Pythagorean Self-Invention

Scholion to Sophocles Electra 62.2

“Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. After that, once he reappeared again later, he was telling fantastic tales of reincarnation and the people Hades, explaining to the living about the matters of the dead. From these stories, he created that kind of repute for himself that, before the Trojan War, he was Aithalidês the son of Hermes and then Euphorbos, and then Hermotimos of Samos, then Delian Pythios and after all of them, Pythagoras.”

…Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα, ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ᾅδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο, διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, οἷς ἐν ᾅδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν. ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν, ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωϊκῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ Ἑρμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα Ἑρμότιμος Σάμιος, εἶτα Πύθιος Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας.Monday

Minor Details and Obscured Lives

Historia Augusta, Opellius Macrinus by Julius Capitolinus

 “The lives of this emperors who did not last long, whether tyrants or Caesars, remain in obscurity to start with because there’s little in their private lives worth talking about. They would have never been known if they had not strived for power and we can’t say much about their reign since they didn’t rule long. Still, we will offer what has been uncovered in a range of historical materials. 

These are details worth remembering! There’s no one who hasn’t done one thing or another each day of their life. A biographer’s task is to tell those details worth knowing. Junius Cordus certainly enjoyed published the lives of emperors he saw as somewhat obscure. But he didn’t achieve very much, since he uncovered very little and less worth recalling, confessing himself that he tracked down minor details about Trajan or Pius or Marcus like how often they went outside, how they varied their meals, when they changed their clothes, and when and who they promoted.

He filled his books with gossip by pursuing these questions and writing them up when, really, minor matters like this shouldn’t be recorded or only sparingly if habits can illuminate character. People want to know about character, but only partly so that the rest of the story can be gathered from it.”

Vitae illorum principum seu tyrannorum sive Caesarum qui non diu imperaverunt in obscuro latent, idcirco quod neque de privata eorum vita digna sunt quae dicantur, cum omnino ne scirentur quidem, nisi adspirassent ad imperium, et de imperio, quod non diu tenuerunt, non multa dici possunt. nos tamen ex diversis historicis eruta in lucem proferemus, et ea quidem quae memoratu digna erunt. non enim est quisquam qui in vita non ad diem quodcumque fecerit. sed eius qui vitas aliorum scribere orditur officium est digna cognitione perscribere. et Iunio quidem Cordo studium fuit eorum imperatorum vitas edere quos obscuriores videbat. qui non multum profecit; nam et pauca repperit et indigna memoratu, adserens se minima quaeque persecuturum, quasi vel de Traiano aut Pio aut Marco sciendum sit, quotiens processerit, quando cibos variaverit et quando vestem mutaverit et quos quando promoverit. quae ille omnia exsequendo libros mythistoriis replevit talia scribendo, cum omnino rerum vilium aut nulla scribenda sint aut nimis pauca, si tamen ex his mores possint animadverti, qui re vera sciendi sunt, sed ex parte, ut ex ea cetera colligantur.

Macrinus, Bust, Capitoline Museums

Are YOU Like Tiberius?

Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 70

“He pursued the liberal arts of both languages most seriously. He was a follower of Messala Corvinus when it came to Latin oratory, a man whom he had observed while an adolescent. But he used to confuse his style with such excessive affectation and officiousness that he was considered more effective as an extemporaneous speaker than a prepared one.

He also wrote a lyric poem which had the title “A Lament on the Death of Lucius Caesar.” When he composed Greek poems, he imitated Euphorion, Rhianus, and Parthenius, those poets whose writing he liked most of all, and he placed their portraits in the public libraries among the older, famous authors. For this reason, many of the learned men of the time were in a competition dedicating many books about these men to Tiberius.

Still, he took the greatest care in knowledge of the stories of myth, to the point of absurdity and silliness. For he even used to quiz the grammarians, a class of men whom, as I said, he was really preoccupied with, posing questions like: “Who was the mother of Hecuba?” “What name did Achilles have among the girls?” “What were the Sirens accustomed to singing?”

