Monday, March 17, 2008

The Big Read II: I, Claudius Ch. 17-19

I got some neat comments from Emperor Ropi, a student in Budapest. He answers my question about doctors: "Would a doctor at that time know how to treat, or to infect, such a wound?" He says, "In that time, camp doctors had advantage because in Rome post-mortem examination was illegal so their knowledge wasn't good compared to camp doctors whom met with death and cut people often on the battlefield."

He also notes that he thinks Livia knew Claudius would be Emperor one day, due to the birds and wolf pup omen. I know Claudius's mother had an inkling...perhaps she said as much to Livia.

Thanks, E. Ropi!

Chapter 17: The Peanut Gallery

  • In the Senate, Tiberius is heckled by Haterius and Gallus, until he manages to dis H, and Gallus is alone in his pluck. Haterius Haterius...could somebody good at this do something with the Diarrhea Song tune? I wonder if this kind of heckling occurs in our Senate and House, and if so, how much of it goes over most of the narcissistic politicians' heads. "Not Augustus, fool," Haterius would say in a stage whisper. "He's refused that title a dozen times. He only uses it when he writes letters to other monarchs."
  • Tiberius has two trusted advisors, Sejanus and Nerva. "Nerva never made an enemy and never lost a friend. His one fault, if you may call it so, was that he kept silent in the presence of evil when speech would not remedy it." Coming up: Sejanus ends up holding sway over Tiberius. This is the conundrum the good face. We do not wish to speak ill of others. This is one of my Buddhist precepts in fact. The ones that gain more ground then in the short run are the ones willing to speak ill, and Sejanus does that religiously.
  • Later on, Claudius deciphers Livia's secret is based on Homer. Clever Claudius.
  • Is Urgulanilla gay? She loves to gaze at the portrait of an elfin female in-law; Claudius has a concubine
  • Briseis's dream: this name is familiar. Where in the Western canon have I come across this name before? Oh yeah, duh. Homer. She dreams Claudius is a lame boy, safe in the tree while thieves murder each other and he gets all the loot.

Chapter 18: Postumus killed again

  • Postumus reveals himself! After coming up with the secret milk messages, why does Claudius send a letter to Germanicus so easily intercepted?
  • "What greater sorrow can there be than to mourn a beloved friend as murdered--at the close of a long and undeserved exile, that he has somehow cheated his executioners, to have to mourn him a second time..." Tiberius and Livia pretend the recently emerged and killed Postumus was actually the formerly killed slave, Clement. Claudius is now too nervous, fearing poison, to fulfill his religious duties. He takes time off.

Chapter 19: Germany Subdued

  • Hermann and Flavius, German brothers, opposite sides: "I know you are but what am I?" ..."I know you are but what am I?" ..."Your own mother hates you." ..."Yeah well your wife hates you nyahh." The fighting goes exactly as Germanicus predicted. The Germans charge too soon, then flee when overwhelmed, too undisciplined.
  • Germanicus gives his men a rest, sending some by sea. They are shipwrecked. The Germans think the gods favor them, but Germanicus wins again and regains his Eagles. "Only the Eagle of the Twenty-Fifth now remained unredeemed..." Tiberius orders him back to Rome. Livia sends Claudius to Carthage so he can't talk to Germanicus. Germanicus of course tells Tiberius about the framing of Postumus, and of course Tiberius tells Livia. "She was pleased that he still feared her sufficiently to tell her so much, and called him a dutiful son. She swore that she had not arranged false charges against Postumus; this story was probably invented by Agrippina, whom Germanicus followed blindly and who was trying to persuade him to usurp the monarch." Ah, how liars can make the things they do, sound like the things others are doing.
  • Tiberius still doesn't have the super secret dossiers, so to exert political might he creates a law making it easy to accuse blasphemy.
  • Castor spreads foment among tribes in Germany, as Tiberius wished. Hermann, the spy turned German leader, tries to be a king, but Germans seem to have something more like mayors and won't stand for it. "His family, which had hitherto been greatly devoted to him, were so scandalized that, without even first discussing the matter together, they all rushed at him with their weapons and hacked him to pieces." I wonder, would Livia had gotten so far if she had been a German in Germany?

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