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Tacitus: Annals Book 3 [50]

50. Marcus Lepidus spoke against the sentence as follows: - "Senators, if we look to the single fact of the infamous utterance with which Lutorius has polluted his own mind and the ears of the public, neither dungeon nor halter nor tortures fit for a slave would be punishment enough for him. But though vice and wicked deeds have no limit, penalties and correctives are moderated by the clemency of the sovereign and by the precedents of your ancestors and yourselves. Folly differs from wickedness; evil words from evil deeds, and thus there is room for a sentence by which this offence may not go unpunished, while we shall have no cause to regret either leniency or severity. Often have I heard our emperor complain when any one has anticipated his mercy by a self-inflicted death. Lutorius's life is still safe; if spared, he will be no danger to the State; if put to death, he will be no warning to others. His productions are as empty and ephemeral as they are replete with folly. Nothing serious or alarming is to be apprehended from the man who is the betrayer of his own shame and works on the imaginations not of men but of silly women. However, let him leave Rome, lose his property, and be outlawed. That is my proposal, just as though he were convicted under the law of treason."

50. Contra M'. Lepidus in hunc modum exorsus est: 'si, patres conscripti, unum id spectamus, quam nefaria voce Clutorius Priscus mentem suam et auris hominum polluerit, neque carcer neque laqueus, ne serviles quidem cruciatus in eum suffecerint. sin flagitia et facinora sine modo sunt, suppliciis ac remediis principis moderatio maiorumque et vestra exempla temperat et vana a scelestis, dicta a maleficiis differunt, est locus sententiae per quam neque huic delictum impune sit et nos clementiae simul ac severitatis non paeniteat. saepe audivi principem nostrum conquerentem si quis sumpta morte misericordiam eius praevenisset. vita Clutorii in integro est, qui neque servatus in periculum rei publicae neque interfectus in exemplum ibit. studia illi ut plena vaecordiae, ita inania et fluxa sunt; nec quicquam grave ac serium ex eo metuas qui suorum ipse flagitiorum proditor non virorum animis sed muliercularum adrepit. cedat tamen urbe et bonis amissis aqua et igni arceatur: quod perinde censeo ac si lege maiestatis teneretur.'

51. Only one of the ex-consuls, Rubellius Blandus, supported Lepidus. The rest voted with Agrippa. Priscus was dragged off to prison and instantly put to death. Of this Tiberius complained to the Senate with his usual ambiguity, extolling their loyalty in so sharply avenging the very slightest insults to the sovereign, though he deprecated such hasty punishment of mere words, praising Lepidus and not censuring Agrippa. So the Senate passed a resolution that their decrees should not be registered in the treasury till nine days had expired, and so much respite was to be given to condemned persons. Still the Senate had not liberty to alter their purpose, and lapse of time never softened Tiberius.

51. Solus Lepido Rubellius Blandus e consularibus adsensit: ceteri sententiam Agrippae secuti, ductusque in carcerem Priscus ac statim exanimatus. id Tiberius solitis sibi ambagibus apud senatum incusavit, cum extolleret pietatem quamvis modicas principis iniurias acriter ulciscentium, deprecare tam praecipitis verborum poenas, laudaret Lepidum neque Agrippam argueret. igitur factum senatus consultum ne decreta patrum ante diem [decimum] ad aerarium deferrentur idque vitae spatium damnatis prorogaretur. sed non senatui libertas ad paenitendum erat neque Tiberius interiectu temporis mitigabatur.

52. Caius Sulpicius and Didius Haterius were the next consuls. It was a year free from commotions abroad, while at home stringent legislation was apprehended against the luxury which had reached boundless excess in everything on which wealth is lavished. Some expenses, though very serious, were generally kept secret by a concealment of the real prices; but the costly preparations for gluttony and dissipation were the theme of incessant talk, and had suggested a fear that a prince who clung to oldfashioned frugality would be too stern in his reforms. In fact, when the aedile Caius Bibulus broached the topic, all his colleagues had pointed out that the sumptuary laws were disregarded, that prohibited prices for household articles were every day on the increase, and that moderate measures could not stop the evil. The Senate on being consulted had, without handling the matter, referred it to the emperor. Tiberius, after long considering whether such reckless tastes could be repressed, whether the repression of them would not be still more hurtful to the State, also, how undignified it would be to meddle with what he could not succeed in, or what, if effected, would necessitate the disgrace and infamy of men of distinction, at last addressed a letter to the Senate to the following purport:-

