THE Parthian king Vologeses I had now heard of Corbulo’s activities and Rome’s award of the Armenian throne to the foreigner Tigranes V. Vologeses wanted to avenge the slur cast on the Parthian royal house by the expulsion of his brother Tiridates from Armenia. Yet Roman power, and his respect for the longstanding treaty1 with us, put him in two minds. Hesitant by nature, Vologeses was also embarrassed by the rebellion of the formidable Hyrcanian people and the numerous resultant campaigns. As he wavered, however, news of a further humiliation provoked him to action. Tigranes had left Armenia and subjected its neighbour Adiabene to devastation too protracted and comprehensive to be regarded as a mere raid.
This was too much for the Parthian grandees. ‘Are we so utterly despised’, they said, ‘that we are invaded not even by a Roman commander but by an impudent hostage who has long been considered a slave?’ The king of Adiabene, Monobazus, further inflamed their resentment. ‘Where,’ he asked, ‘from what quarter, can I find protection? Armenia is gone! The borderlands are following! If Parthia will not help, we must give in to Rome, and make the best of it – avoid conquest by surrendering.’ The silence, and restrained reproaches, of the dethroned exile Tiridates were even more effective. ‘Passivity does not preserve great empires’, he said. ‘That needs fighting, with warriors and weapons. When stakes are highest, might is right. A private individual can satisfy his prestige by holding his own – but a monarch can only do it by claiming other people’s property.’
Vologeses was moved by these pleas. Calling a council, he placed Tiridates next to himself. ‘When this man,’ said Vologeses, ‘whose father was mine too, renounced the supreme position to me as the elder, I awarded him the third-ranking kingdom, Armenia; for Pacorus had already been given Media Atropatene. By abandoning the tradition of brotherly feuds and family strife, I thought I had settled the affairs of our family satisfactorily. But the Romans, though they have never broken the peace to their advantage, are breaking it once again. It will mean their destruction!
‘I admit I should have preferred to rely on right and inheritance, not on sanguinary warfare, to keep what my ancestors won. But if I have delayed mistakenly, my prowess henceforward will make amends. Your might and renown, gentlemen, are undiminished. You have gained a name, also, for moderation. No man is exalted enough to scorn moderation; and the gods too honour it.’ So saying, he placed the diadem on Tiridates’ head. Then, entrusting his royal cavalry escort or auxiliaries from Adiabene to a nobleman called Monaeses, Vologeses ordered Tiridates to expel Tigranes from Armenia. Vologeses himself, waiving his dispute with the Hyrcanians, mobilized his home forces for major operations against the Roman provinces.
When Corbulo received reliable information of these measures, he sent two divisions to support Tigranes. But Corbulo secretly instructed their commanders, Lucius Verulanus Severus and Marcus Vettius Bolanus, to act warily and not to hustle. For he wanted to have a war on hand rather than to fight one. Moreover, since Syria would be the chief sufferer from invasion by Vologeses, he had written recommending Nero to appoint a separate commander to defend Armenia. Meanwhile Corbulo posted his remaining divisions on the Euphrates, improvised an armed force of provincials, and blocked every possible entrance-point with troops. Water being so scarce in the area, he built forts to protect certain springs, and destroyed others by filling them with sand.
During these preparations for the defence of Syria, Monaeses advanced rapidly, hoping to reach Tigranes before his approach was announced; but he did not catch Corbulo unawares or unprepared. Tigranes had occupied Tigranocerta. This city was powerfully garrisoned and fortified. Parts of its walls were protected by a considerable river, the Nicephorius, while a large fosse surrounded the remaining circumference. Inside were Roman troops, and stores already collected. A few of their collectors, advancing rashly, had been surprised and cut off by the enemy. However, this irritated rather than intimidated their fellow-soldiers.
