Valerius Maximus

-   Book 9 , chapters 7-15


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

Previous chapters (1-6)

VII.   Of Seditions

Let acts of violent sedition amongst civilians, as well as of soldiers, now be related.

[7.1] L   L. Equitius, who pretended to be the son of Ti. Gracchus, and illegally stood as candidate for the tribuneship along with L. Saturninus, was by C. Marius in his sixth consulship taken away to the public jail. However the people broke open the gates of the prison and brought him out again, carrying him upon their shoulders with great enthusiasm.

[7.2] L   The people endeavoured to stone Q. Metellus the censor to death, because he refused to admit this same person into the rolls of citizens as the son of Gracchus, and he affirmed that Gracchus had only three sons. Of these one died while serving in Sardinia, the second died as an infant at Praeneste, and the third, born after his father's death, died in Rome; and unknown rubbish ought not be allowed entry into a noble family. But the foolish temerity of the angry multitude  impudently and audaciously contended against the consulship and censorship, and assailed their leading men with all manner of insolence.     { see also: 102/26 }

[7.3] L   That was mere madness; the following was bloody sedition. For the people compelled Nunnius, the rival of Saturninus, when nine tribunes had been created, and only one vacancy remained for two candidates, to flee to his own house: and then dragging him out from there, they slew him; so that by the slaughter of an honourable citizen, they might make way for that pernicious man to gain power.     { see also: Appian BCiv_1.28 }

[7.4] L   The anger of the creditors against Sempronius Asellio the urban praetor, broke forth into a most intolerable rage. Because he undertook the cause of the debtors, at the instigation of L. Cassius the tribune of the plebs they drove him from the altar and out of the forum, when he was sacrificing in front of the temple of Concord. Then they tore him to pieces in a little shop where he was hiding, while he was still wearing his toga praetexta.     { see also: Appian BCiv_1.54 }

Of Roman Soldiers

[7m.1] L   Sedition in the forum is to be detested; but if we look at the army, an equal indignation will arise. When the province of Asia was, by the Sulpician Law, assigned to C. Marius, a private person, to prosecute the war against Mithridates, the soldiers slew Gratidius, who was sent by him as legate to L. Sulla the consul, to receive the legions from him. They were offended, without doubt, that they were to be commanded by a person without office, after they had served under a person of the highest dignity. But who can endure that a soldier should oppose the decrees of the people with the death of legate?     { see also: Orosius 5.19.4 }

[7m.2] L   That was violence perpetrated on behalf of a consul; the following was against the consul himself. When Q. Pompeius, the colleague of Sulla, ventured at the command of the senate to approach the army of Cn. Pompeius, who had kept the army for some time against the wishes of the state, the soldiers, who were corrupted by the enticements of their ambitious general, fell upon him, as he was beginning to sacrifice, and slew him, as if he himself had been the sacrificial victim. The senate was forced to yield to the army, and did not dare to avenge so great a crime.     { see also: 88/53 }

[7m.3] L   Also wickedly violent was the army that killed C. Carbo, the brother of Carbo the three times consul, when he was attempting rather harshly and inflexibly to correct the loose discipline of the soldiers, which had crept in because of the civil wars. They chose to be contaminated with the greatest of crimes, rather than to alter their unruly and foul behaviour.     { see also: Granius 32 }

VIII.   Of Rashness

Sudden also and vehement is the onset of rashness; by its blows the minds of men are disordered, not being able to foresee their own dangers, nor regard the deeds of others with a due consideration.

[8.1] L   For how rashly did the elder Africanus cross over the sea from Spain, with two quinquremes, to king Syphax, trusting his own and his country's safety to the faithless breast of one Numidian! So that for a brief time it was a doubtful question, whether Syphax would be the murderer or the captive of Scipio.     { see also: 206/8 }

[8.2] L   The risky enterprise of C. Caesar also was protected by the heavens. Impatient for the legions to cross from Brundisium to Apollonia, he left his dinner, out of pretence of being sick, and went aboard a small ship, disguising his majesty in a slave's clothes. In a most violent storm he sailed out of the river Aous into the mouth of the Adriatic Sea; and commanding the ship to keep her course, after being long tossed by contrary waves, at length he was forced to return.     { see also: 48/14 }

