Annals of Tacitus Book II: LIII-LXI

LIII. The following year Tiberius held his third consulship, Germanicus his second. But Germanicus entered his office at the city of Nicopolis, of Achaia, to which he had come by way of the Illyrica coast, having seen his brother Drusus living in Dalmatia, having endured a difficult sail on the Adriatic sea and then the Ionic. So he took a few days for the repair of his fleet; meanwhile, in remembrance of his ancestors, he visited the camp of Antonius, the spoils made sacred by Augustus, and the bays of Actium, made famous by victory. For as I have related, Augustus was his maternal uncle and Antonius grandfather, and yonder was a great echo of sorrows and joys. From there, he came to Athens and due to a treaty of alliance of that venerable city he conceded that he employ a single lictor. The Greeks received him with much sought honours holding forth their ancient deeds and proverbs by which their flattery acquired more dignity.

LIV. Seeking Euboia, he crossed over to Lesbos where Agrippina, bearing her last, gave birth to Julia. Then to the furthest parts of Asia, and Perinthus and Byzantium, the Thracian cities, and then he enters the Propontis narrows and the mouth of the Pontus, in his desire to see ancient places much-frequented by report; and in a like manner, he restored provinces wearied by internal struggles or the injustices of magistracies. And the north winds were at hand to see him striving for the sacred remedy of Samothrace, but they drove him out. And so, after he visited Ilium, to pay reverence the variety of each fortune there and to our origins, he passed again through Asia and touched Colophon so as to visit the oracle of Bright Apollo. No woman there, as at Delphi, but a priest summoned from certain families, usually from Miletus, hears the names and the number as his manner of consulting; there, a man lowered into a cave, with water drawn from a hidden font, ignorant of most letters and songs gave responses in composed verses concerning matters which any conceived in his mind. And it was conveyed to Germanicus by obscurities, as is the manner of oracles, that he sang an early doom.

LV. But Cneius Piso, by which he might begin making more haste on his intentions, with savage oratory, rebuked the state of the Athenians, stricken with terror by his vehement assault, obliquely touching upon Germanicus since contrary to the glory of the Roman name, he had honoured with too much courtesy not Athenians, who had been destroyed by so many disasters, but that cesspool of nations: for the latter were allies of Mithridates against Sulla, of Antonius against the divine Augustus. And he brought older charges, those against the Macedonians, they had made impetuosly against their own, he was also offended by the city in particular because in their anger, deceived by judgement by Areopagus, they had not pardoned a certain Theophilus, condemned by their entreaties. And then, by swift sailing through the Cyclades, and by a short-cut of the sea, he followed after Germanicus to the island of Rhodes, who was scarcely ignorant by what insults he had been assaulted: but he acted with such clemency that when a storm, having arisen, cast him against precipitous rocks, and the destruction of his foe could be attributed to misfortune, he sent triremes, by the aid of which he could be removed from the hazard. Nevertheless, Piso was not pacified, and having scarcely endure the delay of a day, he abandoned, he went in advance of Germanicus. Then he reached Syria and the legions, by largesse, by glad-handling, by aiding the least of the companies, since he removed the older centurions and the severe tribunes, and he assigned their places either to his clients or to each the worst, he allowed the soldier inactivity in the camp, license in the cities, and vangrancy and lasciviousness through the fields, by this even to the point of bribery he was advanced, such that in the talk of the rabble he was held as the father of the legions. Nor did Plancina keep herself within the decocrous to women, but at the exercise of the cavalry, during the manoevres of cohorts, she was there among them, she hurled contumely upon Agrippina, upon Germanicus, even with certain of the good soldiers exposed to bad obedience, since a covert rumour proceeded that these things were done with the Imperator scarce unwilling. This was known to Germanicus, but his more pressing concern was to be preoccupied against Arminius.

LVI. This was an uncertain nation from antiquity by the nature of its peoples and by the placement of the lands, since it was stretched spread out widely along our provinces, far within to the Medes; and cast between the greatest imperiums, they are frequently warring, against the Romans by hatred and against the Parthians by jealousy. They had no king at that time, with Vonones removed: but the favor of the nation inclined to Zeno, son of Polemon, the king of Pontus, because he, from earliest infancy, emulated the practices and culture of the Armenians, with the hunt and the cuisine and whatever other things barbarians celebrate, he nigh bound the nobles and the commoners. And so, in the city of Artaxata, with men of proven renown, and the multitude poured ’round, placed the sign of kingship upon his head. All the rest, venerating him, saluted him as king Artaxias, since they imposed the appellation from the name of the city. But Cappadocia, reduced to the form of a province, received Quintus Veranius as legate; but certain of the royal tributes were lessened by which the Roman imperium was hoped to be gentler. Quintus Servaeus was appointed to Commagene, then first transferred to the rule of a praetor.

