[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home

[image ALT: link to previous section]
XIII.1‑30

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals

of
Tacitus

published in Vol. V
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!


[image ALT: link to next section]
XIV.1‑28

(Vol. V) Tacitus
Annals

Book XIII (end)

p51 31 1 In the consulate of Nero, for the second time, and of Lucius Piso, little occurred that deserves remembrance, unless the chronicler is pleased to fill his rolls with panegyrics of the foundations and the beams1 on which the Caesar reared his vast amphitheatre2 in the Campus Martius; although, in accordance with the dignity of the Roman people, it has been held fitting to consign great events to the page of history and details such as these to the urban gazette. Still, the colonies of Capua and Nuceria were reinforced by a draft of veterans; the populace was given a gratuity of four hundred sesterces a head; and forty millions were paid into the treasury to keep the public credit stable. Also, the tax of four per cent on the purchase of slaves3 was remitted more in appearance than in effect: for, as payment p53was now required from the vendor, the buyers found the amount added as part of the price. The Caesar, too, issued an edict that no magistrate or procurator should, in the province for which he was responsible, exhibit a gladiatorial spectacle, a display of wild beasts, or any other entertainment. Previously, a subject community suffered as much from the spurious liberality as from the rapacity of its governors, screening as they did by corruption the offences they had committed in wantonness.

32 1 There was passed, also, a senatorial decree, punitive at once and precautionary, that, if a master had been assassinated by his own slaves, even those manumitted under his will, but remaining under the same roof, should suffer the penalty among the rest. The consular Lucius Varus, sentenced long before under charges of extortion, was restored to his rank. Pomponia Graecina,4 a woman of high family, married to Aulus Plautius — whose ovation after the British campaign I recorded earlier5 — and now arraigned for alien superstition,6 was left to the jurisdiction of her husband.7 Following the ancient custom, he held the inquiry, which was to determine the fate and fame of his wife, before a family council, and announced her innocent. Pomponia was a woman destined to long life and to continuous grief: for after Julia,8 the daughter of Drusus, had been done to death by the treachery of Messalina, she survived for forty years, dressed in perpetual mourning p55and lost in perpetual sorrow; and a constancy unpunished under the empire of Claudius became later a title to glory.

33 1 The same year saw many on their trial. Publius Celer, one of the number, indicted by the province of Asia, the Caesar could not absolve: he therefore held the case in abeyance until the defendant died of old age; for in his murder (already recorded)9 of the proconsul Silanus, Celer had to his credit a crime of sufficient magnitude to cover the rest of his delinquencies. A charge had been laid by the Cilicians against Cossutianus Capito,10 a questionable and repulsive character, who had assumed that the same chartered insolence which he had exhibited in the capital would be permitted in a province. Beaten, however, by the tenacity of the prosecution, he finally threw up his defence, and was sentenced under the law of extortion. On behalf of Eprius Marcellus,11 from whom the Lycians were claiming reparation, intrigue was so effective that a number of his accusers were penalized by exile, on the ground that they had endangered an innocent man.

34 1 With Nero a third time consul, Valerius Messala entered upon office as his colleague, his great-grandfather, the orator Corvinus, being remembered now by only a few of old men as associated in the same magistracy with the deified Augustus, grandfather of Nero in the third degree. The honour, however, of a noble family received some increment in a yearly subsidy of five hundred thousand sesterces, on which Messala might support an honest poverty. An annual stipend was also assigned by the emperor to Aurelius Cotta and Haterius Antoninus, though they had dissipated their family estates in profligacy. p57In the beginning of the year, the war between Parthia and Rome for the possession of Armenia, feebly begun, and till now carried on in dilatory fashion, was taken up with energy. For, on the one hand, Vologeses declined to allow his brother Tiridates to be debarred from the kingdom, which he had himself presented to him, or to hold it as the gift of an alien power; and, on the other, Corbulo considered it due to the majesty of the Roman nation to recover the old conquests of Lucullus and Pompey.12 In addition, the Armenians — whose allegiance was a matter of doubt — were invoking the arms of both powers; though by geographical position and affinity of manners they stood closer to the Parthians, were connected with them by inter-marriage, and, in their ignorance of liberty, were more inclined to accept servitude in that quarter.

3513 Still, Corbulo's main difficulty was rather to counteract the lethargy of his troops than to thwart the perfidy of his enemies. For the legions transferred from Syria showed, after the enervation of a long peace, pronounced reluctance to undergo the duties of a Roman camp. It was a well-known fact that his army included veterans who had never served on a picket or a watch, who viewed the rampart p59and fosse as novel and curious objects, and who owned neither helmets nor breastplates — polished and prosperous warriors, who had served their time in the towns. Accordingly, after discharging those incapacitated by age or ill-health, he applied for reinforcements. Levies were held in Galatia and Cappadocia, and a legion from Germany was added with its complement of auxiliary horse and foot. The entire army was kept under canvas,14 notwithstanding a winter of such severity that the ice-covered ground had to be dug up before it would receive tents. As a result of the bitter cold, many of the men had frost-bitten limbs, and a few died on sentinel-duty. The case was observed of a soldier, carrying a bundle of firewood, whose hands had frozen till they adhered to his load and dropped off from the stumps. Corbulo himself, lightly dressed and bare-headed, was continually among his troops, on the march or at their toils, offering his praise to the stalwart, his comfort his weak, his example to all. Then, owing to the rigours of the climate and the service, recalcitrancy and desertion grew common, and the cure was sought in severity. For, contrary to the rule in other armies, mercy did not attend first and second offences, but the man who had left the standards made immediate atonement with his life. That the treatment was salutary and an improvement on pity was proved by experience, the camp showing fewer cases of desertion than those in which pardons were the rule.