52. C. Sulpicius D. Haterius consules sequuntur, inturbidus externis rebus annus, domi suspecta severitate adversum luxum qui immensum proruperat ad cuncta quis pecunia prodigitur. sed alia sumptuum quamvis graviora dissimulatis plerumque pretiis occultabantur; ventris et ganeae paratus adsiduis sermonibus vulgati fecerant curam ne princeps antiquae parsimoniae durius adverteret. nam incipiente C. Bibulo ceteri quoque aediles disseruerant, sperni sumptuariam legem vetitaque utensilium pretia augeri in dies nec mediocribus remediis sisti posse, et consulti patres integrum id negotium ad principem distulerant. sed Tiberius saepe apud se pensitato an coerceri tam profusae cupidines possent, num coercitio plus damni in rem publicam ferret, quam indecorum adtrectare quod non obtineret vel retentum ignominiam et infamiam virorum inlustrium posceret, postremo litteras ad senatum composuit quarum sententia in hunc modum fuit.

53. Perhaps in any other matter, Senators, it would be more convenient that I should be consulted in your presence, and then state what I think to be for the public good. In this debate it was better that my eyes should not be on you, for while you were noting the anxious faces of individual senators charged with shameful luxury, I too myself might observe them and, as it were, detect them. Had those energetic men, our aediles, first taken counsel with me, I do not know whether I should not have advised them to let alone vices so strong and so matured, rather than merely attain the result of publishing what are the corruptions with which we cannot cope. They however have certainly done their duty, as I would wish all other officials likewise to fulfil their parts. For myself, it is neither seemly to keep silence nor is it easy to speak my mind, as I do not hold the office of aedile, praetor, or consul. Something greater and loftier is expected of a prince, and while everybody takes to himself the credit of right policy, one alone has to bear the odium of every person's failures. For what am I first to begin with restraining and cutting down to the old standard? The vast dimensions of country houses? The number of slaves of every nationality? The masses of silver and gold? The marvels in bronze and painting? The apparel worn indiscriminately by both sexes, or that peculiar luxury of women which, for the sake of jewels, diverts our wealth to strange or hostile nations?

53. 'Ceteris forsitan in rebus, patres conscripti, magis expediat me coram interrogari et dicere quid e re publica censeam: in hac relatione subtrahi oculos meos melius fuit, ne, denotantibus vobis ora ac metum singulorum qui pudendi luxus arguerentur, ipse etiam viderem eos ac velut deprenderem. quod si mecum ante viri strenui, aediles, consilium habuissent, nescio an suasurus fuerim omittere potius praevalida et adulta vitia quam hoc adsequi, ut palam fieret quibus flagitiis impares essemus. sed illi quidem officio functi sunt, ut ceteros quoque magistratus sua munia implere velim: mihi autem neque honestum silere neque proloqui expeditum, quia non aedilis aut praetoris aut consulis partis sustineo. maius aliquid et excelsius a principe postulatur; et cum recte factorum sibi quisque gratiam trahant, unius invidia ab omnibus peccatur. quid enim primum prohibere et priscum ad morem recidere adgrediar? villarumne infinita spatia? familiarum numerum et nationes? argenti et auri pondus? aeris tabularumque miracula? promiscas viris et feminis vestis atque illa feminarum propria, quis lapidum causa pecuniae nostrae ad externas aut hostilis gentis transferuntur?

