A Source of Fear and Hate

Suetonius, Domitian 13-14

“Once he accepted the cognomen Germanicus after two triumphs, he renamed the months of September and October from his own names, calling one Germanicus and the other Domitianus because he had assumed rule in one and was born in the other.

For these reasons he became a source of fear and hateful to everyone. He was finally overthrown by plots led together by his friends and freedman with his wife’s knowledge. He had a longstanding suspicion over the final year and day of his death. When he was young, astrologers had predicted all these things to him. His father also once mocked him at dinner because he was refusing mushrooms, claiming that he was ignorant of his fate because he did not fear the sword instead. For these reasons he was always fearful and anxious and was excessively upset even over the smallest suspicions.”

Post autem duos triumphos Germanici cognomine assumpto Septembrem mensem et Octobrem ex appellationibus suis Germanicum Domitianumque transnominavit, quod altero suscepisset imperium, altero natus esset.

XIV. Per haec terribilis cunctis et invisus, tandem oppressus est insidiis amicorum libertorumque intimorum simul et uxoris. Annum diemque ultimum vitae iam pridem suspectum habebat, horam etiam nec non et genus mortis. Adulescentulo Chaldaei cuncta praedixerant; pater quoque super cenam quondam fungis abstinentem palam irriserat ut ignarum sortis suae, quod non ferrum potius timeret. Quare pavidus semper atque anxius minimis etiam suspicionibus praeter modum commovebatur.

 

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Up Before Dawn, Two Baths and a Nap: The Daily Routine of Emperor Severus

Dio Cassius 27.17

“This is the daily routine Severus used when there was peace. He was always doing something before dawn and after that you used to take a walk while talking and listening about the matters of the empire. Then he would have a judicial court, except when there was some festival or another. And he used to do this best of all—for he provided ample time for those who were arguing the case and he provided those of us who were advising him lots of time too. He used to make judgments until midday and then he would ride his horse as much as he was able. Then he would take a bath after engaging in some kind of exercise. Following this, he would have no meager lunch either on his own or with his children.

After lunch, he usually napped for a bit. When he rose, he turned to the rest of his affairs and then used to spend time engaged in both Greek and Latin debates while walking again. Near dusk, he would bathe again and then dine with those who were attending him—for he did not frequently have a guest for dinner and he would only sponsor expensive banquets on days when it was necessary. He lived for sixty-five years, plus eight months and twenty-five days. Even at the end, he demonstrated his eagerness for activity: as he was dying he said: “come here, give me whatever there is to do.”

 

…ἐχρῆτο δὲ ὁ Σεουῆρος καταστάσει τοῦ βίου εἰρήνης οὔσης τοιᾷδε. ἔπραττέ τι πάντως νυκτὸς ὑπὸ τὸν ὄρθρον, καὶ μετὰ τοῦτ᾿ ἐβάδιζε καὶ λέγων καὶ ἀκούων τὰ τῇ ἀρχῇ πρόσφορα· εἶτ᾿ ἐδίκαζε, χωρὶς εἰ μή τις ἑορτὴ μεγάλη εἴη. καὶ μέντοι καὶ ἄριστα αὐτὸ ἔπραττε· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς δικαζομένοις ὕδωρ ἱκανὸν ἐνέχει, καὶ ἡμῖν τοῖς συνδικάζουσιν αὐτῷ παρρησίαν πολλὴν ἐδίδου. 2ἔκρινε δὲ μέχρι μεσημβρίας, καὶ μετὰ τοῦθ᾿ ἵππευεν ἐφ᾿ ὅσον ἂν ἐδυνήθη· εἶτ᾿ ἐλοῦτο, γυμνασάμενός τινα τρόπον. ἠρίστα δὲ ἢ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἢ μετὰ τῶν παίδων, οὐκ ἐνδεῶς. εἶτ᾿ ἐκάθευδεν ὡς πλήθει· ἔπειτ᾿ ἐξαρθεὶς τά τε λοιπὰ προσδιῴκει καὶ λόγοις καὶ Ἑλληνικοῖς καὶ Λατίνοις συνεγίνετο ἐν περιπάτῳ. εἶθ᾿ οὕτω πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἐλοῦτο αὖθις, καὶ ἐδείπνει μετὰ τῶν ἀμφ᾿ αὑτόν· ἥκιστά τε γὰρ ἄλλον τινὰ συνέστιον ἐποιεῖτο, καὶ ἐν μόναις ταῖς πάνυ ἀναγκαίαις ἡμέραις τὰ πολυτελῆ δεῖπνα συνεκρότει. ἐβίω δὲ ἔτη ἑξήκοντα πέντε καὶ μῆνας ἐννέα καὶ ἡμέρας πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι2 (τῇ γὰρ ἑνδεκάτῃ τοῦ Ἀπριλίου ἐγεγέννητο), ἀφ᾿ ὧν ἦρξεν ἔτη ἑπτακαίδεκα καὶ μῆνας ὀκτὼ καὶ ἡμέρας τρεῖς. τό τε σύμπαν οὕτως ἐνεργὸς ἐγένετο ὥστε καὶ ἀποψύχων ἀναφθέγξασθαι· “ἄγετε, δότε, εἴ τι πρᾶξαι ἔχομεν.

