Vitellius, having first put forward these arguments in a conciliatory
speech, and met with decided acquiescence from the Senate, began afresh
to point out, that, as they all recommended the emperor’s marriage,
they ought to select a lady conspicuous for noble rank and purity,
herself too the mother of children. “It cannot,” he said, “be long
a question that Agrippina stands first in nobility of birth. She has
given proof too that she is not barren, and she has suitable moral
qualities. It is, again, a singular advantage to us, due to divine
providence, for a widow to be united to an emperor who has limited
himself to his own lawful wives. We have heard from our fathers, we
have ourselves seen that married women were seized at the caprice
of the Caesars. This is quite alien to the propriety of our day. Rather
let a precedent be now set for the taking of a wife by an emperor.
But, it will be said, marriage with a brother’s daughter is with us
a novelty. True; but it is common in other countries, and there is
no law to forbid it. Marriages of cousins were long unknown, but after
a time they became frequent. Custom adapts itself to expediency, and
this novelty will hereafter take its place among recognized usages.”

There were some who rushed out of the Senate passionately protesting
that if the emperor hesitated, they would use violence. A promiscuous
throng assembled, and kept exclaiming that the same too was the prayer
of the Roman people. Claudius without further delay presented himself
in the forum to their congratulations; then entering the Senate, he
asked from them a decree which should decide that for the future marriages
between uncles and brothers’ daughters should be legal. There was,
however, found only one person who desired such a marriage, Alledius
Severus, a Roman knight, who, as many said, was swayed by the influence
of Agrippina. Then came a revolution in the State, and everything
was under the control of a woman, who did not, like Messalina, insult
Rome by loose manners. It was a stringent, and, so to say, masculine
despotism; there was sternness and generally arrogance in public,
no sort of immodesty at home, unless it conduced to power. A boundless
greed of wealth was veiled under the pretext that riches were being
accumulated as a prop to the throne.

On the day of the marriage Silanus committed suicide, having up to
that time prolonged his hope of life, or else choosing that day to
heighten the popular indignation. His sister, Calvina, was banished
from Italy. Claudius further added that sacrifices after the ordinances
of King Tullius, and atonements were to be offered by the pontiffs
in the grove of Diana, amid general ridicule at the idea devising
penalties and propitiations for incest at such a time. Agrippina,
that she might not be conspicuous only by her evil deeds, procured
for Annaeus Seneca a remission of his exile, and with it the praetorship.
She thought this would be universally welcome, from the celebrity
of his attainments, and it was her wish too for the boyhood of Domitius
to be trained under so excellent an instructor, and for them to have
the benefit of his counsels in their designs on the throne. For Seneca,
it was believed, was devoted to Agrippina from a remembrance of her
kindness, and an enemy to Claudius from a bitter sense of wrong.

It was then resolved to delay no longer. Memmius Pollio, the consul-elect,
was induced by great promises to deliver a speech, praying Claudius
to betroth Octavia to Domitius. The match was not unsuitable to the
age of either, and was likely to develop still more important results.
Pollio introduced the motion in much the same language as Vitellius
had lately used. So Octavia was betrothed, and Domitius, besides his
previous relationship, became now the emperor’s affianced son-in-law,
and an equal of Britannicus, through the exertions of his mother and
the cunning of those who had been the accusers of Messalina, and feared
the vengeance of her son.

About the same time an embassy from the Parthians, which had been
sent, as I have stated, to solicit the return of Meherdates, was introduced
into the Senate, and delivered a message to the following effect:-
“They were not,” they said, “unaware of the treaty of alliance, nor
did their coming imply any revolt from the family of the Arsacids;
indeed, even the son of Vonones, Phraates’s grandson, was with them
in their resistance to the despotism of Gotarzes, which was alike
intolerable to the nobility and to the people. Already brothers, relatives,
and distant kin had been swept off by murder after murder; wives actually
pregnant, and tender children were added to Gotarzes’ victims, while,
slothful at home and unsuccessful in war, he made cruelty a screen
for his feebleness. Between the Parthians and ourselves there was
an ancient friendship, founded on a state alliance, and we ought to
support allies who were our rivals in strength, and yet yielded to
us out of respect. Kings’ sons were given as hostages, in order that
when Parthia was tired of home rule, it might fall back on the emperor
and the Senate, and receive from them a better sovereign, familiar
with Roman habits.”

In answer to these and like arguments Claudius began to speak of the
grandeur of Rome and the submissive attitude of the Parthians. He
compared himself to the Divine Augustus, from whom, he reminded them,
they had sought a king, but omitted to mention Tiberius, though he
too had sent them sovereigns. He added some advice for Meherdates,
who was present, and told him not to be thinking of a despot and his
slaves, but rather of a ruler among fellow citizens, and to practise
clemency and justice which barbarians would like the more for being
unused to them. Then he turned to the envoys and bestowed high praise
on the young foster-son of Rome, as one whose self-control had hitherto
been exemplary. “Still,” he said, “they must bear with the caprices
of kings, and frequent revolutions were bad. Rome, sated with her
glory, had reached such a height that, she wished even foreign nations
to enjoy repose.” Upon this Caius Cassius, governor of Syria, was
commissioned to escort the young prince to the bank of the Euphrates.
The Annals by Tacitus