web counter








AUGUSTUS: B.C. 31—A.D. 14 // TIBERIUS: A.D. 14-37 // CALIGULA: A.D. 37-41 // CLAUDIUS: A.D. 41-54 // NERO : A.D. 54-68 // GALBA : A.D. 68-39 // OTHO : A.D. 69 // VITELLIUS: A.D. 69 // VESPASIAN : A.D. 69-79 // TITUS: A.D. 79-81 // DOMITIAN : A.D. 81-96.


AUGUSTUS:  B.C. 31— A.D. 14.


The genius and statesmanship of Julius Caesar secured only a few years of absolute power, and had not time enough to shape the forms of empire, or carry out far-reaching plans. When he fell under the daggers of his murderers, he left no system of established rule, and no successor to replace him. The Commonwealth had been discredited by years of impotence ; anarchy at home, misgovernment abroad had shown the breakdown of the ancient institutions of the state, and the frail plant of liberty needed more to bring it back to healthy life than to be watered with the blood of Caesar. But when the young Octavius left his books at Apollonia, and came to Rome to claim his rights, few could have had serious fears of his ambition, or could have foreseen in him the man who was to close the drama of the great Republic and bring the Empire on the stage. For he had played no part as yet in public life, was known to be of feeble health, had given no proof of genius or of self-reliant courage. Sent on before to the advanced camp in Epirus, to be ready for campaigns in the far East, he was startled from his round of rhetoric and drill by the news of his great uncle’s murder. He crossed the sea without delay; and hearing on his way that his kinsman’s will had named him heir, he took at once the name, of Caesar Octavianus, and hurried on to claim his heritage at Rome. His mother told him of her fears, his stepfather urged the need of caution, and pointed to the dangers in his way; but he persisted, though almost alone, and though he saw the need to be resolute and wary. The daggers that had been sharpened against Julius might be drawn upon himself, if he spoke too openly of vengeance, or appealed at once to the soldiers and the people. The name that he had just assumed had an ominous sound in the ears of Senate and of nobles; and M. Antonius, the old confidant and partisan of Caesar, by right of his authority as consul, had taken the reins of power into his hands, had gained possession of the treasures and the papers of the fallen ruler, and was in no mood to share them with a rival claimant. The conduct of Octavianus, though bold, was very politic and far-sighted. Resolved at any cost to show respect for the last wishes of his kinsman, he drew largely on the means of his family or friends to pay the legacies bequeathed by Caesar to every citizen of Rome, and defrayed even the expenses of the public shows that had been promised. He paid his court with tact to the members of the Senate, and talked of amnesty and peace; put on a show of winning deference for the leaders of the moderate party, and for Cicero above all, and fed their hopes, that they might find in his growing popularity a harmless counterpoise to the violent ambition of Antonius. Even when forced at last to arm in self-defence, and to levy troops among the veterans of Caesar, he courted the old statesman still; he played upon his vanity, and called him father. Affecting to draw his sword only in defence of the constitution and the Senate, he offered to serve with his own legions under the new consuls against Antonius, the common enemy of all loyal citizens. But he clearly read the jealous suspicions of the nobles, and had no mind to be used awhile and then thrown aside like a dishonoured tool. So, after the successes won at Mutina (BC 43), which cost the lives of both the consuls, he flung away the mask that he had worn, came to terms of union with Antonius and with Lepidus, the governor of Gaul, and marched with his soldiers straight to Rome to wrest the consulship from the reluctant Senate. Then the era of Proscriptions opened, for the confederates agreed to cement their league with blood. Each marked his victims’ names upon the fatal list, and each consented to give up adherents of his own to the greed or hatred of his colleagues. Meanwhile the Senatorian party, crushed at Rome, was gathering fresh strength beyond the seas. Brutus in Macedonia, Cassius in Syria, the foremost of the murderers of Caesar, had turned the provinces which they governed into one vast recruiting-ground for a last decisive struggle. When all was ready they combined their forces and offered battle to the enemies who had crossed over to attack them. Once more came the crash of mighty armies met again in civil war, and the battle-fields of Philippi saw the fall of the last of the great republicans of Rome.

The world lay prostrate at the conquerors’ feet; it remained only to divide the spoil. Antonius stayed behind to organise and rule the East. The Province of Africa was thought enough to content the absent Lepidus, while Italy and all the West fell to the portion of Octavianus.

But still as the young schemer mounted higher the dangers seemed to thicken in his path, to test his hardihood and patient statecraft. He returned to Italy to find an exhausted treasury and half-ruined people; veterans clamouring for their pay and settling with fierce eagerness upon the promised lands; peasants ousted from their homes taking to brigandage from sheer despair; the city populace in no loyal mood to a master who had little to bestow; while the wife and brother of his rival fanned the smouldering discontent, and vexed him sorely with intrigues, then flew to arms at last, and when beaten stood sullenly at bay within the beleaguered fortress of Perugia. The sea meanwhile was at the mercy of the bold Sextus Pompeius, who scoured the coasts of Italy with galleys manned by motley crews of republicans who had fought under his father’s lead, of pirates to whom that father’s name had been once a sound of terror, of ruined victims of the late proscriptions, of slaves and runaways of every class. The corn-ships dared not venture near the blockaded ports, and prices mounted to famine height, till the starving population rose in fierce mutiny against their ruler; while Antonius was on his way with a great fleet to call him to account for the treatment of his brother, who had hardly escaped with life from the horrors of the siege. But Italy was sick of civil war. The soldiers, tired of constant bloodshed, made their leaders sheath their swords and join in league and amity, in pledge of which Antonius took to wife Octavia, the sister of his rival, while Sextus bargained as the price of peace to keep his hold upon the islands and the sea, and Lepidus, displaced already from his office of command, held only in his feeble grasp the dignity and functions of High Pontiff.

For six more years of divided power Octavianus schemed and toiled and waited. He secured his hold on Italy, calmed the elements of disorder in its midst, refilled the treasury and stocked the granaries, till he felt himself strong enough to defy Sextus on the seas and crush the bold buccaneer after many a hard-fought struggle. At last, but not till all was safe elsewhere, came the crisis of the duel with Antonius. Eastern luxury had done its work upon his passionate nature. Slothful self-indulgence, broken only by fitful moods of fiery energy, clouded his reason and unnerved his manhood. The Egyptian Cleopatra had lured him with her blandishments and wound her snares around his heart, till Rome heard with indignation of the wrongs of the forsaken wife and of the orgies of the wanton pair. Nay, more, they heard that not content with parodying the names and attributes oi foreign gods, they claimed the right to change the seat of empire and make Alexandria the new capital of the Roman world. Was the dignity of a chaste matron, it was asked, to be the sport of the minions of an Eastern court? Should Octavianus tamely wait to see the national honour further outraged, and the monstrous forms of uncouth worships instal themselves within the Seven Hills and drive the old deities from their venerable shrines ? The personal quarrel was transformed into a war of creeds and races. In place of the horrors of a civil struggle men thought only of the motley aggregate of foreign peoples arrayed at Actium in the extravagance of barbaric pomp against the discipline and valour of the West.

In the actual conflict Antonius displayed neither a general’s skill nor a soldier’s courage. He fought, seemingly, to cover a retreat that had been planned before (BC 31). Cleopatra’s galleys gave the signal for the flight, and the leader of what was now a hopeless cause hastened after her to Egypt, where he found discontent and treachery spread around him. After a few months spent in moody despair or riotous excesses he died by his own hand, to be soon followed by his paramour to his dishonoured grave.

The victory of Actium had made Octavianus the undisputed master of the Roman world. One by one rivals and obstacles had been swept away, and the patient schemer had now mounted to the top­most round of the ladder of ambition. During the troublous years of the long struggle for power his public life had been one course of selfish aims, unscrupulous acts, and makeshift policy; he had yet to prove that there was anything of real and abiding greatness in his schemes to raise him from the ranks of mere political adventurers. But from this time we may trace a seeming change of character, which is the more remarkable because it is so hard to parallel.

It was no change of measures only, such as often comes with new conditions, such as that which made the founder of the dynasty reverse much of the policy of earlier years. For, spendthrift and prodigal as Julius had been before, he used his power to curtail extravagance, sent police agents to the markets, and even to the houses of the wealthy, to put down luxury by force; the leader of the popular party forbade the growth of guilds and social clubs like those which had often carried the elections in his favour; the favourite of the populace was anxious to check the spread of pauperism by sterner measures; the revolutionary general whose tent had been the refuge of the men of tarnished name and ruined fortunes baffled all their hopes of plunder, by passing stringent measures to restore credit and to curb official greed. Octavianus also in like case resorted to like policy. One of his first cares was to repeal the unconstitutional acts of his earlier life, and so to close the period of revolution. He took steps without delay to restore order and to strengthen the moral safeguards which years of anarchy and civil war had almost ruined. To this end he passed laws like those of Julius, and, unlike his kinsman, was enabled by his long tenure of power to carry out a conservative reform in morals and religion which left some enduring traces.

But the change in character lay deeper far than this. He had shown while the struggle lasted a cruelty without excuse. Though possibly reluctant at the first to engage in the proscriptions, he is said have acted in them more relentlessly than either of his colleagues; he had his prisoners of war butchered in cold blood, mocked at their prayers for decent burial, and calmly watched their dying agonies.

That he was hard and pitiless beyond the spirit of his times is implied in many stories of the day, and among others we read that when the captives of Philippi passed in bonds before their conquerors they saluted Antonius with marked respect, but vented their deepest curses on Octavianus to his face.

But after Actium he showed what was for that age an unusual clemency. He spared his open enemies, he hunted out no victims, and professed even to bum the secret papers of his rival which might have compromised his partisans at Rome. The same gentler spirit breathes through the whole of his long period of rule. His jealous intolerance had led him once to drive a consul elect to suicide for a bitter word, and to fine or banish citizens of Nursia for honouring with a monument their deed who had fallen, as they wrote, in defence of freedom on the field of Mutina. But he was ready now to show respect to the memory of Pompeius, to let historians write the praises of the great republicans of Rome, to congratulate the men of Mediolanum (Milan) for prizing the busts of Brutus, to listen calmly to the gibes vented on himself in popular satires or in dead men’s wills, to let even lampoons be scattered in the Senate House, and make no effort to hunt out the authors. His suspicious fears had made him once give orders for the instant execution of a curious bystander who had pressed in too eagerly to hear him speak in public, and put even to the torture a praetor who came to greet him, and whose hidden notebook was mistaken for a dagger; but in later life he walked without an escort through the streets, went to and fro to join the social gatherings of his friends, and showed no fear of an assassin’s knife. The cheerful cordiality and homely courtesies of his maturer age were a marked contrast to the cold, ungenial reserve of earlier days ; and those who find his real character hard to read may see perhaps a fitting symbol of it in the figure of the Sphinx which he wore upon his signet-ring.

But this change of manner could not be an easy thing, and was probably not soon effected. There are signs The change which seem to show that constant watchfulness and self-restraint were needed to his natural temper, and that personal influences were at work to help him. Though he was patient and merciful in most cases that were brought before him when on the seat of judgment, it is said that Maecenas, who was standing by, marked on one occasion the old blood-thirsty instinct reappear, and flung to him a hasty note with the words, ‘Rise, Hangman!’ written on it. Another time, when stung by what was uttered in the Senate, he hurried out abruptly, and excused himself afterwards for want of courtesy by saying that he feared his anger would slip from his control. We are told that with others commonly, and even with Livia, his wife, he would not always trust himself to speak on subjects of grave moment without writing down the notes of what he had to say. In the gloom that settled on him in old age, when family losses and dishonour, coupled with national disasters, weighed upon his mind, the hard, unlovely features of his character, long hidden out of sight, seemed to come to light once more as the force of self-control was weakened by the laws of natural decay. Yet even with such reserves his history presents a spectacle almost unexampled of the force of will in moulding and tempering an ungenial nature, and of the chastening influence of sovereign rule. The signal victory just won, the honours voted by the servile Senate, the acclamations of the people, the license of unbounded power, might well have turned his head, as they proved fatal to the temper of many a later emperor; but the dagger of Brutus haunted his memory and warned him to beware of outraging Roman feeling.

But, far beyond its effect upon his personal bearing, we may trace the influence of these warning memories on the work which lay before him, of giving shape and system to the future government of Rome. Power and repute had passed away from the old forms of the Republic. The whole world lay at the feet of the master of many legions; it remained only to define the constitutional forms in which the new forces were to work. But to do this was no easy task. The perplexities of his position, the fears and hopes that crossed his mind, are thrown into dramatic form by the historian Dion Cassius, who brings a scene before our fancy in which Octavianus listens to the conflicting counsels of his two great advisers Agrippa and Maecenas. The former is supposed to paint in sombre colours the difficulties of a monarch’s lot, to remind him of the warnings of the past and the dangers of the future, and strongly to urge him to copy the example set by Sulla, and after passing needful laws, and strengthening the safeguards against anarchy and license, to resign the outward show of power and come down from the dizzy pinnacle of greatness. Maecenas, on the other hand, counsels absolute rule, though masked by constitutional disguises, and describes at great length a system of centralised government, in sketching which the historian drew mainly from the experience of his own later times, and with slight regard for strict historic truth, attributed to the inventive genius of Maecenas a full-grown system of political machinery which it took some centuries of imperialism to develop. But though we must regard the narrative in question more as the writer’s own political theorising than as a sketch of matter of fact, yet there is little doubt that schemes of resignation were at some time discussed by the Emperor and by his circle of advisers. It is even possible, as the same writer tells us, that he laid before the Senators at this time some proposal to leave the helm of state and let them guide it as of old. We are told that they were thrown into confusion by his words, and that, mistrusting his sincerity, or fearing the return of anarchy and the scramble for power that would soon ensue, they all implored him to withdraw his words and take back the power which he had resigned. The scene, if ever really acted, was but an idle comedy, and the offer could scarcely have been seriously meant, though there may have been some passing thought of it even at this time and still more at a later period, when he had long been sated with power and burdened with the cares of office. It is more probable that he was content with some faint show of resistance, when the Senate heaped their honours on his head, as afterwards when, more than once, after a ten years’ interval, they solemnly renewed the tenure of his power.

But we cannot doubt his sincerity in one respect—in his wish to avoid the kingly title and all the odious associations of the name. It had been from early times offensive to Roman ears; it had grown far more so as they heard more of the wanton lust and cruelty and haughtiness of Eastern monarchs, and they scorned to be degraded themselves to the level of their cringing subjects. The charge of aspiring to be king had often been an ominous cry in party struggles, and had proved fatal to more than one great leader; it had been truly said perhaps of Caesar, and had largely helped to ruin him, and his successor was too wary to be dazzled by the bauble of a name. He shrank also from another title, truly Roman in its character, but odious since the days of Sulla ; and though the populace of Rome, when panicstruck by pestilence and famine, clamoured to have him made dictator, and threatened to burn the Senate as it sat in council if their will was not obeyed, yet nothing would induce him to bear the hateful name. But the name of Caesar he had taken long ago, after his illustrious uncle’s death, and this became the title of the imperial office. Besides this he allowed himself to be styled Augustus, a name which roused no jealousy and outraged no Roman sentiment, yet vaguely implied some dignity and reverence from its long association with the objects of religion. As such he Augustus, preferred it to the suggested name of Romulus, and allowed one of the months to be so called after him, as the preceding one of Julius had been named after his kinsman. With this exception he assumed no new symbol of monarchic power, but was satisfied with the old official titles, which, though charged with memories of the Republic, yet singly corresponded to some side or fragment of absolute authority. The first of these was Imperator, which served to connect him with the army. The imperium which the name expressed, had stood in earlier days for the higher functions, more especially for the power of the sword, which belonged to civil as well as military authority. But, gradually curtailed in other cases by the jealousy of the republic, it had kept its full meaning only in the camp; the imperator was the general in command, or, in a still more special case, he was the victorious leader whose soldiers had saluted him upon the field of battle. Julius, whose veterans had often greeted him with this title in many a hard-fought campaign, chose it seemingly as a fitting symbol of the new régime, as a frank avowal of its military basis, and in this sense it was found convenient by his successors. It implied absolute authority, such as the general has over his soldiers, and the concentration in a single chief of the widespread powers entrusted to subordinate commanders; it suggested little of the old forms of constitutional election, but appealed rather to the memory of the army’s loyal acclamations, and gave a seeming claim to their entire obedience.

The title of the tribunician power connected the monarch with the interests of the lower orders. In the early days of privilege, when Rome was parted into rival classes, the tribunes had been the champions of the commons. Sacrosanct or inviolate themselves, and armed with power to shield the weak from the license of magistrate or noble, they gradually assumed the right to put a veto or check on all public business in Rome. In the party struggles of the last century of the republic they had abused their constitutional powers to destroy the influence of the Senate and organize the popular movement against the narrow oligarchy of the ruling classes. Such authority was too important to be overlooked or intrusted in its fulness into other hands. The Emperor did not, indeed, assume the tribunate, but was vested with the tribunician power which overshadowed the annual holders of the office. It made his person sacred, not in the city only or in discharge of official acts, as in their case, but at all times and through the whole breadth of the empire. It gave him the formal right to call the meetings of the Senate, and to lay before them such business as he pleased, and thus secured the initiative in all concerns of state. Out of the old privilege of appeal to the protection of a tribune came the right of acquittal in judicial functions, which made the Emperor a high court of appeal from all the lower courts, and out of which seemingly has grown the right of pardon vested in the kings of modern Europe. The full meaning and extension of the title seems not to have been discerned at once, but once grasped it was too important to be dropped. By it succeeding emperors dated the tenure of their power, as by the years of a king’s reign, and the formal act by which the title was conferred on the kinsman or the confidant who stood nearest to the throne seemed to point him out for succession to the imperial rank.

The familiar name of prince was one of dignity rather than of power. The ‘princeps senatus’ in old days had been the foremost senator of his time, distinguished by weight of character and the experience of high rank, early consulted in debate, and carrying decisive influence by his vote. No one but the Emperor could fill this position safely, and he assumed the name henceforth to connect him with the Senate, as other titles seemed to bind him to the army and the people.

For the post of Supreme Pontiff, Augustus was content to wait awhile, until it passed by death from the feeble hands of Lepidus. He then claimed the exclusive tenure of the office, and after this time Pontifex Maximus was always added to the long list of imperial titles. It put into his hands, as the highest functionary of religion, the control of all the ritual of the state; it was a convenient instrument for his policy of conservative reform, and associated with his name some of the reverence that gathered round the domain of spiritual life. Besides these titles to which he assumed an exclusive right he also filled occasionally and for short periods most of the republican offices of higher rank, both in the capital and in the country towns. He took from time to time the consular power, with its august traditions and imposing ceremonial. The authority of censor lay ready to his hands when a moral reform was to be set on foot, and a return attempted to the severity of ancient manners, or when the Senate was to be purged of unworthy members and the order of the equites or knights to be reviewed and its dignity consulted. Beyond the capital the proconsular power was vested in him without local limitations, and gave him the right to issue his instructions to the commanders of the legions, as the great generals of the republic had done before. Finally he deigned often to accept offices of local dignity in the smaller towns throughout the empire, appointing in each case a deputy to discharge the duties of the post. The offices of state at Rome, meantime, lasted on from the Republic to the Empire, unchanged in name, and with little seeming change of functions. Consuls, Praetors, Quaestors, Tribunes, and Aediles rose from the same classes as before, and moved for the most part in the same round of work, though they had lost for ever their power of initiative and real control. Elected by the people formerly, but with much sinister influence of bribery and auguries, they were now mainly the nominees of Caesar, though the forms of popular election were still for a time observed, and though Augustus condescended to canvass in person for his friends and to send letters of commendation for those whom he wished to have elected. The consulship was entirely reserved for his nominees, but passed rapidly from hand to hand, since in order to gratify a larger number it was granted at varying intervals for a few months only. For though it was in fact a political nullity henceforth, and its value lay mainly in the evidence of imperial favour or its prospects of provincial office, yet the old dignity lasted still, and for centuries the post was spoken of by Romans as almost the highest prize of their ambition. For lower posts a distinction was observed between the places, generally less than half, reserved entirely for the Emperor to fill with his candidate Caesaris, as they are called in their inscriptions, and those which were left for some show of open voting, though influenced, it might be, by court favour.

The peculiar feature of the old Roman executive had been its want of centralised action. Each magistrate might thwart and check his colleague; the collision between different officials, the power of veto, and the absence of supreme authority might bring the political machinery to a dead lock. The imperial system swept aside these dangers, left each magistrate to the routine of his own work, and made him feel his responsibility to the central chief. It was part of the policy of Augustus to disturb as little as possible the old names and forms of the Republic; to leave their old show and dignity, that those who filled them might seem to be not his own creatures, but the servants of the state. But besides these he set up a number of new offices, often of more real power though of lower rank; he filled the most important of them with his confidants, delegating to them the functions which most needed his control, and in which he could not brook any show of independence, and left behind him the rudiments of a centralised bureaucracy which his successors gradually enlarged. Two terms correspond respectively to two great classes. The name prafectus, the préfêt of modern France, stood in earlier days for the deputy of any officer of state charged specially to execute some definite work. The praefects of Caesar were his servants, named by him and responsible to him, set to discharge duties which the old constitution had commonly ignored. The prefect of the city had appeared in shadowy form under the Republic to represent the consul in his absence. Augustus felt the need, when called away from Rome, to have someone there whom he could trust to watch the jealous nobles and control the fickle mob. His trustiest confidants, Maecenas and Agrippa, filled the post, and it became a standing office, with a growing sphere of competence, overtopping the magistracies of earlier date.

The praefects of the praetorian cohorts first appeared when the Senate formally assigned a bodyguard to Augustus later in his reign. The troops were named after the picked soldiers who were quartered round the tents of the generals of the Republic, and when they were concentrated by the city walls their chief commanders soon filled a formidable place in history, and their loyalty or treachery often decided the fate of Rome. Next to these in power and importance came the praefects of the watch—the new police force organised by Augustus as a protection against the dangers of the night; and of the corn supplies of Rome, which were always an object of especial care on the part of the imperial government. And besides these, there were many various duties entrusted by the head of the state to special delegates, both in the capital and through the provinces. The title procurator, which has come down to us in the form proctor, was at first mainly a term of civil law, and was used for a financial agent or attorney. The officers so called were regarded at the first as stewards of the Emperor’s property or managers of his private business. They were therefore for some time of humble origin, for the Emperor’s household was organised like that of any Roman noble. Slaves or freedmen filled the offices of trust, wrote his letters, kept his books, managed his affairs, and did the work of the treasurers and secretaries of state of later days. Kept within bounds by sterner masteri, they abused the confidence of weak emperors, and outraged Roman pride by their wealth, arrogance, and ostentation. The agents of the Emperor’s privy purse throughout the provinces were called by the same title, but were commonly of higher rank and more repute.

Such in its bare outline was the executive of the imperial government. We have next to see what was the position of the Senate. That body had been in early times the council summoned to advise the king or consul. By the weight and experience of its members, and their lifelong tenure of office, it soon towered above the short-lived executive, and became the chief moving force at Rome. But the policy of the Gracchi had dealt a fatal blow at its supremacy. Proscriptions and civil wars had thinned its ranks. The first Caesar had treated it with studied disrespect, and in the subsequent times of anarchy the influence of the order and the reputation of its members had sunk to the lowest depth of degradation. It was one of the first cares of Augustus to restore its credit. At the risk of odium and personal danger he more than once revised the list, and purged it of unworthy members, summoning eminent provincials in their place. He was careful of their outward dignity, and made the capital of a million sesterces a needful condition of the rank. The functions also of the Senate were in theory enlarged. Its decrees on questions brought before it had henceforth the binding force of law. As the popular assemblies ceased to meet for legislation, case after case was submitted to its judgment, till it gained speedily by prescription a jurisdiction of wide range, and before long it decided the elections at its will or registered the nominations of the Emperor.

But the substance of power and independence had passed away from it for ever. Matters of great moment were debated first, not in the Senate House, but in a sort of Privy Council formed by the trusted advisers of the Emperor, while the discussions of the larger body served chiefly to mask the forms of absolutism, to feel the pulse of popular sentiment, and to register decisions formed elsewhere. Treated with respect and courtesy by wary princes, the senators were the special mark of the jealousy and greed of the worst rulers.

If we now turn our thoughts from the centre to the provinces we shall find that the imperial system brought with it more sweeping changes and more real improvement. Almost every country of the Roman world had long been frightfully misgoverned. Towards the end of the Republic there rises from every land a cry in tones that grow ever louder—a cry of misery and despair—that their governors are greedy and corrupt, scandalously indifferent to justice, conniving at the extortion of the Roman capitalists who farmed the tithes and taxes, and of the money-lenders, who had settled like leeches all around them.

The governors who hastened to their provinces after a short tenure of official rank at Rome looked to the emoluments of office to retrieve their fortunes, exhausted frequently by public shows and bribery at home. They abused their power in a hundred ways to amass enormous wealth, with little check from the public opinion of their order, or from the courts of law before which they might possibly be prosecuted by their victims or their rivals.

But a new order of things was now begun. Augustus left to the Senate the nominal control of the more peaceful provinces, which needed little military force. To these ex-consuls and ex-praetors were sent out as before, but with no power of the sword and little of the purse. High salaries were paid to them directly by the state, but the sources of indirect gains were gradually cut off. By their side was a proctor of the Emperor’s privy purse, to watch their conduct and report their misdemeanours. At home there was a vigilant ruler, ready to give ear to the complaints of the provincials, and to see that justice was promptly done by the tribunals or the Senate. Doubtless we still hear of much misgovernment, and scandalous abuses sometimes are detailed, for the evils to be checked had been the growth of ages, and the vigilance of a single ruler, however strict, must have been oftentimes at fault.

The remaining countries, called imperial provinces, were ruled by generals, called legate or in some few cases by proctors only. They held office during the good pleasure of their master, and for longer periods often than the senatorial governors. There are signs that the imperial provinces were better ruled, and that the transference of a country to this class from the other was looked upon as a real boon, and not as an empty honour.

Such in its chief features was the system of Augustus, the rudiments of the bureaucratic system which was slowly organized by later ages. This was his constructive policy, and on the value of this creative work his claims to greatness must be based. To the provinces the gain undoubtedly was great. His rule brought them peace and order and the essentials of good government. It left the local forms of self-rule almost untouched, and lightened, if it did not quite remove, the incubus of oppression which had so long tightened its grasp upon their throats. At Rome, too, the feeling of relief was keenly felt. Credit recovered with a rebound after the victory at Actium. Prices and the rate of interest fell at once. The secret adherents of the fallen cause began to breathe again more freely when they heard no mention of proscription; the friends of order learnt with joy that the era of anarchy was closed; rigid republicans found their jealous suspicions half-disarmed by the respect shown for the ancient forms and names, by the courtesy with which the Senate had been treated, and above all, perhaps, by the modest, unassuming manners of their prince. For he shunned carefully all outward pomp, moved about the streets almost unattended, sat patiently through the games and shows which the Romans passionately loved, went out to dinner readily when asked, and charmed men by his simple courtesy. He could bear plain speaking too, for a blunt soldier to whose petition he said that he was too busy to attend, told him to his face, that he had never said he was too busy to expose his own life for him in battle. The expenses of his household scarcely rose to the level of those of many a wealthy noble; he wore no clothes save those made for him by Livia and her women, and studiously avoided all profusion or extravagance. He tried also to spare his people’s purses, for upon a journey he often passed through a town by night, to give the citizens no chance of proving their loyalty by costly outlay.

But he spent his treasure lavishly for public ends The public games and festivals provided by him were on a scale of magnificence quite unexampled; great sums were often spent in largess to the populace of Rome. In times of scarcity corn was sold in the capital below cost price, besides the vast quantities distributed in free doles among the poor. Noble senators of decayed fortunes were often pensioned, to enable them to live up to their rank. Costly buildings set apart for public uses, temples, baths, theatres, and aqueducts, rose rapidly on every side. His kinsmen, intimates, all whom his influence could move, vied with him in such outlay, and helped him to realise the boast of later days, that he found a city of brick and left one of marble in its place? The great roads in Italy and through the provinces were carefully repaired, and a postal system set on foot, confined, it is true, to official uses. Armed patrols marched along the roads, brigandage was forcibly put down, slave-gangs were inspected, and the abuses of times of violence redressed. In the capital itself a police force was organized for the first time, intended mainly at the first for protection against fire, but soon extended and made permanent to secure peace and order in the streets, which for centuries the Republic had neglected. In distant countries his fatherly care was shown in time of need by liberal grants of money, to help public works, or repair the ravages of earthquakes. The interests of the legions also were consulted, but not at the expense of quiet citizens, as before. Vast sums were spent in buying up lands in the neighbourhood of the great towns of Italy, where war or slow decay had thinned their numbers, in order at once to recruit the urban population and supply the veterans with farms. Colonies were planted, too, beyond the seas, for the relief of the overgrown populace of Rome.

