I claudius c 1, p.28

I, Claudius c-1, page 28

 part  #1 of  Claudius Series

 

I, Claudius c-1
 



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  -and was beginning to find her work too much for her: perhaps he would anyhow relieve her of the more tedious part and only consult her on important questions of appointments and decrees? She would not even be offended if he discontinued his practice of putting her name above his on all official documents: she did not want it said that he was under her tutelage. But, she said, the sooner he persuaded the Senate to give her that title the more pleased she would be. So there was a show of reconciliation: but neither trusted the other.

  Tiberius now named Germanicus as his colleague in the Consulship and told him that he had persuaded Livia to retire from public business, though as a matter of form he would still pretend to consult her. This seemed to satisfy Germanicus. But Tiberius did not feel at all comfortable.

  Agrippina would hardly speak to him, and knowing that Germanicus and she had only one soul between them, he could not believe in their continued loyalty. Besides, things were going on at Rome which a man of Germanicus'

  character would naturally detest. First of all, the informers.

  Since Livia would not give him access to the criminal dossiers or let him share the control of their very efficient spy-system--she had a paid agent in almost every important household or institution--he had to adopt another method. He made a decree that if anyone was found guilty of plotting against the State or blaspheming the God Augustus his confiscated estates would be divided among his loyal accusers. Plots against the State were less easy to prove than blasphemies against Augustus. The first case of blasphemy against Augustus was that of a wag, a young shopkeeper, who happened to be standing near Tiberius in the Market Place as a funeral passed. He sprang forward and whispered something in the ear of the corpse. Tiberius was curious to know what it was. The man explained that he [2?9] was asking the dead man to tell Augustus when he met him down below that his legacies to the people of Rome had not yet been paid. Tiberius had the man arrested and executed for speaking of Augustus as if he were a mere ghost, not an immortal God, and said that he was sending him down below to convince him of his mistake. A month or two later, by the way, he did pay the legacies in full. In a case like this Tiberius had some justification, but later the most harmless abuses of Augustus' name were enough to put a man on trial for his life.

  A class of professional informers sprang up who could be counted on to make out a case against any man who was indicated to them as having incurred Tiberius' displeasure.

  Thus criminal dossiers based on a record of real delinquency were superfluous. Sejanus was Tiberius' go-between with these scoundrels. In the year before Germanicus' return Tiberius had put the informers to work on a young man called Libo who was a great-grandson of Pompey and a cousin of Agrippina's

  [A.D. 16] through their grandmother Scribona. Sejanus had warned Tiberius that Libo was dangerous and had been making disrespectful remarks about him: but Tiberius was careful at this stage not to make disrespect to himself an indictable offence, so he had to invent other charges.

  Now, Tiberius, to cover his own association with Thrasyllus, had expelled from Rome all astrologers, magicians, fortune-tellers and interpreters of dreams, and forbidden anyone to consult such of them as secretly stayed on. A few stayed, with Tiberius' connivance, on condition that they gave seances only with an Imperial agent concealed in the room. Libo was persuaded by a senator who had turned professional informer to visit one of these decoys and have his fortune told.

  His questions were noted down by the hidden agent. In themselves they were not treasonable, only foolish: he wanted to know how rich he would become and whether he would ever be the leading man at Rome, and so on. But a forged document was produced at his trial which was said to have been discovered by slaves in his bedroom--a list, in what appeared to be his handwriting, of names of all the members of the Imperial family "and of the leading senators, with curious Chaldean and Egyptian characters written against each name in the margin. The penalty for consulting a magician was banishment, but the penalty for practising magic oneself was death. Libo denied authorship of the document, and the evidence of slaves, even under torture, would not be sufficient to condemn him: slave-evidence was accepted only when the accusation was that of incest. There was no freedman evidence, because Libo's freedmen could not be persuaded to testify against him nor might a freedman be put to torture to force a confession from him. On Sejanus' advice, however, Tiberius made a new legal ruling that when a man was charged with a capital crime his slaves could be bought at a fair valuation by the Public Steward and thus enabled to give evidence under torture.

