1 1 The execution of Messalina shook the imperial household: for there followed a conflict among the freedmen, who should select a consort for Claudius, with his impatience of celibacy and his docility under wifely government. Nor was competition less fierce among the women: each paraded for comparison her nobility, her charms, and her wealth, and advertised them as worthy of that exalted alliance. The question, however, lay mainly between Lollia Paulina,1 daughter of the consular Marcus Lollius, and Julia Agrippina, the issue of Germanicus. The latter had the patronage of Pallas; the former, of Callistus; while Aelia Paetina,2 a Tubero by family, was favoured by Narcissus. The emperor, who leaned alternately to one or the other, according to the advocate whom he had heard the last, called the disputants into council, and ordered each to express his opinion and to add his reasons.
2 1 Narcissus discoursed on his early marriage, on the daughter who had blessed that union (for Antonia was Paetina’s child), on the fact that no innovation in his domestic life would be entailed by the return of a spouse, who would regard Britannicus and Octavia — pledges of affection, next in dearness to her own — with anything rather than stepmotherly aversion. Callistus held that she was disqualified by her long-standing divorce, and, if recalled, would by the very fact be inclined to arrogance. A far wiser course was to bring in Lollia, who, as she had never known motherhood, would be immune from jealousy, and could take the place of a parent to her step-children. Pallas, in his eulogy of Agrippina, insisted on the point that she brought with her the grandson of Germanicus,3 who fully deserved an imperial position: let the sovereign unite to himself a famous stock, the posterity of the Julian and Claudian races,4 and ensure that a princess of tried fecundity, still in the vigour of youth, should not transfer the glory of the Caesars into another family!
3 1 His arguments prevailed, with help from the allurements of Agrippina. In a succession of visits, cloaked under the near relationship, she so effectually captivated her uncle that she displaced her rivals and anticipated the position by exercising the powers of a wife. For, once certain of her marriage, she began to amplify her schemes, and to intrigue for a match between Domitius, her son by Gnaeus Ahenobarbus, and the emperor’s daughter Octavia. That result was not to be achieved without a crime, as the Caesar had plighted Octavia to Lucius Silanus,5 and had introduced the youth (who had yet other titles to fame) to the favourable notice of the multitude by decorating him with the triumphal insignia and by a magnificent exhibition of gladiators. Still, there seemed to be no insuperable difficulty in the temper of a prince who manifested neither approval nor dislike except as they were imposed upon him by orders.
4 1 Vitellius, therefore, able to screen his servile knaveries behind the title of Censor, and with a prophetic eye for impending tyrannies, wooed the good graces of Agrippina by identifying himself with her scheme and by producing charges against Silanus, whose sister — fair and wayward, it is true — had until recently been his own daughter-in‑law. This gave him the handle for his accusation, and he put an infamous construction on a fraternal love which was not incestuous but unguarded. The Caesar lent ear, affection for his daughter increasing his readiness to harbour doubts of her prospective husband. Silanus, ignorant of the plot, and, as it happened, praetor for the year, was suddenly by an edict of Vitellius removed from the senatorial order, though the list had long been complete and the lustrum closed.6 At the same time, Claudius cancelled the proposed alliance: Silanus was compelled to resign his magistracy, and the remaining day of his praetorship was conferred on Eprius Marcellus.7
5 1 In the consulate of Gaius Pompeius and Quintus Veranius, the union plighted between Claudius and Agrippina was already being rendered doubly sure by rumour and by illicit love. As yet, however, they lacked courage to celebrate the bridal solemnities, no precedent existing for the introduction of a brother’s child into the house of her uncle. Moreover, the relationship was incest; and, if that fact were disregarded, it was feared that the upshot would be a national calamity. Hesitation was dropped only when Vitellius undertook to bring about the desired result by his own methods. He began by asking the Caesar if he would yield to the mandate of the people? — to the authority of the senate? On receiving the answer that he was a citizen among citizens, and incompetent to resist their united will, he ordered him to wait inside the palace. He himself entered the curia. Asseverating that a vital interest of the country was in question, he demanded leave to speak first, and began by stating that “the extremely onerous labours of the sovereign, which embraced the management of a world, stood in need of support, so that he might pursue his deliberations for the public good, undisturbed by domestic anxiety. And what more decent solace to that truly censorian spirit than to take a wife, his partner in weal and woe, to whose charge might be committed his inmost thoughts and the little children8 of a prince unused to dissipation or to pleasure, but to submission to the law from his early youth?”
6 1 As this engagingly worded preface was followed by flattering expressions of assent from the members, he took a fresh starting-point:— “Since it was the universal advice that the emperor should marry, the choice ought to fall on a woman distinguished by nobility of birth, by experience of motherhood, and by purity of character. No long inquiry was needed to convince them that in the lustre of her family Agrippina came foremost: she had given proof of her fruitfulness, and her moral excellences harmonized with the rest. But the most gratifying point was that, by the dispensation of providence, the union would be between a widow9 and a prince with experience of no marriage-bed but his own. They had heard from their fathers, and they had seen for themselves, how wives were snatched away at the whim of the Caesars:10 such violence was far removed from the orderliness of the present arrangement. They were, in fact, to establish a precedent by which the emperor would accept his consort from the Roman people! — Still, marriage with a brother’s child, it might be said, was a novelty in Rome. — But it was normal in other countries, and prohibited by no law; while marriage with cousins and second cousins,11 so long unknown, had with the progress of time become frequent. Usage accommodated itself to the claims of utility, and this innovation too would be among the conventions of to‑morrow.”
7 1 Members were not lacking to rush from the curia, with emulous protestations that, if the emperor hesitated, they would proceed by force. A motley crowd flocked together, and clamoured that such also was the prayer of the Roman people. Waiting no longer, Claudius met them in the Forum, and offered himself to their felicitations, then entered the senate, and requested a decree legitimizing for the future also the union of uncles with their brothers’ daughters. None the less, only a single enthusiast for that form of matrimony was discovered — the Roman knight Alledius Severus,12 whose motive was generally said to have been desire for the favour of Agrippina. — From this moment it was a changed state, and all things moved at the fiat of a woman — but not a woman who, as Messalina, treated in wantonness the Roman Empire as a toy. It was a tight-drawn, almost masculine tyranny: in public, there was austerity and not infrequently arrogance; at home, no trace of unchastity, unless it might contribute to power. A limitless passion for gold had the excuse of being designed to create a bulwark of despotism.
8 1 On the wedding-day Silanus committed suicide; whether he had preserved his hope of life till then, or whether the date was deliberately chosen to increase the odium of his death. His sister Calvina was expelled from Italy. Claudius, in addition, prescribed sacrifices in accordance with the legislation of King Tullus, and expiatory ceremonies to be carried out by the pontiffs in the grove of Diana;13 universal derision being excited by this choice of a period in which to unearth the penalties and purifications of incest. Agrippina, on the other hand, not to owe her reputation entirely to crime, procured a remission of banishment for Annaeus Seneca,14 along with a praetorship: his literary fame, she conceived, would make the act popular with the nation; while she was anxious to gain so distinguished a tutor for Domitius in his transit from boyhood to adolescence, and to profit by his advice in their designs upon the throne. For the belief was that Seneca was attached to Agrippina by the memory of her kindness and embittered against Claudius by resentment of his injury.
9 1 The decision was now taken to delay no further; and the consul designate, Mammius Pollio, was induced by extraordinary promises to put forward a motion entreating Claudius to affiance Octavia to Domitius: an arrangement plausible enough on the score of their ages and likely to clear the way to higher things. Pollio proposed his resolution in nearly the same phrases which had lately been employed by Vitellius; Octavia’s engagement followed; and Domitius — who, over and above his former relationship15 to the Emperor, was now his plighted son-in‑law — began to assume equality with Britannicus, thanks to the zeal of his mother, and to the art of those who, in return for their arraignment of Messalina, apprehended the vengeance of her son.
