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

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

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

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals


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!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. IV) Tacitus

Book XI (end)

 p273  16 1 In the same year the tribe of the Cherusci​1 applied to Rome for a king, as intestine strife had exterminated their nobility, and of the royal house there survived one member, who was kept at Rome and bore the name of Italicus. On the father's side he sprang from Arminius' brother Flavus,​2 his mother being the daughter of the Chattan chieftain Actumerus: he himself was a handsome figure, trained to arms and horseman­ship on both the German and the Roman systems. The Caesar, therefore, made him a grant of money, added an escort, and encouraged him to enter on his family honours with a high heart:— "He was the first man born at Rome, and not a hostage but a citizen, to leave for a foreign throne." At the outset, indeed, his arrival was greeted by the Germans with enthusiasm; and, as he was imbued with no party animosities and showed himself equally anxious to oblige all men, admirers flocked round a prince who practised occasionally the inoffensive foibles of courtesy and restraint, but more frequently the drunkenness and incontinence dear to barbarians. His fame was already beginning to reach, and to transcend, the neighbouring states,  p275 when, in jealousy of his power, the men who had flourished upon faction made their way to the adjacent tribes and there took up their testimony:— "The ancient freedom of Germany was being filched away, and Roman power was mounting. Was it so indisputable that there was not a man born upon the same soil as themselves who was competent to fill the princely station, without this offspring of the scout Flavus being exalted above them all? It was idle to invoke the name of Arminius. Had a son of Arminius returned to govern them after being reared in the enemy's country, they might well have dreaded a youth infected by foreign nurture, servitude, and dress, — in a word, by all things foreign! As for Italicus, if he had the family disposition, no man had waged a more implacable war against country and home than had his father!"

17 1 With these and similar appeals they collected a large force; nor was Italicus' following inferior:— "He had not," he reminded them, "taken an unwilling people by storm, but had been summoned because in nobility he stood higher than his rivals: as to his courage, let them test it and see if he proved himself worthy of his uncle Arminius, his grandsire Actumerus! Nor did he blush for his father — that he had never renounced the obligations to Rome which he contracted with German assent. The name of liberty was being used as a dishonest pretext by men who, base-born themselves and a curse to the realm, had no hope but in civil dissensions." The crowd shouted applause, and in a battle, great as barbarian battles go, victory rested with the king. Then, flushed by success, he lapsed into arrogance, was expelled, was restored a second  p277 time by the Langobard​3 arms, and in his prosperity and in his adversity remained the scourge of the Cheruscan nation.

18 1 During the same period, the Chauci,​4 untroubled by domestic strife and elated by the death of Sanquinius,​5 forestalled the arrival of Corbulo by raiding Lower Germany under the leader­ship of Gannascus, — a Canninefate​6 by extraction, once an auxiliary in the Roman service, then a deserter, and now with a piratical fleet of light vessels engaged in ravaging principally the coast of Gaul, with the wealth of whose peaceful communities he was well acquainted. On his entry into the province, however, Corbulo, showing extreme care and soon acquiring that great reputation which dates from this campaign, brought up his triremes​7 by the Rhine channel and the rest of his vessels, according to their draughts, by the estuaries and canals. Sinking the hostile boats, he ejected Gannascus, and, after adequately settling affairs on the spot, recalled the legions, as lethargic in their toils and duties as they were ardent in pillage, to the old code with its prohibitions against falling out on march or beginning an action without orders. Outpost and sentry work, duties of the day and the night, were carried out under arms; and it is on record that two soldiers were punished by death, one for digging soil for the rampart without side-arms, the other for doing so with none but his dagger. Exaggerated and possibly false as the tales may be, their starting-point is still the severity of the commander;  p279 and the man may safely be taken as strict and, to grave offences, inexorable, who was credited with such rigour in regard to trifles.

19 1 However, the terror he inspired had opposite effects on the soldiers and on the enemy: to us it meant a revival of courage, to the barbarians a weakening of confidence. So, the Frisian clan,​8 hostile or disaffected since the rebellion inaugurated by the defeat of Lucius Apronius, gave hostages and settled in the reservation marked out by Corbulo: who also imposed on them a senate, a magistracy, and laws. To guard against neglect of his orders, he built a fortified post in the district, while despatching agents to persuade the Greater Chauci​9 to surrender, and to attempt the life of Gannascus by ruse. The trap was neither ineffective nor, against a deserter and a violator of his faith, dishonourable; yet the killing of Gannascus unsettled the temper of the Chauci, and Corbulo was sowing the seeds of rebellion. Hence the news, though acceptable to many, was by some regarded as sinister:— "Why was he raising up an enemy? Any losses would fall upon the state: if success attended him, then a distinguished soldier, intolerable as such to a nervous emperor, constituted a threat to peace." — Claudius, therefore, so firmly prohibited fresh aggression against Germany that he ordered our garrisons to be withdrawn to the west bank of the Rhine.

