Tacitus – The Annals, Book 6 – A.D. 32-37 – 1‑27 The purges after the fall of Sejanus.

  1. Cneius Domitius & Camillus Scribonius began their consulships when the emperor crossed the channel between Caprae & Surrentum, sailing along Campania, wondering if he should go into Rome or not. He often went nearby along the Tiber but hung around the cliffs & seashores, in shame of the vices he was into. He was into people of higher family status, rewarding the willing & threatening the reluctant – sometimes force & violence were used.

  2. At the beginning of the year in Rome, as if Livia’s crimes had just been discovered & not long ago punished, decrees were proposed against her statues & memory. The property of Sejanus was to be taken from the exchequer & put in the treasury. The motion was pushed through with urgency with language similar to that of Scipio, Silanus & Cassius when Togonius Gallus tried to insert himself into the motion. He begged the emperor to keep an armed guard of 20 men when he entered the Senate. He actually believed the man when he asked for consul protection between Caprae & Rome. Tiberius thanked the Senators for their concerned but felt life wasn’t worth it if he had to be guarded constantly.

  3. Junius Gallio suggested that Praetorian guard after their campaign was over to be permitted seats in the 14 rows of the theater. He was censured. Tiberius asked him what he had to do with the soldiers. Shouldn’t that order come from the emperor? Tiberius felt he was trying to sow discord in the form of a flattery & ruin military discipline. Gallio was expelled from the Senate & Italy. People complained his exile to Lesbos was too nice & he was dragged back to Rome & confined in officials’ houses. The emperor also dumped on the ex-praetor, Sextius Paconianus who was an inveterate snoop. He’d been a tool of Sejanus used against Caius Caesar. He may have even been sentenced to capital punishment if he hadn’t made a disclosure.

  4. He named Latinius Latiaris, who’d been crucial in the undoing of Titius Sabinus. & now he was in trouble. Haterius Agrippa laid into the previous year’s consuls for not doing anything after making threats of impeaching one another. Fear & guilty conscience were working together. Regulus replied he was waiting for vengeance & meant to do so in the emperor’s presence. Trio’s answer was that it was best to forget rivalry between colleagues & anything said in anger. When Agrippa persisted, ex-consul Sanquinius Maximus, ex-consul, begged them not to make the emperor nervous with spats. Regulus felt secure & Trio’s ruin was delayed Haterius was hated. He plotted even further.

  5. Several charges were brought against Cotta Messalinus, who’d had a history of proposing cruelties, now universally hated. He spoke flippantly about the manhood of Caius Caesar & spoke of Augusta’s birthday as a funeral banquet. In disputes with Marcus Lepidus & Lucius Arruntius, he often said they had the Senate’s support while he had his “darling Tiberius”. But he wasn’t convicted on all charges. He appealed to Tiberius & Tiberius said the whole matter was no crime at all.

  6. Tiberius’s letter started moaning about impending death & stating he didn’t know what or how to write to the Senate anymore. His crimes often recoiled on him. Philosophers say if the tyrant’s mind were laid bare, there would be gashes & wounds on his soul by the lust & evil thoughts. Tiberius wasn’t doing himself any favors in solitude & this anguish was still with him.

  7. The Senate was given authority in the case of Caecilianus, chief witness against Cotta. The same penalty was given to Aruseius & Sanquinius accusers of Lucius Arruntius. Cotta had been born to nobility but impoverished by extravagance. Now his revenge lifted him to a level with the stainless virtues of Arruntius. Then Quintius Servaeus & Minucius Thermus were arraigned. Servaeus was an ex-praetor & companion of Germanicus. Minucius was of equestrian rank & was friend to Sejanus. Tiberius denounced them as criminals & asked Caius Cestius to tell the Senate what he’d told him in a letter. Cestius was prosecutor. Senators even turned out to be informers. You couldn’t tell friend from foe, alien & family. People were incriminated for casual remarks. Many people censored themselves. Minucius & Servaeus were condemned. Julius Africanus & Scius Quadratus were dragged out likewise. Africanus was from Gaul. I’m not sure about Quadratus. Many authors skip topics like this because it’s hard to read or write about. I feel it should be mentioned.

