About this time Caius Caesar, who became his grandfather’s companion
on his retirement to Capreae, married Claudia, daughter of Marcus
Silanus. He was a man who masked a savage temper under an artful guise
of self-restraint, and neither his mother’s doom nor the banishment
of his brothers extorted from him a single utterance. Whatever the
humour of the day with Tiberius, he would assume the like, and his
language differed as little. Hence the fame of a clever remark from
the orator Passienus, that “there never was a better slave or a worse

I must not pass over a prognostication of Tiberius respecting Servius
Galba, then consul. Having sent for him and sounded him on various
topics, he at last addressed him in Greek to this effect: “You too,
Galba, will some day have a taste of empire.” He thus hinted at a
brief span of power late in life, on the strength of his acquaintance
with the art of astrologers, leisure for acquiring which he had had
at Rhodes, with Thrasyllus for instructor. This man’s skill he tested
in the following manner.

Whenever he sought counsel on such matters, he would make use of the
top of the house and of the confidence of one freedman, quite illiterate
and of great physical strength. The man always walked in front of
the person whose science Tiberius had determined to test, through
an unfrequented and precipitous path (for the house stood on rocks),
and then, if any suspicion had arisen of imposture or of trickery,
he hurled the astrologer, as he returned, into the sea beneath, that
no one might live to betray the secret. Thrasyllus accordingly was
led up the same cliffs, and when he had deeply impressed his questioner
by cleverly revealing his imperial destiny and future career, he was
asked whether he had also thoroughly ascertained his own horoscope,
and the character of that particular year and day. After surveying
the positions and relative distances of the stars, he first paused,
then trembled, and the longer he gazed, the more was he agitated by
amazement and terror, till at last he exclaimed that a perilous and
well-nigh fatal crisis impended over him. Tiberius then embraced him
and congratulated him on foreseeing his dangers and on being quite
safe. Taking what he had said as an oracle, he retained him in the
number of his intimate friends.

When I hear of these and like occurrences, I suspend my judgment on
the question whether it is fate and unchangeable necessity or chance
which governs the revolutions of human affairs. Indeed, among the
wisest of the ancients and among their disciples you will find conflicting
theories, many holding the conviction that heaven does not concern
itself with the beginning or the end of our life, or, in short, with
mankind at all; and that therefore sorrows are continually the lot
of the good, happiness of the wicked; while others, on the contrary,
believe that though there is a harmony between fate and events, yet
it is not dependent on wandering stars, but on primary elements, and
on a combination of natural causes. Still, they leave us the capacity
of choosing our life, maintaining that, the choice once made, there
is a fixed sequence of events. Good and evil, again, are not what
vulgar opinion accounts them; many who seem to be struggling with
adversity are happy; many, amid great affluence, are utterly miserable,
if only the first bear their hard lot with patience, and the latter
make a foolish use of their prosperity.

Most men, however, cannot part with the belief that each person’s
future is fixed from his very birth, but that some things happen differently
from what has been foretold through the impostures of those who describe
what they do not know, and that this destroys the credit of a science,
clear testimonies to which have been given both by past ages and by
our own. In fact, how the son of this same Thrasyllus predicted Nero’s
reign I shall relate when the time comes, not to digress too far from
my subject.

That same year the death of Asinius Gallus became known. That he died
of starvation, there was not a doubt; whether of his own choice or
by compulsion, was a question. The emperor was asked whether he would
allow him to be buried, and he blushed not to grant the favour, and
actually blamed the accident which had proved fatal to the accused
before he could be convicted in his presence. Just as if in a three
years’ interval an opportunity was wanting for the trial of an old
ex-consul and the father of a number of ex-consuls.
The Annals by Tacitus