The Parthians lacked the hand-to-hand courage to prosecute a siege. Their sporadic discharge of arrows deluded no one but themselves; it did not frighten the Roman garrison. And when the Adia-benians brought up ladders and siege-engines they were easily thrown back, and then roughly handled by a sortie. But Corbulo decided to take no great advantage of the successes. Instead he wrote to Vologeses protesting against his invasion of the province and blockade of an allied, friendly king and Roman troops. Either Vologeses must raise the siege, said Corbulo, or he himself would likewise occupy enemy territory. The staff-officer Casperius who took the letter found the Parthian king at Nisibis, thirty-seven miles from Tigrano-certa, and spiritedly delivered his message in person.
It was Vologeses’ longstanding and firm policy to avoid war with Rome. Besides, his affairs were not going well. The siege had failed. Tigranes was well-garrisoned and supplied. The assaulting party had been routed. Moreover, Roman divisions had been dispatched to Armenia, while others were on the Syrian frontier ready for an offensive. His own cavalry, however, was suffering from lack of fodder, since an invasion of locusts had destroyed all leafage and grass. Afraid – but hiding it – Vologeses gave a conciliatory reply: he would send envoys to the Roman emperor, to discuss the Parthian claim to Armenia and the conclusion of a stable peace. Then the king ordered Monaeses to abandon the attempt on Tigranocerta, and also withdrew himself.
This was generally regarded as a triumph, achieved by Corbulo’s threats and Vologeses’ fears. Some, however, alleged a secret agreement whereby each side should suspend hostilities and both Vologeses and Tigranes should leave Armenia. ‘Otherwise’, they argued, ‘why had the Roman army evacuated Tigranocerta? Was it better to have wintered on the Cappadocian frontier, in hastily erected huts, radier than in the capital of the kingdom they had just saved? No, surely the war was postponed so that Vologeses should encounter a different opponent. Corbulo clearly had no intention of hazarding any more the honours that his long service had won him.’
For Corbulo, as already stated, had requested a separate appointment for the defence of Armenia. Lucius Caesennius Paetus was reported to be on his way. When he arrived, the forces were divided. Paetus received the first brigade which had recently been summoned from Moesia, and the fourth and twelfth, and all the auxiliaries from Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia. Corbulo retained the third, sixth and tenth brigades, and the original Syrian army. The remaining troops were to be shared or allotted as circumstances required. However, Corbulo was impatient of rivals. Paetus, for his part, might well in other circumstances have been satisfied to take second place – but he had formed a low estimate of what his colleague had achieved. There had been no killing or plundering, said Paetus – the storming of cities had been purely nominal: he intended to impose, not merely a phantom king, but the tribute and law and government of Rome.
At this juncture Vologeses’ envoys, whose mission to the emperor I mentioned, returned unsuccessful. So Parthia started undisguised warfare. Paetus was willing, and entered Armenia with two divisions, the fourth under Lucius Funisulanus Vettonianus, and the twelfth under Calavius Sabinus. But the omens were sinister. For while crossing the Euphrates bridge the horse carrying the consular insignia took fright for no apparent reason, and bolted to the rear. Then a victim due for sacrifice (when the construction of the winter camp was complete) escaped outside the rampart before the work was done. Moreover, some soldiers’ javelins caught fire – a particularly significant portent since the Parthian enemy fights with missiles.
But Paetus disregarded the omens. Without adequately fortifying his winter camp or arranging to store corn, he hurried his army across the Taurus range, proposing to recover Tigranocerta and devastate the areas which Corbulo had left unravaged. A few forts were captured and some credit gained, also loot; though Paetus claimed immoderate credit, and wasted the loot. But during his long marches over territory he could not hold, the corn he had seized became spoilt. Winter was approaching. So Paetus withdrew his army and composed a dispatch to Nero. It was grandly phrased – as if the war was over – but empty of substance.
Corbulo had guarded the Euphrates bank vigilantly. Now he reinforced its protection. A bridge was also constructed. To prevent interference by the enemy cavalry – already manoeuvring impressively nearby – he moved across the river large ships joined by poles and fortified with turrets. On these were stationed engines and catapults which repulsed the Parthians: their discharge of stones and spears outranged the enemy’s arrows. The bridge was then completed, and the hills opposite occupied, first by auxiliaries and then by a brigade camp. The speed and power displayed were so imposing that the Parthians abandoned their preparations for invading Syria and concentrated all their hopes on Armenia.
