The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

[545] Caesar by birth, not by adoption, as the preceding emperors had
been, and as Nero would be, if he succeeded.

[546] Tacitus informs us, that the poison was prepared by Locusta, of
whom we shall hear, NERO, c. xxxiii. etc.

[547] A.U.C. 806; A.D. 54.

[548] A.U.C. 593, 632, 658, 660, 700, 722, 785.

[549] A.U.C. 632.

[550] A.U.C. 639, 663.

[551] For the distinction between the praenomen and cognomen, see note,
p. 192.

[552] A.U.C. 632.

[553] The Allobroges were a tribe of Gauls, inhabiting Dauphiny and
Savoy; the Arverni have left their name in Auvergne.

[554] A.U.C. 695.

[555] A.U.C. 700.

[556] A.U.C. 711.

[557] A.U.C. 723.

[558] Nais seems to have been a freedwoman, who had been allowed to
adopt the family name of her master.

[559] By one of those fictions of law, which have abounded in all
systems of jurisprudence, a nominal alienation of his property was made
in the testator’s life-time.

[560] The suggestion offered (note, p. 123), that the Argentarii, like
the goldsmiths of the middle ages, combined the business of bankers, or
money-changers, with dealings in gold and silver plate, is confirmed by
this passage. It does not, however, appear that they were artificers of
the precious metals, though they dealt in old and current coins,
sculptured vessels, gems, and precious stones.

[561] Pyrgi was a town of the ancient Etruria, near Antium, on the sea-
coast, but it has long been destroyed.

[562] A.U.C. 791; A.D. 39.

[563] The purification, and giving the name, took place, among the
Romans, in the case of boys, on the ninth, and of girls, on the tenth
day. The customs of the Judaical law were similar. See Matt. i. 59-63;
Luke iii. 21. 22.

[564] A.U.C. 806.

[565] Seneca, the celebrated philosophical writer, had been released
from exile in Corsica, shortly before the death of Tiberius. He
afterwards fell a sacrifice to the jealousy and cruelty of his former
pupil, Nero.

[566] Caligula.

[567] A.U.C. 809–A.D. 57.

[568] Antium, the birth-place of Nero, an ancient city of the Volscians,
stood on a rocky promontory of the coast, now called Capo d’ Anzo, about
thirty-eight miles from Rome. Though always a place of some naval
importance, it was indebted to Nero for its noble harbour. The ruins of
the moles yet remain; and there are vestiges of the temples and villas of
the town, which was the resort of the wealthy Romans, it being a most
delightful winter residence. The Apollo Belvidere was discovered among
these ruins.

[569] A.U.C. 810.

[570] The Podium was part of the amphitheatre, near the orchestra,
allotted to the senators, and the ambassadors of foreign nations; and
where also was the seat of the emperor, of the person who exhibited the
games, and of the Vestal Virgins. It projected over the wall which
surrounded the area of the amphitheatre, and was raised between twelve
and fifteen feet above it; secured with a breast-work or parapet against
the irruption of wild beasts.

[571] A.U.C. 813.

[572] The baths of Nero stood to the west of the Pantheon. They were,
probably, incorporated with those afterwards constructed by Alexander
Severus; but no vestige of them remains. That the former were
magnificent, we may infer from the verses of Martial:

——–Quid Nerone pejus?
Quid thermis melius Neronianis.–B. vii. ch. 34.

What worse than Nero?
What better than his baths?

[573] Among the Romans, the time at which young men first shaved the
beard was marked with particular ceremony. It was usually in their
twenty-first year, but the period varied. Caligula (c. x.) first shaved
at twenty; Augustus at twenty-five.

[574] A.U.C. 819. See afterwards, c. xxx.

[575] A.U.C. 808, 810, 811, 813.

[576] The Sportulae were small wicker baskets, in which victuals or
money were carried. The word was in consequence applied to the public
entertainments at which food was distributed, or money given in lieu of

[577] “Superstitionis novae et maleficae,” are the words of Suetonius;
the latter conveying the idea of witchcraft or enchantment. Suidas
relates that a certain martyr cried out from his dungeon–“Ye have loaded
me with fetters as a sorcerer and profane person.” Tacitus calls the
Christian religion “a foreign and deadly [exitiabilis] superstition,”
Annal. xiii. 32; Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, “a depraved,
wicked (or prava), and outrageous superstition.” Epist. x. 97.

Tacitus also describes the excruciating torments inflicted on the Roman
Christians by Nero. He says that they were subjected to the derision of
the people; dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to be torn
to pieces by dogs in the public games, that they were crucified, or
condemned to be burnt; and at night-fall served in place of lamps to
lighten the darkness, Nero’s own gardens being used for the spectacle.
Annal. xv. 44.

