dinsdag 2 maart 2010

Macrobius: Anecdotes about Julia, daughter of Augustus

Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius was a Roman grammarian and neoplatonic philosopher during the reign of Honorius and Arcadius (395-423)

The most important of his works is the Saturnalia, containing an account of the discussions held at the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus (praetorian prefect from May 21 - Sept. 9, A.D. 384) during the holiday of the Saturnalia starting on December 17. It was written by the author for the benefit of his son Eustathius (or Eustachius)

In his second book, chapter five, Macrobius relates a number of anecdotes concerning the Roman Emperor Augustus and his daughter Julia:

I. She (Julia Aug.f.) came one day into her father’s presence wearing a somewhat immodest dress. Augustus was shocked but said nothing. On the next day, to his delight, she wore a different kind of dress and greeted him with studied demureness. Although the day before he had repressed his feelings, he was now unable to contain his pleasure and said:” This dress is much more becoming in the daughter of Augustus.” But Julia had an excuse ready and replied:” Yes, for today I am dressed to meet my father’s eyes, yesterday it was for my husband’s.”

II.At a display of gladiators the contrast between Livia’s suite and Julia’s had caught the eye, for the former was attended by a number of grown-up men of distinction but the latter was seated surrounded by young people of the fast set. Her father sent Julia a letter of advice, bidding her mark the difference between the behaviour of the two chief ladies of Rome, to which she wrote this neat reply:” These friends of mine will be old men too, when I am old.”

III.Her hair began to go grey at an early age, and she used secretly to pull the grey hairs out. One day her maids were surprised by the unexpected arrival of her father, who pretended not to see the grey hairs on her women’s dresses and talked for some time on other matters. Then, turning the conversation to the subject of age, he asked her whether she would prefer eventually to be grey or bald. She replied that for her part she would rather be grey. “Why, then,” said her father, thus rebuking her deceit, “ are these women of yours in such a hurry to make you bald?”

IV.To a seriousminded friend who was seeking to persuade her that she would be better advised to order her life to conform to her father’s simple tastes she replied:” He forgets that he is Caesar, but I remember that I am Caesar’s daughter.”

V.To certain persons who knew of her infidelities and were expressing surprise at her children’s likeness to her husband Agrippa, since she was so free with her favours, she said:” Passengers are never allowed on board until the hold is full.”

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