Valerius Maximus

-   Book 7 , chapters 1-8


Adapted from the translation by S. Speed (1678). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each section.   

Contents:   I. Of Happiness
II. Of things wisely said or done
III. Of things craftily spoken or done
IV. Of Stratagems
V. Of Rejections
VI. Of Necessity
VII. Of Cancelled Wills
VIII. Of Wills that were confirmed, and Unexpected Inheritances

Book 6

I.   Of Happiness

We have related several examples of the inconsistency of Fortune; for there are very few that display her as thoroughly propitious. Therefore it is evident that she is generous and free with adversity, but very sparing with prosperity; but when she decides to put aside her malice, she heaps up blessings that are not only great and numerous, but also enduring.

[1.1] L   Let us see then with how many marks of favour she accompanied Metellus from his infancy to his death, with an incessant indulgence. She gave him his birth in the capital city of the world. She gave him most noble parents. She furnished him with admirable gifts of mind, and strength of body, so that he was equal to the challenges he faced. She gave him a wife who was conspicuous for her chastity and fertility. She graced him with the honour of a consulship, the dignity of a military command, and the splendour of a renowned triumph. She so ordered it, that at the same time he had three sons living, all of consular rank; one of them had also served as censor and celebrated a triumph; and his fourth son was a praetor. She gave him three married daughters, whose children he received into his own bosom. And among all these children born, so many youths coming to age, so many nuptial torches, such an abundance of honour, power and congratulations, there was not one funeral, not one tear, or the least cause of sadness. Consider the heavens, and we shall hardly meet with so permanent a condition there; while we find the greatest poets placing grief and pain in the very breasts of the gods. Nor was his end any different from the course of his life. For after he had lived to a good age, an easy death carried him off from the last farewells and embraces of his family; and he was carried through the city to his funeral pyre upon the shoulders of his sons and sons-in-law.     { see also: Cicero Fin_5.82 }

[1.2] L   That was a famous example of felicity; the following is less well known, but was preferred by the god himself. For Gyges, puffed up with the riches and power of his kingdom of Lydia, went to enquire of Pythian Apollo, whether any mortal was happier than himself. The god made answer with a low voice, from the hidden cavern of his sanctuary, that Aglaus of Psophis was more happy than him. Aglaus was the poorest of the Arcadians, and quite elderly: he had never gone outside the bounds of his own land; and he was content with the income of a poor farm. But Apollo by the wisdom of his oracle meant the true, not the shadowy goal of a happy life: and therefore gave that answer to one that insolently gloried in the splendour of his fortune, because he preferred a rural hut in the calm security of content, rather than the cares and anxieties of a court; a few clods of earth void of fear, rather than all the fertile acres of Lydia encumbered with continual dread; and one or two pairs of oxen easily maintained, rather than armies of cavalry and infantry, burdensome with vast expenses; and a small larder subject to no man's envy, rather than treasuries exposed to the covetous desires and rapacious violence of all men. Thus while Gyges tried to induce the god to agree with his vain opinion, he learnt of what true and solid happiness consists.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.151 }

II.   Of things wisely said or done

I Will now treat of that sort of felicity, which is altogether in the attitude of the mind, and is not to be obtained by wishes, but is bred in the breasts of wise men, and displays itself by things famously said or done.

[2.1] L   It is reported that Appius Claudius often used to say, that the people of Rome were better to be trusted with business than with idleness; because although he understood the pleasure of a calm condition, he found that great empires were excited to virtue by the vicissitude and agitation of human affairs, but lulled into slothfulness  by excessive quiet. And certainly business, that has an irksome name, preserved the customs of our city in their best condition but leisure, that has a softer name, first filled it full of vice.

[2.2] L   Scipio Africanus used to say, that in military affairs, it was a shameful thing to say, "I had not expected it." He believed that the military affairs ought to be carried on with a serious and well-examined deliberation. He was clearly right, for that error is never to be retrieved, that is committed in the heat of war. The same person denied that an enemy was to be fought with, except when there was a favourable opportunity, or a pressing necessity. Both of these were prudently said. For to omit an opportunity of acting with success, is the greatest madness in the world. And he that is compelled to the necessity of giving battle, yet abstains from fighting, shows a piece of sloth with dire consequences. And of those that commit these mistakes, one part knows not how to make use of the benefit of Fortune, the other knows not how to resist the malice of Fortune.     { see also: Gellius 13.3 }

[2.3] L   It was also both a grave and a lofty saying, which Q. Metellus spoke in the senate. Upon the destruction of Carthage he plainly confessed, that he knew not whether that victory would bring more advantage or more mischief to the commonwealth. For as it was advantageous by the peace which it occasioned, so by removing Hannibal, it had done harm. For by his march into Italy, the dormant courage of the Romans was roused up. And it was to be feared, that being freed from so formidable a rival, it would relapse into its former drowsiness. So that he reckoned it to be as great a mischief for the sinews of their ancient strength to be weakened, as for their houses to be burnt, their lands to be laid waste, and their treasuries to be emptied.     { see also: Plutarch Mor_88A  }

[2.4] L   How prudent an act was that of Fimbria the ex-consul! When he was made an arbitrator by M. Lutatius Pinthia, a Roman knight, upon a wager that he had made with an adversary of his, "that he was an honourable man," he refused to deliver his judgment, lest he should injure the fame of a unblemished person by pronouncing against him, or affirm him to be a good man, when that depended on so many different qualities.     { see also: Cicero Off_3.77 }

[2.5] L   Moving away from the forum, we will relate a military act of prudence. Papirius Cursor, as consul, desired to rise from the siege of Aquilonia and give battle to the enemy. He was told by the keeper of the sacred chickens that the auspices were good, when that was not true. Afterwards being informed of the error, he took it however for a good omen to him and his army, and gave battle.  But he placed the miscreant in the fore-front, so that the gods, if angry, might take revenge upon the right person. And it happened so, whether by chance or by divine providence, that the first weapon which was thrown by the enemy, hit the chicken-keeper's breast, and struck him dead. When the consul was told of this, with renewed confidence, he fell upon the enemy and captured Aquilonia. So quickly did he apprehend, which way the wrong done to him as general was to be avenged; how violated religion was to be expiated; and how victory was to be obtained. He acted as a strict man, and a religious  consul, and a courageous general: with one kind of thought forcing at the same time the limits of fear, the manner of punishment, and the means of hope.     { see also: Livy 10.40 }

[2.6] L   Now I will pass on to the acts of the senate. Claudius Nero and Livius Salinator were sent as consuls against Hannibal; these two men were equal in virtue, but they were very hostile towards each another. The senate set out to make them friends, so that they might not neglect the public good because of their private dissensions. For unless there be a true concord in such commands, there is a greater desire to keep another from doing good, than to act well themselves. But where there is an inveterate hatred, they are greater opponents to one another, than the enemy they go to fight with.     { see also: Livy 27.35 }

These same men were accused by Cn. Baebius, a tribune of the plebs, on account of their severity in their censorship, but by decree of the senate they were freed from coming to trial. The senate relieved from the fear of judgment that high honour, which ought to demand, not to give an account.     { see also: Livy 29.37 }

The same wisdom of the senate put Ti. Gracchus the tribune to death, for daring to promulgate an agrarian law: yet the senate most prudently ordered, that the land should be divided among each of their people by the triumvirs, in accordance with the law. Thus, at the same time, they removed both the instigator and the cause of a most turbulent sedition.

