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Chapter 28

  • PETRONIUS to VINICIUS: — "Have pity, carissime; imitate not in thy letters th_acedemonians or Julius Caesar! Couldst thou, like Julius, write Veni, vidi,
  • vici (I came, I saw, I conquered), I might understand thy brevity. But th_etter means absolutely Veni, vidi, fugi (I came, I saw, I fled). Since such _onclusion of the affair is directly opposed to thy nature, since thou ar_ounded, and since, finally, uncommon things are happening to thee, thy lette_eeds explanation. I could not believe my eyes when I read that the Lygia_iant killed Croton as easily as a Caledonian dog would kill a wolf in th_efiles of Hibernia. That man is worth as much gold as he himself weighs, an_t depends on him alone to become a favorite of Caesar. When I return to th_ity, I must gain a nearer acquaintance with that Lygian, and have a bronz_tatue of him made for myself. Ahenobarbus will burst from curiosity, when _ell him that it is from nature. Bodies really athletic are becoming rarer i_taly and in Greece; of the Orient no mention need be made; the Germans,
  • though large, have muscles covered with fat, and are greater in bulk than i_trength. Learn from the Lygian if he is an exception, or if in his countr_here are more men like him. Should it happen sometime to thee or me t_rganize games officially, it would be well to know where to seek for the bes_odies.
  • "But praise to the gods of the Orient and the Occident that thou hast come ou_f such hands alive. Thou hast escaped, of course, because thou art _atrician, and the son of a consul; but everything which has happene_stonishes me in the highest degree, — that cemetery where thou wert among th_hristians, they, their treatment of thee, the subsequent flight of Lygia;
  • finally, that peculiar sadness and disquiet which breathes from thy shor_etter. Explain, for there are many points which I cannot understand; and i_hou wish the truth, I will tell thee plainly, that I understand neither th_hristians nor thee nor Lygia. Wonder not that I, who care for few things o_arth except my own person, inquire of thee so eagerly. I have contributed t_ll this affair of thine; hence it is my affair so far. Write soon, for _annot foresee surely when we may meet. In Bronzebeard's head plans change, a_inds do in autumn. At present, while tarrying in Beneventum, he has the wis_o go straightway to Greece, without returning to Rome. Tigellinus, however,
  • advises him to visit the city even for a time, since the people, yearnin_vermuch for his person (read 'for games and bread') may revolt. So I canno_ell how it will be. Should Achaea overbalance, we may want to see Egypt. _hould insist with all my might on thy coming, for I think that in thy stat_f mmd travelling and our amusements would be a medicine, but thou mightst no_ind us. Consider, then, whether in that case respose in thy Sicilian estate_ould not be preferable to remaining in Rome. Write me minutely of thyself,
  • and farewell. I add no wish this time, except health; for, by Pollux! I kno_ot what to wish thee."
  • Vinicius, on receiving this letter, felt at first no desire to reply. He had _ind of feeling that it was not worth while to reply, that an answer woul_enefit no one in any way, that it would explain nothing. Discontent, and _eeling of the vanity of life, possessed him. He thought, moreover, tha_etronius would not comprehend him in any case, and that something ha_appened which would remove them from each other. He could not come to a_greement with himself, even. When he returned from the Trans-Tiber to hi_plendid "insula," he was exhausted, and found for the first days a certai_atisfaction in rest and in the comfort and abundance about him. Tha_atisfaction lasted but a short time, however. He felt soon that he was livin_n vanity; that all which so far had formed the interest of his life eithe_ad ceased to exist for him or had shrunk to proportions barely perceptible.
  • He had a feeling as if those ties which hitherto had connected him with lif_ad been cut in his soul, and that no new ones had been formed. At the though_hat he might go to Beneventum and thence to Acham, to swim in a life o_uxury and wild excess, he had a feeling of emptiness. "To what end? Wha_hall I gain from it?" These were the first questions which passed through hi_ead. And for the first time in life, also, he thought that if he went, th_onversation of Petronius, his wit, his quickness, his exquisite outlining o_hought, and his choice of apt phrases for every idea might annoy him.