  8. Roman knights, Marcus Terentius, when people hypocritically repudiated Sejanus’s friendship, dare to cling to it rather than deny the charge. He said nice things about him as a person & a soldier. But he said he had no role in Sejanus’s illegal behavior. He pointed the finger at the emperor because his son-in-law was carrying out his political functions. He preferred to think of the man as a whole & not as the final days of Sejanus’s life which were spent trying to overturn the government & the emperor.

  9. The courage of his speech & the fact he was saying what everyone was think lead to the accusers of Terentius were sentenced to banishment or death. Tiberius sent a letter against Sextus Vestilius, ex-praetor, & friend of Drusus. Tiberius had admitted him into his circle. He was angry with Vestilius about was that he’d written an attack on Caius Caesar as a profligate. Tiberius believed the charge to be false. Vestilius was kept from the prince’s table. He tried to slit his wrists without any luck. He did it again after begging forgiveness in a letter & getting a negative response. Then many more were tried for treason: Annius Pollio, Appius Silanus, Scaurus Mamercus, Sabinus Calvisius, Vinicianus & his father – men of distinction. The Senators were panicked because all of them had links to these men. Clasus save Appius & Calvisius from the danger. The emperor postponed some for later.

  10. Women weren’t exempt from this either. When not accused of grasping for political power, rears came in other ways. Vitia was executed for crying over her son’s death. Vescularius Atticus & Julius Marinus were 2 friends from Tiberius’s days in Rhodes. Vescularius was his agent in the plot against Libo & Marinus helped Sejanus ruin Curtius Atticus. That came back to haunt them. Lucius Piso, pontiff, died a natural death – a rare feat in that office. He’d never proposed servile motion. He proposed compromises in conflicts. His father had been a censor. He himself lived to be & won a triumph in Thrace. But he was best known to be pontiff.

  11. In olden times, when the kings or chief magistrates left Rome, an administrator was chosen to administer justice & deal with emergencies in his absence. It was said Denter Romulius was appointed by Romulus, Numa Marcius by Tullus Hostilius & Spurius Lucretius by Tarquinius Superbus. Later the consuls made the appointment. During the Latin Festival, they still go through the motions. During the Civil Wars, Augustus appointed Cilnius Maecenas, a Roman knight, to be in charge of Rome & Italy. As Augustus rose to power he got ex-consuls to rule over the rabble. First, it was Messala Corvinus, only keeping the job for a few days. The Taurus Statilius & then Piso. Piso was given a state funeral.

  12. Tribune of the people, Quintilianus, put forth a motion in the Senate, regarding a book of the Sibyl (Oracle). Member of the College of 15, Caninius Gallus, asked for a decree from the prophetess & have it added to the book. The motion was carried with controversy. But Tiberius sent a letter gently censuring him for this out of ignorance of youth. Tiberius scolded Gallus for allowing the motion in the first place, especially with his great experience with religious matters in the Senate, & in a Senate with poor attendance & without other members of the college providing an opinion. Many spurious productions had made in the past that should not have been made by private people. During the Social War, there searches throughout Samos, Ilium, Erythrae, & other colones for verses from the Oracle. The priests were tasked with distinguishing real verses from fake. Now the College of 15 scrutinized the book.

  13. In the same consulship high corn prices nearly cause revolution. People demanded freedom of speech towards the emperor, especially in the theater. This caused him to censure the magistrates for not suppressing the people. He also pointed towards corn-producing provinces & made a big deal out of the larger numbers of imports by him than Augustus but nothing was actually done to resolve the crisis.

  14. By the end of the year, Geminius, Celsus, Pompeius – Roman Knights – were charged with conspiracy. Geminius had been a bon vivant & Sejanus’s friend but not big result came. Celsus, a tribune, killed himself with his chains while in custody. Rubrius Fabatus, anticipating Rome’s fall, went to the Parthians. He was found near the Straits of Sicily. He remained free purely out of a clerical error & not out of mercy.

