Valerius Maximus

-   Book 5 , chapters 4-10


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

Previous chapters (1-3)

IV.   Of Piety toward Parents

But let us leave these ingrates, and talk of those that have been reckoned pious; for honourable subjects are more pleasing than stories of the wicked. Let us come then to those, who have been so fortunate in their offspring, as never to repent of their child-rearing.

[4.1] L   Coriolanus, a person of great courage and profound wisdom, and well-deserving of his country, yet was almost ruined by the cruelty of unjust condemnation, and fled to the Volsci, who were enemies of the Romans. For virtue is esteemed wherever it goes, so that where he only sought for refuge, in a short time he obtained the chief command of all things. And it happened that he, whom the Romans had rejected as their leader, could have proved to be their most fatal enemy. For the Volsci having often defeated our armies, by his leadership and valour, came up and besieged the very walls of Rome. For this reason the people, who had been so arrogant, as not to value their own happiness, were forced to beg mercy from an exile, whose misdemeanour they previously refused to  pardon. Ambassadors were sent to appease him, but they could do no good: the priests went in their religious habits, but returned without obtaining any favour: the senators were at their wits' end and the people trembled: both men and women bewailed their approaching calamity. But then Veturia, Coriolanus's mother, taking along with her Volumnia his wife, and their children also, went to the camp of the Volsci. As soon as her son saw them, "O my country, you have captured and overcome my anger," said he, "by virtue of this woman's tears; and for the sake of the womb that bore me, I forgive you, though you have been my enemy;" and immediately he withdrew his army from the Roman territories. And so his piety withstood and overcame all obstacles -  revenge for the wrong he had received, his hopes of victory, shame at leaving his venture unfinished, and fear of death. And thus the sight of one parent changed a most severe war into a timely peace.     { see also: Livy 2.40 }

[4.2] L   The same piety roused the elder  Africanus, when he was hardly past the age of childhood, to go to the aid of his father, and armed him with manly strength in the midst of battle. For he saved the consul, who was desperately wounded in the battle which he lost to Hannibal upon the river Ticinus. He was not terrified either by the tenderness of his age, the rawness of his skill in warfare, or the outcome of an unfortunate fight, which would have daunted an older soldier. By this he merited a crown conspicuous for its double honour, having rescued from the jaws of death, a father and a general.     { see also: Livy 21.46 }

[4.3] L   Those famous examples the Roman citizens only learnt by hearsay; the following they beheld with their eyes. Pomponius the tribune of the plebs had accused L. Manlius Torquatus before the people, on the charge that he had exceeded the time of his commission, out of hope of putting an successful end to the war, and that he had sent his son, who was a young man of very great hopes, away from public service, to work on his own farm. When the young Manlius heard this, he came to the city, and went at break of day to Pomponius's house. Pomponius, believing that he came to enlarge on his father's crimes, because he had been ill used by him, commanded all the people out of the room, so that he might more easily make his accusations without any onlookers. The son having thereby got an opportunity so fit for his purpose, drew his sword which he had brought concealed under his clothes, and by his threats compelled the terrified tribune to swear, that he would forsake any further prosecution of his father: so that Torquatus was never brought to trial. Piety towards mild parents is commendable: but Manlius, as his father was severe to him, merited greater praise, by the assistance which he gave him. He was induced by no allurement of indulgence, but only by natural affection to love him.     { see also: Livy 7.4 }

[4.4] L   This sort of piety was imitated by M. Cotta, on the very same day that he put on the toga of manhood. As soon as he came down from the Capitol, he made an accusation against Cn. Carbo, who had condemned his father; and bringing him to trial, he convicted him; thus making an auspicious start to his youth, and his public career, with a famous achievement.     { see also: Dio 36.40 }

[4.5] L   Paternal authority was equally respected by C. Flaminius. For he as tribune of the plebs published a law for giving portions of the  Gallic land to every individual man, in opposition to the senate, and quite against their will, ignoring both their threats and their pleas, and not at all terrified by the menace of an army, which they threatened to raise against him, if he persisted in his obstinacy. He went onto the rostra, and submitted his law to the people; but when his father pulled him away, he came down in obedience to his paternal command: and no man complained in the least to see him break off in the midst of his speech.

