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V (fragment)

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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VI.28‑51

(Vol. IV) Tacitus
Annals

Book VI (beginning)1

p147 V.6 . . . Forty-four speeches were delivered on the subject, a few dictated by alarm, the majority by the habit of adulation. . . .2

". . . I considered likely to result in my own disgrace or the odium of Sejanus. The tide has turned, and while he who designated the fallen as colleague3 and son-in‑law4 pronounces his own exculpation, the rest, who fawned upon him in their degradation, now persecute him in their villainy. Which is the more pitiful thing — to be arraigned for a friendship or to arraign the friend — I do not seek to determine. I shall experiment with the cruelty of none, the mercy of none: a free man, approved by my own conscience, I shall anticipate my danger. I conjure you to preserve my memory not more with sorrow than in joy, and to add me, p149one name more, to the roll of those who by a notable ending found an escape from public calamity."

V.7 He now spent part of the day in detaining or dismissing his visitors, as each was inclined to take his leave or to speak with him; and while the gathering was still thronged, while all eyes were fixed on his intrepid countenance, and the belief prevailed that some time remained before the last act, he fell on a sword which he had concealed in the fold of his dress. No accusation or calumny from the Caesar, who had laid many revolting charges against Blaesus,5 followed him to the grave.

V.8 Next, Publius Vitellius6 and Pomponius Secundus7 came under discussion. The first-named was accused by the informers of offering the keys of the treasury,8 of which he was prefect, together with the army fund, to the cause of revolution: against the latter the offence alleged by the ex-praetor Considius was his friendship with Aelius Gallus,9 who after the execution of Sejanus had taken shelter in Pomponius' garden as his surest resource. Their only help in the hour of danger was the firmness of their brothers, who came forward as securities. Later, as adjournment followed adjournment, Vitellius, anxious to be rid alike of hope and fear, asked for a pen-knife on the ground that he wished to write,a slightly incised an artery, and in the sickness of his heart made an end of life. On the other hand, Pomponius, a man of great refinement of character and shining talents,10 bore the reverses of fortune with equanimity and outlived Tiberius.

p151 V.9 It was then determined that the surviving children of Sejanus should pay the penalty, though the anger of the populace was nearly spent and the majority of men had been placated by their earlier executions. They were therefore carried to the dungeon, the boy conscious of the fate in store for him, the girl so completely ignorant that she asked repeatedly what her offence had been and to what place they were dragging her: she would do wrong no more, and she could be cautioned with the usual childish beating. It is recorded by authors of the period that, as it was considered an unheard-of thing for capital punishment to be inflicted on a virgin, she was violated by the executioner with the halter beside her: they were then strangled, and their young bodies thrown on to the Gemonian Stairs.11

V.10 Towards the same time, Asia and Achaia were thrown into panic by a rumour, more vigorous than durable, that Drusus,12 the son of Germanicus, had been seen in the Cyclades and, not long afterwards, on the continent. There was, in fact, a youth of not dissimilar age, whom a few of the emperor's freedmen had pretended to recognize. In pursuance of the plot, they acted as his escort, and ignorant recruits began to be drawn in, allured by the prestige of his name, aided by Greek avidity for the new and strange; for the tale they no sooner coined than credited was that he had escaped from watch and ward and was making for his father's armies with the intention of invading Egypt or Syria. Already a rallying-point for youthful volunteers and popular enthusiasm, he was flushed with actual success and groundless hope, when the affair came to the ear of Poppaeus Sabinus.13 He was now p153occupied in Macedonia, but responsible also for Achaia. Determined, therefore, to take the story — true or false — in time, he hastened past the bays of Torone and Thermae,14 left behind him the Aegean island of Euboea, Piraeus on the Attic sea-board, then the Corinthian coast and the narrow neck of the Isthmus, and made his way by the Ionian Sea into the Roman colony of Nicopolis.15 There at last he discovered that the adventurer, when questioned more skilfully as to his identity, had declared himself the son of Marcus Silanus;16 and that, as many of his adherents had slipped away, he had boarded a ship, bound ostensibly for Italy. Sabinus sent a written report to Tiberius, nor have I further information as to the origin or end of the incident.17

V.11 At the close of the year, the chronic disagreement between the consuls18 came to a head. For Trio, always ready to enter upon a quarrel, and versed in the methods of the courts, had indirectly censured Regulus for slowness in crushing the creatures of Sejanus: Regulus, tenacious of his self-control except under deliberate provocation, not merely parried his colleague's attack but proposed to call him to account for criminal complicity in the plot; and, in spite of entreaties from many members of the senate that they would lay aside an enmity bound to have a fatal issue, they maintained their hostile and threatening attitude till they went out of office.

VI.1 Gnaeus Domitius19 and Camillus Scribonianus20 had entered on their consulate, when the p155Caesar crossed the channel that flows between Capreae and Surrentum, and skirted the shores of Campania, in doubt whether to enter the capital or not, — or, possibly, affecting the intention of arrival because he had decided not to arrive. After landing frequently at neighbouring points and visiting the Gardens by the Tiber, he resorted once more to the rocks and the solitude of the sea, in shame at the sins and lusts whose uncontrollable fires had so inflamed him that, in the kingly style, he polluted with his lecheries the children of free-born parents. Nor were beauty and physical charm his only incitements to lasciviousness, but sometimes a boyish modesty and sometimes a noble lineage. And now were coined the names, hitherto unknown, of sellarii and spintriae,21 one drawn from the obscenity of a place, one from the versatility of the pathic; while slaves, commissioned to seek and fetch, plied the willing with gratuities, the reluctant with threats, and, if a kinsman or parent refused compliance, resorted to force, abduction, and the slaking of their own desires as if in a captured city.

