Dio's Rome, Volume V., Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211)
by Cassius Dio
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[Sidenote: A.D. 206-7(?)] [Sidenote:—10—] It was at this period that one Bulla, an Italian, established a robber band of about six hundred men and for two years continued to plunder Italy under the very noses of the emperors and of so great bodies of soldiers. Pursuit was instituted by numerous persons, and Severus emulously followed his trail, but the fellow was never really seen when seen, never found when found, never apprehended when caught. This was due to his great bribes and his cleverness. He got wind of everybody that was setting out from Rome and everybody that was putting into port at Brundusium, learning who and how many they were, and what and how much they had with them. His general method was to take a part of what they had and then let them go at once. Artisans, however, he detained for a time and after making use of their skill dismissed them with something extra as a present. Once two of his robbers had been captured and were to be given to beasts, whereupon the chief paid a visit to the keeper of the prison, pretending that he was the governor of his native place (?) and needed some such men, and in this way he secured and saved them. Again, he approached the centurion who was charged with abolishing brigandage and in disguise accused his own self; he further promised, if the centurion would accompany him, to deliver the robber to him. So, pretending that he was leading him to Felix (this was another name of the chief), he brought him to a hill-encompassed spot, suitable for ambuscade, and easily seized him. Later he assumed the garb of a magistrate, ascended the tribunal, and having called the centurion caused his head to be shaved, and said: "Take this message to your masters: 'Feed your slaves, if you want to make an end of brigandage.'" Bulla had, indeed, a very great number of Caesarians, some who had been poorly paid and some who had gone absolutely without pay.

Severus, informed of these events one at a time, was moved to anger to think that while having other men win victory in warfare in Britain, he himself in Italy had proved no match for a robber. At last he despatched a tribune from his body-guard with many horsemen and threatened him with terrible punishments if he should not bring the culprit alive. Then this commander ascertained that the chief was maintaining relations of intimacy with the wife of another, and through the agency of her husband persuaded her on promise of immunity to cooperate with them. As a result the elusive leader was arrested while asleep in a cave. Papinianus the prefect asked him: "For what reason did you become a robber?" The other rejoined: "For what reason are you a prefect?" And thereafter by solemn proclamation he was given to beasts. His robber band broke up, for the entire strength of the six hundred lay in him.

[Sidenote: A.D. 208 (a.u. 961)] [Sidenote:—11—] Severus, seeing that his children were departing from their accustomed modes of life and that his legions were becoming enervated by idleness, set out on a campaign against Britain, though he knew that he should not return. He knew this chiefly from the stars under which he had been born, for he had them painted upon the ceilings of the two halls in the palace where he was wont to hold court. Thus they were visible to all, save the portion which "regarded-the-hour" when he first saw the light (i.e., his horo-scope). This he had not engraved in the same way in both the rooms.—He knew it also by the report of the seers. And a thunderbolt struck a statue of his standing near the gates through which he intended to march out and looking off along the road leading to his destination, and it had erased three letters from his name. For this reason, [Footnote: The significance of this happening is explained as follows. Taking the Greek form of Severus, namely [Greek: SEBAEROS] and erasing the first three letters you have left [Greek: AEROS]= [Greek: AEROS]=heros, "hero." When a thunderbolt substitutes the word "hero" for the emperor's name, the supposition naturally arises that the ruler will soon be numbered among the heroes, that is, that he will cease to exist as a mortal man.] as the seers indicated, he did not come back again but departed from life two years after this. He took with him very great sums of money.

[Sidenote:—12—] There are two principal races of the Britons,—the Caledonians and the Maeatians. The titles of the rest have all been reduced to these two. The Maeatians live near the cross wall which cuts the island in two, and the Caledonians are behind them. Both inhabit wild and waterless mountains, desolate and swampy plains, holding no walls, nor cities, nor tilled fields, but living by pasturage and hunting and a few fruit trees. The fish, which are inexhaustible and past computing for multitude, they do not taste. They dwell coatless and shoeless in tents, possess their women in common, and rear all the offspring as a community. Their form of government is mostly democratic and they are very fond of plundering.