[4.6] L   These were great acts of manly piety; but perhaps the action of Claudia, the Vestal Virgin, was more forcible and courageous. When she saw her father pulled out of his triumphal chariot, by the rude hand of a tribune of the plebs, with remarkable speed she interposed herself between them, and resisted the highest authority in the city, who was inflamed with anger and malice. So the father rode in triumph to the Capitol, and the daughter to the temple of Vesta. Nor could it be easily decided to which of them  the most praise was due, whether to him whom victory, or her whom piety attended.     { see also: Cicero, Cael_34 }

[4.7] L   Pardon me most ancient hearths, pardon me eternal fires, if the course of our work leads us from your most sacred temple, to a more necessary rather than magnificent part of the city. For no misfortune, no poverty cheapens the price of piety. Rather the proof of it is more certain, by how much it is more wretched. The praetor had delivered to the triumvir a free-born woman to be put to death in prison, after she had been convicted of some heinous crime. But the jailer, pitying her circumstance, did not strangle her immediately. He continued to give her daughter liberty to visit her, after he had diligently searched that she carried her no food, believing that in a little time the mother would be starved to death. But seeing her live many days without any alteration, he began to wonder by what means she kept herself alive; thereupon, watching the daughter more carefully, he observed her giving her breast to her mother, and allaying her hunger with her milk. The novelty of this wonderful sight was reported by him to the triumvir, by the triumvir to the praetor, and by the praetor to the panel of judges, who granted the woman her pardon. What will not piety invent, which for the preservation of a parent in prison, discovered so strange a means as this? For what could be more unusual, what more extraordinary, than that a mother should be nourished by the breasts of a child? One would say that this was against the course of nature, except that nature commands us in the first place to love our parents.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.121 }


[4e.1] L   The same can be said of the piety of Pero, who preserved her father Mycon, who had fallen into the same misfortune, and was in prison, nourishing him like a baby, in his extreme old age, with the milk of her breasts. Mens eyes are transfixed in wonder, when they behold this act of piety represented in painting, and renew the existence of this ancient event by their admiration of its present depiction, believing that in the mute drawing of their limbs they are looking at living bodies. And this of necessity happens in the mind, which is brought to consider ancient deeds as if they are recent, more effectively by a picture than by a written account.

[4e.2] L   Nor can I forget you Cimon, who did not hesitate to purchase the burial of your father, with the voluntary surrender of your own person to imprisonment. For though afterwards it happened, that you were both a famous citizen and a renowned general, yet you got more honour in the prison than in the senate-house. For other virtues deserve admiration, but piety merits a great deal of love.     { see also: Valerius 5.3e.3c }

[4e.3] L   Nor must I forget the two brothers, whose courage was more noble than their birth. They were born of low parentage in Spain, and became famous by their deaths, laying down their lives for the support of their parents. For they agreed that after their death twelve thousand sesterces should be paid to their parents by the Paciaeci, on condition that they killed their father's killer Etpastus, the tyrant of their country; and they not only performed this exploit, but died bravely in performing it. With the same hands they avenged their countrymen, punishied Etpastus, provided maintenance for their aged parents, and gained renown for themselves. Therefore now they live on in their tombs, because they chose rather to support their fathers near the end of their life, than to preserve their own.

[4e.4] L   More famous pairs of brothers were Biton and Cleobis, and Amphinomus and Anapius: the former, because they pulled their mother's chariot to the temple of Juno, in order to perform the ceremonies there: and the latter, because they carried their father and their mother upon their shoulders, through the midst of Aetna's flames, although neither of them intended to lose their lives.

[4e.5] L   I do not want to detract from the honour of the Argives, or to cloud the glory of Mount Aetna, but I wish to hold the light of knowledge to illuminate a lesser known piety: which makes me renew the memory of an act of Scythian piety. For when Darius invaded their territories with a mighty army, they retreated before him to the remotest wildernesses of all Asia. Thereupon, being asked by his ambassadors, when they would make an end of fleeing, or when they would begin to fight; they replied that they had neither agricultural land, nor any cities which were worth fighting for, but when they came to the monuments of their ancestors, then he would know how the Scythians were accustomed to fight. By this pious answer, that fierce and barbarous nation redeemed themselves from the charge of savagery. Therefore Nature is the first and best mistress of piety, which does not need the help of speech, nor the use of letters, but through her own silent and proper power infuses love into the breasts of children. What is then the profit of learning? That their manners should be more polite, but not more honourable. For true virtue is rather born than acquired.     { see also: Herodotus 4.127 }

[4e.6] L   For who taught these people, who travel around in carts, shelter their naked bodies in the woods, and live by tearing cattle apart like dogs, to give Darius such an answer? She that taught Croesus's son, who was born dumb, to speak out for the preservation of his father. For when the city of Sardis was captured by Cyrus, one of the Persians, not knowing who the person was, was going violently to kill his father, but the son - as if forgetting that Fortune had given him no voice when he was born - cried out aloud to the soldier that he should not kill king Croesus, by which he called back the sword that was already at his throat. And so he, who till that time was mute, recovered his speech for the safety of his father.     { see also: Herodotus 1.85 }

[4e.7] L   The same affection armed a young man of Pinna, called Pulto, in the Italian War, with the same strength of body and mind. He was commander of the city when it was besieged. When the Roman general caused his father to be brought forth, surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords, and threatened to put him to death before his eyes, unless he would deliver up the town, on his own he made a sally, and rescued his aged father out of the enemy's hands. He was doubly illustrious for his piety, because he preserved his father, and yet did not betray his country.

