An Exemplar Death of Molten Gold

Photo Credit: “On the death of Crassus: death makes a man both happy and rich” // Pierre Coustau, Pegma (1555) Glasgow University Library, Special Collections

Sirus had barely left the night sky when news arrived from the far east of the Empire. The Consul Crassus had been captured. His invasion had failed, and he was now at the mercy of the Parthian King Orodes II.

It was well known to the citizens of Rome the brutality of that far flung region. That had been the reason for Crassus’ assignment. But his invasion had failed. The Parthians had overrun the Roman legions, something unheard of in the history of the state.

And now they had the great orator, known for his lavish parties and great wealth. That avarice had been his personal reason for the invasion. But capturing the Parthians, he would have reaped the rewards of the land and their sale as slaves.

That desire and his reputation may have led directly to his defeat. The Roman Consul’s reputation had preceded him. And now the very people he had hoped to enslave had caught him. All of Rome wondered what they would do with him.

The insatiable beast, amassing to himself the wealth of the empire to further his ambitions, was caught. Rumors flew about the forum and the bazaars of what fate awaited the Consul. Would it be enslaved, the most customary practice among Rome’s own legions, imprisonment or execution?

None believed such a great man could be brought so low, surely the Senate would sue for his release from the barbarian* king.

As time went on the rumors quieted and the gossip in the forum shift to Ceasar’s dominance of the tribes of Gaul. Crassus’ fate fell from the citizenry’s concern, Ceasar’s popularity grew, and all wondered what it could mean for the Republic.

And then like a bolt of lightning, word reached Rome. Crassus had been executed.

The great Consul of Romen who had done so much to preserve the Republic had been slaughtered by the Parthians. The barbarians had lived up to their reputation. They had executed a high-ranking Roman official. But worse was how they had done so.

Crassus had been held by his captors as his executioners ladled gold from the smelter into his mouth. The rumors did not say how long the Consul had suffered, only that he had. Nor did the rumors say how much gold had been melted, just that the smelter had been filled.

A warning to future generations to beware of their desires and vices. For their deaths would not be for them to decide.

*Recent research has shown that the Parthians, far from the Roman’s depictions, were complex and mostly peaceful society.

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Alexandra Henning The Hysterical Historian

I write about politics, science, among other topics as the mood strikes through a historical lense.