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Tacitus: Annals Book 6 [10]

10. Even women were not exempt from danger. Where they could not be accused of grasping at political power, their tears were made a crime. Vitia, an aged woman, mother of Fufius Geminus, was executed for bewailing the death of her son. Such were the proceedings in the Senate. It was the same with the emperor. Vescularius Atticus and Julius Marinus were hurried off to execution, two of his oldest friends, men who had followed him to Rhodes and been his inseparable companions at Capreae. Vescularius was his agent in the plot against Libo, and it was with the co-operation of Marinus that Sejanus had ruined Curtius Atticus. Hence there was all the more joy at the recoil of these precedents on their authors. About the same time Lucius Piso, the pontiff, died a natural death, a rare incident in so high a rank. Never had he by choice proposed a servile motion, and, whenever necessity was too strong for him, he would suggest judicious compromises. His father, as I have related, had been a censor. He lived to the advanced age of eighty, and had won in Thrace the honour of a triumph. But his chief glory rested on the wonderful tact with which as city-prefect he handled an authority, recently made perpetual and all the more galling to men unaccustomed to obey it.

6.10. Ne feminae quidem exsortes periculi. quia occu pandae rei publicae argui non poterant, ob lacrimas incusabantur; necataque est anus Vitia, Fufii Gemini mater, quod filii necem flevisset. haec apud senatum: nec secus apud principem Vescularius Flaccus ac Iulius Marinus ad mortem aguntur, e vetustissimis familiarium, Rhodum secuti et apud Capreas individui, Vescularius insidiarum in Libonem internuntius; Marino participe Seianus Curtium Atticum oppresserat. quo laetius acceptum sua exempla in consultores recidisse. Per idem tempus L. Piso pontifex, rarum in tanta claritudine, fato obiit, nullius servilis sententiae sponte auctor et quoties necessitas ingrueret sapienter moderans. patrem ei censorium fuisse memoravi; aetas ad octogesimum annum processit; decus triumphale in Thraecia meruerat. sed praecipua ex eo gloria quod praefectus urbi recens continuam potestatem et insolentia parendi graviorem mire temperavit.

11. In former days, when the kings and subsequently the chief magistrates went from Rome, an official was temporarily chosen to administer justice and provide for emergencies, so that the capital might not be left without government. It is said that Denter Romulius was appointed by Romulus, then Numa Marcius by Tullus Hostilius, and Spurius Lucretius by Tarquinius Superbus. Afterwards, the consuls made the appointment. The shadow of the old practice still survives, whenever in consequence of the Latin festival some one is deputed to exercise the consul's functions. And Augustus too during the civil wars gave Cilnius Maecenas, a Roman knight, charge of everything in Rome and Italy. When he rose to supreme power, in consideration of the magnitude of the State and the slowness of legal remedies, he selected one of the exconsuls to overawe the slaves and that part of the population which, unless it fears a strong hand, is disorderly and reckless. Messala Corvinus was the first to obtain the office, which he lost within a few days, as not knowing how to discharge it. After him Taurus Statilius, though in advanced years, sustained it admirably; and then Piso, after twenty years of similar credit, was, by the Senate's decree, honoured with a public funeral.

6.11. Namque antea profectis domo regibus ac mox magistratibus, ne urbs sine imperio foret in tempus deligebatur qui ius redderet ac subitis mederetur; feruntque ab Romulo Dentrem Romulium, post ab Tullo Hostilio Numam Marcium et ab Tarquinio Superbo Spurium Lucretium impositos. dein consules mandabant; duratque simulacrum quoties ob ferias Latinas praeficitur qui consulare munus usurpet. ceterum Augustus bellis civilibus Cilnium Maecenatem equestris ordinis cunctis apud Romam atque Italiam praeposuit: mox rerum potitus ob magnitudinem populi ac tarda legum auxilia sumpsit e consularibus qui coerceret servitia et quod civium audacia turbidum, nisi vim metuat. primusque Messala Corvinus eam potestatem et paucos intra dies finem accepit quasi nescius exercendi; tum Taurus Statilius, quamquam provecta aetate, egregie toleravit; dein Piso viginti per annos pariter probatus publico funere ex decreto senatus celebratus est.

