This intelligence had such an effect on Tiberius, close as he was,
and most careful to hush up every very serious disaster, that he despatched
his son Drusus with the leading men of the State and with two praetorian
cohorts, without any definite instructions, to take suitable measures.
The cohorts were strengthened beyond their usual force with some picked
troops. There was in addition a considerable part of the Praetorian
cavalry, and the flower of the German soldiery, which was then the
emperor’s guard. With them too was the commander of the praetorians,
Aelius Sejanus, who had been associated with his own father, Strabo,
had great influence with Tiberius, and was to advise and direct the
young prince, and to hold out punishment or reward to the soldiers.
When Drusus approached, the legions, as a mark of respect, met him,
not as usual, with glad looks or the glitter of military decorations,
but in unsightly squalor, and faces which, though they simulated grief,
rather expressed defiance.

As soon as he entered the entrenchments, they secured the gates with
sentries, and ordered bodies of armed men to be in readiness at certain
points of the camp. The rest crowded round the general’s tribunal
in a dense mass. Drusus stood there, and with a gesture of his hand
demanded silence. As often as they turned their eyes back on the throng,
they broke into savage exclamations, then looking up to Drusus they
trembled. There was a confused hum, a fierce shouting, and a sudden
lull. Urged by conflicting emotions, they felt panic and they caused
the like. At last, in an interval of the uproar, Drusus read his father’s
letter, in which it was fully stated that he had a special care for
the brave legions with which he had endured a number of campaigns;
that, as soon as his mind had recovered from its grief, he would lay
their demands before the Senators; that meanwhile he had sent his
son to concede unhesitatingly what could be immediately granted, and
that the rest must be reserved for the Senate, which ought to have
a voice in showing either favour or severity.

The crowd replied that they had delivered their instructions to Clemens,
one of the centurions, which he was to convey to Rome. He began to
speak of the soldiers’ discharge after sixteen years, of the rewards
of completed service, of the daily pay being a denarius, and of the
veterans not being detained under a standard. When Drusus pleaded
in answer reference to the Senate and to his father, he was interrupted
by a tumultuous shout. “Why had he come, neither to increase the soldiers’
pay, nor to alleviate their hardships, in a word, with no power to
better their lot? Yet heaven knew that all were allowed to scourge
and to execute. Tiberius used formerly in the name of Augustus to
frustrate the wishes of the legions, and the same tricks were now
revived by Drusus. Was it only sons who were to visit them? Certainly,
it was a new thing for the emperor to refer to the Senate merely what
concerned the soldier’s interests. Was then the same Senate to be
consulted whenever notice was given of an execution or of a battle?
Were their rewards to be at the discretion of absolute rulers, their
punishments to be without appeal?”

At last they deserted the general’s tribunal, and to any praetorian
soldier or friend of Caesar’s who met them, they used those threatening
gestures which are the cause of strife and the beginning of a conflict,
with special rage against Cneius Lentulus, because they thought that
he above all others, by his age and warlike renown, encouraged Drusus,
and was the first to scorn such blots on military discipline. Soon
after, as he was leaving with Drusus to betake himself in foresight
of his danger to the winter can they surrounded him, and asked him
again and again whither he was going; was it to the emperor or to
the Senate, there also to oppose the interests of the legions. At
the same moment they menaced him savagely and flung stones. And now,
bleeding from a blow, and feeling destruction certain, he was rescued
by the hurried arrival of the throng which had accompanied Drusus.

That terrible night which threatened an explosion of crime was tranquillised
by a mere accident. Suddenly in a clear sky the moon’s radiance seemed
to die away. This the soldiers in their ignorance of the cause regarded
as an omen of their condition, comparing the failure of her light
to their own efforts, and imagining that their attempts would end
prosperously should her brightness and splendour be restored to the
goddess. And so they raised a din with brazen instruments and the
combined notes of trumpets and horns, with joy or sorrow, as she brightened
or grew dark. When clouds arose and obstructed their sight, and it
was thought she was buried in the gloom, with that proneness to superstition
which steals over minds once thoroughly cowed, they lamented that
this was a portent of never-ending hardship, and that heaven frowned
on their deeds.

Drusus, thinking that he ought to avail himself of this change in
their temper and turn what chance had offered to a wise account, ordered
the tents to be visited. Clemens, the centurion was summoned with
all others who for their good qualities were liked by the common soldiers.
These men made their way among the patrols, sentries and guards of
the camp-gates, suggesting hope or holding out threats. “How long
will you besiege the emperor’s son? What is to be the end of our strifes?
Will Percennius and Vibulenus give pay to the soldiers and land to
those who have earned their discharge? In a word, are they, instead
of the Neros and the Drusi, to control the empire of the Roman people?
Why are we not rather first in our repentance as we were last in the
offence? Demands made in common are granted slowly; a separate favour
you may deserve and receive at the same moment.”
The Annals by Tacitus