Nicolaus of Damascus: Life of Augustus

    - sections 91-139, and the fragments of the Autobiography of Nicolaus

This translation is by C.M.Hall (1923). The Greek text of the fragments has been edited by F.Jacoby in Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker (FGrH_90).

See key to translations for an explanation of the format of this translation. The paragraph numbers in the translation are shown in green and the section numbers in the Greek text are shown in red.

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[25.] G   [91] A tremendous uproar arose from those who had no knowledge of the plot and who were rushing terror-stricken from the senate house, thinking that the same awful thing was going to happen to themselves also; and from those of Caesar's associates who were outside and who thought that the whole senate was involved and that a large army was on hand for the purpose; and from those who, ignorant of the affair, were terrified and thrown into confusion from the suddenness of the noise and from what burst upon their view - for all at once the assassins {rushed out}, with bloody daggers in their hands. The whole place was full of people running and shouting. [92] There was a crowd, too, in the theatre, which got up and rushed out in disorder (there happened to be a gladiatorial exhibition in progress) knowing nothing definite of what had happened but frightened by the shouting all about them. Some said that the Senate was being slaughtered by gladiators, others that Caesar had been murdered and that his army had started to pillage the city; some got one impression, others another. There was nothing clear to be heard, for there was a continuous tumult until the people saw the assassins and Marcus Brutus trying to stop the outcry and exhorting the people to be of good courage, for that no evil had taken place. The sum and substance of his words (as the rest of the assassins also loudly boasted) was that they had slain a tyrant. [93] It was proposed by some of the conspirators that they ought to put out of the way still others who were likely to oppose them and again try to gain control. They say that Marcus Brutus restrained them, declaring that it was not right to kill, for the sake of vague suspicion, people against whom there was no clear charge; and this view prevailed. [94] Then rushing forth the assassins fled in haste through the forum up to the Capitoline, carrying their swords bare and shouting that they had acted in behalf of common freedom. A great crowd of gladiators and slaves, who had been prepared for the purpose, followed them. There was much running in the streets and through the forum, now that the news that Caesar had been murdered became known to the throng. The city looked as if it had been occupied by an enemy. After the conspirators had ascended the Capitoline, they distributed themselves in a circle about the place and mounted a guard, fearing that Caesar's soldiers would attack them.

[26.] G   [95] The body of Caesar lay just where it fell, ignominiously stained with blood - a man who had advanced westward as far as Britain and the Ocean, and who had intended to advance eastward against the realms of the Parthians and Indians, so that, with them also subdued, an empire of all land and sea might be brought under the power of a single head. There he lay, no one daring to remain to remove the body. Those of his friends who had been present had run away, and those who were away remained hidden in their houses, or else changed their clothing and went out into the country districts nearby. [96] Not one of his many friends stood by him, either while he was being slaughtered or afterward, except Calvisius Sabinus and Censorinus; but these also, though they offered some slight opposition when Brutus and Cassius and their followers made their attack, had to flee because of the greater number of their opponents. All the others looked out for themselves and some even acquiesced in what had occurred. They say that one of them thus addressed the body: 'Enough of truckling to a tyrant.' [97] A little later, three slaves, who were nearby, placed the body on a litter and carried it home through the forum, showing, where the covering was drawn back on each side, the hands hanging limp and the wounds on the face. Then no one refrained from tears, seeing him who had lately been honoured like a god. Much weeping and lamentation accompanied them from either side, from mourners on the roofs, in the streets, and in the vestibules. When they approached his house, a far greater wailing met their ears, for his wife rushed out with a number of women and servants, calling on her husband and bewailing her lot in that she had in vain counselled him not to go out on that day. But he had met with a fate far worse than she ever expected.

[26a.] [98]  # These were now preparing for his burial, but the assassins had secured a number of gladiators some time previous to the deed when they were about to attack him and had placed them under arms, between the senate house and the theatre, in the arcade of Pompeius. Decimus Brutus had got them ready under the pretext that he wished to seize one of the gladiators who were assembling in that theatre, a man whom he had previously hired. (The contests were taking place at that time, and as he was going to conduct some himself, he pretended that he was a rival of the present exhibitor.) As a matter of fact, this preparation was more with reference to the assassination, so that, in case any resistance should be offered by Caesar's guards, the conspirators should have assistance at hand. [99] With these gladiators and an additional throng of slaves they descended from the Capitoline. Calling together the people, they decided to test them and the magistrates, finding out how they were regarded by them; whether they were looked upon as having ended a tyranny or as murderers {. . .} that still greater ills were likely to burst forth in consequence of the late deed; for the action had taken place with no inconsiderable forethought and preparation on the part of those who accomplished it, and on the part of those against whom the plot was laid; and that there was a considerable number of Caesar's auxiliary troops and important commanders still left, who would take over the task of carrying out his plans. [100] There was profound silence then because of the unusual nature of the situation, for men's minds were confused, everyone watching eagerly to see what bold move might first be made in such a crisis, and be the beginning of a revolution. Meanwhile since the people were quietly awaiting the consequences, Marcus Brutus (honoured throughout his whole life because of his discretion and the renown of his ancestors and the fairness which he was supposed to have) made the following speech.

