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Cassius Dio Cocceianus.

Dio's Rome; an historical narrative originally composed in Greek during the reigns of Septimus Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and now presented in English form online

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Online LibraryCassius Dio CocceianusDio's Rome; an historical narrative originally composed in Greek during the reigns of Septimus Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and now presented in English form → online text (page 18 of 24)
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the emperor Severus, won fame, but the greatest con-
flict was the one in Britain. When the tribes in the
island, passing beyond the wall that separated them
from the Roman legions, proceeded to commit many
outrages and cut down a general, together with the
soldiers that he had, Commodus was seized with fear
and sent Marcellus Ulpius against them. This man,
who was temperate and frugal and always followed
strict military rules in regard to food and all other
details when he was at war, became in course of time
haughty and arrogant. He was conspicuously incor-
ruptible in the matter of bribes, but was not of a pleas-
ant or kindly nature. He showed himself more wak^
ful than any other general, and, as he desired his asso-
ciates also to be alert, he wrote orders on twelve tablets
(such as are made out of linden wood) [almost] every
evening, and bade a man carry them to various per-
sons at various hours, that they, believing the general

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ia' u' 93n *^ ^ always awake, might not ihemflelves take their fill
of sleep. Natnre had made him able in the first place
to go without sleep and he had developed this faculty a
great deal more by abstinence from food. [Of scarcely
anything did he eat his fill and] in order to avoid satis-
fying his hunger even with bread he sent to Rome for
the loaves : [this was not because he could not eat what
was prepared in that region, but] it was done with the
purpose that the age of the article might prevent him
eating ever so little more than what was absolutely
necessary. [His gums, which were sore, were easily
made to bleed by the dryness of the bread. And he
made it his practice to affect sleeplessness even more
than was the case, that he might have a reputation for
being always awake.] This was the kind of man Mar*
cellus was, who inflicted great damage upon the barba-
rians in Britain. Later he narrowly escaped being
destroyed by Cominodus on account of his peculiar ex-
cellence, but was, nevertheless, released.
—9— Perennis, commander of the Pretorians after Pater-

(oT u! 938) ^^s, met destruction on account of a rebellion of the
soldiers. For, since Commodus had devoted himself
to chariot-racing and licentiousness and paid scarcely
any attention to matters pertaining to the empire,
Perennis was compelled to manage not only military
affairs, but everything else, and to preside over the
government. The soldiers, accordingly, when anything
did not go to suit them, laid the blame upon Perennis
and cherished anger against him.

Tlbe soldiers in Britian choee PriBcriB^ a lientenant, emperor. But
he deprecated their action, saying: "I am as little suited for emperor
as you are for soldiers."

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The lieatenants in Britain had been rebuked for their /. d. im

(CI. Ut V90|

turbulence (indeed, they had not become quiet until
Pertinax put a stop to their discord), and now they
chose of their number fifteen hundred javelin-slingers,
whom they sent into Italy. They had approached
Bome without meeting any hindrance, when Commo-
dus met them and enquired: ** Why is this, fellow-
soldiers? What does your presence signify f Their
answer was: ** We are here because Perennis is plot-
ting against you^ and intends to make his son em-
peror.'* Commodus believed them, especially since
Oleander dwelt at length upon the point. (The latter
was often prevented by Perennis from doing all that
ho desired, and consequently entertained a bitter
hatred for him.) Therefore he delivered the prefect
to the soldiers of whom he was commander, and did not
venture to despise fifteen hundred men, though he had
many times that number of Pretorians. So Perennis
was abused and struck down, and his wife and sister
and two sons were also killed.

Thus was he slain though he deserved a far different — . lo^
fate both on his own account and for the interest of the
entire Roman domain. Only, it may be remarked that
his fondness for office had been the chief cause of the
ruin of his colleague Patemus. Privately he was
never remotely concerned about either fame or wealth,
but lived a most incorruptible and temperate life, and
for Oommodus he preserved his empire in entire
safety. [For the emperor wholly followed his amus^
ments and gave himself over to chariot-driving and

cared not a whit for any political interests; nor, in-
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"^ ^- A??v deed, had he given his mind to the matter ever so zeal-

(a. u. 938) ^ °

ously, could he have accomplished aught by reason of
his luxurious living and inexperience.]

