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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 3 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 3 of 24)
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water into the theatre by means of pipes and pro-
duced a sea-fight: then he let the water out again
and arranged a gladiatorial combat. Last of all he
flooded the place once more and gave a costly public
banquet* The person who had been appointed director

1 BubeUifu PUsuiuM.

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of the banquet was Tigillinus, and a large and com-
plete equipment had been famished. The arrange-
ments made were as follows. In the center and rest-
ing on the water were placed the great wooden wine
vessels, over which boards had been fastened. Bound
about it had been built taverns and booths. Thus
Nero and Tigillinus and tiieir fellow-banqueters,
being in the center, held their feast on purple carpets
and soft mattresses, while all the other people
caroused in the taverns. These also entered the
brothels, where unrestrictedly they might enjoy abso-
lutely any woman to be found there. Now the latter
were some of the most beautiful and distinguished in
the city, both slaves and free, some hetseras, some vir-
gins, some wives, — not merely, that is to say, public
wenches, but both girls and women of the very noblest
families. Every man was given authority to have
whichever one he wished, for the women were not
allowed to refuse any one. Consequently, the mul-
titude being a regular rabble, they drank greedily and
reveled in wanton conduct. So a slave debauched
his mistress in the presence of his master and a
gladiator ravished a girl of noble family while her
father looked on. The shoving and striking and
uproar that went on, first on the part of those who
were going in and second on the part of those who
stood around outside, was disgraceful. Many men
met their death in these encounters, and of the women
some were strangled and some were seized and
carried off.

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After this Nero had the wish (or rather it had ^Jf "j^
always been a fixed purpose of his) to make an end (»• «• 817.K
of the whole city and sovereignty during his lif etime»
Priam he deemed wonderfully happy in that he had
seen his country perish at the same moment as his
authority. Accordingly he sent in different directions
men feigning to be drunk or engaged in some indif-
ferent species of rascality and at first had one or two
or more blazes quietly kindled in different quarters:
people, of course, fell into the utmost confusion, not
being able to find any beginning of the trouble nor to
put any end to it, and meanwhile they became aware
of many strange sights and sounds. For soon there
was nothing to be observed but many fires as in a
camp, and no other phrases fell from men's lips but
'' This or that is burning ''; '' Where? ''; '' How? '';
'* Who set it?''; ** To the rescue!" An extraor-
dinary perturbation laid hold on all wherever they
might be, and they ran about as if distracted, some
in one direction and some in another. Some men in
the midst of assisting their neighbors would learn
that their own premises were on fire. Others received
the first intimation of their own possessions being
aflame when informed that they were destroyed. Per-
sons would run from their houses into the lanes with
some idea of being of assistance from the outside, or
again they would dash into the dwellings from the
streets, appearing to think they could accomplish
something inside. The shouting and screaming of
children, women, men, and graybeards all together

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were incessant, so that one could have no conscious-
ness nor comprehension of anything by reason of the
smoke and shouting combined. On this account some
might be seen standing speechless, as if dumb. All
this time many who were carrying out their goods
and many more who were stealing what belonged to
others kept encountering one another and falling over
the merchandise. It was not possible to get anywhere,
nor yet to stand still; but people pushed and were
pushed back, they upset others and were themselves
upset, many were suffocated, many were crushed : in
fine, no evil that can possibly happen to men at such
a crisis failed to befall them* They could not with
ease find even any avenue of escape, and, if any one
did save himself from some immediate danger, he
— 17— usually fell into another one and was lost. This did
not all take place on one day, but lasted for several
days and nights together. Many houses were de-
stroyed through lack of some one to defend them and
many were set on fire in still more places by persons
who presumably came to the rescue. For the soldiers
(including the night watch), having an eye upon plun-
der, instead of extinguishing any blaze kindled greater
conflagrations. While similar scenes were being ctl-
acted at various points a sudden wind caught the fire
and swept it over whatever remained. Consequently
no one concerned himself any longer about goods or
houses, but all the survivors, standing in a place of
safety, gazed upon what seemed to be many islands
and cities burning. There was no longer any grief

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over individual losses, for it was swallowed up in the ^ ^- ^^

' ^ {a, u, 817)

public lamentation, as men reminded one another how
once before most of their city had been similarly laid
waste by the Gauls. While the whole population was —la-
in this state of mind and many crazed by the disaster
were leaping into the blaze itself, Nero mounted to
the roof of the palace, where nearly the whole con-
flagration could be taken in by a sweeping glance, and
liaving assumed the lyrist's garb he sang the Taking
(as he said) of Hium, which, to the ordinary vision,
however, appeared to be the Taking of Home.

