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Tacitus: Annals Book 6 [40]

40. Quintus Plautius and Sextus Papinius were the next consuls. The fact that that year Lucius Aruseius was put to death did not strike men as anything horrible, from their familiarity with evil deeds. But there was a panic when Vibulenus Agrippa, a Roman knight, as soon as his accusers had finished their case, took from his robe, in the very Senate-house, a dose of poison, drank it off, and, as he fell expiring, was hurried away to prison by the prompt hands of lictors, where the neck of the now lifeless man was crushed with the halter. Even Tigranes, who had once ruled Armenia and was now impeached, did not escape the punishment of an ordinary citizen on the strength of his royal title. Caius Galba meanwhile and the Blaesi perished by a voluntary death; Galba, because a harsh letter from the emperor forbade him to have a province allotted to him; while, as for the Blaesi, the priesthoods intended for them during the prosperity of their house, Tiberius had withheld, when that prosperity was shaken, and now conferred, as vacant offices, on others. This they understood as a signal of their doom, and acted on it. Aemilia Lepida too, whose marriage with the younger Drusus I have already related, who, though she had pursued her husband with ceaseless accusations, remained unpunished, infamous as she was, as long as her father Lepidus lived, subsequently fell a victim to the informers for adultery with a slave. There was no question about her guilt, and so without an attempt at defence she put an end to her life.

6.40. Quintus Plautius Sex. Papinius consules sequuntur. eo anno neque quod L. Aruseius * * * morte adfecti forent, adsuetudine malorum ut atrox advertebatur, sed exterruit quod Vibulenus Agrippa eques Romanus, cum perorassent accusatores, in ipsa curia depromptum sinu venenum hausit prolapsusque ac moribundus festinatis lictorum manibus in carcerem raptus est faucesque iam exanimis laqueo vexatae. ne Tigranes quidem, Armenia quondam potitus ac tunc reus, nomine regio supplicia civium effugit. at C. Galba consularis et duo Blaesi voluntario exitu cecidere, Galba tristibus Caesaris litteris provinciam sortiri prohibitus: Blaesis sacerdotia, integra eorum domo destinata, convulsa distulerat, tunc ut vacua contulit in alios; quod signum mortis intellexere et executi sunt. et Aemilia Lepida, quam iuveni Druso nuptam rettuli, crebris criminibus maritum insectata, quamquam intestabilis, tamen impunita agebat, dum superfuit pater Lepidus: post a delatoribus corripitur ob servum adulterum, nec dubitabatur de flagitio: ergo omissa defensione finem vitae sibi posuit.

41. At this same time the Clitae, a tribe subject to the Cappadocian Archelaus, retreated to the heights of Mount Taurus, because they were compelled in Roman fashion to render an account of their revenue and submit to tribute. There they defended themselves by means of the nature of the country against the king's unwarlike troops, till Marcus Trebellius, whom Vitellius, the governor of Syria, sent as his lieutenant with four thousand legionaries and some picked auxiliaries, surrounded with his lines two hills occupied by the barbarians, the lesser of which was named Cadra, the other Davara. Those who dared to sally out, he reduced to surrender by the sword, the rest by drought. Tiridates meanwhile, with the consent of the Parthians, received the submission of Nicephorium, Anthemusias and the other cities, which having been founded by Macedonians, claim Greek names, also of the Parthian towns Halus and Artemita. There was a rivalry of joy among the inhabitants who detested Artabanus, bred as he had been among the Scythians, for his cruelty, and hoped to find in Tiridates a kindly spirit from his Roman training.

