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.