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89

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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THE ROMAN EMPERORS IN MARBLE. 89
to be seen the foremost leaders of the Epicurean band :
Marcus Salvius Otho, voluptuary in the grand style;
Caius Petronius, voluptuary in the elegant ; and Tigel-
linus, voluptuary in the satanic. Even poets and artists
were to be seen there ; and there was in the beginning
an aesthetic spirit over the whole. Nobler elements
were not entirely lacking : among these Lucan, the
poet of " Pharsalia," in spite of all weaknesses, may be
reckoned ; and it is hardly likely that this company, how«
soever evil its influence upon Nero, was worse than other
assemblages that held their wild revels in the palaces of
Rome or the colonnades and pleasure-gardens of the
sumptuous villas near by.
The soul of the company was Caius Petronius, arbiter
elegantiarum of the court, its omnipotent judge of taste
and master of revels. Nero long regarded him, as one
may say, with a guileless admiration. His society was
charming ; his bearing and manners were accomplished ;
from his judgment in literature and art, there was no ap-
peal. The taste of the time was embodied in this model
of Rome’s golden youth. The rounded and polished
license with which he appeared, that, too, accorded with
the countersign of the day—naturalness in life, natural-
ness in art—and seemed the expression of finely-moulded
feelings, the sure tact of which could banish the stiffer
and more ceremonious forms in which society had pre-
viously moved, to the lumber-room to which the old
maxims had been consigned. If it be the same Petronius
who wrote the " Satyrikon,"—that work so eagerly read
by the French Epicureans of the sixteenth century—and
if he in society appeared as he does in his writings, he
was, with all his refined cynicism, not insensible to good;
and he has directed his lively scorn especially against the

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