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The History and Philosophy of Marriage   [ Menu ]

The History and Philosophy of Marriage

Chapter 5
Origin of Monogamy


I have demonstrated that monogamy is not commanded in the

Bible, and that it is not the doctrine of Christianity. I

shall now account for its origin, by proving that it is the

joint offspring of paganism and Romanism. The social system

of European monogamy is proved to be derived from the ancient

Greeks and Romans (especially from the latter), by the early

histories of the nations of Europe, and by an uninterrupted

descent of traditional customs from them to our own times. It

is one of those pagan abominations which we have inherited,

which the Roman Church has sanctioned and confirmed, and from

which we find it so difficult to emancipate ourselves.

Page 79


The ancient Greek and Roman notions of marriage and of

chastity were in some respects different from ours, but only

as Christianity has made them different. We are ready to

admit, at least in theory, what Christianity requires, that

the laws of chastity are binding upon men and women equally,

and that no person can innocently indulge in amorous pleasure

except with his own wife or her own husband. But among them

this rule of chastity applied to the female sex alone. The

other sex claimed and exercised their freedom from it,

without concealment or palliation, and at the same time

without the loss of moral character or of public estimation.

To be grossly addicted to whoredom and seduction was no

dishonor: it was only when convicted of Sodomy that they were

pronounced unchaste.

Marriage was not expected or intended to preserve the public

purity, or to secure domestic happiness, but was rather

designed to perpetuate their heroic races, to preserve their

rich patrimonial estates, and to maintain the ascendency of


Page 80

aristocratic families. For these purposes they guarded the

chastity of their wives with vigilant jealousy and punished

their adultery with severity; but the men placed themselves

under no such restrictions either in law or in fact, but they

habitually sought their own pleasures away from home, in the

public haunts of impurity, at the house of an Aspasia, of a

Leona, or of a Messalina, or at some other establishment of

their numerous Cyprian and Corinthian dames; or, if they

could not pay the extravagant prices demanded by these

celebrated beauties, they could at least resort to their

public temples, and gratify their lust among the prostitutes

kept there. *1

Page 81


The monogamy of the ancient Romans, from and after the time

of two hundred years at least before the Christian era, did

not require their marriages to be permanent. The principle

of a life-long relationship between the husband and wife,

which both Moses and Christ have insisted upon, formed no

part of their social system. Marriage, among them, was not

so much a religious ceremony inculcating and requiring solemn

vows of binding obligation, as a civil compact, instituted

for purposes of mere present convenience or family

aggrandizement. It originated in policy rather than in love.

They were not, of course, destitute of the passion

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of love, for they were human beings; but that passion was

permitted to influence them but little in contracting their

marriages. They systematically degraded their love into

lust. Their monogamy required it. When-ever they loved a

woman they would manage to enjoy her favors without marriage.

Seduction, adultery, and whoredom were rather the rule than

the exception among them; but marriage was for other and more

important purposes than those of love. It was rather an

alliance of interests than of affections, and an affinity of

families rather than of hearts.

And as policy made marriages, so policy often unmade them. If

a man could, at any time, form a new alliance which would

give him more wealth or influence, he always felt himself at

liberty to divorce his wife, and form that new alliance. It

was not uncommon, among them, for a man to have had half a

dozen different wives, in, perhaps, as many years.


Imbecility and barrenness, the usual penalties which Nature

inflicts upon the violators of the

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marriage laws, came upon them. Their children were few and

short lived, and in order to maintain their family

influence, and transmit their names and their wealth to

future generations, which it was their great ambition to do,

they were obliged to resort to the expedient of very frequent

adoptions, by taking the children of distant relations, or of

those allied to them by marriage, and calling them their own.

And such were the frequency of their divorces, and the

intricacy of their relationships caused by their numerous

adoptions, that it has been almost impossible for the best

historians and biographers to give us any intelligible

account of their families. Such authors as Gibbon, Anthon,

Keightley, and Merivale, who are usually accurate in other

respects, are found utterly at fault, when they undertake to

state the relationship which the most eminent personages of

Roman history bear to one another.*2

Page 84


In order to give some just conception of Roman monogamy at

that time when it first came in

Page 85

contact with Christianity, and when it began to impose its

social system upon the other nations of

Page 86

Europe (for these two events are quite synchronous), I will

now, as briefly as possible, give some account of the

domestic life and manners of the six imperial Caesars, who

governed Rome at that period. In this account I shall

enumerate their many marriages, and their numerous divorces

and adoptions, and state their exact relationship to each

other. By this means, I hope to be able to explain the

complexity of Roman affinities, which has baffled the

apprehension of so many acute and learned historians, and at

the same time to exhibit the original nature and true spirit

of Roman monogamy. "Ex pede Herculem;" from the Caesars let

us learn the Romans.

I should hesitate to pollute my pages with these

delineations of Roman manners, if the nature of my treatise

did not require it. But it is necessary to the plan and

scope of this work that the analytical examination of the

origin and early history of our present marriage system

should be conducted with philosophical exactness, - an

exactness that requires explicit facts, which I have spared

no time nor labor to search out, and which I am not at

liberty to withhold, however revolting they

Page 87

may be. In order that modern monogamists may clearly see the

justice or the injustice of the boasted claims of their

system to superior purity and virtue, it is very proper that

they look to the rock whence they were hewn and to the hole

of the pit whence they were digged.

