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Tacitus: Annals Book 6 [30]

30. Still the informers were punished when ever an opportunity occurred. Servilius and Cornelius, for example, whom the destruction of Scaurus had made notorious, were outlawed and transported to some islands for having taken money from Varius Ligur for dropping a prosecution. Abudius Ruso too, who had been an aedile, in seeking to imperil Lentulus Gaetulicus, under whom he had commanded a legion, by alleging that he had fixed on a son of Sejanus for his son-in-law, was himself actually condemned and banished from Rome. Gaetulicus at this time was in charge of the legions of Upper Germany, and had won from them singular affection, as a man of unbounded kindliness, moderate in his strictness, and popular even with the neighbouring army through his father-in-law, Lucius Apronius. Hence rumour persistently affirmed that he had ventured to send the emperor a letter, reminding him that his alliance with Sejanus had not originated in his own choice, but in the advice of Tiberius; that he was himself as liable to be deceived as Tiberius, and that the same mistake ought not to be held innocent in the prince and be a source of ruin to others. His loyalty was still untainted and would so remain, if he was not assaIled by any plot. A successor he should accept as an announcement of his doom. A compact, so to say, ought to be sealed between them, by which he should retain his province, and the emperor be master of all else. Strange as this story was, it derived credibility from the fact that Gaetulicus alone of all connected with Sejanus lived in safety and in high favour, Tiberius bearing in mind the people's hatred, his own extreme age how his government rested more on prestige than on power.

6.30. Ac tamen accusatores, si facultas incideret, poenis adficiebantur, ut Servilius Corneliusque perdito Scauro famosi, quia pecuniam a Vario Ligure omittendae delationis ceperant, in insulas interdicto igni atque aqua demoti sunt. et Abudius Ruso functus aedilitate, dum Lentulo Gaetulico, sub quo legioni praefuerat, periculum facessit quod is Seiani filium generum destinasset, ultro damnatur atque urbe exigitur. Gaetulicus ea tempestate superioris Germaniae legiones curabat mirumque amorem adsecutus erat, effusae clementiae, modicus severitate et proximo quoque exercitui per L. Apronium socerum non ingratus. unde fama constans ausum mittere ad Caesarem litteras, adfinitatem sibi cum Seiano haud sponte sed consilio Tiberii coeptam; perinde se quam Tiberium falli potuisse, neque errorem eundem illi sine fraude, aliis exitio habendum. sibi fidem integram et, si nullis insidiis peteretur, mansuram; successorem non aliter quam indicium mortis accepturum. firmarent velut foedus, quo princeps ceterarum rerum poteretur, ipse provinciam retineret. haec, mira quamquam, fidem ex eo trahebant quod unus omnium Seiani adfinium incolumis multaque gratia mansit, reputante Tiberio publicum sibi odium, extremam aetatem magisque fama quam vi stare res suas.

31. In the consulship of Caius Cestius and Marcus Servilius, some Parthian nobles came to Rome without the knowledge of their king Artabanus. Dread of Germanicus had made that prince faithful to the Romans and just to his people, but he subsequently changed this behaviour for insolence towards us and tyranny to his subjects. He was elated by the wars which he had successfully waged against the surrounding nations, while he disdained the aged and, as he thought, unwarlike Tiberius, eagerly coveting Armenia, over which, on the death of Artaxias, he placed Arsaces, his eldest son. He further added insult, and sent envoys to reclaim the treasures left by Vonones in Syria and Cilicia. Then too he insisted on the ancient boundaries of Persia and Macedonia, and intimated, with a vainglorious threat, that he meant to seize on the country possessed by Cyrus and afterwards by Alexander. The chief adviser of the Parthians in sending the secret embassy was Sinnaces, a man of distinguished family and corresponding wealth. Next in influence was Abdus, an eunuch, a class which, far from being despised among barbarians, actually possesses power. These, with some other nobles whom they admitted to their counsels, as there was not a single Arsacid whom they could put on the throne, most of the family having been murdered by Artabanus or being under age, demanded that Phraates, son of king Phraates, should be sent from Rome. "Only a name," they said, "and an authority were wanted; only, in fact, that, with Caesar's consent, a scion of the house of Arsaces should show himself on the banks of the Euphrates."

