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VI.1‑27

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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XI.1‑15

(Vol. IV) Tacitus
Annals

Book VI (end)

p201 28 1 In the consulate of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, after a long period of ages, the bird known as the phoenix visited Egypt,1 and supplied the learned of that country and of Greece with the material for long disquisitions on the miracle. I propose to state the points on which they coincide, together with the larger number that are dubious, yet not too absurd for notice. That the creature is sacred to the sun and distinguished from other birds by its head and the variegation of its plumage, is agreed by those who have depicted its form: as to its term of years, the tradition varies. The generally received number is five hundred; but there are some who assert that its visits fall at intervals of 1461 years,2 and that it was in the reigns, first of Sesosis,3 then of Amasis,4 and finally of Ptolemy5 (third of the Macedonian dynasty), that the three earlier phoenixes flew to the city called Heliopolis6 with a great escort of common birds amazed at the novelty of their appearance. But while antiquity is obscure, between Ptolemy and Tiberius there were less than two hundred and fifty years: whence the belief has been held that this was a spurious phoenix, not originating on the soil of Arabia, and following none of the practices affirmed by ancient tradition. For — so the tale is told — when its sum of years is complete and death is drawing on, it builds a nest in its own country and sheds on it a procreative influence, p203from which springs a young one, whose first care on reaching maturity is to bury his sire. Nor is that task performed at random, but, after raising a weight of myrrh and proving it by a far flight, so soon as he is a match for his burden and the course before him, he lifts up his father's corpse, conveys him to the Altar of the Sun, and consigns him to the flames. — The details are uncertain and heightened by fable; but that the bird occasionally appears in Egypt is unquestioned.

29 1 But at Rome the carnage proceeded without a break; and Pomponius Labeo, whose governorship of Moesia I mentioned earlier,7 opened his veins and bled to death, his example being emulated by his wife Paxaea. For these modes of dying were rendered popular by fear of the executioner and by the fact that a man legally condemned forfeited his estate and was debarred from burial; while he who passed sentence upon himself had his celerity so far rewarded that his body was interred and his will respected. The Caesar, however, in a letter addressed to the senate, explained that "it had been the custom of our ancestors, as often as they broke off a friendship, to interdict their house to the offender and to make this the close of amicable relations. To that method he had himself reverted in the case of Labeo: but Labeo, arraigned for maladministration of his province, as well as on other counts, had veiled his guilt by casting a slur upon his sovereign, while inspiring a baseless terror in his wife, who, though guilty had still stood in no danger." Then came the second impeachment8 of Mamercus Scaurus, distinguished by birth and by his talent as an advocate, but in life a reprobate. p205His fall was brought about, not by the friendship of Sejanus but by something equally potent for destruction, the hatred of Macro; who practised the same arts with superior secrecy, and had laid an information turning on the plot of a tragedy written by Scaurus; from which he appended a number of verses capable of being referred to Tiberius.9 The charges, however, brought by the actual accusers, Servilius and Cornelius, were adultery with Livia and addiction to magic rites. Scaurus, adopting the course worthy of the old Aemilii, forestalled his condemnation, encouraged by his wife Sextia, who was the abettor and sharer of his death.

30 1 And yet his accusers, if opportunity arose, experienced the pains of the law. Thus Servilius and Cornelius, notorious for the ruin of Scaurus, were banned from fire and water and sequestrated in the islands for accepting the money of Varius Ligus as the price of dropping a delation. So, too, Abudius Ruso, a former aedile, while threatening a prosecution of Lentulus Gaetulicus,10 under whom he had commanded a legion, on the ground that he had destined his daughter's hand for a son of Sejanus, was actually condemned himself and expelled from Rome. Gaetulicus at the time was in charge of the legions of Upper Germany, and had gained an extraordinary hold on their affections as an officer of large clemency, chary of severity, and, thanks to his father-in‑law Lucius Apronius,11 not unacceptable even to the next army. Hence the steady tradition that he ventured to send a letter to the Caesar, pointing out that "his connection with Sejanus was begun not by his own will but upon the advice of p207Tiberius. It had been as easy for himself to be deceived as for Tiberius; and the same error should not be treated as harmless in one case and fatal in others. His loyalty was inviolate, and, if he was not treacherously attacked, would so remain: a successor he would not take otherwise than as indicative of his doom. Best would be to ratify a kind of treaty, by which the emperor would be supreme elsewhere, while he himself kept his province." The tale, though remarkable, drew credibility from the fact that, alone of all the family connections of Sejanus, Gaetulicus remained unscathed and high in favour; Tiberius reflecting that he was the object of public hatred, that his days were numbered, and that his fortunes stood more by prestige than by real strength.

