« PreviousContinue »
“ I mingled poison for my children, I: “ 'Twas found upon me, wherefore then deny? What two at once, most barbarous viper ! two? “ Nay, sev'n, had sev'n been there; what's here
first was the wife of Vectius Bolanus, a man of high rank and estimation, who gave her two children (they were twins) poison in the time of Nero. Parrhasius, Holyday says, seems to make it but an attempt in her. If he had read Statius with his wonted care, he would have seen that Parrhasius was right; for the Protrepticon of that poet is addressed to one of these children, who at the time he wrote, which was in the beginning of Domitian's reign, was still a mere youth.
The scholiast says the mother was put to death by Nero ; this is doubtful. Statius, whose authority is more to be relied on, seems to say it was by Domitian :-at least, those adulatory lines appear to be meant of him,
“ Exegit pænas, hominum cui cura suorum,
Protrep. Syl. v.
The other Pontia, to whom Juvenal more particularly alludes, was the wife of Drymo; whose family took care to perpetuate her crime by the following inscription (which we owe to Grangæus, not, as Holyday thinks, to Pithæus) on her tomb. Pontia Titi Pontii FILIA HEIC SITA SUM QUE DUOBUS
NATIS A ME VENENO CONSUMPTIS AVARITIÆ OPUS MISERE MIHI MORTEN
Tu QUISQUIS ES QUI HAC TRANSIS SI PIUS ES QUÆSO A ME
It is not unprofitable to remark, that this wretched woman was driven to escape, by self-murder, from the reproaches of her own conscience. To this Pontia, I suppose, Martial addressed the following witty epigram-though it would serve equally well for the other :
" Cum mittis turdumve mihi, quadramve placentæ,
“ Sive femur leporis, sive quid his simile ; " Buccellas misisse tuas te, Pontia, dicis.
" Has ego nec mittam, Pontia, sed nec edam."
Lib. vi. 75.
Now let us credit what the ancient stage,
Curse on the woman who reflects by fits,
Abroad, at home, the Belides you meet,
VER. 985. They see upon the stage, the Grecian wife, &c.] The Grecian wife was Alceste, who voluntarily submitted to die, to preserve the life of her husband Admetus, king of Thessaly. Euripides has a tragedy on the subject.
But here the difference lies ;-—those bungling wives,
the Belides, &c.] The Belides, as every one knows, were the daughters of Danaus ; they were fifty in number, and were married, on the same day, to the fifty sons of their uncle Ægyptus, all of whom, except one, they murdered at night. Clytemnestra had more patience ; she waited several years before she dispatched Agamemnon. There is another lady mentioned in the text, but I spare her, on account of her singular humanity-she only sent her husband to be killed, and that, too, for value received.