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- The Emperor, Part 1, Volume 2. - 5/12 -
Titianus glanced at the two doors of the room in which the Empress was sitting, and began to express his regrets at their bad condition, which had escaped his notice; but Sabina interrupted him, saying:
"You men never do observe what hurts us women. Our Verus is the only man who can feel and understand--who can divine it, as I might say. There are five and thirty doors in my rooms! I had them counted-five and thirty! If they were not old and made of valuable wood I should really believe they had been made as a practical joke on me."
"Some of them might be supplemented with curtains."
"Oh! never mind--a few miseries, more or less in any life do not matter. Are the Alexandrians ready at last with their preparations?"
"I am sure I hope so," said the prefect with a sigh. They are bent on giving all that is their best; but in the endeavor to outvie each other every one is at war with his neighbor, and I still feel the effects of the odious wrangling which I have had to listen to for hours, and that I have been obliged to check again and again with threats of 'I shall be down upon you.'"
"Indeed," said the Empress with a pinched smile, as if she had heard some thing that pleased her.
"Tell me something about your meeting. I am bored to death, for Verus, Balbilla and the others have asked for leave of absence that they may go to inspect the work doing at Lochias; I am accustomed to find that people would rather be any where than with me. Can I wonder then that my presence is not enough to enable a friend of my husband's to forget a little annoyance--the impression left by some slight misunderstanding? But my fugitives are a long time away; there must be a great deal that is beautiful to be seen at Lochias."
The prefect suppressed his annoyance and did not express his anxiety lest the architect and his assistants should be disturbed, but began in the tone of the messenger in a tragedy:
"The first quarrel was fought over the order of the procession."
"Sit a little farther off," said Sabina pressing her jewelled right-hand on her ear, as if she were suffering a pain in it. The prefect colored slightly, but he obeyed the desire of Caesar's wife and went on with his story, pitching his voice in a somewhat lower key than before:
"Well, it was about the procession, that the first breach of the peace arose."
"I have heard that once already," replied the lady, yawning. "I like processions."
"But," said the prefect, a man in the beginning of the sixties--and he spoke with some irritation, "here as in Rome and every where else, where they are not controlled by the absolute will of a single individual, processions are the children of strife, and they bring forth strife, even when they are planned in honor of a festival of Peace."
"It seems to annoy you that they should be organized in honor of Hadrian?"
"You are in jest; it is precisely because I care particularly that they should be carried out with all possible splendor, that I am troubling myself about them in person, even as to details; and to my great satisfaction I have been able even to subdue the most obstinate; still it was scarcely my duty--"
"I fancied that you not only served the state but were my husband's friend."
"I am proud to call myself so."
"Aye--Hadrian has many, very many friends since he has worn the purple. Have you got over your ill temper Titianus? You must have become very touchy. Poor Julia has an irritable husband!"
"She is less to be pitied than you think," said Titianus with dignity, "for my official duties so entirely claim my time that she is not often likely to know what disturbs me. If I have forgotten to dissimulate my vexation before you, I beg you to pardon me, and to attribute it to my zeal in securing a worthy reception for Hadrian."
"As if I had scolded you! But to return to your wife--as I understand she shares the fate I endure. We poor women have nothing to expect from our husbands, but the stale leavings that remain after business has absorbed the rest! But your story--go on with your story."
"The worst moments I had at all were given me by the bad feeling of the Jews towards the other citizens."
"I hate all these infamous sects--Jews, Christians or whatever they are called! Do they dare to grudge their money for the reception of Caesar?"
"On the contrary Alabarchos, their wealthy chief, has offered to defray all the cost of the Naumachia and his co-religionist Artemion."
"Well, take their money, take their money."
"The Greek citizens feel that they are rich enough to pay all the expenses, which will amount to many millions of sesterces, and they wish to exclude the Jews, if possible, from all the processions and games."
"They are perfectly right."
"But allow me to ask you whether it is just to prohibit half the population of Alexandria doing honor to their Emperor!"
"Oh! Hadrian will, with pleasure, dispense with the honor. Our conquering heroes have thought it redounded to their glory to be called Africanus, Germanicus and Dacianus, but Titus refused to be called Judaicus when he had destroyed Jerusalem."
"That was because he dreaded the remembrance of the rivers of blood which had to be shed in order to break the fearfully obstinate resistance of that nation. The besieged had to be conquered limb by limb, and finger by finger, before they would make up their minds to yield."
"Again you are speaking half poetically, or have these people elected you as their advocate?"
"I know them and make every effort to secure them justice, just as much as any other citizen of this country which I govern in the name of the Empire and of Caesar. They pay taxes as well as the rest of the Alexandrians; nay more, for there are many wealthy men among them who are honorably prominent in trade, in professions, learning and art, and I therefore mete to them the same measure as to the other inhabitants of this city. Their superstition offends me no more than that of the Egyptians."
"But it really is above all measure. At Aelia Capitolina which Hadrian had decorated with several buildings, they refused to sacrifice to the statues of Zeus and Hera. That is to say they scorn to do homage to me and my husband!"
"They are forbidden to worship any other divinity than their own God. Aelia rose up on the very soil where their ruined Jerusalem had stood, and the statues of which you speak stand in their holy places."
"What has that to do with us?"
"You know that even Caius--[Caligula]--could not reduce them by placing his statue in the Holy of Holies of their temple; and Petronius, the governor, had to confess that to subdue them meant to exterminate them."
"Then let them meet with the fate they deserve, let them be exterminated!" cried Sabina.
"Exterminated?" asked the prefect. "In Alexandria they constitute nearly half of the citizens, that is to say several hundred thousand of obedient subjects, exterminated!"
"So many?" asked the Empress in alarm." But that is frightful. Omnipotent Jove! supposing that mass were to revolt against us! No one ever told me of this danger. In Cyrenaica, and at Salamis in Cyprus, they killed their fellow-citizens by thousands."
"They had been provoked to extremities and they were superior to their oppressors in force."
"And in their own land one revolt after another is organized."
"By reason of the sacrifices of which we were speaking."
"Tinnius Rufus is at present the legate in Palestine. He has a horribly shrill voice--but he looks like a man who will stand no trifling, and will know how to quell the venomous brood."
"Possibly" replied Titianus. "But I fear that he will never attain his end by mere severity; and if he should he will have depopulated his province."
"There are already too many men in the empire."
"But never enough good and useful citizens."
"Outrageous contemners of the gods and useless citizens!"
"Here in Alexandria, where many have accommodated themselves to Greek habits of life and thought, and where all have adopted the Greek tongue, they are undoubtedly good citizens, and wholly devoted to Caesar."
"Do they take part in the rejoicings?"
"Yes, as far as the Greek citizens will allow them."
"And the arrangement of the water-fight?"
"That will not be given over to them, but Artemion will be permitted to supply the wild beasts for the games in the Amphitheatre."
"And he was not avaricious about it?"
"So far from it that you will be astonished. The man must know the secret of Midas, of turning stones into gold."
"And are there many like him among your Jews?"
"A good number."
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