Cornelius Tacitus

The Annals

Book IV: XXXIV-LVIII - Tiberius retires from Rome

Nemesis in the Vatican

‘Nemesis in the Vatican’
History of Rome and the Roman people, from its origin to the establishment of the Christian empire - Victor Duruy (1811 - 1894) (p778, 1884)
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Book IV:XXXIV The prosecution of Cremutius Cordus

With the consulate of Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa (AD25) came the trial of Cremutius Cordus on the new and previously unheard of charge of publishing a history that praised Marcus Brutus and described Gaius Cassius as the last of the Romans.

The accusers were Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta, followers of Sejanus. That fact was ruinous to the defendant, that and Tiberius’ frowning face as he heard the defence, which Cremutius, resolving to end his own life, began in this manner: ‘Senators Elect, my words have been condemned: I being innocent indeed as regards my actions. Yet they do not even refer to the emperor or his father, whom the treason laws address.

It is said that I praised Brutus and Cassius, whose deeds have been recorded by many, and of whom none have made mention without granting them honour. Titus Livy, with the highest reputation for truthfulness and eloquence, heaped such praise on Gnaeus Pompey that Augustus called him “the Pompeian”; yet it did not impair their friendship. Not once does he term Metellus Scipio or Lucius Afranius or that same Cassius or Brutus, brigands and parricides, the language now used, but time and again treats them as distinguished and heroic.

The writings of Asinius Pollio record their illustrious history; Messalla Corvinus praises his commander, Cassius: and both Pollio and Corvinus lived lives of wealth and honour. When Marcus Cicero praised Cato to the skies in his book, what did Caesar do but reply with a written oration, as though before the judges? Antony’s letters, Brutus’ speeches contain accusations, against Augustus, false though they may be yet bitter in the extreme; the poems of Marcus Furius Bibaculus, and of Catullus, which we read are crammed full of insults to the Caesars: yet the deified Julius, the divine Augustus themselves accepted it, and left them alone, whether due more to their restraint or their wisdom it is hard to say.

For things ignored are soon forgotten: if they rouse anger, that is seen as recognition.’

Book IV:XXXV Cremutius commits suicide

‘I omit the Greeks, among whom not only liberty but even licence went unpunished; or if a man responded he took revenge for words with words. But what was absolutely free and without censure, was to write of those whom death had placed beyond influence or hatred, and publish those writings.

Are Brutus and Cassius still armed and in the field at Philippi? Am I inciting the people by oratory to indulge in civil war? Or is it not the fact that seventy years after their removal from the scene, just as they are known by their statues which even the victor himself did not obliterate, so a partial memory of them survives in our writings? Posterity pays every man his due; nor if my conviction follows, will there be lacking those who may remember, not only Brutus and Cassius, but even I myself.’

Cremutius then exited the Senate House, and afterwards committed suicide by refusing sustenance. The Senate ordered the aediles to burn his writings, yet they survived, being hidden and re-published. Which grants us all the more freedom to deride the foolishness of those who think the present has the power to destroy the story of itself for succeeding ages. On the contrary, the authority of the talented grows by persecution, nor have foreign kings, or those who employ a like savagery, done more than bring disgrace to themselves and glory to the former.

Book IV:XXXVI Prosecutions galore

Moreover, the year saw such a rash of prosecutions, that during the Latin Festival when Drusus Julius, as urban prefect, mounted the tribunal to inaugurate his period of office, he was even approached by Calpurnius Salvianus with a suit against Sextus Marius: which elicited a public rebuke from Tiberius and led to Salvianus’ exile.

Also the community of Cyzicus (Erdek, Turkey) was charged with neglecting the rites of the divine Augustus, added to which was the crime of showing violence to Roman citizens. As a result they lost the freedom they had earned in the war with Mithidrates, when the town was besieged (74BC) and they repulsed the king as much by their own steadfastness as the protection afforded them by Lucullus.

