The Romans were a lot of things, but nice wasn't one of them.
London, April 24, 1815, Trollope writes about the daily cruelty of daily life during the Roman Empire.
THAT which will most strike the ordinary English reader in the narrative of Caesar is the cruelty of the Romans, - cruelty of which Caesar himself is guilty to a frightful extent, and of which he never expresses horror. And yet among his contemporaries he achieved a character for clemency which he has retained to the present day. In describing the character of Caesar, without reference to that of his contemporaries, it is impossible not to declare him to have been terribly cruel. From bloodthirstiness he slaughtered none; but neither from tenderness did he spare any. All was done from policy; and when policy seemed to him to demand blood, he could, without a scruple,as far as we can judge, without a pang, - order the destruction of human beings, having no regard to number, sex, age, innocence, or helplessness. Our only excuse for him is that he was a Roman, and that Romans were indifferent to blood. Suicide was with them the common mode of avoiding otherwise inevitable misfortune, and it was natural that men who made light of their own lives should also make light of the lives of others.
Of all those with whose names the reader will become acquainted in the following pages [of Roman history], hardly one or two died in their beds. Caesar and Pompey, the two great ones, were murdered. Dumnorix, the lEduan, was killed by Caesar's orders. Vercingetorix, the gallantest of the Gauls, was kept alive for years that his death might grace Caesar's Triumph. Ariovistus, the German, escaped from Caesar, but we hear soon after of his death, and that the Germans resented it: he doubtless was killed by a Roman weapon. What became of the hunted Ambiorix we do not know, but his brother king Cativolcus poisoned himself with the juice of a yew tree. Crassus, the partner of Caesar and Pompey in the first triumvirate, was killed by the Parthians. Young Crassus, the son, Caesar's officer in Gaul, had himself killed by his own men that he might not fall into the hands of the Parthians, and his head was cut off and sent to his father. Labienus fell at Munda, in the last civil war with Spain. Quintus Cicero, Caesar's lieutenant, and his greater brother, the orator, and his son, perished in the proscriptions of the second triumvirate. Titurius and Cotta were slaughtered with all their army by Ambiorix. Afranius was killed by Caesar's soldiers after the last battle in Africa.
Petreius was hacked to pieces in amicable contest by King Juba. Varro indeed lived to be an old man, and to write many books. Domitius, who defended Marseilles for Pompey, was killed in the flight after Pharsalia. Trebonius, who attacked Marseilles by land, was killed by a son-in-law of Cicero at Smyrna. Of Decimus Brutus, who attacked Marseilles by sea, one Camillus cut off the head and sent it as a present to Antony. Curio, who attempted to master the province of