The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XXVI. When he was delivered from his apprehensions, his behaviour at
first was unassuming, and he did not carry himself much above the level
of a private person; and of the many and great honours offered him, he
accepted but few, and such as were very moderate. His birth-day, which
happened to fall at the time of the Plebeian Circensian games, he with
difficulty suffered to be honoured with the addition of only a single
chariot, drawn by two horses. He forbad temples, flamens, or priests to
be appointed for him, as likewise the erection of any statues or effigies
for him, without his permission; and this he granted only on condition
that they should not be placed amongst the images of the gods, but only
amongst the ornaments of houses. He also interposed to prevent the
senate from swearing to maintain his acts; and the month of September
from being called Tiberius, and October being named after Livia. The
praenomen likewise of EMPEROR, with the cognomen of FATHER OF HIS
COUNTRY, and a civic crown in the vestibule of his house, he would not
accept. He never used the name of AUGUSTUS, although he inherited it, in
any of his letters, excepting those addressed to kings and princes. Nor
had he more than three consulships; one for a few days, another for three
months, and a third, during his absence from the city, until the ides
[fifteenth] of May.

XXVII. He had such an aversion to flattery, that he would never suffer
any senator to approach his litter, as he passed the streets in it,
either to pay him a civility, or upon business. (211) And when a man of
consular rank, in begging his pardon for some offence he had given him,
attempted to fall at his feet, he started from him in such haste, that he
stumbled and fell. If any compliment was paid him, either in
conversation or a set speech, he would not scruple to interrupt and
reprimand the party, and alter what he had said. Being once called
“lord,” [330] by some person, he desired that he might no more be
affronted in that manner. When another, to excite veneration, called his
occupations “sacred,” and a third had expressed himself thus: “By your
authority I have waited upon the senate,” he obliged them to change their
phrases; in one of them adopting persuasion, instead of “authority,” and
in the other, laborious, instead of “sacred.”

XXVIII. He remained unmoved at all the aspersions, scandalous reports,
and lampoons, which were spread against him or his relations; declaring,
“In a free state, both the tongue and the mind ought to be free.” Upon
the senate’s desiring that some notice might be taken of those offences,
and the persons charged with them, he replied, “We have not so much time
upon our hands, that we ought to involve ourselves in more business. If
you once make an opening [331] for such proceedings, you will soon have
nothing else to do. All private quarrels will be brought before you
under that pretence.” There is also on record another sentence used by
him in the senate, which is far from assuming: “If he speaks otherwise of
me, I shall take care to behave in such a manner, as to be able to give a
good account both of my words and actions; and if he persists, I shall
hate him in my turn.”

XXIX. These things were so much the more remarkable in him, because, in
the respect he paid to individuals, or the whole body of the senate, he
went beyond all bounds. Upon his differing with Quintus Haterius in the
senate-house, “Pardon me, sir,” he said, “I beseech you, if I shall, as a
senator, speak my mind very freely in opposition to you.” Afterwards,
addressing the senate in general, he said: “Conscript Fathers, I have
often said it both now and at other times, that a good (212) and useful
prince, whom you have invested with so great and absolute power, ought to
be a slave to the senate, to the whole body of the people, and often to
individuals likewise: nor am I sorry that I have said it. I have always
found you good, kind, and indulgent masters, and still find you so.”

XXX. He likewise introduced a certain show of liberty, by preserving to
the senate and magistrates their former majesty and power. All affairs,
whether of great or small importance, public or private, were laid before
the senate. Taxes and monopolies, the erecting or repairing edifices,
levying and disbanding soldiers, the disposal of the legions and
auxiliary forces in the provinces, the appointment of generals for the
management of extraordinary wars, and the answers to letters from foreign
princes, were all submitted to the senate. He compelled the commander of
a troop of horse, who was accused of robbery attended with violence, to
plead his cause before the senate. He never entered the senate-house but
unattended; and being once brought thither in a litter, because he was
indisposed, he dismissed his attendants at the door.

