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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

. (page 2 of 24)
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 2 of 24)
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him to conduct his philosophical studies at leisure with-
out being hindered by the young man 's dinners. But as
for the kiss, I can not conceive how that tradition came
about. The only explanation which one could imagine,
namely, his unwillingness to kiss that sort of mouth,
is proved to be false by the facts concerning his favor-
ites. For this and for his adultery some complaints
were lodged against him, but at this time he was him-
self released without formal accusations and succeeded
in begging off Pallas and Burrus. Later on he did
not come out so welL]



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(BOOK 68, BOISSEVAIN.)

There was a certain Marcus Salvias Otho, who — ii —
through similarity of character and sharing in wrong- (a. v/sii)
doing had become so intimate with Nero that he was
not even pnnished for saying one day to the latter:
* * Then I hope yon may see me CsBsar. ' ' All that came
of it was the response : ** I sha'n^t see you even con-
sul.*' It was to him that the emperor gave Sabina, of
patrician family, after separating her from her hus-
band, and they both enjoyed her together. Agrippina,
therefore, fearing that Nero would marry the woman
(for he was now beginning to entertain a mad passion
for her), ventured upon a most unholy course. As if
it were not enough for her story that she had attracted
her uncle Claudius into love for her by her blandish-
ments and uncontrolled looks and kisses, she under-
took to enslave Nero also in similar fashion. How-
ever, I am not sure whether this actually occurred, or
whether it was invented to fit their characters : but I
state here what is admitted by all, that Nero had a
mistress resembling Agrippina of whom he was es-
pecially fond because of this very resemblance. And
when he toyed with the girl herself or threw out hints
about it to others, he would say that he was having in-
tercourse with his mother.

Sabina on hearing about this began to persuade a. d. 50
Nero to get rid of his mother in order to forestall her ^ ***

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/ ^ ^'aX\ alleged plots against him. He was likewise incited, —
SO many trustworthy men have stated, — by Seneca,
whether it was to obscure the complaint against his
own name that the latter was anxious or to lead Nero
on to a career of unholy bloodguiltiness that should
bring about most speedily his destruction by gods and
men. But they shrank from doing the deed openly and
were not able to put her out of the way secretly by
means of poison, for she took extreme precautions
against all such things. One day they saw in the
theatre a ship that automatically separated in two,
let out some beasts, and came together again so as to
be once more seaworthy; and they at once had another
one built like it. By the time the ship was finished
Agrippina had been quite won over by Nero's atten-
tions, for he exhibited devotion to her in every way
to make sure that she should suspect nothing and be
oflf her guard. He dared, however, do nothing in Rome
for fear the crime should become widely known. Hence
he went some distance into Campania accompanied by
his mother, and took a sail on the fatal ship itself,
which was adorned in the most brilliant fashion to the
end that she might feel a desire to use the vessel con-

— 18 — tinually. When they reached Bauli, he gave for several
days most costly dinners at which he showed great
solicitude in entertaining his mother. If she were ab-
sent he feigned to miss her sorely, and if she were
present he was lavish of caresses. He bade her ask
whatever she desired and bestowed many gifts without
her asking. When he had shaped the situation to this

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extent,* then rising from dinner about midnight he , ^ ^- J^.

(O* !!• via)

embraced her, and straining her to his breast kissed
her eyes and hands, exclaiming: ** Mother, farewell,
and happiness attend yon I For yon I live and because
of you I rule/' He then gave her in charge of Ani-
cetus, a freedman, supposedly to convey her home on
the ship that he had prepared.

