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Among the things that are looked upon as more especially singular, though of frequent occurrence, is sudden death, a thing that, in fact, is the greatest happiness of life, and, as we will shew, only a natural occurrence. Verrius has given many instances of it; we will limit ourselves by only making a selection. Besides Chilo, who has been already mentioned,1 Sophocles,2 and Dionysius,3 the tyrant of Sicily, both of them, died of joy, on learning that they had obtained the prize for tragedy. After the defeat at Cannæ, a mother died of joy, on seeing that her son had returned in safety, she having heard a false report of his death.4 Diodorus, the professor of logic,5 died of mortification, because he could not immediately answer some question which had been put to him by Stilpo, by way of joke.

Two of the Cæsars,6 one of whom was at the time prætor, and the other had previously discharged that office, and was the father of the Dictator Cæsar, died without any apparent cause, in the morning, while putting on their shoes; the former at Pisæ, the latter at Rome. Quintus Fabius Maximus died during his consulship, on the day before the calends of January,7 and in his place C. Rebilus got himself elected consul for only a few hours.8 The same thing happened also to the senator, C. Volcatius Gurges; these were all of them so well, and in such perfect health, that they were actually preparing to go from home. Q. Æmilius Lepidus,9 just as he was leaving his house, struck his great toe against the threshold of his chamber door. C. Aufustius, having gone from home, was proceeding to the senate-house, when he stumbled in the Comitium,10 and expired. Their ambassador, who had just been pleading the cause of the Rhodians in the senate, to the admiration of every one, suddenly expired at the door of the senate-house, just as he was about to retire. Cn. Bæbius Tamphilus,11 who had been prætor also, expired while he was enquiring of a boy12 what time it was: Aulus Pompeius13 died just after saluting the gods in the Capitol; and M. Juventius Thalna,14 the consul, while he was sacrificing. C. Servilius Pansa expired at the second hour of the day,15 while he was standing in the Forum, near a shop there,16 and leaning on the arm of his brother, Publius Pansa: the judge Bæbius, while he was giving an order for an enlargement of bail:17 M. Terentius Corax, while he was making an entry in his note-book in the Forum: only last year too, a member of the equestrian order at Rome, while whispering in the ear of a man of consular rank, before the ivory Apollo, in the Forum18 of Augustus;19 and, what is more singular than all, C. Julius, the physician, while he was applying, with his probe,20 some ointment to the eye of a patient. Aulus Manlius Torquatus, a man of consular rank, died in the act of reaching a cake at dinner; L. Tuscius Valla, the physician, while he was taking a draught of honeyed wine;21 Ap. Saufeius, while, on his return from the bath, after drinking some honeyed wine and water, he was swallowing an egg: P. Quinctius Scapula, while he was dining with Aquilius Gallus: Decimus Saufeius, the scribe, while he was breakfasting at his house. Corn. Gallus,22 who had filled the office of Prætor, and Titus Haterius,23 a man of equestrian rank, died in the venereal act; and, a thing that was especially remarked by those of our day, two members of the equestrian order expired in the embraces of the same actor of pantomimes, Mysticus by name, who was remarkable for his singular beauty.

But the most perfect state, to all appearance, of security from death, was that of which we have an account given by the ancients, in the case of M. Ofilius Hilarus. He was an actor, and after having been very greatly applauded by the people, was giving, on his birthday, an entertainment. During dinner he called for a cup of warm drink; at the same time, looking at the masque which he had worn during the day, he placed upon it the chaplet,24 which he had taken from his own head; and in that position he remained rigidly fixed, without moving, no one being aware of what had taken place, until the person who was reclining next to him reminded him that the drink was getting cold; upon which he was found to be dead.

These are instances of persons dying a happy death;25 but, on the other hand, there are innumerable cases also of unfortunate ends. L. Domitius,26 a member of a most illustrious family, having been conquered at Massilia by Cæsar, and taken prisoner by him at Corfinium, being weary of life, took poison; but, immediately after, he used every possible exertion to prolong his life. We find it stated in our Annals, that Felix, a charioteer of the red party,27 being placed on the funeral pile, some one of the number of his admirers threw himself upon the pile; a most silly piece of conduct. Lest, however, this circumstance might be attributed to the great excellence of the dead man in his art, and so redound to his glory, the other parties all declared that he had been overpowered by the strength of the perfumes. Not long ago, M. Lepidus, a man of very noble birth, who died, as I have stated above,28 of chagrin caused by his divorce, was hurled from the funeral pile by the violence of the flames, and in consequence of the heat, could not be replaced upon it; in consequence of which, his naked body was burnt with some other pieces of brushwood, in the vicinity of the pile.

