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III.56‑76

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals

of
Tacitus

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

The text is in the public domain.

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


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IV.23‑31

(Vol. IV) Tacitus
Annals

Book IV (beginning)

p3 1 1 The consulate of Gaius Asinius and Gaius Antistius was to Tiberius the ninth year of public order and of domestic felicity (for he counted the death of Germanicus among his blessings),1 when suddenly fortune disturbed the peace and he became either a tyrant himself or the source of power to the tyrannous. The starting-point and the cause were to be found in Aelius Sejanus, prefect of the praetorian cohorts. Of his influence I spoke above:2 now I shall unfold his origin, his character, and the crime by which he strove to seize on empire.

Born at Vulsinii3 to the Roman knight Seius Strabo,4 he became in early youth a follower of Gaius Caesar, grandson of the deified Augustus; not without a rumour that he had disposed of his virtue at a price to Apicius,5 a rich man and a prodigal. Before long, by his multifarious arts, he bound Tiberius fast: p5so much so that a man inscrutable to others became to Sejanus alone unguarded and unreserved; and the less by subtlety (in fact, he was beaten in the end by the selfsame arts) than by the anger of Heaven against that Roman realm for whose equal damnation he flourished and fell. He was a man hardy by constitution, fearless by temperament; skilled to conceal himself and to incriminate his neighbour; cringing at once and insolent; orderly and modest to outward view, at heart possessed by a towering ambition, which impelled him at whiles to lavishness and luxury, but oftener to industry and vigilance — qualities not less noxious when assumed for the winning of a throne.

2 1 The power of the prefectship, which had hitherto been moderate, he increased by massing the cohorts,6 dispersed through the capital,7 in one camp; in order that commands should reach them simultaneously, and that their numbers, their strength, and the sight of one another, might in themselves breed confidence and in others awe. His pretext was that scattered troops became unruly; that, when a sudden emergency called, help was more effective if the helpers were compact; and that there would be less laxity of conduct, if an encampment was created at a distance from the attractions of the city. Their quarters finished, he began little by little to insinuate himself into the affections of the private soldiers, approaching them and addressing them by name, while at the same time he selected personally their centurions and tribunes. Nor did he fail to hold before the senate the temptation of those offices and governorships with which he invested his satellites: for Tiberius, far from p7demurring, was complaisant enough to celebrate "the partner of his toils" not only in conversation but before the Fathers and the people, and to allow his effigies to be honoured, in theatre, in forum, and amid the eagles and altars of the legions.8

3 1 Still, the imperial house with its plentitude of Caesars9 — a son arrived at manhood, grandchildren at the years of discretion — gave his ambition pause: for to attack all at once by violence was hazardous, while treachery demanded an interval between crime and crime. He resolved, however, to take the more secret way, and to begin with Drusus, against whom he felt the stimulus of a recent anger; for Drusus, impatient of a rival, and quick-tempered to a fault, had in a casual altercation raised his hand against the favourite, and, upon a counter-demonstration, had struck him in the face. On exploring the possibilities, then, it appeared simplest to turn to the prince's wife Livia,10 sister of Germanicus, in her early days a harsh-favoured girl, later a sovereign beauty. In the part of a fiery lover, he seduced her to adultery: then, when the first infamy had been achieved — and a woman, who has parted with her virtue, will not refuse other demands — he moved her to dream of marriage, a partnership in the empire, and the murder of her husband. And she, the grand-niece of Augustus, the daughter-in‑law of Tiberius, the mother of Drusus' children, defiled herself, her ancestry, and her posterity, with a market-town adulterer, in order to change an honoured estate in the present for the expectation of a criminal and doubtful future. Eudemus, doctor and friend of Livia, was made privy to the danger, his profession supplying p9a pretext for repeated interviews. Sejanus, to forestall the suspicions of his mistress, closed his doors on Apicata, the wife who had borne him three children. Still the dimensions of the crime brought tremors, adjournments, and occasionally a division of counsels.

