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103

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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THE ROMAN EMPERORS IN MARBLE. IO3
cus. I only wish to call attention to what Dio Cassius,
in another connection, declared : that " they gave out
as actual, what was possible, and as true, what was prob-
able."
Nero’s cruelty has become a byword. But to the
cruelty that enjoys the pain of others—the cruelty of vo-
luptuaries and hysterical women whose nerves are tickled
at the sight of torture and blood—Nero was a stranger:
he died too young, and with health too unbroken, to fall
into that. Nor can he be charged with the villanous na-
ture of a Caligula, who killed because he had the power
to do so. Just as little can the kind of cruelty most usual
be attributed to him, which has its rise in the impulse
of retaliation or the feeling of revenge ; and which has in
all ages made itself more felt, in the framing of the laws,
the rougher or more cowardly the epoch has been. He
was, on the contrary, whenever he could without danger
or sacrifice be so, inclined to overlook and forgive. But
an amiable nature, without the support of moral principle,
is altogether untrustworthy in the trials of life. One sees
it best in the so-called natural people, in whom cruelty can
of a sudden break out in the very midst of simple expres-
sions of beautiful qualities of the human soul. And with
all his surfeiting on the forms of an over-reiined culture,
Nero was and remained a " primitive man." When the
instinct of self-preservation was aroused, when he saw his
life menaced, or that he was threatened in the conditions
for enjoying life, he lost the power of reason. Imagina-
tion, which can make ills in prospect worse than those
that have happened, overpowered him ; and if those
around were such as urged him on, instead of restraining
him, he struck, and spared not. The watchword of the
time, besides, was by every means to seek enjoyment

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