Valerius Maximus

-   Book 9 , chapters 1-6


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

Contents:       I. Of Luxury and Lust
II. Of Cruelty
III. Of Anger and Hatred
IV. Of Avarice
V. Of Pride and Excess of Power
VI. Of Treachery
VII. Of Seditions
VIII. Of Rashness
IX. Of Error
X. Of Revenge
XI. Of things nastily said, and wickedly done
XII. Of Unusual Deaths
XIII. Of Undue Craving for Life
XIV. Of Likeness of Appearance
XV. Of those who have falsely thrust themselves into families where they do not belong

Book 8

I.   Of Luxury and Lust

Let luxury, an alluring crime, more easy to accuse than avoid, be inserted into this work of ours: not to receive any honour, but so that coming to know herself, she may be compelled to penitence. And let lust be joined with her, because it arises from the same principles of vice. And let them not be separated from each other in either blame or amendment, as they are tied together by a double error of the mind.

[1.1] L   C. Sergius Orata was the first to make hanging pools; this expense from a slight beginning, extended itself almost to suspended seas of hot water. The same person, because he would not have his palate subject to the power of Neptune, invented private seas for himself, and separated shoals of different sorts of fish within the large circuits of vast moles, in order that no tempest whatever should deprive his table of his desired delicacies. He also burdened the (till then) deserted banks of of the Lucrine Lake with spacious and tall buildings, so that he might keep his shell-fish fresh. When he waded too deep into public water, he was brought to court by Considius the publicanus. There L. Crassus, pleading against him, said, that his friend Considius was mistaken, if he thought that Orata, being removed from the lake, would lack oysters: for if he could not have them there, he would find them among his roof-tiles.

[1.2] L   Aesopus the tragic actor ought to have given his son in adoption to Orata, rather than leaving him the heir of his property; he was a young man who indulged in not only a desperate, but a most crazy luxury. It is reported of him, that he paid vast prices for birds that could sing or talk, to have them served up at his table instead of fig-peckers; and that he used to put pearls of high value, dissolved in vinegar, into his drinks; as if he wanted to throw away his most splendid inheritance, like some burden too heavy for his shoulders. Since then, some imitating the old man, and others imitating theyouth, have stretched their hands still further. For no vice ends where it begins. This it what has fetched fish from the various shores of the ocean, and poured out money chests into our kitchens, and discovered the pleasure of eating and drinking right through a fortune.

[1.3] L   The end of the Second Punic War, and the defeat of Philip king of Macedonia, made us devote ourselves to luxury with more confidence. At this time the wives were so bold as to surround the house of the Bruti, who were prepared to intercede against the repeal of the Oppian Law, which the women wanted to be removed - because it did not permit them to wear a coloured garments, nor to own above half an ounce of gold, nor to ride in a carriage to any place within a mile from the city, unless it was for sacrifices. And they obtained that the law, which had been kept for more than twenty years, should be abolished. For the men of that age did not foresee where the persistent desire for novel adornments was heading, nor how far the women's boldness would tend, once they had vanquished the law. For if they could have foreseen the contrivances of female cunning, that brings in something of extravagant novelty every day, they would have stopped the progress of luxury at its very beginning.

[1.4] L   But why do I talk any more of women? Their weakness of mind, and lack of the more important business that is denied to them, incites them to bestow all their time on adorning themselves. I find that some men of earlier times, although of excellent family and spirit, have also fallen into this habit, which was unknown to ancient self-restraint. And this became clear through a quarrel between them.

Cn. Domitius reproached L. Crassus his colleague, because he had Hymettian pillars in the portico of his house. Crassus thereupon asked him, what was the value of his own house? When he answered that it was worth six million sesterces. "And how much, do you think," said the Crassus, "if I should cut ten little trees out of it?"   "Three million sesterces," said the other. "Who then, is the more luxurious of us two," replied Crassus, "I that bought ten pillars for an hundred thousand sesterces; or you that value the shadow of ten small trees at thee million sesterces?" This was a saying forgetful of Pyrrhus, unmindful of Hannibal, and gaping with the abundance of foreign luxury. And yet how much more meagre these things were than the buildings and groves of subsequent generations . . . because they preferred to bequeath the luxury and extravagance, which they themselves had started, to their descendants, rather than retain the self-restraint which their forefathers had left to them.