XXXI. When some decrees were made contrary to his opinion, he did not
even make any complaint. And though he thought that no magistrates after
their nomination should be allowed to absent themselves from the city,
but reside in it constantly, to receive their honours in person, a
praetor-elect obtained liberty to depart under the honorary title of a
legate at large. Again, when he proposed to the senate, that the
Trebians might have leave granted them to divert some money which had
been left them by will for the purpose of building a new theatre, to that
of making a road, he could not prevail to have the will of the testator
set aside. And when, upon a division of the house, he went over to the
minority, nobody followed him. All other things of a public nature were
likewise transacted by the magistrates, and in the usual forms; the
authority of the consuls remaining so great, that some ambassadors from
Africa applied to them, and complained, that they could not have their
business dispatched by Caesar, to whom they had been sent. And no
wonder; since it was observed that he used to rise up as the consuls
approached, and give them the way.

(213) XXXII. He reprimanded some persons of consular rank in command of
armies, for not writing to the senate an account of their proceedings,
and for consulting him about the distribution of military rewards; as if
they themselves had not a right to bestow them as they judged proper. He
commended a praetor, who, on entering office, revived an old custom of
celebrating the memory of his ancestors, in a speech to the people. He
attended the corpses of some persons of distinction to the funeral pile.
He displayed the same moderation with regard to persons and things of
inferior consideration. The magistrates of Rhodes, having dispatched to
him a letter on public business, which was not subscribed, he sent for
them, and without giving them so much as one harsh word, desired them to
subscribe it, and so dismissed them. Diogenes, the grammarian, who used
to hold public disquisitions, at Rhodes every sabbath-day, once refused
him admittance upon his coming to hear him out of course, and sent him a
message by a servant, postponing his admission until the next seventh
day. Diogenes afterwards coming to Rome, and waiting at his door to be
allowed to pay his respects to him, he sent him word to come again at the
end of seven years. To some governors, who advised him to load the
provinces with taxes, he answered, “It is the part of a good shepherd to
shear, not flay, his sheep.”

XXXIII. He assumed the sovereignty [332] by slow degrees, and exercised
it for a long time with great variety of conduct, though generally with a
due regard to the public good. At first he only interposed to prevent
ill management. Accordingly, he rescinded some decrees of the senate;
and when the magistrates sat for the administration of justice, he
frequently offered his service as assessor, either taking his place
promiscuously amongst them, or seating himself in a corner of the
tribunal. If a rumour prevailed, that any person under prosecution was
likely to be acquitted by his interest, he would suddenly make his
appearance, and from the floor of the court, (214) or the praetor’s
bench, remind the judges of the laws, and of their oaths, and the nature
of the charge brought before them, he likewise took upon himself the
correction of public morals, where they tended to decay, either through
neglect, or evil custom.

XXXIV. He reduced the expense of the plays and public spectacles, by
diminishing the allowances to actors, and curtailing the number of
gladiators. He made grievous complaints to the senate, that the price of
Corinthian vessels was become enormous, and that three mullets had been
sold for thirty thousand sesterces: upon which he proposed that a new
sumptuary law should be enacted; that the butchers and other dealers in
viands should be subject to an assize, fixed by the senate yearly; and
the aediles commissioned to restrain eating-houses and taverns, so far as
not even to permit the sale of any kind of pastry. And to encourage
frugality in the public by his own example, he would often, at his solemn
feasts, have at his tables victuals which had been served up the day
before, and were partly eaten, and half a boar, affirming, “It has all
the same good bits that the whole had.” He published an edict against
the practice of people’s kissing each other when they met; and would not
allow new-year’s gifts [333] to be presented after the calends [the
first] of January was passed. He had been in the habit of returning
these offerings four-fold, and making them with his own hand; but being
annoyed by the continual interruption to which he was exposed during the
whole month, by those who had not the opportunity of attending him on the
festival, he returned none after that day.

