Page:The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus.djvu/260

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retired into opulent privacy. No sane person would, at that time, have pitied Julia's lot, unless it were because she was no longer enjoying the position of Empress. Even in mediaeval times, when divorce was an ecclesiastical privilege, and in consequence most costly, it was not regarded as an unmixed evil. Of course, it was rare, and, being ecclesiastical, carried a certain stigma with it. Furthermore, as we have said, it was a privilege for which there was not the same need as in times of women's greater freedom. No one who, like the mediaeval husband, had canonical permission to beat his wife when she annoyed him, stood in vital need of dissolving the bond, (vide Beaumanoir, lvii.: "Tout mari peut battre sa femme pourvu que ce soit modérément, et sans que mort s'ensuive"). During the epoch in question, it was the most usual and ordinary circumstance of daily life. It was continued interest in, not satiety with, the charms of your spouse that created wonder in old Rome; suffice it to say, that Julia retired, a woman with a past, and the knowledge, that if she had her wits about her, there was considerable future to look forward to. No one expressed regret at her going, so in all probability Maesa was agreeable, though we can scarcely think that the old lady knew of the scheme which her grandson was concocting when she allowed the mistake to be made without an effort to stop his headlong swoop to ruin; a flight which would certainly involve the whole family on its way, unless they could dissociate themselves from the new religious policy which dictated it.

Probably along with predilection Antonine had