Annals of Tacitus Book III: I-XVIII

I. Agrippina, given no rest, was conveyed by a voyage of the winter sea to the island Corcyra, situated facing the shores of Calabria. There she took a few days to collect her spirit, violent in her grieving, knowing not how to bear it. Meanwhile, once news of her arrival spread, each of his closest friends and many military men, as each of those had done their military service under Germanics, and even many unacquainted with him, some reckoning it equally their duty to the Prince, others following those many men, fell upon the town of Brundisium, because it was the swiftest and most reliable for approach. And when a fleet was first spotted from a high point, not only were the harbours filled and the places near the sea, but the walls and the rooftops, as far off as could be seen, a crowd of people mourning and asking among themselves whether they should receive her in silence or by some other voice when she disembarked. Nor was it agreed what was appropriate for the occasion when the fleets slowly approached, not with lively rowing, as usual, but with everyone arrayed for mourning. And then, with her two children, holding the funerary urn, she departed the ship, her eyes downcast, and the same cry was bewailed from everyone; You would not have discerned neighbors from foreigners, the breast-beating of men from women, except that those who met and were new in their sorrow preceded the retinue of Agrippina, wearied by her long mourning.

II. Caesar had sent two praetorian cohorts, with the addition that the magistrates of Calabia and Apulia and Campania were to carry out the final functions with respect to the memory of his son. Therefore the ashes were carries on the shoulders of tribunes and centurions; unadorned banners led the way, the fasces turned; and where they crossed over landed estates, plebs dressed in black, the equestrians in their purple, burned vestment, perfume and other things customary of funerals in proportion to the wealth of the place. And even those whose towns were out of the way, there to meet the sacrifices and standing altars to the gods below, testified their grief with tears and loud cries. Drusus progressed to Tarracina with his brother, Claudius, and the children of Germanicus, who were in the city. the consuls Marcus Valerius and Marcus Aurelius (for they had already received the magistracy) and the Senate and a great part of the people filled the road, scattered and weeping as each was disposed; for indeed, fawning was absent, since everyone knew that joy was badly disguised by Tiberius at the death of Germanicus.

III. Tiberius and Augusta refrained from the public, they reckoned it beneath their majesty should they openly lament, or lest their deceptions be recognised should every eye scrutinize their countenance. His mother, Antonia was not among the authors of the affair, I find no daily court journals that she carried out any duty of note, although concerning Agrippina and Drusus and Claudius and the remaining close relatives were written in full and by name, whether he was impeded by her health or her spirit, conquered by grief, did not tolerate to permit for seeing such magnitude of evil. I would have easily found it more credible that she was confined by Tiberius and Augusta, who did not leave the palace, so that, their grief equal, the grandmother and the uncle would seem to be detained by the example of the mother.

IV. The day in which the remains were interred in the tomb of Augustus was either empty for a silence, or an unquiet with lamentations; the passages of the city were full, torches were burning throughout the field of Mars. There, the soldier with his arms, magistrates without their insignia, the people according to their tribe, were shouting that the commonwealth had been cut to pieces, no hope remained, so openly and frankly that you would not believe they were mindful of those who governed. Nothing more pierced Tiberius than the zeal inflamed in men for Agrippina, they were calling her the glory of the fatherland, the sole blood of Augustus, the last remaining ideal of antiquity and they turned to the sky and the gods and they prayed that her progeny outlive, untouched, their injustices.

V. There were those who were seeking the solemn procession of a public funeral and compared it to the honour and magnificence which Augustus had done for Drusus, the father of Germanicus. For indeed, he had, in the harshest days of winter, proceeded all the way to Ticinum, and had not departed from the body when it entered the city; the masks of the Claudii and the Julii were crowded around the bier; he was wept over in the forum, praised before the pulpits, everything devised by our ancestors, or which their descendents invented was heaped up: but for Germanicus, not even those honours accustomed and owed to any given nobleman were extended. Certainly the body, due to the distance of the travels from foreign lands at whatever spot had been burned in some fashion: but by however many chance first denied him but that many more honours he should equally have been bestowed. His brother except, by way of one day, had not met him, his father not even as far as the gate. Where those institutions of old, the effigy placed at the bier, the considerately composed songs to the memory of his virtue and the praises and tears or at least the imitations of sadness?

