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The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome - Contents
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    The World-Prison—Augusts and His Family—Everything “High Treason”—A Furious and Crushing Despotism—Caligula’s Popularity—Caligula’s Prodigality—Caligula’s Deadly Cruelty—Claudius’s Popularity—Messalina and Agrippina—Roman Society—Ultimate Paganism

    THE vast dominion of Rome had been won under the mild and peaceful professions of “liberty to the oppressed,” the blessings of republicanism as against monarchy. But now the power which had won this dominion proved to be a despotism as vast as the dominion itself. To complete the picture, it will be necessary, as briefly as possible, to sketch the character of the Roman monarchy:GEP 320.1

    2. “The empire of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies. The slave of imperial despotism, whether he was condemned to drag his gilded chain in Rome and the Senate, or to wear out a life of exile on the barren rock of Seriphus, or the frozen banks of the Danube, expected his fate in silent despair. To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly. On every side he was encompassed with a vast extent of sea and land, which he could never hope to traverse without being discovered, seized, and restored to his irritated master. Beyond the frontiers his anxious view could discover nothing except the ocean, inhospitable deserts, hostile tribes of barbarians, of fierce manners and unknown language, or dependent kings, who would gladly purchase the emperor’s protection by the sacrifice of an obnoxious fugitive. ‘Wherever you are,’ said Cicero to the exiled Marcellus, ‘remember that you are equally within the power of the conqueror.’”—Gibbon. 1[Page 320] “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” chap 3, par. 37.GEP 320.2

    3. In illustration of the absolute power exerted by the emperor, Gibbon says: “Seriphus was a small and rocky island in the AEgean Sea, the inhabitants of which were despised for their ignorance and obscurity. The place of Ovid’s exile is well known, by his just but unmanly lamentations. It should seem that he only received an order to leave Rome in so many days, and to transport himself to Tomi. Guards and gaolers were unnecessary. Under Tiberius, a Roman knight attempted to fly to the Parthians. He was stopped in the straits of Sicily; but so little danger did there appear in the example that the most jealous of tyrants disdained to punish it.” 2[Page 321] Id., notes.GEP 320.3

    4. Ovid was banished by Caesar Augustus. Tomi was a “semi-Greek, semi-barbaric town,” on the coast of the Black Sea, about ninety miles south of the mouth of the Danube. There, to “the very outskirts of civilization,” he was ordered to go; there he went, and there he remained about eight years, even to the day of his death; and all that was required either to take or to keep him there was the word of the emperor of Rome. Thus far-reaching, and thus absolute, was the power of Rome.GEP 321.1

    5. “That imperatorial dignity ... was undoubtedly the sublimest incarnation of power, and a monument the mightiest of greatness built by human hands, which upon this planet has been suffered to appear.” “But the same omnipresence of imperial anger and retribution which withered the hopes of the poor, humble prisoner, met and confounded the emperor himself, when hurled from his giddy height by some fortunate rival. All the kingdoms of the earth, to one in that situation, became but so many wards of the same infinite prison. Flight, if it were even successful for the moment, did but little retard his inevitable doom. And so evident was this, that hardly in one instance did the fallen prince attempt to fly, but passively met the death which was inevitable, in the very spot where ruin had overtaken him.”—De Quineey. 3[Page 321] Essays, “The Caesars,” chap 6, last sentence; Introduction, par. 12.GEP 321.2

    6. Augustus tyrannized over the nobles by his power, and held the affections of the populace by his munificence. “In the number, variety, and magnificence of his public spectacles, he surpassed all former example. Four and twenty times, he says, he treated the people with games upon his own account, and three and twenty times for such magistrates as were either absent, or not able to afford the expense.... He entertained the people with wrestlers in the Campus Martius, where wooden seats were erected for the purpose; and also with a naval fight, for which he excavated the ground near the Tiber.” In order that the people might all go to these special shows, he stationed guards through the streets to keep the houses from being robbed while the dwellers were absent. “He displayed his munificence to all ranks of the people on various occasions. Moreover, upon his bringing the treasure belonging to the kings of Egypt into the city, in his Alexandrian triumph, he made money so plentiful that interest fell, and the price of land rose considerably. And afterward, as often as large sums of money came into his possession by means of confiscations, he would lend it free of interest, for a fixed term, to such as could give security for the double of what was borrowed.GEP 321.3

    7. “The estate necessary to qualify a senator, instead of eight hundred thousand sesterces, the former standard, he ordered for the future to be twelve hundred thousand; and to those who had not so much, he made good the deficiency. He often made donations to the people, but generally of different sums, sometimes four hundred, sometimes three hundred, or two hundred and fifty sesterces; upon which occasions he extended his bounty even to young boys, who before were not used to receive anything until they arrived at eleven years of age. In a scarcity of corn he would frequently let them have it at a very low price, or none at all, and doubled the number of the money tickets.”—Suetonius. 4[Page 322] “Lives of the Caesars,” chap 12.GEP 322.1

