Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

The satire of Seneca on the Apotheosis of Claudius commonly called the Apocolocyntosis; online

. (page 9 of 18)
Online LibraryLucius Annaeus SenecaThe satire of Seneca on the Apotheosis of Claudius commonly called the Apocolocyntosis; → online text (page 9 of 18)
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Thus having spoken she wound up the thread on 4

his spindle neglected.
Breaking off the royal days of his stupid existence, v'
Lachesis, waiting meanwhile, with tresses charm-
ingly ordered.
Crowning the locks on her brow with a wreath of

Pierian laurel,
Drew from a snowy fleece white strands which,

cleverly fashioned,
Under her artful fingers began with new colors to

gHsten : —
Spun to a thread that drew the admiring gaze of

her sisters.
Changed was the common wool, until as a metal

most precious.
Golden the age that was winding down in that

beautiful fillet.



Ceaselessly they too labored; and bringing the

finest of fleeces,
Gayly they filled her hands, for sweet was the duty

She, in her eagerness, hastened the work, nor was

conscious of effort ;
Lightly the soft strands fell from the whirling point

of her spindle,
Passing the life of Tithonus, passing the lifetime

of Nestor.
Phoebus came with his singing, and, happy in

Joyously plied the plectrum, or aided the work of

the spinners :
Kept their hearts intent, with his song beguiling

their labor.
While beyond thought they rejoiced in their

brother's music, their hands spun.
Busily twining a destiny passing all human allot-
Wrought through the spell of Phoebus* lyre and

his praise, as he bade them :
" Stay not your hands, O Fateful Sisters, but make

him a victor
Over the barriers that limit the common lifetime of

mortals ;
Let him be blessed with a grace and a beauty like

mine, and in music
Grant him no meaner gifts. An age of joy shall

he bring men


Weary for laws that await his restoring. Like

Lucifer comes he,
Putting the scattered stars to flight, or Hke Hesper

at nightfall.
Rising when stars return ; or e*en as the Sun, —

when Aurora
First has dispelled the dark and blushingly led

forth the morning, —
Brightly gleams on the world and renews his

chariot's journey.
So Cometh Caesar ; so in his glory shall Rome be-
hold Nero.
Thus do his radiant features gleam with a gentle

Graced by the flowing locks that fall encircling his


Thus Apollo. But Lachesis, who herself, too,
had a fondness for the handsomest of men, wrought
with generous hand, and bestowed upon Nero
many years from her own store. As for Claudius,
however, everybody gave orders

With joy and great content to send him out of doors}

And indeed he did go up the flume, and from
that moment ceased to appear to be alive. He
expired, moreover, while listening to comic actors ;
so you understand it isn't without reason that I am

1 Greek quotations in the original are in the translation indi-
cated by italics.


afraid of those fellows. His last words that were
heard among men were these, after a louder utter-
ance in the locality where he expressed himself the
more easily : ** Oh, dear ! I think I have hurt my-
self/' Whether he had, I don't know; at any rate
he was in the habit of hurting everything.

5 What happened afterward on earth it is super-
fluous to describe. For you know very well, and
there is no danger that things which the universal
joy has impressed upon the memory will slip from
it ; no one forgets his own good fortune. Listen
to what happened in heaven : it is on the authority
of the narrator. The news was brought to Jupiter
that somebody had come, a rather tall man, quite
gray-headed ; that he was threatening something
or other, for he kept shaking his head; and that
he limped with his right foot. The messenger said
he had asked of what nation he was, but his answer
was mumbled in some kind of an incoherent noise ;
he didn't recognize the man's language, but he
wasn't either Greek or Roman or of any known
race. Then Jupiter told Hercules, who had trav-
elled all over the world and was supposed to be
acquainted with all the nations, to go and find out
what sort of a man it was. Hercules at the first
sight was a good deal disturbed, even though he was
one who didn't fear any sort of monsters. When he
beheld the aspect of this unknown specimen, its

. extraordinary gait, its voice belonging to no earthly
creature but more like that of the monsters of the


deep, hoarse and inarticulate, he thought that a
thirteenth labor had come to him. When he looked
more carefully, however, it appeared to be a man.
He approached him and thus spoke, as was easiest
for a Greek chap :

Who and whence art thoUy and where are thy city
and parents ?

\ Claudius was delighted to find literary people there,
hoping there would be some place for his histories, c
So he, too, in a Homeric verse, indicating himself ^
to be Caesar, said :

Hence from Ilium the winds have among the Cicones
cast me.

