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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 LXXX

About Avitus, called also the False Antoninus, and the murders that he committed (chaps. 1‑7).
About his lawless deeds and how he married the Vestal (chaps. 9, 11).
About Eleogabalus and how he summoned Urania to Rome and united her in marriage with Eleogabalus.
About his licentiousness (chaps. 13‑16).
How he adopted his cousin and changed his name to Alexander (chaps. 17‑18).
How he was overthrown and slain (chaps. 19‑21).

Duration of time, the remainder of the consul­ship of Macrinus and Adventus, together with four additional years, in which there were the magistrates (consuls) here enumerated:— A.D. 219 The False Antoninus (II) and Q. Tineius Sacerdos. 220 The False Antoninus (III) and M. Valerius Comazon. 221 C. Vettius Gratus Sabinianus and M. Flavius Vitellius Seleucus. 222 The False Antoninus (IV) and M. Aurelius Severus Alexander.


1 Now Avitus, otherwise known as the False Antoninus, or the Assyrian, or Sardanapalus, or even Tiberinus (this last appellation he received after he had been slain and his body had been thrown into the Tiber), at the time of which we are speaking  p439 entered Antioch on the day following the victory, after first promising two thousand sesterces apiece to the soldiers with him to prevent them from sacking the city, a thing which they were very anxious to do. This amount he collected in part from the people. 2 And he sent to Rome such a despatch as was to be expected, making many derogatory remarks about Macrinus, especially with reference to his low birth and his plot against Antoninus. For example, he said among other things: "This man, to whom it was not permitted even to enter the senate-house after the proclamation debarring all others than senators, dared treacherously to murder the emperor whom he had been trusted to guard, dared to appropriate his office and to become emperor before he had been senator." 3 About himself he made many promises, not only to the soldiers but also to the senate and to the people, asserting that he would always and in all things emulate Augustus, to whose youth he likened his own, and Marcus Antoninus. 4 He also wrote the following, alluding to the derogatory remarks spread broadcast about him by Macrinus: "He undertook to disparage my age, when he himself had appointed his five-year‑old son emperor."

2 Besides this communication that he forwarded to the senate, he sent not only to the senate but also to the legions the notebooks found among the soldiers and the letters of Macrinus written to Maximus, hoping that these would cause them to hold his predecessor's memory in even greater detestation  p441 and to feel greater affection for him. 2 In both the message to the senate and the letter to the people he styled himself emperor and Caesar, the son of Antoninus, the grandson of Severus, Pius, Felix, Augustus, proconsul, and holder of the tribunician power, assuming these titles before they had been voted, 3 and he used, not the name of Avitus, but that of his pretended father, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the notebooks of the soldiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . for Macrinus' . . . . . . . Caesar . . . . . . . . . to the Pretorians and to the Alban legionaries who were in Italy he wrote . . . . . 4 and that he was consul and high priest (?) . . . and the . . . . . . Marius Censorinus . . leader­ship . . read . . . of Macrinus . . . . . . . himself, as if not sufficiently by his own voice able to make public . . . . the letters of Sardanapalus to be read . . . by (?) Claudius Pollio, whom he had enrolled among the ex-consuls, and commanded that it anyone resisted him, he should call on the soldiers for assistance; 5 accordingly, the senate, though unwillingly, read everything to those . . For, by reason of the necessity hanging over them, they were unable to do any of the things that were proper or expedient . . but were panic-stricken by fear . . . 6 and Macrinus, whom they had often commended, they now reviled, together with his son, regarding  p443 him in the light of a public enemy; while as for Tarautas, whom they had often wished to declare a public enemy, they now exalted him and prayed that his alleged son should be like him.