LXX. Artes liberales utriusque generis studiosissime coluit. In oratione Latina secutus est Corvinum Messalam, quem senem adulescens observarat. Sed adfectatione et morositate nimia obscurabat stilum, ut aliquanto ex tempore quam a cura praestantior haberetur. Composuit et carmen lyricum, cuius est titulus “Conquestio de morte L. Caesaris.” Fecit et Graeca poemata imitatus Euphorionem et Rhianum et Parthenium, quibus poetis admodum delectatus scripta omnium et imagines publicis bibliothecis inter veteres et praecipuos auctores dedicavit; et ob hoc plerique eruditorum certatim ad eum multa de his ediderunt.3Maxime tamen curavit notitiam historiae fabularis usque ad ineptias atque derisum; nam et grammaticos, quod genus hominum praecipue, ut diximus, appetebat, eius modi fere quaestionibus experiebatur: “Quae mater Hecubae, quod Achilli nomen inter virgines fuisset, quid Sirenes cantare sint solitae.”

 

 Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 3466 8º, Folio 37r

The Oratorical Practices of Gaius Caligula

Suetonius, Gaius Caligula 53

“Of the liberal arts, Caligula paid the least attention to literature and the most to rhetoric. He was as eloquent and witty as you would want, especially when he could launch an attack on someone. Words and phrases used to find him whenever he was angry—his articulation and voice too rose up so that it was impossible for him to stay in the same place thanks to excitement and he was heard well by people standing far away.

When he was about to give a speech, he used to threaten to unsheathe the tool of his nocturnal strains, and he despised work composed smoothly and with style so much that he used to say that Seneca wrote “only school-essays” and was “sand without lime”. He was also in the custom of responding to the successful speeches of orators and of working on accusations and defenses for major matters brought to the senate; when his stylus progressed well, whether he was adding guilt or lightening responsibility with his own oration, the whole equestrian class was invited to hear him by edict.”

LIII. Ex disciplinis liberalibus minimum eruditioni, eloquentiae plurimum attendit, quamtumvis facundus et promptus, utique si perorandum in aliquem esset. Irato et verba et sententiae suppetebant, pronuntiatio quoque et vox, ut neque eodem loci prae ardore consisteret et exaudiretur a procul stantibus. Peroraturus stricturum se lucubrationis suae telum minabatur, lenius comptiusque scribendi genus adeo contemnens, ut Senecam tum maxime placentem “commissiones meras” componere et “harenam esse sine calce” diceret. Solebat etiam prosperis oratorum actionibus rescribere et magnorum in senatu reorum accusationes defensionesque meditari ac, prout stilus cesserat, vel onerare sententia sua quemque vel sublevare, equestri quoque ordine ad audiendum invitato per edicta.

 

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Augustus Caesar, Maybe Not the Nicest Guy

Suetonius, Divus Augustus 15

“Following the capture of Perusia, [Augustus] turned his mind to vengeance on many people—facing those who were trying to beg forgiveness or make an excuse with one response: “you must die.”

Some authors record that three hundred people from both orders were picked out from the war-prisoners and slaughtered like sacrificial animals at the altar built to Divine Julius on the Ides of March. There are those who report that he turned to war with a specific plan, namely to trap his secret adversaries and those whom fear rather than willingness constrain and, once the model of Lucius Antonius* was offered, to pay the bonuses promised to veterans once he had conquered his enemies and liquidated their assets.”

Perusia capta in plurimos animadvertit, orare veniam vel excusare se conantibus una voce occurrens “moriendum esse.” Scribunt quidam trecentos ex dediticiis electos utriusque ordinis ad aram Divo Iulio exstructam Idibus Martiis hostiarum more mactatos. Exstiterunt qui traderent conpecto eum ad arma isse, ut occulti adversarii et quos metus magis quam voluntas contineret, facultate L. Antoni ducis praebita, detegerentur devictisque iis et confiscatis promissa veteranis praemia solverentur.

*Lucius (Marcus Antonius’ brother) had been a target of the siege at Perusia. Octavian [Augustus] let him live and sent him to serve as governor in what is now Spain.

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Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, A Righteous and Religious Man

Gellius on Misogyny: Like Socrates, Euripides Had Two Wives

While entertaining banter about Socrates’ ugliness and his two wives, I got a bit interested in the assertion in Diogenes Laertius that the Athenians had passed a law permitting bigamy to increase the population and cope with the “lack of men”. As an aside, I learned a new word during this leipandria (“lack of men”; and not humans, but males specifically).

Strabo (6.3.3) mentions something similar among the Spartans during their conflict with the Messenians. The Spartans are also said to have a concern about their lack of population at 8.5.4). Apart from some fragmentary historians, however, there’s not much evidence for the laws.  Our good friend and contributor the Fabulous Festus pointed me to a Roman account:

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 15.20

[Euripides] is reported to have hated women in a rather serious way, either because he despised the company of women by nature or because he had two wives at the same time (which was the law made by Athenian decree) and was worn down by his marriages. Aristophanes also memorializes his hatred in the first version of the Thesmophoriazusae:

Now, then, I address and advise all women
To punish this man for many reasons:
He has accosted us with bitter evils,
This man raised on a garden’s bitter harvest.

