1 1 The consulate of Gaius Asinius and Gaius Antistius was to Tiberius the ninth year of public order and of domestic felicity (for he counted the death of Germanicus among his blessings),1 when suddenly fortune disturbed the peace and he became either a tyrant himself or the source of power to the tyrannous. The starting-point and the cause were to be found in Aelius Sejanus, prefect of the praetorian cohorts. Of his influence I spoke above:2 now I shall unfold his origin, his character, and the crime by which he strove to seize on empire.
Born at Vulsinii3 to the Roman knight Seius Strabo,4 he became in early youth a follower of Gaius Caesar, grandson of the deified Augustus; not without a rumour that he had disposed of his virtue at a price to Apicius,5 a rich man and a prodigal. Before long, by his multifarious arts, he bound Tiberius fast: so much so that a man inscrutable to others became to Sejanus alone unguarded and unreserved; and the less by subtlety (in fact, he was beaten in the end by the selfsame arts) than by the anger of Heaven against that Roman realm for whose equal damnation he flourished and fell. He was a man hardy by constitution, fearless by temperament; skilled to conceal himself and to incriminate his neighbour; cringing at once and insolent; orderly and modest to outward view, at heart possessed by a towering ambition, which impelled him at whiles to lavishness and luxury, but oftener to industry and vigilance — qualities not less noxious when assumed for the winning of a throne.
2 1 The power of the prefectship, which had hitherto been moderate, he increased by massing the cohorts,6 dispersed through the capital,7in one camp; in order that commands should reach them simultaneously, and that their numbers, their strength, and the sight of one another, might in themselves breed confidence and in others awe. His pretext was that scattered troops became unruly; that, when a sudden emergency called, help was more effective if the helpers were compact; and that there would be less laxity of conduct, if an encampment was created at a distance from the attractions of the city. Their quarters finished, he began little by little to insinuate himself into the affections of the private soldiers, approaching them and addressing them by name, while at the same time he selected personally their centurions and tribunes. Nor did he fail to hold before the senate the temptation of those offices and governorships with which he invested his satellites: for Tiberius, far from demurring, was complaisant enough to celebrate “the partner of his toils” not only in conversation but before the Fathers and the people, and to allow his effigies to be honoured, in theatre, in forum, and amid the eagles and altars of the legions.8
3 1 Still, the imperial house with its plentitude of Caesars9 — a son arrived at manhood, grandchildren at the years of discretion — gave his ambition pause: for to attack all at once by violence was hazardous, while treachery demanded an interval between crime and crime. He resolved, however, to take the more secret way, and to begin with Drusus, against whom he felt the stimulus of a recent anger; for Drusus, impatient of a rival, and quick-tempered to a fault, had in a casual altercation raised his hand against the favourite, and, upon a counter-demonstration, had struck him in the face. On exploring the possibilities, then, it appeared simplest to turn to the prince’s wife Livia,10sister of Germanicus, in her early days a harsh-favoured girl, later a sovereign beauty. In the part of a fiery lover, he seduced her to adultery: then, when the first infamy had been achieved — and a woman, who has parted with her virtue, will not refuse other demands — he moved her to dream of marriage, a partnership in the empire, and the murder of her husband. And she, the grand-niece of Augustus, the daughter-in‑law of Tiberius, the mother of Drusus’ children, defiled herself, her ancestry, and her posterity, with a market-town adulterer, in order to change an honoured estate in the present for the expectation of a criminal and doubtful future. Eudemus, doctor and friend of Livia, was made privy to the danger, his profession supplying a pretext for repeated interviews. Sejanus, to forestall the suspicions of his mistress, closed his doors on Apicata, the wife who had borne him three children. Still the dimensions of the crime brought tremors, adjournments, and occasionally a division of counsels.
4 1 Meanwhile, in the beginning of the year, Drusus, one of Germanicus’ children, assumed the garb of manhood; and the senate repeated the compliments which it had decreed to his brother Nero. The Caesar followed with a speech, comprising a large encomium on his own son, “who showed a fatherly benevolence towards the family of his brother.” For Drusus, difficult as it is for power and concord to dwell together, had the reputation of being well-disposed, or at least not inimical, to the youths. Next, the old, oft-simulated project of an excursion to the provinces11 came up for discussion. The Emperor alleged the multitude of time-expired troops and the need of fresh conscriptions to maintain the armies at strength. For there was a dearth, he said, of volunteers; and, even when forthcoming, they failed to show the old courage and discipline, since it was too often the destitute and the vagrant who enlisted of their own accord. He ran rapidly over the number of the legions and the provinces beneath their guardianship: a theme which I hold it my own duty to pursue, in order that it may appear what were the Roman forces then under arms, who the kings in federation with the empire, and how narrow, comparatively, the limits of our dominion.12
5 1 Italy, on either seaboard, was protected by p11fleets at Misenum and Ravenna; the adjacent coast of Gaul by a squadron of fighting ships, captured by Augustus at the victory of Actium and sent with strong crews to the town of Forum Julium.13 Our main strength, however, lay on the Rhine — eight legions ready to cope indifferently with the German or the Gaul. The Spains, finally subdued not long before,14 were kept by three. Mauretania, by the national gift, had been transferred to King Juba.15 Two legions16 held down the remainder of Africa; a similar number, Egypt: then, from the Syrian marches right up to the Euphrates, four sufficed for the territories enclosed in that enormous reach of ground; while, on the borders, the Iberian, the Albanian,17 and other monarchs, were secured against alien power by the might of Rome. Thrace was held by Rhoemetalces and the sons of Cotys;18 the Danube bank by two legions in Pannonia and two in Moesia; two more being posted in Dalmatia, geographically to the rear of the other four, and within easy call, should Italy claim sudden assistance — though, in any case, the capital possessed a standing army of its own: three urban19 and nine praetorian cohorts, recruited in the main from Etruria and Umbria or Old Latium20 and the earlier Roman colonies.21 Again, at suitable points of the provinces, there were the federate warships, cavalry divisions and auxiliary cohorts in not much inferior strength: but to trace them was dubious, as they shifted from station to station, and, according to the exigency of the moment, increased in number or were occasionally diminished.
6 1 It will be opportune, I take it, as this year brought the opening stages of deterioration in the principate of Tiberius, to review in addition the other departments of state and the methods by which they were administered up to that period. First, then, public affairs — together with private affairs of exceptional moment — were treated in the senate,22 and discussion was free to the leading members, their lapses into subserviency being checked by the sovereign himself. In conferring offices, he took into view the nobility of a candidate’s ancestry, the distinction of his military service, or the brilliance of his civil attainments, and left it sufficiently clear that no better choice had been available. The consulate had its old prestige; so had the praetorship: the powers even of the minor magistracies were exercised; and the laws, apart from the process in cases of treason, were in proper force. On the other hand, the cornº-tribute, the monies from indirect taxation, and other public revenues, were handled by companies of Roman knights. The imperial property23 was entrusted by Caesar to men of tested merit, at times to a personal stranger on the strength of his reputation; and his agents, once installed, were retained quite indefinitely, many growing grey in the service originally entered. The populace, it is true, was harassed by exorbitant food-prices, but in that point no blame attached to the emperor: he spared, indeed, neither expense nor pains in order to neutralize the effects of unfruitful soils or boisterous seas. He saw to it that the provinces were not disturbed by fresh impositions and that the incidence of the old was not aggravated by magisterial avarice or cruelty: corporal punishment and the forfeiture of estates were not in vogue. His demesnes in Italy were few, his establishment of slaves unassuming, his household limited to a small number of freedmen; and, in the event of a dispute between himself and a private citizen, the decision rested with a court of justice.
7 1 All of this, not gracefully indeed, but in his grim and often dreaded fashion, he nevertheless observed, until by the death of Drusus the whole was overthrown. For, while the prince survived, the old order remained; because Sejanus, yet in the infancy of his power, desired to win a name by good advice, and had still an avenger to dread — an avenger careless to conceal his hatred, and complaining perpetually that, “in the lifetime of the son, a stranger was styled coadjutor in the empire. And how short a step till the coadjutor was termed a colleague! The first designs upon a throne were beset with difficulty; but, the first step made, a faction and helpers were not far to seek. Already an encampment had risen at the fiat of the prefect, and the guards were delivered into his hand; his effigy was visible in the monuments of Gnaeus Pompeius;24 his grandsons would mingle the blood of the Drusi with his own.25 Henceforward they could only pray that he might be endowed with moderation, and rest content.” — Views such as these he proclaimed neither on rare occasions nor to a few auditors; and, since the seduction of his wife, his very confidences were betrayed.
8 1 Sejanus, therefore, decided to lose no time, and chose a poison so gradual in its inroads as to counterfeit the progress of a natural ailment. It was administered to Drusus by help of the eunuch Lygdus, a fact brought to light eight years later. Tiberius, however, through all the days of his son’s illness, either unalarmed or to advertise his firmness of mind, continued to visit the senate, doing so even after his death, while he was still unburied. The consuls were seated on the ordinary benches as a sign of mourning: he reminded them of their dignity and their place. The members broke into tears: he repressed their lamentation, and at the same time revived their spirits in a formal speech:— “He was not, indeed, unaware that he might be criticized for appearing before the eyes of the senate while his grief was still fresh. Mourners in general could hardly support the condolences of their own kindred — hardly tolerate the light of day. Nor were they to be condemned as weaklings; but personally he had sought a manlier consolation by taking the commonwealth to his heart.” After deploring the extreme old age of his august mother, the still tender years of his grandsons, and his own declining days,26 he asked for Germanicus’ sons,27 their sole comfort in the present affliction, to be introduced. The consuls went out, and, after reassuring the boys, brought them in and set them before the emperor. “Conscript Fathers,” he said, “when these children lost their parent, I gave them to their uncle, and begged him, though he had issue of his own, to use them as if they were blood of his blood — to cherish them, build up their fortunes, form them after his own image and for the welfare of posterity. With Drusus gone, I turn my prayers to you; I conjure you in the sight of Heaven and of your country:— These are the great-grandchildren of Augustus, scions of a glorious ancestry; adopt them, train them, do your part — and do mine! Nero and Drusus, these shall be your father and your mother: it is the penalty of your birth that your good and your evil are the good and the evil of the commonwealth.”
9 1 All this was listened to amid general tears, then with prayers for a happy issue; and, had he only set a limit to his speech, he must have left the minds of his hearers full of compassion for himself, and of pride: instead, by reverting to those vain and oft-derided themes, the restoration of the republic and his wish that the consuls or others would take the reins of government, he destroyed the credibility even of the true and honourable part of his statement. — The memorials decreed to Germanicus were repeated for Drusus, with large additions, which as sycophancy commonly favours at a second essay. The most arresting feature of the funeral was the parade of ancestral images, while Aeneas, author of the Julian line, with the whole dynasty of Alban kings, and Romulus, the founder of the city, followed by the Sabine nobles, by Attus Clausus,28 and by the rest of the Claudian effigies, filed in long procession past the spectator.
