Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XII. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 2 - Annals (Books 4-6, 11-16)
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BOOK XII. - 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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Contests amongst the freedmen about the choice of a wife for the Emperor. Agrippina, his own niece, is preferred, and the marriage decreed lawful by the Senate. L. Silanus kills himself, and why. Seneca recalled from banishment. Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, betrothed to Nero, his wife’s son. Deputies from Parthia apply to Rome for Meherdates to be their King. He is vanquished in battle by Gotarzes. Mithridates tries to gain the Kingdom of Pontus, without success. He is carried in chains to Rome. Lollia, a Lady of prime quality, condemned by the artifices of Agrippina. Claudius enlarges the circuit of Rome: Who they were that did so before him. Nero is adopted by Claudius for his Son. A colony settled amongst the Ubians. The Cattians commit great ravages and depredations, but are routed. Vannius King of the Suevians driven from his Kingdom. Pub. Ostorius his exploits in Britain: A victory gained over King Caractacus there. Britannicus the Emperor’s Son, by the arts of Agrippina, slighted and postponed to Nero. All his most faithful domestics removed from him. Prodigies. Dearth of grain at Rome. War between the Armenians and Iberians: The Romans and Parthians take different parts in it. Furius Scribonianus doomed to exile. Punishment decreed against Ladies marrying their slaves. Commotions in Judæa. Claudius causes a naval battle to be represented upon the lake Fucinus. With what power unlimited he invested his Comptrollers in the Provinces. An utter exemption from taxes granted to the Isle of Coos; also to the City of Byzantium, a remission of tribute for five years. Lepida, a lady of high rank, doomed to die. Claudius poisoned by procurement of his wife Agrippina. Nero her Son assumes the sovereignty.
UPON the execution of Messalina, distractions shook the Prince’s family, as amongst the freedmen a strife arose, which of them should chuse a wife for Claudius, one impatient of a single life, and always abandoned to the dominion of his wives. Nor were the Ladies animated by less emulation, whilst they endeavoured preferably to recommend their own quality, wealth, and beauty, and each boasted her just claim to imperial wedlock. The chief competition, however, lay between Lollia Paullina, daughter to Marcus Lollius a Consular, and Julia Agrippina the daughter of Germanicus, the latter supported by the interest of Pallas, the other by that of Callistus. But, Ælia Petina, of the Tuberonian family, had the countenance of Narcissus. For Claudius; as he was now bent upon one, then upon another, and always led by his last adviser, he called together these his jarring counsellors, and ordered them to produce their several proposals, and defend them.
Narcissus alledged “his former marriage with Petina, and their common daughter (for by her he had Antonia) “that such a wife would never exercise the envious spirit of a step-mother towards Britannicus and Octavia, in blood so nearly allied to her own children.” Callistus argued, “that, to recall her, after so long a dislike and divorce, would be the very means to heighten her indignation and pride. Lollia would be a much more eligible match, who haveing no issue of her own, was void of every motive of emulation to his, but would use these her step-children with the tenderness of a real mother.” Pallas chiefly recommended Agrippina from these considerations, That, with her she would bring the grandson of Germanicus, and was herself worthy of imperial fortune, noble in her descent, and a proper band to unite together to posterity the Claudian family; that she was of tried fruitfulness, and in the prime of her age; so that by this match, would be prevented her carrying into another house the blood and splendor of the Cæsars.”
The reasonings of Pallas prevailed, enforced, as they were, by the allurements and caresses of Agrippina, who, under shew of consanguinity, was assiduous in her visits to her uncle, and, though hitherto she was only preferred to others, and not yet his wife; she already exercised the power of one. For, as soon as she had secured her own marriage, she was framing higher purposes, and concerting a match between Domitius, her son by Cneius Ænobarbus, and Octavia, the Emperor’s daughter, a design which without iniquity could not be accomplished, because the Emperor had betrothed Octavia to Lucius Silanus, a youth of signal quality, whom Claudius had distinguished with the triumphal ornaments, and, by the popular magnificence of an entertainment of gladiators in his name, recommended to the notice and favour of the people. But nothing appeared insurmountable to the undiscerning spirit of a Prince, who had no judgment, nor choice, nor aversion, but such as were infused and managed by others.
Vitellius therefore, who foresaw into whose hands the sovereignty was hastening, to purchase the favour of Agrippina, became engaged in her counsels, and, under the plausible name of Censor covering his own servile falsities, began to devise crimes against Silanus, whose sister Junia Silana, a young lady gay and beautiful, had not long before been the daughter-in-law of Vitellius. Hence he took the source of the accusation, and wrested to a charge of incest the mutual affection of brother and sister, an affection no wise incestuous, however too free and unguarded. The Emperor listened to the charge, as his fondness for his daughter rendered him the more prone to entertain suspicions against his son-in-law. Silanus, unapprized of any machinations against him, and happening to be Prætor that year, was all on a sudden, by an edict of Vitellius, degraded from the rank of a Senator, notwithstanding that the Senate was reviewed, and the number fixed a good while before. Claudius, at the same time, withdrew his alliance, and Silanus was even compelled to renounce his magistracy; insomuch that his Prætorship, which of course expired next day, was for that day conferred upon Eprius Marcellus.
During the consulship of Caius Pompeius and Quintus Veranius, the contract of marriage between Claudius and Agrippina, was already ascertained by the public voice, and indeed by their own criminal commerce. They durst not however celebrate the nuptials, as there was no instance of an uncle’s taking to wife his brother’s daughter. Besides, it was evidently incestuous, and if that consideration were despised, it was apprehended that some avenging calamity might fall upon the state. These fears and delays continued, till Vitellius undertook to accomplish it, by his own dexterity. He asked the Emperor, “whether he would submit to the express pleasure of the people, and to the authority of the Senate?” Claudius answered, “that he himself was one of the people, and could not withstand the voice and consent of them all.” Vitellius then desired him to continue within the palace, and went himself to the Senate, where, after a solemn declaration, that he had somewhat to communicate of the highest importance to the commonwealth, he demanded leave to be heard before any other; then alledged, “that the exquisite and incessant labours of the Prince, even those of governing the world, called for alleviation and support, such as, relieving him from domestic cares, might leave him at full leisure to attend the interest of the whole. What, in truth, was a more worthy consolation to the spirit of a Censor, than that of a wife, a sharer in his crosses and prosperity, one in whom he could repose his most secret thoughts, and the care of his tender infants? For, as to the ways of sensuality and voluptuous pleasures, he had never followed them, but from his early youth practised strict obedience to the laws.”
After this plausible introduction, which he found received by the Senate with mighty sycophancy and applause, he again proceeded; “that seeing they all with one mouth persuaded the Prince to marry, a Lady must be chosen signal in her descent, of distinguished fruitfulness, and religiously virtuous; nor for these qualifications needed there be long search, since Agrippina, in the illustriousness of her race, excelled all others, had given proofs of her fruitfulness, and was endowed with suitable purity of manners. It was indeed a happy circumstance, that through the providence of the Gods, she proved then a widow, that the Prince might take her to his bed, without violating that of another, he who had ever confined himself to his own wives. They had heard from their fathers, nay, themselves had seen, that Ladies were ravished from their husbands, at the lust and command of the Cæsars; a proceeding far from the moderate spirit of the present government, when the Emperor even established a precedent by what authority Princes ought hereafter to marry. But, amongst us it seemed an innovation to marry our brother’s daughters, which yet is a usage frequent in other nations, nor by any law forbidden to ours. The intermarriage of cousin-germans was a practice long unknown, yet in time waxed frequent. Customs were to be suited to exigencies, and this very novelty was one of those things which would soon be followed and practised.”
There were several Senators who declared with contending zeal, “that if the Emperor lingered longer, they would compel him,” and rushed warmly out of the Senate. The mixed multitude were likewise assembled, and proclaimed with shouts, “that the same was the voice and demand of the Roman people.” Nor did Claudius delay any further, but proceeded to the Forum, there to receive in person their acclamations, and thence entering the Senate, required “a decree to legitimate for ever the marriages between uncles and their brothers daughters.” But, notwithstanding the law, no man was found addicted to this kind of alliance, except Titus Alledius Severus, a Roman Knight, and he only, as many believed, in court to Agrippina. From this moment, the city assumed a different face, and all men tamely obeyed a woman, one who did not, like Messalina, render the Roman State subservient only to her wantonness and amours, but over it established a complete and masculine bondage. Her carriage in public was severe, often haughty; at home she indulged no impurity, unless where the same served the purposes of her sway; and for a guise to her insatiate passion for money, she pretended the support of the sovereignty.
On the day of the nuptials, Silanus slew himself; whether he had thus long entertained hopes of life, or invidiously chose that day to accumulate public hate upon his persecutors. His sister Calvina was banished Italy, and to her sentence Claudius added an injunction to the Pontifs, “that, according to the institution of King Tullus, they should offer expiatory sacrifices at the grove of Diana;” a source of mockery to all men, that penalties and lustrations for incest should be devised at such a conjuncture, when incest was established by law. For Agrippina; that she might not be distinguished and notorious only for the blackness of her deed, she obtained for Annæus Seneca a revocation from exile, and with it the Prætorship, favours which she supposed would prove well pleasing to the public, on account of his signal eloquence and accomplishments; besides her views to the education of her son Domitius under such a master, and to the use of his counsels for acquiring him the Empire. For Seneca, she believed, would continue faithfully attached to her from ties of gratitude, and in secret enmity to Claudius, through resentments of his sufferings.