  • But solitude, too, had begun to annoy him. All his acquaintances were wit_aesar in Beneventum; so he had to stay at home alone, with a head full o_houghts, and a heart full of feelings which he could not analyze. He ha_oments, however, in which he judged that if he could converse with some on_bout everything that took place in him, perhaps he might be able to grasp i_ll somehow, bring it to order, and estimate it better. Under the influence o_his hope, and after some days of hesitation, he decided to answer Petronius;
  • and, though not certain that he would send the answer, he wrote it in th_ollowing words: —
  • "It is thy wish that I write more minutely, agreed then; whether I shall b_ble to do it more clearly, I cannot tell, for there are many knots which _now not myself how to loosen. I described to thee my stay among th_hristians, and their treatment of enemies, among whom they had a right t_ount both me and Chilo; finally, of the kindness with which they nursed me,
  • and of the disappearance of Lygia. No, my dear friend, I was not spare_ecause of being the son of a consul. Such considerations do not exist fo_hem, since they forgave even Chilo, though I urged them to bury him in th_arden. Those are people such as the world has not seen hitherto, and thei_eaching is of a kind that the world has not heard up to this time. I can sa_othing else, and he errs who measures them with our measure. I tell the_hat, if I had been lying with a broken arm in my own house, and if my ow_eopls, even my own family, had nursed me, I should have had more comforts, o_ourse, but I should not have received half the care which I found among them.
  • "Know this, too, that Lygia is like the others. Had she been my sister or m_ife, she could not have nursed me more tenderly. Delight filled my heart mor_han once, for I judged that love alone could inspire the like tenderness.
  • More than once I saw love in her look, in her face; and, wilt thou believe mc?
  • among those simple people then in that poor chamber, which was at once _ulina and a triclinium, I felt happier than ever before. No; she was no_ndifferent to me — and to-day even I cannot think that she was. Still tha_ame Lygia left Miriam's dwelling in secret because of me. I sir now whol_ays with my head on my hands, and think, Why did she do so? Have I writte_hee that I volunteered to restore her to Aulus? True, she declared that to h_mpossible at present, because Aulus and Pomponia had gone to Sicily, an_ecause news of her return going from house to house, through slaves, woul_each the Palatine, and Caesar might take her from Aifins again. But she kne_hat I would not pursue her longer; that I had left the way of violence; that,
  • unable to cease loving her or to live without her, I would bring her into m_ouse through a wreathed door, and seat her on a sacred skin at my hearth.
  • Still she fled! Why? Nothing was threatening her. Did she not love me, sh_ight have rejected me. The day before her flight, I made the acquaintance o_ wonderful man, a certain Paul of Tarsus, who spoke to me of Christ and Hi_eachings, and spoke with such power that every word of his, without hi_illing it, rums nil the foundations of our society into ashes. That same ma_isited me after her flight, and said: 'If God open thy eyes to the light, an_ake the beam from them as He took it from mine, thou wilt feel that she acte_roperly; and then, perhaps, thou wilt find her.' And now I am breaking m_ead over these words, as if I had heard them from the mouth of the Pythones_t Delphi. I seem to understand something. Though they love people, th_hristians are enemies of our life, our gods, and our crimes; hence she fle_rom mc, as from a man who belongs to our society, and with whom she woul_ave to share a life counted criminal by Christians. Thou wilt say that sinc_he might reject me, she had no need to withdraw. But if she loved me? In tha_ase she desired to flee from love. At the very thought of this I wish to sen_laves into every alley in Rome, and command them to cry throughout th_ouses, 'Return, Lygis!' But I cease to understand why she fled. I should no_ave stopped her from believing in her Christ, and would myself have reared a_ltar to Him in the atrium. What harth eould one more god do me? Why might _ot believe in him, — I who do not believe overmuch in the old gods? I kno_ith full certainty that the Christlans do not lie; amd they say that he ros_rom the dead. A man cannot rise from the dead. That Paul of TarIlls, who is _oman citizen, but who, as a Jew, knows the old Hebrew writings, told mc tha_he coming of Christ was promised by prophets for whole thousands of years.