    8. It occurred to him that he ought to abolish the distribution of grain at public expense, as he declared that it was “working unmitigated evil, retarding the advance of agriculture, and cutting the sinews of industry.” But he was afraid to do it, lest some one would take advantage of the opportunity to ascend to power by restoring it. His own words are these: “I was much inclined to abolish forever the practice of allowing the people corn at the public expense, because they trust so much to it that they are too lazy to till their lands; but I did not persevere in my design, as I felt sure that the practise would sometime or other be revived by some one ambitious of popular favor.”—Suetonius. 5[Page 323] Id., chap. xiii; Merivales’ “Romans under the Empire,” chap 22, par 4.GEP 322.2

    9. In public and political life a confirmed and constant hypocrite, in private and domestic life he was no less. He was so absolutely calculating that he actually wrote out beforehand what he wished to say to his friends, and even to his wife. He married Clodia merely for political advantage, although at that time she was scarcely of marriageable age. He soon put her away, and married Scribonia. Her, too, he soon put away, “for resenting too freely the excessive influence which one of his mistresses had gained over him “(Suetonius 6[Page 323] Id., chap 69.), and immediately took Livia Drusilla from her wedded husband. Her he kept all the rest of his days; for instead of resenting any of his lascivious excesses, she connived at them.GEP 323.1

    10. By Scribonia he had a daughter—Julia. Her he gave first to his sister’s son, who soon died; and then he gave her to her brother-in-law, Marcus Agrippa, who was already married to her cousin, by whom he had children. Nevertheless Agrippa was obliged to put away his wife and children, and take Julia. Agrippa likewise soon died; then Tiberius was obliged to put away his wife, by whom he already had a son, and who was soon to become a mother again, in order that he might be the son-in-law of the emperor by becoming Julia’s third husband. By this time, however, Julia had copied so much of her father’s wickedness that Tiberius could not live with her; and her daughter had copied so much of hers, that “the two Julias, his daughter and granddaughter, abandoned themselves to such courses of lewdness and debauchery, that he banished them both” (Suetonius 7[Page 323] “Lives of the Caesars,” Augustus, chap 65.), and even had thoughts of putting to death the elder Julia.GEP 323.2

    11. Yet Augustus, setting such an example of wickedness as this, presumed to enact laws punishing in others the same things which were habitually practised by himself. But all these evil practises were so generally followed that laws would have done no good, by whomsoever enacted, much less would they avail when issued by such a person as he.GEP 323.3

    12. Augustus died at the age of seventy-six, August 19, 14 A. D., and was succeeded by Tiberius.GEP 324.1

    13. Forty-three years of the sole authority of Augustus had established the principle of absolutism in government, but “the critical moment for a government is that of its founder’s death.” It was now to be discovered whether that principle was firmly fixed; but Tiberius was fifty-six years old, and had been a careful student of Augustus, and though at his accession the new principle of government was put to its severest test, Tiberius made Augustus his model in all things; “continued his hypocritical moderation, and made it, so to speak, the rule of the imperial government.”—Duruy. 8[Page 324] “History of Rome,” chap 72, sec. 1 par. 9.GEP 324.2

    14. Though he immediately assumed the imperial authority, like his model “he affected by a most impudent piece of acting to refuse it for a long time; one while sharply reprehending his friends who entreated him to accept it, as little knowing what a monster the government was; another while keeping in suspense the Senate when they implored him and threw themselves at his feet, by ambiguous answers and a crafty kind of dissimulation; insomuch that some were out of patience, and one cried out during the confusion, ‘Either let him accept it or decline it at once;’ and a second told him to his face: ‘Others are slow to perform what they promise, but you are slow to promise what you actually perform.’ At last, as if forced to it, and complaining of the miserable and burdensome service imposed upon him, he accepted the government.”—Suetonius. 9[Page 324] “Lives of the Caesars,” Tiberius, chap 24.GEP 324.3

    15. The purpose of all this was, as with Augustus, to cause the Senate, by fairly forcing imperial honors upon him, firmly to ally itself to the imperial authority by making itself the guardian of that power; so that when any danger should threaten the emperor, the Senate would thus stand pledged to defend him. And dangers were at this time so thick about Tiberius that he declared he had “a wolf by the ears.”GEP 324.4

    16. The principal thing that had marked his accession was the murder of Agrippa Posthumus, the son of Agrippa the minister of Augustus; and now a slave of Agrippa’s had got together a considerable force to avenge his master’s death. “Lucius Scribonius Libo, a senator of the first distinction, was secretly fomenting a rebellion, and the troops both in Illyricum and Germany were mutinous. Both armies insisted upon high demands, particularly that their pay should be made equal to that of the praetorian guards. The army in Germany absolutely refused to acknowledge a prince who was not their own choice, and urged with all possible importunity Germanicus, who commanded them, to take the government on himself, though he obstinately refused it.”—Suetonius. 10[Page 325] Id., chap 25.GEP 324.5

