The Lives of the Twelve Caesars/Tiberius
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The patrician branch of the Claudian family (for there was, besides, a plebeian branch of no less influence and prestige) originated at Regilli, a town of the Sabines. From there it moved to Rome shortly after the founding of the city with a large band of dependents, through the influence of Titus Tatius, who shared the kingly power with Romulus (or, according to the generally accepted view, of Atta Claudius, the head of the family) about six years after the expulsion of the kings. It was admitted among the patrician families, receiving, besides, from the State a piece of land on the farther side of the Anio for its dependents, and a burial-site for the family at the foot of the Capitoline hill. Then as time went on it was honoured with twenty-eight consulships, five dictatorships, seven censorships, six triumphs, and two ovations. While the members of the family were known by various forenames and surnames, they discarded the forename Lucius by common consent after two of the family who bore it had been found guilty, the one of highway robbery, and the other of murder. To their surnames, on the other hand, they added that of Nero, which in the Sabine tongue means "strong and valiant."
There are on record many distinguished services of the Claudii to their country, as well as many deeds of the opposite character. But to mention only the principal instances, Appius the Blind advised against forming an alliance with king Pyrrhus as not at all expedient. Claudius Caudex was the first to cross the straits with a fleet, and drove the Carthaginians from Sicily. Tiberius Nero crushed Hasdrubal, on his arrival from Spain with a vast army, before he could unite with his brother Hannibal. On the other hand, Claudius Regillianus, decemvir for codifying the laws, through his lawless attempt to enslave a freeborn maid, to gratify his passion for her, was the cause of the second secession of the plebeians from the patricians. Claudius Russus, having set up his statue at Forum Appi with a crown upon his head, tried to take possession of Italy through his dependents. Claudius Pulcher began a sea-fight off Sicily, though the sacred chickens would not eat when he took the auspices, throwing them into the sea in defiance of the omen, and saying that they might drink, since they would not eat. He was defeated, and on being bidden by the senate to appoint a dictator, he appointed his messenger Glycias, as if again making a jest of his country's peril.
The women also have records equally diverse, since both the famous Claudias belonged to that family: the one who drew the ship with the sacred properties of the Idaean Mother of the Gods from the shoal on the Tiber on which it was stranded, after first publicly praying that it might yield to her efforts only if her chastity were beyond question; and the one who was tried by the people for treason, an unprecedented thing for a woman, because when her carriage made but slow progress through the throng, she openly gave vent to the wish that her brother Pulcher might come to life and lose another fleet, to make less of a crowd in Rome. It is notorious besides that all the Claudii were aristocrats and staunch upholders of the prestige and influence of the patricians, with the sole exception of Publius Clodius, who for the sake of driving Cicero from the city had himself adopted by a plebeian and one too who was younger than himself. Their attitude towards the commons was so headstrong and stubborn that not even when on trial for his life before the people did any one of them deign to put on mourning or beg for mercy; and some of them during bickering and disputes struck the tribunes of the commons. Even a Vestal virgin mounted her brother's chariot with him, when he was celebrating a triumph without the sanction of the people, and attended him all the way to the Capitol, in order to make it an act of sacrilege for any one of the tribunes to forbid him or interpose his veto.
Such was the stock from which Tiberius Caesar derived his origin, and that too on both sides: on his father's from Tiberius Nero; on his mother's from Appius Pulcher, both of whom were sons of Appius Caecus. He was a member also of the family of the Livii, through the adoption into it of his maternal grandfather. This family too, though of plebeian origin, was yet of great prominence and had been honoured with eight consulships, two censorships, and three triumphs, as well as with the offices of dictator and master of the horse. It was made illustrious too by distinguished members, in particular Salinator and the Drusi. 2 The former in his censorship put the brand on all the tribes6 on the charge of fickleness, because having convicted and fined him after a previous consulship, they made him consul a second time and censor as well. Drusus gained a surname for himself and his descendants by slaying Drausus, leader of the enemy, in single combat. It is also said that when propraetor he brought back from his province of Gaul the gold which was paid long before to the Senones, when they beleaguered the Capitol, and that this had not been wrested from them by Camillus, as tradition has it. His grandson's grandson, called "Patron of the Senate" because of his distinguished services against the Gracchi, left a son who was treacherously slain by the party of his opponents, while he was busily agitating many plans during a similar dissension.
Nero, the father of Tiberius, as a quaestor of Julius Caesar during the Alexandrian war and commander of a fleet, contributed materially to the victory. For this he was made pontiff in place of Publius Scipio and sent to conduct colonies to Gaul, among them Narbo and Arelate. Yet after the murder of Caesar, when all the others voted for an amnesty through fear of mob violence, he even favoured a proposal for rewarding the tyrannicides. Later on, having held the praetorship, since a dispute arose among the triumvirs at the close of his term, he retained the badges of his rank beyond the legitimate time and followed Lucius Antonius, consul and brother of the triumvir, to Perusia. When the others capitulated, he alone held to his allegiance and got away first to Praeneste and then to Naples; and after vainly trying to enlist the slaves by a promise of freedom, he took refuge in Sicily. Piqued however because he was not at once given an audience with Sextus Pompeius, and was denied the use of the fasces, he crossed to Achaia and joined Mark Antony. With him he shortly returned to Rome, on the conclusion of a general peace, and gave up to Augustus at his request his wife Livia Drusilla, who was pregnant at the time and had already borne him a son. Not long afterwards he died, survived by both his sons, Tiberius Nero and Drusus Nero.
Some have supposed that Tiberius was born at Fundi, on no better evidence than that his maternal grandmother was a native of that place, and that later a statue of Good Fortune was set up there by decree of the senate. But according to the most numerous and trustworthy authorities, he was born at Rome, on the Palatine, the sixteenth day before the Kalends of December, in the consulship of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Lucius Munatius Plancus (the former for the second time) while the war of Philippi was going on. In fact it is so recorded both in the calendar and in the public gazette. Yet in spite of this some write that he was born in the preceding year, that of Hirtius and Pansa, and others in the following year, in the consulate of Servilius Isauricus and Lucius Antonius.
He passed his infancy and his youth amid hardship and tribulation, since he was everywhere the companion of his parents in their flight; at Naples indeed he all but betrayed them twice by his crying, as they were secretly on their way to a ship just as the enemy burst into town, being suddenly torn from his nurse's breast and again from his mother's arms by those who tried to relieve the poor women of their burden because of the imminent danger. After being taken all over Sicily also and Achaia, and consigned to the public care of the Lacedaemonians, because they were dependents of the Claudii, he almost lost his life as he was leaving there by night, when the woods suddenly took fire all about them, and the flames so encircled the whole company that part of Livia's robe and her hair were scorched. The gifts which were given him in Sicily by Pompeia, sister of Sextus Pompeius, a cloak and clasp, as well as studs of gold, are still kept and exhibited at Baiae. Being adopted, after his return to the city, in the will of Marcus Gallius, a senator, he accepted the inheritance, but soon gave up the name, because Gallius had been a member of the party opposed to Augustus.
At the age of nine he delivered a eulogy of his dead father from the rostra. Then, just as he was arriving at puberty, he accompanied the chariot of Augustus in his triumph after Actium, riding the left trace-horse, while Marcellus, son of Octavia, rode the one on the right. He presided, too, at the city festival, and took part in the game of Troy during the performances in the circus, leading the band of older boys.
The principal events of his youth and later life, from the assumption of the gown of manhood to the beginning of his reign, were these. He gave a gladiatorial show in memory of his father, and a second in honour of his grandfather Drusus, at different times and in different places, the former in the Forum and the latter in the amphitheatre, inducing some retired gladiators to appear with the rest by the payment of hundred thousand sesterces to each. He also gave stage-plays, but without being present in person. All these were on a grand scale, at the expense of his mother and his stepfather.
He married Agrippina, daughter of Marcus Agrippa, and granddaughter of Caecilius Atticus, a Roman knight, to whom Cicero's letters are addressed; but after he had acknowledged a son from her, Drusus, although she was thoroughly congenial and was a second time with child, he was forced to divorce her and to contract a hurried marriage with Julia, daughter of Augustus. This caused him no little distress of mind, for he was living happily with Agrippina, and disapproved of Julia's character, having perceived that she had a passion for him even during the lifetime of her former husband, as was in fact the general opinion. But even after the divorce he regretted his separation from Agrippina, and the only time that he chanced to see her, he followed her with such an intent and tearful gaze that care was taken that she should never again come before his eyes. With Julia he lived in harmony at first, and returned her love; but he soon grew cold, and went so far as to cease to live with her at all, after the severing of the tie formed by a child which was born to them, but died at Aquileia in infancy. He lost his brother Drusus in Germany and conveyed his body to Rome, going before it on foot all the way.