But the following verse would have been truer, and
equally Homeric :

There their city I wasted ; the people I slaughtered, ^

And he would have imposed upon the guileless 6
Hercules, had not Fever been there, who alone
had left her shrine and come with him. All the
other divinities he had left behind at Rome. She
said, " It is simple nonsense that he is giving
you. I tell you — I who have lived with him for
so many years — he was born at Lugudunum ; you ^.
behold one of Marcus* citizens. As I'm telling you,
he was born sixteen miles from Vienna, a genuine
Gaul. And so as a Gaul ought to do, he captured
Rome. Take my word for it, he was born at Lugu-


dunum, where Licinus reigned for many years.
But you, who have tramped more lands than any
wandering muleteer, ought to know men from
Lugudunum and that there are a good many miles
between the Xanthus and the Rhone." At this
point Claudius fired up and angrily grumbled as
loudly as he could. What he was saying, nobody
understood, except that he commanded Fever to
be led away to punishment. With the familiar
gesture of his limp hand, that was steady enough

^ f or the one purpose of decapitating people as he
was accustomed, he had ordered her head to be
struck off. You would suppose all those present

^ were his freedmen, so little attention did any one
7 pay him. Then Hercules said, " Listen to me
and stop talking nonsense. You have come to a
place where the mice gnaw iron. Tell me the
truth, quick, or I'll knock the silliness out of you."
And in order to be more terrifying, he struck the
attitude of a tragedian and said :

" Declare at once the place you call your natal

Or else, by this tough cudgel smitten, down you go!
This club has slaughtered many a mighty potentate.
What's that, that in a muffled voice you're trying

to say }
Where is the land or race to own your shaky head }
Speak out. Oh, I remember when afar I sought
The triple-bodied king's domains, whose famous herd


From the western sea I drove to the city of

I saw a hill above two rivers, towering high
In face of Phoebus rising each day opposite,
Where the broad Rhone pours by in swiftly moving

And Arar, pausing ere it lets its waters go,
Silently laves the borders of its quiet pools.
Is that the land that nursed you when you first drew

breath ? "

These things he said with spirit, and boldly
enough. All the same, he was inwardly a good
deal afraid of the 7nadrnan's blow. Claudius, see-
ing the mighty hero, forgot his nonsense and per-
ceived that while no one had been a match for him
at Rome, here he didn't have the same advantage ;
a cock is master only on his own dunghill. So, as
well as could be made out, this is what he appeared
to say : " I did hope that you, Hercules, bravest
of the gods, would stand by me before the others,
and if any one had asked me who could vouch for
me, I should have named you, who know me best.
For if you recall, I was the one who held court
before your temple all day long during the months v
of July and August. You know how many troubles
I had there, Hstening to the lawyers day and night ; . ^
and if you had fallen among those fellows, though
you may think that you are pretty courageous, you
would have preferred to clean Augeas* stables.


I have cleaned out much more filth. But since I
want^'i —

8 " It's no wonder you have made an assault upon
the senate-house ; nothing is closed to you. Only
tell us what sort of a god you want him to be made.
He cannot be an Epicurean god, neither having
himself any care nor causing any to others, A
Stoic .'^ How can he be * round,' as Varro says,
* without head or prepuce ' t Yet there is some-
thing in him of the Stoic god, now I see. He has

' ^neither heart nor head. By Hercules, though, if
he had asked this favor of Saturn, whose festival
month the Saturnalian prince kept going the whole
year long, he wouldn't have got it; and surely
he wouldn't of Jove, whom so far as he possibly

V/ could he convicted of incest. For he put to death
Silanus his son-in-law, just because the man pre-
ferred that his sister, prettiest of all the girls, so
that everybody called her Venus, should be called
his Juno. * Why his sister } ' you say, — in fact, I
ask it. Think, you blockhead. At Athens that
sort of thing is halfway allowed ; at Alexandria
altogether. * But since at Rome,' you say, *the
mice live on dainties.' He's going to straighten
our crooked ways ! He doesn't know what goes
tr on in his own chamber, and now * he searches the
regions of heaven.' He wants to become a god.