10 1 About this date, the Parthian envoys, despatched, as I have mentioned, to sue for the return of Meherdates,16 entered the senate, and opened with the following statement of their commission:— “They were not ignorant of the existing treaty, nor did they come in rebellion against the family of the Arsacids: they were summoning the son of Vonones, the grandson of Phraates, to redress the tyranny of Gotarzes, which was insufferable equally to the nobles and to the commons. Already brothers, near relatives, distant connections had been annihilated by his butcheries; pregnant wives and infant children were being added to the list; whilst, inert at home and disastrous in the field, he sought to disguise his cowardice by his cruelty. With us they had an old friendship, begun by national agreement, and it was our part to assist an allied country, which rivalled our power, but allowed our primacy out of respect. The object of giving the son of kings in hostage for their fathers was that, if the government at home became obnoxious, recourse could be had to the emperor and senate, and a more enlightened prince, imbued with their manners, be called to the throne.”
11 1 In reply to these and similar representations, the emperor began a speech upon Roman preëminence and the signs of deference evinced by Parthia. He claimed parity with the deified Augustus, to whom, as he pointed out, they had applied for a king;17 but he omitted to mention Tiberius, though he too had sent out sovereigns. As Meherdates was present, he subjoined a few maxims:— “Let him form the idea not of a despotism and slaves but of a governor and citizens, and practise mercy and justice — qualities unknown to barbarians, and as such doubly welcome.” Then, turning to the deputies, he eulogized the foster-child of the city, “who so far had given every proof of moderation. Still, the character of kings had to be borne with, and frequent changes served no purpose. Rome, in her satiety of glory, had reached the stage when she desired tranquillity for foreign countries as well as herself.” Gaius Cassius,18 the governor of Syria, was then commissioned to escort the youth to the bank of the Euphrates.
12 1 In that period, Cassius stood unrivalled as a jurist:19 for the arts of war are lost in a quiet world, and peace maintains on a single level the man of action and the sluggard. Still, so far as was possible, he reintroduced the old code of discipline, constantly exercised his legions, and acted with the same care and forethought as if an enemy had been at hand: in his view, the only conduct worthy of his ancestry and of the Cassian family, which had gained celebrity even in those regions.20 Accordingly, he called up the persons who had suggested the application for a king; pitched his camp at Zeugma,21 the most convenient point for crossing the river; and, after the arrival of the Parthian magnates and the Arab prince Acbarus,22 cautioned Meherdates that the enthusiasm of barbarians, though lively, grows chill with delay or changes into treachery: let him therefore press on with his adventure. The advice was ignored through the dishonesty of Acbarus, by whom the inexperienced youth — who identified kingship with dissipation — was detained day after day in the town of Edessa.23 Even when invited by Carenes,24 who pointed out that all was easy if they arrived quickly, he took, not the short road into Mesopotamia, but a circuitous route to Armenia, at that time an impracticable district, as winter was setting in.
13 1 At last, when, outworn by snows and mountains, they were nearing the plains, they effected a junction with the forces of Carenes, and, crossing the Tigris, struck through the country of the Adiabeni,25 whose king, Izates, had in public leagued himself with Meherdates, whilst in private, and with more sincerity, he inclined to Gotarzes. In passing, however, they captured Nineveh, the time-honoured capital of Assyria, together with a fortress, known to fame as the site on which the Persian empire fell in the last battle between Darius and Alexander.26 — Meanwhile, Gotarzes, at a mountain by the name of Sanbulos,27 was offering vows to the local deities; the chief cult being that of Hercules, who at fixed intervals warns his priests by dream to place beside his temple a number of horses equipped for hunting. These, after being furnished with quivers full of arrows, run loose in the forest glades, and only at night return, panting hard, and with quivers emptied. In a second nightly vision, the god points out the course he held through the forest, and all along it wild beasts are discovered strewing the ground.
14 1 Gotarzes, whose army had not as yet reached adequate strength, made use of the river Corma28 as a natural barrier, and, in spite of derisive messages challenging him to battle, continued to interpose delays, to change his quarters, and, by despatching bribery-agents, to bid for the defection of his enemies. First Izates and the contingents of Adiabene, then Acbarus with those of the Arabs, took their departure, in accordance with the levity of their race and with the fact, proved by experience, that barbarians are more inclined to seek their kings from Rome than to keep them. Stripped of these powerful auxiliaries, and apprehending treason from the rest, Meherdates took the one course remaining and decided to stake his fortune upon a trial of arms. Gotarzes, emboldened by the depletion of the enemy, did not decline an engagement, and the armies met, with great slaughter and dubious success; until Carenes, who had broken the forces opposed to him, carried his advance too far and was cut off by fresh troops in his rear. With all hope lost, Meherdates now listened to the promises of his father’s vassal Parraces, and, by an act of perfidy on his part, was thrown into chains and surrendered to the victor; who, upbraiding him as no relative of his, nor a member of the Arsacian house, but an alien and a Roman, struck off his ears and commanded him to live — an advertisement of his own mercy and of our dishonour. Next came the death of Gotarzes by disease, and Vonones, then viceroy of Media, was called to the throne. No successes and no reverses entitled him to mention: he completed a short, inglorious and perfunctory reign, and the Parthian empire devolved upon his son Vologaeses.
15 1 Meanwhile, Mithridates of Bosporus,29 a wanderer since the loss of his throne, learned that the Roman commander Didius30 had departed with the main body of his army, leaving the young and simple Cotys in his novel kingdom, with a few cohorts under the Roman knight, Julius Aquila. Scornful of both, he proceeded to raise the tribes and attract deserters: finally, mustering an army, he ejected the king of the Dandaridae,31 and seized his dominions. When this had become known and his invasion of Bosporus was expected from day to day, Aquila and Cotys — diffident of their own strength, as the Siracene prince Zorsines had resumed hostilities — followed his example, and sought outside support by sending envoys to the powerful Aorsian prince, Eunones. An alliance presented little difficulty, when they could exhibit the power of Rome ranged against the rebel Mithridates. It was arranged, therefore, that Eunones should be responsible for the cavalry fighting, the Romans undertaking the siege of all towns.
16 1 They then advanced with combined forces, the front and rear held by the Aorsi, the centre by the cohorts and by Bosporan troops armed on our model. In this order they inflicted a reverse on the enemy and reached Soza,32 a town of Dandarica evacuated by Mithridates, which, in view of the doubtful sympathies of the population, it was thought advisable to secure by leaving a garrison. They next advanced on the Siraci, and, crossing the stream of the Panda, invested Uspe, a city built on a height and fortified with walls and moats — the drawback being that, as the walls were not of stone but of wickerwork hurdles with soil between, they were too weak to sustain an attack, while our siege towers, with their greater elevation, threw the garrison into disorder by discharges of firebrands and spears. In fact, if the struggle had not been interrupted by night, the beginning and end of the attack would have fallen within the limits of one day.
17 1 On the morrow, deputies were sent out asking terms for the free population, but making an offer of ten thousand slaves. The composition was rejected by the victors, on the ground that it was cruelty to massacre surrendered men, and extremely difficult to maintain a ring of guards round such a multitude: better they should perish by the law of war! And the troops, who had mounted by their ladders, received the signal for no quarter. The destruction of the inhabitants of Uspe struck dismay into the rest of the country; safety being considered impossible when armies and fortifications, high or difficult ground, rivers and cities, failed equally to stay the enemy. Zorsines, therefore, after long debating whether his first consideration was due to the desperate case of Mithridates or to his own ancestral kingdom, when once the interests of his nation carried the day, gave hostages and prostrated himself before the effigy of the Caesar — much to the glory of the Roman army, which had indisputably reached, bloodless and victorious, a point within three days’ march of the Tanais.33 During their withdrawal, however, fortune changed, as a few of the ships — they were returning by sea — were carried on to the Taurian coast34 and there surrounded by the barbarians, who killed the prefect of one cohort and many of the auxiliaries.
18 1 In the interval, as there was no help in arms, Mithridates debated the question whose mercy he should put to the proof. His brother Cotys, once his betrayer, then his declared enemy, inspired mistrust; and, of the Romans, no one of sufficient authority was on the scene for much weight to be attached to his promises. He turned to Eunones, who was not embittered against him by private animosities, and whose power had been increased by his recently formed friendship with ourselves. His dress and features, then, adjusted so far as possible to his present situation, he entered the palace and fell at the king’s knees with the words:— “Mithridates, whom the Romans have sought for so many years over land and sea, is here of his own accord. Use as thou wilt the issue of the great Achaemenes35 — the one title of which my enemies have not bereft me.”
