Lucius Verus


Lucius Verus : biography

15 December 0130 – 169

Luxury, dissolution, and logistics at Antioch, 162?–65

Lucius spent most of the campaign in Antioch, though he wintered at Laodicea and summered at Daphne, a resort just outside Antioch.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. He took up a mistress named Panthea, from Smyrna.Smyrna: Lucian, Imagines 2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. The biographer calls her a "low-born girl-friend",HA Verus 7.10, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. but she is probably closer to Lucian’s "woman of perfect beauty", more beautiful than any of Phidias and Praxiteles’ statues.Lucian, Imagines 3, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. Polite, caring, humble, she sang to the lyre perfectly and spoke clear Ionic Greek, spiced with Attic wit.Lucian, Imagines 11, 14–15; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129.

Panthea read Lucian’s first draft, and criticized him for flattery. He had compared her to a goddess, which frightened her—she did not want to become the next Cassiopeia.Lucian, Pro Imaginibus 7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. She had power, too. She made Lucius shave his beard for her. The Syrians mocked him for this, as they did for much else.HA Verus 7.10, cf. 7.4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129.

Critics declaimed Lucius’ luxurious lifestyle.HA Verus 4.4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. He had taken to gambling, they said; he would "dice the whole night through".HA Verus 4.6, tr. Magie; cf. 5.7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. He enjoyed the company of actors.HA Verus 8.7, 8.10–11; Fronto, Principae Historia 17 (= Haines 2.217); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. He made a special request for dispatches from Rome, to keep him updated on how his chariot teams were doing.HA Verus 6.1; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. He brought a golden statue of the Greens’ horse Volucer around with him, as a token of his team spirit.HA Verus 6.3–4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. Fronto defended his pupil against some of these claims: the Roman people needed Lucius’ bread and circuses to keep them in check.Principae Historiae 17 (= Haines 2.216–17); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129.

This, at least, is how the biographer has it. The whole section of the vita dealing with Lucius’ debaucheries (HA Verus 4.4–6.6) is an insertion into a narrative otherwise entirely cribbed from an earlier source. Some few passages seem genuine; others take and elaborate something from the original. The rest is by the biographer himself, relying on nothing better than his own imagination.Barnes, 69.

Lucius faced quite a task. Fronto described the scene in terms recalling Corbulo’s arrival one hundred years before.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. The Syrian army had turned soft during the east’s long peace. They spent more time at the city’s open-air cafés than in their quarters. Under Lucius, training was stepped up. Pontius Laelianus ordered that their saddles be stripped of their padding. Gambling and drinking were sternly policed.Ad Verum Imperator 2.1.19 (= Haines 2.149); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129. Fronto wrote that Lucius was on foot at the head of his army as often as on horseback. He personally inspected soldiers in the field and at camp, including the sick bay.Principae Historia 13 (= Haines 2.209–11); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 129–30.

Lucius sent Fronto few messages at the beginning of the war. He sent Fronto a letter apologizing for his silence. He would not detail plans that could change within a day, he wrote. Moreover, there was little thus far to show for his work: "not even yet has anything been accomplished such as to make me wish to invite you to share in the joy".Ad Verum Imperator 2.2 (= Haines 2.117), tr. Haines; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. Lucius did not want Fronto to suffer the anxieties that had kept him up day and night.Ad Verum Imperator 2.2 (= Haines 2.117–19); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162. One reason for Lucius’ reticence may have been the collapse of Parthian negotiations after the Roman conquest of Armenia. Lucius’ presentation of terms was seen as cowardice.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; citing Panegyrici Latini 14(10).6. The Parthians were not in the mood for peace.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 162.