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Tacitus: Annals Book 4 [1]

1. THE year when Caius Asinius and Caius Antistius were consuls was the ninth of Tiberius's reign, a period of tranquillity for the State and prosperity for his own house, for he counted Germanicus's death a happy incident. Suddenly fortune deranged everything; the emperor became a cruel tyrant, as well as an abettor of cruelty in others. Of this the cause and origin was Aelius Sejanus, commander of the praetorian cohorts, of whose influence I have already spoken. I will now fully describe his extraction, his character, and the daring wickedness by which he grasped at power. Born at Vulsinii, the son of Seius Strabo, a Roman knight, he attached himself in his early youth to Caius Caesar, grandson of the Divine Augustus, and the story went that he had sold his person to Apicius, a rich debauchee. Soon afterwards he won the heart of Tiberius so effectually by various artifices that the emperor, ever dark and mysterious towards others, was with Sejanus alone careless and freespoken. It was not through his craft, for it was by this very weapon that he was overthrown; it was rather from heaven's wrath against Rome, to whose welfare his elevation and his fall were alike disastrous. He had a body which could endure hardships, and a daring spirit. He was one who screened himself, while he was attacking others; he was as cringing as he was imperious; before the world he affected humility; in his heart he lusted after supremacy, for the sake of which he sometimes lavish and luxurious, but oftener energetic and watchful, qualities quite as mischievous when hypocritically assumed for the attainment of sovereignty.

1. C. Asinio C. Antistio consulibus nonus Tiberio annus erat compositae rei publicae, florentis domus (nam Germanici mortem inter prospera ducebat), cum repente turbare fortuna coepit, saevire ipse aut saevientibus viris praebere. initium et causa penes Aelium Seianum cohortibus praetoriis praefectum cuius de potentia supra memoravi: nunc originem, mores, et quo facinore dominationem raptum ierit expediam. genitus Vulsiniis patre Seio Strabone equite Romano, et prima iuventa Gaium Caesarem divi Augusti nepotem sectatus, non sine rumore Apicio diviti et prodigo stuprum veno dedisse, mox Tiberium variis artibus devinxit: adeo ut obscurum adversum alios sibi uni incautum intectumque efficeret, non tam sollertia (quippe isdem artibus victus est) quam deum ira in rem Romanam, cuius pari exitio viguit ceciditque. corpus illi laborum tolerans, animus audax; sui obtegens, in alios criminator; iuxta adulatio et superbia; palam compositus pudor, intus summa apiscendi libido, eiusque causa modo largitio et luxus, saepius industria ac vigilantia, haud minus noxiae quotiens parando regno finguntur.

2. He strengthened the hitherto moderate powers of his office by concentrating the cohorts scattered throughout the capital into one camp, so that they might all receive orders at the same moment, and that the sight of their numbers and strength might give confidence to themselves, while it would strike terror into the citizens. His pretexts were the demoralisation incident to a dispersed soldiery, the greater effectiveness of simultaneous action in the event of a sudden peril, and the stricter discipline which would be insured by the establishment of an encampment at a distance from the temptations of the city. As soon as the camp was completed, he crept gradually into the affections of the soldiers by mixing with them and addressing them by name, himself selecting the centurions and tribunes. With the Senate too he sought to ingratiate himself, distinguishing his partisans with offices and provinces, Tiberius readily yielding, and being so biassed that not only in private conversation but before the senators and the people he spoke highly of him as the partner of his toils, and allowed his statues to be honoured in theatres, in forums, and at the head-quarters of our legions.

2. Vim praefecturae modicam antea intendit, dispersas per urbem cohortis una in castra conducendo, ut simul imperia acciperent numeroque et robore et visu inter se fiducia ipsis, in ceteros metus oreretur. praetendebat lascivire militem diductum; si quid subitum ingruat, maiore auxilio pariter subveniri; et severius acturos si vallum statuatur procul urbis inlecebris. ut perfecta sunt castra, inrepere paulatim militaris animos adeundo, appellando; simul centuriones ac tribunos ipse deligere. neque senatorio ambitu abstinebat clientes suos honoribus aut provinciis ornandi, facili Tiberio atque ita prono ut socium laborum non modo in sermonibus, sed apud patres et populum celebraret colique per theatra et fora effigies eius interque principia legionum sineret.

