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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Vitellius
By Suetonius (c. 69–c. 122 A.D.)
 
From the ‘Lives of the Twelve Cæsars’: Translation of Thomson and Forester

HE was chiefly addicted to the vices of luxury and cruelty. He always made three meals a day, sometimes four; breakfast, dinner, and supper, and a drunken revel after all…. For these several meals he would make different appointments at the houses of his friends on the same day. None ever entertained him at less expense than 400,000 sesterces [over $20,000]. The most famous was a set entertainment given him by his brother, at which, it is said, there were served up no less than two thousand choice fishes and seven thousand birds. Yet even this supper he himself outdid, at a feast he gave on the first use of a dish which had been made for him, and which for its extraordinary size he called “The Shield of Minerva.” In this dish were tossed up together the livers of char-fish, the brains of pheasants and peacocks, the tongues of flamingoes, and the entrails of lampreys, which had been brought in ships of war as far as from the Carpathian Sea and the Spanish Straits. He was not only a man of insatiable appetite, but would gratify it at the most unseasonable times, and with any garbage that came in his way….  1
  He delighted in the infliction of punishments, even capital ones, without any distinction of persons or occasions. Several noblemen, his schoolfellows and companions, invited by him to court, he treated with such flattering caresses as seemed to indicate an affection short only of admitting them to share the honors of the imperial dignity; yet he put them all to death by some base means or other. To one he gave poison with his own hand, in a cup of cold water which he called for in a fever. He scarcely spared one of all the usurers, notaries, and publicans who had ever demanded a debt of him at Rome, or any toll or custom on the road. One of these, while in the very act of saluting him, he ordered for execution, but immediately sent for him back; upon which all about him applauding his clemency, he commanded him to be slain in his own presence, saying, “I have a mind to feed my eyes.” Two sons who interceded for their father, he ordered to be executed with him. A Roman knight, upon his being dragged away for execution, and crying out to him, “You are my heir,” he desired to produce his will; and finding that he had made his freedman joint heir with him, he commanded that both he and the freedman should have their throats cut.  2
 
 
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