Cassius Dio.

Dio's Rome, Volume 5, Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211) An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During The Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Seve online

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Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 5, Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211) An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During The Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Seve → online text (page 22 of 23)
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Following this tendency he drew from practically all their hiding places
all the books that he could find containing anything secret, and he closed
the monument of Alexander, to the end that no one should either behold his
body any more or read what was written in these books.

This was what he did. For myself, there is no need that I should write in
general about Egypt, but what I know about the Nile through verifying
statements from many sources I am bound to mention. It clearly rises in
Mount Atlas. This lies in Macennitis, close to the Western ocean itself,
and towers far above all mountains, wherefore the poets have called it
"Pillar of the Sky." No one ever ascended its summits nor saw its topmost
peaks. Hence it is always covered with snow, which in summer time sends
down great quantities of water. The whole country about its base is in
general marshy, but at this season becomes even more so, with the result
that it swells the size of the Nile at harvest time. This is the river's
source, as is evidenced by the crocodiles and other beasts that are born
alike on both sides of it. Let no one be surprised that we have made
pronouncements unknown to the ancient Greeks. The Macennitae live near
lower Mauretania and many of the people who go on campaigns there also
visit Atlas. It is thus that the matter stands.

[Sidenote: - 14 - ] Plautianus, who enjoyed the special favor of Severus and
had the authority of prefect, besides possessing the fullest and greatest
influence on earth, had put to death many men of renown and his own
peers [Lacuna] [After killing Aemilius Saturninus he took away all the
most important prerogatives belonging to the minor officers of the
Pretorians, his subordinates, in order that none of them might be so
elated by his position of eminence as to lie in wait for the captaincy of
the body-guards. Already it was his wish to be not simply the only but a
perpetual prefect.] He wanted everything, asked everything from everybody,
and got everything. He left no province and no city unplundered, but
sacked and gathered everything from all sides. All sent a great deal more
to him than they did to Severus. Finally he sent centurions and stole
tiger-striped horses sacred [Footnote: Supplying [Greek: therous] (Reiske's
conjecture).] to the Sun God from the island in the Red Sea. This mere
statement, I think, must instantly make plain all his officiousness and
greediness. Yet, on second thought, I will add one thing more. At home he
castrated one hundred nobly born Roman citizens, though none of us knew of
it until after he was dead. From this fact one may comprehend the extent
alike of his lawlessness and of his authority. He castrated not merely
boys or youths, but grown men, some of whom had wives; his object was that
Plautilla his daughter (whom Antoninus afterward married) should be waited
upon entirely by eunuchs [and also have them to give her instruction in
music and other branches of art. So we beheld the same persons eunuchs and
men, fathers and impotent, gelded and bearded. In view of this one might
not improperly declare that Plautianus had power beyond all men, over even
the emperors themselves. For one thing, his portrait statues were not only
far more numerous but also larger than theirs, and this not simply in
outside cities but in Rome itself, and they were at this time reared not
merely by individuals but by no less a body than the senate itself. All
the soldiers and the senators took oaths by his Fortune and all publicly
offered prayer for his preservation.

[Sidenote: - 15 - ] The person principally responsible for this state of
affairs was Severus himself. He yielded to Plautianus in all matters to
such a degree that the latter occupied the position of emperor and he
himself that of prefect. In short, the man knew absolutely everything that
Severus said and did, but not a person was acquainted with any of
Plautianus's secrets. The emperor made advances to his daughter on behalf
of his own son, passing by many other maidens of high rank. He appointed
him consul and virtually showed an anxiety to have him for successor in
the imperial office. Indeed, once he did say in a letter: "I love the man
so much that I pray to die before he does."]

[Lacuna] so that [Lacuna] some one actually dared to write to him as to a
fourth Caesar.

Though many decrees in his honor were passed by the senate he accepted
only a few of them, saying to the senators: "It is through your hearts
that you show your love for me, not through your decrees."