1 In the twenty-third Chapter of the present Book.—B.

2 Val. Maximus, B. ix. c. 12, and Diodorus Siculus, B. xiii. c. 14, gives the same account. It has been said, that, when he heard the news, he called for a draught of wine, and was choked with a grape-stone; this incident forms the subject of an epigram by Simonides, quoted by Hardouir, Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 210.—B.

3 There is reason to believe, that the prize was given rather to the rank, than to the poetry of Dionysius; see the remarks of Ajasson, Lemaire, vol. iii. pp. 210, 211.—B.

4 This anecdote is related by Livy, B. xxii. c. 7; by Valerius Maximus, B. ix. c. 12; and by Aulus Gellius, B. iii. c. 15; the two former, however, state, that it occurred after the battle of Thrasymenus,—B.

5 Cicero, De Fato, sec. 6, styles Diodorus, "valens dialecticus."—B.

6 According to Hardouin, these were Lucius, the prætor, and Caius, the father of the dictator; they were brothers, and the sons of C. Cæsar. —B.

7 Thirty-first of December; consequently his tenure of office was for a few hours only. Cicero indulged in several jokes upon his consulship, remarking that no one had died during it; and that the consul was extremely vigilant, for that he had never slept during his term of office.

8 This took place A.U.C. 708; Macrobius, in his Saturnalia, gives us an account of the jests passed by Cicero and others on the brief duration of his office.—B.

9 He is supposed to have been the same person who was consul A.U.C. 732.—B.

10 The Comitium was a place in the forum at Rome, where the "comitia curiata" were held, and certain offences tried and punished. It was here also that the tribunal, or "suggestum," was situate.

11 We are informed by Hardouin, that he held the office of Prætor A.U.C. 660.—B.

12 "A puero;" not necessarily a slave, as Littrè seems to think.

13 On Hardouin's authority, we learn that A. Pompeius was surnamed Bithynicus, and was prætor A.U.C. 680.–B.

14 The death of Thalna is given somewhat more in detail by Valerius Maximus, B. ix. c. 12; it took place A.U.C. 590.—B.

15 The ancients reckoned the hours from sun-rise; in summer, the second hour of the day would be six o'clock A.M., and in the winter, a quarter past eight.—B.

16 Bankers, and usurers more especially, had their shops in the Roman Forum.

17 "Cum vadimonium differri jubet."—B.

18 Augustus built a third Forum, because the old one and that of Julius Cæsar, were not found sufficient for the great increase of business. He adorned it with a temple of Mars, and the statues of the most distinguished Romans.

19 According to Hardouin, this ivory statue was in the eighth region of the city.—B.

20 "Specillum;" this instrument is mentioned by Celsus, B. vi. c. 6, 25, et alibi. There has been a considerable discussion among the commentators respecting the "specillum;" see Lemaire, vol. iii. pp. 213, 214. From the uses to which it was applied by Celsus, we can have little doubt upon the subject. Poinsinet and Ajasson employ the equivalent French term "eprouvette."—B.

21 "Mulsum" was the most universally esteemed of all the beverages used among the Romans. It seems to have been of two kinds: in the one case honey was mixed with wine, in the other with must. Massic or Falernian wine was preferred for the purpose, and new Attic honey. The proportions were four measures of wine to one of honey; and various perfumes and spices were added. See B. xxii, c. 4. It was especially valued as the most appropriate draught on an empty stomach.

22 The Cornelius Gallus here mentioned could not have been the poet of the same name, because, as we are informed, he died by his own hand. The death of the poet Gallus is alluded to by Ovid, Amores, B. iii. El. 9, 1. 64.—B. A similar fate is said, by Tertullian, to have overtaken Speusippus, the Platonic philosopher. The same was also said by some of the poet Pindar.

23 Val. Maximus, B. ix. c. 12, gives the same account of the death of Gallus and Haterius.—B.

24 Which was usually worn by the Romans at their entertainments.

25 Considering some of the above cases, Pliny must have had a curions notion of a happy death. Ovid would have agreed with him in one respect; for in his amatory poems, he expresses a wish that he may die of a surfeit of sensual enjoyment.

26 The great-grandfather of the Emperor Nero. We have a reference to his death by Seneca, De Benef. B. iii. c. 24, and a more full account of it by Suetonius, Life of Nero, c. 2.—B.

27 The charioteers at Rome were divided into four companies, or "factiones," each distinguished by a colour, representing the season of the year. These colours were green for the spring, red for the summer, azure for autumn, and white for the winter. Domitian afterwards increased them to six, adding the golden and the purple. The most ardent party spirit prevailed among them, and the interest in their success extended to all classes and both sexes.

28 In the thirty-sixth Chapter of this Book.—B.

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