Group 2: Tacitus (2018/19)


Annals I

3-7, 11-14, 46-49 (Latin)
31–45 (English)


A Level Group 2 text 2018-19

Tiberius, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne



ceterum Augustus subsidia dominationi Claudium Marcellum sororis filium admodum adulescentem pontificatu et curuli aedilitate, M. Agrippam, ignobilem loco, bonum militia et victoriae socium, geminatis consulatibus extulit, mox defuncto Marcello generum sumpsit; Tiberium Neronem et Claudium Drusum privignos imperatoriis nominibus auxit, integra etiam tum domo sua. nam genitos Agrippa Gaium ac Lucium in familiam Caesarum induxerat, necdum posita puerili praetexta principes iuventutis appellari, destinari consules specie recusantis flagrantissime cupiverat. ut Agrippa vita concessit, Lucium Caesarem euntem ad Hispanienses exercitus, Gaium remeantem Armenia et vulnere invalidum mors fato propera vel novercae Liviae dolus abstulit, Drusoque pridem extincto Nero solus e privignis erat, illuc cuncta vergere: filius, collega imperii, consors tribuniciae potestatis adsumitur omnesque per exercitus ostentatur, non obscuris, ut antea, matris artibus, sed palam hortatu. nam senem Augustum devinxerat adeo, uti nepotem unicum, Agrippam Postumum, in insulam Planasiam proiecerit, rudem sane bonarum artium et robore corporis stolide ferocem, nullius tamen flagitii conpertum. at hercule Germanicum ortum Druso inposuit octo legionibus apud Rhenum adscirique per adoptionem a Tiberio iussit, quamquam esset in domo Tiberii filius iuvenis, sed quo pluribus munimentis insisteret. bellum ea tempestate nullum nisi adversus Germanos supererat, abolendae magis infamiae ob amissum cum Quintilio Varo exercitum quam cupidine proferendi imperii aut dignum ob praemium. domi res tranquillae, eadem magistratuum vocabula; iuniores post Actiacam victoriam, etiam senes plerique inter bella civium nati: quotus quisque reliquus qui rem publicam vidisset?

Meanwhile, as supports for his power, Augustus advanced Claudius Marcellus, his sister’s son, very much a youth, with a priesthood and curule aedileship, and Marcus Agrippa, ignoble in status but good at soldiering and his partner in victory, with double consulships, then took him on as son-in-law when Marcellus died; he honoured his step-sons Tiberius Nero and Claudius Drusus with titles of “imperator,” even though at that time his own house was undiminished. For he had taken the offspring of Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius, into the household of the Caesars, and though the praetexta of boyhood had not yet been put aside, he had desired most ardently that they were called “Leaders of the Youth” and designated consuls, with the pretence of being reluctant. When Agrippa had departed from life, Lucius Caesar, as he went to the armies of Spain, and Gaius, as he was returning from Armenia and frail due to a wound, a quick, natural death carried off, or the trickery of their stepmother Livia, and since Drusus had perished long ago, Nero alone was left of the stepsons, to whom everything turned: he was adopted as a son, as a colleague in empire and a partner in the tribunician power, and he was paraded through all the armies, not by the dark arts of his mother, as before, but openly with her encouragement. For she had bound fast the elderly Augustus to such an extent that he banished to the island of Planasia his only grandson, Agrippa Postumus, no doubt raw in terms of good qualities and stupidly insolent with regards to his bodily strength, nevertheless guilty of no outrage. Yet, by Hercules, Germanicus, the son of Drusus, he appointed to the command of eight legions on the Rhine and ordered to be recognised through adoption by Tiberius, even though there was a young son in the house of Tiberius, but so that he might rest on more defences. At this time no war remained except against the Germans, more to wipe out the disgrace due to the army lost with Quintilius Varus than through a desire of expanding the empire or due to a worthy prize. At home things were calm, there were the same titles for the magistrates; the younger men were born after the Actian victory, even most of the old men were born during the wars of the citizens: how many were left who had seen the Republic?

dominationi – an exceptionally loaded word to describe Augustus’ power, cognate with dominus and implying a master/slave relationship between the princeps and his subjects.

Portrait of Marcellus (27 BC-14 CE), nephew of August. Marble, Roman artwork, ca 25 BC

Claudius MarcellusMarcellus was the eldest son of Augustus’ sister, Octavia Minor, and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Minor. He was Augustus’ closest male relative and married his own cousin, Julia, Augustus’ daughter in 25 BC. He enjoyed rapid promotion which was taken as a sign that he was the preferred successor. He fell ill and died in 23 BC, aged just 19 years old. He was famously celebrated in the Aeneid (VI.860ff.).

sororis filium – the frank mention of the relationship, with sororis promoted, hints at Tacitus’ disapproval of how power was now being transferred: not even from father to son, as would usually happen in the case of a monarchy, but via a mere sister’s son.

admodum adulescentem – “very much a youth.” More disapproval, perhaps enhanced by the alliterative sound.

aedilitate – Traditionally, the aedileship was open to candidates aged 36 or over. Marcellus received it the year he died, aged 19. A successful term as aedile was a golden opportunity to win public recognition and support. His appointment as pontiff (an important religious role) added to his extraordinary elevation.

Portrait of M. Vipsanius Agrippa of the Gabii type. Marble, ca. 25–24 BC. From Gabii.