[8.3] L   Now what a most wicked rashness was that of these soldiers! They caused Albinus, a person famous for his nobility, character and great honours, to be stoned to death in their camp, through false and empty suspicions. And, what cannot be excused, the soldiers denied their general, begging and imploring, the opportunity of answering for himself.     { see also: 89/17 }


[8e.1] L   Therefore it is less remarkable, that the savage and cruel Hannibal would not allow an innocent pilot to make his defence. When he was returning from Petelia to Africa with his fleet and reached the straits, not believing he could reach Sicily from Italy so soon, he killed the pilot, thinking that he had betrayed him. At length, when he found that what the pilot had said was true, he pardoned him too late; by which time he could give no respect to his innocence, except a tomb. And therefore above those narrow and tempestuous straits, there stands a prominent statue on a high mound, exposed to the eyes of those who sail to and fro, in remembrance of Pelorus and that Punic rashness.     { see also: Mela 2.116 }

[8e.2] L   The Athenian city also was crazy in its rashness. When their ten generals returned from a noble victory, they put them all on trial for a capital offence, and killed them; all because the generals had been prevented by the tempestuousness of the sea from burying their dead soldiers. They chose to punish necessity, when they should have honoured virtue.     { see also: Diodorus 13.101-102 }

IX.   Of Error

Error is next to rashness: it is equally harmful, but more easily forgiven, because it commits mistakes not willingly, but out of false impressions. It is so far spread in the breasts of men, that if I should attempt to  describe it all, I would be guilty of the error which I blame. Therefore let us recite a few examples of mistakes.

[9.1] L   C. Helvius Cinna, tribune of the plebs, while he was returning home from Caesar's funeral, was torn apart by the hands of the people, because he was mistaken for Cornelius Cinna, upon whom they imagined they were venting their rage. They were angry with him, because although he was Caesar's kinsman, he had made an abusive speech against him on the rostra after Caesar was impiously slain. And they were so carried away by this same error, that they carried the head of Helvius, as if it had been the head of Cornelius, fixed upon a pole, around the funeral pyre of Caesar. He was a cruel sacrifice to his own duty and others' error.     { see also: Dio 44.50 }

[9.2] L   Error caused C. Cassius to punish himself. For in the midst of that varied outcome, uncertain even to the generals themselves, of the battle of four armies at Philippi; Titinius the centurion was sent by him in the night to see in what condition Brutus was. While Titinius made many detours, because the darkness of the night did not permit him to know whether he was encountering foes or friends, it was a long time before he returned. Cassius therefore believed that Titinius had been captured by the enemy, and that they were absolute masters of the battlefield. He hastened to end his life, when in fact Brutus's forces were mostly safe, and masters of the enemy's camp. But the courage of Titinius is not to be forgotten. He stood a while astonished at the unexpected sight of his slain general, then bursting into tears, said: "Though unwittingly, my general, I was the cause of your death, even this shall not go unpunished; receive me as a companion in your fate." And so saying, he threw himself upon the lifeless corpse, with his sword thrust up to the hilt in his own throat; and mingling blood with blood, they lay a double sacrifice, the one to Piety, the other to Error.     { see also: Plutarch Brut_43 }

[9.3] L   Certainly error did great harm to the household of Lars Tolumnius, king of Veii. After he had made a lucky throw at dice, he said in jest to the other player "Kill!", but his guard, misled by the word, fell upon the Roman ambassadors and slew them, just as they were entering the room; because they interpreted what he said in a game as a command.     { see also: Livy 4.17 }

X.   Of Revenge

The stings of revenge though they are sharp, so they are just, when they are intended to repay injuries that have been received: of which a few examples will suffice.

[10.1] L   M. Flavius, tribune of the plebs, reported to the people against the Tusculans, that at their instigation the inhabitants of Privernum and Velitrae would rebel. When the Tusculans came to Rome in a most miserable and suppliant manner, with their wives and children, it happened that all the rest of the tribes were in favour of mercy, but the Pollian tribe alone voted that they should be first whipped, and then executed, while all the non-combatants should be sold as slaves. For this reason the Papirian Tribe, in which the Tusculans had a strong vote when they received citizenship, never afterwards elected any candidate of the Pollian tribe as a magistrate; so that no honour might come to that tribe, which as much as in them lay, had attempted to deprive them of their lives and liberty.     { see also: Livy 8.37 }

