THE REIGN OF TIBERIUS, OUT OF THE FIRST SIX ANNALS OF TACITUS; WITH HIS ACCOUNT OF GERMANY, AND LIFE OF AGRICOLA
TRANSLATED BY THOMAS GORDON,
AND EDITED BY ARTHUR GALTON.
"Alme Sol, curru nitido diem qui Promis et celas, aliusque et idem Nasceris, possis nihil urbe Roma Visere maius."
THE ANNALS, BOOK I
THE ANNALS, BOOK II
THE ANNALS, BOOK III
THE ANNALS, BOOK IV
THE ANNALS, BOOK V
THE ANNALS, BOOK VI
A TREATISE OF THE SITUATION, CUSTOMS, AND PEOPLE OF GERMANY
THE LIFE OF AGRICOLA; WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE SITUATION, CLIMATE, AND PEOPLE OF BRITAIN
"I am going to offer to the publick the Translation of a work, which, for wisdom and force, is in higher fame and consideration, than almost any other that has yet appeared amongst men:" it is in this way, that Thomas Gordon begins The Discourses, which he has inserted into his rendering of Tacitus; and I can find none better to introduce this volume, which my readers owe to Gordon's affectionate and laborious devotion. Caius Cornelius Tacitus, the Historian, was living under those Emperors, who reigned from the year 54 to the year 117, of the Christian era; but the place and the date of his birth are alike uncertain, and the time of his death is not accurately known. He was a friend of the younger Pliny, who was born in the year 61; and, it is possible, they were about the same age. Some of Pliny's letters were written to Tacitus: the most famous, describes that eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which caused the death of old Pliny, and overwhelmed the cities of Pompeii and of Herculaneum. The public life of Tacitus began under Vespasian; and, therefore, he must have witnessed some part of the reign of Nero: and we read in him, too, that he was alive after the accession of the Emperor Trajan. In the year 77, Julius Agricola, then Consul, betrothed his daughter to Tacitus; and they were married in the following year. In 88, Tacitus was Praetor; and at the Secular Games of Domitian, he was one of the Quindecimviri: these were sad and solemn officers, guardians of the Sibylline Verse; and intercessors for the Roman People, during their grave centenaries of praise and worship.
Quaeque Aventinum tenet Algidumque, Quindecim Diana preces virorum Curet; et vobis pueorum amicas Applicet aures.
From a passage in "The Life of Agricola," we may believe that Tacitus attended in the Senate; for he accuses himself as one of that frightened assembly, which was an unwilling participator in the cruelties of Domitian. In the year 97, when the Consul Virginius Rufus died, Tacitus' was made Consul Suffectus; and he delivered the funeral oration of his predecessor: Pliny says, that "it completed the good fortune of Rufus, to have his panegyric spoken by so eloquent a man." From this, and from other sayings, we learn that Tacitus was a famous advocate; and his "Dialogue about Illustrious Orators" bears witness to his admirable taste, and to his practical knowledge of Roman eloquence: of his own orations, however, not a single fragment has been left. We know not, whether Tacitus had children; but the Emperor Tacitus, who reigned in 275, traced his genealogy to the Historian. "If we can prefer personal merit to accidental greatness," Gibbon here observes, "we shall esteem the birth of Tacitus more truly noble than that of Kings. He claimed his descent from the philosophic historian, whose writings will instruct the last generations of mankind. From the assiduous study of his immortal ancestor, he derived his knowledge of the Roman Constitution and of human nature." This Emperor gave orders, that the writings of Tacitus should be placed in all the public libraries; and that ten copies should be taken annually, at the public charge. Notwithstanding the Imperial anxiety, a valuable part of Tacitus is lost: indeed we might argue, from the solicitude of the Emperor, as well as from his own "distinction," that Tacitus could not be generally popular; and, in the sixteenth century, a great portion of him was reduced to the single manuscript, which lay hidden within a German monastery. Of his literary works, five remain; some fairly complete, the rest in fragments. Complete, are "The Life of Julius Agricola," "The Dialogue on Orators," and "The Account of Germany": these are, unfortunately, the minor works of Tacitus. His larger works are "The History," and "The Annals." "The History" extended from the second Consulship of Galba, in the year 69, to the murder of Domitian, in the year 96; and Tacitus desired to write the happy times of Nerva, and of Trajan: we are ignorant, whether infirmity or death prevented his design. Of "The History," only four books have been preserved; and they contain the events of a single year: a year, it is true, which, saw three civil wars, and four Emperors destroyed; a year of crime, and accidents, and prodigies: there are few sentences more powerful, than Tacitus' enumeration of these calamities, in the opening chapters. The fifth book is imperfect; it is of more than common interest to some people, because Tacitus mentions the siege of Jerusalem by Titus; though what he says about the Chosen People, here and elsewhere, cannot be satisfactory to them nor gratifying to their admirers. With this fragment, about revolts in the provinces of Gaul and Syria, "The History" ends. "The Annals" begin with the death of Augustus, in the year 14; and they were continued until the death of Nero, in 68. The reign of Tiberius is nearly perfect, though the fall of Sejanus is missing out of it. The whole of Caligula, the beginning of Claudius, and the end of Nero, have been destroyed: to those, who know the style of Tacitus and the lives and genius of Caligula and Nero, the loss is irreparable; and the admirers of Juvenal must always regret, that from the hand of Tacitus we have only the closing scene, and not the golden prime, of Messalina.
The works of Tacitus are too great for a Camelot volume; and, therefore, I have undertaken a selection of them. I give entire, "The Account of Germany" and "The Life of Agricola": these works are entertaining, and should have a particular interest for English readers. I have added to them, the greater portion of the first six books of "The Annals"; and I have endeavoured so to guide my choice, that it shall present the history of Tiberius. In this my volume, the chapters are not numbered: for the omission, I am not responsible; and I can only lament, what I may not control. But scholars, who know their Tacitus, will perceive what I have left out; and to those others, who are not familiar with him, the omission can be no affront. I would say briefly, that I have omitted some chapters, which describe criminal events and legal tragedies in Rome: but of these, I have retained every chapter, which preserves an action or a saying of Tiberius; and what I have inserted is a sufficient specimen of the remainder. I have omitted many chapters, which are occupied with wearisome disputes between the Royal Houses of Parthia and Armenia: and I have spared my readers the history of Tacfarinas, an obscure and tedious rebel among the Moors; upon whose intricate proceedings Tacitus appears to have relied, when he was at a loss for better material. To reject any part of Tacitus, is a painful duty; because the whole of him is good and valuable: but I trust, that I have maintained the unity of my selection, by remembering that it is to be an history of Tiberius.
Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar, the third master of the Roman world, derived his origin, by either parent, from the Claudian race; the proudest family, and one of the most noble and illustrious, in the ancient Commonwealth: the pages of Livy exhibit the generosity, the heroism, and the disasters, of the Claudii; who were of unequal fortune indeed, but always magnificent, in the various events of peace and war. Suetonius enumerates, among their ancestral honours, twenty-eight Consulships, five Dictators, seven Censorial commissions, and seven triumphs: their cognomen of Nero, he says, means in the Sabine tongue "vigorous and bold," fortis et strenuus; and the long history of the Claudian House does not belie their gallant name. Immediately after the birth of Tiberius, or perhaps before it, his mother Livia was divorced from Claudius, and married by Augustus: the Empress is revealed mysteriously and almost as a divine being, in the progress of "The Annals." The Emperor adopted the offspring of Claudius: among the Romans, these legal adoptions were as valid as descent by blood; and Tiberius was brought up to be the son of Caesar. His natural parts were improved and strengthened, by the training of the Forum and the camp. Tiberius became a good orator; and he gained victory and reputation, in his wars against the savages of Germany and Dalmatia: but his peculiar talent was for literature; in this, "he was a great purist, and affected a wonderful precision about his words." He composed some Greek poems, and a Latin Elegy upon Lucius Caesar: he also wrote an account of his own life, an Apologia; a volume, which the Emperor Domitian was never tired of reading. But the favourite pursuit of Tiberius was Greek divinity; like some of the mediaeval Doctors, he frequented the by-ways of religion, and amused his leisure with the more difficult problems in theology: "Who was Hecuba's mother?" "What poetry the Sirens chaunted?" "What was Achilles' name, when he lay hid among the women?" The writings of Tiberius have all perished; and in these days, we have only too much cause to regret, that nothing of his "precision" has come down to us. The battles of Tiberius are celebrated in the Odes of Horace: one of the Epistles is addressed to him; and in another, written to Julius Florus, an officer with Tiberius, Horace enquires about the learned occupations of the Imperial cohort.
Quid studiosa Cohors operum struit? Hoc quoque curo.
It was from his commerce with the Ancients, as I always think, that George Buchanan derived his opinion, strange to modern ears, that "a great commander must of necessity have all the talents of an author." Velleius Paterculus, who served with Tiberius in his campaigns, tells us of his firm discipline, and of his kindness to the soldiers.
