Containing The Interval Of Three Years And A Half.
From The Departure Out Of Babylon To Fadus, The Roman Procurator.
How The Senators Determined To Restore The Democracy; But The Soldiers Were For Preserving The Monarchy, Concerning The Slaughter Of Caius's Wife And Daughter. A Character Of Caius's Morals.
1. WHEN the public affairs were in this posture, Claudius was on the sudden hurried away out of his house; for the soldiers had a meeting together; and when they had debated about what was to be done, they saw that a democracy was incapable of managing such a vast weight of public affairs; and that if it should be set up, it would not be for their advantage; and in case any one of those already in the government should obtain the supreme power, it would in all respects be to their grief, if they were not assisting to him in this advancement; that it would therefore be right for them, while the public affairs were unsettled, to choose Claudius emperor, who was uncle to the deceased Caius, and of a superior dignity and worth to every one of those that were assembled together in the senate, both on account of the virtues of his ancestors, and of the learning he had acquired in his education; and who, if once settled in the empire, would reward them according to their deserts, and bestow largesses upon them.
These were their consultations, and they executed the same immediately. Claudius was therefore seized upon suddenly by the soldiery. But Cneas Sentins Saturninns, although he understood that Claudius was seized, and that he intended to claim the government, unwillingly indeed in appearance, but in reality by his own free consent, stood up in the senate, and, without being dismayed, made an exhortatory oration to them, and such a one indeed as was fit for men of freedom and generosity, and spake thus:
"Although it be a thing incredible, O Romans! because of the great length of time, that so unexpected an event hath happened, yet are we now in possession of liberty. How long indeed this will last is uncertain, and lies at the disposal of the gods, whose grant it is; yet such it is as is sufficient to make us rejoice, and be happy for the present, although we may soon be deprived of it; for one hour is sufficient to those that are exercised in virtue, wherein we may live with a mind accountable only to ourselves, in our own country, now free, and governed by such laws as this country once flourished under. As for myself, I cannot remember our former time of liberty, as being born after it was gone; but I am beyond measure filled with joy at the thoughts of our present freedom. I also esteem those that were born and bred up in that our former liberty happy men, and that those men are worthy of no less esteem than the gods themselves who have given us a taste of it in this age; and I heartily wish that this quiet enjoyment of it, which we have at present, might continue to all ages. However, this single day may suffice for our youth, as well as for us that are in years. It will seem an age to our old men, if they might die during its happy duration: it may also be for the instruction of the younger sort, what kind of virtue those men, from whose loins we are derived, were exercised in. As for ourselves, our business is, during the space of time, to live virtuously, than which nothing can be more to our advantage; which course of virtue it is alone that can preserve our liberty; for as to our ancient state, I have heard of it by the relations of others; but as to our later state, during my lifetime, I have known it by experience, and learned thereby what mischiefs tyrannies have brought upon this commonwealth, discouraging all virtue, and depriving persons of magnanimity of their liberty, and proving the teachers of flattery and slavish fear, because it leaves the public administration not to be governed by wise laws, but by the humor of those that govern.
3. And this was the purport of Sentius's oration, (9) which was received with pleasure by the senators, and by as many of the equestrian order as were present. And now one Trebellius Maximus rose up hastily, and took off Sentius's finger a ring, which had a stone, with the image of Caius engraven upon it, and which, in his zeal in speaking, and his earnestness in doing what he was about, as it was supposed, he had forgotten to take off himself. This sculpture was broken immediately. But as it was now far in the night, Cherea demanded of the consuls the watchword, who gave him this word, Liberty. These facts were the subjects of admiration to themselves, and almost incredible; for it was a hundred years since the democracy had been laid aside, when this giving the watchword returned to the consuls; for before the city was subject to tyrants, they were the commanders of the soldiers. But when Cherea had received that watchword, he delivered it to those who were on the senate's side, which were four regiments, who esteemed the government without emperors to be preferable to tyranny. So these went away with their tribunes. The people also now departed very joyful, full of hope and of courage, as having recovered their former democracy, and were no longer under an emperor; and Cherea was in very great esteem with them.
4. And now Cherea was very uneasy that Caius's daughter and wife were still alive, and that all his family did not perish with him, since whosoever was left of them must be left for the ruin of the city and of the laws. Moreover, in order to finish this matter with the utmost zeal, and in order to satisfy his hatred of Caius, he sent Julius Lupus, one of the tribunes, to kill Caius's wife and daughter. They proposed this office to Lupus as to a kinsman of Clement, that he might be so far a partaker of this murder of the tyrant, and might rejoice in the virtue of having assisted his fellow citizens, and that he might appear to have been a partaker with those that were first in their designs against him. Yet did this action appear to some of the conspirators to be too cruel, as to this using such severity to a woman, because Caius did more indulge his own ill-nature than use her advice in all that he did; from which ill-nature it was that the city was in so desperate a condition with the miseries that were brought on it, and the flower of the city was destroyed.
But others accused her of giving her consent to these things; nay, they ascribed all that Caius had done to her as the cause of it, and said she had given a potion to Caius, which had made him obnoxious to her, and had tied him down to love her by such evil methods; insomuch that she, having rendered him distracted, was become the author of all the mischiefs that had befallen the Romans, and that habitable world which was subject to them. So that at length it was determined that she must die; nor could those of the contrary opinion at all prevail to have her saved; and Lupus was sent accordingly. Nor was there any delay made in executing what he went about, but he was subservient to those that sent him on the first opportunity, as desirous to be no way blameable in what might be done for the advantage of the people. So when he was come into the palace, he found Cesonia, who was Caius's wife, lying by her husband's dead body, which also lay down on the ground, and destitute of all such things as the law allows to the dead, and all over herself besmeared with the blood of her husband's wounds, and bewailing the great affliction she was under, her daughter lying by her also; and nothing else was heard in these her circumstances but her complaint of Caius, as if he had not regarded what she had often told him of beforehand; which words of hers were taken in a different sense even at that time, and are now esteemed equally ambiguous by those that hear of them, and are still interpreted according to the different inclinations of people.
