Tacitus – The Annals, Book 3: 20-22 AD – 3.1‑19 Rome after Germanicus: eulogies, intrigues, and adjustment.

  1. Without stopping in her voyage, Agrippina arrived at the island of Corcyra, facing Calabria. She went there to clear her mind. Friends & underlings flocked to Brundiusm, the logical landing point from Corcyra, to see her as she came back to Italy. They lined up as the fleet sailed into town. When she disembarked with her children & Germanicus’s urn, the crown groaned & cried for her loss & theirs.

  2. The emperor sent 2 praetor cohorts, along with instructions to the magistrates of Calabria, Apulia & Campania on how to honor Germanicus. The centurions carried the urn of his ashes on their shoulders. The crowds were dressed in black in every city. Drusus & Claudius went to Tarracina to see it. Consuls Marcus Valerius & Caius Aurelius, & many others openly & genuinely wept in the streets of Rome.

  3. Tiberius & Augusta refrained from crying in public, not wanting to cause a scene. There’s no mention if Germanicus’s mother, Antonia, gave any noticeable honor to her son. She may have been sick or just too heartbroken. Tiberius & Augusta did not leave the palace & probably kept her there to look equally upset as she war.

  4. The day, when the ashes were consigned to Augustus’s tomb, was relatively silent. The streets were crowded, torches blazed throughout the Campus Martius. Soldiers, magistrates without symbols & people thought the commonwealth was ruined. Tiberius was impressed by the enthusiasm that Agrippina inspired in the people.

  5. Some noticed the grandeur of a state funeral was missing, like the one that Augustus had given to Germanicus’s father, Drusus. Augustus had really gone out of his way to give him a splendid affair. But they felt the funeral for Germanicus wasn’t even fitting for a mid-tier noble. It was said that it was an insult to the memory of a great man.

  6. Tiberius was aware of what was being said. To silence the talk, he reminded them that many had died for their country without such a display. The tears shed for him were enough. The people had to move on just as they had done in the past after the deaths of great men. Princes were mortal but the state was ever lasting. The people should be allowed to resume their daily lives.

  7. Business resumed. Drusus was sent to the armies of Illyricum while there was a nearly universal desire to exact revenge on Piso. There were reports that he was living it up in Asia & Achaia, & covering up evidence of his guilt. It was rumored that the famous poisoner, Martina, who had been sent to Cneius Sentius, died suddenly in Brundisium, with signs of poison in her hair but none of suicide.

  8. Piso sent his son to Rome with a message to calm down Tiberius & then went to Drusus who he’d hoped would not be as angry about his brother’s death, now that his rival was out of the way. Tiberius received the son with courtesy. Drusus said if the rumors were true, he’d be very angry with the murderer. But no one should be convicted based on rumors alone. He was very open about this attitude.

  9. After crossing the Dalmatian Sea, Piso went to Picenum & down the Flaminian Road where he passed a legion traveling from Pannonia to Rome on its way to Africa. Piso showed off in front of the troops. To avoid suspicion, he said from Narnia down the River Nar & then down the Tiber. People were upset that he’d dare show his face around those parts. He & his entourage were openly pleased with themselves, further angering the people.

  10. The next day, Fulcinius Trio asked for Piso to be prosecuted. Consuls Vitellius & Veranius told him it was not his place to do so. If he’d had evidence, he should’ve used the proper channels to present it. Trio was allowed to accuse Piso’s career. Piso consented to that, fearing what would happen if he didn’t. Tiberius knew that many thing would get revealed making him & his mother look bad. He felt that only one judge could withstand public pressure to convict while many couldn’t. Tiberius listened to accusers, the prosecutors & witnesses.

  11. Drusus returned from Illyricum. He’d been voted to receive an ovation upon his return to Rome based on his settling Germany but it was postponed. Piso wanted counsel from many men – most refused for different reasons. But Marcus Lepidus, Lucius Piso & Livineius Regulus accepted. The people wondered how Germanicus’s friends could defend a man who was rumored to have killed him. They watched the case very closely.