[ See: 'Concerning Public Speeches.' ]

[27.] G   [101]  # After this harangue the conspirators withdrew again to the Capitoline and took council [sic: ebouleuonto] as to what ought to be done under the present circumstances. They decided to send envoys to Lepidus and Antonius to persuade them to come to them in the temple and there confer with them in planning the future of the state; and to promise them that everything which they possessed from Caesar's hands would be considered as authorised gifts, so that there would be no cause for dissent on these grounds. When the envoys arrived Antonius and Lepidus said that they would answer on the following day. [102] These things were done in the late evening, and a greater confusion laid hold on the city. Everyone saw to his own property, deserting the public interests, for they feared sudden plots and attacks, seeing that the leaders were encamped under arms in opposition to each other; nor was it yet clear to them who would gain complete control. When night came on they dispersed. [103] On the following day the consul Antonius was under arms; and Lepidus, having collected a considerable force of auxiliaries proceeded through the middle of the forum, having decided to avenge Caesar. When those who had previously been in doubt saw this, they joined Antonius and Lepidus, with their respective retinues under arms, and the result was an army of considerable size. There were some who acted thus through fear, not wishing to seem too delighted at Caesar's death, and at the same time looking to their future interests by joining the consuls.

Many messages were sent to those who had benefitted at Caesar's hands (whether through grants of dwelling places in cities, through grants of land, or allotments of money), saying that everything would be changed unless some strenuous efforts were exerted by them as well. Then his friends received many mournful entreaties, reminding those especially who had once taken the field with him how he had suffered death abandoned by his friends, great as he was. [104] Accordingly, many joined the consuls out of compassion and friendship, finding a chance for private gain as well as what would result from a revolution, especially since the course of their opponents seemed to lack vigour and was not what they previously expected it to be when they believed that they had a stronger force. Now it was openly said that Caesar must be avenged, and that this was the only thing to do, and that his death must not go unpunished. Gathering into groups they expressed various views, some suggesting one course, others another.

[105] However, those who advocated a republican form of government were gratified at the whole change, and only blamed Caesar's murderers because they had not done away with more of the people who were at that time viewed with suspicion, and thus brought about a real liberty; for those who were still left would be likely to give considerable trouble. There were also men who had a reputation for greater foresight, and who had gained knowledge from experience with what had happened before in Sulla's time; they cautioned one another to keep to a middle course, for at the time of Sulla those who were thought to have been destroyed, suddenly took fresh courage and drove out their late conquerors. They declared that Caesar would give his murderers and their companions much trouble, even though he was dead, since here was a large force threatening them, with energetic men in charge of it.

[106] Antonius and his associates before preparing for action sent a legation to parley with the forces on the Capitoline, but later, emboldened by the amount of their arms and the number of their men, they felt justified in taking full charge of the government, and ending the disturbance in the city. First of all they took council (having asked their friends to be present) how they ought to act toward the assassins. Lepidus proposed that they should fight them and avenge Caesar. Hirtius thought that they should discuss the matter with them and come to friendly terms. Someone else, supporting Lepidus, expressed the opposite opinion, saying that it would be sacrilegious to pass by the murder of Caesar unavenged, and furthermore, it would not be safe for all those who had been his friends; 'for even if the murderers are inactive now, yet as soon as they get more power, they will go still further.' Antonius favoured the proposal of Hirtius, and voted to save them. There were others who urged that they be dismissed from the city under truce.

[28.] G   [107] After the great Caesar's death and burial, his friends counselled Octavianus to cultivate Antonius' friendship, and put him in charge of his interests . . .

[ long lacuna, some months ]

. . . [108]  # And though there were many other contributory causes toward disagreement between them, he seemed the more to incite enmity between them, for he was at odds with Octavianus, and a partisan of Antonius. Octavianus, however, in no wise frightened, because of his high spirit, gave some exhibitions on the occasion of the festival of Venus Genetrix which his father had established. He again approached Antonius with a number of his friends, requesting that permission be given for the throne and wreath to be set up in his father's honour. Antonius made the same threat as before, if he did not drop that proposal and keep quiet. Octavianus withdrew and made no opposition to the veto of the consul. When he entered the theatre, however, the people applauded him loudly, and his father's soldiers, angered because he had been prevented from paying tribute to the honoured memory of his father, gave him, as a mark of their approval, one round of applause after another all through the performance. [109] Then he counted out for the people their allotted money, and that secured him their especial good will.

