After Tarquin’s expulsion, the people, to check cabals among the Senators,
devised many safeguards for freedom and for the establishment of unity.
Decemvirs were appointed; everything specially admirable elsewhere
was adopted, and the Twelve Tables drawn up, the last specimen of
equitable legislation. For subsequent enactments, though occasionally
directed against evildoers for some crime, were oftener carried by
violence amid class dissensions, with a view to obtain honours not
as yet conceded, or to banish distinguished citizens, or for other
base ends. Hence the Gracchi and Saturnini, those popular agitators,
and Drusus too, as flagrant a corrupter in the Senate’s name; hence,
the bribing of our allies by alluring promises and the cheating them
by tribunes vetoes. Even the Italian and then the Civil war did not
pass without the enactment of many conflicting laws, till Lucius Sulla,
the Dictator, by the repeal or alteration of past legislation and
by many additions, gave us a brief lull in this process, to be instantly
followed by the seditious proposals of Lepidus, and soon afterwards
by the tribunes recovering their license to excite the people just
as they chose. And now bills were passed, not only for national objects
but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth
was most corrupt.
Cneius Pompeius was then for the third time elected consul to reform
public morals, but in applying remedies more terrible than the evils
and repealing the legislation of which he had himself been the author,
he lost by arms what by arms he had been maintaining. Then followed
twenty years of continuous strife; custom or law there was none; the
vilest deeds went unpunished, while many noble acts brought ruin.
At last, in his sixth consulship, Caesar Augustus, feeling his power
secure, annulled the decrees of his triumvirate, and gave us a constitution
which might serve us in peace under a monarchy. Henceforth our chains
became more galling, and spies were set over us, stimulated by rewards
under the Papia Poppaea law, so that if men shrank from the privileges
of fatherhood, the State, as universal parent, might possess their
ownerless properties. But this espionage became too searching, and
Rome and Italy and Roman citizens everywhere fell into its clutches.
Many men’s fortunes were ruined, and over all there hung a terror
till Tiberius, to provide a remedy, selected by lot five ex-consuls,
five ex-praetors, and five senators, by whom most of the legal knots
were disentangled and some light temporary relief afforded.
About this same time he commended to the Senate’s favour, Nero, Germanicus’s
son, who was just entering on manhood, and asked them, not without
smiles of ridicule from his audience, to exempt him from serving as
one of the Twenty Commissioners, and let him be a candidate for quaestorship
five years earlier than the law allowed. His excuse was that a similar
decree had been made for himself and his brother at the request of
Augustus. But I cannot doubt that even then there were some who secretly
laughed at such a petition, though the Caesars were but in the beginning
of their grandeur, and ancient usage was more constantly before men’s
eyes, while also the tie between stepfather and stepson was weaker
than that between grandfather and grandchild. The pontificate was
likewise conferred on Nero, and on the day on which he first entered
the forum, a gratuity was given to the city-populace, who greatly
rejoiced at seeing a son of Germanicus now grown to manhood. Their
joy was further increased by Nero’s marriage to Julia, Drusus’s daughter.
This news was met with favourable comments, but it was heard with
disgust that Sejanus was to be the father-in-law of the son of Claudius.
The emperor was thought to have polluted the nobility of his house
and to have yet further elevated Sejanus, whom they already suspected
of overweening ambition.
Two remarkable men died at the end of the year, Lucius Volusius and
Sallustius Crispus. Volusius was of an old family, which had however
never risen beyond the praetorship. He brought into it the consulship;
he also held the office of censor for arranging the classes of the
knights, and was the first to pile up the wealth which that house
enjoyed to a boundless extent.
Crispus was of equestrian descent and grandson of a sister of Caius
Sallustius, that most admirable Roman historian, by whom he was adopted
and whose name he took. Though his road to preferment was easy, he
chose to emulate Maecenas, and without rising to a senator’s rank,
he surpassed in power many who had won triumphs and consulships. He
was a contrast to the manners of antiquity in his elegance and refinement,
and in the sumptuousness of his wealth he was almost a voluptuary.
But beneath all this was a vigorous mind, equal to the greatest labours,
the more active in proportion as he made a show of sloth and apathy.
And so while Maecenas lived, he stood next in favour to him, and was
afterwards the chief depository of imperial secrets, and accessory
to the murder of Postumus Agrippa, till in advanced age he retained
the shadow rather than the substance of the emperor’s friendship.
The same too had happened to Maecenas, so rarely is it the destiny
of power to be lasting, or perhaps a sense of weariness steals over
princes when they have bestowed everything, or over favourites, when
there is nothing left them to desire.
Next followed Tiberius’s fourth, Drusus’s second consulship, memorable
from the fact that father and son were colleagues. Two years previously
the association of Germanicus and Tiberius in the same honour had
not been agreeable to the uncle, nor had it the link of so close a
At the beginning of this year Tiberius, avowedly to recruit his health,
retired to Campania, either as a gradual preparation for long and
uninterrupted seclusion, or in order that Drusus alone in his father’s
absence might discharge the duties of the consulship. It happened
that a mere trifle which grew into a sharp contest gave the young
prince the means of acquiring popularity. Domitius Corbulo, an ex-praetor,
complained to the Senate that Lucius Sulla, a young noble, had not
given place to him at a gladiatorial show. Corbulo had age, national
usage and the feelings of the older senators in his favour. Against
him Mamercus Scaurus, Lucius Arruntius and other kinsmen of Sulla
strenuously exerted themselves. There was a keen debate, and appeal
was made to the precedents of our ancestors, as having censured in
severe decrees disrespect on the part of the young, till Drusus argued
in a strain calculated to calm their feelings. Corbulo too received
an apology from Mamercus, who was Sulla’s uncle and stepfather, and
the most fluent speaker of that day.
The Annals by Tacitus