The calamity which the city at this time experienced
has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic
invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of
Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the
city were burned and countless human beings perished.
The populace invoked curses upon Nero without
intermission, not uttering his name but simply cursing
those who had set the city on fire: and this was
especially the case because they were disturbed by
the memory of the oracle chanted in Tiberius *s day.
These were the words: —

''Thrioe three hundred cycles of tireless years being ended.
Civil strife shall the Romans destroy."!

^^And when Nero by way of encouraging them re^
ported that these verses were nowhere to be found,
they changed and went to repeating another oracle,
which they averred to be a genuine Sibylline pro-
duction, namely: —

** Last of the sons of .^hieas a matricide shaU goyem.''
1 Compare Book Fifty-seven, chapter 18.

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A. D. w And so it proved, whetiier this was actually re-
Co. 1*. 817) r- 7 ^ ^ J

vealed befor^and by some divination or whether the
popnlace now for the first time gave it the form of a
divine saying adapted to existing circumstances. For
Nero was indeed the last emperor of the Julian line
X descended from ^neas.

He now began to collect vast sums from both indi-
viduals and nations, sometimes using compulsion, with
the conflagration for his excuse, and sometimes obtain-
ing it by ** voluntary ** offers; and the mass of the
Romans had the food supply fund withdrawn.
— 10— While he was so engaged, he received news from
Armenia and soon after a laurel wreath in honor of
victory. The scattered bodies of soldiery in that
region had been united by Corbulo, who trained them
sedulously after a period of neglect, and then by the
very report of his coming had terrified both Volo-
gsBSus, king of Parthia, and Tiridates, chief of Ar-
menia. He resembled the primitive Romans in that
besides coming of a brilliant family and besides pos-
sessing much strength of body he was still further
gifted with a shrewd intelligence: and he behaved
with great bravery, with great fairness, and with
great good faith toward all, both friends and ene-
mies. For these reasons Nero had despatched him
to the scene of war in his own stead and had en-
trusted to him a larger force tiian to anybody else,
being equally assured that the man would subdue the
barbarians and would not revolt against him. And
Corbulo proved neither of these assxmiptions false.

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All other men, however, had it as a particular griev- ^ ^'3^^
ance against him that he kept faith with Nero. They
were very anxious to get him as emperor in place of
the actual despot, and this conduct of his seemed to
them his only defect.

Corbulo, accordingly, had taken Artaxata without a —90—
struggle and had razed the city to the ground. This
exploit finished, he marched in the direction of Ti-
granocerta, sparing all the districts that yielded them-
selves but devastating the lands of all sudi as re-
sisted him. Tigranocerta submitted to him volun-
tarily, and be performed other brilliant and glorious
deeds, as a result of which he induced the formidable
Vologaesus to accept terms that accorded with the Bo-
man reputation. [For Vologaesus, on hearing that
Nero had assigned Armenia to others and that Adia-
bene was being ravaged by Tigranes, made prepara-
tions himself to go on a campaign into Syria against
Corbulo, but sent into Armenia Monobazus, king of
Adiabene, and Momeses, a Parthian. These two had
shut up Tigranes in Tigranocerta. But since they did
not succeed in harming him at all by their siege and as
often as they tried conclusions with him were repulsed
by both the native troops and the Bomans that were
in his army, and since Corbulo guarded Syria with
extreme care, Vologaesus recognized the hopelessness
of his attempt and disbanded his forces. Then he sent
to Corbulo and obtained peace on condition that he
should send a new embassy to Nero, raise the siege,
and withdraw his soldiers from Armenia. Nero made

