Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter VIII, pp. 65-73.


Back
Back
Home
Other Texts Home
Home
Sir Thomas Browne Home
Home
Peacham Home
Home
Next

CHAP. VIII.

The Vanitie of some mens Ambition, in Titles and Honours.

When Seneca saw the excesse,1 and abuse of Bathes in Rome, no lesse witty then truly, hee complained, saying, Postquam munda Balnea inventa sunt, spurciores sunt qui lavant. Since cleane and scowring Bathes were invented, they that wash themselves are become fowler, and more filthy. Not much unlike was that saying2 of Pope Boniface; When wee used wooden Chalices, wee had golden Priests; but now having golden Chalices, wee have wooden Priests. May not the like be truly said of the Ambition of some men, concerning their foolish thirsting after Names, Honors and Titles? The time was, when vertuous men laboured to excell each other by Merit, and deserving well of their Countries or Common wealths. The Emperour Trajan (otherwise a good Prince) was sicke of this Disease; who, upon whatsoever hee builded or repaired, would set up a glorious superscription in Honor of himselfe; whereupon (saith Aurelius Victor) Constantine the Emperour was wont to call him, Herbam Parietariam,3 for his so many Titles upon every Wall, and new houses. Ammianus Marcellinus also compareth with Trajan, one Lampadius, a great person also, who (saith Marcellinus) tooke it ill at any mans hand, if hee did not commend him every time he spet upon the ground; adding this also, Another Example of his Vanitie. Per omnia enim civitatis membra, &c. In every part of the Citie, where other great men had bestowed cost in building, he would set up his owne Name, not as a repairer of the worke, but as the chiefe builder, Quo vitio dicitur laboraße Trajanus, unde herbam parietinam jocando cognominarunt.

Somewhat a kinne to these former follies was that of the Emperour Constantius, reported by the said Author,4 who many times would send his Letters unto the Senate, interwoven, and dressed up with Laurell, concerning his notable Victories, egregiously belying himselfe, with an hatefull bragging (of that hee never did) how hee was among the formost in the battell, how hee had obtained the victorie, and taken Captive, Kings kneeling unto him, and craving his mercie, when hee never came at the battell, or durst venture himselfe there.

Hereunto belong those foolish attributes, the Turks, Persians, and other Barbarians take unto themselves, who call themselves, Brothers of the Sonne, borne before Lucifer; King of Kings, the Scourges of God, as Tamberlane, in a wicked and franticke kind of Blasphemie. Which kind of madnesse in Arsaces the Persian, Fl. Vespasian heartily laughed at (as Xiphilinus mentioneth). It was a great signe that Darius his ruine to be at hand, in his proud Embassie unto Alexander, when by his Embassadour hee called himselfe, The King of Kings, and Cozen of the Gods, but for Alexander, hee called him, his Servant.

Paulus Iovius writing of Pompeio Colonna, Bishop of Reatino, saith, That when the said Bishop, by the meanes of many great personages, was reconciled againe, and brought into favour with the said Pope, whom he had formerly offended: and that, when they signified so much unto him in a short Letter, in whose superscription (Bishop of Reatino by chance was left out) he receiving the Letter, threw it away, and bad the Messenger goe seek some other Pompeio, to whom that Letter was directed.

Very sarcasticall and bitter was that which wee reade of Francis, the first King of France, returned to that magnanimous Emperour, and of famous memorie, Charles the fift; at what time they being at warre each with other, when the Emperour, according to his greatnesse, writing to the said King, and having filled up a large space of the Paper with his long stile, and imperiall Titles of his Dominions and Territories, belonging to the house of Austria: the French King very bitingly filled up in answer, as large a space in his Letter, by the often repetition of France, as Francis the first, King of France, of France, of France, &c. adding withall, That his Kingdome of France was sufficient to encounter with, and subdue, if need were, all the Emperours Kingdomes and Provinces: for in times past, petty Kingdomes carried large Titles; as at this day, how are those Kingdomes esteemed, of Silicie, Naples, Toledo, Granado, Sclavonia, Dalmatia, Sardinia, Corsica, Croatia? Many pettie Princes have larger Territories.

To conclude, it was excellently answered, and to be immitated of all moderate Princes, Ælius Lampridius hath left recorded, of Alexander Severus, whom, when all Titles of Honor and Dignitie were heaped upon him, after the Romane Custome, aswell by the Senate as the people; it is reported, that hee answered most modestly, It displeaseth mee much, to assume unto my selfe, that which belongeth unto others: againe, I find my selfe to be over-laden with your love and good-wils, for these glorious Names are very burdensome unto mee. Whereupon, the Historian addeth his owne censure; The Emperour gat more Honor, in not receiving Titles appertainng to others, then if hee had taken them upon him; and hereby, for ever after hee gained to himselfe the reputation, not onely of a grave and moderate, but of a wise man.


NOTES

1. Epist. 86.

2. Vide Decret. part. 3. de Consecrat. distinct. 1. Canon. 44.

3. Wal-wort or Pellitorie upon the Wall.

4. Lib. 16.


This page is by James Eason.