[1.5] L   For what was meant by that leading man of his time, Metellus Pius, when in Spain he allowed himself to be received upon his arrivals, with altars and frankincense? When he regarded the walls of rooms spread with Attalic tapestries, as a sight that pleased him? When he permitted magnificent games in between enormous feasts? When he wore a robe embroidered with palms at the celebration of great banquets, and happily received crowns let down from the ceiling upon his head, as if it were divine? And where did this happen? Not in Greece or Asia, where Severity itself might be corrupted by luxury; but in a wild and warlike province, when a formidable enemy, Sertorius, would not let the Roman armies lie quiet, but lacerated them continually with the Lusitanian spears. So much had he forgot the Numidian camp of his father. This shows how swiftly luxury insinuated itself. For he that in his youth beheld the ancient customs, in his old age introduced new ones.

[1.6] L   The same change was evident in the house of the Curiones, when our forum beheld the father's serious brow, and the son's high debt of sixty million sesterces, contracted by the ignominious outrage done to noble youths of Rome. Therefore at the same time, and under the same roof, two different ages lived; the one of frugality, the other of depraved prodigality.

[1.7] L   In the trial of P. Clodius, what strange luxury appeared, and what a boundless lust! In order that he might be acquitted, though he was clearly guilty of incest, he bought whole nights of married women and noble youths at vast expense, and offered them as a bribe to his judges. In this horrid and abominable crime, I do not know which most to detest; whether him who first invented that method of corruption; or those who allowed their chastity to  assist in perjury; or those who valued adultery above justice.

[1.8] L   Equally abominable was that banquet, which Gemellus a tribunician messenger, who was of good parents, but had stooped to take a servile employment, prepared for Metellus Scipio the consul and the tribunes of the plebs, to the great scandal of the city. For having created a brothel in his own house, there he prostituted Mucia and Fulvia, both renowned for their father and husband, and Saturninus a youth of a noble family. These were bodies subjected to infamous suffering, brought to be the scorn of drunken lust! These were banquets fit not to be celebrated by consuls and tribunes, but to be punished by them.

[1.9] L   The lust of Catiline was wicked. For being madly in love with Aurelia Orestilla, when he saw there was one impediment to hinder him from being married to her, he poisoned his only son, almost of adult age; and promptly kindled the nuptial torch at his son's funeral pyre, presenting his lack of children as a gift to his new bride. But since he behaved with the same mind as a citizen, as he had shown as a father, at length he fell a just sacrifice to the shades of his son, and to his country which he had impiously assaulted.


[1e.1] L   But how profitable was Campanian luxury to our country! For embracing the invincible Hannibal in the arms of her allurements, she prepared him to be vanquished by Roman soldiers. She summoned a vigilant general, she invited a courageous army to long banquets, and with plenty of wine, the fragrance of perfumes, and the lascivious softness of sexual favours, beguiled them to sloth and pleasure. It was then that the Punic fierceness was broken, when it lay encamped in Seplasia and Albana. What then could be more ignominious than these vices, what more damaging; by which virtue is worn out, victories languish, honour is stupefied and turned to infamy, and vigour of body and mind is thoroughly weakened and broken? It is hard to say which is worst, to be overcome by these vices, or by the enemy.

[1e.2] L   These vices infested the city of Volsinii with sad and direful calamities. The city was rich, it was equipped with traditions and laws: it was the capital of Etruria. But when once luxury crept in, it fell into an abyss of evil and infamy, until it became subject to the insolent power of its own slaves. These at first in a small number dared to enter the senate house, and then in a short time subverted and controlled the whole commonwealth. They ordered wills to be made at their own pleasure. They forbade the meetings and feasts of free men, and married their  masters' daughters. Lastly, they made a law, that the adulteries which they committed with widows and married women should go unpunished; and that no virgin should marry a free man, unless beforehand one of them had taken her virginity.

[1e.3] L   Xerxes, out of the proud imitation of his vast wealth, grew to such a  height of luxury, that he offered rewards to whoever should invent any new pleasure. What a ruin befell a vast empire, too deeply plunged in pleasure and extravagance!

