In this Satire the poet proves that nobility does not consist in statues and pedigrees, but in honourable and good actions. He lashes Rubellius Plancus for being insolent, by reason of his high birth; and lays down an instance, that we ought to make the like judgment of men, as we do of horses, who are valued rather according to their personal qualities, than by the race of whence they come. He advises his noble friend Ponticus (to whom he dedicates the Satire) to lead a virtuous life; dissuading him from debauchery, luxury, oppression, cruelty, and other vices, by his severe censures on Lateranus, Damasippus, Gracchus, Nero, Catiline: and in opposition to these, displays the worth of persons meanly born, such as Cicero, Marius, Servius Tullius, and the Decii.
The translator of this Satire industriously avoided imposing upon the Reader, and perplexing the printer, with tedious common-place notes: but finding, towards the latter end, many examples of noblemen who disgraced their ancestors by vicious practices; and of men meanly born, who ennobled their families by virtuous and brave actions; he thought some historical relations were necessary towards rendering those instances more intelligible; which is all he pretends to by his remarks. He would gladly have left out the heavy passage of the Mirmillo and Retiarius; which, he honestly confesses, he either does not rightly understand, or cannot sufficiently explain. If he has not confined himself to the strict rules of translation, but has frequently taken the liberty of imitating, paraphrasing, or reconciling the Roman customs to our modern usage, he hopes this freedom is pardonable, since he has not used it but when he found the original flat, obscure, or defective; and where the humour and connection of the author might naturally allow of such a change.
What’s the advantage, or the real good,
In tracing from the source our ancient blood?
To have our ancestors in paint or stone,
Preserv'd as relics, or like monsters shown?
The brave Æmilii, as in triumph plac'd,
The virtuous Curii, half by time defac'd;
Corvinus, with a mouldering nose, that bears
Injurious scars, the sad effects of years;
And Galba, grinning, without nose or ears?
Vain are their hopes who fancy to inherit,
By trees of pedigrees, or fame or merit;
Though plodding heralds through each branch may trace
Old captains, and dictators of their race,
While their ill lives that family bely,
And grieve the brass which stands dishonour'd by.
'Tis mere burlesque, that to our generals' praise,
Their progeny immortal statues raise;
Yet (far from that old gallantry) delight
To game before their images all night,
And steal to bed at the approach of day,
The hour when these their ensigns did display.
Why should soft Fabius(1) impudently bear
Names gain’d by conquests in the Gallic war?
Why lays he claim to Hercules’s strain,
Yet dares be base, effeminate, and vain?
The glorious altar to that hero built,
Adds but a greater lustre to his guilt,
Whose tender limbs, and polish’d skin disgrace
The grisly beauty of his manly race;
And who by practicing the dismal skill
Of poisoning, and such treacherous ways to kill,
Make his unhappy kindred marble sweat,
When his degenerate head by theirs is set.
Long galleries of ancestors, and all
The follies which ill grace a country hall,
Challenge no wonder or esteem from me;
‘Virtue alone is true nobility.’
Live therefore well: to men and gods appear,
Such as good Paulus, Cossus, Drusus (2), were;
And in thy consular triumphal show,
Let these before thy father's statues go:
Place 'em before the ensigns of the state (3),
As choosing rather to be good than great.
Convince the world that you're devout and true,
Be just in all you say, and all you do;
Whatever be your birth, you're sure to be
A peer of the first magnitude to me:
Rome for your sake shall push her conquests on,
And bring new titles (4) home from nations won,
To dignify so eminent a son.
With your bless'd name shall every region sound,
Loud as mad Egypt, when her priests have found
A new Osiris (5), for the ox they drown'd.
But who will call those noble, who deface,
By meaner acts, the glories of their race?
Whose only title to our father's fame
Is couch'd in the dead letters of their name?
A dwarf as well may for a giant pass;
A Negro for a swan; a crook-back’d lass
Be call'd Europa; and a cur may bear
The name of tiger, lion, or whate'er
Denotes the noblest or the fiercest beast:
Be therefore careful, lest the world in jest
Should thee just so with the mock-titles greet,
Of Camerinus, or of conquer’d Crete.
‘To whom is this advice and censure due?’
Rubellius Plancus, 'tis applied to you:
Who think your person second to divine,
Because descended from the Drusian line;
Though yet you no illustrious act have done,
To make the world distinguish Julia's son
From the vile offspring of a trull, who sits
By the town wall, and for her living knits.
‘You are poor rogues,’ you cry, ‘the baser scum
‘And inconsiderable dregs of Rome;
Who know not from what corner of the earth
The obscure wretch, who got you, stole his birth:
Mine I derive from Cecrops(6).’—May your grace
Live, and enjoy the splendor of your race.