He began his civil career by a defence of king Archelaus, the people of Tralles, and those of Thessaly, before the judgment seat of Augustus, the charge in each case being different. He made a plea to the senate in behalf of the citizens of Laodicea, Thyatira and Chios, who had suffered loss from an earthquake and begged for help. Fannius Caepio, who had conspired with Varro Murena against Augustus, he arraigned for high treason and secured his condemnation. In the meantime he undertook two public charges: that of the grain supply, which, as it happened, was deficient; and the investigation of the slave-prisons throughout Italy, the owners of which had gained a bad reputation; for they were charged with holding in durance not only travellers, but also those whom dread of military service had driven to such places of concealment.
His first military service was as tribune of the soldiers in the campaign against the Cantabrians; then he led an army to the Orient and restored the throne of Armenia to Tigranes, crowning him on the tribunal. He besides recovered the standards which the Parthians had taken from Marcus Crassus. Then for about a year he was governor of Gallia Comata, which was in a state of unrest through the inroads of the barbarians and the dissensions of its chiefs. Next he carried on war with the Raeti and Vindelici, then in Pannonia, and finally in Germany. In the first of these wars he subdued the Alpine tribes, in the second the Breuci and Dalmatians, and in the third he brought forty thousand prisoners of war over into Gaul and assigned them homes near the bank of the Rhine. Because of these exploits he entered the city both in an ovation and riding in a chariot, having previously, as some think, been honoured with the triumphal regalia, a new kind of distinction never before conferred upon anyone.
He entered upon the offices of quaestor, praetor, and consul before the usual age, and held them almost without an interval; then after a time he was made consul again, at the same time receiving the tribunicial power for five years.
At the flood-tide of success, though in the prime of life and health, he suddenly decided to go into retirement and to withdraw as far as possible from the centre of the stage; perhaps from disgust at his wife, whom he dared neither accuse nor put away, though he could no longer endure her; or perhaps, avoiding the contempt born of familiarity, to keep up his prestige by absence, or even add to it, in case his country should ever need him. Some think that, since the children of Augustus were now of age, he voluntarily gave up the position and the virtual assumption of the second rank which he had long held, thus following the example of Marcus Agrippa, who withdrew to Mytilene when Marcellus began his public career, so that he might not seem either to oppose or belittle him by his presence. This was, in fact, the reason which Tiberius himself gave, but afterwards. At the time he asked for leave of absence on the ground of weariness of office and a desire to rest; and he would not give way either to his mother's urgent entreaties or to the complaint which his step-father openly made in the senate, that he was being forsaken. On the contrary, when they made more strenuous efforts to detain him, he refused to take food for four days. Being at last allowed to depart, he left his wife and son in Rome and went down to Ostia in haste, without saying a single word to any of those who saw him off, and kissing only a very few when he left.
From Ostia he coasted along the shore of Campania, and learning of an indisposition of Augustus, he stopped for a while. But since gossip was rife that he was lingering on the chance of realising his highest hopes, although the wind was all but dead ahead, he sailed directly to Rhodes, for he had been attracted by the charm and healthfulness of that island ever since the time when he put in there on his return from Armenia. Content there with a modest house and a villa in the suburbs not much more spacious, he adopted a most unassuming manner of life, at times walking in the gymnasium without a lictor or a messenger, and exchanging courtesies with the good people of Greece with almost the air of an equal.
It chanced one morning in arranging his programme for the day, that he had announced his wish to visit whatever sick folk there were in the city. This was misunderstood by his attendants, and orders were given that all the sick should be taken to a public colonnade and arranged according to the nature of their complaints. Whereupon Tiberius, shocked at this unexpected sight, and in doubt for some time what to do, at last went about to each one, apologizing for what had happened even to the humblest and most obscure of them.
Only one single instance was noticed of a visible exercise of the rights of the tribunicial authority. He was a constant attendant at the schools and lecture-rooms of the professors of philosophy, and once when a hot dispute had arisen among rival sophists, a fellow had the audacity to ply him with abuse when he took part and appeared to favour one side. Thereupon he gradually backed away to his house, and then suddenly coming out with his lictors and attendants, and bidding his crier to summon the foul-mouthed fellow before his tribunal, he had him taken off to prison.
Shortly after this he learned that his wife Julia had been banished because of her immorality and adulteries, and that a bill of divorce had been sent her in his name by authority of Augustus; but welcome as this news was, he yet considered it his duty to make every possible effort in numerous letters to reconcile the father to his daughter; and regardless of her deserts, to allow her to keep any gifts which he had himself made her at any time. Moreover, when the time of his tribunicial power was at an end, at last admitting that the sole object of his retirement had been to avoid the suspicion of rivalry with Gaius and Lucius, he asked that inasmuch as he was free from care in that regard, since they were now grown up and had an undisputed claim on the succession, he be allowed to visit his relatives, whom he sorely missed. But his request was denied and he was besides admonished to give up all thought of his kindred, whom he had so eagerly abandoned.
Accordingly he remained in Rhodes against his will, having with difficulty through his mother's aid secured permission that, while away from Rome, he should have the title of envoy of Augustus, so as to conceal his disgrace.
Then in very truth he lived not only in private, but even in danger and fear, secluded in the country away from the sea, and shunning the attentions of those that sailed that way; these, however, were constantly thrust on him, since no general or magistrate who was on his way to any province failed to put in at Rhodes. He had besides reasons for still greater anxiety; for when he had crossed to Samos to visit his stepson Gaius, who had been made governor of the Orient, he found him somewhat estranged through the slanders of Marcus Lollius, a member of Gaius' staff and his guardian. He also incurred the suspicion of having through some centurions of his appointment, who were returning to camp after a furlough, sent messages to several persons which were of an ambiguous character and apparently designed to incite them to revolution. On being informed by Augustus of this suspicion, he unceasingly demanded the appointment of someone, of any rank whatsoever, to keep watch over his actions and words.
He also gave up his usual exercises with horses and arms, and laying aside the garb of his country, took to the cloak and slippers; and in this state he continued for upwards of two years, becoming daily an object of greater contempt and aversion. This went so far that the citizens of Nemausus threw down his statues and busts, and when mention was once made of him at a private dinner party, a man got up and assured Gaius that if he would say the word, he would at once take ship for Rhodes and bring back the head of "the exile," as he was commonly called. It was this act especially, which made his position no longer one of mere fear but of actual peril, that drove Tiberius to sue for his recall with most urgent prayers, in which his mother joined; and he obtained it, although partly owing to a fortunate chance. Augustus had resolved to come to no decision of the question which was not agreeable to his elder son, who, as it happened, was at the time somewhat at odds with Marcus Lollius, and accordingly ready to lend an ear to his stepfather's prayers. With his consent therefore Tiberius was recalled, but on the understanding that he should take no part or active interest in public affairs.
So he returned in the eighth year after his retirement, with that strong and unwavering confidence in his destiny, which he had conceived from his early years because of omens and predictions.
When Livia was with child with him, and was trying to divine by various omens whether she would bring forth a male, she took an egg from under a setting-hen, and when she had warmed it in her own hand and those of her attendants in turn, a cock with a fine crest was hatched. In his infancy the astrologer Scribonius promised him an illustrious career and even that he would one day be king, but without the crown of royalty; for at that time of course the rule of the Caesars was as yet unheard of. Again, on his first campaign, when he was leading an army through Macedonia into Syria, it chanced that at Philippi the altars consecrated in bygone days by the victorious legions gleamed of their own accord with sudden fires. When later, on his way to Illyricum, he visited the oracle of Geryon near Patavium, and drew a lot which advised him to seek an answer to his inquiries by throwing golden dice into the fount of Aponus, it came to pass that the dice which he threw showed the highest possible number; and those dice may be seen to‑day under the water. A few days before his recall an eagle, a bird never before seen in Rhodes, perched upon the roof of his house; and the day before he was notified that he might return, his tunic seemed to blaze as he was changing his clothes. It was just at this time that he was convinced of the powers of the astrologer Thrasyllus, whom he had attached to his household as a learned man; for as soon as he caught sight of the ship, Thrasyllus declared that it brought good news--this too at the very moment when Tiberius had made up his mind to push the man off into the sea as they were strolling together, believing him a false prophet and too hastily made the confidant of his secrets, because things were turning out adversely and contrary to his predictions.
On his return to Rome, after introducing his son Drusus to public life, he at once moved from the Carinae and the house of the Pompeys to the gardens of Maecenas on the Esquiline, where he led a very retired life, merely attending to his personal affairs and exercising no public functions.
