The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

LX. The kings, his friends and allies, built cities in their respective
kingdoms, to which they gave the name of Caesarea; and all with one
consent resolved to finish, at their common expense, the temple of
Jupiter Olympius, at Athens, which had been begun long before, and
consecrate it to his Genius. They frequently also left their kingdoms,
laid aside the badges of royalty, and assuming the toga, attended and
paid their respects to him daily, in the manner of clients to their
patrons; not only at Rome, but when he was travelling through the

LXI. Having thus given an account of the manner in which he filled his
public offices both civil and military, and his conduct in the government
of the empire, both in peace and war; I shall now describe his private
and domestic life, his habits at home and among his friends and
dependents, and the fortune attending him in those scenes of retirement,
from his youth to the day of his death. He lost his mother in his first
consulship, and his sister Octavia, when he was in the fifty-fourth year
of his age [197]. He behaved towards them both with the utmost kindness
whilst living, and after their decease paid the highest honours to their

(117) LXII. He was contracted when very young to the daughter of Publius
Servilius Isauricus; but upon his reconciliation with Antony after their
first rupture [198], the armies on both sides insisting on a family
alliance between them, he married Antony’s step-daughter Claudia, the
daughter of Fulvia by Publius Claudius, although at that time she was
scarcely marriageable; and upon a difference arising with his mother-in-
law Fulvia, he divorced her untouched, and a pure virgin. Soon
afterwards he took to wife Scribonia, who had before been twice married
to men of consular rank [199], and was a mother by one of them. With her
likewise he parted [200], being quite tired out, as he himself writes,
with the perverseness of her temper; and immediately took Livia Drusilla,
though then pregnant, from her husband Tiberius Nero; and she had never
any rival in his love and esteem.

LXIII. By Scribonia he had a daughter named Julia, but no children by
Livia, although extremely desirous of issue. She, indeed, conceived
once, but miscarried. He gave his daughter Julia in the first instance
to Marcellus, his sister’s son, who had just completed his minority; and,
after his death, to Marcus Agrippa, having prevailed with his sister to
yield her son-in-law to his wishes; for at that time Agrippa was married
to one of the Marcellas, and had children by her. Agrippa dying also, he
for a long time thought of several matches for Julia in even the
equestrian order, and at last resolved upon selecting Tiberius for his
step-son; and he obliged him to part with his wife at that time pregnant,
and who had already brought him a child. Mark Antony writes, “That he
first contracted Julia to his son, and afterwards to Cotiso, king of the
Getae [201], demanding at the same time the king’s daughter in marriage
for himself.”

(118) LXIV. He had three grandsons by Agrippa and Julia, namely, Caius,
Lucius, and Agrippa; and two grand-daughters, Julia and Agrippina. Julia
he married to Lucius Paulus, the censor’s son, and Agrippina to
Germanicus, his sister’s grandson. Caius and Lucius he adopted at home,
by the ceremony of purchase [202] from their father, advanced them, while
yet very young, to offices in the state, and when they were consuls-
elect, sent them to visit the provinces and armies. In bringing up his
daughter and grand-daughters, he accustomed them to domestic employments,
and even spinning, and obliged them to speak and act every thing openly
before the family, that it might be put down in the diary. He so
strictly prohibited them from all converse with strangers, that he once
wrote a letter to Lucius Vinicius, a handsome young man of a good family,
in which he told him, “You have not behaved very modestly, in making a
visit to my daughter at Baiae.” He usually instructed his grandsons
himself in reading, swimming, and other rudiments of knowledge; and he
laboured nothing more than to perfect them in the imitation of his hand-
writing. He never supped but he had them sitting at the foot of his
couch; nor ever travelled but with them in a chariot before him, or
riding beside him.