Yet of these base plebeians we have known
Some, who, by charming eloquence, have grown
Great senators, and honours to that gown:
Some at the bar with subtilty defend
The cause of an unlearned noble friend;
Or on the bench the knotty laws untie;
Others their stronger youth to arms apply,
Go to Euphrates, or those forces join
Which garrison the conquests near the Rhine.
While you, Rubellius, on your birth rely;
Though you resemble your great family
No more, than those rough statues on the road
(Which we call Mercuries) are like that god:
Your blockhead though excels in this alone,
You are a living statue—that of stone.
Great son of Troy! who ever praised a beast
For being of a race above the rest,
But rather meant his courage and his force?
To give an instance: we commend a horse
(Without regard of pasture or of breed)
For his undaunted mettle and his speed;
Who wins most plates (7) with greatest ease, and first
Prints with his hoofs his conquest on the dust.
But if fleet Dragon's progeny at last
Proves jaded, and in frequent matches cast,
No favour for the stallion we retain,
And no respect for the degenerate strain;
The worthless brute is from Newmarket brought,
And at an under-rate in Smithfield bought,
To turn a mill, or drag a loaded life,
Beneath two panniers and a baker's wife.
That we may therefore you, not yours, admire;
First, sir, some honour of your own acquire;
Add to that stock which justly we bestow
On those bless'd shades (8) to whom you all things owe.
This may suffice the haughty youth to shame,
Whose swelling veins (if we may credit Fame)
Burst almost with the vanity and pride,
That their rich blood to Nero's is allied:
The rumour's likely; for ‘We seldom find
Much sense with an exalted fortune join’d.’
But, Ponticus, I would not you should raise
Your credit by hereditary praise;
Let your own acts immortalize your name;
‘’Tis poor relying on another's fame;’
For, take the pillars but away, and all
The superstructure must in ruins fall;
As a vine droops, when by divorce remov'd
From the embraces of the elm she lov'd.
Be a good soldier, or upright trustee,
An arbitrator from corruption free;
And if a witness in a doubtful cause,
Where a brib'd judge means to elude the laws,
Though Phalaris’s brazen bull (9) were there,
And he would dictate what he'd have you swear,
Be not so profligate, but rather choose
To guard your honour, and your life to lose,
Rather than let your virtue be betray'd;
Virtue, the noblest cause for which you're made.
Improperly we measure life by breath (10),
Such do not truly live who merit death;
Though they their wanton senses nicely please
With all the charms of luxury and ease;
Though mingled flowers adorn their careless brow,
And round them costly sweets neglected flow,
As if they in their funeral state were laid;
And to the world, as they're to virtue, dead.
When you (11) the province you expect obtain,
From passion and from avarice refrain;
Let our associates’ poverty provoke
Thy generous heart not to increase their yoke,
Since riches cannot rescue from the grave,
Which claims alike the monarch and the slave.
To what the laws enjoin, submission pay;
And what the senate shall command, obey;
Think what rewards upon the good attend,
And how those fall unpitied who offend:
Tutor and Capito may warnings be,
Who felt the thunder of the state's decree,
For robbing the Cilicians, though they
(Like lesser pikes) only subsist on prey.
But what avails the rigour of their doom?
Which cannot future violence o'ercome,
Nor give the miserable province ease?
Since what one plunderer left, the next will seize.
Cherippus (12) then in time yourself bethink,
And what your rags will yield by auction, sink;
Ne'er put yourself to charges to complain
Of wrongs which heretofore you did sustain;
Make not a voyage to detect the theft;
'Tis mad to lavish what their rapine left.
When Rome at first our rich allies subdued,
From gentle taxes noble spoils accrued;
Each wealthy province, but in part oppress'd,
Thought the loss trivial, and enjoy'd the rest.
All treasuries did then with heaps abound;
In every wardrobe costly silks were found;
The least apartment of the meanest house
Could all the wealthy pride of art produce;
Pictures which from Parrhasius (13) did receive
Motion and warmth; and statues taught to live;
Some Polyclete's (13), some Myron's work declar'd;
In others Phidias’ masterpiece appear'd;
And crowding plate did on the cupboard stand,
Emboss'd by curious Mentor’s artful hand.
Prizes like these oppressors might invite,
These Dolabella’s (14) rapine did excite,
These Anthony (14) for his own theft thought fit,
Verres (14) for these did sacrilege commit;
And when their reigns were ended, ships full fraught
The hidden fruits of their exaction brought,
Which made in peace a treasure richer far
Than what is plunder’d in the rage of war.
This was of old: but our confederates now
Have nothing left but oxen for the plough,
Or some few mares reserved alone for breed:
Yet lest this provident design succeed,
They drive the father of the herd away,
Making both stallion, and his pasture, prey.
Their rapine is so abject and profane,
They nor from trifles, nor from gods refrain;
But the poor Lares from the niches seize,
If they be little images that please.
Such are the spoils which now provoke their theft,
And are the greatest; nay, they're all that’s left.
