Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK VI. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 2 - Annals (Books 4-6, 11-16)
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BOOK VI. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 2 - Annals (Books 4-6, 11-16) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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THE strange and libidinous revellings of the ancient Emperor in his solitary retreat at Capreæ. Many accusations; that of Marcus Terentius, and his singular defence. L. Piso, his death and fine character. The office of Governor of Rome, how it began, and by whom exercised. Debate concerning the Sybilline books, and the restrictions to be observed in admitting them. A sedition at Rome upon a dearth of bread-corn. Two daughters of Germanicus married, one to L. Cassius, another to Marcus Vinicius. Regulations against usury. Fresh accusations upon the law of Majesty. Numbers executed at once as confederates with Sejanus, and their coarses exposed. Caligula married to Claudia; his character and dissimulation. Tiberius presages the sovereignty of Galba. His dealings with the astrologers: A remarkable story of Thrasullus. The miserable and violent end of Drusus the son of Germanicus, as also of Agrippina. The character and voluntary death of Nerva the great lawyer, with the end of other illustrious men. A Phœnix seen in Ægypt, with traditions concerning that miraculous bird. Fresh accusations and deaths. Deputies from Parthia for a King. Tiberius establishes a King there, then another. Lucius Vitellius sent to settle the East; his various character. Wars between the Parthians and Armenians. Artabanus expulsed from his kingdom, seeks refuge in Scythia. Tiridates settled in his room by the conduct and army of Vitellius. More illustrious Romans accused, with their condemnation and ends. The Clitæans, a people of Cappadocia, their revolt and defeat. Tiridates dethroned, and Artabanus recalled. A terrible conflagration at Rome: The liberality of Tiberius at that conjuncture. He deliberates with himself about a successor. His sickness, death and character.
CNeius Domitius and Camillus Scribonianus had begun their Consulship, when the Emperor, having crossed the channel between Capreæ and Surrentum, sailed along the shore of Campania, unresolved whether he should proceed to Rome, or counterfeiting a shew of coming, because he had determined not to come. He often approached to the neighbourhood of the City, even visited the Gardens upon the Tiber; but at last resumed his old retirement, the gloomy rocks and solitude of the sea, ashamed of his cruelties, and abominable lusts, in which he rioted so outrageously, that, after the fashion of Royal Tyrants, the children of ingenuous parentage became the objects of his pollution; nor in them was he struck with a lovely face only, or the graces of their persons; but in some their boyish and blushing innocence, in others their nobility and the glory of their ancestors, became the provocatives of his unnatual passion. Then likewise were devised the filthy names, till then unknown, of the Sellarii and Spintriæ, expressing the odious lewdness of the place, and the manifold methods of prostitution practised in it. He moreover entertained professed procurers, to look out and carry off the willing by the allurements of presents, the backward by terror and threats; and when their parents or kindred with-held their children, they had recourse to force, seisure, treated them like captives, and with all licentious rage.
At Rome, in the beginning of the year, as if the iniquities of Livia had been but just discovered, and not even long since punished, furious orders were passed even against her Statues and memory, as also, “That the effects of Sejanus should be taken from the public treasury, and placed in that of the Emperor:” as if such translation availed the state. Yet such was the motion of the Scipios, the Silani, and the Cassii, who urged it, each almost in the same words, but all with mighty zeal and earnestness; when, on a sudden, Togonius Gallus, while he would be thrusting his own meanness amongst names so greatly illustrious, became the object of derision; for the besought the Prince “to chuse a body of Senators, of whom twenty, drawn by lot and under arms, should wait upon him, and defend his person, as often as he entered the Senate.” He had weakly credited a Letter from the Emperor, requiring “the guard and protection of one of the Consuls, that he might return in safety from Capreæ to Rome.” Tiberius, however, returned thanks to the Senate for such an instance of affection; but, as he was wont to mix pleasantry with things serious, he asked, “How was it to be executed? What Senators were to be chosen? Who to be admitted? Whether always the same, or a continued succession? Whether young Senators, or such as had borne dignities? Whether those who were Magistrates, or those exercising no Magistracy? Moreover, what a becoming figure they would make, grave Senators, men of the gown, under arms at the entrance of the Senate! In truth, he held not his life of such importance, to have it thus protected by arms.” So much in answer to Togonius, without asperity of words; nor did he, farther than this, press them to cancel the motion.
But Junius Gallio escaped not thus. He had proposed, “That the Prætorian soldiers, having accomplished their term of service, should thence acquire the privilege of sitting in the fourteen rows of the Theatre allotted to the Roman Knights.” Upon him Tiberius fell with violent wrath, and, as if present, demanded, “What business had he with the soldiers? men whose duty bound them to observe only the orders of the Emperor, and from the Emperor alone to receive their rewards. Gallio had, forsooth, discovered a recompence which had escaped the sagacity of the deified Augustus! Or, was it not rather a project started by a mercenary of Sejanus, to raise sedition and discord, to debauch the rude minds of the soldiers with the shew and bait of new honour, to corrupt their discipline, and set them loose from military restrictions?” This reward had the studied flattery of Gallio, who was instantly expelled the Senate, and then Italy: Nay, it became a charge upon him, that his exile would be too easy, having for the place of it chosen Lesbos, an Island noble and delightful; he was therefore haled back to Rome, and confined in the house of a Magistrate. Tiberius, in the same Letter, demanded the doom of Sextus Paconianus, formerly Prætor, to the extreme joy of the Senate, as he was a man bold and mischievous, one armed with snares, and continually diving into the purposes and secrer transactions of all men, and one chosen by Sejanus, for plotting the overthrow of Caligula. When this was now laid open, the general hate and animosities long since conceived against him, broke violently out, and had he not offered to make a discovery, he had been instantly condemned to death.
As the person he arraigned, proved to be Latinius Latiaris, the accuser and the accused, two men equally detested, administered a most grateful scene. Latiaris, as I have recounted, had been the chief in betraying Titius Sabinus, and was now the first that suffered. During these transactions, Haterius Agrippa encountered the Consuls of the preceding year; “How came they to be silent now, they who had impeached each other of treason then? In truth, common dread, and consciences equally guilty, ought to be reckoned the bonds and articles of their present cessation. But the fathers must not pass unobserved what from themselves they had heard.” It was answered by Regulus, “That there still remained time to procure punishment, and he would do it effectually when the Prince should be present.” Trio pleaded “the usual emulation between collegues, and that what they two had uttered in the heat of dissension, were better blotted out of remembrance.” Agrippa still persisting, Sanquinius Maximus, one of the Consulars, besought the Senate, “That they would not thus heighten the anxieties of the Emperor, by wantonly hunting after matter of fresh asperity; and that, where remedies were wanting, he alone was abundantly sufficient to apply them.” Thus was safety procured to Regulus, and to Trio a delay of his doom. For Haterius; he became the more detested, since, emaciated with debauches and lubricity, and protected by his voluptuous sloth against all peril from the Prince’s cruelty, he meditated, in the midst of cups and harlots, the destruction of illustrious men.
The next impeached was Cotta Messalinus, the author of every the most bloody counsel, and thence long and intensely hated. The first opportunity was therefore snatched to fall upon him with a combination of crimes, as that he had called Caius Caligula by the feminine name of Caia Caligula, and branded him with constuprations of both kinds; that when he celebated among the priests the birthday of Augusta, he had stiled the entertainment a funeral supper; and that complaining of the great sway of Marcus Lepidus, and of Lucius Arruntius, with whom he had a suit about money, he had added, “They, indeed, will be supported by the Senate, but I by my little Tiberius.” Of all this he stood exposed to conviction by men of the first rank in Rome, who being earnest to attack him, he appealed to Cæsar, from whom soon after a Letter was brought in behalf of Cotta; in it he recounted “the beginning of their friendship,” repeated “his many good services to himself,” and desired “that words perversly construed, and humorous tales told at an entertainment, might not be wrested into crimes.”
Most remarkable was the beginning of that Letter; for in these words he introduced it; “What to write you, Conscript Fathers, or in what manner to write, or what at all not to write at this instant, if I can determine, may all the Deities, Gods and Goddesses, doom me still to more cruel agonies than those under which I feel myself perishing daily.” So closely did the bloody horror of his cruelties and infamy haunt this man of blood, and became his torturers! Nor was it at random what the wisest of all men was wont to affirm, that if the hearts of Tyrants were displayed, they would be seen full of deadly wounds and gorings, since what the severity of stripes is to the body, the same to the soul is the bitter anguish of cruelty, lust, and execrable pursuits. To Tiberius not his Imperial fortune, not his gloomy and inaccessible solitudes, could ensure tranquillity, nor exempt him from feeling, and even avowing, the rack in his breast, and the avenging furies that pursued him.
