THE REIGN OF TIBERIUS, OUT OF THE FIRST SIX ANNALS OF TACITUS; WITH HIS ACCOUNT OF GERMANY, AND LIFE OF AGRICOLA
TRANSLATED BY THOMAS GORDON,
AND EDITED BY ARTHUR GALTON.
“Alme Sol, curru nitido diem qui
Promis et celas, aliusque et idem
Nasceris, possis nihil urbe Roma
THE ANNALS, BOOK I
THE ANNALS, BOOK II
THE ANNALS, BOOK III
THE ANNALS, BOOK IV
THE ANNALS, BOOK V
THE ANNALS, BOOK VI
A TREATISE OF THE SITUATION, CUSTOMS, AND PEOPLE OF GERMANY
THE LIFE OF AGRICOLA; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE SITUATION, CLIMATE, AND PEOPLE OF BRITAIN
“I am going to offer to the publick the Translation of a work, which, for wisdom and force, is in higher fame and consideration, than almost any other that has yet appeared amongst men:” it is in this way, that Thomas Gordon begins The Discourses, which he has inserted into his rendering of Tacitus; and I can find none better to introduce this volume, which my readers owe to Gordon’s affectionate and laborious devotion. Caius Cornelius Tacitus, the Historian, was living under those Emperors, who reigned from the year 54 to the year 117, of the Christian era; but the place and the date of his birth are alike uncertain, and the time of his death is not accurately known. He was a friend of the younger Pliny, who was born in the year 61; and, it is possible, they were about the same age. Some of Pliny’s letters were written to Tacitus: the most famous, describes that eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which caused the death of old Pliny, and overwhelmed the cities of Pompeii and of Herculaneum. The public life of Tacitus began under Vespasian; and, therefore, he must have witnessed some part of the reign of Nero: and we read in him, too, that he was alive after the accession of the Emperor Trajan. In the year 77, Julius Agricola, then Consul, betrothed his daughter to Tacitus; and they were married in the following year. In 88, Tacitus was Praetor; and at the Secular Games of Domitian, he was one of the Quindecimviri: these were sad and solemn officers, guardians of the Sibylline Verse; and intercessors for the Roman People, during their grave centenaries of praise and worship.
Quaeque Aventinum tenet Algidumque,
Quindecim Diana preces virorum
Curet; et vobis pueorum amicas
From a passage in “The Life of Agricola,” we may believe that Tacitus attended in the Senate; for he accuses himself as one of that frightened assembly, which was an unwilling participator in the cruelties of Domitian. In the year 97, when the Consul Virginius Rufus died, Tacitus’ was made Consul Suffectus; and he delivered the funeral oration of his predecessor: Pliny says, that “it completed the good fortune of Rufus, to have his panegyric spoken by so eloquent a man.” From this, and from other sayings, we learn that Tacitus was a famous advocate; and his “Dialogue about Illustrious Orators” bears witness to his admirable taste, and to his practical knowledge of Roman eloquence: of his own orations, however, not a single fragment has been left. We know not, whether Tacitus had children; but the Emperor Tacitus, who reigned in 275, traced his genealogy to the Historian. “If we can prefer personal merit to accidental greatness,” Gibbon here observes, “we shall esteem the birth of Tacitus more truly noble than that of Kings. He claimed his descent from the philosophic historian, whose writings will instruct the last generations of mankind. From the assiduous study of his immortal ancestor, he derived his knowledge of the Roman Constitution and of human nature.” This Emperor gave orders, that the writings of Tacitus should be placed in all the public libraries; and that ten copies should be taken annually, at the public charge. Notwithstanding the Imperial anxiety, a valuable part of Tacitus is lost: indeed we might argue, from the solicitude of the Emperor, as well as from his own “distinction,” that Tacitus could not be generally popular; and, in the sixteenth century, a great portion of him was reduced to the single manuscript, which lay hidden within a German monastery. Of his literary works, five remain; some fairly complete, the rest in fragments. Complete, are “The Life of Julius Agricola,” “The Dialogue on Orators,” and “The Account of Germany”: these are, unfortunately, the minor works of Tacitus. His larger works are “The History,” and “The Annals.” “The History” extended from the second Consulship of Galba, in the year 69, to the murder of Domitian, in the year 96; and Tacitus desired to write the happy times of Nerva, and of Trajan: we are ignorant, whether infirmity or death prevented his design. Of “The History,” only four books have been preserved; and they contain the events of a single year: a year, it is true, which, saw three civil wars, and four Emperors destroyed; a year of crime, and accidents, and prodigies: there are few sentences more powerful, than Tacitus’ enumeration of these calamities, in the opening chapters. The fifth book is imperfect; it is of more than common interest to some people, because Tacitus mentions the siege of Jerusalem by Titus; though what he says about the Chosen People, here and elsewhere, cannot be satisfactory to them nor gratifying to their admirers. With this fragment, about revolts in the provinces of Gaul and Syria, “The History” ends. “The Annals” begin with the death of Augustus, in the year 14; and they were continued until the death of Nero, in 68. The reign of Tiberius is nearly perfect, though the fall of Sejanus is missing out of it. The whole of Caligula, the beginning of Claudius, and the end of Nero, have been destroyed: to those, who know the style of Tacitus and the lives and genius of Caligula and Nero, the loss is irreparable; and the admirers of Juvenal must always regret, that from the hand of Tacitus we have only the closing scene, and not the golden prime, of Messalina.
The works of Tacitus are too great for a Camelot volume; and, therefore, I have undertaken a selection of them. I give entire, “The Account of Germany” and “The Life of Agricola”: these works are entertaining, and should have a particular interest for English readers. I have added to them, the greater portion of the first six books of “The Annals”; and I have endeavoured so to guide my choice, that it shall present the history of Tiberius. In this my volume, the chapters are not numbered: for the omission, I am not responsible; and I can only lament, what I may not control. But scholars, who know their Tacitus, will perceive what I have left out; and to those others, who are not familiar with him, the omission can be no affront. I would say briefly, that I have omitted some chapters, which describe criminal events and legal tragedies in Rome: but of these, I have retained every chapter, which preserves an action or a saying of Tiberius; and what I have inserted is a sufficient specimen of the remainder. I have omitted many chapters, which are occupied with wearisome disputes between the Royal Houses of Parthia and Armenia: and I have spared my readers the history of Tacfarinas, an obscure and tedious rebel among the Moors; upon whose intricate proceedings Tacitus appears to have relied, when he was at a loss for better material. To reject any part of Tacitus, is a painful duty; because the whole of him is good and valuable: but I trust, that I have maintained the unity of my selection, by remembering that it is to be an history of Tiberius.
Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, the third master of the Roman world, derived his origin, by either parent, from the Claudian race; the proudest family, and one of the most noble and illustrious, in the ancient Commonwealth: the pages of Livy exhibit the generosity, the heroism, and the disasters, of the Claudii; who were of unequal fortune indeed, but always magnificent, in the various events of peace and war. Suetonius enumerates, among their ancestral honours, twenty-eight Consulships, five Dictators, seven Censorial commissions, and seven triumphs: their cognomen of Nero, he says, means in the Sabine tongue “vigorous and bold,” fortis et strenuus; and the long history of the Claudian House does not belie their gallant name. Immediately after the birth of Tiberius, or perhaps before it, his mother Livia was divorced from Claudius, and married by Augustus: the Empress is revealed mysteriously and almost as a divine being, in the progress of “The Annals.” The Emperor adopted the offspring of Claudius: among the Romans, these legal adoptions were as valid as descent by blood; and Tiberius was brought up to be the son of Caesar. His natural parts were improved and strengthened, by the training of the Forum and the camp. Tiberius became a good orator; and he gained victory and reputation, in his wars against the savages of Germany and Dalmatia: but his peculiar talent was for literature; in this, “he was a great purist, and affected a wonderful precision about his words.” He composed some Greek poems, and a Latin Elegy upon Lucius Caesar: he also wrote an account of his own life, an Apologia; a volume, which the Emperor Domitian was never tired of reading. But the favourite pursuit of Tiberius was Greek divinity; like some of the mediaeval Doctors, he frequented the by-ways of religion, and amused his leisure with the more difficult problems in theology: “Who was Hecuba’s mother?” “What poetry the Sirens chaunted?” “What was Achilles’ name, when he lay hid among the women?” The writings of Tiberius have all perished; and in these days, we have only too much cause to regret, that nothing of his “precision” has come down to us. The battles of Tiberius are celebrated in the Odes of Horace: one of the Epistles is addressed to him; and in another, written to Julius Florus, an officer with Tiberius, Horace enquires about the learned occupations of the Imperial cohort.
Quid studiosa Cohors operum struit? Hoc quoque curo.
It was from his commerce with the Ancients, as I always think, that George Buchanan derived his opinion, strange to modern ears, that “a great commander must of necessity have all the talents of an author.” Velleius Paterculus, who served with Tiberius in his campaigns, tells us of his firm discipline, and of his kindness to the soldiers.
The Caesars Caius and Lucius, grandsons of Augustus, Marcellus his nephew, and Drusus the brother of Tiberius, all died: they died young, rich in promise, the darlings of the Roman People; “Breves et infaustos Populi Romani amores;” and thus, in the procession of events, Tiberius became the heir. “The Annals” open with his accession, and Tacitus has narrated the vicissitudes of his reign. Velleius Paterculus has written its happier aspects: he describes how the “Pax Augusta,” the “Roman Peace,” delivered every quarter of the world from violence. He celebrates the return of Justice and prosperity, of order, of mild and equable taxation, of military discipline and magisterial authority. It is like the Saturnian Reign, which Virgil sings in the Eclogue “Pollio.” The first action of Tiberius was to canonise his father, and Augustus was translated to the banquet of the Gods:
Quos inter Augustus recumbens, Purpureo bibit ore nectar.
Augustus was his great example; “he not only called him, but considered him, divine;” “non appelavit eum, sed facit Deum.” The Latin of Paterculus is here so elegant and happy, that, for the pleasure of the learned, I transcribe it: for others, I have already given something of the sense. “Revocata in forum fides; submota e foro seditio, ambitio campo, discordia curia: sepultaeque ac situ obsitae, justitia, aequitas, industria, civitati, redditae; accessit magistratibus auctoritas, senatui majestas, judiciis gravitas; compressa theatralis seditio; recte faciendi, omnibus aut incussa voluntas aut imposita necessitas. Honorantur recta, prava puniuntur. Suspicit potentem humilis, non timet. Antecedit, non contemnit, humiliorem potens. Quando annona moderatior? Quando pax laetior? Diffusa in Orientis Occidentisque tractus, quidquid meridiano aut septentrione finitur, Pax Augusta, per omnes terrarum orbis angulos metu servat immunes. Fortuita non civium tantummodo, sed Urbium damna, Principis munificentia vindicat. Restitutae urbes Asiae: vindictae ab injuriis magistratuum provinciae. Honor dignis paratissimus: poena in malos sera, sed aliqua. Superatur aequitate gratia, ambitio virtute: nam facere recte cives suos, Princeps optimus faciendo docet; cumque sit imperio maximus, exemplo major est.”
Tiberius reigned from the year 14, to the year 37. He died in the villa of Lucullus, and he was buried in the mausoleum of the Caesars. The manner of his death is variously related: Tacitus gives one account; Suetonius, another. According to the last writer, he died like George II., alone, having just risen from his bed; and he was thus found by his attendants: “Seneca cum scribit subito vocatis ministris, ac nemine respondente, consurrexisse; nec procul a lectulo, deficientibus viribus, concidisse.” Tiberius was tall, and beautiful. Suetonius tells us of his great eyes, which could see in the dark; of his broad shoulders, his martial bearing, and the fine proportion of his limbs: he describes, too, the unusual strength of his hands and fingers, especially of the left hand. His health was good; because, from his thirtieth year, he was his own physician. “Valetudine prosperrima usus est, tempore quidem principatus paene toto prope illesa; quamvis a trigesimo aetatis anno arbitratu eam suo rexerit, sine adjutamento consiliove medicorum.” The Emperor Julian describes him “severe and grim; with a statesman’s care, and a soldier’s frankness, curiously mingled:” this was in his old age.
Down the pale cheek, long lines of shadow slope; Which years, and curious thought, and suffering give.
At Rome, is a sculpture of Tiberius; he is represented young, seated, crowned with rays, exceedingly handsome and majestic: if the figure were not known to be a Caesar, the beholder would say it was a God.
There is another personage in “The Annals,” whose history there is mutilated, and perhaps dissembled; of whose character my readers may like to know something more, than Tacitus has told them: I mean Sejanus, a man always to be remembered; because whatever judgment we may form about his political career, and on this question the authorities are divided, yet it is admitted by them all, that he introduced those reforms among the Praetorian Cohorts, which made them for a long time, proprietors of the throne, and the disposers of the Imperial office. To this minister, Paterculus attributes as many virtues as he has bestowed upon Tiberius: “a man grave and courteous,” he says, “with ‘a fine old-fashioned grace’; leisurely in his ways, retiring, modest; appearing to be careless, and therefore gaining all his ends; outwardly polite and quiet, but an eager soul, wary, inscrutable, and vigilant.” Whatever he may have been in reality, he was at one time valued by Tiberius. “The whole Senate,” Bacon says, “dedicated an altar to Friendship as to a Goddess, in respect of the great Dearness of Friendship between them two:” and in the Essay “Of Friendship,” Bacon has many deep sentences about the favourites of Kings, their “Participes Curarum.” I would summon out of “The Annals,” that episode of Tiberius imprisoned within the falling cave, and shielded by Sejanus from the descending roof. “Coelo Musa beat:” Sejanus has propitiated no Muse; and although something more, than the “invida taciturnitas” of the poet, lies heavy upon his reputation, he shall find no apologist in me. But over against the hard words of Tacitus, it is only fair to place the commendations of Paterculus, and even Tacitus remarks, that after the fall of Sejanus, Tiberius became worse; like Henry VIII., after the fall of Wolsey. Livia and Sejanus are said by Tacitus, to have restrained the worst passions of the Emperor. The two best authorities contradict one another; they differ, as much as our political organs differ, about the characters of living statesmen: and who are we, to decide absolutely, from a distance of two thousand years, at our mere caprice, and generally without sufficient evidence, that one ancient writer is correct; and another, dishonest or mistaken? This is only less absurd, than to prefer the groping style and thoughts of a modern pedant, usually a German as well, to the clear words of an old writer, who may be the sole remaining authority for the statements we presume to question; or for those very facts, upon which our reasonings depend. And how easy it is to misunderstand what we read in ancient histories, to be deceived by the plainest records, or to put a sinister interpretation upon events, which in their own time were passed over in silence or officially explained as harmless! Let me take an illustration, of what I mean, from something recent. Every one must remember the last hours of the Emperor Frederick: the avenues to his palace infested by armed men; the gloom and secrecy within; without, an impatient heir, and the posting to and fro of messengers. We must own, that the ceremonials of the Prussian Court departed in a certain measure from the ordinary mild usage of humanity; but we attributed this to nothing more, than the excitement of a youthful Emperor, or the irrepressible agitation of German officials. But if these events should find a place in history, or if the annals of the Kings of Prussia should be judged worth reading by a distant Age; who could blame an historian for saying, that these precautions were not required for the peaceful and innocent devolution of the crown from a father to his son. Would not our historian be justified, if he referred to the tumults and intrigues of a Praetorian election; if he compared these events to the darkest pages in Suetonius, or reminded his readers of the most criminal narratives in the authors of the “Augustan History”? From Sejanus and the Emperor William, I return once more to Tiberius; from the present Kaiser, to a genuine Caesar.
It is not my purpose here to abridge Tacitus, to mangle his translator, nor to try and say what is better said in the body of the volume: but when my readers have made themselves acquainted with Tiberius, they may be glad to find some discussion about him, as he is presented to us in “The Annals”; and among all the personages of history, I doubt if there be a more various or more debated character. Mr. Matthew Arnold thus describes him:
Cruel, but composed and bland,
Dumb, inscrutable and grand;
So Tiberius might have sat,
Had Tiberius been a cat.
And these verses express the popular belief, with great felicity: I must leave my readers, to make their own final judgment for themselves. Whether Tacitus will have helped them to a decision, I cannot guess: he seems to me, to deepen the mystery of Tiberius. At a first reading, and upon the surface, he is hostile to the Emperor; there is no doubt, that he himself remained hostile, and that he wished his readers to take away a very bad impression: but, as we become familiar with his pages, as we ponder his words and compare his utterances, we begin to suspect our previous judgment; another impression steals upon us, and a second, and a third, until there grows imperceptibly within us a vision of something different. Out of these dim and floating visions, a clearer image is gradually formed, with lineaments and features; and, at length, a new Tiberius is created within our minds: just as we may have seen a portrait emerge under the artist’s hand, from the intricate and scattered lines upon an easel. Then it dawns upon us, that, after all, Tacitus was not really an intimate at Capri; that he never received the secret confidences of Tiberius, nor attended upon his diversions. And at last it is borne in upon us, as we read, that, if we put aside rumours and uncertain gossip, whatever Tiberius does and says is unusually fine: but that Tacitus is not satisfied with recording words and actions; that he supplies motives to them, and then passes judgment upon his own assumptions: that the evidence for the murder of Germanicus, for instance, would hardly be accepted in a court of law; and that if Piso were there found guilty, the Emperor could not be touched. At any rate, we find it stated in “The Annals,” that “Tiberius by the temptations of money was incorruptible;” and he refused the legacies of strangers, or of those who had natural heirs. “He wished to restore the people to severer manners,” like many sovereigns; unlike the most of them, “in his own household, he observed the ancient parsimony.” Besides the “severa paupertas” of Camillus and Fabricius, he had something of their primitive integrity; and he declined, with scorn, to be an accomplice in the proposed assassination of Arminius: “non fraude neque occultis, sed palam et armatum, Populum Romanum hostes suos ulcisci.” He protected magistrates and poor suitors, against the nobles. He refused to add to the public burdens, by pensioning needy Senators: but he was charitable to poor debtors; and lavish to the people, whether Romans or Provincials, in times of calamity and want. Not least admirable was his quiet dignity, in periods of disturbance and of panic: he refused to hurry to the mutinous legions, or to a mean rebellion in Gaul; and he condescended to reason excellently about his behaviour, when his people were sane enough to listen. He was both sensible and modest: he restrained the worship of Augustus, “lest through being too common it should be turned into an idle ceremony;” he refused the worship of himself, except in one temple dedicated equally to the Senate and to the Emperor. Tiberius could be pathetic, too: “I bewail my son, and ever shall bewail him,” he says of Germanicus; and again, “Eloquence is not measured by fortune, and it is a sufficient honour, if he be ranked among the ancient orators.” “Princes are mortal;” he says again, “the Commonwealth, eternal.” Then his wit, how fine it was; how quick his humour: when he answered the tardy condolences from Troy, by lamenting the death of Hector: when he advised an eager candidate, “not to embarrass his eloquence by impetuosity;” when he said of another, a low, conceited person, “he gives himself the airs of a dozen ancestors,” “videtur mihi ex se natus:” when he muttered in the Senate, “O homines ad servitutem paratos:” when he refused to become a persecutor; “It would be much better, if the Gods were allowed to manage their own affairs,” “Deorum injurias Dis curae.” In all this; in his leisured ways, in his dislike of parade and ceremonial, in his mockery of flatterers and venal “patriots”; how like to Charles II., “the last King of England who was a man of parts.” And no one will deny “parts” to Tiberius; he was equal to the burden of Imperial cares: the latest researches have discovered, that his provincial administration was most excellent; and even Tacitus admits, that his choice of magistrates “could not have been better.” He says, in another passage, “The Emperor’s domains throughout Italy, were thin; the behaviour of his slaves modest; the freed-men, who managed his house, few; and, in his disputes with particulars, the courts were open and the law equal.” This resembles the account of Antoninus Pius, by Marcus Aurelius; and it is for this modesty, this careful separation between private and public affairs, that Tacitus has praised Agricola. I am well contented, with the virtues of the Antonines; but there are those, who go beyond. I have seen a book entitled “The History of that Inimitable Monarch Tiberius, who in the xiv year of his Reign requested the Senate to permit the worship of Jesus Christ; and who suppressed all Opposition to it.” In this learned volume, it is proved out of the Ancients, that Tiberius was the most perfect of all sovereigns; and he is shown to be nothing less than the forerunner of Saint Peter, the first Apostle and the nursing-father of the Christian Church. The author was a Cambridge divine, and one of their Professors of mathematics: “a science,” Goldsmith says, “to which the meanest intellects are equal.”
Upon the other hand, we have to consider that view of Tiberius, which is thus shown by Milton;
This Emperor hath no son, and now is old;
Old and lascivious: and from Rome retired
To Capreae, an island small but strong,
On the Campanian shore; with purpose there,
His horrid lusts in private to enjoy.
This theme is enlarged by Suetonius, and evidently enjoyed: he represents Tiberius, as addicted to every established form of vice; and as the inventor of new names, new modes, and a new convenience, for unheard-of immoralities. These propensities of the Emperor are handled by Tacitus with more discretion, though he does not conceal them. I wish neither to condemn nor to condone Tiberius: I desire, if it be possible, to see him as he is; and whether he be good or bad, he is very interesting. I have drawn attention to what is good in “The Annals,” because Tacitus leans with all his weight upon the bad; and either explains away what is favourable, or passes over it with too light a stroke. At the end, I must conclude, as I began, that the character of Tiberius is a mystery. It is a commonplace, that no man is entirely good nor entirely evil; but the histories of Tiberius are too contradictory, to be thus dismissed by a platitude. It is not easy to harmonise Paterculus with Suetonius: it is impossible to reconcile Tacitus with himself; or to combine the strong, benevolent ruler with the Minotaur of Capri. The admirers of an almost perfect prose, must be familiar with a story, which is not the highest effort of that prose: they will remember a certain man with a double nature, like all of us; but, unlike us, able to separate his natures, and to personate at will his good or evil genius. Tiberius was fond of magic, and of the curious arts: it may be, that he commanded the secrets of which Mr. Stevenson has dreamed!
The readers of “The Annals” have seen enough of blood, of crime, and of Tiberius; and I would now engage their attention upon a more pleasing aspect of Imperial affairs: I wish to speak about the Empire itself; about its origin, its form, its history: and, if my powers were equal to the task, I would sketch a model Emperor; Marcus Aurelius, or the elder Antonine. Gibbon has described the limits of the Roman Empire; which “comprised the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind.” Its boundaries were “the Rhine and Danube, on the north; the Euphrates, on the east; towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and Africa;” and upon the west, the Atlantic ocean. It was over this extensive monarchy, that Caesar reigned; by the providence of Caesar, was the whole defended and administered.
Quis Parthum paveat? Quis gelidum Scythen Quis, Germania quos horrida parturit Fetus, incolumi Caesare?
The frontiers of the Empire, and its richest provinces, had been obtained for the most part in the long wars of the Republic. The conquest of Gaul, and the establishment of the Empire, was achieved by Julius Caesar; and to him, the civilised world is indebted for that majestic “Roman Peace,” under which it lived and prospered for nearly nineteen centuries: the Eastern Empire was maintained in Constantinople, until 1453; and the Empire of the West continued, though in waning splendour, until the last Caesar abdicated his throne at the order of Napoleon. The nations of modern Europe were developed out of the ruin of Caesar’s Empire; and from that, the more civilised among them have obtained the politer share of their laws, their institutions, and their language: and to Caesar, we are indebted for those inestimable treasures of antiquity, which the Roman Empire and the Roman Church have preserved from the barbarians, and have handed on for the delight and the instruction of modern times. There are those, who can perceive in Caesar nothing but a demagogue, and a tyrant; and in the regeneration of the Commonwealth, nothing but a vulgar crime: among these, I am sorry to inscribe the name of Thomas Gordon. The supporters of this view are generally misled, by the specious allurements of the term “Republic.” Tiberius, it may be, was not a perfect ruler, and other sovereigns were even more ferocious; but the excesses of the most reckless Emperor are hardly to be compared to the wholesale massacres and spoliations, which attended the last agonies of the expiring Commonwealth. After the Macedonian and Asiatic wars, we find a turbulent and servile crowd, instead of the old families and tribes of Roman citizens; instead of allies, oppressed and plundered provinces; instead of the heroes of the young Republic, a set of worn-out, lewd, and greedy nobles. By these, the spoils of the world were appropriated, and its government abused: Caesar gave the helpless peoples a legal sovereign, and preserved them from the lawless tyranny of a thousand masters. He narrates himself, that “he found the Romans enslaved by a faction, and he restored their liberty:” “Caesar interpellat; ut Populum Romanum, paucorum factione oppressum, in libertatem vindicat.” The march of Caesar into Italy was a triumphal progress; and there can be no doubt, that the common people received him gladly. Again he says, “Nihil esse Rempublicam; appellationem modo, sine corpore et specie;” “The Republic is nothing but an empty name, a phantom and a shadow.” That Caesar should have seen this, is the highest evidence of his genius: that Cicero did not see it, is to himself, and to his country, the great misfortune of his career; and to his admirers, one of the most melancholy events in Roman history. The opinions of Tacitus were not far removed from the opinions of Cicero, but they were modified by what he saw of Nerva and of Trajan: he tells us, how Agricola looked forward to the blessings of a virtuous Prince; and his own thoughts and writings would have been other, than they are, had he witnessed the blameless monarchy of Hadrian and the Antonines. The victims of a bad Emperor were taken usually from among the nobles; many of them were little better, than their destroyer; and his murders were confined, almost invariably, within the walls of Rome: but the benefits of the Imperial system were extended into all the provinces; and the judgment-seat of Caesar was the protection of innumerable citizens. Many were the mistakes, many the misfortunes, deplorable the mischiefs, of the Imperial administration; I wish neither to deny, nor to conceal them: but here I must content myself with speaking broadly, with presenting a superficial view of things; and, upon the whole, the system of the Emperors was less bad than the decayed and inadequate government, out of which it was developed. For the change from the Republic to the Empire was hardly a revolution; and the venerable names and forms of the old organisation were religiously preserved. Still, the Consuls were elected, the Senate met and legislated, Praetors and Legates went forth into the provinces, the Legions watched upon the frontiers, the lesser Magistrates performed their office; but above them was Caesar, directing all things, controlling all things; the Imperator and Universal Tribune, in whose name all was done; the “Praesens Divus,” on whom the whole depended; at once the master of the Imperial Commonwealth, and the minister of the Roman People.
“The Annals,” and the history of Tiberius, have detained us, for the most part, within the capital: “The Agricola” brings us into a province of the Empire; and “The Account of Germany” will take us among the savages beyond the frontier. I need scarcely mention, that our country was brought within the Roman influence by Julius Caesar; but that Caesar’s enterprise was not continued by Augustus, nor by Tiberius; though Caligula celebrated a fictitious triumph over the unconquered Britons: that a war of about forty years was undertaken by Claudius, maintained by Nero, and terminated by Domitian; who were respectively “the most stupid, the most dissolute, and the most timid of all the Emperors.” It was in the British wars, that Vespasian began his great career, “monstratus fatis”; but the island was not really added to the Empire, until Agricola subdued it for Domitian. “The Life of Agricola” is of general interest, because it preserves the memory of a good and noble Roman: to us, it is of special interest, because it records the state of Britain when it was a dependency of the Caesars; “adjectis Britannis imperio.” Our present fashions in history will not allow us to think, that we have much in common with those natives, whom Tacitus describes: but fashions change, in history as in other things; and in a wiser time we may come to know, and be proud to acknowledge, that we have derived a part of our origin, and perhaps our fairest accomplishments, from the Celtic Britons. The narrative of Tacitus requires no explanation; and I will only bring to the memory of my readers, Cowper’s good poem on Boadicea. We have been dwelling upon the glories of the Roman Empire: it may be pardonable in us, and it is not unpleasing, to turn for a moment, I will not say to “the too vast orb” of our fate, but rather to that Empire which is more extensive than the Roman; and destined to be, I hope, more enduring, more united, and more prosperous. Horace will hardly speak of the Britons, as humane beings, and he was right; in his time, they were not a portion of the Roman World, they had no part in the benefits of the Roman government: he talks of them, as beyond the confines of civility, “in ultimos orbis Britannos;” as cut off by “the estranging sea,” and there jubilant in their native practices, “Visum Britannos hospitibus feros.” But Cowper says, no less truly, of a despised and rebel Queen;
Regions Caesar never knew,
Thy posterity shall sway;
Where his Eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.
The last battles of Agricola were fought in Scotland; and, in the pages of Tacitus, he achieved a splendid victory among the Grampian hills. Gibbon remarks, however, “The native Caledonians preserved in the northern extremity of the island their wild independence, for which they were not less indebted to their poverty than to their valour. Their incursions were frequently repelled and chastised; but their country was never subdued. The masters of the fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with contempt from gloomy hills assailed by the winter tempest, from lakes concealed in a blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians.” The Scotch themselves are never tired of asserting, and of celebrating, their “independence”; Scotland imposed a limit to the victories of the Roman People, Scaliger says in his compliments to Buchanan:
Imperii fuerat Romani Scotia lines.
But it may be questioned, whether it were an unmixed blessing, to be excluded from the Empire; and to offer a sullen resistance to its inestimable gifts of humane life, of manners, and of civility.
To these things, the Germans also have manifested a strong dislike; and they are more censurable than the Scotch, because all their knowledge of the Romans was not derived from the intercourse of war. “The Germany” of Tacitus is a document, that has been much discussed; and these discussions may be numbered among the most flagrant examples of literary intemperance: but this will not surprise us, when we allow for the structure of mind, the language, and the usual productions of those, to whom the treatise is naturally of the greatest importance. In the description of the Germans, Tacitus goes out of his way to laugh at the “licentia vetustatis,” “the debauches of pedants and antiquarians;” as though he suspected the fortunes of his volume, and the future distinctions of the Teutonic genius. For sane readers, it will be enough to remark, that the Germany of Tacitus was limited, upon the west, by the natural and proper boundary of the Rhine; that it embraced a portion of the Low Countries; and that, although he says it was confined within the Danube, yet the separation is not clear between the true Germans and those obscurer tribes, whose descendants furnish a long enumeration of titles to the present melancholy sovereign of the House of Austria. Gibbon remarks, with his usual sense, “In their primitive state of simplicity and independence, the Germans were surveyed by the discerning eye, and delineated by the masterly pencil of Tacitus, the first historian who supplied the science of philosophy to the study of facts. The expressive conciseness of his descriptions has deserved to exercise the diligence of innumerable antiquarians, and to excite the genius and penetration of the philosophic historians of our own time.” Upon a few sentences out of the “Germania”; which relate to the kings, to the holding of land, to the public assemblies, and to the army; an imposing structure of English constitutional history has been erected: our modern historians look upon this treatise with singular approval; because it shows them, they say, the habits of their own forefathers in their native settlements. They profess to be enchanted with all they read; and, in their works, they betray their descent from the ancestors they admire. Gibbon says, prettily, “Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful episodes, in which he relates some domestic transaction of the Germans or of the Parthians, his principal object is to relieve the attention of the reader from an uniform scene of vice and misery.” Whether he succeeds, I must leave my readers to decide. Tacitus describes the quarrels of the Germans; fought, then with weapons; now, with words: their gambling, their sloth, their drunkenness. “Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from wheat or barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed by Tacitus) into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross purposes of German debauchery.” Tacitus informs us, too, “that they sleep far into the day; that on rising they take a bath, usually of warm water; then they eat.” To pass an entire day and night in drinking, disgraces no one: “Dediti somno ciboque,” he says; a people handed over to sloth and gluttony. Some of these customs are now almost obsolete; the baths, for instance. In others, there has been little alteration since the Age of Tacitus; and the Germans have adhered, with obstinate fidelity, to their primitive habits. Tacitus thought less of their capacity, upon the whole, than it is usual to think now: “The Chatti,” he says, “for Germans, have much intelligence;” “Leur intelligence et leur finesse étonnent, dans des Germains.” But let us forget these “Tedeschi lurchi, non ragionam di lor;” and pass on to those manly virtues, which Tacitus records: To abandon your shield, is the basest of crimes, “relicta non bene parmula;” nor may a man thus disgraced be present at their sacred rites, nor enter their council; many, indeed, after escaping from battle, have ended their infamy with the halter. And to more shameful crimes, they awarded a sterner punishment:
Behind flock’d wrangling up a piteous crew
Greeted of none, disfeatured and forlorn:
Cowards, who were in sloughs interr’d alive;
And round them still the wattled hurdles hung
Wherewith they stamp’d them down, and trod them deep,
To hide their shameful memory from men.
Having now surveyed the compositions in this volume, it is proper that we should at length devote some of our notice to Gordon himself, and to his manner of presenting Tacitus. Thomas Gordon was born in Scotland; the date has not yet been ascertained. He is thought to have been educated at a northern university, and to have become an Advocate. Later, he went to London; and taught languages. Two pamphlets on the Bangorian controversy brought him into notice; and he wrote many religious and political dissertations. “A Defence of Primitive Christianity, against the Exhorbitant Claims of Fanatical and Dissaffected Clergymen;” “Tracts on Religion, and on the Jacobite Rebellion of ’45;” “The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken;” “A Cordial for Low Spirits;” are the titles of some of his compositions. In politics, and in theology, he was a republican and free-thinker: he translated and edited “The Spirit of Ecclesiastics in All Ages;” he was a contributor to “The Independent Whig;” and in a series of “Cato’s Letters,” he discoursed at ease upon his usual topics. The Tacitus was published in 1728, in two volumes folio: long dissertations are inserted in either volume; the literature in them excellent, the politics not so good: the volumes, as well as the several parts of them, are dedicated to some Royal and many Noble Patrons. Gordon has also turned Sallust into English: the book was published in 1744, in one handsome quarto; “with Political Discourses upon that Author and Translations of Cicero’s Four Orations against Cataline.” Walpole made Gordon the first commissioner of wine licences. It is handed down, that Gordon was a burly person, “large and corpulent.” It is believed, that he found his way into “The Dunciad,” and that he is immortalised there among the “Canaille Écrivante;” the line
Where Tindal dictates and Silenus snores,
is taken to be Pope’s description of him. Gordon died in 1750; at the same time as Dr. Middleton, the elegant biographer of Cicero: Lord Bolingbroke is said to have observed, when the news was told him, “Then is the best writer in England gone, and the worst.” That Bolingbroke should have disliked Gordon and his politics, does not surprise me; but I cannot understand for what reason he, and other good judges, despised his writings. “The chief glory of every people arises from its authors,” Dr. Johnson says; and happy the people, I would assert, who have no worse writers than Thomas Gordon. I wish to draw attention to Gordon’s correct vocabulary, to his bold and pregnant language, and to his scholarly punctuation. Among our present writers, the art of punctuation is a lost accomplishment; and it is usual now to find writings with hardly anything but full stops; colons and semicolons are almost obsolete; commas are neglected, or misused; and our slovenly pages are strewn with dashes, the last resources of an untidy thinker, the certain witnesses to a careless and unfinished sentence. How different, and how superior, is the way of Gordon; who, though he can be homely and familiar, never lays aside the well-bred and courteous manners of a polished Age. In his writings, the leading clauses of a sentence are distinguished by their colons: the minor clauses, by their semicolons; the nice meaning of the details is expressed, the pleasure and the convenience of his readers are alike increased, by his right and elegant use of commas. The comma, with us, is used as a loop or bracket, and for little else: by the more accurate scholars of the last Age, it was employed to indicate a finer meaning; to mark an emphasis, or an elision; to introduce a relative clause; to bring out the value of an happy phrase, or the nice precision of an epithet. And thus the authors of the great century of prose, that orderly and spacious time, assembled their words, arranged their sentences, and marshalled them into careful periods: without any loss to the subtile meaning of their thought, or any sacrifice of vigour, they exposed their subject in a dignified procession of stately paragraphs; and when the end is reached we look back upon a perfect specimen of the writer’s art. We have grown careless about form, we have little sense for balance and proportion, and we have sacrificed the good manners of literature to an ill-bred liking for haste and noise: it has been decided, that the old way of writing is cumbersome and slow; as well might some guerilla chieftain have announced to his fellow-barbarians, that Caesar’s legions were not swift and beautiful in their manoeuvres, nor irresistible in their advance. I have spoken of our long sentences, with nothing but full stops: they are variegated, here and there, with shorter sentences, sometimes of two words; this way of writing is common in Macaulay or in the histories of Mr. Green, and I have seen it recommended in Primers of Literature and Manuals of Composition. With the jolting and unconnected fragments of these authorities, I would contrast the musical and flowing periods of Dr. Johnson’s “Lives of the Poets”: to study these works in solitude, will probably be sufficient to justify my preference; but to hear them read aloud, should convert the most unwilling listener into an advocate of my opinion.