6.31. C. Cestio M. Servilio consulibus nobiles Parthi in urbem venere, ignaro rege Artabano. is metu Germanici fidus Romanis, aequabilis in suos, mox superbiam in nos, saevitiam in popularis sumpsit, fretus bellis quae secunda adversum circumiectas nationes exercuerat, et senectutem Tiberii ut inermem despiciens avidusque Armeniae, cui defuncto rege Artaxia Arsacen liberorum suorum veterrimum imposuit, addita contumelia et missis qui gazam a Vonone relictam in Syria Ciliciaque reposcerent; simul veteres Persarum ac Macedonum terminos seque invasurum possessa Cyro et post Alexandro per vaniloquentiam ac minas iaciebat. sed Parthis mittendi secretos nuntios validissimus auctor fuit Sinnaces, insigni familia ac perinde opibus, et proximus huic Abdus ademptae virilitatis. non despectum id apud barbaros ultroque potentiam habet. ii adscitis et aliis primoribus, quia neminem gentis Arsacidarum summae rei imponere poterant, interfectis ab Artabano plerisque aut nondum adultis, Phraaten regis Phraatis filium Roma poscebant: nomine tantum et auctore opus [ut] sponte Caesaris ut genus Arsacis ripam apud Euphratis cerneretur.

32. This suited the wishes of Tiberius. He provided Phraates with what he needed for assuming his father's sovereignty, while he clung to his purpose of regulating foreign affairs by a crafty policy and keeping war at a distance. Artabanus meanwhile, hearing of the treacherous arrangement, was one moment perplexed by apprehension, the next fired with a longing for revenge. With barbarians, indecision is a slave's weakness; prompt action king-like. But now expediency prevailed, and he invited Abdus, under the guise of friendship, to a banquet, and disabled him by a lingering poison; Sinnaces he put off by pretexts and presents, and also by various employments. Phraates meanwhile, on arriving in Syria, where he threw off the Roman fashions to which for so many years he had been accustomed, and adapted himself to Parthian habits, unable to endure the customs of his country, was carried off by an illness. Still, Tiberius did not relinquish his purpose. He chose Tiridates, of the same stock as Artabanus, to be his rival, and the Iberian Mithridates to be the instrument of recovering Armenia, having reconciled him to his brother Pharasmanes, who held the throne of that country. He then intrusted the whole of his eastern policy to Lucius Vitellius. The man, I am aware, had a bad name at Rome, and many a foul story was told of him. But in the government of provinces he acted with the virtue of ancient times. He returned, and then, through fear of Caius Caesar and intimacy with Claudius, he degenerated into a servility so base that he is regarded by an after-generation as the type of the most degrading adulation. The beginning of his career was forgotten in its end, and an old age of infamy effaced the virtues of youth.

6.32. Cupitum id Tiberio: ornat Phraaten accingitque paternum ad fastigium, destinata retinens, consiliis et astu res externas moliri, arma procul habere. interea cognitis insidiis Artabanus tardari metu, modo cupidine vindictae inardescere. et barbaris cunctatio servilis, statim exequi regium videtur: valuit tamen utilitas, ut Abdum specie amicitiae vocatum ad epulas lento veneno inligaret, Sinnacen dissimulatione ac donis, simul per negotia moraretur. et Phraates apud Syriam dum omisso cultu Romano, cui per tot annos insueverat, instituta Parthorum sumit, patriis moribus impar morbo absumptus est. sed non Tiberius omisit incepta: Tiridaten sanguinis eiusdem aemulum Artabano reciperandaeque Armeniae Hiberum Mithridaten deligit conciliatque fratri Pharasmani, qui gentile imperium obtinebat; et cunctis quae apud Orientem parabantur L. Vitellium praefecit. eo de homine haud sum ignarus sinistram in urbe famam, pleraque foeda memorari; ceterum regendis provinciis prisca virtute egit. unde regressus et formidine G. Caesaris, familiaritate Claudii turpe in servitium mutatus exemplar apud posteros adulatorii dedecoris habetur, cesseruntque prima postremis, et bona iuventae senectus flagitiosa oblitteravit.

