In the consulship of Servius Galba and Lucius Sulla, the emperor,
after having long considered whom he was to choose to be husbands
for his granddaughters, now that the maidens were of marriageable
age, selected Lucius Cassius and Marcus Vinicius. Vinicius was of
provincial descent; he was born at Cales, his father and grandfather
having been consuls, and his family, on the other side, being of the
rank of knights. He was a man of amiable temper and of cultivated
eloquence. Cassius was of an ancient and honourable, though plebeian
house, at Rome. Though he was brought up by his father under a severe
training, he won esteem more frequently by his good-nature than by
his diligence. To him and to Vinicius the emperor married respectively
Drusilla and Julia, Germanicus’s daughters, and addressed a letter
on the subject to the Senate, with a slightly complimentary mention
of the young men. He next assigned some very vague reasons for his
absence, then passed to more important matters, the ill-will against
him originating in his state policy, and requested that Macro, who
commanded the praetorians, with a few tribunes and centurions, might
accompany him whenever he entered the Senate-house. But though a decree
was voted by the Senate on a liberal scale and without any restrictions
as to rank or numbers, he never so much as went near the walls of
Rome, much less the State-council, for he would often go round and
avoid his native city by circuitous routes.

Meanwhile a powerful host of accusers fell with sudden fury on the
class which systematically increased its wealth by usury in defiance
of a law passed by Caesar the Dictator defining the terms of lending
money and of holding estates in Italy, a law long obsolete because
the public good is sacrificed to private interest. The curse of usury
was indeed of old standing in Rome and a most frequent cause of sedition
and discord, and it was therefore repressed even in the early days
of a less corrupt morality. First, the Twelve Tables prohibited any
one from exacting more than 10 per cent., when, previously, the rate
had depended on the caprice of the wealthy. Subsequently, by a bill
brought in by the tribunes, interest was reduced to half that amount,
and finally compound interest was wholly forbidden. A check too was
put by several enactments of the people on evasions which, though
continually put down, still, through strange artifices, reappeared.
On this occasion, however, Gracchus, the praetor, to whose jurisdiction
the inquiry had fallen, felt himself compelled by the number of persons
endangered to refer the matter to the Senate. In their dismay the
senators, not one of whom was free from similar guilt, threw themselves
on the emperor’s indulgence. He yielded, and a year and six months
were granted, within which every one was to settle his private accounts
conformably to the requirements of the law.

Hence followed a scarcity of money, a great shock being given to all
credit, the current coin too, in consequence of the conviction of
so many persons and the sale of their property, being locked up in
the imperial treasury or the public exchequer. To meet this, the Senate
had directed that every creditor should have two-thirds his capital
secured on estates in Italy. Creditors however were suing for payment
in full, and it was not respectable for persons when sued to break
faith. So, at first, there were clamorous meetings and importunate
entreaties; then noisy applications to the praetor’s court. And the
very device intended as a remedy, the sale and purchase of estates,
proved the contrary, as the usurers had hoarded up all their money
for buying land. The facilities for selling were followed by a fall
of prices, and the deeper a man was in debt, the more reluctantly
did he part with his property, and many were utterly ruined. The destruction
of private wealth precipitated the fall of rank and reputation, till
at last the emperor interposed his aid by distributing throughout
the banks a hundred million sesterces, and allowing freedom to borrow
without interest for three years, provided the borrower gave security
to the State in land to double the amount. Credit was thus restored,
and gradually private lenders were found. The purchase too of estates
was not carried out according to the letter of the Senate’s decree,
rigour at the outset, as usual with such matters, becoming negligence
in the end.

Former alarms then returned, as there was a charge of treason against
Considius Proculus. While he was celebrating his birthday without
a fear, he was hurried before the Senate, condemned and instantly
put to death. His sister Sancia was outlawed, on the accusation of
Quintus Pomponius, a restless spirit, who pretended that he employed
himself in this and like practices to win favour with the sovereign,
and thereby alleviate the perils hanging over his brother Pomponius

Pompeia Macrina too was sentenced to banishment. Her husband Argolicus
and her father-in-law Laco, leading men of Achaia, had been ruined
by the emperor. Her father likewise, an illustrious Roman knight,
and her brother, an ex-praetor, seeing their doom was near, destroyed
themselves. It was imputed to them as a crime that their great-grandfather
Theophanes of Mitylene had been one of the intimate friends of Pompey
the Great, and that after his death Greek flattery had paid him divine

Sextus Marius, the richest man in Spain, was next accused of incest
with his daughter, and thrown headlong from the Tarpeian rock. To
remove any doubt that the vastness of his wealth had proved the man’s
ruin, Tiberius kept his gold-mines for himself, though they were forfeited
to the State. Executions were now a stimulus to his fury, and he ordered
the death of all who were lying in prison under accusation of complicity
with Sejanus. There lay, singly or in heaps, the unnumbered dead,
of every age and sex, the illustrious with the obscure. Kinsfolk and
friends were not allowed to be near them, to weep over them, or even
to gaze on them too long. Spies were set round them, who noted the
sorrow of each mourner and followed the rotting corpses, till they
were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating or driven on the bank,
no one dared to burn or to touch them. The force of terror had utterly
extinguished the sense of human fellowship, and, with the growth of
cruelty, pity was thrust aside.
The Annals by Tacitus