After this it was left to the discretion of the Senate to proceed as they listed against Cæcilianus the Senator, “who had produced against Cotta a charge of many heavy articles;” and it was resolved, “to subject him to the same penalties inflicted upon Aruseius and Sanquinius, the accusers of Lucius Arruntius.” A more signal instance of honour than this had never befallen Cotta, who, noble in truth, but through luxury indigent, and, for the baseness of his crimes, detestable, was, by the dignity of this amends, equalled in character to the most venerable reputation and virtues of Arruntius. Thereafter were arraigned Quintus Servæus, and Minutius Thermus; Servæus formerly Prætor, and once the follower of Germanicus; Minutius, of the Equestrian rank, and though distinguished, yet never elated, with the friendship of Sejanus: hence the greater commiseration upon both. Tiberius, on the contrary, charged them “as the leaders and principals in treason,” and directed Caius Cestius the elder “to declare to the Senate what he had written to him.” Thus Sestius undertook the accusation. This was the most pestilent calamity of those times, when the illustrious chiefs of the Senate degraded themselves to the vile office of the meanest informers, some in the face of the sun, many in the treacherous ways of secrecy, and both without regard to the ties of blood or friendship; no distinction of kinsmen from strangers, none of the familiar from the unacquainted; no means left to discover, whether for recent imputations, or for facts covered in a course of years with oblivion. For words spoken in the Forum, spoken at entertainments, upon what subject soever spoken, the speakers were accused; every one striving to get the start of another, and to arraign his man; some for their own protection, but most, as it were, smitten with the disease of informing, and captivated with a common contagion. Minutius and Servæus were condemned, but to save themselves became evidence; and thus there were drawn into the same mishap Julius Africanus, and Seius Quadratus, the former from Saintes a City of Gaul; from whence was the other I have not discovered. Neither am I unaware that by most Writers the doom and sufferings of many of the accused, are wholly omitted; either that they were weary of the excessive multiplicity, or apprehensive that the tedious recital, which to themselves proved surfeiting and melancholy, would with equal irksomness affect their readers. But to me, many peculiar passages have occurred deserving to be known, however not published by others.
For, at a juncture when all men else affected to renounce the character of friends to Sejanus, a Roman Knight, his name Marcus Terentius, and then upon his trial on this very account, dared to avow it before the Senate in a speech on this wise: “In my present circumstances, to deny the charge were, perhaps, more expedient than to acknowledge it; but, whatever be the result, I will own, that I was the friend of Sejanus, that I even sought to be his friend, and gloried when I had gained his friendship. I saw him collegue with his father Strabo in the command of the Prætorian Cohorts, and next governing the state and the soldiery at once as a Minister and a General. His kinsmen and friends were covered with public honours, and prevalent with the Prince was every man’s credit in proportion to his intimacy with Sejanus. Those, on the contrary, under his displeasure, were the despairing objects of persecution and wretchedness. Names and instances I bring none; but with myself I will vindicate, and at my own single peril, all those friends of his, who, like myself, were guiltless of his last designs. Sejanus the Vulsinian was not the man whom we courted; no; for the object of our adorations we chose Sejanus a part of the Claudian, a part of the Julian house, into which, by alliance, he was ingrafted; Sejanus thy son-in-law, O Cæsar, thy collegue in the Consulship, and that Sejanus who, under thee, administered the Empire. To us it belongs not to judge who is he whom above all others thou dost exalt, nor for what causes thou hast exalted him. Upon thee the Gods have devolved the supreme disposal of things, and to us remains the glory of obedience. Facts and things obvious we all behold; we perceive who it is upon whom thou dost accumulate wealth and honours, who they are that hold and distribute the supreme terrors and blessings of power; and that all these were the characteristics of Sejanus, no man will deny. But to pry into the profound thoughts of the Prince, and the counsels which he industriously hides, is forbidden and hazardous, nor even with hazard can it be effected. Recal not to mind, Conscript Fathers, the last day of Sejanus; remember him for the space of sixteen years, a time when we adored even such of his retainers as Satrius and Pomponius; and to be then acquainted with his porters and franchized slaves, was esteemed a grand honour. What therefore is the result? Is this defence universal, and does it serve indifferently all the friends of Sejanus? Far from it; let just limits bound it. Let the conspiracy against the State, let the bloody designs upon the Prince, be punished. As to the offices of friendship, as to the instances of benevolence towards Sejanus, the same measure of justice will acquit thee, Cæsar, and us.”
The magnanimity of the speech, added to the joy, that one was at last found, who reasoned aloud as in their hearts they did all, produced such powerful effect, that his accusers were for this, and other delinquencies, sentenced to banishment or death. Thereafter followed Letters from Tiberius against Sextus Vestilius, formerly Prætor; one whom he had long since, as a man exceeding dear to his brother Drusus, adopted into the class of his friends. The displeasure conceived against him arose from his either having composed an invective against the impurities of Caligula, or from his having been calumniated to have done it, which being believed, he was forbid the Prince’s table, and thence purposed to die. Having with an aged hand tried the steel, and feebly pierced his veins, he bound them up, and, by a Memorial, besought Tiberius; but receiving a merciless answer, opened them again for ever. Next were charged with treason, all in a band, Annius Pollio, Appius Silanus, Mamercus Scaurus, Calvisius Sabinus, and Vinicianus added to his father Pollio; a band of illustrious men, all noble in descent, some distinguished with the first dignities. Horror seized the Fathers; for what Senator was exempt from friendship or alliance with so many men of such signal quality? But one of the evidence, his name Celsus, Tribune of a City-Cohort, acquitted Appius and Calvisius. The trial of Pollio, Vinicianus, and Scaurus, was, by the Emperor postponed, till he could himself attend it in Senate. Upon Scaurus, however, he bestowed some tragical and boding notes of vengeance.
Nor could even women escape the rage of accusations. With designs to usurp the government, they could not be charged; their tears are therefore made treason, and Vitia, mother to Fusius Geminus, once Consul, was sentenced to execution in her old age, for bewailing the blood of her son. These were the proceedings in Senate; nor was the Emperor employed elsewhere in different strains of cruelty. By him Vescularius Atticus and Julius Marinus, were doomed to death, two of his oldest friends, men who had followed him to Rhodes, and never forsook him at Capreæ. Vesgularius was his secret inter-agent in the plot against Libo; and by the co-operation of Marinus had Sejanus effected the ruin of Curtius Atticus. Hence the more joy followed their fall, to see them overtaken by precedents of their own traiterous contriving. About the same time died Lucius Piso, the Pontiff; and, by a felicity, then rare in so much splendour and elevation, died by the course of nature. The author he never himself was of any servile motion, and ever wise in moderating such motions from others where necessity enforced his assent. That his father had sustained the sublime office of Censor, I have before remembered. He himself lived to fourscore years, and, for his warlike feats in Thrace, had obtained the glory of Triumph. But from hence arose his most distinguished glory, that being created Governor of Rome, a jurisdiction newly instituted, and the more difficult, as not yet settled into public reverence, he tempered it wonderfully, and possessed it long.
For, of old, to supply the absence of the Kings, and afterwards of the Consuls, that the City might not remain without a ruler, a temporary Magistrate was appointed to administer justice, and watch over exigencies; and it is said that by Romulus was deputed Denter Romulius, Numa Marcius by Tullus Hostilius, and by Tarquin the Proud Spurius Lucretius. The same delegation was made by the Consuls; and there remains still a shadow of the old institution, when, during the Latin Festival, one is authorized to discharge the Consular function. Moreover, Augustus, during the Civil Wars, committed to Cilnius Mæcenas, of the Equestrian Order, the Government of Rome and of all Italy. Afterwards, when sole master of the Empire, and moved by the immense multitude of people, and the slowness of relief from the Laws, he chose a Consular to bridle the licentiousness of the slaves, and to awe such turbulent citizens as are only quiet from the dread of chastisement. Messala Corvinus was the first invested with this authority, and in a few days dismissed, as a man insufficient to discharge it. It was then filled by Taurus Statilius, who, though very ancient, sustained it with signal honour. After him Piso held it for twenty years, with a credit so high and uninterrupted, that he was distinguished with a public funeral, by decree of Senate.