[110] From that day Antonius was manifestly still more ill disposed toward Octavianus, who stood in the way of the people's zeal for him. Octavianus saw (what had become very plain to him from the present situation) that he was in need of political authority. He also saw that the consuls, secure in much power, were openly resisting him and appropriating still more power for themselves. Even the city treasury, which his father had filled with funds, they had emptied within two months after Caesar's death, wasting money in large lots on any excuse that offered in the general confusion; and furthermore they were on good terms with the assassins. So Octavianus was the only one left to avenge his father, for Antonius let the whole matter pass, and was even in favour of an amnesty for the assassins. A number of men, indeed, joined Octavianus, but many joined Antonius and Dolabella also. [111] There were others who, from a middle ground, tried to foment enmity between them, and doing so {. . .} The chief of these were the following men: Publius, Vibius, Lucius and especially Cicero. Octavianus was not ignorant of the reason why they associated themselves with him, trying to provoke him against Antonius, but he did not repel them, for he wished to have their assistance and a more powerful guard thrown around him, though he was aware that each of these men was very little concerned over public interests but that they were looking about for an opportunity to acquire public office and supreme power. To their mind, the man who had previously enjoyed that power was out of the way, and Octavianus was altogether too young and not likely to hold out against so great a tumult, with one man looking out for one thing, another for another, and all of them seizing what they could for their own gain. For with all attention to public welfare put away, and with the foremost citizens separated into many factions, and everyone trying to encompass all the power for himself, or at least as much of it as could be detached, the government showed many strange aspects.

[112] Lepidus, who had broken off a part of Caesar's army and who was trying to seize the command himself, was in Nearer Spain; he also held the part of Gaul which borders on the upper sea. Lucius Munatius Plancus, the consul-elect, held Gallia Comata with another army. Farther Spain was in charge of Gaius Asinius, with another army. Decimus Brutus held Cisalpine Gaul with two legions, against whom Antonius was just preparing to march. Gaius (?) Brutus laid claim to Macedonia, and was just about to cross over to that place from Italy; Cassius Longinus laid claim to Syria, (?) though he had been appointed praetor for Illyria. [113] So many were the armies that had been put in the field at that time, and with such men in charge, each of whom was trying to get complete power into his own hands without consideration of law and justice, every matter being decided according to the amount of force that was available for application in each case. Octavianus alone, to whom all the power had justly been bequeathed, in accordance with the authority of him who had obtained it in the first instance, and because of his relationship to him, was without any share of authority whatever, and he was buffeted between the political envy and greed of men who were lying in wait to attack him and seize the supreme command. Divine providence [Tyche] finally ordered these things aright. [114] But for the present fearing for his life, knowing Antonius' attitude toward him and yet quite unable to change it, Octavianus remained at home and awaited his opportunity.

[29.] G   [115]  # The first move in the city came from his father's soldiers, who resented Antonius' contempt for them. At first they discussed their own forgetfulness of Caesar in allowing his son to be thus insulted, that son for whom they all ought to act as guardians if they were to take any account of what was just and righteous. Then gathering in a great company and reproaching themselves still more bitterly they set out for Antonius' house (for he also was relying on them) and made some plain statements to him: that he ought to treat Octavianus more fairly and keep in mind his father's instructions; that it was their sacred duty not to overlook these, but to carry out even the details of his memoranda, not to mention supporting the man he had named as his son and successor; that they saw that to Antonius and Octavianus a reconciliation would be most advantageous at the present time because of the multitude of foes pressing on from every side. [116] After this speech Antonius, in order not to seem to be opposing their endeavour, for he happened to be really in need of their services, said that he approved of and desired that very course, if only Octavianus would also act with moderation and render him the honour which was his due; that he was ready to have a conference with him in their presence and within their hearing. They were satisfied with this and agreed to conduct him into the Capitol and act as mediators in the reconciliation if he should so desire. He then assented and immediately went up into the temple of Jupiter, and sent them after Octavianus.