6.41. Per idem tempus Clitarum natio Cappadoci Archelao subiecta, quia nostrum in modum deferre census, pati tributa adigebatur, in iuga Tauri montis abscessit locorumque ingenio sese contra imbellis regis copias tutabatur, donec M. Trebellius legatus, a Vitellio praeside Syriae cum quattuor milibus legionariorum et delectis auxiliis missus, duos collis quos barbari insederant (minori Cadra, alteri Davara nomen est) operibus circumdedit et erumpere ausos ferro, ceteros siti ad deditionem coegit. At Tiridates volentibus Parthis Nicephorium et Anthemusiada ceterasque urbes, quae Macedonibus sitae Graeca vocabula usurpant, Halumque et Artemitam Parthica oppida recepit, certantibus gaudio qui Artabanum Scythas inter eductum ob saevitiam execrati come Tiridatis ingenium Romanas per artes sperabant.

42. Seleucia, a powerful and fortified city which had never lapsed into barbarism, but had clung loyally to its founder Seleucus, assumed the most marked tone of flattery. Three hundred citizens, chosen for wealth or wisdom, form a kind of senate, and the people have powers of their own. When both act in concert, they look with contempt on the Parthians; as soon as they are at discord, and the respective leaders invite aid for themselves against their rivals, the ally summoned to help a faction crushes them all. This had lately happened in the reign of Artabanus, who, for his own interest, put the people at the mercy of the nobles. As a fact, popular government almost amounts to freedom, while the rule of the few approaches closely to a monarch's caprice. Seleucia now celebrated the arrival of Tiridates with all the honours paid to princes of old and all which modern times, with a more copious inventiveness, have devised. Reproaches were at the same time heaped on Artabanus, as an Arsacid indeed on his mother's side, but as in all else degenerate. Tiridates gave the government of Seleucia to the people. Soon afterwards, as he was deliberating on what day he should inaugurate his reign, he received letters from Phraates and Hiero, who held two very powerful provinces, imploring a brief delay. It was thought best to wait for men of such commanding influence, and meanwhile Ctesiphon, the seat of empire, was their chosen destination. But as they postponed their coming from day to day, the Surena, in the presence of an approving throng, crowned Tiridates, according to the national usage, with the royal diadem.

6.42. Plurimum adulationis Seleucenses induere, civitas potens, saepta muris neque in barbarum corrupta sed conditoris Seleuci retinens. trecenti opibus aut sapientia delecti ut senatus, sua populo vis. et quoties concordes agunt, spernitur Parthus: ubi dissensere, dum sibi quisque contra aemulos subsidium vocant, accitus in partem adversum omnis valescit. id nuper acciderat Artabano regnante, qui plebem primoribus tradidit ex suo usu: nam populi imperium iuxta libertatem, paucorum dominatio regiae libidini propior est. tum adventantem Tiridaten extollunt veterum regum honoribus et quos recens aetas largius invenit; simul probra in Artabanum fundebant, materna origine Arsaciden, cetera degenerem. Tiridates rem Seleucensem populo permittit. mox consultans quonam die sollemnia regni capesseret, litteras Phraatis et Hieronis qui validissimas praefecturas obtinebant accipit, brevem moram precantium. placitumque opperiri viros praepollentis, atque interim Ctesiphon sedes imperii petita: sed ubi diem ex die prolatabant, multis coram et adprobantibus Surena patrio more Tiridaten insigni regio evinxit.

43. And now had he instantly made his way to the heart of the country and to its other tribes, the reluctance of those who wavered, would have been overpowered, and all to a man would have yielded. By besieging a fortress into which Artabanus had conveyed his treasure and his concubines, he gave them time to disown their compact. Phraates and Hiero, with others who had not united in celebrating the day fixed for the coronation, some from fear, some out of jealousy of Abdageses, who then ruled the court and the new king, transferred their allegiance to Artabanus. They found him in Hyrcania, covered with filth and procuring sustenance with his bow. He was at first alarmed under the impression that treachery was intended, but when they pledged their honour that they had come to restore to him his dominion, his spirit revived, and he asked what the sudden change meant. Hiero then spoke insultingly of the boyish years of Tiridates, hinting that the throne was not held by an Arsacid, but that a mere empty name was enjoyed by a feeble creature bred in foreign effeminacy, while the actual power was in the house of Abdageses.

