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XI.16‑38

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals

of
Tacitus

published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Tacitus, 1937

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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XII.41‑69

(Vol. IV) Tacitus
Annals

Book XII (beginning)

p317 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 p319— 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.

p321 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 p323senate? 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 p325violence 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; p327at 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 p329lately 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 p331and 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 p333king; 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 p335vows 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 p337him 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.

p339 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 p341to 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 p343right 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 p345as 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,37 arranged 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 p347of 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.41 A 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

p349 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 p351his 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.

p353 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 p355in 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 p357settled in Pannonia. Vangio 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 p359distributing 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 p361veterans, 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 p363the 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 p365finds 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 p367surrendering 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 p369boldest 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 p371defeated 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 p373separately, they should leave an inadequate impression on the memory. I return to the chronological order.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Granddaughter of M. Lollius (III.48 n.); taken from her husband, Memmius Regulus, by Caligula, but quickly divorced, succumbed to the jealousy of Agrippina (chap. 22, XIV.12). The elder Pliny had seen her at an ordinary dinner in jewels valued at 40,000,000 sesterces (H.N. IX.35.58).

2 Already married to Claudius, but divorced ex levibus offensis (Suet. Claud. 26). For their daughter, Claudia Antonia, cf. XV.53.

3 The present L. Domitius Ahenobarbus — the future Nero (XI.11).

4 As daughter of the elder Agrippina and Germanicus, Agrippina was a member, on the mother's side, of the Julian house; on the father's, of the Claudian. See the stemmata, vol. III p240 sq.º

Thayer's Note: I haven't reproduced the Loeb edition's genealogical table. There are clearer and better ones already online, for example at De imperatoribus Romanis.

5 Son of M. Silanus (II.59; Hist. IV.48) and Aemilia Lepida, granddaughter of Augustus.

6 See XI.23 sqq.

7 The earliest mention of the famous delator, for whom see XIII.33 n.

8 Britannicus, eight years of age, and Octavia, about a year older.

9 Her second husband, Passienus Crispus (VI.20), was now dead — per fraudem Agrippinae, quam heredem reliquerat, according to a scholium on Juv. IV.81.

10 The reference is to Augustus (V.1), and Caligula (Suet. Cal. 24 sq.).

11 As it would be absurd for Vitellius to mention only second cousins (sobrini), when the marriage of cousins (consobrini) had long been permissible, and equally absurd to assume that because "cousin" can be used loosely for "second cousin," therefore "second cousin" can be used loosely for "cousin," Nipperdey's emendation is plausible. — In any case, the Roman prejudice against such alliances remained invincible: Julian, for instance, finds no better name for the marriages between his own cousins than γάμοι οὐ γάμοι (228C).

12 He had attained his rank by rising to leading-centurion, and enjoyed at least the satisfaction of numbering the emperor and empress among his wedding-guests (Suet. Claud. 26).

13 No doubt, the famous grove of the rex Nemorensis — the "priest who slew the slayer And shall himself be slain" — on lake Nemi, near Aricia.

14 He had been relegated to Corsica eight years earlier, on the charge of adultery with Germanicus' daughter Julia Livilla, wife of M. Vinicius. Of his works, the Consolatio ad Helviam and the Consolatio ad Polybium date from this period.

15 Claudius was his great-uncle, his stepfather, and now his prospective father-in‑law.

16 For Meherdates and the situation generally, see XI.8‑10, with the notes.

17 Meherdates' father, Vonones (II.1). For the princes sent out by Tiberius — Phraates and Tiridates — see VI.31 sq.

18 C. Cassius Longinus, one of the most famous names in Roman jurisprudence (Cassianae scholae princeps et parens, Plin. Ep. VII.24); consul (suffectus) in 30 A.D.; proconsul of Asia some ten years later; succeeded Vibius Marsus (XI.10) as legatus pro praetore of Syria; banished by Nero to Sardinia in 65 A.D.; recalled by Vespasian (Pompon. Dig. I.2.2, § 51).

19 He belonged to the school (Sabiniani, Cassiani) of Masurius Sabinus and Ateius Capito (III.75 n.)

20 His ancestor, the "tyrannicide," an officer of Crassus, had foiled the Parthian invasion of Syria after Carrhae (Mommsen, R. H. V.160 sqq., E.T.)

