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Bay, and therefore towards the immediate neighbour-
hood of the eruption. Caprese (Capri) would have
been naturally hidden by the high land of the pro-
montory from persons travelling in a northerly direc-
tion. Again, he says nothing about the time covered
by his narrative. But as he would probably have
mentioned the circumstance, had he passed a night in
the open air, we may suppose that he returned to the
villa at Misenum on the afternoon of the same day on
which he had quitted it, this day being the 25th of
August. The promontory is about twenty miles dis-
tant from Vesuvius, and the strong north wind which



22 PLINY'S LETTERS.

was blowing during the day would have helped to clear
the atmosphere. At Stabise, on the opposite side of the
Bay, and much nearer to the mountain, the effects of the
eruption lasted longer. The body of the elder Pliny
was found, we are told, " on the morning of the third
day from that which he had last seen." This day
" which he had last seen " must have been the 24th,*
that on which he quitted his house ; for though he was
alive on the morning of the next, we are told that every-
thing was wrapt in darkness. If we follow the inclu-
sive reckoning by which the Romans, with other nations
of antiquity, commonly counted their days, we infer
that it was found possible to revisit Stabiae, and to
search for the corpse, on the morning of the 26th.t
It is natural to suppose that when the first violence of
the eruption had been spent, the lighter showers of
ashes might continue to fall on the southern side of
the Bay. That much, however, could not have fallen,
may be inferred from what is said about the finding
of the body.

A more remarkable omission, as at first sight it ap-
pears to be, is the absence of any allusion to the fearful
event which the mention of the first eruption at once
suggests to us the destruction of the cities of Hercu-

* Epist. vi. 16, 20.

t The most obvious illustration of this reckoning is to be
found in the narrative of the resurrection of our Lord. Accord-
ing to the accounts of the evangelists, He was buried in the
evening of Friday, and left the grave before dawn on Sunday,
being said " to rise again on the third day, " and even a much
stronger expression to have "been three days and three nights
in the earth."



ERUPTION OF VESUVIUS. 23

laneum and Pompeii. They were both, it is true,
places of third-rate importance a fact which we are
apt to lose sight of in the singular interest which they
possess for us. Nevertheless the catastrophe would
have been certainly noticed by our author if it had
been his business, at the time of writing, to do so.
But both of the letters, of which we have been making
use in this chapter, were written in compliance with
definite requests on the part of his correspondent.
Tacitus, who was then collecting materials for his
History, a work which was to include the period from
the accession of Galba to the death of Domitian, first
asked his friend for an account of the last hours of his
uncle. A casual phrase in the letter which this
request called forth, suggested to the historian- that his
friend's personal experiences would be of interest and
value. With these, accordingly, a second letter sup-
plied him. The particulars of the most important inci-
dent in the eruption the destruction of the cities he
obtained elsewhere. In the prefatory chapters of the
History, he mentions, among the events which he
will have to record, "disasters," as he expresses it,
" either entirely novel or that recurred only after a long
succession of ages," that " cities in the richest plains of
Campania were swallowed up and overwhelmed." Un-
happily this portion of the work has been lost. The
consequence is, that we are left without any contempo-
rary account of the calamity. An epigram of Martial,
written about twelve years after the event, and the
words which have been quoted from Tacitus, are the
only allusions that we find till we come to Dion



24 PLINY'S LETTERS.

Cassius, a Greek rhetorician of the third century. He
tells us, amidst other particulars, real or fabulous, that
the matter sent forth from Vesuvius buried two cities,
Herculaneum and Pompeii, while the population was
sitting in the theatre. Modern research informs us
that Herculaneum was overwhelmed by a torrent of
liquid mud, which issued from the volcano,* and that
Pompeii was buried under showers of ashes and stones.
The destruction of Stabiae was not so complete, and it
appears to have been soon occupied again.

* According to Professor Phillips, there is no evidence to
prove that any lava-streams descended from the mountain in
the eruption of A.D. 79.



CHAPTEE III.

REIGN OP TERROR DOMITIAN's LAST DAYS BANISH-
MENT OP THE PHILOSOPHERS.