3 This was what was taking place in Rome. As for Avitus, he appointed Pollio to govern . . . Germany . . since Pollio had very . . .ly subdued Bithynia. He himself, after remaining some months in Antioch, until he had established his authority on all sides, went to Bithynia, where he frequently employed Gannys as his associate in the government, as he had been accustomed to do at Antioch. 2 After passing the winter there, he proceeded into Italy through Thrace, Moesia, and both the Pannonias, and there he remained until the end of his life. One action of his was worthy of a thoroughly good emperor; for, although many individuals and communities alike, including the Romans themselves (?), both knights and senators, had privately and publicly, by word and by deed, heaped insults upon both Caracallus and himself, as a result of the letters of Macrinus, he neither threatened to make reprisals nor actually did make any in a single instance. 3 But, on the other hand, he drifted into all the most shameful, lawless, and cruel practices, with the result that some of them, never before known in Rome, came to have the authority of tradition, while others, that had been attempted by  p445 various men at different times, flourished merely for the three years, nine months and four days during which he ruled, — reckoning from the battle in which he gained the supreme power. 4 For example, while still in Syria, he slew Nestor and Fabius Agrippinus, the governor of the province, as well as the foremost knights among Macrinus's followers; and he visited the same punishment upon the men in Rome who had been most intimate with Macrinus. In Arabia he put to death Pica Caerianus, who was in charge of that province, because he had not immediately declared his allegiance to the new ruler; 5 and in Cyprus, Claudius Attalus, because he had offended Comazon. Attalus had once been governor of Thrace, had been expelled from the senate by Severus during the war with Niger, but had been restored to it by Tarautas, and had at this time been assigned by the lot to Cyprus. He had incurred Comazon's ill will by having once sent him to the galleys for some wrongdoing of which he was guilty while serving in Thrace. 4 Yet this Comazon, in spite of having such a character and a name derived from mimes and buffoonery, now commanded the Pretorians, though he had been tried in no position of responsibility or command whatever, except that over the camp; 2 and he obtained the rank of consul and later actually became consul, and also city prefect, and that not once only, but even a second and a third time — a thing that had never before happened in the case of anybody else; hence this will be counted as one of the greatest violations of precedent.

 p447  3 Attalus, then, was put to death on Comazon's account. Triccianus, however, lost his life because of the Alban legion, which he had commanded with a firm hand during Macrinus's reign. And Castinus perished because he was energetic and was known to many soldiers in consequence of the commands he had held and of his intimate association with Antoninus; 4 he had accordingly been living in Bithynia, whither he had been sent ahead for other reasons. The emperor now put him to death, in spite of the fact that he had written concerning him to the senate that he had restored this man who had been banished from Rome by Macrinus, just as he had done in the case of Julius Asper. 5 He also slew Sulla, who had been governor of Cappadocia but had left the province, because Sulla had meddled in some matters that did not concern him and also because, when summoned from Rome by the emperor, he had contrived to meet the German troops returning home after their winter in Bithynia, a period during which they had created some little disturbance. 6 These men, then, perished for the reasons I have given, and no statements about them were communicated to the senate. On the other hand, Seius Carus, the grandson of Fuscianus, the former prefect of the city, was killed because he was rich, influential, and prudent, but on the pretext that he was forming a league of some of the soldiers stationed near the Alban Mount; he heard the emperor alone prefer certain charges against him in the palace, and there he was also slain. 7 Valerianus Paetus lost his life because he had stamped some likenesses of himself and plated them with gold to serve as ornaments  p449 for his mistresses. This led to the charge that he was intending to go off to Cappadocia, which bordered on his native land (he was a Galatian), for the purpose of starting a rebellion, and that this was the reason why he was making gold pieces bearing his own likeness.

5 Following these murders, Silius Messalla and Pomponius Bassus were condemned to death by the senate, on the charge of being displeased at what the emperor was doing. 2 For he did not hesitate to write this charge against them even to the senate, calling them investigators of his life and censors of what went on in the palace. "The proofs of their plots I have not sent you," he wrote, "because it would be useless to read them, as the men are already dead." 3 There was a further ground of complaint against Messalla, the fact, namely, that he resolutely laid bare many facts before the senate. This was what led the emperor in the first place to send for him to come to Syria, pretending to have great need of him, whereas he really feared that Messalla might take the lead in bringing about a change of mind on the part of the senators. 4 In the case of Bassus, the real motive lay in the fact that he had a wife both fair to look upon and of noble rank; for she was a descendant of Claudius Severus and of Marcus Antoninus. At all events, the emperor married her, not allowing her even to mourn her loss. 5 An account will be given presently of his marriages, in which he both married and was bestowed in marriage; for he appeared both as  p451 man and as woman, and in both relations conducted himself in the most licentious fashion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . about . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 . . . . . . . . . . by whom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . own . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sergius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 making . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . of him . . . . . . . . . . blame for . . . . . . slaughter the . . . . . . . . . . . . and of knights . . . . . . imperial freedmen . . . . . . were destroyed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . nothing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 but because of his slaying at Nicomedeia at the very outset of his reign Gannys, the man who had brought about the uprising, who had taken him to the camp, who had also caused the soldiers to revolt, who had given him the victory over Macrinus, and who had been his foster-father and guardian, he was regarded as the most impious of men. 2 To be sure, Gannys was living rather luxuriously and was fond of accepting bribes, but for all that he did no one any harm and bestowed many benefits upon many people. Most of all, he showed great zeal for  p453 the emperor and was thoroughly satisfactory to Maesa and Soaemis, to the former because he had been reared by her, and to the latter because he was virtually her husband. 3 But it was not at all because of this that the emperor put him out of the way, inasmuch as he had wished to give him a marriage contract and appoint him Caesar; it was rather because he was forced by Gannys to live temperately and prudently. And he himself was the first to give Gannys a mortal blow with his own hand, since no one of the soldiers had the hardihood to take the lead in murdering him.

