THE year when Caius Asinius and Caius Antistius were consuls was the ninth of Tiberius’s reign, a period of tranquillity for the State and prosperity for his own house, for he counted Germanicus’s death a happy incident. Suddenly fortune deranged everything; the emperor became a cruel tyrant, as well as an abettor of cruelty in others. Of this the cause and origin was Aelius Sejanus, commander of the praetorian cohorts, of whose influence I have already spoken. I will now fully describe his extraction, his character, and the daring wickedness by which he grasped at power.
Born at Vulsinii, the son of Seius Strabo, a Roman knight, he attached himself in his early youth to Caius Caesar, grandson of the Divine Augustus, and the story went that he had sold his person to Apicius, a rich debauchee. Soon afterwards he won the heart of Tiberius so effectually by various artifices that the emperor, ever dark and mysterious towards others, was with Sejanus alone careless and freespoken. It was not through his craft, for it was by this very weapon that he was overthrown; it was rather from heaven’s wrath against Rome, to whose welfare his elevation and his fall were alike disastrous. He had a body which could endure hardships, and a daring spirit. He was one who screened himself, while he was attacking others; he was as cringing as he was imperious; before the world he affected humility; in his heart he lusted after supremacy, for the sake of which he sometimes lavish and luxurious, but oftener energetic and watchful, qualities quite as mischievous when hypocritically assumed for the attainment of sovereignty.
He strengthened the hitherto moderate powers of his office by concentrating the cohorts scattered throughout the capital into one camp, so that they might all receive orders at the same moment, and that the sight of their numbers and strength might give confidence to themselves, while it would strike terror into the citizens. His pretexts were the demoralisation incident to a dispersed soldiery, the greater effectiveness of simultaneous action in the event of a sudden peril, and the stricter discipline which would be insured by the establishment of an encampment at a distance from the temptations of the city. As soon as the camp was completed, he crept gradually into the affections of the soldiers by mixing with them and addressing them by name, himself selecting the centurions and tribunes. With the Senate too he sought to ingratiate himself, distinguishing his partisans with offices and provinces, Tiberius readily yielding, and being so biassed that not only in private conversation but before the senators and the people he spoke highly of him as the partner of his toils, and allowed his statues to be honoured in theatres, in forums, and at the head-quarters of our legions.
There were however obstacles to his ambition in the imperial house with its many princes, a son in youthful manhood and grown-up grandsons. As it would be unsafe to sweep off such a number at once by violence, while craft would necessitate successive intervals in crime, he chose, on the whole, the stealthier way and to begin with Drusus, against whom he had the stimulus of a recent resentment. Drusus, who could not brook a rival and was somewhat irascible, had, in a casual dispute, raised his fist at Sejanus, and, when he defended himself, had struck him in the face. On considering every plan Sejanus thought his easiest revenge was to turn his attention to Livia, Drusus’s wife. She was a sister of Germanicus, and though she was not handsome as a girl, she became a woman of surpassing beauty. Pretending an ardent passion for her, he seduced her, and having won his first infamous triumph, and assured that a woman after having parted with her virtue will hesitate at nothing, he lured her on to thoughts of marriage, of a share in sovereignty, and of her husband’s destruction. And she, the niece of Augustus, the daughter-in-law of Tiberius, the mother of children by Drusus, for a provincial paramour, foully disgraced herself, her ancestors, and her descendants, giving up honour and a sure position for prospects as base as they were uncertain. They took into their confidence Eudemus, Livia’s friend and physician, whose profession was a pretext for frequent secret interviews. Sejanus, to avert his mistress’s jealousy, divorced his wife Apicata, by whom he had had three children. Still the magnitude of the crime caused fear and delay, and sometimes a conflict of plans.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of this year, Drusus, one of the children of Germanicus, assumed the dress of manhood, with a repetition of the honours decreed by the Senate to his brother Nero. The emperor added a speech with warm praise of his son for sharing a father’s affection to his brother’s children. Drusus indeed, difficult as it is for power and mutual harmony to exist side by side, had the character of being kindly disposed or at least not unfriendly towards the lads. And now the old plan, so often insincerely broached, of a progress through the provinces, was again discussed. The emperor’s pretext was the number of veterans on the eve of discharge and the necessity of fresh levies for the army. Volunteers were not forthcoming, and even if they were sufficiently numerous, they had not the same bravery and discipline, as it is chiefly the needy and the homeless who adopt by their own choice a soldier’s life. Tiberius also rapidly enumerated the legions and the provinces which they had to garrison. I too ought, I think, to go through these details, and thus show what forces Rome then had under arms, what kings were our allies, and how much narrower then were the limits of our empire.
Italy on both seas was guarded by fleets, at Misenum and at Ravenna, and the contiguous coast of Gaul by ships of war captured in the victory of Actium, and sent by Augustus powerfully manned to the town of Forojulium. But chief strength was on the Rhine, as a defence alike against Germans and Gauls, and numbered eight legions. Spain, lately subjugated, was held by three. Mauretania was king Juba’s, who had received it as a gift from the Roman people. The rest of Africa was garrisoned by two legions, and Egypt by the same number. Next, beginning with Syria, all within the entire tract of country stretching as far as the Euphrates, was kept in restraint by four legions, and on this frontier were Iberian, Albanian, and other kings, to whom our greatness was a protection against any foreign power. Thrace was held by Rhoemetalces and the children of Cotys; the bank of the Danube by two legions in Pannonia, two in Moesia, and two also were stationed in Dalmatia, which, from the situation of the country, were in the rear of the other four, and, should Italy suddenly require aid, not to distant to be summoned. But the capital was garrisoned by its own special soldiery, three city, nine praetorian cohorts, levied for the most part in Etruria and Umbria, or ancient Latium and the old Roman colonies. There were besides, in commanding positions in the provinces, allied fleets, cavalry and light infantry, of but little inferior strength. But any detailed account of them would be misleading, since they moved from place to place as circumstances required, and had their numbers increased and sometimes diminished.
It is however, I think, a convenient opportunity for me to review the hitherto prevailing methods of administration in the other departments of the State, inasmuch as that year brought with it the beginning of a change for the worse in Tiberius’s policy. In the first place, public business and the most important private matters were managed by the Senate: the leading men were allowed freedom of discussion, and when they stooped to flattery, the emperor himself checked them. He bestowed honours with regard to noble ancestry, military renown, or brilliant accomplishments as a civilian, letting it be clearly seen that there were no better men to choose. The consul and the praetor retained their prestige; inferior magistrates exercised their authority; the laws too, with the single exception of cases of treason, were properly enforced.
As to the duties on corn, the indirect taxes and other branches of the public revenue, they were in the hands of companies of Roman knights. The emperor intrusted his own property to men of the most tried integrity or to persons known only by their general reputation, and once appointed they were retained without any limitation, so that most of them grew old in the same employments. The city populace indeed suffered much from high prices, but this was no fault of the emperor, who actually endeavoured to counteract barren soils and stormy seas with every resource of wealth and foresight. And he was also careful not to distress the provinces by new burdens, and to see that in bearing the old they were safe from any rapacity or oppression on the part of governors. Corporal punishments and confiscations of property were unknown.
The emperor had only a few estates in Italy, slaves on a moderate scale, and his household was confined to a few freedmen. If ever he had a dispute with a private person, it was decided in the law courts. All this, not indeed with any graciousness, but in a blunt fashion which often alarmed, he still kept up, until the death of Drusus changed everything. While he lived, the system continued, because Sejanus, as yet only in the beginning of his power, wished to be known as an upright counsellor, and there was one whose vengeance he dreaded, who did not conceal his hatred and incessantly complained “that a stranger was invited to assist in the government while the emperor’s son was alive. How near was the step of declaring the stranger a colleague! Ambition at first had a steep path before it; when once the way had been entered, zealous adherents were forthcoming. Already, at the pleasure of the commander of the guards, a camp had been established; the soldiers given into his hands; his statues were to be seen among the monuments of Cneius Pompeius; his grandsons would be of the same blood as the family of the Drusi. Henceforth they must pray that he might have self-control, and so be contented.” So would Drusus talk, not unfrequently, or only in the hearing of a few persons. Even his confidences, now that his wife had been corrupted, were betrayed.
Sejanus accordingly thought that he must be prompt, and chose a poison the gradual working of which might be mistaken for a natural disorder. It was given to Drusus by Lygdus, a eunuch, as was ascertained eight years later. As for Tiberius, he went to the Senate house during the whole time of the prince’s illness, either because he was not afraid, or to show his strength of mind, and even in the interval between his death and funeral. Seeing the consuls, in token of their grief, sitting on the ordinary benches, he reminded them of their high office and of their proper place; and when the Senate burst into tears, suppressing a groan, he revived their spirits with a fluent speech. “He knew indeed that he might be reproached for thus encountering the gaze of the Senate after so recent an affliction. Most mourners could hardly bear even the soothing words of kinsfolk or to look on the light of day. And such were not to be condemned as weak. But he had sought a more manly consolation in the bosom of the commonwealth.”
Then deploring the extreme age of Augusta, the childhood of his grandsons, and his own declining years, he begged the Senate to summon Germanicus’s children, the only comfort under their present misery. The consuls went out, and having encouraged the young princes with kind words, brought them in and presented them to the emperor. Taking them by the hand he said: “Senators, when these boys lost their father, I committed them to their uncle, and begged him, though he had children of his own, to cherish and rear them as his own offspring, and train them for himself and for posterity. Drusus is now lost to us, and I turn my prayers to you, and before heaven and your country I adjure you to receive into your care and guidance the great-grandsons of Augustus, descendants of a most noble ancestry. So fulfil your duty and mine. To you, Nero and Drusus, these senators are as fathers. Such is your birth that your prosperity and adversity must alike affect the State.”
There was great weeping at these words, and then many a benediction. Had the emperor set bounds to his speech, he must have filled the hearts of his hearers with sympathy and admiration. But he now fell back on those idle and often ridiculed professions about restoring the republic, and the wish that the consuls or some one else might undertake the government, and thus destroyed belief even in what was genuine and noble.
