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The recently published senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre provides the opportunity not only to explore afresh an episode in Tiberius' reign recounted by Tacitus, but also to reassess several aspects of political life during the early Principate.(1) This decree outlines the Senate's judgement of the conduct of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso who had been accused of maiestas for seditious activities in the East, but had committed suicide before the conclusion of his trial. The document adds a considerable number of details to those recorded by Tacitus.(2) Quite apart from its main theme, the text has shed light on such thorny problems as the definition of imperium maius, and the relationship between the fiscus and aerarium.(3) The aim of this article, however, is not to investigate such matters, but to consider the rhetorical language with which the Senate treats the whole affair.

No longer do we possess only one subjective account of the trial of Piso in A.D. 20, but two. Although both accounts are products of members of the senatorial class, they differ considerably in emphasis. Tacitus insinuates that Tiberius and Livia (Iulia Augusta) were somehow implicated in the case, having encouraged Piso and Plancina to harass Germanicus and Agrippina.(4) By contrast, the Senate exerts itself to praise the emperor and his mother unreservedly, thus taking an active part in creating the ideology which justified the supremacy of the domus Augusta in Roman society. Another striking difference is the failure of the document to mention whether Piso had been charged with Germanicus' murder. Only a vague allusion to this suspicion is made, in the form of a reproach uttered by Germanicus himself.(5) By contrast, Tacitus frames his account of the whole episode with this dramatic charge. This difference may be due to the fact that the charge of murder was dismissed early on in the trial -- perhaps the Senate did not choose to recall its failure to convict Piso in this decree which was compiled at a later date.

The Senate presents the two protagonists in the case -- Germanicus and Piso, both now deceased -- in the context of their families. The Senate expresses its judgement of Piso in moralizing terms, condemning the vices he has betrayed, but it does not attempt to bring about the downfall of the rest of his family. Instead, it encourages Piso's family to eradicate all memory of Piso and urges his sons to distance themselves utterly from their father's pattern of behaviour. At the same time, it promotes the idea that Germanicus shares the same virtues as all the other members of the domus Augusta. In relating these virtues and vices, the Senate is not merely descriptive, but prescriptive. The Senate is anxious to encourage the whole of Roman society to model its behaviour on that of the princeps. The Senate has a didactic purpose, to outline what sort of behaviour is expected of Roman citizens. Its publication of the decree on bronze throughout the empire is designed to achieve this purpose.

The Senate paints the character of Piso pater in dark shades. The decree emphasizes Piso's violent and insubordinate character. Its tone is clear from the beginning, when the Senate thanks the gods for protecting the state from Piso's wicked plots (nefaris consilis).(6) The Senate then sets up a conflict between Germanicus' virtues and Piso's vices:

a[rb]i<t<rari singularem moderationem patientiamq(ue) Germanici Caesaris evictam esse feritate morum Ch. Pisonis patris.(7)

The Senate considers that the exceptional self-restraint and patience of Germanicus Caesar were overcome by the bestiality of the character of Ch. Piso pater.

The Senate uses an extremely pejorative term, feritas, to describe Piso's character. The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae comments that this word is closely linked with the savagery of wild beasts, often implying a 'disposition of character like the character of wild beasts'.(8) More often used of mythological monsters or barbarian tribes than of a member of the Roman elite, it reduces Piso to subhuman status. It is worth citing two examples of the more normal use of the word to emphasize how effectively it is being used by the Senate. Servius glosses Virgil's description of Cacus in Aeneid 8, 'semihominis Caci facies' ('the appearance of half-human Cacus'), with the explanation that the word 'half-human' means 'perverted by bestiality'.(9) The Tiberian author Velleius Paterculus emphasizes the horror of the Langobardi by describing them as 'a tribe fiercer even than German bestiality' ('gens etiam Germana feritate ferocior').(10) In short, the vice of feritas is the polar opposite of the virtue of humanitas.

