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Tacitus: Annals Book 15 [20]

20. Next came the prosecution of Claudius Timarchus of Crete, on such charges as often fall on very influential provincials, whom immense wealth has emboldened to the oppression of the weak. But one speech of his had gone to the extremity of a gross insult to the Senate; for he had repeatedly declared that it was in his power to decide whether the proconsuls who had governed Crete should receive the thanks of the province. Paetus Thrasea, turning the occasion to public advantage, after having stated his opinion that the accused ought to be expelled from Crete, further spoke as follows:- "It is found by experience, Senators, that admirable laws and right precedents among the good have their origin in the misdeeds of others. Thus the license of advocates resulted in the Cincian bill; the corrupt practices of candidates, in the Julian laws; the rapacity of magistrates, in the Calpurnian enactments. For, in point of time, guilt comes before punishment, and correction follows after delinquency. And therefore, to meet the new insolence of provincials, let us adopt a measure worthy of Roman good faith and resolution, whereby our allies may lose nothing of our protection, while public opinion may cease to say of us, that the estimate of a man's character is to found anywhere rather than in the judgment of our citizens.

20. Exim Claudius Timarchus Cretensis reus agitur, ceteris criminibus, ut solent praevalidi provincialium et opibus nimiis ad iniurias minorum elati: una vox eius usque ad contumeliam senatus penetraverat, quod dictitasset in sua potestate situm, an proconsulibus, qui Cretam obtinuissent, grates agerentur. quam occasionem Paetus Thrasea ad bonum publicum vertens, postquam de reo censuerat provincia Creta depellendum, haec addidit: "usu probatum est, patres conscripti, leges egregias, exempla honesta apud bonos ex delictis aliorum gigni. sic oratorum licentia Cinciam rogationem, candidatorum ambitus Iulias leges, magistratuum avaritia Calpurnia scita pepererunt; nam culpa quam poena tempore prior, emendari quam peccare posterius est. ergo adversus novam provincialium superbiam dignum fide constantiaque Romana capiamus consilium, quo tutelae sociorum nihil derogetur, nobis opinio decedat, qualis quisque habeatur, alibi quam in civium iudicio esse.

21. "Formerly, it was not only a praetor or a consul, but private persons also, who were sent to inspect the provinces, and to report what they thought about each man's loyalty. And nations were timidly sensitive to the opinion of individuals. But now we court foreigners and flatter them, and just as there is a vote of thanks at any one's pleasure, so even more eagerly is a prosecution decided on. Well; let it be decided on, and let the provincials retain the right of showing their power in this fashion, but as for false praise which has been extorted by entreaties, let it be as much checked as fraud or tyranny. More faults are often committed, while we are trying to oblige than while we are giving offence. Nay, some virtues are actually hated; inflexible strictness, for example, and a temper proof against partiality. Consequently, our magistrates' early career is generally better than its close, which deteriorates, when we are anxiously seeking votes, like candidates. If such practices are stopped, our provinces will be ruled more equitably and more steadily. For as the dread of a charge of extortion has been a check to rapacity, so, by prohibiting the vote of thanks, will the pursuit of popularity be restrained."

21. Olim quidem non modo praetor aut consul, sed privati etiam mittebantur, qui provincias viserent et quid de cuiusque obsequio videretur referrent, trepidabantque gentes de aestimatione singulorum: at nunc colimus externos et adulamur, et quo modo ad nutum alicuius grates, ita promptius accusatio decernitur. decernaturque et maneat provincialibus potentiam suam tali modo ostentandi: sed laus falsa et precibus expressa perinde cohibeatur quam malitia, quam crudelitas. plura saepe peccantur, dum demeremur quam dum offendimus. quaedam immo virtutes odio sunt, severitas obstinata, invictus adversum gratiam animus. inde initia magistratuum nostrorum meliora ferme et finis inclinat, dum in modum candidatorum suffragia conquirimus: quae si arceantur, aequalibus atque constantius provinciae regentur. nam ut metu repetundarum infracta avaritia est, ita vetita gratiarum actione ambitio cohibe[bi]tur."