V.   {Of Fraternal Benevolence}

Next to this kind of piety follows fraternal benevolence. For as it may be reckoned the first bond of friendship, to have received many and great benefits; the next tie is, that we have received them together. For how abundantly pleasant is the remembrance of those things! Before I was born I lived in the same house, my infancy lay in the same cradle, the same persons were parents to both, the same vows were made for both, and we enjoy the same honour from our ancestors. A wife is dear to a husband, children dear to a parent, friends are pleasant, and relatives are delightful; but no later acquaintance ought to exceed brotherly loving kindness.

[5.1] L   And this I speak by the testimony of Scipio Africanus, who, though he had contracted a very close friendship with Laelius, yet implored the senate that they would not transfer to him the province allotted to his brother, which they had taken away from him; he promised to go himself as legate to his brother L. Scipio. And so that the elder became inferior to the younger brother, the steadfast and courageous to the faint-hearted, the renowned to a person of no fame; and, what is more, he that was already Africanus, to him that was not yet Asiaticus - so that he acquired one of the most noble surnames, and donated the other. He received the general's cloak  of one triumph, and donated the other; and he was greater by the assistance he gave, than his brother by his superior command.     { see also: Livy 37.1 }

[5.2] L   M. Fabius the consul having defeated the Veientes and Etruscans in a most remarkable battle , would not accept a triumph, which was offered to him with the full consent of the senate, and eager desire of the people, because his brother Q. Fabius, a person of consular dignity, was killed bravely fighting in that battle. How great was the zeal of fraternal love that was lodged in that breast, that could not be extinguished even by the splendour of so great an honour?     { see also: Livy 2.47 }

[5.3] L   Antiquity is famous for that example, but which follows has been no small ornament to our own age, who have had the honour to see the fraternal pair of the Claudian family, who are now also the glory of the Julian family. For so great a love had our princeps and parent for his brother Drusus, that when he understood at Ticinus, whither he came as conqueror to embrace his parents, that his brother Drusus lay dangerously ill in Germany, in terrible shock he rushed out of town. And the journey which he made from there seems to have been so swift, as if he rode it at one breath; for passing the Alps and the Rhine, he rode day and night, changing his horses, for over two hundred miles, through several barbarous but newly conquered nations, in the company of only Antabagius, who was his guide. But in all that hazard and danger, when he had forsaken the company of men, the most sacred name of piety, and the gods who are the supporters of all laudable virtues, even Jupiter himself, the faithful preserver of the Roman empire, accompanied him. Drusus also, faint and weak, at that very moment when there is little or no distinction to be made between life and death, ordered the legions with their standards to go out and meet his brother, proclaiming him as imperator. He also ordered a praetorium to be constructed for him upon the right hand side of his own, and would make him take the titles of consul and imperator. At the same moment he submitted to the majesty of his brother, and to the stroke of death. Nor can any precedent of fraternal love be compared to these, unless it be the example of Castor and Pollux.     { see also: Pliny HN_7.84 }

[5.4] L   However it cannot be a dishonour to the memory of the most famous generals, to mention here the extraordinary love of a certain soldier for his brother. For he was serving under Cn. Pompeius, and having slain a soldier of Sertorius, who fought him very hard, when he came to strip him, and found him to be his own brother, he cursed the gods for giving him the  victory. He carried the body near his own camp, and putting a rich garment upon him, laid him upon a funeral pyre. As soon as he had lit it, with the same sword wherewith he had slain his brother, he stabbed himself in the heart, and falling upon his brother, was burnt in the same flames. He might have lived without blame, if he had pleaded ignorance; but he rather chose to take heed of his own piety, than the pardon of others; and for that reason he accompanied his brother in death.     { see also: Granius 20 }

VI.   Of Patriotism

We have seen piety to personal relatives, and we will now show it towards our native country; to whose majesty paternal authority, though almost equal to that of the gods, has ever submitted, and to which brotherly affection willingly yields, and for good reason too. For a family may be ruined, and yet the commonwealth could be safe; but the ruin of the commonwealth necessarily draws with it the destruction of every family. But how can we express in words, what so many have testified at the expense of their own lives?

