Tacitus – The Annals, Book 4: 23-28 AD – 4.32‑45 The beginning of the fall of Sejanus.

  1. A lot of this seems a bit unimportant to record. Mr writings don’t really compare to older writers. They wrote about great wars, sacking cities, defeat & capture of kings abroad. At home, they wrote about the strife of consuls with tribunes, land & grain laws, struggles between the aristocracy & the commoners. My writings aren’t as interesting. It was a fairly peaceful time but the capital was a dismal place to live & the emperor was careless about his empire growing so quickly. Still, it’s worthwhile to see how the changes occurred.

  2. All nations & cities are ruled by the people, nobility or by one man. A constitution of those elements is easy to commend but hard to produce. If it’s produced, it doesn’t last long. Formerly, when the people ruled or when the patricians did, the popular temper had to be studied in order to control it. Those who knew the Senate & aristocracy best at least had the reputation of being wise men. Now that Rome is just the realm of a despot, it’s important to note this era. Few men have the foresight to tell right from wrong & sound from hurtful. Most men learn wisdom from the fortune of others. While it’s instructive, it’s not pleasant. Describing countries, various battles, glorious deaths of generals hook the reader in easily. My efforts present the merciless biddings of a tyrant, incessant prosecutions, faithless friendships & the ruin of innocents – it all seems monotonous. No one disparages the ancient historian who compares the Roman army to that of Carthage. In those who experienced punishment or disgrace under Tiberius, the families that survived or extinguished, you can see a common thread. Imagine the fact that the evil deeds of others become a reproach on you. Honor & virtue make enemies, condemning their opposites.

  3. In the year of the consulships of Cornelius Cossus & Asinius Agrippa, Cremutius Cordus was charged anew. He’d published a history praising Marcus Brutus & called Caius Caesar the last of the Romans. Accusers, Satrius Secunus & Pinarius Natta were Sejanus’s men, meaning that the accused was doomed. Tiberius watched Cremutius speak: “I am condemned of a crime I am completely innocent of. I am accused of treason but the definition of that, being related to the Emperor & his mother, as been completely twisted. I merely wrote about Brutus & Cassius with kind words. Titus Livius extolled Cneius Pompeius to the point where Augustus called him Pompeianus but he was not persecuted. Scipio, Afranius, Cassius, Brutus he did not call traitors & brigands, terms now applied to them by today’s historians, but called them illustrious men. Asinius Pollio & Messala Corvinus spoke highly of them & lived to a ripe old age in prosperity. Marcus Cicero praised Cato but was never tried by Caesar the dictator. The letters of Antonius, the harangues of Brutus railed against Augustus, falsely but urged with sarcasm. The poems of Bibaculus & Catullus are loaded with digs at Caesar. Augustus himself took all of this in stride. What is despised is soon forgotten. But when you recognize something that is true, you resent it.

  4. “The Greeks allowed this sort of writing without punishment, or they even returned the insults with satire. It has been open to us, without fear of censure, to speak of the dead. Are Cassius & Brutus still around causing problems? Am I charged with stirring up a civil war? They’ve been dead for nearly 70 years. Even Augustus didn’t destroy their statue out of respect for history. Posterity gives every man what is due to him. If I am to die, there will be some who’ll remember me as well as Cassius & Brutus.” He left the Senate & died of starvation. His books were to be burnt by the aediles but some copies were smuggled away & published later. It makes you laugh at how stupid some are who suppose the despotism of the present can destroy the memories of the next generation. Quite the opposite – persecution of genius fosters its influence. Foreign tyrants & those who imitate their oppression merely procure infamy for themselves & glory for their victims.

  5. That year had continuous prosecutions so badly that even on the day of the Latin festival, Calpurnius Salvanius made accusations against Sextus Marius. The emperor censured it & Salvanius was banished. The people of Cyzicus were accused of neglecting worship of Augustus & of acts of violence against Roman citizens. They were deprived of the franchise that they had earned for helping to repulse Mithridates. Then Fonteius Capito, ex-proconsul of Asia, was acquitted of a charge brought on him by Vibius Serenus because there was proof that the charges lobbed at him were nonsense. That didn’t stop Serenus – he was actually protected by public hatred. Any informer was considered inviolable. Only the insignificant & undistinguished were punished.

  6. At that time, Further Spain asked to build a temple to Tiberius & his mother. At this point, Tiberius had contempt for honors. He decided to give a speech responding to the rumors of his yielding to vanity: “I’m aware people have accused me of not opposing a similar proposal in Asia. I’ll explain myself. Augustus didn’t forbid a temple devoted to him & to Rome at Pergamus. I merely followed his example, seeing worship of myself as reverence for the Senate. It was all right to do once but it would be vain & arrogant to let every single province do it & all homage to Augustus will look like indiscriminate flattery.