22. This opinion was hailed with great unanimity, but the Senate's resolution could not be finally passed, as the consuls decided that there had been no formal motion on the subject. Then, at the emperor's suggestion, they decreed that no one was to propose to any council of our allies that a vote of thanks ought to be given in the Senate to propraetors or proconsuls, and that no one was to discharge such a mission. During the same consulship a gymnasium was wholly consumed by a stroke of lightning, and a statue of Nero within it was melted down to a shapeless mass of bronze. An earthquake too demolished a large part of Pompeii, a populous town in Campania. And one of the vestal virgins, Laelia, died, and in her place was chosen Cornelia, of the family of the Cossi.

22. Magno adsensu celebrata sententia. non tamen senatus consultum perfici potuit abnuentibus consulibus ea de re relatum. mox auctore principe sanxere, ne quis ad concilium sociorum referret agendas apud senatum pro praetoribus prove consulibus grates, neu quis ea legatione fungeretur.     Isdem consulibus gymnasium ictu fulminibus conflagravit, effigies in eo Neronis ad informe aes liquefacta. et motu terrae celebre Campaniae oppidum Pompei magna ex parte proruit; defunctaque virgo Vestalis Laelia, in cuius locum Cornelia ex familia Cossorum capta est.

23. During the consulship of Memmius Regulus and Verginius Rufus, Nero welcomed with something more than mortal joy the birth of a daughter by Poppaea, whom he called Augusta, the same title having also been given to Poppaea. The place of her confinement was the colony of Antium, where the emperor himself was born. Already had the Senate commended Poppaea's safety to the gods, and had made vows in the State's name, which were repeated again and again and duly discharged. To these was added a public thanksgiving, and a temple was decreed to the goddess of fecundity, as well as games and contests after the type of the ceremonies commemorative of Actium, and golden images of the two Fortunes were to be set up on the throne of Jupiter of the Capitol. Shows too of the circus were to be exhibited in honour of the Claudian and Domitian families at Antium, like those at Bovillae in commemoration of the Julii. Transient distinctions all of them, as within four months the infant died. Again there was an outburst of flattery, men voting the honours of deification, of a shrine, a temple, and a priest. The emperor, too, was as excessive in his grief as he had been in his joy. It was observed that when all the Senate rushed out to Antium to honour the recent birth, Thrasea was forbidden to go, and received with fearless spirit an affront which foreboded his doom. Then followed, as rumour says, an expression from the emperor, in which he boasted to Seneca of his reconciliation with Thrasea, on which Seneca congratulated him. And now henceforth the glory and the peril of these illustrious men grew greater.

23. Memmio Regulo et Verginio Rufo consulibus natam sibi ex Poppaea filiam Nero ultra mortale gaudium accepit appelavitque Augustam, dato et Poppaea eodem cognomento. locus puerperio colonia Antium fuit, ubi ipse generatus erat. iam senatus uterum Poppaeae commendaverat dis votaque publice susceperat, quae multiplicata exsolutaque. et additae supplicationes templumque fecunditatis et certamen ad exemplar Actiacae religionis decretum, utque Fortunarum effigies aureae in solio Capitolini Iovis locarentur, ludicrum circense, ut Iuliae genti apud Bovillas, ita Claudiae Domitiaeque apud Antium ederetur. quae fluxa fuere, quartum intra mensem defuncta infante. rursusque exortae adulationes censentium honorem divae et pulvinar aedemque et sacerdotem. atque ipse ut laetitiae, it maeroris immodicus egit. adnotatum est, omni senatu Antium sub recentem partum effuso, Thraseam prohibitum immoto animo praenuntiam imminentis caedis contumeliam excepisse. secutam dehinc vocem Caesaris ferunt, qua reconciliatum se Thraseae apud Senecam iactaverit, ac Senecam Caesari gratulatum. unde gloria egregiis viris et pericula gliscebant.