The single family of the Caesars is selected as an example,

not because it is the worst example which those times

produced, for, on the contrary, there is abundant evidence

that Sylla and Catiline and Clodius and Sejanus, and the

emperors Domitian and Commodus and Caracalla, and many others

of their contemporaries, exceeded the Caesars in profligacy;

but the domestic history of the latter family is given,

because it is the most authentic, and the most familiar to

all classical and historical scholars. Caius Seutonius

Tranquillus, commonly called Suetonius, is the principal

authority for the facts cited; and his testimony is confirmed

by all the other authorities of his own age, and fully

allowed by those of every subsequent age. As he was born

A.D. 70, very near the time of those whose lives be records;

as he has maintained a reputation for candor and

Page 88

impartiality; as he was private secretary to the Emperor

Hadrain, and had access to the secret archives of the

Caesars, and often alludes to their handwriting, - no one has

ever questioned either his authenticity or his credibility.

1. JULIUS CAESAR. - Caius Julius Caesar, the dictator,

married successively four wives, whose names were, 1.

Cossutia, 2. Cornelia, 3. Pompeia, and, 4. Calpurnia.

Cossutia was a wealthy heiress, and was married for her

money; but she was divorced before Caesar was eighteen years

of age (which was, according to Roman law, during the first

year of his majority), upon the occasion of the triumph of

the party of Marius, to which Caesar had attached himself;

when the ambitious youthful politician and future conqueror

was permitted to marry Cornelia, the daughter of Cornelius

Cinna the consul, and the friend and colleague of Marius; by

which alliance Caesar brought himself at once into public

notice, and began to aspire to the highest offices of state.

Cornelia died young, after having given birth to Caesar's

only legitimate child, a daughter named Julia; who was

married to Pompey the Great, at the formation of the first

Page 89

Triumvirate, but who died without issue. Pompeia, Caesar's

third wife, was divorced, in favor of Calpurnia, who

survived him. He repudiated Pompeia in consequences of the

affair of the infamous Clodius, who had introduced himself

into Caesar's house, disguised in female apparel, for the

purpose of assailing the virtue of Pompeia, at the festival

of the Bona Dea, when, by law and by custom, it was deemed

the greatest sacrilege for any male to be found upon the

premises. Caesar at once divorced his wife, but brought no

charge against Clodius; but he was tried for the sacrilege

upon the accusation of Cicero. When Caesar was called as a

witness, and was asked why he had put away his wife, he

answered with the proud remark, that his wife's chastity

must not only be free from corruption, but must also be above

suspicion. Yet Caesar himself, who made this memorable

remark, was excessively addicted to gross sensuality, and was

the father of several illegitimate children. Suetonius says

that he committed adultery with many ladies of the highest

quality in Rome; among whom he specifies Posthumia the wife

of Servius

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Sulpitius, Lollia the wife of Aulus Gabinius, Tertullia the

wife of Marcus Crassus, Mutia the wife of Pompey the Great,

Eunoe the wife of Bogudes, Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, and

Servilia the mother of Marcus Brutus, to whom he presented a

pearl costing six millions of sesterces (equal to two hundred

thirty-two thousand, one hundred and seven dollars); at the

same time seducing her daughter Tertia. Yet in another

paragraph Suetonius says the only stain upon Caesar's

chastity was his having committed Sodomy with Nicomedes, King

of Bithynia; which proves what has before been said, that the

Romans did not consider fornication, or even adultery, as

constituting unchastity in men, but only in women; and that

they expected and permitted licentiousness in the most

respectable men, as a necessary part of their social system

of monogamy. It is evidently with similar opinions of their

social system that Dr. Liddell thus sums up the character of

Caesar: - "Thus died 'the foremost man in all the world,' a

man who failed in nothing that he attempted. He might,

Cicero thought have been a great orator: his 'Commentaries'

remain to prove that

Page 91

he was a great writer. As a general, he had few superiors;

as a statesman and politician, no equal. His morality in

domestic life was not better or worse than commonly

prevailed in those licentious days. He indulged in

profligate amours freely and without scruple; but public

opinion reproached him not for this. He seldom, if ever,

allowed pleasure to interfere with business, and here his

character forms a notable contrast to that of Sylls," &c.*3

2. Augustus. - He was the grand-nephew and adopted son of

Caesar, being the grandson of his sister Julia, wife of

Marcus Atius. Their daughter, named Atia (sometimes written

Attia or Accia), married Caius Octavius, and became the

mother of Augustus and his sister Octavia. His name at

first, was identical with that of his father, Caius Octavius;

but Julius Caesar, having failed of any direct male heir,

adopted him in his last will and testament, as his son; and,

upon the publication of the will, he assumed his adopted


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family name; twenty years afterwards the additional name or

title, Augustus, was conferred upon him by vote of the

Senate, and then his full name became Caius Julius Caesar

Octavianus Augustus.

Like his great-uncle, Augustus had four wives, named, 1.

Servilia; 2, Claudia; 3, Scribonia; and, 4. Livia Drusilla,

whom he successively married and successively divorced,

except the last, who survived him. And like Caesar he had

but one child - a daughter - also named Julia, who was the

daughter of his third wife Scribonia. This wife he divorced

soon after he obtained supreme power, and at the same time

married Livia Drusilla. She was already married to Claudius

Nero: she had borne her husband two sons, and was then six

months advanced in pregnancy with her third child; but

Augustus demanded her on account of her beauty and

accomplishments, and her husband durst not refuse the demand.

