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Tacitus: Annals Book 12 [1]

1. THE destruction of Messalina shook the imperial house; for a strife arose among the freedmen, who should choose a wife for Claudius, impatient as he was of a single life and submissive to the rule of wives. The ladies were fired with no less jealousy. Each insisted on her rank, beauty, and fortune, and pointed to her claims to such a marriage. But the keenest competition was between Lollia Paulina, the daughter of Marcus Lollius, an ex-consul, and Julia Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus. Callistus favoured the first, Pallas the second. Aelia Paetina however, of the family of the Tuberones, had the support of Narcissus. The emperor, who inclined now one way, now another, as he listened to this or that adviser, summoned the disputants to a conference and bade them express their opinions and give their reasons.   1. Caede Messalinae convulsa principis domus, orto apud libertos certamine, quis deligeret uxorem Claudio, caelibis vitae intoleranti et coniugum imperiis obnoxio. nec minore ambitu feminae exarserant: suam quaeque nobilitatem formam opes contendere ac digna tanto matrimonio ostentare. sed maxime ambigebatur inter Lolliam Paulinam M. Lollii consularis et Iuliam Agrippinam Germanico genitam: huic Pallas, illi Callistus fautores aderant; at Aelia Paetina e familia Tuberonum Narcisso fovebatur. ipse huc modo, modo illuc, ut quemque suadentium audierat, promptus, discordantis in consilium vocat ac promere sententiam et adicere rationes iubet.
2. Narcissus dwelt on the marriage of years gone by, on the tie of offspring, for Paetina was the mother of Antonia, and on the advantage of excluding a new element from his household, by the return of a wife to whom he was accustomed, and who would assuredly not look with a stepmother's animosity on Britannicus and Octavia, who were next in her affections to her own children. Callistus argued that she was compromised by her long separation, and that were she to be taken back, she would be supercilious on the strength of it. It would be far better to introduce Lollia, for, as she had no children of her own, she would be free from jealousy, and would take the place of a mother towards her stepchildren. Pallas again selected Agrippina for special commendation because she would bring with her Germanicus's grandson, who was thoroughly worthy of imperial rank, the scion of a noble house and a link to unite the descendants of the Claudian family. He hoped that a woman who was the mother of many children and still in the freshness of youth, would not carry off the grandeur of the Caesars to some other house.   2. Narcissus vetus matrimonium, filiam communem (nam Antonia ex Paetina erat), nihil in penatibus eius novum disserebat, si sueta coniunx rediret, haudquaquam novercalibus odiis visura Britannicum, Octaviam, proxima suis pignora. Callistus improbatam longo discidio, ac si rursum adsumeretur, eo ipso superbam; longeque rectius Lolliam induci, quando nullos liberos genuisset, vacuam aemulatione et privignis parentis loco futuram. at Pallas id maxime in Agrippina laudare quod Germanici nepotem secum traheret, dignum prorsus imperatoria fortuna: stirpem nobilem et familiae
3. This advice prevailed, backed up as it was by Agrippina's charms. On the pretext of her relationship, she paid frequent visits to her uncle, and so won his heart, that she was preferred to the others, and, though not yet his wife, already possessed a wife's power. For as soon as she was sure of her marriage, she began to aim at greater things, and planned an alliance between Domitius, her son by Cneius Aenobarbus, and Octavia, the emperor's daughter. This could not be accomplished without a crime, for the emperor had betrothed Octavia to Lucius Silanus, a young man otherwise famous, whom he had brought forward as a candidate for popular favour by the honour of triumphal distinctions and by a magnificent gladiatorial show. But no difficulty seemed to be presented by the temper of a sovereign who had neither partialities nor dislikes, but such as were suggested and dictated to him.   3. Praevaluere haec adiuta Agrippinae inlecebris: ad eum per speciem necessitudinis crebro ventitando pellicit patruum ut praelata ceteris et nondum uxor potentia uxoria iam uteretur. nam ubi sui matrimonii certa fuit, struere maiora nuptiasque Domitii, quem ex Cn. Ahenobarbo genuerat, et Octaviae Caesaris filiae moliri; quod sine scelere perpetrari non poterat, quia L. Silano desponderat Octaviam Caesar iuvenemque et alia clarum insigni triumphalium et gladiatorii muneris magnificentia protulerat ad studia vulgi. sed nihil arduum videbatur in animo principis, cui non iudicium, non odium erat nisi indita et iussa.
