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Tacitus: Annals Book 4 [50]

50. One of their chiefs, Dinis, an old man who well knew by long experience both the strength and clemency of Rome, maintained that they must lay down their arms, this being the only remedy for their wretched plight, and he was the first to give himself up with his wife and children to the conqueror. He was followed by all whom age or sex unfitted for war, by all too who had a stronger love of life than of renown. The young were divided between Tarsa and Turesis, both of whom had resolved to fall together with their freedom. Tarsa however kept urging them to speedy death and to the instant breaking off of all hope and fear, and, by way of example, plunged his sword into his heart. And there were some who chose the same death. Turesis and his band waited for night, not without the knowledge of our general. Consequently, the sentries were strengthened with denser masses of troops. Night was coming on with a fierce storm, and the foe, one moment with a tumultuous uproar, another in awful silence, had perplexed the besiegers, when Sabinus went round the camp, entreating the men not to give a chance to their stealthy assailants by heeding embarrassing noises or being deceived by quiet, but to keep, every one, to his post without moving or discharging their darts on false alarms.

50. Rebusque turbatis malum extremum discordia accessit, his deditionem aliis mortem et mutuos inter se ictus parantibus; et erant qui non inultum exitium sed eruptionem suaderent. neque ignobiles tantum his diversi sententiis, verum e ducibus Dinis, provectus senecta et longo usu vim atque clementiam Romanam edoctus, ponenda arma, unum adflictis id remedium disserebat, primusque secum coniuge et liberis victori permisit: secuti aetate aut sexu imbecilli et quibus maior vitae quam gloriae cupido. at iuventus Tarsam inter et Turesim distrahebatur. utrique destinatum cum libertate occidere, sed Tarsa properum finem, abrumpendas pariter spes ac metus clamitans, dedit exemplum demisso in pectus ferro; nec defuere qui eodem modo oppeterent. Turesis sua cum manu noctem opperitur haud nescio duce nostro. igitur firmatae stationes densioribus globis; et ingruebat nox nimbo atrox, hostisque clamore turbido, modo per vastum silentium, incertos obsessores effecerat, cum Sabinus circumire, hortari, ne ad ambigua sonitus aut simulationem quietis casum insidiantibus aperirent, sed sua quisque munia servarent immoti telisque non in falsum iactis.

51. The barbarians meanwhile rushed down with their bands, now hurling at the entrenchments stones such as the hand could grasp, stakes with points hardened by fire, and boughs lopped from oaks; now filling up the fosses with bushes and hurdles and dead bodies, while others advanced up to the breastwork with bridges and ladders which they had constructed for the occasion, seized it, tore it down, and came to close quarters with the defenders. Our soldiers on the other side drove them back with missiles, repelled them with their shields, and covered them with a storm of long siege-javelins and heaps of stones. Success already gained and the more marked disgrace which would follow repulse, were a stimulus to the Romans, while the courage of the foe was heightened by this last chance of deliverance and the presence of many mothers and wives with mournful cries. Darkness, which increased the daring of some and the terror of others, random blows, wounds not foreseen, failure to recognise friend or enemy, echoes, seemingly in their rear, from the winding mountain valleys, spread such confusion that the Romans abandoned some of their lines in the belief that they had been stormed. Only however a very few of the enemy had broken through them; the rest, after their bravest men had been beaten back or wounded, were towards daybreak pushed back to the upper part of the fortress and there at last compelled to surrender. Then the immediate neighbourhood, by the voluntary action of the inhabitants, submitted. The early and severe winter of Mount Haemus saved the rest of the population from being reduced by assault or blockade.

51. Interea barbari catervis decurrentes nunc in vallum manualia saxa, praeustas sudes, decisa robora iacere, nunc virgultis et cratibus et corporibus exanimis complere fossas, quidam pontis et scalas ante fabricati inferre propugnaculis eaque prensare, detrahere et adversum resistentis comminus niti. miles contra deturbare telis, pellere umbonibus, muralia pila, congestas lapidum molis provolvere. his partae victoriae spes et si cedant insignitius flagitium, illis extrema iam salus et adsistentes plerisque matres et coniuges earumque lamenta addunt animos. nox aliis in audaciam, aliis ad formidinem opportuna; incerti ictus, vulnera improvisa; suorum atque hostium ignoratio et montis anfractu repercussae velut a tergo voces adeo cuncta miscuerant ut quaedam munimenta Romani quasi perrupta omiserint. neque tamen pervasere hostes nisi admodum pauci: ceteros, deiecto promptissimo quoque aut saucio, adpetente iam luce trusere in summa castelli ubi tandem coacta deditio. et proxima sponte incolarum recepta: reliquis quo minus vi aut obsidio subigerentur praematura montis Haemi et saeva hiems subvenit.