21 Built by Seleucus Nicator, together with Apamea on the eastern bank, to command the main crossing of the Euphrates into N. Mesopotamia.

22 King of Osroëne — the fertile northern part of Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and the Tigris (VI.44 n.).

23 The capital of Osroëne — more famous in the day of Justinian and Chosroës than in that of Claudius and Gotarzes.

24 Evidently satrap (praefectus) of Mesopotamia.

25 N. Assyria.

26 In hac Adiabena Ninus est civitas . . . et Arbela et Gaugamela ubi Dareum Alexander . . . incitato Marte prostravit (331 B.C.), Amm. Marc. XXIII.6.22. But neither Arbela nor Gaugamela was a castellum, and the text is not too certain.

27 The mountain and the deity are unknown.

28 An unidentified eastern tributary of the Tigris.

29 A small dependent kingdom of considerable antiquity, including roughly the Crimea and a number of tribes to the east of the Cimmerian Bosporus (Straits of Kertch). The throne, vacant by the transfer of Polemo to Cilicia, had in 41 A.D. been conferred by Claudius on Mithridates (D. Cass. LX.8). Some five years later, for reasons doubtless given in the lost part of Book XI, he was ejected by A. Didius Gallus, and replaced by his brother Cotys.

30 At this time, probable legatus of Moesia; later, of Britain (chap. 40).

31 The Dandaridae, Siraci, and Aorsi, were Sarmatian tribes between the Caspian and Sea of Azov, with the Don and Caucasus as northern and southern limits.

32 Soza, the Panda, and Uspe are alike unknown.

33 The Don.

34 Of the Crimea (Chersonesus Taurica).

35 The progenitor of the Persian royal family, from which Mithridates the Great, of Pontus, ancestor of his namesake of Bosporus, claimed descent (Just. XXXVIII.7).

36 Mithridates himself remained at Rome till the reign of Galba, when he was executed without trial as an accomplice of Nymphidius Sabinus (Plut. Galb. 15 init.).

37 See chap. 1.

38 For L. Volusius, see XIII.30 fin.; for Cotta, IV.20 n.; for Regulus, V.11 n.; for Lollia's brief marriage to Caligula, chap. 1 n.

39 Wild hill-country, adjoining Trachonitis, far east of the Jordan, and inhabited by Judaized Arab bowmen.

40 Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great and Mariamne, and an intimate friend, first of Caligula, then of Claudius. His death (see Acts xii.23) must be dated some five years previously.

41 They were henceforward under imperial procurators subordinate to the legatus of Syria.

42 An obscure rite to ascertain whether it was permissible to offer prayers for the national safety — the day of intercession having to be one of absolute peace throughout the empire.

43 If the text is right, a round number for seventy-eight, as the obsolescent ceremony was revived by Augustus in the year of his triple triumph, when he closed the temple of Janus for the first time (29 B.C.).

44 A strip of consecrated ground outside (and, originally, inside) the wall, constituting the ideal boundary of the city.

Thayer's Note: For exhaustive details, see the article Pomoerium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and the further links there.

45 In this case, the conquest of Britain. For it is fantastic to question this interpretation on the strength of a statement by the nameless pedant, whom Seneca derides in De brev. vit. 13‑14, that the pomerium was extended nunquam provinciali, sed Italico agro acquisito.

46 This assertion, repeated in Dio, cannot stand in face of the silence of the Monumentum Ancyranum and the words of the lex de imperio Vespasiani (conferring on Vespasian the powers of Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius): — utique ei fines pomeri proferre promovere . . . liceat, ita uti licuit Ti. Claudio Caesari Aug. Germanico (14).

47 Between the Circus Maximus and the river. The brazen bull was an Aeginetan bronze, one of the spoils of Greece.

Thayer's Note: See the article Forum Boarium in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

48 Oppida condebant in Latio Etrusco ritu; id est, Iunctis bobus, tauro et vacca interiore, circumagebant sulcum . . . Terram unde exsculpserant, fossam vocabant, et introrsum iactam, 'murum' (Varro, L. L. V § 143).

