Sacred Texts  Classics  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Tacitus: Annals Book 3 [60]

60. Tiberius meantime, while securing to himself the substance of imperial power, allowed the Senate some shadow of its old constitution by referring to its investigation certain demands of the provinces. In the Greek cities license and impunity in establishing sanctuaries were on the increase. Temples were thronged with the vilest of the slaves; the same refuge screened the debtor against his creditor, as well as men suspected of capital offences. No authority was strong enough to check the turbulence of a people which protected the crimes of men as much as the worship of the gods. It was accordingly decided that the different states were to send their charters and envoys to Rome. Some voluntarily relinquished privileges which they had groundlessly usurped; many trusted to old superstitions, or to their services to the Roman people. It was a grand spectacle on that day, when the Senate examined grants made by our ancestors, treaties with allies, even decrees of kings who had flourished before Rome's ascendancy, and the forms of worship of the very deities, with full liberty as in former days, to ratify or to alter.

60. Sed Tiberius, vim principatus sibi firmans, imaginem antiquitatis senatui praebebat postulata provinciarum ad disquisitionem patrum mittendo. crebrescebat enim Graecas per urbes licentia atque impunitas asyla statuendi; complebantur templa pessimis servitiorum; eodem subsidio obaerati adversum creditores suspectique capitalium criminum receptabantur, nec ullum satis validum imperium erat coercendis seditionibus populi flagitia hominum ut caerimonias deum protegentis. igitur placitum ut mitterent civitates iura atque legatos. et quaedam quod falso usurpaverant sponte omisere; multae vetustis superstitionibus aut meritis in populum Romanum fidebant. magnaque eius diei species fuit quo senatus maiorum beneficia, sociorum pacta, regum etiam qui ante vim Romanam valuerant decreta ipsorumque numinum religiones introspexit, libero, ut quondam, quid firmaret mutaretve.

61. First of all came the people of Ephesus. They declared that Diana and Apollo were not born at Delos, as was the vulgar belief. They had in their own country a river Cenchrius, a grove Ortygia, where Latona, as she leaned in the pangs of labour on an olive still standing, gave birth to those two deities, whereupon the grove at the divine intimation was consecrated. There Apollo himself, after the slaughter of the Cyclops, shunned the wrath of Jupiter; there too father Bacchus, when victorious in war, pardoned the suppliant Amazons who had gathered round the shrine. Subsequently by the permission of Hercules, when he was subduing Lydia, the grandeur of the temple's ceremonial was augmented, and during the Persian rule its privileges were not curtailed. They had afterwards been maintained by the Macedonians, then by ourselves.

61. Primi omnium Ephesii adiere, memorantes non, ut vulgus crederet, Dianam atque Apollinem Delo genitos: esse apud se Cenchreum amnem, lucum Ortygiam, ubi Latonam partu gravidam et oleae, quae tum etiam maneat, adnisam edidisse ea numina, deorumque monitu sacratum nemus, atque ipsum illic Apollinem post interfectos Cyclopas Iovis iram vitavisse. mox Liberum patrem, bello victorem, supplicibus Amazonum quae aram insiderant ignovisse. auctam hinc concessu Herculis, cum Lydia poteretur, caerimoniam templo neque Persarum dicione deminutum ius; post Macedonas, dein nos servavisse.

62. Next the people of Magnesia relied on arrangements made by Lucius Scipio and Lucius Sulla. These generals, after respectively defeating Antiochus and Mithridates, honoured the fidelity and courage of the Magnesians by allowing the temple of Diana of the White Brow to be an inviolable sanctuary. Then the people of Aphrodisia produced a decree of the dictator Caesar for their old services to his party, and those of Stratonicea, one lately passed by the Divine Augustus, in which they were commended for having endured the Parthian invasion without wavering in their loyalty to the Roman people. Aphrodisia maintained the worship of Venus; Stratonicea, that of Jupiter and of Diana of the Cross Ways. Hierocaesarea went back to a higher antiquity, and spoke of having a Persian Diana, whose fane was consecrated in the reign of Cyrus. They quoted too the names of Perperna, Isauricus, and many other generals who had conceded the same sacred character not only to the temple but to its precincts for two miles. Then came the Cyprians on behalf of three shrines, the oldest of which had been set up by their founder Aerias to the Paphian Venus, the second by his son Amathus to Venus of Amathus, and the last to Jupiter of Salamis, by Teucer when he fled from the wrath of his father Telamon.

