Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.
11 2 There was a certain Marcus Salvius Otho, who had become so intimate with Nero through the similarity of their character and their companionship in crime that he was not even punished for saying to him one day, "As truly as you may expect to see me Caesar!" All that he got for it was the response: "I shall not see you even consul." It was to him that the emperor gave Sabina, a woman of patrician family, after separating her from her husband,1 and they both enjoyed her together. 3 Agrippina, therefore, fearing that Nero would marry the woman (for he was now beginning to entertain a mad passion for her), ventured upon a most unholy course. As if it were not notoriety enough for her that she had used her blandishments and immodest looks and kisses to enslave even Nero in similar fashion. 4 Whether this actually occurred, now, or whether it was invented to fit their character, I am not sure; but I state as a fact what is admitted by all, that Nero had a mistress resembling Agrippina of whom he was especially fond because of this very resemblance, and when he toyed with the girl herself or displayed her charms to others, he would say that he was wont to have intercourse with his mother.
12 Sabina on learning of this persuaded Nero to get p63rid of his mother, alleging that she was plotting against him. He was incited likewise by Seneca (or so many trustworthy men have stated), whether from a desire to hush the complaint against his own name, or from his willingness to lead Nero on to a career of unholy bloodguiltiness that should bring about most speedily his destruction by gods and men alike. 2 But they shrank from doing the deed openly and, on the other hand, were unable to put her out of the way secretly by means of poison, since she took extreme precautions against any such possibility. One day they saw in the theatre a ship that automatically parted asunder, let out some beasts, and then came together again so as to be once more seaworthy; and they at once caused another to be built like it. 3 By the time the ship was finished Agrippina had been quite won over by Nero's attentions, for he exhibited devotion to her in every way, to make sure that she should suspect nothing and be off her guard. He did not dare to do anything in Rome, however, for fear the crime should become generally known. Hence he went off to a distance, even to Campania, accompanied by his mother, making the voyage on this very ship, which was adorned in most brilliant fashion, in the hope of inspiring in her a desire to use the vessel constantly.
13 When they reached Bauli, he gave for several days most costly dinners, at which he entertained his mother with every show of friendliness. If she were absent he feigned to miss her sorely, and if she were present he was lavish of caresses. He bade her ask whatever she desired and bestowed many gifts without her asking. 2 When matters had p65reached this stage, he embraced her at the close of dinner about midnight, and straining her to his breast, kissed her eyes and hands, exclaiming: "Strength and good health to you,2 mother. For you I live and because of you I rule." He then gave her in charge of Anicetus, a freedman, ostensibly to convey her home on the ship that he had prepared. 3 But the sea would not endure the tragedy that was to be enacted on it, nor would it submit to be liable to the false charge of having committed the abominable deed; and so, though the ship parted asunder and Agrippina fell into the water, she did not perish. Notwithstanding that it was dark and that she was glutted with strong drink and that the sailors used their oars against her with such force that they killed Acerronia Pollia, her companion on the trip, she nevertheless got safely to shore. 4 When she reached home, she affected not to realize that it was a plot and kept it quiet, but speedily sent to her son a report of the occurrence, calling it an accident, and conveyed to him the good news (as she assumed it to be) that she was safe. Upon hearing this Nero could not restrain himself, but punished the messenger as if he had come to assassinate him and at once despatched Anicetus with the sailors against his mother; 5 for he would not trust the Praetorians to slay her. When she saw them, she knew for what they had come, and leaping up from her bed she tore open her clothing, p67exposing her abdomen, and cried out; "Strike here, Anicetus, strike here, for this bore Nero."
14 Thus was Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, grand-daughter of Agrippa, and descendant of Augustus, slain by the very son to whom she had given the sovereignty and for whose sake she had killed her uncle and others. 2 Nero, when informed that she was dead, would not believe it, since the deed was so monstrous that he was overwhelmed by incredulity; he therefore desired to behold the victim of his crime with his own eyes. So he laid bare her body, looked her all over and inspected her wounds, finally uttering a remark far more abominable even than the murder. His words were: "I did not know I had so beautiful a mother." 3 To the Praetorians he gave money, evidently to inspire in them the hope that many such crimes would be committed; and to the senate he sent a letter in which he enumerated the offences of which he knew she was guilty, and charged also that she had plotted against him and on being detected had committed suicide. 4 Yet in spite of what he told the senate his own conscience was so disturbed at night that he would leap suddenly from his bed, and by day, when he merely heard the blare of trumpets sounding forth some stirring martial strain from the region where lay Agrippina's bones,3 he would be terror-stricken. He therefore kept changing his residence; and when he had the same experience in the new place also, he would move in utter fright elsewhere.
11 1 And in fact Nero did not hear a word of truth from anybody and saw none but those who approved of his p69actions, he thought that his past deeds had not been found out, or even, perhaps, that there was nothing wrong in them. Hence he became much worse in other respects also. He came to believe that anything that it was in his power to do was right, and gave heed to those whose words were inspired by fear or flattery, as if they were utterly sincere in what they said. So, although for a time he was subject to fears and disturbances, yet after the envoys had made to him a number of pleasing speeches he regained his courage.
15 The people of Rome, on hearing of these occurrences, rejoiced in spite of their disapproval of them, thinking that now at last his destruction was assured. As for the senators, all but Publius Thrasea Paetus pretended to rejoice at what had taken place and ostensibly shared in Nero's satisfaction therein, voting many measures by which they thought to win his favour. 3 Thrasea, like the rest, attended the meeting of the senate and listened to the letter, but when the reading was ended, he at once rose from his seat and without a word left the chamber, inasmuch as he could not say what he would and would not say what he could. And indeed this was always his way of acting on other occasions. He used to say, for example: "If I were the only one that Nero was going to put to death, I could easily pardon the rest who load him with flatteries. But since even among those who praise him to excess there are many whom he has either already disposed of or will yet destroy, why should one degrade oneself to no purpose and then perish like a slave, when one may pay the debt to nature like a freeman? 4 As for me, men will talk p71of me hereafter, but of them never, except only to record the fact that they were put to death." Such was the man that Thrasea showed himself to be; and he was always saying to himself: "Nero can kill me, but he cannot harm me."
16 When Nero entered Rome after the murder of his mother, people paid him reverence in public, but in private, so long at least as any could speak their minds with safety, they tore his character to shreds. For one thing, they hung a leathern bag by night on one of his statues to signify that he himself ought to be thrown into one.4 2 Again, they cast into the Forum a baby to which was fastened a tag bearing the words: "I will not rear you up, lest you slay your mother."
2a At Nero's entrance into Rome they pulled down the statues of Agrippina. But there was one that they did not cut loose soon enough, and so they threw over it a garment which gave it the appearance of being veiled. Thereupon somebody at once composed and affixed to the statue this is: "I am abashed and thou art unashamed."
22 In many places alike one could read the inscription:
"Orestes, Nero, Alcmeon, all matricides."
And people could even be heard saying in so many words that Nero had put his mother out of the way; 3 for information that certain persons had talked to this effect was lodged by many men whose p73purpose was not so much to destroy the others as to bring reproach upon Nero. Hence he would admit no suit brought on such a charge, either because he did not wish that the rumour should thereby gain greater currency, or because he by this time felt contempt for anything people said. 4 Nevertheless, in the midst of the sacrifices that were offered in Agrippina's honour in pursuance of a decree, the sun suffered a total eclipse and the stars could be seen. Also the elephants which drew the chariot of Augustus, when they had entered the Circus and proceeded as far as the senators' seats, stopped at that point and refused to go any farther. 5 And there was another incident in which one might surely have recognized the hand of Heaven. I refer to the thunderbolt that descended upon Nero's dinner and consumed it all as it was being brought to him, like some harpy snatching away his food.
17 He also poisoned his aunt Domitia, whom he likewise claimed to revere like a mother. He would not even wait a few days for her to die a natural death of old age, but was eager to destroy her also. 2 His haste to do this was inspired by her estates at Baiae and in the neighbourhood of Ravenna, on which he promptly erected magnificent gymnasia that are flourishing still.