36 1 In the interval, until spring matured, Corbulo detained the legions in camp and distributed the auxiliary cohorts at suitable points, with orders not to risk a battle unattacked: the charge of these p61garrison-posts he entrusted to Paccius Orfitus, who had held the rank of leading centurion. Orfitus, though he had sent a written despatch that the barbarians were off their guard and an opportunity presented itself for a successful action, was ordered to keep within his lines and wait for larger forces. However, on the advent from the neighbouring forts of a few squadrons inexperienced enough to clamour for battle, he violated orders, engaged the enemy, and was routed. His reverse, in turn, so demoralized the troops which ought to have come to his rescue that they beat a hasty retreat to their various stations. The incident tried Corbulo's temper; and, after a sharp reprimand to Paccius, he, his prefects, and his men, were ordered to bivouac outside the rampart;15 and in that humiliating position they were kept, until released at the petition of the entire army.

37 1 But Tiridates — now supported, apart from his own vassals, by help from his brother Vologeses — began to harass Armenia, no longer by stealth but in open war, ravaging the communities which he considered loyal to ourselves, or, if force was brought against him, eluding contact and, as he flew hither and thither, disseminating a terror due more to rumour than to the sword. Corbulo, therefore, frustrated in his persevering quest for battle, and forced to imitate the enemy by carrying his arms from district to district, divided his strength, so that the legates and prefects might deliver a simultaneous attack at widely separate points: at the same time, he directed King Antiochus16 to march upon the prefectures adjoining him. For Pharasmanes, who had put his son Radamistus to death as a traitor, was now prosecuting his old feud against the Armenians p63with a readiness meant as evidence of his fidelity to ourselves; while the Moschi,17 most loyal of tribes to the Roman alliance, were now won over for the first time, and raided the less accessible parts of Armenia. The plans of Tiridates were thus being completely reversed, and he began to send legations, demanding, in his own name and that of Parthia, "why, after his late grant of hostages, and the renewal of a friendship meant to pave the way to further kindnesses, he was being evicted from his long-standing occupancy of Armenia. The only reason why Vologeses himself had as yet made no movement was that they both preferred to proceed by argument rather than force. But, if war was persisted in, the house of Arsaces would not be found wanting in the valour and fortune which had several times already been demonstrated by a Roman disaster." Corbulo, who had sure information that Vologeses was detained by the revolt of Hyrcania,18 rejoined by advising Tiridates to approach the emperor with a petition:— "A stable throne and a bloodless reign might fall to his lot, if he would renounce a dim and distant hope in order to pursue one which was within his grasp and preferable."

38 1 Then, as these messages and counter-messages were achieving nothing towards a definite peace, it was decided to fix the time and place for a personal interview. A guard of a thousand horsemen, Tiridates announced, would be present with himself: as to the forces of all arms, which might attend Corbulo, he made no stipulation, so long as they came divested of cuirasses and helmets, in the guise of peace. Any man whatever — and most of all, a veteran and far-sighted leader — was bound to p65fathom the barbarian ruse and to reflect that the motive for specifying a restricted number on one side, while offering a larger on the other, was to prepare an act of treachery; since, if unprotected flesh and blood were to be closed to a cavalry trained in the use of the bow, numerical strength would be of no avail. Feigning, however, to understand nothing, he replied that discussions of a national importance would be more fitly conducted in presence of the whole armies; and chose a site, one half of which consisted of gently sloping hills suited for lines of infantry, while the other spread out into a plain admitting the deployment of mounted squadrons. First in the field on the appointed day, Corbulo stationed on the flanks the allied infantry and the auxiliaries furnished by the king; in the centre, the sixth legion, with which he had embodied three thousand men of the third, summoned from another camp during the night: a solitary eagle produced on the spectator the impression of a single legion. The day was already declining when Tiridates took up his position at a distance from which he was more visible than audible: the Roman commander, therefore, without conference, ordered his troops to draw off to their various camps.

39 1 The king, either suspecting a ruse from the different directions in which our men were simultaneously moving, or hoping to cut off the supplies reaching us by way of the Euxine and the town of Trapezus, left in haste.19 Not only was he powerless, however, to molest the supplies, since they were convoyed over mountains occupied by our posts, but Corbulo, to avoid a protracted and fruitless campaign, and at the same time to reduce the p67Armenians to the defensive, prepared to demolish their fortresses. The strongest in that satrapy was known as Volandum,20 and he reserved it for himself: minor holds he left to the legionary commander Cornelius Flaccus and the camp-prefect21 Insteius Capito. Then, after inspecting the defences and making suitable provision for the assault, he urged the troops "to force from his lair this shifting enemy, disposed neither for peace nor for battle but confessing his perfidy and his cowardice by flight, and to strike equally for glory and for spoil." He next divided the army into four bodies. One, massed in the tortoise formation, he led to undermine the rampart, another he ordered to advance the ladders to the walls, while a strong party were to discharge brands and spears from the military engines. The slingers of each type22 were assigned a position from which to hurl their bullets at long range — the object being that, with danger threatening equally on all hands, pressure at one point should not be relieved by reinforcements from another. In the sequel, the army showed so much enthusiasm in action that before a third of the day was elapsed the walls had been cleared of defenders, the barricades in the gateways broken down, the fortifications taken by escalade, and the whole of the adult population put to the sword: all without the loss of one soldier, and with extremely few wounded. The mob of non-combatants was sold by auction; the rest of the spoils became the property of the victors. The legionary commander and the prefect enjoyed equal good fortune; and, with three forts carried by storm in one day, the rest capitulated, from panic, or, in some cases, by the voluntary act of the inhabitants. — All this p69inspired confidence for an attack upon the national capital of Artaxata. The legions, however, were not taken by the shortest road, since to use the bridge over the Araxes, which runs hard under the city walls, would have brought them within missile range: the crossing was effected at some distance, and by a wider ford.