There was enough in such material boons to conciliate all classes through the Empire. The stiff-necked champions of the Republic had died upon the battlefield; a generation had grown up demoralised by years of anarchy, and few were left to mourn the loss of freedom. Few eyes could see what was one day to be apparent, that the disguises and the insincerities of the new régime were full of danger; that to senator and office-bearer the paths of politics were strewn with snares; that in the face of a timid or suspicious ruler it would be as perilous to show their fear as to make a brave show of independence. For a while they heard the familiar sounds of Senate, consul, and of tribune; they saw the same pageants as of old in daily life. Nor did they realise as yet that liberty was gone for ever, and that the ancient forms that passed before them were as empty of real life as the ancestral masks that moved along the streets to the noble Roman’s funeral pyre.

From the imperial machinery we may next turn to the great men who helped possibly to create and certainly to work it. It was the singular good fortune of Augustus to secure the services of two ministers like Agrippa and Maecenas, of different genius but equal loyalty of character.

Marcus Vipsanius, surnamed Agrippa, had been in early days the schoolfellow and intimate of Octavius. They were at Apollonia together, studying the philosophy and art of Greece, when the tidings came that Caesar had been murdered. They were together when the bold scheme was formed and the two youths set forth together to claim the heritage of Caesar and to strive for the empire of the world. To whom the initiative was due we know not; but we do know that Agrippa’s courage never wavered, though Octavianus seemed at times ready to falter and draw back. To the many-sided activity of Agrippa and to his unfailing resolution the success of that enterprise seems mainly due. He was the great general of the cause that triumphed, the hero of every forlorn hope, and the knight-errant for every hazardous adventure in distant regions. His energy helped to win Perugia after stubborn siege; his quick eye saw in the Lucrine lake the shelter for the fleets that were to be manned and trained before they could hope to face Sextus Pompeius, the bold corsair chief, who swept the seas and menaced Rome with famine. Thanks to him again the victory of Actium was won, for the genius if not the courage of Octavianus failed him on the scene of battle.

Whenever danger showed itself henceforth—in Gaul, in Spain, where the native tribes rose once more in arms; in Pontus, where one of the line of Mithridates unfurled the banner of revolt; on the shores of the Danube, where the Pannonians were stirring—no hand but Agrippa’s could be trusted to dispel the gathering storms. We find in him not heroism alone but the spirit of self-sacrifice. Three times, we read, he refused the honours of a triumph. At a word he stooped to the lowest round of official rank, the aedileship, burdened as it was with the ruinous responsibilities of shows and festivals, and kept the Romans in good humour at a critical moment of the civil struggle. To win further popularity by the sweets of material well-being, the soldier forsook the camp and courted the arts of peace, busied himself with sanitary reforms, repaired the magnificent cloaca of old Rome, constructed the splendid therma for the hot baths introduced from Eastern lands, built new aqueducts towering aloft upon the arches of the old, and distributed the pure water so conveyed to fountains in every quarter of the city, which were decorated with statues and columns of precious marbles to be counted by the hundred. Another sacrifice was called for—to divorce the daughter of Atticus, Cicero’s famous friend, and draw nearer the throne by marrying the Emperor’s niece, Marcella; and he obeyed from dutiful submission to his master, or from the ambitious hope to share the power which his sword had won. Soon it seemed as if his loyalty was to meet with its reward. Augustus was brought to death’s door by sudden illness, and, in what seemed like his last hour, seized Agrippa’s hand and slipped a ring upon the finger, as if to mark him out for his successor. But health returned again, and with it visible coolness towards Agrippa and increased affection for Marcellus, his young nephew.

Agrippa resigned himself without a murmur, and lived in retirement a while at Lesbos, till the death of Marcellus and the warnings of Maecenas pointed him out again as the only successor worthy of the Empire. Signs of discontent among the populace of Rome quickened the Emperor’s desire to have his trusty friend beside him, and to draw him yet more closely to him he bade him put away Marcella, and gave him his own daughter Julia. Once more he obeyed in silence, and now might fairly hope to be rewarded for his patience and one day to mount into the weakly Emperor’s place. But his lot was to be always second, never first. His strong frame, slowly weakened by hard campaigns and ceaseless journeys at full speed in every quarter of the world, gave (BC 12) way at last, and his career was closed while he seemed yet in his prime. In him Augustus lost a gallant soldier and unselfish friend, who is said, indeed, to have advised him after Actium to resign his power, but who certainly had done more than any other to set him up and to keep him on the pinnacle of greatness. It throws a curious light upon his story to read the comment on it in the pages of the naturalist Pliny. He is speaking of the superstitious fancy that misery clouded the lives of all who were called Agrippa. In spite, he says, of his brilliant exploits he was no exception to the rule. He was unlucky in his wife Julia, who dishonoured his good name; in his children, who died by poison or in exile; and unhappy also in bearing all his life what he calls the hard bondage of Augustus. The friend for whom he toiled so long and faithfully showed little tenderness of heart; the master whom he served had tasked his energies in every sphere, and called for many an act of self-devotion, but he had already looked coldly on his loyal minister, and he might at any moment weary of a debt he could not pay, and add another page to the long chronicle of the ingratitude of princes.

Maecenas, better known by his mother’s name than that of Cilnius, his father, came from an Etruscan stock that had given a line of masters to Arretium. He was better fitted for the council chamber than the field of battle, for the delicate manoeuvres of diplomacy than for the rough work of stormy times. During the years of civic struggle, and while the air was charged with thunder-clouds, we find him always, as the trusty agent of Octavianus, engaged on every important mission that needed adroitness and address. His subtle tact and courtesies were tried with the same success upon Sextus Pompeius and on Antonius, when the confidence of each was to be won, or angry feelings charmed away, or the dangers of a coalition met. His honied words were found of not less avail with the populace of Rome, when scarcity and danger threatened and the masters of the legions were away. It seemed, indeed, after the Empire was once established that his political career was closed, for he professed no high ambition, refused to wear the gilded chains of office, or to rise above the modest rank of knighthood. He seemed content with his great wealth (how gained we need not ask), with the social charms of literary circles and the refinements of luxurious ease, of which the Etruscans were proverbially fond. But his influence, though secret, was as potent as before. He was still the Emperor’s chief adviser, counselling tact and moderation, ready to soothe his ruffled nerves when sick and weary with the cares of state. He was still serving on a secret mission, and one that lasted all his life. Keenly relishing the sweets of peace and all the refined and social pleasures which a great capital alone can furnish, haunted by no high principles to vex his Sybaritic ease, and gifted with a rare facility of winning words, he was peculiarly fitted to influence the tone of Roman circles and diffuse a grateful pride in the material blessings of imperial rule. He could sympathise with the weariness of men who had passed through long years of civic strife and seen every cause betrayed by turns, and who craved only peace and quiet, with leisure to enjoy and to forget. Instinct or policy soon led him to caress the rising poets of the day, for their social influence might be great. Their epigrams soon passed from mouth to mouth; a well-turned phrase or a bold satire lingered in the memory long after the sound of the verses died away; and the practice of public recitations gave them at times something of the power to catch the public ear which journalism has had in later days. So from taste and policy alike Maecenas played the part of patron of the arts and letters. He used the fine point and wit of Horace to sing the praises of the enlightened ruler who gave peace and plenty to the world, to scoff meantime at high ambitions, and play with the memory of fallen causes. The social philosophy of moderation soothed the self-respect of men who were sated with the fierce game of politics and war, and gladly saw their indolent and sceptical refinement reflected in the poet’s graceful words. He used the nobler muse of Vergil to lead the fancy of the Romans back to the good old days, ere country life was deserted for the camp and city, suggesting the subject of the Georgies to revive the old taste for husbandry and lead men to break up the waste land with the plough. He helped also to degrade that muse by leading it astray from worthier themes to waste its melody and pathos in the uncongenial attempt to throw a halo of heroic legend round the cradle of the Julian line. Other poets, too, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, paid dearly for the patronage which cramped their genius and befouled their taste, and in place of truer inspiration prompted chiefly amorous insipidities and servile adulation. For himself his chief aim in later life seemed careless ease, but that boon fled away from him the more he wooed it. The Emperor eyed Terentia, his wife, too fondly, and the injured husband consoled himself with the best philosophy he could. But she was a scold as well as a coquette, and now drove him to despair with bitter words, now lured him to her side again, till their quarrels passed at length beyond the house and became the common talk of all the gossips of the town. As he was borne along the streets, lolling in his litter, in a dress loose with studied negligence, his fingers all bedecked with rings, with eunuchs and parasites and jesters in his train, men asked each other with a smile what was the last news of the fickle couple—were they married or divorced again? At las his nerves gave way and sleep forsook him. In vain he had recourse to the pleasures of the table which his Tuscan nature loved, to the rare wines that might lull his cares to rest, to distant orchestras of soothing music. In earlier days he had set to tuneful verse what Seneca calls the shameful prayer, that his life might still be spared when health and strength and comeliness forsook him. He lived long enough to feel the vanity of all his wishes. Nothing could cure his lingering agony of sleeplessness or drive the spectre of death from his bedside. But the end came at last. He passed away, and, loyal even in his death, he left the Emperor his heir.

We have watched Augustus in his public life, and marked his measures and his ministers; it is time now to turn to his domestic circle and see what influences were about him here. The chief figure to be studied is Livia, his wife, who had been the object of his violent love while still married to Tiberius Nero, and had been forced to quit her reluctant husband for the home of the triumvir. She soon gained over him an influence that never wavered. Her gentle courtesies of manner, her wifely virtues never tainted by the breath of scandal, the homeliness with which she copied the grave matrons of old days who stayed at home and spun the wool to clothe their men, the discreet reserve with which she shut her eyes to her husband’s infidelities, are the reasons given by herself, as we are told, when she was asked for the secret of her power. Quite insufficient in themselves, they may have helped to secure the ascendency which her beauty and her strength of character had won. The gradual change that may be traced in the outward bearing of Augustus may be due partly to her counsels. Certainly she seemed to press patience and forbearance on him, and Dion Cassius at a later time puts into her mouth a pretty sermon on the grace of mercy when her husband’s temper had been soured by traitorous plots. She was open-handed too in works of charity, brought up poor children at her own expense, and gave many a maid a marriage dower. Caligula, who knew her well, and had insight in his own mad way, called her ‘Ulysses in petticoats’; and the men of her own day, it seems, thought her such a subtle schemer, that they credited her with acts of guile of which no evidence was produced. Dark rumours floated through the streets of Rome, and men spoke of her in meaning whispers, as death knocked again and again at the old man’s doors and the favourites of the people passed away. It was her misfortune or her guilt that all who were nearest to the Emperor, all who stood between her son and the succession, died by premature and seemingly mysterious deaths. The young Marcellus, to whose memory Vergil raised the monument of his pathetic lines; the brave Agrippa, cut off when all his hopes seemed nearest to fulfilment; two of Julia’s children by Agrippa, within eighteen months of each other; all died in turn before their time, and all were followed to the grave by regrets and by suspicions that grew louder in each case. For Livia had had no children by Augustus. Of the fruit of her first marriage Drusus died in Germany, and Tiberius alone was left. The popular fancy, goaded by repeated losses, found it easy to believe that a ruthless tragedy was going on before their eyes, and that the chief actor was a mother scheming for her son, calmly sweeping from his path every rival that she feared. One grandson still was left, the youngest of Julia’s children, Agrippa Postumus, who was born after his father’s death. On him Augustus lavished his love awhile as the last hope of his race, adopted him even as his own; but soon he found, or was led to fancy, that the boy was clownish and intractable, removed him to Surrentum, and when confinement made him worse, to the island of Planasia. But one day pity or regret stole over the old man’s heart: he slipped away quietly with a single confidant to see the boy, seemed to feel the old love revive again, and spoke as if he would restore him to his place at home. The one bystander told his wife the story, and she whispered it to Livia’s ear. That witness died suddenly soon after, and his wife was heard to moan that her indiscretion caused his death. Then Livia dared no longer to wait, lest a dotard’s fondness should be fatal to her hopes. Quietly she took her potent drugs to a favourite fig-tree in a garden close at hand, then as they walked together later on offered him the poisoned figs and ate herself of the harmless ones that grew beside. Such were the stories that were current too lightly credited perhaps from fear noteworthy as reflecting the credulous the people, and the fatality that seemed at the time, or hate, but suspicions of to haunt the household of the Caesars. Of that family the two Julias yet remained alive, the wife and daughter of Agrippa : but they were pining in their lonely prisons, and their memory had almost passed away.

The elder Julia was the child of Augustus by Scribonia. Betrothed while still in the nursery to a young son of Antonius, she was promised in jest to Cotison, a chieftain of the Getae, and then to the nephew of the Emperor, Marcellus. At his death she passed, at the age of seventeen, and with her the hopes of the succession, to Agrippa’s house, where an earlier wife was displaced to make room for her. Eleven years she lived with him, and when he died Tiberius must in his turn divorce the Agrippina whom he loved and take the widowed princess to his house. She had been brought up strictly, almost sternly by her father. Profligate as he had been himself in early life, his standard of womanly decorum was a high one, and he wished to see in Julia the austere dignity of the Roman matrons of old days. But she was readier to follow the examples of his youth than the disguises and hypocrisies of his later life. She scorned the modest homeliness of Livia and the republican simplicity of Augustus, aired ostentatiously her pride of race, and loved profusion and display. Once freed by marriage from the restraints of her father’s home, she began a career of license unparalleled even for that age. She flung to the winds all womanly reserves, paraded often in her speech a cynical disdain for conventional restraints, and gathered round her the most reckless of the youth of Rome, till her excesses became a scandal and a byword through the town. The Emperor was the last to know of his dishonoured name. He had marked, indeed, with grave displeasure her love of finery and sumptuous living, had even destroyed a house which she built upon too grand a scale; but for years no one dared to tell him more, till at last some one, perhaps Livia, raised the veil, and the whole story of her life was known. He heard of her long career of guilty license, and how but lately she had roved at night through the city with her tram of revellers and made the Forum the scene of her worst orgies, dishonouring with bold words and shameless deeds the very tribune where her father stood but yesterday to speak in favour of his stricter marriage laws. He was told, though with little show of truth, that she was plotting a still darker deed and urging her paramour to take his life. The blow fell very hardly on the father, and clouded all the peace of his last years. At first his rage passed quite from his control. Her desks were ransacked, her slaves were tortured, and all the infamous details poured out before the Senate. When he was told that Phoebe, the freed woman and confidant of Julia, had hung herself in her despair he answered grimly, ‘Would that I were Phoebe’s father’. Nothing but her death seemed likely to content him. Then came a change; he shut himself away from sight, and would speak of her no more. She was exiled to a cheerless island; and though the fickle people, and Tiberius even, pleaded for her pardon, she was at most allowed at Rhegium a less gloomy prison. There, in her despairing loneliness, she must have felt a lingering agony of retribution. She heard how the hand of vengeance fell upon her friends and paramours, and, harder still to bear, how child after child mysteriously died, and only two were left—Agrippa, thrust away from sight and pity on his petty island, and Julia, who had followed in her mother’s steps, and was an exile and a prisoner like herself.

Such family losses and dishonours might well embitter the Emperor’s last years; but other causes helped to deepen the gloom which fell upon him. Since Agrippa’s death there was no general whom he could trust to lead his armies, no strong hand to curb the restless tribes of the half-conquered North, or roll back from the frontiers the tide of war. He sent his grand­sons to the distant armies; but they were young and inexperienced, and firmer hands than theirs were needed to save the eagles from disgrace.

One great disaster at this time revealed the danger and sent a thrill of horror through the Empire. German tribes upon the Gallic border had kept unbroken peace of late, and many of them seemed quite to have submitted to the Roman rule. A few years before, indeed, some hordes had dashed across the Rhine upon a plundering foray, and in the course of it had laid an ambush for the Roman cavalry, and driven them and Lollius, their leader, backward in confusion and disgrace. But that storm had rolled away again, and the tribes sent hostages and begged for peace. Roman influence seemed spreading through the North, as year by year the legions and the traders carried the arts of settled life into the heart of Germany. But in an evil hour Quintilius Varus was sent thither in command. The rule seemed too lax and the change too slow for his impatience, and he set himself to consolidate and civilize in hot haste. Discontent and disaffection spread apace, but Varus saw no danger and had no suspicions. The German chieftains, when their plots were laid, plied him with fair assurances of peace, lured him to leave the Rhine and march towards the Visurgis (Weser) through tribes that were all ready for revolt. Wiser heads warned him of the coming danger, but in vain. He took no heed, he would not even keep his troops together and in hand. At last the schemers, Arminius (Hermann) at their head, thought the time had come. They began the rising at a distance, and made him think it only a local outbreak in a friendly country; so they led him on through forest lands, then rose upon him on all sides in a dangerous defile. The legions, taken by surprise as they were marching carelessly, hampered with baggage and camp-followers, could make little head against their foes. They tried to struggle on through swamps and woods, where falling trees crushed them as they passed along, and barricades were piled by unseen hands, while wind and rain seemed leagued together for their min. Three days they stood at bay and strove to beat off their assailants, who returned with fresh fury to the charge. Then their strength or courage failed them. The more resolute spirits slew themselves with their own hands, and the rest sank down to die. Of three full legions few survived, and for many a year the name of that field of death—the Saltus Teutoburgiensis—sounded ominously in Roman ears.

In the capital there was a panic for awhile. A short time before they had heard the tidings that Pannonia was in revolt, and now came the news that Germany was all in arms, and, forcing the Roman lines, stripped as they were of their army of defence, might pour even into Italy, which seemed a possible nay easy prey. The danger, indeed, was not so imminent. Tiberius, and after him Germanicus, maintained the frontier and avenged their soldiers; but the loss of prestige was very great, and the emperor felt it till his death. For months of mourning he would not trim his beard or cut his hair, and ‘Varus, give me back my legions!’ was the moan men often heard him utter. He felt it the more keenly because soldiers were so hard to find. At the centre no one would enlist. In vain he appealed to their sense of honour, in vain he had recourse to stringent penalties; he was forced at last to enrol freedmen and make up his legions from the rabble of the streets. He had seen long since hardly with alarm that the population was decreasing, soldiers, had re-stocked the dwindling country towns with colonists, had tried to promote marriage among all classes, had forced through a reluctant Senate the Lex Papia Poppaea by which celibacy was saddled with penal disabilities. But men noticed with a sneer that the two consuls after whom the law was named were both unmarried, and it was a hopeless effort to arrest such social tendencies by legislation. The central countries of the Empire could not now find men to fill the ranks. The veterans might be induced to forsake the little glebes of which they soon grew weary, but others would not answer to the call. Whole regions were almost deserted, and the scanty populations had little mind for war. So the distant provinces became the legions’ recruiting-ground, and the last comers in the Empire must defend it.

Under the pressure of such public and domestic cares we need not wonder that the Emperor became moody and morose, and that the unlovely qualities of earlier days began to re-appear. He shunned the gentle courtesies of social life, would be present at no festive gathering, disliked even to be noticed or saluted. Increasing weakness gave him an excuse for failing to be present in the Senate— a few picked men could represent the body, and the Emperor’s bedchamber became a privy council. He heard with petulance that the exiles in the islands were trying to relax the rigour of their lot, and living in comfort and in luxury. Stringent restrictions were imposed upon their freedom. He heard of writings that were passing through men’s hands in which his name was spoken of with caustic wit and scant respect. The books must be hunted out at once and burnt, and the authors punished if they could be found. The bitter partisanship with which Titus Labienus had expressed his republican sympathies, and the meaning look with which he turned over pages of his history, which could be read only after he was dead, have made his name almost typical of the struggle between despotism and literary independence. Cassius Severus said he must be burnt himself, if the memory of Labienus’ work must be quite stamped out; and his was, accordingly, the first of the long list of cases in which the old laws of treason—the Leges Majestatis—were strained to reach not acts alone but words. A much more familiar name, the poet Ovid, is brought before us at this time. The spoiled child of the fashionable society of Rome, he had early lent his facile wit to amuse the careless worldlings round him, had made a jest of the remonstrances of serious friends, who tried to win his thoughts to politics and busy life, and had squandered all his high gifts of poetry on frivolous or wanton themes. His conversational powers or his literary fame attracted the notice of the younger Julia, and he was drawn into the gay circle that surrounded her. There in an evil hour, it seems, he was made the confidant of dangerous secrets, and was one of the earliest to suffer when the Emperor’s eyes at last were opened. To the would-be censor and reformer of the public morals, who had turned his back upon the follies of his youth, the poet’s writings must have been long distasteful, as thinly veiled allurements to licentiousness. The indignant grandfather eyed them still more sternly, saw in them the source or the apology of wanton deeds, and drove their author from the Rome he loved so well to a half-civilised home at Tomi, on the Scythian frontier, from which all his unmanly flatteries and lamentations failed to free him.

It was time Augustus should be called away; he had lived too long for happiness and fame, his subjects were growing weary of their master, and some were ready to conspire against him. Still doubtless in the provinces men blessed his name, as they thought of the prosperity and peace which he had long secured to them. One ship’s crew of Alexandria, we read, when he put into Puteoli, where they were, came with garlands, frank­incense, and glad words of praise to do him honour. ‘To him they owed,’ so ran their homage, ‘their lives, their liberties, and the wellbeing of their trade? But those who knew him best were colder in their praises now, and scarcely wished that he should tarry long among them. For seventy-five years his strength held out, sickly and enfeebled as his body seemed. The summons came as he was coasting by Campania, and left him only time to crawl to Naples and thence to Nola, where he died. To those who stood beside his bed his last words, if reported truly, breathe the spirit of his life : “What think ye of the comedy, my friends? Have I fairly played my part in it? If so, applaud?” The applause, if any, must be given to the actor rather than to the man, for the least lovely features of his character seem most truly his.

In his last years he was busy with the task of giving an account of his long stewardship. Long ago he had set on foot a survey of the Empire, and maps had been prepared by the geographical studies of Agrippa. Valuations of landed property had been made, as one step, though a very partial one, towards a uniform system of taxation. He had now gathered up for the benefit of his successors and the Senate all the varied information statistics, that lay ready to his hand. He had written out with his own hand, we are told, the statistics of chief moment, an account of the population in its various grades of privilege, one muster-rolls of all the armies and the fleets, and the balance-sheet of the revenue and expenditure of state. Taught by the experience of later years, or from the depression caused by decaying strength, he added for future rulers the advice to be content with organizing what was won already, and not to push the frontiers of the army further. Before he died he took a last survey of his own life, wrote out a summary of all the public acts which he cared to recall to memory, and left directions that the chronicle should be engraved on brazen tablets in the mausoleum built to do him honour. That chronicle may still be read, though not at Rome. In a distant province, at the town of Ancyra, in Galatia, a temple had been built for the worship of Augustus, and the guardian priests had a copy of his own biography carved out at length in stone on one of the side-walls. The temple has passed since then to other uses and witnessed the rites of a different religion; houses have sprung up round it, and partly hidden, though probably preserved, the old inscription. Until of late only a part of it could be deciphered, but a few years ago the patient energy of the explorers sent out by the French Government succeeded in uncovering the whole wall and making a complete copy of nearly all that had been written on it. From the place where it was found its literary name is the ‘Monumentum Ancyranum’. It is not without a certain grandeur, which even those may feel who dispute the author’s claim to greatness. With stately confidence and monumental brevity of detail it unfolds the long roll of his successes. Disdaining seemingly to stoop to the pettiness of bitter words, it speaks calmly of his fallen rivals; veiling, indeed, in constitutional terms the illegalities of his career, but misleading or unfair only by its silence. Not a word is there to revive the hateful memory of the proscriptions, little to indicate the dire suspense of the war with Sextus Pompeius, or the straits and anxieties of the long struggle with Antonius; but those questionable times of his career once passed, the narrative flows calmly on. It recounts with proud self-confidence the long list of battles fought and victories won; the nations finally subdued under his rule; the Eastern potentates who sought his friendship; the vassal princes who courted his protection. It tells of the many colonies which he had founded, and of the towns recruited by his veterans; speaks of the vast sums that he had spent on shows and largess for the people; and describes the aqueducts and various buildings that had sprung up at his bidding to add to the material magnificence of Rome. For all these benefits the grateful citizens had hailed him as the father of his country. To the provincials who read these lines it might seem perhaps that there were few signs in them of any feeling that the Empire owed any duties to themselves. A few words of reference to the sums spent in time of need upon their towns, and that was all. To the administrator it might seem a strange omission to say nothing of the great change in the ruling mechanism. Yet in what was there omitted lay his claim to greatness. The plea which justified the Empire was found in the newly-organized machinery of government and in the peace and justice long secured to the whole civilised world.

High as he had risen in life, he was to be raised to a yet higher rank after his death, and the deified Augustus became, like many a succeeding emperor, the object of a national worship. A phenomenon so startling to our modem thought calls for some words of comment. First, we may note that polytheism naturally tends to efface the boundary-lines between the human and the divine. It peoples earth and air and water with its phantom beings, of bounded powers and clashing wills, and weaves with wanton hand the fanciful tissue of its legends, in which it plays with the story of their loves and hates and fitful moods of passion, till its deities can scarcely be distinguished from the mortal men and women in whose likeness they are pictured.

Eastern thought, moreover, seldom scrupled to honour its great men with the names and qualities of god-head. Often in servile flattery, sometimes perhaps in the spirit of a mystic creed, it saw in the rulers whom it feared a sort of avatar or incarnation of a power divine, which it made the object of its worship. The Pharaohs of Egypt and the monarchs of Assyria were deified even in their lifetime by the language of inscriptions, and in later times temples were raised in Asia Minor in honour of the governors of the day, so that Antonius and Cleopatra gave little shock to Eastern sentiment when in their royal pageant they assumed the titles and the symbols of Isis and Osiris. It was, therefore, on this side of the Roman world that the fashion of worshipping the Emperor began. Even in the lifetime of Augustus deputations came from towns of Asia which were anxious to set up altars and build temples in his honour. For a while, indeed, he treated them with coldness and sometimes with mockery, he yet could not quite repress the enthusiasm of their servile worship, which grew apace in the more distant provinces.

Less credulous minds looked upon the tendency as only a fanciful way of symbolizing a tendency, or great fact. Much of the simple faith in the old legendary creeds had passed away before the critical spirit of Greek culture and many thought that the heroes and gods of the old fables were but the great men of past times seen through the mist of popular fancy, till a divine halo gathered round their superhuman stature. If the sentiment of bygone days had made gods out of the men who sowed the seeds of art and learning and tamed the savagery of early life, the wondering awe of ignorant folk might be allowed to crystallize still in the same forms, and to find a national deity in the great ruler who secured for the whole world the boon of civilised order. So reasoned probably the critical and unimpassioned, content to humour the credulous fancy of the masses, and to deal tenderly with an admiration which they did not share, but which it might be dangerous to thwart.

Above all, in Italy the tendency in question found support and strength in a widespread feeling which had lingered on from early times, that the souls of men did not pass away at death, but still haunted their old homes, and watched as guardian Lares over the weal and woe of the generations that came after. Offering and prayer seemed but a fitting token of respect, and might be useful to quicken their sympathies or appease their envy. Thus every natural unity, the family, the clan, the canton, and the nation, had their tutelary powers and special ritual of genuine home­growth, while in nearly all besides the foreign influences had overlaid the old religious forms. It had been part of the conservative policy of Augustus to foster these old forms of worship, to repair the little chapels in the city wards, and to give priestly functions to the masters of the streets officially connected with them. Even while he lived he allowed the figure of his Genius to be placed in the chapels beside the Lares. At his death divine honours were assigned to it as to the rest, or rather it rose of above them all, as the imperial unity had towered above the petty districts which they were thought to guard. Temples rose to the deified Augustus, altars smoked in every land, and guilds of Augustales were organized to do him priestly service—for the provinces were eager to follow the example of the imperial city, and their loyal zeal had even outstripped the reverence of Rome. The ruling powers were well pleased to see a halo of awfulness gather round their race, while subject peoples saw in the apotheosis of the monarch only a fitting climax to the majesty of his life and a symbol of the greatness of the Empire. And so succeeding monarchs in their turn were deified by pagan Rome, as saints were canonized by favour of the Pope. The Senate’s vote gave divine honours with the title of ‘Divus’, and it was passed commonly as a matter of course, or withheld only as a token of abhorrence or contempt.


TIBERIUS.—A.D. 14-37.