A motion was thereafter made in Senate by Quinctilianus, Tribune of the people, concerning a Book of the Sybll, which Caninius Gallus, one of the College of fifteen, had prayed “might be received by a decree amongst the rest of that Prophetess.” The Decree passed without opposition, but was followed by Letters from Tiberius. In them, having gently chid the Tribune, “as young, and therefore unskilled in the ancient usages,” he upbraided Gallus, “that he, who was so long practised in the science of sacred ceremonies, should, without taking the opinion of his own College, without the usual reading and deliberation with the other Priests, deal, by surprize, with a thin Senate, to admit a prophetic Book of an uncertain author.” He also advertised them “of the conduct of Augustus, who, to suppress the multitude of fictitious predictions every-where published under the solemn name of the Sybil, had ordained, that within a precise day, they should be carried to the City-Prætor, and made it unlawful to keep them in private hands.” The same had likewise been decreed by our ancestors, when, after the burning of the Capitol in the Social War, the Rhymes of the Sybil (whether there were but one, or more) were every-where sought, in Samos, Ilium, and Erythræ, through Africa too and Sicily, and all the Roman Colonies, with injunctions to the Priests, that, as far as human wit could enable them, they would separate the genuine. Therefore, upon this occasion also, the Book was subjected to the inspection of the Quindecemvirate.
Under the same Consuls, the dearth of corn had nigh raised a sedition. The populace for many days urged their wants and demands in the public Theatre, with a licentiousness towards the Emperor higher than usual. He was alarmed with this bold spirit, and censured the Magistrates and Senate, “that they had not by the public authority quelled the people.” He recounted “the continued supplies of grain which he had caused to be imported, from what provinces, and in how much greater abundance than those procured by Augustus.” So that for correcting the populace, a decree passed, framed in the strain of ancient severity; nor less vigorous was the edict published by the Consuls. His own silence, which he hoped would be taken by the people as an instance of moderation, was by them imputed to his pride.
In the end of the year Geminius, Pompeius, and Celsus, all Roman Knights, were for a conspiracy sentenced to the pains of treason. Of these, Geminius had by prodigal expence, and voluptuous living, gained the friendship of Sejanus, but never any participation in his counsels. Julius Celsus the Tribune, as he lay in fetters, stretched his chain over his head, and, by vehement straining against it, broke his neck. But over Rubrius Fabatus a guard was set, as to him it was objected, that, despairing of the Roman State, he meant to fly for refuge to the Parthians. He was, in truth, apprehended in the Streights of Sicily, and when by a Centurion haled back to Rome, he assigned no satisfactory motives for so long a voyage. He remained however unhurt, through oblivion rather than mercy.
In the Consulship of Servius Galba and Lucius Sylla, Tiberius disposed of his grand-daughters. He had long deliberated upon whom to bestow them; and now the young Ladies were of age, he chose for their husbands Lucius Cassius and Marcus Vinicius. The last was originally from Cagli a Roman colony in Campania, and of an Equestrian family; but his father and grand-father had been Consuls; himself of a gentle temper and polite eloquence. Cassius sprung from a Plebeian stock, but ancient and honourable, was brought up under the strict tuition of his father, and more admired for the easiness than vigour of his spirit. To him the Emperor married Drusilla, and to Vinicius Julia, both daughters of Germanicus, and upon this subject wrote to the Senate, with a brief commendation of the young men. Then accounting for his absence by causes extremely foreign, he proceeded to considerations more weighty, what animosities and hate upon himself he had drawn by his zeal for the Republic; and desired, “that Macro, Captain of his Guards, with some few Tribunes and Centurions, might always accompany him into the Senate.” To this purpose an ordinance passed, copious, and without limitation as to number or condition. Yet so far was Tiberius from coming near the public deliberations there, that he never entered the walls of Rome; even in the feint approaches which he made, he chose chiefly crooked and solitary ways, hesitating, guilty, and flying his country.
In the mean while, the whole band of accusers broke loose upon those who augmented their wealth by Usury, in contradiction to a Law of Cæsar the Dictator, “for ascertaining the terms of lending money, and holding mortgages in Italy;” a Law become long since obsolete, through the selfish passions of men, sacrificing public good to private gain. Usury was, in truth, an inveterate evil in Rome, and the eternal cause of civil discord and seditions, and therefore restrained, even in ancient times, while the public manners were not yet greatly corrupted. For, first it was ordained by a Law of the twelve Tables, “that no man should take higher Interest than twelve in the hundred;” when before it was exacted at the pleasure of the rich. Afterwards by a regulation of the Tribunes it was reduced to six, and at last was quite abolished. By the people too repeated Statutes were made, for obviating all elusions, which, by whatever frequent expedients repressed, were yet through wonderful devices still springing up afresh. Gracchus the Prætor was therefore now appointed to inquire into the complaints and allegations of the accusers; but, appalled with the multitude of those threatened by the accusation, he had recourse to the Senate. The Fathers also were dismayed, (for of this fault not a soul was guiltless) and sought and obtained impunity from the Prince; and a year and six months were granted for balancing all accounts between debtors and creditors, agreeably to the direction of the Law.
Hence a great scarcity of money; for, besides that all debts were at once called in, so many delinquents were condemned, that by the sale of their effects, the current coin was swallowed up in the public treasury, or in that of the Emperor. Against this stagnation, the Senate had provided, “that two thirds of the debts should by every creditor be laid out upon lands in Italy.” But the creditors warned in the whole; nor could the debtors without breach of faith divide the payment. So that at first, meetings and intreaties were tried; and at last it was contested before the Prætor. And the project applied as a remedy; namely, that the debtor should sell, and the creditor buy, had a contrary operation: for the usurers hoarded up all their treasure for purchasing of lands, and the plenty of estates to be sold miserably sinking the price, the more men were indebted, the more difficult they found it to sell. Many were utterly stript of their fortunes; and the ruin of their private patrimony drew headlong with it that of their reputation, and all public preferment. The destruction was going on, when the Emperor administered relief, by lending a hundred thousand great sesterces* for three years, without interest, provided each borrower pawned to the people double the value in inheritance. Thus was credit restored, and by degrees private lenders too were found; so that the order of Senate injoining the purchase of lands, was no longer observed; like most other reformations, keen in the beginning, and slighted at last.
Rome was next re-visited with her former terrors, and Considius Proculus suddenly questioned for treason. While he celebrated his birth-day, void of every apprehension, he was hurried to the Senate, and underwent, in the same instant, the sentence and the pains of death. Sancia too, his sister, was interdicted fire and water, at the accusation of Quintus Pomponius, a man of turbulent temper, who pretended, “that he followed these and the like practices, to ingratiate himself with Tiberius, and thence to obviate the fate which threatened his brother Pomponius Secundus.” Pompeia Macrina was also sentenced to exile; she whose husband Argolicus and his father Laco, two of the prime nobility of Greece, had already fallen by the cruelty of Tiberius. Her father, an illustrious Roman Knight, and her brother formerly Prætor, when they saw their own hastening doom, slew themselves. The crime imputed to them was, “that their great grandfather, Theophanes of Mytelene, had been one of the confidents of Pompey the Great, and that to Theophanes, when dead, the flattering Greeks had paid divine honours.”
These were followed by Sextus Marius, the most wealthy man of Spain. He was accused of incest with his daughter, and thrown head-long from the Tarpeian rock; but, as an indisputable proof that his abundant riches procured his bane, his mines of gold, though forfeited to the public, were by Tiberius appropriated to himself. His cruelty, at last, being but inflamed by incessant executions and blood, all those kept in prison under accusation of any attachment to Sejanus, were by his command put to the slaughter. Exposed to the sun lay the sad monuments of the mighty butchery, those of every sex and age, the illustrious and the mean; their carcasses ignominiously thrown, apart or on heaps; neither was it permitted to their surviving friends or kindred, to approach them, to bewail them, nor even any longer to behold them. But, round the dead, Guards were placed, who watched faces, and marked the signs of sorrow; and, as the bodies putrified, saw them dragged to the Tyber, where they floated in the stream, or were driven upon the banks, no man daring to burn them, none to touch them. The force of fear had cut off the intercourses of humanity; and in proportion to the growth of tyranny, every symptom of commiseration was banished.