7 Such, then, was the fate of these men. Others to be executed were . . . Verus, who had also ventured to seek the throne while in the midst of the third legion (Gallica) which he was commanding, and Gellius Maximus, on the same charge, though he was but a lieutenant of the fourth legion (Scythica) in Syria proper. 2 To such an extent, indeed, had everything got turned topsy-turvy that these men, one of whom had been enrolled in the senate from the ranks of the centurions and the other of whom was the son of a physician, took it into their heads to aim at the supreme power. I have mentioned these men alone by name, not because they were the only ones that took leave of their senses, but because they belonged to the senate; for other attempts were made. 3 For example, the son of a centurion undertook to stir up that same Gallic legion; another, a worker in wool, tampered with the fourth legion, and a third, a private citizen, with the fleet stationed at Cyzicus, when the False Antoninus was wintering at Nicomedeia;  p455 and there were many others elsewhere, as it was the simplest thing in the world for those who wished to rule to undertake a rebellion, being encouraged thereto by the fact that many men had entered upon the supreme rule contrary to expectation and to merit. 4 And let no one be incredulous of my statements; for what I have written about the other attempts of private citizens I ascertained from trustworthy men, and the information about the fleet I personally learned by accurate investigation in Pergamum, close at hand, when I was in charge of that city, as well as of Smyrna, having been appointed by Macrinus; and in view of this attempt none of the others seemed incredible to me.

8 Such were his actions that were tainted with bloodshed. As for his violations of precedent, they were of simple character and did us no great harm, save that they were innovations upon established usage. Thus, he applied to himself certain titles connected with his imperial office before they had been voted, as I have already mentioned; 2 he entered his name in the list as consul in place of Macrinus, though he had not been elected to the office and had not entered upon it at all, as the term had already expired, and though at first in three letters he had referred to the year by the name of Adventus, as if Adventus had been sole consul; again, he undertook to be consul for the second time 3 without having held any office previously or even the title of any office; and, finally, while acting  p457 as consul in Nicomedeia, he did not wear the triumphal dress on the Day of Vows.

11 Closely related to these irregularities was his conduct in the matter of Elagabalus. The offence consisted, not in his introducing a foreign god into Rome or in his exalting him in very strange ways, but in his placing him even before Jupiter himself and causing himself to be voted his priest, also in his circumcising himself and abstaining from swine's flesh, on the ground that his devotion would thereby be purer. He had planned, indeed, to cut off his genitals altogether, but that desire was prompted solely by his effeminacy; the circumcision which he actually carried out was a part of the priestly requirements of Elagabalus, and he accordingly mutilated many of his companions in like manner. 2 Furthermore, he was frequently seen even in public clad in the barbaric dress which the Syrian priests use, and this had as much to do as anything with his receiving the nickname of "The Assyrian."

12 22 A gold statue of the False Antoninus was erected, distinguished by its great and varied adornment.

Macrinus, though he found a large amount of money in the imperial treasury, squandered it all, and the revenues did not suffice for expenditures.

