Part 2 out of 6
"That is my place."
"And conduct the triumphal procession?"
"Ah! you did not know. Cleon's triumphal procession from the
Alcibiades passed his hand downwards over his face, as though he
wished to changed his mask, and it was done in a moment.
"Yes, certainly, certainly, certainly. I have in fact just come here
to--announce his victory."
"He lies," broke in Xantippe.
"I jested with the pair. There will be a triumphal procession, then,
for Cleon! How fine!"
"Socrates," continued Anytos, "are you not glad?"
"I am glad that the enemy is beaten."
"But not that Cleon has won a victory?"
"Yes, it is nearly the same thing."
Xantippe seized the opportunity and struck in: "He is not glad, and
he does not believe in Cleon."
"I know you," concluded Anytos. "I know you philosophers and
quibblers! But take care!--And now, Alcibiades, come and receive the
despised Cleon, who has saved the fatherland!"
Alcibiades took Socrates by the hand, and whispered in his ear.
"What a cursed mischance! Well, not yet!--but the next time!"
Kartaphalos, the shoemaker, sat in his shop by the Acarnanian Gate,
and repaired cothurns for the Dionysian theatre, which was about to
make a last attempt to revive the tragic drama, which had been
eclipsed by the farces of Aristophanes. The Roman Lucillus lounged
at the window-sill, and, since philosophy had been brought into
fashion by Socrates and the Sophists, the shoemaker and the exiled
Decemvir philosophised as well as they could.
"Roman!" said Kartaphalos, "you are a stranger in the city, as I am:
what do think of the state and the Government?"
"They are exactly like the Roman. One may sum up the whole past
history of Rome in two words--Patricians and Plebeians."
"Just as it is here."
"With the difference that Rome has a future. Hellas only a past."
"What is known of Rome's future?"
"The Cumaean Sibyl has prophesied that Rome will possess the earth."
"What do you say? Rome? No, Israel will possess it; Israel has the
"I do not venture to deny that, but Rome has also the promise."
"There is only one promise, and one God."
"Perhaps it is the same promise, and the same God."
"Perhaps Israel will conquer through Rome."
"Israel will conquer through the promised Messiah."
"When will Messiah come, then?"
"When the time is fulfilled, when Zeus is dead."
"May we live to see it. I wait, for Zeus has gone to Rome, and is
called there Jupiter Capitolinus."
Aristophanes, who was easily recognised by his crane-like neck and
open mouth, looked in through the window.
"Have you a pair of low shoes, Kartaphalos? A pair of 'socks'?
[Footnote: a low-heeled shoe worn by comic actors.] You have plenty of
cothurns, I see, but the 'sock' has won the day."
"At your service, sir."
"We want them for the theatre, you understand.... Ah! there is
Lucillus! ... and of raw leather, not tanned."
"What are you going to play in the theatre, then?"
"We are going to bring on Cleon, and make him dance, and fancy!
since no one dares to represent the low-born tanner, I must do it. I
will play Cleon."
"Where is the great general, Cleon, now?"
"In a new campaign against Brasidas. When the commander Demosthenes
won the battle of Sphacteria, Cleon claimed the honour of the
victory and received a triumph. Then, since he regarded himself as a
great warrior, he marched against Brasidas. The pitcher goes so
often to the well...."
"Till it is broken," interrupted a new arrival. It was Alcibiades.
"Papaia!" he exclaimed, "Cleon is beaten! Cleon has fled! Now it is
my turn! Come to the Pnyx." And he went on.
"Very well--to the Pnyx," said Aristophanes, "and I will obtain
matter for a new comedy, to be called _Alcibiades_."
"You are right, perhaps," answered Lucillus. "The whole matter is
not worth weeping for. Therefore let us laugh!"
* * * * *
Alcibiades stood again on the orator's platform in the Pnyx. He felt
at home there, and he always had the ear of the people, for he was
not tedious. They all spoilt him, and his grotesque impudence had an
enlivening effect upon them.
Before the orator's platform, among others, was to be seen the wise,
rich, and aristocratic Nicias, who had always sought to mediate
between Sparta and Athens, but through his over-deliberation had
done more harm than good.
Alcibiades, who knew Nicias and his political views, and feared
his opposition, resolved on a master-stroke. He would not speak of
Sparta and Athens as Nicias expected, but determined to make a
diversion, and speak of something quite different. The people loved
novelties, and to-day they should have something quite new.
"Athenians!" he began, "Cleon is defeated and dead, and I place my
undoubted talents at the service of the State. You know my small
failings, but now you will know my great merits. Listen, Athenians.
There was a time when Hellas possessed Asia Minor and extended its
wings eastward. The Persian King took these settlements from us one
after the other, and he is now in Thrace. Since we cannot go farther
eastward, we must go westward, towards the sunset. You have heard
more or less vaguely of the Roman Republic, which is growing and
growing. Our countrymen have long ago taken possession of that part
of the Italian peninsula which is called Tarentum, and we have
thereby become close neighbours of Rome. And the finest of the
islands, opulent Sicily, became ours. But the Romans have gradually
surrounded our colonies, and threaten their independence. The Romans
are pressing on us, but they are also pushing northward towards Gaul
and Germany, and southward towards Africa. The Persian King, who
was formerly our enemy, has now nearly become our friend, and our
danger is not now Persia, but Rome. Therefore, with the future in
view, I say to you Athenians, 'Let us go to Italy and Sicily. With
Sicily as our base, we can dispute with the Romans the possession of
Spain and the Pillars of Hercules. In Sicily we have the Key to
Egypt; by means of Sicily we protect the threatened Tarentum, and
can, in case of need, save sinking Hellas. The world is wide; why
should we sit here and moulder in the wilderness? Hellas is an
exhausted country; let us break up new ground. Hellas is an outworn
ship; let us build a new one, and undertake a new Argonautic
enterprise to a new Colchis to win another Golden Fleece, following
the path of the sun westward. Athenians! let us go to Sicily!'"
These new prospects which the speaker opened to them pleased the
people, who were tired of the everlasting Sparta and the Persian
King; and stimulated by fear of Rome, the growing wolf's-cub, they
received the ill-considered proposal with applause, and raised their
hands in token of assent.
Nicias sought an opportunity to speak, and warned them, but no one
listened to him. The Scythian police who kept order in the Pnyx
could procure him no audience. And when Nicias saw that he could not
prevent the enterprise, he placed his services at Alcibiades'
disposal, and began to equip the fleet.
* * * * *
Aspasia was now the widow of Pericles, and had mourned him for a
long time. The "Hemicyklion" was no more, but her few remaining
friends visited her from time to time. Socrates was the most
faithful among them. One evening he sat with her in the little
brick-roofed villa on the bank of the Cephisos.
"No, Aspasia," he said, "I advised against the Sicilian expedition,
so did Nicias, so did the astronomer Meton, but it was to be.
Alcibiades had managed to procure a favourable response from the
oracle in the Temple of Ammon."
"Do you believe in oracles, Socrates?"
"Yes--and no! I have my own 'demon,' as you know, who warns but
never urges--who advises, but never commands. This inner Voice has
said to me, 'Hellas will not conquer the world.'"
"Will Rome do it?"
"Yes, but for another!"
"You know that Pericles' great thought was a single Hellas--a union
of all the Grecian States."
"That was Pericles' wish, but the will of the gods was otherwise.
Alcibiades' dream of Hellas governing the world is also great, but
the dreams of the gods are greater."
"What gain do you think comes to Athens from Cleon's death?"
"None! After Cleon comes Anytos. Cleon is everlasting, for Cleon is
the name of an idea."
