Suetonius' Life of Domitian

On 24 October, A.D. 51, a month before his father, as Consul elect, was due to take office, Domitian was born in Pomegranate Street, which formed part of the sixth district of Rome. Later, he converted his birthplace into the Temple of the Flavians. He is said to have spent a poverty- stricken and rather degraded youth: without even any silver on the family table. At all events, it is an established fact that Clodius Pollio, an ex-praetor and the target of Nero's satire The One-eyed Man, used to show his guests a letter in Domitian's handwriting, which he had kept, promising to go to bed with him. It is also often insisted that Domitian was sexually abused by his eventual successor, the Emperor Nerva.

During the war against Vitellius, Domitian with his uncle Sabinus and part of the forces under him, fled to the Capitol; but when the enemy burst in and set the temple on fire, Domitian concealed himself all night in the caretaker's quarters and, at daybreak, disguised as a devotee of Isis, took refuge among the priests of that rather questionable order. Presently he managed to escape with a single companion across the Tiber, where the mother of one of his fellow-students hid him so cleverly that she outwitted the agents who had followed in his tracks. Emerging when his side was victorious, Domitian was hailed as 'Caesar' and accepted an appointment as City praetor with consular powers - but in name only, because he left all judicial decisions to his next colleague. However, the lawlessness with which he exploited his autocratic position clearly showed what might be expected of him later. I shall not discuss this subject in any detail; suffice it to say that Domitian had affairs with many married women, and took off Domitia Longina and married her, although she was the wife of Aelius Lamia; and that once, when he had distributed more than twenty appointments at home and abroad in the course of a single day, Vespasian murmured: 'I wonder he did not name my successor while he was about it!'

2. To acquire power and rank that would compare favourably with his brother Titus', Domitian planned a quite unnecessary expedition into Gaul and Germany, from which his father's friends managed to dissuade him. He earned a reprimand for this and was made to feel more conscious of his youth and unimportance by having to live with his father. Whenever Vespasian and Titus now appeared seated in their official chairs, he had to be content with following behind in a litter; and, while taking part in their Judaean triumph, rode on a white horse. Of the six consulships enjoyed by Domitian before becoming Emperor, only one was a regular one,, and that came his way because Titus had stood down in his favour.

Domitian pretended to be extremely modest, and though he displayed a novel devotion to poetry, which he would read aloud in public, his enthusiasm was matched by a later neglect and contempt of the art. However, he did everything possible to get sent against the Alani when a request for auxiliary troops, commanded by one of Vespasian's sons, arrived from Vologaesus, king of the Parthians. And he subsequently tried by bribes and promises to coax similar requests from other Oriental kings.

At Vespasian's death Domitian toyed for a while with the idea of offering his troops twice as large a bounty as Titus had given them; and stated bluntly that his father's will must have been tampered with, since it originally assigned him a half-share in the Empire. He never once stopped plotting, secretly or openly, against his brother. When Titus fell suddenly and dangerously ill, Domitian told the attendants to leave him for dead before he had actually breathed his last; and afterwards granted him no recognition at all, beyond ap proving his deification. In fact, he often slighted Titus' memory by the use of ambiguous terms in speeches and edicts.

3. At the beginning of his reign Domitian would spend hours alone every day doing nothing but catch flies and stabbing them with a needle-sharp pen. Once, on being asked whether anyone was closeted with the Emperor, Vibius Crispus answered wittily: 'No, not even a fly.' Then he awarded his wife Domitia the title of Augusta. She had presented Domitian with a daughter during his second consulship and, in the following year, with a son. But he divorced her because she had fallen in love with Paris, the actor. This separation, however, proved to be more than Domitian could bear; and he very soon took her back, claiming that such was the people's wish. For a while he governed in an uneven fashion: that is to say, his vices were at first balanced by his virtues. Later, he transformed his virtues into vices too - for I am inclined to believe that this was contrary to his original character: it was lack of funds that made him greedy, and fear of assassination that made him cruel.

