Ulpiano Checa, El banquete de Nerón, ca. 1910
Ulpiano Checa, El banquete de Nerón (ca. 1910)

Verum tales cultores et dilectores deorum istorum, quorum etiam imitatores in sceleribus et flagitiis se esse laetantur, nullo modo curant pessimam ac flagitiosissimam esse rem publicam. tantum stet, inquiunt, tantum floreat copiis referta, victoriis gloriosa, vel, quod est felicius, pace secura sit. et quid ad nos? immo id ad nos magis pertinet, si divitias quisque augeat semper, quae cotidianis effusionibus suppetant, per quas sibi etiam infirmiores subdat quisque potentior. obsequantur divitibus pauperes causa saturitatis atque ut eorum patrociniis quieta inertia perfruantur, divites pauperibus ad clientelas et ad ministerium sui fastus abutantur. populi plaudant non consultoribus utilitatum suarum, sed largitoribus voluptatum. non dura iubeantur, non prohibeantur impura. reges non curent quam bonis, sed quam subditis regnent. provinciae regibus non tamquam rectoribus morum, sed tamquam rerum dominatoribus et deliciarum suarum provisoribus serviant, eosque non sinceriter honorent, sed <nequiter ac> serviliter timeant. quid alienae vineae potius quam quid suae vitae quisque noceat, legibus advertatur. nullus ducatur ad iudicem, nisi qui alienae rei domui saluti vel cuiquam invito fuerit importunus aut noxius; ceterum de suis vel cum suis vel cum quibusque volentibus faciat quisque quod libet. abundent publica scorta vel propter omnes, quibus frui placuerit, vel propter eos maxime, qui habere privata non possunt. exstruantur amplissimae atque ornatissimae domus, opipara convivia frequententur, ubi cuique libuerit et potuerit, diu noctuque ludatur, bibatur, vomatur, diffluatur. saltationes undique concrepent, theatra inhonestae laetitiae vocibus atque omni genere sive crudelissimae sive turpissimae voluptatis exaestuent. ille sit publicus inimicus, cui haec felicitas displicet; quisquis eam mutare vel auferre temptaverit, eum libera multitudo avertat ab auribus, evertat a sedibus, auferat a viventibus.
(Augustine, Civ. Dei 2.20.1-6)

But the worshippers and admirers of these gods delight in imitating their scandalous iniquities, and are nowise concerned that the republic be less depraved and licentious. Only let it remain undefeated, they say, only let it flourish and abound in resources; let it be glorious by its victories, or still better, secure in peace; and what matters it to us? This is our concern, that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities, and so that the powerful may subject the weak for their own purposes. Let the poor court the rich for a living, and that under their protection they may enjoy a sluggish tranquillity; and let the rich abuse the poor as their dependants, to minister to their pride. Let the people applaud not those who protect their interests, but those who provide them with pleasure. Let no severe duty be commanded, no impurity forbidden. Let kings estimate their prosperity, not by the righteousness, but by the servility of their subjects. Let the provinces stand loyal to the kings, not as moral guides, but as lords of their possessions and purveyors of their pleasures; not with a hearty reverence, but a crooked and servile fear. Let the laws take cognizance rather of the injury done to another man’s property, than of that done to one’s own person. If a man be a nuisance to his neighbour, or injure his property, family, or person, let him be actionable; but in his own affairs let every one with impunity do what he will in company with his own family, and with those who willingly join him. Let there be a plentiful supply of public prostitutes for every one who wishes to use them, but specially for those who are too poor to keep one for their private use. Let there be erected houses of the largest and most ornate description: in these let there be provided the most sumptuous banquets, where every one who pleases may, by day or night, play, drink, vomit, dissipate. Let there be everywhere heard the rustling of dancers, the loud, immodest laughter of the theatre; let a succession of the most cruel and the most voluptuous pleasures maintain a perpetual excitement. If such happiness is distasteful to any, let him be branded as a public enemy; and if any attempt to modify or put an end to it, let him be silenced, banished, put an end to. (tr. Marcus Dods)

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