Protagoras, grown old and somewhat dull, appeared in the inner
"There is Protagoras!"
"The Sophist! I do not like him," said Aspasia. "He is a file who
frets all will away; his endless hair-splitting robs one of all
"You speak truly and rationally, Aspasia, and in an earlier age you
would have sat upon the Pythoness's tripod and prophesied. Like the
priestess, you know not perhaps what you say, but a god speaks
"No, Socrates; I only utter your thoughts; that is all!"
Protagoras came forward. "Mourning in Athens! Mourning in Hellas!
Alas!" was his greeting.
"What is the matter, Protagoras?"
"Phidias of immortal memory lies dead in prison."
"Alas! then they have killed him."
"So it is rumoured in the city."
"Phidias is dead!"
"Probably poisoned, they say; but that need not be true."
"All die here in Athens before their proper time. When will our turn
"When it does."
"Are we falling by the arrows of the Python-slayer? We are shot like
"We are the children of Apollo. Would our father kill us?"
"Saturn has returned to devour his children."
Socrates sank in meditation, and remained standing.
"We have angered the gods."
Lucillus the Roman entered. "See the Roman!" said Socrates, "the
lord of the future and of the world. What has he to tell us?"
"I come to warn Protagoras. He is to be banished."
"You are banished."
"On what grounds?"
"As a blasphemer. You have repudiated the gods of the State."
"Who is the informer?"
"The sycophant, the invisible, who is present everywhere."
"All is probable; nothing is certain," exclaimed Protagoras.
"Yes, this is certain."
"Well, my fabric of thought is shattered against this certainty as
everything else is shattered."
"[Greek: _Panta rei_]. Everything flows away; nothing endures; all
comes to birth, grows, and dies."
"Farewell, then, Aspasia, Socrates, friends, fatherland!
Protagoras departed with his mantle drawn over his head.
"Will Athens miss Protagoras?" asked Aspasia.
"He has taught the Athenians to think and to doubt; and doubt is the
beginning of wisdom."
"Aristophanes has murdered Protagoras, and he will murder you some
"He has done that already; my wife rejoices at it, but still I
"Here comes young Plato with an ominous look. More bad news I
"Expect? I am certain! Sing your dirge, Plato."
"Dirges, you mean. Alcibiades has been accused and recalled."
"What has he done?"
"Before his departure he has mutilated all the images of Hermes in
"That is too much for one man; he could not do that."
"The accusation is definite; injury to the gods of the State."
"And now the gods avenge themselves."
"The gods of Greece have gone to Rome."
"There you have spoken truth."
"Now comes number two: The Athenians have been defeated in Sicily.
And number three: Nicias is beheaded."
"Then we can buy sepulchres for ourselves in the Ceramicus."
* * * * *
Near the Temple of Nemesis in the Agora stood the tanner Anytos
chatting with Thrasybulos, a hitherto obscure but rising patriot.
Anytos rattled away: "Alcibiades is in Sparta; Sparta seeks the help
of the Persian King; only one thing remains for us--to do the same."
"To go over to the enemy? That is treachery."
"There is nothing else to be done."
"There were once Thermopylae and Salamis."
"But now there is Sparta, and the Spartans are in Deceleia. Our
envoys have already sailed to the Persian King."
"Then we may as well remove Athene's image from the Parthenon!
Anytos! look at my back; for I shall be ashamed to show my face now
when I walk."
Anytos remained alone, and walked for some time up and down in front
of the temple portico. Then he stopped and entered the vestibule.
The priestess Theano seemed to have been waiting for him. Anytos
began: "Have you obeyed the order of the Council?"
"To pronounce a curse on Alcibiades, the enemy of his country."
"No, I am only ordered to bless."
"Have the avenging goddesses, then, ceased to execute justice?"
"They have never lent themselves to carry out human vengeance."
"Has Alcibiades not betrayed his country?"
"Alcibiades' country is Hellas, not Athens; Sparta is in Hellas."
"Have the gods also become Sophists?"
"The gods have become dumb."
"Then you can shut the temple--the sooner, the better."
* * * * *
The incorrigible Alcibiades had really fled from Sicily to the enemy
at Sparta, and now sat at table with King Aegis; for Sparta had
retained the monarchy, while Athens at an early date had abjured it.
"My friend," said the King, "I do not like your dining at the common
public table, after being accustomed to Aspasia's brilliant feasts
"I! Oh no! My rule was always the simplest food: I went to sleep
with the sun, and rose with the sun. You do not know what a severe
ascetic I have been."
"If you say so, I must believe it. Rumour, then, has slandered you?"
"Slandered? Yes, certainly. You remember the scandal about the
statues of Hermes. I did not mutilate them, but they have become my
"Is that also a lie?"
"It is a lie."
"But tell me something else. Do you think that it is now the will of
the gods that Sparta should conquer Athens?"
"Certainly, as certainly as virtue will conquer vice. Sparta is the
home of all the virtues, and Athens of all the vices."
"Now I understand that you are not the man I took you for, and I
will give you the command of the army. Shall we now march against
"I am ready!"
"Have you no scruple in marching against your own city?"
"I am a Hellene, not an Athenian, Sparta is the chief city of
"Alcibiades is great! Now I go to the general, and this evening we
"Go, King! Alcibiades follows."
The King went, but Alcibiades did not follow, for behind the
curtains of the women's apartment stood the Queen, and waited. When
the King had gone, she rushed in.
"Hail! Alcibiades, my king!"
"Queen, why do you call your servant 'king'?"
"Because Sparta has done homage to you, because I love you, and
because you are a descendant of heroes."
"King Aegis the Second lives."
"Not too long! Win your first battle, and Aegis is dead."
"Now life begins to smile on the hardly-tried exile. If you knew my
childhood with its sorrows, my youth with its privations! The vine
had not grown for me, woman had not been made for me; Bacchus knew
me not; Aphrodite was not my goddess. The chaste Artemis and the
wise Pallas guided me past the devious ways of youth to the goal of
knowledge, wisdom, and glory. But when I first saw you, Timia, my
"Then I thought that beauty was more than wisdom."
"Hush! some one is listening."
"I, Lysander, the General," answered a sharp voice, and the speaker
stood in the middle of the room.
"Now I know you, Alcibiades, and I have your head under my arm, but
I have the honour of Sparta under the other. Fly before I strangle
"Your ears have deceived you, Lysander!"
"Fly! do us the kindness to fly! Fifty hoplites stand without,
waiting for your head."
"How many do you say? Fifty? Then I will fly, for I cannot overcome
more than thirty. My queen! farewell! I have thought better of
Sparta. This would never have happened in Athens. Now I go to the
Persian King; there they understand better what is fitting, and
there I shall not be obliged to eat black broth!"
* * * * *
Alcibiades sat with the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, and Alcibiades
the eloquent spoke. "Yes, my teacher Protagoras taught me once, that
everything is born from its opposite; therefore you see my heart can
embrace all opposites. Sparta and Athens are both dear to me; that
is to say, both hateful--the state--gods of the one, and the virtues
of the other."
"You have a great heart, stranger! Is there room in it for Persia?"
"For the whole world."
"What do you think of our chief city?"
"I love all large cities!"
"But at the present moment, you ought to love ours the most."
"Yes, I do."
"You must also love our allies."
"Pardon me, who is your present ally?"
"At present, it is Sparta."
"Very well, then, I love Sparta."
"And suppose it is Athens to-morrow?"
"Then I will love Athens to-morrow."
"Thank you. Now I understand that it is all over with Hellas. Old
Greece is so corrupt, that it is hardly worth conquering."