4 Domitian presented many extravagant entertainments in the Colosseum and the Circus. Besides the usual two-horse chariot races : he staged a couple of battles, one for infantry, the other for cavalry; a sea-fight in the amphitheatre;(l) wild-beast hunts; gladiatorial shows by torchlight in which women as well as men took part. Nor did he ever forget the Games given by the quaestors, which he had revived; and allowed the people to demand a combat between two pairs of gladiators from his own troop, whom he would bring on last in their gorgeous Court livery. Throughout every gladiatorial show Domitian would chat, sometimes in very serious tones, with a little boy who had a grotesquely small head and always stood at his feet dressed in red. Once he was heard to ask the child: 'Can you guess why, on the last appointment day, I made Mettius Rufus Prefect of Egypt?' A lake was dug at his orders close to the Tiber, surrounded with seats, and used for almost full-scale naval battles, which he watched even in heavy rain.

He also held Saecular Games, fixing their date by Augustus' old reckoning, and ignoring Claudius's more recent celebration of them; and for the Circus racing, which formed part of the festivities, reduced the number of laps from seven to five, so that 100 races could be run off in the day. In honour of Capitoline Jupiter he founded a threefold festival of music, horsemanship, and gymnastics, to be held every five years, and awarded far more prizes than is customary nowadays. The festival included Latin and Greek public-speaking contests, competitions for choral singing to the lyre and for lyreplaying alone, besides the usual solo singing to lyre accompaniment; he even instituted foot races for girls in the Stadium. When presiding at these functions he wore buskins, a purple robe in the Greek fashion, and a gold crown engraved with the images of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva; and at his side sat the Priest of Capitoline Jupiter and the Priest of the Deified Flavians, wearing the same costume as he did, except that there crowns were decorated with his likeness as well. Domitian also celebrated the annual five-day festival of Minerva at his Alban villa, and founded in her honour a college of priests, whose task it was to supply officers, chosen by lot, for producing lavish wild-beast hunts and stage-plays, and sponsoring competitions in rhetoric and poetry.

On three occasions Domitian distributed a popular bounty of three gold pieces a head; and once, to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Hills, gave a splendid banquet, at which large hampers of food were distributed to senators and knights, and smaller ones to the populace; taking the inaugural bite himself. The day after, he scattered all kinds of gifts to be scrambled for, but srnce most of these fell in the seats occupied by the public, had 500 tokens thrown into those reserved for senators, and another 500 into those reserved for knights.

5. He restored a great many important buildings that were now gutted ruins, including the Capitol, which had now been burned down again(2) but allowed no names to be inscribed on them, except his own - not even the original builder's. He also raised a temple to Jupiter the Guardian on the Capitoline Hill, the Forum of Nerva (as it is now called), the Flavian Temple, a stadium, a concert hall, and the artificial lake for sea-battles! - its stones later served to rebuild the two sides of the Great Circus which had been damaged by fire.

6. Some of Domitian's campaigns were unprovoked, others necessary. The war against dhe Chatti was uncalled for; but not so that against the Sarmatians, who had massacred a legion and killed its commander.(2) And when the Dacians defeated first the ex-Consul Oppius Sabinus, and then the Commander of the Guards Cornelius Fuscus,3 Domitian led two punitive expeditions in person. After several indecisive engagements he celebrated a double triumph over the Chatti and Dacians; but did not insist on recognition for his Sarmatian campaign, contenting himself widh dhe offer of a laurel crown to CapitolineJupiter.

Only an amazing stroke of luck checked the rebellion of Lucius Antonius, commander in Upper Germany, during Domitian's absence; the Rhine thawed in the very hour of battle, preventing Antonius' barbarian allies from crossing the ice to join him, and dhe troops who remained loyal were able to disarm the rebels. Even before news of this success arrived, Domitian had wind of it from portents: on the very day of battle, a huge eagle embraced his statue at Rome with its wings, screeching triumphantly; and a little later, rumours of Antonius' death came so thick and fast that a number of people claimed to have seen his head being carried into Rome.