Thus may you Corinth (15), or weak Rhodes (16), oppress,
Who dare not bravely what they feel redress:
(For how can fops thy tyranny control,
Smooth limbs are symptoms of a servile soul)
But trespass not too far on sturdy Spain,
Sclavonia, France; thy gripes from those restrain,
Who with their sweat Rome’s (17) luxury maintain,
And send us plenty, while our wanton day
Is lavish'd at the Circus, or the play.
For should you to extortion be inclin'd,
Your cruel guilt will little booty find,
Since gleaning Marius (18) has already seiz'd
All that from sun-burnt Afric can be squeez'd.
But above all, ‘Be careful to withold
Your talons from the wretched and the bold;
Tempt not the brave and needy to despair;
For, though your violence should leave 'em bare
Of gold and silver, swords and darts remain,
And will revenge the wrongs which they sustain:
The plunder'd still have arms.—
Think not the precept I have here laid down
A fond, uncertain notion of my own;
No, ‘tis a Sibyl's leaf what I relate,
As fix’d and sure as the decrees of fate.
Let none but men of honour you attend,
Choose him that has most virtue for your friend;
And give no way to any darling youth
To sell your favour, and pervert the truth.
Reclaim you wife from strolling up and down,
To all assizes, and through ev'ry town,
With claws like harpies, eager for the prey;
(For which your justice and your fame will pay.)
Keep yourself free from scandals such as these;
Then trace your birth from Picus (19), if you please.
If he's too modern, and your pride aspire
To seek the author of your being higher,
Choose any Titan who the gods withstood,
To be the founder of your ancient blood,
Prometheus, and that race before the flood;
Or any other story you can find
From heralds, or in poets, to your mind.
But should you prove ambitious, lustful, vain;
Or could you see, with pleasure and disdain,
Rods broke on our associates' bleeding backs,
And headsmen labouring till they blunt their ax:
Your father's glory will your sin proclaim,
And to a clearer light expose your shame;
For, still more public scandal vice extends,
As he is great and noble who offends.
How dare you (20) then your high extraction plead?
Yet blush not when you go to forge a deed,
In the same temple which your grandsire built;
Making his statue privy to the guilt.
Or in a bawdy masquerade are led,
Muffled by night, to some polluted bed.
Fat Lateranus does his revels keep,
Where his forefathers’ peaceful ashes sleep;
Driving himself a chariot down the hill,
And (though a consul) links himself the wheel:
To do him justice, ’tis indeed by night,
Yet the moon sees, and every smaller light
Pries as a witness of the shameful sight.
Nay, when his year of honour's ended, soon
He'll leave that nicety, and mount at noon;
Nor blush should he some grave acquaintance meet,
But (proud of being known) will jerk and greet:
And when his fellow beasts are weary grown,
He'll play the groom, give oats, and rub them down.
If after Numa's (21) ceremonial way
He at Jove's altar would a victim slay,
To no clean goddess he directs his pray'rs,
But by Hippona (22) most devoutly swears;
Or some rank deity, whose filthy face
We suitably o'er stinking stables place.
When he has run his length, and does begin
To steer his course directly for the inn,
(Where they have watch’d, expecting him all night)
A greasy Syrian, ere he can alight,
Presents him essence; while his courteous host
(Well knowing nothing by good breeding's lost)
Tags every sentence with some fawning word,
Such as, ‘My king, my prince,’ at least ‘My lord;’
And a tight maid, ere he for wine can ask,
Guesses his meaning, and unoils the flask.
Some (friends to vice) industriously defend
These innocent diversions, and pretend
That I the tricks of youth too roughly blame,
Alleging that when young we did the same.
I grant we did; yet when that age was past,
The frolic humour did no longer last;
We did not cherish and indulge the crime:
What's foul in acting should be left in time.
‘Tis true, some faults, of course, with childhood end;
We therefore wink at wags when they offend,
And spare the boy, in hopes the man may mend.
But Lateranus (now his vigorous age
Should prompt him for his country to engage,
The circuit of our empire to extend,
And all our lives, in Cæsar’s, to defend),
Mature in riots, places his delight
All day in plying bumpers, and at night
Reels to the bawds, over whose doors are set
Pictures and bills with ‘Here are whores to let.’
Should any desperate unexpected fate
Summon all heads and hands to guard the state,
Cæsar, send quickly to secure the port(23);
‘But where's the general? Where does he resort?’
Send to the sutler's; there you're sure to find
The bully match'd with rascals of his kind,
Quacks, coffin-makers, fugitives, and sailors;
Rooks, common soldiers, hangmen, thieves, and tailors;
With Cybele's priests, who, wearied with processions,
Drink there, and sleep with knaves of all professions,
A friendly gang! each equal to the best;
And all, who can, have liberty to jest:
One flaggon walks the round (that none should think
They either change, or stint him of his drink)
And lest exceptions may for place be found,
Their stools are all alike, their table round.