Paetus was unaware of the threat. The fifth brigade was in distant Pontus. The others were weakened by excessive grants of leave. Then came news that Vologeses was approaching with a large and formidable force. Paetus summoned up the twelfth brigade. But this action, designed to give an impression of strength, only revealed his weakness. Yet with such a force, if only he had followed a consistent policy – his own or that of his advisers – he could have held the camp, or frustrated the Parthians by delaying action. As it was, emboldened to face the emergency by his staff, he adopted a different, inferior plan – to show his independent judgement. Asserting that the means given him to resist the enemy were not ditches and ramparts but men and weapons, he abandoned the winter camp and led out his army as though for a battle.
After losing a small reconnaissance detachment under a company-commander, he returned in alarm. But Vologeses’ omission to press the pursuit restored his baseless confidence. So Paetus posted three thousand picked infantry on the nearest spur of the Taurus to bar Vologeses’ approach, stationed the best of his cavalry from Pannonia on the neighbouring plain, and shut his wife and son into the fort of Arsamosata, which was garrisoned by one battalion. If concentrated, Paetus’ troops might well have held the enemy’s sporadic attacks; but he scattered them.
Only very reluctantly, it is said, did he agree to admit his danger to Corbulo. But Corbulo did not hurry. The graver the peril, he felt, the more glorious the rescue. Nevertheless, he told a thousand regular troops from each of his three brigades, eight hundred cavalry, and eight hundred auxiliary infantry, to stand by for marching orders.
Vologeses knew that Paetus had blocked his route with infantry on one flank and cavalry on the other. But the Parthian adhered to his plan. Frightening off the cavalry by a threat of force, he overwhelmed the Roman infantry. Only one company-commander, Tarquitius Crescens, put up a fight for the tower he was defending. After numerous sorties, and the destruction of every oriental who approached, he fell beneath showers of firebrands. Surviving infantrymen fled far into the wilderness. The wounded regained the camp with terrified, exaggerated stories of the king’s prowess and the ferocity of his numerous peoples. These tales were readily believed by listeners who felt the same terrors. The general himself collapsed under his difficulties. Paetus neglected every military duty, but wrote again to Corbulo, urging speed to save the Eagles, standards, and remaining prestige of his unhappy army – which would hold out loyally, he said, until it perished.
Corbulo was not alarmed. Leaving part of his army in Syria to hold the Euphrates defences, he proceeded to Armenia by the shortest provisioned route, by way of Commagene and Cappadocia. His usual military equipment was supplemented by numerous camels carrying corn; for measures to resist famine, as well as the enemy, were necessary. The first of the defeated force whom he encountered was a senior company-commander Paccius Orfitus, then numerous soldiers. They offered various excuses for their flight. But Corbulo ordered them to return to their units and see if Paetus would forgive them. Personally, he added, he was unindulgent, except to battle-winners.
Addressing his own troops, he encouraged them with reminders of past glories, and hopes of more. ‘Our worthwhile objectives’, he said, ‘are not Armenian towns and villages but a Roman camp containing two Roman brigades. Any of you private soldiers can win from the emperor’s own hand the glorious wreath for saving a citizen’s life. But how infinitely honourable if this army could win it corporatively for saving a force as large as itself!’ His address inspired unanimous enthusiasm. Besides, some soldiers had personal incentives – brothers and other relatives in danger. They marched at top speed, night and day.
Vologeses intensified the siege, bringing pressure alternately on the camp defences and the fort containing the non-combatants. He approached closer than Parthians usually do, hoping by this boldness to lure the enemy into an engagement. But the Romans could hardly be enticed out of their tents, other than to man the defences. In some cases the motive was obedience to their general. Others were cowards. They claimed to be waiting for Corbulo. But the prospect of an enemy onslaught made them think of past catastrophes like the Caudine Forks or Numantia1 – ‘and there the conquerors had been the Samnites, one Italian tribe, whereas the Parthians are a power rivalling imperial Rome itself. Even the brave, admired ancient Romans had taken thought for their lives when fortune deserted them.’
