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Tacitus: Annals Book 4 [70]

70. The emperor in his letter on the first of January, after offering the usual prayers for the new year, referred to Sabinus, whom he reproached with having corrupted some of his freedmen and having attempted his life, and he claimed vengeance in no obscure language. It was decreed without hesitation, and the condemned man was dragged off, exclaiming as loudly as he could, with head covered and throat tightly bound, "that this was inaugurating the year; these were the victims slain to Sejanus." Wherever he turned his eyes, wherever his words fell, there was flight and solitude; the streets and public places were forsaken. A few retraced their steps and again showed themselves, shuddering at the mere fact that they had betrayed alarm. "What day," they asked, "will be without some execution, when amid sacrifices and prayers, a time when it is usual to refrain even from a profane word, the chain and halter are introduced? Tiberius has not incurred such odium blindly; this is a studied device to make us believe that there is no reason why the new magistrates should not open the dungeons as well as the temple and the altars." Thereupon there came a letter of thanks to them for having punished a bitter foe to the State, and the emperor further added that he had an anxious life, that he apprehended treachery from enemies, but he mentioned no one by name. Still there was no question that this was aimed at Nero and Agrippina.

70. Sed Caesar sollemnia incipientis anni kalendis Ianuariis epistula precatus vertit in Sabinum, corruptos quosdam libertorum et petitum se arguens, ultionemque haud obscure poscebat. nec mora quin decerneretur; et trahebatur damnatus, quantum obducta veste et adstrictis faucibus niti poterat, clamitans sic inchoari annum, has Seiano victimas cadere. quo intendisset oculos, quo verba acciderent, fuga vastitas, deseri itinera fora. et quidam regrediebantur ostentabantque se rursum id ipsum paventes quod timuissent. quem enim diem vacuum poena ubi inter sacra et vota, quo tempore verbis etiam profanis abstineri mos esset, vincla et laqueus inducantur? non imprudentem Tiberium tantam invidiam adisse: quaesitum meditatumque, ne quid impedire credatur quo minus novi magistratus, quo modo delubra et altaria, sic carcerem recludant. secutae insuper litterae grates agentis quod hominem infensum rei publicae punivissent, adiecto trepidam sibi vitam, suspectas inimicorum insidias, nullo nominatim compellato; neque tamen dubitabatur in Neronem et Agrippinam intendi.

71. But for my plan of referring each event to its own year, I should feel a strong impulse to anticipate matters and at once relate the deaths by which Latinius and Opsius and the other authors of this atrocious deed perished, some after Caius became emperor, some even while Tiberius yet ruled. For although he would not have the instruments of his wickedness destroyed by others, he frequently, when he was tired of them, and fresh ones offered themselves for the same services, flung off the old, now become a mere incubus. But these and other punishments of guilty men I shall describe in due course. Asinius Gallus, to whose children Agrippina was aunt, then moved that the emperor should be requested to disclose his apprehensions to the Senate and allow their removal. Of all his virtues, as he counted them, there was none on which Tiberius so prided himself as his ability to dissemble, and he was therefore the more irritated at an attempt to expose what he was hiding. Sejanus however pacified him, not out of love for Gallus, but rather to wait the result of the emperor's wavering mood, knowing, as he did, that, though slow in forming his purpose, yet having once broken through his reserve, he would follow up harsh words with terrible deeds. About the same time Julia died, the granddaughter of Augustus. He had condemned her on a conviction of adultery and had banished her to the island of Trimerus, not far from the shores of Apulia. There she endured a twenty years' exile, in which she was supported by relief from Augusta, who having overthrown the prosperity of her step-children by secret machinations, made open display of her compassion to the fallen family.

71. Ni mihi destinatum foret suum quaeque in annum referre, avebat animus antire statimque memorare exitus quos Latinus atque Opsius ceterique flagitii eius repertores habuere, non modo postquam Gaius Caesar rerum potitus est sed incolumi Tiberio, qui scelerum ministros ut perverti ab aliis nolebat, ita plerumque satiatus et oblatis in eandem operam recentibus veteres et praegravis adflixit: verum has atque alias sontium poenas in tempore trademus. tum censuit Asinius Gallus, cuius liberorum Agrippina matertera erat, petendum a principe ut metus suos senatui fateretur amoverique sineret. nullam acque Tiberius, ut rebatur, ex virtutibus suis quam dissimulationem diligebat: eo aegrius accepit recludi quae premeret. sed mitigavit Seianus, non Galli amore verum ut cunctationes principis opperiretur, gnarus lentum in meditando, ubi prorupisset, tristibus dictis atrocia facta coniungere.     Per idem tempus Iulia mortem obiit, quam neptem Augustus convictam adulterii damnaverat proieceratque in insulam Trimentm, haud procul Apulis litoribus. illic viginti annis exilium toleravit Augustae ope sustentata, quae florentis privignos cum per occultum subvertisset, misericordiam erga adflictos palam ostentabat.