The Caesars Caius and Lucius, grandsons of Augustus, Marcellus his nephew, and Drusus the brother of Tiberius, all died: they died young, rich in promise, the darlings of the Roman People; "Breves et infaustos Populi Romani amores;" and thus, in the procession of events, Tiberius became the heir. "The Annals" open with his accession, and Tacitus has narrated the vicissitudes of his reign. Velleius Paterculus has written its happier aspects: he describes how the "Pax Augusta," the "Roman Peace," delivered every quarter of the world from violence. He celebrates the return of Justice and prosperity, of order, of mild and equable taxation, of military discipline and magisterial authority. It is like the Saturnian Reign, which Virgil sings in the Eclogue "Pollio." The first action of Tiberius was to canonise his father, and Augustus was translated to the banquet of the Gods:
Quos inter Augustus recumbens, Purpureo bibit ore nectar.
Augustus was his great example; "he not only called him, but considered him, divine;" "non appelavit eum, sed facit Deum." The Latin of Paterculus is here so elegant and happy, that, for the pleasure of the learned, I transcribe it: for others, I have already given something of the sense. "Revocata in forum fides; submota e foro seditio, ambitio campo, discordia curia: sepultaeque ac situ obsitae, justitia, aequitas, industria, civitati, redditae; accessit magistratibus auctoritas, senatui majestas, judiciis gravitas; compressa theatralis seditio; recte faciendi, omnibus aut incussa voluntas aut imposita necessitas. Honorantur recta, prava puniuntur. Suspicit potentem humilis, non timet. Antecedit, non contemnit, humiliorem potens. Quando annona moderatior? Quando pax laetior? Diffusa in Orientis Occidentisque tractus, quidquid meridiano aut septentrione finitur, Pax Augusta, per omnes terrarum orbis angulos metu servat immunes. Fortuita non civium tantummodo, sed Urbium damna, Principis munificentia vindicat. Restitutae urbes Asiae: vindictae ab injuriis magistratuum provinciae. Honor dignis paratissimus: poena in malos sera, sed aliqua. Superatur aequitate gratia, ambitio virtute: nam facere recte cives suos, Princeps optimus faciendo docet; cumque sit imperio maximus, exemplo major est."
Tiberius reigned from the year 14, to the year 37. He died in the villa of Lucullus, and he was buried in the mausoleum of the Caesars. The manner of his death is variously related: Tacitus gives one account; Suetonius, another. According to the last writer, he died like George II., alone, having just risen from his bed; and he was thus found by his attendants: "Seneca cum scribit subito vocatis ministris, ac nemine respondente, consurrexisse; nec procul a lectulo, deficientibus viribus, concidisse." Tiberius was tall, and beautiful. Suetonius tells us of his great eyes, which could see in the dark; of his broad shoulders, his martial bearing, and the fine proportion of his limbs: he describes, too, the unusual strength of his hands and fingers, especially of the left hand. His health was good; because, from his thirtieth year, he was his own physician. "Valetudine prosperrima usus est, tempore quidem principatus paene toto prope illesa; quamvis a trigesimo aetatis anno arbitratu eam suo rexerit, sine adjutamento consiliove medicorum." The Emperor Julian describes him "severe and grim; with a statesman's care, and a soldier's frankness, curiously mingled:" this was in his old age.
Down the pale cheek, long lines of shadow slope; Which years, and curious thought, and suffering give.
At Rome, is a sculpture of Tiberius; he is represented young, seated, crowned with rays, exceedingly handsome and majestic: if the figure were not known to be a Caesar, the beholder would say it was a God.
There is another personage in "The Annals," whose history there is mutilated, and perhaps dissembled; of whose character my readers may like to know something more, than Tacitus has told them: I mean Sejanus, a man always to be remembered; because whatever judgment we may form about his political career, and on this question the authorities are divided, yet it is admitted by them all, that he introduced those reforms among the Praetorian Cohorts, which made them for a long time, proprietors of the throne, and the disposers of the Imperial office. To this minister, Paterculus attributes as many virtues as he has bestowed upon Tiberius: "a man grave and courteous," he says, "with 'a fine old-fashioned grace'; leisurely in his ways, retiring, modest; appearing to be careless, and therefore gaining all his ends; outwardly polite and quiet, but an eager soul, wary, inscrutable, and vigilant." Whatever he may have been in reality, he was at one time valued by Tiberius. "The whole Senate," Bacon says, "dedicated an altar to Friendship as to a Goddess, in respect of the great Dearness of Friendship between them two:" and in the Essay "Of Friendship," Bacon has many deep sentences about the favourites of Kings, their "Participes Curarum." I would summon out of "The Annals," that episode of Tiberius imprisoned within the falling cave, and shielded by Sejanus from the descending roof. "Coelo Musa beat:" Sejanus has propitiated no Muse; and although something more, than the "invida taciturnitas" of the poet, lies heavy upon his reputation, he shall find no apologist in me. But over against the hard words of Tacitus, it is only fair to place the commendations of Paterculus, and even Tacitus remarks, that after the fall of Sejanus, Tiberius became worse; like Henry VIII., after the fall of Wolsey. Livia and Sejanus are said by Tacitus, to have restrained the worst passions of the Emperor. The two best authorities contradict one another; they differ, as much as our political organs differ, about the characters of living statesmen: and who are we, to decide absolutely, from a distance of two thousand years, at our mere caprice, and generally without sufficient evidence, that one ancient writer is correct; and another, dishonest or mistaken? This is only less absurd, than to prefer the groping style and thoughts of a modern pedant, usually a German as well, to the clear words of an old writer, who may be the sole remaining authority for the statements we presume to question; or for those very facts, upon which our reasonings depend. And how easy it is to misunderstand what we read in ancient histories, to be deceived by the plainest records, or to put a sinister interpretation upon events, which in their own time were passed over in silence or officially explained as harmless! Let me take an illustration, of what I mean, from something recent. Every one must remember the last hours of the Emperor Frederick: the avenues to his palace infested by armed men; the gloom and secrecy within; without, an impatient heir, and the posting to and fro of messengers. We must own, that the ceremonials of the Prussian Court departed in a certain measure from the ordinary mild usage of humanity; but we attributed this to nothing more, than the excitement of a youthful Emperor, or the irrepressible agitation of German officials. But if these events should find a place in history, or if the annals of the Kings of Prussia should be judged worth reading by a distant Age; who could blame an historian for saying, that these precautions were not required for the peaceful and innocent devolution of the crown from a father to his son. Would not our historian be justified, if he referred to the tumults and intrigues of a Praetorian election; if he compared these events to the darkest pages in Suetonius, or reminded his readers of the most criminal narratives in the authors of the "Augustan History"? From Sejanus and the Emperor William, I return once more to Tiberius; from the present Kaiser, to a genuine Caesar.
It is not my purpose here to abridge Tacitus, to mangle his translator, nor to try and say what is better said in the body of the volume: but when my readers have made themselves acquainted with Tiberius, they may be glad to find some discussion about him, as he is presented to us in "The Annals"; and among all the personages of history, I doubt if there be a more various or more debated character. Mr. Matthew Arnold thus describes him:
Cruel, but composed and bland, Dumb, inscrutable and grand; So Tiberius might have sat, Had Tiberius been a cat.