Consequently they choose their boldest spirits as leaders. They go into battle on chariots with small, swift horses. There are also infantry, very quick at running and very firm in standing their ground. Their weapons are shield and short spear, with a bronze apple attached to the end of the ground-spike, so that when the instrument is shaken it may clash and inspire the enemy with terror. They also have daggers. They can endure hunger and cold and any kind of wretchedness. They plunge into the swamps and exist there for many days with only their heads above water, and in the forests they support themselves upon bark and roots and in all [Footnote: The reading is a little doubtful. Possibly "in such cases" ( [Greek: para tauta]). (Boissevain).] cases they have ready a kind of food of which a piece the size of a bean when eaten prevents them from being either hungry or thirsty. Of such a nature is the island of Britain, and such are the inhabitants that the enemy's country has. For it is an island, and the fact (as I have stated) [Footnote: Compare Book Thirty-nine, chapter 50, which, in turn, refers to Book Sixty-six, chapter 20.] was clearly proved at this time. The length of it is seven thousand one hundred and thirty-two stades. Its greatest breadth is two thousand three hundred and ten, and its least is three hundred. [Sidenote:—13—] Of all this we hold a little less than a half. So Severus, desiring to subjugate the whole of it, invaded Caledonia. While traversing the territory he had untold trouble in cutting down the forests, reducing the levels of heights, filling up the swamps, and bridging the rivers. He fought no battle and beheld no adversary in battle array. The enemy purposely put sheep and cattle in front of them for the soldiers to seize, in order that the latter might be deceived for a longer time and wear themselves out. The Romans received great damage from the streams and were made objects of attack when they were scattered. Afterward, being unable to walk, they were slain by their own friends to avoid capture, so that nearly as many as fifty thousand died.

But the emperor did not desist till he had approached the extremity of the island. Here he observed very accurately to how slight a degree the sun declined below the horizon [Footnote: Compare Tacitus, Agricola, chapter 12 (two sentences, Dierum [Lacuna] affirmant).] and the length of days and nights both summer and winter. Thus having been conveyed through practically the whole of the hostile region,—for he was really conveyed in a covered chair most of the way on account of his weakness,—he returned to [Sidenote: A.D. 210 (a.u. 963)] friendly territory, first forcing the Britons to come to terms on condition that he should abandon a good part of their territory.

[Sidenote:—14—] Antoninus also disturbed him and involved him in vain worry by his intemperate life, by his evident intention to murder his brother if the chance should present itself, and finally by plotting against his own father. Once he leaped suddenly out of his quarters, shouting and bawling and feigning to have been wronged by Castor. This man was the best of the Caesarians attending upon Severus, had been trusted with his opinions, and had been assigned the duties of chamberlain. Certain soldiers with whom previous arrangements had been made hereupon gathered and joined the outcry; but they were checked in short order, as Severus himself appeared on the scene and punished the more unruly among them.

On another occasion both were riding to meet the Caledonians for the purpose of receiving them and holding a conference about a truce, and Antoninus undertook to kill his father outright with his own hand. They were going along on their horses, for Severus, although his feet were rather shrunken [Footnote: Reading [Greek: hypotetaekos] (suggestion of Boissevain, who does not regard Naber's emendation, Mnemosyne, XVI, p. 113, as feasible).] by an ailment, nevertheless was on horseback himself and the rest of the army was following: the enemy's force, too, was likewise a spectator. At this juncture, in the midst of the silence and order, Antoninus reined up his horse and drew his sword, apparently intending to strike his father in the back. Seeing this, the other horsemen in the detachment raised a cry of alarm, which scared the son, so that he did nothing further. Severus turned at their shout and saw the sword; however, he uttered not a syllable but ascended the tribunal, finished what he had to do, and returned to the general's tent. Then he called his son and Papinianus and Castor, ordered a sword to be placed within easy reach, and upbraided the youth for having dared to do such a thing at all and especially for having been on the point of committing so great a crime in the presence of all the allies and the enemy. Finally he said: "Now if you desire to slay me and have done, put an end to me here. You are strong: I am an old man and prostrate. If you have no objection to this, but shrink from becoming my actual murderer, there stands by your side Papinianus the prefect, whom you may order to put me out of the way. He will certainly do anything that you command, since you are emperor." Though he spoke in this fashion, he still did the plotter no harm, in spite of the fact that he had often blamed Marcus for not ending the life of Commodus and that he had himself often threatened his son with this treatment. Such words, however, were invariably spoken in a fit of anger: on this occasion he allowed his love of offspring to get the better of his love of country; yet in doing so he simply betrayed his other child, for he well knew what would happen.