20 1 Corbulo was already arranging for his encampment on hostile ground, when the despatch was delivered. He was taken by surprise; but although a multitude of consequences poured upon his mind — danger from the emperor, contempt from the  p281 barbarians, ridicule on the side of the provincials — he made no remark except: "Happy the Roman generals before my time!" and gave the signal for retreat. To give the troops occupation, however, he ran a canal, twenty-three miles in length, between the Meuse and Rhine,​a thus making it possible to evade the hazards of the North Sea.​10 The Caesar, though refusing him a war, conceded him none the less the insignia of a triumph.

Nor was it long before the same distinction was gained by Curtius Rufus,​11 who had opened a mine, in search of silver-lodes, in the district of Mattium.​12 The profits were slender and short-lived, but the legions lost heavily in the work of digging out water-courses and constructing under­ground workings which would have been difficult enough in the open. Worn out by the strain — and also because similar hardships were being endured in a number of provinces — the men drew up a private letter in the name of the armies, begging the emperor, when he thought of entrusting an army to a general, to assign him triumphal honours in advance.13

21 1 As to the origin of Curtius Rufus, whom some have described as the son of a gladiator, I would not promulgate a falsehood and I am ashamed to investigate the truth. On reaching maturity, he joined the train of a quaestor to whom Africa had been allotted, and, in the town of Adrumetum, was loitering by himself in an arcade deserted during the mid-day heat, when a female form of superhuman size rose before him, and a voice was heard to say: "Thou, Rufus, art he that shall come into this province as proconsul." With such an omen to raise his hopes, he left for the capital, and, thanks  p283 to the bounty of his friends backed by his own energy of character, attained the quaestor­ship, followed — in spite of patrician competitors — by a praetor­ship due to the imperial recommendation; for Tiberius had covered the disgrace of his birth by the remark: "Curtius Rufus I regard as the creation of himself." Afterwards, long of life and sullenly cringing to his betters, arrogant to his inferiors, unaccommodating among his equals, he held consular office, the insignia of triumph, and finally Africa; and by dying there fulfilled the destiny foreshadowed.

22 1 At Rome, in the meantime, for no reason then evident or afterwards ascertained, the Roman knight Gnaeus Nonius was discovered with a sword at his side amid the throng at the emperor's levée. Lacerated by the torturer, he admitted his own guilt, but divulged no accomplices: whether he concealed any is uncertain.

Under the same consuls, Publius Dolabella proposed that an exhibition of gladiators should be given yearly at the expense of the men who obtained a quaestor­ship.​14 With our ancestors, office had been the prize of merit, and all citizens who had confidence in their qualities could legitimately seek a magistracy; nor was there even a distinction of age, to preclude entrance upon a consulate or dictator­ship in early youth.​15 The quaestor­ship itself was instituted while the kings still reigned, as shown by the renewal of the curiate law​16 by Lucius Brutus; and the power of selection remained with the consuls,  p285 until this office, with the rest, passed into the bestowal of the people. The first election, sixty-three years after the expulsion of the Tarquins,​17 was that of Valerius Potitus and Aemilius Mamercus, as finance officials attached to the army in the field. Then, as their responsibilities grew, two were added to take duty at Rome;​18 and before long, with Italy now contributory and revenues accruing from the provinces, the number was again doubled.​19 Later still, by a law of Sulla,​20 twenty were appointed with a view to supplementing the senate, to the members of which he had transferred the jurisdiction in the criminal courts; and, even when that jurisdiction had been reassumed by the knights, the quaestor­ship was still granted without fee, in accordance with the dignity of the candidates or by the indulgence of the electors, until by the proposition of Dolabella it was virtually put up to auction.

