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This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. IX
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1927

The text is in the public domain.

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Cassius Dio
Roman History

Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.

Vol. IX
Epitome of Book LXXVIII

11 After this Antoninus assumed the entire power; nominally, it is true, he shared it with his brother, but in reality he ruled alone from the very outset. With the enemy he came to terms, withdrew from their territory, and abandoned the forts; as for his own people, he dismissed some, including Papinian, the prefect, and killed others, among them Euodus his tutor, Castor, and his wife Plautilla, and her brother Plautius. 2 Even in Rome itself he put out of the way a man who was renowned for no other reason than his profession, which made him very conspicuous. I refer to Euprepes the charioteer. He killed him because he supported the opposite faction to the one he himself favoured. So Euprepes was put to death in his old age, after having been crowned in a vast number of horse-races; for he had won seven hundred and eighty-two crowns, a record equalled by no one else. 3 As for his own brother, Antoninus had wished to slay him even while his father was yet alive, but had been unable to do so at the time because of Severus, or later, on the march, because of the legions; for the troops felt very kindly toward the younger brother, especially as he resembled his father very closely in appearance. But when Antoninus got back to Rome, he made away with him also. 4 The two pretended to love and commend each other, but in all that they did  p281 they were diametrically opposed, and anyone could see that something terrible was bound to result from the situation. This was foreseen even before they reached Rome. For when the senate had voted that sacrifices should be offered in behalf of their concord both to the other gods and to Concord herself, and the assistants had got ready the victim to be sacrificed to Concord 5 and the consul had arrived to superintend the sacrifice, neither he could find them nor they him, but they spent nearly the entire night in searching for one another, so that the sacrifice could not be performed then. 6 And on the next day two wolves went up on the Capitol, but were chased away from there; one of them was found and slain somewhere in the Forum and the other was killed later outside the pomerium. This incident also had reference to the brothers.

2 1 Antoninus wished to murder his brother at the Saturnalia, but was unable to do so; for his evil purpose had already become too manifest to remain concealed, and so there now ensued many sharp encounters between the two, each of whom felt that the other was plotting against him, and many defensive measures were taken on both sides. 2 Since many soldiers and athletes, therefore, were guarding Geta, both abroad and at home, day and night alike, Antoninus induced his mother to summon them both, unattended, to her apartment, with a view to reconciling them. Thus Geta was persuaded, and went in with him; 3 but when they were inside, some centurions, previously instructed by Antoninus, rushed  p283 in a body and struck down Geta, who at sight of them had run to his mother, hung about her neck and clung to her bosom and breasts, lamenting and crying: "Mother that didst bear me, mother that didst bear me, help! I am being murdered." 4 And so she, tricked in this way, saw her son perishing in the most impious fashion in her arms, and received him at his death into the very womb, as it were, whence he had been born; for she was all covered with his blood, so that she took no note of the wound she had received on her hand. 5 But she was not permitted to mourn or weep for her son, though he had met so miserable an end before his time (he was only twenty-two years and nine months old), but, on the contrary, she was compelled to rejoice and laugh as though at some great good fortune; 6 so closely were all her words, gestures, and changes of colour observed. Thus she alone, the Augusta, wife of the emperor and mother of the emperors, was not permitted to shed tears even in private over so great a sorrow.

3 1 Antoninus, although it was evening, took possession of the legions, after crying out the whole way, as if he had been the object of a plot and his life were in danger. On entering the camp he exclaimed: "Rejoice, fellow-soldiers, for now I am in a position to do you favours." And before they heard the whole story he had stopped their mouths with so many and so great promises that they could neither think of nor say anything to show proper respect for the dead. 2 "I am one of you," he said, "and it is because of you alone that I care to live,  p285 in order that I may confer upon you many favours; for all the treasuries are yours." And he further said: "I pray to live with you, if possible, but if not, at any rate to die with you. For I do not fear death in any form, and it is my desire to end my days in warfare. There should a man die, or nowhere." 3 To the senate on the following day he addressed various remarks, and then, after rising from his seat, he said as he reached the door: "Listen to an important announcement from me: that the whole world may rejoice, let all the exiles who have been condemned, on whatever charge or in whatever manner, be restored." Thus did he empty the islands of exiles and grant pardon to the basest of criminals; but before long he had the islands full again. 4 1 Of the imperial freedmen and soldiers who had been with Geta he immediately put to death some twenty thousand, men and women alike, wherever in the palace any of them happened to be; and he slew various distinguished men also, including Papinianus.