[Sidenote:—15—] Upon another revolt of the inhabitants of the island he summoned the soldiers and bade them invade the rebels' country, killing whomsoever they should encounter. He added these verses:

"Let none escape utter destruction At our hands. Yea, whatso is found in the womb of the mother, Child unborn though it be, let it not escape utter destruction!" [Footnote: Homer's Iliad, VI, verse 57, with a slight change at the end.]

When this had been done and the Caledonians as well as the Maeatians revolted, he proceeded with preparations to make war upon them in person. While he was thus engaged his sickness carried him off on the fourth of February. [Sidenote: A.D. 211 (a.u. 964)] Antoninus, it is said, contributed something to the result. Before he closed his eyes he is reputed to have spoken these words to his children (I shall use the exact phraseology without embellishment): "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, scorn everybody else." After this his body arrayed in military garb was placed upon a pyre, and as a mark of honor the soldiers and his children ran about it. Those present who had any military gifts threw them upon it and the sons applied the fire. Later his bones were put in a jar of purple stone, conveyed to Rome, and deposited in the tomb of the Antonines. It is said that Severus sent for the jar a little before his death and after feeling it over remarked: "Thou shalt hold a man that the world could not hold."

[Sidenote:—16—] He was slow-moulded but strong, though he eventually grew very weak from gout: mentally he was very keen and very firm. He wished for more education than he got and for this reason he was sagacious rather than a good talker. Toward friends not forgetful, to enemies most oppressive, he was capable of everything that he desired to accomplish but careless of everything said about him. Hence he gathered money from every source (save that he killed no one to get it) [and met all necessary expenditures quite ungrudgingly. He restored very many of the ancient buildings and inscribed upon them his own name to signify that he had repaired them so as to be new structures, and from his private funds. Also he spent a great deal uselessly upon renovating and repairing other places], erecting, for instance, to Bacchus and Hercules a temple of huge size. Yet, though his expenses were enormous, he left behind not merely a few myriad denarii, easily reckoned, but a great many. Again, he rebuked such persons as were not chaste, even going to the extent of enacting certain laws in regard to adultery, with the result that there were any number of prosecutions for that offence. When consul I once found three thousand entered on the docket. But inasmuch as very few persons appeared to conduct their cases, he too ceased to trouble his head about it. Apropos of this, a quite witty remark is reported of the wife of Argentocoxus, a Caledonian, to Julia Augusta, when the latter after the treaty was joking her about the free intercourse of her sex in Britain with men. Thereupon the foreigner asserted: "We fulfill the necessities of nature in a much better way than you Roman women. We have dealings openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest." This is what the British woman said.

[Sidenote:—17—] The following is the style of life that Severus led in time of peace. He was sure to be doing something before dawn, while it was still night, and after this he would go to walk, telling and hearing of the interests of the empire. Then he held court, and separately (unless there were some great festival); and indeed, he did this very well. Those on trial were allowed plenty of water [Footnote: The water-clock again. Compare Book Seventy-one, chapter 6.] and he granted us, his coadjutors, full liberty to speak.—He continued to preside till noonday. After that he went riding as much as he could. Next he took some kind of exercise and a bath. He then consumed a not meagre lunch, either by himself or with his children. Next, as a rule, he enjoyed a nap. Later he rose, attended to his remaining duties of administration, and while walking about occupied himself with discussions of both Greek and Latin lore. Then, toward evening, he would bathe again and dine with his attendants. Very seldom did he have any outsider to dinner and only on days when it was quite unavoidable did he arrange expensive banquets.—He lived sixty-five years, nine months, and twenty-five days, for he was born on the eleventh of April. Of this he had ruled seventeen years, eight months and three days. In fine, he showed himself so active that even expiring he gasped: "Come, give it to us, if we have anything to do!"


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