And these verses express the popular belief, with great felicity: I must leave my readers, to make their own final judgment for themselves. Whether Tacitus will have helped them to a decision, I cannot guess: he seems to me, to deepen the mystery of Tiberius. At a first reading, and upon the surface, he is hostile to the Emperor; there is no doubt, that he himself remained hostile, and that he wished his readers to take away a very bad impression: but, as we become familiar with his pages, as we ponder his words and compare his utterances, we begin to suspect our previous judgment; another impression steals upon us, and a second, and a third, until there grows imperceptibly within us a vision of something different. Out of these dim and floating visions, a clearer image is gradually formed, with lineaments and features; and, at length, a new Tiberius is created within our minds: just as we may have seen a portrait emerge under the artist's hand, from the intricate and scattered lines upon an easel. Then it dawns upon us, that, after all, Tacitus was not really an intimate at Capri; that he never received the secret confidences of Tiberius, nor attended upon his diversions. And at last it is borne in upon us, as we read, that, if we put aside rumours and uncertain gossip, whatever Tiberius does and says is unusually fine: but that Tacitus is not satisfied with recording words and actions; that he supplies motives to them, and then passes judgment upon his own assumptions: that the evidence for the murder of Germanicus, for instance, would hardly be accepted in a court of law; and that if Piso were there found guilty, the Emperor could not be touched. At any rate, we find it stated in "The Annals," that "Tiberius by the temptations of money was incorruptible;" and he refused the legacies of strangers, or of those who had natural heirs. "He wished to restore the people to severer manners," like many sovereigns; unlike the most of them, "in his own household, he observed the ancient parsimony." Besides the "severa paupertas" of Camillus and Fabricius, he had something of their primitive integrity; and he declined, with scorn, to be an accomplice in the proposed assassination of Arminius: "non fraude neque occultis, sed palam et armatum, Populum Romanum hostes suos ulcisci." He protected magistrates and poor suitors, against the nobles. He refused to add to the public burdens, by pensioning needy Senators: but he was charitable to poor debtors; and lavish to the people, whether Romans or Provincials, in times of calamity and want. Not least admirable was his quiet dignity, in periods of disturbance and of panic: he refused to hurry to the mutinous legions, or to a mean rebellion in Gaul; and he condescended to reason excellently about his behaviour, when his people were sane enough to listen. He was both sensible and modest: he restrained the worship of Augustus, "lest through being too common it should be turned into an idle ceremony;" he refused the worship of himself, except in one temple dedicated equally to the Senate and to the Emperor. Tiberius could be pathetic, too: "I bewail my son, and ever shall bewail him," he says of Germanicus; and again, "Eloquence is not measured by fortune, and it is a sufficient honour, if he be ranked among the ancient orators." "Princes are mortal;" he says again, "the Commonwealth, eternal." Then his wit, how fine it was; how quick his humour: when he answered the tardy condolences from Troy, by lamenting the death of Hector: when he advised an eager candidate, "not to embarrass his eloquence by impetuosity;" when he said of another, a low, conceited person, "he gives himself the airs of a dozen ancestors," "videtur mihi ex se natus:" when he muttered in the Senate, "O homines ad servitutem paratos:" when he refused to become a persecutor; "It would be much better, if the Gods were allowed to manage their own affairs," "Deorum injurias Dis curae." In all this; in his leisured ways, in his dislike of parade and ceremonial, in his mockery of flatterers and venal "patriots"; how like to Charles II., "the last King of England who was a man of parts." And no one will deny "parts" to Tiberius; he was equal to the burden of Imperial cares: the latest researches have discovered, that his provincial administration was most excellent; and even Tacitus admits, that his choice of magistrates "could not have been better." He says, in another passage, "The Emperor's domains throughout Italy, were thin; the behaviour of his slaves modest; the freed-men, who managed his house, few; and, in his disputes with particulars, the courts were open and the law equal." This resembles the account of Antoninus Pius, by Marcus Aurelius; and it is for this modesty, this careful separation between private and public affairs, that Tacitus has praised Agricola. I am well contented, with the virtues of the Antonines; but there are those, who go beyond. I have seen a book entitled "The History of that Inimitable Monarch Tiberius, who in the xiv year of his Reign requested the Senate to permit the worship of Jesus Christ; and who suppressed all Opposition to it." In this learned volume, it is proved out of the Ancients, that Tiberius was the most perfect of all sovereigns; and he is shown to be nothing less than the forerunner of Saint Peter, the first Apostle and the nursing-father of the Christian Church. The author was a Cambridge divine, and one of their Professors of mathematics: "a science," Goldsmith says, "to which the meanest intellects are equal."
Upon the other hand, we have to consider that view of Tiberius, which is thus shown by Milton;
This Emperor hath no son, and now is old; Old and lascivious: and from Rome retired To Capreae, an island small but strong, On the Campanian shore; with purpose there, His horrid lusts in private to enjoy.
This theme is enlarged by Suetonius, and evidently enjoyed: he represents Tiberius, as addicted to every established form of vice; and as the inventor of new names, new modes, and a new convenience, for unheard-of immoralities. These propensities of the Emperor are handled by Tacitus with more discretion, though he does not conceal them. I wish neither to condemn nor to condone Tiberius: I desire, if it be possible, to see him as he is; and whether he be good or bad, he is very interesting. I have drawn attention to what is good in "The Annals," because Tacitus leans with all his weight upon the bad; and either explains away what is favourable, or passes over it with too light a stroke. At the end, I must conclude, as I began, that the character of Tiberius is a mystery. It is a commonplace, that no man is entirely good nor entirely evil; but the histories of Tiberius are too contradictory, to be thus dismissed by a platitude. It is not easy to harmonise Paterculus with Suetonius: it is impossible to reconcile Tacitus with himself; or to combine the strong, benevolent ruler with the Minotaur of Capri. The admirers of an almost perfect prose, must be familiar with a story, which is not the highest effort of that prose: they will remember a certain man with a double nature, like all of us; but, unlike us, able to separate his natures, and to personate at will his good or evil genius. Tiberius was fond of magic, and of the curious arts: it may be, that he commanded the secrets of which Mr. Stevenson has dreamed!
The readers of "The Annals" have seen enough of blood, of crime, and of Tiberius; and I would now engage their attention upon a more pleasing aspect of Imperial affairs: I wish to speak about the Empire itself; about its origin, its form, its history: and, if my powers were equal to the task, I would sketch a model Emperor; Marcus Aurelius, or the elder Antonine. Gibbon has described the limits of the Roman Empire; which "comprised the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilised portion of mankind." Its boundaries were "the Rhine and Danube, on the north; the Euphrates, on the east; towards the south, the sandy deserts of Arabia and Africa;" and upon the west, the Atlantic ocean. It was over this extensive monarchy, that Caesar reigned; by the providence of Caesar, was the whole defended and administered.
Quis Parthum paveat? Quis gelidum Scythen Quis, Germania quos horrida parturit Fetus, incolumi Caesare?
The frontiers of the Empire, and its richest provinces, had been obtained for the most part in the long wars of the Republic. The conquest of Gaul, and the establishment of the Empire, was achieved by Julius Caesar; and to him, the civilised world is indebted for that majestic "Roman Peace," under which it lived and prospered for nearly nineteen centuries: the Eastern Empire was maintained in Constantinople, until 1453; and the Empire of the West continued, though in waning splendour, until the last Caesar abdicated his throne at the order of Napoleon. The nations of modern Europe were developed out of the ruin of Caesar's Empire; and from that, the more civilised among them have obtained the politer share of their laws, their institutions, and their language: and to Caesar, we are indebted for those inestimable treasures of antiquity, which the Roman Empire and the Roman Church have preserved from the barbarians, and have handed on for the delight and the instruction of modern times. There are those, who can perceive in Caesar nothing but a demagogue, and a tyrant; and in the regeneration of the Commonwealth, nothing but a vulgar crime: among these, I am sorry to inscribe the name of Thomas Gordon. The supporters of this view are generally misled, by the specious allurements of the term "Republic." Tiberius, it may be, was not a perfect ruler, and other sovereigns were even more ferocious; but the excesses of the most reckless Emperor are hardly to be compared to the wholesale massacres and spoliations, which attended the last agonies of the expiring Commonwealth. After the Macedonian and Asiatic wars, we find a turbulent and servile crowd, instead of the old families and tribes of Roman citizens; instead of allies, oppressed and plundered provinces; instead of the heroes of the young Republic, a set of worn-out, lewd, and greedy nobles. By these, the spoils of the world were appropriated, and its government abused: Caesar gave the helpless peoples a legal sovereign, and preserved them from the lawless tyranny of a thousand masters. He narrates himself, that "he found the Romans enslaved by a faction, and he restored their liberty:" "Caesar interpellat; ut Populum Romanum, paucorum factione oppressum, in libertatem vindicat." The march of Caesar into Italy was a triumphal progress; and there can be no doubt, that the common people received him gladly. Again he says, "Nihil esse Rempublicam; appellationem modo, sine corpore et specie;" "The Republic is nothing but an empty name, a phantom and a shadow." That Caesar should have seen this, is the highest evidence of his genius: that Cicero did not see it, is to himself, and to his country, the great misfortune of his career; and to his admirers, one of the most melancholy events in Roman history. The opinions of Tacitus were not far removed from the opinions of Cicero, but they were modified by what he saw of Nerva and of Trajan: he tells us, how Agricola looked forward to the blessings of a virtuous Prince; and his own thoughts and writings would have been other, than they are, had he witnessed the blameless monarchy of Hadrian and the Antonines. The victims of a bad Emperor were taken usually from among the nobles; many of them were little better, than their destroyer; and his murders were confined, almost invariably, within the walls of Rome: but the benefits of the Imperial system were extended into all the provinces; and the judgment-seat of Caesar was the protection of innumerable citizens. Many were the mistakes, many the misfortunes, deplorable the mischiefs, of the Imperial administration; I wish neither to deny, nor to conceal them: but here I must content myself with speaking broadly, with presenting a superficial view of things; and, upon the whole, the system of the Emperors was less bad than the decayed and inadequate government, out of which it was developed. For the change from the Republic to the Empire was hardly a revolution; and the venerable names and forms of the old organisation were religiously preserved. Still, the Consuls were elected, the Senate met and legislated, Praetors and Legates went forth into the provinces, the Legions watched upon the frontiers, the lesser Magistrates performed their office; but above them was Caesar, directing all things, controlling all things; the Imperator and Universal Tribune, in whose name all was done; the "Praesens Divus," on whom the whole depended; at once the master of the Imperial Commonwealth, and the minister of the Roman People.