It was now thought expedient to proceed without further delay, and Memmius Pollio, Consul elect, was gained, by vast promises, to move the Senate, that Claudius might be besought “to betroth Octavia to Domitius,” a match not unsuitable, indeed, to the equality of their ages, but introductory to the highest views. Pollio moved it much in the same words with those lately used by Vitellius; Octavia was betrothed, and Domitius, besides his former consanguinity with the Emperor, becoming also his son-in-law, was raised to a parity with Britannicus, an elevation derived from the efforts of his mother, and from the devices of those who having been the accusers of Messalina, dreaded the vengeance of her son.
I have before related that Embassadors from the Parthians were sent to Rome, to demand Meherdates for their King: they were at this time introduced into the Senate, where they opened their embassy to this effect; “That they came not to seek the violation of treaties, which they were aware subsisted between us and them; nor as revolters from the family of the Arsacides, but to call home the son of Vonones, the grandson of Phrahates, as their deliverer from the tyranny of Gotarzes, equally insupportable to the nobility and people. Already he had utterly butchered his own brothers, and his relations, and already extended the same cruelty to distant nobles and places; to their slaughter he was daily adding that of their wives and tender children, some of them yet unborn. He was a sluggard in peace, and of wretched fortune in war, but would with acts of cruelty disguise his dastardly spirit. With us the Parthians had an ancient friendship, founded upon public leagues; and it behoved us to succour these our allies, in strength great as ourselves, and only in reverence yielding to us. It was true, the sons of their Kings were given as pledges to the Romans; but therefore only given, that when the government of Parthia became grievous, they might have recourse to the Emperor and Senate, for a King improved by the Roman manners, and thence worthier of the throne.”
When they had alledged these and the like arguments, Claudius made a speech concerning the grandeur of the Romans, and the deferences ever paid to the same by the Parthians; and equalling himself with the deified Augustus, represented that from him also they had sought a King. He omitted to mention Tiberius, though he too had sent them Kings. Upon Meherdates (who was present) he bestowed proper admonitions, “not to consider his government as a lawless domination, nor his people as slaves, but to remember himself and them in the tender relation of magistrate and fellow citizens; to cultivate justice and clemency, blessings unknown to Barbarians, and thence the more likely to please them.” Then turning to the embassadors, he enlarged upon the praises of the young Prince, “as one educated in the Roman discipline, himself of distinguished modesty,” yet advised them, “to bear with the humours of their Kings, for in frequent changes, they could never find their interest. For the Roman State, it was arrived to a satiety of glory, insomuch that she studied the repose likewise of foreign Nations.” It was therefore given in commission to Caius Cassius, governor of Syria, to conduct the young King to the banks of the Euphrates.
This Cassius surpassed all those of that time in the knowledge of the laws; for, in a long and general recess from war, the military arts were forgot, and, during a settled peace, no difference appears between the dastardly and the brave. Yet he sedulously exercised the legions, carefully revived the ancient discipline, as far as without war the same could be revived, and acted with the same care and circumspection, as if a formidable enemy had been at hand. Such conduct, he thought, became the renown of his ancestors and the Cassian family, a family celebrated even amongst those nations. He now encamped at Zeugma, a place where the river is most passable, and having called together those by whose advice a King was sought from Rome, as soon as the Parthian chiefs, and with them Agbarus King of the Arabs, were arrived, he represented to Meherdates, “that the Barbarians, in the first sallies of their spirit, were always violent, but cooled by delays, or warped into treachery; so that, it behoved him to accelerate the execution of his enterprise.” This good counsel was frustrated by the fraud of Agbarus, who detained the young King many days at the city of Edessa, yet unexperienced, and believing that the essence of Royal fortune was placed in luxury and riot. So that, though Carrhenes pressed them by messengers, and assured them, that success was certain, if they advanced with speed, yet they neglected entering directly into Mesopotamia, though they were just upon its borders, but chose, by a long circuit, to march to Armenia, an unseasonable march, for winter was already begun.
As they descended into the plains, wearied with the deep snow and steep mountains, Carrhenes joined them with his forces. Thence they passed the Tigris, and crossed the country of the Adiabenians, Izates their King having publicly espoused the interest of Meherdates, though secretly his inclinations were more sincerely attached to Gotarzes. In passing the river, they took the city Ninos, the ancient seat of the Assyrian Empire, as also the castle of Arbela, so renowned in story, for that the last battle between Darius and Alexander was there fought, and by it the Monarchy of Persia dissolved. Gotarzes the while was sacrificing upon mount Sambulos to the Gods of the place Amongst these Hercules is principally adored, who, at stated times, is wont to warn the priests in a dream, “to prepare him horses equipped for hunting, and place them by the temple;” and these horses, as soon as they have fixed upon them certain quivers stuffed with arrows, gallop off and scour the forests, nor return till night, their arrows all spent, and themselves exhausted and blowing. Again, the God, in another vision of the night, describes to the priests the several tracts of the woods where he had ranged, and in them are found scattered up and down, the beasts by him hunted down and slain.
As the forces of Gotarzes were not yet sufficiently strengthened, he used the river Corma for a rampart, and though daily by insults and heralds challenged to battel, he still procrastinated, shifted stations, and employed emissaries the while to bribe the enemy, and wean them from their plighted faith; insomuch that first Izates, leader of the Adiabenians, presently after Agbarus King of the Arabs, went off with both their armies; a desertion agreeable to the native fickleness of those barbarous people, and even to their usual policy. We have learned too by several trials, that they would rather ask a King from Rome, than be governed by him. Meherdates, thus bereft of these powerful allies, and apprehending treasonable purposes in those who continued, determined, as his only remaining resource, to commit the issue to chance, and risque a battle; nor did Gotarzes refuse it, who was grown resolute as his enemy was become weak. The conflict was great and bloody, and the event long in suspence, till Carrhenes, having overthrown all that opposed him, pursuing his victory too far, was surrounded in the rear by a body of reserve. This blow utterly blasted all the hopes of Meherdates, who therefore trusting to the faith and promises of Parrhaces, a dependant of his father’s, was by the traitor delivered in bonds to the conqueror. Gotarzes disowning him “for a kinsman, or one of the family of the Arsacides,” but reviling him, as “a foreigner and a Roman,” ordered him to live with his ears cut off, as a vain instance of his own clemency, and towards us a monument of scorn. A disease soon after carried off Gotarzes; and Vonones, then governor of Media, was called to the throne, a Prince distinguished by nothing memorable, fortunate or disastrous; his reign was short and inconsiderable, and the state of Parthia devolved upon his son Vologeses.
During this, Mithridates of Bosphorus, since the loss of his territories, wandered from place to place; but, having learnt that Didius, the Roman commander, was thence withdrawn with the strength of his army, and that Cotys, a young Prince void of experience, was left in his new kingdom with only a few cohorts under Julius Aquila, a Roman Knight; he slighted both, animated the neighbouring people to arms, drew over deserters, and having thus assembled an army, exterminated the King of the Dandarides, and seized his dominions. Upon these tidings, and an apprehension, that he would instantly invade Bosphorus, Aquila and Cotys distrusting the power of their own forces, and being diverted too by Zorsines King of the Siracians, who had again taken up hostile arms, had recourse themselves to foreign aid, and dispatched embassadors to Eunones Prince of the Adorsians. Nor was it hard to accomplish this alliance, when they who sought it, represented the imperial power of the Romans, in competition with Mithridates a vagabond and revolter. It was therefore accorded, “that Eunones should make head with the cavalry, and the Romans besiege the towns.”
The army was then formed, and marched in this order; the Adorsians composed the front and rear, the cohorts occupied the center, with those of Bosphorus, armed like Romans. Thus they discomfited the enemy, and arrived at Soza, a city of the Dandarides, now deserted by Mithridates, but in it a garrison was judged proper to be placed, as a bridle upon the doubtful affections of the people. Thence they proceeded against the Siracians, and crossing the river Panda begirt the city of Uspes, situated upon a hill and well fortified with walls and moats, only as the walls were not built with stone, but raised of rows of hurdles with earth between, they were unable to bear an assault; moreover, against them towers were raised high enough to overlook them, and from thence the besieged were infested with flights of darts and flaming torches, and, had not night parted the combat, the city had been attempted and stormed within the limits of a day.