What think you, Ponticus, yourself might do,
Should any slave, so lewd, belong to you?
No doubt, you'd send the rogue in fetters bound
To work in Bridewell, or to plough your ground:
But, nobles, you who trace your birth from Troy,
Think, you the great prerogative enjoy
Of doing ill, by virtue of that race;
As if what we esteem in cobblers base,
Would the high family of Brutus grace.
Shameful are these examples; yet we find
(To Rome's disgrace) far worse than these behind:
Poor Damasippus, whom we once have known
Fluttering with coach and six about the town,
Is forc'd to make the stage his last retreat,
And pawns his voice, the all he has, for meat:
For now he must (since his estate is lost)
Or represent, or be himself, a ghost:
And Lentulus acts hanging with such art,
Were I a judge, he should not feign the part.
Nor would I their vile insolence acquit,
Who can with patience, nay diversion, sit,
Applauding my lord's buffoonry for wit.
And clapping farces acted by the court,
While the peers cuff, to make the rabble sport:
Or hirelings, at a prize, their fortunes try;
Certain to fall unpitied if they die;
Since none can have the favourable thought,
That to obey a tyrant's will they fought,
But that their lives they willingly expose,
Brought by the prætors to adorn their shows.
Yet say the stage and lists were both in sight,
And you must either choose to act or fight;
Death never sure bears such a ghastly shape,
That a rank coward basely would escape
By playing a foul harlot's jealous tool,
Or a feign'd Andrew to a real fool.
Yet a peer-actor is no monstrous thing,
Since Rome has own'd a fiddler (24) for a king:
After such pranks, the world itself at best
May be imagined nothing but a jest.
Go (25) to the lists where feats of arms are shown,
There you'll find Gracchus, (from Patrician) grown
A fencer, and the scandal of the town.
Nor will he the Mirmillo's weapons bear,
The modest helmet he disdains to wear;
As Retiarius he attacks his foe:
First waves his trident ready for the throw,
Next casts his net, but neither levell'd right,
He stares about, exposed to public sight,
Then places all his safety in his flight.
‘Room for the noble gladiator! See,
His coat and hatband show his quality:’—
Thus when at last the brave Mirmillo knew
’Twas Gracchus was the wretch he did pursue,
To conquer such a coward grieved him more,
Than if he many glorious wounds had bore.
Had (26) we the freedom to express our mind,
There's not a wretch so much to vice inclin'd,
But will own Seneca (27) did far excel
His pupil, by whose tyranny he fell:
To expiate whose complicated guilt,
With some proportion to the blood he spilt,
Rome (28) should more serpents, apes, and sacks provide
Than one, for the compendious parricide.
'Tis true Orestes (29) a like crime did act;
Yet weigh the cause, there's difference in the fact:
He slew his mother (30) at the gods' command,
They bid him strike, and did direct his hand
To punish falsehood, and appease the ghost
Of his poor father treacherously lost,
Just in the minute when the flowing bowl
With a full tide enlarg'd his cheerful soul.
Yet kill'd he not his sister (31), or his wife (32),
Nor aim'd (33) at any near relation's life:
Orestes, in the heat of all his rage,
Ne’er play'd or sung upon a public stage (34);
Never on verse (35) did his wild thoughts employ,
To paint the horrid scene of burning Troy,
Like Nero, who to raise his fancy higher,
And finish the great work, set Rome on fire.
Such crimes (36) make treason just, and might compel
Virginius, Vindex, Galba, to rebel:
For what could Nero's self have acted worse
To aggravate the wretched nation’s curse?
These are the bless'd endowments, studies, arts,
Which exercise our mighty emperor's parts:
Such frolics with his roving genius suit,
On foreign theaters (34) to prostitute
His voice and honour, for the poor renown
Of putting all the Grecian actors down,
And winning at a wake their parsley-crown.
Let this triumphal chaplet (34) find some place
Among the other trophies of thy race;
By thee Domitii's statues shall be laid,
The habit and the mask in which you play'd
Antigone’s, or bold Thyestes' part,
(While your wild nature little wanted art);
And on the marble pillar shall be hung
The lute to which the royal madman sung.
Who, Catiline (37), can boast a nobler line,
Than thy lewd friend Cethegus's and thine?
Yet you took arms, and did by night conspire
To set our houses and our gods on fire:
(An enterprise which might indeed become
Our enemies the Gauls, not sons of Rome;
To recompense whose barbarous intent,
Pitch'd shirts (38) would be too mild a punishment)
But Tully (39), our wise consul, watch'd the blow,
With care discover'd, and disarm'd the foe:
Tully, the humble mushroom, scarcely known,
The lowly native of a country town,
(Who, till of late, could never reach the height
Of being honour’d as a Roman knight)
Throughout the trembling city plac'd a guard,
Dealing an equal share to every ward,
And by the peaceful robe got more renown
Within our walls, than young Octavius won
By victories at Actium (40), or the plain
Of Thessaly (41), discolour’d by the slain:
Him, therefore, Rome in gratitude decreed
The father of his country, which he freed.