About the same time, Claudia, daughter to Marcus Silanus, was given in marriage to Caligula, who had accompanied his grand-father to Capreæ, having always hid under a subdolous guise of modesty, his savage and inhuman spirit; even upon the condemnation of his mother, even for the exile of his brothers, not a word escaped him, not a sigh, nor groan. He was so blindly observant of Tiberius, that he studied the bent of his temper, and seemed to possess it, practised his looks, imitated the change and fashion of his dress, and affected his words and manner of expression. Hence the observation of Passienus, the Orator, grew afterwards famous, “that there never lived a better slave, nor a worse master.” Neither would I omit the presage of Tiberius concerning Galba, then Consul. Having sent for him, and sifted him upon several subjects, he at last told him, in Greek, “and thou, Galba, shalt hereafter taste of Empire;” signifying his late and short sovereignty. This he uttered from his skill in Astrology, which at Rhodes he had leisure to learn, and had Thrasullus for his teacher, whose capacity he proved by this following trial.
As often as he consulted this way concerning any affair, he retired to the roof of the house, attended by one freedman trusted with the secret. This man, strong of body, but destitute of letters, guided along the Astrologer, whose art Tiberius meant to try, over solitary precipices (for upon a rock the house stood) and, as he returned, if any suspicion arose that his predictions were vain, or that the author designed fraud, cast him headlong into the sea, to prevent his making discoveries. Thrasullus being therefore led over the same rocks, and minutely consulted, his answers were full, and struck Tiberius, as approaching Empire and many future revolutions were specifically foretold him. The artist was then questioned, “whether he had calculated his own nativity, and thence presaged what was to befall him that same year, nay, that very day?” Thrasullus surveying the positions of the stars, and calculating their aspects, began at first to hesitate, then to quake, and the more he meditated, being more and more dismayed with wonder and dread, he at last cried out, “that over him just then hung a boding danger and well-nigh fatal.” Forthwith Tiberius embraced him, congratulated “him upon his foresight of perils, and his security from them;” and esteeming his predictions as so many oracles, held him thenceforward in the rank of his most intimate friends.
For myself, while I listen to these and the like relations, my judgment wavers, whether things human are in their course and rotation determined by Fate and immutable necessity, or left to roll at random. For upon this subject the wisest of the ancients and those addicted to their Sects, are of opposite sentiments. Many are of opinion, “that to the Gods neither the generation of us men, nor our death, and, in truth, neither men nor the actions of men, are of any importance or concernment; and thence such numberless calamities afflict the upright, while pleasure and prosperity surround the wicked.” Others hold the contrary position, and believe “a Fate to preside over events; a Fate however not resulting from wandring stars, but coeval with the first principles of things, and operating by the continued connection of natural causes. Yet their Philosophy leaves out course of life in our own free option; but that, after the choice is made, the chain of consequences is inevitable: neither is that good or evil which passes for such in the estimation of the vulgar; many who seem wounded with adversity are yet happy, numbers that wallow in wealth, are yet most wretched: since the first often bear with magnanimity the blows of fortune, and the latter abuse her bounty in baneful pursuits.” For the rest, it is common to multitudes of men, “to have each their whole future fortunes determined from the moment of their birth; or if some events thwart the prediction, it is through the mistakes of such as pronounce at random, and thence debase the credit of an art, which, both in ages past and our own, hath given signal instances of its certainty.” For, to avoid lengthening this digression, I shall remember in its order, how by the son of this same Thrasullus the Empire was predicted to Nero.
During the same Consulship was divulged the death of Asinius Gallus: that he perished through famine, was undoubted; but whether of his own accord, or by constraint, was held uncertain. The pleasure of the Emperor being consulted, “whether he would suffer him to be buried,” he was not ashamed to grant such a piece of mock mercy, nor even to blame the anticipations of casualty, which had withdrawn the criminal, before he was publicly convicted; as if during three intermediate years between his accusation and his death, there wanted time for the trial of an ancient Consular, and the father of so many Consulars. Next perished Drusus, condemned by his grand-father to be starved; but by gnawing the weeds upon which he lay, he by that miserable nourishment protracted life the space of nine days. Some Authors relate, that, in case Sejanus had resisted and taken arms, Macro had instructions to draw the young man out of confinement (for he was kept in the palace) and set him at the head of the people. Afterwards, because a report ran, “that the Emperor was about to be reconciled to his daughter-in-law and grand-son,” he chose rather to gratify himself by cruelty, than the public by relenting.
Tiberius, not satiated with the death of Drusus, even after death pursued him with cruel invectives, and, in a Letter to the Senate, charged him with “a body foul with prostitution, with a spirit breathing destruction to his own family, and rage against the Republic;” and ordered to be recited “the Minutes of his words and actions, which had been long and daily registered.” A proceeding more black with horror could not be devised! That for so many years there should be those expresly appointed who were to note down his looks, his groans, his secret and extorted murmurs; that his grand-father should delight to hear the treacherous detail, to read it, and to the public expose it, would appear a series of fraud, meanness and amazement, beyond all measure of faith, were it not for the Letters of Actius the Centurion, and Didymus the freedman; who in them declare, particularly, the names of the slaves set purposely to abuse and provoke Drusus, with the several parts they acted; how one struck him going out of his chamber, and how another filled him with terrors and dismay. The Centurion too repeated, as matter of glory, his own language to Drusus, full of outrage and barbarity, with the words uttered by him under the agonies of famine; that, at first, feigning disorder of spirit, he ventured, in the stile of a madman, dismal denunciations against Tiberius; but, after all hopes of life had forsaken him, then, in steady and deliberate imprecations, he invoked the direful vengeance of the Gods, “that, as he had slaughtered his son’s wife, slaughtered the son of his brother, and his son’s sons, and with slaughters had filled his whole house; so they would, in justice to the ancestors of the slain, in justice to their posterity, doom him to the dreadful penalties of so many murders.” The Senators, in truth, upon this, raised a mighty dinn, under colour of detesting these imprecations; but it was dread which possessed them, and amazement, that he who had been once so dark in the practice of wickedness, and so subtle in the concealment of his bloody spirit, was arrived at such an utter insensibility of shame, that he could thus remove, as it were, the covert of the walls, and represent his own grandson under the ignominious chastisement of a Centurion, torn by the barbarous stripes of slaves, and imploring in vain the last sustenance of life.
Before the impressions of this grief were worne away, the death of Agrippina was published. I suppose she had lived thus long upon the hopes which from the execution of Sejanus she had conceived; but, feeling afterwards no relaxation of cruelty, death grew her choice: Unless perhaps she were bereaved of nourishment, and her decease feigned to have been of her own seeking. For, Tiberius raged against her with abominable imputations, reproaching her “with lewdness, as the adulteress of Asinius Gallus, and that upon his death she became weary of life.” But these were none of her crimes. Agrippina, impatient of an equal lot, and eager for rule, had thence sacrificed to masculine ambition all the passions and vices of women. The Emperor added, “that she departed the same day on which Sejanus had suffered as a traitor two years before, and that the same ought to be perpetuated by a public memorial.” Nay, he boasted of his clemency, in “that she had not been strangled, and her body cast into the charnel of malefactors.” For this, as for an instance of mercy, the Senate solemnly thanked him, and decreed, “that on the seventeenth of October, the day of both their deaths, a yearly offering should be consecrated to Jupiter for ever.”
Not long after, Cocceius Nerva, in full prosperity of fortune, in perfect vigour of body, formed a purpose of dying. As he was the incessant companion of the Prince, and accomplished in the knowledge of all Laws, divine and human, Tiberius having learned his design, was earnest to dissuade him, examined his motives, joined entreaties, and even declared, “how grievous to his own spirit it would prove, how grievous to his reputation, if the nearest of his friends should relinquish life, without any cause for dying.” Nerva rejected his reasoning, and compleated his purpose by abstinence. It was alledged by such as knew his thoughts, that the more he saw into the dreadful source and increase of public miseries, the more, transported with indignation and fear, he resolved to make an honest end, in the bloom of his integrity, before his life and credit were assaulted. Moreover, the fall of Agrippina, by a reverse hardly credible, procured that of Plancina. She was formerly married to Cneius Piso; and, though she exulted publicly for the death of Germanicus, yet, when Piso fell, she was protected by the sollicitations of Augusta, nor less by the known animosity of Agrippina. But, as favour and hate were now withdrawn, justice prevailed; and, being questioned for crimes long since sufficiently manifest, she executed, with her own hand, that vengeance which was rather too slow than too severe.
