on campaign, gaining a conspicuous scar on his forehead, then made too much of his efforts, Augustus gently reproved him by saying, “Mind, when you run away in future, never look behind you” (dicta 52 Malc.).54
8. When Galba, whose body was deformed by a hump on his back, was pleading a case before him and kept saying, “Set me straight if you find any fault,” Augustus said, “I can advise you, but I cannot set you straight” (dicta 53 Malc.).
9. ‘When many people whom Cassius Severus prosecuted were being acquitted, at the same time that the architect of Augustus’ forum was dragging out the operation, Augustus joked, “I wish Cassius would prosecute my forum too”55 (dicta 54 Malc.).
10. When Vettius had plowed under his father’s memorial stone, Augustus remarked, “Now that’s what I call cultivating your father’s memory” (dicta 55 Malc.).
11. On hearing that the son of Herod, king of the Jews, had been slain when Herod ordered that all boys in Syria under the age of two be killed, Augustus said, “It’s better to be Herod’s pig than his son” (dicta 56 Malc.).56
12. Because he knew that Maecenas had a free-and-easy writing style given to extravagance and effeminacy, he often adopted the same character in the letters he wrote to him, the opposite of the austere style he otherwise cultivated in his writing. So he rounded off a personal letter to Maecenas with the following jocular effusion (epist. fr. 32 Malc.): “Farewell, my honey of all the world, . . . my
- 54Cf. Quint. 6.3.75 (ascribed to a C. Caesar of the early 1st cent. bce, prob. Strabo Vopiscus, a noted wit).
- 55The temple of Mars the Avenger, the centerpiece of Augustus’ forum, was vowed before the battle of Philippi in 42 bce and dedicated 40 years later. The joke turns on the verb absolvi, which can mean both “be acquitted” and “be completed.”
- 56On this witticism, certainly apocryphal in its present form, see Introd. §1 ad fin.