In honour of his mother he celebrated a most magnificent and costly festival, the events taking place for several days in five or six theatres at once. It was on this occasion that an elephant was led up p75to the highest gallery of the theatre and walked down from that point on ropes, carrying a rider. 3 There was another exhibition that was at once most disgraceful and most shocking, when men and women not only of the equestrian but even of the senatorial order appeared as performers in the orchestra, in the Circus, and in the hunting-theatre, like those who are held in lowest esteem. Some of them played the flute and danced in pantomimes or acted in tragedies and comedies or sang to the lyre; they drove horses, killed wild beasts and fought as gladiators, some willingly and some sore against their will. 4 So the men of that day beheld the great families — the Furii, the Horatii, the Fabii, the Porcii, the Valerii, and all the rest whose trophies and whose temples were to be seen — standing down there below them and doing things some of which they formerly would not even watch when performed by others. 5 So they would point them out to one another and make their comments, Macedonians saying: "There is the descendant of Paulus"; Greeks, "There is Mummius' descendant"; Sicilians, "Look at Claudius"; Epirots, "Look at Appius"; Asiatics naming Lucius, Iberians Publius, Carthaginians Africanus, and Romans naming them all. For such, apparently, were the introductory rites by which Nero desired to usher in his own career of disgrace.
18 All who had any sense lamented like the huge outlays of money. For all the costliest viands that men eat and everything else of the highest value — horses, slaves, teams, gold, silver, and raiment p77of divers hues — was given away by means of tokens, as follows. 2 Nero would throw among the crowd tiny balls, each one appropriately inscribed, and the articles called for by the balls would be presented to those who had seized them. Sensible people, I say, were grieved, reflecting that when he was spending so much in order that he might disgrace himself, he would not be likely to abstain from any of the most terrible crimes, in order that he might gain money. When some portents took place at this time, the seers declared that they meant destruction for him and they advised him to divert the evil upon others. 3 He would accordingly have put numerous persons out of the way immediately, had not Seneca said to him: "No matter how many you may slay, you cannot kill your successor."
It was at this time that he celebrated so many sacrifices for his preservation, as he expressed it, and dedicated the provision market called the Macellum.19 Later he instituted a new kind of festival called Juvenalia, or Games of Youth. It was celebrated in honour of his beard, which he now shaved for the first time; the hairs he placed in a small golden globe and offered to Jupiter Capitolinus. For this festival members of the noblest families as well as all others were bound to give exhibitions of some sort. 2 For example, Aelia Catella, a woman not only prominent by reason of her family and her wealth but also advanced in years (she was an octogenarian), danced in a pantomime. Others, who on account of old age or illness could not do anything by themselves, sang in choruses. All devoted themselves to practising any p79talent that they possessed as best they could, and all the most distinguished people, men and women, girls and lads, old women and old men, attended schools designated for the purpose. 3 And in case anyone was unable to furnish entertainment in any other fashion, he would be assigned to the choruses. And when some of them out of shame put on masks, to avoid being recognized, Nero caused the masks to be taken off, pretending that this was demanded by the populace, and exhibited the performers to a rabble whose magistrates they had been but a short time before. 4 Now, more than ever, not only these performers but the rest as well regarded the dead as fortunate. For many of the foremost men had perished in the course of that year; some of them, in fact, charged with conspiring against Nero, had been surrounded by the soldiers and stoned to death.
20 As a fitting climax to these performances, Nero himself made his appearance in the theatre, being announced under his own name by Gallio. So there stood this Caesar on the stage wearing the garb of lyre-player. This emperor uttered the words: "My lords, of your kindness give me ear," 2 and this Augustus sang to the lyre some piece called "Attis" or "The Bacchantes,"5 while many soldiers stood by and all the people that the seats would hold sat watching. Yet he had, according to report, but a slight and indistinct voice, so that he moved his whole audience to laughter and tears at once. 3 Beside him stood Burrus and Seneca, like teachers, prompting him; and they would wave their arms and togas at every utterance of his and lead others p81to do the same. Indeed, Nero had got ready a special corps of about five thousand soldiers, 4 called Augustans; these would lead the applause, and all the rest, however loath, were obliged to shout with them. Thrasea was the single exception, since he would never help Nero in these matters; but all the rest, and especially the prominent men, assembled with alacrity, grieved though they were, and joined in all the shouts of the Augustans, as if they were delighted. 5 And one might have heard them exclaiming: "Glorious Caesar! Our Apollo, our Augustus, another Pythian! By thyself we swear, O Caesar, none surpasses thee." After this performance he entertained the people at a feast on boats on the site of the naval battle given by Augustus; thence at midnight he sailed through a canal into the Tiber.
21 These things, then, he did to celebrate the shaving of his beard; and in behalf of his preservation and the continuance of his power, he instituted some quadriennial games, which he called Neronia. In honour of this event he also erected the gymnasium,6 and at its dedication made a free distribution of olive oil to the senators and knights. 2 The crown for lyre-playing he took without a contest; for all others were debarred, on the assumption that they were unworthy of being victors. And immediately, wearing the garb of this guild, he entered the gymnasium itself to be enrolled as victor. Thereafter all other crowns awarded as prizes for lyre-playing in all the contests were sent to him as the only artist worthy of victory.
1 While this sort of child's play was going on in Rome, a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame. Indeed, Heaven gave them indications of the catastrophe beforehand. 2 For at night there was heard to issue from the senate-house foreign jargon mingled with laughter, and from the theatre outcries and lamentations, though no mortal man had uttered the words or the groans; houses were seen under the water in the river Thames, and the ocean between the island and Gaul once grew blood-red at flood tide.
2 An excuse for the war was found in the confiscation of the sums of money that Claudius had given to the foremost Britons; for these sums, as Decianus Catus, the procurator of the island, maintained, were to be paid back. This was one reason for the uprising; another was found in the fact that Seneca, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest, had lent to the islanders 40,000,000 sesterces that they did not want,7 and had afterwards called in this loan all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it. 2 But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who p85directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica,8 a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women. 3 This woman assembled her army, to the number of some 120,000, and then ascended a tribunal which had been constructed of earth in the Roman fashion. In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; 4 a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:
3 "You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery. Hence, although some among you may previously, through ignorance of which was better, have been deceived by the alluring promises of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both, you have learned how great a mistake you made in preferring an imported despotism to your ancestral mode of life, and you have come to realize how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery. 2 For what treatment is there of the most shameful or grievous sort that we have not suffered ever since these men made their appearance in Britain? Have we not been robbed entirely of most of our possessions, and those the greatest, while for those that remain we pay taxes? 3 Besides pasturing and tilling for them p87all our other possessions, do we not pay a yearly tribute for our very bodies? How much better it would be to have been sold to masters once for all than, possessing empty titles of freedom, to have to ransom ourselves every year! How much better to have been slain and to have perished than to go about with a tax on our heads! Yet why do I mention death? 4 For even dying is not free of cost with them; nay, you know what fees we deposit even for our dead. Among the rest of mankind death frees even those who are in slavery to others; only in the case of the Romans do the very dead remain alive for their profit. 5 Why is it that, though none of us has any money (how, indeed, could we, or where would we get it?), we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer's victims? And why should the Romans be expected to display moderation as time goes on, when they have behaved toward us in this fashion at the very outset, when all men show consideration even for the beasts they have newly captured?
4 "But, to speak the plain truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils, in that we allowed them to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them at once as we did their famous Julius Caesar, — yes, and in that we did not deal with them while they were still far away as we dealt with Augustus and with Gaius Caligula and make even the attempt to sail hither a formidable thing. 2 As a consequence, although we inhabit so large an island, or rather a continent, one might say, that is encircled by the sea, and although we possess a veritable world of our own and are so separated by the ocean from all the rest of mankind p89that we have been believed to dwell on a different earth and under a different sky, and that some of the outside world, aye, even their wisest men, have not hitherto known for a certainty even by what name we are called, we have, notwithstanding all this, been despised and trampled underfoot by men who nothing else than how to secure gain. 3 However, even at this late day, though we have not done so before, let us, my countrymen and friends and kinsmen, — for I consider you all kinsmen, seeing that you inhabit a single island and are called by one common name, — let us, I say, do our duty while we still remember what freedom is, that we may leave to our children not only its appellation but also its reality. For, if we utterly forget the happy state in which we were born and bred, what, pray, will they do, reared in bondage?
