Quo Vadis A Narrative of the Time of Nero
Part 6 out of 12
simple heart. Apply such a balsam to thy wounds. Thou sayest that
Lygia loves thee? Perhaps she does. But what kind of love is that
which abdicates? Is not the meaning this,--that there is another force
stronger than her love? No, my dear, Lygia is not Eunice."
"All is one torment merely," answered Vinicius. "I saw thee kissing
Eunice's shoulders, and I thought then that if Lygia would lay hers bare
to me I should not care if the ground opened under us next moment. But
at the very thought of such an act a certain dread seized me, as if I
had attacked some vestal or wished to defile a divinity. Lygia is not
Eunice, but I understand the difference not in thy way. Love has
changed thy nostrils, and thou preferrest violets to verbenas; but it
has changed my soul: hence, in spite of my misery and desire, I prefer
Lygia to be what she is rather than to be like others."
"In that case no injustice is done thee. But I do not understand the
"True, true!" answered Vinicius, feverishly. "We understand each other
Another moment of silence followed.
"May Hades swallow thy Christians!" exclaimed Petronius. "They have
filled thee with disquiet, and destroyed thy sense of life. May Hades
devour them! Thou art mistaken in thinking that their religion is good,
for good is what gives people happiness, namely, beauty, love, power;
but these they call vanity. Thou art mistaken in this, that they are
just; for if we pay good for evil, what shall we pay for good? And
besides, if we pay the same for one and the other, why are people to be
"No, the pay is not the same; but according to their teaching it begins
in a future life, which is without limit."
"I do not enter into that question, for we shall see hereafter if it be
possible to see anything without eyes. Meanwhile they are simply
incompetents. Ursus strangled Croton because he has limbs of bronze;
but these are mopes, and the future cannot belong to mopes."
"For them life begins with death."
"Which is as if one were to say, 'Day begins with night.' Hast thou the
intent to carry off Lygia?"
"No, I cannot pay her evil for good, and I swore that I would not."
"Dost thou intend to accept the religion of Christ?"
"I wish to do so, but my nature cannot endure it."
"But wilt thou be able to forget Lygia?"
At that moment the slaves announced that the repast was ready; but
Petronius, to whom it seemed that he had fallen on a good thought, said,
on the way to the triclinium,--"Thou has ridden over a part of the
world, but only as a soldier hastening to his place of destination, and
without halting by the way. Go with us to Achæa. Cæsar has not given
up the journey. He will stop everywhere on the way, sing, receive
crowns, plunder temples, and return as a triumphator to Italy. That
will resemble somewhat a journey of Bacchus and Apollo in one person.
Augustians, male and female, a thousand citharæ. By Castor! that will
be worth witnessing, for hitherto the world has not seen anything like
Here he placed himself on the couch before the table, by the side of
Eunice; and when the slaves put a wreath of anemones on his head, he
continued,--"What hast thou seen in Corbulo's service? Nothing. Hast
thou seen the Grecian temples thoroughly, as I have,--I who was passing
more than two years from the hands of one guide to those of another?
Hast thou been in Rhodes to examine the site of the Colossus? Hast thou
seen in Panopeus, in Phocis, the clay from which Prometheus shaped man;
or in Sparta the eggs laid by Leda; or in Athens the famous Sarmatian
armor made of horse-hoofs; or in Eubœa the ship of Agamemnon; or the cup
for whose pattern the left breast of Helen served? Hast thou seen
Alexandria, Memphis, the Pyramids, the hair which Isis tore from her
head in grief for Osiris? Hast thou heard the shout of Memnon? The
world is wide; everything does not end at the Trans-Tiber! I will
accompany Cæsar, and when he returns I will leave him and go to Cyprus;
for it is the wish of this golden-haired goddess of mine that we offer
doves together to the divinity in Paphos, and thou must know that
whatever she wishes must happen."
"I am thy slave," said Eunice.
He rested his garlanded head on her bosom, and said with a smile,--
"Then I am the slave of a slave. I admire thee, divine one, from feet
Then he said to Vinicius: "Come with us to Cyprus. But first remember
that thou must see Cæsar. It is bad that thou hast not been with him
yet; Tigellinus is ready to use this to thy disadvantage. He has no
personal hatred for thee, it is true; but he cannot love thee, even
because thou art my sister's son. We shall say that thou wert sick. We
must think over what thou art to answer should he ask thee about Lygia.
It will be best to wave thy hand and say that she was with thee till she
wearied thee. He will understand that. Tell him also that sickness
kept thee at home; that thy fever was increased by disappointment at not
being able to visit Naples and hear his song; that thou wert assisted to
health only by the hope of hearing him. Fear no exaggeration.
Tigellinus promises to invent, not only something great for Cæsar, but
something enormous. I am afraid that he will undermine me; I am afraid
too of thy disposition."
"Dost thou know," said Vinicius, "that there are people who have no fear
of Cæsar, and who live as calmly as if he were non-existent?"
"I know whom thou hast in mind--the Christians."
"Yes; they alone. But our life,--what is it if not unbroken terror?"
"Do not mention thy Christians. They fear not Cæsar, because he has not
even heard of them perhaps; and in every case he knows nothing of them,
and they concern him as much as withered leaves. But I tell thee that
they are incompetents. Thou feelest this thyself; if thy nature is
repugnant to their teaching, it is just because thou feelest their
incompetence. Thou art a man of other clay; so trouble not thyself or
me with them. We shall be able to live and die, and what more they will
be able to do is unknown."
These words struck Vinicius; and when he returned home, he began to
think that in truth, perhaps, the goodness and charity of Christians was
a proof of their incompetience of soul. It seemed to him that people of
strength and temper could not forgive thus. It came to his head that
this must be the real cause of the repulsion which his Roman soul felt
toward their teaching. "We shall be able to live and die!" said
Petronius. As to them, they know only how to forgive, and understand
neither true love nor true hatred.
Cæsar, on returning to Rome, was angry because he had returned, and
after some days was filled anew with a wish to visit Achæa. He even
issued an edict in which he declared that his absence would be short,
and that public affairs would not be exposed to detriment because of it.
In company with Augustians, among whom was Vinicius, he repaired to the
Capitol to make offerings to the gods for an auspicious journey. But on
the second day, when he visited the temple of Vesta, an event took place
which changed all his projects. Nero feared the gods, though he did not
believe in them; he feared especially the mysterious Vesta, who filled
him with such awe that at sight of the divinity and the sacred fire his
hair rose on a sudden from terror, his teeth chattered, a shiver ran
through his limbs, and he dropped into the arms of Vinicius, who
happened there behind him. He was borne out of the temple at once, and
conveyed to the Palatine, where he recovered soon, but did not leave the
bed for that day. He declared, moreover, to the great astonishment of
those present, that he deferred his journey, since the divinity had
warned him secretly against haste. An hour later it was announced
throughout Rome that Cæsar, seeing the gloomy faces of the citizens, and
moved by love for them, as a father for his children, would remain to
share their lot and their pleasures. The people, rejoiced at this
decision, and certain also that they would not miss games and a
distribution of wheat, assembled in crowds before the gates of the
Palatine, and raised shouts in honor of the divine Cæsar, who
interrupted the play at dice with which he was amusing himself with
Augustians, and said:
"Yes, there was need to defer the journey. Egypt, and predicted
dominion over the Orient, cannot escape me; hence Achæa, too, will not
be lost. I will give command to cut through the isthmus of Corinth; I
will rear such monuments in Egypt that the pyramids will seem childish
toys in comparison; I will have a sphinx built seven times greater than
that which is gazing into the desert outside Memphis; but I will command
that it have my face. Coming ages will speak only of that monument and
"With thy verses thou hast reared a monument to thyself already, not
seven, but thrice seven, times greater than the pyramid of Cheops," said
"But with my song?" inquired Nero.
"Ah! if men could only build for thee a statue, like that of Memnon, to
call with thy voice at sunrise! For all ages to come the seas adjoining
Egypt would swarm with ships in which crowds from the three parts of the
world would be lost in listenmg to thy song."
"Alas! who can do that?" said Nero.
"But thou canst give command to cut out of basalt thyself driving a
"True! I will do that!"
"Thou wilt bestow a gift on humanity."
"In Egypt I will marry the Moon, who is now a widow, and I shall be a
"And thou wilt give us stars for wives; we will make a new
constellation, which will be called the constellation of Nero. But do
thou marry Vitelius to the Nile, so that he may beget hippopotamuses.
Give the desert to Tigellinus, he will be king of the jackals."
"And what dost thou predestine to me?" inquired Vatinius.
"Apis bless thee! Thou didst arrange such splendid games in Beneventum
that I cannot wish thee ill. Make a pair of boots for the sphinx, whose
paws must grow numb during night-dews; after that thou will make sandals
for the Colossi which form the alleys before the temples. Each one will
find there a fitting occupation. Domitius Afer, for example, will be
treasurer, since he is known for his honesty. I am glad, Cæsar, when
thou art dreaming of Egypt, and I am saddened because thou hast deferred
thy plan of a journey."
"Thy mortal eyes saw nothing, for the deity becomes invisible to
whomever it wishes," said Nero. "Know that when I was in the temple of
Vesta she herself stood near me, and whispered in my ear, 'Defer the
journey.' That happened so unexpectedly that I was terrified, though for
such an evident care of the gods for me I should be thankful."
"We were all terrified," said Tigellinus, "and the vestal Rubria
"Rubria!" said Nero; "what a snowy neck she has!"
"But she blushed at sight of the divine Cæsar--"
"True! I noticed that myself. That is wonderful. There is something
divine in every vestal, and Rubria is very beautiful.
"Tell me," said he, after a moment's meditation, "why people fear Vesta
more than other gods. What does this mean? Though I am the chief
priest, fear seized me to-day. I remember only that I was falling back,
and should have dropped to the ground had not some one supported me.
Who was it?"
"I," answered Vinicius.
"Oh, thou 'stern Mars'! Why wert thou not in Beneventum? They told me
that thou wert ill, and indeed thy face is changed. But I heard that
Croton wished to kill thee? Is that true?"
"It is, and he broke my arm; but I defended myself."
"With a broken arm?"
"A certain barbarian helped me; he was stronger than Croton."
Nero looked at him with astonishment. "Stronger than Croton? Art thou
jesting? Croton was the strongest of men, but now here is Syphax from
"I tell thee, Cæsar, what I saw with my own eyes."
"Where is that pearl? Has he not become king of Nemi?"
"I cannot tell, Cæsar. I lost sight of him."
"Thou knowest not even of what people he is?"
"I had a broken arm, and could not inquire for him."
"Seek him, and find him for me."
"I will occupy myself with that," said Tigellinus.
But Nero spoke further to Vinicius: "I thank thee for having supported
me; I might have broken my head by a fall. On a time thou wert a good
companion, but campaigning and service with Corbulo have made thee wild
in some way; I see thee rarely.
"How is that maiden too narrow in the hips, with whom thou wert in
love," asked he after a while, "and whom I took from Aulus for thee?"