[1e.4] L   Antiochus the king was no more restrained. Most of his army, imitating his blind and crazy luxury, had golden nails under the soles of their shoes; and bought silver dishes for their kitchens; and had their tents adorned with tapestry-work. They were a desirable booty for a grasping enemy, rather than any delay to the victory of a brave soldier.

[1e.5] L   Ptolemy the king lived as an attachment to his vices, and was therefore called Physcon. There could be nothing more evil than his wickedness. He married his eldest sister, who had previously been married to their common brother. Then after violating her daughter, he divorced the sister, so that he might marry the daughter.

[1e.6] L   The people of Egypt were similar to their kings. Under the command of Archelaus, they sallied out of their city against A. Gabinius, but when they were commanded to surround their camp with a rampart and ditch, they cried out, that that was work to be done at the public expense. And therefore their spirit, weakened with the softness of pleasures, could not resist the courage of our army.

[1e.7] L   But more effeminate were the Cypriots, who allowed their women to lie upon the ground like steps, for their queens to tread upon, when they climbed into chariots. It would have been better for the men, if they were true men, not have lived at all, rather than to live obedient to such a wanton command.

II.   Of Cruelty

That class of men wore a lascivious expression, eyes greedy after novel delights, and a mind deranged through all the allurements of pleasure. But the horrid habit of Cruelty is of another nature: a savage expression, a violent mind, frightful speech, a mouth full of threats and bloody commands; to be silent, is but to increase its fury. For how shall she set bounds to herself, unless she is recalled by the bridle of reproach? In short, since it is her business to make herself dreaded; let it be ours, to hold her in loathing.

[2.1] L   L. Sulla, whom no man can either sufficiently praise or condemn, while he sought after victory, presented himself as a Scipio to the Roman people; but while he exercised cruelty, a mere Hannibal. For after he had excellently defended the cause of the nobility, he cruelly filled the whole city, and every part of Italy, with rivers of civil blood. Four legions of the opposing party, who had placed their trust in his faith, he caused to be slaughtered in the Villa Publica, while they vainly implored the compassion of his treacherous right hand. Their lamentable cries pierced the ears of the trembling city: and the Tiber was compelled to carry away their dismembered bodies in its bloodied waters, impatient of so heavy a burden. Five thousand men of Praeneste, when hope of safety was granted to them by Cethegus, were summoned outside the walls of the town; after they had thrown away their weapons, and lay prostrate upon the ground, he caused them to be slain, and their bodies were cast about the countryside. He caused an official report to be made of the four thousand seven hundred persons, who were murdered upon the dire decree of proscription; no doubt so that the memory of such a magnificent feat should not be erased. Not content to rage against those who had born arms against him, he added also to the number of the proscribed some peaceable citizens, on account of their wealth, who were sought out by a nomenclator. He also drew his sword against women, not satisfied with the slaughter of men. This also was a sign of his incredible brutality, that he caused the heads of the miserable creatures, newly cut off, and as yet retaining their features and breath, to be brought into his presence, that what he could not devour with his teeth, he might take in with his eyes. How cruelly did he conduct himself toward M. Marius the praetor, who was dragged in the sight of the people to the tomb of the Lutatian family, where he did not put him to death, till he had gauged out his eyes, and broken the limbs of that unfortunate man! I am relating things that hardly seem credible. And yet because M. Plaetorius grew faint upon seeing the execution of Marius, he promptly slew him. Here was a novel punisher of pity, for whom to behold wickedness with distaste, was to commit a crime. But surely he would spare the shades of the dead? No. For digging up the ashes of C. Marius, whose quaestor once he was, though afterwards he was his enemy, he scattered them upon the river Anio. Behold by what acts he thought to obtain the name of Fortunate!

[2.2] L   However C. Marius mitigates the infamy of that cruelty. For he also out of an eager desire of punishing his enemies, wickedly unleashed his anger; with an ignoble savagery dismembering the honoured body of L. Caesar, a man who had been consul and censor; and he did this at the tomb of a most inferior and seditious person. For this was added to the sufferings of the miserable republic, that Caesar should fall a victim to Varius. The victories of Marius were hardly of equal value; when he forgot them, he became more criminal at home, than praiseworthy for his victories abroad. The same person, when the severed head of M. Antonius was brought to him, displayed much insolence both of thought and words, as he held it in his joyful hands, in the midst of a banquet; he allowed the rites of the table to be contaminated with the blood of a most famous statesman and orator. More than that, he received P. Annius, who brought it, splattered with fresh blood, into his embrace.

