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XV.33‑47

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals

of
Tacitus

published in Vol. V
of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Tacitus, 1937

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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XVI

(Vol. V) Tacitus
Annals

Book XV (end)

p289 48 1 Silius Nerva and Vestinus Atticus then entered upon their consulate — the year of a conspiracy, no sooner hatched than full-grown,1 for which senators, knights, soldiers, and women themselves had vied in giving their names, not simply through hatred of Nero, but also through partiality for Gaius Piso.2 Piso, sprung from the Calpurnian house, and, by his father's high descent, uniting in his own person many families of distinction, enjoyed with the multitude a shining reputation for virtue, or for spectacular qualities resembling virtues.3 For he exercised his eloquence in the defence of his fellow-citizens, his liberality in the service of his friends; and even with strangers his conversation and intercourse were marked by courtesy. He was favoured also with those gifts of chance, a tall figure and handsome features. But weight of character and continence in pleasure were absent: he gave full scope to frivolity, to ostentation, and at times to debauchery — a trait which was approved by that majority of men, who, in view of the manifold allurements of vice, desire no strictness or marked audacity in the head of the state.

p291 49 1 The beginning of the conspiracy did not come from his own wish. At the same time, it is not easy for me to say who was its original author, whose the initiative that called into being a project which so many embraced. That its most resolute adherents had been found in Subrius Flavus, the tribune of a praetorian cohort, and the centurion Sulpicius Asper, was proved by the firmness of their end; while Annaeus Lucanus and Plautius Lateranus4 contributed the vivacity of their hatreds. Lucan had private motives to inflame him, since Nero was stifling the reputation of his poems and had ordered him not to seek publicity — for he had the vanity to count himself his peer. Lateranus, a consul designate, was brought to the cause, not by an injury, but by affection for the commonwealth. On the other hand, Flavius Scaevinus and Afranius Quintianus, both of senatorial rank, belied their repute when they took the lead in so desperate an enterprise. For the mental powers of Scaevinus had been wrecked by debauchery, and his life was one of corresponding languor and somnolence; Quintianus, a notorious degenerate, had been attacked by Nero in a scurrilous poem, and was now intent upon avenging the affront.

50 1 Scattering allusions, therefore, among themselves or their friends to the crimes of the sovereign, the approaching dissolution of the empire, the need of choosing the saviour of an outworn society, they gathered to their number Claudius Senecio, Cervarius Proculus, Vulcacius Araricus, Julius Augurinus, p293Munatius Gratus, Antonius Natalis, and Marcius Festus, all Roman knights. Of these, Senecio, one of Nero's chief familiars,5 maintained even then a semblance of friendship, and was exposed in consequence to a larger variety of dangers: Natalis was the partner of Piso in all his secret counsels; the rest were seeking hope from revolution. In addition to Subrius and Sulpicius, who have been noticed already, Gavius Silanus and Statius Proxumus, tribunes of the praetorian cohorts, together with the centurions Maximus Scaurus and Venetus Paulus, were called in as men of the sword. Their main strength, however, was considered to lie in Faenius Rufus,6 the prefect, whose estimable life and character were, in the prince's favour, outweighed by the ferocity and lust of Tigellinus; who persecuted him with calumnies and had repeatedly awakened his alarm by describing him as the paramour of Agrippina, still mourning her, and determined upon vengeance. Hence, when his own reiterated statements had convinced the plotters that the commander of the Praetorian Guard had himself entered the lists, they began to show more alacrity in debating the time and place of the assassination. It was asserted that Subrius Flavus had conceived an impulse to attack Nero while he was singing on the stage, or while, during the burning of the palace, he was rushing unguarded from place to place in the night. In one case, there were the opportunities of solitude: in the other, the very presence of a crowd, to be the fairest witness of such an exploit, had fired his imagination; only the desire of escape, that eternal enemy of high emprises, gave him pause.

51 1 In the meantime, while they were still hesitating, p295reluctant to abridge the period of hope and fear, a certain Epicharis, who had gained her information by means unknown — she had never previously shown interest in anything honourable — began to animate and upbraid the conspirators. Finally, wearied of their slowness and happening to be in Campania, she made an effort to undermine the loyalty of the fleet officers at Misenum and to implicate them in the plot. The beginning of the intrigue was this. In the squadron was a ship-captain, Volusius Proculus, one of Nero's agents in the assassination of his mother, but not (he considered) promoted as the importance of the crime deserved. This person, as a former acquaintance of the woman (or possibly the friendship may have been of recent growth), disclosed what his services to Nero had been, and how thankless they had proved, then proceeded to complaints and to a declared intention of settling the account, should occasion offer. He thus gave hope that he might be influenced and win fresh adherents. The help of the fleet, it was reflected, was no slight matter; and opportunities must be plentiful, as Nero delighted in frequent excursions by sea in the neighbourhood of Puteoli and Misenum. Epicharis therefore went further, and entered upon a catalogue of the emperor's crimes:— "Nothing was left either for the senate <or for the people>! But a way had been provided by which he might pay the penalty for the ruin of his country. Proculus had only to gird himself to do his part, bring over his most resolute men to the cause, and look forward to a worthy reward." On the names of the conspirators, however, she observed silence; with the result that Proculus p297though he reported what he had heard to Nero, made his disclosure in vain. For Epicharis was summoned, confronted with the informer, and in the absence of corresponding evidence silenced him with ease. Still, she was herself detained in custody, Nero having a suspicion that the statements, even if not demonstrated to be true, were not therefore false.