19 1 Eunones, moved by the fame of the man, by the revolution in his fortunes, and by his not ignoble prayer, raised the suppliant and commended him for selecting the Aorsian people and his own right hand to which to address his appeal for clemency. At the same time, he sent a legation to the Caesar, with a letter to the following effect:— “Between the emperors of the Roman nation and the kings of great realms, friendship had its origin in the similarity of rank: between himself and Claudius there subsisted also a partnership in victory. The noblest end of war was a settlement reached by pardon; and it was thus that Zorsines had been conquered, but not despoiled. On behalf of Mithridates, who deserved sterner treatment, he asked for neither power nor royalty, but simply that he should not be led in triumph nor expiate his faults with his life.”
20 1 Claudius, however, lenient though he was to foreign potentates, still doubted whether it was preferable to accept the captive, under a guarantee of safety, or to reclaim him by arms. He was impelled to the second course by resentment of his injuries and by the desire of revenge; yet it was urged on the other side that “he would be undertaking a war in a roadless country and upon a harbourless sea. Consider, too, the martial kings, their nomadic peoples, the unfruitful soil; the tedium consequent on delay, the dangers consequent on haste; the modest laurels of victory, the pronounced ignominy of repulse! Better to embrace the proffered opportunity, and spare an exile to whom every extension of his poverty-stricken life would be an extension of punishment.” Impressed by these arguments, he wrote to Eunones that “Mithridates, it was true, had earned the last penalties; nor was it out of his power to exact them; but it had been a maxim of his ancestors to display as much charity to suppliants as pertinacity against the enemy: for it was at the expense of peoples and monarchies still undefeated that triumphs were earned.”
21 1 Mithridates was handed over in due course and conveyed to Rome by Junius Cilo, the procurator of Pontus. The tale went that he spoke before the emperor’s tribunal with a spirit not warranted by his situation, and one sentence came to the knowledge of the public, the words being: “I have not been returned to you; I return. If you doubt, let me go, and fetch me!” His features did not even lose their intrepidity, when he was being displayed beside the Rostra, in the midst of his warders, to the gaze of the populace. — Consular decorations were voted to Cilo, praetorian to Aquila.36
22 1 In the same consulate, Agrippina, fierce in her hatreds, and infuriated against Lollia as her rival for the emperor’s hand,37arranged for her prosecution and her prosecutor, the charges to be traffic with Chaldaeans and magicians, and application to the image of the Clarian Apollo for information as to the sovereign’s marriage. On this, Claudius — without hearing the defendant, — delivered a long exordium in the senate on the subject of her family distinctions, pointing out that her mother had been the sister of Lucius Volusius, her great-uncle Cotta Messalinus, herself the bride formerly of Memmius Regulus (her marriage with Caligula was deliberately suppressed);38 then added that her projects were pernicious to the state and she must be stripped of her resources for mischief: it would be best, therefore, to confiscate her property and expel her from Italy. Accordingly, out of her immense estate five million sesterces were spared to support her exile. Calpurnia also, a woman of high rank, came to ruin because Claudius had praised her appearance, not amorously, but in a casual conversation, so that Agrippina’s anger stopped short of the last consequences: in Lollia’s case, a tribune was despatched to enforce her suicide. Another condemnation was that of Cadius Rufus under the law of extortion, the indictment being brought by the Bithynians.
23 1 For its exemplary deference to the senate, Narbonese Gaul was so far privileged that members from the province were allowed the right, obtaining in the case of Sicily, of visiting their estates without first ascertaining the pleasure of the emperor. Ituraea39 and Judaea, on the death of their sovereigns, Sohaemus and Agrippa,40 were attached to the province of Syria.41A decision was taken that the Augury of Safety,42 disused for the last seventy-five years,43 should be reintroduced and continued for the future. The Caesar also enlarged the pomerium,44 in consonance with the old custom, by which an expansion of the empire45 confers the right to extend similarly the boundaries of the city: a right, however, which, even after the conquest of powerful nations, had been exercised by no Roman commander except Lucius Sulla and the deified Augustus.46
24 1 As to the vanity or glory of the various kings in that respect, differing accounts are given; but the original foundation, and the character of the pomerium as fixed by Romulus, seem to me a reasonable subject of investigation. From the Forum Boarium,47 then, where the brazen bull which meets the view is explained by the animal’s use in the plough, the furrow to mark out the town48 was cut so as to take in the great altar of Hercules. From that point, boundary-stonesa were interspersed at fixed intervals along the base of the Palatine Hill49 up to the altar of Consus, then to the old curiae, then again to the shrine of the Lares, and after that to the Forum Romanum. The Forum and the Capitol, it was believed, were added to the city, not by Romulus but by Titus Tatius.50 Later, the pomerium grew with the national fortunes: the limits as now determined by Claudius are both easily identified and recorded in public documents.
25 1 In the consulate of Gaius Antistius and Marcus Suillius, the adoption of Domitius was hurried forward by the influence of Pallas, who, pledged to Agrippina as the agent in her marriage, then bound to her by lawless love, kept goading Claudius to consult the welfare of the country and to supply the boyish years of Britannicus with a stable protection:— “So, in the family of the divine Augustus, though he had grandsons to rely upon, yet his step-children rose to power; Tiberius had issue of his own, but he adopted Germanicus; let Claudius also gird to himself a young partner, who would undertake a share of his responsibilities!” The emperor yielded to the pressure, and gave Domitius, with his three years’ seniority, precedence over his son, reproducing in his speech to the senate the arguments furnished by his freedman. It was noted by the expert that, prior to this, there was no trace of an adoption in the patrician branch51 of the Claudian house, which had lasted without interruption from Attus Clausus downward.
26 1 Thanks, however, were returned to the sovereign; a more refined flattery was bestowed on Domitius; and the law52 was carried providing for his adoption into the Claudian family and the designation of Nero. Agrippina herself was dignified by the title of Augusta. When the transaction was over, no one was so devoid of pity as not to feel compunction for the lot of Britannicus. Stripped little by little of the services of the very slaves, the boy turned into derision the officious importunities of his stepmother, whose hypocrisy he understood. For report credits him with no lack of intelligence, possibly with truth, or possibly through the sympathy inspired by his dangers he has retained a reputation which was never put to the proof.
27 1 Agrippina, on the other hand, in order to advertise her strength to the provinces also, arranged for the plantation of a colony53 of veterans in the Ubian town where she was born. The settlement received its title from her name; and, as chance would have it, it had been her grandfather Agrippa who extended Roman protection to the tribe on its migration across the Rhine.
At the same period, a panic was caused in Upper Germany by an incursion of Chattan marauders.54 Thereupon, the legate Publius Pomponius sent the auxiliary Vangiones and Nemetes, supported by allied cavalry, with instructions to head off the raiders, or, if they scattered, to envelop and surprise them. The general’s plan was seconded by the activity of the troops. They separated into two columns; one of which, marching to the left, entrapped a newly-returned detachment of pillagers, who, after employing their booty in a debauch, were sleeping off the effects. The exultation of the men was heightened by the fact that, after forty years, they had redeemed from slavery a few survivors of the Varian disaster.
28 1 Their companions, who had taken the shorter route by the right, inflicted graver loss on the enemy, who met them and risked a set engagement. Laden with their spoils and honours, they returned to the heights of Taunus,55 where Pomponius was waiting with the legions, in hopes that the Chatti, anxious for revenge, would afford him an opportunity for battle. They, however, afraid of being caught between the Romans on one side and their eternal adversaries, the Cherusci, on the other, sent a deputation to Rome with hostages, and triumphal honours were voted to Pomponius: a slender portion of his fame in the eyes of posterity, with whom the glory of his verse ranks higher.56
29 1 Much at the same time, Vannius,57 imposed on the Suebi by Drusus Caesar, was expelled from his kingdom. Esteemed and loved by his countrymen in the first years of his sovereignty, then, by continuous power, perverted to tyranny, he now succumbed to his neighbours’ hatred combined with domestic discords. The authors of his fall were Vibilius, king of the Hermunduri, and Vangio and Sido, the children of his own sister. Nor did Claudius, though often appealed to, interpose his arms between the warring barbarians, but promised a secure retreat to Vannius in the case of his expulsion, and wrote to the governor of Pannonia, Palpellius Hister, to station one legion, with a chosen body of auxiliaries from the province itself, upon the Danube bank there to act as a support to the conquered and a deterrent to the conquerors, lest in the elation of success they should disturb the Roman peace as well. For a countless horde was on the march — Lugians58 and other tribes, allured by the fame of that wealthy monarchy, which Vannius, for thirty years, had aggrandized by depredations and by exactions. The king’s own force of infantry and his cavalry, recruited from the Sarmatian Iazyges,59 were unequal to the numbers of the enemy; and he had consequently decided to hold out in his fortresses and to protract the campaign.