[2.3] L   Damasippus had nothing to praise; and therefore his memory may be the more severely reprimanded. By his command the heads of the principal men of the city were mingled with the heads of sacrifices; and the headless body of Carbo Arvina was dragged about, nailed to the gallows. So that the praetorship of a most wicked man could do much, but the authority of the commonwealth nothing.

[2.4] L   Munatius Flaccus, a more eager than reputable defender of Pompey's party, when he was besieged by Caesar within the walls of Ategua in Spain, exercised his savage cruelty in a most truculent manner. For after he had killed all the citizens whom he thought well inclined towards Caesar, he threw them headlong from the walls. He also murdered the women, after calling out the names of their husbands who were in Caesar's camp, so that they might come to watch the slaughter of their wives. Nor did he spare the children lying upon their mothers' laps; he caused some of the little infants to be dashed against the stones, and others to be impaled upon stakes. These things, intolerable to be heard, were performed by Lusitanians, at the command of a Roman; well fortified by their assistance, Flaccus withstood the divine labours of Caesar, with a desperate obstinacy.


[2e.1] L   Let us pass to others, for which though there be the same grief, yet there is not the same reason for our city to blush. The Carthaginians cut off the eye-lids of Atilius Regulus, and having shut him up in a little wooden box, wherein there was nothing but sharp nails, they caused him to linger without sleep, and in a long span of pain. That kind of torment was not deserved by him that suffered it, but was more fitting for the perpetrators of it. They used the same cruelty towards our soldiers, who were captured in a naval battle; they threw them underneath their ships, so that being crushed to death by the weight of the keels, they might satisfy their barbarous savagery, by the unusual manner of their death.

[2e.2] L   Their general Hannibal, whose greatest virtue consisted in cruelty, made a bridge over the river Vergellus with the bodies of the Romans, and thereby led over his army, so that the Earth might experience the wickedness of the Carthaginian soldiers, just as Neptune had beheld the barbarity of their sailors. Those of our men who were taken as captive, he wore out with heavy burdens and long marches, and then left them on the road, with the lower part of their feet cut off. Those whom he took into his camp, picking out the nearest of kin that he could find, he compelled to fight in pairs, and did not relent in his thirst for blood until just one of them was left as victor. Deservedly therefore, though the punishment was too slow, the senate forced him, when he had taken refuge with king Prusias, to take his own life.

[2e.3] L   They had equal reason to abominate Mithridates, who with one letter slew eighty thousand Roman citizens, spread over Asia as merchants; he defiled the gods of hospitality in so large a province, with blood that was unjustly shed, though not unavenged. For in great torment, at length he compelled his unwilling spirit to submit to poison. Thereby he expiated those torments, which he had made his own friends to suffer at the will of Gaurus his eunuch, to whom his obedient lust and wicked rule could deny nothing.

[2e.4] L   Though the cruelty of Zisemis, the son of Diogyris king of Thrace, is less surprising, considering the barbarity of the nation, yet the horridness of it will not allow it to be passed in silence. He considered it lawful to cut living men in two in the middle, and [to force] parents to feed upon the bodies of their children.

[2e.5] L   Again Ptolemy Physcon comes upon the stage; a little before, a most dreadful example of lustful madness, now of cruelty. For what could be more horrid than this? He caused his own son Memphites, whom he had by Cleopatra his sister and wife, a handsome and promising youth, to be killed in his presence; and sent the head, feet and hands cut off, and put into a chest, covered over with the child's clothes, as a birthday gift to his mother. He acted as if he was altogether unaffected by the mischief he had done, rather than being rendered more ill-fated, because he had made Cleopatra an object of pity to all in the loss of their common child, and himself more odious to all. With so blind a fury does the height of cruelty rage, when it hopes to strengthen itself by similar acts! For when he understood how he was hated by his people, he sought a remedy for his fear in wickedness; and so that he might reign more safely after the people had been murdered, he surrounded the gymnasium, full of young people, with fire and sword, and slew, partly by the flames, and partly by sword, every individual person of the whole multitude.

