Returning to the island, he so far abandoned all care of the government, that he never filled up the decuriae of the knights, never changed any military tribunes or prefects, or governors of provinces, and kept Spain and Syria for several years without any consular lieutenants. He likewise suffered Armenia to be seized by the Parthians, Mcesia by the Dacians and Sarmatians, and Gaul to be ravaged by the Germans: to the great disgrace, and no less danger, of the empire.
But, having now the advantage of privacy, and being remote from the observation of the people of Rome, he abandoned himself to all the vicious propensities which he had long but imperfectly concealed, and of which I shall here give a particular account from the beginning. While a young soldier in the camp, he was so remarkable for his excessive inclination to wine, that, for Tiberius, they called him Biberius; for Claudius, Cal-, dius; and for Nero, Mero. And after he succeeded to the empire, and was invested with the office of reforming the morality of the people, he spent a whole night and two days together in feasting and drinking with Pomponius Flaccus and Lucius Piso; to one of whom he immediately gave the province of Syria, and to the other the prefecture of the city; declaring them, in his letterspatent, to be ' very pleasant companions, and friends fit for all occasions." He made an appointment to sup with Sestius Gallus, a lewd and prodigal old fellow, who had been disgraced by Augustus, and reprimanded by himself but a few days before in the senate-house; upon condition that he should not recede in the least from his usual method of entertainment, and that they should be attended at table by naked girls. He preferred a very obscure candidate for the quaestorship, before the most noble competitors, only for taking off, in pledging him at table, an amphora of wine at a draught.[*](That any man could drink an amphora of wine at a draught, is beyond all credibility; for the amphora was nearly equal to nine gallons, English measure. The probability is, that the man had emptied a large vessel, which was shaped like an amphora. ) He presented Asellius Sabinus with two hundred thousand sesterces, for writing a dialogue, in the way of dispute, betwixt the truffle and the fig-pecker, the oyster and the thrush. He likewise instituted a new office to administer to his voluptuousness, to which he appointed Titus Caesonius Priscus, a Roman knight.
In his retreat at Capri,[*](Capri, the luxurious retreat and scene of the debaucheries of the Roman emperors, is an island off the southern point of the bay of Naples, about twelve miles in circumference. ) he also contrived an apartment containing couches, and adapted to the secret practice of lewdness, where he entertained companies of disreputable girls. [*](* * * Thomson omits material here * * *) He had several chambers set round with pictures and statues in the most suggestive attitudes, and furnished with the books of Elephantis, that none might want a pattern for the execution of any project that was prescribed him. He likewise contrived recesses in woods and groves for the gratification of young persons of both sexes, in caves and hollow rocks. So that he was publicly and commonly called, by an abuse of the name of the island, Caprineus.[*](The name of the island having a double meaning, and signifying also a goat.)
But he was still more infamous, if possible, for an abomination not fit to be mentioned or heard, much less credited.[*]("Quasi pueros prima teneritudinis, quos 'pisciculos' vocabat, institueret, ut natanti sibi inter femina versarentur, ac luderent: lingui morsuque sensim appetentes; atque etiam quasi infantes firmiorcs, necdum tamen lacte depulsos, inguini ceu papillae admoveret: pronior sane ad id genus libidinis, et nature et aetate.") [*](* * * Thomson omits material here * * *) When a picture, painted by Parrhasius, in which the artist had represented Atalanta in the act of submitting to Meleager's lust in the most unnatural way, was bequeathed to him, with this proviso, that if the subject was offensive to him, he might receive in lieu of it a million sesterces, he not only chose the picture, but hung it up in his bed-chamber. [*](* * * Thomson omits material here * * *)
How much he was guilty of a most foul intercourse with women even of the first quality,[*]("Feminarum capitibus solitus illudere.") appeared very plainly by the death of one Mallonia, who, being brought to his bed, but resolutely refusing to comply with his lust, he gave her up to the common informers. Even when she was upon her trial, he frequently called out to her, and asked her, "Do you repent?" until she, quitting the court, went home, and stabbed herself; openly upbraiding the vile old lecher for his gross obscenity;[*]("Obscenitate oris hirsuto atque olido.") hence there was an allusion to him in a farce, which was acted at the next public sports, and was received with great applause, and became a common topic of ridicule:[*]("Hircum vetulum capreis naturam ligurire.") that the old goat [*](* * * Thomson omits material here * * *)
He was so niggardly and covetous, that he never allowed to his attendants, in his travels and expeditions, any salary, but their diet only. Once, indeed, he treated them liberally, at the instigation of his step-father, when, dividing them into three classes, according to their rank, he gave the first six, the second four, and the third two, hundred thousand sesterces, which last class he called not friends, but Greeks.
