Annals IV: 40


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Latin

Ad ea Tiberius laudata pietate Seiani suisque in eum beneficiis modice percursis, cum tempus tamquam ad integram consultationem petivisset, adiunxit: ceteris mortalibus in eo stare consilia quid sibi conducere putent; principum diversam esse sortem quibus praecipua rerum ad famam derigenda. ideo se non illuc decurrere, quod promptum rescriptu, posse ipsam Liviam statuere, nubendum post Drusum an in penatibus isdem tolerandum haberet; esse illi matrem et aviam, propiora consilia. simplicius acturum, de inimicitiis primum Agrippinae, quas longe acrius arsuras si matrimonium Liviae velut in partis domum Caesarum distraxisset. sic quoque erumpere aemulationem feminarum, eaque discordia nepotes suos convelli: quid si intendatur certamen tali coniugio? ‘falleris enim, Seiane, si te mansurum in eodem ordine putas, et Liviam, quae C. Caesari, mox Druso nupta fuerit, ea mente acturam ut cum equite Romano senescat. ego ut sinam, credisne passuros qui fratrem eius, qui patrem maioresque nostros in summis imperiis videre? vis tu quidem istum intra locum sistere: sed illi magistratus et primores, qui te invitum perrumpunt omnibusque de rebus consulunt, excessisse iam pridem equestre fastigium longeque antisse patris mei amicitias non occulti ferunt perque invidiam tui me quoque incusant. at enim Augustus filiam suam equiti Romano tradere meditatus est. mirum hercule si, cum in omnes curas distraheretur immensumque attolli provideret quem coniunctione tali super alios extulisset, C. Proculeium et quosdam in sermonibus habuit insigni tranquillitate vitae, nullis rei publicae negotiis permixtos! sed si dubitatione Augusti movemur, quanto validius est quod Marco Agrippae, mox mihi conlocavit? atque ego haec pro amicitia non occultavi: ceterum neque tuis neque Liviae destinatis adversabor. ipse quid intra animum volutaverim, quibus adhuc necessitudinibus immiscere te mihi parem, omittam ad praesens referre: id tantum aperiam, nihil esse tam excelsum quod non virtutes istae tuusque in me animus mereantur, datoque tempore vel in senatu vel in contione non reticebo.’

Commentary

pietate Seiani – the subordination of this and suis beneficiis percursis is dismissive, as Tiberius runs through the formalities. The juxtaposition of pietas and Seianus is ironic.

tamquam ad integram consulationem – The use of tamquam suggests that Tiberius is being disingenuous. He wants to be seen to be considering the matter fully, perhaps prompted by Sejanus’ use of consultavisse in Ch.39, when in fact this letter makes it clear he has already formed his opinion.

in eo stare consilia – “(their) decisions are based on this,” followed by an indirect question.

ceteris mortalibus … principum – Tiberius emphatically reasserts his authority, perhaps uneasy at the ambition of Sejanus.

praecipua rerum – “important business.”

famam – “public opinion.” In other words, the marriage would lack popular support.

non decurrere – the choice of verb reinforces the idea that Tiberius is considering the matter carefully (ad integram consulationem), the prefix adds a haughty tone (he is not “stooping” to the simplest answer), and the litotes underscores both. All this is bad news for Sejanus’ hopes of Tiberius’ consent.

rescriptu – Martin & Woodman: “rescribere is the technical term for an imperial response (OLD 2a), but its supine form seems unparalleled.”

an – the second part of a double question (supply utrum before nubendum).

haberet habeo + gerundive operates as debeo + infinitive.

matrem et aviam – the mother is Antonia Minor: daughter of Mark Antony, niece of Augustus and mother also of Germanicus and Claudius. The grandmother is Augusta.

simplicius acturum – “he would deal more frankly,” i.e. he would not let his disapproval be masked by an evasive answer.

quas…arsuras – supply esse. The antecedent of quas is inimicitiis.

velut in partis – “as if into factions.”

distraxisset – the pluperfect subjunctive is used in the protasis of open conditions in oratio obliqua (indirect statement), in place of the future perfect (indicative).

nepotes suos – i.e. the surviving sons of Tiberius’ biological son Drusus (Tiberius Gemellus) and of his adopted son Germanicus (Nero Julius Caesar, Drusus Caesar and Caligula).

sic quoque – “even as it was.”

erumpere…convelli – the elements of this chiasmus link not only grammatically but also in meaning (erumpere and convelli; aemulationem and nepotes). The arrangement also allows a juxtaposition between the women (feminarum) and strife (discordia), a common theme in the Annals.

convelli – the verb convello is often used in relation to buildings (“to shake to the foundations”) or trees (“to tear up by the roots”), and its metaphorical use here is especially emphatic, if exaggerated (Furneaux points out that Drusus’ son was only six years old, and the others were all of one house).

falleris enim, Seiane – a powerful literary effect is created by the switch to direct speech. The address is steeped in irony, in allusion to the feigned humility of Sejanus in the previous chapter.

in eodem ordine – i.e. the order of the knights.

C. CaesariGaius Caesar, grandson of Augustus through his daughter Julia and Marcus Agrippa. Gaius CaesarHe died in 4 AD on campaign in the east. Tacitus suggests Livia Augusta might have had a hand in his death (I.3).

ea mente…senescat – whereas, as made clear in Ch.39 (matrimonium flagitante Livia), this is her heart’s desire.

ego ut sinam – “though/if I were to permit it.” ut with the subjunctive can form a concessive or conditional clause, as here.

fratrem…patrem…maioresque nostros – the brother is Germanicus, the father Drusus the Elder, and the ancestors are the Claudii and Drusi of yore.

istum intra locumistum (rather than illum) both because the rank is “closer” to Sejanus than Tiberius and because of the deprecatory sense of the word.

sistere – a poetical form of stare.

te invitum – ironic, seeing that Sejanus enjoys the power such meetings bring (Ch.41 – “ne…infringeret potentiam”).

perrumpunt – a military metaphor, being employed by an old soldier.

amicitias – could be read as the concrete amicos here. The comparison is with the influential knights who were attached to Augustus, such as Maecenas and Proculeius (see below).

perque invidiam tui me quoque incusant – Tiberius underscores his concern with a chiasmus.

at enim – anticipating an objection.

hercule – a sarcastic exclamation.

omnes curas – i.e. the concerns of an emperor in choosing a successor.

immensum – adverbial, “massively.”

