|3. Tacitus, Annals, 11.26-11.28, 11.30-11.31, 12.1, 12.3-12.4, 12.6, 13.19 (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE) Tagged with subjects: •soldiers and cato the younger, and claudius and messalina Found in books: Fertik (2019), The Ruler's House: Contesting Power and Privacy in Julio-Claudian Rome, 50, 58
| 11.26. Iam Messalina facilitate adulteriorum in fastidium versa ad incognitas libidines profluebat, cum abrumpi dissimulationem etiam Silius, sive fatali vaecordia an imminentium periculorum remedium ipsa pericula ratus, urgebat: quippe non eo ventum ut senectam principis opperirentur. insontibus innoxia consilia, flagitiis manifestis subsidium ab audacia petendum. adesse conscios paria metuentis. se caelibem, orbum, nuptiis et adoptando Britannico paratum. mansuram eandem Messalinae potentiam, addita securitate, si praevenirent Claudium, ut insidiis incautum, ita irae properum. segniter eae voces acceptae, non amore in maritum, sed ne Silius summa adeptus sperneret adulteram scelusque inter ancipitia probatum veris mox pretiis aestimaret. nomen tamen matrimonii concupivit ob magnitudinem infamiae cuius apud prodigos novissima voluptas est. nec ultra expectato quam dum sacrificii gratia Claudius Ostiam proficisceretur, cuncta nuptiarum sollemnia celebrat. 11.27. Haud sum ignarus fabulosum visum iri tantum ullis mortalium securitatis fuisse in civitate omnium gnara et nihil reticente, nedum consulem designatum cum uxore principis, praedicta die, adhibitis qui obsignarent, velut suscipiendorum liberorum causa convenisse, atque illam audisse auspicum verba, subisse, sacrificasse apud deos; discubitum inter convivas, oscula complexus, noctem denique actam licentia coniugali. sed nihil compositum miraculi causa, verum audita scriptaque senioribus tradam. 11.28. Igitur domus principis inhorruerat, maximeque quos penes potentia et, si res verterentur, formido, non iam secretis conloquiis, sed aperte fremere, dum histrio cubiculum principis insultaverit, dedecus quidem inlatum, sed excidium procul afuisse: nunc iuvenem nobilem dignitate formae, vi mentis ac propinquo consulatu maiorem ad spem accingi; nec enim occultum quid post tale matrimonium superesset. subibat sine dubio metus reputantis hebetem Claudium et uxori devinctum multasque mortes iussu Messalinae patratas: rursus ipsa facilitas imperatoris fiduciam dabat, si atrocitate criminis praevaluissent, posse opprimi damnatam ante quam ream; sed in eo discrimen verti, si defensio audiretur, utque clausae aures etiam confitenti forent. 11.31. Tum potissimum quemque amicorum vocat, primumque rei frumentariae praefectum Turranium, post Lusium Getam praetorianis impositum percontatur. quis fatentibus certatim ceteri circumstrepunt, iret in castra, firmaret praetorias cohortis, securitati ante quam vindictae consuleret. satis constat eo pavore offusum Claudium ut identidem interrogaret an ipse imperii potens, an Silius privatus esset. at Messalina non alias solutior luxu, adulto autumno simulacrum vindemiae per domum celebrabat. urgeri prela, fluere lacus; et feminae pellibus accinctae adsultabant ut sacrificantes vel insanientes Bacchae; ipsa crine fluxo thyrsum quatiens, iuxtaque Silius hedera vinctus, gerere cothurnos, iacere caput, strepente circum procaci choro. ferunt Vettium Valentem lascivia in praealtam arborem conisum, interrogantibus quid aspiceret, respondisse tempestatem ab Ostia atrocem, sive coeperat ea species, seu forte lapsa vox in praesagium vertit. 12.1. Caede Messalinae convulsa principis domus, orto apud libertos certamine, quis deligeret uxorem Claudio, caelibis vitae intoleranti et coniugum imperiis obnoxio. nec minore ambitu feminae exarserant: suam quaeque nobilitatem formam opes contendere ac digna tanto matrimonio ostentare. sed maxime ambigebatur inter Lolliam Paulinam M. Lollii consularis et Iuliam Agrippinam Germanico genitam: huic Pallas, illi Callistus fautores aderant; at Aelia Paetina e familia Tuberonum Narcisso fovebatur. ipse huc modo, modo illuc, ut quemque suadentium audierat, promptus, discordantis in consilium vocat ac promere sententiam et adicere rationes iubet. 12.1. Per idem tempus legati Parthorum ad expetendum, ut rettuli, Meherdaten missi senatum ingrediuntur mandataque in hunc modum incipiunt: non se foederis ignaros nec defectione a familia Arsacidarum venire, set filium Vononis, nepotem Phraatis accersere adversus dominationem Gotarzis nobilitati plebique iuxta intolerandam. iam fratres, iam propinquos, iam longius sitos caedibus exhaustos; adici coniuges gravidas, liberos parvos, dum socors domi, bellis infaustus ignaviam saevitia tegat. veterem sibi ac publice coeptam nobiscum amicitiam, et subveniendum sociis virium aemulis cedentibusque per reverentiam. ideo regum obsides liberos dari ut, si domestici imperii taedeat, sit regressus ad principem patresque, quorum moribus adsuefactus rex melior adscisceretur. 