[10.2] L   The following revenge was approved both by the senate and by the consent of all men. When Hadrianus had harassed the Roman citizens at Utica with a sordid abuse of power, and was therefore by them burnt alive; the matter was never questioned in the city, nor any complaint made against it.     { see also: 82/6 }


[10e.1] L   Famous examples of revenge were two queens. Tomyris, having caused the head of Cyrus to be cut off, commanded it to be thrown into a tub of human blood, upbraiding him with his insatiable thirst after blood; and thus avenged the death of her son, who had been slain  by Cyrus. And Berenice, grieving at the loss of her son, who had been snatched away by the plots of Laodice, armed herself and got into her chariot. She pursued Caeneus, the royal attendant who had carried out the crime, and after she had missed him with her spear, she felled him with a stone. Then she drove her horses over his body, and rode directly through the ranks of the adverse party to the house where she thought the body of her slain child lay.

[10e.2] L   It is hard to judge whether it was a just revenge or not that dispatched Jason of Thessaly, when he was preparing to make war against the king of Persia. For he gave leave to Taxillus the gymnasiarch, who complained that he had been beaten up by certain young men, that he should either exact three hundred drachmas from them, or to give them ten lashes. When Taxillus used the latter means of revenge, the men who had  been lashed killed Jason, measuring the severity of the punishment by the pain of the mind, and not of the body. Thus by a small affront to natural shame, a great undertaking was subverted; because in the opinion of Greece, there was as much expected from Jason, as was later achieved by Alexander.     { see also: Diodorus 15.60 }

XI.   Of things nastily said, and wickedly done

Now because we are relating the good and bad things of human life through the depiction of examples, let us proceed with what has been nastily said, and wickedly done.

[11.1] L   Where shall I better begin than from Tullia ? She was the earliest in time, the wickedest and most monstrous example of impiety. While she was riding in her chariot, her charioteer stopped his horses. Upon her enquiry she was told that the dead body of her father, Servius Tullius, lay in the way; but she ordered the charioteer to drive over it, so that she might hasten to the embraces of Tarquinius, who had slain him. By this impious and shameful haste, she not only stained herself with eternal infamy, but also the very street itself, which was after that called, the Wicked Street {Vicus Sceleratus}.     { see also: Livy 1.48 }

[11.2] L   Not so horrible was the act and saying of C. Fimbria; though considered by themselves, they were both very abominable. He had given an order, that Scaevola should be killed at the funeral of C. Marius. When he discovered that Scaevola had recovered from his wound, he resolved to accuse him before the people. Being then asked what he could truly say against him, whose virtuous conduct could not be sufficiently praised; he answered, that he would accuse him, for not receiving the weapon any further into his body. That was madness in excess, to elicit groans from the ailing commonwealth.     { see also: Cicero RoscAm_33 }

[11.3] L   L. Catilina, when Cicero said in the senate, that he had kindled a great fire, replied, ; "I perceive it; and if I cannot quench it with water, I will do so by demolition." What can we think, but that the stings of his conscience drove him to  admit the parricide which he had begun?     { see also: Sallust Cat_31.9 }

[11.4] L   The breast of Magius Chilo was deeply troubled with madness. With his own hand he took away the life of Marcellus, which Caesar had granted to him. For being an old companion of Marcellus in Pompey's army, he took it ill that any of his friends should be preferred above himself. When Marcellus was returning to the city from Mytilene, where he had been staying, Magius stabbed him with a dagger in the port of Athens, and promptly proceeded to slaughter the object of his madness. He was an enemy of friendship, an intercepter of divine favour, and a cruel stain on public faith, which had promised the life of so great a person.     { see also: Cicero Fam_4.12 }

[11.5] L   That cruelty, to which it seems no more could be added, C. Toranius exceeded in the heinousness of his parricide. For adhering to the faction of the triumvirs, he described to the centurions the distinguishing marks, the age and hiding places of his proscribed father, a famous person, and a former praetor, in order that they might search him out. The old man, who was more concerned for the life and advancement of his son, than for the remainder of his days, enquired of the centurions whether his son was safe, and whether his generals approved of him. One of them replied, "It is by the guidance of your son, whom you love so much, that we have come to be your executioners;" and promptly ran him through. Thus died that unhappy man, more miserable in the instigator of his death, than in death itself.     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.18 }

