THULE IN CONTEMPORARY LATIN LITERATURE
The achievement of Agricola's fleet in reaching the furthest limit of the western world ought to find some echo in literature contemporary with Tacitus. Modern scholarship has failed to note the voyage to Shetland and consequently has either missed its impact on late Silver Age literature or completely misinterpreted what the Flavian poets have written.
Juvenal launches a bitter tirade against contemporary morality:
The poet's comment that the Roman army had advanced beyond the shores of Ireland may be, as Courtney253 says, an exaggeration, an echo of Agricola's dealings with an Irish prince and the governor's own assessment of the requirements for conquest 254. The recently captured Orkneys can be dated to AD83 255 . The word recent cannot be taken back too far, and if Juvenal drafted a version of this c. AD92, when we know he was in Rome 256, he certainly didn't revise it when he finally published it some fifteen years later. But to whom is the poet referring with his Britons satisfied with the shortest night? Britain and its people were already well-known and no longer topical at the time Juvenal was writing. Reference to Ireland and the Orkney Islands should reflect Flavian military inte ntions, and this geographical group should also include Shetland 257. I believe that Juvenal's Britannos is a poetical circumlocution for the natives of Shetland 258. In Shetland on June 21st the sun is above the horizon for 18 hrs. 52 mins 259. The shortest night can only be experienced by those Britons who lived furthest away to the north, i.e. the Shetlanders. Furthermore Juvenal is employing the rhetorical tricolon auctum, with the last group being singled out for special attention. Shetland was the climax, the furthest limit of the fleet's activities. Rome's brilliant achievements at the ends of the earth, where the natives are uncontaminated by Roman vices, are sharply contrasted with the moral decline of Rome itself. The conquest of Shetland may have been on Agricola's agenda, but it never materialised.260 It did not stop Juvenal 261 from remarking sarcastically that even Thule, let alone Britain, was now talking about hiring a teacher of rhetoric. Such was the invasive nature of imported Greek culture. But the point to note here is that Juvenal is referring to events which were in the recent past and were still topical.
Agricola's military strategy for AD81-83 was undoubtedly outlined in Rome by Domitian, and just as the credit for the fleet commander's achievement would be given to Agricola, so the governor's success would ultimately be attributed to the policy of the emperor, despite the subjective anti-Domitian comments made by Tacitus in Agr. 39. Domitian employed a network of freedmen to act as advisers and intermediaries, and it is quite possible that the strategy for Caledonia and the northern isles passed through the hands of Domitian's secretary of state, Abascantus. Statius refers to the latter's responsibilities in relaying the emperor's instructions to the different war-zones of the empire and in finding out
Statius was more concerned with flattering Domitian than with promoting the glory of Agricola who meant nothing to him. But these lines would relate to Agricola's campaigns, since ultimus orbis must refer to Britain as opposed to the eastern orbis 262, while Thule, as in Juvenal, is recognised as being separate from it. The only part of Britain which could have surrendered to Domitian is Caledonia (AD81-83). Thule represents a triumph in hitherto inaccessible areas, but the triumph lies in the conquest of the Ocean to reach Thulensis portus. Statius' vocabulary, refugo circumsona gurgite, is a good description of Dunrossness, a long peninsula projecting into Sumburgh Röst, which can be heard breaking even on a calm day 263 . It would be from naval reconnaissance reports and eye-witness accounts that such a description of the wave-lashed coastline originated. It did not require the type of fantastic embellishment which Germanicus' sailors brought back from their unfortunate experiences in the North Sea 264 in AD16.
Silius Italicus in a remarkable tribute to Domitian presents Jupiter reassuring Venus that Rome will prosper as much under the Flavian dynasty as it did under the Julio-Claudians,
The story of the rise of the Flavian family from its humble origins at Cures in Sabine territory to dominate the world under three successive emperors (AD69-96) is well-known. But the interpretation of these lines, especially with reference to the deified Julian family, Thule and Caledonia, has, in my opinion, been less than convincing.