9 The False Antoninus married Cornelia Paula, in order, as he said, that he might sooner become a father — he who could not even be a man! On the occasion of his marriage not only the senate and the people  p459 equestrian order but also the wives of the senators received a largess; 2 the populace was banqueted at a cost of six hundred sesterces apiece, and the soldiers at a cost of four hundred more; there were contests of gladiators, at which the emperor wore a purple-bordered toga, just as he had done at the ludi votivi; and various wild beasts were slain, including an elephant and fifty-one tigers — a larger number than had ever before been despatched at one time. 3 Afterwards he divorced Paula on the ground that she had some blemish on her body, and cohabited with Aquilia Severa, thereby most flagrantly violating the law; for she was consecrated to Vesta, and yet he most impiously defiled her. Indeed, he had the boldness to say: "I did it in order that godlike children might spring from me, the high priest, and from her, the high-priestess." 4 Thus he plumed himself over an act for which he ought to have been scourged in the Forum, thrown into prison, and then put to death. However, he did not keep even this woman long, but married a second, a third, a fourth, and still another; after that he returned to Severa.

10 Portents had been taking place in Rome, one of them being given by the statue of Isis, who is represented as riding on a dog above the pediment of her temple; for she turned her face toward the interior of the temple. 2 Sardanapalus was conducting games and numerous spectacles in which Aurelius Helix, the athlete, won renown. This man so far surpassed his competitions, that he desired to contend  p461 in both wrestling and the pancratium at Olympia, and actually did win in both events at the Ludi Capitolini. 3 But the Eleans were jealous of him, fearing that he might prove to be "the eighth from Hercules," as the saying has it, and so would not call any wrestler into the stadium, even though they had announced this contest on the bulletin-board; in Rome, however, he won both events, a feat that no one else had accomplished.

11 I will not describe the barbaric chants which Sardanapalus, together with his mother and grandmother, chanted to Elagabalus, or the secret sacrifices that he offered to him, slaying boys and using charms, in fact actually shutting up alive in the god's temple a lion, a monkey, and a snake, and throwing in among them human genitals, and practising other unholy rites, while he invariably wore innumerable amulets. 12 But, to pass over these matters, he went to the extreme absurdity of courting a wife for Elagabalus — as if the god had any need of marriage and children! And, as such a wife might be neither poor nor low-born, he chose the Carthaginian Urania, summoned her thence, and established her in the palace; and he collected wedding gifts for her from all his subjects, as he had done in the case of his own wives. 21 Now all these presents that were given during his lifetime were reclaimed later; as for the dowry, he declared that he had received none from her, except two gold lions which was accordingly melted down.

13 But this Sardanapalus, who saw fit to make even  p463 the gods cohabit under due form of marriage, lived most licentiously himself from first to last. He married many women, and had intercourse with even more without any legal sanction; yet it was not that he had any need of them himself, but simply that he wanted to imitate their actions when he should lie with his lovers and wanted to get accomplices in his wantonness by associating with them indiscriminately. 2 He used his body both for doing and allowing many strange things, which no one could endure to tell or hear of; but his most conspicuous acts, which it would be impossible to conceal, were the following. He would go to the taverns by night, wearing a wig, and there ply the trade of a female huckster. He frequented the notorious brothels, drove out the prostitutes, and played the prostitute himself. 3 Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. 4 For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by their foulness. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money. 14 This is the way, now, that he behaved alike toward all alike who had such  p465 relations with him; but he had, besides, one favourite "husband," whom he wished to appoint Caesar for that very reason.

2 He also used to drive a chariot, wearing the Green uniform, privately and at home, — if one can call that place home where the judges were the foremost men of his suite, both knights and imperial freedmen, and the very prefects, together with his grandmother, his mother and the women, and likewise various members of the senate, including Leo, the city prefect, — and where they watched him playing charioteer and begging gold coins like any ordinary contestant and saluting the presidents of the games and the members of his faction.

