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This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. VIII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925

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.

Epitome of Book LXV


1 Such was the course of these events; and following them Vespasian was declared emperor by the senate also, and Titus and Domitian were given the title of Caesars. The consular office was assumed by Vespasian and Titus while the former was in Egypt and the latter in Palestine. 2 Now portents and dreams had come to Vespasian pointing to the sovereignty long beforehand. Thus, as he was eating dinner on his country estate, where most of his time was spent, an ox approached him, knelt down and placed his head beneath his feet. On another occasion, when he was also eating, a dog dropped a human hand under the table. 3 And a conspicuous cypress tree, which had been uprooted and overthrown by a violent wind, stood upright again on the following day by its own power and continued to flourish. From a dream he learned that when Nero Caesar should lose a tooth, he himself should be emperor. This prophecy about the tooth became a reality on the following day; and Nero himself in his dreams once thought that he had brought the car of Jupiter to Vespasian's house. These portents needed interpretation; 4 but not so the saying of a Jew named Josephus: he, having earlier been captured by  p261 Vespasian and imprisoned, laughed and said: "You may imprison me now, but a year from now, when you have become emperor, you will release me."

2 Thus Vespasian, like some others, had been born for the throne. While he was still absent in Egypt, Mucianus administered all the details of government with the help of Domitian. For Mucianus, who claimed that he had bestowed the sovereignty upon Vespasian, plumed himself greatly upon his honours, and especially because he was called brother by him, and had authority to transact any business that he wished without the emperor's express direction, and could issue written orders by merely adding the other's name. 2 And for this purpose he wore a ring, that had been sent him so that he might impress the imperial seal upon documents requiring authorization. In fact, he and Domitian gave governor­ships and procurator­ships to many and appointed prefect after prefect and even consuls. 3 In short, they acted in every way so much like absolute rulers that Vespasian once sent the following message to Domitian: "I thank you, my son, for permitting me to hold office and that you have not yet dethroned me."

5 Now Mucianus was gathering countless sums into the public treasury with the greatest eagerness from every possible quarter, thereby relieving Vespasian of the censure what such a proceeding entailed. He was for ever declaring that money was the sinews of sovereignty; and in accordance with this belief he not only constantly urged Vespasian to raise  p263 funds from every source, but also continued from the very first to collect money himself, thus providing large amounts for the empire and at the same time acquire large amounts for himself.

3 In the province of Germany various uprisings against the Romans took place that are not worth being mentioned by me, at least, but there was one incident that must occasion surprise. A certain Julius Sabinus, one of the foremost of the Lingones, collected by his own efforts an independent force of his own and took the name of Caesar, claiming to be a descendant of Julius Caesar. 2 Upon being defeated in several engagements he fled to a country estate, where he descended into a subterranean vault beneath a monument, which he first burned to the ground. His pursuers thought that he had perished in the flames, but as a matter of fact he remained hidden there with his wife for nine years and had two sons by her. 3 The troubles in Germany were settled by Cerialis in the course of numerous battles, in one of which so great a multitude of Romans and barbarians was slain that the river flowing near by was dammed up by the bodies of the fallen.

4 Domitian became afraid of his father because of what he himself had done and far more of what he had intended to do; for he was quite ambitious in his projects. So he spent most of his time in the neighbourhood of the Alban Mount and devoted himself to his passion for Domitia, the daughter of Corbulo. He had taken her away from her husband, Lucius Lamia Aelianus, and at this time had her for one of his mistresses, though later he married her.  p265 

4 Titus, who had been assigned to the war against the Jews, undertook to win them over by certain representations and promises; but, as they would not yield, he now proceeded to wage war upon them. The first battles he fought were indecisive; then he got the upper hand and proceeded to besiege Jerusalem. This city had three walls, including the one that surrounded the temple. 2 The Romans, accordingly, heaped up mounds against the outer wall, brought up painter engines, joined battle with all who sallied forth to fight and repulsed them, and with their slings and arrows kept back all the defenders of the wall; for they had many slingers and bowmen that had been sent by some of the barbarian kings. 3 The Jews also were assisted by many of their countrymen from the region round about and by many who professed the same religion, not only from the Roman empire but also from beyond the Euphrates; and these, also, kept hurling missiles and stones with no little force on account of their higher position, some being flung by the hand and some hurled by means of engines. 4 They also made sallies both night and day, whenever occasion offered, set fire to the siege engines, slew many of their assailants, and undermined the Romans' mounds by removing the earth through tunnels driven under the wall As for the battering-rams, sometimes they threw ropes around them and broke them off, sometimes they pulled them up with hooks, and again they used thick planks fastened together and strengthened with iron, which they let down in front of the wall and thus fended off the blow of still others. 5 But the Romans suffered most hardship from the lack of water; for  p267 their supply was of poor quality and had to be brought from a distance. The Jews found in their under­ground passages a source of strength; for they had these tunnels dug from inside the city and extending out under the walls to distant points in the country, and going out through them, they would attack the Romans' water-carriers and harass any scattered detachments. But Titus stopped up all these passages.