E.Birley 266 wrote that a senator (i.e. Silius), surveying in Domitian's lifetime the record of the Flavian dynasty, attributes to Vespasian the first penetration into the groves of Caledonia and the discovery and conquest of Thule, and that in the early years of his principate. Momigliano267 rejected this view on the basis that the adjective Caledonius was used loosely or at least irresponsibly and he referred it to the Claudian invasion of AD43, without considering that Caledonia was inextricably linked to the Flavian family from AD69 onwards and that the presence of the Roman army as far as the Caledonian forest had been mentioned by Pliny c.AD70-71 when Vettius Bolanus and Petillius Cerialis (Vespasian's son-in-law) were governing Britain. Are we to assume that Pliny also was using the term loosely or irresponsibly 268? Smallwood269, followed by Fitzpatrick 270 is quite confident that Silius refers to events prior to Vespasian's reign, almost certainly to the Claudian campaigns. Wijsman271 was correct in suggesting the possibility that Caledonius was influenced by Agricola's expedition to Scotland, but incorrect in describing it as a piece of sheer flattery of the emperor and his father. Such views are misplaced and should be re-assessed in the light of my interpretations in the Agricola. Furthermore Momigliano made no attempt to explain the significance of Thylen, which in the late Silver Age poets invariably, pace Wijsman, refers to the furthest parts of Britain and the western world where Pytheas' myth of almost permanent night (and almost permanent day) was elaborated, embellished and propagandised to flatter Flavian patrons who knew full well the reality of the situation. Once the Romans had reached Thule and reports of the mission were received at court, everyone in Rome would have been aware that the place had lost its mystery 272, as Juvenal's sarcastic comments illustrate. It would be pointless to use Thule to describe Britain. Thule (Shetland) cannot be linked with Vespasian in AD43, but it can be linked to the Flavian involvement in Caledonia which may go back as early as AD69, if not into the pre-Flavian era 273 . Where did the concept that Thule = England274 ever originate ? The parallel dedication which Momigliano and Smallwood cite from Valerius Flaccus 275 raises similar questions on dating and will be examined later. These five lines from Silius should be seen as a prelude to Domitian's ultimate conque st of Scotland. The Flavian connexion with Thule and Caledonia, from conception to conquest, covers the years AD69-83. The Claudian invasion belongs to the achievements of the sacri Iuli (the Julio-Claudians) whom the Flavians will surpass. What Julius Caesar and Claudius began, Vespasian and his family will complete. Jupiter is merely humouring Venus (as he does in the Aeneid) from whom the Julian dynasty claimed descent. This is Silius' tribute to Virgil from whom he borrowed the concept. But Silius knew better and, whatever concessions he makes to epic convention, it is hardly likely that he would subordinate the achievements of the Flavians to those of the Julio-Claudians 276. There would be no point to the panegyric.
These lines relate not only to the early years, as Birley suggested, but also to the final years of Vespasian's principate. Braund 277 has since attempted to reconcile the suggestions of Birley and Momigliano, noting that Silius Italicus presents as ongoing Vespasian's conquest which began with Claudius and proceeded into the reign of Vespasian through the agency of others. This makes sound sense, if an overall view is taken. But how far into the reign of Vespasian ? I believe that a topical element is included here. I assume that by the agency of others Braund refers to the expansion following the Civil War, when Vespasian recovered Britain also as well as the rest of the world 278. A topical allusion, however, would set the seal on Vespasian's role in Britain right up until his final year and would include the early years of the governorship of Agricola, the emperor's agent (legatus Augusti pro praetore). Braund 279 mentions Domitian's involvement in Britain, citing Plutarch's account of Demetrius 280 and the latter's imperial commission of exploration281 . But to claim that Tacitus denies Domitian any credit for the conquest of Britain is an oversimplification of the purpose of the monograph. The conquest of Britain did not feature as highly in the list of Domitian's priorities as it did with Agricola and Tacitus 282, but it was significant enough to be alluded to by Statius and Silius in their references to Thule. Domitian completed what Vespasian had begun. Tacitus makes no mention of Vespasian as the man who commissioned Agricola to invade Scotland, no mention of Titus who authorised 283 consolidation, no mention of Domitian as the man who promoted the push to the extremity of the island. Failure to mention their role is not a denial of it. Once Agricola became governor of Britain he, not his Flavian superiors, is depicted by Tacitus as the initiator. The reverse process may be seen in the poetic tradition. Breeze 284 is probably right in attributing Tacitus' reticence on Domitian's more positive achievements to the fact that Domitian was dead at the time of publication and damnatio memoriae was in full swing. But this doesn't explain why Titus, whom Agricola would have known personally , is not mentioned at all in the monograph.
