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XIV.40‑65

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,
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XV.33‑47

(Vol. V) Tacitus
Annals

Book XV (beginning)

p217 1 1 Meanwhile,1 the Parthian king Vologeses — apprized of Corbulo's feats and the elevation of the alien Tigranes to the throne of Armenia, and anxious furthermore to take steps to avenge the slur cast upon the majesty of the Arsacian line by the expulsion of his brother Tiridates — was drawn, on the other hand, to different lines of thought by considerations of Roman power and by respect for a long-standing treaty.2 For he was by nature prone to temporize, and he was hampered by a revolt of the powerful Hyrcanian tribe and by the numerous campaigns which it involved. He was still in doubt, when news of a fresh indignity stung him into action: for Tigranes, emerging from Armenia, had ravaged the bordering country of Adiabene too widely and too long for a plundering foray, and the grandees of the nations were becoming restive; complaining that they had sunk to a point of humiliation where they could be harried, not even by a Roman general, but by the temerity of a hostage whom for years the enemy had counted among his chattels. Their resentment was inflamed by Monobazus, the ruling prince of Adiabene:— "What protection," he kept demanding, "was he to seek? or from what quarter? Armenia had already been ceded; the adjacent country was following; and, if Parthia refused protection, then the Roman yoke pressed more lightly upon a surrendered than upon a conquered nation!" Tiridates p219too, dethroned and exiled, carried a weight increased by his silence or his restrained protests:— "Great empires were not conserved by inaction — they needed the conflict of men and arms. With princes might was the only right. To retain its own possessions was the virtue of a private family: in contending for those of others lay the glory of a king."

2 1 Vologeses, accordingly, moved by all this, convened a council, installed Tiridates next to himself, and opened thus:— "This prince, the issue of the same father as myself, having renounced to me the supreme title upon grounds of age, I placed him in possession of Armenia, the recognized third degree of power; for Media had already fallen to Pacorus.3 And it seemed to me that, in contrast with the old brotherly hatreds and jealousies, I had by fair means brought order to our domestic hearth. The Romans forbid; and the peace, which they have never themselves challenged with success, they are now again breaking to their destruction. I shall not deny it: equity and not bloodshed, reason and not arms, were the means by which I should have preferred to retain the acquisitions of my fathers. If I have erred by hesitancy, I shall make amends by valour. In any event, your power and fame are intact; and you have added to them that character for moderation which is not to be scorned by the most exalted of mankind and is taken into account by Heaven." — Therewith he bound the diadem on the brows of Tiridates. A body of cavalry, regularly in attendance on the king, was at hand: he transferred it to a noble named Monaeses, adding a number of Adiabenian auxiliaries, and commissioned him to eject Tigranes from Armenia; while he p221himself laid aside his quarrel with Hyrcania and called up his internal forces, with the full machinery of war, as a threat to the Roman provinces.

3 1 So soon as Corbulo had the news by sure messengers, he sent two legions under Verulanus Severus4 and Vettius Bolanus5 to reinforce Tigranes; with private instructions, however, that all their actions were to be circumspect rather than rapid; for in truth, he was more desirous to have war upon his hands than to wage it. Also he had written to Nero that a separate commander was required for the defence of Armenia: Syria, he observed, stood in the graver danger, if Vologeses attacked. In the interval, he stationed his remaining legion on the Euphrates bank, armed an improvised force of provincials, and closed the hostile avenues of approach by garrison-posts. Further, as the region is deficient in water, forts were thrown up to command the springs: a few brooks he buried under piles of sand.

4 1 While Corbulo was thus preparing for the defence of Syria, Monaeses, who had marched at full speed in order to outstrip the rumour of his coming, failed none the less to catch Tigranes unawares or off his guard. He had occupied Tigranocerta, a town formidable by the number of its defenders and the scale of its fortifications. In addition, a part of the walls is encircled by the Nicephorius,6 a river of respectable width; and a huge fosse had been drawn at points where the stream was not to be relied upon. Within lay Roman troops, and supplies to which attention had been p223given beforehand: that, in bringing them up, a few men had advanced too eagerly and been cut off by the sudden appearance of the enemy, had excited more anger than alarm in the remainder. But the Parthian lacks the boldness at close quarters demanded for the prosecution of a siege: he resorts to occasional flights of arrows, which both fail to terrify the garrison and delude himself. The Adiabeni,º on beginning to push forward their ladders and machines, were easily thrown back, then cut to pieces by a sally of our men.

5 1 Corbulo, however, favourably though matters were turning, decided not to press fortune too hard, and forwarded a protest to Vologeses:— "Violence had been offered to his province: siege was being laid to an allied and friendly monarch and to Roman cohorts. It would be better to raise the blockade, or he also would pitch his camp in hostile territory."7 The centurion Casperius, who had been selected for the mission, approached the king at Nisibis,8 a town thirty-seven miles distant from Tigranocerta, and delivered his message with spirit. With Vologeses it was an old and deep-seated principle to avoid the Roman arms; nor at the moment was the current of events too smooth. The siege had been fruitless; Tigranes was safe with his garrison and supplies; the force which had undertaken to storm the position had been routed; legions had been sent into Armenia, and more stood ready on the Syrian frontier to take the offensive by an invasion. His own cavalry, he reflected, was incapacitated by lack of fodder; for a swarm of locusts9 had made its appearance and destroyed every trace of grass or foliage. Hence, while keeping his fears in the background, he adopted p225a milder tone, and replied that he would send ambassadors to the Roman emperor to discuss his application for Armenia and the establishment of peace on a firm footing. Monaeses he ordered to abandon Tigranocerta, while he himself began his retirement.