4 1 Meanwhile, in the beginning of the year, Drusus, one of Germanicus' children, assumed the garb of manhood; and the senate repeated the compliments which it had decreed to his brother Nero. The Caesar followed with a speech, comprising a large encomium on his own son, "who showed a fatherly benevolence towards the family of his brother." For Drusus, difficult as it is for power and concord to dwell together, had the reputation of being well-disposed, or at least not inimical, to the youths. Next, the old, oft-simulated project of an excursion to the provinces11 came up for discussion. The Emperor alleged the multitude of time-expired troops and the need of fresh conscriptions to maintain the armies at strength. For there was a dearth, he said, of volunteers; and, even when forthcoming, they failed to show the old courage and discipline, since it was too often the destitute and the vagrant who enlisted of their own accord. He ran rapidly over the number of the legions and the provinces beneath their guardianship: a theme which I hold it my own duty to pursue, in order that it may appear what were the Roman forces then under arms, who the kings in federation with the empire, and how narrow, comparatively, the limits of our dominion.12

5 1 Italy, on either seaboard, was protected by p11fleets at Misenum and Ravenna; the adjacent coast of Gaul by a squadron of fighting ships, captured by Augustus at the victory of Actium and sent with strong crews to the town of Forum Julium.13 Our main strength, however, lay on the Rhine — eight legions ready to cope indifferently with the German or the Gaul. The Spains, finally subdued not long before,14 were kept by three. Mauretania, by the national gift, had been transferred to King Juba.15 Two legions16 held down the remainder of Africa; a similar number, Egypt: then, from the Syrian marches right up to the Euphrates, four sufficed for the territories enclosed in that enormous reach of ground; while, on the borders, the Iberian, the Albanian,17 and other monarchs, were secured against alien power by the might of Rome. Thrace was held by Rhoemetalces and the sons of Cotys;18 the Danube bank by two legions in Pannonia and two in Moesia; two more being posted in Dalmatia, geographically to the rear of the other four, and within easy call, should Italy claim sudden assistance — though, in any case, the capital possessed a standing army of its own: three urban19 and nine praetorian cohorts, recruited in the main from Etruria and Umbria or p13Old Latium20 and the earlier Roman colonies.21 Again, at suitable points of the provinces, there were the federate warships, cavalry divisions and auxiliary cohorts in not much inferior strength: but to trace them was dubious, as they shifted from station to station, and, according to the exigency of the moment, increased in number or were occasionally diminished.

6 1 It will be opportune, I take it, as this year brought the opening stages of deterioration in the principate of Tiberius, to review in addition the other departments of state and the methods by which they were administered up to that period. First, then, public affairs — together with private affairs of exceptional moment — were treated in the senate,22 and discussion was free to the leading members, their lapses into subserviency being checked by the sovereign himself. In conferring offices, he took into view the nobility of a candidate's ancestry, the distinction of his military service, or the brilliance of his civil attainments, and left it sufficiently clear that no better choice had been available. The consulate had its old prestige; so had the praetorship: the powers even of the minor magistracies were exercised; and the laws, apart from the process in cases of treason, were in proper force. On the other hand, the cornº-tribute, the monies from indirect taxation, and other public revenues, were handled by companies of Roman knights. The imperial property23 was entrusted by Caesar to men of tested merit, at times to a personal stranger on the strength of his reputation; and his agents, p15once installed, were retained quite indefinitely, many growing grey in the service originally entered. The populace, it is true, was harassed by exorbitant food-prices, but in that point no blame attached to the emperor: he spared, indeed, neither expense nor pains in order to neutralize the effects of unfruitful soils or boisterous seas. He saw to it that the provinces were not disturbed by fresh impositions and that the incidence of the old was not aggravated by magisterial avarice or cruelty: corporal punishment and the forfeiture of estates were not in vogue. His demesnes in Italy were few, his establishment of slaves unassuming, his household limited to a small number of freedmen; and, in the event of a dispute between himself and a private citizen, the decision rested with a court of justice.

7 1 All of this, not gracefully indeed, but in his grim and often dreaded fashion, he nevertheless observed, until by the death of Drusus the whole was overthrown. For, while the prince survived, the old order remained; because Sejanus, yet in the infancy of his power, desired to win a name by good advice, and had still an avenger to dread — an avenger careless to conceal his hatred, and complaining perpetually that, "in the lifetime of the son, a stranger was styled coadjutor in the empire. And how short a step till the coadjutor was termed a colleague! The first designs upon a throne were beset with difficulty; but, the first step made, a faction and helpers were not far to seek. Already an encampment had risen at the fiat of the prefect, and the guards were delivered into his hand; his effigy was visible in the monuments of Gnaeus Pompeius;24 his grandsons would mingle the blood p17of the Drusi with his own.25 Henceforward they could only pray that he might be endowed with moderation, and rest content." — Views such as these he proclaimed neither on rare occasions nor to a few auditors; and, since the seduction of his wife, his very confidences were betrayed.