The decree proceeds to illustrate Piso's singular cruelty (crudelitas unica) by recording his execution of men without a trial and alleging that he had even subjected a centurion to crucifixion.(11) The Senate's use of the adjective unica emphasizes that Piso's level of cruelty is peculiar to him alone, and prepares us for the way in which the Senate proceeds to isolate the figure of Piso pater. The fact that this servile means of execution was inflicted upon a centurion who was a Roman citizen demonstrates Piso's lack of humanitas, a virtue claimed by Senate and princeps.(12) The Senate alleges that this failing was also revealed by Piso's unfeeling decision to send a letter to Tiberius criticizing his son shortly after the latter's death.(13) The Senate also lists examples of Piso's unacceptable behaviour to show how he had alienated himself from civilized people: he openly rejoiced at Germanicus' death by making sacrifices, decorating his ships, and re-opening temples which had been shut in mourning, to give but a few examples. These actions do not themselves render Piso liable to criminal prosecution, but they provide a framework within which Piso's alleged crimes seem credible. The Senate's aim, however, is not just to support the case for the prosecution (which, after all, would risk being rather otiose once Piso had committed suicide), but to underline the way in which Piso's conduct alienates him from the rest of society, by condemning his character, or habitus animi.(14) In particular, the Senate contrasts Piso's joy with the grief felt by the rest of the world, both Romans and non-Romans alike. Not only the inhabitants of the Roman world mourned for Germanicus, but also peoples outside the Roman empire (exterae gentes) -- in other words, barbarian tribes.(15) Peoples who are normally portrayed in negative terms, as lacking civilization and humanity, appear in a favourable light when compared with Piso's inhuman behaviour. In this way, the Senate appears to be dehumanizing and marginalizing Piso from Roman society because he lacks what should be a universal virtue among Romans, namely humanitas.

Why does the Senate choose to represent Piso's crimes as essentially due to character-failings? To some extent, the tradition of political invective of attacking one's opponent on moral grounds may explain the Senate's readiness to use such language. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the rhetoric as simply a habit, but should consider what the Senate achieves by presenting the case in such moralizing tones. Above all, the Senate distances Piso from other members of society: by stating that it was Piso's peculiar character which was at fault, it implies that other Romans would not have acted in this way.

The reason why the Senate takes pains to isolate Piso is the fact that he had presented a real threat to Tiberius' authority. The Senate wishes to imply that only someone with as flawed a character as Piso would have embarked upon such a treasonable course of action. The decree states that Piso had attempted to provoke a civil war:

bellum etiam civile excitare conatus sit, iam pridem numine divi Aug(usti) virtutibusq(ue) Ti. Caesaris Aug(usti) omnibus civilis belli sepultis malls, repetendo provinciam Syriam post mortem Germanici Caesaris.(16)

He also tried to stir up civil war, though all the evils of civil war had long been buried by the divine nature of deified Augustus and by the virtues of Ti. Caesar Augustus, by going back to the province of Syria after the death of Germanicus Caesar.

The Senate interprets Piso's return to Syria as an attempt to stir up civil strife, and criticizes the way in which the Roman army divided into factions called Caesariani and Pisoniani.(17) These names, even more than the appellation of Piso as patens legionum, which Tacitus records, emphasize the divided loyalties which had come into existence.(18) Piso also allegedly issued a donative to his soldiers in his own name using the emperor's funds.(19) Given that Tiberius later gave such a sharp response to the misguided, but well-meaning, proposals by Iunius Gallio relating to ex-praetorians, resenting the threat of interference in military matters, the Senate's fears of civil strife, if well-founded, explain clearly why Tiberius rejected Piso at this point.(20) Even in Tacitus' account, which concentrates upon the trial as a means of vengeance for Germanicus' death, there are brief hints of the real danger Piso posed to the Roman state.(21) Much earlier in his narrative, Tacitus relates how two men gave Piso advice about the advisability or otherwise of returning to Syria.(22) Firstly, his younger son, Marcus, advises him not to return, since any opposition he met with would result in civil war:

quod si regrederetur, obsistente Sentio civile bellum incipi.

But if he should return, civil war would be started when Sentius stood in his way.