40 1 But Tiridates, divided between shame and the fear that, if he acquiesced in the siege, he would give the impression of being powerless to prevent it — while, if he intervened, he might entangle himself and his mounted troops on impossible ground — determined finally to display his forces drawn up for battle; then, if a day offered, either to begin an engagement or by a simulated flight to seek the opportunity for some ruse of war. He therefore suddenly attacked the Roman column from all quarters, but without surprising our commander, who had arranged his army as much for battle as for the road. On the right flank marched the third legion, on the left the sixth, with a chosen contingent of the tenth23 in the centre: the baggage had been brought within the lines, and the rear was guarded by a thousand horse, whose instructions were to resist an attack at close quarters, but not to pursue, if it became a retreat. On the wings were the unmounted archers and the rest of the cavalry force, the left wing extending the further, along the foot of a range of hills, so that, if the enemy forced an entry, he could be met both in front and by an enveloping movement. On the other side, Tiridates launched desultory attacks, never advancing within javelin-cast, but alternately threatening action and simulating panic, in the hope of loosening the ranks p71and falling on them while separated. Then, as there was no rash break of cohesion, and the only result attained was that a decurion of cavalry, who advanced too boldly and was transfixed with a flight of arrows, had confirmed by his example the obedience of the rest, he drew off when darkness began to approach.

41 1 Pitching his camp on the spot, Corbulo resolved the problem whether he should leave the baggage, move straight upon Artaxata with the legions under cover of night, and invest the city, on which he presumed Tiridates to have retired. Later, when scouts came in with the news that the king's journey was a lengthy one, and that it was difficult to say whether his destination was Media or Albania, he waited for the dawn, but sent the light-armed troops in advance to draw a cordon round the walls in the interval and begin the attack from a distance. The townsmen, however, opened the gates voluntarily, and surrendered themselves and their property to the Romans. This promptitude ensured their personal safety; Artaxata itself was fired,24 demolished and razed to the ground; for in view of the extent of the walls it was impossible to hold it without a powerful garrison, and our numbers were not such that they could be divided between keeping a strong retaining force and conducting a campaign; while, if the place was to remain unscathed and unguarded, there was neither utility nor glory in the bare fact of its capture. In addition, there was a marvel, sent apparently by Heaven: up to Artaxata, the landscape glittered in the sunlight, yet suddenly the area encircled by the fortifications was so completely enveloped in a cloud of darkness and p73parted from the outside world by lightning flashes that the belief prevailed that it was being consigned to its doom by the hostile action of the gods.25 — for all this, Nero was hailed as Imperator,26 and in obedience to a senatorial decree, thanksgivings were held; statues and arches, and successive consulates were voted to the sovereign; and the days on which the victory was achieved, on which it was announced, on which the resolution concerning it was put, were to be included among the national festivals. There were more proposals in the same strain, so utterly extravagant that Gaius Cassius,27 who had agreed to the other honours, pointed out that, if gratitude, commensurate with the generosity of fortune, had to be shown to the gods, the whole year was too short for their thanksgivings, and for that reason a distinction ought to be made between holy days proper and working days on which men might worship Heaven without suspending the business of earth.

42 1 And now28 the hero of a chequered and stormy career, who had earned himself a multitude of hatreds, received his condemnation, though not without some detriment to the popularity of Seneca. This was Publius Suillius,29 the terrible and venal favourite of the Claudian reign, now less cast down by the change in the times than his enemies could wish, and more inclined to be counted a criminal than a suppliant. For the sake, it was believed, of crushing him, there had been revived an earlier decree of the senate,30 together with the penalties prescribed by the Cincian law against advocates who had p75pleaded for profit. Suillius himself spared neither complaints nor objurgations, using the freedom natural not only to his fierce temper but to his extreme age, and assailing Seneca as "the embittered enemy of the friends of Claudius, under whom he had suffered his well-earned exile.31 At the same time, since his only experience was of bookish studies and single-minded youths, he had a jaundiced eye for those who applied a living and unsophisticated eloquence to the defence of their fellow-citizens. He himself had been Germanicus' quaestor; Seneca, the adulterer under the prince's roof. To obtain as the voluntary gift of a litigant some reward for honourable service — was that an offence to be judged more harshly than the pollution of the couch of imperial princesses? By what branch of wisdom, by what rules of philosophy, had he acquired, within four years of royal favour, three hundred million sesterces?32 In Rome his nets were spread for the childless and their testaments: Italy and the provinces were sucked dry by his limitless usury.33 But he, Suillius, had his hard-earned and modest competence! He would suffer accusation, trial, everything, rather than stoop his old, home-made honour before this upstart success."

43 1 There was no lack of auditors to report his remarks, word for word or with changes for the worse, to Seneca. Accusers were discovered, and they laid their charges — that the provincials had been plundered during Suillius' government of Asia, and that there had been embezzlement of public money. Then, as the prosecution had obtained a year for inquiries, it seemed shorter to begin upon his delinquencies at home, witnesses to p77which were ready to hand. By these the venomous indictment which had driven Quintus Pomponius to the necessity of civil war;34 the hounding to death of Drusus' daughter Julia, and of Poppaea Sabina; the trapping of Valerius Asiaticus, of Lusius Saturninus, and of Cornelius Lupus; finally, the conviction of an army of Roman knights, and the whole tale of Claudius' cruelty, — were laid to the account of Suillius. In defence he urged that none of these acts had been undertaken voluntarily and that he had merely obeyed the sovereign; until the Caesar cut short his speech by stating that he had definite knowledge from his father's papers that he had compelled no prosecution of any person. Orders from Messalina were now alleged, and the defence began to totter:— "For why had none other been chosen to put his voice at the disposal of that homicidal wanton? Punishment must be measured out to these agents of atrocity, when, after handling the wages of crime, they imputed the crime to others." Hence, after the forfeiture of half his estate — for his son and granddaughter were allowed the other half, and a similar exemption was extended to the property they had derived from their mother's will or their grandmother's — he was banished to the Balearic Isles.35 Neither with his fate in the balance nor with his condemnation recorded did his spirit break; and it was asserted later that a life of luxury and abundance had made his seclusion not intolerable. When his son Nerullinus was attacked by the accusers, who relied on his father's unpopularity and on charges of extortion, the emperor interposed his veto, on the ground that vengeance was satisfied.