31 1 In the consulate of Gaius Cestius and Marcus Servilius, a number of Parthian nobles made their way to the capital without the knowledge of King Artabanus.12 That prince, loyal to Rome and temperate towards his subjects while he had Germanicus to fear, soon adopted an attitude of arrogance to ourselves and of cruelty to his countrymen. For he was emboldened by the campaigns he had successfully prosecuted against the surrounding nations; he disdained the old age of Tiberius as no longer fit for arms; and he coveted Armenia, on the throne of which (after the death of Artaxias) he installed his eldest son Arsaces, adding insult to injury by sending envoys to reclaim the treasure13 left by Vonones in Syria and Cilicia. At the same time, he referred in boastful and menacing terms to the old boundaries of the Persian and Macedonian empires, and to his intention of seizing the territories held first by p209Cyrus and afterwards by Alexander. The most influential advocate, however, for the despatch of the secret legation by the Parthians was Sinnaces, a man of noted family and corresponding wealth; and, next to him, the eunuch Abdus: for among barbarians that condition brings with it not contempt but actual power. Other magnates also were admitted into their counsels; then, as they were unable to bestow the crown on a scion of the Arsacidae, many of whom had been killed by Artabanus while others were under age, they demanded from Rome Phraates, the son of King Phraates:— "Only a name and a warrant were necessary — only that, with the Caesar's permission, a descendant of Arsaces should be seen upon the bank of Euphrates!"

32 1 This was what Tiberius had desired; and, faithful to his rule of manipulating foreign affairs by policy and craft without a resort to arms, he gave Phraates the means and equipment for mounting his father's throne. Meanwhile, the conspiracy had come to the knowledge of Artabanus, who was alternately checked by his fears and inflamed by the lust of revenge. To barbarians hesitancy is the vice of a slave, immediate action the quality of a king: yet expediency so far prevailed that Abdus, under the cloak of friendship, was invited to a banquet and incapacitated by a slow poison, while Sinnaces was delayed by pretexts, by presents, and at the same time by continuous employment. In Syria, too, Phraates, who had discarded the Roman style of life, to which he had been habituated for years, in order to conform to Parthian usage, proved unequal to the customs of his fatherland, and was taken off by disease. Still, p211Tiberius declined to renounce his plans. In Tiridates (a member of the same family) he found a competitor for Artabanus; as the recoverer of Armenia he selected the Iberian14 Mithridates, and reconciled him to his brother Pharasmanes, who held the crown of their native country; and as director of the whole of his eastern projects he appointed Lucius Vitellius.15 The man, I am aware, bore a sinister reputation at Rome, and is the subject of many a disgraceful tale; yet, as a governor of provinces, he acted with a primitive integrity. Then came his return; and through dread of Caligula and intimacy with Claudius he declined into repulsive servility, and is regarded to‑day as a type of obsequious ignominy:16 his beginnings have been forgotten in his end, the virtues of his youth have been obliterated by the scandals of his age.

33 1 Of the chieftains, Mithridates was the first to induce Pharasmanes to support his attempts by fraud and by force; and bribery agents were discovered, who at a heavy price in gold tempted the attendants of Arsaces to murder. Simultaneously the Iberians in great strength broke into Armenia and gained possession of the town of Artaxata.17 As soon as the news reached Artabanus, he prepared his son Orodes for the part of avenger, gave him the Parthian forces, and sent men to hire auxiliary troops. Pharasmanes replied by forming a league with the Albanians18 and calling up the Sarmatians,19 whose "wand-bearers,"20 true to the national custom, accepted the gifts of both parties and enlisted in opposite camps. The Iberians, however, who controlled p213the important positions, hastily poured their own Sarmatians into Armenia by the Caspian Way:21 those advancing to the support of the Parthians were held back without difficulty; for other passes had been closed by the enemy, and the one remaining,22 between the sea and the extremity of the Albanian mountains, was impracticable in summer, as the shallows are flooded by the Etesian gales. In winter the waves are rolled back by southerly winds, and the recoil of the water inward leaves the beach uncovered.

34 1 Meanwhile Orodes was devoid of allies; and Pharasmanes, strong in his reinforcements, began to challenge him to engage and to harass him as he drew off, to ride up to his encampments and to ravage the foraging grounds. Frequently he encircled him with outposts almost in the manner of a formal siege; till the Parthians, unaccustomed to these insolences, surrounded the king and demanded battle. Their one strength lay in the cavalry: Pharasmanes was formidable also in infantry, for life in a highland district has trained the Iberians and Albanians to superior hardiness and endurance. They claim to have originated from Thessaly, at the time when Jason, after the departure of Medea with the children she had borne him, retraced his steps, a little later, to the empty palace of Aeëtes and the kingless realm of Colchis. His name survives in many of their institutions, which include an oracle of Phrixus; and, as the belief is held that Phrixus was carried by a ram (whether the word denotes the animal or the figurehead of a ship),23 it is inadmissible to offer one in sacrifice.

p215 However, when the line of battle had been drawn up on either side, the Parthian dilated on the empire of the East and the lustre of the Arsacian house, as contrasted with the obscure Iberian and his hired soldiery: Pharasmanes called on his troops to remember that they had never felt the Parthian yoke; that the higher their emprize, the greater the honour they would reap from victory, the greater their disgrace and danger if they turned their backs. At the same time, he pointed to his own grim host and to the Median columns in their embroidery of gold — "men on the one hand, booty on the other."