    17. All these dangers were soon past, and Tiberius, pretending to be the servant of the Senate, “assumed the sovereignty by slow degrees,” and the Senate allowed nothing to check its extravagance in bestowing titles, honors, and powers, for “such was the pestilential character of those times, so contaminated with adulation, that not only the first nobles, whose obnoxious splendor found protection only in obsequiousness, but all who had been consuls, a great part of such as had been praetors, and even many of the inferior senators, strove for priority in the fulsomeness and extravagance of their votes. There is a tradition that Tiberius, as often as he went out of the Senate, was wont to cry out in Greek, ‘How fitted for slavery are these men!’ Yes, even Tiberius, the enemy of public liberty, nauseated the crouching tameness of his slaves.”—Tacitus. 11[Page 325] “Annals,” book iii, chap 65.GEP 325.1

    18. This course of conduct he continued through nine years, and his reign was perhaps as mild during this time as that of any other Roman would have been; but when at last he felt himself secure in the position where he was placed above all law, there was no enormity that he did not commit.GEP 325.2

    19. One man being now the State, and that one man being “divine,” high treason—violated majesty—became the most common crime, and the “universal resource in accusations.” In former times, “if any one impaired the majesty of the Roman people by betraying an army, by exciting sedition among the commons, in short, by any maladministration of the public affairs, the actions were matter of trial, but words were free.”—Tacitus. 12[Page 325] Id., book i, chap 72. But now the law embraced “not words only, but a gesture, an involuntary forgetfulness, an indiscreet curiosity.”—Duruy. 13[Page 326] “History of Rome,” chap 73, par. 2.GEP 325.3

    20. More than this, as the emperor was the embodiment of the divinity of the Roman State, this divinity was likewise supposed to be reflected in the statues and images of him. Any disrespect, any slight, any indifference, any carelessness, intentional or otherwise, shown toward any such statue, or image, or picture, was considered as referring to him, was violative of his majesty, and was high treason. Any one who counted as sold a statue of the emperor with the field in which it stood, even though he had made and set up the statue himself; any one who should throw a stone at it; any one who should take away its head; any one who should melt the bronze or use for any profane purpose the stone, even of a broken or mutilated image or statue,—all were alike guilty of high treason.GEP 326.1

    21. Yet more than this, in all cases of high treason when the accused was found guilty, one fourth of his estate was by law made sure to the informer. “Thus the informers, a description of men called into existence to prey upon the vitals of society, and never sufficiently restrained even by penalties, were now encouraged by rewards.”—Tacitus. 14[Page 326] “Annals,” book iv, chap 30.GEP 326.2

    22. Bearing these facts in mind, it is easy to understand the force of that political turn which the priests and Pharisees of Jerusalem took upon Pilate in their charges against Christ: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” On account of the furious jealousy of Tiberius, and his readiness to welcome the reports of informers, the priests and Pharisees knew full well, and so did Pilate, that if a deputation should be sent to Rome accusing him of high treason in sanctioning the kingship of a Jew, Pilate would be called to Rome and beheaded.GEP 326.3

    23. Thus in Tiberius the government of Rome became “a furious and crushing despotism.” The emperor being above all law, forgot all restraint, and “abandoned himself to every species of cruelty, never wanting occasions of one kind or another to serve as a pretext. He first fell upon the friends and acquaintances of his mother, then those of his grandsons and his daughter-in-law, and lastly those of Sejanus, after whose death he became cruel in the extreme.” Sejanus was his chief minister of State and his special friend and favorite—a worthy favorite, too. Tiberius, at his particular solicitation, retired to the island of Capri, where he attempted to imitate the lascivious ways of all the gods and goddesses at once. Men were employed solely as “inventors of evil things,” and of lascivious situations.GEP 326.4

    24. Sejanus, left in command of the empire, aspired to possess it in full. He had already put away his own wife, and poisoned the son of Tiberius that he might marry his widow. His scheme was discovered; he was strangled by the public executioner, and torn to pieces by the populace. Then, under the accusation of being friends of Sejanus, a great number of people were first imprisoned, and shortly afterward, without even the form of a trial, Tiberius “ordered all who were in prison under accusation of attachment to Sejanus, to be put to death. There lay the countless mass of slain, of every sex and age, the illustrious and the mean,—some dispersed, others collected in heaps; nor was it permitted to their friends or kindred to be present, or to shed a tear over them, or any longer even to go and see them; but guards were placed around, who marked signs of sorrow in each, and attended the putrid bodies till they were dragged to the Tiber, where, floating in the stream, or driven upon the banks, none dared to burn them, none to touch them. Even the ordinary intercourse of humanity was intercepted by the violence of fear; and in proportion as cruelty prevailed, commiseration was stifled.”—Tacitus. 15[Page 327] Id., book vi, chap. 19.GEP 327.1

    25. After the example of Augustus, and to satisfy the clamors of the people, he lent money without interest for three years to all who wanted to borrow. He first compelled “all money lenders to advance two thirds of their capital on land, and the debtors to pay off at once the same proportion of their debts.” This was found insufficient to meet all the demands, and he lent from the public treasury about five millions of dollars. In order to obtain money to meet this and other drafts on the public treasury, “he turned his mind to sheer robbery. It is certain that Cneius Lentulus, the augur, a man of vast estate, was so terrified and worried by his threats and importunities that he was obliged to make him his heir.... Several persons, likewise of the first distinction in Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Greece, had their estates confiscated upon such despicably trifling and shameless pretenses, that against some of them no other charge was preferred than that they held large sums of ready money as part of their property. Old immunities, the rights of mining, and of levying tolls, were taken from several cities and private persons.”—Suetonius. 16[Page 328] “Lives of the Caesars,” Tiberius, chaps. 68, 69.GEP 327.2