3. There were however obstacles to his ambition in the imperial house with its many princes, a son in youthful manhood and grown-up grandsons. As it would be unsafe to sweep off such a number at once by violence, while craft would necessitate successive intervals in crime, he chose, on the whole, the stealthier way and to begin with Drusus, against whom he had the stimulus of a recent resentment. Drusus, who could not brook a rival and was somewhat irascible, had, in a casual dispute, raised his fist at Sejanus, and, when he defended himself, had struck him in the face. On considering every plan Sejanus thought his easiest revenge was to turn his attention to Livia, Drusus's wife. She was a sister of Germanicus, and though she was not handsome as a girl, she became a woman of surpassing beauty. Pretending an ardent passion for her, he seduced her, and having won his first infamous triumph, and assured that a woman after having parted with her virtue will hesitate at nothing, he lured her on to thoughts of marriage, of a share in sovereignty, and of her husband's destruction. And she, the niece of Augustus, the daughter-in-law of Tiberius, the mother of children by Drusus, for a provincial paramour, foully disgraced herself, her ancestors, and her descendants, giving up honour and a sure position for prospects as base as they were uncertain. They took into their confidence Eudemus, Livia's friend and physician, whose profession was a pretext for frequent secret interviews. Sejanus, to avert his mistress's jealousy, divorced his wife Apicata, by whom he had had three children. Still the magnitude of the crime caused fear and delay, and sometimes a conflict of plans.

3. Ceterum plena Caesarum domus, iuvenis filius, nepotes adulti moram cupitis adferebant; et quia vi tot simul corripere intutum dolus intervalla scelerum poscebat. placuit tamen occultior via et a Druso incipere, in quem recenti ira ferebatur. nam Drusus impatiens aemuli et animo commotior orto forte iurgio intenderat Seiano manus et contra tendentis os verberaverat. igitur cuncta temptanti promptissimum visum ad uxorem eius Liviam convertere, quae soror Germanici, formae initio aetatis indecorae, mox pulchritudine praecellebat. hanc ut amore incensus adulterio pellexit, et postquam primi flagitii potitus est (neque femina amissa pudicitia alia abnuerit), ad coniugii spem, consortium regni et necem mariti impulit. atque illa, cui avunculus Augustus, socer Tiberius, ex Druso liberi, seque ac maiores et posteros municipali adultero foedabat ut pro honestis et praesentibus flagitiosa et incerta expectaret. sumitur in conscientiam Eudemus, amicus ac medicus Liviae, specie artis frequens secretis. pellit domo Seianus uxorem Apicatam, ex qua tres liberos genuerat, ne paelici suspectaretur. sed magnitudo facinoris metum, prolationes, diversa interdum consilia adferebat.

4. Meanwhile, at the beginning of this year, Drusus, one of the children of Germanicus, assumed the dress of manhood, with a repetition of the honours decreed by the Senate to his brother Nero. The emperor added a speech with warm praise of his son for sharing a father's affection to his brother's children. Drusus indeed, difficult as it is for power and mutual harmony to exist side by side, had the character of being kindly disposed or at least not unfriendly towards the lads. And now the old plan, so often insincerely broached, of a progress through the provinces, was again discussed. The emperor's pretext was the number of veterans on the eve of discharge and the necessity of fresh levies for the army. Volunteers were not forthcoming, and even if they were sufficiently numerous, they had not the same bravery and discipline, as it is chiefly the needy and the homeless who adopt by their own choice a soldier's life. Tiberius also rapidly enumerated the legions and the provinces which they had to garrison. I too ought, I think, to go through these details, and thus show what forces Rome then had under arms, what kings were our allies, and how much narrower then were the limits of our empire.

