The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Cum tot sustineas, et tanta negotia solus:
Res Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes,
Legibus emendes: in publica commoda peccem,
Si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Caesar.–Epist. ii. i.

While you alone sustain the important weight
Of Rome’s affairs, so various and so great;
While you the public weal with arms defend,
Adorn with morals, and with laws amend;
Shall not the tedious letter prove a crime,
That steals one moment of our Caesar’s time.–Francis.

In person, Horace was short and fat, as he is described by himself in his
Satires [970], and by Augustus in the following letter: “Dionysius has
brought me your small volume, which, little as it is, not to blame you
for that, I shall judge favourably. You seem to me, however, to be
afraid lest your volumes should be bigger than yourself. But if you are
short in stature, you are corpulent enough. You may, therefore, (543) if
you will, write in a quart, when the size of your volume is as large
round as your paunch.”

It is reported that he was immoderately addicted to venery. [For he is
said to have had obscene pictures so disposed in a bedchamber lined with
mirrors, that, whichever way he looked, lascivious images might present
themselves to his view.] [971] He lived for the most part in the
retirement of his farm [972], on the confines of the Sabine and Tiburtine
territories, and his house is shewn in the neighbourhood of a little wood
not far from Tibur. Some Elegies ascribed to him, and a prose Epistle
apparently written to commend himself to Mecaenas, have been handed down
to us; but I believe that neither of them are genuine works of his; for
the Elegies are commonplace, and the Epistle is wanting in perspicuity, a
fault which cannot be imputed to his style. He was born on the sixth of
the ides of December [27th December], in the consulship of Lucius Cotta
[973] and Lucius Torquatus; and died on the fifth of the calends of
December [27th November], in the consulship of Caius Marcius Censorinus
and Caius Asinius Gallus [974]; having completed his fifty-ninth year.
He made a nuncupatory will, declaring Augustus his heir, not being able,
from the violence of his disorder, to sign one in due form. He was
interred and lies buried on the skirts of the Esquiline Hill, near the
tomb of Mecaenas. [975]

(544) M. ANNAEUS LUCANUS, a native of Corduba [976], first tried the
powers of his genius in an encomium on Nero, at the Quinquennial games.
He afterwards recited his poem on the Civil War carried on between Pompey
and Caesar. His vanity was so immense, and he gave such liberty to his
tongue, that in some preface, comparing his age and his first efforts
with those of Virgil, he had the assurance to say: “And what now remains
for me is to deal with a gnat.” In his early youth, after being long
informed of the sort of life his father led in the country, in
consequence of an unhappy marriage [977], he was recalled from Athens by
Nero, who admitted him into the circle of his friends, and even gave him
the honour of the quaestorship; but he did not long remain in favour.
Smarting at this, and having publicly stated that Nero had withdrawn, all
of a sudden, without communicating with the senate, and without any other
motive than his own recreation, after this he did not cease to assail the
emperor both with foul words and with acts which are still notorious. So
that on one occasion, when easing his bowels in the common privy, there
being a louder explosion than usual, he gave vent to the nemistych of
Nero: “One would suppose it was thundering under ground,” in the hearing
of those who were sitting there for the same purpose, and who took to
their heels in much consternation [978]. In a poem also, which was in
every one’s hands, he severely lashed both the emperor and his most
powerful adherents.

At length, he became nearly the most active leader in Piso’s conspiracy
[979]; and while he dwelt without reserve in many quarters on the glory
of those who dipped their hands in the (545) blood of tyrants, he
launched out into open threats of violence, and carried them so far as to
boast that he would cast the emperor’s head at the feet of his
neighbours. When, however, the plot was discovered, he did not exhibit
any firmness of mind. A confession was wrung from him without much
difficulty; and, humbling himself to the most abject entreaties, he even
named his innocent mother as one of the conspirators [980]; hoping that
his want of natural affection would give him favour in the eyes of a
parricidal prince. Having obtained permission to choose his mode of
death [981], he wrote notes to his father, containing corrections of some
of his verses, and, having made a full meal, allowed a physician to open
the veins in his arm [982]. I have also heard it said that his poems
were offered for sale, and commented upon, not only with care and
diligence, but also in a trifling way. [983] THE LIFE OF PLINY. [984] PLINIUS SECUNDUS, a native of New Como [985], having served in (546)
the wars with strict attention to his duties, in the rank of a knight,
distinguished himself, also, by the great integrity with which he
administered the high functions of procurator for a long period in the
several provinces intrusted to his charge. But still he devoted so much
attention to literary pursuits, that it would not have been an easy
matter for a person who enjoyed entire leisure to have written more than
he did. He comprised, in twenty volumes, an account of all the various
wars carried on in successive periods with the German tribes. Besides
this, he wrote a Natural History, which extended to seven books. He fell
a victim to the calamitous event which occurred in Campania. For, having
the command of the fleet at Misenum, when Vesuvius was throwing up a
fiery eruption, he put to sea with his gallies for the purpose of
exploring the causes of the phenomenon close on the spot [986]. But
being prevented by contrary winds from sailing back, he was suffocated in
the dense cloud of dust and ashes. Some, however, think that he was
killed by his slave, having implored him to put an end to his sufferings,
when he was reduced to the last extremity by the fervent heat. [987] THE END OF LIVES OF THE POETS.
[1] Plin. Epist. i. 18, 24, iii. 8, v. 11, ix. 34, x. 95.