[6.1] L   Brutus the first consul meeting Arruns the son of Tarquinius Superbus, whom he had expelled from his kingdom, in battle rushed at him with such fury, that running each other in the body with their spears, they fell both dead at the same time. I may very well add, that the Roman people paid dearly for their liberty.     { see also: Livy 2.6 }

[6.2] L   When the earth suddenly sank in the middle of the forum, leaving a wide hole, the oracle gave a response, that nothing could fill up that hole, except what the Roman people valued most. Curtius, a young man noble in both birth and mind, realised that our city was pre-eminent in virtue and martial prowess. He put on all his military equipment, and getting on horseback, he put spurs to his horse, and rode full speed into the dark precipice. The citizens in his honour threw grain on top of him, and then the earth miraculously closed up again. Many remarkable things have afterwards adorned the forum, but never did anyone come close to the piety of Curtius towards his country. Next to this, which deserves the chief place of honour, I will add another example somewhat like it.     { see also: Livy 7.5 }

[6.3] L   When Genucius Cipus the praetor had just come out of the city in his genera's cloak, there befell him a most extraordinary prodigy. For suddenly something grew out of his forehead like horns, and a voice proclaimed that he should be king, if he returned into the city again. Lest this should happen, he condemned himself to perpetual banishment. This was a noble act of piety, which considering the honour it deserves, is to be deemed greater than the seven kings. In testimony of this, a bronze statue of his head was set up upon the gate through which he left the city, and was Rauduscula: for at one time bronze objects were called raudera.     { see also: Ovid Met_15.565-621 }

[6.4] L   Genucius bequeathed the inheritance of his praise, as great as could be, to Aelius the praetor. For when a woodpecker came and sat upon his head, as he was sitting in judgment, the soothsayers announced, that if he preserved the bird, his family would flourish, but the condition of the commonwealth would be most wretched; but if the bird were slain, the reverse would happen to them both. Then he took the woodpecker and wrung its neck in the view of all the senate. His family lost seventeen soldiers, all brave men, at the battle of Cannae. But the commonwealth soon afterwards recovered its glory. These are the examples, no doubt, that Sulla, Marius and Cinna despised as ridiculous.     { see also: Pliny HN_10.41 }

[6.5] L   P. Decius, the first who brought the consulship into his own family, when he saw the Roman army ready to flee and almost overthrown in the Latin War, vowed his own life for the safety of the army, and promptly, putting spurs to his horse, rushed into the midst of his enemies, seeking both his own death and the safety of the commonwealth. Having made a great slaughter, at length he was overwhelmed by the multitude of missiles, and fell on top of his dead enemies. From his blood and wounds sprang an unexpected victory.     { see also: Livy 8.9 }

[6.6] L   There might have been but one example of such a general, if he had not begotten a son who was his equal in courage. For he in his fourth  consulship, with the same devotion and courage in fight, and with the same turn of fortune, sustained the weak and sinking power of our city. And therefore it was a difficult thing to decide, whether it was more profitable for the Roman city to have the Decii as commanders, or to lose them. For living, they kept the city from being vanquished, but by their death it was victorious.     { see also: Livy 10.28 }

[6.7] L   The elder Scipio did not lose his life for the commonwealth, but with remarkable virtue he contended against the destruction of the commonwealth. For when our city, after the battle of Cannae, expected nothing else but to be the prey of the victor Hannibal, and therefore by advice of Q. Metellus, the remains of the broken army were planning to forsake Italy, he being a young military tribune, drew his sword, and threatened death to any man who would not take an oath never to forsake his country. Thereby he not only showed an example of piety himself, but summoned it back, when it was just leaving the breasts of others.     { see also: Livy 22.53 }

[6.8] L   To come from private individuals to the whole state: how thoroughly was the entire community inflamed with the love of their country! For when the treasury was empty during the Second Punic War, so that there was not enough money for the performance of the divine rites, the publicani went to the censors and urged them to let out contracts, in the same quantity as if money was abundant in the city, promising to fulfil all the requirements but not to demand a single as till the war was ended. Also the owners of the slaves, whom Sempronius Gracchus had set free, as a reward for fighting so bravely at Beneventum, declined to ask for any money from the general. In the army itself there was not a knight, nor a  centurion that demanded any pay. The men and women also brought what gold and silver they had, and even the children brought the emblems of their free birth { bullae } to support the needs of the occasion. Nor would anyone take advantage of the benefit conferred by the senate's decree, in which those who had performed certain duties were freed from paying a tax. For they were aware that, after Veii was taken, when the gold which Camillus had vowed as the tenth of their spoil should have been sent to the oracle of Apollo, but could not be purchased, the matrons brought all their golden ornaments into the treasury. They had also heard, that the thousand pounds of gold, which was to be paid to the Gauls after the siege of the Capitol, was made up from the matrons' jewellery. And therefore out of their own goodness, and admonished by the example of antiquity, they thought they should not neglect any means of helping.     { see also: Livy 24.18 }