While the City yet bewailed so many tragical deaths, it was an accession to the public affliction, that Julia the daughter of Drusus, and lately the wife of Nero, was espoused to Rubellius Blandus, whose grandfather was remembered by many to have been only a Roman Knight from Tibur. At the issue of the year, happened the death of Ælius Lamia, and was celebrated with a public funeral. For his last employment, he was Governor of Rome; having been at length discharged from the mock administration of Syria, which he was never suffered to visit. In his descent he was noble, enjoyed a lively old age, and upon his character was derived fresh glory from the with-holding of his Province from him. As Pomponius Flaccus, Proprætor of Syria, died some time after, there arrived Letters from Tiberius. In them he complained, “That all the Senators of distinguished name, and qualified to command Armies, refused that office; hence he was reduced to the necessity of entreaties, to engage some of the Consulars to undertake the rule of provinces.” He thought fit to forget Arruntius, Governor of Spain, already for ten years detained at Rome. The same year also died Marcus Lepidus, of whose wisdom and moderation I have in the former Books inserted abundant instances. Nor does it require more room here to display his nobility, since his race was that of the Æmilii, a race fertile in good citizens; and even those of the same family who lapsed into corruption, continued still to be distinguished by their illustrious dignities and fortune.
In the Consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, after a long vicissitude of ages, the Phœnix arrived in Ægypt, and furnished the most learned of the natives and Greeks, with matter of large and various observations concerning that miraculous bird. The circumstances in which they agree, with many others, that, however disputed, deserve to be known, claim a recital here. That it is a creature sacred to the Sun, and, in the fashion of its head, and diversity of feathers, distinct from other birds, all, who have described its figure, are agreed; about the length of its life, relations vary. It is by the vulgar tradition fixed at five hundred years: but there are those who extend it to one thousand four hundred and sixty one, and assert that the three former Phœnixes appeared in reigns greatly distant, the first under Sesostris, the next under Amasis; and that one was seen under Ptolemy the third King of Ægypt of the Macedonian race, and flew to the City of Heliopolis, accompanied by a vast host of other birds gazing upon the wonderful stranger. But these are, in truth, the obscure accounts of antiquity: between Ptolemy and Tiberius the interval was shorter, not two hundred and fifty years; hence some have believed that the present was a spurious Phœnix, and derived not its origin from the territories of Arabia, since it observed nothing of the instinct which ancient tradition attributes to the genuine; for that the latter, having compleated his course of years, just before his death builds a nest in his native land, and upon it sheds a generative power, from whence arises a young one, whose first care, when he is grown, is to bury his father; neither does he undertake it unadvisedly, but by collecting and fetching loads of myrrh, tries his strength in great journies; and as soon as he finds himself equal to the burden, and fit for the long flight, he rears upon his back his father’s body, carries it quite to the altar of the Sun, and then flies away. These are uncertain tales, and their uncertainty heightened by fables; but that this bird has been sometimes seen in Ægypt, is not questioned.
At Rome, as the course of slaughter continued unrelenting, Pomponius Labeo, whom I have remembered to have been Governor of Mœsia, chose, by opening his veins, to let out his own blood; as, by his example, did his wife Paxea hers. Such efficacy had the terror of falling by the executioner, that, to escape him, deaths of this sort were readily undergone. Besides, that they who staid to be sentenced, forfeited their estates with their lives, and were debarred the rites of burial; of such, on the contrary, as anticipated condemnation, the bodies were interred, and their wills remained in force. The motive this, and price of dispatch! Tiberius, however, in a Letter to the Senate, argued, “That it was the usage of our ancestors, when they would renounce friendship, to forbid the person obnoxious their house, and by it shut up all intercourse; a usage repeated by himself towards Labeo. Whereas Labeo, who was charged with male-administration, and other crimes, had now, by leaving upon the Prince the odium of his death, sought a veil to his own guilt, and thence falsly terrified his wife, to whom, however criminal, no punishment was meant.” Mamercus Scaurus was thereafter questioned afresh, a man of signal quality, a noble orator, but profligate liver. In his overthrow, the friendship of Sejanus had no share, but an engine no less potent to destroy, the enmity of Macro, who pursued, but with more subtlety, the same depraved politics. He was furnished with a handle from a Tragedy composed by Scaurus, in which were some lines capable of being pointed against Tiberius. But by the accusers, Servilius and Cornelius, the crimes objected were those of “adultery with Livia, and the mysteries of magic.” Scaurus, as became the magnanimity of the ancient Æmilii, prevented condemnation by the persuasion of Sextia his wife, who animated him to die, and died with him.
And yet the accusers, when opportunity occurred, were surrendered to vengeance, as were this same Servilius and Cornelius, men become famous by the doom of Scaurus; but for accepting from Varius Ligur a bribe to drop prosecution, they were interdicted fire and water, and exiled into different islands. Abudius Rufo too, once Ædile, whilst he brought a charge against Lentulus Getulicus, under whom he had led a Legion, “That he had espoused his daughter to a son of Sejanus,” was himself condemned and banished Rome. Getulicus was at this time Commander of the Legions in upper Germany, and by them wonderfully beloved, for his unbounded clemency, and discipline void of rigour. Neither was he unacceptable to the neighbouring army, through his interest in Lucius Apronius his father-in-law. Hence he was universally believed to have, by a Letter, represented to the Emperor, “That by no choice of his own had he joined affinity with Sejanus, but in compliance with the counsel of Tiberius, and was as liable as Tiberius to be deceived; nor ought one and the same error to pass unblamed in the Prince only, and upon all others draw down deadly vengeance. For his own faith; it was pure and inviolate, and, if against him no plots were framed, would continue unshaken. A successor he would receive as no other than the herald of death. It remained therefore, that between them two they should, as it were, establish a league, by which the Prince should still enjoy all the rest of the Empire, and he himself always retain his province.” This proceeding, however amazing, derived credit from hence, that he only of all that were allied to Sejanus, remained in safety, and even in high favour. Tiberius, indeed, considered himself under the pressure of public hatred, under the weight of extreme age; and that more by reputation than force his authority was upheld.
In the Consulship of Caius Sestius and Marcus Servilius, there came to Rome some noble Parthians, unknown to Artabanus their King. He had formerly, through dread of Germanicus, reigned with humanity towards his own people, and kept his faith with the Romans; but, afterwards treated us with arrogance, and his subjects with cruelty. His confidence grew from the successful wars which he had waged against the circumjacent nations, from his contempt of Tiberius, as enfeebled through age and unwarlike, and from a greedy passion to possess Armenia, over which Kingdom, upon the death of Artaxias, he established Arsaces his eldest son. This usurpation was followed by an insult, having sent to reclaim “the treasure left by Vonones in Syria and Cilicia,” as also “the re-establishment of the ancient boundaries between the Persians and Macedonians.” He even threatened, in the fulness of vainglory, “That he would invade all the countries possessed by Cyrus, and since by Alexander.” Of this secret embassy from the Parthians, the most powerful promoter was Sinnaces, of a noble family, and correspondent wealth, and, next to him in authority, Abdus the Eunuch, a character no wise despised amongst the Barbarians, but even entrusted with power. These two, in concert with other Grandees, whom they had engaged in the combination, sent to Rome for Phrahates, son of King Phrahates; because, of all the race of the Arsacides, many being murdered by Artabanus, and the rest too young, none else remained to whom they could commit the State. The deputics represented, “That there needed no more than a name and a leader, no more than a descendent of Arsaces espoused by Cæsar, and beheld upon the banks of the Euphrates.”
It was what Tiberius wished. He invested Phrahates in the pomp of Royalty, and dispatched him with military state to recover his father’s Monarchy; retaining however his old maxims, still to transact foreign affairs by artifice and counsels only, and warily avoid engaging in war. Artabanus the while haveing learnt the combination, was perplexed between different passions; now fear alarmed and retarded him, then thirst of revenge fired and excited him. By the Barbarians too, dissimulation and delay are reckoned servile measures; but instantly to satiate present passion, was the spirit and part of Royalty. Interest, however, prevailed: thus he invited Abdus to a banquet, and secured him by a lingering poison; Sinnaces he managed by presents and dissimulation, and engaged him in the entanglements of business. Now Phrahates arriving in Syria, and there disusing the Roman dress and œconomy, to which for so many years he had been inured, to resume the customs of the Parthians, proved unequal to the precipitate change, which brought a malady upon him that carried him off. But Tiberius forsook not the enterprize; to Artabanus he substituted Tiridates, a fresh competitor, one of the same blood. For the recovery of Armenia, he chose Mithridates, and reconciled him to his brother Pharasmanes, who inherited the sovereignty of Iberia; and over the East, for executing all his schemes there, he placed Lucius Vitellius. I am not unaware, that in Rome this man bore an evil estimation, and that many instances of depravity are related of him; yet in governing of Provinces he acted with primitive uprightness and virtue. It was after his return from thence, that his dread of Caligula, and then his intimacy with Claudius, transformed him into such an odious slave, that he is reckoned to posterity as a pattern of the vile abasement and shocking deformities of flattery: his last character has swallowed up his first, and the excellencies of his younger years are obliterated by an old age black with flagitious crimes.