XXXV. Married women guilty of adultery, though not prosecuted publicly,
he authorised the nearest relations to punish by agreement among
themselves, according to ancient custom. He discharged a Roman knight
from the obligation of an oath he had taken, never to turn away his wife;
and allowed him to divorce her, upon her being caught in criminal
intercourse with her son-in-law. Women of ill-fame, divesting themselves
of the rights and dignity of matrons, had now begun a practice of
professing themselves prostitutes, to avoid (215) the punishment of the
laws; and the most profligate young men of the senatorian and equestrian
orders, to secure themselves against a decree of the senate, which
prohibited their performing on the stage, or in the amphitheatre,
voluntarily subjected themselves to an infamous sentence, by which they
were degraded. All those he banished, that none for the future might
evade by such artifices the intention and efficacy of the law. He
stripped a senator of the broad stripes on his robe, upon information of
his having removed to his gardens before the calends [the first] of July,
in order that he might afterwards hire a house cheaper in the city. He
likewise dismissed another from the office of quaestor, for repudiating,
the day after he had been lucky in drawing his lot, a wife whom he had
married only the day before.

XXXVI. He suppressed all foreign religions, and the Egyptian [334] and
Jewish rites, obliging those who practised that kind of superstition, to
burn their vestments, and all their sacred utensils. He distributed the
Jewish youths, under the pretence of military service, among the
provinces noted for an unhealthy climate; and dismissed from the city all
the rest of that nation as well as those who were proselytes to that
religion [335], under pain of slavery for life, unless they complied. He
also expelled the astrologers; but upon their suing for pardon, and
promising to renounce their profession, he revoked his decree.

XXXVII. But, above all things, he was careful to keep the (216) public
peace against robbers, burglars, and those who were disaffected to the
government. He therefore increased the number of military stations
throughout Italy; and formed a camp at Rome for the pretorian cohorts,
which, till then, had been quartered in the city. He suppressed with
great severity all tumults of the people on their first breaking out; and
took every precaution to prevent them. Some persons having been killed
in a quarrel which happened in the theatre, he banished the leaders of
the parties, and the players about whom the disturbance had arisen; nor
could all the entreaties of the people afterwards prevail upon him to
recall them [336]. The people of Pollentia having refused to permit the
removal of the corpse of a centurion of the first rank from the forum,
until they had extorted from his heirs a sum of money for a public
exhibition of gladiators, he detached a cohort from the city, and another
from the kingdom of Cottius [337]; who concealing the cause of their
march, entered the town by different gates, with their arms suddenly
displayed, and trumpets sounding; and having seized the greatest part of
the people, and the magistrates, they were imprisoned for life. He
abolished every where the privileges of all places of refuge. The
Cyzicenians having committed an outrage upon some Romans, he deprived
them of the liberty they had obtained for their good services in the
Mithridatic war. Disturbances from foreign enemies he quelled by his
lieutenants, without ever going against them in person; nor would he even
employ his lieutenants, but with much reluctance, and when it was
absolutely necessary. Princes who were ill-affected towards him, he kept
in subjection, more by menaces and remonstrances, than by force of arms.
Some whom he induced to come to him by fair words and promises, he never
would permit to return home; as Maraboduus the German, Thrascypolis the
(217) Thracian, and Archelaus the Cappadocian, whose kingdom he even
reduced into the form of a province.

XXXVIII. He never set foot outside the gates of Rome, for two years
together, from the time he assumed the supreme power; and after that
period, went no farther from the city than to some of the neighbouring
towns; his farthest excursion being to Antium [338], and that but very
seldom, and for a few days; though he often gave out that he would visit
the provinces and armies, and made preparations for it almost every year,
by taking up carriages, and ordering provisions for his retinue in the
municipia and colonies. At last he suffered vows to be put up for his
good journey and safe return, insomuch that he was called jocosely by the
name of Callipides, who is famous in a Greek proverb, for being in a
great hurry to go forward, but without ever advancing a cubit.

XXXIX. But after the loss of his two sons, of whom Germanicus died in
Syria, and Drusus at Rome, he withdrew into Campania [339]; at which time
opinion and conversation were almost general, that he never would return,
and would die soon. And both nearly turned out to be true. For indeed
he never more came to Rome; and a few days after leaving it, when he was
at a villa of his called the Cave, near Terracina [340], during supper a
great many huge stones fell from above, which killed several of the
guests and attendants; but he almost hopelessly escaped.

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