"The Annals," and the history of Tiberius, have detained us, for the most part, within the capital: "The Agricola" brings us into a province of the Empire; and "The Account of Germany" will take us among the savages beyond the frontier. I need scarcely mention, that our country was brought within the Roman influence by Julius Caesar; but that Caesar's enterprise was not continued by Augustus, nor by Tiberius; though Caligula celebrated a fictitious triumph over the unconquered Britons: that a war of about forty years was undertaken by Claudius, maintained by Nero, and terminated by Domitian; who were respectively "the most stupid, the most dissolute, and the most timid of all the Emperors." It was in the British wars, that Vespasian began his great career, "monstratus fatis"; but the island was not really added to the Empire, until Agricola subdued it for Domitian. "The Life of Agricola" is of general interest, because it preserves the memory of a good and noble Roman: to us, it is of special interest, because it records the state of Britain when it was a dependency of the Caesars; "adjectis Britannis imperio." Our present fashions in history will not allow us to think, that we have much in common with those natives, whom Tacitus describes: but fashions change, in history as in other things; and in a wiser time we may come to know, and be proud to acknowledge, that we have derived a part of our origin, and perhaps our fairest accomplishments, from the Celtic Britons. The narrative of Tacitus requires no explanation; and I will only bring to the memory of my readers, Cowper's good poem on Boadicea. We have been dwelling upon the glories of the Roman Empire: it may be pardonable in us, and it is not unpleasing, to turn for a moment, I will not say to "the too vast orb" of our fate, but rather to that Empire which is more extensive than the Roman; and destined to be, I hope, more enduring, more united, and more prosperous. Horace will hardly speak of the Britons, as humane beings, and he was right; in his time, they were not a portion of the Roman World, they had no part in the benefits of the Roman government: he talks of them, as beyond the confines of civility, "in ultimos orbis Britannos;" as cut off by "the estranging sea," and there jubilant in their native practices, "Visum Britannos hospitibus feros." But Cowper says, no less truly, of a despised and rebel Queen;
Regions Caesar never knew, Thy posterity shall sway; Where his Eagles never flew, None invincible as they.
The last battles of Agricola were fought in Scotland; and, in the pages of Tacitus, he achieved a splendid victory among the Grampian hills. Gibbon remarks, however, "The native Caledonians preserved in the northern extremity of the island their wild independence, for which they were not less indebted to their poverty than to their valour. Their incursions were frequently repelled and chastised; but their country was never subdued. The masters of the fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe turned with contempt from gloomy hills assailed by the winter tempest, from lakes concealed in a blue mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians." The Scotch themselves are never tired of asserting, and of celebrating, their "independence"; Scotland imposed a limit to the victories of the Roman People, Scaliger says in his compliments to Buchanan:
Imperii fuerat Romani Scotia lines.
But it may be questioned, whether it were an unmixed blessing, to be excluded from the Empire; and to offer a sullen resistance to its inestimable gifts of humane life, of manners, and of civility.
To these things, the Germans also have manifested a strong dislike; and they are more censurable than the Scotch, because all their knowledge of the Romans was not derived from the intercourse of war. "The Germany" of Tacitus is a document, that has been much discussed; and these discussions may be numbered among the most flagrant examples of literary intemperance: but this will not surprise us, when we allow for the structure of mind, the language, and the usual productions of those, to whom the treatise is naturally of the greatest importance. In the description of the Germans, Tacitus goes out of his way to laugh at the "licentia vetustatis," "the debauches of pedants and antiquarians;" as though he suspected the fortunes of his volume, and the future distinctions of the Teutonic genius. For sane readers, it will be enough to remark, that the Germany of Tacitus was limited, upon the west, by the natural and proper boundary of the Rhine; that it embraced a portion of the Low Countries; and that, although he says it was confined within the Danube, yet the separation is not clear between the true Germans and those obscurer tribes, whose descendants furnish a long enumeration of titles to the present melancholy sovereign of the House of Austria. Gibbon remarks, with his usual sense, "In their primitive state of simplicity and independence, the Germans were surveyed by the discerning eye, and delineated by the masterly pencil of Tacitus, the first historian who supplied the science of philosophy to the study of facts. The expressive conciseness of his descriptions has deserved to exercise the diligence of innumerable antiquarians, and to excite the genius and penetration of the philosophic historians of our own time." Upon a few sentences out of the "Germania"; which relate to the kings, to the holding of land, to the public assemblies, and to the army; an imposing structure of English constitutional history has been erected: our modern historians look upon this treatise with singular approval; because it shows them, they say, the habits of their own forefathers in their native settlements. They profess to be enchanted with all they read; and, in their works, they betray their descent from the ancestors they admire. Gibbon says, prettily, "Whenever Tacitus indulges himself in those beautiful episodes, in which he relates some domestic transaction of the Germans or of the Parthians, his principal object is to relieve the attention of the reader from an uniform scene of vice and misery." Whether he succeeds, I must leave my readers to decide. Tacitus describes the quarrels of the Germans; fought, then with weapons; now, with words: their gambling, their sloth, their drunkenness. "Strong beer, a liquor extracted with very little art from wheat or barley, and corrupted (as it is strongly expressed by Tacitus) into a certain semblance of wine, was sufficient for the gross purposes of German debauchery." Tacitus informs us, too, "that they sleep far into the day; that on rising they take a bath, usually of warm water; then they eat." To pass an entire day and night in drinking, disgraces no one: "Dediti somno ciboque," he says; a people handed over to sloth and gluttony. Some of these customs are now almost obsolete; the baths, for instance. In others, there has been little alteration since the Age of Tacitus; and the Germans have adhered, with obstinate fidelity, to their primitive habits. Tacitus thought less of their capacity, upon the whole, than it is usual to think now: "The Chatti," he says, "for Germans, have much intelligence;" "Leur intelligence et leur finesse tonnent, dans des Germains." But let us forget these "Tedeschi lurchi, non ragionam di lor;" and pass on to those manly virtues, which Tacitus records: To abandon your shield, is the basest of crimes, "relicta non bene parmula;" nor may a man thus disgraced be present at their sacred rites, nor enter their council; many, indeed, after escaping from battle, have ended their infamy with the halter. And to more shameful crimes, they awarded a sterner punishment:
Behind flock'd wrangling up a piteous crew Greeted of none, disfeatured and forlorn: Cowards, who were in sloughs interr'd alive; And round them still the wattled hurdles hung Wherewith they stamp'd them down, and trod them deep, To hide their shameful memory from men.
Having now surveyed the compositions in this volume, it is proper that we should at length devote some of our notice to Gordon himself, and to his manner of presenting Tacitus. Thomas Gordon was born in Scotland; the date has not yet been ascertained. He is thought to have been educated at a northern university, and to have become an Advocate. Later, he went to London; and taught languages. Two pamphlets on the Bangorian controversy brought him into notice; and he wrote many religious and political dissertations. "A Defence of Primitive Christianity, against the Exhorbitant Claims of Fanatical and Dissaffected Clergymen;" "Tracts on Religion, and on the Jacobite Rebellion of '45;" "The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken;" "A Cordial for Low Spirits;" are the titles of some of his compositions. In politics, and in theology, he was a republican and free-thinker: he translated and edited "The Spirit of Ecclesiastics in All Ages;" he was a contributor to "The Independent Whig;" and in a series of "Cato's Letters," he discoursed at ease upon his usual topics. The Tacitus was published in 1728, in two volumes folio: long dissertations are inserted in either volume; the literature in them excellent, the politics not so good: the volumes, as well as the several parts of them, are dedicated to some Royal and many Noble Patrons. Gordon has also turned Sallust into English: the book was published in 1744, in one handsome quarto; "with Political Discourses upon that Author and Translations of Cicero's Four Orations against Cataline." Walpole made Gordon the first commissioner of wine licences. It is handed down, that Gordon was a burly person, "large and corpulent." It is believed, that he found his way into "The Dunciad," and that he is immortalised there among the "Canaille crivante;" the line
Where Tindal dictates and Silenus snores,
is taken to be Pope's description of him. Gordon died in 1750; at the same time as Dr. Middleton, the elegant biographer of Cicero: Lord Bolingbroke is said to have observed, when the news was told him, "Then is the best writer in England gone, and the worst." That Bolingbroke should have disliked Gordon and his politics, does not surprise me; but I cannot understand for what reason he, and other good judges, despised his writings. "The chief glory of every people arises from its authors," Dr. Johnson says; and happy the people, I would assert, who have no worse writers than Thomas Gordon. I wish to draw attention to Gordon's correct vocabulary, to his bold and pregnant language, and to his scholarly punctuation. Among our present writers, the art of punctuation is a lost accomplishment; and it is usual now to find writings with hardly anything but full stops; colons and semicolons are almost obsolete; commas are neglected, or misused; and our slovenly pages are strewn with dashes, the last resources of an untidy thinker, the certain witnesses to a careless and unfinished sentence. How different, and how superior, is the way of Gordon; who, though he can be homely and familiar, never lays aside the well-bred and courteous manners of a polished Age. In his writings, the leading clauses of a sentence are distinguished by their colons: the minor clauses, by their semicolons; the nice meaning of the details is expressed, the pleasure and the convenience of his readers are alike increased, by his right and elegant use of commas. The comma, with us, is used as a loop or bracket, and for little else: by the more accurate scholars of the last Age, it was employed to indicate a finer meaning; to mark an emphasis, or an elision; to introduce a relative clause; to bring out the value of an happy phrase, or the nice precision of an epithet. And thus the authors of the great century of prose, that orderly and spacious time, assembled their words, arranged their sentences, and marshalled them into careful periods: without any loss to the subtile meaning of their thought, or any sacrifice of vigour, they exposed their subject in a dignified procession of stately paragraphs; and when the end is reached we look back upon a perfect specimen of the writer's art. We have grown careless about form, we have little sense for balance and proportion, and we have sacrificed the good manners of literature to an ill-bred liking for haste and noise: it has been decided, that the old way of writing is cumbersome and slow; as well might some guerilla chieftain have announced to his fellow-barbarians, that Caesar's legions were not swift and beautiful in their manoeuvres, nor irresistible in their advance. I have spoken of our long sentences, with nothing but full stops: they are variegated, here and there, with shorter sentences, sometimes of two words; this way of writing is common in Macaulay or in the histories of Mr. Green, and I have seen it recommended in Primers of Literature and Manuals of Composition. With the jolting and unconnected fragments of these authorities, I would contrast the musical and flowing periods of Dr. Johnson's "Lives of the Poets": to study these works in solitude, will probably be sufficient to justify my preference; but to hear them read aloud, should convert the most unwilling listener into an advocate of my opinion.