Of the petty Kings, Mithridates was the first in motion, and incited Pharasmanes to promote, both by arms and snares, his efforts against Arsaces; so that instruments of subornation were found, who, with store of gold, urged his servants to murder him. At the same time, the Iberians broke into Armenia with numerous forces, and gained the chief City Artaxata. Upon the first tidings of these disasters, Artabanus dispatched, as the champion of his vengeance, his son Orodes, at the head of the Parthian army, and sent abroad to hire auxiliaries. Pharasmanes, on the other hand, joined the Albanian forces to his own, with additional aids from the Sarmatæans, whose Princes engaged themselves on both sides, according to the manner of the nation, to embark for pay in opposite quarrels. But the Iberians were masters of the passes, and thence poured the Sarmatæans over the Caspian Mountains into Armenia: whereas those that advanced to join the Parthians, were with ease debarred entrance, the enemy having shut up every approach, except one between the sea and the uttermost mountains of Albania; and that one was stopped by the tide, which, by the force of the Etesian winds, is during the summer driven over the fords; but in the winter the south wind rolls back the flood, and exhibits a naked strand.
While Orodes was thus bereft of his Allies, Pharasmanes, strengthened with succours, provoked him to battle, and, as he declined it, insulted him, rode up to his entrenchments, harassed his forragers, and often begirt, as it were with a siege, the quarters of his camp. This enraged the Parthians, who, scorning the unwonted reproach, surrounded the Prince in crowds, and demanded the combat. Their only forces were in horse; but Pharasmanes was likewise powerful in foot: for, the Iberians and Albanians, as they inhabit the rough forests, are thence more inured to hardness and patience. They say, “that they are sprung from Thessaly, by the means of Jason, who having carried away Medea, and had children by her, returned again to Colchos, upon the death of Æeta, and filled the vacant throne.” And many are the traditions which they retain concerning him and the Oracle of Phryxus, in reverence to which none of them will sacrifice a ram, as upon this animal they believe Phryxus to have been carried thither; whether the same were a ram, or only the sign of a ship. Now both armies being embattled, Orodes animated his men with “the grandeur of the Parthian Empire, the Empire of the East, the lasting glory of the Arsacides; and, on the other side, the ignoble name of the Iberians and their hireling soldiery.” Pharasmanes represented to his, that “they had ever defended themselves from the usurpation of the Parthians, and now sought more than defence, even a Kingdom; hence the higher their aims, the more renown to the victors; but if they fled, the greater reproach, and the same peril.” He bade them to view and compare their own horrid and threatening arms with the bands of Medes blazing with gold, and behold here the bravery of men, there that of plunder.
With the Sarmatæans, however, the speech of their General is not the only exhortation; it is their way to animate one another. It was now their united cry, “That they must not begin their fight by a discharge of arrows, but break in at once upon the foe, and surprize them by a close engagement.” They did so; and hence began a scene of battle strangely diversified: the Parthians, accustomed with equal dexterity to pursue or fly, scattered their troops, thence seeking scope for their arrows: the Sarmatæans intirely renounced the bow, a weapon which they weild with less vigour and perseverance, and rushed in with their swords and pikes. Sometimes, as in an encounter of horse, were beheld the vicissitudes of charging and flying; again, as in condensed battles of foot, with the shocks of their bodies breast to breast, and with the efforts of their arms, they overthrew and were overthrown. Now the Albanians and Iberians grappled the enemy, dragged them from their horses, and confounded the attacks of the Parthians; who, besides the assaults from the horse, were still more closely galled by the foot. Whilst, during this conflict, the two Generals scoured from place to place, to countenance the brave, or to support the wavering, themselves conspicuous to all, and therefore known to each other, they encountered fiercely, horse to horse, with terrible cries and lances darted, but Pharasmanes with most violence, for he wounded Orodes through the helmet, but, hurried away by the velocity of his horse, could not repeat his blow, and the wounded Prince was rescued by the most resolute of his guards. Fame, however, falsly reported him for slain, and terrifying the Parthians, they yielded the victory.
Again Artabanus prepared for revenge, and, to make it sure, marched with the whole strength of Parthia; but was again beaten by the Iberians, through their superiour knowledge of the country. Nor even thus would he have retreated, but that Vitellius, by drawing together his Legions, and thence exciting a rumour, as if he were just upon invading Mesopotamia, alarmed him with the terror of war from the Romans. Armenia was therefore abandoned, and the affairs of Artabnus finally ruined; for Vitellius the while, prompted the Parthians “to renounce a King cruel to his subjects in peace, and destructive to their state by his fatal wars.” Sinnaces therefore, whom I have mentioned as already incensed, consults his father Abdageses and others, who had hitherto disguised their disaffection, and finding them now emboldened by so many continued overthrows, draws them to an open revolt. To them flowed in, by little and little, all those who had been rather retained in obedience through fear, than secured by affection; and, having thus found leaders, assumed courage to follow them. So that to Artabanus none now adhered, except some few foreigners, the guards of his person, out-laws and fugitives from their several homes, destitute of all sentiments of honour, and of every worthy affection, equally untouched with public or private disgrace, hirelings by profession, and the retained instruments of villainy and blood. Taking these for his attendants, he hastily fled to regions far remote, and bordering upon Scythia, from thence hoping for succours; for with the Hyrcanians and Carmanians he was joined in alliance. He expected too that the Parthians, a people always favourable to their Princes after expulsion, ever fickle and uneasy under those in possession, might lapse into remorse.
Artabanus being fled, and the minds of the Parthians inclined to a new King, Vitellius exhorted Tiridates “to lay hold on a Kingdom prepared to receive him;” and, with the bulk of the Legions and auxiliaries, marched to the banks of Euphrates. Whilst they sacrificed to the river, the one after the rites of the Romans, a swine, a ram, and a bull; the other a horse; the inhabitants informed them, “That the Euphrates, without any accession of rain, swelled miraculously, and that the white froth upon the surface wound itself into circles in the fashion of a diadem, as a propitious type of success after passing.” Some explained it with more subtlety, “That the first attempts would be attended with immediate prosperity, but such as was fleeting and transient; for that only upon events portended by signs from the earth and the heavens, was there any sure reliance: rivers were, in their nature, fleeting and unstable; and what omens they suddenly shewed, they, with the same rapidity snatched away.” Over a bridge of boats the army crossed; and the first who arrived in the camp was Ornospades with many thousand horse. He was formerly an exile, and had then, with no contemptible forces, aided Tiberius to finish the war in Dalmatia; a merit which procured him the right of a Roman Citizen: being afterwards recalled, he recovered the friendship of the King, and continued high in his favour; so that he was placed over all those territories which being washed on every side with the celebrated rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, are thence named Mesopotamia. Soon after came Sinnaces with more forces, as also Abdageses, the pillar of the party, with the King’s treasure, and all the decorations of Royalty. Vitellius thought it enough to have countenanced them with a display of the Roman arms, and now admonished Tiridates and the chiefs, him “to remember, that he had for his grand-father Phrahates, and was himself reared by Cæsar; signal honours, and equal incitements to glory:” upon them he pressed “obedience to their King, and reverence towards us; that they would all consult their own reputations, and preserve their plighted faith.” Thence he repassed with his Legions into Syria.
These transactions, though the work of two campaigns, I have laid together, to relieve my soul from the sad recital of domestic evils. For, Tiberius, though now three years since the execution of Sejanus, was so far from being asswaged by time, supplications, and satiety of blood, means which are wont to soften all other men, that with rage and punishment he still pursued even stale and dubious imputations, as the most heinous and recent crimes. Under this dread Fulcinius Trio, unable to bear the prevailing persecution of his accusers, composed his last will, and in it compiled a long charge of iniquities and dreadful invectives against Macro and the Emperor’s principal freedmen: the Emperor himself he upbraided with “a spirit sunk through age, and his continued absence, as a state of exile.” These invectives, which the heirs of Trio had smothered, were, by Tiberius, ordered to be recited; whether in ostentation that he could bear such liberties, and despised a public rehearsal of his own infamy; or whether from having been long ignorant of the black enormities of Sejanus, he came afterwards to prefer the divulging of whatever was said, however said, concerning himself and his administration; and since truth is ever disguised by flattery, he meant at least to learn it from the mouth of reproach. During the same Consuls, Granius Martianus the Senator, charged with treason by Caius Gracchus, laid violent hands upon himself; and Tatius Gratianus, who had been Prætor, under the same charge, was sentenced to capital banishment.