52 1 The plotters, however, moved by the fear of betrayal, decided to hasten on the murder at Baiae in a villa belonging to Piso — its charms had a fascination for the Caesar, who came frequently and indulged in the bath or the banquet, dispensing with his guards and the tedious magnificence of his rank. But Piso refused, his pretext being the odium which must be faced, "if they stained with the blood of an emperor, however contemptible, the sanctities of the guest-table and the gods of hospitality. Better in the capital, in that hated palace reared from the spoils of his countrymen, or under the public gaze, to do the deed they had undertaken for the public good." This was for the general ear; actually he had an unconfessed misgiving that Lucius Silanus7 — who, thanks to his exalted lineage and to the training of Gaius Cassius, with whom he had been educated, stood high enough for any dignity — might grasp at the empire; which would be promptly offered to him by the persons who had held aloof from the plot or who pitied Nero as the victim of a murder. It was commonly believed that Piso had intended at the same time to evade the energy of the consul Vestinus, lest he should arise as the champion of liberty, or, by selecting another as emperor, convert the state into a gift of p299his own bestowing. For in the conspiracy he had no part, though conspiracy was the charge on which Nero satisfied his old hatred of an innocent man.

53 1 At last they resolved to execute their purpose on the day of the Circensian Games when the celebration is in honour of Ceres;8 as the emperor who rarely left home and secluded himself in his palace or gardens, went regularly to the exhibitions in the Circus and could be approached with comparative ease owing to the gaiety of the spectacle. They had arranged a set programme for the plot. Lateranus, as though asking financial help, would fall in an attitude of entreaty at the emperor's feet, overturn him while off his guard, and hold him down, being as he was a man of intrepid character and a giant physically. Then, as the victim lay prostrate and pinned, the tribunes, the centurions, and any of the rest who had daring enough, were to run up and do him to death; the part of protagonist being claimed by Scaevinus, who had taken down a dagger from the temple of Safety — of Fortune, according to other accounts — in the town of Ferentinum,9 and wore it regularly as the instrument sanctified to a great work. In the interval, Piso was to wait in the temple of Ceres; from which he would be summoned by the prefect Faenius and the others and carried to the camp: he would be accompanied by Claudius' daughter10 Antonia, with a view to eliciting the approval of the crowd. This is the statement of Pliny. For my own part, whatever his assertion may be worth, I was not inclined to suppress it, absurd as it may seem that either p301Antonia should have staked her name and safety on an empty expectation, or Piso, notoriously devoted to his wife, should have pledged himself to another marriage — unless, indeed, the lust of power burns more fiercely than all emotions combined.

54 1 It is surprising, none the less, how in this mixture of ranks and classes, ages and sexes, rich and poor, the whole affair was kept in secrecy, till the betrayal came from the house of Scaevinus.11 On the day before the attempt, he had a long conversation with Antonius Natalis, after which he returned home, sealed his will, and taking the dagger, mentioned above, from the sheath, complained that it was to be rubbed on a whetstone till the edge glittered: this task he entrusted to his freedman Milichus. At the same time, he began a more elaborate dinner than usual, and presented his favourite slaves with their liberty, or, in some cases, with money. He himself was moody, and obviously deep in thought, though he kept up a disconnected conversation which affected cheerfulness. At last, he gave the word that bandages for wounds and appliances for stopping haemorrhage were to be made ready. The instructions were again addressed to Milichus: possibly he was aware of the conspiracy, and had so far kept faith; possibly, as the general account goes, he knew nothing, and caught his first suspicions at that moment. About the sequel there is unanimity. For when his slavish brain considered the wages of treason, and unbounded wealth and power floated in the same instant before his eyes, conscience, the safety of his patron, the memory of the liberty he had received, withdrew into the background. p303For he had also taken his wife's counsel. It was feminine and baser; for she held before him the further motive of fear, and pointed out that numbers of freedmen and slaves had been standing by, who had witnessed the same incidents as himself:— "One man's silence would profit nothing; but one man would handle the rewards — he who won the race to give information."