[2e.6] L   Ochus, who was afterwards called Darius, was bound by an oath most sacred amongst the Persians, that he would not put to death either by sword, poison, starving, or any other manner of violence, any of those who had conspired with him against the seven magi. But he found a cruel means of death, by which he might rid himself of those persons that were burdensome to him, and yet keep his oath. For he filled a place, surrounded with high walls, full of ashes, and putting a jutting beam above it, he placed them on it, after liberally feasting them with food and drink; so that when sleep should seize them, they might fall into that deadly heap.

[2e.7] L   More open, but more horrid, was the cruelty of the other Ochus, Artaxerxes, who buried his sister and mother-in-law Atossa alive: he killed his uncle with javelins, along with a hundred sons and nephews, after they had been left defenceless in an deserted place; not because they had done anything against him, but because they had the highest reputation among the Persians for probity and courage.

[2e.8] L   Guided by the same wicked feelings, the citizens of Athens, by a decree unworthy of their reputation, cut off the thumbs of the young men of Aegina; so that a people with a powerful navy, might not be able to contend with them at sea. I cannot pardon the Athenians, when they borrowed a remedy for their fear from cruelty.

[2e.9] L   Cruel also was the inventor of the brazen bull; when wretched men were put inside it, and a fire lit underneath, they seemed in the midst of their long and hidden torments to low like the beast, so that their lamentations and howls might not reach the ears of Phalaris the tyrant with a human voice, to move his compassion. Because he wanted the victims to receive no pity, the inventor of this horrible device was deservedly the first to be put inside it.

[2e.10] L   The Etruscans also were most cruel in the invention of punishment, who tying the bodies of the living to corpses, face to face together, and bound so that each of their limbs were joined together, left them to lie there till they were putrified to death. They were most bitter tormentors of both life and death.

[2e.11] L   They were like those barbarians, who are reported to sew men into the bodies of dead beasts when the bowels and entrails have been removed, and there to feed and keep them alive, till being putrified within, they are eaten up by the vermin that breed in putrified bodies.  Can we complain of Nature, for having made us liable to many and dire inconveniences of sickness; or be annoyed, that celestial strength should be denied to the human condition; when mortality has itself invented so many torments for its own destruction, motivated by  cruelty?

III.   Of Anger and Hatred

Anger and hatred stir up great disturbances in the breasts of men. The former is swifter in its onset, the other more obstinate in the desire for mischief. Both are emotions full of alarm, and never without violent torment of themselves. For it suffers pain in order to inflict misery; anxious with a bitter care, lest revenge should happen to fail. But there are most evident examples of their true nature, which the gods have made conspicuous in great men, by some vehement act or saying.

[3.1] L   When Livius Salinator was about to leave the city to wage war against Hasdrubal, he was advised by Fabius Maximus that he should not fight before he understood the strength and spirit of the enemy. He replied that he would not refuse the first opportunity of fighting. Being asked by the same person, why he needed to be so hasty, he  said, "So that as soon as possible, I may either win honour by the overthrow of the enemy, or rejoice in the destruction of my fellow-citizens." Anger and virtue divided his speech between them, the one remembering an unjust reprimand, the other intent upon the honour of triumph. But I cannot tell whether it was fitting for the same man to speak thus, and thus to conquer.

[3.2] L   That is how far the passion of anger carried a man of fierce spirit who was accustomed to war. But C. Figulus, a mild man famous for his knowledge of the civil law, was by anger rendered forgetful both of prudence and moderation. For he was enraged by being rejected in his bid the consulship, so much the more, because it had been given twice to his father. When many came to him the next day for advice, he turned them all away. "Are you so ready to ask my advice," said he, "and yet do not know how to make me consul?" This was gravely and deservedly spoken: but still it would have been better not spoken. For what wise men could be angry with the people of Rome?

[3.3] L   Nor are those men to be approved, though protected by the splendour of their nobility, who being offended because Cn. Flavius, a man of humble extract, had been made praetor, took off their gold rings and the trappings from their horses, and threw them away; showing not only extreme indignation, but almost grief.

[3.4] L   These were the outbreaks of anger in individuals or a few persons against the commonwealth. There are also examples of anger in the populace against the leading men and generals. When Manlius Torquatus returned after a most renowned and splendid victory over the Latins and Campanians, all the older people went forth rejoicing to greet him, but the young men did not stir; because he had executed his own son, for fighting bravely against the enemy in violation of his orders. His contemporaries felt pity for the son's too severe punishment. Nor do I defend his act, but only show the force of anger, that could divide the ages and affections of the whole state.  