How prudently did the Senate behave  towards to king Masinissa ! For when they had experienced the faithful and ready service which he had provided to them against the Carthaginians, and observed that he was quite eager to extend his kingdom, they made a law, whereby they gave Masinissa complete freedom from the power of the people of Rome. By which act, they not only reclaimed the kindness of a person, who had so well deserved of them, but secured themselves from the barbarity of the Numidians, Mauritanians and other adjoining nations, who previously would never rest at peace.


I would need a great length of time to relate all our domestic examples; for our empire increases and protects it self, not only by strength of body, but by vigour of mind. Therefore let Roman prudence be put aside for the most part in silent admiration, and give way to foreign examples of this nature. 

[2e.1] L   Socrates, a kind of earthly oracle of human wisdom, used to say, that there was nothing else to be asked of the immortal gods, except that they would be pleased to give us what things were good for us; because they know what is profitable for everyone; but for our part, we often crave those things, which it were better we should be without. For, oh mortal mind, wrapped up in thick clouds of darkness, how do you spread your blind prayers into wide error! You covet riches, so pernicious to many. You desire honours, fatal to multitudes. You grasp at royal power, which is often overwhelmed with calamity. You lay hands on splendid marriages, which as they ennoble, as oftentimes destroy whole families. Cease then foolishly to yearn for the future causes of many mischiefs, as if they were the only happinesses to be enjoyed, but submit yourself to the judgment of heaven. For they that are able to give blessings, are also able to make the best choice.     { see also: Plato Alcib_2.143a }

Socrates also used to say, that they took a very short and direct way to honour, who so behaved themselves, as to be really such, as they would seem to be. By this he openly admonished us, that men should rather follow virtue itself, than the mere shadow of virtue.      { see also: Cicero Off_2.43 }

The same person, when a young man asked him whether he should marry, or altogether abstain from wedlock, answered that whichever he did, he would be sure to repent. For on the one hand, he, said there is solitude, lack of children, extinction of family, and a man's property inherited by a stranger. On the other hand, there is perpetual worry, continual wrangling, haggling about the dowry, the frowns of relatives, the prattling of the mother-in-law, and the snares of cuckoldry, with uncertain hopes of children. Thus he would not suffer the young man, in a context of difficulties, to make his choice as if in a matter of pleasure and delight.     { see also: Diogenes 2.33 }

The same person, when the wicked fury of the Athenians had pronounced sentence against his life, and he had received the deadly poison given to him by the hand of the public executioner, with a brave and constant resolution, put the cup to his mouth, and replied to his wife Xanthippe, who was crying out in the midst of tears and lamentations that he would die though he was innocent, "What then? Would you prefer that I should die as an offender?" Oh profound wisdom, that! It would not forget itself, even at the very end of life.     { see also: Diogenes 2.35 }

[2e.2] L   How wisely did Solon declare, that no man could be reckoned happy, while he was yet alive - because he was subject to the doubtful chances of fortune, even until the last gasp. Therefore the funeral pyre consummates the end of human felicity, protecting it from any further assaults of misfortune.     { see also: Herodotus 1.32 }

The same person, when he beheld one of his friends afflicted with grief, brought him to a high tower, and bid him survey every part of the buildings below: when he had done this, "Consider now," said Solon, "how many reasons for lamentation formerly there were, still are, and will be in future under those lowly roofs; and cease to bewail the common misfortunes of mortals, as if they were unique to you." By which act of consolation he showed, that cities were but the miserable cages of human woes. The same person use to say, that if all people were forced to make a heap of their misfortunes in one place, it would so happen, that every man would rather carry his own home again, than bear a share of the common heap. From this he concluded, that we ought not to reckon as especially and intolerably bitter those things, which we happen to suffer.

[2e.3] L   Bias, when the enemy had invaded his native country of Priene, and all people who were able to get safe away from the ravage of war were fleeing, laden with the weight of what they esteemed most precious, was asked why he carried away none of his own goods. "But I," said he, "am carrying all my goods around with me." For he carried them in his breast, not upon his shoulders; they were not to be seen by the eye, but to be prized by the mind. Because they are preserved in the little sanctuary of the mind, they are not to be injured by the hands either of gods or mortals: and just as they are always at hand for those who are at home, so they never desert those who flee away.     { see also: Cicero Parad_8 }

[2e.4] L   Short in words, but abounding in sense was the saying of Plato, who said that the world would then be happy, when wise men reigned, or kings began to be wise.     { see also: Plato Rep_473c-d }

[2e.5] L   Perceptive also was that king, who, as they report, when the diadem was brought to him, before he put it upon his head, held it in his hand; and having a long time contemplated it, said: "Oh noble rather than fortunate cloth, which he who knew what cares, dangers, and miseries it carried, would not even lift up from the ground."

[2e.6] L   How much to be applauded was the answer of Xenocrates ! When he was listening to the rancorous speeches of others in absolute silence, and was asked why he alone kept a rein on his tongue, he answered, "Because I have sometimes repented of speaking, but never of holding my tongue."     { see also: Plutarch Mor_125D }

[2e.7] L   The precept of Aristophanes is also extremely prudent, who in one of his comedies brings in Pericles the Athenian, sent back from the underworld, to advise that a lion must not to be nurtured in the city, but if it is, it would be wise to take comply with it. He means, that the active wits of noble and stirring youth ought to be curbed: but being fed with over-much favour and profuse indulgence, let them not be hindered from gaining power. For it is a vain and unprofitable thing to resist the force which has been fostered by yourself.     { see also: Aristophanes Frogs_1431 }

[2e.8] L   It was wonderfully said by Thales; who when he was asked whether the deeds of men escaped the knowledge of the gods, replied, "Not [even] their thoughts." He implied that we ought not only to preserve our hands clean, but our minds pure, if we believe our thoughts to be known to the gods.     { see also: Diogenes 1.36 }

[2e.9] L   No less prudent is that which follows. The father of an only child consulted Themistocles, whether he should marry her to an accomplished poor man, or a rich man of no ability? He responded, "I would rather choose a man, said he, lacking money, than money wanting a man." By this saying he advised a fool to choose a son-in-law, rather than the wealth of a son-in-law.     { see also: Cicero Off_2.71 }

[2e.10] L   Much to be applauded was the letter of Philip, in which he chides Alexander, for attempting to ingratiate himself with large gifts into the favour of some of the Macedonians. "What reason, son, brought you to this vain hope, that you should think those persons will be faithful to you, whose goodwill you have to purchase with money?". This was spoken with fatherly affection, but also from experience; for Philip himself was more often a purchaser, than a victor of Greece.     { see also: Cicero Off_2.53 }

[2e.11] L   Aristotle, when he sent his pupil Callisthenes to Alexander, advised him either to say nothing to the king, or else to speak pleasantly, evidently so that in the hearing of the king he would be either safer by his silence or more acceptable by what he said. But Callisthenes, when he reproved Alexander, because he prided himself to have the Macedonians salute him after the manner of the Persian flattery, and sought to reclaim him against his will to the ancient customs of his forefathers, was ordered to be put to death, and too late repented his neglect of the wholesome advice that had been given him.     { see also: Plutarch Alex_54 }

Aristotle also  taught, that it was not becoming to speak either way of oneself. For to praise oneself was a vanity; to speak ill of oneself, a folly. Another most wholesome precept it of his was, that we should consider pleasures as they depart from us. By representing them in this way he diminished their power; for so he showed them as fainting and full of repentance, which rendered them the less desirable.

