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Claudius's Cruelties. captives sued for pity, with the most abject lamentations, Charactacus stood before the tribunal with an intrepid air, and seemed rather willing to except of pardon than meanly solicitous of suing for it. Claudius had the generosity to pardon him, and he returned into Britain.
Men of narrow capacities and feeble minds, are only good or evil, as they happen to fall into the hands of virtuous or vicious guides; and, unhappily for him, his directors were, to the last degree, abandoned and infamous. The chief af there was his wife, Meffalina, whose name is almost become a common appellation to women of abandoned characters, However, she was not less remarkable for her cruelties than her lusts, as by her intrigues she destroyed many of the most illustrious families of Rome.
Incited by many of the principal men of Rome, Camillus, the lieutenant-governor of Dalmatia, openly rebelled against Claudius, and assumed the title of Emperor. The cruelty of Meffalina and her minions, upon this occasion, seemed to have no bounds. They so wrought upon the Emperor's fears and suspicions, that numbers were executed without trial or proof; and scarce any, even of those who were but suspected, escaped, unless by ranfoming their lives with their fortunes.
Among the number who were put to death on this occa-fion, I cannot help mentioning the pathetic catastrophe of Petus, and his faithful wife Arria. Cecina Petus was one of thofe unfortunate men, who joined with Camillus against the Emperor , and who when his associate was flain by the army, had endeavoured to escape into Dalmatia. However, he was there apprehended, and put on board a ship, in crder to be conveyed to Rome. Arria, who had been long the partner of his affections and misfortunes, entreated his keepers to be taken in the same vellel with her husband. " It is usual," she faid, “ to grant a man of his quality a few slaves, to dress, « and undress, and attend him; but I will perform all these « offices, and save you the trouble of a more numerous re«tinue.” Her fidelity, however, could not prevail. She therefore hired a fifherman's bark, and thus kept company with the ship in which her husband was conveyed through the voyage. They had an only son, equally remarkable for the beauty of his person, and the rectitude of his disposition. This youth died at the time his father was confined to his bed by a dangerous disease. The affectionate Arria, however, concealed her fon's death, and in her visits to her husband teftified no marks of sadness. Being asked how her fon'did, she replied, that he was at rest, and only left her husband's chamber to give a vent to her tears. Whea Petus was condemned to 2
die, and the orders were that he should put an end to his own life, Arria used every art to inspire him with resolution; and, at length, finding him continue timid and wavering, the took the poniard, and stabbed herself in his presence, presented it to him, saying, “ It gives no pain, my Petus.”
Messalina, upon the discovery of her illicit amours, laid violent hands upon herself; when Claudius marriedAgrippina, the daughter of his brother Germanicus. Her chief aim now was to gain the succession in favour of her son Nero, and to set aside the claims of young Britannicus, son to the Emperor and Messalina. For this purpose she married Nero to the Emperor's daughter, Octavia, a few days after her own marriage. Her next care was to increase her son's popularity, by giving him Seneca for a tutor. This excellent man, by birth a Spaniard, had been banished into the island of Corsica by Claudius, upon the false testimony of Meffalina, who had accused him of adultery with Julia, the Emperor's niece. The people loved and admired him for his genius, but still more for his strict morality; and a part of his reputation, therefore, devolved to his pupil.
Agrippina, being one day told by an astrologer, that Nero would be Emperor, and yet the cause of her death; “ Let « him kill me," answered she, “ provided he reigns *." In order to make room for him, she resolved to poifon her husband. The poison was given the Emperor among mulhrooms, a dish he was particularly fond of. Shortly after have ing eaten, he dropt down insensible; but this caused no alarm, as it was usual with him to fit eating till he had ftupified all his faculties, and was obliged to be carried to his bed from the table. His conftitution, however, seemed to overcome the effects of the poison, when Agrippina directed an abandoned physician, who was her creature, to thrust a poisoned feather down his throat, under pretence of making him vomit; which soon put a period to his life.
The reign of this Emperor, feeble and impotent as it was, produced no great calamities in the state, since his cruelties were chiefly levelled at those about his perfon. The list of the inhabitants of Rome, at this time, amounted to fix millions eight hundred and forty thousand fouls; a number equal, perhaps, to two thirds of all the people of England, at this day. In such a concourse, it is not to be doubted but every virtue and every vice must come to their highest pitch of refinement; and, in fact, the conduct of Seneca seems an inftance of the former, and that of Messalina of the latter. However, the general character of the times was that of cor,
A. D. 55.
Reign of Nero. ruption and luxury; for wherever there is a great superfluity of wealth, there will also be feen a thousand vicious modes of exhausting it. The military spirit of Rome, though much relaxed from its former severity, still continued to awe mankind; and though, during this reign, the world might be juftly said to be without a head, yet the terror of the Roman name alone kept mankind in their obedience.
Nero, though but seventeen years of age, began his reign with the general approbation of
mankind. While he continued to act by the counsels of Seneca, his tutor, and Burrhus his general, his government has always been considered as a model for succeeding princes. A famous Emperor* used to say, “ That « for the first five years of this prince, all other governments « came short of his.” In fact, the young monarch knew so well how to conceal his innate depravity, that his nearest friends could scarcely perceive his virtues to be assumed. He appeared just, liberal, and humane. When a warrant for the execution of a criminal was brought to him to be figned, he was heard to cry out, with a seeming concern,“ Would to “ Heaven that I had never learned to write.".
