The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

[759] The sesterce being worth about two-pence half-penny of English
money, the salary of a Roman senator was, in round numbers, five thousand
pounds a year; and that of a professor, as stated in the succeeding
chapter, one thousand pounds. From this scale, similar calculations may
easily be made of the sums occurring in Suetonius’s statements from time
to time. There appears to be some mistake in the sum stated in c. xvi.
just before, as the amount seems fabulous, whether it represented the
floating debt, or the annual revenue, of the empire.

[760] See AUGUSTUS, c. xliii. The proscenium of the ancient theatres
was a solid erection of an architectural design, not shifted and varied
as our stage-scenes.

[761] Many eminent writers among the Romans were originally slaves, such
as Terence and Phaedrus; and, still more, artists, physicians and
artificers. Their talents procuring their manumission, they became the
freedmen of their former masters. Vespasian, it appears from Suetonius,
purchased the freedom of some persons of ability belonging to these

[762] The Coan Venus was the chef-d’oeuvre of Apelles, a native of the
island of Cos, in the Archipelago, who flourished in the time of
Alexander the Great. If it was the original painting which was now
restored, it must have been well preserved.

[763] Probably the colossal statue of Nero (see his Life, c. xxxi.),
afterwards placed in Vespasian’s amphitheatre, which derived its name
from it.

[764] The usual argument in all times against the introduction of

[765] See AUGUSTUS, c. xxix.

[766] At the men’s Saturnalia, a feast held in December attended with
much revelling, the masters waited upon their slaves; and at the women’s
Saturnalia, held on the first of March, the women served their female
attendants, by whom also they sent presents to their friends.

[767] Notwithstanding the splendour, and even, in many respects, the
refinement of the imperial court, the language as well as the habits of
the highest classes in Rome seem to have been but too commonly of the
grossest description, and every scholar knows that many of their writers
are not very delicate in their allusions. Apropos of the ludicrous
account given in the text, Martial, on one occasion, uses still plainer

Utere lactucis, et mollibus utere malvis:
Nam faciem durum Phoebe, cacantis habes.–iii. 89.

[768] See c. iii. and note.

[769] Probably the emperor had not entirely worn off, or might even
affect the rustic dialect of his Sabine countrymen; for among the
peasantry the au was still pronounced o, as in plostrum for plaustrum, a
waggon; and in orum for aurum, gold, etc. The emperor’s retort was very
happy, Flaurus being derived from a Greek word, which signifies
worthless, while the consular critic’s proper name, Florus, was connected
with much more agreeable associations.

[770] Some of the German critics think that the passage bears the sense
of the gratuity having beer given by the lady, and that so parsimonious a
prince as Vespasian was not likely to have paid such a sum as is here
stated for a lady’s proffered favours.

[771] The Flavian family had their own tomb. See DOMITIAN, c. v. The
prodigy, therefore, did not concern Vespasian. As to the tomb of the
Julian family, see AUGUSTUS, c. ci.

[772] Alluding to the apotheosis of the emperors.

[773] Cutiliae was a small lake, about three-quarters of a mile from
Reate, now called Lago di Contigliano. It was very deep, and being fed
from springs in the neighbouring hills, the water was exceedingly clear
and cold, so that it was frequented by invalids, who required
invigorating. Vespasian’s paternal estates lay in the neighbourhood of
Reate. See chap i.

[774] A.U.C. 832.

[775] Each dynasty lasted twenty-eight years. Claudius and Nero both
reigning fourteen; and, of the Flavius family, Vespasian reigned ten,
Titus three, and Domitian fifteen.

[776] Caligula. Titus was born A.U.C. 794; about A.D. 49.

[777] The Septizonium was a circular building of seven stories. The
remains of that of Septimus Severus, which stood on the side of the
Palatine Hill, remained till the time of Pope Sixtus V., who removed it,
and employed thirty-eight of its columns in ornamenting the church of St.
Peter. It does not appear whether the Septizonium here mentioned as
existing in the time of Titus, stood on the same spot.

[778] Britannicus, the son of Claudius and Messalina.

[779] A.U.C. 820.

[780] Jerusalem was taken, sacked, and burnt, by Titus, after a two
years’ siege, on the 8th September, A.U.C. 821, A.D. 69; it being the
Sabbath. It was in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, when the
emperor was sixty years old, and Titus himself, as he informs us, thirty.
For particulars of the siege, see Josephus, De Bell. Jud. vi. and vii.;
Hegesippus, Excid. Hierosol. v.; Dio, lxvi.; Tacitus, Hist. v.; Orosius,
vii. 9.

[781] For the sense in which Titus was saluted with the title of Emperor
by the troops, see JULIUS CAESAR, c. lxxvi.