She was therefore divorced from Nero, and married to

Augustus. Her child was born not long afterwards, and died

at birth. She was at this time twenty years of age, and

highly educated. She had already travelled in foreign

countries, and, to the fascinations

Page 93

of rare personal beauty, she added the charms of a cultivated


Augustus's only child, Julia, was married three times. Her

first marriage was to Marcellus, her cousin, only son of

Octavia, her father's sister. Marcellus died young, much

lamented, and left no issue. Augustus had, some time before,

compelled Agrippa, commander-in-chief of the army, to divorce

his wife Pompeia, and marry Marcella, his sister Octavia's

daughter; but now, on the death of Marcellus, he commanded

Agrippa to divorce his niece, Marcellus's sister, and marry

his daughter, Marcellus's widow. By this second marriage,

Julia had five children, three of whom were sons, the

youngest of which was born after his father's death and his

mother's third marriage, and was named Agrippa Pastumus: the

other two sons were called Caius and Lucius. This final

marriage of Julia was to Tiberius Nero, the stepson of

Augustus, and was without issue: it will be alluded to again

under the notice of Tiberius. Julia was one of the most

dissolute women of that dissolute age. And there can be no

doubt that the age and the monogamous system were even more

dissolute than

Page 94

the women, and caused them to become so when they were not

so. The chastity of the Roman matrons and virgins was prized

and honored as highly by themselves, and by their husbands

and fathers and brothers, as it has ever been among any

people in the world; as the legends of Lucretia and of

Virginia and others can testify. The ordinances of God and

of Nature in behalf of female purity were enforced among

them, both by their ancient traditions and by their current

laws; and all combined to cause them to preserve their

chastity to the last possible extremity. But that extremity

had, with many of them, been reached. The unbounded license

of the other sex, permitted by public opinion to be practised

with the utmost impunity; the scant and insufficient

opportunities for lawful marriages, and the frequent,

unjust, and arbitrary divorces from those marriages; in

fine, the whole theory of monogamy, - finally drove women to

desperate recklessness and ruin. It had been Julia's happy

lot to be the wife of two honorable men, both eminent for

their manliness, - Marcellus and Agrippa. She had also been

the happy mother of five healthful children. And now,

Page 95

while still young, she found herself hastily and forcibly

united to a man against his will; and that man a monster and

a beast. It is not strange that she fell, nor that, in her

fall, she dragged down many others with her. Her exalted

rank easily seduced some of the noblest men of Rome to

become her paramours. "And she became at length so devoid of

shame and prudence as to carouse and revel openly, at night,

in the Forum, and even on the Rostra. Augustus had already

had a suspicion that her mode of life was not quite correct,

and, when convinced of the full extent of her depravity, his

anger knew no bounds. He communicated his domestic

misfortune to the Senate; he banished his dissolute daughter

to the Isle of Pandateria, on the coast of Campania, whither

she was accompanied by her mother Scribonia. He forbade her

there the use of wine and of all delicacies in food or dress,

and prohibited any person to visit her without his special

permission. He caused a bill of divorce to be sent her in

the name of her husband Tiberius, of whose letters of

intercession for her he took no heed. He constantly

rejected all the solicitations of the people for her recall;

and when, one

Page 96

time, they were extremely urgent, he openly prayed that they

might have wives and daughters like her." Her confidential

servant and freedwoman, Phoebe, having hanged herself when

her mistress's profligacy was make known, Augustus declared

that he would rather be the father of Phoebe than of Julia.

This treatment of his daughter, and this remark concerning

her, is another confirmation of the different regard had in

those times to the unchaste conduct of women and of men; for

Augustus himself was a seducer and an adulterer, and was as

profligate as his uncle Julius. Suetonius declares, that he

constantly employed men to pimp for him, and that they took

such freedom in selecting the most beautiful women for his

embraces, that they compelled "both matrons and ripe virgins

to strip for a complete examination of their persons." He

also says, upon the authority of Marc Antony, that at an

entertainment at his house, "he once took the wife of a man of

consular rank from the table, in the presence of her husband,

into his bedchamber, and that he brought her again to the

entertainment with her ears very red and her hair in great

disorder," plainly implying that every one could see that he

had ravished her.

Page 97

But it is the judgement of that distinguished scholar and

historian, Dr. Liddell, that in these "and other less

pardonable immoralities there was nothing to shock the

feelings of Romans;" and Keightley thus sums up his

character. "In his public character, as sovereign of the

Roman empire, few princes will be found more deserving of

praise than Augustus. He cannot be justly charged with a

single cruel, or even harsh action, in the course of a period

of forty-four years. On the contrary, he seems in every act

to have had the welfare of the people at heart. In return,

never was prince more entirely beloved by all orders of his

subjects; and the title 'Father of his Country,' so

spontaneously bestowed upon him, is but one among many

proofs of the sincerity of their affection." "He was

surrounded by no pomp; no guards attended him; no officers

of the household were to be seen in his modest dwelling; he

lived on terms of familiarity with his friends; he appeared

like any other citizen, as a witness in courts of justice,

and in the senate gave his vote as an ordinary member. He

was plain and simple in his mode of living, using only the

most ordinary food, and wearing no clothes but what

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were woven and made by his wife, sister, and daughter. In