"Protagoras taught that man is the measure of all things; therefore
I measure the value of all things by myself; what has value for me,
that I prize."
"Is that the teaching of your prophets? Then we have better ones; do
you know Zarathrustra?"
"If it would do you a pleasure, I wish I had known him from
"Then you might have been able to distinguish good and evil, light
and darkness, Ormuzd and Ahriman. And you would have lived in the
hope that light will eventually conquer; and that all discordances
will be reconciled through suffering."
"I can at any rate try. Is it a large book?"
"What are the names of your sacred books?"
"Sacred! What is that?"
"From whence do you get your religion, the knowledge of your gods?"
"From Homer, I believe."
"You do not believe that Zeus is the supreme ruler of the world?"
"Yes, I do certainly."
"But he was a false swearer and a lecher."
"Yes! But how can that be helped?"
Tissaphernes rose. "Listen, my guest; we cannot share any common
undertaking, for we do not serve the same gods. You call us
barbarians. I, on my part, know no term of reproach strong enough
for people who honour such gods. But the Athenians are as rotten as
you, for they have pardoned you. Outside there stands an envoy from
Athens come to beg you to return. Go to Athens; that is your place."
"To Athens? Never! I do not trust them."
"Nor they, you! That is appropriate. Go to Athens, and tell your
countrymen--the Persian does not want them. The vine tendrils seek
the sound elm, but turn away from the rotten cabbage-top."
Alcibiades had begun to walk up and down the room. That meant that
he was irresolute.
"Is the Athenian really outside?" he asked.
"He kneels outside in order to beg the traitor Alcibiades to be
their lord. But listen, you are a democrat, are you not?"
"Yes, of course."
"Then you must change your point of view, for now an oligarchy
"Yes, ah! yes, yes--but I am an aristocrat, the most aristocratic in
"Spinning-top! Seek for a whip!"
Alcibiades stood still. "I think, I must speak with the Athenian
"Do that! Speak the Athenian language to him! He does not understand
* * * * *
Alcibiades returned to Athens; the death-sentence against him was
annulled; and as a commander who had won a battle, he was able to
have a triumphal procession from Piraeus to the city. But popular
favour was fickle, and, becoming suspected of aspiring to be king,
he fled again, this time to the Persian satrap Pharnabazes. Since
he could not live without intrigues, he was soon entangled in one,
unmasked, and condemned, without his knowing it, to death.
One day he was sitting with his paramour, and chatting quietly at
his ease: "You think, then, Timandra, that Cyrus marches against
his brother Artaxerxes, in order to seize the throne of Persia."
"I am sure of it, and equally sure that he has ten thousand
Athenians under Xenophon with him."
"Do you know whether Artaxerxes has been warned?"
"Yes, I know it."
"Who could have warned him?"
"Does Cyrus know that?"
"Yes, he does."
"Who has betrayed me?"
"Then I am lost."
"Yes, you are."
"To think that I must fall through a woman!"
"Did you expect anything else, Alcibiades?"
"No, not really! Can I not fly?"
"You cannot, but I can."
"I see smoke! Is the house on fire?"
"Yes, it is. And there are archers posted outside!"
"The comedy is over! We return to tragedy...."
"And the satyr-play begins."
"My feet are hot; generally cold is a precursor of death."
"Everything is born from its opposite, Alcibiades."
"Give me a kiss."
She kissed him, the handsomest man of Athens.
"Go to the window; there you will see!"
Alcibiades stepped to the window. "Now I see."
At that moment he was struck by an arrow. "But now I see nothing! It
grows dark, and I thought it would grow light."
Timandra fled, as the corpse began to burn.
Sparta had conquered Athens, and Athens lay in ruins. The government
by the people was over, and the rule of the Thirty Tyrants had
succeeded it. Socrates and Euripides walked with sad faces among
the ruins on the Agora.
Socrates spoke: "We are on the ruins of Athens' walls! We have
become Spartans. We would have no tyrants, and now thirty rule over
"I go to the North," said Euripides, "to Macedonia, whither I am
"In that you are right, for the Tyrants have forbidden the acting of
"That is true."
"And they have forbidden me to teach."
"Have they forbidden Socrates to speak? No! Then he can teach, for
he cannot speak without teaching. But they must have forbidden the
oracles to speak, for they have ceased to prophesy. Everything has
ceased! Hellas has ceased to be! And why?"
"You may well ask. Has Zeus begotten the son who is to overthrow
him, as Aeschylus foretold?"
"Who knows? The people have introduced a new God called Adonai or
Adonis. He is from the East, and his name signifies the Lord."
"Who is the new god?"
"He teaches readiness for death, and the resurrection. And they have
also got a new goddess. Have you heard of Cybele, the mother of the
gods, a virgin, who is worshipped in Rome like Vesta by vestal
"There is so much that is new and obscure, like wine in fermentation.
There comes Aristophanes. Farewell, my friend, for the last time here
"Wait! Aristophanes beckons! No, see! he weeps! Aristophanes weeps!"
Aristophanes approached. "Euripides," he said, "don't go till I have
spoken to you."
"Can you speak?" answered Euripides.
"Do not quit your role. Shall that represent tears?"
"Sympathise with a companion in distress, Euripides; the Tyrants
have closed my theatre."
"Socrates, shall I sympathise with my executioner?"
"I believe that the Temple of Nemesis has been opened again,"
answered Socrates. "Aristophanes has never been ingenuous hitherto;
now he is so with a vengeance. Very well, Aristophanes, I sympathise
with you that you can no more scoff at me. I pardon you, but I
cannot help you to stage your comedies. That is asking too much. Now
I follow Euripides home."
* * * * *
Socrates sat by Aspasia, who had grown elderly. "Euripides has gone
to Macedonia," he said.
"From his wives."
"You have become bitter."
"I am tired of seeing ruins and all the rest. The Tyrants are
murdering the citizens."
"That is the occupation of tyrants."
"Shall we soon have rest?"
"In the Ceramicus, in a cedar coffin."
"I will not die; I will live, but quietly."
"Life is not quiet."
"Yes, if one is well off."
"One never is."
"No, not if one is unhappily married, like you, Socrates."
"My wife is certainly the worst possible; if she had not had me for
a husband, she would long ago have been murdered."
"Xantippe betrays you with her gossiping; and when she does not
understand what you say, she gives others distorted ideas of your
opinions and your person."
"Yes, I know that, but I cannot alter it."
"Why do you continue in such a state of humiliation?"
"Why should I fly? One is only justified in flying from superior
force, and Xantippe is not a superior force to me."
"You are forbidden, on pain of death, to give instruction; that is
her work and that of Anytos."
"She may bring about my death, if she likes, for then she has only
brought about my freedom.... Aspasia, I hear that our friendship is
on the decline; you have found new friends, you have become another
person. Let me say farewell before Lysicles comes."
"Do you know him?"
"Yes, and the whole town speaks of your coming marriage."
"With the cattle-dealer, Lysicles?"
"Yes, that is your affair; I don't talk about it." "But you think I
should have cherished Pericles' memory better?"
"I would fain have seen Aspasia's memory better preserved; but since
I have seen Athenians adorn themselves with garlands to celebrate
Athens' overthrow; since I have seen Phidias...."
"How, then, will Socrates end?"
"Certainly not like Aspasia."
"The gods jest with us. Beware! O Socrates!"
* * * * *
Socrates was at last in prison, accused of having seduced the youth,
and blasphemed or repudiated the gods of the State. Among the
accusers were a young poetaster, Melitos, the tanner Anytos, and the
Socrates made his Apology, and declared that he had always believed
on God, and the voice of his conscience, which he called his
"demon." He was condemned to drink hemlock, and kept in prison,
where, however, he was allowed to see his wife and his few remaining
Just now his wife was with him, and wept.
