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The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

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    The soldiers not only killed an emperor, but they made another one. There was at that time, living in the palace, an uncle to Caligula, named Claudius, now fifty years old. Though he seems to have had as much sense as any of them, he was slighted and counted as a fool by those around him. Even his mother, when she would remark upon any one’s dullness, would use the comparison, “He is a greater fool than my son Claudius.” About the palace he was made the butt of the jests and practical jokes of the courtiers and even of the buffoons. At supper he would cram himself full of victuals, and drink till he was drunk; and then go to sleep at the table. At this, the company would pelt him with olive stones or scraps of victuals; and the buffoons would prod him with a cane, or snip him with a whip to wake him. And when he had gone to sleep, while he lay snoring, they would put slippers on his hands, that when he should wake and attempt to rub his eyes open, he would rub his face with the slippers.TTR 97.3

    The night that Caligula was killed, Claudius, fearing for his own life, crept into a balcony, and hid himself behind the curtains of the door. The soldiers, rushing through the palace, happened to see his feet sticking out, and one of them grabbed him by the heels and demanding to know who owned them, dragged forth Claudius; and when he discovered who he was, exclaimed, “Why, this is Germanicus; let’s make him emperor!” The other soldiers in the band immediately adopted the idea, saluted him as emperor, set him on a litter, and carried him on their shoulders to the camp of the praetorian guards. The next day while the Senate deliberated, the people cried out that they would have one master, and that he should be Claudius. The soldiers assembled under arms, and took the oath of allegiance to him; upon which he promised them about seven hundred dollars apiece.TTR 98.1

    By the mildness and correctness of his administration, he soon secured the favor and affection of the whole people. Having once gone a short distance out of the city, a report was spread that he had been waylaid and killed. “The people never ceased cursing the soldiers for traitors, and the Senate as parricides, until one or two persons, and presently after several others, were brought by the magistrates upon the rostra, who assured them that he was alive, and not far from the city, on his way home.”—Suetonius. 23[Page 99] “Lives of the Caesars,” Claudius, chap. 12.TTR 98.2

    As he sat to judge causes, the lawyers would openly reprove him and make fun of him. One of these one day, making excuses why a witness did not appear, stated that it was impossible for him to appear, but did not tell why. Claudius insisted upon knowing, and after several questions had been evaded, the statement was brought forth that the man was dead, upon which Claudius replied, “I think that is a sufficient excuse.” When he would start away from the tribunal, they would call him back. If he insisted upon going, they would seize hold of his dress or take him by the heels, and make him stay until they were ready for him to go. A Greek once having a case before him, got into a dispute with him, and called out loud, “You are an old fool;” and a Roman knight once being prosecuted upon a false charge, being provoked at the character of the witnesses brought against him, upbraided Claudius with folly and cruelty, and threw some books and a writing pencil in his face. He pleased the populace with distributions of grain and money, and displays of magnificent games and spectacles.TTR 99.1

    This is the Claudius mentioned in Acts 18:2, who commanded all Jews to depart from Rome. This he did, says Suetonius, because they “were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus.” These disturbances arose from contentions of the Jews against the Christians about Christ. As the Christians were not yet distinguished from the Jews, the decree of banishment likewise made no distinction, and when he commanded all Jews to depart from Rome, Christians were among them. One of his principal favorites was that Felix, governor of Judea, mentioned in Acts 23:24, before whom Paul pleaded, and who trembled as the apostle “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.”TTR 99.2

    Claudius was not as bad as either Tiberius or Caligula, but what he himself lacked in this respect was amply made up by his wives. “In his marriage, as in all else, Claudius had been pre-eminent in misfortune. He lived in an age of which the most frightful sign of depravity was that its women were, if possible, a shade worse than its men, and it was the misery of Claudius, as it finally proved his ruin, to have been united by marriage to the very worst among them all. Princesses like the Bernice, and the Drusilla, and the Salome, and the Herodias of the sacred historians, were in this age a familiar spectacle; but none of them were so wicked as two at least of Claudius’s wives. He was betrothed or married no less than five times. The lady first destined for his bride had been repudiated because her parents had offended Augustus; the next died on the very day intended for her nuptials. By his first actual wife, Urgulania, whom he had married in early youth, he had two children, Drusus and Claudia; Drusus was accidentally choked in boyhood while trying to swallow a pear which had been thrown up into the air. Very shortly after the birth of Claudia, discovering the unfaithfulness of Urgulania, Claudius divorced her, and ordered the child to be stripped naked and exposed to die. His second wife, AElia Petina, seems to have been an unsuitable person, and her also he divorced. His third and fourth wives lived to earn a colossal infamy—Valeria Messalina for her shameless character, Agrippina the younger for her unscrupulous ambition.TTR 100.1