 

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This compares favorably, I think, to the recently shared schedule of Mark Wahlberg.

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Coarse Wit, Captive Audiences: 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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An Eloquent Death, A Confused Afterlife: Claudius, Gourd-God

The following excerpt is from a satirical essay called the “Apocolocyntosis”–the “gourdification”–attributed to Seneca the Younger  (by Cassius Dio). The word is a play on “apotheosis” and the eastern convention of the dedication of imperial cults upon the death of the Caesars. The language does not seem completely Senecan to me, but Seneca seems likely from the content and the cultural capital necessary to pull this off. Regardless of authorship, the satire is hysterical.

Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 4-5

“And he spat up his soul and then he seemed to stop living. He died, moreover, while he listened to comedians, so you understand that I do not fear them without reason. His final voice was heard among people as follows. When he emitted the greater sound with that part with which he spoke more easily, he said “Oh my, I shat myself I think”. Whether or not he did this, I do not know: but he certainly fouled up the place.

The things that were done next on earth are useless to report—for you certainly know it clearly. There is no risk that the memory left by public celebration will disappear—no one forgets his own joy. What was done in heaven, you should hear—the proof will come from the author!

It was announced to Jupiter that a man of certain good size had come, really grey. I don’t know what he was threatening, since he was constantly moving his head and dragging his right foot. When they asked what country he was from he responded with a confused sound and troubled voice—they could not understand his language. He was not Greek or Roman or of any other race.

Then Jupiter sent Hercules who had wandered over the whole earth and seemed to know every nation. He ordered him to go and explore what people this man was from. Then Hercules was a bit undone by the first sight because he had not yet feared all the monsters. As he gazed upon this new kind of a thing with its uncommon step, a voice belonging to no earth-bound beast but more like something coming out of a marine monster, coarse and wordless, he thought that he had arrived at a thirteenth labor. As he looked more closely, it seemed to him to be a man. Se he went up to him and said what comes easiest to a Greek tongue. “Who are you among men and from where? Where is your city and parents?”

Et ille quidem animam ebulliit, et ex eo desiit vivere videri. Exspiravit autem dum comoedos audit, ut scias me non sine causa illos timere. Ultima vox eius haec inter homines audita est, cum maiorem sonitum emisisset illa parte, qua facilius loquebatur: “vae me, puto, concacavi me.” Quod an fecerit, nescio: omnia certe concacavit.

Quae in terris postea sint acta, supervacuum est referre. Scitis enim optime, nec periculum est ne excidant memoriae quae gaudium publicum impresserit: nemo felicitatis suae obliviscitur. In caelo quae acta sint, audite: fides penes auctorem erit. Nuntiatur Iovi venisse quendam bonae staturae, bene canum; nescio quid illum minari, assidue enim caput movere; pedem dextrum trahere. Quaesisse se, cuius nationis esset: respondisse nescio quid perturbato sono et voce confusa; non intellegere se linguam eius, nec Graecum esse nec Romanum nec ullius gentis notae. Tum Iuppiter Herculem, qui totum orbem terrarum pererraverat et nosse videbatur omnes nationes, iubet ire et explorare, quorum hominum esset. Tum Hercules primo aspectu sane perturbatus est, ut qui etiam non omnia monstra timuerit. Ut vidit novi generis faciem, insolitum incessum, vocem nullius terrestris animalis sed qualis esse marinis beluis solet, raucam et implicatam, putavit sibi tertium decimum laborem venisse. Diligentius intuenti visus est quasi homo. Accessit itaque et quod facillimum fuit Graeculo, ait:

τίς πόθεν εἰς ἀνδρῶν, πόθι τοι πόλις ἠδὲ τοκῆες;

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