When the Pretorians accused Papinian and Patruinus of certain things, Antoninus permitted  p287 them to kill the men, saying: "It is for you, and not for myself, that I rule; therefore, I defer to you both as accuser and judges."

He rebuked the slayer of Papinian for using an axe instead of a sword to kill him.

He also wished to take the life of Cilo, his tutor and benefactor, who had served as prefect of the city under his father, and whom he himself had often called "father." The soldiers who were sent to Cilo first plundered his silver plate, his robes, his money, and everything else of his, and then led him along the Sacred Way with the purpose of taking him to the palace and there putting him out of the way; he had only low slippers on his feet, since he had chanced to be in the bath when arrested, and was wearing a short tunic. The soldiers tore the clothing off his body and disfigured his face, so that the populace as well as the city troops began to make an outcry; accordingly, Antoninus, in awe and fear of them, met the party, and shielding Cilo with his cavalry cloak (he was wearing military dress), cried out: "Insult not my father! Strike not my tutor!" As for the military tribune who had been bidden to slay him and the detail of soldiers sent with him, they were put to death, ostensibly because they had plotted Cilo's destruction, but in reality because they had not killed him.

5 1 Antoninus pretended to love Cilo to such a degree  p289 that he declared, "Those who have plotted against him have plotted against me," and when commended for this by the bystanders, he continued: "Call me neither Hercules nor any other god" — not that he did not wish to be termed a god, but because he did not want to do anything worthy of a god. 2 He was naturally capricious in all things; for instance, he would bestow great honours upon people and then suddenly disgrace them quite without cause, and again he would spare the lives of those who least deserved it and punish those whom one would never have looked to see punished.

3 Julianus Asper, a man by no means to be despised either on account of his education or of his intelligence, was first exalted, together with his sons, by Antoninus, so that he paraded about surrounded by ever so many fasces at once, and then was suddenly insulted by him outrageously and sent back to his native town with abuse and in terrible fear.

4 Laenus was another whom he would have disgraced or even killed, had not the man been extremely ill. Antoninus before the soldiers called his illness wicked, because it did not permit him to display his own wickedness in the case of Laenus also.

5 He also made away with Thrasea Priscus, a man second to none either in birth or intelligence.  p291 

There were many others, too, formerly friends of his, that he put to death.

6 1 "All could I never recite near the names number over completely"

of the distinguished men that he killed without any justification. Dio, because the slain were very well known in those days, gives a list of their names; but for me it suffices to say that he made away with all the men he wished without distinction,

"both guilty and guiltless alike,"

and he mutilated Rome, by depriving it of its good men.

1 Antoninus belonged to three races; and he possessed none of their virtues at all, but combined in himself all their vices; the fickleness, cowardice, and recklessness of Gaul were his, the harshness and cruelty of Africa, and the craftiness of Syria, whence he was sprung on his mother's side.

2 Veering from murder to sport, he showed the same thirst for blood in this field, too. It was nothing, of course, that an elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, and hippotigris were slain in the arena, but he took pleasure in seeing the blood of as many gladiators as possible; he forced one of them, Bato, to fight three men in succession on the same day, and then, when Bato was slain by the last one, he honoured him with a brilliant funeral.

 p293  7 1 He was so enthusiastic about Alexander that he used certain weapons and cups which he believed had once been his, and he also set up many likenesses of him both in the camps and in Rome itself. He organized a phalanx, composed entirely of Macedonians, sixteen thousand strong, named it "Alexander's phalanx," and equipped it with the arms that warriors had used in his day; 2 these consisted of a helmet of raw ox-hide, a three-ply linen breastplate, a bronze shield, long pike, short spear, high boots, and sword. Not even this, however, satisfied him, but he must call his hero "the Augustus of the East"; and once he actually wrote to the senate that Alexander had come to life again in the person of the Augustus, that he might live on once more in him, having had such a short life before. 3 Toward the philosophers who were called Aristotelians he showed bitter hatred in every way, even going so far as to desire to burn their books, and in particular he abolished their common messes in Alexandria and all the other privileges that they had enjoyed; his grievance against them was that Aristotle was supposed to have been concerned in the death of Alexander. 4 Such was his behaviour in these matters; nay more, he even took about with him numerous elephants, that in this respect, also, he might seem to be imitating Alexander, or rather, perhaps, Dionysus.

