three pairs of lovers with space

CASSIUS DIO’S ROMAN HISTORY: AD 180-211

 

Casius Dio wrote the eighty books of his Roman History down to the year 229 in the years down to that date and after 22 years of research.  On this page is presented the Greek love content of Books LXXIII to LXXVII, covering the period from the accession of the emperor Commodus in AD 180 to the death of Septimius Severus in 211.

Dio was twice a Roman consul and much involved in public affairs as a senator throughout the period of consideration, as he frequently reminds the reader, as in, for example, this remark about events in Commodus’s reign:

I was present when they happened and know no one else, among those who have any ability at writing a worthy record of events, who has so accurate a knowledge of them as I.

The translations are by Earnest Cary and Herbert Foster in the Loeb Classical Library volume CLXXVII (Harvard, 1927).

 

LXXIII 14 i-iii

Describing some who died when Commodus “turned to murder” in 190:

Another was Julius Alexander, who was executed for having brought down a lion with his javelin while on horseback.[1] This man, when he learned of the arrival of the assassins, murdered them at night, and also destroyed all his enemies at Emesa, his native city;[2] then he mounted a horse and set out to go to the barbarians. And he would have escaped, had he not taken along a boy-favourite[3] with him, since he himself was an excellent horseman; but he could not bring himself to desert the lad, who had become wearied, and so, when he was being overtaken, he killed both the boy and himself. Ἰούλιός τε Ἀλέξανδρος, οὗτος μὲν ὡς καὶ λέοντα ἀπὸ τοῦ ἵππου κατακοντίσας· ὅστις ἐπειδη καὶ τους σφαγέας παρόντας ᾔσθετο, ἐκείνους τε τῆς νυκτὸς ἐφόνευσε, καὶ τῶν Ἐμεσηνῶν, ὅθεν ἦν, τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ πάντας προσκατεχρήσατο, ποιήσας δὲ ταῦτα ἵππον τε ἀνέβη καὶ πρὸς τοὺς βαρβάρους ὥρμησε. κἂν ἐξέφυγεν, εἰ μὴ παιδικά τινα συνεπῆκτο· αὐτὸς μὲν γὰρ κράτιστα ἵππευε, τὸ δὲ μειράκιον καμὸν οὐχ ὑπέμεινε καταλιπεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς κατελαμβάνετο, ἀπεκτεινε καὶ ἐκεῖνον καὶ ἑαυτόν.
Roman Slave Auction by Gustave Boulanger, 1882

LXXIV 5 iv

Describing the acts of Pertinax in 193, just after his elevation to emperor following the murder of the hated Commodus:

At this time, then, there was such a dearth of funds in the imperial treasury that only a million sesterces could be found. Pertinax therefore raised money as best he could from the statues, the arms, the horses, the furniture, and the loved-boys[4] of Commodus, and gave to the Pretorians all that he had promised and to the populace a hundred denarii per man.
Bust of Pertinax, 193
Τοσαύτη δ᾿ ἄρα τότε τὸ βασίλειον εἶχεν ἀχρηματία ὥστε πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι μυριάδες δραχμῶν μόναι εὑρέθησαν. χαλεπῶς δ᾿ οὖν ὁ Περτίναξ ἔκ τε τῶν εἰκόνων καὶ τῶν ὅπλων τῶν τε ἵππων καὶ ἐπίπλων καὶ τῶν παιδικῶν τῶν τοῦ Κομμόδου ἀγείρας ἀργύριον, τοῖς τε δορυφόροις ἔδωκεν ὅσα ὑπέσχητο, καὶ τῷ δήμῳ 5καθ᾿ ἑκατὸν δραχμάς.
Plautianus (Sala Rotonda, Vatican Museum)
 

 LXXVI 15 vii

Describing the behaviour around the year 200 of Fulvius Plautianus, the Prefect of the Praetorian Guard, whom his friend the emperor Septimius Severus allowed to share his power and do much as he liked: [5]