"Weep not," said Socrates; "it is not your fault."
"Will you see the children?"
"Why should I lacerate their little souls with a useless
leave-taking? Go to them and comfort them; divert their minds
with an expedition to the woods."
"Shall we rejoice while you are dying?"
"Rejoice that my sufferings come to an end! Rejoice that I die with
"Have you no last wish?"
"I wish for nothing, except peace and freedom from your foolish
tears and sighs, and your disturbing lamentations. Go, woman, and
say to yourself that Socrates wants to sleep for he is tired and out
of humour; say to yourself that he will wake again, refreshed,
rejuvenated, happy and amiable."
"I wish you had taught me all this before; you had nothing to learn
"Yes! I have learnt from you patience and self-control."
"Do you forgive me?"
"I cannot, for I have done it already. Say farewell now, as though I
were going on a journey. Say 'We meet again,' as though I were soon
"Farewell, then, Socrates, and be not angry with me."
"No, I am always well-disposed towards you."
"Farewell, my husband, for ever."
"Not for ever. You wish to see me again, don't you? Put on a
cheerful face, and say, 'We meet again.'"
"We meet again."
"Good! and when we meet again, we will go with the children together
into the woods."
"Socrates was not what I thought he was."
"Go! I want to sleep."
She went, but met in the doorway Plato and Crito.
"The hour approaches, friends," said Socrates wearily, and with
"Are you calm, Master?"
"To say the truth, I am quite calm. I will not assert that I am
joyful, but my conscience does not trouble me."
"When, Socrates, when--will it happen?"
"You mean, When is it to happen,--the last thing? Plato, my friend,
my dearest ... it hastens.... I have just now enjoyed a sleep. I
have been over the river on the other side; I have seen for a moment
the original forms of imperishable Beauty, of which things on earth
are only dim copies.... I have seen the future, the destinies of the
human race; I have spoken to the mighty, the lofty, and the pure; I
have learnt the wise Order which guides the apparent great disorder;
I trembled at the unfathomable secret of the Universe of which I had
a glimmering perception, and I felt the immensity of my ignorance.
Plato, you shall write what I have seen. You shall teach the
children of men to estimate things at their proper value, to look up
to the Invisible with awe, to revere Beauty, to cultivate virtue,
and to hope for final deliverance, as they work, through faithful
performance of duty and self-renunciation."
He went to the bed, and lay down.
Plato followed him, "Are you ill, Master?"
"No, I have been; but now I am getting well."
"Have you already...."
"I have already emptied the cup!"
"Our Wisest leaves us."
"No mortal is wise! But I thank the gods who gave me modesty and
There was silence in the room.
"Socrates is dead!"
FLACCUS AND MARO
After the death of Socrates, the greatness of Athens was no more.
Sparta ruled for a time, and then came the turn of Thebes.
Subsequently the Macedonians invaded the country, and governed it
till the year 196 B.C., when the Romans conquered both Macedonia and
Greece, and completely destroyed Corinth, but spared Athens, which
was deprived of its fortifications under Sulla, on account of the
great memories which gathered round it.
Now, in Julius Caesar's time, it had become the fashion to send
youths to Athens to study Grammar, Rhetoric, and Philosophy there.
There was no great philosopher there, but they studied the history
of philosophy. There was also no religion, for no one believed on
the gods of the State, although, from old habit, they celebrated the
Athens was dead, and so was the whole of the ancient world--Egypt,
Syria, Asia Minor. In Rome they lived on the memories of the past of
Greece, and the greatest Roman, Cicero, when he wished to discuss
some philosophic theme, always commenced by citing the opinions of
the ancient Greeks on the subject; he also closed in the same way,
for he had no original opinion of his own on any subject, such as
the nature of the gods, &c.
One early spring day, during the last years of Julius Caesar, two
students sat in an arbour below Lykabettos, opposite the college of
Kynosarges. Wine was on the table, but they did not seem very
devoted to their yellow "Chios." They sat there with an air of
indifference, as though they were waiting for something. The same
atmosphere of lethargy seemed to pervade their surroundings.
The innkeeper sat and dozed; the youths in the college opposite
lounged at the door; pedestrians on the high road went by without
greeting anyone; the peasant in the field sat on his plough, and
wiped the sweat from his forehead.
The elder of the two students fingered his glass, and at last opened
"I have nothing to say, for I know nothing."
"Have you already learnt everything?"
"I came yesterday from Rome with great hopes of being able to learn
something new and of hearing something remarkable, but I hear only
"My dear Maro, I have been here for years, and I have listened,
but heard nothing new. I have heard in the Poikile that Thales
maintained that there were no gods, but that everything had been
produced from moisture. I have further heard Anaximines' doctrine
that air was the source of all things; Pherecydes' doctrine of ether
as the original principle; Heraclitus' doctrine of fire. Anaximander
has taught me that the universe came from some primitive substance;
Leucippus and Democritus spoke to me of empty space with primitive
corpuscles or atoms. Anaxagoras made believe that the atom had
reason. Xenophanes wished to persuade me that God and the Universe
were one. Empedocles, the wisest of the whole company, despaired
at the imperfection of reason, and went in despair and flung
himself head foremost into Etna's burning mountain."
"Do you believe that?"
"No! it may well be a lie like everything else. Then I learnt a
number of interesting doctrines from Plato which were subsequently
all confuted by Aristotle. At last I took up my position with the
wisest of the wise--Socrates, who openly declared, as you know, that
he knew nothing."
"That is the same as the Sophists said,--that one knew nothing, and
hardly so much."
"You are right, and our good Socrates was a Sophist, without wishing
to be one. But there is one, a single one, who.... Yes, I mean
Pythagoras. He has proclaimed this and that doctrine in the East and
the West, but I have found one anchor in his philosophy, and I have
gripped firm ground with it. I certainly swing in the wind, but I do
not drift away from it."
"Do what you think right at the risk of being banished from your
country; the mob cannot judge what is right. Therefore you should
think little of their praise, and despise their blame. Cultivate the
friendship of kindred spirits, but regard the rest of mankind as a
worthless mass. Always be at war with 'the beans' (he means the
democrats). 'Odi profanum vulgus et arceo!'"
"You ought to live at home in Rome, Flaccus, where...."
"Yes, what are you doing now in Rome?"
"Caesar is Caesar; he conquers the world, and unites all the highest
functions, even the priestly, in his own person. I have nothing
against it, but they say he is aiming at his own deification."
"Why not? All gods have first been heroes, and many gods have not
been so great as Caesar. Romulus was certainly no giant, though he
had the luck to come first, as someone must. Now he is a god, has a
temple, and they sacrifice to him."
"It is probably a lie, like everything else."
"Yes, I have heard another legend of the founding of Rome by Aeneas'
son Ascanius, who fled from Troy; and I intend to take it as the
starting-point of my great poem...."
"You mean the _Aeneid_, of which I have heard mention."
"Yes, the _Aeneid_."
"Is it difficult to write poetry?"
"No; one follows good patterns. Hitherto Theocritus has been mine,
but now I shall go to Father Homer himself."
"By Heracles! Now there you will be undisturbed--so long, that is,
as Maecenas sends you the sesterces regularly."
"Yes, he does! But how do you get along?"
"My father, a freedman, toils as quaestor, and will find me a
"Have you no interests, no passions, no ambitions?"
"No; what should I do with them? 'Nihil admirari.' That is my motto.