55 1 At the break of day, then, Milichus went straight to the Servilian Gardens.12 He was turned from the door; but, on insisting that he was the bearer of great and terrible news, was escorted by the porters to Nero's freedman Epaphroditus,13 and by him in due course to Nero, whom he informed of the urgency of the danger, of the desperate character of the conspirators, and of all else that he had heard or conjectured. He also showed the weapon prepared for the assassination, and demanded that the accused should be summoned. Scaevinus was hurried to the spot by soldiers, and opened his defence by replying that "the weapon charged against him had long been regarded with veneration by his family, had been kept in his bedroom, and had been purloined by the knavery of his freedman. The tablets of his will he had quite often sealed, and without taking any particular notice of the days. He had previously made grants of money or freedom to his slaves; but this time more liberally, for the simple reason that his means were now slender, and, with his creditors pressing, he had misgivings about his will. As to his table, it had always been generously provided: his life had been on pleasant lines, and hardly to the taste of austere critics. There had been no bandages p305for wounds of his ordering, but the accuser — whose other allegations had been patently futile — was adding a charge in which he could play informer and witness alike." He followed up his words with a display of spirit, and attacked the freedman as an unspeakable villain, with so much assurance of look and tone that the informer's tale was on the point of collapse, had not his wife reminded Milichus that Antonius Navalis had had a long and secret interview with Scaevinus, and that both were on intimate terms with Gaius Piso.

56 1 Natalis accordingly was summoned, and the two were separately questioned as to the nature and the subject of the conversation. Suspicion was now awakened, as their answers failed to tally, and they were thrown into irons. At the sight and threat of torture they broke down. Natalis, however, took the lead. Better acquainted with the conspiracy as a whole, and at the same time more adroit as an accuser, he first admitted the case against Piso, then went on to name Annaeus Seneca, perhaps because he had acted as intermediate between him and Piso, or perhaps to win the good graces of Nero; who, in his hatred of Seneca, grasped at all methods of suppressing him. Then, when Natalis' disclosure became known, Scaevinus himself, with similar weakness, — or else in the belief that all had been told and there was no profit in silence, — divulged the rest of the confederates. Of these, Lucan, Quintianus, and Senecio, long denied the charge: at last, bribed by a promise of impunity, and by way of excuse for their slowness, they gave the names, Lucan of his mother Acilia; Quintianus and Senecio, of their principal friends — Glitius Gallus and Annius Pollio respectively.

p307 57 1 In the meantime, Nero recollected that Epicharis was in custody on the information of Volusius Proculus; and, assuming that female flesh and blood must be unequal to the pain, he ordered her to be racked. But neither the lash nor fire, nor yet the anger of the torturers, who redoubled their efforts rather than be braved by a woman, broke down her denial of the allegations. Thus the first day of torment had been defied. On the next, as she was being dragged back in a chair to a repetition of the agony — her dislocated limbs were unable to support her — she fastened the breast-band (which she had stripped from her bosom) in a sort of noose to the canopy of the chair, thrust her neck into it, and, throwing the weight of her body into the effort, squeezed out such feeble breath as remained to her. An emancipated slave and a woman, by shielding, under this dire coercion, men unconnected with her and all but unknown, she had set an example which shone the brighter at a time when persons freeborn and male, Roman knights and senators, untouched by the torture, were betraying each his nearest and his dearest. For Lucan himself, and Senecio and Quintianus, did not omit to disclose their confederates wholesale; while Nero's terror grew from more to more, though he had multiplied the strength of the guards surrounding his person.

58 1 He went further, and laid the very capital under a species of arrest: maniples held the walls; the sea and the river themselves were occupied. And through squares and houses, even through the country districts and nearest towns, flitted footmen and horsemen, interspersed with Germans,14 trusted p309by the emperor because they were foreign. Then followed continuous columns of manacled men, dragged and deposited at the garden doors.15 And when they entered to plead their cause, cheerfulness towards a plotter, a chance conversation, an unforeseen meeting, an appearance at a banquet or spectacle in his company, were taken as crimes; while, over and above the pitiless cross-questioning of Nero and Tigellinus, there were the truculent attacks of Faenius Rufus, not yet named by the informers, and struggling to demonstrate his ignorance by browbeating his allies. It was the same Rufus who, when Subrius Flavus at his side inquired by a motion if he should draw his sword and do the bloody deed during the actual inquiry, shook his head and checked the impulse which was already carrying his hand to his hilt.

