Sept. 17. 1672.
Roger L' Estrange.

JUDGMENT ON Alexander AND Caesar; And also on Seneca, Plutarch, and Petronius.

Translated out of the French.

LONDON, Printed by A. Maxwell, for Jonathan Edwin at the sign of the three Roses in Ludgate-street. 1672.

JUDGMENT UPON Alexander and Caesar.

'TIS a consent almost uni­versal, That Alexander and Caesar have been the greatest men of the world; and all those who have concerned themselves to judg of them, have believed, they obliged Conque­rors that have come after them, by finding some resemblance be­tween their Reputation, and their Glory. Plutarch after having ex­amined their Nature, their Acti­ons, their Fortune, leaves to us a liberty of deciding, which he durst not take. Montaigne more [Page 6] bold, has declared himself for the first; and since the versions of Vaugelas and of D' Ablancour have made these Hero's the Object of all our Converse. Every one has taken part with the one or the o­ther, according to his inclination or his fancy. For my part, who have possibly examined their lives, with as much curiosity as any one, I will not give my self the autho­ty to judg absolutely. But if you will dispense with me, to tell you what I think; you shall have some Observations I have made of the agreement and difference I find:

They both had the advantage of great birth: Alexander the Son of a considerable King: Caesar of one of the chief Families of that Republick, whose Citizens esteem­ed themselves more than Kings. It seems, the Gods were willing to declare the future greatness of Alexander, by Olympia's dream, [Page 7] and several other presages: his own haughty inclinations from his infancy, his jealous tears for the glory of his Father, and the judg­ment of Philip, who believed him worthy of a greater Kingdom than his own, seconded the advertise­ment of the Gods. Many things of this Nature have been no less remarkable in Caesar: Sylla saw in him (young as he then was) ma­ny Marius's. He dream't that he lay with his Mother, which the Augurs interpreted, that the Earth, the Common Mother of all men, should be submitted to his power. He was known to weep, looking on the Statue of Alexander, that he had yet done nothing, in an age, wherein that Conqueror had made himself Master of the Uni­verse.

The Love of Learning was a passion common to both: But A­lexander every way ambitious, was touched with a jealously of su­periority [Page 8] in his studies; and his chief design for knowledg, was to be more knowing than others; witness his complaint, that Ari­stotle had published certain secrets, which should have been known to him alone; he declar'd, that he aspired to raise himself above o­ther men, no less by Letters than Arms. Having a curious and pas­sionate spirit, he pleased himself closely with hidden mysteries, and was particularly affected with Poe­sy.

There's none but have heard of the passions he had for Homer; and who is ignorant, that in favour of Pindar, the houses of his Descen­dants were saved in the ruin of Thebes, and general desolation of his Country.

The spirit of Caesar, somewhat less vast, reduced Sciences to his use; and he seem'd, not to have loved learning but for its benefits. In the Philosophy of Epicurus, [Page 9] which he preferred before all o­thers, he principally applyed him­self to what regarded man: but it appears, that Eloquence had his first endeavours, as knowing it ne­cessary in the Commonwealth to arrive at the greatest things; he pleaded in the Rostra, at the death of his Aunt Julia, with great ap­plause; he accused Dolobella; and in the end made that excellent and delicate Oration for saving the lives of those Prisoners taken in Catalines Conspiracy.

There is left to us nothing that we can assuredly say was Alexan­ders, unless some divine sayings, of an excellent and admirable composure, which leave with us an impression equal to the great­ness of his Soul, and the vivacity of his Spirit.

But the greatest difference I find in their Sentiments, is, in the mat­ter of Religion. For Alexander was devout, even to Superstition, [Page 10] fering himself to be led away by Augurs and Oracles; which, be­sides his natural inclination, may be attributed to his ordinary rea­ding the Poets, who begot in men a fear of the Gods, and did in­deed compose all the Theology of those times.

As for Caesar, whether it were his temperament, or his having followed the Opinions of Epicu­curus, he pass'd to the other ex­tremity. He expected nothing of the Gods in this life, and took little care what might happen in the other. Lucan represents him at the siege of Marseillia in a sa­cred Wood, with an Axe in his hand, where giving the first blow, he muted the Soldiers, (seized with a secret horror of Religion), by words sufficiently impious. Sa­lust makes him say, That death is the end of all Evils, and that beyond it, there is neither care nor thought of Joy.

[Page 11] But men, how great soever they be, compared one with another are always feeble, defective, con­trary to themselves, subject to er­ror or ignorance. Caesar was trou­bled at a dream which presaged him the Empire, and laugh'd at that of his Wife, which adverti­sed him of his death. His life did very well correspond with his faith, 'tis true, 'twas moderated indifferently as to voluptuousness, but yet he denied himself no plea­sure that he affected, which gave occasion to Catullus to make so many Epigrams of him; and was in fine the cause of that saying, That Caesar was the wife of all hus­bands, and the husband of all wives.

In this case Alexander had great moderation, yet he was not insen­sible. Barsinoe and Roxana won his affection, nor had he so much continence, but that he made use [Page 12] of Bagoas, whom Darius had used before.

The pleasure of feasting, so dear to Alexander, and wherein he sometimes suffered himself to be carried to excess, was indiffe­rent to Caesar. Not but that in the time of labour and action, Alexander was sober, and free from delicacy; but in time of re­pose, ease was irksome to him, un­less he gave life to it by something spritely.