Yet Fonteius Capito, who had held the proconsulship of Asia Minor, was acquitted, it being shown that the case against him was a fiction concocted by Vibius Serenus. Not that it harmed Serenus, however, who was rendered all the more secure by public odium, since the informer ever ready to strike was treated as if sacrosanct: it was the insignificant and lightly-defended who were burdened with punishment.

Book IV:XXXVII Proposal to erect a shrine to Tiberius and Livia

At about this time, south-west Spain (Hispania ulterior) sent a mission to the Senate asking to follow the example of Asia Minor by erecting a shrine to Tiberius and his mother Livia.

On this occasion, Tiberius, studiously disdainful of honours for himself, and convinced that an answer was needed to the gossip charging him with descent into vanity, began his speech in the following manner: ‘Senators Elect, I know that many see it as inconsistent in myself to refuse, given that I offered no opposition recently to the same request from the cities of Asia Minor. Therefore, I shall give a defence of my previous silence, and my guideline for the future.

Since the divine Augustus did not forbid the erection of a temple at Pergamum (29BC), dedicated to himself and the city of Rome, and since I myself treat his every word and action as having the force of law, I followed that example he had previously approved, because to the worship of myself was attached reverence for the Senate.

However though accepting the honour once might be excused, to be venerated in the image of a deity throughout all the provinces would show vanity, and pride. Also the honour shown to Augustus will soon evaporate, if it is debased by indiscriminate exhibitions of flattery.’

Book IV:XXXVIII Tiberius’ rejection of divine honours

‘For myself, Senators Elect, I call on you to witness, and I wish posterity to remember, that I am merely mortal, and perform a human role, and consider it sufficient to fill the highest office; for they will do justice enough and more to my memory, if they believe me worthy of my lineage, careful of your interests, steadfast in dangerous times, and unafraid of showing displeasure if it is for the public good.

Those are my temples, in your thoughts, those are my truest and most enduring likenesses. For the ones made of stone, should posterity’s judgement prove adverse, are scorned as mere sepulchres. Therefore I pray to our allies, citizens and the gods themselves: to the gods that they grant me, till the end of my life, a quiet mind and wise in the laws, human and divine; to humankind that, whenever I vanish, praise and kindly recollections may attach themselves to my actions and the tales associated with my name.’

And from then onward, even in private conversation, he persisted in a harsh rejection of such religious honours, which rejection some interpreted as modesty, many as diffidence, and a few as degeneracy of spirit. They argued that the most virtuous desire the highest place: thus Hercules and Dionysus among the Greeks, Quirinus among ourselves, were added to the divine pantheon. Better to be an Augustus, and cherish hopes; since all else comes instantly to princes, but for one thing they must work insatiably, to live favourably in memory; while to scorn fame is to disparage virtue. 

Book IV:XXXIX Sejanus seeks marriage with Livilla

Meanwhile Sejanus, made foolish by his great good fortune, and roused moreover by passion for a woman, Livilla now demanding the promised marriage, composed a petition to Tiberius, it being then the practice to address him in writing whenever he was at Rome. This was the form the petition took: owing to the benevolence of the emperor’s father Augustus, and then so many kind opinions expressed by Tiberius, he, Sejanus, had become accustomed to submitting his hopes and prayers as readily to the emperor’s ears as to those of the gods. He had never asked for the splendours of office: he would rather have done sentry-duty and laboured like the humblest soldier, to ensure the emperor’s safety.

And yet what a supreme height he had achieved, to be thought worthy of an alliance with a Caesar: this had awakened his hopes. And since he had heard that Augustus, when disposing of his daughter Julia, had considered even Roman knights to be of some account, then if a husband was sought for Livilla, Tiberius might bear in mind a friend whose only benefit from such a union would be the glory.