At temporary stopping-places he endured seeing him located in superior
quarters and enjoying better and more abundant food than he. Hence in
Nicaea (my native country) when he once wanted a hammer-fish, large
specimens of which are found in the lake, he sent to Plautianus to get it.
So if he thought at all of doing aught to diminish this minister's
leadership, yet the opposite party, which contained far greater and more
brilliant members, saw to it that any such plan was frustrated. On one
occasion Severus went to visit him, when he had fallen sick at Tyana, and
the soldiers attached to Plautianus would not allow the visitor's escort
to enter with him. Moreover, the person who arranged cases to be pled
before Severus was once ordered by the latter in a moment of leisure to
bring forward some case or other, whereupon the fellow refused, saying: "I
can not do this, unless Plautianus bid me." So greatly did Plautianus have
the mastery in every way over the emperor that he [frequently treated]
Julia Augusta [in an outrageous way, - for he detested her cordially, - and]
was always abusing [her violently] to Severus, and conducted
investigations against her as well as tortures of noble women. For this
reason she began to study philosophy and passed her days in the company of
learned men. - As for Plautianus, he proved himself the most licentious of
men, for he would go to banquets and vomit meantime, inasmuch as the mass
of foods and wine that he swallowed made it impossible for him to digest
anything. And whereas he made use of lads and girls in perfectly notorious
fashion, he would not permit his own wife to see or be seen by any person
whomsoever, not even by Severus or Julia [to say nothing of others].

[Sidenote: - 16 - ] At this period there took place also a gymnastic
[Footnote: Reading [Greek: gymnikon] for [Greek: gynaikon], which is
possibly corrupt.] contest, at which so great a multitude assembled under
compulsion that we wondered how the race-course could hold them all. And
in this contest Alamanni [Footnote: Reading [Greek: Alamannai] for [Greek:
alomenai], which is undoubtedly corrupt.] women fought most ferociously,
with the result that jokes were made about other ladies, who were very
distinguished. Therefore, from this time on every woman, no matter what
her origin, was prohibited from fighting in the arena.

On one occasion a good many images of Plautianus were made (what happened
is worth relating) and Severus, being displeased at their number, melted
down some of them. As a consequence a rumor penetrated the cities to the
effect that the prefect had been overthrown and had perished. So some of
them demolished his images, - an act for which they were afterward
punished. Among these was the governor of Sardinia, Racius Constans, a
very famous man, whom I have mentioned, however, for a particular reason.
The orator who accused Constans had made this statement in addition to
others: "Sooner may the sky collapse than Plautianus suffer any harm at
the hands of Severus, and with greater cause might any one believe even
that report, were any story of the sort circulated." Now, though the
orator made this declaration, and though moreover Severus himself volubly
affirmed it to us, who were helping him try the case, and stated "it is
impossible for Plautianus to come to any harm at my hands," still, this
very Plautianus did not live the year out, but was slain and all his
images destroyed. - Previous to this a vast sea-monster had come ashore in
the harbor named for Augustus, and had been captured. A representation of
him, taken into the hunting-theatre, admitted fifty bears in its interior.
Again, for many days a comet star had been seen in Rome and was said to
portend nothing favorable.


Festivities on account of Severus's decennial, the marriage of Antoninus
and victories (chapter 1).

Death of Plautianus (chapters 2-4).

The friends and children of Plautianus are persecuted by Severus (chapters

About Bulla Felix, a noble brigand (chapter 10).

Severus's campaign in Britain: an account of the Britons (chapters 11,

After traversing the whole of Britain Severus makes peace (chapter 13).

How Antoninus desired to slay his father (chapter 14).

Death of Severus Augustus and a summary view of his life (chapters 15-17).


L. Septimius Severus Aug. (III), M. Aur. Antoninus Aug. (A.D. 202 = a.u.
955 = Tenth of Severus, from the Calends of June).

P. Septimius Geta, Fulvius Plautianus (II). (A.D. 203 = a.u. 956 =
Eleventh of Severus).

L. Fabius Septimius Cilo (II), L. Flavius Libo. (A.D. 204 = a.u. 957 =
Twelfth of Severus).

M. Aur. Antoninus Aug. (II), P. Septimius Geta Caesar. (A.D. 205 = a.u.
958 = Thirteenth of Severus).

Nummius Albinus, Fulv. Aemilianus. (A.D. 206 = a.u. 959 = Fourteenth of

Aper, Maximus. (A.D. 207 = a.u. 960 = Fifteenth of Severus).

