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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David


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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Six Caesars Of The Julian Line








We have alluded to the centralization of political power in the person of
Octavius. He simply retained all the great offices of State, and ruled,
not so much by a new title, as he did as consul, tribune, censor, pontifex
maximus, and chief of the Senate. But these offices were not at once
bestowed.

His reign may be said to have commenced on the final defeat of his rivals,
B.C. 29. Two years later, he received the title of Augustus, by which he
is best known in history, although he was ordinarily called Caesar. That
proud name never lost its pre-eminence.

The first part of the reign was memorable for the organization of
the State, and especially of the army; and also for the means he used to
consolidate his empire. Augustus had no son, and but one daughter,
although married three times. His first wife was Clodia, daughter of
Clodius; his second was Scribonia, sister-in-law of Sextus Pompey; and the
third was Livia Drusilla. The second wife was the mother of his daughter,
Julia. This daughter was married to M. Claudius Marcellus, son of
Marcellus and Octavia, the divorced wife of Antonius, and sister of
Octavius. M. Claudius Marcellus thus married his cousin, but died two
years afterward. It was to his honor that Augustus built the theatre of
Marcellus.

On the death of Marcellus, Augustus married his daughter Julia to
Agrippa, his prime minister and principal lieutenant. The issue of this
marriage were three sons and two daughters. The sons died early. The
youngest daughter, Agrippina, married Germanicus, and was the mother of
the emperor Caligula. The marriage of Agrippina with Germanicus united the
lines of Julia and Livia, the two last wives of Augustus, for Germanicus
was the son of Drusus, the younger son of Livia by her first husband,
Tiberius Claudius Nero. The eldest son of Livia, by Tiberius Claudius
Nero, was the emperor Tiberius Nero, adopted by Augustus. Drusus married
Antonia, the daughter of Antonius the triumvir, and was the father, not
only of Germanicus, but of Claudius Drusus Caesar, the fifth emperor.
Another daughter of Antonius, also called Antonia, married L. Domitius
Ahenobardus, whose son married Agrippina, the mother of Nero. Thus the
descendants of Octavia and Antony became emperors, and were intertwined
with the lines of Julia and Livia. The four successors of Augustus were
all, in the male line, sprung from Livia's first husband, and all, except
Tiberius, traced their descent from the defeated triumvir. Only the first
six of the twelve Caesars had relationship with the Julian house.

I mention this genealogy to show the descent of the first six emperors
from Julia, the sister of Julius Caesar, and grandmother of Augustus.
Although the first six emperors were elected, they all belonged to the
Julian house, and were the heirs of the great Caesar.

When the government was organized, Augustus left the care of his
capital to Maecenas, his minister of civil affairs and departed for Gaul,
to restore order in that province, and build a series of fortifications to
the Danube, to check the encroachments of barbarians. The region between
the Danube and the Alps was peopled by various tribes, of different names,
who gave perpetual trouble to the Romans; but they were now apparently
subdued, and the waves of barbaric conquest were stayed for three hundred
years. Vindelicea and Rhaetia were added to the empire, in a single
campaign, by Tiberius and Drusus, the sons of Livia--the emperor's beloved
wife. Agrippa returned shortly after from a successful war in the East,
but sickened and died B.C. 12. By his death Julia was again a widow, and
was given in marriage to Tiberius, whom Augustus afterward adopted as his
successor. Drusus, his brother, remained in Gaul, to complete the
subjugation of the Celtic tribes, and to check the incursions of the
Germans, who, from that time, were the most formidable enemies of Rome.

What interest is attached to those Teutonic races who ultimately
became the conquerors of the empire! They were more warlike, persevering,
and hardy, than the Celts, who had been incorporated with the empire.
Tacitus has painted their simple manners, their passionate love of
independence, and their religious tendency of mind. They occupied those
vast plains and forests which lay between the Rhine, the Danube, the
Vistula, and the German Ocean. Under different names they invaded the
Roman world--the Suevi, the Franks, the Alemanni, the Burgundians, the
Lombards, the Goths, the Vandals; but had not, at the time of Augustus,
made those vast combinations which threatened immediate danger. They were
a pastoral people, with blue eyes, ruddy hair, and large stature, trained
to cold, to heat, to exposure, and to fatigue. Their strength lay in their
infantry, which was well armed, and their usual order of battle was in the
form of a wedge. They were accompanied even in war with their wives and
children, and their women had peculiar virtue and influence. They inspired
that reverence which never passed away from the Germanic nations,
producing in the Middle Ages the graces of chivalry. All these various
tribes had the same peculiarities, among which reverence was one of the
most marked. They were not idol worshipers, but worshiped God in the form
of the sun, moon, and stars, and in the silence of their majestic groves.
Odin was their great traditional hero, whom they made an object of
idolatry. War was their great occupation, and the chase was their
principal recreation and pleasure. Tacitus enumerates as many as fifty
tribes of these brave warriors, who feared not death, and even gloried in
their losses. The most powerful of these tribes, in the time of Augustus,
was the confederation of the Suevi, occupying half of Germany, from the
Danube to the Baltic. Of this confederation the Cauci were the most
powerful, living on the banks of the Elbe, and obtaining a precarious
living. In close connection with them were the Saxons and Longobardi
(Long-beards). On the shores of the Baltic, between the Oder and the
Vistula, were the Goths.

The arms of Caesar and Augustus had as yet been only felt by the
smaller tribes on the right bank of the Rhine, and these were assailed by
Drusus, but only to secure his flank during the greater enterprise of
sailing down the Rhine, to attack the people of the maritime plains. Great
feats were performed by this able step-son of Augustus, who advanced as
far as the Elbe, but was mortally injured by a fall from his horse. He
lingered a month, and died, to the universal regret of the Romans, for he
was the ablest general sent against the barbarians since Julius Caesar,
B.C. 9. The effect of his various campaigns was to check the inroads of
the Germans for a century. It was at this time that the banks of the Rhine
were studded by the forts which subsequently became those picturesque
towns which now command the admiration of travelers.

