1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Corbulo, Gnaeus Domitius

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CORBULO, GNAEUS DOMITIUS (1st century A.D.), Roman general, was the half-brother of Caesonia, one of the wives of the emperor Caligula. In the reign of Tiberius he held the office of praetor, and was appointed to the superintendence of the roads and bridges. Under Claudius he was governor of lower Germany (A.D. 47). He punished the Frisii who refused to pay the tribute, and was on the point of advancing against the Chauci, but was recalled by the emperor and ordered to withdraw behind the Rhine. In order to provide employment for his soldiers, Corbulo made them cut a canal from the Mosa (Meuse) to the northern branch of the Rhine, which still forms one of the chief drains between Leiden and Sluys, and before the introduction of railways was the ordinary traffic road between Leiden and Rotterdam. Soon after the accession of Nero, Vologaeses (Vologasus), king of Parthia, overran Armenia, drove out Rhadamistus, who was under the protection of the Romans, and set his own brother Tiridates on the throne. Corbulo was thereupon sent out to the East with full military powers. After some delay, he took the offensive in 58, and, reinforced by troops from Germany, attacked Tiridates. Artaxata and Tigranocerta were captured, and Tigranes, who had been brought up in Rome and was the obedient servant of the government, was installed king of Armenia. In 61 Tigranes invaded Adiabene, an integral portion of the Parthian kingdom, and a conflict between Rome and Parthia seemed unavoidable. Vologaeses, however, thought it better to come to terms. It was agreed that both the Roman and Parthian troops should evacuate Armenia, that Tigranes should be dethroned, and the position of Tiridates recognized. The Roman government declined to accede to these arrangements, and L. Caesennius Paetus, governor of Cappadocia, was ordered to settle the question by bringing Armenia under direct Roman administration. The protection of Syria in the meantime claimed all Corbulo’s attention. Paetus, a weak and incapable man, suffered a severe defeat at Rhandea (62), where he was surrounded and forced to capitulate and to evacuate Armenia. The command of the troops was again entrusted to Corbulo. In 63, with a strong army, he crossed the Euphrates, but Tiridates declined to give battle and concluded peace. At Rhandea he laid down his diadem at the foot of the emperor’s statue, promising not to resume it until he received it from the hand of Nero himself in Rome. In 67 disturbances broke out in Judaea, but Nero, jealous of Corbulo’s success and popularity, ordered Vespasian to take command of the forces and summoned Corbulo to Greece. On his arrival at Cenchreae, the port of Corinth, messengers from Nero met Corbulo, and ordered him to commit suicide. Without hesitation he obeyed, exclaiming, “I have deserved it.” Whether he had really given any grounds for suspicion is unknown; but there is no doubt, so great was his popularity with the soldiers and such the hatred felt for Nero, that he could easily have seized the throne. Corbulo wrote an account of his Asiatic experiences, which is lost.

See Tacitus, Annals, xii.-xv.; Dio Cassius lix. 15, lx. 30, lxii. 19-23, lxiii. 6, 17, lxvi. 3; H. Schiller, Geschichte des römischen Kaiserreichs unter der Regierung des Nero (1872); E. Egli, “Feldzüge in Armenien von 41-63,” in M. Büdinger’s Untersuchungen zur römischen Kaisergeschichte, i. (1868); Mommsen, Hist. of the Roman Provinces, ii. (1886); for the Armenian campaigns see B. W. Henderson in Classical Review (April, May, June, 1901); in general D. T. Schoonover, A Study of Cn. Domitius Corbulo (Chicago, 1909).