And Alexander the Aitolian composed these lines about Euripides:

The strident student of strong Anaxagoras, the mirth-hater,
Addressed me and never got used to making jokes while drinking.
But what he wrote, honey or a Siren could have made.”

6 Mulieres fere omnes in maiorem modum exosus fuisse dicitur, sive quod natura abhorruit a mulierum coetu sive quod duas simul uxores habuerat, cum id decreto ab Atheniensibus facto ius esset, quarum matrimonii pertaedebat. 7 Eius odii in mulieres Aristophanes quoque meminit en tais proterais Thesmophoriazousais in his versibus:

Νῦν οὖν ἁπάσαισιν παραινῶ καὶ λέγω
τοῦτον κολάσαι τὸν ἄνδρα πολλῶν οὕνεκα·
ἄγρια γὰρ ἡμᾶς, ὦ γυναῖκες, δρᾷ κακά,
ἅτ’ ἐν ἀγρίοισι τοῖς λαχάνοις αὐτὸς τραφείς.

8 Alexander autem Aetolus hos de Euripide versus composuit:

Ὁ δ᾽ Ἀναξαγόρου τρόφιμος χαιου στρίφνος μὲν ἔμοιγε προσειπεῖν
καὶ μισογελος καὶ τοθαζειν οὐδὲ παρ᾽ οἶνον μεμαθεκως,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ τι γράψαι, τοῦτ᾽ ἂν μέλιτος καὶ Σειρηνον ἐτετεύχει.

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Such kind, but serious eyes…

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Sayings and Deeds 7.6 ext 1b-c

“[Socrates] used to say that those who act as so that they become as they would wish to seem finish short and well-known roads to glory. With this saying he was clearly warning that humans should drink virtue itself rather than follow its shadow.

Socrates also, when asked by a certain young man whether he should take a wife or abstain from matrimony altogether, said that whichever he did he would regret it. “From second option, you will experience loneliness, childlessness, the end of your family, and a foreign heir; from the other option, you will have perpetual annoyance, a weaving of complaints, questions about the dowry, the down-turned brows of inlaws, a talkative mother-in-law, a hunter for other people’s marriages, and the uncertain bearing of children.’ He would not endure that the youth believe he was making a choice of happy material in the context of harsh matters.”

Idem expedita et compendiaria via eos ad gloriam pervenire dicebat qui id agerent ut quales videri vellent, tales etiam essent. qua quidem praedicatione aperte monebat ut homines ipsam potius virtutem haurirent quam umbram eius consectarentur.

Idem, ab adulescentulo quodam consultus utrum uxorem duceret an se omni matrimonio abstineret, respondit utrum eorum fecisset, acturum paenitentiam. ‘hinc te’ inquit ‘solitudo, hinc orbitas, hinc generis interitus, hinc heres alienus excipiet, illinc perpetua sollicitudo, contextus querellarum, dotis exprobratio, adfinium grave supercilium, garrula socrus lingua, subsessor alieni matrimonii, incertus liberorum eventus.’ non passus est iuvenem in contextu rerum asperarum quasi laetae materiae facere dilectum.

Plato’s Sister and the Women Among His Students

Diogenes Laertius IV.1

“These facts are as accurate details about Plato as we are able to gather in our laborious research of the things said about him. Speusippus, an an Athenian son of Eurymedon, took over for him. He was from the deme of Myrrhinos and was the son of Plato’s sister, Pôtônê.

Speusippos was the leader of the school for eight years, and he began after the 108th Olympiad. He had statues of the Graces dedicated in the Museion which Plato built in the Academy. Although he remained an adherent to Plato’s theories, he was not like him at all in his character.  For he was quick to anger and easily induced by pleasures. People say that he threw a little dog into a well in a rage and he went to Macedonia to the marriage of Kassander thanks to pleasure.

Two women, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Aksiothea of Phlios, were students of Plato who are said to have heard Speusippus speak. Writing at the time, Dionysus says mockingly: “It is possible to evaluate your wisdom from your Arcadian girl of a student.” And, while Plato made everyone who came to him exempt from tuition, you “send everyone a bill and take money from the willing and unwilling alike!”