7. Domitian made a number of social innovations: cancelled the public grain issue, restored the custom of holding formal dinnlers, added two new teams of chariot drivers, the Golds and the Purples, to the existing four in the Circus and forbade actors to appear on the public stage, though still allowing them to perform in private. Castration was now stricdy prohibited, and the price of eunuchs remaining in slave-dealers' hands officially controlled. One year, when a bumper vintage followed a poor grain harvest, Domitian concluded that the cornlands were being neglected in favour of the vineyards. He dherefore issued an edict chat forbade dhe further planting of vines in Italy, and ordered the acreage in the provinces to be reduced by at least half, if it could not be got rid of altogether; yet took no steps to implement this edict. He divided some of dhe more important Court appointments between freedmen and knights. Another of his edicts forbade any two legions to share a camp, or any individual soldier to deposit at headquarters a sum in excess of ten gold pieces; because the large amount of soldiers' savings laid up in the joint winter headquarters of the two legions on the Rhine had provided Lucius Antonius with the necessary funds for launching his rebellion. Domitian also raised the legionaries' pay by one quarter, from nine to twelve gold pieces a year.

8. He was most conscientious in dispensing justice, and convened many extraordinary legal sessions on the tribunal in the Forum; annulling every decision of the Centumviral Court which seemed to him unduly influenced, and continually warning the Board of Arbitration not to grant any fraudulent claims for freedom. It was his ruling that if a juryman were proved to have taken bribes, all his colleagues must be penalized as well as himself. He personally urged the tribunes of the people to charge a corrupt aedile with extortion, and to petition the Senate for a special jury in the case; and kept such a tight hold on the city magistrates and provincial governors that the general standard of honesty and justice rose to an unprecedented high level - you need only observe how many such personages have been charged with every kind of corruption since his time!

As part of his campaign for improving public morals, Domitian made sure that the appropriation by the general public of seats reserved for knights was no longer condoned; and came down heavily on authors who published lampoons on distinguished men and women. He expelled one ex-quaestor from the Senate for being over-fond of acting and dancing; forbade women of notoriously bad character the right to use litters or to benefit from inheritances and legacies; struck a knight from the jury-roll because he had divorced his wife on a charge of adultery and then taken her back again; and sentenced many members of both Orders under the Scantinian Law. Taking a far more serious view than his father and brother had done of chastity among the Vestals, he began by sentencing offenders to execution, and afterwards resorted to the traditional form of punishment. Thus, though he allowed the Oculata sisters, and Varronilla, to choose how they should die, and sent their lovers into exile, he later ordered Cornelia, a Chief-Vestal - acquitted at her first trial, but re-arrested much later and convicted - to be buried alive, and had her lovers clubbed to death in the Comitium. The only exception against unnatural practices he made was in the case of an ex-praetor, who was permitted to go into banishment, for confessing his guilt after the interrogation of witnesses under torture had failed to establish the truth of the crime with which he was charged. As a lesson that the sanctity of the gods must be protected against thoughtless abuse, Domitian made his soldiers tear down a tomb built for the son of one of his own freedmen from stones intended for the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, and fling its contents of bones and ashes into the sea.

9. While still young, Domitian hated the idea of bloodshed; and once, in his father's absence, remembered Virgil's line:

Before an impious people took to eating slaughtered beeves . . .

and drafted an edict forbidding the sacrifice of oxen. No one thought of him as in the least greedy or mean either before, or for some years after, his accession - in fact, he gave conspicuous signs of self-restraint and even of generosity, treating all his friends with great consideration and always insisting that, above all, they should do nothing mean, refused to accept bequests from married men with children, and cancelled a clause in Rustius Caepio's will which required the heir to find an annual sum of money for distribution among newly appointed senators.

Moreover, if suits against debtors to the Public Treasury had been pending for more than five years, he quashed them and permitted a renewal of proceedings only within the same twelvemonth, and ruled that if the prosecutor should then lose his case, he must go into exile. Although the Clodian Law restricted the private business activities of quaestors' scribes, Domitian now pardoned such of them as had broken it; and allowed former owners, as if by right of possession, the stretches of land which had been left unoccupied in one place or another after the assignment of plots to veterans. He checked and severely penalized informers who had brought false accusations for the benefit of the imperial treasury. A saying attributed tO him runs: 'An Emperor who does not punish informers encourages them.

