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Anonymous

Suo salutem!<br>
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Hi one and all-- I have been perusing the posts on this board and am impressed with the depth of knowledge and insight I find here.<br>
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I have a query for anyone out there who knows something about the campaigns of G. Julius Agricola in Britain. I have been studying Tacitus' account, and am a bit confused about his description of Agricola's campaign in North Wales, conducted immediately upon his arrival in Britain as governor.<br>
According to Tacitus, once the Romans reached the coast across from the isle of Anglesey, they found themselves ill-prepared to make the crossing. This seems unusual to me, considering it should have taken them at least two weeks to cross Wales to the coast - more than enough time to dispatch boats to the site. Tacitus claims that the haste with which the campaign was put together left them without boats, but the Romans had an entire fleet assigned specifically to Britain, the Classis Britannicus. Sounds like extremely bad planning, which is equally unlikely given Agricola's record of textbook generalship.<br>
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Further, Tacitus goes on to say that Agricola ordered some of his men to discard their equipment and swim across to the island. Upon arriving, the inhabitants were so overwhelmed by their appearance that they at once surrendered.<br>
Again this seems unsupportable-- are we to believe that a group of unarmed men swimming up to the beach so cowed the natives that they were induced to give up their most sacred sanctuary (the island was a Druid stronghold) without a fight? Seems ridiculous, considering the stiff fanatical resistance the earlier governor Paulinus faced upon reaching the island.<br>
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Any thoughts? Was this just Tacitus attempting to glorify Agricola (who was, after all, his father-in-law)?<br>
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VALE<br>
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R. Servilius<br>
(Sorry this was so long- I'll try to be more brief in future) <p></p><i></i>
Hi Rubrius!<br>
First: welcome to the board and never mind about the lenght of your post, as long as it's interesting, type away cheerfully!<br>
Reading Tacitus account - Agricola 18 is what you meant, right? - you see that Tacitus paints a picture of the Romans preparing for the quiet season: the soldiers are scattered all over the countryside and do not expect to have to fight any longer. Agricola gathers up a force of auxiliaries and legionaries, marches out and defeats the Ordovices. Only then, so tells us Tacitus, does he decide to go for Anglesey. So there is not much in the way of planning.<br>
It would have been normal to use ships (see Paulinus' attack, Tac. Ann. XIV.29), but it was probably impossible to get ships from the Classis Britannica over there in time. They had bases in the southeast of Britain only. Of course they could have requisitioned or built simple boats to get the men across and could even have called up a unit of sailors to sail them, but it would have taken more time.<br>
As to the swimming soldiers, Tacitus says he picked soldiers who were used to swim with their weapons. They then discard their equipment, but he does not say their weapons. Why would they do that, if they were used to it? They were probably members of the Batavian cohorts in Britain, well known for such feats of their waterborne assault capabilities.<br>
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Agricola sure comes off well in this story, but it's not impossible, we see such quick, surprising and decisive attacks more often in Roman history. Julius Caesar comes to mind! <p>Greets<BR>
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Jasper</p><i></i>
It has to be remembered that the very act of armed men crossing the Menai Straits will have seemed pretty remarkable - it has some fairly awesome currents (up to 8 knots) because of the tidal race:<br>
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ourworld.compuserve.com/h.../Menai.htm<br>
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Mike Bishop <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Wow, thanks for the quick replies!<br>
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Your comments make a lot of sense. Considering the rush Agricola was in to attack the Ordovices, he may have crossed from Gaul to land at Clausentium or Chichester rather than at the main naval base at Rutupiae. This would certainly have put him much closer to his immediate objective, but would not have allowed him to arrange for naval support if the navy were not stationed in those ports.<br>
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As for crossing the straits with only a body of Batavians, I suppose the difficulty of the feat may have impressed the islanders into thinking that the whole legion could follow in the same way, and the fear inspired by Agricola's destruction of the Ordovices might indeed have coerced them into surrender.<br>
But where was the fanaticism of the Druids? Had they pretty much deserted the island after Paulinus' original assault?<br>
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Another question -- which legion would Agricola likely have employed on this campaign? Seems to me it would most probably have been the XXth, since it was stationed in Viroconium at the time on the route into North Wales, and was his old legion under Cerialis. <p></p><i></i>