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       Quintus Claudius: A Romance of Imperial Rome. Volume 2, p.1

         Part #2 of Quintus Claudius: A Romance of Imperial Rome series by Ernst Eckstein
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Quintus Claudius: A Romance of Imperial Rome. Volume 2


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  Transcriber's Note

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  Please note the publisher's decision, expressed in a note to thePreface in Volume I, to place footnotes at the bottom of each page,as well as the author's note on this topic in the Preface. In keepingwith his intent, notes here have been moved to the end of each chapter.Footnotes have been moved from their original positions to the end ofeach chapter. Several footnotes in quoted lines of poetry use asterisksand other symbols as anchors, but are also numbered in the regularsequence. There doesn't seem to be any special meaning to those symbolsso the numbers are used here.

  Please consult the endnotes at the bottom of this text for moredetails on the handling of textual issues.

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  QUINTUS CLAUDIUS

  A ROMANCE OF IMPERIAL ROME

  BY

  ERNST ECKSTEIN

  FROM THE GERMAN BY CLARA BELL

  IN TWO VOLUMES--VOL. II.

  REVISED AND CORRECTED IN THE UNITED STATES

  NEW YORK GEO. GOTTSBERGER PECK, PUBLISHER 11 MURRAY STREET 1893.

  Copyright, 1882, by WILLIAM S. GOTTSBERGER

  THIS TRANSLATION WAS MADE EXPRESSLY FOR THE PUBLISHER

  QUINTUS CLAUDIUS.

  CHAPTER I.

  The same day, which saw our friends in the country house at Ostia, andthe bond of love sealed between Aurelius and Claudia, had been one ofinfinite agitation and annoyance to the Emperor Domitian.

  The very first thing in the morning came vexatious tidings fromthe town and provinces. At the earliest dawn inscriptions had beendiscovered on several of the fountains, columns and triumphal arches,of which the sting was more or less covertly directed against thePalatium and the person of Caesar. "Enough!" was attached to the baseof a portrait bust.[1] "The fruit is ripe!" was legible on the archof Drusus. In the fourth, eighth and ninth regions the revolutionaryquestion was to be seen in many places: "Where is Brutus?" and atthe entrance of the baths of Titus, in blood-red letters, stared theappeal: "Nero is raging; Galba, why dost thou tarry?"

  Domitian, who had heard all this from his spies, long before the courtofficials even suspected what had happened, received these courtiersin the very worst of tempers. His levee was not yet ended, when amounted messenger brought the news, that a centurion had raised thestandard of revolt on the Germanic frontier,[2] but that he had beendefeated and slain after a short struggle.

  At noonday the soldiers of the town-guard seized an astrologer,Ascletario by name,[3] who had publicly announced that ruin threatenedCaesar. Before the moon should have twelve times rounded--so ran hisprophecy--Caesar's blood would be shed by violence. The immortals werewroth at his reprobate passion for a woman who, by all the laws of godsand men, he had no right to love.

  At first Domitian laughed. His connection with Julia seemed to himso dull and pointless a weapon for his foe to turn against him, thatthe stupidity of it astonished him. However, he commanded that theastrologer should be brought before him.

  "Who paid you?" he enquired with a scowl, when the prisoner was draggedinto the room.

  "No one, my lord!"

  "You lie."

  "My lord, as I hope for the mercy of the gods, I do not lie."

  "Then you really assert, that you actually read in the stars theforecast you have uttered?"

  "Yes, my lord; I have only declared, what my skill has revealed to me."

  The superstitious sovereign turned pale.

  "Well then, wise prophet, you can of course foretell your own end?"

  "Yes, my lord. Before this day is ended, I shall be torn to pieces bydogs."

  Domitian looked scornfully round on the circle of men.

  "I fancy," he said, "that I can upset the prophetic science of thisworthy man. Carry him off at once to execution, and take care that hisbody is burnt before sundown."