59 1 There were those who, after the betrayal of the plot, while Milichus was still in audience, Scaevinus still wavering, urged Piso to make his way to the camp or mount the Rostra, and sound the dispositions of the troops and the people:— "If his confederates rallied to his attempt, outsiders too would follow; and the movement so started would be trumpeted abroad — a point of prime importance in planning revolutions. Nero had taken no precautions against a step of this kind. Even brave men could lose their nerve in emergencies: what likelihood that his play-actor, accompanied no doubt by Tigellinus and his lemans, would answer force with force? Many things which to the timid looked arduous were accomplished on attempt. It was idle to look for silence and good faith in the minds and persons of many accomplices: torture p311or gold would find a way through anything! The men would come who would bind him also and put him at last to an unworthy death. How much more honourably would he perish in the act of taking his country to his heart — of invoking help for liberty! Sooner let the soldiers hold aloof and the commons forsake him, provided that he himself, were his life to be cut short, justified his death in the sight of his ancestors and of his descendants." Piso, unmoved by all this, spent a short time in public, then secluded himself at home, and steeled his spirit against the end, until a body of troops arrived, recruits or men new to the service, and chosen as such by Nero, the veterans being distrusted as tainted by partisanship. His mode of death was to sever the arteries of each arm. His will, marked by disgusting flatteries of Nero, was a concession to his love for his wife, whom, low-born as she was and recommended only by physical beauty, he had stolen from the bed of one of his friends. The woman was named Satria Galla, her former husband Domitius Silius; and by the complaisance of the latter and the profligacy of the former Piso's infamy was kept alive.16

60 1 The next killing, that of the consul designate Plautius Lateranus, was added by Nero to the list with such speed that he allowed him neither to embrace his children nor the usual moment's respite in which to choose his death. Dragged to the place reserved for the execution of slaves,17 he was slaughtered by the hand of the tribune Statius, resolutely silent and disdaining to reproach the tribune with his complicity in the same affair.

There followed the murder of Annaeus Seneca, a p313joyful event to the sovereign: not that he had established his connection with the plot, but, as poison had not worked, he was anxious to proceed by the sword. Only Natalis, in fact, mentioned Seneca; nor did his statement go further than that he had been sent to visit him when sick and to make a complaint:— "Why did he close his door on Piso? It would be better if they cultivated their friendship by meeting on intimate terms." Seneca's answer had been that "spoken exchanges and frequent interviews were to the advantage of neither; still, his own existence depended on the safety of Piso." Gavius Silvanus, tribune of a praetorian cohort, was instructed to take this report and ask Seneca if he admitted Natalis' words and his own reply. By accident or design, Seneca that day had returned from Campania and broke his journey at one of his country-houses four miles out of Rome. Evening was near when the tribune arrived and surrounded the villa with pickets of soldiers: then he delivered the imperial message to the owner, who was dining with his wife Pompeia Paulina and two friends.

61 1 Seneca rejoined that "Natalis had been sent to him, and had remonstrated in Piso's name against his refusal to receive his visits. By way of excuse, he had pleaded considerations of health and love of quiet. He had had no reason for ranking the security of a private person higher than his own safety, and his temper was not one which was quick to flattery: no one was better aware of that than Nero, who had more often experienced the frankness of Seneca than his servility."18 When the tribune made his report in the presence of Poppaea and Tigellinus — the emperor's privy council in his p315ferocious moods — Nero demanded if Seneca was preparing for a voluntary death. The officer then assured him that there were no evidences of alarm, and that he had not detected any sadness in his words or looks. He was therefore directed to go back and pronounce the death-sentence. Fabius Rusticus19 states that, instead of returning by the road he had come, the tribune went out of his way to the prefect Faenius, and, after recapitulating the Caesar's orders, asked if he should obey them; only to be advised by Faenius to carry them out. Fate had made cowards of them all. For Silvanus, too, was numbered with the plotters; and now he was engaged in adding to the crimes he had conspired to avenge. However, he was so far considerate of his voice and his eyes as to send one of his centurions in to Seneca, to announce the last necessity.

62 1 Seneca, nothing daunted, asked for the tablets containing his will. The centurion refusing, he turned to his friends, and called them to witness that "as he was prevented from showing his gratitude for their services, he left them his sole but fairest possession — the image of his life. If they bore it in mind, they would reap the reward of their loyal friendship in the credit accorded to virtuous accomplishments." At the same time, he recalled them from tears to fortitude, sometimes conversationally, sometimes in sterner, almost coercive tones. "Where," he asked, "were the maxims of your philosophy? Where that reasoned attitude towards impending evils which they had studied through so many years? For to whom had Nero's cruelty been unknown? Nor was anything left him, after the killing of his mother and his brother, but to add the murder of his guardian and preceptor."

p317 63 1 After these and some similar remarks, which might have been meant for a wider audience, he embraced his wife, and, softening momentarily in view of the terrors at present threatening her, begged her, conjured her, to moderate her grief — not to take it upon her for ever, but in contemplating the life he had spent in virtue to find legitimate solace for the loss of her husband. Paulina replied by assuring him that she too had made death her choice, and she demanded her part in the executioner's stroke. Seneca, not wishing to stand in the way of her glory, and influenced also by his affection, that he might not leave the woman who enjoyed his whole-hearted love exposed to outrage, now said: "I had shown you the mitigations of life, you prefer the distinction of death: I shall not grudge your setting that example. May the courage of this brave ending be divided equally between us both, but may more of fame attend your own departure!" Aforesaid, they made the incision in their arms with a single cut. Seneca, since his aged body, emaciated further by frugal living, gave slow escape to the blood, severed as well the arteries in the leg and behind the knee.20 Exhausted by the racking pains, and anxious lest his sufferings might break down the spirit of his wife, and he himself lapse into weakness at the sight of her agony, he persuaded her to withdraw into another bedroom. And since, even at the last moment his eloquence remained at command, he called his secretaries, and dictated a long discourse, which has been given to the public in his own words, and which I therefore refrain from modifying.