72. That same year the Frisii, a nation beyond the Rhine, cast off peace, more because of our rapacity than from their impatience of subjection. Drusus had imposed on them a moderate tribute, suitable to their limited resources, the furnishing of ox hides for military purposes. No one ever severely scrutinized the size or thickness till Olennius, a first-rank centurion, appointed to govern the Frisii, selected hides of wild bulls as the standard according to which they were to be supplied. This would have been hard for any nation, and it was the less tolerable to the Germans, whose forests abound in huge beasts, while their home cattle are undersized. First it was their herds, next their lands, last, the persons of their wives and children, which they gave up to bondage. Then came angry remonstrances, and when they received no relief, they sought a remedy in war. The soldiers appointed to collect the tribute were seized and gibbeted. Olennius anticipated their fury by flight, and found refuge in a fortress, named Flevum, where a by no means contemptible force of Romans and allies kept guard over the shores of the ocean.

72. Eodem anno Frisii, transrhenanus popolus, pacem exuere, nostra magis avaritia quam obsequii impatientes. tributum iis Drusus iusserat modicum pro angustia rerum, ut in usus militaris coria boum penderent, non intenta cuiusquam cura quae firmitudo, quae mensura, donec Olennius e primipilaribus regendis Frisiis impositus terga urorum delegit quorum ad formam acciperentur. id aliis quoque nationibus arduum apud Germanos difficilius tolerabatur, quis ingentium beluarum feraces saltus, modica domi armenta sunt. ac primo boves ipsos, mox agros, postremo corpora coniugum aut liberorum servitio tradebant. hinc ira et questus et postquam non subveniebatur remedium ex bello. rapti qui tributo aderant milites et patibulo adfixi: Olennius infensos fuga praevenit receptus castello cui nomen Flevum; et haud spernenda illic civium sociorumque manus litora Oceani praesidebat.

73. As soon as this was known to Lucius Apronius, propraetor of Lower Germany, he summoned from the Upper province the legionary veterans, as well as some picked auxiliary infantry and cavalry. Instantly conveying both armies down the Rhine, he threw them on the Frisii, raising at once the siege of the fortress and dispersing the rebels in defence of their own possessions. Next, he began constructing solid roads and bridges over the neighbouring estuaries for the passage of his heavy troops, and meanwhile having found a ford, he ordered the cavalry of the Canninefates, with all the German infantry which served with us, to take the enemy in the rear. Already in battle array, they were beating back our auxiliary horse as well as that of the legions sent to support them, when three light cohorts, then two more, and after a while the entire cavalry were sent to the attack. They were strong enough, had they charged altogether, but coming up, as they did, at intervals, they did not give fresh courage to the repulsed troops and were themselves carried away in the panic of the fugitives. Apronius entrusted the rest of the auxiliaries to Cethegus Labeo, the commander of the fifth legion, but he too, finding his men's position critical and being in extreme peril, sent messages imploring the whole strength of the legions. The soldiers of the fifth sprang forward, drove back the enemy in a fierce encounter, and saved our cohorts and cavalry, who were exhausted by their wounds. But the Roman general did not attempt vengeance or even bury the dead, although many tribunes, prefects, and first-rank centurions had fallen. Soon afterwards it was ascertained from deserters that nine hundred Romans had been cut to pieces in a wood called Braduhenna's, after prolonging the fight to the next day, and that another body of four hundred, which had taken possession of the house of one Cruptorix, once a soldier in our pay, fearing betrayal, had perished by mutual slaughter.