Vinicius was confused, but Petronius came to his aid at that moment. "I
will lay a wager, lord," said he, "that he has forgotten. Dost thou see
his confusion? Ask him how many of them there were since that time, and
I will not give assurance of his power to answer. The Vinicii are good
soldiers, but still better gamecocks. They need whole flocks. Punish
him for that, lord, by not inviting him to the feast which Tigellinus
promises to arrange in thy honor on the pond of Agrippa."
"I will not do that. I trust, Tigellinus, that flocks of beauty will
not be lacking there."
"Could the Graces be absent where Amor will be present?" answered
"Weariness tortures me," said Nero. "I have remained in Rome at the
will of the goddess, but I cannot endure the city. I will go to Antium.
I am stifled in these narrow streets, amid these tumble-down houses,
amid these alleys. Foul air flies even here to my house and my gardens.
Oh, if an earthquake would destroy Rome, if some angry god would level
it to the earth! I would show how a city should be built, which is the
head of the world and my capital."
"Cæsar," answered Tigellinus, "thou sayest, 'If some angry god would
destroy the city,'--is it so?"
"It is! What then?"
"But art thou not a god?"
Nero waved his hand with an expression of weariness, and said,--"We
shall see thy work on the pond of Agrippa. Afterward I go to Antium.
Ye are all little, hence do not understand that I need immense things."
Then he closed his eyes, giving to understand in that way that he needed
rest. In fact, the Augustians were beginning to depart. Petronius went
out with Vinicius, and said to him,--"Thou art invited, then, to share
in the amusement. Bronzebeard has renounced the journey, but he will be
madder than ever; he has fixed himself in the city as in his own house.
Try thou, too, to find in these madnesses amusement and forgetfulness.
Well! we have conquered the world, and have a right to amuse ourselves.
Thou, Marcus, art a very comely fellow, and to that I ascribe in part
the weakness which I have for thee. By the Ephesian Diana! if thou
couldst see thy joined brows, and thy face in which the ancient blood of
the Quirites is evident! Others near thee looked like freedmen. True!
were it not for that mad religion, Lygia would be in thy house to-day.
Attempt once more to prove to me that they are not enemies of life and
mankind. They have acted well toward thee, hence thou mayst be grateful
to them; but in thy place I should detest that religion, and seek
pleasure where I could find it. Thou art a comely fellow, I repeat, and
Rome is swarming with divorced women."
"I wonder only that all this does not torture thee yet?"
"Who has told thee that it does not? It tortures me this long time, but
I am not of thy years. Besides, I have other attachments which are
lacking thee. I love books, thou hast no love for them; I love poetry,
which annoys thee; I love pottery, gems, a multitude of things, at which
thou dost not look; I have a pain in my loins, which thou hast not; and,
finally, I have found Eunice, but thou hast found nothing similar. For
me, it is pleasant in my house, among masterpieces; of thee I can never
make a man of æsthetic feeling. I know that in life I shall never find
anything beyond what I have found; thou thyself knowest not that thou
art hoping yet continually, and seeking. If death were to visit thee,
with all thy courage and sadness, thou wouldst die with astonishment
that it was necessary to leave the world; but I should accept death as a
necessity, with the conviction that there is no fruit in the world which
I have not tasted. I do not hurry, neither shall I loiter; I shall try
merely to be joyful to the end. There are cheerful sceptics in the
world. For me, the Stoics are fools; but stoicism tempers men, at
least, while thy Christians bring sadness into the world, which in life
is the same as rain in nature. Dost thou know what I have learned?
That during the festivities which Tigellinus will arrange at the pond of
Agrippa, there will be lupanaria, and in them women from the first
houses of Rome. Will there be not even one sufficiently beautiful to
console thee? There will be maidens, too, appearing in society for the
first time--as nymphs. Such is our Roman Cæsardom! The air is mild
already; the midday breeze will warm the water and not bring pimples on
naked bodies. And thou, Narcissus, know this, that there will not be
one to refuse thee,--not one, even though she be a vestal virgin."
Vinicius began to strike his head with his palm, like a man occupied
eternally with one thought.
"I should need luck to find such a one."
"And who did this for thee, if not the Christians? But people whose
standard is a cross cannot be different. Listen to me: Greece was
beautiful, and created wisdom; we created power; and what, to thy
thinking, can this teaching create? If thou know, explain; for, by
Pollux! I cannot divine it."
"Thou art afraid, it seems, lest I become a Christian," said Vinicius,
shrugging his shoulders.
"I am afraid that thou hast spoiled life for thyself. If thou canst not
be a Grecian, be a Roman; possess and enjoy. Our madnesses have a
certain sense, for there is in them a kind of thought of our own. I
despise Bronzebeard, because he is a Greek buffoon. If he held himself
a Roman, I should recognize that he was right in permitting himself
madness. Promise me that if thou find some Christian on returning home,
thou wilt show thy tongue to him. If he be Glaucus the physician, he
will not wonder.--Till we meet on the pond of Agrippa."
PRETORIANS surrounded the groves on the banks of the pond of Agrippa,
lest over-numerous throngs of spectators might annoy Cæsar and his
guests; though it was said that everything in Rome distinguished for
wealth, beauty, or intellect was present at that feast, which had no
equal in the history of the city. Tigellinus wished to recompense Cæsar
for the deferred journey to Achæa, to surpass all who had ever feasted
Nero, and prove that no man could entertain as he could. With this
object in view, while with Cæsar in Naples, and later in Beneventum, he
had made preparations and sent orders to bring from the remotest regions
of the earth beasts, birds, rare fish, and plants, not omitting vessels
and cloths, which were to enhance the splendor of the feast. The
revenues of whole provinces went to satisfy mad projects; but the
powerful favorite had no need to hesitate. His influence grew daily.
Tigellinus was not dearer than others to Nero yet, perhaps, but he was
becoming more and more indispensable. Petronius surpassed him
infinitely in polish, intellect, wit; in conversation he knew better how
to amuse Cæsar: but to his misfortune he surpassed in conversation Cæsar
himself, hence he roused his jealousy; moreover he could not be an
obedient instrument in everything, and Cæsar feared his opinion when
there were questions in matters of taste. But before Tigellinus, Nero
never felt any restraint. The very title, Arbiter Elegantiarum, which
had been given to Petronius, annoyed Nero's vanity, for who had the
right to bear that title but himself? Tigellinus had sense enough to
know his own deficiencies; and seeing that he could not compete with
Petronius, Lucan, or others distinguished by birth, talents, or
learning, he resolved to extinguish them by the suppleness of his
services, and above all by such a magnificence that the imagination of
Nero himself would be struck by it. He had arranged to give the feast
on a gigantic raft, framed of gilded timbers. The borders of this raft
were decked with splendid shells found in the Red Sea and the Indian
Ocean, shells brilliant with the colors of pearls and the rainbow. The
banks of the pond were covered with groups of palm, with groves of
lotus, and blooming roses. In the midst of these were hidden fountains
of perfumed water, statues of gods and goddesses, and gold or silver
cages filled with birds of various colors. In the centre of the raft
rose an immense tent, or rather, not to hide the feasters, only the roof
of a tent, made of Syrian purple, resting on silver columns; under it
were gleaming, like suns, tables prepared for the guests, loaded with
Alexandrian glass, crystal, and vessels simply beyond price,--the
plunder of Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor. The raft, which because of
plants accumulated on it had the appearance of an island and a garden,
was joined by cords of gold and purple to boats shaped like fish, swans,
mews, and flamingoes, in which sat at painted oars naked rowers of both
sexes, with forms and features of marvellous beauty, their hair dressed
in Oriental fashion, or gathered in golden nets. When Nero arrived at
the main raft with Poppæa and the Augustians, and sat beneath the purple
tent-roof, the oars struck the water, the boats moved, the golden cords
stretched, and the raft with the feast and the guests began to move and
describe circles on the pond. Other boats surrounded it, and other
smaller rafts, filled with women playing on citharæ and harps, women
whose rosy bodies on the blue background of the sky and the water and in
the reflections from golden instruments seemed to absorb that blue and
those reflections, and to change and bloom like flowers.
From the groves at the banks, from fantastic buildings reared for that
day and hidden among thickets, were heard music and song. The
neighborhood resounded, the groves resounded; echoes bore around the
voices of horns and trumpets. Cæsar himself, with Poppæa on one side of
him, and Pythagoras on the other, was amazed; and more especially when
among the boats young slave maidens appeared as sirens, and were covered
with green network in imitation of scales, he did not spare praises on
Tigellinus. But he looked at Petronius from habit, wishing to learn the
opinion of the "arbiter," who seemed indifferent for a long time, and
only when questioned outright, answered,--"I judge, lord, that ten
thousand naked maidens make less impression than one."
But the "floating feast" pleased Cæsar, for it was something new.
Besides, such exquisite dishes were served that the imagination of
Apicius would have failed at sight of them, and wines of so many kinds
that Otho, who used to serve eighty, would have hidden under water with
shame, could he have witnessed the luxury of that feast. Besides women,
the Augustians sat down at the table, among whom Vinicius excelled all
with his beauty. Formerly his figure and face indicated too clearly the
soldier by profession; now mental suffering and the physical pain
through which he had passed had chiselled his features, as if the
delicate hand of a master had passed over them. His complexion had lost
its former swarthiness, but the yellowish gleam of Numidian marble
remained on it. His eyes had grown larger and more pensive. His body
had retained its former powerful outlines, as if created for armor; but
above the body of a legionary was seen the head of a Grecian god, or at
least of a refined patrician, at once subtle and splendid. Petronius,
in saying that none of the ladies of Cæsar's court would be able or
willing to resist Vinicius, spoke like a man of experience. All gazed
at him now, not excepting Poppæa, or the vestal virgin Rubria, whom
Cæsar wished to see at the feast.
Wines, cooled in mountain snow, soon warmed the hearts and heads of the
guests. Boats shaped as grasshoppers or butterflies shot forth from the
bushes at the shore every moment. The blue surface of the pond seemed
occupied by butterflies. Above the boats here and there flew doves, and
other birds from India and Africa, fastened with silver and blue threads
or strings. The sun had passed the greater part of the sky, but the day
was warm and even hot, though in the beginning of May. The pond heaved
from the strokes of oars, which beat the water in time with music; but
in the air there was not the least breath of wind; the groves were
motionless, as if lost in listening and in gazing at that which was
happening on the water. The raft circled continually on the pond,
bearing guests who were increasingly drunk and boisterous.
The feast had not run half its course yet, when the order in which all
sat at the table was observed no longer. Cæsar gave the example, for,
rising himself, he commanded Vinicius, who sat next to Rubria the
vestal, to move. Nero occupied the place, and began to whisper
something in Rubria's ear. Vinicius found himself next to Poppæa, who
extended her arm and begged him to fasten her loosened bracelet. When
he did so, with hands trembling somewhat, she cast at him from beneath
her long lashes a glance as it were of modesty, and shook her golden
head as if in resistance.