Marcus AgrippaAgrippa played a major role in Augustus’ victories against Sextus Pompeius and Antony. He was invited to marry Augustus’ daughter, Julia, after the death of Marcellus.

ignobilem loco – “ignoble in his status.” A criticism: Agrippa did not come from a prominent Roman family.

bonum militia – “but good at soldiering.” The asyndeton provides contrast with ignobilem loco, however bonum appears pointedly understated.

victoriae socium – “partner in his victory,” i.e. the defeat of Cleopatra and Antony at Actium in 31 BC.

geminatis consulibus – “with twin consulships,” i.e. with consecutive consulships (in 28 and 27 BC). It was very rare to hold the consulship for two successive years, a fact emphasised by the unusual expression geminatis.

Tiberium Neronem – the future emperor, Tiberius; Drusus (“the Elder”) was his brother, and both were sons of Livia by her former marriage.

imperatoriis nominibus – the title of imperator was traditionally accorded to victorious generals by their soldiers. This is not the same usage as the praenomen Imperatoris which was assumed by Julius Caesar and many of the emperors.

integra domo sua – ablative absolute. Augustus’ household (domo) was already full (integra) because he had adopted his grandchildren, the sons of Agrippa. etiam here is concessive (“even though”) and emphasises Augustus’ anxiety to ensure succession.

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: cast of a portrait of Caius Caesar, grandchild and adoptive son of Augustus.  Rome, Ara Pacis museum: cast of a portrait of Lucius Caesar, grandchild and adoptive son of Augustus.

Gaium ac LuciumGaius and Lucius, the sons of Agrippa and Julia, were adopted by Augustus in 17 BC.

puerili praetexta – the toga praetexta was worn by boys until the age of about 15 years old. After this they would wear the toga virilis. Tacitus exaggerates the young age of the boys with necdum, since the honours would have been conferred at the ceremony itself.

principes iuventutis – “leaders of the youth.” The title has echoes of Augustus’ own, thus marking these youths out for succession.

specie recusantis – “pretending to be reluctant.” Dissimulation is a recurrent theme in the Annals, and species appears often to convey political hypocrisy. According to Dio (LV 9.2), the people wanted to elect Gaius as consul in 6 BC, but Augustus refused. Tacitus implies that this was to reserve him and his brother for greater honours the following year.

flagrantissime cupiverat – a powerful hyperbole, and a stock metaphor for lust, implying immorality on the part of Augustus.

principes … appellari … destinari … consules – a chiasmus.

mors fato – “a natural death.” Lucius died in 2 AD, Gaius in 4 AD.

novercae Liviae dolus – “the trickery of their stepmother Livia.” The “evil stepmother” is a trope used often by Tacitus (cf. Agrippina the Younger, for instance), probably at the expense of historical accuracy. Note that the later position of this theory gives it greater emphasis.

The Drususstein, the funerary monument in Mogontiacum (Mainz) erected by legionaries in Drusus' honour.Bust of Nero Claudius Drusus, in the Capitoline Museums, Rome

Druso … extincto – Tacitus uses several different terms for death in this long sentence, creating variety and sustaining interest. Drusus, Tiberius’ younger brother, died in 9 BC, after falling from his horse in Germany.

Nero – i.e. Tiberius (Claudius Nero), but using just this part of his name is both evocative (of the divisive fourth Roman emperor) and provocative.

illuc cuncta vergere – “on whom everything rested.” A short, striking phrase which highlights the collapse of Augustus’ plans for succession. cuncta contrasts strongly with solus.

Miller makes a very useful comment here: ‘This sentence shows in miniature Tacitus’ ‘affective’ use of language. His facts are correctly stated, but by using archaic and poetic words (remeantem, cuncta, uergere), unusual constructions (mors fato propera, illuc), a rhetorical commonplace (nouerca, the ‘cruel stepmother’) and an insinuating alternative (uel … Liuiae dolus) he produces, by association, an atmosphere of romance, pathos and mystery to surround the facts and affect our interpretation of them. It is extremely improbable that Livia (the ‘stepmother’ of Gaius and Lucius since Augustus had adopted them) had anything to do with their deaths.

filius … collega … consors – Tiberius was adopted by Augustus in 4 AD, when he also had his tribunicia potestas renewed for ten years (it was originally conferred on him in 6 BC). He did not become co-ruler with Augustus until 13 AD. Note how Tacitus groups all these events together, despite their chronology, for maximum impact.

non obscuris artibus … sed palam hortatu – The contrast underlines how Livia no longer needs to disguise her ambitions for her son now that all his immediate rivals are dead. obscuris artibus is very sinister, suggestive of dark arts or black magic. Note the unusual grammar of palam hortatu, where palam is effectively being used an adjective to describe hortatu, a noun effectively acting as a verb, drawing further attention to Livia’s boldness.

devinxerat – “she had bound fast” – a powerful verb to describe Livia’s manipulation of her aged (senem) husband.

Agrippam PostumumPostumus was the youngest of the three sons of Marcus Agrippa and Julia (the others being Gaius and Lucius), born after the death of his father in 12 BC, exiled by Augustus in 7 AD and killed by Tiberius in 14 AD (Chapter 6). According to most accounts, including Tacitus, he was aggressive, rude and a liability.

nepotem unicum – the relationship comes before Postumus’ name is even mentioned, emphasising how much influence Livia, who once again receives unsubstantiated blame, had over Augustus.