Dr. Birkbeck Hill, in the delightful Preface to his Boswell, explains how he was turned by a happy chance to the study of the literature of the eighteenth century; and how he read on and on in the enchanting pages of "The Spectator." "From Addison in the course of time I passed on," he continues, "to the other great writers of his and the succeeding age, finding in their exquisitely clear style, their admirable common-sense, and their freedom from all the tricks of affectation, a delightful contrast to so many of the eminent authors of our own time." These words might be used of Gordon: I do not claim for him the style of Addison, nor the accomplished negligence of Goldsmith; these are graces beyond the reach of art; but he exhibits the common-sense, and the clear style, of the eighteenth century. Like all the good writers of his time, he is unaffected and "simplex munditiis"; he has the better qualities of Pyrrha, and is "plain in his neatness." In Mr. Ward's edition of the English Poets, there may be read side by side a notice of Collins and of Gray; the one by Mr. Swinburne, the other by Mr. Matthew Arnold: I make no allusion here to the greatness of either poet, to the merits of either style, nor to the value of either criticism. But the essay upon Gray is quiet in tone; it has an unity of treatment, and never deserts the principal subject; it is suffused with light, and full of the most delicate allusions: the essay on Collins, by being written in superlatives and vague similes, deafens and perplexes the reader; and the author, by squandering his resources, has no power to make fine distinctions, nor to exalt one part of his thesis above another. These two performances illustrate the last quality in Gordon, and in the old writers, to which I shall draw attention: they were always restrained in their utterances, and therefore they could be discriminating in their judgments; they could be emphatic without noise, and deep without obscurity, ornamental but not vulgar, carefully arranged but not stiff or artificial. They exhibit the three indispensable gifts of the finest authorship: "simplicitas munditiis," "lucidus ordo," "curiosa felicitas."
In this volume, Gordon's punctuation has been generally followed: his orthography has been modernised a little, though not by my hands, nor with my consent; and I have observed without regret, that some of Gordon's original spellings have eluded the vigilance of the printer: that stern official would by no means listen to my entreaties for the long "SS," the turn-over words, or the bounteous capitals, which add so much to the seductive and sober dignity of an eighteenth-century page; but, on the whole, we have given a tolerable reproduction of Gordon's folio. In the second edition, he himself made more changes than improvements. I will not say, that Gordon has always conveyed the exact meaning of the sentences of Tacitus: but he has done what is better, and more difficult; he has grasped the broad meaning of his author, and caught something of his lofty spirit. "A translation," he says, "ought to read like an original;" and Gordon has not failed, I think, to reach this perfection. It is not commonly attained among translators: Gordon says, of one rendering of Tacitus, "'Tis not the fire of Tacitus, but his embers; quenched with English words, cold and Gothick." Of the author of another version, he says "Learning is his chief accomplishment, and thence his translation is a very poor one." This judgment is true of most modern translations from the Ancients; they may be correct versions, but are miserable English: the authors, while studying the most perfect models of the art of writing, have produced copies which are not literature at all. From this low company, I would rescue Sir Charles Bowen's "Virgil": a delightful poem, to those who are ignorant of Latin; an exquisite production, and an amazing triumph, to those who converse with the original. There are many English translations of Tacitus: the first, by Sir Henry Savile and "one Greenway"; the former, says Gordon, "has performed like a schoolmaster, the latter like a school-boy." Anthony Wood writes in another strain, in the "Athenae Oxonienis": "A rare Translation it is, and the Work of a very Great Master indeed, both in our Tongue and that Story. For if we consider the difficulty of the Original, and the Age wherein the Translation lived, it is both for the exactness of the version, and the chastity of the Language, one of the most accurate and perfect translations that ever were made into English." There is a rendering by Murphy, diffuse and poor; a dilution of Gordon, worthy neither of Tacitus nor of the English tongue. There are translations, too, into almost every modern language: I would give the highest praise to Davanzati; a scholar of Tuscany, who lived in the sixteenth century. In French, I cannot but admire the labours of M. Burnouf: although the austere rules, the precise constructions, and the easy comportment of the French prose are not suited to the style of Tacitus, and something of his weight and brevity are lost; yet the translator never loses the depth and subtilty of his author's meaning; his work is agreeable to read, and very useful to consult. The maps and the genealogical tables in the three volumes of Messrs. Church and Brodribb's translation are also of the greatest service, and the notes are sometimes most amusing.
Of Tacitus himself, there is little for me to say: those, who know him, can judge for themselves; to those who do not, no words are able to convey an adequate impression. "Who is able to infuse into me," Cardinal Newman asks, "or how shall I imbibe, a sense of the peculiarities of the style of Cicero or Virgil, if I have not read their writings? No description, however complete, could convey to my mind an exact likeness of a tune, or an harmony, which I have never heard; and still less of a scent, which I have never smelled: and if I said that Mozart's melodies were as a summer sky, or as the breath of Zephyr, I shall be better understood by those who knew Mozart, than by those who did not." These truths are little remembered by modern critics: though, indeed, it is not possible to convey to a reader adequate notions about the style of an author, whom that reader has not pondered for himself; about his thoughts or his subjects, it may be different. Still, I may write something about the manner of Tacitus, which will not violate Cardinal Newman's laws, nor be an outrage to taste and common-sense. "It is the great excellence of a writer," says Dr. Johnson, "to put into his book as much as it will hold:" and if this judgment be sound, then is Tacitus the greatest of all writers in prose. Gordon says of him, "He explains events with a redundancy of images, and a frugality of words: his images are many, but close and thick; his words are few, but pointed and glowing; and even his silence is instructive and affecting. Whatever he says, you see; and all, that you see, affects you. Let his words be ever so few, his thought and matter are always abundant. His imagination is boundless, yet never outruns his judgment; his wisdom is solid and vast, yet always enlivened by his imagination. He starts the idea, and lets the imagination pursue it; the sample he gives you is so fine, that you are presently curious to see the whole piece, and then you have your share in the merit of the discovery; a compliment, which some able writers have forgot to pay to their readers." I would remark here, that many of the old writers give me the sense of handling things, they are definite and solid; while some of the moderns appear to play with words only, and never to come up with the objects of their pursuit: "we are too often ravished with a sonorous sentence," as Dr. Johnson says, "of which, when the noise is past, the meaning does not long remain." But of Tacitus, Gordon says, "His words and phrases are admirably adapted to his matter and conceptions, and make impressions sudden and wonderful upon the mind of man. Stile is a part of genius, and Tacitus had one peculiar to himself; a sort of language of his own, one fit to express the amazing vigour of his spirit, and that redundancy of reflections which for force and frequency are to be equalled by no writer before nor since."
Dr. Johnson, however, says in another place, "Tacitus, Sir, seems to me rather to have made notes for an historical work, than to have written a history:" I must own, that upon the subject of Tacitus, I prefer the sentiments of Gordon; and Montaigne would agree with me, for he says, "I do not know any author, who, in a work of history, has taken so broad a view of human events, or given a more just analysis of particular characters." The impressions of Tacitus are indeed wonderful: I doubt, whether volumes could bring us nearer to the mutinous legions, than the few chapters in which he records their history. I am always delighted by Gordon's way of telling the battle, in which the iron men of Sacrovir were overthrown; the account begins on page 139. Then how satisfying is the narrative of the wars in Germany, of the shipwreck, of the funeral of Varus and the slaughtered legions; how pleasing the description of Germanicus' antiquarian travels in Egypt, and in Greece. Though Tacitus is not a maker of "descriptions," in our modern sense: there is but one "description" in "The Annals," so far as I remember, it is of Capri; and it is not the sort, that would be quoted by a reviewer, as a "beautiful cameo of description." With Tacitus, a field of battle is not an occasion for "word-painting," as we call it; the battle is always first, the scenery of less importance. He tells, what it is necessary to know; but he is too wise to think, that we can realise from words, a place which we have never seen; and too sound in his taste, to forget the wholesome boundaries between poetry and prose. This is the way of all the ancient writers. In a work on "Landscape," I remember that Mr. Hamerton mourns over the Commentaries of Caesar; because they do not resemble the letters of a modern war-correspondent; Ascham, on the other hand, a man of real taste and learning, says of the Commentaries, "All things be most perfectly done by him; in Caesar only, could never yet fault be found." I agree with Ascham: I think I prefer the Commentaries as they are, chaste and quiet; I really prefer them to Mr. Kinglake's "Crimean War," or to Mr. Forbes' Despatches, or even to the most effusive pages of Mr. Stanley's book on Africa.