VI. This was known to Tiberius; and so that he might suppress the talk of the rabble, he advised by a proclamation that a great many of illustrious Romans had passed away for the commonwealth, none so celebrated with such enflamed loss. And this was eminent for him and for the whole if due measure were added to it. Indeed the same honours were not for the chiefs of men and the Imperator to the people which were for modest homes and citizens. Lamentation had been fitting to the recent sorrow and from that grief, consolations; but the spirit must now be brought back to constancy, as when the divine Julius when his only daughter was lost, as the divine Augustus when his grandsons were taken, they had thrust aside sorrow. No need for older examples, how often the Roman people had borne with constancy the destruction of armies, the death of leaders, families lost from the very foundation. Princes were mortal, the commonwealth eternal. In a like manner they would renew their customary practices, and since the Megalesium spectacle of games approached, even pleasure would resume.

VII. Then, with the suspension of business set aside, there was a return to duties, and Drusus set out for the armies at Illyricum, with the spirits of everyone raised for seeking vengeance from Piso and by repeated complaint, because in the meantime he was roaming through the pleasant places of Asia and Achaia, by questioning and by deceitful delay he was subverting the trial of his crimes. For it was widely spread that the famous Martina sent, as I have said, by Cneius Sentius for poisioning, died a sudden death at Brundisium, and a potion was found, hidden in a knot of her hair, and no other sign of her chosen destruction.

VIII. But Piso sent his son ahead to Rome, giving him a mandate by which he might mollify the Prince, and proceeded to Drusus, whom he hoped would scarcely be angered by the death of his brother than he would be favourable to him, since a rival had been removed. Tiberius, by which he would display an integrity of judgement, received the young man warmly and by the customary gifts for the sons of noble families liberally enriched him. Drusus responded to Piso that if it were true what was being spread around, he would have his own special place in sorrow: but that he preferred these were empty and false and the pernicious death of Germanicus be upon no-one. He said this openly with all secrecy shunned; and this was not doubted to have been prescribed by Tiberius, once unskilled in other respects and an affable youth now made use of the arts of old men.

IX. Piso, after he crossed the Dalmatian sea, left his ships behind at Ancona, and followed after his legion through Picenum and then the Via Flaminia, which was being led from Pannonia to the city, and then to the garrison of Africa: And this matter was stirred up by rumours that he had repeatedly shown himself to soldiers in the troop and along the way. From Narnia, to avoid suspicion or because plans formed in fear are in an unsettled state, conveyed along the Nar and then the Tiber, he magnified the anger of the rabble, because he had propelled his ship to the tomb of the Caesars, both at day and at the frequented bank, he himself with a great crowd of clients, Plancina with her retinue of women and cheerful in their countenance, they proceeded. Among the provocations of hatred was his house, overlooking the forum, with festive adornment, and a banquest with a great crowd and sumptuous foods at the place, nothing hidden.

X. The next day Fulcinus Trio requested a trial for Piso from the consuls. Vitellius and Veranius and the rest who had accompanied Germanicus were striving against him, that Trio had no part in this; and they were not themselves the accusers but were informers and witnesses who intended to carry out the mandates of Germanicus. Since the accusation was dismissed on this account, he obtained such that he might prosecute his earlier actions, and it was requested that they make a special inquiry by the Prince. This the accused did not even refuse, fearing the interests of the people and the patricians: compared, Tiberius was effective for rejecting rumours, and bound to the shared knowledge of his mother; and the true or that believed for the worse would be more easily determined by a single judge, hatred and jealousy were strong among the many. It scarely slipped by Tiberius that whichever way the bulk of the inquiry went, he might be pulled asunder by rumour. Therefore, employing only a few of his closest intimates, he heard the threats of the accusers, and then the entreaties and sent the case back to the Senate untouched.

XI. And meanwhile, Drusus was returning from Illyricum, although the patricians had assessed, due to the retreat of Maroboduus and matters accomplished at an earlier time, that he would enter rejoicing, he entered the city with this honor put off. After this, after the accused had sought Lucius Arruntius, Pius Vinicius, Asinius Gallus, Aeserninus Marcellus, and Sextus Pompeius as patrons, and they had made a variety of excuses, Manius Lepidus, Lucius Piso, and Livineius Regulus were present, every citizen was excited, how much faith in the friends of Germanicus, what confidence had the accused; would Tiberius sufficiently restrain and repress his own feelings. At scarce other time had the people, very interested, permitted themselves more hidden voice against the Prince or the suspicion of silence.

