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Annals by Tacitus
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book III Chapter 52: Against luxury[AD 22]
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Gaius Sulpicius and Didius Haterius were the next consuls. It was a year free from commotions abroad, while at home stringent legislation was apprehended against the luxury which had reached boundless excess in everything on which wealth is lavished. Some expenses, though very serious, were generally kept secret by a concealment of the real prices; but the costly preparations for gluttony and dissipation were the theme of incessant talk, and had suggested a fear that a prince who clung to oldfashioned frugality would be too stern in his reforms. In fact, when the aedile Gaius Bibulus broached the topic, all his colleagues had pointed out that the sumptuary laws were disregarded, that prohibited prices for household articles were every day on the increase, and that moderate measures could not stop the evil. The Senate on being consulted had, without handling the matter, referred it to the emperor. Tiberius, after long considering whether such reckless tastes could be repressed, whether the repression of them would not be still more hurtful to the State, also, how undignified it would be to meddle with what he could not succeed in, or what, if effected, would necessitate the disgrace and infamy of men of distinction, at last addressed a letter to the Senate to the following purport:- C. Sulpicius D. Haterius consules sequuntur, inturbidus externis rebus annus, domi suspecta severitate adversum luxum qui immensum proruperat ad cuncta quis pecunia prodigitur. sed alia sumptuum quamvis graviora dissimulatis plerumque pretiis occultabantur; ventris et ganeae paratus adsiduis sermonibus vulgati fecerant curam ne princeps antiquae parsimoniae durius adverteret. nam incipiente C. Bibulo ceteri quoque aediles disseruerant, sperni sumptuariam legem vetitaque utensilium pretia augeri in dies nec mediocribus remediis sisti posse, et consulti patres integrum id negotium ad principem distulerant. sed Tiberius saepe apud se pensitato an coerceri tam profusae cupidines possent, num coercitio plus damni in rem publicam ferret, quam indecorum adtrectare quod non obtineret vel retentum ignominiam et infamiam virorum inlustrium posceret, postremo litteras ad senatum composuit quarum sententia