And the CsBsarians, having got rid of this man, with
Oleander at their head entered upon every form of out-
rage, selling all privileges, doing violence, plunging
into licentiousness.

Commodus during most of his life was given to idle-
ness and horses and battles of beasts and of men.
Aside from his performances at home he despatched
many beasts in public and many men on many occa-
sions. With his own hands and without assistance he
gave the finishing stroke to five hippopotami at one time
and to two elephants on separate days. Moreover, he
killed rhinoceroses and a camelopard. This is what
I have to say in general with reference to his whole
career.
— 11— To Victorinus, prefect of the city, a statue was
granted [He died not as the victim of a plot. At
one time what might be called a loud rumor and many
reports were circulating in regard to his destruction]
and, though Commodus frequently wished to get him
out of the way, he still kept putting it off and shrinking
from the deed until the man grew very bold, and one
day approaching Perennis said: '*I hear that you wish
to kill me. Why then do you delay? Why do you put
it off, when you might do it this very day? '* [But not
even this caused him to suffer any harm at the hands
of any one else; it was a self -sought death that he
suffered, and the fact seems strange, inasmuch as he
had been honored among the foremost men by Marcus

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and in mental excellence and forensic eloquence stood ,^ ^- I??,

^ (a. M. 938)

second to none of his contemporaries^ Indeed, by
mentioning two incidents in his history I shall reveal
his whole character.]

Once, when he was governor of (Jermany, he at first
attempted by private persnasion indoors to induce
his lieutenant not to accept bribes. As the latter
would not listen to him, he mounted the tribunal and
[after bidding the herald proclaim him] took oath that
he had never received bribes and never would receive
any. Next he bade his under-officer also take oath;
and when this person refused to perjure himself, he
ordered him to be dismissed from office. [And later
as commandant of Africa he had an associate of sim-
ilar character to the man just mentioned. He did not,
to be sure, treat him in the same way, but put him
aboard a boat and sent him back to Rome.] This is
the kind of man Victorinus was.

As for Oleander, who after Perennis possessed — la—
greatest influence, he had been sold along with his
fellow-slaves and had been brought to Rome along
with them for the purpose of carrying burdens. As
time went on he attained such prominence that he slept
before the chamber of Conamodus, married the em-
peror's concubine Damostratia, and put to death
Saoterus of Nicomedea (who had held the position be-
fore him) besides many others. Yet this victim had
also possessed very great influence, so that the Nico-
medeans obtained from the senate the right of holding
a series of games and of building a temple to Com-
modus. At any rate, Oleander, raised to greatness by;

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(^' ^'^ii) *^^ power of Fortune, granted and sold senatorships,
praetorships, procaratorships, leaderships,— in a word,
everything. Some by expending all that they possessed
had finally become senators. It came to be said of
Julius Solon (an exceedingly obscure man) that he had
been deprived of his property and banished to the

A. D. 189 senate. Not only did Oleander do this, but he ap-

(a. tf. 942) "^ ^ x-

pointed twenty-five consuls for one year,— something
which never occurred before or after. One of those
consuls was Severus, who later became emperor. The
man obtained money, therefore, from every quarter
and amassed more wealth than had ever yet belonged
to those nominated cubicularii. A great deal of it he
gave to Commodus and his concubines and a great deal
of it he spent on houses, baths, and other works useful
to individuals and to cities.

This Oleander, who had soared to so exalted, a
height, himself fell suddenly and perished in dishonor.
It was not the soldiers that killed him, a£^ they had
Perennis, but the populace. There occurred a real
and pressing famine, which was increased to the ut-
most severity by Papirius Dionysius, the grain com-
missioner, in order that Oleander, whose thefts would
se^m as much responsible for it as any cause, might
both incur hatred and suffer destruction at the hands
of the Romans. So it fell out. There was a horse-race
on, and as the horses were about to contend for the
seventh time a crowd of children ran into the race
course, at their head a tall and sturdy maiden. As a
result of what subsequently happened she was deemed

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by people to have been a divinity. The children shouted ^^ i>- J^^o

