« PreviousContinue »
THE FAMILY OF AUGUSTUS.
iracy -The ecaes the -- 443
e of and asea his 464
3 himself over them; to draw to himself the functions of the senate and of the magistrate, and the framing of the laws; in which he was thwarted by no man: the boldest spirits having fallen in some or other of the regular battles, or by proscription; and the surviving nobility being distinguished by wealth and public honours, according to the measure of their promptness to bondage ; and as these innovations had been the cause of aggrandisement to them, preferring the present state of things with safety, to the revival of ancient liberty with personal peril. Neither were the provinces averse to that condition of affairs; since they mistrusted the government of the senate and people, on account of the contentions among the great and the avarice of the magistrates : while the protection of the laws was enfeebled and borne down by violence, intrigue, and bribery.
3. Moreover, Augustus, as supports to his domination, raised his sister's son, Claudius Marcellus, a mere youth, to the dignity of pontiff and curule ædile; aggrandised by two successive consulships Marcus Agrippa, a man meanly born, but an accomplished soldier, and the companion of his victories; and soon, on the death of Marcellus, chose him for his son-in-law. The sons of his wife, Tiberius Nero and Claudius Drusus, he dignified with the title of Imperator,' though there had been no diminution in the members of his house. For into the family of the Cæsars he had already adopted Lucius and Caius, the sons of Agrippa; and though they had not yet laid aside the puerile garment, vehement had been his ambition to see them declared princes of the Roman youth, and even designed to the consulship; while he affected to decline the honours for them. Upon the decease of Agrippa, they were cut off, either by a death premature but natural, or by the arts of their stepmother Livia; Lucius on his journey to the armies in Spain, Caius on his return from Armenia, ill of a wound : and as Drusus had been long since dead, Tiberius Nero was the only survivor of his stepsons.
1 The title of Imperator implied no more than the commander of an army. It was usually given by the soldiers in their camp, or in the field after a victory, to the general whom they approved." Augustus, and the following emperors, granted the name to their favourites as an honourable distinction. Tiberius reserved it for the emperor only. See Annals, book iii. s. 74.
On him every honour was accumulated ; (to that quarter all things inclined ;) he was by Augustus adopted for his son, assumed colleague in the empire, partner in the tribunitian authority, and presented to the several armies ; not from the secret machinations of his mother, as heretofore, but at her
For over 'Augustus, now very aged, she had obtained such absolute sway, that he banished into the isle of Planasia his only surviving grandson, Agrippa Posthumus; a person destitute indeed of liberal accomplishments, and a man of clownish brutality with great bodily strength, but convicted of no heinous offence. The emperor, strange to say, set Germanicus, the son of Drusus, over eight legions. quartered upon the Rhine, and ordered that he should be engrafted into his family by Tiberius by adoption, though Tiberius had then a son of his own on the verge of manhood ; but the object was that he might stand firm by having many to support and protect him.
War at that time there remained none, except that in Germany, kept on foot rather to blot out the disgrace sustained by the loss of Quintilius Varus, with his army, than from any ambition to enlarge the empire, or for any advantage worth contending for. In profound tranquillity were affairs at Rome. The magistrates retained their wonted names; of the Romans, the younger sort had been born since the battle of Actium, and even most of the old during the civil wars : how few were then living who had seen the ancient free state !
4. The character of the government thus totally changed; no traces were to be found of the spirit of ancient institutions. The system by which every citizen shared in the government being thrown aside, all men regarded the orders of the prince as the only rule of conduct and obedience ; nor felt they any anxiety for the present, while Augustus, yet in the vigour of life, maintained the credit of himself and house, and the peace of the state. But when old age had crept over him, and he was sinking under bodily infirmities,—when his end was at hand, and thence a new source of hopes and views was presented,
-some few there were who began to talk idly about the blessings of liberty: many dreaded a civil war others longed for one ; while far the greatest part were occupied in circulating various surmises reflecting upon those who seemed likely to be their masters :-" That Agrippa was
5 naturally stern and savage, and exasperated by contumely; and neither in age nor experience equal to a task of such magnitude. Tiberius, indeed, had arrived at fulness of
years, and was a distinguished captain, but possessed the inveterate and inherent pride of the Claudian family; and many indications of cruel nature escaped him, in spite of all his arts to disguise it; that even from his early infancy he had been trained up in an imperial house; that consulships and triumphs had been accumulated upon him while but a youth. Not even during the years of his abode at Rhodes, where : under the plausible name of retirement, he was in fact an · exile, did he employ himself otherwise than in meditating: future vengeance, studying the arts of simulation, and prac- : tising secret and abominable sensualities. That to these considerations was added that of his mother, a woman with the ungovernable spirit peculiar to her sex ; that the Romans must be under bondage to a woman, and moreover to two. youths,' who would meanwhile oppress the state, and, at one: time or other, rend it piecemeal."