all his domestic relations he was kind and affectionate; he

was a mild and indulgent master, and an attached and constant


3. Tiberius. - Tiberius was the son of Claudius Nero and

Livia Drusilla. He was not at all related by blood to the

Julian family, but belonged by birth to the ancient Claudian

gens; being allied to the former family only by marriage and

adoption. His mother married Augustus when he was five years

of age; he himself married Julia, Augustus's only daughter,

when he was thirty; and Augustus adopted him as his son when

he was forty-five: so that he was at once the step-son, the

son-in-law, and the adopted son of Augustus. His name, at

first, was Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero; to which, after his

adoption by Augustus, he added simply Caesar. Augustus, with

his characteristic prudence, as soon as he perceived that

direct heirs in the male line were likely to fail him, began

to make provision for the perpetuation of his name and

fortune, as well as for

Page 99

the preservation of the peace of the empire, by making sons

by adoption. He first adopted his two oldest grandsons,

Caius and Lucius Agrippa, in their early childhood; but they

both died during the lifetime of Augustus, and left no

issue, - Lucius at the age of nineteen years; and two years

afterwards, Caius, at the age of twenty-four.*5

Drusus Nero, the younger brother of Tiberius, and the

favorite step-son of Augustus, had also died before them;

but he left two sons, Germanicus and Claudius. These with

Tiberius, and his only son Drusus, by his first wife

Vipsania, and Agrippa Posthumus, the only remaining son of

Julia, were all the males allied to Augustus. Upon the death

of Caius, therefore, A.D. 6, Augustus adopted both Agrippa

Posthumus and Tiberius, and caused Tiberius at the same time

to adopt Germanicus: so that all the males of the family then

became Caesars, except Claudius Nero; but he was considered

foolish, and was not included. Tiberius, as has been


Page 100

was, at this time, forty-five years of age; and each of the

three young men, Agrippa, Germanicus, and Drusus, was about


Tiberius was married twice; first to Vipsania, eldest

daughter of Agrippa, and after divorcing her, as usual, he

married Julia, Agrippa's widow. It is but justice to

Tiberius, to say that both the divorce and the marriage were

hateful to him, and were consummated only upon the order of

Augustus. He had lived happily with Vipsania, who was the

mother of his only son, and who was then pregnant with her

second child, while Julia was also pregnant with her fifth

child by Agrippa.

Upon the death of Augustus, Tiberius commanded his

step-brother Agrippa Posthumus to be put to death, and

assumed sole command of the empire. His first order was but

a sample of his government; for he soon became one of the

most odious tyrants that ever cursed the world. His vices

were of the most infamous character, and comprised all that

are alluded to in the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the

Romans, and for which the ancient city of Sodom was destroyed

by fire. In order to give loose rein to his worse than

beastly propensities, he retired

Page 101

from Rome to that lovely sequestered island in the Bay of

Naples, which was then called Capreae, and which in modern

Italian is now named Capri. "But," says Keightley, "this

delicious retreat was speedily converted by the aged prince

into a den of infamy, such as has never, perhaps, found its

equal; and it almost chills the blood to read the details of

the horrid practices in which he indulged amid the rocks of

Capreae." Like all the other Caesars, Tiberius left no son.

His son Drusus was married, and had a son and a daughter; but

he was poisoned by his own wife Livilla, and died during his

father's lifetime. The grandson named Tiberius, and the

grand-daughter named Julia, both survived him. His adopted

son Germanicus, after achieving an excellent reputation as a

man and a military commander, had also died, about five years

after the accession of Tiberius, at the age of thirty-four

years, attributing his death to slow poison secretly

administered by the command of his adopted father.

Germanicus left nine children; but all the sons were

destroyed before the death of Tiberius, except one, named

Caius, but commonly called Caligula. Tiberius therefore left

two male heirs only, - Caius

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Caligula, his grandson by adoption, and Tiberius, his

grandson by birth.*6

4. CALIGULA.- Tiberius, by his last will, had appointed his

two grandsons his joint and equal heirs; but Germanicus, the

father of Caligula, had always been greatly beloved by the

people, while Tiberius had been hated. The will was

therefore unanimously set aside, and the sole power

conferred upon Caligula. Thus was the line of the Caesars

still continued by adoption. Caligula was born A.D. 12, and

became emperor at twenty-five years of age, A.D. 37. He was

married four times. His wives' names were, 1. Junia

Claudilla; 2. Livia Orestilla; 3. Lollia Paullina; and, 4.

Milonia Caesonia. The first died, the next two were

divorced, the last survived him. Soon after the death of

Junia, which was some time before he attained the supreme

power, he took Ennia, the wife of Macro, as his favorite

mistress, promising to procure a divorce from her husband,

and to marry her himself when he should attain the empire;

and Macro appears to have acquiesced in this arrangement,

selling his wife's virtue and

Page 103

the honor of his house for such rewards and emoluments as

Caligula was pleased to accord to him. But in the second

year of his administration, instead of fulfilling his

engagements to Ennia and her husband, he neglected and

disgraced them; so that they both committed suicide. Caligula

then took his own sister Drusilla, and lived in incest with

her, having forced her husband, Lucius Cassius, to divorce

her for that purpose; but, in order to cover the affair, he

caused her to be married to one of his attendants, Marcus

Lepidus, his cousin, with whom he was at the same time

practising the still more horrid and unnatural crime of

Sodomy. Upon the death of this sister, which occurred during

the same year, he mourned for her with the most extravagant

grief, and caused her henceforth to be worshipped as a

goddess; building a temple and consecrating priests in her

honor. His own solemn oath ever after was, "By the divinity

of Drusilla."

