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It is not, however, only for vast quantities of plate that there is such a rage among mankind, but even more so, if possible, for the plate of peculiar artists: and this too, to the exculpation of our own age, has long been the case. C. Gracchus possessed some silver dolphins, for which he paid five thousand sesterces per pound. Lucius Crassus, the orator, paid for two goblets chased by the hand of the artist Mentor,1 one hundred thousand sesterces: but he confessed that for very shame he never dared use them, as also that he had other articles of plate in his possession, for which he had paid at the rate of six thousand sesterces per pound. It was the conquest of Asia2 that first introduced luxury into Italy; for we find that Lucius Scipio, in his triumphal procession, exhibited one thousand four hundred pounds' weight of chased silver, with golden vessels, the weight of which amounted to one thousand five hundred pounds. This3 took place in the year from the foundation of the City, 565. But that which inflicted a still more severe blow upon the Roman morals, was the legacy of Asia,4 which King Attalus5 left to the state at his decease, a legacy which was even more disadvantageous than the victory of Scipio,6 in its results. For, upon this occasion, all scruple was entirely removed, by the eagerness which existed at Rome, for making purchases at the auction of the king's effects. This took place in the year of the City, 622, the people having learned, during the fifty-seven years that had intervened, not only to admire, but to covet even, the opulence of foreign nations. The tastes of the Roman people had received, too, an immense impulse from the conquest of Achaia,7 which, during this interval, in the year of the City, 608, that nothing might be wanting, had introduced both statues and pictures. The same epoch, too, that saw the birth of luxury, witnessed the downfall of Carthage; so that, by a fatal coincidence, the Roman people, at the same moment, both acquired a taste for vice and obtained a license for gratifying it.

Some, too, of the ancients sought to recommend themselves by this love of excess; for Caius Marius, after his victory over the Cimbri, drank from a cantharus,8 it is said, in imitation of Father Liber;9 Marius, that ploughman10 of Arpinum, a general who had risen from the ranks.!11

1 His age and country are uncertain. We learn, however, from Chapter 55 of this Book, that he flourished before the burning of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, B.C. 356. He is frequently mentioned in the classical writers. See also B. vii. c. 39.

2 He includes, probably, under this name both Asia Minor and Syria. See a similar passage in Livy, B. xxxix.

3 This passage is rejected by Sillig as a needless interpolation.

4 Asia Minor.

5 King of Pergamus.

6 Over King Antiochus.

7 He alludes to the destruction of Corinth, by L. Mummius Achaïcus.

8 A drinking cup with handles, sacred to Bacchus. See B. xxxiv. c. 25.

9 Bacchus.

10 In allusion to the plebeian origin of C. Marius, who was born at the village of Cereatæ, near Arpinum. It is more than probable that the story that he had worked as a common peasant for wages, was an invention of the faction of Sylla.

11 "Ille arator Arpinas, et manipularis imperator."

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CAN´THARUS
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