6 1 By the majority of men these results were being acclaimed as a triumph due to the fears of the king and to Corbulo's threats. Others found the explanation in a private compact stipulating that, if hostilities were suspended on both sides and Vologeses withdrew, Tigranes would also make his exit from Armenia. "For why," it was asked, "should the Roman army have been withdrawn from Tigranocerta? Why abandon in peace what they had defended in war? Was it an advantage to have wintered10 upon the verge of Cappadocia in hastily erected hovels rather than in the capital of a kingdom which they had but lately saved? The fact was, the clash had been deferred, so that Vologeses might be pitted against another antagonist than Corbulo, and Corbulo risk no further the laurels earned in the course of so many years!" For, as I have related, he had demanded a separate general for the defence of Armenia, and it was heard that Caesennius Paetus11 was at hand. Before long he was on the spot, the forces being so divided that the fourth and twelfth legions, reinforced by the fifth, which had recently been called up from Moesia, and the auxiliaries of Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia, were placed at the orders of Paetus; the third, sixth, and tenth legions, and the old troops in Syria, remaining with Corbulo, while the rest were to be employed in conjunction or separately as the course of events should require. However, not only was p227Corbulo impatient of rivals, but Paetus, for whom it might have been glory enough to rank second to such a leader, treated his achievements with high disdain. "Bloodshed and booty," he kept repeating, "there had been none; to speak of the storming of cities was nothing but a form of words it remained for himself to impose on the conquered tributes, laws, and Roman jurisdiction in place of a phantom king."

7 1 Almost at the same time, the deputies of Vologeses, whose mission to the emperor I have already noticed, returned without result, and Parthia embarked upon undisguised war. Paetus did not evade the challenge, but with two legions — the fourth, at that time commanded by Funisulanus Vettonianus,12 and the twelfth, under Calavius Sabinus — entered Armenia under sinister auspices. For at the passage of the Euphrates,13 which the troops were crossing by a bridge, the horse carrying the consular insignia took fright for no obvious reason and escaped to the rear. A victim standing by in the winter camp,14 while it was being fortified, broke away, dashed through the half-completed works, and made its way of the entrenchments. Fire, too, played on the javelins of the troops — a prodigy the more striking that the Parthian is an enemy whose battles are decided by missiles.

8 1 Paetus, however, ignoring the portents, with his winter quarters still inadequately protected, and no provision made for his supply of grain, hurried the army across the Taurus range, with the avowed intention of recovering Tigranocerta and devastating the districts which Corbulo had left untouched. He took, in fact, a few fortified places, and gained a certain amount of glory and plunder, had he but accepted p229his glory with moderation or kept his plunder with vigilance. But, while he was overrunning in protracted marches districts impossible of retention, the grain he had captured was ruined, and winter began to threaten: he therefore led back the army, and, to give the impression that the war was now closed, indited a letter to the Caesar, as grandiloquently phrased as it was void of content.

9 1 In the meantime, Corbulo occupied the bank of the Euphrates,15 which he had never neglected, with a still closer line of posts; while, to ensure that the task of laying a pontoon should not be impeded by the mounted squadrons of the enemy — already an imposing spectacle, as they manoeuvred in the adjacent plains — he threw across the stream a number of large-sized vessels connected with planking and surmounted by turrets, and, using his catapults and ballistae, forced back the barbarians, the stones and spears being effective at a range with which the counter-discharge of arrows was unable to compete. The bridge was now complete, and the hills in front were occupied, first by the allied cohorts, then by a legionary camp, with a speed and a display of strength which induced the Parthians to drop their preparations for invading Syria and to stake their whole hopes upon Armenia; where Paetus, unconscious of the impending storm, was keeping the fifth legion sequestered in Pontus, and had weakened the rest16 by indiscriminate grants of furlough, till news came that Vologeses was on the march with a formidable and threatening array.

p231 10 1 The twelfth legion was called to the scene,17 and the measure by which he had hoped to advertise the increase in his forces revealed their inadequacy. Even so, he might still have held the camp and foiled the Parthian by a strategy of delay, had he possessed the strength of mind to stand either by his own decisions or by the decisions of another. As it was, no sooner had the professional soldiers given him courage to face an urgent crisis than he changed front, and, reluctant to seem dependent on outside advice, passed over to the opposite and more disadvantageous course. So now, leaving his winter quarters and clamouring that not moat or rampart but men and arms were the means assigned him for dealing with a foe, he led on his legions as if to contest a pitched field; then, after the loss of one centurion and a few soldiers whom he had sent ahead to inspect the enemy's force, he retraced his steps in trepidation. And as Vologeses had pressed the pursuit less keenly than he might, his inane self-confidence returned, and he posted three thousand picked infantry on the neighbouring heights of the Taurus, where they were to bar the passage of the king: the Pannonian squadrons, also, composing the flower of his cavalry, were stationed in a part of the plain. His wife and son found concealment in a fortress known as Arsamosata, to which he allowed a cohort by way of garrison; thus dispersing a force which, if concentrated, might have coped more effectively with its shifting adversary. Only with a struggle, it is said, could he be brought to admit the hostile pressure to Corbulo. Nor was there any haste on the part of Corbulo himself, who hoped that, if the dangers came to a head, the glory p233of a rescue would also be heightened. Still, he ordered a thousand men from each of the three legions, with eight hundred auxiliary horse, and a body of similar strength from the cohorts, to prepare themselves for the road.

