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Tacitus: Annals Book 3 [10]

10. Next day, Fulcinius Trio asked the consul's leave to prosecute Piso. It was contended against him by Vitellius and Veranius and the others who had been the companions of Germanicus, that this was not Trio's proper part, and that they themselves meant to report their instructions from Germanicus, not as accusers, but as deponents and witnesses to facts. Trio, abandoning the prosecution on this count, obtained leave to accuse Piso's previous career, and the emperor was requested to undertake the inquiry. This even the accused did not refuse, fearing, as he did, the bias of the people and of the Senate; while Tiberius, he knew, was resolute enough to despise report, and was also entangled in his mother's complicity. Truth too would be more easily distinguished from perverse misrepresentation by a single judge, where a number would be swayed by hatred and ill-will. Tiberius was not unaware of the formidable difficulty of the inquiry and of the rumours by which he was himself assailed. Having therefore summoned a few intimate friends, he listened to the threatening speeches of the prosecutors and to the pleadings of the accused, and finally referred the whole case to the Senate.

10. Postera die Fuleinius Trio Pisonem apud consules postulavit. contra Vitellius ac Veranius ceterique Germanicum comitati tendebant, nullas esse partis Trioni; neque se accusatores sed rerum indices et testis mandata Germanici perlaturos. ille dimissa eius causae delatione, ut priorem vitam accusaret obtinuit, petitumque est a principe cognitionem exciperet. quod ne reus quidem abnuebat, studia populi et patrum metuens: contra Tiberium spernendis rumoribus validum et conscientiae matris innexum esse; veraque aut in deterius credita indice ab uno facilius discerni, odium et invidiam apud multos valere. haud fallebat Tiberium moles cognitionis quaque ipse fama distraheretur. igitur paucis familiarium adhibitis minas accusantium et hinc preces audit integramque causam ad senatum remittit.

11. Drusus meanwhile, on his return from Illyricum, though the Senate had voted him an ovation for the submission of Maroboduus and the successes of the previous summer, postponed the honour and entered Rome. Then the defendant sought the advocacy of Lucius Arruntius, Marcus Vinicius, Asinius Gallus, Aeserninus Marcellus and Sextus Pompeius, and on their declining for different reasons, Marcus Lepidus, Lucius Piso, and Livineius Regulus became his counsel, amid the excitement of the whole country, which wondered how much fidelity would be shown by the friends of Germanicus, on what the accused rested his hopes, and how far Tiberius would repress and hide his feelings. Never were the people more keenly interested; never did they indulge themselves more freely in secret whispers against the emperor or in the silence of suspicion.

11. Atque interim Drusus rediens Illyrico, quamquam patres censuissent ob receptum Maroboduum et res priore aestate gestas ut ovans iniret, prolato honore urbem intravit. post quae reo L. Arruntium, P. Vinicium, Asinium Gallum, Aeserninum Marcellum, Sex. Pompeium patronos petenti iisque diversa excusantibus M'. Lepidus et L. Piso et Livineius Regulus adfuere, arrecta omni civitate, quanta fides amicis Germanici, quae fiducia reo; satin cohiberet ac premeret sensus suos Tiberius. haud alias intentior populus plus sibi in principem occultae vocis aut suspicacis silentii permisit.