3 When trying someone in court he really had more or less the appearance of a man, but everywhere else he showed affectations in his actions and in the quality of his voice. For instance, he used to dance, not only in the orchestra, but also, in a way, even while walking, performing sacrifices, receiving salutations, or delivering a speech. 4 And finally, — to go back now to the story which I began, — he was bestowed in marriage and was termed wife, mistress, and queen. He worked with wool, sometimes wore a hair-net, and painted his eyes, daubing them with white lead and alkanet. Once, indeed, he shaved his chin and held a festival to mark the event; but after that he had the hairs plucked out, so as to look more like a woman. And he often reclined while receiving the salutations of the senators. 15 The husband of this "woman" was Hierocles, a Carian slave, once the favourite of Gordius, from whom he had learned to  p467 drive a chariot. It was in this connexion that he won the emperor's favour by a most remarkable chance. It seems that in a certain race Hierocles fell out of his chariot just opposite the seat of Sardanapalus, losing his helmet in his fall, 2 and being still beardless and adorned with a crown of yellow hair, he attracted the attention of the emperor and was immediately rushed to the palace; and there by his nocturnal feats he captivated Sardanapalus more than ever and became exceedingly power­ful. Indeed, he even had greater influence than the emperor himself, and it was thought a small thing that his mother, while still a slave, should be brought to Rome by soldiers and be numbered among the wives of ex-consuls. 3 Certain other men, too, were frequently honoured by the emperor and became power­ful, some because they had joined in his uprising and others because they committed adultery with him. For he wished to have the reputation of committing adultery, so that in this respect, too, he might imitate the most lewd women; and he would often allow himself to be caught in the very act, in consequence of which he used to be violently upbraided by his "husband" and beaten, so that he had black eyes. 4 His affection for this "husband" was no light inclination, but an ardent and firmly fixed passion, so much so that he not only did not become vexed at any such harsh treatment, but on the contrary loved him the more for it and wished to make him Caesar in very fact; and he even threatened his grandmother when she opposed him in this matter, and he became at odds with the soldiers largely on this man's account. 16 This was one of the things that was destined to lead to his destruction.

 p469  Aurelius Zoticus, a native of Smyrna, whom they also called "Cook," after his father's trade, incurred the emperor's thorough love and thorough hatred, and for the latter reason his life was saved. 2 This Aurelius not only had a body that was beauti­ful all over, seeing that he was an athlete, but in particular he greatly surpassed all others in the size of his private parts. This fact was reported to the emperor by those who were on the look-out for such things, and the man was suddenly whisked away from the games and brought to Rome, accompanied by an immense escort, larger than Abgarus had had in the reign of Severus or Tiridates in that of Nero. 3 He was appointed cubicularius before he had even been seen by the emperor, was honoured by the name of the latter's grandfather, Avitus, was adorned with garlands as at a festival, and entered the palace lighted by the glare of many torches. Sardanapalus, on seeing him, sprang up with rhythmic movements, 4 and then, when Aurelius addressed him with the usual salutation, "My Lord Emperor, Hail!" he bent his neck so as to assume a ravishing feminine pose, and turning his eyes upon him with a melting gaze, answered without any hesitation: "Call me not Lord, for I am a Lady." 5 Then Sardanapalus immediately joined him in the bath, and finding him when stripped to be equal to his reputation, burned with even greater lust, reclined on his breast, and took dinner, like some loved mistress, in his bosom. 6 But Hierocles fearing that Zoticus would captivate the emperor more completely than he himself could, and that he might therefore suffer some terrible fate at his hands, as often happens in the case of rival lovers, caused the cup-bearers, who were well disposed  p471 toward him, to administer a drug that abated the other's manly prowess. And so Zoticus, after a whole night of embarrassment, being unable to secure an erection, was deprived of all the honours that he had received, and was driven out of the palace, out of Rome, and later out of the rest of Italy; and this saved his life.

7 He carried his lewdness to such a point that he asked the physicians to contrive a woman's vagina in his body by means of an incision, promising them large sums for doing so.

17 Sardanapalus himself was destined not much later to receive a well-deserved reward for his debauchery. For in consequence of doing and submitting to these things he became hated by the populace and by the soldiers, to whom he was most attached, and at least he was slain by them in the very camp.

Avitus, according to Dio, besought his physician to employ his skill to make him bisexual by means of an anterior incision.

The false Antoninus was despised and put out of the way by the soldiers. Thus it is that persons, particularly if armed, when they have once accustomed themselves to feel contempt for their rulers, set no limit to their right to do what they please, but keep their arms ready to use against the very man who gave them that power.