They were, both the one and the other, liberal in giving, even to profuseness; but Caesar with more design and interest; his lar­gesses to the people, his excessive expences in his Aedilship, his pre­sents to Curio, were rather cor­ruptions than true liberalities. A­lexander gave to do good, out of the pure greatness of his Soul. When he went into Asia, he di­stributed all his desmeans, dis­furnished himself of all things, re­reserving [Page 13] nothing but the hopes of conquest, or resolution to perish. When he beheld him­self Master of the East, and had no more need of any person, he paid the debts of his whole Army. Painters, Engravers, Mu­sicians, Poets, Philosophers, all indigent brave fellows had share in his Magnificence, and part in his Glory. Not that Caesar was not likewise naturally very libe­ral, but in the design he had to raise himself, he was obliged to gain persons necessary; and scarce did he behold himself Master of the Empire, but it was unfortu­nately snatcht from him with his life.

I find not in Caesar such friend­ships as Alexander had for Ephe­stion, nor such confidence as he had in Craterus. His intercourses were either strengthnings of his affairs, or a procedure sufficient­ly obliging, but much less passio­nate [Page 14] for his friends. 'Tis true, his familiarity had nothing dangerous in it, and those who communica­ted it, need not fear, either his anger or caprichio's. Whereas Alexander was extream, either he was most obliging, or most terri­ble; nor was any one secure with a secret wherein himself was enga­ged. Notwithstanding, his friend­ship was his greatest passion next his glory; of which we need no other testimony than his own, when he cried out to Achilles Sta­tue. O Achilles! How happy wert thou to have so faithful a friend in thy life, and a Poet like Homer af­ter thy death.

Hitherto we have sought these two great men in their Natural qualifications, 'tis time to examine the Genius of Conquerors, and to consider them in all the extents of action. It is a kind of folly to reason of things only imaginary, nevertheless according to all ap­pearance, [Page 15] If Alexander had been in the place of Caesar, he had on­ly employed his great and admi­rable qualities to his ruin. It may be believed, that his haughty hu­mour (enemy to precaution) would have difficulty secured him in the persecutions of Sylla; hard­ly could he have sought his safety by a voluntary withdrawing; as what he gave was out of a pure motion of liberality, his largesses would have been pernicious to him, instead of attaining the Ae­dilship, wherein magnificencies and profuseness were permitted; his gifts and presents out of sea­son, would have made him suspe­cted by the Senate; and 'tis very possible, he could not have sub­jected himself to Laws, which would have pinnioned a Soul so imperious as his; and so attemp­ting something unseasonably, he had found the fate of the Grac­chi, Spurius, Manlius, or Cataline, [Page 16] but if Alexander would have lost himself in the Republick, Caesar whose Courage and Caution usu­ally went hand in hand, had ne­ver conceived in his mind, that vast design of the Conquest of Asia.

It is to be believed, that Caesar, whose conduct was so fine and close, that he was concerned in all the conspiracies, without being ever but once accused, and never convicted. Who in the divisions he stirr'd up amongst the Gauls, assisted one party to oppress the other, till he brought all under his Yoke. 'Tis to be believed, I say, that that very Caesar following his own Genius, would have set­led his own Estate, brought un­der his Neighbours, and divided all the Republick of Greece, till he had fully subjugated them. For certainly, to leave Macedon with­out hopes of return; to leave Neighbours about him ill affected, [Page 17] Greece indeed as it were submit­ting, but scarce settled in a sub­jection, and with Five and thirty thousand men, Seventy Talents, few Provisions, to go to seek out the King of Persia, whom the Graecians called the great King, and whose single Lieutenants on the Frontiers made the whole world tremble; is that which passes all imagination; and seems somewhat more, than if in these days, the Republick of Genoua, that of Lucca, or Rogusa, should undertake the Conquest of France. If Caesar had declared war against the great King; it had been on the Frontiers, by little and little, nor would he have thought him­self unhappy to have bounded his Estates with the Granick, or if his Ambition had prest him far­ther, can you think he would have refused the offers of Darius; he who daily offered peace to Pom­pey, or that he would not have [Page 18] contented himself with his Daugh­ter and five or six Provinces, which Alexander, 'tis possible, insolent­ly refused? In short, if my con­jectures be reasonable, he would never have gone into the plain Country, to have sought the King of Persia, accompanied with a Million of men; how brave, how constant soever he were, I questi­on, whether he would have slept so profoundly, that night which preceded the battle of Arbella. I believe indeed, he would have been of Parmenio's mind, nor should we have had from him any of the answers of Alexander; yet it was necessary to undertake this unequal fight to become Master of Asia; otherwise Darius had drawn on the War from Province to Province during life. 'Twas of force that he perish as soon as he arrived, or that a thousand different people should see him overcome with all his forces.

[Page 19] 'Tis true, that this immoderate desire of glory, and too vast Am­bition, which permitted him no repose, rendred him sometimes so insupportable to the Macedonians, that they were all ready to for­sake him. But 'twas in that Jun­cture he particularly made appear the greatness of that Courage which nothing could astonish. Go ingrateful wretches, (said he to 'um), go, and tell in your Country, that you have left Alexander with his Friends, labouring for the glory of Greece, among people who will obey him better than you. There is no­thing in all his life, which the Prince of—did more admire than this his fierce answer to the Macedonians, and this confidence in himself Alexander (said he), for­saken by his own, amongst Barba­rians scarcely conquered, con­ceives himself so worthy to com­mand, that he does not believe they can refuse to obey him. To [Page 20] be in Europe or in Asia, amongst Greeks or Persians, is indifferent to him; he doubts not to find Sub­jects, where he can find Men.

But what is said for Caesar's ad­vantage, is, That the Macedonians had to deal with Nations soft and effeminate; and that the Conquest of the Gauls, whose people were fierce and warlike, was much more difficult to the Romans. I will not trouble my self to examine the Courages of the one, or the other; but it is certain, that Cae­sar found not among the Gauls any true Armies, there were whole entire Bodies of people, even to the women, children, and old men, who tumultuously armed them­selves for the defence of their li­berty; multitudes who fought without order or discipline; and to speak truth, if you except twice or thrice, Caesar might say, Veni, Vidi, Vici, in all those occasions; which makes me believe, that if [Page 21] Labienus had commanded those Legions, he had no less subjected those Provinces to the Republick; whereas Parmenio, according to the best appearance, would not at all have fought that great Bat­tle, which decided the affairs of Asia. You will likewise find this particular remarkable: Parmenio stood in need of Alexanders assi­stance in this fight; whereas Cae­sar had one day been lost with­out Labienus, who, having rout­ed all on his side, sent the tenth Legion to disengage him.