    “Messalina, when she married, could scarcely have been fifteen years old, yet she at once assumed a dominant position, and secured it by means of the most unblushing wickedness. But she did not reign so absolutely undisturbed as to be without her own jealousies and apprehensions; and these were mainly kindled by Julia and Agrippina, the two nieces of the emperor. They were, no less than herself, beautiful, brilliant, and evil-hearted women, quite ready to make their own coteries, and to dispute, as far as they dared, the supremacy of a bold but reckless rival. They, too, used their arts, their wealth, their rank, their political influence, their personal fascinations, to secure for themselves a band of adherents, ready, when the proper moment arrived, for any conspiracy....TTR 100.2

    “The life of this beautiful princess, short as it was,—for she died at a very early age,—was enough to make her name a proverb of everlasting infamy. For a time she appeared irresistible. Her personal fascination had won for her an unlimited sway over the facile mind of Claudius, and she had either won over by her intrigues, or terrified by her pitiless severity, the noblest of the Romans and the most powerful of the freedmen.”—Farrar. 24[Page 101] “Seekers after God,” chap. vi, par. 10-12; and chap. ix, par. 2.TTR 101.1

    She became “so vehemently enamoured of Caius Silius, the handsomest of the Roman youth, that she obliged him to divorce his wife, Julia Silana, a lady of high quality,” that she might have him to herself. “Nor was Silius blind to the danger and malignity of his crime; but, as it was certain destruction to decline her suit, and there were some hopes of beguiling Claudius, while great rewards were held out to him, he was content to take the chance of what might happen thereafter, and enjoy the present advantages. The empress proceeded not stealthily, but went to his house frequently, with a numerous train, accompanied him incessantly abroad, loaded him with presents and honors; and at last, as if the fortune of the empire had been transferred with the emperor’s wife, at the house of her adulterer were now seen the slaves, freedmen, and equipage of the prince.”—Tacitus. 25[Page 101] “Annals,” book xi, chap. xii.TTR 101.2

    Claudius made a journey to Ostia, and while he was gone, Messalina publicly celebrated her marriage with Silius, with royal ceremony. “I am aware that it will appear fabulous that any human beings should have exhibited such recklessness of consequences; and that, in a city where everything was known and talked of, any one, much more a consul elect, should have met the emperor’s wife, on a stated day, in the presence of persons called in, to seal the deeds, as for the purpose of procreation, and that she should have heard the words of the augurs, entered the house of the husband, sacrificed to the gods, sat down among the guests at the nuptial banquet, exchanged kisses and embraces, and in fine passed the night in unrestrained conjugal intercourse. But I would not dress up my narrative with fictions to give it an air of marvel, rather than relate what has been stated to me or written by my seniors.”—Tacitus. 26[Page 102] Id., chap. xxvii.TTR 101.3

    The report of all this was carried to Claudius, which so terrified him that but for his favorites, he would undoubtedly have surrendered the empire to Silius. Several of these, however, rallied him with the assurance that they would stand by him and help him through, and they persuaded him to start for Rome; but fearing that even then, if Messalina should meet him, she would persuade him to pardon her, they took him in the same carriage with themselves, and all the way as they went, one of them kept continually exclaiming, “O the villainy, O the treason!” As for Messalina, “she never wallowed in greater voluptuousness; it was then the middle of autumn, and in her house she exhibited a representation of the vintage: the winepresses were plied, the wine vats flowed, and round them danced women begirt with skins like Bacchanalians at their sacrifices, or under the maddening inspiration of their deity: she herself, with her hair loose and flowing, waved a thyrsus; by her side Silius, crowned with ivy, and wearing buskins, tossed his head about; while around them danced the wanton choir in obstreperous revelry. It is reported that Vectius Valens, having in a frolic climbed to an exceeding high tree, when asked what he saw, answered, ‘a terrible storm from Ostia.’”—Tacitus. 27[Page 102] Id., chap. xxxi.TTR 102.1

