Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Imperial Follies' Rockettes 

Emperors we never knew. Worth a quick review in these dark and troubled times. From Eutropius’s History of Rome (Watson translation):

JULIUS Caesar returned to Rome, and began to conduct himself with too great arrogance, contrary to the usages of Roman liberty. As he disposed, therefore, at his own pleasure, of those honours, which were before conferred by the people and did not even rise up when the senate approached him, an d exercised regal, or almost tyrannical power, in other respects, a conspiracy was formed against him by sixty or more Roman senators and knights. The chief among the conspirators were the two Bruti, (of the family of that Brutus who had been made first consul of Rome, and who had expelled the kings) Caius Cassius, and Servilius Casca. Caesar, in consequence, having entered the senate house with the rest, on a certain day appointed for a meeting of the senate, was stabbed with three and twenty wounds.

TIBERIUS distinguished his reign by great indolence, excessive cruelty, unprincipled avarice, and abandoned licentiousness. He fought on no occasion in person; the wars were carried on by his generals. Some kings, whom he induced to visit him by seducing allurements, he never sent back; among them was Archelaus of Cappadocia, whose kingdom also he reduced to the form of a province, and directed that its principal city should be called after his own name; and, having been before called Mazaca, it is now termed Caesarea. He died in Campania, in the three and twentieth year of his reign, and the eighty-third of his age, to the great joy of all men.

NERO, who greatly resembled his uncle Caligula, both disgraced and weakened the Roman empire; he indulged in such extraordinary luxury and extravagance, that, after the example of Caius Caligula, he even bathed in hot and cold perfumes, and fished with golden nets, which he drew up with cords of purple silk. He put to death a very great number of the senate. To all good men he was an enemy. At last he exposed himself in so disgraceful a manner, that he danced and sung upon the stage in the dress of a harp-player and tragedian. He was guilty of many murders, his brother, wife, and mother, being put to death by him. He set on fire the city of Rome, that he might enjoy the sight of a spectacle such as Troy formerly presented when taken and burned.

When, having become detestable by such conduct to the city of Rome, and being deserted at the same time by every one, and declared an enemy by the senate, he was sought for to be led to punishment (the punishment being, that he should be dragged naked through the streets, with a fork placed under his head, be beaten to death with rods, and then hurled from the Tarpeian rock), he fled from the palace, and killed himself in a suburban villa of one of his freed-men, between the Salarian and Nomentane roads, at the fourth milestone from the city. He built those hot baths at Rome, which were formerly called the Neronian, but now the Alexandrian. He died in the thirty-second year of his age, and the fourteenth year of his reign; and in him all the family of Augustus became extinct.

Not that there are any historical parallels or anything, here. I’m just saying it pays to know your imperial history.

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