24. Meanwhile, in the beginning of spring, Parthian envoys brought a message from king Vologeses, with a letter to the same effect. "He did not," it was said, "repeat his former and frequent claims to the holding of Armenia, since the gods who ruled the destinies of the most powerful nations, had handed over its possession to the Parthians, not without disgrace to Rome. Only lately, he had besieged Tigranes; afterwards, he let Paetus and his legions depart in safety when he could have destroyed them. He had tried force with a satisfactory result; he had also given clemency a trial. Nor would Tiridates refuse a journey to Rome to receive the crown, were he not detained at home by the duties of a sacred office. He was ready to go to the emperor's image in the Roman headquarters, and there in the presence of the legions inaugurate his reign."

25. Inter quae veris principio legati Parthorum mandata regis Vologaesis litterasque in eandem formam attulere: se priora et totiens iactata super obtineneda Armenia nunc omittere, quoniam dii, quamvis potentium populorum arbitri, possessionem Parthis non sine ignominia Romana tradidissent. nuper clausum Tigranen, post Paetum legionesque, cum opprimere posset, incolumes dimisisse. satis adprobatam vim; datum et lenitatis experimentum. nec recusaturum Tiridaten accipiendo diademati in urbem venire, nisi sacerdotii religione attineretur: iturum ad signa et effigies principis, ubi legionibus coram regnum auspicaretur.

25. As Paetus's despatch contradicted this letter from Vologeses and implied that matters were unchanged, the centurion who had arrived with the envoys was questioned as to the state of Armenia. He replied that all the Romans had quitted it. Then was perceived the mockery of the barbarians in petitioning for what they had wrested from us, and Nero consulted with the chief men of the State whether they should accept a dangerous war or a disgraceful peace. There was no hesitation about war. Corbulo, who had known our soldiers and the enemy for so many years, was appointed to conduct it, that there might be no more blunders through any other officer's incapacity; for people were utterly disgusted with Paetus. So the envoys were sent back without an answer, but with some presents, in order to inspire a hope that Tiridates would not make the same request in vain, if only he presented his petition in person. The administration of Syria was intrusted to Caius Itius, and the military forces to Corbulo, to which was added the fifteenth legion, under the leadership of Marius Celsus, from Pannonia. Written orders were sent to the tetrarchs, the tributaries, kings, prefects and procurators, and all the praetors who governed the neighbouring provinces, to obey Corbulo's commands, as his powers were enlarged on much the same scale as that which the Roman people had granted to Cneius Pompeius on the eve of his war against the Pirates. When Paetus returned and dreaded something worse, the emperor thought it enough to reproach him with a jest, to the effect that he pardoned him at once, lest one so ready to take fright might sink under prolonged suspense.

25. Talibus Vologaesis litteris, qui Paetus diversa tamquam rebus integris scribebat, interrogatus centurio, qui cum legatis advenerat, quo in statu Armenia esset, omnes inde Romanos excessisse respondit. tum intellecto barbarorum inrisu, qui peterent quod eripuerant, consuluit inter primores civitatis Nero, bellum anceps an pax inho[ne]sta placeret. nec dubitatum de bello. et Corbulo militum atque hostium tot per annos gnarus gerendae rei praeficitur, ne cuius alterius inscitia rursum peccaretur, quia Paeti piguerat. igitur inriti remittuntur, cum donis tamen unde spes fieret non frustra eadem oraturum Tiridaten, si preces ipse attulisset. Syriaeque executio [C.] Ce[s]tio, copiae militares Corbuloni permissae; et quinta decima legio ducente Mario Celso e Pannonia adiecta est. scribitur tetrarchis ac regibus praefectisque et procuratoribus et qui praetorum finitimas provincias regebant, iussis Corbulonis obsequi, in tantum ferme modum aucta potestate, quem populus Romanus Cn. Pompeio bellum piraticum gesturo dederat. regressum Paetum, cum graviora metueret, facetiis insectari satis habuit Caesar, his ferme verbis: ignoscere se statim, ne tam promptus in pavorem longiore sollicitudine aegresceret.

