Cassius Dio
Roman History

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Epitome of Book LXVI

It was after the events just narrated that Vespasian fell sick, not, if the truth be known, of his accustomed gout, but of a fever, and passed away at Aquae Cutiliae in the Sabine country. Some, however, in the endeavour falsely to incriminate Titus,— among them the Emperor Hadrian,— spread the report that he was poisoned at a banquet. Portents had occurred indicating his approaching end, such as the comet which was visible for a long time and the opening of the mausoleum of Augustus of its own accord. When his physicians chided him for continuing his usual course of living during his illness and attending to all the duties that belonged to his office, he answered: "The emperor ought to die on his feet." To those who said anything to him about the comet he said: "This is an omen, not for me, but for the Parthian king; for he has long hair, whereas I am bald. When at last he was convinced that he was going to die, he said: "I am already becoming a god." He had lived sixty-nine years and eight months, and had reigned ten years lacking six days. From this it results that from the death of Nero to the beginning of Vespasian's rule a year and twenty-two days elapsed. I make this statement in order to prevent any misapprehension on the part of such as might estimate the time with reference to the men who held the sovereignty. For they did not succeed one another legitimately, but each of them, even while his rival was alive and still ruling, believed himself to be emperor from the moment that he even got a glimpse of the throne. Hence one must not add together all the days of their several reigns as if those periods had followed one another in orderly succession, but must reckon once for all with the exact time that actually elapsed, as I have stated it.

At his death Titus succeeded to the rule.

Titus after becoming ruler committed no act of murder or of amatory passion, but showed himself upright, though plotted against, and self-controlled, though Berenice came to Rome again. This may have been because he had really undergone a change; indeed, for men to wield power as assistants to another is a very different thing from exercising independent authority themselves. In the former case, they are heedless of the good name of the sovereignty and in their greed misuse the authority it gives them, thus doing many things that make their power the object of envy and slander; but actual monarchs, knowing that everything depends upon them, have an eye to good repute also. It was this realization, doubtless, that caused Titus to say to someone whose society he had previously affected: "It is not the same thing to request a favour of another as to decide a case yourself, nor the same to ask something of another as it is to give it to someone yourself." Again, his satisfactory record may also have been due to the fact that he survived his accession but a very short time (short, that is, for a ruler), for he was thus given no opportunity for wrongdoing. For he lived after this only two years, two months and twenty days — in addition to the thirty-nine years, five months and twenty-five days he had already lived at that time. In this respect, indeed, he is regarded as having equalled the long reign of Augustus, since it is maintained that Augustus would never have been loved had he lived a shorter time, nor Titus had he lived longer. For Augustus, though at the outset he showed himself rather harsh because of the wars and the factional strife, was later able, in the course of time, to achieve a brilliant reputation for his kindly deeds; Titus, on the other hand, ruled with mildness and died at the height of his glory, whereas, if he had lived a long time, it might have been shown that he owes his present fame more to good fortune than to merit.

Be that as it may, Titus during his reign put no senator to death, nor, indeed, was anyone else slain by him during his rule. Cases based on the charge of maiestas he would never entertain himself nor allow others to entertain; for he declared: "It is impossible for me to be insulted or abused in any way. For I do naught that deserves censure, and I car not for what is reported falsely. As for the emperors who are dead and gone, they will avenge themselves in case anyone does them a wrong, if in very truth they are demigods and possess any power." He also instituted various other measures designed to render men's lives more secure and free from trouble. Thus, he issued an edict confirming all gifts that had been bestowed upon any persons by the former emperors, thus saving them the trouble of petitioning him individually about the matter. He also banished the informers from the City.

In money matters he was frugal and made no unnecessary expenditures, yet he did not punish anyone for following a different course.

In his reign also the False Nero appeared, who was an Asiatic named Terentius Maximus. He resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre). He gained a few followers in Asia, and in his advance to the Euphrates attached a far greater number, and finally sought refuge with Artabanus, the Parthian leader, who, because of his anger against Titus, both received him and set about making preparations to restore him to Rome.