Marius (42) (another consul we admire),
In the same village born, first plough’d for hire;
His next advance was to the soldier’s trade,
Where, if he did not nimbly ply the spade,
His surly officer ne’er fail’d to crack
His knotty cudgel on his tougher back.
Yet he alone secur’d the tottering state,
Withstood the Cimbrians, and redeem’d our fate:
So when the eagles to their quarry flew,
(Who never such a goodly banquet knew)
Only a second laurel did adorn
His colleague Catulus, though nobly born;
He shar’d the pride of the triumphal bay,
But Marius won the glory of the day.
From a mean stock the pious Decii came (43);
Small their estates, and vulgar was their name:
Yet such their virtues, that their loss alone
For Rome and all our legions did atone;
Their country’s doom they by their own retriev'd;
Themselves more worth than all the host they sav'd.
The last good king (44) who willing Rome obey’d,
Was the poor offspring of a captive maid;
Yet he those robes of empire justly bore
Which Romulus, our sacred founder, wore:
Nicely he gain’d, and well possess’d the throne,
Not for his father’s merit, but his own;
And reign’d, himself a family alone.
When Tarquin (45), his proud successor, was quell’d,
And with him lust and tyranny expell’d;
The consul’s sons (who for their country’s good,
And to enhance the honour of their blood,
Should have asserted what their father (47) won;
And, to confirm that liberty, have done
Actions, which Cocles (48) might have wish’d his own;
What might to (49) Mutius wonderful appear;
And what bold Clelia (50) might with envy hear)
Open’d the gates, endeavouring to restore
Their banish’d king, and arbitrary power:
Whilst a poor slave, (51) with scarce a name, betray’d
The horrid ills these well-born rogues had laid;
Who, therefore, for their treason justly bore
The rods and axe, ne’er us’d in Rome before.
If you have strength Achilles’ arms to bear,
And courage to sustain a ten years’ war;
Though foul Thersites (52) got thee, thou shalt be
More lov'd by all, and more esteem’d by me,
Than if by chance you from some hero came,
In nothing like your father but his name.
Boast then your blood, and your long lineage stretch
As high as Rome, and its great founders reach:
You’ll find, in these hereditary tales,
Your ancestors the scum of broken gaols (53);
And Romulus,(54) your honours’ ancient source,
But a poor shepherd’s boy, or something worse.
(1) The family of the Fabii were descended of Hercules (in honour of whom the Romans built a temple in the Foro Boario). Fabius Maximus, in remembrance of his services in the wars against the people of Provence, Languedoc, Danphiuy, and other provinces of France (formerly known by the name of Allobroges), was surnamed Allobrogicus; which title his son would have assumed; whom our author here censures as a man of an effeminate person, a profligate life, and of dangerous practices.
(2) Brave and virtuous Romans.
(3) The rods and axe, which were carried in processions, as badges of the consular dignity.
(4) Such as Getulicus, Africanus, Numantinus, Creticus.
(5) Osiris, for teaching the Egyptians husbandry, had a temple built at Memphis; where he was worshipped in the shape of an ox, which the priests used to drown at a certain age; and gave out, their god was withdrawn, and absented himself for a few days; during which time it was their custom to go mourning and searching up and down till they found another ox to supply his place, and then they broke out with these exclamations: 'We have found him, let's rejoice,'
(6) The first king of Athens.
(7) I have taken the liberty to give this simile a modern air, because it happens to agree exactly with the humour of our author.
(8) (Meaning your ancestors) Rubellius Plancus.
(9) Phalaris was a tyrant of Agrigentum, in Sicily; to flatter whose cruelty, Perillus invented a brazen bull, wherein people might be roasted alive, and their cries were not unlike the bellowings of an ox: but the tyrant had the justice to reward the artizan as he deserved, by making him first try the experiment.
(10) This and the seven following verses are a sort of paraphrase upon two lines of the orginal, which I was forced to enlarge, because the sense of the author is to close and obscure.
(11) (Speaking to Ponticus.)
(12) Any poor man who is oppressed.
(13) Famous painters, statuaries, and other artizans.
(14) Proconsuls of Asia and Sicily.
(15) Returning to Ponticus.
(16) The inhabitants of these places were effeminate, and easy to be enslaved.
(17) The people of Afric, who supplied Rome with corn.
(18) Marius Priscus.
(19) The first king of the Latines.
(20) The poet in this place speaks neither to Rubellius nor Ponticus, but in general to any perjured or debauched nobleman.
(21) Numa Pompilius (the second king of Rome), the better to civilize the savage humour of the people, first introduced among them the fear and worship of the gods, and instituted the rites and ceremonies of priest, oaths, and sacrifices.
