**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


by [?]

God knows, people had their troubles then as now. To take this man who loved his slippers and easy-chair, and who was happy with a roll of papyrus, and plunge him into a seething pot of politics, not to mention matrimony, was refined cruelty.

The matchmakers were busy, and soon Claudius was married to Messalina, the handsomest summer-girl in Rome.

For a short time he bore up bravely, and was filled with the wish to benefit and bless. One of his first acts was to recall Julia and Agrippina from exile, they having been sent away in a fit of jealous anger by their brother, the infamous Caligula.

Julia was beautiful and intellectual, and she had a high regard for Seneca.

Agrippina was beautiful and infamous, and pretended that she loved Claudius.

Both men were undone. Seneca’s friendship for Julia, as far as we know, was of a kind that did honor to both, but they made a too conspicuous pair of intellects. The fear and jealousy of Claudius was aroused by his young and beautiful wife, who showed him that Seneca, the courtly, was plotting for the throne, and in this ambition Julia was a party. A charge of undue intimacy with Julia, the beloved niece and ward of the Emperor, was brought against Seneca, and he was exiled to Corsica. Imagine Edmund Burke sent to Saint Helena, or John Hay to the Dry Tortugas, and you get the idea.

The sensitive nature of Seneca did not bear up under exile as we would have wished. Unlike Victor Hugo at Guernsey, he was alone, and surrounded by savages. Yet even Victor Hugo lifted up his voice in bitter complaint. Seneca failed to anticipate that, in spite of the barrenness of Corsica, it would some day produce a man who would jostle his Roman Caesar for first place on history’s page.

At Corsica, Seneca produced some of his loftiest and best literature. Exile and imprisonment are such favorable conditions for letters, having done so much for authorship, that the wonder is the expedient has fallen into practical disuse. Banishment gave Seneca an opportunity to put into execution some of the ideas he had so long expressed concerning the simple life, and certain it is that the experience was not without its benefits, and at times the grim humor of it all came to him.

Read the history of Greek ostracism, and one can almost imagine that it was devised by the man’s friends–a sort of heroic treatment prescribed by a great spiritual physician. Personality repels as well as attracts: the people grow tired of hearing Aristides called the Just–he is exiled. For a few days there is a glad relief; then his friends begin to chant his praises–he is missed. People tell of all the noble, generous things he would do if he were only here.

If he were only here!

Petitions are circulated for his return.

The law’s delay ensues, and this but increases desire. Hate for the man has turned to pity, and pity turns to love, as starch turns to gluten.

The man comes back, and is greeted with boughs and bays, with love and laurel. His homecoming is that of a conquering hero. If the Supreme Court were to issue an injunction requiring all husbands to separate themselves by at least a hundred miles from their wives, for several months in every year, it would cut down divorces ninety-five per cent, add greatly to domestic peace, render race-suicide impossible, and generally liberate millions of love vibrations that would otherwise lie dormant.

* * * * *

As an example of female depravity, Valeria Messalina was sister in crime to Jezebel, Bernice, Drusilla, Salome and Herodias.

Damned by a dower of beauty, with men at her feet whenever she so ordered, her ambition knew no limit. This type of dictatorial womanhood starts out by making conquests of individual men, but the conquests of pretty women are rarely genuine. Women hold no monopoly on duplicity, and there is a deep vein of hypocrisy in men that prompts their playing a part, and letting the woman use them. When the time is ripe, they toss her away as they do any other plaything, as Omar suggests the potter tosses the luckless pots to hell.