After the death of Drusus, to whose memory a beautiful triumphal
arch was erected, Tiberius was sent against the Germans, and after
successful warfare, at the age of forty, obtained the permission of
Augustus to retire to Rhodes, in order to improve his mind by the study of
philosophy, or, as it is supposed by many historians, from jealousy of
Caius and Lucius Caesar, the children of Julia and Agrippa--those young
princes to whom the throne of the world was apparently destined. At
Rhodes, Tiberius, now the ablest man in the empire, for both Agrippa and
Maecenas were dead, lived in simple retirement for seven years. But the
levities of Julia, to which Augustus could not be blind, compelled him to
banish her--his only daughter--to the Campanian coast, where she died
neglected and impoverished. The emperor was so indignant in view of her
disgraceful conduct, that he excluded her from any inheritance. The
premature death of her sons nearly broke the heart of their grandfather,
bereft of the wise councils and pleasant society of his great ministers,
and bending under the weight of the vast empire which he, as the heir of
Caesar, had received. The loss of his grandsons compelled the emperor to
provide for his succession, and he turned his eyes to Tiberius, his
step-son, who was then at Rhodes. He adopted him as his successor, and
invested him with the tribunitian power. But, while he selected him as his
heir, he also required him to adopt Germanicus, the son of his brother
Drusus.

Another great man now appeared upon the stage, L. Domitius
Ahenobardus, the son-in-law of Octavia and Antony, who was intrusted with
the war against the Germanic tribes, and who was the first Roman general
to cross the Elbe. He was the grandfather of Nero. But Tiberius was sent
to supersede him, and following the plan of his brother Drusus, he sent a
flotilla down the Rhine, with orders to ascend the Elbe, and meet his army
at an appointed rendezvous, which was then regarded as a great military
feat, in the face of such foes as the future conquerors of Rome. After
this Tiberius was occupied in reconquering the wide region between the
Adriatic and the Danube, known as Illyricum, which occupied him three
years, A.D. 7-9. In this war he was assisted by his nephew and adopted
son, Germanicus, whose brilliant career revived the hope which had centred
in Drusus.

Meanwhile Augustus, wearied with the cares of State, provoked by
the scandals which his daughter occasioned, and irritated by plots against
his life, began to relax his attention to business, and to grow morose. It
was then that he banished Ovid, whose Tristia made a greater sensation
than his immortal Metamorphoses. The disaster which befell Varus with a
Roman army, in the forest of Teutoburg, near the river Lippe, when thirty
thousand men were cut to pieces by the Germans under Arminius (Hermann),
completed the humiliation of Augustus, for, in this defeat, he must have
foreseen the future victories of the barbarians. All ideas of extending
the empire beyond the Rhine were now visionary, and that river was
henceforth to remain its boundary on the north. New levies were indeed
dispatched to the Rhine, and Tiberius and Germanicus led the forces. But
the princes returned to Rome without effecting important results.

Soon after, in the year A.D. 14, Augustus died in his
seventy-seventh year, after a reign of forty-four years from the battle of
Actium, and fifty from the triumvirate--one of the longest reigns in
history, and one of the most successful. From his nineteenth year he was
prominent on the stage of Roman public life. Under his auspices the empire
reached the Elbe, and Egypt was added to its provinces. He planted
colonies in every province, and received from the Parthians the captured
standards of Crassus. His fleets navigated the Northern Ocean; his armies
reduced the Pannonians and Illyrians. He added to the material glories of
his capital, and sought to secure peace throughout the world. He was both
munificent and magnificent, and held the reins of government with a firm
hand. He was cultivated, unostentatious, and genial; but ambitious, and
versed in all the arts of dissimulation and kingcraft. But he was a great
monarch, and ruled with signal ability. After the battle of Actium, his
wars were chiefly with the barbarians, and his greatest generals were
members of the imperial family. That he could have reigned so long, in
such an age, with so many enemies, is a proof of his wisdom and
moderation, as well as of his good fortune. That he should have triumphed
over such generals as Brutus, and Antonius, and Sextus--representing the
old parties of the republic, is unquestionable evidence of transcendent
ability. But his great merit was his capacity to rule, to organize, and to
civilize. He is one of the best types of a sovereign ruler that the world
has seen. It is nothing against him, that, in his latter years, there were
popular discontents. Such generally happen at the close of all long
reigns, as in the case of Solomon and Louis XIV. And yet, the closing
years of his reign were melancholy, like those of the French monarch, in
view of the extinction of literary glories, and the passing away of the
great lights of the age, without the appearance of new stars to take their
place. But this was not the fault of Augustus, whose intellect expanded
with his fortunes, and whose magnanimity grew with his intellect--a man who
comprehended his awful mission, and who discharged his trusts with dignity
and self-reliance.

Tiberius Caesar, the third of the Roman emperors, found no opposition to
his elevation on the death of Augustus. He ascended the throne of the
Roman world at the mature age of fifty-six, after having won great
reputation both as a statesman and a general. He was probably the most
capable man in the empire, and in spite of all his faults, the empire was
never better administered than by him. His great misfortune and fault was
the suspicion of his nature, which made him the saddest of mankind, and
finally, a monster of cruelty.

Like Augustus, he veiled his power as emperor by assuming the old
offices of the republic. A subservient Senate and people favored the
consolidation of the new despotism to which the world was now accustomed,
and with power, which it cheerfully acquiesced as the best government for
the times. The last remnant of popular elections was abolished, and the
Comitia was transferred from the Campus Martius to the Senate, who elected
the candidate proposed by the emperor.