(22) Hippona was the goddess of jockeys and horses.
(23) Ostia, the mouth of the river Tyber.
(24) Meaning Nero, whom he censures severely in the pages following, note 36.
(25) This period is perplexed, and I fear will not be understood in our language; being only a description of the Roman gladiators, who were of two sorts, and had different names according to the arms and habit they appeared with; one fought with a scimitar in his right hand, a target on his left arm, and an helmet on his head; he was called Mirmillo, or Secutor. The other wore a short coat without sleeves, called Tunica; a hat on his head; he carried in his right hand a javelin forked like a trident, called Fuscina; and on his left arm a net, in which he endeavored to catch his adversary, and from thence was called Retiarius. The meaning of the poet is, to reprehend Gracchus (whom he had before rebuked in the second Satire) for three vices at once: for his baseness, forasmuch as, being a nobleman, he will condescend to fight upon the public theatre: for his impudence, in not choosing an habit which might have kept him disguised, and hindered him from being known: and for his cowardice in running away.
(26) For the clearer understanding of what follows, it may be necessary to give a short abridgment of Nero's cruelties, follies, and end: which may be found at large in his life, written by Suetonius and Tacitus, and in the continuation which Mr. Saville has added to his translation of the last of these authors, by way of supplement to what is wanting betwixt the annals and the history. But I shall only relate what I find mentioned in this Satire, and shall begin with his parricides.
(27) Upon suspicion that Seneca, his tutor, had some knowledge of the conspiracy which Piso was carrying on against his person, Nero laid hold on this opportunity to rid himself of the uneasy censurer of his vices, yet allowed him the liberty of choosing the manner of his death. Seneca was apprehensive of pain, and therefore desired to have his veins opened, which he judged might be the most easy and pleasant method of dying; but finding it too tedious, he prevailed with his friend and physician, Annæus Statius, to give him a draught of poison, which too operating very slowly, (by reason his veins were exhausted, and his limbs chilled) the standers-by, to make quicker dispatch, smothered him with the steam of an hot bath. Juvenal not unjustly places this murder of Seneca among Nero's parricides, since a tutor ought to be esteemed as a civil parent.
(28) This bold thought and expression of Juvenal is grounded on the Roman laws, whereby parricides were condemned to be sewed up in a bag (called Culeus) with a cock, a monkey, a serpent, and a dog, and thrown together into the sea, or any neighbouring river. This punishment of drowning in a sack is still used in several parts of Germany, but without the company of those creatures above mentioned.
(29) The story of Orestes (betwixt whom, and Nero, Juvevenal would draw a parallel) is this: his mother Clytemnestra finding her husband Agamemnon was returned alive from the siege of Troy, and fearing he might revenge her amours with Egystheus, with whom she had lived in adultery during her husband's absence, she thought the safest way might be to assassinate Agamemnon, by the help of Egystheus, at his first reception, and before he could suspect such an attempt. The manner how they dispatched him is reported differently. Some authors relate, that as he was changing his linen, he was stifled in a shirt sewed together at the neck. But Homer, in the 4th and 11th Books of his Odyssey, where he describes this murder, is of Juvenal's opinion, that he was killed at a banquet, when he little expected such treatment. Egystheus after this murder married Clytemnestra, and usurped the kingdom of Mycena seven years: during which time Orestes grew up to man's estate, and by the instigation of his sister Electra, and the assistance of some neighbouring princes, marched from Athens, destroyed and murdered the usurper, and at last, under pretence of being mad, stabbed his mother. Homer (as well as our author) justifies this revenge, as being undertaken by the advice of the gods: and Paterculus infers, they must needs have approved the action, since Orestes (after it) lived long, and reigned happily.
(30) Nero could not suffer his mother Agrippina, because of her encroaching on his government; for which reason he made frequent attempts upon her life, but without success, till at last Anicetus his bondman undertook to stab her; which she perceiving, and guessing by whose orders he came, clapped her hand upon her belly, and bid him (with great presence of mind) strike there, supposing it deserved that punishment for bearing such a monster.
(31) He ordered his first wife, Octavia, to be publicly executed upon a false accusation of adultery; and killed his second wife, Poppæa, when she was big with child, by a kick on the belly.
(32) Britannicus (his brother by adoption) was poisoned by his orders, out of jealousy lest he should supplant him. And Antonia (Claudius's daughter) was executed under pretence of a conspiracy, but in truth because she refused to marry Nero, after the death of Poppæa.
(33) He caused Rutinus Crispinus, son to Poppæa, to be drowned as he was fishing; and Aulus Plancus, a relation of his mother's to be killed, because she was fond of him.
I need mention no more of these unnatural murders, but go on to his other extravagancies.