5 In the course of these operations many on both sides were wounded and killed. Titus himself was struck on the left shoulder by a stone, and as a result of this accident that arm was always weaker. 2 In time, however, the Romans scaled the outside wall, and then, pitching their camp between this and the second circuit, proceeded to assault the latter. But here they found the conditions of fighting different; for now that all the besieged had retired behind the second wall, its defence proved an easier matter because its circuit was shorter. 3 Titus therefore once more made a proclamation offering them immunity. But even then they held out, and those of them that were taken captive or deserted kept secretly destroying the Romans' water supply and slaying any troops that they could isolate and cut off from the rest; hence Titus would no longer receive any Jewish deserters. 4 Meanwhile some of the Romans, too, becoming disheartened, as often happens in a protracted siege, and suspecting, furthermore, that the city was really impregnable, as was commonly reported, went over to the other side. The Jews, even though they were short of food, treated these recruits kindly, in order to be able to show that there were deserters to their side also.  p269 

6 Though a breach was made in the wall by means of engines, nevertheless, the capture of the place did not immediately follow even then. On the contrary, the defenders killed great numbers that tried to crowd through the opening, and they also set fire to some of the buildings near by, hoping thus to check the further progress of the Romans, even though they should gain possession of the wall. In this way they not only damaged the wall but at the same time unintentionally burned down the barrier around the sacred precinct, so that the entrance to the temple was now laid open to the Romans. 2 Nevertheless, the soldiers because of their superstition did not immediately rush in; but at last, under compulsion from Titus, they made their way inside. Then the Jews defended themselves much more vigorously than before, as if they had discovered a piece of rare good fortune in being able to fight near the temple and fall in its defence. The populace was stationed below in the court, the senators on the steps, and the priests in the sanctuary itself. 3 And though they were but a handful fighting against a far superior force, they were not conquered until a part of the temple was set on fire. Then they met death willingly, some throwing themselves on the swords of the Romans, some slaying one another, others taking their own lives, and still others leaping into the flames. And it seemed to everybody, and especially to them, that so far from being destruction, it was victory and salvation and happiness to them that they perished along with the temple. 7 Yet even under these conditions many captives were taken, among them  p271 Bargiora, their leader; and he was the only one to be executed in connexion with the triumphal celebration.

2 Thus was Jerusalem destroyed on the very day of Saturn, the day which even now the Jews reverence most. From that time forth it was ordered that the Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs should pay an annual tribute of two denarii to Jupiter Capitolinus. In consequence of this success both generals received the title of imperator, but neither got that of Judaïcus, although all the other honours that were fitting on the occasion of so magnificent a victory, including triumphal arches, were voted to them.