But the sea would not endure the tragedy about to
be enacted on it nor would it submit to assume re-
sponsibility for the deception wrought by the mon-
strous contrivance: therefore, though the ship parted
asunder and Agrippina fell into the water, she did not
perish. In spite of the fact that it was dark and she
was full of strong drink and that the sailors used their
oar blades on her, so much so that they killed Acer-
ronia PoUa, her fellow voyager, she nevertheless saved
her life and reached home. Thereupon she affected
not to realize that it was a plot and let not a word of
it be known, but sent speedily to her son an account of
the occurrence with the implication that it had hap-
pened by accident, and conveyed to him the good news
(as she assumed it to be) that she was safe. Nero
hearing this could not endure the unexpected outcome
but punished the messenger as savagely as if he had
come to assassinate him, and at once despatched
Anicetus with the sailors to make an end of his mother.
He would not entrust the killing of her to the Pre-
torians. When she saw them, she knew for what they
had come, and leaping from her bed tore open her

1 Adopting Reiske's conjecture, ^v.

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DIO'S ROMAN HISTORY

(t'u'si2) ^^^**^?> exposing her abdomeD, and cried out:
'' Strike here, Anicetos, strike here, for this bore
Nero!^'

Thus was Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus,
grandchild of Agrippa, descendant of Augustus, slain
by the very son to whom she had given the sovereignty
and for whose sake she had killed her uncle and others.
Nero when informed that she was dead would not be-
lieve it, for the monstrousness of his bold deed plunged
him in doubts ; therefore he desired to behold the vic-
tim with his own eyes. So he laid bare her body,
looked her all over and inspected her wounds, finally
uttering a remark far more abominable even than the
crime. What he said was : ** I did not know I had so
beautiful a mother. ''

To the Pretorians he gave money evidently to se-
cure their prayers for many such occurrences, and
he sent to the senate a message in which he enumer-
ated the offences of which he knew she was guilty,
stating also that she had plotted against him and on
being detected had committed suicide. Yet for all this
calm explanation to the governing body he was fre-
quently subject to agitation at night, so that he would
even leap suddenly from his bed. And by day terror
seized him at the sound of trumpets that seemed to
blare forth some horrid din of war from the spot
where lay Agrippina's bones. Therefore he went else-
where. And when in his new abode he had again the
same experience, he distractedly transferred his resi-
dence to some other place.

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IT Nero, not having a word of truth from any one and "^^"^^
seeing that all approved what he had been doing, (»• «*• 8i2)
thonght that either his actions had escaped notice or
that he had conducted himself correctly. Hence he be-
came much worse also in other respects. He came to
think that all that it was in his power to do was right
and gave heed to those whose speech was prompted by
fear or flattery as if they told absolute truth. For a
time he was subject to fears and questioning8| but,
after the ambassadors had made him a number of
pleasing speeches, he regained courage.

The population of Rome, on hearing the report, — 15 —
though horrified were nevertheless joyful, because they
thought that now he would surely come to ruin. Nearly
all of the senators pretended to rejoice at what had
taken place, participated in Nero's pleasure, and voted
many measures of which they thought he would be
glad. Publius Thrasea PsBtus had also come to the
senate-house and listened to the letter. When, how-
ever, the reading was done, he at once rose without
making any comment and went out. Thus what he
would have said he could not, and what he could have
said he would not. He behaved in the same way under
all other conditions. For he used to say : * * If it were
a matter of Nero's putting only me to death, I could
easily pardon the rest who load him with flatteries.
But since among those even who praise him so exces-
sively he has gotten rid of some and will yet destroy
others, why should one stoop to indecent behavior and
perish like a slave, when like a freeman one may pay

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/^' ^' Ji«t the debt to nature t There shall be talk of me here-

(o. u, 812)

after, but of these men not a word save for the single
fact that they were killed. ' * Such was the kind of man
Thrasea showed himself, and he would always en*
courage himself by saying: ** Nero can kill me, but
he can not harm me*"
— 10— When Nero after his mother's murder reentered
Bome, people paid him reverence in public, but in
private so long as any one could speak frankly with
safety they tore his character to very tatters. And
first they hung by night a piece of hide on one of his
statues to signify that he himself ought to have a hid-
ing. Second, they threw down in the Forum a baby
to which was fastened a board, saying: '* I will not
take you up for fear you may slay your mother. ' * •

t At N«ro'8 entrance into Borne they took down the statuee of Agrip-
pina. But there was one which they did not cut loose soon enough, and
so they threw over it a cloth which gave it the appearance of being
veiled. Thereupon somebody at once ai&xed to the statue the following
inscription: " I am abashed and thou art unashamed."

In many quarters at once, also, might be read the
inscription:

''Nero, Orestes, Alomeon, matricides."