    26. As for anything more about “this monster of his species,” we shall only say in the words of Suetonius, “It would be tedious to relate all the numerous instances of his cruelty.... Not a day passed without the punishment of some person or other, not excepting holidays, or those appropriated to the worship of the gods. Some were tried even on New Year’s Day. Of many who were condemned, their wives and children shared the same fate; and for those who were sentenced to death, the relations were forbid to put on mourning.GEP 328.1

    27. “Considerable rewards were voted for the prosecutors, and sometimes for the witnesses also. The information of any person, without exception, was taken, and all offenses were capital, even speaking a few words, though without any ill intention.... Those who were desirous to die were forced to live. For he thought death so slight a punishment that upon hearing that Carnulius, one of the accused, who was under prosecution, had killed himself, he exclaimed, ‘Carnulius has escaped me.’ In calling over his prisoners, when one of them requested the favor of a speedy death, he replied, ‘You are not yet restored to favor.’ A man of consular rank writes in his annals that at table, where he himself was present with a large company, he was suddenly asked aloud by a dwarf who stood by amongst the buffoons, why Paconius, who was under a prosecution for treason, lived so long. Tiberius immediately reprimanded him for his pertness, but wrote to the Senate a few days after to proceed without delay to the punishment of Paconius.”—Suetonius. 17[Page 329] “Lives of the Caesars,” Tiberius, chaps. 61, 62. He was so strong that a fillip of his finger would draw blood; and he had eyes that could see in the dark.GEP 328.2

    28. Tiberius died March 16, 37 A. D., in the seventy-eighth year of his age and the twenty-third year of his reign, leaving “the subject peoples of the empire in a condition of prosperity such as they had never known before and never knew again,” and was succeeded by Caligula.GEP 329.1

    29. Caligula was the son of Germanicus, who was the adopted son of Tiberius. He was born and brought up in the camp. When he grew large enough to run about, the soldiers made him a pair of boots—caliga—after the pattern of their own, and from that he got his name of “Caligula,” that is, Little Boots. His real name was Caius. He was now twenty-five years old, and had been with Tiberius for the last five years. “Closely aping Tiberius, he put on the same dress as he did from day to day, and in his language differed little from him. Whence the shrewd observation of Passienus the orator, afterward so famous, that ‘never was a better slave nor a worse master.’”—Tacitus. 18[Page 329] “Annals,” book vi, chap 20. He imitated Tiberius in his savage disposition and the exercise of his vicious propensities as closely as he did in his dress and language. If he was not worse than Tiberius, it is only because it was impossible to be worse.GEP 329.2

    30. Like his pattern, he began his reign with such an appearance of gentleness and genuine ability that there was universal rejoicing among the people out of grateful remembrance of Germanicus, and among the soldiers and provincials who had known him in his childhood. As he followed the corpse of Tiberius to its burning, “he had to walk amidst altars, victims, and lighted torches, with prodigious crowds of people everywhere attending him, in transports of joy, and calling him, besides other auspicious names, by those of ‘their star,’ ‘their chick,’ ‘their pretty puppet,’ and ‘bantling’... Caligula himself inflamed this devotion by practising all the arts of popularity.”—Suetonius. 19[Page 329] “Lives of the Caesars,” Caligula, chaps. xiii. xv. This appearance of propriety he kept up for eight months, and then, having become giddy with the height at which he stood, and drunken with the possession of absolute power, he ran wildly and greedily into all manner of excesses.GEP 329.3

    31. He gave himself the titles of “Dutiful,” “The Pious,” “The Child of the Camp, the Father of the Armies,” “The Greatest and Best Caesar.”—Suetonius. 20[Page 330] Id., chap 22. He caused himself to be worshiped, not only in his images, but in his own person. Among the gods, Castor and Pollux were twin brothers representing the sun, and were the sons of Jupiter. Caligula would place himself between the statues of the twin brothers, there to be worshiped by all votaries. And they worshiped him, too, some saluting him as Jupiter Latialis, that is, the Roman Jupiter, the guardian of the Roman people. He caused that all the images of the gods that were famous either for beauty or popularity should be brought from Greece, and that their heads should be taken off and his put on instead; and then he sent them back to be worshiped. He set up a temple and established a priesthood in honor of his own divinity; and in the temple he set up a statue of gold the exact image of himself, which he caused to be dressed every day exactly as he was. The sacrifices which were to be offered in the temple were flamingos, peacocks, bustards, guineas, turkeys, and pheasants, each kind offered on successive days. “The most opulent persons in the city offered themselves as candidates for the honor of being his priests, and purchased it successively at an immense price.”—Suetonius. 21[Page 330] Id.GEP 330.1

