Grolier Club.

The Scriptores historiae augustae with an English translation (Volume 3) online

. (page 21 of 42)
Online LibraryGrolier ClubThe Scriptores historiae augustae with an English translation (Volume 3) → online text (page 21 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


p. 361.

8 See note to c. ii. 6.

295



TACITUS

cum interregnum initum est post Romulum, interreges
tamen facti sunt, totusque ille annus per quinos et
quaternos dies sive ternos centum senatoribus de-
putatus est, ita ut qui valerent interreges essent

Ssinguli dumtaxat. qua re factum est ut et plus anno
interregnum iniretur, ne aliquis sub aequabili dignitate

4Romani expers remaneret imperii. hue accedit quod
etiam sub consulibus tribunisque militaribus praeditis
imperio consulari, si quando interregnum initum est,
interreges fuerunt, nee umquam ita vacua i'uit hoc
nomine Romana res publica ut nullus interrex biduo

5 saltern triduove crearetur. video mihi posse obici
curules magistratus apud maiores nostros quadrien-
nium in re publica non fuisse. sed erant tribuni plebis
cum tribunicia potestate, quae pars maxima regalis im-

Gperii est. tamen non est proditum interreges eo
tempore non fuisse ; quin etiam verioribus historicis
referentibus declaratum est consules ab interregibus
post creates, qui haberent reliquorum comitia magis-
tratuum.

II. Ergo, quod rarum et difficile fuit, senatus popu-
lusque Romanus perpessus est ut imperatorem per sex

1 Five days only, according to Livy.

2 These consular tribunes formed a board of magistrates,
varying from three to six, elected instead of consuls during the
early republic, in those years hi which there was need for more
than two officials vested with supreme power.

3 There are 28 known years in the history of the republic
in which interreges were appointed ; the last was 52 B.C.

4 A period ot five years (= 375-371 B.C.) according to Livy,
vi. 35, 10, of four years according to Eutropius, ii. 3, or of one
year according to Diodorus, xv. 75. It is generally agreed that
sucli a period of anarchy could never have existed. An ex-
planation has been sought in the theory that these years were
inserted in blank in the official lists in an attempt to make



TACITUS I. 3 II. 1

was proclaimed after the reign of Romulus, regents
were actually created, and that whole year was divided
up among the hundred senators for periods of three,
or four, or five days apiece, 1 in such a way that there
was only one single regent who held the power. From
this it resulted that the regency remained in force for
even more than a year, in order that there might be no
one of those equal in rank who had not held the rule
at Rome. To this must be added that also in the time
of the consuls and the military tribunes vested with
consular power," whenever a regency was proclaimed
there were always regents, and never did the Roman
commonwealth so entirely lack this office that there
was not some regent created, though it might be for
only two or three days. 3 I perceive, indeed, that the
argument can be brought up against me that for the
space of four years 4 during the time of our ancestors
there were no curule magistrates in the commonwealth.
There were, however, tribunes of the plebs vested with
the tribunician power, which is the most important
element of the power of a king. 5 Even so, it is no-
where stated that there were no regents in that time ;
and indeed it has been declared on the authority of
more reliable historians that consuls 6 were later created
by regents for the purpose of conducting the election
of the other magistrates.

II. And so the senate and people of Rome passed
through an unusual and a difficult situation, namely,

these agree with the synchronism of events which was adopted
by Roman chronographers ; see Cambr. Anc. Hist., vii. p. 322.
Another explanation presupposes that during this time there
was in control a revolutionary government, which later was not
recognized as legal ; see Beloch, Rom. Gesch., p. 31.

3 i.e., the emperor; see note (o Pius, iv. 7.

8 Consular tribunes according to Livy, vi. 86, 3.

297



TACITUS

menses, dum bonus quaeritur, res publica non haberet.

2 quae ilia concordia militum ! quanta populo quies !
quam gravis senatus auctoritas fuit ! l nullus usquam
tyrannus emersit, sub iudicio senatus et militum popu-
lique Romani totus orbis est temperatus ; non illi
principem quemquam, ut recte facerent, non tri-
buniciam potestatem formidabant sed quod est in
vita optimum se timebant.