[6e.1] L   I will touch upon a few foreign examples on the same topic. The king of the Athenians, Codrus, when he saw the territory of Attica invaded and ravaged by a vast number of his enemies, despairing of human assistance, sent to the oracle of Apollo, and by his ambassadors desired to know, in which way he might be rid of that terrible war. The god responded, that it would be ended when he fell by his enemy's hand. News of this spread about not only among his own people, but in the camp of the enemy, who therefore commanded that no-one should injure the body of Codrus. When the king learnt this, he threw off his royal robes, and in a servant's clothes threw himself into the midst of a squadron of the enemy, who were out foraging. He wounded one of them with a scythe, so as to provoke the soldier to kill him; and by his death Athens escaped destruction.     { see also: Justin 2.6 }

[6e.2] L   From the same fountain of piety flowed the soul of Thrasybulus. For when he, wishing to free his country from the oppression of the Thirty Tyrants, was going about this weighty enterprise with a small number of men, one of them said to him, "How much will Athens be indebted to you, if they regain their liberty by means of you!"   "May the gods grant," answered he, "that I will then have repaid what I owe to them." With this wish he heaped a greater honour upon his renowned work of destroying the tyranny.

[6e.3] L   But Themistocles, whose virtue made him a conqueror, but his country's ingratitude made him the general of the Persians; in order that he might not be forced to invade it, having performed a sacrifice, drank up a full cup of the bull's blood, and fell before the altar like a renowned victim of piety. By such a memorable death, he ensured that Greece had no need of another Themistocles.     { see also: Cicero Brut_43 }

[6e.4] L   There follows another example of the same nature. When Carthage and Cyrene contended most obstinately for a piece of land, at length it was agreed to send certain young men from both sides, and wherever they met, that place would be the boundary between both their territories. But the two Carthaginian brothers, called Philaeni, deceitfully set out ahead of the agreed time, and hastened to set the border far away. When the young men of Cyrene understood this, they for a long time complained of the treachery; but at length they resolved to make up for the injury by proposing a severe condition. For they proposed to the Carthaginians, that that place should be the boundary agreed upon, provided the Philaeni would suffer themselves to be buried there. But the outcome disappointed their expectation; for the Carthaginian brothers without any delay delivered their bodies to be buried. So they, because they rather desired large limits to their country, than a large extent of life, lie entombed in honour, the Punic empire being enlarged by the sacrifice of their bones.     { see also: Sallust Jug_79 }

Where are now the proud walls of Carthage? Where is the maritime glory of that famous port? Where is their navy, so terrible upon every shore? Where are all their armies? Where their numerous squadrons of cavalry? Where those souls that were not satisfied with the vast tract of Africa? All these things Fortune divided between two Scipios. But the destruction of their country did not abolish the memory of that noble act performed by the Philaeni; because mortal courage or strength can purchase nothing immortal, except virtue alone.

[6e.5] L   That piety was inflamed with youthful zeal. But Aristotle, hardly able to maintain the remnants of old age within his wrinkled limbs in his literary pastimes, laboured so strongly for the safety of his own country, that as he lay in his little bed in Athens, he raised his city up again, when it had been levelled to the ground by its enemies, by the hands of the same Macedonians who had destroyed it; so that Stagira was equally famous for being demolished by Alexander, and for being restored by Aristotle.     { see also: Diogenes 5.4 }

Hence it is apparent, how kind, nay how profuse in their patriotism, all ages, all ranks of men have been. A wealth of remarkable examples, evident to the world, has endorsed the sacred laws of Nature.

VII.   Of the Love and Indulgence of Fathers to their Children

Let the indulgence of pious and dear affection of parents toward their  children set sail; and carried with a fair wind, return home laden with a grateful offering of charm.

[7.1] L   Fabius Rullianus after he had been five times consul, and every time had discharged his office with honour, was admired for all the virtues and merits of his life; but he did not disdain to go as legate to his son Fabius Gurges, who was then marching to put an end to a difficult and dangerous war. He went into the field of battle, as it were with a mind but without a body, because his old age was more suited to the ease of a bed, than to the labour of combat. He considered it a great joy to follow on horseback the triumphal chariot of the son, whom he had formerly carried as a young boy in his own; and he appeared to be not the companion, but the author of the triumph.

