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Chapter 18

  • PETRONIUS to VINICIUS:
  • "Thy case is a bad one, carissime. It is clear that Venus has disturbed th_ind, deprived thee of reason and memory, as well as the power to think o_ught else except love. Read some time thy answer to my letter, and thou wil_ee how indifferent thy mind is to all except Lygia; how exclusively it i_ccupied with her, how it returns to her always, and circles above her, as _alcon above chosen prey. By Pollux! find her quickly, or that of thee whic_ire has not turned into ashes will become an Egyptian sphinx, which,
  • enamored, as 'tis said, of pale isis, grew deaf and indifferent to all things,
  • waiting only for night, so as to gaze with stony eyes at the loved one.
  • "Run disguised through the city in the evening, even honor Christian houses o_rayer in thy philosopher's company. Whatever excites hope and kills time i_raiseworthy. But for my friendship's sake do this one thing:
  • Ursus, Lygia's slave, is a man of uncommon strength very likely; hire Croton,
  • and go out three together; that will be safer and wiser. The Christians, sinc_omponia and Lygia belong to them, are surely not such scoundrels as mos_eople imagine. But when a lamb of their flock is in question they are n_riflers, as they have shown by carrying away Lygia. When thou seest Lygi_hou wilt not restrain thyself, I am sure, and wilt try to bear her away o_he spot. But how wilt thou and Chilonides do it? Croton would take care o_imself, even though ten like Ursus defended the maiden. Be not plundered b_hio, but be not sparing of money on Croton. Of all counsels which I can giv_his is the best one.
  • "Here they have ceased to speak of the infant Augusta, or to say that sh_erished through witchcraft. Poppaea mentions her at times yet; but Caesar'_ind is stuffed with something else. Moreover, if it be true that the divin_ugusta is in a changed state again, the memory of that child will be blow_way without trace. We have been in Naples for some days, or rather in Baile.
  • If thou art capable of any thought, echoes of our life must strike thy ear,
  • for surely Rome talks of naught else. We went directly to Bai~, where at firs_emories of the mother attacked us, and reproaches of conscience. But dos_hou know to what Ahenobarbus has gone already? To this, that for him even th_urder of his mother is a mere theme for verses, and a reason for buffoonis_ragic scenes. Formerly he felt real reproaches only in so far as he was _oward; now, when he is convinced that the earth is under his feet as before,
  • and that no god is taking vengeance, he feigns them only to move people by hi_ate. He springs up at night sometimes declaring that the Furies are huntin_im; he rouses us, looks around, assumes the posture of an actor playing th_ole of Orestes, and the posture of a bad actor too; he declaims Greek verses,
  • and looks to see if we are admiring him. We admire him apparently; and instea_f saying to him, Go to sleep, thou buffoon! we bring ourselves also to th_one of tragedy, and protect the great artist from the Furies. By Castor! thi_ews at least must have reached thee, that he has appeared in public a_aples. They drove in from the city and the surrounding towns all the Gree_uffians, who filled the arena with such a vile odor of sweat and garlic tha_ thank the gods that, instead of sitting in the first rows with th_ugustians, I was behind the scenes with Ahenobarbus. And wilt thou believ_t, he was afraid really! He took my hand and put itto his heart, which wa_eating with increased pulsation; his breath was short; and at the moment whe_e had to appear he grew as pale as a parchment, and his forehead was covere_ith drops of sweat. Still he saw that in every row of seats were pretorians,
  • armed with clubs, to rouse enthusiasm if the need came. But there was no need.
  • No herd of monkeys from the environs of Carthage could howl as did thi_abble. I tell thee that the smell of garlic came to the stage; but Ner_owed, pressed his hand to his heart, sent kisses from his lips, and she_ears. Then he rushed in among us, who were waiting behind the scenes, like _runken man, crying, 'What were the triumphs of Julius compared with thi_riumph of mine?' But the rabble was howling yet and applauding, knowing tha_t would applaud to itself favors, gifts, banquets, lottery tickets, and _resh exhibition by the Imperial buffoon. I do not wonder that they applauded,
  • for such a sight had not been seen till that evening. And every moment h_epeated: 'See what the Greeks are! see what the Greeks are!' From tha_vening it has seemed to me that his hatred for Rome is increasing. Meanwhil_pecial couriers were hurried to Rome announcing the triumph, and we expec_hanks from the Senate one of these days. Immediately after Nero's firs_xhibition, a strange event happened here. The theatre fell in on a sudden,
  • but just after the audience had gone. I was there, and did not see even on_orpse taken from the ruins. Many, even among the Greeks, see in this even_he anger of the gods, because the dignity of Caesar was disgraced; he, on the
  • Šntrary, finds in it favor of the gods, who have his song, and those wh_isten to it, under their evident protection. Hence there are offerings in al_he temples, and great thanks. For Nero it is a great encouragement to mak_he journey to Ach~a. A few days since he told me, however, that he had doubt_s to what the Roman people might say; that they might revolt out of love fo_im, and fear touching the distribution of grain and touching the games, whic_ight fail them in case of his prolonged absence.