[2] Lycee, part I. liv. III. c. i.

[3] Julius Caesar Divus. Romulus, the founder of Rome, had the honour
of an apotheosis conferred on him by the senate, under the title of
Quirinus, to obviate the people’s suspicion of his having been taken off
by a conspiracy of the patrician order. Political circumstances again
concurred with popular superstition to revive this posthumous adulation
in favour of Julius Caesar, the founder of the empire, who also fell by
the hands of conspirators. It is remarkable in the history of a nation
so jealous of public liberty, that, in both instances, they bestowed the
highest mark of human homage upon men who owed their fate to the
introduction of arbitrary power.

[4] Pliny informs us that Caius Julius, the father of Julius Caesar, a
man of pretorian rank, died suddenly at Pisa.

[5] A.U.C. (in the year from the foundation of Rome) 670; A.C. (before
Christ) about 92.

[6] Flamen Dialis. This was an office of great dignity, but subjected
the holder to many restrictions. He was not allowed to ride on
horseback, nor to absent himself from the city for a single night. His
wife was also under particular restraints, and could not be divorced. If
she died, the flamen resigned his office, because there were certain
sacred rites which he could not perform without her assistance. Besides
other marks of distinction, he wore a purple robe called laena, and a
conical mitre called apex.

[7] Two powerful parties were contending at Rome for the supremacy;
Sylla being at the head of the faction of the nobles, while Marius
espoused the cause of the people. Sylla suspected Julius Caesar of
belonging to the Marian party, because Marius had married his aunt Julia.

[8] He wandered about for some time in the Sabine territory.

[9] Bithynia, in Asia Minor, was bounded on the south by Phrygia, on the
west by the Bosphorus and Propontis; and on the north by the Euxine sea.
Its boundaries towards the east are not clearly ascertained, Strabo,
Pliny, and Ptolemy differing from each other on the subject.

[10] Mitylene was a city in the island of Lesbos, famous for the study
of philosophy and eloquence. According to Pliny, it remained a free city
and in power one thousand five hundred years. It suffered much in the
Peloponnesian war from the Athenians, and in the Mithridatic from the
Romans, by whom it was taken and destroyed. But it soon rose again,
having recovered its ancient liberty by the favour of Pomnpey; and was
afterwards much embellished by Trajan, who added to it the splendour of
his own name. This was the country of Pittacus, one of the seven wise
men of Greece, as well as of Alcaeus and Sappho. The natives showed a
particular taste for poetry, and had, as Plutarch informs us, stated
times for the celebration of poetical contests.

[11] The civic crown was made of oak-leaves, and given to him who had
saved the life of a citizen. The person thus decorated, wore it at
public spectacles, and sat next the senators. When he entered, the
audience rose up, as a mark of respect.

[12] A very extensive country of Hither Asia; lying between Pamphylia to
the west, Mount Taurus and Amanus to the north, Syria to the east, and
the Mediterranean to the south. It was anciently famous for saffron; and
hair-cloth, called by the Romans ciliciun, was the manufacture of this

[13] A city and an island, near the coast of Caria famous for the huge
statue of the Sun, called the Colossus. The Rhodians were celebrated not
only for skill in naval affairs, but for learning, philosophy, and
eloquence. During the latter periods of the Roman republic, and under
some of the emperors, numbers resorted there to prosecute their studies;
and it also became a place of retreat to discontented Romans.