Persons could actually be heard saying in so many
words : ** Nero put his mother out of the way.^' Not
a few lodged information that certain persons had
spoken in this way, their object being not so much to
destroy those whom they accused as to bring reproach
on Nero« Hence he would admit no suit of that kind,
either not wishing that the rumor should become more
widespread by sudi means, or out of utter contempt

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for what was said. However, in the midst of the sacri- ^ -^- ^- ^^^ ^

' (a. II. 812)

fices offered in memory of Agrippina according to de-
cree, the sun suffered a total eclipse and the stars could
be seen. Also, the elephants drawing the chariot of
Augustus entered the hippodrome and went as far as
the senators' seats, but at that point they stopped and
refused to proceed farther. And the event which one
might most readily conjecture to have taken place
through divine means was that a thunderbolt de-
scended upon his dinner and consumed it all as it was
being brought to him, like some tremendous harpy
snatdiing away his food.

[In spite of this he killed by poison also his aunt —17—
Domitia, whom likewise he used to say he revered like
a mother. He would not even wait a few days for her
to die a natural death of old age, but was eager to de-
stroy her also. His haste to do this was inspired by
her possessions at Baiae and Bavenna, which included
magnificent amusement pavilions that she had erected
and] are in fine condition even now. In honor of his
mother he celebrated a very great and costly festival,
events taking place for several days in five or six
Iheatres at once. It was then that an elephant was led
to the very top of the vault of the theatre and walked
down from that point on ropes, carrying a rider.
There was another exhibition at once most disgraceful
and shocking. Men and women not only of equestrian
but even of senatorial rank appeared in the orchestra,
the hippodrome, and even the hunting-theatre, like the
veriest outcasts. Some of them played the flute and

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A. D. 59 danced or acted tragedies and comedies or sang to the

(a. I*. 812)

lyre. They drove horses, killed beasts, fought as gladi-
ators, some willingly, others with a very bad grace.
Men of that day beheld the great families, — the Furii,
the Horatii, the Fabii, Porcii, Valerii, and all the rest
whose trophies, whose temples were to be seen, —
standing down below the level of the spectators and
doing some things to which no common citizen even
wonld stoop. So they would point them out to one an-
other and make remarks, Macedonians saying: ^' That
is the descendant of Paulus '*; Greeks, ** Yonder
the offspring of Mummius "; Sicilians, ^^ Look at
Claudius ''; the Epirots, **Lookat Appius **; Asiatics,
** There's Lucius**; Iberians, ** There's Publius *';
Carthaginians, ** There's Africanus **; Romans,
** There they all are *\ Such was the expiation that
the emperor chose to offer for his own indecency.
— 18— All who had sense, likewise, bewailed the multitude
of expenditures. Every costliest viand that men eat,
everything else, indeed, of the highest value, — horses,
slaves, teams, gold, silver, raiment of varied hues, —
was given away by tickets. Nero would throw tiny
balls, each one appropriately inscribed, among the
populace and that article represented by the token
received would be presented to the person who had
seized it. The sensible, I say, reflected that, when he
spent so much to prevent molestation in his disgrace-
ful course, he would not be restrained from any most
outrageous proceedings through mere hope of profit.
Some portents had taken place about this time,

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which the seers declared imported destruction to him, , ^ ^^ ^^

^ ^ {a. u. 812)

and they advised him to divert the danger upon others.
So he would have immediately put numbers ef men
out of the way, had not Ster. Persons captured by the Bri-
tons underwent every form of most frightful treat-
ment. The conquerors committed the most atrocious
and bestial outrages. For instance, they hung up
naked ihe noblest and most distinguished women, cut
off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, to
make the victims appear to be eating tiiem. After
that they impaled them on sharp skewers run perpen-
dicularly the whole length of the body. All this they
did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and
exhibitions of insolence in all of tiieir sacred places,
but chiefly in the grove of Andate, — that being the
name of their personification of Victory, to whom they
paid the most excessive reverence.