Aerial view of Pianosa.

Planasiam – A small, rocky island off the west coast of Italy, 9 miles south west of Elba; now called Pianosa.

proiecerit – ‘[the perfect] presents what happened more sharply than [the imperfect] proiceret’ (Goodyear).

rudem … artium … corporis … ferocem – a chiasmus is used to convey Postumus’ less desirable qualities.

rudem bonarum artium – “raw in terms of good qualities,” i.e. of poor character.

ferocem – (here) “confident.”

Bust of Germanicus. Marble, copy of the archetype created on the occasion of the adoption of Germanicus by Tiberius in 4 CE. From Córdoba, Spain.

at hercule – the extraordinary exclamation conveys Tacitus’ strong approval both that Germanicus was so honoured and that Livia’s plans against him failed.

adscirique per adoptionem a Tiberio iussit – Tiberius was ordered to adopt Germanicus in 6 BC. adsciri is a very rare word, thus it draws attention to the significance of this particular adoption.

Portrait of Julius Caesar Drusus (13 BC–23 CE).

filius iuvenisDrusus the Younger. His death in 23 AD is dealt with in detail by Tacitus in Book IV of the Annals. Tiberius may well have been offended by being forced to adopt when he had a son of his own.

insisteret – either Augustus or Tiberius could be the subject of this verb. If taken as Augustus, which seems more likely, it supports the view that the adoption of Germanicus impinged on Tiberius’ ambitions for his own son, and pluribus munimentis would indicate further steps taken by Augustus to bolster the paths of succession.

ea tempestate – “at that time.” ‘tempestate is archaic and poetical’ (Miller).

abolendae infamiae – “(a war more) of disgrace needing to be wiped out.” This unusual genitive of the gerundive, a descriptive genitive (according to Furneaux and Goodyear), highlights the vengeful nature of the fighting on the German front, as does the promotion of abolendae. The variation of expression (variatio) of abolendae … cupidine … ob praemium makes this sentence stand out to the reader.

Battle of Teutoburg Forest, by Otto Albert Koch (1909).

Quintilio Varo Publius Quinctilius Varus lost three Roman legions when ambushed by Germanic tribes in 9 AD in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, after which he killed himself.

res tranquillae – “things were peaceful” (supply erant). Seemingly complimentary of the regime, but immediately undermined by the rest of the sentence and the following chapters: there was no unrest because the power of the senate and the people had been annihilated by Augustus.

eadem magistratuum vocabula – “the same titles of the magistrates.” It was the essence of Augustus’ policy to preserve or revive the forms of ancient titles and institutions (only the censorship was dropped). In reality, they were meaningless.

A baroque painting of the battle of Actium by Laureys a Castro, 1672. National Maritime Museum, UK.

Actiacam victoriam – Victory at the Battle of Actium, fought on 2 September 31 BC, left Augustus in sole charge of Rome.

iuniores – i.e. men under 45 years old (since Actium was in 31 BC and Augustus died in 14 AD).

bella civium – Rome was engulfed in civil war from Julius Caesar’s march on Rome in 49 BC until the end of the Sicilian Revolt in 36 BC. Although the senes of 13/14 AD would have had some recollection of periods of relative peace, almost none would remember a time of a properly functioning Roman republican system. bella civium is a striking variant of the more usual bella civilia.

quotus quisque reliquus qui – literally “each man remaining was what number who … ?” i.e. “How many men were left who … ?” The alliteration adds to the effect of the rhetorical question (to which the answer is: ‘Very few!’).

rem publicam – i.e. the republican system of government which survived more or less intact from 509 BC until the second half of the 1st century BC.

Annals I.3 Quiz

Portrait of M. Vipsanius Agrippa of the Gabii type. Marble, ca. 25–24 BC. From Gabii.


igitur verso civitatis statu nihil usquam prisci et integri moris: omnes exuta aequalitate iussa principis aspectare, nulla in praesens formidine, dum Augustus aetate validus seque et domum et pacem sustentavit. postquam provecta iam senectus aegro et corpore fatigabatur aderatque finis et spes novae, pauci bona libertatis in cassum disserere, plures bellum pavescere, alii cupere. pars multo maxima inminentes dominos variis rumoribus differebant: trucem Agrippam et ignominia accensum non aetate neque rerum experientia tantae moli parem, Tiberium Neronem maturum annis, spectatum bello, sed vetere atque insita Claudiae familiae superbia, multaque indicia saevitiae, quamquam premantur, erumpere. hunc et prima ab infantia eductum in domo regnatrice; congestos iuveni consulatus, triumphos; ne iis quidem annis quibus Rhodi specie secessus exulem egerit aliquid quam iram et simulationem et secretas libidines meditatum. accedere matrem muliebri inpotentia: serviendum feminae duobusque insuper adulescentibus qui rem publicam interim premant quandoque distrahant.

