Then followed a deliberation among the generals and other senators
present about the appointment of a governor to Syria. The contest
was slight among all but Vibius Marsus and Cneius Sentius, between
whom there was a long dispute. Finally Marsus yielded to Sentius as
an older and keener competitor. Sentius at once sent to Rome a woman
infamous for poisonings in the province and a special favourite of
Plancina, Martina by name, on the demand of Vitellius and Veranius
and others, who were preparing the charges and the indictment as if
a prosecution had already been commenced.

Agrippina meantime, worn out though she was with sorrow and bodily
weakness, yet still impatient of everything which might delay her
vengeance, embarked with the ashes of Germanicus and with her children,
pitied by all. Here indeed was a woman of the highest nobility, and
but lately because of her splendid union wont to be seen amid an admiring
and sympathizing throng, now bearing in her bosom the mournful relics
of death, with an uncertain hope of revenge, with apprehensions for
herself, repeatedly at fortune’s mercy by reason of the ill-starred
fruitfulness of her marriage. Piso was at the island of Coos when
tidings reached him that Germanicus was dead. He received the news
with extravagant joy, slew victims, visited the temples, with no moderation
in his transports; while Plancina’s insolence increased, and she then
for the first time exchanged for the gayest attire the mourning she
had worn for her lost sister.

Centurions streamed in, and hinted to Piso that he had the sympathy
of the legions at his command. “Go back,” they said, “to the province
which has not been rightfully taken from you, and is still vacant.”
While he deliberated what he was to do, his son, Marcus Piso, advised
speedy return to Rome. “As yet,” he said, “you have not contracted
any inexpiable guilt, and you need not dread feeble suspicions or
vague rumours. Your strife with Germanicus deserved hatred perhaps,
but not punishment, and by your having been deprived of the province,
your enemies have been fully satisfied. But if you return, should
Sentius resist you, civil war is begun, and you will not retain on
your side the centurions and soldiers, who are powerfully swayed by
the yet recent memory of their general and by a deep-rooted affection
for the Caesars.”

Against this view Domitius Celer, one of Piso’s intimate friends,
argued that he ought to profit by the opportunity. “It was Piso, not
Sentius, who had been appointed to Syria. It was to Piso that the
symbols of power and a praetor’s jurisdiction and the legions had
been given. In case of a hostile menace, who would more rightfully
confront it by arms than the man who had received the authority and
special commission of a governor? And as for rumours, it is best to
leave time in which they may die away. Often the innocent cannot stand
against the first burst of unpopularity. But if Piso possesses himself
of the army, and increases his resources, much which cannot be foreseen
will haply turn out in his favour. Are we hastening to reach Italy
along with the ashes of Germanicus, that, unheard and undefended,
you may be hurried to ruin by the wailings of Agrippina and the first
gossip of an ignorant mob? You have on your side the complicity of
Augusta and the emperor’s favour, though in secret, and none mourn
more ostentatiously over the death of Germanicus than those who most
rejoice at it.”

Without much difficulty Piso, who was ever ready for violent action,
was led into this view. He sent a letter to Tiberius accusing Germanicus
of luxury and arrogance, and asserting that, having been driven away
to make room for revolution, he had resumed the command of the army
in the same loyal spirit in which he had before held it. At the same
time he put Domitius on board a trireme, with an order to avoid the
coast and to push on to Syria through the open sea away from the islands.
He formed into regular companies the deserters who flocked to him,
armed the camp-followers, crossed with his ships to the mainland,
intercepted a detachment of new levies on their way to Syria, and
wrote word to the petty kings of Cilicia that they were to help him
with auxiliaries, the young Piso actively assisting in all the business
of war, though he had advised against undertaking it.

And so they coasted along Lycia and Pamphylia, and on meeting the
fleet which conveyed Agrippina, both sides in hot anger at first armed
for battle, and then in mutual fear confined themselves to revilings,
Marsus Vibius telling Piso that he was to go to Rome to defend himself.
Piso mockingly replied that he would be there as soon as the praetor
who had to try poisoning cases had fixed a day for the accused and
his prosecutors.
The Annals by Tacitus