2 1 But in Rome, at the opening of the year, as though the offences of Livia were crimes but recently detected, not crimes actually punished long before, stern measures were advocated even against her statues and her memory; while the estate of Sejanus was to be withdrawn from the treasury and confiscated to the imperial exchequer, as though a difference existed. The proposals were being supported with great earnestness, in identical or slightly varied terms, by men of the rank of Scipio, Cassius, and p157Silanus, when suddenly Togonius Gallus thrust his insignificance into the series of great names and was heard with derision. For he begged the emperor to choose a number of senators, twenty of whom, drawn by lot and carrying weapons, were to protect his safety whenever he had entered the curia. He had believed, forsooth, the Caesar's letter, when he demanded the support of one of the consuls, in order that he might make the journey from Capreae to Rome in safety. None the less, Tiberius, with his habit of blending jest and earnest, expressed his thanks for the good-will of the Fathers:— "But who could be passed over — who chosen? Were the chosen to be always the same, or with now and then a change? Men with their career behind them, or youths? Private individuals or officials? Finally, what sort of figure would his protectors make when assuming their swords on the threshold of the curia? Nor, indeed, did he hold his life to be worth the price, if it had to be shielded by arms." — This answer was studiously moderate in its references to Togonius, and avoided any suggestion beyond the deletion of the proposal.

3 1 On the other hand, Junius Gallio,22 who had moved that the Praetorians, on finishing their service, should acquire the right to a seat in the Fourteen Rows,23 drew down a fierce rebuke:— "What," demanded Tiberius, as if addressing him to his face, "had he to do with the soldiers, who had no right to take any but their master's orders or any but their master's rewards? He had certainly hit upon something not taken into consideration by the deified Augustus! Or was it a minion of Sejanus, fostering disaffection and sedition, in order by a p159nominal compliment to drive simple souls into a breach of discipline?" Such was the reward of Gallio's studied adulation: he was ejected at once from the senate; later from Italy; and, as the charge was made that he would carry his exile lightly, since he had chosen the famous and pleasant island of Lesbos, he was dragged back to the capital and detained under the roof of various magistrates. In the same letter, the Caesar, to the intense pleasure of the senate, struck at the former praetor Sextius Paconianus — fearless, mischievous, a searcher into all men's secrets, and the chosen helper of Sejanus in the laying of his plot against Gaius Caesar. On the announcement followed an explosion of long-cherished hatreds, and the last penalty was all but decreed, when he offered to turn informer.

4 1 However, when he began upon Latinius Latiaris, accuser and accused — impartially detested as they were — furnished the most grateful of spectacles. — Latiaris, as I have recorded,24 had formerly been the chief agent in entrapping Titius Sabinus; and he was now the first to make atonement.

In the midst of all this, Haterius Agrippa attacked the consuls of the year before:— "Why," he demanded, "after preferring their charges and counter-charges,25 were they silent now? The truth was that they were treating their fears and their consciousness of guilt as a bond of alliance; but the senate could not keep silence upon the statements to which it had listened." Regulus answered that he was awaiting the proper time for his vengeance, and would pursue his case in the presence of the emperor; Trio, that this rivalry between colleagues, together with any words they might have let fall during the p161feud, would be better blotted from memory. As Agrippa urged the point, the consular Sanquinius Maximus begged the members not to augment the cares of the emperor by raking up fresh vexations: he was competent to prescribe a remedy by himself. To Regulus this brought salvation; to Trio, a respite from doom:26 Haterius was detested all the more, because, enervated by sleep or wakeful hours of lust, and so lethargic as to have no fear of the emperor however great his cruelty, he yet amid his gluttony and lecheries could plot the ruin of the famous.

5 1 Next Cotta Messalinus, father of every barbarous proposal and therefore the object of inveterate dislike, found himself, on the first available occasion, indicted for hinting repeatedly that the sex of Gaius Caesar was an open question;27 for dining with the priests on Augusta's birthday and describing the function as a wake;28 for adding, when he was complaining of the influence of Manius Lepidus and Lucius Arruntius,29 his opponents in a money dispute:— "The senate will side with them, but my pretty little Tiberius with me." The whole of the charges were proved against him by men of the highest position; and, as they pressed their case, he appealed to the emperor. Before long came a letter; in which Tiberius, by way of defence, harked back to the origin of the friendship between himself and Cotta, commemorated his many services, and desired p163that mischievously perverted phrases and the frankness of table-talk should not be turned into evidence of guilt.

6 1 The beginning of this letter from the Caesar was considered notable; for he opened with the following words:— If I know what to write to you, Conscript Fathers, or how to write it, or what not to write at all at this time, may gods and goddesses destroy me more wretchedly than I feel myself to be perishing every day! So surely had his crimes and his infamies turned to the torment even of himself; nor was it in vain that the first of sages30 was accustomed to affirm that, could the souls of tyrants be laid open, lacerations and wounds would meet the view; since, as the body is torn by the lash, so is the spirit of man by cruelty and lust and evil purposes. For not his station nor his solitudes could save Tiberius from himself confessing the rack within his breast and his own punishments.

7 1 The Fathers were then empowered to decide upon the case of Gaius Caecilianus, a senator who had produced most of the evidence against Cotta; and it was agreed that the same penalty should be inflicted as on Aruseius and Sanquinius, the accusers of Lucius Arruntius.31 It was the most signal compliment that ever fell to the share of Cotta; who, noble undoubtedly, but beggared by his prodigality and degraded by his vices, was now honoured with a vengeance that placed him on a level with the spotless character of Arruntius.

Next, Quintus Servaeus and Minucius Thermus were brought to judgement — Servaeus, an ex-praetor formerly included in Germanicus' suite;32 Minucius, of equestrian rank. Each had refrained p165from abusing his friendship with Sejanus; a fact which gained them peculiar sympathy. Tiberius, on the other hand, denouncing them as ringleaders in crime, instructed the elder Gaius Cestius to repeat to the senate what he had written to himself; and Cestius duly undertook the prosecution. It was, indeed, the most deadly blight of the age that prominent senators practised even the basest forms of delation, some with perfect openness, and many in private. Nor could any distinction be traced between alien and relative, between friend and stranger, between the events of to‑day and those of the dim past. Alike in the Forum or at a dinner-party, to speak of any subject was to be accused: for every man was hastening to be first in the field and to mark down his victim, occasionally in self-defence, generally through infection with what seemed a contagious disease. However, Minucius and Servaeus, on being found guilty, joined the informers; and the same ruin involved Julius Africanus, from the Gallic community of the Santones,33 and Seius Quadratus, whose antecedents I have not discovered. — Nor am I unaware that the perils and penalties of many are passed over by a number of historians; who either lose heart from the abundance of their materials or apprehend that a list which they themselves found long and depressing may produce equal disgust in their readers. For my own part, much has come my way that deserves a record, even though unchronicled by others.

