Obligatory Ides of March Post: Caesar Wanted to Go Out With A Bang, Not A Whimper

Suetonius, Divus Julius Caesar 86-7

“Caesar left certain of his friends the impression that he did not want or desire to live longer because  of his worsening health. This is why he ignored what the omens warned and what his friends revealed. Others believe that he dismissed the Spanish guards who accompanied him with swords because he was confident in the Senate’s recent decree and their sworn oath. Others report that he preferred to face the plots that threatened him at once rather than cower before them. There are those who assert that he used to say that his safety should be of more importance to the state than to himself: he had acquired an abundance of power and glory already, but the state, should anything happen to him, would have no rest and would suffer civil war in a worse condition than before.

The following is generally held to be the case, however: his manner of death was scarcely against his desire. For, when he read Xenophon’s account of how in the final days of illness Cyrus gave the plans for his own funeral, Caesar expressed disdain for so slow a death and wished that his own would be sudden and fast. And on the day before he died during dinner conversation at the home of Marcus Lepidus on the topic of the most agreeable end to life, Caesar said he preferred one that was sudden and unexpected.”

 

Suspicionem Caesar quibusdam suorum reliquit neque uoluisse se diutius uiuere neque curasse quod ualitudine minus prospera uteretur, ideoque et quae religiones monerent et quae renuntiarent amici neglexisse. sunt qui putent, confisum eum nouissimo illo senatus consulto ac iure iurando etiam custodias Hispanorum cum gladiis †adinspectantium se remouisse. [2] alii e diuerso opinantur insidias undique imminentis subire semel quam cauere … solitum ferunt: non tam sua quam rei publicae interesse, uti saluus esset: se iam pridem potentiae gloriaeque abunde adeptum; rem publicam, si quid sibi eueniret, neque quietam fore et aliquanto deteriore condicione ciuilia bella subituram.

illud plane inter omnes fere constitit, talem ei mortem paene ex sententia obtigisse. nam et quondam, cum apud Xenophontem legisset Cyrum ultima ualitudine mandasse quaedam de funere suo, aspernatus tam lentum mortis genus subitam sibi celeremque optauerat; et pridie quam occideretur, in sermone nato super cenam apud Marcum Lepidum, quisnam esset finis uitae commodissimus, repentinum inopinatumque praetulerat.

By Vincenzo Camuccini – Own work, user:Rlbberlin, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77355355

On His Birthday: Nero Sings and Renames Things

Ps-Lucian, Nero 6

Menekrates: “Musonius, that voice which made him music-mad and longing for Olympian and Pythian games, how was the tyrant’s voice? Some people who sailed to Lemnos were amazed by it, others mock it.”

Musonius: “Well, Menekrates, his voice really merits neither wonder nor mockery, since nature has made him moderately and unquestionably in tune. He speaks with a naturally open and deep voice, since his throat is deep, and when he sings he buzzes a little because of his throat shape. Nevertheless, the tones of his voice make him seem smoother if he does not try too hard, but relies instead on the melody, good accompaniment, and selecting the right time to walk, to stop, to move, and to nod his head along with the music. What is shameful is that a king appears to want success in these pursuits.”