In "The Life of Agricola," I would mention the simplicity of the treatment and the excellence of the taste. Tacitus does not recite the whole of Roman history, nor assemble all the worthies out of Plutarch. Agricola is not compared to the pyramids, to the Flavian circus, nor to any works of art and literature: these flights of imagination were not known to the Ancients; but in a learned modern, I have seen Dante compared to Wagner's operas, to the Parthenon and St. Peter's, and to Justinian's code. The sanctities of private life are not violated; yet we know everything, that it is decent to know, about Agricola. Lord Coleridge has given a beautiful rendering of the closing passages of "The Agricola," in his account of Mr. Matthew Arnold: these elegant papers are not only models of good English; but are conspicuous, among recent obituary notices, for their fine taste and their becoming reticence. From the excesses of modern biographers, Tacitus was in little danger; thanks to his Roman sense, and to the qualities of the Roman Language. "Economy," says Mr. Symonds, "is exhibited in every element of this athletic tongue. Like a naked gladiator all bone and muscle, it relies upon bare sinewy strength." That author speaks of "the austere and masculine virtues of Latin, the sincerity and brevity of Roman speech;" and Tacitus is, beyond any doubt, the strongest, the austerest, the most pregnant of all the Romans. "Sanity," says Mr. Matthew Arnold, in conclusion, "that is the great virtue of the ancient literature; the want of that is the great defect of the modern, in spite of all its variety and power." "It is impossible to read the great ancients, without losing something of our caprice and eccentricity. I know not how it is, but their commerce with the ancients appears to me to produce, in those who constantly practise it, a steadying and composing effect upon the judgment, not of literary works only, but of men and events in general. They are like persons who have had a very weighty and impressive experience; they are more truly than others under the empire of facts, and more independent of the language current among those with whom they live."
It has been told of Cardinal Newman, that he never liked to pass a single day, without rendering an English sentence into Latin. To converse with the Roman authors, to handle their precise and sparing language, is, I can well believe it, a most wholesome discipline; and the most efficient remedy against those faults of diffuseness, of obscurity, and of excess, which are only too common among the writers of our day. It may have been to this practice, that Cardinal Newman owed something of his clearness, and of his exquisite simplicity: and for his style, he should be idolised by every one who has a taste for literature. I have said many things in praise of the ancient authors: it pleases me, as I finish, to offer my humble tribute to an author who is quite our own; to one, who in all his writings has bequeathed us perfect models of chaste, of lucid, and of melodious prose.
NEW COLLEGE, OXFORD: September 15, 1890.
THE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE ANNALS OF TACITUS: BEING AN HISTORY OF THE EMPEROR TIBERIUS
THE ANNALS OF TACITUS
A.D. 14 AND 15.
Kings were the original Magistrates of Rome: Lucius Brutus founded Liberty and the Consulship: Dictators were chosen occasionally, and used only in pressing exigencies. Little more than two years prevailed the supreme power of the Decemvirate, and the consular jurisdiction of the military Tribunes not very many. The domination of Cinna was but short, that of Sylla not long. The authority of Pompey and Crassus was quickly swallowed up in Caesar; that of Lepidus and Anthony in Augustus. The Commonwealth, then long distressed and exhausted by the rage of her civil dissensions, fell easily into his hands, and over her he assumed a sovereign dominion; yet softened with a venerable name, that of Prince or Chief of the Senate. But the several revolutions in the ancient free state of Rome, and all her happy or disastrous events, are already recorded by writers of signal renown. Nor even in the reign of Augustus were there wanting authors of distinction and genius to have composed his story; till by the prevailing spirit of fear, flattery, and abasement they were checked. As to the succeeding Princes, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero; the dread of their tyranny, whilst they yet reigned, falsified their history; and after their fall, the fresh detestation of their cruelties inflamed their Historians. Hence my own design of recounting briefly certain incidents in the reign of Augustus, chiefly towards his latter end, and of entering afterwards more fully into that of Tiberius and the other three; unbiassed as I am in this undertaking by any resentment, or any affection; all the influences of these personal passions being far from me.
When, after the fall of Brutus and Cassius, there remained none to fight for the Commonwealth, and her arms were no longer in her own hands; when Sextus Pompeius was utterly defeated in Sicily, Lepidus bereft of his command. Marc Anthony slain; and of all the chiefs of the late Dictator's party, only Octavius his nephew was left; he put off the invidious name of Triumvir, and styling himself Consul, pretended that the jurisdiction attached to the Tribuneship was his highest aim, as in it the protection of the populace was his only view: but when once he had laid his foundations wider, secured the soldiery by liberality and donations, gained the people by store of provisions, and charmed all by the blessings and sweetness of public peace, he began by politic gradations to exalt himself, to extend his domination, and with his own power to consolidate the authority of the Senate, jurisdiction of the Magistrate, and weight and force of the Laws; usurpations in which he was thwarted by no man: all the bravest Republicans and his most daring foes were slain in battle, or gleaned up by the late sanguinary proscriptions; and for the surviving Nobility, they were covered with wealth, and distinguished with public honours, according to the measure of their debasement, and promptness to bondage. Add, that all the creatures of this new Power, who in the loss of public freedom had gained private fortunes, preferred a servile condition, safe and possessed, to the revival of ancient liberty with personal peril. Neither were the Provinces averse to the present Revolution, and Sovereignty of one; since under that of the people and Senate they had lived in constant fear and mistrust, sorely rent and harassed as they were by the raging competition amongst our Grandees, as well as by the grievous rapine and exactions of our Magistrates; in vain too, under these their oppressions, had been their appeal to the protection of the laws, which were utterly enfeebled and borne down by might and violence, by faction and parties; nay, even by subornation and money.
Moreover, Augustus, in order to fortify his domination with collateral bulwarks, raised his sister's son Claudius Marcellus, a perfect youth, to the dignity of Pontiff and that of Aedile; preferred Marcus Agrippa to two successive Consulships, a man in truth meanly born but an accomplished soldier, and the companion of his victories; and Marcellus, the husband of Julia, soon after dying, chose him for his son-in-law. Even the sons of his wife, Tiberius Nero, and Claudius Drusus, he dignified with high military titles and commands; though his house was yet supported by descendants of his own blood. For into the Julian family and name of the Caesars he had already adopted Lucius and Caius, the sons of Agrippa; and though they were but children, neither of them seventeen years old, vehement had been his ambition to see them declared Princes of the Roman Youth and even designed to the Consulship; while openly, he was protesting against admitting these early honours. Presently, upon the decease of Agrippa, were these his children snatched away, either by their own natural but hasty fate, or by the deadly fraud of their step-mother Livia; Lucius on his journey to command the armies in Spain; Caius in his return from Armenia, ill of a wound: and as Drusus, one of her own sons, had been long since dead, Tiberius remained sole candidate for the succession. Upon this object, centred all princely honours; he was by Augustus adopted for his son, assumed Colleague in the Empire, partner in the jurisdiction tribunitial, and presented under all these dignities to the several armies: instances of grandeur which were no longer derived from the secret schemes and plottings of his mother, as in times past, while her husband had unexceptionable heirs of his own, but thenceforth bestowed at her open suit. For as Augustus was now very aged, she had over him obtained such absolute sway, that for her pleasure he banished into the Isle of Planasia his only surviving grandson, Agrippa Postumus; one, in truth, destitute of laudable accomplishments, in his temper untractable, and stupidly conceited of his mighty strength, but branded with no misdemeanour or transgression. The Emperor had withal set Germanicus, the son of Drusus, over eight legions quartered upon the Rhine, and obliged Tiberius to adopt him, though Tiberius had then a son of his own, one of competent years; but it was the study of Augustus, to secure himself and the succession by variety of stays and engraftments. War at that time there was none, except that in Germany, kept on foot rather to abolish the disgrace sustained by Quinctilius Varus, there slain with his army, than from any ambition to enlarge the Empire, or for any other valuable advantage. In profound tranquillity were affairs at Rome. To the Magistrates remained their wonted names; of the Romans the younger sort had been born since the battle of Actium, and even most of the old during the civil wars: how few were then living who had seen the ancient free State!