Tiberius Claudius Nero was the son of Tiberius Nero and Livia, and was carried by them while still an infant in their hurried flight after the surrender of Perugia. On their return to Rome after the general peace his parents were separated by the imperious will of Octavianus, who made Livia his wife. Losing his father at the age of nine, and taken from the nursery to pronounce the funeral speech, he was placed again under his mother’s care and became the object of her ambitious hopes. He married the daughter of Agrippa, and loved her well, but was forced to leave her afterwards for Julia, who brought as her dowry the prospects of the imperial succession. He was soon sent to learn the business of a soldier, serving in the campaign in Pannonia and Germany, and dispatched on missions of importance, such as to crown Tigranes in Armenia as a subject prince, and to carry home the eagles which had been lost in Parthia by Crassus. At home all the old offices of state were pressed upon him, till at last he was honoured even with the significant honour of the tribunician power. Yet Augustus seems to have had little liking for him, and to have noted keenly all his faults, the taciturn sullenness which contrasted painfully with the Emperor’s gayer moods, his awkward gestures and slow articulation when he spoke, the haughtiness of manner which came naturally to all the Claudian line, and the habit of hard drinking, on which the rude soldiers spent their wit when they termed him punningly ‘Biberius Mero’. The Emperor even went so far as to speak to the Senate on the subject, and to say that they were faults of manner rather than of character. For the rest we hear that he was comely in face and well-proportioned, and handsome enough to attract Julia’s fancy; nor could he be without strong natural affection, for he loved his first wife fondly, and lived happily with Julia for a while, and showed the sincerest sorrow when his brother Drusus died. This is all we hear of him till the age of thirty-five. Then comes a great break in his career. Suddenly, without a word of explanation, he wishes to leave Rome and retire from public life (BC 6). Livia’s entreaties, the Emperor’s protests, and the remonstrances of friends have no effect; and having wrung from Augustus his consent, he betakes himself to Rhodes. What were his motives cannot now be known. It may have been in part his disgust at the guilty life of Julia, who outraged his honour and allowed her paramours to make merry with his character; in part perhaps weariness at being always kept in leading­strings at Rome; but most probably it was jealousy at the rising star of the young grandsons of the Emperor, and fear of the dangers that might flow from too visible a rivalry. In the pleasant isle of Rhodes he lived awhile, quietly enough, though he could not always drop his rank. One day he was heard to say that he would go and see the sick. He found that he was saved the trouble of going far in search, as the magistrates had them all brought out and laid in order under the arcades, with more regard to his convenience than theirs. Another time, when a war of words was going on among the wranglers in the schools, he stepped into the fray, and was so much hurt at being roughly handled that, hurrying home, he sent a guard to seize the poor professor who had ventured to ignore his dignity. At length, growing weary of his stay at Rhodes, he said that the young princes were now secure of the succession, and that he may safely take a lower place at Rome. But Augustus coldly bade him stay and take no further trouble about those whom he was so determined to forsake.

Then came a time of terrible suspense. He knew that he was closely watched, and that the simplest words were easily misjudged. The Emperor reproached him with tampering with the loyalty of the officers who put in at Rhodes to see him. He shunned the coast and lived in solitude, to avoid all official visits, and yet he heard to his alarm that he was still regarded with suspicion, that threatening words had passed about him in the intimate circle of the young Caesars, that his prospects looked so black that the citizens of Nemausus (Nimes) had even flung his statue down to curry favour with his enemies, that his innocence would help him little, and that at any moment he might fall. Only Thrasyllus, his astrologer, might see him, to excite him with ambiguous words. But Livia’s influence was strong enough at last to bring him back to Rome after more than seven years of absence, to live, however, in complete retirement in the gardens of Maecenas, to take like a schoolboy to mythology, and pose the grammarians who formed his little court with nice questions about the verses which the Seirens used to sing, or the false name which the young Achilles bore. Not until the death of the young Caesars was he taken back to favour and adopted by the Emperor as his son.

But the weariness of those long years of forced inaction, the lingering agony of that suspense had done their work, and he resigned himself henceforth without a murmur to the Emperor’s will. Not a moment of impatience at the caprices of the sick old man, not an outspoken word nor hasty gesture now betrayed his feelings; but, as an apt pupil in the school of hypocrisy about him, he learned to dissemble and to wait. The only favour that he asked was to take his post in every field of danger, and to prove his loyalty and courage. With all his powers of self-restraint he must have breathed more freely in the camp than in the stifling air of Rome, and the revolt in Pannonia gave him the opportunity he needed. That war, said to be the most dangerous since the wars with Carthage, tasked for three years all his resources as a general at the head of fifteen legions. Scarcely was it closed when the defeat of Varus summoned him to the German frontier to avenge the terrible disaster. In the campaigns that followed he spared no vigilance or personal effort, shared the hardships of the soldiers, and enforced the rigorous discipline of ancient generals. Not only does Velleius Paterculus, who served among his troops, speak of his commander in terms of unbounded praise, but later writers, who paint generally a darker picture, describe his merits at this time without reserve.

From such duties he was called away to the deathbed of Augustus, whom he found at Nola, either dead already or almost at the last gasp. But Livia had been long since on the watch, had strictly guarded all approach to his bed-side, and let no one know that the end was near till her son was ready and their measures taken. He had been long since marked out for the succession by the formal act of adoption, which made him the natural heir, as also by the partnership in the tribunician dignity, which raised him above all the other subjects. But the title to the sovereign rank was vague and ill-defined, and no constitutional theory of succession yet existed. As the Empire by name and origin rested on a military basis the consent of the soldiery was all-important. If the traditions of many years were to have weight, the Senate must be consulted and respected. The legions were far away upon the frontiers, in greatest force upon the side of Germany and Pannonia; and the first news came from the North was that the two armies were in mutiny, clamouring for higher pay and laxer discipline. The hasty levies raised after the defeat of Varus had lowered the general morale, and carried to the camp the turbulent license of the capital On the Rhine there was the further danger that Germanicus, his nephew, who was then in supreme command, should rely on his influence with his troops and lead them on, or be led by them, to fight for empire. This son of Drusus, who had been the popular idol of his day, and who was said to have hankered after the old liberties of the Republic, had won himself the soldiers’ hearts by his courtesy, gallantry, and grace, and the familiar name of Germanicus which they gave him is the only one by which history has known him since. They were ready to assert their right to be consulted. The power which they defended was in their hands to give at a word from him, and if that word had been spoken they would certainly have marched in arms to Rome. But he was not fired by such ambitious hopes, nor had he had he been seemingly any sentimental dreams of ancient willing, freedom. He took without delay the oath of obedience to Tiberius, restored discipline after a few anxious days of mutiny, and then tried to distract the thoughts of his soldiers from dangerous memories by a series of campaigns into the heart of Germany.

Tiberius meanwhile at home was feeling his way with very cautious steps. While he was still uncertain of the attitude of Germanicus and the temper of the legions, he used nothing but ambiguous language, affected to decline the reins of the state, kept even the Senate in suspense, and at last with feigned reluctance accepted office only for a while, till they should see fit to give him rest. It was in keeping with such policy that he shrank from the excessive honours which the Senate tried to lavish of him, and declined even the titles which Augustus had accepted. Either from fear or from disgust he showed dislike to the flattery which was at first rife about him, checked it when it was outspoken, and resented even as a personal offence the phrases ‘lord’ and ‘master’ as applied to him. Meantime the Senate was encouraged to think that the powers of administration rested in their hands. Nothing was too paltry, nothing was to be submitted for their discussion ; even military matters were at first referred to them, and generals in command were censured for neglecting to report their doings to the Council. The populace of Rome, however, was treated with less courtesy. The ancient forms of the elections were quite swept away, and in legislation also the Senate took the place of the popular assembly. Little attempt was made to keep the people in good humour by shows of gladiators or gorgeous pageants, and Tiberius would not try to put on the studied affability with which Augustus sat for hours through the spectacles, or the frank courtesy with which he stayed to salute the passers-by. But, on the other hand, he showed himself at first sincerely desirous of just rule, warned provincial governors who pressed him to raise higher taxes that ‘a good shepherd shears but does not flay his sheep’ and kept a careful watch on the tribunals to see that the laws were properly enforced. Vigorous measures were adopted to put down brigandage, the police of Italy was better regulated, popular disturbances in the capital or in the provinces were promptly and even sternly checked, and many of the abuses were remedied which had grown out of the old rights of sanctuary.

His reign must have been largely due to Livia’s influence. For many years Tiberius had been much away from Rome, and it was natural that he should at first rely upon his mother’s well-tried statecraft, her knowledge of men and familiar experience of the social forces of the times. He owed all to her patient scheming, even if she had not, as men thought, swept away by poison the obstacles to his advancement. Her position was for many reasons a commanding one. The will of Augustus had named her as co-heiress, given her the official title of Augusta, and raised her by adoption to the level of her son. She shared with him, therefore, in some measure the imperial dignity; their names were coupled in official language; the letters even of Tiberius ran for some time in her name as well as his. There were numerous coins of local currency, at Rome and in the provinces, on which her name was stamped, sometimes joined with her son’s but oftener alone. At her bidding, or by her influence, priesthoods were formed and temples rose in all parts of the empire to extend the worship of the deified Augustus; and inscriptions still preserved upon them testify to her pride of self-assertion, as well as to the policy with which she strove to surround the imperial family with the solemn associations of religious awe. To that end she also enlisted the fine arts in her service, and found employment for the first sculptors, engravers, and painters of the day in multiplying copies of the features of the ruling race, and endearing them to the imagination of the masses.

The Senate was not slow to encourage the ambition of Augusta. Vote after vote was passed as the members tried to outdo each other in their flattery, till they raised her even to the foremost place, and proposed to call the Emperor Livius to do her honour. Tiberius, indeed, demurred to this : and before long there were signs clear enough to curious eyes that he was ashamed to feel he owed her all, impatient of her tutelage, and jealous of her high pretensions. Men spoke in meaning whispers to each other, and wits made epigrams on the growing coldness between mother and son. They said he vainly strove to keep her in the shade. Old as she was, she clung to power and state, and relied on her talents and influence to hold her own. The Senate and the camp she could not visit, but in all else she claimed to rule. As he seemed to shun the eyes of men she came forward more in public, won popular favour by her courtesies and generous gifts, gathered her crowd of courtiers round her, conferred at her will the offices of state, and tried to overawe the courts of justice when the interests of her favourites were at stake. In the circle of her intimates we hear of irreverent wits whose caustic speeches did not spare the Emperor himself; and once, we read, when words ran high between Augusta and her son, she took from her bosom old letters of Augustus and read sarcastic passages that bore on his faults of manner or of temper. This coolness did not lead to open rupture, for his old habits of obedience were confirmed enough to bear the strain, and he submitted to her claims, though she used her grudgingly and ungraciously enough.

On the whole she used her influence wisely, and while she ruled, the policy of state was cool and wary. She could be stern and resolute enough when force seemed needful. She had given orders for the death of Agrippa Postumus as soon as his grandfather had ceased to breathe. She did not plead for pity with her son when he let Julia die a wretched death of slow starvation in her prison, and took at last his vengeance on her paramour for the mockery and outrage of the past. It is likely even that her quick eye saw the use that might be made of the old laws of treason, which had come down from the Commonwealth. They had been meant to strike at men who had by open act brought dishonour or disaster on the state. Sulla was the first to make them cover libellous words, and Augustus had, though sparingly, enforced them in like cases. The Caesar had already stepped into the people’s place and screened his majesty against so-called treason; but when the Caesar had been deified, any crime against his person was heightened by the sin of sacrilege. In the language of the law obedience to the living Emperor soon became confounded with the religious worship of the dead, and loyalty became in theory a sort of adoration. Any disrespect might carry danger with it. Jesting words against the late Emperor might be construed into blasphemy when the Emperor had become a god. His likeness must be held in honour, and it might be fatal even to beat a slave who clung for safety to his statue, or to treat carelessly his effigy upon a coin. A few such cases were enough to increase enormously the imperial prestige, and extend to the living members of the family some of the reverence that was gathering round the dead. But though Augusta had few scruples she had no taste for needless bloodshed, and while she lived she certainly exercised a restraining influence upon her son.

Another of the Emperor’s family exerted a force of like restraint though in a very different way. Germanicus was the darling of the legions, and might at any moment be a pretender to the throne. He had calmed his mutinous soldiery, led them more than once into the heart of Germany, visited the battlefield where Varus fell, and brought back with him in triumph the captive wife and child of Arminius, the national hero of the Germans. It might seem dangerous to leave him longer at the head of an army so devoted to their general—dangerous perhaps to bring him back to win the hearts of men at Rome. But his presence might be useful in the East, for the kingdoms of Parthia and Armenia had been torn by civil war and thrown into collision by the claims of rival candidates for power, and by wars of succession due in part at least to the intrigues of Rome. A general of high repute was needed to protect the frontier and appease the neighbouring powers, and the death of some of the vassal kings of Asia Minor had left thrones vacant, and wide lands to be annexed or organized. It was resolved to recall Germanicus from his post and to dispatch him to the Syrian frontier on this important mission. On the north there was a mission to little to be gained by border warfare, which provoked but could not crush the resistance of the German tribes, and there was wisdom in following the counsel of Augustus not to aim at further conquests. Germanicus might be unwilling to retire; but the duties to which he was transferred were of high dignity and trust. Yet men noted with alarm that Silanus, who was linked to him by tics of marriage, was recalled from Syria at the time, and the haughty, self-willed Cnaeus Piso made governor in his stead. Dark rumours spread abroad that he had been chosen for the task of watching and of thwarting the young prince, and that his wife, Plancina, had been schooled in all the petty jealousies and spite of which Agrippina was the mark. So far at least all was mere suspicion, but there was no doubt that when they went to Syria the attitude of Piso was haughty and offensive. He made a bold parade of independence, disputed the authority and cavilled at the words and actions of Germanicus, tampered even with the loyalty of the soldiers and drove him at last to open feud. When Germanicus fell ill soon afterwards Piso showed indecent glee, and though he was on the eve of quitting Syria he lingered till further news arrived. He put down by violence the open rejoicing of the crowd at Antioch when cheerful tidings came. Still he waited, and the murmur spread that the sickness was his work, and that poison and witchcraft had been used to gratify his spite and perhaps to do the Emperor’s bidding. Germanicus himself was ready to believe the story and to fear the worst. The suspicions gained force as he grew weaker, and his last charge on his deathbed to his poisoned friends was to expose his murderer and avenge his death (AD 19). The sad story was received at Rome with passionate sorrow and resentment. His father’s memory, his noble qualities and gentle bearing, had endeared him to all classes, and men recalled the ominous words that ‘those whom the people love die early’. One after another their favourites had passed away, cut off in the springtime of their youth; and now the last of them, the best beloved perhaps of all, had been sent away from them, they murmured, to the far East to die from the noxious air of Syria, or it might be from the virulence of Piso’s hate. Still more outspoken was the grief when the chief mourners reached the shores of Italy, and passed in sad procession through the towns. At the sight of the widowed Agrippina, and the children gathered round the funeral urn that held his ashes, all classes of society vied with each other in the tokens of their sympathy. There was no flattery in such signs of mourning, for few believed that Tiberius was sorry, and many thought that he was glad at the loss that they regretted. Was it grief that kept him in the palace, or fear lest men should read his heart? Was it due respect to his brave nephew to give such scant show of funeral honours, and to frown at the spontaneous outburst of his people’s sorrow ? Was it love of justice or a sense of guilt that made him so slow to punish Piso’s crime, so quick to discourage the zeal of his accusers ? They could only murmur and suspect, for nothing certain could be known. At Piso’s trial there was evidence enough of angry words and bitter feelings, of acts of insubordination, almost of civil strife, but no proof that Germanicus was murdered, still less that Tiberius was privy to the deed. It was, indeed, whispered abroad that the accused had evidence enough to prove that he only did what he was bidden; but if so, he feared to use it, and before the trial was over he died by his own hand.

The popular suspicion against Tiberius was no mere after-thought of later days, when Rome had learnt to know the darker features of his character. From the first they had never loved him, and the more they saw the less they liked him. He seemed of dark and gloomy temper, with no geniality of manner, shunning the pleasures of the people, and seldom generous or open­handed. He had even an ungracious way of doing what was right, and spoiled a favour by his way of granting it. There was such reserve and constraint in what he said that men thought him a profound dissembler and imputed to him crimes he had no thought of. They seemed to have divined the cruelty that was still latent, and to have detested him before his acts deserved their hate. Even in the early years the satires current in the city and the epigrams passed from mouth to mouth show us how intense was the dislike; and soon we see enough to justify it.

One of the most alarming features of the times in traced his influence was the rapid spread of professional accusers, of the delatores, of whom we read, indeed, before, but who now became a power in the state. The Roman law of early times looked to private citizens to expose wrong-doing, and to impeach civil or political offenders. Sometimes it was moral indignation, oftener it was the bitterness of party feeling, and oftener still the passion of ambition, that brought them forward as accusers. The great men of the Republic were constantly engaged in legal strife. Cato, for example, was put on his defence some four-and-forty times, and appeared still oftener as accuser. It was commonly the first step in a young man’s career to single out a prominent member of the rival party, to charge him with some political offence, and to prove in the attack his courage or knowledge of the laws. This practice naturally intensified the of party struggles, and often led to family feuds. It took to some extent the place of the duelling of modern times, and led more than once to a sort of hereditary ‘vendetta’. It oftener served the passions of a party than the real interests of justice; and, prized as it was as a safeguard and privilege of freedom, fostered license more than liberty. Yet, as if this tendency were not strong enough already, measures were taken to confirm it. More sordid motives were appealed to, and hopes of money bribes were held out to spur on the accuser’s zeal. These, it may be, seemed more needful, as moral sympathies were growing stronger and the party passions of the Commonwealth were cooling down. Certainly the meaner motives must have been most potent in the days of the early Empire, when men came forward to enforce the sumptuary and marriage laws which were almost universally dis­liked.

We hear little of the delatores as a class under Augustus ; with a ruler like Tiberius they became quite a new wheel in the political machinery. It suited his reserve to keep himself in the background while the objects of his fear or his suspicions were attacked, to learn the early stages of the trial from men who had no official connexion with himself, while the Senate or the law courts were responsible for the result, and he could step in at last to temper, if he pleased, the rigour of the sentence. He did not own them for his instruments, refused even to speak to them directly on the subject; but with instinctive shrewdness they interpreted his looks, divined his wishes, and acted with eagerness upon a word that fell from any confidant whom he and increase seemed to trust. No wonder that their numbers grew apace, for it seemed an easy road to wealth and honour. Settling even by threes and fours upon their victims, they disputed the precedence of the attack, for if they were successful the goods of the condemned might be distributed among them; and when an enemy of Caesar fell, quite a shower of official titles was rained upon them. They came from all classes alike. Some there were of ancient lineage and good old names; some were adventurers from the provinces who had come to push their fortunes in the capital, some even of the meanest rank who crowded into a profession where a ready tongue and impudence seemed the only needful stock in trade. For all were trained in early youth to plead and hold their own in the keen fence of words. In the days of the Republic all must learn to speak who would make their way in public life, and the training of the schools remained the same when all besides was changed around them. The orator’s harangues had been silenced in the Forum. No Cicero might hope to sway the crowd or guide the Senate, but they disputed still and declaimed and laboured at the art of rhetoric as if oratory were the one end and aim of life. When life opened on them in real earnest they soon discovered how slowly honest and unaided talent could hope to make its way to fame. The conditions of the times were changed, and one only way was left to copy the great orators of earlier days. They could yet win wealth and honour, and make the boldest spirits quail, and be a power in to the infertile state, and gain perhaps the Emperor’s favour, by singling out some man of mark, high in office or in rank, and furbishing afresh against him the weapons drawn from the armoury of the laws of treason. If they were not weighted with nice scruples, if they could work upon the ruler’s fears or give substance to his vague suspicions; if they were dexterous enough to rake up useful scraps of evidence and put their lies into a telling form, then they might hope to amass great fortunes speedily and to rise to high official rank. Did any wish to pay off an old debt of vengeance, or to force a recognition from the classes that despised them, or to retrieve a shattered fortune and to find a royal road to fame, it needed only to swell the ranks of the informers, to choose a victim and invent a crime. If no plausible story could be found to ruin him, it was always possible to put into his mouth some threats against the Emperor’s life, some bold lampoon upon his vices, which they found all ready to their hand. The annals of the times are full of tales which show how terrible was the power they wielded. Through every social class and circle the poison of suspicion spread, for every friend might prove a traitor and be an informer in disguise. It might be perilous to speak about affairs of state, for the frankest words of confidence might be reported, and be dangerously mistrust construed. It might be dangerous to be too silent, for fear of being taken for a malcontent. A man’s worst enemies might be in his home, for every house was full of slaves, who learned or guessed the master’s secrets, and whose eyes were always on the watch to divine the inmost feelings of his heart. In a few minutes, by a few easy words, they could wreak their vengeance for the slights of years, gain their freedom even by their master’s death, and with it such a slice of what was his as would make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. No innocence could be quite secure against such foes, for it was as easy to invent as to report a crime. No council-chamber was so safe but that some traitorous ear could lurk unseen, for in one trial it appeared that three senators were hidden between the ceiling and the roof to hear the conversation of the man whom they accused. There was no kind life without its dangers. To eschew politics was not enough. The poet’s vanity might lure him to his ruin if he ventured to compose an elegy upon the prince’s son, when the noble subject of his verse was sick, not dead. The historian’s life might pay the penalty for a few bold words of freedom, as Cremutius Cordus had to die for calling the murderers of Caesar the last of the old Romans. Philosophy itself might be suspected, for a lecture on the whole duty of man might recognise another standard than the Emperor’s will and pleasure and handle his special faults too freely. There was no escape from dangers such as these. In earlier days men might leave Rome before the trial was quite over, and shun the worst rigour of the law by self-chosen banishment from home. But the strong arm of the imperial ruler could reach as far as the farthest limits of the empire, and flight seemed scarcely possible beyond. One only road of flight lay open, and to that many had recourse. When the fatal charges had been laid, men often did not stay to brook the ignominy of the trial, or face the informer’s torrent of invectives, but had their veins opened in the bath, or by poison or the sword ended the life which they despaired to save. They hoped to rescue by their speedy death some little of their fortune for their children, and to secure at least the poor advantage of a decent funeral for their bodies.

It was the Emperor’s suspicious temper that increased so largely the influence of the delatores; but there was one man who gained his trust, and gained it only to abuse it. Lucius Aelius Sejanus had long since won favour by artful insight into character and affected zeal and self-devotion. His flattery was too subtle to offend, his duplicity so skilful as to mask completely his own pride and ambition, while he fed the watchful jealousy of his master by whis­pered doubts of others. His father, a knight of Tuscan stock, had been prefect of the imperial guards, ten battalions of which were quartered in different places round the city. When the son was raised to the same rank, his first act of note was to induce the Emperor to concentrate the guards in one camp near the gates, as the permanent garrison of Rome. That done, he spared no pains to win the goodwill of the soldiers, to secure the devotion of the officers, and raise his tools to posts of trust. To the real power thus secured, the rapidly increasing favour of Tiberius lent visible authority. In official language he was sometimes named as the partner of the ruler’s labours; senators and nobles of old family courted his patronage with humble words; official titles were bestowed at his discretion, and spies and informers speedily were proud to take rank in his secret service. While ambitious hopes were growing within him with the self-confidence of a proud and resolute nature, the passion of revenge came in to define and to mature them. Drusus, the young son of Tiberius, whom we read of as coarse, choleric, and cruel, happened in a brawling mood to strike Sejanus on the face. The blow was one day to be washed out in blood, but for the moment it was borne in silence. He made no sign to rouse suspicion, but turned to Livilla, the prince’s wife, and plied her with his wily words, seconded by winning grace and personal beauty. The weak woman yielded to the tempter. Flinging away her womanly honour, and with it tenderness and scruple, she sacrificed her husband to her lover. With her help he had, Drusus poisoned, and so removed the heir-presumptive to the throne.

Next came the turn of Agrippina and her children. Between the widowed mother and Tiberius a certain coolness had grown up already, which it was easy to increase. Her frank, impetuous, high-souled nature could not breathe freely in the palace. Proud of her husband’s memory and the promise of her children, and too reliant on the people’s love, she could not stoop to weigh her words, to curb her feelings, and school herself to be wary and submissive. His dark looks and freezing manner stung her often to impatience, and she allowed herself to show too clearly the want of sympathy between them. The ill-timed warmth of Agrippina’s friends, the dark insinuations of Sejanus, widened the breach already made, and each was made to fear the other and hint at poison or at treason. The thunder-clouds had gathered fast, and the storm would soon have burst between them, had not Augusta stayed his hand and stepped in with milder counsels. Jealous as he may have been, the son still submitted to the mother’s sway. He feared an open rupture, while he chafed at her interference and restraint. Then the schemer thought of parting them. Away from Rome and from his mother, Tiberius would breathe more freely, and lean more on his trusted servant, and he himself also could mature his plans more safely if he were not always watched by that suspicious eye. For twelve years the Emperor had scarcely left the city; but he was weary at last of moving in the same round of public labours, of meeting always the same curious eyes, full as it seemed of fear or of mistrust.

The counsels of Sejanus took root and bore their fruit in season. At first Rome only heard that its ruler was travelling southward, then that he was at Capreae (AD 26), the picturesque island in the bay of Naples which had tempted Augustus with its charms and passed by purchase into his estates. Soon, they thought, he would be back again, but time went on and still he came not; and though he talked at times of his return, and came twice almost within sight, he never set foot within their walls again.

After three years he heard at Caprete of his mother’s death, but he was not present at her funeral long neglected even to give the needful orders, and set at nought the last wishes of her will. Her death removed the only shield of Agrippina and her children. One after another their chief adherents had been swept away. The old generals that loved them had been struck down by the informers; the relentless jealousy of the Emperor and Sejanus had for years set spies upon them to report and exaggerate unguarded words. All the charges which had been gathered up meantime were at once laid before the Senate in a message full of savage harshness; the mother and her two eldest children were hurried off to separate prisons, with litters closed, lest the memory of Germanicus should stir the people. They languished there awhile, then perished miserably by sword and famine.

There was another whom the Emperor had long looked at with unfriendly eyes. Asinius Gallus, a marked figure in the higher circles, had taken to his house Asinius the wife whom Tiberius had been forced indeed to put away, yet loved too well to feel kindly to the man who took his place. He had been named by the last Emperor among the few who might aspire to the throne, and was possibly the child the promise of whose manhood had been heralded by the fourth Eclogue of Vergil. He was certainly forward and outspoken, with something of presumption even in his flattery; he had often given offence by hasty words, and above all in the early scene of mutual mistrust and fear in the Senate House he had tried to force Tiberius to use plain language and drop his hypocritic trifling. He was made to pay a hard penalty for his boldness. The Emperor stayed his hand for years, allowed him to pay his court and join in the debates among the rest, and even summoned him to Capreae to his table. But even while he sat there the news came that the Senate had condemned him at the bidding of their master, and he left the palace for a prison. For years he pined in utter loneliness, while the death which he would have welcomed as a boon was still denied him.

Meantime Sejanus ruled at Rome with almost absolute power. His master’s seemingly unbounded trust made soldiers, senators, informers vie with each other in submissive service : his favour was the passport to preferment; his enmity was followed by a charge of treason or a threatening missive from Capreae to the Senate. All classes streamed to his ante-chambers with their greetings, and the world of Rome flattered, feared, or hated him. The Emperor heard all intelligence through him, coloured and garbled as he pleased, approved his counsels, re-echoed his suspicions, and daily resigned more of the burden of rule into his hands. There had been no sign of mistrust even when he had asked for the hand of Livilla, the widow of the murdered Drusus, though consent had been delayed and reproof of his ambition hinted. Yet, wary as Sejanus was, he could not hide from envious eyes the pride and ambition of his heart. He grew haughtier with the confidence of power, and men whispered that in moments of self-indulgence he spoke of himself as the real autocrat of Rome, and sneered at his master as the Monarch of the Isle. But that master’s eyes at length were opened. His brother’s widow, Antonia, long retired from public life, had kept a watchful eye on all that passed, and sent a trusty messenger at length to warn him. He saw his danger instantly, felt it with a vividness that seemed to paralyse his will and stay his hand. For many months we have the curious picture of the monarch of the Roman world brooding, scheming, and conspiring against his servant. For months his letters were so worded as to keep Sejanus balanced between fear and hope. Sometimes he writes as if his health was failing, and the throne would soon be vacant, sometimes promotes his friend and loads him with caresses, and then again his strength is suddenly restored and he writes fretfully and sternly. The Senate is kept also in suspense, but notes that he no more calls the favourite his colleague, and that he raises a personal enemy to be consul. The bolt falls at last. Suddenly there arrives in Rome a certain Macro with letters from Caprese for the Senate. He carries the commission in his pocket which makes him the new praefect of the guard, and has been told to concert measures with Laco, the praefect of the watch. He meets Sejanus by the way, alarmed to find that there is no message for himself, and reassures him with the tale that the letter brings him the high dignity of tribunician power. While Sejanus hurries in triumph to the Senate House, Macro shows his commission to the praetorians and sends them to their quarters far away, while Laco guards the Senate House with his watch. The reading of the Emperor’s letter then begins. It is long and curiously involved in style, deals with many subjects, with here and there a slighting word against Sejanus, to which, however, he pays scant attention, as his thoughts are occupied with the signs of favour soon to follow. Suddenly comes the unlooked-for close. Two of his nearest intimates are denounced for punishment, and he is to be lodged at once in prison. Those who sat near had slipped away from him meantime; Laco with his guards is by his side, while the Senate rises on all sides and vents in angry cries the accumulated hate of years. He is dragged off to his dungeon. The people on the way greet him with savage jeers, throw down the statues raised long since in his honour, and the praetorians in their distant quarter make no sign. The Senate takes courage to give the order for his death, and soon all that is left of him is a name in history to point the moral of an unworthy favourite’s rise and fall. His death rid Tiberius of his fears, but was fatal to the party who had looked to Sejanus as their chief, and possibly had joined him in treasonable plots against his master. Post after post brought the death-warrants of fresh victims. His kinsmen were the first to suffer, then came the turn of friends and tools. All who owed to him their advancement, all who had shown him special honour, paid the hard penalty of their imprudence. The thirst for blood grew fiercer daily, for the wife of Sejanus on her deathbed told the story of the poison of which Drusus died, and the truth was known at last. Tiberius had hidden his grief when his son died, and treated with mocking irony the citizens of Ilium who came somewhat late with words of condolence, telling them that he was sorry that they too had lost a great man named Hector; but the grief he had then not shown turned now to thirst for vengeance. On any plea that anger or suspicion could dictate fresh names were added to the list of the accused, till the crowded prisons could hold no more. The praetorians whose loyalty had been mistrusted were allowed to show how little they had cared for their commander by taking wild vengeance on his partisans; the populace also roamed the streets in riotous mobs to prove their tardy hatred for his memory. In a passage of the Emperor’s memoirs that has come down to us we read the charge that the fallen minister had plotted against Agrippina and her children. We may compare with this the fact that the order for the death of the second son was given after the traitor’s fall. He was starved to death in the dungeon of the palace, after trying in his agony to gnaw the bed on which he lay, and the note-book of his gaoler gave a detailed account of his last words and dying struggles.