10. His leniency and self-restraint were not, however, destined to continue long, and the cruel streak in him became apparent - rather before his avaricious traits. He executed one beardless boy, in distinctly poor health, merely because he happened to be a pupil of the actor Paris,' and closely resembled him in his style of acting and appearance. Then Hermogenes of Tarsus died because of some allusions that he had introduced into a historical work; and the slaves who acted as his copyists were crucified. A chance remark by one citizen, to the effect that a Thracian gladiator might be 'a match for his Gallic opponent, but not for the patron of the Games', was enough to have him dragged from his seat and - with a placard tied around his neck reading: 'A Thracian supporter, who spoke disloyally' - torn to pieces by dogs in the arena.

Domitian put many senators to death, among them a group of ex-Consuls, three of whom, Civica Cerealis, Acilius Glabrio, and Salvidienus Orfitus, he accused of conspiracy; Cerealis was executed while governing Asia; Glabrio while already in exile. Others were executed on the most trivial charges. Aelius Lamia lost his life as a result of some suspicious but old and harmless witticisms at Domitian's expense: he had been robbed of his wife by Domitian, and when someone later praised his voice remarked drily: 'I have given up sex and gone into training!'; and then, encouraged by Titus to marry again, asked: 'What? You are not wanting a wife, too, are you?' Salvius Cocceianus died because he continued to celebrate the birthday of the Emperor Otho, his paternal uncle; and Mettius Pompusianus, because his birth was said to have been attended by imperial portents, and because he always carried with him a parchment map of the world and a collection of speeches by kings and generals extracted from Livy - and because he had named two of his slaves 'Mayo' and 'Hannibal'! Sallustius Lucullus, Governor of Britain, had equally offended Domitian by allowing a new type of lance to be called 'the Lucullan'; so had Junius Rusticus, by publishing eulogies of Thrasea Paetus and Helvidius Priscus in which he described them as saintly characters - an incident which led Domitian to banish all philosophers from Italy; and Helvidius the Younger by his farce about Paris and Oenone, which seemed a reflection on Domitian's divorce; and Domitian's own cousin, Flavius Sabinus, by being mistakenly announced by the election day herald as Imperator, instead of Consul.

After his victory in the civil war, Domitian grew even more crueL He hit on a novel form of investigation, scorching his prisoners' genitals to make them divulge the whereabouts of other rebels still in hiding, and cut off the hands of many more. It is a fact that only two leaders of the revolt - a colonel of senatorial rank and a centurion - earned his pardon; which they did by the simple expedient of proving themselves to have been so disgustingly immoral that they could have exerted no influence at all over either their commander or the troops.

II. Domitian was not merely cruel, but cunning and sudden into the bargarn. He summoned a Palace steward to his bedroom, invited him to join him on his couch, made him feel perfectly secure and happy, condescended to share a dinner with him - yet had him crucified on the following day! He was as gracious, or more than usually gracious, to the ex-Consul Arrecinus Clemens, a friend and agent, just before his deathsentence, and invited him out for a drive. As they happened to pass the man who had informed on Arrecinus, Domitian asked: 'Shall we listen to that rascally slave tomorrow?' And the abuse he inflicted on his subjects' patience was all the more offensive because he prefaced all his most savage sentences with the same speech about mercy; indeed, this lenient preamble soon became a recognized sign that something dreadful was on the way. Having brought a group of men before the Senate on a treason charge, he announced that this must be a test of his popularity with the House; and thus easily got them condemned to 'old-style execution'.(2) However, he then seems to have become appalled by the cruelty involved, because he vetoed the sentence, in order to make himself less unpopular. His exact words are interesting: 'Gentlemen of the Senate, I know that you will not readily grant me what I ask, but let me beg one favour of you, because of your love for me: pray allow these men to choose the manner oftheir deaths! That will be easier on your eyes; and the world will know that I took part in the meeting of the House.'