But be it for the greater peril of their Enterprizes, for the exposing their Persons in them, or for being the less fortunate in doing so. A­lexander was a hundred times in manifest danger of his life, and received often very great wounds. Caesar truly had his hazards, but more rare, nor do I find him dan­gerously wounded in all his wars. Nor can I perceive, that the peo­ple [Page 22] of Asia were so soft and effe­minate, they who were always formidable to Europe. In the grea­test power of the Commonwealth were not the Romans unfortunate against the Parthians, which com­posed but a part of Darius his Empire? Crassus perished with his Legions in the time of Caesar; and soon after, Anthony made a shame­ful and unhappy voyage. As for Conquests, none can be truly at­tributed to C [...]sar, but that of the Gauls; for in the civil war he re­duced the Commonwealth with the best part of its own forces; and the single Battle of Pharsalia made him Master of an hundred different people, which others had vanquished. Vespasian cannot be said to have conquered the Em­pire, because he was declared Em­peror upon the defeat of Vitellius; so Caesar profited himself by the Labours of all the Romans, the Scipio's, Aemillus's, Marcellus's, Ma­rius's, [Page 23] Sylla, and Pompey, his own enemies fought for him, and all all that was done in six hundred years, was the fruit of one hours fight.

But that which seems to me more incomprehensible of Alexan­der, is, that in twelve or thirteen years, he conquered more Coun­trys, than the greatest Estates have done in the whole extent of their continuance: a Traveller is at this day famous, who has cross'd but a part of those Nations he subdued; and that nothing might want to his happiness, he peace­bly enjoy'd his Empire, even to the point of being adored by those he had overcome. In which I lament the misfortune of Caesar, who could not give a form to the Estate of Rome, according to his designs; being assassinated by those he was about to subject.

There yet remains one conside­ration to make, concerning Alex­ander, [Page 24] That all the Captains of the Macedonians were great Kings after his death, who were but mean men compared to him du­ring his life. And certainly, I par­don him in some sort, if in a Coun­try where it was a received belief, that the most part of the Gods had their Families on Earth, where Hercules was believed the Son of Jupiter, for having killed a Lyon, or knocked some thief o'th head, I pardon him, I say, if seconding the opinion of Philip, who belie­ved his wife to have commerce with a God, if deceived by the Oracles, if finding himself so much above all other men, he has some­times despised his true birth, and sought for his Original in the Hea­vens; possibly, he caused this be­lief to be spread among the Bar­barians, to draw from them the greater veneration. Though whilst he gave himself out to the world for a kind of a God; sleep, plea­sures [Page 25] with women, and the blood that distilled from his wounds, made him know, that he was but a man.

After having spoken so much in favour of Alexander, I will say in one word with Cicero, that for the beauty of an universal Genius, Caesar was in all things the chief of all Ro­mans, Orator, Historian, in affairs of the Commonwealth, and in Employs of War. In truth the enterprises of Alexander have som­thing more astonishing, but his Conduct and Capacity appear not to have the same Equality. His War in Spain against Petreius and Afranius, is a thing which people of the utmost experience yet ad­mire. The most memorable Sieges of the later times have been form­ed after the manner of that of A­lexia, and we owe to Caesar, our Forts, our Lines, and our Counter­vallations, and generally, all that which secures Armies before pla­ces. [Page 26] For the vigor of it, the Battle of Munda was more sharply conte­sted than any of those of Asia; and Caesar ran as great hazard in Egypt, as Alexander did in the Town of the Mallians.

They were no less different in their procedure than in action. When Caesar had not Justice on his side, he sought for appearan­ces, and never wanted pretexts. Alexander would give the world no reason but his Will, he follow­ed in all things his Ambition and his Humour, but Caesar was guid­ed by his interest or his reason.

There was scarce ever known a person of such evenness in his life, such moderation in his for­tune and such clemency in injuries: those impetuosities which cost Cli­tus his life, those ill clear'd suspi­tions which caus'd the loss of Phi­lotas, and which, to Alexanders shame, drew in train with it, as a necessary evil, the death of Par­menio, [Page 27] all these Eruptions were unknown to Caesar: Who could not be reproached with any death but his own, for that he took not care enough of his proper preser­vation.

It must therefore be acknow­ledged, that, far from being sub­ject to the disorders of passion, he was the most active man of the World, and the least moved: great and little things found him still in the same posture, without ap­pearing to be heightned by one, nor lor'd by the other.

Alexander was not properly in his own nature, unless in extreams. If he were to run, it must be with Kings; if he were to hunt, it must be Lyons; 'twas an affliction to him, to make a Present that was not worthy of him. Never was he more resolute, never more gay, then when his troops seemed dis­couraged; never so full of confi­dence as in their despair. In a [Page 28] word, he began to enjoy himself at that point, where other men, whether for fear or some other weakness, use to give themselves over; but his Soul, too exalted, did difficultly comply with the common course of life; and little careful of its self, it was to be fear'd, might take its flight in the midst of pleasure and repose.

Here I cannot forbear to make reflexion upon those Hero's whose Empire & Rule has so much sweet­ness in it, that it is no difficulty to obey; we cannot have for them those secret repugnances, nor those inward promptings to liberty which perplex us under a forced obedience; all that is within us is made supple and easie; yet what comes from them is sometimes in­supportable. When they are our Masters by right of power, and so far above us by Merit, they think to have, as it were, a dou­ble Empire, which exacts a dou­ble [Page 29] subjection; and it is a trouble­some condition, to depend on men so great, that they may lawfully despise us. However, since there is no reigning in desarts and soli­tudes, and that there is a necessi­ty of their conversing with us; it should methinks be their inte­rest, to accommodate themselves to our weakness; and we should reverence them like gods, if they they would be content to live with us like men.