    That storm was coming swiftly, and when it came, Messalina was given the privilege of killing herself. She plied the dagger twice but failed, and then a tribune ran her through with his sword. Word was carried to Claudius while he was sitting at a feast, that Messalina was no more, to which he made neither reply nor inquiry, “but called for a cup of wine and proceeded in the usual ceremonies of the feast, nor did he, indeed, during the following days, manifest any symptom of disgust or joy, of resentment or sorrow, nor, in short, of any human affection; not when he beheld the accusers of his wife exulting at her death; not when he looked upon her mourning children.”—Tacitus. 28[Page 103] Id., chap. xxxviii.TTR 102.2

    Messalina was dead; but bad as she had been, a worse woman took her place. This was Agrippina, sister of Caligula, niece of Claudius, and the mother of Nero. “Whatever there was of possible affection in the tigress nature of Agrippina was now absorbed in the person of her child. For that child, from its cradle to her own death by his means, she toiled and sinned. The fury of her own ambition, inextricably linked with the uncontrollable fierceness of her love for this only son, henceforth directed every action of her life. Destiny had made her the sister of one emperor; intrigue elevated her into the wife of another: her own crimes made her the mother of a third. And at first sight her career might have seemed unusually successful; for while still in the prime of life she was wielding, first in the name of her husband, and then in that of her son, no mean share in the absolute government of the Roman world. But meanwhile that same unerring retribution, whose stealthy footsteps in the rear of the triumphant criminal we can track through page after page of history, was stealing nearer and nearer to her with uplifted hand. When she had reached the dizzy pinnacle of gratified love and pride to which she had waded through so many a deed of sin and blood, she was struck down into terrible ruin and violent, shameful death by the hand of that very son for whose sake she had so often violated the laws of virtue and integrity, and spurned so often the pure and tender obligation which even the heathen had been taught by the voice of God within their conscience to recognize and to adore.TTR 103.1

    “Intending that her son should marry Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, her first step was to drive to death Silanus, a young nobleman to whom Octavia had already been betrothed. Her next care was to get rid of all rivals possible or actual. Among the former were the beautiful Calpurnia and her own sister-in-law, Domitia Lepida. Among the latter was the wealthy Lollia Paulina, against whom she trumped up an accusation of sorcery and treason, upon which her wealth was confiscated, but her life spared by the emperor, who banished her from Italy. This half vengeance was not enough for the mother of Nero. Like the daughter of Herodias in sacred history, she dispatched a tribune with orders to bring her the head of her enemy; and when it was brought to her, and she found a difficulty in recognizing those withered and ghastly features of a once celebrated beauty, she is said with her own hand to have lifted one of the lips, and to have satisfied herself that this was indeed the head of Lollia.... Well may Adolf Stahr observe that Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth and husband-murdering Gertrude are mere children by the side of this awful giant-shape of steely feminine cruelty.”—Farrar. 29[Page 104] “Seekers after God,” chap. x, par. 5.TTR 104.1

    By the horrible crimes and fearful sinning of Agrippina, Nero became emperor of Rome, A. D. 57, at the age of seventeen. As in the account already given, there is enough to show what the Roman monarchy really was; and as that is the purpose of this chapter, it is not necessary any further to portray the frightful enormities of individual emperors. It is sufficient to say of Nero, that, in degrading vices, shameful licentiousness, and horrid cruelty, he transcended all who had been before him.TTR 104.2

    It is evident that for the production of such men as Antony and Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula, Claudius and Nero, with such women as their mothers and wives—to say nothing of Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Domitian, who quickly followed—in direct succession and in so short a time, there must of necessity have been a condition of society in general which corresponded to the nature of the product. Such was in fact the case.TTR 104.3