He did not seek to lay aside the duties imposed on him: it was enough, in his estimation, if his household was more strongly equipped to counter Agrippina’s unjustified displeasure, and that for his children’s sake; for, as to himself, whatever the term of years he might fulfil under such a prince, that would be life enough for him and more.

Book IV:XL Tiberius treats the request with coolness

To this Tiberius replied praising Sejanus’ devotion, touched lightly on his own benevolence towards him, while seeking time to reflect fully on the matter, adding: other men’s plans were made in regard to themselves, embodying whatever they thought was to their advantage; the task of emperors was otherwise, since their principal actions must take account of public opinion.

Therefore, he would not have recourse to the answer that readily suggested itself, that Livilla was free to choose whether to marry again after Drusus, or be content with her own house; and that to consult her mother and grandmother was more proper. He would respond more straightforwardly, firstly with regard to Agrippina’s hostility, which would blaze far more fiercely if Livilla’s marriage were to divide the House of Caesar into two warring parties. Even as things were, there were eruptions of female jealousy, and the discord upset his grandchildren: what then if such a marriage were to increase the feuding? ‘Indeed, Sejanus,’ he continued, ‘you are deluded if you think you can hold your present rank and that Livilla, who was wed to Gaius Caesar and then Drusus, will accept growing old beside a Roman knight.

Even if I agreed, do you believe it will be acceptable to those who witnessed her brother, her father, and our ancestors holding the highest office? You may wish, yourself, to remain in your current position: but those magistrates and notables who force themselves on you, without your wish, to consult you on all and sundry, do not hide their view that you long ago surpassed the heights of the equestrian order and the manner of friendship accepted by my father, and through envy of you they censure myself also.

Indeed, Augustus did consider bestowing his daughter on a Roman knight. Astounding, by Hercules, that distracted by every care, and given the immense distinction that would accrue to whomever he raise above his peers by so great an alliance, he yet still spoke of Gaius Proculeius and a few other such men, noted for the tranquility of their existence, and not at all involved in State affairs. But if we are to be influenced by Augustus’ consideration of that option, how much more relevant it seems that he that he later chose Marcus Agrippa for her, and then myself!

I have avoided replying obscurely, for friendship’s sake: moreover I shall not thwart your or Livilla’s intentions. I will resist speaking, for the present, of matters I have in mind, in which you and I might act together: so much however I will say, that no rank is too exalted for you to be unworthy of it, given your virtues and your devotion to myself, and at the appropriate time, either in the Senate or by public address, I shall not remain silent.’

Book IV:XLI Sejanus seeks to have Tiberius retire from Rome

In reply, Sejanus, now fearful not for the marriage but deeper issues, deprecated suspicions unspoken, the chatter of the crowd, and the attacks of the envious. Yet lest he weakened his power by shutting out those who flocked to his door, or by receiving them hand his detractors an advantage, he turned to this idea, to persuade Tiberius to spend his time in some pleasant location far from Rome.

For he foresaw many benefits: access would be his to command, and letters he could largely control since they were carried by his soldiers; Tiberius, already in his declining years and weakened by solitude, would soon be all the more ready to hand over the offices of empire, while his own unpopularity would lessen, with the end of his crowded receptions, and the reality of his power would grow by ceasing such inanities.

Gradually, therefore, he began to decry the burden of the city, its fretful populace, the streams of petitioners, while extolling the virtues of peace and solitude, free of tedium and conflict, where one’s greatest attention could be directed to the highest things. 

Book IV:XLII The trial of Votienus Montanus

And by chance, the trial at that time of Votienus Montanus, who was a man both talented and popular, forced Tiberius, who was wavering, to recognise that he must avoid the Senate House, and the host of voices openly assailing him, often with bitter truths. For during his indictment of Votienus, for speaking insultingly of Tiberius, his witness, Aemilius a military man, was so anxious to provide proof that he repeated the words in full and though surrounded by cries of protest struggled on manfully.

