1. This chapter depends greatly on The Garden of Priapus (OUP, 1983) by Amy Richlin, an avowed feminist and the Professor of Classics and Women’s Studies at the University oi South California. She writes, however, with charm and translates (as well as James Michie, whom I have also used) the works of Horace and Martial. Her book is inflammatory and should be kept in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children.
2. The Latin Sexual Vocabulary by J.N. Adams, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.
3. Of Cicero’s attack on Verres, the corrupt governor of Sicily, Professor Richlin has this to say: ‘. . . a peculiar recurring accusation was that he was involved in homosexual debauchery . . . The Verrine accusations have the morbid appeal of all narratives of atrocity and resemble sadistic pornography . . .’ – so much for a favourite classical text.
4. This quotation is from Juvenal but it must have been common practice, for Seneca, when writing about slaves from the Stoic point of view, has the following: ‘Another, who serves the wine, must dress like a woman and wrestle with his advancing years: he cannot get away from his boyhood, but is dragged back to it; and though he has already acquired a soldier’s figure, he is kept beardless by having his hair smoothed away or plucked out by the roots, and he must remain awake throughout the night, dividing his time between his master’s drunkenness and his lust – in the bedchamber he must be a man, at the feast a boy’.
5. Aprodisias, City of Venus Aphrodite by Professor Kenan Erim, Muller, Blond & White, 1986.
6. Historians have an awkward task calculating the contemporary equivalent of such sums, especially because of the rate of inflation over the last fifty years and the different values of a pre-industrial society. Clothes, for instance, were vastly more expensive. People were murdered for a cloak. In one of his letters Paul asks for the return of one he left behind. A poor country like Sri Lanka is a present indicator of the levels of the ancient world. There labourers are paid by the day the equivalent of a dollar, which is enough for a family to survive on. The drachma, always used by Josephus and the same as the silver Roman denarius (the origin of the ‘d’ which stood for our former penny) was also a day’s wage. A talent was worth 60,000 drachmas, so when Herod in his bankrupt (and charming) early days offered 300 talents to ransom his brother Phasael he would have had to find 1.5 million sterling in today’s money.
7. Herod visited Rome three times in his life and was always welcomed and honoured at court. His sister Salome had an affair with the Arab regent Syllaeus and in her wish to marry him was backed by her friend, the Empress Livia. Berenice was a friend of the Empress Antonia, Caligula’s grandmother, with whom Herod Agrippa stayed in Rome. She also paid his debts when he went to see Caligula on Capri with the Emperor Tiberius. According to Gibbon, his sister Berenice (famous, like the Duchess of Windsor, for her jewels) was loved by Vespasian Titus and, aged fifty, had to be prised from the arms of his younger brother Domitian.
8. Quoted from The Life and Times of Herod the Great by Stewart Perowne, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986 – a wonderful book.
9. As E. Mary Smallwood, editor of Josephus’ History of the Jewish War, truly a Penguin Classic, observes, ‘In the absence of external controls we must perforce accept Josephus’ word, however uneasily.’
10. ‘. . . beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth . . .’ from Psalm XLVIII, traditionally sung on Mondays.
11. In 1808, Napoleon convened a Sanhedrin to dignify Jews with proper names but they suspected it was just a tax ploy.
12. Extortion (repetundae) was big business, both ways, with the Romans, and it became recognized in a law of 122 BC, the Lex Acilia, passed by a friend of the reformer Gaius Gracchus, that provincials had to be effectively protected against the unreasonable depredations of their Roman governors. A permanent court was set up, organized by the knights (equites), who drew on a pool of their order for juries. Judaea was a hot but profitable seat, because of the wealth of Jerusalem, for Roman officials, and Pontius Pilate, who we now know to have been a prefect, not just a procurator, was constantly being complained about. Philo quotes Agrippa as calling him ‘inflexible, heartless and obstinate’. Pilate was never prosecuted but was recalled in AD 36 for what really amounted to lack of tact on a monstrous scale.
13. Who both showed their hands early on in book form.
14. Senior NCO under a centurion, in charge of clerical duties.
15. The Roman Soldier by G.R. Watson, Thames and Hudson, 1969.
16. Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood and J.N.L. Myres, OUP, 1937.