8 1 Sejanus, therefore, decided to lose no time, and chose a poison so gradual in its inroads as to counterfeit the progress of a natural ailment. It was administered to Drusus by help of the eunuch Lygdus, a fact brought to light eight years later. Tiberius, however, through all the days of his son's illness, either unalarmed or to advertise his firmness of mind, continued to visit the senate, doing so even after his death, while he was still unburied. The consuls were seated on the ordinary benches as a sign of mourning: he reminded them of their dignity and their place. The members broke into tears: he repressed their lamentation, and at the same time revived their spirits in a formal speech:— "He was not, indeed, unaware that he might be criticized for appearing before the eyes of the senate while his grief was still fresh. Mourners in general could hardly support the condolences of their own kindred — hardly tolerate the light of day. Nor were they to be condemned as weaklings; but personally he had sought a manlier consolation by taking the commonwealth to his heart." After deploring the extreme old age of his august mother, the still tender years of his grandsons, and his own declining days,26 he asked for Germanicus' sons,27 their sole comfort in the present affliction, to be introduced. The consuls went out, and, after reassuring the boys, brought them in and set them before the emperor. p19"Conscript Fathers," he said, "when these children lost their parent, I gave them to their uncle, and begged him, though he had issue of his own, to use them as if they were blood of his blood — to cherish them, build up their fortunes, form them after his own image and for the welfare of posterity. With Drusus gone, I turn my prayers to you; I conjure you in the sight of Heaven and of your country:— These are the great-grandchildren of Augustus, scions of a glorious ancestry; adopt them, train them, do your part — and do mine! Nero and Drusus, these shall be your father and your mother: it is the penalty of your birth that your good and your evil are the good and the evil of the commonwealth."

9 1 All this was listened to amid general tears, then with prayers for a happy issue; and, had he only set a limit to his speech, he must have left the minds of his hearers full of compassion for himself, and of pride: instead, by reverting to those vain and oft-derided themes, the restoration of the republic and his wish that the consuls or others would take the reins of government, he destroyed the credibility even of the true and honourable part of his statement. — The memorials decreed to Germanicus were repeated for Drusus, with large additions, which as sycophancy commonly favours at a second essay. The most arresting feature of the funeral was the parade of ancestral images, while Aeneas, author of the Julian line, with the whole dynasty of Alban kings, and Romulus, the founder of the city, followed by the Sabine nobles, by Attus Clausus,28 and by the rest of the Claudian effigies, filed in long procession past the spectator.

10 1 In recording the death of Drusus, I have given p21the version of the most numerous and trustworthy authorities; but I am reluctant to omit a contemporary rumour, so strong that it persists to‑day. It asserts that, after seducing Livia to crime, Sejanus, by an indecent connection, also attached to himself the eunuch Lygdus, whose years and looks had won him the affection of his master and a prominent place among his attendants; that later, when the conspirators had agreed upon a place and time for the mortal dose, he carried audacity to the point of altering the arrangements, and, giving private warning to Tiberius that Drusus meditated the poisoning of his father, counselled him to avoid the first draught offered to him when he dined with his son; that, falling into the trap, the old emperor, on taking his place at the banquet, accepted the cup and passed it to Drusus; and that when Drusus, in complete ignorance, drained it as a young man would, suspicion only grew the darker — the assumption being that, out of fear and shame, he was inflicting upon himself the doom invented for his father.

11 1 This commonly repeated account, apart from the fact that it is supported by no definite authority, may be summarily refuted. For what man of ordinary prudence, to say nothing of Tiberius with his training in great affairs, would force death upon a son whose defence was unheard — and force it by his own hand, with the door closed against any change of purpose? Why not, rather, torture the giver of the poison, search out the prompter behind him, proceed in short against an only son, never as yet found guilty of a crime, with that inveterate and scrupulous deliberation which he manifested even to strangers? But Sejanus was held the inventor p23of all villainies: therefore, as the Caesar loved him over-well and the rest of the world hated both, the most fabulous horrors found credence, rumour being never so lurid as when princes quit the scene. Moreover, the sequence of the crime was betrayed by Sejanus' wife Apicata,29 and disclosed in detail by Eudemus and Lygdus under torture; nor was there found one historian malevolent enough to lay it to the charge of Tiberius at a time when historians were collecting and aggravating all other circumstances. My own motive in chronicling and refuting the scandal has been to discredit by one striking instance the falsities of oral tradition, and to request those into whose hands my work may have fallen not too eagerly to accept a widely circulated and incredible tale in place of truth not corrupted into romance.