26. Corbulo meantime transferred to Syria the fourth and twelfth legions, which, from the loss of their bravest men and the panic of the remainder, seemed quite unfit for battle, and led thence into Armenia the third and sixth legions, troops in thorough efficiency, and trained by frequent and successful service. And he added to his army the fifth legion, which, having been quartered in Pontus, had known nothing of disaster, with men of the fifteenth, lately brought up, and picked veterans from Illyricum and Egypt, and all the allied cavalry and infantry, and the auxiliaries of the tributary princes, which had been concentrated at Melitene, where he was preparing to cross the Euphrates. Then, after the due lustration of his army, he called them together for an harangue, and began with grand allusions to the imperial auspices, and to his own achievements, while he attributed their disasters to the incapacity of Paetus. He spoke with much impressiveness, which in him, as a military man, was as good as eloquence.

26. At Corbulo, quarta et duodecima legionibus, quae fortissimo quoque amisso et ceteris exterritis parum habiles proelio videbantur, in Syriam translatis, sextam inde ac tertiam legiones, integrum militem et crebris ac prosperis laboribus exercitum in Armeniam ducit. addiditque legionem quintam, quae per Pontum agens expers cladis fuerat, simul quintadecimanos recens adductos et vexilla delectorum ex Illyrico et Aegypto, quodque alarum cohortiumque, et auxiliae regum in unum conducta apud Melitenen, qua tramittere Euphraten parabat. tum lustratum rite exercitum ad contionem vocat orditurque magnifica de auspiciis imperatoris rebusque a se gestis, adversa in inscitiam Paeti declinans, multa acutoritate, quae viro militari pro facundia erat.

27. He then pursued the route opened up in former days by Lucius Lucullus, clearing away the obstructions of long years. Envoys who came to him from Tiridates and Vologeses about peace, he did not repulse, but sent back with them some centurions with a message anything but harsh. "Matters," he said, "have not yet gone so far as to require the extremity of war. Many successes have fallen to the lot of Rome, some to that of Parthia, as a warning against pride. Therefore, it is to the advantage of Tiridates to accept as a gift a kingdom yet unhurt by the ravages of war, and Vologeses will better consult the welfare of the Parthian people by an alliance with Rome than by mutual injuries. I know how much there is of internal discord, and over what untamably fierce tribes he reigns. My emperor, on the other hand, has undisturbed peace all around him, and this is his only war." In an instant Corbulo backed up his advice by a menacing attitude. He drove from their possessions the nobles of Armenia, who had been the first to revolt from us, destroyed their fortresses, and spread equal panic throughout the plain and the hill country, among the strong and among the weak.

27. Mox iter L. Lucullo quondam penetratum, apertis quae vetustas obsaepserat, pergit. et venientes Tiridatis Bologaesisque de pace legatos haud aspernatus, adiungit iis centuriones cum mandatis non immitibus: nec enim adhuc eo ventum, ut certamine extremo opus esset. multa Romanis secunda, quaedam Parthis evenisse, documento adversus superbiam. proinde et Tiridati conducere intactum vastationibus regnum dono accipere, et Bologaesen melius societate Romana quam damnis mutuis genti Parthorum consulturum. scire, quantum intus discordiarum, quamque indomitas et praeferoces nationes regeret: contra imperatori suo immotam ubique pacem et unum id bellum esse. simul consilio terrorem adicere, et megistanas Armenios, qui primi a nobis defecerant, pellit sedibus, castella eorum exscindit, plana edita, validos invalidosque pari metu complet.