DOMITIAN succeeded his brother Titus in A.D. 81.
His reign of fifteen years is one of considerable interest,
and it is most unfortunate that the portion of the His-
tory of Tacitus which described it is lost to us. Its
early years were not without glory for the empire.
Agricola's campaigns in Britain ended in the complete
subjugation of the country to the Eoman sway. The
formidable German tribes were at least cowed by an
expedition undertaken by the Emperor in person ; and
though men secretly laughed at his assumption of the
surname Gennanicus, it appears on the whole probable
that the northern frontiers of the empire were effectu-
ally strengthened. A perilous war, accompanied by some
terrible reverses to the Eoman arms, was also waged
(A.D. 86-90) with the Dacians, a Thracian tribe on the
Lower Danube, whose settlements almost coincided with
Transylvania, and parts of Moldavia and Wallachia.
Home, from the time of Augustus, had found them
troublesome and dangerous neighbours. On this occa-



26 PLINY'S LETTERS.

sion a Roman legion and its commander were destroyed
by them. In A.D. 90 they were pressed hard by an
able Roman general, and peace was at length con-
cluded, without, however, any extension of the frontier,
and on terms which were by no means honourable to
Rome. Trajan subsequently, after two successful cam-
paigns, annexed the country to the empire. Pliny, as
we shall see, speaks of this second Dacian war in one
of his letters as full of picturesque incidents. He is
writing to one of his literary friends, who intended to
describe it in an epic poem.

There is, perhaps, hardly a more hateful name in
history than that of Domitian. Yet the first part of
his reign was not without promise. During this period
Pliny was assiduously practising at the bar, and rising
into fame as an advocate. He lived in the best liter-
ary society of Rome. After the conclusion of the
Dacian war in A.D. 90, the Emperor began to show in
his government the worst side of his character. He
had been a bad son and a bad brother; he seemed
now bent on making himself the most detestable of
rulers. There can be no doubt that there was a taint
of actual madness about both Caligula and Nero, which
must be taken into account in passing judgment on
them. Domitian was a man of considerable ability
and culture, and of perfectly sane, mind, and in all his
cruelty and wickedness there was an intelligible pur-
pose. With the year A.D. 93, when Pliny would be
in his 32d year, a reign of terror began, which lasted
to A.D. 96, the date of Domitian's death. These three
years were perhaps the most dreadful period in Roman



A REIGN OF TERROR. 27

history. In A.D. 93 the great Agricola died, and it
was the popular belief that he had been poisoned by
the Emperor. At any rate his death was the begin-
ning of a series of the most horrible judicial murders.
In the opening of his History, Tacitus speaks of these
years as a period in which " even peace was full of
horrors." " The sea," he says, " was crowded with
exiles, and its rocks were polluted with bloody deeds.
In the capital were yet more dreadful cruelties. No-
bility, wealth, the refusal or the acceptance of office,
were grounds of accusation, and virtue insured destruc-
tion. The rewards of the informers were no less odious
than their crimes ; for while some seized on consulships
and priestly offices as their share of the spoil, others on
procuratorships and posts of more confidential autho-
rity, they robbed and plundered in every direction amid
universal hatred and terror. Slaves were bribed to
turn against their masters, and freedmen to betray their
patrons ; and those who had no personal enemy were
destroyed by friends." In his Life of Agricola, he con-
trasts Nero with Domitian, to the advantage of the for-
mer. "Nero," he says, "ordered cruelties to be commit-
ted, but did not himself witness them. UnderDomitian,
what crowned our misery was to see the tyrant, and
to be seen by him, and to have our very sighs noted
down against us as evidences of guilt." In that terri-
ble year, A.D. 93, Pliny was praetor, an office which
involved a seat in the senate. " I was," he says,
in his panegyric of Trajan, " promoted to office by
Domitian before he openly professed a hatred of all
good men ; when he had done so, I sought no further