12. On the day the Senate met, Tiberius delivered a speech of studied moderation. "Piso," he said, "was my father's representative and friend, and was appointed by myself, on the advice of the Senate, to assist Germanicus in the administration of the East. Whether he there had provoked the young prince by wilful opposition and rivalry, and had rejoiced at his death or wickedly destroyed him, is for you to determine with minds unbiassed. Certainly if a subordinate oversteps the bounds of duty and of obedience to his commander, and has exulted in his death and in my affliction, I shall hate him and exclude him from my house, and I shall avenge a personal quarrel without resorting to my power as emperor. If however a crime is discovered which ought to be punished, whoever the murdered man may be, it is for you to give just reparation both to the children of Germanicus and to us, his parents. "Consider this too, whether Piso dealt with the armies in a revolutionary and seditious spirit; whether he sought by intrigue popularity with the soldiers; whether he attempted to repossess himself of the province by arms, or whether these are falsehoods which his accusers have published with exaggeration. As for them, I am justly angry with their intemperate zeal. For to what purpose did they strip the corpse and expose it to the pollution of the vulgar gaze, and circulate a story among foreigners that he was destroyed by poison, if all this is still doubtful and requires investigation? For my part, I sorrow for my son and shall always sorrow for him; still I would not hinder the accused from producing all the evidence which can relieve his innocence or convict Germanicus of any unfairness, if such there was. And I implore you not to take as proven charges alleged, merely because the case is intimately bound up with my affliction. Do you, whom ties of blood or your own true-heartedness have made his advocates, help him in his peril, every one of you, as far as each man's eloquence and diligence can do so. To like exertions and like persistency I would urge the prosecutors. In this, and in this only, will we place Germanicus above the laws, by conducting the inquiry into his death in this house instead of in the forum, and before the Senate instead of before a bench of judges. In all else let the case be tried as simply as others. Let no one heed the tears of Drusus or my own sorrow, or any stories invented to our discredit."

12. Die senatus Caesar orationem habuit meditato temperamento. patris sui legatum atque amicum Pisonem fuisse adiutoremque Germanico datum a se auctore senatu rebus apud Orientem administrandis. illic contumacia et certaminibus asperasset iuvenem exituque eius laetatus esset an scelere extinxisset, integris animis diiudicandum. 'nam si legatus officii terminos, obsequium erga imperatorem exuit eiusdemque morte et luctu meo laetatus est, odero seponamque a domo mea et privatas inimicitias non vi principis ulciscar: sin facinus in cuiuscumque mortalium nece vindicandum detegitur, vos vero et liberos Germanici et nos parentes iustis solaciis adficite. simulque illud reputate, turbide et seditiose tractaverit exercitus Piso, quaesita sint per ambitionem studia militum, armis repetita provincia, an falsa haec in maius vulgaverint accusatores, quorum ego nimiis studiis iure suscenseo. nam quo pertinuit nudare corpus et contrectandum vulgi oculis permittere differrique etiam per externos tamquam veneno interceptus esset, si incerta adhuc ista et scrutanda sunt? defleo equidem filium meum semperque deflebo: sed neque reum prohibeo quo minus cuncta proferat, quibus innocentia eius sublevari aut, si qua fuit iniquitas Germanici, coargui possit, vosque oro ne, quia dolori meo causa conexa est, obiecta crimina pro adprobatis accipiatis. si quos propinquus sanguis aut fides sua patronos dedit, quantum quisque eloquentia et cura valet, iuvate periclitantem: ad eundem laborem, eandem constantiam accusatores hortor. id solum Germanico super leges praestiterimus, quod in curia potius quam in foro, apud senatum quam apud iudices de morte eius anquiritur: cetera pari modestia tractentur. nemo Drusi lacrimas, nemo maestitiam meam spectet, nec si qua in nos adversa finguntur.'

13. Two days were then assigned for the bringing forward of the charges, and after six days' interval, the prisoner's defence was to occupy three days. Thereupon Fulcinius Trio began with some old and irrelevant accusations about intrigues and extortion during Piso's government of Spain. This, if proved, would not have been fatal to the defendant, if he cleared himself as to his late conduct, and, if refuted, would not have secured his acquittal, if he were convicted of the greater crimes. Next, Servaeus, Veranius, and Vitellius, all with equal earnestness, Vitellius with striking eloquence, alleged against Piso that out of hatred of Germanicus and a desire of revolution he had so corrupted the common soldiers by licence and oppression of the allies that he was called by the vilest of them "father of the legions" while on the other hand to all the best men, especially to the companions and friends of Germanicus, he had been savagely cruel. Lastly, he had, they said, destroyed Germanicus himself by sorceries and poison, and hence came those ceremonies and horrible sacrifices made by himself and Plancina; then he had threatened the State with war, and had been defeated in battle, before he could be tried as a prisoner.