I2. The new building programme, added to his entertainments and the rise in Army pay, exhausted Domitian's resources; so he decided to reduce expenditure by cutting down the military establishment. But, then realizing that this would expose his frontiers to barbarian attack, without appreciably easing the financial situation, he resorted unhesitatingly to every form of extortion. Any charge, brought by any accuser - to have spoken or acted in prejudice of the Emperor's welfare was enough - might result in the confiscation of a man's property, even if he were already dead. A single claim that someone had been heard, before his death, to name the Emperor as his heir, even though he were m no way connected with him, was sufficient pretext for taking over the estate. Domitian's agents collected the tax on Jews' with a peculiar lack of mercy; and took proceedings not only against those who kept their Jewish origins a secret in order to avoid the tax, but against those who lived es dews without professing Judaism.(2) As a boy, I remember once attending a crowded Court where the imperial agent had a ninety-year-old man inspected to establish whether or not he had been circumcised.

From his earliest years Domitian was far from affable, indeed consistently discourteous and presumptuous in word and deed. When Caenis, his father's mistress, returned from Istria and, as usual, offered him her cheek to kiss, he held out his hand instead. He objected when his nephew-by-marriage dressed his servants in white - Domitian's own servants wore white livery - and quoted at him Homer's line:

Too many rulers are a dangerous thing.

I3. On his accession Domitian did not scruple to boast to the Senate of having himself conferred the imperial power on Vespasian and Titus - they had now merely returned it to him! He also spoke of his action in taking Domitia back, after the divorce, as 'a recall to my divine bed'; and on the day of his public banquet delighted to hear the audience in the Colosseum shout: 'Long live our Lord and Lady!' At the competition of Capitoline Jupiter, when unanimously implored by the audience to pardon Palfurius Sura, whom he had expelled from the Senate some time previously but who had nevertheless won the prize for public speaking, Domitian would not reply and sent a public crier to silence them. Just as arrogantly he began a letter, which his agents were to circulate, with the words: 'Our Lord and God instructs you to do this!' and 'Lord and God' became his regular title both in writing and conversation. Images dedicated to Domitian in the Capitol had to be of either gold or silver, and of a certain weight; and he raised so many and such enormous arcades and arches, decorated with chariots and triumphal insignia, in various city districts, that someone scribbled 'arci', meaning 'arches' on one of them - but used Greek characters, and so spelled out the Greek word for 'Enough!' He held seventeen consulships, which was a record. Only the seven middle ones formed a series, but all were virtually nominal: he relinquished most of them after a few days, and every one of them before I May. Having adopted the surname 'Germanicus' after his two triumphs, he renamed September and October, the months of his accession and birth, respectively, 'Germanicus' and 'Domitianus'.

I4. All this made him everywhere hated and feared. Finally, his friends and favourite freedmen conspired to murder him, with the connivance of his wife. Astrological predictions had long since warned him im what year and day he would die; they even specified the hour and manner. Vespasian once teased him openly at dinner for refusing a dish of mushrooms, saying that it would be more in keeping with his destmy to be afraid of swords. As a result, Domitian was such a prey to fear and anxiety that the least sign of danger unnerved him. The real reason for his reprieving the vineyards, which he had ordered to be rooted up, is said to have been the publication of this stanza:

You may tear up my roots, goat,
But what good will that do?
I shall still have some wine left
For sacrificing you.

Though he loved honours of all kinds, this same anxiety made him veto a Senatorial decree that, whenever he held the consulship, a group of knights should be picked by lot to walk, dressed in purple striped robes and armed with lances, among the lictors and attendants who preceded him.

As the critical day drew near his nervousness increased. The gallery where he took his daily exercise was now lined with plaques of highly-polished moonstone, which reflected everything that happened behind his back; and no imperial audiences were granted to prisoners unless Domitian were alone with them, and actually had tight hold of their fetters. To remind his staff that even the best of intentions could never justify a freedman's complicity in a master's murder, he executed his secretary' Epaphroditus, who had reputedly helped Nero to commit suicide after everyone else had deserted him.