12 1 However, while Tiberius on the Rostra was pronouncing the panegyric upon his son, the senate and people, from hypocrisy more than impulse, assumed the attitude and accents of mourning, and exulted in secret that the house of Germanicus was beginning again to flourish. This incipient popularity, together with Agrippina's failure to hide her maternal hopes, hastened its destruction. For Sejanus, when he saw the death of Drusus passing unrevenged upon the murders, unlamented by the nation, grew bolder in crime, and, since his first venture had prospered, began to revolve ways and means of eliminating the children of Germanicus, whose succession was a thing undoubted. To distribute poison among the three was impossible; for their custodians were patterns of fidelity, Agrippina's chastity impenetrable. He proceeded,º therefore, to p25declaim against her contumacy, and, by playing upon Augusta's30 old animosity and Livia's recent sense of guilt, induced them to carry information to the Caesar that, proud of her fruitfulness and confident in the favour of the populace, she was turning a covetous eye to the throne. In addition, Livia,31 with the help of skilled calumniators — one of the chosen being Julius Postumus, intimate with her grandmother owing to his adulterous connection with Mutilia Prisca, and admirably suited to her own designs through Prisca's influence over Augusta — kept working for the total estrangement from her grandson's wife of an old woman, by nature anxious to maintain her power. Even Agrippina's nearest friends were suborned to infuriate her haughty temper by their pernicious gossip.

13 1 Meanwhile Tiberius had in no way relaxed his attention to public business, but, accepting work as a consolation, was dealing with judicial cases at Rome and petitions from the provinces. On his proposal, senatorial resolutions were passed to relieve the towns of Cibyra32 in Asia and Aegium33 in Achaia, both damaged by earthquake, by remitting their tribute for three years. Vibius Serenus,34 too, the proconsul of Further Spain,35 was condemned on a charge of public violence, and deported, as the result of his savage character, to the island of Amorgus.36 Carsidius Sacerdos, accused of supplying grain p27to a public enemy in the person of Tacfarinas, was acquitted; and the same charge failed against Gaius Gracchus. Gracchus had been taken in earliest infancy by his father Sempronius37 to share his banishment in the company of landless men, destitute of all liberal achievements; later, he eked out a livelihood by mean trading transactions in Africa and Sicily: yet even so he failed to escape the hazards reserved for rank and fortune. Indeed, had not Aelius Lamia38 and Lucius Apronius, former governors of Africa, come to the rescue of his innocence, he would have been swept to ruin by the fame of his calamitous house and the disasters of his father.

14 1 This year also brought delegations from two Greek communities, the Samians and Coans desiring the confirmation of an old right of asylum to the temples of Juno and Aesculapius respectively. The Samians appealed to a decree of the Amphictyonic Council, the principal tribunal for all questions in the period when the Greeks had already founded their city-states in Asia and were dominant upon the sea-coast. The Coans had equal antiquity on their side, and, in addition, a claim associated with the place itself: for they had sheltered Roman citizens in the temple of Aesculapius at a time when, by order of King Mithridates, they were being butchered in every island and town of Asia.39 Next, after various and generally ineffective complaints from the praetors, the Caesar at last brought up the question of the effrontery of the players:— "They were frequently the fomenters of sedition against the state and of debauchery in private houses; the p29old Oscan farce,40 the trivial delight of the crowd, had come to such a pitch of indecency and power that it needed the authority of the senate to check it." The players were then expelled from Italy.

15 1 The same year brought still another bereavement to the emperor, by removing one of the twin children of Drusus, and an equal affliction in the death of a friend. This was Lucilius Longus, his comrade in evil days and good, and the one member of the senate to share his isolation at Rhodes.41 Hence, in spite of his modest antecedents, a censorian funeral42 and a statue erected in the Forum of Augustus at the public expense were decreed to him by the Fathers, before whom, at that time, all questions were still dealt with; so much so, that Lucilius Capito, the procurator43 of Asia, was obliged, at the indictment of the province, to plead his cause before them, the emperor asserting forcibly that "any powers he had given to him extended merely to the slaves and revenues of the imperial domains; if he had usurped the governor's authority and used military force, it was a flouting of his orders: the provincials must be heard." The case was accordingly tried and the defendant condemned. In return for this act of retribution, as well as for the punishment meted out to Gaius Silanus44 the year before, the Asiatic cities decreed a temple to Tiberius, his mother, and the senate. Leave to build was granted, and Nero returned thanks on that score to the senate and his grandfather — a pleasing sensation to his listeners, whose memory of Germanicus was fresh enough to permit the fancy that his were the features they saw and the accents to which they listened. p31The youth had, in fact, a modesty and beauty worthy of a prince: endowments the more attractive from the peril of their owner, since the hatred of Sejanus for him was notorious.