11 1 Vologeses, on the other hand, though he had information that Paetus had beset the routes with infantry here and cavalry there, made no change in his plan, but by force and threats struck panic into the mounted squadrons and crushed the legionaries; of whom a solitary centurion, Tarquitius Crescens, had courage to defend the tower which he was garrisoning, repeating his sorties and cutting down the barbarians who ventured too close up, until he succumbed to showers of firebrands. The few infantrymen unhurt took their way to the distant wilds: the wounded made back for the camp, exulting in their fear the prowess of the king, the fierceness and numbers of the tribes, in one word everything, and finding easy belief among listeners agitated by the same alarms. Even the commander offered no resistance to adversity, but had abdicated all his military functions after sending a second petition to Corbulo:— "He must come quickly and save the eagles and standards, and the name which was all that was left of an unhappy army; they, meanwhile, would preserve their loyalty while life held out."

12 1 Corbulo, undismayed, left part of his forces in Syria to hold the forts erected on the Euphrates, and made his way by the shortest route not destitute of supplies to the district of Commagene,18 then to Cappadocia, and from Cappadocia to Armenia. Over and above the usual appurtenances of war, the p235army was accompanied by a large train of camels loaded with corn,º so that he had means of defence as well against hunger as the enemy. The first of the beaten army whom he met was the leading centurion Paccius,19 soon followed by a crowd of private soldiers, whose contradictory excuses for their flight he answered by advising them to return to their standards and test the mercy of Paetus:— "For his own part, he was implacable, except to conquerors." At the same time, he went up to his own legionaries, encouraged them, reminded them of their past, and pointed to fresh glory:— "Their goal was not the Armenian villages or towns, but a Roman camp and in it two legions as the reward of their labour. If the glorious wreath20 which commemorated the saving of a Roman life was conferred on the individual soldier by the hand of his emperor, how inestimable the meed of honour, when the rescued were seen to be in equal numbers with the rescuers!" Animated with a common alacrity by this appeal and others similar, the troops — some of whom, with brothers or relatives in danger, had incentives of their own to fire them — marched day and night at their best speed without a break.

13 1 With all the more vigour did Vologeses press the besieged, at one time threatening the legionary encampment, at another the fort which sheltered the non-combatants; venturing closer in than is usual with the Parthians, on the chance of luring the enemy to an engagement by his rashness. His opponents, however, could with difficulty be drawn from their quarters and confined themselves to defending the fortifications; some by command of the general, others from cowardice or a desire to p237wait for Corbulo, coupled with the reflection that, if the attack were pressed home, there were the precedents of the Caudine and Numantine disasters.21 "Nor, indeed," they argued, "had the Samnites, a tribe of provincial Italy, the strength of the Parthians who rivalled imperial Rome. Even the stout and lauded ancients, whenever fortune registered an adverse verdict, had taken thought for their lives!" Beaten though he was by the despondency in the ranks, the general's first letter to Vologeses was couched less in the terms of a petition than of a protest against his armed action on behalf of the Armenians, always under Roman suzerainty or subject to a king selected by the emperor. "Peace was an interest of both parties alike: the king must not look solely to the present — he had come up against a couple of legions with the full forces of his realm. Rome had the world in reserve, with which to support the war."

14 1 Vologeses wrote an evasive reply, to the effect that he must wait for his brothers, Pacorus and Tiridates:— "This was the date and place they had arranged for considering what was to be their decision with regard to Armenia: Heaven had added a task worthy of the Arsacian house — that of settling at the same time the fate of Roman legions." Messengers were then sent by Paetus, asking for an interview with the king, who ordered his cavalry-commander Vasaces to go. At the meeting, Paetus recalled the names of Lucullus and Pompey, and the various acts by which the Caesars had kept or given away the crown of Armenia; Vasaces, the fact that only a phantom power of retention or disposal rested with us — the reality was with Parthia. After p239much parleying on both sides, Monobazus of Adiabene was called in for the following day as witness to the arrangement concluded. The agreement was that the blockade of the legions should be raised, the whole of the troops withdrawn from Armenian territory, and the forts and supplies handed over to the Parthians. When all this had been consummated, Vologeses was to be accorded leave to send an embassy to Nero.