When Gaius and Lucius died within three years, he was adopted by Augustus along with their brother Marcus Agrippa, being himself first compelled to adopt his nephew Germanicus. And from that time on he ceased to act as the head of a family, or to retain in any particular the privileges which he had given up. For he neither made gifts nor freed slaves, and he did not even accept an inheritance or any legacies, except to enter them as an addition to his personal property. From this time on nothing was left undone which could add to his prestige, especially after the disowning and banishment of Agrippa made it clear that the hope of the succession lay in him alone.
He was given the tribunician power for a second term of three years, the duty of subjugating Germany was assigned him, and the envoys of the Parthians, after presenting their instructions to Augustus in Rome, were bidden to appear also before him in his province. But when the revolt of Illyricum was reported, he was transferred to the charge of a new war, the most serious of all foreign wars since those with Carthage, which he carried on for three years with fifteen legions and a corresponding force of auxiliaries, amid great difficulties of every kind and the utmost scarcity of supplies. But though he was often recalled, he none the less kept on, for fear that the enemy, who were close at hand and very strong, might assume the offensive if the Romans gave ground. He reaped an ample reward for his perseverance, for he completely subdued and reduced to submission the whole of Illyricum, which is bounded by Italy and the kingdom of Noricum, by Thrace and Macedonia, by the Danube, and by the Adriatic sea.
Circumstances gave this exploit a larger and crowning glory; for it was at just about that time that Quintilius Varus perished with three legions in Germany, and no one doubted that the victorious Germans would have united with the Pannonians, had not Illyricum been subdued first. Consequently a triumph was voted him and many high honours. Some also recommended that he be given the surname of Pannonicus, others of Invictus, others of Pius. Augustus however vetoed the surname, reiterating the promise that Tiberius would be satisfied with one which he would receive at his father's death. Tiberius himself put off the triumph, because the country was in mourning for the disaster to Varus; but he entered the city clad in the purple-bordered toga and crowned with laurel, and mounting a tribunal which had been set up in the Saepta, while the senate stood alongside, he took his seat beside Augustus between the two consuls. Having greeted the people from this position, he was escorted to the various temples.
The next year he returned to Germany, and realising that the disaster to Varus was due to that general's rashness and lack of care, he took no step without the approval of a council; while he had always before been a man of independent judgment and self-reliance, then contrary to his habit he consulted with many advisers about the conduct of the campaign. He also observed more scrupulous care than usual. When on the point of crossing the Rhine, he reduced all the baggage to a prescribed limit, and would not start without standing on the bank and inspecting the loads of the wagons, to make sure that nothing was taken except what was allowed or necessary. Once on the other side, he adopted the following manner of life: he took his meals sitting on the bare turf, often passed the night without a tent, and gave all his orders for the following day, as well as notice of any sudden emergency, in writing; adding the injunction that if anyone was in doubt about any matter, he was to consult him personally at any hour whatsoever, even of the night.
He required the strictest discipline, reviving bygone methods of punishment and ignominy, and even degrading the commander of a legion for sending a few soldiers across the river to accompany one of his freedmen on a hunting expedition. Although he left very little to fortune and chance, he entered battles with considerably greater confidence whenever it happened that, as he was working at night, his lamp suddenly and without human agency died down and went out; trusting, as used to say, to an omen in which he had great confidence, since both he and his ancestors had found it trustworthy in all of their campaigns. Yet in the very hour of victory he narrowly escaped assassination by one of the Bructeri, who got access to him among his attendants, but was detected through his nervousness; whereupon a confession of his intended crime was wrung from him by torture.
After two years he returned to the city from Germany and celebrated the triumph which he had postponed, accompanied also by his generals, for whom he had obtained the triumphal regalia. And before turning to enter the Capitol, he dismounted from his chariot and fell at the knees of his father, who was presiding over the ceremonies. He sent Bato, the leader of the Pannonians, to Ravenna, after presenting him with rich gifts; thus showing his gratitude to him for allowing him to escape when he was trapped with his army in a dangerous place. Then he gave a banquet to the people at a thousand tables, and a largess of three hundred sesterces to every man. With the proceeds of his spoils he restored and dedicated the temple of Concord, as well as that of Pollux and Castor, in his own name and that of his brother.
Since the consuls caused a law to be passed soon after this that he should govern the provinces jointly with Augustus and hold the census with him, he set out for Illyricum on the conclusion of the lustral ceremonies; but he was at once recalled, and finding Augustus in his last illness but still alive, he spent an entire day with him in private.
I know that it is commonly believed, that when Tiberius left the room after this confidential talk, Augustus was overheard by his chamberlains to say: "Alas for the Roman people, to be ground by jaws that crunch so slowly!" I also am aware that some have written that Augustus so openly and unreservedly disapproved of his austere manners, that he sometimes broke off his freer and lighter conversation when Tiberius appeared; but that overcome by his wife's entreaties he did not reject his adoption, or perhaps was even led by selfish considerations, that with such a successor he himself might one day be more regretted. But after all I cannot be led to believe that an emperor of the utmost prudence and foresight acted without consideration, especially in a matter of so great moment. It is my opinion that after weighing the faults and the merits of Tiberius, he decided that the latter preponderated, especially since he took oath before the people that he was adopitng Tiberius for the good of the country, and alludes to him in several letters as a most able general and the sole defence of the Roman people. In illustration of both these points, I append a few extracts from these letters.
"Fare thee well, Tiberius, most charming of men, and success go with you, as you war for me and for the Muses. Fare thee well, most charming and valiant of men and most conscientious of generals, or may I never know happiness."
"I have only praise for the conduct of your summer campaigns, dear Tiberius, and I am sure that no one could have acted with better judgment than you did amid so many difficulties and such apathy of your army. All who were with you agree that the well-known line could be applied to you: "'One man alone by his foresight has saved our dear country from ruin.'"
"If anything comes up that calls for careful thought, or if I am vexed at anything, I long mightily, so help me Heaven, for my dear Tiberius, and the lines of Homer come to my mind: "'Let him but follow and we too, though flames round about us be raging,/ Both may return to our homes, since great are his wisdom and knowledge.'"
"When I hear and read that you are worn out by constant hardships, may the Gods confound me if my own body does not wince in sympathy; and I beseech you to spare yourself, that the news of your illness may not kill your mother and me, and endanger the Roman people in the person of their future ruler."
"It matters not whether I am well or not, if you are not well."
"I pray the Gods to preserve you to us and to grant you good health now and forever, if they do not utterly hate the people of Rome."
Tiberius did not make the death of Augustus public until the young Agrippa had been disposed of. The latter was slain by a tribune of the soldiers appointed to guard him, who received a letter in which he was bidden to do the deed; but it is not known whether Augustus left this letter when he died, to remove a future source of discord, or whether Livia wrote it herself in the name of her husband; and in the latter case, whether it was with or without the connivance of Tiberius. At all events, when the tribune reported that he had done his bidding, Tiberius replied that he had given no such order, and that the man must render an account to the senate; apparently trying to avoid odium at the time, for later his silence consigned the matter to oblivion.
When, however, by virtue of his tribunicial power, he had convened the senate and had begun to address it, he suddenly groaned aloud, as if overcome by grief, and with the wish that not only his voice, but his life as well might leave him, handed the written speech to his son Drusus to finish. Then bringing in the will of Augustus, he had it read by a freedman, admitting of the signers only such as were of the senatorial order, while the others acknowledged their seals outside the House. The will began thus: "Since a cruel fate has bereft me of my sons Gaius and Lucius, be Tiberius Caesar heir to two-thirds of my estate." These words in themselves added to the suspicion of those who believed that he had named Tiberius his successor from necessity rather than from choice, since he allowed himself to write such a preamble.
Though Tiberius did not hesitate at once to assume and to exercise the imperial authority, surrounding himself with a guard of soldiers, that is, with the actual power and the outward sign of sovereignty, yet he refused the title for a long time, with barefaced hypocrisy now upbraiding his friends who urged him to accept it, saying that they did not realise what a monster the empire was, and now by evasive answers and calculating hesitancy keeping the senators in suspense when they implored him to yield, and fell at his feet. Finally, some lost patience, and one man cried out in the confusion: "Let him take it or leave it." Another openly voiced the taunt that others were slow in doing what they promised, but that he was slow to promise what he was already doing. At last, as though on compulsion, and complaining that a wretched and burdensome slavery was being forced upon him, he accepted the empire, but in such fashion as to suggest the hope that he would one day lay it down. His own words are: "Until I come to the time when it may seem right to you to grant an old man some repose."