[117] They were pleased and went to his house in a great body, so that he felt some anxiety when it was announced that there was a large crowd of soldiers outside and that some were in the house looking for him. In his agitation, he first went upstairs with h is friends who happened to be present, and looking down, asked the men what they wanted and why they had come, and then he discovered that they were his own soldiers. They answered that they had come for his own good and that of his whole party, if he also was willing to forget what Antonius had done, for his actions had not been pleasing to them either; that he and Antonius ought to put aside all resentment and be reconciled simply and sincerely. Then one of them called out in a somewhat louder voice and bade him be of good cheer and be assured that he had inherited all their support, for they thought of his late father as a god, and would do and suffer anything for his successors. Another one shouted out still more loudly and said that he would make away with Antonius with his own hands if he did not observe the provisions of Caesar's will and keep faith with the Senate. [118] Octavianus, encouraged at this, went downstairs to them, and embracing them showed much pleasure at their eager good will toward him. They seized him and led him in triumph through the forum to the Capitol, vying with each other in their zeal, some because of their dislike of Antonius' rule and others out of reverence for Caesar and his heir; others led on (and rightly enough) by the hope of obtaining great advantages at his hands, and still others who were eager for revenge on the assassins, believing that this would be accomplished most readily through the boy if they had the assistance of the consul also. In fact, all those who approached him advised him out of good will not to be contentious but to think of their own safety, and how he could gain more supporters, remembering how unexpected Caesar's death had been. [119] Octavianus heard all this and saw that the people's zeal for him was genuine; he then entered the Capitol and saw there many more of his father's soldiers, on whom Antonius was relying, but who were really far better disposed toward himself, if Antonius should try to injure him in any way. The majority of the throng withdrew and the two leaders with their friends were left to discuss the situation.

[30.] G   [120] When Octavianus went home after his reconciliation with Antonius, the latter, left to himself, became provoked again at seeing the good will of all the soldiers inclining very much toward Octavianus. For they held that he was Caesar's son and that he had been proclaimed his heir in his will; that he was called by the same name and that he exhibited excellent promise from the very energy of his nature, which Caesar had considered no less important than his degree of kinship, when he decided to adopt him, in the belief that he alone might be entrusted with preserving all of Caesar's authority and the dignity of his house. [121] When Antonius reflected on all this he changed his mind again, especially when he saw the soldiers of Caesar desert him right before his eyes and escort Octavianus in a body from the temple. Some thought that he would not have refrained from apprehending Octavianus, had he not been in fear of the soldiers, lest they should set on him and mete out punishment, easily diverting all his faction from him; for each of them had an army which was waiting to see how things would turn out. Reflecting on all this, he still delayed and hesitated, although he had changed his mind. [122] Octavianus, however, actually believing that the reconciliation between them was in good faith, went every day to Antonius' house, as was quite proper, since Antonius was consul and an older man and a friend of his father's; and he paid him every other respect according to his promise until Antonius did him a second wrong in the following manner.

 # Having acquired the province of Gaul in exchange for Macedonia, Antonius transferred the troops which were in the latter place to Italy, and when they arrived he left Rome and went down as far as Brundisium to meet them. [123]  # Then, thinking that he had a suitable opportunity for what he had in mind, he spread a report that he was being plotted against, and seizing some soldiers, he threw them into chains, on the pretext that they had been sent for this very purpose of killing him. He hinted at Octavianus but did not definitely name him. The report quickly ran through the city that the consul had been plotted against, but had seized the men who had come to attack him. Then his friends gathered at his house, and soldiers under arms were summoned. [124] In the late afternoon the report reached Octavianus also that Antonius had been in danger of being assassinated, and that he was sending for troops to guard him that night. Immediately Octavianus sent word to him that he was ready to stand beside his bed with his own retinue to keep him safe, for he thought that the plot had been laid by some of the party of Brutus and Cassius. [125] He was thus in readiness to do an act of kindness entirely unsuspicious of the rumour Antonius had started or of the plot. Antonius, however, did not even permit the messenger to be received indoors, but dismissed him discourteously. The messenger returned after hearing fuller reports and announced to Octavianus that his name was being mentioned among the men about Antonius' door as being himself the man who had despatched the assassins against Antonius, who were now in prison. [126] Octavianus, whe he heard this, at first did not believe it because of its improbable sound, but soon he perceived that the whole plan had been directed against himself, so he considered with his friends as to what he should do. Philippus and Atia his mother came also, at a loss over the strange turn of affairs, and desiring to know what the report meant and what were Antonius' intentions. They advised Octavianus to withdraw from the city at once for a few days until the matter could be investigated and cleared up. He, unconscious of any guilt, thought that it would be a serious matter for him to conceal himself and in a way incriminate himself, for he would gain nothing toward his safety by withdrawing, while he might the more easily be destroyed in secret if he were away from home. Such was the discussion in which he was thus engaged.

