It was this same Corbulo, who, after raising a cry that most of the
roads in Italy were obstructed or impassable through the dishonesty
of contractors and the negligence of officials, himself willingly
undertook the complete management of the business. This proved not
so beneficial to the State as ruinous to many persons, whose property
and credit he mercilessly attacked by convictions and confiscations.

Soon afterwards Tiberius informed the Senate by letter that Africa
was again disturbed by an incursion of Tacfarinas, and that they must
use their judgment in choosing as proconsul an experienced soldier
of vigorous constitution, who would be equal to the war. Sextus Pompeius
caught at this opportunity of venting his hatred against Lepidus,
whom he condemned as a poor-spirited and needy man, who was a disgrace
to his ancestors, and therefore deserved to lose even his chance of
the province of Asia. But the Senate were against him, for they thought
Lepidus gentle rather than cowardly, and that his inherited poverty,
with the high rank in which he had lived without a blot, ought to
be considered a credit to instead of a reproach. And so he was sent
to Asia, and with respect to Africa it was decided that the emperor
should choose to whom it was to be assigned.

During this debate Severus Caecina proposed that no magistrate who
had obtained a province should be accompanied by his wife. He began
by recounting at length how harmoniously he had lived with his wife,
who had borne him six children, and how in his own home he had observed
what he was proposing for the public, by having kept her in Italy,
though he had himself served forty campaigns in various provinces.
“With good reason,” he said, “had it been formerly decided that women
were not to be taken among our allies or into foreign countries. A
train of women involves delays through luxury in peace and through
panic in war, and converts a Roman army on the march into the likeness
of a barbarian progress. Not only is the sex feeble and unequal to
hardship, but, when it has liberty, it is spiteful, intriguing and
greedy of power. They show themselves off among the soldiers and have
the centurions at their beck. Lately a woman had presided at the drill
of the cohorts and the evolutions of the legions. You should yourselves
bear in mind that, whenever men are accused of extortion, most of
the charges are directed against the wives. It is to these that the
vilest of the provincials instantly attach themselves; it is they
who undertake and settle business; two persons receive homage when
they appear; there are two centres of government, and the women’s
orders are the more despotic and intemperate. Formerly they were restrained
by the Oppian and other laws; now, loosed from every bond, they rule
our houses, our tribunals, even our armies.”

A few heard this speech with approval, but the majority clamorously
objected that there was no proper motion on the subject, and that
Caecina was no fit censor on so grave an issue. Presently Valerius
Messalinus, Messala’s son, in whom the father’s eloquence was reproduced,
replied that much of the sternness of antiquity had been changed into
a better and more genial system. “Rome,” he said, “is not now, as
formerly, beset with wars, nor are the provinces hostile. A few concessions
are made to the wants of women, but such as are not even a burden
to their husbands homes, much less to the allies. In all other respects
man and wife share alike, and this arrangement involves no trouble
in peace. War of course requires that men should be unincumbered,
but when they return what worthier solace can they have after their
hardships than a wife’s society? But some wives have abandoned themselves
to scheming and rapacity. Well; even among our magistrates, are not
many subject to various passions? Still, that is not a reason for
sending no one into a province. Husbands have often been corrupted
by the vices of their wives. Are then all unmarried men blameless?
The Oppian laws were formerly adopted to meet the political necessities
of the time, and subsequently there was some remission and mitigation
of them on grounds of expediency. It is idle to shelter our own weakness
under other names; for it is the husband’s fault if the wife transgresses
propriety. Besides, it is wrong that because of the imbecility of
one or two men, all husbands should be cut off from their partners
in prosperity and adversity. And further, a sex naturally weak will
be thus left to itself and be at the mercy of its own voluptuousness
and the passions of others. Even with the husband’s personal vigilance
the marriage tie is scarcely preserved inviolate. What would happen
were it for a number of years to be forgotten, just as in a divorce?
You must not check vices abroad without remembering the scandals of
the capital.”

Drusus added a few words on his own experience as a husband. “Princes,”
he said, “must often visit the extremities of their empire. How often
had the Divine Augustus travelled to West and to the East accompanied
by Livia? He had himself gone to Illyricum and, should it be expedient,
he would go to other countries, not always however with a contented
mind, if he had to tear himself from a much loved wife, the mother
of his many children.”

Caecina’s motion was thus defeated. At the Senate’s next meeting came
a letter from Tiberius, which indirectly censured them for throwing
on the emperor every political care, and named Marcus Lepidus and
Junius Blaesus, one of whom was to be chosen pro-consul of Africa.
Both spoke on the subject, and Lepidus begged earnestly to be excused.
He alleged ill-health, his children’s tender age, his having a daughter
to marry, and something more of which he said nothing, was well understood,
the fact that Blaesus was uncle of Sejanus and so had very powerful
interest. Blaesus replied with an affectation of refusal, but not
with the same persistency, nor was he backed up by the acquiescence
of flatterers.

Next was exposed an abuse, hitherto the subject of many a whispered
complaint. The vilest wretches used a growing freedom in exciting
insult and obloquy against respectable citizens, and escaped punishment
by clasping some statue of the emperor. The very freedman or slave
was often an actual terror to his patron or master whom he would menace
by word and gesture. Accordingly Caius Cestius, a senator, argued
that “though princes were like deities, yet even the gods listened
only to righteous prayers from their suppliants, and that no one fled
to the Capitol or any other temple in Rome to use it as an auxiliary
in crime. There was an end and utter subversion of all law when, in
the forum and on the threshold of the Senate House, Annia Rufilla,
whom he had convicted of fraud before a judge, assailed him with insults
and threats, while he did not himself dare to try legal proceedings,
because he was confronted by her with the emperor’s image.” There
rose other clamorous voices, with even more flagrant complaints, and
all implored Drusus to inflict exemplary vengeance, till he ordered
Rufilla to be summoned, and on her conviction to be confined in the
common prison.
The Annals by Tacitus