Dr. Birkbeck Hill, in the delightful Preface to his Boswell, explains how he was turned by a happy chance to the study of the literature of the eighteenth century; and how he read on and on in the enchanting pages of “The Spectator.” “From Addison in the course of time I passed on,” he continues, “to the other great writers of his and the succeeding age, finding in their exquisitely clear style, their admirable common-sense, and their freedom from all the tricks of affectation, a delightful contrast to so many of the eminent authors of our own time.” These words might be used of Gordon: I do not claim for him the style of Addison, nor the accomplished negligence of Goldsmith; these are graces beyond the reach of art; but he exhibits the common-sense, and the clear style, of the eighteenth century. Like all the good writers of his time, he is unaffected and “simplex munditiis”; he has the better qualities of Pyrrha, and is “plain in his neatness.” In Mr. Ward’s edition of the English Poets, there may be read side by side a notice of Collins and of Gray; the one by Mr. Swinburne, the other by Mr. Matthew Arnold: I make no allusion here to the greatness of either poet, to the merits of either style, nor to the value of either criticism. But the essay upon Gray is quiet in tone; it has an unity of treatment, and never deserts the principal subject; it is suffused with light, and full of the most delicate allusions: the essay on Collins, by being written in superlatives and vague similes, deafens and perplexes the reader; and the author, by squandering his resources, has no power to make fine distinctions, nor to exalt one part of his thesis above another. These two performances illustrate the last quality in Gordon, and in the old writers, to which I shall draw attention: they were always restrained in their utterances, and therefore they could be discriminating in their judgments; they could be emphatic without noise, and deep without obscurity, ornamental but not vulgar, carefully arranged but not stiff or artificial. They exhibit the three indispensable gifts of the finest authorship: “simplicitas munditiis,” “lucidus ordo,” “curiosa felicitas.”
In this volume, Gordon’s punctuation has been generally followed: his orthography has been modernised a little, though not by my hands, nor with my consent; and I have observed without regret, that some of Gordon’s original spellings have eluded the vigilance of the printer: that stern official would by no means listen to my entreaties for the long “SS,” the turn-over words, or the bounteous capitals, which add so much to the seductive and sober dignity of an eighteenth-century page; but, on the whole, we have given a tolerable reproduction of Gordon’s folio. In the second edition, he himself made more changes than improvements. I will not say, that Gordon has always conveyed the exact meaning of the sentences of Tacitus: but he has done what is better, and more difficult; he has grasped the broad meaning of his author, and caught something of his lofty spirit. “A translation,” he says, “ought to read like an original;” and Gordon has not failed, I think, to reach this perfection. It is not commonly attained among translators: Gordon says, of one rendering of Tacitus, “‘Tis not the fire of Tacitus, but his embers; quenched with English words, cold and Gothick.” Of the author of another version, he says “Learning is his chief accomplishment, and thence his translation is a very poor one.” This judgment is true of most modern translations from the Ancients; they may be correct versions, but are miserable English: the authors, while studying the most perfect models of the art of writing, have produced copies which are not literature at all. From this low company, I would rescue Sir Charles Bowen’s “Virgil”: a delightful poem, to those who are ignorant of Latin; an exquisite production, and an amazing triumph, to those who converse with the original. There are many English translations of Tacitus: the first, by Sir Henry Savile and “one Greenway”; the former, says Gordon, “has performed like a schoolmaster, the latter like a school-boy.” Anthony à Wood writes in another strain, in the “Athenae Oxonienis”: “A rare Translation it is, and the Work of a very Great Master indeed, both in our Tongue and that Story. For if we consider the difficulty of the Original, and the Age wherein the Translation lived, it is both for the exactness of the version, and the chastity of the Language, one of the most accurate and perfect translations that ever were made into English.” There is a rendering by Murphy, diffuse and poor; a dilution of Gordon, worthy neither of Tacitus nor of the English tongue. There are translations, too, into almost every modern language: I would give the highest praise to Davanzati; a scholar of Tuscany, who lived in the sixteenth century. In French, I cannot but admire the labours of M. Burnouf: although the austere rules, the precise constructions, and the easy comportment of the French prose are not suited to the style of Tacitus, and something of his weight and brevity are lost; yet the translator never loses the depth and subtilty of his author’s meaning; his work is agreeable to read, and very useful to consult. The maps and the genealogical tables in the three volumes of Messrs. Church and Brodribb’s translation are also of the greatest service, and the notes are sometimes most amusing.
Of Tacitus himself, there is little for me to say: those, who know him, can judge for themselves; to those who do not, no words are able to convey an adequate impression. “Who is able to infuse into me,” Cardinal Newman asks, “or how shall I imbibe, a sense of the peculiarities of the style of Cicero or Virgil, if I have not read their writings? No description, however complete, could convey to my mind an exact likeness of a tune, or an harmony, which I have never heard; and still less of a scent, which I have never smelled: and if I said that Mozart’s melodies were as a summer sky, or as the breath of Zephyr, I shall be better understood by those who knew Mozart, than by those who did not.” These truths are little remembered by modern critics: though, indeed, it is not possible to convey to a reader adequate notions about the style of an author, whom that reader has not pondered for himself; about his thoughts or his subjects, it may be different. Still, I may write something about the manner of Tacitus, which will not violate Cardinal Newman’s laws, nor be an outrage to taste and common-sense. “It is the great excellence of a writer,” says Dr. Johnson, “to put into his book as much as it will hold:” and if this judgment be sound, then is Tacitus the greatest of all writers in prose. Gordon says of him, “He explains events with a redundancy of images, and a frugality of words: his images are many, but close and thick; his words are few, but pointed and glowing; and even his silence is instructive and affecting. Whatever he says, you see; and all, that you see, affects you. Let his words be ever so few, his thought and matter are always abundant. His imagination is boundless, yet never outruns his judgment; his wisdom is solid and vast, yet always enlivened by his imagination. He starts the idea, and lets the imagination pursue it; the sample he gives you is so fine, that you are presently curious to see the whole piece, and then you have your share in the merit of the discovery; a compliment, which some able writers have forgot to pay to their readers.” I would remark here, that many of the old writers give me the sense of handling things, they are definite and solid; while some of the moderns appear to play with words only, and never to come up with the objects of their pursuit: “we are too often ravished with a sonorous sentence,” as Dr. Johnson says, “of which, when the noise is past, the meaning does not long remain.” But of Tacitus, Gordon says, “His words and phrases are admirably adapted to his matter and conceptions, and make impressions sudden and wonderful upon the mind of man. Stile is a part of genius, and Tacitus had one peculiar to himself; a sort of language of his own, one fit to express the amazing vigour of his spirit, and that redundancy of reflections which for force and frequency are to be equalled by no writer before nor since.”
Dr. Johnson, however, says in another place, “Tacitus, Sir, seems to me rather to have made notes for an historical work, than to have written a history:” I must own, that upon the subject of Tacitus, I prefer the sentiments of Gordon; and Montaigne would agree with me, for he says, “I do not know any author, who, in a work of history, has taken so broad a view of human events, or given a more just analysis of particular characters.” The impressions of Tacitus are indeed wonderful: I doubt, whether volumes could bring us nearer to the mutinous legions, than the few chapters in which he records their history. I am always delighted by Gordon’s way of telling the battle, in which the iron men of Sacrovir were overthrown; the account begins on page 139. Then how satisfying is the narrative of the wars in Germany, of the shipwreck, of the funeral of Varus and the slaughtered legions; how pleasing the description of Germanicus’ antiquarian travels in Egypt, and in Greece. Though Tacitus is not a maker of “descriptions,” in our modern sense: there is but one “description” in “The Annals,” so far as I remember, it is of Capri; and it is not the sort, that would be quoted by a reviewer, as a “beautiful cameo of description.” With Tacitus, a field of battle is not an occasion for “word-painting,” as we call it; the battle is always first, the scenery of less importance. He tells, what it is necessary to know; but he is too wise to think, that we can realise from words, a place which we have never seen; and too sound in his taste, to forget the wholesome boundaries between poetry and prose. This is the way of all the ancient writers. In a work on “Landscape,” I remember that Mr. Hamerton mourns over the Commentaries of Caesar; because they do not resemble the letters of a modern war-correspondent; Ascham, on the other hand, a man of real taste and learning, says of the Commentaries, “All things be most perfectly done by him; in Caesar only, could never yet fault be found.” I agree with Ascham: I think I prefer the Commentaries as they are, chaste and quiet; I really prefer them to Mr. Kinglake’s “Crimean War,” or to Mr. Forbes’ Despatches, or even to the most effusive pages of Mr. Stanley’s book on Africa.
In “The Life of Agricola,” I would mention the simplicity of the treatment and the excellence of the taste. Tacitus does not recite the whole of Roman history, nor assemble all the worthies out of Plutarch. Agricola is not compared to the pyramids, to the Flavian circus, nor to any works of art and literature: these flights of imagination were not known to the Ancients; but in a learned modern, I have seen Dante compared to Wagner’s operas, to the Parthenon and St. Peter’s, and to Justinian’s code. The sanctities of private life are not violated; yet we know everything, that it is decent to know, about Agricola. Lord Coleridge has given a beautiful rendering of the closing passages of “The Agricola,” in his account of Mr. Matthew Arnold: these elegant papers are not only models of good English; but are conspicuous, among recent obituary notices, for their fine taste and their becoming reticence. From the excesses of modern biographers, Tacitus was in little danger; thanks to his Roman sense, and to the qualities of the Roman Language. “Economy,” says Mr. Symonds, “is exhibited in every element of this athletic tongue. Like a naked gladiator all bone and muscle, it relies upon bare sinewy strength.” That author speaks of “the austere and masculine virtues of Latin, the sincerity and brevity of Roman speech;” and Tacitus is, beyond any doubt, the strongest, the austerest, the most pregnant of all the Romans. “Sanity,” says Mr. Matthew Arnold, in conclusion, “that is the great virtue of the ancient literature; the want of that is the great defect of the modern, in spite of all its variety and power.” “It is impossible to read the great ancients, without losing something of our caprice and eccentricity. I know not how it is, but their commerce with the ancients appears to me to produce, in those who constantly practise it, a steadying and composing effect upon the judgment, not of literary works only, but of men and events in general. They are like persons who have had a very weighty and impressive experience; they are more truly than others under the empire of facts, and more independent of the language current among those with whom they live.”
It has been told of Cardinal Newman, that he never liked to pass a single day, without rendering an English sentence into Latin. To converse with the Roman authors, to handle their precise and sparing language, is, I can well believe it, a most wholesome discipline; and the most efficient remedy against those faults of diffuseness, of obscurity, and of excess, which are only too common among the writers of our day. It may have been to this practice, that Cardinal Newman owed something of his clearness, and of his exquisite simplicity: and for his style, he should be idolised by every one who has a taste for literature. I have said many things in praise of the ancient authors: it pleases me, as I finish, to offer my humble tribute to an author who is quite our own; to one, who in all his writings has bequeathed us perfect models of chaste, of lucid, and of melodious prose.
NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD: September 15, 1890.
THE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE ANNALS OF TACITUS: BEING AN HISTORY OF THE EMPEROR TIBERIUS
THE ANNALS OF TACITUS
A.D. 14 AND 15.
Kings were the original Magistrates of Rome: Lucius Brutus founded Liberty and the Consulship: Dictators were chosen occasionally, and used only in pressing exigencies. Little more than two years prevailed the supreme power of the Decemvirate, and the consular jurisdiction of the military Tribunes not very many. The domination of Cinna was but short, that of Sylla not long. The authority of Pompey and Crassus was quickly swallowed up in Caesar; that of Lepidus and Anthony in Augustus. The Commonwealth, then long distressed and exhausted by the rage of her civil dissensions, fell easily into his hands, and over her he assumed a sovereign dominion; yet softened with a venerable name, that of Prince or Chief of the Senate. But the several revolutions in the ancient free state of Rome, and all her happy or disastrous events, are already recorded by writers of signal renown. Nor even in the reign of Augustus were there wanting authors of distinction and genius to have composed his story; till by the prevailing spirit of fear, flattery, and abasement they were checked. As to the succeeding Princes, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero; the dread of their tyranny, whilst they yet reigned, falsified their history; and after their fall, the fresh detestation of their cruelties inflamed their Historians. Hence my own design of recounting briefly certain incidents in the reign of Augustus, chiefly towards his latter end, and of entering afterwards more fully into that of Tiberius and the other three; unbiassed as I am in this undertaking by any resentment, or any affection; all the influences of these personal passions being far from me.
When, after the fall of Brutus and Cassius, there remained none to fight for the Commonwealth, and her arms were no longer in her own hands; when Sextus Pompeius was utterly defeated in Sicily, Lepidus bereft of his command. Marc Anthony slain; and of all the chiefs of the late Dictator’s party, only Octavius his nephew was left; he put off the invidious name of Triumvir, and styling himself Consul, pretended that the jurisdiction attached to the Tribuneship was his highest aim, as in it the protection of the populace was his only view: but when once he had laid his foundations wider, secured the soldiery by liberality and donations, gained the people by store of provisions, and charmed all by the blessings and sweetness of public peace, he began by politic gradations to exalt himself, to extend his domination, and with his own power to consolidate the authority of the Senate, jurisdiction of the Magistrate, and weight and force of the Laws; usurpations in which he was thwarted by no man: all the bravest Republicans and his most daring foes were slain in battle, or gleaned up by the late sanguinary proscriptions; and for the surviving Nobility, they were covered with wealth, and distinguished with public honours, according to the measure of their debasement, and promptness to bondage. Add, that all the creatures of this new Power, who in the loss of public freedom had gained private fortunes, preferred a servile condition, safe and possessed, to the revival of ancient liberty with personal peril. Neither were the Provinces averse to the present Revolution, and Sovereignty of one; since under that of the people and Senate they had lived in constant fear and mistrust, sorely rent and harassed as they were by the raging competition amongst our Grandees, as well as by the grievous rapine and exactions of our Magistrates; in vain too, under these their oppressions, had been their appeal to the protection of the laws, which were utterly enfeebled and borne down by might and violence, by faction and parties; nay, even by subornation and money.
Moreover, Augustus, in order to fortify his domination with collateral bulwarks, raised his sister’s son Claudius Marcellus, a perfect youth, to the dignity of Pontiff and that of Aedile; preferred Marcus Agrippa to two successive Consulships, a man in truth meanly born but an accomplished soldier, and the companion of his victories; and Marcellus, the husband of Julia, soon after dying, chose him for his son-in-law. Even the sons of his wife, Tiberius Nero, and Claudius Drusus, he dignified with high military titles and commands; though his house was yet supported by descendants of his own blood. For into the Julian family and name of the Caesars he had already adopted Lucius and Caius, the sons of Agrippa; and though they were but children, neither of them seventeen years old, vehement had been his ambition to see them declared Princes of the Roman Youth and even designed to the Consulship; while openly, he was protesting against admitting these early honours. Presently, upon the decease of Agrippa, were these his children snatched away, either by their own natural but hasty fate, or by the deadly fraud of their step-mother Livia; Lucius on his journey to command the armies in Spain; Caius in his return from Armenia, ill of a wound: and as Drusus, one of her own sons, had been long since dead, Tiberius remained sole candidate for the succession. Upon this object, centred all princely honours; he was by Augustus adopted for his son, assumed Colleague in the Empire, partner in the jurisdiction tribunitial, and presented under all these dignities to the several armies: instances of grandeur which were no longer derived from the secret schemes and plottings of his mother, as in times past, while her husband had unexceptionable heirs of his own, but thenceforth bestowed at her open suit. For as Augustus was now very aged, she had over him obtained such absolute sway, that for her pleasure he banished into the Isle of Planasia his only surviving grandson, Agrippa Postumus; one, in truth, destitute of laudable accomplishments, in his temper untractable, and stupidly conceited of his mighty strength, but branded with no misdemeanour or transgression. The Emperor had withal set Germanicus, the son of Drusus, over eight legions quartered upon the Rhine, and obliged Tiberius to adopt him, though Tiberius had then a son of his own, one of competent years; but it was the study of Augustus, to secure himself and the succession by variety of stays and engraftments. War at that time there was none, except that in Germany, kept on foot rather to abolish the disgrace sustained by Quinctilius Varus, there slain with his army, than from any ambition to enlarge the Empire, or for any other valuable advantage. In profound tranquillity were affairs at Rome. To the Magistrates remained their wonted names; of the Romans the younger sort had been born since the battle of Actium, and even most of the old during the civil wars: how few were then living who had seen the ancient free State!
The frame and economy of Rome being thus totally overturned, amongst the Romans were no longer found any traces of their primitive spirit, or attachment to the virtuous institutions of antiquity. But as the equality of the whole was extinguished by the sovereignty of one, all men regarded the orders of the Prince as the only rule of conduct and obedience; nor felt they any anxiety, while Augustus yet retained vigour of life, and upheld the credit of his administration with public peace, and the imperial fortune of his house. But when he became broken with the pressure of age and infirmities; when his end was at hand, and thence a new source of hopes and views was presented, some few there were who began to reason idly about the blessings and recovery of Liberty; many dreaded a civil war, others longed for one; while far the greater part were uttering their several apprehensions of their future masters; “that naturally stern and savage was the temper of Agrippa, and by his public contumely enraged into fury; and neither in age nor experience was he equal to the weight of Empire. Tiberius indeed had arrived at fulness of years, and was a distinguished captain, but possessed the inveterate pride entailed upon the Claudian race; and many indications of a cruel nature escaped him, in spite of all his arts to disguise it; besides that from his early infancy he was trained up in a reigning house, and even in his youth inured to an accumulation of power and honours, consulships and triumphs: nor during the several years of his abode at Rhodes, where, under the plausible name of retirement, a real banishment was covered, did he exercise other occupation than that of meditating future vengeance, studying the arts of treachery, and practising secret, abominable sensualities: add to these considerations, that of his mother, a woman inspired with all the tyranny of her sex; yes, the Romans must be under bondage to a woman, and moreover enthralled by two youths, who would first combine to oppress the State, and then falling into dissension, rend it piecemeal.”
While the public was engaged in these and the like debates, the illness of Augustus waxed daily more grievous; and some strongly suspected the pestilent practices of his wife. For there had been, some months before, a rumour abroad, that Augustus having singled out a few of his most faithful servants, and taken Fabius Maximus for his only companion, had, with no other retinue, sailed secretly over to the Island of Planasia, there to visit his Grandson Agrippa; that many tears were shed on both sides, many tokens of mutual tenderness shown, and hopes from thence conceived, that the unhappy youth would be restored to his own place in his Grandfather’s family. That Maximus had disclosed it to Martia, she to Livia; and thence the Emperor knew that the secret was betrayed: that Maximus being soon after dead (dead, as it was doubted, through fear, by his own hands), Martia was observed, in her lamentations and groans at his funeral, to accuse herself as the sad cause of her husband’s destruction. Whatever truth was in all this, Tiberius was scarce entered Illyrium, but he was hastily recalled by his mother’s letters: nor is it fully known whether at his return to Nola, he found Augustus yet breathing, or already breathless. For Livia had carefully beset the palace, and all the avenues to it, with detachments of the guards; and good news of his recovery were from time to time given out. When she had taken all measures necessary in so great a conjuncture, in one and the same moment was published the departure of Augustus, and the accession of Tiberius.
The first feat of this new reign was the murder of young Agrippa: the assassin, a bold and determined Centurion, found him destitute of arms, and little apprehending such a destiny, yet was scarce able to despatch him. Of this transaction Tiberius avoided any mention in the Senate: he would have it pass for done by the commands of Augustus; as if he had transmitted written orders to the Tribune, who guarded Agrippa, “to slay him the instant he heard of his grandfather’s decease.” It is very true that Augustus had made many and vehement complaints of the young man’s obstinate and unruly demeanour, and even solicited from the Senate a decree to authorise his banishment: but he never hardened himself against the sentiments of nature, nor in any instance dipped his hands in his own blood; neither is it credible that he would barbarously sacrifice the life of his grandson for the security and establishment of his step-son. More probable it is, that this hasty murder was purely the work of Tiberius and Livia; that the young Prince, hated and dreaded by both, fell thus untimely, to rid the one of his apprehensions and a rival, and to satiate in the other the rancorous spirit of a step-mother. When the Centurion, according to the custom of the army, acquainted Tiberius, “that his commands were executed;” he answered, “he had commanded no such execution, and the Centurion must appear before the Senate, and for it be answerable to them.” This alarmed Sallustius Crispus, who shared in all his secret counsels, and had sent the Centurion the warrant: he dreaded that he should be arraigned for the assassination, and knew it equally perilous either to confess the truth, and charge the Emperor; or falsely to clear the Emperor, and accuse himself. Hence he had recourse to Livia, and warned her, “never to divulge the secrets of the palace, never to expose to public examination the ministers who advised, nor the soldiers who executed: Tiberius should beware of relaxing the authority of the Prince, by referring all things to that of the Senate; since it was the indispensable prerogative of sovereignty for all men to be accountable only to one.”
Now at Rome, Consuls, Senators, and Roman Knights, were all rushing with emulation into bondage, and the higher the quality of each the more false and forward the men; all careful so to frame their faces, as to reconcile false joy for the accession of Tiberius, with feigned sadness for the loss of Augustus: hence they intermingled fears with gladness, wailings with gratulations, and all with servile flattery. Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius, at that time Consuls, took first the oath of fidelity to Tiberius; then administered it to Seius Strabo and Caius Turranius; the former Captain of the Praetorian Guards, the other Intendant of the Public Stores. The oath was next given to the Senate, to the people, and to the soldiery: all by the same Consuls; for Tiberius affected to derive all public transactions from the legal ministry of the Consuls, as if the ancient Republic still subsisted, and he were yet unresolved about embracing the sovereign rule: he even owned in his edict for summoning the Senate, that he issued it by virtue of the Tribunitial power, granted him under Augustus. The edict, too, was short and unexceptionably modest. It imported that, “they were to consider of the funeral honours proper to be paid his deceased Father: for himself he would not depart from the corpse; and further than this edict implied, he claimed no share in the public administration.” Yet from the moment Augustus was dead, he usurped all the prerogatives of imperial state, gave the word to the Praetorian Cohorts; had soldiers about the palace, guards about his person, went guarded in the street, guarded to the Senate, and bore all the marks of Majesty: nay, he writ letters to the several armies in the undisguised style of one already their Prince: nor did he ever hesitate in expression, or speak with perplexity, but when he spoke to the Senate. The chief cause of his obscurity there proceeded from his fear of Germanicus: he dreaded that he, who was master of so many legions, of numberless auxiliaries, and of all the allies of Rome; he, who was the darling of the people, might wish rather to possess the Empire, than to wait for it; he likewise, in this mysterious way of dealing with the Senate, sought false glory, and would rather seem by the Commonwealth chosen and called to the Empire, than to have crept darkly into it by the intrigues of a woman, or by adoption from a superannuated Prince. It was also afterwards found, that by this abstruseness and counterfeit irresolution he meant to penetrate into the designs and inclinations of the great men: for his jealous spirit construed all their words, all their looks, into crimes; and stored them up in his heart against a day of vengeance.
When he first met the Senate, he would bear no other business to be transacted but that about the funeral of Augustus. His last will was brought in by the Vestal Virgins: in it Tiberius and Livia were appointed his heirs, Livia adopted into the Julian family, and dignified with the name of Augusta: into the next and second degree of heirship he adopted his grandchildren and their children; and in the third degree he named the great men of Rome, most of them hated by him, but out of vainglory he named them, and for future renown. His legacies were not beyond the usual bounds; only he left to the Roman people four hundred thousand great sesterces, [Footnote: £362,500.] to the populace or common sort, thirty- five thousand; to every common soldier of the Praetorian Guards, a thousand small sesterces, [Footnote: £8, 6s. 8d.] and to every soldier of the Roman legions three hundred. [Footnote: £2, 10s.] The funeral honours were next considered. The chief proposed were these: Asinius Gallus moved that “the funeral should pass through the Triumphal Gate:” Lucius Arruntius, “that the titles of all the laws which he had made, and the names of all the nations which he had conquered, should be carried before the corpse:” Valerius Messala added, that “the oath of allegiance to Tiberius should be renewed every year;” and being asked by Tiberius, “whether at his instigation he had made that motion?” “I spoke it as my opinion,” says Messala; “nor will I ever be determined by any but my own, in things which concern the commonweal; let who will be provoked by my freedom.” Only this new turn was wanting to complete the prevailing flattery of the time. The Senators then concurred in a loud cry, “that upon their own shoulders they must bear the body to the pile.” But Tiberius declined the offer from an arrogant show of moderation. Moreover, he cautioned the people by an edict, “not to disturb the funeral functions with a zeal over-passionate, as they had those of Julius Caesar; nor to insist that the corpse of Augustus should be burnt rather in the Forum, than in the field of Mars, which was the place appointed.” On the funeral day the soldiers under arms kept guard; a mighty mockery this to those who had either seen, or heard their fathers describe, the day when Caesar the Dictator was slain: servitude was then new, its sorrows yet fresh and bitter; and liberty unsuccessfully retrieved by a deed which, while it seemed impious to some, was thought altogether glorious by others, and hence tore Rome into tumults and the violence of parties: they who knew that turbulent day, and compared it with the quiet exit of Augustus, ridiculed the foppery of “calling an aid of soldiers to secure a peaceable burial to a Prince who had grown old in peace and power, and even provided against a relapse into liberty, by a long train of successors.”
Hence much and various matter of observation concerning Augustus: the superstitious multitude admired the fortuitous events of his fortune; “that the last day of his life, and the first of his reign, was the same; that he died at Nola, in the same village, and in the same house, and in the same chamber, where his father Octavius died. They observed to his glory, his many Consulships, equal in number to those of Valerius Corvinus and of Caius Marius, joined together; that he had exercised the power of the Tribuneship seven-and-thirty continued years: that he was one-and- twenty times proclaimed Imperator; with many other numerous honours repeated to him, or created for him.” Men of deeper discernment entered further into his life, but differed about it. His admirers said, “that his filial piety to his father Caesar, and the distractions of the Republic, where the laws no longer governed, had driven him into a civil war; which, whatever be the first cause, can never be begun or carried, on by just and gentle means.” Indeed, to be revenged on the murderers of his father, he had made many great sacrifices to the violent genius of Anthony; many to Lepidus: but when Lepidus was become sunk and superannuated in sloth; when Anthony was lost headlong in sensuality, there was then no other remedy for the distracted State, rent piecemeal by its Chiefs, but the sovereignty of one: Augustus, however, never had assumed to be over his country King, or Dictator; but settled the government under the legal name of Prince, or Chief of the Senate: he had extended the Empire, and set for its bounds the distant ocean and rivers far remote; the several parts and forces of the State, the legions, the provinces, and the navy, were all properly balanced and connected; the citizens lived dutifully under the protection of the law, the Allies in terms of respect, and Rome itself was adorned with magnificent structures: indeed, in a few instances he had exerted the arbitrary violence of power; and in but a few, only to secure the peace of the whole.
In answer to all this, it was urged, that “his filial piety, and the unhappy situation of the Republic, were pure pretences; but the ardent lust of reigning, his true and only motive: with this spirit he had solicited into his service, by bribery, a body of veteran soldiers: and though a private youth, without post or magistracy, but, in defiance of law, levied an army: with this spirit he had debauched and bought the Roman legions under the Consuls, while he was falsely feigning a coalition with Pompey’s republican party: that soon after, when he had procured from the Senate, or rather usurped the honours and authority of the Praetorship; and when Hirtius and Pansa, the two Consuls, were slain, he seized both their armies: that it was doubted whether the Consuls fell by the enemy, or whether Pansa was not killed by pouring poison into his wounds; and Hirtius slain by his own soldiers; and whether the young Caesar was not the black contriver of this bloody treason: that by terror he had extorted the Consulship in spite of the Senate; and turned against the Commonwealth the very arms with which the Commonwealth had trusted him for her defence against Anthony. Add to all this his cruel proscriptions, and the massacre of so many citizens, his seizing from the public and distributing to his own creatures so many lands and possessions; a violation of property not justified even by those who gained by it. But, allowing him to dedicate to the Manes of the Dictator the lives of Brutus and Cassius (though more to his honour had it been to have postponed his own personal hate to public good), did he not betray the young Pompey by an insidious peace, betray Lepidus by a deceitful show of friendship? Did he not next ensnare Marc Anthony, first by treaties, those of Tarentum and Brundusium; then by a marriage, that of his sister Octavia? And did not Anthony at last pay with his life the penalty of that subdolous alliance? After this, no doubt there was peace, but a bloody peace; bloody in the tragical defeat of Lollius, and that of Varus, in Germany; and at Rome, the Varrones, the Egnatii, the Julii (those illustrious names) were put to death.” Nor was his domestic life spared upon this occasion. “He had arbitrarily robbed Nero of his wife big with child by her husband; and mocked the Gods by consulting the Priests; whether religion permitted him to marry her before her delivery, or obliged him to stay till after. His minions, Tedius and Vedius Pollio, had lived in scandalous and excessive luxury: his wife Livia, who wholly controlled him, had proved a cruel governess to the Commonwealth; and to the Julian house, a more cruel step-mother: he had even invaded the incommunicable honours of the Gods, and setting up for himself temples like theirs, would like them be adored in the image of a Deity, with all the sacred solemnity of Priests and sacrifices: nor had he adopted Tiberius for his successor, either out of affection for him, or from concern for the public welfare; but having discovered in him a spirit proud and cruel, he sought future glory from the blackest opposition and comparison.” For, Augustus, when, a few years before, he solicited the Senate to grant to Tiberius another term of the authority of the Tribuneship, though he mentioned him with honour, yet taking notice of his odd humour, behaviour, and manners, dropped some expressions, which, while they seemed to excuse him, exposed and upbraided him.
As soon as the funeral of Augustus was over, a temple and divine worship were forthwith decreed him. The Senate then turned their instant supplications to Tiberius, to fill his vacant place; but received an abstruse answer, touching the greatness of the Empire and his own distrust of himself; he said that “nothing but the divine genius of Augustus was equal to the mighty task: that for himself, who had been called by him into a participation of his cares, he had learnt by feeling them, what a daring, what a difficult toil was that of government, and how perpetually subject to the caprices of fortune: that in a State supported by so many illustrious patriots they ought not to cast the whole administration upon one; and more easy to be administered were the several offices of the Government by the united pains and sufficiency of many.” A pompous and plausible speech, but in it little faith and sincerity. Tiberius, even upon subjects which needed no disguises, used words dark and cautious; perhaps from his diffident nature, perhaps from a habit of dissembling: at this juncture indeed, as he laboured wholly to hide his heart, his language was the more carefully wrapped up in equivoques and obscurity: but the Senators, who dreaded nothing so much as to seem to understand him, burst into tears, plaints, and vows; with extended arms they supplicated the Gods, invoked the image of Augustus, and embraced the knees of Tiberius. He then commanded the imperial register to be produced and recited. It contained a summary of the strength and income of the Empire, the number of Romans and auxiliaries in pay, the condition of the navy, of the several kingdoms paying tribute, and of the various provinces and their revenues, with the state of the public expense, the issues of the exchequer, and all the demands upon the public. This register was all writ by the hand of Augustus; and in it he had subjoined his counsel to posterity, that the present boundaries of the Empire should stand fixed without further enlargement; but whether this counsel was dictated by fear for the public, or by envy towards his successors, is uncertain.
Now when the Senate was stooping to the vilest importunity and prostrations, Tiberius happened to say, that, “as he was unequal to the weight of the whole government; so if they entrusted him with any particular part, whatever it were, he would undertake it.” Here Asinius Gallus interposed: “I beg to know, Caesar,” says he, “what part of the government you desire for your share?” He was astonished with the unexpected question, and, for a short space, mute; but recovering himself, answered, that “it ill became his modesty to choose or reject any particular branch of the administration, when he desired rather to be excused from the whole.” Gallus, who in his face conjectured sullen signs of displeasure, again accosted him, and said, “by this question I did not mean that you should do an impracticable thing, and share that power which cannot be separated; but I meant to reason you into a confession that the Commonwealth is but one body, and can be governed only by one soul.” He added an encomium upon Augustus, and reminded Tiberius himself of his many victories, of the many civil employments which he had long and nobly sustained: nor even thus could he mollify the wrath of Tiberius, who had long hated him, for that Gallus had married Vipsania, daughter of Marcus Agrippa, and formerly wife to Tiberius, who thence suspected that by this match he meant to soar above the rank of a subject, and possessed too the bold and haughty spirit of Asinius Pollio his father.
Lucius Arruntius incurred his displeasure next, by a speech not much unlike that of Gallus: it is true, that towards him Tiberius bore no old rancour; but Arruntius had mighty opulence, prompt parts, noble accomplishments, with equal popularity, and hence was marked by him with a fell eye of suspicion. For, as Augustus, shortly before his decease, was mentioning those among the great men, who were capable of the supreme power, but would not accept it; or unequal to it, yet wished for it; or such, as had both ambition and sufficiency; he had said, that “Marcus Lepidus was qualified, but would reject it; Asinius would be aspiring, but had inferior talents; and that Lucius Arruntius wanted no sufficiency, and upon a proper occasion would attempt it.” That he spoke thus of Lepidus and Asinius, is agreed; but, instead of Arruntius, some writers have transmitted the name of Cneius Piso: and every one of these great men, except Lepidus, were afterwards cut off, under the imputation of various crimes, all darkly framed by Tiberius. Quintus Haterius and Mamercus Scaurus did thereafter incense his distrustful spirit; the first by asking him, “How long, Caesar, wilt thou suffer the Commonwealth to remain destitute of a head?” Scaurus, because he had said “there was room to hope that the prayers of the Senate would not prove abortive, since he had not opposed as Tribune, nor rendered invalid, as he might, the motion of the Consuls in his behalf.” With Haterius he fell into instant rage; towards Scaurus his resentment was more deep and implacable, and in profound silence he hid it. Wearied at last with public importunity and clamour, and with particular expostulations, he began to unbend a little; not that he would own his undertaking the Empire, but only avoid the uneasiness of perpetually rejecting endless solicitations. It is known how Haterius, when he went next day to the palace to implore pardon, and throwing himself at the feet of Tiberius embraced his knees, narrowly escaped being slain by the soldiers; because Tiberius, who was walking, tumbled down, whether by chance, or whether his legs were entangled in the arms of Haterius: neither was he a jot mollified by the danger which threatened so great a man, who was at length forced to supplicate Augusta for protection; nor could even she obtain it, but after the most laboured entreaties.
Towards Livia, too, exorbitant was the flattering court of the Senate. Some were for decreeing her the general title of Mother; others the more particular one of Mother Of Her Country; and almost all moved, that to the name of Tiberius should be added, The Son Of Julia: Tiberius urged in answer, that “public honours to women ought to be warily adjudged, and with a sparing hand; and that with the same measure of moderation he would receive such as were presented to himself.” In truth, full of envy as he was, and anxious lest his own grandeur should sink as that of his mother rose, he would not suffer so much as a Lictor to be decreed her, and even forbade the raising her an altar upon her late adoption, or paying her any such solemnities. But for Germanicus he asked the Proconsular power; and to carry him that dignity, honourable deputies were sent, as also to mollify his sorrow for the death of Augustus. If for Drusus he demanded not the same honour, it was because Drusus was present and already Consul designed. He then named twelve candidates for the Praetorship; the same number settled by Augustus; and though the Senate requested him to increase it, by an oath he bound himself never to exceed.
The privilege of creating Magistrates was now first translated from the assemblies of the people to the Senate; for though the Emperor had before conducted all affairs of moment at his pleasure; yet till that day some were still transacted by the Tribes, and carried by their bent and suffrages. Neither did the regret of the people for the seizure of these their ancient rights rise higher than some impotent grumbling. The Senate too liked the change; as by it they were released from the charge of buying votes, and from the shame of begging them: and so moderate was Tiberius, that of the twelve candidates he only reserved to himself the recommendation of four, to be accepted without opposition or caballing. At the same time, the Tribunes of the people asked leave to celebrate at their own expense certain plays in honour of Augustus, such as were to be called after his name, and inserted in the calendar. But it was decreed, that out of the Exchequer the charge should be defrayed, and the Tribunes should in the circus wear the triumphal robe; but to be carried in chariots was denied them. The annual celebration of these plays was, for the future, transferred to one of the Praetors, him in particular to whom should fall the jurisdiction of deciding suits between citizens and strangers.
