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Funeral song of Clutorius Priscus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Drusus the Younger
Drusus the Younger

Tacitus tells us that in 21 CE, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, the poet Clutorius Priscus was accused in the senate. He was accused of having composed a mourning song (carmen) during the illness of the emperor’s son, Drusus the Younger, in which he mourned the expected death of the man.

Surprisingly, Drusus recovered, and Clutorius mentioned his song at the feast of Publius Petronius. The senate was denounced by the consul Haterius Agrippa, who demanded the death penalty. Another punishment was suggested by Manius Lepidus, who emphasized the low harmfulness of the act and demanded expulsion from Rome and confiscation of property, treating the event as an insult to the emperor’s majesty. Ultimately, senators opted for the death penalty; and the sentence was carried out immediately in one of the prisons.

Tiberius, when he found out, expressed the opinion that the sentence was carried out too quickly. What is more, a regulation was adopted requiring to wait 10 days after the sentence is passed before the sentence is carried out.

Interestingly, Clutorius Priscus had previously prepared a mourning song in honour of Germanicus; then he received an award from Tiberius.

  • Tacitus, Annales, III.49-51

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