8 Following Vespasian's entry into Alexandria the Nile overflowed, having in one day risen a palm higher than usual; such an occurrence, it was said, had only taken place only once before. Vespasian himself healed two persons, one having a withered hand, the other being blind, who had come to him because of a vision seen in dreams; he cured the one by stepping on his hand and the other by spitting upon his eyes. 2 Yet, though Heaven was thus magnifying him, the Alexandrians, far from delighting in his presence, detested him so heartily that they were for ever mocking and reviling him. For they had expected to receive from him some great reward because they had been the first to make him emperor, but instead of securing anything they had additional contributions levied upon them. 3 In the first place, he collected large  p273 sums from them in various ways, over­looking no source, however trivial or however reprehensible it might be, but drawing upon every source, sacred and profane alike, from which money could be secured. He also renewed The taxes that had fallen into disuse, increased many that were customary, and introduced still other new ones. 4 And he adopted this same course later in the rest of the subject territory, in Italy, and in Rome itself. Hence the Alexandrians, both for these reasons and also because he had sold the greater part of the palace, were angry and hurled many taunts at him, this among others: "Six obols more you demand of us." Vespasian, consequently, although the most good-natured of men, became angry, 5 and gave orders that six obols should be exacted from every man, and he thought seriously about punishing them besides. For the words in themselves were insulting enough, and there was something about their broken anapaestic rhythm that roused his ire. 6 Titus, however, begged that they might be forgiven and Vespasian spared them. Yet they would not let him alone, but in a crowded assembly all loudly shouted in chorus at Titus these words: "We forgive him; for he knows not how to play the Caesar." 7 So the Alexandrians at that time went on with these foolhardy demonstrations, took their fill without restraint of that impudent licence which is always working to their detriment, and abused the  p275 good nature of the emperor. 9 But Vespasian soon ceased to notice them. He sent a despatch to Rome rescinding the disfranchisement of those who had been condemned by Nero and succeeding rulers for acts of maiestas, as they were called. This order applied to the living and to the dead alike; and he put an end to the indictments based on such complaints. 2 He banished the astrologers from Rome, even though he was in the habit of consulting all the best of them himself, and, by way of showing a favour to Barbillus a man of that profession, had even permitted the Ephesians to celebrate some sacred games, a privilege that he granted to no other city.

2a He soon restored order in Egypt and sent thence a large supply of grain to Rome. He had left his son Titus at Jerusalem to storm the place, and was waiting for its capture in order that he might return to Rome with him. But as time dragged on and the siege continued, he left Titus in Palestine and took passage himself on a merchantman; in this manner he sailed as far as Lycia, and from there he proceeded partly by land and partly by sea to Brundisium.

3 Vespasian had later come to Rome, after meeting Mucianus and other prominent men at Brundisium and Domitian at Beneventum. The latter, because of his consciousness both of what he was planning and of what he had already done, was ill at ease, and furthermore he sometimes even feigned madness. 4 At any rate, he spent most of his time at the Alban Villa and did many absurd things, one of them being  p277 to impale flies on a stylus. Unworthy as this incident is of the dignity of history, yet, because it shows his character so well and particularly because he still continued the practice after he became emperor, I have felt obliged to record it. 5 In view of this habit of his, someone, in answer to the question, "Where is Domitian?" made the witty reply: "He is living in retirement, without even a fly to keep him company." 10 Vespasian now proceeded to humble this son's pride, but greeted all the rest, not as an emperor, but as a private citizen; for he was mindful of his own past fortune.

1a On reaching Rome he bestowed gifts upon both the soldiers and the populace. He also repaired the sacred precincts and the public works which had suffered injury and rebuilt such as had already fallen into ruin; and upon completing them he inscribed upon them, not his own name, but the names of those who had originally built them.

2 He immediately began to construct the temple on the Capitoline. He was himself the first to carry out a load of soil, thereby evidently bidding all the other leading citizens to do likewise, in order that the rest of the populace might have no excuse for shirking this service.

2a The property of his opponents who had fallen in the various conflicts he left to their children or other kinsmen of theirs; furthermore, he destroyed the notes that were long overdue belonging to the public treasury.

3 Although he invariably expended in most munificent  p279 fashion all that was requisite for the public welfare and carried out the festivals of a most sumptuous scale, his own style of living was very far from costly and he spent no more than was absolutely necessary. Therefore even in the taverns he allowed nothing cooked to be sold except pulse. Thus he made it most evident that he was amassing money, not for his own enjoyment, but for the needs of the people.

3a Vespasian was laughed at every time he would say, when spending money: "I am paying for this out of my own purse."

3b He was neither of noble birth nor rich.