16 1 Nearly at the same date, the Caesar spoke on the need of choosing a flamen of Jupiter,45 to replace the late Servius Maluginensis, and of also passing new legislation. "Three patricians," he pointed out, "children of parents wedded 'by cake and spelt,'46 were nominated simultaneously; and on one of them the selection fell. The system was old-fashioned, nor was there now as formerly the requisite supply of candidates, since the habit of marrying by the ancient ritual had been dropped, or was retained in few families." — Here he offered several explanations of the fact, the principal one being the indifference of both sexes, though there was also a deliberate avoidance of the difficulties of the ceremony itself. — ". . . and since both the man obtaining this priesthood and the woman passing into the marital control of a flamen were automatically withdrawn from paternal jurisdiction.47 Consequently, a remedy must be applied either by a senatorial resolution or by special law, precisely as Augustus had modified several relics of the rough old world to suit the needs of the present." It was decided, then, after a discussion of the religious points, that no change should be made in the constitution of the flamenship; but a law was carried, that the flamen's wife, though under her husband's tutelage in respect of her sacred duties, should otherwise stand upon the same legal footing as any ordinary woman. Maluginensis' son was elected in the room of his father; and to enhance the dignity of p33the priests and increase their readiness to perform the ritual of the various cults, two million sesterces were voted to the Virgin Cornelia, who was being appointed to succeed Scantia; while Augusta, whenever she entered the theatre, was to take her place among the seats reserved for the Vestals.

17 1 In the consulate of Cornelius Cethegus and Visellius Varro, the pontiffs and — after their example — the other priests, while offering the vows for the life of the emperor,48 went further and commended Nero and Drusus to the same divinities, not so much from affection for the princes as in that spirit of sycophancy, of which the absence or the excess is, in a corrupt society, equally hazardous. For Tiberius, never indulgent to the family of Germanicus, was now stung beyond endurance to find a pair of striplings placed on a level with his own declining years. He summoned the pontiffs, and asked if they had made this concession to the entreaties — or should he say the threats? — of Agrippina. The pontiffs, in spite of their denial, received only a slight reprimand (for a large number were either relatives of his own or prominent figures in the state); but in the senate, he gave warning that for the future no one was to excite to arrogance the impressionable minds of the youths by such precocious distinctions. The truth was that Sejanus was pressing him hard: — "The state," so ran his indictment, "was split into two halves, as if by civil war. There were men who proclaimed themselves of Agrippina's party: unless a stand was taken, there would be more; and the only cure for the growing disunion was to strike down one or two of the most active malcontents."

18 1 On this pretext he attacked Gaius Silius p35and Titius Sabinus. The friendship of Germanicus was fatal to both; but in the case of Silius there was the further point that, as he had commanded a great army for seven years,49 had earned the emblems of triumph in Germany, and was the victor of the war with Sacrovir, the greater ruin of his fall must spread a wider alarm among others. Many considered his offence to have been aggravated by his own indiscretion: he boasted too loudly that "his troops had stood loyal while others were rushing into mutiny; nor could Tiberius have retained the throne, if those legions too had caught the passion for revolution." Such claims, the Caesar thought, were destructive of his position, and left it inadequate to cope with such high deserts. For services are welcome exactly so long as it seems possible to requite them: when that stage is left far behind, the return is hatred instead of gratitude.

19 1 Silius had a wife, Sosia Galla, who by her affection for Agrippina had incurred the detestation of the emperor. On these two, it was decided, the blow should fall: Sabinus could be postponed awhile. Varro, the consul, was unleashed, and, under the pretext of continuing his father's feud,50 gratified the animosities of Sejanus at the price of his own degradation. The defendant asked a short adjournment till the prosecutor could lay down his consulate, but the Caesar opposed:— "It was quite usual for magistrates to take legal action against private citizens, nor must there be any infraction of the prerogatives of the consul, on whose vigilance it depended 'that the commonwealth should take no harm.' "51 It was a characteristic of Tiberius to shroud his latest discoveries in crime under the p37phrases of an older world. With scrupulous gravity, therefore, as though Silius were on trial before the law, as though Varro were a consul or that state of things a commonwealth, the Fathers were convened. With the defendant either holding his peace, or, if he essayed a defence, making no secret of the person under whose resentment he was sinking, the indictment was presented: Sacrovir long screened through complicity in his revolt, a victory besmirched by rapine, a wife the partner of his sins. Nor was there any doubt that, on the charges of extortion, the pair were inextricably involved; but the entire case was handled as an impeachment for treason, and Silius anticipated the impending condemnation by a voluntary end.

