The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Quintus Catulus had a dream, for two nights successively after his
dedication of the Capitol. The first night he dreamt (140) that Jupiter,
out of several boys of the order of the nobility who were playing about
his altar, selected one, into whose bosom he put the public seal of the
commonwealth, which he held in his hand; but in his vision the next
night, he saw in the bosom of Jupiter Capitolinus, the same boy; whom he
ordered to be removed, but it was forbidden by the God, who declared that
it must be brought up to become the guardian of the state. The next day,
meeting Augustus, with whom till that hour he had not the least
acquaintance, and looking at him with admiration, he said he was
extremely like the boy he had seen in his dream. Some give a different
account of Catulus’s first dream, namely, that Jupiter, upon several
noble lads requesting of him that they might have a guardian, had pointed
to one amongst them, to whom they were to prefer their requests; and
putting his fingers to the boy’s mouth to kiss, he afterwards applied
them to his own.

Marcus Cicero, as he was attending Caius Caesar to the Capitol, happened
to be telling some of his friends a dream which he had the preceding
night, in which he saw a comely youth, let down from heaven by a golden
chain, who stood at the door of the Capitol, and had a whip put into his
hands by Jupiter. And immediately upon sight of Augustus, who had been
sent for by his uncle Caesar to the sacrifice, and was as yet perfectly
unknown to most of the company, he affirmed that it was the very boy he
had seen in his dream. When he assumed the manly toga, his senatorian
tunic becoming loose in the seam on each side, fell at his feet. Some
would have this to forbode, that the order, of which that was the badge
of distinction, would some time or other be subject to him.

Julius Caesar, in cutting down a wood to make room for his camp near
Munda [250], happened to light upon a palm-tree, and ordered it to be
preserved as an omen of victory. From the root of this tree there put
out immediately a sucker, which, in a few days, grew to such a height as
not only to equal, but overshadow it, and afford room for many nests of
wild pigeons which built in it, though that species of bird particularly
avoids a hard and rough leaf. It is likewise reported, that Caesar was
chiefly influenced by this prodigy, to prefer his sister’s grandson
before all others for his successor.

(141) In his retirement at Apollonia, he went with his friend Agrippa to
visit Theogenes, the astrologer, in his gallery on the roof. Agrippa,
who first consulted the fates, having great and almost incredible
fortunes predicted of him, Augustus did not choose to make known his
nativity, and persisted for some time in the refusal, from a mixture of
shame and fear, lest his fortunes should be predicted as inferior to
those of Agrippa. Being persuaded, however, after much importunity, to
declare it, Theogenes started up from his seat, and paid him adoration.
Not long afterwards, Augustus was so confident of the greatness of his
destiny, that he published his horoscope, and struck a silver coin,
bearing upon it the sign of Capricorn, under the influence of which he
was born.

XCV. After the death of Caesar, upon his return from Apollonia, as he
was entering the city, on a sudden, in a clear and bright sky, a circle
resembling the rainbow surrounded the body of the sun; and, immediately
afterwards, the tomb of Julia, Caesar’s daughter, was struck by
lightning. In his first consulship, whilst he was observing the
auguries, twelve vultures presented themselves, as they had done to
Romulus. And when he offered sacrifice, the livers of all the victims
were folded inward in the lower part; a circumstance which was regarded
by those present, who had skill in things of that nature, as an
indubitable prognostic of great and wonderful fortune.

XCVI. He certainly had a presentiment of the issue of all his wars.
When the troops of the Triumviri were collected about Bolognia, an eagle,
which sat upon his tent, and was attacked by two crows, beat them both,
and struck them to the ground, in the view of the whole army; who thence
inferred that discord would arise between the three colleagues, which
would be attended with the like event: and it accordingly happened. At
Philippi, he was assured of success by a Thessalian, upon the authority,
as he pretended, of the Divine Caesar himself, who had appeared to him
while he was travelling in a bye-road. At Perugia, the sacrifice not
presenting any favourable intimations, but the contrary, he ordered fresh
victims; the enemy, however, carrying off the sacred things in a sudden
sally, it was agreed amongst the augurs, that all the (142) dangers and
misfortunes which had threatened the sacrificer, would fall upon the
heads of those who had got possession of the entrails. And, accordingly,
so it happened. The day before the sea-fight near Sicily, as he was
walking upon the shore, a fish leaped out of the sea, and laid itself at
his feet. At Actium, while he was going down to his fleet to engage the
enemy, he was met by an ass with a fellow driving it. The name of the
man was Eutychus, and that of the animal, Nichon [251]. After the
victory, he erected a brazen statue to each, in a temple built upon the
spot where he had encamped.

