Tacitus – The Annals, Book 2: 16-19 AD – 2.47‑88 Intrigues in Rome; Tacfarinas’ revolt in Numidia; Germanicus’ grand tour thru Asia as special foreign affairs envoy. Piso against Germanicus, and death of Germanicus, poison widely suspected.

2.47‑88 Intrigues in Rome; Tacfarinas’ revolt in Numidia; Germanicus’ grand tour thru Asia as special foreign affairs envoy. Piso against Germanicus, and death of Germanicus, poison widely suspected.

  1. That year, 12 Asian cities were destroyed by an earthquake at night. People ran out of the cities only to be swallowed up by the earth. Enormous mountains collapsed, level ground was raised & fires burned in the ruins. The people of Sardis got the worst of it. The emperor pledged 10 million sesterces. Magnesia, Temnus, Philadelphia, Aegae. Apollonis, the Mostenians & Hrycanian Macedonians were all exempted from paying tribute. The Senate sent ex-praetor, Marcus Aletus to help them out.

  2. The emperor gave a decent amount of money to people which got him some popularity with recipients. A rich old woman, Aemilia Musa, died without a will, so the treasury had a claim on her wealth. He handed it over to an Aemilius Musa, who appeared to be her relative. He gave the estate of Patuleius, a wealthy Roman knight, to Marcus Servilius, whose name he had seen in an earlier unquestioned will. He felt that noble rank should be supported by wealth. He only accepted a legacy from people through friendly. Any stranger or enemy leaving something to him, he would avoid it. He relieved the poverty of the virtuous but also expelled from the Senate those whose vices brought them into poverty.

  3. Around that time, he rededicated temples that had burned or crumbled. Augustus had started this process – Temples to Liber, Libera, Ceres, Flora, Janus & Hope – all in various parts of the city.

  4. The law of treason grew stronger & stronger. Augustus’s grand niece, Appuleia Varilia, was accused of treason for ridiculing Divine Augustus, Tiberius, Tiberius’s mother in insulting remarks & for committing adultery. Julian law dealt extensively with adultery but Tiberius insisted in dealing with the charges of treason separately. He felt that she should be condemned outright for what she’d said about Augustus. He didn’t to investigate the accusations she’d made about him. He said nothing about the claims about Livia on the first day. But on the second day, he said that remarks made about Livia ought not to result in criminal charges. Eventually Appuleia was acquitted. For adultery, she was exiled & her paramour was banished from Italy & Africa.

  5. There was a contest about the election of the praetor position that became available because Vipstanus Gallus had died. Germanicus & Drusus supported Haterius Agrippa. Some thought the number of children of the candidate ought to play a factor in his election. Tiberius liked seeing strife between his sons & the law in the Senate, seeing the laws sometimes defeated, even by a few votes.

  6. A war broke out in Africa. The enemy was led by a Numidian, Tacfarinas, who’d been a Roman auxiliary. He deserted & formed a roving band of thieves. He controlled them like Roman soldiers, keeping them on the edge of African deserts, drawing Moorish neighbors into war, led by Mazippa. While Tacfarinas’s men were Roman-like, Mazippa’s men were light troops, & wild & chaotic. Pro-consul of Africa, Furius Camillus took one large legion, along with some allies to fright them. He was able to defeat them & win himself honors from Tiberius & the Senate.

  7. Next year, Tiberius had his 3rd consulship & Germanicus had his 2nd. Germanicus stayed in Achaia at Nicopolis, where he’d been after meeting up with Drusus. Drusus arrived with a battered fleet after sailing in a nasty storm to show up in Dalmatia. Germanicus visited where the Battle of Actium took place & then went to Athens, where he received honors.

  8. He went on to Euboea & then on to Lesbos where Agrippina was confined & gave birth to Julia. He went throughout to Thracian cities Perinthius & Byzantium, & then on to the Straits of Propontis & did some more historical tourism. The governors were glad to see him because there had been several revolts in the area recently. He went on to see what was left of Troy & on to a temple where the Oracle of the Clarian Apollo was. He consulted the priest who predicted an early doom for Germanicus in dark hints.

  9. Cneius Piso, governor of Syria, scared the Athenians with a speech saying that Germanicus sullied the honor of Rome in having been so nice to the Athenians, as well as chastising the Athenians for having supported Augustus’s enemies. He taunted their bad luck against Macedonia several centuries in the past & ridiculed them for being so violent to their own countrymen. He moved faster than Germanicus, passing through the area but ended up having his ship crashing on the rocks of the island of Rhodes. Germanicus was well aware of all the lies Piso had been telling about him but he was so nice that he sent relief ships to pick up Piso. However, Piso carried on being his old terrible self. He beat Germanicus to Syria & bribed soldiers to lose their military discipline. Placina, Piso’s wife, joined in & insulted Agrippina to anyone who would listen. Germanicus knew of all this but wanted to to be the first to arrive in Armenia to crown a king there.