[11.6] L   That was also the bitter fate of L. Villius Annalis. When he came into the campus for the election of his son as quaestor, he discovered that he had been proscribed, and fled to a client for his protection. But the wickedness of the young man was the reason, that he was not safe in the protection of the client. For the son tracked down his father and delivered him up to the soldiers, who were following in his steps, to be slain in his presence. He was twice a parricide, first by assisting, and then by beholding the slaughter.     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.18 }

[11.7] L   Vettius Sallassus, who was proscribed, had an end no less bitter. When he was in hiding, what shall I say, that his wife delivered him to be slain, or that she slew him herself? For how can we think the crime less, when only the hand is absent?     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.24 }


[11e.1] L   But this deed, because foreign, can be more calmly narrated. Scipio Africanus celebrated the memory of his father and his uncle at New Carthage with a gladiator show. Two sons of a king, their father being dead, entered into the arena; they promised to fight there for the kingdom, so that their combat might make the spectacle more famous. When Scipio advised them to contend with words rather than with blows as to who should reign, the elder son submitted to his advice; while the younger son, trusting to his strength, persisted in his madness. But the outcome of their combat was, that through the verdict of Fortune his obstinate impiety was punished with death.     { see also: Livy 28.21 }

[11e.2] L   Mithridates acted much more wickedly; he not only made war against his brother, but against his own father for the kingdom. I am amazed, how he got assistants to help him, or dared to invoke the gods, in this enterprise.     { see also: Appian Mith_110 }

[11e.3] L   But why should we wonder at a thing that is not usual amongst those people? Sariaster conspired with his friends against Tigranes his father, the king of Armenia, in such a way that all of them drew blood from their right hands, and drank it up. Such a bloody conspiracy could scarcely be endured for the safety of a parent.     { see also: Appian Mith_104 }

[11e.4] L   But why do I dwell upon these examples, when I see all villainies exceeded by the thought of one parricide? And therefore I am transported to denounce it with a pious, rather than powerful passion. For who can find sufficient words to send to the abyss of due execration the person { Sejanus } who attempted the subversion of all mankind, by demolishing the loyalty of friendship? Could you, a man more cruel than the cruelty of barbarism itself, have held the reins of the Roman empire, which our princeps and parent governs with his protecting arm? Or while you were so crazy, could be world have remained steady? Your intention was to achieve the mad designs of your fury, and to have outdone the city taken by the Gauls, the slaughter of the three hundred noblemen, the Battle of Allia, the destruction of the Scipios in Spain, Lake Trasimene, Cannae, and weapons reeking with the blood of civil war. But the eyes of the gods were awake, the stars were also watchful; and the altars, couches and temples were full of the attending deity. Nothing was allowed to grow lethargic, that watches over the head and safety of Augustus. And in the first place the author and defender of our safety by his divine wisdom provided,that his famous works should no be buried in the ruin of the whole world. Therefore peace remains, the laws are in force, and the order of public and private duty stands fast. For the man who attempted to subvert all these, by violating the bonds of friendship, was crushed with all his family by the might of the Roman people, and now has punishment that he deserves in the underworld, if he is allowed to enter there.

XII.   Of Unusual Deaths

The first and last day define the condition of human life; for it is of great concern with what lucky auspices it begins, and how it ends, And therefore we reckon him happy, who begins his life with prosperity, and ends it with tranquility. The middle course of time is sometimes stormy, sometimes calm, as Fortune guides it; always deceiving hope, while we wish it long, and yet idly consume it. For by using it well, a short time becomes long, exceeding the multitude of years in its number of famous deeds. Otherwise why should you delight in a slothful delay, if you are merely dragging out your life rather than exalting it? But not to digress any further, let us mention those who have perished by unusual deaths.

