Cassius Dio.

Dio's Rome, Volume 4 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and Now Presented in E online

. (page 27 of 28)
Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 4 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and Now Presented in E → online text (page 27 of 28)
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lower movement just like him, but furthermore a latitudinal movement such
as nowhere belongs to the sun under any circumstances. When, therefore,
she gets in a direct line with him over our heads and passes under his
blaze, then she obscures his beams that extend toward the earth, for
some to a greater, for some to a less degree, but does not conceal his
presence for even the briefest moment. For since the sun has a light of
his own he can never surrender it, and consequently, when the moon is
not directly in people's way so as to throw a shadow over him, he always
appears entire.

This, then, is what happens to the sun and it was made public by Claudius
at the time mentioned. With regard to the moon, however, - for it is not
irrelevant to speak of lunar phenomena also, since once I have broached
this subject, - as often as she gets directly opposite the sun (and she
only takes such a position with reference to him at full moon, whereas
he takes it with reference to her at the season of new moon), a conical
shadow falls upon the earth. This occurs whenever in her motion to and
from us her revolution takes her between the sun and the earth; then she
is deprived of the sun's light and appears by herself just as she really
is. Such are the conditions of the case.

[A.D. 46 (a. u. 799)]

[-27-] At the close of that year Valerius Asiaticus for the second time
and also Marcus Silanus became consuls. The latter held office for the
period for which he was elected. Asiaticus, however, though elected to
serve for the whole year (as was done in other cases), failed to do so
and resigned voluntarily. Some others had done this, though mostly by
reason of poverty. The expenses connected with the horse-races had
greatly increased, for generally there was a series of twenty-four
contests. But Asiaticus withdrew simply by reason of his wealth, which
also proved his destruction. Inasmuch as he was extremely well-to-do and
by being consul a second time had aroused the dislike and jealousy of
many, he desired in a way to overthrow himself, feeling that by so
doing he would be less likely to encounter danger. Still he was
deceived. - Vinicius, on the other hand, suffered no harm from Claudius,
for though he was an illustrious man he managed by keeping quiet and
minding his own business to preserve his life; but he perished by poison
administered by Messalina. She suspected that he had killed his wife
Julia and was angry because he refused to have intercourse with her. He
was duly accorded a public funeral and eulogies, - an honor which had been
granted to many.

Asinius Gallus, half-brother of Drusus by the same mother, conspired
against Claudius but instead of being put to death was banished. The
reason perhaps was that he made ready no army and collected no funds in
advance but was emboldened merely by his extreme folly, which led him to
think that the Romans would submit to having him rule them on account
of his family. But the chief cause was that he was a very small and
unshapely person and was therefore held in contempt, incurring ridicule
rather than danger.

[-28-]The people were truly loud in praise of Claudius for his
moderation, and also, by Jupiter, at the fact that he showed displeasure
when a certain man sought the aid of the tribunes against the person who
had freed him, asking and securing thus a helper in his cause. Both the
man in question and those associated with him in the proceedings were
punished; and the emperor further forbade rendering assistance to persons
in this way against their former masters, on pain of being deprived of
the right to bring suit against others. Per contra, people were vexed at
seeing him so much the slave of his wife and freedmen. This feeling was
especially marked on an occasion when Claudius himself and all the rest
were anxious to kill Sabinus (former governor of the Celtæ in the reign
of Gains) in a gladiatorial fight, but the latter approached Messalina
and she saved him. They were also irritated at her having withdrawn
Mnester from the theatre and keeping him with her. But whenever any talk
about his not dancing sprang up among the people, Claudius would appear
surprised and make various apologies, taking oath that he was not at his
house. The populace, believing him to be really ignorant of what was
going on, was grieved to think that he alone was not cognizant of what
was being done in the imperial apartments, - behavior so conspicuous
that news of it had already traveled to the enemy. They were unwilling,
however, to reveal to him the state of affairs, partly through awe of
Messalina and partly to spare Mnester. For he pleased the people as much
by his skill as he did the empress by his beauty. With his abilities in
dancing he combined great cleverness of repartee, so that once when the
crowd with mighty enthusiasm begged him to perform a famous pantomime, he
dared to come to the front of the stage and say:

"To do this, friends, I may not try;
Orestes' bedfellow am I."

