspects of book-personification in Roman literature.

Keywords: Agricola; Tacitus; biography; textualization; book-personification

Chapter.  3937 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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