p79 44 1 Nearly at the same time, the plebeian tribune Octavius Sagitta, madly in love with a wedded woman called Pontia, purchased by immense gifts first the act of adultery, then her desertion of her husband. He promised marriage on his own part, and had secured a similar pledge on hers. Once free, however, the woman began to procrastinate, to plead the adverse wishes of her father, and, when hopes of a wealthier match presented themselves, to shuffle off her promise. Octavius, on the other side, now remonstrated, now threatened, appealing to the ruin of his reputation, to the exhaustion of his fortune, and finally placing his life, all that he could yet call his own, at her absolute disposal. As he was flouted, he asked for the consolation of one night, to allay his fever and enable him to control himself in future. The night was fixed, and Pontia entrusted the watch over her bedroom to a maid in their confidence. Octavius entered with one freedman, a dagger concealed in his dress. Love and anger now ran their usual course in upbraidings and entreaties, reproach and reparation; and a part of the night was set aside to passion; inflamed by which, as it seemed, he struck her through with his weapon, while she suspected nothing; drove off with a wound the maid who came running up, and broke out of the room. Next day, the murder was manifest, and the assassin not in doubt: for that he had been with her was demonstrated. None the less, the freedman asserted that the crime was his own; he had avenged, he said, the injuries of his patron; and so startling was this example of devotion that he had shaken the belief of some, when the maid's recovery from her wound enabled her to disclose the p81truth. Octavius, after laying down his tribunate, was arraigned before the consuls by the father of the victim, and sentenced by verdict of the senate and under the law of assassination.36

45 1 A no less striking instance of immorality proved in this year the beginning of grave public calamities. There was in the capital a certain Poppaea Sabina, daughter of Titus Ollius, though she had taken the name of her maternal grandfather, Poppaeus Sabinus,37 of distinguished memory, who, with the honours of his consulate and triumphal insignia, outshone her father: for Ollius had fallen a victim to his friendship with Sejanus before holding the major offices. She was a woman possessed of all advantages but a character. For her mother,38 after eclipsing the beauties of it her day, had endowed her alike with her fame and her looks: her wealth was adequate to the distinction of her birth. Her conversation was engaging, her wit not without point; she paraded modesty, and practised wantonness. In public she rarely appeared, and then with her face half-veiled, so as not quite to satiate the beholder, — or, possibly, because it so became her. She was never sparing of her reputation, and drew no distinctions between husbands and adulterers: vulnerable neither to her own nor to alien passion, where material advantage offered, thither she transferred her desires. Thus, whilst living in the wedded state with Rufrius Crispinus,39 a Roman knight by whom she had had a son, she was seduced by Otho,40 with his youth, his voluptuousness, and his p83reputed position as the most favoured of Nero's friends: nor was it long before adultery was supplemented by matrimony.41 46 1 Otho, possibly by an amorous indiscretion, began to praise the looks and the graces of his wife in presence of the emperor; or, possibly, his object was to inflame the sovereign's desire, and, by the additional bond of joint ownership in one woman, to reinforce his own influence. His voice was often heard, declaring, as he rose from the Caesar's table, that he at least must be returning to his wife — that to him had fallen that rank and beauty which the world desired and the fortunate enjoyed. In view of these and the like incitements, there was no tedious interval of delay; and Poppaea, admitted to the presence, proceeded to establish her ascendancy; at first, by cajolery and artifice, feigning that she was too weak to resist her passion and had been captured by Nero's beauty; then — as the emperor's love grew fervent — changing to haughtiness, and, if she was detained for more than a second night, insisting that she was a wife and could not renounce her married status, linked as she was to Otho by a mode of life which none could parallel:— "His was a true majesty of mind and garb; in him she contemplated the princely manner; while Nero, enchained by his menial paramour and the embraces of an Acte, had derived from that servile cohabitation no tincture of anything but the mean and the shabby." Otho was debarred from his usual intimacy with the sovereign; then from his levées and his suite: finally, to prevent his acting as Nero's rival in Rome, he was appointed to the province of Lusitania; where, till the outbreak of the civil war,42 he p85lived, not in the mode of his notorious past, but uprightly and without reproach, frivolous where his leisure was concerned, more self-controlled as regarded his official powers.

47 1 Henceforward Nero sought no veil for his debaucheries and crimes. He had a peculiar suspicion of Cornelius Sulla,43 whose natural slowness of wit he totally misunderstood, reading him as an astute character with a gift for simulation. His fears were deepened by the mendacity of Graptus, a Caesarian freedman, whom experience and age had familiarized with the household of the emperors from Tiberius downward. The Mulvian Bridge44 at that period was famous for its nocturnal attractions, and Nero was in the habit of frequenting it, so as to allow his extravagances a freer rein outside the city. Graptus accordingly invented the fiction that an ambuscade had been arranged for the prince in the event of his returning by the Flaminian Way; that it had been providentially avoided, as he had come back by the other route to the Gardens of Sallust; and that the author of the plot was Sulla — the foundation of the story being that, as chance would have it, a few rioters, in one of the juvenile escapades then so generally practised, had thrown the emperor's servants, on the road home, into a groundless panic. Neither a slave nor a client of Sulla's had been recognised; and his contemptible nature, incapable of daring in any form, was utterly incompatible with the charge: yet, precisely as though he had been proved guilty, he received orders to leave his country and confine himself within the walls of Massilia.

