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or dismissed with more insult and prisoners to pass in review before levity. The one whom he treated bim (custodiarum seriem recognosbest, and with most profession of cens), he pointed to two bald-headlove, and who commonly rode by his ed men, and ordered that the whole side, equipped with spear and shield, file of intermediate persons should to his military inspections and re- be marched off to the dens of the views of the soldiery, though not wild beasts : " Tell them off,” said particularly beautiful, was exhibited he, “ from the bald man to the bald to his friends at banquets in a state man." Yet these were prisoners of absolute nudity. His motive for committed, not for punishment, but treating her with so much kindness, trial. Nor, had it been otherwise, was probably that she brought him were the charges against them equal a daughter; and her he acknowledge -but running through every gradaed as his own child, from the early tion of guilt. But the elogia, or brutality with which she attacked the records of their commitment, he eyes and cheeks of other infants who would not so much as look at. With were presented to her as play-fel- such inordinate capacities for cruel. lows.-Hence it would appear that ty, we cannot wonder that he should he was aware of his own ferocity, in his common conversation bave and treated it as a jest. The levity, deplored the tameness and insipiindeed, which he mingled with his dity of his own times and reign, as worst and most inhuman acts, and likely to be marked by no widethe slightness of the occasions upon spreading calamity. Augustus,” which he delighted to hang his most said he,“ was happy; for in his memorable atrocities, aggravated reign occurred the slaughter of Vatheir impression at the time, and rus and his legions. Tiberius was must have contributed greatly to happy; for in his occurred that glosharpen the sword of vengeance. His rious fall of the great amphitheatre palace happened to be contiguous to at Fidenæ. But for me-alas! alas !" the circus. Some seats, it seems, And then he would pray earnestly were open indiscriminately to the for fire or slaughter-pestilence or public; consequently, the only way famine. Famine indeed was to some in which they could be appropriated, extent in his own power; and accordwas by taking possession of them as ingly, as far as his courage would early as the midnight preceding any carry him, he did occasionally try great exhibitions. Once, when it that mode of tragedy upon the people happened that bis sleep was disturbo of Rome, by shutting up the public ed by such an occasion, he sent in granaries against them. As he blendsoldiers to eject them; and with or- ed his mirth and a truculent sense of ders so rigorous, as it appeared by the humorous with his cruelties, the event, that in this single tumult we cannot wonder that he should twenty Roman knights, and as many soon blend his cruelties with his ormothers of families, were cudgelled dinary festivities, and that his daily to death upon the spot, to say no- banquets would soon become insithing of what the reporter calls “ in- pid without them. Hence he requinumeram turbam ceteram."
red a daily supply of executions in But this is a trifle to another anec- his own halls and banqueting rooms ; dote reported by the same autho- nor was a dinner held to be comrity :-On some occasion it happened plete without such a dessert. Artists that a dearth prevailed either gene- were sought out who had dexterity rally of cattle, or of such cattle as and strength enough to do what Luwere used for feeding the wild can somewhere calls ensem rotare, beasts reserved for the bloody exhi- that is, to cut off a human head bitions of the amphitheatre. Food with one whirl of the sword. Even could be had, and perhaps at no very this became insipid, as wanting one exorbitant price,
terms main element of misery to the sufsomewhat higher than the ordinary ferer, and an indispensable condimarket price. A slight excuse ser- ment to the jaded palate of the conved with Caligula for acts the most noisseur, viz. a lingering duration. monstrous. Instantly repairing to As a pleasant variety, therefore, the the public jails, and causing all the tormentors were introduced with
their various instruments of torture; but the more likely to make its fasand many a dismal tragedy in that cinations irresistible. Hence he dalmode of human suffering was con- lied with the thoughts of murdering ducted in the sacred presence during her whom he loved best, and indeed the Emperor's hours of amiable re- exclusively-his wife Cæsonia; and laxation.
