The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

[710] A dies non fastus, an unlucky day in the Roman calendar, being the
anniversary of their great defeat by the Gauls on the river Allia, which
joins the Tiber about five miles from Rome. This disaster happened on
the 16th of the calends of August [17th July].

[711] Posca was sour wine or vinegar mixed with water, which was used by
the Roman soldiery as their common drink. It has been found beneficial
in the cure of putrid diseases.

[712] Upwards of 4000 pounds sterling. See note, p. 4S7.

[713] In imitation of the form of the public edicts, which began with
the words, BONUM FACTUM.

[714] Catta muliere: The Catti were a German tribe who inhabited the
present countries of Hesse or Baden. Tacitus, De Mor. Germ., informs us
that the Germans placed great confidence in the prophetical inspirations
which they attributed to their women.

[715] Suetonius does not supply any account of the part added by
Tiberius to the palace of the Caesars on the Palatine, although, as it
will be recollected, he has mentioned or described the works of Augustus,
Caligula, and Nero. The banquetting-room here mentioned would easily
command a view of the Capitol, across the narrow intervening valley.
Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian’s brother, was prefect of the city.

[716] Caligula.

[717] Lucius and Germanicus, the brother and son of Vitellius, were
slain near Terracina; the former was marching to his brother’s relief.

[718] A.U.C. 822.

[719] c. ix.

[720] Becco, from whence the French bec, and English beak; with,
probably, the family names of Bec or Bek. This distinguished provincial,
under his Latin name of Antoninus Primus, commanded the seventh legion in
Gaul. His character is well drawn by Tacitus, in his usual terse style,
Hist. XI. 86. 2.

[721] Reate, the original seat of the Flavian family, was a city of the
Sabines. Its present name is Rieti.

[722] It does not very clearly appear what rank in the Roman armies
was held by the evocati. They are mentioned on three occasions by
Suetonius, without affording us much assistance. Caesar, like our
author, joins them with the centurions. See, in particular, De Bell.
Civil. I. xvii. 4.

[723] The inscription was in Greek, kalos telothaesanti.

[724] In the ancient Umbria, afterwards the duchy of Spoleto; its modern
name being Norcia.

[725] Gaul beyond, north of the Po, now Lombardy.

[726] We find the annual migration of labourers in husbandry a very
common practice in ancient as well as in modern times. At present,
several thousand industrious labourers cross over every summer from the
duchies of Parma and Modena, bordering on the district mentioned by
Suetonius, to the island of Corsica; returning to the continent when the
harvest is got in.

[727] A.U.C. 762, A.D. 10.

[728] Cosa was a place in the Volscian territory; of which Anagni was
probably the chief town. It lies about forty miles to the north-east of

[729] Caligula.

[730] These games were extraordinary, as being out of the usual course
of those given by praetors.

[731] “Revocavit in contubernium.” From the difference of our habits,
there is no word in the English language which exactly conveys the
meaning of contubernium; a word which, in a military sense, the Romans
applied to the intimate fellowship between comrades in war who messed
together, and lived in close fellowship in the same tent. Thence they
transferred it to a union with one woman who was in a higher position
than a concubine, but, for some reason, could not acquire the legal
rights of a wife, as in the case of slaves of either sex. A man of rank,
also, could not marry a slave or a freedwoman, however much he might be
attached to her.

[732] Nearly the same phrases are applied by Suetonius to Drusilla, see
CALIGULA, c. xxiv., and to Marcella, the concubine of Commodus, by
Herodian, I. xvi. 9., where he says that she had all the honours of an
empress, except that the incense was not offered to her. These
connections resembled the left-hand marriages of the German princes.

[733] This expedition to Britain has been mentioned before, CLAUDIUS,
c. xvii. and note; and see ib. xxiv.

Valerius Flaccus, i. 8, and Silius Italicus, iii. 598, celebrate the
triumphs of Vespasian in Britain. In representing him, however, as
carrying his arms among the Caledonian tribes, their flattery transferred
to the emperor the glory of the victories gained by his lieutenant,
Agricola. Vespasian’s own conquests, while he served in Britain, were
principally in the territories of the Brigantes, lying north of the
Humber, and including the present counties of York and Durham.

[734] A.U.C. 804.

