So I was reading a old blog post as I’m writing about Scaurus’ aedile issue for other reasons. This made me re read this passage of Pliny below. Do you know what’s really weird about this? At the very moment Scaurus is importing 360 columns for a temporary theater, his former commander Pompey is in the process of building a REALLY opulent permanent theatre on the Campus Martius that will be dedicated in just 3 short years. Pliny tells us that largest of the columns went to Scaurus’ atrium afterwards, but what about the rest?! Did he auction them off? Did they end up in Pompey’s theatre complex. Was the whole thing a way of getting extra mileage and spectacle out of the Pompeian building project. How did Pompey feel about it if it wasn’t? Surely upstaging your former commander was a bad idea. How did Pompey feel about Scaurus’ claiming the Aretas victory… ? The politics of 58BC makes my brain hurt.
In the ædileship of M. Scaurus, three hundred and sixty columns were to be seen imported; for the decorations of a temporary theatre, too, one that was destined to be in use for barely a single month. And yet the laws were silent thereon; in a spirit of indulgence for the amusements of the public, no doubt. But then, why such indulgence? or how do vices more insidiously steal upon us than under the plea of serving the public? By what other way, in fact, did ivory, gold, and precious stones, first come into use with private individuals? Can we say that there is now anything that we have reserved for the exclusive use of the gods? However, be it so, let us admit of this indulgence for the amusements of the public; but still, why did the laws maintain their silence when the largest of these columns, pillars of Lucullan marble, as much as eight-and-thirty feet in height, were erected in the atrium of Scaurus? a thing, too, that was not done privately or in secret; for the contractor for the public sewers compelled him to give security for the possible damage that might be done in the carriage of them to the Palatium. When so bad an example as this was set, would it not have been advisable to take some precautions for the preservation of the public morals? And yet the laws still preserved their silence, when such enormous masses as these were being carried past the earthenware pediments of the temples of the gods, to the house of a private individual!