Tiberius heard these reproaches, whereby he was attacked in private, and such was the shock that he proclaimed he would refute them immediately or during the hearing, his disturbance of mind only being calmed by his friends’ entreaties and a universal show of adulation. Votienus himself suffered the penalty for treason.

Tiberius having been accused of inclemency towards defendants now showed all the more tenacity in his sentencing. Aquilia, indicted for adultery with Varius Ligus, he punished by exile, even though Lentulus Gaetulicus, the consul designate, had only found her guilty under the Julian Law; and he removed Apidius Merula from the list of senators, because he had not sworn his allegiance to the acts of the divine Augustus. 

Book IV:XLIII Various petitions

Next, an audience was granted to deputations from Lacedaemon and Messene, regarding their rights over the shrine of Diana Limnatis (Volymnos, near Artemisia, Greece), which the Lacedaemonians asserted as having been consecrated by their ancestors on their own land, according to historical record and poetic song, but had been taken from them by force of arms, during their war with Philip of Macedon, and later returned to them by a decision of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

The Messenians, in reply, referred back to the old division of the Peloponnese between the descendants of Hercules, saying that the Denthaliate district (on the western slopes of Taygetus) on which the sanctuary stood, had been yielded to their king; and inscriptions cut in the rock and on ancient bronze, were still extant. And if the poets and the annals were summoned as witnesses, theirs were the richer and more numerous; nor had Philip invoked merely force, but also the truth of the matter: the same judgement was reached by King Antigonus of Macedonia (in c221BC) and Mummius the Roman general; such was the verdict also of the state of Miletus when asked to arbitrate (135BC), and of Atidius Geminus, governor of Achaia. The decision was awarded to Messene.

The Segestans, also, requested restoration of the time-worn shrine of Venus on Mount Eryx (Sicily) recalling the familiar tale of its origin (Aeneid V:759) and thus delighting Tiberius. As a relation he willingly accepted the task.

Next, a petition from Massilia (Marseille) was considered, and approved on the example set by Publius Rutilius, whereby Rutilius, banished by law (92BC), had been granted citizenship of Smyrna. On the basis of this, the exile Vulcacius Moschus, having been admitted likewise, bequeathed his worldly goods to their state, as his adopted country.

Columns of the Temple of Neptune at Paestum

‘Columns of the Temple of Neptune at Paestum’
Constantin Hansen (Danish, 1804 – 1880)
The Met

Book IV:XLIV The deaths of Lentulus, Domitius and Antonius

There died, this year, the noble warriors, Gnaeus Lentulus and Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus.

Lentulus, besides his consulate and the triumphal honours gained against the Getae, was famed for a poverty steadfastly endured followed by great riches innocently acquired and employed with restraint.

Domitius was distinguished for a father who commanded at sea in the Civil War, until he joined Antony’s faction, and later that of Augustus (Octavian). His grandfather had fallen in the ranks of the nobles at Pharsalia. He himself was chosen to marry Antonia the Elder, Octavia’s daughter, and after crossing the Elbe with his army penetrated deeper into Germany than anyone before him, and achieved triumphal insignia for his exploit.

Lucius Antonius died also, he of noble but unfortunate birth. For not yet adolescent when Iullus Antonius, his father, was punished with death for adultery with Julia the Elder, Augustus banished Lucius, grandson of his sister Octavia the Younger, to Marseilles, where exile could be cloaked in the guise of study. Yet Lucius received an honourable funeral, and his bones were laid to rest in the tomb of the Octavii, by Senate decree.

Book IV:XLV The assassination of Lucius Piso in north-east Spain

During the same consulships, a dreadful crime was committed in north-eastern Spain (Hispania Tarroconensis) by a member of the rural tribe of the Termestines. Launching a sudden attack on the governor of the province, Lucius Piso, who was travelling with a lack of caution attributable to the current state of peace, he struck him dead with a single blow: then, after fleeing swiftly on horseback, the man later turned the animal loose on reaching wooded country and eluded chase in the rugged and pathless wilds.