He next married Livia Orestilla; and in this strange and

cruel manner. He had been invited to the wedding-feast of

Caius Piso, a man belonging to one of the noblest families

of Rome, whose bride

Page 104

was the same Livia. Caligula accepted the invitation; the

marriage ceremony took place, and the feast was at its

height, when, struck with the beauty of the bride, he

resolved to appropriate her to himself, and saying to Piso,

"Do not touch my wife," he took her home with him. The next

day he caused proclamation to be made for the information of

the Roman public, that he had purveyed himself a wife after

the manner of Augustus. It is not strange that under such

circumstances he did not find her an agreeable consort, for

her affections had been given to Piso, and with him only

could she be happy. He therefore divorced her again, within

three days of her marriage, but would not permit her to have

her former husband.

The occasion of his marrying his next wife, Lollia Paullina,

was equally strange, but quite different. He heard some one

extol the beauty of her grandmother, and was inflamed with

passion to enjoy hers. She was already married to Memmius

Regulus, and was then away from Rome, in a foreign province,

with her husband; but Caligula sent orders to Regulus to

divorce his wife, ordered her home and married her. He lived

with her about a year,

Page 105

when he divorced her for her barrenness; and then married his

last wife, Caesonia, with whom he had already been having

illicit intercourse for many months, and who was now far

advanced in pregnancy. She was a woman of infamous

character, and had had three illegitimate children before;

but he married her, and she was very soon delivered of a

daughter, which was Caligula's only child.

During most of this time, since the death of Drusilla, he was

living in incest with both his other sisters, Agrippina and

Livilla, while at the same time he would prostitute them to

his male favorites, the ministers of his more heathenish

lusts. Suetonius says, that, in addition to these incests

and adulteries already specified, he debauched nearly every

lady of rank in Rome; whom he was accustomed to invite, along

with their husbands, to a great feast: he would then examine

them, as they passed his couch one after another, as one

would examine female slaves when about to purchase; and after

supper he would retire to his bedchamber, and then send for

any lady present that he liked best.

During his administration public prostitutes paid twelve and a

half per cent of their fees into the

Page 106

imperial treasury; and in order to increase this branch of

the revenue he opened a brothel in his own palace, filled it

with respectable (?) women, and sent out criers into the

forum to advertise it, and invite the people to resort to it.

Caligula was slain by the officers of his own guard, in the

twenty-ninth year of his age, after governing the Roman world

less than four years. During the first year of his

administration he had first adopted and then murdered the

younger Tiberius Caesar, then about seventeen years of age,

who left no issue; and a few hours after his own death his

wife Caesonia was slain, and also their infant daughter, who

had its little brains dashed out against a wall: so the last

of the Caesars seemed to have perished. But there was one

old man left, who, if he was not a Caesar, was certainly

related to all the Caesars, and it was determined to make him

a Caesar, and raise him to the supreme power. This old man

was Claudius Nero.

5. CLAUDIUS.- He was the uncle of Caligula, and the nephew

of Tiberius. His name at first had been Tiberius Claudius

Nero, to which

Page 107

he now added that of Caesar. He was married six times. His

wives' names were, 1. AEmilia Lepida; 2. Livia Medullina

Camilla; 3. Plantia Urgullinilla; 4. AElia Paetina; 5.

Valeria Messalina; and, 6. Agrippina. Of these, the first,

third, and fourth were divorced, the second died, the fifth

was executed, and the last survived him. Aelia Paetina, the

fourth, was divorced soon after Claudius obtained the empire,

in order to make way for Messalina, whose principal

recommendation was that she had already become pregnant by


They were accordingly married: the child was born, and was a

boy, whom they named Britannicus. She afterwards bore him a

daughter called Octavia. Messalina's lust and cruelty were

so unbounded, that her name has become the synonyme of every

thing most vile and detestable in the female character. She

has been called the Roman Jezebel; but the comparison is an

injustice to the Samaritan queen. She was as much more

wicked than Jezebel as Roman monogamy is more impure than

Jewish polygamy. Her husband's chief officers became her

adulterers, and were allied with her in all her abominations.

She cast an eye of lust

Page 108

on the principal men in Rome, and whom she could not seduce

to gratify her vile propensities she would contrive to

destroy. She was so excessive in her sensuality, that she

often required the services of the strongest and most

vigorous men to satisfy her lusts; and often for that reason

chose gladiators and slaves: but such persons would not

always venture to incur the risk of discovery, and then she

would make her stupid husband the unwitting broker of her

adulterous pleasures. As an example of this mode of

procedure, in such cases, it is recorded that "when Mnester,

a celebrated dancer, refused to yield to her solicitations

or her threats, she procured a written order from Claudius,

commanding him to do whatever she should require. Mnester

then complied. The same was the case with many others, who

believed they were obeying the orders of the prince when they

were yielding to the libidinous desires of his wife.

"But she was not content with being infamous herself, she

determined to make others so; compelling many respectable

married women to prostitute themselves, even in the palace,

and in the presence

Page 109

of their husbands, who were powerless to prevent it, for she

brutally destroyed those who would not acquiesce in their

wives' dishonor. Meantime her own excesses were unknown by

Claudius; for she caused some one of her maids to occupy her

place in his bed, and purchased by rewards, or anticipated

by murder, those who could give him information. At length

her enormities were discovered and brought to light in this

manner, - a manner so strange and unnatural, that the grave

historian Tacitus expressed his doubts whether posterity

could be made to believe that any woman could be so wicked.