Piso's friend Domitius Celer, on the other hand, urges him to do the opposite. He argues that Piso has proper authority over the legions in Syria, that any adverse rumours will fade away, and he even thus hints at a favourable outcome:

at si teneat exercitum, augeat vires, multa quae provideri non possint fortuito in melius casura.

But if he were to control the army and increase its strength, perchance many things which cannot be foreseen may turn out for the better.

Behind this brief sentence lurks some unstated hope -- perhaps that Piso would eventually seize power at Rome.

The activities of Cn. Piso in Syria, therefore, potentially presented a direct threat to Tiberius, which is why he refused to pardon Piso, despite Piso's friendship with Augustus and perhaps with Tiberius himself.(23) More worrying still was the way in which Piso's activities conformed to a pattern of resistance to the powers at Rome manifested by earlier generations of his family. The branch of the Pisones to which Cn. Piso pater belonged had a recent family tradition of opposing the ruling powers at Rome. His grandfather, suspected of involvement in Catiline's early attempts to create trouble, was sent to Hispania citerior as quaestor pro praetore, where he was killed in 64 B.C.(24) The representative of the next generation fared a little better. The father of Cn. Piso pater was an energetic supporter of Brutus and Cassius, and later it was he whom Augustus persuaded to be suffect consul in 23 B.C., precisely because he was easily recognizable as an erstwhile opponent of the Principate.(25) When Augustus fell seriously ill during that same year, he handed over the rationes imperii to Piso, with the result that, together with M. Agrippa to whom Augustus gave his signet ring, Piso came close to a taste of real power.(26) Earlier in his career, the same man had displayed his independence, or libertas, by prosecuting a supporter of Pompeius Magnus.(27) Likewise, Tacitus emphasizes the spirit of libertas in his son, Cn. Piso pater, who was prepared to be outspoken in pointing to inconsistencies in the emperor's place within the Senate.(28) So, in an early maiestas case of A.D. 15, Piso drew attention to the problems involved in the princeps casting his vote.(29) The next year, too, he showed his independence by asserting that it was fitting for Senate and equites to perform their duties even in the emperor's absence.(30) He was also prepared to dispute openly with members of the imperial family: Dio states that he opposed a motion about astrologers which had been introduced by Tiberius and Drusus.(31) His brother, L. Calpurnius Piso Augur, behaved in a similar way towards the imperial family: not only did he summon to court one of Iulia Augusta's intimate friends, Urgulania, but he even went to Tiberius' home to extract her when she refused to appear. Besides this, he had threatened to withdraw from public life as a protest at the corrupt way in which business was being handled.(32) The immediate family of Piso pater had a history of causing trouble for the powers at Rome.

The historiographical tradition dealing with the branch of the Calpurnii Pisones to which Piso pater belonged ascribes particular character traits to its members over different generations. The overall representation of the Pisones is remarkably consistent in our sources, since several writers attribute the same vices to different members of that family. The grandfather of Piso pater is the immediate source of the unattractive character later found also in his son, two grandsons, and great-grandson. Sallust comments upon his intolerable cruelty which might have been the reason for his assassination when quaestor pro praetore in Hispania citerior:(33)

sunt qui ita dicant, imperia eius iniusta, superba, crudelia barbaros nequivisse pati.

There are some who say that the barbarians could not endure his unjust, arrogant and cruel commands.

It is paradoxical that not even barbarians could endure him, given that non-Romans are themselves often regarded by Romans as possessing those same characteristics.

The vice which Tacitus attributes to Piso on more than one occasion is ferocia. This word denotes 'fierceness or intractability of temper', or 'ungovernable disposition or conduct, arrogance, insolence'.(34) At the point in his narrative where Tacitus pauses to comment upon Piso's character, just before he sets out for the East, he stresses Piso's natural insubordination and the ferocia which he has inherited from his father:

ingenio violentum et obsequii ignarum, insita ferocia a patre Pisone.(35)

He was violent by nature and insubordinate, and had inherited fierceness from his father Piso.