52. At Rome meanwhile, besides the shocks already sustained by the imperial house, came the first step towards the destruction of Agrippina, Claudia Pulchra, her cousin, being prosecuted by Domitius Afer. Lately a praetor, a man of but moderate position and eager to become notorious by any sort of deed, Afer charged her with unchastity, with having Furnius for her paramour, and with attempts on the emperor by poison and sorcery. Agrippina, always impetuous, and now kindled into fury by the peril of her kinswoman, went straight to Tiberius and found him, as it happened, offering a sacrifice to his father. This provoked an indignant outburst. "It is not," she exclaimed, "for the same man to slay victims to the Divine Augustus and to persecute his posterity. The celestial spirit has not transferred itself to the mute statue; here is the true image, sprung of heavenly blood, and she perceives her danger, and assumes its mournful emblems. Pulchra's name is a mere blind; the only reason for her destruction is that she has, in utter folly, selected Agrippina for her admiration, forgetting that Sosia was thereby ruined." These words wrung from the emperor one of the rare utterances of that inscrutable breast; he rebuked Agrippina with a Greek verse, and reminded her that "she was not wronged because she was not a queen." Pulchra and Furnius were condemned. Afer was ranked with the foremost orators, for the ability which he displayed, and which won strong praise from Tiberius, who pronounced him a speaker of natural genius. Henceforward as a counsel for the defence or the prosecution he enjoyed the fame of eloquence rather than of virtue, but old age robbed him of much of his speaking power, while, with a failing intellect, he was still impatient of silence.

52. At Romae commota principis domo, ut series futuri in Agrippinam exitii inciperet Claudia Pulchra sobrina eius postulatur accusante Domitio Afro. is recens praetura, modicus dignationis et quoquo facinore properus clarescere, crimen impudicitiae, adulterum Furnium, veneficia in principem et devotiones obiectabat. Agrippina semper atrox, tum et periculo propinquae accensa, pergit ad Tiberium ac forte sacrificantem patri repperit. quo initio invidiae non eiusdem ait mactare divo Augusto victimas et posteros eius insectari. non in effigies mutas divinum spiritum transfusum: se imaginem veram, caelesti sanguine ortam, intellegere discrimen, suscipere sordis. frustra Pulchram praescribi cui sola exitii causa sit quod Agrippinam stulte prorsus ad cultum delegerit oblita Sosiae ob eadem adflictae. audita haec raram occulti pectoris vocem elicuere, correptamque Graeco versu admonuit non ideo laedi quia non regnaret. Pulchra et Furnius damnantur. Afer primoribus oratorum additus, divulgato ingenio et secuta adseveratione Caesaris qua suo iure disertum eum appellavit. mox capessendis accusationibus aut reos tutando prosperiore eloquentiae quam morum fama fuit, nisi quod aetas extrema multum etiam eloquentiae dempsit, dum fessa mente retinet silentii impatientiam.

53. Agrippina in stubborn rage, with the grasp of disease yet on her, when the emperor came to see her, wept long and silently, and then began to mingle reproach and supplication. She begged him "to relieve her loneliness and provide her with a husband; her youth still fitted her for marriage, which was a virtuous woman's only solace, and there were citizens in Rome who would not disdain to receive the wife of Germanicus and his children." But the emperor, who perceived the political aims of her request, but did not wish to show displeasure or apprehension, left her, notwithstanding her urgency, without an answer. This incident, not mentioned by any historian, I have found in the memoirs of the younger Agrippina, the mother of the emperor Nero, who handed down to posterity the story of her life and of the misfortunes of her family.

53. At Agrippina pervicax irae et morbo corporis implicata, cum viseret eam Caesar, profusis diu ac per silentium lacrimis, mox invidiam et preces orditur: subveniret solitudini, daret maritum; habilem adhuc inventam sibi neque aliud probis quam ex matrimonio solacium; esse in civitate, * * * Germanici coniugem ac liberos eius recipere dignarentur. sed Caesar non ignarus quantum ex re publica peteretur, ne tamen offensionis aut metus manifestus foret sine responso quamquam instantem reliquit. id ego, a scriptoribus annalium non traditum, repperi in commentariis Agrippinae filiae quae Neronis principis mater vitam suam et casus suorum posteris memoravit.