Next day the besieged sent deputies to sollicit, that to the free inhabitants their lives might be spared, and offering, as an atonement, ten thousand slaves: conditions rejected by the conquerors, since the massacring of such as were surrendered to mercy would have been inhuman; and to secure such an host of prisoners, extremely difficult. It was therefore deemed the sounder counsel to exercise the right of war, and put all promiscuously to the sword; hence to the soldiers, who already mounted the walls, the signal of slaughter was given. The overthrow of Uspes, and the doom of its inhabitants, terrified their neighbours, who now believed that nothing could be secure or impregnable against the Romans, since arms and bulwarks, heights and fastnesses, deep rivers and fortified towns, were with equal bravery vanquished by them. Hence Zorsines, after long deliberation, whether still to adhere to the desperate fortune of Mithridates, or consult the security of his own paternal crown, at last preferred the interest of his state, and having delivered hostages, came and prostrated himself before the image of Claudius, to the signal glory of the Roman army, who had advanced, in a course of victory without blood, within three days journey of the river Tanais. In their return, the same fortune did not attend them; for, certain vessels, as they sailed back, were cast by a storm upon the coasts of the Taurians, and by these barbarians surprized, who slew the leader of a cohort and most of the centurions.
Mithridates the while, now destitute of all resource from arms, was devising to what quarter he should have recourse for mercy. His brother Cotys he dreaded, as one who had formerly betrayed him, and became afterwards his open enemy. Amongst the Romans in those parts there was none whose authority and engagements could much avail him. To Eunones therefore he determined to apply, as one who bore him no personal hatred, and, by virtue of his late alliance with us, a Prince of prevailing credit. Thus, in a countenance and equipage suitable to his present desolate plight, he entered the palace, and throwing himself at the feet of Eunones, “I am Mithridates, says he, the same who have been chased and persecuted by the Romans for so many years through sea and land; behold me before you, of my own choice. Use according to your pleasure a descendant of the great Achæmenes; it is the only advantage of which my enemies have not bereaved me.”
Eunones was affected with the illustrious quality of the man, with the sad recollection of his fortune, and his magnanimous manner of supplication. He raised him up, and praising him for having thrown himself upon the friendship of the Adorsians, and chosen him as a mediator for pardon, dispatched embassadors to Claudius with letters to this purpose. “The alliances of the Roman Emperors with the Kings of other mighty nations, were first founded upon a similitude of their fortunes; his own with Claudius was also confirmed by a joint victory. But, all wars were then concluded with most glory, when they ended in pardoning the vanquished. In this manner was Zorsines lately treated, beaten, but deprived of nothing. Mithridates, it was true, had offended more grievously: Hence for Mithridates he neither besought new power or his former kingdom, but only an exemption from capital punishment, and from the ignominy of being led in triumph.”
Claudius, though always benevolent to illustrious foreigners, was yet at a loss whether it were more adviseable to receive the captive on terms of mercy, or to have him by force of arms. For this last there pleaded the sense of injuries, and the gratification of revenge. But against it was alledged, “That the war was to be undertaken in countries wild and trackless, upon a sea boisterous and destitute of havens, against fierce and warlike Kings, against rambling and vagabond nations; where the soil was indigent and barren, where hasty measures would be dangerous, procrastination vexatious and wearisom; small would be the glory in victory, much infamy in a defeat. The Emperor ought therefore readily to embrace the overture, and agree to spare his life; he was indigent, and an exile, and the longer he enjoyed his desolate life, so much the severer would be his sufferings.” These considerations convinced Claudius, and he writ to Eunones, “That, in truth, Mithridates had merited the punishment of death, nor wanted he power to inflict it; but he chose to follow the rule of our ancestors, who, as they pursued obstinate enemies with unrelenting rigour, treated the supplicant with equal benevolence. As to triumphs, they were only to be acquired by the conquest of entire kingdoms and nations.”
Mithridates was thence delivered to Junius Cilo, the Imperial Procurator in Pontus, and by him carried to Rome, where, in the presence of the Emperor, he is said to have spoke with more haughtiness than suited with the abjectness of his fortune; for, as the same was reported abroad, he thus expressed himself. “I am not brought back to thee, Cæsar, but of my own choice have returned; or, if thou dost not believe me, dismiss me again, then try to recover me.” Moreover, when he was exposed at the Rostrum, to the view of the people, and encompassed with guards, his countenance continued perfectly undaunted. To Cilo were decreed the Consular ornaments, and to Aquila those of the Prætorship.
During the same Consuls, Agrippina, ever implacable in her hate, and enraged at Lollia, for having disputed with her a right to the Emperor’s bed, framed crimes against her, and suborned an accuser, who charged her, “with dealings with the Magicians and Chaldæans, and even consulting the Oracle of the Clarian Apollo, concerning that match.” Claudius, without hearing her in her own defence, after a long preface to the Senate, concerning the signal splendor of her birth, “that by her mother she was niece to Lucius Volusius, Cotta Messalinus her great uncle, herself formerly married to Memmius Regulus,” (for of her marriage with Caligula he purposely said nothing) added, “that she pursued pernicious devices against the Commonwealth, and must be divested of the means, and opportunities of iniquity and treason, her estate be confiscated, and herself banished Italy.” Thus, of all her immense wealth, only thirty thousand pounds were allotted her. Calpurnia too, another illustrious Lady, was doomed to ruin, because the Prince had praised her beauty, though from no passion for her person, but only in occasional discourse; a consideration, which so much abated the fury of Agrippina, that her punishment was on this side death. To Lollia, a Tribune was dispatched, with orders, to compel her to die. Cadius Rufus was likewise condemned for extortion, at the suit of the Bithynians.
To the province of Narbon Gaul it was now granted, in regard of the distinguished reverence ever by them paid to the Senate, that to Senators of that province should be allowed the same privilege with those of Sicily, of visiting their estates there, without leave asked of the Prince; and the countries of Ituria and Judæa, were, upon the death of their Kings Sohemus and Agrippa, annexed to the government of Syria. The augury too of divine protection, which for five and twenty years had been disused, was judged fit to be revived, and thereafter regularly observed; and the Emperor widened the circumference of Rome, by virtue of an ancient institution, which empowered such as had extended the limits of the empire, to enlarge also the bounds of the city; a right which yet was never assumed by any of the Roman captains, though they had subdued mighty nations, before Sylla the Dictator, and the deified Augustus.
What was the ambition and practice of our Kings in this matter, or from what instances of renown, the diversity of tradition has rendered utterly uncertain. But I cannot think it impertinent to shew where the first foundations began, and what was the circuit fixt by Romulus. Now, from the Ox-market, where still is seen the brazen statue of a bull, because by that animal the plough is drawn, a furrow was cut to describe the boundaries of the town, and extended so as to include the great Altar of Hercules. From thence certain spaces were left marked at proper distances, with stones, and the line continued along the foot of Mount Palatine to the Altar of Consus, next to the Curiæ veteres, thence to the small Temple of the Lares, and lastly to the great Roman Forum, which, as well as the Capitol, it is believed, was added to the city, not by Romulus, but by Tatius. With the increase of her empire the City afterwards continued to increase; and what were the boundaries now established by Claudius, is easily learnt, as they are inserted in the public records.
In the Consulship of Caius Antistius and Marcus Suilius, the adoption of Domitius was dispatched by the prevalent counsel of Pallas, who, as he had procured the match for Agrippina, and afterwards became engaged to her in a league of adultery, and thence wholly addicted to her interest, continually sollicited Claudius, “to provide for the exigency of the Commonwealth, and support the infancy of Britannicus with a collateral stay. Such had been the policy of the deified Augustus, who, though, for the support of his house, he had grand-children of his own, yet had distinguished with power the sons of his wife. Thus too Tiberius, notwithstanding he had issue of his own, adopted Germanicus; and thus he also should fortify himself with the aid of a young Prince, fit to bear in time a part of his public cares.” To these considerations Claudius yielded, and adopted Domitius for his eldest son, though only three years older than his son, declaring the adoption to the Senate in a speech of the very same strain with that of his freedman to him. It was noted by men of observation, that never was any adoption made before this into the Patrician family of the Claudii, which from Attus Clausus their first ancestor, had ever subsisted upon its own successive stock.
The thanks of the Senate were presented to the Prince, but conceived in strains of flattery still more exquisite towards Domitius; and a law passed decreeing his assumption into the Claudian family, and to him the name of Nero. Agrippina was also dignified with the title of Augusta. When these measures were thus accomplished, no mortal was found so void of compassion, as not to be affected with the sorrowful lot of Britannicus. By little and little he was even bereft of the attendance of his slaves, through the hollow officiousousness of his step-mother, who would keep him unseasonably in a nursery; a treatment of great derision, which himself perceived, as he was capable of discerning deceit. For, he is said to have wanted no quickness of understanding: whether the same were his real character, or whether his sad fortune was the only source of his praise, without living to give further proof, he still retained it.
Now Agrippina, that she might even to distant nations, our allies, signalize her power at Rome, procured a Colony of Veterans to be sent to the capital of the Ubians; a town in which she was born, and which she called by her own name. It had also been the lot of her grandfather Agrippa, when that people came over the Rhine, to receive them under the protection of the Romans. At that same time, terror filled the higher Germany, from the approach of the Cattians, exercising as they went rapine and depredations. Hence Lucius Pomponius, the Roman General, ordered the auxiliary Vangiones and Nemetæans, strengthened with some wings of horse, “to advance against those bands of robbers, or, if they found them straggling, to pour in upon them and beset them by surprize.” The vigour of the soldiers was answerable to the scheme of the commander; separating themselves into to two bands, that which marched to the left, enclosed them just returned from the spoil, under the effects of a debauch, and sunk in sleep. To compleat their joy, they now released from bondage some who had continued in it ever since the massacre of Varus and the Legions, forty years before. The body that turned to the right, had made a shorter march, and as the enemy ventured to fight, a greater slaughter. So that, laden with booty, and covered with glory, they returned to mount Taunus, where Pomponius waited with his Legions, prepared for battle, if the Cattians, from a passion for revenge, had ministered occasion. But, as they dreaded being assaulted on every side, here, by the Romans, there, by the Cheruscans, with whom they have incessant enmity, they dispatched deputies and hostages to Rome. To Pomponius was decreed the honour of triumph, from which, however, he derives but a slender share of his surviving fame, since to posterity he is peculiarly known in the surpassing excellence of his Poems.