33. Of the petty chiefs Mithridates was the first to persuade Pharasmanes to aid his enterprise by stratagem and force, and agents of corruption were found who tempted the servants of Arsaces into crime by a quantity of gold. At the same instant the Iberians burst into Armenia with a huge host, and captured the city of Artaxata. Artabanus, on hearing this, made his son Orodes the instrument of vengeance. He gave him the Parthian army and despatched men to hire auxiliaries. Pharasmanes, on the other hand, allied himself with the Albanians, and procured aid from the Sarmatae, whose highest chiefs took bribes from both sides, after the fashion of their countrymen, and engaged themselves in conflicting interests. But the Iberians, who were masters of the various positions, suddenly poured the Sarmatae into Armenia by the Caspian route. Meanwhile those who were coming up to the support of the Parthians were easily kept back, all other approaches having been closed by the enemy except one, between the sea and the mountains on the Albanian frontier, which summer rendered difficult, as there the shallows are flooded by the force of the Etesian gales. The south wind in winter rolls back the waves, and when the sea is driven back upon itself, the shallows along the coast, are exposed.

6.33. At ex regulis prior Mithridates Pharasmanem perpulit dolo et vi conatus suos iuvare, repertique corruptores ministros Arsacis multo auro ad scelus cogunt; simul Hiberi magnis copiis Armeniam inrumpunt et urbe Artaxata potiuntur. quae postquam Artabano cognita, filium Oroden ultorem parat; dat Parthorum copias, mittit qui auxilia mercede facerent: contra Pharasmanes adiungere Albanos, accire Sarmatas, quorum sceptuchi utrimque donis acceptis more gentico diversa induere. sed Hiberi locorum potentes Caspia via Sarmatam in Armenios raptim effundunt. at qui Parthis adventabant, facile arcebantur, cum alios incessus hostis clausisset, unum reliquum mare inter et extremos Albanorum montis aestas impediret, quia flatibus etesiarum implentur vada: hibernus auster revolvit fluctus pulsoque introrsus freto brevia litorum nudantur.

34. Meantime, while Orodes was without an ally, Pharasmanes, now strengthened by reinforcements, challenged him to battle, taunted him on his refusal, rode up to his camp and harassed his foraging parties. He often hemmed him in with his picquets in the fashion of a blockade, till the Parthians, who were unused to such insults, gathered round the king and demanded battle. Their sole strength was in cavalry; Pharasmanes was also powerful in infantry, for the Iberians and Albanians, inhabiting as they did a densely wooded country, were more inured to hardship and endurance. They claim to have been descended from the Thessalians, at the period when Jason, after the departure of Medea and the children born of her, returned subsequently to the empty palace of Aeetes, and the vacant kingdom of Colchi. They have many traditions connected with his name and with the oracle of Phrixus. No one among them would think of sacrificing a ram, the animal supposed to have conveyed Phrixus, whether it was really a ram or the figure-head of a ship. Both sides having been drawn up in battle array, the Parthian leader expatiated on the empire of the East, and the renown of the Arsacids, in contrast to the despicable Iberian chief with his hireling soldiery. Pharasmanes reminded his people that they had been free from Parthian domination, and that the grander their aims, the more glory they would win if victorious, the more disgrace and peril they would incur if they turned their backs. He pointed, as he spoke, to his own menacing array, and to the Median bands with their golden embroidery; warriors, as he said, on one side, spoil on the other.