[2e.12] L   No less prudent was Anaxagoras, who was asked whom he thought the happiest person. "None of those," said he, "whom you imagine to be happy; but you will find him among the number of those whom you reckon unfortunate." Not the person that abounds in riches, but the one who cultivates a small farm, or the faithful and steadfast follower of unassuming studies; more happy in withdrawal than in outward show.

[2e.13] L   Wise also was the saying of Demades. For when the Athenians refused to attribute divine honours to Alexander; "Beware, "said he, "lest while you are so careful in preserving heaven, you may lose the earth."

[2e.14] L   How subtly did Anacharsis compare the laws to spiders' webs! For as they detained the weaker creatures, and let go the stronger; so the laws bound the poor and needy, and let go the rich and powerful.     { see also: Plutarch Solon_5 }

[2e.15] L   Nothing could be more prudent than this act of Agesilaus. For when he discovered a conspiracy against the Lacedaemonian state by night, he promptly abrogated the laws of Lycurgus, that forbade the punishment of those who were not convicted. After having apprehended and put to death the offenders, he promptly restored the laws again: providing both ways, that wholesome punishment should not be thought unjust, nor be prevented by law. Therefore so that the laws might exist for ever, it was necessary, that for some time they should not exist.     { see also: Plutarch Ages_30 }

[2e.16] L   But perhaps the advice of Hanno was even more eminently prudent. For when Mago related the outcome of the battle of Cannae to the senate of Carthage, and produced as evidence of the success three modii of gold rings taken from the fingers of our citizens who had been killed, he asked whether any of their allies had revolted from the Romans after so great a defeat. When he heard that none had deserted to Hannibal, he promptly advised, that ambassadors should be sent to Rome to treat for peace. If this advice had been followed,  Carthage would not have been defeated in the Second, nor destroyed in the Third Punic War.     { see also: Livy 23.12-13 }

[2e.17] L   Nor did the Samnites pay less severely for the same error, when they neglected the wholesome advice of Herennius Pontius. He, excelling the rest in authority and prudence, was consulted by the army, and his own son, who was commander of the army, as to what they should do with the Roman legions trapped at the Caudine Forks. He replied, that they should be sent home untouched. The next day being asked the same question, he replied, that they should be all killed. - so that either they might merit the goodwill of an enemy by an extraordinary kindness, or impair his force by a considerable loss. But the insolent rashness of the victors, despising both counsels of profit and advantage, by putting the Romans under the yoke, inflamed them to their own ruin.     { see also: Livy 9.3 }

[2e.18] L   To many and great examples of prudence, I will add one small one. The Cretans when they would most vehemently curse those they hate, wish that they may take pleasure in bad habits. And in the modesty of their wish, they find a most efficacious event for their revenge. For to desire something pointless, and to persevere in that desire, is a pleasure next to ruin.

III.   Of things craftily spoken or done

There is another sort of saying and deed, coming down  from wisdom to the name of cunning: which would not meet with approval of what is propounded, if it did not assume the force of craftiness; and it seeks for praise rather in a hidden path, than in an open way.

[3.1] L   In the reign of Servius Tullius, a certain father of a household in the Sabine territories had a cow of an extraordinary size and beauty. The interpreters of oracles said that this was sent into the world by the immortal gods, to the end that whoever offered it to Diana on the Aventine, his country would obtain the empire over the whole world. The master, rejoicing to hear such news, drove the beast with all speed to Rome, and presented it before the altar of Diana on the Aventine, with the hope of giving supreme power over the human race to the Sabines. When the high priest of the temple learnt of this, he advised the owner, that before he slew the sacrifice, he should wash himself in the water of the nearby river. When for that reason he hastened to the channel of the Tiber, in his absence the high priest offered the beast, and by his pious theft of the sacrifice, rendered our city the mistress of so many cities and nations.     { see also: Livy 1.45 }

[3.2] L   For sharpness of intellect, Junius Brutus is in the first place to be commended. For when he observed that all the promising noblemen were being cut down by king Tarquinius, his uncle, and his brother had been put to death by him because of his high intelligence, he pretended to be a fool; and by that pretence he concealed his own great abilities. Going also to Delphi with the sons of Tarquinius, whom their father sent thither with rich presents and sacrifices in honour of Pythian Apollo, he carried gold as a present to the god, hid in a hollow stick; fearing that it was not safe to worship the celestial deity with overt lavishness. After that, the young men, having performed their father's commands, consulted Apollo, which among them all would be the person who ruled over Rome. The god made answer, that he should obtain the sovereignty, who gave his mother the first kiss. Then Brutus threw himself down, as if he had fallen by chance, and kissed the earth, as the common mother of all things. This crafty kiss, given to the earth, gave liberty to our city, and the first place in our fasti to Brutus.     { see also: Livy 1.56 }

[3.3] L   The elder Scipio also used the aid of cunning. For when he was going to sail from Sicily into Africa, he wanted to create a squadron of three hundred cavalrymen out of the bravest men in the Roman infantry. Though he did not have sufficient time to equip them, he overcame the shortness of time and attained his objective by a clever ruse. For out of the young men he had with him, who were the noblest and the richest in all of Sicily but were unarmed, he chose three hundred, whom he ordered to equip themselves with splendid weapons and select horses as quickly as possible, as if he intended to take them along with him to attack Carthage. When they obeyed his command, promptly but with some anxiety about a distant and dangerous war, Scipio told them, he would release them from the expedition, upon condition they would hand over their weapons and horses to his soldiers. The young men, being effeminate and fearful, eagerly accepted the condition, and willingly handed over their equipment to our soldiers. By this the clever general ensured, that what would have been considered severe, if abruptly commanded, was looked upon as a great benefit, when the fear of military service was removed.     { see also: Livy 29.1 }

[3.4] L   That which follows is also worth relating. Q. Fabius Labeo was appointed by the senate as an arbitrator to settle the boundaries between Nola and the Neapolis. When they came to the business, he warned both sides separately, that laying aside all greed, they should rather yield, than grasp for too much. When both sides had agreed to this, persuaded by his authority, there was still some ground in the middle left spare. Thereupon, setting the boundaries as they had agreed to, he awarded what was left to the people of Rome. Though neither the Nolans nor the Neapolitans could in justice complain, because the decision had been given with their consent; yet it was a shameless piece of trickery that brought new revenues to our city.     { see also: Cicero Off_1.33  }

This same person, when according to the treaty he was entitled to have half the fleet of king Antiochus, whom he had defeated in war, cut all the ships in two, and so deprived him of the whole fleet.     { see also: Livy 38.39 }