Thus stood affairs at Rome when a sedition seized the legions in Pannonia; without any fresh grounds, save that from a change of Princes, they meant to assume a warrant for licentiousness and tumult, and from a civil war hoped great earnings and acquisitions: they were three legions encamped together, all commanded by Junius Blesus, who, upon notice of the death of Augustus and the accession of Tiberius, had granted the soldiers a recess from their wonted duties for some days, as a time either of public mourning or festivity. From being idle they waxed wanton, quarrelsome, and turbulent; greedily listened to mutinous discourses; the most profligate amongst them had most credit with them, and at last they became passionate for a life of sloth and riot, utterly averse to all military discipline and every fatigue of the camp. In the camp was one Percennius; formerly a busy leader in the embroilments of the theatre, and now a common soldier; a fellow of a petulant, declaiming tongue, and by inflaming parties in the playhouse, well qualified to excite and infatuate a crowd. This incendiary practised upon the ignorant and unwary, such as were solicitous what might prove their future usage, now Augustus was dead. He engaged them in nightly confabulations, and by little and little incited them to violence and disorders; and towards the evening, when the soberest and best affected were withdrawn, he assembled the worst and most turbulent. When he had thus ripened them for sedition, and other ready incendiaries were combined with him, he personated the character of a lawful Commander, and thus questioned and harangued them:
“Why did they obey, like slaves, a few Centurions and a fewer Tribunes? When would they be bold enough to demand redress of their heavy grievances, unless they snatched the present occasion, while the Emperor was yet new and his authority wavering, to prevail with him by petition, or by arms to force him? They had already by the misery of many years paid dear for their patient sloth and stupid silence, since decrepit with age and maimed with wounds, after a course of service for thirty or forty years, they were still doomed to carry arms: nor even to those who were discharged was there any end of the misery of warfare; they were still kept tied to the colours, and under the creditable title of Veterans endured the same hardships, and underwent the same labours. But suppose any of them escaped so many dangers, and survived so many calamities, where was their reward at last? Why, a long and weary march remained yet to be taken into countries far remote and strange; where, under the name of lands given them to cultivate, they had unhospitable bogs to drain, and the wild wastes of mountains to manure. Severe and ungainful of itself was the occupation of war: ten Asses [Footnote: About 5d.] a day the poor price of their persons and lives; out of this, they must buy clothes, and tents, and arms; out of this, bribe the cruel Centurions for a forbearance of blows, and occasional exemption from hard duty: but stripes from their officers, and wounds from their enemies, hard winters and laborious summers, bloody wars and barren peace, were miseries without end: nor remained there other cure or relief than to refuse to enlist but upon conditions certain, and fixed by themselves; particularly, that their pay be a denarius or sixteen Asses a day, [Footnote: About 8-1/2d.] sixteen years be the utmost term of serving; when discharged, to be no longer obliged to follow the colours, but have their reward in ready money, paid them in the camp where they earned it. Did the Praetorian Guards, they who had double pay, they who after sixteen years’ service were paid off and sent home, bear severer difficulties, undergo superior dangers? He did not mean to detract from the merit of their brethren the City guards; their own lot however it was, to be placed amongst horrid and barbarous nations, nor could they look from their tents, but they saw the foe.”
The whole crowd received this harangue with shouts of applause; but from various instigations. Some displayed upon their bodies the obvious impressions of stripes, others their hoary heads, many their vestments ragged and curtailed, with backs utterly bare; as did all, their various griefs, in the bitterness of reproach. At length to such excessive fury they grew, that they proposed to incorporate the three legions into one; nor by aught but emulation was the project defeated: for to his own legion every man claimed the prerogative of swallowing and denominating the other two. They took another method, and placed the three Eagles of the legions, with the standards of the several cohorts, altogether without rank or priority; then forthwith digged turf and were rearing a tribunal, one high enough to be seen at a distance. In this hurry arrived Blesus, who, falling into sore rebukes, and by force interrupting particulars, called with vehemence to all: “Dip your hands rather in my blood: to murder your General will be a crime less shameful and heinous than to revolt from your Prince; for determined I am, either to preserve the legions in their faith and obedience, if you kill me not for my intended good office; or my death, if I fall by your hands, shall hasten your remorse.”
For all this, turfs were accumulated, and the work was already breast high, when, at last, overcome by his spirit and perseverance, they forbore. Blesus was an able speaker: he told them “that sedition and mutiny were not the methods of conveying to the Emperor the pretensions of the soldiers; their demands too were new and singular; such as neither the soldiers of old had ever made to the ancient Generals, nor they themselves to the deified Augustus: besides, their claims were ill-timed, when the Prince, just upon his accession, was already embarrassed with the weight and variety of other cares. If, however, they meant to try to gain in full peace those concessions, which, even after a civil war, the conquerors never claimed; yet why trample upon duty and obedience, why reject the laws of the army, and rules of discipline? And if they meant to petition, why meditate violence? They might at least appoint deputies; and in his presence trust them with their pretensions.” Here they all cried out, “that the son of Blesus, one of their Tribunes, should execute that deputation; and demand in their name that, after sixteen years’ service they should be discharged: they said they would give him new orders, when he had succeeded in these.” After the departure of the young officer, a moderate recess ensued; the soldiers however exulted to have carried such a point: the sending the son of their General, as the public advocate for their cause, was to them full proof that they had gained by force and terror that which by modesty and gentle means they would never have gained.
In the meantime those companies which, before the sedition began, were sent to Nauportum [Footnote: Over-Laybach, in Carniola.] to mend roads and bridges, and upon other duties, no sooner heard of the uproar in the camp, but they cast off all obedience, tore away the ensigns, and plundered the neighbouring villages; even Nauportum itself, which for greatness resembled a municipal town, was plundered. The endeavours of the Centurions to restrain this violence, were first returned with mockery and contempt, then with invectives and contumelies, at last with outrage and blows. Their vengeance was chiefly bent against the Camp-Marshal, Aufidienus Rufus: him they dragged from his chariot, and, loading him with baggage, drove him before the first ranks; they then insulted him, and asked in scorn, “whether he would gladly bear such enormous burdens, whether endure such immense marches?” Rufus had been long a common soldier, then became a Centurion, and afterwards Camp-Marshal; a severe restorer of primitive strictness and discipline; an indefatigable observer of every military duty, which he exacted from others with the more rigour, as he had himself undergone them all with patience.
By the arrival of this tumultuous band the sedition was again awakened to its former outrage, and the seditious, roving abroad without control, ravaged the country on every side. Blesus, for an example of terror to the rest, commanded those who were most laden with plunder, to be punished with stripes and cast into prison: for the General was still dutifully obeyed by the Centurions, and by all the soldiers of any merit; but the criminals refused to submit, and even struggled with the guard who were carrying them off; they clasped the knees of the bystanders, implored help from their fellows, now calling upon every individual, and conjuring them by their particular names; then appealed to them in a body, and supplicated the company, the cohort, the legion to which they belonged; warning and proclaiming that the same ignominy and chastisement hung over them all. With the same breath they heaped invectives without measure upon their General, and called upon heaven and all the Gods to be their witnesses and avengers; nor left they aught unattempted to raise effectual hatred, compassion, terror, and every species of fury. Hence the whole body rushed to their relief, burst open the prison, unbound and rescued the prisoners: thus they owned for their brethren, and incorporated with themselves, infamous revolters, and traitors convict and condemned.
Hence the violence became more raging, and hence more sedition from more leaders. There was particularly one Vibulenus, a common soldier, who, exalted on the shoulders of his comrades, before the tribunal of Blesus, thus declaimed in the ears of a multitude already outrageous, and eager to hear what he had to say. “To these innocents,” says he, “to these miserable sufferers, our fellow-soldiers, you have indeed restored breath and liberty: but who will restore life to my poor brother; who my poor brother to me? He was sent hither by the German armies, with propositions for our common good; and for this, was last night butchered by that same Blesus, who in the murder employed his gladiators, bloody men, whom he purposely entertains and arms for our common execution. Where, oh where, Blesus, hast thou thrown his unoffending and mangled corpse? Even open enemies do not inhumanly deny burial to the slain: when I have satiated my sorrow with a thousand kisses, and a flood of tears; command me also to be murdered, that these our brethren may together bury my poor brother and me, slaughtered both as victims, yet both guiltless of any crime but that of studying the common interest of the legions.”
He inflamed those his complaints and expostulations with affecting sighs and lamentations, beat his breast, tore his face, and showed all the symptoms of anguish. Then those who carried him giving way, he threw himself headlong at the feet of his companions; and thus prostrate and supplicating, in them raised such a spirit of commiseration and such a storm of vengeance, that one party of them instantly seized and bound the General’s gladiators; another, the rest of his family; while many ran and dispersed themselves to search for the corpse: and had it not been quickly manifest that there was no corpse to be found, that the slaves of Blesus had upon the rack cleared themselves, and that Vibulenus never had any brother; they had gone nigh to have sacrificed the General. As it was, they expulsed the Camp-Marshal and Tribunes; and as they fled, plundered their baggage: they likewise put to death Lucilius the Centurion, whom they had sarcastically named Cedo Alteram, because when upon the back of a soldier he had broken one wand, he was wont to call for another, and then a third. The other Centurions lurked in concealment, all but Julius Clemens, who for his prompt capacity was saved, in order to manage the negotiations of the soldiers: even two of the legions, the eighth and the fifteenth, were ready to turn their swords upon each other; and had, but for the ninth: one Sirpicus, a centurion, was the subject of the quarrel; him the eighth required to be put to death, and the fifteenth protected him; but the ninth interposed with entreaties to both, and with threats to those who would not listen to prayers.
Tiberius, however, close and impenetrable, and ever labouring to smother all melancholy tidings, was yet driven by those from Pannonia, to despatch his son Drusus thither, accompanied by the principal nobility and guarded by two Praetorian cohorts; but charged with no precise instructions, only to adapt his measures to the present exigency: the cohorts were strengthened with an extraordinary addition of chosen men, with the greatest part of the Praetorian horse, and main body of the German, then the Emperor’s guards. Aelius Sejanus, lately joined with his father Strabo in the command of the Praetorian bands, was also sent, not only as Governor to the young Prince, but as his credit with the Emperor was known to be mighty, to deal with the revolters by promises and terrors. When Drusus approached, the legions, for show of respect, marched out to meet him; not with the usual symptoms and shouts of joy, nor with gay ensigns and arms glittering, but in a dress and accoutrements hideous and squalid: in their countenances too, though composed to sadness, were seen greater marks of sullenness and contumacy.
As soon as he was within the camp, they secured the entrances with guards, and in several quarters of it placed parties upon duty: the rest crowded about the tribunal of Drusus, who stood beckoning with his hand for silence. Here as often as they surveyed their own numbers and met one another’s resentful looks, they uttered their rage in horrible cries: again, when upon the tribunal they beheld Caesar, awe and trembling seized them: now, there prevailed an hollow and inarticulate murmur; next, a furious clamour; then suddenly a dead silence: so that, by a hasty succession of opposite passions, they were at once dismayed and dreadful. When at last the uproar was stayed, he read his father’s letters, who in them declared, “that he would take an affectionate care of the brave and invincible legions by whom he had sustained successfully so many wars; and, as soon as his grief was a little abated, deal with the Senate about their demands; in the meantime he had sent them his son, on purpose to make them forthwith all the concessions, which could instantly be made them: the rest were to be reserved for the Senate, the proper distributers of rewards and punishments by a right altogether unalienable.”
The assembly answered, that to Julius Clemens they had intrusted what to speak in their name: he began with their demands, “to be discharged after sixteen years’ service, to have the reward which, for past services upon that discharge, they claimed; their pay to be increased to a Roman denarius; the veterans to be no longer detained under their ensigns.” When Drusus urged, that wholly in the judgment of the Senate and his father, these matters rested he was interrupted by their clamours: “To what purpose came he; since he could neither augment their pay, nor alleviate their grievances? and while upon them every officer was allowed to inflict blows and death, the son of their Emperor wanted power to relieve them by one beneficent action. The policy this of the late reign, when Tiberius frustrated every request of the soldiers, by referring all to Augustus; now Drusus was come with the same artifices to delude them: were they never to have a higher visit than from the children of their Prince? It was, indeed, unaccountable, that to the Senate the Emperor should leave no part in the direction of the army, only the rewarding of the soldiery: ought not the same Senate to be consulted as often as a battle was to be fought, or a private man to be punished? or, were their recompenses to be adjudged by many masters, but their punishments to remain without any restraint or moderator whatsoever?”
At last they abandoned the tribunal, and with menaces and insults fell upon all they met belonging to Drusus, either as guards or friends; meditating thus to provoke a quarrel, and an introduction to blood. Chiefly enraged they were against Cneius Lentulus, as one for years and warlike renown superior to any about the person of Drusus, and thence suspected to have hardened the Prince, and been himself the foremost to despise these outrages in the soldiery: nor was it long after, that as he was leaving Drusus, and from the foresight of danger returning to the winter quarters, they surrounded him and demanded “whither he went? to the Emperor or Senate? there also to exercise his enmity to the legions, and oppose their interest?” and instantly assaulted him with stones. He was already covered with wounds and blood, and awaiting certain assassination, when the troops attending Drusus flew to his assistance and saved him.
The following night had a formidable aspect, and threatened the speedy eruption of some tragical vengeance; when a phenomenon intervened and assuaged all. The Moon, in the midst of a clear sky, seemed to the soldiers suddenly to sicken; and they, who were ignorant of the natural cause, took this for an omen foreboding the issue of their present adventures: to their own labours, they compared the eclipse of the planet; and prophesied, “that if to the distressed Goddess should be restored her wonted brightness and vigour, equally successful would be the issue of these their struggles.” Hence they strove to charm and revive her with sounds, and by ringing upon brazen metal, and an uproar of trumpets and cornets, made a vehement bellowing. As she appeared brighter or darker, they exulted or lamented; but when gathering clouds had utterly bereft them of her sight, and they believed her now buried in everlasting darkness; then, as minds once thoroughly dismayed are pliant to superstition, they bewailed “their own eternal sufferings thus portended, and that against their misdeeds the angry Deities were contending.” Drusus, who thought it behoved him to improve this disposition of theirs, and to reap the fruits of wisdom from the operations of chance; ordered certain persons to go round, and apply to them from tent to tent. For this purpose, he called and employed the Centurion Julius Clemens, and whoever else were by honest methods acceptable to the multitude. These insinuated themselves everywhere, with those who kept watch, or were upon patrol, or guarded the gates; soothing all with hopes, and by terrors rousing them. “How long,” said they, “shall we hold the son of our Emperor thus besieged? Where will our broils and wild contentions end? Shall we swear allegiance to Percennius and Vibulenus? Will Vibulenus and Percennius support us with pay during our service, and reward us with lands when dismissed? In short, shall two common men dispossess the Neros and the Drusi, and to themselves assume the Empire of the Roman People? Let us be wiser; and as we were the last to revolt, be the first to relent. Such demands, as comprise terms for all, are ever slowly accorded; but particulars may, when they please, merit instant favour, and instantly receive it.” These reasonings alarmed them, and filled them with mutual jealousies. Presently the fresh soldiers forsook the veterans, and one legion separated from another; then by degrees returned the love of duty and obedience. They relinquished the guard of the gates: and the Eagles and other ensigns, which in the beginning of the tumult they had thrown together, were now restored each to its distinct station.
Drusus, as soon as it was day, summoned an assembly, and though unskilled in speaking, yet with a haughtiness inherent in his blood, rebuked their past and commended their present behaviour. “With threats and terrors,” he said, “it was impossible to subdue him; but if he saw them reclaimed to submission, if from them he heard the language of supplicants, he would send to his father to accept with a reconciled spirit the petitions of the legions,” Hence, at their entreaty, for their deputy to Tiberius the same Blesus was again despatched, and with him Lucius Apronius, a Roman Knight of the cohort of Drusus; and Justus Catonius, a Centurion of the first order. There followed great debates in the council of Drusus, while some advised “to suspend all proceeding till the return of the deputies, and by a course of courtesy the while to soothe the soldiers; others maintained, that remedies more potent must needs be applied: in a multitude, was to be found nothing on this side extremes; always imperious where they are not awed, and to be without danger despised when frightened: to their present terror from superstition was to be added the dread of their General, by his dooming to death the authors of the sedition.” Rather prompt to rigorous counsels was the genius of Drusus: Vibulenus and Percennius were produced, and by his command executed; it is by many recounted, that in his own tent they were secretly despatched and buried; by others, that their bodies were ignominiously thrown over the entrenchments, for a public spectacle of terror.
Search was then made for other remarkable incendiaries. Some were caught skulking without the camp, and there by the Centurions or Praetorian soldiers slain; others were by their several companies delivered up, as a proof of their own sincere faith. The consternation of the soldiers was heightened by the precipitate accession of winter, with rains incessant and so violent, that they were unable to stir from their tents, or maintain common intercourse, nay, scarce to preserve their standards, assaulted continually by tempestuous winds and raging floods. Dread besides of the angry Gods still possessed them; nor was it at random, they thought, that such profane traitors were thus visited with black eclipses and roaring tempests; neither against these their calamities was there other relief than the relinquishing of a camp by impiety contaminated and accursed, and after expiation of their guilt returning to their several garrisons. The eighth legion departed first; and then the fifteenth: the ninth, with earnest clamours, pressed for continuing there till the letters from Tiberius arrived; but when deserted by the other two, their courage failed, and by following of their own accord, they prevented the shame of being forced. Drusus seeing order and tranquillity restored, without staying for the return of the deputies, returned himself to Rome.
Almost at the same time, and from the same causes, the legions in Germany raised an insurrection, with greater numbers, and thence with more fury. Passionate too were their hopes that Germanicus would never brook the rule of another, but yield to the spirit of the legions, who had force sufficient to bring the whole Empire under his sway. Upon the Rhine were two armies; that called the higher, commanded by Caius Silius, Lieutenant- General; the lower, by Aulus Caecina: the command in chief rested in Germanicus, then busy collecting the tribute in Gaul. The forces however under Silius, with cautious ambiguity, watched the success of the revolt which others began: for the soldiers of the lower army had broken out into open outrages, which took its rise from the fifth legion, and the one- and-twentieth; who after them drew the first, and twentieth. These were altogether upon the frontiers of the Ubians, passing the campaign in utter idleness or light duty: so that upon the news that Augustus was dead, the whole swarm of new soldiers lately levied in the city, men accustomed to the effeminacies of Rome, and impatient of every military hardship, began to possess the ignorant minds of the rest with many turbulent expectations, “that now was presented the lucky juncture for veterans to demand entire dismission; the fresh soldiers, larger pay; and all, some mitigation of their miseries; as also to return due vengeance for the cruelties of the Centurions.” These were not the harangues of a single incendiary, like Percennius amongst the Pannonian legions; nor uttered, as there, in the ears of men who, while they saw before their eyes armies greater than their own, mutinied with awe and trembling: but here was a sedition of many mouths, filled with many boasts, “that in their hands lay the power and fate of Rome; by their victories the empire was enlarged, and from them the Caesars took, as a compliment, the surname of Germanicus.”
Neither did Caecina strive to restrain them. A madness so extensive had bereft him of all his bravery and firmness. In this precipitate frenzy they rushed at once, with swords drawn, upon the Centurions, the eternal objects of their resentment, and always the first victims to their vengeance. Them they dragged to the earth, and upon each bestowed a terrible portion of sixty blows; a number proportioned to that of Centurions in a legion. Then bruised, mangled, and half expiring, as they were, they cast them all out of the camp, some into the stream of the Rhine. Septimius, who had for refuge fled to the tribunal of Caecina, and lay clasping his feet, was demanded with such imperious vehemence, that he was forced to be surrendered to destruction. Cassius Cherea (afterwards famous to posterity for killing Caligula), then a young man of undaunted spirit, and one of the Centurions, boldly opened himself a passage with his sword through a crowd of armed foes striving to seize him. After this no further authority remained to the Tribunes, none to the Camp-Marshals. The seditious soldiers were their own officers; set the watch, appointed the guard, and gave all orders proper in the present exigency; hence those who dived deepest into the spirit of the soldiery, gathered a special indication how powerful and obdurate the present insurrection was like to prove; for in their conduct were no marks of a rabble, where every man’s will guides him, or the instigation of a few controls the whole. Here, all at once they raged, and all at once kept silence; with so much concert and steadiness, that you would have believed them under the sovereign direction of one.
To Germanicus the while, then receiving, as I have said, the tribute in Gaul, news were brought of the decease of Augustus; whose grand-daughter Agrippina he had to wife, and by her many children: he was himself the grandson of Livia, by her son Drusus, the brother of Tiberius; but ever under heavy anxiety from the secret hate which his uncle and grandmother bore him: hate the more virulent as its grounds were altogether unrighteous; for, dear and adored was the memory of his father Drusus amongst the Roman People, and from him was firmly expected that had he succeeded to the Empire, he would have restored public liberty: hence their zeal for Germanicus, and of him the same hopes conceived; as from his youth he possessed a popular spirit, and marvellous affability utterly remote from the comportment and address of Tiberius, ever haughty and mysterious. The animosities too between the ladies administered fresh fuel; while towards Agrippina, Livia was actuated by the despite natural to step-mothers: and over-tempestuous was the indignation of Agrippina; only that her known chastity and love for her husband, always gave her mind, however vehement, a virtuous turn.
But Germanicus, the nearer he stood to supreme rule, the more vigour he exerted to secure it to Tiberius: to him he obliged the Sequanians, a neighbouring people, as also the several Belgic cities, to swear present allegiance; and the moment he learnt the uproar of the legions, posted thither: he found them advanced without the camp to receive him, with eyes cast down, in feigned token of remorse. After he entered the entrenchments, instantly his ears were filled with plaints and grievances, uttered in hideous and mixed clamours: nay, some catching his hand, as if they meant to kiss it, thrust his fingers into their mouths, to feel their gums destitute of teeth; others showed their limbs enfeebled, and bodies stooping under old age. As he saw the assembly mixed at random, he commanded them “to range themselves into companies, thence more distinctly to hear his answers; as also to place before them their several ensigns, that the cohorts at least might be distinguished.”
With slowness and reluctance it was, that they obeyed him; then beginning with an encomium upon the “venerable memory of Augustus,” he proceeded to the “many victories and many triumphs of Tiberius,” and with peculiar praises celebrated the “glorious and immortal deeds, which with these very legions in Germany he had accomplished;” he next boasted the quiet state of things, the consent of all Italy, the loyal faith of both the Gauls: and every quarter of the Roman State exempt from disaffection and turbulence.
Thus far they listened with silence, at least with moderate murmuring; but the moment he touched their sedition and questioned, “where now was the wonted modesty of soldiers? where the glory of ancient discipline? whither had they chased their Tribunes, whither their Centurions?” to a man, they stripped themselves to the skin, and there exposed the seams of their wounds and bruises of their chastisements, in the rage of reproach. Then in the undistinguished voice of uproar, they urged “the exactions for occasional exemptions, their scanty pay, and their rigorous labours;” which they represented in a long detail: “ramparts to be reared, entrenchments digged, trees felled and drawn, forage cut and carried, fuel prepared and fetched,” with every other article of toil required by the exigencies of war, or to prevent idleness in the soldiery. Above all, from the veterans arose a cry most horrible: they enumerated thirty years or upwards undergone in the service; “and besought that to men utterly spent he would administer respite, nor suffer them to be beholden to death for the last relief from their toils; but discharge them from a warfare so lasting and severe, and grant them the means of a comfortable recess.” Nay, some there were who of him required the money bequeathed them by Augustus; and towards Germanicus uttering zealous vows, with omens of happy fortune, declared their cordial attachment to his cause if he would himself assume the Empire. Here, as if already stained with their treason, he leaped headlong from the Tribunal; but with swords drawn they opposed his departure, and threatened his life, if he refused to return: yet, with passionate protestations that “he would rather die than be a traitor,” he snatched his sword from his side, and aiming full at his breast, would have buried it there, had not those who were next him seized his hand and by force restrained him. A cluster of soldiers in the extremity of the assembly exhorted him, nay, what is incredible to hear, some particulars advancing nearer, exhorted him to strike home: in truth one Calusidius, a common soldier, presented him his naked sword, and added, “it is sharper than your own;” a behaviour which to the rest, outrageous as they were, seemed savage, and of horrid example: hence the friends of Germanicus had time to snatch him away to his tent.
It was here consulted what remedy to apply: for it was advised, that “ministers of sedition were preparing to be despatched to the other army, to draw them too into a confederacy in the revolt; that the capital of the Ubians was destined to be sacked; and if their hands were once inured to plunder, they would break in, and ravage all Gaul.” This dread was augmented by another: the enemy knew of the sedition in the Roman army, and were ready to invade the Empire, if its barrier the Rhine were left unguarded. Now, to arm the allies and the auxiliaries of Rome, and lead them against the departing legions, was to rouse a civil war: severity was dangerous: the way of largesses infamous; and alike threatening it was to the State to grant the turbulent soldiers nothing, or yield them everything. After revolving every reason and objection, the result was, to feign letters and directions from Tiberius, “that those who had served twenty years should be finally discharged; such as served sixteen be under the ensign and privileges of veterans, released from every duty but that of repulsing the enemy; and the legacy, which they demanded, should be paid and doubled.”
The soldiers, who perceived that, purely to evade present difficulty, the concessions were forged, insisted to have them forthwith executed; and instantly the Tribunes despatched the discharge of the veterans: that of the money was adjourned to their several winter quarters; but the fifth legion, and the one-and-twentieth, refused to stir, till in that very camp they were paid; so that out of the money reserved by himself and his friends for travailing expenses, Germanicus was obliged to raise the sum. Caecina, Lieutenant-General, led the first legion and twentieth back to the capital of the Ubians: an infamous march, when the plunder of their General’s coffers was carried amidst the ensigns and Roman Eagles. Germanicus, the while, proceeding to the army in higher Germany, brought the second, thirteenth, and sixteenth legions to swear allegiance without hesitation: to the fourteenth, who manifested some short suspense, he made unasked a tender of their money, and a present discharge.
But a party of veterans which belonged to the disorderly legions, and then in garrison among the Chaucians, as they began a sedition there, were somewhat quelled by the instant execution of two of their body: an execution this, commanded by Maenius, Camp-Marshal, and rather of good example, than done by competent authority. The tumult, however, swelling again with fresh rage, he fled, but was discovered; so that, finding no safety in lurking, from his own bravery he drew his defence, and declared “that to himself, who was only their Camp-Marshal, these their outrages were not done, but done to the authority of Germanicus, their General, to the majesty of Tiberius their Emperor.” At the same time, braving and dismaying all that would have stopped him, he fiercely snatched the colours, faced about towards the Rhine, and pronouncing the doom of traitors and deserters to every man who forsook his ranks, brought them back to their winter quarters, mutinous, in truth, but not daring to mutiny.
In the meantime the deputies from the Senate met Germanicus at the altar of the Ubians [Footnote: Cologne.], whither in his return he was arrived. Two legions wintered there, the first and twentieth, with the soldiers lately placed under the standard of veterans; men already under the distractions of guilt and fear: and now a new terror possessed them, that these Senators were come armed with injunctions to cancel every concession which they had by sedition extorted; and, as it is the custom of the crowd to be ever charging somebody with the crimes suggested by their own false alarms, the guilt of this imaginary decree they laid upon Minutius Plancus, a Senator of consular dignity, and at the head of this deputation. In the dead of night, they began to clamour aloud for the purple standard placed in the quarters of Germanicus, and, rushing tumultuously to his gate, burst the doors, dragged the Prince out of his bed, and, with menaces of present death, compelled him to deliver the standard. Then, as they roved about the camp, they met the deputies, who, having learnt the outrage, were hastening to Germanicus: upon them they poured a deluge of contumelies, and to present slaughter were devoting them, Plancus chiefly, whom the dignity of his character had restrained from flight; nor in this mortal danger had he other refuge than the quarters of the first legion, where, embracing the Eagle and other ensigns, he sought sanctuary from the religious veneration ever paid them. But, in spite of religion, had not Calpurnius, the Eagle-bearer, by force defeated the last violence of the assault, in the Roman camp had been slain an ambassador of the Roman People, and with his blood had been stained the inviolable altars of the Gods; a barbarity rare even in the camp of an enemy. At last, day returning, when the General, and the soldiers, and their actions could be distinguished, Germanicus entered the camp, and commanding Plancus to be brought, seated him by himself upon the tribunal: he then inveighed against the late “pernicious frenzy, which in it, he said, had fatality, and was rekindled by no despite in the soldiers, but by that of the angry Gods.” He explained the genuine purposes of that embassy, and lamented with affecting eloquence “the outrage committed upon Plancus, altogether brutal and unprovoked; the foul violence done to the sacred person of an Ambassador, and the mighty disgrace from thence derived upon the legion.” Yet as the assembly showed more stupefaction than calmness, he dismissed the deputies under a guard of auxiliary horse.
During this affright, Germanicus was by all men censured, “that he retired not to the higher army, whence he had been sure of ready obedience, and even of succour against the revolters: already he had taken wrong measures more than enow, by discharging some, rewarding all, and other tender counsels; if he despised his own safety, yet why expose his infant son, why his wife big with child, to the fury of outrageous traitors, wantonly violating all the most sacred rights amongst men? It became him at least to restore his wife and son safe to Tiberius and to the State.” He was long unresolved; besides Agrippina was averse to leave him, and urged, that “she was the grand-daughter of Augustus, and it was below her spirit to shrink in a time of danger.” But embracing her and their little son, with great tenderness and many tears, he prevailed with her to depart. Thus there marched miserably along a band of helpless women: the wife of a great commander fled like a fugitive, and upon her bosom bore her infant son: about her a troop of other ladies, dragged from their husbands, and drowned in tears, uttering their heavy lamentations; nor weaker than theirs was the grief felt by all who remained.
These groans and tears, and this spectacle of woe, the appearances rather of a city stormed and sacked, than of a Roman camp, that of Germanicus Caesar, victorious and flourishing, awakened attention and inquiry in the soldiers: leaving their tents, they cried, “Whence these doleful wailings? what so lamentable! so many ladies of illustrious quality, travelling thus forlorn; not a Centurion to attend them; not a soldier to guard them; their General’s wife amongst them, undistinguished by any mark of her princely dignity; destitute of her ordinary train; frightened from the Roman legions, and repairing, like an exile, for shelter to Treves, there to commit herself to the faith of foreigners.” Hence shame and commiseration seized them, and the remembrance of her illustrious family, with that of her own virtues; the brave Agrippa her father; the mighty Augustus her grandfather; the amiable Drusus her father-in-law, herself celebrated for a fruitful bed, and of signal chastity: add the consideration of her little son, born in the camp, nursed in the arms of the legions, and by themselves named Caligula, a military name from the boots which of the same fashion with their own, in compliment to them, and to win their affections, he frequently wore. But nothing so effectually subdued them as their own envy towards the inhabitants of Treves: hence they all besought, all adjured, that she would return to themselves, and with themselves remain: thus some stopped Agrippina; but the main body returned with their entreaties to Germanicus, who, as he was yet in the transports of grief and anger, addressed himself on this wise to the surrounding crowd.
“To me neither is my wife or son dearer than my father and the Commonwealth. But him doubtless the majesty of his name will defend; and there are other armies, loyal armies, to defend the Roman State. As to my wife and children, whom for your glory I could freely sacrifice, I now remove them from your rage; that by my blood alone may be expiated whatever further mischief your fury meditates; and that the murder of the great grandson of Augustus, the murder of the daughter-in-law of Tiberius, may not be added to mine, nor to the blackness of your past guilt. For, during these days of frenzy what has been too horrid for you to commit? What so sacred that you have not violated? To this audience what name shall I give? Can I call you soldiers? you who have beset with arms the son of your Emperor, confined him in your trenches, and held him in a siege? Roman citizens can I call you? you who have trampled upon the supreme authority of the Roman Senate? Laws religiously observed by common enemies, you have profaned; violated the sacred privileges, and persons of Ambassadors; broken the laws of nations. The deified Julius Caesar quelled a sedition in his army by a single word: he called all who refused to follow him, townsmen. The deified Augustus, when, after the battle of Actium, the legions who won it lapsed into mutiny, terrified them into submission by the dignity of his presence and an awful look. These, it is true, are mighty and immortal names, whom I dare not emulate; but, as I am their descendant, and inherit their blood, should the armies in Syria and Spain reject my orders, and contemn my authority, I should think their behaviour strange and base: are not the present legions under stronger ties than those in Syria and Spain? You are the first and the twentieth legions; the former enrolled by Tiberius himself; the other his constant companions in so many battles, his partners in so many victories, and by him enriched with so many bounties! Is this the worthy return you make your Emperor, and late Commander, for the distinction he has shown you, for the favour he has done you, and for his liberalities towards you? And shall I be the author of such tidings to him; such heavy tidings in the midst of congratulations and happy accounts from every province in the Empire? Must it be my sad task to acquaint him that his own new levies, as well as his own veterans who long fought under him; these not appeased by their discharge, and neither of them satiated with the money given them, are both still combined in a furious mutiny? must I tell him that here and only here the Centurions are butchered, the Tribunes driven away, the Ambassadors imprisoned; that with blood the camp is stained, and the rivers flow with blood; and that for me his son, I hold a precarious life at the mercy of men, who owe me duty, and practise enmity?
“Why did you the other day, oh unseasonable and too officious friends! why did you leave me at their mercy by snatching from me my sword, when with it I would have put myself out of their power? He who offered me his own sword showed greater kindness, and was more my friend. I would then have fallen happy; happy that my death would have hid from mine eyes so many horrible crimes since committed by my own army; and for you, you would have chosen another general, such a general, no doubt, as would have left my death unpunished, but still one who would have sought vengeance for that of Varus and the three legions; for the Gods are too just to permit that ever the Belgians, however generously they offer their service, shall reap the credit and renown of retrieving the glory of the Roman name, and of reducing in behalf of Rome the German nations her foes. Filled with this passion for the glory of Rome, I here invoke thy spirit now with the Gods, oh deified Augustus; and thy image interwoven in the ensigns, and thy memory, oh deceased father. Let thy revered spirit, oh Augustus, let thy loved image and memory, oh Drusus, still dear to these legions, vindicate them from this guilty stain, this foul infamy of leaving to foreigners the honour of defending and avenging the Roman State. They are Romans; they already feel the remorses of shame; they are already stimulated with a sense of honour: improve, oh improve this generous disposition in them; that thus inspired they may turn the whole tide of their civil rage to the destruction of their common enemy. And for you, my fellow-soldiers, in whom I behold all the marks of compunction, other countenances, and minds happily changed; if you mean to restore to the Senate its ambassadors; to your Emperor your sworn obedience; to me, your general, my wife and son; be it the first instance of your duty, to fly the contagious company of incendiaries, to separate the sober from the seditious: this will be a faithful sign of remorse, this a firm pledge of fidelity.”
These words softened them into supplicants: they confessed that all his reproaches were true; they besought him to punish the guilty and malicious, to pardon the weak and misled, and to lead them against the enemy; to recall his wife, to bring back his son, nor to suffer the fosterling of the legions to be given in hostage to the Gauls. Against the recalling of Agrippina he alleged the advance of winter, and her approaching delivery; but said, that his son should return, and that to themselves he left to execute what remained further to be executed. Instantly, with changed resentments, they ran, and seizing the most seditious, dragged them in bonds to Caius Cretonius, commander of the first legion, who judged and punished them in this manner. The legions, with their swords drawn, surrounded the tribunal; from thence the prisoner was by a Tribune exposed to their view, and if they proclaimed him guilty, cast headlong down, and executed even by his fellow-soldiers, who rejoiced in the execution, because by it they thought their own guilt to be expiated: nor did Germanicus restrain them, since on themselves remained the cruelty and reproach of the slaughter committed without any order of his. The veterans followed the same example of vengeance, and were soon after ordered into Rhetia, in appearance to defend that province against the invading Suevians; in reality, to remove them from a camp still horrible to their sight, as well in the remedy and punishment, as from the memory of their crime. Germanicus next passed a scrutiny upon the conduct and characters of the Centurions: before him they were cited singly; and each gave an account of his name, his company, country, the length of his service, exploits in war, and military presents, if with any he had been distinguished: if the Tribunes or his legion bore testimony of his diligence and integrity, he kept his post; upon concurring complaint of his avarice or cruelty, he was degraded.
Thus were the present commotions appeased; but others as great still subsisted, from the rage and obstinacy of the fifth and twenty-first legions. They were in winter quarters sixty miles off, in a place called the Old Camp, [Footnote: Xanten.] and had first began the sedition: nor was there any wickedness so horrid, that they had not perpetrated; nay, at this time, neither terrified by the punishment, nor reclaimed by the reformation of their fellow-soldiers, they persevered in their fury. Germanicus therefore determined to give them battle, if they persisted in their revolt; and prepared vessels, arms, and troops to be sent down the Rhine.
Before the issue of the sedition in Illyricum was known at Rome, tidings of the uproar in the German legions arrived; hence the city was filled with much terror; and hence against Tiberius many complaints, “that while with feigned consultations and delays he mocked the Senate and people, once the great bodies of the estate, but now bereft of power and armies, the soldiery were in open rebellion, one too mighty and stubborn to be quelled by two princes so young in years and authority: he ought at first to have gone himself, and awed them with the majesty of imperial power, as doubtless they would have returned to duty upon the sight of their Emperor, a Prince of consummate experience, the sovereign disposer of rewards and severity. Did Augustus, even under the pressure of old age and infirmities, take so many journeys into Germany? and should Tiberius, in the vigour of his life, when the same or greater occasions called him thither, sit lazily in the Senate to watch senators and cavil at words? He had fully provided for the domestic servitude of Rome; he ought next to cure the licentiousness of the soldiers, to restrain their turbulent spirits, and reconcile them to a life of peace.”