64 1 Nero, however, who had no private animosity p319against Paulina, and did not wish to increase the odium of his cruelty, ordered her suicide to be arrested. Under instructions from the military, her slaves and freedmen bandaged her arms and checked the bleeding — whether without her knowledge is uncertain. For, with the usual readiness of the multitude to think the worst, there were those who believed that, so long as she feared an implacable Nero, she had sought the credit of sharing her husband's fate, and then, when a milder prospect offered itself, had succumbed to the blandishments of life. To that life she added a few more years — laudably faithful to her husband's memory and blanched in face and limb to a pallor which showed how great had been the drain upon her vital powers. Seneca, in the meantime, as death continued to be protracted and slow, asked Statius Annaeus, who had long held his confidence as a loyal friend and a skilful doctor, to produce the poison — it had been provided much earlier — which was used for despatching prisoners condemned by the public tribunal of Athens.21 It was brought, and he swallowed it, but to no purpose; his limbs were already cold, and his system closed to the action of the drug. In the last resort, he entered a vessel of heated water, sprinkling some on the slaves nearest, with the remark that he offered the liquid as a drink-offering to Jove the Liberator.22 He was then lifted into a bath, suffocated by the vapour, and cremated without ceremony. It was the order he had given in his will, at a time when, still at the zenith of his wealth and power, he was already taking thought for his latter end.

65 1 It was rumoured that Subrius Flavus and the centurions had decided in private conference, p321though not without Seneca's knowledge, that, once Nero had been struck down by the agency of Piso, Piso should be disposed of in his turn, and the empire made over to Seneca; who would thus appear to have been chosen for the supreme power by innocent men, as a consequence of his distinguished virtues. More than this, there was a saying of Flavus in circulation, that "so far as disgrace went, it was immaterial if a harper was removed, and a tragic actor took his place"; for Nero singing to his instrument was matched by Piso singing in his stage costume.23

66 1 But the military conspiracy itself no longer evaded detection; for the informers were stung into denouncing Faenius Rufus, whom they could not tolerate in the double part of accomplice and inquisitor. Accordingly, in the midst of Faenius' browbeating and threats, Scaevinus observed with a civil sneer that no one knew more than himself, and presented him with the advice to show his gratitude to so kindly a prince. Faenius was unable to retort either by speech or by silence. Tripping over his words, and patently terrified, while the rest — and notably the Roman knight Cervarius Proculus — strained every nerve for his conviction, he was seized and bound, at the emperor's order, by the private soldier Cassius, who was standing near in consideration of his remarkable bodily strength.

67 1 Before long, the evidence of the same group destroyed the tribune Subrius Flavus. At first he sought to make unlikeness of character a ground of defence: a man of the sword, like himself, would never have shared so desperate an enterprise with unarmed effeminates. Then, as he was pressed p323more closely, he embraced the glory of confession. Questioned by Nero as to the motives which had led him so far as to forget his military oath:— "I hated you," he answered, "and yet there was not a man in the army truer to you, as long as you deserved to be loved. I began to hate you when you turned into the murderer of your mother and wife — a chariot-driver, an actor, a fire-raiser." I have reported his exact words; for, unlike those of Seneca, they were given no publicity; and the plain, strong sentiments of the soldier were not the less worth knowing. It was notorious that nothing in this conspiracy fell more harshly on the ears of Nero, who was equally ready to commit crimes and unaccustomed to be informed of what he was committing. The execution of Flavus was entrusted to the tribune Veianius Niger. Niger gave orders for a grave to be dug in a neighbouring field; where it was criticized by Flavus as neither deep nor broad enough:— "Faulty discipline even here," he observed to the soldiers around. When admonished to hold his neck out firmly:— "I only hope," he said, "that you will strike as firmly!" Shaking violently, the tribune severed the head with some difficulty at two blows, and boasted of his brutality to Nero by saying that he had killed with a stroke and a half.

68 1 The next example of intrepidity was furnished by Sulpicius Asper; who to Nero's question, why he had conspired to murder him, rejoined curtly that it was the only service that could be rendered to his many infamies. He then underwent the ordained penalty. The other centurions, as well, met their fate without declining from their traditions; but such resolution was not for Faenius p325Rufus, who imported his lamentations even into his will.