  The astrologer bowed his head in sullen resignation. He was led away tothe field on the Esquiline, and immediately beheaded before an immenseconcourse; within an hour Domitian was informed that all was over. Atthis news his temper and spirit improved a little. He congratulatedhimself on the prompt decision, which had so signally proved thefalsehood of the prophecy.

  At dinner he carried on an eager conversation with Latinus, theactor[4] who, among other farcical parts, filled the role ofnews-monger.

  "You are later than usual to-day," said Caesar graciously. "Whatdetained you?"

  "A most laughable occurrence," replied the comedian. "By a mere chanceI passed by the Esquiline. There, in the public field, an astrologerhad just been executed. The dead body was still lying there, when astranger came by with three huge dogs.[5] Before the slaves couldprevent it, the three hounds had rushed upon the carcass and had tornit literally to bits. The dogs were killed at once with loud outcries;the owner had vanished completely. Immediately after, Clodianus cameup to me and asked me if I had not seen the fellow, with a long redbeard. One thing led to another, till your adjutant quitted me to makefarther enquiries. I hastened hither and, as it was, arrived later thanI ought."

  The narrator had not observed, that every trace of color had faded outof the Emperor's cheeks. As he ceased speaking, Domitian sprang up and,without saying a word, rushed out of the triclinium and into his ownapartments. An intolerable dread almost deprived him of breath;[6] heran like a hunted deer from one room to another, now shaking his fistsin impotent fury, and again stopping to look suspiciously round him onevery side. In this wretc
hed frame of mind he was found by Julia, whohad been seriously ill ever since the return of Domitia. In spite ofthe Empress's commands, she had not yet quitted the palace. She camein, fevered and pale, to implore protection against her haughty rival,who had threatened to turn her into the street. The palace servantshad tried to stop her at the entrance to Domitian's apartments, butshe had thrust them aside with the strength of desperation. At thesound of footsteps Domitian started and turned round. She stood beforehim--young, lovely, wretched--the victim of his remorseless passion.But the sight of her, far from stirring his pity, roused him to foamingrage. Was it not she, the abandoned creature, who had brought down onhim the wrath of the gods? Was it not for her sake, that his bloodwas to be shed, if the astrologer had prophesied truly? And he hadprophesied only too truly! His own end had borne witness to the truthof his mission.

  "Hussy!" yelled the Emperor. "Have you come to mock me? Are youplotting to murder me, that you come sneaking round me? It is yourdoing, and no one else is to blame if Caesar perishes in his blood...!Go, serpent! This very day quit Rome, or I will have you floggedthrough the gates."

  The hapless girl drew herself up proudly.

  "This," she cried, "to crown my misery. Are you not satisfied withhaving betrayed my youth, and poisoned my innocence? Is this thecompensation for a life of horror?"

  "Silence! It is a lie! It was your own vanity, that ruined you--yourambition, hoping to share a throne. Out of my sight, I say--you have noone to blame but yourself."

  "Miserable coward! Are you frightened by the forecast of a soothsayer?Well, your fate will overtake you; but not for my sake--no; for thesake of Rome!"

  "Go ..." shrieked Domitian, "or I shall kill you!"

  "Well then, kill me. Add the crowning stroke to all your crimes! Whatdo I care? I do not ask to stay in this world of misery and infamy, orin this proud Empire of Rome whose Emperor is an executioner."

  At this instant the slaves, who were waiting in the anteroom, heard adull sound as of a blow or push, a piercing scream, and a heavy fall,and the next moment Domitian called out in a hoarse, choked voice:"Phaeton!" When the slave entered the room, Julia was senseless on thefloor.[7] She was lying doubled up in a convulsed attitude, and herface was livid rather than pale.

  "Carry her away," said Caesar; "she is ill."

  The senseless girl was carried away, and that same day she died of aninternal injury.