[127] On the following morning he sat as usual with his friends and gave orders that the doors be opened to those of his townsmen, guests, and soldiers who were accustomed to visit him and greet him, and he conversed with them all in his usual way, in no wise changing his daily routine. [128] But Antonius called an assembly of his friends and said in their presence that the was aware that Octavianus had even earlier been plotting against him, and that when he was to leave the city to go to the army that had come for him, he had provided Octavianus with this opportunity against him; that one of the men sent to accomplish the crime had, by means of substantial bribes, turned informer in the matter; and hence he had seized the others; and he had now called his friends together to hear their opinions as to what should be done in the light of the recent events. When Antonius had spoken the members of his council asked to be shown where the men were who had been seized, so that they might find out something from them. Then Antonius pretended that this had nothing to do with the present business, since, forsooth, it had already been confessed to; and he turned the discourse into other channels, watching eagerly for someone to propose that they ought to take vengeance on Octavianus and not quietly submit. However, they all sat in silent thought, since no apparent proof lay before them, until someone said that Antonius would do well to dismiss the assembly, saying that he ought to act moderately and not stir up any disturbance, for he was consul. [129] After this discussion, Antonius dismissed the assembly. Two or three days afterward, he set out for Brundisium to take over the army which had now arrived there. There was no further discussion about the plot, and when he left, his friends who remained behind dismissed the whole matter, and no one ever saw any of the conspirators who were alleged to have been taken.

[31.] G   [130] Octavianus, although now exonerated from the charge, was nonetheless chagrined at the talk about him, interpreting it as evidence of a great conspiracy against him. He thought that if Antonius had happened to get the army on his side by means of bribes he would not have delayed in attacking him, not because he had been wronged in any respect, but simply led on to that course as an outcome of his former hopes. It was manifest that a man who had concocted this charge would go further to others and that he would have been eager to do this from the first if he had not had to fear the army. [131] Accordingly Octavianus was filled with righteous indignation against Antonius and with some concern for his own person, now that the other's intention had become plain. Reviewing all contingencies, he saw that he must not remain quiet, for this was not safe, but that he must seek out some aid wherewith to oppose the other's power and stratagems. So then, reflecting upon this question, he decided that he had better take refuge in his father's colonies, where his father had granted allotments and founded cities, to remind the people of Caesar's good deeds and to bewail his fate and his own sufferings, and thus to secure their support, attracting them also by gifts of money. He thought that this would be his only safe course, that it would redound greatly to his fame, and that it would also redeem the prestige of his family. It was a far better and more honourable course than to be pushed aside out of his inherited honour by men who had no claim to it, and finally to be foully and nefariously slain just as his father had been. [132]  # After consulting over this with his friends and after sacrificing, with good fortune, to the gods, that they might be his assistants in his just and glorious endeavour, he set out, taking with him a considerable sum of money, first of all into Campania where were the Seventh and Eighth legions (for that is what the Romans call their regiments). He thought that he ought first to sound the feelings of the Seventh, for its fame was greater, and if this colony was aligned in his favour, and many others with it {his propects were good}. [133] In this plan and in the events that followed, he had the approval of his friends. These were: Marcus Agrippa, Lucius Maecenas, Quintus Juventius, Marcus Modialius, and Lucius {. . . }. Other officers, centurions, and soldiers followed him, as well as a multitude of slaves and a pack train carrying the pay-money and the supplies. [134] As for his mother, he decided not to acquaint her with his plan, lest, out of affection and weakness, like a woman and a mother, she might be a hindrance to his great purpose. He gave out openly that he was going to Campania to sell some of his father's property there, to take the money and put it to the uses that his father had enjoined. But even so, he went off entirely without her consent.