[3.5] L   We should perhaps excuse M. Antonius, who said, that he never published any speech, in order that if any previous statement of his should happen to work against the man whom he next defended, he might claim that he never spoke it. This seemed like a reasonable excuse for an act that was hardly creditable. For he was ready not only to make use of his eloquence, but to diminish his sense of honesty in order to save his client.     { see also: Cicero Clu_140 }

[3.6] L   Sertorius, upon whom Nature had with an equal indulgence bestowed both strength of body, and wisdom in strategy, was compelled to become general of the Lusitanians by the proscription of Sulla. When he could by no means persuade them not to fight with the whole army of the Romans, by a crafty scheme he brought them to do as he intended. For he placed in the sight of all the Lusitanians two horses, one a strong beast, the other weak and feeble. Then he caused the tail of the strong horse to be pulled hair by hair from him, by a weak old man; and the tail of the weak horse to be torn all at once from him, by a young fellow of exceptional strength. When his commands were obeyed,  the young man toiled in vain, but the decrepit old man achieved his task. Then to let the assembly of barbarians understand the meaning of this spectacle, he added that the Roman army was like the tail of the horse, which might be easily overcome in parts; but that whoever assailed the whole body, would lose rather than gain the victory. Thus that barbarous rough-hewn nation, rushing on to their own destruction, saw with their eyes the advantages which their ears had ignored.     { see also: 76/6 }

[3.7] L   Fabius Maximus, whose role it was to overcome by abstaining from fighting, had in his camp a Nolan infantryman of great courage, yet of dubious loyalty, and a Lucanian cavalryman, who served vigorously but was in love with a courtesan. In order that he might not lose the assistance of two such soldiers by punishing them, he hid his suspicion of the former, and as to the latter he somewhat exceeded the bounds of just discipline. For by praising the one on his public tribunal, and loading him with all manner of commendations, he made him loyal to the Romans, and an enemy to the Carthaginians; and the other he allowed to redeem his mistress privately, so that he might become even more keen and active on our side.     { see also: Plutarch Fab_20 }

[3.8] L   I will come now to those that saved themselves by cunning. When M. Volusius, a plebeian aedile, was proscribed, he disguised himself in the costume of a priest of Isis, begging as he travelled along the road, and thus kept himself from being recognised. In this disguise he reached the camp of M. Brutus. What could be more miserable than the necessity, which constrained a magistrate of the Roman people, laying aside the honour of his position, under the disguise of a foreign religion to beg as he went from town to town? But all such men were either too fond of life, or too covetous of the death of others, who could either endure such things themselves, or compel others to undergo such difficulties.     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.47 }

[3.9] L   Somewhat more noble was the ploy used to escape from doom by Sentius Saturninus Vetulo, who upon hearing that his name was among those proscribed by the triumvirs, promptly grasped the emblems of authority held by the praetor, and hired some men to walk in front of him in the guise of lictors and attendants. He seized vehicles, occupied lodgings, and forced bystanders to move out of his way; and he did it all with such conviction, that in the midst of all his enemies, he hid himself from their sight in plain daylight. After that, coming to Puteoli and pretending that he was there on public business, he acted in such a way, that he persuaded a vessel to carry him without hindrance into Sicily, the safe refuge of proscribedmen at that time.     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.45 }

[3.10] L   One more small example, and then on to foreigners. A certain person, who was extraordinarily indulgent towards his son, wished to rescue him from a dangerous and illicit love affair, and combined his paternal indulgence with the cunning of wholesome scheme. For he asked him before he went to his mistress, to make use of that sort of intercourse which was common and permitted. Whereupon the young man, in obedience to his father's request, found himself satiated by a lawful act, and ceased to pursue any farther the unlawful object of his passions.


[3e.1] L   Alexander king of the Macedonians, was warned by an oracle that he should put to death whoever he met first coming out of the gate. He met a driver of asses, whom he promptly commanded to be carried off to execution. The ass-driver thereupon asked him, why he wanted to kill an innocent person, who had done him no offence? When the king repeated the command of the oracle to him, "If it be so, O king," said the ass-driver, the oracle intended another to die, and not me: for the ass that I drove met you before I did." Alexander was pleased with the crafty response of the poor fellow, and willing to be recalled from his error, took the opportunity to satisfy religion with the death of a lesser animal. Here was extraordinary mildness joined with cleverness; but what follows is even more extraordinary cleverness in another king's groom. 

[3e.2] L   When the sordid regime of the magi was overthrown, Darius the king, joining with six others of the same dignity, made a noble contract with them, that they should go on horseback by sunrise to a certain place, and that he should become king,  whose horse was the first to neigh. But while the other competitors for so great an honour only waited upon Fortune, Darius by the pure imagination of Oebaris the groom of his horse, attained his wish. For when they came to the place, he put his hand which he had but a little before thrust into the privy parts of a mare, up to the nostrils of his master's stallion, who was excited by the scent and immediately neighed. As soon as the other competitors heard this, they immediately leapt from their horses, and prostrating themselves upon the ground ( as is the custom of the Persians ) they saluted Darius as king. How vast an empire was thus obtained by one small piece of cunning!     { see also: Herodotus 3.85-87 }

[3e.3] L   Bias, whose reputation for wisdom has been more lasting among men than his city of Priene, (for the one still remains, but the vestiges of the other are close to the extinction) used to say, that men ought so to engage in matters of friendship, as to remember, that it might change into the severest enmity. This precept at first sight seems to be rather devious, and not in keeping with the sincerity, which is the delight of friendship. But look upon it with a more careful consideration, and it will be found very profitable.     { see also: Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.13.4 (1389b) }

[3e.4] L   The safety of the city of Lampsacus was ensured by one act of cunning. When Alexander was wholly intent on destroying it, he saw his teacher Anaximenes coming towards him outside the walls; and in case his pleas should assuage his anger, he swore not to grant whatever he petitioned for. "Then," said Anaximenes, "my petition is, that you should destroy Lampsacus." His quick wits saved the city, so famous for its antiquity, from the destruction which was destined for it.     { see also: Pausanias 6.18.2-4 }

[3e.5] L   The cunning of Demosthenes was also a notable help to a maid, who had received money from two guests to keep, upon condition that she should return the money to them when they came both together. After some time, one of them in mourning clothes, as if his friend had died, came and deceitfully took the whole of the money. When she had given it, the other came and demanded his share. The poor girl was at a loss, not only for the money deposited, but also for sufficient money to defend herself at law; and she thought of hanging herself. But fortunately for her, Demosthenes undertook her case. "The woman," said he, "is ready to pay the money deposited in her custody; but unless you can bring the other person along with you, the contract forbids her to pay it. For it was agreed between you, that the money should not be paid back, until you both came together."

[3e.6] L   Nor was the following imprudently done. A certain Athenian, hated by all the people, expected to have to plead for his life before them. Suddenly he  came forward as a candidate for the highest magistracy among them; not that he expected to obtain his desire, but so that the people might have a means of blunting the initial sharpness of their anger, which is usually the keenest. Nor did this plan deceive him: for when the people had spent all their malice in hissing him out the assembly, and had disgraced him by their rejection, when he came to plead for his life, their malice turned into compassion, as if they had done enough against him already. But if he had defended his life among them while they were thirsting after revenge, he would have found their ears closed to all mercy.