If there are gods who guide the destinies of men and nations, why
should I interfere and wear myself out in a useless struggle? Think
of Demosthenes, who for thirty years delivered speeches against the
Macedonian, and warned his countrymen, who would not listen to him!
The gods were with the Macedonian, and condemned Hellas to be
overthrown. Demosthenes was imprisoned. Comically enough, he was
accused of having been bribed by the same Macedonian. That was, of
course, a lie. This patriot who sacrificed himself for the salvation
of his fatherland, who believed he was fighting on the gods' side,
had to take poison, and fell, fighting against the gods! Vestigia
During their conversation, the sun had gone down, and now in the
twilight beacons were visible flaming on Aegina, on Salamis, by
Phaleros, in the Piraeus, and finally on the Acropolis. The murmurs
from the city became louder till they rose to one immense paean of
joy. Men came down the streets, and brought their wives and children
with them, some on foot, others riding and driving. The worthy
innkeeper Agathon was aroused, and went out into the highway to
learn the cause of the confusion. The two students had gone on the
inn roof to look out. But they surmised danger for foreigners like
themselves, and, alarmed by the ever louder shouting, descended
again, and concealed themselves in the wine-press. At last Agathon's
voice was heard: "Caesar is assassinated! Death to the Romans!
Freedom for Hellas!"
Such was the news. The garden of the inn filled with people, wine
flowed, and shouts of joy resounded, varied by sarcastic remarks on
the passing Romans who were fleeing northwards from the town in
order to reach the Macedonian frontier.
Maro and Flaccus underwent great anxiety, hidden as they were in the
vat of the wine-press, from which hiding-place they heard the whole
news, with its accompanying details. Caesar had been assassinated by
Cassius and Brutus in the Capitol.
"Brutus?" whispered Maro. "Then it is certainly over with the
Caesars, just as the old Brutus made an end of the Kings!"
And Brutus was flying to Hellas to rouse the Greeks against the
Romans. "Long live Brutus!" they cried in the garden.
"Then we shall live also!" said the pliant Flaccus. "Caesar is dead;
let us do homage to Brutus for the present."
* * * * *
Many years had passed when the former student of Athens, Quintus
Horatius Flaccus, was walking one day in the garden of his villa
on the Sabine Hills. This villa he had received as a gift from his
friend Maecenas, who possessed a splendid country-house close by in
Horace was now a very famous poet, but still essentially the same as
he had been when a student in Athens. Destiny or the gods had played
with him, but the poet had taken it as a good joke on the part of
the Higher Powers, and answered it with a satire. After the murder of
Caesar, Brutus had fled to Greece, and been so well received there,
that the Athenians had erected a statue to him, and raised troops for
him against Antonius and the other generals, among whom was the
invalid Octavianus (afterwards Augustus).
Horace was compelled to serve as a soldier, and actually commanded a
legion at Philippi, where Brutus fell. The poet, who was no warrior,
fled from the superior force of the enemy, and came to Rome, where,
after the amnesty had been proclaimed, he became a clerk in a public
office. At the same time he had begun to write verses, was discovered
by Maecenas, and received his reward in the form of an estate.
The Emperor Augustus admired him, and offered him a position as
secretary, but Horace refused, partly because he could never see
anything else but an usurper in this Emperor, partly because he
loved freedom and independence above all things.
Just now he was walking in his garden, whose fruit-trees he had
himself cultivated. He plucked roses and hyacinths, for he awaited
the visit of a favourite guest, his old friend and fellow-student of
Athens, Publius Virgilius Maro, as well known as Horace himself,
although he had not yet allowed his _Aeneid_ to appear in
A table was laid in a vine-arbour; flagons of old Massisian and
Falernian lay already on ice, oysters and eels were there; a kid and
some quails were roasting on the spit in the kitchen; fruit had been
plucked in the garden; and the only thing wanting on the table,
which had been laid for two persons, were flowers.
A little slave, who was able to write, ran to and fro between the
garden-gate and the dove-tower, in order to look out for the
expected guest. The poet was standing at the water-barrel and
washing his hands, after he had finished plucking flowers, when
someone clapped him on the shoulder.
"Virgil! Which way have you come, then?"
"Over the hills of Tibur from Maecenas."
"Welcome, wanderer, whichever way you have come! Sit down--you must
be tired--in my hemicyklion, under the olives I planted myself,
while the spits turn, and they ply the chopping-knife. Here you see
my plot of land which represents the world to me."
Their first greetings and questions were over, and the two friends
sat down to the table. The host was certainly an Epicurean or votary
of pleasure; but in order to be able to enjoy, one must be moderate,
and the meal, judging by Roman customs, was quite a frugal one, but
simple and brilliant. Then the cups were passed round, and the wine
awoke memories in spite of its supposed lethal capacity of quenching
"Well, you were in the war, friend?" began Virgil.
"Yes, and I fled disgracefully, as you know."
"I have read so in one of your poems, but it is said not to be true,
and you have slandered yourself."
"Have I? Perhaps! One talks nonsense when one writes."
"You poet, do you remember how you asked me in Athens whether it
were difficult? How did you come to write?"
"I needed money!"
"Now you slander yourself again! If all clients who needed money
could write, the world would be full of poets."
"Well, perhaps it was not so. But speak of yourself--of your
Virgil looked gloomy: "Of that I will not speak."
"Is it finished?"
"More than that! It is done with!"
"Yes! When I read it, I found it a failure! It was not Homer; it was
nothing. It was a punishment, because I wished to outshine my
"Have you destroyed it?"
"Not yet; but it is sealed up, in order to be destroyed after my
"Now _you_ are slandering yourself, and you are depressed, Maro, not
by years, not by work, but by something else."
"Yes, by something else. The future disturbs me!"
Horace shook his cup and recited: [Footnote: Hor. Od. I. ii.] "Do not go
to the astrologers, Leuconoe. Better bear life as it comes. Be wise,
clear your wine! While we speak, envious life is flying. Enjoy the
present, and think as little as possible about the future."
"That I cannot!" broke in Virgil. "I cannot drown myself in my cups,
when I see my fatherland perishing."
"Has Rome ever been so powerful as it is now? Do we not possess the
whole known world--Egypt, Syria, Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany,
Gaul, Britain? And yet we live in a time of peace: the Temple of
Janus is closed; the earth rejoices; the arts flourish; and commerce
was never so active as at present."
"Yes, the peace that precedes a war. For all these conquered nations
are awake, and have an eye on Rome. Not on Greece as before, for
Greece is barren and laid waste, and passes into the great silence.
Do you know that Sulla and Mithridates have gone slaying and
pillaging over Hellas, so that science and art have fled to the
Egyptian Alexandria or the growing Byzantium? Do you know that
pirates, whose origin is unknown, from the East, have recently
plundered every temple in Hellas, so that hardly any religious
service can be held there? The oracles are dumb, the poets are silent
like song-birds in a storm, the great tragedies are no longer
performed; people rather go to see farces and gladiatorial shows.
Hellas is a ruin, and Rome will soon be one."
"Times are bad, I grant, but every time has been one of decay, and
has, however, prepared the way for a new epoch. The fallen leaves of
autumn form a forcing-bed for the coming spring; Nature, life, and
history ever renew themselves through death. Therefore death is to
me only a renewal, a change, and whenever I meet a funeral, I always
say to myself, 'O how pleasant it is to live!'"
"My dear Flaccus, you live with your dreams in the Golden Age, while
we others only drag ourselves through this life of the Iron Age. Do
you remember how Hesiod complains already of his own time?"