20 1 Nevertheless, no mercy was shown to his estate:52 not that any sums were to be refunded to the provincial tribute-payers, none of whom lodged a claim; but the bounty of Augustus was summarily deducted and the claims of the imperial exchequer calculated item by item: the first instance in which Tiberius had given so sharp an eye to property other than his own. Sosia was driven into exile on the motion of Asinius Gallus, who had proposed to confiscate one half of her estate, while leaving the other to her children. A counter-motion by Manius Lepidus53 assigned a quarter, which was legally necessary, to the accusers, and the residue to the family.

This Lepidus, I gather, was, for his period, a man of principle and intelligence: for the number of motions to which he gave a more equitable turn, in opposition to the cringing brutality of others, is very considerable. Nor yet did he lack discretion, p39since with Tiberius he stood uniformly high in influence and in favour: a circumstance which compels me to doubt whether, like all things else, the sympathies and antipathies of princes are governed in their incidence by fate and the star of our nativity, or whether our purposes count and we are free, between the extremes of bluff contumacy and repellent servility, to walk a straight road, clear of intrigues and perils. On the other side, Messalinus Cotta,54 with an equally distinguished lineage but a contrasted character, pressed for a senatorial decree ruling that magistrates, even if personally innocent and not aware of guilt in others, should be penalized for the misdeeds of their wives in the provinces precisely as for their own.

21 1 Next there was treated the case of Calpurnius Piso, a man of birth and courage: it was he who, as I have stated already,55 had exclaimed to the senate that he would retire from the capital as a protest against the cabals of the informers, and, contemptuous of the influence of Augusta, had dared to bring Urgulania before a court and to summon her from under the imperial roof. For the moment, Tiberius took the incidents in good part; but in his heart, brooding over its grounds for wrath, though the first transport of resentment might have died down, memory lived. It was Quintus Granius, who charged Piso with holding private conversations derogatory to majesty; and added that he kept poison at his house and wore a sword when entering the curia. The last count was allowed to drop as too atrocious to be true; on the others, which were freely accumulated, he was entered for trial, and was only saved from undergoing it by a well-timed death. p41The case, also, of the exiled Cassius Severus56 was brought up in the senate. Of sordid origin and mischievous life, but a powerful orator, he had made enemies on such a scale that by a verdict of the senate under oath he was relegated to Crete. There, by continuing his methods, he drew upon himself so many animosities, new or old, that he was now stripped of his estate, interdicted from fire and water, and sent to linger out his days on the rock of Seriphos.

22 1 About this time, the praetor Plautius Silvanus, for reasons not ascertained, flung his wife Apronia out of the window, and, when brought before the emperor by his father-in‑law, Lucius Apronius, gave an incoherent reply to the effect that he had himself been fast asleep and was therefore ignorant of the facts; his wife, he thought, must have committed suicide. Without any hesitation, Tiberius went straight to the house and examined the bedroom, in which traces were visible of resistance offered and force employed. He referred the case to the senate, and a judicial committee had been formed, when Silvanus' grandmother Urgulania sent her descendant a dagger. In view of Augusta's friendship with Urgulania, the action was considered as equivalent to a hint from the emperor: the accused, after a fruitless attempt with the weapon, arranged for his arteries to be opened. Shortly afterwards, his first wife Numantina, charged with procuring the insanity of her husband by spells and philtres, was adjudged innocent.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Gibbon's adaptation of the sentence to Constantine may be quoted:— "If he reckoned, among the favours of fortune, the death of his eldest son, of his nephew, and perhaps of his wife, he enjoyed an uninterrupted flow of private as well as public felicity, till the thirtieth year of his reign" (t. II.220 Bury).

2 I.24; III.72.

3 One of the Twelve Towns of Etruria, on the via Cassia: now Bolsena.

Thayer's Note: The identification is by no means certain. The Etruscan town of Velzna — transcribed by the Romans as Volsinii or Vulsinii — has not been located, and is said by some to be Orvieto; the modern Bolsena is Volsinii Novi, a town founded by the Romans to replace the older town. For the various possibilities, see the article Volsinii in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica (which plumps for Orvieto), and my note there.