[3e.7] L   Similar was the following piece of cunning. The elder Hannibal, after being defeated by the consul Duilius in a naval battle, feared that the loss of his fleet would be punished severely; but by an remarkable act of cleverness, he mitigated his crime. For before the news of his defeat reached home, he sent one of his friends, who was suitably prepared, to Carthage. This friend came into the senate house, and said, "Hannibal has sent me to discuss with you whether, if he meets the Roman admiral and finds him arrayed with a large number of ships, he should fight with him or not." When the whole senate were unanimously in favour of fighting, "Then," said he, "he has indeed fought, and has been defeated."  By then it was too late for them to condemn the action, which they themselves had approved.     { see also: 259/3 }

[3e.8] L   The other Hannibal, finding that Fabius Maximus's policy of delay was hindering his victories, in order to make him suspected of spinning out the war, spared only the farm of Fabius, while he was ravaging all other parts of Italy with fire and sword. And this cunning act of kindness would have taken effect, had not the honesty of Fabius and the wily tricks of Hannibal been too well known to the city of Rome.     { see also: Livy 22.23 }

[3e.9] L   The Tusculans also saved themselves by the cleverness of their plans. For when by their frequent rebellions they deserved the total destruction of their city, and Furius Camillus was sent for this purpose with a very powerful army, they all came forth to meet him wearing their togas, bringing him provisions, and offering him all other acts of peace and friendship. They even allowed him to enter their walls while armed, without changing either their countenance or their clothes. By this persistence of theirs, they not only obtained our friendship, but also also were granted citizenship of our city. They practised a wise restraint, since they knew that it was easier to disguise their fear with favours than to protect it with arms.     { see also: Livy 6.25-26  }

[3e.10] L   But the stratagem of Tullus, general of the Volsci, was wicked. He was eager to make war upon the Romans, but found that after losing several battles, his own people were more inclined to peace. By a deceitful plan, he made them do what he wanted. For when a great multitude of the Volsci had gone to Rome to behold the games, he told the consuls that he was afraid they would cause some mischief, being so numerous; and he advised them to be careful, and promptly left the city himself. The consuls related this to the Senate, who though they had no suspicion of it, yet upon Tullus's words, voted that the Volsci should be made to depart from the city before nightfall. The Volsci were incensed by this contemptuous treatment, and were easily induced to start a rebellion. Thus by a lie, masked as kindness, a cunning general deceived two nations: the Romans were persuaded to mistreat the innocent, and the Volsci were misled into avenging the insult.     { see also: Livy 2.37 }

IV.   Of Stratagems

But this part of cunning is to be praised, as being free from all reproof: because we have no word to describe such deeds, we are forced to borrow the word 'stratagem' from the Greek.

[4.1] L   Fidenae, a city that kept the growing infancy of our city alert, and after nourishing her virtue with trophies and triumphs over her neighbours, taught her to aspire further afield, was attacked by Tullus Hostilius with all his forces. At that time Mettius Fufetius, the general of the Albans, when the two sides were ready to join battle, revealed the disloyalty in his heart, which he had a long time kept concealed. For leaving the wing of the Roman army, he withdrew to a hill, where he resolved to be a spectator rather than a participant; intending either to triumph over the vanquished, or to fall upon the weary victors. No doubt it discouraged our soldiers to see themselves deserted by their allies, at the very moment when they were going to fight their enemies. To counter this, Tullus rode swiftly around the battalions, crying out that Mettius had withdrawn at his command, and that he was to fall upon the rear of the Fidenates when he gave the signal. And by that cunning ruse of an expert general, he changed their fear into confidence, and filled their breasts with eagerness instead of consternation.     { see also: Livy 1.27 }

[4.2] L   And so that I may not immediately leave our kings: Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Tarquinius, who was disturbed to see that the Gabii could not be taken by his father's army, found out a trick more powerful than weapons themselves, whereby he overpowered the town, and joined it to the Roman empire. For he went over to the men of Gabii, pretending that he had escaped from his father's stripes and severity, which he had deliberately inflicted on himself. After that, procuring the goodwill of everyone by his kind and winning behaviour, so that he achieved great influence, he sent one of his attendants to his father, to tell him how he had everything in hand, and to ask what he should do. The crafty old man was equal to the young man's cunning. For Tarquinius, who was pleased with the news but did not venture to confide in the messenger, gave no answer, but taking him into the garden, struck off the heads of the highest and biggest poppies with his cane. The young man, when he was told of his silence, and what he had done, concluded there was another meaning in the thing: which was, that he should either banish or put to death all the leading men of the Gabii. By doing this he delivered up the city empty of defenders, even though the people's hands were not tied.     { see also: Livy 1.53-54 }

[4.3] L   Prudent also and successful was the action of our ancestors, when after the capture of our city, the Capitol was attacked by the Gauls, who despaired of taking it in any other way than by starving the besieged. For by a cunning ploy they deprived the victors of their only motive to that obstinacy, by throwing loaves of bread out of the Capitol into several parts of the besiegers' line. At the sight of this they were so astonished and thought us to be so well stocked that they were persuaded to raise their siege. Certainly Jupiter himself took compassion on Roman courage, which at that time took assistance from craft; he saw that in the greatest shortage, they threw away the support of life; and therefore he favoured the cunning but risky stratagem with a successful outcome.     { see also: Livy 5.48 }

[4.4] L   The same Jupiter afterwards looked kindly on the clever ploys of our generals. For when Hannibal harassed one side of Italy, and Hasdrubal had invaded the other; so that the combined forces of two brothers might not too heavily and sorely oppress the already weakened condition of our state, Claudius Nero offered his vigorous advice, and Livius Salinator providently prepared for it. For while Nero was curbing Hannibal in the territory of the Lucanians, though making a pretence of still watching the enemy, he hastened with long and speedy marches to the assistance of his colleague - for so the conduct of the war required. Salinator, who was then in Umbria by the river Metaurus, and had resolved to fight on the next day, with extraordinary secrecy received Nero by night. For he ordered the tribunes to be received by the tribunes, the centurions by the centurions, the cavalry by the cavalry, the infantry by the infantry; and so without any disruption, he merged two armies into one, in the same space that was hardly able to contain the army which he had before. Therefore it happened that Hasdrubal was not aware that he was fighting with two  consuls, before he had been defeated by the virtue of them both. And thus Punic trickery, so infamous over all the world, was itself outwitted: while Roman prudence delivered up Hannibal to the wiles of Nero, and Hasdrubal to the deceit of Salinator.     { see also: Livy 27.46 }

[4.5] L   Memorable also was the ruse of Q. Metellus, who as proconsul was fighting against the Celtiberians in Spain, and found himself unable to capture by force Contrebia, the capital city of that country. After turning over many ideas in his mind, at length he found a way to achieve his objective. He made tedious marches, sometimes he fell upon one region, sometimes upon another; sometimes he assailed some mountains, and then sometimes others: and all the while, even his own officers, as well as the enemy, were amazed to see him whirl from one place to another in that manner. Therefore he was asked by one of his intimate friends, why he waged such a haphazard and scattered kind of war. "Do not ask," said he, "for if I thought my shirt knew the meaning of my plan, I would cause it to be burnt." How far did this dissimulation extend? Or what was the outcome of it? When he had drawn both his own army and the enemy into the same error, pretending to march another way, he suddenly turned back and fell upon Contrebia, which he took unawares.  But if he had not allowed his thoughts to search after tricks and stratagems, he might have remained outside Contrebia for all the days of his life.     { see also: Plutarch Mor_202A }


