3.20‑39 Roman domestic politics and legal matters.

  1. The same year, Tacfarinas, who’d been defeated by Camillus the year before, started hostilities again in Africa. At first he started with small raids so as not to get caught. Then he started attacking villages. He moved on to wholesale plunder. He was able to hem in a Roman cohort by the River Pagyda. The Romans were commanded by Decrius, who saw the situation as a disgrace. He encouraged his men to give battle to the rebels. At first they were driven back. Decrius threw himself in the way of the attack & laid into those who turned their back on the battle. He died because his men had abandoned him.

  2. Lucius Apronius, successor of Camillus, heard of this & was more alarmed by the dishonorable conduct of the Roman soldiers than the victory of the enemy. He brought back an old punishment from the past. He took aside every tenth soldier, chosen by lot, of the disgraced cohort & flogged them. This worked so well to get the men back into a fighting spirit that only 500 men were needed to defeat Tacfarinas in an attack on the fortress named Thala. A common soldier, Rufus Helvius, won great honors for his actions in the battle. Tacfarinas saw how cowardly his Numidians acted & how scared they were of straightforward warfare. He had to stick to small-time skirmishes. This actually baffled & tired the Romans more. When his men moved along the coast & set up camp, Caesianus was sent by his father, Apronius, to fight them. He succeeded & pushed the Numidians back into the desert.

  3. Meanwhile in Rome, Lepida was accused of pretending to give birth to a child from Publius Quirinius, a rich & childless man. There were charges of adultery, poisoning & use of astrologers regarding the Emperor’s family. She was defended by her brother, Manius Lepidus. Quirinius, fresh from their divorce was upset & that actually gained her sympathy. Tiberius balanced between compassionate & resentful about her. He begged the Senate not to deal with charges of treason. He handed over Lepida’s slaves to the consuls to interrogate but wouldn’t let them be tortured for matters dealing with Tiberius’s family. Consul-elect, Drusus, wasn’t required to ask the first question in the trial. This may have been to relieve the other senators from having to agree with him. It may also have been to make him yield a point only if there was something worth condemning.

  4. The games interrupted the trial & Lepida went to the theater with other noble women. She cried out that all the buildings they saw around them were there thanks to her family & that Quirinius was just an old, childless, miserable idiot from a family of nobodies. She said was being sacrificed to boost him image. With the testimony of her slaves, it was found that she had tried to poison Quirinius.

  5. Decimus Sianus was restored to the Junian family. Augustus’s daughter & granddaughter were found to be licentious & were exiled from Rome. Their paramours were also punished. He called vice a habit of sacrilege & treason. Decimus was the paramour of Augustus’s granddaughter but was only given the cold should from Augustus as a punishment. It was only under Tiberius’s reign that he tried to get back in the country’s good grace. Tiberius & the Senate allowed him back to Rome but he never held office.

  6. It was then proposed that the Papia Poppaea law be relaxed. It had been passed Augustus to enforce penalties on celibacy & enrich the treasury. But raising children & getting married did not increase before it was too attractive not to do so. However many informers began to threaten households. The nation was suffering because the laws. We should discuss the law’s origins.

  7. Mankind once lived without vicious impulses – no shame, guilt, no need for punishment or restraint. Rewards were not needed either. Many wanted nothing outside of morality & were afraid of nothing. But when men threw off equality, ambition & violence took the place of self-control & modesty. Despotisms grew & were widespread. Later, when arbitrary rule grew tiresome, people wanted a Code of Laws. The first ones were simple. The best examples were given by Minos in Crete, Lycurgus in Sparta. Then in Athens, Solon gave more elaborate laws. Romulus ruled over Rome as he pleased but Numa gave us laws from religion & a constitution from the divine. This was added to by Tullus & Ancus. Servius Tullius was the one who gave laws even kings had to obey.

  8. After Tarquin was expelled, to check against Senate cabals, the people devised safeguards for freedom & to establish unity. Decemvirs were appointed. Things from abroad that seemed good were adopted. The 12 Tables were drawn up for equitable legislation. Subsequent enactments were focused on crime but a lot of that was done through violence & class dissension. They also created new honors, banished citizens, etc. The Gracchi & Saturnini were popular agitators. Drusus was a corrupter of the Senate’s name by bribing allies orchestrated Senators of vetoes. The Italian War & Civil War gave us many conflicting laws until Sulla (as dictator) repealed or altered past legislation & added new ones. Then Lepidus proposed sedition  & the tribunes recovered their license to excite the people as they liked. Bills were passed for individual cases. When the laws were most numerous, the commonwealth was most corrupt.

  9. Cneius Pompeius was elected consul for the 3rd time to reform public morals. However, his remedies were worse than the evils they were meant to fix. In repealing the legislation he’d enacted, he lost the means to carry out his plans. This was followed by 20 years of continuous strife. Customs & laws were a thing of the past. Vile deeds went unpunished & noble acts brought ruin. In his 6th consulship, Augustus felt secure in his power & annulled the triumvirate & gave us a constitution for peace under a monarchy. The Papia Poppaea law rewarded spying & chained the people. IF men ran from the privileges of fatherhood, the state would confiscate their properties. Espionage became a way of life. Many men’s fortunes were ruined. Tiberius decided to call 5 ex-consuls, 5 ex-praetors & 5 senators by lot to find a good way to reform the law.

  10. Tiberius commended Germanicus’s son, Nero to the Senate’s favor. Nero was just entering manhood & Tiberius asked to exempt him from the 20 commissioners & let him stand as a candidate for the quaetorship 5 years earlier than the law allowed. His reason was that he himself had been granted the same exception. The Senators likely laughed at this but it was granted, as was the pontificate to Nero. When Nero entered the Forum the first time, the public went nuts to see Germanicus’s son all grown up. They were also pleased to see Nero marry Julia, Drusus’s daughter. But it was upsetting to some to know Sejanus would be Claudius’s father-in-law. They thought that Tiberius was polluting his noble family & seeing Sejanus raised higher was upsetting.