12.3. Praevaluere haec adiuta Agrippinae inlecebris: ad eum per speciem necessitudinis crebro ventitando pellicit patruum ut praelata ceteris et nondum uxor potentia uxoria iam uteretur. nam ubi sui matrimonii certa fuit, struere maiora nuptiasque Domitii, quem ex Cn. Ahenobarbo genuerat, et Octaviae Caesaris filiae moliri; quod sine scelere perpetrari non poterat, quia L. Silano desponderat Octaviam Caesar iuvenemque et alia clarum insigni triumphalium et gladiatorii muneris magnificentia protulerat ad studia vulgi. sed nihil arduum videbatur in animo principis, cui non iudicium, non odium erat nisi indita et iussa. 12.3. Sed Iazuges obsidionis impatientes et proximos per campos vagi necessitudinem pugnae attulere, quia Lugius Hermundurusque illic ingruerant. igitur degressus castellis Vannius funditur proelio, quamquam rebus adversis laudatus quod et pugnam manu capessiit et corpore adverso vulnera excepit. ceterum ad classem in Danuvio opperientem perfugit; secuti mox clientes et acceptis agris in Pannonia locati sunt. regnum Vangio ac Sido inter se partivere, egregia adversus nos fide, subiectis, suone an servitii ingenio, dum adipiscerentur dominationes, multa caritate, et maiore odio, postquam adepti sunt. 12.4. Igitur Vitellius, nomine censoris servilis fallacias obtegens ingruentiumque dominationum provisor, quo gratiam Agrippinae pararet, consiliis eius implicari, ferre crimina in Silanum, cuius sane decora et procax soror, Iunia Calvina, haud multum ante Vitellii nurus fuerat. hinc initium accusationis; fratrumque non incestum, sed incustoditum amorem ad infamiam traxit. et praebebat Caesar auris, accipiendis adversus generum suspicionibus caritate filiae promptior. at Silanus insidiarum nescius ac forte eo anno praetor, repente per edictum Vitellii ordine senatorio movetur, quamquam lecto pridem senatu lustroque condito. simul adfinitatem Claudius diremit, adactusque Silanus eiurare magistratum, et reliquus praeturae dies in Eprium Marcellum conlatus est. 12.4. At Caesar cognita morte legati, ne provincia sine rectore foret, A. Didium suffecit. is propere vectus non tamen integras res invenit, adversa interim legionis pugna, cui Manlius Valens praeerat; auctaque et apud hostis eius rei fama, quo venientem ducem exterrerent, atque illo augente audita, ut maior laus compositis et, si duravissent, venia iustior tribueretur. Silures id quoque damnum intulerant lateque persultabant, donec adcursu Didii pellerentur. sed post captum Caratacum praecipuus scientia rei militaris Venutius, e Brigantum civitate, ut supra memoravi, fidusque diu et Romanis armis defensus, cum Cartimanduam reginam matrimonio teneret; mox orto discidio et statim bello etiam adversus nos hostilia induerat. sed primo tantum inter ipsos certabatur, callidisque Cartimandua artibus fratrem ac propinquos Venutii intercepit. inde accensi hostes, stimulante ignominia, ne feminae imperio subderentur, valida et lecta armis iuventus regnum eius invadunt. quod nobis praevisum, et missae auxilio cohortes acre proelium fecere, cuius initio ambiguo finis laetior fuit. neque dispari eventu pugnatum a legione, cui Caesius Nasica praeerat; nam Didius senectute gravis et multa copia honorum per ministros agere et arcere hostem satis habebat. haec, quamquam a duobus pro praetoribus pluris per annos gesta, coniunxi ne divisa haud perinde ad memoriam sui valerent: ad temporum ordinem redeo. 12.6. Postquam haec favorabili oratione praemisit multaque patrum adsentatio sequebatur, capto rursus initio, quando maritandum principem cuncti suaderent, deligi oportere feminam nobilitate puerperiis sanctimonia insignem. nec diu anquirendum quin Agrippina claritudine generis anteiret: datum ab ea fecunditatis experimentum et congruere artes honestas. id vero egregium, quod provisu deum vidua iungeretur principi sua tantum matrimonia experto. audivisse a parentibus, vidisse ipsos abripi coniuges ad libita Caesarum: procul id a praesenti modestia. statueretur immo documentum, quo uxorem imperator acciperet. at enim nova nobis in fratrum filias coniugia: sed aliis gentibus sollemnia, neque lege ulla prohibita; et sobrinarum diu ignorata tempore addito percrebuisse. morem accommodari prout conducat, et fore hoc quoque in iis quae mox usurpentur. 