5. While the public mind was agitated by these and similar discussions, the illness of Augustus grew daily more serious, and some suspected nefarious practices on the part of his wife. For some months before, a rumour had gone
abroad that Augustus, having singled out a few to whom he communicated his purpose, had taken Fabius Maximus for his only companion, had sailed over to the island of Planasia, to visit Agrippa ; that many tears were shed on both sides, many tokens of mutual tenderness shown, and hopes from thence conceived that the youth would be restored to the household gods of his grandfather. That Maximus had disclosed this to Martia, his wife,-she to Livia ; and that the emperor was informed of it: and that Maximus, not long after, dying, (it is doubtful whether naturally, or by means sought for the purpose,) Martia was observed, in her lamentations at his funeral, to upbraid herself as the cause of her husband's destruction. Howsoever that matter might have been, Tiberius was scarce entered Illyrium when he was summ ed by a letter from his mother, forwarded with speed; nor is it fully known whether, at his return to Nola, he found
1 Drusus (the son of Tiberius) and Germanicus, who, at that time, commanded the legions on the Rhine.
Augustus yet breathing, or already lifeless. For Livia had carefully beset the palace, and all the avenues to it, with vigilant guards; and favourable bulletins were from time to time given out, until, the provisions which the conjuncture required being completed, in one and the same moment were published the departure of Augustus, and the accession of Tiberius.
6. The first atrocity of this new reign was the murder of Posthumus Agrippa : the assassin, a bold and determined centurion, found him destitute of arms, and little apprehending such a destiny, yet was scarce able to dispatch him. Of this transaction Tiberius avoided any mention in the senate ; he pretended that orders had been given by his father, in which he enjoined the tribune appointed to the custody of his person, "not to delay to slay Agrippa whensoever he himself had completed his last day.” It is very true, that Augustus, having made many and vehement complaints of the young man's demeanour, had obtained that his exile should be sanctioned by a decree of the senate; but he never hardened himself to the extent of inflicting death upon any of his kindred; neither is it credible that he murdered his grandson for the security and establishment of his stepson. More probable it is, that Tiberius and Livia, the former from motives of fear, the latter impelled by a stepmother's aversion, expedited the destruction of this young man, the object of their jealousy and hatred. When the centurion, according to the custom of the army, acquainted Tiberius “ that his commands were executed,” he answered, “ he had commanded no such execution, and that he must appear before the senate, and be answerable to them for it.” When this came to the knowledge of Sallustius Crispus, who shared in his secret counsels, and had sent the centurion the warrant, he dreaded that he should be arraigned on a false charge of the assassination; and perceiving it to be equally perilous to confess the truth or invent a falsehood, he warned Livia " that the secrets of the palace, the counsels of friends, and the ministerial acts of soldiers, should not be divulged; that Tiberius should not enfeeble the force of princely authority by referring all things to the senate ; that such were the conditions of sovereign authority, that an account should not stand good otherwise than if it were repdered to one alone.”
7 7. Now at Rome, consuls, senators, and knights were rapidly degenerating into a state of abject servitude; and the higher the quality of any, so much the more false and forward; all carefully framing their countenances so as not to appear overjoyed at the departure of the prince, nor over sorrowful in the commencement of a new reign, they intermingled tears with gladness, and wailings with adulation. Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius, at that time consuls, took first an oath of fidelity to Tiberius; then administered it to Seius Strabo and Caius Turranius; the former, captain of the prætorian guards, the other, intendant of the public stores ; next, to the senate, to the people, and to the soldiery : for Tiberius began all things by the consuls, as if the ancient republic still subsisted, and he were yet unresolved about assuming the sovereign rule; even his edict for summoning the senate, he issued not but under the title of the tribunitian power, received by him under Augustus. The words of the edict, too, were few, and extremely modest. It imported that “ he should consult them on the funeral honours proper to be paid his father: for himself, he would not depart from the corpse; and that this alone of the public functions he took upon himself.” Yet when Augustus was dead, he had given the word to the prætorian cohorts,' as imperator; sentinels were stationed about the palace; had soldiers under arms, and all the other appendages of a court; went guarded into the forum, guarded to the senate ; wrote letters to the armies in the style of one who had obtained princedom; nor did he ever hesitate, but when he spoke to the senate. The chief cause proceeded from fear lest Germanicus, who was master of so many legions, numberless auxiliaries, of the allies, who was
1 In every Roman camp the general's tent, or pavilion, was called the Prætorium, because the ancient Latins styled all their commanders, Prætors. Scipio Africanus formed a prætorian cohort, or a body of select men, who were stationed near his pavilion, holding themselves in readiness to attend their general in all sudden emergencies. In the time of Augustus, the emperor's tent was called Prætorium Augustale. The name was continued by his successors; and the soldiers, who formed the emperor's body-guard, were called the prætorian cohorts, under the command of an officer, instituted with a special commission, in which he was styled Præfectus Prætorii. The soldiers for some time quartered at Rome, till Sejanus, in order to forward his own dark designs, persuaded Tiberius to form a prætorian camp at a small distance from the city. See Annals, book iv. s. 2.