[3.5] L   So much could anger prevail, that it detained and kept back all the [infantry] of the Roman people, sent by Fabius the consul to pursue the enemy, when they might easily and safely have destroyed them, because they remembered that he had put a stop to the agrarian law. The same passion seized the army, when they were offended with Appius their general, (whose father in support of the nobility fiercely opposed the interests of the populace); by a voluntary flight they turned their backs on the enemy, because they would not allow their general to triumph. How often has anger vanquished victory! It despised congratulations to Torquatus; in Fabius, it neglected the greatest part of it; in Appius, it preferred shameful flight to victory.

[3.6] L   How violently anger carried itself in the feelings of the Roman people, at that time when the dedication of the temple of Mercury was by their votes granted to M. Plaetorius, a chief centurion! The consuls were overlooked; Appius, because he opposed the relief of their debts; and Servilius, because he had but weakly defended their cause when he undertook it. Can it be denied that anger has force, when it sets the soldier above the general?

[3.7] L   It has not only pulled down commands, but has exercised commands outrageously. For when Q. Metellus, first as consul, then as proconsul, had subdued almost all Spain, and learnt that Q. Pompeius the consul, his enemy, would be sent to succeed him; he dismissed all who wanted to be released from service, and gave licence to the soldiers to go take their leave, without asking questions or setting any time for them to return. He left the storehouses unguarded, free to be plundered. He ordered the Cretans' bows and arrows to be broken and thrown into the river. He forbade any food to be given to the elephants. By these acts although he gratified his feelings, yet he considerably sullied the glory of his great deeds; and lost the honour he had won, being a greater conqueror of the enemy, than of his own temper.

[3.8] L   What became of Sulla, who was so obedient to this vice? After he had shed the blood of others, did he not shed his own? For when he was burning with indignation at Puteoli, because Granius the leading man of that colony did not quickly enough pay the money, which had been promised by the decurions for the repair of the Capitol, his breast was convulsed with an extraordinary agitation of mind, and an immoderate force of speaking. Then he vomited up his last breath, mixed with blood and threats. He did not yield to old age, for he was not above sixty years old; but he was raging with fury, nourished by the miseries of the commonwealth. So that it is unclear whether Sulla or Sulla's anger was the first to be extinguished.


Now we ought not to bring up examples about obscure persons; and  there is something of shame in reproaching the vices of great men. But since compliance with our design obliges us to include everything that is most outstanding, our feelings must give way to completion of the work; as long as we do not forget to praise freely what is excellent, while we narrate what is necessary.

[3e.1] L   Alexander was almost kept from heaven by his own anger. For nothing could have stopped him ascending there, had not Lysimachus thrown to a lion, Clitus run through with a spear, and Callisthenes put to death, lost him the fame of three of his greatest victories, by the unjust slaughter of so many friends.

[3e.2] L   How excessive was the hatred of Hamilcar towards the Roman people! For regarding his four sons of tender age, he said that he bred them as so many lion whelps for the destruction of our empire. But in fact they were brought up, as it happened, for the destruction of their own country.

[3e.3] L   Of his sons, Hannibal so closely followed in his father's footsteps, that when Hamilcar was about to transport the army over into Spain, and was sacrificing for good success, this son, then only nine years of age, held his hand upon the altar and swore, that as soon as his age would permit, he would be a most bitter enemy to the Romans; so that he might insistently express how much he wanted to serve with his father in the war that was then starting. The same person, in order to demonstrate the hatred between Rome and Carthage, stamped on the ground, and raised up some dust; he said that there would never be an end of the war between these two cities, until one of them was reduced into dust like that.

[3e.4] L   Although the force of hatred was strong in the breast of that boy, it was equally prevalent in a woman's breast. For Semiramis, queen of the Assyrians, when it was reported to her, as she was combing her hair, that Babylon had revolted, with one part of her hair still loose and dishevelled, rushed to its recovery; nor would she arrange her hair in order, till she had reduced the city into order. And therefore her statue is placed in Babylon, in the same attitude as when she rushed for her revenge.

