23. CN. CALPURNIUS CN. F. CN. N. PISO, son of No. 22, inherited all the pride and haughtiness of his father.
He was consul B. C. 7, with Tiberius, the future emperor, and was sent by Augustus as legate into Spain, where he made himself hated by his cruelty and avarice. Tiberius after his accession was chiefly jealous of Germanicus, his brother's son, whom he had adopted, and who was idolized both by the soldiery and the people. Accordingly, when the eastern provinces were assigned to Germanicus in A. D. 18, Tiberius chose Piso as a fit instrument to thwart the plans and check the power of Germanicus, and therefore conferred upon him the command of Syria.
It was believed that the emperor had given him secret instructions to that effect; and his wife Plancina, who was as proud and haughty as her husband, was urged on by Livia, the mother of the emperor, to vie with and annoy Agrippina. Piso and Plancina fulfilled their mission most completely; the former opposed all the wishes and measures of Germanicus, and the latter heaped every kind of insult upon Agrippina. Germanicus, on his return from Egypt, in A. D. 19, found that all his orders had been neglected or disobeyed. Hence arose vehement altercations between him and Piso; and when the former fell ill in the autumn of this year, he believed that he had been poisoned by Piso and Plancina.
Before his death he had ordered Piso to quit Syria, and had appointed Cn. Santius as his successor. Piso now made an attempt to recover his province, but the Roman soldiers refused to obey him, and Sentius drove him out of the country. Relying on the protection of Tiberius Piso now went to Rome (A. D. 20); but he was received by the people with marks of the utmost dislike and horror. Whether Piso had poisoned Gernmanicus cannot now be determined; Tacitus candidly admits that there were no proofs of his having done so; but the popular belief in his gilt was so strong that Tiberius could not refuse an investigation into the matter, which was conducted by the senate.
As it proceeded the emperor seemed to have made up his mind to sacrifice his tool to the general indignation; but before the investigation came to an end, Piso was found one morning in his room with his throat out, and his sword lying by his side.
It was generally supposed that, despairing of the emperor's protection, he had put an end to his own life; but others believed that Tiberius dreaded his revealing his secrets, and had accordingly caused him to be put to death.
The powerful influence of Livia secured the acquittal of Plancina for the present. [PLANCINA. His two sons Cneius and Marcus, the latter of whom had been with him in Syria, were involved in the accusation of their father, but were pardoned by Tiberius, who mitigated the sentence which the senate pronounced after the deth of Piso. (Tac. Ann. 2.43
; Senec. de Ira,
1.16; D. C. 57.18
; Suet. Tib. 15