Galimberti 285 makes an interesting, albeit extravagant, proposal that Silius' lines could refer to Vespasian as campaigning in the north of Britain in AD43, and even suggests Vespasian's presence in the Orkneys that year, using this as a reason for Agricola's expedition to the Orkneys, i.e. that Agricola had been commissioned by Vespasian in AD78 (?) to re-establish at some time during his northern campaigns the link with the Orkneys which Vespasian had allegedly forged nearly forty years earlier. But Silius makes no mention of the Orkneys. Galimberti sees in Mela's ignotarum quoque gentium victor 286 a veiled allusion to a Claudian expedition to the Orkneys. But Mela's language that Claudius is now revealing can only refer to southern Britain. Vespasian was involved in the submission of the Isle of Wight, and what Galimberti should have pursued was the possibility of confusion between Wight and the Orkneys in the account of Eutropius 287. Galimberti defers too much to Momigliano, failing to realise that any reference to the last decade of Vespasian's life, the principate, the highlight of his career, had apparently disappeared from Silius' account. Or had it ? Note the sequence of his campaigns. Why is the emphasis put on events in northern Britain, if not because Vespasian's generals had been enjoying success there ? Why does the British campaign precede the German one, when a Claudian allusion should assume the reverse, a point which Smallwood 288 noted, but couldn't explain ? Josephus 289 knew the correct sequence for the Claudian epoch: Germany first, then Britain. But Germany was of no real importance, and is referred to by Silius (and Statius) only because of Domitian's involvement there. It doesn't even rate a mention in the dedication of Valerius Flaccus who knew exactly where Vespasian's reputation lay. The answer to the Silian sequence lies in attributing a decade of British campaigns, the culmination of Vespasian's connexion with Britain, to Vespasian's principate which Silius could simply not ignore. What better way for the emperor to end his career than to commission the conquest of Scotland and bring the entire island under Roman control. Having been so successful in the eastern part of the empire before he attained the principate, he needed no incentive to take on the western part after he attained it. Herodian 290 noted that Septimius Severus wanted victories in Britain to go with those in the east and the north. Alexander the Great had similar ambitions, as did Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler. The common objective was conquest of the known world, and if Vespasian had lived for a further two years the conquest of Caledonia and t he western world might have been completed by AD81.
The rest of Silius' Vespasianic resumé is a survey of the late emperor's career 291, merely for the record, under Claudius and Nero whose reputations (nomen) will be enhanced (augebit292 ) by their agents, Vespasian and Titus (bellatrix gens), through service in Germany and Judaea. But it is only in Britain that Vespasian will determine his own policy of expansion.
The context provided by Silius should be linked to those who represented the emperor in Britain from the time of Bolanus to the governorship of Agricola. Titus and Domitian will continue their father's legacy until the conquest is completed. It is possible that the emperor, perhaps as early as AD69, drew up for the magni duces 293 (from whom Tacitus' prejudice has excluded Bolanus) the plans leading ultimately to the conquest of Caledonia. But he died in June, AD79, some two months into Agricola's campaigning season. Yet Silius was correct. Detailed policy decisions were made by Vespasian, probably during the course of the winter months, and he lived long enough to see his plans being implemented by the last of his appointees. The agency of others tells us that he was controlling events by proxy, and despite his illness muneribus imperatoriis fungeretur 294 . Flavian apologists 295, just as they overstate the role of Vespasian during the Claudian invasion, credit him, and with justification, for a policy implemented during his principate by a succession of governors. But whether or not the emperor comes to Britain in person is immaterial; he deserves the credit for the successes of his legates whom he has personally commissioned. Hanson 296 states that Vespasian's death meant that the successful advance to the Tay was credited to Titus. Dio's comment that Titus received the title of imperator for the fifteenth time as a consequence of the events in Britain in AD79 is not inconsistent with the developing situation. If Agricola's blitzkrieg brought him into Caledonia in May, Vespasian would have received news of it in June, shortly before he died, and Titus, no doubt involved in his ailing father's policy decisions, felt justified after the death of his father in getting some reward for his contributions297 . Silius' account may well reflect what was an established fact, namely that Caledonia proper had been breached in the principate of Vespasian. Bolanus may well have inflicted the initial wounds 298 before Agricola delivered the coup de grâce. It would be strange for the poet to describe Vespasian's career and to omit (pace Momigliano) any reference to events occurring during his principate in which Silius, like Agricola, owed much to Vespasian who was prepared to overlook his dubious activities under Nero 299.
