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87

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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THE ROMAN EMPERORS IN MARBLE. 87
eager pursuit of enjoyment and insolent revels upon the
treasure of continents captured by arms. He saw even
the Stoic ideal, of which in the school-room he had
heard so much ; but only on the dark faces of a few re-
publicans, in the wrathful countenances of a few soldiers,
and in the austere bearing of a few philosophers, who
stood as unwilling spectators, and might be borne with
as such, since the occasional shadows of old Roman vir-
tue they cast upon the stage, made an aesthetically effec-
tive break in the brilliance of the orgy. What wonder
then, if the imperial youth had no wish to take his place
among them, but rather chose to be Dionysus of the
train as it moved on shouting " Evoe !
" and make of his
sceptre a thyrsus that swayed its frenzy to Hellenic
rhythm, and gave a Grecian charm to its disorder?
To the sharers in this bacchanal, that old Roman vir-
tue, excessively lauded by the poets, was nothing but a
child, which the constrained simplicity of the olden time
had begotten in fear of the gods. But why had their an-
cestors subdued the world, if not that posterity should
enjoy it? As for the gods, their temples stood yet,
worthy walls to protect the sculptured works of Greece ;
and the mystic rites of the temple attracted more than
ever, since women had found it more delightful to sin,
as holy ecstasies could expiate unholy ; but the gods
themselves no longer troubled the world as it went on,
where they now, by consent of Epicurus, drank their
nectar, in Olympus.
The ancestral customs were not even honored as an
antiquated form of life: they were ridiculed as an old-
fashioned and tasteless dress. Whatever good they had,
it was a part of the reigning tone to despise. One may
say without exaggeration, that tone was one with civic

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