C. Proculeium – Proculeius was the brother of Maecenas’ wife, Terentia, arguably more famous these days as a minor character in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

in sermonibus – in other words, this was no official pronouncement, merely private deliberation.

insigni tranquillitate vitae… – Tiberius’ point is that Augustus could see that the marriage of his daughter Julia would be a massive promotion for the elected husband. If men such as Proculeius were considered for the role, it was on the grounds that they were apolitical, not because they were knights.

si…conlocavit – an argument a fortiori: if we are to be moved by what Augustus deliberated, we should be so much more moved by what he actually did (i.e. married her to a man at the top of the senatorial class, twice.)

ceterum…adversabor – this contradicts Tiberius’ earlier refusal to stoop to quod promptum rescriptu (leaving it for Livia to decide). The contradiction may be surprising, but Tiberius is often unable to sustain a coherent speech, and he has already made his feelings about the proposal abundantly clear.

English

In reply to this, Tiberius, having praised the piety of Sejanus and run through moderately his own kindnesses to him, and when he had requested time as though for full consideration, added: for other people, their decisions are based on this: what they consider to be in their own interests; that the lot of emperors, for whom important business needed to be directed with regards to public opinion, was different. For that reason, he was not resorting to that solution which was easy to reply: that Livia herself could decide whether she should be married after Drusus’ death or endure in the same household; she had a mother and a grandmother, more intimate advisers. He would act more straightforwardly, first concerning the animosities of Agrippina, which would burn far more fiercely if Livia’s marriage pulled apart the house of the Caesars into factions, so to speak. Even as it was, the ladies’ rivalry was breaking out, and his own grandchildren were being torn apart by this dissonance. What if the strife were intensified by such a marriage? ‘For you are wrong, Sejanus, if you think that you will remain in the same rank, and that Livia, who was married to Gaius Caesar and later to Drusus, will be of the mind to grow old with a Roman knight. Even if I were to allow it, do you think they would tolerate it, who saw her brother, who saw her father and our ancestors in the highest commands? Certainly, you wish to stay within that position: but those magistrates and leaders, who burst in on you against your will and consult about every matter, openly allege that you have long ago exceeded the pinnacle of an equestrian and have far outstripped the friendships of my father, and they criticise me through their resentment of you. But certainly, Augustus considered handing over his daughter to a Roman knight. By Hercules, is it any wonder, when he was being drawn away to every care and foresaw that whomever he raised above others by such a relationship would be massively elevated, if he discussed Gaius Proculeius and others who were of a distinguished tranquillity of life, involved in no affairs of the state! But if we are to be motivated by the hesitance of Augustus, how much stronger is the fact that he betrothed her to Marcus Agrippa, and later to me? And, for the sake of our friendship, I have not concealed these matters: but I will oppose neither your intentions not Livia’s. What I myself have been turning over within my mind, by what further ties I am preparing to unite you to me, I shall omit to mention for the present; I shall reveal only this: that there is nothing so lofty that those virtues and your feelings towards me do not deserve it, and, when the opportunity is given, I shall not keep silent, either in the senate or in a popular assembly.

Question

‘falleris enim, Seiane, si te mansurum in eodem ordine putas, et Liviam, quae C. Caesari, mox Druso nupta fuerit, ea mente acturam ut cum equite Romano senescat. ego ut sinam, credisne passuros qui fratrem eius, qui patrem maioresque nostros in summis imperiis videre? vis tu quidem istum intra locum sistere: sed illi magistratus et primores, qui te invitum perrumpunt omnibusque de rebus consulunt, excessisse iam pridem equestre fastigium longeque antisse patris mei amicitias non occulti ferunt perque invidiam tui me quoque incusant. at enim Augustus filiam suam equiti Romano tradere meditatus est. mirum hercule si, cum in omnis curas distraheretur immensumque attolli provideret quem coniunctione tali super alios extulisset, C. Proculeium et quosdam in sermonibus habuit insigni tranquillitate vitae, nullis rei publicae negotiis permixtos! sed si dubitatione Augusti movemur, quanto validius est quod Marco Agrippae, mox mihi conlocavit? atque ego haec pro amicitia non occultavi: ceterum neque tuis neque Liviae destinatis adversabor. ipse quid intra animum volutaverim, quibus adhuc necessitudinibus immiscere te mihi parem, omittam ad praesens referre: id tantum aperiam, nihil esse tam excelsum quod non virtutes istae tuusque in me animus mereantur, datoque tempore vel in senatu vel in contione non reticebo.’
Tacitus, Annals IV 40


(a) How does Tiberius turn down Sejanus’ request to marry Livia?

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falleris – abrupt and to the point.

C. Caesari, mox Druso nupta fuerit – two illustrious names. Doubly reinforcing why Sejanus is inferior.

Liviam…ea mente acturam – makes Livia’s mind up for her.

ego ut sinam – a hypothesis which implies he does not approve.

credisne…? – rhetorical question addresses the outlandish nature of Sejanus’ proposal.

istum intra locum – disparaging about Sejanus’ social status.