  Libo, who had not been able to get a lawyer brave enough to defend him, saw that he was caught and asked for an adjournment of the trial until the next day. When this was granted he went home and killed himself. The charge against him was nevertheless gone through with in the Senate with the same formality as if he had been alive and he was found guilty on all charges. Tiberius said that it was unfortunate that the foolish young man had killed himself, because he would have interceded tor his life. Libo's estate was divided among his accusers, among whom were four senators.

  Such a disgraceful farce could never have been played when Augustus was Emperor, but under Tiberius it was played, with variations, over and over again.

  Only one man made a public protest, and that was a certain Calpurnius Piso, who rose in the Senate to say that he was so disgusted with the atmosphere of political intrigue in the City, the corruption of justice and the disgraceful spectacle of his fellow-senators acting as paid informers, that he was leaving Rome for good and retiring to some village in a remote part of Italy. Having said this he walked out.

  The speech made a powerful impression on the House. Tiberius sent someone to call Calpurnius back, and when he was once more in his seat told him that if there were miscarriages of justice any senator was at liberty to call attention to them at question-time. He said, too, that a certain amount of political intrigue was inevitable in the capital city of the greatest Empire the world had ever known. Did

  [241] Calpurnius suggest that the senators would not have come forward with their accusations if they had had no hopes of reward? He said that he admired Calpurnius' earnestness and independence and envied his talents; but would it not be better to employ these noble qualities for the improvement of social and political morality at Rome than to bury them in some wretched hamlet of the Apennines, among shepherds and bandits? So Calpurnius had to stay. But soon after he showed his earnestness and independence by summoning old Urgulania to appear in court for non-payment of a large sum of money which she owed him for some pictures and statuary: Calpurnius' sister had died and there had been a sale.

  When Urgulania read the summons, which was for her immediate attendance at the Debtors' Court, she told her chair-men to take her straight to Livia's Palace.

  Calpurnius followed her and was met in the hall by Livia, who told him to be off.

  Calpurnius courteously but firmly excused himself, saying that Urgulania must obey the summons without fail unless too ill to attend, which clearly she was not.

  Even Vestal Virgins were not exempt from attendance at court when subpoenaed.

  Livia said that his behaviour was personally insulting to her and that her son, the Emperor, would know how to avenge her. Tiberius was sent for and tried to smooth things over, telling Calpurnius that Urgulania surely meant to come as soon as she had composed herself after the sudden shock of the summons, and telling Livia that it was no doubt a mistake, that Calpurnius certainly meant no disrespect, and that he himself would attend the trial and see that Urgulania had a capable counsel and a fair trial. He left the Palace, walking beside Calpurnius towards the courts and talking with him of this and that. Calpurnius' friends tried to persuade him to drop the charge, but he replied that he was old-fashioned; he liked being paid money that was owed to him. The trial never came off. Livia sent a mounted messenger after them with the whole amount of the debt in gold in his saddle-bags: he overtook Calpurnius and Tiberius before
they arrived at the door of the Court.

  But I was writing about informers and the demoralising effect they had on the life at Rome, and about judicial corruption. I was about to record that while Germanicus was at Rome there was not a single charge heard in the courts of blaspheming Augustus or of plotting against the State, and the informers were warned to keep absolutely quiet.

  Tiberius was on his best behaviour and his speeches in the Senate were models of frankness. Sejanus retired into the background. Thrasyllus was removed from Rome to the shelter of Tiberius' villa on the island of Capri, and Tiberius appeared to have no intimate friend but the honest Nerva, whose advice he was always asking.

  Castor I never could learn to like. He was a foulmouthed, bloody-minded, violent-tempered, dissolute fellow. His character showed up most clearly at a sword-fight, where he took more delight in seeing blood spurting from a wound than in any act of skill or courage on the part of the combatants. But I must say that he behaved very finely towards Germanicus and seemed to undergo a real change of heart in his company. City factions tried to force the two into the wretched position of rivals for succession to the monarchy, but they never on any occasion encouraged this view. Castor treated Germanicus with the same brotherly consideration that Germanicus gave him. Castor was not exactly a coward, but he was a politician rather than a soldier. When he was sent across the Danube in answer to an appeal for help by the tribes of East Germany who were fighting a defensive and bloody war against Hermann's Western confederacy, he managed by clever intrigue to bring into the war the tribes of Bohemia, and of Bavaria too. He was carrying out Tiberius' policy of encouraging the Germans to exterminate each other. Maroboduus ["He who walks on the lake bottom"], the priest-king of the East Germans, fled for protection to Castor's camp.