The language of Silius requires close scrutiny. What did the poet mean by
No translator has bothered to offer an explanation for donabit...vincere. It cannot refer to the Claudian invasion , since Vespasian at that time was in no position to make any gift of Thule, a gift which must be interpreted before any other argument can be entertained. Few translators have bothered to come to grips with the Latin. It does not state or mean that Vespasian will conquer Thule. Thule will be presented by him for conquest. But presented to whom ? The translation of Duff 300 shall give Rome victory over Thule assumes what is not there, but at least recognises that donabit requires a recipient. The versions of Miniconi/ Devallet 301 and Braund302 regrettably ignore donabit altogether, while Watt 303 (preferring Momigliano's dating), rightly dismissing the unattested denabit (misprint?) of Delz, conjectures durabit which is totally unnecessary. The verb, as it stands, implies a legacy from Vespasian to his sons, which can only occur when he is princeps. Spaltenstein 304 says that 'Donabit' is ambiguous, as if Silius was suggesting that Vespasian was merely laying the groundwork for these victories. What else was Vespasian doing but paving the way for his heirs?
None of the extant MSS of Silius Italicus is earlier than the 15th century, and if we accept the equally valid reading huic, found in three of them 305, then we have a worthy recipient; the pronoun refers to bellatrix gens, the Flavian dynasty, Titus and Domitian who will inherit their father's policy and complete the conquest of Britain, reaching the ends of the earth in the process 306. Hinc was adopted only because it appears several times earlier in Jupiter's speech 307, where it means next, but it sits awkwardly in the panegyric 308 where it occurs nowhere else. Huic with reference to Domitian occurs later 309 in the panegyric. The text may now be translated as
What could be more striking than the product of humble Sabine Cures offering to his family the ends of the earth where no Roman had gone before ? When else, but as princeps, when his sons were of military age, would Vespasian entrust them with the responsibility of completing his conquests ? It can hardly refer to the Claudian era when Titus was only two years old and Domitian not yet born. Silius and Juvenal are referring to the culmination of the Caledonian campaign, with Agricola's fleet conquering the Orkneys and reaching Shetland, terrifying the minima contentos nocte Britannos before the long nights set in.
It is natural for any eulogy on Domitian to exaggerate his successes in the north and the east where he was personally involved. References to campaigns in the west are more subtle and reflect his policy-making. His strategy, perhaps through the agency of Abascantus, should be seen behind Agricola's last two campaigns in Caledonia (AD82-83) and the voyage to Shetland, hitherto unknown to any Romans, which could stand comparison with Alexander's fleet reaching the eastern limits of conquest 310 . Vespasian's legates faced an arduous task; Pliny noted that Roman armies had virtually reached the Caledonian forests, and Silius' trahet is apt. The difficulties faced by Agricola's army in the wooded hills are stressed by Tacitus 311, and represent the weariness of an army against nature itself 312, just as Agricola's marines had to contend with the adversities of storms and waves. It is the Flavian dynasty, bellatrix gens, beginning with Vespasian (primus), which is responsible for armies being hauled into the Caledonian forests 313 and for sending the fleet to conquer unknown Thule.
