About this time Julia Augusta had an alarming illness, which compelled
the emperor to hasten his return to Rome, for hitherto there had been
a genuine harmony between the mother and son, or a hatred well concealed.
Not long before, for instance, Julia in dedicating a statue to the
Divine Augustus near the theatre of Marcellus had inscribed the name
of Tiberius below her own, and it was surmised that the emperor, regarding
this as a slight on a sovereign’s dignity, had brooded over it with
deep and disguised resentment. However the Senate now decreed supplications
to the gods and the celebration of the Great Games, which were to
be exhibited by the pontiffs, augurs, the colleges of the Fifteen
and of the Seven, with the Augustal Brotherhood. Lucius Apronius moved
that the heralds too should preside over these Games. This the emperor
opposed, distinguishing the peculiar privileges of the sacred guilds,
and quoting precedents. Never, he argued, had the heralds this dignity.
“The Augustal priests were included expressly because their sacred
office was specially attached to the family for which vows were being

My purpose is not to relate at length every motion, but only such
as were conspicuous for excellence or notorious for infamy. This I
regard as history’s highest function, to let no worthy action be uncommemorated,
and to hold out the reprobation of posterity as a terror to evil words
and deeds. So corrupted indeed and debased was that age by sycophancy
that not only the foremost citizens who were forced to save their
grandeur by servility, but every exconsul, most of the ex-praetors
and a host of inferior senators would rise in eager rivalry to propose
shameful and preposterous motions. Tradition says that Tiberius as
often as he left the Senate-House used to exclaim in Greek, “How ready
these men are to be slaves.” Clearly, even he, with his dislike of
public freedom, was disgusted at the abject abasement of his creatures.

From unseemly flatteries they passed by degrees to savage acts. Caius
Silanus, pro-consul of Asia, was accused by our allies of extortion;
whereupon Mamercus Scaurus, an ex-consul, Junius Otho, a praetor,
Brutidius Niger, an aedile, simultaneously fastened on him and charged
him with sacrilege to the divinity of Augustus, and contempt of the
majesty of Tiberius, while Mamercus Scaurus quoted old precedents,
the prosecutions of Lucius Cotta by Scipio Africanus, of Servius Galba
by Cato the Censor and of Publius Rutilius by Scaurus. As if indeed
Scipio’s and Cato’s vengeance fell on such offences, or that of the
famous Scaurus, whom his great grandson, a blot on his ancestry, this
Mamercus was now disgracing by his infamous occupation. Junius Otho’s
old employment had been the keeping of a preparatory school. Subsequently,
becoming a senator by the influence of Sejanus, he shamed his origin,
low as it was, by his unblushing effronteries. Brutidius who was rich
in excellent accomplishments, and was sure, had he pursued a path
of virtue, to reach the most brilliant distinction, was goaded on
by an eager impatience, while he strove to outstrip his equals, then
his superiors, and at last even his own aspirations. Many have thus
perished, even good men, despising slow and safe success and hurrying
on even at the cost of ruin to premature greatness.

Gellius Publicola and Marcus Paconius, respectively quaestor and lieutenant
of Silanus, swelled the number of the accusers. No doubt was felt
as to the defendant’s conviction for oppression and extortion, but
there was a combination against him, that must have been perilous
even to an innocent man. Besides a host of adverse Senators there
were the most accomplished orators of all Asia, who, as such, had
been retained for the prosecution, and to these he had to reply alone,
without any experience in pleading, and under that personal apprehension
which is enough to paralyse even the most practised eloquence. For
Tiberius did not refrain from pressing him with angry voice and look,
himself putting incessant questions, without allowing him to rebut
or evade them, and he had often even to make admissions, that the
questions might not have been asked in vain. His slaves too were sold
by auction to the state-agent, to be examined by torture. And that
not a friend might help him in his danger, charges of treason were
added, a binding guarantee for sealed lips. Accordingly he begged
a few days’ respite, and at last abandoned his defence, after venturing
on a memorial to the emperor, in which he mingled reproach and entreaty.

Tiberius, that his proceedings against Silanus might find some justification
in precedent, ordered the Divine Augustus’s indictment of Volesus
Messala, also a proconsul of Asia, and the Senate’s sentence on him
to be read. He then asked Lucius Piso his opinion. After a long preliminary
eulogy on the prince’s clemency, Piso pronounced that Silanus ought
to be outlawed and banished to the island of Gyarus. The rest concurred,
with the exception of Cneius Lentulus, who, with the assent of Tiberius,
proposed that the property of Silanus’s mother, as she was very different
from him, should be exempted from confiscation, and given to the son.

Cornelius Dolabella however, by way of carrying flattery yet further,
sharply censured the morals of Silanus, and then moved that no one
of disgraceful life and notorious infamy should be eligible for a
province, and that of this the emperor should be judge. “Laws, indeed,”
he said, “punish crimes committed; but how much more merciful would
it be to individuals, how much better for our allies, to provide against
their commission.”
The Annals by Tacitus