[4e.1] L   Agathocles, king of the Syracusans, was bold in his cunning. For when the Carthaginians had occupied the greater part of his city, he transported his army into Africa, to dispel fear by fear, and force by force - and not without success. For the Carthaginians, frightened by his sudden arrival, willingly reclaimed their own security by granting the safety of the enemy; so that it was agreed, that at the same time Africa should be freed from the Sicilians, and Sicily from the Carthaginians. If he had persevered to defend the walls of Syracuse, they would have still been vexed with the miseries of war, while Carthage was enjoying the benefits of peace. But now he threatened her with the same ruin, while he invaded the wealth and property of others, rather than defending his own; and because he sensibly deserted his own kingdom, so he received it back again more safely.     { see also: Justin 22.4-6 }

[4e.2] L   What about Hannibal at the battle of Cannae - did he not ensnare the Roman army in many entanglements of clever stratagems, before he went to fight? In the first place he took care to have the sun and wind, which causes storms of dust, facing them. Then at the very time of fighting, he caused a great part of his army to pretend to flee; and when a Roman legion followed in pursuit, as they were separated from the rest of the army, he ensured that they should be cut to pieces by the ambush which he had laid to entrap them. Then he ordered four hundred cavalrymen to go to the consul in the guise of deserters; they were commanded to lay aside their weapons, and to withdraw to the rear of the army, as is customary for deserters; but in the heat of the battle, they drew their swords, which they had hidden between their tunics and their breastplates, and cut the hams of the Roman soldiers. Thus was Punic courage supplied with deceit, ambush, and trickery; which excuses our own courage for being so circumvented, because we were rather deceived, than defeated.     { see also: 216/23 }

V.   Of Rejections

If the character of the Campus Martius is well represented, it may also instruct ambitious men more strenuously to withstand the unsuccessful outcome of elections. When the rejections suffered by eminent and famous men are set before their eyes, they may stand for office not with less hope but with a more prudent attitude of mind; and they may remember, that it is no crime for something to be denied by all to one man, when sometimes single persons have thought it lawful to resist the wishes of all; and they may know that what cannot be obtained by favour, must be sought with patience.

[5.1] L   Q. Aelius Tubero, when he was asked to fit out a banqueting hall by Fabius Maximus, who was giving a feast to the people in the name of P. Africanus his uncle, spread Punic couches with goat-skins; and instead of silver dishes, brought forth Samian ware. By which stinginess he so offended all the people, that when he stood for praetor, depending upon L. Paullus his grandfather, and P. Africanus his uncle, he was forced to undergo the shame of a rejection. For though privately they approved thriftiness, yet publicly they were very keen to be lavish. And therefore the city, believing that not just the guests of one banquet, but all her inhabitants had reclined upon goat-skins, avenged the dishonour of the banquet, by the shame of not giving him their votes.     { see also: Cicero Mur_75 }

[5.2] L   P. Scipio Nasica, the glory of the toga, who as consul proclaimed war against Jugurtha, whose holy hands received the Idaean Mother when she left Phrygia to grace our altars and our dwelling-places, who by the strength of his authority suppressed many dangerous seditions, who was princeps senatus for many years, when he was a young man, stood as a candidate to be curule aedile. He took a certain person by the hand, whom he grasped with his own, and finding his friend's hand to be hardened with labour, he asked him, whether he used to walk upon his hands. This question being heard by the bystanders, came to be known by all the people, and caused Scipio to be rejected. For all the rustic tribes thought that he was mocking their poverty, and discharged their anger against his insulting jest. Thus our city, by restraining the wit of noble youths from insolence, made them great and profitable citizens; and added a due weight to honours, by not allowing those who sought them to be certain of success.     { see also: Cicero Planc_51 }

[5.3] L   There was no such error to be found in Aemilius Paullus; and yet several times he stood for the consulship in vain. However, the same person, who had wearied the field with his rejections, was afterwards made twice consul and censor, and reached the highest peak of honour. His misfortunes did not break his virtue , but sharpened it; for being inflamed at the dishonour, he brought to the field a more eager desire to obtain the supreme dignity, so that he might overcome the people by his perseverance, since he could not stir them by the splendour of his nobility and the capabilities of his mind.

[5.4] L   Only a few, and those disconsolate friends, accompanied Q. Caecilius Metellus as he went home, ashamed and full of grief, after he suffered rejection in his bid to be consul; and yet afterwards the whole senate and people followed him readily and jovially to the Capitol, when he triumphed over Pseudo-Philip. The greatest part also of the Achaean War, to which Mummius lent the finishing touches, was accomplished by this person. Could the people then deny the consulship to him, to whom they owed, or were likely to owe two most famous provinces? And yet that action they made him a better citizen; for he thought he should carry himself the more industriously in the consulship, because he found it so hard to be obtain it.

[5.5] L   Who was more powerful or more prosperous than L. Sulla ? He disposed of empires and kingdoms; he abrogated old laws, and made new ones; and yet in that field of which he was afterwards master, he was rejected from the praetorship when he stood for it. He would have obtained all the places of the office that he sought, if by chance some god had revealed to the Roman people the form and appearance of his future greatness.     { see also: Plutarch Sull_5 }

[5.6] L   But to relate the greatest crime of the elections: M. Porcius Cato, who was more likely to grace the praetorship with the gravity of his conduct, than to receive any addition of splendour from it, once failed to obtain it from the people. These were the votes of madmen, and how well were they paid for the error they committed! For the honour which they denied to Cato, they were forced to give to Vatinius. And therefore to speak the truth, the praetorship was not then denied to Cato, but Cato was denied to the praetorship.     { see also: Plutarch CatMin_42 }

VI.   Of Necessity

Most bitter are the laws of abominable Necessity, and most severe her commands, which have compelled not only our city, but also foreign nations to suffer many things that are grievous, not only to comprehend, but even to hear.

[6.1] L   In the Second Punic War, when after several defeats there were no more young Roman men of military age available, the senate, on the motion of Ti. Gracchus the consul, decreed that slaves might be bought by the state, to fight against the enemy. When the tribunes reported this to the people, three persons were appointed, who collected twenty four thousand slaves. After the slaves took an oath that they would be true, faithful and courageous, while the Carthaginians remained in Italy, they sent them away to the camp. Out of Apulia also, two hundred and seventy men were bought from the Paediculi to supplement the cavalry. How great is the strength of bitter Fortune! That city which till that time loathed to have soldiers who were exempt from tax even though they were freeborn, that very city was now constrained to summon the bodies of slaves from their servile hovels, and other slaves from the huts of shepherds, to be the chief strength of their army. Proud spirits therefore must sometimes give way to convenience, and submit to the power of Fortune; he who does not choose the safest advice, while he tries to follow a more dignified course, meets with disaster. * Livy 22_57