8 1 For instance, at the very period when all others had falsely disclaimed the friendship of Sejanus, the Roman knight Marcus Terentius,34 accused on that score, dared to embrace p167the accusation:— "In my plight," so ran his exordium in the senate, "it may perhaps be less profitable to avow than to deny the charge; but, however the event is to fall, I shall confess that not only was I the friend of Sejanus, but that I strove for his friendship, and that, when I attained it, I rejoiced. I had seen him the colleague of his father in command of the praetorian cohorts; and, later, discharging civil duties as well as military. His relatives by blood and marriage were honoured with offices; the closer a man's intimacy with Sejanus, the stronger his claim to the emperor's friendship; while, in contrast, danger and the garb of supplication were the troubled lot of his enemies. I take no man for my text: all who, like myself, were without part in his ultimate design, I shall defend at my own risk only. For we courted, not Sejanus of Vulsinii, but the member of those Claudian and Julian houses35 into which his alliances had won him entry; your son-in‑law, Caesar; the partner of your consulate; the agent who discharged your functions in the state. It is not ours to ask whom you exalt above his fellow, or why: you the gods have made the sovereign arbiter of things; to us has been left the glory of obedience. Moreover, we see only what is laid before our eyes, — the person who holds wealth and dignities from you, — those who have the greatest power to help or to injure, — and that Sejanus had all, no man will deny! To search out the hidden thoughts of the emperor and the designs he may shape in secret, is unlawful and is dangerous: nor would the searcher necessarily find. Conscript Fathers, think not of the last day of Sejanus, but of the sixteen years of Sejanus! We venerated even p169Satrius36 and Pomponius; it was accounted nobly done, if we grew known to his very freedmen and his janitors! What then? Is this defence to be allowed without discrimination to all and sundry? Not so: let the dividing line be drawn true; let treason against the realm, projected assassination of the sovereign, meet their punishment; but, when friendship and its duties are in question, if we terminate them at the same moment as you, we are vindicated, Caesar, along with yourself!"

9 1 The firmness of this speech, and the fact that a man had been discovered to utter what the world was thinking, made so powerful an impression that his accusers, whose former delinquencies were added to the reckoning, were penalized by banishment or death.

Now followed a letter from Tiberius directed against the former praetor Sextus Vistilius, whom, as the close friend of his brother Drusus, he had transferred to his own retinue. The ground of displeasure against Vistilius was either his authorship of certain attacks on the morals of Gaius Caesar or a false statement credited by the emperor. Excluded on this score from the emperor's society, after first making trial of the dagger with a senile hand, he bound up his veins, then sent a written plea for pardon, and, on receiving a pitiless reply, opened them again. Next, in one group, Annius Pollio and Appius Silanus were indicted for treason side by side with Mamercus Scaurus and Calvisius Sabinus, while Vinicianus was coupled with his father Pollio. All were of distinguished family, some of the highest official standing; and the Fathers had begun to tremble — for how few were clear of a p171connection by marriage or by friendship with so many famous men! — when Celsus, tribune of an urban cohort, and now among the prosecutors, freed Appius and Calvisius from danger. The cases of Pollio, Vinicianus, and Scaurus were adjourned by the emperor for his personal decision in company with the senate, though there were certain ominous indications attached to his mention of Scaurus.

10 1 Even women were not exempt from peril. As they could not be accused of grasping at sovereignty, they were indicted for their tears; and the aged Vitia, mother of Fufius Geminus, was put to death because she had wept at the killing of her son. This in the senate: similarly, at the emperor's tribunal, Vescularius Flaccus and Julius Marinus were hurried to their death — two of his ancient friends, who had followed him to Rhodes and at Capreae, were not divided from him: Vescularius, his intermediary in the plot against Libo;37 Marinus, the partner of Sejanus in the destruction of Curtius Atticus;38 whence the greater joy, when it was learned that the precedents had recoiled upon their contrivers.

About the same time, the pontiff Lucius Piso39 — rare accident in one of his great fame — died in the course of nature. Never the willing author of any slavish proposal, if ever necessity pressed too hard, he was still a discreet and restraining influence. His father, as I have mentioned,40 had held the censorship; his life was prolonged to the eightieth year; and he had earned in Thrace the honour of a triumph. But his main distinction was the remarkable judgement with which, as Urban Prefect, he exercised an authority, only of late continuous, and disliked p173the more because the habit of obedience was lacking.41

11 1 For previously, to avoid leaving the capital without a compete authority, when the kings — or, later, the magistrates — had to absent themselves from home, it was usual to choose a temporary official to preside in the courts and deal with emergencies; and the tradition runs that Denter Romulius was appointed by Romulus, and, subsequently, Numa Marcius by Tullus Hostilius, and Spurius Lucretius by Tarquinius Superbus. Then the right of delegation passed to the consuls; and a shade of the old order lingers whenever, on account of the Latin Festival, a Prefect is commissioned to discharge the consular functions.42 Again, in the civil wars, Augustus placed Cilnius Maecenas of the equestrian order at the head of all affairs in Rome and Italy.43 Then, upon his advent to power, as the population was large and legal remedies dilatory, he took from the body of ex-consuls an official to coerce the slaves as well as that class of the free-born community whose boldness renders it turbulent, unless it is overawed by force. Messala Corvinus was the first to receive those powers, only to forfeit them within a few days on the ground of his incapacity to exercise them. Next, Statilius Taurus upheld the position admirably in spite of his advanced age; and finally Piso, after acquitting himself with equal credit for twenty p175years,44 was honoured by decree of the senate with a public funeral.