62. Proximi hos Magnetes L. Scipionis et L. Sullae constitutis nitebantur, quorum ille Antiocho, hic Mithridate pulsis fidem atque virtutem Magnetum decoravere, uti Dianae Leucophrynae perfugium inviolabile foret. Aphrodisienses posthac et Strationicenses dictatoris Caesaris ob vetusta in partis merita et recens divi Augusti decretum adtulere, laudati quod Parthorum inruptionem nihil mutata in populum Romanum constantia pertulissent. sed Aphrodisiensium civitas Veneris, Stratonicensium Iovis et Triviae religionem tuebantur. altius Hierocaesarienses exposuere, Persicam apud se Dianam, delubrum rege Cyro dicatum; et memorabantur Perpennae, Isaurici multaque alia imperatorum nomina qui non modo templo sed duobus milibus passuum eandem sanctitatem tribuerant. exim Cyprii tribus [de] delubris, quorum vetustissimum Paphiae Veneri auctor Aesrias, post filius eius Amathus Veneri Amathusiae et Iovi Salaminio Teucer, Telamonis patris ira profugus, posuissent.

63. Audience was also given to embassies from other states. The senators wearied by their multiplicity and seeing the party spirit that was being roused, intrusted the inquiry to the consuls, who were to sift each title and see if it involved any abuse, and then refer back the entire matter to the Senate. Besides the states already mentioned, the consuls reported that they had ascertained that at Pergamus there was a sanctuary of Aesculapius, but that the rest relied on an origin lost in the obscurity of antiquity. For example, the people of Smyrna quoted an oracle of Apollo, which had commanded them to dedicate a temple to Venus Stratonicis; and the islanders of Tenos, an utterance from the same deity, bidding them consecrate a statue and a fane to Neptune. Sardis preferred a more modern claim, a grant from the victorious Alexander. So again Miletus relied on king Darius. But in each case their religious worship was that of Diana or Apollo. The Cretans too demanded a like privilege for a statue of the Divine Augustus. Decrees of the Senate were passed, which though very respectful, still prescribed certain limits, and the petitioners were directed to set up bronze tablets in each temple, to be a sacred memorial and to restrain them from sinking into selfish aims under the mask of religion.

63. Auditae aliarum quoque civitatium legationem. quorum copia fessi patres, et quia studiis certabatur, consulibus permisere ut perspecto iure, et si qua iniquitas involveretur, rem integram rursum ad senatum referrent. consules super eas civitates quas memoravi apud Pergamum Aesculapii compertum asylum rettulerunt: ceteros obscuris ob vetustatem initiis niti. nam Zmyrnaeos oraculum Apollinis, cuius imperio Stratonicidi Veneri templum dicaverint, Tenios eiusdem carmen referre, quo sacrare Neptuni effigiem aedemque iussi sint. propiora Sardianos: Alexandri victoris id donum. neque minus Milesios Dareo rege niti; set cultus numinum utrisque Dianam aut Apollinem venerandi. petere et Cretenses simulacro divi Augusti. factaque senatus consulta quis multo cum honore modus tamen praescribebatur. iussique ipsis in templis figere aera sacrandam ad memoriam, neu specie religionis in ambitionem delaberentur.

64. About this time Julia Augusta had an alarming illness, which compelled the emperor to hasten his return to Rome, for hitherto there had been a genuine harmony between the mother and son, or a hatred well concealed. Not long before, for instance, Julia in dedicating a statue to the Divine Augustus near the theatre of Marcellus had inscribed the name of Tiberius below her own, and it was surmised that the emperor, regarding this as a slight on a sovereign's dignity, had brooded over it with deep and disguised resentment. However the Senate now decreed supplications to the gods and the celebration of the Great Games, which were to be exhibited by the pontiffs, augurs, the colleges of the Fifteen and of the Seven, with the Augustal Brotherhood. Lucius Apronius moved that the heralds too should preside over these Games. This the emperor opposed, distinguishing the peculiar privileges of the sacred guilds, and quoting precedents. Never, he argued, had the heralds this dignity. "The Augustal priests were included expressly because their sacred office was specially attached to the family for which vows were being performed."

64. Sub idem tempus Iuliae Augustae valetudo atrox necessitudinem principi fecit festinati in urbem reditus, sincera adhuc inter matrem filiumque concordia sive occultis odiis. neque enim multo ante, cum haud procul theatro Marcelli effigiem divo Augusto Iulia dicaret, Tiberi nomen suo postscripserat, idque ille credebatur ut inferius maiestate principis gravi et dissimulata offensione abdidisse. set tum supplicia dis ludique magni ab senatu decernuntur, quos pontifices et augures et quindecimviri septemviris simul et sodalibus Augustalibus ederent. censuerat L. Apronius ut fetiales quoque iis ludis praesiderent. contra dixit Caesar, distincto sacerdotiorum iure et repetitis exemplis: neque enim umquam fetialibus hoc maiestatis fuisse. ideo Augustalis adiectos quia proprium eius domus sacerdotium esset pro qua vota persolverentur.

