Page images
[graphic][merged small]



were masters of the state, and held the Claudii at a distance.

Perhaps Tiberius would never have returned to power in Rome had not chance aided him in the sudden taking off, in a strange and unforeseen manner, of Caius and Lucius Cæsar. The latter died at Marseilles, following a brief illness, shortly after the return of Tiberius to Rome, August 29, in the year 2 A.D. It was a great grief to Augustus, and, twenty months after, was followed by another still more serious. In February of the year 4, Caius also died, in Lycia, of a wound received in a skirmish. These two deaths were so premature, so close to each other, and so opportune for Tiberius, that posterity has refused to see in them simply one of the many mischances of life. Later generations have tried to believe that Livia had a hand in these fatalities. Yet he who understands life at all knows that it is easier to imagine and suspect romantic poisonings of this sort than it is to carry them out. Even leaving the character of Livia out of consideration, it is difficult to imagine how she would have dared, or have been able, to poison the two youths at so great a distance from Rome, one in Asia, the other in Gaul, by means of a long train of accomplices, and this at a moment when the family of Augustus was divided by many hatreds and every member was suspected, spied upon, and watched by a hostile party. Furthermore, it would have been necessary to carry this out at a time when the example of Julia proved to all that relationship to Augustus was not a sufficient defense against the rigors of the law and the severity of public opinion when roused by any serious crime. Besides, it is a recognized fact that the people always incline to suspect a crime whenever a man prominent in the public eye dies before his time. At Turin, for example, there still lives a tradition among the people that Cavour was poisoned, some say by the order of Napoleon III, others by the Jesuits, simply because his life was suddenly cut off, at the age of fifty-two, at the moment when Italy had greatest need of him. Indeed, even to-day we are impressed when we see in the family of Augustus so many premature deaths of young men; but precisely because these untimely deaths are frequent we come to see in them the predestined ruin of a worn-out

race in history. All ancient families at a certain moment exhaust themselves. This is the reason why no aristocracy has been able to endure for long unless continually renewed, and why all those that have refused to take in new blood have failed from the face of the earth. There is no serious reason for attributing so horrible a crime to a woman who was venerated by the best men of her time; and the fables which the populace, always faithful to Julia, and therefore hostile to Livia, recounted on this score, and which the historians of the succeeding age collected, have no decisive value.

The death of Caius and Lucius Cæsar was therefore a great good fortune for Tiberius, because it determined his return to power. The situation of the empire was growing worse on every hand; Germany was in the midst of revolt, and it was necessary to turn the army over to vigorous hands. Augustus, old and irresolute, still hesitated, fearing the dislike which was brewing both in the senate and among the people against the too dictatorial Tiberius. At last, however, he was forced to yield.

The more serious, more authoritative, more ancient party of the senatorial nobility, in accord with Livia and headed by a nephew of Pompey, Cnæus Cornelius Cinna, forced him to recall Tiberius, threatening otherwise to have recourse to some violent measures the exact character of which we do not know. The unpopularity of Tiberius was a source of continual misgivings to the aging Augustus, and it was only through this threat of a yet greater danger that they finally overcame his hesitation. On June 26, in the fourth year of our era, Augustus adopted Tiberius as his son, and had conferred upon him for ten years the office of tribune, thus making him his colleague. Tiberius returned to power, and, in accordance with the wishes of Augustus, adopted as his son Germanicus, the elder son of Drusus and Antonia, his faithful friend. He was an intelligent, active lad of whom all entertained the highest hopes.

On his return to power, Tiberius, together with Augustus, took measures for reorganizing the army and the state, and sought to bring about by means of new marriages and acts of clemency a closer union between the Julian and Claudian

branches of the family, then bitterly divided by the violent struggles of recent years. The terms of Julia's exile were made easier; Germanicus married Agrippina, another daughter of Julia and