Meanwhile the sun, growing larger, ruddier, sank slowly behind the tops
of the grove; the guests were for the greater part thoroughly
intoxicated. The raft circled now nearer the shore, on which, among
bunches of trees and flowers, were seen groups of people, disguised as
fauns or satyrs, playing on flutes, bagpipes, and drums, with groups of
maidens representing nymphs, dryads, and hamadryads. Darkness fell at
last amid drunken shouts from the tent, shouts raised in honor of Luna.
Meanwhile the groves were lighted with a thousand lamps. From the
lupanaria on the shores shone swarms of lights; on the terraces appeared
new naked groups, formed of the wives and daughters of the first Roman
houses. These with voice and unrestrained manner began to lure
partners. The raft touched the shore at last. Cæsar and the Augustians
vanished in the groves, scattered in lupanaria, in tents hidden in
thickets, in grottos artificially arranged among fountains and springs.
Madness seized all; no one knew whither Cæsar had gone; no one knew who
was a senator, who a knight, who a dancer, who a musician. Satyrs and
fauns fell to chasing nymphs with shouting. They struck lamps with
thyrses to quench them. Darkness covered certain parts of the grove.
Everywhere, however, laughter and shouts were heard, and whispers, and
panting breaths. In fact Rome had not seen anything like that before.
Vinicius was not drunk, as he had been at the feast in Nero's palace,
when Lygia was present; but he was roused and intoxicated by the sight
of everything done round about, and at last the fever of pleasure seized
him. Rushing into the forest, he ran, with others, examining who of the
dryads seemed most beautiful. New flocks of these raced around him
every moment with shouts and with songs; these flocks were pursued by
fauns, satyrs, senators, knights, and by sounds of music. Seeing at
last a band of maidens led by one arrayed as Diana, he sprang to it,
intending to examine the goddess more closely. All at once the heart
sank in his bosom, for he thought that in that goddess, with the moon on
her forehead, he recognized Lygia.
They encircled him with a mad whirl, and, wishing evidently to incline
him to follow, rushed away the next moment like a herd of deer. But he
stood on the spot with beating heart, breathless; for though he saw that
the Diana was not Lygia, and that at close sight she was not even like
her, the too powerful impression deprived him of strength. Straightway
he was seized by such yearning as he had never felt before, and love for
Lygia rushed to his breast in a new, immense wave. Never had she seemed
so dear, pure, and beloved as in that forest of madness and frenzied
excess. A moment before, he himself wished to drink of that cup, and
share in that shameless letting loose of the senses; now disgust and
repugnance possessed him. He felt that infamy was stifling him; that
his breast needed air and the stars which were hidden by the thickets of
that dreadful grove. He determined to flee; but barely had he moved
when before him stood some veiled figure, which placed its hands on his
shoulders and whispered, flooding his face with burning breath, "I
love thee! Come! no one will see us, hasten!"
Vinicius was roused, as if from a dream.
"Who art thou?"
But she leaned her breast on him and insisted,--"Hurry! See how lonely
it is here, and I love thee! Come!"
"Who art thou?" repeated Vinicius.
As she said this, she pressed her lips to his through the veil, drawing
toward her his head at the same time, till at last breath failed the
woman and she tore her face from him.
"Night of love! night of madness!" said she, catching the air quickly.
"Today is free! Thou hast me!"
But that kiss burned Vinicius; it filled him with disquiet. His soul
and heart were elsewhere; in the whole world nothing existed for him
except Lygia. So, pushing back the veiled figure, he said,--
"Whoever thou be, I love another, I do not wish thee."
"Remove the veil," said she, lowering her head toward him.
At that moment the leaves of the nearest myrtle began to rustle; the
veiled woman vanished like a dream vision, but from a distance her laugh
was heard, strange in some way, and ominous.
Petronius stood before Vinicius.
"I have heard and seen," said he.
"Let us go from this place," replied Vinicius.
And they went. They passed the lupanaria gleaming with light, the
grove, the line of mounted pretorians, and found the litters.
"I will go with thee," said Petronius.
They sat down together. On the road both were silent, and only in the
atrium of Vinicius's house did Petronius ask,--"Dost thou know who that
"Was it Rubria?" asked Vinicius, repulsed at the very thought that
Rubria was a vestal.
Petronius lowered his voice. "The fire of Vesta was defiled, for Rubria
was with Cæsar. But with thee was speaking"--and he finished in a still
lower voice, "the divine Augusta."
A moment of silence followed.
"Cæsar," said Petronius, "was unable to hide from Poppæa his desire for
Rubria; therefore she wished, perhaps, to avenge herself. But I hindered
you both. Hadst thou recognized the Augusta and refused her, thou
wouldst have been ruined beyond rescue,--thou, Lygia, and I, perhaps."
"I have enough of Rome, Cæsar, feasts, the Augusta, Tigellinus, and all
of you!" burst out Vinicius. "I am stifling. I cannot live thus; I
cannot. Dost understand me?"
"Vinicius, thou art losing sense, judgment, moderation."
"I love only her in this world."
"What of that?"
"This, that I wish no other love. I have no wish for your life, your
feasts, your shamelessness, your crimes!"
"What is taking place in thee? Art thou a Christian?"
The young man seized his head with both hands, and repeated, as if in
despair,--"Not yet! not yet!"
PETRONIUS went home shrugging his shoulders and greatly dissatisfied.
It was evident to him that he and Vinicius had ceased to understand each
other, that their souls had separated entirely. Once Petronius had
immense influence over the young soldier. He had been for him a model
in everything, and frequently a few ironical words of his sufficed to
restrain Vinicius or urge him to something. At present there remained
nothing of that; such was the change that Petronius did not try his
former methods, feeling that his wit and irony would slip without effect
along the new principles which love and contact with the uncomprehended
society of Christians had put in the soul of Vinicius. The veteran
sceptic understood that he had lost the key to that soul. This
knowledge filled him with dissatisfaction and even with fear, which was
heightened by the events of that night. "If on the part of the Augusta
it is not a passing whim but a more enduring desire," thought Petronius,
"one of two things will happen,--either Vinicius will not resist her,
and he may be ruined by any accident, or, what is like him to-day, he
will resist, and in that event he will be ruined certainly, and perhaps
I with him, even because I am his relative, and because the Augusta,
having included a whole family in her hatred, will throw the weight of
her influence on the side of Tigellinus. In this way and that it is
bad." Petronius was a man of courage and felt no dread of death; but
since he hoped nothing from it, he had no wish to invite it. After long
meditation, he decided at last that it would be better and safer to send
Vinicius from Rome on a journey. Ah! but if in addition he could give
him Lygia for the road, he would do so with pleasure. But he hoped that
it would not be too difficult to persuade him to the journey without
her. He would spread a report on the Palatine then of Vinicius's
illness, and remove danger as well from his nephew as himself. The
Augusta did not know whether she was recognized by Vinicius; she might
suppose that she was not, hence her vanity had not suffered much so far.
But it might be different in the future, and it was necessary to avoid
peril. Petronius wished to gain time, above all; for he understood that
once Cæsar set out for Achæa, Tigellinus, who comprehended nothing in
the domain of art, would descend to the second place and lose his
influence. In Greece Petronius was sure of victory over every opponent.
Meanwhile he determined to watch over Vinicius, and urge him to the
journey. For a number of days he was ever thinking over this, that if
he obtained an edict from Cæsar expelling the Christians from Rome,
Lygia would leave it with the other confessors of Christ, and after her
Vinicius too. Then there would be no need to persuade him. The thing
itself was possible. In fact it was not so long since, when the Jews
began disturbances out of hatred to the Christians, Claudius, unable to
distinguish one from the other, expelled the Jews. Why should not Nero
expel the Christians? There would be more room in Rome without them.
After that "floating feast" Petronius saw Nero daily, both on the
Palatine and in other houses. To suggest such an idea was easy, for
Nero never opposed suggestions which brought harm or ruin to any one.
After mature decision Petronius framed a whole plan for himself. He
would prepare a feast in his own house, and at this feast persuade Cæsar
to issue an edict. He had even a hope, which was not barren, that Cæsar
would confide the execution of the edict to him. He would send out
Lygia with all the consideration proper to the mistress of Vinicius to
Baiæ, for instance, and let them love and amuse themselves there with
Christianity as much as they liked.
Meanwhile he visited Vinicius frequently, first, because he could not,
despite all his Roman selfishness, rid himself of attachment to the
young tribune, and second, because he wished to persuade him to the
journey. Vinicius feigned sickness, and did not show himself on the
Palatine, where new plans appeared every day. At last Petronius heard
from Cæsar's own lips that three days from then he would go to Antium
without fail. Next morning he went straightway to inform Vinicius, who
showed him a list of persons invited to Antium, which list one of
Cæsar's freedmen had brought him that morning.
"My name is on it; so is thine," said he. "Thou wilt find the same at
thy house on returning."
"Were I not among the invited," replied Petronius, "it would mean that I
must die; I do not expect that to happen before the journey to Achæa. I
shall be too useful to Nero. Barely have we come to Rome," said he, on
looking at the list, "when we must leave again, and drag over the road
to Antium. But we must go, for this is not merely an invitation, it is
a command as well."
"And if some one would not obey?"
"He would be invited in another style to go on a journey notably
longer,--one from which people do not return. What a pity that thou
hast not obeyed my counsel and left Rome in season! Now thou must go to
"I must go to Antium. See in what times we live and what vile slaves we
"Hast thou noticed that only to-day?"
"No. But thou hast explained to me that Christian teaching is an enemy
of life, since it shackles it. But can their shackles be stronger than
those which we carry? Thou hast said, 'Greece created wisdom and
beauty, and Rome power.' Where is our power?"
"Call Chilo and talk with him. I have no desire to-day to philosophize.
By Hercules! I did not create these times, and I do not answer for
them. Let us speak of Antium. Know that great danger is awaiting thee,
and it would be better, perhaps, to measure strength with that Ursus who
choked Croton than to go there, but still thou canst not refuse."
Vinicius waved his hand carelessly, and said,--"Danger! We are all
wandering in the shadow of death, and every moment some head sinks in
"Am I to enumerate all who had a little sense, and therefore, in spite
of the times of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, lived eighty and
ninety years? Let even such a man as Domitius Afer serve thee as an
example. He has grown old quietly, though all his life he has been a
criminal and a villain."
"Perhaps for that very reason!" answered Vinicius.
Then he began to glance over the list and read: "Tigellinus, Vatinius,
Sextus Africanus, Aquilinus Regulus, Suilius Nerulinus, Eprius
Marcellus, and so on! What an assembly of ruffians and scoundrels! And
to say that they govern the world! Would it not become them better to
exhibit an Egyptian or Syrian divinity through villages, jingle sistra,
and earn their bread by telling fortunes or dancing?"
"Or exhibiting learned monkeys, calculating dogs, or a flute-playing
ass," added Petronius. "That is true, but let us speak of something
more important. Summon thy attention and listen. I have said on the
Palatine that thou art ill, unable to leave the house; still thy name is
on the list, which proves that some one does not credit my stories and
has seen to this purposely. Nero cares nothing for the matter, since
for him thou art a soldier, who has no conception of poetry or music,
and with whom at the very highest he can talk only about races in the
circus. So Poppæa must have seen to putting down thy name, which means
that her desire for thee was not a passing whim, and that she wants to
"She is a daring Augusta."