3 Dicenda est tamen causa tarn felicium morarum et
speciatim in monumentis publicis inserenda et 2 eadem
posteris 3 human! generis stupenda moderatio, ut dis-
cant qui regna cupiunt non raptum ire imperia sed

4inereri. interfecto fraude Aureliano, ut superiore
libro scriptum est, calliditate servi nequissimi, errore
militarium (ut apud quos quaelibet commenta pluri-
mum valent, dum modo irati audiunt, plerumque
temulenti, certe consiliorum prope semper expertes 4 ),
reversis ad bonam mentem omnibus eisdemque ab
exercitu graviter confutatis, coeptum est quaeri ecquis

5 fieri deberet ex omnibus princeps. tune odio prae-
sentium exercitus, qui creare imperatorem raptim
solebat, ad senatum litteras misit, de quibus priore
libro iam dictum est, petens ut ex ordine suo princi-

6 pern legerent. verum senatus, sciens lectos a se
principes militibus non placere, rem ad milites rettulit.
dumque id saepius fit, sextus peractus est meusis.

1 fuit Draeger, Peter; fuerit P. *et om. in P. 3 eadem
posteris Jordan, Ellis, Hohl ; eacU>m posteros P; etiam ad
posteros Peter 2 . 4 expertes Jordan ; expertis P, Peter.



l Aur., xxxvi. * Aur., xli. 1-2.

8 So also c. i. 1 ; ii. 1 ; Aur., xl. 4 ; but in fact the interval
was not more than two months, since Aurelian was killed in
October or November, 275 (see note to Aur., xxxvii. 4), and

298



TACITUS II. 2-6

that for sixjmonths, while a good man was being sought,
the commonwealth had no emperor. What harmony
there was then among the soldiers ! What peace for
the people ! How full of weight the authority of the
senate ! Nowhere did any pretender arise, and the
judgement of the senate, the soldiers and the people of
Rome guided the entire world ; it was not because they
feared any emperor or the power of a tribune that they
did righteously, but what is the noblest thing in life
because they feared themselves.

I must, however, describe the cause of a delay so
fortunate and an instance of unselfishness which should
both receive special mention in the public records and
be admired by future generations of the human race, in
order that those who covet kingdoms may learn not to
seize power but to merit it. After Aurelian had been
treacherously slain, as I have described in the previous
book, 1 by the trick of a most base slave and the folly
of the officers (for with these any falsehood gains
credence, provided only they hear it when angry, being
often drunken and at best almost always devoid of
counsel), when all returned again to sanity and the troops
had sternly put down those persons, the question was at
once raised whether any one of them all should be
chosen as emperor. Then the army, which was wont
to create emperors hastily, in their anger at those who
were present, sent to the senate the letter of which I
have already written in the previous book, 2 asking it to
choose an emperor from its own numbers. The senate,
however, knowing that the emperors it had chosen
were not acceptable to the soldiers, referred the matter
back to them. And while this was being done a
number of times the space of six months elapsed. 3

Tacitus was made emperor before the end of the year. The
date in c. iii. 2 (cf. also c. xiii. C) is therefore too early.

299



TACITUS

III. Interest tamen ut sciatur quemadmodum
2 Tacitus imperator sit creatus. die VII kal. Octob.

cum in Curiam Pompilianam ordo amplissimus con-
sedisset, Velius Cornificius Gordianus consul dixit :

3 " Referemus ad vos, patres conscripti, quod saepe
rettulimus ; imperator est deligendus, cum l exercitus
sine principe recte diutius stare non possit, simul

4quia cogit necessitas. nam limitem Transrhenanum
Germani rupisse dicuntur, occupasse urbes validas,

5nobiles, divites et potentes. iam si nihil de Persicis
motibus nuntiatur, cogitate tarn leves esse mentes
Syrorum ut regnare vel feminas cupiant potius quam

6 nostram perpeti sanctimoniam. quid Africam ? quid
Illyricum ? quid Aegyptum earumque omnium
partium exercitus? quo usque sine principe credimus

7 posse consistere ? quare agite, patres conscripti, et
principem dicite. aut accipiet enim exercitus quern
elegeritis aut, si refutaverit, alterum faciet."

