Monday, July 09, 2012

His very meat was polluted: the death of Sulla

"Notwithstanding this marriage, he kept company with actresses, musicians, and dancers, drinking with them on couches night and day. […] By these courses he encouraged a disease which had begun from some unimportant cause; and for a long time he failed to observe that his bowels were ulcerated, till at length the corrupted flesh broke out into lice. Many were employed day and night in destroying them, but the work so multiplied under their hands, that not only his clothes, baths, basins, but his very meat was polluted with that flux and contagion, they came swarming out in such numbers. He went frequently by day into the bath to scour and cleanse his body, but all in vain; the evil generated too rapidly and too abundantly for any ablutions to overcome it. […]

"However, he could not refrain from intermeddling in public affairs. […] And the very day before his end, it being told to him that the magistrate Granius deferred the payment of a public debt, in expectation of his death, he sent for him to his house, and placing his attendants about him, caused him to be strangled; but through the straining of his voice and body, the imposthume breaking, he lost a great quantity of blood. Upon this, his strength failing him, after spending a troublesome night, he died, leaving behind him two young children by Metella".

- Plutarch, translated by John Dryden

image source


Smartipants said...

What the hell? Who was Sulla???

ian said...

Sulla... dictator of Rome. I think he was the first to overthrow the Republic, albeit temporarily. He initiated a reign of terror based around killing his enemies and personally confiscating their stuff.

One one memorable occasion he arranged it so that while he was addressing the Senate, his men in a neighbouring building started to execute hundreds of prisoners he was holding there. Sulla pretended not to notice the screams, which were clearly terrifying the Senators, until after some time he stopped his prepared speech and said: "Oh, the noise? Do not worry, good Senators, it is merely some enemies of the State receiving their just punishment".