The Death of Caius Taranius

   Many Romans had resisted Octavian, many Romans had resisted Antony when they had wanted to govern the republic as masters. When, after their reconciliation made their power solidly established, they took their revenge by mass banishments in which the conquerors mutually abandoned their old allies. There was terrible carnage: three hundred senators and two thousand cavalrymen were assassinated. History has not recorded the number of people of less noble blood who were slain in the resentment of the triumvirs.
   Caius Taranius was tutor to Octavian. He was now an old man. But his rights to clemency from the conquerors could not save him since he had been the enemy of Antony. Even ties to their own blood had not halted the fury of the governors; they betrayed both their kinsmen and their intimate friends. Antony had renounced his uncle to Lepidus, Lepidus his brother to Antony. So there was no hope for Caius Taranius. He had attempted to flee from them but had been pursued by the agents of the triumvirate. In the end he had managed to hide himself in the house of a friend who had sacrificed his own personal safety for him.
   But Taranius has a son who he loves dearly; it is on him that he concentrates all his emotions, all his hopes, all his fears. What does his own life matter next to that of his beloved son? He wanted him to flee to another country and so that he would not be stopped by the worries that his father must cause him, he had told him where he was hiding. But Taranius did not know exactly where his son was... he thought he had not received his message... his mind was assailed by mortal fears. Nothing could be more moving than to hear this old man who at any moment might be discovered by brutal soldiers who are looking for him to kill him, asking over and over again if there is any news of his son, if he is safe, if he has been pardoned by the triumvirs?...
   Put your mind at rest, poor father. Your son is not in danger. When he was in fear of the triumvir's resentment, he went to your tormentors and told them where you were hiding. Because this son whom you love so much is a cowardly man who has never held you in the least affection... But you, poor father, know nothing of that. And better it is for you to have your anxieties and your illusions than to learn of the actions of your son. Because that news could be fatal to you. But take care for your own safety, Taranius. Your tormentors know your hiding-place. Any moment perhaps they could rush upon you...
   Indeed, the door soon yields under repeated blows, and half a score of soldiers, eyes thirsting for blood, with swords unsheathed, surround the old man. But he has no fear; at the moment of death he is still preoccupied only with his son's life. And in the midst of much flashing of blood-stained weapons, already held in the arms of a fierce centurion, the old man pushed him away sharply: "Let me say one word before you kill me; my son, where is he? Has he obtained Antony's pardon?" And the fierce centurion replied to him pitilessly "Your son? He was the one who sent us here, who betrayed your hiding-place; now, Taranius, we are going to kill you." The old man turned pale, stood incredulous for a moment then dropping his arms that were pushing away the fierce centurion, he gave himself up to the blows of the already drawn swords.

School composition c. 1884. BNF NAF 16611.

 


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