10 1 In recording the death of Drusus, I have given the version of the most numerous and trustworthy authorities; but I am reluctant to omit a contemporary rumour, so strong that it persists to‑day. It asserts that, after seducing Livia to crime, Sejanus, by an indecent connection, also attached to himself the eunuch Lygdus, whose years and looks had won him the affection of his master and a prominent place among his attendants; that later, when the conspirators had agreed upon a place and time for the mortal dose, he carried audacity to the point of altering the arrangements, and, giving private warning to Tiberius that Drusus meditated the poisoning of his father, counselled him to avoid the first draught offered to him when he dined with his son; that, falling into the trap, the old emperor, on taking his place at the banquet, accepted the cup and passed it to Drusus; and that when Drusus, in complete ignorance, drained it as a young man would, suspicion only grew the darker — the assumption being that, out of fear and shame, he was inflicting upon himself the doom invented for his father.
11 1 This commonly repeated account, apart from the fact that it is supported by no definite authority, may be summarily refuted. For what man of ordinary prudence, to say nothing of Tiberius with his training in great affairs, would force death upon a son whose defence was unheard — and force it by his own hand, with the door closed against any change of purpose? Why not, rather, torture the giver of the poison, search out the prompter behind him, proceed in short against an only son, never as yet found guilty of a crime, with that inveterate and scrupulous deliberation which he manifested even to strangers? But Sejanus was held the inventor of all villainies: therefore, as the Caesar loved him over-well and the rest of the world hated both, the most fabulous horrors found credence, rumour being never so lurid as when princes quit the scene. Moreover, the sequence of the crime was betrayed by Sejanus’ wife Apicata,29 and disclosed in detail by Eudemus and Lygdus under torture; nor was there found one historian malevolent enough to lay it to the charge of Tiberius at a time when historians were collecting and aggravating all other circumstances. My own motive in chronicling and refuting the scandal has been to discredit by one striking instance the falsities of oral tradition, and to request those into whose hands my work may have fallen not too eagerly to accept a widely circulated and incredible tale in place of truth not corrupted into romance.
12 1 However, while Tiberius on the Rostra was pronouncing the panegyric upon his son, the senate and people, from hypocrisy more than impulse, assumed the attitude and accents of mourning, and exulted in secret that the house of Germanicus was beginning again to flourish. This incipient popularity, together with Agrippina’s failure to hide her maternal hopes, hastened its destruction. For Sejanus, when he saw the death of Drusus passing unrevenged upon the murders, unlamented by the nation, grew bolder in crime, and, since his first venture had prospered, began to revolve ways and means of eliminating the children of Germanicus, whose succession was a thing undoubted. To distribute poison among the three was impossible; for their custodians were patterns of fidelity, Agrippina’s chastity impenetrable. He proceeded,º therefore, to declaim against her contumacy, and, by playing upon Augusta’s30 old animosity and Livia’s recent sense of guilt, induced them to carry information to the Caesar that, proud of her fruitfulness and confident in the favour of the populace, she was turning a covetous eye to the throne. In addition, Livia,31 with the help of skilled calumniators — one of the chosen being Julius Postumus, intimate with her grandmother owing to his adulterous connection with Mutilia Prisca, and admirably suited to her own designs through Prisca’s influence over Augusta — kept working for the total estrangement from her grandson’s wife of an old woman, by nature anxious to maintain her power. Even Agrippina’s nearest friends were suborned to infuriate her haughty temper by their pernicious gossip.
13 1 Meanwhile Tiberius had in no way relaxed his attention to public business, but, accepting work as a consolation, was dealing with judicial cases at Rome and petitions from the provinces. On his proposal, senatorial resolutions were passed to relieve the towns of Cibyra32 in Asia and Aegium33 in Achaia, both damaged by earthquake, by remitting their tribute for three years. Vibius Serenus,34 too, the proconsul of Further Spain,35 was condemned on a charge of public violence, and deported, as the result of his savage character, to the island of Amorgus.36 Carsidius Sacerdos, accused of supplying grain to a public enemy in the person of Tacfarinas, was acquitted; and the same charge failed against Gaius Gracchus. Gracchus had been taken in earliest infancy by his father Sempronius37 to share his banishment in the company of landless men, destitute of all liberal achievements; later, he eked out a livelihood by mean trading transactions in Africa and Sicily: yet even so he failed to escape the hazards reserved for rank and fortune. Indeed, had not Aelius Lamia38and Lucius Apronius, former governors of Africa, come to the rescue of his innocence, he would have been swept to ruin by the fame of his calamitous house and the disasters of his father.
14 1 This year also brought delegations from two Greek communities, the Samians and Coans desiring the confirmation of an old right of asylum to the temples of Juno and Aesculapius respectively. The Samians appealed to a decree of the Amphictyonic Council, the principal tribunal for all questions in the period when the Greeks had already founded their city-states in Asia and were dominant upon the sea-coast. The Coans had equal antiquity on their side, and, in addition, a claim associated with the place itself: for they had sheltered Roman citizens in the temple of Aesculapius at a time when, by order of King Mithridates, they were being butchered in every island and town of Asia.39 Next, after various and generally ineffective complaints from the praetors, the Caesar at last brought up the question of the effrontery of the players:— “They were frequently the fomenters of sedition against the state and of debauchery in private houses; the old Oscan farce,40 the trivial delight of the crowd, had come to such a pitch of indecency and power that it needed the authority of the senate to check it.” The players were then expelled from Italy.
15 1 The same year brought still another bereavement to the emperor, by removing one of the twin children of Drusus, and an equal affliction in the death of a friend. This was Lucilius Longus, his comrade in evil days and good, and the one member of the senate to share his isolation at Rhodes.41 Hence, in spite of his modest antecedents, a censorian funeral42 and a statue erected in the Forum of Augustus at the public expense were decreed to him by the Fathers, before whom, at that time, all questions were still dealt with; so much so, that Lucilius Capito, the procurator43 of Asia, was obliged, at the indictment of the province, to plead his cause before them, the emperor asserting forcibly that “any powers he had given to him extended merely to the slaves and revenues of the imperial domains; if he had usurped the governor’s authority and used military force, it was a flouting of his orders: the provincials must be heard.” The case was accordingly tried and the defendant condemned. In return for this act of retribution, as well as for the punishment meted out to Gaius Silanus44 the year before, the Asiatic cities decreed a temple to Tiberius, his mother, and the senate. Leave to build was granted, and Nero returned thanks on that score to the senate and his grandfather — a pleasing sensation to his listeners, whose memory of Germanicus was fresh enough to permit the fancy that his were the features they saw and the accents to which they listened. The youth had, in fact, a modesty and beauty worthy of a prince: endowments the more attractive from the peril of their owner, since the hatred of Sejanus for him was notorious.
16 1 Nearly at the same date, the Caesar spoke on the need of choosing a flamen of Jupiter,45 to replace the late Servius Maluginensis, and of also passing new legislation. “Three patricians,” he pointed out, “children of parents wedded ‘by cake and spelt,’46 were nominated simultaneously; and on one of them the selection fell. The system was old-fashioned, nor was there now as formerly the requisite supply of candidates, since the habit of marrying by the ancient ritual had been dropped, or was retained in few families.” — Here he offered several explanations of the fact, the principal one being the indifference of both sexes, though there was also a deliberate avoidance of the difficulties of the ceremony itself. — “. . . and since both the man obtaining this priesthood and the woman passing into the marital control of a flamen were automatically withdrawn from paternal jurisdiction.47 Consequently, a remedy must be applied either by a senatorial resolution or by special law, precisely as Augustus had modified several relics of the rough old world to suit the needs of the present.” It was decided, then, after a discussion of the religious points, that no change should be made in the constitution of the flamenship; but a law was carried, that the flamen’s wife, though under her husband’s tutelage in respect of her sacred duties, should otherwise stand upon the same legal footing as any ordinary woman. Maluginensis’ son was elected in the room of his father; and to enhance the dignity of the priests and increase their readiness to perform the ritual of the various cults, two million sesterces were voted to the Virgin Cornelia, who was being appointed to succeed Scantia; while Augusta, whenever she entered the theatre, was to take her place among the seats reserved for the Vestals.
17 1 In the consulate of Cornelius Cethegus and Visellius Varro, the pontiffs and — after their example — the other priests, while offering the vows for the life of the emperor,48 went further and commended Nero and Drusus to the same divinities, not so much from affection for the princes as in that spirit of sycophancy, of which the absence or the excess is, in a corrupt society, equally hazardous. For Tiberius, never indulgent to the family of Germanicus, was now stung beyond endurance to find a pair of striplings placed on a level with his own declining years. He summoned the pontiffs, and asked if they had made this concession to the entreaties — or should he say the threats? — of Agrippina. The pontiffs, in spite of their denial, received only a slight reprimand (for a large number were either relatives of his own or prominent figures in the state); but in the senate, he gave warning that for the future no one was to excite to arrogance the impressionable minds of the youths by such precocious distinctions. The truth was that Sejanus was pressing him hard: — “The state,” so ran his indictment, “was split into two halves, as if by civil war. There were men who proclaimed themselves of Agrippina’s party: unless a stand was taken, there would be more; and the only cure for the growing disunion was to strike down one or two of the most active malcontents.”
18 1 On this pretext he attacked Gaius Silius and Titius Sabinus. The friendship of Germanicus was fatal to both; but in the case of Silius there was the further point that, as he had commanded a great army for seven years,49 had earned the emblems of triumph in Germany, and was the victor of the war with Sacrovir, the greater ruin of his fall must spread a wider alarm among others. Many considered his offence to have been aggravated by his own indiscretion: he boasted too loudly that “his troops had stood loyal while others were rushing into mutiny; nor could Tiberius have retained the throne, if those legions too had caught the passion for revolution.” Such claims, the Caesar thought, were destructive of his position, and left it inadequate to cope with such high deserts. For services are welcome exactly so long as it seems possible to requite them: when that stage is left far behind, the return is hatred instead of gratitude.