"Indeed she is daring, for she may ruin herself beyond redemption. May
Venus inspire her, however, with another love as soon as possible; but
since she desires thee thou must observe the very greatest caution. She
has begun to weary Bronzebeard already; he prefers Rubria now, or
Pythagoras, but, through consideration of self, he would wreak the most
horrible vengeance on us."
"In the grove I knew not that she was speaking to me; but thou wert
listening. I said that I loved another, and did not wish her. Thou
"I implore thee, by all the infernal gods, lose not the remnant of
reason which the Christians have left in thee. How is it possible to
hesitate, having a choice between probable and certain destruction?
Have I not said already that if thou hadst wounded the Augusta's vanity,
there would have been no rescue for thee? By Hades! if life has grown
hateful to thee, better open thy veins at once, or cast thyself on a
sword, for shouldst thou offend Poppæa, a less easy death may meet thee.
It was easier once to converse with thee. What concerns thee specially?
Would this affair cause thee loss, or hinder thee from loving thy Lygia?
Remember, besides, that Poppæa saw her on the Palatine. It will not be
difficult for her to guess why thou art rejecting such lofty favor, and
she will get Lygia even from under the earth. Thou wilt ruin not only
thyself, but Lygia too. Dost understand?"
Vinicius listened as if thinking of something else, and at last he
"I must see her."
"Dost thou know where she is?"
"Then thou wilt begin anew to search for her in old cemeteries and
beyond the Tiber?"
"I know not, but I must see her."
"Well, though she is a Christian, it may turn out that she has more
judgment than thou; and it will ccrtainly, unless she wishes thy ruin."
Vinicius shrugged his shoulders. "She saved me from the hands of
"Then hurry, for Bronzebeard will not postpone his departure. Sentences
of death may be issued in Antium also."
But Vinicius did not hear. One thought alone occupied him, an interview
with Lygia; hence he began to think over methods.
Meanwhile something intervened which might set aside every difficulty.
Chilo came to his house unexpectedly.
He entered wretched and worn, with signs of hunger on his face and in
rags; but the servants, who had the former command to admit him at all
hours of the day or night, did not dare to detain him, so he went
straight to the atrium, and standing before Vinicius said,--"May the
gods give thee immortality, and share with thee dominion over the
Vinicius at the first moment wished to give the order to throw him out
of doors; but the thought came to him that the Greek perhaps knew
something of Lygia, and curiosity overcame his disgust.
"Is that thou?" asked he. "What has happened to thee?"
"Evil, O son of Jove," answered Chilo. "Real virtue is a ware for which
no one inquires now, and a genuine sage must be glad of this even, that
once in five days he has something with which to buy from the butcher a
sheep's head, to gnaw in a garret, washing it down with his tears. Ah,
lord! What thou didst give me I paid Atractus for books, and afterward
I was robbed and ruined. The slave who was to write down my wisdom
fled, taking the remnant of what thy generosity bestowed on me. I am in
misery, but I thought to myself: To whom can I go, if not to thee, O
Serapis, whom I love and deify, for whom I have exposed my life?"
"Why hast thou come, and what dost thou bring?"
"I come for aid, O Baal, and I bring my misery, my tears, my love, and
finally the information which through love for thee I have collected.
Thou rememberest, lord, I told thee once how I had given a slave of the
divine Petronius one thread from the girdle of the Paphian Venus? I
know now that it helped her, and thou, O descendant of the Sun, who
knowest what is happening in that house, knowest also what Eunice is
there. I have another such thread. I have preserved it for thee,
Here he stopped, on noticing the anger which was gathering on the brows
of Vinicius, and said quickly, so as to anticipate the outburst,--
"I know where the divine Lygia is living; I will show thee the street
and the house."
Vinicius repressed the emotion with which that news filled him, and
said,--"Where is she?"
"With Linus, the elder priest of the Christians. She is there with
Ursus, who goes as before to the miller, a namesake of thy dispensator
Demas. Yes, Demas! Ursus works in the night; so if thou surround the
house at night, thou wilt not find him. Linus is old, and besides him
there are only two aged women in the house."
"Whence dost thou know all this?"
"Thou rememberest, lord, that the Christians had me in their hands, and
spared me. True, Glaucus was mistaken in thinking that I was the cause
of his misfortunes; but he believed that I was, poor man, and he
believes so yet. Still they spared me. Then be not astonished, lord,
that gratitude filled my heart. I am a man of former, of better times.
This was my thought: Am I to desert friends and benefactors? Would I
not have been hard-hearted not to inquire about them, not to learn what
was happening to them, how health was serving them, and where they were
living? By the Pessinian Cybele! I am not capable of such conduct. At
first I was restrained by fear that they might interpret my wishes
incorrectly. But the love which I bore them proved greater than my
fear, and the ease with which they forgive every injustice lent me
special courage. But above all I was thinking of thee, lord. Our last
attempt ended in defeat; but can such a son of Fortune be reconciled
with defeat? So I prepared victory for thee. The house stands apart.
Thou mayst give command to thy slaves to surround it so that not a mouse
could escape. My lord, on thee alone it depends to have that
magnanimous king's daughter in thy house this very night. But should
that happen, remember that the cause of it is the very poor and hungry
son of my father."
The blood rushed to Vinicius's head. Temptation shook all his being
again. Yes; that was the method, and this time a certain one. Once he
has Lygia in his house, who can take her? Once he makes Lygia his
mistress, what will be left to her, unless to remain so forever? And
let all religions perish! What will the Christians mean to him then,
with their mercy and forbidding faith? Is it not time to shake himself
free of all that? Is it not time to live as all live? What will Lygia
do later, save to reconcile her fate with the religion which she
professes? That, too, is a question of inferior significance. Those
are matters devoid of importance. First of all, she will be his,--and
his this very day. And it is a question, too, whether that religion
will hold out in her soul against the world which is new to her, against
luxury, and excitements to which she must yield. All may happen to-day.
He needs only to detain Chilo, and give an order at dark. And then
delight without end! "What has my life been?" thought Vinicius;
"suffering, unsatisfied desire, and an endless propounding of problems
without answer." In this way all will be cut short and ended. He
recollected, it is true, that he had promised not to raise a hand
against her. But by what had he sworn? Not by the gods, for he did not
believe in them; not by Christ, for he did not believe in him yet.
Finally, if she feels injured, he will marry her, and thus repair the
wrong. Yes; to that he feels bound, for to her he is indebted for life.
Here he recalled the day in which with Croton he had attacked her
retreat; he remembered the Lygian's fist raised above him, and all that
had happened later. He saw her again bent over his couch, dressed in
the garb of a slave, beautiful as a divinity, a benefactress kind and
glorified. His eyes passed to the lararium unconsciously, and to the
little cross which she left him before going. Will he pay for all that
by a new attack? Will he drag her by the hair as a slave to his
cubiculum? And how will he be able to do so, since he not only desires
but loves her, and he loves her specially because she is as she is? All
at once he felt that it was not enough for him to have her in the house,
it was not enough to seize her in his arms by superior force; he felt
that his love needed something more,--her consent, her loves and her
soul. Blessed that roof, if she come under it willingly; blessed the
moment, blessed the day, blessed his life. Then the happiness of both
will be as inexhaustible as the ocean, as the sun. But to seize her by
violence would be to destroy that happiness forever, and at the same
time to destroy, and defile that which is most precious and alone
beloved in life. Terror seized him now at the very thought of this. He
glanced at Chilo, who, while watching him, pushed his hands under his
rags and scratched himself uneasily. That instant, disgust unspeakable
took possession of Vinicius, and a wish to trample that former
assistant of his, as he would a foul worm or venomous serpent. In an
instant he knew what to do. But knowing no measure in anything, and
following the impulse of his stern Roman nature, he turned toward Chilo
"I will not do what thou advisest, but, lest thou go without just
reward, I will command to give thee three hundred stripes in the
Chilo grew pale. There was so much cold resolution in the beautiful
face of Vinicius that he could not deceive himself for a moment with the
hope that the promised reward was no more than a cruel jest.
Hence he threw himself on his knees in one instant, and bending double
began to groan in a broken voice,--"How, O king of Persia? Why?--O
pyramid of kindness! Colossus of mercy! For what?--I am old, hungry,
unfortunate--I have served thee--dost thou repay in this manner?"
"As thou didst the Christians," said Vinicius. And he called the
But Chilo sprang toward his feet, and, embracing them convulsively,
talked, while his face was covered with deathly pallor,--"O lord, O
lord! I am old! Fifty, not three hundred stripes. Fifty are enough!
A hundred, not three hundred! Oh, mercy, mercy!"
Vinicius thrust him away with his foot, and gave the order. In the
twinkle of an eye two powerful Quadi followed the dispensator, and,
seizing Chilo by the remnant of his hair, tied his own rags around his
neck and dragged him to the prison.
"In the name of Christ!" called the Greek, at the exit of the corridor.
Vinicius was left alone. The order just issued roused and enlivened
him. He endeavored to collect his scattered thoughts, and bring them to
order. He felt great relief, and the victory which he had gained over
himself filled him with comfort. He thought that he had made some great
approach toward Lygia, and that some high reward should be given him.
At the first moment it did not even occur to him that he had done a
grievous wrong to Chilo, and had him flogged for the very acts for which
he had rewarded him previously. He was too much of a Roman yet to be
pained by another man's suffering, and to occupy his attention with one
wretched Greek. Had he even thought of Chilo's suffering he would have
considered that he had acted properly in giving command to punish such a
villain. But he was thinking of Lygia, and said to her: I will not pay
thee with evil for good; and when thou shalt learn how I acted with him
who strove to persuade me to raise hands against thee, thou wilt be
grateful. But here he stopped at this thought: Would Lygia praise his
treatment of Chilo? The religion which she professes commands
forgiveness; nay, the Christians forgave the villain, though they had
greater reasons for revenge. Then for the first time was heard in his
soul the cry: "In the name of Christ!" He remembered then that Chilo
had ransomed himself from the hands of Ursus with such a cry, and he
determined to remit the remainder of the punishment.
With that object he was going to summon the dispensator, when that
person stood before him, and said,--"Lord, the old man has fainted, and
perhaps he is dead. Am I to command further flogging?"
"Revive him and bring him before me."
The chief of the atrium vanished behind the curtain, but the revival
could not have been easy, for Vinicius waited a long time and was
growing impatient, when the slaves brought in Chilo, and disappeared at
Chilo was as pale as linen, and down his legs threads of blood were
flowing to the mosaic pavement of the atrium. He was conscious,
however, and, falling on his knees, began to speak, with extended
hands,--"Thanks to thee, lord. Thou art great and merciful."
"Dog," said Vinicius, "know that I forgave thee because of that Christ
to whom I owe my own life."
"O lord, I will serve Him and thee."
"Be silent and listen. Rise! Thou wilt go and show me the house in
which Lygia dwells."