It was at this time too that Vannius, formerly created King of the Suevians by Drusus Cæsar, was driven from his kingdom. In the beginning of his reign, he lived in signal reputation, and in popularity with his people, but, intoxicated with long possession of power, grew afterwards imperious; so that he became at once exposed to the hate and hostility of his neighbours, and to a combination of his own subjects. It was conducted by his own sister’s sons, Vangio and Sido, and by Vibillius their confederate, King of the Hermundurians. Nor would Claudius, though often entreated, engage in the quarrel of the Barbarians; he only answered the suit of Vannius, by a promise of a safe refuge, in case of expulsion, and writ to Publius Palpelius Hister, governor of Pannonia, “to cover the banks of the Danube with the Legion, and with a body of auxiliaries raised in the same province; in order to shelter the vanquished, and to awe the conquerors; lest, elated by success, they might venture also to disturb the quiet of the Empire.” For the Ligians and other nations were daily arriving in swarms, allured by the fame of the wealth of that kingdom, which for thirty years Vannius had been enriching by constant depredations and exactions. His own army of natives were foot, and his horse the Jazigians of Sarmatia, a force unequal to the great host of his enemies. Hence he determined to confine himself to his strong holds, and protract the war. But the Jazigians, who could not reconcile themselves to the restraints of a siege, roamed round the adjacent country, and being powerfully assailed by the Ligians and Hermundurians, brought him under a necessity of fighting. So that, issuing from his fortresses, to relieve them, he was overthrown in battle, but with this praise, notwithstanding his defeat, that with his own hand he had bravely fought, and was honourably wounded with his face to the foe. He then fled to his fleet, which staid for him in the Danube, and was soon followed by his adherents, who were settled in Pannonia, and portions of land assigned them. Vangio and Sido parted his kingdom between them, and towards us continued in signal fidelity, passionately beloved too by their subjects, while they were yet acquiring royalty, and, after it was acquired, more vehemently hated, perhaps from the fickle temper of the people, perhaps from the genius of servitude.
Now Publius Ostorius, Proprætor of Britain, found great uproar and combustion there; for the enemy had in predatory bands broke into the territories of our allies, with the more violence, as they supposed that a new General would not, with an army which he had never proved, and in the depth of winter, dare to make head against them. But as he was convinced that by the first events of war, considence or consternation was raised in an enemy, he led forth his troops against them with great suddenness, put to the sword all who resisted, and closely pursued such as were broken, so as to prevent their rejoining. And, since a peace made by constraint, and thence never sincere, could ensure no repose to the General nor his troops, he determined to deprive of their arms all such as he suspected, and, by the means of forts, to confine them between the rivers Nen and Severn; a determination thwarted first by the Icenians, a powerful people, who having of their own accord become our confederates, were weakened by no invasion nor assaults of war; they were now joined by the bordering nations, an army was formed, and the place of battle chosen, a place defended by a ditch, and the approach to it so narrow as not to be passable by the horse. The Roman General, though, without the support of the Legions, he only led some social troops, yet drew up to storm these rustic fortifications, and ranging his Cohorts in order, dismounted the horse and assigned them the duty of foot. Upon the signal given, they forced the ditch and broke the enemy, who were also hampered and entangled with their own enclosures. But they who, from the guilt of rebellion, were animated with despair, cooped in on all sides, and no way left for escape, performed many and memorable feats of bravery. In this battle Marcus Ostorius, the son of the General, having saved the life of a Roman citizen, acquired the Civic Crown.
For the rest, the overthrow of the Icenians calmed all those unsettled spirits, who before were wavering in their purposes between peace and war; and the army was led against the Cangians, wasted their territories, and committed general spoil. Nor durst the foe encounter them openly, and were always beaten in their secret assaults. We had now approached near the sea which washes the coast of Ireland, when commotions, begun amongst the Brigantes, obliged the General to return thither; as he had determined to prosecute no new enterprize till his former were completed and secure. The Brigantes, in truth, became soon composed, by executing a few who raised the revolt, and pardoning all the rest; but, no rigour nor mercy could reclaim the Silures, who were bent upon war, and only to be reduced by the force of the Legions. To facilitate this design, a Colony, powerful in the number of Veterans, was conveyed to Camalodunum situate in the conquered lands, as a bulwark against the rebels, and for inuring our allies to the laws and jurisdiction of the Romans.
Thence we marched against the Silures, a people resolute and fierce by nature, and moreover confiding in the assistance and valour of Caractacus, one renowned for many victories, and many disasters, so that in credit he surpassed all the other British commanders. In the advantage and situation of the country he was more subtile and expert than the Romans, but weaker in men, and therefore translated the seat of the war into the territory of the Ordovicans; and being joined by all such as feared an unequal peace with the Romans, ventured to try the decision of the sword. In order to it, he chose a place against which it was difficult to advance, and from which it was as difficult to retreat, every way incommodious to our army, every way favourable to his own. It was upon the ridges of mountains exceeding steep, and, where their sides were inclining and approachable, he reared walls of stone for a rampart. At the foot of the mountains flowed a river, dangerous to be forded, and a host of men guarded his entrenchments.
Add to this, that the leaders of the several confederate nations, were busy from quarter to quarter, exhorting and animating their followers, with representations proper to dissipate fear, to kindle their hopes, and to rouse in them all the fiercest incitements to war. Caractacus, particularly, flew through the whole army, and proclaimed, “That from this day and this battle they must date their liberty completely rescued, or their servitude eternally established.” He called upon “those of their ancestors who had exterminated Cæsar the Dictator, men by whose valour they yet lived free from tribute and Roman axes, yet preserved free from prostitution the persons of their children and wives.” As he thus harangued, he was answered by the acclamations of the multitude, and every particular bound himself by the oath most sacred to each different nation, “Never to yield to arms, nor wounds, nor aught save death.”
This loud alacrity of theirs amazed the Roman General. Besides, the river to be passed, the rampart to be forced, the declivities of the high mountains to be climbed, and all defended by hosts of men, were terrible difficulties. But, the soldiers urged for the attack; All things, they cried, were conquerable by courage, and the Tribunes and other officers expressing the same spirit, heightened the ardour of the army. Ostorius, therefore, haveing carefully surveyed the situation, where inaccessible, and where to be passed, led them on thus animated; and, without much difficulty, gained the opposite banks. In approaching the bulwark, while the encounter was yet managed by flights of darts, there were more of our men wounded, and many began to fall; but, after they had formed themselves into the military shell, demolished the huge and shapeless structure of stones, and encountered hand to hand upon ground equal to both, the Barbarians betook themselves to the ridges of the mountains, and thither also mounted our soldiers after them, both the light and heavy armed. Here also was begun an unequal fight, by ours in close order against the Britons, who only fought by discharges of arrows, and, as they cover themselves with no armour, were thence strait broken in their ranks; where they resisted the auxiliaries, they were slaughtered by the swords and javelins of the soldiers of the Legions, and by the great sabres and pikes of the auxiliaries, where they faced those of the Legions. Signal was this victory; the wife and daughter of Caractacus were taken prisoners, and his brothers surrendered to mercy.
He himself had recourse to the faith and protection of Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes; but, as almost all things conspire against the unfortunate, was by her delivered in bonds to the conquerors, now in the ninth year after the commencement of the war in Great-Britain. So long had he sustained it; hence his renown had reached all the isles, spread over the neighbouring provinces, and became celebrated even in Italy, where all longed to behold the man, who, for so many years, had defied the Roman arms. Nor, in truth, at Rome was the name of Caractacus without lustre and applause; and the Emperor, by exalting his own glory in the conquest, accumulated fresh glory upon the conquered. For, the people were assembled to see him, as a rare and important spectacle; and the Prætorian bands stood under arms in the field before their camp. There proceeded first the servants and followers of the British King, with the military harness, golden chains, and the spoils by him taken in the wars with his neighbours; next his brothers, his wife and daughter, and lastly himself exposed to view. All but he were dejected, and descended through fear to supplications unworthy of their quality. Caractacus, without either betraying a supplicant look, or uttering a word that implored mercy, as soon as he was placed before the imperial tribunal, spoke thus:
“If, to the height of my quality and fortune, I had joined an equal height of moderation in my prosperity and success, I should have arrived in this city under another character, that of a friend, and not of a captive, nor would you then have disdained to have received a Prince born of illustrious ancestors, and governing so many nations, into terms of alliance. But, different is my present lot, which derives upon you as eminent renown, as upon me disgrace and abasement. I was lately master of men and arms, horses and opulence. Where is the wonder if against my inclination I was bereft of them? If you Romans aim at extending your dominion over all mankind; it does not thence follow that all men will embrace voluntary servitude from Rome. Had I forthwith submitted to captivity, neither had my fall nor your glory been thus signal; and even now, if I am to suffer death, the same of my story and of your conquest will die with my punishment; but if you preserve my life, I shall be a deathless example of your clemency.” Claudius upon this pardoned him, his wife, and his brothers. Being discharged of their chains, and having paid their duty and acknowledgment to the Prince, they also accosted Agrippina, exalted upon another tribunal hard by, in the same strain of gratitude and veneration: A sight remarkably new, to our ancestors utterly unknown, for a woman to preside amongst the Roman Ensigns! she, in truth, assumed to call herself a partner in the Empire which her ancestors had acquired.