At Caprese also there was no lack of horrors. There too the victims came to be tried under his eye, it is said to be even tortured, and to glut his thirst for bloodshed. He watched their agonies upon the rack, and was so busy with that work that when an old friend came from Rhodes at his own wish, he mistook the name of his invited guest and ordered him too to be tortured like the rest. Some asked to be put out of their misery by speedy death, but he refused, saying that he had not yet forgiven them. Even in trifling matters the like severity broke out. A poor fisherman climbed the steep rocks at Capreae to offer him a fine lobster; but the Emperor, startled in his walk by his unbidden visitor, had his face gashed with its sharp claws to teach him more respect for rank. Nor is it only and foul cruelty that stains his name. Sensuality without disguise or limit, unnatural lusts too foul to be described, debauchery that shrank from no excess, these are the charges of the ancient writers that brand him with eternal infamy. Over these it may be well to drop the veil and hasten onward to the close.

At length it was seen that his strength was breaking up, and the eyes of the little court at Caprese turned to Caius, the youngest son of Agrippina and Germanicus, whom, though with few signs of love, he had pointed out as his successor. The physician whispered that his life was ebbing, and he sank into a swoon that seemed the sleep of death. All turned to the living from the dead and saluted him as the new Emperor, when they were startled with the news hastened that eyes were opened and Tiberius was still alive. But then—so ran the tale all Rome believed—the prefect Macro bade the young prince be bold and prompt: together they flung a pillow on the old man’s head and smothered him like a mad dog as he lay (AD 37). 

The startling story of his later years is given with like features in the pages of three authors, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dion Cassius, and none besides of ancient times describe his life or paint his character with any fulness of detail. But modern critics have come forward to contest the verdict of past history, and to demand a new hearing of the case. We must stay, therefore, to see what is the nature of their plea.

They remind us that, at the worst, it was only the society of Rome that felt the weight of his heavy hand. Elsewhere, they say, through all the provinces of the vast empire his rule was wise and wary. His firm hand curbed the license of his agents; he kept his legions posted on the frontiers, but had no wish for further conquests, and in dealing with neighbouring powers relied on policy rather than on force. The shelter that he offered to the fugitive chiefs of Germany and the pretenders to the Eastern thrones gave him always an excuse for diplomacy and intrigues, which distracted the forces that were dangerous. Provincial writers like Strabo the geographer, Philo the philosopher, and Josephus the historian, speak of his rule with thankfulness and fervour; and the praises seem well-founded till we come to the last years of his life. Then, says Suetonius, he sunk into a sloth which neglected every public duty. He would not sign commissions, nor change the governors once appointed, nor fill up the vacancies that death had caused, nor give orders to chastise the neighbouring tribes that disturbed the border countries with their forays. It is true the Empire was so little centralized as yet, and so much free life remained in the old institutions of the provinces, that distant peoples scarcely suffered from the torpor of the central power, and, once relieved from the abuses of the old Republic, were well content if they were only left alone. Still the degradation of Rome, if real, must have reacted on them, have for she attracted to the centre the notabilities of every land. She sent forth in turn her thought, her culture, and her social influence, and the pulsations of her moral life were felt in countries far away. The heroism of her greatest men raised the tone of the world’s thought, and examples of craven fear and meanness surely tended to dispirit and degrade it.

If we return now to the details of his rule at home what evidence can his defenders find to stay our judgment? They can point to the contemporary praises of Valerius Maximus, a literary courtier of the meanest type, and to the enthusiastic words in which Velleius Paterculus speaks of his old general’s virtues. But the terms of the latter do not sound like a frank soldier’s language; the style is forced and subtle, and the value of his praises of Tiberius may well be questioned when in the same pages we find a fulsome flattery of Augustus and Sejanus that passes all bounds of belief. We may note also that his history ends before the latter period of this reign begins. In default of testimony of a stronger kind, attention has been drawn to the marks of bias and exaggeration in the story commonly received, to the wild rumours wantonly spread against a monarch who had never won his people’s love, and lightly credited by writers who reflected the prejudices of noble coteries offended by the unyielding firmness of his rule. On such evidence it has been thought enough to assume that the memoirs of Agrippina, Nero’s mother, blackened the name of Tiberius and had a sinister influence on later history; to imagine a duel of life and death between the imperial government and the partisans of the widow and children of Germanicus; to believe, but without proof, that the chief victims of the times were all conspirators, who paid the just forfeit of their lives; to point to the malignant power of Sejanus and to fancy that the real clemency of Tiberius took at last a sombre hue in the presence of universal treachery. Whence this strange mania of disloyalty can have come is not made clear, nor how it was that of the twenty trusted senators chosen for the privy council only two or three were left alive, nor why Drusus, the son of Germanicus, was murdered when the fall of Sejanus had removed the tempter.

Nor can the stories of the debauchery at Caprae be lightly set aside without disproof. They left a track too lurid on the popular imagination, they stamped their impress even in vile words on the language of the times, and gave a fatal impulse to the tendencies of the corrupted art that left the records of its shame among the ruins of Pompeii.

It may seem strange, indeed, as has been urged, that a character unstained for many years by gross defects should reveal so late in life such darker features. But we have no evidence which will enable us to rewrite the story of these later years, though on some points we have reason to mistrust the fairness of the historians whose accounts alone have reached us. They do seem to have judged too harshly acts and words which admit a fair and honourable colour. Their conclusions do not always tally with the facts which they bring forward, and seem sometimes inconsistent with each other; the number and details of the criminal trials which they describe often fail to justify their charges of excessive cruelty in the emperor, and many of their statements as to his secret feelings and designs must have been incapable of proof. It was probably from prudence and not from mere irresolution that the prince continued his provincial governors so long in office; it may have been from true policy rather than from jealousy that he recalled Germanicus from useless forays on the border lands, from good sense rather than from want of spirit that he discouraged all excessive honours to himself. In these and many like cases Tacitus and other writers may have given a false reading of his motives, as they have certainly reported without weighing the scandalous gossip that blackened the memory of a ruler who discredited his best qualities by ungracious manners, and often made his virtues seem as odious as his vices.

But of the natural character of his younger years we know little. We see him trained in a school of rigid repression and hypocrisy, cowering under the gibes and censures of Augustus, wavering between the extremes of hope and fear, tortured by anxiety at Rhodes, drilled afterwards into an impassive self-restraint, till natural gaiety and frankness disappeared. When power came at last it found him soured by rancour and resentment, haunted by suspicion and mistrust, afraid of the Senate and Germanicus, and yet ashamed to own his fears; too keen-eyed to relish flattery, yet dreading any show of independence; curbed by his mother, and spurred on by Sejanus into ferocity inspired by fear; with an intellectual preference for good government, but still with no tenderness or sympathy for those whom he ruled. Possibly the partisans of Agrippina troubled his peace with their bold words and seditious acts, or even conspired to set her children in his place, and drove him to stern measures in his own defence. At length, when the only man whom he had fondly trusted played him false, his old mistrust settled into a general contempt for other men and for the restraints of their opinion. These safeguards gone, he may perhaps have plunged into the depths of cruelty and lust and self-contempt which made Pliny speak of him as the gloomiest of men—‘tristissimus hominum,’— and led him to confess in his letters to the Senate that he was suffering from a long agony of despairing wretchedness. Even from the distant East, we read, came the scornful letters in which the King of Parthia poured reproaches on the cruelty and debaucheries of his brother Emperor of the West.


CALIGULA.—A.D. 37-41.


The tidings of the gloomy emperor’s death were heard at Rome with universal joy. The senators and men of mark began to breathe more freely after the reign of terror ; the people who had suffered less, but for whom little had been done in the way of shows and largess, began to cry about the streets, ‘Tiberius to the Tiber!’ and to talk of flinging his dishonoured body like carrion to the crows.

All eyes turned with joy to the young Caius. The fond regrets with which they thought of Germanicus, his father, the memory of Agrippina’s cruel fate, and the piteous stories of her murdered children, caused an outburst of general sympathy for the last surviving son. In early childhood he had been the soldiers’ darling. Carried as a baby to the camp upon the Rhine, he had been dressed in mimic uniform and called by the familiar name of Caligula, from the tiny boots he wore like the legionaries around him. The mutinous troops who were deaf to the general’s appeal were shamed into submission when they saw their little nursling carried for safety from their camp. For some years little had been known of him. After Agrippina’s fall he had been brought up in seclusion by his grandmother Antonia, and thence summoned to Caprese by the old Emperor while still a youth. He showed at that time a who had marked power of self-restraint, betrayed no resentments or regrets, and baffled the spies who were set to report his words. Yet Tiberius, who watched him narrowly, is said to have discerned the latent passions that were to break out one day in the license of absolute power; but still he advanced him to the rank of the pontificate, allowed him to be thought his probable successor, and named him in his will as co-heir with the young Tiberius, his grandchild. Besides this the praefect Macro was secretly won over to secure the support of the praetorian troops, and together they waited for and perhaps hastened the death of the old man. No such support, indeed, seemed needed, for at Rome there was a popular movement in his favour. The people rushed into the Senate House with acclamations when he came, they showered endearing names upon him, the claims of his young cousin were ignored, and at the age of twenty-four Caligula became the sole monarch of the Roman world. The young sovereign was welcomed with a general outburst of excitement. Not only in the city which for long years had not seen its ruler, but even in the provinces, there were signs everywhere of widespread joy. In three months more than one hundred and sixty thousand victims fell in thanksgiving upon the altars. The young sovereign could scarcely be unmoved amid the general gladness. Senate, soldiers, people, all were lavish in their honours; the treasury was full of the hoards that had been gathering there for years ; there was nothing yet to cross his will or cloud his joy. His first acts were in unison with the glad tone of public feeling, and did much to increase it. The exiles were brought back from the lonely islands where they pined; the works of the bold writers, Labienus and the like, were allowed once more to pass from hand to hand; the ardour of the informers cooled, and a deaf ear was turned to warning letters; the independence of the magistrates was re-asserted, and the accounts of the imperial budget fully published. Some show was even made awhile of restoring the elections to the popular vote, while a round of civic spectacles was arranged upon a scale of long-disused magnificence.

The bright hopes thus raised were all short-lived. The extravagant popularity which had greeted him at first, the dizzy sense of undisputed power, were enough to turn a stronger head. His nervous system had always been weak. Epileptic from his boyhood, he suffered also from constant sleeplessness, and even when he slept his rest was broken with wild dreams. His health gave way soon after his accession ; and the anxiety on all sides was so intense, the prayers offered for his recovery so excessive, that they seemed to have finally disturbed the balance of his reason. Henceforth his life is one strange medley of grandiose aims and incoherent fancies, relieved at times by lucid intervals of acute and mocking insight, but rendered horrible by a fiend’s cruelty and a satyr’s lust. In a short time Rome was startled by the news that its young Emperor claimed to be a god already. It was not enough for him to wait to be canonized like others after death. He towered already above the kings of the earth; the one thing wanting was to enjoy divine honours while he lived. To this end temples must rise at once to do him honour; priesthoods be established for his service; countless statues of the gods be brought from Greece and take in exchange the likeness of his head for their own. The palace was extended to the Forum, and the valley spanned with stately arches, that the shrine of Castor and Pollux might serve as a sort of vestibule to his own house, and that he might take his seat as by right between the heavenly brothers and be the object of admiring worship.

From a god something more is looked for than the works of man, and so he was always dreaming of great schemes. He threw a bridge across from Baiae to Puteoli, upwards of three miles in length, and marched along it in state to furnish a two days’ wonder to the world. He thought of a building a city upon the highest Alps; with greater wisdom he wished to cut a channel through the Corinthian isthmus, and sent even to take the measurements needed for the work.

The heathen poets have often sung of the envy and jealousy of heaven; and the Emperor for a like cause could brook no rival. His young cousin Tiberius must die to expiate the crime of being once put upon a level with him; his father-in-law, Silanus, and his grandmother, Antonia, paid the forfeit of their lives for having formed too low an estimate of his majesty. Indeed, any eminence might be dangerous near him. Bald himself, he could not pass a fine head of hair without the wish and sometimes too the order that it should be shaved quite bare. He prided himself upon his eloquence, and two men nearly suffered for the reputation of their style. The first was Seneca, then much in vogue, who was saved only by a friend’s suggestion that he was too far gone in a decline to live. The other, Domitius Afer, was a brilliant orator and notable informer. In vain had he foreseen his danger and tried to disarm jealousy by flattering words. He set up a statue to the Emperor to note the fact that he was consul a second time at the age of twenty-seven; but this was taken ill, as a reflexion on the monarch’s youth and unconstitutional procedure. Caius, who prided himself on his fine style, came one day to the Senate with a long speech ready-prepared against him. Afer was too wary to reply, but falling to the ground as if thunder­struck at eloquence so marvellous, only culled from memory the choicest passages of what he heard with comments on their beauties, saying that he feared the orator more than the master of the legions. The Emperor, delighted at praises from so good a judge, looked on him henceforth with favour. His spleen was moved not only by living worth but even by the glory of the dead. He threw down the statues of the famous men that graced the Campus Martius. He thought of sweeping from the pub­lic libraries the works of Vergil and Livy, but contented himself with harshly criticising them. The titles even that called up the memory of illustrious deeds provoked his umbrage; the old families must put aside the surnames of the Republic, and the Pompeian race drop the dangerous epithet of ‘Great.’

The gods, it seemed, were above moral laws, for the old fables told of their amours without disguise or shame. Caius would be like Jupiter in this: indulge at once each roving fancy and change his wives from day to day. Invited at one time to a noble Roman’s marriage feast, he stopped the rite and himself claimed the bride, boasting that he acted like Augustus and the Romulus of old time. His lewdness spared no rank nor ties of blood, but of all he loved Caesonia best, who was famous only for her wantonness. He dressed her like an Amazon and made her ride to the reviews; and when she bore a child he recognised it for his own by the ferocity with which the infant seemed to scratch and claw everything she saw.

The oracles of old, from which men tried to learn the will of heaven, were couched often in dark mysterious terms, and in this spirit he delighted to perplex and to alarm. He summoned the oracles, senators from their beds at the dead of night, frightened them with strange sounds about them in the palace, then sung to them awhile and let them go. When the people clamoured for a legal tariff of the new tolls and dues, he had one written out, but in characters so small and so high-posted that no eyes could read it. His caprices often took a darker colour. He heard that when he was once sick rash men had vowed in to give their lives or face the gladiators if he grew better, and with grim humour he obliged them to prove their loyalty, even to the death.

We may see by the description of an eye-witness how great was the terror caused by these fitful moods of ferocity and folly. At Alexandria the Emperor’s claims to deity had been regarded as impious by the Jews, but readily acquiesced in by the Greeks, who caught eagerly at any plea to persecute their hated rivals, and wreak the grudge of a long-standing feud. The synagogues were profaned with statues, the Jewish homes were pillaged without mercy, and complaints of disloyalty forwarded to Rome. The sufferers on their side sent an embassy to plead their cause, and at its head the learned Philo, who has left us an account to tell us how they fared. They were not received in state, in the presence of grave counsellors, but after long delay the two deputations of the Alexandrians and Jews were allowed to wait upon the Emperor while he was looking at some country houses near the bay of Naples. The Jews came bowing to the ground before him, but despaired when they saw the look of sarcasm on his face, and were accosted with the words, “So you are the impious wretches who will not have me for a god, but worship one whose name you dare not mention”, and to their horror he pronounced the awful name. Their enemies, overjoyed at this rebuff, showed their glee with words and looks of insult, and their spokes­man charged the Jews with wanton indifference to the Emperor’s health and safety. “Not so, Lord Caius”, they protested loudly, “for thrice we have sacrificed whole hecatombs in thy behalf”. “Maybe” was the reply, “but ye sacrificed for me, and not to me”. This second speech completed their dismay, and left them all aghast with fear. But almost as he spoke, he scampered off, and went hurrying through the house, prying all about the rooms upstairs and down, cavilling at what he saw, and giving orders on his way, while the poor Jews had to follow in his train from place to place, amid the mockery and ribald jests of those about them. At length, after some direction given, he turned and said in the same breath to them, “Why do you not eat pork?” They tried to answer calmly that national customs often varied: some people, for example, would not touch the flesh of lambs. “Quite right, too” he said, “for it is poor tasteless stuff”. Then the insults and the gibes went on again. Presently he asked a question about their claims to civil status, but cut them short in the long answer which they gave him, and set off at a run into the central hall, to have some blinds of transparent stone drawn up against the sun. He came back in a quieter mood, and asked what they had to say, but without waiting for the answer hurried off again to look at some paintings in a room close by. “At last” says Philo, “God in his mercy to us softened his hard heart, and he let us go alive, saying as he sent us off . After all, they are to be pitied more than blamed, poor fools, who cannot believe I am a god”.

His devices to refill the treasury, which his extravagance had emptied, showed no lack of original re source, though his plans were not quite after the rules of financial science. He put up to auction all the heirlooms of the past that had been stored in the imperial household, took an active part even in the sale, pointed out the rare old pieces with all the relish of a connoisseur, and gave the family pedigree of each. He made his courtiers push the prices up ; and when one of them was sleepy he took each motion of the nodding head for a higher bid, and had a few gladiators knocked down to him at the cost of millions. When the news came of his daughter’s birth he publicly bemoaned the costly burdens of paternity, and asked his loyal subjects for their doles to help him rear and portion the princess. He stood even at the entrance of his house on New Year’s Day to receive with his own hands the presents showered on him by the crowd as they came to court. Oftentimes he did not stay to devise such far-fetched Resorted to measures, but simply marked down wealthy confiscation. men for confiscation, betook himself as far as Gaul in quest of plunder, and filled his coffers at the expense of the provincials. Even without such poor excuse he showed meantime a cruelty that seemed like the mere wantonness of a distempered fancy, as when he invited men to see him open a new bridge in state, and had the machinery contrived to fling crowds into the water; or when he laughed as he sat between the consuls and told them that a single word from him would make their heads roll off their necks; or when, to give his guests more zest for what they ate, he had the executioner ushered in to do his work before their eyes.

One fiercer taste he seemed to lack—the love of war. But, suddenly reminded that recruits were wanted to make up the ranks of his Batavian body-guard, he took a fancy to a campaign in Germany, perhaps in memory of his father’s name. Preparations were made on a grand scale, and he started for the seat of war, hurrying sometimes in such hot haste that his guards could scarcely keep beside him, and then again, lolling in lordly ease, called out the people from the country towns to sweep and water all the roads. As soon as he had reached the camp he made a great parade of the discipline of earlier days, degraded general officers who were late in coming with their troops, and dismissed centurions from the service on trifling grounds or none at all. Little came of all this show. A princely refugee from Britain asked for shelter. The Rhine was crossed, a parody of a night attack was acted out, and imposing letters were written to the Senate to describe the submission of the Britons and the terror of the Germans. Then he hurried with his legions to the ocean, with all the pomp and circumstance of war, while none could guess the meaning of the march. At last when they could go no further he bade his soldiers pick up the shells that lay upon the shore and carry home their trophies as if to show in strange burlesque the vanity of schemes of conquest. Before he left the camp, however, the wild fancy seized him to avenge the insult offered to his majesty in childhood, and he resolved to decimate the legions that had mutinied long years before. He had them even drawn up in close order and unarmed before him, but they suspected danger and confronted him so boldly that he feared to give the word and slunk away to Rome. On his return he seemed ashamed to celebrate the triumph for which he had made costly preparations, forbade the Senate to vote him any honours, but complained of them bitterly when they obeyed.

Still his morbid fancy could not rest, and wild projects flitted through his brain. He would degrade Rome from her place among the cities and make Alexandria, or even his birthplace, Antium, the capital of the world. But first he meditated a crowning exploit to usher in the change with fitting pomp. It was nothing less than the massacre of all the citizens of mark. He kept two note-books, which he called his ‘sword’ and ‘dagger’ and in them were the names of all the senators and knights whom he doomed to death. But the cup was full already, and his time was come, though he had only had three years of power to abuse. He had often outraged with mocking and foul words the patience of Cassius Choerea, a tribune of the guard. At last Choerea could bear no more, and after sounding other officers of rank, who had been suspected of conspiracy already, and who knew their lives to be in danger, he resolved to strike at once. They took the Emperor unawares in a narrow passage at the theatre, thrust him through and through with hasty blows, and left him pierced with thirty wounds upon the floor.


CLAUDIUS.—A.D. 41-54.


Few credited at first the tidings of the death of Caius; many thought the story was only spread by him in some mad freak to test their feelings, and so they feared to show either joy or grief. When at last they found that it was true, and that Caesonia and his child were also murdered, they noted in their gossip that all the Caesars who bore the name of Caius had died a violent death, and then they waited quietly to see what the Senate and the soldiers thought of doing. The Senate met at once in the Capitol, where the consuls summoned to their guard the cohorts of the watch. There, with the memorials of the past, the tokens of ancient freedom, round them, they could take counsel with becoming calmness and dignity. The Emperor was dead, and there seemed no claimant with a title to the throne. Should they venture to elect a sovereign, regardless of the warnings of the past, or should they set up a commonwealth once more, and breathe fresh life into the shadowy forms about them? The discussion lasted all that day, and the night passed without a final vote. But it was nightfall, all idle talk, for the praetorians meanwhile had made their choice. The tidings of the Emperor’s death soon reached the camp, and drew the soldiers to the city. Too late to defend or even to avenge their sovereign, they dispersed in quest of booty, and roamed through the palace at their will. One of the plunderers passing by the alcove of a room espied the feet of someone hidden behind the half-closed curtains. Curious to see who it might be, he dragged him out, and recognised the face of Gaudius the late Emperor’s uncle. He showed him to his comrades who were near, and, possibly in jest, they saluted him as their new prince, raised him at once upon their shoulders, and carried him in triumph to the camp. The citizens who saw him carried by marked his piteous look of terror, and thought the poor wretch was carried to his doom. The Senate heard that he was in the camp, but only sent to bid him take his place among them, and heard seemingly without concern that he was there detained by force. But the next day found them in different mood. The populace had been clamouring to have a monarch, the praetorians had sworn obedience to their new-found emperor, the city guards had slipped away, and the Senate, divided and disheartened, had no course left them but submission.

Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus, the son of Drusus, grandson of Livia Augusta, suffered in early years from lingering diseases which left him weak both in body and in mind. The Romans commonly had little tenderness for sickly children. Antonia and his mother even spoke of him as a monster, as a thing which nature had roughhewn but never finished; while his grandmother would not deign to speak to him except by messenger or letter. Though brought up in the palace he was little cared for, was left to the tender mercies of a muleteer, of whose rough usage he spoke bitterly in after­life, and even when he came to manhood was not allowed to show himself in public life or hope for any of the offices of state. We may still read the letters written by Augustus to his wife, in which he speaks of him as too imbecile for any public functions, too awkward and ungainly to take a prominent place even in the circus at the show. The only honour which he gave him was a place in the priesthood of the augurs, and at his death he left him a very paltry legacy. Nor did Tiberius think more highly of him. He gave him only the poor grace of consular ornaments; and when he asked to have the consulship itself his uncle took no further notice than to send him a few gold pieces to buy good cheer with in the holidays. His nephew Caius made him consul, but encouraged the rough jests with which his courtiers bantered him. If he came late among the guests at dinner they shifted their seats and shouldered him away till he was tired of looking for an empty place; if he fell asleep, as was his wont, they plastered up his mouth with olives, or put shoes upon his hands, that he might rub his eyes with them when he woke. He was sent by the Senate into Germany to congratulate the Emperor on his supposed successes; but Caius took it ill, and thought the choice of him was such a slight that he had the deputation flung into the river. Ever after he was the very last to be asked in the Senate for his vote, and when he was allowed to be one of the new priests the office was saddled with such heavy fees that his household goods had to be put up to auction to defray them. After such treatment from his kinsmen it was no wonder that he sunk into coarse and vulgar ways, indulged his natural liking for low company, ate largely and drank hardly, and turned to dice for his amusement. Yet he had also tastes of a much higher order, kept Greeks of literary culture round him, studied hard and with real interest, and at the advice of the historian Livy took to writing history himself. His first choice of subject was ambitious, for he tried to deal with the troubled times that followed Julius Caesar’s death; but he was soon warned to leave so dangerous a theme. He wrote also largely on the history of Etruria and Carthage, and later authors often used the materials collected by or for him. Of the latter of the two works we read that a courtly club was formed at Alexandria to read it regularly through aloud from year to year.

Such was the man who in his fiftieth year was raised to the Empire by a soldier’s freak, to rule in name but to be in fact the puppet of his wives and free men. These were the real governors of the world, and their intrigues and rivalries and lust and greed have left their hateful stamp upon his reign.

The freedmen had for a long time played an important part in the domestic life of Rome; for the household slaves that were so numerous at this time in every family of ample means could look commonly for freedom after some years of faithful service, though their old master still had legal claims upon them, and custom and old associations bound them to their patron and his children. They haunted the houses of the wealthy, filled all the offices of trust, and ministered to their business and pleasures. Among them there were many men of refinement and high culture, natives of Greece and Asia, at least as well educated as their masters, and useful to them in a hundred ways as stewards, secretaries, physicians, poets, confidants and friends. The Emperor’s household was organised like that of any noble. Here, too, there were slaves for menial work, and freedmen for the posts of trust. The imperial position was too new and ill-defined, the temper of the people too republican as yet for men of high social rank and dignity to be in personal attendance in the palace; offices like those of high steward, chamberlain, great seal, and treasurer to the monarch had the stigma of slavery still branded on them, and were not such as noblemen could covet. But these were already posts of high importance, and much of the business of state was already in the freedmen’s hands. For by the side of the Senate and the old curule officers of the Republic, the Empire had set up, both in the city and the provinces, a new system of administrative machinery, of which the Emperor was the centre and mainspring. To issue instructions, check accounts, receive reports, and keep the needful registers became a daily increasing labour, and many skilful servants soon were needed to be in constant attendance in the palace. The funeral inscriptions of the time show that the official titles in the imperial household were becoming rapidly more numerous as the functions were more and more subdivided. When the ruler was strong and self-contained, his servants took their proper places as valets-de-chambre, ushers, and clerks, while a privileged few were confidential agents and advisers. When he was inexperienced or weak, they took the reins out of his hands, and shamefully abused their power. Much too low in rank to have a political career before them, they were not weighted with the responsibilities of power, and could not act like the cabinet ministers of modern Europe. The theory of the constitution quite ignored them, and they were only creatures of the Emperor, who was not the fountain of honour, like later kings, and could not make them noble if he would.

As high ambitions were denied them, and they could not openly assert their talents, they fell back commonly on lower aims and meaner arts. They lied and intrigued and flattered to push their way ambition and to higher place; they used their power to gratify a greedy avarice or sensual lust. Wealth was their first and chief desire, and, their master’s confidence once gained, riches flowed in upon them from all sides. To get easy access to the sovereign’s ear was a privilege which all were glad to buy. The suitors who came to ask a favour, a post of profit or of honour; the litigants who feared for the goodness of their cause and wished to have a friend at court; vassal princes eager to stand well in the Emperor’s graces; town councillors longing for some special boon or d for relief from costly burdens ; provincials of every class and country ready to buy at any cost the substantial gift of Roman franchise. Hundreds such as these all sought the favourite in the antechamber, and schemed and trafficked for his help. There was no time to be lost, indeed, for a monarch’s favour is an unstable thing, and shrewd adventurers like themselves were ever plotting to displace them. At any moment they might be disgraced, so they grasped every chance that brought them gain and speedily amassed colossal fortunes. Men told a story at the time with glee that when Claudius complained of scanty means a bystander remarked that he would soon be rich enough if two of his favourite freedmen would admit him into partnership.

Now for the first time the personal attendants take a prominent place in public thought, and history is forced to note their names and chronicle their doings, and the story of their influence passes from the scandalous gossip of the palace to the pages of the gravest writers. In the days of his obscurity they had shared the meaner fortunes of their master, enlivened his dulness by their wit, and catered for his literary tastes. They had provided theories of style and learning and research, though they could not give him sense to use them, and now they were doubtless eager to help their patron to make history, not to write it Greedily they followed him to the palace, and swooped upon the Empire as their prey.