6.34. Interim Oroden sociorum inopem auctus auxilio Pharasmanes vocare ad pugnam et detrectantem incessere, adequitare castris, infensare pabula; ac saepe modum obsidii stationibus cingebat, donec Parthi contumeliarum insolentes circumsisterent regem poscerent proelium. atque illis sola in equite vis: Pharasmanes et pedite valebat. nam Hiberi Albanique saltuosos locos incolentes duritiae patientiaeque magis insuevere; feruntque se Thessalis ortos, qua tempestate Iaso post avectam Medeam genitosque ex ea liberos inanem mox regiam Aeetae vacuosque Colchos repetivit. multaque de nomine eius et oraclum Phrixi celebrant; nec quisquam ariete sacrificaverit, credito vexisse Phrixum, sive id animal seu navis insigne fuit. ceterum derecta utrimque acie Parthus imperium Orientis, claritudinem Arsacidarum contraque ignobilem Hiberum mercennario milite disserebat; Pharasmanes integros semet a Parthico dominatu, quanto maiora peterent, plus decoris victores aut, si terga darent, flagitii atque periculi laturos; simul horridam suorum aciem, picta auro Medorum agmina, hinc viros, inde praedam ostendere.

35. Among the Sarmatae the general's voice was not alone to be heard. They encouraged one another not to begin the battle with volleys of arrows; they must, they said, anticipate attack by a hand to hand charge. Then followed every variety of conflict. The Parthians, accustomed to pursue or fly with equal science, deployed their squadrons, and sought scope for their missiles. The Sarmatae, throwing aside their bows, which at a shorter range are effective, rushed on with pikes and swords. Sometimes, as in a cavalry-action, there would be alternate advances and retreats, then, again, close fighting, in which, breast to breast, with the clash of arms, they repulsed the foe or were themselves repulsed. And now the Albanians and Iberians seized, and hurled the Parthians from their steeds, and embarrassed their enemy with a double attack, pressed as they were by the cavalry on the heights and by the nearer blows of the infantry. Meanwhile Pharasmanes and Orodes, who, as they cheered on the brave and supported the wavering, were conspicuous to all, and so recognised each other, rushed to the combat with a shout, with javelins, and galloping chargers, Pharasmanes with the greater impetuosity, for he pierced his enemy's helmet at a stroke. But he could not repeat the blow, as he was hurried onwards by his horse, and the wounded man was protected by the bravest of his guards. A rumour that he was slain, which was believed by mistake, struck panic into the Parthians, and they yielded the victory.

6.35. Enimvero apud Sarmatas non una vox ducis: se quisque stimulant ne pugnam per sagittas sinerent: impetu et comminus praeveniendum. variae hinc bellantium species, cum Parthus sequi vel fugere pari arte suetus distraheret turmas, spatium ictibus quaereret, Sarmatae omisso arcu, quo brevius valent, contis gladiisque ruerent; modo equestris proelii more frontis et tergi vices, aliquando ut conserta acies corporibus et pulsu armorum pellerent pellerentur. iamque et Albani Hiberique prensare, detrudere, ancipitem pugnam hostibus facere, quos super eques et propioribus vulneribus pedites adflictabant. inter quae Pharasmanes Orodesque, dum strenuis adsunt aut dubitantibus subveniunt, conspicui eoque gnari, clamore telis equis concurrunt, instantius Pharasmanes; nam vulnus per galeam adegit. nec iterare valuit, praelatus equo et fortissimis satellitum protegentibus saucium: fama tamen occisi falso credita exterruit Parthos victoriamque concessere.

36. Artabanus very soon marched with the whole strength of his kingdom, intent on vengeance. The Iberians from their knowledge of the country fought at an advantage. Still Artabanus did not retreat till Vitellius had assembled his legions and, by starting a report that he meant to invade Mesopotamia, raised an alarm of war with Rome. Armenia was then abandoned, and the fortunes of Artabanus were overthrown, Vitellius persuading his subjects to forsake a king who was a tyrant in peace, and ruinously unsuccessful in war. And so Sinnaces, whose enmity to the prince I have already mentioned, drew into actual revolt his father Abdageses and others, who had been secretly in his counsel, and were now after their continued disasters more eager to fight. By degrees, many flocked to him who, having been kept in subjection by fear rather than by goodwill, took courage as soon as they found leaders. Artabanus had now no resources but in some foreigners who guarded his person, men exiled from their own homes, who had no perception of honour, or any scruple about a base act, mere hireling instruments of crime. With these attendants he hastened his flight into the remote country on the borders of Scythia, in the hope of aid, as he was connected by marriage alliances with the Hyrcanians and Carmanians. Meantime the Parthians, he thought, indulgent as they are to an absent prince, though restless under his presence, might turn to a better mind.