28 PLINY'S LETTERS,

advancement." Senators were proscribed, and, as we
have seen had been done before by Vespasian, the phi-
losophers were banished from Eome, " in order that,"
as Tacitus says, in his introduction to the Life of
Agricola, " nothing noble and virtuous might anywhere
confront men's view." Pliny had many friends among
the philosophers, and their society was altogether to
his taste. He tells us in one of his letters, that at the
tune when the edict was issued which drove them into
exile, he was himself staying in the house of one of
their number, close to Eome. This intimacy with mem-
bers of a proscribed class seems to have been an occa-
sion of danger to him during this dreadful time. " I
was," he says, in the letter above referred to, " so to
speak, scorched by the thunderbolts which fell around
me, and which struck down so many of my friends ;
and I augured from certain indications the same ruin
for myself." He explains his meaning in another
letter. " I should," he says, " have been the victim of
an impeachment, had Domitian lived longer. In his
portfolio was found a paper containing an information
against me by Carus." Carus Metius was one of the
class technically known as " delatores." Of these we
shall hear more presently. The " delator " was a man
who lived, and often rose to wealth and fame, as an
informer and false accuser. As we should suppose,
his trade was one likely to be fostered and encouraged
by imperialism, and was sure to flourish under a bad
emperor. He had prospered under Nero. He became
yet more prosperous and formidable under Domitian,
and was often a man of intellectual power, and had



DEATH OF DOMIT1AN. 29

access to even the best society. Without such a
weapon the emperor's jealousy and malice would have
been almost powerless to do harm. Domitian used it
more systematically and mercilessly than any of his
predecessors. The result is described by Tacitus in
one of the opening chapters of his Life of Agricola.
" As a former age," he says, " witnessed the extreme
of freedom, so has ours witnessed the extreme of
slavery, for we were robbed of the very privilege of
interchanging our thoughts. Wo should have lost
memory as well as speech, had it been as possible for
us to forget as it was to keep silence." *

The reign of terror ended in A.D. 96. As Juvenal
tells us, the tyrant who was red with the blood of the
noblest families of Rome fell by the assassin's hand
when he became an object of dread to the artisan. A
promising future now opened on Pliny.

* Agricola, c. 45.



CHAPTEE IV.

THE NEW AGE VENGEANCE ON THE INFORMERS

THE GREAT PROVINCIAL TRIALS.

THOUGH Pliny, as we have seen, had, lite his illus-
trious friend Tacitus, continued to take some part in
public life even during the last and worst part of the
reign of terror, he must have felt profoundly the relief
when the sword of Stephanus rid the civilised world
of the most dangerous tyrant it had ever known. He
had been on an intimate footing with some of the
most illustrious of Domitian's victims, and his own
name, as we have seen, would probably have been
added to the list. The strongest motives, therefore,
combined to induce him to share in the movement,
which was naturally the first impulse of the liberated
states, to exact from the informers, who had been the
most odious and deadly instruments of the fallen
despot, the just penalty for their crimes. One of the
earliest acts of the new reign had been formally to
suppress the whole class, though the gentleness, or per-
haps it should rather be said, the weakness, of Nerva,
induced him to shield from punishment some of the



PMTUS AND ARR1A. 31

worst offenders. The first few days of recovered lib-
erty were spent in hunting down inferior criminals whom
no one cared to defend. Pliny took no part in these
hasty proceedings, hut reserved himself for a greater
effort. One of the most atrocious acts of Domitian's
reign had been the judicial murder of Priscus Hel-
vidius, with whom, as with many members of his
family, Pliny had been on terms of intimate friend-
ship. It was indeed a family of martyrs to liberty,
whose story well deserves to be told. To matron in
the best days of Rome had been more illustrious for
resolute courage than the first Arria. Pliny tells a
pathetic story of the fortitude with which she bore
and concealed from her husband, whose precarious
health demanded the effort, the death of her son, a
boy of singular beauty and promise how she brought
into the sick-chamber a face of unfailing cheerfulness,
and left, as he forcibly puts it, her bereavement out-
side the doors. This husband, Caecina Paetus by
name, afterwards took part in an unsuccessful insur-
rection in Ulyricum against the Emperor Claudius, and
was taken a prisoner to Eome. Arria, forbidden to
embark in the ship which carried him, followed in a
fishing-boat across a stormy and perilous sea. When
he was brought before Claudius, and found an adverse
witness in the wife of Scribonianus, the leader of the
movement, she broke forth in the scornful reproach,
" Shall I listen to you, you in whose lap Scribonianus
was killed, and who still endure to live?" Psetus, know-
ing that escape was hopeless, resolved to anticipate
his fate by suicide. In this noble resolution (for