54. I am not unaware that people at entertainments and social gatherings condemn all this and demand some restriction. But if a law were to be passed and a penalty imposed, those very same persons will cry out that the State is revolutionised, that ruin is plotted against all our most brilliant fashion, that not a citizen is safe from incrimination. Yet as even bodily disorders of long standing and growth can be checked only by sharp and painful treatment, so the fever of a diseased mind, itself polluted and a pollution to others, can be quenched only by remedies as strong as the passions which inflame it. Of the many laws devised by our ancestors, of the many passed by the Divine Augustus, the first have been forgotten, while his (all the more to our disgrace) have become obsolete through contempt, and this has made luxury bolder than ever. The truth is, that when one craves something not yet forbidden, there is a fear that it may be forbidden; but when people once transgress prohibitions with impunity, there is no longer any fear or any shame. Why then in old times was economy in the ascendant? Because every one practised self-control; because we were all members of one city. Nor even afterwards had we the same temptations, while our dominion was confined to Italy. Victories over the foreigner taught us how to waste the substance of others; victories over ourselves, how to squander our own. What a paltry matter is this of which the aediles are reminding us! What a mere trifle if you look at everything else! No one represents to the Senate that Italy requires supplies from abroad, and that the very existence of the people of Rome is daily at the mercy of uncertain waves and storms. And unless masters, slaves, and estates have the resources of the provinces as their mainstay, our shrubberies, forsooth, and our country houses will have to support us. Such, Senators, are the anxieties which the prince has to sustain, and the neglect of them will be utter ruin to the State. The cure for other evils must be sought in our own hearts. Let us be led to amendment, the poor by constraint, the rich by satiety. Or if any of our officials give promise of such energy and strictness as can stem the corruption, I praise the man, and I confess that I am relieved of a portion of my burdens. But if they wish to denounce vice, and when they have gained credit for so doing they arouse resentments and leave them to me, be assured, Senators, that I too am by no means eager to incur enmities, and though for the public good I encounter formidable and often unjust enmities, yet I have a right to decline such as are unmeaning and purposeless and will be of use neither to myself nor to you.

54. 'Nec ignoro in conviviis et circulis incusari ista et modum posci: set si quis legem sanciat, poenas indicat, idem illi civitatem verti, splendidissimo cuique exitium parari, neminem criminis expertem clamitabunt. atqui ne corporis quidem morbos veteres et diu auctos nisi per dura et aspera coerceas: corruptus simul et corruptor, aeger et flagrans animus haud levioribus remediis restinguendus est quam libidinibus ardescit. tot a maioribus repertae leges, tot quas divus Augustus tulit, illae oblivione, hae, quod flagitiosius est, contemptu abolitae securiorem luxum fecere. nam si velis quod nondum vetitum est, timeas ne vetere: at si prohibita impune transcenderis, neque metus ultra neque pudor est. cur ergo olim parsimonia pollebat? quia sibi quisque moderabatur, quia unius urbis cives eramus; ne inritamenta quidem eadem intra Italiam dominantibus. externis victoriis aliena, civilibus etiam nostra consumere didicimus. quantulum istud est de quo aediles admonent! quam, si cetera respicias, in levi habendum! at hercule nemo refert quod Italia externae opis indiget, quod vita populi Romani per incerta maris et tempestatum cotidie volvitur. ac nisi provinciarum copiae et dominis et servitiis et agris subvenerint, nostra nos scilicet nemora nostraeque villae tuebuntur. hanc, patres conscripti, curam sustinet princeps; haec omissa funditus rem publicam trahet. reliquis intra animum medendum est: nos pudor, pauperes necessitas, divites satias in melius mutet. aut si quis ex magistratibus tantam industriam ac severitatem pollicetur ut ire obviam queat, hunc ego et laudo et exonerari laborum meorum partem fateor: sin accusare vitia volunt, dein, cum gloriam eius rei adepti sunt, simultates faciunt ac mihi relinquunt, credite, patres conscripti, me quoque non esse offensionum avidum; quas cum gravis et plerumque iniquas pro re publica suscipiam, inanis et inritas neque mihi aut vobis usui futuras iure deprecor.'

55. When they had heard the emperor's letter, the aediles were excused from so anxious a task, and that luxury of the table which from the close of the war ended at Actium to the armed revolution in which Servius Galba rose to empire, had been practised with profuse expenditure, gradually went out of fashion. It is as well that I should trace the causes of this change. Formerly rich or highly distinguished noble families often sank into ruin from a passion for splendour. Even then men were still at liberty to court and be courted by the city populace, by our allies and by foreign princes, and every one who from his wealth, his mansion and his establishment was conspicuously grand, gained too proportionate lustre by his name and his numerous clientele. After the savage massacres in which greatness of renown was fatal, the survivors turned to wiser ways. The new men who were often admitted into the Senate from the towns, colonies and even the provinces, introduced their household thrift, and though many of them by good luck or energy attained an old age of wealth, still their former tastes remained. But the chief encourager of strict manners was Vespasian, himself old-fashioned both in his dress and diet. Henceforth a respectful feeling towards the prince and a love of emulation proved more efficacious than legal penalties or terrors. Or possibly there is in all things a kind of cycle, and there may be moral revolutions just as there are changes of seasons. Nor was everything better in the past, but our own age too has produced many specimens of excellence and culture for posterity to imitate. May we still keep up with our ancestors a rivalry in all that is honourable!