IV.   Of Avarice

Let avarice be brought forth, which hunts after hidden gain, and hungrily devours an open prey; unhappy in what it possesses, and most wretchedly insatiable.

[4.1] L   When a certain person in Greece had forged a false will in the name of L. Minucius Basilus, who was very rich, in order to confirm it, he put into the will, as heirs, two of the most powerful men of our city, M. Crassus and Q. Hortensius - to whom Minucius was altogether unknown. Though the fraud was evident, yet neither of these men, in their desire for the inheritance, refused to profit from a foreign crime. How great an offence have I briefly related! The luminaries of the senate house, and ornaments of the forum, were swayed by the promise of dishonest gain; and they protected by their authority something that they ought to have punished.

[4.2] L   Avarice was of yet greater force in the case of Q. Cassius, who released M. Silius and A. Calpurnius, who were apprehended in Spain with daggers, even though they had intended to kill him. He agreed a payment from the one of five million sesterces, and from the other of six million sesterces. One may wonder whether, if they had given him the same again more, he would have willingly offered them his throat as well.

[4.3] L   But above all others, the avarice of L. Septimuleius was most notorious. Though he was a close friend of Gracchus, he not only cut off his head, but carried it fixed upon a pole through the city; because Opimius the consul had promised a reward of its weight in gold to whoever should bring it. Some report, that he filled the hollow part of the skull with melted lead, so that it might be heavier. Even if Gracchus was seditious, or died deservedly, yet the wicked greed of his client should not have been so eager to inflict these insults on the dead.


[4e.1] L   The greed of Septimuleius deserved hatred, but the avarice of Ptolemy king of Cyprus was laughable. For when he had by unworthy devices amassed great riches, and saw that he was likely to perish for their sake; for that reason, having put all his wealth on board ships, he went out to sea, so that by sinking the vessels he might perish at his own leisure, and frustrate his enemies' hopes. But he could not bring himself to sink his gold and silver, and carried back with him the future reward for his own death. Surely he did not possess, but was possessed by wealth, who in title was the king of an island, but in spirit was a miserable slave to money.

V.   Of Pride and Excess of Power

[5.1] L   Now let pride and excess of power be brought upon the stage. Fulvius Flaccus, consul with M. Plautius Hypsaeus, when he was about to introduce laws very pernicious to the commonwealth - about granting citizenship, and about appeals to the people by those who would not change their citizenship - could hardly be persuaded to come into the senate house. Then when the senate partly warned him, and partly begged him to desist, he gave them no answer. He might be accounted a tyrannical consul, who had behaved thus against one senator, as Flaccus did in despising the majesty of the whole honourable order.

[5.2] L   Their majesty was no less affronted by the insulting behaviour of M. Drusus, a tribune of the plebs, who went so far, because Philippus the consul interrupted him during a public speech, as to take him by the throat and to drag him to prison, not by the hands of an officer, but of a client; and with such violence, that the blood gushed out of his nose. Also when the senate summoned him to come into the senate house, "Rather," said he, "why does not the senate come to me in the Curia Hostilia? " I am ashamed to add the rest: the tribune despised the authority of the senate; but the senate obeyed the tribune's words.

[5.3] L   How insolently Cn.  Pompeius behaved! On leaving the bath he left Hypsaeus, who was accused of bribery, prostrate at his feet, even though he was a nobleman and his friend; and he trampled on him with a insulting jest, telling him, that he would do nothing but spoil his supper; and despite saying this, he was able to dine as if with a clear conscience. Yet he was not ashamed to ask in the forum for the acquittal of P. Scipio, his father-in-law, who had been accused under certain laws which Pompeius himself had made, although those laws had caused the ruin of many noblemen. For he interfered in the business of the commonwealth according to the caresses of his marriage bed.

[5.4] L   The dinner of M. Antonius was vile, both in word and deed. For when the head of Caesetius Rufus, a senator, was brought him, as triumvir, the rest looked away, but he caused it to be brought near, and carefully viewed it. And when all the bystanders listened to hear what he would say; "This fellow," he said, "I never knew." This was not only haughty derision of a senator, but also excess of pride toward a man slain.