23 1 In the consulate of Aulus Vitellius​21 and Lucius Vipsanius, the question of completing the numbers of the senate was under consideration, and the leading citizens of Gallia Comata,​22 as it is termed, who had long before obtained federate rights and Roman citizen­ship,​23 were claiming the privilege of holding magistracies in the capital. Comments on the subject were numerous and diverse; and in the imperial council the debate was conducted with animation on both sides:— "Italy," it was asserted, "was not yet so moribund that she was unable to supply a deliberative body to her own capital. The  p287 time had been when a Roman-born senate was enough for nations​24 whose blood was akin to their own; and they were not ashamed of the old republic. Why, even to‑day men quoted the patterns of virtue and of glory which, under the old system, the Roman character had given to the world! Was it too little that Venetians and Insubrians​25 had taken the curia by storm, unless they brought in an army of aliens to give it the look of a taken town? What honours would be left to the relics of their nobility or the poor senator who came from Latium? All would be submerged by those opulent persons whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers, in command of hostile tribes, had smitten our armies by steel and the strong hand, and had besieged the deified Julius at Alesia.​26 But those were recent events! What if there should arise the memory of the men who essayed to pluck down the spoils, sanctified to Heaven, from the Capitol and citadel of Rome?​27 Leave them by all means to enjoy the title of citizens: but the insignia of the Fathers, the glories of the magistracies, — these they must not vulgarize!"

24 1 Unconvinced by these and similar arguments, the emperor not only stated his objections there and then, but, after convening the senate, addressed it as follows:​28 — "In my own ancestors, the eldest of whom, Clausus,​29 a Sabine by extraction, was made simultaneously a citizen and the head of a patrician house, I find encouragement to employ  p289 the same policy in my administration, by transferring hither all true excellence, let it be found where it will. For I am not unaware that the Julii came to us from Alba, the Coruncanii from Camerium,​30 the Porcii from Tusculum; that — not to scrutinize antiquity — members were drafted into the senate from Etruria, from Lucania, from the whole of Italy;​31 and that finally Italy itself was extended to the Alps,​32 in order that not individuals merely but countries and nationalities should form one body under the name of Romans. The day of stable peace at home and victory abroad came when the districts beyond the Po were admitted to citizen­ship, and, availing ourselves of the fact that our legions were settled throughout the globe, we added to them the stoutest of the provincials, and succoured a weary empire. Is it regretted that the Balbi crossed over from Spain and families equally distinguished from Narbonese Gaul? Their descendants remain; nor do they yield to ourselves in love for this native land of theirs. What else proved fatal to Lacedaemon and Athens, in spite of their power in arms, but their policy of holding the conquered aloof as alien-born? But the sagacity of our own founder Romulus was such that several times he fought and naturalized a people in the course of the same day! Strangers have been kings over us: the conferment of magistracies on the sons of freedmen is not the novelty which it is commonly and mistakenly thought, but a frequent practice of the old commonwealth. — 'But we fought  p291 with the Senones.' — Then, presumably, the Volscians and Aequians​33 never drew up a line of battle against us. — 'We were taken by the Gauls.' — But we also gave hostages to the Tuscans​34 and underwent the yoke of the Samnites.​35 — And yet, if you survey the whole of our wars, not one was finished within a shorter period​36 than that against the Gauls: thenceforward there has been a continuous and loyal peace. Now that customs, culture, and the ties of marriage have blended them with ourselves, let them bring among us their gold and their riches instead of retaining them beyond the pale! All, Conscript Fathers, that is now believed supremely old has been new: plebeian magistrates followed the patrician; Latin, the plebeian; magistrates from the other races of Italy, the Latin. Our innovation, too, will be parcel of the past, and what to‑day we defend by precedents will rank among precedents."

25 1 The emperor's speech was followed by a resolution of the Fathers, and the Aedui​37 became the first to acquire senatorial rights in the capital: a concession to a long-standing treaty and to their position as the only Gallic community enjoying the title of brothers to the Roman people.

Much at the same time, the Caesar adopted into the body of patricians all senators of exceptionally  p293 long standing or of distinguished parentage: for by now few families remained of the Greater and Lesser Houses, as they were styled by Romulus and Lucius Brutus;​38 and even those selected to fill the void, under the Cassian and Saenian laws, by the dictator Caesar and the emperor Augustus were exhausted. Here the censor had a popular task, and he embarked upon it with delight. How to remove members of flagrantly scandalous character, he hesitated; but adopted a lenient method, recently introduced, in preference to one in the spirit of old-world severity, advising each offender to consider his case himself and to apply for the privilege of renouncing his rank: that leave would be readily granted; and he would publish the names of the expelled and the excused together, so that the disgrace should be softened by the absence of anything to distinguish between censorial condemnation and the modesty of voluntary resignation. In return, the consul Vipstanus proposed that Claudius should be called Father of the Senate:— "The title Father of his Country he would have to share with others: new services to the state ought to be honoured by unusual phrases." But he personally checked the consul as carrying flattery to excess. He also closed the lustrum,​39 the census showing 5,984,072 citizens.​40 And now came the end of his domestic blindness: before long, he was driven to note and to avenge the excesses of his wife — only to burn afterwards for an incestuous union.