But let us finish this discourse, which becomes toilsome to my self, and say, that by all practica­ble ways, Caesar hath done the greatest things, and made himself chief of all the Romans.

Alexander was naturally above all men; and you may say, that he was born Master of the Universe, and that in all his Expeditions, he went less to fight with his enemies than to make himself known to his Subjects.

JUDGMENT ON Seneca, Plutarch, and Petronius.

I Will begin with Seneca, and tell you, with an extremity of impudence, That I have a greater esteem for his Person than his Works. I honour the Master of Nero, the Lover of Agrippina, and that Ambition which pretend­ed to the Empire; but for the Philosopher and the Writer, I have a very slender value; and am nei­ther affected with his stile, nor his conceptions. His Latine has nothing in it, like that of Augu­stus [Page 32] his time, nothing that's easie, nothing that's natural; full of points, full of imaginations that breathe forth more of the heat of Affrica or Spain, than the flame of Greece or Italy. You will find there things cut in two, which have the air and method of sentences, but have neither the solidity, nor good sense, which thrust and press upon the mind, without gaining the judgment. The continued vio­lence of his discourse does as it were affright me; and the Soul, instead of finding satisfaction and content, meets with nothing but melancholy and perplexity.

Nero, who though one of the wickedst Princes living, was a per­son of a great deal of wit; had ever about him, a sort of fine spruce delicate little Masters, who treat­ed Seneca like a Pedant, and en­deavoured to make a Fop of him. But I am not of the opinion of Bervillus, who thinks the false [Page 33] Eumolphus in Petronius was the true Seneca. If Petronius would have given him an injurious Character, he would rather have personated him under a Pedant Philosopher, than an impertinent Poet; besides it is almost impossible to find any resemblance of humor in it. Sene­ca was the richest man of the Em­pire, yet always praised poverty: Eumolphus was a Poet very low, and almost in despair with his con­dition, continually complaining of the Ingratitude of the Age, and for his sole comfort applying, that bonae mentis soror est paupertas. If Seneca had vices, he was precise to cover them under the cloak of Wisdom. Eumolphus boasted of his, and lived in the world like a Libertine.

I cannot therefore perceive on what Bervillus grounded his conje­cture. But I am deceived, if all that Petronius speaks of his time, [Page 33] of the corruption of Eloquence and of Poesy; if Controversiae sen­tentiales vibrantibus Pictae, which troubled him so much; if vanus sententiarum strepitus, at which he was astonished, hinted not at Seneca. If the per ambages & deo­rum Ministeria, &c. was not meant of Lucans Pharsalia. If the praises he gives to Cicero, Virgil, and Horace, were not designed to lessen both the Uncle and the Ne­phew. However it be, to return to my opinion of this Philosopher, I never could peruse his writings without finding an aversion to those principles wherewith he would in­spire his readers. If he endeavour to perswade Poverty, I dye with a desire of Riches; his Virtue makes me afraid; and the least vicious, would abandon themselves to pleasures, on the description he makes of it. In short, he talks so much of death, and wearies [Page 35] me with such dismal Idea's, that I do all I can, not to profit by reading him. That which I find most praise-worthy in his works, are the Examples and Quotations wherewith he adorms them. For he living in a very delicate Court, and knowing a thousand fine stories of all times, has brought in very pleasant ones, sometimes of the Greeks, sometimes of Caesar, of Augustus, of Mecaenas. For af­ter all this, he had abundance of wit, and an infinite knowledg, but his stile hath nothing in it a­greeable to me, and his opinions are too crabbed; and 'tis ridicu­lous, that a man who enjoyed an excess of riches, and preserved himself with such mighty care, should preach nothing but poverty and death.

Montaigne has found out a great agreement between Plutarch and Seneca; both great Philosophers, [Page 36] both Preachers of Wisdom and Virtue, both Masters of Roman Emperors; the one richer and greater in the world, the other more happy in the education of his Pupil. The opinions of Plu­tarch (as says the same Mon­taigne) are sweeter and better ac­commodated to society. Those of Seneca, according to his opi­nion, more strong and firm, but ac­cording to mine, more rugged and austere. Plutarch does sweetly insinuate Wisdom, and would make his Virtue familiar even in pleasures themselves, Seneca re­duces all pleasure under Wisdom, and makes only the Philosopher happy. Plutarch, of his own Na­ture virtuous, and first perswaded, easily perswades others. The Spi­rit of Seneca aims and animates it self towards Virtue, and as if it were a thing strange to him, 'tis necessary he first surmount it.

[Page 37] As for Plutarchs stile, not ha­ving any knowledg of the Greek; I cannot give you any assured Judgment, or pass my Sentence concerning it; but I must needs say, that amongst his Morals, there is a great deal I cannot at all com­prehend, whether it be by reason of the difference of things and manners in his time and ours, or that they are truly above my lit­tle capacity: the familiar Daemon of Socrates, the Creation of the Soul, and the course of the Moon, may be admirable to those that understand them. I must confess, I cannot find out their excellen­cies; and if they be wonderful, 'tis a wonder beyond my reach. We may judg by the good words of the ancients which he hath left us, by those sayings left by him, and those gathered together with so much diligence, by the long dis­courses at table, how sensible he [Page 38] was of conversation, and yet there was either little delicacy in those days, or his palat was none of the most exquisite; he sustains grave and serious matters with a vast proportion of sense and reason, but on things depending purely on wit, there is nothing either in­genious or delicate.

