Page:The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus.djvu/179

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EARLY GOVERNMENT IN ROME

keep her long. She was a friend of his grandmother, a well-known and ambitious woman, who was quite pleased to dry her eyes at once and fall in with Maesa's plan of appointing a sort of nuptial guardian for the boy, which would naturally be a great asset in the struggle that his grandmother and aunt had fully decided upon, from the moment when he made his mistake in underestimating the popular antipathy towards his unfortunate religious scheme.

Both Maesa and Mamaea were now working together, for both were determined to consolidate in their hands the power that was Antonine's by right. From this moment there is one continuous policy of corruption, vilification, and grab, while the women, their greedy claws ever stretching out, filch from the boy his popularity, his friends, and his reputation. Herodian tells us of the money spent to corrupt the guards. Every word of the biographies tells the same story. Even when they had encompassed his death and put another in his room they could not leave his memory in peace. The trump card in this game was played by Maesa's diplomacy; she knew that the only way to win the boy was to attach herself to his religious ideals, and she therefore seems to have fallen in with his scheme for the union of Elagabal and Urania. She sympathised with his endeavour to make his God popular; indeed, was not Elagabal her God also, hers by right of her position as the eldest of his hereditary house of priests? Very insidiously she wormed her way into his boyish confidence, lulled his mind to rest,