4. Interim anni principio Drusus ex Germanici liberis togam virilem sumpsit quaeque fratri eius Neroni decreverat senatus repetita. addidit orationem Caesar multa cum laude filii sui quod patria benevolentia in fratris liberos foret. nam Drusus, quamquam arduum sit eodem loci potentiam et concordiam esse, aequus adulescentibus aut certe non adversus habebatur. exim vetus et saepe simulatum proficiscendi in provincias consilium refertur. multitudinem veteranorum praetexebat imperator et dilectibus supplendos exercitus: nam voluntarium militem deesse, ac si suppeditet, non eadem virtute ac modestia agere, quia plerumque inopes ac vagi sponte militiam sumant. percensuitque cursim numerum legionum et quas provincias tutarentur. quod mihi quoque exequendum reor, quae tunc Romana copia in armis, qui socii reges, quanto sit angustius imperitatum.

5. Italy on both seas was guarded by fleets, at Misenum and at Ravenna, and the contiguous coast of Gaul by ships of war captured in the victory of Actium, and sent by Augustus powerfully manned to the town of Forojulium. But chief strength was on the Rhine, as a defence alike against Germans and Gauls, and numbered eight legions. Spain, lately subjugated, was held by three. Mauretania was king Juba's, who had received it as a gift from the Roman people. The rest of Africa was garrisoned by two legions, and Egypt by the same number. Next, beginning with Syria, all within the entire tract of country stretching as far as the Euphrates, was kept in restraint by four legions, and on this frontier were Iberian, Albanian, and other kings, to whom our greatness was a protection against any foreign power. Thrace was held by Rhoemetalces and the children of Cotys; the bank of the Danube by two legions in Pannonia, two in Moesia, and two also were stationed in Dalmatia, which, from the situation of the country, were in the rear of the other four, and, should Italy suddenly require aid, not to distant to be summoned. But the capital was garrisoned by its own special soldiery, three city, nine praetorian cohorts, levied for the most part in Etruria and Umbria, or ancient Latium and the old Roman colonies. There were besides, in commanding positions in the provinces, allied fleets, cavalry and light infantry, of but little inferior strength. But any detailed account of them would be misleading, since they moved from place to place as circumstances required, and had their numbers increased and sometimes diminished.

5. Italiam utroque mari duae classes, Misenum apud et Ravennam, proximumque Galliae litus rostratae naves praesidebant, quas Actiaca victoria captas Augustus in oppidum Foroiuliense miserat valido cum remige. sed praecipuum robur Rhenum iuxta, commune in Germanos Gallosque subsidium, octo legiones erant. Hispaniae recens perdomitae tribus habebantur. Mauros Iuba rex acceperat donum populi Romani. cetera Africae per duas legiones parique numero Aegyptus, dehinc initio ab Syriae usque ad flumen Euphraten, quantum ingenti terrarum sinu ambitur, quattuor legionibus coercita, accolis Hibero Albanoque et aliis regibus qui magnitudine nostra proteguntur adversum extema imperia et Thraeciam Rhoemetalces ac liberi Cotyis, ripamque Danuvii legionum duae in Pannonia, duae in Moesia attinebant, totidem apud Delmatiam locatis, quae positu regionis a tergo illis, ac si repentinum auxilium Italia posceret, haud procul accirentur, quamquam insideret urbem proprius miles, tres urbanae, novem praetoriae cohortes, Etruria ferme Vmbriaque delectae aut vetere Latio et coloniis antiquitus Romanis. at apud idonea provinciarum sociae triremes alaeque et auxilia cohortium, neque multo secus in iis virium: sed persequi incertum fuit, cum ex usu temporis huc illuc mearent, gliscerent numero et aliquando minuerentur.

6. It is however, I think, a convenient opportunity for me to review the hitherto prevailing methods of administration in the other departments of the State, inasmuch as that year brought with it the beginning of a change for the worse in Tiberius's policy. In the first place, public business and the most important private matters were managed by the Senate: the leading men were allowed freedom of discussion, and when they stooped to flattery, the emperor himself checked them. He bestowed honours with regard to noble ancestry, military renown, or brilliant accomplishments as a civilian, letting it be clearly seen that there were no better men to choose. The consul and the praetor retained their prestige; inferior magistrates exercised their authority; the laws too, with the single exception of cases of treason, were properly enforced. As to the duties on corn, the indirect taxes and other branches of the public revenue, they were in the hands of companies of Roman knights. The emperor intrusted his own property to men of the most tried integrity or to persons known only by their general reputation, and once appointed they were retained without any limitation, so that most of them grew old in the same employments. The city populace indeed suffered much from high prices, but this was no fault of the emperor, who actually endeavoured to counteract barren soils and stormy seas with every resource of wealth and foresight. And he was also careful not to distress the provinces by new burdens, and to see that in bearing the old they were safe from any rapacity or oppression on the part of governors. Corporal punishments and confiscations of property were unknown.