35 1 In the Sarmatian ranks, however, speech was not limited to a leader: man encouraged man not to permit a battle of archers; better to anticipate matters by a charge and a hand-to‑hand struggle! The encounter, in consequence, wore a variety of aspects. For the Parthians, habituated to pursue or flee with equal art, spread out their squadrons and manoeuvred for room for their flights of missiles: the Sarmatians, ignoring their shorter-ranged bows, rushed on with pike and sword. At times, advance and retreat alternated in the traditional style of a cavalry engagement: then, as though in a locked line of battle, the combatants struggled breast to breast, with a clash of steel, repulsing and repulsed. Then came the Albanians and Iberians, gripping the enemy, unsaddling him, and placing him in double jeopardy between the horsemen24 striking from above and the infantry dealing closer wounds below. In the meantime, Pharasmanes and Orodes were carrying support to the resolute or succour to the wavering. Conspicuous figures, they recognized each other: a shout, an challenge of javelins, and p217they spurred to the charge — Pharasmanes with the greater fury, as he wounded his opponent through the helmet. He failed to repeat the blow, his horse carrying him too far past while the bravest of his guards interposed to protect the wounded prince. Still, a falsely credited report of his death demoralized the Parthians, and they conceded the victory.

36 1 It was not before Artabanus sought his revenge with the full powers of his empire. The Iberians, with their knowledge of the country,25 had the better of the campaign; but, in spite of that fact, he showed no signs of withdrawal, had not Vitellius, by assembling the legions and circulating a report that he was on the point of invading Armenia, inspired him with fears of a Roman war. There followed the evacuation of Armenia and the collapse of Artabanus' fortunes, Vitellius tempting his subjects to abandon a king merciless in peace and fatally unfortunate in the field. Sinnaces, therefore, whose hostility, as I have mentioned, was of earlier date, induced his father Abdagaeses, to revolt, along with others, accessory to the project, and now the readier for action owing to the series of reverses; and these were joined by a gradual stream of recruits, whose submission had been due more to fear than to goodwill, and whose spirit had risen with the discovery of responsible leaders. Nothing now remained to Artabanus but the few foreigners acting as his body-guard — homeless and landless men, members of a class neither comprehending good nor regarding evil but feed and fed as the agents of crime. Taking these with him, he hurriedly fled to the remote districts adjoining Scythia;26 where he hoped that his marriage connections with the p219Hyrcanians and Carmanians would find him allies: in the interval, the Parthians, tolerant of princes when absent and fickle to them when present, might turn to the ways of penitence.

37 1 But Vitellius, now that Artabanus was in flight and the sentiments of his countrymen were inclining to a change of sovereigns, advised Tiridates to embrace the opportunity presented, and marched the flower of his legions and auxiliaries to the bank of the Euphrates. During the sacrifice, while the Roman was paying the national offering27 to Mars and the Parthian had prepared a horse28 to placate the river, word was brought by the people of the neighbourhood that, without any downpour of rain, the Euphrates was rising spontaneously and to a remarkable height: at the same time, the whitening foam was wreathing itself into circles after the fashion of a diadem29 — an omen of a happy crossing. Others gave a more skilled interpretation: the first results of the venture would be favourable, but fleeting; for the presages given by the earth or the sky had a surer warranty, but rivers, unstable by nature, exhibited an omen, and in the same instant swept it away.

However, when a bridge of boats had been constructed and the army taken over, the first man to appear in the camp was Ornospades at the head of several thousand cavalry. Once an exile and a not inglorious coadjutor of Tiberius when he was stamping out the Dalmatic war,30 he had been rewarded by a grant of Roman citizenship: later, he had regained the friendship of the king, stood high in his favour, and held the governorship of the plains, which, encircled by the famous streams of Tigris p221and Euphrates, have received the name of Mesopotamia. Before long, Tiridates' forces were augmented by Sinnaces; and Abdagaeses, the pillar of his cause, added the treasure and appurtenances of the crown. Vitellius, persuaded that to have displayed the Roman arms was enough, bestowed his advice on Tiridates and the nobles: the former was to remember his grandfather Phraates, his foster-father the Caesar, and the great qualities of both; the latter, to retain their obedience to the king, their respect to ourselves, their personal honour and good faith. He then returned with the legions to Syria.

38 1 I have conjoined the events of two summers,31 in order to allow the mind some respite from domestic horrors. For, notwithstanding the three years elapsed since the execution of Sejanus,32 not time nor prayers nor satiety, influences that soften other breasts, could mollify Tiberius or arrest his policy of avenging half-proved or forgotten delinquencies as heinous and freshly committed crimes. This alarmed Fulcinius Trio;33 and, instead of awaiting passively the imminent assault of the accusers, he drew up in his last will a long and appalling indictment of Macro and the chief imperial freedmen, and taunted their master with the mental decrepitude of age and the virtual exile of his continuous absence. The heirs would have suppressed the passage: Tiberius commanded to be read, in token of his tolerance of freedom in others and in contempt of his own ill fame; unless, possibly, he had so long been unaware of the crimes of Sejanus that he now preferred to have publicity given to attacks, however worded, and by insult, if not otherwise, to become acquainted with that truth p223which adulation stifles. — In these same days, the senator Granius Marcianus, accused of treason by Gaius Gracchus, took his own life; and Tarius Gratianus, who had held the praetorship, was sentenced under the same law to the final penalty.

