Annals of Tacitus Book I: IX-XV

IX. There followed much talk concerning Augustus himself, with many vacuously marvelling that on the same day both the title Prince of the imperium and also the last day of life had been received, and that in the house at Nola and in the room which his father Octavius had finished his life. And the number of his consulates was also celebrated, to which Valerius Corvus and C. Marius together were equal; the tribunitial power had been continued through seven and thirty years, the title of Imperator was borne once and twenty times and other honours were multiplied or renewed. But among prudent men his life was variously extolled and censured. These that by dutiful conduct toward his father and by necessity of the commonwealth, in which there was no place for laws at the time, he was drawn into civil war, which is not able to be readied nor to be won by the noble arts. He had conceded much to Antonius, while he took vengeance on the murderers of his father, and much to Lepidus. After the latter waned with folly, and the former had been given to ruin by his passions, there had been no other remedy for his quarrelling nation than it be ruled by one. The commonwealth, however, was resolved not by kingship, nor by dictarorship but rather by the title of Prince. His imperium was fenced only by the Ocean sea or by distant rivers; the legions, the provinces, the fleets, the whole was bound together; the law with the citizen; propriety with allies; the city itself by magnificent adornment; force was very little exercised, by which there was peace for the rest.

X. He was spoken against: that the dutiful conduct toward his father and toward the occasions of the nation were taken up as a pretext: for the rest, it was due to his desire for dominion that the veterans had been roused by his largesse, that an army had been raised privately by the young man, that the legions of the consuls had been corrupted, that his favour for the Pompeian faction had been pretended; and when soon after, by decree of the patricians, he had usurped the law and the fasces, once Hirtius and Pansa were killed, whether by enemies, or whether Pansa sprinkled poison on his wound, and Hirtius’s own soldiers took him out and Caesar the architect of the plot, and he seized the troops of either; the consulate was wrested from an unwilling Senate, and the arms which he had taken against Antonius were turned against the Republic; the proscription of citizens and the divisions of lands were not even approved of by those who had done the deeds. The departures of Casius and the Brutii were soundly bestowed, being they were paternal enemies, although by right, private hatreds should be remitted to public expediencies: but Pompeius by the imitation of peace, and Lepidus by the appearance of friendship were deceived; and then Antonius, lured by a treaty with Tarentinus and Brundisinus and by nuptials with his sister, paid the penalty of a deceitful marriage-alliance with death. There was doubtless peace after that, but it was in truth bloody: the Lollian and Varian disasters, the Varrones were killed at Rome, the Egnatii, the Iulli. Nor was it held off from the domestic: Nero’s wife was abducted and the high priests, consulted amidst mockery as to whether she should observantly marry with a child conceived but not yet given birth; [ further, of Tedius and ] of Vedius Pollio, debaucheries; finally Livia, a weighty mother in public affairs, weighty; a weighty stepmother to the house of the Caesars. Nothing remained for the honours of the gods since he wished himself to be worshipped in temples in the form of divinities by flamens and priests. Nor was Tiberius even adopted out of affection or concern of successors for the commonwealth, but inasmuch as he had seen in his arrogance and ferocity to seek glory for himself by comparison with the worst. And indeed, Augustus before a few years, when he again requested for Tiberius the tribunical authority from the patricians with a speech, although honourable, he tossed in certain things concerning his habit and refinement and way of life which he reproached as if they must be atoned for. For the rest, his burial was performed by custom, a temple and celestial observances were decreed.

XI. Entreaties were then turned to Tiberius. And he variably tried to discuss the magnitude of the imperium and his own modesty; that the mind of the divine Augustus alone had the capacity so massive: he himself, summoned by that man to gain experience in a part of those cares had learned how arduous, how subject to chance was the burden of ruling the whole. Accordingly, in a nation relying on so many illustrious men, let them not defer everything to a single man: many, should the labours be shared, would more easily fulfil the duties of the commonwealth. In a speech like this there was more grandeur than credibility; moreover, by Tiberius, even for matters which he was not trying to conceal, whether by nature or by habit, words were always hesitant and obfuscated: and now truly striving to conceal his own inner sentiment, they were the moreso entangled in uncertainty and confusion. But the patricians, for whom the one fear was what they seemed to understand, gave themselves over to complaints, tears, vows; to gods, to the effigy of Augustus, they even stretched their hands to his knees, when he bid a little book be brought forth and recited. Public works were contained within, how many citizens and allies for arms, how many fleets, dominions, provinces, tributes or taxes, and necessities and largesses. Everything which Augustus had written out with his own hand and had added that the imperium be confined to its borders, the counsel uncertain due to dread or through hatred.