"No, I have forgotten that, but in order to oblige you I will
"'The people of to-day are an iron race, and never rest from the
burden of work, neither by day nor by night. They are a sinful folk,
and the gods send them heavy troubles. But even when they send joy,
this turns to their misfortune. Some day Zeus will destroy them,
these many-tongued people, when they are born with grey locks on
their temples. Yes, our children are born old men already, toothless,
wrinkled and with bald heads. The father is not gracious to the child,
nor the child to the father, nor the guest to his host, nor servant
to fellow-servant, nor brother to brother. Children dishonour their
old parents, revile them and speak unfriendly words--these young
scoundrels who know nothing of divine vengeance, and never thank their
ageing parents for their fostering care of them as children. Might is
right, and one city destroys another. Honesty and faithfulness in
keeping vows are never rewarded, as little as kindness or justice.
Oh no, they who practise sin and break the law, demand honour.
Scoundrels betray noble men, and commit perjury without scruple.
Envy follows men, these unhappy ones with their harsh voices and
dreadful faces, who rejoice over the evil and the mischief which they
"Yes, so Hesiod spoke a thousand years ago, and I must confess his
words are well deserved, but what can one do?"
"Yes, they are. Cicero was murdered, and I feel inclined to follow
the example of Cato, who died in order to escape sin. I sink,
Flaccus, in lies and hypocrisy. But I will not sink ... I will
mount. I have praised Augustus and his son Marcellus in my verses,
but I believe no more in them, for they are not the future.
Therefore the _Aeneid_ shall be burnt!"
"You disquiet me, Maro. But what do you believe in?"
"I believe in the Sibyl, who has prophesied that the Iron Age will
end, and the Golden Age return."
"You have sung of that in the Fourth Eclogue, I remember.... Have
"I believe I have. Do you remember--no! our fathers remember when
the Capitol was burnt, and the Sibylline books destroyed. But now
new books have come from Alexandria, and in them they have read that
a new era will begin; that Rome will be destroyed but built up
again, and that a Golden Age...."
Here the seer was silent. Then he continued: "Pardon me, Flaccus,
but I am poorly, and must ride home before the mists rise from the
"Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume! Labuntur anni! I will follow you,
friend, on my ass, for you are sick. But 'the man of righteous heart
and rock-like purpose will not be shaken nor terrified by the blind
zeal of the citizens commanding evil, nor the glance of the
threatening tyrant.... If the walls of the world fall in, they will
bury him unterrified beneath their ruin.'"
* * * * *
Some days later Virgil died in Naples. His will was opened, and
actually found to contain a request that his _Aeneid_ should be
burnt. But it was not carried out. Posterity has passed various
judgments on this ignoring of a dead man's wish--some think it was
a pity; others that it was a good thing.
When Christianity arrived, Virgil was enrolled among the prophets.
The _Aeneid_ was regarded as a Sibylline book and included in the
liturgy. Pilgrimages were made to the poet's tomb. And later on he
was raised to the rank of a saint by Dante.
A caravan was encamped on a height eastward of the ancient Egyptian
town Heliopolis. There were many people in it, but all were Hebrews.
They had come on camels and asses from Palestine through the desert
--the same desert which the Israelites had passed through thousands
of years before.
In the evening twilight, by the faint light of the half-moon,
hundreds of camp-fires were to be seen, and by them sat the women
with their little children while the men carried water.
Never yet had the desert beheld so many little children, and, as
they were now being put to bed for the night, the camp echoed with
their cries. It was like an enormous nursery. But when the washing
was over, and the little ones were laid to their mothers' breasts,
the cries one after the other ceased, and there was complete
silence. Under a sycamore tree sat a woman, and suckled her child;
close by stood a Hebrew, feeding his ass with branches of the
broom plant; when he had done that, he went higher up the hill, and
looked towards the north. A foreigner--a Roman, to judge by his dress
--passed, and regarded the woman with the child closely, as though
he were counting them.
The Hebrew showed signs of uneasiness, and began a conversation with
the Roman, in order to divert his attention from the woman.
"Say, traveller, is that the City of the Sun there in the west?"
"You see it!" answered the Roman.
"Then it is Bethshemesh."
"Heliopolis, from which both Greeks and Romans have derived their
wisdom; Plato himself has been here."
"Can Leontopolis also be seen from here?"
"You see the pinnacles of its temple two miles northward."
"But that is the land of Goshen, which our father Abraham visited,
and which Jacob had portioned out to him," said the Hebrew, turning
to his wife, who only answered with an inclination of her head.
Then, speaking to the Roman, he continued, "Israel wandered from
Egypt to Canaan. But after the Babylonish captivity a part of them
returned and settled down here. You know that."
"Yes, I know that. And now the Israelites here have increased till
they number many thousand souls, and have built a temple for
themselves, which you see standing in the distance. Did you know
"Yes, something about it. So that, then, is Roman territory?"
"Yes. Everything is Roman now--Syria, Canaan, Greece, Egypt
--Germany, Gaul, Britain; the world belongs to Rome, according to
the prophecy of the Cumaean Sibyl."
"Good! But the world is to be redeemed through Israel, according to
God's promise to our father Abraham."
"I have heard that fable also, but for the present Rome has the
fulfilment of the promise. Do you come from Jerusalem?"
"I come through the desert like the others, and I bring wife and
child with me."
"Child--yes! Why do you Hebrews carry so many children with you?"
The Hebrew was silent, but since he perceived that the Roman knew
the reason, and since the latter looked like a benevolent man, he
resolved to tell the truth.
"Herod the King heard from the Wise Men of the East the prophecy
that a King of the Jews would be born in Bethlehem in the land of
Judaea. In order to escape the supposed danger, Herod had all the
children recently born in that district put to death. Just as
Pharaoh once had our first-born put to death here. But Moses was
saved, in order to free our people from the Egyptian bondage."
"Well! but who was this King of the Jews to be?"
"The promised Messiah."
"Do you believe that he is born?"
"I cannot tell."
"I can," said the Roman. "He is born; he will rule the world, and
bring all people under his sceptre."
"And who will that be?"
"The Emperor, Augustus."
"Is he of Abraham's seed or of David's house? No. And has he come
with peace, as Isaiah prophesied, 'His kingdom shall be great, and
of peace there shall be no end'? The Emperor is certainly not a man
"Farewell, Israelite. Now you are a Roman subject. Be content with
the redemption through Rome. We know not of any other."
The Roman departed.
The Hebrew approached his wife. "Mary!" he said.
"Joseph!" she answered. "Hush! The child sleeps."
Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch, had come to Jerusalem, because there
was much unrest among the populace. He had taken up his dwelling
with Pilate, the Governor. Since on the preceding evening he had
witnessed a gladiatorial show in the circus and then taken part in
an orgy, he slept late into the morning--so late that his host, who
was waiting for his guest, had gone upon the roof.
There lay the Holy City, with Mount Moriah and the Temple, Zion and
David's House. To the north-west and west there stretched the Valley
of Sharon to the Mediterranean Sea, which in the clear air appeared
like a blue streak at a distance of five miles.
In the east there rose the Mount of Olives, with its gardens and
vineyards, olives, figs and terebinths, below ran the brook Kedron
whose banks were decked in their spring apparel of flourishing
laurels, tamarisks, and willows.
The Governor was restless, and often paused to stand by the parapet
of the roof in order to look down into the forecourt of the Temple.
Here numbers of people moved about busily, forming themselves into
knots which dissolved and then formed larger groups.
At last the Tetrarch appeared. He had overslept himself, and his
eyes were blood-shot. He gave the Governor a brief greeting, and
settled himself as though for a conversation. But he found it hard
to bring out a word; his head hung down, and he did not know how to
begin, for the orgies of the preceding night had made him forget
what he had come for.