39 1 Trebellenus Rufus34 and Sextius Paconianus35 made not dissimilar endings: for Trebellenus fell by his own hand; Paconianus was strangled in prison for verses which he had there indited against the sovereign. — These tidings Tiberius now received, not as formerly across the dividing sea nor by messengers from afar, but hard under the walls of Rome, where, on the same day or with the interval of a night, he could pen his answer to the consular reports and all but rest his eyes upon the blood that streamed in the houses of his victims, or upon the handiwork of his executioners.

At the close of the year, Poppaeus Sabinus36 breathed his last. Of modest origin, he had by the friendship of emperors attained a consulate and triumphal honours, and for twenty-four years had governed the great provinces, thanks to no shining ability but to the fact that he was adequate to his business, and no more.

40 1 There followed the consulate of Quintus Plautius and Sextus Papinius. In this year, the horrors had become too familiar for either the <pardon> of Lucius Aruseius37 or the infliction of the death penalty on . . . and . . . to be noticed as an atrocity; but there was a moment of terror when, in the senate-house itself, the Roman knight Vibulenus Agrippa, after his accusers had closed their case, drew poison from the folds of his robe, swallowed it, and, as he fell dying, was rushed to the dungeon p225by quick-handed lictors, and his throat — though he had now ceased to breathe — tormented by a halter. Not even Tigranes,38 once monarch of Armenia and now a defendant, was preserved by his royal title from the doom of Roman citizens. On the other hand, the consular Gaius Galba,39 with the two Blaesi,40 perished by self-slaughter. Galba had been excluded from the allotment of a province by an ominous epistle from the Caesar: in the case of the Blaesi, the priesthoods destined for them before the family lost its head had been deferred by Tiberius after the blow fell; he now treated them as vacant and assigned them to others — an intimation of death which was understood and acted upon. So also with Aemilia Lepida, whose marriage to the young Drusus I have already recorded.41 After persecuting her husband with a succession of calumnies, she lived, detested but unpunished, while her father Lepidus survived; then the informers attacked her on the ground of adultery with a slave. Of her guilt no doubt was entertained; she therefore waived her defence and put an end to her life.

41 1 About this date, the Cietae,42 a tribe subject to Archelaus of Cappadocia, pressed to conform with Roman usage by making a return of their property and submitting to a tribute, migrated to the heights of the Tauric range, and, favoured by the nature of the country, held their own against the unwarlike forces of the king; until the legate Marcus Trebellius, despatched by Vitellius from his province of Syria with four thousand legionaries and a picked force of auxiliaries, drew his lines round the two hills which the barbarians had occupied (the smaller is known as Cadra, the other as Davara) and reduced p227them to surrender — those who ventured to make a sally, by the sword, the others by thirst.

Meanwhile,43 with the acquiescence of the Parthians, Tiridates took over Nicephorium, Anthemusias,44 and the other cities of Macedonian foundation, carrying Greek names, together with the Parthic towns of Halus and Artemita; enthusiasm running high, as Artabanus, with his Scythian training, had been execrated for his cruelty and it was hoped that Roman culture had mellowed the character of Tiridates.

42 1 The extreme of adulation was shown by the powerful community of Seleucia,45 a walled town which, faithful to the memory of its founder Seleucus,46 has not degenerated into barbarism. Three hundred members, chosen for wealth or wisdom, form a senate: the people has its own prerogatives. So long as the two orders are in unison, the Parthian is ignored: if they clash, each calls in aid against its rival; and the alien, summoned to rescue a part, overpowers the whole. This had happened lately in the reign of Artabanus, who consulted his own ends by sacrificing the populace to the aristocrats: for supremacy of the people is akin to freedom; between the domination of a minority and the whim of a monarch the distance is small. They now celebrated the arrival of Tiridates with the honours paid to the ancient kings, along with the innovations of which a later age has been more lavish: at the same time, they poured abuse on Artabanus as an Arsacid on the mother's side, but otherwise of ignoble blood. — Tiridates handed over the government of Seleucia to p229the democracy; then, as he was debating what day to fix for his formal assumption of sovereignty, he received letters from Phraates and Hiero, holders of the two most important satrapies, asking for a short postponement. It was decided to wait for men of their high importance, and in the interval a move was made to the seat of government at Ctesiphon.47 However, as day after day found them still procrastinating, the Surena,48 before an applauding multitude, fastened, in the traditional style, the royal diadem upon the brows of Tiridates.

