+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

death for having owned that, but for the
pleasant prospect of a subsequent marriage, she
would prefer to die. ("Moriar, nisi nubere
dulce est.")

Roman journals, such as have come down to
us, give no details of these awful executions.
With an ominous reserve, it is merely announced
that the culprit "suffered." Criminal as she
was, the dignity and sacredness of her office
clung about her to the last; and the unhappy
creature went to her lingering death with the
pomp and solemnity that might befit a royal
funeral. But what followed?

"There is," writes Plutarch, "near the
Colline gate, a small, deep cavern, the descent to
which is by an orifice capable of admitting a
human body. Within this, are placed a small
couch, a lighted lamp, a loaf of bread, a cruse
of water, a phial of oil, and a bowl of milk,
in order that religion may not be offended
in permitting to die of hunger an individual
consecrated with ceremonies so august and

Sad and mournful was the day in Rome that
witnessed one of these terrible processions winding,
in awful silence, through the crowded ways
the people standing aloof, with eyes nailed
upon the moving tomb (a litter so constructed
as not only to conceal, but almost to stifle the
cries of, the miserable occupant), which passed
toward that darker tomb beside the Colline

Arrived there, the lictors removed the veils
and shutters, and the high priestafter
murmuring mysterious prayers, never heard but by
his orderdrew forth the wretched criminal, and
guided her shuddering feet to the ladder, down
which she had to descend into her living grave.
The ladder was then withdrawn, and the aperture
closed, and covered with earth in such a
manner as to leave no mound or trace; this, to
signify that she who had been left beneath was
alike unworthy to be reckoned among the living
and the dead.

The vestals were abolished, and the fire of
Vesta extinguished, by Theodosius the Great.

From the last quoted paper4th kal. Sept.
we moreover learn that the censors made a
bargain that the temple of Aius Locutius (a
celestial gentleman whose supernatural voice
warned the Romans of the approach of the
Gauls, in the time of Camillus) should  be
repaired for twenty-five sesterces (about four and
twopence): a thrifty bargain by the censors, and
well deserving a place in the Acta Diurna.

Finally, we learn that Q. Hortensius
harangued the people "about the censorship
and the Allobrogian war," two topics so far
asunder as to engender a suspicion that Q.
Hortensius, having got the public by the ear,
did not know how to relinquish his hold. And,
last of all, advice arrived from Etruria, that
some of the late conspirators had begun a
tumult, headed by Lucius Sergius.

Now this is rather a curious paragraph. It
would seem, as a matter of course, to apply to
the conspiracy of Lucius Sergius Catiline,
which was hatched in Etruria. But Catiline's
conspiracy had been completely quashed before
this date, a fact, of course, well known to the
conductors of the Acta Diurna. It probably
meant that disturbances had been renewed by
certain of the conspirators who had hitherto
escaped detection. But Lucius Sergius, stated
to be "at their head," was as dead as Guy

In examining these old-world records, we
arrive at the conclusion that if, on the one
hand, we find the same conciseness, clearness,
and simplicity which distinguished the inscriptions
upon the medals and public monuments of
the ancients, they are, on the other, deficient
in that sprightly humour, and those happy turns
of expression, which give charm to modern
diurnal composition.

In one material ornament of style our
Roman gazettes were wofully deficient. They
never hint or mystify. If it rained stones
on Mount Veientine, they simply record
the shower. If an ox or an ass spoke, they
record, as tersely as possible, the observations
offered by that animal. If "cultivate the gods"
was found legibly written on a pig's interior,
the exhortation was gravely published for what
it was worth. They never conclude with such
hints as "this matter excites the profoundest
speculation," or "interest hourly increasing,"
"no one can foresee the result," &c. &c. Far
less do they commence with such incertitudes
as "we hear," "we are credibly informed,"
"it is widely whispered."

The ingenious excuse for a downright
fabrication, "it wants confirmation," seems to have
been wholly unknown to those plain dealers
and speakers, nor do they seem to have been
at all awake to the advantage of popping in an
occasional falsehood one day, in order to revive
it in the public mind by a flat contradiction on
the next. There is no exaggeration, no
compliment. The prætor's very daughter is
married, and we are left in darkness as to the
young lady's beauty, merit, dower. We
know simply that her sire postponed his
"sittings" for five days (the act of a doting father)
in order that the nuptial festivities should have
full swing.

There is one more characteristic of these
journals which should not escape attention:
their constant reference to religious ceremonies.
Scarcely a day passes without some sacrifice or
festival to propitiate the gods, and implore their
blessing upon the arms and the councils of the
State. Like the immortal narratives of the
Roman historians, from Livy to Marcellinus,
they abound with recitals of the performance
of religious duties, while, at the same time,
they recount the most absurd and ridiculous
prodigies with all the gravity due to historic

With this latter exception, the Acta Diurna,
meagre as its details were, was a thoroughly
honest and reliable publication. In illustration
of every description of historical fact, it would
have been of inestimable value to the historian