whilst fondling her, and toying playThe result of these horrid indul- fully with her polished throat, he gences was exactly what we might was distracted (as he half insinuated suppose, that even such scenes cea- to her) between the desire of caresssed to irritate the languid appetite, ing it, which might be often repeatand yet that without them life was ed, and that of cutting it, which not endurable. Jaded and exhausted could be gratified but once. as the sense of pleasure had become Nero (for as to Claudius he came in Caligula, still it could be roused too late to the throne to indulge any into any activity by nothing short of propensities of this nature with so these murderous luxuries. Hence, little discretion) was but a variety it seems, that he was continually of the same species. He also was an tampering and dallying with the amateur, and an enthusiastic amateur thought of murder; and like the old of murder. But as this taste, in the Parisian jeweller Cardillac, in Louis
most ingenious hands, is limited and XIV.'s time, who was stung, with a monotonous in its modes of manifesperpetual lust for murdering the tation, it would be tedious to run possessors of fine diamonds—not so
through the long Suetonian roll-call much for the value of the prize (of of his peccadilloes in this way. One which he never hoped to make any only we shall cite, to illustrate the use) as from an unconquerable de amorous delight with which he pursire of precipitating himself into the sued any murder which happened to difficulties and hazards of the mur- be seasoned highly to his taste by der,--Caligula never failed to expe- enormous atrocity, and by almost rience (and sometimes even to ac- unconquerable difficulty. It would knowledge) a secret temptation to really be pleasant, were it not for the any murder which seemed either revolting consideration of the permore than usually abominable, or sons concerned, and their relation to more than usually difficult. Thus, each other, to watch the tortuous when the two Consuls were seated pursuit of the hunter, and the douat his table, he burst out into sudden bles of the game in this obstinate and profúse laughter; and, upon their chase. For certain reasons of state, courteously requesting to know as Nero attempted to persuade himwhat witty and admirable conceit self, but in reality because no other might be the occasion of the impe- crime had the same attractions of unrial mirth, he frankly owned to them, natural horror about it, he resolved and doubtless he did not improve to murder his mother Agrippina. their appetites by this confession, This being settled, the next thing that in fact he was laughing, and was to arrange the mode and the that he could not but laugh and tools. Naturally enough, according then the monster laughed immode- to the custom then prevalent in rately again) at the pleasant thought Rome, he first attempted the thing of seeing them both headless, and by poison. The poison failed: for that with so little trouble to himself, Agrippina, anticipating tricks of this (uno suo nutu,) he could have both kind, had armed her constitution their throats cut. No doubt he was against them, like Mithridates; and continually balancing the arguments daily took potent antidotes and profor and against such little escapades; phylactics. Or else (which is more nor had any person a reason for probable) the Emperor's agent in security in the extraordinary obliga- such purposes, fearing his sudden tions, whether of hospitality or of repentance and remorse
on first religious vows, which seemed to lay hearing of his mother's death, or bim under some peculiar restraints possibly even witnessing her agoin that case above all others; for nies, had composed a poison of insuch circumstances of peculiarity, ferior strength. This had certainly by which the murder would be occurred in the case of Britannicus, stamped with unusual atrocity, were who had thrown off with ease the first dose administered to him by wreck it. What was to be done? Nero. Upon which he had summon- The great lady was anxious to return ed to his presence the woman em- to Rome, and no proper conveyance ployed in the affair, and compelling was at hand. Suddenly it was sugher by threats to mingle a more gested, as if by chance, that a ship powerful potion in his own presence, of the Emperor's—new and properhad tried it successively upon differ- ly equipped-was moored at a neighent animals, until he was satisfied bouring station. This was readily with its effects; after which, imme- accepted by Agrippina : the Emperor diately inviting Britannicus to a ban- accompanied her to the place of quet, he had finally dispatched him. embarkation, took a most tender On Agrippina, however, no changes leave of her, and saw her set sail. It in the poison whether of kind or was necessary that the vessel should strength had any effect; so that, get into deep water before the exafter various trials, this mode of periment could be made; and with murder was abandoned, and the Eme the utmost agitation this pious son peror addressed himself to other awaited news of the result. Suddenplans. The first of these was some ly a messenger rushed breathless curious mechanical device by which into his presence, and horrified him a false ceiling was to have been sus- by the joyful information that his pended by bolts above her bed; and august mother had met with an in the middle of the night the bolt alarming accident, but by the blessbeing suddenly drawn, a vast weight ing of heaven had escaped safe and would have descended with a ruin- sound, and was now on her road to ous destruction to all below. This mingle congratulations with her afscheme, however, taking air from fectionate son. The ship, it seems, the indiscretion of some amongst had done its office : the mechanism the accomplices, reached the ears of had played admirably: but who can Agrippina; upon which the old lady