LXV. But in the midst of all his joy and hopes in his numerous and well-
regulated family, his fortune failed him. The two Julias, his daughter
and grand-daughter, abandoned themselves to such courses of lewdness and
debauchery, that he banished them both. Caius and Lucius he lost within
the space of eighteen months; the former dying in Lycia, and the latter
at Marseilles. His third grandson Agrippa, with his step-son Tiberius,
he adopted in the forum, by a law passed for the purpose by the Sections
[203]; but he soon afterwards discarded Agrippa for his coarse and unruly
temper, and confined him at Surrentum. He bore the death of his
relations with more patience than he did their disgrace; for he was not
overwhelmed by the loss of Caius and Lucius; but in the case of his
daughter, he stated the facts to the senate in a message read to them by
(119) the quaestor, not having the heart to be present himself; indeed,
he was so much ashamed of her infamous conduct, that for some time he
avoided all company, and had thoughts of putting her to death. It is
certain that when one Phoebe, a freed-woman and confidant of hers, hanged
herself about the same time, he said, “I had rather be the father of
Phoebe than of Julia.” In her banishment he would not allow her the use
of wine, nor any luxury in dress; nor would he suffer her to be waited
upon by any male servant, either freeman or slave, without his
permission, and having received an exact account of his age, stature,
complexion, and what marks or scars he had about him. At the end of five
years he removed her from the island [where she was confined] to the
continent [204], and treated her with less severity, but could never be
prevailed upon to recall her. When the Roman people interposed on her
behalf several times with much importunity, all the reply he gave was: “I
wish you had all such daughters and wives as she is.” He likewise forbad
a child, of which his grand-daughter Julia was delivered after sentence
had passed against her, to be either owned as a relation, or brought up.
Agrippa, who was equally intractable, and whose folly increased every
day, he transported to an island [205], and placed a guard of soldiers
about him; procuring at the same time an act of the senate for his
confinement there during life. Upon any mention of him and the two
Julias, he would say, with a heavy sigh,

Aith’ ophelon agamos t’ emenai, agonos t’ apoletai.

Would I were wifeless, or had childless died! [206]

nor did he usually call them by any other name than that of his “three
imposthumes or cancers.”

LXVI. He was cautious in forming friendships, but clung to them with
great constancy; not only rewarding the virtues and merits of his friends
according to their deserts, but bearing likewise with their faults and
vices, provided that they were (120) of a venial kind. For amongst all
his friends, we scarcely find any who fell into disgrace with him, except
Salvidienus Rufus, whom he raised to the consulship, and Cornelius
Gallus, whom he made prefect of Egypt; both of them men of the lowest
extraction. One of these, being engaged in plotting a rebellion, he
delivered over to the senate, for condemnation; and the other, on account
of his ungrateful and malicious temper, he forbad his house, and his
living in any of the provinces. When, however, Gallus, being denounced
by his accusers, and sentenced by the senate, was driven to the desperate
extremity of laying violent hands upon himself, he commended, indeed, the
attachment to his person of those who manifested so much indignation, but
he shed tears, and lamented his unhappy condition, “That I alone,” said
he, “cannot be allowed to resent the misconduct of my friends in such a
way only as I would wish.” The rest of his friends of all orders
flourished during their whole lives, both in power and wealth, in the
highest ranks of their several orders, notwithstanding some occasional
lapses. For, to say nothing of others, he sometimes complained that
Agrippa was hasty, and Mecaenas a tattler; the former having thrown up
all his employments and retired to Mitylene, on suspicion of some slight
coolness, and from jealousy that Marcellus received greater marks of
favour; and the latter having confidentially imparted to his wife
Terentia the discovery of Muraena’s conspiracy.

He likewise expected from his friends, at their deaths as well as during
their lives, some proofs of their reciprocal attachment. For though he
was far from coveting their property, and indeed would never accept of
any legacy left him by a stranger, yet he pondered in a melancholy mood
over their last words; not being able to conceal his chagrin, if in their
wills they made but a slight, or no very honourable mention of him, nor
his joy, on the other hand, if they expressed a grateful sense of his
favours, and a hearty affection for him. And whatever legacies or shares
of their property were left him by such as were parents, he used to
restore to their children, either immediately, or if they were under age,
upon the day of their assuming the manly dress, or of their marriage;
with interest.

LXVII. As a patron and master, his behaviour in general was mild and
conciliating; but when occasion required it, he (121) could be severe.
He advanced many of his freedmen to posts of honour and great importance,
as Licinus, Enceladus, and others; and when his slave, Cosmus, had
reflected bitterly upon him, he resented the injury no further than by
putting him in fetters. When his steward, Diomedes, left him to the
mercy of a wild boar, which suddenly attacked them while they were
walking together, he considered it rather a cowardice than a breach of
duty; and turned an occurrence of no small hazard into a jest, because
there was no knavery in his steward’s conduct. He put to death Proculus,
one of his most favourite freedmen, for maintaining a criminal commerce
with other men’s wives. He broke the legs of his secretary, Thallus, for
taking a bribe of five hundred denarii to discover the contents of one of
his letters. And the tutor and other attendants of his son Caius, having
taken advantage of his sickness and death, to give loose to their
insolence and rapacity in the province he governed, he caused heavy
weights to be tied about their necks, and had them thrown into a river.