8 1 On Alexander's account, then, he was very fond of the Macedonians. Once, after commending a Macedonian tribune for the agility with which he had leaped upon his horse, he asked him first: "From  p295 what country are you?" Then, learning that he was a Macedonian, he asked again: "What is your name?" 2 And hearing that it was Antigonus, he further inquired: "And what was your father's name?" When the father's name was found to be Philip, he declared: "I have all my desire," and promptly advanced him through all the other grades of the military career, and before long appointed him a senator with the rank of an ex-praetor. 3 Again, there is the incident of a certain man who had no connexion with Macedonia but had committed many crimes and for this reason was being tried by the emperor on an appeal. His name chanced to be Alexander, and when the orator who was accusing him kept saying, "the bloodthirsty Alexander, the god-detested Alexander," Antoninus became angry, as if he himself were being called these bad names, and said: "If you cannot be satisfied with plain 'Alexander,' you may consider yourself dismissed."

9 1 Now this great admirer of Alexander, Antoninus, was fond of spending money upon the soldiers, great numbers of whom he kept in attendance upon him, alleging one excuse after another and one war after another; but he made it his business to strip, despoil, and grind down all the rest of mankind, and the senators by no means least. In the first place, there were the gold crowns that he was repeatedly demanding, on the constant pretext that he had conquered some enemy or other; and I am not referring, either, to the actual manufacture of the crowns — for what does that amount to? — but to the vast amount of money constantly being given  p297 under that name by the cities for the customary "crowning", as it is called, of the emperors. Then there were the provisions that we were required to furnish in great quantities on all occasions, and this without receiving any remuneration and sometimes actually at additional cost to ourselves all of which supplies he either bestowed upon the soldiers or else peddled out; and there were the gifts which he demanded from the wealthy citizens and from the various communities; 4 and the taxes, but the new ones which he promulgated and the ten per cent tax that he instituted in place of the five per cent tax applying to the emancipation of slaves, to bequests, and to all legacies; for he abolished the right of succession and exemption from taxes which had been granted in such cases to those who were closely related to the deceased. This was the reason why he made all the people in his empire Roman citizens; nominally he was honouring them, but his real purpose was to increase his revenues by this means, inasmuch as aliens did not have to pay most of these taxes. But apart from all these burdens, we were also compelled to build at our own expense all sorts of houses for him whenever he set out from Rome, and costly lodgings in the middle of even the very shortest journeys; yet he not only never lived in them, but in some cases was not destined even to see them. Moreover, we constructed amphitheatres and race-courses wherever he spent the winter or expected to spend it, all without receiving any contribution from him; and they were all promptly demolished, the sole reason  p299 for their being built in the first place being, apparently, that we might become impoverished.

10 1 The emperor himself kept spending the money upon the soldiers, as we have said, and upon wild beasts and horses; for he was for ever killing vast numbers of animals, both wild and domesticated, forcing us to furnish most of them, though he did buy a few. One day he slew a hundred boars at one time with his own hands. He also used to drive chariots, wearing the Blue costume. 2 In everything he was very hot-headed and very fickle, and he furthermore possessed the craftiness of his mother and the Syrians, to which race she belonged. He would appoint some freedman or other wealthy person to be director of the games in order that the man might spend money in this way also; and he would salute the spectators with his whip from the arena below and beg for gold pieces like a performer of the lowest class. 3 He claimed that he used the Sun-god's method in driving, and plumed himself upon it. To such an extent was the entire world, so far as it owned his sway, devastated throughout his whole reign, that on one occasion the Romans at a horse-race shouted in unison this, among other things: "We shall do the living to death, that we may bury the dead." 4 Indeed, he often used to say: "Nobody in the world should have money but me; and want it to bestow upon the soldiers." Once when Julia chided him for spending vast sums upon  p301 them and said, "There is no longer any source of revenue, just or unjust, left to us," he replied, exhibiting his sword, "Be of good cheer, mother: for as long as we have this, we shall not run short of money."

11 1 Moreover to those who flattered him he distributed both money and goods.

1 Julius Paulus, a man of consular rank, was a gossip and jester, sparing not even the emperors themselves, and Severus caused him to be placed in free custody. When he still continued, even under guard, to jest at the expense of the sovereigns, Severus sent for him and swore that he would cut off his head. But Paulus replied: "Yes, you can cut it off, but as long as I have it, neither you nor I can restrain it." So Severus laughed and let him off.

