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Tiberius Chapter 61: Further cruelties.
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Presently he broke out into every form of cruelty, for which he never lacked occasion, venting it on the friends and even the acquaintances, first of his mother [Note 1], then of his grandsons and daughter-in-law, and finally of Sejanus. After the death of Sejanus he was more cruel than ever, which showed that his favourite was not wont to egg him on, but on the contrary gave him the opportunities which he himself desired. Yet in a brief and sketchy autobiography which he composed he had the assurance to write that he had punished Sejanus because he found him venting his hatred on the children of his son Germanicus. Whereas in fact he had himself put one of them to death after he had begun to suspect Sejanus and the other after the latter's downfall. It is a long story to run through his acts of cruelty in detail; it will be enough to mention the forms which they took, as samples of his barbarity. Not a day passed without an execution, not even those that were sacred and holy; for he put some to death even on New Year's day. Many were accused and condemned with their children and even by their children. The relatives of the victims were forbidden to mourn for them. Special rewards were voted the accusers and sometimes even the witnesses. The word of no informer was doubted. Every crime was treated as capital, even the utterance of a few simple words. A poet was charged with having slandered Agamemnon in a tragedy, and a writer of history of having called Brutus and Cassius the last of the Romans. The writers were at once put to death and their works destroyed, although they had been read with approval in public some years before in the presence of Augustus himself. Some of those who were consigned to prison were denied not only the consolation of reading, but even the privilege of conversing and talking together. Of those who were cited to plead their causes some opened their veins at home, feeling sure of being condemned and wishing to avoid annoyance and humiliation, while others drank poison in full view of the Senate; yet the wounds of the former were bandaged and they were hurried half-dead, but still quivering, to the prison. Every one of those who were executed was thrown out upon the Stairs of Mourning and dragged to the Tiber with hooks, as many as twenty being so treated in a single day, including women and children. Since ancient usage made it impious to strangle maidens, young girls were first violated by the executioner and then strangled. Those who wished to die were forced to live; for he thought death so light a punishment that when he heard that one of the accused, Carnulus by name, had anticipated his execution, he cried: Carnulus has given me the slip; and when he was inspecting the prisons and a man begged for a speedy death, he replied: I have not yet become your friend. An ex-consul [Note 2] has recorded in his Annals that once at a large dinner-party, at which the writer himself was present, Tiberius was suddenly asked in a loud voice by one of the dwarfs that stood beside the table among the jesters why Paconius, who was charged with treason, remained so long alive; that the emperor at the time chided him for his saucy tongue, but a few days later wrote to the Senate to decide as soon as possible about the execution of Paconius. |
Note 1: mother = Livia
Event: Vices of Tiberius