IV. Post haec cum Tacitus, qui erat primae sen-
tentiae consularis, sententiam incertum quam vellet

2 dicere, 2 omnis senatus adclamavit : " Tacite Auguste,
deus te servet. te deligimus, te principem facimus,

3 tibi curam rei publicae orbisque mandamus, suscipe
imperium ex senatus auctoritate, tui loci, tuae vitae,
tuae mentis est quod mereris. princeps senatus recte
Augustus creatur, primae sententiae vir recte im-

1 cum om. in P. z incertam\ . . . diceret P.



1 M. Claudius Tacitus Augustus (275-276) ; there is no warrant
for the name Aurelius given to him iu Aur., xli. 4. According
to Zonaras, xii. 28, he was at this time 75 years old.

2 See Aur. t xli. 3 and notes.

3 See note to Aur., xxxv. 4. 4 See note to Val. t v. 4.

300



TACITUS III. 1 IV. S

III. It is important, however, that it should be
known how Tacitus 1 was created emperor. On the

seventh day before the Kalends of October, when the 25 Sept. (275;

most noble body had assembled in the Senate-house of

Pompilius, 2 Velius Cornificius Gordianus the consul

spoke as follows : " We shall now bring before you,

Conscript Fathers, what we have often brought before

you previously ; you must choose an emperor, because

it is not right for the army to remain longer without

a prince, and at the same time because necessity

compels. For it is said that the Germans have broken

through the frontier beyond the Rhine 3 and have seized

cities that are strong and famous and rich and powerful.

And even if we hear nothing now of any movement

among the Persians, reflect that the Syrians are so

light-minded that rather than submit to our righteous

rule they desire even a woman to reign over them.

What of Africa? What of Illyricium? What of

Egypt and the armies of all these regions ? How long,

do we suppose, can they stand firm without a prince ?

Wherefore up, Conscript Fathers, and name a prince.

For the army will either accept the one you name or,

if it reject him, will choose another."

IV. Thereupon when Tacitus, the consular whose
right it was to speak his opinion first, began to express
some sentiment, it is uncertain what, the whole senate
acclaimed him 4 : " Tacitus Augustus, may God keep
you ! We choose you, we name you prince, to your
care we commit the commonwealth and the world.
Now take the imperial power by authority of the
senate, for by reason of your rank, your life and your
mind you deserve it. Rightfully is the prince of the
senate created Augustus, rightfully is the man whose
privilege it is to speak his opinion first created our

301



TACITUS

4 perator creatur. ecquis melius quam gravis imperat ?
ecquis melius quam litteratus imperat ? quod bonum
faustum salutareque sit. diu privatus fuisti. scis
quemadmodum debeas imperare, qui alios principes
pertulisti. scis quemadmodum debeas imperare, qui
de aliis principibus iudicasti."

6 At ille : " Miror, patres conscripti, vos in locum
Aureliani, fortissimi imperatoris, senem velle prin-

6 cipem facere. en membra, quae iaculari valeant, quae
hastile torquere, quae clipeis intonare, quae ad ex-
emplum docendi militis frequenter equitare. vix
munia senatus implemus, vix sententias, ad quas nos

7 locus artat, edicimus. videte diligentius quam
aetatem de cubiculo atque umbra in pruinas aes-
tusque mittatis. ac probaturos senem imperatorem

Smilites creditis ? videte ne et rei publicae non eum
quern velitis principem detis, et mihi hoc solum obesse
incipiat quod me unanimiter delegistis."

V. Post haec adclamationes senatus haec fuerunt :
"Et Traianus ad imperium senex venit." dixerunt
decies. "Et Hadrianus ad imperium senex venit."
dixerunt decies. " Et Antoninus ad imperium senex
venit." dixerunt decies. " Et tu legisti : * In-
canaque menta regis Roman!.' dixerunt decies.
"Ecquis melius quam senex imperat?" dixerunt
decies. " Imperatorem te, non militem facimus."