30 1 The Iazyges, however, impatient of confinement, spread over the adjacent plains and made a battle imperative, as the Lugians and Hermunduri had there rushed to the attack. Vannius accordingly descended from his strongholds and was worsted in the engagement, earning, despite his ill-success, a meed of praise for fighting sword in hand and taking his wounds in front. Still, he sought refuge with the flotilla waiting in the Danube: his vassals, who quickly followed, received a grant of lands and were settled in Pannonia. and Sido partitioned the kingdom between them, and to ourselves showed admirable loyalty: by their subjects — whether the fault lay in their own nature or in that of despotism — they were well loved whilst winning their power, better hated when their power was won.
31 1 Meanwhile, in Britain60 the propraetor Publius Ostorius61 had a troubled reception, as the enemy had poured into the territory of our allies with a violence all the greater from their belief that a new commander would not take the field with an untried army and with winter begun. Ostorius, aware that the first results are those which engender fear or confidence, swept his cohorts forward at speed, cut down the resisters, chased the broken bands and — to obviate a second rally, to be followed by a sullen and disloyal peace which would allow no rest either to the general or his troops — prepared to disarm the suspect and to overawe the whole district on this side of the Trent and Severn.62 The first to become restive were the Iceni,63 a powerful community not yet broken in battle, as they had voluntarily acceded to our alliance. At their suggestion, the surrounding tribes chose for their field of battle a position protected by a rustic embankment with a narrow approach, designed to be impervious to cavalry. This defence the Roman commander prepared to carry, though he was leading an auxiliary force without the strength of the legions, and distributing the cohorts in appropriate positions, turned even his mounted squadrons to infantry work. Then, on the signal, they broke through the embankment, and threw the enemy, hampered by his own barrier, into confusion. The Britons, with their rebellion on their conscience, and every egress closed, performed many remarkable feats; and during the engagement the legate’s son, Marcus Ostorius, earned the reward for saving a Roman life.64
32 1 By the Icenian defeat all who were wavering between war and peace were reduced to quietude, and the army was led against the Ceangi.65 The country was devastated, booty collected everywhere, while the enemy declined to risk a battle, or, if he made a stealthy attempt to harass the marching columns, found his treachery punished. And now Ostorius was within measurable distance of the sea which looks towards Ireland, when an outbreak of sedition among the Brigantes66 recalled a leader who was firm in his resolution to attempt new conquests only when he had secured the old. The Brigantian rising, it is true, subsided on the execution of a handful of men, who were beginning hostilities, and the pardon of the rest; but neither severity nor clemency converted the Silurian tribe,67 which continued the struggle and had to be repressed by the establishment of a legionary camp.68 To facilitate that result, a colony was settled on conquered lands at Camulodunum69 by a strong detachment of veterans, who were to serve as a bulwark against revolt and to habituate the friendly natives to their legal obligations.
33 1 The march then proceeded against the Silurians, whose native boldness was heightened by their confidence in the prowess of Caratacus;70 whose many successes, partial or complete, had raised him to a pinnacle above the other British leaders. But on this occasion, favoured by the treacherous character of the country, though inferior in military strength, he astutely shifted the seat of war to the territory of the Ordovices;71 where, after being joined by all who feared a Roman peace, he put the final chance to trial. The place fixed upon for the struggle was one where approaches, exits, every local feature would be unfavourable to ourselves and advantageous to his own forces. On one side the hills rose sheer; and wherever a point could be reached by a gentle ascent, the way was blocked with stones composing a sort of rampart. Along the front ran a river with a precarious ford, and bands of warriors were in position before the defences.
34 1 In addition, the tribal chieftains were going round, haranguing the men and confirming their spirits by minimizing fear, by kindling hope, and by applying the various stimulants of war. As for Caratacus, he flew hither and thither, protesting that this day — this field — would be the prelude to their recovery of freedom or their eternal servitude. He invoked the names of their ancestors, who had repelled the dictator Caesar, and by whose valour they were immune from the Axes and the tributes and still preserved inviolate the persons of their wives and children. — To these appeals and the like the crowd shouted assent, and every man took his tribal oath to give way neither for weapons nor for wounds.
35 1 This ardour disconcerted the Roman general; and he was daunted also by the intervening river, by the added rampart, the beetling hills, the absence of any point that was not defiant and thronged with defenders. But the soldiers insisted on battle; against courage, they clamoured, no place was impregnable; and prefects and tribunes, employing the same language, intensified the zeal of the army. After surveying the ground to discover its impenetrable and its vulnerable points, Ostorius now put himself at the head of the eager troops and crossed the river without difficulty. When the embankment was reached, so long as the struggle was carried on by missiles, most of the wounds, and numerous casualties, fell to our own lot. But a mantlet was formed; and, once the rude and shapeless aggregate of stones had been demolished and matters came to an equal encounter at close quarters, the barbarians withdrew to the hill-tops. Yet even there the light and heavy troops broke in, the former skirmishing with their darts, the latter advancing in closer, while the British ranks opposite were in complete confusion: for they lacked the protection of breastplates and helmets; if they offered a resistance to the auxiliaries, they were struck down by the swords and javelins of the legionaries; if they faced against the legionaries, they fell under the falchions and lances of the auxiliaries. It was a notable victory; and the wife and daughter of Caratacus were taken, his brothers being admitted to surrender.
36 1 Caratacus himself — for adversity seldom finds a refuge — after seeking the protection of the Brigantian queen Cartimandua, was arrested and handed to the victors, in the ninth year from the opening of the war in Britain. Through that resistance, his reputation had gone beyond the islands, had overspread the nearest provinces, and was familiar in Italy itself; where there was curiosity to see what manner of man it was that had for so many years scorned our power. Even in Rome, the name of Caratacus was not without honour; and the Caesar, by attempting to heighten his own credit, added distinction to the vanquished. For the populace were invited as if to some spectacle of note; the praetorian cohorts stood under arms72 upon the level ground in front of their camp. Then, while the king’s humble vassals filed past, ornaments and neck-rings and prizes won in his foreign wars were borne in parade; next his brothers, wife, and daughter were placed on view; finally, he himself. The rest stooped to unworthy entreaties dictated by fear; but on the part of Caratacus not a downcast look nor a word requested pity. Arrived at the tribunal, he spoke as follows:—
37 1 “Had my lineage and my rank been matched by my moderation in success, I should have entered this city rather as a friend than as a captive; nor would you have scorned to admit to a peaceful league a king sprung from famous ancestors and holding sway over many peoples. My present lot, if to me a degradation, is to you a glory. I had horses and men, arms and riches: what wonder if I lost them with a pang? For if you would rule the world, does it follow that the world must welcome servitude? If I were dragged before you after surrendering without a blow, there would have been little heard either of my fall or of your triumph: punishment of me will be followed by oblivion; but save me alive, and I shall be an everlasting memorial of your clemency.” The answer was the Caesar’s pardon for the prince, his wife, and his brothers; and the prisoners, freed from their chains, paid their homage to Agrippina also — a conspicuous figure on another tribunal not far away — in the same terms of praise and gratitude which they had employed to the emperor. It was an innovation, certainly, and one without precedent in ancient custom, that a woman should sit in state before Roman standards: it was the advertisement of her claim to a partnership in the empire which her ancestors had created.