19 1 Silius had a wife, Sosia Galla, who by her affection for Agrippina had incurred the detestation of the emperor. On these two, it was decided, the blow should fall: Sabinus could be postponed awhile. Varro, the consul, was unleashed, and, under the pretext of continuing his father’s feud,50 gratified the animosities of Sejanus at the price of his own degradation. The defendant asked a short adjournment till the prosecutor could lay down his consulate, but the Caesar opposed:— “It was quite usual for magistrates to take legal action against private citizens, nor must there be any infraction of the prerogatives of the consul, on whose vigilance it depended ‘that the commonwealth should take no harm.’ “51 It was a characteristic of Tiberius to shroud his latest discoveries in crime under the phrases of an older world. With scrupulous gravity, therefore, as though Silius were on trial before the law, as though Varro were a consul or that state of things a commonwealth, the Fathers were convened. With the defendant either holding his peace, or, if he essayed a defence, making no secret of the person under whose resentment he was sinking, the indictment was presented: Sacrovir long screened through complicity in his revolt, a victory besmirched by rapine, a wife the partner of his sins. Nor was there any doubt that, on the charges of extortion, the pair were inextricably involved; but the entire case was handled as an impeachment for treason, and Silius anticipated the impending condemnation by a voluntary end.
20 1 Nevertheless, no mercy was shown to his estate:52 not that any sums were to be refunded to the provincial tribute-payers, none of whom lodged a claim; but the bounty of Augustus was summarily deducted and the claims of the imperial exchequer calculated item by item: the first instance in which Tiberius had given so sharp an eye to property other than his own. Sosia was driven into exile on the motion of Asinius Gallus, who had proposed to confiscate one half of her estate, while leaving the other to her children. A counter-motion by Manius Lepidus53 assigned a quarter, which was legally necessary, to the accusers, and the residue to the family.
This Lepidus, I gather, was, for his period, a man of principle and intelligence: for the number of motions to which he gave a more equitable turn, in opposition to the cringing brutality of others, is very considerable. Nor yet did he lack discretion, since with Tiberius he stood uniformly high in influence and in favour: a circumstance which compels me to doubt whether, like all things else, the sympathies and antipathies of princes are governed in their incidence by fate and the star of our nativity, or whether our purposes count and we are free, between the extremes of bluff contumacy and repellent servility, to walk a straight road, clear of intrigues and perils. On the other side, Messalinus Cotta,54 with an equally distinguished lineage but a contrasted character, pressed for a senatorial decree ruling that magistrates, even if personally innocent and not aware of guilt in others, should be penalized for the misdeeds of their wives in the provinces precisely as for their own.
21 1 Next there was treated the case of Calpurnius Piso, a man of birth and courage: it was he who, as I have stated already,55 had exclaimed to the senate that he would retire from the capital as a protest against the cabals of the informers, and, contemptuous of the influence of Augusta, had dared to bring Urgulania before a court and to summon her from under the imperial roof. For the moment, Tiberius took the incidents in good part; but in his heart, brooding over its grounds for wrath, though the first transport of resentment might have died down, memory lived. It was Quintus Granius, who charged Piso with holding private conversations derogatory to majesty; and added that he kept poison at his house and wore a sword when entering the curia. The last count was allowed to drop as too atrocious to be true; on the others, which were freely accumulated, he was entered for trial, and was only saved from undergoing it by a well-timed death. The case, also, of the exiled Cassius Severus56 was brought up in the senate. Of sordid origin and mischievous life, but a powerful orator, he had made enemies on such a scale that by a verdict of the senate under oath he was relegated to Crete. There, by continuing his methods, he drew upon himself so many animosities, new or old, that he was now stripped of his estate, interdicted from fire and water, and sent to linger out his days on the rock of Seriphos.
22 1 About this time, the praetor Plautius Silvanus, for reasons not ascertained, flung his wife Apronia out of the window, and, when brought before the emperor by his father-in‑law, Lucius Apronius, gave an incoherent reply to the effect that he had himself been fast asleep and was therefore ignorant of the facts; his wife, he thought, must have committed suicide. Without any hesitation, Tiberius went straight to the house and examined the bedroom, in which traces were visible of resistance offered and force employed. He referred the case to the senate, and a judicial committee had been formed, when Silvanus’ grandmother Urgulania sent her descendant a dagger. In view of Augusta’s friendship with Urgulania, the action was considered as equivalent to a hint from the emperor: the accused, after a fruitless attempt with the weapon, arranged for his arteries to be opened. Shortly afterwards, his first wife Numantina, charged with procuring the insanity of her husband by spells and philtres, was adjudged innocent.
23 1 This year at last freed the Roman nation from the long-drawn war with the Numidian Tacfarinas. For earlier commanders, once they considered their exploits sufficient for a grant of triumphal decorations, usually left the enemy in peace; and already three laurelled statues1 adorned the capital, while Tacfarinas was still harrying Africa, reinforced by contingents of Moors, who, during the heedless youth of Juba’s son Ptolemy,2 had sought in war a change from royal freedmen and servile despotism. The Garamantian king3 acted as the receiver of his booty and the partner of his forays, not to the extent of taking the field with an army, but by despatching light-armed troops, whose numbers report magnified in proportion to the distance; and from the province itself every man of broken fortunes or turbulent character rushed to his standard with an alacrity all the greater because, after the successes of Blaesus, the Caesar, as though no enemies were left in Africa, had ordered the ninth legion back,4 nor had Publius Dolabella, proconsul for the year and more apprehensive of the emperor’s orders than of the chances of war, ventured to detain it.
24 1 Accordingly, after launching a report that other nations as well were engaged on the dismemberment of the Roman Empire, which on that account was step by step evacuating Africa, while the garrison remaining might be cut off by the combined onslaught of all who preferred liberty to bondage, Tacfarinas increased his strength, established a camp, and invested the town of Thubuscum.5 Dolabella, on the other hand, mustered every available man, and, through the terrors of the Roman name and the inability of the Numidians to face embattled infantry, raised the siege at his first advance and fortified the various strategic points: at the same time he brought to the block the Musulamian6 chieftains who were contemplating rebellion. Then, as several expeditions against Tacfarinas had shown that a nomadic enemy was not to be brought to bay by a single incursion carried out by heavy-armed troops, he summoned King Ptolemy with his countrymen, and arranged four columns under the command of legates or tribunes; companies of raiders were led by picked Moors; he himself was present as adviser to all the divisions.
25 1 Before long, word came in that the Numidians had pitched their tents and were lying close by a half-ruined fort called Auzea,7 to which they had themselves set fire some time ago: they felt confident of their ground, as it was encircled by enormous woods. On this, the light cohorts and mounted squadrons, without being informed of their destination, were hurried off at full speed. Day was just breaking when with a fierce yell and a blast of trumpets they came on the half-awakened barbarians, while the Numidian horses were still shackled or straying through distant pasture-grounds. On the Roman side, the infantry were in massed formation, the cavalry disposed in troops, every provision made for battle: the enemy, in contrast, were aware of nothing, without weapons, without order, without a plan, dragged to slaughter or to captivity like cattle. The soldiers, embittered by the memory of hardships undergone and of battle so often hoped for against this elusive foe, took every man his fill of revenge and blood. Word was passed round the maniples that all were to make for Tacfarinas, a familiar figure after so many engagements: there would be no rest from war till the arch-rebel was slain. He, with his guards cut down around him, his son already in chains, and Romans streaming up on all hands, rushed on the spears and escaped captivity by a death which was not unavenged. This marked the close of hostilities.
26 1 The request of Dolabella for triumphal distinctions was rejected by Tiberius: a tribute to Sejanus, whose uncle Blaesus might otherwise have found his glories growing dim. But the step brought no added fame to Blaesus, and the denial of the honour heightened the reputation of Dolabella, who, with a weaker army, had credited himself with prisoners of note, a general slain, and a war concluded. He was attended also — a rare spectacle in the capital — by a number of Garamantian deputies, whom the tribesmen, awed by the fate of Tacfarinas and conscious of their delinquencies, had sent to offer satisfaction to the Roman people. Then, as the campaign had demonstrated Ptolemy’s good-will, an old-fashioned distinction was revived, and a member of the senate was despatched to present him with the traditional bounty of the Fathers, an ivory sceptre with the embroidered robe,8 and to greet him by the style of king, ally, and friend.
27 1 During the same summer, the seeds of a slave war, which had begun to stir in Italy, were rendered harmless by an accident. The instigator of revolt was Titus Curtisius, a former private in a praetorian cohort. First at clandestine meetings in the neighbourhood of Brundisium and the adjacent towns, then by openly posted manifestoes, he kept summoning the fierce country slaves9 of the outlying ranches to strike for freedom, when almost providentially three biremes for the protection of sea-borne traffic put in to port. As in addition the quaestor Cutius Lupus, who in accordance with an old custom had been assigned the “grazing-tracks” for his province,10 happened to be in the district, he drew up a force of marines and shattered the conspiracy at the very outset. The tribune Staius, hurriedly sent by the Caesar with a strong force, dragged the leader and the bolder of his subordinates to Rome, where tremors were already felt at the size of the slave-establishments, which were assuming huge dimensions while the free-born populace dwindled day by day.
28 1 In the same consulate, as an appalling example of the miseries and heartlessness of the age, there appeared before the senate a father as defendant and a son as prosecutor, each bearing the name of Vibius Serenus.11 The father, haled back from exile, a mass of filth and rags, and now in irons, stood pitted against the invective of his son: the youth, a highly elegant figure with a cheerful countenance, informer at once and witness, told his tale of treason plotted against the sovereign and missionaries of rebellion sent over to Gaul;12 adding that the funds had been supplied by the ex-praetor, Caecilius Cornutus. Cornutus, as he was weary of his anxieties and risk was considered tantamount to ruin, lost no time in making away with himself. The prisoner on the other hand, with a spirit totally unbroken, faced his son, clanked his chains, and called upon the avenging gods:— “For himself, let them give him back his exile, where he could live remote from these fashions; as for his son, let retribution attend him in its own time!” He insisted that Cornutus was guiltless, the victim of an unfounded panic, and that the fact would be patent if other names were divulged: for certainly he himself had not contemplated murder of the emperor and revolution with a solitary ally!
29 1 The accuser then named Gnaeus Lentulus13 and Seius Tubero,14 greatly to the discomfiture of the Caesar, who found two most prominent nobles, close friends of his own, the former far advanced in years, the latter in failing health, charged with armed rebellion and conspiracy against the peace of the realm. These, however, were at once exempted: against the father resort was had to examination of his slaves under torture — an examination which proved adverse to the prosecutor; who, maddened by his crime and terrified also by the comments of the multitude, threatening him with the dungeon15 and the rock16 or the penalties of parricide,17 left Rome. He was dragged back from Ravenna and forced to proceed with his accusation, Tiberius making no effort to disguise his old rancour against the exile. For, after the condemnation of Libo, Serenus had written to the emperor, complaining that his zeal alone had gone without reward, and concluding with certain expressions too defiant to be safely addressed to that proud and lightly offended ear. To this grievance the Caesar harked back after eight years; finding in the interval materials for a variety of charges, even though, through the obduracy of the slaves, the torture had disappointed expectations.