But all these reasonings and reproaches moved not Tiberius: he was determined not to depart from the capital, the centre of power and affairs; nor to chance or peril expose his person and empire. In truth, many and contrary difficulties pressed and perplexed him: “the German army was the stronger; that of Pannonia nearer; the power of both the Gauls supported the former; the latter was at the gates of Italy. Now to which should he repair first? and would not the last visited be inflamed by being postponed? But by sending one of his sons to each, the equal treatment of both was maintained; as also the majesty of the supreme power, which from distance ever derived most reverence. Besides, the young princes would be excused, if to their father they referred such demands as were for them improper to grant; and if they disobeyed Germanicus and Drusus, his own authority remained to appease or punish them: but if once they had contemned their Emperor himself, what other resource was behind?” However, as if he had been upon the point of marching, he chose his attendance, provided his equipage, and prepared a fleet: but by various delays and pretences, sometimes that of the winter, sometimes business, he deceived for a time even the wisest men; much longer the common people, and the provinces for a great while.
Germanicus had already drawn together his army, and was prepared to take vengeance on the seditious: but judging it proper to allow space for trial, whether they would follow the late example, and consulting their own safety do justice upon one another, he sent letters to Caecina, “that he himself approached, with a powerful force; and if they prevented him not, by executing the guilty, he would put all indifferently to the slaughter.” These letters Caecina privately read to the principal officers, and such of the camp as the sedition had not tainted; besought them “to redeem themselves from death, and all from infamy; urged that in peace alone reason was heard and merit distinguished; but in the rage of war the blind steel spared the innocent no more than the guilty.” The officers, having tried those they believed for their purpose, and found the majority still to persevere in their duty, did, in concurrence with the General, settle the time for falling with the sword upon the most notoriously guilty and turbulent. Upon a particular signal given they rushed into their tents and butchered them, void as they were of all apprehension; nor did any but the centurions and executioners know whence the massacre began, or where it would end.
This had a different face from all the civil slaughters that ever happened: it was a slaughter not of enemies upon enemies, nor from different and opposite camps, nor in a day of battle; but of comrades upon comrades, in the same tents where they ate together by day, where they slept together by night. From this state of intimacy they flew into mortal enmity, and friends launched their darts at friends: wounds, outcries, and blood were open to view; but the cause remained hid: wild chance governed the rest, and several innocents were slain. For the criminals, when they found against whom all this fury was bent, had also betaken themselves to their arms; neither did Caecina, nor any of the Tribunes, intervene to stay the rage; so that the soldiers had full permission to vengeance, and a licentious satiety of killing. Germanicus soon after entered the camp now full of blood and carcasses, and lamenting with many tears that “this was not a remedy, but cruelty and desolation,” commanded the bodies to be burnt. Their minds, still tempestuous and bloody, were transported with sudden eagerness to attack the foe, as the best expiation of their tragical fury: nor otherwise, they thought, could the ghosts of their butchered brethren be appeased, than by receiving in their own profane breasts a chastisement of honourable wounds. Germanicus fell in with the ardour of the soldiers, and laying a bridge upon the Rhine, marched over twelve thousand legionary soldiers, twenty-six cohorts of the allies, and eight regiments of horse; men all untainted in the late sedition.
The Germans rejoiced, not far off, at this vacation of war, occasioned first by the death of Augustus, and afterwards by intestine tumults in the camp; but the Romans by a hasty march passed through the Caesian woods, and levelling the barrier formerly begun by Tiberius, upon it pitched their camp. In the front and rear they were defended by a palisade; on each side by a barricade of the trunks of trees felled. From thence, beginning to traverse gloomy forests, they stopped to consult which of two ways they should choose, the short and frequented, or the longest and least known, and therefore unsuspected by the foe: the longest way was chosen; but in everything else despatch was observed; for by the scouts intelligence was brought that the Germans did, that night, celebrate a festival with great mirth and revelling. Hence Caecina was commanded to advance with the cohorts without their baggage, and to clear a passage through the forest: at a moderate distance followed the legions; the clearness of the night facilitated the march, and they arrived at the villages of the Marsians, which with guards they presently invested. The Germans were even yet under the effects of their debauch, scattered here and there, some in bed, some lying by their tables; no watch placed, no apprehension of an enemy. So utterly had their false security banished all order and care; and they were under no dread of war, without enjoying peace, other than the deceitful and lethargic peace of drunkards.
The legions were eager for revenge; and Germanicus, to extend their ravage, divided them into four battalions. The country was wasted by fire and sword fifty miles round; nor sex nor age found mercy; places sacred and profane had the equal lot of destruction, all razed to the ground, and with them the temple of Tanfana, of all others the most celebrated amongst these nations: nor did all this execution cost the soldiers a wound, while they only slew men half asleep, disarmed, or dispersed. This slaughter roused the Bructerans, the Tubantes, and the Usipetes; and they beset the passes of the forest, through which the army was to return: an event known to Germanicus, and he marched in order of battle. The auxiliary cohorts and part of the horse led the van, followed close by the first legion; the baggage was in the middle; the twenty-first legion closed the left wing, and the fifth the right; the twentieth defended the rear; and after them marched the rest of the allies. But the enemy stirred not, till the body of the army entered the wood: they then began lightly to insult the front and wings; and at last, with their whole force, fell upon the rear. The light cohorts were already disordered by the close German bands, when Germanicus riding up to the twentieth legion, and exalting his voice, “This was the season,” he cried, “to obliterate the scandal of sedition: hence they should fall resolutely on, and into sudden praise convert their late shame and offence.” These words inflamed them: at one charge they broke the enemy, drove them out of the wood, and slaughtered them in the plain. In the meanwhile, the front passed the forest, and fortified the camp: the rest of the march was uninterrupted; and the soldiers, trusting to the merit of their late exploits, and forgetting at once past faults and terrors, were placed in winter quarters.
The tidings of these exploits affected Tiberius with gladness and anguish: he rejoiced that the sedition was suppressed; but that Germanicus had, by discharging the veterans, by shortening the term of service to the rest, and by largesses to all, gained the hearts of the army, as well as earned high glory in war, proved to the Emperor matter of torture. To the Senate, however, he reported the detail of his feats, and upon his valour bestowed copious praises, but in words too pompous and ornamental to be believed dictated by his heart. It was with more brevity that he commended Drusus, and his address in quelling the sedition of Illyricum, but more cordially withal, and in language altogether sincere; and even to the Pannonian legions he extended all the concessions made by Germanicus to his own.
There was this year an admission of new rites, by the establishment of another College of Priests, one sacred to the deity of Augustus; as formerly Titus Tatius, to preserve the religious rites of the Sabines, had founded the fraternity of Titian Priests. To fill the society, one-and- twenty, the most considerable Romans were drawn by lot, and to them added Tiberius, Drusus, Claudius, and Germanicus. The games in honour of Augustus began then first to be embroiled by emulation among the players, and the strife of parties in their behalf. Augustus had countenanced these players and their art, in complaisance to Maecenas, who was mad in love with Bathyllus the comedian; nor to such favourite amusements of the populace had he any aversion himself; he rather judged it an acceptable courtesy to mingle with the multitude in these their popular pleasures. Different was the temper of Tiberius, different his politics: to severer manners, however, he durst not yet reduce the people, so many years indulged in licentious gaieties.
In the consulship of Drusus Caesar and Caius Norbanus, a triumph was decreed to Germanicus, while the war still subsisted. He was preparing with all diligence to prosecute it the following summer; but began much sooner by a sudden irruption early in the spring into the territories of the Cattans: an anticipation of the campaign, which proceeded from the hopes given him of dissension amongst the enemy, caused by the opposite parties of Arminius and Segestes; two men signally known to the Romans upon different accounts; the last for his firm faith, the first for faith violated. Arminius was the incendiary of Germany; but by Segestes had been given repeated warnings of an intended revolt, particularly during the festival immediately preceding the insurrection: he had even advised Varus “to secure himself and Arminius, and all the other chiefs; for that the multitude, thus bereft of their leaders, would dare to attempt nothing; and Varus have time to distinguish crimes and such as committed none.” But by his own fate, and the sudden violence of Arminius, Varus fell. Segestes, though by the weight and unanimity of his nation he was forced into the war, yet remained at constant variance with Arminius: a domestic quarrel too heightened their hate, as Arminius had carried away the daughter of Segestes, already betrothed to another; and the same relations, which amongst friends prove bonds of tenderness, were fresh stimulations of wrath to an obnoxious son and an offended father.
Upon these encouragements, Germanicus to the command of Caecina committed four legions, five thousand auxiliaries, and some bands of Germans, dwellers on this side the Rhine, drawn suddenly together; he led himself as many legions with double the number of allies, and erecting a fort in Mount Taunus, [Footnote: Near Homburg.] upon the old foundations of one raised by his father, rushed full march against the Cattans; having behind him left Lucius Apronius, to secure the ways from the fury of inundations: for as the roads were then dry and the rivers low, events in that climate exceeding rare, he had without check expedited his march; but against his return apprehended the violence of rains and floods. Upon the Cattans he fell with such surprise, that all the weak through sex or age were instantly taken or slaughtered: their youth, by swimming over the Adrana, [Footnote: Eder.] escaped, and attempted to force the Romans from building a bridge to follow them, but by dint of arrows and engines were repulsed; and then, having in vain tried to gain terms of peace, some submitted to Germanicus; the rest abandoned their villages and dwellings, and dispersed themselves in the woods. Mattium, [Footnote: Maden.] the capital of the nation, he burnt, ravaged all the open country, and bent his march to the Rhine; nor durst the enemy harass his rear, an usual practice of theirs, when sometimes they fly more through craft than affright. The Cheruscans indeed were addicted to assist the Cattans, but terrified from attempting it by Caecina, who moved about with his forces from place to place; and by routing the Marsians who had dared to engage him, restrained all their efforts.
Soon after arrived deputies from Segestes, praying relief against the combination and violence of his countrymen, by whom he was held besieged; as more powerful amongst them than his was the credit of Arminius, since it was he who had advised the war. The genius this of barbarians, to judge that men are to be trusted in proportion as they are fierce, and in public commotions ever to prefer the most resolute. To the other deputies Segestes had added Segimundus, his son; but the young man faltered a while, as his own heart accused him; for that the year when Germany revolted, he, who had been by the Romans created Priest of the altar of the Ubians, rent the sacerdotal tiara and fled to the revolters: yet, encouraged by the Roman clemency, he undertook the execution of his father’s orders, was himself graciously received, and then conducted with a guard to the frontiers of Gaul. Germanicus led back his army to the relief of Segestes, and was rewarded with success. He fought the besiegers, and rescued him with a great train of his relations and followers; amongst them too were ladies of illustrious rank, particularly the wife of Arminius, the same who was the daughter of Segestes: a lady more of the spirit of her husband than that of her father; a spirit so unsubdued, that from her eyes captivity forced not a tear, nor from her lips a breath in the style of a supplicant: not a motion of her hands, nor a look escaped her; but, fast across her breast she held her arms, and upon her heavy womb her eyes were immovably fixed. There were likewise carried Roman spoils taken at the slaughter of Varus and his army, and then divided as prey amongst many of those who were now prisoners: at the same time appeared Segestes, of superior stature; and from a confidence in his good understanding with the Romans, undaunted. In this manner he spoke:
“It is not the first day this, that to the Roman People I have approved my faith and adherence: from the moment I was by the deified Augustus presented with the freedom of the city, I have continued by your interest to choose my friends, by your interest to denominate my enemies; from no hate of mine to my native country (for odious are traitors even to the party they embrace), but because the same measures were equally conducing to the benefit of the Romans and of the Germans; and I was rather for peace than war. For this reason to Varus, the then General, I applied, with an accusation against Arminius, who from me had ravished my daughter, and with you violated the faith of leagues: but growing impatient with the slowness and inactivity of Varus, and well apprised how little security was to be hoped from the laws, I pressed him to seize myself, and Arminius, and his accomplices: witness that fatal night, to me I wish it had been the last! more to be lamented than defended are the sad events which followed. I moreover cast Arminius into irons, and was myself cast into irons by his faction; and as soon as to you, Caesar, I could apply, you see I prefer old engagements to present violence, and tranquillity to combustions, with no view of my own to interest or reward, but to banish from me the imputation of perfidiousness. For the German nation, too, I would thus become a mediator, if peradventure they will choose rather to repent than be destroyed: for my son, I intreat you, have mercy upon his youth, and pardon his error; that my daughter is your prisoner by force I own: in your breast it wholly lies under which character you will treat her, whether as one by Arminius impregnated, or by me begotten.” The answer of Germanicus was gracious: he promised indemnity to his children and kindred, and to himself a safe retreat in one of the old provinces; then returned with his army, and by the direction of Tiberius, received the title ofImperator. The wife of Arminius brought forth a male child, and the boy was brought up at Ravenna; his unhappy conflicts afterwards, with the contumelious insults of fortune, will be remembered in their place.
The desertion of Segestes being divulged, with his gracious reception from Germanicus, affected his countrymen variously; with hope or anguish, as they were prone or averse to the war. Naturally violent was the spirit of Arminius, and now, by the captivity of his wife, by the fate of his child doomed to bondage though yet unborn, enraged even to distraction: he flew about amongst the Cheruscans, calling them to arms; to arm against Segestes, to arm against Germanicus. Invectives followed his fury; “A blessed father this Segestes,” he cried! “a mighty general this Germanicus! invincible warriors these Romans! so many troops have made prisoner of a woman. It is not thus that I conquer; before me three legions fell, and three lieutenant-generals. Open and honourable is my method of war, nor waged with big-bellied women, but against men and arms; and treason is none of my weapons. Still to be seen are the Roman standards in the German groves, there by me hung up and devoted to our country Gods. Let Segestes live a slave in a conquered province; let him to his son recover a foreign priesthood: with the German nations he can never obliterate his reproach, that through him they have seen between the Elbe and Rhine rods and axes, and the Roman toga. To other nations who know not the Roman domination, executions and tributes are also unknown; evils which we too have cast off, in spite of that Augustus now dead and enrolled with the Deities; in spite too of Tiberius, his chosen successor: let us not after this dread a mutinous army, and a boy without experience, their commander; but if you love your country, your kindred, your ancient liberty and laws, better than tyrants and new colonies, let Arminius rather lead you to liberty and glory, than the wicked Segestes to the infamy of bondage.”
By these stimulations, not the Cheruscans only were roused, but all the neighbouring nations; and into the confederacy was drawn Inguiomerus, paternal uncle to Arminius, a man long since in high credit with the Romans: hence a new source of fear to Germanicus, who, to avoid the shock of their whole forces, and to divert the enemy, sent Caecina with forty Roman cohorts to the river Amisia, [Footnote: Ems.] through the territories of the Bructerans. Pedo the Prefect led the cavalry by the confines of the Frisians: he himself, on the lake, [Footnote: The Zuyder Zee.] embarked four legions; and upon the bank of the said river the whole body met, foot, horse, and fleet. The Chaucians, upon offering their assistance, were taken into the service; but the Bructerans, setting fire to their effects and dwellings, were routed by Stertinius, by Germanicus despatched against them with a band lightly armed. As this party were engaged between slaughter and plunder, he found the Eagle of the nineteenth legion lost in the overthrow of Varus. The army marched next to the farthest borders of the Bructerans, and the whole country between the rivers Amisia and Luppia [Footnote: Lippe.] was laid waste. Not far hence lay the forest of Teutoburgium, and in it the bones of Varus and the legions, by report still unburied.
Hence Germanicus became inspired with a tender passion to pay the last offices to the legions and their leader; the like tenderness also affected the whole army. They were moved with compassion, some for the fate of their friends, others for that of their relations here tragically slain; they were struck with the doleful casualties of war, and the sad lot of humanity. Caecina was sent before to examine the gloomy recesses of the forest; to lay bridges over the pools; and upon the deceitful marshes, causeways. The army entered the doleful solitude, hideous to sight, hideous to memory. First they saw the camp of Varus, wide in circumference; and the three distinct spaces, allotted to the different Eagles, showed the number of the legions. Further, they beheld the ruinous entrenchment, and the ditch nigh choked up: in it the remains of the army were supposed to have made their last effort, and in it to have found their graves. In the open fields lay their bones all bleached and bare, some separate, some on heaps; just as they had happened to fall, flying for their lives, or resisting unto death. Here were scattered the limbs of horses, there pieces of broken javelins; and the trunks of trees bore the skulls of men. In the adjacent groves were the savage altars; where, of the tribunes and principal centurions, the barbarians had made a horrible immolation. Those who survived the slaughter, having escaped from captivity and the sword, related the sad particulars to the rest: “Here the commanders of the legions were slain; there we lost the Eagles; here Varus had his first wound; there he gave himself another, and perished by his own unhappy hand. In that place, too, stood the tribunal whence Arminius harangued; in this quarter, for the execution of his captives, he erected so many gibbets; in that such a number of funeral trenches were digged; and with these circumstances of pride and despite he insulted the ensigns and Eagles.”
Thus the Roman army buried the bones of the three legions, six years after the slaughter: nor could any one distinguish whether he gathered the particular remains of a stranger, or those of a kinsman; but all considered the whole as their friends, the whole as their relations; with heightened resentments against the foe, at once sad and revengeful. In this pious office, so acceptable to the dead, Germanicus was a partner in the woe of the living; and upon the common tomb laid the first sod: a proceeding not liked by Tiberius; whether it were that upon every action of Germanicus he put a perverse meaning, or believed that the affecting spectacle of the unburied slain would sink the spirit of the army, and heighten their terror of the enemy; as also that “a general vested, as Augur, with the intendency of religious rites, became defiled by touching the solemnities of the dead.”
Arminius, retiring into desert and pathless places, was pursued by Germanicus; who, as soon as he reached him, commanded the horse to advance, and dislodge the enemy from the post they had possessed. Arminius, having directed his men to keep close together, and draw near to the woods, wheeled suddenly about, and to those whom he had hid in the forest gave the signal to rush out: the Roman horse, now engaged by a new army, became disordered, and to their relief some cohorts were sent, but likewise broken by the press of those that fled; and great was the consternation so many ways increased. The enemy too were already pushing them into the morass, a place well known to the pursuers, as to the unapprised Romans it had proved pernicious, had not Germanicus drawn out the legions in order of battle. Hence the enemy became terrified, our men reassured, and both retired with equal loss and advantage. Germanicus presently after returning with the army to the river Amisia, reconducted the legions, as he had brought them, in the fleet: part of the horse were ordered to march along the sea-shore to the Rhine. Caecina, who led his own men, was warned, that though he was to return through unknown roads, yet he should with all speed pass the causeway called the long bridges: it is a narrow track this, between vast marshes, and formerly raised by Lucius Domitius. The marshes themselves are of an uncertain soil, here full of mud, there of heavy sticking clay, or traversed with various currents. Round about are woods which rise gently from the plain, and were already filled with soldiers by Arminius; who, by shorter ways and a running march, had arrived there before our men, who were loaded with arms and baggage. Caecina, who was perplexed how at once to repair the causeway decayed by time, and to repulse the foe, resolved at last to encamp in the place, that whilst some were employed in the work, others might maintain the fight.
The Barbarians strove violently to break our station, and to fall upon the entrenchers: they harassed our men, assaulted the works, changed their attacks, and pushed everywhere. With the shouts of the assailants, the cries of the workmen were confusedly mixed; and all things equally combined to distress the Romans: the place deep with ooze sinking under those who stood, slippery to such as advanced; their armour heavy; the waters deep, nor could they in them launch their javelins. The Cheruscans, on the contrary, were inured to encounters in the bogs; their persons tall, their spears long, such as could wound at a distance. At last the legions, already yielding, were by night redeemed from an unequal combat; but night interrupted not the activity of the Germans, become by success indefatigable. Without refreshing themselves with sleep, they diverted all the courses of the springs which rise in the neighbouring mountains, and turned them into the plains: thus the Roman camp was flooded, the work, as far as they had carried it, overturned, and the labour of the poor soldiers renewed and doubled. To Caecina this year proved the fortieth of his sustaining as officer or soldier the functions of arms; a man in all the vicissitudes of war, prosperous or disastrous, well experienced and thence undaunted. Weighing, therefore, with himself all probable events and expedients, he could devise no other than that of restraining the enemy to the woods, till he had sent forward the wounded men and baggage; for, from the mountains to the marshes there stretched a plain fit only to hold a little army: to this purpose the legions were thus appointed; the fifth had the right wing, and the one-and-twentieth the left; the first led the van; the twentieth defended the rear.
A restless night it was to both armies, but in different ways; the Barbarians feasted and caroused, and with songs of triumph, or with horrid and threatening cries, filled all the plain and echoing woods. Amongst the Romans were feeble fires, sad silence, or broken words; they leaned drooping here and there against the pales, or wandered disconsolately about the tents, like men without sleep, but not quite awake. A frightful dream too terrified the General; he thought he heard and saw Quinctilius Varus, rising out of the marsh all besmeared with blood, stretching forth his hand, and calling upon him; but that he rejected the call and pushed him away. At break of day, the legions posted on the wings, through contumacy or affright, deserted their stations, and took sudden possession of a field beyond the bogs. Neither did Arminius fall straight upon them, however open they lay to his assault; but, when he perceived the baggage set fast in mire and ditches, the soldiers above it disorderly and embarrassed, the ranks and ensigns in confusion, and, as usual in a time of distress, every one in haste to save himself, but slow to obey his officer, he then commanded his Germans to break in, “Behold,” he vehemently cried; “behold again Varus and his legions subdued by the same fate.” Thus he cried, and instantly with a select body broke quite through our forces, and chiefly against the horse directed his havoc; so that the ground becoming slippery by their blood and the slime of the marsh, their feet flew from them, and they cast their riders; then galloping and stumbling amongst the ranks, they overthrew all they met, and trod to death all they overthrew. The greatest difficulty was to maintain the Eagles; a storm of darts made it impossible to advance them, and the rotten ground impossible to fix them. Caecina, while he sustained the fight, had his horse shot, and having fallen was nigh taken; but the first legion saved him. Our relief came from the greediness of the enemy, who ceased slaying to seize the spoil: hence the legions had respite to struggle into the fair field and firm ground. Nor was here an end of their miseries: a palisade was to be raised, an entrenchment digged; their instruments too for throwing up and carrying earth, and their tools for cutting turf, were almost all lost; no tents for the soldiers; no remedies for the wounded; and their food all defiled with mire or blood. As they shared it in sadness amongst them, they lamented that mournful night, they lamented the approaching day, to so many thousand men the last.
It happened that a horse, which had broke his collar as he strayed about, became frightened with noise, and ran over some that were in his way: this raised such a consternation in the camp, from a persuasion that the Germans in a body had forced an entrance, that all rushed to the gates, especially to the postern, as the farthest from the foe, and safer for flight. Caecina having found the vanity of their dread, but unable to stop them, either by his authority, or by his prayers, or indeed by force, flung himself at last across the gate. This prevailed; their awe and tenderness of their General restrained them from running over his body; and the Tribunes and Centurions satisfied them the while, that it was a false alarm.
Then calling them together, and desiring them to hear him with silence, he reminded them of their difficulties, and how to conquer them: “That for their lives they must be indebted to their arms, but force was to be tempered with art; they must therefore keep close within their camp, till the enemy, in hopes of taking it by storm, advanced; then make a sudden sally on every side, and by this push they should break through the enemy, and reach the Rhine. But if they fled, more forests remained to be traversed, deeper marshes to be passed, and the cruelty of a pursuing foe to be sustained.” He laid before them the motives and fruits of victory, public rewards and glory, with every tender domestic consideration, as well as those of military exploits and praise. Of their dangers and sufferings he said nothing. He next distributed horses, first his own, then those of the Tribunes and leaders of the legions, to the bravest soldiers impartially; that thus mounted they might begin the charge, followed by the foot.
Amongst the Germans there was not less agitation, from hopes of victory, greediness of spoil, and the opposite counsels of their leaders. Arminius proposed “to let the Romans march off, and to beset them in their march, when engaged in bogs and fastnesses.” The advice of Inguiomerus was fiercer, and thence by the Barbarians more applauded: he declared “for forcing the camp, for that the victory would be quick, there would be more captives, and entire plunder.” As soon, therefore, as it was light, they rushed out upon the camp, cast hurdles into the ditch, attacked and grappled the palisade. Upon it few soldiers appeared, and these seemed frozen with fear; but as the enemy was in swarms, climbing the ramparts, the signal was given to the cohorts; the cornets and trumpets sounded, and instantly, with shouts and impetuosity, they issued out and begirt the assailants. “Here are no thickets,” they scornfully cried; “no bogs; but an equal field and impartial Gods.” The enemy, who imagined few Romans remaining, fewer arms, and an easy conquest, were struck with the sounding trumpets, with the glittering armour; and every object of terror appeared double to them who expected none. They fell like men who, as they are void of moderation in prosperity, are also destitute of conduct in distress. Arminius forsook the fight unhurt; Inguiomerus grievously wounded; their men were slaughtered as long as day and rage lasted. In the evening the legions returned, in the same want of provisions, and with more wounds; but in victory they found all things, health, vigour, and abundance.
In the meantime a report had flown, that the Roman forces were routed, and an army of Germans upon full march to invade Gaul; so that under the terror of this news there were those whose cowardice would have emboldened them to have demolished the bridge upon the Rhine, had not Agrippina restrained them from that infamous attempt. In truth, such was the undaunted spirit of the woman, that at this time she performed all the duties of a general, relieved the necessitous soldiers, upon the wounded bestowed medicines, and upon others clothes. Caius Plinius, the writer of the German wars, relates that she stood at the end of the bridge, as the legions returned, and accosted them with thanks and praises; a behaviour which sunk deep into the spirit of Tiberius: “For that all this officiousness of hers,” he thought, “could not be upright; nor that it was against foreigners only she engaged the army. To the direction of the generals nothing was now left, when a woman reviewed the companies, attended the Eagles, and to the men distributed largesses: as if before she had shown but small tokens of ambitious designs, in carrying her child (the son of the General) in a soldier’s coat about the camp, with the title of Caesar Caligula: already in greater credit with the army was Agrippina than the leaders of the legions, in greater than their generals; and a woman had suppressed sedition, which the authority of the Emperor was not able to restrain.” These jealousies were inflamed, and more were added, by Sejanus; one who was well skilled in the temper of Tiberius, and purposely furnished him with sources of hatred, to lie hid in his heart, and be discharged with increase hereafter. Germanicus, in order to lighten the ships in which he had embarked his men, and fit their burden to the ebbs and shallows, delivered the second and fourteenth legions to Publius Vitellius, to lead them by land. Vitellius at first had an easy march on dry ground, or ground moderately overflowed by the tide, when suddenly the fury of the north wind swelling the ocean (a constant effect of the equinox) the legions were surrounded and tossed with the tide, and the land was all on flood; the sea, the shore, the fields, had the same tempestuous face; no distinction of depths from shallows; none of firm, from deceitful, footing. They were overturned by the billows, swallowed down by the eddies; and horses, baggage, and drowned men encountered each other, and floated together. The several companies were mixed at random by the waves; they waded, now breast high, now up to the chin, and as the ground failed them, they fell, some never more to rise. Their cries and mutual encouragements availed them nothing against the prevailing and inexorable waves; no difference between the coward and the brave, the wise and the foolish; none between circumspection and chance; but all were equally involved in the invincible violence of the flood. Vitellius, at length struggling on to an eminence, drew the legions thither, where they passed the cold night without fire, and destitute of every convenience; most of them naked or lamed; not less miserable than men enclosed by an enemy; for even to such remained the consolation of an honourable death; but here was destruction every way void of glory. The land returned with the day, and they marched to the river Vidrus, [Footnote: Weser.] whither Germanicus had gone with the fleet. There the two legions were again embarked, when fame had given them for drowned; nor was their escape believed till Germanicus and the army were seen to return.
Stertinius, who in the meanwhile had been sent before to receive Sigimerus, the brother of Segestes (a prince willing to surrender himself) brought him and his son to the city of the Ubians. Both were pardoned; the father freely, the son with more difficulty, because he was said to have insulted the corpse of Varus. For the rest, Spain, Italy, and both the Gauls strove with emulation to supply the losses of the army; and offered arms, horses, money, according as each abounded. Germanicus applauded their zeal; but accepted only the horses and arms for the service of the war. With his own money he relieved the necessities of the soldiers: and to soften also by his kindness the memory of the late havoc, he visited the wounded, extolled the exploits of particulars, viewed their wounds, with hopes encouraged some, with a sense of glory animated others; and by affability and tenderness confirmed them all in devotion to himself and to his fortune in war.
The ornaments of triumph were this year decreed to Aulus Caecina, Lucius Apronius, and Caius Silius, for their services under Germanicus. The title of Father of his Country, so often offered by the people to Tiberius, was rejected by him; nor would he permit swearing upon his acts, though the same was voted by the Senate. Against it he urged “the instability of all mortal things, and that the higher he was raised the more slippery he stood.” But for all this ostentation of a popular spirit, he acquired not the reputation of possessing it, for he had revived the law concerning violated majesty; a law which, in the days of our ancestors, had indeed the same name, but implied different arraignments and crimes, namely, those against the State; as when an army was betrayed abroad, when seditions were raised at home; in short, when the public was faithlessly administered and the majesty of the Roman People was debased: these were actions, and actions were punished, but words were free. Augustus was the first who brought libels under the penalties of this wrested law, incensed as he was by the insolence of Cassius Severus, who had in his writings wantonly defamed men and ladies of illustrious quality. Tiberius too afterwards, when Pompeius Macer, the Praetor, consulted him “whether process should be granted upon this law?” answered, “That the laws must be executed.” He also was exasperated by satirical verses written by unknown authors and dispersed; exposing his cruelty, his pride, and his mind naturally alienated from his mother.
It will be worth while to relate here the pretended crimes charged upon Falanius and Rubrius, two Roman knights of small fortunes; that hence may be seen from what beginnings, and by how much dark art of Tiberius, this grievous mischief crept in; how it was again restrained; how at last it blazed out and consumed all things. To Falanius was objected by his accusers, that “amongst the adorers of Augustus, who went in fraternities from house to house, he had admitted one Cassius, a mimic and prostitute; and having sold his gardens, had likewise with them sold the statue of Augustus.” The crime imputed to Rubrius was, “That he had sworn falsely by the divinity of Augustus.” When these accusations were known to Tiberius, he wrote to the consuls, “That Heaven was not therefore decreed to his father, that the worship of him might be a snare to the citizens of Rome; that Cassius, the player, was wont to assist with others of his profession at the interludes consecrated by his mother to the memory of Augustus: neither did it affect religion, that his effigies, like other images of the Gods, were comprehended in the sale of houses and gardens. As to the false swearing by his name, it was to be deemed the same as if Rubrius had profaned the name of Jupiter; but to the Gods belonged the avenging of injuries done to the Gods.”
Not long after, Granius Marcellus, Praetor of Bithynia, was charged with high treason by his own Quaestor, Cepio Crispinus; Romanus Hispo, the pleader, supporting the charge. This Cepio began a course of life which, through the miseries of the times and the bold wickedness of men, became afterwards famous: at first needy and obscure, but of a busy spirit, he made court to the cruelty of the Prince by occult informations; and presently, as an open accuser, grew terrible to every distinguished Roman. This procured him credit with one, hatred from all, and made a precedent to be followed by others, who from poverty became rich; from being contemned, dreadful; and in the destruction which they brought upon others, found at last their own. He accused Marcellus of “malignant words concerning Tiberius,” an inevitable crime! when the accuser, collecting all the most detestable parts of the Prince’s character, alleged them as the expressions of the accused; for, because they were true, they were believed to have been spoken. To this, Hispo added, “That the statue of Marcellus was by him placed higher than those of the Caesars; and that, having cut off the head of Augustus, he had in the room of it set the head of Tiberius.” This enraged him so, that breaking silence, he cried, “He would himself, in this cause, give his vote explicitly and under the tie of an oath.” By this he meant to force the assent of the rest of the Senate. There remained even then some faint traces of expiring liberty. Hence Cneius Piso asked him, “In what place, Caesar, will you choose to give your opinion? If first, I shall have your example to follow; if last, I fear I may ignorantly dissent from you.” The words pierced him, but he bore them, the rather as he was ashamed of his unwary transport; and he suffered the accused to be acquitted of high treason. To try him for the public money was referred to the proper judges.
Nor sufficed it Tiberius to assist in the deliberations of the Senate only: he likewise sat in the seats of justice; but always on one side, because he would not dispossess the Praetor of his chair; and by his presence there, many ordinances were established against the intrigues and solicitations of the Grandees. But while private justice was thus promoted, public liberty was overthrown. About this time, Pius Aurelius, the Senator, whose house, yielding to the pressure of the public road and aqueducts, had fallen, complained to the Senate and prayed relief: a suit opposed by the Praetors who managed the treasury; but he was relieved by Tiberius, who ordered him the price of his house; for he was fond of being liberal upon honest occasions: a virtue which he long retained, even after he had utterly abandoned all other virtues. Upon Propertius Celer, once Praetor, but now desiring leave to resign the dignity of Senator, as a burden to his poverty, he bestowed a thousand great sesterces; [Footnote: £8333.] upon ample information, that Celer’s necessities were derived from his father. Others, who attempted the same thing, he ordered to lay their condition before the Senate; and from an affectation of severity was thus austere even where he acted with uprightness. Hence the rest preferred poverty and silence to begging and relief.
The same year the Tiber, being swelled with continual rains, overflowed the level parts of the city; and the common destruction of men and houses followed the returning flood. Hence Asinius Callus moved “that the Sibylline books might be consulted.” Tiberius opposed it, equally smothering all inquiries whatsoever, whether into matters human or divine. To Ateius Capito, however, and Lucius Arruntius, was committed the care of restraining the river within its banks. The provinces of Achaia and Macedon, praying relief from their public burdens, were for the present discharged of their Proconsular government, and subjected to the Emperor’s lieutenants. In the entertainment of gladiators at Rome, Drusus presided: it was exhibited in the name of Germanicus, and his own; and at it he manifested too much lust of blood, even of the blood of slaves: a quality terrible to the populace; and hence his father was said to have reproved him. His own absence from these shows was variously construed: by some it was ascribed to his impatience of a crowd; by others to his reserved and solitary genius, and his fear of an unequal comparison with Augustus, who was wont to be a cheerful spectator. But, that he thus purposely furnished matter for exposing the cruelty of his son there, and for raising him popular hate, is what I would not believe; though this too was asserted.
The dissensions of the theatre, begun last year, broke out now more violently, with the slaughter of several, not of the people only, but of the soldiers, with that of a Centurion. Nay, a Tribune of a Praetorian cohort was wounded, whilst they were securing the magistrates from insults, and quelling the licentiousness of the rabble. This riot was canvassed in the Senate, and votes were passing for empowering the Praetors to whip the players. Haterius Agrippa, Tribune of the People, opposed it; and was sharply reprimanded by a speech of Asinius Gallus. Tiberius was silent, and to the Senate allowed these empty apparitions of liberty. The opposition, however, prevailed, in reverence to the authority of Augustus; who, upon a certain occasion, had given his judgment, “that players were exempt from stripes:” nor would Tiberius assume to violate any words of his. To limit the wages of players, and restrain the licentiousness of their partisans, many decrees were made: the most remarkable were, “That no Senator should enter the house of a pantomime; no Roman Knight attend them abroad; they should show nowhere but in the theatre; and the Praetors should have power to punish any insolence in the spectators with exile.”
The Spaniards were, upon their petition, permitted to build a temple to Augustus in the colony of Tarragon; an example this for all the provinces to follow. In answer to the people, who prayed to be relieved from the centesima, a tax of one in the hundred, established at the end of the civil wars, upon all vendible commodities; Tiberius by an edict declared, “That upon this tax depended the fund for maintaining the army; nor even thus was the Commonwealth equal to the expense, if before their twentieth year the veterans were dismissed.” So that the concessions made them during the late sedition, to discharge them finally at the end of sixteen years, as they were made through necessity, were for the future abolished.