The frame and economy of Rome being thus totally overturned, amongst the Romans were no longer found any traces of their primitive spirit, or attachment to the virtuous institutions of antiquity. But as the equality of the whole was extinguished by the sovereignty of one, all men regarded the orders of the Prince as the only rule of conduct and obedience; nor felt they any anxiety, while Augustus yet retained vigour of life, and upheld the credit of his administration with public peace, and the imperial fortune of his house. But when he became broken with the pressure of age and infirmities; when his end was at hand, and thence a new source of hopes and views was presented, some few there were who began to reason idly about the blessings and recovery of Liberty; many dreaded a civil war, others longed for one; while far the greater part were uttering their several apprehensions of their future masters; "that naturally stern and savage was the temper of Agrippa, and by his public contumely enraged into fury; and neither in age nor experience was he equal to the weight of Empire. Tiberius indeed had arrived at fulness of years, and was a distinguished captain, but possessed the inveterate pride entailed upon the Claudian race; and many indications of a cruel nature escaped him, in spite of all his arts to disguise it; besides that from his early infancy he was trained up in a reigning house, and even in his youth inured to an accumulation of power and honours, consulships and triumphs: nor during the several years of his abode at Rhodes, where, under the plausible name of retirement, a real banishment was covered, did he exercise other occupation than that of meditating future vengeance, studying the arts of treachery, and practising secret, abominable sensualities: add to these considerations, that of his mother, a woman inspired with all the tyranny of her sex; yes, the Romans must be under bondage to a woman, and moreover enthralled by two youths, who would first combine to oppress the State, and then falling into dissension, rend it piecemeal."
While the public was engaged in these and the like debates, the illness of Augustus waxed daily more grievous; and some strongly suspected the pestilent practices of his wife. For there had been, some months before, a rumour abroad, that Augustus having singled out a few of his most faithful servants, and taken Fabius Maximus for his only companion, had, with no other retinue, sailed secretly over to the Island of Planasia, there to visit his Grandson Agrippa; that many tears were shed on both sides, many tokens of mutual tenderness shown, and hopes from thence conceived, that the unhappy youth would be restored to his own place in his Grandfather's family. That Maximus had disclosed it to Martia, she to Livia; and thence the Emperor knew that the secret was betrayed: that Maximus being soon after dead (dead, as it was doubted, through fear, by his own hands), Martia was observed, in her lamentations and groans at his funeral, to accuse herself as the sad cause of her husband's destruction. Whatever truth was in all this, Tiberius was scarce entered Illyrium, but he was hastily recalled by his mother's letters: nor is it fully known whether at his return to Nola, he found Augustus yet breathing, or already breathless. For Livia had carefully beset the palace, and all the avenues to it, with detachments of the guards; and good news of his recovery were from time to time given out. When she had taken all measures necessary in so great a conjuncture, in one and the same moment was published the departure of Augustus, and the accession of Tiberius.
The first feat of this new reign was the murder of young Agrippa: the assassin, a bold and determined Centurion, found him destitute of arms, and little apprehending such a destiny, yet was scarce able to despatch him. Of this transaction Tiberius avoided any mention in the Senate: he would have it pass for done by the commands of Augustus; as if he had transmitted written orders to the Tribune, who guarded Agrippa, "to slay him the instant he heard of his grandfather's decease." It is very true that Augustus had made many and vehement complaints of the young man's obstinate and unruly demeanour, and even solicited from the Senate a decree to authorise his banishment: but he never hardened himself against the sentiments of nature, nor in any instance dipped his hands in his own blood; neither is it credible that he would barbarously sacrifice the life of his grandson for the security and establishment of his step-son. More probable it is, that this hasty murder was purely the work of Tiberius and Livia; that the young Prince, hated and dreaded by both, fell thus untimely, to rid the one of his apprehensions and a rival, and to satiate in the other the rancorous spirit of a step-mother. When the Centurion, according to the custom of the army, acquainted Tiberius, "that his commands were executed;" he answered, "he had commanded no such execution, and the Centurion must appear before the Senate, and for it be answerable to them." This alarmed Sallustius Crispus, who shared in all his secret counsels, and had sent the Centurion the warrant: he dreaded that he should be arraigned for the assassination, and knew it equally perilous either to confess the truth, and charge the Emperor; or falsely to clear the Emperor, and accuse himself. Hence he had recourse to Livia, and warned her, "never to divulge the secrets of the palace, never to expose to public examination the ministers who advised, nor the soldiers who executed: Tiberius should beware of relaxing the authority of the Prince, by referring all things to that of the Senate; since it was the indispensable prerogative of sovereignty for all men to be accountable only to one."
Now at Rome, Consuls, Senators, and Roman Knights, were all rushing with emulation into bondage, and the higher the quality of each the more false and forward the men; all careful so to frame their faces, as to reconcile false joy for the accession of Tiberius, with feigned sadness for the loss of Augustus: hence they intermingled fears with gladness, wailings with gratulations, and all with servile flattery. Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius, at that time Consuls, took first the oath of fidelity to Tiberius; then administered it to Seius Strabo and Caius Turranius; the former Captain of the Praetorian Guards, the other Intendant of the Public Stores. The oath was next given to the Senate, to the people, and to the soldiery: all by the same Consuls; for Tiberius affected to derive all public transactions from the legal ministry of the Consuls, as if the ancient Republic still subsisted, and he were yet unresolved about embracing the sovereign rule: he even owned in his edict for summoning the Senate, that he issued it by virtue of the Tribunitial power, granted him under Augustus. The edict, too, was short and unexceptionably modest. It imported that, "they were to consider of the funeral honours proper to be paid his deceased Father: for himself he would not depart from the corpse; and further than this edict implied, he claimed no share in the public administration." Yet from the moment Augustus was dead, he usurped all the prerogatives of imperial state, gave the word to the Praetorian Cohorts; had soldiers about the palace, guards about his person, went guarded in the street, guarded to the Senate, and bore all the marks of Majesty: nay, he writ letters to the several armies in the undisguised style of one already their Prince: nor did he ever hesitate in expression, or speak with perplexity, but when he spoke to the Senate. The chief cause of his obscurity there proceeded from his fear of Germanicus: he dreaded that he, who was master of so many legions, of numberless auxiliaries, and of all the allies of Rome; he, who was the darling of the people, might wish rather to possess the Empire, than to wait for it; he likewise, in this mysterious way of dealing with the Senate, sought false glory, and would rather seem by the Commonwealth chosen and called to the Empire, than to have crept darkly into it by the intrigues of a woman, or by adoption from a superannuated Prince. It was also afterwards found, that by this abstruseness and counterfeit irresolution he meant to penetrate into the designs and inclinations of the great men: for his jealous spirit construed all their words, all their looks, into crimes; and stored them up in his heart against a day of vengeance.
When he first met the Senate, he would bear no other business to be transacted but that about the funeral of Augustus. His last will was brought in by the Vestal Virgins: in it Tiberius and Livia were appointed his heirs, Livia adopted into the Julian family, and dignified with the name of Augusta: into the next and second degree of heirship he adopted his grandchildren and their children; and in the third degree he named the great men of Rome, most of them hated by him, but out of vainglory he named them, and for future renown. His legacies were not beyond the usual bounds; only he left to the Roman people four hundred thousand great sesterces, [Footnote: 362,500.] to the populace or common sort, thirty- five thousand; to every common soldier of the Praetorian Guards, a thousand small sesterces, [Footnote: 8, 6s. 8d.] and to every soldier of the Roman legions three hundred. [Footnote: 2, 10s.] The funeral honours were next considered. The chief proposed were these: Asinius Gallus moved that "the funeral should pass through the Triumphal Gate:" Lucius Arruntius, "that the titles of all the laws which he had made, and the names of all the nations which he had conquered, should be carried before the corpse:" Valerius Messala added, that "the oath of allegiance to Tiberius should be renewed every year;" and being asked by Tiberius, "whether at his instigation he had made that motion?" "I spoke it as my opinion," says Messala; "nor will I ever be determined by any but my own, in things which concern the commonweal; let who will be provoked by my freedom." Only this new turn was wanting to complete the prevailing flattery of the time. The Senators then concurred in a loud cry, "that upon their own shoulders they must bear the body to the pile." But Tiberius declined the offer from an arrogant show of moderation. Moreover, he cautioned the people by an edict, "not to disturb the funeral functions with a zeal over-passionate, as they had those of Julius Caesar; nor to insist that the corpse of Augustus should be burnt rather in the Forum, than in the field of Mars, which was the place appointed." On the funeral day the soldiers under arms kept guard; a mighty mockery this to those who had either seen, or heard their fathers describe, the day when Caesar the Dictator was slain: servitude was then new, its sorrows yet fresh and bitter; and liberty unsuccessfully retrieved by a deed which, while it seemed impious to some, was thought altogether glorious by others, and hence tore Rome into tumults and the violence of parties: they who knew that turbulent day, and compared it with the quiet exit of Augustus, ridiculed the foppery of "calling an aid of soldiers to secure a peaceable burial to a Prince who had grown old in peace and power, and even provided against a relapse into liberty, by a long train of successors."