The first year of the accession of Tiberius was marked by mutinies
in the legions, which were quelled by his nephew Germanicus, whose
popularity was boundless, even as his feats had been heroic. This young
prince, on whom the hopes of the empire rested, had married Agrippina, the
daughter of Julia and Agrippa, and traced through his mother Antonia, and
grandmother Octavia, a direct descent from Julia, the sister of the
dictator. The blood of Antony also ran in his veins, as well as that of
Livia. His wife was worthy of him, and was devotedly attached to him. By
this marriage the lines of Julia and Livia were united; and by his descent
from Antony the great parties of the revolution were silenced. He was
equally the heir of Augustus and of Antonius, of Julia and of Livia; and
of all the chiefs of Roman history no one has been painted in fairer
colors. In natural ability, in military heroism, in the virtues of the
heart, in exalted rank, he had no equal. As consul, general, and governor,
he called forth universal admiration. His mind was also highly cultivated,
and he excelled in Greek and Latin verse, while his condescending and
courteous manners won both soldiers and citizens.

Of such a man, twenty-nine years of age, Tiberius was naturally
jealous, especially since, through his wife, Germanicus was allied with
the Octavian family and through his mother, with the sister of the great
Julius; and, therefore, had higher claims than he, on the principle of
legitimacy. He was only the adopted son of Octavius, but Germanicus,
through his mother Antonia, had the same ancestry as Octavius himself.
Moreover, the cries of the legionaries, "Caesar Germanicus will not endure
to be a subject," added to the fears of the emperor, that he would be
supplanted. So he determined to send his nephew on distant and dangerous
expeditions, against those barbarians who had defeated Varus.

Germanicus, no sooner than he had quelled the sedition in his
camp, set out for Germany with eight legions and an equal number of
auxiliaries. With this large force he crossed the Rhine, revisited the
scene of the slaughter of Varus, and paid funeral honors to the remains of
the fallen Romans. But the campaigns were barren of results, although
attended with great expenses. No fortresses were erected to check the
return of the barbarians from the places where they had been dislodged,
and no roads were made to expedite future expeditions. Germanicus carried
on war in savage and barbarous tracts, amid innumerable obstacles, which
tasked his resources to the utmost. Tiberius was dissatisfied with these
results, and vented his ill-humor in murmurs against his nephew. The Roman
people were offended at this jealousy, and clamored for his recall.
Germanicus, however, embarked on a third campaign, A.D. 15, with renewed
forces, and confronted the Germans on the Weser, and crossed the river in
the face of the enemy. There the Romans obtained a great victory over
Arminius, leader of the barbaric hosts, who retreated beyond the Elbe. The
great German confederacy was, for a time, dispersed. Germanicus himself
retired to the banks of the Rhine--which became the final boundary of the
empire on the side of Germany. The hero who had persevered against
innumerable obstacles, in overcoming which the discipline and force of the
Roman legions were never more apparent, not even under Julius Caesar, was
now recalled to Rome, and a triumph was given him, amid the wildest
enthusiasm of the Roman people. The young hero was the great object of
attraction, as he was borne along in his triumphal chariot, surrounded by
the five male descendants of his union with Agrippina--his faithful and
heroic wife. Tiberius, in the name of his adopted son, bestowed three
hundred sesterces apiece upon all the citizens, and the Senate chose the
popular favorite as consul for the ensuing year, in conjunction with the
emperor himself.

Troubles in the East induced Tiberius to send Germanicus to Asia
Minor, while Drusus was sent to Illyricum. This prince was the son of
Tiberius by his first wife, Vipsania, and was the cousin of Germanicus. He
was disgraced by the vices of debauchery and cruelty, and was finally
poisoned by his wife, Livilla, at the instance of Sejanus. So long as
Germanicus lived, the court was divided between the parties of Drusus and
Germanicus, and Tiberius artfully held the balance of favor between them,
taking care not to declare which should be his successor. But Drusus was,
probably, the favorite of the emperor, although greatly inferior to the
elder prince in every noble quality. Tiberius, in sending him to
Illyricum, wished to remove him from the dissipations of the capital, and
also, to place a man in that important post who should be loyal to his
authority.

In appointing Germanicus to the chief command of the provinces
beyond the AEgean, Tiberius also gave the province of Syria to Cnaeus Piso,
of the illustrious Calpurnian house, one of the proudest and most powerful
of the Roman nobles. His wife, Plancina, was the favorite of Livia,--the
empress-mother,--and he believed himself appointed to the government of
Syria for the purpose of checking the ambitious designs which were imputed
to Germanicus, while his wife was instructed to set up herself as a rival
to Agrippina. The moment Piso quitted Italy, he began to thwart his
superior, and to bring his authority into contempt. Yet he was treated by
Germanicus with marked kindness. After visiting the famous cities of
Greece, Germanicus marched to the frontiers of Armenia to settle its
affairs with the empire--the direct object of his mission. He crowned a
prince, called Zeno, as monarch of that country, reduced Cappadocia, and
visited Egypt, apparently to examine the political affairs of the
province, but really to study its antiquities, even as Scipio had visited
Sicily in the heat of the Punic war. For thus going out of his way, he was
rebuked by the emperor. He then retraced his steps, and shaped his course
to Syria, where he found his regulations and appointments had been
overruled by Piso, between whom and himself bitter altercations ensued.
While in Syria, he fell sick and died, and his illness was attributed to
poison administered by Piso, although there was little evidence to support
the charge.

