3.40‑55 Revolt in Gaul. Intrigues in Rome.

  1. That year, some states in Gaul attempted a revolt out of pressure of heavy debts. The biggest instigators were Julius Florus of the Treveri & Julius Sacrovir of the Aedui. They were of noble birth from ancestors who’d been given Roman citizenship out of merit. They decided Florus was to rouse the Belgae & Sacrovir was to rouse the Gauls. These 2 talked sedition by complaining of the perpetual tributes, oppressive usury, & the cruelty & arrogance of governors. They also hinted that the soldiers were upset after hearing of Germanicus’s murder. The 2 said only the foreign or non-Italian element of the Roman army was its strength.

  2. Hardly a single community was not touched by this revolt. The first to revolt were the Andecavi & Turoni. Officer Acilius Aviola put these down & summoned a cohort from garrison duty at Lugdunum (Lyon, France). The Turoni were quelled by Visellius Varro who commanded in Lower Germany & Aviola. Some Gallic chieftains helped to keep on side with the Romans, even if just temporarily. Sacrovir cheered his men on to fight. Later, the prisoners said he had done so not be targeted. Tiberius was upset but his irresolution perpetuated the war.

  3. Florus tried to induce a squadron of cavalry from the Treveri who’d been trained by the Romans. He got a few but most remained loyal to Rome. But an army of debtors & dependents took up arms & went down passes in the forests of the Arduenna (Ardennes) & were stopped by Visellius’s & Silius’s legions. Julius Indus of the Treveri was feuding with Julius Florus & was eager to help Rome. He went with some forces to disperse the rabble. Florus eluded the conquerors but was surrounded. He killed himself & that ended the Treveri revolt.

  4. The bigger movement broke out from the Aedui. Sacrovir with some armed men made him master of Augustodunum (Autun, France) where many students lived. He made them hostages to make their parents amendable to his cause. He gave the youngsters arms. He had 40000, 1/5 of whom were armed like Roman legionaries & the rest had spears & knives. Some were slaves training to be gladiators wearing steel armor. While they couldn’t attack well in them but couldn’t be harmed in them. This army grew out of enthusiasm of locals. Roman generals wanted to fight the war without help from others. Varro yielded to Silius eventually.

  5. In Rome, it was believed 64 states of Gaul were rebelling with the Germans in alliance with Spain being disaffected. Rumors went wild. People sad at the system being threatened from the outside. While unhappy people were happy because they wanted drastic & immediate change. They said Tiberius was too weak to handle things. Many people wanted war instead of peace. He just stayed in his home away from Rome. He was either very steady or unconvinced that anything important was happening.

  6. Silius advanced with 2 legions, having sent auxiliary troops to ravage the villages of the Sequani on the border with the Aedui who’d associated with them. He went on to Augustodunum with his trrops itching for battle. He claimed if the Aedui looked at them, that’s be enough for a Roman win. 12 miles before Augustodunum, they saw Sacrovir & his army in a plain. He had elements of famous Gauls with Roman training. He promised a glorious victory for Gaul that they had been unable to win in the past.

  7. The armies lined up & advance into battle. The rabble of townsfolk had no military training & didn’t know how to behave. Silius noted that it was a shame to the conquerors of Germany to have to be led against Gauls as an enemy. He said that the Gauls were more used to luxury & wealth than to war. They were to be spared when they fled. Only the men in mail were a problem. The armor deflected spears & javelins, so the Romans took hatchets & chopped at their armors. The makeshift army was useless & Sacrovir ran off to Augustodunum & then to a country house. There he died of suicide & those who followed him into the house were set on fire.

  8. Finally Tiberius was told by the Senate all about the war in its high & its lows – but only truth. There were truly loyal & courageous men & generals in the army & in Gaul. Tiberius explained why neither he nor Drusus had gone to the war. He said it would be undignified for him or a consul to leave the capital because of a war. Tiberius was planning to go back to Rome. Cornelius Dolabella gave a great flattering speech saying that Tiberius should be given a great ovation when he came back to Rome. Tiberius wrote back saying he’d had praise enough from his past glories in war. He didn’t want to steal anyone’s thunder.

  9. At this time, he requested a public funeral for Sulpicius Quirinius. He was unrelated to the famous Sulpicii patrician family but born in Lanuvium. He was a great soldiers & won consulship under Augustus. He later got honors for storming a fortress in Cilicia. He was appointed advisor to Caius Caesar in Armenia & was part of Tiberius’s court in Rhodes. Tiberius told the Senate this. But Quirinius had a bad reputation based on the later years of his life.

