As for the besieged, it appeared that they had such an abundance of
corn that they fired the granaries, and Corbulo declared that the
Parthians on the other hand were in want of supplies, and would have
abandoned the siege from their fodder being all but exhausted, and
that he was himself only three days’ march distant. He further stated
that Paetus had guaranteed by an oath, before the standards, in the
presence of those whom the king had sent to be witnesses, that no
Roman was to enter Armenia until Nero’s reply arrived as to whether
he assented to the peace. Though this may have been invented to enhance
our disgrace, yet about the rest of the story there is no obscurity,
that, in a single day Paetus traversed forty miles, leaving his wounded
behind him everywhere, and that the consternation of the fugitives
was as frightful as if they had turned their backs in battle. Corbulo,
as he met them with his forces on the bank of the Euphrates, did not
make such a display of his standards and arms as to shame them by
the contrast. His men, in their grief and pity for the lot of their
comrades, could not even refrain from tears. There was scarce any
mutual salutation for weeping. The spirit of a noble rivalry and the
desire of glory, emotions which stir men in success, had died away;
pity alone survived, the more strongly in the inferior ranks.

Then followed a short conversation between the generals. While Corbulo
complained that his efforts had been fruitless and that the war might
have been ended with the flight of the Parthians, Paetus replied that
for neither of them was anything lost, and urged that they should
reverse the eagles, and with their united forces invade Armenia, much
weakened, as it was, by the departure of Vologeses. Corbulo said that
he had no such instructions from the emperor; it was the peril of
the legions which had stirred him to leave his province, and, as there
was uncertainty about the designs of the Parthians, he should return
to Syria, and, even as it was, he must pray for fortune under her
most favourable aspect in order that the infantry, wearied out with
long marches, might keep pace with the enemy’s untiring cavalry, certain
to outstrip him on the plains, which facilitated their movements.
Paetus then went into winter quarters in Cappadocia. Vologeses, however,
sent a message to Corbulo, requiring him to remove the fortresses
on the further bank of the Euphrates, and to leave the river to be,
as formerly, the boundary between them. Corbulo also demanded the
evacuation of Armenia by the garrisons posted throughout it. At last
the king yielded, all the positions fortified by Corbulo beyond the
Euphrates were destroyed, and the Armenians too left without a master.

At Rome meanwhile trophies for the Parthian war, and arches were erected
in the centre of the Capitoline hill; these had been decreed by the
Senate, while the war was yet undecided, and even now they were not
given up, appearances being consulted, in disregard of known facts.
And to hide his anxious fears about foreign affairs, Nero threw the
people’s corn, which was so old as to be spoilt, into the Tiber, with
the view of keeping up a sense of security about the supplies. There
was no addition to the price, although about two hundred ships were
destroyed in the very harbour by a violent storm, and one hundred
more, which had sailed up the Tiber, by an accidental fire. Nero next
appointed three ex-consuls, Lucius Piso, Ducennius Geminus, and Pompeius
Paulinus, to the management of the public revenues, and inveighed
at the same time against former emperors whose heavy expenditure had
exceeded their legitimate income. He himself, he said, made the state
an annual present of sixty million sesterces.

A very demoralizing custom had at this time become rife, of fictitious
adoptions of children, on the eve of the elections or of the assignment
of the provinces, by a number of childless persons, who, after obtaining
along with real fathers praetorships and provinces, forthwith dismissed
from paternal control the sons whom they had adopted. An appeal was
made to the Senate under a keen sense of wrong. Parents pleaded natural
rights and the anxieties of nurture against fraudulent evasions and
the brief ceremony of adoption. “It was,” they argued, “sufficient
reward for the childless to have influence and distinction, everything,
in short, easy and open to them, without a care and without a burden.
For themselves, they found that the promises held out by the laws,
for which they had long waited, were turned into mockery, when one
who knew nothing of a parent’s solicitude or of the sorrows of bereavement
could rise in a moment to the level of a father’s long deferred hopes.”

On this, a decree of the Senate was passed that a fictitious adoption
should be of no avail in any department of the public service, or
even hold good for acquiring an inheritance.

Next came the prosecution of Claudius Timarchus of Crete, on such
charges as often fall on very influential provincials, whom immense
wealth has emboldened to the oppression of the weak. But one speech
of his had gone to the extremity of a gross insult to the Senate;
for he had repeatedly declared that it was in his power to decide
whether the proconsuls who had governed Crete should receive the thanks
of the province. Paetus Thrasea, turning the occasion to public advantage,
after having stated his opinion that the accused ought to be expelled
from Crete, further spoke as follows:-

“It is found by experience, Senators, that admirable laws and right
precedents among the good have their origin in the misdeeds of others.
Thus the license of advocates resulted in the Cincian bill; the corrupt
practices of candidates, in the Julian laws; the rapacity of magistrates,
in the Calpurnian enactments. For, in point of time, guilt comes before
punishment, and correction follows after delinquency. And therefore,
to meet the new insolence of provincials, let us adopt a measure worthy
of Roman good faith and resolution, whereby our allies may lose nothing
of our protection, while public opinion may cease to say of us, that
the estimate of a man’s character is to found anywhere rather than
in the judgment of our citizens.
The Annals by Tacitus