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A.D. 14.] DEATH OF AUGUSTUS. 357
that a man had had a swift and painless death, he prayed for himself and his friends the like euthanasia; and in this too he followed the opinion of Julius, that the hest death is that which is least expected. "He ohtained"—the modern historian observes —" the euthanasia he had always desired, very different, but not less in harmony with his character, from that of his predecessor." It would be a profanation of the noblest instincts of our nature and of the pure teaching of a self-denying faith, to compare the calmness of such an end with the deaths of a Cato or a Washington. It sufficed for him and for those who believe that the Cassars are the true Messiahs. But morality refuses to be debarred from investigating the authority by which they set themselves above their fellow-men, and history tries their work, not by its immediate success, but by its permanent results,—results which now remain to be described in the dark annals of the emperors who succeeded to the power of Augustus over the world, without inheriting his ability to command themselves. The judgment to be passed upon his deeds is perfectly distinct from the acknowledgment of those great ends of which he was the unconscious minister; and the despots who claim to be honoured as if such ends were their merit, may be answered in the words of the prophet to Cyrus, which solve the whole mystery of their career—" I guided thee, though thou hast not known Me."
Augustus died on the 19th of August, A.d. 14, within thirtyfive days of his seventy-seventh birthday (Sept. 23), after a reign of nearly forty-four years from the battle of Actium, or fifty-six from the triumvirate.
THE DEGENERACY OF THE CAESARS; AND THE FLAVIAN DYNASTY. A.D. 14 TO A.D. 96.
"Rome shall perish—write that word
TACITUS AND THE BISTORT OP THE CJESARS—ACCESSION, CHARACTER, AND FIRST ACTS OP
DEATH OP GERMANIOUS—TRIAL AND DEATH OP PISO—TACPARINAS IN AFRICA, AND
OTHER WARS—GOVERNMENT OP TIBERIUS —LAW OP TREASON, INPORMERS AND EXECUTIONS VARIOUS INTERNAL MEASURES—EARLIER PROMISE OF TIBERIUS—MARKED
CHANGE IN HIS CHARACTER—RISE AND INPLUENOE OP SEJANUS—DRUSUS DESIGNATED AS HEIR, AND MURDERED BY SEJANUS—THE PK.ETORIAN CAMP PORMED AT ROME—NEW VICTIMS OP THE INPORMERS—TIBERICS QUARRELS WITH AORIPPINA— WITHDRAWS TO 0APRE.S—HIS OCCUPATIONS, AND ALLEGED ORGIES—DEATn 01 LIVIA — CONDEMNATION OP AORIPPINA AND HER SONS—ELEVATION AND PALL OP SEJANUS—STARVATION OP DRUSUS AND AGRIPPINA—DEATH OP TIBERICS—ACCESSION OP CAIUS C«SAR (CALIGULA)—HIS TYRANNY, MADNESS, AND DEATHREIGN OP CLAUDIUS—MAURETANIA AND BRITAIN—SENEOA—REIGN OP NERO — HIS CHARACTER, TYRANNY, AND DEATH—THE JEWISH WAR—GALBA, OTHO, AND VITELLIUS—VICTORY OP VESPASIAN—THE FLAVIAN DYNASTY—CAPTURE OP JERUSALEM — OIVILIS AND THE BATAVIANS— AFFAIRS OF THE EAST —REIGN OP TITUS—ERUPTION 01 VESUVIUS —FIRE AT ROME—THE COLOSSEUM—REIGN AND TYRANNY OF DOMITIAN— DAOIAN AND SARHATIAN WARS—CAMPAIGNS OF AOR1COLA IN BRITAIN—PERSECUTION OF THE CHRISTIANS—DEATH OF DOMITIAN.
The space of fourscore years from the accession of Tiberius to the fall of Domitian includes the accomplishment of the mission of the Saviour of the world, and the end of the Jewish dispensation by the destruction of Jerusalem. In all other aspects, it is one of the most repulsive in the annals of the human race. A few brilliant deeds of arms, and a few noble characters—like Germanicus, Drusus, and Agricola—relieve the story of the degradation of the Roman world under rulers in whom the monstrous growth of vice and cruelty engendered by irresponsible power culminates in an insanity which might excite our pity, did it not aggravate the sufferings of the people:
"Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi."
There is a curiosity of horror, for which the repulsive biograA.D. 14.] ACCESSION OF TIBERIUS. 359
phies of Suetonius may provide a morbid gratification; * and feelings far deeper and more wholesome are roused by the spectacle of Tacitus, recording the ruin of his country in a spirit which recals the forebodings of Scipio amidst the flames of Carthage, and adorning with a poetic spirit the details over which his sententious brevity throws a veilt But, in pursuing the general course of the history of the world, those detads need not detain us longer than the time sufficient to trace the workings of human nature when suffered to exercise uncontrolled dominion, the retribution which the system of despotism brings upon itself, and the course by which Rome was destroyed when her work was done. The change which came over the first successor of Augustus during his reign of twenty-three years is a type of the degeneracy of the whole imperial system.
Tiberius succeeded to the empire of the world, from the mouth of the Rhine to the borders of Ethiopia, and from the Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates, at the mature age of fifty-six. He had well earned the character of a most skilful and prudent general, and had the benefit of long experience in the administrative system of Augustus. The Roman people were prepared to accept him for their legitimate ruler, unsuspicious as yet of those deep-seated defects of character which Augustus had detected, and the consciousness of which left Tiberius no confidence in himself or those about him. Destitute of "that generous reliance on his personal merits, which nerved the arm of his great predecessor, and imbued him with so lofty a sense of his political mission "— without the power of "kindling the imagination of the soldiers, like Julius, nor of the citizens, like Augustus," Tiberius led, from his accession, that life of mistrust which made him, in the words of Pliny, "the saddest of mankind," and which at last reduced the hero of the Rhine and Danube to the cruel and sensual monster of Capreae. These few words almost tell the story of his reign; but ite chief events remain to be recorded.
