Earlier this year, I read The Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, an occasionally entertaining account of the Roman Empire’s formative years. (Capsule review: The crazy emperors were fun to read about; the technocrats, not so much.) The thing that stays with me the most is not Caligula’s excess, or Augustus’s judiciousness, but rather how the Romans saw fit to punish parricides:
Parricides were sewn up in a sack with a dog, a cock, a snake, and a monkey, and thrown into the sea or a river.
What confuses me here is the addition of the monkey to the punishment mix. I mean, were that really that many monkeys in Rome? I’d reckon they had to import the unfortunate primates from Africa. Doesn’t the whole sack treatment seem like a waste?
More than you need to know about Roman cruelty can be found in Donald Kyle’s Spectacles of Death in Ancient Rome. Empathy was not the Romans’ strong suit.