43 1 And, had he marched at once upon the interior and the remaining tribes, he must have overborne the doubts of the hesitant, and the nation would have been his own; but, by investing the fortress in which Artabanus had bestowed his money and his harem, he allowed a breathing-space in which agreements could be repudiated. For Phraates and Hiero, with others who had taken no share in the solemnities of the day fixed for the assumption of the diadem, some in fear, a few in jealousy of Abdagaeses (now master of the court and the newly crowned king), passed over to Artabanus; who was discovered in Hyrcania, a filth-covered figure, procuring his daily bread by his bow. His first terrified expectation of treachery gave way to relief on a solemn assurance that they had come to restore him to his throne, and he inquired the reason for the sudden change. Hiero then inveighed against the boyish years of Tiridates:— "It was no Arsacid that held sway: the unsubstantial title was borneº by a weakling whose foreign effeminacy unfitted him for the sword; the power was vested in the house of Abdagaeses."

p231 44 1 The veteran monarch realized that, if they were false in love, they were not hypocritical in their hatreds. Waiting only to collect auxiliaries in Scythia, he took the field with a speed that baffled the machinations of his foes and the vacillation of his friends: his squalor he retained as likely to attract the multitude through their sympathies. Neither fraud nor entreaty — nothing that could entice the doubtful or confirm the resolute — was neglected. He was already nearing the outskirts of Seleucia at the head of a numerous force, when Tiridates, unnerved at once by news of Artabanus and by Artabanus in person, began to waver between the two plans of a counter-advance or a strategy of delay. The partisans of battle and a quick decision of their fate argued that not even in thought had those scattered and wayworn bands coalesced into a loyal whole, betrayers and enemies as they had been but yesterday of the very prince whose cause they were again espousing. Abdagaeses, however, advised a return to Mesopotamia; where, behind the barrier of the river,49 they might in the interval raise the Armenians, Elymaeans50 and other nations in their rear; then, reinforced by the contingents of their allies and by any which the Roman commander might have despatched, submit their fortunes to the test. This view prevailed, as the dominant influence was that of Abdagaeses and Tiridates had little appetite for danger. But the withdrawal was effected in the style of a flight, and, with the Arabian tribesmen51 setting the example, the rest left for their homes or the camp of Artabanus; till at last Tiridates with a few attendants retraced his way to Syria and freed all from the disgrace of desertion.

p233 45 1 The same year saw the capital visited by a serious fire, the part of the Circus52 adjoining the Aventine being burnt down along with the Aventine itself: a disaster which the Caesar converted to his own glory by paying the full value of the mansions and tenement-blocks destroyed. One hundred million sesterces were invested in this act of munificence, which came the more acceptably to the multitude that he was far from extravagant in building on his own behalf; whilst, even on the public account, the only two works he erected were the temple of Augustus and the stage of Pompey's theatre,53 and in each case he was either too scornful of popularity or too old to dedicate them after completion. To estimate the losses of the various claimants, four husbands of the Caesar's grand-daughters54 were appointed: Gnaeus Domitius, Cassius Longinus, Marcus Vinicius, and Rubellius Blandus. Publius Petronius was added by nomination of the consuls. Honours varying with the ingenuity of their authors were invented and voted to the sovereign. Which of these he rejected or accepted remained unknown, since the end of his days was at hand.

For shortly afterwards the last consuls of Tiberius, Gnaeus Acerronius and Gaius Petronius, inaugurated their term of office. By this time the influence of Macro exceeded all bounds. Never careless of the good graces of Gaius Caesar, he was now courting them with daily increasing energy; and after the death of Claudia, whose espousal to the prince has been mentioned earlier,55 he had induced his wife Ennia to captivate the youth by a mockery of love and to bind him by a promise of marriage.56 Caligula p235objected to no conditions, provided that he could reach the throne: for, wild though his temper was, he had none the less, at his grandfather's knee, mastered in full the arts of hypocrisy.

46 1 This the emperor knew; and he hesitated therefore with regard to the succession — first between his grandchildren. Of these, the issue of Drusus57 was the nearer to him in blood and by affection, but had not yet entered the years of puberty: the son of Germanicus58 possessed the vigour of early manhood, but also the affections of the multitude — and that, with his grandsire, was a ground of hatred. Even Claudius with his settled years59 and aspirations to culture came under consideration: the obstacle was his mental instability. Yet, if a successor were sought outside the imperial family, he dreaded that the memory of Augustus — the name of the Caesars — might be turned to derision and to contempt. For the care of Tiberius was not so much to enjoy popularity in the present as to court the approval of posterity. Soon, mentally irresolute, physically outworn, he left to fate a decision beyond his competence; though remarks escaped him which implied a foreknowledge of the future. For, with an allusion not difficult to read, he upbraided Macro with forsaking the setting and looking to the rising sun; and to Caligula, who in some casual conversation was deriding Lucius Sulla, he made the prophecy that he would have all the vices of Sulla with none of the Sullan virtues. At the same time, with a burst of tears, he embraced the younger of his grandsons;60 then, at the lowering looks of the other:— "Thou wilt slay him," he said, "and another thee."61 Yet, in defiance of his failing health, p237he relinquished no detail of his libertinism: he was striving to make endurance pass for strength; and he had always had a sneer for the arts of the physicians, and for men who, after thirty62 years of life, needed the counsel of a stranger in order to distinguish things salutary to their system from things deleterious.