It was next proposed to the Senate, by Arruntius and Ateius, whether, in order to restrain the overflowing of the Tiber, the channels of the several rivers and lakes by which it was swelled, must not be diverted. Upon this question the deputies of several cities and colonies were heard. The Florentines besought, “that the bed of the Clanis [Footnote: Chiana.] might not be turned into their river Arnus; [Footnote: Arno.] for that the same would prove their utter ruin.” The like plea was urged by the Interamnates; [Footnote: Terni.] “since the most fruitful plains in Italy would be lost, if, according to the project, the Nar, branched out into rivulets, overflowed them.” Nor were the Reatinians less earnest against stopping the outlets of the Lake Velinus into the Nar; “otherwise,” they said, “it would break over its banks, and stagnate all the adjacent country; the direction of nature was best in all natural things: it was she that to rivers had appointed their courses and discharges, and set them their limits as well as their sources. Regard too was to be paid to the religion of our Latin allies, who, esteeming the rivers of their country sacred, had to them dedicated Priests, and altars, and groves; nay, the Tiber himself, when bereft of his auxiliary streams, would flow with diminished grandeur.” Now, whether it were that the prayers of the colonies, or the difficulty of the work, or the influence of superstition prevailed, it is certain the opinion of Piso was followed; namely, that nothing should be altered,
To Poppeus Sabinus was continued his province of Mesia; and to it was added that of Achaia and Macedon. This too was part of the politics of Tiberius, to prolong governments, and maintain the same men in the same armies, or civil employments, for the most part, to the end of their lives; with what view, is not agreed. Some think “that from an impatience of returning cares, he was for making whatever he once liked perpetual.” Others, “that from the malignity of his invidious nature, he regretted the preferring of many.” There are some who believe, “that as he had a crafty penetrating spirit, so he had an understanding ever irresolute and perplexed.” So much is certain, that he never courted any eminent virtue, yet hated vice; from the best men he dreaded danger to himself, and disgrace to the public from the worst. This hesitation mastered him so much at last that he committed foreign governments to some, whom he meant never to suffer to leave Rome.
Concerning the management of consular elections, either then or afterwards under Tiberius, I can affirm scarce anything: such is the variance about it, not only amongst historians, but even in his own speeches. Sometimes, not naming the candidates, he described them by their family, by their life and manners, and by the number of their campaigns; so as it might be apparent whom he meant. Again, avoiding even to describe them, he exhorted the candidates not to disturb the election by their intrigues, and promised himself to take care of their interests. But chiefly he used to declare, “that to him none had signified their pretensions, but such whose names he had delivered to the Consuls; others too were at liberty to offer the like pretensions, if they trusted to the favour of the Senate or their own merits.” Specious words! but entirely empty, or full of fraud; and by how much they were covered with the greater guise of liberty, by so much threatening a more hasty and devouring bondage.
The commotions in the East happened not ungratefully to Tiberius, since then he had a colour for separating Germanicus from his old and faithful legions; for setting him over strange provinces, and exposing him at once to casual perils and the efforts of fraud. But he, the more ardent he found the affections of the soldiers, and the greater the hatred of his uncle, so much the more intent upon a decisive victory, weighed with himself all the methods of that war, with all the disasters and successes which had befallen him in it to this his third year. He remembered “that the Germans were ever routed in a fair battle, and upon equal ground; that woods and bogs, short summers, and early winters, were their chief resources; that his own men suffered not so much from their wounds, as from tedious marches, and the loss of their arms. The Gauls were weary of furnishing horses; long and cumbersome was his train of baggage, easily surprised, and with difficulty defended; but, if we entered the country by sea, the invasion would be easy, and the enemy unapprised. Besides, the war would be earlier begun; the legions and provisions would be carried together; and the cavalry brought with safety, through the mouths and channels of the rivers, into the heart of Germany.”
On that method therefore he fixed: whilst Publius Vitellius and Publius Cantius were sent to collect the tribute of the Gauls; Silius, Anteius, and Caecina had the direction of building the fleet. A thousand vessels were thought sufficient, and with despatch finished: some were short, sharp at both ends, and wide in the middle, the easier to endure the agitations of the waves; some had flat bottoms, that without damage they might bear to run aground; several had helms at each end, that by suddenly turning the oars only they might work either way. Many were arched over, for carrying the engines of war. They were fitted for holding horses and provisions, to fly with sails, to run with oars, and the spirit and alacrity of the soldiers heightened the show and terror of the fleet. They were to meet at the Isle of Batavia, which was chosen for its easy landing, for its convenience to receive the forces, and thence to transport them to the war. For the Rhine, flowing in one continual channel, or only broken by small islands, is, at the extremity of Batavia, divided as it were into two rivers; one running still through Germany, and retaining the same name and violent current, till it mixes with the ocean; the other, washing the Gallic shore, with a broader and more gentle stream, is by the inhabitants called by another name, the Wahal, which it soon after changes for that of the river Meuse, by whose immense mouth it is discharged into the same ocean.
While the fleet sailed, Germanicus commanded Silius, his lieutenant, with a flying band, to invade the Cattans; and he himself, upon hearing that the fort upon the river Luppia [Footnote: Lippe.] was besieged, led six legions thither: but the sudden rains prevented Silius from doing more than taking some small plunder, with the wife and daughter of Arpus, Prince of the Cattans; nor did the besiegers stay to fight Germanicus, but upon the report of his approach stole off and dispersed. As they had, however, thrown down the common tomb lately raised over the Varian legions, and the old altar erected to Drusus, he restored the altar; and performed in person with the legions the funeral ceremony of running courses to the honour of his father. To replace the tomb was not thought fit; but all the space between Fort Aliso and the Rhine, he fortified with a new barrier.
The fleet was now arrived, the provisions were sent forward; ships were assigned to the legions and the allies; and he entered the canal cut by Drusus, and called by his name. Here he invoked his father “to be propitious to his son attempting the same enterprises; to inspire him with the same counsels, and animate him by his example.” Hence he sailed fortunately through the lakes and the ocean to the river Amisia, [Footnote: Ems.] and at the town of Amisia the fleet was left upon the left shore; and it was a fault that it sailed no higher, for he landed the army on the right shore, so that in making bridges many days were consumed. The horse and the legions passed over without danger, as it was yet ebb; but the returning tide disordered the rear, especially the Batavians, while they played with the waves, and showed their dexterity in swimming; and some were drowned. Whilst Germanicus was encamping, he was told of the revolt of the Angrivarians behind him, and thither he despatched a body of horse and light foot, under Stertinius. who with fire and slaughter took vengeance on the perfidious revolters.
Between the Romans and the Cheruscans flowed the river Visurgis, [Footnote: Weser.] and on the banks of it stood Arminius, with the other chiefs: he inquired whether Germanicus was come; and being answered that he was there, he prayed leave to speak with his brother. This brother of his was in the army, his name Flavius; one remarkable for his lasting faith towards the Romans, and for the loss of an eye in the war under Tiberius. This request was granted: Flavius stepped forward, and was saluted by Arminius, who, having removed his own attendance, desired that our archers ranged upon the opposite banks might retire. When they were withdrawn, “How came you,” says he to his brother, “by that deformity in your face?” The brother having informed him where, and in what fight, was next asked, “what reward he had received?” Flavius answered, “Increase of pay, the chain, the crown, and other military gifts;” all which Arminius treated with derision, as the vile wages of servitude.
Here began a warm contest: Flavius pleaded “the grandeur of the Roman Empire, the power of the Emperor, the Roman clemency to submitting nations, the heavy yoke of the vanquished; and that neither the wife nor son of Arminius was used like a captive.” Arminius to all this opposed “the natural rights of their country, their ancient liberty, the domestic Gods of Germany; he urged the prayers of their common mother joined to his own, that he would not prefer the character of a deserter, that of a betrayer of his family, his countrymen, and kindred, to the glory of being their commander.” By degrees they fell into reproaches; nor would the interposition of the river have restrained them from blows, had not Stertinius hasted to lay hold on Flavius, full of rage, and calling for his arms and his horse. On the opposite side was seen Arminius, swelling with ferocity and threats, and denouncing battle. For, of what he said, much was said in Latin, having as the General of his countrymen served in the Roman armies.
Next day, the German army stood embattled beyond the Visurgis. Germanicus, who thought it became not a General to endanger the legions, till for their passage and security he had placed bridges and guards, made the horse ford over. They were led by Stertinius, and Aemilius, Lieutenant- Colonel of a legion; and these two officers crossed the river in distant places, to divide the foe. Cariovalda, Captain of the Batavians, passed it where most rapid, and was by the Cheruscans, who feigned flight, drawn into a plain surrounded with woods, whence they rushed out upon him and assaulted him on every side; overthrew those who resisted, and pressed vehemently upon those who gave way. The distressed Batavians formed themselves into a ring, but were again broken, partly by a close assault, partly by distant showers of darts. Cariovalda, having long sustained the fury of the enemy, exhorted his men to draw up into platoons, and break through the prevailing host; he himself forced his way into their centre, and fell with his horse under a shower of darts, and many of the principal Batavians round him; the rest were saved by their own bravery, or rescued by the cavalry under Stertinius and Aemilius.
Germanicus, having passed the Visurgis, learned from a deserter, that Arminius had marked out the place of battle; that more nations had also joined him; that they rendezvoused in a wood sacred to Hercules, and would attempt to storm our camp by night. The deserter was believed; the enemy’s fires were discerned; and the scouts having advanced towards them, reported that they had heard the neighing of horses, and the hollow murmur of a mighty and tumultuous host. In this important conjuncture, upon the approach of a decisive battle, Germanicus thought it behoved him to learn the inclinations and spirit of the soldiers and deliberated with himself how to be informed without fraud: “for the reports of the Tribunes and Centurions used to be oftener pleasing than true; his Freedmen had still slavish souls, incapable of free speech; friends were apt to flatter; there was the same uncertainty in an assemble, where the counsel proposed by a few was wont to be echoed by all; in truth, the minds of the soldiery were then best known, when they were least watched; when free and over their meals, they frankly disclosed their hopes and fears.”
In the beginning of night, he went out at the augural gate, with a single attendant; himself disguised with the skin of a wild beast hanging over his shoulders; and choosing secret ways, he escaped the notice of the watch, entered the lanes of the camp, listened from tent to tent, and enjoyed the pleasing display of his own popularity and fame; as one was magnifying the imperial birth of his general; another, his graceful person; and all, his patience, condescension, and the equality of his soul in every temper, pleasant or grave: they confessed the gratitude due to so much merit, and that in battle they ought to express it, and to sacrifice at the same time to glory and revenge these perfidious Germans, who for ever violated stipulations and peace. In the meantime one of the enemy who understood Latin rode up to the palisades, and with a loud voice offered, in the name of Arminius, to every deserter a wife and land, and as long as the war lasted an hundred sesterces a day. [Footnote: 16s. 8d.] This contumely kindled the wrath of the legions: “Let day come,” they cried, “let battle be given: the soldiers would seize and not accept the lands of the Germans; take and not receive German wives; they, however, received the offer as an omen of victory, and considered the money and women as their destined prey.” Near the third watch of the night, they approached and insulted the camp; but without striking a blow, when they found the ramparts covered thick with cohorts, and no advantage given.
Germanicus had the same night a joyful dream: he thought he sacrificed, and, in place of his own robe besmeared with the sacred blood, received one fairer from the hands of his grandmother Augusta; so that elevated by the omen, and by equal encouragement from the auspices, he called an assembly, where he opened his deliberations concerning the approaching battle with all the advantages contributing to victory: “That to the Roman soldiers not only plains and dales, but, with due circumspection, even woods and forests were commodious for an engagement. The huge targets, the enormous spears, of the Barbarians could never be wielded amongst thickets and trunks of trees like Roman swords and javelins, and armour adjusted to the shape and size of their bodies, so that with these tractable arms they might thicken their blows, and strike with certainty at the naked faces of the enemy, since the Germans were neither furnished with headpiece nor coat of mail, nor were their bucklers bound with leather or fortified with iron, but all bare basket-work or painted boards; and though their first ranks were armed with pikes, the rest had only stakes burnt at the end, or short and contemptible darts; for their persons, as they were terrible to sight and violent in the onset, so they were utterly impatient of wounds, unaffected with their own disgrace, unconcerned for the honour of their general, whom they ever deserted and fled; in distress cowards, in prosperity despisers of all divine, of all human laws. In fine, if the army, after their fatigues at sea and their tedious marches by land, longed for an utter end of their labour, by this battle they might gain it. The Elbe was now nearer than the Rhine; and if they would make him a conqueror in those countries where his father and his uncle had conquered, the war was concluded.” The ardour of the soldiers followed the speech of the general, and the signal for the onset was given.
Neither did Arminius or the other chiefs neglect to declare to their several bands that “these Romans were the cowardly fugitives of the Varian army, who, because they could not endure to fight, had afterwards chosen to rebel. That some with backs deformed by wounds, some with limbs maimed by tempests, forsaken of hope, and the Gods against them, were once more presenting their lives to their vengeful foes. Hitherto a fleet, and unfrequented seas, had been the resources of their cowardice against an assaulting or a pursuing enemy; but now that they were to engage hand to hand, vain would be their relief from wind and oars after a defeat. The Germans needed only remember their rapine, cruelty, and pride; and that to themselves nothing remained but either to maintain their native liberty, or by death to prevent bondage.”
The enemy, thus inflamed and calling for battle, were led into a plain called Idistavisus: [Footnote: Near Minden.] it lies between the Visurgis and the hills, and winds unequally along, as it is straitened by the swellings of the mountains or enlarged by the circuits of the river. Behind rose a forest of high trees, thick of branches above but clear of bushes below. The army of Barbarians kept the plain, and the entrances of the forest. The Cheruscans alone sat down upon the mountain, in order to pour down from thence upon the Romans as soon as they became engaged in the fight. Our army marched thus: the auxiliary Gauls and Germans in front, after them the foot archers, next four legions, and then Germanicus with two Praetorian cohorts and the choice of the cavalry; then four legions more, and the light foot with archers on horseback and the other troops of the allies; the men all intent to march in order of battle and ready to engage as they marched.
As the impatient bands of Cheruscans were now perceived descending fiercely from the hills, Germanicus commanded a body of the best horse to charge them in the flank, and Stertinius with the rest to wheel round to attack them in the rear, and promised to be ready to assist them in person. During this a joyful omen appeared: eight eagles were seen to fly toward the wood, and to enter it; a presage of victory to the General. “Advance,” he cried, “follow the Roman birds; follow the tutelar Deities of the legions!” Instantly the foot charged the enemy’s front, and instantly the detached cavalry attacked their flank and rear: this double assault had a strange event; the two divisions of their army fled opposite ways; that in the woods ran to the plain; that in the plain rushed into the woods. The Cheruscans, between both, were driven from the hills; amongst them Arminius, remarkably brave, who with his hand, his voice, and distinguished wounds was still sustaining the fight. He had assaulted the archers, and would have broken through them, but the cohorts of the Retians, the Vindelicians, and the Gauls marched to their relief; however, by his own vigour and the force of his horse, he escaped, his face besmeared with his own blood to avoid being known. Some have related that the Chaucians, who were amongst the Roman auxiliaries, knew him, and let him go; the same bravery or deceit procured Inguiomerus his escape; the rest were everywhere slain; and great numbers attempting to swim the Visurgis were destroyed in it, either pursued with darts, or swallowed by the current, or overwhelmed with the weight of the crowd, or buried under the falling banks; some seeking a base refuge on the tops of trees, and concealment amongst the branches, were shot in sport by the archers, or squashed as the trees were felled: a mighty victory this, and to us far from bloody!
This slaughter of the foe, from the fifth hour of the day till night, filled the country for ten miles with carcasses and arms: amongst the spoils, chains were found, which, sure of conquering, they had brought to bind the Roman captives. The soldiers proclaimed Tiberius Imperator upon the field of battle, and raising a mount, placed upon it as trophies the German arms, with the names of all the vanquished nations inscribed below.
This sight filled the Germans with more anguish and rage than all their wounds, past afflictions, and slaughters. They, who were just prepared to abandon their dwellings, and flit beyond the Elbe, meditate war and grasp their arms: people, nobles, youth, aged, all rush suddenly upon the Roman army in its march and disorder it. They next chose their camp, a strait and moist plain shut in between a river and a forest, the forest too surrounded with a deep marsh, except on one side, which was closed with a barrier raised by the Angrivarians between them and the Cheruscans. Here stood their foot; their horse were distributed and concealed amongst the neighbouring groves, thence, by surprise, to beset the legions in the rear as soon as they had entered the wood.
Nothing of all this was a secret to Germanicus: he knew their counsels, their stations, what steps they pursued, what measures they concealed; and, to the destruction of the enemy, turned their own subtilty and devices. To Seius Tubero, his Lieutenant, he committed the horse and the field; the infantry so disposed, that part might pass the level approaches into the wood, and the rest force the ramparts; this was the most arduous task, and to himself he reserved it; the rest he left to his Lieutenants. Those who had the even ground to traverse, broke easily in; but they who were to assail the rampart, were as grievously battered from above, as if they had been storming a wall. The General perceived the inequality of this close attack, and drawing off the legions a small distance, ordered the slingers to throw, and the engineers to play, to beat off the enemy: immediately showers of darts were poured from the engines, and the defenders of the barrier, the more bold and exposed they were, with the more wounds they were beaten down. Germanicus, having taken the rampart, first forced his way, at the head of the Praetorian cohorts, into the woods, and there it was fought foot to foot; behind, the enemy were begirt with the morass, the Romans with the mountains or the rivers; no room for either to retreat, no hope but in valour, no safety but in victory.
The Germans had no inferior courage, but they were exceeded in the fashion of arms and art of fighting. Their mighty multitude, hampered in narrow places, could not push nor recover their long spears, nor practise in a close combat their usual boundings and velocity of limbs. On the contrary, our soldiers, with handy swords, and their breasts closely guarded with a buckler, delved the large bodies and naked faces of the Barbarians, and opened themselves a way with a havoc of the enemy: besides, the activity of Arminius now failed him, either spent through his continual efforts or slackened by a wound just received. Inguiomerus was everywhere upon the spur, animating the battle, but fortune rather than courage deserted him. Germanicus, to be the easier known, pulled off his helmet, and exhorted his men “to prosecute the slaughter; they wanted no captives,” he said; “only the cutting off that people root and branch would put an end to the war.” It was now late in the day, and he drew off a legion to make a camp; the rest glutted themselves till night, with the blood of the foe; the horse fought with doubtful success.
Germanicus, in a speech from the tribunal, praised his victorious army, and raised a monument of arms with a proud inscription: “That the army of Tiberius Caesar, having vanquished entirely the nations between the Rhine and the Elbe, had consecrated that monument to Mars, to Jupiter, and to Augustus.” Of himself, he made no mention, either fearful of provoking envy, or that he thought it sufficient praise to have deserved it. He had next commanded Stertinius to carry the war amongst the Angrivarians; but they instantly submitted; and these supplicants, by yielding without articles, obtained pardon without reserve.
The summer now declining, some of the legions were sent back into winter quarters by land; more were embarked with Germanicus upon the river Amisia, to go from thence by the ocean. The sea at first was serene, no sound or agitation but from the oars or sails of a thousand ships; but suddenly a black host of clouds poured a storm of hail; furious winds roared on every side, and the tempest darkened the deep, so that all prospect was lost; and it was impossible to steer. The soldiers too, unaccustomed to the terrors of the sea, in the hurry of fear disordered the mariners, or interrupted the skilful by unskilful help. At last the south wind, mastering all the rest, drove the ocean and the sky: the tempest derived new force from the windy mountains and swelling rivers of Germany, as well as from an immense train of clouds; and contracting withal fresh vigour from the boisterous neighbourhood of the north, it hurled the ships and tossed them into the open ocean, or against islands shored with rocks or dangerously beset with covered shoals. The ships by degrees, with great labour and the change of the tide, were relieved from the rocks and sands, but remained at the mercy of the winds; their anchors could not hold them; they were full of water, nor could all their pumps discharge it: hence, to lighten and raise the vessels swallowing at their decks the invading waves, the horses, beasts, baggage, and even the arms were cast into the deep.
By how much the German ocean is more outrageous than the rest of the sea, and the German climate excels in rigour, by so much this ruin was reckoned to exceed in greatness and novelty. They were engaged in a tempestuous sea, believed deep without bottom, vast without bounds, or no shores near but hostile shores: part of the fleet were swallowed up; many were driven upon remote islands void of human culture, where the men perished through famine, or were kept alive by the carcasses of horses cast in by the flood. Only the galley of Germanicus landed upon the coast of the Chaucians, where wandering sadly, day and night, upon the rocks and prominent shore, and incessantly accusing himself as the author of such mighty destruction, he was hardly restrained by his friends from casting himself desperately into the same hostile floods. At last, with the returning tide and an assisting gale, the ships began to return, all maimed, almost destitute of oars, or with coats spread for sails; and some, utterly disabled, were dragged by those that were less. He repaired them hastily, and despatched them to search the islands; and by this care many men were gleaned up; many were by the Angrivarians, our new subjects, redeemed from their maritime neighbours and restored; and some, driven into Great Britain, were sent back by the little British kings. Those who had come from afar, recounted wonders at their return, “the impetuosity of whirlwinds; wonderful birds; sea monsters of ambiguous forms, between man and beasts.” Strange sights these! or the effects of imagination and fear.
The noise of this wreck, as it animated the Germans with hopes of renewing the war, awakened Germanicus also to restrain them: he commanded Caius Silius, with thirty thousand foot and three thousand horse, to march against the Cattans: he himself, with a greater force, invaded the Marsians, where he learnt from Malovendus, their general, lately taken into our subjection, that the Eagle of one of Varus’s legions was hid underground in a neighbouring grove, and kept by a slender guard. Instantly two parties were despatched; one to face the enemy and provoke them from their post; the other to beset their rear and dig up the Eagle; and success attended both. Hence Germanicus advanced with great alacrity, laid waste the country, and smote the foe, either not daring to engage, or, wherever they engaged, suddenly defeated. Nor, as we learnt from the prisoners, were they ever seized with greater dismay: “The Romans,” they cried, “are invincible: no calamities can subdue them: they have wrecked their fleet; their arms are lost; our shores are covered with the bodies of their horses and men; and yet they attack us with their usual ferocity, with the same firmness, and with numbers as it were increased.”
The army was from thence led back into winter quarters, full of joy to have balanced, by this prosperous expedition, their late misfortune at sea; and by the bounty of Germanicus, their joy was heightened, since to each sufferer he caused to be paid as much as each declared he had lost; neither was it doubted but the enemy were humbled, and concerting measures for obtaining peace, and that the next summer would terminate the war. But Tiberius by frequent letters urged him “to come home, there to celebrate the triumph already decreed him; urged that he had already tried enough of events, and tempted abundant hazards: he had indeed fought great and successful battles; but he must likewise remember his losses and calamities, which, however, owing to wind and waves, and no fault of the general, were yet great and grievous. He himself had been sent nine times into Germany by Augustus, and effected much more by policy than arms: it was thus he had brought the Sigambrians into subjection, thus drawn the Suevians and King Maroboduus under the bonds of peace. The Cheruscans too, and the other hostile nations, now the Roman vengeance was satiated, might be left to pursue their own national feuds.” Germanicus besought one year to accomplish his conquest; but Tiberius assailed his modesty with a new bait and fresh opportunity, by offering him another Consulship, for the administration of which he was to attend in person at Rome. He added, “that if the war was still to be prosecuted, Germanicus should leave a field of glory to his brother Drusus, to whom there now remained no other; since the Empire had nowhere a war to maintain but in Germany, and thence only Drusus could acquire the title of Imperator, and merit the triumphal laurel.” Germanicus persisted no longer; though he knew that this was all feigned and hollow, and saw himself invidiously torn away from a harvest of ripe glory.
Decrees of the Senate were made for driving astrologers and magicians out of Italy; and one of the herd, Lucius Pituanius, was precipitated from the Tarpeian Rock: Publius Marcius, another, was, by the judgment of the Consuls, at the sound of trumpet executed without the Esquiline Gate, according to the ancient form.
Next time the Senate sat, long discourses against the luxury of the city were made by Quintus Haterius, a consular, and by Octavius Fronto, formerly Praetor; and a law was passed “against using table-plate of solid gold, and against men debasing themselves with gorgeous and effeminate silks.” Fronto went further, and desired that “the quantities of silver plate, the expense of furniture, and the number of domestics might be limited;” for it was yet common for senators to depart from the present debate and offer, as their advice, whatever they judged conducing to the interest of the commonweal. Against him it was argued by Asinius Callus, “That with the growth of the Empire private riches were likewise grown, and it was no new thing for citizens to live according to their conditions, but agreeable to the most primitive usage: the ancient Fabricii and the later Scipios, having different wealth, lived differently; but all suitably to the several stages of the Commonwealth. Public property was accompanied with domestic; but when the State rose to such a height of magnificence, the magnificence of particulars rose too. As to plate, and train, and expense, there was no standard of excess or frugality, but from the fortunes of men. The law, indeed, had made a distinction between the fortunes of senators and knights; not for any natural difference between them, but that they who excelled in place, rank, and civil pre-eminence, might excel too in other particulars, such as conduced to the health of the body or to the peace and solacement of the soul; unless it were expected, that the most illustrious citizens should sustain the sharpest cares, and undergo the heaviest fatigues and dangers, but continue destitute of every alleviation of fatigue and danger and care.” Gallus easily prevailed, whilst under worthy names he avowed and supported popular vices in an assembly engaged in them. Tiberius too had said, “That it was not a season for reformation; or, if there were any corruption of manners, there would not be wanting one to correct them.”
During these transactions, Lucius Piso, after he had declaimed bitterly in the Senate against “the ambitious practices and intrigues of the Forum, the corruption of the tribunals, and the inhumanity of the pleaders breathing continual terror and impeachments,” declared “he would entirely relinquish Rome, and retire into a quiet corner of the country, far distant and obscure.” With these words he left the Senate; Tiberius was provoked; and yet not only soothed him with gentle words, but likewise obliged Piso’s relations, by their authority or entreaties, to retain him. The same Piso gave soon after an equal instance of the indignation of the free spirit, by prosecuting a suit against Urgulania; a lady whom the partial friendship of Livia had set at defiance with the laws. Urgulania being carried, for protection, to the palace, despised the efforts of Piso; so that neither did she submit; nor would he desist, notwithstanding the complaints and resentments of Livia, that in the prosecution “violence and indignity were done to her own person.” Tiberius promised to attend the trial, and assist Urgulania; but only promised in civility to his mother, for so far he thought it became him; and thus left the palace, ordering his guards to follow at a distance. People the while crowded about him, and he walked with a slow and composed air: as he lingered, and prolonged the time and way with various discourse, the trial went on. Piso would not be mollified by the importunity of his friends; and hence at last the Empress ordered the payment of the money claimed by him. This was the issue of the affair: by it, Piso lost no renown; and it signally increased the credit of Tiberius. The power, however, of Urgulania was so exorbitant to the State, that she disdained to appear a witness in a certain cause before the Senate: and, when it had been always usual even for the Vestal Virgins to attend the Forum and Courts of Justice, as oft as their evidence was required; a Praetor was sent to examine Urgulania at her own house.
The procrastination which happened this year in the public affairs, I should not mention, but that the different opinions of Cneius Piso and Asinius Gallus about it, are worth knowing. Their dispute was occasioned by a declaration of Tiberius; “that he was about to be absent,” and it was the motion of Piso, “that for that very reason, the prosecution of public business was the rather to be continued; since, as in the Prince’s absence, the Senate and equestrian order might administer their several parts, the same would redound to the honour of the Commonwealth.” This was a declaration for liberty, and in it Piso had prevented Gallus, who now in opposition said, “that nothing sufficiently illustrious, nor suiting the dignity of the Roman People, could be transacted but under the immediate eye of the Emperor, and therefore the conflux of suitors and affairs from Italy and the provinces must by all means be reserved for his presence.” Tiberius heard and was silent, while the debate was managed on both sides with mighty vehemence; but the adjournment was carried.
A debate too arose between Gallus and the Emperor: for Gallus moved “that the magistrates should be henceforth elected but once every five years; that the legates of the legions, who had never exercised the Praetorships, should be appointed Praetors; and that the Prince should nominate twelve candidates every year.” It was not doubted but this motion had a deeper aim, and that by it the secret springs and reserves of imperial power were invaded. But Tiberius, as if he rather apprehended the augmentation of his power, argued “that it was a heavy task upon his moderation, to choose so many magistrates, and to postpone so many candidates. That disgusts from disappointments were hardly avoided in yearly elections; though, for their solacement, fresh hopes remained of approaching success in the next; now how great must be the hatred, how lasting the resentment of such whose pretensions were to be rejected beyond five years? and whence could it be foreseen that, in so long a tract of time, the same men would continue to have the same dispositions, the same alliances and fortunes? even an annual designation to power made men imperious; how imperious would it make them, if they bore the honour for five years! besides, it would multiply every single magistrate into five, and utterly subvert the laws which had prescribed a proper space for exercising the diligence of the candidates, and for soliciting as well as enjoying preferments.”
By this speech, in appearance popular, he still retained the spirit and force of the sovereignty. He likewise sustained by gratuities, the dignity of some necessitous Senators: hence it was the more wondered, that he received with haughtiness and repulse the petition of Marcus Hortalus, a young man of signal quality and manifestly poor. He was the grandson of Hortensius the Orator; and had been encouraged by the deified Augustus, with a bounty of a thousand great sestertia, [Footnote: £8333.] to marry for posterity; purely to prevent the extinction of a family most illustrious and renowned. The Senate were sitting in the palace, and Hortalus having set his four children before the door, fixed his eyes, now upon the statue of Hortensius, placed amongst the orators; then upon that of Augustus; and instead of speaking to the question, began on this wise: “Conscript Fathers, you see there the number and infancy of my children; not mine by my own choice, but in compliance with the advice of the Prince: such too was the splendour of my ancestors, that it merited to be perpetuated in their race; but for my own particular, who, marred by the revolution of the times, could not raise wealth, nor engage popular favour, nor cultivate the hereditary fortune of our house, the fortune of Eloquence: I deemed it sufficient if, in my slender circumstances, I lived no disgrace to myself, no burden to others. Commanded by the Emperor, I took a wife; behold the offspring of so many Consuls; behold the descendants of so many Dictators! nor is this remembrance invidiously made, but made to move mercy. In the progress of your reign, Caesar, these children may arrive at the honours in your gift; defend them in the meantime from want: they are the great-grandsons of Hortensius; they are the foster sons of Augustus.”
The inclination of the Senate was favourable; an incitement this to Tiberius the more eagerly to thwart Hortalus. These were in effect his words: “If all that are poor recur hither for a provision of money to their children, the public will certainly fail, and yet particulars never be satiated. Our ancestors, when they permitted a departure from the question, to propose somewhat more important to the State, did not therefore permit it, that we might here transact domestic matters, and augment our private rents: an employment invidious both in the Senate and the Prince; since, whether they grant or deny the petitioned bounties, either the people or the petitioners will ever be offended. But these, in truth, are not petitions; they are demands made against order, and made by surprise: while you are assembled upon other affairs, he stands up and urges your pity, by the number and infancy of his children; with the same violence, he charges the attack to me, and as it were bursts open the exchequer; but if by popular bounties we exhaust it, by rapine and oppression we must supply it. The deified Augustus gave you money, Hortalus; but without solicitation he gave it, and on no condition that it should always be given: otherwise diligence will languish; sloth will prevail; and men having no hopes in resources of their own, no anxiety for themselves, but all securely relying on foreign relief, will become private sluggards and public burdens.” These and the like reasonings of Tiberius were differently received; with approbation by those whose way it is to extol, without distinction, all the doings of Princes, worthy and unworthy; by most, however, with silence, or low and discontented murmurs. Tiberius perceived it, and having paused a little, said “his answer was particularly to Hortalus; but if the Senate thought fit, he would give his sons two hundred great sestertia each.” [Footnote: £1666.] For this all the Senators presented their thanks; only Hortalus said nothing; perhaps through present awe, or perhaps possessed, even in poverty, with the grandeur of his ancient nobility. Nor did Tiberius ever show further pity, though the house of Hortensius was fallen into shameful distress.
At the end of the year, a triumphal arch was raised near the Temple of Saturn; a monument this for the recovery of the Varian Eagles, under the conduct of Germanicus, under the auspices of Tiberius. A temple was dedicated to Happy Fortune near the Tiber, in the gardens bequeathed to the Roman People by Caesar, the Dictator. A chapel was consecrated to the Julian family, and statues to the deified Augustus, in the suburbs called Bovillae. In the consulship of Caius Celius and Lucius Pomponius, the six- and-twentieth of May, Germanicus Caesar triumphed over the Cheruscans, the Cattans, the Angrivarians, and the other nations as far as the Elbe. In the triumph were carried all the spoils and captives, with the representations of mountains, of rivers, and of battles; so that his conquests, because he was restrained from completing them, were taken for complete. His own graceful person, and his chariot filled with his five children, heightened the show and the delight of the beholders; yet they were checked with secret fears, as they remembered “that popular favour had proved malignant to his father Drusus; that his uncle Marcellus was snatched, in his youth, from the burning affections of the populace; and that ever short-lived and unfortunate were the favourites of the Roman People.”
Tiberius distributed to the people, in the name of Germanicus, three hundred sesterces a man, [Footnote: £2, 10s.] and named himself his colleague in the Consulship. Nor even thus did he gain the opinion of tenderness and sincerity: in effect, on pretence of investing the young Prince with fresh preferment and honours, he resolved to alienate him from Rome; and, to accomplish it, craftily framed an occasion, or snatched such an one as chance presented. Archelaus had enjoyed the kingdom of Cappadocia now fifty years; a Prince under the deep displeasure of Tiberius, because, in his retirement at Rhodes, the King had paid him no sort of court or distinction: an omission this which proceeded from no disdain, but from the warnings given him by the confidents of Augustus; for that the young Caius Caesar, the presumptive heir to the sovereignty, then lived, and was sent to compose and administer the affairs of the East; hence the friendship of Tiberius was reckoned then dangerous. But when, by the utter fall of the family of the Caesars, he had gained the Empire, he enticed Archelaus to Rome, by means of letters from his mother, who, without dissembling her son’s resentment, offered the King his mercy, provided he came and in person implored it. He, who was either ignorant of the snare, or dreaded violence if he appeared to perceive it, hastened to the city, where he was received by Tiberius with great sternness and wrath, and soon after accused as a criminal in the Senate. The crimes alleged against him were mere fictions; yet, as equal treatment is unusual to kings, and to be treated like malefactors intolerable; Archelaus, who was broken with grief as well as age, by choice or fate ended his life; his kingdom was reduced into a province, and by its revenues Tiberius declared the tax of a hundredth penny would be abated, and reduced it for the future to the two hundredth. At the same time died Antiochus, king of Comagena, as also Philopator, king of Cilicia; and great combustions shook these nations; whilst of the people many desired Roman government, and many were addicted to domestic monarchy. The provinces, too, of Syria and Judea, as they were oppressed with impositions, prayed an abatement of tribute.
These affairs, and such as I have above related concerning Armenia, Tiberius represented to the Fathers, and “that the commotions of the East could only be settled by the wisdom and abilities of Germanicus; for himself, his age now declined, and that of Drusus was not yet sufficiently ripe.” The provinces beyond the sea were thence decreed to Germanicus, with authority superior to all those who obtained provinces by lot, or the nomination of the Prince; but Tiberius had already taken care to remove from the government of Syria Creticus Silanus, one united to Germanicus in domestic alliance, by having to Nero, the eldest son of Germanicus, betrothed his daughter. In his room he had preferred Cneius Piso, a man of violent temper, incapable of subjection, and heir to all the ferocity and haughtiness of his father Piso; the same who, in the civil war, assisted the reviving party against Caesar in Africa with vehement efforts; and then followed Brutus and Cassius, but had at last leave to come home, yet disdained to sue for any public offices; nay, was even courted by Augustus to accept the Consulship. His son, besides his hereditary pride and impetuosity, was elevated with the nobility and wealth of Plancina his wife; scarce yielded he to Tiberius, and, as men far beneath him, despised the sons of Tiberius; neither did he doubt but he was set over Syria on purpose to thwart the measures and defeat all the views of Germanicus. Some even believed that he had to this purpose secret orders from Tiberius, as it was certain that Livia directed Plancina to exert the spirit of the sex, and by constant emulation and indignities persecute Agrippina. For the whole court was rent, and their affections secretly divided between Drusus and Germanicus. Tiberius was partial to Drusus, as his own son by generation; others loved Germanicus; the more for the aversion of his uncle, and for being by his mother of more illustrious descent; as Marc Anthony was his grandfather, and Augustus his great- uncle. On the other side, Pomponius Atticus, a Roman knight, by being the great-grandfather of Drusus, seemed thence to have derived a stain upon the images of the Claudian house; besides, Agrippina, the wife of Germanicus, did in the fruitfulness of her body and the reputation of her virtue far excel Livia, the wife of Drusus. Yet the two brothers lived in amiable dearness and concord, no wise shaken or estranged by the reigning contention amongst their separate friends and adherents.
Drusus was soon after sent into Illyricum in order to inure him to war, and gain him the affections of the army; besides, Tiberius thought that the youth, who loved wantoning in the luxuries of Rome, would be reformed in the camp, and that his own security would be enlarged when both his sons were at the head of the legions. But the pretence of sending him was the protection of the Suevians, who were then imploring assistance against the powers of the Cheruscans. For these nations, who since the departure of the Romans saw themselves no longer threatened with terrors from abroad, and were then particularly engaged in a national competition for glory, had relapsed, as usual, into their old intestine feuds, and turned their arms upon each other. The two people were equally powerful, and their two leaders equally brave; but differently esteemed, as the title of king upon Maroboduus had drawn the hate and aversion of his countrymen; whilst Arminius, as a champion warring for the defence of liberty, was the universal object of popular affection.
