GERMANICUS ET PISO: THE TEXTS
The Anthology extract is abridged and adapted from the following chapters of Tacitus' Annals:
Piso in Syria:
Tacitus, Annals II. 55.
The Death of Germanicus:
Tacitus, Annals II. 69-73.
Tacitus, Annals II. 75,82; III. 1.
Tacitus, Annals III. 12-15.
English Complete Texts
Scroll to 2.55 to get the full version of events as recounted in Piso in Syria; scroll to sections 69-73 for The Death of Germanicus; and scroll to sections 75 and 82 for the first two paragraphs of Mourning.
Start at 3.1 to get the full version of events as recounted in the final paragraph of Mourning; and scroll to 3.12 for Revenge.
About the author
To find out about Tacitus' life and works, click here
This should help you sort out those tricky family relationships...
Germanicus: a Roman super-hero?
Our Anthology extract comes from the Roman historian Tacitus, but to give a flavour of the reverence in which Germanicus was held (by some?by many?), here's a glowing account from the Roman biographer Suetonius:
"It is the general opinion that Germanicus possessed all the highest qualities of body and mind, to a degree never equalled by anyone; a handsome person, unequalled valour, surpassing ability in the oratory of Greece and Rome, unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men's regard and inspiring their affection." (The Twelve Caesars: Caligula.3)
The "Grand camée de France" showing Tiberius enthroned and Germanicus standing before him in full armour. This semi-precious sardonyx gem would have been a present or accolade for the imperial family or close friends. Somehow it made its way into the treasury of Sainte Chappelle (chapel of the former royal palace) in Paris; and now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
Dates to 23-29 AD.
In the Louvre, Paris.
In the Ny. Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen.
From the Sebasteion (Temple of Augustus) in Aphrodisias, Turkey.
Fictitous likenesses of course. By Peter Paul Rubens; 1614; in the National Gallery, Washington DC.
spooky... Before his posting to Syria, Germanicus spent 3 years in Germania - like his father whose victories there earned him the honorary name "Germanicus".
Arminius was the German tribal leader who fought against Germanicus from 14-17 AD.
This modern monument stands in Ulm, once thought to be near the site of Arminius' greatest victory at the Teutoburg Forest in 9AD.
Germanicus' triumphant parade in Rome in 17AD for his German victories. A grudging Tiberius watches as Germanicus comes through the tiumphal arch in the background; in the foreground is the captured Germanic tribal princess Thusnelda and her son - wife and son of Germanicus' arch-enemy Arminius.
Painting by Carl Theodor von Piloty, 1873; in the Neue Pinakothek, Munich.
This map is super for showing the Roman empire and its provinces at the time of Augustus' death in 14 AD and Tiberius' early years - just the period, in fact, of this historical episode of 18 AD recounted in "Germanicus & Piso" in the Anthology.
Piso in Syria
In 66 BC, a campaign led by Pompey the Great essentially brought Syria under Roman control; in 64 BC, the Syrian Kings were ousted, and Syria was annexed as a Roman province.
Under Roman rule, Syria prospered. Despite being a frontier buffer zone, Syria's ports and trade routes with the far east were important economic forces. Grain, fruits, cloth, glass, wool, linen, textiles, pottery, timber and resin were all exported in abundance. Dyes too, especially the purple dye extracted from molluscs on the Syrian shore were of particular importance.
Much like Syria's entire ancient history, it remained a battleground territory during the Roman era. Serving as a launching point against Parthia, into Judaea and elsewhere, as many as 4 legions were garrisoned in Syria at any one time.Extract from UNRV.com
Here's another map
; and here's one of the area around Antioch
Antioch was known as "The Athens of the East"... This famed ancient city is mostly lost to us now, but this exhibition starts to tell its tale.
Detailed and interesting.
Centurions, somewhat akin to modern army captains, led and inspired their men by example; they were trusted by their commanders.
Pictured here is Centurion Vorenus (Kevin McKidd)in fighting-kit from the HBO/BBC drama "Rome".More centurion information
At this period, the 6 military tribunes of each legion were the second-layer-of-command after the Legate. The tribunes had no definite duties: they were appointed tasks by the legate whenever the need arose.
Young upper-class Roman men used this position as a stepping-stone to a political career, so the tribunes often did not have much military experience or ability.
As senior oficers, they were distinguished in uniform from the rank and file by their textured breastplates of leather or metal, and especially by their lengthways-crested helmets.More tribune information.
Munatia Plancina was the wife of Piso.