6.43. Ac si statim interiora ceterasque nationes petivisset, oppressa cunctantium dubitatio et omnes in unum cedebant: adsidendo castellum, in quod pecuniam et paelices Artabanus contulerat, dedit spatium exuendi pacta. nam Phraates et Hiero et si qui alii delectum capiendo diademati diem haut concelebraverant, pars metu, quidam invidia in Abdagaesen qui tum aula et novo rege potiebatur ad Artabanum vertere; isque in Hyrcanis repertus est, inluvie obsitus et alimenta arcu expediens. ac primo tamquam dolus pararetur territus, ubi data fides reddendae dominationi venisse, adlevatur animum et quae repentina mutatio exquirit. tum Hiero pueritiam Tiridatis increpat, neque penes Arsaciden imperium sed inane nomen apud imbellem externa mollitia, vim in Abdagaesis domo.

44. An experienced king, Artabanus knew that men do not necessarily feign hatred because they are false in friendship. He delayed only while he was raising auxiliaries in Scythia, and then pushed on in haste, thus anticipating the plots of enemies and the fickleness of friends. Wishing to attract popular sympathy, he did not even cast off his miserable garb. He stooped to wiles and to entreaties, to anything indeed by which he might allure the wavering and confirm the willing. He was now approaching the neighbourhood of Seleucia with a large force, while Tiridates, dismayed by the rumour. and then by the king's presence in person, was divided in mind, and doubted whether he should march against him or prolong the war by delay. Those who wished for battle with its prompt decision argued that ill-arrayed levies fatigued by a long march could not even in heart be thoroughly united in obedience, traitors and enemies as they had lately been, to the prince whom now again they were supporting. Abdageses, however, advised a retreat into Mesopotamia. There, with a river in their front, they might in the interval summon to their aid the Armenians and Elymaeans and other nations in their rear, and then, reinforced by allies and troops which would be sent by the Roman general, they might try the fortune of war. This advice prevailed, for Abdageses had the chief influence and Tiridates was a coward in the face of danger. But their retreat resembled a flight. The Arabs made a beginning, and then the rest went to their homes or to the camp of Artabanus, till Tiridates returned to Syria with a few followers and thus relieved all from the disgrace of desertion.

6.44. Sensit vetus regnandi falsos in amore odia non fingere. nec ultra moratus quam dum Scytharum auxilia conciret, pergit properus et praeveniens inimicorum astus, amicorum paenitentiam; neque exuerat paedorem ut vulgum miseratione adverteret. non fraus, non preces, nihil omissum quo ambiguos inliceret, prompti firmarentur. iamque multa manu propinqua Seleuciae adventabat, cum Tiridates simul fama atque ipso Artabano perculsus distrahi consiliis, iret contra an bellum cunctatione tractaret. quibus proelium et festinati casus placebant, disiectos et longinquitate itineris fessos ne animo quidem satis ad obsesquium coaluisse disserunt, proditores nuper hostesque eius quem rursum foveant. verum Abdagaeses regrediendum in Mesopotamiam censebat, ut amne obiecto, Armeniis interim Elymaeisque et ceteris a tergo excitis, aucti copiis socialibus et quas dux Romanus misisset fortunam temptarent. ea sententia valuit, quia plurima auctoritas penes Abdagaesen et Tiridates ignavus ad pericula erat. sed fugae specie discessum; ac principio a gente Arabum facto ceteri domos abeunt vel in castra Artabani, donec Tiridates cum paucis in Syriam revectus pudore proditionis omnis exolvit.