The same honours were decreed to the memory of Drusus as to that of Germanicus, and many more were added. Such is the way with flattery, when repeated. The funeral with its procession of statues was singularly grand. Aeneas, the father of the Julian house, all the Alban kings, Romulus, Rome’s founder, then the Sabine nobility, Attus Clausus, and the busts of all the other Claudii were displayed in a long train.
In relating the death of Drusus I have followed the narrative of most of the best historians. But I would not pass over a rumour of the time, the strength of which is not even yet exhausted. Sejanus, it is said, having seduced Livia into crime, next secured, by the foulest means, the consent of Lygdus, the eunuch, as from his youth and beauty he was his master’s favourite, and one of his principal attendants. When those who were in the secret had decided on the time and place of the poisoning, Sejanus, with the most consummate daring, reversed his plan, and, whispering an accusation against Drusus of intending to poison his father, warned Tiberius to avoid the first draught offered him as he was dining at his son’s house. Thus deceived, the old emperor, on sitting down to the banquet, took the cup and handed it to Drusus. His suspicions were increased when Drusus, in perfect unconsciousness, drank it off with youthful eagerness, apparently, out of fear and shame, bringing on himself the death which he had plotted against his father.
These popular rumours, over and above the fact that they are not vouched for by any good writer, may be instantly refuted. For who, with moderate prudence, far less Tiberius with his great experience, would have thrust destruction on a son, without even hearing him, with his own hand too, and with an impossibility of returning to better thoughts. Surely he would rather have had the slave who handed the poison, tortured, have sought to discover the traitor, in short, would have been as hesitating and tardy in the case of an only son hitherto unconvicted of any crime, as he was naturally even with strangers. But as Sejanus had the credit of contriving every sort of wickedness, the fact that he was the emperor’s special favourite, and that both were hated by the rest of the world, procured belief for any monstrous fiction, and rumour too always has a dreadful side in regard to the deaths of men in power. Besides, the whole process of the crime was betrayed by Apicata, Sejanus’s wife, and fully divulged, under torture, by Eudemus and Lygdus. No writer has been found sufficiently malignant to fix the guilt on Tiberius, though every circumstance was scrutinized and exaggerated. My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request all into whose hands my work shall come, not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumours in preference to genuine history which has not been perverted into romance.
Tiberius pronounced a panegyric on his son before the Rostra, during which the Senate and people, in appearance rather than in heart, put on the expression and accents of sorrow, while they inwardly rejoiced at the brightening future of the family of Germanicus. This beginning of popularity and the ill-concealed ambition of their mother Agrippina, hastened its downfall. Sejanus when he saw that the death of Drusus was not avenged on the murderers and was no grief to the people, grew bold in wickedness, and, now that his first attempt had succeeded, speculated on the possibility of destroying the children of Germanicus, whose succession to the throne was a certainty. There were three, and poison could not be distributed among them, because of the singular fidelity of their guardians and the unassailable virtue of Agrippina. So Sejanus inveighed against Agrippina’s arrogance, and worked powerfully on Augusta’s old hatred of her and on Livia’s consciousness of recent guilt, and urged both these women to represent to the emperor that her pride as a mother and her reliance on popular enthusiasm were leading her to dream of empire. Livia availed herself of the cunning of accusers, among whom she had selected Julius Postumus, a man well suited to her purpose, as he had an intrigue with Mutilia Prisca, and was consequently in the confidence of Augusta, over whose mind Prisca had great influence. She thus made her aged grandmother, whose nature it was to tremble for her power, irreconcilably hostile to her grandson’s widow. Agrippina’s friends too were induced to be always inciting her proud spirit by mischievous talk.
Tiberius meanwhile, who did not relax his attention to business, and found solace in his work, occupied himself with the causes of citizens at Rome and with petitions from allies. Decrees of the Senate were passed at his proposal for relieving the cities of Cibyra and Aegium in Asia and Achaia, which had suffered from earthquakes, by a remission of three years’ tribute. Vibius Serenus too, proconsul of Further Spain, was condemned for violence in his official capacity, and was banished to the island of Amorgus for his savage temper. Carsidius Sacerdos, accused of having helped our enemy Tacfarinas with supplies of grain, was acquitted, as was also Caius Gracchus on the same charge. Gracchus’s father, Sempronius, had taken him when a mere child to the island of Cercina to be his companion in exile. There he grew up among outcasts who knew nothing of a liberal education, and after a while supported himself in Africa and Sicily by petty trade. But he did not escape the dangers of high rank. Had not his innocence been protected by Aelius Lamia and Lucius Apronius, successive governors of Africa, the splendid fame of that ill-starred family and the downfall of his father would have dragged him to ruin.
This year too brought embassies from the Greek communities. The people of Samos and Cos petitioned for the confirmation of the ancient right of sanctuary for the respective temples of Juno and Aesculapius. The Samians relied on a decree of the Amphictyonic Council, which had the supreme decision of all questions when the Greeks, through the cities they had founded in Asia, had possession of the sea-coast. Cos could boast equal antiquity, and it had an additional claim connected with the place. Roman citizens had been admitted to the temple of Aesculapius, when king Mithridates ordered a general massacre of them throughout all the islands and cities of Asia.
Next, after various and usually fruitless complaints from the praetors, the emperor finally brought forward a motion about the licentious behaviour of the players. “They had often,” he said, “sought to disturb the public peace, and to bring disgrace on private families, and the old Oscan farce, once a wretched amusement for the vulgar, had become at once so indecent and so popular, that it must be checked by the Senate’s authority. The players, upon this, were banished from Italy.
That same year also brought fresh sorrow to the emperor by being fatal to one of the twin sons of Drusus, equally too by the death of an intimate friend. This was Lucilius Longus, the partner of all his griefs and joys, the only senator who had been the companion of his retirement in Rhodes. And so, though he was a man of humble origin, the Senate decreed him a censor’s funeral and a statue in the forum of Augustus at the public expense. Everything indeed was as yet in the hands of the Senate, and consequently Lucilius Capito, procurator of Asia, who was impeached by his province, was tried by them, the emperor vehemently asserting “that he had merely given the man authority over the slaves and property of the imperial establishments; that if he had taken upon himself the powers of a praetor and used military force, he had disregarded his instructions; therefore they must hear the provincials.” So the case was heard and the accused condemned. The cities of Asia, gratified by this retribution and the punishment inflicted in the previous year on Caius Silanus, voted a temple to Tiberius, his mother, and the Senate, and were permitted to build it. Nero thanked the Senators and his grandfather on their behalf and carried with him the joyful sympathies of his audience, who, with the memory of Germanicus fresh in their minds, imagined that it was his face they saw, his voice they heard. The youth too had a modesty and a grace of person worthy of a prince, the more charming because of his peril from the notorious enmity of Sejanus.
About the same time the emperor spoke on the subject of electing a priest of Jupiter in the room of Servius Maluginensis, deceased, and of the enactment of a new law. “It was,” he said, “the old custom to nominate together three patricians, sons of parents wedded according to the primitive ceremony, and of these one was to be chosen. Now however there was not the same choice as formerly, the primitive form of marriage having been given up or being observed only by a few persons.” For this he assigned several reasons, the chief being men’s and women’s indifference; then, again, the ceremony itself had its difficulties, which were purposely avoided; and there was the objection that the man who obtained this priesthood was emancipated from the father’s authority, as also was his wife, as passing into the husband’s control. So the Senate, Tiberius argued, ought to apply some remedy by a decree of a law, as Augustus had accommodated certain relics of a rude antiquity to the modern spirit.
It was then decided, after a discussion of religious questions, that the institution of the priests of Jupiter should remain unchanged. A law however was passed that the priestess, in regard to her sacred functions, was to be under the husband’s control, but in other respects to retain the ordinary legal position of women. Maluginensis, the son, was chosen successor to his father. To raise the dignity of the priesthood and to inspire the priests with more zeal in attending to the ceremonial, a gift of two million sesterces was decreed to the Vestal Cornelia, chosen in the room of Scantia; and, whenever Augusta entered the theatre, she was to have a place in the seats of the Vestals.
In the consulship of Cornelius Cethegus and Visellius Varro, the pontiffs, whose example was followed by the other priests in offering prayers for the emperor’s health, commended also Nero and Drusus to the same deities, not so much out of love for the young princes as out of sycophancy, the absence and excess of which in a corrupt age are alike dangerous. Tiberius indeed, who was never friendly to the house of Germanicus, was then vexed beyond endurance at their youth being honoured equally with his declining years. He summoned the pontiffs, and asked them whether it was to the entreaties or the threats of Agrippina that they had made this concession. And though they gave a flat denial, he rebuked them but gently, for many of them were her own relatives or were leading men in the State. However he addressed a warning to the Senate against encouraging pride in their young and excitable minds by premature honours. For Sejanus spoke vehemently, and charged them with rending the State almost by civil war. “There were those,” he said, “who called themselves the party of Agrippina, and, unless they were checked, there would be more; the only remedy for the increasing discord was the overthrow of one or two of the most enterprising leaders.”
Accordingly he attacked Caius Silius and Titius Sabinus. The friendship of Germanicus was fatal to both. As for Silius, his having commanded a great army for seven years, and won in Germany the distinctions of a triumph for his success in the war with Sacrovir, would make his downfall all the more tremendous and so spread greater terror among others. Many thought that he had provoked further displeasure by his own presumption and his extravagant boasts that his troops had been steadfastly loyal, while other armies were falling into mutiny, and that Tiberius’s throne could not have lasted had his legions too been bent on revolution. All this the emperor regarded as undermining his own power, which seemed to be unequal to the burden of such an obligation. For benefits received are a delight to us as long as we think we can requite them; when that possibility is far exceeded, they are repaid with hatred instead of gratitude.
