Quotes Suitable For Framing: Petronius

To Nero, Emperor of Rome, Master of the World, Divine Pontiff. I know that my death will be a disappointment to you, since you wished to render me this service yourself. To be born in your reign is a miscalculation; but to die in it is a joy. I can forgive you for murdering your wife and your mother, for burning our beloved Rome, for befouling our fair country with the stench of your crimes. But one thing I cannot forgive – the boredom of having to listen to your verses, your second-rate songs, your mediocre performances. Adhere to your special gifts, Nero – murder and arson, betrayal and terror. Mutilate your subjects if you must; but with my last breath I beg you – do not mutilate the arts. Fare well, but compose no more music. Brutalize the people, but do not bore them, as you have bored to death your friend, the late Gaius Petronius.

Fictional farewell letter from Petronius, the arbiter of taste, to Nero as set forth in the novel Quo Vadis.  Petronius did send a scathing farewell letter to Nero before his suicide, brought on by his alleged involvement in plot to assassinate Nero, but the contents are lost to history, alas.


Worst Musical Moment in Film History

Something for the weekend.  Of course the whole purpose of the above scene from Quo Vadis (1951) was to demonstrate what a deluded buffoon Nero was, but the singing, if one can call it that, by Ustinov still has top place in my musical hall of shame.

The Roman writer and bon vivant Petronius had served as Nero’s arbiter of taste.  When he learned that Nero had decided to take his life he committed suicide.  Before he did however, he sent Nero a letter attacking him.  The letter is lost to history, but the novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz gave voice to the probable sentiments contained in it in his novel Quo Vadis: Continue Reading