    32. Caster and Pollux had a sister who corresponded to the moon. Caligula therefore, on nights when the moon was full, would invite her to come and stay with him. This Jupiter Latialis placed himself on full and familiar equality with Jupiter Capitolinus. He would walk up to the other Jupiter and whisper in his ear, and then turn his own ear, as if listening for a reply. Not only had Augustus and Romulus taken other men’s wives, but Castor and Pollux, in the myth, had gone to a double wedding, and after the marriage had carried off both the brides with them. Caligula did the same thing. He went to the wedding of Caius Piso, and from the wedding supper carried off the bride with himself, and the next day issued a proclamation “that he had got a wife as Romulus and Augustus had done;” but in a few days he put her away, and two years afterward he banished her. He had several wives; but the only one whom he retained permanently was Caesonia, a perfect wanton who was neither handsome nor young.GEP 330.2

    33. He was so prodigal that in less than a year, besides the regular revenue of the empire, he spent the sum of about one hundred million dollars. He built a bridge of boats across the Gulf of Baiae, from Baiae to Puteoli, a distance of three and a half miles. He twice distributed to the people nearly fifteen dollars apiece, and often gave splendid feasts to the Senate and to the knights with their families, at which he presented official garments to the men, and purple scarfs to the women and children. He exhibited a large number of games continuing all day. Sometimes he would throw large sums of money and other valuables to the crowd to be scrambled for. He likewise made public feasts at which, to every man, he would give a basket of bread with other victuals. He would exhibit stage plays in different parts of the city at night-time, and cause the whole city to be illuminated; he exhibited these games and plays not only in Rome, but in Sicily, Syracuse, and Gaul.GEP 331.1

    34. As for himself, in his feasts he exerted himself to set the grandest suppers and the strangest dishes, at which he would drink pearls of immense value, dissolved in vinegar, and serve up loaves of bread and other victuals modeled in gold. He built two ships, each of ten banks of oars, the poops of which were made to blaze with jewels, with sails of various party-colors, with baths, galleries, and saloons, in which he would sail along the coast feasting and reveling, with the accompaniments of dancing and concerts of music. At one of these revels he made a present of nearly one hundred thousand dollars to a favorite charioteer. His favorite horse he called Incitatus,—Go-ahead,—and on the day before the celebration of the games of the circus, he would set a guard of soldiers to keep perfect quiet in the neighborhood, that the repose of Go-ahead might not be disturbed. This horse he arrayed in purple and jewels, and built for him a marble stable with an ivory manger. He would occasionally have the horse eat at the imperial table, and at such times would feed him on gilded grain in a golden basin of the finest workmanship. He proposed at last to make the horse a consul of the empire.GEP 331.2

    35. Having spent all the money, though an enormous sum, that had been laid up by Tiberius, it became necessary to raise funds sufficient for his extravagance, and to do so he employed “every mode of false accusation, confiscation, and taxation that could be invented.” He commanded that the people should make their wills in his favor. He even caused this rule to date back as far as the beginning of the reign of Tiberius, and from that time forward any centurion of the first rank who had not made Tiberius or Caligula his heir, his will was annulled, and all his property was confiscated. The wills of all others were set aside if any person would say that the maker had intended to make the emperor his heir. This caused those who were yet living to make him joint heir with their friends or with their children. If he found that such wills had been made, and the makers did not die soon, he declared that they were only making game of him, and sent them poisoned cakes.GEP 332.1

    36. The remains of the paraphernalia of his spectacles, the furniture of the palace occupied by Augustus and Tiberius, and all the clothes, furniture, slaves, and even freedmen belonging to his sisters whom he banished, were put up at auction, and the prices were run up so high as to ruin the purchasers. At one of these sales a certain Aponius Saturninus, sitting on a bench, became sleepy and fell to nodding; the emperor noticed it, and told the auctioneer not to overlook the bids of the man who was nodding so often. Every nod was taken as a new bid, and when the sale was over, the dozing bidder found himself in possession of thirteen gladiatorial slaves, for which he was in debt nearly half a million dollars. If the bidding was not prompt enough nor high enough to suit him, he would rail at the bidders for being stingy, and demand if they were not ashamed to be richer than he was.GEP 332.2

    37. He levied taxes of every kind that he could invent, and no kind of property or person was exempt from some sort of taxation. Much complaint was made that the law for imposing this taxation had never been published, and that much grievance was caused from want of sufficient knowledge of the law. He then published the law, but had it written in very small characters and posted up in a corner so that nobody could obtain a copy of it. His wife Caesonia gave birth to a daughter, upon which Caligula complained of his poverty, caused by the burdens to which he was subjected, not only as an emperor but as a father, and therefore made a general collection for the support of the child, and gave public notice that he would receive New Year’s gifts the first of the following January. At the appointed time he took his station in the vestibule of his palace, and the people of all ranks came and threw to him their presents “by the handfuls and lapfuls. At last, being seized with an invincible desire of feeling money, taking off his slippers he repeatedly walked over great heaps of gold coin spread upon the spacious floor, and then laying himself down, rolled his whole body in gold over and over again.” Suetonius.22[Page 333] Id., chap 13.GEP 332.3

