Puslapio vaizdai

sojourns away from Rome, thus turning over the capital, in which the pretorian guard remained, to the calumnies of his enemies. Of all these enemies the most terrible was Agrippina, who, passionate, vehement, without judgment, abused both the relationship which protected her and the pity which her misfortune had aroused. She allowed no occasion for taunting Tiberius with his pretended crime to escape her, using to this end not only words, but scenes and actions, which impressed the public even more strongly than open accusations could have done. A supper to which Tiberius had invited her became famous at Rome, for at it she refused obstinately and ostentatiously to touch any food or drink whatever, to the astonishment of the guests, who understood perfectly what her gestures meant. And such calumnies and such affronts Tiberius answered only with a weary and disdainful inertia; at most, when his patience was exhausted, some bitter and concise reproof would escape him.

I have no doubt that Tiberius had resolved at the beginning to avoid all harsh measures as far as possible; for unpopular, misunderstood, and detested as he was, he did not dare to use violence against a large part of the aristocracy and against his own house. Furthermore, Agrippina was the least intelligent of the women of the family, and her senseless opposition could be tolerated as long as Livia and Antonia, the two really serious ladies of the family, sided with Tiberius. But it is easy to understand that this situation could not long endure. A power which defends itself weakly against the attacks of its enemies is destined to sink rapidly into a decline, and the party of Agrippina would therefore quickly have gained favor and power had there not arisen, to sustain the vacillating strength of Tiberius, a man whose name was to become sadly famous -Sejanus, the commander of the pretorian guard.

Sejanus belonged to an obscure family of knights-to what we should now call the bourgeoisie. He was not a senator, and he held no great political position; for his charge as commander of the guard was a purely military office. In ordinary times he would have remained a secondary personage, exclusively concerned with the exacting duties of his command; but the

party of Agrippina, with its intrigues, and the weakness and uncertainty of Tiberius, made of him, however, for a certain time, a formidable power. It is not difficult to see whence this power arose. The loyalty of the pretorian guard, upon which depended the security and the safety of the imperial authority, was one of the things which must seriously have preoccupied Tiberius, particularly in the face of the persistent and insidious intrigues and accusations of the party of Agrippina. The guard lived at Rome, in continual contact with the senate and the imperial house. Everything which was said in the senatorial circles or in the palaces of the emperor or of his relatives was quickly repeated among the cohorts, and the memory of Drusus and Germanicus was deeply venerated by the pretorians. If the guard could have been persuaded that the emperor was a poisoner of his kindred, their loyalty would have been exposed to numberless intrigues and attempts at seduction. In such a condition of affairs, a commander of the guard who could inspire Tiberius with a complete and absolute trust might easily acquire a great influence over him. Sejanus knew how to inspire. this trust. This was partly by reason of his origin, for the equestrian order, on account of its ancient rivalry with the senatorial nobility, was more favorably inclined than the latter toward the imperial authority; and partly also on account of certain reforms which he had succeeded in introducing into the pretorian guard.

Once he had acquired the emperor's confidence, the ambitious and intelligent prefect of the pretorians proceeded to render himself indispensable in all things. The moment was favorable; Tiberius was becoming more and more wearied of his many affairs, of his many struggles, of his countless responsibilities; more and more disgusted with Rome, with its society, with the too frequent contacts with the men whom it was his fate to govern. He was in the earlier stages of that settled melancholy which grew deeper and deeper in the last ten years of his life, and which had grown upon him as the result of long antagonisms, of great bitterness, and of continual terrors and suspicions; and if it is true that Tiberius was addicted to the vice of heavy drinking, as we read in ancient writers, the abuse of wine may also


have had its part in producing it. The man who for many years had done everything for himself, who had never wished to have either counselors or confidants about him, now that he was growing old, needed the support of younger energies and of stronger wills. But in his family he could rely only upon his son Drusus, who had now become a serious and trustworthy man, and in the year 22 A.D. he asked the senate that it concede to his son the tribunician power; that is, that they make him his colleague. But the son did not suffice, and Sejanus therefore succeeded in making himself, together with Drusus, in fact, if not in name, the first and most active and influential collaborator and counselor of Tiberius. He was even more active and influential than Drusus, for the latter was frequently absent on distant military missions to the confines of the empire, while Sejanus, as commander of the pretorian guard, was virtually always at Rome, where the emperor now appeared less and less frequently.