6. Congruens crediderim recensere ceteras quoque rei publicae partis, quibus modis ad eam diem habitae sint, quoniam Tiberio mutati in deterius principatus initium ille annus attulit. iam primum publica negotia et privatorum maxima apud patres tractabantur, dabaturque primoribus disserere et in adulationem lapsos cohibebat ipse; mandabatque honores, nobilitatem maiorum, claritudinem militiae, iniustris domi artes spectando, ut satis constaret non alios potiores fuisse. sua consulibus, sua praetoribus species; minorum quoque magistratuum exercita potestas; legesque, si maiestatis quaestio eximeretur, bono in usu. at frumenta et pecuniae vectigales, cetera publicorum fructuum societatibus equitum Romanorum agitabantur. res suas Caesar spectatissimo cuique, quibusdam ignotis ex fama mandabat, semelque adsumpti tenebantur prorsus sine modo, cum plerique isdem negotiis insenescereut. plebes acri quidem annona fatigabatur, sed nulla in eo culpa ex principe: quin infecunditati terrarum aut asperis maris obviam iit, quantum impendio diligentiaque poterat. et ne provinciae novis oneribus turbarentur utque vetera sine avaritia aut crudelitate magistratnum tolerarent providebat: corporum verbera, ademptiones bonorum aberant. rari per Italiam Caesaris agri, modesta servitia, intra paucos libertos domus; ac si quando cum privatis disceptaret, forum et ius.

7. The emperor had only a few estates in Italy, slaves on a moderate scale, and his household was confined to a few freedmen. If ever he had a dispute with a private person, it was decided in the law courts. All this, not indeed with any graciousness, but in a blunt fashion which often alarmed, he still kept up, until the death of Drusus changed everything. While he lived, the system continued, because Sejanus, as yet only in the beginning of his power, wished to be known as an upright counsellor, and there was one whose vengeance he dreaded, who did not conceal his hatred and incessantly complained "that a stranger was invited to assist in the government while the emperor's son was alive. How near was the step of declaring the stranger a colleague! Ambition at first had a steep path before it; when once the way had been entered, zealous adherents were forthcoming. Already, at the pleasure of the commander of the guards, a camp had been established; the soldiers given into his hands; his statues were to be seen among the monuments of Cneius Pompeius; his grandsons would be of the same blood as the family of the Drusi. Henceforth they must pray that he might have self-control, and so be contented." So would Drusus talk, not unfrequently, or only in the hearing of a few persons. Even his confidences, now that his wife had been corrupted, were betrayed.

7. Quae cuncta non quidem comi via sed horridus ac plerumque formidatus retinebat tamen, donec morte Drusi verterentur: nam dum superfuit mansere, quia Seianus incipiente adhuc potentia bonis consiliis notescere volebat, et ultor metuebatur non occultus odii set crebro querens ro incolumi filio adiutorem imperii alium vocari. et quantum superesse ut collega dicatur? primas dominandi spes in arduo: ubi sis ingressus, adesse studia et ministros. extructa iam sponte praefecti castra, datos in manum milites; cerni effgiem eius in monimentis Cn. Pompei; communis is illi cum familia Drusorum fore nepotes: precandam post haec modestiam ut contentus esset. neque raro neque apud paucos talia iaciebat, et secreta quoque eius corrupta uxore prodebantur.