The death of Germanicus was received with great grief by the Roman
people, and the general sorrow of the Roman world, and his praises were
pronounced in every quarter. He was even fondly compared to Alexander the
Great. His character was embellished by the greatest master of pathos
among the Roman authors, and invested with a gleam of mournful splendor.
His remains were brought to Rome by his devoted wife, and the most
splendid funeral honors were accorded to him. Drusus, with the younger
brother and children of Germanicus, went forth to meet the remains, and
the consuls, the Senate, and a large concourse of people, swelled the
procession, as it neared the city. The precious ashes were deposited in
the Caesarian mausoleum, and the memory of the departed prince was
cherished in the hearts of the people. Whether he would have realized the
expectations formed of him, had he lived to succeed Tiberius, can not be
known. He, doubtless, had most amiable traits of character, while his
talents were undoubted. But he might have succumbed to the temptations
incident to the most august situation in the world, or have been borne
down by its pressing cares, or have shown less talent for administration
than men disgraced by private vices. Had Tiberius died before Augustus,
his character would have appeared in the most favorable light, for he was
a man of great abilities, and was devoted to the interests of the empire.
He became moody, suspicious, and cruel, and yielded to the pleasures so
lavishly given to the master of the world. When we remember the atmosphere
of lies in which he lived,--as is the case with all absolute monarchs,
especially in venal and corrupt times,--the unbounded temptations, the
servile and sycophantic attentions of his courtiers, the perpetual
vexations and cares incident to such overgrown and unlimited powers, and
the disgust, satiety, and contempt which his experiences engendered, we
can not wonder that his character should change for the worse. And when we
see a man rendered uninteresting and unamiable by cares, temptations, and
bursts of passion or folly, yet who still governs vigilantly and ably, our
indignation should be modified, when the lower propensities are indulged.
It is not pleasant to palliate injustices, tyrannies, and lusts. But human
nature, at the best, is weak. Of all men, absolute princes claim a
charitable judgment, and our eyes should be directed to their services,
rather than to their defects. These remarks not only pertain to Tiberius,
but to Augustus, and many other emperors who have been harshly estimated,
but whose general ability and devotion to the interests of the empire are
undoubted. How few monarchs have been free from the stains of occasional
excesses, and that arbitrary and tyrannical character which unlimited
powers develop! Even the crimes of monsters, whom we execrate, are to be
traced to madness and intoxication, more than to natural fierceness and
wickedness. But when monarchs do reign in justice, and conquer the
temptations incident to their station, like the Antonines, then our
reverence becomes profound. "Heavy is the head that wears a crown." Kings
are objects of our sympathy, as well as of our envy. Their burdens are as
heavy as their temptations are great; and frivolous or wicked princes are
almost certain to yield, like Nero or Caligula, to the evils with which
they are peculiarly surrounded.

But to return to our narrative of the leading events connected with the
reign of Tiberius, one of the ablest of all the emperors, so far as
administrative talents are concerned. After the death of Germanicus, which
was probably natural, the vengeance of the people and the court was
directed to his supposed murderer, Piso. He was arraigned and tried by the
Senate, not only for the crime of which he was accused by the family of
Germanicus, who thought himself poisoned, but for exceeding his powers as
governor of Syria, which province he continued unwisely to claim. Tiberius
abstained from all interference with the great tribunal which sat in
judgment. He even checked the flow of popular feeling. Cold and hard, he
allowed the trial to take its course, without betraying sympathy or
aversion, and acted with great impartiality. Piso found no favor from the
Senate or the emperor, and killed himself when his condemnation was
certain.

Relieved by the death of Germanicus and Piso, Tiberius began to
reign more despotically, and incurred the hatred of the people, to which
he was apparently insensible. He was greatly influenced by his mother,
Livia, an artful and ambitious princess, and by Sejanus, his favorite, a
man of rare energy and ability, who was prefect of the praetorian guards.
This office, unknown to the republic, became the most important and
influential under the emperors. The prefect was virtually the vizier, or
prime minister, since it was his care to watch over the personal safety of
a monarch whose power rested on the military. The instruments of his
government, however, were the Senate, which he controlled especially by
his power as censor, and the law of majestas, which was virtually a
great system of espionage and public accusation, which the emperor
encouraged. But his general administration was marked by prudence, equity,
and mildness. Under him the Roman dominion was greatly consolidated, and
it was his policy to guard rather than extend the limits of the empire.
The legions were stationed in those provinces which were most likely to be
assailed by external dangers, especially on the banks of the Rhine, in
Illyricum, and Dalmatia. But they were scattered in all the provinces. The
city of Rome was kept in order by the praetorian guards. Their discipline
was strenuously maintained. Governors of provinces were kept several years
in office, which policy was justified by the apologue he was accustomed to
use, founded on the same principle as that which is recognized in all
corrupt times by great administrators, whether of States, or factories, or
railroads. "A number of flies had settled on a soldier's wound, and a
compassionate passer-by was about to scare them away. The sufferer begged
him to refrain. 'These flies,' he said, 'have nearly sucked their full,
and are beginning to be tolerable; if you drive them away, they will be
immediately succeeded by fresh-comers with keener appetites.' " The
emperor saw the abuses which existed, but despaired to remedy them, since
he distrusted human nature. But there is no doubt that the government of
the provinces was improved under this prince, and the governors were made
responsible. The emperor also was assiduous to free Italy from robbers and
banditti, and in stimulating the diligence of the police, so that riots
seldom occurred, and were severely punished. There was greater security of
life and property throughout the empire, and the laws were wise and
effective. Tiberius limited the number of the gladiators, expelled the
soothsayers from Italy, and suppressed the Egyptian rites. The habits of
the people, even among the higher classes, were so generally disgraceful
and immoral,--the dissipation was so widely spread, that Tiberius despaired
to check it by sumptuary laws, but he restrained it all in his power. He
was indefatigable in his vigilance. For several years he did not quit the
din and dust of the city for a single day, and he lived with great
simplicity, apparently anxious to exhibit the ancient ideal of a Roman
statesman. He took no pleasure in the sports of the circus or theatre, and
was absorbed in the cares of office, as Augustus had been before him.
Augustus, however, was a man of genius, while he was only a man of
ability, and his great defect was jealousy of the family of Germanicus,
and the favor he lavished on Sejanus, who even demanded the hand of
Livilla, the widow of Drusus,--a suit which Tiberius rejected.