Now some said that the words denoted that she had advised him to leave off his mad behavior and his barbarous cruelty to the citizens, and to govern the public with moderation and virtue, lest he should perish by the same way, upon their using him as he had used them. But some said, that as certain words had passed concerning the conspirators, she desired Caius to make no delay, but immediately to put them all to death, and this whether they were guilty or not, and that thereby he would be out of the fear of any danger; and that this was what she reproached him for, when she advised him so to do, but he was too slow and tender in the matter. And this was what Cesonia said, and what the opinions of men were about it. But when she saw Lupus approach, she showed him Caius's dead body, and persuaded him to come nearer, with lamentation and tears; and as she perceived that Lupus was in disorder, and approached her in order to execute some design disagreeable to himself, she was well aware for what purpose he came, and stretched out her naked throat, and that very cheerfully to him, bewailing her case, like one that utterly despaired of her life, and bidding him not to boggle at finishing the tragedy they had resolved upon relating to her. So she boldly received her death's wound at the hand of Lupus, as did the daughter after her. So Lupus made haste to inform Cherea of what he had done.
5. This was the end of Caius, after he had reigned four years, within four months. He was, even before he came to be emperor, ill-natured, and one that had arrived at the utmost pitch of wickedness; a slave to his pleasures, and a lover of calumny; greatly affected by every terrible accident, and on that account of a very murderous disposition where he durst show it. He enjoyed his exorbitant power to this only purpose, to injure those who least deserved it, with unreasonable insolene and got his wealth by murder and injustice. He labored to appear above regarding either what was divine or agreeable to the laws, but was a slave to the commendations of the populace; and whatsoever the laws determined to be shameful, and punished, that he esteemed more honorable than what was virtuous. He was unmindful of his friends, how intimate soever, and though they were persons of the highest character; and if he was once angry at any of them, he would inflict punishment upon them on the smallest occasions, and esteemed every man that endeavored to lead a virtuous life his enemy.
And whatsoever he commanded, he would not admit of any contradiction to his inclinations; whence it was that he had criminal conversation with his own sister; (10) from which occasion chiefly it was also that a bitter hatred first sprang up against him among the citizens, that sort of incest not having been known of a long time; and so this provoked men to distrust him, and to hate him that was guilty of it. And for any great or royal work that he ever did, which might be for the present and for future ages, nobody can name any such, but only the haven that he made about Rhegium and Sicily, for the reception of the ships that brought corn from Egypt; which was indeed a work without dispute very great in itself, and of very great advantage to the navigation. Yet was not this work brought to perfection by him, but was the one half of it left imperfect, by reason of his want of application to it; the cause of which was this, that he employed his studies about useless matters, and that by spending his money upon such pleasures as concerned no one's benefit but his own, he could not exert his liberality in things that were undeniably of great consequence.
Otherwise he was an excellent orator, and thoroughly acquainted with the Greek tongue, as well as with his own country or Roman language. He was also able, off-hand and readily, to give answers to compositions made by others, of considerable length and accuracy. He was also more skillful in persuading others to very great things than any one else, and this from a natural affability of temper, which had been improved by much exercise and pains-taking; for as he was the grandson (11) of the brother of Tiberius, whose successor he was, this was a strong inducement to his acquiring of learning, because Tiberius aspired after the highest pitch of that sort of reputation; and Caius aspired after the like glory for eloquence, being induced thereto by the letters of his kinsman and his emperor. He was also among the first rank of his own citizens. But the advantages he received from his learning did not countervail the mischief he brought upon himself in the exercise of his authority; so difficult it is for those to obtain the virtue that is necessary for a wise man, who have the absolute power to do what they please without control. At the first he got himself such friends as were in all respects the most worthy, and was greatly beloved by them, while he imitated their zealous application to the learning and to the glorious actions of the best men; but when he became insolent towards them, they laid aside the kindness they had for him, and began to hate him; from which hatred came that plot which they raised against him, and wherein he perished.
(8) In this oration of Sentius Saturninus, we may see the great value virtuous men put upon public liberty, and the sad misery they underwent, while they were tyrannized over by such emperors as Caius. See Josephus's own short but pithy reflection at the end of the chapter:
"So difficult," says he, "it is for those to obtain the virtue that is necessary to a wise man, who have the absolute power to do what they please without control."
(9) Hence we learn that, in the opinion of Saturninus, the sovereign authority of the consuls and senate had been taken away just a hundred years before the death of Caius, A.D. 41, or in the sixtieth year before the Christian saga, when the first triumvirate began under Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.
(10) Spanheim here notes from Suetonius, that the name of Caius's sister with whom he was guilty of incest, was Drusilla and that Suetonius adds, he was guilty of the same crime with all his sisters also. He notes further, that Suetonius omits the mention of the haven for ships, which our author esteems the only public work for the good of the present and future ages which Caius left behind him, though in an imperfect condition.
(11) This Caius was the son of that excellent person Germanicus, who was the son of Drusus, the brother of Tiberius the emperor.