15 1 In the interval, Paetus threw a bridge over the river Arsanias (which ran hard past the camp), ostensibly to prepare himself a line of retreat in that direction, though the work had, in fact, been ordered by the Parthians as evidence of their victory: for it was they who utilized it — our men leaving by the opposite route. Rumour added that the legions had been passed under the yoke; and other particulars were given, harmonizing well enough with our unfortunate position, and indeed paralleled by the behaviour of the Armenians. For not only did they enter the fortifications before the Roman column left, but they lined the roads, identifying and dragging off slaves or sumpter-animals which had been captured long before: even clothing was snatched and weapons detained, our terrified troops offering no resistance, lest some pretext for hostilities should emerge. Vologeses, after piling up the arms and corpses of the slain to serve as evidence of our disaster, abstained from viewing the flight of the legions: he was laying up a character for moderation, now that his arrogance had been satisfied. Mounted on an elephant, he charged through the stream of the Arsanias, while his immediate attendants followed with an effort on horseback; p241for a rumour had gained currency that the bridge, by a ruse of the constructors, would succumb beneath its burden. Those, however, who ventured upon it found it substantial and trustworthy.

16 1 For the rest, it is established that the beleaguered forces were so well supplied with corn that they set fire to their granaries; while, on the other hand, Corbulo has put it on record22 that the Parthians were on the point of raising the siege through the scarcity of supplies and the dwindling of the forage, and that he himself was not more than three days' march distant. He adds that a sworn guarantee was given by Paetus, in face of the standards and in presence of witnesses deputed by the king, that not a Roman would enter Armenia until Nero's despatch came to hand intimating whether he assented to the peace. This version was doubtless composed to darken the disgrace, but to the rest of the tale no obscurity attaches:— that in one day Paetus covered a distance of forty miles,23 abandoning his wounded everywhere; and that the panic-stricken rush of fugitives was not less ugly than if they had turned their backs on a field of battle. Corbulo, who met them with his own force on the bank of the Euphrates, made no such display of ensigns and arms as to turn the contrast into a reproach: the rank and file, gloomy and affected by the lot of their brother-soldiers, could not so much as restrain their tears; the military salute could hardly be exchanged for weeping. All rivalry in valour and all competition for glory, emotions confined to the fortunate, had taken their leave: pity alone held sway — more particularly among the inferior ranks.

p243 17 1 Between the leaders followed a brief conversation, Corbulo complaining that his labour had been wasted — "the campaign might have been settled by a Parthian flight." Paetus replied that with each of them the position was quite uncompromised; they had only to turn the eagles round, join forces, and invade Armenia, now enfeebled by the withdrawal of Vologeses. Corbulo "had no orders to that effect from the emperor: only because he was moved by the danger of the legions had he left his province; and, as the Parthian designs were quite uncertain, he would make his way back to Syria. Even so, he must pray for fortune to be at her kindest, if his infantry, outworn by their long marches, were to come up with active cavalry, almost sure to outstrip him along level and easy ground." Paetus then took up his winter quarters in Cappadocia:24 Vologeses sent emissaries to Corbulo, proposing that he should withdraw his posts across the Euphrates and make the river as formerly a line of delimitation. The Roman demanded that Armenia should be similarly cleared of the various scattered garrisons. In the long run, the king gave way: Corbulo demolished his defensive works beyond the Euphrates, and the Armenians were left to their own devices.

18 1 But at Rome trophies over the Parthians and arches were being erected in the middle of the Capitoline Hill: they had been voted by the senate while the issue of the war was still open, and now they were not abandoned — appearances being consulted, though known truth had to be ignored. Moreover, to cloak his uneasiness as to the situation abroad, Nero had the grain for the populace — which had been spoilt by age — thrown into the Tiber, as proof that p245the corn-supply was not a matter for anxiety. The price was not raised, though some two hundred vessels actually in port25 had been destroyed by a raging tempest, and a hundred more, which had made their way up the Tiber, by a chance outbreak of fire. He proceeded to appoint three consulars, Lucius Piso, Ducenius Geminus, and Pompeius Paulinus, to supervise the contributions to the national treasury,26 adding a stricture on the previous emperors, "who with their ruinous expenditure had forestalled the legal revenue: personally, he was making the state a yearly present of sixty million sesterces."27

19 1 There was a perverse custom in vogue at that period for childless candidates, shortly before an election or an allotment of provinces, to procure themselves sons by fictitious acts of adoption,28 then, after obtaining in their quality of fathers a praetorship or governorship, to emancipate immediately the adopted persons. The consequence was that the authentic heads of families made an embittered appeal to the senate. They dwelt on the rights of nature — the anxieties entailed by rearing children — as against the calculated frauds and ephemeral character of adoption. "It was ample compensation for the childless that, almost without a care and quite without responsibilities, they should have influence, honours, anything and everything, ready to their hand. In their own case, the promises of the law, for which they had waited so long, were converted into a mockery, when some person who had known parenthood without anxiety and childlessness without bereavement could overtake in a moment p247the long-cherished hopes of genuine fathers." A senatorial decree was thereupon passed, ruling that a feigned adoption should not be a qualification for public office in any form, nor even a valid title for the acquiry of an inheritance.29

