Amid the many sorrows which saddened Rome, one cause of grief was
the marriage of Julia, Drusus’s daughter and Nero’s late wife, into
the humbler family of Rubellius Blandus, whose grandfather many remembered
as a Roman knight from Tibur. At the end of the year the death of
Aelius Lamia, who, after being at last released from the farce of
governing Syria, had become city-prefect, was celebrated with the
honours of a censor’s funeral. He was a man of illustrious descent,
and in a hale old age; and the fact of the province having been withheld
gained him additional esteem. Subsequently, on the death of Flaccus
Pomponius, propraetor of Syria, a letter from the emperor was read,
in which he complained that all the best men who were fit to command
armies declined the service, and that he was thus necessarily driven
to intreaties, by which some of the ex-consuls might be prevailed
on to take provinces. He forgot that Arruntius had been kept at home
now for ten years, that he might not go to Spain.

That same year Marcus Lepidus also died. I have dwelt at sufficient
length on his moderation and wisdom in my earlier books, and I need
not further enlarge on his noble descent. Assuredly the family of
the Aemilii has been rich in good citizens, and even the members of
that house whose morals were corrupt, still lived with a certain splendour.

During the consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, the bird
called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt
and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with
abundant matter for the discussion of the marvellous phenomenon. It
is my wish to make known all on which they agree with several things,
questionable enough indeed, but not too absurd to be noticed.

That it is a creature sacred to the sun, differing from all other
birds in its beak and in the tints of its plumage, is held unanimously
by those who have described its nature. As to the number of years
it lives, there are various accounts. The general tradition says five
hundred years. Some maintain that it is seen at intervals of fourteen
hundred and sixty-one years, and that the former birds flew into the
city called Heliopolis successively in the reigns of Sesostris, Amasis,
and Ptolemy, the third king of the Macedonian dynasty, with a multitude
of companion birds marvelling at the novelty of the appearance. But
all antiquity is of course obscure. From Ptolemy to Tiberius was a
period of less than five hundred years. Consequently some have supposed
that this was a spurious phoenix, not from the regions of Arabia,
and with none of the instincts which ancient tradition has attributed
to the bird. For when the number of years is completed and death is
near, the phoenix, it is said, builds a nest in the land of its birth
and infuses into it a germ of life from which an offspring arises,
whose first care, when fledged, is to bury its father. This is not
rashly done, but taking up a load of myrrh and having tried its strength
by a long flight, as soon as it is equal to the burden and to the
journey, it carries its father’s body, bears it to the altar of the
Sun, and leaves it to the flames. All this is full of doubt and legendary
exaggeration. Still, there is no question that the bird is occasionally
seen in Egypt.

Rome meanwhile being a scene of ceaseless bloodshed, Pomponius Labeo,
who was, as I have related, governor of Moesia, severed his veins
and let his life ebb from him. His wife, Paxaea, emulated her husband.
What made such deaths eagerly sought was dread of the executioner,
and the fact too that the condemned, besides forfeiture of their property,
were deprived of burial, while those who decided their fate themselves,
had their bodies interred, and their wills remained valid, a recompense
this for their despatch. The emperor, however, argued in a letter
to the Senate that it had been the practice of our ancestors, whenever
they broke off an intimacy, to forbid the person their house, and
so put an end to friendship. “This usage he had himself revived in
Labeo’s case, but Labeo, being pressed by charges of maladministration
in his province and other crimes, had screened his guilt by bringing
odium on another, and had groundlessly alarmed his wife, who, though
criminal, was still free from danger.”

Mamercus Scaurus was then for the second time impeached, a man of
distinguished rank and ability as an advocate, but of infamous life.
He fell, not through the friendship of Sejanus, but through what was
no less powerful to destroy, the enmity of Macro, who practised the
same arts more secretly. Macro’s information was grounded on the subject
of a tragedy written by Scaurus, from which he cited some verses which
might be twisted into allusions to Tiberius. But Servilius and Cornelius,
his accusers, alleged adultery with Livia and the practice of magical
rites. Scaurus, as befitted the old house of the Aemilii, forestalled
the fatal sentence at the persuasion of his wife Sextia, who urged
him to die and shared his death.
The Annals by Tacitus