  7. “Senators, I assure you that I am a mortal with functions limited to what’s human. I’m happy if I can fulfill this role. Posterity will honor my memory for being worthy of my ancestry, watching over your interests, courageous in danger & fearless of enmity, as the Senate requires of me. These feelings in your hearts are my temples & monuments. Those of stone are just tombs. All I ask in my final years is for a peaceful mind that can discern human & divine claims. When I die I’d like my career honored & my name be praised.” From that moment on, he showed disdain for homage paid to him – some say out of modesty, some say out of self-distrust, some say out of a weak spirit. It was said that the noblest men had the highest aspirations – Hercules & Bacchus with the Greeks, & Quirinus with the Romans, all had a place with the gods. Augustus exceeded his aspirations. All princes want a glorious memory. To despise fame is to despise merit.

  8. Sejanus was riding high at this point. Livia was demanding marriage with him. He addressed a petitioning letter to the emperor, lauding him but also asking for his permission to marry Livia. He still wanted to retain all his duties & power to further serve his friend & emperor.

  9. Tiberius wrote back, praising Sejanus’s loyalty but underlined his own responsibilities as emperor extended to looking after the public’s best interests. Livia was to decide for herself if she was ready to remarry. She had her mother & grandmother to advise her on that matter. Tiberius addressed Agrippina’s enmity flaring up if Livia’s marriage split the Caesar family in 2. The grandchildren already felt the strain as it was & a marriage of Livia to their father’s enemy would only make matters worse. Tiberius also warned Sejanus that Livia wouldn’t be happy with settling for a Roman knight. He was OK with it but it would definitely be a step down for Livia. Sejanus was warned to know his place & not overstep his station. He was  to accept his role & be happy just having friends in high places. Nothing was too big for Sejanus’s merits & if the matter of a place in the Senate came up for him, Tiberius would give him his blessing.

  10. Sejanus felt panic & heard rumors of his unpopularity around the city. He decided not to make matters worse by closing his doors to the public. He now thought it’d be best for Tiberius to live in a quiet spot far away from Rome. That way Sejanus would have exclusive access to the emperor & control all correspondence he’d get. Tiberius was already old & might continue living well if removed from the hustle & bustle of Rome. Then perhaps he’d hand over his power to him while he was away. Tiberius’s nominal power would be just a façade & Sejanus would be running the show.

  11. There was a trial of Votienus Montanus, a popular wit, who tried to convince Tiberius to avoid Senate assemblies. This was thrown back at him & he was charged with insulting expressions towards the emperor. The witness, Aemilius was eager to prove himself & would tell anybody who would listen to him about his his accusations. Votienus was found guilty of treason. Tiberius punished Aquila with exile for adultery with Varius Ligur. The emperor also stuck off Apidus Mercula’s name from the register of the Senate for not swearing allegiance to the legislation of the Divine Augustus.

  12. They heard envoys from the Lacedaemonians & Messenians regarding the Temple of Diana. The Lacedaemonians claimed it was dedicated by their ancestors & appealed to the records restored by Caius Caesar & Marcus Antonius. The Messenians claimed that Peloponnus was dividied between Hercules’s descendants, & the region of Denthalia went to their king. They provided loads of evidence to back that up. After many considerations, judgment was given in favor of the Messenians. Next, the people of Segesta asked for a restoration of the Temple of Venus at Mt. Eryx which was in ruins. Tiberius was charmed by a story claiming he was related to Venus – he gave the money for the temple. In discussion was a petition from Massilia (Marseille, France), using a precedent of a sanction given to Publius Rutilius who’d been banished to Smyrna & given citizenship there. Volcatius Moschus was in the same predicament vis à vis Massilia. He’d left his property in his will to Masillia & they wanted to make sure that Rome wouldn’t claim it instead.

  13. Cneius Lentulus & Lucitius Domitius died that year. Lentulus was once consul & had triumph over the Gaetuli. He lived virtuously in poverty & in wealth. Domitius got luster from his father who’d been a naval hero in the Civil War until he joined Antonius & then later Caesar. His grandfather died in the battle of Pharsalia, fighting for the aristocracy. He’d been chosen to marry the younger Antonia. He then led an army to the Elbe deeper into Germany than any Roman before. He was given a triumph for that. Lucius Antonius then died too. He was of a famous family that had fallen down on its luck. His father, Julius Antonius was killed for his adultery with Julia & the son was banished as a youth to Massilia. Honor was paid to him in death & his bones were laid in the Sepulchre of Octavii.

  14. A terrible crime occurred in Nearer Spain by a peasant of the Termestine tribe. After attack the praetor of the province, Lucius Piso, was traveling alone & was killed with a single sword wound. The peasant took his horse to a secluded wood but was soon found. He feared being tortured & giving up his friends, & screamed out that he’d never talk. He was tortured the next day. However, he managed to escape but bashed his head on a rock killing himself. It was believed Piso was killed by the tribe after he embezzled money from them.


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