32 PLINY'S LETTERS.

such, it seemed to a Eoman moralist) his wife sustained
him, taking the dagger in her hands, and teaching
him fortitude by stabbing herself, while she uttered
the words which the epigram of Martial has made
immortal, " P^ETE NON DOLET." * The constancy with
which, after her husband's death, she resolved to
put an end to her own life, seemed equally worthy
of praise : " I will find," she cried to the relatives
who sought to restrain her, " some road to death,
however : painful, if you thwart me in that which is
easy." The tradition of this courage was well pre-
served in the next generation by the second Arria,
daughter of the first, and by her husband Psetus Thrasea,
one of the most distinguished of the few men who ven-
tured to keep something of the old Eoman freedom
under the tyranny of Nero. When that bad prince,
after the murder of his mother Agrippina, wrote a letter
to the senate, informing it that the deceased had con-
spired against him and had been justly punished,
Psetus, unable to bear the shame of condoning such
a crime, rose from his place, and left the house. In
the next year he contrived to baffle the vengeance of the
tyrant upon one whom he accused of having libelled
him ; and he gave the final offence by refusing to
concur in the divine honours which were paid to
Poppaea, the Emperor's wife. The story of his last
hours is told in one of the most masterly passages, un-
happily imperfect in the existing copies, of the 'Annals '
of Tacitus. His wife, Arria, who had wished to follow
the example of her mother, was persuaded, for the
* " Psetus, it does not hurt."



PKISCUS HELVIDIUS. 33

sake of her daughter, to remain alive. This daughter,
Fannia by name, Thrasea had given to a man in whom
he had found a spirit singularly akin to his own,
Priscus Helvidius. The younger man shared to the
full his father-in-law's dangerous passion for liberty,
and was his companion at the feasts, at which he
quaffed, as Juvenal tells us, chaplet on head, his oldest
wine to the memories of great reptiblican heroes the
Brutus who had driven out the kings, his namesake
who had stabbed the dictator Caesar, and Cassius.
When Thrasea was dead, Nero seems to have been
satisfied with the banishment of Helvidius. From
this exile he returned when, with the accession of
Galba, a better day seemed to dawn. His first act was
to attack the accuser of his father-in-law, Eprius Mar-
cellus an attack which he repeated when Vespasian
came to the throne. He made enemies right and left
among the powerful class to which Marcellus belonged;
and his demeanour to the Emperor was so bold, we
may almost say so reckless, that these enemies were
not long in bringing about his ruin. He was banished
to one of the provincial towns of Italy, and an or-
der for his death which was, however, recalled when
it was too late soon followed him. Fannia, who
had accompanied him in his first and in his second
exile, returned to the capital, probably after the death
of Vespasian. In the evil days of Domitian she was
accused of having incited Senecio to write a pane-
gyric on her husband, and was banished for the third
time. By a former wife, whose name we do not
know, Helvidius had a son who bore the same name,
A. c. vol. xi.



34 PLINY'S LETTERS.

and who was among Pliny's most intimate friends.
He was a man of great ability, and he cherished the
principles which were dear to his father, but, warned
by his fate, he sought safety in avoiding public life.
The precaution was of no avail. The informers
found in a drama which had for its subject the loves
of Paris and CEnone an attack on the private life of
Domitian. No more atrocious crime was committed
even in these terrible days. Not only was the man
absolutely blameless, but the circumstances that at-
tended his death were peculiarly revolting. A scene of
violence to which Tacitus, who must have been pre-
sent on the occasion, alludes, not without shame, dis-
graced the senate - house. Helvidius was actually
dragged off to prison by some of the senators, among
whom one Publicius Certus was conspicuous.

It was on Certus that Pliny resolved to avenge the
death of his friend, and, we may say, the wrongs of a
whole family. He was bowed down at the time by a
severe domestic affliction, having lost his wife so re-
cently, that etiquette did not permit him to leave the
house. He sent, however, for Anteia, the widow of
Helvidius, and bade her communicate his purpose to
the two distinguished ladies, Arria and Fannia, who,
next to the widow, were the nearest relatives of the
murdered man. They had just returned from exile,
and they immediately signified their approval. At
the next meeting of the senate, Pliny commenced the
attack. Hia first sentences were heard with applause,
but as his purpose unfolded itself, a vigorous opposition
sprang up. Why was he raking up these old troubles ?