Weariness of the cares of State, and the desire of repose, at last
induced Tiberius to retire from the city. He had neither happiness nor
rest. He quarreled with Agrippina, the widow of Germanicus, and his temper
was exasperated by the imputations and slanders from which no monarch can
escape. His enemies, however, declared that he had no higher wish than to
exercise in secret the cruelty and libidinousness to which he was
abandoned. For eleven years he ruled in the retirement of his guarded
fortress, and never again re-entered the city he had left in disgust. But
in this retirement, he did not relax his vigilance in the administration
of affairs, although his government was exceedingly unpopular, and was
doubtless stained by many acts of cruelty. At Capreae, a small island near
Naples, barren and desolate, but beautiful in climate and scenery, the
master of the world spent his latter years, surrounded with literary men
and soothsayers. I do not believe the calumnies which have been heaped on
this imperial misanthrope. And yet, the eleven years he spent in his
retreat were marked by great complaints against him, and by many revolting
crimes and needless cruelties. He persecuted the family of Germanicus,
banished Agrippina, and imprisoned her son, Drusus. Sejanus, however,
instigated these proceedings, and worked upon the jealousy of the emperor.
This favorite was affianced to Livilla, the widow of Drusus, and was made
consul conjointly with Tiberius.

Tiberius penetrated, at last, the character of this ambitious
officer, and circumvented his ruin with that profound dissimulation which
was one of his most marked traits. Sejanus conspired against his life, but
the emperor shrank from openly denouncing him to the Senate. He used
consummate craft in securing his arrest and execution, the instrument of
which was Macro, an officer of his bodyguard, and his death was followed
by the ruin of his accomplices and friends.

Shortly after the execution of Sejanus, Drusus, the son of
Agrippina, was starved to death in prison, and many cruelties were
inflicted on the friends of Sejanus. Tiberius now began to show signs of
insanity, and his life henceforth was that of a miserable tyrant. His
career began to draw to a close, and he found himself, in his fits of
despair and wretchedness, supported by only three surviving members of the
lineage of Caesar: Tiberius Claudius Drusus, the last of the sons of
Drusus, and nephew of the emperor, infirm in health and weak in mind, and
had been excluded from public affairs; Caius, the younger son of
Germanicus, and Tiberius, the son of the second Drusus,--the one,
grand-nephew, and the other, grandson, of the emperor. Both were young;
one twenty-five, the other eighteen. The failing old man failed to
designate either as his successor, but the voice of the public pointed out
the son of Germanicus, nicknamed Caligula. At the age of seventy-eight,
the tyrant died, unable in his last sickness to restrain his appetite. He
died at Misenum, on his way to Capreae, which he had quitted for a time, to
the joy of the whole empire; for his reign, in his latter years, was one
of terror, which caused a deep gloom to settle upon the face of the higher
society at Rome, A.D. 37. The body was carried to Rome with great pomp,
and its ashes were deposited in the mausoleum of the Caesars. Caius was
recognized as his successor without opposition, and he commenced his reign
by issuing a general pardon to all State prisoners, and scattering, with
promiscuous munificence, the vast treasures which Tiberius had
accumulated. He assumed the collective honors of the empire with modesty,
and great expectations were formed of a peaceful and honorable reign.

Caligula was the heir of the Drusi, grandson of Julia and Agrippa,
great-grandson of Octavius, of Livia, and of Antony. In him the lines of
Julia and Livia were united. His defects and vices were unknown to the
people, and he made grand promises to the Senate. He commenced his reign
by assiduous labors, and equitable measures, and professed to restore the
golden age of Augustus. His popularity with the people was unbounded, from
his lavish expenditure for shows and festivals, by the consecration of
temples, and the distribution of corn and wine.

But it was not long before he abandoned himself to the most
extravagant debauchery. His brain reeled on the giddy eminence to which he
had been elevated without previous training and experience. Augustus
fought his own way to power, and Tiberius had spent the best years of his
life in the public service before his elevation. Yet even he, with all his
experience and ability, could not resist the blandishments of power. How,
then, could a giddy and weak young man, without redeeming qualities? He
fell into the vortex of pleasures, and reeling in the madness which
excesses caused, was soon guilty of the wildest caprices, and the most
cruel atrocities. He was corrupted by flattery as well as pleasure. He
even descended into the arena of the circus as a charioteer, and the races
became a State institution. In a few months he squandered the savings of
the previous reign, swept away the wholesome restraints which Augustus and
Tiberius had imposed upon gladiators, and carried on the sports of the
amphitheatre with utter disregard of human life. His extravagance and his
necessities led to the most wanton murders of senators and nobles whose
crime was their wealth. The most redeeming features of the first year of
his reign were his grief at the death of his sister, his friendship with
Herod Agrippa, to whom he gave a sovereignty in Palestine, and the
activity he displayed in the management of his vast inheritance. He had a
great passion for building, and completed the temple of Augustus,
projected the grandest of the Roman aqueducts, enlarged the imperial
palace, and carried a viaduct from the Palatine to the Capitoline over the
lofty houses of the Velabrum. But his prodigalities led to a most
oppressive taxation, which soon alienated the people, while his senseless
debaucheries, especially his costly banquets, disgusted the more
contemplative of the nobles. He was also disgraced by needless cruelties,
and it was his exclamation: "Would that the people of Rome had but one
neck!" His vanity was preposterous. He fancied himself divine, and
insisted on divine honors being rendered to him. He systematically
persecuted the nobles, and exacted contributions. He fancied himself, at
one time an orator, and at another a general; and absolutely led an army
to the Rhine, when there was no enemy to attack. He married several wives,
but divorced them with the most fickle inconstancy.

It is needless to repeat the wanton follies of this young man who
so outrageously disgraced the imperial station. The most charitable
construction to be placed upon acts which made his name infamous among the
ancients is that his brain was turned by his elevation to a dignity for
which he was not trained or disciplined--that unbounded power, united with
the most extravagant abandonment to sensual pleasures, undermined his
intellect. His caprices and extravagance can only be explained by partial
madness. He had reigned but four years, and all expectations of good
government were dispelled. The majesty of the empire was insulted, and
assassination, the only way by which he could be removed, freed the world
from a madman, if not a monster.

