10At the flood-tide of success, though in the prime of life and health, he suddenly decided to go into retirement and to withdraw as far as possible from the centre of the stage; perhaps from disgust at his wife, whom he dared neither accuse nor put away, though he could no longer endure her; or perhaps, avoiding the contempt born of familiarity, to keep up his prestige by absence, or even add to it, in case his country should ever need him. Some think that, since the children of Augustus were now of age, he voluntarily gave up the position and the virtual assumption of the second rank which he had long held, thus following the example of Marcus Agrippa, who withdrew to Mytilene when Marcellus began his public career, so that he might not seem either to oppose or belittle him by his presence. 2This was, in fact, the reason which Tiberius himself gave, but afterwards. At the time he asked for leave of absence on the ground of weariness of office and a desire to rest; and he would not give way either to his mother’s urgent entreaties or to the complaint which his step-father openly made in the senate, that he was being forsaken. On the contrary, when they made more strenuous efforts to detain him, he refused to take food for four days. Being at last allowed to depart, he left his wife and son in Rome and went down to Ostia in haste, without saying a single word to any of those who saw him off, and kissing only a very few when he left.
11From Ostia he coasted along the shore of Campania, and learning of an indisposition of Augustus, he stopped for a while. But since gossip was rife that he was lingering on the chance of realising his highest hopes, although the wind was all but dead ahead, he sailed directly to Rhodes, for he had been attracted by the charm and healthfulness of that island ever since the time when he put in there on his return from Armenia. Content there with a modest house and a villa in the suburbs not much more spacious, he adopted a most unassuming manner of life, at times walking in the gymnasium without a lictor or a messenger, and exchanging courtesies with the good people of Greece with almost the air of an equal.
2It chanced one morning in arranging his programme for the day, that he had announced his wish to visit whatever sick folk there were in the city. This was misunderstood by his attendants, and orders were given that all the sick should be taken to a public colonnade and arranged according to the nature of their complaints. Whereupon Tiberius, shocked at this unexpected sight, and in doubt for some time what to do, at last went about to each one, apologizing for what had happened even to the humblest and most obscure of them.
3Only one single instance was noticed of a visible exercise of the rights of the tribunicial authority. He was a constant attendant at the schools and lecture-rooms of the professors of philosophy, and once when a hot dispute had arisen among rival sophists, a fellow had the audacity to ply him with abuse when he took part and appeared to favour one side. Thereupon he gradually backed away to his house, and then suddenly coming out with his lictors and attendants, and bidding his crier to summon the foul-mouthed fellow before his tribunal, he had him taken off to prison.
4Shortly after this he learned that his wife Julia had been banished because of her immorality and adulteries, and that a bill of divorce had been sent her in his name by authority of Augustus; but welcome as this news was, he yet considered it his duty to make every possible effort in numerous letters to reconcile the father to his daughter; and regardless of her deserts, to allow her to keep any gifts which he had himself made her at any time. 5Moreover, when the term of his tribunicial power was at an end, at last admitting that the sole object of his retirement had been to avoid the suspicion of rivalry with Gaius and Lucius, he asked that inasmuch as he was free from care in that regard, since they were now grown up and had an undisputed claim on the succession, he be allowed to visit his relatives, whom he sorely missed. But his request was denied and he was besides admonished to give up all thought of his kindred, whom he had so eagerly abandoned.
12Accordingly he remained in Rhodes against his will, having with difficulty through his mother’s aid secured permission that, while away from Rome, he should have the title of envoy of Augustus, so as to conceal his disgrace.
2Then in very truth he lived not only in private, but even in danger and fear, secluded in the country away from the sea, and shunning the attentions of those that sailed that way; these, however, were constantly thrust on him, since no general or magistrate who was on his way to any province failed to put in at Rhodes. He had besides reasons for still greater anxiety; for when he had crossed to Samos to visit his stepson Gaius, who had been made governor of the Orient, he found him somewhat estranged through the slanders of Marcus Lollius, a member of Gaius’ staff and his guardian. 3He also incurred the suspicion of having through some centurions of his appointment, who were returning to camp after a furlough, sent messages to several persons which were of an ambiguous character and apparently designed to incite them to revolution. On being informed by Augustus of this suspicion, he unceasingly demanded the appointment of someone, of any rank whatsoever, to keep watch over his actions and words.