M. Aur. Antoninus Aug. (III), P. Septim. Geta Caesar (II). (A.D. 208 =
a.u. 961 = Sixteenth of Severus).

Civica Pompeianus, Lollianus Avitus. (A.D. 209 = a.u. 962 = Seventeenth of

M. Acilius Faustinus, Triarius Rufinus. (A.D. 210 = a.u. 963 = Eighteenth
of Severus).

Q. Epid. Ruf. Lollianus Gentianus, Pomponius Bassus. (A.D. 211 = a.u. 964
= Nineteenth of Severus, to Feb. 4th).

[Sidenote: A.D. 202 (a.u. 955)] [Sidenote: - 1 - ] Severus to celebrate the
first decade of his reign presented to the entire populace accustomed to
receive dole and to the soldiers of the pretorian guard gold pieces equal
in number to the years of his sovereignty. He took the greatest delight in
this achievement, and, as a matter of fact, no one had ever before given
so much to whole masses of people. Upon this gift five hundred myriads of
denarii were expended. Another event was the marriage between Antoninus,
son of Severus, and Plautilla, the daughter of Plautianus. The latter gave
as much for his daughter's dowry as would have sufficed for fifty women of
royal rank. We saw the gifts as they were being carried through the Forum
into the palace. We were banqueted, likewise, in the meantime, partly in
royal and partly in barbarian fashion on whatever is regularly eaten
cooked or raw, and we received other animal food also alive. At this time,
too, there occurred all sorts of spectacles in honor of Severus's return,
the completion of his first decade, and his victories. At these spectacles
sixty wild boars of Plautianus upon a given signal began a combat with one
another, and there were slain (besides many other beasts) an elephant and
a crocotta. [Footnote: Hesychius says of this beast merely that it is a
quadruped of Aethiopia. Strabo calls it a cross between wolf and dog.
Pliny (Natural History, VIII, 21 (30)) gives the following description:

"Crocottas are apparently the offspring of dog and wolf; they crush all
their food with their teeth and forthwith gulp it down to be assimilated
by the belly."

Again, of the Leucrocotta:

"A most destructive beast about the size of an ass, with legs of a deer,
the neck, tail and breast of a lion, a badger's head, cloven hoof, mouth
slit to the ears, and, in place of teeth, a solid line of bone."

Also, in VIII, 30 (45), he says:

"The lioness of Ethiopia by copulation with a hyaena brings forth the

Capitolinus (Life of Antoninus Pius, 10, 9) remarks that the first
Antoninus had exhibited the animal in Rome. Further, see Aelian, VII, 22.]
The last named animal is of Indian origin, and was then for the first
time, so far as I am aware, introduced into Rome. It has the skin of lion
and tiger mingled and the appearance of those animals, as also of the wolf
and fox, curiously blended. The entire cage in the theatre had been so
constructed as to resemble a boat in form, so that it would both receive
and discharge four hundred beasts at once, [Footnote: These cages were
often made in various odd shapes and opened automatically. Compare the
closing sentences of the preceding book.] and then, as it suddenly fell
apart, there came rushing up bears, lionesses, panthers, lions, ostriches,
wild asses, bisons (this is a kind of cattle of foreign species and
appearance), - the result being that altogether seven hundred wild and tame
beasts at once were seen running about and were slaughtered. For, to
correspond with the duration of the festival, seven days, the number of
animals was also seven times one hundred.