  10. This area lied between Roman & Parthian territory. It was without a king since Vonones had been expelled. The nation liked Zeno, king of Pontus because he’d adopted Armenian manners & customs. Germanicus placed the royal diadem on his head in Artaxata, with the nobility approval. Cappadocia had been reduced to a province & received a new governor, Quintus Veranius. Some royal tributes were lessened in hope for a better relationship between in & Rome.

  11. As good as all this was for Rome & its allies, Germanicus hated this trip out there because of Piso’s unbearable nature. They met at Cyrrhus. Piso had to hide his fears while Germanicus had to scale back any threatening appearances. Germanicus spoke with suppressed resentment & Piso with haughty apologies. Both walked away angrier than they had come into the meeting. Afterwards, Piso was rarely seen at Caesar’s tribunal. At a banquet given by the king of the Nabataeans, large crowns were given to Germanicus & Agrippina, & a tiny one to Piso. It was decided the son of Caesar, Germanicus, was the one be honored & Piso just sat & sulked.

  12. Envoys arrived from the king of the Parthians, Artabanus. They went to remind Rome of their friendship & alliance, wishing to honor Germanicus & yielded the point of the barrier between the 2 empires being at the banks of the River Euphrates. He asked Vonones not to be kept in Syria where his presence might encourage strife with local tribes. Germanicus answered that Rome & Parthia were still friends & that Vonones would be moved to the Cilician coast in a city called Pompeiopolis. This was a concession to Artabanus but also an affront to Piso, who was friends with Vonones. Vonones showered him with presents & attention.

  13. During the consulship of Marcus Silanus & Lucius Norbanus, Germanicus sent out for Egypt to study Ancient History & to check in on the place – it had not been doing very well lately. He lowered the price of corn by opening granaries & generally pleased the crowds. He walked around in Greek garments, without guards with him. Every part of this trip would later get him in deep trouble with Tiberius. It had been a strict rule for no senator to visit Egypt without express consent of the emperor, lest Roman presence provoke riots & revolts.

  14. Germanicus didn’t realize this & sailed up the Nile from Canapus, originally founded by the Spartans because it was the burial place of Menelaus’s ship’s captain. He went to the a part of the Nile dedicated to Hercules & spoke to priests who told him of all the glories of the Ancient Egyptian Empire. He also was scouting out what kind of tributes he get from the place: gold, silver, arms, horses, ivory, perfume, grain, etc. He figured it would equal what he may be able to get out of Parthia.

  15. Germanicus looked at Egypt’s wonders: 2 massive statues of Memnon (it’s mean to talk when the light hits it from a certain angle), the Pyramids & the Lake built to deal with the floods of the Nile, Elephantine & Syene – the limits of Rome’s empire.

  16. While Germanicus was on vacation, Drusus was busy turning the German tribes against one another, seizing on Maroboduus’s lost power. A noble Gatone name Catualdo, who’d been exiled by Maroboduus, wanted revenge now than Maroboduus was down on his luck. Catualda went into Marcomanni territory with a strong force & got the nobles there to join him, then burst into the palace & fortress. He snapped up all the plunder that the Suevi had gotten before.

  17. Maroboduus could only look to Rome for help. He appealed to Tiberius’s memory of how great he’d been & how good of a friend to Rome he’d been. Tiberius promised him safety in Italy & nothing more. The Senate was afraid that letting Maroboduus loose with a powerful army might come back to bite them, so he was kept in Ravenna. His presence was a threat to the Suevi & they knew he could be unleashed at any time if they misbehaved. He stayed there in Ravenna for 18 years until his death. Catualda had his own downfall. He was driven out by the Hermundusi, led by Vibilius & was sent by the Romans to Narbonensian Gaul to finish out his days. The barbarians eventually settled beyond the Danube under Vannius, king of the Quadri.

  18. The Senate learned that Germanicus had made Artaxias king of Armenia & Drusus was able to stop all upheaval in Germany. The Senate decreed both Germanicus & Drusus to enter Rome with an ovation. Arches were raised in their honor. Tiberius was more pleased with a peaceful settlement than with one gained through military conquest. Now he was planning against the King of Thrace, Rhescuporis, who’d been appointed by Augustus along with his nephew, Cotys in a divided Thrace. But Rhescuporis was not happy sharing with his nephew & took Cotys’s lands. Tiberius was angry about this move & planned a war.

