Extracts from memoirs and diariesby Ian Irvine / July 19, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
Nero thought a “fortune could only be enjoyed by squandering it”
Suetonius describes the extravagance of Nero (Roman Emperor from 54 to 68AD):
“He thought a magnificent fortune could only be enjoyed by squandering it, claiming that only miserly people kept a close account of their spending, while gentlemen scattered their wealth extravagantly. Nothing so stirred his admiration and envy of Caligula, his uncle, as the way he had run through Tiberius’s vast legacy in such a short space of time. So he showered gifts on people and poured money away.
He spent eight thousand gold pieces a day on King Tiridates though it seems barely believable, and made him a gift on parting of more than a million. He presented Menecrates the lyre-player and Spiculus the gladiator with mansions and property worthy of those who had celebrated triumphs, and gifted the monkey-faced moneylender Paneros town-houses and country estates, burying him with well-nigh regal splendour when he died.”
Captain Gronow recalls his friend Lord Blandford in his memoirs, first published in 1862:
“Blandford, afterwards fifth Duke of Marlborough, with many good and amiable qualities, was by far the most extravagant man I ever remember to have seen. Although supporting himself upon money borrowed at an exorbitant interest, Lord Blandford would give Lee & Kennedy £500 [current value £348,000] for a curious plant or shrub; and I well remember his paying £1800 for a fine edition of Boccaccio; whilst his country-seat, Whiteknights, near Reading, was kept up with a splendour worthy of a royal residence. Lord Blandford’s allowance during his father’s lifetime was insufficient for a person in his position. He was, therefore, obliged to have recourse to the Jews, who eventually ruined him. He was always very kind to me, and I lived a good deal with him and his sons when I was a young man. I remember, in…