To say truth, the lives of the Illustrious men, are Plutarchs Ma­sterpiece, and in my judgment one of the finest Works of the world; you may there see those great per­sons exposed to view, and yet re­tired within themselves; you may see them in the purity of Nature, and in all the extents of Action; One may behold the constancy of Brutus, and his fierce answer to the evil Genius that spoke to him; one may perceive, that maugre himself, there yet remained some impression of that Fantasm which all the reasoning of Cassius could [Page 39] hardly efface; a few days after you may see him ordering his Troops, and giving Battle, so hap­py on his side, and so unfortunate by the error of Cassius; you may behold him re-attempting his for­tune, losing the fight, reproaching virtue, and finding more succour in his despair, than from that un­grateful Mistress he had so long faithfully served.

There is a natural force in all his discourse, which equals the greatest action, and of him only it may properly be said, Facta di­ctis exaequata sunt; yet he forgets not the mean nor common things, but with diligence examines the ordinary course of the life.

For his Comparisons, which Montaigne hath found so admira­ble, they appear indeed to me very polite; but I think, he might have exceeded them, and pierced farther into the depths of their [Page 40] Nature. There are windings and turnings in our Souls, which have escaped him; he hath given judg­ment of man too much in the gross, and has not believed him so different as he is from himsef, wicked, virtuous, just, unjust, mer­ciful, cruel; and where man seems to be-ly himself, he attributes it to stranger causes. In short, had he been to define Cataline, he had given him us, either Covetous or Prodigal; that alieni appetens, sui profusens, was above his knowledg, and he could never have unravel­led those contraries which Salust has so well separated, and which Montaigne himself much better un­derstood.

To judg of the merit of Petro­nius, I would have perused what Tacitus says, and without lying, he must be one of the most honest men of the world, since he could oblige so severe an Historian, to [Page 41] renounce his Nature, and enlarge himself in the praises of a volup­tuous person; not but that so ex­quisite a voluptuousness contribu­ted as much to the delicacy of the spirit, as to that of the taste. That Erudito Luxu, that arbiter Elegan­tiarum, is the character of an in­genious politeness, much different from the grosser conceptions of the vicious: Nor was he so given over to his pleasure, as to become incapable of affairs; neither had the sweetness of his life made him an enemy to business. He re­tained the merit of a Governour in his Goverment of Bythinia, and the virtue of a Consul in his Con­sulate; but instead of subjecting himself to his dignity, as do most part of men, fetching thence all their perplexity, or all their joys; Petronius, with a spirit superior to his charges, reduced them to him­self: and to explain my self bet­ter, [Page 42] according to Montaigne, he renounced not the Man in favour of the Magistrate.

For his death, after having well examined it, either I am deceived, or it was the most exemplary of all antiquity. In that of Cato, I find melancholy, and some anger; his despair of the affairs of the Commonwealth, the loss of his Liberty, the hate of Caesar, were great assisters of his resolution; and I know not whether his na­tural fierceness, did not almost reach to fury, when he tore out his own bowels. Socrates indeed died like a wise man, and with in­difference enough; however, he sought to assure himself of his con­dition in the other world; was con­tinually reasoning with his friends in the prison; & to say all in aword, Death was to him a very conside­rable Object. Petronius only found a sweetness and unconcernment in [Page 43] his Audiebat referentes nihil de im­mortalitate animae, & Philosopho­rum placitis. Sed levia carmina & faciles versus. He not only con­tinued his ordinary functions, to give liberty to his slaves, to cause others to be punished, but suffered himself to be transported to any thing that might delight him; and his Soul, at the point of so troublesome a separation, was more affected with the sweet­ness and facility of Verse, than all the sayings of Philosophers. Pe­tronius at his death only left an image of life; no action, no word, no circumstance betray'd any trou­ble of a dying man; of him may properly be said, that dying is to cease to live, and to him the Vixit of the Romans justly appertains.


I Am not of their opinion, who believe, that Petronius intend­ed to reprove the vices of the times; or to compose a Satyr with the same design wherewith Horace writ his. I am deceived, or good manners were not so much obli­ged to him. 'Tis rather a delicate Courtier, who finds it ridiculous, that a Pedant should become the publick Censurer, and undertake to blame the corruption of the times. And to speak truth, if Pe­tronius would have left us an in­genious moral of the description of Sensualists, he had endeavou­red [Page 46] to give us some disgust, but 'tis in this, that vice appears with all the graces of the Author; 'tis in this, that he sets forth with more excellency the acuteness and politeness of his spirit.

Moreover, if he had a design to instruct us by a way more fine and intricate than that of Precept, we should at least see an example of divine or human justice upon some one of his Debauches: but so it happens, that the only good man, which he introduces, the poor Lycas, an honest faithfull Mer­chant, fearing the gods, perishes miserably in the tempest, in the midst of those Varlets which are preserved. Encolpius and Giton bind themselves to one another, that they may dye in the straiter embraces, and death dares not di­sturb their pleasure. The volup­tuous Triphena saves her self in a skiff with all her baggage. Eumol­phus [Page 47] was so little moved with the danger, that he had the leisure to make some Epigrams. Lycas, the pious Lycas, in vain invokes the gods for their assistance, and, to the shame of their providence, is the only innocent swallowed up among so many guilty. If we see sometimes Encolpion melancholy and grieved, his grief is not the effect of his repentance; he has murdred his Host, is a fugitive, there is no sort or manner of crime that he has not committed, yet thanks to a good Conscience, he lives without remorse; his tears, his sorrows proceed from a very different cause; he laments the unfaithfulness of Giton, who has forsaken him, and despairs to imagine he may be in the em­braces of another, who laughs at the solitude to which he is re­duced.

[Page 48] Jacent nunc amatores Obligati noctibus totis; & forsitan, mutuis libidinibus attriti de­rident solitudinem meam.