1 He bestowed on Junius Paulinus a million sesterces because the man, who was a jester, had been led to crack a joke at the emperor's expense without meaning to do so. For Paulinus had said that Antoninus looked as if he were angry, the fact being that the emperor was wont to assume a somewhat savage expression. 2 Indeed, he had no regard whatever  p303 for the higher things, and never even learned anything of that nature, as he himself admitted; and hence he actually held in contempt those of us who possessed anything like education. Severus, to be sure, had trained him in absolutely all the pursuits that tended to excellence, whether of body or of mind, 3 so that even after he became emperor he went to teachers and studied philosophy most of the day. He used to be rubbed dry with oil, and would ride on horseback as much as a hundred miles; and he had practised swimming even in rough water. In consequence of these pursuits he was vigorous enough in a fashion, but he forgot his intellectual training as completely as if he had never heard of such a thing. 4 And yet he was not lacking either in ability to express himself or in good judgment, but showed a very shrewd understanding of most matters and talked very readily. For, thanks to his authority and his impetuosity, as well as to his habit of blurting out recklessly everything alike that came into his head and of feeling no shame at all about airing all his thoughts, he often stumbled upon a happy phrase.

5 But this same emperor made many mistakes because of the obstinacy with which he clung to his own opinions; for he wished not only to know everything but to be the only one to know anything, and he desired not only to have all power but to be the only one to have power. Hence he asked no one's advice and was jealous of those who had any useful knowledge. He never loved anyone, but he hated all who excelled in anything, most of all  p305 those whom he pretended to love most; and he destroyed many of them in one way or another. 6 Many he murdered openly; but others he would send to uncongenial provinces whose climate was injurious to their state of health 7 and thus, while pretending to honour them greatly, he quietly got rid of them by exposing those whom he did not like to excessive heat or cold. Hence, even if there were some whom he refrained from putting to death, yet he subjected them to such hardships that his hands were in fact stained with their blood.

12 1 Such was his character in general; I will now state what sort of person he was in war.

1 Abgarus, king of the Osroëni, when he had once got control of the kindred tribes, visited upon their leaders all the worst forms of cruelty. Nominally he was compelling them to change to Roman customs, but in fact he was indulging his authority over them to the full.

1 Antoninus tricked the king of the Osroëni, Abgarus, inducing him to visit him as a friend, and then arresting and imprisoning him; and so, Osroëne being thus left without a king, he subdued it.

2 When the king of the Armenians was quarrelling with his own sons, Antoninus summoned him in a friendly letter, pretending that he would make peace between them; but he treated them as he had treated Abgarus. The Armenians, however,  p307 instead of yielding to him, had recourse to arms, and no one thereafter would trust him in anything whatever. Thus he learned by experience how great the penalty is for an emperor when he practises deceit upon friends.

2 He likewise took the greatest credit to himself because, after the death of Vologaesus, king of the Parthians, the king's sons began to fight for the throne, thus pretending that a situation was due to chance had been brought about through his own contriving. So keen, it seems, was the delight he always took in the fact and in the dissensions of the brothers and in the mutual slaughter of persons in no way connected with himself.

3 But he did not hesitate to write to the senate regarding the Parthian rulers, who were brothers and at variance, that the brothers' quarrel would work great harm to the Parthian State, as if this sort of thing could destroy the barbarians and yet had saved Rome, — whereas in fact Rome had been, one might say, utterly overthrown thereby! 4 It was not that, to seal a crime that brought a great curse upon mankind, but that vast numbers of citizens had been falsely accused, not merely those who had sent letters to his brother or brought him gifts, either when he was still Caesar or when he had become emperor, but even the others who had never any dealings with him. 5 Indeed, if anyone  p309 so much as wrote the name Geta or even uttered it, he was immediately put to death. Hence the poets no longer used it even in comedies; and in fact the possessions of all those in whose wills the name appeared were confiscated.

6 Much that he did was done for the purpose of raising money.

He exhibited his hatred for his dead brother by abolishing the observance of his birthday, and he vented his anger upon the stones that had supported his statues, and melted down the coinage that displayed his features. And not content with even this, he now more than ever practised unholy rites, and would force others to share his pollution, by making a kind of annual offering to his brother's Manes.

13 3 Though feeling and acting thus with regard to his brother's murder, he took delight in the dissension of the barbarian brothers, on the ground that the Parthians would suffer some great harm because of it.