    38. His cruelty was as deadly as his lust and prodigality were extravagant. At the dedication of that bridge of boats which he built, he spent two days reveling and parading over the bridge. Before his departure, he invited a number of people to come to him on the bridge, all of whom, without distinction of age, or sex, or rank, or character, he caused to be thrown headlong into the sea, “thrusting down with poles and oars those who, to save themselves, had got hold of the rudders of the ship.” At one time when meat had risen to very high prices, he commanded that the wild beasts that were kept for the arena, should be fed on criminals, who without distinction as to degrees of crime, were given to be devoured.GEP 333.1

    39. He seemed to gloat over the thought that the lives of mankind were in his hands, and that at a word he could do what he would. Once at a grand entertainment, at which both the consuls were seated next to him, he suddenly burst out into violent laughter, and when the consuls asked him what he was laughing about, he replied, “Nothing, but that upon a single word of mine you might both have your throats cut.” Often, as he kissed or fondled the neck of his wife or mistress, he would exclaim, “So beautiful a throat must be cut whenever I please.”GEP 333.2

    40. All these are but parts of his ways. At last, after indulging more than three years of his savage rage, he was killed by a company of conspirators, with the tribune of the praetorian guards at their head, having reigned three years, ten months, and eight days, and lived twenty-nine years. He was succeeded immediately by Claudius.GEP 334.1

    41. The soldiers not only killed an emperor, but they made another one. There was at that time living in the palace an uncle to Caligula named Claudius, now fifty years old. Though he seems to have had as much sense as any of them, he was slighted and counted as a fool by those around him. Even his mother, when she would remark upon any one’s dulness, would use the comparison, “He is a greater fool than my son Claudius.” About the palace he was made the butt of the jests and practical jokes of the courtiers and even of the buffoons. At supper he would cram himself full of victuals, and drink till he was drunk, and then go to sleep at the table. At this, the company would pelt him with olive stones or scraps of victuals; and the buffoons would prod him with a cane, or snip him with a whip to wake him. And when he had gone to sleep, while he lay snoring, they would put slippers on his hands, so that when he should wake and attempt to rub his eyes open, he would rub his face with the slippers.GEP 334.2

    42. The night that Caligula was killed, Claudius, fearing for his own life, crept into a balcony, and hid himself behind the curtains of the door. The soldiers, rushing through the palace, happened to see his feet sticking out, and one of them grabbed him by the heels, and demanding to know who owned them, dragged forth Claudius; and when he discovered who it was, exclaimed, “Why, this is Germanicus; let’s make him emperor!” The other soldiers in the band immediately adopted the idea, saluted him as emperor, set him on a litter, and carried him on their shoulders to the camp of the praetorian guards. The next day, while the Senate deliberated, the people cried out that they would have one master, and that he should be Claudius. The soldiers assembled under arms, and took the oath of allegiance to him, upon which he promised them about seven hundred dollars apiece.GEP 334.3

    43. By the mildness and correctness of his administration, he soon secured the favor and affection of the whole people. Having once gone a short distance out of the city, a report was spread that he had been waylaid and killed. “The people never ceased cursing the soldiers for traitors, and the Senate as parricides, until one or two persons, and presently after several others, were brought by the magistrates upon the rostra, who assured them that he was alive, and not far from the city, on his way home.”—Suetonius. 23[Page 335] “Lives of the Caesars,” Claudius, chap 12.GEP 335.1

    44. As he sat to judge causes, the lawyers would openly reprove him and make fun of him. One of these one day, making excuses why a witness did not appear, stated that it was impossible for him to appear, but did not tell why. Claudius insisted upon knowing; and, after several questions had been evaded, the statement was brought forth that the man was dead, upon which Claudius replied, “I think that is a sufficient excuse.” When he would start away from the tribunal, they would call him back. If he insisted upon going, they would seize hold of his dress or take him by the heels, and make him stay until they were ready for him to go. A Greek once having a case before him, got into a dispute with him, and called out loud, “You are an old fool;” and a Roman knight once being prosecuted upon a false charge, being provoked at the character of the witnesses brought against him, upbraided Claudius with folly and cruelty, and threw some books and a writing pencil in his face. He pleased the populace with distributions of grain and money, and displays of magnificent games and spectacles.GEP 335.2

    45. This is the Claudius mentioned in Acts 18:2, who commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. This he did, says Suetonius, because they “were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.” These disturbances arose from contentions of the Jews against the Christians about Christ. As the Christians were not yet distinguished from the Jews, the decree of banishment likewise made no distinction, and when he commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, Christians were among them. One of his principal favorites was that Felix, governor of Judea, mentioned in Acts 23:24, who “came with his wife Drusilla which was a Jewess;” before whom Paul pleaded, and who trembled as the apostle “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.”GEP 335.3

    46. Claudius was not as bad as either Tiberius or Caligula, but what he himself lacked in this respect was amply made up by his wives. “In his marriage, as in all else, Claudius had been pre-eminent in misfortune. He lived in an age of which the most frightful sign of depravity was that its women were, if possible, a shade worse than its men, and it was the misery of Claudius, as it finally proved his ruin, to have been united by marriage to the very worst among them all. Princesses like the Bernice, and the Drusilla, and the Salome, and the Herodias of the sacred historians, were in this age a familiar spectacle; but none of them were so wicked as two at least of Claudius’s wives.GEP 336.1