12. A motion was next brought forward in the Senate by Quintilianus, a tribune of the people, respecting an alleged book of the Sibyl. Caninius Gallus, a book of the College of the Fifteen, had asked that it might be received among the other volumes of the same prophetess by a decree on the subject. This having been carried by a division, the emperor sent a letter in which he gently censured the tribune, as ignorant of ancient usage because of his youth. Gallus he scolded for having introduced the matter in a thin Senate, notwithstanding his long experience in the science of religious ceremonies, without taking the opinion of the College or having the verses read and criticised, as was usual, by its presidents, though their authenticity was very doubtful. He also reminded him that, as many spurious productions were current under a celebrated name, Augustus had prescribed a day within which they should be deposited with the city-praetor, and after which it should not be lawful for any private person to hold them. The same regulations too had been made by our ancestors after the burning of the Capitol in the social war, when there was a search throughout Samos, Ilium, Erythrae, and even in Africa, Sicily and the Italian colonies for the verses of the Sibyl (whether there were but one or more) and the priests were charged with the business of distinguishing, as far as they could by human means, what were genuine. Accordingly the book in question was now also submitted to the scrutiny of the College of the Fifteen.

6.12. Relatum inde ad patres a Quintiliano tribuno plebei de libro Sibullae, quem Caninius Gallus quindecimvirum recipi inter ceteros eiusdem vatis et ea de re senatus consultum postulaverat. quo per discessionem facto misit litteras Caesar, modice tribunum increpans ignarum antiqui moris ob iuventam. Gallo exprobrabat quod scientiae caerimoniarumque vetus incerto auctore ante sententiam collegii, non, ut adsolet, lecto per magistros aestimatoque carmine, apud infrequentem senatum egisset. simul commonefecit, quia multa vana sub nomine celebri vulgabantur. sanxisse Augustum quem intra diem ad praetorem urbanum deferrentur neque habere privatim liceret. quod a maioribus quoque decretum erat post exustum sociali bello Capitolium, quaesitis Samo, Ilio, Erythris, per Africam etiam ac Siciliam et Italicas colonias carminibus Sibullae, una seu plures fuer datoque sacerdotibus negotio quantum humana ope potuissent vera discernere. igitur tunc quoque notioni quindecimvirum is liber subicitur.

13. During the same consulship a high price of corn almost brought on an insurrection. For several days there were many clamorous demands made in the theatre with an unusual freedom of language towards the emperor. This provoked him to censure the magistrates and the Senate for not having used the authority of the State to put down the people. He named too the corn-supplying provinces, and dwelt on the far larger amount of grain imported by himself than by Augustus. So the Senate drew up a decree in the severe spirit of antiquity, and the consuls issued a not less stringent proclamation. The emperor's silence was not, as he had hoped, taken as a proof of patriotism, but of pride.

6.13. Isdem consulibus gravitate annonae iuxta seditionem ventum multaque et pluris per dies in theatro licentius efflagitata quam solitum adversum imperatorem. quis commotus incusavit magistratus patresque quod non publica auctoritate populum coercuissent addiditque quibus ex provinciis et quanto maiorem quam Augustus rei frumentariae copiam advectaret. ita castigandae plebi compositum senatus consultum prisca severitate neque segnius consules edixere. silentium ipsius non civile, ut crediderat, sed in superbiam accipiebatur.

14. At the year's close Geminius, Celsus and Pompeius, Roman knights, fell beneath a charge of conspiracy. Of these Caius Geminius, by lavish expenditure and a luxurious life, had been a friend of Sejanus, but with no serious result. Julius Celsus, a tribune, while in confinement, loosened his chain, and having twisted it around him, broke his neck by throwing himself in an opposite direction. Rubrius Fabatus was put under surveillance, on a suspicion that, in despair of the fortunes of Rome, he meant to throw himself on the mercy of the Parthians. He was, at any rate, found near the Straits of the Sicily, and, when dragged back by a centurion, he assigned no adequate reason for his long journey. Still, he lived on in safety, thanks to forgetfulness rather than to mercy.

6.14. Fine anni Geminius, Celsus, Pompeius, equites Romani, cecidere coniurationis crimine; ex quis Geminius prodigentia opum ac mollitia vitae amicus Seiano, nihil ad serium. et Iulius Celsus tribunus in vinclis laxatam catenam et circumdatam in diversum tendens suam ipse cervicem perfregit. at Rubrio Fabato, tamquam desperatis rebus Romanis Parthorum ad misericordiam fugeret, custodes additi. sane is repertus apud fretum Siciliae retractusque per centurionem nullas probabilis causas longinquae peregrinationis adferebat: mansit tamen incolumis oblivione magis quam clementia.