65. My purpose is not to relate at length every motion, but only such as were conspicuous for excellence or notorious for infamy. This I regard as history's highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated, and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words and deeds. So corrupted indeed and debased was that age by sycophancy that not only the foremost citizens who were forced to save their grandeur by servility, but every exconsul, most of the ex-praetors and a host of inferior senators would rise in eager rivalry to propose shameful and preposterous motions. Tradition says that Tiberius as often as he left the Senate-House used to exclaim in Greek, "How ready these men are to be slaves." Clearly, even he, with his dislike of public freedom, was disgusted at the abject abasement of his creatures.

65. Exequi sententias haud institui nisi insignis per honestum aut notabili dedecore, quod praecipuum munus annalium reor ne virtutes sileantur utque pravis dictis factisque ex posteritate et infamia metus sit. ceterum tempora illa adeo infecta et adulatione sordida fuere ut non modo primores civitatis, quibus claritudo sua obsequiis protegenda erat, sed omnes consulares, magna pars eorum qui praetura functi multique etiam pedarii senatores certatim exsurgerent foedaque et nimia censerent. memoriae proditur Tiberium, quoties curia egrederetur, Graecis verbis in hunc modum eloqui solitum 'o homines ad servitutem paratos!' scilicet etiam illum qui libertatem publicam nollet tam proiectae servientium patientiae taedebat.

66. From unseemly flatteries they passed by degrees to savage acts. Caius Silanus, pro-consul of Asia, was accused by our allies of extortion; whereupon Mamercus Scaurus, an ex-consul, Junius Otho, a praetor, Brutidius Niger, an aedile, simultaneously fastened on him and charged him with sacrilege to the divinity of Augustus, and contempt of the majesty of Tiberius, while Mamercus Scaurus quoted old precedents, the prosecutions of Lucius Cotta by Scipio Africanus, of Servius Galba by Cato the Censor and of Publius Rutilius by Scaurus. As if indeed Scipio's and Cato's vengeance fell on such offences, or that of the famous Scaurus, whom his great grandson, a blot on his ancestry, this Mamercus was now disgracing by his infamous occupation. Junius Otho's old employment had been the keeping of a preparatory school. Subsequently, becoming a senator by the influence of Sejanus, he shamed his origin, low as it was, by his unblushing effronteries. Brutidius who was rich in excellent accomplishments, and was sure, had he pursued a path of virtue, to reach the most brilliant distinction, was goaded on by an eager impatience, while he strove to outstrip his equals, then his superiors, and at last even his own aspirations. Many have thus perished, even good men, despising slow and safe success and hurrying on even at the cost of ruin to premature greatness.

66. Paulatim dehinc ab indecoris ad infesta transgrediebantur. C. Silanum pro consule Asiae repetundarum a sociis postulatum Mamercus Scaurus e consularibus, Iunius Otho praetor, Bruttedius Niger aedilis simul corripiunt obiectantque violatum Augusti numen, spretam Tiberii maiestatem, Mamercus antiqua exempla iaciens, L. Cottam a Scipione Africano, Servium Galbam a Catone censorio, P. Rutilium a M. Scauro accusatos. videlicet Scipio et Cato talia ulciscebantur aut ille Scaurus, quem proavum suum obprobrium maiorum Mamercus infami opera dehonestabat. Iunio Othoni litterarium ludum exercere vetus ars fuit: mox Seiani potentia senator obscura initia impudentibus ausis propolluebat. Bruttedium artibus honestis copiosum et, si rectum iter pergeret, ad clarissima quaeque iturum festinatio extimulabat, dum aequalis, dein superiores, postremo suasmet ipse spes antire parat: quod multos etiam bonos pessum dedit, qui spretis quae tarda cum securitate praematura vel cum exitio properant.

67. Gellius Publicola and Marcus Paconius, respectively quaestor and lieutenant of Silanus, swelled the number of the accusers. No doubt was felt as to the defendant's conviction for oppression and extortion, but there was a combination against him, that must have been perilous even to an innocent man. Besides a host of adverse Senators there were the most accomplished orators of all Asia, who, as such, had been retained for the prosecution, and to these he had to reply alone, without any experience in pleading, and under that personal apprehension which is enough to paralyse even the most practised eloquence. For Tiberius did not refrain from pressing him with angry voice and look, himself putting incessant questions, without allowing him to rebut or evade them, and he had often even to make admissions, that the questions might not have been asked in vain. His slaves too were sold by auction to the state-agent, to be examined by torture. And that not a friend might help him in his danger, charges of treason were added, a binding guarantee for sealed lips. Accordingly he begged a few days' respite, and at last abandoned his defence, after venturing on a memorial to the emperor, in which he mingled reproach and entreaty.