[14] Pharmacusa, an island lying off the coast of Asia, near Miletus.
It is now called Parmosa.

[15] The ransom, too large for Caesar’s private means, was raised by the
voluntary contributions of the cities in the Asiatic province, who were
equally liberal from their public funds in the case of other Romans who
fell into the hands of pirates at that period.

[16] From Miletus, as we are informed by Plutarch.

[17] Who commanded in Spain.

[18] Rex, it will be easily understood, was not a title of dignity in a
Roman family, but the surname of the Marcii.

[19] The rites of the Bona Dea, called also Fauna, which were performed
in the night, and by women only.

[20] Hispania Boetica; the Hither province being called Hispania

[21] Alexander the Great was only thirty-three years at the time of his

[22] The proper office of the master of the horse was to command the
knights, and execute the orders of the dictator. He was usually
nominated from amongst persons of consular and praetorian dignity; and
had the use of a horse, which the dictator had not, without the order of
the people.

[23] Seneca compares the annals of Tanusius to the life of a fool,
which, though it may he long, is worthless; while that of a wise man,
like a good book, is valuable, however short.–Epist. 94.

[24] Bibulus was Caesar’s colleague, both as edile and consul. Cicero
calls his edicts “Archilochian,” that is, as full of spite as the verses
of Archilochus.–Ad. Attic. b. 7. ep. 24.

[25] A.U.C. 689. Cicero holds both the Curio’s, father and son, very
cheap.–Brut. c. 60.

[26] Regnum, the kingly power, which the Roman people considered an
insupportable tyranny.

[27] An honourable banishment.

[28] The assemblies of the people were at first held in the open Forum.
Afterwards, a covered building, called the Comitium, was erected for that
purpose. There are no remains of it, but Lumisden thinks that it
probably stood on the south side of the Forum, on the site of the present
church of The Consolation.–Antiq. of Rome, p. 357.

[29] Basilicas, from Basileus; a king. They were, indeed, the palaces
of the sovereign people; stately and spacious buildings, with halls,
which served the purpose of exchanges, council chambers, and courts of
justice. Some of the Basilicas were afterwards converted into Christian
churches. “The form was oblong; the middle was an open space to walk in,
called Testudo, and which we now call the nave. On each side of this
were rows of pillars, which formed what we should call the side-aisles,
and which the ancients called Porticus. The end of the Testudo was
curved, like the apse of some of our churches, and was called Tribunal,
from causes being heard there. Hence the term Tribune is applied to that
part of the Roman churches which is behind the high altar.”–Burton’s
Antiq. of Rome, p. 204.

[30] Such as statues and pictures, the works of Greek artists.

[31] It appears to have stood at the foot of the Capitoline hill.
Piranesi thinks that the two beautiful columns of white marble, which are
commonly described as belonging to the portico of the temple of Jupiter
Stator, are the remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux.

[32] Ptolemy Auletes, the son of Cleopatra.

[33] Lentulus, Cethegus, and others.

[34] The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was commenced and completed by
the Tarquins, kings of Rome, but not dedicated till the year after their
expulsion, when that honour devolved on M. Horatius Fulvillus, the first
of the consuls. Having been burnt down during the civil wars, A.U.C.
670, Sylla restored it on the same foundations, but did not live to
consecrate it.

[35] Meaning Pompey; not so much for the sake of the office, as having
his name inserted in the inscription recording the repairs of the
Capitol, instead of Catulus. The latter, however, secured the honour,
and his name is still seen inscribed in an apartment at the Capitol, as
its restorer.

[36] It being the calends of January, the first day of the year, on
which the magistrates solemnly entered on their offices, surrounded by
their friends.

[37] Among others, one for recalling Pompey from Asia, under the pretext
that the commonwealth was in danger. Cato was one of the colleagues who
saw through the design and opposed the decree.

[38] See before, p. 5. This was in A.U.C. 693.

[39] Plutarch informs us, that Caesar, before he came into office, owed
his creditors 1300 talents, somewhat more than 565,000 pounds of our
money. But his debts increased so much after this period, if we may
believe Appian, that upon his departure for Spain, at the expiration of
his praetorship, he is reported to have said, Bis millies et quingenties
centena minis sibi adesse oportere, ut nihil haberet: i. e. That he was
2,000,000 and nearly 20,000 sesterces worse than penniless. Crassus
became his security for 830 talents, about 871,500 pounds.

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