5 "All this I say, not with the purpose of inspiring you with a hatred of present conditions, — that hatred you already have, — nor with fear for the future, — that fear you already have, — but of commending you because you now of our own accord choose the requisite course of action, and of thanking you for so readily co-operating with me and with each other. 2 Have no fear whatever of the Romans; for they are superior to us neither in numbers nor in bravery. And here is the proof: they have protected themselves with helmets and breastplates and greaves and yet further provided themselves with palisades and walls and trenches to make sure of suffering no harm by an incursion of their enemies. For they are p91influenced by their fears when they adopt this kind of fighting in preference to the plan we follow of rough and ready action. 3 Indeed, we enjoy such a surplus of bravery, that we regard our tents as safer than their walls and our shields as affording greater protection than their whole suits of mail. As a consequence, we when victorious capture them, and when overpowered elude them; and if we ever choose to retreat anywhere, we conceal ourselves in swamps and mountains so inaccessible that we can be neither discovered or taken. 4 Our opponents, however, can neither pursue anybody, by reason of their heavy armour, nor yet flee; and if they ever do slip away from us, they take refuge in certain appointed spots, where they shut themselves up as in a trap. 5 But these are not the only respects in which they are vastly inferior to us: there is also the fact that they cannot bear up under hunger, thirst, cold, or heat, as we can. They require shade and covering, they require kneaded bread and wine and oil, and if any of these things fails them, they perish; for us, on the other hand, any grass or root serves as bread, the juice of any plant as oil, any water as wine, any tree as a house. 6 Furthermore, this region is familiar to us and is our ally, but to them it is unknown and hostile. As for the rivers, we swim them naked, whereas they do not across them easily even with boats. Let us, therefore, go against them trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves."
6 When she had finished speaking, she employed a p93species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: 2 "I thank thee, Andraste,9 and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), 3 much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. 4 As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. p955 Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader."
7 Having finished an appeal to her people of this general tenor, Buduica led her army against the Romans; for these chanced to be without a leader, inasmuch as Paulinus, their commander, had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I have said, to wreak indescribable slaughter. Those who were taken captive by the Britons were subjected to every known form of outrage. 2 The worst and most bestial atrocity committed by their captors was the following. They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. 3 All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andate. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.
8 Now it chanced that Paulinus had already brought Mona to terms, and so on learning of the disaster in Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. However, he was not willing to risk a conflict with the p97barbarians immediately, as he feared their numbers and their desperation, but was inclined to postpone battle to a more convenient season. But as he grew short of food and the barbarians pressed relentlessly upon him, he was compelled, contrary to his judgment, to engage them. 2 Buduica, at the head of an army of about 230,000 men, rode in a chariot herself and assigned the others to their several stations. Paulinus could not extend his line the whole length of hers, for, even if the men had been drawn up only one deep, they would not have reached far enough, so inferior were they in numbers; 3 nor, on the other hand, did he dare join battle in a single compact force, for fear of being surrounded and cut to pieces. He therefore separated his army into three divisions, in order to fight at several points at one and the same time, and he made each of the divisions so strong that it could not easily be broken through.
9 While ordering and arranging his men he also exhorted them, saying: "Up, fellow-soldiers! Up, Romans! Show these accursed wretches how far we surpass them even in the midst of evil fortune. It would be shameful, indeed, for you to lose ingloriously now what but a short time ago you won by your valour. Many a time, assuredly, have both we ourselves and our fathers, with far fewer numbers than we have at present, conquered far more numerous antagonists. 2 Fear not, then, their numbers or their spirit of rebellion; for their boldness rests on nothing more than headlong rashness unaided by arms or training. Neither fear them because they have burned a couple of cities; for they did not capture p99them by force nor after a battle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned to them. Exact from them now, therefore, the proper penalty for these deeds, and let them learn by actual experience the difference between us, whom they have wronged, and themselves."
10 1 After addressing these words to one division he came to another and said: "Now is the time, fellow-soldiers, for zeal, now is the time for daring. For if you show yourselves brave men to‑day, you will recover all that you have lost; if you overcome these foes, no one else will any longer withstand us. By one such battle you will both make your present possessions secure and subdue whatever remains; 2 for everywhere our soldiers, even though they are in other lands, will emulate you and foes will be terror-stricken. Therefore, since you have it within your power either to rule all mankind without a fear, both the nations that your fathers left to you and those that you yourselves have gained in addition, or else to be deprived of them altogether, choose to be free, to rule, to live in wealth, and to enjoy prosperity, rather than, by avoiding the effort, to suffer the opposite of all this."
11 1 After making an address of this sort to these men, he went on to the third division, and to them he said: "You have heard what outrages these damnable men have committed against us, nay more, you have even witnessed some of them. 2 Choose, then, whether you wish to suffer the same treatment yourselves as our comrades have suffered and to be driven p101out of Britain entirely, besides, or else by conquering to avenge those that have perished and at the same time furnish to the rest of mankind an example, not only of benevolent clemency toward the obedient, but also of inevitable severity toward the rebellious. 3 For my part, I hope, above all, that victory will be ours; first, because the gods are our allies (for they almost always side with those who have been wronged); second, because of the courage that is our heritage, since we are Romans and have triumphed over all mankind by our valour; next, because of our experience (for we have defeated and subdued these very men who are now arrayed against us); and lastly, because of our prestige (for those with whom we are about to engage are not antagonists, but our slaves, whom we conquered even when they were free and independent). 4 Yet if the outcome should prove contrary to our hope, — for I will not shrink from mentioning even this possibility, — it would be better for us to fall fighting bravely than to be captured and impaled, to look upon our own entrails cut from our bodies, to be spitted on red-hot skewers, to perish by being melted in boiling water — in a word, to suffer as though we had been thrown to lawless and impious wild beasts. 5 Let us, therefore, either conquer them or die on the spot. Britain will be a noble monument for us, even though all the other Romans here should be driven out; for in any case our bodies shall for ever possess this land."
12 1 After addressing these and like words to them he raised the signal for battle. Thereupon the armies p103approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. 2 Then, while their foes were still advancing against them at a walk, the Romans rushed forward at a signal and charged them at full speed, and when the clash came, easily broke through the opposing ranks; but, as they were surrounded by the great numbers of the enemy, they had to be fighting everywhere at once. 3 Their struggle took many forms. Light-armed troops exchanged missiles with light-armed, heavy-armed were opposed to heavy-armed, cavalry clashed with cavalry, and against the chariots of the barbarians the Roman archers contended. The barbarians would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots, knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought with breastplates, would themselves be repulsed by the arrows. Horseman would overthrow foot-soldiers and foot-soldiers strike down horseman; 4 a group of Romans, forming in close order, would advance to meet the chariots, and others would be scattered by them; a band of Britons would come to close quarters with the archers and rout them, while others were content to dodge their shafts at a distance; and all this was going on not at one spot only, but in all three divisions at once. 5 They contended for a long time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and daring. But finally, late in the day, the Romans prevailed; and they slew many in battle beside the wagons and the forest, and captured many alike. 6 Nevertheless, not a few made their escape and were preparing to fight again. In the meantime, however, p105Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, feeling that now at last they were really defeated, they scattered to their homes. So much for affairs in Britain.
13 1 In Rome Nero first divorced Octavia Augusta, on account of his concubine Sabina, and later he put her to death.10 He did this in spite of the opposition out of Burrus, who endeavoured to prevent him from divorcing her, and once said to him, "Well, then, give her back her dowry," by which he meant the sovereignty. 2 Indeed, frankness of speech was characteristic of Burrus and he employed it with such boldness that once, for example, when he was asked by the emperor a second time for his opinion on matters regarding which he had already declared himself, he answered bluntly: "When I have once spoken about anything, don't ask me again."
3 So Nero disposed of him [Burrus] by poison; and he appointed as one of two men to command the Praetorians a certain Sophronius11 Tigellinus, who had outstripped all his contemporaries in licentiousness and bloodthirstiness.
p107 Tigellinus, who had outstripped all his contemporaries in licentiousness and bloodthirstiness, succeeded Burrus. He won Nero away from the others and made light of his colleague Rufus.
It was to him that the famous retort is said to have been made by Pythias. 4 When all the other attendants of Octavia, with the exception of Pythias, had taken sides with Sabina in her attack upon the empress, despising Octavia because she was in misfortune and toadying to Sabina because she had great influence, Pythias alone had refused, though cruelly tortured, to utter lies against her mistress, and finally, as Tigellinus continued to urge her, she spat in his face, saying: "My mistress's privy parts are cleaner, Tigellinus, than your mouth."