 p295  26 1 By now the ease of adultery had cloyed on Messalina and she was drifting towards untried debaucheries, when Silius himself, blinded by his fate, or convinced perhaps that the antidote to impending danger was actual danger, began to press for the mask to be dropped:— "They were not reduced to waiting upon the emperor's old age: deliberation was innocuous only to the innocent; detected guilt must borrow help from hardihood. They had associates with the same motives for fear. He himself was celibate, childless, prepared for wedlock and to adopt Britannicus.º Messalina would retain her power unaltered, with the addition of a mind at ease, could they but forestall Claudius, who, if slow to guard against treachery, was prompt to anger." She took his phrases with a coolness due, not to any tenderness for her husband, but to a misgiving that Silius, with no heights left to scale, might spurn his paramour and come to appreciate at its just value a crime sanctioned in the hour of danger. Yet, for the sake of that transcendent infamy which constitutes the last delight of the profligate, she coveted the name of wife; and, waiting only till Claudius left for Ostia to hold a sacrifice,​41 she celebrated the full solemnities of marriage.

27 1 It will seem, I am aware, fabulous that, in a city cognizant of all things and reticent of none, any human beings could have felt so much security; far more so, that on a specified day, with witnesses to seal the contract, a consul designate and the emperor's wife should have met for the avowed purposes of legitimate marriage;​42 that the woman should have listened to the words of the auspices,43  p297 have assumed the veil, have sacrificed in the face of Heaven; that both should have dined with the guests, have kissed and embraced, and finally have spent the night in the licence of wedlock. But I have added no touch of the marvellous: all that I record shall be the oral or written evidence of my seniors.

28 1 A shudder, then, had passed through the imperial household. In particular, the holders of power​44 with all to fear from a reversal of the established order, gave voice to their indignation, no longer in private colloquies, but without disguise:— "Whilst an actor​45 profaned the imperial bedchamber, humiliation might have been inflicted, but destruction had still been in the far distance. Now, with his stately presence, his vigour of mind, and his impending consulate, a youthful noble was girding himself to a greater ambition — for the sequel of such a marriage was no mystery!" Fear beyond doubt came over them when they considered the hebetude of Claudius, his bondage to his wife, and the many murders perpetrated at the fiat of Messalina. Yet, again, the very pliancy of the emperor gave ground for confidence that, if they carried the day thanks to the atrocity of the charge, they might crush her by making her condemnation precede her trial. But the critical question, they realized, was whether Claudius would give a hearing to her defence, and whether they would be able to close his ears even to her confession.

29 1 At the outset, Callistus​46 (whom I have  p299 already noticed in connection with the killing of Gaius Caesar), together with Narcissus,​47 the contriver of the Appian murder, and Pallas,​48 then in the high noon of his favour, discussed the chances of diverting Messalina from her amour with Silius by private threats, while suppressing their knowledge of all other circumstances. Then, lest failure should involve their own destruction, Pallas and Callistus desisted; Pallas, through cowardice; the other, because he had expert knowledge of the last court as well and believed power to be held more securely by cautious than by vigorous counsels. Narcissus stood firm, making only one modification of the plan: there was to be no interview to forewarn her of the accusation or of the accuser. Himself on the alert for opportunities, as the Caesar lingered long at Ostia, he induced the pair of concubines, to whose embraces Claudius was the most habituated, by gifts, promises, and demonstrations of the power which would accrue to them from the fall of the wife, to undertake the task of delation.

30 1 As the next step, Calpurnia — for so the woman was called — secured a private audience, and, falling at the Caesar's knee, exclaimed that Messalina had wedded Silius. In the same breath, she asked Cleopatra, who was standing by ready for the question, if she had heard the news; and, on her sign of assent, requested that Narcissus should be summoned. He, entreating forgiveness for the past, in which he had kept silence to his master on the subject of Vettius, Plautius,​49 and their like, said that  p301 not even now would he reproach the lady with her adulteries, far less reclaim the palace, the slaves, and other appurtenances of the imperial rank.​50 No, these Silius might enjoy — but let him restore the bride and cancel the nuptial contract! "Are you aware," he demanded, "of your divorce? For the nation, the senate, and the army, have seen the marriage of Silius; and, unless you act with speed, the new husband holds Rome!"