1 On the break at this point, see the notes, and introduction,


Isn't he satisfied that he has a temple in Britain ; ^
that the barbarians worship him and beseech him
as a god that they may find him a merciful mad-
man ? "

At length it occurred to Jove that while ordinary 9
persons are staying in the senate-house it is not T
permitted to express an opinion nor to argue. " I *
had allowed you to ask questions, Conscript Fa-
thers," he said, "but you have brought out simply
rubbish. I want you to observe the rules of the
Senate. What will this person, whoever he is,
think of us?'*

When the said individual had been sent out.
Father Janus was the first to be asked his opinion.^
He had been elected afternoon consul for the first
of July, being a very shrewd man, who always sees
at 07ice both forward and backward. He spoke at
some length, and fluently, because he lives in the
Forum ; but the stenographer could not follow, and
therefore I do not report him, for fear of misquot-
ing what he said. He said a good deal about the
importance of the gods, and that this honor ought
not to be given commonly. "Once," said he, "it
was a great thing to be made a god, but now you .* y
have made the distinction a farce. And so lest my
remarks seem to be dealing with personalities
rather than with the case, I move that from this
day forward no one shall be made a god, from
among all those who eat the fniit of the corn-landy
or those whom the fruitful corn-land feeds. Who-



ever contrary to this decree of the Senate shall be
made, called, or depicted as god, is to be given to
the hobgoblins, and to get a thrashing among the
newly hired gladiators at the next show."

The next to be asked his opinion was Diespiter
the son of Vica Pota, who was himself also a con-
sul elect, and a money-changer; by this business
he supported himself, and he was accustomed to
sell citizenships in a small way. Hercules ap-
proached him politely and gave him an admonitory
touch on the ear. Accordingly he expressed his
opinion in these words : " Whereas the divine
Claudius is by blood related to the divine Augus-
tus and no less also to the divine Augusta, his
grandmother, who was made a goddess by his own
orders, and whereas he far surpasses all mortals in
wisdom, and it is for the public interest that there
be some one who can join Romulus in * eating of
boiling-hot turnips,' I move that from this day the
divine Claudius be a god, with title equally as good
as that of any one who has been made so before
him, and that this event be added to the Metamor-
phoses of Ovid."

The opinions were various, and Claudius seemed
to be winning the vote. For Hercules, who saw
that his iron was in the fire, kept running to this
one and that one, saying, " Don't go back on me ;
this IS my personal affair. And then if you want
anything, I'll do it in my turn. One hand washes
the other."


Then the divine Augustus arose at the point for 10
expressing his opinion, and discoursed with the
utmost eloquence. " I call you to witness, Con-
script Fathers," said he, ** that since I was made a
god, I have never addressed you ; I always mind
my own business. And I can no longer disguise
my feelings nor conceal the distress that shame
makes all the greater. Was it for this that I
secured peace on land and sea.'* For this did I
make an end of civil wars t For this did I found
the city on a basis of law, adorn it with monu-
ments, that — what to say. Conscript Fathers, I
cannot discover. All words are beneath my in-
dignation. So in desperation I must take to the
phrase of that most clever man, Messala Corvinus,
* I am ashamed of my authority.' This fellow. Con-
script Fathers, who doesn't seem to you as if he
could disturb a fly, used to kill people as easily as
a dog stops to rest. But why should I enumerate
the many great men } I have no heart to lament
public calamities when I behold those of my own
family. And so I will pass over the former and
describe these. For I know, even if my sister
doesn't know [as they say in Greek], my knee is
nearer than my sJiin, That fellow whom you see
there, hiding under my name for so many years,
has shown his gratitude to me by slaying the two
Julias, my great-granddaughters, one by the sword,
the other by starvation, and L. Silanus, one of my
great-great-grandsons. We shall see, Jupiter,


whether in a bad case, and one which is certainly
your own, you are going to be just. Tell me,
divine Claudius, why you condemned any one of
the men and women whom you put to death before
^/ you understood their cases, or even listened to
them. Where is this kind of thing customary ?
11 It's not the way in heaven. Here is Jupiter, now,
who has been ruling for so many years. One per-
son's leg he has broken, Vulcan's, whom