12.6. Eodem anno saepius audita vox principis, parem vim rerum habendam a procuratoribus suis iudicatarum ac si ipse statuisset. ac ne fortuito prolapsus videretur, senatus quoque consulto cautum plenius quam antea et uberius. nam divus Augustus apud equestris qui Aegypto praesiderent lege agi decretaque eorum proinde haberi iusserat ac si magistratus Romani constituissent; mox alias per provincias et in urbe pleraque concessa sunt quae olim a praetoribus noscebantur: Claudius omne ius tradidit, de quo toties seditione aut armis certatum, cum Semproniis rogationibus equester ordo in possessione iudiciorum locaretur, aut rursum Serviliae leges senatui iudicia redderent, Mariusque et Sulla olim de eo vel praecipue bellarent. sed tunc ordinum diversa studia, et quae vicerant publice valebant. C. Oppius et Cornelius Balbus primi Caesaris opibus potuere condiciones pacis et arbitria belli tractare. Matios posthac et Vedios et cetera equitum Romanorum praevalida nomina referre nihil attinuerit, cum Claudius libertos quos rei familiari praefecerat sibique et legibus adaequaverit. 13.19. Nihil rerum mortalium tam instabile ac fluxum est quam fama potentiae non sua vi nixae. statim relictum Agrippinae limen: nemo solari, nemo adire praeter paucas feminas, amore an odio incertas. ex quibus erat Iunia Silana, quam matrimonio C. Sili a Messalina depulsam supra rettuli, insignis genere forma lascivia, et Agrippinae diu percara, mox occultis inter eas offensionibus, quia Sextium Africanum nobilem iuvenem a nuptiis Silanae deterruerat Agrippina, impudicam et vergentem annis dictitans, non ut Africanum sibi seponeret, sed ne opibus et orbitate Silanae maritus poteretur. illa spe ultionis oblata parat accusatores ex clientibus suis, Iturium et Calvisium, non vetera et saepius iam audita deferens, quod Britannici mortem lugeret aut Octaviae iniurias evulgaret, sed destinavisse eam Rubellium Plautum, per maternam originem pari ac Nero gradu a divo Augusto, ad res novas extollere coniugioque eius et imperio rem publicam rursus invadere. haec Iturius et Calvisius Atimeto, Domitiae Neronis amitae liberto, aperiunt—qui laetus oblatis (quippe inter Agrippinam et Domitiam infensa aemulatio exercebatur) Paridem histrionem, libertum et ipsum Domitiae, impulit ire propere crimenque atrociter deferre.
| 11.26. By now the ease of adultery had cloyed on Messalina and she was drifting towards untried debaucheries, when Silius himself, blinded by his fate, or convinced perhaps that the antidote to impending danger was actual danger, began to press for the mask to be dropped:â "They were not reduced to waiting upon the emperor's old age: deliberation was innocuous only to the innocent; detected guilt must borrow help from hardihood. They had associates with the same motives for fear. He himself was celibate, childless, prepared for wedlock and to adopt Britannicus. Messalina would retain her power unaltered, with the addition of a mind at ease, could they but forestall Claudius, who, if slow to guard against treachery, was prompt to anger." She took his phrases with a coolness due, not to any tenderness for her husband, but to a misgiving that Silius, with no heights left to scale, might spurn his paramour and come to appreciate at its just value a crime sanctioned in the hour of danger. Yet, for the sake of that transcendent infamy which constitutes the last delight of the profligate, she coveted the name of wife; and, waiting only till Claudius left for Ostia to hold a sacrifice, she celebrated the full solemnities of marriage. 11.27. It will seem, I am aware, fabulous that, in a city cognizant of all things and reticent of none, any human beings could have felt so much security; far more so, that on a specified day, with witnesses to seal the contract, a consul designate and the emperor's wife should have met for the avowed purposes of legitimate marriage; that the woman should have listened to the words of the auspices, have assumed the veil, have sacrificed in the face of Heaven; that both should have dined with the guests, have kissed and embraced, and finally have spent the night in the licence of wedlock. But I have added no touch of the marvellous: all that I record shall be the oral or written evidence of my seniors. 