There was great confusion after the assassination of Caius Caesar, and
ill-concerted efforts to recover a freedom which had fled forever, ending,
as was to be expected, by military power. The consuls convened the Senate
for deliberation (for the forms of the republic were still kept up), but
no settled principles prevailed. Various forms of government were proposed
and rejected. While the Senate deliberated, the praetorian guards acted.

Among the inmates of the palace, in that hour of fear, among
slaves and freed men, half hidden behind a curtain in an obscure corner,
was a timid old man, who was dragged forth with brutal violence. He was no
less a personage than Claudius, the neglected uncle of the emperor, the
son of Drusus and Antonia, and nephew of Tiberius, and brother of
Germanicus. Instead of slaying the old man, the soldiers, respecting the
family of Caesar, hailed him, partly in jest, as imperator, and carried him
to their camp. Claudius, heretofore thought to be imbecile, and therefore
despised, was not unwilling to accept the dignity, and promised the
praetorians, if they would swear allegiance to him, a donation of fifteen
thousand sesterces apiece. The Senate, at the dictation of the praetorians,
accepted Claudius as emperor.

He commenced his reign, A.D. 41, by proclaiming a general amnesty.
He restored confiscated estates, recalled the wretched sisters of Caius,
sent back to Greece and Asia the plundered statues of temples which Caius
had transported to Rome, and inaugurated a regime of moderation and
justice. His life had been one of sickness, neglect, and obscurity, but he
was suffered to live because he was harmless. His mother was ashamed of
him, and his grandmother, Livia, despised him, and his sister, Livilla,
ridiculed him. He was withheld from public life, and he devoted himself to
literary pursuits, and even wrote a history of Roman affairs from the
battle of Actium, but it gained him no consideration. Tiberius treated him
with contumely, and his friends deserted him. All this neglect and
contempt were the effects of a weak constitution, a paralytic gait, and an
imperfect utterance.

Claudius took Augustus as his model, and at once a great change in
the administration was observable. There was a renewed activity of the
armies on the frontiers, and great generals arose who were destined to be
future emperors. The colonies were strengthened and protected, and foreign
affairs were conducted with ability. Herod Agrippa, the favorite of Caius,
was confirmed in his government of Galilee, and received in addition the
dominions of Samaria and Judaea. Antiochus was restored to the throne of
Commagene, and Mithridates received a district of Cilicia. The members of
the Senate were made responsible for the discharge of their magistracies,
and vacancies to this still august body were filled up from the wealthy
and powerful families. He opened an honorable career to the Gauls, revised
the lists of the knights, and took an accurate census of Roman citizens.
He conserved the national religion, and regulated holidays and festivals.
His industry and patience were unwearied, and the administration of
justice extorted universal admiration. His person was accessible to all
petitioners, and he relieved distress wherever he found it. He
relinquished the most grievous exactions of his predecessors, and tenderly
guarded neglected slaves. He also constructed great architectural works,
especially those of utility, completed the vast aqueduct which Caius
commenced, and provided the city with provisions. He built the port of
Ostia, to facilitate commerce, and drained marshes and lakes. The draining
of the Lake Fucinus occupied thirty thousand men for eleven years. While
he executed vast engineering works to supply the city with water, he also
amused the people with gladiatorial shows. In all things he showed the
force of the old Roman character, in spite of bodily feebleness.

The most memorable act of his administration was the conquest of
South Britain. By birth a Gaul, being born at Lugdunum, he cast his eyes
across the British channel and resolved to secure the island beyond as the
extreme frontier of his dominions, then under the dominion of the Druids--a
body of Celtic priests whom the Romans ever detested, and whose rites all
preceding emperors had proscribed. Julius Caesar had pretended to impose a
tribute on the chiefs of Southern Britain, but it was never exacted. Both
Augustus and Tiberius felt but little interest in the political affairs of
that distant island, but the rapid progress of civilization in Gaul, and
the growing cities on the banks of the Rhine, elicited a spirit of
friendly intercourse. Londinium, a city which escaped the notice of Caesar,
was a great emporium of trade in the time of Claudius. But the southern
chieftains were hostile, and jealous of their independence. So Claudius
sent four legions to Britain, under Plautius, and his lieutenant,
Vespasianus, to oppose the forces under Caractacus. He even entered
Britain in person, and subdued the Trinobantes. But for nine years
Caractacus maintained an independent position. He was finally overthrown
in battle, and betrayed to the Romans, and exhibited at Rome. The
insurrection was suppressed, or rather, a foothold was secured in the
island, which continued henceforth under the Roman rule.

The feeble old man, always nursed by women, had the misfortune to
marry, for his third wife, the most infamous woman in Roman annals
(Valeria Messalina), under whose influence the reign, at first beneficent,
became disgraceful. Claudius was entirely ruled by her. She amassed
fortunes, sold offices, confiscated estates, and indulged in guilty loves.
She ruled like a Madame de Pompadour, and degraded the throne which she
ought to have exalted. The influence of women generally was bad in those
corrupt times, but her influence was scandalous and degrading.

Claudius also was governed by his favorites, generally men of low
birth--freedmen who usurped the place of statesmen. Narcissus and Pallus
were the most confidential of the emperor's advisers, who, in consequence,
became enormously rich, for favors flowed through them, and received the
great offices of State. The court became a scene of cabals and crimes,
disgraced by the wanton shamelessness of the empress and the venality of
courtiers. Appius Silanus, one of the best and greatest of the nobles, was
murdered through the intrigues of Messalina, to whose progress in
wickedness history furnishes no parallel, and Valerius Asiaticus, another
great noble, also suffered the penalty of offending her, and was
destroyed; and his magnificent gardens, which she coveted, were bestowed
upon her.