  11. By the end of the year, Lucius Volusius & Sallustius Crispus had died. Volusius was of an old family but never got past praetor. He brought it into the consulship & he held the office of censor for the knight class. He died very wealthy. Crispus was of equestrian descent & was great nephew of historian, Sallust. He took that name for the recognition. He rose to great power without ever becoming Senator. He emulated Maecenas. While Maecenas lived, he stood next to him in favor & later became keeper of imperial secrets & accessory to the murder of Postumus Agrippa. In old age he had a cold relationship with the emperor.

  12. Then came Tiberius’s 4th consulship & Drusus’s 2nd – father & son. 2 years before, Germanicus & Tiberius were both consuls together – uncle & nephew (or adopted son for that matter). Tiberius retired to Campania to regain his health, either for preparation for a longer seclusion or to let Drusus try his hand at running things on his own. It happened that a trifle led to a sharp contest to make Drusus very popular. Domitius Corbulo, an ex-praetor, complained to the Senate that a young noble, Lucius Sulla, hadn’t given him a place at the gladiatorial show. Corbulo had all the advantages. Against him were Mamercus Scaurus, Lucius Arruntius & other relatives of Sulla’s. Debate raged in the Senate about the disrespect of the young for the old until Drusus tried calm them down. Corbulo received an apology from Sulla’s uncle & step-father, Mamercus. This Corbulo had complained that most Italian roads were impassable due to dodgy contractors & negligent officials. He meant to take care of it himself, which confiscated some disreputable people’s property & discredited many others.

  13. Soon after, Tiberius told the Senate that Tacfarinas was making trouble again & needed an experienced soldier to lead an army against him. Sextus Pompeius had been caught shitting on Lepidus, calling him a mean & need man who was a disgrace to his family & deserved to lose his province of Asia. The Senate disagreed & thought his poverty was inherited. So he was sent to Asia & Tiberius had to decide who to send to Africa.

  14. During the debate, Severus Caecina proposed no magistrate should be sent to his province with his wife. He told them how he’d lived with his wife, who gave him 6 children, & did well to keep her in Italy. To him, it was a bad idea to take wives into the province because the luxury they require too much influence with the soldiers & often are implicated in accusations against the magistrates themselves. The old rules ought to return to ban it.

  15. Some approved but most of the Senate rejected the speech mostly on the grounds that Caecina wasn’t fit to criticize. Valerius Meesalinus, Messala’s son, said the old rules were too harsh. Rome was much more bogged down with war in the past. Things in the provinces were peaceful. The women only got a few concessions but weren’t a burden. In the case of war, men should be unencumbered. But the Oppian laws were enacted to meet political needs of the time. But if a wife transgresses, it is the husband’s fault. Furthermore, why ruin it for all men because of a couple men who were too stupid to keep their wives in check? Things are just as bad here in Rome. Drusus added his own experience. Even Augustus was accompanied by Livia to the extremities of the empire. His wife helped keep him calm & balanced.

  16. Caecina was defeated. At the next Senate meeting, Tiberius sent a letter complaining that he didn’t want to be bothered with all the minor debates of the Senate. He also named Marcus Lepidus & Junius Blaesus as candidates for pro-consul of Africa. Lepidus asked not to be chose because he was sick & had young children. He also had to sort out his daughter’s wedding. Blaesus declined but was convinced to go in the end.

  17. An abuse was exposed after many complaints. Some people went around insulting & strongly condemning respectable citizens. Freed men or slaves would threaten their patrons or masters & then run to a statue of the emperor under the pretext of being a suppliant. A senator, Caius Cestius, argued while princes were like deities, the gods only listened to religious prayers from a suppliant. No one was fleeing to the Capitol or any temple in Rome to use as an auxiliary in a crime. There was a case where, in the forum & at the threshold of the Senate House, Annia Rufilla, convicted of fraud, threatened the case’s judge but he didn’t proceed against her because she was holding up an image of the emperor. Everyone asked Drusus to do something about it. He summoned her & convicted her. She was then sent to prison.

  18. Roman knights, Considius Aequus & Coelius Cursor were punished (by way of Tiberius’s recommendation) for having attacked the praetor, Magius Caecilianus, with false charges of treason. Drusus was able to make Tiberius’s policies seem nicer. Being in Rome was good for him since he was not confined to solitude like he had been when he was on campaign as general. Now he was going to banquets & studying architecture.

  19. Ancharius Priscus prosecuted Caesius Cordus, pro-consul of Crete, for extortion & treason. Antistius Vetus, a chief man of Macedonia, had been acquitted of adultery & was recalled by Tiberius himself & had him tried for treason (while censuring the judges for letting him off) because he’d been involved in Rhescuporis’s plan to kill Cotys & make war on Rome. The accused was outlawed & confined to an island far from Thrace or Macedonia. In Thrace, since the kingdom was divided between Rhemetacles & Cotys’s children, under regency of Trebellienus Rufus, many in the kingdom rebelled. Rhemetacles & Trebellienus were blamed for not punishing wrong doings. A few tribes took up arms, roused neighboring tribes & besieged the city of Philippoplis, a city founded by Philip the Macedon.

  20. Commander of the nearest army, Publius Vellaeus, sent some cavalry & infantry to attack those looking for plunder. He took the rest of his men & marched toward the siege. The siegers had internal conflicts & the king within the city made a well-timed sally as the legion arrived. The result was that the siegers were slaughtered without a single Roman casualty.


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