Such was the origin of the anomalous power of this man, who was not even a senator-a power which was the result of the weakness of Tiberius and of the fierce discords which divided the aristocracy; and it was a power which must of necessity prove disastrous, especially to the party of Agrippina and Germanicus. Although indications are not lacking that there was no great harmony or friendship between Sejanus and Drusus, it is evident that Sejanus, as the energetic representative of the interests of Tiberius, must have directed all his efforts against the friends. of Agrippina, who was arousing the fiercest opposition to the emperor. But in the year 23, an unforeseen event seemed suddenly to change the situation and to render possible a reconciliation between Tiberius and the party of Agrippina. This would necessarily diminish, if, indeed, it did not altogether destroy, Tiberius's need of Sejanus as collaborator at the very moment when the fortunes of the latter were in the ascendant. For in this year, Drusus also, like so many other members of his family, died prematurely, at the age of thirty-eight, and on this occasion, for the time being, at least, no one raised the cry of poisoning. This unexpected misfortune moved Tiberius profoundly, for he dearly loved his son, and it seemed for a moment


to determine the triumph of Agrippina's party. Now that his son had been taken from him, where, if not among the sons of Germanicus and Agrippina, could Tiberius look for a successor? And as a further proof that Tiberius desired as far as possible to avoid conflict in the bosom of his family, he did not hesitate a moment, despite all the annoyances and difficulties which he had suffered at the hands of Agrippina and her friends. He officially recognized that in the sons of Germanicus were henceforth placed the future hopes of his family and of the empire. Of the two elder, Nero was now sixteen and Drusus was somewhat younger, though we do not know his exact age. These he summoned to appear before the senate, and he presented them to the assembly with a noble discourse the substance of which Tacitus has preserved for us, exhorting the youths and the senate to fulfil their respective duties for the greatness and the prosperity of the republic.

After the death of Drusus, therefore, a reconciliation became possible in the family of the Cæsars. The latent rivalry between the families of Tiberius and Germanicus was extinguished. Indeed, even in the midst of the tears shed for the early death of Drusus, a gleam of concord seems to have shone down upon the house desolated by many tragedies, while Sejanus, whose power depended upon the strife of the factions, was for a moment set aside and driven back into the shadows. But it was not to continue long; for soon the flames of discord broke out more violently than ever. Whom shall we blame, Sejanus or Agrippina? Tacitus says that it was the fault of Sejanus, whom he accuses of having tried to destroy the descendants of Germanicus, in order to usurp their place: but he himself is forced to admit in another passage (Annals iv., 59) that virtually a little court of freedmen and dependents gathered about Nero, the leader of the sons of Germanicus, urging him on against Tiberius and Sejanus, and begging him to act quickly. "This," they said, "is the will of the people, the desire of the armies. Nor would Sejanus, who was even then making light of the patience of the old man and of the dilatoriness of the youth, have dared to resist him." From such speeches it is only a short step to plans for rebellion and conspiracy. In all proba

bility the blame for this later and more bitter dissension must, as usually happens, be divided between the two factions. The party of Agrippina, emboldened by its good fortune and by the weakness of Tiberius, was, after the death of Drusus, aware of its own supremacy. Its members had only a single aim; even before it was possible they wished to see Nero, the first-born son of Germanicus, in the position of Tiberius. They therefore took up again their struggles and intrigues against Tiberius, and attempted to incite Nero against the emperor. But this time Sejanus was blocking their pathway. The death of Drusus had even further increased the trust and affection which the emperor had for his assistant, and he was henceforth the only confidant and the only friend of the emperor; a war without quarter between him and Agrippina, her sons and the party of Germanicus, was inevitable.

Sejanus began by attempting to exclude from the magistracy and from office all the friends of Agrippina and all the members of the opposing faction. At this time it was difficult to arrive at any of the more important offices without being recommended to the senate by the emperor, against whose choice the senate no longer dared to rebel; since the emperor was held responsible for the conduct of the government, it was only just that he should be allowed to select his more important collaborators. Sejanus was therefore able, by using his influence over Tiberius, to lay a thousand difficulties and obstacles in the way of even the legitimate ambitions of the most eminent men of the opposite faction. Nor were these the only weapons employed; others no less efficacious were called into play, and intrigues, calumnies, accusations, and trials were set on foot without scruple and with a ferocity the horror of which Tacitus has painted with indelible colors. Among these intrigues two matrimonial projects must be mentioned. In the year 25, Sejanus attempted a bold stroke; he repudiated his wife Apicata, and asked Tiberius for the hand of Livilla (Livia), the widow of Drusus. Sejanus had frequented the political aristocracy of the empire, and, despite his equestrian origin, was quick to adopt not only their ambitions and their manners, but also their ideas on marriage. He, too, considered it as simply a political instru

ment, a means of acquiring and consolidating power. He had therefore disrupted his first family in order to contract this marriage, which would have redoubled his power and his influence and have introduced him into the imperial household. But his bold stroke failed, because Tiberius refused; and he refused, Tacitus tells us, above all because he was afraid that this marriage would still further irritate Agrippina. Agrippina. The emperor is supposed to have told Sejanus that too many feminine quarrels were already disturbing and agitating the house of the Cæsars, to the serious detriment of his nephew's sons. And what would happen, he asked, if this marriage should still further foment existing hatreds? Quid si intendatur certamen tali conjugio? The reply is significant, because it proves to us that Tiberius, who is accused of harboring a fierce hate against the sons of Germanicus and Agrippina, was still seeking, two years after the death of Drusus, to appease both factions, attempting not to irritate his adversaries and to preserve a reasonable equanimity in the midst of these animosities and these struggles.