XII. Among these, while the Senate was sinking down to the basest invocations, Tiberius by chance said that as he was not equal to the whole of the commonwealth, thus he would undertake whatsoever part might be consigned to him for his guardianship. Then Asinius Gallus said, “I ask, Caesar, what part of the commonwealth you wish consigned to you.” Thrown off by this unexpected question, he was silent for a moment: once he collected his thoughts he responded that it was not decorous to his sense of propriety to say anything or to avoid part of that which he preferred to be excused in the entire. In return, Gallus (for indeed he had inferred offence from his countenance) said it was not asked on that account, that he might divide what cannot be separated, but so that by his own acknowledgement he might make clear that the body of the commonwealth was one, and to be ruled by the mind of one man. He added praise for Augustus, and advised Tiberius himself, of his own victories which he had surpassingly accomplished in the toga through so many years. He did not soothe his anger on this account, having long hated him, insofar as Vipsania, the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, was taken in marriage, who once had been the wife of Tiberius, he employed himself in more than his civic duty, and retained the ferocity of his father, Pollio Asinius.

XIII. After this, Lucius Arruntius, scarcely differing from the speech of Gallus, likewise offended, although Tiberius had no long-standing anger against Arruntius: but rich, at the ready, with surpassing skills and equal public fame, he was suspected. Indeed, Augustus, in his final discussions, when he was trying to take in hand those who would be sufficient to obtain the principate, but would decline it, or would want it although unequal, or would be able and would want the same, had claimed Manius Lepidus the capacity but spurning, Gallus Asinius greedy and lesser, Lucius Arruntius not unworthy and if permitted the occasion would dare it. Concerning the former two, it is widely agreed, instead of Arruntius, however, there are those who claim Cnaeus Piso; and all except Piso, by various charges as Tiberius contrived them, were overthrown. Even Quintus Haterius and Mamercus touched his suspicious mind, Haterius when he said, “How long, Caesar, will you permit there to be no head of the commonwealth?” Scaurus because he had said that there was hope from this that the entreaties of the Senate would not be in vain, because he had not used the veto of the tribunical power against the proposition of the consuls. He inveighed against Haterius on the spot; Scaurus, by whom he was more implacably angered, he passed over in silence. And wearied by everyone’s clamour, he bent little by little to the complaint of each of them, not such that he granted the imperium to be undertaken by him, but such that he ceased to deny and to be asked. It is agreed that when Haterius had entered the Palatine for the sake of begging intercession and he had prostrate himself before the knees of Tiberius while out on a walk, he was nearly killed by soldiers because Tiberius fell forward, entangled either by the fall or by his hands. Nevertheless, he was not assauged by the danger of such a man, until Haterius spoke to Augusta and was sheltered by her most solicitous entreaties.

XIV. There was also much adulation of the patricians for Augusta. Some recommended that she be called parent, others mother of the fatherland, and more that “son of Julia” be written to the name of Caesar. He insisted that honours of women must be moderated and that he himself would use the same temperance for what was bestowed to him, but for the rest, anxious with jealousy and perceiving womanly summit in diminution of his own, he suffered not even a lictor to be decreed for her and prohibited an altar of adoption, and other things of this sort. But he sought a proconsular imperium for Germanicus Caesar, and legates were sent who conferred it, and also consoled his sadness for the departure of Augustus. That the same was not requested for Drusus, this reason, because Drusus was current consul as well as designate. He nominated twelve candidates for the praetorship, the number handed down from Augustus; and when the Senate exhorted he increase it, he bound himself to an oath to be sworn that he would not exceed it.

XV. It was then that elections were first transferred from the open field to the patricians: for to that day, although the most important were appointed by the decision of the Prince, some yet were by the interests of the tribes; and the people did not lament the deprived right, except by empty rumour, and the Senate, delivered from largesses and sordid entreaties, gladly upheld it, while Tiberius regulated that he would not reccomend more than four candidates, designated without refusal or canvassing. Among these the plebian tribunes sought that they might produce, at their own expense, games which were added to the calendar, called Augustales from the title of Augustus. But monies decreed from the treasury, and as in the Circus, they used triumphal vestment: it was scarcely permitted to be conveyed by chariot. Soon the annual festival was transferred to the praetor, to whom fell jurisdiction among citizens and travellers.

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