The cause of his hesitation was fear of the dangers which threatened him on every hand, and often led him to say that he was "holding a wolf by the ears." For a slave of Agrippa, Clemens by name, had collected a band of no mean size to avenge his master; Lucius Scribonius Libo, one of the nobles, was secretly plotting a revolution; and a mutiny of the soldiers broke out in two places, Illyricum and Germany. Both armies demanded numerous special privileges--above all, that they should receive the same pay as the praetorians. The army in Germany was, besides, reluctant to accept an emperor who was not its own choice, and with the greatest urgency besought Germanicus, their commander at the time, to assume the purple, in spite of his positive refusal. Fear of this possibility in particular led Tiberius to ask the senate for any part in the administration that it might please them to assign him, saying that no one man could bear the whole burden without a colleague, or even several colleagues. He also feigned ill-health, to induce Germanicus to wait with more patience for a speedy succession, or at least for a share in the sovereignty. The mutinies were put down, and he also got Clemens into his power, outwitting him by stratagem. Not until his second year did he finally arraign Libo in the senate, fearing to take any severe measures before his power was secure, and satisfied in the meantime merely to be on his guard. Thus when Libo was offering sacrifice with him among the pontiffs, he had a leaden knife substituted for the usual one, and when he asked for a private interview, Tiberius would not grant it except with his son Drusus present, and as long as the conference lasted he held fast to Libo's right arm, under pretence of leaning on it as they walked together.
Once relieved of fear, he at first played a most unassuming part, almost humbler than that of a private citizen. Of many high honours he accepted only a few of the more modest. He barely consented to allow his birthday, which came at the time of the Plebeian games in the Circus, to be recognized by the addition of a single two-horse chariot. He forbade the voting of temples, flamens, and priests in his honour, and even the setting up of statues and busts without his permission; and this he gave only with the understanding that they were not to be placed among the likenesses of the gods, but among the adornments of the temples. He would not allow an oath to be taken ratifying his acts, nor the name Tiberius to be given to the month of September, or that of Livia to October. He also declined the forename Imperator, the surname of Father of his Country, and the placing of the civic crown at his door; and he did not even use the title of Augustus in any letters except those to kings and potentates, although it was his by inheritance. He held but three consulships after becoming emperor--one for a few days, a second for three months, and a third, during his absence from the city, until the Ides of May.
He so loathed flattery that he would not allow any senator to approach his litter, either to pay his respects or on business, and when an ex-consul in apologizing to him attempted to embrace his knees, he drew back in such haste that he fell over backward. In fact, if anyone in conversation or in a set speech spoke of him in too flattering terms, he did not hesitate to interrupt him, to take him to task, and to correct his language on the spot. Being once called "Lord," he warned the speaker not to address him again in an insulting fashion. When another spoke of his "sacred duties," and still another said that he appeared before the senate "by the emperor's authority," he forced them to change their language, substituting "advice" for "authority" and "laborious" for "sacred."
More than that, he was self-contained and patient in the face of abuse and slander, and of lampoons on himself and his family, often asserting that in a free country there should be free speech and free thought. When the senate on one occasion demanded that cognizance be taken of such offences and those guilty of them, he said: "We have not enough spare time to warrant involving ourselves in more affairs; if you open this loophole you will find no time for any other business; it will be an excuse for laying everybody's quarrels before you." A most unassuming remark of his in the senate is also a matter of record: "If so and so criticizes me I shall take care to render an account of my acts and words; if he persists, our enmity will be mutual."
All this was the more noteworthy, because in addressing and in paying his respects to the senators individually and as a body he himself almost exceeded the requirements of courtesy. In a disagreement with Quintus Haterius in the house, he said: "I crave your pardon, if in my capacity as senator I use too free language in opposing you." Then addressing the whole body: "I say now and have often said before, Fathers of the Senate, that a well-disposed and helpful prince, to whom you have given such great and unrestrained power, ought to be the servant of the senate, often of the citizens as a whole, and sometimes even of individuals. I do not regret my words, but I have looked upon you as kind, just, and indulgent masters, and still so regard you."
He even introduced a semblance of free government by maintaining the ancient dignity and powers of the senate and the magistrates; for there was no matter of public or private business so small or so great that he did not lay it out before the senators, consulting them about revenues and monopolies, constructing and restoring public buildings, and even about levying and disbanding the soldiers, and the disposal of the legionaries and auxiliaries; finally about the extension of military commands and appointments to the conduct of wars, and the form and content of his replies to the letters of kings. He forced the commander of a troop of horse, when charged with violence and robbery, to plead his cause before the senate. He always entered the House alone; and when he was brought in once in a litter because of illness, he dismissed his attendants.
When certain decrees were passed contrary to his expressed opinion, he did not even remonstrate. Although he declared that those who were elected to office ought to remain in the city and give personal attention to their duties, a praetor elect obtained permission to travel abroad with the privileges of an ambassador. On another occasion when he recommended that the people of Trebiaa be allowed to use, in making a road, a sum of money which had been left them for the construction of a new theatre, he could not prevent the wish of the testator from being carried out. When it happened that the senate passed a decree by division and he went over to the side of the minority, not a man followed him.
Other business as well was done solely through meetings and the ordinary process of law, while the importance of the consuls was such that certain envoys from Africa presented themselves before them with the complaint that their time was being wasted by Caesar, to whom they had been sent. And this was not surprising, for it was plain to all that he himself actually arose in the presence of the consuls, and made way for them on the street.
He rebuked some ex-consuls in command of armies, because they did not write their reports to the senate, and for referring to him the award of some military prizes, as if they had not themselves the right to bestow everything of the kind. He highly complimented a praetor, because on entering upon his office he had revived the custom of eulogizing his ancestors before the people. He attended the obsequies of certain distinguished men, even going to the funeral-pyre.
He showed equal modesty towards persons of lower rank and in matters of less moment. When he had summoned the magistrates of Rhodes, because they had written him letters on public business without the concluding formula, he uttered not a word of censure, but merely dismissed them with orders to supply the omission. The grammarian Diogenes, who used to lecture every Sabbath at Rhodes, would not admit Tiberius when he came to hear him on a different day, but sent a message by a common slave of his, putting him off to the seventh day. When this man waited before the Emperor's door at Rome to pay his respects, Tiberius took no further revenge than to bid him return seven years later. To the governors who recommended burdensome taxes for his provinces, he wrote in answer that it was the part of a good shepherd to shear his flock, not skin it.
Little by little he unmasked the ruler, and although for some time his conduct was variable, yet he more often showed himself kindly and devoted to the public weal. His intervention was at first limited to the prevention of abuses. Thus he revoked some regulations of the senate and sometimes offered the magistrates his services as adviser, when they sat in judgment on the tribunal, taking his place beside them or opposite them at one end of the platform; and if it was rumoured that any of the accused were being acquitted through influence, he would suddenly appear, and either from the floor or from the judge's tribunal remind the jurors of the laws and of their oath, as well as of the nature of the crime on which they were sitting in judgment. Moreover, if the public morals were in any way affected by laziness or bad habits he undertook to reform them.
He reduced the cost of the games and shows by cutting down the pay of the actors and limiting the pairs of gladiators to a fixed number. Complaining bitterly that the prices of Corinthian bronzes had risen to an immense figure and that three mullets had been sold for thirty thousand sesterces, he proposed that a limit be set to household furniture and that the prices in the market should be regulated each year at the discretion of the senate; while the aediles were instructed to put such restrictions on cook-shops and eating-houses as not to allow even pastry to be exposed for sale. Furthermore, to encourage general frugality by his personal example, he often served at formal dinners meats left over from the day before and partly consumed, or the half of a boar, declaring that it had all the qualities of a whole one.
He issued an edict forbidding general kissing, as well as the exchange of New Year's gifts after the Kalends of January. It was his custom to return a gift of four-fold value, and in person; but annoyed at being interrupted all through the month by those who did not have access to him on the holiday, he did not continue it.
He revived the custom of our forefathers, that in the absence of a public prosecutor matrons of ill-repute be punished according to the decision of a council of their relatives. He absolved a Roman knight from his oath and allowed him to put away his wife, who was taken in adultery with her son-in‑law, even though he had previously sworn that he would never divorce her. Notorious women had begun to make an open profession of prostitution, to avoid the punishment of the laws by giving up the privileges and rank of matrons, while the most profligate young men of both orders voluntarily incurred degradation from their rank, so as not to be prevented by the decree of the senate from appearing on the stage and in the arena. All such men and women he punished with exile, to prevent anyone from shielding himself by such a device. He deprived a senator of his broad stripe on learning that he had moved to his gardens just before the Kalends of July, with the design of renting a house in the city at a lower figure after that date. He deposed another from his quaestorship, because he had taken a wife the day before casting lots and divorced her the day after.
