Quo Vadis, A Narrative of the Time of Nero
ON the evening of that day Vinicius, while returning home through the Forum,
saw at the entrance to the Vicus Tuscus the gilded litter of Petronius, carried by
eight stalwart Bithynians, and, stopping it with a sign of his hand, he approached
"Thou hast had a pleasant dream, I trust, and a happy one!" cried he, laughing at
sight of the slumbering Petronius.
"Oh, is it thou?" said Petronius, waking up. "Yes; I dropped asleep for a moment,
as I passed the night at the Palatine. I have come out to buy something to read
on the road to Antium. What is the news?"
"Art thou visiting the book-shops?" inquired Vinicius.
"Yes, I do not like to bring disorder into my library, so I am collecting a special
supply for the journey. It is likely that some new things of Musonius and Seneca
have come out. I am looking also for Persius, and a certain edition of the
Eclogues of Vergilius, which I do not possess. Oh, how tired I am; and how my
hands ache from covers and rings! For when a man is once in a book-shop
curiosity seizes him to look here and there. I was at the shop of Avirnus, and at
that of Atractus on the Argiletum, and with the Sozii on Vicus Sandalarius. By
Castor! how I want to sleep!"
"Thou wert on the Palatine? Then I would ask thee what is it to be heard there?
Or, knowest what? -- send home the litter and the tubes with books, and come to
my house. We will talk of Antium, and of something else?'
"That is well," answered Petronius, coming out of the litter. "Thou must know,
besides, that we start for Antium the day after to-morrow."
"Whence should I know that?"
"In what world art thou living? Well, I shall be the first to announce the news to
thee. Yes; be ready for the day after to-morrow in the morning. Peas in olive oil
have not helped, a cloth around his thick neck has not helped, and Bronzebeard
is hoarse. In view of this, delay is not to be mentioned. He curses Rome and its
atmosphere, with what the world stands on; he would be glad to level it to the
earth or to destroy it with fire, and he longs for the sea at the earliest. He says
that the smells which the wind brings from the narrow streets are driving him into
the grave. To-day great sacrifices were offered in all the temples to restore his
voice; and woe to Rome, but especially to the Senate, should it not return
"Then there would be no reason for his visit to Achaea?"
"But is that the only talent possessed by our divine Caesar?" asked Petronius,
smiling. "He would appear in the Olympic games, as a poet, with his 'Burning of
Troy'; as a charioteer, as a musician, as an athlete, -- nay, even as a dancer, and
would receive in every case all the crowns intended for victors.
Dost know why that monkey grew hoarse? Yesterday he wanted to equal our
Paris in dancing, and danced for us the adventures of Leda, during which he
sweated and caught cold. He was as wet and slippery as an eel freshly taken
from water. He changed masks one after another, whirled like a spindle, waved