During the whole time of his government, he never erected any noble edifice; for the only things he did undertake, namely, building the temple of Augustus, and restoring Pompey's Theatre, he left at last, after many years, unfinished. Nor did he ever entertain the people with public spectacles; and he was seldom present at those which were given by others, lest any thing of that kind should be requested of him; especially after he was obliged to give freedom to the comedian Actius. Having relieved the poverty of a few senators, to avoid further demands, he declared that he should for the future assist none, but those who gave the senate full satisfaction as to the cause of their necessity. Upon this, most of the needy senators, from modesty and shame, declined troubling him. Amongst these was Hortalus, grandson to the celebrated orator Quintus Hortensius, who [marrying], by the persuasion of Augustus, had brought up four children upon a very small estate.
He displayed only two instances of public munificence. One was an offer to lend gratis, for three years, a hundred millions of sesterces to those who wanted to borrow; and the other, when, some large houses being burnt down upon Mount Coelius, he indemnified the owners. To the former of these he was compelled by the clamours of the people, in a great scarcity of money, when he had ratified a decree of the senate obliging all money-lenders to advance two-thirds of their capital on land, and the debtors to pay off at once the same proportion of their debts, and it was found insufficient to remedy the grievance. The other he did to alleviate in some degree the pressure of the times. But his benefaction to the sufferers by fire, he estimated at so high a rate, that he ordered the Coelian Hill to be called, in future, the Augustan. To the soldiery, after doubling the legacy left them by Augustus, he never gave any thing, except a thousand denarii a man to the pretorian guards, for not joining the party of Sejanus; and some presents to the legions in Syria, because they alone had not paid reverence to the effigies of Sejanus among their standards. He seldom gave discharges to the veteran soldiers, calculating on their deaths from advanced age, and on what would be saved by thus getting rid of them, in the way of rewards or pensions. Nor did he ever relieve the provinces by any act of generosity, excepting Asia, where some cities had been destroyed by an earthquake.
In the course of a very short time, he turned his mind to sheer robbery. It is certain that Cneius Lentulus, the augur, a man of vast estate, was so terrified and worried by his threats and importunities, that he was obliged to make him his heir; and that Lepida, a lady of a very noble family, was condemned by him, in order to gratify Quirinus, a man of consular rank, extremely rich, and childless, who had divorced her twenty years before, and now charged her with an old design to poison him. Several persons, likewise, of the first distinction in Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Greece, had their estates confiscated upon such despicably trifling and shameless pretences, that against some of them no other charge was preferred, than that they held large sums of ready money as part of their property. Old immunities, the rights of mining, and of levying tolls, were taken from several cities and private persons. And Vonones, king of the Parthians, who had been driven out of his dominions by his own subjects, and fled to Antioch with a vast treasure, claiming the protection of the Roman people, his allies, was treacherously robbed of all his money, and afterwards murdered.