  10. At the end of the year, Caius Lutorius Priscus, Roman knight, wrote a poem mourning Germanicus’s death. He received a reward for this from Tiberius. Then an informer claimed he was in the midst of writing another for when Drusus died. He read it in the house of Publius Petronius in front of Vitellia, Petronius’s mother-in-law & many noblewomen. Everyone but Vitellia was frightened into giving evidence on this. She kept silent.

  11. Marcus Lepidus spoke against the sentence of death given: “Senators, killing this man won’t cure him of any vices. Only clemency of the sovereign can do that. Folly isn’t the same as evil. If Lutorius’s life is to be spared, he will not be a danger to the state. If he’s put to death, it will not be a warning to others. His actions were stupid, not evil. But no harm came from them. Let him leave Rome, lose property & be outlawed but let’s not kill him.”

  12. Only one ex-consul, Rubellius Blandus, supported Lepidus. The rest voted with Agrippa, so Priscus was put in prison & then to death. Tiberius extolled the Senate’s loyalty in avenging the slightest of insults but didn’t like such hasty punishment of mere words. He praised Lepidus but didn’t censure Agrippa. The Senate passed a resolution that decrees not be registered with the treasury until after 9 days & respite was given to the condemned. But lapse of time never really softened Tiberius’s stance on things.

  13. Caius Sulpicius & Didius Haterius were the next consuls. It was quiet abroad. At home legislation was made against luxury & boundless excess. Some expenses were kept secret through a concealment of real prices. There was incessant talk about costly preparations for gluttony & dissipation. A prince who clung to frugality was seen to be too stern in reforms. Caius Bibulus brought it up in the Senate & all his colleagues said sumptuary law was ignored & household goods’ prices were rising & there was nothing that could be done about it. The Senate passed it on to the emperor. He wondered if reckless taste could be repressed & if trying would not do more damage than good. He was loath to interfere & so wrote on the matter in a letter to the Senate.

  14. “In any other matter, it may be more convenient for me to be consulted in your presence, & for me to say what I think is in the public good. It’s best for me not to be there to see you or look at you, noting anxious faces of men accused of shameful luxury. It’s not seemly for me to be silent nor is it easy to speak out about. I don’t hold the office of aedile (magistrate responsible for buildings & grain supply), praetor or consul. I’m expected to have a loftier role while every one claims to be in the right, I have to deal with the fallout when the policy fails. Where would I even begin? How big can these country houses be? How many slaves are too many? How much gold or silver is too much? Are women’s luxuries more luxurious than men’s?

  15. “I’m aware that the people want some sort of limit. But if a law is passed & punishments issued, people would say the state had been revolutionized & a ruin is in the works & no citizen is safe from incrimination. But we can only check it through a sharp & painful treatment – remedies as strong as the diseases. Many laws have become obsolete through contempt & luxury has grown. When people want something not forbidden, there’s a fear it may become forbidden but when people transgress prohibitions with impunity, there’s no more fear or shame. Why did economies grow in the past? Because people practiced self-control & we were all members of one city. Our dominion was confined to Italy. Victories over foreigners taught us how to waste the substance of others. Victories over ourselves how to squander our own. We don’t rely on supplies from abroad. & unless masters, slaves & estates have the resources of the provinces as their mainstay, our country houses will have to do.”

  16. The Senators realize the letter relieved the aediles from an enormous task. The luxury that had grown within the nobles since the end of the Battle of Actium, to the armed revolution when Servius Galba rose to power, had been profuse & then went out of fashion. Let’s look at the causes of this change…

  • In the past, rich or noble families fell into ruin from a passion for splendor. They would court & be courted by the populace, allies & foreign princes. Everyone who from his wealth, mansion & establishment conspicuously large enough gained luster through his name & clientèle. After the save massacres that resulted from renown got to them, many got wise. The men admitted to the Senate were big on being thrifty & were able to maintain their wealth but never lost their old tastes for luxury. Vespina was an encourager of strict manner, who was old-fashioned in dress & diet. Love & respect for the prince, as well as desire to emulate him was more efficacious than any law or punishment. Perhaps moral revolutions are cyclical like the seasons. Things weren’t necessarily better in the past but we have many examples of excellent behavior to emulate. We have a lot to live up with respect to honorable ancestors & contemporaries.


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