Tacitus – The Annals, Book 5: 29-31 AD – The death of the dowager Empress Livia

Tacitus – The Annals, Book 5: 29-31 AD – The death of the dowager Empress Livia.

  1. In the consulship of Rubellius & Fufius (both of Geminus family), Augusta died at a very old age. She was born into the Claudia family & was adopted by a Livia & a Julia, uniting the noblest blood in Rome. Her first marriage was to Tiberius Nero who had been an exile during the Perusian War & came back to Rome when peace was concluded between Sextus Pompeius & the triumvirs. Augustus Caesar was enamored with her & took her away from her husband. It’s unclear if she wanted that or not. He brought her back to his house already pregnant & with no time to settle in. She never had another child, as she was allied through marriage with Agrippina & Germanicus due to the fact that their children were Augustus’s great grandchildren. She was more gracious of a woman than women of the old days. She was an amiable wife & domineering mother. She played a role in her husband’s rule & her son’s tricks. According to her wishes, her funeral was simple & her will was unexecuted for a long time. Her great grandson Caius Caesar gave her panegyric.

  2. Tiberius changed nothing about his life. He used the pressure of business as an excuse not to go to the funeral. He cut short the honors the Senate wanted to give her & allowed now religious worship for her as she requested. In his letter, he scoffed at friendships with females as a dig at Fufius who had become good friends with Augusta & only rose in stature because of her. Fufius did well with the ladies – he was witty & often mocked Tiberius, something Tiberius would never forget.

  3. This was the beginning of an unmitigated despotism. While Augusta was alive, Tiberius obeyed her & Sejanus didn’t dare suggest Tiberius should disrespect her authority Now she was dead, they were free to reign over people. A letter was sent, directed against Agrippina & Nero. Rumor had it that Augusta made Tiberius hold the letter back as it was written a while before. He suggested that Nero had unnatural passions. He censured Agrippina’s insolent talk & defiant spirit. Most of the Senate didn’t dare say a word about the matter. But Cotta Messalinus gave a savage speech. But Tiberius left all matter hanging in the air.

  4. One Senator, Junius Rusticus was appointed by the emperor to register the Senate debates for him. He was supposed to have insight into what Tiberius wanted to know. The man, either stupidly or extremely bravely, warned the Senators not to debate things because he was recording them & sending them off to Tiberius. He said the highest issues turned on trivial causes & Tiberius might regret the fall of Germanicus’s house. Some people brought in images of Nero & Agrippina into the Senate & shouted that Tiberius’s letter was a forgery. They said he would never bring ruin to his own family. Fictitious speeches about Sejanus were bring published under the names of ex-consuls but in reality, they were anonymous. This pissed Sejanus off & claimed that the Senate had disregard for the emperor’s words, & that people were in revolt. To him, all that remained was for them to take up arms & choose sides in a Civil War.

  5. The emperor repeated what he’d said about his grandson & daughter-in-law & reprimanded the public. He complained to the Senate that imperial dignity had been publicly flouted by one Senator’s tricks & insisted the matter be decided by him. The Senate declared they were prepared for vengeance but were only restrained by the emperor. [THE REST OF THE SECTION – 3 YEARS OF ANNALS ARE LOST IN TIME LIKE TEARS IN THE RAIN].

  6. … 44 speeches were given on this topic – some out of hear, some out of flattery [SECTION MISSING]. “There’s now a change of fortune & even the one who chose Sejanus as his colleague & son-in-law excuses his mistake. The rest, who’d encouraged him through baseness, now revile him. I can’t tell what’s worse – being accused of being someone’s friend or having to accuse a friend. I won’t put anyone’s compassion or cruelty to the test. But anticipate danger with my clear conscience. I ask you to cherish my memory with joy & not sorrow & putting me with those who died nobly to escape the misery.”

  7. He stayed with those friends & spent the rest of the day chatting. They all looked at his fearless face, imagining there was still time before he’d fall on his own sword he had hidden under his robe. The emperor let up on him after he died, no accusation or reproach but did heap charges on Blaesus.

  8. Next up were the cases of Publius Vitellius & Pomponius Secundus. Vitellius was charged by accusers of having offered the keys of the treasury & the military chest to help a revolution. Considius, ex-praetor, was accused of being in leauge with Aelius Gallus, who’d fled to the Gardens of Pomponius after Sejanus’s punishment. They had no resources but the moral support of their families. After several adjournments, Vitellius became sick of the persecution & stabbed himself with a penknife & died later. Pamponius dealt with his problems bravely & outlived Tiberius.

  9. It was next decided to punish Sejanus’s children but the populace’s fury was starting to die down & were appeased by previous executions. The kids were carried off to prison. The boy was aware of his doom but the girl had no clue what was going on. She promised whatever she’d done, she wouldn’t do it again. Historians of the time tell us, as there was no precedent for capital punishment of a virgin, the executioner violated her while the rope was around her neck. They were killed & their bodies were thrown down the Gemonian (Stairs of Mourning).

  10. At the same time, Asia & Achaia were alarmed by a prevailing rumor that Drusus, Germanicus’s son, had been seen in the Cyclades & the mainland. There was in fact some man of Drusus’s description running around but Tiberius’s men decided to investigate by getting close to him. The story was that Drusus had escaped from custody & was traveling with his father’s armies, intending to invade Egypt or Syria. It was also said he was collecting quite a large number of men when Poppaeus Sabinus heard of this. He was mostly in Macedonia but was also in charge of Achaia. He wasn’t sure if it was true but passed through Greece to the Roman colony of Nicopolis. There he learned the man was the son of Marcus Silanus & was headed towards Italy by boat. Sabinus sent word to Tiberius. Nothing more was known about this incident.

  11. At the end of the year, a feud broke out between the consuls. Trio was a reckless man & an experienced lawyer. He indirectly censured Regulus for being helf-hearted in the crushing of Sejanus. Regulus was usually quiet unless provoked. In this case, he repulsed the attack & went on the offensive, trying to put him on trial as an accomplice in the conspiracy. Other Senators tried to clam them down but the feud went on.


Author: knowit68

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