He abolished foreign cults, especially the Egyptian and the Jewish rites, compelling all who were addicted to such superstitions to burn their religious vestments and all their paraphernalia. Those of the Jews who were of military age he assigned to provinces of less healthy climate, ostensibly to serve in the army; the others of that same race or of similar beliefs he banished from the city, on pain of slavery for life if they did not obey. He banished the astrologers as well, but pardoned such as begged for indulgence and promised to give up their art.
He gave special attention to securing safety from prowling brigands and lawless outbreaks. He stationed garrisons of soldiers nearer together than before throughout Italy, while at Rome he established a camp for the barracks of the praetorian cohorts, which before that time had been quartered in isolated groups in divers lodging houses.
He took great pains to prevent outbreaks of the populace and punished such as occurred with the utmost severity. When a quarrel in the theatre ended in bloodshed, he banished the leaders of the factions, as well as the actors who were the cause of the dissension; and no entreaties of the people could ever induce him to recall them. When the populace of Pollentia would not allow the body of a chief-centurion to be taken from the forum until their violence had extorted money from his heirs for a gladiatorial show, he dispatched one cohort from the city and another from the kingdom of Cottius, concealing the reason for the move, sent them into the city by different gates, suddenly revealing their arms and sounding their trumpets, and consigned the greater part of the populace and of the decurions to imprisonment. He abolished the customary right of asylum in all parts of the empire. Because the people of Cyzicus ventured to commit acts of special lawlessness against Roman citizens, he took from them the freedom which they had earned in the war with Mithridates.
He undertook no campaign after his accession, but quelled outbreaks of the enemy through his generals; and even this he did only reluctantly and of necessity. Such kings as were disaffected and objects of his suspicion he held in check rather by threats and remonstrances than by force; some he lured to Rome by flattering promises and detained there, such as Marobodus the German, Rhascuporis the Thracian, and Archelaus of Cappadocia, whose realm he also reduced to the form of a province.
For two whole years after becoming emperor he did not set foot outside the gates; after that he went nowhere except to the neighbouring towns, at farthest to Antium, and even that very seldom and for a few days at a time. Yet he often gave out that he would revisit the provinces too and the armies, and nearly every year he made preparations for a journey by chartering carriages and arranging for supplies in the free towns and colonies. Finally he allowed vows to be put up for his voyage and return, so that at last everybody jokingly gave him the name of Callippides, who was proverbial among the Greeks for running without getting ahead a cubit's length.
But after being bereft of both his sons,--Germanicus had died in Syria and Drusus at Rome,--he retired to Campania, and almost everyone firmly believed and openly declared that he would never come back, but would soon die there. And both predictions were all but fulfilled; for he did not return again to Rome, and it chanced a few days later that as he was dining near Tarracina in a villa called the Grotto, many huge rocks fell from the ceiling and crushed a number of the guests and servants, while the emperor himself had a narrow escape.
After traversing Campania and dedicating the Capitolium at Capua and a temple to Augustus at Nola, which was the pretext he had given for his journey, he went to Capreae, particularly attracted to that island because it was accessible by only one small beach, being everywhere girt with sheer cliffs of great height and by deep water. But he was at once recalled by the constant entreaties of the people, because of a disaster at Fidenae, where more than twenty thousand spectators had perished through the collapse of the amphitheatre during a gladiatorial show. So he crossed to the mainland and made himself accessible to all, the more willingly because he had given orders on leaving the city that no one was to disturb him, and during the whole trip had repulsed those who tried to approach him.
Then returning to the island, he utterly neglected the conduct of state affairs, from that time on never filling the vacancies in the decuries64 of the knights, nor changing the tribunes of the soldiers and prefects or the governors of any of his provinces. He left Spain and Syria without consular governors for several years, suffered Armenia to be overrun by the Parthians, Moesia to be laid waste by the Dacians and Sarmatians, and the Gallic provinces by the Germans, to the great dishonour of the empire and no less to its danger.
Moreover, having gained the licence of privacy, and being as it were out of sight of the citizens, he at last gave free rein at once to all the vices which he had for a long time ill concealed; and of these I shall give a detailed account from the beginning. Even at the outset of his military career his excessive love of wine gave him the name of Biberius, instead of Tiberius, Caldius for Claudius, and Mero for Nero. Later, when emperor and at the very time that he was busy correcting the public morals, he spent a night and two whole days feasting and drinking with Pomponius Flaccus and Lucius Piso, immediately afterwards making the one governor of the province of Syria and the other prefect of the city, and even declaring in their commissions that they were the most agreeable of friends, who could always be counted on. He had a dinner given him by Cestius Gallus, a lustful and prodigal old man, who had once been degraded by Augustus and whom he had himself rebuked a few days before in the senate, making the condition that Cestius should change or omit none of his usual customs, and that nude girls should wait upon them at table. He gave a very obscure candidate for the quaestorship preference over men of the noblest families, because at the emperor's challenge he had drained an amphora of wine at a banquet. He paid Asellius Sabinus two hundred thousand sesterces for a dialogue, in which he had introduced a contest of a mushroom, a fig-pecker, an oyster and a thrush. He established a new office, master of the imperial pleasures, assigning it to Titus Caesonius Priscus, a Roman knight.
On retiring to Capri he devised a pleasance for his secret orgies: teams of wantons of both sexes, selected as experts in deviant intercourse and dubbed analists, copulated before him in triple unions to excite his flagging passions. Its bedrooms were furnished with the most salacious paintings and sculptures, as well as with an erotic library, in case a performer should need an illustration of what was required. Then in Capri's woods and groves he arranged a number of nooks of venery where boys and girls got up as Pans and nymphs solicited outside bowers and grottoes: people openly called this "the old goat's garden," punning on the island's name.
He acquired a reputation for still grosser depravities that one can hardly bear to tell or be told, let alone believe. For example, he trained little boys (whom he termed tiddlers) to crawl between his thighs when he went swimming and tease him with their licks and nibbles; and unweaned babies he would put to his organ as though to the breast, being by both nature and age rather fond of this form of satisfaction. Left a painting of Parrhasius's depicting Atalanta pleasuring Meleager with her lips on condition that if the theme displeased him he was to have a million sesterces instead, he chose to keep it and actually hung it in his bedroom. The story is also told that once at a sacrifice, attracted by the acolyte's beauty, he lost control of himself and, hardly waiting for the ceremony to end, rushed him off and debauched him and his brother, the flute-player, too; and subsequently, when they complained of the assault, he had their legs broken.
How grossly he was in the habit of abusing women even of high birth is very clearly shown by the death of a certain Mallonia. When she was brought to his bed and refused most vigorously to submit to his lust, he turned her over to the informers, and even when she was on trial he did not cease to call out and ask her "whether she was sorry"; so that finally she left the court and went home, where she stabbed herself, openly upbraiding the ugly old man for his obscenity. Hence a stigma put upon him at the next plays in an Atellan farce was received with great applause and became current, that "the old goat was licking the does."
In money matters he was frugal and close, never allowing the companions of his foreign tours and campaigns a salary, but merely their keep. Only once did he treat them liberally, and then through the generosity of his stepfather, when he formed three classes according to each man's rank and gave to the first six hundred thousand sesterces, to the second four hundred thousand, and to the third, which he called one, not of his friends, but of his Greeks, two hundred thousand.
While emperor he constructed no magnificent public works, for the only ones which he undertook, the temple of Augustus and the restoration of Pompey's theatre, he left unfinished after so many years. He gave no public shows at all, and very seldom attended those given by others, especially after he was forced to buy the freedom of a comic actor named Actius. Having relieved the neediness of a few senators, he avoided the necessity of further aid by declaring that he would help no others unless they proved to the senate that there were legitimate causes for their condition. Therefore diffidence and a sense of shame kept many from applying, among them Hortalus, grandson of Quintus Hortensius the orator, who though of very limited means had begotten four children with the encouragement of Augustus.
He showed generosity to the public in but two instances, once when he offered to lend a hundred million sesterces without interest for a period of three years, and again when he made good the losses of some owners of blocks of houses on the Caelian mount, which had burned down. The former was forced upon him by the clamour of the people for help in a time of great financial stress, after he had failed to relieve the situation by a decree of the senate, providing that the money-lenders should invest two-thirds of their property in land, and that the debtors should at once pay the same proportion of their indebtedness; and the latter also was to relieve a condition of great hardship. Yet he made so much of his liberality in the latter case, that he had the name of the Caelian changed to the Augustan Mount. After he had doubled the legacies provided for in the will of Augustus, he never gave largess to the soldiers, with the exception of a thousand denarii to each of the praetorians, for not taking sides with Sejanus, and some presents to the legions in Syria, because they alone had consecrated no image of Sejanus among their standards. He also very rarely allowed veteran soldiers their discharge, having an eye to their death from years, and a saving of money through their death. He did not relieve the provinces either by any act of liberality, except Asia, when some cities were destroyed by an earthquake.