This, then, was the relation of Claudius to these matters.

As the number of lawsuits was now beyond reckoning and persons summoned
would now no longer put in an appearance because they expected to be
defeated, he gave written notice that by a given day he should decide the
case against them, by default, so that they would lose it even if absent.
And there was no deviation from this rule.

Mithridates king of the Iberians[8] undertook to rebel and was engaged
in preparations for a war against the Romans. His mother,
however, opposed him and since she could not win him over by persuasion,
determined to take to flight: he then became anxious to conceal
his project, and so, while himself continuing preparations, he sent
his brother Cotys on an embassy to convey a friendly message to
Claudius. But Cotys proved a treacherous ambassador and told the
emperor all, and he was made king of Iberia in place of Mithridates.

[A.D. 47, (a. u. 800)]

[-29-]The following year, the eight hundredth anniversary of the founding
of the city of Rome, Claudius became consul for the fourth and Lucius
Vitellius for the third time. Claudius now ejected some members of
the senate, the majority of whom were not sorry to be driven out but
willingly stood aside on account of their poverty. Likewise he brought
in a number to fill their places. Among these he summoned with haste
one Surdinius Gallus, qualified to be a senator, who had emigrated to
Carthage, and said to him: "I will bind you with golden fetters." Gallus,
therefore, fettered by his rank, remained at home.

Although Claudius visited dire punishment upon the freedmen of others, in
case he caught them in any crime, he was very lenient with his own. One
day an actor in the theatre uttered this well-worn saying:

"A knave who prospers scarce can be endured,"[9]

whereupon the whole assemblage looked at Polybius, the emperor's
freedman. He, undismayed, shouted out: "The same poet, however, says: -

'Who once were goatherds now have royal power.'" [9]

and suffered no harm for his behavior.

Information was laid that some persons were plotting against Claudius,
but in the majority of instances he paid no attention, saying: "It
doesn't do to adopt the same defensive tactics against a flea as against
a beast of prey." Asiaticus, however, was tried before him and came very
near being acquitted. He entered a general denial, declaring: "I have
no knowledge of nor acquaintance with any of these persons who are
testifying against me." Then the soldier who stated he had been an
associate of his, being asked which one Asiaticus was, pointed out a
baldheaded man that happened to be standing near him. Baldness was the
only thing of which he was sure about Asiaticus. This event occasioned
much laughter and Claudius was on the point of freeing him, when
Vitellius to please Messalina made the statement that he had been sent
for by the prisoner, who requested the privilege of deciding the manner
of death to be visited upon him. Hearing this, Claudius believed that on
account of a guilty conscience Asiaticus had really condemned himself and
accordingly had him executed.

Among many others who were calumniated by Messalina he put to death
Asiaticus and likewise Magnus, his son-in-law. Asiaticus had property,
and the family of Magnus as well as his close relationship were irksome.
Of course, they were nominally convicted on different charges from these.

This year a new island, not large, made its appearance by the side of the
island Thera.

Claudius, monarch of the Romans, published a law to the effect that no
senator might journey above seven mile-posts from the City without the
monarch's express orders.[10]

Moreover, since many persons would afford their sick slaves no care,
but drove them out of their houses, a law was passed that all slaves
surviving such an experience should be free.

He also prohibited anybody's driving through the City [sic] seated in a

[-30-]Vespasian in Britain had been hemmed in by the barbarians and was
in danger of annihilation, but his son Titus becoming alarmed about his
father managed by unusual daring to break through the enclosing line; he
then pursued and destroyed the fleeing enemy. Plautius for his skillful
handling of the war with Britain and his successes in it both received
praise from Claudius and obtained an ovation. [In the course of the armed
combat of gladiators many foreign freedmen and British captives fought.
The number of men receiving their finishing blow in this part of the
spectacle was large, and he took pride in the fact.]

Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo as prætor in Celtica organized the forces and
damaged among other barbarians the Cauchi, as they are commonly called.
While in the midst of the enemy's country he was recalled by Claudius,
who on ascertaining his valor and his discipline would not allow him to
climb to any greater heights. Corbulo learning this turned back, giving
vent only to the following exclamation: - "How fortunate were those who
became prætors in the days of old!" He implied that the latter had been
permitted to exhibit their prowess without danger whereas his progress
had been blocked by the emperor on account of jealousy. Yet even so he
obtained a triumph. Being again entrusted with an army he trained it no
less thoroughly, and as the nations were at peace he had the men dig
a trench all the way across from the Rhine to the Meuse, as much as a
hundred and seventy stadia long, the purpose of which was to prevent the
rivers flowing back and causing inundations at the flood tide of the

[A.D. 48 (a. u. 801)]

When a grandson was borne to him by his daughter Antonia (whom, after the
death of Magnus, he had given in marriage to Cornelius Faustus Sulla,
brother of Messalina), he had the good sense not to allow any decree to
be passed in honor of the occasion.

Messalina and her freedmen swelled with importance. There were three of
the latter in particular who divided the ruling power among themselves:
Callistus, who had been given charge of the records of value; Narcissus,
who presided over the letters and hence wore a dagger at his belt; and
Pallas, to whom the administration of funds had been entrusted.

[-31-] Messalina, as if it did not satisfy her to play the adulteress and
harlot, - for besides her usual shameful behavior she sometimes carried
on a regular brothel in the palace, serving as a prostitute herself and
compelling women of highest rank to do the same, - now conceived a desire
to have many husbands, that is, with the legal title. [And she would have
entered upon a legal contract with all those who enjoyed her favors, had
she not been detected and destroyed in her very first attempt. For a time
all the Cæesarians were on good terms with her and everything they did
was with one mind. But when she slandered and killed Polybius, after
herself making repeated advances to him, they no longer trusted her. As a
result, deserted by their good-will, she perished.] She registered Gaius
Silius [son of the Silius slain by Tiberius] as her husband, celebrated
the marriage in costly fashion, bestowed a royal residence upon him, and
gathered in it all the most valuable of Claudius's heirlooms. Finally she
declared him consul. Now all this though [even previously] heard and seen
by everybody [else] continued to escape the notice of Claudius. So when
he went down to Ostia to inspect the grain supply, and she was left
behind in Rome on the pretext of being ill, she got up a banquet of no
little renown and carried on a most licentious revel. Then Narcissus,
having got Claudius alone, conveyed to him through the medium of
concubines information of all that was taking place. [And by frightening
him with the idea that Messalina was going to kill him also and set up
Silius as emperor in his place, he persuaded him to arrest and torture
several persons.] The moment this was done the emperor hastened back in
person to the city; and entering just as he was he put to death Mnester
with many others and then slew Messalina [after she had retreated into
the gardens of Asiaticus, which more than anything else were the cause of
her ruin.]

[A.D. 48-54]

After her Claudius destroyed also his own slave for insulting one of the
prominent men.

[A.D. 49 (a. u. 802)]

After a little he married his niece Agrippina, mother of Domitius, who
was surnamed Nero. She had beauty and had been in the habit of consulting
him constantly and being in his company alone because he was her uncle,
though she was rather more free in her conduct toward him than would
properly become a niece. [And for this reason he executed Silanus,
feeling that he was plotting against him.] [Yet Silanus was regarded as
an upright man and was honored by Claudius to the extent of receiving
triumphal honors while still a boy, being betrothed to the emperor's
daughter Octavia, and becoming prætor long before the age ordained. He
was allowed to give the festival that fell to his lot at the expense of
Claudius, and during it the latter asked some favors of him as if he were
himself the mere head of some party[12] and uttered any shouts that he
saw other people wished him to utter. Yet in spite of all this Claudius
had become such a slave to the women that on their account he killed both
his sons-in-law.]

On the heels of this occurrence Vitellius came forward in the senate with
a declaration that the good of the State required Claudius to marry. He
indicated Agrippina as a suitable person in this emergency and suggested
that they force him to the marriage. Then the senators rose and came
to Claudius and "compelled" him to marry. They also passed a decree
permitting Romans to wed their nieces, a union formerly prohibited.