20 1 Now came the trial of the Cretan, Claudius Timarchus. The rest of the charges were those usual in the case of provincial magnates, whose excessive wealth prompts them to oppress their inferiors; but one remark of his had gone far enough to constitute an insult to the senate, as he was reported to have said more than once that it rested within his competency to determine whether the proconsuls who had been administering Crete should receive the thanks of the province. Turning the occasion to the profit of the state, Thrasea Paetus, after giving his opinion that the defendant should be exiled from Crete, proceeded:— "It has been proved by experience, Conscript Fathers, that in a community of honourable men excellent laws and salutary precedents may have their rise in the delinquencies of others. So, the licence of the advocates bore fruit in the Cincian rogation; the corruption of candidates, in the Julian laws; and the cupidity of officials, in the Calpurnian plebiscites;30 for, in the order of time, the fault must precede the chastisement, the reform follow the abuse. Let us, then, meet this new development of provincial arrogance by framing a decision consonant with Roman honour and firmness: a decision which, without detriment to the protection we owe to our allies, shall disabuse us of the idea that the reputation of a Roman may be settled elsewhere than in the judgement of his countrymen.

p249 21 1 "There was a day, indeed, when we sent not merely a praetor or a consul, but private citizens, to visit the provinces and report upon the loyalty of each; and nations awaited in trepidation the verdict of an individual. But now we court foreigners; we flatter them; and, as at the nod of one or other among them, there is decreed a vote of thanks, so — with more alacrity — is decreed an impeachment. And let it be decreed! Leave the provincials the right to advertise their power in that fashion; but see that these hollow compliments, elicited by the entreaties of the receiver, are repressed as sternly as knavery or cruelty. Often we go further astray while we oblige than while we offend.31 In fact, certain virtues are a ground for hatred — unbending strictness and a breast impregnable to favouritism. Hence, the early days of our officials are usually the best; the falling off is at the end, when we begin, like candidates, to cast about for votes; and if that practice is vetoed, the provinces will be governed with more steadiness and consistency. For as rapacity has been tamed by fear of a trial for extortion, so will canvassing for popularity be curbed by the prohibition of votes of thanks."

22 1 The proposal was greeted with loud assent: it proved impossible, however, to complete a decree, as the consuls declined to admit that there was a motion on the subject. Later, at the suggestion of the emperor, a rule was passed that no person should at a provincial diet propose the presentation in the senate of an address of thanks to a Caesarian or senatorial governor, and that no one should undertake the duties of such a deputation.

In the same consulate, the Gymnasium32 was struck p251by lightning and burned to the ground, a statue of Nero, which it contained, being melted into a shapeless piece of bronze. An earthquake also demolished to a large extent the populous Campanian town of Pompeii;33 and the debt of nature was paid by the Vestal Virgin Laelia, whose place was filled by the appointment of Cornelia, from the family of the Cossi.

23 1 In the consulate of Memmius Regulus34 and Verginius Rufus,35 Nero greeted a daughter, presented to him by Poppaea, with more than human joy, named the child Augusta, and bestowed the same title on Poppaea. The scene of her delivery was the colony of Antium, where the sovereign himself had seen the light. The senate had already commended the travail of Poppaea to the care of Heaven and formulated vows in the name of the state: they were now multiplied and paid. Public thanksgivings were added, and a Temple of Fertility was decreed, together with a contest on the model of the Actian festival;36 while golden effigies of the Two Fortunes37 were to be placed on the throne of Capitoline Jove, and, as the Julian race had its Circus Games at Bovillae,38 so at Antium should the Claudian and Domitian houses. But all was transitory, as the infant died in less than four months. Then fresh forms of adulation made their appearance, and she was voted the honour of deification, a place in the pulvinar,39 a temple, and a priest. The emperor, p253too, showed himself as incontinent in sorrow as in joy. It was noted that when the entire senate streamed towards Antium shortly after the birth, Thrasea, who was forbidden to attend, received the affront, prophetic of his impending slaughter, without emotion. Shortly afterwards, they say, came a remark of the Caesar, in which he boasted to Seneca that he was reconciled to Thrasea; and Seneca congratulated the Caesar: an incident which increased the fame, and the dangers, of those eminent men.

24 1 Meanwhile, at the beginning of spring, a Parthian legation brought a message from King Vologeses and a letter to the same purport:— "He was now dropping his earlier and often-vented claims to the possession of Armenia, since the gods, arbiters of the fate of nations however powerful, had transferred the ownership to Parthia, not without some humiliation to Rome. Only recently he had besieged Tigranes: a little later, when he might have crushed them, he had released Paetus and the legions with their lives. He had sufficiently demonstrated his power; he had also given an example of his clemency. Nor would Tiridates have declined to come to Rome and receive his diadem, were he not detained by the scruples attaching to his priesthood;40 he would visit the standards and the effigies of the emperor, there to inaugurate his reign in the presence of the legions."41

25 1 As this missive from Vologeses could not be reconciled with Paetus' report, which spoke of the situation as still uncompromised, the centurion who had arrived with the deputies was examined on the condition of Armenia, and replied that all Romans had left the country. The irony of the barbarians in p255asking for what had been taken was now obvious, and Nero held a council of state to decide the choice between a hazardous war and an ignominious peace. There was no hesitation about the verdict for war. Corbulo, familiar for years with his troops and his enemy, was put at the head of operations, lest there should be a fresh blunder from the incompetence of another substitute, seeing that Paetus had inspired complete disgust. The deputation was therefore sent back with its purpose unachieved, but with presents leaving room for hope that Tiridates would not make the same requests in vain, if he brought his suit in person. The administration of Syria was entrusted to Gaius Cestius, the military forces to Corbulo, with the addition of the fifteenth legion from Pannonia under the command of Marius Celsus.42 Instructions in writing were given to the tetrarchs43 and kings, the prefects and procurators, and the praetors in charge of the neighbouring provinces, to take their orders from Corbulo, whose powers were raised to nearly the same level as that allowed by the Roman nation to Pompey for the conduct of the Pirate War.44 When Paetus returned, with apprehensions of a graver cast, the Caesar contented himself with a jocular reprimand, the wording of which was roughly, that "he was pardoning him on the spot, lest a person with such a tendency to panic might fall ill if his suspense were protracted."