[735] Tacitus, Hist. V. xiii. 3., mentions this ancient prediction, and
its currency through the East, in nearly the same terms as Suetonius.
The coming power is in both instances described in the plural number,
profecti; “those shall come forth;” and Tacitus applies it to Titus as
well as Vespasian. The prophecy is commonly supposed to have reference
to a passage in Micah, v. 2, “Out of thee [Bethlehem-Ephrata] shall He
come forth, to be ruler in Israel.” Earlier prophetic intimations of a
similar character, and pointing to a more extended dominion, have been
traced in the sacred records of the Jews; and there is reason to believe
that these books were at this time not unknown in the heathen world,
particularly at Alexandria, and through the Septuagint version. These
predictions, in their literal sense, point to the establishment of a
universal monarchy, which should take its rise in Judaea. The Jews
looked for their accomplishment in the person of one of their own nation,
the expected Messiah, to which character there were many pretenders in
those times. The first disciples of Christ, during the whole period of
his ministry, supposed that they were to be fulfilled in him. The Romans
thought that the conditions were answered by Vespasian, and Titus having
been called from Judaea to the seat of empire. The expectations
entertained by the Jews, and naturally participated in and appropriated
by the first converts to Christianity, having proved groundless, the
prophecies were subsequently interpreted in a spiritual sense.

[736] Gessius Florus was at that time governor of Judaea, with the title
and rank of prepositus, it not being a proconsular province, as the
native princes still held some parts of it, under the protection and with
the alliance of the Romans. Gessius succeeded Florus Albinus, the
successor of Felix.

[737] Cestius Gallus was consular lieutenant in Syria.

[738] See note to c. vii.

[739] A right hand was the sign of sovereign power, and, as every one
knows, borne upon a staff among the standards of the armies.

[740] Tacitus says, “Carmel is the name both of a god and a mountain;
but there is neither image nor temple of the god; such are the ancient
traditions; we find there only an altar and religious awe.”–Hist. xi.
78, 4. It also appears, from his account, that Vespasian offered
sacrifice on Mount Carmel, where Basilides, mentioned hereafter, c. vii.,
predicted his success from an inspection of the entrails.

[741] Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian, who was engaged in
these wars, having been taken prisoner, was confined in the dungeon at
Jotapata, the castle referred to in the preceding chapter, before which
Vespasian was wounded.–De Bell. cxi. 14.

[742] The prediction of Josephus was founded on the Jewish prophecies
mentioned in the note to c. iv., which he, like others, applied to

[743] Julius Caesar is always called by our author after his apotheosis,
Divus Julius.

[744] The battle at Bedriacum secured the Empire for Vitellius. See
OTHO, c. ix; VITELLIUS, c. x.

[745] Alexandria may well be called the key, claustra, of Egypt, which
was the granary of Rome. It was of the first importance that Vespasian
should secure it at this juncture.

[746] Tacitus describes Basilides as a man of rank among the Egyptians,
and he appears also to have been a priest, as we find him officiating at
Mount Carmel, c. v. This is so incompatible with his being a Roman
freedman, that commentators concur in supposing that the word “libertus.”
although found in all the copies now extant, has crept into the text by
some inadvertence of an early transcriber. Basilides appears, like Philo
Judaeus, who lived about the same period, to have been half-Greek, half-
Jew, and to have belonged to the celebrated Platonic school of

[747] Tacitus informs us that Vespasian himself believed Basilides to
have been at this time not only in an infirm state of health, but at the
distance of several days’ journey from Alexandria. But (for his greater
satisfaction) he strictly examined the priests whether Basilides had
entered the temple on that day: he made inquiries of all he met, whether
he had been seen in the city; nay, further, he dispatched messengers on
horseback, who ascertained that at the time specified, Basilides was more
than eighty miles from Alexandria. Then Vespasian comprehended that the
appearance of Basilides, and the answer to his prayers given through him,
were by divine interposition. Tacit. Hist. iv. 82. 2.

[748] The account given by Tacitus of the miracles of Vespasian is
fuller than that of Suetonius, but does not materially vary in the
details, except that, in his version of the story, he describes the
impotent man to be lame in the hand, instead of the leg or the knee, and
adds an important circumstance in the case of the blind man, that he was
“notus tabe occulorum,” notorious for the disease in his eyes. He also
winds up the narrative with the following statement: “They who were
present, relate both these cures, even at this time, when there is
nothing to be gained by lying.” Both the historians lived within a few
years of the occurrence, but their works were not published until
advanced periods of their lives. The closing remark of Tacitus seems to
indicate that, at least, he did not entirely discredit the account; and
as for Suetonius, his pages are as full of prodigies of all descriptions,
related apparently in all good faith, as a monkish chronicle of the
Middle Ages.

