The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XVIII. He paid particular attention to the care of the city, and to have
it well supplied with provisions. A dreadful fire happening in the
Aemiliana [504], which lasted some time, he passed two nights in the
Diribitorium [505], and the soldiers and gladiators not being in
sufficient numbers to extinguish it, he caused the magistrates to summon
the people out of all the streets in the city, to their assistance.
Placing bags of money before him, he encouraged them to do their utmost,
declaring, that he would reward every one on the spot, according to their

XIX. During a scarcity of provisions, occasioned by bad crops for
several successive years, he was stopped in the middle of the Forum by
the mob, who so abused him, at the same time pelting him with fragments
of bread, that he had some (311) difficulty in escaping into the palace
by a back door. He therefore used all possible means to bring provisions
to the city, even in the winter. He proposed to the merchants a sure
profit, by indemnifying them against any loss that might befall them by
storms at sea; and granted great privileges to those who built ships for
that traffic. To a citizen of Rome he gave an exemption from the penalty
of the Papia-Poppaean law [506]; to one who had only the privilege of
Latium, the freedom of the city; and to women the rights which by law
belonged to those who had four children: which enactments are in force to
this day.

XX. He completed some important public works, which, though not
numerous, were very useful. The principal were an aqueduct, which had
been begun by Caius; an emissary for the discharge of the waters of the
Fucine lake [507], and the harbour of Ostia; although he knew that
Augustus had refused to comply with the repeated application of the
Marsians for one of these; and that the other had been several times
intended by Julius Caesar, but as often abandoned on account of the
difficulty of its execution. He brought to the city the cool and
plentiful springs of the Claudian water, one of which is called
Caeruleus, and the other Curtius and Albudinus, as likewise the river of
the New Anio, in a stone canal; and distributed them into many
magnificent reservoirs. The canal from the Fucine lake was undertaken as
much for the sake of profit, as for the honour of the enterprise; for
there were parties who offered to drain it at their own expense, on
condition of their having a grant of the land laid dry. With great
difficulty he completed a canal three miles in length, partly by cutting
through, and partly by tunnelling, a mountain; thirty thousand men being
constantly employed in the work for eleven years [508]. He formed the
harbour at Ostia, by carrying out circular piers on the right and on the
left, with (312) a mole protecting, in deep water, the entrance of the
port [509]. To secure the foundation of this mole, he sunk the vessel in
which the great obelisk [510] had been brought from Egypt [511]; and
built upon piles a very lofty tower, in imitation of the Pharos at
Alexandria, on which lights were burnt to direct mariners in the night.