Therefore, with the condition of the state revolutionised, there was nothing of the old-time morality intact anywhere: with equality stripped away, everybody looked to the orders of the princeps, with no fear of present things, while Augustus, strong in his years, supported himself and his house and the peace. But after his old age, already advanced, also began to be worn out by a poorly body, and the end was near as well as new hopes, a few discussed in vain the benefits of freedom, more began to fear war, others desired it. By far the greatest number slandered with different rumours those threatening to be their masters: they said that Agrippa, savage and inflamed by dishonour, was not equal to such an important task due to his age nor due to his experience of affairs, that Tiberius Nero was ripe in his years, distinguished in war, but with the old and innate arrogance of the Claudian family, and many signs of his cruelty, although they were suppressed, broke out. Also he had been brought up from early infancy in a royal house; consulships had been heaped on him as a young man, and triumphs; not even during those years on Rhodes, in which under the pretext of withdrawal into privacy he behaved like an exile, did he contemplate anything other than anger and hypocrisy and secret lusts. There was in addition his mother, with her womanly unruliness: they would have to be servile to a woman and to two adolescents besides, who meanwhile would oppress the state and at some point tear it apart.

igitur verso civitatis statu nihil usquam prisci et integri moris: omnes exuta aequalitate iussa principis aspectare, nulla in praesens formidine, dum Augustus aetate validus seque et domum et pacem sustentavit. postquam provecta iam senectus aegro et corpore fatigabatur aderatque finis et spes novae, pauci bona libertatis in cassum disserere, plures bellum pavescere, alii cupere. pars multo maxima inminentes dominos variis rumoribus differebant: trucem Agrippam et ignominia accensum non aetate neque rerum experientia tantae moli parem, Tiberium Neronem maturum annis, spectatum bello, sed vetere atque insita Claudiae familiae superbia, multaque indicia saevitiae, quamquam premantur, erumpere. hunc et prima ab infantia eductum in domo regnatrice; congestos iuveni consulatus, triumphos; ne iis quidem annis quibus Rhodi specie secessus exulem egerit aliquid quam iram et simulationem et secretas libidines meditatum. accedere matrem muliebri inpotentia: serviendum feminae duobusque insuper adulescentibus qui rem publicam interim premant quandoque distrahant.

Annals I.4 Quiz

Tiberius, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne


haec atque talia agitantibus gravescere valetudo Augusti, et quidam scelus uxoris suspectabant. quippe rumor incesserat paucos ante menses Augustum, electis consciis et comite uno Fabio Maximo, Planasiam vectum ad visendum Agrippam; multas illic utrimque lacrimas et signa caritatis spemque ex eo fore ut iuvenis penatibus avi redderetur: quod Maximum uxori Marciae aperuisse, illam Liviae. gnarum id Caesari; neque multo post extincto Maximo, dubium an quaesita morte, auditos in funere eius Marciae gemitus semet incusantis quod causa exitii marito fuisset. utcumque se ea res habuit, vixdum ingressus Illyricum Tiberius properis matris litteris accitur; neque satis conpertum est spirantem adhuc Augustum apud urbem Nolam an exanimem reppererit. acribus namque custodiis domum et vias saepserat Livia, laetique interdum nuntii vulgabantur, donec provisis quae tempus monebat simul excessisse Augustum et rerum potiri Neronem fama eadem tulit.

While people were considering things such as these, the health of Augustus grew worse, and some suspected crime on the part of his wife. Indeed a rumour had started that, a few months before, with the knowledge of a select few and one Fabius Maximus as a companion, Augustus had travelled to Planasia to visit Agrippa; and there had been many tears there on both sides and signs of affection and the hope that from this the young man would be restored to the hearth of his grandfather: Maximus had disclosed this to his wife Marcia, she to Livia. This became known to Caesar; when Maximus was dead not long after (it is unsure whether he had sought his own death) the groans of Marcia had been heard at his funeral, reproaching herself that she had been the cause of his death. Whatever the truth of the matter, scarcely yet had Tiberius entered Illyricum when he was summoned by a hasty letter of his mother; but it has not been satisfactorily proved whether he discovered Augustus at the city of Nola still breathing or lifeless. For Livia had surrounded the house and streets with zealous guards, and from time to time good news was announced, until, after provision had been made for what the occasion required, the same report announced simultaneously that Augustus had died and that Nero was in control of affairs.

Annals I.5 Quiz

Head of Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, Roman artwork of the late Augustan period, last decade of the 1st century BC


primum facinus novi principatus fuit Postumi Agrippae caedes, quem ignarum inermumque quamvis firmatus animo centurio aegre confecit. nihil de ea re Tiberius apud senatum disseruit: patris iussa simulabat, quibus praescripsisset tribuno custodiae adposito ne cunctaretur Agrippam morte adficere quandoque ipse supremum diem explevisset. multa sine dubio saevaque Augustus de moribus adulescentis questus, ut exilium eius senatus consulto sanciretur perfecerat: ceterum in nullius umquam suorum necem duravit, neque mortem nepoti pro securitate privigni inlatam credibile erat. propius vero Tiberium ac Liviam, illum metu, hanc novercalibus odiis, suspecti et invisi iuvenis caedem festinavisse. nuntianti centurioni, ut mos militiae, factum esse quod imperasset, neque imperasse sese et rationem facti reddendam apud senatum respondit. quod postquam Sallustius Crispus particeps secretorum (is ad tribunum miserat codicillos) comperit, metuens ne reus subderetur, iuxta periculoso ficta seu vera promeret monuit Liviam ne arcana domus, ne consilia amicorum, ministeria militum vulgarentur, neve Tiberius vim principatus resolveret cuncta ad senatum vocando: eam condicionem esse imperandi ut non aliter ratio constet quam si uni reddatur.