 p473  2 This is how it came about. He brought his cousin Bassianus before the senate, and having caused Maesa and Soaemis to take their places on either side of him, formally adopted him as his son; and he congratulated himself on becoming suddenly the father of so large a boy, — though he himself was not much older than the other, — and declared that he had no need of any other child to keep his house free from despondency. 3 He said that Elagabalus had ordered him to do this and further to call his son's name Alexander. And I, for my part, am persuaded that all this did come about in very truth by some divine arrangement; though I infer this, not from what he said, but from the statement made to him by someone else, to the effect that an Alexander should come from Emesa to succeed him, and again from what happened in Upper Moesia and in Thrace. 18 For shortly before this time a spirit, claiming to be the famous Alexander of Macedon, and resembling him in looks and general appearance, set out from the regions along the Ister, after first appearing there in some manner or other, and proceeded through Moesia and Thrace, revelling in company with four hundred male attendants, who were equipped with thyrsi and fawn skins and did no harm. 2 It was admitted by all those who were in Thrace at the time that lodgings and all provisions for the spirit were donated at public expense, and none — whether magistrate, soldier, procurator, or the governors of the provinces — dared to oppose the spirit either by word or deed, but it proceeded in broad  p475 daylight, as if in a solemn procession, as far as Byzantium, as it had foretold. 3 Then taking ship, it landed in the territory of Chalcedon, and there, after performing some sacred rites by night and burying a wooden horse, it vanished. These facts I ascertained while still in Asia, as I have stated, number before anything had been done at all about Bassianus at Rome.

4 One day this same emperor made this statement: "I do not want titles derived from war and bloodshed. It is enough for me that you call me Pius and Felix."

The False Antoninus, on being praised by the senate, remarked: "Yes, you love me, and so, by Jupiter, does the populace, and also the legions abroad; but I do not please the Pretorians, to whom I keep giving so much."

19 11 So long as Sardanapalus continued to love his cousin, he was safe. But when he became suspicious of all men and learned that their favour was turning entirely to the boy, he ventured to change his mind and did everything to bring above his destruction.

1a When some persons who were acting as advocates along with the False Antoninus remarked how fortunate he was to be consul together with his son, he replied: "I shall be more fortunate next year; for then I am going to be consul with a real son."

2a When, however, Sardanapalus attempted to destroy  p477 Alexander, he not only accomplished nothing but came near being killed himself. 2 For Alexander was sedulously guarded by his mother and his grandmother and by the soldiers, and the Pretorians, also, on becoming aware of the attempt of Sardanapalus, raised a terrible tumult; and they did not stop rioting until Sardanapalus, accompanied by Alexander, 3 came to the camp and poured out his supplications and under compulsion surrendered such of his companions in lewdness as the soldiers demanded. In behalf of Hierocles he offered piteous pleas and bewailed him with tears; then, pointing to his own throat, he cried: "Grant me this one man, whatever you may have been pleased to suspect about him, or else slay me." Thus with difficulty he succeeded in appeasing them; 4 and for the time being he was saved himself, though with difficulty. Even his grandmother hated him because of his deeds, which seemed to show that he was not the son of Antoninus at all, and was coming to favour Alexander, as being really sprung from him. 20 Later he again formed a plot against Alexander, and when the Pretorians raised an outcry at this, he went with him to the camp. But he then became aware that he was under guard and awaiting execution, as the mothers of the two youths, being more openly at variance with each other than before, were inflaming the spirits of the soldiers; 2 so he made an attempt to flee, and would have got away somewhere by being placed in a chest, had he not been discovered and slain, at the age of eighteen. His mother, who embraced him and clung tightly to him, perished  p479 with him; their heads were cut off and their bodies, after being stripped naked, were first dragged all over the city, and then the mother's body was cast aside somewhere or other, while his was thrown into the river.

21 With him perished, among others, Hierocles and the prefects; also Aurelius Eubulus, who was an Emesene by birth and had gone so far in lewdness and debauchery that his surrender had been demanded even by the populace before this. He had been in charge of the fiscus, and there was nothing that he did not confiscate. So now he was torn to pieces by the populace and the soldiers; and Fulvius, the city prefect, perished at the same time with him. 2 Comazon had succeeded Fulvius, even as he had succeeded Fulvius' predecessor; for just as a mask used to be carried into the theatres to occupy the stage during the intervals in the acting, when it was left vacant by the comic actors, so Comazon was put in the vacant place of the men who had been city prefects in his day. As for Elagabalus himself, he was banished from Rome altogether.

3 Such was the fate of Tiberinus; and none of those who had helped him plan his uprising, and had gained great power in consequence, survived, either, save perhaps a single person.

1 1 Alexander became emperor immediately after him, and entrusted to one Domitius Ulpian the command of the Pretorians and the other business of the empire.​a

2 Thus far I have described events with as great  p481 accuracy as I could in every case, but for subsequent events I have not found it possible to give an accurate account, for the reason that I did not spend much time in Rome. For, after going from Asia into Bithynia, I fell sick, and from there I hastened to my province of Africa; 3 then, on returning to Italy I was almost immediately sent as governor first to Dalmatia and then to Upper Pannonia, and though after that I returned to Rome and to Campania, I at once set out for home. 2 1 For these reasons, then, I have not been able to compile the same kind of account of subsequent events as of the earlier ones. I will narrate briefly, however, all that occurred up to the time of my second consul­ship.