All crimes ever succeeded hap­pily to him, only one, which in truth brought upon him a very severe punishment; yet this was a sin to which neither divine nor human Laws had allotted any cha­stisement; he had too faintly an­swered the caresses of Carce; and the plain truth is, this fumbling is the only fault that ever afflicted him; he acknowledges he has ma­ny times err'd, but never deserved death but in this occasion. In fine, not to tye my self to the order of the History, he relapses again in­to the same crime, and receives the deserved punishment with a perfect resignation; 'tis now that he begins to consider with himself, [Page 49] and feels the Anger of the gods.

Hellespontiaci sequitur gravis Ira Priapi.

He laments the sad and misera­ble estate into which he is fallen: ‘Funerata est pars illa corporis, qua quondam Achilles eram.’ And to recover his former vigor, he puts himself into the hands of a Priestess of that Gods, with most excellent reflections on Re­ligion, but in effect, the only ones that ever proceeded from him in all his adventures.

I could tell you likewise, that the good man Eumolphus is— by little boys, when he recites his Verses; but when he corrupts his Scholar, the Mother treats him as a Philosopher, and though they lye in the same Chamber, the Fa­ther [Page 50] sleeps dogs-sleep. So much is the buffoon severely punished in Petronius, and vice happily pro­tected. Judg by this, if virtue had not need of another Orator to perswade it. I believe, he was of the opinion of—

That an honest man and good manners agree not together.
Si ergo Petronium adimus, adimus virum ingenio vero aulico, Elegan­tiae arbitrum, non Sapientiae.


IT's not to be doubted, that Petronius designs, to describe the debauches of Nero; and that that Prince was the principal object of his Satyricon. But to know, if the persons which he in­troduces are true or feigned, if he give us Characters according to his own fancy, or else describes the proper Nature of certain peo­ple; is a thing very hard, and which in reason we cannot assure our selves of. I believe for my part, that there is no one person in Petronius, that can generally agree with Nero. Under Trimal­chio, he apparently derides his ri­diculous Magnificence, and the extravagancy of his Pleasures. Eu­molphus represents to us the fool­ish [Page 52] passion he had for the Thea­ter.

Sub nominibus exoletorum, faemina­rumque & novitate cujusque stupri; Flagitia Principis per­scripsit.

And by an agreeable dispositi­on of different imagined persons he touches divers impertinencies of the Emperors, and the ordinary disorder of his life.

It may be said, that Petronius is very contrary to himself, to blame the sumptuousness of a Feast, and the delicacy and softness of other pleasures; he that was so diligent and ingenious an Inqui­sitor after voluptuousness!

Dum nihil amoenum & molle afflu­entia puta: nisi quod ei Petronius approvavisset.

[Page 53] For to speak truth, though that Prince was in his own nature suf­ficiently corrupt, yet according to Plutarchs judgment, the com­plaisance of this Courtier contri­buted very much to throw him into all manner of Luxury and Profuseness. In this, as well as in most things of History, we must regard the difference of times.

Before that Nero gave himself over to this strange kind of loose­ness, there was no person in the world, so agreeable to him as Pe­tronius; insomuch, that every thing passed for gross and dull that had not his approbation. This Court was like a School of pleasure, or Inquisition of voluptuousness; where every thing was fitted to the delicacy of so exquisite a pa­lat. I believe likewise, that the [Page 54] politeness of our Author, became pernicious to the publick, and that he was one of the principal causes of the ruin of several con­siderable persons, who made a particular profession of Wisdom and Virtue. He was continually preaching Liberality to that Em­peror who was already a Prodi­gal; softness, to one given over to sensuality; what ever had but an appearance of Austerity, seem'd to him fond and ridiculous. If my conjectures be right, Traseas had his turn, Helvidius his, and who­ever had merit without the art to please, was troublesome at his own cost.

In this sort of life, Nero grew every day more and more cor­rupt; and as the delicacy of the pleasure began to yeild to the disorder of the debauch, he fell into extravagancies beyond [Page 55] all bounds, and into an utter dis­order of mind. 'Twas then that Tigellinus, jealous of the parts and favour of Petronius, and those advantages he had over him in the skill of contriving pleasures, en­deavoured to ruin him, Quasi adversus aemulam & Scientiae vo­luptatem potiorem. Nor was it any difficult matter for him to do; for the Emperor, absolute­ly given over as he was, could not suffer so curious a witness of his infamies; he was less tormen­ted with remorse for his Crimes, than with a secret shame, which his gross debauches threw upon him, when he remembred the sweetness and delicacy of his for­mer delights. Petronius on his side, was not without his dis­gusts; and I am of the mind, that in the time of those con­cealed discontents, he compo­sed that ingenious Satyricon, [Page 56] which we unhappily have but im­perfect.

We may see in Tacitus, the occasion of his disgrace, and how soon after Piso's Conspiracy, the Friendship of Scevinus, was the pretence of his fall.


PEtronius is through his whole writings to be admired for the purity of his style, and the excellency of his conception; but that which most of all surprizes me, is the great facility where­with he does ingeniously give us all sorts of Characters. Terence is possibly the Author of Anti­quity, which dives best into the nature of persons. Yet I can find this to say against him, that he is too much confin'd, and all his talent is bounded, in putting fit words into the mouths of ser­vants, and old men, a covetous father, a debauched son, a slave, or a kind of Pick-pocket, be­hold at once the utmost extent of Terence his capacity: expect [Page 58] not from him, either the gallan­try, or passion, or conceptions, or discourse of an honest man.

Petronius, with an universal spirit, finds the genius of all sorts of professions, and forms, as he pleases, a thousand different na­tures; if he introduces a Decla­mer, he manages so well his air and his stile, that you would say he had Declamed all his life. No­thing in the world can better express the disorders of a de­bauched life, than the quarrels of Encolpius and Acyltor, about the matter of Giton.