XII. On the day of the Senate, Caesar delivered a speech with studied moderation. Piso had been a friend and legate of his father, and given by himself to Germanicus as an assisstant, with senatorial encouragement, to administrate affairs in the East. There, by obstinacy and challenges, he exasperated the young man and whether he delighted in his exit or wickedly extinguished him must be judged by sober minds. For if a legate casts away the boundaries of duty, obedience to the Imperator, and rejoiced in death of the same and in my sorrow, I shall hate him and banish him from my house and I shall take vengeance on my personal enemies not with the power of the Prince. If the crime of murder of anyone of mortal men is discovered, it must be avenged, you truly must offer righteous compensations to both the children of Germanicus, and to us, his parents. At the same time, consider this, whether Piso conducted the armies in a disorderly and seditious manner, whether the zeal of the soldiers was sought for his ambitions, the province sought back by arms, or if his accusors spread these exaggerations and falsehoods around, by whose excessive zeal I am justly angered. For, it pertains to what that they stripped the body bare and permitted it to be touched by eyes of the rabble and for it to be reported in foreign lands, as it were, that he was killed by poison, if these things were hitherto uncertain and required scutiny? For my part, I weep for my son and I shall always weep: but I neither prohibit the accused from anything less than everything he would proffer, by which his innocence is to be supported, or, how there existed unfairness of Germanicus, should it be argued, and I beseech you that, since the case is tied to my sadness, you not accept the charges as proven for having been laid. You whom your kindred blood or oath gave him as advocates, by howevermuch strength each of you has in eloquence or concern, give him aid in his trial. I urge his accusors to the same labor and the same constancy. This alone we would retain for Germanicus above the law, that this matter concerning his death is better examined in the curial house than in the forum, among the Senate than among judges: let the rest be handled with equal sobriety. Let no-one observe the tears of Drusus, no-one my sorrow, nor if in any way anything is fashioned against us.

XIII. And a length of two days for laying the charges was established, and after a space of six days was interjected, the accused would be defended for a length of three days. Then Fulcinus spun old and vacuous arguments, that Spain was possessed by corruption and avarice; this would not have convicted the accused if he were cleared of the recent charges, nor defended would have been an acquittal if he were held by the worse offences. After him, Servaeus and Veranius and Vitellius, with similar zeal, Vitellius with much eloquence, laid the charge that due to hatred of Germanicus, and due to eagerness for a revolution, he had therefore ruined the rabble of the soldiers through license, and injury of allies that he was called the father of the legion by the worst; and against each good man, moreso against the friends and companions of Germanicus, he had spent his fury; afterward he had killed the man himself by poison and sorcery ; thence impious sacraments and sacrifices, that the commonwealth be sought by arms, up until the accused could brought, conquered in battle.

XIV. The defense wavered in the rest; for neither military corruption nor that the province was beholden to the worst sort, nor even contumelies against his general was he able to deny: the charge of poison alone seemed washed away, because not even his accusors sufficiently tried to prove, at a feast for Germanicus, where Piso had reclined above him, their argument that his meal was poisoned by his hand. For indeed it seemed absurd that he would dare this among foreign servants, in the sight of so many standing by, in the presence of Germanicus himself; and the accused his family and earnestly pressed his attendants to torture. But the judges, for various reasons, were implacable, Caesar because war had entered the province, the Senate because it was never sufficiently believed that Germanicus passed away without deception. … Disputing men have written that Tiberius scarcely less than Piso denied this. Meanwhile, the voices of the people before the Curial house were heard: they would not restrain their hands if he evaded the sentence of the patricians. And they dragged the statues of Piso to the Gemonian stairs and were breaking them apart, except by order of the Prince they were protected and put back in place. Therefore he was put into a litter and taken away by a tribune from on of the praetorian cohorts and by various report he followed a guard, an overseer either of health or death.

XV. For Plancina, the same hatred, greater favour; thus there was an uncertainty how much would be permitted against her by Caesar. And she herself, for as long as Piso had a middling hope, she made herself his ally of whatever fortune, she was even promising that she would share in death, if it bore thus: when she obtained forgiveness by the secret entreaties of Augusta, she bgans little by little to be separated from her husband, to divide their defense. This, the accused afterward understood was fatal to himself, doubting whether he should hitherto undergo trial, at the urging of his sons, he stiffened his resolve and returned again to the Senate; the accusations were renewed, the voices of the patricians inimical, he endured the whole, savage and turned against him, he was frightened by nothing more than that Tiberius, without sympathy, without anger, looked on, resolute and impenetrable, such that he could not be overcome by any emotion. Brought back home, although he was considering his defense for the next day, he listed a few things, sealed it and handed it to a freedman; then he followed his habits for bodily care to the end. And then deep into the night, when his wife left his room, he bid that the doors be shut; and at first light he was discovered, his throat pierced through, his sword lying on the earth.