[12.1] L   Tullus Hostilius was struck by lightning, and burnt together with his whole house. It was a singular blow of fate, by which it happened, that the pillar of the city, taken away within the city itself, was reduced to such a condition by the flame of heaven, that the citizens did not have the honour of bestowing the last funeral rites upon him; his household and  palace were both his funeral pyre and his tomb.     { see also: Livy 1.31 }

[12.2] L   It is a strange thing that joy should be able to do the same as lightning; and yet it did. For when news was brought of the slaughter at Trasimene; one mother upon meeting her son safe at the gate, expired in his arms; another after the false news of her son's death, sitting gloomily at home, at the first sight of him, when he returned, fell down dead. It was an unusual fate, that they who could not be killed by grief, were killed by joy.     { see also: Livy 22.7 }

[12.3] L   I am less surprised by that because they were women. M'. Juventius Thalna, the colleague of Ti. Gracchus as consul, while he was sacrificing in Corsica, which he had recently subdued, received a letter that supplications had been decreed by the senate. As he was intently reading it, a mist rose before his eyes, and he fell down dead before the hearth. What can we think, but that too much joy was the cause of his death? What if the destruction of Numantia or Carthage had been entrusted to him!     { see also: Pliny HN_7.182 }

[12.4] L   C. Catulus, a general of much greater spirit, who by order of the senate shared with Marius in the Cimbrian triumph, had a more violent end. For when the same Marius later during civil strife condemned him to death, he shut himself inside his bedroom, which was heated vehemently hot and daubed with new lime, and so suffocated himself. The dire necessity of his death was a great discredit to the glory of Marius.     { see also: 87/49 }

[12.5] L   At the same time L. Cornelius Merula, an ex-consul and flamen dialis, so that he might not be an object of scorn to the insolence of the  victors, opened his veins in the temple of Jupiter, and so avoided being punished with an ignominious death. The ancient hearth was drenched with the blood of its priest.     { see also: 87/46 }

[12.6] L   A forceful and courageous end was that of Herennius the Sicilian, who was both a friend and a soothsayer to C. Gracchus. When he was for that reason taken away to prison, at the very threshold of infamy he struck his head against the post of the door, and there died. He thus preempted public justice, and the hand of the executioner.     { see also: Velleius 2.7.2 }

[12.7] L   Equally vehement was the end of C. Licinius Macer, an ex-praetor, the father of Calvus, who was accused of extortion. While the votes were being counted, he went up to a balcony, and saw that M. Cicero, who was  in charge of the trial, was removing his toga praetexta. Macer sent a message to him, to say that he died as a defendant, without being convicted; and that therefore his estate could not be confiscated. Having said this, he covered his mouth and throat with his handkerchief, and with his breath blocked, he prevented his punishment by death. When this became known, Cicero forbore to pronounce sentence upon him. Thus by the extraordinary nature of his father's death, the illustrious orator was freed both from poverty, and from the shame of a conviction in the family.     { see also: Plutarch Cic_9 }

[12.8] L   That was a courageous death, the next is ridiculous. Cornelius Gallus, and T. Hetereius a Roman knight, expired while making love to boys. But why should we rebuke the fate of those, who were killed not by their lust, but the condition of human frailty? For the end of life is exposed to many hidden causes, and sometimes mere accidents are thought to be the work of fate, when they happened at the time of death, rather than caused it.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.184 }


[12e.1] L   Some deaths of foreigners have also been very remarkable. Coma was the brother of Cleon, the greatest leader of brigands in his time. When he was brought to Rupilius the consul after the capture of Enna, which had been held by the brigands, he was interrogated concerning the strength and plans of the fugitives. Taking time to collect himself, he covered his head, fell on his knees, and held his breath, until he expired in the hands of his keepers, and in the sight of the supreme commander. Thus he found the end to care that he desired. Let those wretches, to whom it is more profitable to die than live, torment themselves with timorous and fretful pondering of how to end their lives. Let them sharpen their knives, mix poisons, take nooses, look down precipices, as if it required some preparation or exact method to separate the fragile conjunction of soul and body. Coma made use of none of these, but his breath being shut up in his breast, found its own ending. And indeed that blessing is not worth great effort to retain, which can be destroyed by such a slight blow of violence.

[12e.2] L   The death of Aeschylus, though not voluntary, may however be related for its oddness. For he walked out of the town where he lived in and sat down in a convenient place. There an eagle bearing a tortoise, deceived by the baldness of his head, let fall the tortoise upon him as if he were a rock, to break it so that it might get at the flesh. And by that blow the beginning of a more [perfect] tragedy was stifled at its origin.     { see also: Aelian NA_7.16 }

[12e.3] L   Nor was the cause of Homer's death at all ordinary. He is said to have died of grief on an island, because he could not answer a question which the fishers put to him.