55. Auditis Caesaris litteris remissa aedilibus talis cura; luxusque mensae a fine Actiaci belli ad ea arma quis Servius Galba rerum adeptus est per annos centum profusis sumptibus exerciti paulatim exolevere. causas eius mutationis quaerere libet. dites olim familiae nobilium aut claritudine insignes studio magnificentiae prolabebantur. nam etiam tum plebem socios regna colere et coli licitum; ut quisque opibus domo paratu speciosus per nomen et clientelas inlustrior habebatur. postquam caedibus saevitum et magnitudo famae exitio erat, ceteri ad sapientiora convertere. simul novi homines e municipiis et coloniis atque etiam provinciis in senatum crebro adsumpti domesticam parsimoniam intulerunt, et quamquam fortuna vel industria plerique pecuniosam ad senectam pervenirent, mansit tamen prior animus. sed praecipuus adstricti moris auctor Vespasianus fuit, antiquo ipse cultu victuque. obsequium inde in principem et aemulandi amor validior quam poena ex legibus et metus. nisi forte rebus cunctis inest quidam velut orbis, ut quem ad modum temporum vices ita morum vertantur; nec omnia apud priores meliora, sed nostra quoque aetas multa laudis et artium imitanda posteris tulit. verum haec nobis [in] maiores certamina ex honesto maneant.

56. Tiberius having gained credit for forbearance by the check he had given to the growing terror of the informers, wrote a letter to the Senate requesting the tribunitian power for Drusus. This was a phrase which Augustus devised as a designation of supremacy, so that without assuming the name of king or dictator he might have some title to mark his elevation above all other authority. He then chose Marcus Agrippa to be his associate in this power, and on Agrippa's death, Tiberius Nero, that there might be no uncertainty as to the succession. In this manner he thought to check the perverse ambition of others, while he had confidence in Nero's moderation and in his own greatness. Following this precedent, Tiberius now placed Drusus next to the throne, though while Germanicus was alive he had maintained an impartial attitude towards the two princes. However in the beginning of his letter he implored heaven to prosper his plans on behalf of the State, and then added a few remarks, without falsehood or exaggeration, on the character of the young prince. He had, he reminded them, a wife and three children, and his age was the same as that at which he had himself been formerly summoned by the Divine Augustus to undertake this duty. Nor was it a precipitate step; it was only after an experience of eight years, after having quelled mutinies and settled wars, after a triumph and two consulships, that he was adopted as a partner in trials already familiar to him.

56. Tiberius, fama moderationis parta quod ingruentis accusatores represserat, mittit litteras ad senatum quis potestatem tribuniciam Druso petebat. id summi fastigii vocabulum Augustus repperit, ne regis aut dictatoris nomen adsumeret ac tamen appellatione aliqua cetera imperia praemineret. Marcum deinde Agrippam socum eius potestatis, quo defuncto Tiberium Neronem delegit ne successor in incerto foret. sic cohiberi pravas aliorum spes rebatur; simul modestiae Neronis et suae magnitudini fidebat. quo tunc exemplo Tiberius Drusum summae rei admovit, cum incolumi Germanico integrum inter duos iudicium tenuisset. sed principio litterarum veneratus deos ut consilia sua rei publicae prosperarent, modica de moribus adulescentis neque in falsum aucta rettulit. esse illi coniugem et tres liberos eamque aetatem qua ipse quondam a divo Augusto ad capessendum hoc munus vocatus sit. neque nunc propere sed per octo annos capto experimento, compressis seditionibus, compositis bellis, triumphalem et bis consulem noti laboris participem sumi.

57. The senators had anticipated this message and hence their flattery was the more elaborate. But they could devise nothing but voting statues of the two princes, shrines to certain deities, temples, arches and the usual routine, except that Marcus Silanus sought to honour the princes by a slur on the consulate, and proposed that on all monuments, public or private, should be inscribed, to mark the date, the names, not of the consuls, but of those who were holding the tribunitian power. Quintus Haterius, when he brought forward a motion that the decrees passed that day should be set up in the Senate House in letters of gold, was laughed at as an old dotard, who would get nothing but infamy out of such utterly loathsome sycophancy.