But Messalina was rivaled in iniquity by another princess, between
whom and herself there existed the deadliest animosity. Thus was
Agrippina, the daughter of Germanicus, who had been married to Cn.
Domitius Ahenobardus, grandson of Octavia, and whose issue was the future
emperor Nero. The niece of Claudius occupied the second place in the
imperial household, and it became her aim to poison the mind of her uncle
against the woman she detested, and who returned her hatred. She now
leagued with the freedmen of the palace to destroy her rival. An
opportunity to gratify her vengeance soon occurred. Messalina, according
to Tacitus, was guilty of the inconceivable madness of marrying Silanus,
one of her paramours, while her husband lived, and that husband an
emperor, which story can not be believed without also supposing that
Claudius was a perfect idiot. Such a defiance of law, of religion, and of
the feelings of mankind, to say nothing of its folly, is not to be
supposed. Yet such was the scandal, and it filled the imperial household
with consternation. Callistus, Pallas, and Narcissus--the favorites who
ruled Claudius--united with Agrippina to secure her ruin. The emperor, then
absent in Ostia, was informed of the shamelessness of his wife. It was
difficult for him to believe such a fact, but it was attested by the
trusted members of his household. His fears were excited, as well as his
indignation, and he hastened to Rome for vengeance and punishment.
Messalina had retired to her magnificent gardens on the Pineian, which had
once belonged to Lucullus, the price of the blood of the murdered
Asiaticus; but, on the approach of the emperor, of which she was informed,
she advanced boldly to confront him, with every appearance of misery and
distress, with her children Britannicus and Octavia. Claudius vacillated,
and Messalina retired to her gardens, hoping to convince her husband of
her innocence on the interview which he promised the following day. But
Narcissus, knowing her influence, caused her to be assassinated, and the
emperor drowned his grief, or affection, or anger, in wine and music, and
seemingly forgot her. That Messalina was a wicked and abandoned woman is
most probable; that she was as bad as history represents her, may be
doubted, especially when we remember she was calumniated by a rival, who
succeeded in taking her place as wife. It is easier to believe she was the
victim of Agrippina and the freedmen, who feared as well as hated her,
than to accept the authority of Tacitus and Juvenal. On the death of
Messalina, Agrippina married her uncle, and the Senate sanctioned the
union, which was incest by the Roman laws.

The fourth wife of the emperor transcended the third in intrigue
and ambition, and her marriage, at the age of thirty-three, was soon
followed by the betrothal of her son, L. Domitius, a boy of twelve, with
Octavia, the daughter of Claudius and Messalina. He was adopted by the
emperor, and assumed the name of Nero. Henceforth she labored for the
advancement of her son only. She courted the army and the favor of the
people, and founded the city on the Rhine which we call Cologne. But she
outraged the notions and sentiments of the people more by her unfeminine
usurpation of public honors, than by her cruelty or her dissoluteness. She
seated herself by the side of the emperor in military festivals. She sat
by him at a sea-fight on the Lucrine Lake, clothed in a soldier's cloak.
She took her station in front of the Roman standard, when Caractacus, the
conquered British chief, was brought in chains to the emperor's tribunal.
She caused the dismissal of the imperial officers who incurred her
displeasure. She exercised a paramount sway over her husband, and
virtually ruled the empire. She distracted the palace with discords,
cabals, and jealousies.

How the bad influence of these women over the mind of Claudius can be
reconciled with the vigilance, and the labors, and the beneficent measures
of the emperor, as generally admitted, history does not narrate. But it
was during the ascendency of both Messalina and Agrippina, that Claudius
presided at the tribunals of justice with zeal and intelligence, that he
interested himself in works of great public utility, and that he carried
on successful war in Britain.

In the year A.D. 54, and in the fourteenth of his reign, Claudius,
exhausted by the affairs of State, and also, it is said, by intemperance,
fell sick at Rome, and sought the medicinal waters of Sinuessa. It was
there that Agrippina contrived to poison him, by the aid of Locusta, a
professed poisoner, and Xenophon, a physician, while she affected an
excess of grief. She held his son Britannicus in her arms, and detained
him and his sisters in the palace, while every preparation was made to
secure the accession of her own son, Nero. She was probably prompted to
this act from fear that she would be supplanted and punished, for Claudius
had said, when wine had unloosed his secret thoughts, "that it was his
fate to suffer the crimes of his wives, but at last to punish them." She
also was eager to elevate her own son to the throne, which, of right,
belonged to Britannicus, and whose rights might have been subsequently
acknowledged by the emperor, for his eyes could not be much longer blinded
to the character of his wife.

Claudius must not be classed with either wicked or imbecile
princes, in spite of his bodily infirmities, or the slanders with which
his name is associated. It is probable he indulged to excess in the
pleasures of the table, like the generality of Roman nobles, but we are to
remember that he ever sought to imitate Augustus in his wisest measures;
that he ever respected letters when literature was falling into contempt;
that his administration was vigorous and successful, fertile in victories
and generals; that he exceeded all his ministers in assiduous labors, and
that he partially restored the dignity and authority of the Senate. His
great weakness was in being ruled by favorites and women; but his
favorites were men of ability, and his women were his wives.

Nero, the son of Agrippina and Cn. Domitius Ahenobardus, by the
assistance of the praetorian guards, was now proclaimed imperator, A.D. 54,
directly descended, both on his paternal and maternal side, from Antonia
Major, the granddaughter of Antony and Domitius Ahenobardus. Through
Octavia, his grandmother, he traced his descent from the family of Caesar.
The Domitii--the paternal ancestors of Nero--had been illustrious for
several hundred years, and no one was more distinguished than Lucius
Domitius, called Ahenobardus, or Red-Beard, in the early days of the
republic. The father of Nero, who married Agrippina, was as infamous for
crimes as he was exalted for rank. But he died when his son Nero was three
years of age. He was left to the care of his father's sister, Domitia
Lepida, the mother of Messalina, and was by her neglected. His first
tutors were a dancer and a barber. On the return of his mother from exile
his education was more in accordance with his rank, as a prince of the
blood, though not in the line of succession. He was docile and
affectionate as a child, and was intrusted to the care of Seneca, by whom
he was taught rhetoric and moral philosophy, and who connived at his taste
for singing, piping, and dancing, the only accomplishments of which, as
emperor, he was afterward proud. He was surrounded with perils, in so
wicked an age, as were other nobles, and, by his adoption, was admitted a
member of the imperial family--the sacred stock of the Claudii and Julii.
He was under the influence of his mother--the woman who subverted
Messalina, and murdered Claudius,--who used every art and intrigue to
secure his accession.