14 1 Nero made the misfortunes of his relatives a subject for laughter and jests. For example, after killing Plautus he took a look at his head when it was brought to him and remarked: "I didn't know he had such a big nose" — as much as to say that he would have spared him, had he been aware of this fact beforehand! 2 And though he spent practically his whole existence amid tavern life, he forbade others to sell in taverns anything boiled save vegetables and pea-soup. 3 He put Pallas out of the way because he had amassed a great fortune that was estimated at 400,000,000 sesterces. He would often give way to peevishness; for instance, he would refuse to talk with his servants of freedmen, p109but instead would jot down all his wishes and commands on tablets.
1a A certain Thrasea expressed the opinion that for a senator the extreme penalty should be exile.
1 To such lengths did Nero's licence go that he actually drove chariots in public. And on one occasion after exhibiting a wild-beast hunt he immediately piped water into the theatre and produced a sea-fight; then he let the water out again and arranged a gladiatorial combat. Last of all, he flooded the place once more and gave a costly public banquet. 2 Tigellinus had been appointed director of the banquet and everything had been provided on a lavish scale. The arrangements were made as follows. In the centre of the lake there had first been lowered the great wooden casks used for holding wine, and on top of these, planks had been fastened, 3 while round about this platform taverns and booths had been erected. Thus Nero and Tigellinus and their fellow-banqueters occupied the centre, where they held their feast on purple rugs and soft cushions, while all the rest made merry in the taverns. 4 They would also enter the brothels and without let or hindrance have intercourse with any of the women who were seated there, among whom were the most beautiful and p111distinguished in the city, both slaves and free, courtesans and virgins and married women; and these were not merely of the common people but also of the very noblest families, both girls and grown women. 5 Every man had the privilege of enjoying whichever one he wished, as the women were not allowed to refuse anyone. Consequently, indiscriminate rabble as the throng was, they not only drank greedily but also wantoned riotously; and now a slave would debauch his mistress in the presence of his master, and now a gladiator would debauch a girl of noble family before the eyes of her father. 6 The pushing and fighting and general uproar that took place, both on the part of those who were actually going in and on the part of those who were standing around outside, were disgraceful. Many men met their death in these encounters, and many women, too, some of the latter being suffocated and some being seized and carried off.
16 1 After this Nero set his heart on accomplishing what had doubtless always been his desire, namely to make an end of the whole city and realm during his lifetime. 2 At all events, he, like others before him,13 used to call Priam wonderfully fortunate in that he had seen his country and his throne destroyed together. Accordingly he secretly sent out men who pretended to be drunk or engaged in other kinds of mischief, and caused them at first to set fire to one or two or even several buildings in different parts of the city, so that people were at their wits' end, not being able to find any beginning of the trouble nor to put an end to it, though they constantly were aware of many strange p113sights and sounds. 3 For there was naught to be seen but many fires, as in a camp, and naught to be heard from the talk of the people except such exclamations as "This or that is afire," "Where?" "How did it happen?" "Who kindled it?" "Help?" Extraordinary excitement laid hold on all the citizens in all parts of the city, and they ran about, some in one direction and some in another, as if distracted. 4 Here men while assisting their neighbours would learn that their own premises were afire; there others, before 20 reached them that their own houses had caught fire, would be told that they were destroyed. Those who were inside their houses would run out into the narrow streets thinking that they could save them from the outside, while people in the streets would rush into the dwellings in the hope of accomplishing something inside. 5 There was shouting and wailing without end, of children, women, men, and the aged all together, so that no one could see thing or understand what was said by reason of the smoke and the shouting; and for this reason some might be seen standing speechless, as if they were dumb. 6 Meanwhile many who were carrying out their goods and many, too, who were stealing the property of others, kept running into one another and falling over their burdens. It was not possible to go forward nor yet to stand still, but people pushed and were pushed in turn, upset others and were themselves upset. 7 Many were suffocated, many were trampled underfoot; in a word, no evil that can possibly happen to people in such a crisis failed to befall to them. They could not even escape anywhere easily; and if anybody p115did save himself from the immediate danger, he would fall into another and perish.
17 1 Now this did not all take place on a single day, but it lasted for several days and nights alike. Many houses were destroyed for want of anyone to help save them, and many others were set on fire by the same men who came to lend assistance; for the soldiers, including the night watch, having an eye to plunder, instead of putting out fires, kindled new ones. 2 While such scenes were occurring at various points, a wind caught up the flames and carried them indiscriminately against all the buildings that were left. Consequently no one concerned himself any longer about goods or houses, but all the survivors, standing where they thought they were safe, gazed upon what appeared to be a number of scattered islands on fire or many cities all burning at the same time. 3 There was no longer any grieving over personal losses, but they lamented the public calamity, recalling how once before most of the city had been thus laid waste by the Gauls. 18 1 While the whole population was in this state of mind and many, crazed by the disaster, were leaping into the very flames, Nero ascended to the roof of the palace, from which there was the best general view of the greater part of the conflagration, and assuming the lyre-player's garb, he sang the "Capture of Troy," as he styled the song himself, though to the enemies of the spectators it was the Capture of Rome.
2 The calamity which the city then experienced has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of p117Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the city were burned, and countless persons perished. 3 There was no curse that the populace did not invoke upon Nero, though they did not mention his name, but simply cursed in general terms those who had set the city on fire. And they were disturbed above all by recalling the oracle which once in the time of Tiberius had been on everybody's lips.14 It ran thus:
"Thrice three hundred years having run their course of fulfilment,
Rome by the strife of her people shall perish."
4 And when Nero, by way of encouraging them, reported that these verses could not be found anywhere, they dropped them and proceeded to repeat another oracle, which they averred to be a genuine Sibylline prophecy, namely:
"Last of the sons of Aeneas, a mother-slayer shall govern."
And so it proved, whether this verse was actually spoken beforehand by some divine prophecy, or the populace was now for the first time inspired, in view of the present situation, to utter it. 5 For Nero was indeed the last emperor of the Julian line, the line descended from Aeneas. He now began to collect vast sums from private citizens as well as from whole communities, sometimes using compulsion, taking the conflagration as his pretext, and sometimes obtaining it by voluntary contributions, as they were made to appear. As for the Romans themselves, he deprived them of the free dole of grain.
p119 19 1 While he was thus engaged he received tidings from Armenia accompanied by a laurel crown in honour of another victory there. For Corbulo, after uniting the bodies of soldiers that had been scattered and training them after a period of neglect, had then by the very report of his approach terrified both Vologaesus, the king of Parthia, and Tiridates, the Armenian leader. 2 He resembled the early Romans in that, besides coming of a brilliant family possessing great strength of body, he was still further gifted with a shrewd intelligence; and he displayed great bravery and great fairness and good faith towards all, both friends and enemies. 3 For these reasons Nero had sent him to the war in his own stead and had entrusted to him a larger force than to anybody else, feeling equal confidence that this leader would subdue the barbarians and would not revolt against him. And Corbulo belied neither of these expectations, 4 though he grieved everybody else in this one particular, that he kept faith with Nero; for people were so anxious to secure him as emperor in place of Nero that his conduct in this respect seemed to them his only defect.
Corbulo, accordingly, had taken Artaxata without a struggle and had razed the city to the ground. 20 1 This exploit finished, he marched in the direction of Tigranocerta, sparing all the districts that yielded but devastating the lands of all such as resisted him. Tigranocerta submitted to him voluntarily. He p121also performed other brilliant and glorious deeds, crowning them all by inducing the formidable Vologaesus to accept terms that accorded with the dignity of the Romans.
2 Vologaesus, on hearing that Nero had assigned Armenia to others and that Adiabene was being ravaged by Tigranes, made preparations to take the field himself against Corbulo, in Syria, and sent into Armenia Monobazus, king of Adiabene, and Monaeses, a Parthian. 3 These two shut up Tigranes in Tigranocerta. But since they found that they could not harm at all by their siege, but, on the contrary, as often as they tried conclusions with him, were repulsed by both the native troops and the Romans that were in his army, and since Corbulo guarded Syria with extreme care, Vologaesus swallowed his pride and abandoned the expedition. 4 Then he sent to Corbulo and obtained a truce on condition that he should send a new embassy to Nero, raise the siege, and withdraw his soldiers from Armenia. Nero did not give him even then either a speedy or a definite reply, but despatched Lucius Caesennius Paetus to Cappadocia to see to it that there should be no uprising in the region of Armenia.
