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the reptiles into their own slime, and then, if they be not quiet, lo crush out their venom and their life together. We mean, of course, their life in a moral and literary sense, where indeed, “ killing is no murder," and where the creatures have earned their extinction. But it is time to see what our translating friend has to say for hiinself.]
TIE CONSPIRACY OF PLAUTION AGAINST SEVERUS AND CARACALLA.
Plautian the captain of the Praetorian guards, had passed his early youth in a very obscure station, and had been banished for various crimes of which he had been proved guilty. Yet, the circumstance of having been born in Africa, the birth-place of the Emperor Severus, and still more, according to some writers, the tie of a distant relationship to the Emperor's family, linked his hopes and his fortunes to the imperial court, notwithstanding the public delinquency which ought to have clouded his prospects in that quarter. He was rapidly advanced to the highest degree of the Prince's favour, and enriched with the spoils of those unhappy persons who daily fell victims to the cruelty of the despot. No private individual could be more wealthy and powerful than this man became; but that wealth and power obtained by disgraceful and iniquitous means, he shamefully abused; for he allowed his impetuous passions and bad propensities to hurry him into such acts of violence and oppression, that his well-known character, and his detested name, 'were soon found to inspire as much terror as that of the most formidable tyrants. The daughter of this flagitious favourite, was however, selected by the indiscretion, or the partiality of Severus, as a wife for his son Antonious Caracalla. With such a matrimonial connexion, the arrogant and self-willed young Prince could be but little pleased; particularly as he had been driven into it by necessity, not guided by the dictates of his own choice. He alike bitterly hated the father and the daughter; and he did not affect to conceal his wishes and his intention of putting them both to death, as soon as he should be able to assume the Imperial purple.
Herodian was the son of a thetorician of Alexandria, named 'Apollonius, and followed the 'honorable profession of his father. He flourished from the reign of the infamous and cruel Commodus, to that of the third Gordiau; that is, from the 180th, to the 240th year of the Christian era. He appears to have passed his life principally at Rome, engaged in various public employments, with which, as he himself says, he was invested by the prince and the state. The history of the Roman empire, written by him, embracing the important period that elapsed between the death of Marcus Aurelias, and that of Maximus and Balbinus, is highly esteemed, for the honest boldness and fidelity of the narrative. His style is natural and pleasing, although he does not appear in some instances, to be sufficiently judicious and austere, in the use of thetorical ornaments, his declamatory profession having probably interfered, as it always does, with the graver and more 'majestic graces, and the rich, yet unostentatious and untricked splendour that belong to legitimate historical composition, His Greek, indeed, is rather forid than pure, and may be regarded as holding nearly the same rank, as the Latin of Quintus Curtius. He displays no great elevation of mind, no ex. tent of erudition, no great depth of penetration, yet, he may be justly considered, an agreeable writer, and an amusing, if not an instructive, narrator of facts.
Being informed by his daughter, of the hatred and menances of her indignant husband, Plautian was enraged even to madness. When he reflected that the Emperor was now an old man, and frequently subject to attacks of dangerous maladies, and that Caracalla was a fierce and headstrong youth, he became seriously alarmed at the threats he had heard, and resolved upon striking a bold and decisive stroke, before he should be crushed by the impending ruin.
It was not, however, by fear alone, that he was wged to so daring and rash an enterprise; ambition, also prompted, and various favourable circumstances emboldened his design. Riches, such as fell to the lot of no other subject; the supposed devotedness of the Prætorian guards; the implicit deference yielded universally throughout the empire to the man, whoever he might be, that was in possession of the avenues to power and the places of trust, at Rome; the attention and respect so easily excited among the common people, by the gorgeous ornaments he wore, while in proud state, he appeared in the streets of the Imperial city—the purple Laticlave of the senatorial order, the sword, and other insignia of supreme authority; the servile dread which his overbearing deportment produced; the voice of the slaves who preceded him, calling aloud to the citizens to make way;—these superficial, yet dazzling, these trivial, yet attractive adjuncts of his elevated condition, swelled his vanity, fed his pride, and inflamed his thirst for the sceptre and the throne. On being made acquainted with these symptoms of inordinate ambition in his favourite, Severus thought it high time to abridge his assumed authority in some respects, and to induce the man, by that means, to make a proportional abatement of his insolence.
Unable to endure such restraint, Plautian no longer kept any bounds either of decency or of prudence, but went so far as to conspire against the Emperor himself. There was a certain Tribune under his command, named Saturninus, who exceeded the other herd of sycophants, by his superior art in adulation and baseness, and manifested an anticipating and spontaneous readiness to comply with any mandate, and perform any service that his patron might enjoin. Plautian imagined that he might rely with full confidence, on the secrecy and fidelity of this man, and therefore, regarded him as a fitting instrument for the accomplishment of his treasonable design. Summoning him, then to his presence, he thus addressed bim. “An opportunity is now afforded you of proving the sincerity of all the professions of zeal and attachment to my interest, which you have constantly made, and the time is at length come, when it will be in my power to reward your past services as they merit, and as ! wish. You have now to choose, whether you will, this day, be invested with all the honours and authority that I now enjoy, or perish instantly, if you refuse to obey me. Be not confounded at the magnitude or peril of the proposal I am about to make, and dread not the empty titles of Emperor and of Prince. As you have the command of the night-guard, it will be easy for you to enter the chambers of Severus and Antonius; and in silence and obscurity, to execute my will. There is no reward too great for your expectation and your choice, when once the sovereign power is lodged in my hands. Lose no time, therefore; repair to the palace immediately; declare yourself the bearer of high and important se. crets from me; evince the courage of a brave warrior, and fear not to slay an old man, and an effeminate boy. share with me the hazard
of this bold attempt, you shall also share the immense recompense that awaits its success.