67. Auxere numerum accusatorum Gellius Publicola et Paconius, ille quaestor Silani, hic legatus. nec dubium habebatur saevitiae captarumque pecuniarum teneri reum: sed multa adgerebantur etiam insontibus periculosa, cum super tot senatores adversos facundissimis totius Asiae eoque ad accusandum delectis responderet solus et orandi nescius, proprio in metu qui exercitam quoque eloquentiam debilitat, non temperante Tiberio quin premeret voce vultu, eo quod ipse creberrime interrogabat, neque refellere aut eludere dabatur, ac saepe etiam confitendum erat ne frustra quaesivisset. servos quoque Silani ut tormentis interrogarentur actor publicus mancipio acceperat. et ne quis necessariorum iuvaret periclitantem maiestatis crimina subdebantur, vinclum et necessitas silendi. igitur petito paucorum dierum interiectu defensionem sui deseruit, ausis ad Caesarem codicillis quibus invidiam et preces miscuerat.

68. Tiberius, that his proceedings against Silanus might find some justification in precedent, ordered the Divine Augustus's indictment of Volesus Messala, also a proconsul of Asia, and the Senate's sentence on him to be read. He then asked Lucius Piso his opinion. After a long preliminary eulogy on the prince's clemency, Piso pronounced that Silanus ought to be outlawed and banished to the island of Gyarus. The rest concurred, with the exception of Cneius Lentulus, who, with the assent of Tiberius, proposed that the property of Silanus's mother, as she was very different from him, should be exempted from confiscation, and given to the son.

68. Tiberius quae in Silanum parabat quo excusatius sub exemplo acciperentur, libellos divi Augusti de Voleso Messala eiusdem Asiae pro consule factumque in eum senatus consultum recitari iubet. tum L. Pisonem sententiam rogat. ille multum de clementia principis praefatus aqua atque igni Silano interdicendum censuit ipsumque in insulam Gyarum relegandum. eadem ceteri, nisi quod Cn. Lentulus separanda Silani materna bona, quippe Atia parente geniti, reddendaque filio dixit, adnuente Tiberio.

69. Cornelius Dolabella however, by way of carrying flattery yet further, sharply censured the morals of Silanus, and then moved that no one of disgraceful life and notorious infamy should be eligible for a province, and that of this the emperor should be judge. "Laws, indeed," he said, "punish crimes committed; but how much more merciful would it be to individuals, how much better for our allies, to provide against their commission." The emperor opposed the motion. "Although," he said, "I am not ignorant of the reports about Silanus, still we must decide nothing by hearsay. Many a man has behaved in a province quite otherwise than was hoped or feared of him. Some are roused to higher things by great responsibility; others are paralysed by it. It is not possible for a prince's knowledge to embrace everything, and it is not expedient that he should be exposed to the ambitious schemings of others. Laws are ordained to meet facts, inasmuch as the future is uncertain. It was the rule of our ancestors that, whenever there was first an offence, some penalty should follow. Let us not revolutionise a wisely devised and ever approved system. Princes have enough burdens, and also enough power. Rights are invariably abridged, as despotism increases; nor ought we to fall back on imperial authority, when we can have recourse to the laws." Such constitutional sentiments were so rare with Tiberius, that they were welcomed with all the heartier joy. Knowing, as he did, how to be forbearing, when he was not under the stimulus of personal resentment, he further said that Gyarus was a dreary and uninhabited island, and that, as a concession to the Junian family and to a man of the same order as themselves, they might let him retire by preference to Cythnus. This, he added, was also the request of Torquata, Silanus's sister, a vestal of primitive purity. The motion was carried after a division.

69. At Cornelius Dolabella dum adulationem longius sequitur increpitis C. Silani moribus addidit ne quis vita probrosus et opertus infamia provinciam sortiretur, idque princeps diiudicaret. nam a legibus delicta puniri: quanto fore mitius in ipsos, melius in socios, provideri ne peccaretur? adversum quae disseruit Caesar: non quidem sibi ignare quae de Silano vulgabantur, sed non ex rumore statuendum. multos in provinciis contra quam spes aut metus de illis fuerit egisse: excitari quosdam ad meliora magnitudine rerum, hebescere alios. neque posse principem sua scientia cuncta complecti neque expedire ut ambitione aliena trahatur. ideo leges in facta constitui quia futura in incerto sint. sic a maioribus institutum ut, si antissent delicta, poenae sequerentur. ne verterent sapienter reperta et semper placita: satis onerum principibus, satis etiam potentiae. minui iura quotiens gliscat potestas, nec utendum imperio ubi legibus agi possit. quanto rarior apud Tiberium popularitas tanto laetioribus animis accepta. atque ille prudens moderandi, si propria ira non impelleretur, addidit insulam Gyarum immitem et sine cultu hominum esse: darent Iuniae familiae et viro quondam ordinis eiusdem ut Cythnum potius concederet. id sororem quoque Silani Torquatam, priscae sanctimoniae virginem, expetere. in hanc sententiam facta discessio.

Next: Book 3 [70]