The first crime of the new principate was the murder of Agrippa Postumus, unaware and unarmed, whom a centurion, though strong in spirit, dispatched with difficulty. Tiberius discussed nothing about the matter in the senate: he pretended that there were orders from his father, in which he had written in advance to the tribune placed in charge of the policing not to hestitate in putting to death Agrippa whenever he himself had completed his final day. Without doubt, Augustus had made many savage complaints about the young man’s behaviour, and he had ensured that his exile was confirmed by a decree of the senate: but he never hardened himself to the murder of any of his relatives, nor was it believable that death had been brought on a grandson for the security of a stepson. It is more likely that Tiberius and Livia, the former through dread, the latter through stepmotherly hatred, had hastened the death of a suspected and hated young man. To the centurion announcing (as is the way of the military) that what he had ordered had been done, Tiberius replied that he had not given the order and that an account of the deed needed to be recounted in the senate. After Sallustius Crispus, a participant in the secret (he had sent the note to the tribune), found out, fearing that he would be falsely put on trial, with it being equally dangerous if he uttered the truth or lies, he warned Livia that the mysteries of the palace, the advice of friends and the services of soldiers should not be made public, nor should Tiberius weaken the strength of the principate by calling everything to the senate: this was the condition of ruling, that the account would not agree unless it were rendered to one man.

Annals I.6 Quiz

West Coast of Pianosa


at Romae ruere in servitium consules, patres, eques. quanto quis inlustrior, tanto magis falsi ac festinantes, vultuque composito ne laeti excessu principis neu tristiores primordio, lacrimas gaudium, questus adulationem miscebant. Sex. Pompeius et Sex. Appuleius consules primi in verba Tiberii Caesaris iuravere, aputque eos Seius Strabo et C. Turranius, ille praetoriarum cohortium praefectus, hic annonae; mox senatus milesque et populus. nam Tiberius cuncta per consules incipiebat tamquam vetere re publica et ambiguus imperandi: ne edictum quidem, quo patres in curiam vocabat, nisi tribuniciae potestatis praescriptione posuit sub Augusto acceptae. verba edicti fuere pauca et sensu permodesto: de honoribus parentis consulturum, neque abscedere a corpore idque unum ex publicis muneribus usurpare. sed defuncto Augusto signum praetoriis cohortibus ut imperator dederat; excubiae, arma, cetera aulae; miles in forum, miles in curiam comitabatur. litteras ad exercitus tamquam adepto principatu misit, nusquam cunctabundus nisi cum in senatu loqueretur. causa praecipua ex formidine ne Germanicus, in cuius manu tot legiones, immensa sociorum auxilia, mirus apud populum favor, habere imperium quam exspectare mallet. dabat et famae ut vocatus electusque potius a re publica videretur quam per uxorium ambitum et senili adoptione inrepsisse. postea cognitum est ad introspiciendas etiam procerum voluntates inductam dubitationem: nam verba vultus in crimen detorquens recondebat.

But at Rome the consuls, senators and the knights rushed into servitude. The more illustrious someone was, the more they were disingenuous and hurried, and with a composed expression, lest (they appeared) happy at the death of the princeps, nor too sad at the beginning, they mixed tears with joy and mourning with flattery. Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Appuleius, as consuls, were the first to swear alliegance to Tiberius Caesar, and in their presence Seius Strabo and Gaius Turranius, the former the prefect of the Praetorian cohorts, the latter of the grain supply; then the senate, the soldiers and the people. For Tiberius began everything through the consuls, as though in the old republic and being ambivalent about ruling: even the edict, with which he called the senators to the Senate-house, he proposed with the title of tribunician power which he had received under Augustus. The words of the edict were few and of a very moderate tone: that he would consult about the honours of his parent, and that he was not leaving the body and this was the only public duty he was performing. But, when Augustus was dead, he had given a signal to the praetorian cohorts as though their commander; there were lookouts, arms, and the other things associated with a court; the soldiers escorted him to the forum, and soldiers to the senate house. He sent a letter to the armies as though the principate had been acquired, hesitating nowhere except when he spoke in the senate. The chief reason was due to his fear that Germanicus, in whose hands were so many legions, immense reinforcements of allies, amazing support among the people, would prefer to hold power rather than wait for it. Moreover, he was conceding to public opinion that he should be seen to have been called and chosen by the state rather than to have crept in through wifely ambition and the adoption of an elderly man. Later on it was discovered that the hesitating had been put on to examine the inclinations of the leading men as well: for he would store away words and looks, distorting them into an accusation.


versae inde ad Tiberium preces. et ille varie disserebat de magnitudine imperii sua modestia. solam divi Augusti mentem tantae molis capacem: se in partem curarum ab illo vocatum experiendo didicisse quam arduum, quam subiectum fortunae regendi cuncta onus. proinde in civitate tot inlustribus viris subnixa non ad unum omnia deferrent: plures facilius munia rei publicae sociatis laboribus exsecuturos. plus in oratione tali dignitatis quam fidei erat; Tiberioque etiam in rebus quas non occuleret, seu natura sive adsuetudine, suspensa semper et obscura verba: tunc vero nitenti ut sensus suos penitus abderet, in incertum et ambiguum magis implicabantur. at patres, quibus unus metus si intellegere viderentur, in questus lacrimas vota effundi; ad deos, ad effigiem Augusti, ad genua ipsius manus tendere, cum proferri libellum recitarique iussit. opes publicae continebantur, quantum civium sociorumque in armis, quot classes, regna, provinciae, tributa aut vectigalia, et necessitates ac largitiones. quae cuncta sua manu perscripserat Augustus addideratque consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii, incertum metu an per invidiam.

