Page 0929

929

ROME-THE FIRST CAESARS.

He accordingly disseminated the report that it was they who had fired Rome.

Numbers of them were seized and imprisoned. Some he sent to the

amphitheater, where they were bound to pillars and given to the mercy of

tremendous, half-starved, Numidian lions. The devilish invention of the

Caesar next devised a plan for a more conspicuous destruction of the

Christians. He gave a great evening festival in his gardens; and to the end

that the ground might be brilliantly illuminated he ordered the Christians

to be wrapped in flax, dipped in pitch, fastened to poles, set up about the

promenades and summer houses, and lighted for torches! Then, while the

groaning and writhing human candelabra burned to the socket, the Emperor

and his friends caroused and feasted until the blackened feet of the

expiring torches dropped into darkness.

The ever multiplying excesses of Nero led to ever increasing demands, and

these in turn to ever widening confiscation. The estates of noblemen were

seized and themselves executed under every imaginable and unimaginable

pretext. A plot was finally made by the survivors to destroy the cause of

destruction. Calpurnius Piso headed a band of magnates who planned the

overthrow of the tyrant. The scheme contemplated the restoration of the

Republic, and the appointment of a dictator until public peace should be

restored. Doubtless the conspirators purposed to make Piso himself the

prince of the new order. But the plot was presently divulged, and the

plotters put to death. Lucan and Seneca were obliged to commit suicide. Nor

did the mass of the Romans any longer sympathize with these reactionary

movements on the part of the senators and grandees of the commonwealth. The

commons preferred even a profligate Emperor to a dictator of the type of

Sulla.

Meanwhile Nero became more and more disgusting. He left Rome and traveled

in Greece, exhibiting himself in the character of a royal mountebank. Ever

and anon the news reached the capital that he had been applauded by his

claqueurs for a victory achieved as a singer in some petty town of the

provinces.