Traditions of the church place the martyrdoms of SS. Peter and Paul at
Rome, under the reign of Nero. The legends are given by Ordericus
Vitalis. See vol. i. of the edition in the Antiq. Lib. pp. 206, etc.,
with the notes and reference to the apocryphal works on which they are

[578] Claudius had received the submission of some of the British
tribes. See c. xvii. of his Life. In the reign of Nero, his general,
Suetonius Paulinus, attacked Mona or Anglesey, the chief seat of the
Druids, and extirpated them with great cruelty. The successes of
Boadicea, queen of the Iceni, who inhabited Derbyshire, were probably the
cause of Nero’s wishing to withdraw the legions; she having reduced
London, Colchester, and Verulam, and put to death seventy thousand of the
Romans and their British allies. She was, however, at length defeated by
Suetonius Paulinus, who was recalled for his severities. See Tacit.
Agric. xv. 1, xvi. 1; and Annal. xiv. 29.

[579] The dominions of Cottius embraced the vallies in the chain of the
Alps extending between Piedmont and Dauphiny, called by the Romans the
Cottian Alps. See TIBERIUS, c. xxxvii.

[580] It was a favourite project of the Caesars to make a navigable
canal through the Isthmus of Corinth, to avoid the circumnavigation of
the southern extremity of the Morea, now Cape Matapan, which, even in our
days, has its perils. See JULIUS CAESAR, c. xliv. and CALIGULA, c. xxi.

[581] Caspiae Portae; so called from the difficulties opposed by the
narrow and rocky defile to the passage of the Caucasus from the country
washed by the Euxine, now called Georgia, to that lying between the
Caspian and the sea of Azof. It commences a few miles north of Teflis,
and is frequently the scene of contests between the Russians and the
Circassian tribes.

[582] Citharoedus: the word signifies a vocalist, who with his singing
gave an accompaniment on the harp.

[583] It has been already observed that Naples was a Greek colony, and
consequently Greek appears to have continued the vernacular tongue.

[584] See AUGUSTUS, c. xcviii.

[585] Of the strange names given to the different modes of applauding in
the theatre, the first was derived from the humming of bees; the second
from the rattling of rain or hail on the roofs; and the third from the
tinkling of porcelain vessels when clashed together.

[586] Canace was the daughter of an Etrurian king, whose incestuous
intercourse with her brother having been detected, in consequence of the
cries of the infant of which she was delivered, she killed herself. It
was a joke at Rome, that some one asking, when Nero was performing in
Canace, what the emperor was doing; a wag replied. “He is labouring in

[587] A town in Corcyra, now Corfu. There was a sea-port of the same
name in Epirus.

[588] The Circus Maximus, frequently mentioned by Suetonius, was so
called because it was the largest of all the circuses in and about Rome.
Rudely constructed of timber by Tarquinius Drusus, and enlarged and
improved with the growing fortunes of the republic, under the emperors it
became a most superb building. Julius Caesar (c. xxxix) extended it, and
surrounded it with a canal, ten feet deep and as many broad, to protect
the spectators against danger from the chariots during the races.
Claudius (c. xxi.) rebuilt the carceres with marble, and gilded the
metae. This vast centre of attraction to the Roman people, in the games
of which religion, politics, and amusement, were combined, was, according
to Pliny, three stadia (of 625 feet) long, and one broad, and held
260,000 spectators; so that Juvenal says,

“Totam hodie Romam circus capit.”–Sat. xi. 195.

This poetical exaggeration is applied by Addison to the Colosseum.

“That on its public shews unpeopled Rome.”–Letter to Lord Halifax.

The area of the Circus Maximus occupied the hollow between the Palatine
and Aventine hills, so that it was overlooked by the imperial palace,
from which the emperors had so full a view of it, that they could from
that height give the signals for commencing the races. Few fragments of
it remain; but from the circus of Caracalla, which is better preserved, a
tolerably good idea of the ancient circus may he formed. For details of
its parts, and the mode in which the sports were conducted, see Burton’s
Antiquities, p. 309, etc.

[589] The Velabrum was a street in Rome. See JULIUS CAESAR, c. xxxvii.

[590] Acte was a slave who had been bought in Asia, whose beauty so
captivated Nero that he redeemed her, and became greatly attached to her.
She is supposed to be the concubine of Nero mentioned by St. Chrysostom,
as having been converted by St. Paul during his residence at Rome. The
Apostle speaks of the “Saints in Caesar’s household.”–Phil. iv. 22.

[591] See Tacitus, Annal. xv. 37.

[592] A much-frequented street in Rome. See CLAUDIUS, c. xvi.

[593] It is said that the advances were made by Agrippina, with flagrant
indecency, to secure her power over him. See Tacitus, Annal. xiv. 2, 3.

[594] Olim etiam, quoties lectica cum matre veheretur, libidinatum
inceste, ac maculis vestis proditum, affirmant.

[595] Tacitus calls him Pythagoras, which was probably the freedman’s
proper name; Doryphorus being a name of office somewhat equivalent to
almoner. See Annal. B. xv.

[596] The emperor Caligula, who was the brother of Nero’s mother,

[597] See before, c. xiii. Tiridates was nine months in Rome or the
neighbourhood, and was entertained the whole time at the emperor’s

[598] Canusium, now Canosa, was a town in Apulia, near the mouth of the
river Aufidus, celebrated for its fine wool. It is mentioned by Pliny,
and retained its reputation for the manufacture in the middle ages, as we
find in Ordericus Vitalis.