[7.2] L   The fate of Caesetius, a Roman knight, was not altogether so glorious, but his indulgence towards his son was no less remarkable. When he was commanded by Caesar, now victor over all his foreign and domestic enemies, to disinherit and disown his son, because he, being tribune of the plebs, with his colleague Marullus had maliciously accused Caesar of seeking to become king, he ventured to give him this reply: "You shall rather take from me, O Caesar, all my sons, than compel me by my own actions to disinherit any one of them." He had two other sons, young men of high hopes, to whom Caesar had liberally promised great preferment. The father remained safe, through the clemency of the divine princeps. Yet who would not think that he dared with a spirit that was more than human, who would not stoop to him, who had subdued all the world under his command?     { see also: 44/14 }

[7.3] L   But perhaps Octavius Balbus was more strongly and ardently affectionate towards his son. For when he was proscribed by the triumvirs, he got away through the back door of his house, and had already started on his escape; but upon hearing a false report that his son had been killed at home, he returned to the doom which he had avoided, and delivered himself up to be murdered by the soldiers. The moment wherein he saw his son safe, was of more value to him than his own preservation. Oh unfortunate eyes of that young man, with which he could not avoid beholding a most loving father dying for his sake!     { see also: Appian BCiv_4.21 }


[7e.1] L   But let us come to things more pleasant to the ear. Antiochus, the son of king Seleucus, was utterly in love with his step-mother Stratonice, but considering with how unlawful a passion he burnt, he covered up the impious wound of his breast with a pious dissimulation. Thereupon, as different emotions were constricted within the same marrow and bowels, unlimited desire and excessive modesty caused his body to almost waste away. He kept to his bed, like one ready to expire. His relatives mourned; his father was overwhelmed with sadness, lamenting the loss of his only son, and his own bereavement; and the face of the whole court was rather funereal, than royal. But this cloud of sadness was soon dispelled by the perceptiveness of Leptines the astrologer, or as others say, of Erasistratus the physician. He, when sitting beside Antiochus's bed, observed him to blush when Stratonice entered the room, and that his breathing became more lively; but that he turned pale, and let out deep sighs, when she departed again. At length by careful investigation he found out the truth; for when Stratonice entered the room and again when she left, by casually taking hold of his arm he felt the pulse in his veins become now more lively and then more sluggish, so that he became certain that the boy was suffering from this kind of illness. He immediately reported it to Seleucus. The king without any more ado handed over his dearest wife to his son: attributing his love to Fortune, but the concealing of it until death to his modesty. Let us now consider Seleucus as a king, an old man, and a lover, and then it will appear how many and how difficult obstacles were overcome by paternal indulgence.     { see also: 293/7 }

[7e.2] L   Seleucus parted only with his wife, but Ariobarzanes parted with the kingdom of Cappadocia to his son in Pompey's presence. When he ascended Pompey's tribunal, and at his invitation sat down also in a curule chair, he beheld his son sitting by the secretary in a seat that was beneath his dignity. Thereupon he promptly descended from the curule chair, and taking his diadem from his own head, put it upon his son's head, and began to urge him to go up to the place whence he had come. The young man wept, his body trembled, the diadem fell down, nor could he go where he was told. And, what was almost incredible, he that parted with a kingdom was glad; he that was to accept it, sad and sorrowful. Nor would that extraordinary contest have come to an end, had not Pompey interposed his authority. For he called the prince king, commanded him to take the diadem, and constrained him to sit down by him in the curule chair.     { see also: Appian Mith_105 }

VIII.   Persons severe towards their Children

[8.1] L   The indulgence of the foregoing parents was comic, but the severity of these that follow was tragic. L. Brutus equalled Romulus in honour; for the latter founded Rome, and the former founded Roman liberty. When Brutus assumed the supreme power, he learnt that his sons were attempting to restore Tarquinius, whom he himself had expelled. He caused them to be arrested, and to be whipped with rods before his tribunal; and after that, he caused them to be tied to a stake, and beheaded. He put off the affections of a father, that he might act like a consul: and rather chose to live childless, than to be remiss in public discipline.     { see also: Livy 2.4-5 }

[8.2] L   His example was followed by Cassius, whose son was a tribune of the plebs, and was the first that promulgated an agrarian law, and by many other popular acts had won the hearts of the people; when he had laid down his office, by advice of his family and friends, Cassius condemned his son in his own house for seeking to be king: and after he had been whipped, commanded him to be put to death; and consecrated his property to Ceres.     { see also: Livy 2.41 }