2 Ulpian corrected many of the irregularities introduced by Sardanapalus; but after putting to death Flavianus and Chrestus, that he might succeed them, he was himself slain ere long by the Pretorians, who attacked him in the night; and it availed him naught that he ran to the palace and took refuge with the emperor himself and with the emperor's mother. 3 Even during his lifetime a great quarrel had arisen between the populace and the Pretorians, from some small cause, with the result that they fought together for three days and many lost their lives on both sides. The soldiers, on getting the worst of it, directed their efforts to setting fire to buildings; and so the populace, fearing the whole city would be destroyed, reluctantly came to terms with them. 4 Besides these occurrences, Epagathus, who was believed to have been chiefly  p483 responsible for the death of Ulpian, was sent to Egypt, ostensibly as governor, but really in order to prevent any disturbance from taking place in Rome, as it would if he were punished there. From Egypt he was taken to Crete and executed.

3 1 Many uprisings were begun by many persons, some of which caused great alarm, but they were all put down.

But the situation in Mesopotamia became still more alarming and inspired a more genuine fear in all, not merely the people in Rome, but the rest of mankind as well. 2 For Artaxerxes, a Persian, after conquering the Parthians in three battles and killing their king, Artabanus, made a campaign against Hatra, in the endeavour to capture it as a base for attacking the Romans. He actually did make a breach in the wall, but when he lost a good many soldiers through an ambuscade, he moved against Media. 3 Of this country, as also of Parthia, he acquired no small portion, partly by force and partly by intimidation, and then marched against Armenia. Here he suffered a reverse at the hands of the natives, some Medes, and the sons of Artabanus, and either fled, as some say, or, as others assert, retired to prepare a larger expedition. 4 1 He accordingly became a source of fear to us; for he was encamped with a large army so as to threaten not only Mesopotamia but also Syria, and he boasted that he would win back everything that the ancient Persians had once held, as far as the Grecian Sea, claiming that all this was his rightful inheritance from his forefathers. The danger lies not in the fact that he seems to be of any particular consequence in himself, but rather in the fact that our  p485 armies are in such a state that some of the troops are actually joining him and others are refusing to defend themselves. 2 They indulge in such wantonness, licence, and lack of discipline, that those in Mesopotamia even dared to kill their commander, Flavius Heracleo, and the Pretorians complained of me to Ulpianus, because I ruled the soldiers in Pannonia with a strong hand; and they demanded my surrender, through fear that someone might compel them to submit to a régime similar to that of the Pannonian troops.

5 1 Alexander, however, paid no heed to them, but, on the contrary, honoured me in various ways, especially by appointing me to be consul for the second time, as his colleague, and taking upon himself personally the responsibility of meeting the expenditures of my office. But as the malcontents evinced displeasure at this, he became afraid that they might kill me if they saw me in the insignia of my office, and so he bade me spend the period of my consul­ship in Italy, somewhere outside of Rome. 2 And thus later I came both to Rome and to Campania to visit him, and spent a few days in his company, during which the soldiers saw me without offering to do me any harm; then, having asked to be excused because of the ailment of my feet, I set out for home, with the intention of spending all the rest of my life in my native land, 3 as, indeed, the Heavenly Power revealed to me most clearly when I was already in Bithynia.  p487 For once in a dream I thought I was commanded by it to write at the close of my work these verses:

"Hector anon did Zeus lead forth out of range of the missiles,
Out of the dust and the slaying of men and the blood and the uproar."

 p489  Fragment

When the false Antoninus had been put out of the way, Alexander, the son of Mamaea, and his cousin, inherited the supreme power. He immediately proclaimed his mother Augusta, and she took over the direction of affairs and gathered wise men about her son, in order that his habits might be correctly formed by them; she also chose the best men in the senate as advisers, informing them of all that had to be done.

Thayer's Note:

a Alexander entrusted to Ulpian the other business of the empire: a statement that has been carefully examined: see Cassius Dio and Ulpian, by Robert L. Cleve, The Ancient History Bulletin 2.5 (1988).

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