48 1 Under the same consuls, audience was p87given to deputations from Puteoli,45 despatched separately to the senate by the decurions46 and the populace, the former inveighing against the violence of the mob, the latter against the rapacity of the magistrates and of the leading citizens in general. Lest the quarrels, which had reached the point of stone-throwing and threats of arson, should end by provoking bloodshed under arms, Gaius Cassius was chosen to apply the remedy. As the disputants refused to tolerate his severity, the commission at his own request was transferred to the brothers Scribonius;47 and these were given a praetorian cohort, the terrors of which, together with a few executions, restored the town to concord.

49 1 I should not record a commonplace decree of the senate which authorized the town of Syracuse to exceed the numbers prescribed for gladiatorial exhibitions, had not Thrasea Paetus,48 by opposing it, presented his detractors with an opportunity for censuring his vote. "Why," it was demanded, "if he believed senatorial freedom a necessity to the state, did he fasten on such frivolities? Why not reserve his suasion or dissuasion for the themes of which war or peace, of finance and law, and for the other matters on which hinged the welfare of Rome? Every member, each time that he received the privilege of recording his opinion, was free to express what views he desired and to demand a debate. — Or was it the one desirable reform, that shows at Syracuse should not be too liberal? and were all things else in all departments of the empire as p89entirely admirable as if not Nero's, but Thrasea's hand, were at the helm? But if the highest questions were to be slurred over by ignoring their existence, how much more was it a duty not to touch irrelevances!" Thrasea, on the other side, as his friends pressed for his explanation, answered that it was not ignorance of existing conditions which made him amend decrees of this character, but he was paying members the compliment of making it clear that they would not dissemble their interest in great affairs when they could give attention even to the slightest.

50 1 In the same year, as a consequence of repeated demands from the public, which complained of the exactions of the revenue-farmers,49 Nero hesitated whether he ought not to decree the abolition of all indirect taxation and present the reform as the noblest of gifts to the human race.50 His impulse, however, after much preliminary praise of his magnanimity, was checked by his older advisers, who pointed out that the dissolution of the empire was certain if the revenues on which the state subsisted were to be curtailed:— "For, the moment the duties on imports were removed, the logical sequel would be a demand for the abrogation of the direct taxes. To a large extent, the collecting companies had been set up by consuls and plebeian tribunes while the liberty of the Roman nation was still in all its vigour: later modifications had only been introduced in order that the amount of income and the necessary expenditure should tally. At the same time, a check ought certainly to be placed on the cupidity of the collectors; otherwise a system which had been endured for p91years without a complaint might be brought into ill odour by new-fashioned harshnesses."

51 1 The emperor, therefore, issued an edict that the regulations with regard to each tax, hitherto kept secret, should be posted for public inspection. Claims once allowed to lapse were not to be revived after the expiry of a year; at Rome, the praetor — in the provinces, the propraetors or proconsuls — were to waive the usual order of trial in favour of actions against collectors; the soldiers were to retain their immunities except in the case of goods which they offered for sale: and there were other extremely fair rulings, which were observed for a time and then eluded. The annulment, however, of the "fortieth," "fiftieth,"51 and other irregular exactions, for which the publicans had invented titles, is still in force. In the provinces over sea, the transport of grain was made less expensive, and it was laid down that cargo-boats were not to be included in the assessment of a merchant's property nor treated as taxable.

52 1 Two defendants from the province of Africa, in which they had held proconsular power, were acquitted by the Caesar: Sulpicius Camerinus and Pompeius Silvanus. The opponents of Camerinus were private persons and not numerous, while the offences alleged were acts of cruelty rather than of embezzlement: around Silvanus had gathered a swarm of accusers, who were demanding time for the production of their witnesses. The defendant insisted on presenting his case at once, and carried his point, thanks to his wealth, his childlessness, and his advanced age, which he prolonged, however, beyond the lifetime of the fortune-hunters by whose intrigues he had escaped.

p93 53 1 Up to this period, quiet had prevailed in Germany, thanks to the temper of our commanders; who, now that triumphal emblems were staled, expected greater distinction from the maintenance of peace. The heads of the army at the time were Pompeius Paulinus and Lucius Vetus.52 Not to keep the troops inactive, however, the former finished the embankment for checking the inundations of the Rhine,53 begun sixty-three years earlier by Drusus; while Vetus prepared to connect the Moselle and the Arar54 by running a canal between the two; so that goods shipped by sea and then up the Rhone and Arar could make their way by the canal, and in due course into the ocean: a method which would remove the natural difficulties of the route and create a navigable highway between the shores of the West and North. The scheme was nullified by the jealousy of Aelius Gracilis, the governor of Belgica,55 who discouraged Vetus from introducing his legions into a province outside his competence and so courting popularity in Gaul, "a proceeding," he said, "which would awaken the misgivings of the emperor" — the usual veto upon honourable enterprise.