13. Exim biduum criminibus obiciendis statuitur utque sex dierum spatio interiecto reus per triduum defenderetur. tum Fulcinius vetera et inania orditur, ambitiose avareque habitam Hispaniam; quod neque convictum noxae reo si recentia purgaret, neque defensum absolutioni erat si teneretur maioribus flagitiis. post quem Servaeus et Veranius et Vitellius consimili studio et multa eloquentia Vitellius obiecere odio Germanici et rerum novarum studio Pisonem vulgus militum per licentiam et sociorum iniurias eo usque conrupisse ut parens legionum a deterrimis appellaretur; contra in optimum quemque, maxime in comites et amicos Germanici saevisse; postremo ipsum devotionibus et veneno peremisse; sacra hinc et immolationes nefandas ipsius atque Plancinae, peritam armis rem publicam, utque reus agi posset, acie victum.

14. On all points but one the defence broke down. That he had tampered with the soldiers, that his province had been at the mercy of the vilest of them, that he had even insulted his chief, he could not deny. It was only the charge of poisoning from which he seemed to have cleared himself. This indeed the prosecutors did not adequately sustain by merely alleging that at a banquet given by Germanicus, his food had been tainted with poison by the hands of Piso who sat next above him. It seemed absurd to suppose that he would have dared such an attempt among strange servants, in the sight of so many bystanders, and under Germanicus's own eyes. And, besides, the defendant offered his slaves to the torture, and insisted on its application to the attendants on that occasion. But the judges for different reasons were merciless, the emperor, because war had been made on a province, the Senate because they could not be sufficiently convinced that there had been no treachery about the death of Germanicus. At the same time shouts were heard from the people in front of the Senate House, threatening violence if he escaped the verdict of the Senators. They had actually dragged Piso's statues to the Gemonian stairs, and were breaking them in pieces, when by the emperor's order they were rescued and replaced. Piso was then put in a litter and attended by a tribune of one of the Praetorian cohorts, who followed him, so it was variously rumoured, to guard his person or to be his executioner.

14. Defensio in ceteris trepidavit; nam neque ambitionem militarem neque provinciam pessimo cuique obnoxiam, ne contumelias quidem adversum imperatorem infitiari poterat: solum veneni crimen visus est diluisse, quod ne accusatores quidem satis firmabant, in convivio Germanici, cum super eum Piso discumberet, infectos manibus eius cibos arguentes. quippe absurdum videbatur inter aliena servitia et tot adstantium visu, ipso Germanico coram, id ausum; offerebatque familiam reus et ministros in tormenta flagitabat. sed iudices per diversa implacabiles erant, Caesar ob bellum provinciae inlatum, senatus numquam satis credito sine fraude Germanicum interisse. * * scripsissent expostulantes, quod haud minus Tiberius quam Piso abnuere. simul populi ante curiam voces audiebantur: non temperaturos manibus si patrum sententias evasisset. effigiesque Pisonis traxerant in Gemonias ac divellebant, ni iussu principis protectae repositaeque forent. igitur inditus lecticae et a tribuno praetoriae cohortis deductus est vario rumore custos saluti an mortis exactor sequeretur.

