30 pages 1 hour read



Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 98

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Symbols & Motifs

The Value of Moderation

A recurring motif in Tacitus is the value of moderation. Whether at home or abroad, excess is corrosive, promoting fear and secrecy, while moderation inspires loyalty and admiration.

Within Rome, Domitian’s repressions, according to Tacitus, created a corrosive climate, as evidenced from the burning of eulogies written for Paetus Thrasea and Priscus Helvidius (54). Paetus Thrasea, a senator under Claudius and Nero, had criticized the Senate for cowing to Nero and eventually committed suicide after he was charged with treason. Priscus Helvidius, a strenuous critic of Vespasian, was executed. Arulenus Rusticus penned a tribute for Paetus Thrasea and Herennius Senecio for Priscus Helvidius. As a result, both men were tried for and found guilty of treason and killed, their books subsequently burned. Tacitus suggests this is an example of how the empire has devolved into “the depths of slavery, robbed by informers even of the interchange of speech” (55). In the grip of an emperor’s controlling mania, fear reigns, and vices flourish. In the case of Domitian, his jealousy prevents him from acting in the empire’s best interests, according to Tacitus. Domitian passes over Agricola for future posts because he envied Agricola’s success.

In contrast to Domitian, Agricola practiced moderation.