Chilo sprang up; but he was barely on his feet when he grew more deathly
pale yet, and said in a failing voice,--"Lord, I am really hungry--I
will go, lord, I will go! but I have not the strength. Command to give
me even remnants from the plate of thy dog, and I will go."
Vinicius commanded to give him food, a piece of gold, and a mantle. But
Chilo, weakened by stripes and hunger, could not go to take food, though
terror raised the hair on his head, lest Vinicius might mistake his
weakness for stubbornness and command to flog him anew.
"Only let wine warm me," repeated he, with chattering teeth, "I shall be
able to go at once, even to Magna Græcia."
He regained some strength after a time, and they went out.
The way was long, for, like the majority of Christians, Linus dwelt in
the Trans-Tiber, and not far from Miriam. At last Chilo showed Vinicius
a small house, standing apart, surrounded by a wall covered entirely
with ivy, and said,-
"Here it is, lord."
"Well," said Vinicius, "go thy way now, but listen first to what I tell
thee. Forget that thou hast served me; forget where Miriam, Peter, and
Glaucus dwell; forget also this house, and all Christians. Thou wilt
come every month to my house, where Demas, my freedman, will pay thee
two pieces of gold. But shouldst thou spy further after Christians, I
will have thee flogged, or delivered into the hands of the prefect of
Chilo bowed down, and said,--"I will forget."
But when Vinicius vanished beyond the corner of the street, he stretched
his hands after him, and, threatening with his fists, exclaimed,--"By
Ate and the Furies! I will not forget!"
Then he grew faint again.
VINICIUS went directly to the house in which Miriam lived. Before the
gate he met Nazarius, who was confused at sight of him; but greeting the
lad cordially, he asked to be conducted to his mother's lodgings.
Besides Miriam, Vinicius found Peter, Glaucus, Crispus, and Paul of
Tarsus, who had returned recently from Fregellæ. At sight of the young
tribune, astonishment was reflected on all faces; but he said,--"I greet
you in the name of Christ, whom ye honor."
"May His name be glorified forever!" answered they.
"I have seen your virtue and experienced your kindness, hence I come as
"And we greet thee as a friend," answered Peter. "Sit down, lord, and
partake of our refreshment, as a guest."
"I will sit down and share your repast; but first listen to me, thou
Peter, and thou Paul of Tarsus, so that ye may know my sincerity. I
know where Lygia is. I have returned from before the house of Linus,
which is near this dwelling. I have a right to her given me by Cæsar.
I have at my houses in the city nearly five hundred slaves. I might
surround her hiding-place and seize her; still I have not done so, and
"For this reason the blessing of the Lord will be upon thee, and thy
heart will be purified," said Peter.
"I thank thee. But listen to me further: I have not done so, though I
am living in suffering and sadness. Before I knew you, I should have
taken her undoubtedly, and held her by force; but your virtue and your
religion, though I do not profess it, have changed something in my soul,
so that I do not venture on violence. I know not myself why this is so,
but it is so; hence I come to you, for ye take the place of Lygia's
father and mother, and I say to you: Give her to me as wife, and I swear
that not only will I not forbid her to confess Christ, but I will begin
myself to learn His religion."
He spoke with head erect and decisively; but still he was moved, and his
legs trembled beneath his mantle. When silence followed his words, he
continued, as if wishing to anticipate an unfavorable answer,--
"I know what obstacles exist, but I love her as my own eyes; and though
I am not a Christian yet, I am neither your enemy nor Christ's. I wish
to be sincere, so that you may trust me. At this moment it is a
question of life with me, still I tell you the truth. Another might say,
Baptize me; I say, Enlighten me. I believe that Christ rose from the
dead, for people say so who love the truth, and who saw Him after death.
I believe, for I have seen myself, that your religion produces virtue,
justice, and mercy,--not crime, which is laid to your charge. I have
not known your religion much so far. A little from you, a little from
your works, a little from Lygia, a little from conversations with you.
Still I repeat that it has made some change in me. Formerly I held my
servants with an iron hand; I cannot do so now. I knew no pity; I know
it now. I was fond of pleasure; the other night I fled from the pond of
Agrippa, for the breath was taken from me through disgust. Formerly I
believed in superior force; now I have abandoned it. Know ye that I do
not recognize myself. I am disgusted by feasts, wine, singing, citharæ,
garlands, the court of Cæsar, naked bodies, and every crime. When I
think that Lygia is like snow in the mountains, I love her the more; and
when I think that she is what she is through your religion, I love and
desire that religion. But since I understand it not, since I know not
whether I shall be able to live according to it, nor whether my nature
can endure it, I am in uncertainty and suffering, as if I were in
Here his brows met in wrinkle of pain, and a flush appeared on his
cheeks; after that he spoke on with growing haste and greater emotion,--
"As ye see, I am tortured from love and uncertainty. Men tell me that in
your religion there is no place for life, or human joy, or happiness, or
law, or order, or authority, or Roman dominion. Is this true? Men tell
me that ye are madmen; but tell me yourselves what ye bring. Is it a
sin to love, a sin to feel joy, a sin to want happiness? Are ye enemies
of life? Must a Christian be wretched? Must I renounce Lygia? What is
truth in your view? Your deeds and words are like transparent water, but
what is under that water? Ye see that I am sincere. Scatter the
darkness. Men say this to me also: Greece created beauty and wisdom,
Rome created power; but they--what do they bring? Tell, then, what ye
bring. If there is brightness beyond your doors, open them."
"We bring love," said Peter.
And Paul of Tarsus added,--"If I speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass."
But the heart of the old Apostle was stirred by that soul in suffering,
which, like a bird in a cage, was struggling toward air and the sun;
hence, stretching his hand to Vinicius, he said,--"Whoso knocketh, to
him will be opened. The favor and grace of God is upon thee; for this
reason I bless thee, thy soul and thy love, in the name of the Redeemer
Vinicius, who had spoken with enthusiasm already, sprang toward Peter on
hearing this blessing, and an uncommon thing happened. That descendant
of Quirites, who till recently had not recognized humanity in a
foreigner, seized the hand of the old Galilean, and pressed it in
gratitude to his lips.
Peter was pleased; for he understood that his sowing had fallen on an
additional field, that his fishing-net had gathered in a new soul.
Those present, not less pleased by that evident expression of honor for
the Apostle of God, exclaimed in one voice,--"Praise to the Lord in the
Vinicius rose with a radiant face, and began,--"I see that happiness may
dwell among you, for I feel happy, and I think that ye can convince me
of other things in the same way. But I will add that this cannot happen
in Rome. Cæsar is goin to Antium and I must go with him, for I have the
order. Ye know that not to obey is death. But if I have found favor in
your eyes, go with me to teach your truth. It will be safer for you
than for me. Even in that great throng of people, ye can announce your
truth in the very court of Cæsar. They say that Acte is a Christian;
and there are Christians among pretorians even, for I myself have seen
soldiers kneeling before thee, Peter, at the Nomentan gate. In Antium I
have a villa where we shall assemble to hear your teaching, at the side
of Nero. Glaucus told me that ye are ready to go to the end of the earth
for one soul; so do for me what ye have done for those for whose sake ye
have come from Judea,--do it, and desert not my soul."
Hearing this, they began to take counsel, thinking with delight of the
victory of their religion, and of the significance for the pagan world
which the conversion of an Augustian, and a descendant of one of the
oldest Roman families, would have. They were ready, indeed, to wander
to the end of the earth for one human soul, and since the death of the
Master they had, in fact, done nothing else; hence a negative answer did
not even come to their minds. Peter was at that moment the pastor of a
whole multitude, hence he could not go; but Paul of Tarsus, who had been
in Aricium and Fregellæ not long before, and who was preparing for a
long journey to the East to visit churches there and freshen them with a
new spirit of zeal, consented to accompany the young tribune to Antium.
It was easy to find a ship there going to Grecian waters.
Vinicius, though sad because Peter, to whom he owed so much, could not
visit Antium, thanked him with gratitude, and then turned to the old
Apostle with his last request,--"Knowing Lygia's dwelling," said he, "I
might have gone to her and asked, as is proper, whether she would take
me as husband should my soul become Christian, but I prefer to ask thee,
O Apostle! Permit me to see her, or take me thyself to her. I know not
how long I shall be in Antium; and remember that near Cæsar no one is
sure of to-morrow. Petronius himself told me that I should not be
altogether safe there. Let me see her before I go; let me delight my
eyes with her; and let me ask her if she will forget my evil and return
Peter smiled kindly and said,--"But who could refuse thee a proper joy,
Vinicius stooped again to Peter's hands, for he could not in any way
restrain his overflowing heart. The Apostle took him by the temples and
said,--"Have no fear of Cæsar, for I tell thee that a hair will not fall
from thy head."
He sent Miriam for Lygia, telling her not to say who was with them, so
as to give the maiden more delight.
It was not far; so after a short time those in the chamber saw among the
myrtles of the garden Miriam leading Lygia by the hand.
Vinicius wished to run forth to meet her; but at sight of that beloved
form happiness took his strength, and he stood with beating heart,
breathless, barely able to keep his feet, a hundred times more excited
than when for the first time in life he heard the Parthian arrows
whizzing round his head.
She ran in, unsuspecting; but at sight of him she halted as if fixed to
the earth. Her face flushed, and then became very pale; she looked with
astonished and frightened eyes on those present.
But round about she saw clear glances, full of kindness. The Apostle
Peter approached her and asked,--"Lygia, dost thou love him as ever?"
A moment of silence followed. Her lips began to quiver like those of a
child who is preparing to cry, who feels that it is guilty, but sees
that it must confess the guilt.
"Answer," said the Apostle.
Then, with humility, obedience, and fear in her voice, she whispered,
kneeling at the knees of Peter,--"I do."
In one moment Vinicius knelt at her side. Peter placed his hands on
their heads, and said,--"Love each other in the Lord and to His glory,
for there is no sin in your love."
WHILE walking with Lygia through the garden, Vinicius described briefly,
in words from the depth of his heart, that which a short time before he
had confessed to the Apostles,--that is, the alarm of his soul, the
changes which had taken place in him, and, finally, that immense
yearning which had veiled life from him, beginning with the hour when he
left Miriam's dwelling. He confessed to Lygia that he had tried to
forget her, but was not able. He thought whole days and nights of her.
That little cross of boxwood twigs which she had left reminded him of
her,--that cross, which he had placed in the lararium and revered
involuntarily as something divine. And he yearned more and more every
moment, for love was stronger than he, and had seized his soul
altogether, even when he was at the house of Aulus. The Parcæ weave the
thread of life for others; but love, yearning, and melancholy had woven
it for him. His acts had been evil, but they had their origin in love.
He had loved her when she was in the house of Aulus, when she was on the
Palatine, when he saw her in Ostrianum listening to Peter's words, when
he went with Croton to carry her away, when she watched at his bedside,
and when she deserted him. Then came Chilo, who discovered her
dwelling, and advised him to seize her a second time; but he chose to
punish Chilo, and go to the Apostles to ask for truth and for her. And
blessed be that moment in which such a thought came to his head, for now
he is at her side, and she will not flee from him, as the last time she
fled from the house of Miriam.