30 1 When members then expressed the view that Serenus should be punished according to ancestral custom,18 he sought to mitigate the odium by interposing his veto. A motion of Asinius Gallus, that the prisoner should be confined in Gyarus19 or Donusa, he also negatived: both islands, he reminded him, were waterless, and, if you granted a man his life, you must also allow him the means of living. Serenus was, therefore, shipped back to Amorgus. And since Cornutus had fallen by his own hand, a proposal was discussed that the accuser’s reward should be forfeited whenever the defendant in a charge of treason had resorted to suicide before the completion of the trial. The resolution was on the point of being adopted, when the Caesar, with considerable asperity and unusual frankness, took the side of the accusers, complaining that the laws would be inoperative, the country on the edge of an abyss: they had better demolish the constitution than remove its custodians. Thus the informers, a breed invented for the national ruin and never adequately curbed even by penalties, were now lured into the field with rewards.
31 1 The round of tragedies was broken by a relatively cheerful interlude when the emperor spared Gaius Cominius, a Roman knight convicted of a poetical lampoon upon himself, as a concession to the prayers of his brother, a member of the senate. The fact heightened the general wonder that, cognizant as he was of better things and of the fame that attended mercy, he should still prefer the darker road. For neither did he err by thoughtlessness; nor, indeed, is it difficult to divine when the acts of emperors are applauded with sincerity and when with feigned enthusiasm. Moreover, he himself, otherwise an artificial speaker whose every word had apparently to struggle for utterance, spoke out with more fluency and promptness whenever he spoke in charity. On the other hand, when Publius Suillius,20 an old quaestor of Germanicus, was about to escape with banishment from Italy after being convicted of judicial corruption, he moved for his deportation to an island, with so much earnestness as to make a declaration on oath that the change was demanded by national interests. His intervention, severely criticized at the time, redounded before long to his credit: for Suillius returned, and the succeeding generation viewed him in the plenitude of power, the venal favourite of Claudius, exploiting the imperial friendship long profitably, never well. The same penalty was invoked upon Firmius Catus, a member of the senate, for laying a false charge of treason against his sister. Catus, as I have said,21 had laid the trap for Libo and afterwards destroyed him by his evidence. In the recollection of that service, Tiberius, though producing other reasons, now procured a remission of his banishment: to his ejection from the senate he raised no hindrance.
32 1 I am not unaware that very many of the events I have described, and shall describe, may perhaps seem little things, trifles too slight for record; but no parallel can be drawn between these chronicles of mine and the work of the men who composed the ancient history of the Roman people. Gigantic wars, cities stormed, routed and captive kings, or, when they turned by choice to domestic affairs, the feuds of consul and tribune, land-laws and cornº-laws, the duel of nobles and commons — such were the themes on which they dwelt, or digressed, at will. Mine is an inglorious labour in a narrow field: for this was an age of peace unbroken or half-heartedly challenged, of tragedy in the capital, of a prince careless to extend the empire. Yet it may be not unprofitable to look beneath the surface of those incidents, trivial at the first inspection, which so often set in motion the great events of history.
33 1 For every nation or city is governed by the people, or by the nobility, or by individuals: a constitution selected and blended from these types is easier to commend than to create; or, if created, its tenure of life is brief. Accordingly, as in the period of alternate plebeian dominance and patrician ascendancy it was imperative, in one case, to study the character of the masses and the methods of controlling them; while, in the other, those who had acquired the most exact knowledge of the temper of the senate and the aristocracy were accounted shrewd in their generation and wise; so to‑day, when the situation has been transformed and the Roman world is little else than a monarchy, the collection and the chronicling of these details may yet serve an end: for few men distinguish right and wrong, the expedient and the disastrous, by native intelligence; the majority are schooled by the experience of others. But while my themes have their utility, they offer the minimum of pleasure. Descriptions of countries, the vicissitudes of battles, commanders dying on the field of honour, such are the episodes that arrest and renew the interest of the reader: for myself, I present a series of savage mandates, of perpetual accusations, of traitorous friendships, of ruined innocents, of various causes and identical results — everywhere monotony of subject, and satiety. Again, the ancient author has few detractors, and it matters to none whether you praise the Carthaginian or the Roman arms with the livelier enthusiasm. But of many, who underwent either the legal penalty or a form of degradation in the principate of Tiberius, the descendants remain; and, assuming the actual families to be now extinct, you will still find those who, from a likeness of character, read the ill deeds of others as an innuendo against themselves. Even glory and virtue create their enemies — they arraign their opposites by too close a contrast. But I return to my subject.
34 1 The consulate of Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa opened with the prosecution of Cremutius Cordus1 upon the novel and till then2 unheard-of charge of publishing a history, eulogizing Brutus, and styling Cassius the last of the Romans.3 The accusers were Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta, clients of Sejanus. That circumstance sealed the defendant’s fate — that and the lowering brows of the Caesar,4 as he bent his attention to the defence; which Cremutius, resolved to take his leave of life, began as follows:— “Conscript Fathers, my words are brought to judgement — so guiltless am I of deeds! Nor are they even words against the sole persons embraced by the law of treason, the sovereign or the parent of the sovereign: I am said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose acts so many pens have recorded, whom not one has mentioned save with honour. Livy, with a fame for eloquence and candour second to none, lavished such eulogies on Pompey that Augustus styled him ‘the Pompeian’: yet it was without prejudice to their friendship. Scipio, Afranius,5 this very Cassius, this Brutus — not once does he describe them by the now fashionable titles of brigand and parricide,a but time and again in such terms as he might apply to any distinguished patriots. The works of Asinius Pollio6 transmit their character in noble colours; Messalla Corvinus7 gloried to have served under Cassius: and Pollio and Corvinus lived and died in the fulness of wealth and honour! When Cicero’s book8 praised Cato to the skies, what did it elicit from the dictator Caesar but a written oration as though at the bar of public opinion? The letters of Antony, the speeches of Brutus, contain invectives against Augustus, false undoubtedly yet bitter in the extreme; the poems — still read — of Bibaculus9 and Catullus10 are packed with scurrilities upon the Caesars: yet even the deified Julius, the divine Augustus himself, tolerated them and left them in peace; and I hesitate whether to ascribe their action to forbearance or to wisdom. For things contemned are soon things forgotten: anger is read as recognition.
35 1 “I leave untouched the Greeks; with them not liberty only but licence itself went unchastised, or, if a man retaliated, he avenged words by words. But what above all else was absolutely free and immune from censure was the expression of an opinion on those whom death had removed beyond the range of rancour or of partiality. Are Brutus and Cassius under arms on the plains of Philippi, and I upon the platform, firing the nation to civil war? Or is it the case that, seventy years since their taking-off, as they are known by their effigies which the conqueror himself did not abolish, so a portion of their memory is enshrined likewise in history? — To every man posterity renders his wage of honour; nor will there lack, if my condemnation is at hand, those who shall remember, not Brutus and Cassius alone, but me also!” He then left the senate, and closed his life by self-starvation. The Fathers ordered his books to be burned by the aediles; but copies remained, hidden and afterwards published:11 a fact which moves us the more to deride the folly of those who believe that by an act of despotism in the present there can be extinguished also the memory of a succeeding age. On the contrary, genius chastised grows in authority; nor have alien kings or the imitators of their cruelty effected more than to crown themselves with ignominy and their victims with renown.
36 1 For the rest, the year was so continuous a chain of impeachments that in the days of the Latin Festival, when Drusus,12 as urban prefect, mounted the tribunal to inaugurate his office, he was approached by Calpurnius Salvianus with a suit against Sextus Marius:13 an action which drew a public reprimand from the Caesar and occasioned the banishment of Salvianus. The community of Cyzicus14 were charged with neglecting the cult of the deified Augustus; allegations were added of violence to Roman citizens; and they forfeited the freedom earned during the Mithridatic War, when the town was invested and they beat off the king as much by their own firmness as by the protection of Lucullus. On the other hand, Fonteius Capito, who had administered Asia as proconsul, was acquitted upon proof that the accusations against him were the invention of Vibius Serenus. The reverse, however, did no harm to Serenus, who was rendered doubly secure by the public hatred.15 For the informer whose weapon never rested became quasi-sacrosanct: it was on the insignificant and unknown that punishments descended.
37 1 About the same time, Further Spain sent a deputation to the senate, asking leave to follow the example of Asia16 by erecting a shrine to Tiberius and his mother. On this occasion, the Caesar, sturdily disdainful of compliments at any time, and now convinced that an answer was due to the gossip charging him with a declension into vanity, began his speech in the following vein:— “I know, Conscript Fathers, that many deplored by want of consistency because, when a little while ago the cities of Asia made this identical request, I offered no opposition. I shall therefore state both the case for my previous silence and the rule I have settled upon for the future. Since the deified Augustus had not forbidden the construction of a temple at Pergamum17 to himself and the City of Rome, observing as I do his every action and word as law, I followed the precedent already sealed by his approval, with all the more readiness that with worship of myself was associated veneration of the senate. But, though once to have accepted may be pardonable, yet to be consecrated in the image of deity through all the provinces would be vanity and arrogance, and the honour paid to Augustus will soon be a mockery, if it is vulgarized by promiscuous experiments in flattery.
38 1 “As for myself, Conscript Fathers, that I am mortal, that my functions are the functions of men, and that I hold it enough if I fill the foremost place among them — this I call upon you to witness, and I desire those who shall follow us to bear it in mind. For they will do justice, and more, to my memory, if they pronounce me worthy of my ancestry, provident of your interests, firm in dangers, not fearful of offences in the cause of the national welfare. These are my temples in your breasts, these my fairest and abiding effigies: for those that are reared of stone, should the judgement of the future turn to hatred, are scorned as sepulchres!18 And so my prayer to allies and citizens and to Heaven itself is this: to Heaven, that to the end of my life it may endow me with a quiet mind, gifted with understanding of law human and divine; and to my fellow-men, that, whenever I shall depart, their praise and kindly thoughts may still attend my deeds and the memories attached to my name.” And, in fact, from now onward, even in his private conversations, he persisted19 in a contemptuous rejection of these divine honours to himself: an attitude by some interpreted as modesty, by many as self-distrust, by a few as degeneracy of soul:— “The best of men,” they argued, “desired the greatest heights: so Hercules and Liber among the Greeks, and among ourselves Quirinus, had been added to the number of the gods. The better way had been that of Augustus — who hoped! To princes all other gratifications came instantly: for one they must toil and never know satiety — the favourable opinion of the future. For in the scorn of fame was implied the scorn of virtue!”