  Domitian spent a terrible night. In the course of the third vigil hesent an express to Norbanus, the general of the Praetorian Guard. Forhours he sat up in torment on his couch, making his slaves sing to thelute. Now and again he asked for a weapon, or for drink, or sent allthe attendants out of the room excepting Phaeton, his favorite slave,who was to bar the door, and guard it sword in hand.

  At last the day broke. It was Domitian's birthday, the 24th ofOctober.[8] During the first hour after sunrise the usual ceremoniousreception took place of magistrates, senators, and knights.[9] Outsidethe palace there was a scene of confusion, such as was rarely seeneven in Rome. All the suburbs seemed to have emptied themselves, andthe people to have converged on the Forum. Instead of one cohort ofthe praetorian guard, two had been posted on guard, and the sentinelsat the palace gates were also doubled. The officials, whose businessit was to check the admission of visitors, straightly enquired of eachindividual as he crossed the threshold of the audience chamber, whetherhe had any weapon about him. It was many years since this had last beendone, and the effect was paralyzing.

  Domitian received the senators, not merely with reserve, but withevident repugnance, nor did he bestow on one of those who attended thecustomary honor of a kiss. A dull atmosphere of suspicion brooded likea vapor, and seemed to fill the splendidly-decorated room.[10] As thelast visitors retired from the presence, it was rather like an escapeor a flight. _Atra cura_, as sung by Horatius Flaccus,[11] seemed tohave flung her dark robe over the palace.

  At last three men were left in attendance on the Emperor: Clodianus,Parthenius, the high-chamberlain, and Norbanus, the general of theguard. This last was perhaps the only person, whom Domitian hadreceived with politeness--indeed, so far as he was concerned, withmarked attention. The tyrant, who, to every one else was cold andcontemptuous, turned from time to time to the noble soldier with anengaging smile to assure him, half stammering, of his unaltered favor.The ruler of the world had altogether lost his command of himself.

  "And you have found no trace, formed no guess?" he asked with afrightened glance in the general's face. "Your efforts too, Clodianus,have been unsuccessful?"

  "Alas, my lord and god! I have offered great rewards, I have bribeddozens of idlers--all in vain; and to crown our ill-luck, when theslaves burnt the pile intended for the astrologer's body, they flungin, not merely the remains of Ascletario, but the dead hounds as well.Thus we lost the last clue to the discovery."

  "Let them be crucified! idiotic fools!" shrieked Caesar, trembling inevery limb.

  "They richly deserve it," said Clodianus. "Still, I cannot comprehendthe matter. The strange man, who suddenly appeared with the dogs, hassuddenly vanished, as if the earth had swallowed him; and from among aknot of old women I heard a voice exclaim: 'It is Ahasuerus!'"

  "Ahasuerus!" shouted the Emperor, starting up. "Then have Ahasuerusadvertised for."

  "Impossible," replied Clodianus. "Ahasuerus is a boguey creature ofthe Nazarenes, a restless spirit that wanders over lands and seas. Ionly mentioned the fact, to show you the impression produced by theapparition. There was something supernatural and appalling in hisappearance...."

  Domitian was more agitated every moment; he paced the room excitedly.

  "Are all those infamous inscriptions torn down and wiped out?" hesuddenly asked, addressing Parthenius.

  "Can you doubt it?... Why, the very morning dew, disgusted at thecrime, did its best to wash them away."[12]

  "Why did you not tell me of the inscription at the baths of Titus?"

  "My lord, you knew of it...."

  "From Latinus, who came to me at break of day."

  "My lord, I thought...."

  "Silence. It was your duty to tell me the whole truth. Only by completeknowledge can an evil be met; a blind man falls into the pit."

  "My lord, if you desire it...." said Parthenius, laying his hand onhis heart. Clodianus also bowed in sign of utter devotion, and hiseye was positively radiant with fidelity and reverence--only on hisfull underlip there was the faintest possible twitch of self-satisfiedirony.