LVII. The fortunate arrangements of all the allies did not on that account keep Germanicus happy due to the arrogance of Piso, who was ordered, either himself or his son, to lead a part of the legion to Armenia, and he had neglected both. At length, at Cyrrhus, at the winter-quarters of the tenth legion, they ment, each with resolved countenance, Piso against his fear, Germanicus so that he would not be believed to threaten; and he was, as I have reported, quite merciful. But sly friends inflaming offenses stretched the true, heaped up the false, and by various means cast blame on Piso and Plancina and his sons. Afterward, with a few summoned acquaintances, Caesar commenced talk such as anger and dissembling give birth to, Piso responded with insolent entreaties, and they departed in open hatred. After this, Piso was rarely at the tribunal of Caesar, and when he did attend, his bitterness and dissent were manifest. And too, his voice was heard at a banquet with the king of the Nabataeans. When golden wreaths were presented, of great weaight for Caesar and Agrippina, light for Piso and the rest, he inveighed that those gifts were given to the son of a Prince of Rome, not of a king of Parthia; and at the same time he threw away his wreath and added much against the indulgence which, although bitter to Germanicus, was endured nevertheless.

LVIII. During these events, legates came from king Artabanus of the Parthians. He sent them to remind of their friendship and treaty, and he desired that their oaths be renewed, and to offer, for the honour of Germanicus, that he might approach the bank of the Euphrates: and he shought at the same time that Vonones not be held in Syria lest he draw the nearby nobles into disagreements. To these, Germanicus responded, concerning the alliance of the Romans and the Parthians, splendidly, concerning the approach of the king and his culture, with decorum and modesty. Vonones was removed to Pompeiopolis, a maritime city of Cicilia. This was granted no only for the entreaties of Artabanus, but for the contumely of Piso, to whom he was most agreeable for the many favours and gifts by which he had enjoined Plancina.

LIX. During the consulates of Marcus Silanus and Lucius Norbanus, Germanicus set out for Egypt to aquire knowledge of antiquities. But care of the province was alleged, and he lowered the cost of produce in the opened granaries, and he applied much agreeable to the rabble, he went along without soldier, feet in sandals, and alike to the fashion with the Greeks, in emulation of Publius Scipio, who had been wont to do the same at Sicily, howevermuch burned the war of Carthage, we have heard. While Tiberius touched on his dress and bearing with lenient words, he rebuked quite bitterly that he had entered Alexandria, contrary the instituted law of Augustus, and not at the will of the Prince. For Augustus, among other secrets of his dominion, barred illustrious Romans, whether senator or equestrian to enter, except by permission, and set Egypt apart lest someone compel Italy by famine and and occupy that province, closed from land and sea, with a guard, however light, against even a large army.

LX. Germanicus, since it was not yet known that this departure was censured, was conveyed up the Nile, begun from the town of Canopus. Spartans founded it for Canopus, the helmsman of a ship, buried there, at which time, Menelaus, seeking Greece, was driven to a different sea and the country Libya. Thence the nearby mouth of the river, dedicated to a Hercules whom they asserted was born of a native among themselves and the most ancient, and that those who afterward were alike in virtue, were associated to his cognomen; then he beheld the ruins of ancient Thebes. The records of Egypt remained in massive piles, and encompassed the former opulence: and one of the senior priests, ordered to interpret the speech of his homeland, related that seven hundred thousand of military age had once dwelled, and with this army king Ramses had possesssed Libya, Ethiopia, and the Medes, and Persia, and Bactria, and Scythia, and lands which the Syrians and Armenians and the neighbouring Cappadocians inhabited, he held from the Bithynian to the Lycian sea in his imperium. Tributes were read and proclaimed to the nations, weights of silver and gold, the number of arms and horses and gifts of ivory and incense to the temples, and those supplies of corn and everything fit for use which each nation paid, scarcely less magnificent than they were now demanded by the force of the Parthians or by Roman power.

LXI. For the rest, Germanicus directed his attention to other wonders, too, principal of which was the stone effigy of Memnon, where it was struck with rays of the sun, returning a sonorous noise, and into scattered and scarcely passable sandy wastes, the likeness of mountains, the pyramids were erected by the contest and resources of kings, and a basin dug out from the soil, a receptacle for the overflowing of the Nile; and elsewhere, straights and a vast depth, pentrated by none of those seeking into its spaces. Then Elephantine was reached and Syene, once the key the Roman imperium, because it now lay open to the Red Sea.

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