1 Aeneid, vi. 809-810 ; of. Hadr., ii. 8.
302



TACITUS IV. 4 V. 1

emperor. Who can rule more ably than a man of
authority? Who can rule more ably than a man of
letters? May it prove happy, auspicious, and to the
general welfare ! Long heve you been a commoner.
You know how you should rule, for you have been
subject to other princes. You know how you should
rule, for on other princes you have rendered judge-
ment."

Tacitus, however, replied : "I marvel, Conscript
Fathers, that in the place of Aurelian, a most valiant
emperor, you should wish to make an aged man your
prince. Behold these members, which should be able
to cast a dart, to hurl a spear, to clash a shield, and,
as an example for instructing the soldiery, to ride with-
out ceasing. Scarce can I fulfil the duties of a senator,
scarce can I speak the opinions to which my position
constrains me. Observe with greater care my advanced
age, which you are now sending out from the shade of
the chamber into the cold and the heat. And think
you that the soldiers will welcome an old man as their
emperor ? Look you lest you give the commonwealth
a prince whom you do not really desire and lest men
begin to raise this as the sole objection against me,
namely, that you have chosen me unanimously."

V. Thereupon there were the following acclama-
tions from the senate : " Trajan also came to power
when an old man." This they said ten times.
" Hadrian also came to power when an old man."
This they said ten times. " Antoninus also came to
power when an old man." This they said ten times.
" You yourself have read, ' And the hoary beard of
a Roman king.' " l This they said ten times. " Can
any one rule more ably than an old man ? " This they
said ten times. "We are choosing you as an emperor,

303



TACITUS

2 dixerunt vicies. "Tu iube, milites pugnent." dixe-
runt tricies. " Habes prudentiam et bonum fratrem."
dixerunt decies. " Severus dixit caput imperare non
pedes." dixerunt tricies. " Animum tuum, non
corpus eligimus." dixerunt vicies. " Tacite Auguste,
di te servent ! '

3 Deinde omnes interrogate 1 praeterea qui post
Taciturn sedebat senator consularis, Maecius Faltonius
VI. Nicomachus, in haec verba disseruit : " Semper
quidem, patres conscripti, recte atque prudenter rei
publicae magnificus hie ordo consuluit, neque a
quoquam orbis terrae populo solidior umquam ex-
spectata sapientia est. attamen nulla umquam neque
gravior neque prudentior in hoc sacrario dicta sen-

2tentia est. seniorem principem fecimus et virum
qui omnibus quasi pater consulat. nihil ab hoc
inmaturum, nihil praeproperum, nihil asperum for-
midandum est. omnia seria, cuncta gravia, et quasi

3ipsa res publica iubeat, auguranda sunt. scit enim
qualem sibi principem semper optaverit nee potest 2
aliud nobis exhibere quam ipse desideravit et voluit.

4enimvero si recolere velitis vetusta ilia prodigia,
Nerones dico et Heliogabalos et Cormnodos, seu
potius semper Incommodos, certe non hominum magis

Svitia ilia quam aetatum fuerunt. di avertant prin-
cipes pueros et patres patriae dici impuberes et
quibus ad subscribendum magistri litterarii manus

1 interrogate S, Peter ; interrogatis P. *potes P.

1 See Sev. t xviii. 10. 2 Otherwise unknown.



TACITUS V. 2 VI. 5

not as a soldier." This they said twenty times. " Do
you but give commands, and let the soldiers fight."
This they said thirty times. " You have both wisdom
and an excellent brother." This they said ten times.
" Severus said that it is the head that does the ruling
and not the feet." * This they said thirty times. " It
is your mind and not your body that we are choosing."
This they said twenty times. " Tacitus Augustus,
may the gods keep you ! "

Then all were asked their opinions. In addition,
Maecius Faltonius Nicomachus, a a senator of consular
rank, whose place was next to Tacitus', addressed
them as follows: VI. "Always indeed, Conscript
Fathers, has this noble body taken wise and prudent
measures for the commonwealth, and from no nation
in the whole world has sounder wisdom ever been
awaited. At no time, however, has a more wise or
more weighty opinion been voiced in this sacred place.
We have chosen as prince a man advanced in years,
one who will watch over all like a father. From him
we need fear nothing ill-considered, nothing over hasty,
nothing cruel. All his actions, we may predict, will
be earnest, all dignified, and, in fact, what the common-
wealth herself would command. For he knows what
manner of prince he has ever hoped for, and he can-
not show himself to us as other than what he himself
has sought and desired. Indeed, if you should wish
to consider those monsters of old, a Nero, I mean, an
Elagabalus, a Commodus or rather, always, an In-
commodious you would assuredly find that their vices
were due as much to their youth as to the men them-
selves. May the gods forfend that we should give the
title of prince to a child or of Father of his Country to
an immature boy, whose hand a schoolmaster must