17. In one race he made more money ‘pulling’ his horses than if he had won.
18. The morning of his assassination, he opened the Games by sacrificing a flamingo, whose blood sullied his toga.
19. The cults of Rome are confusing but Jupiter was the top god. The finale of a Triumph took place at his temple at the end of the Via Sacra. Each cult celebrated its own festival and since the Romans were fond of spectacles and ceremonies and in the absence of tabloids and TV this was the only way a politician could get his face known to the electorate. Later, through bribery, using money borrowed from Crassus, Caesar had himself elected pontifex maximus (latin for Pope) and this office, coupled with his dramatic life and death, inspired miracle plays about him in the Middle Ages. With this job went a nice town house next to the Vestal Virgins, more agreeable than the old family domus of the gens Julia in Subura, now a slum.
20. Parthian shot: a horseman in real or pretended flight turns round in the saddle and launches a shot. One such did for poor, or rather rich, old Crassus.
21. I am indebted to the late Israel (Lord) Sieff for this anecdote, which I’m sure is true.
22. Only ever a very elaborate camp-stool.
23. His father had cleared the Mediterranean of pirates.
24. John Carter, in the Penguin edition of Dio Cassius’ Roman History, comments that they paid the penalty of being adult sons of their father.
25. From the Gracchi to Nero, A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68, H.H. Scullard, Methuen, 1959.
26. Napoleon was the first ruler to categorize horses into race, cavalry and artillery.
27. From Augustus and Nero by Professor Gilbert Charles Picard, Phoenix House, 1966.
28. A Greek called Antonius Musa, who cured his kidney infection with cold baths, the only remedy which had worked for George III. A grateful and perhaps obsequious Senate erected a statue to him in the temple of Asclepius. One did not have to wait to be dead to have a statue of oneself in Rome.
29. A tenth of the Roman army.
30. Then much of northern Europe was still empty. When the Romans left Brittany the place was vacant until rediscovered by Irish priests in coracles, centuries later.
31. cf. Abraham Lincoln: ‘Senators are hogs and should be beaten like hogs.’
32. In the twenty-two years of his reign Tiberius only executed seventy-three of his enemies (cf. Claudius, Caligula or indeed Augustus).
33. A professor I met at the British School in Rome, who will remain anonymous, assured me it is possible if children are trained early enough.
34. Almost exactly the same names recur in Roman history. For instance in Nero’s paternal family there are three L. Domitius Ahenobarbuses and two Gn. Domitius Ahenobarbuses within five generations.
35. This appellation did not stick (unlike July, after Caesar, and August, after Augustus) due to the obloquy attached to Caligula’s name subsequent to his death. The Roman months from September to December remain intact in their numeracy (the Julian Calendar began in March), and will surely be so till the end of time, for while the Romans ran the world and could do this sort of thing, any such change of nomenclature would be difficult in our time. Perhaps the Mother Teresa or Gandhi lobby might take up the challenge?
36. Caligula, The Corruption of Power by Anthony A. Barrett, Batsford, 1989, and Caligula, Emperor of Rome by Arthur Ferrill, Thames and Hudson, 1991. Nor, though obviously friendly, do they agree with each other, the former regarding their subject as rational, the latter as a monster.
37. Professor Barrett has done a tot of the victims, viz. two humiliations, nine driven to suicide, eleven executed, a friend of Seneca and an actress tortured, Sextus Pompeius – whom he forbade the use of the family cognomen ‘Magnus’ (the Great) – starved to death, Columbus, a gladiator, poisoned, and one senator, hacked to death by his fellows.
38. Gemellus, Tiberius’ grandson, saw the danger to his own life clearly. Apparently Gemellus drank a cough medicine that Caligula, smelling it on the young man’s breath, mistook for an antidote to poison. Gemellus, when accused offered a famous reply: ‘Antidote – how can one take an antidote against Caesar?’ (from Professor Ferrill).
39. The son’s offence, for which he was imprisoned at first, was to be too well dressed and coiffed. The father had made the mistake of pleading for his life. After the first dinner he was made to return the day of the funeral when he behaved as if nothing had happened. Seneca, who tells this story and himself was nearly executed for making too good a speech in Caligula’s presence, explains that the father had another son, whose future he did not want to imperil.
40. Philo describes how the Emperor received the delegation while surveying the redecoration of one of his palaces, rushing from room to room while the (probably) elderly petitioners panted after him, occasionally turning round to snarl at them or snapping, ‘Why don’t you eat pork?’ and ‘Are you the god-haters who do not believe me to be a god . . . acknowledged by all other nations . . . but not by you?’ The Greeks sniggered, enjoying the discomfort of the Jews. What he said to them Philo does not record. Finally Caligula was bored and dismissed them quite gently saying: ‘They seem to me people unfortunate rather than wicked . . .’
41. It was this, not political misdemeanour, which caused Zulfikkar Bhutto, once president of Pakistan, to be taken from his intentionally squalid cell and hanged.