  • All these are uncommon things, but does not the uncommon surround us on ever_ide? People have not ceased talking yet of Apollonius of Tyana. Paul'_tatement that there is one God, not a whole assembly of them, seems sound t_ue. Perhaps Seneca is of this opinion, and before him many others. Chris_ived, gave Himself to h‡ crucified for the salvation of the world, and ros_rom the dead. All this is perfectly certain. I do not see, therefore, _eason why I should insist on an opposite opinion, or why I should not rear t_im an Altir, If I am ready to rear one to Serapis, for instance. It would no_e difficult for me even to renounce other gods, for no reasoning min_elieves in them at present, But it seems that all this is not enough yet fo_he Christians, It is not enough to honor Christ, one must also live accordin_o His teachings, and here thou err on the shore of a sea which they comman_hee to wade through.
  • "If I promised to do so, they themselves would feel that the promise was a_mpty sound of words. Paul told me so openly. Thou knowest how I love Lygis,
  • and knowcst that there is nothing that I would not do for her. Still, even a_er wish, I cannot raise Soraete or Vesuvius on my shoulders, or plac_hrasymenc Lake on the palm of my hand, or from black make my eyes blue, lik_hose of the Lygians. If she so desited, I could have the wish, but the chang_oes not lie in my power. I am not a philosopher, but also I ant not So dul_s I have seemed, perhaps, more than once to thee, 1 will state now th_ollowing: I know not how the Christians order their own lives, but I kno_hat where their religion begins, Roman rule ends, Rome itself ends, our mod_f life ends, the distinction between conquered and — conqueror, between ric_nd poor, lord and slave, ends, government ends, Caesar ends, law and all th_rder of the world ends; and in place of those appear Christ, with a certai_ercy not existent hitherto, and kindness, opposed to human and our Roma_nstincts. It is true that Lygia is more to me than all Rome and its lordship;
  • and I would let society vanish could 1 have her in my house. But that i_nother thing. Agreement in words does nor satisfy the Christians; a man mus_eel that their teaching is truth, and not have aught else in his soul. Bu_hat, the gods are my witnesses, is beyond me. Dost understand what tha_eans? There is something in my nature which shudders at this religion; and!
  • were my lips to glorify it, were I to conform to its preceprts, my soul and m_eason would say that I do so through love for Lygia, and that apart from he_here is to me nothing on earth more repulsive. And, a strange thing, Paul o_arsus understands this, and so does that old theurgus Peter, who in spite o_ll his simplicity and low origin is the highest among them, and was th_isciple of Christ. And dost thou know what they are doing? They are prayin_or me, and calling down something which they call grace; hut nothing descend_n me, save disquiet, and a greater yearning for Lygia.
  • "I have written thee that she went away secretly; but when going she left me _ross which she put together from twigs of boxwood. When I woke up, 1 found f_ear my bed. I have it now in the lararium, and I approach it yet, I canno_ell why, as if there were something divine in it, that is, with awe an_everence. I love it because her hand bound it, and I hate it be-cause i_ivides us. At times it seems to me that there are enchantments of some kin_n all this affair, and that the theurgus, Peter, though he declares himsel_o be a simple shepherd, is greater than Apollonius, and all who preceded him,
  • and that he has involved us all — Lygia, Pomponia, and me — with them.
  • "Thou hast written that in my previous letter disquiet and sadness ar_isible. Sadness there must be, for I have lost her again, and there i_isquiet because something has changed in me. I tell thee sincerely, tha_othing is mote repugnant to my nature than that religion, and still I canno_ecognize myself since I met Lygia. Is it enchantment, or love? Circe change_eople's bodies by touching them, but my soul has been changed. No one bu_ygia could have done that, or rather Lygia through that wonderful religio_hich she professes. When I returned to my house from the Christians, no on_as waiting for me. The slaves thought that I was in Beneventum, and would no_eturn soon; hence there was disorder in the house. I found the slaves drunk,
  • and a feast, which they were giving themselves, in my triclinium. They ha_ore thought of seeing death than me, and would have been less terrified b_t. Thou knowest with what a firm hand I hold my house; all to the last on_ropped on their knees, and some fainted from terror. But dost thou know how _cted? At the first moment I wished to call for rods and hot iron, bu_mmediately a kind of shame seized me, and, wilt thou lend belief? A specie_f pity for those wretched people. Among them are old slaves whom m_randfather, Marcus Vinicius, brought from the Rhine in the time of Augustus.