Does not Quartilla represent admirably those prostituted wo­men?

Quarum sic acceusa libido, ut sae­pius peterent viros▪ quam pete­rentur?

[Page 59] Does not the marriage of lit­tle Giton and the innocent Pan­nichris give us the perfect image of an accomplished unchastity.

All that a Fop could do ri­diculously, at a magnificent Ban­quet, a counterfeit gallant, and an impertinent; you have repre­sented to the life, at the feast of Trimalchio.

Eumolphus shews us Nero's fol­ly on the Theater, and his va­nity, to recite his own works; and you may observe, in pas­sing over so many curious verses, of which he makes a debaucht use, that an excellent Poet is or­dinarily no very honest man. And by the by, as Encolpion re­presenting Eumolphus, for a Poet dogril, and maker of fantastick verses; yet forbears not to find in his Physiognomy, something [Page 60] of Great; you may perceive, he observes judiciously not to ruin those Idea's he had given us.

That distemper he has, to compose out of due season, even in vicinia mortis, his volubility to tell his compositions in all places, answer to his ridiculous aim: ‘Et ego, inquit, Poeta sum, & ut spero non humillimi spiritus, si modo aliquid Coronis credendum est, quas etiam ad imperitos graves deferre solet.’

His knowledg general enough, his extraordinary actions, his ex­pedients in misfortunes, his con­stancy to help his companions in Lycas his ship; that pleasant Court of searchers for successions, which he brings together in Crotona, have still and accord with those [Page 61] things which Encolpius had pro­mised: ‘Senex Canus Exercitati vultus, & qui videbatur magnum aliquid promittere.’

There is nothing so natural, as the personating of Crisis; all our Confidants come not neer it; and without speaking of her first con­versation with Polienos, that which she says of her Mistress, upon the affront which she had received, with an inimitable quickness and propriety: ‘Verum enim fatendum est, ex qua hora accipit injuriam, apud se non est.’

Whoever has read Juvenal, knows very well, impotentiam Matronarum, and their wicked humour, Si quando vir aut fami­liaris [Page 62] infelicius cum ipsis rem ha­buerat, but there is no body but Petronius could describe Circe so fair, so sensual, and so gallant.

Enothea, the Priestess of Pria­pus, ravishes me with the Mira­cles which she promises, with her Enchantments, her Sacrifices, her mourning for the death of the sa­cred Goose, and the manner how she was comforted; when Polienos made her a present, with which she might buy a Goose, and gods too, if she thought fit.

Philumena, that honest Lady, is no less pleasant, who when she had devoured many Estates in the flower of her youth and beauty, being become old and consequently useless for pleasure, endeavoured to continue her ex­cellent art by the means of her Children, which with a thousand [Page 63] fine discourses she introduces to old folks which had none. In short, there is neither nature nor profession, the genius of which Petronius does not admirably fol­low; he is a Poet, an Orator, a Philosopher when he pleases.

For his verses, I find in them a pleasing force, and a natural beauty. Naturali pulchritudine car­men exsurgit. So that Douza could no longer endure the fire and tempest of Lucan, when he read the taking of Troy, or that little Essay of the War of Pharsalia, which he declares to love much better, ‘Quam trecenta Cordubensis illius Pharsalicorum versuum Volumina.’

I know not whether I am de­ceived, but in my mind, Lucre­tius hath not so aptly discoursed [Page 64] the matrer of dreams, as Petro­nius.

Somina, quae mentis ludunt volitan­tibus umbris,
Non delubra Deum, nec ab aethere numina mittunt,
Sed sibi quisque facit; nam cum prostrata sopore,
Ʋrget membra quies, & mens sine pondere ludit;
Quicquid Luce fuit, Tenebris agit oppida bello
Qui Quatit & flammis miseran­das saevit in urbes;
Tela videt: &c.

And what can one compare to that voluptuous night, the re­presentation of which so fills the Soul, that there is need of more than a little virtue, to contain within those simple expressions it makes upon the spirit.

[Page 65]
Qualis nox fuit illa! Dii, Deae­que,
Quam mollis Thorus! Haesimus Ca­lentes,
Et transfudimus hinc & hinc la­bellis,
Errantes animas. Valete curae!
Mortalis ego sic perire coepi.

What a night, O good gods! What warmth! What kisses! What breathings! What mix­ture of Souls in those hot and a­morous respirations!

Though the style of a Declamer seems ridiculous to Petronius, yet he forbears not to shew a great deal of Eloquence in his Decla­mations; and to make it appear, that the most debauched are not incapable of meditation and re­turn; Morality has nothing more serious, nor better applied than the reflections of Encolpius on the [Page 66] inconstancy of human things, and the uncertainty of death.

What ever subject presents it self, it is impossible either to think more delicately concerning it, or to express it more lively. Oftentimes in his Narrations, he proceeds no farther than the sim­ple nature, and contents himself with the naked graces, sometimes he puts his last hand to the work, and when he pleases, there's no­thing dishonest, nothing hard. Catullus and Martial treated on the same things grosly, but if a­ny one could find out the secret to clothe smutty things in lan­guage like his, I will answer for the Ladies, that they would praise his discretion.

But that which Petronius is more particular in, is, that be­sides Horace in some Odes, he is [Page 67] possibly the only person of anti­quity, that has known how to speak of Gallantry. Virgil is touching in the passions; the loves of Dido, the loves of Orpheus, and Euridice, have charm and tenderness, but there is nothing gallant; and the poor Dido, such a charitable good Soul she was, became amorous of Aeneas upon the recital of his misfortunes. Ovid is witty and easie. Tibullus delicate. Yet it behoved all their Mistresses to be more learned than my Lady—whilst they bring in the gods, fables, exam­ples drawn from the farthest an­tiquity. They are still promising Sacrifices, and I believe Mr.— took from them the manner of burning hearts in Holocaust. Lu­cian, as ingenious as he was, be­comes dull when he talks of love, and makes his Gallants discourse rather in the language [Page 68] of the Country than Court.