I5. Finally he executed, suddenly and on some trivial pretext, his own cousin, Flavius Clemens, just before the completion of a consulship; though Clemens was a man of despicable idleness, and Domitian had previously named Flavius' two small sons as his heirs and changed their names to Vespasian and Domitian.

So much lightning had fallen during the past eight months that Domitian cried out: 'Now let him strike whomever he pleases!' The Temple of CapitolineJupiter, the Temple of the Flavians, the Palace, even Domitian's own bedroom were all struck; and a hurricane wrenched the inscription plate from the base of a triumphal statue of his and hurled it into a near-by tomb. The tree which had been blown down but had then taken root again, while Vespasian was still a private citizen, now collapsed a second time. Throughout his reign Domitian had made a practice of commending each new year to the care of the Goddess Fortune at Praeneste, and every year she had granted him the same favourable omen; but this year the omen was a dreadful one, portending bloodshed. Domitian also dreamed that Minerva, whom he worshipped with superstitious reverence, emerged from her shrine to tell him that she had been disarmed by Jupiter and could no longer protect him. What disturbed him most, however, was a prediction by the astrologer Ascletario, and its sequel. This man, when charged, made no secret of having revealed the future, which he had foreseen by his magical arts. Domitian at once asked whether he could prophesy the manner of his own end, and upon Ascletario's replying that he would very soon be torn to pieces by dogs, had him executed on the spot, and gave orders for his funeral rites to be conducted with the greatest care, as a further proof that astrology was a fake. But while the funeral was in progress a sudden gale scattered the pyre and dogs mangled the half-burned corpse. Latinus, the comic actor,(I) who happened to witness tbis incident as he passed by, mentioned it at dinner when he brought Domitian the day's gossip.

I6. On the day before Domitian's assassination someone brought him a present of apples. 'Serve them tomorrow,' he told the servants, adding: '- if only I am spared to eat them.' Then, turning to his companions he remarked: 'There will be blood on the Moon as she enters Aquarius, and a deed will be done for everyone to talk about throughout the entire world.' With the approach of midnight Domitian became so terrified that he jumped out of bed; and at dawn condemned to death a soothsayer from Germany who was charged with having said that the lightning portended a change of govermnent. Domitian then scratched a festering wart on his forehead and made it bleed, muttering: 'I hope this is all the blood required.' Presently he asked for the time. As had been prearranged, his freedmen answered untruthfully: 'The sixth hour,' because they knew it was the fifth he feared. Convinced that the danger had passed, Domitian went oflf quickly and happily to take a bath; whereupon his head valet, Parthenius, changed his intention by delivering the news that a man had called on very urgent and important business, and would not be put off. So Domitian dismissed his attendants and hurried to his bedroom - where he was killed.

I7. Virtually all that has come to light about either the plot or the assassination is that his niece Domitilla's steward, Stephanus, had been accused of embezzlement, and that while the conspirators were debating when and how it would be better to murder Domitian, in his bath or at dinner, Stephanus offered them his advice and his services. Then, to divert suspicion, he feigned an arm injury and went around for several days with his arm wrapped in woollen bandages - in which a dagger was concealed. Finally he pretended that he had discovered a plot, and was for that reason granted an audience: whereupon as the amazed Domitian perused a document he had handed him, Stephanus stabbed him in the groin. The wounded Domitian put up a fight but succumbed to seven further stabs, his assailants being a subaltern named Clodianus, Parthenius' freedman Maximus, Satur a head-chamberlain, and one of the imperial gladiators. The boy who was, as usual, attending to the Household-gods in the bedroom, witnessed the murder and later provided these additional details. On receiving the first blow, Domitian bade the boy hand him the dagger which was kept under his pillow and then call the servants; the dagger, however, proved to have no blade, and all the doors were locked. Meanwhile Domitian grappled with Stephanus and bore him to the groumd, where they struggled for a long time, while Domitian attempted to seize the dagger and to claw out his assailant's eyes with his lacerated fingers.

He died at the age of forty-four, on I8 September, A.D. 96, in the fifteenth year of his reign. The body was carried away on a common litter by the public undertakers, as though he were a pauper; and cremated by his old nurse Phyllis in her garden outside the city on the Latin Way. She secretly took the ashes to the Temple of the Flavians and mixed them with those of his niece Julia, who had also been one of her charges.