[599] The Mazacans were an African tribe from the deserts in the
interior, famous for their spirited barbs, their powers of endurance, and
their skill in throwing the dart.

[600] The Palace of the Caesars, on the Palatine hill, was enlarged by
Augustus from the dimensions of a private house (see AUGUSTUS, cc. xxix.,
lvii.). Tiberius made some additions to it, and Caligula extended it to
the Forum (CALIGULA, c. xxxi.). Tacitus gives a similar account with
that of our author of the extent and splendour of the works of Nero.
Annal. xv. c. xlii. Reaching from the Palatine to the Esquiline hill, it
covered all the intermediate space, where the Colosseum now stands. We
shall find that it was still further enlarged by Domitian, c. xv. of his
life is the present work.

[601] The penates were worshipped in the innermost part of the house,
which was called penetralia. There were likewise publici penates,
worshipped in the Capitol, and supposed to be the guardians of the city
and temples. Some have thought that the lares and penates were the same;
and they appear to be sometimes confounded. They were, however,
different. The penates were reputed to be of divine origin; the lares,
of human. Certain persons were admitted to the worship of the lares, who
were not to that of the penates. The latter, as has been already said,
were worshipped only in the innermost part of the house, but the former
also in the public roads, in the camp, and on sea.

[602] A play upon the Greek word moros, signifying a fool, while the
Latin morari, from moror, means “to dwell,” or “continue.”

[603] A small port between the gulf of Baiae and cape Misenum.

[604] From whence the “Procul, O procul este profani!” of the poet; a
warning which was transferred to the Christian mysteries.

[605] See before, c. xii.

[606] Statilius Taurus; who lived in the time of Augustus, and built the
amphitheatre called after his name. AUGUSTUS, c. xxiv. He is mentioned
by Horace, Epist. i. v. 4.

[607] Octavia was first sent away to Campania, under a guard of
soldiers, and after being recalled, in consequence of the remonstrances
of the people, by whom she was beloved, Nero banished her to the island
of Pandataria.

[608] A.U.C. 813.

[609] Seneca was accused of complicity in the conspiracy of Caius Piso.
Tacitus furnishes some interesting details of the circumstances under
which the philosopher calmly submitted to his fate, which was announced
to him when at supper with his friends, at his villa, near Rome.–
Tacitus, b. xiv. xv.

[610] This comet, as well as one which appeared the year in which
Claudius died, is described by Seneca, Natural. Quaest. VII. c. xvii. and
xix. and by Pliny, II. c. xxv.

[611] See Tacitus, Annal. xv. 49-55.

[612] The sixteenth book of Tacitus, which would probably have given an
account of the Vinician conspiracy, is lost. It is shortly noticed by

[613] See before, c. xix.

[614] This destructive fire occurred in the end of July, or the
beginning of August, A.U.C. 816, A.D. 64. It was imputed to the
Christians, and drew on them the persecutions mentioned in c. xvi., and
the note.

[615] The revolt in Britain broke out A.U.C. 813. Xiphilinus (lxii. p.
701) attributes it to the severity of the confiscations with which the
repayment of large sums of money advanced to the Britons by the emperor
Claudius, and also by Seneca, was exacted. Tacitus adds another cause,
the insupportable tyranny and avarice of the centurions and soldiers.
Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, had named the emperor his heir. His widow
Boadicea and her daughters were shamefully used, his kinsmen reduced to
slavery, and his whole territory ravaged; upon which the Britons flew to
arms. See c. xviii., and the note.

[616] Neonymphon; alluding to Nero’s unnatural nuptials with Sporus or
Pythagoras. See cc. xxviii. xxix. It should be neonymphos.

[617] “Sustulit” has a double meaning, signifying both, to bear away,
and put out of the way.

[618] The epithet applied to Apollo, as the god of music, was Paean; as
the god of war, Ekataebaletaes.

[619] Pliny remarks, that the Golden House of Nero was swallowing up all
Rome. Veii, an ancient Etruscan city, about twelve miles from Rome, was
originally little inferior to it, being, as Dionysius informs us, (lib.
ii. p. 16), equal in extent to Athens. See a very accurate survey of
the ruins of Veii, in Gell’s admirable TOPOGRAPHY OF ROME AND ITS
VICINITY, p. 436, of Bohn’s Edition.

[620] Suetonius calls them organa hydralica, and they seem to have been
a musical instrument on the same principle as our present organs, only
that water was the inflating power. Vitruvius (iv. ix.) mentions the
instrument as the invention of Ctesibus of Alexandria. It is also well
described by Tertullian, De Anima, c. xiv. The pneumatic organ appears
to have been a later improvement. We have before us a contorniate
medallion, of Caracalla, from the collection of Mr. W. S. Bohn, upon
which one or other of these instruments figures. On the obverse is the
bust of the emperor in armour, laureated, with the inscription as
AURELIUS ANTONINUS PIUS AUG. BRIT. (his latest title). On the reverse is
the organ; an oblong chest with the pipes above, and a draped figure on
each side.

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