The carnage of Cannae so alarmed our city, that by the efforts of M. Junius Pera, then managing the affairs of the commonwealth as dictator, the enemy spoils displayed in the temples consecrated to the gods, were taken down for the service of the war, and boys still in their toga praetexta were forced to take up arms; and six thousand debtors and condemned men were also enlisted out of necessity. These things considered in themselves, may seem rather discreditable; but weighed in the balance of necessity, they appear to be suitable aids for the savage situation at that time. * Livy 23.14

Because of the same defeat, the senate wrote back in answer to Otacilius and Cornelius Mammula, the one propraetor of Sicily, the other of Sardinia, who both complained that the allies were not providing either pay or provisions for their fleets and armies, while they themselves did not have the resources to provide them: that the senate had no money in the treasury for foreign expenses, and therefore instructed them to take the best course they could to provide for themselves. In this way  the senate moved the government quite out of their own hands, and in a few words abandoned Sicily and Sardinia, which were two of the kindest nurses of our city, the strength and support of their wars, subdued with so much blood and sweat, because of the severe demands of necessity.     { see also: Livy 23.21 }

[6.2] L   The men of Casilinum, who were suffering from lack of provisions, when they were closely besieged by Hannibal, took all the leather thongs from their everyday uses, and the leather covers from their shields, and boiling them in water were forced to feed upon them. Consider the bitterness of the calamity, and what could be more miserable? But if you consider their endurance, what greater mark of loyalty? Rather than desert the Romans, they chose to maintain themselves on this a sort of diet, when such fruitful fields, and such a fertile soil, lay so close to their walls. And so Casilinum, famous for the virtue of its residents, by the pledge of its steadfast friendship stung the eyes of the nearby city of Capua, which with its delights fostered the Punic savagery.     { see also: Livy 23.19  }

[6.3] L   When their town was so closely besieged, and so faithfully held out, it happened that one among the three hundred defenders of Praeneste caught a mouse, but preferred to sell it for two hundred denarii, rather than eat it himself, notwithstanding the famished condition he was in. But fate allotted both to the buyer and the seller, the end which they both deserved. For the covetous person starved to death, and could not enjoy the spoils of his avarice; but he who paid so much for his own preservation survived; though it was so expensive, yet that food was purchased out of necessity.     { see also: Strabo 5.249 }

[6.4] L   In the consulship of C. Marius and Cn. Carbo, who fought against Sulla in  a civil war, men did not strive for the victory of the commonwealth, but the commonwealth was to be the victor's prize. By a decree of the senate, the gold and silver ornaments of the temples were melted down, to pay the soldiers.  That was a worthy cause for robbing the immortal gods, to decide which side would be permitted to satiate their cruelty with a proscription of the citizens! But it was not the will of the conscript fathers, but yours, dire Necessity, that caused that order to be made.

[6.5] L   When the divine Julius's army - the unconquered right hand of an unconquered general - besieged Munda, and they lacked timber to raise up a rampart, they made up the height, which they needed, with the bodies of their dead enemies. And because they lacked stakes, they drove in their spears and javelins to strengthen them, as Necessity taught them a new method of fortification.     { see also: [Caesar] BHisp_32 }

[6.6] L   And to add  a mention of the divine son, to the remembrance of the celestial father: when it seemed that Phraates king of the Parthians was about to invade our provinces, and the adjoining regions were terrified at the sudden threat of a conflict, there was such a famine in the region of Bosporus, that the soldiers paid six thousand denarii for a single jar of oil, and exchanged one slave for each modius of wheat. But the care of Augustus, under whose protection the world then lay, soon provided a remedy for that calamity.


[6e.1] L   The Cretans had no such help. When they were besieged by Metellus, and reduced to the utmost extremity, they rather tormented than quenched their thirst with their own urine and the urine of their cattle. For in order to avoid defeat, they suffered something that the victors would not have forced them to endure.

[6e.2] L   The Numantines, when Scipio besieged them with a rampart and a mound, after they had consumed all other things, at length were forced to feed upon human flesh. So that when their city was captured, there were many of them were found with the joints and limbs of the slain in the folds of their clothes. But Necessity was no excuse for this; for there was no need for them to live like that, when it was possible for them to die.     { see also: Appian Hisp_96 }

[6e.3] L   But their obstinacy was surpassed by the horrid impiety of the people of Calagurris, in a similar evil. In order that they might appear more faithful to the ashes of the dead Sertorius, when they were besieged by Pompey, after devouring all other creatures in their city, they turned to feast upon their wives and children. And in order that the young soldiers might nourish their flesh with their own flesh for longer, they were not afraid to salt up the unfortunate remnants of their dead bodies. These were soldiers that you might urge in battle, to fight for the safety of their wives and children! It was more fitting for so great a general to punish such an enemy, than to seek for victory; for revenge would have brought him more (?) dignity, than victory could win him honour. In comparison with them snakes and wild beasts were gentle and merciful creatures. For the dear  pledges of life are more precious to those creatures than their own lives, but to the men of Calagurrris they were their dinners and suppers.     { see also: Juvenal 5.93-109 }

VII.   Of Cancelled Wills

Let us now go to that sort of business, which among all the actions of men, is the last thing done, and their chiefest care. And let us consider, which wills have been  cancelled after they were legally made; or which might have been cancelled but still stood firm; and which transferred the honour of inheritance to others than those who expected it.

[7.1] L   So that I may do this according to the order which I have proposed, I will begin with the father of a certain soldier, who hearing a false report of the death of his son from the army, appointed other as heirs in his will, and then died. When the young man returned home after the war had ended, he found the doors shut against him, on account of the error of his father, and the impudence of his friends. For how could they have shown themselves more shameless than they did? The soldier had spent the flower of his youth in his country's service, had undergone most dreadful labours and dangers, displayed the wounds which he had received in battle, and (?) they demanded that his ancestral inheritance might belong to themselves - lazy idlers who were a mere burden to the city. Therefore laying aside his arms, he was forced to commence a civil action in the forum. He contended against the wicked heirs for his father's estate in the court of the centumviri, where the judges gave not only their opinions, but all their votes in his favour.     { see also: Cicero DeOr_1.175 }

[7.2] L   The son of M. Anneius of Carseoli, an illustrious Roman knight, who was adopted by his uncle Sufenas, rescinded the will of his natural father, who had excluded him from it, by the verdict of the centumviral court, before whom he brought the case; even though Tullianus, the close friend of Pompey the Great, who was a witness to it, had been made an heir. Therefore he had to contend more with the power of an influential person, than with the ashes of his father. Yet though they both did what they could to hinder him, he obtained his father's estate. For L. Sextilius and P. Popillius, whom M. Anneius, as being his nearest relatives, had made heirs equally with Tullianus, did not venture to oppose the young man on oath, though they might have been tempted at that time by the great authority of Pompey, to have defended the written will, and it was some advantage to the heirs, that M. Anneius had been adopted into the family of Sufenas. But the strong tie of parenthood overcame both the father's will, and the authority of so great a personage.

[7.3] L   C. Tettius, a son born to Petronia, who was the wife of Tettius for as long as she lived, was disinherited by his father while he was an infant, but was restored to his inheritance by decree of the divine Augustus, who acted as the father of his country; because Tettius had so unjustly abrogated his name as the father of a son, who was (?)  legally born to him.