12 1 A proposal was now put to the Fathers by the plebeian tribune Quintilianus with regard to a Sibylline book; Caninius Gallus, of the Fifteen,45 demanding its admission among the other verses of the same prophetess, and a senatorial decree on the point. This had been accorded without discussion,46 when the emperor forwarded a letter, in which he passed a lenient criticism on the tribune "whose youth accounted for his ignorance of old custom": to Gallus he expressed his displeasure that he, "long familiar with religious theory and ritual, had on dubious authority forestalled the decision of his College, and, before the poem had, as usual, been read and considered by the Masters, had brought up the question in a thinly attended senate." He reminded him at the same time that, because of the many apocryphal works circulated under the famous name, Augustus had fixed a day within which they were to be delivered to the Urban Praetor, private ownership becoming illegal. — A similar decision had been taken even at an earlier period, after the burning of the Capitol during the Social War;47 when the verses of the Sibyl, or Sibyls, as the case may be, were collected from Samos, Ilium, and Erythrae, and even in Africa, Sicily, and the Graeco-Italian colonies; the priests being entrusted with the task of sifting out the genuine specimens, so far as should have been possible by p177human means. Hence, in this case also, the book in question was submitted to the examination of the Quindecimvirate.

13 1 Under the same consuls, the excessive price of cornº all but ended in rioting; and large demands were for several days made in the theatre with a freedom not usually employed towards the sovereign. Aroused by this, he upbraided the magistrates and the senate for having failed to restrain the populace by the authority of the state; and, in addition, pointed to the provinces from which he imported the corn-supply, and to the fact that he did so on a far greater scale than Augustus. In the hope, then, of reducing the commons to order, the senate framed a resolution of old-fashioned severity; while an edict not less drastic was issued by the consuls. The silence of Tiberius himself was not, as he had thought, taken for democratic forbearance but for pride.

14 1 At the end of the year, the Roman knights, Geminius, Celsus, and Pompeius, succumbed to the charge of conspiracy. One of them, Geminius, through his prodigal expenditure and effeminacy of life, was certainly a friend of Sejanus, but to no serious purpose. The tribune Julius Celsus, again, when imprisoned, slackened his chain, and by slipping it over his head and pulling at the two ends broke his neck. On the other hand, Rubrius Fabatus was placed under surveillance on the ground that, in despair at the state of Rome, he was contemplating flight to the mercy of the Parthians. Certainly he was discovered in the neighbourhood of the Sicilian Strait, and, when haled back by a centurion, could give no plausible reasons for his distant pilgrimage. p179He kept his life, however, more through forgetfulness than through clemency.

15 1 In the consulate of Servius Galba48 and Lucius Sulla, the Caesar, after long debating whom to appoint as husbands for his grand-daughters, found the age of the girls advancing, and selected Lucius Cassius and Marcus Vinicius. Vinicius came of country stock: born at Cales, with a father and grandfather of consular rank, but of equestrian family otherwise, he was gentle in disposition and the master of a polished eloquence. Cassius, of a plebeian but old and honoured house at Rome, and trained under strict paternal discipline, recommended himself more often by an accommodating temper than by energy. To him and to Vinicius Tiberius plighted respectively Drusilla and Julia,49 the daughters of Germanicus, and wrote to the senate on the subject with a perfunctory eulogy of the young men. Then, after giving a number of extremely indelicate reasons for his absence, he turned to the graver subject of "enmities incurred for his country's good," and asked that the prefect Macro50 and a few tribunes and centurions should be admitted with himself as often as he entered the curia. Yet, notwithstanding that the senate passed a comprehensive decree without any proviso as to the composition or numbers of his escort, not once did he even approach the roofs of Rome, far less the deliberative assembly of the state, but time and again, by devious roads, encircled, and avoided, his native city.

16 1 Meanwhile, an army of accusers broke loose on the persons who habitually increased their riches by usury, in contravention of a law of the dictator p181Caesar,51 regulating the conditions of lending money and holding property within the boundaries of Italy: a measure dropped long ago, since the public good ranks second to private utility. The curse of usury, it must be owned, is inveterate in Rome, a constant source of sedition and discord; and attempts were accordingly made to repress it even in an older and less corrupt society. First came a provision of the Twelve Tables52 that the rate of interest, previously governed by the fancy of the rich, should not exceed one-twelfth per cent for the month; later53 a tribunician rogation lowered it to one-half of that amount; and at length usufruct was unconditionally banned;54 while a series of plebiscites strove to meet the frauds which were perpetually repressed, only, by extraordinary evasions, to make their appearance once more. In the present instance, however, the praetor Gracchus, to whose jurisdiction the case had fallen, was forced by the numbers implicated to refer it to the senate; and the Fathers in trepidation — for not one member was clear from such a charge — asked an indulgence from the prince. It was granted; and the next eighteen months were assigned as a term of grace within which all accounts were to be adjusted in accordance with the prescriptions of the law.

17 1 The result was a dearth of money: for not only were all debts called in simultaneously; but after so many convictions and sales of forfeited p183estates, the cash which had been realized was locked in the treasury or the imperial exchequer.55 To meet this difficulty, the senate had prescribed that every creditor was to invest two-thirds of his capital, now lying at interest, in landed property in Italy; <the debtor to discharge immediately an equivalent proportion of his liability.> The lenders, however, called in the full amounts, and the borrowers could not in honour refuse to answer the call. Thus, at first there were hurryings to and fro, and appeals for mercy; then a hum of activity in the praetor's court; and the very scheme which had been devised as a remedy — the sale and purchase of estates — began to operate with the contrary effect, since the usurers had withdrawn their capital from circulation in order to buy land. As the glutting of the market was followed by a fall in prices, the men with the heaviest debts experienced the greatest difficulty in selling, and numbers were ejected from their properties. Financial ruin brought down in its train both rank and reputation, till the Caesar came to the rescue by distributing hundred million sesterces among various counting-houses,56 and facilities were provided for borrowing free of interest for three years, if the borrower had given security to the state to double the value in landed property. Credit was thus revived, and by degrees private lenders also began to be found. Nor was the purchase of estates practised in accordance with the terms of the senatorial decree, a vigorous beginning lapsing as usual into a careless end.b