Silius had a wife, Sosia Galla, whose love of Agrippina made her hateful to the emperor. The two, it was decided, were to be attacked, but Sabinus was to be put off for a time. Varro, the consul, was let loose on them, who, under colour of a hereditary feud, humoured the malignity of Sejanus to his own disgrace. The accused begged a brief respite, until the prosecutor’s consulship expired, but the emperor opposed the request. “It was usual,” he argued, “for magistrates to bring a private citizen to trial, and a consul’s authority ought not to be impaired, seeing that it rested with his vigilance to guard the commonwealth from loss.” It was characteristic of Tiberius to veil new devices in wickedness under ancient names. And so, with a solemn appeal, he summoned the Senate, as if there were any laws by which Silius was being tried, as if Varro were a real consul, or Rome a commonwealth. The accused either said nothing, or, if he attempted to defend himself, hinted, not obscurely, at the person whose resentment was crushing him. A long concealed complicity in Sacrovir’s rebellion, a rapacity which sullied his victory, and his wife Sosia’s conduct, were alleged against him. Unquestionably, they could not extricate themselves from the charge of extortion. The whole affair however was conducted as a trial for treason, and Silius forestalled impending doom by a self-inflicted death.
Yet there was a merciless confiscation of his property, though not to refund their money to the provincials, none of whom pressed any demand. But Augustus’s bounty was wrested from him, and the claims of the imperial exchequer were computed in detail. This was the first instance on Tiberius’s part of sharp dealing with the wealth of others. Sosia was banished on the motion of Asinius Gallus, who had proposed that half her estate should be confiscated, half left to the children. Marcus Lepidus, on the contrary, was for giving a fourth to the prosecutors, as the law required, and the remainder to the children.
This Lepidus, I am satisfied, was for that age a wise and high-principled man. Many a cruel suggestion made by the flattery of others he changed for the better, and yet he did not want tact, seeing that he always enjoyed an uniform prestige, and also the favour of Tiberius. This compels me to doubt whether the liking of princes for some men and their antipathy to others depend, like other contingencies, on a fate and destiny to which we are born, or, to some degree, on our own plans; so that it is possible to pursue a course between a defiant independence and a debasing servility, free from ambition and its perils. Messalinus Cotta, of equally illustrious ancestry as Lepidus, but wholly different in disposition, proposed that the Senate should pass a decree providing that even innocent governors who knew nothing of the delinquencies of others should be punished for their wives’ offences in the provinces as much as for their own.
Proceedings were then taken against Calpurnius Piso, a high-spirited nobleman. He it was, as I have related, who had exclaimed more than once in the Senate that he would quit Rome because of the combinations of the informers, and had dared in defiance of Augusta’s power, to sue Urgulania and summon her from the emperor’s palace. Tiberius submitted to this at the time not ungraciously, but the remembrance of it was vividly impressed on a mind which brooded over its resentments, even though the first impulse of his displeasure had subsided.
Quintus Granius accused Piso of secret treasonable conversation, and added that he kept poison in his house and wore a dagger whenever he came into the Senate. This was passed over as too atrocious to be true. He was to be tried on the other charges, a multitude of which were heaped on him, but his timely death cut short the trial.
Next was taken the case of Cassius Severus’ an exile. A man of mean origin and a life of crime, but a powerful pleader, he had brought on himself, by his persistent quarrelsomeness, a decision of the Senate, under oath, which banished him to Crete. There by the same practices he drew on himself, fresh odium and revived the old; stripped of his property and outlawed, he wore out his old age on the rock of Seriphos.
About the same time Plautius Silvanus, the praetor, for unknown reasons, threw his wife Apronia out of a window. When summoned before the emperor by Lucius Apronius, his father-in-law, he replied incoherently, representing that he was in a sound sleep and consequently knew nothing, and that his wife had chosen to destroy herself. Without a moment’s delay Tiberius went to the house and inspected the chamber, where were seen the marks of her struggling and of her forcible ejection. He reported this to the Senate, and as soon as judges had been appointed, Urgulania, the grandmother of Silvanus, sent her grandson a dagger. This was thought equivalent to a hint from the emperor, because of the known intimacy between Augusta and Urgulania. The accused tried the steel in vain, and then allowed his veins to be opened. Shortly afterwards Numantina, his former wife, was charged with having caused her husband’s insanity by magical incantations and potions, but she was acquitted.
This year at last released Rome from her long contest with the Numidian Tacfarinas. Former generals, when they thought that their successes were enough to insure them triumphal distinctions, left the enemy to himself. There were now in Rome three laurelled statues, and yet Tacfarinas was still ravaging Africa, strengthened by reinforcements from the Moors, who, under the boyish and careless rule of Ptolemaeus, Juba’s son, had chosen war in preference to the despotism of freedmen and slaves. He had the king of the Garamantes to receive his plunder and to be the partner of his raids, not indeed with a regular army, but with detachments of light troops whose strength, as they came from a distance, rumour exaggerated. From the province itself every needy and restless adventurer hurried to join him, for the emperor, as if not an enemy remained in Africa after the achievements of Blaesus, had ordered the ninth legion home, and Publius Dolabella, proconsul that year, had not dared to retain it, because he feared the sovereign’s orders more than the risks of war.
Tacfarinas accordingly spread rumours; that elsewhere also nations were rending the empire of Rome and that therefore her soldiers were gradually retiring from Africa, and that the rest might be cut off by a strong effort on the part of all who loved freedom more than slavery. He thus augmented his force, and having formed a camp, he besieged the town of Thubuscum. Dolabella meanwhile collecting all the troops on the spot, raised the siege at his first approach, by the terror of the Roman name and because the Numidians cannot stand against the charge of infantry. He then fortified suitable positions, and at the same time beheaded some chiefs of the Musulamii, who were on the verge of rebellion. Next, as several expeditions against Tacfarinas had proved the uselessness of following up the enemy’s desultory movements with the attack of heavy troops from a single point, he summoned to his aid king Ptolemaeus and his people, and equipped four columns, under the command of his lieutenants and tribunes. Marauding parties were also led by picked Moors, Dolabella in person directing every operation.
Soon afterwards news came that the Numidians had fixed their tents and encamped near a half-demolished fortress, by name Auzea, to which they had themselves formerly set fire, and on the position of which they relied, as it was inclosed by vast forests. Immediately the light infantry and cavalry, without knowing whither they were being led, were hurried along at quick march. Day dawned, and with the sound of trumpets and fierce shouts, they were on the half-asleep barbarians, whose horses were tethered or roaming over distant pastures. On the Roman side, the infantry was in close array, the cavalry in its squadrons, everything prepared for an engagement, while the enemy, utterly surprised, without arms, order, or plan, were seized, slaughtered, or captured like cattle. The infuriated soldiers, remembering their hardships and how often the longed-for conflict had been eluded, sated themselves to a man with vengeance and bloodshed. The word went through the companies that all were to aim at securing Tacfarinas, whom, after so many battles, they knew well, as there would be no rest from war except by the destruction of the enemy’s leader. Tacfarinas, his guards slain round him, his son a prisoner, and the Romans bursting on him from every side, rushed on the darts, and by a death which was not unavenged, escaped captivity.
This ended the war. Dolabella asked for triumphal distinctions, but was refused by Tiberius, out of compliment to Sejanus, the glory of whose uncle Blaesus he did not wish to be forgotten. But this did not make Blaesus more famous, while the refusal of the honour heightened Dolabella’s renown. He had, in fact, with a smaller army, brought back with him illustrious prisoners and the fame of having slain the enemy’s leader and terminated the war. In his train were envoys from the Garamantes, a rare spectacle in Rome. The nation, in its terror at the destruction of Tacfarinas, and innocent of any guilty intention, had sent them to crave pardon of the Roman people. And now that this war had proved the zealous loyalty of Ptolemaeus, a custom of antiquity was revived, and one of the Senators was sent to present him with an ivory sceptre and an embroidered robe, gifts anciently bestowed by the Senate, and to confer on him the titles of king, ally, and friend.
The same summer, the germs of a slave war in Italy were crushed by a fortunate accident. The originator of the movement was Titus Curtisius, once a soldier of the praetorian guard. First, by secret meetings at Brundisium and the neighbouring towns, then by placards publicly exhibited, he incited the rural and savage slave-population of the remote forests to assert their freedom. By divine providence, three vessels came to land for the use of those who traversed that sea. In the same part of the country too was Curtius Lupus, the quaestor, who, according to ancient precedent, had had the charge of the “woodland pastures” assigned to him. Putting in motion a force of marines, he broke up the seditious combination in its very first beginnings. The emperor at once sent Staius, a tribune, with a strong detachment, by whom the ringleader himself, with his most daring followers, were brought prisoners to Rome where men already trembled at the vast scale of the slave-establishments, in which there was an immense growth, while the freeborn populace daily decreased.
That same consulship witnessed a horrible instance of misery and brutality. A father as defendant, a son as prosecutor, (Vibius Serenus was the name of both) were brought before the Senate; the father, dragged from exile in filth and squalor now stood in irons, while the son pleaded for his guilt. With studious elegance of dress and cheerful looks, the youth, at once accuser and witness, alleged a plot against the emperor and that men had been sent to Gaul to excite rebellion, further adding that Caecilius Cornutus, an ex-praetor, had furnished money. Cornutus, weary of anxiety and feeling that peril was equivalent to ruin, hastened to destroy himself. But the accused with fearless spirit, looked his son in the face, shook his chains, and appealed to the vengeance of the gods, with a prayer that they would restore him to his exile, where he might live far away from such practices, and that, as for his son, punishment might sooner or later overtake him. He protested too that Cornutus was innocent and that his terror was groundless, as would easily be perceived, if other names were given up; for he never would have plotted the emperor’s murder and a revolution with only one confederate.
Upon this the prosecutor named Cneius Lentulus and Seius Tubero, to the great confusion of the emperor, at finding a hostile rebellion and disturbance of the public peace charged on two leading men in the state, his own intimate friends, the first of whom was in extreme old age and the second in very feeble health. They were, however, at once acquitted. As for the father, his slaves were examined by torture, and the result was unfavourable to the accuser. The man, maddened by remorse, and terror-stricken by the popular voice, which menaced him with the dungeon, the rock, or a parricide’s doom, fled from Rome. He was dragged back from Ravenna, and forced to go through the prosecution, during which Tiberius did not disguise the old grudge he bore the exile Serenus. For after Libo’s conviction, Serenus had sent the emperor a letter, upbraiding him for not having rewarded his special zeal in that trial, with further hints more insolent than could be safely trusted to the easily offended ears of a despot. All this Tiberius revived eight years later, charging on him various misconduct during that interval, even though the examination by torture, owing to the obstinacy of the slaves, had contradicted his guilt.