Messalina had set her heart upon Caius Silius, the consul

elect, who was esteemed the handsomest man in Rome. In order

to obtain sole possession of him she drove his wife Junia out

of his house; and Lilius, knowing that to refuse her would be

his destruction, while by compliance he might possibly

escape, yielded to his fate. But the infatuated adulteress

became so reckless that she disdained concealment and came

openly to visit him, heaping wealth and honors upon him,

transferring the slaves and the treasures of the prince to

his house. Silius then saw that he was

Page 110

so deep in guilt that either he or Claudius must perish, and

proposed to Messalina to murder her husband and seize the

supreme power. She hesitated; not from regard to her

husband, but from the fear that when Silius should be

invested with the empire he would cast her off. She

therefore proposed, as an amendment to his plan, that they

should be married first, and then murder the prince and seize

the empire afterwards. This plan was agreed to; and while

Claudius was absent from the city to perform a sacrifice at

Ostia, when he was building the new harbor there, they were

publicly married, in due form, and with much ceremony. But

their own attendants were shocked. They informed the prince;

and the whole plot was discovered and the guilty parties put

to death.

Claudius then took for his sixth and last wife his brother's

daughter Agrippina; and as such a union was regarded as

incestuous by the laws and customs of the Romans, Claudius

first repaired to the senate-house, and caused a new law to

be passed legalizing marriages between uncles and nieces, and

then formally espoused her. Agrippina, the new imperial

consort, was sister to the late emperor

Page 111

Caligula; and besides having lived in incest with him, she

had been married twice before. By her first husband, Cneius

Domitius Ahenobarbus, she had a son, named Lucius, who was

nine years of age at the time of her marriage with Claudius,

and three years older than his only son Britannicus. To

promote the interests of her own son Lucius, and to destroy

Britannicus, was now the ruling passion of Agrippina; to

gratify which she paused at nothing. Yet she was not, like

Messalina, naturally inclined to licentiousness; but in order

to win the influence and assistance of powerful men for

promoting her ambitious designs in behalf of her son, she

stooped so low as to prostitute herself to their lusts, when

they could not be purchased by any other means at her

command. At first she managed to have Octavia, the sister of

Britannicus, divorced from Silanus, to whom she had been

betrothed, and married to her son Lucius, and, in a year or

two afterwards, to have Lucius adopted by Claudius as his

son. Three years afterwards she procured poison from the

notorious Locusta, and put her husband, the Emperor Claudius,

to death, in the sixty-fourth year of his age, after

Page 112

he had governed Rome a little less than fourteen years.*7

6. NERO. - Agrippina carefully concealed the death of

Claudius until secure measures had been taken for setting

aside Britannicus, and for the succession of her son; when

the death was announced and the new emperor proclaimed. Nero

was successively the grand-nephew, the step-son, the

son-in-law, and the adopted son of Claudius; and, by

adoption, the great-grandson of Tiberius; being son of

Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, adopted son of Tiberius.

He was also, by birth, the grand-nephew of Augustus, by the

collateral female line; his father, Domitius Ahenobarbus,

being son of Antonia Major, eldest daughter of Octavia,

sister of Augustus. His name, at first, was Lucius Domitius

Ahenobarbus; but upon his adoption by Claudius, into the

Julian family, he took the name of Nero Claudius Caesar. He

was married seven times. The names of his consorts were, 1.

Octavia; 2. Poppaea Sabina; 3. Octavia again; 4. Poppaea

again; 5. Statilia Mes-

Page 113

salina; 6. Sporus; and, 7. Doryphorus. It will readily be

seen, from this list, that his marriages and divorces were

more numerous than his brides, and that the last two names

are those of males.

Nero had no affection for his first wife, the chaste and

modest Octavia, whom he had married from policy, and not for

love: and his mother, the ambitious Agrippina, who loved

power so much, was pleased with this indifference; for she

hoped to maintain an undivided influence over him, and

through him to rule the world. But in the second year of his

administration he conceived a violent passion for an Asiatic

freedwoman named Acte; a passion which his preceptor, the

celebrated philosopher Seneca, and his other councillors of

state, encouraged; permitting him to take her as his

acknowledged mistress, without rebuke, hoping that this

attachment would keep him from a life of promiscuous

licentiousness and from debauching women of rank. But

Agrippina was furious; not because Acte was a low-bred woman

(though this was the excuse for her opposition), but she felt

that her own power would be diminished by her: and she

threatened that if he did not give her up, she

Page 114

would herself abandon him, and would set up Britannicus;

and, as the daughter of the beloved Germanicus, would appeal

to the army against her son, in Britannicus' behalf. This

was a powerful argument, and Nero knew that his mother was

capable of any thing to maintain her power; but he resolved,

that, instead of giving up his mistress, he would murder his

innocent brother. He procured poison from Locusta and gave

it him, but it proved too weak; he then sent for Locusta

again, and reproached her and beat her, and bade her prepare

a stronger dose. She obeyed him; and having proved the

potency of the venom upon a kid and a pig, he had it given to

Britannicus, in some cold water, at dinner. Its effect was

instantaneous, and the poor boy dropped down dead. Nero

carelessly remarked to the company that he had been subject

to fits from infancy, and would soon recover. Agrippina and

Octavia were struck with terror, and said nothing; the

latter, young as she was, having learned to suppress her

feelings, and the former perceiving that her son was fast

becoming her superior both in cruelty and in craft.