[7.4] L   Septicia also, the mother of the Trachali of Ariminum, being angry with her sons, out of spite when she was now past child-bearing age married Publicius an old man, and left both her children out of her will. They appealed to the divine Augustus, who both disapproved of the marriage, and annulled the will. For he decreed that the sons should have their mother's estate, and ordered the husband to restore her dowry; because she did not marry in expectation of having children. If Justice herself had given sentence in this case, could she have pronounced a fairer or weightier sentence? You despise your own children; you marry past child-bearing age; you break the custom of wills out of a violent temper and do not blush to give all your estate to a man, to whose feeble body you have prostituted your old age. And therefore, while you behave in this way, you have been cast down to hell by a heavenly thunderbolt.

[7.5] L   Famous is the judgment of C. Calpurnius Piso, the urban praetor. For when Terentius complained before him, that out of  the eight sons whom he had raised to be men, one whom he had given away in adoption, had disinherited him; he gave him possession of the young man's estate, and would not allow the heirs to go to law. No doubt the paternal authority of the man moved Calpurnius, together with the gift of life, and the benefit of an upbringing: but what moved him more, was the number of his other children that stood by, seeing seven brothers and a father impiously disinherited by one child.

[7.6] L   How weighty was the decree of Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus the consul! Genucius, a gallus of the Great Mother, obtained an edict from the urban praetor, Cn. Orestes, that the property of Naevius Anus should be restored to him, after the praetor had granted him possession of the property according to the will. Mamercus, upon receiving an appeal from Surdinius, whose freedman had left Genucius as his heir, revoked the praetor's decision, saying that Genucius, who had of his own accord allowed himself to be castrated, was not to be reckoned either a man or woman. This was a decree befitting Mamercus, and befitting the princeps senatus; by which he ensured that the tribunals of magistrates should not under the pretext of a legal claim be polluted by the obscene presence and scandalous voice of Genucius.

[7.7] L   Q. Metellus was a much more severe urban praetor than Orestes. He would not allow Vecilius the pimp to take possession of the property of Juventius, which had been left to him by will. For that noble and grave man considered that the condition of the forum and the brothel-house should be kept separate. Neither would he approve the act of that man, who had thrown away his property into a filthy house of ill repute; nor would he give the same rights to one who had abandoned every honourable form of life, as to a citizen of a good conduct.

VIII.   Of Wills that were confirmed, and Unexpected Inheritances

Being content with these examples of cancelled wills, let us touch upon those that have been confirmed, when there was reason enough for them to have been cancelled.

[8.1] L   How publicly and notoriously was Tuditanus known as a madman! He was a man who scattered coins among the people, and trailed his cloak after him in the forum, as if it was the garment of a tragic actor, to the amusement of all who beheld him; and besides he did many other things of the same nature. When he left his daughter as heir in his will, Ti. Longus in the court of the centumviri attempted to have it rescinded, since he was the next of kin - but without success. For the centumviri thought it more important to consider what was written in the will, than who had written it.     { see also: Cicero Phil_3.16  }

[8.2] L   The behaviour of Tuditanus was crazy, but Aebutia, who was the wife of L. Menenius Agrippa, made a will that was madness itself. For though she had two daughters of equal virtue, Plaetoria and Afronia, by her personal inclination rather than for any offence or miscarriage, she made only Plaetoria her heir; and to the children of Afronia, out of her vast estate, she left only twenty thousand sesterces. However Afronia would not contend at law with her sister, rather choosing patiently to honour her mother's will, than to overturn it in court. In this she showed herself all the more unworthy of such wrong treatment, by how patiently she bore it.

[8.3] L   Q. Metellus committed a womanish error that was less surprising. For he, though there were several eminent and famous young men of the same family living in our city at that time, and the family of the Claudii, to whom he was closely related, were then very numerous, left Carrinas as his sole heir; nor did anyone attempt to question his will.

[8.4] L   Likewise Pompeius Reginus, a man of the Transalpine region, was excluded by his brother from his will. To prove the injustice, in a full assembly of both orders he opened the two tablets of his own will in the comitium, and recited their contents, by which this brother was made heir of the greatest share, and further there was left to him the sum of fifteen million sesterces. After he had long complained to his friends who consoled him in his indignation, he decided not to trouble the ashes of his brother in a court of law. Yet the men, whom his brother had made his heirs, were so far from being as closely related as Reginus, that they were not even the next after him; but strangers and poor as well. So that his silence seemed to be shameful, and his preference to be insolent.

[8.5] L   The following wills were equally fortunate in their impunity, but they were perhaps even more offensive. Q. Caecilius by the diligent endeavour and great liberality of L. Lucullus, had attained to some degree of dignity, and ample wealth. He had always maintained that Lucullus alone would be his heir, and on his death-bed had given him his rings; but in his will he adopted Pomponius Atticus, and made him heir to all his estate. The Roman people tied a rope about the neck of the body of that deceitful and fallacious person, and dragged him along the streets. Thus the wicked wretch had a son and heir, such as he desired, but a funeral and a grave, such as he deserved.     { see also: Nepos Att_5 }

[8.6] L   Nor was T. Marius of Urbinum worthy of anything better; who by the favour of the divine emperor Augustus, was raised from the lowest condition of a common soldier, to the highest commands in the army.  Being enriched by these commands, he not only at other times declared that he would leave his wealth to the one who had bestowed it on him, but even on the day before he died he said the same thing to Augustus himself. However he had not so much as mentioned his name in his will.

[8.7] L   L. Valerius, surnamed Heptachordus, had experienced the enmity of Cornelius Balbus in the toga, and was plagued  with several private lawsuits through his devices and management. At length a witness suborned by Balbus accused him of a capital offence. But leaving out his advocates and patrons, he left him as his sole heir; clearly he had been cowed by such a dread, as to turn his feelings upside down. For he loved his disgrace, loved the dangers, and seemed to wish that he had been condemned: when he was so kind to the author of those mischiefs, and so uncaring to his defenders.

[8.8] L   T. Barrus upon his death-bed delivered his rings to Lentulus Spinther, whose kindness and friendship he had felt, as if to his only heir; yet he left him nothing at all. How strangely at that very moment of time did Conscience (if it has that power which we believe it to have) punish that abominable creature! For between the very thoughts of his ingratitude and deceit, he yielded up his last breath, as if some tormenter had crucified his soul within him. For he knew that his passage from life to death was hateful to the gods above, and would be detested by the gods below.

[8.9] L   M. Popillius, a senator, upon his death-bed received Oppius Gallus, with whom he had been familiar from his youth, as the laws of ancient friendship required, and gave him the most loving words imaginable. For he thought him only, of all that stood by him, worthy of his last embrace and kiss: moreover he delivered to him his rings, to ensure him of that inheritance which he was never likely to enjoy. Oppius was diligent [in his affection], but a mere object of derision to his dying friend The rings were assigned to him, sealed by those that were present, and he kept them in his purse; but then he had to disinherit himself, and returned them diligently to the heirs. What could be more dishonourable or more inappropriate at such a time and place? A senator of the Roman people, on the point of departure, not only as a man from the world, but also as a public person from the senate-house, chose to play such a shabby trick against all the sacred laws of friendship, when death was pressing down on his eyes, and he was drawing his last breath.

Book 8

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