Paetus succumbed to the general hopelessness, and wrote to Vologeses. But his first letter was less a petition than a protest against this forcible support of Armenia, which, he claimed, had always been subject to Rome or to a king chosen by the emperor. Peace, he urged, was mutually beneficial. The king must look beyond the immediate circumstances. He had brought the whole strength of his kingdom against two brigades, but Rome had the rest of the world to support her warfare.
Vologeses replied evasively that he must await his brothers Pacorus and Tiridates, that this was the time and place fixed for deciding Armenia’s future, and that heaven had added the task – befitting his house – of deciding the fate of the Roman army. Paetus then sent messengers requesting an interview with the king. Instead, Vologeses sent his cavalry-commander Vasaces. To him, Paetus emphasized the history of Rome’s occupations and disposals of Armenia by Lucius Licinius Lucullus, Pompey, and the emperors. The Parthian objected that these had been purely nominal; the real power had belonged to his compatriots. After long discussion, Monobazus, the king of Adia-bene, was brought in next day to witness an agreement. The siege was to be raised, all Roman troops evacuated from Armenia, forts and provisions ceded to the Parthians; after all of which, Vologeses was to be authorized to send envoys to Nero.
Paetus next bridged the river Arsania alongside the camp. Ostensibly this was for his own retreat, though in reality the Parthians had ordered its construction to commemorate their victory. For it was they who utilized it. Our army took a different route. Rumour added that the Roman troops suffered indignities befitting their humiliation, including the yoke. The behaviour of the Armenians was in keeping with such reports. They entered the defences before the Roman column left, and lined the roads, identifying and intercepting slaves and cattle our men had earlier plundered. Even clothing was torn off, and weapons seized from the terrified soldiers. To avoid any pretext for a battle, the Romans acquiesced.
To commemorate our defeat, Vologeses piled up the arms and corpses of the fallen. But he refrained from viewing the Roman army’s withdrawal. His pride satisfied, he desired a name for moderation. He forded the river on an elephant, while horses swam across with his staff. For the rumour had spread that the bridge had been treacherously built to collapse beneath a weight. But those who ventured on it found it solid and reliable.
The besieged, it became known, had been so well provided with corn that they burned their granaries. The Parthians, however – according to Corbulo – were about to raise the siege owing to the exhaustion of their supplies and forage: and he was only three days’ march away. He added that Paetus swore, before the standards (and witnesses sent by the kings), that no Roman should enter Armenia until Nero had written back saying whether he accepted the peace. Even assuming that these stories were invented to heighten Paetus’ disgrace, the other reports are certainly true; in one day Paetus marched forty miles, abandoning his wounded as he went – a panic-striken flight as disgraceful as running away in battle.1
Corbulo and his troops met them at the Euphrates. There was no display of decorations or arms to point a censorious contrast. Corbulo’s men, in sad sympathy for their fellow soldiers, wept so bitterly that they could hardly manage to utter a greeting. The incentives produced by success – rivalry in valour and ambition for glory – just were not there. Instead, in the lower ranks especially, the prevailing emotion was pity.
The generals had a brief conversation. ‘My work is wasted!’ said Corbulo. ‘The war could have been ended, and the Parthians routed,’ ‘Nothing is lost for either of us,’ replied Paetus. ‘Let us turn our Eagles round and jointly invade Armenia, which is powerless now Vologeses has gone.’ But Corbulo answered that the emperor had given him no such orders. ‘I only left my province through anxiety for your army. Parthian plans are unpredictable! I must return to Syria. Even as it is, my infantry is exhausted by protracted marching – and we shall need luck to intercept their powerful cavalry, which moves so much faster on the level ground.’
Paetus wintered in Cappadocia. Vologeses sent envoys to Corbulo requesting the suppression of his forts across the Euphrates and its re-establishment as the frontier. Corbulo then insisted that all Parthian garrisons should evacuate Armenia; and finally the king gave way. Corbulo’s fortifications across the Euphrates were then demolished, and the Armenians were left without interference.
At Rome, however, trophies and arches for victory over Parthia were erected in the centre of the Capitoline hill. Voted by the senate while the war was still undecided, they were not abandoned now. Unmistakable facts were ignored in favour of appearances.