  Maroboduus was given a safe retreat in Italy; and since the East Germans had sworn an oath of perpetual allegiance he remained for eighteen years a hostage for their good behaviours. These East Germans were a fiercer and more powerful race than the West Germans and Germanicus was lucky not to have had them at war with him too. But Hermann had become a national hero by his defeat of Varus, and Maroboduus was jealous of his success. Rather than that Hermann should become High King of all the German nations, which was his ambition, Maroboduus •^ tl •s [^43] had refused to give him any help in his campaign against Germanicus, not even by making a diversion on another frontier.

  I have often thought about Hermann. He was a remarkable man in his way, and though it is difficult to forget his treachery to Varus, Varus had done much to provoke the revolt and Hermann and his men were certainly fighting for liberty.

  They had a genuine contempt for the Romans.

  They could not understand in what sense the extremely severe discipline in the Roman army under Varus, Tiberius, and almost every other general but my father and my brother, differed from downright slavery. They were shocked at the disciplinary floggings and regarded the system of paying soldiers at so much a day, instead of engaging them by promises of glory and plunder, as most base.

  The Germans have always been very chaste in their morals and Roman officers openly practised vices which in Germany, if they ever came to light--but this was seldom--were punished by smothering both culprits in mud under a hurdle. As for German cowardice, all barbarous people are cowards. If Germans ever become civilised it will then be time to judge whether they are cowards or not. They seem, however, to be an exceptionally nervous and quarrelsome people, and I cannot make up my mind whether there is any immediate chance of their becoming really civilised.

  Germanicus thought that there was none. Whether his policy of extermination was justified or not [certainly it was not the usual Roman policy with frontier tribes] depends on the answer to the first question. Of course, the captured Eagles had to be won back, and Hermann had shown no mercy, after the defeat of Varus, when he overran the province; and Germanicus, who was a most gentle and humane man, disliked general massacre so much that he must have had very good reasons for ordering it.

  Hermann did not die in battle. When Maroboduus was forced to fly from the country, Hermann thought that his way was now clear to a monarchy over all the nations of Germany. But he was mistaken: he was not even able to make himself monarch of his own tribe, which was a free tribe, the chieftain having no power to command, only to lead and advise and persuade. One day, a year or two later, he tried to issue orders like a king. His family, which had hitherto been greatly devoted to him, were so scandalised that, without even first discussing the matter together, they all rushed at him with their weapons and hacked him to pieces. He was thirty-seven when he died, having been born the year before my brother Germanicus, his greatest enemy.

  XX

  I WAS NEARLY A YEAR IN CARTHAGE. IT WAS THE YEAR that Livy died, at Padua, where his heart had always been.

  Old Carthage had been razed to the ground and this was a new city, built by Augustus on the south-east of the peninsula and destined to become the first city

  [A.D. 18] of Africa, It was the first time I had been out of Italy since my babyhood. I found the climate very trying, the African natives savage, diseased and overworked; the resident Romans dull, quarrelsome, mercenary and behind the times; the swarms of unfamiliar creeping and flying insects most horrible.

  What I missed most was the absence of any wild wooded countryside. In Tripoli there is nothing to mediate between the regularly planted land--fig and olive orchards, or cornfields--and the bare, stony, thorny desert. I stayed at the house of the Governor, who was that Furius Camillus, my dear Camilla's uncle, of whom I have already written; he was very kind to me. Almost the first thing he told me was how useful my Balkan Summary had been to him in that campaign and that I should certainly have been publicly rewarded for compiling it so well. He did everything he could to make my dedication ceremony a success and to exact from the provincials the respect due to my rank. He was also most assiduous in showing me the sights. The town did a flourishing trade with Rome, exporting not only vast quantities of grain and oil, but slaves, purple dye, sponges, gold, ivory, ebony, and

  [^45] wild beasts for the Games. But I had little occupation here and Furius suggested that it would be a good thing for me, while I was here, to collect materials for a complete history of Carthage. There was no such book to be found in the libraries at Rome. The archives of the old town had recently come into his hands, discovered by natives quarrying in the ruins for hidden treasure, and if I cared to use them they were mine. I told him that I had no knowledge of the Phoenician language; but he undertook, if I was sufficiently interested, to set one of his freedmen the task of translating the more important manuscripts into Greek.