54 1 However, through the continuous inaction of the armies a rumour took rise that the legates had been divested of authority to lead them against an enemy. The Frisians56 accordingly moved their population to the Rhine bank; the able-bodied men by way of the forests and swamps, those not of military age by the Lakes.57 Here they settled in the clearings reserved for the use of the troops, the instigators being Verritus and Malorix, who exercised p95over the tribe such kingship as exists in Germany. They had already fixed their abodes and sown the fields, and were tilling the soil as if they had been born on it, when Dubius Avitus, — who had taken over the province from Paulinus, — by threatening them with the Roman arms unless they withdrew to their old district or obtained the grant of a new site from the emperor, forced Verritus and Malorix to undertake the task of presenting the petition. They left for Rome, where, in the interval of waiting for Nero, who had other cares to occupy him, they visited the usual places shown to barbarians, and among them the theatre of Pompey, where they were to contemplate the size of the population. There, to kill time (they had not sufficient knowledge to be amused by the play), they were putting questions as to the crowd seated in the auditorium — the distinctions between the orders — which were the knights? — where was the senate? — when they noticed a few men in foreign dress on the senatorial seats.58 They inquired who they were, and, on hearing that this was a compliment paid to the envoys of nations distinguished for their courage and for friendship to Rome, exclaimed that no people in the world ranked before Germans in arms or loyalty, went down, and took their seats among the Fathers. The action was taken in good part by the onlookers, as a trait of primitive impetuosity and generous rivalry. Nero presented both with the Roman citizenship, and instructed the Frisians to leave the district. As they ignored the order, compulsion was applied by the unexpected despatch of a body of auxiliary horse, which captured or killed the more obstinate of those who resisted.

p97 55 1 The same ground was then seized by the Ampsivarii,59 a more powerful clan, not only in numbers, but in consequence of the pity felt for them by the adjacent tribes, as they had been expelled by the Chauci, and were now a homeless people imploring an unmolested exile. They had also the advocacy of Boiocalus, as he was called, a celebrated personage among those clans, and at the same time loyal to ourselves:— "In the Cheruscan rebellion,"60 he reminded us, "he had been thrown into chains by order of Arminius; next, he had served under the leadership of Tiberius and Germanicus; and now he was crowning an obedience of fifty years by subjecting his people to our rule. Why should such an extent of clear ground lie waste, merely that on some distant day the flocks and herds of the soldiers could be brought over to it? By all means let them keep reservations for cattle in the midst of starving men, but not to the extent of choosing a desert and a solitude for neighbours in preference to friendly nations! Once on a time those fields had been held by the Chamavi; then by the Tubantes, and later by the Usipi. As heaven had been given to the gods, so had earth to the race of mortal men, and what lacked a tenant was common property." Then, raising his eyes to the sun and invoking the rest of the heavenly host, he demanded, as if face to face with them, "if they wished to look down on an empty earth. Sooner let them flood it with the sea and arrest these ravishers of the land!"

56 1 Avitus, who had been unmoved by the appeal, replied that all men had to bow to the commands of their betters: it had been decreed by those gods p99whom they implored that with the Roman people should rest the decision what to give and what to take away, and that they should brook no other judges than themselves." This was his answer to the Ampsivarii as a people: to Boiocalus he said that in memory of their friendship he would make him a grant of land. The offer was indignantly rejected by the German as the wage of treason:— "We may lack," he added, "a land to live in, but not one to die in." They parted, therefore, with bitterness on both sides. The Ampsivarii invited the Bructeri, the Tencteri, and still more remote tribes, to join them in war: Avitus wrote to Curtilius Mancia,61 the commander of the upper army, asking him to cross the Rhine and display his arms in the rear; he himself led his legions into the territory of the Tencteri, threatening them with annihilation unless they dissociated their cause from that of the confederates. They seceded accordingly; the same threat deterred the Bructeri; and as the rest also forsook a dangerous and alien cause, the Ampsivarian clan, thus left isolated, fell back to the Usipi and Tubantes. Expelled from their ground, they sought refuge with the Chatti, then with the Cherusci; and, after a long pilgrimage in which they were treated in turn as guests, as beggars, and as enemies, their younger men found death on a foreign soil, and those below fighting age were portioned out as booty.

57 1 In the same summer, a great battle was waged between the Hermunduri and Chatti, both attempting to appropriate by force a river which was at once a rich source for salt and the frontier line between the tribes.62 Apart from their passion for deciding all questions by the sword, they held an p101ingrained religious belief that this district was peculiarly close to heaven and that nowhere did the gods give more immediate audience to human prayer. Hence, by the divine favour, salt in that river and in these forests was not produced, as in other countries, by allowing water to evaporate in a pool left by the sea, but by pouring it on a blazing pile of trees, crystallization taking place throughout the union of two opposed elements, water and fire.63 The struggle, which went in favour of the Hermunduri, was the more disastrousº to the Chatti in that both sides consecrated, in the event of victory, the adverse host to Mars and Mercury;64 a vow implying the extermination of horses, men, and all objects whatsoever. The threats of the enemy thus recoiled upon himself. But the federate Ubian community65 was visited by an unlooked-for catastrophe. Fires, breaking from the ground,66 fastened on farm-houses, crops, and villages, in all quarters, and soon were sweeping towards the very walls of the recently founded67 colony. Nothing could extinguish them — neither falling rain nor running water nor moisture in any form — until a few rustics, powerless to devise a remedy and enraged by the havoc, started to throw stones from a distance. Then, as the flames became stationary, they went close up and attempted to scare them away like wild animals by striking them with clubs and thrashing them with other implements: finally, they stripped off their clothes and piled them on the fire, which they were the more likely to smother as they had been worn and soiled by common use.

p103 58 1 In the same year, the tree in the Comitium, known as the Ruminalis,68 which eight hundred and thirty years earlier had sheltered the infancy of Remus and Romulus, through the death of its boughs and the withering of its stem, reached a stage of decrepitude which was regarded as a portent, until it renewed its verdure in fresh shoots.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 A rather acid allusion to the interests of the elder Pliny. The "beam" which aroused his admiration — e larice, longa pedes CXX, bipedali crassitudine aequalis — is described at H.N. XVI.40.200, and no doubt received appropriate notice in his History. — For the "urban gazette," see III.3 n.

2 A wooden structure, erected in less than a year Suet. Ner. 12 init.).

3 Imposed by Augustus, fifty years earlier, to defray the expenses of his vigiles (XI.35 n.). The "remission" was purely formal, the tax being henceforward collected from the foreign dealer instead of the Roman purchaser.