    47. “He was betrothed or married no less than five times. The lady first destined for his bride had been repudiated because her parents had offended Augustus; the next died on the very day intended for her nuptials. By his first actual wife, Urgulania, whom he had married in early youth, he had two children, Drusus and Claudia. Drusus was accidentally choked in boyhood while trying to swallow a pear which had been thrown up into the air. Very shortly after the birth of Claudia, discovering the unfaithfulness of Urgulania, Claudius divorced her, and ordered the child to be stripped naked and exposed to die. His second wife, AElia Petina, seems to have been an unsuitable person, and her also he divorced. His third and fourth wives lived a to earn a colossal infamy—Valeria Messalina for her shameless character, Agrippina the younger for her unscrupulous ambition.GEP 336.2

    48. “Messalina, when she married, could scarcely have been fifteen years old, yet she at once assumed a dominant position, and secured it by means of the most unblushing wickedness. But she did not reign so absolutely undisturbed as to be without her own jealousies and apprehensions; and these were mainly kindled by Julia and Agrippina, the two nieces of the emperor. They were, no less than herself, beautiful, brilliant, and evil-hearted women, quite ready to make their own coteries, and to dispute, as far as they dared, the supremacy of a bold but reckless rival. They, too, used their arts, their wealth, their rank, their political influence, their personal fascinations, to secure for themselves a band of adherents, ready, when the proper moment arrived, for any conspiracy....GEP 336.3

    49. “The life of this beautiful princess, short as it was,—for she died at a very early age,—was enough to make her name a proverb of everlasting infamy. For a time she appeared irresistible. Her personal fascination had won for her an unlimited sway over the facile mind of Claudius, and she had either won over by her intrigues, or terrified by her pitiless severity, the noblest of the Romans and the most powerful of the freedmen.”—Farrar. 24[Page 337] “Seekers after God,” chap 6, pars. 28-32; chap.GEP 337.1

    50. Messalina finally, in the very extravagance of her wickedness, became “so vehemently enamored of Caius Silius, the handsomest of the Roman youth, that she obliged him to divorce his wife, Julia Silana, a lady of high quality,” that she might have him to herself. And while Claudius was absent, she with royal ceremony, publicly celebrated her marriage with Silius. When Claudius learned of it and had returned, she was given the privilege of killing herself. She plied the dagger twice but failed, and then a tribune ran her through with his sword. Word was carried to Claudius while he was sitting at a feast, that Messalina was no more, to which he made neither reply nor inquiry, “but called for a cup of wine and proceeded in the usual ceremonies of the feast, nor did he, indeed, during the following days, manifest any symptom of disgust or joy, of resentment or sorrow, nor, in short, of any human affection; not when he beheld the accusers of his wife exulting at her death; not when he looked upon her mourning children.”—Tacitus. 25[Page 337] “Annals,” book 11, chaps. xii, xxxviii.GEP 337.2

    51. Messalina was dead; but bad as she had been, a worse woman took her place. This was Agrippina, sister of Caligula, niece of Claudius, and the mother of Nero. “Whatever there was of possible affection in the tigress nature of Agrippina was now absorbed in the person of her child. For that child, from its cradle to her own death by his means, she toiled and sinned. The fury of her own ambition, inextricably linked with the uncontrollable fierceness of her love for this only son, henceforth directed every action of her life. Destiny had made her the sister of one emperor; intrigue elevated her into the wife of another; her own crimes made her the mother of a third.GEP 337.3

    52. “And at first sight her career might have seemed unusually successful; for while still in the prime of life she was wielding, first in the name of her husband, and then in that of her son, no mean share in the absolute government of the Roman world. But mean while that same unerring retribution, whose stealthy footsteps in the rear of the triumphant criminal we can track through page after page of history, was stealing nearer and nearer to her with uplifted hand. When she had reached the dizzy pinnacle of gratified love and pride to which she had waded through so many a deed of sin and blood, she was struck down into terrible ruin and violent, shameful death by the hand of that very son for whose sake she had so often violated the laws of virtue and integrity, and spurned so often the pure and tender obligation which even the heathen had been taught by the voice of God within their conscience to recognize and to adore.GEP 338.1

    53. “Intending that her son should marry Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, her first step was to drive to death Silanus, a young nobleman to whom Octavia had already been betrothed. Her next care was to get rid of all rivals, possible or actual. Among the former were the beautiful Calpurnia and her own sister-in-law, Domitia Lepida. Among the latter was the wealthy Lollia Paulina, against whom she trumped up an accusation of sorcery and treason, upon which her wealth was confiscated, but her life spared by the emperor, who banished her from Italy.GEP 338.2

    54. “This half vengeance was not enough for the mother of Nero. Like the daughter of Herodias in sacred history, she despatched a tribune with orders to bring her the head of her enemy; and when it was brought to her, and she found a difficulty in recognizing those withered and ghastly features of a once celebrated beauty, she is said with her own hand to have lifted one of the lips, and to have satisfied herself that this was indeed the head of Lollia.... Well may Adolf Stahr observe that Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and husband-murdering Gertrude are mere children by the side of this awful giant-shape of steely feminine cruelty.”—Farrar. 26[Page 339] “Seekers after God,” chap 10. par. 5.GEP 338.3