Hence much and various matter of observation concerning Augustus: the superstitious multitude admired the fortuitous events of his fortune; "that the last day of his life, and the first of his reign, was the same; that he died at Nola, in the same village, and in the same house, and in the same chamber, where his father Octavius died. They observed to his glory, his many Consulships, equal in number to those of Valerius Corvinus and of Caius Marius, joined together; that he had exercised the power of the Tribuneship seven-and-thirty continued years: that he was one-and- twenty times proclaimed Imperator; with many other numerous honours repeated to him, or created for him." Men of deeper discernment entered further into his life, but differed about it. His admirers said, "that his filial piety to his father Caesar, and the distractions of the Republic, where the laws no longer governed, had driven him into a civil war; which, whatever be the first cause, can never be begun or carried, on by just and gentle means." Indeed, to be revenged on the murderers of his father, he had made many great sacrifices to the violent genius of Anthony; many to Lepidus: but when Lepidus was become sunk and superannuated in sloth; when Anthony was lost headlong in sensuality, there was then no other remedy for the distracted State, rent piecemeal by its Chiefs, but the sovereignty of one: Augustus, however, never had assumed to be over his country King, or Dictator; but settled the government under the legal name of Prince, or Chief of the Senate: he had extended the Empire, and set for its bounds the distant ocean and rivers far remote; the several parts and forces of the State, the legions, the provinces, and the navy, were all properly balanced and connected; the citizens lived dutifully under the protection of the law, the Allies in terms of respect, and Rome itself was adorned with magnificent structures: indeed, in a few instances he had exerted the arbitrary violence of power; and in but a few, only to secure the peace of the whole.
In answer to all this, it was urged, that "his filial piety, and the unhappy situation of the Republic, were pure pretences; but the ardent lust of reigning, his true and only motive: with this spirit he had solicited into his service, by bribery, a body of veteran soldiers: and though a private youth, without post or magistracy, but, in defiance of law, levied an army: with this spirit he had debauched and bought the Roman legions under the Consuls, while he was falsely feigning a coalition with Pompey's republican party: that soon after, when he had procured from the Senate, or rather usurped the honours and authority of the Praetorship; and when Hirtius and Pansa, the two Consuls, were slain, he seized both their armies: that it was doubted whether the Consuls fell by the enemy, or whether Pansa was not killed by pouring poison into his wounds; and Hirtius slain by his own soldiers; and whether the young Caesar was not the black contriver of this bloody treason: that by terror he had extorted the Consulship in spite of the Senate; and turned against the Commonwealth the very arms with which the Commonwealth had trusted him for her defence against Anthony. Add to all this his cruel proscriptions, and the massacre of so many citizens, his seizing from the public and distributing to his own creatures so many lands and possessions; a violation of property not justified even by those who gained by it. But, allowing him to dedicate to the Manes of the Dictator the lives of Brutus and Cassius (though more to his honour had it been to have postponed his own personal hate to public good), did he not betray the young Pompey by an insidious peace, betray Lepidus by a deceitful show of friendship? Did he not next ensnare Marc Anthony, first by treaties, those of Tarentum and Brundusium; then by a marriage, that of his sister Octavia? And did not Anthony at last pay with his life the penalty of that subdolous alliance? After this, no doubt there was peace, but a bloody peace; bloody in the tragical defeat of Lollius, and that of Varus, in Germany; and at Rome, the Varrones, the Egnatii, the Julii (those illustrious names) were put to death." Nor was his domestic life spared upon this occasion. "He had arbitrarily robbed Nero of his wife big with child by her husband; and mocked the Gods by consulting the Priests; whether religion permitted him to marry her before her delivery, or obliged him to stay till after. His minions, Tedius and Vedius Pollio, had lived in scandalous and excessive luxury: his wife Livia, who wholly controlled him, had proved a cruel governess to the Commonwealth; and to the Julian house, a more cruel step-mother: he had even invaded the incommunicable honours of the Gods, and setting up for himself temples like theirs, would like them be adored in the image of a Deity, with all the sacred solemnity of Priests and sacrifices: nor had he adopted Tiberius for his successor, either out of affection for him, or from concern for the public welfare; but having discovered in him a spirit proud and cruel, he sought future glory from the blackest opposition and comparison." For, Augustus, when, a few years before, he solicited the Senate to grant to Tiberius another term of the authority of the Tribuneship, though he mentioned him with honour, yet taking notice of his odd humour, behaviour, and manners, dropped some expressions, which, while they seemed to excuse him, exposed and upbraided him.
As soon as the funeral of Augustus was over, a temple and divine worship were forthwith decreed him. The Senate then turned their instant supplications to Tiberius, to fill his vacant place; but received an abstruse answer, touching the greatness of the Empire and his own distrust of himself; he said that "nothing but the divine genius of Augustus was equal to the mighty task: that for himself, who had been called by him into a participation of his cares, he had learnt by feeling them, what a daring, what a difficult toil was that of government, and how perpetually subject to the caprices of fortune: that in a State supported by so many illustrious patriots they ought not to cast the whole administration upon one; and more easy to be administered were the several offices of the Government by the united pains and sufficiency of many." A pompous and plausible speech, but in it little faith and sincerity. Tiberius, even upon subjects which needed no disguises, used words dark and cautious; perhaps from his diffident nature, perhaps from a habit of dissembling: at this juncture indeed, as he laboured wholly to hide his heart, his language was the more carefully wrapped up in equivoques and obscurity: but the Senators, who dreaded nothing so much as to seem to understand him, burst into tears, plaints, and vows; with extended arms they supplicated the Gods, invoked the image of Augustus, and embraced the knees of Tiberius. He then commanded the imperial register to be produced and recited. It contained a summary of the strength and income of the Empire, the number of Romans and auxiliaries in pay, the condition of the navy, of the several kingdoms paying tribute, and of the various provinces and their revenues, with the state of the public expense, the issues of the exchequer, and all the demands upon the public. This register was all writ by the hand of Augustus; and in it he had subjoined his counsel to posterity, that the present boundaries of the Empire should stand fixed without further enlargement; but whether this counsel was dictated by fear for the public, or by envy towards his successors, is uncertain.
Now when the Senate was stooping to the vilest importunity and prostrations, Tiberius happened to say, that, "as he was unequal to the weight of the whole government; so if they entrusted him with any particular part, whatever it were, he would undertake it." Here Asinius Gallus interposed: "I beg to know, Caesar," says he, "what part of the government you desire for your share?" He was astonished with the unexpected question, and, for a short space, mute; but recovering himself, answered, that "it ill became his modesty to choose or reject any particular branch of the administration, when he desired rather to be excused from the whole." Gallus, who in his face conjectured sullen signs of displeasure, again accosted him, and said, "by this question I did not mean that you should do an impracticable thing, and share that power which cannot be separated; but I meant to reason you into a confession that the Commonwealth is but one body, and can be governed only by one soul." He added an encomium upon Augustus, and reminded Tiberius himself of his many victories, of the many civil employments which he had long and nobly sustained: nor even thus could he mollify the wrath of Tiberius, who had long hated him, for that Gallus had married Vipsania, daughter of Marcus Agrippa, and formerly wife to Tiberius, who thence suspected that by this match he meant to soar above the rank of a subject, and possessed too the bold and haughty spirit of Asinius Pollio his father.
Lucius Arruntius incurred his displeasure next, by a speech not much unlike that of Gallus: it is true, that towards him Tiberius bore no old rancour; but Arruntius had mighty opulence, prompt parts, noble accomplishments, with equal popularity, and hence was marked by him with a fell eye of suspicion. For, as Augustus, shortly before his decease, was mentioning those among the great men, who were capable of the supreme power, but would not accept it; or unequal to it, yet wished for it; or such, as had both ambition and sufficiency; he had said, that "Marcus Lepidus was qualified, but would reject it; Asinius would be aspiring, but had inferior talents; and that Lucius Arruntius wanted no sufficiency, and upon a proper occasion would attempt it." That he spoke thus of Lepidus and Asinius, is agreed; but, instead of Arruntius, some writers have transmitted the name of Cneius Piso: and every one of these great men, except Lepidus, were afterwards cut off, under the imputation of various crimes, all darkly framed by Tiberius. Quintus Haterius and Mamercus Scaurus did thereafter incense his distrustful spirit; the first by asking him, "How long, Caesar, wilt thou suffer the Commonwealth to remain destitute of a head?" Scaurus, because he had said "there was room to hope that the prayers of the Senate would not prove abortive, since he had not opposed as Tribune, nor rendered invalid, as he might, the motion of the Consuls in his behalf." With Haterius he fell into instant rage; towards Scaurus his resentment was more deep and implacable, and in profound silence he hid it. Wearied at last with public importunity and clamour, and with particular expostulations, he began to unbend a little; not that he would own his undertaking the Empire, but only avoid the uneasiness of perpetually rejecting endless solicitations. It is known how Haterius, when he went next day to the palace to implore pardon, and throwing himself at the feet of Tiberius embraced his knees, narrowly escaped being slain by the soldiers; because Tiberius, who was walking, tumbled down, whether by chance, or whether his legs were entangled in the arms of Haterius: neither was he a jot mollified by the danger which threatened so great a man, who was at length forced to supplicate Augusta for protection; nor could even she obtain it, but after the most laboured entreaties.