Page:The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus.djvu/263

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VIII
213
WIVES OF THE EMPEROR

cerned itself not at all. The antique virtues were civic, not personal. It was the State which had a soul, not the individual. Man was ephemeral. It was the nation that endured, and to secure that permanence each citizen laboured. As for the citizen, death was near, and so he hastened to live; before the roses could fade, he wreathed himself with them; immortality was, for him, in his descendants, the continuation of his name, the respect for his ashes. Any other form of futurity was a speculation. In anterior epochs, fright had peopled Tartarus, but fright had gone; the Elysian fields were too vague, too wearisome to contemplate. "After death," said Cicero, "there is nothing"; and philosophy agreed with him. Of such and kindred religious theories the Roman statesmanship—realising the danger of independent religions—had constituted her Emperor supreme governor. As Pontifex Maximus he held much the same position as that which our Tudor Sovereigns created for themselves as heads of the Church in England. The Emperor was supreme over religious dogma and practice, whenever occasion necessitated control.

The old faiths were crumbling, but none the less Rome was the abridgment of every superstition. The Gods of the conquered had always formed part of her spoils; to please them was easy—from Jehovah to the unknown Gods beyond the Rhine their worship was gore. That the upper classes had no faith goes without saying, but of the philosophical atheism of the upper classes the people knew nothing; they clung piously to a faith which had a