54. Sejanus meanwhile yet more deeply alarmed the sorrowing and unsuspecting woman by sending his agents, under the guise of friendship, with warnings that poison was prepared for her, and that she ought to avoid her father-in-law's table. Knowing not how to dissemble, she relaxed neither her features nor tone of voice as she sat by him at dinner, nor did she touch a single dish, till at last Tiberius noticed her conduct, either casually or because he was told of it. To test her more closely, he praised some fruit as it was set on the table and passed it with his own hand to his daughter-in-law. This increased the suspicions of Agrippina, and without putting the fruit to her lips she gave it to the slaves. Still no remark fell from Tiberius before the company, but he turned to his mother and whispered that it was not surprising if he had decided on harsh treatment against one who implied that he was a poisoner. Then there was a rumour that a plan was laid for her destruction, that the emperor did not dare to attempt it openly, and was seeking to veil the deed in secrecy.

54. Ceterum Seianus maerentem et improvidam altius perculit, immissis qui per speciem amicitiae monerent paratum ei venenum, vitandas soceri epulas. atque illa simulationum nescia, cum propter discumberet, non vultu aut sermone flecti, nullos attingere cibos, donec advertit Tiberius, forte an quia audiverat; idque quo acrius experiretur, poma, ut erant adposita, laudans nurui sua manu tradidit. aucta ex eo suspicio Agrippinae et intacta ore servis tramisit. nec tamen Tiberii vox coram secuta, sed obversus ad matrem non mirum ait si quid severius in eam statuisset a qua veneficii insimularetur. inde rumor parari exitium neque id imperatorem palam audere, secretum ad perpetrandum quaeri.

55. Tiberius, to divert people's talk, continually attended the Senate, and gave an audience of several days to embassies from Asia on a disputed question as to the city in which the temple before mentioned should be erected. Eleven cities were rivals for the honour, of which they were all equally ambitious, though they differed widely in resources. With little variation they dwelt on antiquity of race and loyalty to Rome throughout her wars with Perseus, Aristonicus, and other kings. But the people of Hypaepa, Tralles, Laodicaea, and Magnesia were passed over as too insignificant; even Ilium, though it boasted that Troy was the cradle of Rome, was strong only in the glory of its antiquity. There was a little hesitation about Halicarnassus, as its inhabitants affirmed that for twelve hundred years their homes had not been shaken by an earthquake and that the foundations of their temple were on the living rock. Pergamos, it was thought, had been sufficiently honoured by having a temple of Augustus in the city, on which very fact they relied. The Ephesians and Milesians had, it seemed, wholly devoted their respective towns to the worships of Apollo and Diana. And so the question lay between Sardis and Smyrna. The envoys from Sardis read a decree of the Etrurians, with whom they claimed kindred. "Tyrrhenus and Lydus," it was said, "the sons of King Atys, divided the nation between them because of its multitude; Lydus remained in the country of his fathers; Tyrrhenus had the work assigned him of establishing new settlements, and names, taken from the two leaders, were given to the one people in Asia and to the other in Italy. The resources of the Lydians were yet further augmented by the immigration of nations into that part of Greece which afterwards took its name from Pelops." They spoke too of letters from Roman generals, of treaties concluded with us during the Macedonian war, and of their copious rivers, of their climate, and the rich countries round them.

55. Sed Caesar quo famam averteret adesse frequens senatoi legatosque Asiae ambigentis quanam in civitate templum statueretur pluris per dies audivit. undecim urbes certabant, pari ambitione, viribus diversae. neque multum distantia inter se memorabant de vetustate generis, studio in populum Romanum per bella Persi et Aristonici aliorumque regum. verum Hypaepeni Trallianique Laodicenis ac Magnetibus simul tramissi ut pamum validi; ne Ilienses quidem, cum parentem urbis Romae Troiam referrent, nisi antiquitatis gloria pollebant. paulum addubitatum quod Halicarnasii mille et ducentos per annos nullo motu terrae nutavisse sedes suas vivoque in saxo fundamenta templi adseveraverant. Pergamenos (eo ipso nitebantur) aede Augusto ibi sita satis adeptos creditum. Ephesii Milesiique, hi Apollinis, illi Dianae caerimonia occupavisse civitates visi. ita Sardianos inter Zmyrnaeosque deliberatum. Sardiani decretum Etruriae recitavere ut consanguinei: nam Tyrrhenum Lydumque Atye rege genitos ob multitudinem divisisse gentem; Lydum patriis in terris resedisse, Tyrrheno datum novas ut conderet sedes; et ducum e nominibus indita vocabula illis per Asiam, his in Italia; auctamque adhuc Lydorum opulentiam missis in Graeciam populis cui mox a Pelope nomen. simul litteras imperatorum et icta nobiscum foedera bello Macedonum ubertatemque fluminum suorum, temperiem caeli ac ditis circum terras memorabant.

