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in character, that I think it very probable he might have tried it upon Tiberius in his long death-bed conversation with him at Nola-Revocatum er itinere Tiberium diu secreto sermone detinuit, neque post ulli majori negotio animum accommodavit. (Suetonius.) This passage
is very curious, and some important conjectures may fairly be grounded upon it. Suetonius says that the conference was long, and also that it was private; and he adds that Augustus, after his conversation with his successor, never turned his thoughts to any important business, or, in other words, any matter of state whatever. The secrecy of this conference very much favours my conjecture, that he made an attempt to dissuade Tiberius from holding on the empire, and the length of time it took up corroborates the probability of that conjecture; and I further incline to think it likely that it might make serious impressions on Tiberius's mind, as to the measure proposed; for I can never believe that the repugnance,
with which Tiberius took the charge of the government upon him, was wholly feigned, though historians agree in giving it that turn; his long and voluntary exile in the island of Rhodes, where he seemed for a time to have renounced all desire of succeeding to the empire, might be a reason with Augustus for making this experiment upon a man of his cold and sequestered habits. At all events I think it highly natural to suppose, that Augustus would not have closetted him in this manner, if it were only for the purpose of giving him lessons and instructions in the arts of government; for in that case his vanity, which made him act a part for applause even in his expiring moments, would have opened his doors to his family and attendants, that they might have been present to record his sayings; and we should have had as many fine maxims in his dying speech, as Socrates uttered in his prison, or Seneca in his bath : Add to this, that he certainly bore no good will to Tiberius, who was not a successor to his mind, nor could he wish to elevate the Claudian family to the throne : It is not likely however that he altogether succeeded with Tiberius, or brought him to make any
absolute promise of abdication; for in that case he would not have failed to have taken credit with the people about him, for having been the means of restoring the liberties of his country, and he would have made as great a parade of patriotism, as would have become a Cato or a Solon; but the author above quoted says he took no further account of public business, and therefore we may conclude the conference, if it took that turn, did not come to any satisfactory conclusion on the point.
Tiberius on his accession found the empire in a critical situation, for besides the movements which Clemens on one part and Scribonius Libo on another were making, the Pannonian and German armies were in absolute revolt. This was no time for making any change in the constitution of the imperial power, had he been so disposed; as he was a man of deep measures, he held himself on the reserve with the senate, and suffered them to solicit his aceeptance of the sovereign power upon their knees : He wished to have assessors in the government; he would take his share, and whatever department in the state they should recommend to his charge, he would readily undertake. Had he persisted in refusing the empire, or had he attempted to throw the constitution back to its first principles of freedom, the mutinous legions would have forced the sovereignty upon Germanicus; but by this suggestion of a partition he artfully sounded the temper of the senate, where there were some leading men of very doubtful characters, whom Augustus had marked out in his last illness; from two of these, Asinius Gallus and L. Aruntius, Tiberius's proposal drew an answer, in which they demanded of him to declare what particular department of the state he would chuse to have committed to him. This was opening enough for one of his penetration, and he drew his conclusions upon the spot, evading for the time the snare that was laid for him.
The servile and excessive adulation of the senate soon convinced hiin, that the Roman spirit had suffered a total change under the reign of Augustus, and that the state might indeed be thrown into convulsions by any attempt at a change in favour of freedom, but that slavery and submission under a despotic master was their determined choice, and if the alternative was to lie between himself and any other, there was little room for hesitation : Who more fit than the adopted heir of Augustus, and a descendant of the Claudian house, which ranked so high in the Patrician nobility, and so superior in pretensions of ancestry and merit to the Julian and Octavian gentry, from whom his predecess ignobly descended ?
When the German and Pannonian mutinies were appeased, there seems to have been a period of repose, when he might have new modelled the constitution, had he been so disposed; but this I take to be appearance only, for those mutinies had been quelled by Germanicus and Drusus, and both these princes were in the adoption; and the latter of a very turbulent and ambitious spirit.
For the space of two complete years Tiberius never stirred out of the doors of his palace, devoting his whole time to the affairs of government. In this period he certainly did many excellent things ; and though his manners were not calculated for popularity, yet his reputation through the empire was
universal ; he regulated all domestic matters with consummate prudence, and on some occasions with a liberal and courteous spirit: In the distant provinces, where wars and disturbances were more frequent, public measures were more indebted for their success to the good policy of his instructions, than to the courage and activity of his generals, though Germanicus was of the number.
The death of that most amiable and excellent prince, which was imputed to the machinations of Cneius Piso, involved Tiberius in some degree in the same suspicion ; but as Tacitus in his account of the event, gives admission to an idle story of sorceries and incantations practised by Piso for compassing the death of Germanicus, and states no circumstance that can give any reasonable ground for belief that he actually poisoned him, I am not inclined to give credit to the transaction, even in respect to Piso's being guilty of the murder, much less with regard to Tiberius. Tacitus indeed hints at secret orders supposed by some to have been given by the emperor.to Piso; but this, which at best is mere matter of report, does not go to the affair of the poisoning, but only to some private intimations, in which the empress was chief mover, for morlifying the pride of Agrippina. It is not to be supposed, when Piso openly returned to Rome, and stood a public trial, that these orders, had any such existed, could have been so totally suppressed, that neither the guilty person should avail himself of them, nor any one member of so great and numerous a family produce them in vindication of him when yet living, or of his memory after death; and this in no period of time, not even when the Claudian family were superseded in the empire, and anecdotes were industriously collected to blacken the character of Tiberius.
The death of Drusus followed that of Germanicus, and the same groundless suspicions were levelled at the emperor; but these are rejected by Tacitus with contempt, and the words he uses, which are very strong, are a proper answer to both imputationsNeque quisquam scriptor tam infensus exstitit, ut Tiberio objectaret, cum omnia conquirerent, intenderentque.
It would have been most happy for the memory of Tiberius had his life been terminated at this fatal period; henceforward he seems to have been surrendered to desperation and disgust; he retired to the Campania, and devolved the government upon his minister Sejanus ; there were times, in which some marks of his former spirit appeared, but they were short and transient emanations; the basest of mankind had possession of his soul, and whether he was drugged by Sejanus and his agents, or that his brain was affected by a revulsion of that scrophulous humour, which broke out with such violence in his face and body, it seems highly natural to conjecture, that he was never in his sound mind during his secession in the island of Capreæ. A number of circumstances might be adduced in support of this conjecture; it is sufficient to instance his extraordinary letter to the senate; can words be found more expressive of a distracted and desperate state of mind than the following ? Quid. scribam vobis, Patres Conscripti, aut quoniodo scribam, aut quib omnio non scribam hoc tempore, Dii me deæque pejus perdant, quam perire quotidie sentio, si scio.
I beg leave now to repeat what I advanced in the outset of this paper, and which alone led me to the subject of it, that a detail comprizing all the great and interesting events within the life of Tiberius, with reasonings and remarks judiciously interspersed, as these occurrences arise in the course of the nara ration, would compound such a body of useful pre