Valerius Flaccus in his tribute to Vespasian 314 was writing about Caledonia before Statius and Silius, and this explains why Thule is not mentioned by him in connexion with Caledonia, whereas the connexion is mentioned or implied by the two later poets. In Silius' case there is one instance 315 where Caledonia must be equated with Thule, a condensed indication that Agricola's campaigns of AD79-83 began in the former and ended in the latter. But the poet is not generalising about Britain. He is referring to Scotland. Wijsman 316 assumed that this reference in Silius' seventeenth book was derived from Caesar and his essedarii (charioteers). But any reference to covinni (chariots) at this date must surely derive from the battle of Mons Graupius, where the covinnarii (charioteers), contrary to the view of editors, did not flee, but participated in the battle 317, as the codex clearly shows. Silius' account confirms this. Till318 knew that Silius' description followed the publication of the Agricola in AD98. It was topical 319 .
It is in the light of Silius' phraseology in his last book that Statius' references to the activities of Vettius Bolanus, governor of Britain, in Thule 320 and the Caledonian plains 321 should be assessed. Compare Silius' incola Thyles (native of Thule) with Statius' trucis incola terrae (native of a tough land). The poets are referring to the same barbarians. Statius, like Silius, is referring, not to Britain in general, but to Scotland, and in particular to those districts into which the territory of the Brigantes and their supporters extended, and where Bolanus may well have been campaigning in AD69-70 322. Where Silius has credited Vespasian, perhaps justifiably, with the achievements of Agricola, Statius has transferred some of Agricola's achievements, with no justification, to the res gestae of the gens Vettia. This is curious, since by referring to a link between Domitian, Abascantus and the implied surrender of Caledonia Statius has silently acknowledged the role of Agricola. Agricola's fleet reached Thule. But there is no evidence that Bolanus went anywhere near it. The likelihood is that Statius' reference to Bolanus entering Thule 323 is connected with Silius' incola Thyles (i.e. native of Caledonia) and simply refers to Bolanus' activities in Scotland. Unfortunately the poetic extension of the word (perhaps currently acceptable in the poetic milieu of the late first century) may look like an exaggeration and consequently points the finger of suspicion at Bolanus' achievements. Statius' poetic licence has some basis for credibility 324. For a balanced picture to be presented Statius' celebration of Bolanus' military successes should be set against Tacitus' criticisms325 of his apparent military inadequacies Both writers manifest the polarised productions of the Domitianic world, flattery and resistance. The fact that Tacitus was closer to Agricola than Statius to Bolanus is more likely to raise doubts than to inspire confidence in him as a source. Bolanus was dead by the time Tacitus published the Agricola, and no one would object if Tacitus was economical with the truth. Bolanus is the only vir militaris whom Statius praises by name 326 . Poetic licence does not mean that Statius would totally misrepresent the military achievements of a deceased general. Tacitus may be deliberately overcompensating in his effort to set the balance right. But the worrying point is that if Bolanus is misrepresented there is a good chance that Trebellius before him and Cerialis after him are also given less credit than is due.