4. Vitellius accordingly, who used the name of censor to screen a slave's trickeries, and looked forward to new despotisms, already impending, associated himself in Agrippina's plans, with a view to her favour, and began to bring charges against Silanus, whose sister, Junia Calvina, a handsome and lively girl, had shortly before become his daughter-in-law. Here was a starting point for an accuser. Vitellius put an infamous construction on the somewhat incautious though not criminal love between the brother and sister. The emperor listened, for his affection for his daughter inclined him the more to admit suspicions against his son-in-law. Silanus meanwhile, who knew nothing of the plot, and happened that year to be praetor, was suddenly expelled from the Senate by an edict of Vitellius, though the roll of Senators had been recently reviewed and the lustrum closed. Claudius at the same time broke off the connection; Silanus was forced to resign his office, and the one remaining day of his praetorship was conferred on Eprius Marcellus.   4. Igitur Vitellius, nomine censoris servilis fallacias obtegens ingruentiumque dominationum provisor, quo gratiam Agrippinae pararet, consiliis eius implicari, ferre crimina in Silanum, cuius sane decora et procax soror, Iunia Calvina, haud multum ante Vitellii nurus fuerat. hinc initium accusationis; fratrumque non incestum, sed incustoditum amorem ad infamiam traxit. et praebebat Caesar auris, accipiendis adversus generum suspicionibus caritate filiae promptior. at Silanus insidiarum nescius ac forte eo anno praetor, repente per edictum Vitellii ordine senatorio movetur, quamquam lecto pridem senatu lustroque condito. simul adfinitatem Claudius diremit, adactusque Silanus eiurare magistratum, et reliquus praeturae dies in Eprium Marcellum conlatus est.
5. In the year of the consulship of Caius Pompeius and Quintus Veranius, the marriage arranged between Claudius and Agrippina was confirmed both by popular rumour and by their own illicit love. Still, they did not yet dare to celebrate the nuptials in due form, for there was no precedent for the introduction of a niece into an uncle's house. It was positively incest, and if disregarded, it would, people feared, issue in calamity to the State. These scruples ceased not till Vitellius undertook the management of the matter in his own way. He asked the emperor whether he would yield to the recommendations of the people and to the authority of the Senate. When Claudius replied that he was one among the citizens and could not resist their unanimous voice, Vitellius requested him to wait in the palace, while he himself went to the Senate. Protesting that the supreme interest of the commonwealth was at stake, he begged to be allowed to speak first, and then began to urge that the very burdensome labours of the emperor in a world-wide administration, required assistance, so that, free from domestic cares, he might consult the public welfare. How again could there be a more virtuous relief for the mind of an imperial censor than the taking of a wife to share his prosperity and his troubles, to whom he might intrust his inmost thoughts and the care of his young children, unused as he was to luxury and pleasure, and wont from his earliest youth to obey the laws.   5. C. Pompeio Q. Veranio consulibus pactum inter Claudium et Agrippinam matrimonium iam fama, iam amore inlicito firmabatur; necdum celebrare sollemnia nuptiarum audebant, nullo exemplo deductae in domum patrui fratris filiae: quin et incestum ac, si sperneretur, ne in malum publicum erumperet metuebatur. nec ante omissa cunctatio quam Vitellius suis artibus id perpetrandum sumpsit. percontatusque Caesarem an iussis populi, an auctoritati senatus cederet, ubi ille unum se civium et consensui imparem respondit, opperiri intra palatium iubet. ipse curiam ingreditur, summamque rem publicam agi obtestans veniam dicendi ante alios exposcit orditurque: gravissimos principis labores, quis orbem terrae capessat, egere adminiculis ut domestica cura vacuus in commune consulat. quod porro honestius censoriae mentis levamentum quam adsumere coniugem, prosperis dubiisque sociam, cui cogitationes intimas, cui parvos liberos tradat, non luxui aut voluptatibus adsuefactus, sed qui prima ab iuventa legibus obtemperavisset.
6. Vitellius, having first put forward these arguments in a conciliatory speech, and met with decided acquiescence from the Senate, began afresh to point out, that, as they all recommended the emperor's marriage, they ought to select a lady conspicuous for noble rank and purity, herself too the mother of children. "It cannot," he said, "be long a question that Agrippina stands first in nobility of birth. She has given proof too that she is not barren, and she has suitable moral qualities. It is, again, a singular advantage to us, due to divine providence, for a widow to be united to an emperor who has limited himself to his own lawful wives. We have heard from our fathers, we have ourselves seen that married women were seized at the caprice of the Caesars. This is quite alien to the propriety of our day. Rather let a precedent be now set for the taking of a wife by an emperor. But, it will be said, marriage with a brother's daughter is with us a novelty. True; but it is common in other countries, and there is no law to forbid it. Marriages of cousins were long unknown, but after a time they became frequent. Custom adapts itself to expediency, and this novelty will hereafter take its place among recognized usages."   6. Postquam haec favorabili oratione praemisit multaque patrum adsentatio sequebatur, capto rursus initio, quando maritandum principem cuncti suaderent, deligi oportere feminam nobilitate puerperiis sanctimonia insignem. nec diu anquirendum quin Agrippina claritudine generis anteiret: datum ab ea fecunditatis experimentum et congruere artes honestas. id vero egregium, quod provisu deum vidua iungeretur principi sua tantum matrimonia experto. audivisse a parentibus, vidisse ipsos abripi coniuges ad libita Caesarum: procul id a praesenti modestia. statueretur immo documentum, quo uxorem imperator acciperet. at enim nova nobis in fratrum filias coniugia: sed aliis gentibus sollemnia, neque lege ulla prohibita; et sobrinarum diu ignorata tempore addito percrebuisse. morem accommodari prout conducat, et fore hoc quoque in iis quae mox usurpentur.