  Again Domitian took to pacing the room, which was lined with mirrors.On every side he could see his pale, bloated face, here and theredistorted and lengthened by some imperfection in the mirror. Heshuddered.

  "I am ill, my faithful friends," he said in a low voice. "I need restand quiet reflection--but the good of the Empire is paramount. Listenand perpend." He sat down and went on deliberately: "The times areperilous; treason lurks in every corner. Rome relies on Caesar; I mustact. Terror alone can suppress treason, and I will strike terror intothe traitors. The law against the Nazarenes is a good beginning, but itis merely a beginning. It only attacks the Catilines among the slavesand lowest class. We must go farther. We must strike at Caesar's foesin the houses of the great and noble among the knights, and in theSenate. Numbers are suspected by us, and to be suspected is to deservedeath. Our heart, in its tender mercy,[13] has too often held our hand,but now the hour is come. In profound silence, but without delay, wemust act--must strike the guilty with the swiftness and certainty oflightning. This very day vengeance must be planned. Once more, valiantNorbanus: how about the trustworthiness of your cohorts?"

  Norbanus bowed. "They are Caesar's--heart and soul and body."

  "The little gold Domitians have pleased the good fellows? Keep themwarm, dear Norbanus, and if the two millions are not enough for you,say so without reserve. The soldiers, who protect my Empire, must learnto believe, that liberality sits on the throne of the Caesars."

  "Many thanks, my lord, but greater largesse might
weaken discipline."

  "But the centurions?"

  "They are without exception strict and faithful. At a nod from me theywould ride through fire and water."

  "Capital!" said Domitian with a bitter-sweet smile; for, withoutintending it, the general had given utterance to a painful sentiment,of which the Emperor had long been conscious: namely, that thepraetorian guard would first obey their general, and at his orders onlywere devoted to their sovereign. This did not escape the keen insightof Clodianus, and again a subtle line of malicious satisfaction curledthe lips of the man, who usually played the part of stolid honesty withthe greatest success. As chance would have it, on this occasion theEmperor, looking up suddenly, caught the last quivering trace of thissmile. He took no notice of it; he perhaps became a shade paler--but heturned to whisper to the prefect of the guard.

  "Only let this cloud of disaffection and excitement pass over," hesaid, clapping him on the shoulder, "and, I promise you, Caesar willnot forget you. Now, my friends, farewell, and await our commands."

  The general received a farewell kiss, and quitted the room.

  "What an age is this, by all the gods!" exclaimed Domitian, throwingup his arms. "To contend against the malice of the people, Caesar isforced to sacrifice the hours, which he owes to the happiness andwelfare of the people. Woe is me, that the immortals should allow suchthings to happen! Up and to work then! That is the word."

  As he spoke, he rose and, followed by Parthenius and Clodianus, he wentinto his private study. The chamberlain closed the door behind him;Phaeton was on guard in the anteroom.

  While the founder of the reign of terror thus yielded to anill-concealed attack of panic, and already, in fancy, heard the roarof revolt, knocking with its blood-reddened sword at his palace gate,the reign of terror itself was lording it abroad, apparently moresplendid and firmly based than ever. The doubled garrison had increasedthe popular feeling of the Emperor's might, and the calm, impressivesolemnity, with which the terrible edict against the Nazarenes had beendiscussed and promulgated, seemed amply to prove how strong the thronefelt itself, and how completely it was master of the situation. Thenumerous sacrifices which the prime mover of that piece of legislature,Titus Claudius Mucianus, had, in his function as Flamen, offered upto Jupiter, were both favorable and auspicious. The lower classes,who streamed in merry troops to the Circus Maximus, rejoiced over thegifts of corn and the gratification of their passion for a spectacle.The shouting and chanting processions of the priests of Bona Deaand of Isis added to the solemnity of the festival. Not a word ofdisaffection, not a discordant murmur was to be heard in this universaljubilation, which rolled in a mighty flood through the streets,markets, and public places. Sorrow and discontent are silent on suchoccasions. In the temple of Saturn a troop of blooming youths, wearingto-day for the first time the _toga virilis_,[14] sang a high-flownfestal ode, composed by Marcus Valerius Martialis. The inspired versesounded out through the Forum, borne on the wings of a hundred youthfulvoices:

  "Hail! oh birthday of Caesar, day more bright and auspicious Ev'n than the day when, on Ida, Rhea gave birth to Zeus[15] Hail! and return more often than erst to Pylian Nestor,[16] Ever as bright as to-day, or a thousand times more fair. Many years yet may Caesar keep the feast of Minerva[17] Held on the Alban Hill; and confer the victor's wreath Twined of oak-leaves, the prize to crown the worthiest singer. Soon may he hallow the secular games with offerings and gifts! Great is the boon we ask; but from the gods in heaven Such a boon is due to Caesar, the god upon earth.[18]"

  The melodious strain soared up from the temple of Saturn to thetowering Palatium beyond.

  But he, to whom the homage was offered, heard it not. Shut up withClodianus and Parthenius, he was writing down on a wooden tablet thenames of those, whom he devoted to death.[19] Parthenius read themout in a low voice, and the Emperor assented; then the chamberlainwrote down another list of names, and again they were discussed in anundertone. Domitian's face meanwhile grew more and more like that of ajaguar, lurking in ambush to pounce on his prey.

  "And you, Clodianus," he whispered, almost inaudibly. "Do not you knowof any reprobate wretch, who deserves to die?" He fixed his eye on thesoldier's face.

  "No, my lord," said the adjutant. "It seems to me, that you have notoverlooked one."

  "It is well. You will copy out the list--at once. The tablet I myselfwill keep. When Rome is saved, I will hang it up in the temple ofJupiter."

  Clodianus took his writing implements out of the folds of his tunic.

  "Perhaps," the Emperor added with a meaning smile.--"Perhaps anothername or two may occur to me." And he hid the strip of lime-wood in hisbosom.

  "And now," he continued, "make your plans. I will not listen toanything till you can say to me: all is over; the deed is done. Youknow how cautiously, how warily you must proceed. Remember, yourexistence too is endangered; when a tree falls, the branches fall withit.--Go, my friends. If you triumph, I will endow you with power aboveall other mortals, and in splendor and honors you shall be equal withmyself. I will name you my brothers."

  He sank exhausted on to a chair; Parthenius and Clodianus left the room.

  "Yes, yes!" muttered Domitian between his teeth, as the door closedbehind the two men; "one is yet wanting on the list of the elect!"

  He drew forth the tablet, and, with an indescribable grimace ofhatred, wrote at the end of the long list of names: "Clodianus."

  "Wait awhile, my friend! This task you shall be allowed to finish--butthen--it is not well, when a sapling grows too proudly skywards."

  FOOTNOTES:

  [1] "ENOUGH!" WAS ATTACHED TO THE BASE OF A PORTRAIT BUST. See Suet. _Dom._ 13, where it is true, the "enough" refers to the excessive quantity of triumphal arches and statues, the emperor ordered to be erected everywhere. Inscriptions similar to those quoted in our chapter were, however, by no means rare in all times.

  [2] A CENTURION HAD RAISED THE STANDARD OF REVOLT ON THE GERMANIC FRONTIER. See Dio Cass. LXVII, 11: About this time Antonius, governor of Germany, rebelled against Domitian, but was defeated and slain by Lucius Maximus.

  [3] AN ASTROLOGER, ASCLETARIO BY NAME. See Suet. _Dom._ 15.

  [4] LATINUS THE ACTOR. See Mart. _Ep._ I, 4; II, 71; III, 86; V, 61: IX, 28. The manner in which Martial, in this last-named passage, flatters Latinus, proves how high the actor stood in the emperor's favor. Concerning the matter, see Suet. _Dom._ 15.

