The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XXXVII. To augment the number of persons employed in the administration
of the state, he devised several new offices; such as surveyors of the
public buildings, of the roads, the aqueducts, and the bed of the Tiber;
for the distribution of corn to the people; the praefecture of the city;
a triumvirate for the election of the senators; and another for
inspecting the several troops of the equestrian order, as often as it was
necessary. He revived the office of censor [177], which had been long
disused, and increased the number of praetors. He likewise required that
whenever the consulship was conferred on him, he should have two
colleagues instead of one; but his proposal (101) was rejected, all the
senators declaring by acclamation that he abated his high majesty quite
enough in not filling the office alone, and consenting to share it with

XXXVIII. He was unsparing in the reward of military merit, having
granted to above thirty generals the honour of the greater triumph;
besides which, he took care to have triamphal decorations voted by the
senate for more than that number. That the sons of senators might become
early acquainted with the administration of affairs, he permitted them,
at the age when they took the garb of manhood [178], to assume also the
distinction of the senatorian robe, with its broad border, and to be
present at the debates in the senate-house. When they entered the
military service, he not only gave them the rank of military tribunes in
the legions, but likewise the command of the auxiliary horse. And that
all might have an opportunity of acquiring military experience, he
commonly joined two sons of senators in command of each troop of horse.
He frequently reviewed the troops of the equestrian order, reviving the
ancient custom of a cavalcade [179], which had been long laid aside. But
he did not suffer any one to be obliged by an accuser to dismount while
he passed in review, as had formerly been the practice. As for such as
were infirm with age, or (102) any way deformed, he allowed them to send
their horses before them, coming on foot to answer to their names, when
the muster roll was called over soon afterwards. He permitted those who
had attained the age of thirty-five years, and desired not to keep their
horse any longer, to have the privilege of giving it up.

XXXIX. With the assistance of ten senators, he obliged each of the Roman
knights to give an account of his life: in regard to those who fell under
his displeasure, some were punished; others had a mark of infamy set
against their names. The most part he only reprimanded, but not in the
same terms. The mildest mode of reproof was by delivering them tablets
[180], the contents of which, confined to themselves, they were to read
on the spot. Some he disgraced for borrowing money at low interest, and
letting it out again upon usurious profit.

XL. In the election of tribunes of the people, if there was not a
sufficient number of senatorian candidates, he nominated others from the
equestrian order; granting them the liberty, after the expiration of
their office, to continue in whichsoever of the two orders they pleased.
As most of the knights had been much reduced in their estates by the
civil wars, and therefore durst not sit to see the public games in the
theatre in the seats allotted to their order, for fear of the penalty
provided by the law in that case, he enacted, that none were liable to
it, who had themselves, or whose parents had ever, possessed a knight’s
estate. He took the census of the Roman people street by street: and
that the people might not be too often taken from their business to
receive the distribution of corn, it was his intention to deliver tickets
three times a year for four months respectively; but at their request, he
continued the former regulation, that they should receive their (103)
share monthly. He revived the former law of elections, endeavouring, by
various penalties, to suppress the practice of bribery. Upon the day of
election, he distributed to the freemen of the Fabian and Scaptian
tribes, in which he himself was enrolled, a thousand sesterces each, that
they might look for nothing from any of the candidates. Considering it
of extreme importance to preserve the Roman people pure, and untainted
with a mixture of foreign or servile blood, he not only bestowed the
freedom of the city with a sparing hand, but laid some restriction upon
the practice of manumitting slaves. When Tiberius interceded with him
for the freedom of Rome in behalf of a Greek client of his, he wrote to
him for answer, “I shall not grant it, unless he comes himself, and
satisfies me that he has just grounds for the application.” And when
Livia begged the freedom of the city for a tributary Gaul, he refused it,
but offered to release him from payment of taxes, saying, “I shall sooner
suffer some loss in my exchequer, than that the citizenship of Rome be
rendered too common.” Not content with interposing many obstacles to
either the partial or complete emancipation of slaves, by quibbles
respecting the number, condition and difference of those who were to be
manumitted; he likewise enacted that none who had been put in chains or
tortured, should ever obtain the freedom of the city in any degree. He
endeavoured also to restore the old habit and dress of the Romans; and
upon seeing once, in an assembly of the people, a crowd in grey cloaks
[181], he exclaimed with indignation, “See there,

Romanos rerum dominos, gentemque togatem.” [182]

Rome’s conquering sons, lords of the wide-spread globe,
Stalk proudly in the toga’s graceful robe.

