Livia Drusilla, the only woman to whom he seems ever to have been sincerely attached. The permanent bond of union, however, in even this third marriage, may have been supplied less by the beauty and attractions of the wife, than by the aid and the consolation which her shrewd counsels and skilful diplomacy brought to the Emperor, and, perhaps, also by the irresistible influence which she exercised over his thoughts and actions. To her he seems to have unbosomed all his plans, views and projects, and by her they appear to have been modified or approved, while their execution was facilitated by her feminine craft and intrigue. To her ascendancy may, perhaps, be ascribed the neglect of Mæcenas during the last few years of his life, and the long declining influence of both himself and Agrippa, and to her consummate sagacity may also be attributed the little change of policy and the absence of all political disturbance subsequent to their deaths. She was the only confidant whom the dark and solitary thinker admitted to share the immense burthen of his perplexed schemes; the only one to whom he revealed the intricate mysteries and tangled labyrinths of his finely spun and hidden web. That she was faithless to the trust may be readily supposed, and was a penalty which Augustus himself deserved, though not at her hands. It is strongly suggested, however, by the circumstances attending the deaths of Marcellus, Agrippa Postumus and himselfin each of which cases Livia has been suspected of murder by poison or violence. The great object of her solicitude seems uniformly to have been to gain the succession for her son Tiberius, and to strengthen the monarchy that there might be an Empire to which he could succeed. That son distrusted, and rightly, his mother; and never allowed her the same authority or ascendancy which she had enjoyed under Augustus, or won from him.

Before the commencement of this series of marriages, Octavius had been betrothed to the daughter of P. Servilius Isauricus, but the match was broken off by policy and the intervention of the soldiery. Thus the Emperor, who distinguished his reign by the stringency of his laws on the subject of marriage, and in repression of the licentiousness of

both the men and women of the day, set an example of amatory and matrimonial vagabondage, which was almost as infamous as that of Caligula or Caracalla. The author of the Julian laws, which constituted the basis of all the subsequent legislation to arrest female depravity, exhibited in his own life and family a shameless debauchery and gross incontinence, which have been too frequently overlooked, or too slightly regarded by those who have affected to estimate him solely from the brilliant radiance which circumstances threw around his reign.

There are two characters presenting the most arduous study which can be offered to the contemplation of either the historian or the moralist; yet there are no other personages of like importance to whom the attention bestowed has been less proportionate to the difficulties of the solution required. These are the characters of Augustus and Tiberius Cæsar. The moral lineaments of the latter are, indeed, admirably portrayed in the annals of Tacitus, and are drawn by him with a vigorous hand in a few bold outlines and frequent delicate touches. They seem, also, to have been justly apprehended, though not as graphically delineated, by Dion Cassius. But, where shall we look for a satisfactory appreciation of these masterly sketches; where shall we notice. the same labour resumed with any thing like the same skill, or the same penetrating instinct; and where shall we find these scattered lines gathered together into a finished portrait possessing the expressive truthfulness of that supplied by Tacitus? The Romans under the Empire appear to have possessed, in an eminent degree, the peculiar intuition into all the recesses of the heart possessed by the great Italian statesmen, diplomatists and political writers, and also to have had the same consummate art in detecting and describing all shades of thought, motive and habit. These qualities are apparent in even the wretched scribblers of the Augustan history; yet these excellences are just those which have been least noted or imitated by recent historians of Rome. Singularly enough in the rapid and graphic silhouettes of De Quincey's Cæsars, Tiberius is altogether excluded from the picture gallery-yet, as an historical or moral study, his is

the most interesting exemplar in the varied group of the Roman Emperors. The portraiture of Augustus is only inferior in difficulty and significance to that of his successor, but it is drawn nowhere. Abundant details, often incoherent, and always exhibited en couleur de rose, are supplied by the numerous writers of the Augustan and subsequent ages; but these require to be carefully compared, corrected, harmonized, digested and combined, before we can derive from thein any thing but loose, insufficient and unsatisfactory views of his temperament, his character and his actions. Perhaps none of the moderns has appreciated his anomalous character more judiciously than Lord Bacon. We look in vain in Gibbon for what we can find nowhere else. He exhibits to us little but the ponderous machinery of the Empire, and the halo around the Imperial throne. It is true that the reign of Augustus did not legitimately fall within the scope of his special task; and we are, in consequence, not entitled to blame the omission which we regret. Mr. Merivale has attempted, with considerable skill, to supply the deficiency. His canvass is ample enough; but instead of delicately disposing his colours, and nicely distributing the lights and shadows, he smears over the surface the whole contents of his paint-box, like Euripides, as represented in the Frogs. We would partly attribute to the insufficient appreciation of Augustus and his policy, the singular blunders which have been committed in the estimate of Louis Napoleon, and the absence of any recognition of the parallelism between the two Emperors, which is obvious almost as soon as it is suggested.