(34) He was industrious to be esteemed the best musician of his age; and at his death regretted nothing more sensibly than that the world should lose so great a master. To maintain this reputation, he frequently condescended to act and sing upon the theatre among the ordinary comedians; and took a journey to Greece, on purpose to try his skill against the most famous artists of that country; from whom he bore away the garland (which was the usual recompense of the best performer); returned to Rome in triumph, as if he had conquered a province; and ordered both the garland and instrument to be hung up among the banners and honours of his family.
(35) He had likewise a great vanity towards being thought a good poet, and made verses on the destruction of Troy, called Troica; and it is reported, he burnt Rome to be more lively and natural in his description; though it is more probable he destroyed the old fashioned buildings, out of dislike to the narrowness and crookedness of the streets, and to have the honour of rebuilding the city better, and calling it by his own name.
(36) These monstrous frolics and cruelties could not but make his people weary of his government. Virginius Rufus, who was his lieutenant-general in Gaul, by the assistance of Junius Vindex (a nobleman of that country), soon persuaded the armies under his command to fall from their allegiance; and solicited Sergius Galba, who was lieutenant-general in Spain, to do the like, by offering him the empire in favour of mankind; which he at last accepted (upon intimation that Nero had issued out secret orders to dispatch him), and marched with all the forces he could gather towards Rome. Nero, not being in a condition to oppose such troops, fell into despair; which turned to an uncertainty what measures to take, whether to poison himself, or beg pardon of the people, or endeavour to make his escape. The last of these methods seemed most advisable; he therefore put himself into disguise, and crept with four attendants only into a poor cottage; where perceiving he was pursued, as a sacrifice to the public vengeance, and apprehending the rabble would treat him barbarously if he fell into their hands, with much ado he resolved to stab himself.
(37) Catiline's conspiracy is a story too well known to be insisted on. He was of a noble family, but by his extravagancies had reduced himself to great want, which engaged him in bad practices. The Roman armies were then pursuing conquests in remote provinces, which Catiline judged the most seasonable opportunity for undertaking some desperate design. He therefore entered into a conspiracy with Cethegus, Lentulus, and other Senators, and persons considerable by their births and employments, to make themselves absolute masters of their country, by seizing the Senate, plundering the treasury, and burning the city.
(38) Incendiaries by the Roman law were wrapped in a pitched coat (which they called tunica molesta) and burnt alive: as we see by Tacitus Ann. sect. 44. Where Nero, after having set Rome on fire, lays the blame and punishment on the Christians; by ordering them, with a cruel jest, to be lighted up, and serve as torches, when it was dark.
(39) One Fulvia (whom Livy calls a common whore, though Plutarch makes her pass for a lady of quality) came to have some knowledge of this enterprise, and discovered it to Cicero, (a person whom Paterculus elegantly calls Virum Novitatus Nobilissimæ; since he was a man of mean parentage, born at Arpinum, an inconsiderable town among the Volscians, but by his eloquence raised himself to the chief dignities of state, and happened to be consul at that time) who assembled the Senate, and by a severe oration accused and convicted Catiline. However he, with a few of his party, found means to make his escape towards Tuscany, and put himself at the head of some troops which Manlius had got together in those parts, threatening publicly that he would put out the fire of the city by the ruins of it. In the mean time, Cethegus, Lentulus, and several other complices, were seized and strangled in prison by order of the Senate, at Cato's persuasion: and Caius Antonius Nepos, wo was joint consul with Cicero, marched with what forces he could raise against Catiline, who in a sharp battle was killed upon the spot, with most of his followers; and (as Paterculus observers) Quem spiritum supplicio debuerat, prælio reddidit.
(40) A promontory of Epirus, near the island Leucas, where Antony and Cleopatra were ruined by a famous sea-fight.
(41) The fields near Philippi in Thessaly, where Brutus and Cassius were defeated.
(42) Caius Marius was likewise born at Arpinum, and of such poor parents that he was first a ploughman, then a common soldier; yet at last, by his merit, arrived to the highest employments. Once, while he was Consul, (for that honour was seven times conferred on him) the Cimbrians attempted to make an excursion into Italy; but he killed 140,000 of them, and made 60,000 prisoners: for which victory a triumph was ordained him by the Senate. But, to decline the envy which might be raised by his good fortune, he solicited that Q. Luctatius Catulus, his colleague (who was of a noble family), might be permitted to triumph with him, though he had no share in the action.
(43) Among the Romans there was a superstition, that if their general would consent to be devoted, or sacrificed to Jupiter, Mars, the earth, and the infernal gods; all the misfortunes which otherwise might have happened to his party would by his death be transferred on their enemies. This opinion was confirmed by several successful instances; particularly two, in the persons of the Decii, the father and son here mentioned. The first being consul with Manlius in the wars against the Latins, and perceiving the left wing, which he commanded, give back, he called out to Valerius, the high-priest, to perform on him the ceremony of consecration (which we find described by Livy in his 6th Book), and immediately spurred his horse into the thickest of his enemies' forces, where he was killed, and the Roman army gained the battle. His son died in the same manner in the wars against the Gauls; and the Romans, likewise, obtained the victory.
