The same punishment was adjudged to Catus Firmius, a Senator, for
having (it was alleged) assailed his sister with a false charge of
treason. Catus, as I have related, had drawn Libo into a snare and
then destroyed him by an information. Tiberius remembering this service,
while he alleged other reasons, deprecated a sentence of exile, but
did not oppose his expulsion from the Senate.

Much what I have related and shall have to relate, may perhaps, I
am aware, seem petty trifles to record. But no one must compare my
annals with the writings of those who have described Rome in old days.
They told of great wars, of the storming of cities, of the defeat
and capture of kings, or whenever they turned by preference to home
affairs, they related, with a free scope for digression, the strifes
of consuls with tribunes, land and corn-laws, and the struggles between
the commons and the aristocracy. My labours are circumscribed and
inglorious; peace wholly unbroken or but slightly disturbed, dismal
misery in the capital, an emperor careless about the enlargement of
the empire, such is my theme. Still it will not be useless to study
those at first sight trifling events out of which the movements of
vast changes often take their rise.

All nations and cities are ruled by the people, the nobility, or by
one man. A constitution, formed by selection out of these elements,
it is easy to commend but not to produce; or, if it is produced, it
cannot be lasting. Formerly, when the people had power or when the
patricians were in the ascendant, the popular temper and the methods
of controlling it, had to be studied, and those who knew most accurately
the spirit of the Senate and aristocracy, had the credit of understanding
the age and of being wise men. So now, after a revolution, when Rome
is nothing but the realm of a single despot, there must be good in
carefully noting and recording this period, for it is but few who
have the foresight to distinguish right from wrong or what is sound
from what is hurtful, while most men learn wisdom from the fortunes
of others. Still, though this is instructive, it gives very little
pleasure. Descriptions of countries, the various incidents of battles,
glorious deaths of great generals, enchain and refresh a reader’s
mind. I have to present in succession the merciless biddings of a
tyrant, incessant prosecutions, faithless friendships, the ruin of
innocence, the same causes issuing in the same results, and I am everywhere
confronted by a wearisome monotony in my subject matter. Then, again,
an ancient historian has but few disparagers, and no one cares whether
you praise more heartily the armies of Carthage or Rome. But of many
who endured punishment or disgrace under Tiberius, the descendants
yet survive; or even though the families themselves may be now extinct,
you will find those who, from a resemblance of character, imagine
that the evil deeds of others are a reproach to themselves. Again,
even honour and virtue make enemies, condemning, as they do, their
opposites by too close a contrast. But I return to my work.

In the year of the consulship of Cornelius Cossus and Asinius Agrippa,
Cremutius Cordus was arraigned on a new charge, now for the first
time heard. He had published a history in which he had praised Marcus
Brutus and called Caius Cassius the last of the Romans. His accusers
were Satrius Secundus and Pinarius Natta, creatures of Sejanus. This
was enough to ruin the accused; and then too the emperor listened
with an angry frown to his defence, which Cremutius, resolved to give
up his life, began thus:-

“It is my words, Senators, which are condemned, so innocent am I of
any guilty act; yet these do not touch the emperor or the emperor’s
mother, who are alone comprehended under the law of treason. I am
said to have praised Brutus and Cassius, whose careers many have described
and no one mentioned without eulogy. Titus Livius, pre-eminently famous
for eloquence and truthfulness, extolled Cneius Pompeius in such a
panegyric that Augustus called him Pompeianus, and yet this was no
obstacle to their friendship. Scipio, Afranius, this very Cassius,
this same Brutus, he nowhere describes as brigands and traitors, terms
now applied to them, but repeatedly as illustrious men. Asinius Pollio’s
writings too hand down a glorious memory of them, and Messala Corvinus
used to speak with pride of Cassius as his general. Yet both these
men prospered to the end with wealth and preferment. Again, that book
of Marcus Cicero, in which he lauded Cato to the skies, how else was
it answered by Caesar the dictator, than by a written oration in reply,
as if he was pleading in court? The letters Antonius, the harangues
of Brutus contain reproaches against Augustus, false indeed, but urged
with powerful sarcasm; the poems which we read of Bibaculus and Catullus
are crammed with invectives on the Caesars. Yet the Divine Julius,
the Divine Augustus themselves bore all this and let it pass, whether
in forbearance or in wisdom I cannot easily say. Assuredly what is
despised is soon forgotten; when you resent a thing, you seem to recognise

“Of the Greeks I say nothing; with them not only liberty, but even
license went unpunished, or if a person aimed at chastising, he retaliated
on satire by satire. It has, however, always been perfectly open to
us without any one to censure, to speak freely of those whom death
has withdrawn alike from the partialities of hatred or esteem. Are
Cassius and Brutus now in arms on the fields of Philippi, and am I
with them rousing the people by harangues to stir up civil war? Did
they not fall more than seventy years ago, and as they are known to
us by statues which even the conqueror did not destroy, so too is
not some portion of their memory preserved for us by historians? To
every man posterity gives his due honour, and, if a fatal sentence
hangs over me, there will be those who will remember me as well as
Cassius and Brutus.”
The Annals by Tacitus