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^' ^\?,tv tim no immediate nor speedy nor definite reply, but

(a. M. 817) x- ^ r ^7

despatched Lucius Csesennius Paetus to Cappadocia to
see to it that there should be no Armenian uprising.]
— ai— [So VologBBSus attacked Tigranocerta and drove
back Paetus, who had come to its aid. When the latter
fled he pursued him, beat back the garrison left by
Paetus at the Taurus, and shut him up in Bhandea, near
the river Arsanias. Then he was on the point of re-
tiring without accomplishing anything; for destitute
as he was of heavy-armed soldiers he could not ap-
proach dose to the wall, and he had no large stock of
provender, particularly as he had come at tiie head of
a vast host without making arrangements for food
supplies. Paetus, however, stood in terror of his arch-
ery, which took effect in tiie very camp itsejf, as well
as of tiie cavalry, which kept appearing at all points.
Hence he made peace proposals to his antagonist, ac-
cepted his terms, and took an oath that he would him-
self abandon all of Armenia and that Nero should give
it to Tiridates. The Parthian was satisfied enough
with this agreement, seeing that he was to obtain con-
trol of the country without a contest and would be mak-
ing the Romans his debtors for a very considerable
kindness. And, as he learned that Corbulo (whom
Paetus several times sent for before he was surrounded)
was drawing near, he dismissed the beleaguered sol-
diers, having first made them agree to build a
bridge over the river Arsanias for him. He was not
really in need of a bridge, for he had crossed on foot,
but he wished to give tiiem a practical example of the

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fact that he waa stronger than they. Indeed, he did not .^ J^- g^.
retire by way of the bridge even on tiiis occasion, but
rode across on an elephant, while the rest got over as
before.

The capitulation had scarcely been made when Cor-
bnlo with inconceivable swiftness reached the Euphra-
tes and there waited for the retreating force. When
the two armies approached each other you would have
been struck with the dijfference between them and be-
tween tiieir generals : one set were fairly aglow with
delight at their rapidity; the others were grieved and
ashamed of their compact., VologsBSus sent Monaeses to
Corbulo with the demand tiiat the newcomer should
give up the fort in Mesopotamia. So they held a pro-
longed conference together right at the bridge cross-
ing the Euphrates, after first destroying the center of
the structure. Corbulo having promised to leave the
country if the Parthian would also abandon Armenia,
both of these things were done temporarily until Nero
could learn the outcome of the engagements and be-
gin negotiations with the envoys of VologSBSus, whom
the latter had sent a second time. The answer given
them by the emperor was that he would bestow Arme-
nia upon Tiridates if this aspirant would come to
Rome. Fstus was deposed from his command and the
soldiers that had been with him were sent somewhere
else. Corbulo was again assigned to the war against
the same foes. Nero had intended to accompany the
expedition in person, but after falling down during
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the ceremony of sacrificing he wonld not venture to go
abroad but remained where he was.]
— 88— [Corbulo therefore officially prepared for war upon
Vologaesus and sent a centurion bidding him depart
from the country. Privately, however, he suggested
to the king that he send his brother to Rome, and this
advice met with acceptance, since Corbulo seemed to
have the stronger force. Thus it came about that they
both, Corbulo and Tiridates, met at no other place than
Bhandea, which suited them both. It appealed to the
Parthian because there his people had cut off tiie Ro-
mans and had sent them away under a capitulation, a
visible proof of the favor that had been done them. To
the Boman it appealed because his men were going to
wipe out the ill repute that had attached to them there
before. For the meeting of the two was not limited
merely to conversation; a lofty platform had been
erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the
presence of crowds of Armenians, Parthians, and Ro-
mans Tiridates approached and did them reverence;
after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory
names he took off the diadem from his head and set it
upon them. Monobazus and Vologaesus also came to
Corbulo and gave him hostages. In honor of this event
Nero was a number of times saluted as imperator and
held a triumph, contrary to precedent.] But Corbulo
in spite of the large force that he had and the very oon-
, eiderable reputation that he enjoyed did not rebel and

was never accused of rebellion. He might easily have
been made emperor, since men thoroughly detested

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Nero but all admired him in every way. [In addition , ^ ^- ^%,

•'•'*• (o. II. 817)

to the more striking features of his submissive be-
havior he voluntarily sent to Rome his son-in-law
Aunius, who served as his lieutenant; this was done
professedly that Aunius might escort Tiridates baok,
but in fact this relative stood in the position of a
hostage to Nero. The latter was so firmly persuaded
that his general would not revolt that Corbulo obtained
his son-in-law as lieutenant^ before he had been
praetor.]