This prepares the reader for the forthcoming conflict between Germanicus and Piso. The historian proceeds to illustrate Piso's propensity to savagery in his speech to the Athenians:

civitatem Atheniensium turbido incessu exterritam oratione saeva increpat.(36)

He chided the Athenians terrified at his tumultuous arrival with a savage speech.

Finally, Tacitus signals the turning-point in his narrative, when Piso decides to return to Syria and sends a letter to Tiberius criticizing his heir, with the words:

haud magna mole Piso promptus ferocibus in sententiam trahitur.(37)

It was with no great difficulty that Piso, ready for insubordination, was persuaded to adopt this opinion.

Seneca provides further evidence of Piso's behaviour in citing his premature execution of a soldier, and then of a centurion who intervened, as prime examples of ira and furor.(38)

The other men and women whom Tacitus characterizes as feroces, like Piso, find it hard to accept being ruled by others, and are themselves prey to overweening ambitions. Sejanus is perhaps the most obvious example, and is duly described as ferox scelerum in his plotting against the vulnerable family of the dead Germanicus.(39) The ferocia of C. Asinius Gallus, which he, like Piso, had inherited from his father C. Asinius Pollio, is a sign of ambitions beyond what was proper for a private citizen.(40) Not even the domus Augusta is entirely free of this characteristic. In particular, Agrippina's downfall together with that of her children is portrayed by Tacitus as largely due to her failure to overcome her ferocia, although begged to do so by Germanicus on his deathbed.(41) Finally, another member of the imperial family, Agrippa Postumus, whose ferocia is mentioned by both Suetonius and Tacitus, was ejected from the family by Augustus, perhaps because he did not live up to the virtuous character demanded of full members of the domus Augusta.(42)

The general tendency of Pisones to oppose those in power is thus explained by the fact that they shared the same vices, especially cruelty and insolence. Tacitus describes the brother of Cn. Piso pater, L. Calpurnius Piso Augur, as a noble and fierce man (nobili ac feroci viro).(43) The recurring pattern of behaviour is further evident in the case of L. Piso, the son of Piso Augur. Appointed to a post in Hispania citerior, like his great-grandfather before him, he displays the same character as his great-grandfather, behaving too fiercely towards the barbarians, and consequently meets the same fate.(44) The Pisones are not the only family thought to possess particular moral characteristics. Syme points out that the Popillii were regarded as intolerable, the Domitii stubborn, and the Cassii as upright and opposed to individuals exercising domination: 'from precedents or by mimesis, families transmitted characteristic features through the generations.'(45) The Claudii too were known for their arrogance.(46)

This context helps to explain why the Senate addresses itself to Piso's elder son Gnaeus who, unlike his younger brother Marcus, had played no part in his father's misdemeanours. The Senate instructs him to change his praenomen. This measure has interesting precedents. Aulus Gellius attributes to Herodes Atticus a speech on the Athenian tradition of preventing slaves from being named Harmodius or Aristogeition, thereby seeking to preserve the nobility of the liberators. He ends by stating that the Romans have adopted a similar policy, whereby they prevent praenomina from being handed down in a patrician gens if a person bearing that name has been a traitor or has been condemned to death.(47) In some cases, this procedure had apparently been followed voluntarily by the family in question: according to Suetonius, the Claudii abandoned the praenomen Lucius because one man of that name had been convicted of robbery, and another of murder.(48) But the Senate was also prepared to issue a decree on such a matter. The praenomen Marcus, for example, was also forbidden to members of the gens Manlia because of the regal pretensions of the M. Manlius who had defended the Capitolium from the Gauls.(49) Most recently, in A.D. 16, Piso's relation Libo Drusus, condemned for maiestas, had been forbidden to hand down his name.(50)

In giving this instruction to Piso's son, the Senate appears to have two interrelated aims. One is to abolish all memory of Piso pater, and the other is to encourage his sons to adopt a pattern of behaviour completely different from that of their father. The first of these aims also underpins some of the other penalties decreed -- the destruction of his statues, the erasure of his name from a statue base, and the prohibition of mourning for his death, as well as the suggestion to his family not to include his imago in their funeral processions.(51) The second aim appears to be to help Piso's son distance himself altogether from his father's failings. The significance of the change demanded of his elder son lies in the idea that he would be all the more able to shake off the spectre of his father's moral failings in this way. The hope expressed by the Senate that he will be utterly different (dissimillumum) from his father contrasts starkly with the language in which Gaius Caesar was lamented by the Pisans a few years earlier, in which they comment that he was 'most just and most like his father in his virtues'.(52) The fact that Piso's elder son became consul only a few years later, in A.D. 27, shows that he did successfully distance himself from his father's fate.

