Forget Liberal Studies, We Want a Joker to Lead Us

Suetonius, Domitian 20:

At the beginning of his reign, he neglected liberal studies, although he had taken the greatest care to restore the libraries destroyed in a fire, seeking original manuscripts from all over, and sending people to Alexandria to transcribe and correct them. Yet he never applied any effort either to history, or to learning poems, or even to writing unless it was by necessity. He read nothing except for the commentaries and the deeds of Tiberius. He fashioned his letters, speeches, and pronouncements with the help of a ghost writer. Yet, for all of that, he was not lacking in some elegance of speech, and occasionally said something fine: “I wish,” he once said, “that I were as beautiful as Maetius appears to himself.” And he once described a certain person’s head, which was covered in both gray and slightly reddish hair, as “snow mixed with mead”. He used to say that the condition of princes was the most wretched, since people did not believe in the conspiracies which were uncovered unless the emperor were killed.

Domitian - Wikipedia

Liberalia studia imperii initio neglexit, quamquam bibliothecas incendio absumptas impensissime reparare curasset, exemplaribus undique petitis, missisque Alexandream qui describerent emendarentque. Numquam tamen aut historiae carminibusque noscendis operam ullam aut stilo vel necessario dedit. Praeter commentarios et acta Tiberii Caesaris nihil lectitabat; epistolas orationesque et edicta alieno formabat ingenio. Sermonis tamen nec inelegantis, dictorum interdum etiam notabilium, “Vellem,” inquit, “tam formosus esse, quam Maetius sibi videtur”; et cuiusdam caput varietate capilli subrutilum et incanum, perfusas nivem mulso dixit; condicionem principum miserrimam aiebat, quibus de coniuratione comperta non crederetur nisi occisis.

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