  19. Tiberius got anxious that settlements had fallen apart. He sent a centurion to tell the 2 kings to settle this without a fight. Cotys disbanded his forces but Rhescopuris asked Cotys to meet in order to settle the matter. They were able to hammer out an agreement. Rhescuporis proposed a banquet to seal the deal. Once Cotys had had too much to drink, he was placed in chains. He wrote to Tiberius saying he’d been plotted against but overcame Cotys. He claimed that the Bastamian & Scythian tribes threatened his kingdom, so he had to beef up his army. Tiberius & the Senate wanted more information before they took a stance on the case. In the meantime, he was to send Cotys to Rome.

  20. The letter outlining this was sent by Latinius Pandus, propraetor of Moesia, to Thrace with soldiers who would take Cotys into custody. Rhescuporis preferred to be charged with an accomplished crime instead of an attempted one. He ordered Cotys to be killed & have it look like a suicide. Pandus had died, often accused by Rhescuporis of being his enemy, & was replaced by Pamponius Flaccus, a veteran soldier, with an intimate relation with the king so as to lure him in.

  21. When Flaccus got to Thrace, he made great promises to Rhescuporis to get him into the Roman army lines. The Romans surrounded him as if to honor him & then capture him to take him to Rome. He was accused by the Senate & Cotys’s wife & then was condemned to be a prisoner. Thrace was divided among Rhescuporis’s sons & Cotys’s son, all of whom were minors. Trebellienus Rufus, an ex-praetor, was appointed governor. Rhescuporis was sent to Alexandria & was sentenced to death – either rightly or wrongly for trying to escape.

  22. At the same time, Vonones, banished to Cilicia, bribed his guards to let him escape to Armenia, then to Albania & Heniochia to his relative, King of Scythia. He then wandered through the forest by horse to the River Pyramus. The locals knocked down the bridges upon hearing of his escape. He was unable to cross. A Roman solider caught him & put him in chains. The man who was entrusted with his safety in Cilicia as his custodian stabbed him, maybe out of guilt or shame.

  23. On his way back from Egypt, Germanicus found all the orders he’d given before leaving had been repealed or reversed. This looked bad for Piso. Piso decided to leave Syria. But he heard of Germanicus’s bad health & subsequent recovery & decided to prepare for the festival in Antioch. He then went to Seleucia & waited for the result of the return of Germanicus’s illness. Some thought he had been poisoned by Piso. There was some evidence found of black magic having been practiced, possibly by Piso.

  24. Germanicus heard of his & got angry. He was more concerned about the welfare of his wife & children than of his own. He wrote a letter to Piso condemning him, renouncing their friendship & ordering him to leave the province. Piso weighed anchor but moved out slowly in case of Germanicus’s death, then he’d rush back.

  25. It seemed like Germanicus would pull through but he got worn out & in really bad shape. He spoke: “If I were succumbing to nature, I’d be right in being upset with the gods for taking me away from my friends & family before my time. Now that I can say it, please tell my father & brother of what I have been through with Piso & how my end has been unpleasant. If anyone was pleased with or inspired by my deeds will be sad to hear of my death, by a woman’s treachery. Tears will be shed & vengeance must come. Show the people of Rome the granddaughter of Augustus & my wife.” His friends held his hand & swore to avenge him.

  26. He turned to his wife & begged her by the memory of her husband & their children to put aside her high spirit & submit to the cruel blows of fortune & not, when back in Rome, make matters worse with people more powerful than her. Then he died. Many people were upset about this. He was highly looked upon, with his greatness & dignity.

  27. His funeral was honored by panegyrics & commemoration of his values. He was favorably compared to Alexander the Great, being graceful, of noble birth & a great warrior. He defeated Germany but did not crush it into subjection. If he had been king or emperor, his honors would have been even greater. He excelled Alexander in clemency, self-restrain & all other virtue. Before his body was burnt, it was laid bare in Antioch. It’s doubtful that he was poisoned but there are conflicting accounts.

  28. The Senate deliberated on who to send to Syria in his place. It was down to Vibius Marsus & Cneius Sentius. Eventually, Marsus yielded to Sentius. Sentius sent a woman from the province for poisonings to Rome.

  29. Agrippina was worn out form mourning but she was impatient to get revenge for her husband’s death. She took his ashes & their children back home. She was admired by many & pitied for what had happened to her husband. Piso was on the island of Coos when he heard the news of Germanicus’s death. He was elated & made sacrifices of gratitude. Placina was just as insolent as ever.

  30. The centurions came in & suggested to Piso that he had the sympathy of the legions he had under control. They told him to take back his province. His son, Marcus Piso, advised him to go back to Rome. He didn’t have any blame yet for Germanicus’s death. Their strife wasn’t illegal & didn’t result in Germanicus’s death. But if Sentius resisted him, there’d be a civil war & he wouldn’t have the army’s backing.