Nero was waiting for the consul Vestinus to be also incriminated, regarding him as a violent character and an enemy. But the conspirators had not shared their plans with Vestinus — some through old animosities, the majority because they considered him headstrong and impossible as a partner. Nero's hatred of him had grown out of intimate companionship — Vestinus understanding perfectly, and despising, the pusillanimity of the sovereign; the sovereign afraid of the masterful friend who so often mocked him with that rough humour which, if it draws too largely on truth, leaves pungent memories behind. An additional, and recent, motive was that Vestinus had contracted a marriage with Statilia Messalina,24 though well aware that the Caesar also was among her paramours.

69 1 Accordingly, with neither a charge nor an accuser forthcoming, Nero, precluded from assuming the character of judge, turned to plain despotic force, and sent out the tribune Gerellanus with a cohort of soldiers, under orders to "forestall the attempts of the consul, seize what might be termed his citadel, and suppress his chosen corps of youths": Vestinus maintained a house overlooking the forum, and a retinue of handsome slaves of uniform age. On that day, he had fulfilled the whole of his consular functions, and was holding a dinner-party, either apprehending nothing or anxious to dissemble whatever he apprehended, when soldiers entered and said the tribune was asking for him. He rose without delay, and all was hurried through in a moment. He shut himself in his bedroom, the p327doctor was at hand, the arteries were cut: still vigorous, he was carried into the bath and plunged in hot water, without letting fall a word of self-pity. In the meantime, the guests who had been at table with him were surrounded by guards; nor were they released till a late hour of the night, when Nero, laughing at the dismay, which he had been picturing in his mind's eye, of the diners who were awaiting destruction after the feast, observed that they had paid dearly enough for their consular banquet.

70 1 He next ordained the despatch of Lucan. When his blood was flowing, and he felt his feet and hands chilling and the life receding little by little from the extremities, though the heart retained warmth and sentience, Lucan recalled a passage in his own poem, where he had described a wounded soldier dying a similar form of death, and he recited the very verses.25 Those were his last words. Then Senecio and Quintianus and Scaevinus, belying their old effeminacy of life, and then the rest of the conspirators, met their end, doing and saying nothing that calls for remembrance.

71 1 Meanwhile, however, the city was filled with funerals, and the Capitol with burnt offerings. Here, for the killing of a son; there, for that of a brother, a kinsman, or a friend; men were addressing their thanks to Heaven, bedecking their mansions with bays, falling at the knees of the sovereign, and persecuting his hand with kisses. And he, imagining that this was joy, recompensed the hurried informations of Antonius Navalis and Cervarius Proculus by a grant of immunity. Milichus, grown rich on rewards, assumed in its Greek form the title of p329Saviour. Of the tribunes,26 Gavius Silanus, though acquitted, fell by his own hand; Statius Proxumus stultified the pardon he had received from the emperor by the folly of his end.27 Then . . . Pompeius, Cornelius Martialis, Flavius Nepos, and Statius Domitius, were deprived of their rank, on the ground that, without hating the Caesar, they had yet the reputation of doing so. Novius Priscus, as a friend of Seneca, Glitius Gallus and Annius Pollio as discredited if hardly convicted, were favoured with sentences of exile. Priscus was accompanied by his wife Artoria Flaccilla, Gallus by Egnatia Maximilla,28 the mistress of a great fortune, at first left intact but afterwards confiscated — two circumstances which redounded equally to her fame. Rufrius Crispinus was also banished: the conspiracy supplied the occasion, but he was detested by Nero as a former husband of Poppaea. To Verginius Flavus29 and Musonius Rufus expulsion was brought by the lustre of their names; for Verginius fostered the studies of youth by his eloquence, Musonius by the precepts of philosophy. As though to complete the troop and a round number, Cluvidienus Quietus, Julius Agrippa, Blitius Catulinus, Petronius Priscus, and Julius Altinus were allowed the Aegean islands. But Scaevinus' wife Caedicia and Caesennius Maximus30 were debarred from Italy, and by their punishment — and that alone — discovered that they had been on trial. Lucan's mother Acilia was ignored, without acquittal and without penalty.

p331 72º Now that all was over, Nero held a meeting of the troops,31 and made a distribution of two thousand sesterces a man, remitting in addition the price of the grain ration previously supplied to them at the current market rate. Then, as if to recount the achievements of a war, he convoked the senate and bestowed triumphal distinctions on the consular Petronius Turpilianus,32 the praetor designate Cocceius Nerva, and the praetorian prefect Tigellinus: Nerva and Tigellinus he exalted so far that, not content with triumphal statues in the Forum, he placed their effigies in the palace itself. Consular insignia were decreed to Nymphidius <Sabinus33 . . .>. As Nymphidius now presents himself for the first time, I notice him briefly; for he too will be part of the tragedies of Rome. The son, then, of a freedwoman34 who had prostituted her handsome person among the slaves and freedmen of emperors, he described himself as the issue of Gaius Caesar: for some freak of chance had given him a tall figure and a lowering brow; or, possibly, Gaius, whose appetite extended even to harlots, had abused this man's mother with the rest . . .

