Next day, however, two praetorian cohorts under arms occupied the
temple of Venus Genetrix. A group of ordinary citizens with swords
which they did not conceal, had blocked the approach to the Senate.
Through the squares and colonnades were scattered bodies of soldiers,
amid whose looks of menace the senators entered their house. A speech
from the emperor was read by his quaestor. Without addressing any
one by name, he censured the senators for neglecting their public
duties, and drawing by their example the Roman knights into idleness.
“For what wonder is it,” he asked, “that men do not come from remote
provinces when many, after obtaining the consulate or some sacred
office, give all their thoughts by choice to the beauty of their gardens?”
Here was, so to say, a weapon for the accusers, on which they fastened.

Cossutianus made a beginning, and then Marcellus in more violent tones
exclaimed that the whole commonwealth was at stake. “It is,” he said,
“the stubbornness of inferiors which lessens the clemency of our ruler.
We senators have hitherto been too lenient in allowing him to be mocked
with impunity by Thrasea throwing off allegiance, by his son-in-law
Helvidius Priscus indulging similar frenzies, by Paconius Agrippinus,
the inheritor of his father’s hatred towards emperors, and by Curtius
Montanus, the habitual composer of abominable verses. I miss the presence
of an ex-consul in the Senate, of a priest when we offer our vows,
of a citizen when we swear obedience, unless indeed, in defiance of
the manners and rites of our ancestors, Thrasea has openly assumed
the part of a traitor and an enemy. In a word, let the man, wont to
act the senator and to screen those who disparage the prince, come
among us; let him propose any reform or change he may desire. We shall
more readily endure his censure of details than we can now bear the
silence by which he condemns everything. Is it the peace throughout
the world or victories won without loss to our armies which vex him?
A man who grieves at the country’s prosperity, who treats our public
places, theatres and temples as if they were a desert, and who is
ever threatening us with exile, let us not enable such an one to gratify
his perverse vanity. To him the decrees of this house, the offices
of State, the city of Rome seem as nothing. Let him sever his life
from a country all love for which he has long lost and the very sight
of which he has now put from him.”

While Marcellus, with the savage and menacing look he usually wore,
spoke these and like words with rising fury in his voice, countenance,
and eye, that familiar grief to which a thick succession of perils
had habituated the Senate gave way to a new and profounder panic,
as they saw the soldiers’ hands on their weapons. At the same moment
the venerable form of Thrasea rose before their imagination, and some
there were who pitied Helvidius too, doomed as he was to suffer for
an innocent alliance. “What again,” they asked, “was the charge against
Agrippinus except his father’s sad fate, since he too, though guiltless
as his son, fell beneath the cruelty of Tiberius? As for Montanus,
a youth without a blemish, author of no libellous poem, he was positively
driven out an exile because he had exhibited genius.”

And meanwhile Ostorius Sabinus, the accuser of Soranus, entered, and
began by speaking of his friendship with Rubellius Plautus and of
his proconsulate in Asia which he had, he said, adapted to his own
glory rather than to the public welfare, by fostering seditious movements
in the various states. These were bygones, but there was a fresh charge
involving the daughter in the peril of the father, to the effect that
she had lavished money on astrologers. This indeed had really occurred
through the filial affection of Servilia (that was the girl’s name),
who, out of love for her father and the thoughtlessness of youth,
had consulted them, only however about the safety of her family, whether
Nero could be appeased, and the trial before the Senate have no dreadful

She was accordingly summoned before the Senate, and there they stood
facing one another before the consuls’ tribunal, the aged parent,
and opposite to him the daughter, in the twentieth year of her age,
widowed and forlorn, her husband Annius Pollio having lately been
driven into banishment, without so much as a glance at her father,
whose peril she seemed to have aggravated.

Then on the accuser asking her whether she had sold her bridal presents
or stript her neck of its ornaments to raise money for the performance
of magical rites, she at first flung herself on the ground and wept
long in silence. After awhile, clasping the altar steps and altar,
she exclaimed, “I have invoked no impious deities, no enchantments,
nor aught else in my unhappy prayers, but only that thou, Caesar,
and you, senators, might preserve unharmed this best of fathers. My
jewels, my apparel, and the signs of my rank I gave up, as I would
have given up my life-blood had they demanded it. They must have seen
this, those men before unknown to me, both as to the name they bear
and the arts they practise. No mention was made by me of the emperor,
except as one of the divinities. But my most unhappy father knows
nothing, and, if it is a crime, I alone am guilty.”
The Annals by Tacitus