[12e.4] L   More unpleasant was the demise of Euripides. For returning to the house where he was staying in Macedonia, after dining with king Archelaus, he was torn to pieces by dogs. That was a fate too cruel for so great a genius.     { see also: Suda E.3695 }

[12e.5] L   The deaths of the following famous poets were also unworthy of their character and works.    Sophocles when he was very old, and had entered a tragedy in a competition, after a long and anxious wait was eventually declared the victor by a single vote, and died for joy that he had won.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.180 }

[12e.6] L   Philemon was carried off by immoderate laughter. For when an ass ate certain figs that had been prepared for him, and set before him, he called for a slave to drive it away: but the slave did not come until the ass had eaten them all up. "Because you have come so late," said he, "please give the ass some wine too;" and accompanying his jest with excessive laughter, he stifled the elderly passages of his breath.     { see also: Lucian Macr_25 }

[12e.7] L   But Pindar laying down his head in the gymnasium on the lap of a boy, who was his chief delight, and composing himself for sleep, was not known to be dead,  until the gymnasiarch, when he was going to shut the doors of the place, tried in vain to wake him. Certainly the same favour of the gods granted him his poetic eloquence, and such an easy death.     { see also: Suda P.1617 }

[12e.8] L   This happened also to Anacreon, when he had outlived the normal span of a man's life. While he was nourishing his old age with the juice of raisins, the rather thick moisture of one grape stuck in his throat, and killed him.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.44 }

[12e.9] L   I will add some examples, whose intent and outcome were similar. Milon of Croton, as he was travelling, saw an oak tree that had been cleft with wedges. Trusting in his strength, he went up to the oak, and attempted with his hands to pull one part from the other. But when the wedges fell out, the oak closed again, and trapped him there, till despite all the palms and victories he had won, the wild beasts came and devoured him.     { see also: Pausanias 6.14.8 }

[12e.10] L   Polydamas also, the wrestler, was forced by violence of weather to take shelter in a cave, but the cave was weakened by a sudden influx of water and began to collapse. While his companions ran away, he alone stood still, hoping to uphold the weight with his shoulders. But he was crushed with a weight more powerful than human strength, and the shelter which he sought from the shower, became the tomb of his own crazy decision.     { see also: Diodorus 9.14-15  }

 These two examples may teach us, that vigour of mind is often dulled by vast strength of body. Nature does not grant two such great benefits together, as if it is beyond the limits of human felicity for the same person to be both very strong and very wise.

XIII.   Of Undue Craving for Life

Now because we have described some accidental, some courageous, and some rash ends to life; we shall now add some that are feeble and effeminate; so that by comparison it may appear, how death may be sometimes not only more bravely, but more prudently desired.

[13.1] L   M'. Aquilius, when he might have bravely died, chose rather to be an ignominious slave of Mithridates. Should one not say that he deserved Pontic punishment, more than Roman authority? Since he permitted his private ignominy to be a public shame.     { see also: Appian Mith_21 }

[13.2] L   Cn. Carbo is also a great blot on the Latin annals. When, in his third consulship, he was ordered to be put to death in Sicily by Pompey, humbly and with tears in his eyes he begged the soldiers, that they might give him time to ease himself before he suffered, so that he might enjoy that last miserable moment of a pitiful life: and he delayed for so long, that his head was sordidly cut off while he sat. The words describing such great cowardice, are at odds among themselves: they are neither suited to silence, because they do not deserve to be concealed; nor pleasant to narrate, when the subject is repulsive.     { see also: Plutarch Pomp_10 }

[13.3] L   With how much shame did Brutus buy a small and unhappy protraction of life! For when he was captured by Furius, whom Antonius had sent to kill him, he not only withdrew his neck from the sword; but being told to hold it still, he swore in these words, "As I live, I will hold it." O what a contemptible delay of fate! O stupid and silly oath! But these are the ravings caused by an immoderate longing for the sweetness of life, expelling that sense of reason, which teaches us to love life, but not to fear death.     { see also: Seneca Ep_82.12-13 }


[13e.1] L   The same sweetness of life compelled Xerxes to shed tears for the armed youth of all Asia, because they would pass away in less than a hundred years. Therefore he seems to me, while he bewailed others, to have deplore his own condition. He was fortunate rather in the multitude of his riches, than in any deep reflection of thought. For who, even if slightly wise, would bewail that he was born mortal?     { see also: Herodotus 7.46 }

[13e.2] L   Now I will relate examples of men, who because they held others in suspicion, sought to have a more particular care of themselves. Nor will I begin from the most miserable, but one that was reckoned amongst the most fortunate. Masinissa the king, reposing but little faith in men, protected himself with a guard of dogs. What was the value of so large a kingdom, or of so great a number of children, or of the friendship of the Romans, who were so closely allied to him - if to keep all these secure, he thought nothing more powerful than the barking and biting of dogs?