6.36. Mox Artabanus tota mole regni ultum iit. peritia locorum ab Hiberis melius pugnatum; nec ideo abscedebat, ni contractis legionibus Vitellius et subdito rumore tamquam Mesopotamiam invasurus metum Romani belli fecisset. tum omissa Armenia versaeque Artabani res, inliciente Vitellio desererent regem saevum in pace et adversis proeliorum exitiosum. igitur Sinnaces, quem antea infensum memoravi, patrem Abdagaesen aliosque occultos consilii et tunc continuis cladibus promptiores ad defectionem trahit, adfluentibus paulatim qui metu magis quam benevolentia subiecti repertis auctoribus sustulerant animum. nec iam aliud Artabano reliquum quam si qui externorum corpori custodes aderant, suis quisque sedibus extorres, quis neque boni intellectus neque mali cura sed mercede aluntur ministri sceleribus. his adsumptis in longinqua et contermina Scythiae fugam maturavit, spe auxilii, quia Hyrcanis Carmaniisque per adfinitatem innexus erat: atque interim posse Parthos absentium aequos, praesentibus mobilis, ad paenitentiam mutari.

37. Vitellius, as soon as Artabanus had fled and his people were inclined to have a new king, urged Tiridates to seize the advantage thus offered, and then led the main strength of the legions and the allies to the banks of the Euphrates. While they were sacrificing, the one, after Roman custom, offering a swine, a ram and a bull; the other, a horse which he had duly prepared as a propitiation to the river-god, they were informed by the neighbouring inhabitants that the Euphrates, without any violent rains, was of itself rising to an immense height, and that the white foam was curling into circles like a diadem, an omen of a prosperous passage. Some explained it with more subtlety, of a successful commencement to the enterprise, which, however, would not be lasting, on the ground, that though a confident trust might be placed in prognostics given in the earth or in the heavens, the fluctuating character of rivers exhibited omens which vanished the same moment. A bridge of boats having been constructed and the army having crossed, the first to enter the camp was Ornospades, with several thousand cavalry. Formerly an exile, he had rendered conspicuous aid to Tiberius in the completion of the Dalmatic war, and had for this been rewarded with Roman citizenship. Subsequently, he had again sought the friendship of his king, by whom he had been raised to high honour, and appointed governor of the plains, which, being surrounded by the waters of those famous rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, have received the name of Mesopotamia. Soon afterwards, Sinnaces reinforced the army, and Abdageses, the mainstay of the party, came with the royal treasure and what belonged to the crown. Vitellius thought it enough to have displayed the arms of Rome, and he then bade Tiridates remember his grandfather Phraates, and his foster-father Caesar, and all that was glorious in both of them, while the nobles were to show obedience to their king, and respect for us, each maintaining his honour and his loyalty. This done, he returned with the legions to Syria.

6.37. At Vitellius profugo Artabano et flexis ad novum regem popularium animis, hortatus Tiridaten parata capessere, robur legionum sociorumque ripam ad Euphratis ducit. sacrificantibus, cum hic more Romano suovetaurilia daret, ille equum placando amni adornasset, nuntiavere accolae Euphraten nulla imbrium vi sponte et immensum attolli, simul albentibus spumis in modum diadematis sinuare orbis, auspicium prosperi transgressus. quidam callidius interpretabantur initia conatus secunda neque diuturna, quia eorum quae terra caelove portenderentur certior fides, fluminum instabilis natura simul ostenderet omina raperetque. sed ponte navibus effecto tramissoque exercitu primus Ornospades multis equitum milibus in castra venit, exul quondam et Tiberio, cum Delmaticum bellum conficeret, haud inglorius auxiliator eoque civitate Romana donatus, mox repetita amicitia regis multo apud eum honore, praefectus campis qui Euphrate et Tigre inclutis amnibus circumflui Mesopotamiae nomen acceperunt. neque multo post Sinnaces auget copias, et columen partium Abdagaeses gazam et paratus regios adicit. Vitellius ostentasse Romana arma satis ratus monet Tiridaten primoresque, hunc, Phraatis avi et altoris Caesaris quaeque utrubique pulchra meminerit, illos, obsequium in regem, reverentiam in nos, decus quisque suum et fidem retinerent. exim cum legionibus in Syriam remeavit.