From the statue in Naples

fondness for pleasure, gave evidence that he possessed the requisite qualities of a statesman-firmness, sound judgment, and energy. The policy which dictated these marriages was always the same-to make

of the family of Augustus one formidable and united body, so that it might constitute the solid base of the entire government of the empire. But, alas! wise as were the intentions, the ferments of discord and the unhappiness of the times prevailed against them. Too much had been hoped for in recalling Tiberius to power. During the ten years of senile government, the empire had been reduced to a state of utter disorder. The measures planned by Tiberius for reestablishing the finances of the state roused the liveliest discontent among the wealthy classes in Italy, and again excited their hatred against him. In the year 6 A.D., the great revolt of Pannonia broke out and for a moment filled Italy with unspeakable terror. In an instant of mob fury, they even came to fear that the peninsula would be invaded and Rome besieged by the barbarians of the Danube. Tiberius came to the rescue, and with patience and coolness put down the insurrection, not by facing it in open conflict, but by drawing out the war to such a length as to weary the enemy, a method both safe and wise, considering the unreliable. character of the troops at his command. But at Rome, once the fear had subsided, the long duration of the war became a new cause for disand anger, and offered to many a pretext for venting their longcherished hatred against Tiberius, who was accused of being afraid, of not knowing how to end the war, and of drawing it out for motives of personal ambition. The party averse to Tiberius again




Agrippa, and a sister of Julia the Younger; the widow of Caius Cæsar, Livilla, sister of Germanicus and daughter of Antonia, was given to Drusus, the son of Tiberius, a young man born in the same year as Germanicus. Drusus, despite certain defects, such as irascibility and a marked


raised its head and resorted once more to its former policy-that of urging on Germanicus against Tiberius. The former was young, ambitious, bold, and would have preferred daring strokes and a war quickly concluded. It is certain that there would have risen then and there a Germanican and a Tiberian party, if Augustus, on this occasion, had not energetically sustained Tiberius from Rome. But the situation again became strained and full of uncertainty.

In the midst of these conflicts and these fears, a new scandal broke out in the family of Augustus. The Younger Julia, like her mother, allowed herself to be caught in violation of the lex Julia de adulteriis, and she also was compelled to take the road of exile. In what manner and at whose instance the scandal was disclosed we do not know; we do know, however, that Augustus was very fond of his granddaughter, whence we can assume that in this moment of turbid agitation, when so much hatred was directed against his family and his house, and when so many forces were uniting to overthrow Tiberius again, notwithstanding the fact that he had saved the empire, Augustus felt that he must a second time submit to his own law. He did not dare contend with the puritanical party, with the more conservative minority in the senate, the friends of Tiberius,-over this second victim in his family. Without, a doubt everything possible was done to hush up the scandal, and there would scarcely have come down to us even a summary notice of the exile of the second Julia had it not been that among those exiled with her was the poet Ovid, who was to fill twenty centuries with his laments and to bring them to the ears of the latest generations.

Ovid's exile is one of those mysteries of history which has most keenly excited the curiosity of the ages. Ovid himself, without knowing it, has rendered it more acute

by his prudence in not speaking more clearly of the cause of his exile, making only rare allusions to it, which may be summed up in his famous words, carmen et error. It is for this reason that poster


From the statue in the Lateran Museum, Rome


ity has for twenty centuries been asking itself what was this error which sent the exquisite poet away to die among the barbarous Getæ on the frozen banks of the Danube; and naturally they have never compassed his secret. But if, therefore, it is

impossible to say exactly what the error was which cost Ovid so dearly, it is possi

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]

having violated some clause of the lex Julia de adulteriis, which, as we know, was so comprehensive in its provisions that it considered as accessories to the crime those guilty of various acts and deeds which, judged even with modern rigor and severity, would seem reprehensible, to be sure, but not deserving of such terrible punishment. Ovid was certainly involved under one of these clauses,-which one we do not, and never shall, know,-but his error, whether serious or light, was not the true cause of his condemnation. It was the pretext used by the more con


the pleasures which had transformed the austere matron of a former day into an extravagant and undisciplined creature given to voluptuousness; the poet who had gained the admiration of women especially by flattering their most dangerous and perverse tendencies. The puritanical party hated and combatted this trend of the newer generations, and therefore, also, the poetry of Ovid on account of its disastrous effects upon the women, whom it weaned from the virtues most prized in former days-frugality, simplicity, family affection, and purity of life. The Roman ladies

« PreviousContinue »