consilium Domitiani I "Domitian's Council I"
While the senators were conversing with one another, Domitian
entered with his face composed in such a way that no one could understand whether he was angry or happy. Epaphroditus who
was holding a letter in his hand was following him.
After Domitian was greeted by the senators, he said, "A messenger
has just given us a letter sent by Gnaeus Julius Agricola. In this letter Agricola announces that the Roman army has reached
the furthest parts of Britain and has won a great victory. Epaphroditus, read the letter."
After the letter had been
read, Domitian immediately turned to Crispus and asked, "What do you think about this letter of Agricola. What do you
Crispus was silent for a long time; he drew his eyebrows together as if he were considering the matter and
fixed his eyes on the ground. Finally he said,
"I advise caution."
Domitian said, "You have spoken
briefly and appropriately. Your opinion, however, must be explained more fully."
Before Crispus could reply, Aulus
Fabricius Veientus, a little more daring than the others, interrupted. But fearing that he would offend Domitian, he used
"We know, master, that Gnaeus Iulius Agricola has finally overpowered the Scots. But he is
too carried away. Agricola believes that the island of Ireland can be seized easily; I, however, think that Agricola is making
a big mistake; for the Irish are both fierce and strong. If our troops are led across the sea into Ireland, they will be exposed
to great danger."
Then Publius Cornelius Fuscus, commander of the praetorian guard.
"Aulus Fabricius has
given us appropriate and wise advice. Agricola has sent us a letter impressive in word but in truth meaningless. He has been
in charge of Britain for seven years now. Has he sent seven years of tribute to the treasury? No! In his letter he himself
says that the centurions have been ordered to collect tribute more leniently; he adds that he has persuaded the sons of the
chieftains to learn the Latin language. Obviously Agricola thinks that he has been sent to Britain to teach the boys, not
to overpower the barbarians! Agricola must be recalled and punished."
Then Manius Acilius Glabrio, angered by this
"Cornelius Fuscus, you are blaming Agricola without reason. You envy him because he has achieved such
splendid things. Indeed I am very pleased that the Scots have been overpowered. If Ireland is also conquered by Agricola,
we will have all of Britain in our power. It is ridiculous to recall Agricola before he completely conquers the Britons. Who
of our leaders is better than Agricola? Who is more worthy of triumph?"
consilium Domitiani II
The others, amazed at Glabrios boldness, held their eyes fixed on the Emperor and did not
speak. The Emperor, however, did not show his feelings either by word or by expression. Then Epaphroditus turned to Glabrio
"Surely you cant compare this worthless victory of Agricola with the splendid achievements of our Emperor?
Surely you are forgetting the German chieftans, tied in chains, who were escorted through the triumph celebration in the
streets of the city? Surely you heard, my Glabrio, that the Emperor himself overpowered many thousands of Germans last year."
Then, as soon as he heard these words of Epaphroditus, Messalinus used the opportunity and said,
"It is generally
agreed that no enemy is more fierce than the Germans, no leader as good as Domitian Augustus. We also know that Agricola
has remained in the province for seven years. He himself declares that the legions are so faithful to him that he can advance
to Ireland without fear. We must beware! Who of us does not know the example of Sulpicius Galba? We all remember that Galba
has also ruled the province for seven years; we all know Galba was corrupted by the desire for power; we know that Galba finally
waged war against our homeland. Surely Glabrio does not want Agricola to become Emperor? Agricola, in my opinion, must be
recalled, praised, and removed."
Glabrio, however, did not respond, for he did not doubt that he had offended the
The rest of the senators eagerly followed Messalinuss opinion.
However, Domitian gave no sign either
of hatred, or joy, or envy. Finally, when the consul was dismissed, he remained alone in the hall; he was turning over in
his mind much about Glabrio and Agricola.