[782] The joint triumph of Vespasian and Titus, which was celebrated
A.U.C. 824, is fully described by Josephus, De Bell. Jud. vii. 24. It is
commemorated by the triumphal monument called the Arch of Titus, erected
by the senate and people of Rome after his death, and still standing at
the foot of the Palatine Hill, on the road leading from the Colosseum to
the Forum, and is one of the most beautiful as well as the most
interesting models of Roman art. It consists of four stories of the
three orders of architecture, the Corinthian being repeated in the two
highest. Some of the bas-reliefs, still in good preservation, represent
the table of the shew-bread, the seven-branched golden candlestick, the
vessel of incense, and the silver trumpets, which were taken by Titus
from the Temple at Jerusalem, and, with the book of the law, the veil of
the temple, and other spoils, were carried in the triumph. The fate of
these sacred relics is rather interesting. Josephus says, that the veil
and books of the law were deposited in the Palatium, and the rest of the
spoils in the Temple of Peace. When that was burnt, in the reign of
Commodus, these treasures were saved, and they were afterwards carried
off by Genseric to Africa. Belisarius recovered them, and brought them
to Constantinople, A.D. 520. Procopius informs us, that a Jew, who saw
them, told an acquaintance of the emperor that it would not be advisable
to carry them to the palace at Constantinople, as they could not remain
anywhere else but where Solomon had placed them. This, he said, was the
reason why Genseric had taken the Palace at Rome, and the Roman army had
in turn taken that of the Vandal kings. Upon this, the emperor was so
alarmed, that he sent the whole of them to the Christian churches at

[783] A.U.C. 825.

[784] A.U.C. 824.

[785] A.U.C. 823, 825, 827-830, 832.

[786] Berenice, whose name is written by our author and others Beronice,
was daughter of Agrippa the Great, who was by Aristobulus, grandson of
Herod the Great. Having been contracted to Mark, son of Alexander
Lysimachus, he died before their union, and Agrippa married her to Herod,
Mark’s brother, for whom he had obtained from the emperor Claudius the
kingdom of Chalcis. Herod also dying, Berenice, then a widow, lived with
her brother, Agrippa, and was suspected of an incestuous intercourse with
him. It was at this time that, on their way to the imperial court at
Rome, they paid a visit to Festus, at Caesarea, and were present when St.
Paul answered his accusers so eloquently before the tribunal of the
governor. Her fascinations were so great, that, to shield herself from
the charge of incest, she prevailed on Polemon, king of Cilicia, to
submit to be circumcised, become a Jew, and marry her. That union also
proving unfortunate, she appears to have returned to Jerusalem, and
having attracted Vespasian by magnificent gifts, and the young Titus by
her extraordinary beauty, she followed them to Rome, after the
termination of the Jewish war, and had apartments in the palace, where
she lived with Titus, “to all appearance, as his wife,” as Xiphilinus
informs us; and there seems no doubt that be would have married her, but
for the strong prejudices of the Romans against foreign alliances.
Suetonius tells us with what pain they separated.

[787] The Colosseum: it had been four years in building. See VESPAS.
c. ix.

[788] The Baths of Titus stood on the Esquiline Hill, on part of the
ground which had been the gardens of Mecaenas. Considerable remains of
them are still found among the vineyards; vaulted chambers of vast
dimensions, some of which were decorated with arabesque paintings, still
in good preservation. Titus appears to have erected a palace for himself
adjoining; for the Laocoon, which is mentioned by Pliny as standing in
this palace, was found in the neighbouring ruins.

[789] If the statements were not well attested, we might be incredulous
as to the number of wild beasts collected for the spectacles to which the
people of Rome were so passionately devoted. The earliest account we
have of such an exhibition, was A.U.C. 502, when one hundred and forty-
two elephants, taken in Sicily, were produced. Pliny, who gives this
information, states that lions first appeared in any number, A.U.C. 652;
but these were probably not turned loose. In 661, Sylla, when he was
praetor, brought forward one hundred. In 696, besides lions, elephants,
and bears, one hundred and fifty panthers were shown for the first time.
At the dedication of Pompey’s Theatre, there was the greatest exhibition
of beasts ever then known; including seventeen elephants, six hundred
lions, which were killed in the course of five days, four hundred and ten
panthers, etc. A rhinoceros also appeared for the first time. This was
A.U.C. 701. The art of taming these beasts was carried to such
perfection, that Mark Antony actually yoked them to his carriage. Julius
Caesar, in his third dictatorship, A.U.C. 708, showed a vast number of
wild beasts, among which were four hundred lions and a cameleopard. A
tiger was exhibited for the first time at the dedication of the Theatre
of Marcellus, A.U.C. 743. It was kept in a cage. Claudius afterwards
exhibited four together. The exhibition of Titus, at the dedication of
the Colosseum, here mentioned by Suetonius, seems to have been the
largest ever made; Xiphilinus even adds to the number, and says, that
including wild-boars, cranes, and other animals, no less than nine
thousand were killed. In the reigns of succeeding emperors, a new
feature was given to these spectacles, the Circus being converted into a
temporary forest, by planting large trees, in which wild animals were
turned loose, and the people were allowed to enter the wood and take what
they pleased. In this instance, the game consisted principally of beasts
of chase; and, on one occasion, one thousand stags, as many of the ibex,
wild sheep (mouflions from Sardinia?), and other grazing animals, besides
one thousand wild boars, and as many ostriches, were turned loose by the
emperor Gordian.