As a further distraction from the grave foreign situation, certain corn that had been intended for the inhabitants of Rome but had deteriorated in storage was dumped by Nero in the Tiber. This was to inspire confidence that supplies were abundant. However, nearly two hundred corn ships – actually in harbour – had been destroyed by a violent storm, and a hundred more were accidentally burnt when already up the Tiber. Yet the emperor did not increase the price. But he proceeded to appoint three ex-consuls, Lucius Calpurnius Piso (V), Aulus Ducenius Geminus, and Pompeius Paulinus, to control the national revenues. Nero utilized this occasion to criticize previous emperors for their ruinous expenditure in advance of income, and to emphasize his own annual gifts of sixty million sesterces to the nation.
At this period there was a widespread harmful practice whereby, when an election or ballot for governorships was impending, childless persons fictitiously adopted sons, 1 and then, when they had won praetorships or provinces as fathers of families, immediately emancipated the adopted persons. The senate received angry appeals from real parents. These contrasted the unnatural, fraudulent brevity of these adoptions with the natural claims of themselves, who had suffered the anxieties of bringing up children. The childless were amply consoled, they argued, by the ready ease with which, carefree and unburdened, they acquired influence and office; whereas their own legal privileges, after protracted waiting, became a farce when some irresponsible so-called father – whose lack of children did not come from bereavement – effortlessly achieved the longstanding ambitions of authentic parents. So the senate decreed that, when offices or even inheritances were at stake, fictitious adoptions should carry no weight.
Next came the trial of a Cretan, Claudius Timarchus. Most of the charges against him were those habitually brought against mighty provincials whose enormous wealth inflates them into oppressors. But he had also made a remark (more than once) which constituted an insult to the senate: ‘Whether a governor of Crete receives the thanks of our Provincial Assembly depends on me!’ Thrasea utilized the occasion to the national advantage. Proposing the defendant’s banishment from Crete, he reminded the senate how experience showed that, among right-thinking men, good laws and beneficial precedents are prompted by other men’s misdeeds. Punishments, he pointed out, come after crimes, and rectifications after abuses. He quoted the Cincian bill originating from the excesses of advocates, the Julian laws from corruption among candidates, and the Calpurnian enactments from the rapacity of officials.1
‘So let us face this unprecedented provincial arrogance’, he urged, ‘with a measure befitting Roman honour and dignity. Without diminishing our protection of provincials, we must recover the conviction that a Roman’s reputation depends on Romans only. Once we used to send praetors and consuls, and even private citizens, to inspect provinces and report on everyone’s loyalty. Then nations trembled for the verdict of one man! But now we court and flatter foreigners. Some individual makes a sign, and they thank our governor – or, more likely, prosecute him!
‘But even granting that we must continue to let provincials display their power in this way, we should nevertheless frown on governors winning empty eulogies, extracted by entreaties. We should judge this as severely as ill-intentioned or brutal government. To oblige is often as harmful as to offend. Indeed, some virtues provoke hatred. Unbending strictness and incorruptibility do. That is why our officials usually start well and end badly; like election candidates, they begin looking round for support. Stop this, and provincial administration will be fairer and steadier. Prohibit votes of thanks, and popularity-hunting will collapse – just as acquisitiveness is repressed by fear of the extortion laws.’
These opinions received warm approval. But no senatorial decree could be carried, since the consuls ruled that no question on the subject was before the House. Later, however, on the emperor’s initiative, a decree was passed forbidding votes of thanks to governors at Provincial Assemblies, or the participation by provincials in missions conveying such votes.
This, too, was the year in which the Gymnasium was struck by lightning and burnt down. A statue of Nero inside was melted into a shapeless bronze mass. An earthquake also largely demolished the populous Campanian town of Pompeii. Laelia, priestess of Vesta, died, and her place was taken by Cornelia, of the family of the Cossi.