15. Plancina was equally detested, but had stronger interest. Consequently it was considered a question how far the emperor would be allowed to go against her. While Piso's hopes were in suspense, she offered to share his lot, whatever it might be, and in the worst event, to be his companion in death. But as soon as she had secured her pardon through the secret intercessions of Augusta, she gradually withdrew from her husband and separated her defence from his. When the prisoner saw that this was fatal to him, he hesitated whether he should still persist, but at the urgent request of his sons braced his courage and once more entered the Senate. There he bore patiently the renewal of the accusation, the furious voices of the Senators, savage opposition indeed from every quarter, but nothing daunted him so much as to see Tiberius, without pity and without anger, resolutely closing himself against any inroad of emotion. He was conveyed back to his house, where, seemingly by way of preparing his defence for the next day, he wrote a few words, sealed the paper and handed it to a freedman. Then he bestowed the usual attention on his person; after a while, late at night, his wife having left his chamber, he ordered the doors to be closed, and at daybreak was found with his throat cut and a sword lying on the ground.

15. Eadem Plancinae invidia, maior gratia; eoque ambiguum habebatur quantum Caesari in eam liceret. atque ipsa, donec mediae Pisoni spes, sociam se cuiuscumque fortunae et si ita ferret comitem exitii promittebat: ut secretis Augustae precibus veniam obtinuit, paulatim segregari a marito, dividere defensionem coepit. quod reus postquam sibi exitiabile intellegit, an adhuc experiretur dubitans, hortantibus filiis durat mentem senatumque rursum ingreditur; redintegratamque accusationem, infensas patrum voces, adversa et saeva cuncta perpessus, nullo magis exterritus est quam quod Tiberium sine miseratione, sine ira, obstinatum clausumque vidit, ne quo adfectu perrumperetur. relatus domum, tamquam defensionem in posterum meditaretur, pauca conscribit obsignatque et liberto tradit; tum solita curando corpori exequitur. dein multam post noctem, egressa cubiculo uxore, operiri foris iussit; et coepta luce perfosso iugulo, iacente humi gladio, repertus est.

16. I remember to have heard old men say that a document was often seen in Piso's hands, the substance of which he never himself divulged, but which his friends repeatedly declared contained a letter from Tiberius with instructions referring to Germanicus, and that it was his intention to produce it before the Senate and upbraid the emperor, had he not been deluded by vain promises from Sejanus. Nor did he perish, they said, by his own hand, but by that of one sent to be his executioner. Neither of these statements would I positively affirm; still it would not have been right for me to conceal what was related by those who lived up to the time of my youth. The emperor, assuming an air of sadness, complained in the Senate that the purpose of such a death was to bring odium on himself, and he asked with repeated questionings how Piso had spent his last day and night. Receiving answers which were mostly judicious, though in part somewhat incautious, he read out a note written by Piso, nearly to the following effect:- "Crushed by a conspiracy of my foes and the odium excited by a lying charge, since my truth and innocence find no place here, I call the immortal gods to witness that towards you Caesar, I have lived loyally, and with like dutiful respect towards your mother. And I implore you to think of my children, one of whom, Cneius is in way implicated in my career, whatever it may have been, seeing that all this time he has been at Rome, while the other, Marcus Piso, dissuaded me from returning to Syria. Would that I had yielded to my young son rather than he to his aged father! And therefore I pray the more earnestly that the innocent may not pay the penalty of my wickedness. By forty-five years of obedience, by my association with you in the consulate, as one who formerly won the esteem of the Divine Augustus, your father, as one who is your friend and will never hereafter ask a favour, I implore you to save my unhappy son." About Plancina he added not a word.