[Sidenote: - 2 - ] On Mount Vesuvius a great gush of fire burst out and
there were bellowings mighty enough to be heard in Capua, where I live
whenever I am in Italy. This place I have selected for various reasons,
chief of which is its quiet, that enables me to get leisure from city
affairs and to write on this compilation. As a result of the Vesuvian
phenomena it was believed that there would be a change in the political
status of Plautianus. In very truth Plautianus had grown great and more
than great, so that even the populace at the hippodrome exclaimed: "Why do
you tremble? Why are you pale? You possess more than the three." They did
not say this to his face, of course, but differently. And by "three" they
indicated Severus and his sons, Antoninus and Geta. Plautianus's pallor
and his trembling were in fact due to the life that he lived, the hopes
that he hoped, and the fears that he feared. Still, for a time most of
this eluded Severus's individual notice, or else he knew it but pretended
the opposite. When, however, his brother Geta on his deathbed revealed to
him the whole attitude of Plautianus, - for Geta hated the prefect and now
no longer feared him, - the emperor set up a bronze statue of his brother
in the Forum and no longer held his minister in equal honor; indeed, the
latter was stripped of most of his power. Hence [Sidenote: A.D. 203 (a.u.
956)] Plautianus became violently enraged, and whereas he had formerly
hated Antoninus for slighting his daughter, he was now especially
indignant, feeling that his son-in-law was responsible for his present
disgrace, and began to behave more harshly toward him. [Sidenote: - 3 - ]
For these reasons Antoninus became both disgusted with his wife (who was a
most shameless creature), and offended at her father himself, because the
latter kept meddling in all his undertakings and rebuking him for
everything that he did. Conceiving a desire to be rid of the man in some
way or other he accordingly had Euodus, his nurse, persuade a certain
centurion, Saturninus, and two others of similar rank to bring him word
that Plautianus had ordered some ten centurions, to whose number they also
belonged, to kill both Severus and Antoninus; and they read a certain
writing which they pretended to have received bearing upon this very
matter. This was done as a surprise at the observances held in the palace
in honor of the heroes, at a time when the spectacle had ceased and dinner
was about to be served. That fact was largely instrumental in showing the
story to be a fabrication. Plautianus would never have dared to impose
such a bidding upon ten centurions at once, certainly not in Rome,
certainly not in the palace, nor on that day, nor at that hour; much less
would he have written it. Nevertheless, Severus believed the information
trustworthy because he had the night before seen in a dream Albinus alive
and plotting against him. [Sidenote: - 4 - ] In haste, therefore, he
summoned Plautianus, as if upon some other business. The latter hurried so
(or rather, Heaven so indicated to him approaching disaster) that the
mules that were carrying him fell in the palace yard. And when he sought
to enter, the porters in charge of the bolts admitted him alone inside and
would permit no one to enter with him, just as he himself had done in the
case of Severus at Tyana. He grew a little suspicious at this and became
terrified; as he had, however, no pretext for withdrawing, he went in.
Severus conversed with him very mildly: "Why have you seen fit to do this!
For what reason have you wished to kill us?" He gave him opportunity to
speak and prepared to listen to his defence.

In the midst of the accused's denial and surprise at what was said,
Antoninus rushed up, took away his sword, and struck him with his fist. He
was ready to put an end to Plautianus with his own hand after the latter
said: "You wanted to get the start of me in any killing!" Being prevented,
however, by his father, Antoninus ordered one of his attendants to slay
Plautianus. Somebody plucked out a few hairs from his chin and carried
them to Julia and Plautilla (who were together) before they had heard a
word of the affair, and said: "Behold your Plautianus!" This speech
aroused grief in one and joy in the other.

Thus the man who had possessed the greatest influence of all my
contemporaries, so that everybody both feared and trembled before him more
than before the very emperors, [Footnote: Reading [Greek: autokratoron]
(emendation of H. Stephanus).] the man who had hung poised upon greater
hopes than they, was slain by his son-in-law and thrown from the top of
the palace into some street. Later, at the order of Severus, he was taken
up and buried.

[Sidenote: - 5 - ] Severus next called a meeting of the senate in the
senate-house. He uttered no accusation against Plautianus, but himself
deplored the weakness of human nature, which was not able to endure
excessive honors, and blamed himself that he had so honored and loved the
man. Those, however, who had informed him of the victim's plot he bade
tell us everything; but first he expelled from the senate-chamber some
whose presence was not necessary, and by revealing nothing to them
intimated that he did not altogether trust them.

Many were brought into danger by the Plautianus episode and some actually
lost their lives. But Coeranus was accustomed to declare (what most people
are given to pretending with reference to the fortunate) that he was his
associate. As often as these friends of the prefect were wont to be called
in before the others desiring to greet the great man, it was his custom to
accompany them as far as the bars. So he did not share his secrets, but
remained in the space midway, giving Plautianus the impression that he was
outside and those outside the idea that he was within. This caused him to
be the object of greater suspicion, - a feeling which was strengthened by
the fact that Plautianus once in a dream saw fishes issue from the Tiber
and fall at his feet, whereupon he declared that Coeranus should rule the
land and water. This man, after being confined to an island for seven
years, was later recalled, was the first Egyptian to be enrolled in the
senate, and became consul, like Pompey, without holding any previous
office. Caecilius Agricola, however, numbered among the deceased's
foremost flatterers and second to no man on earth in rascality and
licentiousness, was sentenced to death. He went home, and after drinking
his fill of chilled wine, shattered the cup which had cost him five
myriads, and cutting his veins fell dead upon the fragments.
[Sidenote: - 6 - ] As for Saturninus and Euodus, they were honored at the
time but were later executed by Antoninus. While we were engaged in voting
eulogies to Euodus, Severus restrained us by saying: "It is disgraceful
that in one of your decrees there should be inscribed such a statement
respecting a man that is a Caesarian." It was not the only instance of
such an attitude, but he also refused to allow all the other imperial
freedmen either to be insolent or to swagger; for this he was commended.
The senate once, while chanting his praises, uttered without reserve no
less a sentiment than this: "All do all things well since you rule well!"