47 1 Meanwhile, at Rome the seeds were being sown of bloodshed destined to outlast Tiberius. Laelius Balbus had brought a charge of treason against Acutia, formerly the wife of Publius Vitellius.63 After her condemnation, a reward was on the point of being decreed to the accuser, when Junius Otho,64 the plebeian tribune, opposed his veto: whence a feud between the pair, terminated later by the destruction of Otho. Next, Albucilla, made notorious by a multitude of lovers, and at one time married to Satrius Secundus, the divulger of the plot,65 was arraigned for a breach of piety towards the sovereign: associated in the indictment as her accomplices and adulterers were Gnaeus Domitius, Vibius Marsus, Lucius Arruntius. On the nobility of Domitius I have touched above;66 Marsus also could claim ancestral honours as well as some distinction in letters.67 But the documents forwarded to the senate stated that Macro had presided at the examination of witnesses and the torture of the slaves; and the absence of the emperor's usual letter against the accused gave rise to a suspicion that much of the evidence had been fabricated during his illness, and possibly without his knowledge, on account of the prefect's well-known hostility to Arruntius.

48 1 Domitius and Marsus, therefore, continued p239to live — the former studying his defence, the latter ostensibly bent on self-starvation. Arruntius, whose friends advised procrastination and delays, replied that "not the same things were becoming to all men. For himself he had lived long enough; and it was his one regret that he had borne with an old age of anxieties amid flouts and perils, long detested by Sejanus, now by Macro, always by one or other of the mighty, not through his fault, but because he was impatient of villanies. True, he might steer through the few days before the passing of the sovereign: but how to escape the youth of the sovereign who loomed ahead? Or, if absolute sway had power to convulse and transform the character of Tiberius after his vast experience of affairs, should Gaius Caesar, barely out of his boyhood, ignorant of all things or nurtured amid the worst, apply himself to better ways under the tutelage of Macro; who had been chosen, as the worse villain of the pair, to crush Sejanus, and had tormented the state by crimes more numerous than his? Even now he foresaw a yet harder servitude, and for that reason he was fleeing at once from the past and from the future." So speaking, with something of a prophetic accent, he opened his veins. — That Arruntius did well to die the sequel will demonstrate. Albucilla, after dealing herself an ineffective wound, was borne to the dungeon by order of the senate. Of those who had subserved her amours, Carsidius Sacerdos, an ex-praetor, was condemned to deportation to an island, Pontius Fregellanus to forfeiture of his senatorial rank; and the same penalties were decreed against Laelius Balbus: one verdict, at least, which was pronounced with p241joy, since he was regarded as the master of a truculent eloquence — the ever-ready foe of innocence.

49 1 During these days, Sextus Papinius, member of a consular family, chose an abrupt and indecent end by throwing himself from a window. The motive was referred to his mother, long ago divorced, who, by flattering his taste for dissipation, was supposed to have driven the youth to extremities from which he could find no issue except by death. Arraigned accordingly in the senate, though she threw herself at the knees of the Fathers and pleaded at length the common heritage of grief and the greater weakness of the female heart under such a blow, with much else in the same harrowing strain, she was nevertheless forbidden the capital for ten years, till her younger son should leave behind him the slippery period of youth.

50 1 By now his constitution and his strength were failing Tiberius, but not yet his powers of dissimulation. The unbending mind remained; still energetic in word and look, he strove every now and then to cover the manifest breaking-up by a forced sociability. After repeated changes of residence, he came to rest at last on the promontory of Misenum, in a villa which once had Lucius Lucullus for its master.68 There it was discovered, by the following means, that he was nearing the end. There was a doctor, of repute in his calling, by the name of Charicles, who had been accustomed not to treat the illnesses of the emperor but to offer him opportunities for consulting him. While taking his departure on the plea of private business, he clasped the Caesar's hand, apparently as an act of respect, and felt the pulse. The device was detected. p243Tiberius — possibly offended, and therefore making a special effort to conceal his anger — ordered the dinner to proceed, and, ostensibly out of compliment to a departing friend, remained at table until after his usual hour. Still, Charicles assured Macro that the respiration was failing and that he would not last above a couple of days. Immediately all arrangements were hurried through; at interviews, if the parties were present; by couriers, in the case of the generals and the armies. On the sixteenth of March, owing to a stoppage in his breathing, it was believed that he had paid the debt of nature; and Gaius Caesar, in the midst of a gratulatory crowd, was leaving the villa to enter on the preliminaries of empire, when suddenly word came that Tiberius was recovering his speech and sight and calling for someone to bring him food as a restorative after his swoon. A general panic followed: the others began to scatter in all directions, each face counterfeiting grief or ignorance; only the Caesar, frozen into silence, stood dashed from the height of hope and expecting the worst. Macro, undaunted, ordered the old man to be suffocated under a pile of bedclothes, while all left the threshold.69 — Thus Tiberius made an end in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