56. The envoys from Smyrna, after tracing their city's antiquity back to such founders as either Tantalus, the son of Jupiter, or Theseus, also of divine origin, or one of the Amazons, passed on to that on which they chiefly relied, their services to the Roman people, whom they had helped with naval armaments, not only in wars abroad, but in those under which we struggled in Italy. They had also been the first, they said, to build a temple in honour of Rome, during the consulship of Marcus Porcius Cato, when Rome's power indeed was great, but not yet raised to the highest point, inasmuch as the Punic capital was still standing and there were mighty kings in Asia. They appealed too to the of Lucius Sulla, whose army was once in terrible jeopardy from a severe winter and want of clothing, and this having been announced at Smyrna in a public assembly, all who were present stript their clothes off their backs and sent them to our legions. And so the Senate, when the question was put, gave the preference to Smyrna. Vibius Marsus moved that Marcus Lepidus, to whom the province of Asia had been assigned, should have under him a special commissioner to undertake the charge of this temple. As Lepidus himself, out of modesty, declined to appoint, Valerius Naso, one of the ex-praetors, was chosen by lot and sent out.

56. At Zmymaei repetita vetustate, seu Tantalus Iove ortus illos, sive Theseus divina et ipse stirpe, sive una Amazonum condidisset, transcendere ad ea, quis maxime fidebant, in populum Romanum officiis, missa navali copia non modo externa ad bella sed quae in Italia tolerabantur; seque primos templum urbis Romae statuisse, M. Porcio consule, magnis quidem iam populi Romani rebus, nondum tamen ad summum elatis, stante adhuc Punica urbe et validis per Asiam regibus. simul L. Sullam testem adferebant, gravissimo in discrimine exercitus ob asperitatem hiemis et penuriam vestis, cum id Zmyrnam in contionem nuntiatum foret, omnis qui adstabant detraxisse corpori tegmina nostrisque legionibus misisse. ita rogati sententiam patres Zmyrnaeos praetulere. censuitque Vibius Marsus ut M'. Lepido, cui ea provincia obvenerat, super numerum legaretur qui templi curam susciperet. et quia Lepidus ipse deligere per modestiam abnuebat, Valerius Naso e praetoriis sorte missus est.

57. Meanwhile, after long reflection on his purpose and frequent deferment of it, the emperor retired into Campania to dedicate, as he pretended, a temple to Jupiter at Capua and another to Augustus at Nola, but really resolved to live at a distance from Rome. Although I have followed most historians in attributing the cause of his retirement to the arts of Sejanus, still, as he passed six consecutive years in the same solitude after that minister's destruction, I am often in doubt whether it is not to be more truly ascribed to himself, and his wish to hide by the place of his retreat the cruelty and licentiousness which he betrayed by his actions. Some thought that in his old age he was ashamed of his personal appearance. He had indeed a tall, singularly slender and stooping figure, a bald head, a face full of eruptions, and covered here and there with plasters. In the seclusion of Rhodes he had habituated himself to shun society and to hide his voluptuous life. According to one account his mother's domineering temper drove him away; he was weary of having her as his partner in power, and he could not thrust her aside, because he had received this very power as her gift. For Augustus had had thoughts of putting the Roman state under Germanicus, his sister's grandson, whom all men esteemed, but yielding to his wife's entreaties he left Germanicus to be adopted by Tiberius and adopted Tiberius himself. With this Augusta would taunt her son, and claim back what she had given.

57. Inter quae diu meditato prolatoque saepius consilio tandem Caesar in Campaniam, specie dedicandi templa apud Capuam Iovi, apud Nolam Augusto, sed certus procul urbe degere. causam abscessus quamquam secutus plurimos auctorum ad Seiani artes rettuli, quia tamen caede eius patrata sex postea annos pari secreto conionxit, plerumque permoveor num ad ipsum referri verius sit, saevitiam ac libidinem cum factis promeret, locis occultantem erant qui crederent in senectute corporis quoque habitum pudori fuisse: quippe illi praegracilis et incurva proceritas, nudus capillo vertex, ulcerosa facies ac plerumque medicaminibus interstincta; et Rhodi secreto vitare coetus, recondere voluptates insuerat. traditur etiam matris impotentia extrusum quam dominationis sociam aspernabatur neque depellere poterat, cum dominationem ipsam donum eius accepisset. nam dubitaverat Augustus Germanicum, sororis nepotem et cunctis laudatum, rei Romanae imponere, sed precibus usoris evictus Tiberio Germanicum, sibi Tiberium adscivit. idque Augusta exprobrabat, reposcebat.