8. Sejanus accordingly thought that he must be prompt, and chose a poison the gradual working of which might be mistaken for a natural disorder. It was given to Drusus by Lygdus, a eunuch, as was ascertained eight years later. As for Tiberius, he went to the Senate house during the whole time of the prince's illness, either because he was not afraid, or to show his strength of mind, and even in the interval between his death and funeral. Seeing the consuls, in token of their grief, sitting on the ordinary benches, he reminded them of their high office and of their proper place; and when the Senate burst into tears, suppressing a groan, he revived their spirits with a fluent speech. "He knew indeed that he might be reproached for thus encountering the gaze of the Senate after so recent an affliction. Most mourners could hardly bear even the soothing words of kinsfolk or to look on the light of day. And such were not to be condemned as weak. But he had sought a more manly consolation in the bosom of the commonwealth." Then deploring the extreme age of Augusta, the childhood of his grandsons, and his own declining years, he begged the Senate to summon Germanicus's children, the only comfort under their present misery. The consuls went out, and having encouraged the young princes with kind words, brought them in and presented them to the emperor. Taking them by the hand he said: "Senators, when these boys lost their father, I committed them to their uncle, and begged him, though he had children of his own, to cherish and rear them as his own offspring, and train them for himself and for posterity. Drusus is now lost to us, and I turn my prayers to you, and before heaven and your country I adjure you to receive into your care and guidance the great-grandsons of Augustus, descendants of a most noble ancestry. So fulfil your duty and mine. To you, Nero and Drusus, these senators are as fathers. Such is your birth that your prosperity and adversity must alike affect the State."

8. Igitur Seianus maturandum ratus deligit venenum quo paulatim inrepente fortuitus morbus adsimularetur. id Druso datum per Lygdum spadonem, ut octo post annos cognitum est. ceterum Tiberius per omnis valetudinis eius dies, nullo metu an ut firmitudinem animi ostentaret, etiam defuncto necdum sepulto, curiam ingressus est. consulesque sede vulgari per speciem maestitiae sedentis honoris locique admonuit, et effusum in lacrimas senatum victo gemitu simul oratione continua erexit: non quidem sibi ignarum posse argui quod tam recenti dolore subierit oculos senatus: vix propinquorum adloquia tolerari, vix diem aspici a plerisque lugentium. neque illos imbecillitatis damnandos: se tamen fortiora solacia e complexu rei publicae petivisse. miseratusque Augustae extremam senectam, rudem adhuc nepotum et vergentem aetatem suam, ut Germanici liberi, unica praesentium malorum levatnenta, inducerentur petivit. egressi consules firmatos adloquio adulescentulos deductos que ante Caesarem statuunt. quibus adprensis 'patres conscripti, hos' inquit 'orbatos parente tradidi patrno ipsorum precatusque sum, quamquam esset illi propria suboles, ne secUs quam snum sanguinem foveret attolleret, sibique et posteris coniormaret. erepto Druso preces ad vos converto disque et patria coram obtestor: Augusti pro nepotes, clarissimis maioribus genitos, suscipite regite, vestram meamque vicem explete. hi vobis, Nero et Druse, parentum loco. ita nati estis ut bona malaque vestra ad rem publicam pertineant.

9. There was great weeping at these words, and then many a benediction. Had the emperor set bounds to his speech, he must have filled the hearts of his hearers with sympathy and admiration. But he now fell back on those idle and often ridiculed professions about restoring the republic, and the wish that the consuls or some one else might undertake the government, and thus destroyed belief even in what was genuine and noble. The same honours were decreed to the memory of Drusus as to that of Germanicus, and many more were added. Such is the way with flattery, when repeated. The funeral with its procession of statues was singularly grand. Aeneas, the father of the Julian house, all the Alban kings, Romulus, Rome's founder, then the Sabine nobility, Attus Clausus, and the busts of all the other Claudii were displayed in a long train.

9. Magno ea fletu et mox precationibus faustis audita; ac si modum orationi posuisset, misericordia sui gloriaque animoi audientium impleverat: ad vana et totiens inrisa revolutus, de reddenda re publica utque consules seu quis alius regimen susciperent, vero quoque et honesto fidem dempsit. memoriae Drusi eadem quae in Germanicum decernuntur, plerisque additis, ut ferme amat posterior adulatio. funus imaginum pompa maxime inlustre fuit, cum origo luliae gentis Aeneas omnesque Albanorum reges et conditor urbis Romulus, post Sabina nobilitas, Attus Clausus ceteracque Claudiorum effigies longo ordine spectarentur.

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