[8.3] L   Titus Manlius Torquatus, famous for his many great honours, and a person of great experience in the civil law and the pontifical rites, did not think it necessary to consult his friends in an act of the same nature. For when the Macedonians had by their ambassadors complained to the senate about D. Silanus his son, who was governor of that province, he besought the senate, that they would determine nothing in that affair, till he had heard the dispute between his son and the Macedonians. Then with the general consent of the conscript fathers, and of those who came to complain, he sat and heard the case in his own house, wherein he spent two whole days alone, and on the third day, after he had diligently examined the evidence on both sides, he pronounced this sentence. "Whereas it has been proved, that Silanus my son has taken bribes from our allies, I think him unworthy to live either in the commonwealth, or in my house, and I command him forthwith to get out of my sight." Silanus, struck with the sharp and cruel sentence of his father, would not endure to live any longer, but the next night he hanged himself. Now Torquatus had done the duty of a severe judge; he had made satisfaction to the commonwealth; the Macedonians had their revenge; and one would have thought, that the father's rigour might have been mollified by the unfortunate end of his son. But he refused to be present at his funeral, and at the same time as his son's burial, he gave audience to those who came to consult him. For he saw that he was sitting in a hall where there was a statue of Torquatus Imperiosus, who was so famous for his severity as a father; and this wise man remembered that the effigies of ancestors are customarily put in the front part of houses, so that their descendants can not only read about their virtues, but also imitate them.     { see also: 140/1 }

[8.4] L   M. Scaurus, the light and ornament of his country, when the Roman cavalry was defeated by the Cimbri at the river Athesis, and deserting the proconsul Catulus, fled in terror towards the city, sent someone to tell his son, who was one of those that fled, that he had rather meet with his carcass slain in the field, than see him guilty of such a shameful flight. And therefore if there were any shame remaining in his breast, degenerate as he was, he should shun the sight of his enraged father. For by the remembrance of his own youth, he was admonished what kind of son should be owned or condemned by such a father as M. Scaurus. When this message was delivered to him, the young man was forced to make a more lethal use of his sword against himself, than he had against his enemies.     { see also: 102/22 }

[8.5] L   A. Fulvius, a man of senatorial rank, restrained his son from going into the field of battle, no less resolutely than Scaurus chided his son for running away from it. For he caused his son, who was eminent among his equals for his wit, learning and good looks, to be put to death, because he ill-advisedly entered into friendship with Catiline.  Having brought him back by force, as he was recklessly going out to Catiline's camp, he put him to death, uttering these words beforehand: "I did not beget you to join with Catiline against your country, but to serve your country against Catiline." He might have kept him shut inside till the heat of the war had passed; but that would have been only the act of a cautious father - this was the deed of a severe father.     { see also: Sallust Cat_39.5 }  

IX.   Of those who acted moderately towards their suspected children

But let us temper this angry and sharp severity with an admixture of clemency, and join acts of pardon to keenness of punishment.

[9.1] L   L. Gellius, a person who had gone through all the offices of honour, as far as the censorship, when he suspected his son to be guilty of most heinous crimes, by committing adultery with his step-mother, and plotting with her to take away his father's life, did not promptly rush to take revenge. He consulted almost the whole senate, and after he had charged his son, gave him the liberty to speak for himself. Then after a strict examination and trial, he acquitted him by the verdict both of his council and of himself. Had he hastened to act cruelly in the heat of anger, he would have committed as great a crime, as that which he sought to punish.

[9.2] L   Quintus Hortensius, who in his time was the ornament of Roman eloquence, showed a singular example of patience towards his son. For when he knew him to be so debauched, that he could not endure his impiety, and for that reason he was about to make his sister's son Messalla his heir, he told the senate, while he was defending his son against an accusation of bribing the people's votes, that if they condemned him, he would have nothing left but the kisses of his grandchildren. He intimated by these words which he inserted in his speech, that he considered his son rather as a torment of his mind, than as one of his pleasures. Yet so that he might not subvert the order of Nature, he left his estate to his son, and not to his grandchildren. He showed moderation in his emotions; for in his life he gave an impartial testimony of his character, and being dead he did him the honour which was due to his blood.     { see also: Cicero Att_6.3.9 }

[9.3] L   Q. Fulvius, a man of great fame and dignity, did the same thing - but to a rather more vile son. For when he had besought the senate that his son, who had gone into hiding after being suspected of parricide, might be sought for by the triumvir, and arrested on the senate's command, he not only declined to prosecute him, but also left him all his estate after his death. He appointed the person whom he had begot, not the person whose wickedness he had experienced, as his heir.