[13e.3] L   Alexander [ of Pherae ] was more unhappy than that king; his mind was tormented on the one side by love, and on the other by fear. He was infinitely enamoured of his wife Thebe, but when he went from a banquet into her bedroom, he caused a barbarian tattooed with Thracian marks to go before him with his sword drawn. Nor did he put himself to bed, till it was diligently searched by those about him. This was punishment imposed by the anger of the gods, that he could control neither his lust nor his fear. The woman was the cause and the end of his fear. For Thebe slew Alexander, when she was angered by his adultery.     { see also: Cicero Off_2.25 }

[13e.4] L   As for Dionysius tyrant of Syracuse, how long a story might one make of his fear? He went through a tyranny of thirty-eight years, in this manner. He removed his friends, and substituted in their places men brought from the most savage nations, and doughty slaves picked out of wealthy families to be his guard; and out of fear of barbers, he taught his daughters to shave him: but when they came to adulthood, he did not dare to trust even their hands with a blade, and ordered them to singe his beard and hair with hot walnut skins. Nor was he a more trusting husband than he was a father. For having two wives at the same time, Aristomache of Syracuse and Doris of Locri, he never lay with either for them till they were thoroughly searched. And he fortified his bed like a camp, into which he went over a wooden bridge; and after the bedroom door had been shut on the outside by his guards, he carefully locked it on the inside himself.     { see also: Cicero Tusc_5.57-59 }

XIV.   Of Likeness of Appearance

Concerning likeness of appearance in the face and body, there are subtle disputes amongst the more learned writers. Some are of the opinion, that it is the result of the origin and composition of the blood. And they draw a good argument from other creatures, which are like those that beget them. Others say that it is not a law of Nature, but an accidental chance of conception. And therefore many times the beautiful bring forth ugly children, and the strong produce weak children. But because the question is debatable, let us produce a few examples of remarkable likenesses of unconnected persons.

[14.1] L   Vibius, a man of a free birth, and Publicius the freedman were so similar to Pompeius Magnus, that if they had changed their condition, they might easily have been saluted as him, and he as them. Certainly, wherever Vibius or Publicius went, all men's eyes were upon them; everyone recognised the appearance of a mighty citizen in these persons of humble rank.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.53 }

[14.2] L   This trick of fortune was conferred on Pompeius like an inheritance. For his father also was so exceedingly like Menogenes his cook, that a man of fierce courage and great military power could not avoid having that sordid name applied to himself.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.54 }

[14.3] L   Cornelius Scipio, a young man illustrious for his noble birth and glorying in the many famous surnames of his family, could not escape being commonly called by the servile name of Serapio; because he was so like a sacrificial assistant who had that name. Neither the probity of his life, nor the antiquity of his family, could in any way prevail against that indignity.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.54 }

[14.4] L   A most noble pair of consuls were Lentulus and Metellus. Yet both were almost looked upon as performers, so like were they to two actors upon the stage. For the former got the surname of Spinther, an actor of second parts; and if the other had not had the surname of Nepos from his ancestors, he would have had the surname of Pamphilus, an actor of third parts, whom he so much resembled.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.54 }

[14.5] L   M. Messalla, an ex-consul and ex-censor, was forced to receive the surname of Menogenes; and Curio, abounding in all honours, that of Barbuleius: the one by reason of the likeness of their faces; the other, because of the likeness of their gait.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.55 }

Those are enough for Roman examples, because they are particularly remarkable in reference to the persons, and not obscure in renown. 