[-32-] As soon as Agrippina had become settled in the palace, she gained
complete control of Claudius; for she possessed in an unusual degree the
quality of _savoir faire_. Likewise she won the devotion of all those who
were at all fond of him, partly by fear and partly by benefits conferred.
[At length she caused his son Britannicus to be brought up as if he
were no relation of the emperor. The other child, who had betrothed the
daughter of Sejanus, was dead. She made Domitius at this time son-in-law
of Claudius and later actually had him adopted. She accomplished these
ends partly by causing the freedmen to persuade Claudius and partly by
seeing to it beforehand that the senate, the populace, and the soldiers
should always concur to favor her demands. This son Agrippina] was
training for the assumption of imperial office and was having educated
under Seneca. She gathered for him an inconceivable amount of wealth,
omitting not one of the most humble and least influential citizens in her
search for money, paying court to every one who was in the least degree
well-off and murdering many for this very reason. In addition, she
destroyed out of jealousy some of the foremost women and put to death
Lollia Paulina because the latter had cherished some hope of being
married to Claudius. As she did not recognize the woman's head when it
was brought to her, she opened with her own hand the mouth and inspected
the teeth, which had certain peculiarities.

Mithridates, king of the Iberians; was defeated in a conflict with
a Roman army. Despairing of his life he begged that a hearing be
granted him to show cause why he should not be summarily executed
or led in the procession of triumph. This right having been accorded
him Claudius received him in Rome, standing on a tribunal, and addressed
threatening language to him. The king throughout replied
in an unabashed manner and concluded his remarks with "I was not
carried to you, but made the journey: if you doubt it, release me and
try to find me."

[-33-] She [sc. Agrippina] quickly became a second Messalina, and chiefly
because she obtained from the senate among other honors the right to use
the carpentum at festivals.

[A.D. 50 (a. u. 803)]

Subsequently Claudius applied to Agrippina the additional title of

When Claudius had adopted her son Nero and had made him his son-in-law
(by disowning his daughter and introducing her into another family so
that he might not have the name of uniting brother and sister), a mighty
portent occurred. All that day the sky seemed to be on fire.

Agrippina banished also Calpurnia, one of the most distinguished
ladies in the land, or perhaps even caused her death (as one version
of the story reports), because Claudius had admired and commended
her beauty.

[A.D. 51 (a. u. 804)]

When Nero (for this is the name for him that has won its way into
favor) was registered among the iuvenes, the day that he was registered
the Divine Power shook the earth for long distances and by
night struck terror to the hearts of all men without exception.

[-32-] [While Nero was growing up, Britannicus received neither honor nor
care. Agrippina, indeed, either drove away or killed those who showed any
zeal in his behalf. Sosibius, to whom his bringing up and education
had been entrusted, she caused to be slain on the pretext that he was
plotting against Nero. After that she delivered the boy to the charge of
persons who suited her and did him all the harm she could. She would not
let him visit his father nor appear before the people, but kept him in a
kind of imprisonment, though without bonds.]

Dio, 61st Book: "Since the prefects Crispinus and Lusius Veta would not
yield to her in every matter, she ousted them from office."

[A.D. 51-52]

[-33-] [No one attempted any kind of reprisal upon Agrippina, for, to be
brief, she had more power than Claudius himself and gave greetings in
public to those who desired it. This fact was entered on the records.]

She possessed all powers, since she dominated Claudius and had
made sure of the devotion of Narcissus and Pallas. (Callistus, after
rising to great heights of influence, was dead.)

[A.D. 52 (a. u. 805)]

The astrologers were banished from the entire expanse of Italy, and
their disciples were punished.

Carnetacus, a barbarian chieftain who was captured and brought to
Rome and received his pardon at the hands of Claudius, then, after
his liberation, wandered about the city; and on beholding its brilliance
and its size he exclaimed: "Can you, who own these things and things
like them, still yearn for our miserable tents?"