Two of his old companions towered above all the rest, Pallas and Narcissus. The former had been with Claudius from childhood, and filled the place of keeper of the privy purse, or steward of the imperial accounts. In such a post, with such a master it, was easy for him to enrich himself, and he did not neglect his opportunities. But his pride was even more notable than his wealth. He would not deign to speak even to his slaves, but gave them his commands by gestures, or if that was not enough by written orders. His arrogance did not even spare the nobles and the Senate, but they well deserved such treatment by their servile meanness. The younger Pliny tells us some years afterwards how it moved his spleen to find in the official documents that the Senate had passed a vote of thanks to Pallas and a large money grant, and that he had declined the gift and said he would be content with modest poverty, if only he could be still of dutiful service to his lord. A modest poverty of many millions!

Narcissus was the Emperor’s secretary, and as such familiar alike with state secrets and with his master’s personal concerns. He was always at his side, to jog his memory and guide his judgment; in the Senate, at the law courts, in cabinet council, at the festive board, nothing could be done without his knowledge; in most events of moment his influence may be traced. Men chafed, no doubt, at the presumption of the upstart, and told with malicious glee of the retort made by the freedman of the conspirator Camillus, who, when examined in the council-chamber by Narcissus and asked what he would have done himself if his master had risen to the throne, answered, “I should have known my place, and held my tongue behind his chair”. They heard with pleasure too that when he went on a mission to the mutinous soldiery in Britain, and tried to harangue them from their general’s tribune, they would not even listen to him but drowned his voice with the songs of the Saturnalia, the festive time at Rome, when the slaves kept holiday and took their masters’ places. But at Rome none dared to be so bold, though his influence at court stirred the jealousy of many, who whispered to each other that it was no wonder he grew rich so fast when he made so much by peculation out of the great works which he prompted Claudius to undertake, and one of which at least, the outlet for the Lucrine Lake, caused almost a public scandal by its failure.

After them came Polybius, whose literary skill had often served his patron in good stead and gave him constant access to his ear. No sinister motives can be traced to him ; at worst we hear that he was vain, and thought himself on a level with the best, and liked to take the air with a consul at each side. He had cool impudence enough, we read; for in the theatre, when the people pointed at him as they heard a line about a ‘beggar on horseback’ who was hard to brook, he quoted at once another line from the same poet of the ‘ kings that had risen from a low estate.’

Callistus lent to the new comers in the palace his long experience of the habits of a court He had served under the last ruler, could suit his ways to please a new master so unlike the old, and soon took a high place among the ruling clique by his tact and knowledge of the world of Rome. Felix, too, whom we read of in the story of St. Paul, gained, possibly through his brother Pallas the post of governor of Judea, but must have had rare qualities to marry, as Suetonius tells us, three queens in succession. Posides was the soldier of the party. His military powers, shown in the sixteen days campaign of Claudius in Britain, raised him above other generals in his master’s eyes, like his stately buildings which Juvenal mentions as out-topping the Capitol. There is no need to carry on the list. These are only the most favoured of the party, the best endowed with natural gifts, the most trusted confidants of Caesar.

The first care of the new government was to reassure the public mind. Choerea and his accomplices must die, indeed; for the murder of an Emperor was a fatal thing to overlook, and they were said to have threatened the life of Claudius himself. For all besides there was a general amnesty. Marked deference was shown by the new ruler to the Senate, and the bold words latterly spoken by its members were unnoticed. Few honours were accepted in his own name, while the statues of Caius were withdrawn from public places, his acts expunged from all official registers, and his claims to divine honours ignored, as those of Tiberius had been before. The people were kept in good humour by the public shows and merrymakings, as the soldiers had been by the promise of fifteen hundred sesterces a man; and so the new reign began amid signs of general contentment.

The next care of the little clique was to keep their master in good humour, to flatter his vanities and gratify his tastes, while they played upon his weakness and governed in his name. This they did for years with rare success, thanks to their intimate knowledge of his character and to the harmony that prevailed among themselves. He had all the coarse Roman’s love for public games, was never weary of seeing gladiators fight; so they helped him to indulge his tastes and make spectacles merry with the populace of Rome. As the common round of spectacles was not enough, new shows must be lavishly provided. From the early morning till the entertainment closed he was always in his seat, eager to see the cages of the wild beasts opened and to lose nothing of the bloody sport. The spectators could always see him, with his wagging head and the broad grin upon his slobbering mouth, could hear him often crack his poor jokes on what went on, sometimes noted with amusement how he hurried with his staggering legs across the arena to coax or force the reluctant gladiators to resume their deadly work. They noted also that he had the statue of Augustus first veiled and then removed from the scene of bloodshed, as if the cruel sport that amused the living must offend the saintly dead.

He was fond also of good cheer, so fond of it that he sometimes lost sight of his dignity. One day as he sat upon the judgment seat he smelt the savour of a burnt offering in a temple close at hand, and breaking up the court in haste, he hurried to take his seat at dinner with the priests. At another time, in the Senate, when the discussion turned on licensing the public-houses, he gravely spoke about the merits of the different wine-shops where he had been treated in old days. So feasting was the order of the day; great banquets followed one upon the other, and hundreds of guests were bidden to his table, at which few ate or drank so freely or so coarsely as himself.

But he had more royal tastes than these, for he aspired to be a sort of Solomon upon the seat of justice. As magistrate or as assessor by the curule chair or in the Senate, when grave cases were debated, he would sit for hours listening to the pleaders or examining the witnesses, sometimes showing equity and insight, sometimes so frivolous and childish in his comments, that litigants and lawyers lost their patience altogether.

As the father of the people, it seemed one of his first cares to find his children bread, and no little time and thought were spent by him or by his agents in seeing that the granaries were filled and the provisioning markets well supplied. Yet the poor were not always grateful, for once when prices rose they crowded in upon him in the Forum and pelted him with hard words and crusts of bread, till he was glad to slink out by a back door to his palace. For this was certainly the familiarity that breeds contempt; his presence, speech, and character were too ungainly and undignified to impose respect; and even in his proclamations his advisers let him air his folly to the world. Sometimes he spoke in them about his personal foibles; confessed that he had a hasty temper, but that it soon passed away; and said that in years gone by he had acted like a simpleton to disarm the jealousy of Caius. Then again he put out public edicts as full of household cures and recipes as the talk of any village gossip.

He had little taste for military exploits ; yet once it was thought prudent to excite his martial ardour, that he might have the pleasure of a real triumph, like the commanders of old days. At the crisis of a campaign in Britain, when the preparations had been made for victory, the general sent to summon Claudius to the seat of war. All had been done to make the journey pleasant, the carriage even had been specially arranged to make it easy for him to while away the time by the games of dice which he loved so well; and though the waves and winds were not so complaisant or so regardful of his comforts, he reached at last the distant island, in time to receive the submission of the native princes and to be hailed as Emperor on the battlefield.

Meanwhile the freedmen reaped their golden harvest; having early agreed upon a common course of action, they divided the spoil without dispute. They trafficked in the offices of state, bestowed commissions in the army, sold the verdicts of the law courts, and put up the Emperor’s favour to the highest bidder. One privilege, which millions craved, the citizenship of Rome, was above all a source of income to the favoured freedmen, who could get their master’s signature to any deed. He has, indeed, in history the credit of a liberal policy of incorporation, and speeches are put into his mouth in which he argues from the best precedents of earlier days in favour of opening the doors to alien races. It may be that his study of the past had taught him something; but it is likely that the interest of his ministers did more to further a course which in their hands was so lucrative a form of jobbery. It was a common jest to say that the market was so overstocked at last that the franchise went for a mere song.

But these, after all, were petty gains, and they needed a more royal road to wealth. They found it in a new kind of proscription. They marked out for and confiscation those who had houses or gardens which they coveted, made out rich men to be malcontents, and the city to be full of traitors. It was easy to work upon the Emperor’s fears, for he had always been an abject craven, and was always fancying hidden daggers. A telling story, a mysterious warning, or a dream invented for the purpose, almost anything could throw him off his balance and make him give the fatal order. Nor did they always wait for that One day a centurion came to give in his report. He had, in pursuance of his orders, killed a man of consular rank. Claudius had never known of it before, but approved the act when he heard the soldiers praised for being so ready to avenge their lord. When the list was made out in later times, it was believed that thirty-five members of the Senate and some three hundred knights fell as victims to the caprice or greed of the clique that governed in the name of Claudius, many of them without any forms of justice, or at best with the hurried mockery of a trial in the palace. So fatal to a people may be the weakness of its rulers. It was noticed as a scandalous proof of his recklessness in bloodshed that he soon forgot even what had passed, and bade the very men to supper whose death-warrant he had signed, and wondered why they were so late in coming.

The guilt of these atrocities must be shared also by his wives. Of these Claudius married several in succession, but two especially stand out in history for the horror of all times.

Messalina’s name has passed into a byword for unbounded wantonness without disguise or shame. Her fatal influence ruined or degraded all she touched. The pictures painted of her in old writers give no redeeming features in her character, no single unselfish aim or mental grace, nothing but sensual appetites in a form of clay. Her beauty gained her an easy command over her husband’s heart, but not content with that her wanton fancy ranged through every social order and shrank from no impure advances. Some whom she tempted had repelled her in their virtue or disgust, but her slighted love soon turned to hatred, and on one false plea or other she took the forfeit of their lives. For she had no scruples or compunction, no shrinking from the sight of blood; and pity, if she ever felt it, was with her only a mere passing thrill, a counter-irritant to other feelings of the flesh. The Roman Jezebel coveted, we read, splendid gardens of Lucullus, and to get them had a lying charge of treason brought against Valerius Asiaticus, their owner. His defence was so pathetic as to move all those who heard him in the Emperor's chamber, and to make even Messalina weep. But as she hurried out to dry her tears she whispered to her agent, who stood beside, that for all this the accused must not escape.

For a long time she was wise enough to court or humour the confederates of the palace, and so far her course of crime was easy. At last she threw off such restraints of prudence, and turned upon Polybius, who had taken her favours in too serious a mood, and rid herself for ever of his ill-timed jealousy. The other freedmen took his fate as a warning of defiance to them all, looked for a struggle of life and death, and watched their opportunity to strike. The chance soon came, for Messalina cast her lustful eyes on a young noble, and did not scruple to parade her insolent contempt for Claudius by forcing Silius to a public marriage. It was the talk of the whole town, but the Emperor was the last to know it. Then Narcissus saw the time was come, and, though the rest wavered, he was firm. In concert with his confidants he opened the husband’s eyes, and worked skilfully upon his fears with dark warnings about plots and revolution; prevented any intercourse between them, lest her wiles and beauty might prove fatal to his scheme, and at last boldly ordered and her death, while Claudius gave no sign and asked no question. She died in the gardens of Lucullus, purchased so lately by the murder of their owner.

The Emperor soon after made a speech to his guards upon the subject, bemoaned his sorry luck in marriage, and told them they might use their swords upon him if he ever took another wife. But his freedmen knew him better, and were already in debate the upon the choice of a new wife. Callistus, Pallas, and Narcissus each had his separate scheme in view, and the rival claims broke up the old harmony between them. The choice of Pallas fell on Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus and niece of Claudius. Married at the age of twelve to Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, a man of singular ferocity of temper, she had brought him a son who was to be one day famous. She had been foully treated by Caligula, her brother, and banished to an island till his death. Recalled by Claudius, she learnt prudence from the fate of the two Juliae, sister and cousin, who fell victims to the jealousy of Messalina. She shunned all dangerous rivalry at court, and was content to exchange her widowhood for the quiet country life of a new husband, one of the richest men in Rome, who, dying shortly after, left Domitius his heir, and gave her back her freedom when the time was come for her to use it. Her first care was to gain a powerful ally at court. She found one soon in Pallas, who was as proud and ambitious as herself, and she stooped to be the mistress of a minion while aspiring to be an Emperor’s wife. When Pallas pleaded for her in the council-chamber, where the merits of the different claimants were long and anxiously discussed, she did not spare to use her feminine wiles upon the weak old man. By right of kinship she had a ready access to the palace, and could lavish her caresses and her blandishments upon him. The fort besieged so hotly fell at once, and she was soon his wife in all but name. For awhile he seemed to waver at the thought of shocking public sentiment by a marriage with his niece; but those scruples were soon swept aside by the courtly entreaties of the Senate and the clamour of a hired mob.

Agrippina showed at once that she meant to be regent as well as wife. She grasped with a firm hand the reins of power, still relied upon the veteran statecraft and experience of Pallas, and maintaining with him the old intrigue, broke up the league of the confederates. The feminine rivals whose influence she feared were swept aside by banishment or death. Lollia above all had crossed her path, and seemed likely to carry off the prize. She did not rest till the order was given for her death and a centurion despatched to bring her head. Then—so runs the horrid story—to make sure that the ghastly face was really that of the beautiful woman she had feared and hated, she pushed up the pallid lips to feel the teeth, whose form she knew. Then she felt that she was safe, and received the title of Augusta from the Senate. She had the doings of her court reported in the official journals of the day, and gave the law to all the social world of Rome. Two children of Claudius, by Messalina, Britannicus and Octavia, stood in the path of her ambition. Of these the latter was at once betrothed to her young son, who was pushed forward rapidly in the career of honours, ennobled even with proconsular authority, and styled ‘Prince of the Youth’ even in his seventeenth year. Meantime the star of the young Britannicus was paling, and men noted with suspicion that all the trusted guards and servants of the boy were one by one removed and their places filled with strangers. Of the freedmen of the palace Narcissus not bowed before her; with gloomy look and only had ill-concealed suspense he still watched over his patron and his children. His strength of character and long experience gave him a hold over his master that was still unshaken, and Agrippina did not dare to attack him face to face. But his enmity was not to be despised. He had sealed the doom of one wife—he might yet destroy another. There was something to alarm her also in the mood of Claudius, weak dotard as he was, for strange words fell from him in his drunken fits, coupled with maudlin tenderness for his own children and sus­picious looks at Nero. There seemed no time, therefore, to be lost, and she decided to act promptly. She seized the opportunity when Narcissus was sent away awhile to take the waters for the gout; and while his watchful eye was off her, she called to her aid the skill of the poisoner Locusta, and gave Claudius the fatal dose in the savoury dish he loved.

Scarcely was he dead when Seneca wrote for the amusement of the Roman circles a withering satire on the solemn act by which he was raised to the rank of the immortals. In a medley of homely prose and lofty verse he pictures the scene above at the moment of the Emperor’s death. Mercury had taken pity on his lingering agony, and begged Clotho, one of the three Kates, to cut short his span of life. She tells him that she was only waiting till he had made an end of giving the full franchise to the world. Already by his grace Greeks and Gauls, Spaniards and Britons wore the toga, and only a few remnants were still left uncared for. But at length she lets loose the struggling soul. Then the scene shifts to heaven. Jupiter is told that a stranger had just come hobbling in, a bald old man, who wagged his head so much and spoke so thick that no one could make out his meaning, for it did not sound like Greek or Roman or any sort of civilized speech. Hercules, as being used to monsters, is deputed to ask him whence he comes, and he does this as a Greek in words of Homer. Claudius, glad to find scholars up in heaven who may perhaps think well of his own works of history, caps the quotation with another about a journey made from Troy, and might have imposed on the simple-minded god, if the goddess Fever had not come up at the moment from the Roman shrine where she was worshipped, and said that he was only born at Lugdunum, in the country of the old Gauls, who, like himself, had taken the capital by storm. Claudius, in his anger, made the usual gesture by which he ordered men’s heads off their shoulders, but no one minded him any more than if they had been his own proud freedmen; so, remembering that he could not strut and crow any more on his own dunghill, he begs Hercules to befriend him and to plead his cause in the council-chamber of the gods. This he does with some effect, and when the debate opens most of the speakers seem inclined tro let Claudius come in. But at length Augustus rises, and with energy denounces his successor, who had shed so much noble blood like water, and murdered so many of the family of the Caesars without a trial or a hearing. His speech and vote decide the question, and Claudius is dragged away to Hades with a noose about his throat like the victims of his cruelty. As he passes on his way through funeral dirge is being sung, and he hears the snatches of it which mentioned in his praise that no one ever was so speedy on the seat of judgment, or could decide so easily after hearing one side only, or sometimes neither; and that pleaders and gamblers would keenly feel the loss of a monarch who had loved so much the law court and the dice-box. The spirits in Hades raise a shout of triumph when they hear that he is near, and all whom he had sent before him throng about him as h enters. There they stand, the intimates, the kinsmen he had doomed to death, the senators, the knights, and less honoured names as countless as the sand on the seashore, and silently confront the fallen tyrant. But Claudius, seeing all the well-known faces, forgetting, as he often did in life, or even ignorant of the causes of their death, said, “Why, here are all friends! How ever came you hither?” Then they curse him to his face and drag him to the chair of Aeacus, the judge, who condemns him unheard, to the surprise of all, save the criminal himself. After some thought a fitting penalty was found. Claudius was doomed to play for all eternity with a dice-box that had no bottom.


NERO.—A.D. 54-68


We read that when Domitius was told that he had a son, he said that any child of his by Agrippina must prove an odious and baneful creature. The mother asked her brother Caius, the Emperor, to give the child a name, but he pointed to Claudius, his laughing­stock, and said that the little one should bear his name, though the mother angrily protested at the omen. Soon afterwards he lost his parents’ care by death and banishment, and was brought up at the house of his aunt, Lepida, entrusted to the charge of a dancing-master and a barber, till brighter times came back with the return of his mother from her place of exile. He rose with Agrippina’s rise to power, and became the central object of her ambitious hopes; for, the sister of one emperor and wife of another, she was determined to be the mother of a third. At the age of ten she had him made the adopted son of Claudius, when he took the name of Nero. The choice of Seneca to be his tutor met with the approval of men of worth and culture; the appointment of Burrhus to be the sole prefect of the praetorian guard secured the support of the armed force of Rome. His betrothal to Octavia strengthened his claims still further, and stirred the jealousy of the young Britannicus and the grave fears of the old servants like Narcissus. The issue showed how well-founded were those fears. As soon as the death of Claudius was made known, Nero, hurrying to the camp of his advisers, spoke the soldiers fairly, and making ample promises of largess, was saluted Emperor by acclamation. The claims of Britannicus were set aside, and no voice was raised even in the Senate in his favour.

At first the strong will of Agrippina seemed to give the tone to the new government. Votes were passed in her honour by the Senate; the watchword given to the soldiers was, ‘The best of mothers’. To satisfy her resentment or to calm her fears Narcissus had to die. That she might take her part in all concerns of state the Senate was called to the palace to debate, where behind a curtain she could hear and not be seen. But the two chief advisers of the prince, though they owed their places to her favour, had no mind to be the tools of a bold bad woman, behind whom they could still see the form of the haughty minion Pallas.

The prefect of the pretorians, Afranius Burrhus, who wielded the armed force of the new government, was a man of grave and almost austere character, whose name had long stood high at Rome for soldierly discipline and honour. His merits had given him a claim to his high rank, and he would not stoop to courtierlike compliance. He used his weighty influence for good, though he had at times to stand by and witness evil which he was powerless to check.

L. Annaeus Seneca represented the moral force of the privy council, though he had the more yielding and compliant temper of the two. Sprung from a rich family of Corduba, in Spain, his wealth and good connexions and brilliant powers of rhetoric had made him popular in early life with the highest circles of the capital, till he gained to his cost the favour of the Emperor’s sister. Banished by the influence of Messalina, he had turned to philosophy for comfort, and won high repute among the serious world of Rome by the earnestness and fervour of his letters. Few stood higher among the moral writers of the day, no one seemed fitter by experience and natural tastes to be director of the conscience of the young nobility.

With rare harmony, though different methods, the two advisers used their influence to sway the young Emperor’s mind and to check the overweening pride of Agrippina. They took the reins of power from her hand and reassured the public mind, which had been unnerved by the despotic venal government of late years, with its tyrant menials and closet trials. They restored to the Senate some portion of its old authority and chose the public servants wisely. For five years the world was ruled with dignity and order, for the young Emperor reigned in name, but did not govern, and the acts that passed for his were grave and prudent, while the very words even were put into his mouth for state occasions. When the Senate sent a vote of thanks he bade them keep their gratitude till he deserved it; and when he had to sign a death-warrant, he said that he wished he was not scholar enough to write his name. The pretty phrases were repeated; men did not stay to ask if they were Seneca’s or Nero’s, but hoped that they might prove the keynote of the new reign. But the two ministers meantime had cause for grave misgivings, for they had long studied their young charge with watchful eyes, and had seen with regret how little they could do to mould his character as they could wish. Burrhus had failed to teach him in the camp any of the virtues of a soldier ; all the lessons of temperance, hardihood, and patience left no traces in his mind. Seneca had been warned, we read, by Agrippina that the quibbles of philosophy would be too mean for his young pupil. He had little taste himself for the orators of the Republic, and did not care to point to them for lessons of manly dignity and freedom. But he did his best to teach him wisdom, spoke to him earnestly of duty, wrote for him moral treatises , full of thought and epigram, on themes like clemency and anger, but could not drop the language of the court, and hinted in his very warn­ings that the prince was raised above the law—was almost a god to make and to destroy.

Nero even from his youth had turned of choice to other teachers. He had little taste for the old Roman drill in arms and law and oratory, and was, it was noted, the first of the emperors who had his speeches written for him, from lack of readiness in public business. But he had a real passion for the arts of Greece, for music, poetry, and acting; had the first masters of the age to train him, studied with them far into the night, and soon began to pride himself upon the inspiration of the Muses. To gain time for such pursuits he was well content to leave the business of state to graver heads, and to take his part only in the pageant. He had other pleasures of a meaner stamp. Soon it was the talk of Rome that the young Emperor stole out in disguise at night, went to low haunts or roved about the streets with noisy roysterers like himself, broke into taverns and assaulted quiet citizens, and showed even in his mirth the signs of latent wantonness and cruelty.

His boon companions were not slow to foster the pride and insolence of rank, to bid him use the power he had, and free himself without delay from petticoat rule and the leading-strings of greybeards. Their counsels fell on willing ears. He had long been weary of his mother. She had ruled him as a boy by fear rather than by love, and now she could not stoop willingly to a lower place. She wanted to be regent still, and hoped perhaps to see her son content to sing and act and court the Muses, while she governed in his name. But he had listened gladly to ministers who schooled him to curb her ambition and assert himself. He looked on calmly while they checked her control over the Senate, put aside her chief adviser, Pallas, annulled the despotic acts of the last reign, and took the affairs of state out of her hands. She was not the woman to submit without a struggle. There were stormy scenes sometimes between them, and then again she tried with a woman’s blandishments to recover the ground that she had lost. She talked of the wrongs of the young Britannicus, and spoke of stirring the legions in his favour. As Nero’s love for Octavia cooled she took to her home the injured wife and made public parade of sympathy and pity. When it was too late, she changed her course of action, condoned and offered even to disguise the amorous license on which she had frowned before so sternly, and tried in vain to win his love with a studied tenderness that would refuse him nothing.

Nero’s chief ministers had put him on his guard against her and roused his jealousy and fear. They had now to stand by and see the struggle take its course, and watch the outcome with a growing horror. Britannicus, of whose name such imprudent use was made, was stricken at dinner with a sudden fit and taken out to die, as all men thought, by poison. His poor sister hid her grief in silence, but she was soon to be divorced. Agrippina was first stripped of all her guard of honour and forced to leave her house upon the Palatine; false informers were let loose upon her and wanton insolence encouraged. It was murmured that the dread Locusta was at work brewing her poisonous drugs, and that three times they tried in vain to poison her. One day it was found that the canopy above her bed was so arranged that the ropes must soon give way, and the whole crush her as she lay in sleep. At length Nero could wait no longer, and he found a willing tool in Anicetus, the admiral of his fleet, and between them a dark plot was hatched. It was holiday-time, and Nero was taking the baths at Bairn. Suddenly he wrote a letter to his mother full of sorrow at the past estrangement and of hopes that they might live on better terms if she would only come and see him as of old. She came at once, and found a hearty welcome ; was pressed to stay on one plea or another till at last night was come. Nero conducted her to a barge of state and left her with tender words and fond embraces. She was not far upon her homeward way across the bay when, at a signal given, the deck fell crashing in and the barge rolled over on its side; and the crew, far from coming to the rescue, struck with their oars at Agrippina and her women as they struggled in the water. But she was quiet and kept afloat a while, till a boat picked her up and carried her to her home, to brood over the infamous design. At last she sent a messenger to tell her son that she was safe though wounded. Nero, baffled in his murderous hopes and haunted by fears of vengeance, was for a while irresolute. He even called into counsel Seneca and Burrhus, and told them of his plot and of its failure. They would have no hand in her death, though they had no hope, perhaps no wish to save her. While they talk Anicetus acts. He hastens with an officer or two to Agrippina’s house, makes his way through the startled crowd about the shore, and finds her in her bedroom all alone. There, while she eyes them fiercely and bids them strike the womb that bore the monster, they shower their blows upon her and leave her lifeless body gashed with wounds (AD 59).

The ministers of Nero must share the infamy of this unnatural deed. They had already tarnished their good name by mean compliance. To save the power that was slipping from their grasp they had closed their eyes to Nero’s vices: they had tried even to cloak his youthful passion for a freedwoman by a paltry subterfuge; they had held their peace when Britannicus was poisoned, and stooped even to share the bounties that were showered at the time upon the courtiers; and now they sunk so low in good men’s eyes as to defend the deed from the thought of which even Nero at first shrunk aghast. Burrhus, we read, sent officers of the praetorian guard to announce the soldiers’ joy that their sovereign was safe for ever from his mother’s plots. Seneca’s hand drew up the dispatches to the Senate in which the murdered woman was charged with treasonable designs against the Emperor’s life, and all the worst horrors of the days of Claudius were raked up to cover her memory with shame. The Senate, too, was worthy of its prince, and voted solemn thanksgivings for his safety, while Thrasea alone protested by his silence, and walked out of the house at last when he could brook their flattery no longer. Even distant cities found an excuse for mean servility. One deputation came to beg Nero in the name of the provincials to bear his heavy grief with patience.

The Emperor came back to Rome to find the city decked out in festive guise to greet him like a conquering hero. So, rid at length of all fear of rivalry or moral restraints from his advisers, he gave free vent to his desires. Music and song, the circus and the theatre had been the passion of his childhood; they were now to be the chief object of his life. He shared the tastes of the populace of Rome, and catered for them with imperial grandeur. No cost or care was spared to make the spectacles imposing and worthy of the master of the world. The old national prejudice had looked on the actor’s trade as almost infamous for freeborn Romans; but on the stage, Nero drove upon the stage citizens of rank, knights and senators of ancient lineage, and made them play and act and dance before the people. The historian Dion Cassius rises from his sober prose almost to eloquence when he describes the descendants of the conquered races pointing the finger at the sons of the great families from which their victors sprung; the Greeks asking with surprise and scorn if that was indeed Mummius, the Spaniards marvelling to see a Scipio, the Macedonians an Aemilius before them. At last, as if it were to cover their disgrace—or, as many thought, to share it—Nero appeared himself in public, and sang and played and acted for the prize, and sought the plaudits of the crowd. He did not take it up as the mere pastime of an idle day, but practised and studied in real earnest, showed feverish jealousy of rival actors, and humbly bowed before the judges, as if the contest were a real one. No one might leave the theatre while he played; Vespasian was seen to nod, and sunk at once in his good graces. Five thousand sturdy youths were trained to sit in companies among the audience and give the signal for applause. Not content with such display at Rome, he starred it even in the provinces. The Greeks were the great connoisseurs of all the fine arts ; in their towns were glorious prizes to be won, and Greece alone was worthy of his voice and talents. Greece was worthy also of her ruler; nowhere was adulation more refined, nowhere did men flatter with more subtle tact the pride and vanity of the artist-prince.

We cannot doubt that Nero had a genuine love of art. It may seem as if he lived to justify the modern fancy that art has a sphere and canons of its own, and may be quite divorced from moral laws. But indeed the art of Nero and his times was bad, and that because it was not moral. It set at naught the eternal laws of truth and simplicity, of temperance and order. In poetry and music it was full of conceits and affectations, straining after the fantastic. In plastic art size was thought of more than beauty of proportion, and men aimed at the vast and grandiose in enormous theatres and colossal statues. In place of the delicate refinement of Greek taste its drama sought for coarse material effects; it did not try by flight of fancy to stir the nobler feelings of the heart, but relied on sensuous pageantry and carnal horrors to goad and sate the morbid taste for what was coarse, ferocious, and obscene.