The moral character of Augustus was certainly inferior to that of Tiberius ; though the former has been regarded with constant adıniration, the latter contemplated with universal detestation. In intellectual power, in statesmanship and in practical sagacity, Tiberius was very far beyond his more famous predecessor. In elevation of sentiment, and even in human sympathies, Tiberius appears to advantage, when contrasted either with the callous heartlessness of Octavius, or with the treacherous hypocrisy of the Senators by

whom he was surrounded. There is not a more hateful or deceitful character in the long course of Roman history than the great consolidator of the Empire ; though, at the same time, it must be admitted that his exercise of power was judicious and beneficent, and that his despotic administration was a real blessing to the depraved populations of the Ro. man world.

Though not immediately connected with our subject, it would be alınost unpardonable to omit all notice of the personal appearance and physical constitution of Augustus. Fortunately, a minute description has been preserved in Suetonius. He is said to have been of very low stature, but of such a graceful, symmetrical and handsome figure, as to conceal the deficiency in height. This elegance of form he retained through life. His complexion was sallow; his eyes clear and bright, so that he fancied there was a ray of divinity in their brilliancy, and he was gratified when those who looked at him cast down their countenance to escape their blaze, as if overpowered by the splendour of the sun. In old age he partially lost the sight of his left eye. His eye-brows met; his nose was Roman; his ears of moderate size; his hair light and slightly curling. The expression of his face, whether he spoke or was silent, was remarkably tranquil and serene. His teeth were bad; they were few, small and discoloured. He paid little attention to personal decoration, paying little regard to the dressing of his hair and to his beard, and consigning himself for greater speed to many barbers at once, while he either read or wrote himself. His body was much marked with moles, arranged like the stars in Ursa Major. Notwithstanding the symmetry and beauty of his limbs, he was so weak in the left leg that he often limped. The fore-finger of his right hand became so torpid and drawn up in cold weather, that he wrote with difficulty by the aid of artificial appliances. His health was always feeble, and he experienced many dangerous illnesses. He was subject to bilious diseases, and suffered much in spring from pneumonia and in summer from influenza. The latter ailments were almost of annual recurrence.

He was

a martyr also to the gravel, though from this he was at length relieved.* With this wretched health, tolerant of neither heat nor cold, he contrived to live seventy-five years, deluding all calculations and disappointing all hopes; and, even then, the approaches of death were perhaps hastened, or produced by poison.

So far as our space, our purposes and our abilities permitted, we have thus endeavoured to furnish an accurate, though incomplete, delineation of the remarkable character of Cæsar Octavianus, who is better known under the designation of his boyhood, Octavius, and his Imperial title, Augustus. We have profited by the researches and conceptions of Mr. Merivale, though we have ventured to draw a much bolder, and, we think, more consistent outline. We have availed ourselves of the few luminous traits given by Tacitus; and we have neither neglected the rough rhetoric of Dion Cassius, nor the court scandal and gossip of Suetonius. We have thus attempted to condense into one picture, truthful, though only in miniature, the various hints which each of these authors has supplied.

Turning from the antique medallion to the showy layfigure which now sits with an Imperial crown on the throne of France, we cannot fail to recognize at once the numerous resemblances, both in the broader characteristics and in the fainter lines of detail, by which the two casts of character and the two careers are assimilated to each other. The moral physiognomy of the living Emperor appears softened down, when compared with that of his ancient prototype, by the civilized usages and the French polish with which we are all familiar. But, in all the essential points of the comparison, the modern occupant of the Tuilleries and the Louvre is the legitimate counterpart of the ancient possessor of the Capitol and habitant of the Palatine. And, indeed, it is rather in this greater consonance with modern notions, than in any intrinsic difference of feeling, that Louis Napoleon appears to be more humane, human and natural than his precursor. In both may be detected the same singular union

* Suetonius Vit. Octavii., c. lxxix. lxxxi.

« ElőzőTovább »