    55. By the horrible crimes and fearful sinning of Agrippina, Nero became emperor of Rome, A. D. 57, at the age of seventeen. As in the account already given there is enough to show what the Roman monarchy really was, and as that is the purpose of this chapter, it is not necessary any further to portray the frightful enormities of individual emperors. It is sufficient to say of Nero that in degrading vices, shameful licentiousness, and horrid cruelty, he transcended all who had been before him.GEP 339.1

    56. It is evident that for the production of such men as Antony and Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula, Claudius and Nero, with such women as were their mothers and wives,—to say nothing of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Domitian, who quickly followed,—in direct succession and in so short a time, there must of necessity have been a condition of society in general which corresponded to the nature of the product. Such was in fact the case.GEP 339.2

    57. “An evil day is approaching when it becomes recognized in a community that the only standard of social distinction is wealth. That day was soon followed in Rome by its unavoidable consequence, a government founded upon two domestic elements,—corruption and terrorism. No language can describe the state of that capital after the civil wars. The accumulation of power and wealth gave rise to a universal depravity. Law ceased to be of any value. A suitor must deposit a bribe before a trial could be had. The social fabric was a festering mass of rottenness. The people had become a populace; the aristocracy was demoniac; the city was a hell. No crime that the annals of human wickedness can show was left unperpetrated: remorseless murders; the betrayal of parents, husbands, wives, friends; poisoning reduced to a system; adultery degenerating into incests and crimes that can not be written.GEP 339.3

    58. “Women of the higher class were so lascivious, depraved, and dangerous, that men could not be compelled to contract matrimony with them; marriage was displaced by concubinage; even virgins were guilty of inconceivable immodesties; great officers of State and ladies of the court, of promiscuous bathings and naked exhibitions. In the time of Caesar it had become necessary for the government to interfere and actually put a premium on marriage. He gave rewards to women who had many children; prohibited those who were under forty-five years of age, and who had no children, from wearing jewels and riding in litters, hoping by such social disabilities to correct the evil.GEP 339.4

    59. “It went on from bad to worse, so that Augustus, in view of the general avoidance of legal marriage and resort to concubinage with slaves, was compelled to impose penalties on the unmarried—to enact that they should not inherit by will except from relations. Not that the Roman women refrained from the gratification of their desires; their depravity impelled them to such wicked practises as can not be named in a modern book. They actually reckoned the years, not by the consuls, but by the men they had lived with. To be childless, and therefore without the natural restraint of a family, was looked upon as a singular felicity. Plutarch correctly touched the point when he said that the Romans married to be heirs and not to have heirs.GEP 340.1

    60. “Of offenses that do not rise to the dignity of atrocity, but which excite our loathing, such as gluttony and the most debauched luxury, the annals of the times furnish disgusting proofs. It was said, ‘They eat that they may vomit, and vomit that they may eat.’ At the taking of Perusium, three hundred of the most distinguished citizens were solemnly sacrificed at the altar of Divus Julius by Octavian. Are these the deeds of civilized men, or the riotings of cannibals drunk with blood?GEP 340.2

    61. “The higher classes on all sides exhibited a total extinction of moral principle; the lower were practical atheists. Who can peruse the annals of the emperors without being shocked at the manner in which men died, meeting their fate with the obtuse tranquillity that characterizes beasts? A centurion with a private mandate appears, and forthwith the victim opens his veins, and dies in a warm bath. At the best, all that was done was to strike at the tyrant. Men despairingly acknowledged that the system itself was utterly past cure.GEP 340.3

    62. “That in these statements I do not exaggerate, hear what Tacitus says: ‘The holy ceremonies of religion were violated, adultery reigning without control; the adjacent islands filled with exiles; rocks and desert places stained with clandestine murders, and Rome itself a theater of horrors, where nobility of descent and splendor of fortune marked men out for destruction; where the vigor of mind that aimed at civil dignities, and the modesty that declined them, were offenses without distinction; where virtue was a crime that led to certain ruin; where the guilt of informers and the wages of their iniquity were alike detestable; where the sacerdotal order, the consular dignity, the government of provinces, and even the cabinet of the prince, were seized by that execrable race as their lawful prey; where nothing was sacred, nothing safe from the hand of rapacity; where slaves were suborned, or by their own malevolence excited against their masters; where freemen betrayed their patrons, and he who had lived without an enemy died by the treachery of a friend.’”—Draper. 27[Page 341] “Intellectual Development of Europe,” chap 8, pars. 22-24.GEP 341.1

    63. To complete this dreadful picture requires but the touch of Inspiration: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.GEP 341.2

    64. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.GEP 341.3

    65. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death; not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” 28[Page 342] Romans 1:22-32.GEP 341.4

    66. When this scripture was read by the Christians at Rome, they knew from daily observation that it was but a faithful description of Roman society as it was. And Roman society as it was, was but the resultant of pagan civilization, and the logic, in its last analysis, of the pagan religion. Roman society as it was, was ULTIMATE PAGANISM.GEP 342.1

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