Silent Historians Argument Revisited : 1) Ten Extra-Biblical Writers or Sources on Reign of Tiberius · 2) Two of These Quoted
- Vellejus Paterculus, Book II:
- CXXIII (death of Augustus)
- We have now arrived at a period in which very great apprehension prevailed. For Augustus Cæsar, having sent his grandson Germanicus to finish the remainder of the war in Germany, and intending to send his son Tiberius into Illyricum, to settle in peace what he had subdued in war, proceeded with the latter into Campania, with the design of escorting him, and at the same time to be present at the exhibition of athletic sports, which the Neapolitans had resolved to give in honour of him. Although he had before this felt symptoms of debility and declining health, yet, as the vigour of his mind withstood them, he accompanied his son, and, parting from him at Beneventum, proceeded to Nola; where, finding that his health grew worse every day, and well knowing whose presence was requisite to the accomplishment of his wish to leave all things in safety after him, he hastily recalled his son, who hurried back to the father of his country, and arrived earlier than was expected. Augustus then declared that his mind was at ease; and being folded in the embrace of Tiberius, to whom he recommended the accomplishment of his father’s views and his own, he resigned himself to die whenever the fates should ordain. He was in some degree revived by the sight and conversation of the person most dear to him; but the destinies soon overpowering every effort for his recovery, and his body resolving itself into its first principles, he restored to heaven his celestial spirit, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, and in the consulate of Pompey and Apuleius.
- [CXXIV - CXXV on transition, beginning reign or Tiberius, on reign itself:]
- Of the transactions of the last sixteen years, which have passed in the view, and are fresh in the memory of all, who shall presume to give a full account? Cæsar deified his parent, not by arbitrary authority, but by paying a religious respect to his character. He did not call him a divinity, but made him one. In that time, credit has been restored to mercantile affairs, sedition has been banished from the forum, corruption from the Campus Martius, and discord from the senate-house; justice, equity, and industry, which had long lain buried in neglect, have been revived in the state; authority has been given to the magistrates, majesty to the senate, and solemnity to the courts of justice; the dissensions in the theatre have been suppressed, and all men have either had a desire excited in them, or a necessity imposed on them, of acting with integrity. Virtuous acts are honoured, wicked deeds are punished. The humble respects the powerful, without dreading him; the powerful takes precedence of the humble without contemning him. When were provisions more moderate in price? When were the blessings of peace more abundant? Augustan peace, diffused over all the regions of the east and the west, and all that lies between the south and north, preserves every corner of the world free from all dread of predatory molestation. Fortuitous losses, not only of individuals, but of cities, the munificence of the prince is ready to relieve. The cities of Asia have been repaired; the provinces have been secured from the oppression of their governors. Honour promptly rewards the deserving, and the punishment of the guilty, if slow, is certain. Interest gives place to justice, solicitation to merit. For the best of princes teaches his countrymen to act rightly by his own practice; and while he is the greatest in power, is still greater in example.
- It is seldom that men who have arrived at eminence, have not had powerful coadjutors in steering the course of their fortunes; thus the two Scipios had the two Lælii, whom they set in every respect on a level with themselves; thus the emperor Augustus had Marcus Agrippa, and after him Statilius Taurus. ... In conformity with these examples, Tiberius Cæsar has had, and still has, Ælius Sejanus, a most excellent coadjutor in all the toils of government, a man whose father was chief of the equestrian order, and who on his mother’s side ... In esteem for Sejanus’s virtues, the judgment of the public has long vied with that of the prince. Nor is it at all new with the senate and people of Rome, to consider the most meritorious as the most noble. The man of old, before the first Punic war, three hundred years ago, exalted to the summit of dignity Titus Coruncanius, a man of no family, bestowing on him, beside other honours, the office of chief pontiff ...(I am leaving out some things).
- Having exhibited a general view of the administration of Tiberius Cæsar, let us now enumerate a few particulars respecting it. With what wisdom did he bring to Rome Rhascuporis, the murderer of Cotys, his own brother’s son, and partner in the kingdom, employing in that affair the services of Pomponius Flaccus, a man of consular rank, naturally inclined to all that is honourable, and by pure virtue always meriting fame, but never eagerly pursuing it! With what solemnity as a senator and a judge, not as a prince, does he * * * hear causes in person! How speedily did he crush * * * when he became ungrateful, and attempted innovations! With what precepts did he form the mind of his Germanicus, and train him in the rudiments of war in his own camp, so that he afterwards hailed him the conqueror of Germany!
-  CXXIX. Does he * * * hear] Pressius audit. The word pressius, which can hardly be sound, though Perizonius tries to defend it, I have not attempted to translate.
-  Did he crush * * *] Whose name should fill this blank is doubtful. Krause thinks that of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia.