Nero next became enamored of Poppaea Sabina,

Page 115

a lady of great beauty and of noble birth, who had been

divorced from her first husband, Crispinus, and was then

married to her second, Marcus Otho; but Otho was sent out as

governor of the distant province of Portugal, and Nero gave

himself up to the enjoyment of his adulterous passion. Then

Agrippina became more furious than ever, for she saw, that if

he should divorce Octavia, and marry Poppaea, her own

influence would be gone forever. But she set at work in a

different manner than before; for such was her insane love of

power, that, in order to retain her influence over her son,

she began herself to pander to his vices, diverting and

distracting his mind with a succession of beautiful ladies,

offering her purse, and the use of her own apartments for his

private assignations, and even attempting to seduce him to

unnatural incest with herself; and nothing but the fear of

the army and of the people prevented them from the

consummation of that abominable crime. Still the influence

of Poppaea increased; and so did Agrippina's hatred and

jealousy of her, until at length Nero resolved upon the

crime of matricide, which he effected in

Page 116

the most barbarous manner. He first attempted to drown her,

in a manner that might appear accidental, by sending her to

sea in a unseaworthy vessel laden with lead; the deck of

which was to give way at the proper time, and the vessel

itself to fall to pieces. She went on board, and the deck

fell, with its freight of lead, as was expected; but she was

saved by the devotion of her attendants. He then sent

assassins to shed her blood. When they entered her

apartment, and one of them drew his sword, she exposed her

womb, and cried out. "Strike here:" he obeyed, and thus she

perished. But it was only after the lapse of three years

more, that he divorced the virtuous Octavia, by whose

alliance he had obtained the empire, and who was greatly

beloved by the people. He effected her divorce, however,

and married Poppaea; but the murmurs of the people were so

alarming, that in a short time, he divorced Poppaea, and

married Octavia the second time. But his affections were

still unchanged, and he at length induced Anicetus, the

assassin that had slain his mother, to make oath that Octavia

had committed adultery with him; and,

Page 117

although nobody believed the wretch, this served as a

pretext for divorcing her again. She was then banished to

the usual place, the Island of Pandataria, where she was soon

afterwards put to death, at twenty-one years of age, and her

head sent as a present to Poppaea; to whom Nero was then

married the second time. Soon after this marriage, to his

great joy, she bore him a daughter, his first and only child,

which lived, however, but a few months.

It was the next year after the birth of this infant, that

Rome was burnt [A.D. 65]. The loss of lives, as well as of

property, was very great. The streets of the city were

narrow and crooked, and the flames spread so rapidly, that

escape was difficult. The fire raged six days.

Five-sevenths of the city was laid waste. Nero has often

been charged with having caused the fires himself; but the

charge has never been proved. He was strongly suspected at

the time, and, in order to divert suspicion from himself, he

laid the blame upon the innocent Christians. They had become

already numerous in the city, and were generally hated and

despised. They were

Page 118

put to death, upon this suspicion, with torture and insult;

some torn to pieces by dogs, after being sewed up in the

skins of wild animals, some crucified, and some wrapped in

pitch and set on fire, to serve for lamps in the night. Two

years after the great fire, Poppaea came to her death in as

brutal a manner as mother, sister, and brother had done

before. She was killed by Nero, in a fit of anger, by a

violent kick when in an advanced state of pregnancy.

He then celebrated his fifth marriage, with a lady named

Messalina; with whom it happened to be her fifth marriage

also. Her last husband was Atticus Vestinus, whom Nero put

to death in order to obtain possession of his wife. But he

soon divorced her, yet that did not break her heart, for she

outlived him, and preserved her beauty to captivate the fancy

of another emperor, in future years.

Nero was married the sixth time to a boy. His name was

Sporus. Nero fancied that his beauty resembled that of his

slain Poppaea, whose death he repented and bewailed. He

caused Sporus to be made a eunuch, and exhausted the

Page 119

powers of art in trying to make him a woman. He then

espoused him, with the most solemn forms of marriage; and it

was cleverly remarked by the people, that it was a great pity

that his father Domitius had not had such a wife.

His seventh and last marriage was to Doryphorus, his own

freedman; but in this case Nero himself was the bride, and

his manumitted slave the groom. Nero was a musician and a

comedian, and was accustomed to spend a great part of his

time in rehearsal and in public performance, as an actor. He

chose the crowded theatre as the place in which to celebrate

this marriage. He first covered himself with the skin of a

wild beast, and in that dress, before thousands of assembled

men and women, committed rapes upon persons of both sexes,

who were tied to stakes for that purpose. Having thus

demonstrated his manhood, he appeared as the bride in his

marriage to Doryphorus, to whom he was married in the same

solemn form that Sporus had been married to him; finishing

the representation by consummating the marriage in the

embraces of Doryphorus, himself imitating the cries and

shrieks of young virgins when they are ravished.

Page 120

Nero died by his own hand, A.D. 68, in the thirty-first year

of his age, and the fourteenth of his imperial power. He

left no child, either by birth or by adoption. He was the

last of the Caesars. That name was henceforth only an

honorary title. Can any one regret the extinction of the

dissolute and degenerate race? Is it not a happy provision

in the laws of God, that "monsters cannot propagate"?*8

Such was monogamy at the commencement of the Christian era;

for it was during the reign of Augustus that Christ was

born, and during that of Nero that Paul was beheaded. Such

was the social system imposed by Rome upon the nations of

Europe. This is no fancy sketch, nor have the facts here

cited been herein exaggerated. My authorities are accessible

to every scholar, and I invite criticism and investigation.