38 1 The Fathers, who were convened later, delivered long and florid orations on the capture of Caratacus — “an incident as glorious as the exhibition to the Roman people of Syphax73 by Publius Scipio, of Perseus74 by Lucius Paulus, of other manacled kings by other generals.” Triumphal insignia were awarded to Ostorius; whose fortunes, so far unclouded, now became dubious — possibly because, with the removal of Caratacus, our energy in the field had been slackened in the belief that the war was won, or possibly sympathy with their great king had fired the enemy’s zeal to avenge him. A camp-prefect and some legionary cohorts, left behind to construct garrison-posts in Silurian territory, were attacked from all quarters; and, if relief had not quickly reached the invested troops from the neighbouring forts — they had been informed by messenger — they must have perished to the last man. As it was, the prefect fell, with eight centurions and the boldest members of the rank and file. — Nor was it long before both a Roman foraging party and the squadrons despatched to its aid were totally routed.
39 1 Ostorius then interposed his light cohorts; but even so he failed to check the flight, until the legions took up the contest. Their strength equalized the struggle, which eventually turned in our favour; the enemy escaped with trivial losses, as the day was drawing to a close. Frequent engagements followed, generally of the irregular type, in woods and fens; decided by individual luck or bravery; accidental or prearranged; with passion or plunder for the motives; by orders, or sometimes without the knowledge of the leaders. Particularly marked was the obstinacy of the Silures, who were infuriated by a widely repeated remark of the Roman commander, that, as once the Sugambri had been exterminated or transferred to the Gallic provinces,75 so the Silurian name ought once for all to be extinguished. They accordingly cut off two auxiliary cohorts which, through the cupidity of their officers, were ravaging the country too incautiously; and by presents of spoils and captives they were drawing into revolt the remaining tribes also, when Ostorius — broken by the weary load of anxiety — paid the debt of nature; to the delight of the enemy, who considered that, perhaps not a battle, but certainly a campaign had disposed of a general whom it was impossible to despise.
40 1 On receiving the news of the legate’s death, the Caesar, not to leave the province without a governor, appointed Aulus Didius76 to the vacancy. In spite of a rapid crossing, he found matters deteriorated, as the legion under Manlius Valens had been defeated in the interval. Reports of the affair were exaggerated: among the enemy, with the hope of alarming the commander on his arrival; by the commander — who magnified the version he heard — with the hope of securing additional credit, if he settled the disturbances, and a more legitimate excuse, if the disturbances persisted. In this case, again, the loss had been inflicted by the Silurians, and they carried their forays far and wide, until repelled by the advent of Didius. Since the capture of Caratacus, however, the Briton with the best knowledge of the art of war was Venutius, whose Brigantian extraction has been mentioned earlier.77 He had long been loyal, and had received the protection of the Roman arms during his married life with Queen Cartimandua: then had come a divorce, followed by immediate war, and he had extended his hostility to ourselves. At first, however, the struggle was confined to the pair; and Cartimandua adroitly entrapped the brother and family connections of Venutius. Incensed at her act, and smarting at the ignominious prospect of submitting to the sway of a woman, the enemy — a powerful body of young and picked warriors — invaded her kingdom. That event had been foreseen by us, and the cohorts sent to the rescue fought a sharp engagement, with dubious results at the outset but a more cheerful conclusion. The conflict had a similar issue in the case of the legion, which was commanded by Caesius Nasica; since Didius, retarded by his years and full of honours, was content to act through his subordinates and to hold the enemy at distance. — These operations, though conducted by two propraetors over a period of years, I have related consecutively, lest, if treated separately, they should leave an inadequate impression on the memory. I return to the chronological order.
41 1 In the consulate of Tiberius Claudius, his fifth term, and of Servius Cornelius, the manly toga was prematurely1 conferred on Nero, so that he should appear qualified for a political career. The Caesar yielded with pleasure to the sycophancies of the senate, which desired Nero to assume the consulship in the twentieth year of his age,2 and in the interval, as consul designate, to hold proconsular authority outside the capital and bear the title Prince of the Youth.3 There was added a donative to the troops, with a largess to the populace, both under his name; while at the games in the Circus, exhibited to gain him the partialities of the crowd, Britannicus rode past in the juvenile white and purple, Nero in the robes of triumph. “Let the people survey the one in the insignia of supreme command, the other in his puerile garb, and anticipate conformably the destinies of the pair!” At the same time all centurions and tribunes who evinced sympathy with the lot of Britannicus were removed, some on fictitious grounds, others under cloak of promotion. Even the few freedmen of untainted loyalty were dismissed on the following pretext. At a meeting between the two boys, Nero greeted Britannicus by his name, and was himself saluted as “Domitius.”4 Representing the incident as a first sign of discord, Agrippina reported it with loud complaints to her husband:— “The act of adoption was flouted, the decision of the Fathers and the mandate of the people abrogated on the domestic hearth! And unless they removed the mischievous influence of those who inculcated this spirit of hostility, it would break out in a public catastrophe.” Perturbed by these hinted accusations, the emperor inflicted exile or death on the best of his son’s preceptors, and placed him under the custody of the substitutes provided by his stepmother.
42 1 As yet, however, Agrippina lacked courage to make her supreme attempt, unless she could discharge from the command of the praetorian cohorts both Lusius Geta and Rufrius Crispinus, whom she believed faithful to the memory of Messalina and pledged to the cause of her children. Accordingly, through her assertions to her husband that the cohorts were being divided by the intriguing rivalry of the pair, and that discipline would be stricter if they were placed under a single head, the command was transferred to Afranius Burrus; who bore the highest character as a soldier but was well aware to whose pleasure he owed his appointment. The exaltation of her own dignity also occupied Agrippina: she began to enter the Capitol in a carriage;5 and that honour, reserved by antiquity for priests and holy objects, enhanced the veneration felt for a woman who to this day stands unparalleled as the daughter of an Imperator6 and the sister, the wife, and the mother of an emperor.7 Meanwhile, her principal champion, Vitellius, at the height of his influence and in the extremity of his age — so precarious are the fortunes of the mighty — was brought to trial upon an indictment laid by the senator Junius Lupus. The charges he preferred were treason and designs upon the empire and to these the Caesar would certainly have inclined his ear, had not the prayers, or rather the threats of Agrippina converted him to the course of formally outlawing the prosecutor: Vitellius had desired no more.
43 1 Many prodigies occurred during the year. Ominous birds took their seat on the Capitol;8 houses were overturned by repeated shocks of earthquake, and, as the panic spread, the weak were trampled underfoot in the trepidation of the crowd. A shortage of corn,º again, and the famine which resulted, were construed as a supernatural warning. Nor were the complaints always whispered. Claudius, sitting in judgement, was surrounded by a wildly clamorous mob, and, driven into the farthest corner of the Forum, was there subjected to violent pressure, until, with the help of a body of troops, he forced a way through the hostile throng. It was established that the capital had provisions for fifteen days, no more; and the crisis was relieved only by the especial grace of the gods and the mildness of the winter. And yet, Heaven knows, in the past, Italy exported supplies for the legions into remote provinces; nor is sterility the trouble now, but we cultivate Africa and Egypt by preference, and the life of the Roman nation has been staked upon cargo-boats and accidents.
44 1 In the same year, an outbreak of war between the Armenians and Iberians gave rise as well to a very serious disturbance of the relations between Parthia and Rome. The Parthian nation was now subject to Vologaeses, who, on the mother’s side, was the offspring of a Greek concubine and had obtained the crown with the acquiescence of his brothers: Iberia was held by its old master Pharasmanes; Armenia — with our support — by his brother Mithridates.9 There was a son of Pharasmanes by the name of Radamistus, tall and handsome, remarkable for his bodily strength, versed in the national accomplishments, and in high repute with the neighbouring peoples. That the modest kingdom of Iberia was being kept from him by his father’s tenacity of life, was a statement which he threw out too boldly and too frequently for his desires to remain unguessed. Pharasmanes, therefore, who had his misgivings about a youth alert for power and armed with the sympathies of the country, while his own years were already on the wane, sought to attract him to other ambitions by pointing to Armenia; which, he observed, he had, by his expulsion of the Parthians, himself bestowed on Mithridates. Force, however, must wait: some ruse, by which they could take him off his guard, was preferable. Radamistus, then, after a feigned rupture with his father, gave out that he was unable to face the hatred of his stepmother, and made his way to his uncle; was treated by him with exceptional kindness as though he had been a child of his own; and proceeded to entice the Armenian nobles to revolution, undetected, and in fact honoured, by Mithridates.