73. Quod ubi L. Apronio inferioris Germaniae pro praetore cognitum, vexilla legionum e superiore provincia peditumque et equitum auxiliarium delectos accivit ac simul utrumque exercitum Rheno devectum Frisiis intulit, soluto iam castelli obsidio et ad sua tutanda degressis rebellibus. igitur proxima aestuaria aggeribus et pontibus traducendo graviori agmini firmat, atque interim repertis vadis alam Canninefatem et quod peditum Germanorum inter nostros merebat circumgredi terga hostium iubet, qui iam acie compositi pellunt turmas socialis equitesque legionum subsidio missos. tum tres leves cohortes ac rursum duae, dein tempore interiecto alarius eques immissus: satis validi si simul incubuissent, per intervallum adventantes neque constantiam addiderant turbatis et pavore fugientium auferebantur. Cethego Labeoni legato quintae legionis quod reliquum auxiliorum tradit. atque ille dubia suorum re in anceps tractus missis nuntiis vim legionum implorabat. prorumpunt quintani ante alios et acri pugna hoste pulso recipiunt cohortis alasque fessas vulneribus. neque dux Romanus ultum iit aut corpora humavit, quamquam multi tribunorum praefectorumque et insignes centuriones cecidissent. mox compertum a transfugis nongentos Romanorum apud lucum quem Baduhennae vocant pugna in posterum extracta confectos, et aliam quadringentorum manum occupata Cruptorigis quondam stipendiari villa, postquam proditio metuebatur, mutuis ictibus procubuisse.

74. The Frisian name thus became famous in Germany, and Tiberius kept our losses a secret, not wishing to entrust any one with the war. Nor did the Senate care whether dishonour fell on the extreme frontiers of the empire. Fear at home had filled their hearts, and for this they sought relief in sycophancy. And so, although their advice was asked on totally different subjects, they decreed an altar to Clemency, an altar to Friendship, and statues round them to Caesar and Sejanus, both of whom they earnestly begged with repeated entreaties to allow themselves to be seen in public. Still, neither of them would visit Rome or even the neighbourhood of Rome; they thought it enough to quit the island and show themselves on the opposite shores of Campania. Senators, knights, a number of the city populace flocked thither, anxiously looking to Sejanus, approach to whom was particularly difficult and was consequently sought by intrigue and by complicity in his counsels. It was sufficiently clear that his arrogance was increased by gazing on this foul and openly displayed servility. At Rome indeed hurrying crowds are a familiar sight, from the extent of the city no one knows on what business each citizen is bent; but there, as they lounged in promiscuous crowds in the fields or on the shore, they had to bear day and night alike the patronising smiles and the supercilious insolence of hall-porters, till even this was forbidden them, and those whom Sejanus had not deigned to accost or to look on, returned to the capital in alarm, while some felt an evil joy, though there hung over them the dreadful doom of that ill-starred friendship.

74. Clarum inde inter Germanos Frisium nomen, dissimulante Tiberio damna ne cui bellum permitteret. neque senatus in eo cura an imperii extrema dehonestarentur: pavor internus occupaverat animos cui remedium adulatione quaerebatur. ita quamquam diversis super rebus consulerentur, aram clementiae, aram amicitiae effigiesque circum Caesaris ac Seiani censuere crebrisque precibus efflagitabant visendi sui copiam facerent. non illi tamen in urbem aut propinqua urbi degressi sunt: satis visum omittere insulam et in proximo Campaniae aspici. eo venire patres, eques, magna pars plebis, anxii erga Seianum cuius durior congressus atque eo per ambitum et societate consiliorum parabatur. satis constabat auctam ei adrogantiam foedum illud in propatulo servitium spectanti; quippe Romae sueti discursus et magnitudine urbis incertum quod quisque ad negotium pergat: ibi campo aut litore iacentes nullo discrimine noctem ac diem iuxta gratiam aut fastus ianitorum perpetiebantur donec id quoque vetitum: et revenere in urbem trepidi quos non sermone, non visu dignatus erat, quidam male alacres quibus infaustae amicitiae gravis exitus imminebat

75. Tiberius meanwhile having himself in person bestowed the hand of his granddaughter Agrippina, Germanicus's daughter, on Cneius Domitius, directed the marriage to be celebrated at Rome. In selecting Domitius he looked not only to his ancient lineage, but also to his alliance with the blood of the Caesars, for he could point to Octavia as his grandmother and through her to Augustus as his great-uncle. 75. Ceterum Tiberius neptem Agrippinam Germanico ortam cum coram Cn. Domitio tradidisset, in urbe celebrari nuptias iussit. in Domitio super vetustatem generis propinquum Caesaribus sanguinem delegerat; nam is aviam Octaviam et per eam Augustum avunculum praeferebat.

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