[135]  # At that time Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius were at Dicaearchia, and when they learned of the throng that was accompanying Octavianus from Rome (the messengers having exaggerated the report, as usually happens) they were struck with much fear and consternation, thinking that the expedition was directed against themselves. They took flight across the Adriatic. Brutus went to Achaea, Cassius to Syria. [136] When Octavianus arrived in Calatia in Campania, the inhabitants received him as the son of their benefactor and treated him with the highest honour. On the following day he disclosed the whole situation to them and he appealed to the soldiers, telling them how unjustly his father had been killed and how he was himself being plotted against. As he spoke, some of the decurions did not wish to listen at all, but the people did so eagerly and with good-will, and they sympathised with him, frequently bidding him to be of good cheer, for they would not neglect him but would assist him in every way until he should be established in his inherited rights. Then he invited them to his house and gave each of them five hundred drachmae; and the next day he called together the members of the curia and appealed to them not to be outdone in good will by the people, but to remember Caesar who had given them the colony and their position of honour. He promised that the colony and their position of honour. He promised that they would experience no less benefits at his own hands. He showed that it was more fitting for him to enjoy their aid and to make use of their influence and arms than for Antonius to do so. They were aroused to a greater zeal to help him and to undertake trouble and danger with him if need be. [137] Octavianus commended their zeal and asked them to accompany him as far as the neighbouring colonies, and furnish him safe-conduct. The people were pleased at this and gladly complied, escorting him under arms to the next colony. And gathering these also into an assembly, he addressed them. [138] He succeeded in persuading both legions to escort him to Rome through the other colonies, and strenuously to repel any act of violence on the part of Antonius. he attracted other soldiers also with high pay, and on the march he trained and instructed the new recruits, sometimes individually and sometimes in squads, telling them that the were going against Antonius. [139]  # He sent some of his followers who were preeminent for intelligence and daring to Brundisium, to see if they could also win the forces just arrived from Macedonia over to his side, bidding them remember his father Caesar and not to betray his son. He instructed his propagandists that if they could not achieve their purposes in the open, they were to write this out and scatter it all about so that the men could pick up the notices and read them; and in order that they might join his party he made promises that filled the rest with hope of what they would receive from him when he came into his power. So they departed.

[ End of the Life of Caesar and the history of Nicolaus of Damascus ]


The friendship between Nicolaus and Augustus is illustrated by a story, which is told by three different authors. Photius (Bibl_189) says that Augustus was so pleased with a gift of cakes that he received from Nicolaus, that he called them 'Nicolaus-cakes'. Athenaeus (14.652) repeats the story, but says that the gift was of dates rather than cakes, and the emperor became exceedingly fond of the 'Nicolaus-dates' that his friend sent to him from Syria. Plutarch (Sympos_8.4) also tells the story about dates, adding that the emperor called the fruit by the name of Nicolaus because his friend was 'a very sweet-natured man, tall and slender, and of a ruddy complexion'.

[T2] Sophronius of Damascus, writing in the seventh century A.D., speaks as follows about Nicolaus: "Dionysius, one of the distinguished leaders, was also from Damascus. He was descended from a family that had always been illustrious, starting at its root from the philosopher Nicolaus, the instructor of Herodes and the teacher of the children of Antonius and Cleopatra. He was followed by twelve generations of Nicolauses, each flourishing in turn. Exulting in their philosophy, they added glory to their family and raised it to the heights of fame and brilliance." In the introduction to her commentary on Nicolaus, Jane Bellemore suggests that Nicolaus taught the children after the death of Antonius and Cleopatra, in the 20s B.C. If so, he must have been in regular contact with the emperor's family at that time, because the children were in the care of Octavia, the sister of Augustus. Afterwards, Nicolaus became an adviser of Herodes ('Herod the Great') king of Judaea, and twice went as the envoy of Herodes to the court of Augustus in Rome, in 12 B.C. and 8 B.C. After the death of Herodes in 4 B.C., Nicolaus was persuaded to go to Rome for one last time, in support of Archelaus. Nicolaus mentions these visits to Rome in the fragments from his autobiography, which are translated below.


Fragment 131

[F131] ( Antipater, the father of Nicolaus, gives his son a careful education ): see Suda, A'2705.

Fragment 132

[F132] ( Nicolaus is proficient in many different fields of scholarship and literature ): see Suda, N'393.

Fragment 133

[F133] G   . . . and commending him as a philosopher who harboured no grudges, he treated him with much greater honour and goodwill.

Fragment 134

[F134] G   Nicolaus performed an act of great kindness. When Julia, the daughter of Augustus and wife of Agrippa, arrived by night at Ilium, the river Scamander was in full spate with torrents of flood-water, and she was in danger of being swept away while crossing it, along with the servants who were escorting her. The inhabitants of Ilium did not notice this, and Agrippa was so angry because they did not help her, that he fined them 100,000 pieces of silver. They were in a quandary, because they had not expected the storm and they had not been informed that the girl was travelling, but they did not dare to make any reply to Agrippa. When Nicolaus came there, they begged him to persuade Herodes to be their helper and their champion. Nicolaus very readily agreed, because of the good reputation of the city. He took their plea to the king, and explained the situation, how Agrippa had been wrong to be angry with them, when he had not warned them that he was sending his wife there, and she travelled during the night, which made it impossible to see her approaching. In the end, the king agreed to take up their case, and through his efforts the fine was removed. The envoys from Ilium had already left, because they had given up hope of avoiding the fine, so Herodes gave a letter to Nicolaus, who was sailing to Chios and Rhodes, where his children were staying. Herodes himself went on to Paphlagonia with Agrippa. Nicolaus sailed from Amisus to Byzantium, and from there to the Troad. He proceeded to Ilium and delivered to the inhabitants the letter announcing their release from the fine. As a result they held him, and even more the king, in great honour.