This link is a summary of her life compiled from two ancient sources: Tacitus and Cassius Dio. Scroll to "Plancina, Munatia" at the foot of the page to begin.
Being the granddaughter of Augustus (by his daughter Julia and close-friend and military commander Marcus Agrippa) always meant that she was going to be one of the most prominent women in the Roman Empire. And that was before marrying the charismatic and hugely popular Germanicus!
This Agrippina is known as Agrippina the Elder to distinguish her from her daughter (Agrippina the Younger). A close reading of the sources indicates that she was an unatractive person: proud, quick-tempered and intolorant. Her redeeming feature to Tacitus is that she was an opponent of Tiberius!
This bust is in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
Here's another view
This marvellous sculpure of Agrippina (or less likely her mother-in-law, Antonia the Younger) was found in 2003 on the small Italian island of Pantelleria, south of Sicily. It was found with two other busts (of Julius Caesar and Emperor Titus) in an ancient cistern in an old Roman area high above the main village. On top of the cistern were remains of a major sacrificial offering. Clearly there was some attempt to hide and save these three busts at some point in the ancient history of Pantelleria.
Another great bust; this one is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Cameo in the British Museum.
Hyper-linked life-story from Wikipedia.
Good article detailing Tacitus' change of attitude towads her from Books I-III to Book IV.
There's more on Agrippina in the "Death of Germanicus" and "Mourning" sections below...
Wonderful relief map showing Armenia south of the Caucasus Mountains; its ancient capital Artaxata on the Araxes River is marked.
Situated between the two great empires of Rome and Parthia, Armenia was often opposed to both.
This map shows how the once great empire which stretched from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Seas has shrunk in size since Roman times.
The yellow shading is the Armenia of today; and here placed in context of surrounding countries
> The Death of Germanicus
10th October AD19.
The hero's loyal soldiers on the left; his grieving wife on the right. Painted in 1627 by Nicolas Poussin.
A key work in Western painting, this tragic picture presents a moral lesson in stoic heroism, seen especially in the restraint and dignity of the mourning soldiers. This painting became the model for countless deathbed scenes for two centuries to come, particularly for Neoclassical art around 1800. Many powerful human themes figure here: death, suffering, injustice, grief, loyalty, and revenge.
In the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Here's a zoom-able version
Both came from noble families: Alexander being a Greek king, Germancius heir to the Roman emperor; both died young: Alexander at 32, Germanicus at 33; and both far from home and in the East: Germanicus in Antioch in Syria, and Alexander in Babylon in modern Iraq. Similarly, it was rumoured in both cases that these men were poisoned.
This image shows Alexander looking over Babylon with its famed hanging gardens, Tower of Babel and the Ishtar gate.
Painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema of 1866; in the private colection of Fred and Sherry Ross, USA.
Expensive marble urn for the ashes of a high-ranking Roman soldier dating to about the time of Germanicus. We would perhaps expect Germanicus' urn to be of gold or silver though.
In the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
More usually now spelled "Kos" in the Greek manner. Info and maps from Wikipedia.
According to Roman custom, a dark-coloured toga (toga pulla) - and something similarly dark for a woman - was worn during the mourning period.
This image shows Cato the Younger (from the HBO/BBC drama "Rome") dressed in a black "toga pulla" - being worn not for mourning, but for its other related use: signifying danger to the Republic.
It was, and as modern Brindisi still is, the main sea-port in Italy for travel to and from Greece and further east.
Here's a modern aerial view
Super painting by American artist Benjamin West entitled "Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus". Painted in 1768, the work is now in Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Painting by Scotish artist Gavin Hamilton entitled "Agrippina Landing at Brindisium with the Ashes of Germanicus", dating 1765-72.
In the Tate Britain Gallery, London.
Famous painting by English artist J.W.M.Turner entitled "Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus". Dating to c.1839, Turner in fact moves the scene from Brundisium to Rome seen in the background.
In the Tate Britain Gallery, London.
Deriving form the Latin word oriens, meaning "rising" (in reference to the sun's rising in the east), to the Romans the Orient referred primarily to the cultures and countries at the eastern end of the known world - places now considered the "Middle East". These would have included the ancient regions of Asia Minor, Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt - essentially everything east of Greece on this map.
More photos and descriptions are here
Pressing a carved signet-ring into a drop of warm wax effectively "sealed" a document, acting as a signature and a tamper-proof seal.
This silver signet-ring with a carved cornelian gem was found at Farndon in Cheshire, UK. Now in Liverpool Museum.