provide for every thing ? The old looked about her too sharply to leave lady, it turned out, could swim like a much hope in that scheme: So that duck; and the whole result had also was abandoned. Next he con- been to refresh her with a little sea. ceived the idea of an artificial ship, bathing. Here was worshipful inwhich, at the touch of a few springs, telligence. Could any man's temper might fall to pieces in deep water. be expected to stand such continued Such a ship was prepared, and sta- sieges ? Money, and trouble, and infi. tioned at a suitable point. But the nite contrivance, wasted upon one main difficulty remained -- which old woman, who absolutely would was to persuade the old lady to go not upon any terms be murdered ! on board. Not that she knew in -Provoking it certainly was; and this case who had been the ship- of a man like Nero it could not be builder, for that would have ruined expected that he should any longer all; but it seems that she took it ill dissemble bis disgust, or put up with to be hunted in this murderous spi- such repeated affronts. He rushed rit, and was out of humour with her upon his simple congratulating son; besides, that any proposal friend, swore that he had come to coming from him, though previously murder him, and, as nobody could indifferent to her, would have in- have suborned him but Agrippina, stantly become suspected. To meet he ordered her off to instant executhis difficulty, a sort of reconciliation tion. And unquestionably, if people was proposed, and a very affection- will not be murdered quietly and in ate message sent, which had the ef- a civil way, they must expect that fect of throwing Agrippina off her such forbearance is not to continue guard, and seduced her to Baiæ for for ever; and obviously have themthe purpose of joining the Empe- selves only to blame for any harshror's party at a great banquet held in ness or violence which they may commemoration of a solemn festival. have rendered necessary. She came by water in a sort of light It is singular, and shocking at the frigate, and was to return in the same time, to mention, that for this same way. Meantime Nero tam- atrocity Nero did absolutely receive pered with the commander of her solemn congratulations from all orvessel, and prevailed upon him to ders of men. With such evidences of base servility in the public mind, and doubt that it was of a kind to be felt of the utter corruption which they only by modern spectators. Mere had sustained in their elementary dissatisfaction with its external apfeelings, it is the less astonishing that pearance, which must have been a he should have made other experi- pretty general sentiment, argued, ments upon the public patience,which therefore, no necessary purpose of seem expressly designed to try how destroying it. Certainly it would be much it would support. Whether a weightier ground of suspicion, if it he were really the author of the de- were really true, that some of his solating fire which consumed Rome agents were detected on the premi. for six* days and seven nights, and ses of different senators in the act of drove the mass of the people into the applying combustibles to their mantombs and sepulchres for shelter, is sions. But this story wears a very yet a matter of some doubt. But one fabulous air. For why resort to the great presumption against it, found private dwellings of great men, where ed on its desperate imprudence, as any intruder was sure of attracting attacking the people in their primary notice, when the same effect, and comforts, is considerably weakened with the same deadly results, might by the enormous servility of the Ro- have been attained quietly and se mans in the case just stated: they cretly in so many of the humble Rowho could volunteer congratulations man cænacula? to a son for butchering his mother The great loss on this memorable (no matter on what pretended sus- occasion was in the heraldic and anpicions), might reasonably be suppo- cestral honours of the city. Historic sed incapable of any resistance which Rome then went to wreck for ever. required courage even in a case of Then perished the domus priscorum self-defence, or of just revenge. The ducum hostilibus adhuc spoliis adordirect reasons, however, for implica- natæ; the “rostral” palace; the manting him in this affair seem at pre- sion of the Pompeys; the Blenheims sent insufficient. He was displeased, and the Strathfieldsays of the Scipios, it seems, with the irregularity and the Marcelli, the Paulli, and the Cæunsightliness of the antique build- sars; then perished the aged trophies ings, and also with the streets as too from Carthage and from Gaul; and, narrow and winding (angustiis flexu- in short, as the bistorian sums up risque vicorum.) But in this he did the lamentable desolation,“ quidquid but express what was no doubt the visendum atque memorabile ex anticommon judgment of all his contem- quitate duraverat.” And this of itself poraries, who bad seen the beautiful might lead one to suspect the Emcities of Greece and Asia Minor. peror's hand as the original agent; The Rome of that time was in many for by no one act was it possible so parts built of wood; and there is entirely and so suddenly to wean the much probability that it must have people from their old republican rebeen a picturesque city, and in parts collections, and in one week to oblialmost grotesque. But it is remark- terate the memorials of their popuable, and a fact which we have no- lar forces, and the trophies of many where seen noticed, that the ancients, ages. The old people of Rome were whether Greeks or Romans, had no gone; their characteristic dress even eye for the Picturesque; nay, that it was gone; for already in the time of
a sense utterly unawakened Augustus they had laid aside the toga, amongst them; and that the very con- and assumed the cheaper and scanception of the Picturesque, as of a tier pænula, so that the eye sought in thing distinct from the Beautiful, is vain for Virgil's not once alluded to through the whole
• Romanos rerum dominos gentemque course of ancient literature,-nor would it have been intelligible to any
togatam." ancient critic; so that, whatever at- Why, then, after all the constitu. traction for the eye might exist in ents of Roman grandeur had passed the Rome of that day, there is little away, should their historical trophies
But a memorial stone, in its inscription, makes the time longer : urbs per novem dies arsit Neronianis temporibus.".