The like ends had Trebellienus Rufus and Sextius Paconianus. For, Trebellienus fell by his own hand; and Paconianus for Verses made in prison against the Emperor was there strangled. With these executions Tiberius was acquainted, not now separated from Italy by the sea, nor by messengers dispatched from afar, but in the neighbourhood of Rome; so near to it that he received and answered the Letters from the Consuls the the same day, or only after the interval of a night; as if he were from thence beholding the houses floating in blood, or the busy hands of the executioners opening its sources. In the end of the year expired Poppæus Sabinus, of ordinary descent, but by the friendship of the Emperors he had acquired the Consulship and triumphal honours. He was also entrusted for four and twenty years with the Government of great provinces, for no signal ability of his, but that he had talents equal to business, and not above it.
The following Consuls were Quintus Plautius and Sextus Papinius. It was marked as no matter of horror or surprize, that Lucius Aruseius and *** underwent this year the pains of death; so familiar were civil miseries grown. But terrifying proved the tragedy of Vibulenus Agrippa, a Roman Knight, who, after his accusers had finished their pleadings, pulling out poison, which under his gown he had concealed, swallowed it in open Senate, and as he fell expiring, was by the Lictors hastily dragged to the dungeon, where, though already dead, his neck was fastened and strained in a rope. Not even Tigranes, who had some time reigned in Armenia, but was now accused, could by the name of a King, escape suffering, in common with citizens, the punishment of death. But Caius Galba a Consular, and the two Blæsi, fell by their own hands, Galba, upon receiving a dismal Letter from Cæsar, which forbid him to meddle with drawing his lot for a Province; the Blæsi, because the Priesthoods which in the prosperity of their family he had assigned them, and again in its calamity withheld, he now bestowed, as vacant dignities, upon others. This they understood as a signal of death, and obeyed it. Æmilia Lepida too, who, as I have related, was married to the young Drusus, she who had pursued her husband’s life, by urging against him incessant crimes, and during the days of her father Lepidus, remained unpunished, though detestable, was after his death attacked by the accusers, for adultery with a slave: nor of this her infamous defilement was any doubt made; renouncing therefore all defence, she put an end to her own life.
About the same time the Cliteans, a people subject to Archelaus the Cappadocian, aggrieved to be after the Roman manner brought under a rate, and compelled to pay tribute, betook themselves to the ridges of Mount Taurus, and by the nature of the situation defended themselves against the unwarlike forces of the King; till Vitellius, President of Syria, dispatched to their relief his Lieutenant Marcus Trebellius, with four thousand Legionary soldiers and some chosen auxiliaries. Trebellius begirt with entrenchments the two hills upon which the Barbarians were encamped, the lesser named Cadra, the other Davara, and forced them all to surrender: some who attempted to sally, he subdued by the sword; the rest he overcame by thirst. Tiridates, with the approbation of the Parthians, took possession of Nicephorium, Anthemusias, and other cities founded by the Macedonians, and thence called by Greek names, as likewise of Halus and Artemita, Parthian cities; the inhabitants of each contending in joy for the change, as they all detested Artabanus, bred amongst the barbarous Scythians, and himself barbarously cruel, but from Tiridates hoped a humane spirit, civilized by a Roman education.
Particularly excessive was the flattery practised on this occasion by the citizens of Seleucia; a powerful city surrounded with walls, and not corrupted into the barbarous usages of the Parthians, but still retaining the institutions of Seleucus, its Greek founder. Three hundred citizens, chosen for wealth or wisdom, compose, as it were, a Senate; to the populace too remains their share of power; and when all act with unanimity, they despise the Parthians; but when discord reigns, while each side calls in foreign aid against their competitors, he who is invited prevails against the whole: A consequence which had befallen them in the reign of Artabanus, who delivered the commonalty to the dominion of the Nobles, in pure subservience to the maxims and interest of his own power. For the sovereignty of the People is an establishment of Liberty; but the domination of a few comes nearer to the unchecked lust of simple Monarchy. Upon the coming of Tiridates, they heaped on him all the honours paid to the ancient Kings, with all such as the present age has improved or invented, and to the praises of the new Prince added contumelies against Artabanus, “that only by his father he was akin to the Arsacides, and in every other instance an apostate from their race.” Tiridates committed to the People the government of Seleucia. As he was next consulting about settling a day for solemnizing his inauguration, he received letters from Phrahates and Hiero, who presided over potent Provinces, entreating a short respit; so that he agreed to wait the arrival of men so signally powerful, and proceeded the while to Ctesiphon the seat of the Empire. But as from day to day they delayed coming, the Surena in a great presence, and with their applauses, put the Royal Diadem, according to the ceremony of the country, upon his head.
And had he strait advanced into the center of the Kingdom and the further Provinces, he had over-awed the suspence of such as halted, and found submission from all Parthia. But, by besieging a fortress, whither Artabanus had conveyed his money and mistresses, he furnished the fickle Parthians with leisure to violate their late association. For, Phrahates and Hiero, with such others as had not joined with the rest in celebrating his coronation, returned to their old allegiance, part through fear, some from envy to Abdageses, who then governed the new King and his whole court. They found Artabanus in Hyrcania, covered with nastiness and misery, and with his bow labouring for food. At first he was terrified, and apprehended treachery. When they assured him of their faith, and that to restore him to sovereignty they were come, he asked, “whence the sudden change?” Hiero, in answer, reproached “Tiridates as a boy, and that the Empire was no longer administered by one of the brave Arsacides; but a lad softened by foreign effeminacy, possessed the empty title, whilst in the family of Abdageses the whole power remained.”
He discerned, politic as he was, and old in reigning, that, however false in their affections, their hate was unfeigned. Neither tarried he longer than to get together some Scythian succours, and then marched with dispatch, to frustrate the measures of his enemies, and to obviate the defection of his friends. Nor changed he yet his noisome dress, as by it he meant to draw the commiseration of the populace. In his march he lest untried no expedient, no prayers nor wiles, to engage in his interest such as wavered, to confirm such as adhered, and he was already in the neighbourhood of Seleucia, before Tiridates, dismayed at once with the tidings of Artabanus, and with Artabanus in person, could determine whether to make head against him, or protract the war. His counsels were distracted. They who preferred a battle and speedy issue, argued, “that the enemy’s forces were still in disarray and spent with long journeys: nor in truth were they in their hearts sincerely reconciled to obedience; they, who were lately the betrayers and open enemies of that same Prince whom thus, after expulsion, they espoused.” But Abdageses advised “a retreat into Mesopotamia, that there, defended by the interposition of the river, they might have time to arm the Armenians and Elymæans, with other adjacent nations; and, being thus strengthened by confederate troops, and such as the Roman General should send, might try with these advantages the fortune of war.” This advice prevailed, as Abdageses held the highest authority, and Tiridates was fearful of dangers. But their departure had all the appearance and consequences of a rout: for the Arabs beginning the desertion, the rest followed, and retired to their several homes, or to the camp of Artabanus; so that Tiridates with a few crossed over to Syria, where he discharged them all, as well from his service, as from the infamy of being betrayed by them.
The same year the City suffered the grievous calamity of fire, which burnt down that part of the Circus contiguous to mount Aventine, and the Mount itself; a loss which turned to the glory of the Prince, as he paid in money the value of the houses destroyed. A hundred thousand great sesterces he expended in this bounty, which proved the more grateful to the people, as he was ever sparing in private buildings. In truth, his public works never exceeded two, the Temple of Augustus and the Scene of Pompey’s Theatre; nor, when he had finished both, did he dedicate either, whether obstructed by old age, or despising popularity. For ascertaining the damage of particulars, the four sons-in-law of Tiberius were appointed, Cneius Domitius, Cassius Longinus, Marcus Vinicius, and Rubellius Blandus, assisted by Publius Petronius, nominated by the Consuls. To the Emperor likewise were decreed several honours, variously devised, according to the different drift and genius of such as proposed them. Which of these he meant to accept, or which to reject, the approaching issue of his days has buried in uncertainty. For not long after, Cneius Acerronius and Caius Pontius commenced Consuls, the last Consuls under Tiberius. The power of Macro was already excessive, who, as he had at no time neglected the favour of Caligula, courted it now more and more earnestly every day. After the death of Claudia, whom I have mentioned to have been espoused to the young Prince, he constrained Ennia his own wife to stimulate the affections of Caligula, and to secure him by a promise of marriage. The truth is, Caligula was one that denied nothing that opened his way to sovereignty; for although of a tempestuous genius, he had yet in the school of his grand-father, well acquired all the hollow guises of dissimulation.