(44) Servius Tullius was son to Oriculana, whom Juvenal calls a serving-maid; but Livy supposes her to have been wife to a prince of Corniculum, who was killed at the taking of the town, and his wife was carried away captive by Tarquinus Priscus, and presented as a slave to his wife Tanaquil, in whose service she was delivered of this Tullius. The family had a great respect for the child, because of a lambent fire they observed to play about his head while he slept, which was interpreted as an omen of his future greatness; therefore, care was taken of his education, and at last he was contracted to the king's daughter: whereupon Ancus Martins's two sons (who were the true heirs of the crown), fearing his marriage might hinder their succession, hired two shepherds to assassinate Tarquinius, which they undertook, but could not execute so dexterously as was expected; for the king lived some days after the blow was given, during which time Tanaquil caused the gates of the palace to be kept shut, and amused the people (who were eager on a new election) with assurances that the wound was not mortal; that the king was in a fair way of recovery, and till he could appear abroad, required them to pay obedience to Servius Tullius; who, by this means, first got possession of the government in the king's name, and after his death usurped it forty-four years in his own. At last, he was forced out of the senate by Lucius Tarquinius, thrown down stairs, and murdered by his orders. Livy adds this commendation, That with him justa ac legitima regna occiderunt; which agrees with Juvenal's calling him 'The last good king.' For (45) Tarquin, who reigned twenty-five years after him, was hated for his pride and creulty, and for the barbarous rape which his son Sextus committed on Lucretia, wife to Collatinus; who, by the help of (47) L. Junius Brutus, revenged this injury, by driving Tarquin and his whole race out of Rome; which from that time began to be governed by consuls: and, the better to secure their liberty, Brutus administered an oath, by which the Romans obliged themselves never to suffer any more kings; and made a decree, (which proved fatal to his family) whereby it was declared a capital crime in any person who should endeavour by any means to bring back the Tarquins. However, they gave not over their pretensions, but sent ambassadors under pretence of soliciting that their estates, at least, might be restored to them; but underhand to insinuate themselves among the loose young noblemen (who grew weary of a commonwealth, because the rigour of their new laws did not tolerate that licentious way of living which they enjoyed under the government of their kings), and to concert with them the best methods towards their restoration. This design was first proposed to the Aquilii and Vitellii. The last of these were brothers to Brutus's wife, and by that alliance easily engaged (46) Titus and Tiberius (two sons he had by her) in the conspiracy; the sum of which was, that the gates of the city should be left open for the Tarquins to enter in the night-time; and that the ambassador might be assured of their sincerity, each member of the cabal delivered them the night before they were to return, letters under their own hands for the Tarquins, with promises to this effect.
(51) Vindicius, a slave who waited at table, by chance overheard part of their discourse; and, comparing these circumstances with some others he had observed in their former conferences, he went straight to the consuls, and told what he had discovered. Orders were immediately issued out for searching the ambassadors; the letters above-mentioned were intercepted, the criminals seized, and the proof being evident against them, they suffered the punishment (which was newly introduced) of being tied naked to a stake, where they were first whipped by the lictors, then beheaded: and Brutus, by virtue of his office, was unhappily obliged to see this rigorous sentence executed on his own children!
To pursue the story; the Tarquins finding their plot had miscarried, and fearing nothing could be done by treachery, struck up an alliance with Porsenna, King of Tuscany; who, pretending to restore them by open force, marched with a numerous army, and besieged Rome: but was soon surprised with three such instances of the Roman bravery, in the persons of Cocles, Mutius, and Clelia, that he withdrew his army, and courted their friendship.
(48) Horatius Cocles being posted to guard a bridge, which he perceived the enemy would soon be master of, he stood resolutely and opposed part of their army, while the party he commanded repassed the bridge, and broke it down after them; and then threw himself, armed as he was, into the Tyber, and escaped to the city.
(49) Mutius Scævola went into the enemies' camp with a resolution to kill their king Porsenna, but instead of striking him, stabbed one of his guards; and being brought before the king and finding his error, in indignation he burned off his right hand as a penalty for his mistake.
(50) Clelia, a Roman virgin, who was given to Porsenna as an hostage, made her escape from the guards, and swam over the Tyber.
(52) The ugly buffoon of the Grecian army.
(53) Romulus, finding the city, called by his name, not sufficiently peopled, established an asylum, or sanctuary, where all outlaws, vagabonds, and criminals, of what nature soever, who could make their escape thither, might live in all freedom and security.
(54) The author either means the bastard of Mars, and Rhea Silvia a vestal virgin, of whose rape we have a relation in the beginning of Ovid's Third Book De Fastis; or a parricide, for killing his brother Remus.