•^ "^ , •' {a, u, 042)

many wild words of complaint, which the people took
up again and began to bawl anything that came into
their heads. Finally, the throng jumped down and
started to find Commodus (who was then in the Quin-
tilian snbnrb), invoking many blessings on his head
but many curses upon Oleander. The latter sent
some soldiers against them, who wounded and killed a
few, but encouraged by their numbers and the strength
of the Pretorians they became still more urgent. They
drew near to Commodus before information reached
him from any source of what was going on. Then the
famous Marcia, wife of Quadratus, brought him the
news. And Commodus was so terrified,— he was
always the veriest coward,— that he at once ordered
Cleander to be slain and also his child, who was in
Commodus 's hands to be reared. The child was dashed
to the earth and perished, and the Romans, taking the
body of Cleander, dragged it eway and abused it and
carried his head all about the city on a pole. They also
wounded some other men who had possessed great
power during his ascendancy.

Commodus, taking a respite from his lusts and
sports, developed a taste for blood and proceeded to
compass the death of distinguished men. Among these
was Julianus the prefect, whom he used to embrace and
caress in public and saluted as *' father.'^ Another
was Julius Alexander, who was executed for having
brought down a lion by a lucky cast of his javelin while
on horseback.* This victim, on becoming aware of the

iBoissevain suggests that the "Roman Hercules" perhaps feared
that Alexander might diminish his glory.

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A. D. 189 presence of hi& assassins, mnrdered them by night and

(a. I*. 942) . .

likewise put out of the way all his own enemies at
Emesa, his native town. After doing this he mounted
a horse and started toward the barbarians; and he
would have escaped^ had he not carried a favorite
along with him. He was himself a most excellent
horseman, but he would not think of abandoning the
lad, who was tired out, and so when he was being over-
taken he killed both the boy and himself. Dionysius,
too, the grain commissioner, met his death by the
orders of Commodus.

Moreover, a pestilence, as great as any I know, took
place, for it should be noted that two thousand persons
several times died in Bome on a single day. Many
more, not merely in the capital but throughout almost
the entire empire, perished by the hands of scoundrels,
who smeared some deadly drugs on tiny needles, and,
for pay, infected men with the poison by means of these
instruments. The same thing had happened before in
the reign of Domitian.^ ' But the death of these unfor-
tunates was not regarded as of any importance.
— 15 — Still, the effect of Commodus upon the Romans was
(a. t«. 943) worse than that of all pestilences and all villanies.
One feature was that whatever honors they were wont
to vote to his father out of pure regard they were com-
pelled by fear and by strict injunction to assign also
to the son. He gave orders that Bome itself be called
Commodiana, the legions ** Commodian,'' and the day
on which this measure was voted ** Conmiodiana.'*

iSiee Book Sizty-seven, chapter 11.

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Upon himself he bestowed, in addition to very many ^' ^- J^
other titles, that of Hercules. Borne he termed '* the
Immortal, ^^ '* the Fortunate,'* '* the Universal Colony
of the Earth *' (for he wished it to seem a settlement
of his own). In his honor a gold statue was erected
of a thousand pounds' weight, together with a bull and
a cow. Finally, all the months were likewise called
after him, so that they were enumerated as follows:
Amazonian, Invincible, Fortunate, Pious, Lucius,
^lius, Aurelius, Commodus, August, Herculean,
Roman, Transcendent. For he had assumed these
different names at different times. '^ Amazonian"
and ** Transcendent,'' however, he applied exclusively
to himself, to indicate that in absolutely every respect
he unapproachably surpassed all mankind. So ex-
travagantly did the wretch rave. And to the senate he
would send a despatch couched in these terms:
** CaBsar Imperator, Lucius -ffilius Aurelius Commo-
dus, Augustus, Pius, Beatus, Sarmaticus, Germanicus,
Maximus, Britannicus, Peacemaker of the World,
Invincible, Roman Hercules, High Priest, Holder of
Tribunician Authority for the eighteenth term, Impera-
tor for the eighth time. Consul for the seventh time.
Father of the Fatherland, to consuls, praetors,

tribunes and the Commodian Fortunate Senate, Greet-
ing." Great numbers of statues were erected display-
ing him in the garb of Hercules. And it was voted
that his age should be called the *' Golden Age " and
that entries to correspond with this should in every
case be made in the records.