15. In the consulship of Servius Galba and Lucius Sulla, the emperor, after having long considered whom he was to choose to be husbands for his granddaughters, now that the maidens were of marriageable age, selected Lucius Cassius and Marcus Vinicius. Vinicius was of provincial descent; he was born at Cales, his father and grandfather having been consuls, and his family, on the other side, being of the rank of knights. He was a man of amiable temper and of cultivated eloquence. Cassius was of an ancient and honourable, though plebeian house, at Rome. Though he was brought up by his father under a severe training, he won esteem more frequently by his good-nature than by his diligence. To him and to Vinicius the emperor married respectively Drusilla and Julia, Germanicus's daughters, and addressed a letter on the subject to the Senate, with a slightly complimentary mention of the young men. He next assigned some very vague reasons for his absence, then passed to more important matters, the ill-will against him originating in his state policy, and requested that Macro, who commanded the praetorians, with a few tribunes and centurions, might accompany him whenever he entered the Senate-house. But though a decree was voted by the Senate on a liberal scale and without any restrictions as to rank or numbers, he never so much as went near the walls of Rome, much less the State-council, for he would often go round and avoid his native city by circuitous routes.

6.15. Ser. Galba L. Sulla consulibus diu quaesito quos neptibus suis maritos destinaret Caesar, postquam instabat virginum aetas, L. Cassium, M. Vinicium legit. Vinicio oppidanum genus: Calibus ortus, patre atque avo consularibus, cetera equestri familia erat, mitis ingenio et comptae facundiae. Cassius plebeii Romae generis, verum antiqui honoratique, et severa patris disciplina eductus facilitate saepius quam industria commendabatur. huic Drusillam, Vinicio Iuliam Germanico genitas coniungit superque ea re senatui scribit levi cum honore iuvenum. dein redditis absentiae causis admodum vagis flexit ad graviora et offensiones ob rem publicam coeptas, utque Macro praefectus tribunorumque et centurionum pauci secum introirent quoties curiam ingrederetur petivit. factoque large et sine praescriptione generis aut numeri senatus consulto ne tecta quidem urbis, adeo publicum consilium numquam adiit, deviis plerumque itineribus ambiens patriam et declinans.

16. Meanwhile a powerful host of accusers fell with sudden fury on the class which systematically increased its wealth by usury in defiance of a law passed by Caesar the Dictator defining the terms of lending money and of holding estates in Italy, a law long obsolete because the public good is sacrificed to private interest. The curse of usury was indeed of old standing in Rome and a most frequent cause of sedition and discord, and it was therefore repressed even in the early days of a less corrupt morality. First, the Twelve Tables prohibited any one from exacting more than 10 per cent., when, previously, the rate had depended on the caprice of the wealthy. Subsequently, by a bill brought in by the tribunes, interest was reduced to half that amount, and finally compound interest was wholly forbidden. A check too was put by several enactments of the people on evasions which, though continually put down, still, through strange artifices, reappeared. On this occasion, however, Gracchus, the praetor, to whose jurisdiction the inquiry had fallen, felt himself compelled by the number of persons endangered to refer the matter to the Senate. In their dismay the senators, not one of whom was free from similar guilt, threw themselves on the emperor's indulgence. He yielded, and a year and six months were granted, within which every one was to settle his private accounts conformably to the requirements of the law.

6.16. Interea magna vis accusatorum in eos inrupit qui pecunias faenore auctitabant adversum legem dictatoris Caesaris qua de modo credendi possidendique intra Italiam caventur, omissam olim, quia privato usui bonum publicum postponitur. sane vetus urbi faenebre malum et seditionum discordiarumque creberrima causa eoque cohibebatur antiquis quoque et minus corruptis moribus. nam primo duodecim tabulis sanctum ne quis unciario faenore amplius exerceret, cum antea ex libidine locupletium agitaretur; dein rogatione tribunicia ad semuncias redactum, postremo vetita versura. multisque plebi scitis obviam itum fraudibus quae toties repressae miras per artes rursum oriebantur. sed tum Gracchus praetor, cui ea quaestio evenerat, multitudine periclitantium subactus rettulit ad senatum, trepidique patres (neque enim quisquam tali culpa vacuus) veniam a principe petivere; et concedente annus in posterum sexque menses dati quis secundum iussa legis rationes familiaris quisque componerent.

17. Hence followed a scarcity of money, a great shock being given to all credit, the current coin too, in consequence of the conviction of so many persons and the sale of their property, being locked up in the imperial treasury or the public exchequer. To meet this, the Senate had directed that every creditor should have two-thirds his capital secured on estates in Italy. Creditors however were suing for payment in full, and it was not respectable for persons when sued to break faith. So, at first, there were clamorous meetings and importunate entreaties; then noisy applications to the praetor's court. And the very device intended as a remedy, the sale and purchase of estates, proved the contrary, as the usurers had hoarded up all their money for buying land. The facilities for selling were followed by a fall of prices, and the deeper a man was in debt, the more reluctantly did he part with his property, and many were utterly ruined. The destruction of private wealth precipitated the fall of rank and reputation, till at last the emperor interposed his aid by distributing throughout the banks a hundred million sesterces, and allowing freedom to borrow without interest for three years, provided the borrower gave security to the State in land to double the amount. Credit was thus restored, and gradually private lenders were found. The purchase too of estates was not carried out according to the letter of the Senate's decree, rigour at the outset, as usual with such matters, becoming negligence in the end.