XVI. I remember that I heard from older men that a little note was frequently seen in Piso’s hand, which he had not revealed; but his friends had maintained that a letter of Tiberius and the madate for Germanicus were contained in it, and it was intended that he bring it forth and disclose it among the patricians and the Prince, except that he was deluded by Sejanus with empty promises; nor did he truly die voluntarily, but a murderer was introduced. Of these I would strongly assert neither; nor however must I conceal what was told by those who lasted to our youth. Caesar, with his face inclined to grief, that his own hatred by such a death was sought among the Senate … and by repeated questions he sought out what way Piso had brought to an end his last day and night. And when he received answers generally to the wiser, some rather unadvised, he read out a note composed by Piso, almost as follows: “Oppressed by the conspiracy of enemies and a false charge, to the point that there is not place for truth nor my innocence, I invoke the immortal gods that I lived, Caesar, with faith toward you and no other, and in piety to your mother; and I beseech you for consideration for my children, of whom Cnaius Piso is not in any way joined to my fortune, since he was in the city at all times, and Marcus Piso dissuaded me from returning to Syria. And would that I had yielded more to my young son than to his elder father. I supplicate earnestly that he not pay the penalty for my impropriety. Through forty-five years of obedience, through the association of the consulate, the one time commendation by your father, the divine Augustus, and friend to you, with no intent to ask anything after this, I ask for the safety of my unlucky son.” Concerning Plancina, he added nothing.

XVII. After this, Tiberius cleared the youth of the charge of civil war, for there were commands of the father, and a son could not withdraw; at the same time he lamented for the nobility of the house their weighty downfall, however deserving of the thing itself. For Plancina, he arranged with shame and infamy, pleading as excuse the entreaty of his mother, against whom the secret complaints of each best man were the more inflamed. It was therefore right for a grandmother to observe the murderer of her grandson, to speak to her, to rescue her from the Senate. Because for every citizens, the laws prevailed, for Germanicus alone they did not turn out. By the voices of Vitellius and Veranius, Germanicus was lamented, by the Imperator and Augusta, Plancina was defended. In a like manner, let her turn potions and arts so happily tested against Agrippina, against her children, and let her glut the distinguished grandmother and the uncle with the blood of a most wretched house. Two days were consumed with this pretense of consideration, with Tiberius urging the children that they protect the mother of Piso. And since accusers and witnesses harangued them at length with no-one responding, compassion was increased over hatred. Consul Aurelius Cotta, asked the first sentence (for, since Caesar was putting the motion, the magistrates were empoyed with that function, too), moved that the name of Piso must be struck from the register, a part of his goods must be confiscated, as a part would be yielded to the son, Cnaius Piso, and he would change his praenomen; Marcus Piso, his dignity stripped, and fifty million sesterces received, would be sent into lesser exile for ten years, and the safety of Plancina was conceded due to the entreaties of Augusta.

XVIII. Much of this sentence was mitigated by the Prince: Piso’s name would not be removed, when that of Marcus Antonius, who had made war with the fatherland, or of Jullus Antonius, who had violated the home of Augustus, remained. And Marcus Piso, he released from ignominy and he yielded to him his paternal goods, sufficiently firm, as I have often recounted, against pecuniary gain and at the time more placable due to the shame of the absolution of Plancina. And likewise, when Valerius Messalinus proposed to erect a golden standard in the sanctuary of Mars Avenger, or Caecina Severus an altar of vengeance, he prohibited it, insisting these things be consecrated for foreign victories, domestic evils must be burdened with mourning. Messalinus added that thanks must be given to Tiberius, Augusta, Antonia, Agrippina, and Drusus for the vindication of Germanicus, and he neglected mention of Claudius. And a certain Lucius Asprenas particularly questioned Messalinus before the Senate whether he had knowingly passed him over; and only then was the name of Claudius written in. To me, the by howevermuch more I turn them over, ancient or modern, by that much more do the mockeries of mortal affairs confront me, in all our doings.

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