Decrees of the Senate were also passed to expel from Italy astrologers
and magicians. One of their number, Lucius Pituanius, was hurled from
the Rock. Another, Publius Marcius, was executed, according to ancient
custom, by the consuls outside the Esquiline Gate, after the trumpets
had been bidden to sound.

On the next day of the Senate’s meeting much was said against the
luxury of the country by Quintus Haterius, an ex-consul, and by Octavius
Fronto, an ex-praetor. It was decided that vessels of solid gold should
not be made for the serving of food, and that men should not disgrace
themselves with silken clothing from the East. Fronto went further,
and insisted on restrictions being put on plate, furniture, and household
establishments. It was indeed still usual with the Senators, when
it was their turn to vote, to suggest anything they thought for the
State’s advantage. Gallus Asinius argued on the other side. “With
the growth of the empire private wealth too,” he said, “had increased,
and there was nothing new in this, but it accorded with the fashions
of the earliest antiquity. Riches were one thing with the Fabricii,
quite another with the Scipios. The State was the standard of everything;
when it was poor, the homes of the citizens were humble; when it reached
such magnificence, private grandeur increased. In household establishments,
and plate, and in whatever was provided for use, there was neither
excess nor parsimony except in relation to the fortune of the possessor.
A distinction had been made in the assessments of Senators and knights,
not because they differed naturally, but that the superiority of the
one class in places in the theatre, in rank and in honour, might be
also maintained in everything else which insured mental repose and
bodily recreation, unless indeed men in the highest position were
to undergo more anxieties and more dangers, and to be at the same
time deprived of all solace under those anxieties and dangers.” Gallus
gained a ready assent, under these specious phrases, by a confession
of failings with which his audience symphathised. And Tiberius too
had added that this was not a time for censorship, and that if there
were any declension in manners, a promoter of reform would not be

During this debate Lucius Piso, after exclaiming against the corruption
of the courts, the bribery of judges, the cruel threats of accusations
from hired orators, declared that he would depart and quit the capital,
and that he meant to live in some obscure and distant rural retreat.
At the same moment he rose to leave the Senate House. Tiberius was
much excited, and though he pacified Piso with gentle words, he also
strongly urged his relatives to stop his departure by their influence
or their entreaties.

Soon afterwards this same Piso gave an equal proof of a fearless sense
of wrong by suing Urgulania, whom Augusta’s friendship had raised
above the law. Neither did Urgulania obey the summons, for in defiance
of Piso she went in her litter to the emperor’s house; nor did Piso
give way, though Augusta complained that she was insulted and her
majesty slighted. Tiberius, to win popularity by so humouring his
mother as to say that he would go to the praetor’s court and support
Urgulania, went forth from the palace, having ordered soldiers to
follow him at a distance. He was seen, as the people thronged about
him, to wear a calm face, while he prolonged his time on the way with
various conversations, till at last when Piso’s relatives tried in
vain to restrain him, Augusta directed the money which was claimed
to be handed to him. This ended the affair, and Piso, in consequence,
was not dishonoured, and the emperor rose in reputation. Urgulania’s
influence, however, was so formidable to the State, that in a certain
cause which was tried by the Senate she would not condescend to appear
as a witness. The praetor was sent to question her at her own house,
although the Vestal virgins, according to ancient custom, were heard
in the courts, before judges, whenever they gave evidence.

I should say nothing of the adjournment of public business in this
year, if it were not worth while to notice the conflicting opinions
of Cneius Piso and Asinius Gallus on the subject. Piso, although the
emperor had said that he would be absent, held that all the more ought
the business to be transacted, that the State might have honour of
its Senate and knights being able to perform their duties in the sovereign’s
absence. Gallus, as Piso had forestalled him in the display of freedom,
maintained that nothing was sufficiently impressive or suitable to
the majesty of the Roman people, unless done before Caesar and under
his very eyes, and that therefore the gathering from all Italy and
the influx from the provinces ought to be reserved for his presence.
Tiberius listened to this in silence, and the matter was debated on
both sides in a sharp controversy. The business, however, was adjourned.

A dispute then arose between Gallus and the emperor. Gallus proposed
that the elections of magistrates should be held every five years,
and that the commanders of the legions who before receiving a praetorship
discharged this military service should at once become praetorselect,
the emperor nominating twelve candidates every year. It was quite
evident that this motion had a deeper meaning and was an attempt to
explore the secrets of imperial policy. Tiberius, however, argued
as if his power would be thus increased. “It would,” he said, “be
trying to his moderation to have to elect so many and to put off so
many. He scarcely avoided giving offence from year to year, even though
a candidate’s rejection was solaced by the near prospect of office.
What hatred would be incurred from those whose election was deferred
for five years! How could he foresee through so long an interval what
would be a man’s temper, or domestic relations, or estate? Men became
arrogant even with this annual appointment. What would happen if their
thoughts were fixed on promotion for five years? It was in fact a
multiplying of the magistrates five-fold, and a subversion of the
laws which had prescribed proper periods for the exercise of the candidate’s
activity and the seeking or securing office. With this seemingly conciliatory
speech he retained the substance of power.
The Annals by Tacitus