45 1 Assuming the character of a reconciled son, he returned to his father, and announced that all which it had been possible to effect by fraud was ready: what remained must be achieved by arms. Meanwhile, Pharasmanes fabricated pretexts for war:— “During his conflict with the king of Albania,10 his appeal for Roman help had been opposed by his brother, and he would now avenge that injury by his destruction.” At the same time, he entrusted a large force to his son; who, by a sudden incursion, unnerved Mithridates, beat him out of the plains, and forced him into Gorneae, a fort protected by the nature of the ground and a garrison under the command of the prefect11 Caelius Pollio and the centurion Casperius. Nothing is so completely unknown to barbarians as the appliances and refinements of siege operations — a branch of warfare perfectly familiar to ourselves. Hence, after several attacks, fruitless or worse, upon the fortifications, Radamistus began a blockade: then, as force was ignored, he bribed the avarice of the prefect, though Casperius protested against the subversion, by guilt and gold, of an allied monarch and of Armenia, his gift from the Roman people. At last, as Pollio continued to plead the numbers of the enemy and Radamistus the orders of his father, he stipulated for a truce, and left with the intention of either deterring Pharasmanes from his campaign or acquainting the governor of Syria, Ummidius Quadratus, with the state of matters in Armenia.
46 1 With the centurion’s departure, the prefect found himself rid of his warder, and he now pressed Mithridates to conclude a treaty. He enlarged upon the link of brotherhood, upon Pharasmanes’ priority in age, upon the other titles of kinship, — the fact that he was married to his brother’s daughter and was himself the father-in‑law of Radamistus. “The Iberians,” he said, “though for the time being the stronger party, were not disinclined to peace. He was familiar enough already with Armenian treachery, and his only defence was a badly provisioned fort. Let him not decide for the doubtful experiment of arms in preference to a bloodless compact!” While Mithridates hesitated in spite of these arguments — the prefect’s advice being suspect, as he had seduced one of the royal concubines and was considered capable of any villainy for a price — Casperius in the interval made his way to Pharasmanes and demanded that the Iberians should raise the siege. In public, the king’s replies were vague and usually bland; in private, he warned Radamistus by courier to hurry on the siege by any and all means. The wage of dishonour was accordingly increased; and by secret bribery Pollio induced the troops to demand a peace under threat of abandoning the post. Mithridates had now no option; he accepted the place and day suggested for the treaty, and left the fort.
47 1 The first act of Radamistus was to throw himself into his arms with affected devotion and to address him as father-in‑law and parent. He followed with an oath that neither by steel nor by poison would he practise against his life. At the same moment, he hurried him into a neighbouring grove, where, he informed him, the apparatus of sacrifice had been provided in order that their peace might be ratified before the attesting gods. The procedure in the case of two kings meeting to conclude an alliance is to unite their right hands, tie the thumbs together, and tighten the pressure by a knot: then, when the blood has run to the extremities, a slight incision gives it outlet, and each prince licks it in turn. A mystical character is attached to the agreement thus sealed and counter-sealed in blood. But, on this occasion, the person who was fastening the bonds feigned to slip, and, grasping Mithridates by the knees, threw him prostrate: at the same instant, a number of men rushed up and put him in irons. He was dragged off by his shackles, to barbarians a supreme indignity; and before long the populace, which had experienced the rigour of his sway, was levelling against him its insults and its blows. There were also, on the other hand, some found to pity so complete a reversal of fortune; and his wife, who followed with their infant children, filled the place with her laments. The prisoners were stowed out of sight in separate and covered vehicles, until the orders of Pharasmanes should be ascertained. To him the desire of a crown outweighed a brother and a daughter, and his temper was prompt to crime: still he shewed consideration for his eyes by not having them killed in his presence. Radamistus, too mindful apparently of his oath, produced neither steel nor poison for the destruction of his sister and uncle, but had them tossed on the ground and smothered under a heavy pile of clothes. Mithridates’ sons were also slaughtered, since they had shed tears at the murder of their parents.
48 1 Quadratus, gathering that Mithridates was betrayed and his kingdom held by the murderers, convened his council, laid the incidents before it, and asked for an opinion whether he should take punitive measures. A few showed some concern for the national honour; the majority inculcated safety:— “Alien crime in general was to be hailed with pleasure; it was well, even, to sow the seeds of hatred, precisely as on many occasions a Roman emperor, ostensibly as an act of munificence, had given away this same Armenia, merely to unsettle the temper of the barbarians. Let Radamistus hold his ill-gotten gains, so long as he held them at the price of detestation and of infamy: it was better for us than if he had won them with glory!” This opinion was adopted. But, to avoid the appearance of having acquiesced in the crime, when the imperial orders might be to the contrary effect, messengers were sent to Pharasmanes, requesting him to evacuate Armenian territory and withdraw his son.
49 1 The procurator of Cappadocia was Julius Paelignus, a person made doubly contemptible by hebetude of mind and grotesqueness of body, yet on terms of the greatest intimacy with Claudius during the years of retirement when he amused his sluggish leisure with the society of buffoons. The Paelignus had mustered the provincial militia, with the avowed intention of recovering Armenia; but, while he was plundering our subjects in preference to the enemy, the secession of his troops left him defenceless against the barbarian incursions, and he made his way to Radamistus, by whose liberality he was so overpowered that he voluntarily advised him to assume the kingly emblem, and assisted at its assumption in the quality of sponsor and satellite. Ugly reports of the incident spread; and, to make it clear that not all Romans were to be judged by the standard of Paelignus, the legate Helvidius Priscus12 was sent with a legion to deal with the disturbed situation as the circumstances might require. Accordingly, after crossing Mount Taurus in haste, he had settled more points by moderation than by force, when he was ordered back to Syria, lest he should give occasion for a Parthian war.
50 1 For Vologaeses, convinced that the chance was come for an attack on Armenia, once the property of his ancestors,13 now usurped by a foreign monarch in virtue of a crime, collected a force, and prepared to settle his brother Tiridates on the throne; so that no branch of his family should lack its kingdom.14 The Parthian invasion forced back the Iberians without a formal battle, and the Armenian towns of Artaxata15 and Tigranocerta16 accepted the yoke. Then a severe winter, the inadequate provision of supplies, and an epidemic due to both of these causes, forced Vologaeses to abandon the scene of action; and Armenia, masterless once again, was occupied by Radamistus, more truculent than ever towards a nation of traitors whom he regarded as certain to rebel when opportunity offered. They were a people inured to bondage; but patience broke, and they surrounded the palace in arms.
51 1 The one salvation for Radamistus lay in the speed of the horses which swept himself and his wife away. His wife, however, was pregnant; and though fear of the enemy and love of her husband sustained her more or less in the first stages of the flight, yet before long, with the continuous gallop jarring her womb and vibrating through her system, she began to beg for an honourable death to save her from the degradations of captivity. At first, he embraced her, supported her, animated her, one moment wondering at her courage, the next sick with fear at the thought of abandoning her to the possession of another. At last, overmastered by his love, and no stranger to deeds of violence, he drew his sabre, dragged her bleeding to the bank of the Araxes,17 and, bent on removing even her corpse, consigned her to the current: he himself rode headlong through to his native kingdom of Iberia. Meanwhile, Zenobia (to give his wife her name) was noticed by a few shepherds in a quiet backwater, still breathing and showing signs of life. Arguing her high birth from the distinction of her appearance, they bound up her wound, applied their country remedies, and, on discovering her name and misfortune, carried her to the town of Artaxata; from which, by the good offices of the community, she was escorted to Tiridates, and, after a kind reception, was treated with royal honours.
52 1 In the consulate of Faustus Sulla18 and Salvius Otho,19 Furius Scribonianus was driven into exile, on a charge of inquiring into the end of the sovereign by the agency of astrologers: his mother Vibidia was included in the arraignment, on the ground that she had not acquiesced in her former misadventure — she had been sentenced to relegation. Camillus,20 the father of Scribonianus, had taken arms in Dalmatia: a point placed by the emperor to the credit of his clemency, since he was sparing this hostile stock for a second time. The exile, however, did not long survive: the question whether he died by a natural death or from poison was answered by the gossips according to their various beliefs. The expulsion of the astrologers from Italy was ordered by a drastic and impotent decree of the senate. Then followed a speech by the emperor, commending all who voluntarily renounced senatorial rank owing to straitened circumstances: those who, by remaining, added impudence to poverty were removed.
