“Their Only God is Money”

The following is a spurious letter from the wild Historia Augusta. This is filled with religious confusion, some hate, and an odd detail about cups.

Historia Augusta, 29.7

“Hadrianus Augustus greets Servianus the Consul.

Dearest Servianus, that Egypt you were praising to me is completely light of learning, volatile, and swinging toward every little rumor. The people there who follow Serapis are Christians and those who claim to be followers of Christ are actually worshipers of Serapis. There’s no one in charge of the synagogue of the Jews, there’s no Samaritans, no Christian presbyter who is not also an astrologer, a psychic or some baptist. Even the Patriarch, when he has come to Egypt, is made to worship Serapis by some and Christ by others.

These people are the most traitorous, the most vain, most likely to injure while their state is wealthy, showy, fertile and a place where no one is without work. Some people blow glass; paper is made by others; everyone weaves some kind of linen or are part of some kind of craft. The lame have things they do; eunuchs have things they do as do the blind and even those with crippled hands are not without work among them.

Money is their only god—Christians, Jews, every people and race worship him. I wish that this place had a better nature, for it is truly worthy because of its size and richness to be the chief place of all Egypt. I conceded everything to it; I returned its ancient rights and added new ones so that the people thanked me while I was there. But, then, the moment I left, they said many things against my son Verus and I believe that you have learned what they said about Antinoos.

I wish nothing for them except that they live on their own chickens which they raise in a way that is shameful to speak. I am sending you some cups which are decorated with changing colors and were given to me by the priest of a temple but are now dedicated to you and my sister. I want you to use them on feast days. Be careful that our companion Africanus does not use them as he wants.”

VIII. “Hadrianus Augustus Serviano consuli salutem. Aegyptum, quam mihi laudabas, Serviane carissime, totam didici levem, pendulam et ad omnia famae momenta volitantem. illic3 qui Serapem colunt Christiani sunt, et devoti sunt Serapi qui se Christi episcopos dicunt. nemo illic archisynagogus Iudaeorum, nemo Samarites, nemo Christianorum presbyter non mathematicus, non haruspex, non aliptes. ipse ille patriarcha cum Aegyptum venerit, ab aliis Serapidem adorare, ab aliis cogitur Christum. genus hominum seditiosissimum, vanissimum, iniuriosissimum; civitas opulenta, dives, fecunda, in qua nemo vivat otiosus. alii vitrum conflant, aliis charta conficitur, omnes certe linyphiones aut cuiuscumque artis esse videntur; et habent podagrosi quod agant, habent praecisi quod agant, habent caeci quod faciant, ne chiragrici quidem apud eos otiosi vivunt. unus illis deus nummus est. hunc Christiani, hunc Iudaei, hunc omnes venerantur et gentes. et utinam melius esset morata civitas, digna profecto quae pro sui fecunditate, quae pro sui magnitudine totius Aegypti teneat principatum. huic ego cuncta concessi, vetera privilegia reddidi, nova sic addidi ut praesenti gratias agerent. denique ut primum inde discessi, et in filium meum Verum multa dixerunt, et de Antinoo quae dixerint comperisse te credo. nihil illis opto, nisi ut suis pullis alantur, quos quemadmodum fecundant, pudet dicere. calices tibi allassontes versicolores transmisi, quos mihi sacerdos templi obtulit, tibi et sorori meae specialiter dedicatos; quos tu velim festis diebus conviviis adhibeas. caveas tamen ne his Africanus noster indulgenter utatur.”

An image of Serapis, not of Christ
Serapis

Roman Britain: Maybe Not Worth the Trouble?

In honor of the World Cup Semi-final Match today between the former Roman Provinces of Britannia and Dalmatia, we wrote a slightly farcical post for the SCS blog. Here are some passages that did not make it into the post.

Appian Roman History Preface, 5

“When you cross the Northern ocean you come to the island of Britain which is bigger than a continent [The Romans] possess the greatest half of it and aren’t really missing the rest. For even the part they do hold doesn’t bring them a good profit.”

καὶ τὸν βόρειον ὠκεανὸν ἐς τὴν Βρεττανίδα νῆσον περάσαντες, ἠπείρου μεγάλης μείζονα, τὸ κράτιστον αὐτῆς ἔχουσιν ὑπὲρ ἥμισυ, οὐδὲν τῆς ἄλλης δεόμενοι· οὐ γὰρ εὔφορος αὐτοῖς ἐστὶν οὐδ᾿ ἣν ἔχουσιν.

Suetonius, Divus Julius 47

 

“They say that [Julius Caesar] attacked Britain because of a hope for pearls and that in comparing their mass he used to check their weight with his own hand. For he was extremely eager to collect gems, carvings, statues, and images by ancient artists. He was also fond of rather good looking slaves with better training for a huge price—this also caused him enough shame that he did not allow them to be entered into his expenditures.”

 

XLVII. Britanniam petisse spe margaritarum, quarum amplitudinem conferentem interdum sua manu exegisse pondus; gemmas, toreumata, signa, tabulas operis antiqui semper animosissime comparasse; servitia rectiora politioraque inmenso pretio, et cuius ipsum etiam puderet, sic ut rationibus vetaret inferri.

 

Tacitus, Agricola, 13

 

“The people of Britain themselves respond eagerly to drafts, tributes, and obligations set by the government, if abuses are absent. They endure these poorly since, although they are conquered enough to obey, they are not yet slaves [to us].  

As a matter of fact, the divine Julius of all the Romans first attacked Britain with an army, and, although he terrified the inhabitants with a hasty battle and was master of the coast, he seems to have exposed Britain for his successors rather than handed it down. The Civil Wars followed soon after and while the arms of Rome’s first men were turned against the state, there was a prolonged forgetfulness of Britain, which the divine Augustus used to call a “plan” and Tiberius called a “precedent”.

 

13. Ipsi Britanni dilectum ac tributa et iniuncta imperii munera impigre obeunt, si iniuriae absint: has aegre tolerant, iam domiti ut pareant, nondum ut serviant. igitur primus omnium Romanorum divus Iulius cum exercitu Britanniam ingressus, quamquam prospera pugna terruerit incolas ac litore potitus sit, potest videri ostendisse posteris, non tradidisse; mox bella civilia et in rem publicam versa principum arma, ac longa oblivio Britanniae etiam in pace: consilium id divus Augustus vocabat, Tiberius praeceptum.

 

Image result for roman britain
Hadrian Built a Wall. Who paid for it?

Some words;

σφαιριστής: “ball-player”

σφαιριστικός: “skilled at ball-playing”

σφαιρομαχία: “ball-match”

σφαιροπαίκτης: “ball-player”