Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big Read II: I, Claudius Ch. 27-29

Chapter 27: Sejanus falls, and followers culled

~Now that Livia's dead, Tiberius goes after Agrippina and her son Nero, the one good one. Now how did Agrippina and Germanicus manage to have such nasty kids when they were the good ones? Maybe because their kids were raised by war? His letter is presented to the Senate by Sejanus, and the Recorder, always one to go Tiberius's way, does not this time. After a blip of rebellion by the people, Tiberius sends the two to bleak islands, Agrippina to Julia's first island of banishment, Nero to another. Drusus is also framed, Sejanus enlisting the help of D's wife, S's lover.

~Gallus also of course. Tiberius arranges his arrest while he is entertaining Gallus. Tiberius feigns support.

Gallus felt bound to thank Tiberius for his magnanimity, but was sure that there was a catch somewhere, that Tiberius was paying back irony with irony; and he was right.

~Antonia is a conservative house manager, and so while saving paper she discovers Livilla's conspiracy with Sejanus to become rulers. She proves herself as clever at being nondescript as Claudius, and sends word to Tiberius through a book of Claudius's, presented as coming from Claudius. She sends Claudius's slave, Pallus, who shows his loyalty to Claudius by stopping by on his way to fulfill the errand. Claudius seals it as though he never saw.

Naturally I was in the deepest anxiety as to what would happen and felt very bitter against my mother for having put my life into such terrible danger by mixing me up in a quarrel between Tiberius and Sejanus.

~Tiberius sends Caligula to the Guards to find out who had the most influence besides Sejanus. Caligula does his investigation in drag. Oooohh Caligula, you didn't! You loved it, you know it.

~Meanwhile Tiberius sends letters making it seem as though he's becoming senile, and keeps his enemies complacent, off-guard. "On the day set by Tiberius for his arrival in Rome, Sejanus was waiting, at the head of a battalion of Guards..." The man Caligula found, Macro, sends Sejanus inside, and his Guards away, replacing them. The letter he is sent to read is different that Tiberius's usual MO. Instead of berating and then rewarding, it just goes deeper into reproach. Now why do I find myself rooting for Tiberius? He is evil. So is Sejanus. Do I feel like Tiberius has some more natural claim to rule and Sejanus is usurping his place?

~Because she had done so well, Tiberius told Antonia
that any reward within reason was hers for the asking. My mother said...the family name should not be disgraced: that her daughter should not be executed and their body thrown down the stairs. "How is she to be punished then?" Tiberius asked sharply. "Give her to me," said my mother. "I will punish her."
I bet Tiberius liked the lack of expense on his part. Antonia starved her to death. She kept her in hearing, "not from a delight in torture, for it was inexpressibly painful to her, but as a punishment to herself for having brought up so abominable a daughter." So where has this woman been hiding? I guess what goes remarked are evil deeds, not virtuous, conservative living.

~More executions follow. Tiberius feigns amnesty to root out more who liked Sejanus, and gets rid of them too. He is efficient and ruthless when it comes to purging a real conspiracy. Greedy too. He replaces the lost gentry by elevating freedmen to Knights.

Chapter 28: Tiberius dies
~Last 5 years of Tiberius: Nero slowly starved to death; Agrippina refused to eat; Gallus "died of consumption"; Drusus tortured to death, cursing til the last breath; Tiberius reports all Drusus's accusations
The senators'...oh, oh's and groans covered their amazement that Tiberius should voluntarily provide such a revelation of his own wickedness. Tiberius was very sorry for himself at the time..., tormented by insomnia and superstitious fear; and actually counted on the Senate's sympathy.
In Buddhism, a person ends up in the Hell Realm when he is so entrenched in aggression and hatred that he cannot see any way out of it, nor the suffering of others, nor how he has brought this on himself. It is the most me, me, me of the realms, even more than the fallen gods realm in which they feel entitled to the bounty of heaven that they can remember and see. It's no big surprise to me that Tiberius finds himself in a particularly twisted Hell of the mind.

~Tiberius makes Caligula his heir, but believes C will die beforehand. Macro, the son of a slave, is even more bloodthirsty than Sejanus. We keep getting this message perhaps, better the evil you know than the evil you don't know.
~"[Plancina] was accused once more of poisoning Germanicus; for she was quite wealthy. Tiberius had not allowed her to be prosecuted until Agrippina was dead, because if Agrippina had heard the news it would have pleased her greatly.
Oh good grief. He is evil.

~Nerva, the one good guy Tiberius has cultivated, sort of like a good luck charm, stops eating. I have noticed in my life that people with pathological tendencies seem to have a deep need to have a good person really like them. I have wondered if this says to them there must somehow be some good in them then. Tiberius tries making changes he hopes Nerva will approve of. Nerva says only that his stomach would reject food anyway, and dies after nine days.
Thrasyllus died. His death was announced by a lizard. ..."I
never told you a lie. You told me many. But beware when your lizard gives you a warning."
Tiberius figured Thrasyllus meant his 'Wingless Dragon.' I think I've seen photos of that, but I can't remember what it is called nowadays. The giant lizard dies, crawling with ants, and Tiberius tries to run from his fate, but he catches a chill. Even while dying, T has Macro bring charges against people.

~Caligula jumps the gun and announces Tiberius's death, but the old codger revives and a slave hears. Macro turns on the slave as lying or crazy, and he smothers Tiberius for Caligula. Does this happen on the Ides of March? It was the 16th that news came of Tiberius's death.
Tiberius had a villa at Atella and used to attend the festival nearly every year. He had converted the innocent rural bawdry of the masque into a sophisticated vileness.
Chapter 29: Caligula the god
~All Caligula had to do was coast. The people loved him because they thought he was his father's son. For the heck of it, Caligula honored bequests that Tiberius hadn't. He was throwing money around right and left. Claudius's smart new young prostitute, Calpurnia, does the math and warns Claudius that Caligula will soon be looking for money to steal just as Tiberius did. Claudius rewards her with 500 gold pieces.
~Claudius hints at incestuous husband and wife-swapping in Caligula's palace.
Drusilla was his favorite. Although she was well rid of her husband, she always seemed unhappy now, and the unhappier she grew the more solicitous were Caligula's attentions. ...[Her new husband] was known as Ganymede because of his effeminate appearance and his obsequiousness to Caligula.... Caligula treated him like a boy of thirteen, and he seemed to
like it.

~"Caligula fell ill and for a whole month his life was despaired of." Drusilla warns Claudius to humor Caligula. Caligula is now a god. Could this be advanced syphilis?
~I had the fleeting thought at the time of Germanicus's death, I wondered if it was Caligula, but I didn't say it and now I can't say "I knew it!" It occurred to me because well, this was Caligula, and the markings were low on the wall, and the dead animals a sure sign of a future sociopath. It threw me off though, that some markings were up high. Then, I wondered again as Livia revealed all, but she, the old liar, just had to keep one more lie. I would say she knew, because of the green jasper charm.

~Claudius begins planning a return to a Republic. "The Guards are the greatest obstacle. They know very well that they'd never get bounties of fifty and a hundred gold pieces a man voted them by a Republican Senate. Yes, it was Sejanus's idea of turning them into a sort of private army for my uncle Tiberius that gave monarchy its oriental absoluteness." Caligula was accepted as a god, though, so no restoration of the Republic.

~Interesting that Caligula turned the perfectly innocent seasickness of Gemellus, and the recurrent illness of his father-in-law, into proofs of treachery. Claudius would notice this. Is he wondering about his own physical ailments, and whether they'll be transformed into evil-doing against Caligula?

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