I8. Domitian had a ruddy complexion; large, rather weak eyes; and a modest expression. He was tall and well-made, except for his feet which had hammer-toes. Later, he lost his hair and developed a paunch; and, as a result of protracted illness, his legs grew spindling. He took as a personal insult any reference, joking or otherwise, to bald men, being extremely sensitive about his own baldness; yet in his manual Care of the Hair, which he published with a dedication to a friend, he wrote by way of mutual consolation:

Cannot you see that I, too, have a tall and beautiful person?

and added to this Homeric quotation the following prose comment:

'Yet my hair will go the same way, and I am resigned to having an old man's head before my time. How pleasant it is to have good looks, yet how quickly that stage passes!'

I9. Domitian hated to exert himself While in Rome he hardly ever went for a walk, and during campaigns and travels seldom rode a horse, but almost always used a litter. Weapons did not interest him, though he was an exceptionally keen archer. Many people have seen him shooting animals of various kinds on his Alban estate, and sometimes deliberately bringing down a quarry with two successive arrows so dexterously placed in the head as to resemble horns. Occasionally he would tell a slave to post himself at a distance amd hold out his right hand, with the fingers spread; then shot arrows between his fingers with such accuracy that he was not harmed.

20. Although, at the beginning of his reign, he went to a great deal of trouble and expense in restocking the burned-out libraries, hunting everywhere for lost volumes, and sending scribes to Alexandria to transcribe and emend them, this did not mean that he was a student himself. No longer bothering with either history or poetry, or taking pains to acquire even the rudiments of a style, he now read nothing but Tiberius' note-books and official memoirs, and let secretaries polish his own correspondence, speeches, and edicts. Still, Domitian had a lively turn of phrase, and some of his remarks are well worth recording. Once he said: 'Ah, to be as good-looking as Maecius thinks he is!' and on another occasion compared a friend's red hair, which was turning white, to 'mead spilt on snow'.

2I. He also claimed that the lot of all Emperors is necessarily wretched, since only their assassination can convince the public that the conspiracies against their lives are real. His chief relaxation, at all hours, even on working days and in the mornings, was to throw dice. He used to bathe before noon, and then eat such an enormous lunch that a Matian apple and a small pitcher of wine generally contented him at dinner. His many large banquets were never prolonged past sunset, or allowed to develop into drinking bouts; and he spent the rest of the day, until it was time to retire, strolling by himself in seclusion.

22. Domitian was extremely lustful, and called his constant sexual activities 'bed-wrestling', as though it were a sport. Some say that he preferred to depilate his concubines himself, and would go swimming with the commonest of prostitutes. He had been offered the hand of his brother's daughter(2) while she was still a young girl, but persistently refused to marry her on account of his infatuation for Domitia. Later, however, when his niece took another husband, he seduced her, though Titus was still alive; and after both her father and husband were dead, demonstrated his love for her so openly and ardently that she became pregnant by him and died as the result of an abortion which he forced on her.

23. Though the general public greeted the news of Domitian's fate with indifference, it deeply grieved the troops, who at once began to speak of Domitian the God - they would have avenged him had anyone given them a lead, and indeed achieved this later on when they insisted that his assassins should be brought to justice. The senators on the other hand, were delighted, and thronged to denounce the dead Domitian in the House with bitter and insulting cries. Then, sending for ladders, they had his votive shields and statues hurled down before their eyes and dashed to the ground; and ended by decreeing that all inscriptions referring to him must be effaced, and

all records of his reign obliterated. A few moments before the murder a raven perched on the Capitol and croaked out the words: 'All will be well!'- a portent which some wag explained in the following verse:

There was a raven, strange to tell,
Perched upon Jove's own gable, whence
He tried to tell us 'All is well!'
But had to use the future tense.

Domitian himself is said to have dreamed that a golden hump sprouted from his back, interpreting this as a sure sign that the Empire would be richer and happier when he had gone; and soon the wisdom and restraint of his successors proved him right.