The Senate was thereafter assembled, where many and pompous encomiums were pronounced upon the taking of Caractacus, as an event “no less illustrious than those of old, when Siphax was by Publius Scipio, Perses by Lucius Paulus, or any other conquered Kings were by any of our great Captains, presented in chains to the Roman people.” To Ostorius the triumphal ornaments were decreed; and thus far his administration had been successful, but was afterwards chequered with misfortunes. Whether it was, that, upon the captivity of Caractacus, the war was thought concluded, and thence our vigilance and discipline abated; or that the enemy, in compassion for so great a King, burned more vehemently for revenge. They assailed by surprize the camp-marshal and legionary cohorts, left to rear forts amongst the Silures, and, but for sudden succours from the circumjacent garrisons, our troops had been cut in pieces; as it was, the Marshal himself and eight Centurions were there slain, with the most resolute soldiers. Soon after they entirely routed our forragers, and even the troops sent to guard them.
Ostorius, it is true, dispatched to their relief some cohorts lightly armed, who yet were not able to stay the flight, so that the Legions were drawn out to restore the battle, which by their strength instantly became equal, and then favourable to us. The enemy fled, but, as night approached, with slight loss. There continued thenceforward frequent encounters, many of them resembling the parties and surprizes of robbers, sometimes in the woods, sometimes in morasses, conducted by chance or boldness, and with answerable success, here at a venture, there in concert, now from resentment, anon for booty, at times by command of their officers, and often without their knowledge. Of all others the Siiures were the most implacable; they were incensed by a saying of the Roman General current amongst them, “that their name must be utterly extinguished, as was that of the Sugambrians, who had been partly cut off, and the rest transplanted into Gaul.” Thus animated, they surprized and carried off two auxiliary cohorts, who were, without due circumspection, plundering the country to satiate the avarice of their officers; and by distributing the spoil and captives amongst the neighbouring nations, they were drawing them also into the revolt, when Ostorius, sinking under the weight of his anxieties, expired, to the great joy of the enemy, that a captain so considerable, though he had not fallen in battle, had yet perished in the war.
The Emperor, apprized of the death of his Lieutenant, that the province might not be without a governor, substituted in his room Aulus Didius; but he, notwithstanding his expeditious arrival, found not things in their entire state; for, the Legion commanded by Manlius Valens, had the while been engaged, and suffered a defeat, a disaster magnified by the enemy, to terrify the new general, and even aggravated by him, thence to gain the greater glory, if he quelled the rebellion, or the juster excuse if it lasted. The late loss too we suffered from the Silures, who were daily making large incursions on all hands, till Didius now set upon them and repulsed them. Their ablest man of war, since the taking of Caractacus, was Venusius, of the city of the Jugantes, as I have above remembered, one long faithful to the Romans, and protected by their arms, during his marriage with the Queen Cartismandua; but being afterwards divorced from her, and then instantly at war with her, he likewise began hostilities against us. Their arms at first were only employed against each other; but the Queen having by subtil stratagems, possessed herself of the brother and other kindred of Venusius, the enemy became exasperated, and, scorning the infamy of falling under the dominion of a woman, assembled all their ablest and most warlike youth, and invaded her territories; an event foreseen by us; so that we had sent some cohorts to her aid, and a fierce battle ensued, where the first onset was doubtful, but the end successful. With the like issue fought the Legion commanded by Cesius Nasica. For, Didius himself unwieldly through age, and already satiated with a long train of honours, thought it sufficient to act by his Lieutenants, and only restrain the foe. All these transactions, though the work of several years, under two Proprætors Ostorius and Didius, I have thus connected, lest the detail, if interrupted, might not have been so easily recovered. I now return to the order of time.
During the fifth Consulship of Claudius and that of Servius Cornelius Orfitus, to qualify Nero for entering into the administration of the State, the manly Robe was presented him, while yet under age, and the Emperor concurred chearfully with the flattering decrees of the Senate, “that in his twentieth year, he should exercise the Consulship; that the while, as Consul designed, he should be invested with proconsular authority out of Rome, and be stiled Prince of the Roman Youth.” Claudius moreover, in Nero’s name, bestowed a largess upon the soldiers, and another upon the people: and, at the Circensian games, which were then solemnized, to draw upon him the eyes and affections of the populace, whilst Britannicus was carried along in the Prætexta (the usual habit of boys) Nero appeared in the triumphal robe, the mark and ornament of imperial state. So that the people, beholding them thus differently attired, could thence conclude the difference of their future fortunes. At the same time, such of the Centurions and Tribunes as manifested any compassion for the partial lot of Britannicus, were, some under colour of more honourable functions, all upon framed pretences, removed from the palace; even amongst the freedmen, those whose faith and constancy were found incorruptible, were discarded upon the following occasion. The two young Princes happening to meet, Nero saluted Britannicus by that name, and Britannicus him by his old name of Domitius. This was by Agrippina represented to Claudius with grievous expostulations, as the first step to dissention, since by it “the adoption of Nero was set at nought and condemned, the sanctions of the Senate, with the authority of the people, were abolished within the walls of his own palace; and if the pravity of those who inspired into Britannicus such pernicious sentiments, were not repressed, it would break out into war and public ruine.” Claudius, alarmed and exasperated by these suggestions of his wife, as if the same had been crimes really committed by the tutors of his son, punished all the best of them with exile or death, and entrusted him to the government of others, chosen by his step-mother.
Agrippina however durst not yet proceed to the accomplishment of her great design, till from the command of the Prætorian cohorts were removed Lusius Geta and Rufius Crispinus, as men whom she believed grateful to the memory of Messalina, and zealously devoted to her children. When she had therefore alledged to the Emperor, “that by the competition and cabals of two commanders, the guards were rent into factions, whereas, were they under the authority of one, they would be more easily subjected to the laws of discipline and obedience;” Claudius submitted to the reasoning of his wife, and the charge of these bands was transferred to Burrhus Afranius, an officer, in truth, of signal renown, but one however well apprized to whose credit he owed his advancement. Agrippina likewise began to signalize her grandeur still more, and even to enter the Capitol in a chariot, a distinction which of old was allowed to none but the priests and things sacred, and, being now assumed by her, heightened the reverence of the people towards a Lady who was the daughter of a Cæsar, and the mother of one, sister to the last Emperor, and wife of the present; an instance of imperial fortune and nobility till then unparalleled. But in the mean time her chief champion Vitellius, in the height of favour, and extremity of age (upon such treacherous foundations great men stand!) was involved in an accusation, and, by Junius Lupus the Senator, charged with treason, and even with aspiring to the Empire. Claudius too would have listened to the charge, had not Agrippina prevailed by menaces rather than prayers, and turned his resentment upon the accuser, who was thence interdicted from fire and water. Further punishment than this Vitellius desired not.
Many were the prodigies that happened this year: upon the Capitol were seen birds of evil omen, frequent concussions of the earth were felt, and by them many houses overthrown. But, as the dread was still more extensive than the calamity, in the throng of the flying multitude, all the weak and decrepit were trodden to death. For a prodigy also was reckoned the barrenness of the season, and the effect of it, famine. Nor were the complaints of the populace confined to houses and corners; they even gathered in tumultuous crowds round the Prince, then engaged in the public administration of justice, and with turbulent clamours drove him to the extremity of the Forum; so that, to escape their violence, he was forced with his guards to break through the incensed multitude. It is certain, there was then in Rome but just provision for fifteen days, and by the signal bounty of the Gods and the mildness of the winter it was that the public was relieved in that its urgent distress. It was, in truth, otherwise with Italy in former days, when from her fruitful fields foreign provinces too were furnished with supplies; nor, at this time, is the sterility of soil any part of our misfortune; but we now rather chuse to cultivate Africa and Egypt, and the lives of the Roman people are entrusted to ships and the casualties of the deep.
