The emperor opposed the motion. “Although,” he said, “I am not ignorant
of the reports about Silanus, still we must decide nothing by hearsay.
Many a man has behaved in a province quite otherwise than was hoped
or feared of him. Some are roused to higher things by great responsibility;
others are paralysed by it. It is not possible for a prince’s knowledge
to embrace everything, and it is not expedient that he should be exposed
to the ambitious schemings of others. Laws are ordained to meet facts,
inasmuch as the future is uncertain. It was the rule of our ancestors
that, whenever there was first an offence, some penalty should follow.
Let us not revolutionise a wisely devised and ever approved system.
Princes have enough burdens, and also enough power. Rights are invariably
abridged, as despotism increases; nor ought we to fall back on imperial
authority, when we can have recourse to the laws.”
Such constitutional sentiments were so rare with Tiberius, that they
were welcomed with all the heartier joy. Knowing, as he did, how to
be forbearing, when he was not under the stimulus of personal resentment,
he further said that Gyarus was a dreary and uninhabited island, and
that, as a concession to the Junian family and to a man of the same
order as themselves, they might let him retire by preference to Cythnus.
This, he added, was also the request of Torquata, Silanus’s sister,
a vestal of primitive purity. The motion was carried after a division.
Audience was next given to the people of Cyrene, and on the prosecution
of Ancharius Priscus, Caesius Cordus was convicted of extortion. Lucius
Ennius, a Roman knight, was accused of treason, for having converted
a statue of the emperor to the common use of silver plate; but the
emperor forbade his being put upon his trial, though Ateius Capito
openly remonstrated, with a show of independence. “The Senate,” he
said, “ought not to have wrested from it the power of deciding a question,
and such a crime must not go unpunished. Granted that the emperor
might be indifferent to a personal grievance, still he should not
be generous in the case of wrongs to the commonwealth.” Tiberius interpreted
the remark according to its drift rather than its mere expression,
and persisted in his veto. Capito’s disgrace was the more conspicuous,
for, versed as he was in the science of law, human and divine, he
had now dishonoured a brilliant public career as well as a virtuous
Next came a religious question, as to the temple in which ought to
be deposited the offering which the Roman knights had vowed to Fortune
of the Knights for the recovery of Augusta. Although that Goddess
had several shrines in Rome, there was none with this special designation.
It was ascertained that there was a temple so called at Antium, and
that all sacred rites in the towns of Italy as well as temples and
images of deities were under the jurisdiction and authority of Rome.
Accordingly the offering was placed at Antium.
As religious questions were under discussion, the emperor now produced
his answer to Servius Maluginensis, Jupiter’s priest, which he had
recently deferred, and read the pontifical decree, prescribing that
whenever illness attacked a priest of Jupiter, he might, with the
supreme pontiff’s permission, be absent more than two nights, provided
it was not during the days of public sacrifice or more than twice
in the same year. This regulation of the emperor Augustus sufficiently
proved that a year’s absence and a provincial government were not
permitted to the priests of Jupiter. There was also cited the precedent
of Lucius Metellus, supreme pontiff, who had detained at Rome the
priest Aulus Postumius. And so Asia was allotted to the exconsul next
in seniority to Maluginensis.
About the same time Lepidus asked the Senate’s leave to restore and
embellish, at his own expense, the basilica of Paulus, that monument
of the Aemilian family. Public-spirited munificence was still in fashion,
and Augustus had not hindered Taurus, Philippus, or Balbus from applying
the spoils of war or their superfluous wealth to adorn the capital
and to win the admiration of posterity. Following these examples,
Lepidus, though possessed of a moderate fortune, now revived the glory
of his ancestors.
The Annals by Tacitus