[5e.1] L   Enough of our own, now for some foreign examples. The virtue and good fortune of Alexander the Great was eclipsed by three most evident steps in arrogance. For, despising his father Philip, he acknowledged none but Jupiter Hammon as his father: laying aside the customs and traditions of the Macedonians, he assumed the garments and laws of the Persians: and despising mortals, he pretended to be a god. He was ashamed to deny that he was a son, a fellow-countryman, and a mortal.

[5e.2] L   As for Xerxes, whose very name implies pride and excess, how arrogantly did he use his power! When he was about to proclaim war against the Greeks, he called the leading men of Asia together, and said:  "So that I might not seem to act on my own volition, I have assembled you. But remember, that it is your role to obey rather than to give advice." That was arrogantly said, even if he had returned as victor to his country. But since he was so shamefully defeated, I know not whether more arrogantly or impudently.

[5e.3] L   Hannibal, puffed up with the success of the Battle of Cannae, neither admitted any of his countrymen into his camp, nor gave answer to anyone except through an interpreter, and ignored Maharbal, who affirmed with a loud voice before his tent, that he had discovered a way for him to dine within a few days on the Capitol. So unusual a thing it is for good fortune and moderation to lodge together.

[5e.4] L   There was a kind of rivalry between the Carthaginian and Campanian senate for insolence. For the one washed in baths separately from the common crowd; the other made use of a different forum. That this custom was observed in Capua for a considerable time, is made clear in a speech of C. Gracchus against Plautius.

VI.   Of Treachery

Let treachery, a secret and deceitful offence, be dragged out of its lurking holes. Its most effective methods are to lie and deceive: the fruit it reaps comes from some crime committed: and is then assured when it has enveloped credulity in its wicked bonds. It brings as much mischief to mankind, as good faith affords quiet and safety. Therefore let it be as much condemned, as the other is praised.

[6.1] L   In the reign of Romulus, Spurius Tarpeius was commander of the citadel. His maiden daughter, going outside the walls to fetch water for the sacred rites, was corrupted by Tatius with money to admit his armed Sabines into the citadel; she was promised as a reward what they wore upon their left arms -  which were bracelets and rings of gold of a considerable weight. After the Sabines had got into the place, when the girl demanded her reward, they killed her with the weight of their shields, as if they were fulfilling their promise, because they also carried their shields on their left arm. Let there be no blame, when impious treason was avenged with a prompt punishment.

[6.2] L   Ser. Galba was a very treacherous man. For having assembled together the people of three Lusitanian states, upon pretence of his intention to help them, he partly killed and partly sold off eight thousand of them, among which were the flower of their youth, after he had picked them out and disarmed them. In this the greatness of his crime exceeded the calamity of the barbarians.

[6.3] L   Too great a desire of glory drove Cn. Domitius, a person of noble family and distinction, to become treacherous. He was angry with Bituitus, king of the Arverni, because he had persuaded both his own people and the Allobroges, while Domitius was in the province, to appeal to the protection of Fabius his successor. Sending for Bituitus under pretence of speaking with him, and having received him hospitably, he caused him to be put in fetters, and sent him away by sea to Rome. The senate could neither approve this act of his nor revoke it, lest Bituitus, being sent back into his country, should start a new war. Therefore they sent him to Alba to be imprisoned.

[6.4] L   The slaughter of Viriathus calls for a double accusation of treachery; in his friends, because he was killed in their hands; and in Q. Servilius Caepio the consul, because he the instigated the deed, and promised impunity: he did not deserve, but bought his victory.


[6e.1] L   But that we may observe the fount of treachery itself: the Carthaginians pretended to send Xanthippus the Lacedaemonian home, after he had served them well in the First Punic War and by his assistance they had captured Atilius Regulus; but they drowned him in the middle of the sea. What was the aim of such great villainy? That he should not live to share in their victory? He lives on however to their disgrace, when they might have left him untouched, without any loss of their honour.

[6e.2] L   And then Hannibal suffocated in the smoke and steam of baths the inhabitants of Nuceria, who trusting in his faith had left their city with its impregnable walls, each with two items of clothing; and he threw the senate of Acerrae down into deep wells, after luring them outside their walls. While he declared war against the people of Rome and Italy, did he not wage a more severe war against faith and honesty? He made use of lies and deceits, as if they were glorious and noble devices. By which means, though he might have otherwise left a real fame behind him, it is now doubtful which was most eminent, his greatness or his wickedness.

Following chapters (7-15)

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