39 1 Meanwhile Sejanus, blinded by over-great good fortune and fired to action by feminine passion as well — Livia was demanding the promised marriage — drafted a memorial to the Caesar: it was a convention of the period to address him in writing even when he was in the capital. The gist of the document was that “owing to the benevolence of the prince’s father Augustus, followed by so many expressions of approval from Tiberius, he had formed the habit of carrying his hopes and his vows to the imperial ears as readily as to the gods. He had never asked for the baubles of office: he would rather stand sentry and work like the humblest soldier for the security of the emperor. And yet he had reached the supreme goal — he had been counted worthy of an alliance with the Caesar.20 This had taught him to hope; and since he had heard that Augustus, when settling his daughter,21 had to some extent considered the claims even of Roman knights, so, if a husband should be required for Livia, he begged that Tiberius would bear in mind a friend who would derive nothing from the connection but its glory. For he did not seek to divest himself of the duties laid on him: it was enough, in his estimation, if his family was strengthened against the unfounded animosities of Agrippina; and that simply for the sake of his children. As to himself, whatever the term of years he might complete under such a sovereign, it would be life enough and to spare!”
40 1 In reply, Tiberius praised Sejanus’ devotion, touched not too heavily on his own services to him, and asked for time, in order, he said, to consider the matter fully and freely. Then he wrote again:— “With other men, the standpoint for their decisions was what was in their own interests: the lot of princes was very different, as their weightiest affairs had to be regulated with an eye upon public opinion. Therefore he did not take refuge in the answer which came most readily to the pen — that Livia could determine for herself whether she ought to marry after Drusus or rest content with her old home, and that she had a mother and grandmother who were more natural advisers. He would deal more openly: and first with regard to Agrippina’s enmity, which would blaze out far more fiercely if Livia’s marriage divided, as it were, the Caesarian house into two camps. Even as matters stood, there were outbreaks of feminine jealousy, and the feud was unsettling his grandchildren. What then if the strife was accentuated by the proposed union?” — “For, Sejanus,” he continued, “you delude yourself, if you imagine that you can keep your present rank, or that the Livia who has been wedded successively to Gaius Caesar and to Drusus will be complaisant enough to grow old at the side of a Roman knight. Assuming that I myself consent, do you suppose the position will be tolerated by those who have seen her brother, her father, and our ancestors, in the supreme offices of state? You wish, for your own part, to stop short of the station you hold: but those magistrates and men of distinction who take you by storm and consult you on any and every subject make no secret of their opinion that you have long since transcended the heights of the equestrian order and left the friendships22 of my father far behind; and in their envy of you they censure myself as well. — You make the point that Augustus considered the possibility of bestowing his daughter on a Roman knight. Astonishing, certainly, that, tugged at by every sort of anxiety, and foreseeing an immense accession of dignity to the man whom he should have raised above his peers by such an alliance, his conversation ran on Gaius Proculeius23 and a few others, remarkable for their quietude of life and implicated in none of the business of the state! But, if we are to be moved by the hesitancy of Augustus, how much more cogent the fact that he affianced her to Marcus Agrippa and later to myself! — I have spoken openly, as was due to our friendship; but I shall oppose neither your decisions nor those of Livia. Of the result of my own reflections, and the further ties by which I propose to cement our union, I shall at present forbear to speak. One point only I shall make clear: no station, however exalted, would be unearned by your qualities and your devotion to myself; and when the occasion comes, either in the senate or before the public, I shall not be silent.”
41 1 In rejoinder, Sejanus — now alarmed not for his marriage but on deeper grounds — urged him to disregard the voice of suspicion, the babble of the multitude, the attacks of his maligners. At the same time, unwilling either to enfeeble his influence by prohibiting the throngs which besieged his doors or to give a handle to his detractors by receiving them, he turned to the idea of inducing Tiberius to spend his days in some pleasant retreat at a distance from Rome. The advantages, he foresaw, were numerous. Interviews would lie in his own bestowal; letters he could largely supervise, as they were transmitted by soldiers:24 before long, the Caesar, who was already in the decline of life and would be rendered laxer by seclusion, would be readier to transfer the functions of sovereignty; while his own unpopularity would diminish with the abolition of great levées, and the realities of his power be increased by the removal of its vanities. Little by little, therefore, he began to denounce the drudgeries of the capital, its jostling crowds, the endless stream of suitors, and to give his eulogies to quiet and solitude, where tedium and bickering were unknown and a man’s chief attention could be centred on affairs of first importance.
42 1 As chance would have it, the trial at this juncture of the popular and talented Votienus Montanus25 forced Tiberius (who was already wavering) to the conviction that he must avoid the meetings of the senate and the remarks, often equally true and mordant, which were there repeated to his face. For, during the indictment of Votienus for the use of language offensive to the emperor, the witness Aemilius, a military man, in his anxiety to prove the case, reported the expressions in full, and, disregarding the cries of protest, struggled on with his tale with great earnestness. Tiberius thus heard the scurrilities with which he was attacked in private; and such was the shock that he kept crying out he would refute them, either on the spot or in charge of the trial his equanimity being restored with difficulty by the entreaties of his friends and the adulation of all. Votienus himself suffered the penalties of treason. The Caesar, as he had been reproached with recklessness to defendants, adhered to his methods with all the more tenacity; punishing Aquilia by exile on the charge of adultery with Varius Ligus, though Lentulus Gaetulicus,26 the consul designate, had pressed only for conviction under the Julian Law;27 and expunging Apidius Merula from the senatorial register because he had not sworn allegiance to the acts of the deified Augustus.28
43 1 A hearing was now given to embassies from Lacedaemon and Messene upon the legal ownership of the temple of Diana Limnatis.29That it had been consecrated by their own ancestors, and on their own ground, the Lacedaemonians sought to establish by the records of history and the hymns of the poets: it had been wrested from them, however, by the Macedonian arms during their war with Philip,30 and had been returned later by the decision of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. In reply, the Messenians brought forward the old partition of the Peloponnese between the descendants of Hercules:— “The Denthaliate district, in which the shrine stood, had been assigned to their king, and memorials of the fact, engraved on rock and ancient bronze, were still extant. But if they were challenged to adduce the evidences of poetry and history, the more numerous and competent witnesses were on their side, nor had Philip decided by arbitrary power, but on the merits of the case: the same had been the judgement of King Antigonus31 and the Roman commander Mummius; and a similar verdict was pronounced both by Miletus,32 when that state was commissioned to arbitrate, and, last of all, by Atidius Geminus, the governor of Achaia.” The point was accordingly decided in favour of Messene.
The Segestans also demanded the restoration of the age-worn temple of Venus on Mount Eryx, and told the familiar tale of its foundation: much to the pleasure of Tiberius, who as a relative willingly undertook the task.33
At this time, a petition from Massilia was considered, and sanction was given to the precedent set by Publius Rutilius.34 For, after his banishment by form of law, Rutilius had been presented with the citizenship of Smyrna; on the strength of which, the exile Vulcacius Moschus had naturalized himself at Massilia and bequeathed his estate to the community, as his fatherland.
44 1 This year saw the end of the great nobles, Gnaeus Lentulus35 and Lucius Domitius.36 Lentulus, over and above his consulate and the triumphal distinctions he had won against the Getae, could claim the glories, first of honest poverty gallantly carried, then of a great fortune innocently acquired and temperately employed. Domitius derived distinction 1from a father who had held the command of the sea during the Civil War, until he attached himself to the cause of Antony, and, later, to that of the Caesar:37 his grandfather had fallen on the aristocratic side upon the field of Pharsalia. Himself chosen to receive the hand of Octavia’s daughter, the younger Antonia,38 he crossed the Elbe with an army, penetrating deeper into Germany than any of his predecessors, and was rewarded for his exploit by the emblems of triumph. Lucius Antonius also passed away, the bearer of a great but luckless name: for, little more than a boy when his father Iullus39paid the extreme penalty for his adultery with Julia,40 he had been relegated by Augustus to the city of Massilia, where the name of exile could be veiled under the pretext of study.41 His funeral, however, was celebrated with honour, and by a senatorial decree his bones were laid in the family tomb of the Octavii.
45 1 Under the same consuls, an audacious crime was committed in Hither Spain42 by a rustic of the Termestine tribe. Making a surprise attack on the governor of the province, Lucius Piso, who was travelling with a carelessness due to the peaceful conditions, he struck him dead with one blow. Carried clear by the speed of his horse, he turned it loose on reaching wooded country, and eluded the hue and cry in the rugged and trackless wilds. But detection was not long deferred: the horse was caught and led round the villages in the neighbourhood till the ownership was ascertained. After discovery, when the torture was applied in order to force him to disclose his confederates, he cried aloud in his native tongue that “questions were useless: his partners might stand by and watch — for pain would have no terrors capable of extracting the truth.” Next day, as he was being dragged again to the torture, he threw himself clear of the warders and dashed his head against a rock, with such an exertion of strength that he expired on the spot. It is believed nevertheless, that Piso fell a victim to a Termestine conspiracy: for public monies had gone astray, and he was exacting restitution with a vigour too much for barbarian patience.
46 1 In the consulate of Lentulus Gaetulicus and Gaius Calvisius, triumphal decorations were voted to Poppaeus Sabinus,1 for crushing the Thracian tribesmen, who, on their mountain peaks, lived uncivilized, and proportionately bold. The cause of the insurrection, apart from the temper of the insurgents, was that they refused to tolerate the military levies and to devote the whole of their able-bodied manhood to the Roman service. Their obedience, indeed, even to their kings was usually a matter of caprice, and the occasional contingents they sent were led by their own chiefs and acted only against neighbouring clans. In this case, too, a rumour was current that the clans were to be broken up and incorporated with other stocks, then dragged into distant countries. Still, before appealing to arms they sent a deputation to insist on their former friendship and loyalty. “Both,” they said, “would be continued if they were not tried by fresh impositions. But if they were sentenced to slavery as a vanquished race, they had steel and young men, and souls resolute for freedom or for death.” At the same time, they pointed to their strongholds perched upon the crags, and to the parents and wives placed in them for refuge, and threatened a war intricate, arduous, and bloody.