He first manifested hatred towards his own relations in the case of his brother Drusus, betraying him by the production of a letter to himself, in which Drusus proposed that Augustus should be forced to restore the public liberty. In course of time, he shewed the same disposition with regard to the rest of his family. So far was he from performing any office of kindness or humanity to his wife, when she was banished, and, by her father's order, confined to one town, that he forbad her to stir out of the house, or converse with any men. He even wronged her of the dowry given her by her father, and her yearly allowance, by a quibble of law, because Augustus had made no provision for them on her behalf in his will. Being harassed by his mother, Livia, who claimed an equal share in the government with him, he frequently avoided seeing her, and all long and private conferences with her, lest it should be thought that he was governed by her counsels, which, notwithstanding, he sometimes sought, and was in the habit of adopting. He was much offended at the senate, when they proposed to add to his other titles that of the Son of Livia, as well as Augustus. He, therefore, would not suffer her to be called " the Mother of her country," nor to receive any extraordinary public distinction. Nay, he frequently admonished her " not to meddle with weighty affairs, and such as did not suit her sex;" especially when he found her present at a fire which broke out near the Temple of Vesta,[*](The Temple of Vesta, like that dedicated to the same goddess at Tivoli, is round. There was probably one on the same site, and in the same circular form, erected by Numa Pompilius; the present edifice is far too elegant for that age, but there is no record of its erection, but it is known to have been repaired by Vespasian or Domitian after being injured by Nero's fire. Its situation, near the Tiber, exposed it to floods, from which we find it suffered, from Horace's lines Vidimus flavum Tiberim, retortisLittore Etrusco violenter undis,Ire dejectum monunenta Regis,Templaque Vestae.Ode, lib. i. 2. 15. This beautiful temple is still in good preservation. It is surrounded by twenty columns of white marble, and the wall of the cell, or interior (which is very small, its diameter being only the length of one of the columns), is also built of blocks of the same material, so nicely joined, that it seems to be formed of one solid mass.) and encouraging the people and soldiers to use their utmost exertions, as she had been used to do in the time of her husband.
He afterwards proceeded to an open rupture with her, and, as is said, upon this occasion. She having frequently urged him to place among the judges a person who had been made free of the, city, he refused her request, unless she would allow it to be inscribed on the roll, "That the appointment had been extorted from him by his mother." Enraged at this, Livia brought forth from her chapel some letters from Augustus to her, complaining of the sourness and insolence of Tiberius's temper, and these she read. So much was he offended at these letters having been kept so long, and now produced with so much bitterness against him, that some considered this incident as one of the causes of his going into seclusion, if not the principal reason for so doing. In the whole years he lived during his retirement, he saw her but once, and that for a few hours only. When she fell sick shortly afterwards, he was quite unconcerned about visiting her in her illness; and when she died, after promising to attend her funeral, he deferred his coming for several days, so that the corpse was in a state of decay and putrefaction before die interment; and he then forbad divine honours being paid to her, pretending that he acted according to her own directions. He likewise annulled her will, and in a short time ruined all her friends and acquaintance; not even sparing those to whom, on her death-bed, she had recommended the care of her funeral, but condemning one of them, a man of equestrian rank, to the tread-mill.[*](Antlia; a machine for drawing up water in a series of connected buckets, which was worked by the feet, nisupedum.)
He entertained no paternal affection either for his own son Drusus, or his adopted son Germanicus. Offended at the vices of the former, who was of a loose disposition and led a dissolute life, he was not much affected at his death; but, almost immediately after the funeral, resumed his attention to business, and prevented the courts from being longer closed. The ambassadors from the people of Ilium coming rather late to offer their condolence, he said to them by way of banter, as if the affair had already faded from his memory, "And I heartily condole with you on the loss of your renowned countryman Hector." He so much affected to depreciate Germanicus, that he spoke of his achievements as utterly insignificant, and railed at his most glorious victories as ruinous to the state; complaining of him also to the senate for going to Alexandria without his knowledge, upon occasion of a great and sudden famine at Rome. It was believed that he took care to have him dispatched by Cneius Piso, his lieutenant in Syria. This person was afterwards tried for the murder, and would, as was supposed, have produced his orders, had they not been contained in a private and confidential dispatch. The follo-ring words therefore were posted up in many placez, and frequently shouted in the night: "Give us back our Germanicus." This suspicion was afterwards confirmed by the barbarous treatment of his wife and children.