73 1 However, after he had spoken in the senate, Nero followed by publishing an edict to the people and a collection, in writing, of the informations laid and the avowals of the condemned; for in the gossip of the multitude he was being commonly attacked for procuring the destruction of great and guiltless citizens from motives of jealousy or of fear. p333Still, that a conspiracy was initiated, matured, brought home to its authors, was neither doubted at the period by those who were at pains to ascertain the facts, nor is denied by the exiles who have returned to the capital since the death of Nero. But in the senate, whilst all members, especially those with most to mourn, were stooping to sycophancy, Junius Gallio,35 dismayed by the death of his brother Seneca, and petitioning for his own existence, was attacked by Salienus Clemens, who styled him the enemy and parricide of his country; until he was deterred by the unanimous request of the Fathers that he would avoid the appearance of abusing a national sorrow for the purposes of a private hatred, and would not reawaken cruelty by recurring to matters either settled or cancelled by the clemency of the sovereign.

74 1 Offerings and thanks were then voted to Heaven, the Sun, who had an old temple in the Circus, where the crime was to be staged, receiving special honour for revealing by his divine power the secrets of the conspiracy. The Circensian Games of Ceres were to be celebrated with an increased number of horse-races; the month of April was to take the name of Nero;36 a temple of Safety was to be erected on the site . . .37 from which Scaevinus had taken his dagger. That weapon the emperor himself consecrated in the Capitol, and inscribed it:— To Jove the Avenger. At the time, the incident passed unnoticed: after the armed rising of the other p335"avenger," Julius Vindex,38 it was read as a token and a presage of coming retribution. I find in the records of the senate that Anicius Cerialis, consul designate, gave it as his opinion that a temple should be built to Nero the Divine, as early as possible and out of public funds. His motion, it is true, merely implied that the prince had transcended mortal eminence and earned the worship of mankind; but it was vetoed by that prince, because by other interpreters it might be wrested into an omen of, and aspiration for, his decease; for the honour of divine is not paid to the emperor until he has ceased to live and move among men.39


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 To judge from the last sentence of XIV.65, it must have been at least in contemplation by 63 A.D.: if the reading ardente domo is correct two chapters below, it was already mature at the time of the fire.

2 His parents, curiously enough, cannot be identified. It is known that he was married in 37 A.D., though his wedding-guest Caligula appropriated the bride (Suet. Cal. 25); that he was banished two years (?) later (biennio post Suet. l.l., πρὶν δύο μῆνας ἐξελθεῖν, D. Cass. LIX.8); and that he returned under Claudius, held a consulate, and subsequently inherited a fortune from his mother (Σ. Juv. V.109).

3 They are enumerated in the Laus Pisonis (Baehrens, PLM I.220 sqq.) — 261 hexameters by a young and indigent author, whom Maurice Haupt and Lachmann identified with the pastoral poet Calpurnius.

4 Nephew of Claudius' commander in Britain, A. Plautius Silvanus; implicated in the scandal of Messalina and Silius, but spared out of consideration for his uncle (XI.36); restored to the senate by Nero (XIII.11). His great mansion on the Coelian Hill passed, by gift of Constantine to the Popes, and the Lateran palace and church perpetuate his name.

5 XIII.12.

6 XIV.51.

7 A son of M. Silanus (the "Golden Sheep" of XIII.1), and the last lineal descendant of Augustus, apart from Nero. — Cassius is the jurist (XII.11, etc.).

8 The date of the Cerialia was Apr. 12‑19, the games being circensian on the opening and closing days.

9 Hardly the Latian town of the name (Ferentino, near Anagni), but the Etruscan Ferentinum, or Ferentium (Ferento, between Viterbo and Bomarzo). In that case, "Fortuna" is certainly, and "Salus" possibly, the Etruscan goddess Nortia (Juv. X.74).

Thayer's Note: For the hornet's nest of places named Ferentum or something similar, see my page on the subject.

10 By his marriage with Aelia Paetina (XII.2). Wife first of Cn. Pompeius, then of Faustus Sulla, she refused Nero's hand after the death of Poppaea, and was later executed on a charge of seditious activities (Suet. Ner. 35).

11 A conflicting account, included by Plutarch among his examples of the ills of garrulity (Mor. 505CD), seems to be negligible.

12 Their position can only be vaguely inferred from Hist. III.38 and Suet. Ner. 47.

13 Libertus a libellis in succession to Doryphorus (XIV.65); accompanied the fallen Nero to Phaon's villa, and assisted him in his suicide (Suet. Ner. 49; D. Cass. LXII.29); executed on that account by Domitian (Suet. Dom. 14; D. Cass. LXVII.14). — He was the owner of Epictetus, and can hardly have been other than the Epaphroditus addressed by Josephus in the Life, the Antiquities and the Apion, though in the case of the Life there is a difficulty turning on the date of death of Agrippa II.

