Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
upon some one else?  Anybody could do homage.  What they had to avoid was the possibility that some people’s obstinacy might irritate the emperor at the outset of his reign, while his intentions were undecided and he was still busy watching faces and listening to what was said.  ‘I have not forgotten,’ he went on, ’the days of my youth or the constitution which our fathers and grandfathers established.[253] But while admiring a distant past, I support the existing state of things.  I pray for good emperors, but I take them as they come.  As for Thrasea, it was not my speech but the senate’s verdict which did for him.  Nero took a savage delight in farces like that trial, and, really, the friendship of such an emperor cost me as much anxiety as banishment did to others.  In fine, Helvidius may be as brave and as firm as any Brutus or Cato; I am but a senator and we are all slaves together.  Besides, I advise my friend not to try and get an upper hand with our emperor or to force his tuition on a man of ripe years,[254] who wears the insignia of a triumph and is the father of two grown sons.  Bad rulers like absolute sovereignty, and even the best of them must set some limit to their subjects’ independence.’

This heated interchange of arguments found supporters for both views.  The party which wanted the deputies chosen by lot eventually prevailed, since even the moderates were anxious to observe the precedent, and all the most prominent members tended to vote with them, for fear of encountering ill-feeling if they were selected.

This dispute was followed by another.  The Praetors, who in those 9 days administered the Treasury,[255] complained of the spread of poverty in the country and demanded some restriction of expenditure.  The consul-designate said that, as the undertaking would be so vast and the remedy so difficult, he was in favour of leaving it for the emperor.  Helvidius maintained that it ought to be settled by the senate’s decision.  When the consuls began to take each senator’s opinion, Vulcacius Tertullinus, one of the tribunes, interposed his veto, on the ground that they could not decide such an important question in the emperor’s absence.  Helvidius had previously moved that the Capitol should be restored at the public cost, and with the assistance of Vespasian.  The moderates all passed over this suggestion in silence and soon forgot it, but there were others who took care to remember it.[256]

It was at this time that Musonius Rufus[257] brought an action 10 against Publius Celer on the ground that it was only by perjury that he had secured the conviction of Soranus Barea.[258] It was felt that this trial restarted the hue and cry against professional accusers.  But the defendant was a rascal of no importance who could not be sheltered, and, moreover, Barea’s memory was sacred.  Celer had set up as a teacher of philosophy and then committed perjury against his pupil Barea, thus treacherously violating the very principles of friendship which he professed to teach.  The case was put down for the next day’s meeting.[259] But now that a taste for revenge was aroused, people were all agog to see not so much Musonius and Publius as Priscus and Marcellus and the rest in court.

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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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