- What structures has he erected in his own name, and those of his family! With what dutiful munificence, even exceeding belief, is he building a temple to his father! With how laudable a generosity of disposition is he repairing even the buildings of Cnæus Pompey, that were consumed by fire! Whatever has been at any time conspicuously great, he regards as his own, and under his protection. ... (leaving out some detail)
- Let our book be concluded with a prayer. O Jupiter Capitolinus, O Jupiter Stator! O Mars Gradivus, author of the Roman name! O Vesta, guardian of the eternal fire! O all ye deities who have exalted the present magnitude of the Roman empire to a position of supremacy over the world, guard, preserve, and protect, I entreat and conjure you, in the name of the Commonwealth, our present state, our present peace, [our present prince!] And when he shall have completed a long course on earth, grant him successors to the remotest ages, and such as shall have abilities to support the empire of the world as powerfully as we have seen him support it! All the just designs of our countrymen * * * *
-  CXXXI. [Our present prince!] The words hunc principem, which the text requires, are supplied from a conjecture of Lipsius. The conclusion of the prayer is imperfect.
[And Our Lord knew exactly how wordy this prayer was, as we can conclude from His observations on Pagan prayer.]
- Tacitis : Agricola
- Chapter 1
- To bequeath to posterity a record of the deeds and characters of distinguished men is an ancient practice which even the present age, careless as it is of its own sons, has not abandoned whenever some great and conspicuous excellence has conquered and risen superior to that failing, common to petty and to great states, blindness and hostility to goodness. But in days gone by, as there was a greater inclination and a more open path to the achievement of memorable actions, so the man of highest genius was led by the simple reward of a good conscience to hand on without partiality or self-seeking the remembrance of greatness. Many too thought that to write their own lives showed the confidence of integrity rather than presumption. Of Rutilius and Scaurus no one doubted the honesty or questioned the motives. So true is it that merit is best appreciated by the age in which it thrives most easily. But in these days, I, who have to record the life of one who has passed away, must crave an indulgence, which I should not have had to ask had I only to inveigh against an age so cruel, so hostile to all virtue.
- Chapter 2
- We have read that the panegyrics pronounced by Arulenus Rusticus on Paetus Thrasea, and by Herennius Senecio on Priscus Helvidius, were made capital crimes, that not only their persons but their very books were objects of rage, and that the triumvirs were commissioned to burn in the forum those works of splendid genius. They fancied, forsooth, that in that fire the voice of the Roman people, the freedom of the Senate, and the conscience of the human race were perishing, while at the same time they banished the teachers of philosophy, and exiled every noble pursuit, that nothing good might anywhere confront them. Certainly we showed a magnificent example of patience; as a former age had witnessed the extreme of liberty, so we witnessed the extreme of servitude, when the informer robbed us of the interchange of speech and hearing. We should have lost memory as well as voice, had it been as easy to forget as to keep silence.
- Chapter 3
- Now at last our spirit is returning. And yet, though at the dawn of a most happy age Nerva Caesar blended things once irreconcilable, sovereignty and freedom, though Nerva Trajan is now daily augmenting the prosperity of the time, and though the public safety has not only our hopes and good wishes, but has also the certain pledge of their fulfillment, still, from the necessary condition of human frailty, the remedy works less quickly than the disease. As our bodies grow but slowly, perish in a moment, so it is easier to crush than to revive genius and its pursuits. Besides, the charm of indolence steals over us, and the idleness which at first we loathed we afterwards love. What if during those fifteen years, a large portion of human life, many were cut off by ordinary casualties, and the ablest fell victims to the Emperor's rage, if a few of us survive, I may almost say, not only others but our ownselves, survive, though there have been taken from the midst of life those many years which brought the young in dumb silence to old age, and the old almost to the very verge and end of existence! Yet we shall not regret that we have told, though in language unskilful and unadorned, the story of past servitude, and borne our testimony to present happiness. Meanwhile this book, intended to do honour to Agricola, my father-in-law, will, as an expression of filial regard, be commended, or at least excused.
So, the sixteen years from Tiberius' taking over to Vellejus' writing are summarised as "Tiberius did an excellent job, Sejanus was so helpful, Tiberius was so pious and generous, let us pray (wordy prayer to Pagan gods, not fulfilled in the events)".
And Tacitus' first book being Agricola, about the man who conquered Britain, when Julius Caesar had failed to do so, starts with saying "sorry we have no account for his carreer from back when it happened, but it would have been dangerous doing so, as seen from these examples, but thanks to Nerva, we can start breathing freely again, so here I go".
The authors of the New Testament are the ONLY contemporary historians we DO have of Tiberius' reign (if genuine, which I for other reasons think they are). There is not a mass of Historians from then whom we can consult and ask whether they shouldn't have mentioned Jesus, if he had existed. There is only those who DID mention Jesus.
The rest had works that became not only illegal (which NT was too, much of the times up to Constantine) but illegal and without sufficient support to survive anyway.
Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre University Library
St. Jean-Baptise de la Salle