45. That same year Rome suffered from a terrible fire, and part of the circus near the Aventine hill was burnt, as well as the Aventine quarter itself. This calamity the emperor turned to his own glory by paying the values of the houses and blocks of tenements. A hundred million of sesterces was expended in this munificence, a boon all the more acceptable to the populace, as Tiberius was rather sparing in building at his private expense. He raised only two structures even at the public cost, the temple of Augustus and the stage of Pompey's theatre, and when these were completed, he did not dedicate them, either out of contempt for popularity or from his extreme age. Four commissioners, all husbands of the emperor's granddaughters- Cneius Domitius, Cassius Longinus, Marcus Vinicius, Rubellius Blandus- were appointed to assess the damage in each case, and Publius Petronius was added to their number on the nomination of the consuls. Various honours were devised and decreed to the emperor such as each man's ingenuity suggested. It is a question which of these he rejected or accepted, as the end of his life was so near. For soon afterwards Tiberius's last consuls, Cneius Acerronius and Caius Pontius, entered on office, Macro's power being now excessive. Every day the man cultivated more assiduously than ever the favour of Caius Caesar, which, indeed, he had never neglected, and after the death of Claudia, who had, as I have related, been married to Caius, he had prompted his wife Ennia to inveigle the young prince by a pretence of love, and to bind him by an engagement of marriage, and the lad, provided he could secure the throne, shrank from no conditions. For though he was of an excitable temper, he had thoroughly learnt the falsehoods of hypocrisy under the loving care of his grandfather.

6.45. Idem annus gravi igne urbem adficit, deusta parte circi quae Aventino contigua, ipsoque Aventino; quod damnum Caesar ad gloriam vertit exolutis domuum et insularum pretiis. milies sestertium in munificentia conlocatum, tanto acceptius in vulgum, quanto modicus privatis aedificationibus ne publice quidem nisi duo opera struxit, templum Augusto et scaenam Pompeiani theatri; eaque perfecta, contemptu ambitionis an per senectutem, haud dedicavit. sed aestimando cuiusque detrimento quattuor progeneri Caesaris, Cn. Domitius, Cassius Longinus, M. Vinicius, Rubellius Blandus delecti additusque nominatione consulum P. Petronius. et pro ingenio cuiusque quaesiti decretique in principem honores; quos omiserit receperitve in incerto fuit ob propinquum vitae finem. neque enim multo post supremi Tiberio consules, Cn. Acerronius C. Pontius, magistratum occepere, nimia iam potentia Macronis, qui gratiam G. Caesaris numquam sibi neglectam acrius in dies fovebat impuleratque post mortem Claudiae, quam nuptam ei rettuli, uxorem suam Enniam imitando amorem iuvenem inlicere pactoque matrimonii vincire, nihil abnuentem, dum dominationis apisceretur; nam etsi commotus ingenio simulationum tamen falsa in sinu avi perdidicerat.

46. This the emperor knew, and he therefore hesitated about bequeathing the empire, first, between his grandsons. Of these, the son of Drusus was nearest in blood and natural affection, but he was still in his childhood. Germanicus's son was in the vigour of youth and enjoyed the people's favour, a reason for having his grandfather's hatred. Tiberius had even thought of Claudius, as he was of sedate age and had a taste for liberal culture, but a weak intellect was against him. If however he were to seek a successor outside of his house, he feared that the memory of Augustus and the name of the Caesars would become a laughing-stock and a scorn. It was, in fact, not so much popularity in the present for which he cared as for glory in the future. Perplexed in mind, exhausted in body, he soon left to destiny a question to which he was unequal, though he threw out some hints from which it might be inferred that he foresaw what was to come. He taunted Macro, in no obscure terms, with forsaking the setting and looking to the rising sun. Once too when Caius Caesar in a casual conversation ridiculed Lucius Sulla, he predicted to him that he would have all Sulla's vices and none of his virtues. At the same moment he embraced the younger of his two grandsons with a flood of tears, and, noting the savage face of the other, said, "You will slay this boy, and will be yourself slain by another." But even while his strength was fast failing he gave up none of his debaucheries. In his sufferings he would simulate health, and was wont to jest at the arts of the physician and at all who, after the age of thirty, require another man's advice to distinguish between what is beneficial or hurtful to their constitutions.

