Events in the East
You know that there are many Jews who would like to rebel against the empire, but they lack any real leadership. You regularly receive letters from prominent Jews which are thinly veiled requests to return to Judaea and lead a revolt against the Romans and, if necessary, your father. You have no intention of doing any such thing, but are worried that you might be connected with these people.
You know that there are many Jews who would like to rebel against the empire, but they lack any real leadership other than rabble-rousers. The Herodians and other leading families of Judaea have been mostly co-opted into the Roman government, but you fear that it would only take one ambitious individual among their number to stoke the flames of rebellion. You wish to warn the emperor and other imperial officials of this possibility.
Julia, Titus Flavius
From Julia's connections in the imperial household, you have heard that he has received secret messengers from Palestine. One slave overheard the messenger asking Herod (in thinly disguised terminology) to return to Judaea and lead a revolt against the Romans. You have no idea if he has acted upon these requests, but will keep an eye on him.
Julia, Severas, Aurelia, Titus Flavius
Back in 55, when Titus Flavius was suppressing rebels in Palestine, before he hit upon the scheme to confiscate money from the guilty locals, he was constantly running short of money to pay his troops. At one point the pay ship from Rome was over two weeks late (it was later learned that the ship had actually sunk off the coast of Egypt). Titus Flavius happened to be staying at the Severas home in Gerasa and Severas offered to loan the needed money to Titus Flavius, who immediately accepted. Once the confiscation policy went into effect, Titus Flavius was able to pay Severas back with interest, but he's always been extremely thankful for this assistance.
You must have been really drunk that night when you offered to cover the pay for Titus Flavius's legions. You certainly don't remember anything else that happened that night -- it was quite a party! Coming up with that much cash nearly bankrupted you, and you feel immensely lucky that Titus Flavius was actually able to pay you back. It was a risky loan and for a while you were almost certain that you would never see the money again.
Severas, Aurelia, Herod
Titus Flavius's famous "confiscate money from the rebels" plan may have been extolled back in Rome, but it was actually a disaster for the local magistrates, bureaucrats, and client rulers who had to deal with the long-term effects. Titus Flavius's legions were quite indiscriminate in their definition of "rebel sympathizers" and ended up alienating many powerful people who were previously just neutral to Rome. The client monarchs and the governors of the Decapolis bore the brunt of this resentment and spent years working damage control to make up for this fiasco, and another rebellion is all but a certainty in the near future. At the time you couldn't complain because the emperor and the Senate considered the whole thing a great success, but now that things have cooled down perhaps you can find a sympathetic ear in Rome who might be willing to listen to the truth so that you can try to prevent such blunders from occurring in the future.
Titus Flavius, Aurelia
On the night that Severas offered to loan money to Titus Flavius to cover his legion's pay, there was a rather wild party going on in the Severas household. Titus Flavius was the first major Roman guest to appear in months, the Severas's had pulled out all the stops, and wine was flowing freely. Septimius Severas passed out soon after making his promise, but Titus Flavius and Aurelia talked, drank, and flirted for many long hours. Eventually the flirting got out of hand and the two ended up in bed together. Luckily Titus Flavius was barely sober enough to stumble off to his own guest rooms before falling asleep, otherwise there would have been a terrible scandal. As it was, both of you were too embarrassed to talk the next day about what happened and no one else seems to have noticed your indiscretion. Titus Flavius left hurriedly the next evening, after collecting his borrowed funds from Severas.
Unlike most Romans, you listen to what slaves say, a practice which has payed off many times in the past, and you encourage your own slaves to gossip with those of other Romans. A few years ago, when the Severas's and you were both in Rome, one of their slaves let slip to your slaves that their mistress Aurelia had had an affair with none other than the famous General Vespasianus. You have told no one this information and plan to use it as a bargaining chip.
Herod, Aurelia, Severas
Luculla, a trader from Antioch and a client of Herod, has borrowed considerable money from Aurelia. He is currently behind in his payments and owes 60,000 sesterces in interest. [Historical Note: For reference, that's about the average monthly income of your typical patrician, enough to buy a small townhouse in any city other than Rome or a small villa in the country. Also note that typical interest rates on loans were killers, running up to 100% per annum!]
Luculla has asked you to request that Aurelia forgive all or some of the 60,000 sesterces by which he is behind. He can make all future payments, but not if he has to cover the last few which he missed. Unfortunately, Luculla is a key client in your relations with Antioch, and you can't afford to lose him, so you will do what you can to help him. (And you do, of course, plan to make Luculla pay you back one way or another in the future!) You can personally afford to cover the entire debt yourself, but that would leave you with no cash reserves, and you'd prefer to trade for some sort of favors.
The 60,000 sesterces which Luculla owes you is small pickings for a noblewoman with your wealth. Of course, you're not about to just give it away, but you can certainly afford to lose some or all of it if you can gain some sort of favors or political advantage of equivalent value.
Aurelia, Severas, Secundus, Herod
Aurelia Severas controls a large portion of the trade going between the Decapolis and the rest of the empire. In addition to the wealth from the eastern trade, most of the Decapolitan cities are major industrial centers, manufacturing spices, cloth, and papyrus. Aurelia has freely used her husband's position to "encourage" Decapolitan tradesmen to export their goods through her companies, allowing her to amass quite a fortune and earning her the envy of other traders in the region.