53 1 At the same time, he submitted a motion to the Fathers, penalizing women who married slaves; and it was resolved that anyone falling so far without the knowledge of the slave’s owner should rank as in a state of servitude; while, if he had given sanction, she was to be classed as a freedwoman. That Pallas, whom the Caesar had specified as the inventor of his proposal, should receive the praetorian insignia and fifteen million sesterces, was the motion of the consul designate, Barea Soranus.21 It was added by Cornelius Scipio that he should be accorded the national thanks, because, descendant though he was of the kings of Arcadia,22 he postponed his old nobility to the public good, and permitted himself to be regarded as one of the servants of the emperor. Claudius passed his word that Pallas, contented with the honour,23 declined to outstep his former honest poverty. And there was engraved on official brass24 a senatorial decree lavishing the praises of old-world frugality upon a freedman, the proprietor of three hundred million sesterces.
54 1 The like moderation, however, was not shewn by his brother, surnamed Felix;25 who for a while past had held the governorship of Judaea, and considered that with such influences behind him all malefactions would be venial. The Jews, it is true, had given signs of disaffection in the rioting prompted <by the demand of Gaius Caesar for an effigy of himself in the Temple; and though> the news of his murder had made complicity needless, the fear remained that some emperor might issue an identical mandate. In the interval, Felix was fostering crime by misconceived remedies, his worst efforts being emulated by Ventidius Comanus, his colleague in the other half of the province — which was so divided that the natives of Galilee were subject to Ventidius, Samaria to Felix. The districts had long been at variance, and their animosities were now under the less restraint, as they could despise their regents. Accordingly, they harried each other, unleashed their troops of bandits, fought an occasional field, and carried their trophies and their thefts to the procurators. At first, the pair rejoiced; then, when the growth of the mischief forced them to interpose the arms of their troops, the troops were beaten, and the province would have been ablaze with war but for the intervention of Quadratus, the governor of Syria. With regard to the Jews, who had gone so far as to shed the blood of regular soldiers, there were no protracted doubts as to the infliction of the death penalty: Cumanus and Felix were answerable for more embarrassment, as Claudius, on learning the motives of the revolt, had authorized Quadratus to deal with the case of the procurators themselves. Quadratus, however, displayed Felix among the judges, his admission to the tribunal being intended to cool the zeal of his accusers: Cumanus was sentenced for the delinquencies of the two, and quietude returned to the province.
55 1 Shortly afterwards, the tribes of wild Cilicians, known under the name of Cietae,26 who had already broken the peace on many occasions, now formed a camp, under the leadership of Troxobor, on their precipitous hills; and, descending to the coast or the cities, ventured to attack the peasants and townspeople, and, very frequently, the merchants and shipmasters. The city of Anemurium was invested; and a troop of horse sent to its relief from Syria under the prefect Curtius Severus was put to flight, as the rough ground in the vicinity, though suited to an infantry engagement, did not admit of cavalry fighting. Eventually, Antiochus27 — in whose kingdom that part of the coast was included — by cajolery dissolved the union of the barbarian forces, and, after executing Troxobor and a few chiefs, quieted the remainder by clemency.
56 1 Nearly at this date, the tunnelling of the mountain between Lake Fucinus28 and the river Liris had been achieved; and, in order that the impressive character of the work29 might be viewed by a larger number of visitants, a naval battle was arranged upon the lake itself, on the model of an earlier spectacle given by Augustus — though with light vessels and a smaller force30 — in his artificial lagoon adjoining the Tiber. Claudius equipped triremes, quadriremes, and nineteen thousand combatants: the lists he surrounded with rafts, so as to leave no unauthorized points of escape, but reserved space enough in the centre to display the vigour of the rowing, the arts of the helmsmen, the impetus of the galleys, and the usual incidents of an engagement. On the rafts were stationed companies and squadrons of the praetorian cohorts, covered by a breastwork from which to operate their catapults and ballistae: the rest of the lake was occupied by marines with decked vessels. The shores, the hills, the mountain-crests, formed a kind of theatre, soon filled by an untold multitude, attracted from the neighbouring towns, and in part from the capital itself, by curiosity or by respect for the sovereign. He and Agrippina presided, the one in a gorgeous military cloak, the other — not far distant — in a Greek mantle of cloth of gold. The battle, though one of criminals, was contested with the spirit and courage of freemen; and, after much blood had flowed, the combatants were exempted from destruction.
57 1 On the conclusion of the spectacle, however, the passage was opened for the waters. Carelessness was at once evident in the construction of the tunnel, which had not been sunk to the maximum or even the mean depth of the lake. An interval of time was therefore allowed for the channel to be cleared to a lower level;31 and, with a view to collecting a second multitude, a gladiatorial exhibition was given on pontoons laid for an infantry battle. A banquet, even, had been served near the efflux of the lake; only to result, however, in a general panic, as the outrushing volume of water carried away the adjoining portions of the work, while those at a greater distance experienced either the actual shock or the terror produced by the crash and reverberation. At the same moment, Agrippina profited by the emperor’s agitation to charge Narcissus, as director of the scheme, with cupidity and embezzlement.32 He was not to be silenced, and retorted with an attack on her feminine imperiousness and the extravagance of her ambitions.
58 1 In the consulate of Decimus Junius33 and Quintus Haterius, Nero, at the age of sixteen, received in marriage the emperor’s daughter Octavia. Desirous to shine by his liberal accomplishments and by a character for eloquence, he took up the cause of Ilium, enlarged with grace on the Trojan descent of the Roman nation; on Aeneas, the progenitor of the Julian line; on other traditions not too far removed from fable; and secured the release of the community from all public obligations. By his advocacy, again, the colony of Bononia,34 which had been destroyed by fire, was assisted with a grant of ten million sesterces; the Rhodians recovered their liberties, so often forfeited or confirmed as the balance varied between their military services abroad or their seditious offences at home; and Apamea,35 which had suffered from an earthquake shock, was relieved from its tribute for the next five years.
59 1 Claudius, in contrast, was being forced to a display of sheer cruelty, still by the machinations of Agrippina. Statilius Taurus, whose wealth was famous, and whose gardens aroused her cupidity, she ruined with an accusation brought by Tarquitius Priscus. He had been the legate of Taurus when he was governing Africaº with proconsular powers, and now on their return charged him with a few acts of malversation, but more seriously with addiction to magical superstitions. Without tolerating longer a lying accuser and an unworthy humiliation, Taurus took his own life before the verdict of the senate. Tarquitius, none the less, was expelled from the curia — a point which the Fathers, in their detestation of the informer, carried in the teeth of Agrippina’s intrigues.
60 1 Several times in this year, the emperor was heard to remark that judgments given by his procurators36 ought to have as much validity as if the ruling had come from himself. In order that the opinion should not be taken as a chance indiscretion, provision — more extensive and fuller than previously — was made to that effect by a senatorial decree as well. For an order of the deified Augustus had conferred judicial powers on members of the equestrian order, holding the government of Egypt;37their decisions to rank as though they had been formulated by the national magistrates. Later, both in other provinces and in Rome, a large number of cases till then falling under the cognizance of the praetors38 were similarly transferred; and now Claudius handed over in full the judicial power so often disputed by sedition or by arms — when, for instance, the Sempronian rogations39 placed the equestrian order in possession of the courts; or the Servilian laws retroceded those courts to the senate; or when, in the days of Marius and Sulla, the question actually became a main ground of hostilities. But the competition was then between class and class, and the results of victory were universally valid.40 Gaius Oppius and Cornelius Balbus41 were the first individuals who, supported by the might of Caesar, were able to take for their province the conditions of a peace or the determination of a war. It would serve no purpose to mention their successors, a Matius42 or a Vedius or the other all too powerful names of Roman knights, when the freedmen whom he had placed in charge of his personal fortune were now by Claudius raised to an equality with himself and with the law.
