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Historiae by Tacitus
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Book IV Chapter 7: Envoys to Vespasian[AD 69]
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It was the dread of personal humiliation that made Marcellus so earnest, for he feared that, if others were chosen, he should himself appear slighted. From an angry conversation they passed by degrees to long and bitter speeches. Helvidius asked, "Why should Marcellus be so afraid of the judgment of the magistrates? He has wealth and eloquence, which might make him superior to many, were he not oppressed by the consciousness of guilt. The chances of the ballot do not discriminate men's characters; the voting and the judgment of the Senate were devised to reach the lives and reputations of individuals. It concerns the interests of the Common-wealth, it concerns the honour due to Vespasian, that he should be met by those whom the Senate counts to be peculiarly blameless, and who may fill the Emperor's ear with honourable counsels. Vespasian was the friend of Thrasea, Soranus, and Sextius; and the accusers of these men, though it may not be expedient to punish them, ought not to be paraded before him. By this selection on the part of the Senate the Emperor will, so to speak, be advised whom he should mark with approval, and from whom he should shrink. There can be no more effectual instrument of good government than good friends. Let Marcellus be satisfied with having urged Nero to destroy so many innocent victims; let him enjoy the wages of his crimes and his impunity, but let him leave Vespasian to worthier advisers." Sed Marcelli studium proprius rubor excitabat ne aliis electis posthabitus crederetur. paulatimque per altercationem ad continuas et infestas orationes provecti sunt, quaerente Helvidio quid ita Marcellus iudicium magistratuum pavesceret: esse illi pecuniam et eloquentiam, quis multos anteiret, ni memoria flagitiorum urgeretur. sorte et urna mores non discerni: suffragia et existimationem senatus reperta ut in cuiusque vitam famamque penetrarent. pertinere ad utilitatem rei publicae, pertinere ad Vespasiani honorem, occurrere illi quos innocentissimos senatus habeat, qui honestis sermonibus auris imperatoris imbuant. fuisse Vespasiano amicitiam cum Thrasea, Sorano, Sentio; quorum accusatores etiam si puniri non oporteat, ostentari non debere. hoc senatus iudicio velut admoneri principem quos probet, quos reformidet. nullum maius boni imperii instrumentum quam bonos amicos esse. satis Marcello quod Neronem in exitium tot innocentium impulerit: frueretur praemiis et impunitate, Vespasianum melioribus relinqueret.