26 1 Meanwhile Corbulo, who regarded the fourth and twelfth legions as incapacitated for active service by the loss of their bravest men and the p257demoralization of the rest, transferred them to Syria; whence he took the sixth and third legions, fresh troops, seasoned by numerous and successful labours, and led them into Armenia. He reinforced them with the fifth, which through being stationed in Pontus had escaped the disaster; also with the men of the fifteenth, recently brought up, and picked detachments from Illyricum and Egypt; with the whole of the allied horse and foot; and with auxiliaries of the tributary princes, concentrated at Melitene, where he was making ready for the passage of the Euphrates. Then, after the usual lustration, he convoked the army for an address, and opened with a florid reference to the auspices of the emperor and his own exploits, the reverses being attributed to the incompetence of Paetus: all with a weight which in a professional soldier was a fair substitute for eloquence.

27 1 Soon, he took the road along which Lucius Lucullus had once penetrated,45 first clearing the parts which time had obstructed. On the arrival of envoys from Vologeses and Tiridates to discuss a peace, instead of rejecting their overtures, he sent back in their company a few centurions with instructions not unconciliatory in tone:— "For matters had not yet come to a pass where war to the bitter end was necessary. Rome had been favoured with many successes, Parthia with a few, so that both had received a lesson against arrogance. Not only, therefore, was it to the advantage of Tiridates to accept the free gift of a realm untouched by the ravager, but Vologeses would better consult the interest of the Parthian nation by an alliance with Rome than by a policy of reciprocal injury. He p259knew how many were the internal discords of his kingdom — how intractable and fierce the peoples over whom he ruled. In contrast, his own emperor enjoyed unshaken peace everywhere, and this was his solitary war." At the same time, he reinforced persuasion by terror, expelled from their homes the Armenian grandees who had been the first to rebel against us, and razed their strongholds, filling plain and mountain, strong and weak, with equal consternation.

28 1 The name of Corbulo was regarded by the barbarians themselves without bitterness and with no rancour of hostility: consequently they believed his advice to be trustworthy. Hence Vologeses, without showing himself inexorable on the main question, asked for a truce for certain prefectures:46 Tiber demanded a place and day for an interview. The date was to be early; for the place, the scene of the recent investment of Paetus and the legions was chosen by the barbarians in memory of their success there; and it was not avoided by Corbulo, who wished the contrast in fortune to enhance his fame. The slur upon Paetus gave him no qualms, as was very clearly shown by the fact that he ordered the defeated general's son, a tribune, to put himself at the head of a few maniples and bury the relics of the disastrous field. On the day fixed upon, Tiberius Alexander,47 a Roman knight of the first rank, who had been appointed a commissioner for the campaign, and Annius Vinicianus,48 a son-in‑law of Corbulo, still under senatorial age,49 p261and acting legate in command of the fifth legion, entered the camp of Tiridates, partly out of compliment to him, but also, by such a pledge, to remove all fear of treachery. On each side twenty mounted men were then taken into attendance. On descrying Corbulo, the king was the first to leap from his horse; Corbulo was not slow to follow, and the pair clasped hands on foot.

29 1 The Roman then praised the young monarch, who had rejected adventure and was choosing the safe and salutary course: the other, after a long preface on the nobility of his family, proceeded temperately:— "He would go," he said, "to Rome and carry the Caesar a new distinction — an Arsacid in the guise of a suppliant, though the fortunes of Parthia were unclouded." It was then arranged that Tiridates should lay the emblem of his royalty before the statue of the emperor, to resume it only from the hand of Nero; and the dialogue was closed by a kiss. Then, after a few days' interval, came in impressive pageant on both sides: on the one hand, cavalry ranged in squadrons and carrying their national decorations; on the other, columns of legionaries standing amid a glitter of eagles and standards and effigies of gods which gave the scene some resemblance to a temple: in the centre, the tribunal sustained a curule chair, and the chair a statue of Nero. To this Tiridates advanced, and, after the usual sacrifice of victims, lifted the diadem from his head and placed it at the feet of the image; arousing among all present a deep emotion increased by the picture of the slaughter or siege of Roman armies which was still imprinted on their eyes:— "But now the tide had turned: Tiridates was about to depart (how little less than a captive!) to be a gazing-stock to the nations!"

p263 30 1 To his glories Corbulo added courtesy and a banquet; and upon the inquiries of the king, whenever he observed some novelty — the announcement, for instance, by a centurion of the beginning of the watches; the dismissal of the company by bugle-note; the application of a torch to fire the altar raised in front of the general's pavilion — he so far exaggerated each point as to inspire him with admiration for our ancient customs. On the next day, Tiridates applied for a respite in which to visit his brothers and his mother before embarking on so long a journey: in the interval, he handed over his daughter as a hostage, together with a letter of petition to Nero.