21 1 Vologaesus attacked Tigranocerta and drove back Paetus, who had come to his aid. When the latter fled, he pursued him, cut down the garrison left by Paetus at the Taurus, and shut him up in p123Rhandea, near the river Arsanias. 2 Then he was on the point of retiring without accomplishing anything; for, destitute as he was of heavy-armed soldiers, he could not approach close to the wall, and he had no large stock of provisions, particularly as he had come at the head of a vast host without making arrangements for his food supply. But Paetus stood in fear of his archery, which took et in the very camp itself, as well as of his cavalry, which kept appearing at all points, and accordingly sent to him proposals for a truce, accepted his terms, and took an oath that he would himself abandon the whole of Armenia and that Nero should give it to Tiridates. 3 The Parthian was glad enough to make this agreement, seeing that he was to obtain control of the country without a contest and would be making the Romans his debtors for a very considerable kindness. 4 And, as he also learned that Corbulo (whom Paetus had repeatedly sent for before he was surrounded) was drawing near, he dismissed the beleaguered Romans, having first made them agree to build a bridge over the river Arsanias for him. He did not really need a bridge, for he had crossed on foot, but he wished to show them that he was their superior. At any rate, he did not retire by way of the bridge even on this occasion, but rode across on an elephant, while the rest got over as before.
22 1 The capitulation had scarcely been made when Corbulo with inconceivable swiftness reached the Euphrates and there waited for the retreating force. When the two forces met, the vast difference between the troops and their generals would have struck the attention of anybody: the former were p125rejoicing and exulting in their speed, the latter were grieved and ashamed of the compact that had been made. 2 Vologaesus sent Monaeses to Corbulo with the demand that he abandon the fort in Mesopotamia. So these two held a prolonged conference together on the very bridge over the Euphrates, after first destroying the centre of the structure. 3 Corbulo agreed to quit the country if the Parthian would also abandon Armenia, and both of these stipulations were carried out provisionally, until Nero could learn of the engagements made and receive the second embassy that Vologaesus sent. The answer given them by the emperor was that he would bestow Armenia upon Tiridates if that prince would come to Rome. 4 Paetus was deposed from his command and the soldiers that had been with him were sent elsewhere, but Corbulo was again assigned to the war against the same foes. Nero had intended to accompany the expedition in person, but he fell while performing a sacrifice, so that he did not venture to set out, but remained at home.
23 1 Corbulo, therefore, was officially preparing for war upon Vologaesus and sent a centurion bidding him depart from the country; but privately he was advising the king to send his brother to Rome, a suggestion that the other followed, since Corbulo seemed to have the stronger force. 2 Accordingly, Corbulo and Tiridates held a conference at Rhandea, a place satisfactory to both — to the king because his troops had there cut off the Romans and had sent p127them away under a capitulation, a visible proof of the favour that had been done them, and to Corbulo because he expected his men to wipe out the ill repute that had attached to them there before. 3 Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of crowds of Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them. 4 Monobazus and Vologaesus also came to Corbulo and gave him hostages. In honour of this event Nero was saluted as imperator a number of times and held a triumph, contrary to precedent.
5 Corbulo, then, though he had a large force under him and enjoyed no small reputation, so that he might easily have been made emperor (since men thoroughly detested Nero, but all admired him in every way), neither headed any rebellion nor was accused of doing so. 6 In fact, he now conducted himself more prudently than ever. For example, he voluntarily sent to Rome his son-in‑law Annius, who was acting as his lieutenant; this was done with the ostensible purpose that Annius might escort Tiridates thither, but actually in order to put a hostage in Nero's hands. To be sure, the emperor had been so firmly persuaded that his general would not revolt, that Corbulo had obtained his son-in‑law, even before he had been praetor, as lieutenant.
27 2 Junius Torquatus, a descendant of Augustus, was p129handed over for punishment on a remarkable charge. He had squandered his property rather prodigally, whether following his native bent or with the deliberate intention of not being very rich. Nero therefore declared that, as he lacked many things, he must be covetous of the goods of others, and consequently caused a fictitious charge to be brought against him of aspiring to the imperial power.
24 1 Seneca, however, and Rufus, the prefect, and some other prominent men formed a plot against Nero; for they could no longer endure his disgraceful behaviour, his licentiousness, and his cruelty. They desired, therefore, to rid themselves of these evils and at the same time to free Nero from them — as indeed, Sulpicius Asper, a centurion, and Subrius Flavius, a military tribune, both belonging to the body-guards, admitted outright to Nero himself. 2 Asper, when asked by the emperor the reason for his attempt, replied: "I could help you in no other way." And the response of Flavius was: "I have both loved and hated you above all men. I loved you, hoping that you would prove a good emperor; I have hated you because you do so-and‑so. I can not be a slave to a charioteer or lyre-player." Information was lodged against these men, then, and they were punished, and many others likewise on their account. 3 For everything in the nature of a complaint that could be entertained against anyone for excessive joy or grief, for words or gestures, was brought forward and was believed; and not one of these complaints, even if fictitious, could be refused p131credence in view of Nero's actual deeds. 4 Hence faithless friends and house servants of some men flourished exceedingly; for, whereas persons were naturally on their guard against strangers and foes, by reason of their suspicions, they were bound to lay bare their thoughts to their associates whether they would or not.
25 1 It would be no small task to speak of all the others that perished, but the fate of Seneca calls for a few words. It was his wish to end the life of his wife Paulina at the same time with his own, for he declared that he had taught her both to despise death and to desire to leave the world in company with him. So he opened her veins as well as his own. 2 But as he died hard, his end was hastened by the soldiers; and she was still alive when he passed away, and thus survived. He did not lay hands upon himself, however, until he had revised the book which he was writing15 and had deposited his other books with some friends, fearing that they would otherwise fall into Nero's hands and be destroyed. 3 Thus died Seneca, notwithstanding that he had on the pretext of illness abandoned the society of the emperor and had bestowed upon him his entire property, ostensibly to help to pay for the buildings he was constructing. His brothers, too, perished after him.
26 1 Like Thrasea and Soranus, who were among the foremost in family, wealth, and every virtue, met their death, not because they were accused of p133conspiracy, but because they were what they were. Against Soranus, Publius Egnatius Celer, a philosopher, gave false evidence. 2 The accused had had two associates, Cassius Asclepiodotus of Nicaea and this Egnatius of Berytus. Now Asclepiodotus, so far from speaking against Soranus, actually bore witness to his noble qualities; and for this he was exiled at the time, though later restored under Galba. Publius, in return for his false charges, received money and honours, as did others of the same profession; but subsequently he was banished. 3 Soranus, then, was slain on the charge of having practised a kind of magic through the agency of his daughter, the foundation for this story being that when Soranus fell sick they had offered a certain sacrifice. Thrasea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate, — thus showing that he did not like the measures passed, — and because he never would listen to the emperor's singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero's Divine Voice as did the rest, nor give any public exhibitions; 4 yet it was remarked that at Patavium, his native place, he had acted in a tragedy held in pursuance of some old custom at a festival held every thirty years. As he made the incision in his artery, he raised his hand, exclaiming: "To thee, Jupiter, Patron of Freedom, I pour this libation of blood."
27 1 And why should one be surprised that such complaints were brought against them, seeing that one man16 was brought to trial and slain for living near p135the Forum, and letting of the some shops for receiving a few friends in them; and another17 because he possessed an image of Cassius, the slayer of Caesar?
3 The conduct of a woman named Epicharis also deserves mention. She had been included in the conspiracy and all its details had been entrusted to her without reserve; yet she revealed none of them, though often tortured in all the ways that the skill of Tigellinus could devise. 4 And why should one enumerate the sums given to the Praetorians on the occasion of this conspiracy or the excessive honours voted to Nero and his friends? Suffice it to say that Rufus Musonius, the philosopher, was banished for his connexion with these events.