"I did not flee from thee," said Lygia.
"Then why didst thou go?"
She raised her iris-colored eyes to him, and, bending her blushing face,
Vinicius was silent for a moment from excess of happiness, and began
again to speak, as his eyes were opened gradually to this,--that she was
different utterly from Roman women, and resembled Pomponia alone.
Besides, he could not explain this to her clearly, for he could not
define his feeling,--that beauty of a new kind altogether was coming to
the world in her, such beauty as had not been in it thus far; beauty
which is not merely a statue, but a spirit. He told her something,
however, which filled her with delight,--that he loved her just because
she had fled from him, and that she would be sacred to him at his
hearth. Then, seizing her hand, he could not continue; he merely gazed
on her with rapture as on his life's happiness which he had won, and
repeated her name, as if to assure himself that he had found her and was
"Oh, Lygia, Lygia!"
At last he inquired what had taken place in her mind, and she confessed
that she had loved him while in the house of Aulus, and that if he had
taken her back to them from the Palatine she would have told them of her
love and tried to soften their anger against him.
"I swear to thee," said Vinicius, "that it had not even risen in my mind
to take thee from Aulus. Petronius will tell thee sometime that I told
him then how I loved and wished to marry thee. 'Let her anoint my door
with wolf fat, and let her sit at my hearth,' said I to him. But he
ridiculed me, and gave Cæsar the idea of demanding thee as a hostage and
giving thee to me. How often in my sorrow have I cursed him; but
perhaps fate ordained thus, for otherwise I should not have known the
Christians, and should not have understood thee."
"Believe me, Marcus," replied Lygia, "it was Christ who led thee to
Himself by design."
Vinicius raised his head with a certain astonishment.
"True," answered he, with animation. "Everything fixed itself so
marvellously that in seeking thee I met the Christians. In Ostrianum I
listened to the Apostle with wonder, for I had never heard such words.
And there thou didst pray for me?"
"I did," answered Lygia.
They passed near the summer-house covered with thick ivy, and approached
the place where Ursus, after stifling Croton, threw himself upon
"Here," said the young man, "I should have perished but for thee."
"Do not mention that," answered Lygia, "and do not speak of it to
"Could I be revenged on him for defending thee? Had he been a slave, I
should have given him freedom straightway."
"Had he been a slave, Aulus would have freed him long ago."
"Dost thou remember," asked Vinicius, "that I wished to take thee back
to Aulus, but the answer was, that Cæsar might hear of it and take
revenge on Aulus and Pomponia? Think of this: thou mayst see them now
as often as thou wishest."
"I say 'now,' and I think that thou wilt be able to see them without
danger, when thou art mine. For should Cæsar hear of this, and ask what
I did with the hostage whom he gave me, I should say 'I married her, and
she visits the house of Aulus with my consent.' He will not remain long
in Antium, for he wishes to go to Achæa; and even should he remain, I
shall not need to see him daily. When Paul of Tarsus teaches me your
faith, I will receive baptism at once, I will come here, gain the
friendship of Aulus and Pomponia, who will return to the city by that
time, and there will be no further hindrance, I will seat thee at my
hearth. Oh, carissima! carissima!"
And he stretched forth his hand, as if taking Heaven as witness of his
love; and Lygia, raising her clear eyes to him, said,--
"And then I shall say, 'Wherever thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia.'"
"No, Lygia," cried Vinicius, "I swear to thee that never has woman been
so honored in the house of her husband as thou shalt be in mine."
For a time they walked on in silence, without being able to take in with
their breasts their happiness, in love with each other, like two
deities, and as beautiful as if spring had given them to the world with
They halted at last under the cypress growing near the entrance of the
house. Lygia leaned against his breast, and Vinicius began to entreat
again with a trembling voice,--"Tell Ursus to go to the house of Aulus
for thy furniture and playthings of childhood."
But she, blushing like a rose or like the dawn, answered,--"Custom
"I know that. The pronuba [The matron who accompanies the bride and
explains to her the duties of a wife] usually brings them behind the
bride, but do this for me. I will take them to my villa in Antium, and
they will remind me of thee."
Here he placed his hands together and repeated, like a child who is
begging for something,--"It will be some days before Pomponia returns;
so do this, diva, do this, carissima."
"But Pomponia will do as she likes," answered Lygia, blushing still more
deeply at mention of the pronuba.
And again they were silent, for love had begun to stop the breath in
their breasts. Lygia stood with shoulders leaning against the cypress,
her face whitening in the shadow, like a flower, her eyes drooping, her
bosom heaving with more and more life. Vinicius changed in the face,
and grew pale. In the silence of the afternoon they only heard the
beating of their hearts, and in their mutual ecstasy that cypress, the
myrtle bushes, and the ivy of the summer-house became for them a
paradise of love. But Miriam appeared in the door, and invited them to
the afternoon meal. They sat down then with the Apostles, who gazed at
them with pleasure, as on the young generation which after their death
would preserve and sow still further the seed of the new faith. Peter
broke and blessed bread. There was calm on all faces, and a certain
immense happiness seemed to overflow the whole house.
"See," said Paul at last, turning to Vinicius, "are we enemies of life
"I know how that is," answered Vinicius, "for never have I been so happy
as among you."
ON the evening of that day Vinicius, while returning home through the
Forum, saw at the entrance to the Vicus Tuscus the gilded litter of
Petronius, carried by eight stalwart Bithynians, and, stopping it with a
sign of his hand, he approached the curtains.
"Thou hast had a pleasant dream, I trust, and a happy one!" cried he,
laughing at sight of the slumbering Petronius.
"Oh, is it thou?" said Petronius, waking up. "Yes; I dropped asleep for
a moment, as I passed the night at the Palatine. I have come out to buy
something to read on the road to Antium. What is the news?"
"Art thou visiting the book-shops?" inquired Vinicius.
"Yes, I do not like to bring disorder into my library, so I am
collecting a special supply for the journey. It is likely that some new
things of Musonius and Seneca have come out. I am looking also for
Persius, and a certain edition of the Eclogues of Vergilius, which I do
not possess. Oh, how tired I am; and how my hands ache from covers and
rings! For when a man is once in a book-shop curiosity seizes him to
look here and there. I was at the shop of Avirnus, and at that of
Atractus on the Argiletum, and with the Sozii on Vicus Sandalarius. By
Castor! how I want to sleep!"
"Thou wert on the Palatine? Then I would ask thee what is it to be
heard there? Or, knowest what?--send home the litter and the tubes with
books, and come to my house. We will talk of Antium, and of something
"That is well," answered Petronius, coming out of the litter. "Thou
must know, besides, that we start for Antium the day after to-morrow."
"Whence should I know that?"
"In what world art thou living? Well, I shall be the first to announce
the news to thee. Yes; be ready for the day after to-morrow in the
morning. Peas in olive oil have not helped, a cloth around his thick
neck has not helped, and Bronzebeard is hoarse. In view of this, delay
is not to be mentioned. He curses Rome and its atmosphere, with what
the world stands on; he would be glad to level it to the earth or to
destroy it with fire, and he longs for the sea at the earliest. He says
that the smells which the wind brings from the narrow streets are
driving him into the grave. To-day great sacrifices were offered in all
the temples to restore his voice; and woe to Rome, but especially to the
Senate, should it not return quickly!"
"Then there would be no reason for his visit to Achæa?"
"But is that the only talent possessed by our divine Cæsar?" asked
Petronius, smiling. "He would appear in the Olympic games, as a poet,
with his 'Burning of Troy'; as a charioteer, as a musician, as an
athlete,--nay, even as a dancer, and would receive in every case all the
crowns intended for victors. Dost know why that monkey grew hoarse?
Yesterday he wanted to equal our Paris in dancing, and danced for us the
adventures of Leda, during which he sweated and caught cold. He was as
wet and slippery as an eel freshly taken from water. He changed masks
one after another, whirled like a spindle, waved his hands like a
drunken sailor, till disgust seized me while looking at that great
stomach and those slim legs. Paris taught him during two weeks; but
imagine to thyself Ahenobarbus as Leda or as the divine swan. That was a
swan!--there is no use in denying it. But he wants to appear before the
public in that pantomime,--first in Antium, and then in Rome."
"People are offended already because he sang in public; but to think
that a Roman Cæsar will appear as a mime! No; even Rome will not endure
"My dear friend, Rome will endure anything; the Senate will pass a vote
of thanks to the 'Father of his country.' And the rabble will be elated
because Cæsar is its buffoon."
"Say thyself, is it possible to be more debased?"
Petronius shrugged his shoulders. "Thou art living by thyself at home,
and meditating, now about Lygia, now about Christians, so thou knowest
not, perhaps, what happened two days since. Nero married, in public,
Pythagoras, who appeared as a bride. That passed the measure of
madness, it would seem, would it not? And what wilt thou say? the
flamens, who were summoned, came and performed the ceremony with
solemnity. I was present. I can endure much; still I thought, I
confess, that the gods, if there be any, should give a sign. But Cæsar
does not believe in the gods, and he is right."
"So he is in one person chief priest, a god, and an atheist," said
"True," said Petronius, beginning to laugh. "That had not entered my
head; but the combination is such as the world has not seen." Then,
stopping a moment, he said: "One should add that this chief priest who
does not believe in the gods, and this god who reviles the gods, fears
them in his character of atheist."
"The proof of this is what happened in the temple of Vesta." "What a
"As the society is, so is Cæsar. But this will not last long."
Thus conversing, they entered the house of Vinicius, who called for
supper joyously; then, turning to Petronius he said,--"No, my dear,
society must be renewed."
"We shall not renew it," answered Petronius, "even for the reason that
in Nero's time man is like a butterfly,--he lives in the sunshine of
favor, and at the first cold wind he perishes, even against his will.
By the son of Maia! more than once have I given myself this question: By
what miracle has such a man as Lucius Saturninus been able to reach the
age of ninety-three, to survive Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius? But never
mind. Wilt thou permit me to send thy litter for Eunice? My wish to
sleep has gone, somehow, and I should like to be joyous. Give command
to cithara players to come to the supper, and afterward we will talk of
Antium. It is needful to think of it, especially for thee."
Vinicius gave the order to send for Eunice, but declared that he had no
thought of breaking his head over the stay in Antium.
"Let those break their heads who cannot live otherwise than in the rays
of Cæsar's favor. The world does not end on the Palatine, especially
for those who have something else in their hearts and souls."
He said this so carelessly and with such animation and gladness that his
whole manner struck Petronius; hence, looking for a time at him, he
asked,--"What is taking place in thee? Thou art to-day as thou wert
when wearing the golden bulla on thy neck."
"I am happy," answered Vinicius. "I have invited thee purposely to tell
"What has happened?"
"Something which I would not give for the Roman Empire."