ΜΕΝΕΚΡΑΤΗΣ
6. Ἡ φωνὴ δέ, Μουσώνιε, δι᾿ ἣν μουσομανεῖ καὶ τῶν Ὀλυμπιάδων τε καὶ Πυθιάδων ἐρᾷ, πῶς ἔχει τῷ τυράννῳ; τῶν γὰρ Λήμνῳ προσπλεόντων οἱ μὲν ἐθαύμαζον, οἱ δὲ κατεγέλων.
ΜΟΥΣΩΝΙΟΣ
Ἀλλ᾿ ἐκεῖνός γε, ὦ Μενέκρατες, οὔτε θαυμασίως ἔχει τοῦ φθέγματος οὔτ᾿ αὖ γελοίως· ἡ γὰρ φύσις αὐτὸν ἀμέμπτως τε καὶ μέσως ἥρμοκε. φθέγγεται δὲ κοῖλον μὲν φύσει καὶ βαρύ, ἐγκειμένης αὐτῷ τῆς φάρυγγος· μέλη δ᾿ οὕτω κατεσκευασμένης βομβεῖ πως. οἱ δέ γε τόνοι τῶν φθόγγων ἐπιλεαίνουσι τοῦτον, ἐπεὶ μὴ θαρρεῖ αὑτῷ, χρωμάτων δὲ φιλανθρωπίᾳ καὶ μελοποιίᾳ εὐαγώγῳ μὲν δὴ καὶ κιθαρῳδίᾳ εὐσταλεῖ καὶ <τῷ> οὗ καιρὸς βαδίσαι καὶ στῆναι καὶ μεταστῆναι καὶ τὸ νεῦμα ἐξομοιῶσαι τοῖς μέλεσιν, αἰσχύνην ἔχοντος μόνου τοῦ βασιλέα δοκεῖν ἀκριβοῦν ταῦτα.

Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars: Nero 53, 55

“He was mostly deranged by a desire for popularity and was an enemy to anyone who had any sway over the popular mob. Most believed that after all of his accomplishments on the stage he was going to compete among the Athletes at the next Olympian games. He was wrestling endlessly and he had watched the gymnastic contests all over Greece as a judge would, sitting on the ground of the stadium. If any competitors withdrew too far back, he would push them forth again with his own hand. Because he was alleged to have equaled Apollo in song and the Sun in chariot-driving, Nero planned to rival the deeds of Herakles too. People claim that a lion had been trained which he would be able to kill naked in the amphitheater in front of all the people with either a club or his arms’ embrace.”

Maxime autem popularitate efferebatur, omnium aemulus, qui quoquo modo animum vulgi moverent. Exiit opinio post scaenicas coronas proximo lustro descensurum eum ad Olympia inter athletas; nam et luctabatur assidue nec aliter certamina gymnica tota Graecia spectaverat quam brabeutarum more in stadio humi assidens ac, si qua paria longius recessissent, in medium manibus suis protrahens. Destinaverat etiam, quia Apollinem cantu, Solem aurigando aequiperare existimaretur, imitari et Herculis facta; praeparatumque leonem aiunt, quem vel clava vel brachiorum nexibus in amphitheatri harena spectante populo nudus elideret.

“He had a desire for eternal and endless fame, but it was ill-considered. Because of this he changed the names of many things and places from their ancient titles to something from his own name. So, he called the month of April Neroneus and planned to have Rome renamed Neropolis.”

Erat illi aeternitatis perpetuaeque famae cupido, sed inconsulta. Ideoque multis rebus ac locis vetere appellatione detracta novam indixit ex suo nomine, mensem quoque Aprilem Neroneum appellavit; destinaverat et Romam Neropolim nuncupare.

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Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum

The Greater Deeds of Famous People

Pliny, Letters 3.16

“I believe I have already noted that the more famous deeds and words of men and women are sometimes not their greatest ones. My opinion was confirmed yesterday during a conversation with Fannia. She is a granddaughter of that Arria who was a source of strength and an example for her husband in his death. She was telling me many things about her grandmother which were no less important even if they were less well-known. I think they will be as amazing for you to read as they were for me to hear them.

Her husband Caecina Paetus was sick, and their son was sick, and it seemed that both would died. The son did die and he was a boy of exceeding beauty matched by his humble character who was dear to his parents no less for these qualities than for the fact he was their son. Arria prepared everything for the funeral and then led the ceremony in such a way that her husband did not know. Indeed, whenever she went into his bedroom, she pretended that their son was still alive and was actually getting better.

When he was asking how the boy was doing, she would respond, “he slept well and is eating easily.” And then, when her tears which she had held back overcame her and burst out, she left the room and surrendered herself to sorrow. When she was done, she returned with dry eyes and a composed face as if she had left her loss outside.