16. Audire me memini ex senioribus visum saepius inter manus Pisonis libellum quem ipse non vulgaverit; sed amicos eius dictitavisse, litteras Tiberii et mandata in Germanicum contineri, ac destinatum promere apud patres principemque arguere, ni elusus a Seiano per vana promissa foret; nec illum sponte extinctum verum immisso percussore. quorum neutrum adseveraverim: neque tamen occulere debui narratum ab iis qui nostram ad iuventam duraverunt. Caesar flexo in maestitiam ore suam invidiam tali morte quaesitam apud senatum . . . . . crebrisque interrogationibus exquirit qualem Piso diem supremum noctemque exegisset. atque illo pleraque sapienter quaedam inconsultius respondente, recitat codicillos a Pisone in hunc ferme modum compositos: 'conspiratione inimicorum et invidia falsi criminis oppressus, quatenus veritati et innocentiae meae nusquam locus est, deos inmortalis testor vixisse me, Caesar, cum fide adversum te neque alia in matrem tuam pietate; vosque oro liberis meis consulatis, ex quibus Cn. Piso qualicumque fortunae meae non est adiunctus, cum omne hoc tempus in urbe egerit, M. Piso repetere Syriam dehortatus est. atque utinam ego potius filio iuveni quam ille patri seni cessisset. eo impensius precor ne meae pravitatis poenas innoxius luat. per quinque et quadraginta annorum obsequium, per collegium consulatus quondam divo Augusto parenti tuo probatus et tibi amicus nec quicquam post haec rogaturus salutem infelicis filii rogo.' de Plancina nihil addidit.

17. Tiberius after this acquitted the young Piso of the charge of civil war on the ground that a son could not have refused a father's orders, compassionating at the same time the high rank of the family and the terrible downfall even of Piso himself, however he might have deserved it. For Plancina he spoke with shame and conscious disgrace, alleging in excuse the intercession of his mother, secret complaints against whom from all good men were growing more and more vehement. "So it was the duty of a grandmother," people said, "to look a grandson's murderess in the face, to converse with her and rescue her from the Senate. What the laws secure on behalf of every citizen, had to Germanicus alone been denied. The voices of a Vitellius and Veranius had bewailed a Caesar, while the emperor and Augusta had defended Plancina. She might as well now turn her poisonings, and her devices which had proved so successful, against Agrippina and her children, and thus sate this exemplary grandmother and uncle with the blood of a most unhappy house." Two days were frittered away over this mockery of a trial, Tiberius urging Piso's children to defend their mother. While the accusers and their witnesses pressed the prosecution with rival zeal, and there was no reply, pity rather than anger was on the increase. Aurelius Cotta, the consul, who was first called on for his vote (for when the emperor put the question, even those in office went through the duty of voting), held that Piso's name ought to be erased from the public register, half of his property confiscated, half given up to his son, Cneius Piso, who was to change his first name; that Marcus Piso, stript of his rank, with an allowance of five million sesterces, should be banished for ten years, Plancina's life being spared in consideration of Augusta's intercession.

17. Post quae Tiberius adulescentem crimine civilis belli purgavit, patris quippe iussa nec potuisse filium detrectare, simul nobilitatem domus, etiam ipsius quoquo modo meriti gravem cacum miseratus. pro Plancina cum pudore et flagitio disseruit, matris preces obtendens, in quam optimi cuiusque secreti questus magis ardescebant. id ergo fas aviae interfectricem nepotis adspicere, adloqui, eripere senatui. quod pro omnibus civibus leges obtineant uni Germanico non contigisse. Vitellii et Veranii voce defletum Caesarem, ab imperatore et Augusta defensam Plancinam. proinde venena et artes tam feliciter expertas verteret in Agrippinam, in liberos eius, egregiamque aviam ac patruum sanguine miserrimae domus exsatiaret. biduum super hac imagine cognitionis absumptum urgente Tiberio liberos Pisonis matrem uti tuerentur. et cum accusatores ac testes certatim perorarent respondente nullo, miseratio quam invidia augebatur. primus sententiam rogatus Aurelius Cotta consul (nam referente Caesare magistratus eo etiam munere fungebantur) nomen Pisonis radendum fastis censuit, partem bonorum publicandam, pars ut Cn. Pisoni filio concederetur isque praenomen mutaret; M. Piso exuta dignitate et accepto quinquagies sestertio in decem annos relegaretur, concessa Plancinae incolumitate ob preces Augustae.

