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“ men of consular and prætorian rank, emulated which should “ be the most obsequious."*
He, the inscrutable, arrayed with power : A profound master of dissimulation, Tiberius had from Nature, or from the force of habit, the art of being dark and unintelligible. Even on occasions when duplicity was useless, he spoke in short and broken hints ; the sense suspended, mysterious, and indecisive. The fate of Sejanus, (continues Tacitus) filled him with emotions of joy too strong to be concealed; but, in all other matters, nothing could lay open the secret workings of that involved and gloomy spirit. He was never at any time more abstruse, dark, and unintelligible. He refused to see the Senate; he rejected the honours decreed to him; and even Regulus, who had so faithfully served him, was not admitted to his presence: hating the commerce of mankind, he retired, with a sullen spirit, to one of his Palaces, called “the Villa of Jupiter," and there continued, ruminating in solitude for months together.
* Ma lorsque le peuple n'eut plus rien à donner, et que le prince,au nom du Senat, disposa de tous les emplois, on les demanda, et on les obtint, par des voies indignes ; la flatterie, l'infamie, les crimes, furent des arts nécessaires pour y parvenir. MONTESQUIEU.
Behold the ruin of the man ! decay
In his decay of nature, he abated nothing from his usual gratifications ; dissembling to the last, he endured every encroachment on his constitution with composure. Patience, he thought, would pass for vigour: to ridicule physic, and to jest at those who, after thirty, knew not their constitutions, had long been the bent of his humour.
But his cruelties increased with his years. To see those “ whom he hated in his heart," continues Tacitus, "stretched “ on the torture of the mind, invoking death, yet forced to “ linger on in slow agonies, was the delight of that implaca“ble, that obdurate mind; he thus made his mercy, his “ severest vengeance."
Why the Roman tyrants were always more or less regretted by the lower mass of the people is made manifest by Montesquieu :-“ A cause de leur folie même; car ils “aimoient avec fureur ce que le peuple aimoit, et contri“ buoient de tout leur pouvoir et même de leur personne à “ ses plaisirs ; ils prodiguoient pour lui toutes les richesses “ de l'empire; et quand elles étoient épuisees, le peuple “ voyant sans peine dépouiller toutes les grandes familles, “ jouissoit purement, car il trouvoit sa sûreté dans sa “ bassesse.”
“ He was of a fair complexion,” says Suetonius, “and “ had his hair so long behind, that it covered his neck, which “ was observed to be a mark of distinction affected by his “ family. He had a handsome face, but often full of pim“ ples. His eyes, which were large, had the peculiar “ faculty of seeing best at night-time. He walked with his “ neck stiff and unmoved, commonly with a frowning coun
tenance, being, for the most part, silent: when he spoke “ to those about him, it was very slowly, and, generally, “ accompanied with an effeminate motion of his fingers.”
That Tiberius must have possessed a wonderful knowledge of character, and a perfect insight into human nature, to a degree which made him scarce short of a prophet, the following anecdotes, from Tacitus, will exemplify: his reproach to Macro, “ that he turned from the setting to the rising sun," he could not foresee that this creature—his tool-would suffocate him whilst dying. When Caligula spoke of Sylla with contempt—“ You will have the vices of that great man without one of his virtues.” While embracing the youngest of his grandsons, he observed the stern countenance of Caligula, and, in words which were prophetic, calmly told him— “ You will kill this boy, and fall yourself by another hand.” If Caligula was spared, Tiberius gave it as his reason—“ I “ suffer that son of Germanicus to live, that he may be, in “ time, a public calamity, and the fated author of his own “ destruction. In him I nourish a serpent for the people of “ Rome, and another Phaeton for the world at large.”
The mind upon its rack of pain : A passage in one of his letters (still quoting Tacitus) is too remarkable to be omitted :—“ What to write, conscript “ Fathers ! or what to refrain from writing, is a matter of “ such perplexity, that, if I know how to decide, may the “ just gods of vengeance doom me to die in pangs worse “ than those under which I linger every day.” The confes. sion seems almost to have broken out unawares. I add the fine observations of Tacitus:
“ We have here the features of the inward man: his “crimes retaliated on him with the keenest retribution. By “ blows and stripes the flesh is made to quiver, and, in like “manner, cruelty and inordinate passions, malice and evil “ deeds, become internal executioners, and, with unceasing “ torture, lacerate the heart. Neither the imperial dignity, “ nor the gloom of solitude, nor the rocks of Capreæ, could “shield Tiberius—from himself. He lived on the rack of “ guilt, and his wounded spirit groaned in agony."
· · · · There is a hell
The Mind is its own place, and in itself
I give, from Tacitus, the death of Tiberius, entire: for, surely, the page of History opens on no scene more awakening, or where the characters appear more to live on the eye, acting their various parts of servility, fear, hope, and dissimulation :
“ Tiberius now drew near his end: his strength declined, “ his spirits sank, and everything failed, except his dissimu“ lation. The same austerity still remained, the same rigour “ and energy of mind. He talked in a decisive tone ; he “ looked with eagerness; and, even, at times, affected an air “ of gaiety. Dissembling till the last, he hoped, by false ap“ pearances, to hide the decay of nature. Weary, restless, " and impatient, he could not stay long in one place. After “ various changes, he stopped at a villa, once the property of “ Lucullus, near the promontory of Misenum. It was here “ first known that his dissolution was approaching fast. “ The discovery was made in the following manner. A phy“ sician, named Charicles, highly eminent in his profession, “ attended the train of Tiberius, not employed to prescribe, “ but occasionally assisting with friendly advice. Pretend“ ing to have avocations that required elsewhere his atten“ dance, he approached the Emperor to take his leave, and “ respectfully laying hold of his hand, contrived, in the act “ of saluting it, to feel his pulse. The artifice did not escape