So Manly – So Cruel

Historia Augusta, Maximini Duo (8-9)

“But among these virtues he was so cruel that some called him Cyclops, others Busiris, others Sciron, some Phalaris, many Typhon or Gyges. The senate feared him so much that both publicly and privately women would pray in the temples with their children that he would never see the city of Rome. They often heard that he had some crucified, others enclosed in the bodies of recently slain animals, others thrown to the beasts, others beaten with clubs, and all of this without any consideration of rank and dignity, since he seemed to wish for military discipline to be the ruling principle, by the example of which he wanted to correct even civil problems. This is hardly fitting for a prince who wishes to be loved.

He was, indeed, persuaded that power was not held but by cruelty. At the same time, he feared that he would be condemned by the nobility for his barbarian heritage. He had recalled, moreover, that he was once condemned at Rome even by the slaves of the nobles to such a degree that he was not even seen by their procurators. And, as foolish opinions always operate, he expected that they would behave the same way now that he was emperor. So strong is the consciousness of a degenerate mind.

For the sake of hiding his lowly parentage, he killed all of the people who knew his origins, and even a few of his friends who had often given him charity because they pitied his poverty. There was indeed no animal more cruel on the earth who trusted so much in his own powers as though he could not be killed. Finally, when he believed himself to be immortal because of the magnitude both of his body and his manliness, a certain mime is said to have recited some Greek verses in the theater in his presence, of which the general purport in Latin is this:

‘And he who cannot be killed by one is killed by many:

the elephant is large, and is killed;

the lion is brave, and is killed;

the tiger is strong, and is killed;

beware of the many, if you are not afraid of individuals.’

And these things were said right in the presence of the emperor! But when he asked his friends what the clown had said, he was told that the mime had recited some ancient verses against unpleasant people. And he, because he was a Thracian and a barbarian, believed it.”

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sed inter has virtutes tam crudelis fuit, ut illum alii Cyclopem, alii Busirem, alii Scirona, nonnulli Phalarem, multi Typhona vel Gygam vocarent. senatus eum tantum timuit, ut vota in templis publice privatimque mulieres etiam cum suis liberis facerent, ne ille umquam urbem Romam videret. audiebant enim alios in crucem sublatos, alios animalibus nuper occisis inclusos, alios feris obiectos, alios fustibus elisos, atque omnia haec sine dilectu dignitatis, cum videretur disciplinam velle regere militarem, cuius exemplo civilia etiam corrigere voluit. quod non convenit principi qui velit diligi. erat enim ei persuasum nisi crudelitate imperium non teneri. simul et verebatur ne propter humilitatem generis barbarici a nobilitate contemneretur. meminerat praeterea se Romae etiam a servis nobilium contemptum esse, ita ut ne a procuratoribus quidem eorum videretur; et, ut se habent stultae opiniones, tales eos contra se sperabat futuros, cum iam imperator esset. tantum valet conscientia degeneris animi. nam ignobilitatis tegendae causa omnes conscios generis sui interemit, nonnullos etiam amicos, qui ei saepe misericordiae paupertatis causa pleraque donaverant. neque enim fuit crudelius animal in terris, omnia sic in viribus suis ponens quasi non posset occidi. denique cum immortalem se prope crederet ob magnitudinem corporis virtutisque, mimus quidam in theatro praesente illo dicitur versus Graecos dixisse, quorum haec erat Latina sententia

Et qui ab uno non potest occidi, a multis occiditur.

elephans grandis est et occiditur,

leo fortis est et occiditur,

tigris fortis est et occiditur;

cave multos, si singulos non times.

et haec imperatore ipso praesente iam dicta sunt. sed cum interrogaret amicos, quid mimicus scurra dixisset, dictum est ei quod antiquos versus cantaret contra homines asperos scriptos; et ille, ut erat Thrax et barbarus, credidit.

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