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Chapter 15

  • PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
  • "I send to thee from Antium, by a trusty slave, this letter, to which, thoug_hy hand is more accustomed to the sword and the javelin than the pen, I thin_hat thou wilt answer through the same messenger without needless delay. _eft thee on a good trail, and full of hope; hence I trust that thou has_ither satisfied thy pleasant desires in the embraces of Lygia, or wil_atisfy them before the real wintry wind from the summits of Soracte shal_low on the Campania. Oh, my Vinicius! may thy preceptress be the golde_oddess of Cyprus; be thou, on thy part, the preceptor of that Lygian Aurora,
  • who is fleeing before the sun of love. And remember always that marble, thoug_ost precious, is nothing of itself, and acquires real value only when th_culptor's hand turns it into a masterpiece. Be thou such a sculptor,
  • carissime! To love is not sufficient; one must know how to love; one must kno_ow to teach love. Though the plebs, too, and even animals, experienc_leasure, a genuine man differs from them in this especially, that he make_ove in some way a noble art, and, admiring it, knows all its divine value,
  • makes it present in his mind, thus satisfying not his body~ merely, but hi_oul. More than once, when I think here of the emptiness, the uncertainty, th_reariness of life, it occurs to me that perhaps thou hast chosen better, an_hat not Caesar's court, but war and love, are the only objects for which i_s worth while to be born and to live.
  • "Thou wert fortunate in war, be fortunate also in love; and if thou ar_urious as to what men are doing at the court of Caesar, I will inform the_rom time to time. We are living here at Antium, and nursing our heavenl_oice; we continue to cherish the same hatred of Rome, and think of betakin_urselves to Bai~ for the winter, to appear in public at Naples, whos_nhabitants, being Greeks, will appreciate us better than that wolf brood o_he banks of the Tiber. People will hasten thither from Bait, from Pompeii,
  • Puteoli, Cumae, and Stabia; neither applause nor crowns will be lacking, an_hat will be an encouragement for the proposed expedition to Achaea.
  • "But the memory of the infant Augusta? Yes! we are bewailing her yet. We ar_inging hymns of our own composition, so wonderful that the sirens have bee_iding from envy in Amphitrite's deepest caves. But the dolphins would liste_o us, were they not prevented by the sound of the sea. Our suffering is no_llayed yet; hence we will exhibit it to the world in every form whic_culpture can employ, and observe carefully if we are beautiful in ou_uffering and if people recognize this beauty. Oh, my dear! we shall di_uffoons and comedians!
  • "All the Augustians are here, male and female, not counting ten thousan_ervants, and five hundred she asses, in whose milk Poppae bathes. At time_ven it is cheerful here. Calvia Crispinilla is growing old. It is said tha_he has begged Poppza to let her take the bath immediately after herself.
  • Lucan slapped Nigidia on the face, because he suspected her of relations wit_ gladiator. Sporus lost his wife at dice to Senecio. Torquatus Silanus ha_ffered me for Eunice four chestnut horses, which this year will win the priz_eyond doubt. I would not accept! Thanks to thee, also, that thou d~dst no_ake her. As to Torquarus Silanus, the poor man does not even suspect that h_s already more a shade than a man. His death is decided. And knowest what hi_rime is? He is the great-grandson of the deified Augustus. There is no rescu_or him. Such is our world.
  • "As is known to thee, we have been expecting Tiridates here; meanwhil_ologeses has written an offensive letter. Because he has conquered Armenia,
  • he asks that it be left to him for Tiridates; if not, he will not yield it i_ny case. Pure comedy! So we have decided on war. Corbulo will receive powe_uch as Pompeius Magnus received in the war with pirates. There was a moment,
  • however, when Nero hesitated. He seems afraid of the glory which Corbulo wil_in in case of victory. It was even thought to offer the chief command to ou_ulus. This was opposed by Poppae, for whom evidently Pomponia's virtue is a_alt in the eye.
  • "Vatinius described to us a remarkable fight of gladiators, which is to tak_lace in Beneventum. See to what cobblers rise in our time, in spite of th_aying, 'Ne sutor ultra crepidam!' Vitelius is the descendant of a cobbler;
  • but Vatinius is the son of one! Perhaps he drew thread himself! The acto_liturus represented Oedipus yesterday wonderfully. I asked him, by the way,
  • as a Jew, if Christians and Jews were the same. He answered that the Jews hav_n eternal religion, but that Christians are a new sect risen recently i_udea; that in the time of Tiberius the Jews crucified a certain man, whos_dherents increase daily, and that the Christians consider him as God. The_efuse, it seems, to recognize other gods, ours especially. I canno_nderstand what harm it would do them to recognize these gods.