  [5] A STRANGER CAME BY WITH THREE HUGE DOGS. Faith in the sudden appearance and disappearance of mysterious, demoniac creatures was very wide-spread under the reigns of the later emperors. A striking instance of this is found in Dio Cass. LXXIX, 18.

  [6] AN INTOLERABLE DREAD ALMOST DEPRIVED HIM OF BREATH. See Suet. _Dom._ 16: "At midnight he was seized with such terror, that he sprang out of bed."

  [7] JULIA WAS SENSELESS ON THE FLOOR. For the death of Julia, see Suet. _Dom._ 22. What is there related, is so ill adapted for artistic description, that we have replaced this act of brutality with a less loathsome one. Our invention can appeal to historical analogies. Thus Nero, from whom I borrow various traits for my Domitian's character, killed his wife Poppaea, during a quarrel, by a kick. See Suet. _Ner._ 35; Tac. _Ann._, XVI, 6.

  [8] IT WAS DOMITIAN'S BIRTHDAY, THE 24TH OF OCTOBER. The Caesars' birthdays were great and universal holidays. At the time of this story, the month of October was called "Domitianus" (See Mart. _Ep._ IX, 1.) The vain ruler had hoped by this change, following the example of Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus, to perpetuate his name forever. But while "Julius" (July) for the month Quintilis, and "Augustus" (August) for the month Sextilis, still exist at the present day, neither "Germanicus" for September, nor "Domitianus" for October, bestowed by Domitian, remained even a single day after the tyrant's reign. The emp
eror called himself "Germanicus" on account of his campaign against the Chatti. (See Mart. II, 2), where the flatterer compares the prince to Scipio Africanus, and asserts that the surname "Germanicus" would be far more illustrious than that of "Africanus."

  [9] THE USUAL CEREMONIOUS RECEPTION TOOK PLACE OF MAGISTRATES, SENATORS, AND KNIGHTS. Vespasian had abolished this custom, which flourished, especially under Claudius, even during the civil war. See Suet. _Vesp._ 12.

  [10] A DULL ATMOSPHERE OF SUSPICION BROODED LIKE A VAPOR AND SEEMED TO FILL THE SPLENDIDLY-DECORATED ROOM. See Plin. _Paneg._ 48: "Menaces and terror hovered around the doors, and those admitted had as much cause to fear, as those who were not."

  [11] ATRA CURA, AS SUNG BY HORATIUS FLACCUS. See Hor. _Od._ III, 1, 40.

  [12] WHY, THE VERY MORNING DEW, DISGUSTED AT THE CRIME, DID ITS BEST TO WASH THEM AWAY. A flattering flowery turn of speech in perfect harmony with the spirit of the times. (See numerous passages in Martial's _Epigrams_.)

  [13] OUR HEART IN ITS TENDER MERCY. See Suet. _Dom._ 11: "He never uttered a harsh sentence, without a preface about his mildness."

  [14] TOGA VIRILIS. Donning the _toga virilis_, by which the boy was regarded as a man, was an important family festival.

  [15] RHEA GAVE BIRTH TO ZEUS. Zeus, according to Greek tradition, was born of Rhea, in a cave on Mt. Ida, at Crete.

  [16] PYLIAN NESTOR. Nestor, king of Pylos, was considered in ancient times the type of vigorous old age.

  [17] FEAST OF MINERVA. Reference is here made to the Quinquatria (a five-day festival, principally for the benefit of workmen, artists, etc., as well as school-boys) which Domitian ordered to be annually celebrated in the month of March, at his Albanian estate.

  [18] THIS POEM is an almost literal translation from Martial, _Ep._ IV, 1.

  [19] HE WAS WRITING DOWN ON A WOODEN TABLET THE NAMES OF THOSE WHOM HE DEVOTED TO DEATH. The story of this wooden tablet, according to its actual characters, is borrowed from the account of Dio Cassius, (LXVII, 15).

 
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