42. His fourth and last wife, seven years older and married already five times, nevertheless towards whom he was affectionate, uxorious and monogamous. In his early days, on Capri, Caligula was reported to be both a prude and, indulged by Tiberius to calm his savagery, licentious. On gaining power, though he first expelled known perverts, he became sexually omnivorous, bedding everybody near him including the actor Mnester, his brother-in-law, various hostages and, of course, his sisters. His earlier marriages are not well documented, and do not appear to have counted for much, except for one to Pollia, who had a lot of money.
43. Not so fanciful a notion as at first it seems. The humanist historian Gore Vidal, who has so many skills, maintains that Constantine’s conversion to Christianity was not inevitable. If the zealous, energetic, peripatetic and convincing Saul of Tarsus had remained a Pharisee and talked the Roman élite into Judaism. . .
44. Charles Laughton, convincing as a Roman emperor, played Claudius, perhaps unintentionally, as a homosexual, in a movie which was never made. A series of ‘takes’ shows him fluffing his lines just when he is supposed to condemn a good-looking young man (Sabinus?) to death for taking part in the assassination of his precessor, Caligula. The episode, though touching, is historically unsafe since the real Claudius actually spared Sabinus (who, tactfully, later committed suicide) and easily consigned Chaerea and co. to execution, with that limp wave of the wrist which was to become so notorious, on the grounds that such men could become a nuisance to himself.
45. His tribe, the Allobroges, had prospered through collaboration with Julius Caesar.
46. This brilliant if anachronistic description is from Claudius by Barbara Levick, Batsford, 1990.
47. The original waterworks there were functioning in the first century AD during the Anaradhapura kingdom, and the Sinhalese, who used trigonometry in their hydraulic engineering, were invited to Rome by Tiberius for his coronation.
48. Pallas lived on for another seven years on his enormous estate, but his wealth was too great for the then greedy Emperor to endure and he was quietly poisoned.
49. Nero, Batsford, 1984.
50. The personnel of this originally Ptolemaic institution also invented weapons of war and were therefore encouraged to emigrate to Rome, rather than to Parthia, like German scientists before the Second World War going to the USA rather than the USSR.
51. Before which the language of physics, for instance, was German; now, an Italian, lecturing to an audience in Milan in that discipline, must speak in English if he wishes to be reported in learned journals.
52. So was Nero. He wrote a poem about the effeminacy of one Afranius Quintianus which so offended the subject that he joined the conspiracy of Piso (see p. 142).
53. I am indebted to a former Provost, Lord Charteris, for this remark by the late Claude Aurelius Elliot.
54. Not uncommon in the ancient world; besides, the pose of ‘heroic nudity’ in statues only allows a little tuft of hair above the genitalia.
55. Nor does his most recent biographer. I owe this slice of high-republican Roman mores to Donald Earl in The Age of Augustus, Elek, 1968
56. The building we see today is the creation of the Emperor Hadrian, a greater builder even than Augustus, who modestly had it inscribed M. AGRIPPA COS. TERTIUM FECIT.
57. Suetonius comments: ‘His simple taste in fittings and furniture is apparent in the couches and tables that are still preserved, most of which hardly reach the standard of elegance to be expected from a private person.’
58. Food in History by Reay Tannahill, Stein & Day, New York, 1973.
59. The young Julius Caesar was one.
60. The domina, at least in Roman literature, was more bossy than bossed. Juvenal, a misogynist, warns against marriage: ‘No present will you ever make if your wife forbids; nothing will you ever sell if she objects; nothing will you buy without her consent.’ One wife was so mean with the cash that her husband gave a friend his silver shaving bowl while she was asleep and pretended it had been stolen. A wife with a large dowry was in a strong position because she could take it with her to the next husband – and the next and the next . . . (some women had five). Divorce was easy. The husband said to the wife: ‘Tuas res tibi agito’ (‘Take your belongings with you’) and she answered with the same (legal) formula: ‘Tuas res tibi habito’ (‘And you keep yours for yourself!’).
61. ‘It required unremitting attention if the balance of the toga was to be preserved in walking, in the heat of a discourse, or amid the jostlings of a crowd. The weight of it was an intolerable burden.’ (Jerome Carcopino, Life in Ancient Rome, Routledge, 1946.) One of the joys of summer was that it could be abandoned the moment one reached the villa.
62. Some officials did not return; the earliest (legible) inscription in England is on the tombstone of a praetor who died in office, erected by his loving wife and recently discovered by Tower Hill Underground station, where there is a copy.
63. We have to wait till the sixteenth century for forks.