The murder of Vardanes threw the affairs of Parthia into confusion,
as the people were in doubt who should be summoned to the throne.
Many inclined to Gotarzes, some to Meherdates, a descendant of Phraates,
who was a hostage in our hands. Finally Gotarzes prevailed. Established
in the palace, he drove the Parthians by his cruelty and profligacy
to send a secret entreaty to the Roman emperor that Meherdates might
be allowed to mount the throne of his ancestors.

It was during this consulship, in the eight hundredth year after the
foundation of Rome and the sixty-fourth after their celebration by
Augustus that the secular games were exhibited. I say nothing of the
calculations of the two princes, which I have sufficiently discussed
in my history of the emperor Domitian; for he also exhibited secular
games, at which indeed, being one of the priesthood of the Fifteen
and praetor at the time, I specially assisted. It is in no boastful
spirit that I mention this, but because this duty has immemorially
belonged to the College of the Fifteen, and the praetors have performed
the chief functions in these ceremonies. While Claudius sat to witness
the games of the circus, some of the young nobility acted on horseback
the battle of Troy. Among them was Britannicus, the emperor’s son,
and Lucius Domitius, who became soon afterwards by adoption heir to
the empire with the surname of Nero. The stronger popular enthusiasm
which greeted him was taken to presage his greatness. It was commonly
reported that snakes had been seen by his cradle, which they seemed
to guard, a fabulous tale invented to match the marvels of other lands.
Nero, never a disparager of himself, was wont to say that but one
snake, at most, had been seen in his chamber.

Something however of popular favour was bequeathed to him from the
remembrance of Germanicus, whose only male descendant he was, and
the pity felt for his mother Agrippina was increased by the cruelty
of Messalina, who, always her enemy, and then more furious than ever,
was only kept from planning an accusation and suborning informers
by a new and almost insane passion. She had grown so frantically enamoured
of Caius Silius, the handsomest of the young nobility of Rome, that
she drove from his bed Junia Silana, a high-born lady, and had her
lover wholly to herself. Silius was not unconscious of his wickedness
and his peril; but a refusal would have insured destruction, and he
had some hope of escaping exposure; the prize too was great, so he
consoled himself by awaiting the future and enjoying the present.
As for her, careless of concealment, she went continually with a numerous
retinue to his house, she haunted his steps, showered on him wealth
and honours, and, at last, as though empire had passed to another,
the slaves, the freedmen, the very furniture of the emperor were to
be seen in the possession of the paramour.

Claudius meanwhile, who knew nothing about his wife, and was busy
with his functions as censor, published edicts severely rebuking the
lawlessness of the people in the theatre, when they insulted Caius
Pomponius, an ex-consul, who furnished verses for the stage, and certain
ladies of rank. He introduced too a law restraining the cruel greed
of the usurers, and forbidding them to lend at interest sums repayable
on a father’s death. He also conveyed by an aqueduct into Rome the
waters which flow from the hills of Simbrua. And he likewise invented
and published for use some new letters, having discovered, as he said,
that even the Greek alphabet had not been completed at once.

It was the Egyptians who first symbolized ideas, and that by the figures
of animals. These records, the most ancient of all human history,
are still seen engraved on stone. The Egyptians also claim to have
invented the alphabet, which the Phoenicians, they say, by means of
their superior seamanship, introduced into Greece, and of which they
appropriated the glory, giving out that they had discovered what they
had really been taught. Tradition indeed says that Cadmus, visiting
Greece in a Phoenician fleet, was the teacher of this art to its yet
barbarous tribes. According to one account, it was Cecrops of Athens
or Linus of Thebes, or Palamedes of Argos in Trojan times who invented
the shapes of sixteen letters, and others, chiefly Simonides, added
the rest. In Italy the Etrurians learnt them from Demaratus of Corinth,
and the Aborigines from the Arcadian Evander. And so the Latin letters
have the same form as the oldest Greek characters. At first too our
alphabet was scanty, and additions were afterwards made. Following
this precedent Claudius added three letters, which were employed during
his reign and subsequently disused. These may still be seen on the
tablets of brass set up in the squares and temples, on which new statutes
are published.

Claudius then brought before the Senate the subject of the college
of “haruspices,” that, as he said, “the oldest of Italian sciences
might not be lost through negligence. It had often happened in evil
days for the State that advisers had been summoned at whose suggestion
ceremonies had been restored and observed more duly for the future.
The nobles of Etruria, whether of their own accord or at the instigation
of the Roman Senate, had retained this science, making it the inheritance
of distinct families. It was now less zealously studied through the
general indifference to all sound learning and to the growth of foreign
superstitions. At present all is well, but we must show gratitude
to the favour of Heaven, by taking care that the rites observed during
times of peril may not be forgotten in prosperity.” A resolution of
the Senate was accordingly passed, charging the pontiffs to see what
should be retained or reformed with respect to the “haruspices.”
The Annals by Tacitus