The question now arises, How was Roman monogamy affected by

its contact with Christianity? And this question I shall

proceed to discuss in another chapter.


*1 "The Greeks had but little pleasure in the society of

their wives. At first, the young husband only visited her by

stealth: to be seen in company with her was a disgrace." -

Bulwer's Hist. of Athens, book i. chap. 6.


"In the times of Corinthian opulence and prosperity, it is

said that the shrine of Venus was attended by no less than

one thousand female slaves dedicated to her service as

courtesans. These priestesses of Venus contributed not a

little to the wealth and luxury of the city." - Anthon's

Classical Dict. art. "Corinthus."


Strabo, in his great work on Geography, in speaking of the

temple of Venus in Corinth says, "There were more than a

thousand harlots, the slaves of the temple, who, in honor of

the goddess, prostituted themselves to all comers for hire,

and through these the city was crowded, and became wealthy."

- Book 8, p. 151.


"Gravely impressing upon his wife and daughters that to sing

and dance, to cultivate the knowledge of languages, to

exercise the taste and understanding, was the business of the

hired courtesan, it was to the courtesan that he repaired

himself for the solace of his own lighter hours." -

Merivale's Hist. of the Romans, vol. ii., chap. 33, p. 32.

D. Appleton & Co., 1864.


*2 Contradictions and Inaccuracies of Eminent Historians.


ANTHON. - In art. "Drusus," In his Classical Dictionary, Dr.

Charles Anthon says that Drusus "was born three months after

his mother's marriage with Augustus;" but in art. "Livia" he

says, "She had already borne two sons to her first husband,

viz, Tiberins and Drusus, and was six months gone in

pregnancy with another child, which was the only one she ever

had after her union with Augustus, and which died almost at

the moment of its birth.


In art. Julia II.," he calls her the mother of Augustus; and

in art. "Augustus," he says his mother was Atia, the

daughter of Julia.


In art. Julia IV.," he calls Scribonia the first wife of

Augustus; but in art. "Augustus," he calls her his third



In art. "Messalina," he says she was the first wife of

Claudius; and in art. "Aelia Paetina," he says Aelia was the

former wife of Claudius, and that she was repudiated to make

way for Messalina. And, according to Suetonius, AElia was in

fact, the fourth, and Messalina the fifth, of his wives.


In art. "Julius Caesar," he says his first wife was divorced

in consequence of the affair of Clodius; but in art.

"Clodius," he says it was against Pompeia that Clodius had

illicit designs, and in art. "Pompeia," he says she was

Caesar's third wife, &c.


KEIGHTLEY. - In his Hist. of Rom. Empire, p. 11, he says,

Scribonia was the first wife of Augustus; but she was his

third. On the same page he says Tiberius married Agrippina,

who was the younger daughter of Agrippa: but older sister;

and his brother Drusus married Agrippina, and he was the only

husband she ever had, which was a remarkable circumstance for

Roman ladies in those days. On the same page he repeats the

error of Anthon mentioned above,- that Drusus was born after

his mother's marriage with Augustus. Two similar errors occur

on p. 13.


LIDDELL.- On p. 726 of Dr. Liddell's Hist. of Rome, there

are three errors of this kind within the limits of twice as

many lines, viz., he calls the name of one of Augustus's

wives Clodia for Claudia; he says Scribonia was his second

wife, for his third; and says Livia, at the time of her

marriage to Augustus, was pregnant of her second child

instead of her third. Thus it is demonstrated that very

respectable modern historians are accustomed to perpetuate

error by compiling and copying from each other, when they

should, every one of them, go back to the original and exact

authorities, and thus eliminate the truth. Messrs. Harper &

Brothers, New York, have republished the above work of Dr.

Liddell, so faithfully as to give us page for page, line for

line, and word for word, an exact reprint of the English

edition by John Murray; reproducing not only such historical

blunders as those above noticed, but even the most obvious

typographical errors; e.g., on p. 250, under the bust of

Scipio there is L., for Lucius Scipio Africanus, instead of

P., for Publius Scipio Africanus; and on p. 453, footnote, we

are referred to the end of chapter 50, &c. Such exact

faithfulness in following copy is worthy of the well-known

skillfulness of the Chinese tailor, who, when about to make a

new garment in European style, took home an old one for a

pattern, which he succeeded in imitating with exactness, even

to the patches.


*3 Suet. Vit. Jul. Caesar, par. 40-50. Liddell's Hist.

Rome: London, 1857; book 7. Anthon's Class. Dict., art.

"Caesar, Mutia," &c.


*4 Suet. V it. Aug. par. 60-69; Liddell's Hist. of Rome,

book 7; Keightley's Hist. Rom. Emp., chaps. 1,2.


*5 Caius married Livilla, sister to Germanicus, and

grandniece to Augustus, but had no offspring; his widow

afterwards married Drusus, son of Tiberius, by whom she had

two children, Tiberius and Julia.


*6 Suet.; Keightley; Anthon.


*7 Suet. Vit. Claud.; Tacitus Ann.; Keight.; Anthon.


*8 Sueton. Vit. Neronis, par. 20-29.; Tac. Ann.; Keight.

Hist. Rom. Emp.


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Chapter 4 - Origin of Polygamy
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Chapter 6 - Monogamy After the Introduction of Christianity
Chapter 7 - Monogamy As It Is
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