And he gave orders to the ediles not to permit, in future, any Roman to
be present in the forum or circus unless they took off their short coats,
and wore the toga.

(104) XLI. He displayed his munificence to all ranks of the people on
various occasions. Moreover, upon his bringing the treasure belonging to
the kings of Egypt into the city, in his Alexandrian triumph, he made
money so plentiful, that interest fell, and the price of land rose
considerably. And afterwards, as often as large sums of money came into
his possession by means of confiscations, he would lend it free of
interest, for a fixed term, to such as could give security for the double
of what was borrowed. The estate necessary to qualify a senator, instead
of eight hundred thousand sesterces, the former standard, he ordered, for
the future, to be twelve hundred thousand; and to those who had not so
much, he made good the deficiency. He often made donations to the
people, but generally of different sums; sometimes four hundred,
sometimes three hundred, or two hundred and fifty sesterces upon which
occasions, he extended his bounty even to young boys, who before were not
used to receive anything, until they arrived at eleven years of age. In
a scarcity of corn, he would frequently let them have it at a very low
price, or none at all; and doubled the number of the money tickets.

XLII. But to show that he was a prince who regarded more the good of his
people than their applause, he reprimanded them very severely, upon their
complaining of the scarcity and dearness of wine. “My son-in-law,
Agrippa,” he said, “has sufficiently provided for quenching your thirst,
by the great plenty of water with which he has supplied the town.” Upon
their demanding a gift which he had promised them, he said, “I am a man
of my word.” But upon their importuning him for one which he had not
promised, he issued a proclamation upbraiding them for their scandalous
impudence; at the same time telling them, “I shall now give you nothing,
whatever I may have intended to do.” With the same strict firmness,
when, upon a promise he had made of a donative, he found many slaves had
been emancipated and enrolled amongst the citizens, he declared that no
one should receive anything who was not included in the promise, and he
gave the rest less than he had promised them, in order that the amount he
had set apart might hold out. On one occasion, in a season of great
scarcity, which it was difficult to remedy, he ordered out of the city
the troops of slaves brought for sale, the gladiators (105) belonging to
the masters of defence, and all foreigners, excepting physicians and the
teachers of the liberal sciences. Part of the domestic slaves were
likewise ordered to be dismissed. When, at last, plenty was restored, he
writes thus “I was much inclined to abolish for ever the practice of
allowing the people corn at the public expense, because they trust so
much to it, that they are too lazy to till their lands; but I did not
persevere in my design, as I felt sure that the practice would some time
or other be revived by some one ambitious of popular favour.” However,
he so managed the affair ever afterwards, that as much account was taken
of husbandmen and traders, as of the idle populace. [183]

XLIII. In the number, variety, and magnificence of his public
spectacles, he surpassed all former example. Four-and-twenty times, he
says, he treated the people with games upon his own account, and three-
and-twenty times for such magistrates as were either absent, or not able
to afford the expense. The performances took place sometimes in the
different streets of the city, and upon several stages, by players in all
languages. The same he did not only in the forum and amphitheatre, but
in the circus likewise, and in the septa [184]: and sometimes he
exhibited only the hunting of wild beasts. He entertained the people
with wrestlers in the Campus Martius, where wooden seats were erected for
the purpose; and also with a naval fight, for which he excavated the
ground near the Tiber, where there is now the grove of the Caesars.
During these two entertainments he stationed guards in the city, lest, by
robbers taking advantage of the small number of people left at home, it
might be exposed to depredations. In the circus he exhibited chariot and
foot races, and combats with wild beasts, in which the performers were
often youths of the highest rank. His favourite spectacle was the Trojan
game, acted by a select number of boys, in parties differing in age and
station; thinking (106) that it was a practice both excellent in itself,
and sanctioned by ancient usage, that the spirit of the young nobles
should be displayed in such exercises. Caius Nonius Asprenas, who was
lamed by a fall in this diversion, he presented with a gold collar, and
allowed him and his posterity to bear the surname of Torquati. But soon
afterwards he gave up the exhibition of this game, in consequence of a
severe and bitter speech made in the senate by Asinius Pollio, the
orator, in which he complained bitterly of the misfortune of Aeserninus,
his grandson, who likewise broke his leg in the same diversion.