  12. The day the Senate met, Tiberius delivered a speech with a good deal of moderation: “Piso was my father’s representative & friend. I appointed him to help Germanicus in the East. Whether he killed Germanicus or just annoyed him is up to you. If the subordinate overstepped his license with his master, rejoiced in his superior’s death & in my mourning, I will hate him & kick him out of my house. I will deal with him personally & not as Roman Emperor. But if a crime has been committed, it must be dealt with properly. It’s up to you to decide if Piso dealt with armies in a spirit of revolution & sedition, or if he was just trying to regain the region he’d been assigned to govern. I am not very pleased with the wild accusations & rumors that have been floating around. I am mourning my son but I won’t stop a fair trial from taking place. Senators, see that this man is fairly tried.”

  13. 2 days were set to bring forward charges & then after 6 days, the accused would be given 3 days to present his defense. Trio brought up obscure charges of when Piso had been governor of Spain. If they were found true, it wouldn’t mean death for Piso. But the real meat of the trial was when Servaeus, Veranius & Vitellius accused Piso of corrupting soldiers out of hatred for Germanicus, oppressing allies & friends of Rome & Germanicus, killing Germanicus by poison & sorcery, & threatening the State. Because he’d been defeated in battle, he would be tried as a prisoner.

  14. Piso’s defense was unable to clear him of any charge except for one. Piso couldn’t deny tampering with soldiers & his province was at the mercy of the worst of them. He had been guilt of insubordination. He seemed to have cleared himself of poisoning Germanicus. The prosecutors couldn’t link him to the banquet where Germanicus had been poisoned. The judges were merciless because he’d made war on a Roman province & because they wanted to find him guilty of the the murder but couldn’t. The crowds threatened senators if he wasn’t found guilty. They were destroying statues of Piso. Piso was put in a litter followed by Praetorian cohort, either as guards or executioners.

  15. It was wondered how Tiberius would deal with Placina. It seemed she’d suffer the same fate. Augusta interceded to secure a pardon for her & suddenly Placina backed away from Piso’s defense & cause. He was instantly deflated but his sons urged him to fight on. He faced the Senate again & all the anger pointed at him. He was brought back to his house where he seemed to prepare for the next day. He wrote a few words on paper, handed it to someone & went to bed. The next day, he was found with his throat slit by a sword.

  16. Piso’s friends said the letter contained mentions of Tiberius asking him to do something to Germanicus & he intended to show it to the Senate but had been held back by empty promises of relief from Sejanus. They also said he didn’t kill himself but was executed. I’ve heard it said that Tiberius was afraid that Piso would implicate him in Germanicus’s death. The note was read out that Piso felt he wasn’t being given a fair trial. He prayed for Tiberius & friends but didn’t mention Placina.

  17. Tiberius acquitted Piso’s son from starting a civil war, since it was unlawful for a son to disobey his father. He railed on about Placina, blaming his own mother for interceding on her behalf. The people were upset that a grandmother would save the murderess of her grandson. Germanicus was denied justice & a murderess went off Scot free. Aurelius Cotta, consul, proclaimed Piso’s name was to be removed from the register, half his property to be confiscated, the other be given to his son Cneius Piso, & the other son Marcus Piso be stripped of his rank & be banished for 10 years with a grant of 5 million sesterces. Placina’s life was spared thanks to Augusta.

  18. Much of the sentence was lightened by Tiberius. Piso’s name wasn’t removed because Antonius’s name wasn’t. Marcus Piso was allowed all his father’s property. Regarding, Placina, he was merciful. Tiberius, Augusta, Agrippina & Drusus were publicly thanked for avenging Germanicus, later adding Claudius to the list – a prelude to a future emperor.

  19. A few days later, Tiberius asked the Senate to confer priesthood on Vitellius, Veranius & Servaeus. He promised Fulcinus support for a promotion but told him to tone down the rhetoric. So Germanicus was avenged. Drusus left Rome to resume his command & later got his ovation. Within a few days, Drusus’s mother, Vispania died. She was the only child of Agrippa who didn’t die a blood death. The others died by the sword, poison or starvation.


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