6.46. Gnarum hoc principi, eoque dubitavit de tradenda re publica, primum inter nepotes, quorum Druso genitus sanguine et caritate propior, sed nondum pubertatem ingressus, Germanici filio robur iuventae, vulgi studia, eaque apud avum odii causa. etiam de Claudio agitanti, quod is composita aetate bonarum artium cupiens erat, imminuta mens eius obstitit. sin extra domum successor quaereretur, ne memoria Augusti, ne nomen Caesarum in ludibria et contumelias verterent metuebat: quippe illi non perinde curae gratia praesentium quam in posteros ambitio. mox incertus animi, fesso corpore consilium cui impar erat fato permisit, iactis tamen vocibus per quas intellegeretur providus futurorum; namque Macroni non abdita ambage occidentem ab eo deseri, orientem spectari exprobravit, et G. Caesari, forte orto sermone L. Sullam inridenti, omnia Sullae vitia et nullam eiusdem virtutem habiturum praedixit. simul crebris cum lacrimis minorem ex nepotibus complexus, truci alterius vultu, 'occides hunc tu' inquit 'et te alius.' sed gravescente valetudine nihil e libidinibus omittebat, in patientia firmitudinem simulans solitusque eludere medicorum artes atque eos qui post tricesimum aetatis annum ad internoscenda corpori suo utilia vel noxia alieni consilii indigerent.

47. At Rome meanwhile were being sown the seeds of bloodshed to come even after Tiberius's death. Acutia, formerly the wife of Publius Vitellius, had been accused of treason by Laelius Balbus. When on her condemnation a reward was being voted to her prosecutor, Junius Otho, tribune of the people, interposed his veto. Hence a feud between Vitellius and Otho, ending in Otho's banishment. Then Albucilla, notorious for the number of her lovers, who had been married to Satrius Secundus, the betrayer of the late conspiracy, was charged with irreverence towards the emperor. With her were involved as her accomplices and paramours Cneius Domitius, Vibius Marsus and Lucius Arruntius. I have already spoken of the illustrious rank of Domitius. Marsus too was distinguished by the honours of his ancestors and by his own attainments. It was, however, stated in the notes of the proceedings furnished to the Senate that Macro had superintended the examination of the witnesses and the torture of the slaves, and the fact that there was no letter from the emperor against the defendants caused a suspicion that, while he was very feeble and possibly ignorant of the matter, the charge was to a great extent invented to gratify Macro's well-known enmity against Arruntius.

6.47. Interim Romae futuris etiam post Tiberium caedibus semina iaciebantur. Laelius Balbus Acutiam, P. Vitellii quondam uxorem, maiestatis postulaverat; qua damnata cum praemium accusatori decerneretur, Iunius Otho tribunus plebei intercessit, unde illis odia, mox Othoni exitium. dein multorum amoribus famosa Albucilla, cui matrimonium cum Satrio Secundo coniurationis indice fuerat, defertur impietatis in principem; conectebantur ut conscii et adulteri eius Cn. Domitius, Vibius Marsus, L. Arruntius. de claritudine Domitii supra memoravi; Marsus quoque vetustis honoribus et inlustris studiis erat. sed testium interrogationi, tormentis servorum Macronem praesedisse commentarii ad senatum missi ferebant, nullaeque in eos imperatoris litterae suspicionem dabant, invalido ac fortasse ignaro ficta pleraque ob inimicitias Macronis notas in Arruntium.