61 1 He next proposed to grant immunity to the inhabitants of Cos. Of their ancient history he had much to tell:— “The earliest occupants of the island had,” he said, “been Argives — or, possibly, Coeus, the father of Latona. Then the arrival of Aesculapius had introduced the art of healing, which attained the highest celebrity among his descendants”43 — here he gave the names of the descendants and the epochs at which they had all flourished. “Xenophon,”44 he observed again, “to whose knowledge he himself had recourse, derived his origin from the same family; and, as a concession to his prayers, the Coans ought to have be exempted from all forms of tribute for the future and allowed to tenant their island as a sanctified place subservient only to its god.” There can be no doubt that a large number of services rendered by the islanders to Rome, and of victories in which they had borne their part, could have been cited; but Claudius declined to disguise by external aids a favour which, with his wonted complaisance, he had accorded to an individual.
62 1 On the other hand, the Byzantians, who had been granted an audience and were protesting in the senate against the oppressiveness of their burdens, reviewed their entire history. Starting from the treaty concluded with ourselves at the date of our war against the king of Macedonia whose doubtful birth earned him the name of pseudo-Philip,45 they mentioned the forces they had sent against Antiochus, Perseus and Aristonicus;46 their assistance to Antonius47 in the Pirate War; their offers of help at various times to Sulla, Lucullus, and Pompey; then their recent services to the Caesars — services possible because they occupied a district conveniently placed for the transit of generals and armies by land or sea, and equally so for the conveyance of supplies.
63 1 For it was upon the extreme verge of Europe, at the narrowest part of the waters which divorce the continent from Asia, that Byzantium was planted by the Greeks; who, on consulting the Pythian Apollo where to found a city, were advised by the oracle to “seek a home opposite the country of the blind.” That enigma pointed to the inhabitants of Chalcedon;48 who had arrived at the place before them, had surveyed in advance the opportunities of the site, and had decided for a worse. For Byzantium is favoured with a fertile soil and with a prolific sea, since huge shoals of fish49 — alarmed, as they emerge from the Euxine, by shelving rocks under the surface — make from the winding Asiatic coast, and find their way to the harbours opposite.50A thriving and wealthy community had thus arisen; but now, under the stress of their financial burdens, they applied for exemption or an abatement, and were supported by the emperor; who pointed out to the senate that they had been recently exhausted by the Thracian51 and Bosporan wars and were entitled to relief. Their tribute was therefore remitted for the next five years.
64 1 In the consulate of Marcus Asinius and Manius Acilius, it was made apparent by a sequence of prodigies that a change of conditions for the worse was foreshadowed. Fire from heaven played round the standards and tents of the soldiers; a swarm of bees settled on the pediment of the Capitol; it was stated that hermaphrodites had been born, and that a pig had been produced with the talons of a hawk. It was counted among the portents that each of the magistracies found its numbers diminished, since a quaestor, an aedile, and a tribune, together with a praetor and a consul, had died within a few months. But especial terror was felt by Agrippina. Disquieted by a remark let fall by Claudius in his cups, that it was his destiny first to suffer and finally to punish the infamy of his wives, she determined to act — and speedily. First, however, she destroyed Domitia Lepida52 on a feminine quarrel. For, as the daughter of the younger Antonia, the grand-niece of Augustus, the first cousin once removed of Agrippina, and also the sister of her former husband Gnaeus Domitius, Lepida regarded her family distinctions as equal to those of the princess. In looks, age, and fortune there was little between the pair; and since each was as unchaste, as disreputable, and as violent as the other, their competition in the vices was not less keen than in such advantages as they had received from the kindness of fortune. But the fiercest struggle was on the question whether the dominant influence with Nero was to be his aunt or his mother: for Lepida was endeavouring to captivate his youthful mind by a smooth tongue and an open hand, while on the other side Agrippina stood grim and menacing, capable of presenting her son with an empire but not of tolerating him as emperor.
65 1 However, the charges preferred were that Lepida had practised by magic53 against the life of the emperor’s consort, and, by her neglect to coerce her regiments of slaves in Calabria,54 was threatening the peace of Italy. On these grounds the death-sentence was pronounced, in spite of the determined opposition of Narcissus; who, with his ever-deepening suspicions of Agrippina, was said to have observed among his intimates that “whether Britannicus or Nero came to the throne, his own doom was sure; but the Caesar’s kindness to him had been such that he would sacrifice life to his interests. Messalina and Silius had received their condemnation — and there was again similar material for a similar charge. With the succession vested in Britannicus, the emperor’s person was safe; but the stepmother’s plot aimed at overthrowing the whole imperial house — a darker scandal than would have resulted, if he had held his peace about the infidelities of her predecessor. Though, even now, infidelity was not far to seek, when she had committed adultery with Pallas, in order to leave no doubt that she held her dignity, her modesty, her body, her all, cheaper than a throne!” This and the like he repeated frequently, while he embraced Britannicus, prayed for his speedy maturity, and, extending his cases now to heaven and now to the prince, implored that “he would hasten to man’s estate, cast out the enemies of his father — and even take vengeance on the slayers of his mother!”
66 1 Under the weight of anxiety, his health broke down, and he left for Sinuessa,55 to renovate his strength by the gentle climate and the medicinal springs. At once, Agrippina — long resolved on murder, eager to seize the proffered occasion, and at no lack for assistants — sought advice upon the type of poison. With a rapid and drastic drug, the crime, she feared, would be obvious: if she decided for a slow and wasting preparation, Claudius, face to face with his end and aware of her treachery, might experience a return of affection for his son. What commended itself was something recondite, which would derange his faculties while postponing his dissolution. An artist in this domain was selected — a woman by the name of Locusta, lately sentenced on a poisoning charge, and long retained as part of the stock-in-trade of absolutism.56 Her ingenuity supplied a potion, administered by the eunuch Halotus, whose regular duty was to bring in and taste the dishes.
67 1 So notorious, later, were the whole proceedings that authors of the period have recorded that the poison was sprinkled on an exceptionally fine mushroom; though, as a result of his natural sluggishness or intoxication, the effects of the drug were not immediately felt by Claudius.57 At the same time, a motion of his bowels appeared to have removed the danger. Agrippina was in consternation: as the last consequences were to be apprehended, immediate infamy would have to be braved; and she fell back on the complicity — which she had already assured — of the doctor Xenophon. He, it is believed, under cover of assisting the emperor’s struggles to vomit, plunged a feather, dipped in a quick poison, down his throat: for he was well aware that crimes of the first magnitude are begun with peril and consummated with profit.58
68 1 Meanwhile, the senate was convened, and consuls and priests formulated their vows for the imperial safety, at a moment when the now lifeless body was being swathed in blankets and warming bandages, while the requisite measures were arranged for securing the accession of Nero. In the first place, Agrippina, heart-broken apparently and seeking to be comforted, held Britannicus to her breast, styled him the authentic portrait of his father, and, by this or the other device, precluded him from leaving his room. His sisters, Antonia and Octavia, she similarly detained. She had barred all avenues of approach with pickets, and ever and anon she issued notices that the emperor’s indisposition was turning favourably: all to keep the troops in good hope, and to allow time for the advent of the auspicious moment insisted upon by the astrologers.
69 1 At last, at midday, on the thirteenth of October, the palace gates swung suddenly open, and Nero, with Burrus in attendance, passed out to the cohort, always on guard in conformity with the rules of the service. There, at a hint from the prefect, he was greeted with cheers and placed in a litter. Some of the men are said to have hesitated, looking back and inquiring:— “Where was Britannicus?” Then, as no lead to the contrary was forthcoming, they acquiesced in the choice presented to them: Nero was carried into the camp; and, after a few introductory words suited to the time, promised a donative on the same generous scale as that of his father,59 and was saluted as Imperator. The verdict of the troops was followed by the senatorial decrees; nor was any hesitation evinced in the provinces. Divine honours were voted to Claudius, and his funeral solemnities were celebrated precisely as those of the deified Augustus, Agrippina emulating the magnificence of her great-grandmother Livia. His will, however, was not read, lest the preference of the stepson to the son should leave a disquieting impression of injustice and invidiousness upon the mind of the common people.