Sometimes he engaged Roman knights to act upon the stage, or to fight as
gladiators; but only before the practice was prohibited by a decree of
the senate. Thenceforth, the only exhibition he made of that kind, was
that of a young man named Lucius, of a good family, who was not quite two
feet in height, and weighed only seventeen pounds, but had a stentorian
voice. In one of his public spectacles, he brought the hostages of the
Parthians, the first ever sent to Rome from that nation, through the
middle of the amphitheatre, and placed them in the second tier of seats
above him. He used likewise, at times when there were no public
entertainments, if any thing was brought to Rome which was uncommon, and
might gratify curiosity, to expose it to public view, in any place
whatever; as he did a rhinoceros in the Septa, a tiger upon a stage, and
a snake fifty cubits lung in the Comitium. It happened in the Circensian
games, which he performed in consequence of a vow, that he was taken ill,
and obliged to attend the Thensae [185], reclining on a litter. Another
time, in the games celebrated for the opening of the theatre of
Marcellus, the joints of his curule chair happening to give way, he fell
on his back. And in the games exhibited by his (107) grandsons, when the
people were in such consternation, by an alarm raised that the theatre
was falling, that all his efforts to re-assure them and keep them quiet,
failed, he moved from his place, and seated himself in that part of the
theatre which was thought to be exposed to most danger.

XLIV. He corrected the confusion and disorder with which the spectators
took their seats at the public games, after an affront which was offered
to a senator at Puteoli, for whom, in a crowded theatre, no one would
make room. He therefore procured a decree of the senate, that in all
public spectacles of any sort, and in any place whatever, the first tier
of benches should be left empty for the accommodation of senators. He
would not even permit the ambassadors of free nations, nor of those which
were allies of Rome, to sit in the orchestra; having found that some
manumitted slaves had been sent under that character. He separated the
soldiery from the rest of the people, and assigned to married plebeians
their particular rows of seats. To the boys he assigned their own
benches, and to their tutors the seats which were nearest it; ordering
that none clothed in black should sit in the centre of the circle [186].
Nor would he allow any women to witness the combats of gladiators, except
from the upper part of the theatre, although they formerly used to take
their places promiscuously with the rest of the spectators. To the
vestal virgins he granted seats in the theatre, reserved for them only,
opposite the praetor’s bench. He excluded, however, the whole female sex
from seeing the wrestlers: so that in the games which he exhibited upon
his accession to the office of high-priest, he deferred producing a pair
of combatants which the people called for, until the next morning; and
intimated by proclamation, “his pleasure that no woman should appear in
the theatre before five o’clock.”

XLV. He generally viewed the Circensian games himself, from the upper
rooms of the houses of his friends or freedmen; sometimes from the place
appointed for the statues of the gods, and sitting in company with his
wife and children. He (108) occasionally absented himself from the
spectacles for several hours, and sometimes for whole days; but not
without first making an apology, and appointing substitutes to preside in
his stead. When present, he never attended to anything else either to
avoid the reflections which he used to say were commonly made upon his
father, Caesar, for perusing letters and memorials, and making rescripts
during the spectacles; or from the real pleasure he took in attending
those exhibitions; of which he made no secret, he often candidly owning
it. This he manifested frequently by presenting honorary crowns and
handsome rewards to the best performers, in the games exhibited by
others; and he never was present at any performance of the Greeks,
without rewarding the most deserving, according to their merit. He took
particular pleasure in witnessing pugilistic contests, especially those
of the Latins, not only between combatants who had been trained
scientifically, whom he used often to match with the Greek champions; but
even between mobs of the lower classes fighting in streets, and tilting
at random, without any knowledge of the art. In short, he honoured with
his patronage all sorts of people who contributed in any way to the
success of the public entertainments. He not only maintained, but
enlarged, the privileges of the wrestlers. He prohibited combats of
gladiators where no quarter was given. He deprived the magistrates of
the power of correcting the stage-players, which by an ancient law was
allowed them at all times, and in all places; restricting their
jurisdiction entirely to the time of performance and misdemeanours in the
theatres. He would, however, admit, of no abatement, and exacted with
the utmost rigour the greatest exertions of the wrestlers and gladiators
in their several encounters. He went so far in restraining the
licentiousness of stage-players, that upon discovering that Stephanio, a
performer of the highest class, had a married woman with her hair
cropped, and dressed in boy’s clothes, to wait upon him at table, he
ordered him to be whipped through all the three theatres, and then
banished him. Hylas, an actor of pantomimes, upon a complaint against
him by the praetor, he commanded to be scourged in the court of his own
house, which, however, was open to the public. And Pylades he not only
banished from the city, but from Italy also, for pointing with his finger
at a spectator by whom he was hissed, and turning the eyes of the
audience upon him.

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