* The spirit in which Suetonius gloats upon the horrors he relates raises more than a suspicion of wilful exaggeration.
+ The profound admiration inspired by Tacitus must not blind us to one drawback upon his authority. That very unity of purpose which guides the indignant pen of the patriot and moralist, seems sometimes to betray him into following his own conceptions of characters and events, without a sufficient basis of ascertained facts. In snch cases, however, the penetration of genius sometimes gives us a deepor truth than we could have learned from a more literal record. The imagination by which Tacitus, divining the hidden motives of such a man as Tiberius, fills up the picture with traits in perfect keeping with his character, must be distinguished from that more lively and treacherous fancy which can construct a whole picture of events out of the vague hints contained in a few words of an authority who may or may not bo trustworthy.
Beside the death-bed of the late emperor, Tiberius assumed the insignia of the imperium, and issued orders to the troops. The care of Livia had guarded the doors of the house and the road from Nola to the capital: none but favourable reports were allowed to go abroad; and the same messengers brought to Rome the news that Augustus was dead, and that Nero * had succeeded to his power. Tiberius summoned the Senate, in virtue of his tribunitian privilege j and that august order were by this time so well trained in the arts of servitude, as to exhibit a just mixture of tears and joy, mourning and compliment, so as not to seem glad of the death of their prince, or sorrowful at the new reign. The consuls were the first to take the oath of obedience to Tiberius Caesar, followed by the prefecte of the praetorian cohorts and of the provisioning of the city, then by the Senate, the soldiery, and the people. All this was done through the consuls; for to that part of the policy of Augustus Tiberius scrupulously adhered; while he declared that he would not leave his father's corpse, and that he would take upon himself no public office except his funeral honours. This promptness in securing the army and hesitation to appear in the Senate are ascribed by Tacitus to fear of Germanicus, and in part also to the design of treasuring up for future vengeance any reluctance that any of the Senators might show in giving that invitation which would base his power on the choice of the Republic, and not merely on the adoption of an uxorious old man.
But first the Senate occupied itself with the memory and the testament of Augustus, who had left the bulk of his property to Tiberius and Livia, whom he adopted into the Julian house, with the title of Augusta. Legacies were left to the public treasury and the citizens, to the praetorian guards and the soldiers of the legions. Amidst other counsels of moderation, he left his successors the memorable injunction, to be content with the present boundaries of the empire. His splendid funeral pageant involved the honours of an apotheosis; and a Senator declared that he had seen the soul of the deified Augustus ascend to heaven from the funeral pyre.
The spirit which had thus winged its flight to the kindred gods left none upon earth great enough to govern the empire he had
* So Tacitus now designates the new emperor, whose full name was Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar; but thenceforth he calls him Tiberius.
A.D. 14.] TIBERIUS AND THE SENATE. 361
founded. So at least Tiberius declared, in answer to the offer of
the Imperium by the Senate, adding that in a state so rich in
illustrious men, the whole power ought not to be committed to
one alone. The Fathers, who knew the danger of seeming to take
him at his word, descended to prayers and tears and vows of
fidelity; and Tiberius at length declared that, unequal as he felt
himself to the whole burthen, he would undertake whatever part
of it the Senate might impose. The time had not yet come when
exile and judicial murder had crushed the last remnant of the old
Roman spirit; and Asinius Gallus, the distinguished son of the
illustrious Asinius Pollio, broke in upon the well-acted farce with
the plain question, "I ask you, Csesar, which part of the public
affairs you wish to be committed to you?" Recovering from his
momentary surprise, Tiberius replied, that it was not for him to
choose a part, when he preferred to be exempt from all; and
Gallus, who had caught the hasty glance of anger, protested that
his only motive had been to elicit the confession which proved that
the one body of the Republic must be governed by one mind.
The panegyrics which he added on the reign of Augustus and the
victories of Tiberius were of no avail; for Tiberius already hated
him as the husband of his divorced wife Vipsania, and suspected
that the heir to the spirit of his father Pollio might have inherited
the claims of his father-in-law Agrippa. It was not, however,
till sixteen years later that Tiberius obtained from the Senate a
capital sentence against Gallus, whom he almost starved to death
during an imprisonment of three years (a.d. 30).
It was not till other Senators had given him mortal offence, that the debate ended with the understanding that Tiberius would assume the imperial functions. The proposal to confer new honours upon his mother enabled him to display a moderation which cost him nothing; and he assumed a politic show of generosity in asking the proconsular imperium for Germanicus, and not for his own son Drusus, who was already the consul-elect for the ensuing year.* For the prsetorship he liimself named twelve candidates; and, though the Senate prayed him to appoint more, he took an oath not to exceed the number that had been fixed by
* Drusus was the son of Tiberius by his first wife Vipsania, and the husband of Livia, the sister of Germanicus. He is commonly distinguished from his celebrated uncle by the epithet of Drusus Junior. As his early death, of which we have presently to speak, prevented his succession to the empire, his name is among those omitted in the table on p. 327 to avoid confusion. The same remark applies to Nero and another Drusus, the sons of Germanicus and elder brothers of Caligula.