I finished this work, another relatively short one. It’s a summary of the nobility and history of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a Roman general of the mid first century AD and not so coincidentally, Tacitus’ own father in law.
Still, given this source of bias, Agricola seems to be hot stuff. He was primarily responsible for the advancing of the border from the southern edge of Britain to the Caledonian frontier where it remained with small adjustments until the end of the Empire in the region.
Tacitus quotes Agricola in saying that Ireland could have been easily held by a legion, and the borders pushed even farther north. But the victories led to the normal reaction under a weak emperor – Domitian had him recalled and kept idle and the moment passed away for good.
Luckily for Agricola (and Tacitus, for that matter), the emperor was content to let him remain in retirement and did not take the extra step of having him executed.
This was to be the weakest point in the Roman Empire – the informaility of its institutions. All but the strongest emperors had to feel uneasy at the success of a subordinate, as they might be the next emperor. And knowing this, a successful general was all the more likely to take his shot at taking the empire rather than be set aside.
This was a problem that was never solved to the very end.