LXVIII. In his early youth various aspersions of an infamous character
were heaped upon him. Sextus Pompey reproached him with being an
effeminate fellow; and M. Antony, with earning his adoption from his
uncle by prostitution. Lucius Antony, likewise Mark’s brother, charges
him with pollution by Caesar; and that, for a gratification of three
hundred thousand sesterces, he had submitted to Aulus Hirtius in the same
way, in Spain; adding, that he used to singe his legs with burnt nut-
shells, to make the hair become softer [207]. Nay, the whole concourse
of the people, at some public diversions in the theatre, when the
following sentence was recited, alluding to the Gallic priest of the
mother of the gods [208], beating a drum [209],

Videsne ut cinaedus orbem digito temperet?
See with his orb the wanton’s finger play!

applied the passage to him, with great applause.

(122) LXIX. That he was guilty of various acts of adultery, is not
denied even by his friends; but they allege in excuse for it, that he
engaged in those intrigues not from lewdness, but from policy, in order
to discover more easily the designs of his enemies, through their wives.
Mark Antony, besides the precipitate marriage of Livia, charges him with
taking the wife of a man of consular rank from table, in the presence of
her husband, into a bed-chamber, and bringing her again to the
entertainment, with her ears very red, and her hair in great disorder:
that he had divorced Scribonia, for resenting too freely the excessive
influence which one of his mistresses had gained over him: that his
friends were employed to pimp for him, and accordingly obliged both
matrons and ripe virgins to strip, for a complete examination of their
persons, in the same manner as if Thoranius, the dealer in slaves, had
them under sale. And before they came to an open rupture, he writes to
him in a familiar manner, thus: “Why are you changed towards me? Because
I lie with a queen? She is my wife. Is this a new thing with me, or
have I not done so for these nine years? And do you take freedoms with
Drusilla only? May health and happiness so attend you, as when you read
this letter, you are not in dalliance with Tertulla, Terentilla, Rufilla
[210], or Salvia Titiscenia, or all of them. What matters it to you
where, or upon whom, you spend your manly vigour?”

LXX. A private entertainment which he gave, commonly called the Supper
of the Twelve Gods [211], and at which the guests (123) were dressed in
the habit of gods and goddesses, while he personated Apollo himself,
afforded subject of much conversation, and was imputed to him not only by
Antony in his letters, who likewise names all the parties concerned, but
in the following well-known anonymous verses:

Cum primum istorum conduxit mensa choragum,
Sexque deos vidit Mallia, sexque deas
Impia dum Phoebi Caesar mendacia ludit,
Dum nova divorum coenat adulteria:
Omnia se a terris tunc numina declinarunt:
Fugit et auratos Jupiter ipse thronos.

When Mallia late beheld, in mingled train,
Twelve mortals ape twelve deities in vain;
Caesar assumed what was Apollo’s due,
And wine and lust inflamed the motley crew.
At the foul sight the gods avert their eyes,
And from his throne great Jove indignant flies.

What rendered this supper more obnoxious to public censure, was that it
happened at a time when there was a great scarcity, and almost a famine,
in the city. The day after, there was a cry current among the people,
“that the gods had eaten up all the corn; and that Caesar was indeed
Apollo, but Apollo the Tormentor;” under which title that god was
worshipped in some quarter of the city [212]. He was likewise charged
with being excessively fond of fine furniture, and Corinthian vessels, as
well as with being addicted to gaming. For, during the time of the
proscription, the following line was written upon his statue:–

Pater argentarius, ego Corinthiarius;
My father was a silversmith [213], my dealings are in brass;

because it was believed, that he had put some persons upon the list of
the proscribed, only to obtain the Corinthian vessels in (124) their
possession. And afterwards, in the Sicilian war, the following epigram
was published:–

Postquam bis classe victus naves perdidit,
Aliquando ut vincat, ludit assidue aleam.

Twice having lost a fleet in luckless fight,
To win at last, he games both day and night.

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