31 1 The Caesar now summoned his principal friends; and, in the first place, examined Turranius,​51 head of the cornº-department; then the praetorian commander Lusius Geta.​52 They admitted the truth; and from the rest of the circle came a din of voices:— "He must visit the camp, assure the fidelity of the guards, consult his security before his vengeance." Claudius, the fact is certain, was so bewildered by his terror that he inquired intermittently if he was himself emperor — if Silius was a private citizen.

But Messalina had never given voluptuousness a freer rein. Autumn was at the full, and she was celebrating a mimic vintage through the grounds of the house. Presses were being trodden, vats flowed; while, beside them, skin-girt women were bounding like Bacchanals excited by sacrifice or delirium. She herself was there with dishevelled tresses and waving thyrsus; at her side, Silius with an ivy crown,​53 wearing the buskins and tossing his head, while around him rose the din of a wanton chorus. The tale runs that Vettius Valens,​54 in some freak of  p303 humour, clambered into a tall tree, and to the question, "What did he spy?" answered: "A frightful storm over Ostia" — whether something of the kind was actually taking shape, or a chance-dropped word developed into a prophecy.

32 1 In the meanwhile, not rumour only but messengers were hurrying in from all quarters, charged with the news that Claudius knew all and was on the way, hot for revenge. They parted therefore; Messalina to the Gardens of Lucullus; Silius — to dissemble his fear — to the duties of the forum. The rest were melting away by one road or other, when the centurions appeared and threw them into irons as discovered, some in the open, some in hiding. Messalina, though the catastrophe excluded thought, promptly decided for the course which had so often proved her salvation, to meet her husband and be seen by him: also, she sent word that Britannicus and Octavia were to go straight to their father's arms. Further, she implored Vibidia, the senior Vestal Virgin, to gain the ear of the Supreme Pontiff​55 and there plead for mercy. In the interval, with three companions in all (so complete, suddenly, was her solitude), she covered the full breadth of the city on foot, then mounted a vehicle used as a receptacle for garden refuse, and took the Ostian road, without a being to pity her, since all was outweighed by the horror of her crimes.

33 1 Quite equal agitation prevailed on the imperial side; as implicit confidence was not felt in the praetorian commandant Geta, who veered with equal levity to the good and to the evil. Narcissus, therefore, with the support of others who shared his alarms, stated formally that there was no  p305 hope of saving the emperor, unless, for that day only, the command of the troops was transferred to one of the freedmen; the responsibility he offered to take himself. Furthermore, that Claudius, while being conveyed to the city, should not be swayed to repentance by Lucius Vitellius and Caecina Largus,​56 he demanded a seat in the same litter, and took his place along with them.

34 1 It was a persistent tradition later that, amid the self-contradictory remarks of the emperor, who at one moment inveighed against the profligacies of his wife, and, in the next, recurred to memories of his wedded life and to the infancy of his children, Vitellius merely ejaculated: "Ah, the crime — the villainy!"​57 Narcissus, it is true, urged him to explain his enigma and favour them with the truth; but urgency was unavailing; Vitellius responded with incoherent phrases, capable of being turned to any sense required, and his example was copied by Caecina Largus.

And now Messalina was within view. She was crying to the emperor to hear the mother of Octavia and Britannicus, when the accuser's voice rose in opposition with the history of Silius and the bridal: at the same time, to avert the Caesar's gaze, he handed him the memoranda exposing her debaucheries. Shortly afterwards, at the entry into Rome, the children of the union were on the point of presenting themselves, when Narcissus ordered their removal. Vibidia he could not repulse, nor prevent her from demanding in indignant terms that a wife should not be given undefended to destruction. He therefore replied that the emperor would hear her and there would be opportunities for  p307 rebutting the charge: meanwhile, the Virgin would do well to go and attend to her religious duties.