Fragment 135

[F135] G   Herodes again put aside his love of philosophy - as tends to happens to those in authority, because their great good fortune distracts them - and again was keen on rhetoric. He forced Nicolaus to study rhetoric with him, and together they practised oratory. And then Herodes was seized by {love} of history, when Nicolaus praised this as most statesman-like, and useful to a king, so that he could examine the deeds and achievements of former men. The king was enthusiastic about it, and encouraged Nicolaus to take up the task of history-writing. Nicolaus set about the task in grand style. He gathered together the whole of history, and expended greater effort on it than anyone else. After a long time he completed this labour of love, saying that if Eurystheus had given it to Heracles as one of his tasks, it would have exhausted Heracles. After this, Herodes sailed to Rome to meet Caesar [Augustus]; he took Nicolaus with him in the same boat, and they philosophised together.

Fragment 136

[F136] G   Herodes attacked Arabia without the agreement of Caesar [Augustus], who voiced his disapproval and became deeply angry with Herodes. Caesar sent him a very harsh letter, and abruptly dismissed the envoys who arrived on his behalf. But when Nicolaus arrived and met Caesar, he not only freed Herodes from all guilt, but he also turned his anger against the enemies of Herodes. The Arabian [king] had already died, but Caesar was persuaded by Nicolaus' accusations to condemn his chief minister, who was later found to be thoroughly wicked and was put to death.

2 In the meantime, the household of Herodes was in turmoil. His eldest son had accused two of his other sons of plotting against their father. These other two were younger than the first son, but had greater prestige because they were the children of the queen, whereas his mother was a commoner. 3 While Nicolaus was sailing back from Rome, the youths were found guilty by the sanhedrin, and their father was so provoked that he fully intended to kill them. When Nicolaus arrived, the king informed him of what had happened, and asked for his advice. Nicolaus suggested that he should confine the youths to one of his fortresses, until he had had time to consider their fate more thoroughly, rather than being led by anger to make an irrevocable decision about his close family. 4 When Antipater heard about this, he looked askance at Nicolaus, and sent more and more [of his friends] to frighten the king, saying that if he did not quickly put the youths out of the way, he would immediately be killed by them, because they had corrupted his whole army and his retinue. Herodes was afraid for his own safety, and made a decision that was hasty rather than wise. Without consulting Nicolaus any more, he sent some men to kill the youths by night. And so the youths died, which was the beginning of great evils for Herodes, although previously he had enjoyed good fortune.

5 After he had brought about the death of his brothers, Antipater treated Nicolaus as his enemy. But Antipater was deeply hated, not only within the kingdom [of Judaea], but by the people of Syria and those living further abroad. The news even reached Rome and there was no-one, great or small, who did not hate Antipater for two reasons, because he had killed his brothers who were nobler than him, and because he had persuaded his father to carry out this dreadful deed and thereby sully his former good reputation. 6 Antipater carried on behaving in the same way, and started to plot against his father. In his eagerness to become king, he bought some poison from Egypt, but he was betrayed by one of his accomplices. His servants were interrogated under torture by his father, and they revealed the whole plot, how he also intended to kill his step-mother and his other brothers and the children of the dead youths, so that no other heir to the throne would be left. He had even set in motion some crimes against the household of Caesar, far greater than his offences against his own family.

After Varus, the governor of Syria, and the other Roman officials had arrived, Herodes summoned the sanhedrin to judge his son. As evidence, he provided the poison and the confession of the tortured servants and some letters from Rome. The king appointed Nicolaus to manage the trial. 7 So Nicolaus spoke in prosecution, Antipater spoke in his own defence, and the case was judged by Varus and his colleagues. Antipater was found guilty and was condemned to death. Even then, Nicolaus advised the king to send Antipater to Caesar, because he also had been wronged, and then to act in accordance with Caesar's decision. But before this could be done, a letter arrived from Caesar, permitting Herodes to punish his son. Then Antipater was executed, and Caesar put to death the freedwoman who had conspired with him. Everyone {praised} Nicolaus for the excellent way in which he had prosecuted a man who was both a parricide and the murderer of his own brothers.

