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Tacitus: Annals: Book 1 [80]

The Works of Tacitus

tr. by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

[1864-1877]


Tacitus: Annals Book 1 [80]

80. Poppaeus Sabinus was continued in his government of the province of Moesia with the addition of Achaia and Macedonia. It was part of Tiberius' character to prolong indefinitely military commands and to keep many men to the end of their life with the same armies and in the same administrations. Various motives have been assigned for this. Some say that, out of aversion to any fresh anxiety, he retained what he had once approved as a permanent arrangement; others, that he grudged to see many enjoying promotion. Some, again, think that though he had an acute intellect, his judgment was irresolute, for he did not seek out eminent merit, and yet he detested vice. From the best men he apprehended danger to himself, from the worst, disgrace to the State. He went so far at last in this irresolution, that he appointed to provinces men whom he did not mean to allow to leave Rome.

81. I can hardly venture on any positive statement about the consular elections, now held for the first time under this emperor, or, indeed, subsequently, so conflicting are the accounts we find not only in historians but in Tiberius' own speeches. Sometimes he kept back the names of the candidates, describing their origin, their life and military career, so that it might be understood who they were. Occasionally even these hints were withheld, and, after urging them not to disturb the elections by canvassing, he would promise his own help towards the result. Generally he declared that only those had offered themselves to him as candidates whose names he had given to the consuls, and that others might offer themselves if they had confidence in their influence or merit. A plausible profession this in words, but really unmeaning and delusive, and the greater the disguise of freedom which marked it, the more cruel the enslavement into which it was soon to plunge us.


Next: Book 2 [1]

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