35 1 Throughout the proceedings Claudius maintained a strange silence, Vitellius wore an air of unconsciousness: all things moved at the will of the freedman. He ordered the adulterer's mansion to be thrown open and the emperor to be conducted to it. First he pointed out in the vestibule an effigy — banned by senatorial decree​58 — of the elder Silius; then he demonstrated how the heirlooms of the Neros and the Drusi had been re­quisitioned as the price of infamy. As the emperor grew hot and broke into threats, he led him to the camp, where a mass-meeting of the troops had been prearranged. After a preliminary address by Narcissus, he spoke a few words: for, just as his resentment was, shame denied it utterance. There followed one long cry from the cohorts demanding the names and punishment of the criminals. Set before the tribunal, Silius attempted neither defence nor delay, and asked for an acceleration of death. His firmness was imitated by a number of Roman knights of the higher rank. Titius Proculus, appointed by Silius as "custodian"​59 of Messalina, and now proffering evidence, was ordered for execution, together with Vettius Valens, who confessed, and their accomplices Pompeius Urbicus and Saufeius Trogus. The same penalty was inflicted also on Decrius Calpurnianus, prefect of the city-watch;​60 on Sulpicius Rufus, procurator of the school of gladiators;​61 and on the senator Juncus Vergilianus.

 p309  36 1 Only Mnester caused some hesitation, as, tearing his garments, he called to Claudius to look at the imprints of the lash and remember the phrase by which he had placed him at the disposal of Messalina.​62 "Others had sinned through a bounty of high hope; he, from need; and no man would have had to perish sooner, if Silius gained the empire." The Caesar was affected, and leaned to mercy; but the freedmen decided him, after so many executions of the great, not to spare an actor: when the transgression was so heinous, it mattered nothing whether it was voluntary or enforced. Even the defence of the Roman knight Traulus Montanus was not admitted. A modest but remarkably handsome youth, he had within a single night received his unsought invitation and his dismissal from Messalina, who was equally capricious in her desires and her disdains. In the cases of Suillius Caesoninus​63 and Plautius Lateranus,​64 the death penalty was remitted. The latter was indebted to the distinguished service of his uncle: Suillius was protected by his vices, since in the proceedings of that shameful rout his part had been the reverse of masculine.

37 1 Meanwhile, in the Gardens of Lucullus, Messalina was fighting for life, and composing a petition; not without hope, and occasionally — so much of her insolence she had retained in her extremity — not without indignation. In fact, if Narcissus had not hastened her despatch, the ruin had all but fallen upon the head of the accuser. For Claudius, home again and soothed by an early dinner, grew a little heated with the wine, and gave instructions for someone to go and inform "the poor woman" — the exact phrase which he is stated to have  p311 used — that she must be in presence next day to plead her cause. The words were noted: his anger was beginning to cool, his love to return; and, if they waited longer, there was ground for anxiety in the approaching night with its memories of the marriage-chamber. Narcissus, accordingly, burst out of the room, and ordered the centurions and tribune in attendance to carry out the execution: the instructions came from the emperor. Evodus, one of the freedmen, was commissioned to guard against escape and to see that the deed was done. Hurrying to the Gardens in advance of the rest, he discovered Messalina prone on the ground, and, seated by her side, her mother Lepida;​65 who, estranged from her daughter during her prime, had been conquered to pity in her last necessity, and was now advising her not to await the slayer:— "Life was over and done; and all that could be attempted was decency in death." But honour had no place in that lust-corrupted soul, and tears and lamentations were being prolonged in vain, when the door was driven in by the onrush of the new-comers, and over her stood the tribune in silence, and the freedman upbraiding her with a stream of slavish insults.

38 1 Now for the first time she saw her situation as it was, and took hold of the steel. In her agitation, she was applying it without result to her throat and again to her breast, when the tribune ran her through. The corpse was granted to her mother; and word was carried to Claudius at the table that Messalina had perished: whether by her own or a strange hand was not specified. Nor was the question asked:​66 he called for a cup and went through the routine of the banquet. Even in the  p313 days that followed, he betrayed no symptoms of hatred or of joy, of anger or of sadness, or, in fine, of any human emotion; not when he saw the accusers rejoicing, not when he saw his children mourning. His forgetfulness was assisted by the senate, which decreed that the name and statues of the empress should be removed from private and public places. The decorations of the quaestor­ship were voted to Narcissus: baubles to the pride of one who bore himself as the superior of Pallas and Callistus! . . . . . . Meritorious actions, it is true, but fated to produce the worst of results. . . . . .

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 North-east of the Chatti, between the Weser and the Elbe, the tribe of Arminius.

