Augustus, a Slave, and Flesh-Eating Lampreys

I am putting the finishing touches on my Colossians commentary before sending it off to some proof-readers and editors. I am working through the Household Code at the moment and I just had to laugh at this sidebar I created regarding the treatment of slaves in the Roman empire.

Augustus, a Slave, and Flesh-Eating Lampreys

Publius Vedius Pollio, an official under Augustus, once had the pleasure of entertaining the emperor as a dinner guest. When Pollio’s slave accidentally dropped a crystal goblet, Pollio was so incensed that he ordered the slave to be thrown into a pool of flesh-eating lampreys. The slave was only spared thanks to Augustus’ clemency and despite Pollio’s intransigency. Indeed, in sympathy for the poor mistreated slave, Augustus ordered that all of Pollio’s crystal dishes and cups be dashed and that the lamprey pool be drained.

See Seneca, On Anger 3.40.

What is a “lamprey,” you ask? It is a ferocious eel, of course!

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