The Senate then gave their votes that Serenus should be punished according to ancient precedent, when the emperor, to soften the odium of the affair, interposed with his veto. Next, Gallus Asinius proposed that he should be confined in Gyaros or Donusa, but this he rejected, on the ground that both these islands were deficient in water, and that he whose life was spared, ought to be allowed the necessaries of life. And so Serenus was conveyed back to Amorgus.
In consequence of the suicide of Cornutus, it was proposed to deprive informers of their rewards whenever a person accused of treason put an end to his life by his own act before the completion of the trial. The motion was on the point of being carried when the emperor, with a harshness contrary to his manner, spoke openly for the informers, complaining that the laws would be ineffective, and the State brought to the verge of ruin. “Better,” he said, “to subvert the constitution than to remove its guardians.” Thus the informers, a class invented to destroy the commonwealth, and never enough controlled even by legal penalties, were stimulated by rewards.
Some little joy broke this long succession of horrors. Caius Cominius, a Roman knight, was spared by the emperor, against whom he was convicted of having written libellous verses, at the intercession of his brother, who was a Senator. Hence it seemed the more amazing that one who knew better things and the glory which waits on mercy, should prefer harsher courses. He did not indeed err from dulness, and it is easy to see when the acts of a sovereign meet with genuine, and when with fictitious popularity. And even he himself, though usually artificial in manner, and though his words escaped him with a seeming struggle, spoke out freely and fluently whenever he came to a man’s rescue.
In another case, that of Publius Suillius, formerly quaestor to Germanicus, who was to be expelled from Italy on a conviction of having received money for a judicial decision, he held that the man ought to be banished to an island, and so intensely strong was his feeling that he bound the Senate by an oath that this was a State necessity. The act was thought cruel at the moment, but subsequently it redounded to his honour when Suillius returned from exile. The next age saw him in tremendous power and a venal creature of the emperor Claudius, whose friendship he long used, with success, never for good.
The same punishment was adjudged to Catus Firmius, a Senator, for having (it was alleged) assailed his sister with a false charge of treason. Catus, as I have related, had drawn Libo into a snare and then destroyed him by an information. Tiberius remembering this service, while he alleged other reasons, deprecated a sentence of exile, but did not oppose his expulsion from the Senate.
Much what I have related and shall have to relate, may perhaps, I am aware, seem petty trifles to record. But no one must compare my annals with the writings of those who have described Rome in old days. They told of great wars, of the storming of cities, of the defeat and capture of kings, or whenever they turned by preference to home affairs, they related, with a free scope for digression, the strifes of consuls with tribunes, land and corn-laws, and the struggles between the commons and the aristocracy. My labours are circumscribed and inglorious; peace wholly unbroken or but slightly disturbed, dismal misery in the capital, an emperor careless about the enlargement of the empire, such is my theme. Still it will not be useless to study those at first sight trifling events out of which the movements of vast changes often take their rise.
All nations and cities are ruled by the people, the nobility, or by one man. A constitution, formed by selection out of these elements, it is easy to commend but not to produce; or, if it is produced, it cannot be lasting. Formerly, when the people had power or when the patricians were in the ascendant, the popular temper and the methods of controlling it, had to be studied, and those who knew most accurately the spirit of the Senate and aristocracy, had the credit of understanding the age and of being wise men. So now, after a revolution, when Rome is nothing but the realm of a single despot, there must be good in carefully noting and recording this period, for it is but few who have the foresight to distinguish right from wrong or what is sound from what is hurtful, while most men learn wisdom from the fortunes of others. Still, though this is instructive, it gives very little pleasure. Descriptions of countries, the various incidents of battles, glorious deaths of great generals, enchain and refresh a reader’s mind. I have to present in succession the merciless biddings of a tyrant, incessant prosecutions, faithless friendships, the ruin of innocence, the same causes issuing in the same results, and I am everywhere confronted by a wearisome monotony in my subject matter. Then, again, an ancient historian has but few disparagers, and no one cares whether you praise more heartily the armies of Carthage or Rome. But of many who endured punishment or disgrace under Tiberius, the descendants yet survive; or even though the families themselves may be now extinct, you will find those who, from a resemblance of character, imagine that the evil deeds of others are a reproach to themselves. Again, even honour and virtue make enemies, condemning, as they do, their opposites by too close a contrast. But I return to my work.
In the year of the consulship of Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa, Cremutius Cordus was arraigned on a new charge, now for the first time heard. He had published a history in which he had praised Marcus Brutus and called Caius Cassius the last of the Romans. His accusers were Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta, creatures of Sejanus. This was enough to ruin the accused; and then too the emperor listened with an angry frown to his defence, which Cremutius, resolved to give up his life, began thus:—
“It is my words, Senators, which are condemned, so innocent am I of any guilty act; yet these do not touch the emperor or the emperor’s mother, who are alone comprehended under the law of treason. I am said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose careers many have described and no one mentioned without eulogy. Titus Livius, pre-eminently famous for eloquence and truthfulness, extolled Cneius Pompeius in such a panegyric that Augustus called him Pompeianus, and yet this was no obstacle to their friendship. Scipio, Afranius, this very Cassius, this same Brutus, he nowhere describes as brigands and traitors, terms now applied to them, but repeatedly as illustrious men. Asinius Pollio’s writings too hand down a glorious memory of them, and Messala Corvinus used to speak with pride of Cassius as his general. Yet both these men prospered to the end with wealth and preferment. Again, that book of Marcus Cicero, in which he lauded Cato to the skies, how else was it answered by Caesar the dictator, than by a written oration in reply, as if he was pleading in court? The letters Antonius, the harangues of Brutus contain reproaches against Augustus, false indeed, but urged with powerful sarcasm; the poems which we read of Bibaculus and Catullus are crammed with invectives on the Caesars. Yet the Divine Julius, the Divine Augustus themselves bore all this and let it pass, whether in forbearance or in wisdom I cannot easily say. Assuredly what is despised is soon forgotten; when you resent a thing, you seem to recognise it.”
“Of the Greeks I say nothing; with them not only liberty, but even license went unpunished, or if a person aimed at chastising, he retaliated on satire by satire. It has, however, always been perfectly open to us without any one to censure, to speak freely of those whom death has withdrawn alike from the partialities of hatred or esteem. Are Cassius and Brutus now in arms on the fields of Philippi, and am I with them rousing the people by harangues to stir up civil war? Did they not fall more than seventy years ago, and as they are known to us by statues which even the conqueror did not destroy, so too is not some portion of their memory preserved for us by historians? To every man posterity gives his due honour, and, if a fatal sentence hangs over me, there will be those who will remember me as well as Cassius and Brutus.”
He then left the Senate and ended his life by starvation. His books, so the Senators decreed, were to be burnt by the aediles; but some copies were left which were concealed and afterwards published. And so one is all the more inclined to laugh at the stupidity of men who suppose that the despotism of the present can actually efface the remembrances of the next generation. On the contrary, the persecution of genius fosters its influence; foreign tyrants, and all who have imitated their oppression, have merely procured infamy for themselves and glory for their victims.
That year was such a continuous succession of prosecutions that on the days of the Latin festival when Drusus, as city-prefect, had ascended his tribunal for the inauguration of his office, Calpurnius Salvianus appeared before him against Sextus Marius. This the emperor openly censured, and it caused the banishment of Salvianus. Next, the people of Cyzicus were accused of publicly neglecting the established worship of the Divine Augustus, and also of acts of violence to Roman citizens. They were deprived of the franchise which they had earned during the war with Mithridates, when their city was besieged, and when they repulsed the king as much by their own bravery as by the aid of Lucullus. Then followed the acquittal of Fonteius Capito, the late proconsul of Asia, on proof that charges brought against him by Vibius Serenus were fictitious. Still this did not injure Serenus, to whom public hatred was actually a protection. Indeed any conspicuously restless informer was, so to say, inviolable; only the insignificant and undistinguished were punished.
About the same time Further Spain sent a deputation to the Senate, with a request to be allowed, after the example of Asia, to erect a temple to Tiberius and his mother. On this occasion, the emperor, who had generally a strong contempt for honours, and now thought it right to reply to the rumour which reproached him with having yielded to vanity, delivered the following speech:—
“I am aware, Senators, that many deplore my want of firmness in not having opposed a similar recent petition from the cities of Asia. I will therefore both explain the grounds of my previous silence and my intentions for the future. Inasmuch as the Divine Augustus did not forbid the founding of a temple at Pergamos to himself and to the city of Rome, I who respect as law all his actions and sayings, have the more readily followed a precedent once approved, seeing that with the worship of myself was linked an expression of reverence towards the Senate. But though it may be pardonable to have allowed this once, it would be a vain and arrogant thing to receive the sacred honour of images representing the divine throughout all the provinces, and the homage paid to Augustus will disappear if it is vulgarised by indiscriminate flattery.
“For myself, Senators, I am mortal and limited to the functions of humanity, content if I can adequately fill the highest place; of this I solemnly assure you, and would have posterity remember it. They will more than sufficiently honour my memory by believing me to have been worthy of my ancestry, watchful over your interests, courageous in danger, fearless of enmity, when the State required it. These sentiments of your hearts are my temples, these my most glorious and abiding monuments. Those built of stone are despised as mere tombs, if the judgment of posterity passes into hatred. And therefore this is my prayer to our allies, our citizens, and to heaven itself; to the last, that, to my life’s close, it grant me a tranquil mind, which can discern alike human and divine claims; to the first, that, when I die, they honour my career and the reputation of my name with praise and kindly remembrance.”
Henceforth Tiberius even in private conversations persisted in showing contempt for such homage to himself. Some attributed this to modesty; many to self-distrust; a few to a mean spirit. “The noblest men,” it was said, “have the loftiest aspirations, and so Hercules and Bacchus among the Greeks and Quirinus among us were enrolled in the number of the gods. Augustus, did better, seeing that he had aspired. All other things princes have as a matter of course; one thing they ought insatiably to pursue, that their memory may be glorious. For to despise fame is to despise merit.”
