Page:The Amazing Emperor Heliogabalus.djvu/272

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220
CHAP.
LIFE OF ELAGABALUS

was considered by his own government as harsh and objectionable, an utterly intolerable practice in a good and settled state. Antonine had, therefore, refused to allow delators to assist the government. This being the case, he ought to have apprehended all known traitors himself. Messala and Bassus were known for such; they had always been dangerous persons. Nevertheless, Antonine left them at large. True, as Lampridius tells us, he did send for Silius Messala and probably also Pomponius Bassus to come to him at Nicomedia, because he considered it safer to keep these gentlemen with him in the East than to allow their tongues to wag freely in Rome, before such time as he had dictated his own terms of government to the Senate and people. When they returned to Rome, these men obviously plotted freely in the accustomed way until they approached too many soldiers, after which time they were condemned by the Senate, and sent to other spheres of usefulness, or, as they themselves would have put it, to an endless nothingness, where an absence of all energy could do neither good nor evil. It is quite impossible to fix the exact date of this execution. There is a tendency to assign it to the early part of the reign, i.e., about the beginning of the year 219, whilst the Court resided at Nicomedia; this, on the very frail evidence that their names appear amongst Dion's list of those who were executed during the reign, which list was published amongst the acts of the first winter. No cause has been shown, however, for any plot to dethrone and murder the Emperor at