Nero’s life as Emperor was one long series of stage effects, of which the leading feature was a feverish extravagance. His return from the art-tour in Greece outdid all the triumphal processions of the past. Thousands of carriages were needed for his baggage; his sumpter mules were shod with silver; and all the towns he passed upon his way received him through a breach made in their walls, for such he heard was the ‘sign of honour’ with which their citizens were wont to welcome the Olympian victors of old days. The public works which he designed were more to feed his pride than serve the public. He wanted, like another Xerxes, to cut a canal through the Corinthian isthmus; thought of making vast lakes to be supplied from the hot springs of Baiae, and schemed great works by which the sea might be brought almost to the walls of Rome. But it was only by his buildings that he left enduring traces, and to this the great disaster of his times gave an unlooked-for impulse. Some little shops in the low grounds near the Circus took fire by chance. The flames spread fast through the narrow streets and crowded alleys of the quarter, and soon began to climb up the higher ground to the statelier houses of the wealthy. Almost a week the fire was burning, and of the fourteen wards of the city only four escaped unharmed. Nero was at Antium when the startling news arrived, and he reached Rome too late to save his palace. He threw his gardens open to the homeless poor, lowered at once the price of corn, and had booths raised in haste to shelter them. He did not lack sympathy for the masses of the city, whose tastes he shared and catered for. And yet the story spread that the horrors of the blazing city caught his excited fancy, that he saw in it a scene worthy of an Emperor to act in, and sung the story of the fall of Troy among the crashing ruins and the fury of the flames. Even wilder fancies spread among the people: men whispered that his servants had been seen with lighted torches in their hands as suspicions, they were hurrying to and fro to spread the fire. For Nero had been heard to wish that the old Rome of crooked streets and crowded lanes might be now swept clean away, that he might rebuild it on a scale of royal grandeur. Certainly he claimed for himself the lion’s share of the space that the flames had cleared.

The palace to which the Palatine hill had given a name now took a wider range and spread to the Esquiline, including in its vast circuit long lines of porticoes, lakes, woods, and parks; while the buildings were so lavishly adorned with every art as to deserve the name of the Golden House’ which the people’s fancy gave to them. In its vestibule stood the colossal figure of the Emperor, one hundred and twenty feet in height, which afterwards gave its name to the Colosseum. From it stretched porticoes a mile in length, supported on triple ranges of marble pillars, leading to the lake, round which was built a mimic town, opening out into parks stocked with wild animals of every sort. The halls were lined with gold and precious stones; the banqueting­rooms were fitted with revolving roofs of ivory, perforated to scatter flowers and perfumes on the guests while shifting tables seemed to vanish of themselves and reappear charged with richest viands. There were baths too to suit all tastes, some supplied from the waters of the sea, and some filled with sulphurous streams that had their sources miles away.

Thousands of the choicest works of art of Greece and Asia had been destroyed, but their place was taken by the paintings and the statues brought from every quarter of the empire. Nero sent special agents to ransack the cities for art-treasures, and many a town among the isles of Greece mourned in after days the visit that had despoiled it of some priceless treasure.

When all was done and the Emperor surveyed the work, even he was satisfied, and he cried, “Now at least I feel that I am lodged as a man should be”. It was in halls like these that the privileged few gathered round their lord when he returned from the grave business of the circus and the stage to indulge in the pleasures of the table. Otho, the profligate dandy, who had been complaisant enough to lend his wife to Nero; Tigellinus, praefect of the guards, ready to pander to his master’s worst caprices; Vatinius, the hunchback, who had left his cobbler’s bench and pushed his fortunes in the palace by his scurrilous jests and reckless attacks on honest men; Sporus, the poor eunuch, and Pythagoras, the freedman, both degraded by the mockery of marriage with the wanton prince—these and many another whose names have not been gibbeted in history left their memories of infamy in that ‘House of Gold’.

The mood of the citizens meanwhile was dark and lowering as they brooded over their disasters, and Nero looked to find some victims to fill their thoughts or turn their suspicion from himself. The Christians were the scapegoats chosen. Confused in the popular fancy with the Jews, whose bigotry and turbulence had made them hated, upon askance by Roman rulers as members of secret clubs and possible conspirators, disliked probably by those who knew them best for their unsocial habits or their tirades against the fashions of the times, the Christians were sacrificed alike to policy and hatred. They deserved their fate, says Tacitus, not, indeed, because they were guilty of the fire, but from their hatred of mankind. There was a refinement of cruelty in their doom. Some were covered with the skins of beasts, and fierce dogs were let loose to worry them. Others were tied to stakes and smeared with tar, and then at nightfall, one after another, they were set on fire, that their burning bodies might light up Nero’s gardens, while the crowds made merry with good cheer, and the Emperor looked curiously on as at the play. No wonder that in the pages even of the heathen writers we hear something like a cry of horror, and that in the Christian literature we may trace the lurid colours of such scenes in the figures of Antichrist and in the visions of the coming judgment.

But Nero did not often waste his thought and ingenuity on such poor prey as the artizans and freedmen of the Christian Churches. His victims were commonly of higher rank, and the nearer to him the nearer they seemed to death. His aunt followed his mother to the grave, and her tender words to him as she lay upon her deathbed were rewarded by a message to her doctor to be prompt and close her pains. Octavia was soon divorced and killed, on a charge of faithlessness, which was so carelessly contrived as to shock men by its very wantonness of power. Poppaea, her successor, was dearly loved, and yet be killed her in a fit of passion with a hasty kick. He soon wearied of the grave face of Burrhus, who read in his coolness the omen of a speedy death. Before long he grew sick and felt that he was poisoned. He pointed to the blood that he spat up as the signs of princely gratitude, would not see Nero when he called to ask him how he felt, but said only, “Well” and turned his face away and died. Seneca was longer spared, but he too felt that his time must come. He held himself aloof from court, tried to give up all his wealth and honours, to live austerely, and by the lessons of philosophy to make himself strong and self-contained, or to be director of the consciences of those who needed help and comfort.

But with a prince like Nero even students were not safe, and philosophy itself was dangerous ground. The noblest minds at Rome were at this time mainly Stoics, and among the long line of Nero’s victims there were many who were in some sense martyrs to the Stoic creed. They were not republicans, though they have sometimes passed for such in later history. They were not disloyal, though they were looked at with disfavour. They were ready to serve the ruling powers either in the Senate or the camp; there was a largeness even in their social views as citizens of the world that would seem to fit them markedly for carrying out the levelling spirit of the imperial policy. Nevertheless they were regarded with jealousy and mistrust; nor is the reason far to seek. Stoicism in passing from the schools of Greece had ceased to be an abstract theory, with interest only for the curious mind that loved the subtleties of paradox. It was a standard of duty for the Romans, and a creed to live and die for. The resolute spirit and the hard outlines of its doctrines had a fascination for the higher type of Roman mind. To live up to the ideal of a noble life, in which reason should rule and virtue be its own reward ; to care very much for a good conscience, for personal dignity and freedom, and to think slightingly of short-lived goods over which the will has no control—here was a rule that was not without a certain grandeur, however wanting it might be at times in tenderness and sympathy. But such high teaching was distasteful to the sensualist and tyrant; its tone rebuked his follies and his vices. It set up a higher standard than the will of Caesar, and was too marked a contrast to the servile flattery of the times. It was not the spiritual Quixotism of a few, which might be safely disregarded, but men flocked to it on every side for lessons of comfort and of hardihood in evil days. Weak women turned to it to give them strength, as Arria, in the days of Claudius, had shown her husband how to die, when she but spread handed him the dagger that had pierced her through with the words, “See, Paetus, it does not hurt”. Some spread the doctrines with a sort of apostolic fervour, and may well have said at times uncourtly things of the vices in high places, like the Puritan preachers of our own land. Some, again, mistook bluntness of speech for love of truth, like Cornutus, who, when someone pressed Nero to write a work in some four hundred books, remarked that ‘no one then would read them; it was true Chrysippus wrote as many, but they were of some use to mankind’. Others, influencing the world of fashion in quiet intercourse and friendly letters, showed the young how to live in times of danger; or when the fatal message came stood by and calmed the pains of death, like the father-confessors of the Church.

Of the great Stoics of that time there was no more commanding figure than that of Thrasea Paetus. He had none of the hard austerity of a Cato nor the one-sided vehemence of a social reformer; he was fond even of the play, and mixed gaily in the social circles of the city; would not blame even vice severely, for fear of losing sight of charity to men. In the Senate he was discreet and calm, even when he disliked what was done; tempered his blame with words of praise, spoke of Nero as an eminent prince, and voted commonly with his colleagues, though he did not stoop to mean compliance. Sometimes, indeed, he protested by his silence, as when he rose and left the Senate-house rather than hear the apology of Nero for the murder of his mother, and when he declined to come and join the vote for the apotheosis of Poppaea. At last, when the evils seemed too strong for cure, he would take no part in public actions. For the last three years of his life he would not sit in his place among the senators, nor take the yearly vow of loyalty, nor offer prayer or sacrifice for Caesar. The rebuke of his silence was a marked one, for the world, watching his bearing, turned even to the official journals to see what Thrasea had not done, and to put their construction on his absence. The calm dignity of his demeanour seems to have awed even Nero for a while, but at last the Emperor wearied of his quiet protest. The fatal order found him in his garden, surrounded by a circle of his kinsmen and choice spirits, with whom he tranquilly conversed upon high themes. Like another Socrates he heard his doom with cheerfulness, and passed away without a bitter word.

Seneca, too, found consolation but not safety in the Stoic doctrines. He had long retired from the active of world, and shunned the Emperor’s jealous eye. He had sought in philosophy the lessons of a lofty self-denial, and was spending the last years of his life in studying how to die. The rash conspiracy of a few of his acquaintance, in which he took no part himself, was the excuse, though not the motive, for his murder. The sentence found him with his young wife and intimates, prepared for but not courting death. Denied the pleasure of leaving them by will the last tokens of affection, he told his friends that he could bequeath them only the pattern of an honest life, and gently reproved the weakness of their grief. His veins were opened; but he talked on still while life was slowly ebbing, and was calm through all the agony of lingering death. (AD 65)

Corbulo, the greatest soldier of his day, whose character was cast in an antique mould, and was true to the traditions of the camp, had also to experience the ingratitude of princes. He had led his troops to victory in the North, had baffled the Parthian force and guile, and saved a Roman army from disaster; he had been so loyal to his Emperor in the face of strong temptation as to cause the Armenian Tiridates to say in irony to Nero that he was lucky in having such a docile slave. Suddenly he was recalled with flattering words. The death-warrant met him on his way, and he fell upon his sword, saying only, “I deserved it”. So unlooked for was the deed that men could only say that Nero was ashamed to meet his eye while busied in pursuits so unworthy of a monarch.

A crowd of other victims pass before us on the scene. The least distinguished were driven forth from Rome to people lonely islands, while the chiefs proved to the world that they had learned from the Stoic creed the secret how to live nobly and die grandly. Women too were not wanting in heroic courage. Paulina, the young wife of Seneca, among the tried to go with him to the grave. Others were glad to save their self-respect by death. Of these some fell as victims to the jealousy of Caesar; their eminence, their virtues, and historic names made them dangerous rivals. Some found their wealth a fatal burden when the Emperor’s wild extravagance had drained his coffers and fresh funds were needed for his lavish outlay. More frequently they died to expiate a moral protest, which was often silent, but not the less expressive. The absolute ruler was provoked by men who would not crouch or bend. He felt instinctively that they abhorred him, and fancied that he saw even in the look of Thrasea something of the sour pedagogue’s frown. Their fate marked the crisis of the struggle between high thought and an ignoble acting.

Lucan too at this time, by a less honourable death, closed a short life of poetic fame. He had risen to early eminence in the social circles of the capital, stood high in favour at the court, where the passion for the fine arts was in vogue, and, as the nephew of Seneca, he shared the studies and for a time the confidence of Nero. But the sunshine of princely favour was soon clouded; he was coldly wel­comed in the palace, and then forbidden to recite in public. What was the reason of the change disgrace at we cannot say with certainty. Perhaps he was too bold in the choice of his great subject. The civil wars of the Republic had seemingly a fascination for the literary genius of this time, and many a pen was set to work and many a fancy fired by the story of the men who fought and died in the name of liberty or for the right to misgovern half the world. There was, of course, a danger in such themes. Julius Caesar had written an Anti-Cato, to attack a popular ideal, and later rulers might be tempted to meet his eulogists with the sword rather than the pen. Historians had already suffered for their ill-timed praises of the great republicans; and Claudius had been warned not to meddle with so perilous a theme. Lucan, therefore, may well have given offence to the instinctive jealousy of a despot, though he was not sparing of his flattering words, as when he bids him take a central place among the heavenly constellations, for fear of disturbing the equilibrium of the world ; and in the opening books, at least, which alone had seen the light, he was wary and cautious in his tone. Or it may be he offended Nero’s canons of poetic style, for he cast aside the old tradition and boldly dispensed with the dreamland of fable and all the machinery of the marvellous and superhuman. He aspired to set history to heroic verse, but claimed no knowledge of the world unseen. Or, as it is more likely still, his fame gave umbrage to his master, who was himself a would-be poet, and could not bear to have a rival. Whatever may have been the cause of his disgrace, Lucan could not patiently submit to be thus silenced. His vanity needed the plaudits of the crowd; his genius perhaps seemed cramped and chilled for the want of kindly sympathy. For the habit of public readings, then so common, took to some extent the place of the journals and reviews of modern times, and brought an author into immediate relation with the cultivated world for whom he wrote. When this pleasure was denied him Lucan first distilled into his poem some of the bitterness of his wounded pride, and then joined a band of resolute men who were conspiring to strike down the monarch of whom they were long weary and to set up a noble Piso in his place. The plot came to an untimely end, and most of those who joined it lost their lives. Lucan lost not his life only, but his honour, for when his fears were worked upon he gave evidence against his friends, and even denounced his mother as an accomplice in the plot. We can have little pity when we read that he could not save his life even by such means, nor can we feel interest in the affected calmness with which, in his last moments, he recited from his poem an account of death-agonies somewhat like his own.

There died at the same time the chief professor of a very different creed from that of the great Stoics. Petronius had given a lifetime to the study of the refinements of luxurious ease: his wit and taste and ingenuity had made him the oracle of Roman fashion, or the ‘arbiter,’ as he was called, of elegance. Nothing new could pass current in the gay world of the city till it had the stamp of his approval. He was the probable author of a satire which reflects the tone of social thought around him, its self-contempt, its mocking insight, and its shameless immorality. The work is a strange medley. It contains among other things a specimen of a heroic poem on the same theme as that of Lucan’s, full of the mythological machinery which the bolder poet had eschewed, and intended, therefore, possibly as a protest against Lucan’s revolutionary canons. It gives us also, in the supper of Trimalchio, a curious picture of the tasteless extravagance and vulgar ostentation of the wealthy upstarts of the times, such as might please the fastidious pride of the nobles in Roman circles. It might amuse them also, sated as they were with fashionable gossip, to hear the common people talk, and to be led in fancy into the disreputable haunts through which the hero of the piece is made to wander in the course of strange adventures, like a “Gil Blas” of old romance. The writer, if he really was Petronius, roused at last a jealousy which caused his ruin; for the vile favourite, Tigellinus, who had gained the ear of Nero, and aspired to be the master of ceremonies at the palace, could not bear a rival near him. He trumped up a false charge against him, worked upon his master’s fears which had been excited lately by the widespread conspiracy of Piso, and had an order sent to him to keep away from court. Petronius took the message for his death-warrant, and calmly prepared to meet his end. He set his house in order, gave instructions to reward some and punish others of his slaves, wrote out his will, and composed a stinging satire upon the Emperor’s foul excesses which he sealed and sent to him before he died. It was noted that at the last no philosopher stood at his bedside to whisper words of comfort or dwell on hopes of immortality, but that true, even in death, to his ignoble, godless creed, he amused himself as the streams of life were ebbing with frivolous epigrams and wanton verses.

Besides the portents of cruelty and lust, confined mainly to the walls of Rome, other disasters were not wanting to leave their gloomy traces on the annals of the times. A hasty rising of the British tribes under Queen Boadicea was followed by the Sack of two great Roman colonies, Camulodunum and Londinium, and the loss of seventy thousand men. In Armenia a general’s incapacity had brought dishonour on the legions and nearly caused the loss of Syria. Italy had been visited with hurricane and other and plague ; and the volcanic forces that had been long pent up beneath Vesuvius gave some time, token of their power by rocking the ground on which Pompeii stood and laying almost all its buildings low.

It was the monarch’s turn at length to suffer some of the agony now felt around him; and after fourteen years he fell because the world seemed weary of him, The signal of revolt was given first in Gaul, Gaul, where Vindex, a chieftain of a powerful clan of Aquitania, roused the slumbering discontent into a flame by describing, as an eye-witness, the infamy of Nero’s rule and the ends to which the heavy taxes were applied. He told them of Sporus carried as a bride in Nero’s litter and submitting publicly to his caresses; of Tigellinus lording it at Rome, and making havoc among noble lives, while his master was fiddling in all the theatres of Greece ; of Poppaea Sabina, first his mistress then his wife, who had her mules shod with shoes of gold, and five hundred asses daily milked to fill her bath; of the countless millions wrung from toiling subjects and squandered on a vile favourite or a passing fancy. Waiving all hopes of personal ambition, he urged Galba, the governor of Spain, to lead the movement, and came to terms with Verginius Rufus, who was marching from taken up by Germany against him. He killed himself, indeed, soon after with his own hand in despair, when the soldiers of Verginius fell upon his followers without orders from their general; but Galba was moving with his legions, and courier after courier arrived in Rome to say that the West of the Empire was in arms.

Nero heard the tidings first at Naples, but took little heed of anything except the taunts of Vindex at his sorry acting; and even when he came at length to Rome he wavered between childish levity and ferocious threats. Sometimes he could think only of silly jests and scientific toys, sometimes he dreamed of fearful vengeance on the traitors and their partisans in Rome and then again he would drop into maudlin lamentations, talk of moving his legions to sympathy by pathetic scenes, or of giving up the throne to live for art in humble peace. He tried to levy troops, but none answered to the call; the praetorian guards refused to march, the sentries even slunk away and left their posts, while the murmurs grew hourly more threatening, and ominous cries were heard even in the city. Afraid to stay within the palace, he went at night to ask his friends for shelter; but the doors of all were barred. He came back again to find his chambers plundered, and the box of poisons which he had hoarded gone. At length a freedman, Phaon, offered him a hiding-place outside the walls; and barefooted as he was, with covered face, Nero rode away to seek it. As he went by the quarters of the soldiers he heard them curse him and wish Galba joy. At last he and his guide leave the horses and creep through the brushwood and the rushes to the back of Phaon’s house, where on hands and feet he crawls through a narrow hole which was broken through the wall. Stretched on a paltry mattress, in a dingy cell, hungry, but turning in disgust from the black bread, with the water from the marsh to slake his thirst, he listens with reluctance to the friends who urge him to put an end to such ignoble scenes. He has a grave dug hastily to the measure of his body, and fragments of marble gathered for his monument, and he feels the dagger’s edge, but has not nerve enough to use it. He asks some of the bystanders to show him by their example how to die, and then he feels ashamed of his own weakness and mutters, “Fie, Nero! now is the time to play the man”. At last comes Phaon’s courier with the news that the Senate had put a price upon his head ; the tramp of the horses tells him that his pursuers are on his track, and fear gives him the nerve to put the dagger to his throat, while, true to the passion of his life, he mutters, “What a loss my death will be to art!’” Stoicism had taught his victims how to die with grand composure ; but all his high art and dramatic studies could not save him from the meanest exit from the stage. His last wish was granted, and they burnt the body where it lay, to save it from the outrage that might follow. Two poor women, who had nursed him as a baby, and Acte, the object of his boyish love, gathered up his ashes and laid them beside the rest of his own race.

It might be thought that few but his own pampered favourites could retain any affectionate remembrance of such a monster of sensuality and cruel caprice, who at his best was moody and volatile, undignified and vain; yet it seems that a fond memory of him lingered in the hearts of many of the people, who brought their flowers to grave or posted up proclamations which an nounced that he was living still and would come to take vengeance on his enemies. Pretenders started up from time to time and gathered adherents round them in his name, and even after twenty years one such adventurer, of humble birth, received from the Parthians a welcome and support, and was reluctantly abandoned by them at the last.


GALBA.—A.D. 68-69.


The accession of Sulpicius Galba was due to a stir of independence in the provinces. Gaul would not brook the rule of Nero longer, and the chief who came forward in the name of Vindex to maintain their liberty of choice, and whose fiery proclamations hurled Nero from his throne, called upon Galba to succeed him. He came of ancient lineage, though unconnected with the family which through natural ties or by adoption had given six emperors to Rome. Early omens are said to have drawn upon him as a boy the notice of Augustus and Tiberius; he was hotly courted by the widowed Agrippina, and took a high place among the legatees of Livia Augusta in the will that was not carried out. Many years of his life were spent in high command in Africa, Germany, and Spain, where he became eminent for energy and strict discipline, bordering at times on harshness, till he put on a show of easy sloth to disarm the jealousy of Nero. The force at his command was small. A single legion and two troops of horse formed but a scanty army to carry an Emperor to Rome. His soldiers showed no great enthusiasm for him, and some of his cavalry were minded even to desert him. When he heard the news of the death of Vindex he despaired not of success only but of life, and thought of ending his career by his own hand.

So far he had appealed only to the province that he ruled, had begun to levy troops and strengthen his tiny army, and to form a council of provincial notabilities to advise him like a senate. He called himself the servant only of the Roman State. But when the tidings came that the capital had accepted him for their new ruler he took at once the name of Caesar, and put forth without disguise imperial claims. Rival pretenders started up at once around him. In Africa, in Germany, in the quarters of the Praetorian guards, generals came forward to dispute the prize, for every camp might have its claimant when the power of the sword would give a title to the throne; but one after another fell, while their soldiers wavered or deserted them. So Galba made his way to Rome without a struggle. But before him came the rumours of his harshness and his parsimony. He had sternly fined and punished the cities that were slow to recognize him, and put men to death unheard as partisans of the fallen causes. Ugly stories reappeared of the severities of earlier days—of the money-changer whose hands he had nailed to the bench where he had given false weight, of the criminal for whom he had provided in mockery a higher cross than usual, as he protested that he was a citizen of Rome. There was little to attract the people in the sight of their new prince, who entered Rome upon a litter, with hands and feet crippled by the gout, and face somewhat cold and hard, marked already with the feebleness of old age.

The soldiers were the first to murmur. The marines whom Nero had called out mutinied when they were sent back to join their ships, but they were sternly checked and decimated. The imperial body­guard of Germans was disbanded and sent back home empty-handed. The ashamed already of the death of Nero and their prefect, heard with rage that the new sovereign would not court their favour or stoop to buy the loyalty of his soldiers. The legions on the frontier were ill-pleased to think that their voices counted for so little, that they were not thought worthy of a word or promise. The German army chafed because their general Verginius had been removed on flattering pretexts, but really because his influence over them was feared; and they construed his forced absence from the camp as an insult to their loyalty, and the exceptional favours shown to some towns of Gaul as a marked affront populace offered to themselves. Nor was the city populace in a cheerful mood. For years they had been feasted and caressed ; races and games, gladiators and wild beasts had made life seem a holiday and kept them ever in good humour. Now they heard that there was to be an end to all such cheer, for their ruler was a morose, penurious old man, who thought a few silver pieces awarded to the finest actor of the day a present worthy of a prince.

Nero’s favourites and servants heard with rage that they must disgorge at once the plunder of the past régime. A commission was appointed to call them to account and to wrest from them what their master’s prodigality had given, and as a special grace to leave them each a beggarly tithe of all the presents, in which he had expended during the few years of his reign no less than two thousand one hundred million sesterces. The Senate and the men of worth of rank were full of hope at first, for Galba seemed upright and spoke them fair. But soon they found, to their dismay, that all influence had passed out of their hands, and that the Emperor himself was not the ruling power in the state. Three favourites—one a freedman, Icelus; two of higher rank, T. Vinius, his legate, and Cornelius Laco, an assessor in his court of justice—had followed him from Spain, and gained, as it seemed, an absolute control over his acts. They never left him, and the wits of Rome called them the Emperor’s pedagogues; indeed, they seemed to guide the old man as by the leading-strings of childhood, and to recall the memory of the worst days of the dotard Claudius. Public offices of trust, boons, immunities, and honours were put up shamelessly to auction, and the life and honour of free men were sacrificed to the caprice and greed of haughty and venal minions, while the most infamous of Nero’s creatures, Tigellinus, was saved by their influence from the fate he merited.

In a short time the discontent was universal. Already the legions of the Rhine had refused the oath of loyalty, and called on the Senate and the people to choose another Emperor, while in the city the temper of all classes boded ill. But Galba took one more step, and that was fatal. Feeling that at the age of seventy-three he had not strength to rule alone, he decided to adopt a colleague and successor. His choice fell on Piso Frugi Licinianus, who was young, noble, and of eminent worth. But the act came too late to regain the confidence that had been lost, and only provoked a speedier explosion of fear, jealousy, and disaffection ; the more so because the speech in which he told the soldiers of his choice was of almost disdainful brevity, and irri­tated minds that were still wavering and might have been won over by a little timely liberality.

The blow came from the praetorian camp, in which two common soldiers undertook to give away the throne, and kept their word. A freedman had tampered with them in the interest of his master Otho, who had hoped to take the place that Piso filled, and who would now try foul means, as fair had failed. The soldiers felt the temper of their comrades, and Otho’s intimates and servants were lavish with their presents to the guard on all occasions. While Galba stood one morning beside the altar on which the victim lay, and the priest read presages of disaster in the entrails, Otho was beckoned suddenly away on the plea of buying an old property with the advice of his architects and builders. In the Forum he found twenty-three praetorians, who hurried him in a litter to their camp, and then presented him to the homage of their comrades. All were soon won over with fair words and liberal promises of bounty. The marines had not forgiven the Emperor his harsh treatment of their comrades, and therefore joined the movement eagerly, while the armed forces quartered in the city made common cause with the insurgents, thrusting aside the officers who tried to hold them in.

Rumours passed rapidly through Rome meanwhile. At first men heard that the guards were up in arms against their prince and had carried off a senator, some said Otho, to their camp. Messengers were dispatched at once by the startled rulers to secure if possible the obedience of the other forces, while Piso appealed to the company on guard around the palace to be staunch and true even though others wavered, and then set out to face the insurgents in the camp. Shortly after came the news that the praetorians had slain Otho to assert their loyalty, and that they were coming to salute their sovereign. The false news spread, designedly or not, and all classes who had hesitated before streamed into the palace to make a show of joy, and to conduct Galba to the camp, while one soldier in the crowd waved in the air his sword, dripping, as he said, with Otho’s blood. But the Emperor, mindful of discipline to the last, after much said, “Comrade, who bade you do the deed?”. At length he started, after much debate and; doubt, but could make little way among the densely-crowded streets, and hardly reached the Forum, when the insurgent troops appeared in sight. They were joined at once by his single company of guards; together they charged and dispersed the crowd that followed him, while the slaves that bore the litter flung it down upon the ground and left their master stunned and helpless and undefended, to be hacked to death by the fierce but while on soldiery that closed about him. So died, says Tacitus, one whom all would have thought fit for empire, had he not been Emperor in deed. There were many claimants for the honour of dispatching him, and Vitellius received more than one hundred and twenty letters of petition from men who looked for high reward for such a signal merit. To save the trouble of deciding and to discourage so dangerous a precedent, he ordered all the suitors to be put to death.

Piso had fled for sanctuary meantime to Vesta’s temple, where a poor slave took pity on him and gave him the shelter of his hut. But the emissaries of Otho were soon upon the spot to drag him from his hiding-place and slay him on the temple steps and take his head to feast his, master’s eyes. The friends of the fallen rulers were allowed by special favour to buy their bodies from the soldiers, and show them the last tokens of respect.


OTHO.—A.D. 69.


M. Salvius Otho began in early youth a wild and dissolute career. To gain a footing in the palace he paid his court to an old waiting-maid of influence, and before long became one of the most prominent of the set of young roysterers who, surrounded Nero. He rose to be the chief friend and confidant of the young prince, encouraged him in his worst excesses, was privy even to his mother’s murder, and gave the luxurious supper which lulled her fears to rest. He relied too much, however, on his influence, and presumed to be the Emperor’s rival for the heart of Poppaea Sabina, after giving her his hand and home to cloak Nero’s wanton love. To cover his disgrace and check the scandalous gossip of the city he was appointed to official duties in Lusitania, where for ten years his equity and self-restraint were a marked contrast to the infamy of his earlier and later life. In Galba’s rise to power he saw his opportunity of return, and he exhausted all his arts of flattery and address in the attempt to win the old man’s favour, with the further hope that he might take the place which the Emperor’s death would soon vacate. That hope once baffled, he calmly laid his plans, and swept away without compunction the obstacles that barred his road to power. On the evening of the day when Galba fell he made his way across the blood-stained Forum to the palace, while the Senate in a hurried meeting passed all the usual votes of honour for their new prince. The populace were ready with their cheers, and pressed him to take the name of Nero, in memory of the revels of his youth. But the real power was in the soldiers’ hands, and they watched with jealous care the puppet they had set upon the throne. He had nothing of the soldier’s bearing, was effeminate in look and car­riage, with beardless face and an ungainly walk. Yet, strange to say, they loved him well, and were loyal to him to the last. They love, kept watch and ward with anxious care that no evil might befall him. They once flew to arms in groundless panic when he was seated with his friends at supper, forced their way even to his presence, to make sure that their favourite was safe; and when he died some slew themselves in their despair, as the dog dies upon his master’s grave. Otho could refuse them nothing. He let them choose their own commanders, listened readily to all their grievances, gave them freely all they asked for, and had recourse to subterfuges to rescue from their clutches some whom he wished to spare. He had soon need of all their loyalty, for even before Galba’s death the armies of the Rhine had hailed as Emperor their general Vitellius, and their legions were already on the march for Rome. For they were weary of the monotony of constant drill and border camps, and flushed with triumph at the ease with which they had crushed the hopes of Vindex. They cast greedy eyes on the wealth of Gaul, and were jealous of the privileged praetorians; they felt their power and longed to use it, now that the fatal secret had been learnt, that emperors were not made at Rome alone.

