Herodias HTML version

The ramparts were thronged with people when at last Vitellius entered the castle gates,
leaning on the arm of his interpreter. Behind them came an imposing red litter, decorated
with plumes and mirrors. The proconsul wore a toga ornamented with the laticlave, a
broad purple band extending down the front of the garment, indicating his rank; and his
feet were encased in the kind of buskins worn by consuls. A guard of lictors surrounded
him. Against the wall they placed their twelve fasces—a bundle of sticks with an axe in
the centre. And the populace trembled before the insignia of Roman majesty.
The gorgeous litter, borne by eight men, came to a halt. From it descended a youth. He
wore many pearls upon his fingers, but he had a protruding abdomen and his face was
covered with pimples. A cup of aromatic wine was offered to him. He drank it, and asked
for a second draught.
The tetrarch had fallen upon his knees before the proconsul, saying that he was grieved
beyond words not to have known sooner of the favour of his presence within those
domains; had he been aware of the approach of his distinguished guest, he would have
issued a command that every person along the route should place himself at the
proconsul's orders. Of a surety, the proconsul's family was descended direct from the
goddess Vitellia. A highway, leading from the Janiculum to the sea, still bore their name.
Questors and consuls were innumerable in that great family; and as for the noble Lucius,
now his honoured guest, it was the duty of the whole people to thank him, as the
conqueror of the Cliti and the father of the young Aulus, now returning to his own
domain, since the East was the country of the gods. These hyperboles were expressed in
Latin, and Vitellius accepted them impassively.
He replied that the great Herod was the honour and glory of the nation; that the Athenians
had chosen him to direct the Olympian games; that he had built temples in the honour of
Augustus; had been patient, ingenious, terrible; and was faithful to all the Caesars.
Between the two marble columns, with bronze capitals, Herodias could now be seen
advancing with the air of an empress, in the midst of a group of women and eunuchs
carrying perfumed torches set in sockets of silver-gilt.
The proconsul advanced three steps to meet her. She saluted him with an inclination of
her head.
"How fortunate," she exclaimed, "that henceforth Agrippa, the enemy of Tiberius, can
work harm no longer!"
Vitellius did not understand her allusion, but he thought her a dangerous woman. Antipas
immediately declared that he was ready to do anything for the emperor.
"Even to the injury of others?" Vitellius asked, significantly.