  The idea of writing the history pleased me very much: I felt that historical justice had never been done to the Carthaginians. I spent my leisure time in making a study of the ruins of the Old City, with the help of a contemporary survey, and familiarising myself with the geography of the country in general. I also learned the rudiments of the language well enough to be able to read simple inscriptions and understand the few Phoenician words used by authors who have written about the Punic Wars from the Roman side. When I returned to Italy I began to write the book concurrently with my Etruscan history. I like having two tasks going at the same time: when I tire of one I turn to the other. But I am perhaps too careful a writer. I am not satisfied merely with copying from ancient authorities while there is any possible means of checking their statements by consulting other sources of information on the same subject, particularly accounts by writers of rival political parties. So these two histories, each of which I could have written in a year or two if I had been less conscientious, kept me busy between them for some twenty-five years. For every word I wrote I must have read many hundreds; and in the end I became a very good scholar both of Etruscan and Phoenician, and had a working knowledge of several other languages and dialects too, such as Numidian, Egyptian, Oscan and Faliscan. I finished the History of Carthage first.

 
; Shortly after my dedication of the temple, which went off without a hitch, Furius had suddenly to take the field against Tacfarinas with the only forces available in the province--a single regular regiment, The Third, together with a few battalions of auxiliaries and two cavalry squadrons.

  Tacfarinas was a Numidian chief, originally a deserter from the ranks of the Roman auxiliaries, and a remarkably successful bandit. He had recently built up a sort of army on the Roman model in the interior of his own country and had allied himself with the Moors for an invasion of the province from the West. The two armies together outnumbered Furius' force by at least five to one. They met in open country about fifty miles from the City and Furius had to decide whether to attack Tacfarinas' two semidisciplined regiments which were in the centre or the undisciplined Moorish forces on the flank. He sent the cavalry and auxiliaries, mostly archers, to keep the Moors in play and with his regular regiment marched straight at Tacfarinas' Numidians. I was watching the battle from a hill some five hundred paces away--I had ridden out on a mule--and never before or since, I think, have I been so proud of being a Roman. The Third kept perfect formation: it might have been a ceremonial parade on Mars Field. They advanced in three lines at fifty paces distance. Each line consisted of one hundred and fifty files, eight men deep.

  The Numidians halted in a defensive posture. They were in six lines, with a frontage the same as ours. The Third did not halt but marched straight at them without pausing a moment, and it was only when they were ten paces off that the leading line discharged their javelins in a shining shower. Then they drew their swords and charged, shield to shield. They rolled the enemy's first line, who were pikemen, back on the second. This new line they broke with a fresh discharge of javelins--every soldier carried a pair.

  Then the Roman support-line passed through them, to give them a chance to reorganise. Soon I saw still another shower of javelins, simultaneously thrown, fly shining at the Numidians' third line. The Moors on the flanks, who were greatly bothered by the arrows of the auxiliaries, saw the Romans cutting their way deep into the centre. They began howling, as if the battle was lost, and scattered in all directions. Tacfarinas had to fight a costly rear-guard action back to his camp. The only unpleasant memory I have of this victory was the banquet with which it was celebrated: in the course of which Furius' son, who was called ['47] Scribonianus, made satiric references to the moral support I had given the troops. He did this chiefly to call attention to his own gallantry, which he thought had not been sufficiently praised. Furius afterwards made him beg my pardon. Furius was voted triumphal ornaments by the Senate--the first member of his family to win military distinction since his ancestor Camillus saved Rome more than four hundred years previously.

 

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