He did not long evade capture: the horse was found and led round the neighbouring villagers till its ownership was established. On being taken, and tortured to ascertain his co-conspirators, he shouted out in his native tongue that they might question him in vain; his partners might stand and look on; force could deal no pain great enough to extract the truth.

And indeed, the next day, when he was dragged again to the torture, he struggled free of his captors and dashed his head against a rock, dying instantly. Still, it was thought that Piso was victim to a plot concocted by the Termestines, since public funds had been stolen and Piso was demanding repayment too insistently for the barbarians to tolerate.

Book IV:XLVI Poppaeus Sabinus awarded triumphal insignia – AD26

In the consulships of Lentulus Gaetulicus and Gaius Calvisius, triumphal insignia were awarded to Poppaeus Sabinus, for suppressing Thracian tribes, dwellers in the mountains, barbarous and so all the more bold in action. The motive of their uprising, beyond it simply being in their nature, was that they scorned to endure the military levies and devote all their strength to our service. Indeed they usually only obeyed their kings of their own free will, or if they sent warriors, were led by their own chieftains and fought only against neighbouring tribes.

And then there was a rumour doing the rounds that the tribes were to be broken up, transported to distant countries and dispersed among other peoples. Yet before taking to arms, they sent a deputation to reiterate their friendship and loyalty, which would be as before if new burdens were not imposed on them: while if they were proclaimed a conquered race of slaves, they had warriors and swords and spirits ready to seek freedom or death. Pointing out their rocky fastnesses, and the placing of their wives and parents there, they threatened a difficult, arduous and bloody war.

Book IV:XLVII How Sabinus countered the Thracian rebels

Sabinus, however, offered a bland response, till he could gather his forces, but once Pomponius Labeo had arrived from Moesia with a legion, and King Rhoemetalces II had brought up his native auxiliaries, whose allegiance had not altered, Sabinus added them to his existing men and moved against the enemy, who were concentrated now in the wooded gorges. Some, more bold, showed themselves on the open hillsides, from which the Roman general, advancing his forward line, drove them without difficulty, though refuge was so near that little barbarian blood was spilt.

After swiftly fortifying a camp on the spot, Sabinus, with a strong body of men, occupied a narrow unbroken mountain ridge running to the nearest native stronghold, which was held by a large force of armed men and irregulars. At the same time, he sent a picked band of bowmen to deal with the bolder characters who were leaping about, chanting and dancing their ceremonial dances, according to the custom of those tribes. The archers dealt wounds thick and fast, and with impunity, as long as they operated from a distance: but advancing closer they were troubled by a sudden attack and relied on the support of a Sugambrian cohort, whom the Roman general had positioned nearby, its men being alive to danger, and making no less savage a noise, given their own chanting and clashing of weapons. 

Book IV:XLVIII An enemy attack

The Roman camp was then re-established nearer the enemy, and our Thracian allies, whom I mentioned earlier, were left to man the previous defences. They had licence to lay waste, burn, and plunder, so long as their ravages were limited to daylight, and they spent the hours of night, secure and vigilant, in camp. This was adhered to initially: but then enriched by their haul, and indulging in pleasure, they abandoned their posts for wild banquets or to sprawl in drunken sleep.

The enemy, therefore, who were aware of their neglect of duty organised two columns, one to attack the plunderers, the other as a diversion to threaten the Roman camp, not in hope of capturing it, but so that, amidst the clamour and the missiles, every man, intent on his own predicament , might be deaf to the sound of the primary assault. Moreover darkness was chosen for the onslaught, to increase the panic.

But the attempt on the legion’s defences was easily repelled; though our Thracian auxiliaries were terrified by the sudden incursion, some being positioned adjacent to our ramparts, the majority scattered beyond, and were slaughtered the more ruthlessly, being branded as deserters and traitors armed to enslave themselves and their country.