Entreaties then turned to Tiberius. And he would speak variously about the vastness of the empire (and) his own lack of self-confidence. (He would say that) only the mind of Divine Augustus was capable of such a great task: that he had been summoned by him to have a share of his concerns and had learned through experience how hard, how subject to fortune was the burden of ruling everything. Therefore, in a state supported by so many illustrious men, they should refer everything not to a single individual: several would more easily carry out the duties of the republic through communal toils. There was more worthiness than credibility in such a speech; and Tiberius’ words, even in the matters which he did not hide, whether through nature or habit, were always hesitating and obscure: but at that time, as he was struggling to hide his feelings within, (his words) were more entangled, leading to uncertainty and ambiguity. But the senators, whose only fear was if they seemed to have understanding, burst into complaints, tears and vows; they stretched out their hands to the gods, to the image of Augustus, to the knees of Tiberius himself, when he ordered a booklet to be brought forth and read aloud. Its contents were the public resources, how many citizens and allies were under arms, how many fleets, kingdoms, provinces, direct and indirect taxes, and also essential expenditures and lavish gifts. All these things Augustus had written out with his own hand, and had appended the advice of confining the empire within its current boundaries, it is unclear whether through fear or through envy.


inter quae senatu ad infimas obtestationes procumbente, dixit forte Tiberius se ut non toti rei publicae parem, ita quaecumque pars sibi mandaretur eius tutelam suscepturum. tum Asinius Gallus ‘interrogo’ inquit, ‘Caesar, quam partem rei publicae mandari tibi velis.’ perculsus inprovisa interrogatione paulum reticuit: dein collecto animo respondit nequaquam decorum pudori suo legere aliquid aut evitare ex eo cui in universum excusari mallet. rursum Gallus (etenim vultu offensionem coniectaverat) non idcirco interrogatum ait, ut divideret quae separari nequirent sed ut sua confessione argueretur unum esse rei publicae corpus atque unius animo regendum. addidit laudem de Augusto Tiberiumque ipsum victoriarum suarum quaeque in toga per tot annos egregie fecisset admonuit. nec ideo iram eius lenivit, pridem invisus, tamquam ducta in matrimonium Vipsania M. Agrippae filia, quae quondam Tiberii uxor fuerat, plus quam civilia agitaret Pollionisque Asinii patris ferociam retineret.

In the meantime, while the senate was stooping to the basest entreaties, Tiberius happened to say that although he was not equal to the whole state, he would however take on as his responsibility whatever part was entrusted to him. At that point, Asinius Gallus said, ‘I ask, Caesar, what part of the state you would like entrusted to you.’ Stunned by the unforeseen question, he hesitated a little: then, recovering his senses, he replied that it in no way suited his modesty to choose or avoid any portion of a thing from which he would prefer to be excused altogether. In turn, Gallus (for he had deduced offence in his expression) said that the question had not been asked for the purpose that he should divide things which could not be separated, but that, by his own admission, it should be proved that body of the state was one entity and it must be ruled by the mind of one person. He added praise about Augustus and reminded Tiberius himself of his own victories and the things which he had done with distinction in a toga over so many years. But he did not thereby assuage his anger, for he had been despised long since, on the grounds that he had married Vipsania, Marcus Agrippa’s daughter, who once had been the wife of Tiberius, and aspired to be more than a citizen and retained the arrogance of his father, Asinius Pollio.


post quae L. Arruntius haud multum discrepans a Galli oratione perinde offendit, quamquam Tiberio nulla vetus in Arruntium ira: sed divitem, promptum, artibus egregiis et pari fama publice, suspectabat. quippe Augustus supremis sermonibus cum tractaret quinam adipisci principem locum suffecturi abnuerent aut inpares vellent vel idem possent cuperentque, M. Lepidum dixerat capacem sed aspernantem, Gallum Asinium avidum et minorem, L. Arruntium non indignum et si casus daretur ausurum. de prioribus consentitur, pro Arruntio quidam Cn. Pisonem tradidere; omnesque praeter Lepidum variis mox criminibus struente Tiberio circumventi sunt. etiam Q. Haterius et Mamercus Scaurus suspicacem animum perstrinxere, Haterius cum dixisset ‘quo usque patieris, Caesar, non adesse caput rei publicae?’ Scaurus quia dixerat spem esse ex eo non inritas fore senatus preces quod relationi consulum iure tribuniciae potestatis non intercessisset. in Haterium statim invectus est; Scaurum, cui inplacabilius irascebatur, silentio tramisit. fessusque clamore omnium, expostulatione singulorum flexit paulatim, non ut fateretur suscipi a se imperium, sed ut negare et rogari desineret. constat Haterium, cum deprecandi causa Palatium introisset ambulantisque Tiberii genua advolveretur, prope a militibus interfectum quia Tiberius casu an manibus eius inpeditus prociderat. neque tamen periculo talis viri mitigatus est, donec Haterius Augustam oraret eiusque curatissimis precibus protegeretur.