Afterwards, however, he acted in fo cruel and ridiculous a manner, that his name is odious to this day. He wantonly took away the lives of the best and wiseft persons, not sparing his tutor Seneca, nor ven his own mother. It is said, that he set fire to the city of Rome, and took delight to see it burn. He stood upon an high tower, during the continuance of the flames, enjoying the fight, and repeating, in a player's habit, and in a theatrical manner, some verses upon the destruction of Troy, As a proof of his guilt upon this occafion, none were permitted to lend any aslistance towards extinguishing the flames; and several persons were seen setting fire to the houses, alledging, that they had orders for what they did, However this be, the Emperor used every art to throw the odium of fo detestable an action from himself, and to fix it upon the Christians, who were at that time gaining ground in Rome. Nothing could be more dreadful than the perfecution raised against them upon this false accusation. Some were covered with the skins of wild beasts; and, in that figure, devoured by dogs. Some were crucified, and others burnt alive. « When the day was not sufficient for their tortures, “ the flames in which they perished served to illuminate the « night+;" while Nero, drefied in the habit of a charioteer, regaled himself with their tortures from his gardens; and entertained the people at one time with their suffering, at another with the circus-games. In this persecution, St. Paul * Trajan.
was beheaded; and St. Peter was crucified with his head downwards; which death he chose, as being more dishonourable than that of his divine master. The inhuman monster, conscious of being suspected of burning the city, in order to free himself from the scandal, took great care to rebuild it even with greater beauty than before.
Nero's subjects having groaned under his tyranny fourteen years, and not able to endure it longer, put an end both to that and his life at once.
The rejoicings at Rome, upon his death, were as great as those upon his accession. All persons came running into the ftreets to congratulate each other upon the death of the tyrant; dressed in the manner of slaves, who had been just let free.
Sergius Galba, who was then in Spain with his legions, was chosen Emperor by the foldiers, A. D. 69. and confirmed by the senate. His great age and his severity were the causes of his ruin; the first of which rendered him contemptible, and the other odious. In order to appease the people he adopted Piso. But Otho, who had expected that honour, and was now enraged at his disappointment, upon application to the soldiers, easily procured the murder of the old prince and his adopted son. In this manner was he advanced to the imperial dignity.
Otho, however, did not reign long; for, Vitellius making head against him, three battles were fought between them, in which Otho was victorious; but, in the fourth, he was defeated and laid violent hands on himself, in the thirty-eighth year of his age.
Aulus Vitellius, returning victor to Rome, was saluted Emperor by the senate. His luxury and A. D.70. cruelty foon made him so odious, that the people rebelled against him; and, after treating him with the vilest indignities, threw his dead body into the Tiber, after a short reign of eight months and five days. An elegant biographer * Compares this Emperor, and his two predeceffors, “ to the “kings in tragedies, who just appear upon the stage, and “ then are destroyed.”
Vitellius was the only tyrant, who entered upon his command with cruelty. Nero and Caligula gave the beginnings of their reign to mercy and justice. But this moniter was first advanced for his vices; began his government with cruelty; continued it with universal detestation; and died, to the satisfaction of all mankind.
A. D. 70.
Vefpafian.-Siege of Jerusalem. Obstinacy and Distress of the besieged.-The Temple taken and burnt. The Sanctuary rifled by Titus.-Jerusalem rased to the Ground.
TESPASIAN rofe by his merit from a mean
original, and at an advanced age, to the Em
pire. He was declared Emperor by the unanimous consent, both of the senate and the army; and messengers were dispatched to him in Egypt, requesting his presence at Rome, and testifying the utmost desire for his government. Before he set out, he gave his son Titus the command of the army that was to lay siege to Jerusalem ; while he went forward, and was met 'many miles from Rome by all the senate, and near half the inhabitants, who gave the sincerest testimonies of their joy, in having an Emperor of fo great and experienced virtues. Nor did he, in the least, disappoint their expectations; being equally affiduous in rewarding merit, in reforming the manners of the citizens; and setting them the beft example in his own.
In the mean time, Titus carried on the war against the Jews with vigour. This obstinate and infatuated people had long resolved to resist the Roman power, vainly hoping to find protection from Heaven, which their impieties had utterly offended. Their own historian * represents them, as arrived at the highest pitch of iniquity; while famines, earthquakes, and prodigies, all conspired to forebode their approaching ruin. Nor was it sufficient that heaven and earth seemed combined against them; they had the most bitter dissensions among themselves; and were split into two parties, which robbed and destroyed each other with impunity; still pillaging, and, at the same time, boasting their zeal for the religion of their ancestors.
At the head of one of those parties was an incendiary, whose name was John. This fanatic affected sovereign power, and filled the whole city of Jerusalem, and all the towns around, with tumult and pillage. In a short time, a new faction arose, headed by one Simon, who gathering together multitudes of robbers and murderers, who had Aed to the mountains, attacked many cities and towns, and reduced all Idumea under his power. Jerufalem, at length, became the theatre in which these two demagogues began to exercise their mutual animosity ; John was posteffed of the temple while