Sejanus meanwhile, dazed by his extravagant prosperity and urged on too by a woman’s passion, Livia now insisting on his promise of marriage, addressed a memorial to the emperor. For it was then the custom to apply to him by writing, even though he was at Rome. This petition was to the following effect:— The kindness of Augustus, the father, and then the many favourable testimonies of Tiberius, the son, had engendered the habit of confiding his hopes and wishes to the ears of emperors as readily as to those of the gods. The splendour of high distinctions he had never craved; he had rather chosen watchings and hardships, like one of the common soldiers, for the emperor’s safety. But there was one most glorious honour he had won, the reputation of being worthy of an alliance with a Caesar. This was the first motive of his ambition. As he had heard that Augustus, in marrying his daughter, had even entertained some thoughts of Roman knights, so if a husband were sought for Livia, he hoped Tiberius would bear in mind a friend who would find his reward simply in the glory of the alliance. He did not wish to rid himself of the duties imposed on him; he thought it enough for his family to be secured against the unjust displeasure of Agrippina, and this for the sake of his children. For, as for himself, enough and more than enough for him would be a life completed while such a sovereign still reigned.
Tiberius, in reply, after praising the loyal sentiments of Sejanus and briefly enumerating the favours he had bestowed on him, asked time for impartial consideration, adding that while other men’s plans depended on their ideas of their own interest, princes, who had to regulate their chief actions by public opinion, were in a different position. “Hence,” he said, “I do not take refuge in an answer which it would be easy to return, that Livia can herself decide whether she considers that, after Drusus, she ought again to marry or rather to endure life in the same home, and that she has in her mother and grandmother counsellors nearer and dearer to her. I will deal more frankly. First, as to the enmity of Agrippina, I maintain that it will blaze out more fiercely if Livia’s marriage rends, so to say, the house of the Caesars into two factions. Even as it is, feminine jealousies break out, and my grandsons are torn asunder by the strife. What will happen if the rivalry is rendered more intense by such a marriage? For you are mistaken, Sejanus, if you think that you will then remain in the same position, and that Livia, who has been the wife of Caius Caesar and afterwards of Drusus, will have the inclination to pass her old age with a mere Roman knight. Though I might allow it, do you imagine it would be tolerated by those who have seen her brother, her father, and our ancestors in the highest offices of state? You indeed desire to keep within your station; but those magistrates and nobles who intrude on you against your wishes and consult you on all matters, openly give out that you have long overstepped the rank of a knight and gone far beyond my father’s friendships, and from their dislike of you they also condemn me. But, you say, Augustus had thoughts of giving his daughter to a Roman knight. Is it surprising that, with so many distracting cares, foreseeing too the immense elevation to which a man would be raised above others by such an alliance, he talked of Caius Proculeius and certain persons of singularly quiet life, wholly free from political entanglements? Still, if the hesitation of Augustus is to influence us, how much stronger is the fact that he bestowed his daughter on Marcus Agrippa, then on myself. All this, as a friend, I have stated without reserve, but I will not oppose your plans or those of Livia. My own earnest thoughts and the ties with which I am still purposing to unite you to myself, I shall for the present forbear to explain. This only I will declare, that nothing is too grand to be deserved by your merits and your goodwill towards me. When an opportunity presents itself, either in the Senate, or in a popular assembly, I shall not be silent.”
Sejanus, no longer thinking of his marriage but filled with a deeper alarm, rejoined by deprecating the whispers of suspicion, popular rumour and the gathering storm of odium. That he might not impair his influence by closing his doors on the throngs of his many visitors or strengthen the hands of accusers by admitting them, he made it his aim to induce Tiberius to live in some charming spot at a distance from Rome. In this he foresaw several advantages. Access to the emperor would be under his own control, and letters, for the most part being conveyed by soldiers, would pass through his hands. Caesar too, who was already in the decline of life, would soon, when enervated by retirement, more readily transfer to him the functions of empire; envy towards himself would be lessened when there was an end to his crowded levies and the reality of power would be increased by the removal of its empty show. So he began to declaim against the laborious life of the capital, the bustling crowds and streaming multitudes, while he praised repose and solitude, with their freedom from vexations and misunderstandings, and their special opportunities for the study of the highest questions.
It happened that the trial at this time of Votienus Montanus, a popular wit, convinced the hesitating Tiberius that he ought to shun all assemblies of the Senate, where speeches, often true and offensive, were flung in his very face. Votienus was charged with insulting expressions towards the emperor, and while the witness, Aemilius, a military man, in his eagerness to prove the case, repeated the whole story and amid angry clamour struggled on with loud assertion, Tiberius heard the reproaches by which he was assailed in secret, and was so deeply impressed that he exclaimed that he would clear himself either at once or on a legal inquiry, and the entreaties of friends, with the flattery of the whole assembly, hardly restored his composure. As for Votienus, he suffered the penalty of treason; but the emperor, clinging all the more obstinately to the harshness with which he had been reproached in regard to accused persons, punished Aquilia with exile for the crime of adultery with Varius Ligur, although Lentulus Gaetulicus, the consul-elect, had proposed that she should be sentenced under the Julian law. He next struck off Apidius Merula from the register of the Senate for not having sworn obedience to the legislation of the Divine Augustus.
Then a hearing was given to embassies from the Lacedaemonians and Messenians on the question of the temple of Diana in the Marshes. The Lacedaemonians asserted that it had been dedicated by their ancestors and in their territory, and appealed to the records of their history and the hymns of poets, but it had been wrested from, they said, by the arms of the Macedonian Philip, with whom they had fought, and subsequently restored by the decision of Caius Caesar and Marcus Antonius. The Messenians, on the contrary, alleged the ancient division of the Peloponnesus among the descendants of Hercules, in which the territory of Denthelia (where the temple stood) had fallen to their king. Records of this event still existed, engraven on stone and ancient bronze. But if they were asked for the testimony of poetry and of history, they had it, they said, in greater abundance and authenticity. Philip had not decided arbitrarily, but according to fact, and king Antigonus, as also the general Mummius, had pronounced the same judgment. Such too had been the award of the Milesians to whom the arbitration had been publicly entrusted, and, finally, of Atidius Geminus, the praetor of Achaia. And so the question was decided in favour of the Messenians.
Next the people of Segesta petitioned for the restoration of the temple of Venus at Mount Eryx, which had fallen to ruin from its antiquity. They repeated the well-known story of its origin, which delighted Tiberius. He undertook the work willingly, as being a kinsman of the goddess. After this was discussed a petition from the city of Massilia, and sanction given to the precedent of Publius Rutilius, who having been legally banished from Rome, had been adopted as a citizen by the people of Smyrna. Volcatius Moschus, also an exile, had been received with a similar privilege by the inhabitants of Massilia, and had left his property to their community, as being now his own country.
Two men of noble rank died in that year, Cneius Lentulus and Lucius Domitius. It had been the glory of Lentulus, to say nothing of his consulship and his triumphal distinctions over the Gaetuli, to have borne poverty with a good grace, then to have attained great wealth, which had been blamelessly acquired and was modestly enjoyed. Domitius derived lustre from a father who during the civil war had been master of the sea, till he united himself to the party of Antonius and afterwards to that of Caesar. His grandfather had fallen in the battle of Pharsalia, fighting for the aristocracy. He had himself been chosen to be the husband of the younger Antonia, daughter of Octavia, and subsequently led an army across the Elbe, penetrating further into Germany than any Roman before him. For this achievement he gained triumphal honours.
Lucius Antonius too then died, of a most illustrious but unfortunate family. His father, Julius Antonius, was capitally punished for adultery with Julia, and the son, when a mere youth, was banished by Augustus, whose sister’s grandson he was, to the city of Massilia, where the name of exile might be masked under that of student. Yet honour was paid him in death, and his bones, by the Senate’s decree, were consigned to the sepulchre of the Octavii.
While the same consuls were in office, an atrocious crime was committed in Nearer Spain by a peasant of the Termestine tribe. Suddenly attacking the praetor of the province, Lucius Piso, as he was travelling in all the carelessness of peace, he killed him with a single wound. He then fled on a swift horse, and reached a wooded country, where he parted with his steed and eluded pursuit amid rocky and pathless wilds. But he was soon discovered. The horse was caught and led through the neighbouring villages, and its owner ascertained. Being found and put to the torture that he might be forced to reveal his accomplices, he exclaimed in a loud voice, in the language of his country, that it was in vain to question him; his comrades might stand by and look on, but that the most intense agony would not wring the truth from him. Next day, when he was dragged back to torture, he broke loose from his guards and dashed his head against a stone with such violence that he instantly fell dead. It was however believed that Piso was treacherously murdered by the Termestini. Some public money had been embezzled, and he was pressing for its payment too rigorously for the patience of barbarians.
In the consulship of Lentulus Gaetulicus and Caius Calvisius, triumphal distinctions were decreed to Poppaeus Sabinus, for a crushing defeat of some Thracian tribes, whose wild life in the highlands of a mountainous country made them unusually fierce. Besides their natural ferocity, the rebellion had its origin in their scornful refusal to endure levies and to supply our armies with their bravest men. Even native princes they would obey only according to their caprice, and if they sent aid, they used to appoint their own leaders and fight only against their neighbours. A rumour had then spread itself among them that, dispersed and mingled with other tribes, they were to be dragged away to distant countries. Before however they took up arms, they sent envoys with assurances of their friendship and loyalty, which, they said, would continue, if they were not tried by any fresh burden. But if they were doomed to slavery as a conquered people, they had swords and young warriors and a spirit bent on freedom or resigned to death. As they spoke, they pointed to fortresses amid rocks whither they had conveyed their parents and their wives, and threatened us with a difficult, dangerous and sanguinary war.