So leaving Vitellius himself to follow slowly with the levies newly raised, two armies made their way to Italy, with Valens and Caecina at their head, and crossing the Alps by different passes, after spreading terror among the peoples of Gaul and of Helvetia, met at last upon the plains of Lombardy. Letters meantime had passed between Vitellius and Otho, in which each urged the other to abate his claims, and to take anything short of the imperial power. From promises they passed to threats, and thence to plots. Each sent assassins to destroy the other, and each failed to gain his end. But the legions of the North came daily nearer, and Otho lost no time in mustering his forces, and showed an energy of which few had thought him capable. He could count upon the army in the East, where Vespasian was acting in his name. The nearer legions in Pannonia and Dalmatia were true to him, and would soon be ready Otho marched to to join the forces that he led from Rome. So with such household troops as he could gather and the questionable contingent of two thousand gladiators, he set out to meet the enemy and to appeal to the decision of the sword. With him there went perforce many of the chief officers of state, the senators of consular rank, nobles and knights of high position : some proud of their gay arms and trappings, but raw and timid soldiers for the most part, thinking often more of the pleasures of the table than of the real business of war. But their presence in the camp gave moral support to Otho’s cause, and lessened the danger of disaffection in the rear. His most skilful generals urged delay till his distant forces could come up from Illyria or the East; but his soldiers were rash and headstrong and, flushed by slight successes at first over Caecina, accused their chiefs of treachery. His confidants were inexperienced and sanguine, and Otho would not wait. He had not the nerve to bear suspense nor yet to brave the crash of battle. So weakening his army by the withdrawal of his guard, he retired to Brixellum (Brescia), to wait impatiently for the result, and to send messages in quick succession to urge his generals to fight without delay. The armies met in the shock of battle on the plains near Bedriacum, where Otho’s best generals, was forced to fight against their will, were the first to leave the field, and his ill-led and mutinous soldiers broke and fled. But the poor gladiators stood their ground and died almost to a man. The fugitives from the field of battle soon brought the tidings to Brixellum, and Otho saw that all was over. His guards, indeed, boasted of their loyal love, and urged him to live and to renew the struggle, and told him of his distant armies on the march. But he had staked his all upon a single battle, and he knew that he must pay his losses. He was sick perhaps of civil bloodshed, though the fine words which Tacitus ascribes to him sound strangely in the mouth of one who plotted against Galba and gloated over Piso’s death. He waited one more day to let the senators retire who had reluctantly followed him to war, and to save Verginius from the blind fury of the soldiers, or perhaps with some faint lingering hope of rescue; he spent one more night, we know not in what thoughts, upon his bed, and at the dawn took up his dagger and died by his own hand. It was certainly no hero’s death. The meanest of that day, the poor gladiator of the stage, could face death calmly when his hour was come; and reigns of terror and the Stoics’ creed had long made suicide a thing of course to every weary or despairing soul. Yet so rare were the lessons of unselfishness in high places, that men thought it noble in him to risk no more his soldiers’ lives, painted with a loving hand the picture of his death, and whispered that his bold stroke for empire was perhaps the act, not of an unscrupulous adventurer, but of a republican who wished to restore his country’s freedom.




VITELLIUS had only a short term of power, but It was long enough to mark perhaps the lowest depth to which elective monarchy has ever fallen. His father Lucius had done good service as a soldier, but he came back to Rome to disgrace his name by mean and abject flattery of the ruling powers. To pay his homage to the divine Caligula he veiled and bowed to the ground in silent adoration. To push his father in his fortunes in the court of Claudius, where wives and freedmen ruled, he kept the effigies of Pallas and Narcissus among those of his household gods, and carried one of Messalina’s slippers in his bosom, to have the pleasure of kissing it in public. He rose to be thrice consul, and the admiring Senate had graven on his statue in the Forum the words which told of his unswerving loyalty towards his prince. The son followed in his father’s steps and pandered to the vices of three Emperors in turn. As a youth he shared the sensual orgies of Tiberius at Capreae, he pleased Claudius by his skill at dice, and Nero by using a show of force when he was too shy to sing in public. In the province of Africa he bore a better character as proconsul, but as commissioner of public works at Rome he was said to have filched the gold out of the temples and replaced it with ornaments of baser metal. Yet on the recall of Verginius he was sent by Galba to command the camp in lower Germany. Men thought the appointment strange enough. Some said he owed it to a favourite’s caprice; some fancied that he was chosen from contempt, as too mean and slothful to be dangerous in command. He was the greatest glutton of his times, had eaten all his means away, and had to leave his family in hired lodgings and to pledge his mother’s jewels to pay the expenses of his journey. But he started in the gayest mood, made messmates and friends of all he met, and did not stay to pick and choose. His low pleasantries and jovial humour charmed all the muleteers and soldiers on the road, and in the camp he was hearty and affable to all alike, was always ready to relax the rules of discipline, and seldom took the trouble to refuse a prayer. The army saw in him a general who was too liberal and open-handed to wish to stint them to their beggarly pittance and keep them to task-work on the frontier. He would not try to curb their licence or deny them plunder if they were once upon to Rome. Two leading generals, Fabius Valens and Alienus Caecina, saw in him also a convenient tool, whose very vices caught the fancy of the soldiers, and whose name would sound well in a proclamation, but who was too weak and indolent to wish to rule, and would be obliged to fall back on men of action like themselves. Both wished for civil war on personal grounds. Valens resented bitterly the neglect of the good service rendered by him to Galba’s cause; Caecina had just been detected in fraudulent use of public money and would soon be called to an account.

Within a month a crowd of soldiers gather at nightfall round their general’s tent, force their way into his presence, and carry him upon their shoulders through the camp, while their comrades salute their new Emperor with acclamations. The legions of the upper province were already in revolt, and soon broke the idle oath of allegiance to the Senate and joined their comrades of the lower Rhine. The two armies under Valens and Caecina pushed forward by separate routes to cross the Alps. Their track was marked by license and by rapine. The frightened villagers fled away; the townsfolk trembled lest their riches should tempt the soldiers’ greed, or jealous neighbours vent their spite in treacherous charges, and were glad at any cost to purchase safety from the leaders. Caecina was the first to front the foe, but was beaten off from the strong walls of Placentia after a vain attempt to storm it, which caused the ruin of the amphitheatre, the finest of the kind in Italy and the pride of all the townsmen. Valens, however, was not far behind, and the two armies once united crushed the badly-handled troops of Otho in the victory of Bedriacum, near the confluence of the Addua and the Padus.

Vitellius was in no mood to hurry. He was very well content to move in pomp and triumph on the road, or float at ease along the rivers, while his guards did the fighting. The provincials vied with each other in their eagerness to do him honour, and they found that the one passport to his favour was to provide abundance of good cheer. He was glutton and epicure in one. The countries through which he passed were drained of all their choicest, costliest while viands, and every halt upon the way was the signal for a round of sumptuous banquets, which never came too fast for his voracious appetite; while his train of followers gave loose to insolent license, plundering as they went and quarrelling with their hosts, and Vitellius only laughed in uproarious mirth to see their brawls. The rude soldiers of the North settled like a cloud of locusts on the fair lands of Italy; cornfields and vineyards were stripped for many a league upon their way, and towns were ruined to supply and rioting took the place of the stem discipline of frontier armies, and camp-followers ravaged what the soldiers spared. Even in the streets of Rome the quiet citizens stood aghast as the wild-looking troops came pouring in, the untanned skins of beasts upon their shoulders, their clumsy sandals slipping on the stones. But the soldiers were in no mood to brook a curious stare or mocking jibe, for a blow soon followed on a word, and bloody brawls destroyed the peace of the streets where they were quartered. Caecina, with his cloak of plaid and Gallic trousers, had little of the Roman general’s look, nor did men eye his wife with pleasure as she rode by on her fine horse with purple trappings. With them in military guise came the new master of the world, the soldiers’ choice, with the drunkard’s fiery face and weak legs that could scarcely carry his unwieldy frame. He now returned in state to the city from which he stole away but lately to avoid importunate creditors. His first care was to pay honour to the memory of Nero and to call at a concert for the song that he had loved, as if he saw in him the ideal of a ruler. But the substance of power passed at once out of his feeble hands ; the generals who had led his troops governed in his name, while Asiaticus, his freedman, copied the insolence of the favourites of Claudius. Their master meantime gave all his thoughts to the pleasures of the table, inventing new dishes to contain portentous pasties to which every land must yield its quota, and spending in a few short months nine hundred million sesterces in sumptuous fare.

But he had no long time to eat and drink undisturbed. Within eight months the armies of the East took the oath of allegiance to Vespasian, and the legions in Moesia and Pannonia, which had not been able to strike a blow for Otho, were ready to avenge him by turning their arms against Vitelli us. The main army of the enemy, indeed, was slow to move; but Primus Antonius, a bold and resolute officer, pushed on with the scanty forces that lay nearest on the road to Italy, and reached Verona before a blow was struck. He might have paid dearly for his rashness if the generals of Vitellius had been prompt and loyal; but their mutual jealousies caused treachery and wavering counsels in their midst, and all seemed to conspire to help Vespasian. The air and luxury of Rome had done their work upon the vigour of the German legions, and their morale had suffered even more. The auxiliary forces had been disbanded and sent home; recruiting had been stopped for want of funds; furloughs were freely granted; and the old praetorians had been broken up and were streaming now to join Antonius. The Etesian winds, which were blowing at this time, wafted the ships towards the East, but delayed all the homeward-bound, so that little was known of the plans and movements of the enemy, while it was no secret that the forces of Vitellius were daily growing weaker, and that Csecina was chafing visibly at the rising popularity of Valens. The fleet at Ravenna was the first to declare against Vitellius, for their admiral, Lucilius Bassus, had failed to gain the post of praetorian praefect, and was eager to, avenge the slight. Caecina, who was taking the command in the north of Italy, tried first to let the war drag slowly on, and then to spread disaffection in the ranks, and to raise the standard for Vespasian. But the soldiers had more sense of honour than their leaders. Hearing of the plot, they rose at once, threw Caecina and some others into chains, and fought on doggedly without a general. The crash of war came a second time upon the plains of Bedriacum, where, after hard fighting, the legions of Germany were routed, and flying in confusion to their entrenchments at Cremona, brought upon the unoffending town all the horrors of havoc and destruction.

Even amid the scenes of that year of strife and carnage the fate of Cremona sent a thrill of horror throughout Italy. So suddenly came the ruin on the city that the great fair held there at that time was crowded with strangers from all parts, who shared the fate of the poor citizens. At a hasty word from their general Antonius, who said that the water in the bath was lukewarm and should be hotter soon, the soldiers broke all the bands of discipline, and for four days pillaged and burnt and tortured at their pleasure, till there was left only a heap of smoking ruins, and crowds of miserable captives kept for sale, whom for very shame no one would buy.

Vitellius meanwhile had hardly realized his danger, till the news came of the treachery of Caecina and the disasters at Bedriacum and Cremona. Even then at first he tried to hide them from the world and to silence the gloomy murmurs that were floating through the city. The enemy returned to him the scouts whom he had sent, but after hearing what they had to tell in secret he had their mouths stopped for ever. A centurion, Julius Agrestis, tried in vain to rouse him to be stirring, and volunteered to ascertain the truth with his own eyes. He went, returned, and when the Emperor affected still to disbelieve, he gave the best proof he could of his sincerity by falling on his sword upon the spot. Then, at last, Vitellius summoned resolution to raise recruits from the populace of Rome, and to call out the newly-levied cohorts of the guards. He set out at their head to guard the passes of the Apennines, but he soon wearied of the hardships of the field, and came back again to Rome to hear fresh tidings of treachery and losses, and to be told that Valens had been captured in the effort to raise Gaul in his defence, and to feel that his days of power were numbered. In despair at last he thought of abdication, and came to terms with Vespasian’s brother, Flavius Sabinus, who had long been prefect of the city. In a abdicate, few hopeless words he told the soldiers and vented by the people that he resigned all claims upon them, and laid aside the insignia of empire in the shrine of Concord. But the troops from Germany, who had felt their power a few months since, could not believe that it had passed out of their hands, and they rose in blind fury at the thought of tame submission. They forced Vitellius to resume his titles, and hurried to attack Sabinus, who, with some of the leading men of Rome and a scanty band of followers, was driven for refuge to the Capitol. There they found shelter for a single night, but on the morrow the citadel was attacked and stormed by overpowering numbers. A few resolute men died in its defence ; some slipped away in various disguises, and among them Domitian, the future Emperor ; but the rest were hunted down and slain in flight. In the confusion of the strife the famous temple of Jupiter caught fire. All were too busy to give time or thought fray the to stay the flames, and in a few hours only ruins were left of the greatest of the national monuments of Rome, which, full of the associations of the past, had served for ages as a sort of record office in which were treasured the memorials of ancient history, the laws, the treaties, and the proclamations of old times. The loss was one that could not be replaced, but it was soon to be avenged. Antonius was not far away with the vanguard of Vespasian’s army. Messengers came fast to tell him first that the Capitol was besieged, and then that it was stormed. They were followed soon by envoys from the Senate to plead for peace, but they were roughly handled by the soldiers; and Musonius

Rufus, of the Stoic creed, who had come unbidden with his calming lessons of philosophy found scant hearing for his balanced periods about concord, for the rude soldiers jeered and hooted till the sage dropped his ill-timed lecture for fear of still worse usage. Vestal Virgins came with letters from Vitellius asking for a single day of truce, but in vain, for the murder of Sabinus had put an end to the courtesies of war. Soon the army was at the gates of Rome, and scenes of fearful carnage followed in the gardens and the streets even of the city, for the Vitellians still sullenly resisted, though without leaders or settled methods of defence, till at length they were borne down by numbers, while the population turned with savage jeers against them and helped to hunt them from their hiding-places and to strip the bodies of the fallen. When the enemy was at the city gates, Vitellius slunk quietly away in a litter, with his butler and his cook to bear him company, in the hope of flying to the South. Losing heart or nerve, he had himself carried back again, and wandered restlessly through the deserted chambers of the palace. His servants even slipped away, and he was left alone. Before long the plunderers made their way into the palace, and after searching high and low found him at length hidden behind a mattress in the porter’s lodge, or, as another version of the story runs, crouching in a kennel with the dogs. They dragged him out with insults and blows, paraded him in mockery through the streets, and buffeted him to death at last in the place where the bodies of the meanest criminals were flung to feed the birds of prey.


VESPASIAN.—A.D. 69-79.


The Flavian family, to which the next three Emperors belonged, was of no high descent. It was said, indeed— though Suetonius could find no evidence the story—that Vespasian’s great-grandfather origin and was a day-labourer of Umbria, who came each year to work in the hire of a Sabine farmer, till at last he settled at Reate. His father had been a tax-gatherer in Asia, and had taken afterwards to the money-lender’s trade, and dying left a widow with two sons, Sabinus and Vespasianus. The younger showed in early life no high ambition, did not care even to be senator, and was only brought to sue for honours by the taunts and entreaties of his mother. Fortune did not seem to smile on him at first. Caligula was angry because the streets were foul when he was mdile, and had his bosom plastered up with mud. He proved his valour as a soldier in many a battlefield in Germany and Britain, but fell into disgrace again because his patron was Narcissus, on whose friends Agrippina looked askance. Then he rose to be governor of Africa, and was too fair not to give offence; but his worst danger was from Nero’s vanity, which he sorely wounded, by going to sleep while he was singing, or by leaving the party altogether. Shunning the court, he lived in quiet till the rising in Judaea made Nero think of him again as a general of tried capacity, yet too modest and unambitious to be feared. By his energy and valour he soon restored discipline and won the soldiers’ trust, and was going on vigorously with the work of conquest when the news came of Nero’s fall. His son Titus set out to pay his compliments to Galba, and possibly to push his fortunes at the court; but hearing at Corinth that Galba too had fallen, and that Otho was in his place, he sailed back at once to join his father.

Vespasian’s friends now thought that the time was come for him to strike a blow for empire. The two rivals who were quarrelling for the prize were men of infamous character and no talents for command, while the legions of the East trusted their generals and were jealous of the Western armies. The rumour was spread among them that they were to be shifted from their quarters to the rigour of the German frontier, to let others reap the fruits of war; and they began to clamour for an emperor of their own. Mucianus, the governor of Syria, might have been a formidable rival, for he was brilliant and dexterous in action, of winning ways and ready speech, had moved among the highest circles, and won the affections of his soldiers. He was no friend to Vespasian, for he had coveted his post in Palestine; yet now, from a rare prudence or self-sacrifice, or gained over, it may be, by the graceful tact of Titus, he was willing to waive all claims of personal ambition and to share all the dangers of the movement. But Vespasian himself was slow to move. He had made his army take the oath to each Emperor in turn, and he thought mainly now of the war that lay ready to his hand. The urgent pleadings of his son, the well-turned periods of Mucianus, such as Tacitus puts into his mouth, the sanguine hopes of friends, might have failed to make him risk the hazard; but the soldiers’ talk had compromised his name, the troops at Aquileia had declared for him already, and he felt that it might be dangerous to draw back. The praefect of Egypt, with whom Titus had intrigued already, took the first decisive step, and put at Vespasian’s command his important province and the corn-supplies of Rome. The armies of Palestine and Syria rose soon after and joined the movement with enthusiasm. Berenice, Agrippa’s sister, who had long since gained the ear of Titus, helped him with her statecraft and brought offers of alliance from Eastern princes and even from the Parthian empire. But Vespasian was still slow and wary. While Primus Antonius pushed on with the vanguard of his army from Illyria, not staying in his adventurous haste to hear the warning to be cautious, Mucianus followed with the main body to find the struggle almost over before he made his way to Rome, and was in Vespasian himself crossed over into Egypt to take measures to starve his enemies into submission, or to hold the country as a stronghold in case of failure. There he heard of the bold march of the vanguard into Italy, of the bloody struggle near Cremona, and of the undisputed march to Rome. Then came the tidings from the Northwest that the withdrawal of the legions had been followed by a rising of the neighbouring races, and that even Roman troops had stooped so low as to swear fealty to the Gaul. The Britons and Dacians too were stirring, and brigands were pillaging the undefended Pontus. Soon he learnt that the Capitol had been stormed and his brother killed in the blind fury of the soldiers’ riot, but that vengeance had been taken in the blood of Vitellius and his troops. Each ship brought couriers with eventful news, or senators coming to do homage, till the great town of Alexandria was thronged to overflowing. Still he stayed in Egypt, till at length he could not in prudence tarry longer, for Mucianus having set Antonius aside was in absolute command at Rome, and his own son Domitian, a youth of seventeen, who had been left in the city but escaped his uncle’s fate, seemed to have lost his head at the sudden change of fortune, and was indulging in arrogant caprices. Titus was with his father in Egypt till the last, and pleaded with him to deal tenderly with his brother’s wilful ways, then left to close the war in Palestine, while Vespasian hastened with the com-ships on to Rome, where the granaries had only food for ten days left, and Mucianus had been ruling with a sovereign’s airs.

Meantime the rising on the Rhine was quelled. It had its source in the revengeful ambition of Civilis, a chieftain of the ruling class of the Batavi, Germany—who narrowly escaped with life from the charge of disloyalty to Rome. His people had long sent their contingents to serve beside the legions. Bold, brave, and proud of their military exploits, they were easily encouraged to believe that they could take the lead in a national movement of the Germans. The frontier had been almost stripped in the excitement of the civil war, and the scanty remnants of the legions knew not which side to join, and had no confidence in their leaders. To supply the waste of war fresh levies were demanded, and the Batavi, stung to fury by the recruiting officers, listened readily to Civilis. They rose to arms, at first in Vespasian’s name, and then, throwing off the mask, frankly unfurled the national banner, to which the neighbouring races streamed.

The Treveri and Lingones tried to play the same part among the Gauls and to lead them too against the imperial troops, who, half-hearted and mutinying against their leaders, laid down their arms or were overpowered by numbers. Some even took the military oath in the name of the sovereignty of Gaul. It was but an idle title after all. The mutual jealousy between the several clans and towns barred the way to real union among them, nor would the Germans calmly yield to the pretensions of their less warlike neighbours. Soon, too, the tramp of the advancing legions was heard along the great highways, for, the struggle once over at the centre, no time was lost in sending Cerealis to restore order on the Rhine.

The wavering loyalty of the Gauls was soon secured, and it scarcely needed the general’s proclamation to remind them that the Roman Empire brought peace and safety to their homes, and that even failure, it they could rend that union to pieces they would be the first to suffer from its ruin. To reduce the Batavi to submission force was needed more than words; but the strife grew more hopeless as their allies fell off, and such as still remained in arms were routed after an obstinate battle, in which a river’s bed was choked with the bodies of the slain. The submission of Civilis closed an insurrection, formidable in itself, but most noteworthy as an ominous sign of the possible disruption of the Empire.

It was left for Vespasian on his return to heal the gaping wounds of civil war, to restore good order to the provinces, and to calm the excitement of the capital after scenes of fire and carnage, and the vicissitude of the last eventful year, which had seen three Emperors rise and fall. The city was beautified again, and rose with fresh grandeur from the havoc and the ruin. The temple on the Capitol was magnificently restored, and all the dignitaries of Rome assembled in great pomp to share in laying the foundation-stone. The temple finished, they were careful to replace some at least of what had been destroyed within it. Careful search was made for copies of the treaties, laws, and ancient records which had perished in the flames, and three thousand were replaced, as in a national museum.

But while pious hands were dealing reverently with the greatest of Rome’s ancient temples the forces of destruction were let loose elsewhere, and prophecies of woe upon the Holy City of Jerusalem were nearing their fulfilment. To understand the causes of the rising in Judaea it may be well to glance at Rome’s earlier relations with that country. The first of her generals to conquer it was the great Pompeius, and it was on his forcible entry into the Temple that attention was directed to the religion of a people who had a shrine seemingly without a god. Falling with the provinces of the East to the portion of Antonius, Judaea was conferred by him as a kingdom upon Herod, and Augustus afterwards confirmed that prince’s tenure and added fresh districts to his rule. For it was a settled maxim of his policy to draw a girdle of dependent kingdoms round the distant provinces, and gradually to accustom hardy races to the yoke of Rome. In the case of the Jews there seemed to be good reasons for this course. They were soon known to be a stubborn people, tenacious of their national customs, and ready to fly to arms in their defence. They were spread widely through the Empire, in the great cities and the marts of industry; but men liked them less the more they saw them. They thought them turbulent and stiff-necked, and mutual prejudice prevented any real insight into national temper or any sympathy for the noble qualities of the race. It is curious to read in Tacitus the strange medley of gross errors about their history and creed—monstrous fancies gathered from malicious gossip or reported by credulous and ignorant writers. It is the more strange when we think that he must have seen hundreds of the men whose habits and beliefs he unwittingly misjudged, and one of whom at least wrote in his own days to enlighten the world of letters on the subject. At Rome the Jewish immigrants were looked upon with marked disfavor. Under Tiberius we read that thousands of them were forcibly removed as settlers to Sardinia, where if they sickened of malaria, as was likely, it would be but a trifling loss. In Judaea the caprices of the Emperors affected them but little, though they flew to arms rather than allow the statue of Caligula to be set up in their Temple. But hard times began when, under Claudius, the country passed from the dynasty of the Herods to the rule of Roman knights or freedmen. It was their misfortune to be exposed to the greed or lust of men as bad as the provincial governors of the Republic, while zealots, who mistook the times, were fanning the flame of national discontent. They bore with the vile Felix; but at length the insolence of Gessius Florus provoked a hasty rising, which spread rapidly from place to place, till the whole country was in arms.

The general in command of Syria could make no head against the insurrection, which carried all before it till the strong hand of Vespasian turned upon the rebels with resistless force the strong engine of Roman discipline. But the war which had begun in a hasty not was persisted in with stubborn resolution. Towns and strongholds had to be stormed or starved into surrender, till the last hopes and fanaticism of the people stood at bay within the walls of Jerusalem and the lines of the besieging legions. Two summers passed away while thus much was being done, and the third year was spent in further-reaching schemes of conquest, and the beleaguered city was left almost unassailed. It was at this point that Titus was left in sole command, eager to push Jerusalem forward the siege and to enjoy the sweets of victory at Rome. But he had no easy task before him. The city, strong by natural position, was fortified by walls of unusual breadth and height, and amply supplied with water. Within were resolute men who had flocked thither from all sides to defend the shrine of their most sacred memories and the stronghold of freedom, and whose fiery zeal swept every thought aside before their duty to their country and their God. There were also others more timid or more prudent, who better knew the force of Rome and feared the zealots’ narrow bigotry. Thus mutual distrust and mutual slaughter weakened the forces of defence. After long months of obstinate fighting discipline and skill prevailed over the dogged valour of the Jews—the Holy City was taken by storm, and the great Temple, the one centre of the nation’s worship, was utterly destroyed (AD 71). It was said that Titus was grieved to see the ruin of so glorious a monument of art. He had no such tender feeling for his prisoners of war. The outbreak which Roman misgovernment had provoked had been already fearfully avenged. Jerusalem was left a heap of ruins, and its defenders were dragged in their conqueror’s train, to die of misery and hardship on the way or to feed the wild beasts with their bodies at the amphitheatres of the great cities on the road to Rome.

When the successful general returned to Italy it remained only to celebrate the triumph of the war, and the Jewish historian Josephus describes, as an eyewitness, the splendid pageant, which was one magnificent beyond all parallel. The procession of the day began at the Triumphal Gate, through which for ages so many conquering armies had passed along in pomp. The rich spoil, gathered from many a ransacked town, was followed by the long line of captives, the poor remains of the multitudes which had been carried off to furnish cruel sport for the citizens of Syrian towns. Then came the pictured shows that filled the kindling fancy with the memories of glory, strife, and carnage; the battle scenes, the besieging lines, the dread confusion of the storming armies, the sky all glow with the blazing Temple, and streams of blood flowing through the burning cities. With each scene passed a captive leader, to give reality to what men saw. Then came the sight most piteous to Jewish eyes—the plunder of the Holy Place, the sacred vessels which profane hands had feared to touch before, the golden table of the shewbread, the candlestick, which may be still seen portrayed, with its seven branching lamps, by those who pass beneath the Arch of Titus. After these came the images of victory, and then the ruling powers of Rome, the father with the two sons who were in their turn to succeed him. Hour after hour passed away as the procession moved in stately splendour through the streets. At last it wound along the Sacred Way which led up to the Capitol, and halted when the Emperor stood at the door of the great temple of Jupiter. While he waited there, the chief prisoner, Simon, the son of Gioras, was dragged off, with a noose about his deck, to the dark prison not many steps away. There was a silence of suspense while he was there buffeted and slain; then the shout was raised that Rome’s enemy was no more ; the last sacrifices of the day were offered in the temple by Vespasian, and all was over.

The war thus closed was a legacy of Nero’s rule, for the present government was one of peace. Happily the new Emperor was a man of different stamp from any of the Caesars who had gone before. There had been fearful waste of treasure, and the Empire needed a good manager who would tastes of husband its resources, and a quiet ruler who would soothe men’s ruffled nerves. Vespasian was not a man of high ambition or heroic measures. Soldier as he was, he was glad to sheathe the sword; but otherwise he carried to the palace the habits of earlier life. He was simple and homely in his tastes, affected no dignity, kept little state, and had no expensive pleasures.

Much of the cruelty of previous monarchs grew out of their wanton waste. The imperial revenue was small, and their extravagance soon drained their coffers; to replenish them they had recourse to rapine or judicial murder. Vespasian saw the need of strict economy. To maintain his legions and the civil service, to feed and amuse a population of proud paupers, and to make good the ravages of fire and sword, he needed a full treasury, and there could be little left to spend upon himself. But for himself he needed little. He loved his little house among the Sabine hills better than the palace of the Caesars; drank his wine with keener relish from his old grandmother’s cup than from gold or silver goblets; disliked parade or etiquette, and could scarcely sit through the stately weariness of the triumphal show. He mocked at the flatterers who thought to please his vanity by making Hercules the founder of his race; and unwillingly, at Alexandria, submitted to test the virtue of his imperial hands on the blind who were brought to him to cure, as in later days monarchs used to touch for the king’s evil.