2 II.9‑10. He had served in the Roman army as a mounted scout; whence the taunt below (exploratoris Flavi).

3 East of the Elbe, north of Bohemia.

4 The "Lesser Chauci," between the Ems and the Weser.

5 Sanquinius Maximus (VI.4). His death as legatus pro praetore of Lower Germany and his replacement by Corbulo (XIII.8 n.) must have been noticed in the lost part of this book.

6 IV.73 n.

7 Belonging to the Rhine flotilla (classis Germanica), instituted by Drusus who cut for it the military canal (fossa Drusiana) from the Rhine to the Zuyder Zee.

Thayer's Note: The canal has not been located; see the discussion at Livius.

8 IV.72 n.

9 Between the Weser (which divided them from the minores) and the Elbe.

10 The difficult voyage between the mouths of the two rivers.

11 Legatus pro praetore of Upper Germany; identified by Lipsius and Ryck with Q. Curtius Rufus, the historian of Alexander, but more probably his father.

12 The Wiesbaden and Homburg district.

13 So as to relieve him from the need of earning them by the exertions of his troops.

14 The quaestors designate (XIII.5 n.).

15 The age of eligibility for the higher magistracies was fixed by the lex Villia annalis (180 B.C.).

16 The lex curiata de imperio — in the later republic, the merest formality, but none the less indispensable — conferred imperium, during the regal period, upon the kings after election, and therefore, after the fall of the monarchy, on the two consuls as the king's successors.

17 In 447 B.C., two years after the fall of the decemvirate, during which the quaestor­ship had been in abeyance.

18 Actually, there can be little doubt, the urban quaestor­ship was older than the military (Liv. IV.43).

19 By the addition of four quaestores classici in 267 B.C., when Rome, after the Pyrrhic Wars, had become supreme in Italy.

20 In 81 B.C. — As to the contests of the knights and senate for the Iudicia, see XII.60 n.

21 The future emperor.

22 "Long-haired Gaul" (the three imperial provinces of Aquitania, Lugdunensis, and Belgica), as opposed to "trousered Gaul" (the senatorial and completely romanized Gallia Narbonensis).

23 Their clans were foederati; they themselves, full Roman citizens, but without senatorial rank, and therefore ineligible for the official career.

24 The Latin and Italian communities.

25 Types of the Gallic population north of the Po, enfranchised by Caesar at the outbreak of the Civil War (49 B.C.).

26 The scene of the siege, in 52 B.C., of Vercingetorix by Caesar and of Caesar by the relieving Gaulish army (Caes. B. G. VII.68 etc.); now Alise-Sainte-Reine, a village of some 600 inhabitants, between Semur and Dijon.

27 The text is desperate, but refers to the capture of Rome and siege of the Capitol by the Senonian Gauls after Allia (390 B.C.).

28 Large fragments of the actual speech, here re-written, rearranged, and condensed by Tacitus, were discovered at Lyons, in 1524, and printed by Lipsius in an excursus to his famous edition fifty years later. They may be conveniently consulted in Orelli, Nipperdey, or Furneaux.

Thayer's Note: These fragments are online at Latin Library.

29 IV.9 n.

30 In Latium, like Alba and Tusculum; but the site is uncertain.

31 In virtue of the extension of the franchise to all Italy south of the Po, at the end of the Social War.

32 The reference is to Caesar's grant of the civitas to the Gallic communities north of the Po, in 49 B.C., a date which makes the following tunc solida domi quies curious.

33 Southern and eastern neighbours respectively of ancient Rome; associated with the legends of Coriolanus and Cincinnatus.

34 After the surrender of Rome to Porsenna (Hist. III.72; Plin. H. N. XXXIV.14.39).

35 At the Caudine Forks in 321 B.C. (Liv. IX init.).

36 In ten years (59‑50 B.C.). There were many shorter conquests; and, in his actual speech, Claudius emphasizes the obstinacy of their resistance (Or. Claud. II.31).

37 Between the Loire and Saône, the capital being Augustodunum (Autun). The date of the treaty mentioned is unknown, but they were Socii populi Romani in the Gracchan period (Liv. Epit. 61): the lapse under Sacrovir (III.40 sqq.) is ignored.

38 A variant from the conventional account which describes the hundred patres maiorum gentium, forming the senate of Romulus, as supplemented by Tarquinius Priscus with a hundred minorum gentium, and by L. Brutus with a hundred conscripti from the equestrian order (Liv. I.835; II.1).

