The Man Who Drank Gold
Back we go again folks. Back back back to circa 97 B.C. We’re in
the final days of the Republic. The wealthiest man in Rome is a
chap by the name of Marcus Licinius Crassus. Now ol’ Marc…he
has a habit. He likes to accumulate wealth. And as he socks away
more dough, he rises in political power. Unlike today, where
altruism reigns, back then money talked and altruism walked.
Well…maybe it’s a bit like that today too. Marc amasses much of
his loot from the slave trade and silver mines. At one time, in
an act of splendiferous generosity, Crassus finances a huge
festival with ten thousand tables for the citizenry. Marcus
Crassus is no slouch. He rises to a proconsular position over
many legions, ultimately putting down Spartacus and his slave
army in 72 B.C. I give you all this exciting stuff as background
for the big thirst-quenching event, my friends.
Well, politics make for strange alliances, and as time passes,
Caesar and his cronies are raking in victories in Gaul while Marc
finds himself stagnating in a pool of inertia. This does not sit
well with him. I am sure his stomach was bothering him, I’m sure
his ulcers were acting up. He was probably buying Mylantha by the
donkey load. What to do? What to do? Aha! He snapped his fingers.
A bare bulb lit above his handsome head. He looked regal as all
get-out in that instant. He would establish himself militarily.
So what if he wasn’t a soldier? So what if he had little
experience? People learn…no?
To begin with, he would demand the territory of Syria. There was
gold to be gotten over there. And oh yeah…one more thing. Ol’
Crassus was truly ol’ Crassus. He was sixty by gosh, and in
those days sixty was probably a bit more than sixty. There was no
Blue Cross and there was no Blue Shield. There were no HMO’s. You
did the best you could, and there was a good chance that at 60
you were already a bit of an old buck. But it didn’t matter…as
it didn’t matter that Markie was also deaf in one ear. He had
determination…and that’s what counted. He put together an army
and got ready for the invasion of Parthia. He had planned for two
years and then ended up with a disaster that put Custer’s folly
In the deserts of Mesopotamia, Crassus watched his army fall
under a hail of enemy arrows. Poor Crassus…all this in
vain…and for what? More money? More gold? More treasure? I
mean…after all…the pursuit of wealth is one thing…but to
invade a country just to increase your stature and personal
wealth…just to put a tad more gold in your coffers? Give me a
break, Crassus old man. Gold is nice…but thou thirsteth for the
stuff too much.
Now…I am not the only one who thought this way. As in many
other stories, our story ends in death. But there are a few
different accounts as to how Crassus died. Plutarch said that a
guy called Pomaxathres killed him. Dio wrote that he died at the
hands of some of his men who were trying to avoid capture.
Ahh…but the story I like best goes like this. At some point
during the melee, Crassus’ head and right hand were chopped off
and sent to Orodes, the then king of Parthia, who up to now was
somewhat unhappy at having had his country invaded…never mind
the fact that his armies were victorious over Markie’s. So what
does our vengeful and maligned kingy do? Why…he opens the mouth
of the head of our dear departed Crassus and says something to
the effect of: Here ya go sweetheart. Drink up and satisfy your
thirst with the metal for which in life you were so greedy. I’ll
tell you folks something. If you ever decide you want to invade a
country…plan it out carefully…lest some angry king decides to
pour molten metal down your severed gullet…and makes you quaff
the stuff in death.
And there ya have it.
And that’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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