For a brief space the prince’s hopes rose; then his frame became exhausted,
and, as his end drew near, he spoke as follows to the friends by his
“Were I succumbing to nature, I should have just ground of complaint
even against the gods for thus tearing me away in my youth by an untimely
death from parents, children, country. Now, cut off by the wickedness
of Piso and Plancina, I leave to your hearts my last entreaties. Describe
to my father and brother, torn by what persecutions, entangled by
what plots, I have ended by the worst of deaths the most miserable
of lives. If any were touched by my bright prospects, by ties of blood,
or even by envy towards me while I lived, they will weep that the
once prosperous survivor of so many wars has perished by a woman’s
treachery. You will have the opportunity of complaint before the Senate,
of an appeal to the laws. It is not the chief duty of friends to follow
the dead with unprofitable laments, but to remember his wishes, to
fulfil his commands. Tears for Germanicus even strangers will shed;
vengeance must come from you, if you loved the man more than his fortune.
Show the people of Rome her who is the granddaughter of the Divine
Augustus, as well as my consort; set before them my six children.
Sympathy will be on the side of the accusers, and to those who screen
themselves under infamous orders belief or pardon will be refused.”
His friends clasped the dying man’s right hand, and swore that they
would sooner lose life than revenge.
He then turned to his wife and implored her by the memory of her husband
and by their common offspring to lay aside her high spirit, to submit
herself to the cruel blows of fortune, and not, when she returned
to Rome, to enrage by political rivalry those who were stronger than
herself. This was said openly; other words were whispered, pointing,
it was supposed, to his fears from Tiberius. Soon afterwards he expired,
to the intense sorrow of the province and of the neighbouring peoples.
Foreign nations and kings grieved over him, so great was his courtesy
to allies, his humanity to enemies. He inspired reverence alike by
look and voice, and while he maintained the greatness and dignity
of the highest rank, he had escaped the hatred that waits on arrogance.
His funeral, though it lacked the family statues and procession, was
honoured by panegyrics and a commemoration of his virtues. Some there
were who, as they thought of his beauty, his age, and the manner of
his death, the vicinity too of the country where he died, likened
his end to that of Alexander the Great. Both had a graceful person
and were of noble birth; neither had much exceeded thirty years of
age, and both fell by the treachery of their own people in strange
lands. But Germanicus was gracious to his friends, temperate in his
pleasures, the husband of one wife, with only legitimate children.
He was too no less a warrior, though rashness he had none, and, though
after having cowed Germany by his many victories, he was hindered
from crushing it into subjection. Had he had the sole control of affairs,
had he possessed the power and title of a king, he would have attained
military glory as much more easily as he had excelled Alexander in
clemency, in self-restraint, and in all other virtues.
As to the body which, before it was burnt, lay bare in the forum at
Antioch, its destined place of burial, it is doubtful whether it exhibited
the marks of poisoning. For men according as they pitied Germanicus
and were prepossessed with suspicion or were biased by partiality
towards Piso, gave conflicting accounts.
The Annals by Tacitus