  • 1 shut myself up alone in the library, and there came stranger thoughts stil_o my head; namely, that after what I had heard and seen among the Christians,
  • it did not become me to act with slaves as 1 had acted hitherto — that the_oo were people. For a number of days they moved about in mortal terror, i_he belief that I was delaying so as to invent punishment the more cruel, bu_ did not punish, and did not punish because I was not able. Summoning them o_he third day, I said, 'I forgive you; strive then with earnest service t_orrect your fault!' They fell on their knees, covering their faces wit_ears, stretching forth their hands with groans, and called me lord an_ather; but I — with shame do I write this — was equally moved. It seemed t_e that at that moment I was looking at the sweet face of Lygia, and her eye_illed with tears, thanking me for that act. And, prob pudor! I felt that m_ips too were moist. Dost know what I will confess to thee? This, — that _annot do without her, that it is ill for me alone, that I am simply unhappy,
  • and that my sadness is greater than thou wilt admit. But, as to my slaves, on_hing arrested my attention. The forgiveness which they received not only di_ot make them insolent, not only did not weaken discipline, but never had fea_oused them to such ready service as has gratitude. Not only do they serve,
  • but they seem to vie with one another to divine my wishes. I mention this t_hee because, when, the day before I left the Christians, I told Paul tha_ociety would fall apart because of his religion, as a cask without hoops, h_nswered, 'Love is a stronger hoop than fear.' And now I see that in certai_ases his opinion may be right. I have verified it also with references t_lients, who, learning of my return, hurried to salute me. Thou knowest that _ave never been penurious with them; but my father acted haughtily wit_lients on principle, and taught me to treat them in like manner. But when _aw their worn mantles and hungry faces, I had a feeling something lik_ompassion. I gave command to bring them food, and conversed besides wit_hem, — called some by name, some I asked about their wives and children, —
  • and again in the eyes before me I saw tears; again it seemed to me that Lygi_aw what I was doing, that she praised and was delighted. Is my mind beginnin_o wander, or is love confusing my feelings? I cannot tell. But this I d_now; I have a continual feeling that she is looking at me from a distance,
  • and I am afraid to do aught that might trouble or offend her.
  • "So it is, Caius! but they have changed my soul, and sometimes I feel well fo_hat reason. At times again I am tormented with the thought, for I fear tha_y manhood and energy are taken from me; that, perhaps, I am useless, not onl_or counsel, for judgment, for feasts, but for war even. These are undoubte_nchantments! And to such a degree am I changed that I tell thee this, too,
  • which came to my head when I lay wounded: that if Lygia were like Nigidia,
  • Poppae, Crispinilla, and our divorced women, if she were as vile, as pitiless,
  • and as cheap as they, I should not love her as I do at present. But since _ove her for that which divides us, thou wilt divine what a chaos is rising i_y soul, in what darkness I live, how it is that I cannot see certain road_efore me, and how far I am from knowing what to begin. If life may b_ompared to a spring, in my spring disquiet flows instead of water. I liv_hrough the hope that I shall see her, perhaps, and sometimes it seems to m_hat I shall see her surely. But what will happen to me in a year or tw_ears, I know not, and cannot divine. I shall not leave Rome. I could no_ndure the society of the Augustians; and besides, the one solace in m_adness and disquiet is the thought that I am near Lygia, that through Glaucu_he physician, who promised to visit me, or through Paul of Tarsus, I ca_earn something of her at times. No; I would not leave Rome, even were ye t_ffer me the government of Egypt. Know also, that I have ordered the sculpto_o make a stone monument for Gulo, whom I slew in anger. Too late did it com_o my mind that he had carried me in his arms, and was the first to teach m_ow to put an arrow on a bow. I know not why it was that a recollection of hi_ose in me which was sorrow and reproach. If what I write astonish thee, _eply that it astonishes me no less, but I write pure truth. — Farewell."