The same year, the war which arose between the Armenians and Hiberians, begot also mighty broils between the Parthians and Romans. Over the Parthians reigned Vologeses, who, though the son of a Greek concubine, had, by the concession of his brothers, obtained the diadem. The Kingdom of Hiberia had been long held by Pharasmanes, and his brother Mithridates was, by our aid and procurement, possessed of Armenia. Pharasmanes had a son graceful and tall, of signal strength of body, trained up in all the politics of his father, and in high renown with the bordering nations. His name was Rhadamistus, a young Prince who, impatient that the small kingdom of Hiberia should be so long detained from him by the great age of his father, declared this his discontent with so much frequency and passion, that his ambition could not be concealed. Pharasmanes therefore, in regard of his own declining age, and fearing the spirit of his son, eager of himself to reign, and supported besides with the affections of his subjects, chose to divert his thoughts upon another pursuit, and tempted him with the prospect of Armenia; “a kingdom which, having expulsed the Parthians, he said, he had given to Mithridates; but, in gaining it now, all methods of violence were to be postponed; and those of guile first to be tried, in order to oppress him unawares.” Thus Rhadamistus, feigning to quarrel with his father, and to fly the persecutions of his step-mother, withdrew to his uncle, and, while he was by him cherished like a child, with transcendent complacency, drew the nobility of Armenia into the conspiracy; Mithridates being so ignorant of his conduct, that upon him he was still multiplying honours.
Then, under shew of being reconciled to his father, he returned, and informed him, “that what fraud could effect, was accomplished, the rest arms must execute.” Hence Pharasmanes set himself to devise colours for the war, and declared, “that whilst he was at war with the King of the Albanians, he had applied to the Romans for aid, but his brother opposed its coming; and this injury he was now about to revenge with his utter destruction.” At the same time, he committed a numerous army to the conduct of his son, who, by a sudden invasion, utterly dismayed Mithridates, and forced him out of the field into the fortress of Gorneas, a place strong in the situation, and defended by a garrison of our soldiers, under the command of Cælius Pollio Governor, and Casperius a Centurion. The Barbarians are strangers to nothing more than the use of machines, and the dexterity of assaulting places, a part of military skill which to us is throughly familiar. Rhadamistus therefore, having without effect, or with loss to himself, attempted the fortifications, changed his efforts into a siege, and when all his attacks were despised, purchased with a price the avaritious Governor, notwithstanding the adjurations of Casperius, “that he would not sell a confederate King, not sell Armenia, the gift of the Roman people, and convert his own trust into perfidiousness and money.” But at last, since Pollio persisted to plead the multitude of the enemy, and Rhadamistus the orders of his father; the Centurion procuring a truce, departed, in order either to deter Pharasmanes from pursuing the war, or otherwise to proceed to Numidius Quadratus Governor of Syria, and lay before him the condition of Armenia.
By the departure of the Centurion, Pollio being, as it were, discharged from the restraint of a keeper, exhorted Mithridates to an accommodation. He alledged “the natural ties between brothers, the seniority of Pharasmanes, and their other mutual bonds of affinity; that he was himself espoused to his brother’s daughter, and to Rhadamistus had espoused his own; that the Hiberians, however then superior in forces, refused not peace; and the perfidiousness of the Armenians was sufficiently known; neither had he any other sanctuary but that castle, destitute of stores. He therefore ought not to scruple to prefer terms gained without blood, to the casualties and violence of war.” But, as Mithridates still procrastinated, suspecting the counsels of the Governor, as one who had debauched a concubine of his, and was reckoned of a vile spirit, purchaseable by money into every baseness, Casperius the while reached Pharasmanes, and urged him “to recall his Hiberians from the siege.” That Prince returned him openly equivocal answers, sometimes such as were more gentle and plausible, and, during these amusements, warned Rhadamistus by secret messengers, “to dispatch by whatever means the taking of the place.” Hence the price of the treason was augmented to Pollio, who also privately corrupted the soldiers, and prompted them to demand peace, or otherwise to threaten that they would relinquish the garrison. Mithridates, pressed by this extremity, agreed to the time and place of capitulation, and went forth from the castle to meet Rhadamistus, who instantly flew to embrace him, feigned all the marks of duty and obedience, and called him his father: he even swore that he intended him no violence either by poison or the sword, and drew him at the same time into a neighbouring grove, where a sacrifice, he said, was by his orders prepared, that by the solemn presence of the Gods their league of peace might be confirmed.
It is a custom amongst the Kings of these countries, whenever they strike alliances, to tie together with a hard bandage the thumbs of their right hands, till the blood, starting to the extremities, is by a slight cut discharged. This they mutually suck, and a league thus executed is esteemed most awful, as mysteriously solemnized with the blood of the parties. But upon this occasion, he who was applying the bandage pretending to fall, seized Mithridates by the legs, and overthrew him, and instantly he was oppressed by many, then bound, and haled away dragging his chain, a circumstance of consummate contumely amongst the Barbarians! The people too, over whom he had exercised rigorous tyranny, assaulted him with bitter reproaches, and even threatened him with blows. Yet there were some of a different temper, who uttered their commiseration for such a mighty change of his fortune; besides, his wife following him with her little infants, was by her doleful lamentations every where heard. They were thrust apart into covered carriages, till the commands of Pharasmanes were known. With him the passion for a kingdom was more prevalent than his regard for a brother or daughter, and he possessed naturally a spirit prone to every cruelty. He however considered the indecency of the spectacle, and ordered them to be put to death, but not in his sight. Rhadamistus too, as if from an exact observance of his oath, employed neither sword nor poison against his sister and uncle, but caused them to be thrown upon the ground, and stifled with a vast weight of coverings. The children also of Mithridates, for bewailing the murder of their parents, were butchered themselves.
Quadratus, as soon as he knew the treason, with the doom suffered by Mithridates, and that they who took his life held his kingdom, assembled his council, and representing these events, sought their advice whether vengeance ought to be pursued. Few had at heart the public honour, and most of them reasoned from considerations of security; “that all the injuries and cruelties committed by foreign nations upon each other, ought to the Romans to be matter of joy; nay, the seeds of dissension were industriously to be sown amongst them; a policy frequently practised by the Roman Emperors, who, under colour of bestowing from time to time that same kingdom of Armenia upon Princes Barbarians, designed thence to furnish them with matter of reciprocal feuds, and hostilities. Rhadamistus might therefore enjoy a crown wickedly acquired, since with it he enjoyed public derestation and infamy, circumstances which better served the purposes of Rome, than if by methods of glory he had obtained it.” With this advice they all concurred; but that they might not seem to have assented to a wickedness so flagrant, and lest contrary orders should arrive from the Emperor, they dispatched a message to Pharasmanes, “to retire from the frontiers of Armenia, and recall his son.”
Over Cappadocia then ruled Julius Pelignus, with the title of Procurator, one equally despicable for his dastardly spirit and the deformity of his person, but in great intimacy with Claudius, who, while yet a private man, was wont to spend his idle life in listening to the drollery of such buffoons. This Pelignus drew together a body of auxiliary forces from the adjacent provinces, and declared he would reconquer Armenia; but, as he committed greater spoil upon our allies than upon the enemy, he was by his own men abandoned, harrassed by the incessant incursions of the Barbarians, and, thus bereft of all defence, betook himself to Rradamistus, by whose liberalities he was so intirely subdued, that of his own accord he exhorted him to assume the royal diadem, and even assisted in person at that solemnity, as the author of the advice, and his vassal at arms. When this vile transaction came to be divulged, that the character of the other Roman Commanders might not be judged by that of Pelignus, Helvidius Priscus was dispatched at the head of a Legion, with general orders to apply such remedies to the present combustions, as their circumstances would bear. He therefore, haveing with much celerity crossed mount Taurus, had already made many pacifications, rather by mildness than force, when an order overtook him, “for his return into Syria, by it to avoid ministering to the Parthians any ground of war.”
For, Vologeses believing that an occasion now offered for invading Armenia, a Kingdom inherited by his ancestors, but now treasonably occupied by a foreign usurper, drew together an army, and prepared to instate his brother Tiridates in the throne; that none of his house might be destitute of dominion. The march of the Parthians terrified the Hiberians; they were expelled without fighting a battle, and the Armenian cities of Artaxata, and Tigranocerta, without a struggle received the invaders. But, a tempestuous winter or want of provisions, and the pestilence arising from both, constrained Vologeses to relinquish his conquests. So that the throne of Armenia being once more vacant, was again invaded by Rhadamistus, now more outragious and bloody than ever, as incensed against a people that had already abandoned him, and were still ready, on the first occasion, to revolt. They too, though inured to servitutde, lost all patience, betook themselves to arms, and begirt the palace; nor had Rhadamistus any resource save in the fleetness of his horses, and by them he escaped with his wife.
She was great with child, yet, from dread of the foe, and tenderness to her husband, bore at first, as well as she could, the fatigue of the flight; but when, by continued hurrying, her heavy womb was sorely agitated, and all her bowels bruised, she besought him, “to save her by an honest death from the reproach and misery of captivity.” At first, he embraced her, comforted and encouraged her, now admiring her heroic spirit, then struck with fear, lest, if he left her, some other might possess her; at last, in the rage of love, and well trained in acts of blood, he drew his scymitar, and wounding her deeply, haled her to the banks of the Araxes, committing her body to the flood, that even of her corps none might ever be master. He himself pursued his flight full speed, till he reached Hiberia the kingdom of his father. Zenobia the while (for that was her name) was descried by the shepherds, floating gently on the surface with manifest appearances of life; and, as they gathered from the beautiful dignity of her aspect that she was of no mean rank, they bound up her wound, and to it administered their rustic medicines. Having then learnt her name and disaster, they carried her to Artaxata, from whence, at the charge and care of the city, she was conducted to Tiridates, by him courteously received, and entertained with all the marks of Royalty.