28. Against the name of Corbulo no rage, nothing of the hatred of an enemy, was felt by the barbarians, and they therefore thought his advice trustworthy. Consequently Vologeses was not implacable to the uttermost, and he even asked a truce for some divisions of his kingdom. Tiridates demanded a place and a day for an interview. The time was to be soon, the place that in which Paetus and his legions had been lately besieged, for this was chosen by the barbarians in remembrance for their more prosperous fortune. Corbulo did not refuse, resolved that a widely different issue should enhance his renown. Nor did the disgrace of Paetus trouble him, as was clearly proved by the fact that he commanded Paetus' son, who was a tribune, to take some companies with him and cover up the relics of that ill-starred battle-field. On the day appointed, Tiberius Alexander, a distinguished Roman knight, sent to assist in the campaign, and Vinianus Annius, Corbulo's son-in-law, who, though not yet of a senator's age, had the command of the fifth legion as "legatus," entered the camp of Tiridates, by way of compliment to him, and to reassure him against treachery by so valuable a pledge. Each then took with him twenty horsemen. The king, seeing Corbulo, was the first to dismount, and Corbulo hesitated not a moment, but both on foot joined their right hands.

28. Non infensum nec cum hostili odio Corbulonis nomen etiam barbaris habebatur, eoque consilium eius fidum credebant. ergo Bologaeses neque atrox in summam, et quibusdam praefecturis indutias petit: Tiridates locum diemque conloquio poscit. tempus propinquum, locus, in quo nuper obsessae cum Paeto legiones erant, barbaris delectus est ob memoriam laetioris ibi rei, Corbuloni non vitatus, ut dissimilitudo fortunae gloriam augeret. neque infamia Paeti angebatur, quod eo maxime patuit, quia filio eius tribuno ducere manipulos atque operire reliquias malae pugnae imperavit. die pacta Tiberius Alexander inlustris eques Romanus, minister bello datus, et Vini[ci]anum Annius, gener Corbulonis, nondum senatoria aetate et pro legato quintae legioni impositus, in castra Tiridatis venere, honor[e] eius ac ne metueret insidias tali pignore; viceni dehinc equites adsumpti. et viso Corbulone rex prior equo desiluit; nec cunctatus Corbulo, et pedes uterque dexteras miscuere.

29. Then the Roman commended the young prince for abandoning rash courses, and adopting a safe and expedient policy. Tiridates first dwelt much on the nobility of his race, but went on to speak in a tone of moderation. He would go to Rome, and bring the emperor a new glory, a suppliant Arsacid, while Parthia was prosperous. It was then agreed that Tiridates should lay down his royal crown before Caesar's image, and resume it only from the hand of Nero. The interview then ended with a kiss. After an interval of a few days there was a grand display on both sides; on the one, cavalry ranged in squadrons with their national ensigns; on the other, stood the columns of our legions with glittering eagles and standards and images of deities, after the appearance of a temple. In the midst, on a tribunal, was a chair of state, and on the chair a statue of Nero. To this Tiridates advanced, and having slain the customary victims, he removed the crown from his head, and set it at the foot of the statue; whereupon all felt a deep thrill of emotion, rendered the more intense by the sight which yet lingered before their eyes, of the slaughter or siege of Roman armies. "But now," they thought, "the calamity is reversed; Tiridates is about to go, a spectacle to the world, little better than a prisoner."

29. Exim Romanus laudat iuvenem omissis praecipitibus tuta et salutaria capessentem. ille de nobilitate generis multum praefatus, cetera temperanter adiungit: iturum quippe Romam laturumque novum Caesari decus, non adversis Parthorum rebus supplicem Arsaciden. tum placuit Tiridaten ponere apud effigiem Caesaris insigne regium nec nisi manu Neronis resumere; et conloquium osculo finitum. dein paucis diebus interiectis magna utrimque specie inde eques compositus per turmas et insignibus patriis, hinc agmina legionum stetere fulgentibus aquilis signisque et simulacris deum in modum templi: medio tribunal sedem curulem et sedes effigiem Neronis sustinebat. ad quam progressus Tiridates, caesis ex more victimis, sublatum capiti diadema imagini subiecit, magnis apud cunctos animorum motibus, quos augebat insita adhuc oculis exercituum Romanorum caedes aut obsidio. at nunc versos casus: iturum Tiridaten ostentui gentibus, quanto minus quam captivum?

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