Next year the consuls were Gaius Memmius Regulus and Lucius Verginius Rufus. Poppaea now bore Nero a daughter. His joy exceeded human measure, and mother and child were both named Augusta. The infant was born at Nero’s own birthplace, the Roman settlement of Antium. The senate had already asked heaven’s blessing on Poppaea’s pregnancy and made official vows. Now these vows were discharged, with additions including a thanksgiving. A temple of Fertility was decreed, and a competition modelled on the Action Victory Festival.1 Golden statues of the Two Fortunes of Antium were to be placed on the throne of Capitoline Jupiter, and Antium was to have Circus Games in honour of the Claudian and Domitian houses, like the Games in honour of the Julian house at Bovillae.
But it was all ephemeral; for within less than four months the baby was dead. Then followed new forms of sycophancy. She was declared a goddess and voted a place on the gods’ ceremonial couch, together with a shrine and a priest. The emperor’s delight had been immoderate; so was his mourning.
Shortly after the birth, the whole senate had flocked out to Antium. But Thrasea had been forbidden to attend. It was noticed how calmly he received this affront – though it foreshadowed his own impending death. Nero, it is said, subsequently boasted to Seneca that he was reconciled with Thrasea; and Seneca congratulated Nero. The incident increased both these eminent men’s prestige, but also their peril.
At this time, the beginning of spring, there arrived the Parthian delegation bringing Vologeses’ message and a letter confirming it. ‘I say nothing now about my frequently repeated claim to Armenia,’ ran the communication, ‘since the gods, who direct the fates even of the greatest nations, have handed the country to the Parthians, not without Roman ignominy. When, recently, I besieged Tigranes, I could have destroyed Lucius Caesennius Paetus and his army. But I let them go free. I have sufficiently demonstrated my power; and I have also given proof of my clemency. Tiridates, too, would not decline to come to Rome and receive his diadem, if this were not prevented by taboos connected with his priesthood. He would attend the emperor’s standards and statues, and inaugurate his reign before the Roman army.’
It was hard to reconcile this message with Paetus’ report that the position was inconclusive. A Roman staff-officer escorting the delegates was interrogated concerning the situation. He replied that all Romans had left Armenia. The ironical character of the orientals’ request for what they had already seized was clear. Nero consulted his council: was it to be a hazardous war, or a humiliating peace? The unhesitating decision was war. To prevent a further disaster from the incompetence of some new general – for they were disgusted with Paetus – the sole command was given to Corbulo, with his long experience of active service.
So the delegates were dismissed, their purpose unaccomplished. But they were given presents to encourage the hope that, if Tiridates made the same appeal in person, it would be favourably received. Corbulo’s army was reinforced by a brigade from Pannonia under the command of Marius Celsus. Gaius Cestius Gallus (II) was made imperial governor of Syria. Instructions were sent to vassal kings and princes, and neighbouring governors of all ranks, to obey Corbulo’s orders. His powers were virtually increased to those the state had granted to Pompey for the Pirate War.1 Paetus, back in Rome, expected the worst. But Nero contented himself with a sarcastic rebuke. He was pardoning the general immediately, he intimated, because prolonged suspense would damage so timid a person’s health.
Corbulo sent Paetus’ fourth and twelfth brigades to Syria, considering that the loss of their best men and demoralization of the remainder had made them unfit to fight. His invasion force for Armenia included his own two fresh brigades, the sixth and third, toughened by long and successful service. To these Corbulo added the recently arrived fifteenth brigade from Pannonia, and the fifth which had been stationed in Pontus and so had escaped the disaster, picked detachments from Illyricum and Egypt, and auxiliary infantry and cavalry, including contingents from the dependent kings. These forces were concentrated in Melitene at the point where he planned to cross the Euphrates. Then – after the customary purification ritual – Corbulo addressed the army. His own achievements under the emperor’s auspices received grandiloquent allusions. Reverses he blamed on Paetus’ inexperience. His words had that authoritative ring which, in a military man, takes the place of eloquence.