  • "Tigellinus shows me open enmity now. So far he is unequal to me; but he is,
  • superior in this, that he cares more for life, and is at the same time _reater scoundrel, which brings him nearer Ahenobarbus. These two wil_nderstand each other earlier or later, and then my turn will come. I know no_hen it will come; but I know this, that as things are it must come; hence le_ime pass. Meanwhile we must amuse ourselves. Life of itself would not be ba_ere it not for Bronzebeard. Thanks to him, a man at times is disgusted wit_imself. It is not correct to consider the struggle for his favor as a kind o_ivalry in a circus, — as a kind of game, as a struggle, in which victor_latters vanity. True, I explain it to myself in that way frequently; bu_till it seems to me sometimes that I am like Chio, and better in nothing tha_e. When he ceases to be needful to thee, send him to me. I have taken a fanc_o his edifying conversation. A greeting from me to thy divine Christian, o_ather beg her in my name not to be a fish to thee. Inform me of thy health,
  • inform me of thy love, know how to love, teach how to love, and farewell."
  • Vinscius to Pemonsus:
  • "Lygia is not found yet! Were it not for the hope that I shall find her soon,
  • thou wouldst not receive an answer; for when a man is disgusted with life, h_as no wish to write letters. I wanted to learn whether Chilo was no_eceiving me; and at night when he came to get the money for Euricius, I thre_n a military mantle, and unobserved followed him and the slave whom I sen_ith him. When they reached the place, I watched from a distance, hidde_ehind a portico pillar, and convinced myself that Euricius was not invented.
  • Below, a number of tens of people were unloading stones from a spacious barge,
  • and piling them up on the bank. I saw Chilo approach them, and begin to tal_ith some old man, who after a while fell at his feet. Others surrounded the_ith shouts of admiration. Before my eyes the boy gave a purse to Euricius,
  • who on seizing it began to pray with upraised hands, while at his side som_econd person was kneeling, evidently his son. Chilo said something which _ould not hear, and blessed the two who were kneeling, as well as others,
  • making in the air signs in the form of a cross, which they honor apparently, _r all bent their knees. The desire seized me to go among them, and promis_hree such purses to him who would deliver to me Lygia; but I feared to spoi_hio's work, and after hesitating a moment went home.
  • "This happened at least twelve days after thy departure. Since then Chilo ha_een a number of times with me. He says that he has gained great significanc_mong the Christians; that if he has not found Lygia so far, it is because th_hristians in Rome are innumerable, hence all are not acquainted with eac_erson in their community, and cannot know everything that is done in it. The_re cautious, too, and in general reticent. He gives assurance, however, tha_hen he reaches the elders, who are called presbyters, he will learn ever_ecret. He has made the acquaintance of a number of these already, and ha_egun to inquire of them, though carefully, so as not to rouse suspicion b_aste, and not to make the work still more difficult. Though it is hard t_ait, though patience fails, I feel that he is right, and I wait.
  • "He learned, too, that they have places of meeting for prayer, frequentl_utside the city, in empty houses and even in sandpits. There they worshi_hrist, sing hymns, and have feasts. There are many such places. Chil_upposes that Lygia goes purposely to different ones from Pomponia, so tha_he latter, in case of legal proceedings or an examination, might swear boldl_hat she knew nothing of Lygia's hiding-place. It may be that the presbyter_ave advised caution. When Chilo discovers those places, I will go with him;
  • and if the gods let me see Lygia, I swear to thee by Jupiter that she will no_scape my hands this time.
  • "I am thinking continually of those places of prayer. Chilo is unwilling tha_ should go with him; he is afraid. But I cannot stay at home. I should kno_er at once, even in disguise or if veiled. They assemble in the night, but _hould recognize her in the night even. I should know her voice and motion_nywhere. I will go myself in disguise, and look at every person who goes i_r out. I am thinking of her always, and shall recognize her. Chilo is to com_o-morrow, and we shall go. I will take arms. Some of my slaves sent to th_rovinces have returned empty-handed. But I am certain now that she is in th_ity, perhaps not far away even. I myself have visited many houses unde_retext of renting them. She will fare better with me a hundred times; wher_he is, whole legions of poor people dwell. Besides, I shall spare nothing fo_er sake. Thou writest that I have chosen well. I have chosen suffering an_orrow. We shall go first to those houses which are in the city, then beyon_he gates. Hope looks for something every morning, otherwise life would b_mpossible. Thou sayest that one should know how to love. I knew how to tal_f love to Lygia. But now I only yearn; I do nothing but wait for Chilo. Lif_o me is unendurable in my own house. Farewell!"