305



TACITUS

teneant, quos ad consulatus dandos dulcia et circuli et
6quaecumque voluptas puerilis invitet. quae (malum)
ratio est habere imperatorem, qui famam curare non
noverit, qui quid sit res publica nesciat, nutritorem
timeat, respiciat ad nutricem, virgarum l magistralium
ictibus terrorique subiaceat, faciat eos consules, duces,
iudices quorum vitam, merita, aetates, familias, gesta

7 lion norit. sed quo 2 diutius, patres conscripti, pro-
trahor ? magis gratulemur quod habemus principem
senem, quam ilia iteremus quae plus quam lacrimanda

8 tolerantibus exstiterunt. gratias igitur dis inmortali-
bus ago atque habeo, et quidem pro universa re publica,
teque, Tacite Auguste, convenio, petens, obsecrans ac
libere pro communi patria et 3 legibus deposcens, ne
parvulos tuos, si te citius fata praevenerint, facias
Romani heredes imperil, ne sic rem publicam patresque
conscriptos populumque Romanum ut villulam tuam,

9ut colonos tuos, ut servos tuos relinquas. quare cir-
cumspice, imitare Nervas, Traianos, Hadrianos. ingens
est gloria morientis principis rem publicam magis
amare quam filios."

VII. Hac oratione et Tacitus ipse vehementer est
motus, et totus senatorius ordo concussus, statimque
adclamatum est, " Omnes, omnes."

2 Inde itum ad Campum Martium, ubi comitiale
tribunal ascendit. ibi 4 praefectus urbis Aelius Cesetti-

1 uirgarum Peter, Hohl ; magnarum P 1 . 2 quo Salm.,

Peter; quod P. ' A et ins. by Salm.; om. in P. 4 ubi . . .
ibi Peter; ibi . . . ubi P, Hohl.

1 i.e., adopt a successor.

' Otherwise unknown. According to the list of the " Chrono-
grapher of 354," Postumius Suagrus was prefect of the city in
275.

306



TACITUS VJ. 6 VII. 2

guide for the signing of his name and who is induced
to confer a consulship by sweetmeats or toys or other
such childish delights. What wisdom is there a
plague upon it ! in having as emperor one who has
not learned to care for fame, who knows not what the
commonwealth is, who stands in dread of a guardian,
who looks to a nurse, who is in subjection to the blows
or the fear of a schoolmaster's rod, who appoints as
consuls or generals or judges men whose lives, whose
merits, whose years, whose families, whose achieve-
ments he knows not at all? But why, Conscript
Fathers, do I proceed farther. Let us rejoice that we
have an elder as our prince, rather than recall again
those times which appear more than tearful to those
who endured them. And so I bring and offer thanks
to the gods in heaven in behalf, indeed, of the entire
commonwealth, and I appeal to you, Tacitus Augustus,
asking and entreating and openly demanding in the
name of our common fatherland and our laws that, if
Fate should overtake you too speedily, you will not
name your young sons as heirs to the Roman Empire,
or bequeath to them the commonwealth, the Conscript
Fathers, and the Roman people as you would your
farm, your tenants, and your slaves. Wherefore look
about you and follow the example of a Nerva, a Trajan,
and a Hadrian. 1 It is a great glory to a dying prince
to love the commonwealth more than his own sons."

VII. By this speech Tacitus himself was greatly
moved and the whole senatorial order was deeply
affected, and at once they shouted, "So say we all
of us, all of us."