After this Lucius Arruntius caused offence in the same way, deviating not far from the speech of Gallus, although Tiberius had no longstanding anger against Arruntius: but he held him under suspicion as he was wealthy, at the ready, had outstanding skills and a public reputation to match. Indeed Augustus, during his final conversations, when he was discussing those who, though probably capable, would refuse to acquire the position of princeps, those who would be willing but unequal to the task and those who would want and be capable of the same thing, had said that Marcus Lepidus was capable but would reject it, Gallus Asinius was eager and inferior, Lucius Arruntius was not unworthy and would likely dare it if the chance was given. There is consensus about the first two, in place of Arruntius some relate Gnaeus Piso; and all except Lepidus were soon falsely convicted on various charges, devised by Tiberius. Even Quintus Haterius and Mamercus Scaurus wounded his mistrustful mind, Haterius when he had said: ‘To what point will you tolerate, Caesar, that there is no head of state?’, Scaurus because he had said that there was hope that the senate’s prayers were not in vain from the fact that Tiberius had not vetoed the motion of the consuls with the authority of tribunician power. Tiberius railed against Haterius immediately; Scaurus, with whom he was more implacably angry, he passed over in silence. And worn out by the uproar of everyone, by the protestations of individuals, he gradually gave way, not to declare that power was being assumed by him, but to make an end to refusing and being asked. There is agreement that Haterius, when he had entered the Palatine in order to apologise and was grovelling at the knees of Tiberius as he walked along, was nearly killed by the soldiers because Tiberius had fallen forwards, by chance or hindered by the hands of Haterius. Nor yet was he softened by the danger of such a man, until Haterius begged Augusta and he was protected by her most concerned entreaties.


multa patrum et in Augustam adulatio. alii parentem, alii matrem patriae appellandam, plerique ut nomini Caesaris adscriberetur ‘Iuliae filius’ censebant. ille moderandos feminarum honores dictitans eademque se temperantia usurum in iis quae sibi tribuerentur, ceterum anxius invidia et muliebre fastigium in deminutionem sui accipiens ne lictorem quidem ei decerni passus est aramque adoptionis et alia huiusce modi prohibuit. at Germanico Caesari proconsulare imperium petivit, missique legati qui deferrent, simul maestitiam eius ob excessum Augusti solarentur. quo minus idem pro Druso postularetur, ea causa quod designatus consul Drusus praesensque erat. candidatos praeturae duodecim nominavit, numerum ab Augusto traditum; et hortante senatu ut augeret, iure iurando obstrinxit se non excessurum.

There was also much flattery of the senators towards Augusta. Some proposed that she should be styled “Parent” of the homeland, others “Mother,” the majority that “Son of Julia” should be appended to the name of “Caesar.” Tiberius, repeatedly stating that the honours of women should be limited and that he would employ the same moderation in those which were bestowed upon himself, but in fact anxious with envy and interpreting the elevation of a woman as diminishment for him, allowed not even a lictor to be decreed for her and forbade an “Altar of Adoption” and other things of this kind. But he requested proconsular power for Germanicus Caesar, and legates were sent to report this, as well as to offer condolences on his sadness due to the passing of Augustus. The fact that Drusus was consul designate and present in Rome was the reason that prevented the same being demanded for Drusus. He nominated twelve candidates for the praetorship, the number handed down by Augustus; and when the senate encouraged him to increase it, by swearing an oath he pledged that he would not exceed it.


at Romae nondum cognito qui fuisset exitus in Illyrico, et legionum Germanicarum motu audito, trepida civitas incusare Tiberium quod, dum patres et plebem, invalida et inermia, cunctatione ficta ludificetur, dissideat interim miles neque duorum adulescentium nondum adulta auctoritate comprimi queat. ire ipsum et opponere maiestatem imperatoriam debuisse cessuris ubi principem longa experientia eundemque severitatis et munificentiae summum vidissent. an Augustum fessa aetate totiens in Germanias commeare potuisse: Tiberium vigentem annis sedere in senatu, verba patrum cavillantem? satis prospectum urbanae servituti: militaribus animis adhibenda fomenta ut ferre pacem velint.

But at Rome, since it was not yet known what the outcome in Illyricum had been, and since the revolt of the German legions had been heard of, the trembling citizenry began to criticise Tiberius on the grounds that, while he was playing with the senators and the plebs, ineffective and defenceless elements, with his feigned hesitation, the soldiery meanwhile was in disagreement and could not be restrained by the authority, not yet mature, of two young men. (They said that) he should have gone himself and set his commander’s sovereignty in opposition to those likely to yield when they had seen the princeps with his long experience and in the same man the height of severity and generosity. Or had Augustus been able to travel to the Germanies so often in his weary old age: but Tiberius was sitting in the senate while vigorous in years, quibbling at the words of the senators? Enough provision had been made for the enslavement of the city: dressings needed to be applied to the soldiers’ spirits so that they were willing to endure peace.


immotum adversus eos sermones fixumque Tiberio fuit non omittere caput rerum neque se remque publicam in casum dare. multa quippe et diversa angebant: validior per Germaniam exercitus, propior apud Pannoniam; ille Galliarum opibus subnixus, hic Italiae inminens: quos igitur anteferret? ac ne postpositi contumelia incenderentur. at per filios pariter adiri maiestate salva, cui maior e longinquo reverentia. simul adulescentibus excusatum quaedam ad patrem reicere, resistentesque Germanico aut Druso posse a se mitigari vel infringi: quod aliud subsidium si imperatorem sprevissent? ceterum ut iam iamque iturus legit comites, conquisivit impedimenta, adornavit navis: mox hiemem aut negotia varie causatus primo prudentes, dein vulgum, diutissime provincias fefellit.