8 Soon afterwards the king died, and [control of] the nation was disputed between his sons and the Greeks, who numbered more than ten thousand. They met in battle, and the Greeks were victorious. Archelaus, the heir [of Herodes], sailed to Rome with his (?) other brothers, to claim his whole kingdom, and he urged Nicolaus to sail with him. Nicolaus had already decided to retire to private life, because he was about 60 years old. 9 Nevertheless, he joined in the voyage, but he found that everywhere was full of Archelaus' critics. On the one hand, his younger brother was making a rival bid for the throne, and on the other hand all his other relatives were critical of Archelaus, without supporting the younger brother. The Greek cities, which had been subject to Herodes, sent envoys to ask Caesar to restore their freedom; and the whole Jewish nation, blaming [Archelaus] for the death of the three thousand men who had been killed in the battle, preferred instead to be ruled by Caesar or otherwise by the younger brother. 10 When all these claims had been made, Nicolaus came forward in defence of Archelaus. He was successful first in the argument against the relatives of Archelaus, and then against his Jewish subjects. However he did not think it right to argue against the Greek cities, and he advised Archelaus not to oppose their bid for freedom, but to be content with the rest of his kingdom. Similarly, he did not think it right to argue with the brother, because of his affection for the father of both of them. 11 Caesar announced his decision on the whole matter, giving part of the kingdom to each of the brothers, and half of it to Archelaus. Caesar treated Nicolaus with honour. He gave Archelaus the title of ethnarch, and promised that if he proved himself worthy, he would soon make him king. He appointed the other brothers, Philippus and Antipas, to be tetrarchs.

Fragment 137

[F137] G   He spent all [the money] that he had requested on the works themselves, showing that he was not swayed by [love of] money; and soon he won a brilliant reputation, because he had not done anything improper to gain more money. 2 He despised pleasure, to a quite surprising degree, even though he was often in the company of kings and commanders. He was austere by nature and opposed to pleasure; he considered those who were devoted to such enjoyments to be little better than slaves, and he was always praising self-sufficiency and a simple life. However, in situations where it was right to be munificent, he was very generous and far from niggardly, so that he could never be accused of being illiberal. Whenever there was need of hard work and perseverance, he toiled as tirelessly as anyone, not only in his youth but even in his old age. Whenever danger threatened from enemies or bandits or disease or storms at sea or any other cause, he was so stoutly courageous, that he always instilled confidence in the others who were sharing the danger with him. He was so attached to justice and immune to blandishments, that when he was acting as judge he sometimes endured the threats of commanders rather than decide unjustly. 3 He was often chosen as a judge or an arbitrator, because it was obvious to everyone that he acted justly. In his contracts and arrangements with other individuals, he was never reproached, even by those who were known to be disreputable, because of his reasonableness; there was no need of witnesses or written covenants with him, but whatever he agreed could be relied on. 4 No-one could claim greater propriety and moderation than he showed by his disposition in the forum and in the street . . .

5 The philosopher earns good repute and honour through his studies, and receives other favours and benefits from those in power, but this cannot be achieved (?) without effort. 6 For who is more fitting to receive these benefits that arise from the best and most worthwhile [pursuits] than such a man? Certainly a base and worthless man does not deserve such things. The philosopher will use such benefits simply and appropriately, just as Nicolaus used his wealth and good renown for nothing irregular, but in moderation and for acts of public philanthropy. Nicolaus never wanted to pretend that he came from a different city, but was always content to be called by the name of his home city [Damascus]. He laughed at the sophists of his time, who with large payments bought the right to be called citizens of Athens or Rhodes, as if they had grown weary of the insignificance of their original homes (some even stated in writing that they came from one of the famous Greek cities, disowning their real homes). Nicolaus said that this was almost the same as disowning their own parents.

Fragment 138

[F138] G   Some men blamed Nicolaus because although he received much money from his friends he did not keep it, and when he was abroad he spent most of his time with private citizens, avoiding the most powerful and wealthy men in Rome . . . he never went there, although many influential men urged him to do so, but spent the whole day in the study of philosophy. In reply to the accusations about the money, Nicolaus said that a possession by itself - such as owning a lyre or a flute - was worthless; knowing how to use it was the most important thing. If someone used [their money] for a dissolute and selfish, or completely foolish and petty life, they could rightly be blamed; but to use it for a sober, decent, public-spirited and generous life, receiving just what was fitting from the appropriate people, and then giving it away or leaving it to their children - that would be much better. He said that one objective of a good man was to share his life with righteous companions, and he had found that more such men existed amongst the ordinary people than amongst the super-rich. It is a sign of great good fortune, if wealth is accompanied by righteousness; more often, it leads to arrogance and a love of pleasure.

Fragment 139

[F139] G   By educating his servants, and constantly instilling a similar character in them through their life together, he treated them as no less than friends.

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