For my part, though I am a great admirer of the Ancients, I cannot forbear to render justice to our own Nation, and do cer­tainly believe, that we have o­ver them a great advantage in this point; and without lying, after having well examined the matter, I know none of those great Genius's, that could make Massinissa, Sophonisha, Caesar, and Cleopatra, speak so gallantly of love as we have heard them speak in our language; but as much as others yeild to us, Petronius ex­ceeds us. There is no Roman can furnish us with so agreeable a story as the Matron of Ephesus. Nothing so gallant as the love-Epistles of Circe and Polienos; and all their adventure, whether in the entertainments, or in the description, has a Character much [Page 69] above all the politeness of our age. Judg then, how delicately he would have treated a just pas­sion, when this was only the bu­siness of two persons, who at first sight were to come to the last en­joyments.

The Matron of Ephe­sus, according to Pe­tronius.

THere was a certain Lady at Ephesus, in so great re­putation for Chastity, that even the women of neigh­bouring Nations came to see her as a wonder; this excellent wo­man, when her husband was to be carried to sepulture, was not content, according to custom, to attend his corps, with dishevel­led hair, and to beat her naked breast in the sight of the people, but would follow his beloved bo­dy to its monument, and when it was after the Greek manner pla­ced [Page 72] in the Sepulcher, would be­come a Guard to it; and began whole nights and days to weep over it: from thus afflicting her self, and seeking her own death, neither her friends nor neighbours could withdraw her; the Magi­strates at last, finding both their power and prayers repulsed, left her; and every one deplored this woman of so singular an Exam­ple, who had now past the fifth day without sustenance. There accompanied her a faithful Hand-maid, who with her tears assist­ed her mourning, and as often as the light placed in the Monu­ment began to fail renewed it. She now was grown the talk of the whole Town; and all sorts of people confessed her to be the on­ly rare exemplar of true Love and Chastity. When it hapned, that the Governour of the Country having caused certain Thieves to [Page 73] be crucified neer the place where this Lady thus consumed her self over the body of her dead Hus­band; the next night after, a Sol­dier who had the guard of the Crosses, lest any should give the bodies burial, took notice of a light within the Monument, and heard certain mournful voices; and Curiosity, that vice of Man­kind, made him desirous to know who or what it was; going there­fore into the Monument, he es­pied a wonderful fair Lady, and stood astonished, and took it at first for an Apparition; but when he beheld the dead body, and con­sidered the tears, and saw the la­cerated countenance, he soon con­ceived what it might be, and that the dead object had made the o­ther careless of living; he then brought his Supper into the Mo­nument, and began to exhort the dying Lady, not to afflict her self [Page 74] with so vain a mourning, and with a grief that could bring no benefit, that we must all dye, and all go to the same home, and many such like things wherewith we use to reduce minds overcharged with sorrow; but she obstinate to all consolation, rent more vio­lently her breasts, and tearing off her hair, strowed it on the bosom of her dead Husband. Yet would not the Soldier be so repulsed, but with fresh exhortations, began to perswade her to eat; till the Maid corrupted with the sent of the Wine, first reach'd out her van­quish'd hand to the humanity of the Inviter; and being enlivened with meat and drink, began to combat her Ladies obstinacy; and what will it profit you, said she, thus to consume your self? why will you bury your self alive? or why will you render you spirit to the Fates before they ask it?

[Page 75] Think you the gods do for our ashes care?

Will all your mournings give light to what the Fates have ex­tinguished? why will you not ra­ther renounce this womanly error, and enjoy life while you may? that very dead body lying there, should admonish you, to live. There's none do unwillingly give ear, when they are compelled ei­ther to eat or live. The Lady wearied with several days absti­nence, permits her resolution to be broken, and with the same de­sire which before had vanquished her Maid, falls to, and eats; you might guess the rest, who know the effects of human satiety. With the same allurements wherewith the Soldier had perswaded the Matron to live, with the same he assaults her Chastity. The young [Page 76] man appeared to her neither de­formed, nor of unpleasant dis­course; and the Maid was assistant with her counsel:

Will you (said she) a pleasing love disdain?
Think how you are restor'd to life again.

Why should I prolong my sto­ry? Neither in this case could the woman preserve her vow'd abstinence; the Soldier becomes Victor both ways: they there­fore lay together, not only that night in which they made their close and sudden Nuptials, but likewise the following, and the third day; shutting up the entrance of the Tomb, that both known, or unknown, which passed that way, believed this Mirror of Chastity to be expired on the bo­dy of her dead Husband. The [Page 77] Soldier in the mean time, delight­ed as well with the womans ex­cellent beauty, as the secret of the adventure, bought all neces­saries, as far as his slender means would go, and every night brought them to the Monument. But whilst he thus enjoyed his love, some of the friends of one of the crucifi­ed persons, perceiving the guard neglected, took down the body and pay'd it the last Rites; which when the Soldier the next day found himself thus rob'd off, and beheld one of the Crosses with­out a body, he runs to his wo­man, bitterly complaining, and tells her, the like punishment was to be inflicted upon him; nor would he stay the Judges sentence, but with his own Sword do justice upon himself for his neglect. So that now she was like to behold in the same fatal Sepulcher, the dead bodies of her Husband and [Page 78] her Gallant; but the woman was as merciful as she was chast. The gods forbid, said she, that I should at once behold the Funerals of two men whom I held so dear; I had rather hang up the dead than kill the living; and accordingly she bids him take the body of her dead Husband out of the Coffin, and hang it on the Cross that want­ed one, the Souldier steads him­self of the ingenuity of this pru­dent woman; and the next day, all the Town admired, how a dead body could creep to the Cross.


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