C. Asinio C. Antistio consulibus nonus Tiberio annus erat compositae rei publicae, florentis domus (nam Germanici mortem inter prospera ducebat), cum repente turbare fortuna coepit, saevire ipse aut saevientibus vires praebere. initium et causa penes Aelium Seianum , cohortibus praetoriis praefectum, cuius de potentia supra memoravi; nunc originem, mores et quo facinore dominationem raptum ierit, expediam. Genitus Vulsiniis patre Seio Strabone , equite Romano, et prima iuventa Gaium Caesarem, divi Augusti nepotem sectatus, non sine rumore Apicio diviti et prodigo stuprum veno dedisse, mox Tiberium variis artibus devinxit, adeo ut obscurum adversum alios sibi uni incautum intectumque efficeret, non tam sollertia (quippe isdem artibus victus est) quam deum ira in rem Romanam, cuius pari exitio viguit ceciditque. corpus illi laborum tolerans, animus audax; sui obtegens, in alios criminator; iuxta adulatio et superbia; palam compositus pudor, intus summa apiscendi libido, eiusque causa modo largitio et luxus, saepius industria ac vigilantia, haud minus noxiae quotiens parando regno finguntur.
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The year annus when Gaius Asinius and Gaius Antistius were consuls C. Asinio C. Antistio consulibus, the ninth of Tiberius’ reign nonus Tiberio, was erat of an orderly compositae state rei publicae, a flourishing florentis house domus (for nam he considered ducebat the death mortem of Germanicus Germanici among inter fortuitous things prospera), when cum suddenly repente fortune fortuna began coepit to run riot turbare, he himself ipse (began) to rage saevire, and aut to provide praebere strength vires to raging men saevientibus.
C. Asinio C. Antistio consulibus – i.e. 23 AD. The method of dating years according to the respective consuls is a tradition born in the days of the Republic, when the consuls held the highest office. It is a tradition that conveys structure, order and nobility. In the principate, the consuls’ power is hugely diminished, except when the emperor holds the position.
nonus Tiberio annus – Tiberius succeeded Augustus in August 14 AD, so the ninth year of his reign actually began several months earlier. However, the juxtaposition of details of a reigning emperor and the consular date is a technique Tacitus likes to use for dramatic effect.
Germanici mortem – Germanicus was the nephew and adoptive son of Tiberius and father of the emperor Caligula. His popularity among the Roman people was remarkable, and his death in 19 AD suspicious. Tacitus implies that he might have been murdered on the orders of Tiberius, a theory not dampened here by his conjecture inter prospera ducebat.
The beginning initium and et the cause causa (was) down to penes Aelius Seianus Aelium Seianum, prefect praefectum of the praetorian praetoriis cohorts cohortibus, about de whose cuius power potentia I mentioned memoravi above supra; now nunc I will set out expediam his lineage originem, his character mores and et by what quo wickedness facinore he came ierit to seize raptum power dominationem. He was born Genitus at Vulsinii Vulsiniis, his father patre Seius Strabo Seio Strabone, a Roman Romano knight equite, and et in his early prima youth iuventa he attached himself sectatus to Gaius Caesar Gaium Caesarem, grandson nepotem of the divine divi Augustus Augusti, not non without sine rumour rumore that he had given dedisse for a price veno depravity stuprum to Apicius Apicio, a rich diviti and et prodigal (man) prodigo;
Aelium Seianum – Lucius Aelius Seianus was put in charge of the emperor’s bodyguard, the Praetorian Guard, in 14 AD, and has been mentioned in the Annals on several occasions before now (cuius de potentia supra memoravi). However, as he is about to take centre stage in the narrative, Tacitus chooses to expand on his character.
quo facinore – i.e. the murder of Drusus
patre Seio Strabone – ablative of origin. Lucius Seius Strabo was prefect of the Praetorian Guard immediately before his son, Sejanus. In 15 AD he was appointed to the governorship of Egypt. These two positions were the highest a Roman from the Equestrian order could hope to achieve in the Roman Empire.