  • "We are going, however, to Beneventum to look at the cobbler magnificenc_hich Vatinius will exhibit, and thence to Greece, under the protection of th_ivine brothers of Helen. As to me, I have noted one thing, that when a man i_mdng the mad he grows mad himself, and, what is more, finds a certain char_n mad pranks. Greece and the journey in a thousand ships; a kind of triumpha_dvance of Bacchus among nymphs and bacchantes crowned with myrtle, vine, an_oneysuckle; there will be women in tiger skins harnessed to chariots;
  • flowers, thyrses, garlands, shouts of 'Evoe!' music, poetry, and applaudin_ellas. All this is well; but we cherish besides more daring projects. We wis_o create a species of Oriental Imperium, — an empire of palm-trees, sunshine,
  • poetry, and reality turned into a dream, reality turned into the delight o_ife only. We want to forget Rome; to fix the balancing point of the worl_omewhere between Greece, Asia, and Egypt; to live the life not of men but o_ods; not to know what commonness is; to wander in golden galleys under th_hadow of purple sails along the Archipelago; to be Apollo, Osiis, and Baal i_ne person; to be rosy with the dawn, golden with the sun, silver with th_oon; to command, to sing, to dream. And wilt thou believe that I, who hav_till sound judgment to the value of a sestertium, and sense to the value o_n as, let myself be borne away by these fantasies, and I do this for th_eason that, if they are not possible, they are at least grandiose an_ncommon? Such a fabulous empire would be a thing which, some time or other,
  • after long ages, would seem a dream to mankind. Except when Venus takes th_orm of Lygia, or even of a slave Eunice, or when art beautifies it, lif_tself is empty, and many a time it has the face of a monkey. But Bronzebear_ill not realize his plans, even for this cause, that in his fabulous kingdo_f poetry and the Orient no place is given to treason, meanness, and death;
  • and that in him with the poses of a poet sits a wretched comedian, a dul_harioteer, and a frivolous tyrant. Meanwhile we are killing people wheneve_hey displease us in any way. Poor Torquatus Silanus is now a shade; he opene_is veins a few days since. Lecanius and Licinus will enter on the consulat_ith teror. Old Thrasea will not escape death, for he dares to be honest.
  • Tigellinus is not able yet to frame a command for me to open my veins. I a_till needed not only as elegantiae arbiter, but as a man without whos_ounsel and taste the expedition to Achaea might fail. More than once,
  • however, I think that sooner or later it must end in opening my veins; an_nowest thou what the question will be then with me? — that Bronzebeard shoul_ot get my goblet, which thou knowest and admirest. Shouldst thou be near a_he moment of my death, I will give it to thee; shouldst thou be at _istance, I will break it. But meanwhile I have before me yet Beneventum o_he cobblers and Olympian Greece; I have Fate too, which, unknown an_nforeseen, points out the road to every one.
  • "Be well, and engage Croton; otherwise they will snatch Lygia from thee _econd time. When Chionides ceases to be needful, send him to me wherever _ay be. Perhaps I shall make him a second Vatinius, and consuls and senator_ay tremble before him yet, as they trembled before that knight Dratevka. I_ould be worth while to live to see such a spectacle. When thou hast foun_ygia, let me know, so that I may offer for you both a pair of swans and _air of doves in the round temple of Venus here. Once I saw Lygia in a dream,
  • sitting on thy knee, seeking thy kisses. Try to make that dream prophetic. Ma_here be no clouds on thy sky; or if there be, let them have the color and th_dor of roses! Be in good health; and farewell!"