[9.4] L   To these merciful acts of great men, I will add one novel and unusual example of an unknown parent. When he found that his son was plotting against his life, not believing that any true-born and truly-begotten child could ever harbour such impious and wicked thoughts, he took his wife aside one day, and asked her very seriously, whether the child were supposititious, or whether she had conceived him by another man. But being assured by her oaths and assurances, that he had no reason to suspect anything of that kind; at length he took his son with him into a secluded place, gave him a sword which he had secretly brought along with him, and bade him cut his throat; telling him also, that he did not need to use either poison nor hired killers to complete his parricide. Then proper consideration of the act, not gradually, but most suddenly possessed the breast of the young man, so that he flung away the sword and said, "Live father, live; and if you are so pious, as to permit such a son to pray, may you surpass me in length of days. But I beseech you, let not this my love seem the more ignoble, because it proceeds from penitence." O solitude more sacred than bloodshed! O woods more free from cruelty than home itself! O sword more kind than nourishment! O more auspicious benefit of death offered, than of life bestowed! 

X.   Of those who courageously bore the death of their children

Having given an account of those parents who patiently brooked the wrongs committed by their children, let us speak of such as have borne their death courageously.

[10.1] L   When Horatius Pulvillus as pontifex was about to dedicate the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitol, as he was holding the doorpost, and ready to pronounce certain solemn words, news was brought him that his son had died. But he neither took his hand off the door post, nor made the least interruption in the dedication of that great temple, nor altered his countenance from public solemnity to his private grief; lest he might seem rather to have acted the part of a father, than a pontifex .     { see also: Cicero Dom_139 }

[10.2] L   That was a great example, and no less renowned is what follows. Aemilius Paullus, the pattern of a most happy, but then a most unfortunate father, out of four sons which he had, all hopeful and handsome youths, had given away two for adoption into the Cornelian family, and only reserved two to himself. One of them died four days before his father's triumph. The other, after riding in the triumphal chariot, expired on the third day after. Thus he that was so liberal in bestowing children upon others, was himself left childless within a short time. How magnanimously he endured this misfortune, he made plainly apparent in a speech which he made to the people, concerning his achievements on their behalf, by adding this passage: "When in the highest success of my felicity, I was afraid, most noble Romans, that Fortune would do me some mischief or other; I prayed to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, that if anything calamitous threatened the Roman government, they would expend it all upon my family. And therefore it has turned out well; for according to my wishes, they have so ordered it, that you should rather pity my personal losses, than I bewail your public losses."     { see also: 167/26 }

[10.3] L   I will add only one more domestic example, and then permit my narrative to wander abroad. Q. Marcius Rex, the colleague of Cato the elder in the consulship, lost a son of eminent hopes and piety, and - which added to his calamity - his only child. Yet although he saw himself ruined and overturned by his son's death, he so suppressed his grief by the depth of his prudence, that immediately he went from his son's funeral pyre to the senate-house; and as it was his duty that day, immediately summoned the senators to assemble. If he had not nobly sustained his sorrow, he could not have equally divided the light of one day between a sad and mournful father, and a steadfast consul; not having omitted the proper duties of either.


[10e.1] L   Pericles, the leader of the Athenians, in four days lost two most incomparable young sons; at the very same time, without any alteration in his countenance or discomposure in his voice, he made a public speech. And indeed, according to custom, he went with his chaplet upon his head, so that he might not omit any of the traditional customs because of the loss suffered by his family. Therefore was it not without cause, that a person of his magnanimous spirit, obtained the surname of "Olympian".     { see also: Plutarch Mor_118E-F }

[10e.2] L   Xenophon, amongst the pupils of Socrates next to Plato in the highest rank of happy eloquence, when he was performing a solemn sacrifice, received news that the eldest of his sons, named Gryllus, had been slain in the Battle of Mantinea. However, he would not abandon the appointed worship of the gods, but was content only to lay aside his garland; which yet he put on again upon his head, when he understood that Gryllus had died fighting courageously; calling the gods to which he sacrificed to witness, that he more rejoiced at the noble manner of his death, than sorrowed for his loss. Another person would have removed the sacrifice, would have thrown away the ornaments of the altars, and cast away the incense all drenched with tears. But Xenophon's body stood immoveable in the practice of religion, and his mind remained constant by the guidance of prudence. For he thought it a thing far more sad to submit to grief, than to think of the loss which he had sustained.     { see also: Plutarch Mor_118F-119A }

[10e.3] L   Neither must Anaxagoras be suppressed. For hearing the news of his son's death, he said: "You tell me nothing new or unexpected; for I knew, that the son born to me was mortal." These expressions were the voice of virtue, seasoned with most wholesome precepts, which whosoever rightly understands, will realise that when we beget children, we must remember, that the law of Nature has prescribed them a law of receiving and yielding up their breath, both at the same moment; and just as no man can ever die who did not live, so no man can ever live who will not die.     { see also: Cicero Tusc_3.30 }

Book 6

Attalus' home page   |   03.12.21   |   Any comments?