48. And so Domitius and Marsus prolonged their lives, Domitius, preparing his defence, Marsus, having apparently resolved on starvation. Arruntius, when his friends advised delay and temporising, replied that "the same conduct was not becoming in all persons. He had had enough of life, and all he regretted was that he had endured amid scorn and peril an old age of anxious fears, long detested by Sejanus, now by Macro, always, indeed, by some powerful minister, not for any fault, but as a man who could not tolerate gross iniquities. Granted the possibility of passing safely through the few last days of Tiberius. How was he to be secure under the youth of the coming sovereign? Was it probable that, when Tiberius with his long experience of affairs was, under the influence of absolute power, wholly perverted and changed, Caius Caesar, who had hardly completed his boyhood, was thoroughly ignorant and bred under the vilest training, would enter on a better course, with Macro for his guide, who having been selected for his superior wickedness, to crush Sejanus had by yet more numerous crimes been the scourge of the State? He now foresaw a still more galling slavery, and therefore sought to flee alike from the past and from the impending future." While he thus spoke like a prophet, he opened his veins. What followed will be a proof that Arruntius rightly chose death. Albucilla, having stabbed herself with an ineffectual wound, was by the Senate's order carried off to prison. Those who had ministered to her profligacy, Carsidius Sacerdos, an ex-praetor, and Pontius Fregellanus were sentenced, respectively, to transportation to an island and to loss of a senator's rank. A like punishment was adjudged in the case of Laelius Balbus, and, indeed, with intense satisfaction, as Balbus was noted for his savage eloquence and his eagerness to assail the innocent.

6.48. Igitur Domitius defensionem meditans, Marsus tamquam inediam destinavisset, produxere vitam: Arruntius, cunctationem et moras suadentibus amicis, non eadem omnibus decora respondit: sibi satis aetatis neque aliud paenitendum quam quod inter ludibria et pericula anxiam senectam toleravisset, diu Seiano, nunc Macroni, semper alicui potentium invisus, non culpa sed ut flagitiorum impatiens. sane paucos ad suprema principis dies posse vitari: quem ad modum evasurum imminentis iuventam? an, cum Tiberius post tantam rerum experientiam vi dominationis convulsus et mutatus sit, G. Caesarem vix finita pueritia, ignarum omnium aut pessimis innutritum, meliora capessiturum Macrone duce, qui ut deterior ad opprimendum Seianum delectus plura per scelera rem publicam conflictavisset? prospectare iam se acrius servitium eoque fugere simul acta et instantia. haec vatis in modum dictitans venas resolvit. documento sequentia erunt bene Arruntium morte usum. Albucilla inrito ictu ab semet vulnerata iussu senatus in carcerem fertur. stuprorum eius ministri, Carsidius Sacerdos praetorius ut in insulam deportaretur, Pontius Fregellanus amitteret ordinem senatorium, et eaedem poenae in Laelium Balbum decernuntur, id quidem a laetantibus, quia Balbus truci eloquentia habebatur, promptus adversum insontis.

49. About the same time Sextus Papinius, who belonged to a family of consular rank, chose a sudden and shocking death, by throwing himself from a height. The cause was ascribed to his mother who, having been repeatedly repulsed in her overtures, had at last by her arts and seductions driven him to an extremity from which he could find no escape but death. She was accordingly put on her trial before the Senate, and, although she grovelled at the knees of the senators and long urged a parent's grief, the greater weakness of a woman's mind under such an affliction and other sad and pitiful pleas of the same painful kind, she was after all banished from Rome for ten years, till her younger son would have passed the frail period of youth.

6.49. Isdem diebus Sex. Papinius consulari familia repentinum et informem exitum delegit, iacto in praeceps corpore. causa ad matrem referebatur, quae pridem repudiata adsentationibus atque luxu perpulisset iuvenem ad ea quorum effugium non nisi morte inveniret. igitur accusata in senatu, quamquam genua patrum advolveretur luctumque communem et magis imbecillum tali super casu feminarum animum aliaque in eundem dolorem maesta et miseranda diu ferret, urbe tamen in decem annos prohibita est, donec minor filius lubricum iuventae exiret.

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