39 Censu perfecto . . . instructum exercitum omnem suovetaurilibus lustravit; idque conditum lustrum appellatum, quia in censendo finis factus est, Liv. I.44.

40 Jerome and Syncellus give 6,844,009 and 6,941,000 respectively; but the figures of the Mediceus seem to represent a more natural rate of increase upon the totals for 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and 14 A.D. (4,063,000; 4,233,000; 4,937,000).

41 Probably for the safety of the corn-fleet, as was inferred by Lipsius from Dio's πρὸς ἐπίσκεψιν σίτου (LX.31), compared with Amm. Marc. XIX.10.4.

42 Id etiam tabulae (the marriage contract) indicant, ubi scribitur: 'liberorum procreandorum causa' (S. Aug. Serm. 96).

43 Now such in name alone (nuptiarum auspices . . . qui re omissa nomen tantum tenent, Cic. De div. I.16.28).

44 The great freedmen — nominally chief secretaries in the emperor's household; in reality, heads of the executive, and masters of Claudius and the empire. They are particularized in the next chapter.

45 Mnester (chap. 1 n.).

46 Sold originally by a private owner (Sen. Ep. 47) to Caligula, over whom his influence was unbounded; now Secretary of Petitions — libertus a libellis — to Claudius.

47 The Secretary of State (libertus ab epistulis); μέγιστον τῶν τότε ἀνθρώπων δυνηθείς (D. Cass. LX.34), and the most striking figure of the triumvirate. His partner­ship with Messalina in the destruction of Ap. Junius Silanus (IV.68 n.) is described by Suetonius (Claud. 37). For his later career, see the remainder of this book, with XII.1, 57, 65; XIII.1.

48 Freedman of the emperor's mother Antonia; Financial Secretary (libertus a rationibus), and brother of the Felix of Acts xxiii. sq.

49 Chaps. 31, 35 sq.

50 Οἰκίαν αὐτῷ (Silius) βασιλικὴν ἐχαρίσατο (Messalina) πάντα τὰ τιμιώτατα τῶν τοῦ Κλαυδίου κειμηλίων συμφορήσασα ἐς αὐτήν (D. Cass. LX.31).

51 This exactae diligentiae senex, now a nonagenarian (Sen. Brev. vit. 20), had held his office for at least thirty-four years (I.7).

52 Colleague of Rufrius Crispinus (chap. 1).

53 He was impersonating Bacchus.

54 A lover of Messalina, and a doctor of celebrity (Plin. H. N. XXIX.1.8).

55 The emperor himself (III.58 n.). For the weight attached to the intercession of any Vestal, see the close of Cicero's Pro Fonteio (46 sqq.).

56 Colleague of Claudius in the consul­ship six years earlier.

57cri du coeur which might, of course, have been wrung from him either by the conduct of Messalina or by that of Narcissus.

58 Its destruction had evidently been ordered at the condemnation of Silius (IV.18‑20).

59 The appointment of such guardians of conjugal fidelity was not uncommon under the empire. Here the detail is at least in keeping with the general insanity of the proceedings.

60 The semi-military night police and fire-brigade of Rome. The force, instituted by Augustus, comprised seven cohorts (each responsible for two of the fourteen wards), recruited in the main from freedmen.

61 For the maintenance and training of the bands, required at games exhibited by the emperor. The procurator was of equestrian rank, and the post a stepping-stone to financial offices of some importance.

62 His orders were brief but comprehensive — ὅσα ἂν προστάττηται ὑπὸ τῆς Μεσσαλίνης ποιεῖν (D. Cass. LX.22).

63 See chap. 2.

64 Nephew of A. Plautius Silvanus, the conqueror of Britain. See XIII.11; XV.4960.

65 Nero's aunt, Domitia Lepida (XII.64 n.).

66 By Suetonius the unfortunate lapse of memory in the case of Poppaea Sabina (chap. 2) is transferred to this occasion: Occisa Messalina, Paulo post quam in triclinio decubuit, 'cur domina non venisset' requisiit (Claud. 39). Seneca, too, makes play with the emperor's lack of interest in the affair:— Dic mihi, dive Claudi, says Augustus (Apocol. 10), . . . tu Messalinam, cuius aeque avunculus maior eram quam tuus, occidisti? 'Nescio,' inquis.

Thayer's Note:

a Corbulo's canal is still in use. Details and photos, as almost always for the Roman presence in the Netherlands and Germany, are to be found at Livius.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 5 Apr 19