11.28. A shudder, then, had passed through the imperial household. In particular, the holders of power with all to fear from a reversal of the established order, gave voice to their indignation, no longer in private colloquies, but without disguise:â "Whilst an actor profaned the imperial bedchamber, humiliation might have been inflicted, but destruction had still been in the far distance. Now, with his stately presence, his vigour of mind, and his impending consulate, a youthful noble was girding himself to a greater ambition â for the sequel of such a marriage was no mystery!" Fear beyond doubt came over them when they considered the hebetude of Claudius, his bondage to his wife, and the many murders perpetrated at the fiat of Messalina. Yet, again, the very pliancy of the emperor gave ground for confidence that, if they carried the day thanks to the atrocity of the charge, they might crush her by making her condemnation precede her trial. But the critical question, they realized, was whether Claudius would give a hearing to her defence, and whether they would be able to close his ears even to her confession. 11.30. As the next step, Calpurnia â for so the woman was called â secured a private audience, and, falling at the Caesar's knee, exclaimed that Messalina had wedded Silius. In the same breath, she asked Cleopatra, who was standing by ready for the question, if she had heard the news; and, on her sign of assent, requested that Narcissus should be summoned. He, entreating forgiveness for the past, in which he had kept silence to his master on the subject of Vettius, Plautius, and their like, said that not even now would he reproach the lady with her adulteries, far less reclaim the palace, the slaves, and other appurteces of the imperial rank. No, these Silius might enjoy â but let him restore the bride and cancel the nuptial contract! "Are you aware," he demanded, "of your divorce? For the nation, the senate, and the army, have seen the marriage of Silius; and, unless you act with speed, the new husband holds Rome!" 11.31. The Caesar now summoned his principal friends; and, in the first place, examined Turranius, head of the corn-department; then the praetorian commander Lusius Geta. They admitted the truth; and from the rest of the circle came a din of voices:â "He must visit the camp, assure the fidelity of the guards, consult his security before his vengeance." Claudius, the fact is certain, was so bewildered by his terror that he inquired intermittently if he was himself emperor â if Silius was a private citizen. But Messalina had never given voluptuousness a freer rein. Autumn was at the full, and she was celebrating a mimic vintage through the grounds of the house. Presses were being trodden, vats flowed; while, beside them, skin-girt women were bounding like Bacchanals excited by sacrifice or delirium. She herself was there with dishevelled tresses and waving thyrsus; at her side, Silius with an ivy crown, wearing the buskins and tossing his head, while around him rose the din of a wanton chorus. The tale runs that Vettius Valens, in some freak of humour, clambered into a tall tree, and to the question, "What did he spy?" answered: "A frightful storm over Ostia" â whether something of the kind was actually taking shape, or a chance-dropped word developed into a prophecy. 12.1. The execution of Messalina shook the imperial household: for there followed a conflict among the freedmen, who should select a consort for Claudius, with his impatience of celibacy and his docility under wifely government. Nor was competition less fierce among the women: each paraded for comparison her nobility, her charms, and her wealth, and advertised them as worthy of that exalted alliance. The question, however, lay mainly between Lollia Paulina, daughter of the consular Marcus Lollius, and Julia Agrippina, the issue of Germanicus. The latter had the patronage of Pallas; the former, of Callistus; while Aelia Paetina, a Tubero by family, was favoured by Narcissus. The emperor, who leaned alternately to one or the other, according to the advocate whom he had heard the last, called the disputants into council, and ordered each to express his opinion and to add his reasons. 12.3. His arguments prevailed, with help from the allurements of Agrippina. In a succession of visits, cloaked under the near relationship, she so effectually captivated her uncle that she displaced her rivals and anticipated the position by exercising the powers of a wife. For, once certain of her marriage, she began to amplify her schemes, and to intrigue for a match between Domitius, her son by Gnaeus Ahenobarbus, and the emperor's daughter Octavia. That result was not to be achieved without a crime, as the Caesar had plighted Octavia to Lucius Silanus, and had introduced the youth (who had yet other titles to fame) to the favourable notice of the multitude by decorating him with the triumphal insignia and by a magnificent exhibition of gladiators. Still, there seemed to be no insuperable difficulty in the temper of a prince who manifested neither approval nor dislike except as they were imposed upon him by orders. 