All this was known to Tiberius, and, to silence popular talk, he reminded
the people in a proclamation that many eminent Romans had died for
their country and that none had been honoured with such passionate
regret. This regret was a glory both to himself and to all, provided
only a due mean were observed; for what was becoming in humble homes
and communities, did not befit princely personages and an imperial
people. Tears and the solace found in mourning were suitable enough
for the first burst of grief; but now they must brace their hearts
to endurance, as in former days the Divine Julius after the loss of
his only daughter, and the Divine Augustus when he was bereft of his
grandchildren, had thrust away their sorrow. There was no need of
examples from the past, showing how often the Roman people had patiently
endured the defeats of armies, the destruction of generals, the total
extinction of noble families. Princes were mortal; the State was everlasting.
Let them then return to their usual pursuits, and, as the shows of
the festival of the Great Goddess were at hand, even resume their
The suspension of business then ceased, and men went back to their
occupations. Drusus was sent to the armies of Illyricum, amidst an
universal eagerness to exact vengeance on Piso, and ceaseless complaints
that he was meantime roaming through the delightful regions of Asia
and Achaia, and was weakening the proofs of his guilt by an insolent
and artful procrastination. It was indeed widely rumoured that the
notorius poisoner Martina, who, as I have related, had been despatched
to Rome by Cneius Sentius, had died suddenly at Brundisium; that poison
was concealed in a knot of her hair, and that no symptoms of suicide
were discovered on her person.
Piso meanwhile sent his son on to Rome with a message intended to
pacify the emporer, and then made his way to Drusus, who would, he
hoped, be not so much infuriated at his brother’s death as kindly
disposed towards himself in consequence of a rival’s removal. Tiberius,
to show his impartiality, received the youth courteously, and enriched
him with the liberality he usually bestowed on the sons of noble families.
Drusus replied to Piso that if certain insinuations were true, he
must be foremost in his resentment, but he preferred to believe that
they were false and groundless, and that Germanicus’s death need be
the ruin of no one. This he said openly, avoiding anything like secrecy.
Men did not doubt that his answer prescribed him by Tiberius, inasmuch
as one who had generally all the simplicity and candour of youth,
now had recourse to the artifices of old age.
Piso, after crossing the Dalmatian sea and leaving his ships at Ancona,
went through Picenum and along the Flaminian road, where he overtook
a legion which was marching from Pannonia to Rome and was then to
garrison Africa. It was a matter of common talk how he had repeatedly
displayed himself to the soldiers on the road during the march. From
Narnia, to avoid suspicion or because the plans of fear are uncertain,
he sailed down the Nar, then down the Tiber, and increased the fury
of the populace by bringing his vessel to shore at the tomb of the
Caesars. In broad daylight, when the river-bank was thronged, he himself
with a numerous following of dependents, and Plancina with a retinue
of women, moved onward with joy in their countenances. Among other
things which provoked men’s anger was his house towering above the
forum, gay with festal decorations, his banquets and his feasts, about
which there was no secrecy, because the place was so public.
Next day, Fulcinius Trio asked the consul’s leave to prosecute Piso.
It was contended against him by Vitellius and Veranius and the others
who had been the companions of Germanicus, that this was not Trio’s
proper part, and that they themselves meant to report their instructions
from Germanicus, not as accusers, but as deponents and witnesses to
facts. Trio, abandoning the prosecution on this count, obtained leave
to accuse Piso’s previous career, and the emperor was requested to
undertake the inquiry. This even the accused did not refuse, fearing,
as he did, the bias of the people and of the Senate; while Tiberius,
he knew, was resolute enough to despise report, and was also entangled
in his mother’s complicity. Truth too would be more easily distinguished
from perverse misrepresentation by a single judge, where a number
would be swayed by hatred and ill-will.
Tiberius was not unaware of the formidable difficulty of the inquiry
and of the rumours by which he was himself assailed. Having therefore
summoned a few intimate friends, he listened to the threatening speeches
of the prosecutors and to the pleadings of the accused, and finally
referred the whole case to the Senate.
The Annals by Tacitus