Snatching him by the foot, he hurled from the heav-
enly threshold ;

and he got angry at his wife and hung her up, but
he didn't kill her, did he.'* But you have put to
death Messalina, to whom I was as much a great-
uncle as I was to you. * I don't know,' you say ?
May the gods be hard on you ! It is more shame-
ful that you didn't know it than that you killed her.
He has never ceased to follow up the dead-and-
V gone C. Caesar. The latter had killed his father-
in-law; Claudius here, his son-in-law besides.
Gains forbade the son of Crassus to be called Mag-
nus ; this man returned him the name, but took off
his head. He killed in one household Crassus,
Magnus, Scribonia, the Tristionias, and Assario ;
and they were aristocrats too, and Crassus besides
so stupid that he was even qualified to reign.
Now do you want to make this man a god } Look
at his body, born when the gods were angry. And
finally, if he can say three consecutive words to-


gether, he can have me as his slave. Who will
worship this god ? Who will believe in him ? As
long as you make such gods as he, nobody will be-
lieve you are gods yourselves. In short, Conscript
Fathers, if I have behaved myself honorably among
you, if I have not answered anybody in an ungen-
tlemanly manner, avenge my injuries. This is the
resolution which I have to offer ; " and he read
as follows from his tablet : " Since the divine Clau-
dius has killed his father-in-law Appius Silanus,
his two sons-in-law Magnus Pompeius and L. Sila-
nus, his daughter's father-in-law Crassus Frugi, a
man as like himself as one ^gg is to another, Scri-
bonia his daughter's mother-in-law, his wife Messa-
lina, and others too numerous to mention, I propose
that strict punishment be meted out to him, that
he be granted no rest from adjudicating cases, and
that he be got out of the way as soon as possible,
departing from heaven within thirty days and from
Olympus within three.'*

There was a division of the house, and this reso- ^
lution was carried. Without delay the Cyllenian
dragged him by the nape of his neck off from
heaven toward the lower regions,

" Whence they say no man returns."

While they were going down the Via Sacra, 12
Mercury inquired what such a crowd of people
could mean : whether it was Claudius' funeral.
And indeed it was a most elegant and elaborate



display, so that you would easily recognize that a
god was being carried off to burial. There was so
great a crowd of trumpeters, hornblowers, and play-
ers upon every kind of brass instruments, so great
a concord, that even Claudius could hear it. Every-
body was joyful and in high spirits. The Roman \
people walked about like free men. Only Agatho
and a few pettifoggers were weeping, but their
grief was plainly heartfelt. The real lawyers
were coming out of their hiding-places, pale and v
thin, scarcely drawing breath, like people who were
just coming to life again. One of them, when he
had seen the pettifoggers getting their heads to-
gether and lamenting their calamity, came up and
said, " I told you the Saturnalia wouldn't last for- ;
ever." Claudius, when he saw his own funeral,
understood that he was dead. For in a mighty great
chorus they were chanting a dirge in anapests :

" Pour forth your tears, lift up wof ul voices ;

Let the Forum echo with sorrowful cries.

Nobly has fallen a man most sagacious.

Than whom no other ever was braver,

Not in the whole world.

He in the quick-sped race could be victor

Over the swiftest ; he could rebellious

Parthians scatter, chase with his flying

Missiles the Persian, steadiest-handed,

Bend back the bow which, driving the foeman

Headlong in flight, should pierce him afar, while


Gay-coated Medes turned their backs to disaster.
Conqueror he of Britons beyond the
Shores of the known sea :
Even the dark-blue-shielded Brigantes
Forced he to bend their necks to the fetters
That Romulus forged, and Ocean himself
To tremble before the Roman dominion.
Mourn for the man than whom no one more quickly
Was able to see the right in a lawsuit,
Only at hearing one side of the quarrel, —
MDften not either. Where is the judge now
Willing to listen to cases the year through }
Thou shalt be given the office resigned thee
By him who presides in the court of the shades,
The lord of a hundred cities Cretaean.
Smite on your breasts, ye shysters forsaken,
With hands of despair, O bribe-taking crew ;
Ye too, half -fledged poets, now should bewail ;
And ye above all, who lately were able
VTo gather great gains by shaking the dice-box.'*

Claudius was delighted with his praises, and de- 13
sired to stay longer to look on. But the Talthy-
bius of the gods laid a hand on him and pulled him
away, with his head covered so that nobody could
recognize him, across the Campus Martins, and
between the Tiber and the Arcade went down
to the lower world. The freedman ^gxcissu^ had
already gone ahead by a short cut to be ready to
receive his patron, and as the latter was approach-


