Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Twevle Caesars - page 207, Claudius

Claudius was so timid and suspicious that, though making a show of simplicity in the early days of his reign, ... he never attended a banquet unless with an escort of javelin-bearing Guards, and waited upon by soldiers performing the duties of servants. Before entering a sick-room he always had it carefully gone over: pillows and mattresses were prodded, and bedclothes shaken out. Later, he even required all visitors to be searched when they came to pay him a morning call, and excused no one the most thorough examination. Indeed, it was not until the end of his reign that he reluctantly gave up the practice of having women, boys, and girls pawed about during these examinations, and of removing the stylus-case from every caller's attendant or secretary.

What this passage tells us first and foremost is that Claudius was very paranoid, though I suppose that is not a bad quality to have if you are a Roman emperor and you've ascended to the throne following the assassination of the previous, corrupt ruler. And that your rise to power came about because the assassins wanted to put you there.

Please don't kill me!

But a bit more interesting than that is the apparent acknowledgment that there was something inherently dangerous about ancient Roman stylus cases.

I can understand an emperor wanting everyone searched for weapons before granting audiences (even if meant searching children), and I can understand the emperor's wariness of sharp, pointed sticks in his presence, but what could possibly be threatening about the case holding the stylus? I assume such devices were simply small boxes or sleeves that would contain the styluses the secretaries used to take notes, but was it the case itself that was suspect, or was it that, by confiscating the case, the guards were sure to get the pointy stylus as well?

Were all secretaries then unable to take notes in Claudius's presence, or were they offered some other alternative? The passage quoted above does not expand on this point, as it deals primarily with the measures Claudius would take to alleviate his paranoia, but that little bit catches my curiosity.

What was it about those cases?

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