His daughter-in-law Agrippina, after the death of her husband, complaining upon some occasion with more than ordinary freedom, he took her by the hand, and addressed her in a Greek verse to this effect: "My dear child, do you think yourself injured, because you are not empress?" Nor did he ever vouchsafe to speak to her again. Upon her refusing once at supper to taste some fruit which he presented to her, he declined inviting her to his table, pretending that she in effect charged him with a design to poison her; whereas the whole was a contrivance of his own. He was to offer the fruit, and she to be privately cautioned against eating what would infallibly cause her death. At last, having her accused of intending to flee for refuge to the statue of Augustus, or to the army, he banished her to the island of Pandataria. [*](The elder Agrippina was banished to this island by Augustus. See. c. lxiii. of his life. ) Upon her reviling him for it, he caused a centurion to beat out one of her eyes; and when she resolved to starve herself to death, he ordered her mouth to be forced open, and meat to be crammed down her throat. But she persisting in her resolution, and dying soon afterwards, he persecuted her memory with the basest aspersions, and persuaded the senate to put her birth-day amongst the number of unlucky days in the calendar. He likewise took credit for not having caused her to be strangled and her body cast upon the Gemonian Steps, and suffered a decree of the senate to pass, thanking him for his clemency, and an offering of gold to be made to Jupiter Capitolinus on the occasion.
He had by Germanicus three grandsons, Nero, Drusus, and Caius; and by his son Drusus one, named Tiberius. Of these, after the loss of his sons, he commended Nero and Drusus, the two eldest sons of Germanicus, to the senate; and at their being solemnly in troduced into the forum, distributed money among the people. But when he found that on entering upon the new year they were included in the public vows for his own welfare, he told the senate, " that such honours ought not to be conferred but upon those who had been proved, and were of more advanced years." By thus betraying his private feelings towards them,' he exposed them to all sorts of accusations; and after practising many artifices to provoke them to rail at and abuse him, that he might be furnished with a pretence to destroy them, he charged them with it in a letter to the senate: and at the same time accusing them, in the bitterest terms, of the most scandalous vices. Upon their being declared enemies by the senate, he starved them to death; Nero in the island of Ponza, and Drusus in the vaults of the Palatium. It is thought by some that Nero was driven to a voluntary death by the executioner's shewing him some halters and hooks, as if he had been sent to him by order of the senate. Drusus, it is said, was so rabid with hunger, that he attempted to eat the chaff with which his mattress was stuffed. The relics of both were so scattered, that it was with difficulty they were collected.
Besides his old friends and intimate acquaintance, he required the assistance of twenty of the most eminent persons in the city, as counsellors in the administration of public affairs. Out of all this number, scarcely two or three escaped the fury of his savage disposition. All the rest he destroyed upon one pretence or another; and among them AFlius Sejanus, whose fall was attended with the ruin of many others. He had advanced this minister to the highest pitch of grandeur, not so much from any real regard for him, as that by his base and sinister contrivances he might ruin the children of Germani cus, and thereby secure the succession to his own grandson by Drusus.
He treated with no greater leniency the Greeks in his family, even those with whom he was most pleased. Having asked one Zeno, upon his using some far-fetched phrases, "What uncouth dialect is that ?" he replied, " The Doric." For this answer he banished him to Cinara, [*](An island in the Archipelago. ) suspecting that he taunted him with his former residence at Rhodes, where the Doric dialect is spoken. It being his custom to start questions at supper, arising out of what he had been reading in the day, and finding that Seleucus, the grammarian, used to inquire of his attendants what authors he was then studying, and so came prepared for his inquiries-he first turned him out of his family, and then drove him to the extremity of laying violent hands upon himself.
His cruel and sullen temper appeared when he was still a boy; which Theodorus of Gadara, [*](This Theodore is noticed by Quintilian, Instit. iii. x. Gadara was in Syria. ) his master in rhetoric, first discovered, and expressed by a very opposite simile, calling him sometimes, when he chid him, "Mud mixed with blood." But his disposition shewed itself still more clearly on his attaining the imperial power, and even in the beginning of his administration, when he was endeavouring to gain the popular favour, by affecting moderation. Upon a funeral passing by, a wag called out to the dead man, "Tell Augustus, that the legacies he bequeathed to the people are not yet paid." The man being brought before him, he ordered that he should receive what was due to him, and then be led to execution, that he might deliver the message to his father himself. Not long afterwards, when one Pompey, a Roman knight, persisted in his opposition to something he proposed in the senate, he threatened to put him in prison, and told him, "Of a Pompey I shall make a Pompeian of you;" by a bitter kind of pun playing upon the man's name, and the ill-fortune of his party.