In the Consulship of Faustus Sylla and Salvius Otho, Furius Scribonianus suffered exile, upon a charge of having “consulted the Chaldæans about the term of the Prince’s life.” In his crime was involved his mother Junia, “as having borne with impatience her own lot;” for she too had been banished. Camillus the father of Scridonianus, had levied war in Dalmatia; hence Claudius vaunted his own clemency, that to a hostile race he persisted to grant their lives. That, however, of the present exile, remained not long; whether he died naturally or by poison, was differently reported as each differently believed. For expelling the Astrologers from Italy, a decree of Senate was made full of rigour, but never executed. The Emperor thereafter uttered a discourse in praise of those Senators, who, from the narrowness of their fortunes, of their own accord renounced their dignity; and such as by adhering to their order, added confidence to their poverty, were degraded.
During these transactions, in the Senate was proposed a penalty to be inflicted upon Ladies who married slaves, and ordained, “That she who thus debased herself, unknown to the master of the slave, should be adjudged herself in a state of slavery; but, where he consented, she should be held for a slave manumitted.” To Pallas who was by Claudius declared to be the deviser of this scheme, the ornaments of the Prætorship, and three hundred seventy five thousand crowns, were adjudged by Bareas Soranus, Consul designed. Cornelius Scipio added, “that the public thanks ought likewise to be paid him; for that, being descended from the old Kings of Arcadia, he postponed the regard of his most ancient nobility to the service of the state, and deigned to be numbered amongst the ministers of the Prince.” Claudius avowed, “that Pallas was content with the honour only, and resolved to live still in his former poverty.” Thus a decree of Senate was published engraven in brass, in which a franchized slave possessing an estate of more than seven millions, was extolled for observing the parcimony of the ancients.
His brother sirnamed Felix, he who for some time had governed Judæa, acted not with the same restraint, but as one who, relying upon such potent protection, supposed he might perpetrate with impunity every kind of villainy. The Jews, in truth, by their sedition, in the time of Caligula, had ministered some appearances of an insurrection; and, after they were apprized of his assassination, scarce returned to obedience. Their dread remained, lest some of the succeeding Emperors might subject them to the like odious injunctions. Felix too, the while, by applying unseasonable remedies, inflamed their offence and disaffection; a conduct imitated by Ventilius Cumanus, who held under his jurisdiction part of the Province, and emulated Felix in all his worst courses; for such was the division, that Galilæa was subject to Cumanus, and Samaria to Felix, two nations long at variance, and now, from contempt of their rulers, less than ever restraining their mutual hate. Hence depredations on both sides were committed, bands of robbers employed, ambushes formed, and sometimes battles fought, and all the spoil and booty presented to these their Governors, who, at first, rejoyced over it; but when, after the mischief grew outrageous, they interposed their armed troops, their men were slain, and, but for the aid of Quadratus ruler of Syria, the whole Province had been in a blaze of war. Nor, as to the Jews, who had carried their violence so far as to kill our soldiers, did any obstacle arise against punishing them with death. The affair of Cumanus and Felix created some delay; for Claudius, upon a hearing of the causes of the revolt, had also granted a power to try and sentence the Governors; but Quadratus, taking Felix up to the Tribunal, and shewing him amongst the Judges, awed the accusers, and stopped one part of the prosecution: So that, for the guilt and evil-doings common to both, Cumanus alone was doomed to punishment. Thus the repose of the Province was restored.
Shortly after this, the boors of Cilicia, they who are sirnamed Clitæans, and had before raised many insurrections, betook themselves now, under the leading of Throsobor, to their steep and inaccessible mountains and there encamped. From thence in prædatory bands they made excursions as far as the shore, and round the adjoining cities, boldly committing ravages upon the villagers and husbandmen, and daily spoiling the merchants and seamen. They even besieged the city of Anemurium, and repulsed a body of horse sent from Syria to its relief, under the command of Curtius Severus; for, the rocky situation of the place proved a defence to an army of foot, and scarcely admitted the attacks of the horse. But afterwards, Antiochus King of that territory, having by many courtesies gained the multitude, and by stratagem secured their leader, effectually disjoined the forces of the Barbarians; and putting to death Throsobor and a few more of the chiefs, pacified the rest by methods of clemency.
About the same time, a naval fight was prepared upon the lake Fucinus, and, to accommodate the greater numbers with the advantage of beholding the mighty magnificence of the work, a mountain between the lake and the river Liris was levelled; in imitation of Augustus, who once exhibited the like spectacle upon an artificial pool on this side the Tiber, but with light ships, and fewer men. Claudius armed large gallies, some of three, some of four banks of oars, and manned them with nineteen hundred combatants. The circle assigned for the combat was surrounded with an enclosure of great rafts of wood, to obstruct all means of flight or escape: space sufficient was however allowed for the velocity of rowing, for the stratagems of the pilots, the mutual encounters of the ships, and for all the usual feats in naval battles. Upon the rafts stood the Emperors guards, foot and horse, with platforms before them, for weilding and discharging the engines of battery: all the rest of the lake was possessed by the combatants upon covered vessels. The shore, the adjacent hills, and the tops of the mountains, were crowded with a mighty multitude, many from the neighbouring towns, others from Rome itself; some from a passion to behold the spectacle, some in compliment to the Prince; and the whole represented a vast theatre. The Emperor presided in a splendid coat of mail, and with him Agrippina in a mantle woven of pure gold. The battle, though between malefactors, was fought with a spirit becoming brave soldiers; so that, after many wounds and much blood, they were redeemed from utter slaughter.
When the spectacle was concluded, and the water discharged, the negligence of the workmen became manifest, and the insufficiency of the work, which was not sunk sufficiently low about the center of the lake. Its bed therefore some time after was hollowed deeper; and, to draw the multitude once more together, a shew of Gladiators was exhibited upon bridges laid over it, in order to display a foot fight. But, as a banquet was prepared just at the fall from the lake, the same proved the occasion of great affright; for, the weight of the water breaking out with violence, bore down with it whatever was near it, shook what was more distant, and by its impetuosity and roaring dismayed all that were present. Agrippina laying instant hold of the Emperor’s fright, charged Narcissus, the director of the work, with avarice and rapaciousness: nor did Narcissus spare Agrippina, but attacked and upbraided, “the domineering spirit of the woman, with her aspiring and boundless views.”
During the Consulship of Decimus Junius and Quintus Haterius, Nero, now in the sixteenth year of his age, espoused Octavia the daughter of Claudius, and, to signalize his accomplishments in polite learning, and acquire the glory of eloquence, undertook the cause of the Ilians, and having floridly represented the Romans as descendents from Troy, and Æneas as the founder of the Julian race, with other old traditions little remote from fables, he obtained for the Ilians entire immunity from all public charges. By the rhetoric of the same advocate, the Colony of Boulogne, which had been utterly consumed by fire, were relieved by a bounty of two hundred and fifty thousand crowns. To the Rhodians too their liberty was restored, which had been often withdrawn, and often re-established, as a punishment or reward for their different behaviour, when they obliged us by their assistance in our foreign wars, or provoked us by their seditions at home. And, to the city of Apamea, overturned by an earthquake, a remission of tribute was granted for five years.
The policy all this of Agrippina, who pushed Claudius on the contrary upon all the most detested measures of cruelty. As the panted inordinately after the gardens of Statilius Taurus, a nobleman of illustrious fortune, who had been Proconsul of Africa, she procured his bane by the ministry of Tarquitius Priscus, who was his Lieutenant there. After their return, he charged him with some few crimes of extortion, but the sum of the accusation, were the practices of Magic. Neither did Taurus deign longer to bear the unworthy lot of prosecution from that traiterous accuser, but, without waiting for the decision of the Senate, laid violent hands upon himself. Tarquitius was, however, expelled the Senate: such was the detestation of the fathers towards the accuser, that they carried his condemnation against the intrigues of Agrippina.
This year, what the Prince had frequently declared, “That to the decisions of his Imperial Procurators, the same force should be allowed as to his own,” was moreover confirmed and established by a decree of Senate, (as a proof that the same was no declaration at random) nay, with more fulness than heretofore and greater enlargements. For, the deified Augustus had ordained too, that the Knights who ruled Ægypt, should act judicially, and that the sentences by them pronounced should be equally valid with those of the Roman Magistrates. Soon after, this jurisdiction of the Knights was extended to other Provinces, and, even in Rome itself, to their Tribunal were referred many things formerly determined by the Prætors. Claudius now conferred upon them universal jurisdiction, that jurisdiction for which so many seditions had been raised and so much blood shed, when, by the popular ordinances of the Tribune Sempronius, the Equestrian Order was invested with the power of judicature, and when Servilius the Consul, by a contrary establishment, restored to the Senate the judicial authority. This too chiefly was the end and incitement of the bloody wars between Marius and Sylla. But, in those days, the several Orders of the State were engaged in different and interfering pursuits, and the party that prevailed made public regulations at their pleasure. Caius Oppius and Cornelius Balbus were the first particulars, who (enabled by the power of Cæsar the Dictator) arbitrated matters of peace and war. It would little avail to recount after this, the names of Matius and Vedius, and other Roman Knights, who once bore sway; when to his franchized slaves, such as were entrusted with his domestic concerns, Claudius thus asserted a power equal to his own and to that of the laws.