Presently, as time went on, he even resorted to plunder. All the world knows that he drove Gnaeus Lentulus Augur, a man of great wealth, to take his own life through fear and mental anxiety, and to make the emperor his sole heir; that Lepida, too, a woman of very high birth, was condemned to banishment to gratify Quirinius, an opulent and childless ex-consul, who had divorced her, and twenty years later accused her of having attempted to poison him many years before; that besides this the leading men of the Spanish and Gallic provinces, as well as of Syria and Greece, had their property confiscated on trivial and shameless charges, some being accused of nothing more serious than having a part of their property in ready money; that many states and individuals were deprived of immunities of long standing, of the right of working mines and collecting revenues; that Vonones, king of the Parthians, who on being dethroned by his subjects had taken refuge at Antioch with a vast treasure, in the belief that he was putting himself under the protection of the Roman people, was treacherously despoiled and put to death.
He first showed his hatred of his kindred in the case of his brother Drusus, producing a letter of his, in which Drusus discussed with him the question of compelling Augustus to restore the Republic; and then he turned against the rest. So far from showing any courtesy or kindness to his wife Julia, after her banishment, which is the least that one might expect, although her father's order had merely confined her to one town, he would not allow her even to leave her house or enjoy the society of mankind. Nay more, he even deprived her of the allowance granted her by her father and of her yearly income, under colour of observance of the common law, since Augustus had made no provision for these in his will. Vexed at his mother Livia, alleging that she claimed an equal share in the rule, he shunned frequent meetings with her and long and confidential conversations, to avoid the appearance of being guided by her advice; though in point of fact he was wont every now and then to need and to follow it. He was greatly offended too by a decree of the senate, providing that "son of Livia," as well as "son of Augustus" should be written in his honorary inscriptions. For this reason he would not suffer her to be named "Parent of her Country," nor to receive any conspicuous public honour. More than that, he often warned her not to meddle with affairs of importance and unbecoming a woman, especially after he learned that at a fire near the temple of Vesta she had been present in person, and urged the people and soldiers to greater efforts, as had been her way while her husband was alive.
Afterwards he reached the point of open enmity, and the reason, they say, was this. On her urging him again and again to appoint among the jurors a man who had been made a citizen, he declared that he would do it only on condition that she would allow an entry to be made in the official list that it was forced upon him by his mother. Then Livia, in a rage, drew from a secret place and read some old letters written to her by Augustus with regard to the austerity and stubbornness of Tiberius' disposition. He in turn was so put out that these had been preserved so long and were thrown up at him in such a spiteful spirit, that some think that this was the very strongest of the reasons for his retirement. At all events, during all the three years that she lived after he left Rome he saw her but once, and then only one day, for a very few hours; and when shortly after that she fell ill, he took no trouble to visit her. When she died, and after a delay of several days, during which he held out hope of his coming, had at last been buried because the condition of the corpse made it necessary, he forbade her deification, alleging that he was acting according to her own instructions. He further disregarded the provisions of her will, and within a short time caused the downfall of all her friends and intimates, even of those to whom she had on her deathbed entrusted the care of her obsequies, actually condemning one of them, and that a man of equestrian rank, to the treadmill.
He had a father's affection neither for his own son Drusus nor his adopted son Germanicus, being exasperated at the former's vices; and, in fact, Drusus led a somewhat loose and dissolute life. Therefore, even when he died, Tiberius was not greatly affected, but almost immediately after the funeral returned to his usual routine, forbidding a longer period of mourning. Nay, more, when a deputation from Ilium offered him somewhat belated condolences, he replied with a smile, as if the memory of his bereavement had faded from his mind, that they, too, had his sympathy for the loss of their eminent fellow-citizen Hector. As to Germanicus, he was so far from appreciating him, that he made light of his illustrious deeds as unimportant, and railed at his brilliant victories as ruinous to his country. He even made complaint in the senate when Germanicus, on the occasion of a sudden and terrible famine, went to Alexandria without consulting him. It is even believed that he caused his death at the hands of Gnaeus Piso, governor of Syria, and some think that when Piso was tried on that charge, he would have produced his instructions, had not Tiberius caused them to be taken from him when Piso privately showed them, and the man himself to be put to death. Because of this the words, "Give us back Germanicus," were posted in many places, and shouted at night all over the city. And Tiberius afterwards strengthened this suspicion by cruelly abusing the wife and children of Germanicus as well.
When his daughter-in‑law Agrippina was somewhat outspoken in her complaints after her husband's death, he took her by the hand and quoted a Greek verse, meaning, "Do you think a wrong is done you, dear daughter, if you are not empress?" After that he never deigned to hold any conversation with her. Indeed, after she showed fear of tasting an apple which he handed her at dinner, he even ceased to invite her to his table, alleging that he had been charged with an attempt to poison her; but as a matter of fact, the whole affair had been pre-arranged, that he should offer her the fruit to test her, and that she should refuse it as containing certain death. At last, falsely charging her with a desire to take refuge, now at the statue of Augustus and now with the armies, he exiled her to Pandataria, and when she loaded him with reproaches, he had her beaten by a centurion until one of her eyes was destroyed. Again, when she resolved to die of starvation, he had her mouth pried open and food crammed into it. Worst of all, when she persisted in her resolution and so perished, he assailed her memory with the basest slanders, persuading the senate to add her birthday to the days of ill omen, and actually taking credit to himself for not having had her strangled and her body cast out on the Stairs of Mourning. He even allowed a decree to be passed in recognition of this remarkable clemency, in which thanks were offered him and a golden gift was consecrated to Jupiter of the Capitol.
By Germanicus he had three grandsons, Nero, Drusus, and Gaius, and by Drusus one, called Tiberius. Bereft of his own children, he recommended Nero and Drusus, the elder sons of Germanicus, to the senate, and celebrated the day when each of them came to his majority by giving largess to the commons. But as soon as he learned that at the beginning of the year vows were being put up for their safety also, he referred the matter to the senate, saying that such honours ought to be conferred only on those of tried character and mature years. By revealing his true feelings towards them from that time on, he exposed them to accusations from all quarters, and after resorting to various tricks to rouse them to rail at him, and seeing to it that they were betrayed when they did so, he brought most bitter charges against them both in writing; and when they had in consequence been pronounced public enemies, he starved them to death, Nero on the island of Pontia and Drusus in a lower room of the Palace. It is thought that Nero was forced to take his own life, since an executioner, who pretended that he came by authority of the senate, showed him the noose and hooks, but that Drusus was so tortured by hunger that he tried to eat the stuffing of his mattress; while the remains of both were so scattered that it was with difficulty that they could ever be collected.
In addition to his old friends and intimates, he had asked for twenty of the leading men of the State as advisers on public affairs. Of all these he spared hardly two or three; the others he destroyed on one pretext or another, including Aelius Sejanus, whose downfall involved the death of many others. This man he had advanced to the highest power, not so much from regard for him, as that he might through his services and wiles destroy the children of Germanicus and secure the succession for his own grandson, the child of his son Drusus.
He was not a whit milder towards his Greek companions, in whose society he took special pleasure. When one Xeno was holding forth in somewhat far-fetched phrases, he asked him what dialect that was which was so affected, and on Xeno's replying that it was Doric, he banished him to Cinaria, believing that he was being taunted with his old-time exile, inasmuch as the Rhodians spoke Doric. He had the habit, too, of putting questions at dinner suggested by his daily reading, and learning that the grammarian Seleucus inquired of the imperial attendants what authors Tiberius was reading and so came primed, he at first banished the offender from his society, and later even forced him to commit suicide.
His cruel and cold-blooded character was not completely hidden even in his boyhood. His teacher of rhetoric, Theodorus of Gadara, seems first to have had the insight to detect it, and to have characterized it very aptly, since in taking him to task he would now and then call him πηλὸν αἵματι πεφυραμένον, that is to say, "mud kneaded with blood." But it grew still more noticeable after he became emperor, even at the beginning, when he was still courting popularity by a show of moderation. When a funeral was passing by and a jester called aloud to the corpse to let Augustus know that the legacies which he had left to the people were not yet being paid, Tiberius had the man haled before him, ordered that he be given his due and put to death, and bade him go tell the truth to his father. Shortly afterwards, when a Roman knight called Pompeius stoutly opposed some action in the senate, Tiberius threatened him with imprisonment, declaring that from a Pompeius he would make of him a Pompeian, punning cruelly on the man's name and the fate of the old party.