In any case, Sejanus was refused, and this refusal was a slight success for the party of Agrippina, which, a year later, in 26, attempted on its own account an analogous move. Agrippina asked Tiberius for permission to remarry. If we are to believe Tacitus, Agrippina made this request on her own initiative, impelled by one of those numerous and more or less reasonable caprices which were continually shooting through her head. But are we to suppose that suddenly, after a long widowhood, Agrippina put forth so strange a proposal without any arrière-pensée whatever? Furthermore, if this proposal had been merely the momentary caprice of a whimsical woman, would it have been so seriously debated in the imperial household, and would the daughter of Agrippina have recounted the episode in her memoirs? It is more probable that this marriage, too, had a political aim. By giving a husband to Agrippina, they were also seeking to give a leader to the antiTiberian party. The sons of Germanicus were too young, and Agrippina was too violent and tactless, to be able alone to cope successfully with Sejanus, supported as he was by Tiberius, by Livia, and by

Antonia. We can thus explain why Tiberius opposed and prevented the marriage: Agrippina, unassisted, had caused him sufficient trouble; it would have been entirely superfluous for him to sanction her taking to herself an official counselor in the guise of a husband.

This time Sejanus triumphed over the ill success of his rivals, and the struggle continued in this manner between the two parties, but with an increasing advantage to Sejanus. Beginning with the year 26, we see numerous indications that the party of Agrippina and Germanicus was on the decline. It was no longer able to resist the blows and machinations of Sejanus, who detached from it, one after another, all the men of any importance. He either won them over to himself through his favors and his promises, or he frightened them with his threats; and those who resisted most tenaciously he destroyed with his suits.

Tiberius was the storm-center of these struggles, and contrary to what legend has reported, he attempted as far as he was able to prevent the two parties from going to extremes. But what pain, repugnance, and fatigue it must have cost him to make the effort necessary for maintaining a last ray of reason and justice among so many evil passions, animosities, ambitions, and rivalries! It must have cost him dearly, for he had grown up in the time when the dream of a great restoration of the aristocracy was luring the upper classes of Rome with its fairest and most luminous smile. As a young man he had known and loved Vergil, Horace, and Livy, the two poets and the historian of this great dream; like all the elect spirits of those now distant years, he had seen behind this vision a great senate, a glorious and terrible army, an austere and revered republic like that which Livy had pictured with glowing colors in his immortal pages.

Instead of all this, he was now forced to take his place at the head of this decadent and wretched nobility, which seemed to be interested only in rending itself asunder with calumnies, denunciations, suits, and scandalous condemnations, and which repaid him for all that he had done and was still doing for its safety and the prosperity of the empire by directing against his name the most atrocious calumnies, the fiercest railleries, and every sort

of ridiculous and infamous legend. He had dreamed of victories over the enemies of Rome, and he had to resign himself to struggling day and night against the hysterical extravagance of Agrippina: he had to be content, even without the sure hope of success, if he could convince the majority that he was not a poisoner. Authority without glory or respect, power divorced from the means sufficient for its exercise-such was the situation in which the successor of Augustus, the second emperor, after twelve years of a difficult and trying reign, found himself. He no longer felt himself safe at Rome, where he feared rightly or wrongly that his life was being continually threatened, and it is not astonishing that, old, wearied, and disgusted, between the years 26 and 27 he should have retired definitely to Capri, seeking to hide his misanthropy, his weariness, and his disgust with men and things in the wonderful little isle which a delightful caprice of nature had set down in the lap of the divine Bay of Naples.

But instead of the peace he sought at Capri, Tiberius found the infamy of history. How dark and terrible are the memories of him associated with the charming isle, which, violet-tinted, on beautiful, sunny days emerges from an azure sea against an azure sky! That fragment of paradise fallen upon the shore of one of the most beautiful seas in the world is said to have been for about ten years a hell of fierce cruelties and abominable vices. Tiberius passed sentence upon himself, in the opinion of posterity, when he secluded himself in Capri. Ought we, without a further word, to transcribe this sentence? There are, to be sure, no decisive arguments to prove false the accounts about the horrors of Capri which the ancients, and especially Suetonius, have transmitted to us; there are some, however, which make us mistrust and withhold our judgment. Above all, we have the right to ask ourselves how, from whom, and by access to what sources did Suetonius and the other ancients learn so many extraordinary details. It must be remembered that all the great figures in the history of Rome who had many enemies, like Sylla, Cæsar, Antony, and Augustus himself, were accused of having scandalous habits. Precisely because the puritan tradition was strong at Rome,

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