Then he sat down, and, leaning on the arm of the chair, rested his head
on his hand, and asked,--"Dost remember how we were at the house of
Aulus Plautius, and there thou didst see for the first time the godlike
maiden called by thee 'the dawn and the spring'? Dost remember that
Psyche, that incomparable, that one more beautiful than our maidens and
Petronius looked at him with astonishment, as if he wished to make sure
that his head was right.
"Of whom art thou speaking?" asked he at last. "Evidently I remember
"I am her betrothed."
But Vinicius sprang up and called his dispensator.
"Let the slaves stand before me to the last soul, quickly!"
"Art thou her betrothed?" repeated Petronius.
But before he recovered from his astonishment the immense atrium was
swarming with people. Panting old men ran in, men in the vigor of life,
women, boys, and girls. With each moment the atrium was filled more and
more; in corridors, called "fauces," voices were heard calling in
various languages. Finally, all took their places in rows at the walls
and among the columns. Vinicius, standing near the impluvium, turned to
Demas, the freedman, and said,--
"Those who have served twenty years in my house are to appear tomorrow
before the pretor, where they will receive freedom; those who have not
served out the time will receive three pieces of gold and double rations
for a week. Send an order to the village prisons to remit punishment,
strike the fetters from people's feet, and feed them sufficiently. Know
that a happy day has come to me, and I wish rejoicing in the house."
For a moment they stood in silence, as if not believing their ears; then
all hands were raised at once, and all mouths cried,--"A-a! lord! a-a-a!"
Vinicius dismissed them with a wave of his hand. Though they desired to
thank him and to fall at his feet, they went away hurriedly, filling the
house with happiness from cellar to roof.
"To-morrow," said Vinicius, "I will command them to meet again in the
garden, and to make such signs on the ground as they choose. Lygia will
free those who draw a fish."
Petronius, who never wondered long at anything, had grown indifferent,
and asked,--"A fish, is it? Ah, ha! According to Chilo, that is the
sign of a Christian, I remember." Then he extended his hand to
Vinicius, and said: "Happiness is always where a man sees it. May Flora
strew flowers under thy feet for long years. I wish thee everything
which thou wishest thyself."
"I thank thee, for I thought that thou wouldst dissuade me, and that, as
thou seest, would be time lost."
"I? Dissuade? By no means. On the contrary, I tell thee that thou art
"Ha, traitor!" answered Vinicius, joyfully; "hast forgotten what thou
didst tell me once when we were leaving the house of Pomponia Græcina?"
"No," answered Petronius, with cool blood; "but I have changed my
opinion. My dear," added he after a while, "in Rome everything changes.
Husbands change wives, wives change husbands; why should not I change
opinions? It lacked little of Nero's marrying Acte, whom for his sake
they represented as the descendant of a kingly line. Well, he would
have had an honest wife, and we an honest Augusta. By Proteus and his
barren spaces in the sea! I shall change my opinion as often as I find
it appropriate or profitable. As to Lygia, her royal descent is more
certain than Acte's. But in Antium be on thy guard against Poppæa, who
"I do not think of doing so. A hair will not fall from my head in
"If thou think to astonish me a second time, thou art mistaken; but
whence hast thou that certainty?"
"The Apostle Peter told me so."
"Ah, the Apostle Peter told thee! Against that there is no argument;
permit me, however, to take certain measures of precaution even to this
end, that the Apostle Peter may not turn out a false phophet; for,
should the Apostle be mistaken, perchance he might lose thy confidence,
which certainly will be of use to him in the future."
"Do what may please thee, but I believe him. And if thou think to turn
me against him by repeating his name with irony, thou art mistaken."
"But one question more. Hast thou become a Christian?"
"Not yet; but Paul of Tarsus will travel with me to explain the
teachings of Christ, and afterward I will receive baptism; for thy
statement that they are enemies of life and pleasantness is not true."
"All the better for thee and Lygia," answered Petronius; then, shrugging
his shoulders, he said, as if to himself, "But it is astonishing how
skilled those people are in gaining adherents, and how that sect is
"Yes," answered Vinicius, with as much warmth as if he had been baptized
already; "there are thousands and tens of thousands of them in Rome, in
the cities of Italy, in Grecce and Asia. There are Christians among the
legions and among the pretorians; they are in the palace of Cæsar
itself. Slaves and citizens, poor and rich, plebeian and patrician,
confess that faith. Dost thou know that the Cornelii are Christians,
that Pomponia Græcina is a Christian, that likely Octavia was, and Acte
is? Yes, that teaching will embrace the world, and it alone is able to
renew it. Do not shrug thy shoulders, for who knows whether in a month
or a year thou wilt not receive it thyself?"
"I?" said Petronius. "No, by the son of Leto! I will not receive it;
even if the truth and wisdom of gods and men were contained in it. That
would require labor, and I have no fondness for labor. Labor demands
self-denial, and I will not deny myself anything. With thy nature,
which is like fire and boiling water, something like this may happen any
time. But I? I have my gems, my cameos, my vases, my Eunice. I do not
believe in Olympus, but I arrange it on earth for myself; and I shall
flourish till the arrows of the divine archer pierce me, or till Cæsar
commands me to open my veins. I love the odor of violets too much, and
a comfortable triclinium. I love even our gods, as rhetorical figures,
and Achæa, to which I am preparing to go with our fat, thin-legged,
incomparable, godlike Cæsar, the august period-compelling Hercules,
Then he was joyous at the very supposition that he could accept the
teaching of Galilean fishermen, and began to sing in an undertone,--
"I will entwine my bright sword in myrtle, After the example of
Harmodius and Aristogiton."
But he stopped, for the arrival of Eunice was announced. Immediately
after her coming supper was served, during which songs were sung by the
cithara players; Vinicius told of Chilo's visit, and also how that visit
had given the idea of going to the Apostles directly,--an idea which
came to him while they were flogging Chilo.
At mention of this, Petronius, who began to be drowsy, placed his hand
on his forehead, and said,--"The thought was good, since the object was
good. But as to Chilo, I should have given him five pieces of gold; but
as it was thy will to flog him, it was better to flog him, for who knows
but in time senators will bow to him, as to-day they are bowing to our
cobbler-knight, Vatinius. Good-night."
And, removing his wreath, he, with Eunice, prepared for home. When they
had gone, Vinicius went to his library and wrote to Lygia as follows:--
"When thou openest thy beautiful eyes, I wish this letter to say
Good-day! to thee. Hence I write now, though I shall see thee tomorrow.
Cæsar will go to Antium after to-morrow,--and I, eheu! must go with him.
I have told thee already that not to obey would be to risk life--and at
present I could not find courage to die. But if thou wish me not to go,
write one word, and I will stay. Perronius will turn away danger from
me with a speech. To-day, in the hour of my delight, I gave rewards to
all my slaves; those who have served in the house twenty years I shall
take to the pretor to-morrow and free. Thou, my dear, shouldst praise
me, since this act as I think will be in accord with that mild religion
of thine; secondly, I do this for thy sake. They are to thank thee for
their freedom. I shall tell them so to-morrow, so that they may be
grateful to thee and praise thy name. I give myself in bondage to
happiness and thee. God grant that I never see liberation. May Antium
be cursed, and the journey of Ahenobarbus! Thrice and four times happy
am I in not being so wise as Petronius; if I were, I should be forced to
go to Greece perhaps. Meanwhile the moment of separation will sweeten
my memory of thee. Whenever I can tear myself away, I shall sit on a
horse, and rush back to Rome, to gladden my eyes with sight of thee, and
my ears with thy voice. When I cannot come I shall send a slave with a
letter, and an inquiry about thee. I salute thee, divine one, and
embrace thy feet. Be not angry that I call thee divine. If thou
forbid, I shall obey, but to-day I cannot call thee otherwise. I
congratulate thee on thy future house with my whole soul."
IT was known in Rome that Cæsar wished to see Ostia on the journey, or
rather the largest ship in the world, which had brought wheat recently
from Alexandria, and from Ostia to go by the Via Littoralis to Antium.
Orders had been given a number of days earlier; hence at the Porta
Ostiensis, from early morning, crowds made up of the local rabble and of
all nations of the earth had collected to feast their eyes with the
sight of Cæsar's retinue, on which the Roman population could never gaze
sufficiently. The road to Antium was neither difficult nor long. In
the place itself, which was composed of palaces and villas built and
furnished in a lordly manner, it was possible to find everything
demanded by comfort, and even the most exquisite luxury of the period.
Cæsar had the habit, however, of taking with him on a journey every
object in which he found delight, beginning with musical instruments and
domestic furniture, and ending with statues and mosaics, which were
taken even when he wished to remain on the road merely a short time for
rest or recreation. He was accompanied, therefore, on every expedition
by whole legions of servants, without reckoning divisions of pretorian
guards, and Augustians; of the latter each had a personal retinue of
Early on the morning of that day herdsmen from the Campania, with
sunburnt faces, wearing goat-skins on their legs, drove forth five
hundred she-asses through the gates, so that Poppæa on the morrow of her
arrival at Antium might have her bath in their milk. The rabble gazed
with delight and ridicule at the long ears swaying amid clouds of dust,
and listened with pleasure to the whistling of whips and the wild shouts
of the herdsmen. After the asses had gone by, crowds of youth rushed
forth, swept the road carefully, and covered it with flowers and needles
from pine-trees. In the crowds people whispered to each other, with a
certain feeling of pride, that the whole road to Antium would be strewn
in that way with flowers taken from private gardens round about, or
bought at high prices from dealers at the Porta Mugionis. As the
morning hours passed, the throng increased every moment. Some had
brought their whole families, and, lest the time might seem tedious,
they spread provisions on stones intended for the new temple of Ceres,
and ate their prandium beneath the open sky. Here and there were groups,
in which the lead was taken by persons who had travelled; they talked of
Cæsar's present trip, of his future journeys, and journeys in general.
Sailors and old soldiers narrated wonders which during distant campaigns
they had heard about countries which a Roman foot had never touched.
Home-stayers, who had never gone beyond the Appian Way, listened with
amazement to marvellous tales of India, of Arabia, of archipelagos
surrounding Britain in which, on a small island inhabited by spirits,
Briareus had imprisoned the sleeping Saturn. They heard of hyperborean
regions of stiffened seas, of the hisses and roars which the ocean gives
forth when the sun plunges into his bath. Stories of this kind found
ready credence among the rabble, stories believed by such men even as
Tacitus and Pliny. They spoke also of that ship which Cæsar was to look
at,--a ship which had brought wheat to last for two years, without
reckoning four hundred passengers, an equal number of soldiers, and a
multitude of wild beasts to be used during the summer games. This
produced general good feeling toward Cæsar, who not only nourished the
populace, but amused it. Hence a greeting full of enthusiasm was
waiting for him.