It was at about this time that a praetor asked him whether he should have the courts convened to consider cases of lese-majesty; to which he replied that the laws must be enforced, and he did enforce them most rigorously. One man had removed the head from a statue of Augustus, to substitute that of another; the case was tried in the senate, and since the evidence was conflicting, the witnesses were examined by torture. After the defendant had been condemned, this kind of accusation gradually went so far that even such acts as these were regarded as capital crimes: to beat a slave near a statue of Augustus, or to change one's clothes there; to carry a ring or coin stamped with his image into a privy or a brothel, or to criticize any word or act of his. Finally, a man was put to death merely for allowing an honour to be voted him in his native town on the same day that honours had previously been voted to Augustus.
He did so many other cruel and savage deeds under the guise of strictness and improvement of the public morals, but in reality rather to gratify his natural instincts, that some resorted to verses to express their detestation of the present ills and a warning against those to come: "Cruel and merciless man, shall I briefly say all I would utter?/ Hang me if even your dam for you affection can feel./ You are no knight. Why so? The hundred thousands are lacking;/ If you ask the whole tale, you were an exile at Rhodes./ You, O Caesar, have altered the golden ages of Saturn;/ For while you are alive, iron they ever will be./ Nothing for wine cares this fellow, since now 'tis for blood he is thirsting;/ This he as greedily quaffs as before wine without water./ Look, son of Rome, upon Sulla, for himself not for you blest and happy,/ Marius too, if you will, but after capturing Rome;/ Hands of an Antony see, rousing the strife of the people,/ Hands stained with blood not once, dripping again and again;/ Then say: Rome is no more! He ever has reigned with great bloodshed,/ Whoso made himself king, coming from banishment home."
These at first he wished to be taken as the work of those who were impatient of his reforms, voicing not so much their real feelings as their anger and vexation; and he used to say from time to time: "Let them hate me, provided they respect my conduct." Later he himself proved them only too true and unerring.
A few days after he reached Capreae and was by himself, a fisherman appeared unexpectedly and offered him a huge mullet; whereupon in his alarm that the man had clambered up to him from the back of the island over rough and pathless rocks, he had the poor fellow's face scrubbed with the fish. And because in the midst of his torture the man thanked his stars that he had not given the emperor an enormous crab that he had caught, Tiberius had his face torn with the crab also. He punished a soldier of the praetorian guard with death for having stolen a peacock from his preserves. When the litter in which he was making a trip was stopped by brambles, he had the man who went ahead to clear the way, a centurion of the first cohorts, stretched out on the ground and flogged half to death.
Presently he broke out into every form of cruelty, for which he never lacked occasion, venting it on the friends and even the acquaintances, first of his mother, then of his grandsons and daughter-in-law, and finally of Sejanus. After the death of Sejanus he was more cruel than ever, which showed that his favourite was not wont to egg him on, but on the contrary gave him the opportunities which he himself desired. Yet in a brief and sketchy autobiography which he composed he had the assurance to write that he had punished Sejanus because he found him venting his hatred on the children of his son Germanicus. Whereas in fact he had himself put one of them to death after he had begun to suspect Sejanus and the other after the latter's downfall.
It is a long story to run through his acts of cruelty in detail; it will be enough to mention the forms which they took, as samples of his barbarity. Not a day passed without an execution, not even those that were sacred and holy; for he put some to death even on New Year's day. Many were accused and condemned with their children and even by their children. The relatives of the victims were forbidden to mourn for them. Special rewards were voted the accusers and sometimes even the witnesses. The word of no informer was doubted. Every crime was treated as capital, even the utterance of a few simple words. A poet was charged with having slandered Agamemnon in a tragedy, and a writer of history of having called Brutus and Cassius the last of the Romans. The writers were at once put to death and their works destroyed, although they had been read with approval in public some years before in the presence of Augustus himself. Some of those who were consigned to prison were denied not only the consolation of reading, but even the privilege of conversing and talking together. Of those who were cited to plead their causes some opened their veins at home, feeling sure of being condemned and wishing to avoid annoyance and humiliation, while others drank poison in full view of the senate; yet the wounds of the former were bandaged and they were hurried half-dead, but still quivering, to the prison. Every one of those who were executed was thrown out upon the Stairs of Mourning and dragged to the Tiber with hooks, as many as twenty being so treated in a single day, including women and children. Since ancient usage made it impious to strangle maidens, young girls were first violated by the executioner and then strangled. Those who wished to die were forced to live; for he thought death so light a punishment that when he heard that one of the accused, Carnulus by name, had anticipated his execution, he cried: "Carnulus has given me the slip"; and when he was inspecting the prisons and a man begged for a speedy death, he replied: "I have not yet become your friend." An ex-consul has recorded in his Annals that once at a large dinner-party, at which the writer himself was present, Tiberius was suddenly asked in a loud voice by one of the dwarfs that stood beside the table among the jesters why Paconius, who was charged with treason, remained so long alive; that the emperor at the time chided him for his saucy tongue, but a few days later wrote to the senate to decide as soon as possible about the execution of Paconius.
He increased his cruelty and carried it to greater lengths, exasperated by what he learned about the death of his son Drusus. At first supposing that he had died of disease, due to his bad habits, on finally learning that he had been poisoned by the treachery of his wife Livilla and Sejanus, there was no one whom Tiberius spared from torment and death. Indeed, he gave himself up so utterly for whole days to this investigation and was so wrapped up in it, that when he was told of the arrival of a host of his from Rhodes, whom he had invited to Rome in a friendly letter, he had him put to the torture at once, supposing that someone had come whose testimony was important for the case. On discovering his mistake, he even had the man put to death, to keep him from giving publicity to the wrong done him.
At Capreae they still point out the scene of his executions, from which he used to order that those who had been condemned after long and exquisite tortures be cast headlong into the sea before his eyes, while a band of marines waited below for the bodies and broke their bones with boathooks and oars, to prevent any breath of life from remaining in them. Among various forms of torture he had devised this one: he would trick men into loading themselves with copious draughts of wine, and then on a sudden tying up their private parts, would torment them at the same time by the torture of the cords and of the stoppage of their water. And had not death prevented him, and Thrasyllus, purposely it is said, induced him to put off some things through hope of a longer life, it is believed that still more would have perished, and that he would not even have spared the rest of his grandsons; for he had his suspicions of Gaius and detested Tiberius as the fruit of adultery. And this is highly probable, for he used at all times to call Priam happy, because he had outlived all his kindred.
Many things go to show, not only how hated and execrable he was all this time, but also that he lived a life of extreme fear and was even exposed to insult. He forbade anyone to consult soothsayers secretly and without witnesses. Indeed, he even attempted to do away with the oracles near the city, but forbore through terror at the divine power of the Praenestine lots; for though he had them sealed up in a chest and brought to Rome, he could not find them until the box was taken back to the temple. He had assigned provinces to one or two ex-consuls, of whom he did not dare to lose sight, but he detained them at Rome and finally appointed their successors several years later without their having left the city. In the meantime they retained their titles, and he even continued to assign them numerous commissions, to execute through their deputies and assistants.
After the exile of his daughter-in‑law and grandchildren he never moved them anywhere except in fetters and in a tightly closed litter, while a guard of soldiers kept any who met them on the road from looking at them or even from stopping as they went by.
When Sejanus was plotting revolution, although he saw the man's birthday publicly celebrated and his golden statues honoured everywhere, yet it was with difficulty that he at last overthrew him, rather by craft and deceit than by his imperial authority. First of all, to remove him from his person under colour of showing him honour, he chose him as his colleague in a fifth consulship, which, with this very end in view, he assumed after a long interval while absent from the city. Then beguiling him with hope of marriage into the imperial family and of the tribunicial power, he accused him when he least expected it in a shameful and pitiable speech, begging the senators among other things p387to send one of the consuls to bring him, a lonely old man, into their presence under military protection. Even then distrustful and fearful of an outbreak, he had given orders that his grandson Drusus, whom he still kept imprisoned in Rome, should be set free, if occasion demanded, and made commander-in‑chief. He even got ships ready and thought of flight to some of the legions, constantly watching from a high cliff for the signals which he had ordered to be raised afar off88 as each step was taken, for fear the messengers should be delayed. But even when the conspiracy of Sejanus was crushed, he was no whit more confident or courageous, but for the next nine months he did not leave the villa which is called Io's.
His anxiety of mind became torture because of reproaches of all kinds from every quarter, since every single one of those who were condemned to death heaped all kinds of abuse upon him, either to his face or by billets placed in the orchestra. By these, however, he was most diversely affected, now through a sense of shame desiring that they all be concealed and kept secret, sometimes scorning them and producing them of his own accord and giving them publicity. What, he was even attacked by Artabanus, king of the Parthians, who charged him in a letter with the murder of his kindred, with other bloody deeds, and with shameless and dissolute living, counselling him to gratify the intense and just hatred of the citizens as soon as possible by a voluntary death.