7. There were some who rushed out of the Senate passionately protesting that if the emperor hesitated, they would use violence. A promiscuous throng assembled, and kept exclaiming that the same too was the prayer of the Roman people. Claudius without further delay presented himself in the forum to their congratulations; then entering the Senate, he asked from them a decree which should decide that for the future marriages between uncles and brothers' daughters should be legal. There was, however, found only one person who desired such a marriage, Alledius Severus, a Roman knight, who, as many said, was swayed by the influence of Agrippina. Then came a revolution in the State, and everything was under the control of a woman, who did not, like Messalina, insult Rome by loose manners. It was a stringent, and, so to say, masculine despotism; there was sternness and generally arrogance in public, no sort of immodesty at home, unless it conduced to power. A boundless greed of wealth was veiled under the pretext that riches were being accumulated as a prop to the throne.   7. Haud defuere qui certatim, si cunctaretur Caesar, vi acturos testificantes erumperent curia. conglobatur promisca multitudo populumque Romanum eadem orare clamitat. nec Claudius ultra expectato obvius apud forum praebet se gratantibus, senatumque ingressus decretum postulat quo iustae inter patruos fratrumque filias nuptiae etiam in posterum statuerentur. nec tamen repertus est nisi unus talis matrimonii cupitor, Alledius Severus eques Romanus, quem plerique Agrippinae gratia impulsum ferebant. versa ex eo civitas et cuncta feminae oboediebant, non per lasciviam, ut Messalina, rebus Romanis inludenti. adductum et quasi virile servitium: palam severitas ac saepius superbia; nihil domi impudicum, nisi dominationi expediret. cupido auri immensa obtentum habebat, quasi subsidium regno pararetur.
8. On the day of the marriage Silanus committed suicide, having up to that time prolonged his hope of life, or else choosing that day to heighten the popular indignation. His sister, Calvina, was banished from Italy. Claudius further added that sacrifices after the ordinances of King Tullius, and atonements were to be offered by the pontiffs in the grove of Diana, amid general ridicule at the idea devising penalties and propitiations for incest at such a time. Agrippina, that she might not be conspicuous only by her evil deeds, procured for Annaeus Seneca a remission of his exile, and with it the praetorship. She thought this would be universally welcome, from the celebrity of his attainments, and it was her wish too for the boyhood of Domitius to be trained under so excellent an instructor, and for them to have the benefit of his counsels in their designs on the throne. For Seneca, it was believed, was devoted to Agrippina from a remembrance of her kindness, and an enemy to Claudius from a bitter sense of wrong.   8. Die nuptiarum Silanus mortem sibi conscivit, sive eo usque spem vitae produxerat, seu delecto die augendam ad invidiam. Calvina soror eius Italia pulsa est. addidit Claudius sacra ex legibus Tulli regis piaculaque apud lucum Dianae per pontifices danda, inridentibus cunctis quod poenae procurationesque incesti id temporis exquirerentur. at Agrippina ne malis tantum facinoribus notesceret veniam exilii pro Annaeo Seneca, simul praeturam impetrat, laetum in publicum rata ob claritudinem studiorum eius, utque Domitii pueritia tali magistro adolesceret et consiliis eiusdem ad spem dominationis uterentur, quia Seneca fidus in Agrippinam memoria beneficii et infensus Claudio dolore iniuriae credebatur.
9. It was then resolved to delay no longer. Memmius Pollio, the consul-elect, was induced by great promises to deliver a speech, praying Claudius to betroth Octavia to Domitius. The match was not unsuitable to the age of either, and was likely to develop still more important results. Pollio introduced the motion in much the same language as Vitellius had lately used. So Octavia was betrothed, and Domitius, besides his previous relationship, became now the emperor's affianced son-in-law, and an equal of Britannicus, through the exertions of his mother and the cunning of those who had been the accusers of Messalina, and feared the vengeance of her son.   9. Placitum dehinc non ultra cunctari, sed designatum consulem Mammium Pollionem ingentibus promissis inducunt sententiam expromere, qua oraretur Claudius despondere Octaviam Domitio, quod aetati utriusque non absurdum et maiora patefacturum erat. Pollio haud disparibus verbis ac nuper Vitellius censet; despondeturque Octavia, ac super priorem necessitudinem sponsus iam et gener Domitius aequari Britannico studiis matris, arte eorum quis ob accusatam Messalinam ultio ex filio timebatur.


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