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Antony and Cleopatra, however, will not bear away the palm of prodigality in this respect, and will be stripped of even this boast in the annals of luxury. For before their time, Clodius, the son of the tragic actor Æsopus,1 had done the same at Rome; having been left by his father heir to his ample wealth and possessions. Let not Antony then be too proud, for all his trumvirate, since he can hardly stand in comparison with an actor; one, too, who had no wager to induce him—a thing which adds to the regal munificence of the act —But was merely desirous of trying, by way of glorification to his palate, what was the taste of pearls. As he found it to be wonderfully pleasing, that he might not be the only one to know it, he had a pearl set before each of his guests for him to swallow. After the surrender of Alexandria, pearls came into common and, indeed, universal use at Rome; but they first began to be used about the time of Sylla, though but of small size and of little value, Fenestella says—in this, however, it is quite evident that he is mistaken, for Ælius Stilo tells us, that it was in the time of the Jugurthine war, that the name of "unio" was first given to pearls of remarkable size.

1 Claudius, or Clodius Æsopus, was the most celebrated tragic actor at Rome in the time of Cicero, and was probably a freedman of the Clodian family. Horace and other authors put him on a level with Roscius. From Cicero we learn that his acting was characterized chiefly by strong emphasis and vehemence. Cicero characterizes him as a "summus artifex," a "consummate artist." He was a firm friend of Cicero, whose cause he advocated indirectly more than once during his banishment from Rome. It appears from Pliny, B. x. c. 72, that he was far from frugal, though he left a large fortune to his spendthrift son, Clodius Æsopus. This man, among his other feats, dissolved in vinegar (or at least attempted to do so), a pearl worth about £8000, which he took from the ear-ring of Cæcilia Metella. It is alluded to by Horace, B. ii. Sat. iii. 1. 239.

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