XXI. He often distributed largesses of corn and money among the people,
and entertained them with a great variety of public magnificent
spectacles, not only such as were usual, and in the accustomed places,
but some of new invention, and others revived from ancient models, and
exhibited in places where nothing of the kind had been ever before
attempted. In the games which he presented at the dedication of Pompey’s
theatre [512], which had been burnt down, and was rebuilt by him, he
presided upon a tribunal erected for him in the orchestra; having first
paid his devotions, in the temple above, and then coming down through the
centre of the circle, while all the people kept their seats in profound
silence [513]. He likewise (313) exhibited the secular games [514],
giving out that Augustus had anticipated the regular period; though he
himself says in his history, “That they had been omitted before the age
of Augustus, who had calculated the years with great exactness, and again
brought them to their regular period.” [515] The crier was therefore
ridiculed, when he invited people in the usual form, “to games which no
person had ever before seen, nor ever would again;” when many were still
living who had already seen them; and some of the performers who had
formerly acted in them, were now again brought upon the stage. He
likewise frequently celebrated the Circensian games in the Vatican [516],
sometimes exhibiting a hunt of wild beasts, after every five courses. He
embellished the Circus Maximus with marble barriers, and gilded goals,
which before were of common stone [517] and wood, and assigned proper
places for the senators, who were used to sit promiscuously with the
other spectators. Besides the chariot-races, he exhibited there the
Trojan game, and wild beasts from Africa, which were encountered by a
troop of pretorian knights, with their tribunes, and even the prefect at
the head of them; besides Thessalian horse, who drive fierce bulls round
the circus, leap upon their backs when they have exhausted their fury,
and drag them by the horns to the ground. He gave exhibitions of
gladiators in several places, and of various kinds; one yearly on the
anniversary of his accession in the pretorian camp [518], but without any
hunting, or the usual apparatus; another in the Septa as usual; and in
the same place, another out of the common way, and of a few days’
continuance only, which he called Sportula; because when he was going to
present it, he informed the people by proclamation, “that he invited them
to a late supper, got up in haste, and without ceremony.” Nor did he
lend himself to any kind of public diversion with more freedom and
hilarity; insomuch that he would hold out his left hand, and (314) joined
by the common people, count upon his fingers aloud the gold pieces
presented to those who came off conquerors. He would earnestly invite
the company to be merry; sometimes calling them his “masters,” with a
mixture of insipid, far-fetched jests. Thus, when the people called for
Palumbus [519], he said, “He would give them one when he could catch it.”
The following was well-intended, and well-timed; having, amidst great
applause, spared a gladiator, on the intercession of his four sons, he
sent a billet immediately round the theatre, to remind the people, “how
much it behoved them to get children, since they had before them an
example how useful they had been in procuring favour and security for a
gladiator.” He likewise represented in the Campus Martius, the assault
and sacking of a town, and the surrender of the British kings [520],
presiding in his general’s cloak. Immediately before he drew off the
waters from the Fucine lake, he exhibited upon it a naval fight. But the
combatants on board the fleets crying out, “Health attend you, noble
emperor! We, who are about to peril our lives, salute you;” and he
replying, “Health attend you too,” they all refused to fight, as if by
that response he had meant to excuse them. Upon this, he hesitated for a
time, whether he should not destroy them all with fire and sword. At
last, leaping from his seat, and running along the shore of the lake with
tottering steps, the result of his foul excesses, he, partly by fair
words, and partly by threats, persuaded them to engage. This spectacle
represented an engagement between the fleets of Sicily and Rhodes;
consisting each of twelve ships of war, of three banks of oars. The
signal for the encounter was given by a silver Triton, raised by
machinery from the middle of the lake.

XXII. With regard to religious ceremonies, the administration of affairs
both civil and military, and the condition of all orders of the people at
home and abroad, some practices he corrected, others which had been laid
aside he revived; and some regulations he introduced which were entirely
new. In appointing new priests for the several colleges, he made no
appointments without being sworn. When an earthquake (315) happened in
the city, he never failed to summon the people together by the praetor,
and appoint holidays for sacred rites. And upon the sight of any ominous
bird in the City or Capitol, he issued an order for a supplication, the
words of which, by virtue of his office of high priest, after an
exhortation from the rostra, he recited in the presence of the people,
who repeated them after him; all workmen and slaves being first ordered
to withdraw.

XXIII. The courts of judicature, whose sittings had been formerly
divided between the summer and winter months, he ordered, for the
dispatch of business, to sit the whole year round. The jurisdiction in
matters of trust, which used to be granted annually by special commission
to certain magistrates, and in the city only, he made permanent, and
extended to the provincial judges likewise. He altered a clause added by
Tiberius to the Papia-Poppaean law [521], which inferred that men of
sixty years of age were incapable of begetting children. He ordered
that, out of the ordinary course of proceeding, orphans might have
guardians appointed them by the consuls; and that those who were banished
from any province by the chief magistrate, should be debarred from coming
into the City, or any part of Italy. He inflicted on certain persons a
new sort of banishment, by forbidding them to depart further than three
miles from Rome. When any affair of importance came before the senate,
he used to sit between the two consuls upon the seats of the tribunes.
He reserved to himself the power of granting license to travel out of
Italy, which before had belonged to the senate.