The Germanic nations, however, afforded him neither pleasure nor any specious claim to wisdom or courage, but proved him to be a downright cheat, a simpleton, and an arrant coward.

4 Antoninus made a campaign against the Alamanni and whenever he saw a spot suitable for habitation, he would order, "There let a fort be erected. There let a city be built." And he gave these  p311 places names relating to himself, though the local designations were not changed; for some of the people were unaware of the new names and others supposed he was jesting. 5 Consequently he came to feel contempt for these people and would not spare even them, but accorded treatment befitting the bitterest foes to the very people whom he claimed to have come to help. For he summoned their men of military age, pretending that they were to serve as mercenaries, and then at a given signal — by raising aloft his own shield — he caused them all to be surrounded and cut down, and he sent horsemen round about and arrested all the others.

6 Antoninus sent a letter to the senate commending Pandion, a man who had formerly been an assistant of charioteers, but in the war against the Alamanni drove the emperor's chariot and thereby became both his comrade and fellow-soldier. In this letter he asserted that he had been saved by this man from an exceptional peril; and he was not ashamed at feeling more gratitude toward him than toward the soldiers, whom in their turn he always regarded as superior to us senators.

7 Some of the most distinguished men whom Antoninus slew he ordered to be cast out unburied.

He made search for the tomb of Sulla and repaired it, and also reared a cenotaph to Mesomedes, who had made a compilation of citharoedic modes; he showed honour to the latter because he was himself learning to play the lyre, and to the former because he was emulating his cruelty.

1   p313  On necessary and urgent campaigns, however, he was simple and frugal, taking his part scrupulously in the menial duties on terms of equality with the rest. Thus, he would march with the soldiers and run with them, neither bathing nor changing his clothing, but helping them in every task and choosing exactly the same food as they had; and he would often send to the enemy's leaders and challenge them to single combat. 2 The duties of a commander, however, in which he ought to have been particularly well versed, he performed in a very unsatisfactory manner, as if he thought that victory lay in the performance of the humble duties mentioned rather than in good general­ship.

14 1 He waged war also against the Cenni, a Germanic tribe. These warriors are said to have assailed the Romans with the utmost fierceness, even using their teeth to pull from their flesh the missiles with which the Osroëni wounded them, so that they might have their hands free for slaying their foes without interruption. 2 Nevertheless, even they accepted a defeat in name in return for a large sum of money and allowed him to make his escape back into the province of Germany. Some of their women who were captured by the Romans, upon being asked by Antoninus whether they wished to be sold or slain, chose the latter fate; then, upon  p315 being sold, they all killed themselves and some slew their children as well.

3 Many also of the people living close to the ocean itself near the mouths of the Albis sent envoys to him asking for his friendship, though their real purpose was to get money. This was made clear by the fact that, when he had done as they desired, many attacked him, threatening to make war, and yet he came to terms with all of them. For even though the terms proposed were contrary to their wishes, yet when they saw the gold pieces they were captivated. 4 The gold that he gave them was of course genuine, whereas the silver and the gold currency that he furnished to the Romans was debased; for he manufactured the one kind out of lead plated with silver and the other out of copper plated with gold.

15 1 He likewise published outright to the world some of his basest deeds, as if they were excellent and praiseworthy, whereas others he revealed unintentionally through the very precautions which he took to conceal them, as, for example, in the case of the money.

2 Antoninus devastated the whole land and the whole sea and left nothing anywhere unharmed.

The enchantments of the enemy had made Antoninus frenzied beside himself; at any rate, some of the Alamanni, on hearing of his condition, asserted that they had employed charms to put him  p317 out of his mind. 3 For he was sick not only in body, partly from visible partly from secret ailments, but in mind as well, suffering from certain distressing visions, and often he thought he was being pursued by his father and by his brother, armed with swords. 4 Therefore he called up spirits to find some remedy against them, among others the spirit of his father and that of Commodus. But not one of them spoke a word to him except Commodus; as for Severus, they say that Geta accompanied him, though unsummoned. Yet not even Commodus said anything to help him, but, quite the contrary, so that he terrified him all the more; for this is what he said:

"Draw nearer judgment, which gods demand of thee for Severus,"

5 then something else, and finally:

"Having in secret placed a malady hard to be cured."