Sabina also perished at this time through an act of Nero's; either accidentally or intentionally he had leaped upon her with his feet while she was pregnant. 28 1 The extremes of luxury indulged in by this Sabina I will indicate in the briefest terms. She cause gilded shoes to be put on the mules that drew her and caused five hundred asses that had recently foaled to be milked daily that she might bathe in their milk. For she bestowed the greatest pains on the beauty and brilliancy of her person, and this is why, when she noticed in a mirror one day that her appearance was not comely, she prayed that she might die before she passed her prime. 2 Nero missed her so greatly after her death that on learning of a woman who resembled her he at first sent for her and kept her; but later he caused a boy p137of the freedmen, whom he used to call Sporus, to be castrated, since he, too, resembled Sabina, 3 and he used him in every way like a wife. In due time, though already "married" to Pythagoras, a freedman, he formally "married" Sporus, and assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract; and the Romans as well as others publicly celebrated their wedding.
3a While Nero had Sporus, the eunuch, as a wife, one of his associates in Rome, who had made a study of philosophy, on being asked whether the marriage and cohabitation in question met with his approval, replied: "You do well, Caesar, to seek the company of such wives. Would that your father had had the same ambition and had lived with a similar consort!" — indicating that if this had been the case, Nero would not have been born, and the state would now be free of great evils.
4 This, however, was later. At the time with which we are concerned many, as I have stated, were put to death, and many others, purchasing their lives from Tigellinus for a great price, were released.
29 1 Nero continued to do many ridiculous things. Thus, on the occasion of a certain popular festival, he descended to the orchestra of the theatre, where he read some Trojan lays of himself; and in honour of these, numerous sacrifices were offered, as was the case with everything else that he did. 2 He was now making preparations to write an epic narrating all the achievements of the Romans; and even before composing a line of it he began to consider the proper number of books, consulting among others p139Annaeus Cornutus, who at this time was famed for his learning. 3 This man he came very near putting to death and did deport to an island, because, while some were urging him to write four hundred books, Cornutus said that this was too many and nobody would read them. And when someone objected, "Yet Chrysippus, whom you praise and imitate, composed many more," the other retorted: "But they are a help to the conduct of men's lives." 4 So Cornutus incurred banishment for this. Lucan, on the other hand, was debarred from writing poetry because he was receiving high praise for his work.
1 1 In the consulship of Gaius Telesinus and Suetonius Paulinus one event of great glory and another of deep disgrace took place. For one thing, Nero contended among the lyre-players, and after Menecrates, the teacher of this art, had celebrated a triumph for him in the Circus, he appeared as a charioteer. 2 On the other hand, Tiridates presented himself in Rome, bringing with him not only his own sons but also those of Vologaesus, of Pacorus, and of Monobazus. Their progress all the way from the Euphrates was like a triumphal procession.2 Tiridates himself was at the height of his reputation by reason of his age, beauty, family, and intelligence; and his whole retinue of servants together with all his royal paraphernalia accompanied him. Three thousand Parthian horsemen and numerous Romans besides followed in his train. 2 They were received by gaily decorated cities and by peoples who shouted p141many compliments. Provisions were furnished them free of cost, a daily expenditure of 800,000 sesterces for their support being thus charged to the public treasury. This went on without change for the nine months occupied in their journey. 3 The prince covered the whole distance to the confines of Italy on horseback, and beside him rode his wife, wearing a golden helmet in place of a veil, so as not to defy the traditions of her country by letting her face be seen. In Italy he was conveyed in a two-horse carriage sent by Nero, and met the emperor at Neapolis, which he reached by way of Picenum.18 4 He refused, however, to obey the order to lay aside his dagger when he approached the emperor, but fastened it to the scabbard with nails. Yet he knelt upon the ground, and with arms crossed called him master and did obeisance.3 Nero admired him for this action and entertained him in many ways, especially by giving a gladiatorial exhibition at Puteoli. It was under the direction of Patrobius, one of his freedmen, who managed to make it a most brilliant and costly affair, as may be seen from the fact that on one of the days not a person but Ethiopians — men, women, and children — appeared in the theatre. 2 By way of showing Patrobius some fitting honour Tiridates shot at wild beasts from his elevated seat, and — if one can believe it — transfixed and killed two bulls with a single arrow.
4 After this event Nero took him up to Rome and set the diadem upon his head. The entire city had been decorated with lights and garlands, and great crowds of people were to be seen everywhere, the p143Forum, however, being especially full. 2 The centre was occupied by civilians, arranged according to rank, clad in white and carrying laurel branches; everywhere else were the soldiers, arrayed in shining armour, their weapons and standards flashing like the lightning. The very roof-tiles of all the buildings in the vicinity were completely hidden from view by the spectators who had climbed to the roofs. 3 Everything had been thus got ready during the night; and at daybreak Nero, wearing the triumphal garb and accompanied by the senate and the Praetorians, entered the Forum. He ascended the rostra and seated himself upon a chair of state. Next Tiridates and his suite passed between lines of heavy-armed troops drawn up on either side, took their stand close to the rostra, and did obeisance to the emperor as they had done before.5 At this a great roar went up, which so alarmed Tiridates that for some moments he stood speechless, in terror of his life. Then, silence having been proclaimed, he recovered courage and quelling his pride made himself subservient to the occasion and to his need, caring little how humbly he spoke, in view of the prize he hoped to obtain. 2 These were his words: "Master, I am the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate." 3 Nero replied to him as follows: "Well hast thou done to come hither in person, that meeting me p145face to face thou mightest enjoy my grace. For what neither thy father left thee nor thy brothers gave and preserved for thee, this do I grant thee. King of Armenia I now declare thee, that both thou and they may understand that I have power to take away kingdoms and to bestow them." 4 At the close of these words he bade him ascend by the approach which had been built in front of the rostra expressly for this occasion, and when Tiridates had been made to sit beneath his feet, he placed the diadem upon his head. At this, too, there were many shouts of all sorts.6 By special decree there was also a celebration in the theatre. Not merely the stage but the whole interior of the theatre round about had been gilded, and all the properties that were brought in had been adorned with gold, so that people gave to the day itself the epithet of "golden." 2 The curtains stretched overhead to keep off the sun were of purple and in the centre of them was an embroidered figure of Nero driving a chariot, with golden stars gleaming all about him.
3 Such, then, was this occasion; and of course they had a costly banquet. Afterwards Nero publicly sang to the lyre, and also drove a chariot, clad in the costume of the Greens and wearing a charioteer's helmet. 4 This made Tiridates disgusted with him; but he praised Corbulo, in whom he found only this one fault, that he would put up with such a master. Indeed, he made no concealment of his views even to Nero himself, but said to him one day: "Master, you have in Corbulo a good slave." 5 But this remark p147fell on uncomprehending ears. In all other matters he flattered the emperor and ingratiated himself most skilfully, with the result that he received all kinds of gifts, said to have been worth 200,000,000 sesterces, and obtained permission to rebuild Artaxata. 6 Moreover, he took with him from Rome many artisans, some of whom he got from Nero, and some of whom he persuaded by offers of high wages. Corbulo, however, would not let them all cross into Armenia, but only those whom Nero had given him. This caused Tiridates both to admire him and to despise the emperor more than ever. 7The king did not return by the route that he had followed in coming, — through Illyricum and north of the Ionian Sea, — but instead he sailed from Brundisium to Dyrrachium. He viewed also the cities of Asia, which served to increase his amazement at the strength and beauty of the Roman empire.
1a Tiridates one day viewed an exhibit of the pancratium, at which one of the contestants after falling to the ground was being struck by his opponent. When the king saw this, he exclaimed: "The fight is unfair. It is not fair that a man who has fallen should be struck."
2 Tiridates rebuilt Artaxata and named it Neronia. But Vologaesus, though often summoned, refused to come to Nero, and finally, when the latter's invitations became burdensome to him, sent back a despatch to this effect: "It is far easier for you than for me to traverse so great a body of water. Therefore, if you will come to Asia, we can then arrange where we p149shall be able to meet each other." Such was the message which the Parthian wrote at last.