It was truly a famous deed when she took a dagger, drove it into her chest, pulled it out again, and then, as she offered it to her husband, added that immortal and nearly divine word, “Paetus, it does not hurt.” But when she was doing these things and saying them, fame and eternity stood before her eyes. For this reason it was greater when she suppressed her tears, hid her grief, and still acted as a mother once she had lost herself without the promise of eternity or the prize of glory to come.”

On Arria’s death.

C. Plinius Nepoti Suo S.

Adnotasse videor facta dictaque virorum feminarumque alia clariora esse alia maiora. Confirmata est opinio mea hesterno Fanniae sermone. Neptis haec Arriae illius, quae marito et solacium mortis et exemplum fuit. Multa referebat aviae suae non minora hoc sed obscuriora; quae tibi existimo tam mirabilia legenti fore, quam mihi audienti fuerunt. Aegrotabat Caecina Paetus maritus eius, aegrotabat et filius, uterque mortifere, ut videbatur. Filius decessit; eximia pulchritudine pari verecundia, et parentibus non minus ob alia carus quam quod filius erat. Huic illa ita funus paravit, ita duxit exsequias, ut ignoraret maritus; quin immo quotiens cubiculum eius intraret, vivere filium atque etiam commodiorem esse simulabat, ac persaepe interroganti, quid ageret puer, respondebat: “Bene quievit, libenter cibum sumpsit.” Deinde, cum diu cohibitae lacrimae vincerent prorumperentque, egrediebatur; tunc se dolori dabat; satiata siccis oculis composito vultu redibat, tamquam orbitatem foris reliquisset. Praeclarum quidem illud eiusdem, ferrum stringere, perfodere pectus, extrahere pugionem, porrigere marito, addere vocem immortalem ac paene divinam: “Paete, non dolet.” Sed tamen ista facienti, ista dicenti, gloria et aeternitas ante oculos erant; quo maius est sine praemio acternitatis, sine praemio gloriae, abdere lacrimas operire luctum, amissoque filio matrem adhuc agere.

Antoine Rivalz - La Mort de Paetus.jpg
La Mort de Paetus by Antoine Rivalz

 

Poisoned Husbands and Wives on Death Row

 Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 2.5.3

“The poisoning-court, once unknown to Roman customs and laws, was instituted after many Roman matrons had been implicated in the crime. After these women in question had poisoned their husbands in a secret plot, they were indicted based on the testimony of a single serving-girl. A number of one hundred and seventy were condemned to death by the court.”

Veneficii quaestio, et moribus et legibus Romanis ignota, complurium matronarum patefacto scelere orta est. quae, cum viros suos clandestinis insidiis veneno perimerent, unius ancillae indicio protractae, pars capitali iudicio damnatae centum et septuaginta numerum expleverunt.

 

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Tawdry Tuesday, Imperial Edition: Fun with Domitian

Suetonius, Life of Domitian 22

He was a man of extreme lust: he used to refer to his endless intercourse as “bed-wrestling”, as if it were a type of exercise. There was a rumor that he used to depilate his concubines himself and that he used to go swimming with street prostitutes. Even though he repeatedly refused a wedding to his brother’s daughter who was offered to him for marriage when she was still a virgin because he was overcome with the Domitia affair, he seduced her not long after she was married to someone else and while Titus was still alive. But, soon, he loved her openly and with the utmost passion once she was deprived of father and husband, to the point that he was the reason for her death when she was forced to abort a child conceived with him.”

XXII. Libidinis nimiae, assiduitatem concubitus velut exercitationis genus clinopalen vocabat; eratque fama, quasi concubinas ipse develleret nataretque inter vulgatissimas meretrices. Fratris filiam adhuc virginem oblatam in matrimonium sibi cum devinctus Domitiae nuptiis pertinacissime recusasset, non multo post alii conlocatam corrupit ultro et quidem vivo etiam tum Tito; mox patre ac viro orbatam ardentissime palamque dilexit, ut etiam causa mortis exstiterit coactae conceptum a se abigere.