51 1 The son of Nero,70 on both sides he traced his origin to the Claudian house, though his mother, by successive acts of adoption, had passed into the Livian and, later, the Julian families. From earliest infancy he experienced the hazards of fortune. At first the exiled attendant of a proscribed father, he entered the house of Augustus in the quality of step-son; only to struggle against numerous rivals during the heyday of Marcellus and Agrippa and, p245later, of Gaius and Lucius Caesar; while even his brother Drusus was happier in the love of his countrymen. But his position was the most precarious after his preferment to the hand of Julia, when he had to tolerate, or to elude,71 the infidelities of his wife. Then came the return from Rhodes; and he was master of the heirless imperial house for twelve years,72 and later arbiter of the Roman world for virtually twenty-three. His character, again, has its separate epochs. There was a noble season in his life and fame while he lived a private citizen or a great official under Augustus; an inscrutable and disingenuous period of hypocritical virtues while Germanicus and Drusus remained: with his mother alive, he was still an amalgam of good and evil; so long as he loved, or feared, Sejanus, he was loathed for his cruelty, but his lust was veiled; finally, when the restraints of shame and fear were gone, and nothing remained but to follow his own bent, he plunged impartially into crime and into ignominy.73


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Both Pliny and Dio place the visit two years later.

2 This is the length, not of one of the phoenix-cycles, but of the Sothic or Canicular, period (κυνικὸς κύκλος), at the end of which the error arising from the difference between a calendar year of 365 days and a solar year of 365¼ days redresses itself without intercalation. The period owes its name to the fact that the at the beginning of each cycle the heliacal rising of Sothis — the Dog Star — occurred on the first of Thoth, the opening day of the year. That one such cycle is known from Censorinus to have ended in 139 A.D. isº a point of cardinal importance for Egyptian chronology.

3 II.60 n.

4 See Hdt. II.172 sqq. The accepted date of his reign is 569‑526 B.C.

5 247‑222 B.C.

6 Egypt. Pe-ra (Anu), Hebr. On. The ruins are near Matarieh, six miles NNE of Cairo.

7 IV.47 init.

8 See chap. 9.

9 The subject, according to Dio (LVIII.24), was Atreus oneº of the objectionable lines a variant upon Eur. Phoen. 393 τὰς τῶν κρατούντων ἀμαθίας φέρειν χρεών, and the comment of Tiberius:— Κἀγὼ οὖν αὐτὸν Αἴαντα ποιήσω.

10 IV.42 n.

11 IV.73.

12 Partho-Armenian affairs were touched on in II.1‑4, 56, 58, 68, and doubtless in the lost part of Book V. The situation is now roughly this:— In Rome are three members of the Parthian royal house — a son (Phraates) of Phraates IV, and two grandsons (Tiridates and Meherdates). Of the other three sons of Phraates IV, sent by their father as hostages, two have died in Italy: the eldest, Vonones, after a short tenure of the throne first of Parthia, then of Armenia, has perished in an attempt to escape from his detention in Cilicia. — In Parthia, the energetic half-Scythian king, Artabanus III, who ejected Vonones, still reigns, but there is disaffection among the grandees. — In Armenia, the Greek prince Zeno, raised to the throne by Germanicus as Artaxias III, is dead, and has been replaced by the eldest son of Artabanus.

13 Doubtless mentioned in Book V.

14 IV.5 n.

15 The notorious favourite of Claudius, consul in the previous year, and father of the future emperor.

16 Suetonius (Vit. 2) gives two or three instances. One was deservedly famous:— Huius et illa vox est, 'Saepe facias,' cum saecularis ludos edenti Claudio gratularetur.

17 II.56 n.

18 IV.5 n.

19 A loose designation for various trans-Caucasian tribes.

20 Originally a name applied to the great eunuchs of the Persian Court. Its application to Scythian princelets is now attested by inscriptions.

21 The misnamed 'Caspian Gate' — the famous Pass of Dariel in the Terek Valley, traversed to‑day by the military road between Tiflis and Vladikavkaz (Ordzhonikidze). It was of sinister importance (metuendaque portae Limina Caspiacae, Stat. Silv. IV.4) as the highroad for Sarmatian and, later, Hunnish inroads into the plains of Parthia and the eastern provinces of empire: cf. Procop. B. P. I.10; B. G. IV.3. — The Caspiae Portae proper lay far eastward, north of Teheran.

22 Between Derbend and Baku, on the west shore of the Caspian.

23 Σ Ap. Rh. I.256, ἔνιοι δέ φασιν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ κριοπρῴρον σκάφους πλεῦσαι. This convenient hypothesis was freely applied by the rationalists to resolve such cases of conscience as Europa's bull, Ganymede's eagle — though here the standard of a legion was an alternative — and the like.

24 The Sarmatians. The tactics of these ancient Cossacks are shortly described at Hist. I.79. The long sword and heavy cavalry pike — often used as a missile — were national weapons.