It happened that Paulinus had already brought — t—
Mona to terms; hence on learning of the disaster in
Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. He was
unwilling to risk a conflict with tiie barbarians immedi-
ately, for he feared their numbers and tiieir frenzy;
therefore he was for postponing the battle to a more
convenient season. But as he grew short of food and
the barbarians did not desist from pressing him hard,

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I / ^ ^' giA) ^^ ^^ compelled, though contrary to his plan, to en-

- ter into an engagement with tiiem. Buduica herself,

heading an army of about twenty-three myriads of

I men, rode on a chariot and assigned ihe rest to tiieir

several stations. Now Paulinus could not extend his

i phalanx the width of her whole line, for, even if the

^ men had been drawn up only one deep, tiiey would not

have stretched far enough, so inferior were they in
numbers : nor did he dare to join battle with one com-
pact force, for fear he should be surrounded and cut
down. Accordingly, he separated his army into three
divisions in order to fight at several points at once,
and he made each of ihe divisions so strong that it
could not easily be broken through. While ordering

' and arranging his men he likewise exhorted them, say-

ing:

^ —9— ** Up, fellow-soldiers! Up, men of Rome! Show
these pests how much even in misfortune we surpass
them. It is a shame for you now to lose ingloriously
what but a short while ago you gained by your valor.
Often have we ourselves and also our fathers with far
fewer numbers than we have at the present conquered
far more numerous antagonists. Fear not ihe host of
them or their rebellion: their boldness rests on noth-
ing better than headlong rashness unaided by arms
and exercise. Fear not because they have set on fire a
few cities : they took these not by force nor after a bat-
tle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned.
Do you now exact from them the proper i)enalty for
these deeds, that so tiiey may learn by actual experi-

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ence what tiiey undertook when they wronged such , ^ i>- ^} ^

•^ '' ^ {a. u. 814)

men as us.''

After speaking these words to some he came to a — lo—
second group and said: ** Now is the occasion, now,
fellow-soldiers, for zeal, for daring. If to-day you
prove yourselves brave men, you will recover what
has slipped from your grasp. If you overcome this
enemy, no one else will any longer withstand us. By
one such battle you will both make sure of your pres-
ent possessions and subdue whatever is left. All
soldiers stationed anywhere else will emulate you and
foes will be terror-stricken. Therefore, since it is in
your own hands either to rule fearlessly all mankind,
both the nations that your fathers left under your con-
trol and those which you yourselves have gained in ad-
dition, or else to be bereft of them utterly, choose rather
to be free, to rule, to live in wealth, to enjoy pros-
perity, tiian through indolence to suffer the reverse
of tiiese conditions.'*

After making an address of this sort to the group — n —
in question, he came up to the third division and said
also to them: ** You have heard what sort of acts
these wretches have committed against us, nay more,
you have even seen some of them. Therefore choose
eitiier yourselves to suffer the same treatment as pre-
vious victims and furthermore to be driven entirely
out of Britain, or else through victory to avenge those
that perished and also to give to ihe rest of mankind
an example of mild clemency toward ihe obedient^ of
necessary severity toward the rebellious. I entertain

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A. D. 61 the highest hopes of victory for our side, cormting on

(a. u, 814) w * f *- w

the following factors : first, the assistance of tiie gods;
they usually cooperate with the party that has been
wronged: second, our inherited bravery; we are Ro-
mans and have shown ourselves superior to all man-
kind in various instances of valor: next, our experi-
ence; we have defeated and subdued these very men
that are now arrayed against us : last, our good name;
it is not worthy opponents but our slaves with whom
we are coming in conflict, x>orsons who enjoyed free^
dom and self-government only so far as we allowed it.
Yet even should tiie outcome prove contrary to our
hope, — and I will not shrink from mentioning even
this contingency, — it is better for us to fall fighting
bravely tiian to be captured and impaled, to see our
own entrails cut out, to be spitted on red hot skewers,
to perish dissolved in boiling water, when we have fal-
len into tiie power of creatures that are very beasts,
savage, lawless, godless. Let us therefore either beat
them or die on the spot. Britain shall be a noble me-
morial to us, even tiiough all subsequent Romans
should be driven from it; for in any case our bodies
shall forever possess the land/'
^18— At the conclusion of exhortations of this sort and
others like thejm he raised the signal for battle. There-
upon they approached each other, the barbarians mak-
ing a great outcry intermingled with menacing incan-
tations, but the Romans silently and in order until
they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy.
Then, while the foe were advancing against them at

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a walk, the Bomans started at a given word and ,^ ^o^A.