The Senate's treatment of Piso pater and his sons reflects the complex ideas prevalent among the Roman elite about how young members of the elite might perpetuate the virtus of their class. Both nature and nurture were deemed to play a part in transmitting nobilitas down through the generations. The desirability of encouraging youthful members of distinguished Roman families to imitate their ancestors' virtues is a frequent theme among literary sources.(53) Many authors express the idea that an individual can be spurred on to virtuous behaviour by the thought of his ancestors' great deeds. Sallust reports the claims of men like Q. Maximus and P. Scipio that the memory of earlier family achievements encourages emulation.(54) Polybius' narration of Scipio's anxieties about falling short of his ancestors' standards likewise illustrates how family traditions could exert pressure to conform to a particular pattern of behaviour.(55) The pressure upon Scipio was doubly heavy, coming from two directions at once: his adoption by L. Aemilius Paullus perhaps added to, rather than replaced, the expectations deriving from his natural family. Polybius' comment that the time spent by Scipio with his real father had created a good foundation for later development suggests that both adoptive and natural families contributed to shaping his character.(56) Innate goodness could also be passed down from generation to generation. In his speech pro Archia, Cicero claims that natural gifts are often more significant than education in enabling an individual to attain virtue, and that education's role is simply to improve on pre-existing goodness.(57) Likewise, in de Officiis Cicero suggests that parental advice, popular opinion, good fortune, or innate virtue may influence someone's character.(58) The way in which the Senate is concerned with Piso's moral failings supports the idea that the Senate's aim is not just to condemn the crimes of Piso pater, but to regulate the behaviour of his two sons. By contrast, the judgements to be passed on Piso's companions, Visellius Karus and Sempronius Bassus, are spoken of in different terms from those related to the Pisones, without the element of moralizing.(59) The vast majority of the Senate's decree is concerned with condemning the vices of Piso and with stemming the infection within his family on the one hand, and with praising the virtues of the domus Augusta on the other.

The Senate does not content itself with condemning the vices of Piso and urging his sons not to follow such a precedent. It also offers a positive model of how to behave. Members of the domus Augusta all share a large number of virtutes which they display for the benefit of the rest of society. The Senate is an active promoter of this view of the imperial household. In the s. c. de Pisone, Tiberius and his whole family show their moderatio, modestia, humanitas, aequitas, patientia, pietas, clementia, iustitia, animi magnitudo, and liberalitas. The list is seemingly endless, and certainly puts to shame the rather meagre list of virtues ascribed to Augustus on the clupeus virtutis! Different members of the family possess the same qualities: the moderatio of Iulia Augusta is also to be found in Drusus, Agrippina, Antonia, and Livia, as well as in Germanicus.(60) The younger members of the family are said to have been trained by Iulia Augusta and Tiberius, whilst Iulia Augusta herself, along with Drusus, imitates the justice of the princeps.(61) By establishing this pattern of continuity among the imperial family, the Senate is able to imply that qualities exist in individual members of the family without actually spelling out such claims in every case. For Germanicus in particular, we gain a clearer picture of his excellence from the document as a whole than we might expect from the twenty-two specific references made to him.

The virtues of the domus Augusta were of no small consequence to the world at large: rather, their model behaviour had an impact upon the rest of society. In a particularly expansive passage, the Senate describes how appropriate behaviour is initiated by Tiberius and Iulia Augusta, and is then adopted by other members of the imperial family, only to trickle down through the rest of Roman society via the equites and milites, ending up with the plebs.(62) The Senate praises the plebs for allowing itself to be led by the example of the equestrian ordo.(63) Even the Senate admits that Augustus and Tiberius have taught them a great deal about virtuous behaviour;(64)

item senatum, memorem clementiae suae iustitiaeq(ue) >atq(ue)< animi magnitudinis, quas virtutes {quas} a maioribus suis accepisset, tum praecipue ab divo Aug(usto) et Ti. Caesare Aug(usto) principibus suis didicisset ...