Hence not only the Cheruscans and their confederates, they who had been the ancient soldiery of Arminius, took arms; but to him too revolted the Semnones and Langobards, both Suevian nations, and even subjects of Maroboduus; and by their accession he would have exceeded in puissance, but Inguiomerus with his band of followers deserted to Maroboduus; for no other cause than disdain, that an old man and an uncle like himself should obey Arminius, a young man, his nephew. Both armies were drawn out, with equal hopes; nor disjointed, like the old German battles, into scattered parties for loose and random attacks; for by long war with us they had learnt to follow their ensigns, to strengthen their main body with parties of reserves, and to observe the orders of their generals. Arminius was now on horseback viewing all the ranks: as he rode through them he magnified their past feats; “their liberty recovered; the slaughtered legions; the spoils of arms wrested from the Romans; monuments of victory still retained in some of their hands.” Upon Maroboduus he fell with contumelious names, as “a fugitive, one of no abilities in war; a coward who had sought defence from the gloomy coverts of the Hercynian woods, and then by gifts and solicitations courted the alliance of Rome; a betrayer of his country, and a lifeguard-man of Caesar’s, worthy to be exterminated with no less hostile vengeance than in the slaughter of Quinctilius Varus they had shown. Let them only remember so many battles bravely fought; the events of which, particularly the utter expulsion of the Romans, were sufficient proofs with whom remained the glory of the war.”
Neither did Maroboduus fail to boast himself and depreciate the foe. “In the person of Inguiomerus,” he said (holding him by the hand), “rested the whole renown of the Cheruscans; and from his counsels began all their exploits that ended in success. Arminius, a man of a frantic spirit, and a novice in affairs, assumed to himself the glory of another, for having by treachery surprised three legions, which expected no foe, and their leader, who feared no fraud; a base surprise, revenged since on Germany with heavy slaughters, and on Arminius himself with domestic infamy, while his wife and his son still bore the bonds of captivity. For himself, when attacked formerly by Tiberius at the head of twelve legions, he had preserved unstained the glory of Germany, and on equal terms ended the war. Nor did he repent of the treaty, since it was still in their hands to wage anew equal war with the Romans, or save blood and maintain peace.” The armies, besides the incitements from these speeches, were animated by national stimulations of their own. The Cheruscans fought for their ancient renown; the Langobards for their recent liberty; and the Suevians and their king, on the contrary, were struggling for the augmentation of their monarchy. Never did armies make a fiercer onset; never had onset a more ambiguous event; for both the right wings were routed, and hence a fresh encounter was certainly expected, till Maroboduus drew off his army and encamped upon the hills; a manifest sign this that he was humbled. Frequent desertions too leaving him at last naked of forces, he retired to the Marcomannians, and thence sent ambassadors to Tiberius to implore succours. They were answered, “That he had no right to invoke aid of the Roman arms against the Cheruscans, since to the Romans, while they were warring with the same foe, he had never administered any assistance.” Drusus was, however, sent away, as I have said, with the character of a negotiator of peace.
The same year twelve noble cities of Asia were overturned by an earthquake: the ruin happened in the night, and the more dreadful as its warnings were unobserved; neither availed the usual sanctuary against such calamities, namely, a flight to the fields, since those who fled, the gaping earth devoured. It is reported “that mighty mountains subsided, plains were heaved into high hills: and that with flashes and eruptions of fire, the mighty devastation was everywhere accompanied.” The Sardians felt most heavily the rage of the concussion, and therefore most compassion: Tiberius promised them an hundred thousand great sesterces, [Footnote: £83,000.] and remitted their taxes for five years. The inhabitants of Magnesia, under Mount Sipylus, were held the next in sufferings, and had proportionable relief. The Temnians, Philadelphians, the Aegeatans, Apollonians, with those called the Mostenians or Macedonians of Hyrcania, the cities too of Hierocaesarea, Cyme, and Tmolus, were all for the same term eased of tribute. It was likewise resolved to send one of the Senate to view the desolations and administer proper remedies: Marcus Aletus was therefore chosen, one of Praetorian rank; because, a Consular Senator then governing Asia, had another of the like quality been sent, an emulation between equals was apprehended, and consequently opposition and delays.
The credit of this noble bounty to the public, he increased by private liberalities, which proved equally popular: the estate of the wealthy Aemilia Musa, claimed by the exchequer, as she died intestate, he surrendered to Aemilius Lepidus, to whose family she seemed to belong; as also to Marcus Servilius the inheritance of Patuleius, a rich Roman knight, though part of it had been bequeathed to himself; but he found Servilius named sole heir in a former and well-attested will. He said such was “the nobility of both, that they deserved to be supported.” Nor did he ever to himself accept any man’s inheritance, but where former friendship gave him a title. The wills of such as were strangers to him, and of such as, from hate and prejudice to others, had appointed the Prince their heir, he utterly rejected. But, as he relieved the honest poverty of the virtuous, so he degraded from the Senate (or suffered to quit it of their own accord) Vibidius Varro, Marius Nepos, Appius Appianus, Cornelius Sylla, and Quintus Vitellius, all prodigals, and only through debauchery indigent.
About this time Tiberius finished and consecrated what Augustus began, the Temples of the Gods consumed by age or fire: that near the great Circus, vowed by Aulus Posthumius the Dictator, to Bacchus, Proserpina, and Ceres. In the same place the Temple of Flora, founded by Lucius Publicius and Marcus Publicius while they were Aediles. The Temple of Janus, built in the Herb Market by Caius Duillius, who first signalised the Roman power at sea, and merited a naval triumph over the Carthaginians. That of Hope was dedicated by Germanicus: this temple Atilius had vowed in the same war.
The Consuls for the following year were, Tiberius the third time, Germanicus the second. This dignity overtook Germanicus at Nicopolis, a city of Achaia, whither he arrived by the coast of Illyricum, from visiting his brother Drusus, then abiding in Dalmatia; and had suffered a tempestuous passage, both in the Adriatic and Ionian Sea: he therefore spent a few days to repair his fleet, and viewed the while the Bay of Actium renowned for the naval victory there; as also the spoils consecrated by Augustus, and the Camp of Anthony, with an affecting remembrance of these his ancestors; for Anthony, as I have said, was his great uncle, Augustus his grandfather; hence this scene proved to Germanicus a mighty source of images pleasing and sad. Next he proceeded to Athens, where in concession to that ancient city, allied to Rome, he would use but one Lictor. The Greeks received him with the most elaborate honours, and to dignify their personal flattery, carried before him tablatures of the signal deeds and sayings of his ancestors.
Hence he sailed to Eubea, thence to Lesbos, where Agrippina was delivered of Julia, who proved her last birth; then he kept the coast of Asia and visited Perinthus and Byzantium, cities of Thrace, and entered the straits of Propontis, and the mouth of the Euxine; fond of beholding ancient places long celebrated by fame: he relieved at the same time, the provinces wherever distracted with intestine factions, or aggrieved with the oppressions of their magistrates. In his return he strove to see the religious rites of the Samothracians, but by the violence of the north wind was repulsed from the shore. As he passed, he saw Troy and her remains, venerable for the vicissitude of her fate, and for the birth of Rome: regaining the coast of Asia, he put in at Colophon, to consult there the oracle of the Clarian Apollo: it is no Pythoness that represents the God here, as at Delphos, but a Priest, one chosen from certain families, chiefly of Miletus; neither requires he more than just to hear the names and numbers of the querists, and then descends into the oracular cave; where, after a draught of water from a secret spring, though ignorant for the most part of letters and poetry, he yet utters his answers in verse, which has for its subject the conceptions and wishes of each consultant. He was even said to have sung to Germanicus his hastening fate, but as oracles are wont, in terms dark and doubtful.
But Cneius Piso, hurrying to the execution of his purposes, terrified the city of Athens by a tempestuous entry, and reproached them in a severe speech, with oblique censure of Germanicus, “that debasing the dignity of the Roman name, he had paid excessive court, not to the Athenians by so many slaughters long since extinct, but to the then mixed scum of nations there; for that these were they who had leagued with Mithridates against Sylla, and with Anthony against Augustus.” He even charged them with the errors and misfortunes of ancient Athens; her impotent attempts against the Macedonians; her violence and ingratitude to her own citizens. He was also an enemy to their city from personal anger; because they would not pardon at his request one Theophilus condemned by the Areopagus for forgery. From thence sailing hastily through the Cyclades, and taking the shortest course, he overtook Germanicus at Rhodes, but was there driven by a sudden tempest upon the rocks: and Germanicus, who was not ignorant with what malignity and invectives he was pursued, yet acted with so much humanity, that when he might have left him to perish, and to casualty have referred the destruction of his enemy; he despatched galleys to rescue him from the wreck. This generous kindness however assuaged not the animosity of Piso; and scarce could he brook a day’s delay with Germanicus, but left him in haste to arrive in Syria before him: nor was he sooner there, and found himself amongst the legions, than he began to court the common men by bounties and caresses, to assist them with his countenance and credit, to form factions, to remove all the ancient centurions and every tribune of remarkable discipline and severity, and, in their places, to put dependents of his own, or men recommended only by their crimes; he permitted sloth in the camp, licentiousness in the towns, a rambling and disorderly soldiery, and carried the corruption so high, that in the discourses of the herd, he was styled Father of the Legions. Nor did Plancina restrain herself to a conduct seemly in her sex, but frequented the exercises of the cavalry, and attended the decursions of the cohorts; everywhere inveighing against Agrippina, everywhere against Germanicus; and some even of the most deserving soldiers became prompt to base obedience, from a rumour whispered abroad, “that all this was not unacceptable to Tiberius,”
These doings were all known to Germanicus; but his more instant care was to visit Armenia, an inconstant and restless nation this from the beginning; inconstant from the genius of the people, as well as from the situation of their country, which bordering with a large frontier on our provinces, and stretching thence quite to Media, is enclosed between the two great Empires, and often at variance with them; with the Romans through antipathy and hatred, with the Parthians through competition and envy. At this time and ever since the removal of Vonones, they had no king; but the affections of the nations leaned to Zeno, son of Polemon, king of Pontus, because by an attachment, from his infancy, to the fashions and customs of the Armenians, by hunting, feasting, and other usages practised and renowned amongst the barbarians, he had equally won the nobles and people. Upon his head therefore, at the city of Artaxata, with the approbation of the nobles, in a great assembly, Germanicus put the regal diadem; and the Armenians doing homage to their king, saluted him, Artaxias, a name which from that of their city, they gave him. The Cappadocians, at this time reduced into the form of a province, received for their governor Quintus Veranius; and to raise their hopes of the gentler dominion of Rome, several of the royal taxes were lessened. Quintus Servaeus was set over the Comagenians, then first subjected to the jurisdiction of a Praetor.
From the affairs of the allies, thus all successfully settled, Germanicus reaped no pleasure, through the perverseness and pride of Piso, who was ordered to lead by himself or his son, part of the legions into Armenia, but contemptuously neglected to do either. They at last met at Cyrrum, the winter quarters of the tenth legion, whither each came with a prepared countenance; Piso to betray no fear, and Germanicus would not be thought to threaten. He was indeed, as I have observed, of a humane and reconcilable spirit: but, officious friends expert at inflaming animosities, aggravated real offences, added fictitious, and with manifold imputations charged Piso, Plancina, and their sons. To this interview Germanicus admitted a few intimates, and began his complaints in words such as dissembled resentment dictates. Piso replied with disdainful submissions; and they parted in open enmity. Piso hereafter came rarely to the tribunal of Germanicus; or, if he did, sate sternly there, and in manifest opposition: he likewise published his spite at a feast of the Nabathean King’s, where golden crowns of great weight were presented to Germanicus and Agrippina; but to Piso and the rest, such as were light: “This banquet,” he said, “was made for the son of a Roman prince, not of a Parthian monarch:” with these words, he cast away his crown, and uttered many invectives against luxury: sharp insults and provocations these to Germanicus; yet he bore them.
In the consulship of Marcus Silanus and Lucius Norbanus, Germanicus travelled to Egypt, to view the famous antiquities of the country; though for the motives of the journey, the care and inspection of the province were publicly alleged: and, indeed, by opening the granaries, he mitigated the price of corn, and practised many things grateful to the people; walking without guards, his feet bare, and his habit the same with that of the Greeks; after the example of Publius Scipio, who, we are told, was constant in the same practices in Sicily, even during the rage of the Punic War there. For these his assumed manners and foreign habit, Tiberius blamed him in a gentle style, but censured him with great asperity for violating an establishment of Augustus, and entering Alexandria without consent of the Prince. For Augustus, amongst other secrets of power, had appropriated Egypt, and restrained the senators, and dignified Roman knights from going thither without licence; as he apprehended that Italy might be distressed with famine by any who seized that province, the key to the Empire by sea and land, and defensible by a light band of men against potent armies.
Germanicus, not yet informed that his journey was censured, sailed up the Nile, beginning at Canopus, [Footnote: Near Aboukir.] one of its mouths: it was built by the Spartans, as a monument to Canopus, a pilot buried there, at the time when Menelaus returning to Greece was driven to different seas and the Lybian continent. Hence he visited the next mouth of the river sacred to Hercules: him the nations aver to have been born amongst them; that he was the most ancient of the name, and that all the rest, who with equal virtue followed his example, were, in honour, called after him. Next he visited the mighty antiquities of ancient Thebes; [Footnote: Karnak and Luxor.] where upon huge obelisks yet remained Egyptian characters, describing its former opulency: one of the oldest priests was ordered to interpret them; he said they related “that it once contained seven hundred thousand fighting men; that with that army King Rhamses had conquered Lybia, Ethiopia, the Medes and Persians, the Bactrians and Scythians; and to his Empire had added the territories of the Syrians, Armenians, and their neighbours the Cappadocians; a tract of countries reaching from the sea of Bithynia to that of Lycia:” here also was read the assessment of tribute laid on the several nations; what weight of silver and gold; what number of horses and arms; what ivory and perfumes, as gifts to the temples; what measures of grain; what quantities of all necessaries, were by each people paid; revenues equally grand with those exacted by the denomination of the Parthians, or by the power of the Romans.
Germanicus was intent upon seeing other wonders: the chief were; the effigies of Memnon, a colossus of stone, yielding when struck by the solar rays, a vocal sound; the Pyramids rising, like mountains, amongst rolling and almost impassable waves of sand; monuments these of the emulation and opulency of Egyptian kings; the artificial lake, a receptacle of the overflowing Nile; and elsewhere abysses of such immense depth, that those, who tried, could never fathom. Thence he proceeded to Elephantina and Syene, two islands, formerly frontiers of the Roman empire, which is now widened to the Red Sea.
Whilst Germanicus spent this summer in several provinces, Drusus was sowing feuds amongst the Germans, and thence reaped no light renown; and, as the power of Maroboduus was already broken, he engaged them to persist and complete his ruin. Amongst the Gotones was a young man of quality, his name Catualda, a fugitive long since from the violence of Maroboduus, but now in his distress, resolved on revenge: hence with a stout band, he entered the borders of the Marcomannians, and corrupting their chiefs into his alliance, stormed the regal palace, and the castle situate near it. In the pillage were found the ancient stores of prey accumulated by the Suevians; as also many victuallers and traders from our provinces; men who were drawn hither from their several homes, first by privilege of traffic, then retained by a passion to multiply gain, and at last, through utter oblivion of their own country, fixed, like natives, in a hostile soil.
To Maroboduus on every side forsaken, no other refuge remained but the mercy of Caesar: he therefore passed the Danube where it washes the province of Norica, and wrote to Tiberius; not however in the language of a fugitive or supplicant, but with a spirit suitable to his late grandeur, “that many nations invited him to them, as a king once so glorious; but he preferred to all the friendship of Rome.” The Emperor answered, “that in Italy he should have a safe and honourable retreat, and, when his affairs required his presence, the same security to return.” But to the Senate he declared, “that never had Philip of Macedon been so terrible to the Athenians; nor Pyrrhus, nor Antiochus to the Roman people.” The speech is extant: in it he magnifies “the greatness of the man, the fierceness and bravery of the nations his subjects; the alarming nearness of such an enemy to Italy, and his own artful measures to destroy him.” Maroboduus was kept at Ravenna, for a check and terror to the Suevians; as if, when at any time they grew turbulent, he were there in readiness to recover their subjection: yet in eighteen years he left not Italy, but grew old in exile there; his renown too became eminently diminished; such was the price he paid for an over-passionate love of life. The same fate had Catualda, and no other sanctuary; he was soon after expulsed by the forces of the Hermundurans led by Vibilius, and being received under the Roman protection, was conveyed to Forum Julium, a colony in Narbon Gaul. The barbarians their followers, lest, had they been mixed with the provinces, they might have disturbed their present quiet, were placed beyond the Danube, between the rivers Marus and Cusus, and for their king had assigned them Vannius, by nation a Quadian.
As soon as it was known at Rome, that Artaxias was by Germanicus given to the Armenians for their king, the fathers decreed to him and Drusus the lesser triumph: triumphal arches were likewise erected, on each side of the Temple of Mars the Avenger, supporting the statues of these two Caesars; and for Tiberius, he was more joyful to have established peace by policy, than if by battles and victories he had ended the war.
Germanicus returning from Egypt, learned that all his orders left with the legions, and the eastern cities, were either entirely abolished, or contrary regulations established: a ground this for his severe reproaches and insults upon Piso. Nor less keen were the efforts and machinations of Piso against Germanicus; yet Piso afterwards determined to leave Syria, but was detained by the following illness of Germanicus: again when he heard of his recovery, and perceived that vows were paid for his restoration; the Lictors, by his command, broke the solemnity, drove away the victims already at the altars; overturned the apparatus of the sacrifice; and scattered the people of Antioch employed in celebrating the festival. He then departed to Seleucia, waiting the event of the malady which had again assaulted Germanicus. His own persuasion too, that poison was given him by Piso, heightened the cruel vehemence of the disease: indeed, upon the floors and walls were found fragments of human bodies, the spoils of the grave; with charms and incantations; and the name of Germanicus graved on sheets of lead; carcasses half burnt, besmeared with gore; and other witchcrafts, by which souls are thought doomed to the infernal gods: besides there were certain persons, charged as creatures of Piso, purposely sent and employed to watch the progress and efforts of the disease.
These things filled Germanicus with apprehensions great as his resentment: “If his doors,” he said, “were besieged, if under the eyes of his enemies he must render up his spirit, what was to be expected to his unhappy wife, what to his infant children?” The progress of poison was thought too slow; Piso was impatient, and urging with eagerness to command alone the legions, to possess alone the province: but Germanicus was not sunk to such lowness and impotence, that the price of his murder should remain with the murderer: and by a letter to Piso, he renounced his friendship: some add, that he commanded him to depart the province. Nor did Piso tarry longer, but took ship; yet checked her sailing in order to return with the more quickness, should the death of Germanicus the while leave the government of Syria vacant.
Germanicus, after a small revival, drooping again; when his end approached, spoke on this wise to his attending friends: “Were I to yield to the destiny of nature; just, even then, were my complaints against the Gods, for hurrying me from my parents, my children, and my country, by a hasty death, in the prime of life: now shortened in my course by the malignity of Piso, and his wife, to your breasts I commit my last prayers: tell my father, tell my brother, with what violent persecutions afflicted, with what mortal snares circumvented, I end a most miserable life by death of all others the worst. All they whose hopes in my fortune, all they whose kindred blood, and even they whose envy, possessed them with impressions about me whilst living, shall bewail me dead; that once great in glory, and surviving so many wars, I fell at last by the dark devices of a woman. To you will be place left to complain in the Senate, and place to invoke the aid and vengeance of the laws. To commemorate the dead with slothful wailings, is not the principal office of friends: they are to remember his dying wishes, to fulfil his last desires. Even strangers will lament Germanicus: you are my friends: if you loved me rather than my fortune, you will vindicate your friendship: show the people of Rome my wife, her who is the grand-daughter of Augustus, and enumerate to them our six children. Their compassion will surely attend you who accuse; and the accused, if they pretend clandestine warrants of iniquity, will not be believed; if believed, not pardoned.” His friends, as a pledge of their fidelity, touching the hand of the dying prince, swore that they would forego their lives sooner than their revenge. Then turning to his wife, he besought her “that in tenderness to his memory, in tenderness to their common children, she would banish her haughty spirit, yield to her hostile fortune, nor, upon her return to Rome, by an impotent competition for ruling, irritate those who were masters of rule.” So much openly, and more in secret; whence he was believed to have warned her of guile and danger from Tiberius. Soon after he expired, to the heavy sorrow of the province, and of all the neighbouring countries; insomuch that remote nations and foreign kings were mourners: such had been his complacency to our confederates; such his humanity to his enemies! Alike venerable he was, whether you saw him or heard him; and without ever departing from the grave port and dignity of his sublime rank, he yet lived destitute of arrogance and untouched by envy.
The funeral, which was performed without exterior pomp or a procession of images, drew its solemnity from the loud praises and amiable memory of his virtues. There were those who from his loveliness, his age, his manner of dying, and even from the proximity of places where both departed, compared him in the circumstances of his fate, to Great Alexander: “Each of a graceful person, each of illustrious descent; in years neither much exceeding thirty; both victims to the malice and machinations of their own people, in the midst of foreign nations: but Germanicus gentle towards his friends; his pleasures moderate; confined to one wife; all his children by one bed; nor less a warrior, though not so rash, and however hindered from a final reduction of Germany, broken by him in so many victories, and ready for the yoke: so that had he been sole arbiter of things, had he acted with the sovereignty and title of royalty, he had easier overtaken him in the glory of conquests, as he surpassed him in clemency, in moderation, and in other virtues.” His body, before its commitment to the pile, was exhibited naked in the Forum of Antioch, the place where the pile was erected: whether it bore the marks of poison, remained undecided: for, people as they were divided in their affections, as they pitied Germanicus, and presumed the guilt of Piso, or were partial to him, gave opposite accounts.
It was next debated amongst the legates of the legions and the other senators there, to whom should be committed the administration of Syria: and after the faint effort of others, it was long disputed between Vibius Marsus and Cneius Sentius: Marsus at last yielded to Sentius, the older man and the more vehement competitor. By him one Martina, infamous in that province for practices in poisoning, and a close confidant of Plancina, was sent to Rome, at the suit of Vitellius, Veranius, and others, who were preparing criminal articles against Piso and Plancina, as against persons evidently guilty.
Agrippina, though overwhelmed with sorrow, and her body indisposed, yet impatient of all delays to her revenge, embarked with the ashes of Germanicus, and her children; attended with universal commiseration, “that a lady, in quality a princess, wont to be beheld in her late splendid wedlock with applauses and adorations, was now seen bearing in her bosom her husband’s funeral urn, uncertain of vengeance for him and fearful for herself; unfortunate in her fruitfulness, and from so many children obnoxious to so many blows of fortune.” Piso the while was overtaken at the Isle of Coös by a message, “that Germanicus was deceased,” and received it intemperately, slew victims and repaired with thanksgiving to the temples: and yet, however immoderate and undisguised was his joy, more arrogant and insulting proved that of Plancina, who immediately threw off her mourning, which for the death of a sister she wore, and assumed a dress adapted to gaiety and gladness.
About him flocked the Centurions with officious representations, “that upon him particularly were bent the affections and zeal of the legions, and he should proceed to resume the province, at first injuriously taken from him and now destitute of a governor.” As he therefore consulted what he had best pursue, his son Marcus Piso advised “a speedy journey to Rome: hitherto,” he said, “nothing past expiation was committed; nor were impotent suspicions to be dreaded; nor the idle blazonings of fame: his variance and contention with Germanicus was perhaps subject to hate and aversion, but to no prosecution or penalty; and, by bereaving him of the province, his enemies were gratified: but if he returned thither, as Sentius would certainly oppose him with arms, a civil war would thence be actually begun: neither would the Centurions and soldiers persist in his party; men with whom the recent memory of their late commander, and an inveterate love to the Caesarian general, were still prevalent.”
Domitius Celer, one in intimate credit with Piso, argued on the contrary, “that the present event must by all means be improved; it was Piso and not Sentius who had commission to govern Syria; upon him, were conferred the jurisdiction of Praetor, and the badges of magistracy, and with him the legions were instructed: so that if acts of hostility were by his opponents attempted, with how much better warrant could he avow assuming arms in his own right and defence, who was thus vested with the authority of general, and acted under special orders from the Emperor. Rumours too were to be neglected, and left to perish with time: in truth to the sallies and violence of recent hate the innocent were often unequal: but were he once possessed of the army, and had well augmented his forces, many things, not to be foreseen, would from fortune derive success. Are we then preposterously hastening to arrive at Rome with the ashes of Germanicus, that you may there fall, unheard and undefended, a victim to the wailings of Agrippina, a prey to the passionate populace governed by the first impressions of rumour? Livia, it is true, is your confederate; Tiberius is your friend; but both secretly: and indeed none will more pompously bewail the violent fate of Germanicus, than such as for it do most sincerely rejoice.”
Piso of himself prompt to violent pursuits, was with no great labour persuaded into this opinion, and, in a letter transmitted to Tiberius, accused Germanicus “of luxury and pride: that for himself, he had been expulsed, to leave room for dangerous designs against the State, and now resumed, with his former faith and loyalty, the care of the army.” In the meantime he put Domitius on board a galley, and ordered him to avoid appearing upon the coasts or amongst the isles, but, through the main sea, to sail to Syria. The deserters, who from all quarters were flocking to him in crowds, he formed into companies, and armed all the retainers to the camp; then sailing over to the continent, intercepted a regiment of recruits, upon their march into Syria; and wrote to the small kings of Cilicia to assist him with present succours: nor was the younger Piso slow in prosecuting all the measures of war, though to adventure a war had been against his sentiments and advice.
As they coasted Lycia and Pamphilia, they encountered the ships which carried Agrippina, with hostile spirit on each side, and each at first prepared for combat; but as equal dread of one another possessed both, proceeded not further than mutual contumelies. Vibius Marsus particularly summoned Piso, as a criminal, to Rome, there to make his defence: he answered with derision “that when the Praetor, who was to sit upon poisonings, had assigned a day to the accusers and the accused, he would attend.” Domitius, the while, landing at Laodicea, a city of Syria, would have proceeded to the winter quarters of the sixth legion, which he believed to be the most prone to engage in novel attempts, but was prevented by Pacuvius, its commander. Sentius represented this by letter to Piso, and warned him, “at his peril to infect the camp by ministers of corruption; or to assail the province of war;” and drew into a body such as he knew loved Germanicus, or such as were averse to his foes: upon them he inculcated with much ardour, that Piso was with open arms attacking the majesty of the Prince, and invading the Roman State; and then marched at the head of a puissant body, equipped for battle and resolute to engage.
Neither failed Piso, though his enterprises had thus far miscarried, to apply the securest remedies to his present perplexities; and therefore seized a castle of Cilicia strongly fortified, its name Celendris: for, to the auxiliary Cilicians, sent him by the petty kings, he had joined his body of deserters, as also the recruits lately intercepted, with all his own and Plancina’s slaves; and thus in number and bulk had of the whole composed a legion. To them he thus harangued: “I who am the lieutenant of Caesar, am yet violently excluded from the province which to me Caesar has committed: not excluded by the legions (for by their invitation I am arrived), but by Sentius, who thus disguises under feigned crimes against me, his own animosity and personal hate: but with confidence you may stand in battle, where the opposite army, upon the sight of Piso, a commander lately by themselves styled their Father, will certainly refuse to fight; they know too, that were right to decide it, I am the stronger; and of no mean puissance in a trial at arms.” He then arrayed his men without the fortifications, on a hill steep and craggy, for all the rest was begirt by the sea: against them stood the veterans regularly embattled, and supported with a body of reserve; so that here appeared the force of men, there only the terror and stubbornness of situation. On Piso’s side was no spirit, nor hope, nor even weapons save those of rustics, for instant necessity hastily acquired. As soon as they came to blows, the issue was no longer doubtful than while the Roman cohorts struggled up the steep: the Cilicians then fled, and shut themselves up in the castle.
Piso having the while attempted in vain to storm the fleet, which rode at a small distance, as soon as he returned, presented himself upon the walls; where, by a succession of passionate complaints and entreaties, now bemoaning in agonies the bitterness of his lot, then calling and cajolling every particular soldier by his name, and by rewards tempting all, he laboured to excite a sedition; and thus much had already effected, that the Eagle-bearer of the sixth legion revolted to him with his Eagle. This alarmed Sentius, and instantly he commanded the cornets and trumpets to sound, a mound to be raised, the ladders placed, and the bravest men to mount, and others to pour from the engines volleys of darts and stones, and flaming torches. The obstinacy of Piso was at last vanquished; and he desired “that upon delivering his arms he might remain in the castle till the Emperor’s pleasure, to whom he would commit the government of Syria, were known;” conditions which were not accepted; nor was aught granted him save ships and a passport to Rome.
After the illness of Germanicus grew current there, and all its circumstances, like rumours magnified by distance, were related with many aggravations; sadness seized the people; they burned with indignation, and even poured out in plaints the anguish of their souls. “For this,” they said, “he had been banished to the extremities of the Empire, for this the province of Syria was committed to Piso, and these the fruits of Livia’s mysterious conferences with Plancina: truly had our fathers spoken concerning his father Drusus; that the possessors of rule beheld with an evil eye the popular spirit of their sons; nor for aught else were they sacrificed, but for their equal treatment of the Roman People, and studying to restore the popular state.” These lamentations of the populace were, upon the tidings of his death, so inflamed, that, without staying for an edict from the magistrates, without a decree of Senate, they by general consent assumed a vacation; the public courts were deserted, private houses shut up, prevalent everywhere were the symptoms of woe, heavy groans, dismal silence; the whole a scene of real sorrow, and nothing devised for form or show; and, though they forbore not to bear the exterior marks and habiliments of mourning; in their souls they mourned still deeper. Accidentally some merchants from Syria, who had left Germanicus still alive, brought more joyful news of his condition: these were instantly believed, and instantly proclaimed: each, as fast as they met, informed others, who forthwith conveyed their light information with improvements and accumulated joy to more, and all flew with exultation through the city; and, to pay their thanks and vows, burst open the temple doors: the night too heightened their credulity, and affirmation was bolder in the dark. Nor did Tiberius restrain the course of these fictions, but left them to vanish with time: hence with more bitterness they afterwards grieved for him, as if anew snatched from them.
Honours were invented and decreed to Germanicus, various as the affections and genius of the particular Senators who proposed them: “that his name should be sung in the Salian hymns; curule chairs placed for him amongst the priests of Augustus, and over these chairs oaken crowns hung; his statue in ivory precede in the Cercensian games; none but one of the Julian race be, in the room of Germanicus, created flamen or augur:” triumphal arches were added; one at Rome; one upon the banks of the Rhine; one upon Mount Amanus, in Syria; with inscriptions of his exploits, and a testimony subjoined, “that he died for the Commonwealth:” a sepulchre at Antioch, where his corpse was burnt; a tribunal at Epidaphne, the place where he ended his life. The multitude of statues, the many places where divine honours were appointed to be paid him, would not be easily recounted. They would have also decreed him, as to one of the masters of eloquence, a golden shield, signal in bulk as in metal; but Tiberius offered to dedicate one himself, such as was usual and of a like size with others; for that eloquence was not measured by fortune; and it was sufficient glory, if he were ranked with ancient writers. The battalion called after the name of the Junii was now, by the equestrian order, entitled the battalion of Germanicus, and a rule made that, on every fifteenth of July, these troops should follow, as their standard, the effigies of Germanicus: of these honours many continue; some were instantly omitted, or by time are utterly obliterated.
In the height of this public sorrow, Livia, sister to Germanicus, and married to Drusus, was delivered of male twins: an event even in middling families, rare and acceptable, and to Tiberius such mighty matter of joy, that he could not refrain boasting to the fathers, “that to no Roman of the same eminence, before him, were never two children born at a birth:” for to his own glory he turned all things, even things fortuitous. But to the people, at such a sad conjuncture, it brought fresh anguish; as they feared that the family of Drusus thus increased, would press heavy upon that of Germanicus.
The same year the lubricity of women was by the Senate restrained with severe laws; and it was provided, “that no woman should become venal, if her father, grandfather or husband, were Roman knights.” For Vistilia, a lady born of a Praetorian family, had before the Aediles published herself a prostitute; upon a custom allowed by our ancestors, who thought that prostitutes were by thus avowing their infamy, sufficiently punished. Titidius Labeo too was questioned, that in the manifest guilt of his wife, he had neglected the punishment prescribed by the law; but he alleged that the sixty days allowed for consultation were not elapsed; and it was deemed sufficient to proceed against Vistilia, who was banished to the Isle of Seriphos. Measures were also taken for exterminating the solemnities of the Jews and Egyptians; and by decree of Senate four thousand descendants of franchised slaves, all defiled with that superstition, but of proper strength and age, were to be transported to Sardinia; to restrain the Sardinian robbers; and if, through the malignity of the climate, they perished, despicable would be the loss: the rest were doomed to depart Italy, unless by a stated day they renounced their profane rites.
After this Tiberius represented that, to supply the place of Occia, who had presided seven and fifty years with the highest sanctimony over the Vestals, another virgin was to be chosen; and thanked Fonteius Agrippa and Asinius Pollio, that by offering their daughters, they contended in good offices towards the Commonwealth. Pollio’s daughter was preferred; for nothing else but that her mother had ever continued in the same wedlock: for Agrippa, by a divorce, had impaired the credit of his house: upon her who was postponed, Tiberius, in consolation, bestowed for her fortune a thousand great sestertia. [Footnote: £8300.]
As the people murmured at the severe dearth of corn, he settled grain at a price certain to the buyer, and undertook to pay fourteenpence a measure to the seller: neither yet would he accept the name of Father of his Country, a title offered him before, and for these bounties, now again; nay, he sharply rebuked such as styled these provisions of his, divine occupations, and him, Lord: hence freedom of speech became cramped and insecure, under such a Prince; one who dreaded liberty, and abhorred flattery.
I find in the writers of those times, some of them Senators, that in the Senate were read letters from Adgandestrius, prince of the Cattans, undertaking to despatch Arminius, if in order to it poison were sent him; and an answer returned, “that not by frauds and blows in the dark, but armed and in the face of the sun, the Roman People took vengeance on their foes.” In this Tiberius gained equal glory with our ancient captains, who rejected and disclosed a plot to poison King Pyrrhus. Arminius however, who upon the departure of the Romans and expulsion of Maroboduus, aimed at royalty, became thence engaged in a struggle against the liberty of his country; and, in defence of their liberty, his countrymen took arms against him: so that, while with various fortune he contended with them, he fell by the treachery of his own kindred: the deliverer of Germany without doubt he was; one who assailed the Roman power, not like other kings and leaders, in its first elements, but in its highest pride and elevation; one sometimes beaten in battle, but never conquered in war: thirty-seven years he lived; twelve he commanded; and, amongst these barbarous nations, his memory is still celebrated in their songs; but his name unknown in the annals of the Greeks, who only admire their own national exploits and renown; nor even amongst the Romans does this great captain bear much distinction, while, overlooking instances of modern prowess and glory, we only delight to magnify men and feats of old.
Agrippina, notwithstanding the roughness of winter, pursuing without intermission her boisterous voyage, put in at the Island Corcyra, [Footnote: Corfu.] situate over against the coasts of Calabria. Here to settle her spirit, she spent a few days, violent in her grief, and a stranger to patience. Her arrival being the while divulged, all the particular friends to her family, mostly men of the sword, many who had served under Germanicus, and even many strangers from the neighbouring towns, some in officiousness towards the Emperor, more for company, crowded to the city of Brundusium, the readiest port in her way and the safest landing. As soon as the fleet appeared in the deep, instantly were filled, not the port alone and adjacent shores, but the walls and roofs, and as far as the eye could go; filled with the sorrowing multitude. They were consulting one from one, how they should receive her landing, “whether with universal silence, or with some note of acclamation.” Nor was it manifest which they would do, when the fleet stood slowly in, not as usual with joyful sailors and cheerful oars, but all things impressed with the face of sadness. After she descended from the ship, accompanied with her two infants, carrying in her bosom the melancholy urn, with her eyes cast steadily down; equal and universal were the groans of the beholders: nor could you distinguish relations from strangers, nor the wailings of men from those of women, unless that the new-comers, who were recent in their sallies of grief, exceeded Agrippina’s attendants, wearied out with long lamentations.