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— ^® — Now this Golden One, this Hercules, this Qtod (such
(o. !♦. 943) was another designation of his) one day in the after-
noon rode suddenly from the suburbs with haste into
Borne and conducted thirty horse-races in two hours.
These proceedings had much to do with his running
short of money. He was also fond of bestowing gifts
and frequently presented the populace with one hun-
dred and forty denarii apiece. But most of his expendi-
tures were for the objects that I have mentioned. [So it
was that neither his general income nor what was pro-
vided by Oleander (though incalculable in amount)
sufficed him, and he was compelled to bring charges
against both women and men,— charges not serious
enough for capital punishment but prolific in threats
and terror.] Some of these persons he murdered, to
others he sold preservation in return for their prop-
erty [and got something from them by constraint under
the pretence that it was a voluntary offering]. And
finally on his birthday he ordered us, our wives, and
our children each to contribute two aurei [a year as]
a kind of first-fruits, and the senators ti all the other
cities five denarii per head. [Of this, toJy he saved not
the smallest part, but spent it all disgracefully on
r^}jTi^ beasts and gladiators.] In public he nowhere drove
(a. f*. 945) chariots except sometimes on a moonless night He
became very desirous to play the character also in pub-
lic, but, being ashamed to be seen doing this, he kept it
up constantly at home, wearing the Green uniform.
Beasts, moreover, in large numbers were slaughtered
at his house and many also in public Again, he would

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contend as gladiator: (at home lie killed a man in this A ^'}??.

(a. u. 945)

way, and, in pretending to shave others, instead of
taking off the hairs he sliced off one man's nose, an-
other's ears, and. some other feature of a third;) but
in public his contests were* minus the steel and human
blood. Before entering the theatre he would put on
a cleeved tonic of silk, white interwoven with gold, and
we greeted him standing there in this attire. When he
actually went in he donned a pure purple dress
sprinkled with gold, assuming also a similar chlamys
of Greek pattern and a crown made of Indie gems and
gold, and carried such a herald's staff as Mercury does.
The lion skin and dub were carried before him along
the streets, and at the theatres were invariably placed
on a gilded chair, whether he was present or absent.
He himself would enter the theatre in the garb of
Mercury, and casting off everything else begin his per-
formance in simple tunic and unshod. On the first day
he individually killed a hundred bears by shooting
down at them from the top of the elevated circle. The
whole theatre had been divided up by some diameters
built in, which supported a circular roof and intersected
each other, the object being that the beasts, divided
into four herds, might be more easily speared at short
range from any point In the midst of the struggle he
grew weary, and taking from a woman some sweet
wine cooled in a club-shaped cup drank it down at a
gulp. At this both the populace and we on the instant
all shouted this phrase, common at drinking bouts:
** Long life to youl"
Let no one think that I sully the dignity of history

1 It is just barely possible that the original gaye some different ideal
irom "his contests were" (cp. the text of Boiss^e).

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(^ ^' 94M ^ looting down such happenings^ In general I should
have preferred not to mention it, but since it was one
of the emperor ^s acts and I was myself present, taking
part in everything seen and heard and spoken, I have
judged it proper to suppress none of the details, but
to hand them down to the attention of those who shail
live hereafter, just as I should do in the caae of any-
thing else especially great and important. And, in-
deed, all the remaining events that took place in my
lifetime I shall polish and elaborate more than earlier
occurrences for the reason that my evidence is that of
a contemporary and I know no one else who has my
ability at reducing notable things to writing that has
studied them so exhaustively as I.

— 19 — It was on the first day, then, that this took place. On
the others he frequently went down from the raised
section to the bottom of the circle and slaughtered all
the tame animals that he approached, some of them
also being led to him or brought before him in nets.
He also killed a tiger, a hippopotamus, and an ele-
phant. After accomplishing this, he retired, but at the
conclusion of breakfast fought again as a gladiator.
The form of fighting which he practiced and the armor
which he used was that pertaining to the so-called
secutor: in his right hand he held the shield and in his
left the wooden sword. He prided himself very
greatly upon being left-handed. His antagonist ^ould
be some professional athlete, or, perhaps, gladiator^
with a cane ; this was sometimes a man that the em-
peror himself challenged and sometimes one that the
people chose. In this and other matters he acted the
same way as the other gladiators, except that they go