Book IV:XLIX Sabinus lays siege to the Thracians

The next day, Sabinus paraded his troops on the plain, to see if the barbarians, elated by the night’s success, might venture to give battle. But after they failed to descend from their stronghold or the adjoining hills, he began a siege based on the defences he had, opportunely, already built; first constructing a ditch and parapet with a circumference of four miles; then gradually contracting his siege lines and reducing the enclosed space in order to deny the enemy water and forage, while raising the ramparts from which stones, spears and burning brands could be hurled at the now accessible foe.

But nothing demoralised the enemy as much as thirst, one remaining spring having to serve for a vast multitude of fighters and non-combatants; while at the same time their horses and cattle, penned up with them, as is the way with barbarians, were dying for lack of fodder; and beside them lay human corpses, dead of their wounds or thirst; everything polluted by blood, stench and infection.

Book IV:L Discord among the Thracians

The final evil adding to their confusion was internal discord, some arguing for surrender, others for mutual destruction and death; while others again argued against death without vengeance, championing a last sortie. Not only the troops differed in their views. Indeed one of their leaders, Dinis, advanced in age, and through experience long familiar with the power employed but also the clemency shown by Rome, urged them to lay down their weapons, their last recourse in adversity, and entrusted himself, his wife, and his children to the superior force. He was followed by those rendered defenceless by age or gender, and whoever valued life more than glory.

But the young warriors were drawn to Tarsa or Turesis, both committed to dying as free men. Tarsa, calling for a swift death, ending hope and fear alike, showed the way by plunging his sword into his own chest, and there was no lack of those who chose the same fate. Turesis, though, and his followers waited for nightfall, a fact of which our general was aware, and so our outposts were manned by stronger forces.

Night fell bringing heavy rain, and the enemy’s wild shouts followed by deathly silence troubled the besiegers, as Sabinus went about exhorting his men not to give the enemy an opportunity because of this confusing noise or feigned quiet; each should perform his role, without change of position, or hurling of missiles at false targets.

Book IV:LI Turesis defeated

Meanwhile the barbarian troops running forward, now hurled stones, fire-hardened stakes, and oak branches, at the ramparts, now filled the moat with brushwood, hurdles and lifeless corpses, while some with pre-fabricated bridges and ladders advanced against the turrets, grasping them, tearing them away, and struggling hand to hand with the defenders. Our soldiers dashed them down with their spears, repulsed them with their shield-bosses, hurling javelins from the walls with masses of heavy stone.

On our side lay hope of victory, and the greater shame if we yielded, on theirs the knowledge that this was a last chance for survival, many with wives and mothers nearby, their laments echoing in their ears.

Night cloaking the bravery of some, the fear in others; random blows, sudden wounds; the indistinguishability of friend and foe; the cries echoed by the mountain ravines as if at their backs, such that all was confusion, led some of the Romans to abandon their positions, thinking them taken; though only a few of the enemy penetrated in fact.

At first light, the rest, their bravest either dead or disabled, were driven back to their stronghold on the heights, where they were compelled to surrender. The neighbouring areas were occupied with the agreement of the inhabitants: the remainder were spared subjugation by attack or siege by the premature arrival of the usual savage winter among the Haemus mountains.

Book IV:LII The trial of Claudia Pulchra

In Rome, meanwhile, the imperial house had been stirred by the first of a series of events that led to Agrippina’s downfall, when Claudia Pulchra, her second cousin, was put on trial, Domitius Afer being her accuser. Fresh from a praetorship, of modest reputation but hastening to achieve fame by any means, he accused her of lewd behaviour, adultery with Furnius, and the preparation of poisons and charms against the emperor.

Agrippina, fierce as ever, and roused by the threat to her cousin, hurried to Tiberius at the moment he chanced to be sacrificing at the altar to his father, Augustus, which prompted the reproach from her that he should not, at the same moment, offer victims to the deified Augustus while persecuting his descendants. That divine spirit, she said, had not been turned to dumb stone: she, his true image, blood of his celestial line, knew of her danger, and had adopted mourning dress.