Meanwhile came a detachment of Numidian horse, who belonged to the
pretorian guard. They wore yellow uniforms, red girdles, and great
earrings, which cast a golden gleam on their black faces. The points of
their bamboo spears glittered like flames, in the sun. After they had
passed, a procession-like movement began. The throng crowded forward to
look at it more nearly; but divisions of pretorian foot were there, and,
forming in line on both sides of the gate, prevented approach to the
road. In advance moved wagons carrying tents, purple, red, and violet,
and tents of byssus woven from threads as white as snow; and oriental
carpets, and tables of citrus, and pieces of mosaic, and kitchen
utensils, and cages with birds from the East, North, and West, birds
whose tongues or brains were to go to Cæsar's table, and vessels with
wine and baskets with fruit. But objects not to be exposed to bruising
or breaking in vehicles were borne by slaves. Hence hundreds of people
were seen on foot, carrying vessels, and statues of Corinthian bronze.
There were companies appointed specially to Etruscan vases; others to
Grecian; others to golden or silver vessels, or vessels of Alexandrian
glass. These were guarded by small detachments of pretorian infantry
and cavalry; over each division of slaves were taskmasters, holding
whips armed at the end with lumps of lead or iron, instead of snappers.
The procession, formed of men bearing with importance and attention
various objects, seemed like some solemn religious procession; and the
resemblance grew still more striking when the musical instruments of
Cæsar and the court were borne past. There were seen harps, Grecian
lutes, lutes of the Hebrews and Egyptians, lyres, formingas, citharas,
flutes, long, winding buffalo horns and cymbals. While looking at that
sea of instruments, gleaming beneath the sun in gold, bronze, precious
stones, and pearls, it might be imagined that Apollo and Bacchus had set
out on a journey through the world. After the instruments came rich
chariots filled with acrobats, dancers male and female, grouped
artistically, with wands in their hands. After them followed slaves
intended, not for service, but excess; so there were boys and little
girls, selected from all Greece and Asia Minor, with long hair, or with
winding curls arranged in golden nets, children resembling Cupids, with
wonderful faces, but faces covered completely with a thick coating of
cosmetics, lest the wind of the Campania might tan their delicate
And again appeared a pretorian cohort of gigantic Sicambrians, blue-
eyed, bearded, blond and red haired. In front of them Roman eagles were
carried by banner-bearers called "imaginarii," tablets with
inscriptions, statues of German and Roman gods, and finally statues and
busts of Cæsar. From under the skins and armor of the soldier appeared
limbs sunburnt and mighty, looking like military engines capable of
wielding the heavy weapons with which guards of that kind were
furnished. The earth seemed to bend beneath their measured and weighty
tread. As if conscious of strength which they could use against Cæsar
himself, they looked with contempt on the rabble of the street,
forgetting, it was evident, that many of themselves had come to that
city in manacles. But they were insignificant in numbers, for the
pretorian force had remained in camp specially to guard the city and
hold it within bounds. When they had marched past, Nero's chained lions
and tigers were led by, so that, should the wish come to him of
imitating Dionysus, he would have them to attach to his chariots. They
were led in chains of steel by Arabs and Hindoos, but the chains were so
entwined with garlands that the beasts seemed led with flowers. The
lions and tigers, tamed by skilled trainers, looked at the crowds with
green and seemingly sleepy eyes; but at moments they raised their giant
heads, and breathed through wheezing nostrils the exhalations of the
multitude, licking their jaws the while with spiny tongues.
Now came Cæsar's vehicles and litters, great and small, gold or purple,
inlaid with ivory or pearls, or glittering with diamonds; after them
came another small cohort of pretorians in Roman armor, pretorians
composed of Italian volunteers only;* then crowds of select slave
servants, and boys; and at last came Cæsar himself, whose approach was
heralded from afar by the shouts of thousands.
[* The inhabitants of Italy were freed from military service by
Augustus, in consequence of which the so-called cohors Italica,
stationed generally in Asia, was composed of volunteers. The pretorian
guards, in so far as they were not composed of foreigners, were made up
In the crowd was the Apostle Peter, who wished to see Cæsar once in
life. He was accompanied by Lygia, whose face was hidden by a thick
veil, and Ursus, whose strength formed the surest defence of the young
girl in the wild and boisterous crowd. The Lygian seized a stone to be
used in building the temple, and brought it to the Apostle, so that by
standing on it he might see better than others.
The crowd muttered when Ursus pushed it apart, as a ship pushes waves;
but when he carried the stone, which four of the strongest men could not
raise, the muttering was turned into wonderment, and cries of "Macte!"
were heard round about.
Meanwhile Cæsar appeared. He was sitting in a chariot drawn by six
white Idumean stallions shod with gold. The chariot had the form of a
tent with sides open, purposely, so that the crowds could see Cæsar. A
number of persons might have found place in the chariot; but Nero,
desiring that attention should be fixed on him exclusively, passed
through the city alone, having at his feet merely two deformed dwarfs.
He wore a white tunic, and a toga of amethyst color, which cast a bluish
tinge on his face. On his head was a laurel wreath. Since his
departure from Naples he had increased notably in body. His face had
grown wide; under his lower jaw hung a double chin, by which his mouth,
always too near his nose, seemed to touch his nostrils. His bulky neck
was protected, as usual, by a silk kerchief, which he arranged from
moment to moment with a white and fat hand grown over with red hair,
forming as it were bloody stains; he would not permit epilatores to
pluck out this hair, since he had been told that to do so would bring
trembling of the fingers and injure his lute-playing. Measureless vanity
was depicted then, as at all times, on his face, together with tedium
and suffering. On the whole, it was a face both terrible and trivial.
While advancing he turned his head from side to side, blinking at times,
and listening carefully to the manner in which the multitude greeted
him. He was met by a storm of shouts and applause: "Hail, divine Cæsar!
lmperator, hail, conqueror! hail, incomparable!--Son of Apollo, Apollo
When he heard these words, he smiled; but at moments a cloud, as it
were, passed over his face, for the Roman rabble was satirical and keen
in reckoning, and let itself criticise even great triumphators, even men
whom it loved and respected. It was known that on a time they shouted
during the entrance to Rome of Julius Cæsar: "Citizens, hide your wives;
the old libertine is coming!" But Nero's monstrous vanity could not
endure the least blame or criticism; meanwhile in the throng, amid
shouts of applause were heard cries of "Ahenobarbus, Ahenobarbus! Where
hast thou put thy flaming beard? Dost thou fear that Rome might catch
fire from it?" And those who cried out in that fashion knew not that
their jest concealed a dreadful prophecy.
These voices did not anger Cæsar overmuch, since he did not wear a
beard, for long before he had devoted it in a golden cylinder to Jupiter
Capitolinus. But other persons, hidden behind piles of stones and the
corners of temples, shouted: "Matricide! Nero! Orestes! Alcmæon!" and
still others: "Where is Octavia?" "Surrender the purple!" At Poppæa,
who came directly after him, they shouted, "Flava coma (yellow hair)!!"
with which name they indicated a street-walker. Cæsar's musical ear
caught these exclamations also, and he raised the polished emerald to
his eyes as if to see and remember those who uttered them. While
looking thus, his glance rested on the Apostle standing on the stone.
For a while those two men looked at each other. It occurred to no one
in that brilliant retinue, and to no one in that immense throng, that at
that moment two powers of the earth were looking at each other, one of
which would vanish quickly as a bloody dream, and the other, dressed in
simple garments, would seize in eternal possession the world and the
Meanwhile Cæsar had passed; and immediately after him eight Africans
bore a magnificent litter, in which sat Poppæa, who was detested by the
people. Arrayed, as was Nero, in amethyst color, with a thick
application of cosmetics on her face, immovable, thoughtful,
indifferent, she looked like some beautiful and wicked divinity carried
in procession. In her wake followed a whole court of servants, male and
female, next a line of wagons bearing materials of dress and use. The
sun had sunk sensibly from midday when the passage of Augustians began,
--a brilliant glittering line gleaming like an endless serpent. The
indolent Petronius, greeted kindly by the multitude, had given command
to bear him and his godlike slave in a litter. Tigellinus went in a
chariot drawn by ponies ornamented with white and purple feathers, They
saw him as he rose in the chariot repeatedly, and stretched his neck to
see if Cæsar was preparing to give him the sign to to his chariot. Among
others the crowd greeted Licinianus with applause, Vitelius with
laughter, Vatinius with hissing. Towards Licinus and Lecanius the
consuls they were indifferent, but Tullius Senecio they loved, it was
unknown why, and Vestinius received applause.
The court was innumerable. It seemed that all that was richest, most
brilliant and noted in Rome, was migrating to Antium. Nero never
travelled otherwise than with thousands of vehicles; the society which
acompanied him almost always exceeded the number of soldiers in a
legion. [In the time of the Cæsars a legion was always 12,000 men.]
Hence Domitius Afer appeared, and the decrepit Lucius Saturninus; and
Vespasian, who had not gone yet on his expedition to Judea, from which
he returned for the crown of Cæsar, and his sons, and young Nerva, and
Lucan, and Annius Gallo, and Quintianus, and a multitude of women
renowned for wealth, beauty, luxury, and vice.
The eyes of the multitude were turned to the harness, the chariots, the
horses, the strange livery of the servants, made up of all peoples of
the earth. In that procession of pride and grandeur one hardly knew
what to look at; and not only the eye, but the mind, was dazzled by such
gleaming of gold, purple, and violet, by the flashing of precious
stones, the glitter of brocade, pearls, and ivory. It seemed that the
very rays of the sun were dissolving in that abyss of brilliancy. And
though wretched people were not lacking in that throng, people with
sunken stomachs, and with hunger in their eyes, that spectacle inflamed
not only their desire of enjoyment and their envy, but filled them with
delight and pride, because it gave a feeling of the might and
invincibility of Rome, to which the world contributed, and before which
the world knelt. Indeed there was not on earth any one who ventured to
think that that power would not endure through all ages, and outlive all
nations, or that there was anything in existence that had strength to
Vinicius, riding at the end of the retinue, sprang out of his chariot at
sight of the Apostle and Lygia, whom he had not expected to see, and,
greeting them with a radiant face, spoke with hurried voice, like a man
who has no time to spare,--"Hast thou come? I know not how to thank
thee, O Lygia! God could not have sent me a better omen. I greet thee
even while taking farewell, but not farewell for a long time. On the
road I shall dispose relays of horses, and every free day I shall come
to thee till I get leave to return.--Farewell!"
"Farewell, Marcus!" answered Lygia; then she added in a lower voice:
"May Christ go with thee, and open thy soul to Paul's word."
He was glad at heart that she was concerned about his becoming a
Christian soon; hence he answered,--
"Ocelle mi! let it be as thou sayest. Paul prefers to travel with my
people, but he is with me, and will be to me a companion and master.
Draw aside thy veil, my delight, let me see thee before my journey. Why
art thou thus hidden?"
She raised the veil, and showed him her bright face and her wonderfully
smiling eyes, inquiring,--
"Is the veil bad?"
And her smile had in it a little of maiden opposition; but Vinicius,
while looking at her with delight, answered,--
"Bad for my eyes, which till death would look on thee only."
Then he turned to Ursus and said,--
"Ursus, guard her as the sight in thy eye, for she is my domina as well
Seizing her hand then, he pressed it with his lips, to the great
astonishment of the crowd, who could not understand signs of such honor
from a brilliant Augustian to a maiden arrayed in simple garments,
almost those of a slave.
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