Pilate came to his help: "Speak, Herod; your heart is full, and your
"What do you say, my brother?"
"We were speaking yesterday of the strange man who stirs up the
"Quite right! I had John beheaded. Is it he who is going about?"
"No, it is another one now."
"Are there two of them?"
"Yes, this is another one."
"But they have the same history--a prophecy which foretold their
birth, and the fable of a supernatural origin, just like the Perseus
of mythology, and the philosopher Plato in history. Is it a
confusion of persons?"
"No, not at all."
"What is his name? Josua, Jesse...?"
"His name is Jesus, and he is said to have passed his childhood in
the Egyptian towns Heliopolis and Leontopolis."
"Then he must be a magician or wizard; can he not come and divert
"It is difficult to find him, for he is now in one place, now in
another. But we will question the High Priest; I have had him
called, and he waits below."
"Why is there this commotion in the court of the Temple?"
"They are going to erect the Emperor's statue in the Holy of
"Quite right! Our gracious Emperor Tiberius lives like a madman on
Capri, and is pummelled by his nephew Caligula, if the offspring of
incest can be called a nephew. And now he is to become a god. Ha!
"Antiochus Epiphanes had the statue of Zeus set up in the Holy of
Holies. He, however, _was_ a god. But to set up this beast,
Tiberius, means a tumult."
"What are we to do? Call the Priest here."
Pilate went and fetched the High Priest Caiaphas.
Herod closed his eyes, and folded his hands over his breast. He
regarded all matters of business as an interruption to his
pleasures, and generally liked to cut them short. When Pilate
returned with Caiaphas, the Tetrarch awoke from his doze, and did
not know where he was, or what they were talking about. Pilate
stepped forward, aroused him to consciousness, and directed
his attention to the matter in hand.
"There is a tumult in the Temple," was his first observation, for
that disturbed his sleep. "Ah! the Priest is here. What is the
meaning of the uproar below?"
"It is the Galilaean, who has taken to using force, and has driven
the money-changers out of the Temple."
Herod's curiosity was aroused: "I should like to see him."
"He has already gone."
"Tell us, High Priest, who is this man? Is he the Messiah?"
"That is incredible. The son of a poor carpenter, who is weak in
"Is he a prophet?"
"He stirs up the people, he breaks the law, he is a glutton and
wine-bibber, and he blasphemes God. Yes, he says that he himself is
God, the Son of the Highest."
"Have you witnesses to this?"
"Yes, but they contradict each other."
"Then procure better witnesses, who will agree. But now, Priest, we
must talk of something else. You know that the Senate have decreed
the apotheosis of the Emperor, and that his image is to be set up in
the Temple. What do you think about it?"
"We live by the favour of the Emperor. But if this abomination is
done, we will all die as the Maccabees did."
Caiaphas considered a moment before he answered. "I will summon the
Sanhedrim, and tell them what the Emperor wishes."
"Yes, do that. And before the Passover you must bring the Galilaean
before me, for I wish to see him."
"Then go in peace."
"They are a hard people, these Israelites," said Pilate, for want of
something better to say. "I am also of Israel," answered Herod
somewhat curtly, "for I am an Edomite, of Esau's race, and my mother
was a Samaritan, belonging to the despised people."
Pilate saw that he had made a slip, and therefore struck the ground
three times with his official staff. A large trap-door opened, and a
table came up covered with all kinds of delicacies according to
Herod's countenance cleared.
* * * * *
In the Court of the Priests stood Caiaphas and Annas, and spoke with
"Since we cannot avert the abomination," said Caiaphas, "and the
Emperor's image is to be erected in the Holy of Holies, and the
people will be destroyed if there is an insurrection, it is better
for us to bring an offering to the Lord, and that one man die for
"You are right. An extraordinary atoning sacrifice is necessary, and
as the Passover is approaching, let us sacrifice the Galilaean."
"Good! But the offering should be pure. Is the Galilaean pure?"
"Pure as a lamb."
"May he then take Israel's sins upon him, that we may be set free
through his blood. Who brings him into our hands?"
"One of his disciples, who stands outside."
"Fetch him in."
John, later known as the "Evangelist," was brought in, and Caiaphas
began to examine him.
"What do you say concerning your teacher? Has he transgressed the
law of Moses?"
"He has fulfilled the law."
"But what new commandment has he introduced into our holy law?"
"Love one another."
"Did he say he was the King of the Jews?"
"The Master said, 'My kingdom is not of this world.'"
"Has he not made children rebel against their parents?"
"The Master said, 'He who loveth father or mother more than me is
not worthy of me.'"
"Did he not say that one has a right to neglect one's duties as a
"The Master said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His
"Did he tell labourers to leave their work?"
"The Master said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are
"Did he say that he would conquer the world?"
"The Master said, 'In the world ye have tribulation, but be of good
cheer; I have overcome the world.'"
Caiaphas was weary: "According to all that I have heard and
perceived, this man has not answered a single question."
"The Master answers in spirit and in truth, but you ask according to
the flesh and the letter. We are not the children of one spirit."
"I don't understand."
"He has sent me to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the
broken in heart, to preach deliverance to the captives, to give
sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised."
"What you speak in foolishness, young man, can neither bring credit
to you nor to your teacher."
"Woe unto you when men praise you, and he who departeth from evil
maketh himself a prey."
Caiaphas turned to Annas: "This is not the man who will deliver the
Galilaean up to us."
"They have sent another one--Listen! Is your name Iscariot?"
"No; my name is John."
"Then go in peace, but send us Iscariot instead. But wait! Give us
in two words the teaching of your Master regarding the meaning of
"Death is a gain for the righteous," answered John without stopping
"Is life not itself...?"
"Through death ye shall enter into life."
"We have heard enough. Go."
But Caiaphas repeated to himself, as though he thought he would
understand those words in his own mouth better: "Death is a gain for
Now there arose a clamour from the market-place and the hall of
justice. Annas and Caiaphas went out upon the battlemented walls to
find out the cause. Levites were standing there, and looking down.
"Has he been taken?"
"He has already been seized as an inciter to insurrection, because
he bade his disciples to sell their garments and buy a sword."
"Have they found them with weapons?"
"They have found two swords."
"Then he is already condemned."
Then they heard a cry rise from the crowd before the Court of
Justice--at first difficult to distinguish, but ever clearer. The
people were crying "Crucify! Crucify!"
"Is that not too severe, regarded as a punishment?" said Caiaphas.
"No," answered the Levite; "one of his disciples called Simon or
Peter drew his sword and wounded one of the servants called
"Do we need any more witnesses?"
"But the Teacher said, 'Put up thy sword into its sheath, for they
that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.'"
"That is a difficult saying," said Annas, and went down. But the
people continued to cry, "Crucify! Crucify!"
THE WILD BEAST
Before the temple of Jupiter Latiaris in Rome, two men of the middle
classes met each other. They both remained standing in order to
contemplate the new temple, which was different from all others, and
looked as if it had felt the effects of an earthquake. The basement
had the shape of a roof; the columns stood reversed with their
capitals below, and the roof was constructed like a basement
"So we meet here again, Hebrew," said one of the two, who resembled
a Roman merchant. "Was it not in Joppa that we last met?"
"Yes," answered the Hebrew. "One meets the Roman everywhere; he is
at home everywhere; one also meets the Hebrew everywhere, but he is
at home nowhere. But tell me, whose temple is this?"
"This is the Temple of the Wild Beast, the Emperor Caligula, the
madman, the murderer, the incestuous. He has erected it to himself;
his image stands within; and the madman comes every day to worship
So saying, the Roman made a sign on his forehead, moving the
forefinger of his right hand first from above, below, and then from
left to right.