13He also gave up his usual exercises with horses and arms, and laying aside the garb of his country, took to the cloak and slippers; and in this state he continued for upwards of two years, becoming daily an object of greater contempt and aversion. This went so far that the citizens of Nemausus threw down his statues and busts, and when mention was once made of him at a private dinner party, a man got up and assured Gaius that if he would say the word, he would at once take ship for Rhodes and bring back the head of “the exile,” as he was commonly called. 2It was this act especially, which made his position no longer one of mere fear but of actual peril, that drove Tiberius to sue for his recall with most urgent prayers, in which his mother joined; and he obtained it, although partly owing to a fortunate chance. Augustus had resolved to come to no decision of the question which was not agreeable to his elder son, who, as it happened, was at the time somewhat at odds with Marcus Lollius, and accordingly ready to lend an ear to his stepfather’s prayers. With his consent therefore Tiberius was recalled, but on the understanding that he should take no part or active interest in public affairs.
14So he returned in the eighth year after his retirement, with that strong and unwavering confidence in his destiny, which he had conceived from his early years because of omens and predictions.
2When Livia was with child with him, and was trying to divine by various omens whether she would bring forth a male, she took an egg from under a setting-hen, and when she had warmed it in her own hand and those of her attendants in turn, a cock with a fine crest was hatched. In his infancy the astrologer Scribonius promised him an illustrious career and even that he would one day be king, but without the crown of royalty; for at that time of course the rule of the Caesars was as yet unheard of. 3Again, on his first campaign, when he was leading an army through Macedonia into Syria, it chanced that at Philippi the altars consecrated in bygone days by the victorious legions gleamed of their own accord with sudden fires. When later, on his way to Illyricum, he visited the oracle of Geryon near Patavium, and drew a lot which advised him to seek an answer to his inquiries by throwing golden dice into the fount of Aponus, it came to pass that the dice which he threw showed the highest possible number; and those dice may be seen to-day under the water. 4A few days before his recall an eagle, a bird never before seen in Rhodes, perched upon the roof of his house; and the day before he was notified that he might return, his tunic seemed to blaze as he was changing his clothes. It was just at this time that he was convinced of the powers of the astrologer Thrasyllus, whom he had attached to his household as an adept in the artman; for as soon as he caught sight of the ship, Thrasyllus declared that it brought good news—this too at the very moment when Tiberius had made up his mind to push the man off into the sea as they were strolling together, believing him a false prophet and too hastily made the confidant of his secrets, because things were turning out adversely and contrary to his predictions.
15On his return to Rome, after introducing his son Drusus to public life, he at once moved from the Carinae and the house of the Pompeys to the gardens of Maecenas on the Esquiline, where he led a very retired life, merely attending to his personal affairs and exercising no public functions.
2When Gaius and Lucius died within three years, he was adopted by Augustus along with their brother Marcus Agrippa, being himself first compelled to adopt his nephew Germanicus. And from that time on he ceased to act as the head of a family, or to retain in any particular the privileges which he had given up. For he neither made gifts nor freed slaves, and he did not even accept an inheritance or any legacies, except to enter them as an addition to his personal property. From this time on nothing was left undone which could add to his prestige, especially after the disowning and banishment of Agrippa made it clear that the hope of the succession lay in him alone.
16He was given the tribunicial power for a second term of three years, the duty of subjugating Germany was assigned him, and the envoys of the Parthians, after presenting their instructions to Augustus in Rome, were bidden to appear also before him in his province. But when the revolt of Illyricum was reported, he was transferred to the charge of a new war, the most serious of all foreign wars since those with Carthage, which he carried on for three years with fifteen legions and a corresponding force of auxiliaries, amid great difficulties of every kind and the utmost scarcity of supplies. 2But though he was often recalled, he none the less kept on, for fear that the enemy, who were close at hand and very strong, might assume the offensive if the Romans gave ground. He reaped an ample reward for his perseverance, for he completely subdued and reduced to submission the whole of Illyricum, which is bounded by Italy and the kingdom of Noricum, by Thrace and Macedonia, by the Danube, and by the Adriatic sea.
17Circumstances gave this exploit a larger and crowning glory; for it was at just about that time that Quintilius Varus perished with three legions in Germany, and no one doubted that the victorious Germans would have united with the Pannonians, had not Illyricum been subdued first. Consequently a triumph was voted him and many high honours. 2Some also recommended that he be given the surname of Pannonicus, others of Invictus, others of Pius. Augustus however vetoed the surname, reiterating the promise that Tiberius would be satisfied with the one which he would receive at his father’s death. Tiberius himself put off the triumph, because the country was in mourning for the disaster to Varus; but he entered the city clad in the purple-bordered toga and crowned with laurel, and mounting a tribunal which had been set up in the Saepta, while the senate stood alongside, he took his seat beside Augustus between the two consuls. Having greeted the people from this position, he was escorted to the various temples.