;[And Junius Torquatus, a descendant of Augustus, (—•7—)
made himself liable to a most strange indictment He
had squandered his property in a rather lavish way,
whether following his native bent or with the intention
of not being very rich. Nero therefore declared that,
as he lacked many things, he must be covetous of the
goods of others, and consequently caused a fictitious
charge to be brought against him of aspiring to im-
perial power.]

Seneca, however, and Rufus the prefect and some —24—
other prominent men formed a plot against Nero. («. u.'sis)
They could no longer endure his ignoble behavior, hiff
licentiousness, and his cruelty. They desired at one
and the same time to be rid of these evils and to give
Nero his release from them. Indeed, Sulpicius Asper,
a centurion, and Subrius Flavins, a military tribune,
both belonging to the body-guards, admitted this to
him point blank. Asper, when interrogated by the em-
X>eror as to the reason for his attempt, replied: ^^ I

t Reading Snapx^^ (Boissevain) for S^rarov.

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it' u 818) ^^^ ^^^P y^^ ^ ^^ other way/' And the response of
Flavins was : ** I both loved yon and hated yon above
all men. I loved yon, hoping that yon wonld prove a
good emperor : I have hated yon becanse yon do so-and-
so. I can not be slave to charioteer or lyre-player. ''—
Information was lodged and these men were pnnished,
besides many others indirectly associated with them.
Everything in the natnre of a complaint that conld be
entertained against any one for excessive joy or grief,
for words or gestnres, was bronght forward and was
believed. Not one of these complaiats, even if ficti-
tions, conld be refnsed credence in view of Nero's ac-
tnal deeds. Hence conscienceless friends and honse
servants of some men flonrished greatly. Persons
gnarded against strangers and foes, — for of these
they were snspicions,— bnt were bonnd to expose
themselves whether they wonld or no to their as-
sociates,
—as— It wonld be no small task to record details abont
most of those that perished, bnt the fate of Seneca
needs a few words by itself. It was his wish to end
the life of his wife Panlina at the same time with his
own, for he declared that he had tanght her to despise
death and that she desired to leave the world in com-
pany with him. So he opened her veins as well as
his own. As he failed, however, to yield readily to
death, his end was hastened by the soldiers ; and his
dying so speedily enabled Panlina to snrvive. He did
not lay hands npon himself, however, nntil he had re-
vised the book which he had composed and had de^

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posited with various persons certain other valued pos- ^ J^'gls)
sessions which he feared might come into Nero's hands
and be destroyed. Thus was Seneca forced to part
with life in spite of the fact that he had on the pre-
text of illness abandoned the society of tiie emperor
and had bestowed upon him his entire property, sup-
posedly to help defray the expense of necessary build-
ing operations. His brothers, too, perished after him.

Likewise Thrasea and Soranus, who had no superi- —26—
ors in family, wealth, and every excellence, met their
death not because they were accused of conspiracy but
because they were what they were. Against Soranus
Publius Egnatius Celer, a philosopher, gave false evi-
dence. The victim had had two associates, — Cassius
Asclepiodotus of Nicaea and this Publius of Berytus.
Now Asclepiodotus so far from speaking against So-
ranus bore witness to his noble qualities; he was at
the time exiled for his pains, but later, under Galba,
was restored. Publius in return for his services as
blackmailer received money and honors (as did others
of the same profession), but subsequently he was ban-
ished. Soranus was slain on the charge of having
caused his daughter to employ a species of magic, the
foundation for this story being that when he was sick
his family had offered some sacrifices. Thrasea was
executed for not appearing regularly at the senate-
house, thus showing that he did not like the measures
passed, for not listening to the emperor's singing and
zither-playing, for not sacrificing to Nero's Divine
Voice as did the rest, and for not giving any public