Severas, Aurelia, Herod
Septimius Severas has played fast and loose with imperial regulations and tax policy in order to build up the defenses and infrastructure of the Decapolitan cities. He's shifted imperial taxes into funds for local use, underestimated taxable assets, and encouraged the local elites to take responsibility for their own defense. None of this is exactly illegal, for a praetor has vast discretionary powers. Furthermore he's only the most highly ranked of a number of Roman governors engaged in similar activities and work together. However, this is not the way business is done elsewhere in the empire, and if the full extent of these reforms were known it would certainly have repercussions beyond the mild senatorial condemnation the Decapolis currently works under.
In the long run, of course, these reforms actually increase imperial revenues by boosting the baseline economy and reducing the need for keeping legions in garrison, but many conservative Romans don't see things that way. Fortunately, the proconsul of Palestine is a fool who hasn't a clue what's going on (most of his province is actually divided up between a collection of client kings, tetrarchs, and procurators), while the legates of Syria, Arabia, and Mesopotamia are more than happy to have one less region to defend with their overstretched legions. The only serious local rival (other than the Parthians, of course) is the city-state of Palmyra, another semi-autonomous client state and a major rival for access to the trade routes to the east.
Domitius, Cassius Aurelius, Tully, Ennius, Vespasian, Titus Flavius, Gallicus, Severas, Aurelia, Herod, Secundus
The Senate is not particularly happy with the way that the Decapolis is governed. Though the cities are prosperous, many conservative Romans dislike their independence and would like to see them more closely bound to the empire. Given their obvious wealth, they're clearly not paying enough taxes. The arguments that they should pay less taxes because they're handling their own defenses and administration are just specious. Why should they need to handle their own defenses, when they've got the legions right there? Are the Roman legions not good enough for them? Maybe the emperor should march a few legions through Damascus to show them just how effective Roman soldiers can be!
This type of talk comes up every year or so in the Senate, including calls for investigation of the regional administration, but so far nothing has come of it.
The members of your senatorial faction are generally opposed to the Decapolis and what it stands for. You may have a different personal opinion of the matter, but your clients and allies require that you do what you can to see the Decapolis dismantled and turned over to normal provincial government.
The members of your senatorial faction are generally in favor of the Decapolis and what it stands for. Those are prosperous, loyal cities which have never shown any sign of revolt, and they see no need to end an effective governing policy. You may have a different personal opinion of the matter, but your clients and allies require that you do what you can to see that the status quo remains intact in the Decapolis.
You've done what you can to keep the Senate off the back of the Decapolis. There have been a number of attempts to investigate financial practices in the Decapolis, and you've squashed them all before they got anywhere. You're pretty certain that they would find exactly the type of "financial misfeasance" that the reactionaries are so worried about, but as long as things work you don't want to mess with them. Of course, you're not above using this knowledge to get favors out of Severas or other Decapolitan aristocrats.
A few years ago, Severas spent a lot of his personal funds to build an imperial temple and arch in Gerasa in expectation of a visit from the emperor. Domitius never showed up, and the money was wasted. You'd like to take him to task for this snub.
Last year, a Corinthian trader named Oenides (who happened to be a client of Valerius Secundus) approached Procurator Atilius, requesting permission to import Thracian pottery to Pontus. After some negotiating, in which Atilius was offered a healthy percentage of the profits, the deal was agreed upon and Atilius promulgated the necessary regulations.
However, before anything more could happen Atilius received word that his appointment as procurator had been canceled, his assistant Drusus Icilius was named procurator, and Atilius was recalled to Rome. [Historical Note: Most Roman appointments are for only one year, and in the upper levels of the senatorial magistracies they often really are for only that length. However, in the lower ranks and especially in the imperial bureaucracy, appointments are routinely renewed each year except in the case of gross misconduct or a promotion.]
From conversations with Oenides after your recall, you got the suspicion that he and Secundus were behind your recall. You suspected that he managed to get a better deal from Drusus Icilius, and that Secundus pulled strings to have Icilius replace you. Your suspicions were confirmed when, during your journey back, you heard that Icilius had granted Oenides a monopoly on almost all imports into Pontus. You're furious and would like to get revenge for this attack which may have destroyed your career. You wonder if the emperor is aware of what is happening in his name, and if so if he even cares.
While negotiating with Atilius, Oenides was also negotiating secretly with his assistant Icilius, who offered a better deal, specifically a monopoly on almost all imports into Pontus. At Oenides request, you pulled strings and planted a few bribes in the imperial bureaucracy to get Atilius recalled and Icilius replace him.
You have nothing personal against Atilius. It was just business.
You are aware that the cancellation of Atilius's appointment as procurator of Pontus was due to pressure being applied from powerful political factions, though you're not sure who. This kind of thing goes on all the time, but its not considered corruption as long as it's Romans looking out for fellow Romans. However, if you found out that this was done by a non-Roman, that would be another thing all together.