Meanwhile war had again broken out in Britain, and Gnaeus Julius Agricola overran the whole of the enemy's territory there. He was the first of the Romans whom we know to discover the fact that Britain is surrounded by water. It seems that some soldiers rebelled, and after slaying the centurions and a military tribune took refuge in boats, in which they put out to sea and sailed round the western portion of the country just as the wind and the waves chanced to carry them; and without realizing it, since they approached from the opposite direction, they put in at the camps on the first side again. Thereupon Agricola sent others to attempt the voyage around Britain, and learned from them, too, that it was an island.

As a result of these events in Britain Titus received the title of imperator for the fifteenth time. But Agricola for the rest of his life lived not only in disgrace but in actual want, because the deeds which he had wrought were too great for a mere general. Finally, he was murdered by Domitian for no other reason than this, in spite of his having received triumphal honours from Titus.

In Campania remarkable and frightful occurrences took place; for a great fire suddenly flared up at the very end of the summer. It happened on this wise. Mt. Vesuvius stands over against Neapolis near the sea and it has inexhaustible fountains of fire. Once it was equally high at all points and the fire rose from the centre of it; for here only have the fires broken out, whereas all the outer parts of the mountain remain even now untouched by fire. Consequently, as the outside is never burned, while the central part is constantly growing brittle and being reduced to ashes, the peaks surrounding the centre retain their original height to this day, but the whole section that is on fire, having been consumed, has in the course of time settled and therefore become concave; thus the entire mountain resembles a hunting theatre — if we may compare great things to small. Its outlying heights support both trees and vines in abundance, but the crater is given over to the fire and sends up smoke by day and a flame by night; in fact, it gives the impression that quantities of incense of all kinds are being burned in it. This, now, goes on all the time, sometimes to a greater, sometimes to a less extent; but often the mountain throws up ashes, whenever there is an extensive settling in the interior, and discharges stones whenever it is rent by a violent blast of air. It also rumbles and roars because its vents are not all grouped together but are narrow and concealed.

Such is Vesuvius, and these phenomena usually occur there every year. But all the other occurrences that had taken place there in the course of time, however notable, because unusual, they may have seemed to those who on each occasion observed them, nevertheless would be regarded as trivial in comparison with what now happened, even if all had been combined into one. This was what befell. Numbers of huge men quite surpassing any human stature — such creatures, in fact, as the Giants are pictured to have been — appeared, now on the mountain, now in the surrounding country, and again in the cities, wandering over the earth day and night and also flitting through the air. After this fearful droughts and sudden and violent earthquakes occurred, so that the whole plain round about seethed and the summits leaped into the air. There were frequent rumblings, some of them subterranean, that resembled thunder, and some on the surface, that sounded like bellowings; the sea also joined in the roar and the sky re-echoed it. Then suddenly a portentous crash was heard, as if the mountains were tumbling in ruins; and first huge stones were hurled aloft, rising as high as the very summits, then came a great quantity of fire and endless smoke, so that the whole atmosphere was obscured and the sun was entirely hidden, as if eclipsed. Thus day was turned into night and light into darkness. Some thought that the Giants were rising again in revolt (for at this time also many of their forms could be discerned in the smoke and, moreover, a sound as of trumpets was heard), while others believed that the whole universe was being resolved into chaos or fire. Therefore they fled, some from the houses into the streets, others from outside into the houses, now from the sea to the land and now from the land to the sea; for in their excitement they regarded any place where they were not as safer than where they were. While this was going on, an inconceivable quantity of ashes was blown out, which covered both sea and land and filled all the air. It wrought much injury of various kinds, as chance befell, to men and farms and cattle, and in particular it destroyed all fish and birds. Furthermore, it buried two entire cities, Herculaneum and Pompeii, the latter place while its populace was seated in the theatre. Indeed, the amount of dust, taken all together, was so great that some of it reached Africa and Syria and Egypt, and it also reached Rome, filling the air overhead and darkening the sun. There, too, no little fear was occasioned, that lasted for several days, since the people did not know and could not imagine what had happened, but, like those close at hand, believed that the whole world was being turned upside down, that the sun was disappearing into the earth and that the earth was being lifted to the sky. These ashes, ns, did the Romans no great harm at the time, though later they brought a terrible pestilence upon them.

