Soon afterwards Curtius Rufus obtained the same honour. He had opened
mines in the territory of the Mattiaci for working certain veins of
silver. The produce was small and soon exhausted. The toil meanwhile
of the legions was only to a loss, while they dug channels for water
and constructed below the surface works which are difficult enough
in the open air. Worn out by the labour, and knowing that similar
hardships were endured in several provinces, the soldiers wrote a
secret despatch in the name of the armies, begging the emperor to
give in advance triumphal distinctions to one to whom he was about
to entrust his forces.

Of the birth of Curtius Rufus, whom some affirm to have been the son
of a gladiator, I would not publish a falsehood, while I shrink from
telling the truth. On reaching manhood he attached himself to a quaestor
to whom Africa had been allotted, and was walking alone at midday
in some unfrequented arcade in the town of Adrumetum, when he saw
a female figure of more than human stature, and heard a voice, “Thou,
Rufus, art the man who will one day come into this province as proconsul.”
Raised high in hope by such a presage, he returned to Rome, where,
through the lavish expenditure of his friends and his own vigorous
ability, he obtained the quaestorship, and, subsequently, in competition
with well-born candidates, the praetorship, by the vote of the emperor
Tiberius, who threw a veil over the discredit of his origin, saying,
“Curtius Rufus seems to me to be his own ancestor.” Afterwards, throughout
a long old age of surly sycophancy to those above him, of arrogance
to those beneath him, and of moroseness among his equals, he gained
the high office of the consulship, triumphal distinctions, and, at
last, the province of Africa. There he died, and so fulfilled the
presage of his destiny.

At Rome meanwhile, without any motive then known or subsequently ascertained,
Cneius Nonius, a Roman knight, was found wearing a sword amid a crowd
who were paying their respects to the emperor. The man confessed his
own guilt when he was being torn in pieces by torture, but gave up
no accomplices, perhaps having none to hide.

During the same consulship, Publius Dolabella proposed that a spectacle
of gladiators should be annually exhibited at the cost of those who
obtained the quaestorship. In our ancestors’ days this honour had
been a reward of virtue, and every citizen, with good qualities to
support him, was allowed to compete for office. At first there were
no distinctions even of age, which prevented a man in his early youth
from becoming a consul or a dictator. The quaestors indeed were appointed
while the kings still ruled, and this the revival by Brutus of the
lex curiata plainly shows. The consuls retained the power of selecting
them, till the people bestowed this office as well as others. The
first so created were Valerius Potitus and Aemilius Mamercus sixty-three
years after the expulsion of the Tarquins, and they were to be attached
to the war-department. As the public business increased, two more
were appointed to attend to affairs at Rome. This number was again
doubled, when to the contributions of Italy was added the tribute
of the provinces. Subsequently Sulla, by one of his laws, provided
that twenty should be elected to fill up the Senate, to which he had
intrusted judicial functions. These functions the knights afterwards
recovered, but the quaestorship was obtained, without expense, by
merit in the candidates or by the good nature of the electors, till
at Dolabella’s suggestion it was, so to speak, put up to sale.

In the consulship of Aulus Vitellius and Lucius Vipstanus the question
of filling up the Senate was discussed, and the chief men of Gallia
Comata, as it was called, who had long possessed the rights of allies
and of Roman citizens, sought the privilege of obtaining public offices
at Rome. There was much talk of every kind on the subject, and it
was argued before the emperor with vehement opposition. “Italy,” it
was asserted, “is not so feeble as to be unable to furnish its own
capital with a senate. Once our native-born citizens sufficed for
peoples of our own kin, and we are by no means dissatisfied with the
Rome of the past. To this day we cite examples, which under our old
customs the Roman character exhibited as to valour and renown. Is
it a small thing that Veneti and Insubres have already burst into
the Senate-house, unless a mob of foreigners, a troop of captives,
so to say, is now forced upon us? What distinctions will be left for
the remnants of our noble houses, or for any impoverished senators
from Latium? Every place will be crowded with these millionaires,
whose ancestors of the second and third generations at the head of
hostile tribes destroyed our armies with fire and sword, and actually
besieged the divine Julius at Alesia. These are recent memories. What
if there were to rise up the remembrance of those who fell in Rome’s
citadel and at her altar by the hands of these same barbarians! Let
them enjoy indeed the title of citizens, but let them not vulgarise
the distinctions of the Senate and the honours of office.”

These and like arguments failed to impress the emperor. He at once
addressed himself to answer them, and thus harangued the assembled
Senate. “My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a
citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy
of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found.
And indeed I know, as facts, that the Julii came from Alba, the Coruncanii
from Camerium, the Porcii from Tusculum, and not to inquire too minutely
into the past, that new members have been brought into the Senate
from Etruria and Lucania and the whole of Italy, that Italy itself
was at last extended to the Alps, to the end that not only single
persons but entire countries and tribes might be united under our
name. We had unshaken peace at home; we prospered in all our foreign
relations, in the days when Italy beyond the Po was admitted to share
our citizenship, and when, enrolling in our ranks the most vigorous
of the provincials, under colour of settling our legions throughout
the world, we recruited our exhausted empire. Are we sorry that the
Balbi came to us from Spain, and other men not less illustrious from
Narbon Gaul? Their descendants are still among us, and do not yield
to us in patriotism.
The Annals by Tacitus