Τὰ μὲν περὶ Πλάτωνος τοσαῦτα ἦν ἐς τὸ δυνατὸν ἡμῖν συναγαγεῖν, φιλοπόνως διειλήσασι τὰ λεγόμενα περὶ τἀνδρός. διεδέξατο δ᾿ αὐτὸν Σπεύσιππος Εὐρυμέδοντος Ἀθηναῖος, τῶν μὲν δήμων Μυρρινούσιος, υἱὸς δὲ τῆς ἀδελφῆς αὐτοῦ Πωτώνης. καὶ ἐσχολάρχησεν ἔτη ὀκτώ, ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ τῆς ὀγδόης καὶ ἑκατοστῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος· Χαρίτων τ᾿ ἀγάλματ᾿ ἀνέθηκεν ἐν τῷ μουσείῳ τῷ ὑπὸ Πλάτωνος ἐν Ἀκαδημείᾳ ἱδρυθέντι. καὶ ἔμεινε μὲν ἐπὶ τῶν αὐτῶν Πλάτωνι δογμάτων· οὐ μὴν τό γ᾿ ἦθος διέμεινε τοιοῦτος. καὶ γὰρ ὀργίλος καὶ ἡδονῶν ἥττων ἦν. φασὶ γοῦν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ θυμοῦ τὸ κυνίδιον εἰς τὸ φρέαρ ῥῖψαι καὶ ὑφ᾿ ἡδονῆς ἐλθεῖν εἰς Μακεδονίαν ἐπὶ τὸν Κασάνδρου γάμον.

Ἐλέγοντο δὲ αὐτοῦ καὶ αἱ Πλάτωνος ἀκούειν μαθήτριαι, Λασθένειά τε ἡ Μαντινικὴ καὶ Ἀξιοθέα ἡ Φλιασία. ὅτε καὶ Διονύσιος πρὸς αὐτὸν γράφων τωθαστικῶς φησι· “καὶ ἐκ τῆς Ἀρκαδικῆς σου μαθητρίας ἔστι καταμαθεῖν τὴν σοφίαν. καὶ Πλάτων μὲν ἀτελεῖς φόρων τοὺς παρ᾿ αὐτὸν φοιτῶντας ἐποίει· σὺ δὲ δασμολογεῖς καὶ παρ᾿ ἑκόντων καὶ ἀκόντων λαμβάνεις.”

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Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

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Harmless, Useless Sophistry

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers  [Chrysippus] 7.7

“If someone is in Megara he is not in Athens. If a body is in Megara there is nobody in Athens. If you say something, then something moves through your mouth. So, you say “wagon”. And then a wagon moves through your mouth. Also, if you did not lose anything, then you have it. You never lost horns, so you have horns.” Some say Euboulides said this.”

“εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν Μεγάροις, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν Ἀθήναις· ἄνθρωπος δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν Μεγάροις· οὐκ ἄρ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν Ἀθήναις.” καὶ πάλιν· “εἴ τι λαλεῖς, τοῦτο διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται· ἅμαξαν δὲ λαλεῖς· ἅμαξα ἄρα διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται.” καί· “εἴ τι οὐκ ἀπέβαλες, τοῦτ᾿ ἔχεις· κέρατα δ᾿ οὐκ ἀπέβαλες· κέρατ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἔχεις.” οἱ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδου τοῦτό φασι.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 45.8

“Again, the one who is asked whether he has horns is not so foolish as to search his own brow nor also so incompetent or limited that you may persuade him that he doesn’t know this with that most sophisticated logic. These kinds of things deceive without harm in the same way as the dice and cup of a juggler in which the deception itself entertains me. But explain how the trick works, and I lose my interest. I say that same thing about these word tricks, for by what name might I better call sophistries? They are harmless if you don’t understand them, and useless if you do.”

Ceterum qui interrogatur, an cornua habeat, non est tam stultus, ut frontem suam temptet, nec rursus tam ineptus aut hebes, ut ne sciat tu illi subtilissima collectione persuaseris. Sic ista sine noxa decipiunt, quomodo praestigiatorum acetabula et calculi, in quibus me fallacia ipsa delectat. Effice, ut quomodo fiat intellegam; perdidi usum. Idem de istis captionibus dico; quo enim nomine potius sophismata appellem? Nec ignoranti nocent nec scientem iuvant.

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Bronze head of a Philosopher from a shipwreck near Antikythera

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