Saturday, July 07, 2012

Vedius Pollio and the lampreys

This evening I found myself won­der­ing just what ancient sources record the story of the cru­el­ty of Vedius Pollio. 

For those unfa­mil­iar with the story, Pol­lio used to keep man-eating lam­preys in a tank.  When a slave dis­pleased him, he would order the slave thrown to the lampreys.  One day the emper­or Augus­tus was din­ing with him, when a slave hap­pened to break a crys­tal cup.  

Pol­lio ordered him thrown to the lam­preys; but the boy escaped and threw him­self at the knees of the emper­or, beg­ging to be exe­cut­ed in some other man­ner than being eaten alive.  The emper­or sought to calm Pol­lio, who was implacable.  Then Augus­tus ordered that all of Pol­lio's valu­able cups should be brought; and when they were, he ordered them smashed.  The slave seems to have been allowed to live.