Likewise the Senate, mindful of its own clemency, justice, and great-heartedness -- virtues which it has inherited from its ancestors, and especially learnt from its principes, the deified Augustus and Tiberius Caesar Augustus....

Not only the Senate but also the whole populus Romanus imitate imperial virtues such as pietas and moderatio, taking the imperial family as their models. Later principes too could act as role-models: Seneca begins the second book of de Clementia with an anecdote about Nero's clementia, and suggests that news of this episode will spread throughout the empire, with the result that Nero's virtue will be widely imitated.(65) Seneca also asserts that Nero replaces Augustus and Tiberius as the model on which others should mould their behaviour, even to the extent of providing a model for himself!(66) Tacitus, too, in his famous digression on the decline of luxury in Roman society, attributes the impetus for this major social trend to none other than Vespasian himself.(67)

The Senate acknowledges that it has a didactic purpose in deciding to have inscribed upon bronze an official summary of the various decrees it has passed about Piso:

quo facilius totius actae rei ordo posterorum memoriae tradi posset atque hi scire(nt), quid et de singulari moderatione Germ(anici) Caesa(ris) et de sceleribus Cn. Pisonis patris senatus iudicasset, placere uti oratio, quam recitasset princeps noster, itemq(ue) haec senatus consulta in {h}aere incisa, quo loco Ti. Caes(ari) Aug(usto) videretur, ponere(n)tur, item hoc s(enatus) c(onsultum) {hic} in cuiusque provinciae celeberruma{e} urbe eiusque in urbis ipsius celeberrimo loco in aere incisum figeretur, itemq(ue) hoc s(enatus) c(onsultum) in hibernis cuiusq(ue) legionis at signa figeretur.(68)

So that the course of the proceedings as a whole may be handed down more easily to the memory of future generations, and so that they may know what the senate's judgement was concerning the unique self-control of Germanicus Caesar and the crimes of Cn. Piso pater, the Senate has decided that the speech which our princeps delivered, as well as these decrees of the senate, should be inscribed on bronze, and placed wherever seems right to Tiberius Caesar Augustus, and that likewise this decree of the senate should be inscribed on bronze and set up in the busiest city of each province, in the busiest place of the city, and that likewise this decree of the senate should be set up beside the standards in each legion's permanent headquarters.

The decision to publish this decree fulfils the aim of moral didacticism on a grand scale. By publishing it throughout the empire, the Senate encourages the right sort of behaviour in present and future generations by presenting to the world the virtues of the domus Augusta and the vices of Cn. Piso. Nor was this the first time that the publication of a text inscribed on bronze had this as its stated aim: less than a year earlier, the Senate had decided that a statement of the recently deceased Germanicus' virtus should be inscribed and displayed, in the hope that this might be useful for the children of the present as well as future generations.(69) It is somewhat paradoxical, therefore, that the surviving copies of the decree concerning Piso, all found in Baetica, may reflect the aims of the proconsul of the province rather than of the Senate.(70) The Senate decrees that the inscription is to be set up in the busiest city of each province, but the two well-preserved copies (known as Copies A and B) whose archaeological contexts are known originate from more minor settlements -- Irni and El Tejar (perhaps ancient Ad Gemellas). Copy A is headed by a prominent title in larger lettering than the rest of the text, informing us that the inscription was set up through the agency of N. Vibius Serenus. It appears, therefore, that the proconsul had been more zealous in setting up the inscription than the Senate required, something which may be due to his personal motives.(71) In A.D. 16, Vibius Serenus played a significant role in the case of maiestas against Libo Drusus, but subsequently reproached Tiberius for not rewarding his services adequately.(72) Perhaps by A.D. 20 Vibius Serenus was attempting to curry favour with Tiberius again by arranging for this text to be distributed much more widely than the Senate had decreed, in awareness that he had lost the emperor's support. If this was his aim, he failed, for in A.D. 23 he was exiled for cruelty.(73)