25 They had been in Armenia for the better part of a year.

26 East of the Caspian. At the southern extremity lay the Hyrcanians, and immediately to their north the Dahae, among whom Artabanus' youth was passed (II.3). Carmania — the name survives in that of the desert of Kirmân — touched the Persian gulf.

27 A purificatory offering of a boar, ram, and bull on behalf of the army.

Thayer's Note: For details, see the article Sacrificium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

28 The principal Persian victim, usually offered to the Sun (Xen. An. IV.5; Just. I.10); to the Strymon, however, in Hdt. VII.113.

29 The white band — hence albentibus spumis — round the tiara of an oriental monarch.

30 The great rebellion, crushed by Tiberius, after extraordinary efforts, in 6‑9 A.D.

31 The narrative of the second is not complete, and is taken up in chap. 41.

32 Oct. 18, 31 A.D.

33 V.11; VI.4.

34 II.67.

35 VI.3.

36 IV.46 n.

37 Probably the accuser of L. Arruntius (see chap. 7). In that case, the lacuna must have contained the mention of a favour shown to him (presumably a remission of his penalty), then a second neque quod, followed by the names of at least two reputable persons put to death.

38 Tigranes IV (a grandson of Herod the Great), whose brief reign is omitted by Tacitus at II.4, but mentioned in the Monumentum Ancyranum and by Josephus (A. J. XVIII.5.4).

39 Elder brother of the future emperor; consul in 22 A.D. (III.52), and ruined by extravagance (Suet. Galb. 3).

40 Sons of Sejanus' uncle.

41 In a lost passage. She was the daughter of Marcus Lepidus (III.32), not of Manius (chap. 5 n.).

42 On the coast of Cilicia Trachea.

43 The narrative reverts to the end of chap. 37.

44 Both towns were in Mesopotamia; Artemita — and, doubtless, Halus — lay across the Tigris.

45 One of the great cities of the ancient world, built on the western bank of the Tigris, some twenty miles south of Bagdad, and facing its Parthian rival, Ctesiphon, across the stream. Its decline dates from its sack and burning by the troops of Avidius Cassius (165 A.D.).

46 The marshal of Alexander, founder of the dynasty bearing his name.

47 Opposite Seleucia; originally a village used as a royal winter-residence διὰ τὸ εὐαέριον (Strab. 743), then the capital both of the Arsacids and of the Sassanids. It sank into obscurity after its capture and sack by Omar (March, 637 A.D.).

48 The hereditary commander-in‑chief, the name being at once personal and official, like the Roman Caesar or the Parthian Arsaces.

49 The Tigris.

50 Presumably the people at the head of the Persian Gulf; but, in that case, a tergo must be due to a misapprehension.

51 From Osroëne in N. Mesopotamia: cf. XII.12 n.

52 The Circus Maximus, in the hollow (vallis Murcia) between the Palatine and Aventine.

53 IV.7 n. — The scaena had been destroyed by fire in 22 A.D. (III.72).

54 IV.75; VI.1527.

55 At chap. 20 above.

56 Dio agrees (LVIII.28); Philo, after enlarging on Macro's intrigues, asserts his innocence in this particular (t. II.511 M.); Suetonius attributes the advances to Gaius (Cal. 12).

57 Tiberius Gemellus, the survivor of the twins (II.84); born in 19 A.D.

58 Gaius, born in 12 A.D.

59 He was in his forty-sixth year.

60 Tiberius Gemellus.

61 The first part of the prediction was fulfilled by Caligula within a year, the second by Cassius Chaerea in 41 A.D.

62 Plutarch twice makes the figure sixty (Praec. san. tuend. 136D, An Seni gerenda resp. 794B).

63 I.70 n.; V.8.

64 No doubt the son of the schoolmaster-praetor of III.66.

65 The novissimum consilium (chap. 8) of Sejanus — to assassinate Tiberius and Caligula and seize the empire. Details are scanty and uncertain; but, as the plot was apparently disclosed to Tiberius by Claudius' mother Antonia (Jos. A. J. XVIII.6.6), it is conjectured that Satrius (IV.34) supplied her with the information which she forwarded to Capreae.

66 IV.75.

67 II.74 n.

68 The vicissitudes of this famous palace, which in its earliest days housed Marius and Lucullus and in its latest Romulus Augustulus and the bones of St. Severinus, are summarized by Gibbon (t. IV.52 sq. Bury). Phaedrus lays the scene of one of his fables (II.5) at the villa during a visit of Tiberius.

69 The inevitable variations will be found in Suetonius (Tib. 73) and Dio (LVIII.28). The circumstantial and unsensational account quoted by the former from 'Seneca' — presumably the elder — is noteworthy.

70 Ti. Claudius Nero: see V.1 with the notes.

71 By his retirement to Rhodes (I.53).

72 From 2 A.D. to 14 A.D., Gaius Caesar being still alive in the first two years, but absent in the East.

73 So the advocatus diaboli sums up his case, which has not always been regarded as conclusive against canonization, or at least beatification! The evidence on both sides of the endlessly debated question may be found carefully collected and coolly judged in the eighth chapter of Furneaux' Introduction.


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