58. His departure was attended by a small retinue, one senator, who was an ex-consul, Cocceius Nerva, learned in the laws, one Roman knight, besides Sejanus, of the highest order, Curtius Atticus, the rest being men of liberal culture, for the most part Greeks, in whose conversation he might find amusement. It was said by men who knew the stars that the motions of the heavenly bodies when Tiberius left Rome were such as to forbid the possibility of his return. This caused ruin for many who conjectured that his end was near and spread the rumour; for they never foresaw the very improbable contingency of his voluntary exile from his home for eleven years. Soon afterwards it was clearly seen what a narrow margin there is between such science and delusion and in what obscurity truth is veiled. That he would not return to Rome was not a mere random assertion; as to the rest, they were wholly in the dark, seeing that he lived to extreme old age in the country or on the coast near Rome and often close to the very walls of the city.

58. Profectio arto comitatu fuit: unus senator consulatu functus, Cocceius Nerva, cui legum peritia, eques Romanus praeter Seianum ex inlustribus Curtius Atticus, ceteri liberalibus studiis praediti, ferme Graeci, quorum sermonibus levaretur. ferebant periti caelestium iis motibus siderum excessisse Roma Tiberium ut reditus illi negaretur. unde exitii causa multis fuit properum finem vitae coniectantibus vulgantibusque; neque enim tam incredibilem casum providebant ut undecim per annos libens patria careret. mox patuit breve confinium artis et falsi veraque quam obscuris tegerentur. nam in urbem non regressurum haud forte dictum: ceterorum nescii egere, cum propinquo rure aut litore et saepe moenia urbis adsidens extremam senectam compleverit.

59. It happened at this time that a perilous accident which occurred to the emperor strengthened vague rumours and gave him grounds for trusting more fully in the friendship and fidelity of Sejanus. They were dining in a country house called "The Cave," between the gulf of Amuclae and the hills of Fundi, in a natural grotto. The rocks at its entrance suddenly fell in and crushed some of the attendants; there upon panic seized the whole company and there was a general flight of the guests. Sejanus hung over the emperor, and with knee, face, and hand encountered the falling stones; and was found in this attitude by the soldiers who came to their rescue. After this he was greater than ever, and though his counsels were ruinous, he was listened to with confidence, as a man who had no care for himself. He pretended to act as a judge towards the children of Germanicus, after having suborned persons to assume the part of prosecutors and to inveigh specially against Nero, next in succession to the throne, who, though he had proper youthful modesty, often forgot present expediency, while freedmen and clients, eager to get power, incited him to display vigour and self-confidence. "This," they said, "was what the Roman people wished, what the armies desired, and Sejanus would not dare to oppose it, though now he insulted alike the tame spirit of the old emperor and the timidity of the young prince."

59. Ac forte illis diebus oblatum Caesari anceps periculum auxit vana rumoris praebuitque ipsi materiem cur amicitiae constantiaeque Seiani magis fideret. vescebantur in villa cui vocabulum Speluncae mare Amunclanum inter et Fundanos montis nativo in specu. eius os lapsis repente saxis obruit quosdam ministros: hinc metus in omnis et fuga eorum qui convivium celebrabant. Seianus genu voltuque et manibus super Caesarem suspensus opposuit sese incidentibus atque habitu tali repertus est a militibus qui subsidio venerant. maior ex eo et quamquam exitiosa suaderet ut non sui anxius cum fide audiebatur. adsimulabatque iudicis partis adversum Germanici stirpem, subditis qui accusatorum nomina sustinerent maximeque insectarentur Neronem proximum successioni et, quamquam modesta iuventa, plerumque tamen quid in praesentiarum conduceret oblitum, dum a libertis et clientibus, apiscendae potentiae properis, extimulator ut erectum et fidentem animi ostenderet: velle id populum Romanum, cupere exercitus, neque ausurum contra Seianum qui nunc patientiam senis et segnitiam iuvenis iuxta insultet.

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