The first was Nerva, the excellent temper of whose government is by a glance in Cornelius Tacitus touched to the life: Postquam divus Nerva res oluim insociabiles miscuisset, imperium et libertatem. And in token of his learning, the last act of his short reign left to memory was a missive to his adopted son, Trajan, proceeding upon some inward discontent at the ingratitude of the times, comprehended in a verse of Homer's -

"Telis, Phoebe, tuis, lacrymas ulciscere nostras."

(5) Trajan, who succeeded, was for his person not learned; but if we will hearken to the speech of our Saviour, that saith, "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall have a prophet's reward," he deserveth to be placed amongst the most learned princes; for there was not a greater admirer of learning or benefactor of learning, a founder of famous libraries, a perpetual advancer of learned men to office, and familiar converser with learned professors and preceptors who were noted to have then most credit in court. On the other side how much Trajan's virtue and government was admired and renowned, surely no testimony of grave and faithful history doth more lively set forth than that legend tale of Gregorius Magnum, Bishop of Rome, who was noted for the extreme envy he bare towards all heathen excellency; and yet he is reported, out of the love and estimation of Trajan's moral virtues, to have made unto God passionate and fervent prayers for the delivery of his soul out of hell, and to have obtained it, with a caveat that he should make no more such petitions. In this prince's time also the persecutions against the Christians received intermission upon the certificate of Plinius Secundus, a man of excellent learning and by Trajan advanced.

(6) Adrian, his successor, was the most curious man that lived, and the most universal inquirer: insomuch as it was noted for an error in his mind that he desired to comprehend all things, and not to reserve himself for the worthiest things, falling into the like humour that was long before noted in Philip of Macedon, who, when he would needs overrule and put down an excellent musician in an argument touching music, was well answered by him again--"God forbid, sir," saith he, "that your fortune should be so bad as to know these things better than I." It pleased God likewise to use the curiosity of this emperor as an inducement to the peace of His Church in those days; for having Christ in veneration, not as a God or Saviour, but as a wonder or novelty, and having his picture in his gallery matched with Apollonius (with whom in his vain imagination he thought its had some conformity), yet it served the turn to allay the bitter hatred of those times against the Christian name, so as the Church had peace during his time. And for his government civil, although he did not attain to that of Trajan's in glory of arms or perfection of justice, yet in deserving of the weal of the subject he did exceed him. For Trajan erected many famous monuments and buildings, insomuch as Constantine the Great in emulation was wont to call him Parietaria, "wall-flower," because his name was upon so many walls; but his buildings and works were more of glory and triumph than use and necessity. But Adrian spent his whole reign, which was peaceable, in a perambulation or survey of the Roman Empire, giving order and making assignation where he went for re-edifying of cities, towns, and forts decayed, and for cutting of rivers and streams, and for making bridges and passages, and for policing of cities and commonalties with new ordinances and constitutions, and granting new franchises and incorporations; so that his whole time was a very restoration of all the lapses and decays of former times.

(7) Antoninus Pius, who succeeded him, was a prince excellently learned, and had the patient and subtle wit of a schoolman, insomuch as in common speech (which leaves no virtue untaxed) he was called Cymini Sector, a carver or a divider of cummin seed, which is one of the least seeds.

Francis Bacon
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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