About the same time, when the praetor consulted him, whether it was his pleasure that the tribunals should take cognizance of accusations of treason, he replied, "The laws ought to be put in execution;" and he did put them in execution most severely. Some person had taken off the head of Augustus from one of his statues, and replaced it by another.[*](It mattered not that the head substituted was Tiberius's own. ) The matter was brought before the senate, and because the case was not clear, the witnesses were put to the torture. The party accused being found guilty, and condemned, this kind of proceeding was carried so far, that it became capital for a man to beat his slave, or change his clothes, near the statue of Augustus; to carry his head stamped upon the coin, or cut in the stone of a ring, into a necessary house, or the stews; or to reflect upon anything that had been either said or done by him. In fine, a person was condemned to death, for suffering some honours to be decreed to him in the colony where he lived, upon the same day on which they had formerly been decreed to Augustus.
He was besides guilty of many barbarous actions, under the pretence of strictness and reformation of manners, but more to gratify his own savage disposition. Some verses were published, which displayed the present calamities of his reign, and anticipated the future.[*](The verses were probably anonymous.)
- Asper et immitis, breviter vis omnia dicam?
- Dispeream si te mater amare potest.
- Non es eques, quare? non sunt tibi millia centum?
- Omnia si quaras, et Rhodos exsilium est.
- Aurea mutasti Saturni saecula, Caesar:
- Incolumi nam te, ferrea semper erunt.
- Fastidit vinum, quia jam sitit iste cruorem:
- Tam bibit hunc avide, quam bibit ante merum.
- Adspice felicem sibi, non tibi, Romule, Sullam:
- Et Marium, si vis, adspice, sed reducem.
- Nec non Antoni civilia bella moventis
- Nec semel infectas adspice cada manus,
- Et dic, Roma perit: regnabit sanguine multo,
- Ad regnum quisquis venit ab exsilio.
At first he would have it understood, that these satirical verses were drawn forth by the resentment of those who were impatient under the discipline of reformation, rather than that they spoke,their real sentiments; and he would frequently say, "Let them hate me, so long as they do but approve my conduct."[*](Oderint dum probent: Caligula used a similar expression; Oderint dum metuant.) At length, however, his behaviour showed that he was sensible they were too well founded.
- Obdurate wretch! too fierce, too fell to move
- The least kind yearnings of a mother's love!
- No knight thou art, as having no estate;
- Long suffered'st thou in Rhodes an exile's fate,
- No more the happy Golden Age we see;
- The Iron's come, and sure to last with thee.
- Instead of wine he thirsted for before,
- He wallows now in floods of human gore.
- Reflect, ye Romans, on the dreadful times,
- Made such by Marius, and by Sylla's crimes.
- Reflect how Antony's ambitious rage
- Twice scar'd with horror a distracted age.
- And say, Alas! Rome's blood in streams will flow,
- When banish'd miscreants rule this world below.
A few days after his arrival at Capri, a fisherman coming up to him unexpectedly, when he was desirous of privacy, and presenting him with a large mullet, he ordered the man's face to be scrubbed with the fish; being terrified with the thought of his having been able to creep upon him from the back of the island, over such rugged and steep rocks. The man, while undergoing the punishment, expressing his joy that he had not likewise offered him a large crab which he had also taken, he ordered his face to be farther lacerated with its claws. He put to death one of the pretorian guards, for having stolen a peacock out of his orchard. In one of his journeys, his litter being obstructed by some bushes, he ordered the officer whose duty it was to ride on and examine the road, a centurion of the first cohorts, to be laid on his face upon the ground, and scourged almost to death.