18. Much of the sentence was mitigated by the emperor. The name of Piso was not to be struck out of the public register, since that of Marcus Antonius who had made war on his country, and that of Julius Antonius who had dishonoured the house of Augustus, still remained. Marcus Piso too he saved from degradation, and gave him his father's property, for he was firm enough, as I have often related, against the temptation of money, and now for very shame at Plancina's acquittal, he was more than usually merciful. Again, when Valerius Messalinus and Caecina Severus proposed respectively the erection of a golden statue in the temple of Mars the Avenger and of an altar to Vengeance, he interposed, protesting that victories over the foreigner were commemorated with such monuments, but that domestic woes ought to be shrouded in silent grief. There was a further proposal of Messalinus, that Tiberius, Augusta, Antonia, Agrippina and Drusus ought to be publicly thanked for having avenged Germanicus. He omitted all mention of Claudius. Thereupon he was pointedly asked by Lucius Asprenas before the Senate, whether the omission had been intentional, and it was only then that the name of Claudius was added. For my part, the wider the scope of my reflection on the present and the past, the more am I impressed by their mockery of human plans in every transaction. Clearly, the very last man marked out for empire by public opinion, expectation and general respect was he whom fortune was holding in reserve as the emperor of the future.

18. Multa ex ea sententia mitigata sunt a principe: ne nomen Pisonis fastis eximeretur, quando M. Antonii quid bellum patriae fecisset, Iulli Antonii qui domum Augusti violasset, manerent. et M. Pisonem ignominiae exemit concessitque ei paterna bona, satis firmus, ut saepe memoravi, adversum pecuniam et tum pudore absolutae Plancinae placabilior. atque idem, cum Valerius Messalinus signum aureum in aede Martis Vltoris, Caecina Severus aram ultioni statuendam censuissent, prohibuit, ob externas ea victorias sacrari dictitans, domestica mala tristitia operienda. addiderat Messalinus Tiberio et Augustae et Antoniae et Agrippinae Drusoque ob vindictam Germanici gratis agendas omiseratque Claudii mentionem. et Messalinum quidem L. Asprenas senatu coram ercontatus est an prudens praeterisset; ac tum demum nomen Claudii adscriptum est. mihi quanto plura recentium seu veterum revolvo tanto magis ludibria rerum mortalium cunctis in negotiis obversantur. quippe fama spe veneratione potius omnes destinabantur imperio quam quem futurum principem fortuna in occulto tenebat.

19. A few days afterwards the emperor proposed to the Senate to confer the priesthood on Vitellius, Veranius and Servaeus. To Fulcinius he promised his support in seeking promotion, but warned him not to ruin his eloquence by rancour. This was the end of avenging the death of Germanicus, a subject of conflicting rumours not only among the people then living but also in after times. So obscure are the greatest events, as some take for granted any hearsay, whatever its source, others turn truth into falsehood, and both errors find encouragement with posterity. Drusus meanwhile quitted Rome to resume his command and soon afterwards re-entered the city with an ovation. In the course of a few days his mother Vipsania died, the only one of all Agrippa's children whose death was without violence. As for the rest, they perished, some it is certain by the sword, others it was believed by poison or starvation.

19. Paucis post diebus Caesar auctor senatui fuit Vitellio atque Veranio et Servaeo sacerdotia tribuendi: Fulcinio suffragium ad honores pollicitus monuit ne facundiam violentia praecipitaret. is finis fuit ulciscenda Germanici morte, non modo apud illos homines qui tum agebant etiam secutis temporibus vario rumore iactata. adeo maxima quaeque ambigua sunt, dum alii quoquo modo audita pro compertis habent, alii vera in contrarium vertunt, et gliscit utrumque posteritate. at Drusus urbe egressus repetendis auspiciis mox ovans introiit. paucosque post dies Vipsania mater eius excessit, una omnium Agrippae liberorum miti obitu: nam ceteros manifestum ferro vel creditum est veneno aut fame extinctos.

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