ing he ran up, all sleek from the bath, and said :
" What's this ? Gods, among men ? " '' Hurry up,"
said Mercury, " and announce that we are coming."
In less time than it takes to tell it. Narcissus skipped
out. All the way being down hill, the descent was
easy. And so, in spite of his gout, he came in a
twinkling to Pluto's door, where lay Cerberus,
or as Horace says, "the beast with the hundred
heads." Narcissus was a trifle scared — he had
been accustomed to have a white dog as a pet —
when he saw that huge, hairy black dog, which, on
my word, is one that you wouldn't like to meet in
the dark. And with a loud voice he said, " Claudius
is coming." Then a crowd began to come forward
with clapping of hands and chanting : " We have got
him ; let us rejoice ! " Among them were C. Silius
the consul-elect, luncus the ex-praetor, Sextus
Traulus, M. Helvius, Trogus, Cotta, Vettius Valens,
and Fabius, Roman knights whom Narcissus had
ordered to execution. In the middle of this com-
pany of singers was Mnester the dancer, whom
Claudius had made shorter for the sake of appear-
ances. To Messalina — the report that Claudius
had come quickly spread — they gathered; first
of all, the freedmen Polybius, Myron, Harpocras,
Amphaeus, and Pheronactus, all of whom Claudius
had sent ahead in order that he might not be any-
where unprepared ; then the two prefects Justus
Catonius and Rufrius Pollio ; then the Emperor's
friends Saturninus Lusius and Pedo Pompeius and


Lupus and Celer Asinius, of consular rank ; finally
his brother's daughter, his sister's daughter, his
sons-in-law, his fathers-in-law, his mothers-in-law,
in fact all his relatives ; and forming in line they
came to meet Claudius. When he had seen them,
he exclaimed: ^^Plcfity of friends, everyzvhere !
How did you come here ? " Then said Pedo Pom-
peius: **What are you talking about, you cruel
villain ? * How ? ' did you ask ? Well, who else
but you has sent us here, you murderer of all
your friends? Come to the court of justice. I'll
show you where our tribunal is.**

He led him to the bar of Aeacus, who conducted 14
the trial under the CorneHan law against assassins. \
He asked that the court would enter the name,
and recorded the accusation : Senators killed,
thirty-five; Roman knights, two hundred and
twenty-one ; other persons, as mmiy as the sands
on the seashore. No one was found as counsel for
the accused until at length P. Petronius came for-
ward, an old boon companion of his, a man skilled
in the Claudian tongue, and asked for a postpone-
ment. It was not granted. Pedo Pompeius spoke
for the prosecution with loud shouts. The attorney /
for the defence wanted to begin his reply. Aeacus, \J
most equitable of persons, forbade him and con-
demned Claudius after hearing only one side, say-
ing : ''Right will be done him if he be treated as
he treated others ^ Then there was a tremendous
silence. Everybody was struck dumb by the nov-


elty of the procedure. They said the thing never
happened before. To Claudius it seemed more
unjust than new. Over the nature of the penalty
there was a long discussion, as to what would be
an appropriate sentence for him. Various ones
said that if they made Tantalus' suffering too long
he would perish of thirst unless somebody came
to his rescue; and that poor Ixion's wheel ought
at last to be stopped. But it was decided that no
release should be given to any of the old ones, lest
Claudius should sometime hope for the same in
his turn. It was decided that a new punishment
ought to be arranged, that for him must be devised
some vain task and the hope of gratifying some
desire, without end or consummation. Then
Aeacus commanded him to gamble with a bottom-
less dice-box. And already he had begun to
search for his constantly escaping dice and to
accomplish nothing; for

15 Every time when he wanted to throw from his

clattering dice-box,
Both of the dice escaped him by way of the hole

in the bottom.
Then when he gathered them up and once more

ventured to play them,
Over again they gave him the slip, and kept him

Constantly baffling his hopes by skipping away

through his fingers,


Always trickily sliding through with the same old

deception, —
Tiresome as when poor Sisyphus reaches the top

of his mountain
Vainly to feel his burden go rolling back from his


Suddenly C. Caesar appeared and began to
claim him as his slave. He produced witnesses
who had seen Claudius getting thrashed by him
with whips, with rods, and with his fists. The
man was adjudged to C. Caesar; Caesar presented
him to Aeacus ; the latter delivered him to Me-
nander his freedman, to be his law-clerk.


1. ante diem III. idus Octobris : This is the date of Clau-
dius's death given by Suet. 67. 45, Tac. Ann. xii. 69, and Dio
Cas. Ix. 34 (rrj TptTrj kol SeKarr) tov ^OKToy/SpLOv), It is also
the date of the sequel which took place in heaven, for appar-
ently the statement of Tacitus, caelestesque honores Clatidio

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Online LibraryLucius Annaeus SenecaThe satire of Seneca on the Apotheosis of Claudius commonly called the Apocolocyntosis; → online text (page 9 of 18)