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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Cæsar Augustus

  • [Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus, called Augustus by the senate and people, 27 B.C., emperor of Rome; born Sept. 23, B.C. 63; educated under the eye of Julius Cæsar, who made him his heir; divided the empire, after Cæsar’s death, with Antony and Lepidus; defeated the republicans at Philippi, 42, and Antony at Actium, 31; sole chief of the Roman state for life, B.C. 23; died at Nola, Aug. 26, A.D. 14.]
  • They will pay on the Greek Kalends (ad Kalendas Græcas).

  • In ordinary conversation, says Suetonius, he made use of several peculiar expressions, as appears from letters in his own handwriting; in which, now and then, when he means to intimate that some persons would never pay their debts, he says, “They will pay at the Greek Kalends,”—the Greeks having no such day in their calendar; whereas in Rome the Kalends, or first day of the month, were the usual pay-day.—Life, chap. 87.
  • He thought nothing more derogatory of the character of an accomplished general than precipitancy and rashness; on which account he had frequently in his mouth these proverbs: [Greek] (“Make haste slowly,” or, as it is often quoted in its Latin form, Festina lente); and, “That is done fast enough which is done well enough” (Sat celeriter fit quidquid fiat satis bene):—Ibid.
  • When Sir Amyas Paulet saw that too much haste was being made in any matter, he used to say, “Stay a while, that we may make an end the sooner.”
  • “Wisely and slow: they stumble that run fast.”
  • Romeo and Juliet, II. 3.
  • I love treason, but do not commend traitors.

  • When Rymetalces, king of Thrace, boasted of forsaking Antony, and going over to Octavianus.—PLUTARCH: Apothegms.
  • After the battle of Philippi, he answered one of the defeated and captive republicans, who entreated that at least he might not remain unburied, “That will be in the power of the birds.”—SUETONIUS: Life.
  • When in Egypt he wished to see the sarcophagus and body of Alexander the Great, which were taken out of the cell in which they rested; being asked if he would like to see the tombs of the Ptolemies also, he replied, “I wish to see a king, not dead men.”—Ibid.
  • He refused to give the freedom of the city to a tributary Gaul, but offered to remit his taxes; saying, “I would rather suffer some loss in my exchequer, than that the citizenship of Rome be rendered too common.”
  • He often invited Virgil and Horace to his table. The former was asthmatic, the latter had weak eyes; so that the emperor used to say, “Here I am, between sighs and tears.”
  • Varus, give me back my legions!

  • The German soldier Hermann (Arminius) had entered the Roman army, and obtained the rank of knighthood, with the privileges of citizenship. Being indignant at the oppression of his country under the emperor’s lieutenant, Quintilius Varus, he induced the Roman commander to advance his army beyond the Rhine, where it suffered a severe defeat in the marshes near Lippe, A.D. 9; three legions, with the commander, his lieutenants, and all the auxiliaries, being cut off. “The emperor was in such consternation at this event,” says Suetonius, “that he let the hair of his head and beard grow for several months, and sometimes knocked his head against the door-posts, crying out, ‘O Quintilius Varus! give me back my legions!’” (redde legiones!)
  • The Duc d’Audriffet-Pasquier, defending, in the French Assembly, 1871, after the Franco-German war, a report severely criticising the war contracts of the Second Empire, exclaimed, in reply to Rouher, “Give us back our lost legions! Give us back the glory of our fathers! Give us back our provinces!”
  • Dr. Wolcott (Peter Pindar), when asked on his death-bed, by his physician, what could be done for him, replied, “Give me back my youth!”
  • Marshal Augereau, reproached by Napoleon on the morning of the battle of Leipsic, Oct. 16, 1813, with being no longer the Augereau of Castiglione (1796), replied, “I shall always be the Augereau of Castiglione, when your majesty gives me back the soldiers of Italy.”
  • A monument to Hermann on the Teutoberg, near Detmold, in the principality of Lippe, was unveiled in presence of the German emperor, Aug. 16, 1875.
  • I found Rome brick, I leave it marble.

  • The boast he was able to make, after improving the condition of the city, which had been often burned, and was exposed to the inundations of the Tiber. The saying recorded by Suetonius has another version given it by Dion Cassius, who applies it to his consolidation of the government, in the following form: “That Rome, which I found built of mud, I shall leave you firm as a rock.”—LVI. 589. The most important of the public buildings erected by Augustus were a forum containing a Temple of Mars the Avenger, the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill, and the Temple of Jupiter Tonans in the Capitol, the Portico and Basilica of Lucius and Caius, the Porticoes of Livia and Octavia, and the Theatre of Marcellus. His own dwelling-house on the Palatine was of the most modest description.
  • The finest use of this boast of the Roman emperor is contained in the peroration of Brougham’s speech on Law Reform, in the House of Commons, February, 1828: “It was the boast of Augustus,—it formed part of the glare in which the perfidies of his earlier years were lost,—that he found Rome of brick, and left it of marble; a praise not unworthy a great prince, and to which the present reign also has its claims. But how much nobler will be the sovereign’s boast when he shall have it to say that he found law dear, and left it cheap; found it a sealed book, left it a living letter; found it the patrimony of the rich, left it the inheritance of the poor; found it the two-edged sword of craft and oppression, left it the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence!”
  • When Piso built his house with great thoroughness from top to bottom, Augustus said to him, “You cheer my heart, who build as if Rome would be eternal.”—PLUTARCH: Apothegms. Is not this the first time that Rome is spoken of as the “Eternal City”? Its first occurrence in literature is in Tibullus, who speaks of “eternal Rome” (Roma eterna), II. 5, 23, which Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman historian of the fourth century, repeats.—Rerum Gestarum, XVI. chap. 10, 14.
  • That is why I weep.

  • When told that his tears could not bring his dead friend to life. Solon, when told that weeping for his dead son would not restore him to life, replied, “Therefore I weep, because weeping will not help.” But it is an expression open to misconstruction, as in the case of the man who put upon his wife’s tombstone the words, “Tears will not restore thee, therefore I weep.”
  • To the young Galba, who came once with other boys to pay his respects to Augustus, the emperor, pinching his cheek, said in Greek, “And thou, child, too, shalt taste our empire.”—SUETONIUS: Life of Galba.
  • Athenodorus, the philosopher, begged leave that he might retire from court on account of his old age; his petition being granted, he said on taking leave, “Remember, Cæsar, whenever you are angry, to say or do nothing before you have repeated the four-and-twenty letters of the alphabet to yourself.” Whereupon Augustus grasped his hand, saying, “I have need of your presence still: the reward of silence is a sure reward;” an expression which Horace put into verse,—
  • “Est et fideli tuta silentio
  • Merces.”
  • Odes, III. 2, 25.
  • In endeavoring to pacify some young men who showed an imperious temper, and gave but little heed to him, he said, “Young men, hear an old man to whom old men hearkened when he was young.”—PLUTARCH: Apothegms.
  • Upon the day of his death, he asked the friends who were admitted to his room the question used by actors to solicit applause as they left the stage, “Do you think that I have acted my part on the stage of life well?” adding two lines of a Greek poet,—
  • “If all be right, with joy your voices raise,
  • In loud applauses to the actor’s praise.”
  • SUETONIUS: Life.
  • Among the last words attributed to Rabelais without sufficient reason, was an expression used by Demonax, the cynic philosopher of Athens, A.D. 150, “Draw the curtain, the farce is ended” (in French, Tirez le rideau, la farce est jouée).