4 See I.724. He had since been raised to the prefecture of Egypt (D. Cass. LVII.19), and the sole praetorian commandant was now his son, adopted, as his name shows, by an Aelius.

5 M. Gavius — 'Apicius' being a sobriquet derived from a kindred spirit of the preceding century (Ath. 168DE) — the most famous gourmet of antiquity and the patron saint of Roman cooks (Tert. Apol. 3). The well-known story of his suicide on reaching the starvation limit of £100,000 (velut in ultima fame victurus, si in sestertio centiens vixisset) is neatly told by Seneca (Ad Helv. 10). He is credited by a scholium on Juvenal with a monograph on gravies, but the plain cookery book styled Coelii Apicii de re coquinaria is later than Commodus.

6 Nine at this period, each under a tribune and comprising 1000 men with a complement of cavalry (cohortes miliariae equitatae). The long tale of their feats in the making and unmaking of Caesars begins with the elevation of Claudius (41 A.D.), and ends with their declaration for Maxentius (306 A.D.). Six years later, the corps, almost annihilated by Constantine on the Mulvian Bridge, was disbanded and its camp — close to the city on the east — destroyed.

7 Three — sine castris — in Rome, the rest in neighbouring towns (Suet. Aug. 49).

8 In the principia, the quasi-sacrosanct headquarters of a legionary camp: compare, for instance, I.39; Hist. III.1331.

9 The male members, apart from Tiberius himself, consisted of (a) Drusus (iuvenis filius); (b) the sons of Germanicus (Nero, Drusus, — nepotes adulti, — with the young Caligula, aged eleven); (c) the twin sons of Drusus (Tiberius Gemellus and Germanicus, some four years old).

10 Otherwise known as Livilla; grand-daughter of Augustus' sister Octavia and first cousin as well as wife to Drusus (see the stemmata, vol. III 240 seq.).º

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

11 See I.47; III.47; Suet. Tib. 38. The motives assigned are reasonable enough, as there might be trouble with the veterans over the discharges and gratuities, while conscription was only in the sharpest emergencies applied in Italy and was unpopular in the provinces.

12 Written, like II.61 fin., between the extension of the Empire to the Persian Gulf under Trajan (115 A.D.) and the retrocession under Hadrian two years later. The principal annexations since Augustus were:— Mauretania (40 A.D.), Britain (43 A.D.), Dacia (101‑106 A.D.), Arabia Petraea (105 A.D.), Armenia and Mesopotamia (114 A.D.).

13 Fréjus, a chef-lieu de canton in the département of Var; now, owing to the silting of the Argens, a mile from the coast.

14 By Agrippa in 19 B.C.

15 Son of Juba I of Numidia; taken to Rome after Thapsus and there educated; married to a daughter of Antony and Cleopatra; famous as a polymath, and repeatedly cited as such by writers like Pliny and Athenaeus.

16 One was usual, but owing to the war with Tacfarinas the Nona Hispana had been brought over from Pannonia (III.9).

17 Small kingdoms between the Caucasus and Armenia, Albania touching the Caspian, Iberia separated from the Black Sea by Colchis.

18 II.64‑67; III.38 sq.

19 Less distinguished than the praetorian cohorts, but numbered consecutively with them (X, XI, XII): a fourth served at Lyons (see III.41 and Hist. I.64, where Mommsen restored cohortem XIII for c. XVIII), and others were added later.

20 Towns possessed of 'Latin rights' before the extensions of the franchise at the close of the Social War (90‑89 B.C.).

21 Those in Italy proper — whence Otho's description of the guards as Italiae Alumni et Romana vere inventus (Hist. I.84). The limits mentioned were, however, soon overstepped, and ultimately, under Septimius Severus, recruiting for the cohorts was superseded by a system of promotion from the legions.

22 The emperor, that is to say, abstained from trying in camera the cases — usually political and affecting culprits of rank — which would normally come before the senate in its capacity of a high court of criminal judicature.

23 The reference of the sentence is to the fiscus — a term which in its familiar sense appears not to be older than Claudius — and the procurators.

24 The theatrum Magni in the Campus Martius, the first stone theatre in Rome, completed in 52 B.C., though opened three years earlier. For the statue, see III.72.