Unlike Silius' panegyric, written some twenty five years after Vespasian's death, yet paradoxically foretelling the emperor's past career, which Silius was able to do in retrospect, Valerius Flaccus' more restrained dedication, contentiously assumed to have been composed during the emperor's lifetime, quite rightly can make no future predictions for Vespasian's career (apart from his posthumous role as a star in the firmament 327) which was all but over. Perhaps the emperor was now living on borrowed time 328. It is Vespasian's past which is lauded, and that from a present viewpoint (nunc, line 20). But how far back in the past ? My belief is that we are dealing with events which are quite recent. The dedication has always roused controversy in terms of its content and dating 329, but three lines merit comment in view of my previous suggestions:
The assumption that this is a reference to Vespasian's role in the Claudian invasion has generally held sway 330. But how correct is this assumption ? The first point to examine is the meaning of Iulos. Does it refer to Julius Caesar 331 and the problems he faced in the English Channel ? In which case why is it plural ? The plural can hardly refer, as Lefèvre 332 suggests, to Caesar and his troops. Surely they couldn't all claim Trojan ancestry? Or does it refer to the problems faced collectively by both Caesar and his Julio-Claudian successors, as Burmann 333 suggested ? Terwogt 334 made the point that Vespasian had achieved success where Julius Caesar and his successors had failed. So a distinction should be made between the Julio-Claudian and lat er Flavian achievements. It is generally assumed that the Iulis of Silius refers to the gens Iulia in general, and not simply to Caesar. The fact that both poets use the word in eulogistic contexts would suggest that the meanings should be identical. If Silius borrowed the term from Valerius (mutual borrowing between Valerius, Statius and Silius has always been recognised 335 ), then its use in the latter has been generally misconstrued and reflects Oceanic problems posed not only to Caesar, but also to other Julio-Claudians. Vespasian then belongs to a later era of Oceanic exploration and conquest. Peters 336 perceptively suggested a reference to the campaigns of Cerialis, based on Agr. 17, a theory which Smallwood 337 rejected without good reason. Although there is nothing in Tacitus to associate maritime activities with Cerialis, there can be little doubt that he used his fleet, perhaps from bases in the Eden estuary 338 (Itunocelum?) and the Tyne, for northward exploration 339. Peters' suggestion, however, does not take into account the intricacies of the Silian parallel, especially the reference to Thule. He has seen only part of the package, not the whole package. The Ocean has carried Vespasian's navy from the Humber to the Tay 340, to Thule and all the way round Scotland to the Clyde. The irony is that the emperor did not live long enough to see his initiatives brought to fruition and that posterity has given them less than due credit.
Attempts to explain Caledonius have been far from convincing. In the period when Silius and Valerius were writing, the word Caledonius would have reflected Flavian policy in Scotland 341. The tide of history had moved on. Köstlin 342 had suggested a link between Caledonius and the campaigns of Agricola, but mistakenly applied the reference to the later campaigns initiated by Domitian in AD81. Smallwood 343, without acknowledging Köstlin's contribution, also suggested topicality, a reference to Agricola's invasion of Caledonia, but harking back to the Claudian era, somewhat along the lines which Braund later followed. She doesn't accept Peters' suggestion or the possibility of ten years of naval progress which took the Roman fleet from the Humber to the Caledonian coast. She claims that an indirect allu sion would have been a more natural and understandable form of flattery, a point which Wijsman 344 echoed. But it would have been intolerable for Valerius to exaggerate the emperor's achievements when their reality was startling enough, and new limits were being reached and breached. In AD79 the ailing emperor would be cheered by the reality of Agricola's devastating raids, since Agricola had taken more decisive steps than any of his predecessors in teaching the Caledonians that stubborn resistance would produce a scorched earth policy. Tacitus knew how much Agricola was indebted to Vespasian's initiatives and didn't need to broadcast the fact that the emperor had given Agricola "the green light" to reach the end of the island. Smallwood uses the concept of topicality to date the dedication to c.AD80, on the basis that Agricola reached the Tay about that time. She was right about topicality, but her dating of the dedication which was m ade to Vespasian is hardly likely to fall within the principate of Titus. Lefèvre 345, wrongly assuming that Agricola's entry into Caledonia occurred in AD80 and therefore after the death of Vespasian, objects to Smallwood's topicality, and claims that Caledonia may be merely a poetical paraphrase for Britain. He cites Lucan's Caledonii Britanni as a parallel, without realising that this phrase must refer to northern Britain, probably Scotland. Syme 346 and Strand 347, albeit differing in their views as to when the dedication