4 Apparently a daughter of Ovid's friend, Pomponius Graecinus, and niece of Pomponius Flaccus (II.32, 4166; VI.27).

5 Under the year 47 A.D., therefore in the lost beginning of Book XI.

6 Christianity, as was first suggested by Lipsius; since whose day the catacombs have furnished inscriptions of Pomponii Bassi and a Pomponius Graecinus. The date of the trial would be approximately that of the Epistle to the Romans.

7 Her creed, as was often the case later, gave rise to a charge of immorality, on which she was tried and acquitted by the family council (cf. II.50 fin.), presided over by her husband.

8 See III.29, V.6 n.,º VI.27; and, for her family connection with the Pomponii, II.43 fin. Messalina's motives for removing her are uncertain; her agent was Suillius (chap. 43).

9 Chap. 1.

10 XI.6 n.

11 Ti. Clodius Eprius Marcellus, twice consul (suffectus) and proconsul of Asia from 70 to 73 A.D.; one of the most brilliant and venomous orators of the age. For his humble origins and enormous influence, see Dial. 8; for his indictment of Thrasea, XVI.22 sqq.; for his duels with Helvidius Priscus, Hist. IV.sqq.43, Dial. 5; for his implication in the conspiracy of Caecina Alienus and suicide, D. Cass. LXVI.16.

12 In the third Mithridatic War (74‑63 B.C.).

13 The notice of eastern affairs in chaps. 6‑9 closed in 55 A.D., some time after the arrival of Corbulo in Asia Minor. Now, under the annalistic year 58 A.D., the narrative is taken up and carried to the fall of Artaxata (chap. 41). Then, under the annalistic year 60 A.D., there is recorded in XIV.23 sqq. — the whole account should be read consecutively — the capture of Tigranocerta, with the events culminating in the induction of Tigranes into his kingdom and the withdrawal of Corbulo and the legions. The question obviously arises:— Where are the events of 59 A.D. related? In XIII.36 sqq. or XIV.23 sqq., or part in the former place, part in the latter? According to the answer, three methods of dating are possible:— Preparatory measures of Corbulo (XIII.35 Sed Corbuloni . . . peditatu cohortium): (a) (Mommsen) 55‑58 A.D.; (b) (Furneaux) 55‑57 A.D.; (c) (Egli, Henderson) 55‑57 A.D. Preliminary winter in Armenia (XIII.35 retentusque . . . ignoscebatur): (a) 58‑59 A.D.; (b) 57‑58 A.D.; (c) 57‑58 A.D.. Operations resulting in the fall of Artaxata: (a) 59 A.D.; (b) 58 A.D.; (c) 58 A.D. and the early summer of 59 A.D. March upon and fall of Tigranocerta: (a) 60 A.D.; (b) 59 A.D.; (c) late summer of 59 A.D. Other operations, arrival of Tigranes, withdrawal of Corbulo: (a), (b), (c) 60 A.D. — One of the systems must be right: all, as will be seen, are open to grave objections. In any case, the narrative of Tacitus — who had Corbulo's own memoirs to draw upon — is singularly unsatisfactory.

14 So far the chapter has dealt with the preliminaries of 55‑57/8 (58/9?) A.D. Now, without a word to mark the transition, the expeditionary force is found encamped in N. Armenia — probably on the Erzerum plateau — with its base at Trebizond (chap. 39 init.), and ready to move at the opening of the short campaigning season (June to September).

15 An ancient form of punishment (Polyb. VI.38). The scene of the incident is given by the MSS. of Frontinus (IV.1.21) as ad castellum Initia.

16 For Antiochus of Commagene, see chap. 7 n.; for the Armenian prefectures, XI.9 n.; for Pharasmanes and Radamistus, VI.32, XI.8, XII.44, XIII.6.

17 In the N.W. of Armenia, just south of the Pontic frontier. They are coupled by Herodotus (III.94) with the Tibareni, and a speculative identification is with the "Tubal and Meshech" of Ezekiel xxvii.13.

18 VI.36 n.

19 If both Artaxata and Tigranocerta are to be taken as captured in 59 A.D., then it has to be assumed that the first campaign closes here, and that discedit is separated from sed, not merely by a full stop, but by an unmentioned winter. There then arises the further necessity of making a similar intercalation somewhere in the course of XIV.23‑26.

20 Igdir, according to Henderson: in any case, south of the Araxes and west of Artaxata.

21 I.20 n. For Insteius, see chap. 9.

22 The precise difference between the libritores and funditores is not known.

23 Vexilla detached for special service, the main body staying in Syria.

24 If Artaxata fell in the early summer of 59 A.D., then this sentence bears its natural and indeed only possible meaning: Corbulo enters the town and destroys it immediately. Then (see XIV.23) he crosses Armenia diagonally in the intense heat and is in Tigranocerta by the autumn. If, on the other hand, it fell in the late summer, whether of 58 A.D. or 59 A.D., Corbulo evidently did not fire the town in order to winter among the ashes, and Furneaux and Mommsen have no option but to set aside the plain sense of the passage and refer Artaxatis ignis inmissus to the opening of the campaigning season in 59 or 60 A.D. respectively.

25 Egli's attempt to identify the "miracle" with the eclipse — not quite total — of 59 A.D. (XIV.12), which is known from Pliny to have been observed by Corbulo in Armenia (H.N. II.70.180), is invalidated by two circumstances: in the first place, whatever is here described, the description is not that of an eclipse; in the second, the eclipse itself occurred at a date (Apr. 30), when it would have been barely possible for the legions to have left Erzerum and totally impossible for them to have reached Artaxata.

26 By the victorious troops (II.18 n.).

27 XII.11 n.

28 The word deinde is by far the strongest argument for Furneaux' chronology: for, as he and Nipperdey insist, it is a definite statement that the impeachment of Suillius in 58 A.D. was subsequent to the debate in the senate with regard to the celebrations of the fall of Artaxata.