XCVII. His death, of which I shall now speak, and his subsequent
deification, were intimated by divers manifest prodigies. As he was
finishing the census amidst a great crowd of people in the Campus
Martius, an eagle hovered round him several times, and then directed its
course to a neighbouring temple, where it settled upon the name of
Agrippa, and at the first letter. Upon observing this, he ordered his
colleague Tiberius to put up the vows, which it is usual to make on such
occasions, for the succeeding Lustrum. For he declared he would not
meddle with what it was probable he should never accomplish, though the
tables were ready drawn for it. About the same time, the first letter of
his name, in an inscription upon one of his statues, was struck out by
lightning; which was interpreted as a presage that he would live only a
hundred days longer, the letter C denoting that number; and that he would
be placed amongst the Gods, as Aesar, which is the remaining part of the
word Caesar, signifies, in the Tuscan language, a God [252]. Being,
therefore, about dispatching Tiberius to Illyricum, and designing to go
with him as far as Beneventum, but being detained by several persons who
applied to him respecting causes they had depending, he cried out, (and
it was afterwards regarded as an omen of his death), “Not all the
business in the world, shall detain me at home one moment longer;” and
setting out upon his journey, he went (143) as far as Astura [253];
whence, contrary to his custom, he put to sea in the night-time, as there
was a favourable wind.

XCVIII. His malady proceeded from diarrhoea; notwithstanding which, he
went round the coast of Campania, and the adjacent islands, and spent
four days in that of Capri; where he gave himself up entirely to repose
and relaxation. Happening to sail by the bay of Puteoli, the passengers
and mariners aboard a ship of Alexandria [254], just then arrived, clad
all in white, with chaplets upon their heads, and offering incense,
loaded him with praises and joyful acclamations, crying out, “By you we
live, by you we sail securely, by you enjoy our liberty and our
fortunes.” At which being greatly pleased, he distributed to each of
those who attended him, forty gold pieces, requiring from them an
assurance on oath, not to employ the sum given them in any other way,
than the purchase of Alexandrian merchandize. And during several days
afterwards, he distributed Togae [255] and Pallia, among other gifts, on
condition that the Romans should use the Greek, and the Greeks the Roman
dress and language. He likewise constantly attended to see the boys
perform their exercises, according to an ancient custom still continued
at Capri. He gave them likewise an entertainment in his presence, and
not only permitted, but required from them the utmost freedom in jesting,
and scrambling for fruit, victuals, and other things which he threw
amongst them. In a word, he indulged himself in all the ways of
amusement he could contrive.

He called an island near Capri, Apragopolis, “The City of the Do-
littles,” from the indolent life which several of his party led there. A
favourite of his, one Masgabas [256], he used (144) to call Ktistaes. as
if he had been the planter of the island. And observing from his room a
great company of people with torches, assembled at the tomb of this
Masgabas, who died the year before, he uttered very distinctly this
verse, which he made extempore.

Ktistou de tumbo, eisoro pyroumenon.
Blazing with lights I see the founder’s tomb.

Then turning to Thrasyllus, a companion of Tiberius, who reclined on the
other side of the table, he asked him, who knew nothing about the matter,
what poet he thought was the author of that verse; and on his hesitating
to reply, he added another:

Oras phaessi Masgaban timomenon.
Honor’d with torches Masgabas you see;

and put the same question to him concerning that likewise. The latter
replying, that, whoever might be the author, they were excellent verses
[257], he set up a great laugh, and fell into an extraordinary vein of
jesting upon it. Soon afterwards, passing over to Naples, although at
that time greatly disordered in his bowels by the frequent returns of his
disease, he sat out the exhibition of the gymnastic games which were
performed in his honour every five years, and proceeded with Tiberius to
the place intended. But on his return, his disorder increasing, he
stopped at Nola, sent for Tiberius back again, and had a long discourse
with him in private; after which, he gave no further attention to
business of any importance.

XCIX. Upon the day of his death, he now and then enquired, if there was
any disturbance in the town on his account; and calling for a mirror, he
ordered his hair to be combed, and his shrunk cheeks to be adjusted.
Then asking his friends who were admitted into the room, “Do ye think
that I have acted my part on the stage of life well?” he immediately
subjoined,

Ei de pan echei kalos, to paignio
Dote kroton, kai pantes umeis meta charas ktupaesate.

If all be right, with joy your voices raise,
In loud applauses to the actor’s praise.