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it" ^' SIS) exhibitions : for it was remarked that at Patavimn, his
native place, he had acted in a tragedy given in pur-
suance of some old custom at a festival held every
thirty years. As he made tiie incision in his artery, he
raised his hand, exclaiming: ** To thee, Jupiter, pa-
tron of freedom, I pour this libation of blood/ ^

— «7— And why should one be surprised that such complaints
were fastened upon them,i seeing that one man^ was
brought to trial and slain for living near the Forum,
for letting out some shops, or for receiving a few
* friends in them; and another^ because he possessed a
likeness of Cassius, the murderer of Caesar!

The conduct of a woman named Epicharis also de-
serves mention. She had been included in the con-
spiracy and all its details had been trusted to her with-
out reserve; yet she revealed none of these though
often tortured in all the ways that the skill of Tigil-
linus could devise. And why should one enumerate
the sums given to the Pretorians on the occasion of
this conspiracy or the excessive honors voted to Nero
and his friends! Let me say only tiiat it led to the
banishment of Bufus Musonius, fhe philosopher. Sa-
bina also perished at this time through an act of
Nero^s. Either accidentally or intentionally he had
given her a violent kick while she was pregnant.

— «8— The extremes of luxury indulged in by this Sabina I
will indicate in the briefest possible terms. She had

1 A slight gap in the MS. exists here, filled by a doubtful conjecture
of Boisseyain's.
^8alvidienu8 Orfitus (according to Suetonius, Life of Nero, chap. 37).
8C Oasaiua Longintu (ibid.).

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gilded girths put upon the mules that carried her and ^' ^- ^.
caused five hundred asses that had recently foaled to
be milked each day that she might bathe in their milk.
She devoted great thought to making her person ap-
pear youthful and lustrously beautiful, — and with
brilliant results ; and this is why, not fancying her ap-
pearance in a mirror one day, she prayed that she
might die before she passed her prime. Nero missed
her so that [after her death, at first, on learning that
there was a woman resembling her he sent for and
kept this female: later] because a boy of the liberti
class, named Sporus, resembled Sabina, he had him
castrated and used him in every way like a woman;
and in due time he formally married him though he
[Nero] was already married to a freedman Pythag-
oras. He assigned the boy a regular dowry according
to contract, and Bomans as well as others held a pub-
lic celebration of their wedding.

t While Nero had Sporus the eunuch as a wife, one of his associates
in Rome, who had made a specialty of philosophy, on being asked whether
the marriage and cohabitation in question met with his approval re-
plied: "You do well, Cesar, to seek the company of such wives. If
only your father had had the same ambition and had dwelt with a
similar consort 1 " — indicating that if this had been the case, Nero
would not have been bom, and the government would have been relieved
of great evils.

This was, however, later. At the time with which
we are immediately concerned many, as I stated, were
put to death and many who purchased their preserva-
tion with Tigillinus with a great price were released.

Nero continued to commit many ridiculous acts, —29—
among which may be cited his descending at a kind of

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popular festival to the orchestra of the theatre, where
he read some Trojan lays of his own : and in honor of
these there were ojffered numerous sacrifices, as there
were over everything else that he did. He was now
making preparations to compile in verse a narration of
all the achievements of the Romans : before composing
any of it, however, he began to consider the proper
number of books, and took as his adviser Annseus
Comutus, who at this time was famed for his learning.
This man he came very near putting to death and did
deport to an island, because, while some were urging
him to write four hundred books, Comutus said that
was too many and nobody would read them. And
when some one objected: ** Yet Chrysippus, whom
you praise and imitate, has composed many more,'^ the
savant retorted: ** But they are a help to the con-
duct of men's lives.'* So Comutus was punished with
exile for this. And Lucanus was enjoined from writ-
ing poetry because he was securing great praise for his
work.



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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 3 of 24)