Sabinus meantime, while he was concentrating his troops, returned gentle answers; but on the arrival of Pomponius Labeo with a legion from Moesia and of king Rhoemetalces with some reinforcements from his subjects, who had not thrown off their allegiance, with these and the force he had on the spot, he advanced on the enemy, who were drawn up in some wooded defiles. Some ventured to show themselves on the open hills; these the Roman general approached in fighting order and easily dislodged them, with only a small slaughter of the barbarians, who had not far to flee. In this position he soon established a camp, and held with a strong detachment a narrow and unbroken mountain ridge, stretching as far as the next fortress, which was garrisoned by a large force of armed soldiers along with some irregulars. Against the boldest of these, who after the manner of their country were disporting themselves with songs and dances in front of the rampart, he sent some picked archers, who, discharging distant volleys, inflicted many wounds without loss to themselves. As they advanced, a sudden sortie put them to the rout, and they fell back on the support of a Sugambrian cohort, drawn up at no great distance by the Roman general, ready for any emergency and as terrible as the foe, with the noise of their war songs and the clashing of their arms.
He then moved his camp near to the enemy, leaving in his former entrenchments the Thracians who, as I have mentioned, were with us. These had permission to ravage, burn, and plunder, provided they confined their forays to daylight, and passed the night securely and vigilantly in their camp. This at first they strictly observed. Soon they resigned themselves to enjoyment, and, enriched by plunder, they neglected their guards, and amid feasts and mirth sank down in the carelessness of the banquet, of sleep and of wine. So the enemy, apprised of their heedlessness, prepared two detachments, one of which was to attack the plunderers, the other, to fall on the Roman camp, not with the hope of taking it, but to hinder the din of the other battle from being heard by our soldiers, who, with shouts and missiles around them, would be all intent on their own peril. Night too was chosen for the movement to increase the panic. Those however who tried to storm the entrenchment of the legions were easily repulsed; the Thracian auxiliaries were dismayed by the suddenness of the onset, for though some were lying close to their lines, far more were straggling beyond them, and the massacre was all the more savage, inasmuch as they were taunted with being fugitives and traitors and bearing arms for their own and their country’s enslavement.
Next day Sabinus displayed his forces in the plain, on the chance of the barbarians being encouraged by the night’s success to risk an engagement. Finding that they did not quit the fortress and the adjoining hills, he began a siege by means of the works which he had opportunely began to construct; then he drew a fosse and stockade enclosing an extent of four miles, and by degrees contracted and narrowed his lines, with the view of cutting off their water and forage. He also threw up a rampart, from which to discharge stones, darts, and brands on the enemy, who was now within range. It was thirst however which chiefly distressed them, for there was only one spring for the use of a vast multitude of soldiers and non-combatants. Their cattle too, penned up close to them, after the fashion of barbarians, were dying of want of fodder; near them lay human bodies which had perished from wounds or thirst, and the whole place was befouled with rotting carcases and stench and infection. To their confusion was added the growing misery of discord, some thinking of surrender, others of destruction by mutual blows. Some there were who suggested a sortie instead of an unavenged death, and these were all men of spirit, though they differed in their plans.
One of their chiefs, Dinis, an old man who well knew by long experience both the strength and clemency of Rome, maintained that they must lay down their arms, this being the only remedy for their wretched plight, and he was the first to give himself up with his wife and children to the conqueror. He was followed by all whom age or sex unfitted for war, by all too who had a stronger love of life than of renown. The young were divided between Tarsa and Turesis, both of whom had resolved to fall together with their freedom. Tarsa however kept urging them to speedy death and to the instant breaking off of all hope and fear, and, by way of example, plunged his sword into his heart. And there were some who chose the same death. Turesis and his band waited for night, not without the knowledge of our general. Consequently, the sentries were strengthened with denser masses of troops. Night was coming on with a fierce storm, and the foe, one moment with a tumultuous uproar, another in awful silence, had perplexed the besiegers, when Sabinus went round the camp, entreating the men not to give a chance to their stealthy assailants by heeding embarrassing noises or being deceived by quiet, but to keep, every one, to his post without moving or discharging their darts on false alarms.
The barbarians meanwhile rushed down with their bands, now hurling at the entrenchments stones such as the hand could grasp, stakes with points hardened by fire, and boughs lopped from oaks; now filling up the fosses with bushes and hurdles and dead bodies, while others advanced up to the breastwork with bridges and ladders which they had constructed for the occasion, seized it, tore it down, and came to close quarters with the defenders. Our soldiers on the other side drove them back with missiles, repelled them with their shields, and covered them with a storm of long siege-javelins and heaps of stones. Success already gained and the more marked disgrace which would follow repulse, were a stimulus to the Romans, while the courage of the foe was heightened by this last chance of deliverance and the presence of many mothers and wives with mournful cries. Darkness, which increased the daring of some and the terror of others, random blows, wounds not foreseen, failure to recognise friend or enemy, echoes, seemingly in their rear, from the winding mountain valleys, spread such confusion that the Romans abandoned some of their lines in the belief that they had been stormed. Only however a very few of the enemy had broken through them; the rest, after their bravest men had been beaten back or wounded, were towards daybreak pushed back to the upper part of the fortress and there at last compelled to surrender. Then the immediate neighbourhood, by the voluntary action of the inhabitants, submitted. The early and severe winter of Mount Haemus saved the rest of the population from being reduced by assault or blockade.
At Rome meanwhile, besides the shocks already sustained by the imperial house, came the first step towards the destruction of Agrippina, Claudia Pulchra, her cousin, being prosecuted by Domitius Afer. Lately a praetor, a man of but moderate position and eager to become notorious by any sort of deed, Afer charged her with unchastity, with having Furnius for her paramour, and with attempts on the emperor by poison and sorcery. Agrippina, always impetuous, and now kindled into fury by the peril of her kinswoman, went straight to Tiberius and found him, as it happened, offering a sacrifice to his father. This provoked an indignant outburst. “It is not,” she exclaimed, “for the same man to slay victims to the Divine Augustus and to persecute his posterity. The celestial spirit has not transferred itself to the mute statue; here is the true image, sprung of heavenly blood, and she perceives her danger, and assumes its mournful emblems. Pulchra’s name is a mere blind; the only reason for her destruction is that she has, in utter folly, selected Agrippina for her admiration, forgetting that Sosia was thereby ruined.” These words wrung from the emperor one of the rare utterances of that inscrutable breast; he rebuked Agrippina with a Greek verse, and reminded her that “she was not wronged because she was not a queen.” Pulchra and Furnius were condemned. Afer was ranked with the foremost orators, for the ability which he displayed, and which won strong praise from Tiberius, who pronounced him a speaker of natural genius. Henceforward as a counsel for the defence or the prosecution he enjoyed the fame of eloquence rather than of virtue, but old age robbed him of much of his speaking power, while, with a failing intellect, he was still impatient of silence.
Agrippina in stubborn rage, with the grasp of disease yet on her, when the emperor came to see her, wept long and silently, and then began to mingle reproach and supplication. She begged him “to relieve her loneliness and provide her with a husband; her youth still fitted her for marriage, which was a virtuous woman’s only solace, and there were citizens in Rome who would not disdain to receive the wife of Germanicus and his children.” But the emperor, who perceived the political aims of her request, but did not wish to show displeasure or apprehension, left her, notwithstanding her urgency, without an answer. This incident, not mentioned by any historian, I have found in the memoirs of the younger Agrippina, the mother of the emperor Nero, who handed down to posterity the story of her life and of the misfortunes of her family.
Sejanus meanwhile yet more deeply alarmed the sorrowing and unsuspecting woman by sending his agents, under the guise of friendship, with warnings that poison was prepared for her, and that she ought to avoid her father-in-law’s table. Knowing not how to dissemble, she relaxed neither her features nor tone of voice as she sat by him at dinner, nor did she touch a single dish, till at last Tiberius noticed her conduct, either casually or because he was told of it. To test her more closely, he praised some fruit as it was set on the table and passed it with his own hand to his daughter-in-law. This increased the suspicions of Agrippina, and without putting the fruit to her lips she gave it to the slaves. Still no remark fell from Tiberius before the company, but he turned to his mother and whispered that it was not surprising if he had decided on harsh treatment against one who implied that he was a poisoner. Then there was a rumour that a plan was laid for her destruction, that the emperor did not dare to attempt it openly, and was seeking to veil the deed in secrecy.
Tiberius, to divert people’s talk, continually attended the Senate, and gave an audience of several days to embassies from Asia on a disputed question as to the city in which the temple before mentioned should be erected. Eleven cities were rivals for the honour, of which they were all equally ambitious, though they differed widely in resources. With little variation they dwelt on antiquity of race and loyalty to Rome throughout her wars with Perseus, Aristonicus, and other kings. But the people of Hypaepa, Tralles, Laodicaea, and Magnesia were passed over as too insignificant; even Ilium, though it boasted that Troy was the cradle of Rome, was strong only in the glory of its antiquity. There was a little hesitation about Halicarnassus, as its inhabitants affirmed that for twelve hundred years their homes had not been shaken by an earthquake and that the foundations of their temple were on the living rock. Pergamos, it was thought, had been sufficiently honoured by having a temple of Augustus in the city, on which very fact they relied. The Ephesians and Milesians had, it seemed, wholly devoted their respective towns to the worships of Apollo and Diana. And so the question lay between Sardis and Smyrna. The envoys from Sardis read a decree of the Etrurians, with whom they claimed kindred. “Tyrrhenus and Lydus,” it was said, “the sons of King Atys, divided the nation between them because of its multitude; Lydus remained in the country of his fathers; Tyrrhenus had the work assigned him of establishing new settlements, and names, taken from the two leaders, were given to the one people in Asia and to the other in Italy. The resources of the Lydians were yet further augmented by the immigration of nations into that part of Greece which afterwards took its name from Pelops.” They spoke too of letters from Roman generals, of treaties concluded with us during the Macedonian war, and of their copious rivers, of their climate, and the rich countries round them.