47 1 Sabinus, till he could muster his forces, returned soft answers; but when Pomponius Labeo arrived from Moesia2 with a legion, and King Rhoemetalces3 with a body of native auxiliaries who had not renounced their allegiance, he added his own available troops and moved against the enemy, by now concentrated in the wooded gorges. A few, more daring, showed themselves on the open hills, but were driven from them without difficulty, when the Roman commander advanced in battle-order, though cover was so near that little barbarian blood was spilt. Then, after fortifying a camp on the spot, Sabinus with a strong detachment made himself master of a narrow mountain-ridge running without a break to the nearest tribal fortress, which was held by a considerable force of armed men and irregulars. Simultaneously, he sent a picked body of archers to deal with the bolder spirits who, true to the national custom, were gambolling with songs and war-dances in front of the rampart. The bowmen, so long as they operated at long range, inflicted many wounds with impunity; on advancing closer, they were thrown into disorder by an unlooked-for sally, and fell back on the support of a Sugambrian cohort,4 drawn up a short distance away by the Roman general, since the men were prompt in danger, and, as regards the din produced by their songs and weapons, not less awe-inspiring than the enemy.
48 1 The camp was then moved a stage nearer the adversary; and the Thracians, whom I mentioned as having joined us, were left in charge of the earlier lines. They had licence to ravage, burn, and plunder, so long as their depredations were limited to the daylight, and the night spent safely and wakefully behind entrenchments. At first, the rule was kept: then, turning to luxury and enriched by their booty, they began to leave their posts for some wild orgy, or lay tumbled in drunken slumber. The enemy, therefore, who had information of their laxity, arranged two columns, by one of which the raiders were to be attacked, while another band demonstrated against the Roman encampment; not with any hope of capture, but in order that, amid the shouting and the missiles, every man engrossed by his own danger might be deaf to echoes of the other conflict. Darkness, moreover, was chosen for the blow, so as to intensify the panic. The attempt on the earthworks of the legions was, however, easily repelled: the Thracian auxiliaries, a few of whom were lying along their lines, while the majority were straggling outside, lost their nerve at the sudden onset, and were cut down all the more ruthlessly because they were branded as renegades and traitors carrying arms for the enslavement of themselves and their fatherland.
49 1 On the following day, Sabinus paraded his army in the plain, in the hope that the barbarians, elated by the night’s success might venture battle. As they showed no signs of descending from their stronghold or from the adjacent hills, he began their investment, with the help of the fortified posts which, opportunely enough, he was already constructing; then drew a continuous fosse and breastwork, with a circumference of •four miles; and lastly, step by step, contracted and tightened his lines of circumvallation, so as to cut off the supplies of water and forage; while an embankment began to rise, from which stones, spears, and fire-brands could be showered on the no longer distant enemy. But nothing told on the defence so much as thirst, since the one spring remaining had to serve the whole great multitude of combatants and non-combatants. At the same time, horses and cattle — penned up with their owners in the barbarian style — were dying for lack of fodder; side by side with them lay the bodies of men, victims of wounds or thirst, and the whole place was an abomination of rotting blood, stench, and infection.
50 1 To the confusion was added the last calamity, discord; some proposing surrender, some to fall on each other and die; while there were those, again, who commended, not unavenged destruction, but a last sortie. Others, and not the multitude only, dissented from each of these views: one of the leaders, Dinis, now advanced in years, and familiar through long experience with the power and the clemency of Rome, urged them to lay down their arms — it was the one resource in their extremity — and took the initiative by placing himself, his wife, and his children, at the disposal of the victor. He was followed by those who laboured under the disabilities of age or sex, or who were more passionately attached to life than to glory. On the other hand, the younger fighting men were divided between Tarsa and Turesis. Both were resolute not to outlive their freedom; but Tarsa, crying out for a quick despatch, a quietus to hope and fear alike, gave the example by plunging his weapon into his breast: nor were others lacking to choose the same mode of death. Turesis and his followers waited for the night: a fact of which the Roman commander was not ignorant. The outposts, accordingly, were secured by denser masses of men. — Night was falling, with a storm of rain; and the wild shouting on the enemy’s side, alternating as it did with deathly stillnesses, had begun to perplex the besiegers, when Sabinus made a tour of his lines and urged the men to be misled neither by ambiguous sound nor by simulated quiet into giving the ambuscaded foe his opening: every man should attend to his duties without budging from his post or expending javelins on an illusory mark.
51 1 Meanwhile, the barbarians, speeding down in their bands, now battered the palisade with hand-flung stones, stakes pointed in the fire, and oak-boughs hewn from the tree; now filled the moats with brushwood, hurdles, and lifeless bodies; while a few with bridges and ladders, fabricated beforehand, advanced against the turrets, clutching them, tearing them down, and struggling hand to hand with the defenders. The troops, in return, struck them down with spears, dashed them back with their shield-bosses, hurled on them siege-javelins and piles of massive stone. On each side were incentives enough to courage: on ours, hope that victory was won, and the more flagrant ignominy which would attend a defeat; on theirs, the fact that they were striking the last blow for deliverance — many with their wives and mothers close at hand and their lamentations sounding in their ears. Night, screening the audacity of some, the panic of others; blows dealt at random, wounds unforeseen; the impossibility of distinguishing friend from foe; cries echoed back from the mountain ravines, and so coming apparently from the rear — all this had produced such general confusion that the Romans abandoned some of their positions as forced. Yet actually none but a handful of the enemy made their way through; while the remainder, with their bravest either dead or disabled, were at the approach of daylight pushed back to their stronghold on the height, where surrender at last became compulsory. The districts adjourning were taken over with the concurrence of the inhabitants: the rest were saved from reduction, whether by assault or investment, by the premature and stern winter of the Haemus range.
52 1 But in Rome, the imperial house was already shaken; and now, to open the train of events leading to the destruction of Agrippina, her second cousin, Claudia Pulchra,5 was put on trial, with Domitius Afer as accuser. Fresh from a praetorship, with but a modest standing in the world, and hurrying towards a reputation by way of any crime, he indicted her for unchastity, for adultery with Furnius, for practices by poison and spell against the life of the sovereign. Agrippina, fierce-tempered always and now inflamed by the danger of her kinswoman, flew to Tiberius, and, as chance would have it, found him sacrificing to his father.6 This gave the occasion for a reproachful outburst:— “It was not,” she said, “for the same man to offer victims to the deified Augustus and to persecute his posterity. Not into speechless stone had that divine spirit been transfused: she, his authentic effigy, the issue of his celestial blood, was aware of her peril and assumed the garb of mourning. It was idle to make a pretext of Pulchra, the only cause of whose destruction was that in utter folly she had chosen Agrippina as the object of her affection, forgetful of Sosia,7 who was struck down for the same offence.” Her words elicitedº one of the rare deliverances of that impenetrable breast. He seized her, and admonished her in a line of Greek8 that she was not necessarily “A woman injured, if she lacked a throne.” Pulchra and Furnius were condemned. Afer took rank with the great advocates: his genius had found publicity, and there had followed a pronouncement from the Caesar, styling him “an orator by natural right.” Later, whether as conductor of the prosecution or as mainstay of the defence, he enjoyed a fame which stood higher for eloquence than for virtue. Yet even of that eloquence age took heavy toll, sapping as it did his mental power and leaving his incapacity for silence.9
53 1 Meanwhile Agrippina, obstinately nursing her anger, and attacked by physical illness, was visited by the emperor. For long her tears fell in silence; then she began with reproaches and entreaties:— “He must aid her loneliness and give her a husband; she had still the requisite youth,10 and the virtuous had no consolation but in marriage — the state had citizens who would stoop to receive the wife of Germanicus and his children.” The Caesar, however, though he saw all that was implied in the request, was reluctant to betray either fear or resentment, and therefore, in spite of her insistence, left her without an answer. — This incident, not noticed by the professed historians, I found in the memoirs of her daughter Agrippina11 (mother of the emperor Nero), who recorded for the after-world her life and the vicissitudes of her house.
54 1 Sejanus, however, struck a deeper dismay into her harassed and improvident breast by sending agents to warn her, under the colour of friendship, that poison was ready for her: she would do well to avoid the dinners of her father-in‑law. And she, a stranger to all pretence, as she reclined next to him at table, relaxed neither her features nor her silence, and refused to touch her food; until at last, either by accident or from information received, Tiberius’ attention was arrested, and, to apply a more searching test, he took some fruit as it had been set before him and with his own hand passed it to his daughter-in‑law, with a word of praise. The act increased Agrippina’s suspicions, and without tasting the dish she passed it over to the slaves. Even so, no overt remark followed from Tiberius: he turned, however, to his mother, and observed that it was not strange if he had resolved on slightly rigorous measures against a lady who accused him of murder by poison. Hence a rumour that her destruction was in preparation, and that the emperor lacked courage to do the deed openly: a quiet setting for the crime was being considered.
55 1 To divert criticism, the Caesar attended the senate with frequency, and for several days listened to the deputies from Asia debating which of their communities was to erect his temple.12 Eleven cities competed, with equal ambition but disparate resources. With no great variety each pleaded national antiquity, and zeal for the Roman cause in the wars with Perseus, Aristonicus, and other kings.13 But Hypaepa and Tralles,14 together with Laodicea and Magnesia, were passed over as inadequate to the task: even Ilium, though it appealed to Troy as the parent of Rome, had no significance apart from the glory of its past. Some little hesitation was caused by the statement of the Halicarnassians that for twelve hundred years no tremors of earthquake had disturbed their town, and the temple foundations would rest on the living rock. The Pergamenes were refuted by their main argument: they had already a sanctuary of Augustus, and the distinction was thought ample. The state-worship in Ephesus and Miletus was considered to be already centred on the cults of Diana and Apollo respectively: the deliberations turned, therefore, on Sardis and Smyrna. The Sardians read a decree of their “kindred country” of Etruria. “Owing to its numbers,” they explained, “Tyrrhenus and Lydus, sons of King Atys, had divided the nation. Lydus had remained in the territory of his fathers, Tyrrhenus had been allotted the task of creating a new settlement; and the Asiatic and Italian branches of the people had received distinctive titles from the names of the two leaders; while a further advance in the Lydian power had come with the despatch of colonists to the peninsula which afterwards took its name from Pelops.” At the same time, they recalled the letters from Roman commanders, the treaties concluded with us in the Macedonian war, their ample rivers, tempered climate, and the richness of the surrounding country.
56 1 The deputies from Smyrna, on the other hand, after retracing the antiquity of their town — whether founded by Tantalus, the seed of Jove; by Theseus, also of celestial stock; or by one of the Amazons — passed on to the arguments in which they rested most confidence: their good offices towards the Roman people, to whom they had sent their naval force to aid not merely in foreign wars15 but in those with which we had to cope in Italy,16 while they had also been the first to erect a temple to the City of Rome, at a period (the consulate of Marcus Porcius)17 when the Roman fortunes stood high indeed, but had not yet mounted to their zenith, as the Punic capital was yet standing and the kings were still powerful in Asia. At the same time, Sulla was called to witness that “with his army in a most critical position through the inclement winter and scarcity of clothing, the news had only to be announced at a public meeting in Smyrna, and the whole of the bystanders stripped the garments from their bodies and sent them to our legions.” The Fathers accordingly, when their opinion was taken, gave Smyrna the preference. Vibius Marsus proposed that a supernumerary legate, to take responsibility for the temple, should be assigned to Manius Lepidus, to whom the province of Asia had fallen; and since Lepidus modestly declined to make the selection himself, Valerius Naso was chosen by lot among the ex-praetors and sent out.