It was futile, she continued, to make Pulchra a pretext, the sole cause of whose ruin was that she had foolishly chosen to cultivate herself, Agrippina, while forgetful of Sosia’s fate, who was exiled for the same offence.

Her words produced one of the rare outbursts from that reticent spirit. Tiberius, seizing hold of her, admonished her in a line of Greek: did she think herself injured, simply because she might not reign supreme? Pulchra and Furnius were condemned.

Domitius Afer was added to the ranks of the great orators, his genius was recognised, and Tiberius’ endorsement followed, asserting him to be eloquent by right of nature. Later, whether conducting the prosecution or arguing for the defence he was indeed noted more for eloquence than morals, though old age robbed him of much of that eloquence, his mind gone, yet leaving him incapable of silence.

Book IV:LIII Agrippina asks Tiberius to help her marry again

But Agrippina, obstinate in her anger and suffering from physical illness, when visited by the Emperor, shed tears in silence for many moments, then began with reproaches and requests: he should put an end to her solitude, grant her a husband; she was still young enough, and the virtuous had no solace but in marriage; there were many in Rome who would wed with a scion of Augustus, the widow of Germanicus and mother of his children.

But Tiberius, not unaware of her motive in all this, and unwilling to show fear or displeasure, left her without an answer, despite her insistence.

This incident, not related by the historians, I found in the memoirs of her daughter, Agrippina the Younger, mother of the emperor Nero, who recorded her life and the events involving her family, for posterity.

Book IV:LIV Agrippina wary of being poisoned

Sejanus, moreover, she grieving still and unwitting, further unnerved her by sending his agents, to warn her, in the guise of friendship, that she might be poisoned, and to avoid her father-in-law’s table. But she, a stranger to pretence, seated at dinner next to Tiberius, her features and voice under strict control, touched none of the food until, by chance or prior information, Tiberius noticed, and to test her more keenly, praising the fruit before him, passed it to his daughter-in-law with his own hand.

This added to Agrippina’s suspicions, and she handed it to her servants without tasting it. Nevertheless, Tiberius did not comment publicly, but turning to his mother, Livia, remarked that it would hardly seem strange if he decided to treat that woman more severely who suspected him of poisoning her. Hence the rumour that her death was intended, and that since the emperor feared to effect it openly, a remote location was sought to perpetrate the deed.

Book IV:LV Debate regarding the location of a temple to Tiberius in Asia Minor

Tiberius, in order to avert criticism, frequented the Senate, and listened for several days to the emissaries from Asia Minor debating which of their cities should host his temple. Eleven cities competed for the honour, with equal ambition but disparate resources. With little distinction between them, each argued their nation’s antiquity, and their eagerness to support Rome during the wars with Perseus (168BC), Aristonicus (129BC) and various other kings.

Now, Hypaepa (Gunluce, Turkey) and Tralles (Aydin, Turkey), Laodicea (on the Lycus: Denizli, Turkey) and Magnesia (on the Maeander: Tekin, Turkey) were passed over as unequal to the task. Even Ilium (Hisarlik, Turkey), though it recalled Troy, the parent of Rome, held no significance except its glorious past.

There was some hesitation when Halicarnassus (Bodrum, Turkey) argued that no earthquake had troubled it for twelve hundred years, and that the foundations of the temple would be on solid rock. Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey) arguing against itself that there was a shrine to Augustus sited there, was thought to have been sufficiently honoured.

 Ephesus (Selcuk, Turkey) and Miletus (Balat, Turkey) were considered to be already preoccupied with the worship of Diana and Apollo respectively. The deliberations centred therefore on Sardis (Sart, Turkey) and Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey).