For publishing these facts many were treated with gross indignities. But to Antoninus no one even of the gods gave any response that conduced to healing either his body or his mind, although he paid homage to all the more prominent ones. 6 This showed most clearly that they regarded, not his votive offerings or his sacrifices, but only his purposes  p319 and his deeds. He received no help from Apollo Grannus, nor yet from Aesculapius or Serapis, in spite of his many supplications and his unwearying persistence. For even while abroad he sent to them prayers, sacrifices and votive offerings, and many couriers ran hither and thither every day carrying something of this kind; 7 and he also went to them himself, hoping to prevail by appearing in person, and did all that devotees are wont to do; but he obtained nothing that contributed to health.

16 1 While claiming to be the most pious of all mankind, he indulged to an extravagant degree in bloodshed, putting to death four of the Vestal Virgins, one of whom he had himself outraged — when he had still been able to do so; for later all his sexual power had disappeared. 2 Consequently he satisfied his lewd desires, as was reported, in a different manner;​a and his example was followed by others of similar inclinations, who not only admitted that they were given to such practices but declared that they did so in the interest of the emperor's welfare.

5 A young knight carried a coin bearing his image into a brothel, and informers reported it; for this the knight was at the time imprisoned to await execution, but later was released, as the emperor died in the meantime. 2 This girl, of whom I was just speaking, was named Clodia Laeta; and she  p321 was buried alive, 3 though protesting in a loud voice, "Antoninus himself knows that I am a virgin; he himself knows that I am pure." Three others shared her sentence; two of them, Aurelia Severa and Pomponia Rufina, were put to death in the same manner, but Cannutia Crescentina hurled herself down from the top of the house.

4 In the case of adulterers, also, he acted in the same way; for, though he had shown himself the most adulterous of men, — so long, that is, as he had the power, — he not only detested others who were charged with the same thing, but even slew them in violation of all law. And though he hated all good men, he affected to honour some of them after their death.

6 Antoninus censured and rebuked them all because they asked nothing of him; and he said to them all: "It is evident from the fact that you ask nothing of me that you do not have confidence in me; and if you do not have confidence, you are suspicious of me; and if you are suspicious, you fear me; and if you fear me, you hate me." And he made this an excuse for plotting their destruction.

6a Antoninus, when about to kill Cornificia, bade her choose the manner of her death, as if he were thereby showing her especial honour. She first uttered many laments, and then, inspired by the memory of her father, Marcus, her grandfather, Antoninus, and her brother, Commodus, she ended by saying: "Poor, unhappy soul of mine, imprisoned in a vile body, fare forth, be freed, show them that you are Marcus' daughter, whether they will or no." Then she laid  p323 aside all the adornments in which she was arrayed, having composed herself in seemly fashion, severed her veins and died.

7 Antoninus came into Thrace, paying no further heed to Dacia. After crossing the Hellespont, not without danger, he honoured Achilles with sacrifices and with races in armour about his tomb, in which he as well as the soldiers took part; and in honour of this occasion he gave them money, just as if they had gained some great success and had in truth captured the very Troy of old, and he set up a bronze statue of Achilles himself.

8 When Antoninus arrived at Pergamum and certain persons were debating the author­ship of the following verse, he seemed to quote it from some oracle; it ran thus:

"Into Telephus' land the Ausonian beast shall enter."

And because he was called "beast" he was pleased and proud and put to death great numbers of people at a time. The man who had composed the verse used to laugh and declare that he had composed it himself, in order to show that no one may die contrary to the will of fate, but that the common saying is true which declares that liars and deceivers are never believed, even if now and then they tell the truth.

17 1 He held court rarely or never, but devoted most of his leisure to gratifying his curiosity as much as anything. For people brought him word from everywhere of everything, even the most insignificant things; and he accordingly ordered that the soldiers  p325 who kept their ears and eyes open for these details should not be punished by anyone but himself. Nothing good came of this order, but rather another set of tyrants to terrorize us, — even these soldiers. And — what was in the last degree disgraceful and unworthy of both the senate and of the Roman people — we had a eunuch to domineer over us. He was a native of Spain, Sempronius Rufus by name, and his occupation was that of sorcerer and juggler, for which he had been confined on an island by Severus; 3 and he was destined to pay the penalty for his conduct, as were also the rest of the informers. As for Antoninus himself, he would send us word that he was going to hold court or transact some other public business directly after dawn, but he would keep us waiting until noon and often until evening, and would not even admit us to the vestibule, so that we had to stand round outside somewhere; and usually at some late hour he decided that he would not even exchange greetings with us that day. 4 Meanwhile he was engaged in gratifying his curiosity in various ways, as I have said, or was driving chariots, slaying wild beasts, fighting as a gladiator, drinking, nursing the resultant headaches, mixing great bowls of wine — in addition to all their other food — for the soldiers that guarded him inside the palace, and passing it round in cups, in our presence and before our eyes; and after this he would now and then hold court.