was inserted into the epic, agree that it was made to a living, rather than to a deceased, Vespasian. I would support Taylor's view 348 that it was composed in the principate of Vespasian and also Strand's contention for a starting date of c.AD75/76, but only for the commencement of the narrative. I believe the dedication to be a later insertion, but not Domitianic, as Syme suggests, and I would not support Liberman's fictitious dedication to a living emperor 349 . I propose a compromise, that the dedication was made to a dying man who was soon to become a celestial luminary. A date of AD79 (Syme, c.AD78), perhaps in the early weeks of June, when the report of Agricola's blitzkrieg had reached Rome, would not be inappropriate, and the adjective Caledonius would not be an exaggeration nor irresponsible, as Momigliano suggested, nor an extremely unusual usage, as Lefèvre 350 would have it, nor as a piece of flattery, as others have proposed 351, but an important record of a decade of amphibious advance beyond the Humber, culminating in Agricola crossing the Forth-Clyde isthmus, which he would have reached within weeks of the start of the third campaigning season of AD79. In this context may be seen the significance of Braund's perceptive observation 352 that Vespasian's appointee Agricola had not only sailed the Caledonian Ocean, but also examined Thule, though his final conquest of Caledonia occurred in the early years of Domitian himself. As in Silius, Vespasian is seen as the initiator (cf. primus, aperti), the only difference being that Silius produces a vaticinium ex eventu, while Valerius is merely giving a lesson in history which spans the decade of Vespasian's principate. Failure to interpret correctly pelagi...maior aperti fama may lie at the root of the problem. How is maior to be interpreted ? Terwogt 353 suggested that Vespasian's glory was greater than Jason's. But I don't see why the comparison should go beyond the parameters of the dedi cation. It is simpler than this. Vespasian's fame was enhanced, as Wilkinson 354 pointed out, by the opening up of the northern seas. His legati had revealed what the Iuli hadn't, and his ships had triumphed over an Ocean which had frustrated his predecessors. No wonder that his reputation, which was already great, had now become greater. It was only after Vespasian became princeps that the magni duces, egregii exercitus 355 produced the successes which enhanced the emperor's credit for initiating them. The opening up of the sea cannot refer to Vespasian crossing the English Channel, which had already been opened up by Julius Caesar, if not by previous generations of cross-Channel traders. But the concept of opening up is paralleled by Tacitus' comment 356 that tertius expeditionum annus (AD79) novas gentes aperuit, vastatis usque ad Taum (aestuario nomen est ) nationibus. Yet the reference to revealing new tribes should be treated with suspicion 357. Tacitus had lied about the Orkneys being unknown. Lund 358 made a point of attributing initiatives to Agricola. But by following Tacitus too closely he merely highlighted the propaganda instead of questioning it. The hard work had been done by Bolanus and Cerialis. The mention of an estuary is important in terms of Oceanus, and it is here that Agricola's fleet would operate. Hanson 359 noted the Tay estuary as a striking topographical featureparticularly if the fleet had been employed to scout ahead. References in Valerius to Caledonia, ships and Ocean, plus a suggested date of AD79 can mean only one thing, that Agricola's fleet, under the auspices of Vespasian, was transporting marines and supplies in support of the army, reopening, perhaps, rather than opening, the waterways around the Fife peninsula 360. Ogilvie 361 makes a clear distinction between the role of the fleet in earlier campaigns and its terrorising role in the sixth campaign. Smallwood's conviction 362 that no ships under Vespasian's command went anywhere near to Caledonia is correct only in so far as it cannot apply, as Galimberti believed, to the principate of Claudius. But it could apply to the principate of Vespasian. Who else but Vespasian initiated the policy for his governors to embark on the conquest of Caledonia ? The recognition of their achievements in tributes to the emperor who had sponsored them should be seen as poetical embellishment, not as flattery.
The Ocean extends the length of Britain, and the Ocean which indignatus Iulos is merely a continuation of the North Sea into which the Forth and Tay flow. Even Lucan could link the Ocean with the Caledonians in the north and the tide-battered shores of Richborough in the south. Why Vespasian's fame had become greater is simply, as we saw in Silius, that the Caledonian campaign, in which the Romans had advanced further than under previous regimes, was the military highlight of his principate and, as Spaltenstein 363 aptly puts it, son règne fut marqué par la soumission des Ecossais. The poets were correct in drawing attention to the military initiatives in Vespasian's principate since they were in the process of being brought to fruition, and thereby newsworthy.
Send email to the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
INTRODUCTION | PART ONE: Shetland: The Classical Geographical Context
Copyright © 2002 by Stan Wolfson. All rights reserved.