18 1 Old fears now returned with the indictment for treason of Considius Proculus; who, while celebrating his birthday without a qualm, p185was swept off to the senate-house and in the same moment condemned and executed. His sister Sancia was banned from fire and water, the accuser being Quintus Pomponius: a restless character, who pleaded that the object of his activity in this and similar cases was, by acquiring favour with the emperor, to palliate the dangers of his brother Pomponius Secundus.57 Exile was also the sentence of Pompeia Macrina, whose husband Argolicus and father-in‑law Laco, two of the most prominent men in Achaia had been struck down by the Caesar. Her father, too, a Roman knight of the highest rank, and her brother, a former praetor, finding their condemnation at hand, committed suicide. The crime laid to their account was that Theophanes of Mytilene58 (great-grandfather of Pompeia and her brother) had been numbered with the intimates of Pompey, and that, after his death, Greek sycophancy had paid him the honour of deification.59

19 1 After these, Sextus Marius,60 the richest man of Spain, was arraigned for incest with his daughter and flung from the Tarpeian Rock; while, to leave no doubt that it was the greatness of his wealth which had redounded to his ruin, his copper-mines and gold-mines, though forfeit to the state, were reserved by Tiberius for himself. And as executions had whetted his appetite, he gave orders for all persons in custody on the charge of complicity with Sejanus to be killed. On the ground lay the huge hecatomb of victims:61 either sex, every age; p187the famous, the obscure; scattered or piled in mounds. Nor was it permitted to relatives or friends to stand near, to weep over them, or even to view them too long; but a cordon of sentries, with eyes for each beholder's sorrow, escorted the rotting carcasses, as they were dragged to the Tiber, there to float with the current or drift to the banks, with none to commit them to the flames or touch them. The ties of our common humanity had been dissolved by the force of terror; and before each advance of cruelty compassion receded.

20 1 About the same time, Gaius Caesar, who had accompanied his grandfather on the departure to Capreae, received in marriage Claudia, the daughter of Marcus Silanus.62 His monstrous character was masked by a hypocritical modesty: not a word escaped him at the sentencing of his mother or the destruction of his brethren; whatever the mood assumed for the day by Tiberius, the attitude of his grandson was the same, and his words not greatly different. Hence, a little later, the epigram of the orator Passienus63 — that the world never knew a better slave, nor a worse master.

I cannot omit the prophecy of Tiberius with regard to Servius Galba, then consul. He sent for him, sounded him in conversations on a variety of subjects, and finally addressed him in a Greek sentence, the purport of which was, "Thou, too, Galba, shalt one day have thy taste of empire":64 a hint of belated and short-lived power,65 based on knowledge p189of the Chaldean art, the acquirement of which he owed to the leisure of Rhodes and the instructions of Thrasyllus. His tutor's capacity he had tested as follows.

21 1 For all consultations on such business he used the highest part of his villa and the confidential services of one freedman. Along the pathless and broken heights (for the house overlooks a cliff) this illiterate and robust guide led the way in front of the astrologer whose art Tiberius had resolved to investigate, and on his return, had any suspicion arisen of incompetence or of fraud, hurled him into the sea below, lest he should turn betrayer of the secret. Thrasyllus, then, introduced by the same rocky path, after he had impressed his questioner by adroit revelations of his empire to be and of the course of the future, was asked if he had ascertained his own horoscope — what was the character of that year — what the complexion of that day. A diagram which he drew up of the positions and distances of the stars at first gave him pause; then he showed signs of fear: the more careful his scrutiny, the greater his trepidation between surprise and alarm; and at last he exclaimed that a doubtful, almost a final, crisis was hard upon him. He was promptly embraced by Tiberius, who, congratulating him on the fact that he had divined, and was about to escape, his perils, accepted as oracular truth, the predictions he had made, and retained him among his closest friends.66

22 1 For myself, when I listen to this and similar narratives, my judgement wavers. Is the revolution of human things governed by fate and changeless necessity, or by accident? You will p191find the wisest of the ancients, and the disciplines attached to their tenets, at complete variance; in many of them67 a fixed belief that Heaven concerns itself neither with our origins, nor with our ending, nor, in fine, with mankind, and that so adversity continually assails the good, while prosperity dwells among the evil. Others68 hold, on the contrary, that, though there is certainly a fate in harmony with events, it does not emanate from wandering stars, but must be sought in the principles and processes of natural causation. Still, they leave us free to choose our life: that choice made, however, the order of the future is certain. Nor, they maintain, are evil and good what the crowd imagines: many who appear to be the sport of adverse circumstances are happy; numbers are wholly wretched though in the midst of great possessions — provided only that the former endure the strokes of fortuneº with firmness, while the latter employ her favours with unwisdom. With most men, however, the faith is ineradicable that the future of an individual is ordained at the moment of his entry into life; but at times a prophecy is falsified by the event, through the dishonesty of the prophet who speaks he knows not what; and thus is debased the credit of an art, of which the most striking evidences have been furnished both in the ancient world and in our own.69 For the forecast of Nero's reign, made by the son of this very Thrasyllus, shall be related at its fitting place:70 at present I do not care to stray too far from my theme.

23 1 Under the same consulate, the death of Asinius Gallus71 became common knowledge. That he died from starvation was not in doubt; but p193whether of free will or by compulsion was held uncertain. The Caesar, when asked if he allowed him burial, did not blush to accord permission and to go out of his way to deplore the accidents which had carried off the accused before he could be convicted in his own presence. In a three years' interval, that is to say, time had been lacking for this aged consular, father of so many consular sons, to be brought to judgement! Next, Drusus72 passed away, after sustaining life through eight full days by the pitiable resource of chewing the stuffing of his mattress. The statement has been made that Macro's orders were, if Sejanus appealed to arms, to withdraw the youth from custody (he was confined in the Palace) and to place him at the head of the people. Then, as a rumour gained ground that the Caesar was about to be reconciled with his daughter-in‑law and grandson, he preferred cruelty to repentance.