  31. Piso’s friend, Domitius Celer, disagreed. Piso ought to take advantage of the situation. Piso, not Sentius, had been appointed to Syria. The praetor’s power & jurisdiction was put in Piso’s hands, as well as the legions. In the case of a hostile menace, the governor has the duty to confront it. Celer advised him not to listen to rumors, but just let them fade. If Piso had control of army & increased his resources, it would improve his situation. Going to Rome would juxtapose Germanicus, whose life & deeds were being honored, with the man who hated him. It was best to lie low but still be in control.

  32. Piso mostly agreed with Celer. He wrote a letter to Tiberius accusing Germanicus of luxury & arrogance, & that he, Piso, was taking control of the region to avoid any revolution. He put Domitius on a trireme, & told him to head for Syria while avoiding the islands. Domitius gathered followers from deserters, & pirated ships full of tax money on their way to Syria. Domitius asked the kings of Cilicia to give him troops to prepare Piso in beefing up his forces.

  33. They sailed between Lycia & Pamphylia & met with the fleet that carried Agrippina. Both sides were itching for a fight but back down. Marsus told Piso to go to Rome to defend himself from accusations of poisoning Germanicus. Piso replied that he’d only go if the praetor in charge of cases of poison would clear off his busy schedule for him. Domitius landed at Laodicea in Syria where the winter headquarters of the 6th legion were, apparently planning revolutionary activities. Sentius informed Piso of this & told him not to let his troops get corrupted or let any war happen in his province. Sentius gathered Roman troops who were favorable to Germanicus’s memory & told them that the State was about to be attacked, & that they should prepare for battle.

  34. Piso set up a fortified positing in Celenderis in Cilicia. He got some Cilician auxiliaries, mixed in with some deserters & slaves. He protested that he was kept out of the province to which he had been named governor. He deployed his companies in front of the fortress on a precipitous hill with the sea on all other sides. He had veteran troops lined up against him –  formidable troops on one side & a formidable position on the other. But Piso’s men were poorly equipped & not very brave. The Romans climbed the hill & then the Cilicians went back into the fortress.

  35. Piso tried an attack on the fleet in the distance but in vain. He then went back & stood on the wall calling individual soldiers by name trying to entice them to coming over to his side by promising them money & power. The only one he was able to convince was the standard bearer of the 6th legion. Sentius sounded the horn & ordered an attack on the walls. Scaling ladders were placed & war machines started cranking. Piso finally relented, begging to remain in the fortress after surrendering his arms, while the emperor made a decision on who would be governor. That plea was refused but he was given passage back to Rome.

  36. By this time, Germanicus’s illness became known & this ratcheted up the grief & indignation. Complaints grew. They said this was why he’d been sent to the ends of the earth & Piso was given the province. The elderly men said rulers disliked the citizen-like temper in his sons & sent them away from Rome. They were a danger to the way Rome was going. Now news of the death got around & businesses, courts & private houses closed out of grief. Outdated news of the period Germanicus’s recovery exacerabted this effect because that news cheered people, only to have more recent news let them down again.

  37. The grieving over Germanicus got worse. More honors were bestowed on him. Triumphal arches, statues & monuments were built in his honor.

  38. Germanicus’s sister, Livia (married to Drusus) had twin sons. The emperor was pleased with this because it was such a rare event. But some grieved that the loss of Germanicus’s family was Drusus’s gain.

  39. That year, women’s profligacy was checked by a law banning any woman descended from a Roman knight from prostitution. Vistilia had her name published as such & claimed that the shame of that was punishment enough. Her husband, Titidius Labeo, was called into court & asked why he didn’t have his wife punished. She was banished to the island of Seriphos. There was a debate on the Egyptian & Jewish worship. The Senate had 4000 of them sent to Sardinia to stop the spread of these religions.

  40. Then Tiberius looked for the election of a new head of the Vestal virgins. Fonteius Agrippa & Domitius Pollio offered a daughter each. Pollio’s was selected & Agrippa’s was given 1 million sesterces as a consolation.

  41. The city complained about the high grain prices & the Emperor decided to subsidize the purchase of the grain by offering money to the sellers for each barrel that they sold. Tiberius, once again, refused the title of “Father of the Country” because he didn’t see himself as divine or a lord & he hated the idea that sycophants would use these titles.

  42. A letter from the Chatti chief, Adgandestrius, came to the Senate promising to poison Arminius if he was sent the poison by the Romans. Tiberius declined saying the Germans destroyed themselves by fighting Rome. Arminius to reassert Germany’s independence but was killed by treachery at the age of 38 years old. That calmed the Germans down for a while.



Author: knowit68

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