XXIV. He likewise granted the consular ornaments to his Ducenarian
procurators. From those who declined the senatorian dignity, he took
away the equestrian. Although he had in the beginning of his reign
declared, that he would admit no man into the senate who was not the
great-grandson of a Roman citizen, yet he gave the “broad hem” to the son
of a freedman, on condition that he should be adopted by a Roman knight.
Being afraid, however, of incurring censure by such an act, he informed
the public, that his ancestor Appius Caecus, the censor, had elected the
sons of freedmen into (316) the senate; for he was ignorant, it seems,
that in the times of Appius, and a long while afterwards, persons
manumitted were not called freedmen, but only their sons who were free-
born. Instead of the expense which the college of quaestors was obliged
to incur in paving the high-ways, he ordered them to give the people an
exhibition of gladiators; and relieving them of the provinces of Ostia
and [Cisalpine] Gaul, he reinstated them in the charge of the treasury,
which, since it was taken from them, had been managed by the praetors, or
those who had formerly filled that office. He gave the triumphal
ornaments to Silanus, who was betrothed to his daughter, though he was
under age; and in other cases, he bestowed them on so many, and with so
little reserve, that there is extant a letter unanimously addressed to
him by all the legions, begging him “to grant his consular lieutenants
the triumphal ornaments at the time of their appointment to commands, in
order to prevent their seeking occasion to engage in unnecessary wars.”
He decreed to Aulus Plautius the honour of an ovation [522], going to
meet him at his entering the city, and walking with him in the procession
to the Capitol, and back, in which he took the left side, giving him the
post of honour. He allowed Gabinius Secundus, upon his conquest of the
Chauci, a German tribe, to assume the cognomen of Chaucius. [523]

XXV. His military organization of the equestrian order was this. After
having the command of a cohort, they were promoted to a wing of auxiliary
horse, and subsequently received the commission of tribune of a legion.
He raised a body of militia, who were called Supernumeraries, who, though
they were a sort of soldiers, and kept in reserve, yet received pay. He
procured an act of the senate to prohibit all soldiers from attending
senators at their houses, in the way of respect and compliment. He
confiscated the estates of all freedmen who presumed to take upon
themselves the equestrian rank. Such of them as were ungrateful to their
patrons, and were complained of by them, he reduced to their former
condition of (317) slavery; and declared to their advocates, that he
would always give judgment against the freedmen, in any suit at law which
the masters might happen to have with them. Some persons having exposed
their sick slaves, in a languishing condition, on the island of
Aesculapius [524], because of the tediousness of their cure; he declared
all who were so exposed perfectly free, never more to return, if they
should recover, to their former servitude; and that if any one chose to
kill at once, rather than expose, a slave, he should be liable for
murder. He published a proclamation, forbidding all travellers to pass
through the towns of Italy any otherwise than on foot, or in a litter or
chair [525]. He quartered a cohort of soldiers at Puteoli, and another
at Ostia, to be in readiness against any accidents from fire. He
prohibited foreigners from adopting Roman names, especially those which
belonged to families [526]. Those who falsely pretended to the freedom
of Rome, he beheaded on the Esquiline. He gave up to the senate the
provinces of Achaia and Macedonia, which Tiberius had transferred to his
own administration. He deprived the Lycians of their liberties, as a
punishment for their fatal dissensions; but restored to the Rhodians
their freedom, upon their repenting of their former misdemeanors. He
exonerated for ever the people of Ilium from the payment of taxes, as
being the founders of the Roman race; reciting upon the occasion a letter
in Greek, (318) from the senate and people of Rome to king Seleucus
[527], on which they promised him their friendship and alliance, provided
that he would grant their kinsmen the Iliensians immunity from all

He banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making
disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus [528]. He allowed the
ambassadors of the Germans to sit at the public spectacles in the seats
assigned to the senators, being induced to grant them favours by their
frank and honourable conduct. For, having been seated in the rows of
benches which were common to the people, on observing the Parthian and
Armenian ambassadors sitting among the senators, they took upon
themselves to cross over into the same seats, as being, they said, no way
inferior to the others, in point either, of merit or rank. The religious
rites of the Druids, solemnized with such horrid cruelties, which had
only been forbidden the citizens of Rome during the reign of Augustus, he
utterly abolished among the Gauls [529]. On the other hand, he attempted
(319) to transfer the Eleusinian mysteries from Attica to Rome [530]. He
likewise ordered the temple of Venus Erycina in Sicily, which was old and
in a ruinous condition, to be repaired at the expense of the Roman
people. He concluded treaties with foreign princes in the forum, with
the sacrifice of a sow, and the form of words used by the heralds in
former times. But in these and other things, and indeed the greater part
of his administration, he was directed not so much by his own judgment,
as by the influence of his wives and freedmen; for the most part acting
in conformity to what their interests or fancies dictated.

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