Soon his advance began along the road originally opened up by Lucius Licinius Lucullus.1 Obstructions formed in the course of time had to be cleared. When envoys arrived from Tiridates and Vologese to discuss peace, he did not rebuff them but sent them back with Roman staff-officers bearing conciliatory messages. ‘Matters have not reached the point’, he said, ‘when war to the finish is unavoidable. Rome’s many successes, Parthia’s successes, too, are warnings against arrogance. To accept his kingdom as a gift, undeyastated, is to Tiridates’ advantage. Vologeses, too, will serve Parthian interests better by alliance with Rome than by a policy of mutual injury. I know the internal dissensions of your kingdom, with its formidable, lawless nations – a contrast to my emperor, whose territories are uniformly peaceful. This is his only war.’
Advice was reinforced by intimidation. The Armenian chiefs who had first revolted against Rome were driven from their homes, and their fortresses demolished. In highlands and lowlands, among strong and weak, there was panic. But the enemy felt no bitterness or hostility towards Corbulo. They trusted his advice. So Vologeses avoided showing intransigence on the main issue, and requested a truce in certain provinces; while Tiridates requested that a day and place should be fixed for a conference. An early date was arranged. As the place, the orientals selected the scene of Paetus’ recent blockade with his army; this was to commemorate their victory. Corbulo did not object. Their contrasted fortunes seemed to accentuate his own glory. How little Paetus’ discredit distressed him, he clearly showed by ordering the latter’s son, a colonel, to take a detachment and bury the remains of the disastrous battle.
On the appointed day a distinguished knight, Tiberius Julius Alexander, who was attached to the campaign in an advisory capacity, and Corbulo’s son-in-law, Annius Vinicianus, who, though below senatorial age, was acting as commander of the fifth brigade, entered Tiridates’ camp. Their visit was both a compliment and a pledge against treachery. Then Tiridates and Corbulo, each with an escort of twenty cavalry, went to meet each other. When he saw the Roman, Tiridates was the first to dismount. Corbulo quickly did the same. On foot, they clasped hands. Corbulo began by complimenting the young ruler on his rejection of adventure and adoption of a safe, beneficial policy. The king, after long preliminaries concerning the nobility of his family, spoke in moderate terms. He would go to Rome, he said, and bring the emperor an unfamiliar distinction – the homage, following no Parthian reverse, of a Parthian royal prince. It was then arranged that Tiridates should lay the royal diadem before the emperor’s statue, to resume it only from Nero’s hand. The interview ended with an embrace.
A few days later both armies paraded in splendid array. On the Parthian side was troop after troop of cavalry, with their national ensigns. On the other side stood our brigades, with their glittering Eagles and standards; and all the images of gods made one think of a temple. On the dais in the middle was a Roman official chair, bearing Nero’s effigy. To this Tiridates advanced. When the customary sacrifices had been made, he took the diadem from his head and laid it at the feet of the statue. This caused a profound and universal impression, the more so since the picture of Roman armies slaughtered and besieged had not faded from people’s eyes. Now, it seemed, the situation was reversed. Tiridates was going to make a world-wide exhibition of himself; he was little short of a prisoner.
Corbulo improved his already glorious reputation by courtesy and entertainment. For every novelty he saw, the king requested explanations – for instance a company-commander announcing the new watch; the bugle-note terminating the banquet; the torch which lit the altar before the commander-in-chief’s tent. Corbulo’s grandiose replies fired Tiridates with admiration for ancient Roman customs. Next day, however, he requested time to visit his brothers and mother before the long journey. Meanwhile, he gave his daughter as a hostage, and presented his petition for Nero.
Tiridates then went to find Vologeses and his other brother Pacorus, who were at Ecbatana and in Media Atropatene respectively. Concerned for Tiridates’ interests, the Parthian king had sent envoys to Corbulo asking that his brother should not be exposed to any external signs of subjection – that he should keep his sword, be entitled to embrace governors, not be kept waiting at their door, and at Rome receive a consul’s honours. Vologeses was accustomed to foreign ostentatiousness. Clearly he did not understand how we Romans value real power but disdain its vanities.
Other events of this year were the award of Latin rights to the tribes of the Maritime Alps, and the allocation to Roman knights of places in the circus in front of the ordinary people’s seats. Hitherto the order of knights had possessed no separate seats in the circus because the Roscian law allotting them ‘the first fourteen rows’ applied only to the theatre.