[14e.1] L   There was one Artemon by name, who was related to the royal family, and was considered to be very like to king Antiochus. After Laodice, the wife of Antiochus, murdered her husband, to conceal the fact, she put this man in her husband's bed, pretending that the king was sick. And by his appearance and voice he deceived all those who were admitted to see him, and they believed that Laodice and her children were commended by the dying Antiochus to their care.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.53 }

[14e.2] L   Hybreas of Mylasa, an orator of ardent and copious eloquence, was so like a slave of the Cymaeans, who swept the gymnasium, that in the eyes of all Asia he was regarded as his brother; so like was he in all aspects of his face and limbs.

[14e.3] L   But the man in Sicily who resembled the praetor, was of an impudent disposition. For when the proconsul said that he was puzzled how the man came to be so like him, when his father had never been in that country; the other replied, "But my father went frequently to Rome." Thus he took revenge for the insult given to his mother's chastity, by throwing suspicion upon the mother of the proconsul - but more boldly than was fitting for a man who was subject to the rods and axes of authority.

XV.   Of those who have falsely thrust themselves into families where they do not belong

What we have just described was a tolerable piece of impudence, and only dangerous to himself. What follows is no way to be endured, and is dangerous not only to individuals, but also to the public.

[15.1] L   I must not omit Equitius, the monster from Firmum in Picenum, who was mentioned in an earlier part of this book { 9.7.1 }. His manifest lie in pretending that he was the son of Ti. Gracchus, was defended by the turbulent mistake of the populace, and by the power of the tribunes.

Herophilus, a horse-doctor, by claiming that Marius the seven-times consul was his grandfather, so advanced himself, that many colonies of veteran soldiers, and eminent free towns, and almost all the guilds adopted him as their patron. Moreover, when C. Caesar, after overcoming the younger Cn. Pompeius in Spain, had admitted the people into his garden, Herophilus was saluted in the next space between the pillars by an almost equally enthusiastic crowd. And if the divine might of Caesar had not prudently prevented the trouble, the commonwealth would have suffered as much from him as from Equitius. But though he was banished out of Italy by him, after Caesar was taken up into heaven, Herophilus returned to the city, and dared to attempt a plot to kill the senate. For this reason he was by command of the fathers put to death in prison, and at length paid the penalty for his readiness to do mischief.     { see also: Appian BCiv_3.2-4 }

[15.2] L   Neither was the deity of the divine Augustus, while he was ruling the world, exempt from this kind of impostor. There was a certain person who dared to affirm that he was born of the womb of his most dear sister Octavia; saying that, on account of the infirmity of his body, he was put out to the person that bred him, and that person's son was taken in his stead. Thus at the same time he attempted to deprive a most sacred family of the memory of their true blood, and to contaminate it with the contagion of a lie. But while he was ascending to the utmost heights of boldness, he was condemned to row in a public trireme by order of Augustus.

[15.3] L   There was also one who claimed that he was the son of Q. Sertorius, whose wife could by no means be forced to acknowledge him.

[15.4] L   How steadfastly did Tubellius Calcha assert that he was Clodius ! And while he was contending for his inheritance, he was so favourably supported when he went to the centumviral court, that the tumult of the people would scarcely give way for a just and legal sentence. However, the firmness of the judges would not give way, either to the calumnies of the impostor, or to the fury of the people.

[15.5] L   Much more audacious was the action of that man who, when Cornelius Sulla held absolute power, broke into the house of Cn. Asinius Dio, and drove his son out of doors, insisting that he was the real son of Dio. But when Caesar's justice had freed the commonwealth from Sulla's violence, with a juster leader governing the Roman empire, the impostor died in jail.


[15e.1] L   When same leader presided over the commonwealth, the boldness of a woman was punished at Mediolanum, on account of the same pretence. For she asserted that she was a woman called Rubria, who was falsely believed to have died in a fire.  By that means she laid claim to an estate that did not belong to her, but though she lacked neither eminent witnesses nor the favour of the imperial retinue, the invincible firmness of Caesar disappointed her of her hopes.

[15e.2] L   The same person justly punished a barbarian, who laid claim to the kingdom of Cappadocia, and asserted that he was Ariarathes, to whom he bore an extraordinary likeness. It was known for certain that Ariarathes had been been slain by Mark Antony, though at the same time the man had the support of most of the gullible cities and peoples of the East. Caesar forced this man, who was so madly threatening the empire, to submit his head to a just punishment.

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