However, a second conflagration, above ground, in the following year spread over very large sections of Rome while Titus was absent in Campania attending to the catastrophe that had befallen that region. It consumed the temple of Serapis, the temple of Isis, the Saepta, the temple of Neptune, the Baths of Agrippa, the Pantheon, the Diribitorium, the theatre of Balbus, the stage building of Pompey's theatre, the Octavian buildings together with their books, and the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus with their surrounding temples. Hence the disaster seemed to be not of human but of divine origin; for anyone can estimate, from the list of buildings that I have given, how many others must have been destroyed.

Titus accordingly sent two ex-consuls to the Campanians to supervise the restoration of the region, and bestowed upon the inhabitants not only general gifts of money, but also the property of such as had lost their lives and left no heirs. As for himself, he accepted nothing from any private citizen or city or king, although many kept offering and promising him large sums; but he restored all the damaged regions from funds already on hand.

Most that he did was not characterized by anything noteworthy, but in dedicating the hunting-theatre and the baths that bear his name he produced many remarkable spectacles. There was a battle between cranes and also between four elephants; animals both tame and wild were slain to the number of nine thousand; and women (not those of any prominence, however) took part in despatching them. As for the men, several fought in single combat and several groups contended together both in infantry and naval battles. For Titus suddenly filled this same theatre with water and brought in horses and bulls and some other domesticated animals that had been taught to behave in the liquid element just as on land. He also brought in people on ships, who engaged in a sea-fight there, impersonating the Corcyreans and Corinthians; and others gave a similar exhibition outside the city in the grove of Gaius and Lucius, a place which Augustus had once excavated for this very purpose. There, too, on the first day there was a gladiatorial exhibition and wild-beast hunt, the lake in front of the images having first been covered over with a platform of planks and wooden stands erected around it. On the second day there was a horse-race, and on the third day a naval battle between three thousand men, followed by an infantry battle. The "Athenians" conquered the "Syracusans" (these were the names the combatants used), made a landing on the islet and assaulted and captured a wall that had been constructed around the monument. These were the spectacles that were offered, and they continued for a hundred days; but Titus also furnished some things that were of practical use to the people. He would throw down into the theatre from aloft little wooden balls variously inscribed, one designating some article of food, another clothing, another a silver vessel or perhaps a gold one, or again horses, pack-animals, cattle or slaves. Those who seized them were to carry them to the dispensers of the bounty, from whom they would receive the article named.

After he had finished these exhibitions, and had wept so bitterly on the last day that all the people saw him, he performed no other deed of importance; but the next day, in the consulship of Flavius and Pollio, after the dedication of the buildings mentioned, he passed away at the same watering-place that had been the scene of his father's death. The common report is that he was put out of the way by his brother, for Domitian had previously plotted against him; but some writers state that he died a natural death. The tradition is that, while he was still breathing and possibly had a chance of recovery, Domitian, in order to hasten his end, placed him in a chest packed with a quantity of snow, pretending that the disease required, perhaps, that a chill be administered. At any rate, he rode off to Rome while Titus was still alive, entered the camp, and received the title and authority of emperor, after giving the soldiers all that his brother had given them. Titus, as he expired, said: "I have made but one mistake." What this was he did not make clear, and no one else recognized it with certainty. Some have conjectured one thing and some another. The prevailing view is that of those who say that he referred to his taking his brother's wife, Domitia. Others — and these I am inclined to follow — say that what he meant as his mistake was that he had not killed Domitian when he found him openly plotting against him, but had chosen rather to suffer that fate himself at his rival's hands, and had surrendered the empire of the Romans to a man like Domitian, whose character will be made clear in the continuation of my narrative. Titus had ruled two years, two months and twenty days, as has been already stated.

End of Etext  Cassius Dio Roman History  Epitome of Book LXVI
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