Page:The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus.djvu/121

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consequence, the fit and proper person to direct the immediate policy.

But there was much to temper her power. There was an element which even she, far-sighted as she was, had forgotten, and left out of count, namely, the Emperor himself. From the moment of his elevation he showed that he had a mind and will of his own; probably he had possessed them all along, but his grandmother had never thought that they would get in her way till she was brought face to face with them.

By nature Bassianus was gentle and affectionate, with no other passions than an innocent fanaticism for the cult of the only God, and a hereditary temperament, which we know to-day is less of a vice than a perversion ; a temperament which Suetonius assures us he shared with the majority of his predecessors, and Dion says was common amongst the Syrian clergy. Caracalla had, innate in his being, jealousy, hatred, and revenge. Bassianus hated no one ; he was, in fact, only too prone to love his fellows, but, like Caracalla, he had a strong and imperious will. He had no sooner grasped the limitless possibilities of the imperial position than vertigo seems to have overtaken him. But fancy the position! On a peak piercing the heavens, shadowing the earth, a precipice on either side, the young Emperors of Old Rome stood. Did they look below, they could scarce see the world. From above, delirium came; while the horizon, though it hemmed the limits of their vision, could not mark the frontiers of their dream. In addition, there was the exaltation that altitudes produce.