18The next year he returned to Germany, and realising that the disaster to Varus was due to that general’s rashness and lack of care, he took no step without the approval of a council; while he had always before been a man of independent judgment and self-reliance, then contrary to his habit he consulted with many advisers about the conduct of the campaign. He also observed more scrupulous care than usual. When on the point of crossing the Rhine, he reduced all the baggage to a prescribed limit, and would not start without standing on the bank and inspecting the loads of the wagons, to make sure that nothing was taken except what was allowed or necessary. 2Once on the other side, he adopted the following manner of life: he took his meals sitting on the bare turf, often passed the night without a tent, and gave all his orders for the following day, as well as notice of any sudden emergency, in writing; adding the injunction that if anyone was in doubt about any matter, he was to consult him personally at any hour whatsoever, even of the night.
19He required the strictest discipline, reviving bygone methods of punishment and ignominy, and even degrading the commander of a legion for sending a few soldiers across the river to accompany one of his freedmen on a hunting expedition. Although he left very little to fortune and chance, he entered battles with considerably greater confidence whenever it happened that, as he was working at night, his lamp suddenly and without human agency died down and went out; trusting, as he used to say, to an omen in which he had great confidence, since both he and his ancestors had found it trustworthy in all of their campaigns. Yet in the very hour of victory he narrowly escaped assassination by one of the Bructeri, who got access to him among his attendants, but was detected through his nervousness; whereupon a confession of his intended crime was wrung from him by torture.
20After two years he returned to the city from Germany and celebrated the triumph which he had postponed, accompanied also by his generals, for whom he had obtained the triumphal regalia. And before turning to enter the Capitol, he dismounted from his chariot and fell at the knees of his father, who was presiding over the ceremonies. He sent Bato, the leader of the Pannonians, to Ravenna, after presenting him with rich gifts; thus showing his gratitude to him for allowing him to escape when he was trapped with his army in a dangerous place. Then he gave a banquet to the people at a thousand tables, and a largess of three hundred sesterces to every man. With the proceeds of his spoils he restored and dedicated the temple of Concord, as well as that of Pollux and Castor, in his own name and that of his brother.
21Since the consuls caused a law to be passed soon after this that he should govern the provinces jointly with Augustus and hold the census with him, he set out for Illyricum on the conclusion of the lustral ceremonies; but he was at once recalled, and finding Augustus in his last illness but still alive, he spent an entire day with him in private.
2I know that it is commonly believed, that when Tiberius left the room after this confidential talk, Augustus was overheard by his chamberlains to say: “Alas for the Roman people, to be ground by jaws that crunch so slowly!” I also am aware that some have written that Augustus so openly and unreservedly disapproved of his austere manners, that he sometimes broke off his freer and lighter conversation when Tiberius appeared; but that overcome by his wife’s entreaties he did not reject his adoption, or perhaps was even led by selfish considerations, that with such a successor he himself might one day be more regretted. 3But after all I cannot be led to believe that an emperor of the utmost prudence and foresight acted without consideration, especially in a matter of so great moment. It is my opinion that after weighing the faults and the merits of Tiberius, he decided that the latter preponderated, especially since he took oath before the people that he was adopting Tiberius for the good of the country, and alludes to him in several letters as a most able general and the sole defence of the Roman people. In illustration of both these points, I append a few extracts from these letters.
4“Fare thee well, Tiberius, most charming of men, and success go with you, as you war for me and for the Muses. Fare thee well, most charming and valiant of men and most conscientious of generals, or may I never know happiness.”
5“I have only praise for the conduct of your summer campaigns, dear Tiberius, and I am sure that no one could have acted with better judgment than you did amid so many difficulties and such apathy of your army. All who were with you agree that the well-known line could be applied to you:
“‘One man alone by his foresight has saved our dear country from ruin.’”
6“If anything comes up that calls for careful thought, or if I am vexed at anything, I long mightily, so help me Heaven, for my dear Tiberius, and the lines of Homer come to my mind:
“‘Let him but follow and we too, though flames round about us be raging,
Both may return to our homes, since great are his wisdom and knowledge.’”
“When I hear and read that you are worn out by constant hardships, may the Gods confound me if my own body does not wince in sympathy; and I beseech you to spare yourself, that the news of your illness may not kill your mother and me, and endanger the Roman people in the person of their future ruler.”
“It matters not whether I am well or not, if you are not well.”
“I pray the Gods to preserve you to us and to grant you good health now and forever, if they do not utterly hate the people of Rome.”