57 1 Meanwhile, after long meditating and often deferring his plan, the Caesar at length departed for Campania, ostensibly to consecrate one temple to Jupiter at Capua and one to Augustus at Nola,1 but in the settled resolve to fix his abode far from Rome. As to the motive for his withdrawal, though I have followed the majority of historians in referring it to the intrigues of Sejanus, yet in view of the fact that his isolation remained equally complete for six consecutive years after Sejanus’ execution, I am often tempted to doubt whether it could not with greater truth be ascribed to an impulse of his own, to find an inconspicuous home for the cruelty and lust which his acts proclaimed to the world. There were those who believed that in his old age he had become sensitive also to his outward appearances. For he possessed a tall, round-shouldered, and abnormally slender figure, a head without a trace of hair, and an ulcerous face generally variegated with plasters; while, in the seclusion of Rhodes, he had acquired the habit of avoiding company and taking his pleasures by stealth. The statement is also made that he was driven into exile by the imperious temper of his mother, whose partnership in his power he could not tolerate, while it was impossible to cut adrift one from whom he held that power in fee. For Augustus had hesitated whether to place Germanicus, his sister’s grandson and the theme of all men’s praise, at the head of the Roman realm, but, overborne by the entreaties of his wife, had introduced Germanicus into the family of Tiberius, and Tiberius into his own: a benefit which the old empress kept recalling and reclaiming.
58 1 His exit was made with a slender retinue: one senator who had held a consulship (the jurist Cocceius Nerva)2 and — in addition to Sejanus — one Roman knight of the higher rank,3 Curtius Atticus;4 the rest being men of letters, principally Greeks, in whose conversation he was to find amusement. The astrologers declared that he had left Rome under a conjunction of planets excluding the possibility of return: a fatal assertion to the many who concluded that the end was at hand and gave publicity to their views. For they failed to foresee the incredible event, that through eleven years he would persist self-exiled from his fatherland. It was soon to be revealed how close are the confines of science and imposture, how dark the veil that covers truth.5 That he would never return to Rome was not said at venture: of all else, the seers were ignorant; for in the adjacent country, on neighbouring beaches, often hard under the city-walls, he reached the utmost limit of old age.
59 1 It chanced in those days that a serious accident which occurred to the Caesar encouraged these idle speculations and gave the prince himself a reason for greater faith in the friendship and firmness of Sejanus. They were at table in a villa known as the Grotto, built in a natural cavern between the Gulf of Amyclae6 and the mountains of Fundi.7 A sudden fall of rock at the mouth buried a number of servants, the consequence being a general panic and the flight of the guests present. Sejanus alone hung over the Caesar with knee, face and hands, and opposed himself to the falling stones — an attitude in which he was found by the soldiers who had come to their assistance. This brought an accession of greatness, and, fatal though his advice might be, yet, as a man whose thoughts were not for himself, he found a confiding listener. Towards the family of Germanicus he began to assume the pose of judge, suborning agents to support the character of accusers, their main attack to be delivered on Nero, who stood next in the line of succession, and, in spite of the modesty of his youth, too often forgot what the times demanded, while his freedmen and clients, bent on the rapid acquisition of power, urged him to a display of spirit and confidence:— “It was this the nation desired and the armies yearned for, and Sejanus, who now trampled alike on the patience of an old man and the tameness of a young one, would not risk a counter-stroke!”
60 1 To all this and the like he listened with no malice in his mind; but at intervals there fell from him defiant and unconsidered phrases; and as these were seized upon and reported with enlargements by the watchers posted round his person, no chance of refutation being allowed him, other forms of anxiety began in addition to make their appearance. One man would avoid meeting him; some went through the formality of salutation, then promptly turned away; many broke off any attempt at conversation; while, in contrast, any adherents of Sejanus who happened to be present stood their ground and jeered. As to the Tiberius, he met him either with gloomy brows or with a hypocritical smile on his countenance; whether the boy spoke or held his peace, there was guilt in silence, guilt in speech. Even night itself was not secure, since his wakeful hours, his slumbers, his sighs, were communicated by his wife8 to her mother Livia, and by Livia to Sejanus; who had actually made a convert of his brother Drusus by holding before his eyes the prospect of supremacy, once he should have ousted his senior from his already precarious position. Over and above the lust of power and the hatred habitual to brothers, the savage temper of Drusus was inflamed by envy, as the preferences of his mother Agrippina were for Nero. None the less, Sejanus’ solicitude for Drusus was not so great but that, even against him, he was pondering the measures which should ripen to his destruction: for he knew the rash hardihood which laid him peculiarly open to treachery.
61 1 At the close of the year, two distinguished men passed away: Asinius Agrippa,9 of an ancestry more honourable than old, from which his life had not degenerated; and Quintus Haterius, a member of a senatorial family, and master of an eloquence famous in his lifetime, though the extant memorials of his talent are not retained in equal esteem. The truth is that his strength lay more in vigour than in care;10and, as the study and labour of others take an added value with time, so the melody and fluency of Haterius were extinguished with himself.
62 1 In the consulate of Marcus Licinius11 and Lucius Calpurnius,12 the casualties of some great wars were equalled by an unexpected disaster. It began and ended in a moment. A certain Atilius, of the freedman class, who had begun an amphitheatre at Fidena,13 in order to give a gladiatorial show, failed both to lay the foundation in solid ground and to secure the fastenings of the wooden structure above; the reason being that he had embarked on the enterprise, not from a superabundance of wealth nor to court the favours of his townsmen, but with an eye to sordid gain. The amateurs of such amusements, debarred from their pleasures under the reign of Tiberius, poured to the place, men and women, old and young, the stream swollen because the town lay near. This increased the gravity of the catastrophe, as the unwieldy fabric was packed when it collapsed, breaking inward or sagging outward, and precipitating and burying a vast crowd of human beings, intent on the spectacle or standing around. Those, indeed, whom the first moment of havoc had dashed to death, escaped torture, so far as was possible in such a fate: more to be pitied were those whose mutilated bodies life had not yet abandoned, who by day recognized their wives or their children by sight, and at night by their shrieks and moans. The news brought the absent to the scene — one lamenting a brother, one a kinsman, another his parents. Even those whose friends or relatives had left home for a different reason still felt the alarm, and, as it was not yet known whom the catastrophe had destroyed, the uncertainty gave wider range for fear.
63 1 When the fallen materials came to be removed, the watchers rushed to their dead, embracing them, kissing them, not rarely quarrelling over them, in cases where the features had been obliterated but a parity of form or age had led to mistaken identification. Fifty thousand persons14 were maimed or crushed to death in the disaster; and for the future it was provided by a decree of the senate that no one with a fortune less than four hundred thousand sesterces should present a gladiatorial display, and that no amphitheatre was to be built except on ground of tried solidity. Atilius was driven into banishment. It remains to be said that, on the morrow of the accident, the great houses were thrown open; dressings and doctors were supplied to all comers; and Rome throughout those days, however tragic her aspect, yet offered a parallel to the practice of the ancients, who were accustomed, after a stricken field, to relieve the wounded by their liberality and their care.
64 1 The disaster had not yet faded from memory, when a fierce outbreak of fire affected the city to an unusual degree by burning down the Caelian Hill.15 “It was a fatal year, and the sovereign’s decision to absent himself had been adopted under an evil star” — so men began to remark, converting, as is the habit of the crowd, the fortuitous into the culpable, when the Caesar checked the critics by a distribution of money in proportion to loss sustained. Thanks were returned to him; in the senate, by the noble; in the streets, by the voice of the people: for without respect of persons, and without the intercession of relatives, he had aided with his liberality even unknown sufferers whom he had himself encouraged to apply. Proposals were added that the Caelian Hill should for the future be known as the Augustan, since, with all around on fire, the one thing to remain unscathed had been a bust of Tiberius in the house of the senator Junius. “The same,” it was said, “had happened formerly to Claudia Quinta;16 whose statue, twice escaped from the fury of the flames, our ancestors had dedicated in the temple of the Mother of the Gods. The Claudian race was sacrosanct and acceptable to Heaven, and additional solemnity should be given to the ground on which the gods had shown so notable an honour to the sovereign.”
65 1 It may not be out of place to state that the hill was originally named the “Querquetulanus,”17 from the abundance of oak produced on it, and only later took the title of “Caelius” from Caeles Vibenna, an Etruscan chief; who, for marching to the aid of Rome, had received the district as a settlement, either from Tarquinius Priscus or by the gift of another of our kings. On that point the authors disagree: the rest is not in doubt — that Vibenna’s numerous forces established themselves on the level also, and in the neighbourhood of the forum, with the result that the Tuscan Street has taken its name from the immigrants.
66 1 But while the good-will of the nobles and the liberality of the emperor had been able to mitigate accidents, the violence of the informers, more pronounced and more venomous every day, ran riot without a palliative. Quintilius Varus,18 a rich man and a relation of the Caesar, had been attacked by the same Domitius Afer who procured the condemnation of his mother Claudia Pulchra. No surprise was felt that Afer, who after years of indigence had now made a scandalous use of his recently earned reward,19 should be girding himself to fresh enormities: the astonishing point was that Publius Dolabella should have come forward as his partner in the accusation: for, with his high descent and his family connection with Varus, he was now setting out to destroy his own nobility and his own blood. The senate, however, stood its ground, and decided to await the emperor, the only course offering a momentary respite from the imminent horrors.