Immovable in the face of these conversations and fixed for Tiberius was (the idea) not to leave unguarded the capital nor to expose himself and the state to risk. In fact many different things were causing him pain: that the army throughout Germany was stronger, (the one) at Pannonia nearer; the former was reliant on the wealth of the Galliae, the latter was looming over Italy; so which should he prefer? And (he was afraid) that those postponed might be incensed by his insult. But through his sons there was an equal approach, with his sovereignty intact, for which reverence would be greater from afar. At the same time it was excusable for the young men to refer certain matters to their father, and those resisting Germanicus or Drusus could be softened or broken by him: what other resource was there if they rejected their commander? But, as if about to leave at any moment, he chose companions, collected his baggage (and) equipped ships: then, pleading variously the winter or business, he deceived the intelligent at first, then the crowd, the provinces for the longest time of all.


at Germanicus, quamquam contracto exercitu et parata in defectores ultione, dandum adhuc spatium ratus, si recenti exemplo sibi ipsi consulerent, praemittit litteras ad Caecinam, venire se valida manu ac, ni supplicium in malos praesumant, usurum promisca caede. eas Caecina aquiliferis signiferisque et quod maxime castrorum sincerum erat occulte recitat, utque cunctos infamiae, se ipsos morti eximant hortatur: nam in pace causas et merita spectari, ubi bellum ingruat innocentes ac noxios iuxta cadere. illi temptatis quos idoneos rebantur, postquam maiorem legionum partem in officio vident, de sententia legati statuunt tempus, quo foedissimum quemque et seditioni promptum ferro invadant. tunc signo inter se dato inrumpunt contubernia, trucidant ignaros, nullo nisi consciis noscente quod caedis initium, quis finis.

But Germanicus, although he had gathered an army and prepared vengenance against the defectors, and thinking that an interval still should be granted, to see if they might reflect upon their own interests following the recent example, sent forth letters to Caecina, saying that he was on his way with a powerful detachment and that, unless they punished beforehand the guilty men, he would use indiscriminate butchery. Caecina read them out secretly to the eagle-bearers and to the standard-bearers and the part of the camp which was exceedingly trustworthy, and urged them to save everyone from disgrace, and themselves from death: for in peace excuses were looked at along with their merits, (but) when war was imminent the innocent and the guilty fell side by side. Having tested the men whom they thought suitable, after they saw that the greater part of the legions was dutiful, in accordance with the legate’s proposal they established a time when they would attack with swords all the most foul and ready for mutiny. Then, having given the signal between themselves, they burst into their tents, slaughtered the unsuspecting men, with no one knowing, except the accomplices, what beginning and what end there was to the slaughter.


diversa omnium, quae umquam accidere, civilium armorum facies. non proelio, non adversis e castris, sed isdem e cubilibus, quos simul vescentes dies, simul quietos nox habuerat, discedunt in partes, ingerunt tela. clamor vulnera sanguis palam, causa in occulto; cetera fors regit. et quidam bonorum caesi, postquam intellecto in quos saeviretur pessimi quoque arma rapuerant. neque legatus aut tribunus moderator adfuit: permissa vulgo licentia atque ultio et satietas. mox ingressus castra Germanicus, non medicinam illud plurimis cum lacrimis sed cladem appellans, cremari corpora iubet. truces etiam tum animos cupido involat eundi in hostem, piaculum furoris; nec aliter posse placari commilitonum manes quam si pectoribus impiis honesta vulnera accepissent. sequitur ardorem militum Caesar iunctoque ponte tramittit duodecim milia e legionibus, sex et viginti socias cohortes, octo equitum alas, quarum ea seditione intemerata modestia fuit.

The appearance was different from all the civil wars which have ever taken place. Not in battle, not from opposing camps, but from the same beds, those whom the day had witnessed eating together, and the night had seen resting together, they divided into factions, they rained down missiles. The screaming, the wounds and the blood (were) in plain sight, the reason in secret; chance governed the rest. And some of the good men were slaughtered, after the worst men had seized arms too, when it was understood against whom the rage was directed. Neither legate nor tribune was present as a moderator; license was permitted to the crowd, and vengeance and satisfaction. Soon Germanicus entered the camp, calling the event not a solution but, with floods of tears, a disaster, and he ordered the bodies to be cremated. A desire of going against the enemy flew into their minds, still bloodthirsty, as an atonement for their frenzy; (they said that) the ghosts of their fellow soldiers could not be appeased other than if they received honourable wounds on their impious chests. Caesar seconded the soldiers’ passion and, after a bridge had been connected, sent across twelve thousand from the legions, twenty-six allied cohorts, and eight wings of cavalry, whose discipline in that mutiny was undefiled.