Annals IV: 10

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In tradenda morte Drusi quae plurimis maximaeque fidei auctoribus memorata sunt rettuli; sed non omiserim eorundem temporum rumorem, validum adeo ut nondum exolescat: corrupta ad scelus Livia Seianum Lygdi quoque spadonis animum stupro vinxisse, quod is aetate atque forma carus domino interque primores ministros erat; deinde, inter conscios ubi locus veneficii tempusque composita sint, eo audaciae provectum ut verteret et occulto indicio Drusum veneni in patrem arguens moneret Tiberium vitandam potionem, quae prima ei apud filium epulanti offerretur. ea fraude captum senem, postquam convivium inierat, exceptum poculum Druso tradidisse, atque illo ignaro et iuveniliter hauriente auctam suspicionem tamquam metu et pudore sibimet inrogaret mortem quam patri struxerat.


plurimis maximaeque fidei auctoribus – “by the most numerous and most trustworthy sources.” Note the variatio (adjective ~ genitive of description). Such vague referencing would be unacceptable to modern historians, but was common practice among ancient ones. In fact, Tacitus might well have considered this to be a strong reference due to the superlatives.

non omiserim – “I must not omit,” potential subjunctive. See note on abnuerit (Ch. 3).

nondum exolescat – the fact that this rumour is still doing the rounds when Tacitus is writing the Annals (some 100 years post eventum) is, according to him, reason enough to include it now (even if his most credible sources discount it). validum is a loaded choice of word, implying both the prevalence and the credibility of the rumour at the time.

corrupta … Livia – ablative absolute. Positioned at the start of the rumour, it highlights the depravity of Sejanus and the dispensability of Livia.

scelus – often means murder, especially by poisoning.

Livia Seianum Lygdi – each successive name signifies a lower social class. Sejanus’ corruption transcends social boundaries – an empress-to-be is as susceptible as a eunuch.

vinxisse – “bound down”. Usually found compounded as devincere.

aetate … forma – ablatives of cause. Lygdus was Drusus’ cupbearer and possibly his lover.

ut verteret – understand rem. It is, Tacitus explains, excessive audacia which leads Sejanus to pervert the plan at the last minute. The conniving aspect of his character is here blown up to grotesque proportions.

occulto indicio – “through secret intelligence” and qualifies arguens rather than moneret. In other words, using anonymous agents, Sejanus spread the rumour that Drusus intended to kill Tiberius before he warned the emperor of the plot (which he would no doubt have heard of by then, thus making Sejanus’ accusation all the more believable).

postquam…inierat – usually the verb in a subordinate clause within oratio obliqua is subjunctive. However, Tacitus often uses the indicative mood in such circumstances.

iuveniliter – “eagerly.” The choice of word is particularly poignant as it emphasises Drusus’ relative youth and, along with ignaro, his naivety.

tamquam – “that,” introducing what the suspicion was.

metu et pudore – according to the rumour, Tiberius misreads Drusus’ motivation for downing the wine cup, thinking he does it through fear that he would be tortured and shame that he had been rumbled.

sibimet – an emphatic form of sibi.


In recording the death of Drusus I have reported the details which are mentioned by the most numerous and most trustworthy authors; but I must not omit the rumour of those same times, so strong that it has not yet died down: that after Livia had been corrupted into crime, Sejanus tied down with debauchery the heart of the eunuch Lygdus too, because he was dear to his master due to his youth and looks, and among his foremost attendants; next, when the place and the time of the poisoning had been arranged between the conspirators, he had advanced to such a point of audacity that he changed tack and, through covert intelligence accusing Drusus of intending to poison his father, he warned Tiberius that the drink should be avoided, the first which was offered to him while dining at his son’s house. The old man, taken in by this deceit, after he had entered the dinner party, handed over to Drusus the cup which he received, and as Drusus, unknowingly and like a young man would, drained it, it increased suspicion, that through fear and shame he was inflicting on himself the death which he had arranged for his father.