The atrocity of this proposal, astonished and started the Tribune; yet it did not so far confuse him, as to prevent him from adopting on the spot, the line of conduct he was determined to pursue. Well knowing the determined and ferocious temper of Plautian, he did not venture to dispute bis purpose, lest he might thereby expose himself to instant destruction, but prostrating himself in presence of the traitor, as if he were already Emperor, he expressed his readines to comply mith his orders; demanding of him, however, a written commission, such as the Emperors are accustomed to give, whenever they command a citizen to be put to death, without the usual forms of public trial, in order to secure indemnity for the executioner of so despotic and summary a sentence. Blinded by excessive ambition, and the desire of revenge, Plautian wrote out the necessary commission, and delivered it to Saurninus, directing him to send for himself, as soon as the Princes should be slain, that he might be able in due time to shew himself in the palace, before the deed could be divulged, or any rival aspirant could come forward. The Tribune, promising a punctual and instant compliance, immediately departed, and hastening to the palace, gains admittance to the Emperor, by asserting that he was bearer of intelligence, involving nothing less than the safety of the state, and the life of the Sovereign.
He throws himself hastily at the feet of Severus, exclaiming, “were I to execute the commission entrusted to me, I should at this moment be the murderer of my master and lord. But behold me actuated by far other intentionsm I am come to save, not to extinguish thy precious life; Plautian, aiming at the empire, has employed me to assassinate thee, my Prince, and thy son. He has given me the traitorous order, not by word of mouth, but in his own hand-writing,—witness this execrable scrolí."
A flood of tears accompanied his passionate exclamation, and evinced his sincerity and truth. The Emperor still hesitated in confusion and alarm. His attachment to Plautian, suggesting to his mind, the probability of this plot being an artifice of Caracalla, to ruin the favourite, whom he was known to detest. He commanded forthwith, the attendance of the Prince, and reproached him with his base and unworthy machinations against a relative and a friend. Alarmed lest Severus should listen rather to the dictates of his affection for the unfaithful minister, than to the vehement asseverations of his son, who loudly disclaimed any consciousness of such a preceding, the Tribune eagerly cries out, “since even this billet, written by the traitor's own hand, fails to convince, permit me only to send to Plautian, by some faithful messenger, the single sentence,--all is done, and you will see how speedily he will come to take possossion of the palace, and the empty throne. But lei perfect tranquility prevail throughout the court, that no unusual commotion may warn him of the disclosure I have made, and induce him to make his escape.” This request was complied with; and a trusty messenger despatched to summon Plautian to the scene of action, in the words he had agreed upon with Saturninus.
The evening was far advanced, and Plautian, trusting to these false tidings, was elevated with the most intoxicating visions of hope. He put on a breastplate under his tunic, and mounting his chariot, he hurried to the palace, accompanied by a few persons, that happened to be with him, and that supposed he was sent for by the Emperor, on some urgent business.
Having arrived at the Imperial residence, he alighted, and entered without the least opposition from the guards. The Tribune running to meet • him, saluted him as Emperor, and taking him by the hand, threw open the
door of the chamber, upon the floor of which, Plautian expected to see the Emperor and his son, stretched lifeless before him. Wiihin the fatal apartment Severus had taken care to station some of his body-guard, with orders to seize the traitor, the instant he should enter. What was the overwhelming terror and dismay of Plautian, when, on advancing into the room, he felt his arms suddenly pinioned, and beheld the apalling spectacle of the Emperor and Caracalla, erect, full of life, and gazing steroly upon him! For a moment he stood horror-stricken, and weak and speechless, beneath this great and unforeseen danger. · Then pouring out an intermingled torrent of tears and supplications for mercy, he protested that what was alledged against him, was mere calumny, invented to blacken his character, and to deprive him of his royal master's favour : and, on Severus reproaching him with the ungrateful return he had made for all the favours showered on his unworthy head, the culprit reminded his Sovereign of the many and irrefragable proofs he had given of zeal and fidelity in his service.
The impression produced by his agony of grief, and his loud and earnest professions of innocence, was so powerful, that the convictions and anger of the Emperor were beginning to waver and give way, when, through an accidental opening of his robe, Caracalla discerned the glittering of the breastplate. Enraged at this sight, the impetuous and violent young Prince called upon him furiously, to answer two question; first, for what purpose he had come to the Emperor's apartment at that unseasonable hour, and unsent for ?-- and then, what he could mean by having his breast cased in the glittering cuirass? Who was ever known to come in arms, to a supper or a banquet? So saying, and without waiting for a reply, he ordered the Tribune and the other soldiers in attendance, to fall upon him, and put him to death on the spot, and instantly, as a manifest enemy, and a convicted traitor. The command of the Prince was unhesitatingly obeyed. The miserable wretch was cut to pieces, and his dead body thrown from the window, to be exposed to the insults, and to be trampled beneath the feet of the people, whose hatred he had incurred by his insupportable arrogance, and his tyrannical oppression. Such was the end of unrestrained and unprincipled ambition,
FROM THE ITALIAN.
Though anger clouds that beauteous brow,
Loveliest! in vain the cause I seek;
Could tinge with wrath a lady's cheek!
My soul upon tby beauty hung,
And thine the crime, if crime it be,