The envoys from Smyrna, after tracing their city’s antiquity back to such founders as either Tantalus, the son of Jupiter, or Theseus, also of divine origin, or one of the Amazons, passed on to that on which they chiefly relied, their services to the Roman people, whom they had helped with naval armaments, not only in wars abroad, but in those under which we struggled in Italy. They had also been the first, they said, to build a temple in honour of Rome, during the consulship of Marcus Porcius Cato, when Rome’s power indeed was great, but not yet raised to the highest point, inasmuch as the Punic capital was still standing and there were mighty kings in Asia. They appealed too to the of Lucius Sulla, whose army was once in terrible jeopardy from a severe winter and want of clothing, and this having been announced at Smyrna in a public assembly, all who were present stript their clothes off their backs and sent them to our legions. And so the Senate, when the question was put, gave the preference to Smyrna. Vibius Marsus moved that Marcus Lepidus, to whom the province of Asia had been assigned, should have under him a special commissioner to undertake the charge of this temple. As Lepidus himself, out of modesty, declined to appoint, Valerius Naso, one of the ex-praetors, was chosen by lot and sent out.
Meanwhile, after long reflection on his purpose and frequent deferment of it, the emperor retired into Campania to dedicate, as he pretended, a temple to Jupiter at Capua and another to Augustus at Nola, but really resolved to live at a distance from Rome. Although I have followed most historians in attributing the cause of his retirement to the arts of Sejanus, still, as he passed six consecutive years in the same solitude after that minister’s destruction, I am often in doubt whether it is not to be more truly ascribed to himself, and his wish to hide by the place of his retreat the cruelty and licentiousness which he betrayed by his actions. Some thought that in his old age he was ashamed of his personal appearance. He had indeed a tall, singularly slender and stooping figure, a bald head, a face full of eruptions, and covered here and there with plasters. In the seclusion of Rhodes he had habituated himself to shun society and to hide his voluptuous life. According to one account his mother’s domineering temper drove him away; he was weary of having her as his partner in power, and he could not thrust her aside, because he had received this very power as her gift. For Augustus had had thoughts of putting the Roman state under Germanicus, his sister’s grandson, whom all men esteemed, but yielding to his wife’s entreaties he left Germanicus to be adopted by Tiberius and adopted Tiberius himself. With this Augusta would taunt her son, and claim back what she had given.
His departure was attended by a small retinue, one senator, who was an ex-consul, Cocceius Nerva, learned in the laws, one Roman knight, besides Sejanus, of the highest order, Curtius Atticus, the rest being men of liberal culture, for the most part Greeks, in whose conversation he might find amusement. It was said by men who knew the stars that the motions of the heavenly bodies when Tiberius left Rome were such as to forbid the possibility of his return. This caused ruin for many who conjectured that his end was near and spread the rumour; for they never foresaw the very improbable contingency of his voluntary exile from his home for eleven years. Soon afterwards it was clearly seen what a narrow margin there is between such science and delusion and in what obscurity truth is veiled. That he would not return to Rome was not a mere random assertion; as to the rest, they were wholly in the dark, seeing that he lived to extreme old age in the country or on the coast near Rome and often close to the very walls of the city.
It happened at this time that a perilous accident which occurred to the emperor strengthened vague rumours and gave him grounds for trusting more fully in the friendship and fidelity of Sejanus. They were dining in a country house called “The Cave,” between the gulf of Amuclae and the hills of Fundi, in a natural grotto. The rocks at its entrance suddenly fell in and crushed some of the attendants; there upon panic seized the whole company and there was a general flight of the guests. Sejanus hung over the emperor, and with knee, face, and hand encountered the falling stones; and was found in this attitude by the soldiers who came to their rescue. After this he was greater than ever, and though his counsels were ruinous, he was listened to with confidence, as a man who had no care for himself. He pretended to act as a judge towards the children of Germanicus, after having suborned persons to assume the part of prosecutors and to inveigh specially against Nero, next in succession to the throne, who, though he had proper youthful modesty, often forgot present expediency, while freedmen and clients, eager to get power, incited him to display vigour and self-confidence. “This,” they said, “was what the Roman people wished, what the armies desired, and Sejanus would not dare to oppose it, though now he insulted alike the tame spirit of the old emperor and the timidity of the young prince.”
Nero, while he listened to this and like talk, was not indeed inspired with any guilty ambition, but still occasionally there would break from him wilful and thoughtless expressions which spies about his person caught up and reported with exaggeration, and this he had no opportunity of rebutting. Then again alarms under various forms were continually arising. One man would avoid meeting him; another after returning his salutation would instantly turn away; many after beginning a conversation would instantly break it off, while Sejanus’s friends would stand their ground and laugh at him. Tiberius indeed wore an angry frown or a treacherous smile. Whether the young prince spoke or held his tongue, silence and speech were alike criminal. Every night had its anxieties, for his sleepless hours, his dreams and sighs were all made known by his wife to her mother Livia and by Livia to Sejanus. Nero’s brother Drusus Sejanus actually drew into his scheme by holding out to him the prospect of becoming emperor through the removal of an elder brother, already all but fallen. The savage temper of Drusus, to say nothing of lust of power and the usual feuds between brothers, was inflamed with envy by the partiality of the mother Agrippina towards Nero. And yet Sejanus, while he favoured Drusus, was not without thoughts of sowing the seeds of his future ruin, well knowing how very impetuous he was and therefore the more exposed to treachery.
Towards the close of the year died two distinguished men, Asinius Agrippa and Quintus Haterius. Agrippa was of illustrious rather than ancient ancestry, which his career did not disgrace; Haterius was of a senatorian family and famous for his eloquence while he lived, though the monuments which remain of his genius are not admired as of old. The truth is he succeeded more by vehemence than by finish of style. While the research and labours of other authors are valued by an after age, the harmonious fluency of Haterius died with him.
In the year of the consulship of Marcus Licinius and Lucius Calpurnius, the losses of a great war were matched by an unexpected disaster, no sooner begun than ended. One Atilius, of the freedman class, having undertaken to build an amphitheatre at Fidena for the exhibition of a show of gladiators, failed to lay a solid foundation to frame the wooden superstructure with beams of sufficient strength; for he had neither an abundance of wealth, nor zeal for public popularity, but he had simply sought the work for sordid gain. Thither flocked all who loved such sights and who during the reign of Tiberius had been wholly debarred from such amusements; men and women of every age crowding to the place because it was near Rome. And so the calamity was all the more fatal. The building was densely crowded; then came a violent shock, as it fell inwards or spread outwards, precipitating and burying an immense multitude which was intently gazing on the show or standing round. Those who were crushed to death in the first moment of the accident had at least under such dreadful circumstances the advantage of escaping torture. More to be pitied were they who with limbs torn from them still retained life, while they recognised their wives and children by seeing them during the day and by hearing in the night their screams and groans. Soon all the neighbours in their excitement at the report were bewailing brothers, kinsmen or parents. Even those whose friends or relatives were away from home for quite a different reason, still trembled for them, and as it was not yet known who had been destroyed by the crash, suspense made the alarm more widespread.
As soon as they began to remove the debris, there was a rush to see the lifeless forms and much embracing and kissing. Often a dispute would arise, when some distorted face, bearing however a general resemblance of form and age, had baffled their efforts at recognition. Fifty thousand persons were maimed or destroyed in this disaster. For the future it was provided by a decree of the Senate that no one was to exhibit a show of gladiators, whose fortune fell short of four hundred thousand sesterces, and that no amphitheatre was to be erected except on a foundation, the solidity of which had been examined. Atilius was banished. At the moment of the calamity the nobles threw open houses and supplied indiscriminately medicines and physicians, so that Rome then, notwithstanding her sorrowful aspect, wore a likeness to the manners of our forefathers who after a great battle always relieved the wounded with their bounty and attentions.
This disaster was not forgotten when a furious conflagration damaged the capital to an unusual extent, reducing Mount Caelius to ashes. “It was an ill-starred year,” people began to say, “and the emperor’s purpose of leaving Rome must have been formed under evil omens.” They began in vulgar fashion to trace ill-luck to guilt, when Tiberius checked them by distributing money in proportion to losses sustained. He received a vote of thanks in the Senate from its distinguished members, and was applauded by the populace for having assisted with his liberality, without partiality or the solicitations of friends, strangers whom he had himself sought out. And proposals were also made that Mount Caelius should for the future be called Mount Augustus, inasmuch as when all around was in flames only a single statue of Tiberius in the house of one Junius, a senator, had remained uninjured. This, it was said, had formerly happened to Claudia Quinta; her statue, which had twice escaped the violence of fire, had been dedicated by our ancestors in the temple of the Mother of Gods; hence the Claudii had been accounted sacred and numbered among deities, and so additional sanctity ought to be given to a spot where heaven showed such honour to the emperor.
It will not be uninteresting to mention that Mount Caelius was anciently known by the name of Querquetulanus, because it grew oak timber in abundance and was afterwards called Caelius by Caeles Vibenna, who led the Etruscan people to the aid of Rome and had the place given him as a possession by Tarquinius Priscus or by some other of the kings. As to that point historians differ; as to the rest, it is beyond a question that Vibenna’s numerous forces established themselves in the plain beneath and in the neighbourhood of the forum, and that the Tuscan street was named after these strangers.
But though the zeal of the nobles and the bounty of the prince brought relief to suffering, yet every day a stronger and fiercer host of informers pursued its victims, without one alleviating circumstance. Quintilius Varus, a rich man and related to the emperor, was suddenly attacked by Domitius Afer, the successful prosecutor of Claudia Pulchra, his mother, and no one wondered that the needy adventurer of many years who had squandered his lately gotten recompense was now preparing himself for fresh iniquities. That Publius Dolabella should have associated himself in the prosecution was a marvel, for he was of illustrious ancestry, was allied to Varus, and was now himself seeking to destroy his own noble race, his own kindred. The Senate however stopped the proceeding, and decided to wait for the emperor, this being the only means of escaping for a time impending horrors.