Tiberius had despatched two Praetorian cohorts, with directions, that the magistrates of Calabria, Apulia and Campania, should pay their last offices to the memory of his son: upon the shoulders therefore of the Tribunes and Centurions his ashes were borne; before went the ensigns rough and unadorned, with the fasces reversed. As they passed through the colonies, the populace were in black, the knights in purple; and each place, according to its wealth, burnt precious raiment, perfumes and whatever else is used in funeral solemnities: even they whose cities lay remote attended: to the Gods of the dead they slew victims, they erected altars, and with tears and united lamentations, testified their common sorrow. Drusus came as far as Terracina, with Claudius the brother of Germanicus, and those of his children who had been left at Rome. The Consuls Marcus Valerius and Marcus Aurelius (just then entered upon their office), the Senate, and great part of the people, filled the road; a scattered procession, each walking and weeping his own way: in this mourning, flattery had no share; for all knew how real was the joy, how hollow the grief, of Tiberius for the death of Germanicus.
Tiberius and Livia avoided appearing abroad: public lamentation they thought below their grandeur; or perhaps they apprehended that their countenances, examined by all eyes, might show deceitful hearts. That Antonia, mother to the deceased, bore any part in the funeral, I do not find either in the historians or in the city journals: though, besides Agrippina, and Drusus, and Claudius, his other relations are likewise there recorded by name: whether by sickness she was prevented; or whether her soul vanquished by sorrow, could not bear the representation of such a mighty calamity. I would rather believe her constrained by Tiberius and Livia, who left not the palace; and affecting equal affliction with her, would have it seem that, by the example of the mother, the grandmother too and uncle were detained.
The day his remains were reposited in the tomb of Augustus, various were the symptoms of public grief; now the vastness of silence; now the uproar of lamentation; the city in every quarter full of processions; the field of Mars on a blaze of torches: here the soldiers under arms, the magistrates without the insignia, the people by their tribes, all cried in concert that “the Commonwealth was fallen, and henceforth there was no remain of hope;” so openly and boldly that you would have believed they had forgot, who bore sway. But nothing pierced Tiberius more than the ardent affections of the people towards Agrippina, while such titles they gave her as “the ornament of her country, the only blood of Augustus, the single instance of ancient virtue;” and, while applying to heaven, they implored “the continuance of her issue, that they might survive the persecuting and malignant.”
There were those who missed the pomp of a public funeral, and compared with this the superior honours and magnificence bestowed by Augustus on that of Drusus the father of Germanicus; “that he himself had travelled, in the sharpness of winter, as far as Pavia, and thence, continuing by the corpse, had with it entered the city; round his head were placed the images of the Claudii and Julii; he was mourned in the Forum; his encomium pronounced in the Rostras; all sorts of honours, such as were the inventions of our ancestors, or the improvements of their posterity, were heaped upon him. But to Germanicus were denied the ordinary solemnities, and such as were due to every distinguished Roman. In a foreign country indeed, his corpse because of the long journey, was burnt without pomp; but afterwards, it was but just to have supplied the scantiness of the first ceremony by the solemnity of the last: his brother met him but one day’s journey; his uncle not even at the gate. Where were those generous observations of the ancients; the effigies of the dead borne on a bed, hymns composed in memory of their virtue, with the oblations of praise and tears? Where at least were the ceremonies and even outside of sorrow?”
All this was known to Tiberius; and, to suppress the discourses of the populace, he published an edict, “that many illustrious Romans had died for the Commonwealth, but none so vehemently lamented: this however was to the glory of himself and of all men, if a measure were observed. The same things which became private families and small states, became not Princes and an Imperial People: fresh grief indeed required vent and ease by lamentation; but it was now time to recover and fortify their minds. Thus the deified Julius, upon the loss of an only daughter; thus the deified Augustus, upon the hasty death of his grandsons, had both vanquished their sorrow. More ancient examples were unnecessary; how often the Roman People sustained with constancy the slaughter of their armies, the death of their generals, and entire destruction of their noblest families: Princes were mortal; the Commonwealth was eternal: they should therefore resume their several vocations.” And because the Megalesian games were at hand, he added, “that they should even apply to the usual festivities.”
The vacation ended, public affairs were resumed; Drusus departed for the army in Illyricum, and the minds of all men were bent upon seeing vengeance done upon Piso. They repeated their resentments, that while he wandered over the delightful countries of Asia and Greece, he was stifling, by contumacious and deceitful delays, the evidences of his crimes; for it was bruited abroad, that Martina, she who was famous for poisonings, and sent, as I have above related, by Cneius Sentius towards Rome, was suddenly dead at Brundusium; that poison lay concealed in a knot of her hair, but upon her body were found no symptoms of self-murder.
Piso, sending forward his son to Rome, with instructions how to soften the Emperor, proceeded himself to Drusus: him he hoped to find less rigid for the death of a brother, than favourable for the removal of a rival. Tiberius, to make show of a spirit perfectly unbiassed, received the young man graciously, and honoured him with the presents usually bestowed on young noblemen. The answer of Drusus to Piso was, “That if the current rumours were true, he stood in the first place of grief and revenge; but he hoped they were false and chimerical, and that the death of Germanicus would be pernicious to none.” This he declared in public, and avoided all privacy: nor was it doubted but the answer was dictated by Tiberius; when a youth, otherwise easy and unwary, practised thus the wiles and cunning of age.
Piso having crossed the sea of Dalmatia, and left his ships at Ancona, took first the road of Picenum and then the Flaminian way, following the legion which was going from Pannonia to Rome, and thence to garrison in Africa. This too became the subject of popular censure, that he officiously mixed with the soldiers, and courted them in their march and quarters: he therefore, to avoid suspicion; or, because when men are in dread, their conduct wavers, did at Narni embark upon the Nar, and thence sailed into the Tiber. By landing at the burying-place of the Caesars, he heightened the wrath of the populace: besides, he and Plancina came ashore, in open day, in the face of the city who were crowding the banks, and proceeded with gay countenances; he attended by a long band of clients, she by a train of ladies. There were yet other provocations to hatred; the situation of his house, proudly overlooking the Forum, and adorned and illuminated as for a festival; the banquet and rejoicings held in it, and all as public as the place.
The next day Fulcinius Trio arraigned Piso before the Consuls, but was opposed by Vitellius, Veranius, and others, who had accompanied Germanicus: they said, “that in this prosecution Trio had no part; nor did they themselves act as accusers, but only gathered materials, and, as witnesses, produced the last injunctions of Germanicus.” Trio dropped that accusation; but got leave to call in question his former life: and now the Emperor was desired to undertake the trial; a request which the accused did not at all oppose, dreading the inclinations of the people and Senate: he knew Tiberius, on the contrary, resolute in despising popular rumours, and in guilt confederate with his mother: besides that truth and misrepresentations were easiest distinguished by a single judge, but in assemblies odium and envy often prevailed. Tiberius was aware of the weight of the trial, and with what reproaches he was assaulted. Admitting therefore a few confidants, he heard the charge of the accusers, as also the apology of the accused; and left the cause entire to the Senate.
Drusus returned the while from Illyricum; and though the Senate had for the reduction of Maroboduus, and other his exploits the summer before, decreed him the triumph of ovation; he postponed the honour, and privately entered the city. Piso, for his advocates, desired Titus Arruntius, Fulcinius, Asinius Gallus, Eserninus Marcellus, and Sextus Pompeius: but they all framed different excuses; and he had, in their room, Marcus Lepidus, Lucius Piso and Liveneius Regulus. Now earnest were the expectations of all men, “how great would prove the fidelity of the friends of Germanicus; what the assurance of the criminal, what the behaviour of Tiberius; whether he would sufficiently smother, or betray his sentiments.” He never had a more anxious part; neither did the people ever indulge themselves in such secret murmurs against their Emperor, nor harbour in silence severer suspicions.
When the Senate met, Tiberius made a speech full of laboured moderation: “That Piso had been his father’s lieutenant and friend; and lately appointed by himself, at the direction of the Senate, coadjutor to Germanicus in administering the affairs of the East: whether he had there by contumacy and opposition exasperated the young Prince, and exulted over his death, or wickedly procured it, they were then to judge with minds unprejudiced. For, if he who was the lieutenant of my son violated the limits of his commission, cast off obedience to his general, and even rejoiced at his decease and at my affliction; I will detest the man, I will banish him from my house, and for domestic injuries exert domestic revenge; not the revenge of an Emperor. But for you; if his guilt of any man’s death whatsoever is discovered, show your just vengeance, and by it satisfy yourselves, satisfy the children of Germanicus, and us his father and grandmother. Consider too especially, whether he vitiated the discipline and promoted sedition in the army; whether he sought to debauch the affections of the soldiers, and to recover the province by arms: or whether these allegations are not published falsely and with aggravations by the accusers, with whose over-passionate zeal, I am justly offended: for, whither tended the stripping the corpse and exposing it to the eyes and examination of the populace; with what view was it proclaimed even to foreign nations, that his death was the effect of poison; if all this was still doubtful, and remains yet to be tried? It is true I bewail my son, and shall ever bewail him: but neither do I hinder the accused to do what in him lies to manifest his innocence, even at the expense of Germanicus, if aught blamable was in him. From you I entreat the same impartiality: let not the connection of my sorrow with this cause, mislead you to take crimes for proved because they are imputed. For Piso; if the tenderness of kinsmen, if the faith of friends, has furnished him with patrons, let them aid him in his peril, show their utmost eloquence, and exert their best diligence. To the same pains, to the same firmness I exhort the accusers. Thus much we will grant to the memory of Germanicus, that the inquest concerning his death, be held rather here than in the Forum, in the Senate than the common Tribunals. In all the rest, we will descend to the ordinary methods. Let no man in this cause consider Drusus’s tears; let none regard my sorrow, no more than the probable fictions of calumny against us.”
Two days were then appointed for maintaining the charge; six for preparing the defence, and three for making it. Fulcinius began with things stale and impertinent, about the ambition and rapine of Piso in his administration of Spain: things which, though proved, brought him under no penalty, if acquitted of the present charge; nor, though he had been cleared of former faults, could he escape the load of greater enormities. After him Servaeus, Veranius, and Vitellius, all with equal zeal, but Vitellius with great eloquence urged “that Piso, in hatred to Germanicus, and passionate for innovations, had by tolerating general licentiousness, and the oppression of the allies, corrupted the common soldiers to that degree, that by the most profligate he was styled Father of the Legions: he had, on the contrary, been outrageous to the best men, above all to the friends and companions of Germanicus; and, at last, by witchcraft and poison destroyed Germanicus himself: hence the infernal charms and immolations practised by him and Plancina: he had then attacked the Commonwealth with open arms; and, before he could be brought to be tried, they were forced to fight and defeat him.”
In every article but one his defence was faltering. For, neither his dangerous intrigues in debauching the soldiery, nor his abandoning the province to the most profligate and rapacious, nor even his insults to Germanicus, were to be denied. He seemed only to wipe off the charge of poison; a charge which in truth was not sufficiently corroborated by the accusers, since they had only to allege, “that at an entertainment of Germanicus, Piso, while he sat above him, with his hands poisoned the meat.” It appeared absurd that amongst so many attending slaves besides his own, in so great a presence, and under the eye of Germanicus, he would attempt it: he himself required that the waiters might be racked, and offered to the rack his own domestics: but the Judges were implacable, implacable from different motives; Tiberius for the war raised in the province; and the Senate could never be convinced that the death of Germanicus was not the effect of fraud. Some moved for the letters written to Piso from Rome; a motion opposed by Tiberius no less than by Piso. From without, at the same time, were heard the cries of the people, “that if he escaped the judgment of the Senate, they would with their own hands destroy him.” They had already dragged his statues to the place from whence malefactors were precipitated, and there had broken them; but by the orders of Tiberius they were rescued and replaced. Piso was put into a litter and carried back by a tribune of a Praetorian cohort; an attendance variously understood, whether as a guard for his safety, or a minister of death.
Plancina was under equal public hatred, but had more secret favour: hence it was doubted how far Tiberius durst proceed against her. For herself; while her husband’s hopes were yet plausible, she professed “she would accompany his fortune, whatever it were, and, if he fell, fall with him.” But when by the secret solicitations of Livia, she had secured her own pardon, she began by degrees to drop her husband, and to make a separate defence. After this fatal warning, he doubted whether he should make any further efforts; but, by the advice of his sons, fortifying his mind, he again entered the Senate: there he found the prosecution renewed, suffered the declared indignation of the Fathers, and saw all things cross and terrible; but nothing so much daunted him as to behold Tiberius, without mercy, without wrath, close, dark, unmovable, and bent against every access of tenderness. When he was brought home, as if he were preparing for his further defence the next day, he wrote somewhat, which he sealed and delivered to his freedman: he then washed and anointed, and took the usual care of his person. Late in the night, his wife leaving the chamber, he ordered the door to be shut; and was found, at break of day, with his throat cut, his sword lying by him.
I remember to have heard from ancient men, that in the hands of Piso was frequently seen a bundle of writings, which he did not expose, but which, as his friends constantly averred, “contained the letters of Tiberius and his cruel orders towards Germanicus: that he resolved to lay them before the Fathers and to charge the Emperor, but was deluded by the hollow promises of Sejanus: and that neither did Piso die by his own hands, but by those of an express and private executioner.” I dare affirm neither; nor yet ought I to conceal the relations of such as still lived when I was a youth. Tiberius, with an assumed air of sadness, complained to the Senate, that Piso, by that sort of death, had aimed to load him with obloquy; and asked many questions how he had passed his last day, how his last night? The freedman answered to most with prudence, to some in confusion. The Emperor then recited the letter sent him by Piso. It was conceived almost in these words: “Oppressed by a combination of my enemies and the imputation of false crimes; since no place is left here to truth and my innocence; to the Immortal Gods I appeal, that towards you, Caesar, I have lived with sincere faith, nor towards your mother with less reverence. For my sons I implore her protection and yours: my son Cneius had no share in my late management whatever it were, since, all the while, he abode at Rome: and my son Marcus dissuaded me from returning to Syria. Oh that, old as I am, I had yielded to him, rather than he, young as he is, to me! Hence more passionately I pray that innocent as he is, he suffer not in the punishment of my guilt: by a series of services for five-and-forty years, I entreat you; by our former fellowship in the consulship; by the memory of the deified Augustus, your father; by his friendship to me; by mine to you, I entreat you for the life and fortune of my unhappy son. It is the last request I shall ever make you.” Of Plancina he said nothing.
Tiberius, upon this, cleared the young man of any crime as to the civil war: he alleged “the orders of his father, which a son could not disobey.” He likewise bewailed “that noble house, and even the grievous lot of Piso himself, however deserved,” For Plancina he pleaded with shame and guilt, alleging the importunity of his mother; against whom more particularly the secret murmurs of the best people waxed bitter and poignant. “Was it then the tender part of a grandmother to admit to her sight the murderess of her grandson, to be intimate with her, and to snatch her from the vengeance of the Senate? To Germanicus alone was denied what by the laws was granted to every citizen. By Vitellius and Veranius, the cause of that prince was mourned and pleaded: by the Emperor and his mother, Plancina was defended and protected. Henceforth she might pursue her infernal arts so successfully tried, repeat her poisonings, and by her arts and poisons assail Agrippina and her children; and, with the blood of that most miserable house, satiate the worthy grandmother and uncle.” In this mock trial two days were wasted; Tiberius, all the while, animating the sons of Piso to defend their mother: when the pleaders and witnesses had vigorously pushed the charge, and no reply was made, commiseration prevailed over hatred. The Consul Aurelius Cotta was first asked his opinion: for, when the Emperor collected the voices, the magistrates likewise voted. Cotta’s sentence was, “that the name of Piso should be razed from the annals, part of his estate forfeited, part granted to his son Cneius, upon changing that name; his son Marcus be divested of his dignity, and content with fifty thousand great sestertia, [Footnote: £42,000.] be banished for ten years: and to Plancina, at the request of Livia, indemnity should be granted.”
Much of this sentence was abated by the Emperor; particularly that of striking Piso’s name out of the annals, when “that of Marc Anthony, who made war upon his country; that of Julius Antonius, who had by adultery violated the house of Augustus, continued still there.” He also exempted Marcus Piso from the ignominy of degradation, and left him his whole paternal inheritance; for, as I have already often observed, he was to the temptations of money incorruptible, and from the shame of having acquitted Plancina, rendered then more than usually mild. He likewise withstood the motion of Valerius Messalinus, “for erecting a golden statue in the Temple of Mars the Avenger;” and that of Caecina Severus, “for founding an altar to revenge.” “Such monuments as these,” he argued, “were only fit to be raised upon foreign victories; domestic evils were to be buried in sadness.” Messalinus had added, “that to Tiberius, Livia, Antonia, Agrippina and Drusus, public thanks were to be rendered for having revenged the death of Germanicus;” but had omitted to mention Claudius. Messalinus was asked by Lucius Asprenas, in the presence of the Senate, “Whether by design he had omitted him?” and then at last the name of Claudius was subjoined. To me, the more I revolve the events of late or of old, the more of mockery and slipperiness appears in all human wisdom and the transactions of men: for, in popular fame, in the hopes, wishes and veneration of the public, all men were rather destined to the Empire, than he for whom fortune then reserved the sovereignty in the dark.
A few days after, Vitellius, Veranius and Servaeus, were by the Senate preferred to the honours of the Priesthood, at the motion of Tiberius. To Fulcinius he promised his interest and suffrage towards preferment, but advised him “not to embarrass his eloquence by impetuosity.” This was the end of revenging the death of Germanicus; an affair ambiguously related, not by those only who then lived and interested themselves in it, but likewise the following times: so dark and intricate are all the highest transactions; while some hold for certain facts, the most precarious hearsays; others turn facts into falsehood; and both are swallowed and improved by the credulity of posterity. Drusus went now without the city, there to renew the ceremony of the auspices, and presently re-entered in the triumph of ovation. A few days after died Vipsania his mother; of all the children of Agrippa, the only one who made a pacific end: the rest manifestly perished, or are believed to have perished, by the sword, poison, or famine.
The qualifying of the Law Papia Poppaea was afterwards proposed; a law which, to enforce those of Julius Caesar, Augustus had made when he was old, for punishing celibacy and enriching the Exchequer. Nor even by this means had marriages and children multiplied, while a passion to live single and childless prevailed: but, in the meantime, the numbers threatened and in danger by it increased daily, while by the glosses and chicane of the impleaders every family was undone. So that, as before the city laboured under the weight of crimes, so now under the pest of laws. From this thought I am led backwards to the first rise of laws, and to open the steps and causes by which we are arrived to the present number and excess; a number infinite and perplexed.
The first race of men, free as yet from every depraved passion, lived without guile and crimes, and therefore without chastisements or restraints; nor was there occasion for rewards, when of their own accord they pursued righteousness: and as they courted nothing contrary to justice, they were debarred from nothing by terrors. But, after they had abandoned their original equality, and from modesty and shame to do evil, proceeded to ambition and violence; lordly dominion was introduced and arbitrary rule, and in many nations grew perpetual. Some, either from the beginning, or after they were surfeited with kings, preferred the sovereignty of laws; which, agreeable to the artless minds of men, were at first short and simple. The laws in most renown were those framed for the Cretans by Minos; for the Spartans by Lycurgus; and afterwards such as Solon delivered to the Athenians, now greater in number and more exquisitely composed. To the Romans justice was administered by Romulus according to his pleasure: after him, Numa managed the people by religious devices and laws divine. Some institutions were made by Tullus Hostilius, some by Ancus Martius; but above all our laws were those founded by Servius Tullius; they were such as even our kings were bound to obey.
Upon the expulsion of Tarquin; the people, for the security of their freedom against the encroachment and factions of the Senate, and for binding the public concord, prepared many ordinances: hence were created the Decemviri, and by them were composed the twelve tables, out of a collection of the most excellent institutions found abroad. The period this of all upright and impartial laws. What laws followed, though sometimes made against crimes and offenders, were yet chiefly made by violence, through the animosity of the two Estates, and for seizing unjustly withholden offices or continuing unjustly in them, or for banishing illustrious patriots, and to other wicked ends. Hence the Gracchi and Saturnini, inflamers of the people; and hence Drusus vying, on behalf of the Senate, in popular concessions with these inflamers; and hence the corrupt promises made to our Italian allies, promises deceitfully made, or, by the interposition of some Tribune, defeated. Neither during the war of Italy, nor during the civil war, was the making of regulations discontinued; many and contradictory were even then made. At last Sylla the Dictator, changing or abolishing the past, added many of his own, and procured some respite in this matter, but not long; for presently followed the turbulent pursuits and proposals of Lepidus, and soon after were the Tribunes restored to their licentious authority of throwing the people into combustions at pleasure. And now laws were not made for the public only, but for particular men particular laws; and corruption abounding in the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth abounded in laws.
Pompey was, now in his third Consulship, chosen to correct the public enormities; and his remedies proved to the State more grievous than its distempers. He made laws such as suited his ambition, and broke them when they thwarted his will; and lost by arms the regulations which by arms he had procured. Henceforward for twenty years discord raged, and there was neither law nor settlement; the most wicked found impunity in the excess of their wickedness; and many virtuous men, in their uprightness met destruction. At length, Augustus Caesar in his sixth Consulship, then confirmed in power without a rival, abolished the orders which during the Triumvirate he had established, and gave us laws proper for peace and a single ruler. These laws had sanctions severer than any heretofore known: as their guardians, informers were appointed, who by the Law Papia Poppaea were encouraged with rewards, to watch such as neglected the privileges annexed to marriage and fatherhood, and consequently could claim no legacy or inheritance, the same, as vacant, belonging to the Roman People, who were the public parent. But these informers struck much deeper: by them the whole city, all Italy, and the Roman citizens in every part of the Empire, were infested and persecuted: numbers were stripped of their entire fortunes, and terror had seized all; when Tiberius, for a check to this evil, chose twenty noblemen, five who were formerly Consuls, five who were formerly Praetors, with ten other Senators, to review that law. By them many of its intricacies were explained, its strictness qualified; and hence some present alleviation was yielded.
Tiberius about this time, to the Senate recommended Nero, one of the sons of Germanicus, now seventeen years of age, and desired “that he might be exempted from executing the office of the Vigintivirate, [Footnote: Officers for distributing the public lands; for regulating the mint, the roads, and the execution of criminals.] and have leave to sue for the Quaestorship five years sooner than the laws directed.” A piece of mockery, this request to all who heard it: but, Tiberius pretended “that the same concessions had been decreed to himself and his brother Drusus, at the request of Augustus.” Nor do I doubt, but there were then such who secretly ridiculed that sort of petitions from Augustus: such policy was however natural to that Prince, while he was but yet laying the foundations of the Imperial power, and while the Republic and its late laws were still fresh in the minds of men: besides, the relation was lighter between Augustus and his wife’s sons, than between a grandfather and his grandsons. To the grant of the Quaestorship was added a seat in the College of Pontiffs; and the first day he entered the Forum in his manly robe, a donative of corn and money was distributed to the populace, who exulted to behold a son of Germanicus now of age. Their joy was soon heightened by his marriage with Julia, the daughter of Drusus. But as these transactions were attended with public applauses; so the intended marriage of the daughter of Sejanus with the son of Claudius was received with popular indignation. By this alliance the nobility of the Claudian house seemed stained; and by it Sejanus, already suspected of aspiring views, was lifted still higher.
At the end of this year died Lucius Volusius and Sallustius Crispus; great and eminent men. The family of Volusius was ancient, but, in the exercise of public offices, rose never higher than the Praetorship; it was he, who honoured it with the Consulship: he was likewise created Censor for modelling the classes of the equestrian order; and first accumulated the wealth which gave that family such immense grandeur. Crispus was born of an equestrian house, great nephew by a sister to Caius Sallustius, the renowned Roman historian, and by him adopted: the way to the great offices was open to him; but, in imitation of Maecenas, he lived without the dignity of Senator, yet outwent in power many who were distinguished with Consulships and triumphs: his manner of living, his dress and daintiness were different from the ways of antiquity; and, in expense and affluence, he bordered rather upon luxury. He possessed however a vigour of spirit equal to great affairs, and exerted the greater promptness for that he hid it in a show of indolence and sloth: he was therefore, in the time of Maecenas, the next in favour, afterwards chief confidant in all the secret counsels of Augustus and Tiberius, and privy and consenting to the order for slaying Agrippa Posthumus. In his old age he preserved with the Prince rather the outside than the vitals of authority: the same had happened to Maecenas. It is the fate of power, which is rarely perpetual; perhaps from satiety on both sides, when Princes have no more to grant, and Ministers no more to crave.
Next followed the Consulship of Tiberius and Drusus; to Tiberius the fourth, to Drusus the second: a Consulship remarkable, for that in it the father and son were colleagues. There was indeed the same fellowship between Tiberius and Germanicus, two years before; but besides the distastes of jealousy in the uncle, the ties of blood were not so near. In the beginning of the year, Tiberius, on pretence of his health, retired to Campania; either already meditating a long and perpetual retirement; or to leave to Drusus, in his father’s absence, the honour of executing the Consulship alone: and there happened a thing which, small in itself, yet as it produced mighty contestation, furnished the young Consul with matter of popular affection. Domitius Corbulo, formerly Praetor, complained to the Senate of Lucius Sylla, a noble youth, “that in the show of gladiators, Sylla would not yield him place.” Age, domestic custom, and the ancient men were for Corbulo: on the other side, Mamercus Scaurus, Lucius Arruntius, and others laboured for their kinsman Sylla: warm speeches were made, and the examples of our ancestors were urged, “who by severe decrees had censured and restrained the irreverence of the youth.” Drusus interposed with arguments proper for calming animosities, and Corbulo had satisfaction made him by Scaurus, who was to Sylla both father-in-law and uncle, and the most copious orator of that age. The same Corbulo, exclaiming against “the condition of most of the roads through Italy, that through the fraud of the undertakers and negligence of the overseers, they were broken and unpassable;” undertook of his own accord the cure of that abuse; an undertaking which he executed not so much to the advantage of the public as to the ruin of many private men in their fortunes and reputation, by his violent mulcts and unjust judgments and forfeitures.
Upon this occasion Caecina Severus proposed, “that no magistrate should go into any province accompanied by his wife.” He introduced this motion with a long preface, “that he lived with his own in perfect concord, by her he had six children; and what he offered to the public he had practised himself, having during forty years’ service left her still behind him, confined to Italy. It was not indeed, without cause, established of old, that women should neither be carried by their husbands into confederate nations nor foreign. A train of women introduced luxury in peace, by their fears retarded war, and made a Roman army resemble, in their march, a mixed host of barbarians. The sex was not tender only and unfit for travel, but, if suffered, cruel, aspiring, and greedy of authority: they even marched amongst the soldiers, and were obeyed by the officers. A woman had lately presided at the exercises of the troops, and at the decursions of the legions. The Senate themselves might remember, that as often as any of the magistrates were charged with plundering the provinces, their wives were always engaged in the guilt. To the ladies, the most profligate in the province applied; by them all affairs were undertaken, by them transacted: at home two distinct courts were kept, and abroad the wife had her distinct train and attendance. The ladies, too, issued distinct orders, but more imperious and better obeyed. Such feminine excesses were formerly restrained by the Oppian, and other laws; but now these restraints were violated, women ruled all things, their families, the Forum, and even the armies.”
This speech was heard by few with approbation, and many proclaimed their dissent; “for, that neither was that the point in debate, nor was Caecina considerable enough to censure so weighty an affair.” He was presently answered by Valerius Messalinus, who was the son of Messala, and inherited a sparkling of his father’s eloquence: “that many rigorous institutions of the ancients were softened and changed for the better: for, neither was Rome now, as of old, beset with wars, nor Italy with hostile provinces; and a few concessions were made to the conveniences of women, who were so far from burdening the provinces, that to their own husbands there they were no burden. As to honours, attendance and expense, they enjoyed them in common with their husbands, who could receive no embarrassment from their company in time of peace. To war indeed we must go equipped and unencumbered; but after the fatigues of war, what was more allowable than the consolations of a wife? But it seemed the wives of some magistrates had given a loose to ambition and avarice. And were the magistrates themselves free from these excesses? were not most of them governed by many exorbitant appetites? did we therefore send none into the provinces? It was added, that the husbands were corrupted by their corrupt wives: and were therefore all single men uncorrupt? The Oppian Laws were once thought necessary, because the exigencies of the State required their severity: they were afterwards relaxed and mollified, because that too was expedient for the State. In vain we covered our own sloth with borrowed names: if the wife broke bounds, the husband ought to bear the blame. It was moreover unjustly judged, for the weak and uxorious spirit of one or a few, to bereave all others of the fellowship of their wives, the natural partners of their prosperity and distress. Besides, the sex, weak by nature, would be left defenceless, exposed to the luxurious bent of their native passions, and a prey to the allurements of adulterers: scarce under the eye and restraint of the husband was the marriage bed preserved inviolate: what must be the consequence, when by an absence of many years, the ties of marriage would be forgot, forgot as it were in a divorce? It became them, therefore, so to cure the evils abroad as not to forget the enormities at Rome.” To this Drusus added somewhat concerning his own wedlock. “Princes,” he said, “were frequently obliged to visit the remote parts of the Empire: how often did the deified Augustus travel to the East, how often to the West, still accompanied with Livia? He himself too had taken a progress to Illyricum, and, if it were expedient, was ready to visit other nations; but not always with an easy spirit, if he were to be torn from his dear wife, her by whom he had so many children.” Thus was Caecina’s motion eluded.
When the Senate met next, they had a letter from Tiberius. In it he affected to chide the fathers, “that upon him they cast all public cares;” and named them M. Lepidus and Junius Blesus, to choose either for Proconsul of Africa. They were then both heard as to this nomination: Lepidus excused himself with earnestness; he pleaded “his bodily frailty, the tender age of his children, and a daughter fit for marriage.” There was another reason too, of which he said nothing; but it was easily understood: Blesus was uncle to Sejanus, and therefore had the prevailing interest. Blesus too made a show of refusing, but not with the like positiveness, and was heard with partiality by the flatterers of power.
The same year the cities of Gaul, stimulated by their excessive debts, began a rebellion. The most vehement incendiaries were Julius Florus and Julius Sacrovir; the first amongst those of Treves, the second amongst the Aeduans. They were both distinguished by their nobility, and by the good services of their ancestors, who thence had acquired of old the right of Roman citizens; a privilege rare in those days, and then only the prize of virtue. When by secret meetings, they had gained those who were most prompt to rebel; with such as were desperate through indigence, or, from guilt of past crimes, forced to commit more; they agreed that Florus should begin the insurrection in Belgia; Sacrovir amongst the neighbouring Gauls. In order to this, they had many consultations and cabals, where they uttered seditious harangues; they urged “their tribute without end, their devouring usury, the pride and cruelty of their Governors: that they had now a glorious opportunity to recover their liberty; for that since the report of the murder of Germanicus, discord had seized the Roman soldiery: they need only consider their own strength and numbers; while Italy was poor and exhausted; the Roman populace weak and unwarlike, the Roman armies destitute of all vigour but that derived from foreigners.”
Scarce one city remained untainted with the seeds of this rebellion; but it first broke at Angiers and Tours. The former were reduced by Acilius Aviola, a legate, with the assistance of a cohort drawn from the garrison at Lyons. Those of Tours were suppressed by the same Aviola, assisted with a detachment sent from the legions, by Visellius Varro, lieutenant- governor of lower Germany. Some of the chiefs of the Gauls had likewise joined him with succours, the better to disguise their defection, and to push it with more effect hereafter. Even Sacrovir was beheld engaged in fight for the Romans, with his head bare, a demonstration, he pretended, of his bravery; but the prisoners averred, that “he did it to be known to his countrymen, and to escape their darts.”
An account of all this was laid before Tiberius, who slighted it, and by hesitation fostered the war. Florus the while pushed his designs, and tried to debauch a regiment of horse, levied at Treves, and kept under our pay and discipline: he would have engaged them to begin the war, by putting to the sword the Roman merchants; and some few were corrupted, but the body remained in their allegiance. A rabble however, of his own followers and desperate debtors, took arms and were making to the forest of Arden, when the legions sent from both armies by Visellius and Caius Silius, through different routes to intercept them, marred their march: and Julius Indus, one of the same country with Florus, at enmity with him, and therefore more eager to engage him, was despatched forward with a chosen band, and broke the ill-appointed multitude. Florus by lurking from place to place, frustrated the search of the conquerors: but at last, when he saw all the passes beset with soldiers, he fell by his own hands. This was the issue of the insurrection at Treves.
Amongst the Aeduans the revolt was stronger, as much stronger as the state was more opulent; and the forces to suppress it were to be brought from afar. Augustodunum, [Footnote: Autun.] the capital of the nation, was seized by Sacrovir, and in it all the noble youth of Gaul, who were there instructed in the liberal arts. By securing these pledges he aimed to bind in his interest their parents and relations; and at the same time distributed to the young men the arms, which he had caused to be secretly made. He had forty thousand men, the fifth part armed like our legions, the rest with poles, hangers, and other weapons used by hunters. To the number were added such of the slaves as had been appointed to be gladiators; these were covered, after the fashion of the country, with a continued armour of iron; and styled Crupellarii; a sort of militia unwieldy at exercising their own weapons, and impenetrable by those of others. These forces were still increased by volunteers from the neighbouring cities, where, though the public body did not hitherto avow the revolt, yet the zeal of particulars was manifest: they had likewise leisure to increase from the contention of the two Roman generals; a contention for some time undecided, while each demanded the command in that war. At length Varro, old and infirm, yielded to the superior vigour of Silius.
Now at Rome, “not only the insurrection of Treves and of the Aeduans, but likewise, that threescore and four cities of Gaul had revolted; that the Germans had joined in the revolt, and that Spain fluctuated;” were reports all believed with the usual aggravations of fame. The best men grieved in sympathy for their country: many from hatred of the present government and thirst of change, rejoiced in their own perils: they inveighed against Tiberius, “that in such a mighty uproar of rebellion, he was only employed in perusing the informations of the State accusers.” They asked, “did he mean to surrender Julius Sacrovir to the Senate, to try him for treason?” They exulted, “that there were at last found men, who would with arms restrain his bloody orders for private murders.” And declared “that even war was a happy change for a most wretched peace.” So much the more for this, Tiberius affected to appear wrapped up in security and unconcern; he neither changed place nor countenance, but behaved himself at that time as at other times; whether from elevation of mind, or whether he had learned that the state of things was not alarming, and only heightened by vulgar representation.
Silius the while sending forward a band of auxiliaries, marched with two legions, and in his march ravaged the villages of the Sequanians, next neighbours to the Aeduans, and their associates in arms. He then advanced towards Augustodunum; a hasty march, the standard-bearers mutually vying in expedition, and the common men breathing ardour and eagerness: they desired, “that no time might be wasted in the usual refreshments, none of their nights in sleep; let them only see and confront the foe: they wanted no more, to be victorious.” Twelve miles from Augustodunum, Sacrovir appeared with his forces upon the plains: in the front he had placed the iron troop; his cohorts in the wings; the half-armed in the rear: he himself, upon a fine horse, attended by the other chiefs, addressed himself to them from rank to rank; he reminded them “of the glorious achievements of the ancient Gauls; of the victorious mischiefs they had brought upon the Romans; of the liberty and renown attending victory; of their redoubled and intolerable servitude, if once more vanquished.”
A short speech; and an unattentive, and disheartened audience! For, the embattled legions approached; and the crowd of townsmen, ill appointed and novices in war, stood astonished, bereft of the present use of eyes and hearing. On the other side, Silius, though he presumed the victory, and thence might have spared exhortations, yet called to his men, “that they might be with reason ashamed that they, the conquerors of Germany, should be thus led against a rabble of Gauls as against an equal enemy: one cohort had newly defeated the rebels of Tours; one regiment of horse, those of Treves; a handful of this very army had routed the Sequanians: the present Aeduans, as they are more abounding in wealth, as they wallow more in voluptuousness, are by so much more soft and unwarlike: this is what you are now to prove, and your task to prevent their escape.” His words were returned with a mighty cry. Instantly the horse surrounded the foe; the foot attacked their front, and the wings were presently routed: the iron band gave some short obstruction, as the bars of their coats withstood the strokes of sword and pike: but the soldiers had recourse to their hatchets and pick-axes; and, as if they had battered a wall, hewed their bodies and armour: others with clubs, and some with forks, beat down the helpless lumps, who as they lay stretched along, without one struggle to rise, were left for dead. Sacrovir fled first to Augustodunum; and thence, fearful of being surrendered, to a neighbouring town, accompanied by his most faithful adherents. There he slew himself; and the rest, one another: having first set the town on fire, by which they were all consumed.