Claudius conceived a wish to have a naval battle in a certain lake[13];
so, after building a wooden wall around it and setting up benches,
he gathered an enormous multitude. Claudius and Nero were arrayed in
military costume. Agrippina wore a beautiful chlamys woven with gold, and
the rest of the people whatever pleased their fancy. Those who were to
take part in this sea-fight were condemned criminals, and each side had
fifty ships, one party being called Rhodians and the other Sicilians.
First they drew close together and after uniting at one spot they
addressed Claudius in this fashion: "Salve, imperator, morituri
salutamus."[14] Since this afforded them no salvation and they were still
ordered to fight, they used simple smashing tactics and took very good
care not to harm each other. This went on until they were cut down by
outside force. [Somewhat later the Fucinian Lake caved in and Narcissus
was severely criticised for it. He presided over the undertaking, and
it was thought that after spending a great deal less than he had
received[15] he had then purposely contrived the collapse, in order that
his villainy might go undetected.]

[A.D. 52-53]

About Narcissus there is a story of how openly, he used to make sport of
Claudius. One day when the latter was holding court the Bithynians raised
a great outcry against Junius Cilo, their governor, because, as
they asserted, he had taken very considerable bribes. Claudius not
understanding on account of their noise asked the bystanders what they
were saying. Thereupon, instead of telling him the truth, Narcissus said:
"They are expressing their gratitude to Junius." Claudius, believing him,
rejoined: "Why, he shall have charge of them two years more!"

Agrippina often attended her husband in public, when he was transacting
ordinary business, or when he was hearing ambassadors; she sat upon a
separate platform. This was surely one of the most remarkable sights of
the time.

On one occasion when a certain orator, Julius Gallicus, was pleading a
case, Claudius grew vexed and ordered that he be cast into the Tiber,
near the banks of which he chanced to be holding court. Domitius Afer,
who as an advocate had the greatest ability of his contemporaries, made
a very neat joke on this. A man whom Gallicus had disappointed came to
Domitius for assistance, whereupon the latter said to him: "And who told
you I could swim better than he can?"

Later Claudius fell sick, and Nero entered the senate to promise a
horse-race in case Claudius should regain his health. Agrippina was
leaving no stone unturned to make him popular with the masses and to
cause him to be regarded as the only natural successor to the imperial
throne. Hence it was that she selected the equestrian contest, on which
they doted especially, for Nero to promise in the event of Claudius's
recovery (an outcome against which she sincerely prayed). - Again, after
instigating a riot over the sale of bread she persuaded Claudius to make
known to the populace by public bulletin and to write to the senate
that, if he should die, Nero was fully capable of administering public
interests. In consequence of this he became a power and his name was on
everybody's lips, whereas in regard to Britannicus numbers did not know
of his existence and all others regarded him as idiotic and epileptic;
for this was the declaration that Agrippina gave out. - Well, Claudius
became convalescent and Nero conducted the horse-race in a sumptuous
manner; now, too, he married Octavia, a new circumstance to cause him a
feeling of manly dignity.

[A.D. 53-54]

Nothing seemed to satisfy Agrippina, though all rights
which Livia had possessed were bestowed upon her also and a number of
additional honors had been decreed. She, wielding equal power with
Claudius, desired to have his title outright; and once, when a blaze had
spread over the city to a considerable distance, she accompanied him in
the work of rescue.

[A.D. 54 (a. u. 807)]

[-34-] Claudius was irritated by Agrippina's actions, of which he now
began to become aware, and sought to find his son Britannicus. The boy,
however, was purposely kept out of his sight by the empress most of the
time, for she was doing everything conceivable to secure the right of
succession for Nero, since he was her own son by her former husband
Domitius. Claudius, who displayed his affection whenever he met
Britannicus, was not disposed to endure her behavior and made
preparations to put an end to her power, to register his son among the
iuvenes, and appoint him as heir to the empire.

This news alarmed Agrippina, who decided to anticipate the emperor's
project by poisoning him. Since, however, by reason of the great quantity
of wine he was forever drinking and his general habits of life, which all
emperors adopt for their protection, he could not easily be harmed, she
sent for a drug-woman named Lucusta, a recent captive renowned for the
desired skill, and obtaining from her a poison whose effect was sure she
put it in one of the vegetables called[16] mushrooms. Then she herself

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Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 4 An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During the Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and Now Presented in E → online text (page 27 of 28)