57. Praeceperant animis orationem patres quo quaesitior adulatio fuit. nec tamen repertum nisi ut effigies principum, aras deum, templa et arcus aliaque solita censerent, nisi quod M. Silanus ex contumelia consulatus honorem principibus petivit dixitque pro sententia ut publicis privatisve monimentis ad memoriam temporum non consulum nomina praecriberentur, sed eorum qui tribuniciam potestatem gererent. at Q. Haterius cum eius diei senatus consulta aureis litteris figenda in curia censuisset deridiculo fuit senex foedissimae adulationis tantum infamia usurus.

58. Meantime Junius Blaesus received an extension of his government of Africa, and Servius Maluginensis, the priest of Jupiter, demanded to have Asia allotted to him. "It was," he asserted, "a popular error that it was not lawful for the priests of Jupiter to leave Italy; in fact, his own legal position differed not from that of the priests of Mars and of Quirinus. If these latter had provinces allotted to them, why was it forbidden to the priests of Jupiter? There were no resolutions of the people or anything to be found in the books of ceremonies on the subject. Pontiffs had often performed the rites to Jupiter when his priest was hindered by illness or by public duty. For seventy-five years after the suicide of Cornelius Merula no successor to his office had been appointed; yet religious rites had not ceased. If during so many years it was possible for there to be no appointment without any prejudice to religion, with what comparative ease might he be absent for one year's proconsulate? That these priests in former days were prohibited by the pontiff from going into the provinces, was the result of private feuds. Now, thank heaven, the supreme pontiff was also the supreme man, and was influenced by no rivalry, hatred or personal feeling."

58. Inter quae provincia Africa Iunio Blaeso prorogata, Servius Maluginensis flamen Dialis ut Asiam sorte haberet postulavit, frustra vulgatum dictitans non licere Dialibus egredi Italia neque aliud ius suum quam Martialium Quirinaliumque flaminum: porro, si hi duxissent provincias, cur Dialibus id vetitum? nulla de eo populi scita, non in libris caerimoniarum reperiri. saepe pontifices Dialia sacra fecisse si flamen valetudine aut munere publico impediretur. quinque et septuaginta annis post Cornelii Merulae caedem neminem suffectum neque tamen cessavisse religiones. quod si per tot annos possit non creari nullo sacrorum damno, quanto facilius afuturum ad unius anni proconsulare imperium? privatis olim simultatibus effectum ut a pontificibus maximis ire in provincias prohiberentur: nunc deum munere summum pontificum etiam summum hominum esse, non aemulationi, non odio aut privatis adfectionibus obnoxium.

59. As the augur Lentulus and others argued on various grounds against this view, the result was that they awaited the decision of the supreme pontiff. Tiberius deferred any investigation into the priest's legal position, but he modified the ceremonies which had been decreed in honour of Drusus's tribunitian power with special censure on the extravagance of the proposed inscription in gold, so contrary to national usage. Letters also from Drusus were read, which, though studiously modest in expression, were taken to be extremely supercilious. "We have fallen so low," people said, "that even a mere youth who has received so high an honour does not go as a worshipper to the city's gods, does not enter the Senate, does not so much as take the auspices on his country's soil. There is a war, forsooth, or he is kept from us in some remote part of the world. Why, at this very moment, he is on a tour amid the shores and lakes of Campania. Such is the training of the future ruler of mankind; such the lesson he first learns from his father's counsels. An aged emperor may indeed shrink from the citizen's gaze, and plead the weariness of declining years and the toils of the past. But, as for Drusus, what can be his hindrance but pride?"

59. Adversus quae cum augur Lentulus aliique varie dissererent, eo decursum est ut pontificis maximi sententiam opperirentur. Tiberius dilata notione de iure flaminis decretas ob tribuniciam Drusi potestatem caerimonias temperavit, nominatim arguens insolentiam sententiae aureasque litteras contra patrium morem. recitatae et Drusi epistulae quamquam ad modestiam flexae pro superbissimis accipiuntur. huc decidisse cuncta ut ne iuvenis quidem tanto honore accepto adiret urbis deos, ingrederetur senatum, auspicia saltem gentile apud solum inciperet. bellum scilicet aut diverso terrarum distineri, litora et lacus Campaniae cum maxime peragrantem. sic imbui rectorem generis humani, id primum e paternis consiliis discere. sane gravaretur aspectum civium senex imperator fessamque aetatem et actos labores praetenderet: Druso quod nisi ex adrogantia impedimentum?

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