Annals IV: 8

Menu 1 2 3 7 8 9 10 11 12 39 40 41 57 58 59 60


igitur Seianus maturandum ratus deligit venenum, quo paulatim inrepente fortuitus morbus adsimularetur. id Druso datum per Lygdum spadonem, ut octo post annos cognitum est. Ceterum Tiberius per omnes valetudinis eius dies, nullo metu an ut firmitudinem animi ostentaret, etiam defuncto necdum sepulto, curiam ingressus est; consulesque sede vulgari per speciem maestitiae sedentes honoris locique admonuit et effusum in lacrimas senatum victo gemitu, simul oratione continua erexit: non quidem sibi ignarum posse argui quod tam recenti dolore subierit oculos senatus; vix propinquorum adloquia tolerari, vix diem aspici a plerisque lugentium. neque illos imbecillitatis damnandos; se tamen fortiora solacia e complexu rei publicae petivisse. miseratusque Augustae extremam senectam, rudem adhuc nepotum et vergentem aetatem suam, ut Germanici liberi, unica praesentium malorum levamenta, inducerentur petivit. egressi consules firmatos adloquio adulescentulos deductosque ante Caesarem statuunt. quibus adprensis ‘patres conscripti, hos’ inquit ‘orbatos parente tradidi patruo ipsorum precatusque sum, quamquam esset illi propria suboles, ne secus quam suum sanguinem foveret, attolleret, sibique et posteris confirmaret. erepto Druso preces ad vos converto disque et patria coram obtestor: Augusti pronepotes, clarissimis maioribus genitos, suscipite, regite, vestram meamque vicem explete. hi vobis, Nero et Druse, parentum loco: ita nati estis ut bona malaque vestra ad rem publicam pertineant.


igitur Seianus maturandum ratus – igitur implies that it was due to the complaints of Drusus that Sejanus now decided to hurry his plans. However, since the betrothal of Junilla and the construction of the Castra Praetoria both probably took place in 20 AD, Drusus is unlikely to have started protesting about them in 23 AD. Such bunching of events to create a more dramatic narrative is typical of Tacitus (see opening note of Ch. 1).

quo…adsimularetur – purpose clause.

inrepente – the same verb was used of Sejanus in Ch. 2, along with paulatim (so that we are in no danger of missing the analogy).

Lygdum spadonem – one of Drusus’ most trusted servants and probably his praegustator (food taster).

octo post annos – on the evidence of Apicata, after Sejanus’ death in 31 AD (see Ch. 11).

nullo metu – “because he had no fear”. Fear of what is not made explicit by Tacitus. It could mean that Tiberius was not afraid that Drusus’ illness would result in death, since the disease was unexpected (fortuitus), at 34 years old Drusus was not at a vulnerable age for contracting a mortal disease, and Tiberius was so drastically affected afterwards (Ch. 7quae cuncta … morte Drusi verterentur) that he may have been denying the gravity of Drusus’ deterioration. Martin and Woodman suggest it is fear of being suspected of Drusus’ murder.

sede vulgari – i.e. among the mass of senators on the “ordinary benches”, instead of on their curule chairs on a raised platform.

per speciem – the phrase implies that the mourning was insincere (specie artis was how Eudemus acted in Ch. 3). Similarly artificial sentiments are seen at the start of Ch. 12.

simul – probably links victo gemitu and oratione continua, i.e. Tiberius roused the senate by overcoming his grief and with an unbroken speech.

oratione continua – we can be confident that this speech is not the exact one made by Tiberius. Writing at the end of the 5th century BC, the influential Greek historian Thucydides said that, when it came to documenting speeches, he would record the “general sense” of what was said rather than the precise words (Thuc. 1.22). His reasoning was that it was quite difficult to remember the exact words of a speech. So entrenched did his method become among later Greek and Roman historians that they would often invent a speech even when there was a written record of it available to them.

non quidem sibi ignarum – “he was well aware” (lit. “it was not indeed unknown to him”) – a good example of litotes.

quod…senatus – this whole clause is the (accusative) subject of posse (“the fact that he had faced … could be criticised”).

oculos senatus … diem aspici – these phrases are very melodramatic for an address of the emperor to the senate. Tiberius is affecting a personal style which may not have come to him naturally, but with a speechwriter.

vix … vix … – this anaphora, along with the other more obvious rhetorical devices in this speech, are representative of the Ciceronian style which Tiberius would have been keen to emulate.

e complexu rei publicae – more emotive language from Tiberius to explain that he was not heartless, but sought comfort by throwing himself into the affairs of state.

Augustae extremam senectam – the emperor’s mother Livia. Bust of Livia, Tiberius' mother, c. 31 BC. Louvre, Paris.She was now 80 years old and died six years later (V.1).

rudem – “inexperienced”. The nepotes adulti from Ch. 3.

vergentem – Tiberius was now 65. The old and young ages are considered pitiful (miseratus) by Tiberius because they emphasise the loss of Drusus, who was in his prime.

Germanici liberi – just Drusus Caesar and Nero Caesar (not Gaius), as is clear from what follows.

deductos – “escorted.”

quibus adprensis – “taking them by the hand” (Martin & Woodman).

sibique et posteris confirmaret – sibi and posteris are best taken as datives of advantage: both Drusus and future generations would benefit from the healthy development of these young men, according to Tiberius.

disque patria coram – anastrophe. coram, the preposition governing dis and patria, is delayed to emphasise the weight of Tiberius’ new plea.

suscipite – suscipio can have the sense of “bring up as one’s own,” which is meant by Tiberius here.

vicem – “duty.”

bona malaque vestra – “good and evil traits in you” is the sense here, rather than their fortunes. Such personal influence on the well-being of the whole state is precisely why Tacitus loathed the monarchic system of government introduced by Augustus.


Therefore Sejanus, reasoning that he needed to hurry, chose a poison by which a chance disease might be simulated as it gradually seeped in. It was given to Drusus by the eunuch Lygdus, as was discovered eight years later. Moreover Tiberius entered the senate house throughout all the days of his ill health, either because he had no fear or so that he might display strength of spirit, even when he was dead and not yet buried; and he reminded the consuls, who were sitting on the ordinary bench through a display of mourning, of their honour and position, and he roused the senate, who were given over to tears, by overcoming his pain, along with an unbroken speech: (he said) that it was not, indeed, unknown to him that he could be criticised on the grounds that he had faced the eyes of the senate while his grief was so fresh; that with difficulty the condolences of relatives were endured, with difficulty the light of day viewed, by the majority of mourners. Nor should those people be condemned for their feebleness, however he had sought stronger comforts from the embrace of the state. And, having expressed pity for the extreme elderliness of Augusta, the still inexperienced age of his grandchildren and his own declining age, he asked that the sons of Germanicus be brought in, his only sources of consolation in the current troubles. The consuls went out, strengthened the young men with encouragement, led them in and stood them in front of Caesar. Taking them by the hand, he said, “Conscript fathers, I handed over these to their paternal uncle when they had been robbed of their father and I begged, although he had his own offspring, that he should nurture, raise and strengthen them no less than his own blood, both for himself and for posterity. Now that Drusus has been snatched away, I turn my entreaties to you and before the gods and the fatherland I implore: take on, guide the great grandsons of Augustus, born to the most distinguished ancestors, fulfil your own duty and mine. Nero and Drusus, these men are in place of your parents: such is the nature of your birth that the good and bad characteristics in you affect the nation.”