8 Nero, though angry at him, did not sail against him, nor yet against the Ethiopians or the Caspian Gates, as he had intended. 2 He did, indeed, among other things, send spies to both places, but seeing that the subjugation of these regions demanded time and labour, he hoped that they would submit to him of their own accord. But he crossed over into Greece, not at all as Flamininus or Mummius or as Agrippa and Augustus, his ancestors, had done, but for the purpose of driving chariots, playing the lyre, making proclamations, and acting in tragedies. Rome, it seems, was not enough for him, nor Pompey's theatre, nor the great Circus, but he desired also a foreign campaign, in order to become, as he said, victor in the Grand Tour.19 3 And a multitude not only of the Augustans20 but of other persons as well were taken with him, large enough, if it had been a hostile host, to have subdued both Parthians and all other nations. But they were the kind you would have expected Nero's soldiers to be, and the arms they carried were lyres and plectra, masks and buskins. 4 The victories Nero won were such as befitted that sort of army, and he overcame Terpnus and Diodorus and Pammenes, instead of Philip or Perseus or Antiochus. 5 It is probable that his purpose in forcing this Pammenes to compete also, in spite of his age (he had been in p151his prime in the reign of Gaius), was that he might overcome him and vent his dislike by mutilating the statues that had been erected to him.
9 Had he merely done this, he would have been the subject of ridicule. Yet how could one endure even to hear about, let alone behold, a Roman, a senator, a patrician, a high priest, a Caesar, and emperor, an Augustus, named on the programme among the contestants, training his voice, practising various songs, wearing long hair on his head the while his chin was smooth-shaven, 2 throwing his toga over his shoulder in the races, walking about with one or two attendants, looking askance at his opponents, and constantly uttering taunting remarks to them, standing in the dread of the directors of the games and the wielders of the whip and lavishing money on them all secretly to avoid being brought to book and scourged? And all this he did, though by winning the contests of the lyre-payers and tragedians and heralds he would make certain his defeat in the contest of the Caesars. 3 What harsher proscription could there ever be than this, in which it was not Sulla that posted the names of others, but Nero that posted his own name? What stranger victory than one for which he received the crown of wild olive, bay, parsley or pine and lost the political crown? 4 Yet why should one lament these acts of his alone, seeing that he also elevated himself on the high-soled buskins only to fall from the throne, and in putting on the mask threw off the dignity of his sovereignty to beg in the guise of a runaway slave, to be led about as a blind man, to be p153heavy with child, to be in labour, to be a madman, or to wander an outcast, his favourite rôles being those of Oedipus, Thyestes, Heracles, Alcmeon and Orestes?21 5 The masks that he wore were sometimes made to resemble the characters he was portraying and sometimes bore his own likeness; but the women's masks were all fashioned after the features of Sabina, in order that, though dead, she might still take part in the spectacle. 6 All the situations that ordinary actors simulate in their acting he, too, would portray in speech or action or in submitting to the action of others — save only that golden chains were used to bind him; for apparently it was not thought proper for a Roman emperor to be bound in iron shackles.
10 All this behaviour, nevertheless, was witnessed, endured, and approved, not only by the crown in general, but also by the soldiers. They acclaimed him Pythian Victor, Olympian Victor, Victor in the Grand Tour,22 Universal Victor, besides all the usual expressions, and of course joined to these names the titles belonging to his imperial office, so that every one of them had "Caesar" and "Augustus" as a tag.
1a He conceived a dislike for a certain man because while he was speaking the man frowned and was not over-lavish of his praises; and so he drove him p155away and would not let him come into his presence. He persisted in his refusal to grant him audience, and when the man asked, "Where shall I go, then?" Phoebus, Nero's freedman, replied, "To the deuce!"
2 None of them ventured either to pity or to hate the wretched man. One of the soldiers, to be sure, on seeing him in chains, grew indignant, ran up, and set him free. Another in reply to a question, "What is the emperor doing?" replied, "He is in labour"; for Nero was then acting the part of Canace. 3 Not one of them conducted himself in a way at all worthy of a Roman. Instead, because so much money fell to their share, they offered prayers that he might give many such performances, so that they might receive still more.
11 Now if this had been all that he did, the affair, while being a source of shame and of ridicule, would still have been thought harmless. But, as it was, he devastated the whole of Greece precisely as if he had been sent out to wage war, notwithstanding that he had left the country free; and he slew great numbers of men, women and children. 2 At first he commanded the children and freedmen of those who were executed to leave him half their property at their death, be allowed the victims themselves to make wills, in order that he might not appear to be killing them for their money. He invariably took all that was bequeathed p157to him, or at least the greater part, and in case anyone left to him or to Tigellinus less than they were expecting, his will was of no avail. 3 Later he took away the entire property of those who were executed, and banished all their children at one time by a single decree. Nor was he content with even this, but he also destroyed not a few of those who were living in exile. As for the possessions that he confiscated from people while they were living and the votive offerings that he stole from the very temples in Rome, no one could ever enumerate them all. 4 Indeed, despatch-bearers hurried back and forth bearing no other communications than "Put this man to da!" or "So-and‑So is dead"; for no private messages, only royal communications, were carried to and fro. Nero, it seems, had taken away many of the foremost men in Greece, under the pretence of needing some assistance from them, merely in order that they might perish there.12 As for the people in Rome and Italy, he had handed them all over to the tender mercies of a certain Helius, an imperial freedman. This man had been given a complete authority, so that he could confiscate, banish or put to death ordinary citizens, knights, and senators alike, even before notifying Nero.
2 Thus the Roman empire was at that time a slave to two emperors at once, Nero and Helius; and I am unable to say which of them was the worse. In most respects they behaved entirely alike, and the one point of difference was that the descendant of Augustus was emulating lyre-players and tragedians, whereas the freedman of Claudius was emulating Caesars. 3 As regards Tigellinus, I consider p159him a mere appendage of Nero, because he was constantly with him; but Polycleitus and Calvia Crispinilla, apart from Nero, plundered, sacked and despoiled everything that it was possible to pillage. The former was associated with Helius at Rome, and the latter with the "Sabina" who was known as Sporus. 4 Calvia had been entrusted with the care of the boy and with the oversight of the wardrobe, though a woman and of high rank; and through her all were stripped of their possessions.
13 Now Nero called Sporus "Sabina" not merely because, owing to his resemblance to her he had been made a eunuch, but because the boy, like the mistress, had been solemnly married to him in Greece, Tigellinus giving the bride away, as the law ordained. All the Greeks held a celebration in honour of their marriage, uttering all the customary good wishes, even to the extent of praying that legitimate children might be born to them. 2 After that Nero had two bedfellows at once, Pythagoras to play the rôle of husband to him, and Sporus that of wife. The latter, in addition to other forms of address, was termed "lady," "queen," and "mistress." Yet why should one wonder at this, seeing that Nero would fasten naked boys and girls to stakes, and then putting on the hide of a wild beast would attack them and satisfy his brutal lust under the appearance of devouring parts of their bodies? 3 Such were the indecencies of Nero.
When he received the senators, he wore a short flowered tunic and a muslin neck-cloth; for in matters of dress, also, he was already transgressing custom, even going so far as to wear ungirded tunics in public. It is reported also that the members of p161the equestrian order used saddle-cloths in his reign for the first time at their annual review.
14 At the Olympic games he fell from the chariot he was driving and came very near being crushed to death; yet he was crowned victor. In acknowledgement of this favour he gave to the Hellanodikai23 the million sesterces which Galba later demanded back from them.
2 This same emperor gave 400,000 sesterces to the Pythia for uttering some oracles that suited him; this money Galba recovered. But from Apollo, on the other hand, whether from vexation at the god for making some unpleasant predictions to him or because he was merely crazy, he took away the territory of Cirrha and gave it to the soldiers. He also abolished the oracle, after slaying some people and throwing them into the fissure from which the sacred vapour arose. 3 He contended in every city alike that held any contest, always employing Cluvius Rufus, an ex-consul, as herald whenever the services of a herald were required. Athens and Sparta were two exceptions, being the only places that he did not visit at all. He avoided the latter city because of the laws of Lycurgus, which stood in the way of his designs, and the former because of the story about the Furies. 4 The proclamation always ran: "Nero Caesar wins this contest and crowns the Roman people and the inhabited world that is his own." Thus, though possessing a world, according to his own statement, he nevertheless went on playing the lyre, making proclamations, and acting tragedies. p163
15 His hatred for the senate was so fierce that he took particular pleasure in Vatinius, who was always saying to him: "I hate you, Caesar, for being of senatorial rank." (I give his very words.) 2 Both the senators and all others were constantly subjected to the closest scrutiny in their entrances, their exits, their attitudes, their gestures, and their shouts. The men that were always in Nero's company, listened attentively and loudly cheered him, were commended and honoured; the rest were both dishonoured and punished. 3 Some, therefore, being unable to hold out until the end of his performances (for often the spectators would be kept on a strain from early morning until evening), would pretend to swoon and would be carried out of the theatres as if dead.