  15. In the consulship of Servius Galba & Lucius Sulla, the emperor, who’d appointed himself matchmaker for his granddaughters, selected Lucius Cassius & Marcus Vinicius. Vinicius was of provincial descent, born in Cales (in Campania). Both his father & grandfather had been consuls & the other side of his family was of equestrian rank. He had a good temperament & was very eloquent. Cassius was from an ancient plebian family in Rome. He was know more for his good nature than his diligence. They married Drusillia & Julia respectively, Germanicus’s daughters. He have vague reasons for his absence at the wedding & went on to deal with important matters. Due to his unpopularity, he kept a praetorian commander, Macro with him. But Tiberius never even approached the city walls.

  16. At this point, many accusers fell to a class of people who used usury in defiance of a law passed by Julius Caesar that defined the terms of lending money & holding estates in Italy. At this point, the law was obsolete because it was clearly against the public good & mostly used for private interests. Usury had long been the source of edition & discord in Rome & was therefore repressed. The 12 Tables banned anything over 10%. Then the Senate reduced it to 5% & compound interest was banned. But somehow it was still happening. Gracchus, praetor, under whose jurisdiction it was, felt compelled to refer it to the Senate because of the numbers affected. The Senate referred it to Tiberius & he gave everyone 18 months to get right with the laws.

  17. There was a scarcity of money & a shock to all credit arrangements. Most of the coins were locked up in the imperial treasury or public exchequer. To combat this, the Senate directed every creditor must have 2/3 of his capital secured in Italian estates. Creditors had been suing for full payment & it was unseemly for people to break faith when sued. The praetor’s court was teeming with applications & entreaties. The very device intended as a remedy, sale & purchase of estates, proved the opposite. The creditors were now hoarding land. Market prices started to fall. The deeper a man was in debt, the more reluctant he was to part with his property. Many were ruined. Once people’s private wealth collapsed, their rank & reputation followed. The emperor put 100 million sesterces into banks to help with liquidity & allowing freedom to borrow interest-free, so long as the borrower provided a guarantee of land to the state of double the value of the loan. Credit was restored & private lenders came forward again. Buying of lands was not carried out according to the letter of the law. It was done with rigor at first & then becoming negligent.

  18. Then a charge of treason came forth for Considius Proculus. On his birthday, he was brought into the Senate, condemned & instantly put to death. His sister, Sancia, based on the accusation of Quintus Pomponius, who claimed to be able to sell access & favor to the Emperor, which she tried to use to save her other brother, Pomponius Secundus. Pompeia Macrina was also banished. Her husband, Argolicus & father-in-law, Laco, both of Achaia, had been ruined by Tiberius. Her father, a knight, & brother, ex-praetor, killed themselves. They had their great-grandfather’s crime (Theophanes of Mitylene) of being friends with Pompey the Greek & paying him honors.

  19. The richest man in Spain, Sextius Marius, was accused of incest with his daughter & thrown head first from the Tarpeian Rock. To prove that the man’s wealth had been the cause of this, Tiberius confiscated his gold mines for himself, even though they’d been forfeited to the state. Now Tiberius had executions one after another of those accused of being Sejanus’s friends. Innumberous deaths were brought about – sex, age, status – nothing made any difference. Their family were not allowed to go near them, weep over them or even look at them longer than a glance. Spies were sent to record the reactions of mourners & the whereabouts of the bodies until they were dragged into the Tiber. Burials or burnings were banned. Terror had extinguished any sense of human fellowship. Pity was pushed aside by the rise of cruelty.

  20. Caius Caesar accompanied his grandfather, Tiberius, in his retirement in Caprae & he married Marcus Silanus’s daughter, Claudia. He had a savage temper but it hid it behind a guise of self-restraint. He didn’t bat an eye at his mother’s doom or the banishment of his brothers. He copied Tiberius’s moods & language. Orator Passienus remarked there’d never been a better slave or worse master. One day while speaking to Servius Galba, then consul, Tiberius predicted he’d be emperor.