31 1 On his departure, he found Pacorus in Media50 and Vologeses at Ecbatana51 — the latter not inattentive to his brother; for he had even requested Corbulo by special couriers that Tiridates should be exposed to none of the outward signs of vassalage, should not give up his sword,52 should not be debarred from embracing the provincial governors or be left to stand and wait at their doors, and in Rome should receive equal distinction with the consuls. Evidently, accustomed as he was to foreign pride, he lacked all knowledge of ourselves who prize the essentials of sovereignty and ignore his vanities.

32 1 In the same year, the Caesar placed the tribes of the Maritime Alps53 in possession of Latin privileges.54 To the Roman knights he assigned a place in the Circus in front of the popular seats — up to that date, the orders entered indiscriminately55 p265as the provisions of the Roscian law applied only to the "fourteen rows." The same year witnessed a number of gladiatorial shows, equal in magnificence to their predecessors, though more women of rank and senators disgraced themselves in the arena.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The narrative reverts to the end of XIV.26. The events recorded in the first seventeen chapters of this book, though given under the one annalistic year 62 A.D., extend from 61 to 63 A.D.

2 It had existed without a formal rupture since 20 B.C., the year of the restitution of the standards captured from contrary at Carrhae (53 B.C.).

3 His remaining brother, to whom had been assigned the Arsacian appanage of Media Atropatene (between Armenia and Media proper).

4 XIV.26.

5 Appointed legatus of Britain by Vitellius, and afterwards proconsul of Asia. Statius, whose Protrepticon ad Crispinum (Silv. V.2) is addressed to his son, does what must be ample justice to his services in Armenia (l.l. 31‑50).

6 The identification of the Nicephorius depends on that of the site of Tigranocerta. If the town is placed, with Sachau and others, at Tell Ermen to the south of Mt. Masius (et‑Tûr), which agrees with the data furnished by Tacitus and Strabo (522, 747), though not with those of Pliny (H. N. VI.27.129; ib. 9.26), the stream is the Zergan, which falls into the Khabûr, a tributary of the Euphrates. If, on the other hand, Tigranocerta is taken, as by Egli, to have occupied the position Sert, north of Mt. Masius and south-west of Lake Van, it stood on the Bitlis‑su.

7 By crossing the Euphrates and invading Mesopotamia.

8 In north-eastern Mesopotamia. The town — ἣν οἱ μὲν βάρβαροι Νίσιβιν [Syr. N'tsībhīn], οἱ δ᾽ Ἕλληνεςº Ἀντιόχειαν Μυγδονικὴν προσηγόρευον (Plut. Luc. 32) — was of high strategic importance from the time of Lucullus to that of John Zimisces, but is now reduced to a couple of hundred mud huts.

9 This is said to determine the month as June or July.

10 The arrangement with Vologeses had been reached late in the year, and the winter is that of 61‑62 A.D.; the comments are those of the spring or summer of 62 A.D.

11 The consul of 60 A.D. (XIV.29). Corbulo's request for a special commander, qui Armeniam defenderet was mentioned in chap. 3.

12 A couple of inscriptions show that he had an extraordinarily distinguished career under the Flavians: Calavius Sabinus is unknown.

13 He crosses from Cappadocia into Armenia, probably at Melitene (Malatia) and in the autumn, then marches south, across the Taurus range, in the direction of Tigranocerta.

14 It was being prepared in advance for the coming winter (62‑63 A.D.).

15 His position was doubtless at Zeugma, the usual point of passage, and his têtes de pont had the effect of keeping open the door for a Roman invasion of Mesopotamia, while closing it against a Parthian attempt on Syria. Vologeses, therefore, whose base was probably at Nisibis, changed his objective, turned north, and marched into Armenia to try conclusions with Caesennius Paetus in the short interval before winter arrived in earnest.

16 The fourth and twelfth, which are shown by the next sentence to have been quartered separately.

17 To join Paetus and the fourth legion at "Rhandeia" — The name is preserved by Dio (LXII.21) — on the north bank of the "Arsanias," which may safely be taken as the Murâd‑su. The exact site of the camp is naturally doubtful: probably it lay a little east of Kharput.

18 II.42 n.

19 Paccius Orfitus (XIII.36), now reduced to his old rank.

20 The "civic" crown (III.21 n.).

21 In 321 B.C. the Roman army was passed under the Samnite yoke at Caudium: in 137 B.C. the consul C. Hostilius Mancinus was disgracefully defeated by the Celtiberians of Numantia (at the confluence of the Duero and the Tera). In both cases, the terms of capitulation were repudiated at Rome.

22 In his memoirs, to which, in spite of the caveat below, it is probable that the portraits of Paetus and Corbulo owe rather too much of their light and shade.

23 The regulation day's march in summer was twenty miles, or, in exceptional cases, twenty-four; afterwards, quidquid addideris iam cursus est, cuius spatium non potest definiri (Veget. I.9).