When he mounted the throne of the Caesars, he gave promise of a
benignant reign. His first speech to the Senate made a good impression,
and his first acts were beneficent. But he ruled only through his mother,
who aspired to play the empress, a woman who gave answers to ambassadors,
and sent dispatches to foreign courts. Burrhus, the prefect of the
imperial guard, and Seneca, tutor and minister, through whose aid the
claims of Nero had been preferred over those of Britannicus, the son of
the late emperor, opposed her usurpations, and attempted to counteract her
influence.

The early promises of Nero were not fulfilled. He soon gave vent
to every vice, which was disguised by his ministers. One of the first acts
was to disgrace the freedman, Pallas,--the prime minister of Claudius,--and
to destroy Britannicus by poison, which crimes were palliated, if not
suggested, by Seneca.

The influence which Seneca and Burrhus had over the young emperor,
who screened his vices from the eyes of the people and Senate, necessarily
led to a division between Nero and Agrippina. He withdrew her guard of
honor, and paid her only formal visits, which conduct led to the desertion
of her friends, and the open hostility of her enemies. The wretched woman
defended herself against the charges they brought, with spirit, and for a
time she escaped. The influence of Seneca, at this period, was paramount,
and was exerted for the good of the empire, so that the Senate acquiesced
in the public measures of Nero, and no notice was taken of his private
irregularities. The empress mother apparently yielded to the ascendency of
the ministers, and provoked no further trial of strength.

Thus five years passed, until Nero was twenty-two, when Poppaea
Sabina, the fairest woman of her time, appeared upon the stage. Among the
dissolute women of imperial Rome, she was pre-eminent. Introduced to the
intimacy of Nero, she aspired to still higher elevation, and this was
favored by the detestation with which Agrippina was generally viewed, and
the continued decline of her influence, since she had ruled by fear rather
than love. Poppaea was now found intriguing against her, and induced Nero
to murder his own mother, to whose arts and wickedness he owed his own
elevation. The murder was effected in her villa, on the Lucrine Lake,
under circumstances of utter brutality. Nero came to examine her mangled
body, and coolly praised the beauty of her form. Nor were her ashes even
placed in the mausoleum of Augustus. This wicked Jezebel, who had poisoned
her husband, and was accused of every crime revolting to our nature, paid
the penalty of her varied infamies, and her name has descended to all
subsequent ages as the worst woman of antiquity.

With the murder of Agrippina, the madness and atrocities of Nero
gained new force. He now appears as a monster, and was only tolerated for
the amusements with which he appeased the Roman people. He disgraced the

imperial dignity by descending upon the stage, which was always infamous;
he instituted demoralizing games; he was utterly insensible to national
sentiments and feelings; he exceeded all his predecessors in extravagance
and follies; he was suspected of poisoning Burrhus, by whom he was
advanced to power; he executed men of the highest rank, whose crime was
their riches; he destroyed the members of the imperial family; he murdered
Doryphorus and Pallas, because they were averse to his marriage with
Poppaea; he drove his chariot in the Circus Maximus, pleased with the
acclamations of two hundred thousand spectators; he gave banquets in which
the utmost excesses of bacchanalian debauchery were openly displayed; he
is said to have kindled the conflagration of his own capital; he levied
oppressive taxes to build his golden palace, and support his varied
extravagance; he even destroyed his tutor and minister, Seneca, that he
might be free from his expostulations, and take possession of the vast
fortune which this philosopher had accumulated in his service; and he
finally kicked his wife so savagely that she died from the violence he
inflicted. If it were possible to add to his enormities, his persecution
of the Christians swelled the measure of his infamies--the first to which
they had been subjected in Rome, and in which Paul himself was a victim.
But his government was supported by the cruelty and voluptuousness of the
age, and which has never been painted in more vivid colors than by St.
Paul himself. The corrupt morality of the age tolerated all these crimes,
and excesses, and follies--an age which saw no great writers except Seneca,
Lucan, Perseus, and Martial, two of whom were murdered by the emperor.

But the hour of retribution was at hand. The provinces were
discontented, and the city filled with cabals and conspiracies. Though one
of them, instigated by Piso, was unsuccessful, and its authors punished, a
revolt in Gaul, headed by Galba--an old veteran of seventy-two, and
assisted by Vindex and Virginius, was fatal to Nero. The Senate and the
praetorian guards favored the revolution. The emperor was no longer safe in
his capital. Terrified by dreams, and stung by desertion, the wretched
tyrant fled to the Servilian Gardens, and from thence to the villa of one
of his freedmen, near which he committed suicide, at the age of
thirty-six, and in the fourteenth year of his inglorious reign, during
which there are scarcely other events to chronicle than his own personal
infamies. "In him perished the last scion of the stock of the Julii,
refreshed in vain by grafts from the Octavii, the Claudii, and the
Domitii." Though the first of the emperors had married four wives, the
second three, the third two, the fourth three, the fifth six, and the
sixth three, yet Nero was the last of the Caesars. None of the five
successors of Julius were truly his natural heirs. They trace their
lineage to his sister Julia, but the three last had in their veins the
blood of Antony as well as Octavia, and thus the descendants of the
triumvir reigned at Rome as well as those of his rival Octavius. We have
only to remark that it is strange that the Julian line should have been
extinguished in the sixth generation, with so many marriages.





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Previous: The Roman Empire On The Accession Of Augustus



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