29 Half-brother, as it happened, of Corbulo (IV.31 n.).

30 XI.5‑7.

31 In the first year of Claudius, the charge being one of adultery with Germanicus' daughter Julia (XII.8 n., D. Cass. LX.8).

32 The question was asked by others than Suillius. Seneca's reply is the De vita beata: see, for instance, chaps. 17 sq., 22 sq.

33 By calling in a loan of 40,000,000 sesterces, he helped, according to Dio (LXII.2), to precipitate the British rebellion of 61 A.D.

34 See VI.18. Consul at the time of Caligula's assassination, he had narrowly escaped being despatched by the praetorians ὡς ἐπ᾽ ἐλευθερίαν τὴν σύγκλητον παρακαλῶν (Jos. A. J. XIX.4.5). Presumably this show of republicanism gave Suillius the handle for an accusation which forced him to join the stillborn revolt of Camillus Scribonianus (XII.52 n.). — For Julia, see chap. 32; for the elder Poppaea and Asiaticus, XI.1; for the Roman knights, Suet. Claud. 29 in CCC Amplius equites R. animadvertit. Saturninus and Lupus are mentioned, without details, among Claudius' friends and victims, by Seneca (Apocol. 13).

35 Majorca and Minorca.

36 The interest aroused by the case — of which there is an echo at Hist. IV.44 — is shown by the fact that Lucan wrote specimen speeches for the prosecution and defence (Hosius, p336).

37 IV.46 n.; VI.39.º

38 XI.2 n.

39 The former praetorian prefect (XI.1 etc.).

40 The future emperor: see chap. 12.

41 Two versions of the affair were in circulation. According to Suetonius, Plutarch, Dio, and at Hist. I.13, Tacitus himself, the intrigue with Poppaea begins earlier, and the nominal marriage with Otho is a screen for the liaison. The upshot is given in a contemporary epigram:— Cur Otho mentito sit quaeritis exul honore? | Vxoris moechus coeperat esse suae (Suet. Oth. 3).

42 From 58 to 68 A.D., when he set the example of joining Galba.

43 Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix, married to Claudius' daughter Antonia (XII.2): see XII.52 and XIV.57.

44 Two miles out of Rome on the northern (Flaminian) road.

45 Pozzuoli.

46 The town-senate; in Italy and the West, usually consisting of 100 members, necessarily citizens of the place and substantial property-owners.

47 Scribonius Rufus and Scribonius Proculus. Their death in 67 A.D. was one of the later scandals of Nero's reign (D. Cass. LXIII.17; cf. Hist. IV.41).

48 The principal Stoic martyr under Nero, as was his son-in‑law, Helvidius Priscus, under Vespasian. A native of Padua, he married a daughter of the famous pair Caecina Paetus and Arria, and for ten years was the philosopher and friend of his wife's kinsman Persius. The chief facts of his later life will be noticed in the following part of the Annals.

49 Companies of Roman knights (vectigalium societates below; societates equitum Romanorum, IV.6), farming the indirect taxes, notably the customs and harbour-dues (portoria). The direct taxes (tributa) were collected by government officials.

50 Since Italy, after 167 B.C., was exempt from direct taxation, one result of the gift to the human race would be to throw upon the provinces the financial burdens of the whole empire. On the other hand, there would be free trade within the Roman world. For the portoriaad valorem duties, varying in amount, upon all exports and imports — were levied not only on the frontiers of the empire but on those of each province or financial group of provinces, while there were in addition a multitude of local tolls to hamper commerce.

51 Percentages illegally charged by the companies — on what, is not known.

52 The date is 55 A.D., and the narrative is spread over three years. Paulinus — probably Seneca's father-in‑law — was in command of the Lower Army; L. Antistius Vetus (chap. 11 n.) of the Upper.

53 On the Gallic side, apparently at the vertex of the delta. It was destroyed later by Civilis (Hist. V.19).

54 The Saône.

55 The largest Gallic province; east of the Seine and Saône.

56 See XI.19.

57 Afterwards — between the eighth and thirteenth centuries — merged in the Zuyder Zee.

58 In the orchestra.

59 For the approximate position of this and the other tribes mentioned, see the map appended to vol. III.º

60 The revolt under Arminius, culminating in the destruction of Quintilius Varus with three legions in the forests of Westphalia (9 A.D.).

61 Shown by a passage of Phlegon (Περὶ θαυμ. 27) to have succeeded Antistius Vetus in 56 A.D.

62 As the Hermunduri were in Thuringia and Franconia, the Chatti in the Hesse-Nassau district, the river is plausibly identified with the Werra, still the boundary between Thuringia and Hesse and close to the salt-springs of Salzungen. Another candidate is the Franconia Saale. Naturally, neither stream is in itself a salt-spring.

63 In reality, of course, by evaporation, if the story — supported by Pliny — is to be taken seriously.

64 Tiu and Woden. — The vow of extirpation, a natural consequence of primitive belief, has many analogues, the most familiar being the Hebraic ḥêrem on persons and objects hostile to the theocracy, e.g. the anathema on Jericho (Josh. vi.17 sqq.) and on Amalek (1 Sam. xv.3 sqq.). The Gallic practice is noted by Caesar (B. G. VI.17).

65 Cologne.

66 Volcanic action is ruled out by the character of the country, and the passage seems to describe with embellishments a heath-fire on a large scale.

67 In 50 A.D. (XII.27).

68 The fig-tree under which the wolf suckled the twins. It migrated spontaneously — augurante Atto Naevio — from the Lupercal on the Palatine to the Comitium, opposite the senate-house (Plin. H.N. XV.18.77).


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 20 Oct 13