(145) After which, having dismissed them all, whilst he was inquiring of
some persons who were just arrived from Rome, concerning Drusus’s
daughter, who was in a bad state of health, he expired suddenly, amidst
the kisses of Livia, and with these words: “Livia! live mindful of our
union; and now, farewell!” dying a very easy death, and such as he
himself had always wished for. For as often as he heard that any person
had died quickly and without pain, he wished for himself and his friends
the like euthanasian (an easy death), for that was the word he made use
of. He betrayed but one symptom, before he breathed his last, of being
delirious, which was this: he was all on a sudden much frightened, and
complained that he was carried away by forty men. But this was rather a
presage, than any delirium: for precisely that number of soldiers
belonging to the pretorian cohort, carried out his corpse.

C. He expired in the same room in which his father Octavius had died,
when the two Sextus’s, Pompey and Apuleius, were consuls, upon the
fourteenth of the calends of September [the 19th August], at the ninth
hour of the day, being seventy-six years of age, wanting only thirty-five
days [258]. His remains were carried by the magistrates of the municipal
[259] towns and colonies, from Nola to Bovillae [260], and in the
nighttime, because of the season of the year. During the intervals, the
body lay in some basilica, or great temple, of each town. At Bovillae it
was met by the Equestrian Order, who carried it to the city, and
deposited it in the vestibule of his own house. The senate proceeded
with so much zeal in the arrangement of his funeral, and paying honour to
his memory, that, amongst several other proposals, some were for having
the funeral procession made through the triumphal gate, preceded by the
image of Victory which is in the senate-house, and the children of
highest rank and of both sexes singing the funeral (146) dirge. Others
proposed, that on the day of the funeral, they should lay aside their
gold rings, and wear rings of iron; and others, that his bones should be
collected by the priests of the principal colleges. One likewise
proposed to transfer the name of August to September, because he was born
in the latter, but died in the former. Another moved, that the whole
period of time, from his birth to his death, should be called the
Augustan age, and be inserted in the calendar under that title. But at
last it was judged proper to be moderate in the honours paid to his
memory. Two funeral orations were pronounced in his praise, one before
the temple of Julius, by Tiberius; and the other before the rostra, under
the old shops, by Drusus, Tiberius’s son. The body was then carried upon
the shoulders of senators into the Campus Martius, and there burnt. A
man of pretorian rank affirmed upon oath, that he saw his spirit ascend
from the funeral pile to heaven. The most distinguished persons of the
equestrian order, bare-footed, and with their tunics loose, gathered up
his relics [261], and deposited them in the mausoleum, which had been
built in his sixth consulship between the Flaminian Way and the bank of
the Tiber [262]; at which time likewise he gave the groves and walks
about it for the use of the people.

CI. He had made a will a year and four months before his death, upon the
third of the nones of April [the 11th of April], in the consulship of
Lucius Plancus, and Caius Silius. It consisted of two skins of
parchment, written partly in his own hand, and partly by his freedmen
Polybius and Hilarian; and had been committed to the custody of the
Vestal Virgins, by whom it was now produced, with three codicils under
seal, as well as the will: all these were opened and read in the senate.
He appointed as his direct heirs, Tiberius for two (147) thirds of his
estate, and Livia for the other third, both of whom he desired to assume
his name. The heirs in remainder were Drusus, Tiberius’s son, for one
third, and Germanicus with his three sons for the residue. In the third
place, failing them, were his relations, and several of his friends. He
left in legacies to the Roman people forty millions of sesterces; to the
tribes [263] three millions five hundred thousand; to the pretorian
troops a thousand each man; to the city cohorts five hundred; and to the
legions and soldiers three hundred each; which several sums he ordered to
be paid immediately after his death, having taken due care that the money
should be ready in his exchequer. For the rest he ordered different
times of payment. In some of his bequests he went as far as twenty
thousand sesterces, for the payment of which he allowed a twelvemonth;
alleging for this procrastination the scantiness of his estate; and
declaring that not more than a hundred and fifty millions of sesterces
would come to his heirs: notwithstanding that during the twenty preceding
years, he had received, in legacies from his friends, the sum of fourteen
hundred millions; almost the whole of which, with his two paternal
estates [264], and others which had been left him, he had spent in the
service of the state. He left orders that the two Julias, his daughter
and grand-daughter, if anything happened to them, should not be buried in
his tomb [265]. With regard to the three codicils before-mentioned, in
one of them he gave orders about his funeral; another contained a summary
of his acts, which he intended should be inscribed on brazen plates, and
placed in front of his mausoleum; in the third he had drawn up a concise
account of the state of the empire; the number of troops enrolled, what
money there was in the treasury, the revenue, and arrears of taxes; to
which were added the names of the freedmen and slaves from whom the
several accounts might be taken.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 | View All | Next -»

Be the first to comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.