Thursday, 23 June 2016

And As For That L. Calpurnius Piso...

 L. Sergius Catalina, and not L. Calpurnius Piso at all, by Maccari.
Crime, vice and corruption in the last age of the Republic are embodied in types as perfect of their kind as are the civic and moral paragons of early days; which is fitting, for the evil and the good are both the fabrication of skilled literary artists. Catalina is the perfect monster - murder and debauchery of every degree. Clodius inherited his policy and his character; and Clodia committed incest with her brother and poisoned her husband. The enormities of P. Vatinius ranged from human sacrifices to the wearing of a black toga at a banquet. Piso and Gabinius were a brace of vultures, rapacious and obscene. Piso to public view seemed all eyebrows and antique gravity. What dissimulation, what inner turpitude and nameless orgies within four walls! As domestic chaplain and preceptor in vice, Piso hired an Epicurean philosopher, and, corrupting the corrupt, compelled him to write indecent verses. This at Rome; in his province lust was matched with cruelty. Virgins of the best families at Byzantium cast themselves down wells to escape the vile proconsul; and the blameless chieftains of Balkan tribes, loyal allies of the Roman People, were foully done to death. Piso's colleague Gabinius curled his hair, gave exhibitions of dancing at fashionable dinner-parties and brutally impeded the lawful occupations of important Roman financiers in Syria. Marcus Antonius was not merely a ruffian and a gladiator, a drunkard and a debauchee - he was effeminate and a coward. Instead of fighting at Caesar's side in Spain, he lurked at Rome. How different was gallant young Dolabella! The supreme enormity - Antonius, by demonstrating affection towards his own wife, made a mock of Roman decorum and decency.

R Syme, The Roman Revolution (1939) p149 (1982 edn)

 Black toga at a banquet, chap being lovey to his wife! Whatever is the world coming to?

The whole chapter "Political Catchwords" is a tour de force.

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