PROSECUTION OF CERTUS. 35

Whom was he accusing in this irregular fashion ? Even
his friends sought to change his purpose, using especi-
ally the ominous threat that he was making himself a
marked man, whom future emperors would be sure to
distrust; and pointing to the powerful friends on whom
Certus relied to one especially who was then com-
manding a large army in the East, and who might, it
was thought, "be not indisposed to play the part of
another Vespasian. "When the opinion of the House
was called for, senator after senator, some of them
friends and connections of Pliny, expressed disapproval
of the proceeding. But two speakers supported him.
Avidius Quietus, who had been a close friend of Thrasea,
declared that the senate could not refuse to hear the
complaints of Arria and Eannia, and must regard not
the position but the conduct of the accused. Cornutus
Tertullus told the assembly that he had been appointed
guardian of the daughters of Helvidius, and pointed
out to it how moderate was the request of the com-
plainants, demanding as they did nothing more than
a public censure on the guilty man. Pliny, when it
came to his turn to reply, carried the senate with
him. Veiento, who indeed was deeply implicated in
the guilt of the informers, attempted to defend his
friend, but could barely make himself heard. The
presiding consul called for a division while he was
still attempting to speak, and he turned away mutter-
ing a line from Homer

" Old man, those younger warriors press thee sore."
It is true that the Emperor, when the resolution of the



36 PLINY'S LETTERS.

senate was sent up to him, took no action upon it.
The champion of Certus was among his intimate friends,
and while Veiento was in favour, Certus could scarcely
be punished. It is satisfactory to know that there was
not wanting a Roman of the old type to tell the truth
even to an emperor. " I wonder," said Nerva to his
guests at the dinner-table, when the conversation hap-
pened to turn on one of the informers, Catullus Messa-
linus " I wonder what would have happened to him
were he alive now." Catullus, who was blind, had
distinguished himself even in these days by a cruelty
peculiarly revolting and pitiless. "He would be dining
with us," said Junius Mauricus, one of the guests, with a
reference which could not be mistaken to Veiento, who
was reclining on the same couch with the Emperor. Cer-
tus, however, did not escape with entire impunity. The
consulship, to which he had been named, was bestowed
upon another man ; and he was superseded in his own
office of Prefect of the Treasury. Nor did he long
survive his disgrace. Pliny published a report of all
the speeches delivered upon the occasion. Very soon
after the appearance of the book Certus died. Pliny
was told and he hoped, for the sake of justice, that
the report was true that the guilty man fancied that
he saw the image of his accuser, sword in hand, per-
petually threatening him.

Arria seems to have died not long after her return
from exile, and a letter * of Pliny's leaves it in doubt
whether her daughter Fannia did not soon follow her.
At least he mentions her severe and dangerous illness,

* Epist. vii. 19.



F ANN I A. 37

and deplores by anticipation the loss which it seemed
too likely the country was about to suffer. It is pleas-
ing to learn incidentally from this, the last notice that
we have of her, that her high courage was not
inconsistent with a very tender and womanly nature.
Her illness was the result of the ceaseless care with
which she had watched by the sick-bed of a kins-
woman of her husband, one of the Yestal Virgins.
The Virgins, when attacked by illness, were sent
away from the temple, and committed to the care of
some matron of high character. Fannia had at first
voluntarily undertaken, and afterwards been regularly
intrusted by the Pontiff with, the care of her relative.
" What purity is in thee," cries Pliny, " what holiness,
what dignity, what courage ! And, at the same time,
how pleasing she is, and how courteous ! one who can
be loved a rare excellence this as kind as she is
respected. ... I reverenced, I loved both mother
and daughter ; I know not which I put first ; they had
no thought of any difference. They had my services in
prosperity, they had them in adversity. I was able
to console them in their exile, and I sought them when
they came back. Still I never made them an equal
return ; therefore I am the more desirous that the one
still left may be preserved to me, to give some more
opportunity of fulfilling my obligations. This is my
anxiety, as I write. If only some god will turn it into
joy, I shall not complain at having felt these fears."
With these wishes, of which we would gladly know the
issue, Fannia vanishes from our sight. It completes
the history of an unfortunate family when we learn



38 PLINY'S LETTERS.

that the two daughters of Helvidius died in child-
bed.

The early years of Trajan were signalised by the
punishment which overtook another class of offenders,
the rapacious governors of the provinces. One of the
most notorious of these was Marius Priscus,* to whose
name Juvenal has given an evil immortality in one of
his most pregnant lines, in which he ironically warns


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