This decree, therefore, presents a picture of the defendant in a highly coloured rhetorical tone. The idea that an inscription may have an authorial voice in this way is not one that is immediately obvious. The fact that the text is inscribed gives the reader a sense that somehow that text has authority and that it presents the truth. Instead, such a text lends itself to an analysis similar to that developed by Edwards in her treatment of the theme of immorality in literary texts. She asserts that 'the rhetoric of moralising did play a key role in marking off the Roman elite (or at least male members of the elite) from the rest of society.'(74) The senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre allows us to modify this picture in two important respects. Firstly, the female members of the elite, and in particular the women belonging to the imperial household, played as important a role as the men in disseminating the model of behaviour which emphasized the position of the domus Augusta: at the top of the social and political hierarchy. Secondly, the demarcation of the Roman elite was less rigidly carried out than one might expect. Instead, the Senate emphasizes that the virtues of the imperial family can filter down through the rest of the Roman people, albeit in stages which do not challenge, but confirm, the existing hierarchy. The fact that the Senate is playing an active role in promoting imperial ideology in this way, by composing and disseminating a text around the empire, shows that the elite at Rome performed a significant role in shaping the new political system.


(1.) The decree will be abbreviated here to SCPP. Text and commentary are published by W. Eck, A. Caballos, and F. Fernandez, Das Senatus Consultum de Cn. Pisone Patre (Munich, 1996). M. Griffin, JRS 87 (1997), 250-3 provides an English translation of the inscription. I am grateful to Greg Rowe, Greg Woolf, and Nicholas Purcell for many stimulating discussions of the issues raised by this text, and to Michael Comber and Miriam Griffin for commenting on earlier drafts of this article. All errors remain my own.

(2.) Tac., Ann. 2.43-3.19.

(3.) Eck et al., op. cit. (n. 1), 161, 179 commentary on SCPP, lines 34-6 and 55.

(4.) Tac., Ann. 2.43, 3.3, 10-11.

(5.) SCPP, line 28.

(6.) SCPP, lines 12-15.

(7.) SCPP, lines 26-7. All translations are my own.

(8.) TLL s.v. 'feritas', II, de hominibus: 'morum consuetudo consimilis moribus ferarum'.

(9.) Serv. A. 8.194: 'SEMIHOMINIS hoc est feritate corrupti'.

(10.) Veil. 2.106.2. TLL s.v. 'feritas', I-II, provides many more examples of the pejorative use of this word.

(11.) SCPP, lines 49-52.

(12.) The humanitas of the Senate and princeps: SCPP, lines 93 and 100.

(13.) SCPP, lines 58-61.

(14.) SCPP, lines 57-68. For the expression, compare Cic., Inv. 2.53: 'virtus est animi habitus'.

(15.) SCPP, line 58.

(16.) SCPP, lines 45-8.

(17.) SCPP, lines 45-9 and 55-6.

(18.) Tac.,Ann. 2.55, 3.13.

(19.) SCPP, lines 54-5.

(20.) Tiberius and Iunius Gallio: Tac., Ann. 6.3.

(21.) He ends his account at Ann. 3.19 with the words 'is finis fuit ulciscenda Germanici morte'.

(22.) Tac., Ann. 2.76-7.

(23.) Tac., Ann. 3.15-16.

(24.) Sal., Cat. 18.4-5.

(25.) PIR(2) C286; Tac, Ann. 2.43. R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford, 1939), 334-5. I. Hofmann-Lobl, Die Calpurnii. Politisches Wirken und familiare Kontinuitat (Frankfurt, 1996), 201-5 suggests that Augustus wanted to demonstrate to the Senate his willingness to compromise, and that Piso may even have bargained with Augustus in order to promote the careers of two members of his family, L. Calpurnius Piso Pontifex and his son Cn. Calpurnius Piso, in return for accepting the suffect consulship.