25 By the projected marriage of Sejanus' daughter to the son of Claudius (III.29 n.).

26 He was sixty-five; his mother eighty, if Dio's statement of her age at death is correct.

27 Only the two elder, Caligula being excluded as too young.

28 The Sabine name of Appius Claudius Sabinus Regillensis, consul, by the conventional chronology, in 495 B.C. and founder of the patrician gens Claudia: cf. XI.24; XII.25. His traditional history may be found in Livy (II.16; 21; 23, etc.).

29 In a written statement to Tiberius, drawn up after the fall of his husband and the execution of her children, and immediately before her own suicide (D. Cass. LVIII.11). As she had been divorced, ὥστε μηκέτι συνοικεῖν (D. Cass. l.l.), in the opening stages of Sejanus' intrigue with Livia, her disclosures must have been at second hand, and the direct evidence against the pair shrinks to the admissions extracted by torture from their slaves eight years after the event.

30 Livia Drusilla, wife first of Ti. Claudius Nero, then of Augustus; mother by the former of Tiberius and the elder Drusus. For her relationship to the younger Livia and Agrippina, see the genealogical table (vol. III p241);º for her feud with the latter, I.33 and II.43.

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

31 If haec is feminine, as assumed here after Ryck and others, then aviae is Augusta as grandmother in the strict sense of the term to Livia: if it is neuter (sc. efficiebat Seianus), then aviae is loosely used of Augusta's relationship to Agrippina, her husband's grandchild and grandson's wife.

32 Cibyra Magna, at the southern extremity of Phrygia Magna, a centre of the iron trade (Hor. Ep. I.6.32; Strab. 631).

33 Now Vostizza, on the Corinthian Gulf.

34 II.30; IV.28‑30.

35 Subdivided since 25 B.C. into Baetica and Lusitania. The former — a senatorial province — is here meant.

36 The lex Iulia de vi publica (8 B.C.) prohibited the scourging, torture, imprisonment or execution of a Roman citizen appealing to the Caesar, under pain of interdiction from fire and water (exile at choice in any island — with four exceptions — lying 50 miles from the mainland). Deportation to a specified place was, therefore, at this period an aggravation of the penalty: later it became normal.

37 I.53.

38 VI.27; Hor. Carm. I.26; III.17; Ep. I.14.6.

39 In 88 B.C. Sanctuaries, including at least one other of Aesculapius, were violated wholesale during the massacre (App. Mithr. 22 sq.).

40 Campanian amateur farces (fabulae Atellanae), with stock characters and a country-town setting; transplanted to Rome after the Hannibalian War, given a literary treatment later, and represented by professional actors. In vogue under the early empire as after-pieces (exodia), they were apt to be seasoned with very thinly disguised references to the foibles of the reigning emperor: e.g., the excesses of Tiberius at Capreae, Nero's matricide, Galba's avarice, Domitian's divorce (Suet. Tib. 45; Ner. 39; Galba, 13; Dom. 10).

41 From 6 B.C. to the death of Lucius Caesar in 2 A.D.

42 A state funeral (publicum funus), though the exact force of the adjective is in doubt.

43 Of the res privata of the emperor.

44 III.66 sqq.

45 III.58 n.

46 The chief of the three modes of marriage cum conventione in manum (the bride passing entirely from the jurisdiction of her father into that of her husband, to whom she stood henceforward in the legal position of daughter). The name comes from the cake of spelt (panis farreus) consumed or offered at the ceremony in presence of the pontifex maximus, the flamen Dialis, and at least ten witnesses.

47 A feature naturally regarded with disfavour by the parents.

48 On the third of January, the vota pro incolumitate rei publicae being on the first.

49 He appears as legatus pro praetore in Upper Germany in 14 A.D. (I.31), and his defeat of Sacrovir was in 21 A.D. (III.42 sqq.). For his triumphal insignia (15 A.D.) and the nature of that distinction, see I.72 n.

50 III.43 fin.

51 Tiberius employs the phrasing (viderent consules ne quid detrimenti res publica caperet) of the old senatus consultum ultimum — first used against C. Gracchus and later, for instance, against Catiline — investing the consuls with quasi-dictatorial powers for the duration of a crisis, and tantamount more or less to a proclamation of martial law.

52 As a rule — though one with exceptions — suicide before condemnation saved the estate (pretium festinandi, VI.29).

53 VI.4 n.

54 Son of the famous M. Valerius Messala Corvinus — magna Messalae lippa propago Pers. II.72. A patron of Ovid, and almost proverbial for his wealth and liberality (Juv. V.109; VII.95), he bears none the less a dubious character in the Annals (cf. II.32, and especially V.3 and VI.5).

55 II.34.

56 I.72 n.


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