Thereupon they proceeded to the Campus Martius,
where Tacitus mounted the assembly-platform. There
Aelius Cesettianus,- the prefect of the city, spoke as

307



TACITUS

3 aims sic locutus est: "Vos, sanctissimi milites et
sacratissiini vos Quirites, habetis principem, quern de
sententia omnium exercituum senatus elegit, Taciturn
dico, augustissimum virum, ut qui hactenus seiitentiis
suis rem puolicam, DUDC adiuvet 1 iussis atque con-

4sultis." adclamatum est a populo, " Felicissime Tacite
Auguste, di te servent," et reliqua quae solent dici.

6 Hoc loco tacendum non est plerosque in litteras
rettulisse Taciturn absentem et in Campania positum

6 principem nuncupatum ; verum est, nee dissimulare
possum, nam cum rumor emersisset ilium imperatorem
esse faciendum, discessit atque in Baiano duobus

yinensibus fuit. sed inde deductus huic senatus con-
sulto interfuit, quasi vere privatus et qui vere recusaret
VIII. imperium. ac ne quis me temere Graecorum alicui
Latinorumve aestimet credidisse, liabet in Bibliotheca
Ulpia in armario sexto librum elephanttnum, in quo
hoc senatus consultum perscriptum est, cui Tacitus ipse

2manu sua subscripsit. nam diu haec senatus consulta
quae ad principes pertinebant in libris elephantinis
scribebantur.

3 Inde ad exercitus profectus. ibi quoque, cum pri-
mum tribunal ascendit, Moesius Gallicanus praefectus

4 praetorii in haec verba disseruit : " Dedit, sanctissimi
commilitones, senatus principem, quern petistis ; paruit
praeceptis et voluntati 2 castrensium ordo ille nobilis-
simus. plura mihi apud vos praesente iam imperatore

l adiu'uet Peter, Hohl ; diuet P. *uoluntati 27;

uoluptati P.

1 So also Zonaras, xii. 28.

2 See Aur. t i. 7 and notes; the "ivory book" is doubtless as
fictitious as the " libri lintei."

3 Otherwise unknown.

308



TACITUS VII. 3 VI II. 4

follows : " You have now, most venerated soldiers, and
you, most revered fellow-citizens, an emperor chosen
by the senate at the request of all the armies, Tacitus,
I mean, the most august of men, who, as he has in the
past benefited the commonwealth by his counsels, will
now benefit it by his commands and decrees." The
people then shouted, "Tacitus Augustus,! most blessed,
may the gods keep you ! " and all else that it is
customary to say.

At this point I must not leave it unmentioned that
many writers have recorded that Tacitus, when named
emperor, was absent and residing in Campania l ; this
is indeed true, and I cannot dissemble. For when the
rumour spread that he was to be made emperor, he
withdrew and lived for two months at his house at
Baiae. But after being escorted back from there he
took part in this decree of the senate, as though
actually a commoner and one who in truth would
refuse the imperial power. VIII. And now, lest any
one consider that I have rashly put faith in some
Greek or Latin writer, there is in the Ulpian Library, 2
in the sixth case, an ivory book, in which is written
out this decree of the senate, signed by Tacitus himself
with his own hand. For those decrees which pertained
to the emperors were long inscribed in books of
ivory.

He proceeded thence to the troops. Here also, as
soon as he mounted the platform Moesius Gallicanus, 8
the prefect of the guard, spoke as follows: "The
senate has given you, most venerated fellow-soldiers,
the emperor you sought ; and that most noble order
has carried out the instructions and the wishes of the
men of the camps. More I may not say, for the
emperor is now present with you. Do you, then, as

309



TACITUS

non licet loqui. ipsum igitur, qui tueri nos debet,

5loquentem dignanter audite." post hoc Tacitus
Augustus dixit : " Et Traianus ad imperium senex
venit, sed ille ab uno delectus est, at me, sanctissimi
commilitones, primum vos, qui scitis principes adpro-
bare, deinde amplissimus senatus dignum hoc nomine
iudicavit. curabo, enitar, efficiam, ne vobis desint, si
non fortia facta, at saltern l vobis atque imperatore
digna consilia."



Online LibraryGrolier ClubThe Scriptores historiae augustae with an English translation (Volume 3) → online text (page 21 of 42)