16 As a secondary achievement connected with his sojourn in Greece he conceived a desire to dig a canal across the isthmus of the Peloponnesus, and actually began the task. Men shrank from it, however, be, when the first workers touched the earth, blood spouted from it, groans and bellowings were heard, and many phantoms appeared. 2 Nero himself thereupon grasped a mattock and by throwing up some of the soil fairly compelled the rest to imitate him. For this work he sent for a great multitude of men from other nations as well.
17 For this and other purposes he needed great sums of money; and as he was at once a promoter of great enterprises and a giver of great gifts, and at the same time feared an attack from the persons of most influence while he was thus engaged, he made away with many excellent men. 2 Of most of p165these I shall omit any account, inasmuch as the stock complaint under which all of them were brought before him was excellence, wealth, or family; and all of them either killed themselves or were slain by others. I shall, however, mention Corbulo and the two Sulpicii Scribonii, Rufus and Proculus. 3 The latter two were brothers of about the same age, and had never done anything separately but had remained united in purpose and in property as they were in family; they had for a long time administered the two Germanies together, and now came to Greece at the summons of Nero, who pretended to want them for something. 4 Complaints of the kind in which that period abounded were lodged against them, but they could neither obtain a hearing nor get within sight of Nero; and as this caused them to be slighted by everybody alike, they began to long for death and so met their end by opening their veins. 5 I mention Corbulo, because the emperor, after sending him also a most courteous summons and invariably calling him, among other names, "father" and "benefactor," then, when this general landed at Cenchreae, commanded that he should be slain before he had even entered his presence. Some explain this by saying that Nero was about to appear as a lyre-player and could not endure the idea of being seen by Corbulo while he wore the long ungirded tunic. 6 The condemned man, as soon as heºunderstood the order, seized a sword, and dealing himself a lusty blow exclaimed: "Your due!"24 Then, indeed, for the first time he was convinced that he had done wrong both in p167sparing the lyre-player and in going to him unarmed.25 18This was what was going on in Greece. Is it worth while adding that Nero ordered Paris, the pantomimic dancer, to be slain because the emperor had wished to learn dancing from him but had not the capacity? Or that he banished Caecina Tuscus, the governor of Egypt, for bathing in the bath that had been specially constructed for the emperor's intended visit to Alexandria?
2 In Rome during this same period Helius committed many terrible deeds. Among other things he put to death one of the foremost men, Sulpicius Camerinus, together with his son, the complaint against them being that they would not give up their title of Pythicus, received from some of their ancestors, but showed irreverence toward Nero's Pythian victories by their use of this same title. 3 And when the Augustans26 proposed to make a statue of the emperor weighing a thousand pounds,27 the whole equestrian order was compelled to help to defray the expense they had undertaken. As for the doings of the senate, it would be a task to describe them all in detail; for so many sacrifices and days of thanksgiving were announced that the whole year would not hold them all.
19 Helius had for some time been sending to Nero many messages urging him to return as quickly as possible, but when he found that no attention was paid to them, he went himself to Greece in seven days and frightened him by reporting that a great conspiracy against him was on foot in Rome. This report caused Nero to embark for Italy at once. p1692 There was, indeed, some hope of his perishing in a storm and many rejoiced, but to no purpose, as he came safely to land; and for certain men the very fact that they had prayed and hoped that he might perish furnished a motive for their destruction.20 When he entered Rome, a portion of the wall was torn down and a section of the gates broken in, because some asserted that each of these ceremonies was customary upon the return of crowned victors from the games. 2 First entered men bearing the crowns which he had won, and after them others with wooden panels borne aloft on spears, upon which were inscribed the name of the games, the kind of contest, and a statement that Nero Caesar first of all the Romans from the beginning of the world had won it. 3 Next came the victor himself on a triumphal car, the one in which Augustus had once celebrated his many victories; he was clad in a vestment of purple covered with spangles of gold, was crowned with a garland of wild olive, and held in his hand the Pythian laurel. By his side rode Diodorus the lyre-player. 4 After passing in this manner through the Circus and through the Forum in company with the soldiers and the knights and the senate he ascended the Capitol and proceeded thence to the palace. The city was all decked with garlands, was ablaze with lights and reeking with incense, 5 and the whole population, the senators themselves most of all, kept shouting in chorus: "Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail, Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus! Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail to Nero, our Apollo! The only Victor of the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of p171time! Augustus! Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee." 6 I might, to be sure, have used circumlocutions, but why not declare their very words? The expressions that they used do not disgrace my history; rather, the fact that I have not concealed any of them lends it distinction.
21 When he had finished these ceremonies, he announced a series of horse-races, and carrying into the Circus these crowns as well as all the others that he had secured by his victories in chariot-racing, he placed them around the Egyptian obelisk. The number of them was one thousand eight hundred and eight. And after doing this he appeared as a charioteer. 2 Now a certain Larcius, a Lydian, approached him with an offer of a million sesterces if he would play the lyre for them. Nero, however, would not take the money, disdaining to do anything for pay (albeit Tigellinus collected it, as the price of not putting Larcius to death), but he did appear in the theatre, nevertheless, and not only played the lyre but also acted in a tragedy. (As for the equestrian contests, he never failed to take part in them.) Sometimes he would voluntarily let himself be defeated, in order to make it more credible that he really won on most occasions.
3 Dio, Book LXII: "And he inflicted countless woes upon many cities."
2 Both verbs used in the Greek were common formulas of leave-taking.
3 Near her villa at Bauli.
4 A reference to the well-known punishment prescribed for parricides. The criminal was sewn up in a leather bag together with a dog, a cock, a viper and an ape, and thrown into the water to drown.
5 These are actual titles of poems by Nero.
6 Gymnasium here means a school of music.
Thayer's Note: Like us, the ancient Greeks and Romans used the word gymnasium to mean a venue for practicing athletics. Nero's gymnasium (see the article Gymnasium Neronis in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome) was apparently a multi-purpose venue for both sports and musical contests: see the article Quinquennalia in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
7 The text, ἄκουσιν, does not give a very satisfactory meaning; Naber would read αἰτοῦσιν, "at their request."
8 Commonly known as Boadicea.
9 A goddess of the Britons.
10 Cf. Zonaras: And he divorced his wife, Octavia Augusta, the daughter of Claudius; for being enamoured of Sabina, he wished to live with her as his wife. And Sabina, fearing that Octavia might be recalled some day, suborned persons to accuse her falsely of adultery and witchcraft; she thus brought about her exile at first and later her murder.
Joann. Antioch.: He first divorced and afterwards put to death his wife Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, who had been of no slight assistance to him in gaining the throne.
11 A mistake for Ofonius.
12 On the occasion of the birth of Nero's daughter at Antium, the entire senate hastened thither to congratulate him (Tac. Ann. XV.23); and many others no doubt did the same. In what manner so many perished we can only conjecture.
13 The text is probably corrupt; see critical note.
The critical note to the text's τὸν γοῦν Πρίαμον καὶ αὐτὸς θαυμαστῶς ἐμακάριζεν reads:
καὶ αὐτὸς VC, probably corrupt; κατ᾽ αὐτὸ τοῦτο Polak.
17 C. Cassius Longinus (ibid.).
19 Literally "victor of the periodos." This was a term applied to an athlete who had conquered in the Pythian, Isthmian, Nemean and Olympian games.
21 With the addition of Canace (from the Aeolus) from ch. 10, the characters here named may possibly suffice for all the situations just described. For Thyestes as a beggar see Aristophanes Ach. 433; yet little is known of this play, and it is more natural to think of the famous Telephus. Alcmeon and Orestes could each serve for both the madman and the outcast. It is to be noted that all the plays, except the Oedipus Coloneus, are by Euripides.
23 The chief judges at the Olympic games.
24 Generally used in acclaiming a hero: "Thou art worthy."
25 i.e. without his army.
Images with borders lead to more information.
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 16 Apr 11