Stories soon passed from mouth to mouth to show how he disliked luxurious habits. A perfumed fop, we read, came to thank him for the promise of promotion, but saw the great man turn away saying, “I would rather that you smelt of garlic”, and found his appointment cancelled after all. But as ruler he never seemed content. He said from the first that he must have a vast sum to carry on the government, and he showed no lack of energy in raising it. Even at Alexandria, the first city to salute him Emperor, the people who looked for gratitude heard only of higher taxes in the place of bounty, and vented their disgust in angry nicknames. Fresh tolls and taxes were imposed on every side by a financier who was indifferent to public talk or ridicule, and shrank from no source of income, however mean or unsavoury the name might seem, if only it filled his coffers. Men remembered that his father had been taxgatherer and usurer by turns, and they said the son took after him, when they saw their ruler stooping to unworthy traffic, selling his favours and immunities, bestowing honours on the highest bidder, and prostituting, as they fancied, the justice of his courts of law. It was said that he employed his mistress, Caenis, as a go-between in such degrading business, and that he allowed his fiscal agents to enrich themselves by greed and fraud, stepping in at last to take the spoil, and draining sponges dry. The wits of Rome of course amused themselves at his expense, and told their stories of his want of dignity. A servant one day asked him for a favour for one whom he called his brother. The Emperor sent at once to call the suitor to him, made him pay him down the sum which he had promised to his friend at court, and then when the servant came again to ask the favour said in answer, “Look out for another brother, for he whom you call yours is now mine”. Another time a deputation came to tell him that a town had voted a costly statue in his honour. “Set it up at once?” he said, and, holding out the hollow of his hand, “here is the base all ready to receive it”. There was, indeed, nothing royal in his talk or manners. He freely indulged in vulgar banter, and was never, it is said, in a gayer mood than when he had hit upon some sordid trick for raising money. Of such tales many, perhaps, were mere idle talk the spleen of men who thought it hard to be called upon to pay their quota to the expenser of the state.

The money was certainly well used, however it was gotten. Government was carried on with a strong though thrifty hand, and peace and order were everywhere secured. Liberal grants were made to cities in which fire and earthquake made havoc; senators were provided with means to support their rank, and old families saved from ruin by timely generosity. The fine arts and liberal studies were encouraged; public professorships were founded and endowed out of the Emperor’s privy purse. Nor were the amusements of the people overlooked, though his outlay on this score seemed mean and parsimonious as compared with the extravagance of Nero. It was the great merit of Vespasian that absolute power had no disturbing influence on his judgment suspicion, or his temper. He had no suspicious fears, but let his doors stand open to all comers through the day, and dropped the earlier habit of the court of searching those who entered. He showed no jealousy of great men round him, and treated Mucianus with forbearance, though his patience was sorely tried by his haughty airs. He was in no haste to assert his dignity, and when Demetrius the Cynic kept his seat and vented some rude speech as he came near him, he only called him ‘a snarling cur’ and passed on his way.

In one case, indeed, he was persuaded to take harsher measures. Helvidius Priscus, the son-in-law of Thrasea Paetus, had from the first asserted in the most offensive forms his claims to republican equality. He spoke of his prince by name without a title of rank or honour; as praetor he ignored him in all official acts, and treated him when they met with almost cynical contempt. He was not content seemingly to be let alone, but aspired to be a martyr to his Stoic dogmas. Vespasian was provoked at last to give the order for his death, recalling it, indeed, soon after, but only to be told that it was too late to save him, for Titus and his chief advisers felt the danger from the philosophic malcontents, saw how much their policy of abstention had weakened the government oi Nero, and were resolved that Helvidius should die, though at the cost of Vespasian’s regret and self-reproach.

There was also another scene, and one too of unusual pathos, in which he acted sternly. Julius Sabinus was a chieftain of the Lingones who called his clan to arms for Gallic independence. The movement failed—the Sequani against whom he marched having defeated him. He heard that the Roman eagles were at hand, and in despair the would-be Caesar burnt his house over his head and hid himself in a dark cave, in hope that men might think him dead. His wife Epponina believed he was no more, and gave way to such an agony of grief that he sent a trusty messenger to tell her all and bid her join him. For years she lived, in the town by day among her unsuspecting friends, and in the hours of darkness with her husband. She began to hope that she might free them both from the weariness of this concealment if she could but go to Rome and win his pardon. She dared not leave him in his hiding-place alone, so she took him with her in disguise. But the long journey was a fruitless one the boon was never granted. Sadly and wearily they made their way back to their hiding place, to carry on the old life of disguise and of suspense. Then, to make her trial harder, she bore two children to her husband. She hid her state from every eye, hid her little ones even from her friends, suckled and reared them for some time in that dark cave with their father. At length the secret was discovered, and the whole family was carried off to hear their sentence from Vespasian’s lips. In vain she asked for mercy, in vain she pleaded that the rash presumption of a moment had been atoned for by long years of lingering suspense ; in vain she brought her little ones to lisp with their infant lips the cry for pity, till the Emperor’s heart was touched and he was ready to relent. But Titus stood by and was seemingly unmoved. He urged that it would be a dangerous example to let any hope for mercy who had showed such high ambition, and that state policy required that they should die. Unable to save her husband, the noble-hearted woman bore him company in death, and left the Emperor’s presence with defiance on her lips.

Vespasian was soon to follow her. He had passed ten years of sovereignty and sixty-nine of life. His career as a ruler had been one of unremitting toil, and even when his powers began to fail he would not give himself more rest. Physicians warned him that he must slacken work and change the order of his daily life, but “an emperor” he said “should die upon his feet”; and he was busy with the cares of office almost to the last. His jesting humour did not leave him even on his deathbed, and as the streams of life were ebbing he thought of the divine honours given to the earlier Caesars and said, “I feel that I am just going to be a god”.

Nor did the populace forget to jest in their sorrow at his death. When the funeral rites were going on, an actor was seen to personate the dead man by his dress and bearing and to ask the undertaker how much the funeral cost. When a large sum was named, “Give me the hundredth part of it” Vespasian was made to say, “and fling my body into the Tiber”


TITUS.—A.D. 79-81.


Titus was born in the tiny cell of a poor house at Rome, when his father was struggling on with straitened means. But when Vespasian caught the eye of the favourite Narcissus and was sent to serve in high command in Britain, his young son was life of Titus, taken to court, to be brought up with Britannicus and share his pursuits as schoolfellow and playmate. His powers of mind and body ripened rapidly, and he gave promise of a brilliant future, till his early career at court was cut short by the murder of Britannicus. He was said even to have touched with his lips the poisoned cup and to have long suffered from the potion. Little is told us of the years that followed save that he served with credit in campaigns in Germany and Britain, and gave some time to legal studies, till his father took the command of the army in the Jewish war and the prospects of civil strife opened a wider horizon to his ambitious hopes. The memories of his early years spent in the palace may well have fired his fancy, and his adventurous spirit pro­bably outstripped the slow caution of Vespasian. It was Titus who intrigued with Mucianus, who went to and fro between Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, who plotted and schemed with Berenice in the intervals of gayer moods, who compromised his father’s name and drove him to come forward as a candidate for empire.

When all was won and Vespasian’s strong hand was needed in the capital, Titus was left to close the war in Palestine and to pacify the East. The struggle dragged slowly on in spite of his impatience to return. His personal gallantry and skill in the conduct of the siege won the trust and affection of hi soldiers; but his merciless cruelty to the conquered left a lasting stain upon his name. The winter months were spent by him with royal pomp in the great towns of Syria, where the Eastern princes flocked to do him honour, and alarming rumours spread at Rome of the sovereign airs which he put on, of the ominous influence of Berenice, of his unbounded popu­larity with the army of the East. Men began to fear that he would not be content to wait and share the Empire, but would rend it asunder in a parricidal war. Such fears were soon put to rest when in early spring he left his train to follow as it could and hurried with all speed to greet Vespasian with the simple words, “See, father, here I am”.

From that time he shared in full the titles and reality of empire, assuming in his thirtieth year the Tribunician dignity which his father had till this time modestly declined, and dazzling Roman eyes with the pomp and magnificence of the triumphal shows. For Titus felt perhaps that Vespasian’s homely vulgarity was out of place in the founder of a new dynasty, and that to balance the traditions of the Caesars and the profusion of a Nero it would be prudent for the new rulers to do something to make themselves admired or feared. He had himself a princely bearing and a ready flow of graceful words; he excelled in manly exercises, and was a lover of the fine arts. He keenly felt the ridicule that clung to some of his father’s ways of raising money, and urged him to think more of appearances; but in this Vespasian was not to be moved. He even bantered Titus on his delicate nerves, asking if he disliked the smell of the coins that were paid as the impost on unsavoury matter. But in other things he was more yielding. He was willing to follow the imperial traditions and to spend largely on the great works which Titus raised to dignify the Flavian name or to eclipse the memory of Nero. The parks and woods included in the circuit of the Golden House were given back to their earlier uses. The palace itself was in part pulled down, and the Baths of Titus swallowed up the rest, while the Temple of Peace was built to hold the works of art which had been stored within it. The bronze colossus of the Emperor, founded for Nero by Zenodorus, was changed into a statue of the Sun, and gave probably its name to the Flavian Amphitheatre which still survives in ruins. In after years a triumphal arch was planned and finished, on which we can still see the solemn pageant and note the great candlestick and other national trophies of which the Temple at Jerusalem had been despoiled.

Besides such tokens of imperial grandeur Titus relied, it seems, on sterner action; but in this he took his measures without concert with his father. He had managed to win his consent to the death of Helvidius Priscus, but Vespasian would be no party to a reign of terror. His son took the unusual step of becoming praefect of the praetorian guards, an office filled commonly by knights. The soldiers were convenient agents, who asked no questions but acted at a word; and if anyone at Rome was too outspoken in his criticism or likely to be dangerous, he was easily removed in a hasty riot or a soldiers’ brawl, or a cry could be got up in the theatre or in the camp and the traitor’s head be called for. In one case, it is true, treasonable letters were found to prove the guilt of a noble who was seized as he left the palace where he had been dining ; but then it was remembered that Titus had a strange facility for copying handwriting, and boasted that he could have been a first-rate forger if he would.

If it was his wish to inspire terror he succeeded, for men already began to whisper to each other about his cruelty, and to fear that they would see another Nero on the throne. Still more unpopular were his relations with Berenice, which might end, it was thought, in marriage. Had she not already, like another Cleopatra, bound his fancy to her by her Eastern spells, and would he not probably go on to seat the hated Jewish paramour upon his throne? The populace of Rome, which had borne with Caligula’s mad antics and Nero’s monstrous orgies, were stirred with inexplicable loathing at the thought. Titus tried to silence the outcry with harsh measures, and had one bold caviller beaten with rods for a rude jest. But the storm grew louder; he saw at last that he must yield, and reluctantly consented to dismiss her. This was not all that men had to say against him. There were ugly stories of rapacious greed, of debauches carried far into the night, of sensual excesses better left unnamed.

Such was his character at Rome when Vespasian’s death left him sole occupant of the imperial office, and from that moment a change passed over the spirit of his life. Like Octavius he had been feared—he would now like Augustus win his eople’s love. The boon companions who had shared his midnight parties, the unworthy favourites whose hands were tingling for the money-bags which Vespasian had filled, the informers who had tasted blood and thought the chief hindrance in their way had been removed by death—all these vanished at once like birds of night when dawn is come, and were driven even from the city. He was full of tenderness and courtesy for every class, sanctioned by one stroke of the pen all the concessions made by earlier monarchs; said he was not a princely thing to let any suitor leave him in sadness with his boon ungranted, and complained that he had lost a day in which he blest no man with a favour. So scrupulous was he of any show of greed that he would hardly receive the customary presents; so fearful of staining the sanctity of his reputation that he aimed at universal clemency, and pardoned two young conspirators with a graceful tenderness for their mother’s anxious feelings, which made the mercy doubly precious. His father’s strict economy had left the treasury full, and Titus could enjoy awhile in safety the pleasure of giving freely and the luxury of being loved, for the people who had feared a tyrant thought that the golden age was come at last, and soon began to idolize a ruler who refused them nothing, who spoke with such a royal grace and spent so freely on their pleasures. They did not ask if it could last, or if the revenue could bear the constant strain; they did not think that their ruler’s character might change again when he had to face the trial of an empty treasury and a disappointed people. Happily, perhaps, for the memory of Titus, his career upon the throne was short. He had little more than two short years of absolute power, when Rome heard with a genuine outburst of universal grief that its beloved ruler had caught a fever on his way to his villa on the Sabine hills, and died, complaining that it was hard to be robbed of life so soon, when he had only a single crime upon his conscience. What that crime was no one knew. Posterity perhaps might think that his one crime as sovereign was the leaving the legacy of empire to Domitian, his brother, whose vices he had clearly read and weakly pardoned.

Some great disasters mark in sombre colours the annals of his rule; in all he had shown for the sufferers unstinted sympathy and bounty. A great fire raged three days and nights through Rome ; a terrible plague spread its ravages through Italy; and lastly the world was startled by the horrors of a story so unparalleled in history as to tempt us to dwell longer on details.

The volcanic energies had been slumbering for ages beneath Vesuvius, or had found a vent perhaps here and there in spots higher up along the coast that were full of horrors to the ancient, but seem harmless now to modern eyes. A few years earlier they had given tokens of their power by shaking to the ground the buildings of Pompeii, a city peopled by industrious traders. The Roman Senate, warned by the disaster, thought of removing the city to a safer spot; but the Pompeians clung to their old neighbourhood and repaired in haste their ruined dwellings. The old town was swept away, with its distinctive Oscan forms, that told of times before Greeks or Romans set the local fashions, and a copy of the capital upon a humble scale, with forum, theatres, and temples, took its place. Some of the well-to-do migrated probably to distant homes and left their houses, to be hastily annexed to those of neighbours, who soon adapted them, though on different levels, to their use. But scarcely was the work of restoration over when the great catastrophe came upon them. The little cloud that rests always on the mountain-top expanded suddenly to unwonted size, The credulous fancy of Dion Cassius pictures to us phantom shapes of an unearthly grandeur, like the giants that the poets sing of, riding in the air before the startled eyes of men ; but the younger Pliny, who was a distant eye-witness, describes the scene in simpler terms. He was with his uncle, the great naturalist, who was in command of the fleet then stationed at Misenum. Suddenly they were called upon to note the unusual appearance of Vesuvius, where the cloud took to their eyes the form of an enormous pine-tree. The elder Pliny, who never lost a chance of learning, resolved to start at once to study the new marvel, and asked his nephew to go with him. But the young student, who even in later life cared more for books than nature, had a task to finish and declined to go. As the admiral was starting he received pressing messages from friends at Stabiae, close beneath the mountain, to help them to take refuge on ship­board, as the way round by land was long to take under the fiery hail that was fast falling. The fleet neared the shore, where the frightened families had piled their baggage ready to embark; but the hot ashes fell upon the decks, thicker and hotter every moment, and, stranger still, the waters seemed to retire from the beach and to grow too shallow to allow them to reach the poor fugitives, who strained their eyes only to see the ships move off, and with them seemingly all hope of succour. The volcanic force was doubtless raising the whole beach and making the sea recede before it. But Pliny was not to be discouraged, and landed finally at another point, where a friend had a villa, on the coast. Here he bathed tranquilly and supped and slept till the hot showers threatened to block up the doors, and the rocking earth loosened the walls within which they rested. So they made their way out on to the open beach, with cushions bound upon their heads for shelter from the ashes, and waited vainly for a fair wind to take them thence. Pliny lay down to rest beside the water, while the sky was red with fire and the air loaded with sulphureous gases; and when his slaves tried at last to lift him up he rose only to fall and die. By a curious irony of fortune the student, whose great work is a sort of encyclopaedia of the knowledge which men had gathered about nature, chose the unhealthiest spot and the worst posture for his resting-place, while his ignorant servants managed to escape. For the waves were charged with sulphur that escaped from the fissures of the rocks, and the heavy gas, moving along the surface of the earth, was most fatal to those who stooped the lowest.

Meantime at Pompeii the citizens first learned their danger as they were seated at the theatre and keeping holiday. The lurid sky and falling showers drove them to their homes. Some hurried thither to seize their valuables and hasten to be gone out of reach of further risk ; some felt the ground rock beneath them as they went and were crushed beneath the falling pillars; others sought a refuge in their cellars, and found the scoriae piled around their dwellings. Hot dust was wafted through every crevice; noxious gases were spread around them; and thus their hiding­place became their tomb. Hour after hour the fiery and various showers fell and piled their heaps higher and higher over the doomed city, while a pall of darkness was spread over the earth. Then the hot rain came pouring down, as the sea-waters, finding their way through fissured rocks into the boiling mass, were belched forth again in vapour, which condensing fell in rain. The rain, mingling with the scoriae, formed streams of mud, which grew almost into torrents on the steep hillsides, and poured through the streets of Herculaneum, choked up the houses as they passed, then rose over the walls, till an indistinguishable mass was left at last to hide the place where once a fair city stood.

Weeks after, when the volcano had spent its force, some of the citizens of Pompeii who had escaped came back to see the scene of desolation, guessed as they best could the site of their old homes, dug their way here and there through any partially hole which they could make into the rooms, houses of to carry off all the articles they prized, and then they left the place for ever. Time after time since then the struggling forces have burst forth from the mountain, and the volcanic showers have trace again fallen and covered the old city with a thicker crust, till all trace of it was lost to sight and memory. After many centuries it was discovered by accident, and the work of clearance has been slowly going forward, constantly enriching the great Museum at Naples with stores to illustrate the industrial arts of ancient times, and restoring to our eyes a perfectly unique example of the country town of classical antiquity in all its characteristic features. At Herculaneum there has been less done, and there is more perhaps to be looked for. It was a resort of fashion rather than a market-town, was more under Greek influence, and, therefore, had a higher taste for the fine arts than Pompeii; and above all it does not seem to have been rifled by its old inhabitants, from whose eyes it was hidden probably by thick coats of hardened mud.


DOMITIAN.—A.D. 81-96.


DURING Domitian’s early years his father Vespasian was hiding in disgrace. He lived in a little house at Rome so meanly furnished that it had not a single piece of silver plate, and his straitened means may possibly have tempted him to vice, as the scandalous stories of later days asserted. He first attracted public notice when his father headed the movement in the East, but Vitellius still left him unmolested. There was danger, however, from the fury of the soldiers, and he took refuge with his uncle Sabinus on the Capitol, to see the fortress stormed and the defenders slain. He escaped from the massacre in disguise, and lurked for awhile in the house of a poor friend in a mean quarter of the town. But succour was near at hand, and the vanguard of his father’s army not only brought him safety but raised him suddenly to unlooked-for greatness.

The change was fatal to his modesty and self-control. He aired at once all the insolence of absolute power, gave the rein to his sensual desires, and turned his bestowed all the offices of state at his caprice, head. Vespasian even wrote in irony to thank him for not appointing a successor to himself. The arrival of Mucianus, the vicegerent of the Emperor, put some check upon his license; but it needed all the statesman’s authority and tact to temper the arrogance of the head­strong youth. The crisis on the Rhine was pressing, and they set out together for the seat of war, but all was over before they reached Lugdunum; and Domitian, detained from going further, is said to have sent fruitless messages to tamper with the fidelity of Cerealis. If he had ever seriously hoped to raise himself to the level of his brother he had quite failed, and he had gone too far to meet his father’s eye without misgiving. To disarm the anger that he dreaded he feigned even folly and took to hunting flies, for the often-quoted jest of Vibius Crispus, that there was no one, “not even a fly, with Caesar” belongs more probably to this than to a later time. Thanks his father’s tenderness or the entreaties of his brother, he suffered nothing worse than warning words; but Ves­pasian watched him narrowly henceforth, kept him always by his side, trusted him with no public functions, and flatly refused to let him lead the forces which the Par­thian king had sent to beg for in return for his own proffers of support. But by this time Domitian had learnt to bide his time and to be patient. He hid his chagrin at being kept thus in the leading-strings of childhood, and took to poetry, coquetting with the Muses in default of graver duties.

At Vespasian’s death, however, the old temper broke out afresh. At first he thought of outbidding Titus by offering the soldiers a bounty twice as large, but wanted nerve to appeal to force; then he complained that he was kept out of his rights, as his father’s will had named him partner in the imperial power, and to the last he tried the long-suffering tenderness of Titus by moody sullenness and discontent, and possibly even by plots against his life.

His brother’s death soon removed the only obstacle to his ambition and the only restraint upon his will. But, strange to say, wanton and headstrong as he had been before, he now exerted a rare faculty of self-restraint, as if he were weighted with the responsibility of power and wished to win and to deserve the popularity of Titus. He spent some time in quiet every morning to think over his course of action and to school himself for the duties. He saw that justice was the first requisite of social well-being, and he spared no effort to secure it. In the law courts he was often listening to the pleadings and the sentence given. The judges knew that his eye was on them, and that it was dangerous to take a bribe or show caprice. Even in distant provinces the governors felt that they were closely watched, and. never, it is said, did they show more equity and self-restraint than in this opening period of Domitian’s rule.

His treatment of another class showed a like spirit. The rise and fall of the informers had been a sort of weather-gauge of the moral formers, atmosphere around. Since Nero’s death the bolder spirits in the Senate had tried under each Emperor in turn to bring the false accusers to the bar of justice. The leading Stoics had come forward smarting with the memory of the friends whom they had lost, full of indignant eloquence against the blood­hounds who had hunted them to death. The infamous names of Marcellus, Crispus, Regulus called out an explosion of revengeful sentiment. The Senate even went so far as to ask that the old notebooks of the Emperors might be produced to furnish evidence against the men they hated. But little had been really done, and men thought they traced the malign influence of Mucianus in screening the criminals from attack. Titus had driven them away in disgrace; but now perhaps they were creeping, like unclean things, out of their hiding­places to study the new sovereign’s temper. They could not be encouraged by the words that dropped from him:

“The prince who fails to chastise informers whets their zeal”; nor by the penalty of exile fixed for the accuser who brought a charge of defrauding the treasury or privy purse, and failed to make it good.

He tried next to meet a growing evil of the times that was significant of misrule. He announced that he would receive no legacies save from the to himself, childless, and quashed the wills made out of vanity or ostentation to the prejudice of the natural heirs.

Not content with such reforms, he tried to give a higher moral tone to the social life of the great city, to check the license of the theatres, to discourage indecent pasquinades, society, and raise the respect for chastity and moral ties.

Had he only ruled as short a time as Titus he would have borne as fair a character in history, and he would seemingly have deserved it better, for he grasped the reins with a firmer hand and wished to merit rather than to win his subjects’ love. How was it that so fair an opening was so sadly clouded, or whence the change that came over the spirit of his change of rule? In the meagre account of ancient writers we find no attempt made to solve the problem. But we may see perhaps some explanation in the events that happened at the time. One thing was wanting still, the laurel crown of victory, to raise Domitian to the level of his brother. In an evil hour he coveted military glory, and set out for Germany, where a pretext for war was never wanting. But, high as was the order of his talents, he had neither the general’s eye nor the soldier’s courage, and his heart failed him when he drew nearer to the enemy. The German expedition ended as it began in plundering a few poor villages, and in pompous proclamations to the army and the Senate. But far away towards the Danube there was the sound of the real crash of war. Decebalus, at the head of his Dacian hordes, was an enemy worthy of the most skilful generals of Rome. Bold, fertile in resource, and skilled in all the fence of war, he had drilled and organized a formidable power, which for years tried the mettle of the Roman armies. Hither also came Domitian to gain his laurels, and here too his courage failed him. He stayed in the rear away from all the fighting, while his legions, badly led, were driven backward in disgrace. Unwilling to return without striking a blow to retrieve his tarnished fame, he hurried to Pannonia to chastise the Marcomanni for neglecting to send him succour in the war. But thither also he was followed by his evil star. Instead of the submission that he looked for he found a vigorous defence; he was ensnared and routed by an enemy whom he had thought to find an easy prey. Sick of war and of its dangers, he came to terms with Decebalus without delay; and rare as it was for a Roman leader to conclude a war after defeat, he was glad to purchase peace at any cost, and to give not money only but tools and workmen to teach the Dacian tribes the arts of civilized life.

He could not face his people with the confession of his failure, so lying bulletins went homeward to the Senate to tell of victories never won and to disguise the history of the campaigns. Honours and thanks­givings were voted in profusion. The imperial city and the provincial towns accepted the official story, and raised with dutiful joy triumphal statues to their piince. But the truth leaked out, of course, and Domitian returned to Rome an altered man. He read mockery in the eyes of all he met, detested their praises as gross flattery, yet resented silence as a censure. He gave costly entertainments to the people, but with a gaiety so forced and a mien so changed that men spoke of them currently as funeral feasts, till at last he took them at their word, inviting the senators to a strange parody of a supper in the tombs, and played with grim humour on their fears.

While he was in this capricious mood another event served yet further to embitter him. Antonius, a governor upon the Rhine, began once more the fatal game of civil war. Though he was soon crushed and slain, and his note­books burnt, to compromise no partisans, yet the suspicious fears of Domitian were not to be lulled so easily, and he fancied universal treachery around him. The plot was the motive or excuse for an outburst of vindictive feeling, which would not stay to wait for proofs, but grew ever more relentless the faster his victims fell. Like some half-tamed animals we read of, he needed to taste blood to reveal to himself and others the ferocity of his feline nature.

One further cause perhaps there was—a frequent one with vicious rulers—to tempt him to yet further evil. This was simply want of money. The fruitless expenses of the wars, the heavy price he money, paid for peace, the lavish outlay to keep up the farce and put the populace in good humour—these had drained the coffers which Vespasian had filled, and which the easy prodigality of Titus had already emptied. At first he was minded to economize by reducing the strength or number of the legions; but he feared to weaken the thin line of border armies, and in his present mood he saw a readier way to fill his treasury—the old, old story of these evil times. Fines, confiscations, and judicial murders, became once more the order of the day, coloured at times by various pleas, but often too by none at all. He talked of conspiracies and treasons till his morbid fancy saw traitors everywhere around him; his suspicious fears settled at last into general mistrust as the hatred of the world grew more intense.

The Philosophers were among the first to suffer. Rusticus and Senecio died for their outspoken reverence for the great martyrs of their Stoic creed, and many another suffered with them, till by one sweeping edict all were banished from the city and from Italy. Philosophy did not, indeed, make conspirators, but he feared its habits of bold speech and criticism, as modern despots are intolerant of a free press ; and he looked with an evil eye at men who would not stoop to Caesar-worship, as persecuting Churches would trample out Dissent.

Among those who were brought before him at this time and banished with the rest one name is mentioned that may stand apart, that of Apollonius of Tyana. He was, it seems, a wandering sage, so renowned for sanctity and wisdom that a band of admiring scholars grouped themselves around him, and were glad to follow him from land to land. Strange legends of his unearthly power gathered in time about his name, and words of more than human insight were reported to feed the credulous fancy of the world. In the last phase of the struggle between Pagan and Christian thought the figure of Apollonius was chosen as a rival to the Jesus of the Gospels, and his life was written by Philostratus to prove that the religious philosophy of heathenism could show its sermons, miracles, and inspiration.

These were hard times for earnest thinkers ; they were not encouraging for men of action. Military prowess and success were too marked a contrast to the humbling disasters on the Danube to meet with much favour from the Emperor; but there were few generals of renown to try his temper. Julius Agricola is prominent among them, because the skilful pen of Tacitus, his son-in-law, has written for us the story of his life. His just, firm rule as governor of Britain, the promptitude with which he swept away the abuses of the past, the courage with which he pushed his arms into the far North and brought Caledonia within the limits of his province, form a bright page in the annals of this period. But they gave little pleasure to his jealous sovereign, who eyed him coldly on his return to Rome, and gave him no further chance of service or of glory. He lived a few years more in modest dignity, without a word of flattery, yet not desirous to court a useless death by offensive speech. When he died men whispered their suspicions of foul play, but the Emperor, who was named among his heirs, accepted gladly the token of his respect, forgetting his own earlier principles, or that, as the historian tells us, ‘only a bad prince is left a legacy in a good father’s will?

But though he feared serious thought and action, the lighter charms of literature might perhaps have soothed the moody prince. In earlier days he had turned to poetry for solace, the sad Muses, whom he had courted in retirement, had, as Juvenal tells us, no patron else to look to than the Domitian who had just risen to the throne. But the Emperor read little else himself besides the memoirs of Tiberius, and the writers of his day had but scant cause to bless his princely boun­ties. Martial, with all his ready flow of sparkling verse, his pungent epigram, and witty sallies, had a hard life of it enough at Rome, and was reduced to cringe and flatter for the gift of a new toga or a paltry dole. Statius, well read and highly gifted as he was with fluency and fancy, found it easy to win loud applause when he read his Thebaid in public, but gained little by his ingenious compliments and conceits as poet laureate of the court, and had not means enough at last to find a marriage-portion for his daughter. Juvenal’s appeal in favour of the starving Muses met seemingly with no reponse, and disappointment may have added to his high-toned vehemence and studied scorn. It was no time certainly for to write without partiality or fear, and the condensed vigour of his style, its vivid portraiture and power of moral indignation might have been lost wholly to the world had not another Emperor come at last to combine monarchy with freedom.

Meantime Rome had grown weary of the bloodthirsty mania of its ruler, who loved to pounce with stealthy suddenness upon his victims and to talk of mercy when he meant to slay. It was the rich, the noble, the large-hearted who suffered most in this reign of terror, and it was left to his wife and freedmen to cut it short. Finding, it is said, a note­book in his bed, and in it their own names marked down for death, they formed their plans without delay. It was in vain that Domitian was haunted by his warning fears, that he had his porticoes inlaid with polished stone to reflect the assassin’s dagger ; in vain he sent for astrologers and soothsayers to read the future; he could not be always armed against the enemies of his own household. The conspirators surprised him alone in an unguarded moment and dispatched him with many wounds, though he struggled fiercely to the last praetorians