Plautilla and Plautius, the children of Plautianus, were temporarily
allowed to live, being banished to Lipara; but in the reign of Antoninus
they were destroyed, though they had been existing in great fear and
wretchedness and though their life was not even blessed by a goodly store
of necessities.

[Sidenote: - 7 - ] The sons of Severus, Antoninus and Greta, felt as if they
had got rid of a pedagogue in Plautianus, and their conduct was from this
time on irresponsible. They outraged women and abused boys, they embezzled
moneys and made friends of the gladiators and charioteers, emulating each
other in the similarity of their deeds and full of strife in their
respective rivalries. If one attached himself to any cause, the other
would be sure to choose the opposite side. Finally, they were pitted
against each other in some kind of exercise with teams of ponies and drove
with such fierce opposition that Antoninus fell out of the two-wheeled car
and broke his leg. [During his son's sickness that followed this accident
Severus neglected not one of his duties, but held court and managed all
affairs pertaining to his office. For this he was praised. But he was
blamed for murdering Plautianus Quintillus. [Footnote: This person's name
is properly _M. Plautius Quintillus_.] He executed also many of the
senators, some of whom had been accused before him, and made their defence
and had been convicted. But Quintillus,] a man of noblest birth, for a
long term of years counted among the foremost members of the senate,
standing at the gates of old age, one who lived in the country, interfered
in no one's business and did naught amiss, nevertheless became the prey of
sycophants and was put out of the way. As he was near death he called for
his funeral garments, which he had long since kept in readiness. On seeing
that they had fallen to pieces through lapse of time, he said: "Why did we
delay this!" And as he perfumed the place with burning incense, he
remarked: "I offer the same prayer as Servianus offered over Hadrian."
[Footnote: Compare Book Sixty-nine, chapter 17.] - Besides his death there
were also gladiatorial contests, in which among other features ten tigers
were slaughtered at once.

[Sidenote: - 8 - ] After this came the _dénouement_ of the Apronianus
affair, - a startling story even in the hearing. He incurred censure
because his nurse is said to have seen once in a vision that he should
enjoy sovereignty, and because he was believed to employ some magic to
this end. He was condemned while absent in his governorship of Asia. When
the evidence taken in his case was read to us, there was found written
there this statement, - that one person in charge of the investigation had
enquired who had told the dream and who had heard it, and that the man
interrogated had said among other things: "I saw a certain baldheaded
senator taking a peep there." On hearing this we all became
terror-stricken, for neither had the man spoken nor Severus written any
one's name. In their state of panic even those who had never visited the
house of Apronianus, and not only the baldheaded but those whose foreheads
were indifferently bare grew afraid. No one felt easy save those who had
unusually thick hair. We all looked around at such men, and a whisper ran
about: "It's so-and-so. No, it's so-and-so." I will not conceal how I was
then affected, however absurd it may be. I felt with my hand to see
whether I had any hair on my head; and a number of others behaved in the
very same way. We were very careful to direct our gaze upon baldish
persons as if we could thereby divert our own danger upon them. This we
did until it was further read that the particular baldhead in question
wore a purple toga. When this statement came out, we turned our eyes upon
Baebius Marcellinus. He had been aedile at the time and was extremely
bald. So he stood up and coming forward said: "He will certainly be able
to point me out, if he has seen me." We commended this speech, the
informer was brought in while the senator stood by, and for a long time
was silent, looking about for the man to point out. Finally, following the
direction of an almost imperceptible nod that somebody gave, he said that
this was he.

[Sidenote: - 9 - ] Thus was Marcellinus convicted of a baldhead's peeping,
[Footnote: The phrase [Greek: phalakrou parakupseos] has a humorous ring

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Online LibraryCassius DioDio's Rome, Volume 5, Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211) An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During The Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Seve → online text (page 22 of 23)