' ^ (a. u, 814)

charged them at full speed, and when the clash came
^^asUy broke through the opposing ranks ; but, as they
were surrounded by the great numbers, they had to be ^
fighting everywhere at once. Their struggle took many
forms. In the first place, light-armed troops might be
in conflict witii light-armed, heavy-armed be arrayed
against heavy-armed, cavalry join issue with cavalry;
and against the chariots of tiie barbarians ihe Roman
archers would be contending. Again, the barbarians
would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots,
knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought
without breastplates, would be themselves repulsed by
the arrows. Horseman would upset foot-soldier, and
foot-soldier strike down horseman; some, forming in
close order, would go to meet the chariots, and others
would be scattered by them; some would come to close
quarters with the archers and rout them, whereas oth-
ers were content to dodge their shafts at a distance:
and all these things went on not at one spot, but in
the three divisions at once. They contended for a long
time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and-" ^
daring. Finally, though late in the day, the Romans
prevailed, having slain numbers in the battle, beside
the wagons, or in the wood: they also captured many
alive. Still, not a few made their escape and went on
to prepare to fight a second time. Meanwhile, how-
ever, Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned
her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, as tiiey
themselves were this time really defeated, they scat-

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(a. u. 814)



A, D. 61 tered to their homes. — So far the history of affairs in



Britain.

_13_ In Rome Nero had before this sent away Octavia
{a.' I? 816) Augusta, on account of his concubine Sabina, and sub-
sequently he put her to death. This he did in spite
of the opposition of Burrus, who tried to prevent his
sending her away, and once said to him: ** Well, then,
give her back her dowry '^ (by which he meant the
sovereignty). Indeed, Burrus used such unmitigated
frankness that on one occasion, when he was asked by
the emperor a second time for an opinion on matters
regarding which he had already made clear his atti-
tude, he answered bluntly: ** When I have once had
my say about aoything, don't ask me again.'* So
Nero disposed of him by poison. He also appointed
to command the Pretorians a certain Ofonius Tigil-
linus, who outstripped all his contemporaries in licen-
tiousness and bloodiness. [It was he who won Nero
away from them and made light of his colleague
Bufus.^] To him the famous sentence of Pythias is
said to have been directed. She had proved the only
exception when all the other attendants of Octavia
had joined Sabina in attacking their mistress, despis-
ing the one because she was in misfortune and toady-
ing to the other because her influence was strong.
Pythias alone had refused though cruelly tortured to
utter lies against Octavia, and finally, as Tigillinus
continued to urge her, she spat in his face, saying:

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** My mistrefis's privy parts are deaner. Tigillinus, ^a. d. e2

XI. XT. r> Mo. t#. 816)

than your monttL"

The troubles of his relatives Nero turned into —14—
laughter and jest For instance, after killing Plautus^
he took a look at his head when it was brought to him
and remarked: ** I didn't know he had such a big
nose," as much as to say that he would have spared
him, had he been aware of this fact beforehand. And
though he spent practically his whole existence in
tavern life, he forbade others to sell in taverns any-
thing boiled save vegetables and pea-soup. He put
Pallas out of the way because the latter had accumu-
lated great wealth that could be counted by the ten
tiiousand myriads. Likewise he was very liable to
peevishness that showed in his behavior, and at such
times he would not speak a word to his servants or
f reedmen but write on tablets whatever he wanted as
well as any orders that he had to give them.

% Indeed, when many of those who had gathered at Antium perishedy — 15

Kero made that, too, an occasion for a festival. A. D. 63

% A certain Thrasea gave his opinicm to the effect that for a senator the ^^' ^ '
extreme penalty should be exile.

To such lengths did Nero's self-indulgence go that — 15—
he actually drove chariots in public. Again, one time (a. i».*8i7)
after the slaughter of beasts he straightway brought



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 2 of 24)