As for Plautianus, he became the most sensual of men; for he would gorge himself at banquets and vomit as he ate, as the mass of food and wine that he swallowed made it impossible for him to digest anything; and though he made use of lads[6] and girls in notorious fashion, yet he would not permit his own wife to see anybody or to be seen by any person whomsoever, nut even by Severus or Julia,[7] to say nothing of any others.  ὁ δὲ δὴ Πλαυτιανὸς ἀσωτότατός τε ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, ὥστε καὶ εὐωχεῖσθαι ἅμα καὶ ἐμεῖν, ἐπεὶ μηδὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ πλήθους τῶν τε σιτίων καὶ τοῦ οἴνου πέψαι ἐδύνατο, καὶ τοῖς μειρακίοις ταῖς τε κόραις οὐκ ἄνευ διαβολῆς χρώμενος, τῇ γυναικὶ τῇ ἑαυτοῦ οὔθ᾿ ὁρᾶν τινὰ οὔθ᾿ ὁρᾶσθαι τὸ παράπαν, οὐδ᾿ ὑπὸ τοῦ Σεουήρου ἢ τῆς Ἰουλίας, μήτι γε ἑτέρων τινῶν, ἐπέτρεπεν. 

 

LXXVII 7 i-ii

In January 205, Septimius Severus suddenly turned against Plautianus, who was killed. The emperor’s two sons were then sixteen and fifteen.

The sons of Severus, Antoninus and Geta, feeling that they had got rid of a pedagogue, as it were, in Plautianus, now went to all lengths in their conduct. They outraged women and outraged[8] boys, they embezzled money, and made gladiators and charioteers their boon companions, emulating each other in the similarity of their deeds, but full of strife in their rivalries; Οἱ δὲ τοῦ Σεουήρου παῖδες, ὅ τε Ἀντωνῖνος καὶ ὁ Γέτας, οἷον παιδαγωγοῦ τινὸς ἀπηλλαγμένοι τοῦ Πλαυτιανοῦ, οὐδὲν ὅ τι οὐκ ἐποίουν. καὶ γὰρ καὶ γυναῖκας ᾔσχυνον καὶ παῖδας ὕβριζον χρήματά τε παρεξέλεγον, καὶ τοὺς μονομάχους τούς τε ἁρματηλάτας προσηταιρίζοντο, τῇ μὲν ὁμοιότητι τῶν ἔργων ζηλοῦντες ἀλλήλους, τῷ δὲ ἀντισπουδάζειν στασιάζοντες·
Aurei of Antoninus and Geta as Caesars, 201

[1] Probably because the “Roman Hercules” (ch. 15 [where it is told that Commodus adopted Hercules as one of his names]) feared Alexander might detract from his glory. [Translator’s note]

[2] Emesa was a city and former kingdom in Syria. The boy-emperor whom Dio calls “Sardanapallos” and whose sexual antics he described in his last book (LXXX), was born there about fourteen years later to the pre-eminent local family, and may have been related to Julius Alexander.

[3] The Greek word is παιδικά, meaning the boy in a pederastic liaison.

[4] Cary and Foster’s “favourites” has here been amended to “loved-boys”, favourites being a hopelessly vague translation of παιδικῶν, which means boys in pederastic relationships. The Augustan History VIII 7 viii adds that "Of those whom he ordered sold, however, many were soon brought back to his service and ministered to the pleasures of the old man [Pertinax], and under other emperors they even attained to the rank of senator."

[5] See the History of the Empire III 10 vi by another contemporary, Herodian, for the explanation that Plautianus had once been the loved-boy of Severus. They both came from the province of Africa.

[6] The Greek word is μειρακίοις, meaning adolescent boys.

[7] The emperor Severus’s wife.

[8] The word here is ὕβριζον, which Cary and Foster have translated as “abuse”, here changed to “outrage”, which better conveys the shamefulness and arrogance of the perpetrator.