The story has the more interest, as it is one of the examples of
successful imposture, selected by Hume in his Essay on Miracles; with the
reply to which by Paley, in his Evidences of Christianity, most readers
are familiar. The commentators on Suetonius agree with Paley in
considering the whole affair as a juggle between the priests, the
patients, and, probably, the emperor. But what will, perhaps, strike the
reader as most remarkable, is the singular coincidence of the story with
the accounts given of several of the miracles of Christ; whence it has
been supposed, that the scene was planned in imitation of them. It did
not fall within the scope of Dr. Paley’s argument to advert to this; and
our own brief illustration must be strictly confined within the limits of
historical disquisition. Adhering to this principle, we may point out
that if the idea of plagiarism be accepted, it receives some confirmation
from the incident related by our author in a preceding paragraph,
forming, it may be considered, another scene of the same drama, where we
find Basilides appearing to Vespasian in the temple of Serapis, under
circumstances which cannot fail to remind us of Christ’s suddenly
standing in the midst of his disciples, “when the doors were shut.” This
incident, also, has very much the appearance of a parody on the
evangelical history. But if the striking similarity of the two
narratives be thus accounted for, it is remarkable that while the priests
of Alexandria, or, perhaps, Vespasian himself from his residence in
Judaea, were in possession of such exact details of two of Christ’s
miracles–if not of a third striking incident in his history–we should
find not the most distant allusion in the works of such cotemporary
writers as Tacitus and Suetonius, to any one of the still more stupendous
occurrences which had recently taken place in a part of the world with
which the Romans had now very intimate relations. The character of these
authors induces us to hesitate in adopting the notion, that either
contempt or disbelief would have led them to pass over such events, as
altogether unworthy of notice; and the only other inference from their
silence is, that they had never heard of them. But as this can scarcely
be reconciled with the plagiarism attributed to Vespasian or the Egyptian
priests, it is safer to conclude that the coincidence, however singular,
was merely fortuitous. It may be added that Spartianus, who wrote the
lives of Adrian and succeeding emperors, gives an account of a similar
miracle performed by that prince in healing a blind man.

[749] A.U.C. 823-833, excepting 826 and 831.

[750] The temple of Peace, erected A.D. 71, on the conclusion of the
wars with the Germans and the Jews, was the largest temple in Rome.
Vespasian and Titus deposited in it the sacred vessels and other spoils
which were carried in their triumph after the conquest of Jerusalem.
They were consumed, and the temple much damaged, if not destroyed, by
fire, towards the end of the reign of Commodus, in the year 191. It
stood in the Forum, where some ruins on a prodigious scale, still
remaining, were traditionally considered to be those of the Temple of
Peace, until Piranesi contended that they are part of Nero’s Golden
House. Others suppose that they are the remains of a Basilica. A
beautiful fluted Corinthian column, forty-seven feet high, which was
removed from this spot, and now stands before the church of S. Maria
Maggiore, gives a great idea of the splendour of the original structure.

[751] This temple, converted into a Christian church by pope Simplicius,
who flourished, A.D. 464-483, preserves much of its ancient character.
It is now, called San Stefano in Rotondo, from its circular form; the
thirty-four pillars, with arches springing from one to the other and
intended to support the cupola, still remaining to prove its former

[752] This amphitheatre is the famous Colosseum begun by Trajan, and
finished by Titus. It is needless to go into details respecting a
building the gigantic ruins of which are so well known.

[753] Hercules is said, after conquering Geryon in Spain, to have come
into this part of Italy. One of his companions, the supposed founder of
Reate, may have had the name of Flavus.

[754] Vespasian and his son Titus had a joint triumph for the conquest
of Judaea, which is described at length by Josephus, De Bell. Jud. vii.
16. The coins of Vespasian exhibiting the captive Judaea (Judaea capta),
are probably familiar to the reader. See Harphrey’s Coin Collector’s
Manual, p. 328.

[755] Demetrius, who was born at Corinth, seems to have been a close
imitator of Diogenes, the founder of the sect. Having come to Rome to
study under Apollonius, he was banished to the islands, with other
philosophers, by Vespasian.

[756] There being no such place as Morbonia, and the supposed name being
derived from morbus, disease, some critics have supposed that Anticyra,
the asylum of the incurables, (see CALIGULA, c. xxix.) is meant; but the
probability is, that the expression used by the imperial chamberlain was
only a courtly version of a phrase not very commonly adopted in the
present day.

[757] Helvidius Priscus, a person of some celebrity as a philosopher and
public man, is mentioned by Tacitus, Xiphilinus, and Arrian.

[758] Cicero speaks in strong terms of the sordidness of retail trade–
Off. i. 24.

«- 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.