His spirit was known to the Emperor; hence the Emperor was puzzled about bequeathing the Empire: and first as to his grand-sons; the son of Drusus was nearer in blood, and dearer in point of affection, but as yet a child; the son of Germanicus had arrived at the vigour of youth, and the zeal of the people followed him; a motive to his grand-father, only to hate him. He had even debates with himself concerning Claudius, because of solid age, and naturally inclined to honest pursuits; but the defect of his faculties withstood the choice. In case he sought a successor apart from his own family, he dreaded lest the memory of Augustus, lest the name of the Cæsars should come to be scorned and insulted. For, it was not so much any study of his, to gratify the present generation, and secure the Roman State, as to perpetuate to posterity the grandeur of his race. So that his mind still wavering, and his strength decaying, to the decision of fortune he permitted a counsel to which he was now unequal. Yet he dropped certain words whence might be gathered, that he foresaw the events and revolutions which were to come to pass after him; for, he upbraided Macro, by no dark riddle, “that he forsook the setting sun, and courted the rising;” and of Caligula, who upon some occasional discourse ridiculed Sylla, he foretold, “that he would have all Sylla’s vices, and not one of his virtues.” Moreover, as he was, with many tears, embracing the younger of his grandsons, and perceived the countenance of Caligula implacable and provoked; “Thou, said he, wilt slay him, and another shall slay thee.” But, however his illness prevailed, he relinquished nothing of his vile voluptuousness, forcing patience, and feigning health. He was wont too to ridicule the prescriptions of Physicians, and all men who, after the age of thirty, needed to be informed by any one else, what helped or hurted their constitutions.
At Rome, the while, were sown the sanguinary seeds of executions, to be perpetrated even after Tiberius. Lælius Balbus had charged Acutia, (the wife formerly of Publius Vitellius) with high treason; and, as the Senate were, after her condemnation, decreeing a reward to the accuser, the same was obstructed by the interposition of Junius Otho, Tribune of the people: Hence their mutual hate, which ended in the exile of Otho. Thereafter Albucilla, who had been married to Satrius Secundus, him that revealed the conspiracy of Sejanus, and herself famous for many amours, was impeached of impious rites devised against the Prince. In the charge were involved, as her associates and adulterers, Cneius Domitius, Vibius Marsus, and Lucius Arruntius. The noble descent of Domitius I have above declared: Marsus too was distinguished by the ancient dignities in his house, and himself illustrious for learning. The Minutes, however, transmitted to the Senate, imported, “that in the examination of the witnesses, and torture of the slaves, Macro had presided;” neither came these Minutes accompanied with any letter from the Emperor against the accused. Hence it was suspected, that, while he was ill, and perhaps without his privity, the accusations were in great measure forged by Macro, in consequence of his notorious enmity to Arruntius.
Domitius therefore, by preparing for his defence, and Marsus, by seeming determined to famish, both protracted their lives. Arruntius chose to die; and to the importunity of his friends, urging him to try delays and evasions, he answered, “that the same measures were not alike honourable to all men; his own life was abundantly long; nor had he wherewithal to reproach himself, save that he had submitted to bear thus far an old age loaded with anxieties, exposed to daily dangers, and the cruel sport of power; long hated as he was by Sejanus, now by Macro, always by some reigning Minister; hated through no fault of his own, but as one irreconcilable to baseness and the iniquities of power. He might, in truth, out-live and avoid the few and last days of Tiberius; but how escape the youth of his heir? If upon Tiberius at such an age, and after such consummate experience, the violent spirit of unbridled dominion had wrought with such efficacy, as intirely to transport and change him; was it likely that Caligula, he who had scarce outgrown his childhood, a youth ignorant of all things, or nurst and principled in the worst, would follow a course more righteous under the guidance of Macro; the same Macro, who, for destroying Sejanus, was employed as the more wicked of the two, and had since by more mischiefs and cruelties torn and afflicted the Commonweal? For himself; he foresaw a servitude yet more vehement, and therefore withdrew at once from the agonies of past and of impending tyranny.” Uttering these words, with the spirit of a prophet, he opened his veins. How wisely Arruntius anticipated death, the following times will terribly demonstrate. For Albucilla; she aimed at her own life, but the blow being impotent, she was by order of Senate dragged to execution in the prison. Against the ministers of her lusts it was decreed, “that Grasidius Sacerdos, formerly Prætor, should be exiled into an island, Pontius Fregellanus be degraded from the Senate; and that upon Lælius Balbus the same penalty should be inflicted:” his punishment particularly proved matter of joy, as he was accounted a man of pestilent eloquence, and prompt to attack the innocent.
About the same time, Sextus Papinius, of a Consular family, chose on a sudden a frightful end, by a desperate and precipitate fall. The cause was ascribed to his mother, who, after many repulses, had, by various allurements and the stimulations of sensuality, urged him to practices and embarassments from whence only by dying he could devise an issue. She was therefore accused in the Senate; and, though in a prostrate posture she embraced the knees of the Fathers, and pleaded “the tenderness and grief of a mother, with the imbecillity of a woman’s spirit under such an affecting calamity;” with other motives of pity in the same doleful strain, she was banished Rome for ten years, till her younger son were past the age of lubricity.
As to Tiberius; already his body, already his spirits failed him; but his dissimulation failed him not. He exerted the same vigour of mind, the same energy in his looks and discourse, and even sometimes studied to be gay, by it to hide his declension, however notorious. So that, after much shifting of places, he settled at the Promontory of Misenum, in a villa of which Lucullus was once lord. There it was discovered that his end was at hand, by this device. In his train was a Physician, his name Charicles, signal in his profession, one, in truth, not employed to direct the Prince’s health, but wont however to afford his counsel and skill. Charicles, as if he were departing to attend his own affairs, under the appearance of paying duty and kissing his hands, touched his pulse. But the artifice beguiled not Tiberius, for he instantly ordered the entertainment to be served up, whether incensed, and thence the more smothering his wrath, is uncertain. But, at table he continued beyond his wont, as if he meant that honour only for a farewell to his friend. But for all this, Charicles satisfied Macro, “that the flame of life was expiring, and could not outlast two days.” Hence the whole court was filled with close consultations, and expresses were dispatched to the Generals and Armies. On the sixteenth of March, so deep a swoon seized him, that he was believed to have paid the last debt of mortality; insomuch that Caligula, in the midst of a great throng, paying their congratulations, was already appearing abroad, to assume the first offices of Sovereignty, when sudden notice came, “that Tiberius had recovered his sight and voice, and, to strengthen his fainting spirits, had called for some refreshment.” Hence dread seized all, and the whole concourse about Caligula dispersed, every man assuming false sorrow, or feigning ignorance. He himself was struck speechless, and thus fallen from the highest hopes, waited for present death. Macro continued undismayed, and, ordering the apartment to be cleared, caused the feeble old man to be smothered with a weight of coverings. Thus expired Tiberius in the seventy-eighth year of his age.
He was the son of Nero, and on both sides a branch of the Claudian house, though his mother had been ingrafted by adoptions into the Livian, and next into the Julian stock. From his first infancy, his life was checquered by various turns and perils. For, then he followed, like an exile, his proscribed father; and when taken in quality of a step-son into the family of Augustus, he long struggled there with many potent rivals, during the lives of Marcellus and Agrippa, next of the young Cæsars, Caius and Lucius. His brother Drusus too eclipsed him, and possessed more eminently the hearts of the Roman people. But above all, his marriage with Julia most egregiously threatened and distressed him, whether he bore the prostitutions of his wife, or relinquished the daughter of Augustus. Upon his return thereafter from Rhodes, he occupied for twelve years the Prince’s family, now bereft of heirs, and nigh three and twenty ruled the Roman State. His manners also varied with the several junctures of his fortune: he was well esteemed while yet a private man, and, in discharging public dignities under Augustus, of signal reputation; covert and subdolous in feigning virtue so long as Germanicus and Drusus survived; a mixed character of good and evil during the days of his mother; detestably cruel, but secret in his lewdness, while he loved or feared Sejanus. At last he abandoned himself, at once, to the rage of tyranny and the sway of his lusts: for, he had then conquered all the checks of shame and fear, and thenceforth followed only the bent of his own abominable spirit.
[* ]About two Millions, and five hundred thousand Crowns.