67 1 Meanwhile, the Caesar, after dedicating the temples in Campania; though he had warned the public by edict not to invade his privacy, and the crowds from the country-towns were being kept at distance by troops appropriately disposed; yet conceived so intense a loathing for the municipalities, the colonies, and all things situated on the mainland, that he vanished into the Isle of Capreae,20 which three miles of strait divide from the extreme point of the Surrentine promontory.21 The solitude of the place I should suppose to have been its principal commendation, as it is surrounded by a harbourless sea, with a few makeshift roadsteads hardly adequate for small-sized vessels, while it is impossible to land unobserved by a sentry. In winter, the climate is gentle, owing to the mountain barrier which intercepts the cold sweep of the winds; its summers catch the western breeze and are made a delight by the circling expanse of open sea; while it overlooked the most beautiful of bays, until the activity of Vesuvius22 began to change the face of the landscape. The tradition goes that Campania was held by Greek settlers, Capreae being inhabited by Teleboans.23 At this time, however, the islet was occupied by the imposing fabric of the twelve villas — with their twelve names24 — of Tiberius; who, once absorbed in the cares of state, was now unbending with equal zest in hidden vice and flagitious leisure. For his rashness of suspicion and belief remained, and Sejanus, who even in the capital had habitually encouraged it, was now more actively unsettling his mind; for there was no longer any concealment of his plots against Agrippina and Nero. Soldiers dogged their steps, and recorded their messages, their interviews, their doings open and secret, with the exactitude of annalists; while agents were even set at work to advise the pair to take refuge with the armies of Germany, or, at the most crowded hour of the forum, to clasp the effigy of the deified Augustus and call the senate and people to aid. And, since they rejected any such action, it was imputed to them as in contemplation.
68 1 With the consulate of Junius Silanus25 and Silius Nerva, the opening year came charged with disgrace; and the great Roman knight, Titius Sabinus,26 was dragged to the dungeon to expiate his friendship with Germanicus. For he had abated nothing of his scrupulous attentions to the widow and children of the dead, but remained their visitor at home, their companion in public — the one survivor of that multitude of clients, and rewarded, as such, by the admiration of the good and the hatred of the malevolent. He was singled out for attack by Latinius Latiaris, Porcius Cato, Petilius Rufus, and Marcus Opsius, ex-praetors enamoured of the consulate: an office to which there was no avenue but through Sejanus, while the complaisance of Sejanus was only to be purchased by crime. The arrangement among the four was that Latiaris, who was connected with Sabinus by some little intimacy, should lay the trap; that the rest should be present as witnesses; and that only then should the accusation be set on foot. Latiaris, therefore, began with casual remarks in conversation, then passed to eulogies on the constancy of Sabinus, who, unlike the rest, had not abandoned in its affliction the house to which he had been attached in its prosperity: at the same time, he referred to Germanicus in terms of honour, and to Agrippina in a strain of pity. Then, as Sabinus, with the usual weakness of the human heart in sorrow, broke into tears coupled with complaints, he grew bolder and showered reproaches on Sejanus, his cruelty, his arrogance, his ambition. Even Tiberius was not spared, and these conversations, regarded as an exchange of forbidden sentiments, gave the appearance of intimate friendship. — And now Sabinus began himself to seek the company of Latiaris, to frequent his house, and to convey his griefs to that seemingly faithful breast.
69 1 The partners, whom I have mentioned, now discussed the means of ensuring that these conversations should have a wider audience. For the trysting-place had necessarily to retain an air of solitude; and, if they stood behind the doors, there was a risk of detection by sight, by sound, or by a casually roused suspicion. Between roof and ceiling — an ambuscade as humiliating as the ruse was detestable — three senators inserted themselves, and applied their ears to chinks and openings. Meanwhile, Latiaris had discovered Sabinus in the streets, and, on the pretext of communicating news just received, dragged him home and into the bedroom, where he rehearsed a list of troubles past and present — there was no paucity of material! — accompanied by newly-arisen motives of terror. Sabinus replied in the same vein, but at greater length: for grief, when once it has overflowed, becomes more difficult to repress. The accusation was now hurried forward; and in a letter to the Caesar the associates exposed the sequence of the plot together with their own degradation. In Rome, the anxiety and panic, the reticences of men towards their nearest and dearest, had never been greater: meetings and conversations, the ears of friend and stranger were alike avoided; even things mute and inanimate — the very walls and roofs — were eyed with circumspection.
70 1 However, in a letter read on the first of January,27 the Caesar, after the orthodox prayers for the new year, turned to Sabinus, charging him with the corruption of several of his freedmen, and with designs against himself; and demanded vengeance in terms impossible to misread. Vengeance was decreed without loss of time; and the doomed man was dragged to his death, crying with all the vigour allowed by the cloak muffling his head and the noose around his neck, that “these were the ceremonies that inaugurated the year, these the victims that bled to propitiate Sejanus!” In whatever direction he turned his eyes, wherever his words reached an ear, the result was flight and desolation, an exodus from street and forum. Here and there a man retraced his steps and showed himself again, pale at the very thought that he had manifested alarm.28 “For what day would find the killers idle, when amid sacrifices and prayers, at a season when custom prohibited so much as an ominous word, chains and the halter come upon the scene? Not from want of thought had odium such as this been incurred by Tiberius: it was a premeditated and deliberate act, that none might think that the new magistrates were precluded from inaugurating the dungeon29 as they did the temples and the altars.” — A supplementary letter followed: the sovereign was grateful that they had punished a mann who was a danger to his country. He added that his own life was full of alarms, and that he suspected treachery from his enemies. He mentioned none by name; but no doubt was felt that the words were levelled at Agrippina and Nero.
71 1 If it were not my purpose to enter each event under its year, I should be tempted to anticipate, and to record at once the endings made by Latinius and Opsius and the remaining inventors of this atrocity, not only after the accession of Gaius Caesar, but in the lifetime of Tiberius;30 who, disinclined though he was to see the ministers of his villainy destroyed by others, yet often wearied of their ministrations, and, when fresh workers in the same field presented themselves, struck down the old and burdensome. However, these and other punishments of the guilty I shall chronicle at their proper time. Now, Asinius Gallus, of whose children Agrippina was the aunt,31proposed that the emperor should be requested to disclose his fears to the senate and permit their removal. Of all his virtues, as he regarded them, there was none which Tiberius held in such esteem as his power of dissimulation; whence the chagrin with which he received this attempt to reveal what he chose to suppress. Sejanus, however, mollified him; not from love of Gallus, but in order to await the issue of the emperor’s hesitations: for he knew that, leisurely as he was in deliberation, once he had broken out, he left little interval between ominous words and reckless deeds.
About this time, Julia32 breathed her last. Convicted of adultery, she had been sentenced by her grandfather Augustus, and summarily deported to the island of Trimerus, a little way from the Apulian coast. There she supported her exile for twenty years, sustained by the charity of Augusta; who had laboured in the dark to destroy her step-children while they flourished, and advertised to the world her compassion when they fell.
72 1 In the same year, the Frisians,33 a tribe on the further bank of the Rhine, violated the peace, more from our cupidity than from their own impatience of subjection. In view of their narrow resources, Drusus had imposed on them a moderate tribute, consisting in a payment of ox-hides for military purposes. No one had given particular attention to their firmness or size, until Olennius, a leading centurion appointed to the Frisian governorship selected the hide of the aurochs34 as the standard for the contributions. The demand, onerous enough to any people, was the less endurable in Germany; where the forests teem with huge animals, but the domesticated herds are of moderate size. First their cattle only, next their lands, finally the persons of their wives or children, were handed over to servitude. Hence, indignation and complaints; then, as relief was not accorded, an appeal to arms. The soldiers stationed to supervise the tribute were seized and nailed to the gibbet. Olennius forestalled the rage of his victims by flight, finding shelter in a fort by the name of Flevum,a where a respectable force of Romans and provincials was mounting guard on the coast of the North Sea.
73 1 As soon as the intelligence reached Lucius Apronius,35 the governor of Lower Germany, he summoned detachments of legionaries from the Upper Province, with picked bodies of auxiliary foot and horse, and conveyed both armies simultaneously down the Rhine into Frisian territory; where the siege of that fortress had already been raised, and the insurgents had left for the defence of their own possessions. He therefore provided a solid road of causeways and bridges through the neighbouring estuaries, to facilitate the transit of his heavy columns: in the meantime, as a ford had been discovered, he gave orders for the Canninefate cavalry,36 with the whole of the German foot serving in our ranks, to work round the rear of the enemy; who, now drawn up in order of battle, forced back the auxiliary squadrons37 and the legionary horse38 despatched to their help. Next, three light-armed cohorts, then two more, and finally, after some time had intervened, the whole of the mounted auxiliaries39 were thrown into the struggle. The forces were powerful enough, if they had been launched on the enemy simultaneously; but, arriving as they did at intervals, so far from communicating steadiness to the broken troops, they were on the point of being carried away by the panic of the fugitives, when Apronius put the last of the auxiliaries under the command of Cethegus Labeo, the legate of the fifth legion. Labeo, whom the critical position of his side involved in serious danger, sent off messengers with an urgent request for the full strength of the legions. The men of the fifth dashed forward in advance of the others, drove back the enemy in a sharp engagement, and brought off the cohorts and cavalry squadrons in a state of exhaustion from their wounds. The Roman general made no attempt at revenge; nor did he bury his dead, though a considerable number of tribunes, prefects, and centurions of mark had fallen. Shortly afterwards, it was ascertained from deserters that nine hundred Romans, who had prolonged the struggle till next day, had been despatched in the so‑called Grove of Baduhenna;40 while another detachment of four hundred, after occupying the villa of Cruptorix, formerly a soldier in our pay, had been driven by fears of treachery to die on each other’s swords.
74 1 Thus the Frisian name won celebrity in Germany; while Tiberius, rather than entrust anyone with the conduct of the war, suppressed our losses. The senate, too, had other anxieties than a question of national dishonour on the confines of the empire: an internal panic had preoccupied all minds, and the antidote was being sought in sycophancy. Thus, although their opinion was being taken on totally unrelated subjects, they voted an altar of Mercy and an altar of Friendship with statues of the Caesar and Sejanus on either hand, and with reiterated petitions conjured the pair to vouchsafe themselves to sight. Neither of them, however, came down so far as Rome or the neighbourhood of Rome: it was deemed enough to emerge from their isle and present themselves to view on the nearest shore of Campania. To Campania went senators and knights, with a large part of the populace, their anxieties centred round Sejanus; access to whom had grown harder, and had therefore to be procured by interest and by a partnership in his designs. It was evident enough that his arrogance was increased by the sight of this repulsive servility so openly exhibited. At Rome, movement is the rule, and the extent of the city leaves it uncertain upon what errand the passer-by is bent: there, littering without distinction the plain or the beach, they suffered day and night alike the patronage or the insolence of his janitors, until that privilege, too, was vetoed, and they retraced their steps to the capital — those whom he had honoured neither by word nor by look, in fear and trembling; a few, over whom hung the fatal issue of that infelicitous friendship, with misplaced cheerfulness of heart.
75 1 For the rest, Tiberius, after personally conferring on Gnaeus Domitius41 the hand of his grandchild Agrippina, ordered the marriage to be celebrated in Rome. In Domitius, to say nothing of the antiquity of his family, he had chosen a blood-connection of the Caesars: for he could boast Octavia as his grandmother, and, through Octavia, Augustus as his great-uncle.