Thereafter, he proposed for the inhabitants of Coos, a general immunity from impositions, and recounted their antiquity in a long detail; “how the Argives, or at least Ceus the father of Latona, first cultivated that island; and thither soon after arrived Æsculapius, and with him the art of medicine and healing, an art, which had great applause amongst his descendents,” whose names he rehearsed, and marked the several ages in which they flourished. He even said, that “Xenophon his own physician, was a branch of the same family, and to his supplications it ought to be granted, that his countrymen the people of Coos should be for ever discharged from all tribute, and only attend the cultivation of an Island solely devoted to the ministry of that Deity.” It is, without question, that many good offices of theirs towards the Roman people, might have been alledged, and even victories gained by their aid; but Claudius, led by his wonted weakness, coloured under no public considerations what he had thus personally granted to his physician.
The deputies from Byzantium being heard, besought of the Senate to be eased of their heavy impositions; and recapitulating things from the first, began with the confederacy which they had struck with us so long ago as the war which we maintained against that King of Macedon, who from the degeneracy of his spirit was distinguished by the name of Pseudophilippus. Next they recounted the forces by them sent against King Antiochus, Perses, and Aristonicus; as also how they had supported Antonius in the war to suppress the Pyrates, with the several aids which they had bestowed upon Sylla, Lucullus and Pompey. They added the services which more lately they had rendered to the Cesars, during their encampments and abode in these their territories, where our armies and their leaders, in all their progresses by land and water, were well accommodated, and all their stores carried after them.
For, Byzantium was founded by the Greeks, in the extremity of Europe, upon a streight which disjoins Europe from Asia. Thither the founders were directed by an Oracle of the Pythian Apollo, who, when consulted by them, where to build a city, replied, “That they should seek a situation opposite to the habitations of the blind-men.” By this riddle the Chalcedonians were represented; for they, who were the first comers into those parts, and had viewed the advantages of this shore, had yet chosen the opposite and the worst. Byzantium, in truth, stands upon a fertile soil and a plentiful sea; since, into her port are borne all those infinite shoals of fish, which breaking out of the Euxine, shun the other coast, as they are scared by the rocks which, under the waters, shoot from it. Hence, at first the gain and wealth of the Byzantines, but, afterwards pressed by the excess of their impositions, they now besought that the same might be abolished or abated. The Emperor too was their advocate, who represented them as late sufferers in the war of Thrace, and in that of Bosphorus, and worthy to be relieved. They were therefore acquitted from tribute for five years.
In the Consulship of Marcus Asinius and Marcus Acilius, a change of affairs for the worse was portended, as was gathered from the frequency of Prodigies. The Ensigns of the soldiers and their tents were scorched with fire from heaven; a swarm of Bees pitched upon the summit of the Capitol; children were born of compounded forms, and a Pig was farrowed with the talons of a hawk. Amongst the prodigies it also was reckoned, that the number of every order of Magistrates was then curtailed, one of the Quæstors, one of the Ædiles, a Tribune, a Prætor, and a Consul, being all deceased, within a few months. But, more particular was the fear of Agrippina. She was alarmed by a saying of Claudius, uttered heedlesly in his wine, “That it was a fate upon him, to bear the iniquities of his wives, but at last to punish them.” Hence she determined to be quick and prevent him, but first to destroy Domitia Lepida, upon motives derived from the pride and resentments of women. For Lepida, who was the daughter of the younger Antonia, the great niece of Augustus, cousin german to Agrippina the elder, and sister to Cnæius Domitius (once husband to the present Agrippina) accounted herself of equal nobility with the other. Neither were they much differing in beauty, age or wealth, both prostitutes in their persons, infamous in their manners, and violent in their tempers, nor less rivals in vices than in the lustre and advantages of their fortune. Hence, however, arose the most vehement struggle, whether the aunt or mother should acquire the ascendent over the spirit of Nero. Lepida laboured to engage and govern his youthful mind, by caresses and liberalities; Agrippina, on the contrary, treated him with sternness and threats, like one who would, in truth, confer the sovereignty upon her son, but not bear him for her sovereign.
The crimes therefore charged upon Lepida, were, “That, by charms and imprecations, she had sought to destroy the Emperor’s Consort, and that by neglecting to restrain the tumultuous behaviour of her numerous slaves in Calabria, she disturbed the public peace of Italy.” For these imputations she was doomed to die, notwithstanding the laboured opposition of Narcissus, who was now become more and more distrustful of Agrippina, insomuch that he is said to have lamented amongst his intimates, “That to himself nothing but certain destruction remained, whether Britannicus or Nero succeeded to the Empire; but such towards him had been the favour of the Emperor, that for the service of his master he would lay down his life. Under Claudius he had procured the conviction and doom of Messalina and of Silius; and under Nero (if Nero came to reign) there would be the like causes for the like accusation. If Britannicus was to succeed, neither from that Prince had he any claim to favour, since he had, by the death of his mother, made room for a step-mother, who by insidious plots was ruining all his house with such notable wickedness, that better it were he had never divulged to the Emperor the prostitutions of his former wife, though neither, in truth, was the present free from prostitution, as Pallas was notoriously her adulterer; insomuch that with no mortal could any doubt remain, but to the lust of rule she postponed her fame, her modesty, her person, and all things.” Repeating these and the like speeches, he tenderly embraced Britannicus, and supplicated for him full and sudden ripeness of age; now to the Gods, then to the young Prince, he lifted up his hands and poured out prayers, “That he might attain vigour of years; that he might exterminate the enemies of his father, and even be revenged on those who slew his mother.”
Amidst all these mighty agitations and anxieties, Claudius was taken ill, and for the recovery of his health had recourse to the soft air, and salubrious waters of Sinuessa. It was then that Agrippina, long since bent upon the parricide, greedy of the present occasion, and well furnished with wicked agents, consulted concerning the quality of the poison: “if it were sudden and rapid in its operation, the dark deed might thence be betrayed; if one slow and consuming were administered, there was danger that Claudius, when his end approached, and perhaps having the while discovered the deadly fraud, would recall the tenderness and partiality of a father for his son.” A subtle poison was therefore judged best, “such as would disorder his brain, and not presently kill.” An experienced artist in such preparations was chosen, her name Locusta; lately condemned for poisoning, and one long entertained amongst the other machines of the Monarchy. By this woman’s skill the poison was prepared; to administer the same was the part of Halotus, one of the Eunuchs, steward of the Emperor’s table and his taster. Indeed, all the particulars of this deed were soon afterwards so thoroughly known, that the writers of those times are able to recount, “how the poison was seethed in a delicious mess of mushrooms, but, whether from the natural stupidity of Claudius, or that he was drunk, he felt not instantly the virulence of the dose.” A looseness too at the same time seemed to relieve him, and to defeat the operation. Agrippina became terribly dismayed; but, as her own life lay at stake, she despised the stain and odium which must accompany her present proceedings, and called in the aid of Xenophon the physician, whom she had already engaged in her guilty purposes. It is thought that he, as if he had meant to assist Claudius in his efforts to vomit, thrust down his throat a feather dipt in outrageous poison, as one who well knew, that the most daring iniquities are attempted with hazard, but accomplished with rewards.
The Senate was in the mean time assembled, and the Consuls and Pontiffs were offering vows for the recovery of the Emperor, when he was already dead; though coverings and restoratives were still applied, till matters were disposed for securing the Empire to Nero. And first, Agrippina, personating unconquerable sorrow, and one who sought on all hands for consolation, clasped Britannicus in her arms, stiled him “the genuine image of his father,” and, by various and feigned devices, withheld him from leaving the chamber. There she likewise detained Antonia and Octavia, his sisters, and, by posting guards, shut up all the passages. From time to time too she declared, that the Prince was upon recovery, thence to encourage the hopes of the soldiery, till the fortunate moment, according to the calculations of the Astrologers, were at hand.
At last, on the thirteenth of October, at noon, the gates of the palace were suddenly thrown open, and Nero, accompanied by Burrhus, walked forth to the cohort, which, according to the custom of the army, was then upon guard. There, upon signification made by the Præfect, he was received with shouts of joy, and instantly put into a litter. It is reported, that there were some who hesitated, diligently looking and frequently asking, where was Britannicus? but that, as no one appeared to propose him, they presently embraced the choice which was offered them. Thus Nero was borne to the camp, where, after a speech suitable to the exigency, and the promise of a largess equal to that of the late Emperor his father, he was saluted Emperor. The declaration of the soldiers was followed and confirmed by the decrees of the Senate; nor was there any reluctancy in the several provinces. To Claudius were decreed cœlestial honours, and the solemnity of his funeral the same as that of the deified Augustus, since in it Agrippina would needs emulate the magnificence of her great grand-mother Livia. His testament, however, was not rehearsed in public, lest the preference there given from his own son to the son of his wife, might grate and provoke the spirit of the populace.