24 1 More than this, he inveighed against the dead, reproaching him with unnatural vice and with sentiments pernicious to his family and dangerous to the state; and ordered the reading of the daily register of his doings and sayings. This was regarded as the crowning atrocity. That for so many years the watchers should have been at his side, to catch his looks, his sighs, even his half-articulated murmurs, and that his grandfather should have endured to hear all, read all, and divulge it to the public, might have passed belief but for the fact that the reports of the centurion Attius and the freedman Didymus paraded the names of this or the other slave who had struck or terrorized the prince whenever he attempted to leave his room. p195The centurion had even added his own brutal remarks, as a point to his credit; along with the dying words of his prisoner, who had begun by cursing Tiberius in apparent delirium, and then, when all hope of life was gone, had denounced him with a meditated and formal imprecation: that as he had done to death his daughter-in‑law, his brother's son, his grandchildren,73 and had filled his whole house with blood, so he might pay the penalty due to the name and line of his ancestors, and to his posterity. The Fathers interrupted, indeed, with a pretence of horror: in reality, they were penetrated with terror and astonishment that, once so astute, so impenetrable in the concealment of his crimes, he had attained such a pitch of confidence that he could, as it were, raze his palace-walls and exhibit his grandson under the scourge of a centurion, among the blows of slaves, imploring in vain the humblest necessaries of life.

25 1 This tragedy had not yet faded from memory, when news came of Agrippina;74 who, after the death of Sejanus, had continued, I take it, to live, because sustained by hope, and then, as there was no abatement of cruelty, had perished by her own will; unless food was withheld, so that her death should present features which might be taken for those of suicide. The point certain is that Tiberius broke out in abominable calumnies, accusing her of unchastity and adultery with Asinius Gallus, by whose death she had been driven to tire of life. Yet Agrippina, impatient of equality and athirst for power, had sunk female frailty in masculine ambition. She had died, p197the Caesar pursued, on the very day on which, two years earlier, Sejanus had expiated his crimes, a fact which ought to be transmitted to memory; and he mentioned with pride that she had not been strangled or thrown on to the Gemonian Stairs. Thanks were returned for the mercy, and it was decreed that on the eighteenth of October, the day of both the killings, an offering should be consecrated to Jupiter for all years to come.

26 1 A little later, Cocceius Nerva,75 the inseparable friend of the emperor, versed in all law divine or secular, his position intact, his health unimpaired, adopted the resolution of dying. Tiberius, on discovering the fact, sat down by his side, inquired his reasons, proceeded to entreaties, and in the last resort confessed that it would be a serious matter for his conscience and a serious matter for his reputation, if the nearest of his friends were to flee from life with no motive for dying. Declining all conversation, Nerva continued his abstention from food till the end. It was stated by those acquainted with his thoughts that, moved by his closer view of the calamities of his country, he had, in indignation and fear, whilst yet unscathed, yet unassailed, decided for an honourable end.

To proceed, the destruction of Agrippina, scarcely credible though it seems, brought down Plancina.76 Once wedded to Gnaeus Piso and openly exulting in the death of Germanicus, upon her husband's fall she had been saved by the intercessions of Augusta, and, not less so, by the enmity of Agrippina. When both hatred and favour ceased, justice prevailed: she was arraigned on charges notorious to the world, and paid by her own hand a penalty more overdue than undeserved.

p199 27 1 Among all the griefs of a melancholy realm, it was a contributory regret77 that Julia, daughter of Drusus and formerly wife of Nero, now married into the family of Rubellius Blandus, whose grandfather was remembered by many as a Roman knight from Tibur.78

At the very close of the year, the death of Aelius Lamia,79 whose belated release from his phantom administration of Syria had been followed by the Urban Prefectship, was celebrated by a censorian funeral. His birth was noble, his age vigorous, and he had derived from the withholding of his province an added dignity. Then, on the decease of Pomponius Flaccus, propraetor of Syria, a letter was read from the emperor; who complained that every outstanding man, capable of commanding armies,80 refused that duty; and such was his need that he was reduced to entreaties, in the hope that here and there a former consul might be driven to undertake a governorship; while he failed to recollect that for the tenth successive year Arruntius was being kept at home for fear that he should start for Spain.81 Still in the same year died Manius Lepidus, to whose moderation and wisdom I have given space enough in the previous books. Nor does his nobility call for long demonstration: the Aemilian race has been prolific of patriots, and those of the family who have borne degenerate characters have yet played their part with the brilliance of their high fortunes.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 After testarentur (V.5 fin.), the Mediceus leaves vacant a space sufficient for three or four letters, then proceeds with quattuor et quadraginta (V.6 init.), no indication being given of the commencement of a fresh book. Hence, all from V.1 to VI.51 was printed as Book V until the edition of Justus Lipsius; who saw that two books were necessary, and began the sixth with the consulate of Domitius and Scribonianus (VI.1). Haase's view, that the fifth closed with the fall of Sejanus and that the opening of sixth is lost, is now universally accepted, though Lipsius' numeration is generally retained.

2 The occasion of the forty-four speeches is unknown, but is conjectured to have been the punishment of Livia for her part in the death of Drusus (IV.3 sqq.) — After the next lacuna, the narrative has passed to an unnamed friend of Sejanus, addressing the company at a last social gathering before suicide. Compare, among others, the cases of Libo (II.31), Petronius (XVI.19), and Thrasea (XVI.34).