The Hebrew looked at him in astonishment.
"Are you not a Roman?"
"Yes, I am a Roman Christian."
"Where do you live?"
"Here under Rome, in the catacombs."
He pointed to a hole in the ground, which resembled those that led
down to the cloacae.
"Do you live here under the ground?"
"Yes, that is where we Christians live; there we lie like seed in
the earth, and germinate."
"Those are grave-vaults down there."
"Yes, we are buried with Christ, and await the resurrection."
"Have you a temple down there?"
"We have our religious service there, and to-day we celebrate the
birth of Christ."
"Someone is coming down the street," said the Hebrew.
The Roman opened the trap-door in the ground in order to descend.
From below the sounds of a choral hymn were heard. "The City hath no
need of the moon, neither of the sun, for the glory of God doth
lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
"Who is the Lamb?" asked the Hebrew.
"Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World."
"Do you think the world is redeemed, while this mad Caligula...."
"The world will be redeemed, if we continue to hope."
"You have, then, taken the promise away from Israel?"
"No, we have inherited the promise, for Christ was of the stock of
"Someone is coming."
"Then farewell. We shall always meet, for the earth is ours."
In the temple, which people called "the world turned upside down,"
a man slunk along the walls in a state of panic, as though he were
afraid to display his back. He had the face of a youth without any
hair round it. His upper lip was drawn upwards on the left side, and
showed a long canine tooth, while at the same time his right eye
shot a sharp glance like a poisonous arrow.
He glided along the wall to the apse, where an image was erected. It
was a likeness of the timid man himself, representing him exactly
even to his clothes.
"Is the priest there?" the mad Emperor whispered, for it was he.
No answer followed.
"Priest, dear priest, I am so frightened. Are you not coming?"
A sacrificial priest came forward, fell on his knee before the
Emperor, and worshipped him.
"Jupiter, Optimus, Maximus, Latiaris, frighten away thy foes."
"Have I foes, then? Yes, and that is what frightens me. Do you
believe that I am God?"
"Let us then have thunder, to frighten my foes."
The priest beat upon a kettledrum, and the echoes rolled through the
The Emperor laughed, so that all his teeth were visible.
"Priest!" he cried as he seated himself on his throne, "now you
shall sacrifice to me."
The priest kindled a fire on the little altar before the madman.
The Emperor said, "The scent is good. Now I am the mightiest in
heaven and on earth. I rule over living and dead; I cast into
Tartarus and lift into Elysium. How mighty I am! I tame the waves of
the sea, and command the storm to cease: I hold sway over the
planets in their courses; I myself have created chaos, and the human
race lie at my feet, from the primeval forests of Britain to the
sources of the Nile, which I alone have discovered. I have made
my favourite horse consul, and the people have acknowledged his
consulship. Priest! Worship me! Or do you forget who I am? No, I am
I, and I shall always worship myself in my own image. Caius Caesar
Caligula, I honour thee, Lord of the world, how I honour myself!
Jupiter Latiaris Caligula!"
He fell before the image on his knee.
"Some one is coming," said the priest warningly.
"It is the tribune, Cassius Chaeraea!"
"Frighten him away."
"Chaeraea does not let himself be frightened."
The tribune came in fearlessly and without ceremony.
"Caius Caesar, your wife is dead."
"All the better," answered the Emperor.
"They have dashed your only child against a wall."
"Ah, how pleasant!" laughed the madman.
"And now you are to die."
"No, I cannot. I am immortal."
"I wait for you outside. It shall not take place here."
"Creep away, ant! My foot is too great to reach thy littleness."
Then a sound of singing rose from the basement of the temple, or
from the earth; they were children's voices.
The Emperor was again alarmed, and crept under his chair.
Chaeraea, who had waited at the door, lost patience.
"Dog! are you coming? Or shall I strike you dead here?"
"Chaeraea," whimpered the Emperor, "do not kill me! I will kiss your
"Then kiss it now when I trample you to death."
The gigantic tribune threw the chair to one side, leapt on the
madman and crushed his windpipe beneath his heel; the tongue,
protruded from his jaws, seemed to be spitting abuse even in death.
* * * * *
The Wild Beast had three heads; the name of the second was Claudius.
He played dice with his friend Caius Silius, who was famous for his
wealth and his beauty.
"Follow the game," hissed Caesar.
"I am following it," answered his friend.
"No, you are absent-minded. Where were you last night?"
"I was in the Suburra."
"You should not go to the Suburra; you should stay with me."
"Follow the game."
"I am following it; but what are the stakes we are playing for?"
"You are playing for your life."
"And you, Caesar?"
"I am also playing for your life."
"And if you lose?" asked Silius.
"Then you will lose your life."
The Emperor knocked with the dice-box on the table. His secretary
Narcissus came in.
"Give me writing materials, Narcissus. The antidote for snake-bites
is yew-tree resin...."
"And the antidote to hemlock?"
"Against that there is no antidote."
"Follow the game, or I shall be angry."
"No, you cannot be angry!" answered Silius.
"Yes, that is true,--I cannot! I only said so!"
Messalina, the Emperor's wife, had entered.
"Why is Silius sitting here and playing," she asked, "when he should
accompany me to the theatre?"
"He is compelled," answered the Emperor.
"Wretch! what rights have you over him?"
"He is my slave; all are slaves of the Lord of the world. Therefore
Rome is the most democratic of all States, for all its citizens are
equal--equal before Men and God."
"He is your slave, but he is my husband," said Messalina.
"Your husband! Why, you are married to me."
"What does that matter?"
"Do you go and marry without asking my permission?"
"Yes, why not?"
"You are certainly droll, Messalina! And I pardon you. Go, my
children, and amuse yourselves. Narcissus will play with me."
When the Emperor was left alone with Narcissus, his expression
"Follow them, Narcissus!" he hissed. "Take Locusta with you, and
give them the poison. Then I shall marry Agrippina."
But when Silius and the Empress had gone without, Silius asked
innocently: "Have you yourself prepared the mushrooms which he will
eat this evening?"
"I have not done it myself, but Locusta has, and she understands her
* * * * *
The name of the third head of the Wild Beast was Nero. He was
Agrippina's worthy son, had poisoned his half-brother Britannicus,
murdered his mother, kicked his wife to death, and committed
unnatural crime. He falsified the coinage and plundered the temples.
He made an artistic tour to Greece, where he first appeared as a
public singer and brought eight hundred wreaths home, then as
a charioteer, in which capacity he upset everything, but received
the prize because nobody dared to refuse it to him.
To such a depth had Rome and Greece sunk. Claudius was an angel
compared to this monster; but he also received apotheosis.
To-day the Emperor had returned home from his artistic tour, and
found his capital in flames. Since, in his fits of intoxication, he
had so often raged against his old-fashioned Rome, with its narrow
streets, and had on various occasions expressed the wish that fire
might break out at all its corners, he came under the suspicion of
having set it in flames.
He sat in his palace on the Esquiline in a great columned hall, and
feasted his eyes on the magnificent conflagration. It was a marble
hall with only a few articles of furniture, because the Emperor
feared they might afford lurking-places for murderers. But in the
background of the hall was a strong gilded iron grating, behind
which could be caught a glimpse of two yellow-brown lions from
Libya. These the Emperor called his "cats."
At the door of the grating stood two slaves, Pallas and Alexander,
and watched every change in the Emperor's face.
"He smiles," whispered Pallas; "then it is all over with us.
Brother, we shall meet again. Pray for me and give me the kiss of
"The Lord shall deliver thee from all evil, and preserve thee for
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