Gaium Caesarem – Gaius Julius Caesar was the oldest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder. He was adopted by his grandfather Augustus in 17 BC and made his heir. He died on campaign in Armenia in 4 AD, aged 24. Tacitus suggests his stepmother Livia (Tiberius’ mother) may have had a hand in his murder.
Apicio – Marcus Gavius Apicius. He probably inherited the cognomen from an earlier Apicius, also notorious for his excessive appetite for pleasure. The name is also much later given to a famous Roman cookbook.
stuprum – refers specifically to sexual misconduct. The implication is not that Sejanus was homosexual, but that he performed the role of a woman for money. Tacitus often includes rumour and hearsay to flesh out the depravity of his characters. Here, the litotes of non sine rumore makes the gossip more realistic.
veno dedisse – veno is predicative dative: “had given for a price”. The related verb vendo conveys a near identical meaning.
soon mox he bound fast devinxit Tiberius Tiberium with his multifarious variis arts artibus, to the extent adeo that ut he caused efficeret one unintelligible obscurum to adversum others alios (to be) unguarded incautum and open intectumque to him sibi alone uni, not non as much tam due to his shrewdness sollertia (in fact quippe, he was defeated victus est by the selfsame isdem arts artibus) as quam by the anger ira of the gods deum against in the Roman Romanam state rem, with the equal pari destruction exitio of which cuius he flourished viguit and fell ceciditque.
obscurum adversum alios sibi uni incautum – a chiastic arrangement with a good example of variatio (preposition + accusative ~ dative). Tiberius’ duplicity is a theme which permeates Tacitus’ portrayal of him in the Annals. The tacked-on intectum has military overtones.
sollertia – “shrewdness”. Tiberius likes to surround himself with similarly crafty individuals.
isdem artibus victus est – i.e. Sejanus was hoist by his own petard.
deum ira – Tacitus is not expressing his personal religious beliefs here, but uses such expressions for the inexplicable, and to show up the wickedness of his mortal characters.
pari exitio – “by the crimes which he prompted during his ascendancy, and by the reign of terror, and utter shamelessness of Tiberius, following on his fall.” (Furneaux). exitio is ablative of attendant circumstances.
His illi body corpus (was) tolerant tolerans of hardships laborum, his spirit animus fearless audax; whilst hiding obtegens himself sui, (he was) an accuser criminator against in others alios; flattery adulatio and et arrogance superbia at the same time iuxta; outwardly palam composed compositus modest pudor, on the inside intus the desire libido of achieving apiscendi highest office summa, and que for the sake causa of this eius sometimes modo lavishness largitio and et extravagance luxus, (but) more often saepius industry industria and ac vigilance vigilantia, not haud less minus harmful noxiae when quotiens they are assumed finguntur to prepare parando royal power regno.
The year when Gaius Asinius and Gaius Antistius were consuls, the ninth of Tiberius’ reign, was one of an orderly state, a flourishing house (for he considered the death of Germanicus a fortuitous event), when suddenly fortune began to run riot, and the emperor himself began to rage, and to provide strength to raging men. The beginning and the cause was down to Aelius Seianus, prefect of the praetorian cohorts, about whose power I mentioned above; now I will set out his lineage, his character and by what wickedness he came to seize power. He was born at Vulsinii, his father being Seius Strabo, a Roman knight, and in his early youth he attached himself to Gaius Caesar, grandson of the divine Augustus, and the rumour went that he sold depravity to Apicius, a rich and prodigal man; soon he bound fast Tiberius with his multifarious arts, to the extent that he caused a man, who was unintelligible to others, to be unguarded and open to him alone, not as much due to his shrewdness (in fact, he was defeated by the selfsame arts) as by the anger of the gods against the Roman state, which met with the same destruction when he flourished and when he fell. His body could withstand toil, his spirit was fearless; whilst hiding himself, he was an accuser against others; he was sycophantic and arrogant at the same time; outwardly composed and modest, on the inside he desired the heights of achievement, for the sake of which he was sometimes lavish and extravagant, but more often industrious and vigilant, qualities not less harmful when they are assumed to prepare royal power.
How does Tacitus create a negative impression of Sejanus in this passage?