3 Actually, in the consulate; prospectively, as was generally believed in the empire.

4 So, at VI.8, Terentius calls him tuum, Caesar, generum. The passages were first explained by Reimar (on D. Cass. LVIII.11) from a statement in Zonaras, drawn from Dio:— τὸν δὲ Σηϊανὸν . . . κηδεστὴν ἐπὶ Ἰουλίᾳ τῇ τοῦ Δρούσου θυγατρὶ ποιησάμενος ὕστερον ἔκτεινεν (XI.2). In that case, the marriage projected for the favourite was with a grand-daughter of Tiberius, and generum adsciverat should, in accuracy, have been progenerum destinaverat.

5 Uncle of Sejanus (I.16 sqq.; III.35; 73‑75).

6 I.70 n.

7 P. Pomponius Secundus — vatis civisque clarissimus, according to his friend Pliny, who wrote his biography (Plin. min. Ep. III.5). Most of the known facts of his life are gleaned from the Annals (cf. XI.13; XII.27 sq.; Dial. 13).

8 The aerarium militare: see I.78 n.

9 Almost certainly the eldest son of Sejanus.

10 Chiefly as a tragic poet: cf. Quint. X.1.98.º He was kept in confinement for seven years, then released by Caligula.

11 Between the Capitol and Forum Romanum (cf. III.14 n.).

12 Now a prisoner in ima parte Palatii (Suet. Tib. 54). See VI.23.

13 IV.46 n.

14 The gulfs of Kassandra and Saloniki.

15 II.53 n.

16 Probably the future father-in‑law of Caligula (III.24; VI.20).

17 Dio, whatever his authority, states that he was sent to Tiberius, and dates the incident three years later.

18 Both suffecti. For Trio, see II.28 n.; for Regulus, VI.4; XII.22; XIV.47.

19 IV.75 n.

20 M. Furius Camillus Scribonianus, legatus pro praetore of Illyricum in 42 A.D.; committed suicide on the collapse of a four days' rising against Claudius ( (Suet. Claud. 13).

21 "Strange and new-commented lusts For which wise Nature hath not left a name" (Ben Jonson, Sejanus IV.5). Details might be expected, and will be found, in Suetonius (Tib. 43‑45). — The commonsense objections to the traditional account of these debaucheries are stated forcibly enough — though perhaps rather less so than might have been anticipated — by Voltaire (Oeuvres, XXIII p455, Geneva, 1772). They were ably developed by the French advocate Linguet, and little has been, or can be, added either to his presentment of the case or to Boissier's attempted answer (Tacite6, pp108 sqq.). It remains impossible that all can be true and incredible that all can be false.

22 A prominent declaimer of the period (Dial. 26; M. Sen. Contr. X pr. 13); a friend of Ovid (ex P. IV.11), and adoptive father of the Gallio of Acts xviii.12‑17.

23 In the theatre, the fourteen lowest rows of the cavea, appropriated to the knights by the lex Roscia of 67 B.C., the orchestra being reserved for the senate.

24 IV.6871.

25 V.11.

26 Till 35 A.D.: see chap. 38.

27 For pudicitiae neque suae neque alienae pepercit (Suet. Cal. 36).

28 The cena novendialis was a meal of puls, bread, and wine, laid on the tomb nine days after the interment. Cotta's remark has lost clarity with the years, but would appear to combine a hint that he found his sacerdotal banquet both funereal and frugal with a sneer at the emperor, who had left his mother a dead woman, when he might have converted her into a goddess (V.2).

29 Both Lepidus (for the praenomen see Nipperdey on III.22) and Arruntius figure prominently and creditably in the first half of the Annals. For the former compare, for instance, I.13; III.11, 22, 50; IV.20, 56; VI.27: for the latter, I.13, 76; VI.27, 47 sqq.

30 Socrates. — Tacitus paraphrases a famous and much imitated passage of Plato (Gorg. 524E). Julian, as it happens, turns it to the same account:— ἐπιστραφέντος δὲ (sc. Τιβερίου) . . . ὤφθησαν ὠτειλαὶ κατὰ τὸν νῶτον μυρίαι, καυτῆρές τινες καὶ ξέσματα καὶ πληγαὶ χαλεπαὶ καὶ μώλωπες ὑπό τε ἀκολασίας καὶ ὠμότητος ψῶραί τινες καὶ λειχῆνες οἷον ἐγκεκαυμέναι (Caes. 309C).

31 The account of this accusation is lost.

32 II.56; III.13 and 19.

33 The name survives in the former French province of Saintonge (part of Charente-Inférieure).

Thayer's Note: The French département is now officially Charente-Maritime.

34 Otherwise unknown.

35 See III.29 and V.6, with the notes.

36 IV.34; VI.47. — Pomponius, if the name is rightly transmitted, must have appeared in the lost part of Book V.

37 II.28.

38 IV.58.

39 L. Calpurnius Caesoninus, son of the Piso (Caesar's father-in‑law) attacked by Cicero, and probably father of the youths addressed in the Ars Poetica.

40 In a lost passage. The father's censorship was in 50 B.C.

41 Roughly speaking, the prefectship begins as an emergency office, to provide for the contingency of the king, or later both consuls, being absent from Rome. With the creation of the urban praetorship (367 B.C.), it becomes unnecessary, but its shadow remains, as a prefect is appointed annually during the absence of the high magistrates and senate at the Latin Festival on the Alban Mount. Under Augustus, the office is revived as the need arises; with the retirement of Tiberius to Capreae, it becomes a standing office, reserved for consulars and tenable during the pleasure of the emperor making the appointment, but vacated necessarily at his death.

42 The simulacrum coexisted with the substantial office, but chiefly as a means of complimenting distinguished young men under senatorial age, e.g. Drusus (IV.36) or Nero (Suet. Ner. 7).

43 But not under the specific title of praefectus urbi.

44 If the manuscript reading were genuine, his appointment would fall in the reign of Augustus; which contradicts the story given by Pliny (H.N. XIV.22.145) and Suetonius (Tib. 42) — supported to some extent by Seneca's account of his habits (Ep. 83) — that he received it after a drinking-bout with Tiberius.