    “An evil day is approaching when it becomes recognized in a community that the only standard of social distinction is wealth. That day was soon followed in Rome by its unavoidable consequence, a government founded upon two domestic elements, corruption and terrorism. No language can describe the state of that capital after the civil wars. The accumulation of power and wealth gave rise to a universal depravity. Law ceased to be of any value. A suitor must deposit a bribe before a trial could be had. The social fabric was a festering mass of rottenness. The people had become a populace; the aristocracy was demoniac; the city was a hell. No crime that the annals of human wickedness can show was left unperpetrated;—remorseless murders; the betrayal of parents, husbands, wives, friends; poisoning reduced to a system; adultery degenerating into incests and crimes that cannot be written.TTR 105.1

    “Women of the higher class were so lascivious, depraved, and dangerous, that men could not be compelled to contract matrimony with them; marriage was displaced by concubinage; even virgins were guilty of inconceivable immodesties; great officers of state and ladies of the court, of promiscuous bathings and naked exhibitions. In the time of Caesar it had become necessary for the government to interfere and actually put a premium on marriage. He gave rewards to women who had many children; prohibited those who were under forty-five years of age, and who had no children, from wearing jewels and riding in litters, hoping by such social disabilities to correct the evil. It went on from bad to worse, so that Augustus, in view of the general avoidance of legal marriage and resort to concubinage with slaves, was compelled to impose penalties on the unmarried—to enact that they should not inherit by will except from relations. Not that the Roman women refrained from the gratification of their desires; their depravity impelled them to such wicked practices as cannot be named in a modern book. They actually reckoned the years, not by the consuls, but by the men they had lived with. To be childless and therefore without the natural restraint of a family, was looked upon as a singular felicity. Plutarch correctly touched the point when he said that the Romans married to be heirs and not to have heirs.TTR 105.2

    “Of offenses that do not rise to the dignity of atrocity, but which excite our loathing, such as gluttony and the most debauched luxury, the annals of the times furnish disgusting proofs. It was said, ‘They eat that they may vomit, and vomit that they may eat.’ At the taking of Perusium, three hundred of the most distinguished citizens were solemnly sacrificed at the altar of Divius Julius by Octavian. Are these the deeds of civilized men, or the riotings of cannibals drunk with blood?TTR 106.1

    “The higher classes on all sides exhibited a total extinction of moral principle; the lower were practical atheists. Who can peruse the annals of the emperors without being shocked at the manner in which men died, meeting their fate with the obtuse tranquility that characterizes beasts? A centurion with a private mandate appears, and forthwith the victim opens his veins, and dies in a warm bath. At the best, all that was done was to strike at the tyrant. Men despairingly acknowledged that the system itself was utterly past cure.TTR 106.2

    “That in these statements I do not exaggerate, hear what Tacitus says: ‘The holy ceremonies of religion were violated; adultery reigning without control; the adjacent islands filled with exiles; rocks and desert places stained with clandestine murders, and Rome itself a theater of horrors, where nobility of descent and splendor of fortune marked men out for destruction; where the vigor of mind that aimed at civil dignities, and the modesty that declined them, were offenses without distinction; where virtue was a crime that led to certain ruin; where the guilt of informers and the wages of their iniquity were alike detestable; where the sacerdotal order, the consular dignity, the government of provinces, and even the cabinet of the prince, were seized by that execrable race as their lawful prey; where nothing was sacred, nothing safe from the hand of rapacity; where slaves were suborned, or by their own malevolence excited against their masters; where freemen betrayed their patrons, and he who had lived without an enemy died by the treachery of a friend.’”—Draper. 30[Page 107] “Intellectual Development of Europe,” chap. viii, par. 22-24.TTR 106.3

    To complete this dreadful picture requires but the touch of Inspiration. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections. For even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death; not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” 31[Page 108] Romans 1:22-32.TTR 107.1

    When this scripture was read by the Christians in Rome, they knew from daily observation that it was but a faithful description of Roman society as it was. And Roman society as it was, was but the resultant of pagan civilization, and the logic, in its last analysis, of the pagan religion. Roman society as it was, was ULTIMATE PAGANISM.TTR 108.1

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