38. I have related in sequence the events of two summer-campaigns, as a relief to the reader's mind from our miseries at home. Though three years had elapsed since the destruction of Sejanus, neither time, intreaties, nor sated gratification, all which have a soothing effect on others, softened Tiberius, or kept him from punishing doubtful or forgotten offenses as most flagrant and recent crimes. Under this dread, Fulcinius Trio, unwilling to face an onslaught of accusers, inserted in his will several terrible imputations on Macro and on the emperor's principal freedmen, while he taunted the emperor himself with the mental decay of old age, and the virtual exile of continuous retirement. Tiberius ordered these insults, which Trio's heirs had suppressed, to be publicly read, thus showing his tolerance of free speech in others and despising his own shame, or, possibly, because he had long been ignorant of the villanies of Sejanus, and now wished any remarks, however reckless, to published, and so to ascertain, through invective, if it must be so, the truth, which flattery obscures. About the same time Granius Marcianus, a senator, who was accused of treason by Caius Gracchus, laid hands on himself. Tarius Gratianus too, an ex-praetor, was condemned under the same law to capital punishment.

6.38. Quae duabus aestatibus gesta coniunxi quo requie scerete animus a domesticis malis; non enim Tiberium, quamquam triennio post caedem Seiani, quae ceteros mollire solent, tempus preces satias mitigabant, quin incerta vel abolita pro gravissimis et recentibus puniret. eo metu Fulcinius Trio ingruentis accusatores haud perpessus supremis tabulis multa et atrocia in Macronem ac praecipuos libertorum Caesaris composuit, ipsi fluxam senio mentem et continuo abscessu velut exilium obiectando. quae ab heredibus occultata recitari Tiberius iussit, patientiam libertatis alienae ostentans et contemptor suae infamiae, an scelerum Seiani diu nescius mox quoquo modo dicta vulgari malebat veritatisque, cui adulatio officit, per probra saltem gnarus fieri. isdem diebus Granius Marcianus senator, a C. Graccho maiestatis postulatus, vim vitae suae attulit, Tariusque Gratianus praetura functus lege eadem extremum ad supplicium damnatus.

39. A similar fate befell Trebellienus Rufus and Sextius Paconianus. Trebellienus perished by his own hand; Paconianus was strangled in prison for having there written some lampoons on the emperor. Tiberius received the news, no longer parted by the sea, as he had been once, or through messengers from a distance, but in close proximity to Rome, so that on the same day, or after the interval of a single night, he could reply to the despatches of the consuls, and almost behold the bloodshed as it streamed from house to house, and the strokes of the executioner. At the year's close Poppaeus Sabinus died, a man of somewhat humble extraction, who had risen by his friendship with two emperors to the consulship and the honours of a triumph. During twenty-four years he had the charge of the most important provinces, not for any remarkable ability, but because he was equal to business and was not too great for it.

6.39. Nec dispares Trebelleni Rufi et Sextii Paconiani exitus: nam Trebellenus sua manu cecidit, Paconianus in carcere ob carmina illic in principem factitata strangulatus est. haec Tiberius non mari, ut olim, divisus neque per longinquos nuntios accipiebat, sed urbem iuxta, eodem ut die vel noctis interiectu litteris consulum rescriberet, quasi aspiciens undantem per domos sanguinem aut manus carnificum. fine anni Poppaeus Sabinus concessit vita, modicus originis, principum amicitia consulatum ac triumphale decus adeptus maximisque provinciis per quattuor et viginti annos impositus, nullam ob eximiam artem sed quod par negotiis neque supra erat.

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