45 III.64 n.

46 III.69 n.

47 A slip, probably due to a copyist, as the date is correctly given at Hist. III.72 arserat et ante Capitolium civili bello (in the conflict between Sulla and the Marians, 83 B.C.).

48 The future emperor, though his praenomen was at this time Lucius (Suet. Galb. 4).

49 The third sister, Agrippina, had already married Cn. Domitius (IV fin.). — Of the two bridegrooms, Cassius — brother of the celebrated jurist (XII.12 n.) — was executed eight years later by Caligula; Vinicius was poisoned in 46 A.D. by Messalina (D. Cass. LIX.29; LX.27).

50 Naevius Sertorius Macro, who carried through the arrest of Sejanus, replaced him as praetorian prefect, and proved, according to Lucius Arruntius, the worse villain of the pair (chap. 48). For his courtship of Caligula, see below (chap. 45 sq.); for his suicide at his protégé's order, D. Cass. LIX.10.

51 Nothing certain is known of this law, which must have been distinct from the emergency measures of 48 B.C. (Caes. B. C. III.1).

52 In 450 B.C. The statement rests on the authority of Tacitus: Livy's date is 357 B.C. (VII.16).

53 In 347 B.C. (Livy, VII.27).

54 Invenio apud quosdam L. Genucium, tr‑pl., tulisse ad populum ne faenerare liceret (342 B.C., Livy, ib. 42). — By the Roman system of naming rates of interest, unciarium faenus must mean 1/12 per cent per month, or 1 per cent per annum. Holding such a rate to be impossibly low, Niebuhr — forcibly controverted by Nipperdey, but followed by Mommsen — took the sense of the words to be 1/12th of the capital, i.e. 8⅓ per cent per annum, which he ingeniously raised to 10 (= 8⅓ x 12/10) per cent, by accepting the tradition of a primitive year of ten months.

55 Strictly, the proceeds of the sale of confiscated properties went, like unclaimed legacies, to the senatorial treasury (aerarium), but frequently enough they were diverted to the fiscus: an instance follows shortly (chap. 19 init.).

56 Special public banks under the charge of a senatorial commission (D. Cass. LVIII.21).

57 V.8 n.

58 References are frequent to his friendship and influence with Pompey, to whom he owed his Roman citizenship, and whose history he wrote: see, for instance, Cic. pro Arch. § 24; ad Att. V.11; Caes. B. C. III.18. Strabo, writing about 18 A.D., mentions the intimacy of his son with Tiberius (XIII.2.3).

59 At Mytilene, for which he had secured from Pompey the privileges of a free town, in spite of the city's dubious record in the Mithridatic War (Plut. Pomp. 42).

60 IV.36.

61 Twenty in one day, according to the manuscripts of Suetonius (Tib. 61).

62 V.10 n. He stood high in the opinion of Tiberius (D. Cass. LIX.8), but was forced to suicide by his son-in‑law (Suet. Cal. 23).

63 He is praised by Seneca (N. Q. IV pr. 6), was consul twice, and through his marriage later with Agrippina had the double distinction of being brother-in‑law to Caligula and stepfather to Nero.

64 Suetonius, who mistakenly makes Augustus the prophet, gives the Greek as:— καὶ σύ, τέκνον, τῆς ἀρχῆς ἡμῶν παρατρώξῃ. Dio has: καὶ σύ ποτε τῆς ἡγεμονίας γεύσῃ (LVII.19).

65 Born in 3 B.C., he tasted empire from June, 68 A.D., to January, 69 A.D.

66 He retained that precarious position, received — as is shown by his name, Ti. Claudius Thrasyllus — the citizenship from his patron, and, after accompanying him to Rome, lived with him till his death in 36 A.D., one year before that of the emperor.

67 The Epicureans.

68 The Stoics.

69 The best ancient presentation of the sceptical case is a lecture of Favorinus, heard and recorded by Aulus Gellius (N. A. XIV.1).

70 Possibly at XIV.9.

71 Eldest son of Asinius Pollio (IV.34 n.). Three years earlier, while visiting Tiberius in Capreae, he was condemned by the senate in obedience to a letter of the emperor, and had since then been held in custodia libera by the consuls 'to prevent not his escape but his death' (D. Cass. LVIII.3).

72 Pronounced a public enemy by the senate, criminante Tiberio (Suet. Cal. 7), and still imprisoned in an underground chamber of the Palatium.

73 The victims are Agrippina, her husband Germanicus (at once the nephew and the adopted son of Tiberius), and their children, Nero — banished in 29 A.D. to the island of Pontia and there starved to death — and Drusus himself.

74 Banished simultaneously with Nero, but to the island of Pandateria (I.53 n.).

75 IV.58 n.

76 II.43 sqq.; 75 fin.; III.15.

77 This 'contributory regret' seems something of an anticlimax; but even a knight of the respectability of Atticus was held dedecere Claudiorum imagines (II.43). For the issue of the mésalliance, see XIII.19 n.

78 And as a teacher of rhetoric at Rome — the first knight, according to the elder Seneca, to embrace a profession till then reserved for freedmen (turpe erat docere quod honestum erat discere, Contr. II pr. 5).

79 IV.13 n. — He would seem to have been appointed governor of Syria in 20 A.D., in succession to Cn. Sentius (II.74), but to have been detained in Rome by Tiberius, while the province was administered by Sentius' legate Pacuvius (II.79). In 32 A.D., he followed Piso as praefectus urbi, and Syria was entrusted to Pomponius Flaccus.

80 as the governor of a major imperial province.

81 He must have been appointed to Hispania Tarraconensis after the murder of L. Piso in 25 A.D. (IV.45): decimum, therefore, is only a round number.


Thayer's Notes:

a Writing in antiquity, and thru the invention of the modern pen in the 19c, was a complicated business: quills rapidly wore down, and in order to write anything of any length, they had to be trimmed from time to time with a pen-knife.

b I transcribed this in January 2009, during the Great Credit Crunch that hit the United States and cascaded thru the entire world. The similarity of cause, effect, and apparently solution — in our case, the verdict isn't in yet — is amazing.


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