  21. Whenever he wanted advice, he’d got to the roof & held confidence in a strong but illiterate freedman. The man always walked in front of the one whose brain Tiberius wanted to pick. If Tiberius suspected the subject of any funny business, the strong man would throw him over the cliffs. He once threw an astrologer who made the prediction of the subject’s treachery over the cliff to keep the whole matter a secret. Thrasyllus was led into this situation but he saw the danger of telling Tiberius a real predication & told him he’d have a longer tenure as emperor. But Tiberius pressed him harder until he cracked & told him of impending doom. Tiberius thanked him & felt safe, keeping Thrasyllus in his retinue.

  22. I withhold judgment on the idea if it’s destiny that rules human affairs. You read conflicting theories from the wisest of the ancients & their followers. Some say heaven doesn’t care about humanity & therefore the bad suffer as much as the good & the good are just as happy as the bad. Others say fate & events are linked – maybe not directly determined by the stars but are determined by prior evens or a combination of natural causes. But either way, we have the  capacity to choose our own lives & once the choice has been made, there’s a fixed sequence of events. Good & evil aren’t what vulgar opinions say of them. Many facing adversity are happy & many in affluence are miserable. The first group must face their problems with patience. The latter group waste their prosperity. Most men can’t imagine each person’s future not being fixed at birth. To them, things only vary because the prophets are are flawed in their abilities… I’ll talk of how Thrasyllus’s son predicted Nero’s reign in due course.

  23. That year, we learned of Asinius Gallus’s death. He died of starvation but it’s not clear if it was forced or out of choice. Tiberius wouldn’t allow proper burials & claimed he hied before his inevitable conviction. But 3 years had passed between his arrest & his death. Then Drusus (Germanicus’s son) died after 8 days of no food. Some say Macro had been instructed to have Drusus was to be rescued from an armed revolt by Sejanus & later was seen as a conspirator along with his mother, Agrippina.

  24. Tiberius even reviled him after his death, taunting him with abominations, trying to ruin his family. He had a daily journal of his sayings & doings to be read in public. Spies had been taking notes for years for his grandfather, Tiberius, to read. Letters from Attius & Didymus listed names of the slaves who had beaten Drusus as he was leaving his room. Attius added his dying words, cursing Tiberius – that he had his daughter-in-law, nephew & grandchildren killed & filled his house with bloodshed, & that his name would be ruined forever for that. The Senate were stunned by these readings, especially by Drusus’s last words.

  25. Grief had not yet died down, when news got out about Agrippina. She’d survived Sejanus’s destruction but the horrors didn’t stop. It might be that she refused to eat or perhaps that’s just the official story made up. Either way, Tiberius laid out invectives against her – accusing her of unchastity & having an affair with Asinius Gallus & then killing herself after his death. What is known is that Agrippina loved to domineer others, unlike the typical woman. Tiberius remarked that she died 2 years to the day after Sejanus died for his crime. He noted that at least she’d not been strangled & thrown down the Gemonian steps. The Senate thanked him & voted the date of her death, October 19th, be a day of thanksgiving to Jupiter.

  26. Soon afterwards, Cocceius Nerva, Tiberius’s constant companion, although he was in no political danger, resolved to die. Tiberius begged him not to, saying it would look bad on his conscience & reputation if his friends were to kill themselves without reason. Nerva ignored him & stopped eating food. Some close to him said he knew too much of the horrible goings-on & couldn’t stand to watch & chose the only honorable way out. Agrippina’s ruin brought Placina with it. She was ex-wife to Cneius Piso – who had exulted in Germanicus’s death – & had been saved by Augusta’s intercession. Justice eventually caught up to her & she killed herself sooner than to be executed later.

  27. Rome was also saddened by Drusus’s daughter, Julia, marriage to a humbler family of Rubellius Blandus. At the end of the year, Aelius Lamia died. After being released from being governor of Syria, despite never actually going there, he’d been made city prefect. He had a censor’s funeral. On the death of Flaccus Pomponius, propraetor of Syria, a letter from Tiberius was read complaining the best men for the job had declined the position & was forced to ask ex-consuls to take jobs in the provinces. He’d forgotten Arruntius had been kept at home for 10 years at this point & might not go to Spain. Marcus Lepidus also died that year – but we have already discussed him a lot earlier.


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