4 The general routine of life that he followed was as follows. He lived but little in the palace, spending most of his time in the Gardens of Sallust. There he received anybody who desired to see him, not only senators but also people in general. 5 With his intimate friends he would hold converse even before dawn while lying in bed; and others would greet him on the streets. The doors of the palace stood open all day long and no guard was stationed at them. He regularly attended the meetings of the senate, whose members he consulted on all matters, and he frequently dispensed justice in the Forum. 6 Whatever messages he was prevented by old age and whatever communications he sent to the senate when unable to be present, he usually caused to be read by his sons, thus showing honour to that body even in this detail. Every day he made many of the senators and others his guests at table, and he himself  p281 often dined at the houses of his intimate friends. 11 In short, he was looked upon as emperor only by reason of his oversight of the public business, whereas in all other respects he was democratic and lived on a footing of equality with his subjects. For example, he indulged in jests like a man of the people and enjoyed jokes at his own expense; and whenever any anonymous bulletins, such as are regularly addressed to the emperors, were posted, if they contained scurrilous references to himself, he would simply post a reply in kind, without showing the least resentment. 2 One day Phoebus approached him to make an apology. It seems that once, during Nero's reign, Vespasian while in the theatre in Greece had frowned when he saw the emperor behaving himself in unseemly fashion, whereupon Phoebus had angrily bidden him go away. And when Vespasian asked, "Go where?" Phoebus had replied, "To the deuce." So when Phoebus now apologized for this remark, Vespasian did him no harm, and gave him no answer other than this same retort: "To the deuce with you." 3 Again, when Vologaesus sent him a letter of which the salutation ran thus: "Arsaces, King of Kings, to Flavius Vespasian, Greeting," the emperor did not rebuke him at all but wrote a reply in the same style, adding none of his imperial titles.

12 Helvidius Priscus, the son-in‑law of Thrasea, had been brought up in the doctrines of the Stoics and imitated Thrasea's frankness of speech, sometimes unseasonably. He was at this time praetor, but instead of doing aught to increase the honour due to the emperor he would not cease reviling him. Therefore  p283 the tribunes once arrested him and gave him in charge of their assistants, a procedure at which Vespasian was overcome by emotion went out of the senate-chamber in tears, saying merely: "My successor shall be my son or no one at all."

1a After Jerusalem had been captured Titus returned to Italy and both he and his father celebrated a triumph, riding in a chariot. Domitian, who was consul, also took part in the celebration, mounted upon a charger. Vespasian afterwards established in Rome teachers of both Latin and Greek learning, who drew their pay from the public treasury.

13 Inasmuch as many others, too, including Demetrius the Cynic, actuated by the Stoic principles, were taking advantage of the name of philosophy to teach publicly many doctrines inappropriate to the times, and in this way were subtly corrupting some of their hearers, Mucianus, prompted rather by anger than by any passion for philosophy, inveighed at length against them and persuaded Vespasian to expel all such persons from the city.

2 4 Mucianus desired to be honoured by all and above all, so that he was displeased not only when any man whatever insulted him, but also when anyone failed to extol him greatly. Hence, just as he could never honour enough those who assisted him to even the smallest extent, so his hatred was most fierce against all who were not disposed to do so.

13 1a Mucianus made a great number of remarkable  p285 statements to Vespasian against the Stoics, asserting, for instance, that they are full of empty boasting, and that if one of them lets his beard grow long, elevates his eyebrows, wears his coarse brown mantle thrown back over his shoulder and goes barefooted, he straightway lays claim to wisdom, bravery and righteousness, and gives himself great airs, even though he may not know either his letters or how to swim, as the saying goes. They look down upon everybody and call a man of good family a mollycoddle, the low-born slender-witted, a handsome person licentious, an ugly person a simpleton, the rich man greedy, and the poor man servile.

2 And Vespasian immediately expelled from Rome all the philosophers except Musonius; Demetrius and Hostilianus he even deported to islands. Hostilianus, though he decidedly would not desist when he was told about the sentence of exile (he happened to be conversing with somebody), but merely inveighed all the more strongly against monarchy, nevertheless straightway withdrew. 3 Demetrius, on the contrary, would not yield even then, and Vespasian commanded that this message should be given to him: "You are doing everything to force me to kill you, but I do not slay a barking dog."

12 2 It became strikingly clear that Vespasian hated Helvidius Priscus, not so much on his own account or that of his friends whom the man had abused, as because he was a turbulent fellow who cultivated the favour of the rabble and was for ever denouncing royalty and praising democracy. Helvidius' behaviour,  p287 moreover, was consistent with this opinion of him; for he banded various men together, as if it were the function of philosophy to insult those in power, to stir up the multitudes, to overthrow the established order of things, and to bring about a revolution. 3 He was Thrasea's son-in‑law and affected to emulate his conduct, but he fell far short of doing so. For whereas Thrasea, though living in Nero's time and displeased with him, nevertheless had neither said nor done anything that was insulting to him, save merely that he refused to share in his practices, Helvidius, on the other hand, bore a grudge against Vespasian and would not let him alone either in private or in public. Thus by his conduct he was courting death and by his meddlesome interference he was destined eventually to pay the penalty.