18 1 Such was his behaviour while in winter-quarters at Nicomedeia. He also drilled the Macedonian phalanx, and built two very large engines for the Armenian and Parthian wars, so constructed that he could take them apart and carry them in ships to  p327 Syria. For the rest, he was staining himself with blood, doing lawless deeds, and squandering money. 2 Neither in these matters nor in any others did he heed his mother, who gave his much excellent advice. And yet he had appointed her to receive petitions and to have charge of his correspondence in both languages, except in very important cases, and used to include her name, in terms of high praise, together with his own and that of the legions, in his letters to the senate, stating that she was well. 3 Need I add that she held public receptions for all the most prominent men, precisely as did the emperor? But, while she devoted herself more and more to the study of philosophy with these men, he kept declaring that he needed nothing beyond the necessaries of life and plumed himself over his pretended ability to live on the cheapest kind of fare; yet there was nothing on land or sea or in the air that we did not regularly supply to him both by private gifts and by public grants. 4 Of these articles he used extremely few for the benefit of the friends about him (for he no longer cared to dine with us senators), but most of them he consumed with his freedmen. His delight in magicians and jugglers was so great that he commended and honoured Apollonius of Cappadocia, who had flourished under Domitian and was a thorough juggler and magician, and erected a shrine to him.

19 1 When he made an expedition against the Parthians, his pretext for war was that Vologaesus had not granted his request for the surrender of Tiridates and a certain Antiochus along with him. Antiochus  p329 was a Cilician who at first had pretended to be a philosopher of the Cynic school, and in this way had proved of the greatest help to the soldiers in the war; 2 for when they were dispirited by reason of the excessive cold, he would encourage them by throwing himself into the snow and rolling in it. Hence he had obtained both money and honours from Severus himself as well as Antoninus, but becoming conceited at this, he had attached himself to Tiridates and deserted with him to the Parthian king.

20 22 Antoninus maligned himself when he claimed that he had overcome the recklessness, greed, and treachery of the Germans by deceit, since these qualities could not be conquered by force.

3 He likewise commended Fabricius Luscinus because he had been unwilling to secure the death of Pyrrhus through the treachery of a friend; and yet he took pride in having stirred up enmity with the Vandili and the Marcomani, who had been friends, and in having executed Gaïobomarus, the king of the Quadi, against whom accusation had been laid. 4 And when one of the king's associates, under accusation with him, hanged himself before he could be punished, Antoninus delivered his body to the barbarians to be wounded, in order that the man might be thought to have been sentenced to death and executed rather than to have died by his own hand, which was deemed an honourable act among them.

 p331  He put to death Caecilius Aemilianus, who had been governor of Baetica, on the ground that he had consulted the oracle of Hercules at Gades.

193 Before leaving Nicomedeia Antoninus held a gladiatorial contest there in honour of his birthday; for not even on that day would he refrain from bloodshed. Here it is said that when a defeated combatant begged him to spare his life, Antoninus said: 4 "Go and entreat your adversary. I have no power to spare you." And so the wretch, who would perhaps have been spared by his antagonist, had these words not been spoken, lost his life; for the victor did not dare to release him, for fear of appearing more humane than the emperor.

20 1 Nevertheless, while he was thus occupied and was indulging in luxurious living at Antioch, even to the point of keeping his chin wholly bare, he not only bewailed his own lot, as if he were in the midst of some great hardships and dangers, but he also found fault with the senate, declaring that in addition to being slothful in other respects they did not assemble with any eagerness and did not give their votes individually. 2 And in conclusion he wrote: "I know that my behaviour does not please you; but that is the very reason that I have arms and soldiers, so that I may disregard what is said about me."

