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Tacitus: Annals Book 6 [50]

50. Tiberius's bodily powers were now leaving him, but not his skill in dissembling. There was the same stern spirit; he had his words and looks under strict control, and occasionally would try to hide his weakness, evident as it was, by a forced politeness. After frequent changes of place, he at last settled down on the promontory of Misenum in a country-house once owned by Lucius Lucullus. There it was noted, in this way, that he was drawing near his end. There was a physician, distinguished in his profession, of the name of Charicles, usually employed, not indeed to have the direction of the emperor's varying health, but to put his advice at immediate disposal. This man, as if he were leaving on business his own, clasped his hand, with a show of homage, and touched his pulse. Tiberius noticed it. Whether he was displeased and strove the more to hide his anger, is a question; at any rate, he ordered the banquet to be renewed, and sat at the table longer than usual, by way, apparently, of showing honour to his departing friend. Charicles, however, assured Macro that his breath was failing and that he would not last more than two days. All was at once hurry; there were conferences among those on the spot and despatches to the generals and armies. On the 15th of March, his breath failing, he was believed to have expired, and Caius Caesar was going forth with a numerous throng of congratulating followers to take the first possession of the empire, when suddenly news came that Tiberius was recovering his voice and sight, and calling for persons to bring him food to revive him from his faintness. Then ensued a universal panic, and while the rest fled hither and thither, every one feigning grief or ignorance, Caius Caesar, in silent stupor, passed from the highest hopes to the extremity of apprehension. Macro, nothing daunted, ordered the old emperor to be smothered under a huge heap of clothes, and all to quit the entrance-hall.

6.50. Iam Tiberium corpus, iam vires, nondum dissimulatio deserebat: idem animi rigor; sermone ac vultu intentus quaesita interdum comitate quamvis manifestam defectionem tegebat. mutatisque saepius locis tandem apud promunturium Miseni consedit in villa cui L. Lucullus quondam dominus. illic eum adpropinquare supremis tali modo compertum. erat medicus arte insignis, nomine Charicles, non quidem regere valetudines principis solitus, consilii tamen copiam praebere. is velut propria ad negotia digrediens et per speciem officii manum complexus pulsum venarum attigit. neque fefellit: nam Tiberius, incertum an offensus tantoque magis iram premens, instaurari epulas iubet discumbitque ultra solitum, quasi honori abeuntis amici tribueret. Charicles tamen labi spiritum nec ultra biduum duraturum Macroni firmavit. inde cuncta conloquiis inter praesentis, nuntiis apud legatos et exercitus festinabantur. septimum decimum kal. Aprilis interclusa anima creditus est mortalitatem explevisse; et multo gratantum concursu ad capienda imperii primordia G. Caesar egrediebatur, cum repente adfertur redire Tiberio vocem ac visus vocarique qui recreandae defectioni cibum adferrent. pavor hinc in omnis, et ceteri passim dispergi, se quisque maestum aut nescium fingere; Caesar in silentium fixus a summa spe novissima expectabat. Macro intrepidus opprimi senem iniectu multae vestis iubet discedique ab limine. sic Tiberius finivit octavo et septuagesimo aetatis anno.

51. And so died Tiberius, in the seventy eighth year of his age. Nero was his father, and he was on both sides descended from the Claudian house, though his mother passed by adoption, first into the Livian, then into the Julian family. From earliest infancy, perilous vicissitudes were his lot. Himself an exile, he was the companion of a proscribed father, and on being admitted as a stepson into the house of Augustus, he had to struggle with many rivals, so long as Marcellus and Agrippa and, subsequently, Caius and Lucius Caesar were in their glory. Again his brother Drusus enjoyed in a greater degree the affection of the citizens. But he was more than ever on dangerous ground after his marriage with Julia, whether he tolerated or escaped from his wife's profligacy. On his return from Rhodes he ruled the emperor's now heirless house for twelve years, and the Roman world, with absolute sway, for about twenty-three. His character too had its distinct periods. It was a bright time in his life and reputation, while under Augustus he was a private citizen or held high offices; a time of reserve and crafty assumption of virtue, as long as Germanicus and Drusus were alive. Again, while his mother lived, he was a compound of good and evil; he was infamous for his cruelty, though he veiled his debaucheries, while he loved or feared Sejanus. Finally, he plunged into every wickedness and disgrace, when fear and shame being cast off, he simply indulged his own inclinations.

6.51. Pater ei Nero et utrimque origo gentis Claudiae, quamquam mater in Liviam et mox Iuliam familiam adoptionibus transierit. casus prima ab infantia ancipites; nam proscriptum patrem exul secutus, ubi domum Augusti privignus introiit, multis aemulis conflictatus est, dum Marcellus et Agrippa, mox Gaius Luciusque Caesares viguere; etiam frater eius Drusus prosperiore civium amore erat. sed maxime in lubrico egit accepta in matrimonium Iulia, impudicitiam uxoris tolerans aut declinans. dein Rhodo regressus vacuos principis penatis duodecim annis, mox rei Romanae arbitrium tribus ferme et viginti obtinuit. morum quoque tempora illi diversa: egregium vita famaque quoad privatus vel in imperiis sub Augusto fuit; occultum ac subdolum fingendis virtutibus donec Germanicus ac Drusus superfuere; idem inter bona malaque mixtus incolumi matre; intestabilis saevitia sed obtectis libidinibus dum Seianum dilexit timuitve: postremo in scelera simul ac dedecora prorupit postquam remoto pudore et metu suo tantum ingenio utebatur.

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