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Marcus Cato Was a Cheap, Cruel Man

Plutarch, Marcus Cato 339

“Some people blame these traits on Marcus Cato’s cheapness; but others believe he is a model for his rectitude and wisdom, since he counterbalanced the excess of everyone else. But I believe that how he used slaves up as if they were pack animals and then driving them away and selling them when they were old is the mark of a deeply cruel character—one that believes that human beings have nothing in common except for need.

But we know that kindness occupies more territory than justice. For we use law and justice only in reference to human beings, but it is kindness and charity that at times pour out from a gentle character even for the unthinking animals just as water from a full spring. Kind people take care of horses even when they are old and dogs too—not just when they are puppies, but when their old age requires care.”

Ταῦτα δ᾿ οἱ μὲν εἰς μικρολογίαν ἐτίθεντο τοῦ ἀνδρός, οἱ δ᾿ ὡς ἐπὶ διορθώσει καὶ σωφρονισμῷ τῶν ἄλλων ἐνδοτέρω συστέλλοντος ἑαυτὸν ἀπεδέχοντο. πλὴν τὸ τοῖς οἰκέταις ὡς ὑποζυγίοις ἀποχρησάμενον ἐπὶ γήρως ἐλαύνειν καὶ πιπράσκειν ἀτενοῦς ἄγαν ἤθους ἔγωγε τίθεμαι, καὶ μηδὲν ἀνθρώπῳ πρὸς ἄνθρωπον οἰομένου κοινώνημα τῆς χρείας πλέον ὑπάρχειν. καίτοι τὴν χρηστότητα τῆς δικαιοσύνης πλατύτερον τόπον ὁρῶμεν ἐπιλαμβάνουσαν· νόμῳ μὲν γὰρ καὶ τῷ δικαίῳ πρὸς ἀνθρώπους μόνον χρῆσθαι πεφύκαμεν, πρὸς εὐεργεσίας δὲ καὶ χάριτας ἔστιν ὅτε καὶ μέχρι τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων ὥσπερ ἐκ πηγῆς πλουσίας ἀπορρεῖ τῆς ἡμερότητος. καὶ γὰρ ἵππων ἀπειρηκότων ὑπὸ χρόνου τροφαὶ καὶ κυνῶν οὐ σκυλακεῖαι μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ γηροκομίαι τῷ χρηστῷ προσήκουσιν.

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I originally posted the picture above of Cato the Younger (Thanks to  for pointing it out). Here’s Cato the Elder

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Epirota, Nurse of Baby Bards

Suetonius, Lives of Illustrious Men, On Grammarians 16

“Quintus Caecilius Epirota, a native of Tusculum and a freedman of Atticus the Roman Knight (the one who corresponded with Cicero), was suspected of taking advantage of his patron Marcus Agrippa’s daughter when he was teaching her and was removed for this. Then he went to Cornelius Gallus and lived with him in a very familiar way, the very matter which was presented against him by Augustus among the most serious crimes.

After Gallus’ conviction and death, Epirota opened a school but received only a few students and adolescents, barring others younger unless he was not able to deny the parent. He is the first reported to have spontaneous debates in Latin and to begin to read Vergil and the recent poets, which is implied in the little verse of Domitius Marsus: “Epirota, little nurse of baby bards”

XVI. Q. Caecilius Epirota, Tusculi natus, libertus Attici equitis Romani, ad quem sunt Ciceronis epistulae, cum filiam patroni nuptam M. Agrippae doceret, suspectus in ea et ob hoc remotus, ad Cornelium Gallum se contulit vixitque una familiarissime, quod ipsi Gallo inter gravissima crimina ab Augusto obicitur. Post deinde damnationem mortemque Galli scholam aperuit, sed ita ut paucis et tantum adulescentibus praeciperet, praetextato nemini, nisi si cuius parenti hoc officium negare non posset. Primus dicitur Latine ex tempore disputasse, primusque Vergilium et alios poetas novos praelegere coepisse, quod etiam Domitii Marsi versiculus indicat: Epirota, tenellorum nutricula vatum.

 

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