12.4. Vitellius, therefore, able to screen his servile knaveries behind the title of Censor, and with a prophetic eye for impending tyrannies, wooed the good graces of Agrippina by identifying himself with her scheme and by producing charges against Silanus, whose sister â fair and wayward, it is true â had until recently been his own daughter-inâlaw. This gave him the handle for his accusation, and he put an infamous construction on a fraternal love which was not incestuous but unguarded. The Caesar lent ear, affection for his daughter increasing his readiness to harbour doubts of her prospective husband. Silanus, ignorant of the plot, and, as it happened, praetor for the year, was suddenly by an edict of Vitellius removed from the senatorial order, though the list had long been complete and the lustrum closed. At the same time, Claudius cancelled the proposed alliance: Silanus was compelled to resign his magistracy, and the remaining day of his praetorship was conferred on Eprius Marcellus. 12.6. As this engagingly worded preface was followed by flattering expressions of assent from the members, he took a fresh starting-point:â "Since it was the universal advice that the emperor should marry, the choice ought to fall on a woman distinguished by nobility of birth, by experience of motherhood, and by purity of character. No long inquiry was needed to convince them that in the lustre of her family Agrippina came foremost: she had given proof of her fruitfulness, and her moral excellences harmonized with the rest. But the most gratifying point was that, by the dispensation of providence, the union would be between a widow and a prince with experience of no marriage-bed but his own. They had heard from their fathers, and they had seen for themselves, how wives were snatched away at the whim of the Caesars: such violence was far removed from the orderliness of the present arrangement. They were, in fact, to establish a precedent by which the emperor would accept his consort from the Roman people! â Still, marriage with a brother's child, it might be said, was a novelty in Rome. â But it was normal in other countries, and prohibited by no law; while marriage with cousins and second cousins, so long unknown, had with the progress of time become frequent. Usage accommodated itself to the claims of utility, and this innovation too would be among the conventions of toâmorrow." 13.19. Nothing in the list of mortal things is so unstable and so fleeting as the fame attached to a power not based on its own strength. Immediately Agrippina's threshold was forsaken: condolences there were none; visits there were none, except from a few women, whether out of love or hatred is uncertain. Among them was Junia Silana, driven by Messalina from her husband Silanus, as I related above. Eminent equally in blood, beauty, and voluptuousness, she was long the bosom friend of Agrippina. Then came a private quarrel between the pair: for Agrippina had deterred the young noble Sextius Africanus from marriage with Silana by describing her as a woman of no morals and uncertain age; not with the intention of reserving Africanus for herself, but to keep a wealthy and childless widow from passing into the possession of a husband. With the prospect of revenge presenting itself, Silana now suborned two of her clients, Iturius and Calvisius, to undertake the accusation; her charge being not the old, oft-heard tale that Agrippina was mourning the death of Britannicus or publishing the wrongs of Octavia, but that she had determined to encourage Rubellius Plautus into revolution â on the maternal side he was a descendant of the deified Augustus in the same degree as Nero â and as the partner of his couch and then of his throne to make her way once more into the conduct of affairs. The charges were communicated by Iturius and Calvisius to Atimetus, a freedman of Nero's aunt Domitia. Overjoyed at this windfall â for competition was bitter between Agrippina and Domitia â Atimetus incited the actor Paris, also a freedman of Domitia, to go on the instant and present the charge in the darkest colours.