The Sardians read out a decree linking them by blood to the Etruscans: since Lydus and Tyrrhenus, sons of King Atys, had divided the nation, Lydus retaining the land of his fathers, Tyrrhenus being given the task of founding a new colony; and the two leaders gave their names to their territories in Asia Minor (Lydia) and Italy (Tyrrhenia) respectively. Lydia added further to its power, by sending colonists to that peninsula which later took its name from Pelops (the Peloponnese). They also mentioned letters from Roman generals, treaties signed with us during the Macedonian War, their copious rivers, temperate climate, and the richness of the surrounding country.

Book IV:LVI Smyrna is preferred

The emissaries from Smyrna, though also recalling their city’s antiquity, founded by Tantalus, the offspring of Jupiter, or by Theseus, himself of divine stock, or by one of the Amazons, continued by stating the facts in which they placed most confidence: their services to the Roman people, whom they had supported with naval forces, not only in foreign conflicts but also those suffered by Italy; and their primacy in erecting a temple dedicated to the city of Rome, when Marcus Porcius was consul (195BC) when the strength of the Roman people was indeed great though not yet at its zenith, for Carthage still stood, and the kings of Asia Minor were powerful.

They also proffered the testimony of Sulla, that with his army in extreme danger due to the severe winter and their lack of gear, as soon as the situation was publicly proclaimed in Smyrna, all who heard stripped the clothes from their bodies and sent them to the legions.

The Senate therefore judged in favour of Smyrna. Vibius Marsus then proposed that a supernumerary legate be assigned to Manius Lepidus, to whom that province was allocated, in order to be responsible for the temple. And since Lepidus modestly declined to make the selection, Valerius Naso, chosen by lot from among the praetors, was sent there.

Book IV:LVII Tiberius retires from Rome

Meanwhile, according to a plan long meditated yet often deferred, Tiberius finally departed for Campania, ostensibly to consecrate a temple at Capua to Jupiter, and a shrine at Nola to Augustus, but actually resolved to settle far from Rome.

As to the reason for his retirement, though I follow most historians in attributing it to Sejanus’ wiles, I am often induced to consider, given that he continued for six years after Sejanus’ execution in like isolation, whether it was actually his own doing, in order to seek concealment for the cruelty and lust his actions might reveal.

There are also those who think that in his old age he had become ashamed of his appearance: since he was very thin and stooping, with a scalp devoid of hair, and an ulcerous face often covered with plasters, while he had acquired the habit, when in seclusion at Rhodes, of avoiding company and proving secretive about his pleasures.

It is also said Livia’s temper drove him to exile, he being intolerant of her sharing power though unable to sever ties with her, since his own power had been received as a gift from her. For Augustus was hesitant as to whether he should place Germanicus, his sister Octavia’s grandson who was universally praised, at the head of Roman affairs, but persuaded by the pleas of his wife Livia, he adopted Tiberius (into his family the Julii), while Germanicus was in turn adopted by Tiberius. This Livia constantly reminded Tiberius of, while demanding he repay her.

Book IV:LVIII His self-exile

He departed with a small retinue, one senator, Cocceius Nerva, he being a legal expert and former consul; and one Roman knight, in addition to Sejanus, of the higher rank, Curtius Atticus; the rest being men of letters, mostly Greeks, by whose conversation he might be entertained.

Those knowledgeable in astrology declared, from the aspects of the planets, that Tiberius had left Rome never to return. This was a fatal judgement to many who concluded, and openly asserted, that his death was imminent, since they failed to foresee the unbelievable reality that he would absent himself from his native city, intentionally, for eleven years. It was soon to be revealed how limited and misleading is the realm of science, and in what darknesses the truth lies hidden, since only his non-return to Rome proved accurate: the rest showed lack of insight, for in the surrounding countryside, on the neighbouring beaches, often beneath the city walls themselves, he reached extreme old age.

End of the Annals Book IV: XXXIV-LVIII