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in for a very small sum, whereas Commodiis had /^- ^- ^^
twenty-five myriads from the gladiatorial fund given
him each day. There stood beside him during the con-
test jEmilins Lsetns, the prefect, and Edectus, his
cubicalarius. He went through a skirmish, and, of
course, conquered, and then, just as he was, he kissed
them^ with his helmet on. After this the rest did some
fighting.— The first day he personally paired all the
combatants, either down below, where he wore all the
attire of Mercury, including a gilded wand, or else
from his place on the elevated platform; and we took
his proceeding as an omen. Later he ascended his cus-
tomary seat and from that point viewed the remainder
of the spectacle with us. Nothing more was done that
resembled child's play, but great numbers of men were
killed. At one place somebody delayed about slaying
and he fastened the various opponents together and
bade them all fight at once. At that the men so bound
struggled one against another and some killed those
who did not belong to their group, since the numbers
and the limited space had brought them into proximity.

That spectacle as here described lasted fourteen — m—
days. While the contests were going on we senators
invariably attended, along with the knights, save that
Claudius Pompeianus the elder never appeared, but
sent his sons, remaining away himself. He chose
rather to be put to death for this than to behold the
child of Marcus as emperor conducting himself so.—
Besides all the rest that we did, we shouted whatever
we were bidden and this sentence continuously : ** Thou
art lord, and thou art foremost, of all most fortunate:

1 Supplying 08^ (after Reimar).

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i^' ^'94M *^^^ ^^®* conquer, thou shalt conquer; from everlast-
ing, Amazonian, thon dost conquer I '*

Of the rest of the people many did not even enter the
theatre and some managed to steal out quietly, for they
were partly ashamed of what was being done and
partly afraid. A story was current that he would like
to shoot a few of them as Hercules had the Stympha-
lian birds. This story was believed, too, because once
he had gathered all the men in the city who by disease
or some other calamity had lost their feet, had fastened
some dragon ^s extremities about their knees, and after
giving them sponges to throw instead of stones had
killed them with blows of a club, on the pretence that
they were giants.

— »i— This fear was shared by all, both us and the rest.
Here is another way in which he menaced us sena-
tors,— an act which he certainly expected would be
the death of us. He had killed an ostrich, and cutting
oflF its head he came toward where we were sitting. In
his left hand he held the spoils and in the right
stretched aloft his bloody sword. He spoke not a
word, but with a grin wagged his head to and fro, in-
timating that he would subject us to this same treat-
ment. And many on the spot would have perished by
the sword for laughing at him (for it was laughter and
not grief that overcame us), had I not myself chewed
a laurel leaf, which I got from my garland, and brought
the rest who were sitting near me to munch similar
sprigs, so that in the constant motion of our jaws we
might conceal the fact that ve were laughing. After
this occurrence he raised our spirits, since before fight-
ing again as a gladiator he bade us enter the theatre

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in the equestrian garb and with woolen cloaks. (This ^ ^- i^
was something we never do when going into the theatre ^ **'
unless some emperor has passed away.) And on the
last day his helmet was carried out by the gates
through which the dead are taken out. That made us
all without exception think that he was surely about to
meet his end in some way.

And he did die (or rather was despatched) before a — aa—
great while. Lsetus and Edectus, displeased at the
way he acted, and moreover filled with fear at the
threats he uttered against them when he was checked
in any of his whims, formed a plot against him. Com-
modus was anxious to slay both the consuls (Erudus
Clarus and Sosius Falco) and on the first of the month
to issue as consul and secutor at once from the place
where the gladiators are kept. He had the first cell in
their quarters, as if he were one of them. Let no one
be incredulous about this, for he even cut off the head
of tile Colossus and put one of his own there instead;
and then, having given it a club and placed a bronze
lion at its feet so as to make it look like Hercules, he
inscribed, besides the titles that belonged to him, also
this sentence: '* First of secutors to engage; the only
left-handed fighter that has conquered twelve times*' '—


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Online LibraryCassius Dio CocceianusDio's Rome; an historical narrative originally composed in Greek during the reigns of Septimus Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and now presented in English form → online text (page 18 of 24)