14 A mounted corps, chiefly of Batavians, formed by Augustus to replace his Spanish guard (Suet. Aug. 49); disbanded "in spite of its tried fidelity" by Galba (Suet. Galb. 12).

15 Of the horti Serviliani (chap. 55).

16 The point of the remark is obscure.

17 Known as the Sessorium, in the Campus Esquilinus. It was here that Galba's head was thrown by the slaves of Patrobius (Plut. Galb. 28 — where the definition of the place is:— ᾗ τοὺς τῶν Καισάρων κολαζομένους θανατοῦσιν). — Lateranus' courage is noticed also by Epictetus (Diss. I.1.19‑20).

18 Seneca denies the possibility of his having said salutem suam incolumitate Pisonis inniti:— He cannot have made the remark in earnest, for the only person whose safety he ranks above his own is the emperor: he cannot have made it out of empty civility, for such complaisances are alien to his nature.

19 XIII.20 n.

20 The road of freedom was longer than it seemed when he wrote the words:— Scalpello aperitur ad illam magnam libertatem via, et puncto securitas constat (Ep. 70).

21 Hemlock — a choice to be expected.

22 The same remark is made by Thrasea at XVI.35 — the only other place, it is said, apart from coins of Nero and a calendar, in which this Latin version of Ζεὺς Ἐλευθέριος occurs.

23 He took the title part in lyrical tragedies, as was constantly done by the emperor himself: cf. e.g.  Suet. Ner. 21, inter cetera cantavit Canacen parturientem, Oresten matricidam, Oedipoden occaecatum, Herculem insanum. The details of these performances are largely uncertain.

24 Great-great-granddaughter of the Statilius Taurus mentioned at VI.11. After the death of Poppaea, she became the wife of Nero, her fifth husband, "post quem interemptum et opibus et fama et ingenio plurimum valuit" (Σ. Juv. VI.434). Otho had destined her for his wife, and his two last letters were for her and his sister (Suet. Oth. 10).

25 Unfortunately, few worse passages can have revisited the memory of a dying man. The most relative and least absurd lines are (III.642 sqq.):— pars ultima trunci Tradidit in letum vacuos vitalibus artus; At tumidus qua pulmo iacet, qua viscera fervent, Haeserunt ibi fata diu, luctataque multum Hac cum parte viri vix omnia membra tulerunt. In Suetonius, the ruling passion finds another vent:— Codicillos ad patrem de corrigendis quibusdam versibus suis exaravit, epulatusque largiter brachia ad secandas venas medico praebuit (vit. Luc. ad fin.).

26 Commanders of praetorian cohorts. The number involved or under suspicion — six mentioned here, and Subrius Flavus — is remarkable.

27 What the end may have been, is unknown.

28 The pair spent their exile in Andros, where an inscription has survived to attest their popularity.

29 A rhetorician and tutor of Persius. — For Musonius, see XIV.59 n.

30 A friend of Seneca (Ep. 87: cf. Mart. VII.44, 45).

31 The praetorians. — The cornº-ration of the legionaries seems to have been already gratuitous: at all events, there is no mention of it as a charge on their pay, in the list of grievances at I.17.

32 See XIV.29 n.: Nerva is the future emperor.

33 He now replaced Faenius Rufus as Tigellinus' colleague in the praetorian prefectship, an appointment which must have been mentioned either in this lacuna or in the next. The only detailed account of his treachery, first to Nero, then to Galba, and his killing by the guards is furnished by Plutarch (Galb. 2; sq.; 13 sqq.).

34 Daughter, according to Plutarch, of Callistus (XI.29 n.) by an ἀκέστρια ἐπιμίσθιος. The probable father of the new prefect he gives as an eminent gladiator, Martianus.

35 Originally M. Annaeus Novatus; then, after his adoption (VI.3 n.), L. Annaeus Iunius Gallio. He owes celebrity to the proconsulate of Achaia which brought him into contact with St. Paul (Acts xviii.12 sqq.). He perished a year after the Pisonian conspiracy — by suicide, according to Jerome.

36 XVI.12 n.

37 In the lacuna were specified, first the point of Rome at which a new temple was to be erected to Salus, then the memorial to be placed in her old temple at Ferentinum (chap. 53).

38 C. Iulius Vindex, member of a princely family of Aquitaine, and legatus of Gallia Lugdunensis in 68 A.D. His rising in that year — the ulterior object is uncertain — was suppressed by Verginius Rufus, but set in motion the train of events which led up to the fall of Nero and the outbreak of the civil war.

39 By Roman citizens. The deification and worship of a living emperor by provincials was regular.


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