21 1 When the Parthian king became frightened and surrendered both Tiridates and Antiochus, Antoninus immediately disbanded the expedition. But he sent Theocritus with an army against the Armenians, only to suffer a severe reverse when that general was defeated by them.

 p333  2 Theocritus was an imperial freedman who had taught Antoninus to dance and had been a favourite of Saoterus, thanks to which he had been introduced to the theatre at Rome. But, as he was unsuccess­ful there, he was driven out of Rome and went to Lugdunum, where he delighted the people, since they were rather countrified. Thus, from a slave and a dancer, he those to be commander of an army and prefect.

Theocritus was the son of a slave, and had been brought up in the theatre, but he advanced to such power under Antoninus that both the prefects were as nothing compared to him. Then there was Epagathus, his equal in power and lawlessness, who was likewise an imperial freedman. 3 As for Theocritus, he kept travelling to and fro for the purpose of securing provisions and then hawking them at retail, and he put many people to death in connexion with this business as well as for other reasons. One of his victims was Flavius Titianus. 4 This man, while procurator at Alexandria, offended him in some manner, whereupon Theocritus, leaping from his seat, drew his sword; and at that Titianus remarked: "That, too, you did like a dancer." This angered Theocritus extremely, and he ordered Flavius to be slain.

22 1 Now Antoninus, in spite of the immense affection which he professed to cherish for Alexander, all but utterly destroyed the whole population of Alexander's city. For, hearing that he was ill-spoken of and ridiculed by them for various reasons, not the least of which was the murder of his brother, he set out  p335 for Alexandria, concealing his wrath and pretending that he longed to see them. 2 So when he reached the suburbs, whither the leading citizens had come with certain mystic and sacred symbols, he first greeted them cordially, even making him his guests at a banquet, and then put them to death. Then, having arrayed his whole army, he marched into the city, after first notifying all the inhabitants to remain at home and after occupying all the streets and all the roofs as well. 3 And, to pass over the details of the calamities that then befell the wretched city, he slaughtered so many persons that he did not even venture to say anything about their number, but wrote to the senate that it was of no interest how many of them or who had died, since all had deserved to suffer this fate. Of the money in the city, part was plundered and part destroyed. 23 1 Together with the citizens there perished also many outsiders, and not a few of those who had accompanied Antoninus were slain with the rest through ignorance of their identity; for, as the city was large and people were being murdered in all parts of it simultaneously both by night and by day, it was impossible to distinguish anybody, however much one might desire to do so, but people perished as chance directed and their bodies were straightway cast into deep trenches, to keep the rest from becoming aware of the extent of the calamity. Such was the fate of the natives. 2 The foreigners were all expelled, except the merchants, and naturally all the property of these was plundered; for even some shrines were despoiled. Antoninus was present at most of this slaughter and pillaging, both looking on and taking a hand, but sometimes he issued  p337 orders to others from the temple of Serapis; for he lived in this god's precinct even during the very nights and days of bloodshed.

2 Antoninus, while slaughtering the Alexandrians and living in the sacred precincts, sent word to the senate that he was performing rites of purification on those very days when he was in reality sacrificing human beings to himself at the same time that he sacrificed animals to the god.

3 Yet why do I mention this, when he actually dared to dedicate to the god the sword with which he had slain his brother? Next he abolished the spectacles and the public messes of the Alexandrians and ordered that Alexandria should be divided by a cross-wall and occupied by guards at frequent intervals, in order that inhabitants might no longer visit one another freely. 4 Such was the treatment accorded unhappy Alexandria by the "Ausonian beast," as the tag-end of the oracular utterance concerning him called him. He was said to be pleased with this utterance and to take pride in the appellation of "beast," and this in spite of the fact that he slew many persons on the ground that they had divulged the oracle.

24 1 He likewise gave prizes to the soldiers for their campaign, to those assigned to the pretorian twenty-five thousand sesterces, and to the rest twenty thousand . . . .

2 That temperate man, as he was wont to call himself,  p339 that rebuker of licentiousness in others, now that an outrage at once most shameful and dreadful had occurred, appeared in truth to have become angered; but by failing to follow up his anger in the proper manner and furthermore by permitting the youths to do what no one had ever yet dared to do, he greatly corrupted the latter, who had imitated the ways of courtesans among the women and of buffoons among the men.

3 On the occasion of the Culenian spectacle severe censure was passed, not on those who did there what they were in the habit of doing, but also on the spectators.

Thayer's Note:

a This seems clearly to have been bowdlerized; but if so, it is for once not the Loeb translator at fault, but the ancient text itself, found only in the Excerpta Valesiana and Xiphilinus.

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