6.17. Hinc inopia rei nummariae, commoto simul omnium aere alieno, et quia tot damnatis bonisque eorum divenditis signatum argentum fisco vel aerario attinebatur. ad hoc senatus praescripserat, duas quisque faenoris partis in agris per Italiam conlocaret. sed creditores in solidum appellabant nec decorum appellatis minuere fidem. ita primo concursatio et preces, dein strepere praetoris tribunal, eaque quae remedio quaesita, venditio et emptio, in contrarium mutari quia faeneratores omnem pecuniam mercandis agris condiderant. copiam vendendi secuta vilitate, quanto quis obaeratior, aegrius distrahebant, multique fortunis provolvebantur; eversio rei familiaris dignitatem ac famam praeceps dabat, donec tulit opem Caesar disposito per mensas milies sestertio factaque mutuandi copia sine usuris per triennium, si debitor populo in duplum praediis cavisset. sic refecta fides et paulatim privati quoque creditores reperti. neque emptio agrorum exercita ad formam senatus consulti, acribus, ut ferme talia, initiis, incurioso fine.

18. Former alarms then returned, as there was a charge of treason against Considius Proculus. While he was celebrating his birthday without a fear, he was hurried before the Senate, condemned and instantly put to death. His sister Sancia was outlawed, on the accusation of Quintus Pomponius, a restless spirit, who pretended that he employed himself in this and like practices to win favour with the sovereign, and thereby alleviate the perils hanging over his brother Pomponius Secundus. Pompeia Macrina too was sentenced to banishment. Her husband Argolicus and her father-in-law Laco, leading men of Achaia, had been ruined by the emperor. Her father likewise, an illustrious Roman knight, and her brother, an ex-praetor, seeing their doom was near, destroyed themselves. It was imputed to them as a crime that their great-grandfather Theophanes of Mitylene had been one of the intimate friends of Pompey the Great, and that after his death Greek flattery had paid him divine honours.

6.18. Dein redeunt priores metus postulato maiestatis Considio Proculo; qui nullo pavore diem natalem celebrans raptus in curiam pariterque damnatus interfectusque, et sorori eius Sanciae aqua atque igni interdictum accusante Q. Pomponio. is moribus inquies haec et huiusce modi a se factitari praetendebat ut parta apud principem gratia periculis Pomponii Secundi fratris mederetur. etiam in Pompeiam Macrinam exilium statuitur cuius maritum Argolicum socerum Laconem e primoribus Achaeorum Caesar adflixerat. pater quoque inlustris eques Romanus ac frater praetorius, cum damnatio instaret, se ipsi interfecere. datum erat crimini quod Theophanen Mytilenaeum proavum eorum Cn. Magnus inter intimos habuisset, quodque defuncto Theophani caelestis honores Graeca adulatio tribuerat.

19. Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, was next accused of incest with his daughter, and thrown headlong from the Tarpeian rock. To remove any doubt that the vastness of his wealth had proved the man's ruin, Tiberius kept his gold-mines for himself, though they were forfeited to the State. Executions were now a stimulus to his fury, and he ordered the death of all who were lying in prison under accusation of complicity with Sejanus. There lay, singly or in heaps, the unnumbered dead, of every age and sex, the illustrious with the obscure. Kinsfolk and friends were not allowed to be near them, to weep over them, or even to gaze on them too long. Spies were set round them, who noted the sorrow of each mourner and followed the rotting corpses, till they were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating or driven on the bank, no one dared to burn or to touch them. The force of terror had utterly extinguished the sense of human fellowship, and, with the growth of cruelty, pity was thrust aside.

6.19. Post quos Sex. Marius Hispaniarum ditissimus defertur incestasse filiam et saxo Tarpeio deicitur. ac ne dubium haberetur magnitudinem pecuniae malo vertisse, aurariasque eius, quamquam publicarentur, sibimet Tiberius seposuit. inritatusque suppliciis cunctos qui carcere attinebantur accusati societatis cum Seiano necari iubet. iacuit immensa strages, omnis sexus, omnis aetas, inlustres ignobiles, dispersi aut aggerati. neque propinquis aut amicis adsistere, inlacrimare, ne visere quidem diutius dabatur, sed circumiecti custodes et in maerorem cuiusque intenti corpora putrefacta adsectabantur, dum in Tiberim traherentur ubi fluitantia aut ripis adpulsa non cremare quisquam, non contingere. interciderat sortis humanae commercium vi metus, quantumque saevitia glisceret, miseratio arcebatur.

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