24 By the dating followed in the notes, the reference here is to the winter already mentioned as impending (instante iam hieme) in chap. 8, and the whole of the events related from that point of the narrative to this must have taken place in the brief interval. The assumption has its difficulties, but that considerable military operations were feasible in the neighbourhood of Nisibis, when they had ceased to be so in that of Artaxata, is shown by Plut. Luc. 32.

25 Not exactly at Ostia, where no serviceable harbour was possible through silting due to the Tiber, but in the remarkable portus Claudii (later, portus Romae; now Porto), two miles to the north.

26 The expression seems to cover the whole revenues of the senatorial treasury.

27 Occasional grants to the aerarium from the fiscus are fairly often mentioned: see, for instance, XIII.31. Here the language points to a fixed annual contribution, as to which all details are lacking.

28 In order to circumvent the lex Papia Poppaea (9 A.D.), which gave priority to the father of a family over a childless competitor. See III.25‑28 and the instance in II.51.

29 Celibates were prohibited by the lex Papia Poppaea from entering upon any bequest except from a relative within a specified degree of nearness: married but childless legatees received half the amount bequeathed.

30 For the lex Cincia, see XI.5 n.; for the leges Iuliae of Augustus (the plural seems to be only rhetorical), Suet. Aug. 34. The lex Calpurnia de repetundis was passed in 149 B.C.

31 Furneaux instances the cases of Pilate, Herod Agrippa (Acts xii.2), Felix (xxiv.27), Festus (xxv.9).

32 XIV.47 n.

33 Seneca, writing shortly after the event, gives the date as Feb. 5, 63 A.D. (Regulo et Verginio consulibus, N. Q. VI.1).

34 Son or nephew of the more notable P. Memmius Regulus (V.11 n.).

35 The famous legatus of Upper Germany, who, after crushing the rising of Vindex, "imperium asseruit, non sibi sed patriae." Consul for the third time in 97 A.D.ut summum fastigium privati hominis impleret, cum principis noluisset, says the younger Pliny, once his ward — he was succeeded in the office by Tacitus, who pronounced his funeral panegyric.

36 Quinquennial games, athletic and musical, instituted by Augustus to commemorate his victory at Actium (Sept. 2, 31 B.C.), and celebrated at Nicopolis (II.53 n.). They ranked, like the four national festivals of Greece, as a ἱερὸς ἀγών.

37 The two Fortunae Antiates, regarded as sisters. Their cult, associated with an oracle, appears to have persisted till the time of Theodosius (Macrob. Sat. I.23).

38 II.41 n.

39 Her image was to rank with those of other divinities at lectisternia.

40 As a Magian he objected to crossing the sea, quoniam expuere in maria aliisque mortalium necessitatibus violare naturam eam fas non putant (Plin. H.N. XXX.2.16).

41 See chap. 29 below.

42 Probably son of the previous year's consul. He served first Galba, then Otho, with equal courage, ability and honour, and was allowed his consulate even by Vitellius (Hist. I‑II passim).

43 Vassal princes below the rank of the "kings" — for whom see XIII.7, XIV.6. The "prefects" are the commanders of cohortes and alae in the smaller provinces; the "procurators," the governors of Judaea and Cappadocia. The term "praetors" includes the governors of the more important provinces — not only the legati pro praetore of Cilicia, Lycia, Pamphylia and Galatia, but also the proconsul of Bithynia, a senatorial province administered by an ex-praetor.

44 In 67 B.C.

45 In his advance on Tigranocerta in 69 B.C. His route is only vaguely indicated in Plut. Luc. 24 fin.

46 XI.9 n.

47 Ti. Julius Alexander, nephew of Philo Judaeus, but a pagan; procurator of Judaea in 46 A.D., prefect of Egypt twenty-one years later; took the initiative in proclaiming Vespasian (July 1, 69 A.D.); lieutenant-general of Titus at the siegeº of Jerusalem. He is the "arabarches" — cuius ad effigium non tantum meiere fas est — of Juv. I.30, though the title in reality was borne by his father Alexander Lysimachus.

48 Sent later to Rome in attendance on Tiridates, and perhaps implicated in the obscure "Vinician conspiracy" at Beneventum (Suet. Ner. 36).

49 Twenty-five years. — A legatus legionis was necessarily a senator, usually an ex-praetor.

50 In his own kingdom: see chap. 2 n.

51 The summer residence of the Arsacids, in Greater Media; now Hamadan.

52 The national sabre — Medus acinaces. Tiridates contrived to retain it even in the presence of Nero, though he first gave security for ship intentions by nailing the blade to the scabbard (D. Cass. LXIII.2 fin.).

Thayer's Note: The article Acinaces in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities includes illustrations.

53 A diminutive procuratorial province, dating from 14 B.C. and lying north of Nice on each side of the Var.

54 A partial citizenship, which had ceased since the Social War to exist in Italy but was valued in the provinces as a stage towards the full franchise.

55 Claudius propria senatoribus constituit loca, promisce spectare solitis (Suet. Claud. 21; D. Cass. LX.7), and Nero now does as much for the knights: the lex Roscia (VI.3 n.) applied only to the theatre.


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