Now at last Tiberius wrote to the Senate about this war, and at once acquainted them with its rise and conclusion, neither aggravating facts nor lessening them; but added “that it was conducted by the fidelity and bravery of his lieutenants, guided by his counsels.” He likewise assigned the reasons why neither he, nor Drusus, went to that war; “that the Empire was an immense body; and it became not the dignity of a Prince, upon the revolt of one or two towns, to desert the capital, whence motion was derived to the whole: but since the alarm was over, he would visit those nations and settle them.” The Senate decreed vows and supplications for his return, with other customary honours. Only Cornelius Dolabella, while he strove to outdo others, fell into ridiculous sycophancy, and moved “that from Campania he should enter Rome in the triumph of ovation.” This occasioned a letter from Tiberius: in it he declared, “he was not so destitute of glory, that after having in his youth subdued the fiercest nations, and enjoyed or slighted so many triumphs, he should now in his old age seek empty honours from a short progress about the suburbs of Rome.”
Caius Sulpitius and Decimus Haterius were the following Consuls. Their year was exempt from disturbances abroad; but at home some severe blow was apprehended against luxury, which prevailed monstrously in all things that create a profusion of money. But as the more pernicious articles of expense were covered by concealing their prices; therefore from the excesses of the table, which were become the common subject of daily animadversion, apprehensions were raised of some rigid correction from a Prince, who observed himself the ancient parsimony. For, Caius Bibulus having begun the complaint, the other Aediles took it up, and argued “that the sumptuary laws were despised; the pomp and expense of plate and entertainments, in spite of restraints, increased daily, and by moderate penalties were not to be stopped.” This grievance thus represented to the Senate, was by them referred entire to the Emperor. Tiberius having long weighed with himself whether such an abandoned propensity to prodigality could be stemmed; whether the stemming it would not bring heavier evils upon the public; how dishonourable it would be to attempt what could not be effected, or at least effected by the disgrace of the nobility, and by the subjecting illustrious men to infamous punishments; wrote at last to the Senate in this manner:
“In other matters, Conscript Fathers, perhaps it might be more expedient for you to consult me in the Senate; and for me to declare there, what I judge for the public weal: but in the debate of this affair, it was best that my eyes were withdrawn; lest, while you marked the countenances and terror of particulars charged with scandalous luxury, I too should have observed them, and, as it were, caught them in it. Had the vigilant Aediles first asked counsel of me, I know not whether I should not have advised them rather to have passed by potent and inveterate corruptions, than only make it manifest, what enormities are an overmatch for us: but they in truth have done their duty, as I would have all other magistrates fulfil theirs. But for myself, it is neither commendable to be silent; nor does it belong to my station to speak out; since I neither bear the character of an Aedile, nor of a Praetor, nor of a Consul: something still greater and higher is required of a Prince. Every one is ready to assume to himself the credit of whatever is well done, while upon the Prince alone are thrown the miscarriages of all. But what is it, that I am first to prohibit, what excess retrench to the ancient standard? Am I to begin with that of our country seats, spacious without bounds; and with the number of domestics, a number distributed into nations in private families? or with the quantity of plate, silver, and gold? or with the pictures, and works, and statues of brass, the wonders of art? or with the gorgeous vestments, promiscuously worn by men and women? or with what is peculiar to the women, those precious stones, for the purchase of which our corn is carried into foreign and hostile nations.
“I am not ignorant that at entertainments and in conversation, these excesses are censured, and a regulation is required: and yet if an equal law were made, if equal penalties were prescribed, these very censurers would loudly complain, that the State was utterly overturned, that snares and destruction were prepared for every illustrious house, that no men could be guiltless, and all men would be the prey of informers. And yet bodily diseases grown inveterate and strengthened by time, cannot be checked but by medicines rigid and violent: it is the same with the soul: the sick and raging soul, itself corrupted and scattering its corruption, is not to be qualified but by remedies equally strong with its own flaming lusts. So many laws made by our ancestors, so many added by the deified Augustus; the former being lost in oblivion, and (which is more heinous) the latter in contempt, have only served to render luxury more secure. When we covet a thing yet unforbid, we are apt to fear that it may be forbid; but when once we can with impunity and defiance overleap prohibited bounds, there remains afterwards nor fear nor shame. How therefore did parsimony prevail of old? It was because, every one was a law to himself; it was because we were then only masters of one city: nor afterwards, while our dominion was confined only to Italy, had we found the same instigations to voluptuousness. By foreign conquests, we learned to waste the property of others; and in the Civil Wars, to consume our own. What a mighty matter is it that the Aediles remonstrate! how little to be weighed in the balance with others? It is wonderful that nobody represents, that Italy is in constant want of foreign supplies; that the lives of the Roman People are daily at the mercy of uncertain seas and of tempests: were it not for our supports from the provinces; supports, by which the masters, and their slaves, and their estates, are maintained; would our own groves and villas maintain us? This care therefore, Conscript Fathers, is the business of the Prince; and by the neglect of this care, the foundations of the State would be dissolved. The cure of other defects depends upon our own private spirits: some of us, shame will reclaim; necessity will mend the poor; satiety the rich. Or if any of the Magistrates, from a confidence of his own firmness and perseverance, will undertake to stem the progress of so great an evil; he has both my praises, and my acknowledgment, that he discharges me of part of my fatigues: but if such will only impeach corruptions, and when they have gained the glory, would leave upon me the indignation (indignation of their own raising); believe me, Conscript Fathers, I am not fond of bearing resentments: I already suffer many for the Commonwealth; many that are grievous and almost all unjust; and therefore with reason I intreat that I may not be loaded with such as are wantonly and vainly raised, and promise no advantage to you nor to me.”
The Senate, upon reading the Emperor’s letter, released the Aediles from this pursuit: and the luxury of the table which, from the battle of Actium till the revolution made by Galba, flowed, for the space of an hundred years, in all profusion; at last gradually declined. The causes of this change are worth knowing. Formerly the great families, great in nobility or abounding in riches, were carried away with a passion for magnificence: for even then it was allowed to court the good graces of the Roman People, with the favour of kings, and confederate nations; and to be courted by them: so that each was distinguished by the lustre of popularity and dependances, in proportion to his affluence, the splendour of his house, and the figure he made. But after Imperial fury had long raged in the slaughter of the Grandees, and the greatness of reputation was become the sure mark of destruction; the rest grew wiser: besides, new men frequently chosen Senators from the municipal towns, from the colonies, and even from the provinces, brought into the Senate their own domestic parsimony; and though, by fortune or industry, many of them grew wealthy as they grew old, yet their former frugal spirit continued. But above all, Vespasian proved the promoter of thrifty living, being himself the pattern of ancient economy in his person and table: hence the compliance of the public with the manners of the Prince, and an emulation to practise them; an incitement more prevalent than the terrors of laws and all their penalties. Or perhaps all human things go a certain round; and, as in the revolutions of time, there are also vicissitudes in manners: nor indeed have our ancestors excelled us in all things; our own age has produced many excellences worthy of praise and the imitation of posterity. Let us still preserve this strife in virtue with our forefathers.
Tiberius having gained the fame of moderation; because, by rejecting the project for reforming luxury, he had disarmed the growing hopes of the accusers; wrote to the Senate, to desire the Tribunitial Power for Drusus. Augustus had devised this title, as best suiting the unbounded height of his views; while avoiding the odious name of King or Dictator, he was yet obliged to use some particular appellation, under it to control all other powers in the State. He afterwards assumed Marcus Agrippa into a fellowship in it; and, upon his death, Tiberius; that none might doubt, who was to be his successor. By this means, he conceived, he should defeat the aspiring views of others: besides, he confided in the moderation of Tiberius, and in the mightiness of his own authority. By his example, Tiberius now advanced Drusus to the supreme Magistracy; whereas, while Germanicus yet lived, he acted without distinction towards both. In the beginning of his letter he besought the Gods “that by his counsels the Republic might prosper,” and then added a modest testimony concerning the qualities and behaviour of the young Prince, without aggravation or false embellishments; “that he had a wife and three children, and was of the same age with himself, when called by the deified Augustus to that office: that Drusus was not now by him adopted a partner in the toils of government, precipitately; but after eight years’ experience made of his qualifications; after seditions suppressed, wars concluded, the honour of triumph, and two Consulships.”
The Senators had foreseen this address; hence they received it with the more elaborate adulation. However, they could devise nothing to decree, but “statues to the two Princes, altars to the Gods, arches,” and other usual honours: only that Marcus Silanus strove to honour the Princes by the disgrace of the Consulship: he proposed “that all records public and private should, for their date, be inscribed no more with the names of the Consuls, but of those who exercised the Tribunitial power.” But Haterius Agrippa, by moving to have “the decrees of that day engraved in letters of gold, and hung up in the Senate,” became an object of derision; for that, as he was an ancient man, he could reap from his most abominable flattery no other fruit but that of infamy.
Tiberius, while he fortified the vitals of his own domination, afforded the Senate a shadow of their ancient jurisdiction; by referring to their examination petitions and claims from the provinces. For there had now prevailed amongst the Greek cities a latitude of instituting sanctuaries at pleasure. Hence the temples were filled with the most profligate fugitive slaves: here debtors found protection against their creditors; and hither were admitted such as were pursued for capital crimes. Nor was any force of Magistracy or laws sufficient to bridle the mad zeal of the people, who confounding the sacred villainies of men with the worship peculiar to the Gods, seditiously defended these profane sanctuaries. It was therefore ordered that these cities should send deputies to represent their claims. Some of the cities voluntarily relinquished the nominal privileges, which they had arbitrarily assumed: many confided in their rights; a confidence grounded on the antiquity of their superstitions, or on the merits of their kind offices to the Roman People. Glorious to the Senate was the appearance of that day, when the grants from our ancestors, the engagements of our confederates, the ordinances of kings, such kings who had reigned as yet independent of the Roman power; and when even the sacred worship of the Gods were now all subjected to their inspection, and their judgment free, as of old, to ratify or abolish with absolute power.
First of all the Ephesians applied. They alleged, that “Diana and Apollo were not, according to the credulity of the vulgar, born at Delos: in their territory flowed the river Cenchris; where also stood the Ortygian Grove: there the big-bellied Latona, leaning upon an olive tree, which even then remained, was delivered of these deities; and thence by their appointment the Grove became sacred. Thither Apollo himself, after his slaughter of the Cyclops, retired for a sanctuary from the wrath of Jupiter: soon after, the victorious Bacchus pardoned the suppliant Amazons, who sought refuge at the altar of Diana: by the concession of Hercules, when he reigned in Lydia, her temple was dignified with an augmentation of immunities; nor during the Persian monarchy were they abridged: they were next maintained by the Macedonians, and then by us.”
The Magnesians next asserted their claim, founded on an establishment of Lucius Scipio, confirmed by another of Sylla: the former after the defeat of Antiochus; the latter after that of Mithridates, having, as a testimony of the faith and bravery of the Magnesians, dignified their temple of the Leucophrynaean Diana with the privileges of an inviolable sanctuary. After them, the Aphrodisians and Stratoniceans produced a grant from Caesar the Dictator, for their early services to his party; and another lately from Augustus, with a commendation inserted, “that with zeal unshaken towards the Roman People, they had borne the irruption of the Parthians.” But these two people adored different deities: Aphrodisium was a city devoted to Venus; that of Stratonicea maintained the worship of Jupiter and of Diana Trivia. Those of Hierocaesarea exhibited claims of higher antiquity, “that they possessed the Persian Diana, and her temple consecrated by King Cyrus.” They likewise pleaded the authorities of Perpenna, Isauricus, and of many more Roman captains, who had allowed the same sacred immunity not to the temple only, but to a precinct two miles round it. Those of Cyprus pleaded right of sanctuary to three of their temples: the most ancient founded by Aerias to the Paphian Venus; another by his son Amathus to the Amathusian Venus; the third to the Salaminian Jupiter by Teucer, the son of Telamon, when he fled from the fury of his father.
The deputies too of other cities were heard. But the Senate tired with so many, and because there was a contention begun amongst particular parties for particular cities; gave power to the Consuls “to search into the validity of their several pretensions, and whether in them no fraud was interwoven;” with orders “to lay the whole matter once more before the Senate.” The Consuls reported that, besides the cities already mentioned, “they had found the temple of AEsculapius at Pergamus to be a genuine sanctuary: the rest claimed upon originals, from the darkness of antiquity, altogether obscure. Smyrna particularly pleaded an oracle of Apollo, in obedience to which they had dedicated a temple to Venus Stratonices; as did the Isle of Tenos an oracular order from the same God, to erect to Neptune a statue and temple. Sardis urged a later authority, namely, a grant from the Great Alexander; and Miletus insisted on one from King Darius: as to the deities of these two cities; one worshipped Diana; the other, Apollo. And Crete too demanded the privilege of sanctuary, to a statue of the deified Augustus.” Hence diverse orders of Senate were made, by which, though great reverence was expressed towards the deities, yet the extent of the sanctuaries was limited; and the several people were enjoined “to hang up in each temple the present decree engraven in brass, as a sacred memorial, and a restraint against their lapsing, under the colour of religion, into the abuses and claims of superstition.”
At the same time, a vehement distemper having seized Livia, obliged the Emperor to hasten his return to Rome; seeing hitherto the mother and son lived in apparent unanimity; or perhaps mutually disguised their hate: for, not long before, Livia, having dedicated a statue to the deified Augustus, near the theatre of Marcellus, had the name of Tiberius inscribed after her own. This he was believed to have resented heinously, as a degrading the dignity of the Prince; but to have buried his resentment under dark dissimulation. Upon this occasion, therefore, the Senate decreed “supplications to the Gods; with the celebration of the greater Roman games, under the direction of the Pontifs, the Augurs, the College of Fifteen, assisted by the College of Seven, and the Fraternity of Augustal Priests.” Lucius Apronius had moved, that “with the rest might preside the company of heralds.” Tiberius opposed it; he distinguished between the jurisdiction of the priests and theirs; “for that at no time had the heralds arrived to so much pre-eminence: but for the Augustal Fraternity, they were therefore added, because they exercised a priesthood peculiar to that family for which the present vows and solemnities were made,” It is no part of my purpose to trace all the votes of particular men, unless they are memorable for integrity, or for notorious infamy: this I conceive to be the principal duty of an historian, that he suppress no instance of virtue; and that by the dread of future infamy and the censures of posterity, men may be deterred from detestable actions and prostitute speeches. In short, such was the abomination of those times, so prevailing the contagion of flattery, that not only the first nobles, whose obnoxious splendour found protection only in obsequiousness; but all who had been Consuls, a great part of such as had been Praetors, and even many of the unregistered Senators, strove for priority in the vileness and excess of their votes. There is a tradition, that Tiberius, as often as he went out of the Senate, was wont to cry out in Greek, Oh men prepared for bondage! Yes, even Tiberius, he who could not bear public liberty, nauseated this prostitute tameness of slaves.
When Caius Asinius and Caius Antistius were Consuls, Tiberius was in his ninth year; the State composed, and his family flourishing (for the death of Germanicus he reckoned amongst the incidents of his prosperity) when suddenly fortune began to grow boisterous, and he himself to tyrannise, or to furnish others with the weapons of tyranny. The beginning and cause of this turn arose from Aelius Sejanus, captain of the Praetorian cohorts. Of his power I have above made mention; I shall now explain his original, his manners, and by what black deeds he strove to snatch the sovereignty. He was born at Vulsinii, son to Sejus Strabo, a Roman knight; in his early youth, he was a follower of Caius Caesar (grandson of Augustus) and lay then under the contumely of having for hire exposed himself to the constupration of Apicius; a debauchee wealthy and profuse: next by various artifices he so enchanted Tiberius, that he who to all others was dark and unsearchable, became to Sejanus alone destitute of all restraint and caution: nor did he so much accomplish this by any superior efforts of policy (for at his own stratagems he was vanquished by others) as by the rage of the Gods against the Roman State, to which he proved alike destructive when he flourished and when he fell. His person was hardy and equal to fatigues; his spirit daring but covered; sedulous to disguise his own counsels, dexterous to blacken others; alike fawning and imperious; to appearance exactly modest; but in his heart fostering the lust of domination; and, with this view, engaged at one time in profusion, largesses, and luxury; and again, often laid out in application and vigilance; qualities no less pernicious, when personated by ambition for the acquiring of Empire.
The authority of his command over the guards, which was but moderate before his time, he extended, by gathering into one camp all the Praetorian cohorts then dispersed over the city; that thus united, they might all at once receive his orders, and by continually beholding their own numbers and strength, conceive confidence in themselves and prove a terror to all other men. He pretended, “that the soldiers, while they lived scattered, lived loose and debauched; that when gathered into a body, there could, in any hasty emergency, be more reliance upon their succour; and that when encamped, remote from the allurements of the town, they would in their discipline be more exact and severe.” When the encampment was finished, he began gradually to allure the affections of the soldiers, by all the ways of affability, court, and familiarity: it was he too who chose the Centurions, he who chose the Tribunes. Neither in his pursuits of ambition did the Senate escape him; but by distinguishing his followers in it with offices and provinces, he cultivated power and a party there: for, to all this Tiberius was entirely resigned; and even so passionate for him, that not in conversation only, but in public, in his speeches to the Senate and people, he treated and extolled him, as the sharer of his burdens; nay, allowed his effigies to be publicly adored, in the several theatres, in all places of popular convention, and even amongst the Eagles of the legions.
But to his designs were many retardments: the Imperial house was full of Caesars; the Emperor’s son a grown man, and his grandsons of age: and because the cutting them off all at once, was dangerous; the treason he meditated, required a gradation of murders. He however chose the darkest method, and to begin with Drusus; against whom he was transported with a fresh motive of rage. For, Drusus impatient of a rival, and in his temper inflammable, had upon some occasional contest, shaken his fist at Sejanus, and, as he prepared to resist, given him a blow on the face. As he therefore cast about for every expedient of revenge, the readiest seemed to apply to Livia his wife: she was the sister of Germanicus, and from an uncomely person in her childhood, grew afterwards to excel in loveliness. As his passion for this lady was vehement, he tempted her to adultery, and having fulfilled the first iniquity (nor will a woman, who has sacrificed her chastity, stick at any other) he carried her greater lengths, to the views of marriage, a partnership in the Empire, and even the murder of her husband. Thus she, the niece of Augustus, the daughter-in-law of Tiberius, the mother of children by Drusus, defiled herself, her ancestors, and her posterity, with a municipal adulterer; and all to exchange an honourable condition possessed, for pursuits flagitious and uncertain. Into a fellowship in the guilt was assumed Eudemus, physician to Livia; and, under colour of his profession, frequently with her in private. Sejanus too, to avoid the jealousy of the adulteress, discharged from his bed Apicata his wife, her by whom he had three children. But still the mightiness of the iniquity terrified them, and thence created caution, delays, and frequently opposite counsels.
During this, in the beginning of the year, Drusus one of the sons of Germanicus, put on the manly robe; and upon him the Senate conferred the same honours decreed before to his brother Nero. A speech was added by Tiberius with a large encomium upon his son, “that with the tenderness of a father he used the children of his brother.” For, Drusus, however rare it be for power and unanimity to subsist together, was esteemed benevolent, certainly not ill-disposed, towards these youths. Now again was revived by Tiberius the proposal of a progress into the Provinces; a stale proposal, always hollow, but often feigned. He pretended “the multitude of veterans discharged, and thence the necessity of recruiting the armies; that volunteers were wanting, or if already such there were, they were chiefly the necessitous and vagabonds, and destitute of the like modesty and courage.” He likewise cursorily recounted the number of the legions, and what countries they defended: a detail which I think it behoves me also to repeat; that thence may appear what was then the complement of the Roman forces, what kings their confederates, and how much more narrow the limits of the Empire.
Italy was on each side guarded by two fleets; one at Misenum, one at Ravenna; and the coast joining to Gaul, by the galleys taken by Augustus at the battle of Actium, and sent powerfully manned to Forojulium. [Footnote: Fréjus.] But the chief strength lay upon the Rhine; they were eight legions, a common guard upon the Germans and the Gauls. The reduction of Spain, lately completed, was maintained by three. Mauritania was possessed by King Juba; a realm which he held as a gift from the Roman People: the rest of Africa by two legions; and Egypt by the like number. Four legions kept in subjection all the mighty range of country, extending from the next limits of Syria, as far as the Euphrates, and bordering upon the Iberians, Albanians, and other Principalities, who by our might are protected against Foreign Powers. Thrace was held by Rhoemetalces, and the sons of Cotys; and both banks of the Danube by four legions; two in Pannonia, two in Moesia. In Dalmatia likewise were placed two; who, by the situation of the country, were at hand to support the former, and had not far to march into Italy, were any sudden succours required there: though Rome too had her peculiar soldiery; three city cohorts, and nine Praetorian, enlisted chiefly out of Etruria and Umbria, or from the ancient Latium and the old Roman colonies. In the several Provinces, besides, were disposed, according to their situation and necessity, the fleets of the several confederates, with their squadrons and battalions; a number of forces not much different from all the rest: but the particular detail would be uncertain; since, according to the exigency of times, they often shifted stations, with numbers sometimes enlarged, sometimes reduced.
It will, I believe, fall in properly here to review also the other parts of the Administration, and by what measures it was hitherto conducted, till with the beginning of this year the Government of Tiberius began to wax worse. First then, all public, and every private business of moment, was determined by the Senate: to the great men he allowed liberty of debate: those who in their debates lapsed into flattery, he checked: in conferring preferments, he was guided by merit, by ancient nobility, renown in war abroad, by civil accomplishments at home; insomuch that it was manifest, his choice could not have been better. There remained to the Consuls, there remained to the Praetors the useful marks of their dignities; to inferior magistrates the independent exercise of their charges; and the laws, where the power of the Prince was not concerned, were in proper force. The tributes, duties, and all public receipts, were directed by companies of Roman knights: the management of his own revenue he committed only to those of the most noted qualifications; mostly known by himself, and to some known by reputation alone: and when once taken, they were continued, without all restriction of term; since most grew old in the same employments. The populace were indeed aggrieved by the dearth of provisions; but without any fault of the Prince: nay, he spared no possible expense nor pains to remedy the effects of barrenness in the earth, and of wrecks at sea. He provided that the Provinces should not be oppressed with new impositions; and that no extortion, or violence should be committed by the magistrates in raising the old: there were no infamous corporal punishments, no confiscations of goods.
The Emperor’s possessions through Italy, were thin; the behaviour of his slaves modest; the freedmen who managed his house, few; and in his disputes with particulars, the courts were open and the law equal. All which restraints he observed, not, in truth, in the ways of complaisance and popularity; but always stern, and for the most part terrible; yet still he retained them, till by the death of Drusus they were abandoned: for, while he lived they continued; because Sejanus, while he was but laying the foundations of his power, studied to recommend himself by good counsels. He then had besides, an avenger to dread, one who disguised not his enmity, but was frequent in his complaints; “that when the son was in his prime, another was called, as coadjutor, to the Government; nay, how little was wanting to his being declared colleague in the Empire? That the first advances to sovereignty are steep and perilous; but, once you are entered, parties and instruments are ready to espouse you. Already a camp for the guards was formed, by the pleasure and authority of the captain: into whose hands the soldiers were delivered: in the theatre of Pompey his statue was beheld: in his grandchildren would be mixed the blood of the Drusi with that of Sejanus. After all this what remained but to supplicate his modesty to rest contented.” Nor was it rarely that he uttered these disgusts, nor to a few; besides, his wife being debauched, all his secrets were betrayed.
Sejanus therefore judging it time to despatch, chose such a poison as by operating gradually, might preserve the appearances of a casual disease. This was administered to Drusus by Lygdus the eunuch, as, eight years after, was learnt. Now during all the days of his illness, Tiberius disclosed no symptoms of anguish (perhaps from ostentation of a firmness of spirit) nay, when he had expired, and while he was yet unburied, he entered the Senate; and finding the Consuls placed upon a common seat, as a testimony of their grief; he admonished them of their dignity and station: and as the Senators burst into tears, he smothered his rising sighs, and, by a speech uttered without hesitation, animated them. “He, in truth, was not ignorant,” he said, “that he might be censured, for having thus in the first throbs of sorrow, beheld the face of the Senate; when most of those who feel the fresh pangs of mourning, can scarce endure the soothings of their kindred, scarce behold the day: neither were such to be condemned of weakness: but for himself, he had more powerful consolations; such as arose from embracing the Commonwealth, and pursuing her welfare.” He then lamented “the extreme age of his mother, the tender years of his grandsons, his own days in declension;” and desired that, “as the only alleviation of the present evils, the children of Germanicus might be introduced.” The Consuls therefore went for them, and having with kind words fortified their young minds, presented them to the Emperor. He took them by the hand and said, “Conscript Fathers, these infants, bereft of their father, I committed to their uncle; and besought him that, though he had issue of his own, he would rear and nourish them no otherwise than as the immediate offspring of his blood; that he would appropriate them as stays to himself and posterity. Drusus being snatched from us, to you I address the same prayers; and in the presence of the Gods, in the face of your country, I adjure you, receive into your protection, take under your tuition the great-grandchildren of Augustus; children, descended from ancestors the most glorious in the State: towards them fulfil your own, fulfil my duty. To you, Nero; to you, Drusus, these Senators are in the stead of a father; and such is the situation of your birth, that on the Commonwealth must light all the good and evil which befalls you.”
All this was heard with much weeping, and followed with propitious prayers and vows: and had he only gone thus far, and in his speech observed a medium, he had left the souls of his hearers full of sympathy and applause. But, by renewing an old project, always chimerical and so often ridiculed, about “restoring the Republic, reinstating it again in the Consuls, or whoever else would undertake the administration;” he forfeited his faith even in assertions which were commendable and sincere. To the memory of Drusus were decreed the same solemnities as to that of Germanicus; with many super-added; agreeably to the genius of flattery, which delights in variety and improvements. Most signal was the lustre of the funeral in a conspicuous procession of images; when at it appeared in a pompous train, Aeneas, father of the Julian race; all the kings of Alba, and Romulus founder of Rome; next the Sabine nobility, Attus Clausus, and his descendants of the Claudian family.
In relating the death of Drusus, I have followed the greatest part of our historians, and the most faithful: I would not however omit a rumour which in those times was so prevailing that it is not extinguished in ours; “that Sejanus having by adultery gained Livia to the murder, had likewise engaged by constupration the affections and concurrence of Lygdus the eunuch; because Lygdus was, for his youth and loveliness, dear to his master, and one of his chief attendants: that when the time and place of poisoning, were by the conspirators concerted; the eunuch carried his boldness so high, as to charge upon Drusus a design of poisoning Tiberius; and secretly warning the Emperor of this, advised him to shun the first draught offered him in the next entertainment at his son’s: that the old man possessed with this fictitious treason, after he had sate down to table, having received the cup delivered it to Drusus, who ignorantly and gaily drank it off: that this heightened the jealousy and apprehensions of Tiberius, as if through fear and shame his son had swallowed the same death, which for his father he had contrived.”
These bruitings of the populace, besides that they are supported by no certain author, may be easily refuted. For, who of common prudence (much less Tiberius so long practised in great affairs) would to his own son, without hearing him, present the mortal bane; with his own hands too, and cutting off for ever all possibility of retraction? Why would he not rather have tortured the minister of the poison? Why not inquired into the author of the poison? Why not observed towards his only son, a son hitherto convicted of no iniquity, that slowness and hesitation, which, even in his proceedings against strangers, was inherent in him? But as Sejanus was reckoned the framer of every wickedness, therefore, from the excessive fondness of Tiberius towards him, and from the hatred of all others towards both, things the most fabulous and direful were believed of them; besides that common fame is ever most fraught with tales of horror upon the departure of Princes: in truth, the plan and process of the murder were first discovered by Apicata, wife of Sejanus, and laid open upon the rack by Eudemus and Lygdus. Nor has any writer appeared so outrageous to charge it upon Tiberius; though in other instances they have sedulously collected and inflamed every action of his. My own purpose in recounting and censuring this rumour, was to blast, by so glaring an example, the credit of groundless tales; and to request of those into whose hands our present undertaking shall come, that they would not prefer hearsays, void of credibility and rashly swallowed, to the narrations of truth not adulterated with romance.
To proceed; whilst Tiberius was pronouncing in public the panegyric of his son, the Senate and People assumed the port and accent of mourners, rather in appearance than cordially; and in their hearts exulted to see the house of Germanicus begin to revive. But this dawn of fortune, and the conduct of Agrippina, ill disguising her hopes, quickened the overthrow of that house. For Sejanus, when he saw the death of Drusus pass unrevenged upon his murderers, and no public lamentation following it; undaunted as he was in villainy since his first efforts had succeeded; cast about in himself, how he might destroy the sons of Germanicus, whose succession to the Empire was now unquestionable. They were three; and, from the distinguished fidelity of their governors, and incorruptible chastity of Agrippina, could not be all circumvented by poison. He therefore chose to attack her another way; to raise alarms from the haughtiness and contumacy of her spirit; to rouse the old hatred of Livia the elder, and the guilty mind of his late accomplice, Livia the younger; that to the Emperor they might represent her “as elated with the credit and renown of her fruitfulness; and that confiding in it, and in the zeal of the populace, she grasped with open arms at the Empire.” The young Livia acted in this engagement by crafty calumniators; amongst whom she had particularly chosen Julius Posthumus, a man every way qualified for her purposes; as he was the adulterer of Mutilia Prisca, and thence a confidant of her grandmother’s; (for over the mind of the Empress, Prisca had powerful influence) and by their means the old woman, in her own nature tender and anxious of power, was rendered utterly irreconcilable to the widow of her grandson. Such too as were nearest the person of Agrippina, were promoted to be continually enraging her tempestuous heart by perverse representations.
This year also brought deputations from the Grecian cities; one from the people of Samos; one from those of Coös; the former to request that the ancient right of Sanctuary in the Temple of Juno might be confirmed; the latter to solicit the same confirmation for that of Aesculapius. The Samians claimed upon a decree of the Council of Amphictyons, the supreme Judicature of Greece, at the time when the Greeks by their cities founded in Asia, possessed the maritime coasts. Nor had they of Coös a weaker title to antiquity; to which likewise accrued the pretensions of the place to the friendship of Rome: for they had lodged in the Temple of Aesculapius all the Roman citizens there, when by the order of King Mithridates, such were universally butchered throughout all the cities of Asia and the Isles. And now after many complaints from the Praetors, for the most part ineffectual, the Emperor at last made a representation to the Senate, concerning the licentiousness of the players; “that in many instances they raised seditious tumults, and violated the public peace; and, in many, promoted debauchery in private families: that the Oscan Farce, formerly only the contemptible delight of the vulgar, was risen to such a prevailing pitch of credit and enormity, that it required the authority of the Senate to check it.” The players therefore were driven out of Italy.
The same year carried off one of the twins of Drusus, and thence afflicted the Emperor with fresh woe; nor with less for the death of a particular friend. It was Lucillius Longus, the inseparable companion of all the traverses of his fortune smiling or sad; and, of all the Senators, the only one who accompanied him in his retirement at Rhodes. For this reason, though but a new man, the Senate decreed him a public funeral; and a statue to be placed, at the expense of the Treasury, in the square of Augustus. For by the Senate, even yet, all affairs were transacted; insomuch that Lucillius Capito, the Emperor’s Comptroller in Asia, was, at the accusation of the Province, brought upon his defence before them: the Emperor too upon this occasion protested with great earnestness, “that from him Lucillius had no authority but over his slaves, and in collecting his domestic rents: that if he had usurped the jurisdiction of Praetor, and employed military force, he had so far violated his orders; they should therefore hear the allegations of the Province.” Thus the accused was upon trial condemned. For this just vengeance, and that inflicted the year before on Caius Silanus, the cities of Asia decreed a temple to Tiberius, and his mother, and the Senate; and obtained leave to build it. For this concession Nero made a speech of thanks to the Senators and his grandfather; a speech which charmed the affections of his hearers, who, as they were full of the memory of Germanicus, fancied it was him they heard, and him they saw. There was also in the youth himself an engaging modesty, and a gracefulness becoming a princely person: ornaments which, by the known hatred that threatened him from Sejanus, became still more dear and adored.
I am aware that most of the transactions which I have already related, or shall hereafter relate, may perhaps appear minute, and too trivial to be remembered. But, none must compare these my annals with the writings of those who compiled the story of the ancient Roman People. They had for their subjects mighty wars, potent cities sacked, great kings routed and taken captive: or if they sometimes reviewed the domestic affairs of Rome, they there found the mutual strife and animosities of the Consuls and Tribunes; the agrarian and frumentary laws, pushed and opposed; and the lasting struggles between the nobles and populace. Large and noble topics these, at home and abroad, and recounted by the old historians with full room and free scope. To me remains a straitened task, and void of glory; steady peace, or short intervals of war; the proceedings at Rome sad and affecting; and a Prince careless of extending the Empire: nor yet will it be without its profit to look minutely into such transactions, as however small at first view, give rise and motion to great events.
For, all nations and cities are governed either by the populace, by the nobility, or by single rulers. As to the frame of a state chosen and compacted out of all these three, it is easier applauded than accomplished; or if accomplished, cannot be of long duration. So that, as during the Republic, either when the power of the people prevailed, or when the Senate bore the chief sway; it was necessary to know the genius of the commonalty, and by what measures they were to be humoured and restrained; and such too who were thoroughly acquainted with the spirit of the Senate and leading men, came to be esteemed skilful in the times, and men of prowess: so now when that establishment is changed, and the present situation such as if one ruled all; it is of advantage to collect and record these later incidents, as matters of public example and instruction; since few can by their own wisdom distinguish between things crooked and upright; few between counsels pernicious and profitable; and since most men are taught by the fate of others. But the present detail, however instructive, yet brings scanty delight. It is by the descriptions and accounts of nations; by the variety of battles; by the brave fall of illustrious captains, that the soul of the reader is engaged and refreshed. For myself, I can only give a sad display of cruel orders, incessant accusations, faithless friendships, the destruction of innocents, and endless trials, all attended with the same issue, death and condemnation: an obvious round of repetition and satiety! Besides that the old historians are rarely censured; nor is any man now concerned whether they chiefly magnify the Roman or Carthaginian armies. But, of many who under Tiberius suffered punishment, or were marked with infamy, the posterity are still subsisting; or if the families themselves are extinct, there are others found, who from a similitude of manners, think that, in reciting the evil doings of others, they themselves are charged: nay, even virtue and a glorious name create foes, as they expose in a light too obvious the opposite characters. But I return to my undertaking.
Whilst Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa were Consuls, Cremutius Cordus was arraigned for that, “having published annals and in them praised Brutus, he had styled Cassius the last of the Romans:” a new crime, then first created. Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta were his accusers; creatures of Sejanus: a mortal omen this to the accused; besides that Tiberius received his defence with a countenance settled into cruelty. He began it on this wise, casting away all hopes of life:
“As to facts, I am so guiltless, Conscript Fathers, that my words only are accused: but neither are any words of mine pointed against the Emperor, or his mother; who are the only persons comprehended in the law concerning violated majesty. It is alleged that I have praised Brutus and Cassius; men whose lives and actions have been compiled by a cloud of writers, and their memory treated by none but with honour. Titus Livius, an historian eminently famous for eloquence and veracity, signalised Pompey with such abundant encomiums, that he was thence by Augustus named Pompeianus; nor did this prejudice their common friendship. Neither Scipio, nor Afranius, nor even this same Cassius, nor this same Brutus, are anywhere mentioned by him as traitors and parricides, the common nicknames now bestowed on them; but often, as great and memorable men. The writings of Asinius Pollio have conveyed down the memory of the same men, under honourable characters. Corvinus Messala gloried to have had Cassius for his general: and yet both Pollio and Corvinus became signally powerful in wealth and honours under Augustus. That book of Cicero’s, in which he exalted Cato to the skies; what other animadversion did it draw from Caesar the Dictator, than a written reply, in the same style and equality as if before his judges he had made it? The letters of Marc Anthony; the speeches of Brutus, are full of reproaches, and recriminations against Augustus; false in truth, but urged with signal asperity: the poems of Bibaculus and those of Catullus, stuffed with virulent satires against the Caesars, are still read. But even the deified Julius, even the deified Augustus, bore all these invectives and disdained them; whether with greater moderation or wisdom, I cannot easily say. For, if they are despised, they fade away; if you wax wroth, you seem to avow them to be just.
“Instances from the Greeks I bring none: with them not the freedom only, but even the licentiousness of speech, is unpunished: or if any correction is returned, it is only by revenging words with words. It has been ever allowed, without restriction or rebuke, to pass our judgment upon those whom death has withdrawn from the influence of affection and hate. Are Cassius and Brutus now in arms? do they at present fill with armed troops the fields of Philippi? or do I fire the Roman People, by inflammatory harangues, with the spirit of civil rage? Brutus and Cassius, now above seventy years slain, are still known in their statues, which even the conqueror did not abolish: and as these exhibit their persons, why not the historian their characters? Impartial posterity to every man repays his proper praise: nor will there be wanting such as, if my death is determined, will not only revive the story of Cassius and Brutus, but even my story.” Having thus said he withdrew from the Senate, and ended his life by abstinence. The Fathers condemned the books to be by the Aediles burned; but they still continued concealed and dispersed: hence we may justly mock the stupidity of those, who imagine that they can, by present power, extinguish the lights and memory of succeeding times: for, quite otherwis