(26.) D.C. 53.30.2; Suet., Aug. 28.1.

(27.) V. Max. 6.2.4.

(28.) C. Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome (Cambridge, 1950), 165 suggests that Tacitus uses the word libertas to record an individual's independent way of thinking and speaking rather than adherence to a constitutional principle.

(29.) Tac., Ann. 1.74.5.

(30.) Tac., Ann. 2.35.

(31.) D.C. 57.15.9.

(32.) Tac., Ann. 2.34, 4.21.

(33.) Sal., Cat. 19.4.

(34.) OLD, s.v. ferocia, 1-2.

(35.) Tac., Ann. 2.43.

(36.) Tac., Ann. 2.55.

(37.) Tac., Ann. 2.78.1.

(38.) Sen., Dial. 3.18.3 (de ira).

(39.) Tac., Ann. 4.12. R. H. Martin and A. J. Woodman, Tacitus Annals Book IV (Cambridge, 1989), 132 note the echo of Jugurtha, another deadly foe of Rome, at Sal., Jug. 14.21.

(40.) Tac., Ann. 1.12. Compare D.C. 57.2.5-7, where the word ferocia is rendered by the Greek [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] For further comment on Tacitus' use of the word, see F. R. D. Goodyear, The Annals of Tacitus. I. Annals I.1-54 (Cambridge, 1972), 105-6 and H. W. Traub, TAPA 84 (1953), 250-61.

(41.) Tac., Ann. 2.72.

(42.) Suet., Aug. 65; Tac., Ann. 1.3.

(43.) Tac., Ann. 4.21.

(44.) Tac., Ann. 4.45. Martin and Woodman, op. cit. (n. 39), 204-6 comment upon Tacitus' deliberate echoes of the parallel episode in Sal., Cat. 19.

(45.) R. Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford, 1986), 367.

(46.) Tac., Ann. 1.4; Suet., Tib. 2; Liv. 2.56.7.

(47.) Gell. 9.2.10-11. B. Salway, JRS 84 (1994), 124-45, especially 124-33, discusses Roman aristocratic preoccupation with the inheritance of names.

(48.) Suet., Tib. 1.2.

(49.) Festus (p. 151M); Liv. 6.20.14; Quint., Inst. 3.7.20.

(50.) Tac., Ann. 2.32.

(51.) SCPP lines 73-84.

(52.) SCPP, line 97. EJ(2) 69.12-3: iam designatu[m i]ustissumum ac simillumum parentis sui virtutibus principem.

(53.) J. Henderson, in Figuring out Roman Nobility. Juvenal's 8th Satire (Exeter, 1997), explores Juvenal's comments upon this well-established theme in his eighth satire. See also C. Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge, 1993), 14-15.

(54.) Sal., Jug. 4.5.

(55.) Plb. 31.23-30.

(56.) Plb. 31.24-5.

(57.) Cic., Arch. 15.

(58.) Cic., Off. 1.118.

(59.) SCPP, lines 10-11. W. Eck, CCG 4 (1993), 194.

(60.) SCPP, lines 132-46; Germanicus' moderatio -- lines 26 and 167.

(61.) SCPP, lines 148-50, and 132-3.

(62.) SCPP, lines 123-63.

(63.) SCPP, line 158.

(64.) SCPP, lines 90-2.

(65.) Sen., Cl. 2.2.1.

(66.) Sen., Cl. 1.1.6.

(67.) Tac., Ann. 3.55.

(68.) SCPP, lines 165-72.

(69.) Tab. Siar. IIb. 11-17. See F. Millar, 'Imperial ideology in the Tabula Siarensis', in J. Gonzalez and J. Arce (eds), Estudios sobre la Tabula Siarensis (Madrid, 1988), 18.

(70.) Eck et al., op. cit. (n. 1), chapter 1 discuss the origins of the six surviving copies (only two of which are of any significant size).

(71.) Eck et al., op. cit. (n. 1), 101-3.

(72.) Tac., Ann. 4.29.

(73.) Tac., Ann. 4.13.

(74.) Edwards, op. cit. (n. 53), 25.
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