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I once saw Lollia Paulina,1 the wife of the Emperor Caius2 —it was not at any public festival, or any solemn ceremonial, but only at an ordinary wedding entertainment3—covered with emeralds and pearls, which shone in alternate layers upon her head, in her hair, in her wreaths, in her ears, upon her neck, in her bracelets, and on her fingers, and the value of which amounted in all to forty millions 4 of sesterces; indeed5 she was prepared at once to prove the fact, by showing the receipts and acquittances. Nor were these any presents made by a prodigal potentate, but treasures which had descended to her from her grandfather, and obtained by the spoliation of the provinces. Such are the fruits of plunder and extortion! It was for this reason that M. Lollius6 was held so infamous all over the East for the presents which he extorted from the kings; the result of which was, that he was denied the friendship of Caius Cæsar, and took poison;7 and all this was done, I say, that his grand-daughter might be seen, by the glare of lamps, covered all over with jewels to the amount of forty millions of sesterces! Now let a person only picture to himself, on the one hand, what was the value of the habits worn by Curius or Fabricius in their triumphs, let him picture to himself the objects displayed to the public on their triumphal litters,8 and then, on the other hand, let him think upon this Lollia, this one bit9 of a woman, the head of an empire, taking her place at table, thus attired; would he not much rather that the conquerors had been torn from their very chariots, than that they had conquered for such a result as this?

Nor, indeed, are these the most supreme evidences of luxury. There were formerly two pearls, the largest that had been ever seen in the whole world: Cleopatra, the last of the queens of Egypt, was in possession of them both, they having come to her by descent from the kings of the East. When Antony had been sated by her, day after day, with the most exquisite banquets, this queenly courtesan, inflated with vanity and disdainful arrogance, affected to treat all this sumptuousness and all these vast preparations with the greatest contempt; upon which Antony enquired what there was that could possibly be added to such extraordinary magnificence. To this she made answer, that on a single entertainment she would expend ten millions10 of sesterces. Antony was extremely desirous to learn how that could be done, but looked upon it as a thing quite impossible; and a wager was the result. On the following day, upon which the matter was to be decided, in order that she might not lose the wager, she had an entertainment set before Antony, magnificent in every respect, though no better than his usual repast. Upon this, Antony joked her, and enquired what was the amount expended upon it; to which she made answer that the banquet which he then beheld was only a trifling appendage11 to the real banquet, and that she alone12 would consume at the meal to the ascertained value of that amount, she herself would swallow the ten millions of sesterces; and so ordered the second course to be served. In obedience to her instructions, the servants placed before her a single vessel, which was filled with vinegar, a liquid, the sharpness and strength of which is able13 to dis- solve pearls. At this moment she was wearing in her ears those choicest and most rare and unique productions of Nature; and while Antony was waiting to see what she was going to do, taking one of them from out of her ear, she threw it into the vinegar, and directly it was melted, swallowed it. Lucius Plancus,14 who had been named umpire in the wager, placed his hand upon the other at the very instant that she was making preparations to dissolve it in a similar manner, and declared that Antony had lost—an omen which,15 in the result, was fully confirmed. The fame of the second pearl is equal to that which attends its fellow. After the queen, who had thus come off victorious on so important a question, had been seized, it was cut asunder, in order that this, the other half of the entertainment, might serve as pendants for the ears of Venus, in the Pantheon at Rome.

1 The grand-daughter of M. Lollius, and heiress to his immense wealth. She was first married to C. Memmius Regulus; but was divorced from him, and married to the Emperor Caligula, who, however, soon divorced her. At the instigation of Agrippina, Claudius first banished her, and then caused her to be murdered. A sepulcher to her honour was erected in the reign of the Emperor Nero.

2 Caligula.

3 Or rather "betrothal entertainment," "sponsalium cena." The "sponsalia" were not an unusual preliminary of marriage, but were not absolutely necessary.

4 7,600,000 francs, Hardouin says; which would make £304,000 of our money.

5 "Ipsa confestim parata mancupationem tabulis probare."

6 He was proprætor of the province of Galatia, Consul B. C. 21, and B. C. 16 legatus in Gaul; where he suffered a defeat from certain of the German tribes. He was afterwards appointed by Augustus tutor to his grandson, C. Cæsar, whom he accompanied to the East in B. C. 2. He was a personal enemy of Tiberius, which may in some measure account for the had character given him by Velleius Paterculus, who describes him as more eager to make money than to act honourably, and as guilty of every kind of vice. Horace, on the other hand, in the ode addressed to him, Carm. iv. 9, expressly praises him for his freedom from all avarice. His son, M. Lollius, was the father of Lollia Paulina.

7 This does not appear to be asserted by any other author; but Velleius Paterculus almost suggests as much, B. ii., "Cujus mors intra paucos dies fortuita an voluntaria fuerit ignoro." It was said that he was in the habit of selling the good graces of Caius Cæsar to the Eastern sovereigns for sums of money.

8 "Fercula." See vol. i. p. 400, Note 1.

9 "Unam imperii mulierculam accubantem."

10 A fourth of the sum mentioned in Note 55.

11 "Corollarium."

12 "Et consumpturam eam cœnam taxationem confirmans."

13 "It was because pearls are calcareous, that Cleopatra was able to dissolve hers in vinegar, and by these means to gain a bet from her lover, as we are told by Pliny, B. ix. c. 58, and Macrobius, Sat. B. ii. c. 13. She must, however, have employed stronger vinegar than that which we use for our tables; as pearls, on account of their hardness and their natural enamel, cannot be easily dissolved by a weak acid. Nature has secured the teeth of animals against the effect of acids, by an enamel covering, which answers the same purpose; but if this enamel happens to be injured only in one small place, the teeth soon spoil and rot. Cleopatra, perhaps, broke and pounded the pearls [pearl]; and it is probable that she afterwards diluted the vinegar with water, that she might be able to drink it; though dissolved calcareous matter neutralizes acids, and renders them imper- ceptible to the tongue. That pearls are not peculiar to one kind of shellfish, as many believe, was known to Pliny." Beckmann's History of In- ventions, vol. i. p. 258, note 1, Bohn's Ed. We may remark, however that as the story is told by Pliny, there is no appearance that Cleopatra pounded the pearl. It is more likely that she threw it into the vinegar, and immediately swallowed it, taking it for granted that it had melted.

14 Macrobius, Saturn. B. iii. says, "Monatius" Plancus. His name was in reality Lucius Munatius Plancus. He afterwards deserted Antony, and took the side of Octavianus; and it was on his proposal that Octavianus received the title of Augustus in B. C. 27. He built the temple of Saturn, in order to secure the emperor's favour. It is not known in what year he died.

15 "Omine rato." He means, that in the result, it was only too true that Antony was "victus," conquered, and that by his enemy Octavianus.

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