[790] “Diem perdidi.” This memorable speech is recorded by several
other historians, and praised by Eusebius in his Chronicles.

[791] A.U.C. 832, A.D. 79. It is hardly necessary to refer to the well-
known Epistles of Pliny the younger, vi. 16 and 20, giving an account of
the first eruption of Vesuvius, in which Pliny, the historian, perished.
And see hereafter, p. 475.

[792] The great fire at Rome happened in the second year of the reign of
Titus. It consumed a large portion of the city, and among the public
buildings destroyed were the temples of Serapis and Isis, that of
Neptune, the baths of Agrippa, the Septa, the theatres of Balbus and
Pompey, the buildings and library of Augustus on the Palatine, and the
temple of Jupiter in the Capitol.

[793] See VESPASIAN, cc. i. and xxiv. The love of this emperor and his
son Titus for the rural retirement of their paternal acres in the Sabine
country, forms a striking contrast to the vicious attachment of such
tyrants as Tiberius and Caligula for the luxurious scenes of Baiae, or
the libidinous orgies of Capri.

[794] A.U.C. 834, A.D. 82.

[795] A.U.C. 804.

[796] A street, in the sixth region of Rome, so called, probably, from a
remarkable specimen of this beautiful shrub which had made free growth on
the spot.

[797] VITELLIUS, c. xv.

[798] Tacitus (Hist. iii.) differs from Suetonius, saying that Domitian
took refuge with a client of his father’s near the Velabrum. Perhaps he
found it more safe afterwards to cross the Tiber.

[799] One of Domitian’s coins bears on the reverse a captive female and
soldier, with GERMANIA DEVICTA.

[800] VESPASIAN, c. xii; TITUS, c. vi.

[801] Such excavations had been made by Julius and by Augustus [AUG.
xliii.], and the seats for the spectators fitted up with timber in a rude
way. That was on the other side of the Tiber. The Naumachia of Domitian
occupies the site of the present Piazza d’Espagna, and was larger and
more ornamented.

[802] A.U.C. 841. See AUGUSTUS, c. xxxi.

[803] This feast was held in December. Plutarch informs us that it was
instituted in commemoration of the seventh hill being included in the
city bounds.

[804] The Capitol had been burnt, for the third time, in the great fire
mentioned TITUS, c. viii. The first fire happened in the Marian war,
after which it was rebuilt by Pompey, the second in the reign of

[805] This forum, commenced by Domitian and completed by Nerva, adjoined
the Roman Forum and that of Augustus, mentioned in c. xxix. of his life.
From its communicating with the two others, it was called Transitorium.
Part of the wall which bounded it still remains, of a great height, and
144 paces long. It is composed of square masses of freestone, very
large, and without any cement; and it is not carried in a straight line,
but makes three or four angles, as if some buildings had interfered with
its direction.

[806] The residence of the Flavian family was converted into a temple.
See c. i. of the present book.

[807] The Stadium was in the shape of a circus, and used for races both
of men and horses.

[808] The Odeum was a building intended for musical performances. There
were four of them at Rome.

[809] See before, c. iv.

[810] See VESPASIAN, c. xiv.

[811] See NERD, c. xvi.

[812] This absurd edict was speedily revoked. See afterwards c. xiv.

[813] This was an ancient law levelled against adultery and other
pollutions, named from its author Caius Scatinius, a tribune of the
people. There was a Julian law, with the same object. See AUGUSTUS,
c. xxxiv.

[814] Geor. xi. 537.

[815] See Livy, xxi. 63, and Cicero against Verres, v. 18.

[816] See VESPASIAN, c. iii.

[817] Cant names for gladiators.

[818] The faction which favoured the “Thrax” party.

[819] DOMITIAN, c. i.

[820] See VESPASIAN, c. xiv.

[821] This cruel punishment is described in NERO, c. xlix.

[822] Gentiles who were proselytes to the Jewish religion; or, perhaps,
members of the Christian sect, who were confounded with them. See the
note to TIBERIUS, c. xxxvi. The tax levied on the Jews was two drachmas
per head. It was general throughout the empire.

[823] We have had Suetonius’s reminiscences, derived through his
grandfather and father successively, CALIGULA, c. xix.; OTHO, c. x. We
now come to his own, commencing from an early age.

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