At last in utter self-disgust he all but admitted to extremity of his wretchedness in a letter beginning as follows: "If I know what to write to you, Fathers of the Senate, or how to write it, or what to leave unwritten at present, may all gods and goddesses visit me with more destruction than I feel that I am daily suffering." Some think that through his knowledge of the future he foresaw this situation, and knew long beforehand what detestation and ill-repute one day awaited him; and that therefore when he became emperor, he positively refused the title of "Father of his Country" and to allow the senate to take oath to support his acts, for fear that he might presently be found undeserving of such honours and thus be the more shamed. In fact, this may be gathered from the speech which he made regarding these two matters; for example, when he says; "I shall always be consistent and never change my ways so long as I am in my sense; but for the sake of precedent the senate should beware of binding itself to support the acts of any man, since he might though some mischance suffer a change." Again: "If you ever come to feel any doubt," he says, "of my character or of my heartfelt devotion to you (and before that happens, I pray that my last day may save me from this altered opinion of me), the title of Father of my Country will give me no additional honour, but will be a reproach to you, either for your hasty action in conferring the appellation upon me, or for your inconsistency in changing your estimate of my character."
He was large and strong of frame, and of a stature above the average; broad of shoulders and chest; well proportioned and symmetrical from head to foot. His left hand was the more nimble and stronger, and its joints were so powerful that he could bore through a fresh, sound apple with his finger, and break the head of a boy, or even a young man, with a fillip. He was of fair complexion and wore his hair rather long at the back, so much so as even to cover the nape of his neck; which was apparently a family trait. His face was handsome, but would break out on a sudden with many pimples. His eyes were unusually large and, strange to say, had the power of seeing even at night and in the dark, but only for a short time when first opened after sleep; presently they grew dim-sighted again. He strode along with his neck stiff and bent forward, usually with a stern countenance and for the most part in silence, never or very rarely conversing with his companions, and then speaking with great deliberation and with a kind of supple movement of his fingers. All of these mannerisms of his, which were disagreeable and signs of arrogance, were remarked by Augustus, who often tried to excuse them to the senate and people by declaring that they were natural failings, and not intentional. He enjoyed excellent health, which was all but perfect during nearly the whole of his reign, although from the thirtieth year of his age he took care of it according to his own ideas, without the aid or advice of physicians.
Although somewhat neglectful of the gods and of religious matters, being addicted to astrology and firmly convinced that everything was in the hands of fate, he was nevertheless immoderately afraid of thunder. Whenever the sky was lowering, he always wore a laurel wreath, because it is said that that kind of leaf is not blasted by lightning.
He was greatly devoted to liberal studies in both languages. In his Latin oratory he followed Messala Corvinus, to whom he had given attention in his youth, when Messala was an old man. But he so obscured his style by excessive mannerisms and pedantry, that he was thought to speak much better offhand than in a prepared address. He also composed a lyric poem, entitled "A Lament for the Death of Lucius Caesar," and made Greek verses in imitation of Euphorion, Rhianus, and Parthenius, poets of whom he was very fond, placing their busts in the public libraries among those of the eminent writers of old; and on that account many learned men vied with one another in issuing commentaries on their works and dedicating them to the emperor. Yet his special aim was a knowledge of mythology, which he carried to a silly and laughable extreme; for he used to test even the grammarians, a class of men in whom, as I have said, he was especially interested, by questions something like this: "Who was Hecuba's mother?", "What was the name of Achilles among the maidens?", "What were the Sirens in the habit of singing?" Moreover, on the first day that he entered the senate after the death of Augustus, to satisfy at once the demands of filial piety and religion, he offered sacrifice after the example of Minos with incense and wine, but without a fluteplayer, as Minos had done in ancient times on the death of his son.
Though he spoke Greek readily and fluently, yet he would not use it on all occasions, and especially eschewed it in the senate; so much so that before using the word "monopolium, he begged pardon for the necessity of employing a foreign term. Again, when the word ἔμβλημα was read in a decree of the senate, he recommended that it be changed and a native word substituted for the foreign one; and if one could not be found, that the idea be expressed by several words, if necessary, and by periphrasis. On another occasion, when a soldier was asked in Greek to give testimony, he forbade him to answer except in Latin.
Twice only during the whole period of his retirement did he try to return to Rome, once sailing in a trireme as far as the gardens near the artificial lake, after first posting a guard along the banks of the Tiber to keep off those who came out to meet him; and again coming up the Appian Way as far as the seventh milestone. But he returned after merely having a distant view of the city walls, without approaching them; the first time for some unknown reason, the second through alarm at a portent. He had among his pets a serpent, and when he was going to feed it from his own hand, as his custom was, and discovered that it had been devoured by ants, he was warned to beware of the power of the multitude. So he went back in haste to Campania, fell ill at Astura, but recovering somewhat kept on to Circeii. To avoid giving any suspicion of his weak condition, he not only attended the games of the soldiers, but even threw down darts from his high seat at a boar which was let into the arena. Immediately he was taken with a pain in the side, and then being exposed to a draught when he was overheated, his illness increased. For all that, he kept up for some time, although he continued his journey as far as Misenum and made no change in his usual habits, not even giving up his banquets and other pleasures, partly from lack of self-denial and partly to conceal his condition. Indeed, when the physician Charicles had taken his hand to kiss it as he left the dining-room, since he was going away on leave of absence, Tiberius, thinking that he was trying to feel his pulse, urged him to remain and take his place again, and prolonged the dinner to a late hour. Even then he did not give up his custom of standing in the middle of the dining-room with a lictor by his side and addressing all the guests by name as they said farewell.
Meanwhile, having read in the proceedings of the senate that some of those under accusation, about whom he had written briefly, merely stating that they had been named by an informer, had been discharged without a hearing, he cried out in anger that he was held in contempt, and resolved to return to Capreae at any cost, since he would not risk any step except from his place of refuge. Detained, however, by bad weather and the increasing violence of his illness, he died a little later in the villa of Lucullus, in the seventy-eighth year of his age and the twenty-third of his reign, on the seventeenth day before the Kalends of April, in the consulship of Gnaeus Acerronius Proculus and Gaius Pontius Nigrinus.
Some think that Gaius gave him a slow and wasting poison; others that during convalescence from an attack of fever food was refused him when he asked for it. Some say that a pillow was thrown upon his face, when he came to and asked for a ring which had been taken from him during a fainting fit. Seneca writes that conscious of his approaching end, he took off the ring, as if to give it to someone, but held fast to it for a time; then he put it back on his finger, and clenching his left hand, lay for a long time motionless; suddenly he called for his attendants, and on receiving no response, got up; but his strength failed him and he fell dead near the couch.
On his last birthday he dreamt that the Apollo of Temenos, a statue of remarkable size and beauty, which he had brought from Syracuse to be set up in the library of the new temple, appeared to him in a dream, declaring that it could not be dedicated by Tiberius. A few days before his death the lighthouse at Capreae was wrecked by an earthquake. At Misenum the ashes from the glowing coals and embers which had been brought in to warm his dining-room, after they had died out and been for a long time cold, suddenly blazed up in the early evening and glowed without cessation until late at night.
The people were so glad of his death, that at the first news of it some ran about shouting, "Tiberius to the Tiber," while others prayed to Mother Earth and the Manes to allow the dead man no abode except among the damned. Still others threatened his body with the hook and the Stairs of Mourning, especially embittered by a recent outrage, added to the memory of his former cruelty. It had been provided by decree of the senate that the execution of the condemned should in all cases be put off for ten days, and it chanced that the punishment of some fell due on the day when the news came about Tiberius. The poor wretches begged the public for protection; but since in the continued absence of Gaius there was no one who could be approached and appealed to, the jailers, fearing to act contrary to the law, strangled them and cast out their bodies on the Stairs of Mourning. Therefore hatred of the tyrant waxed greater, since his cruelty endured even after his death. When the funeral procession left Misenum, many cried out that the body ought rather to be carried to Atella, and half-burned in the amphitheatre; but it was taken to Rome by the soldiers and reduced to ashes with public ceremonies.
Two years before his death he had made two copies of a will, one in his own hand and the other in that of a freedman, but of the same content, and had caused them to be signed and sealed by persons of the very lowest condition. In this will he named his grandsons, Gaius, son of Germanicus, and Tiberius, son of Drusus, heirs to equal shares of his estate, each to be sole heir in case of the other's death. Besides, he gave legacies to several, including the vestal virgins, as well as to each and every man of the soldiers and the commons of Rome, with separate ones to the masters of the city wards.