ROME-THE FIRST CAESARS.
uncompleted campaign on the pretext of needing his services in suppressing
a revolt in Cappadocia.
Drusus cheerfully answered the summons. Nor did his expedition into Asia
Minor prove less successful than the one which he had conducted into
Germany. The eastern insurrection was quickly quelled, and the military
reputation of Germanicus still further enhanced. He returned to Rome by way
of Egypt; but presently after reaching the city he fell sick and died. Nor
is the suspicion wanting that his death was caused by poison administered
by his adjutant, Cneius Piso, acting, as was believed, under the
inspiration of Tiberius. Piso was arrested and held to answer the charge
before the Senate; but when called to make his defense he virtually
confessed the crime by committing suicide.
The suspicions and jealousies of Tiberius grew by what they fed on. His
baleful eyes were turned with malevolence against the members of the noble
houses of Rome. These might conspire to dethrone him. He therefore adopted
schemes for their destruction. The law of Majestas, intended for the
protection of the Emperor's life and dignity by the punishment of those who
should take counsel against him, was revived and extended to all words and
writings upon which a defamatory construction might be placed. A brood of
miserable informers grew up about the Caesar's court, whose falsehoods and
innuendoes were sufficient to destroy the best men of Rome. There was no
longer safety for any. Poison and the dagger did their work, not only
against those who spoke lightly of the Emperor, but also against those who
spoke not at all. Silence became constructive treason.
These were the first dark days of bloody minded distrust in the Imperial
administration, to be followed by many more as gloomy and dreadful. So keen
became the suspicion of Tiberius that he called no more to his aid the
Senate and Executive Council, so often appealed to by Augustus. Lest any
should encroach upon his prerogatives, or act with treachery towards his
government, he took upon himself the whole burden of the administration.
Finding, however, that the assumption of such a load was as foolish as it
was impossible, he sought to associate with himself only those whose low
birth and meanness of character would exclude them from the list of his
Acting under this instinct of the gutter, Tiberius sought and found a
certain Aalius Sejanus, whom he appointed master of the praetorian guards.
The latter was a base-born and brutal character, who had, nevertheless, all
the ambition and subtlety peculiar to his type. Not long had he been the
right arm of Tiberius until he formed the design of obtaining the
succession for himself. The hereditary principle had already become well
recognized in the Caesarian system. In order, therefore, to reach the
throne, Sejanus perceived that it was necessary for the legitimate heirs to
disappear. At this time the expectation of the state was centered in Drusus
Caesar, son of Tiberius by his first wife, Vipsania. The prince was soon
disposed of by poison. The next step of the base intriguer was to kindle
the Emperor's hatred against Agrippina, the widow of Germanicus. He soon
afterward persuaded Tiberius, who was now greatly under his influence, to
retire to a villa in the island of Capreae, and leave the management of the
state to himself. This left Sejanus free to proceed as he would. Agrippina
and her two sons, Caius and Drusus, together with any others who might seem
to stand in his way, were either assassinated or thrown into prison.
Tiberius meanwhile, in his place of resort, gave himself up to gluttony and
repose, and Rome was left to the mercy of a brute.
After a season, however, the story of Sejanus's high-handed proceedings
penetrated even the stupefaction of Tiberius. His old jealousy flamed up,
and he resolved to bring his haughty subordinate to a sudden accounting. By
this time, however, Sejanus had concluded that his master could now be
spared from further interference in the affairs of Rome. He accordingly
formed a plan for his assassination; but Tiberius outwitted his treacherous
subordinate, and in A. D. 31 Sejanus was seized and executed.
For the moment, there was joy in Rome over the destruction of the tyrant.