Caesar, meanwhile, after dedicating the temples in Campania, warned the public by an edict not to disturb his retirement and posted soldiers here and there to keep off the throngs of townsfolk. But he so loathed the towns and colonies and, in short, every place on the mainland, that he buried himself in the island of Capreae which is separated by three miles of strait from the extreme point of the promontory of Sorrentum. The solitude of the place was, I believe, its chief attraction, for a harbourless sea surrounds it and even for a small vessel it has but few safe retreats, nor can any one land unknown to the sentries. Its air in winter is soft, as it is screened by a mountain which is a protection against cutting winds. In summer it catches the western breezes, and the open sea round it renders it most delightful. It commanded too a prospect of the most lovely bay, till Vesuvius, bursting into flames, changed the face of the country. Greeks, so tradition says, occupied those parts and Capreae was inhabited by the Teleboi. Tiberius had by this time filled the island with twelve country houses, each with a grand name and a vast structure of its own. Intent as he had once been on the cares of state, he was now for thoroughly unbending himself in secret profligacy and a leisure of malignant schemes. For he still retained that rash proneness to suspect and to believe, which even at Rome Sejanus used to foster, and which he here excited more keenly, no longer concealing his machinations against Agrippina and Nero. Soldiers hung about them, and every message, every visit, their public and their private life were I may say regularly chronicled. And persons were actually suborned to advise them to flee to the armies of Germany, or when the Forum was most crowded, to clasp the statue of statue of the Divine Augustus and appeal to the protection of the people and Senate. These counsels they disdained, but they were charged with having had thoughts of acting on them.
The year of the consulship of Silanus and Silius Nerva opened with a foul beginning. A Roman knight of the highest rank, Titius Sabinus, was dragged to prison because he had been a friend of Germanicus. He had indeed persisted in showing marked respect towards his wife and children, as their visitor at home, their companion in public, the solitary survivor of so many clients, and he was consequently esteemed by the good, as he was a terror to the evil-minded. Latinius Latiaris, Porcius Cato, Petitius Rufus, and Marcus Opsius, ex-praetors, conspired to attack him, with an eye to the consulship, to which there was access only through Sejanus, and the good will of Sejanus was to be gained only by a crime. They arranged amongst themselves that Latiaris, who had some slight acquaintance with Sabinus, should devise the plot, that the rest should be present as witnesses, and that then they should begin the prosecution. Accordingly Latiaris, after first dropping some casual remarks, went on to praise the fidelity of Sabinus in not having, like others, forsaken after its fall the house of which he had been the friend in its prosperity. He also spoke highly of Germanicus and compassionately of Agrippina. Sabinus, with the natural softness of the human heart under calamity, burst into tears, which he followed up with complaints, and soon with yet more daring invective against Sejanus, against his cruelty, pride and ambition. He did not spare even Tiberius in his reproaches. That conversation, having united them, as it were, in an unlawful secret, led to a semblance of close intimacy. Henceforward Sabinus himself sought Latiaris, went continually to his house, and imparted to him his griefs, as to a most faithful friend.
The men whom I have named now consulted how these conversations might fall within the hearing of more persons. It was necessary that the place of meeting should preserve the appearance of secrecy, and, if witnesses were to stand behind the doors, there was a fear of their being seen or heard, or of suspicion casually arising. Three senators thrust themselves into the space between the roof and ceiling, a hiding-place as shameful as the treachery was execrable. They applied their ears to apertures and crevices. Latiaris meanwhile having met Sabinus in the streets, drew him to his house and to the room, as if he was going to communicate some fresh discoveries. There he talked much about past and impending troubles, a copious topic indeed, and about fresh horrors. Sabinus spoke as before and at greater length, as sorrow, when once it has broken into utterance, is the harder to restrain. Instantly they hastened to accuse him, and having despatched a letter to the emperor, they informed him of the order of the plot and of their own infamy. Never was Rome more distracted and terror-stricken. Meetings, conversations, the ear of friend and stranger were alike shunned; even things mute and lifeless, the very roofs and walls, were eyed with suspicion.
The emperor in his letter on the first of January, after offering the usual prayers for the new year, referred to Sabinus, whom he reproached with having corrupted some of his freedmen and having attempted his life, and he claimed vengeance in no obscure language. It was decreed without hesitation, and the condemned man was dragged off, exclaiming as loudly as he could, with head covered and throat tightly bound, “that this was inaugurating the year; these were the victims slain to Sejanus.” Wherever he turned his eyes, wherever his words fell, there was flight and solitude; the streets and public places were forsaken. A few retraced their steps and again showed themselves, shuddering at the mere fact that they had betrayed alarm. “What day,” they asked, “will be without some execution, when amid sacrifices and prayers, a time when it is usual to refrain even from a profane word, the chain and halter are introduced? Tiberius has not incurred such odium blindly; this is a studied device to make us believe that there is no reason why the new magistrates should not open the dungeons as well as the temple and the altars.” Thereupon there came a letter of thanks to them for having punished a bitter foe to the State, and the emperor further added that he had an anxious life, that he apprehended treachery from enemies, but he mentioned no one by name. Still there was no question that this was aimed at Nero and Agrippina.
But for my plan of referring each event to its own year, I should feel a strong impulse to anticipate matters and at once relate the deaths by which Latinius and Opsius and the other authors of this atrocious deed perished, some after Caius became emperor, some even while Tiberius yet ruled. For although he would not have the instruments of his wickedness destroyed by others, he frequently, when he was tired of them, and fresh ones offered themselves for the same services, flung off the old, now become a mere incubus. But these and other punishments of guilty men I shall describe in due course.
Asinius Gallus, to whose children Agrippina was aunt, then moved that the emperor should be requested to disclose his apprehensions to the Senate and allow their removal. Of all his virtues, as he counted them, there was none on which Tiberius so prided himself as his ability to dissemble, and he was therefore the more irritated at an attempt to expose what he was hiding. Sejanus however pacified him, not out of love for Gallus, but rather to wait the result of the emperor’s wavering mood, knowing, as he did, that, though slow in forming his purpose, yet having once broken through his reserve, he would follow up harsh words with terrible deeds.
About the same time Julia died, the granddaughter of Augustus. He had condemned her on a conviction of adultery and had banished her to the island of Trimerus, not far from the shores of Apulia. There she endured a twenty years’ exile, in which she was supported by relief from Augusta, who having overthrown the prosperity of her step-children by secret machinations, made open display of her compassion to the fallen family.
That same year the Frisii, a nation beyond the Rhine, cast off peace, more because of our rapacity than from their impatience of subjection. Drusus had imposed on them a moderate tribute, suitable to their limited resources, the furnishing of ox hides for military purposes. No one ever severely scrutinized the size or thickness till Olennius, a first-rank centurion, appointed to govern the Frisii, selected hides of wild bulls as the standard according to which they were to be supplied. This would have been hard for any nation, and it was the less tolerable to the Germans, whose forests abound in huge beasts, while their home cattle are undersized. First it was their herds, next their lands, last, the persons of their wives and children, which they gave up to bondage. Then came angry remonstrances, and when they received no relief, they sought a remedy in war. The soldiers appointed to collect the tribute were seized and gibbeted. Olennius anticipated their fury by flight, and found refuge in a fortress, named Flevum, where a by no means contemptible force of Romans and allies kept guard over the shores of the ocean.
As soon as this was known to Lucius Apronius, propraetor of Lower Germany, he summoned from the Upper province the legionary veterans, as well as some picked auxiliary infantry and cavalry. Instantly conveying both armies down the Rhine, he threw them on the Frisii, raising at once the siege of the fortress and dispersing the rebels in defence of their own possessions. Next, he began constructing solid roads and bridges over the neighbouring estuaries for the passage of his heavy troops, and meanwhile having found a ford, he ordered the cavalry of the Canninefates, with all the German infantry which served with us, to take the enemy in the rear. Already in battle array, they were beating back our auxiliary horse as well as that of the legions sent to support them, when three light cohorts, then two more, and after a while the entire cavalry were sent to the attack. They were strong enough, had they charged altogether, but coming up, as they did, at intervals, they did not give fresh courage to the repulsed troops and were themselves carried away in the panic of the fugitives. Apronius entrusted the rest of the auxiliaries to Cethegus Labeo, the commander of the fifth legion, but he too, finding his men’s position critical and being in extreme peril, sent messages imploring the whole strength of the legions. The soldiers of the fifth sprang forward, drove back the enemy in a fierce encounter, and saved our cohorts and cavalry, who were exhausted by their wounds. But the Roman general did not attempt vengeance or even bury the dead, although many tribunes, prefects, and first-rank centurions had fallen. Soon afterwards it was ascertained from deserters that nine hundred Romans had been cut to pieces in a wood called Braduhenna’s, after prolonging the fight to the next day, and that another body of four hundred, which had taken possession of the house of one Cruptorix, once a soldier in our pay, fearing betrayal, had perished by mutual slaughter.
The Frisian name thus became famous in Germany, and Tiberius kept our losses a secret, not wishing to entrust any one with the war. Nor did the Senate care whether dishonour fell on the extreme frontiers of the empire. Fear at home had filled their hearts, and for this they sought relief in sycophancy. And so, although their advice was asked on totally different subjects, they decreed an altar to Clemency, an altar to Friendship, and statues round them to Caesar and Sejanus, both of whom they earnestly begged with repeated entreaties to allow themselves to be seen in public. Still, neither of them would visit Rome or even the neighbourhood of Rome; they thought it enough to quit the island and show themselves on the opposite shores of Campania. Senators, knights, a number of the city populace flocked thither, anxiously looking to Sejanus, approach to whom was particularly difficult and was consequently sought by intrigue and by complicity in his counsels. It was sufficiently clear that his arrogance was increased by gazing on this foul and openly displayed servility. At Rome indeed hurrying crowds are a familiar sight, from the extent of the city no one knows on what business each citizen is bent; but there, as they lounged in promiscuous crowds in the fields or on the shore, they had to bear day and night alike the patronising smiles and the supercilious insolence of hall-porters, till even this was forbidden them, and those whom Sejanus had not deigned to accost or to look on, returned to the capital in alarm, while some felt an evil joy, though there hung over them the dreadful doom of that ill-starred friendship.
Tiberius meanwhile having himself in person bestowed the hand of his granddaughter Agrippina, Germanicus’s daughter, on Cneius Domitius, directed the marriage to be celebrated at Rome. In selecting Domitius he looked not only to his ancient lineage, but also to his alliance with the blood of the Caesars, for he could point to Octavia as his grandmother and through her to Augustus as his great-uncle.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01