14 It was at this time that Caenis, the concubine of Vespasian, died. I mention her because she was exceedingly faithful and was gifted with a most excellent memory. Here is an illustration. Her mistress Antonia, the mother of Claudius, had once employed her as secretary in writing a secret letter to Tiberius about Sejanus 2 and had immediately ordered the message to be erased, in order that no trace of it might be left. Thereupon she replied: "It is useless, mistress, for you to give this command; for not only this but as whatever else you dictate to me I always carry in my mind and it can never be erased." 3 And not only for this reason does she seem to me to have been a remarkable woman, but also because Vespasian took such excessive delight in her. This gave her the greatest influence and she amassed untold wealth, so that it was even  p289 thought that he made money through Caenis herself as his intermediary. For she received vast sums from many sources, sometimes selling governor­ships, sometimes procurator­ships, general­ships and priesthoods, and in some instance even imperial decisions. 4 For although Vespasian killed no one on account of his money, he did spare the lives of many who gave it; and while it was Caenis who received the money, people suspected that Vespasian willingly allowed her to do as she did. This was inferred from his other acts, a few of which, for the sake of illustration, I will relate. 5 When some persons voted to erect to him a statue costing a million, he held out his hand and said: "Give me the money; this is its pedestal." And to Titus, who expressed his indignation at the tax placed upon public urinals, — one of the new taxes that had been established, — he said, as he picked up some gold pieces that had been realized from this source and showed them to him: "See, my son, if they have any smell."

15 In the sixth consul­ship of Vespasian and the fourth of Titus the precinct of Pax was dedicated and the "Colossus" was set up on the Sacred Way. This statue is said to have been one hundred feet in height and to have borne the features of Nero, according to some, or those of Titus, according to others. 2 Vespasian often gave wild-beast hunts in the theatres, but he did not take much pleasure in armed combats between men; yet Titus had once in the course of the youthful sports which were celebrated in his native district engaged in a sham fight in heavy  p291 armour with Alienus. 3 When the Parthians, who had become involved in war with some neighbours, asked for his help, he would not go to their aid, declaring that it was not proper for him to interfere in others' affairs.

Berenice was at the very height of her power and consequently came to Rome along with her brother Agrippa. 4 The latter was given the rank of praetor, while she dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife; but when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation, he sent her away. 5 For, in addition to all the other talk that there was, certain sophists of the Cynic school managed somehow to slip into the city at this time, too; and first Diogenes, entering the theatre when it was full, denounced the pair in a long, abusive speech, for which he was flogged; and after him Heras, expecting no harsher punishment, gave vent to many senseless yelpings in true Cynic fashion, and for this was beheaded.

16 At this same period two other incidents occurred: such a quantity of wine overflowed its cask in a certain tavern that it ran out into the street; and Sabinus, the Gaul who, as said before, had once styled himself Caesar and after taking up arms had been defeated and had hidden himself in the monument, was discovered and brought to Rome. 2 With him perished also his wife Peponila, who had previously  p293 saved his life. She threw her children at Vespasian's feet and delivered a most piti­ful plea in their behalf: "These little ones, Caesar, I bore and reared in the monument, that we might be a greater number to supplicate you." Yet, though she cause both him and the rest to weep, no mercy was shown to the family.

3 Meantime the emperor was the object of a conspiracy on the part of both Alienus and Marcellus, although he considered them among his best friends and bestowed every honour upon them without stint. But he did not die at their hands, for they were detected. Alienus was slain at once, in the imperial residence itself, as he rose from a meal with his intended victim. Titus issued this order, desiring to forestall any act of revolution that night; for Alienus had already got many of the soldiers in readiness. 4 Marcellus was brought to trial before the senate and was condemned, whereupon he cut his own throat with a razor. Thus not even kindness can subdue those who are naturally vicious, as is shown by the plotting of these men against the one who had done them so many kindnesses.

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