Drusus meanwhile, on his return from Illyricum, though the Senate
had voted him an ovation for the submission of Maroboduus and the
successes of the previous summer, postponed the honour and entered
Rome. Then the defendant sought the advocacy of Lucius Arruntius,
Marcus Vinicius, Asinius Gallus, Aeserninus Marcellus and Sextus Pompeius,
and on their declining for different reasons, Marcus Lepidus, Lucius
Piso, and Livineius Regulus became his counsel, amid the excitement
of the whole country, which wondered how much fidelity would be shown
by the friends of Germanicus, on what the accused rested his hopes,
and how far Tiberius would repress and hide his feelings. Never were
the people more keenly interested; never did they indulge themselves
more freely in secret whispers against the emperor or in the silence
of suspicion.

On the day the Senate met, Tiberius delivered a speech of studied
moderation. “Piso,” he said, “was my father’s representative and friend,
and was appointed by myself, on the advice of the Senate, to assist
Germanicus in the administration of the East. Whether he there had
provoked the young prince by wilful opposition and rivalry, and had
rejoiced at his death or wickedly destroyed him, is for you to determine
with minds unbiassed. Certainly if a subordinate oversteps the bounds
of duty and of obedience to his commander, and has exulted in his
death and in my affliction, I shall hate him and exclude him from
my house, and I shall avenge a personal quarrel without resorting
to my power as emperor. If however a crime is discovered which ought
to be punished, whoever the murdered man may be, it is for you to
give just reparation both to the children of Germanicus and to us,
his parents.

“Consider this too, whether Piso dealt with the armies in a revolutionary
and seditious spirit; whether he sought by intrigue popularity with
the soldiers; whether he attempted to repossess himself of the province
by arms, or whether these are falsehoods which his accusers have published
with exaggeration. As for them, I am justly angry with their intemperate
zeal. For to what purpose did they strip the corpse and expose it
to the pollution of the vulgar gaze, and circulate a story among foreigners
that he was destroyed by poison, if all this is still doubtful and
requires investigation? For my part, I sorrow for my son and shall
always sorrow for him; still I would not hinder the accused from producing
all the evidence which can relieve his innocence or convict Germanicus
of any unfairness, if such there was. And I implore you not to take
as proven charges alleged, merely because the case is intimately bound
up with my affliction. Do you, whom ties of blood or your own true-heartedness
have made his advocates, help him in his peril, every one of you,
as far as each man’s eloquence and diligence can do so. To like exertions
and like persistency I would urge the prosecutors. In this, and in
this only, will we place Germanicus above the laws, by conducting
the inquiry into his death in this house instead of in the forum,
and before the Senate instead of before a bench of judges. In all
else let the case be tried as simply as others. Let no one heed the
tears of Drusus or my own sorrow, or any stories invented to our discredit.”

Two days were then assigned for the bringing forward of the charges,
and after six days’ interval, the prisoner’s defence was to occupy
three days. Thereupon Fulcinius Trio began with some old and irrelevant
accusations about intrigues and extortion during Piso’s government
of Spain. This, if proved, would not have been fatal to the defendant,
if he cleared himself as to his late conduct, and, if refuted, would
not have secured his acquittal, if he were convicted of the greater
crimes. Next, Servaeus, Veranius, and Vitellius, all with equal earnestness,
Vitellius with striking eloquence, alleged against Piso that out of
hatred of Germanicus and a desire of revolution he had so corrupted
the common soldiers by licence and oppression of the allies that he
was called by the vilest of them “father of the legions” while on
the other hand to all the best men, especially to the companions and
friends of Germanicus, he had been savagely cruel. Lastly, he had,
they said, destroyed Germanicus himself by sorceries and poison, and
hence came those ceremonies and horrible sacrifices made by himself
and Plancina; then he had threatened the State with war, and had been
defeated in battle, before he could be tried as a prisoner.

On all points but one the defence broke down. That he had tampered
with the soldiers, that his province had been at the mercy of the
vilest of them, that he had even insulted his chief, he could not
deny. It was only the charge of poisoning from which he seemed to
have cleared himself. This indeed the prosecutors did not adequately
sustain by merely alleging that at a banquet given by Germanicus,
his food had been tainted with poison by the hands of Piso who sat
next above him. It seemed absurd to suppose that he would have dared
such an attempt among strange servants, in the sight of so many bystanders,
and under Germanicus’s own eyes. And, besides, the defendant offered
his slaves to the torture, and insisted on its application to the
attendants on that occasion. But the judges for different reasons
were merciless, the emperor, because war had been made on a province,
the Senate because they could not be sufficiently convinced that there
had been no treachery about the death of Germanicus.

At the same time shouts were heard from the people in front of the
Senate House, threatening violence if he escaped the verdict of the
Senators. They had actually dragged Piso’s statues to the Gemonian
stairs, and were breaking them in pieces, when by the emperor’s order
they were rescued and replaced. Piso was then put in a litter and
attended by a tribune of one of the Praetorian cohorts, who followed
him, so it was variously rumoured, to guard his person or to be his
The Annals by Tacitus