49 The primitive town, Roma quadrata, occupied the Palatine; and along the irregular trapezoid formed by its base the pomerium of Romulus was drawn, outside and below the city-walls. Of the four angular points, the south-western was marked by the Ara Maxima of Hercules, the south-eastern by the subterranean altar of Consus (each at an extremity of the Circus Maximus), the north-eastern and north-western by the old meeting-place of the curiae and the sacellum Larum though the exact site of both is uncertain. The Forum Romanum, as shown by the next sentence, was skirted but not included.

50 The Capitol is presumed to have been an outpost of the Sabine settlement on the Quirinal; the Forum, the market-place for that settlement and the Latin town on the Palatine.

51 The "Sabine" branch, as opposed to the plebeian Claudii Marcelli.

52 The formality of a lex curiata was necessary, since Nero, by the death of his father, was sui iuris.

53 Cologne (Colonia Agrippinensis).

Thayer's Note: For the Roman history of Köln — Cologne is a name owed to French imperialism — see the page at Livius.

54 From the Hesse-Nassau district: the Vangiones and Nemetes lay on the west bank of the Rhine, their principal towns being the modern Worms and Spires.

55 The Höhe, now again Taunus, between the Rhine and Nidda. For the Roman fort there, see I.56.

56 See V.8 nn.

57 See II.63, with the notes, and, for a clear account of the whole situation, Mommsen, Prov. I.214 sqq.

58 Latissime patet Lugiorum nomen in pluris civitates diffusum (Germ. 43). They are, at any rate, to be placed N.E. of Vannius' kingdom, which may be roughly taken as at least the Czecho-Slovakian provinces of Bohemia and Moravia.

59 An emigrant branch (Ἰάζυγες μετανάσται) of the Iazyges on the Black Sea and Sea of Azov; now established in the plain between the Danube and Theiss, on the eastern frontier of Pannonia.

60 This confused account of British affairs from 47 A.D. to 58 A.D. gives rise to a number of problems, which cannot be discussed in short footnotes. Only a few points, useful for a composition of the narrative as it stands, are noticed.

61 Successor of A. Plautius (leader of the invasion of 43 A.D.), who is known to have returned to Rome for his ovation in 47 A.D.

62 With the emendation in the text — the only plausible attempt to cure the passage — the Trisantona must be taken as the Trent; for which, it must be owned, no evidence exists. The Τρισαντῶνος ποταμοῦ ἐκβολαί are, in fact, placed by Ptolemy (II.3.4) on the S. coast, W. of the Καινὸς λιμήν and the Κάντιον ἄκρον (N. Foreland). It is argued on the other side that river-names tend to repeat themselves, that "Trisantona" may perhaps be found in the Tarannon of Montgomeryshire, and that the "Trannonus" of Nennius, in the ninth century, is demonstrably the Trent.

63 In Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire.

64 The Corona civica (III.21 n.).

65 As pigs of lead have been unearthed in Cheshire and Staffordshire, inscribed Deceang or the like, it is presumed that the tribe occupied the lead district of Flintshire. Whether the name was Deceangi or Ceangi depends on the unanswerable question whether, in the inscriptions, de is a preposition or not. Ptolemy's Καιαγγανῶν ἄκρον (II.3.3) tells in favour of the second form.

66 A powerful tribe spread over the northern counties.

67 In S. Wales, Monmouth, and Hereford.

68 Perhaps at Gloucester. The permanent establishment of the second legion at Isca Silurum — Caerleon (= castra legionis) on Usk — appears to have taken place under Vespasian.

69 Colchester; formerly the capital of the Trinobantine king Cunobelinus ("Cymbeline"). The creation of the colony of veterans allowed the legions in Essex to be moved west.

70 Son of Cunobelinus. He had commanded against A. Plautius in 43 A.D., and had apparently taken refuge among the Silures.

71 In central and northern Wales.

72 An exceptional circumstance at Rome: see III.4 n.

73 The Numidian prince whose chequered career in the Second Punic War was closed by his defeat at Cirta. Scipio's triumph was in 201 B.C.: that Syphax appeared in it was asserted by Polybius, doubted by Livy (XXX.45).

74 The last Macedonian king; defeated at Pydna by L. Aemilius Paulus in 168 B.C., and exhibited in his triumph the following year.

75 By Tiberius in 8 B.C.: cf. II.26.

76 See chap. 15.

77 The reference in the Annals is lost, but see Hist. III.45.


Thayer's Note:

a Several of these boundary stones have been found; for the details, see the article Pomerium in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.


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