survive, recalling to them the scenes able fatality, on the very anniversary of departed heroism, in which they of his mother's murder, that he rehad no personal property, and sug- ceived the first intelligence of the regesting to them vain hopes, which volt in Gaul under the Proprætor for them were never to be other than Vindex. This news for about a week chimeras? Even in that sense, there. he treated with levity; and, like Henfore, and as a great depository of ry VII. of England, who was nettled, heart-stirring historical remembran- not so much at being proclaimed a ces, Rome was profitably destroyed; rebel, as because he was described and in any other sense, whether for under the slighting denomination of health or for the conveniences of po- “one Henry Tidder or Tudor,” he lished life, or for architectural mag. complained bitterly that Vindex had nificence, there never was a doubt mentioned him by his family name of that the Roman people gained infi- Ænobarbus, rather than his assumed nitely by this conflagration. For, like one of Nero. But much more keenly London, it arose from its ashes with he resented the insulting description a splendour proportioned to its vast of himself as a “miserable harper," expansion of wealth and population; appealing to all about him whether and marble took the place of wood. they had ever known a better, and For the moment, however, this event offering to stake the truth of all the must have been felt by the people as other charges against himself upon an overwhelming calamity. And it the accuracy of this in particular. serves to illustrate the passive en- So little even in this instance was he durance and timidity of the popular alive to the true point of the insult; temper, and to what extent it might not thinking it any disgrace that a be provoked with impunity, that in Roman emperor should be chiefly this state of general irritation and known to the world in the character effervescence, Nero absolutely for- of a harper, but only if he should bade them to meddle with the ruins happen to be a bad one. Even in of their own dwellings-taking that those days, however, imperfect as charge upon himself, with a view to were the means of travelling, rebelthe vast wealth which he anticipated lion moved somewhat too rapidly to from sifting the rubbish. And, as if allow any long interval of security that mode of plunder were not suffi- so light-minded as this. One coucient, he exacted compulsory contri- rier followed upon the heels of anbutions to the rebuilding of the city other, until he felt the necessity for so indiscriminately, as to press hea- leaving Naples; and he returned to vily upon all men's finances; and Rome, as the historian says, prætrethus, in the public account which pidus; by which word, however, acuniversally imputed the fire to him, cording to its genuine classical ache was viewed as a two-fold robber, ceptation, we apprehend is not meant who sought to healone calamity by the that he was highly alarmed, but only infliction of another and a greater. that he was in a great hurry. That
The monotony of wickedness and he was not yet under any real alarm outrage becomes at length fatiguing (for he trusted in certain prophecies, to the coarsest and most callous sen- which, like those made to the Scotses; and the historian, even, who ca- tish tyrant, “kept the promise to the ters professedly for the taste which ear, but broke it to the sense,”) is feeds upon the monstrous and the pretty evident, from his conduct on hyperbolical, is glad at length to reaching the capitol. For, without escape from the long evolution of his any appeal to the Senate or the peoinsane atrocities, to the striking and ple, but sending out a few sumtruly scenical catastrophe of retribu- monses to some men of rank, he held tion which overtook them, and aven- a hasty council, which he speedily ged the wrongs of an insulted world. dismissed, and occupied the rest of Perhaps history contains no more im- the day with experiments on certain pressive scenes than those in which musical instruments of recent inventhe justice of Providence at length tion, in which the keys were moved arrested the monstrous career of by hydraulic contrivances. He bad Nero.
come to Rome, it appeared, merely It was at Naples, and, by a remark- from a sense of decorum.