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Book LX

This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. VIII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

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Cassius Dio
Roman History

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.

Epitome of Book LXI


29 In the following year, which was the eight hundredth year of Rome, Claudius became consul for the fourth and Lucius Vitellius for the third time. Claudius now expelled from the senate certain of its members, most of whom were not sorry to drop out, but willingly resigned on account of their poverty; and he likewise introduced many new men in their place. 2 And when a certain Surdinius Gallus, who was eligible to stand as a senator, emigrated to Carthage, Claudius summoned him back in haste, declaring he would bind him with golden fetters; thus Gallus, fettered by his rank, remained at home. Although Claudius visited dire punishment upon the freedmen of others, in case he caught them in any wrong-doing, 3 he was very lenient with his own, as the following incident will show. Once when an actor in the theatre recited the well-known line,

"A prosperous whipstock scarce can be endured,"

and the whole assemblage thereupon looked at Polybius, the emperor's freedman, the latter shouted out: "Yes, but the same poet said:

'Who once were goatherds now have royal power.' "

4 Yet Claudius did him no harm. Information was  p5 given that some persons were plotting against Claudius, but he paid no attention to most of them, saying: "It doesn't do to take the same measures against a flea as against a wild beast." Asiaticus, however, was tried before him and came very near being acquitted. 5 For he entered a general denial, declaring, "I have no knowledge of nor acquaintance with any of the persons who are testifying against me;" and when the soldier who declared that he had been associated with him, upon being asked to identify Asiaticus, pointed out a baldheaded man who chanced to be standing near him, — for baldness was the only distinguishing mark about Asiaticus of which he was sure, — 6 and a great burst of laughter arose at this, and Claudius was on the point of freeing Asiaticus, Vitellius made the statement, as a favour to Messalina, that the prisoner had sent for him in order to choose the manner of his death. Upon hearing this Claudius believed that Asiaticus had really condemned himself by reason of a guilty conscience, and he accordingly put him out of the way.

6a Among many others whom he put to death upon false charges brought by Messalina were Asiaticus and also Magnus, his own son-in‑law. The former lost his life because of his property, and the latter because of his family and his relation­ship to the emperor. Nominally, however, they were convicted on other charges.

71 This year a small islet, hitherto unknown, made its appearance close to the island of Thera.

7a Claudius, the king of the Romans, promulgated a law to the effect that no senator might travel more  p7 than seven "markers" from the City without the king's orders.

72 Since many masters refused to care for their slaves when sick, he enacted a law that all slaves who survived such treatment should be free.

7b He also forbade anybody to drive through the City seated in a vehicle.

30 In Britain Vespasian had on a certain occasion been hemmed in by the barbarians and been in danger of destruction, but his son Titus, becoming alarmed for his father, managed by unusual daring to break through their enclosing lines and then pursued and destroyed the fleeing enemy. 2 Plautius for his skilful and success­ful conduct of the war in Britain not only was praised by Claudius but also obtained an ovation.

3 In the gladiatorial combats many persons took part, not only of the foreign freedmen but also the British captives. He used up ever so many men in this part of the spectacle and took pride in the fact.

4 Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo while commanding in Germany concentrated his legions and harassed among other barbarians the Cauchi,​a as they were called. While in the midst of the enemy's territory  p9 he was recalled by Claudius; for the emperor, learning of his valour and the discipline of his army, would not permit him to become more power­ful. 5 Corbulo, when informed of this, turned back, merely exclaiming: "How happy those who led our armies in olden times." By this he meant that the generals of other days had been permitted to exhibit their prowess without danger, whereas he himself had been blocked by the emperor by reason of jealousy. Yet even so he obtained the triumphal honours. 6 Upon being placed once more in command of the army he drilled it no less thoroughly, and as the native tribes were at peace, he caused his men to dig a canal all the way across from the Rhine to the Maas, a distance of about twenty-three miles, in order to prevent the rivers from flowing back and causing inundations at the flood-tide of the Ocean.

6a When a grandson was born to Claudius by his daughter Antonia (after the death of Magnus he had given her in marriage to Cornelius Faustus Sulla, Messalina's brother), he had the good sense not to allow any decree to be passed in honour of the occasion.

6b Messalina and his freedmen were puffed up with conceit. There were three of the latter in particular who divided the power among themselves: Callistus, who had charge of Petitions; Narcissus, who was chief Secretary, and hence wore a dagger at his side; and Pallas, who was entrusted with the administration of the finances.

31 Messalina, as if it were not enough for her to play the adulteress and harlot, — for in addition to her  p11 shameless behaviour in general she at times sat as a prostitute in the palace himself and compelled the other women of the highest rank to do the same, — now conceived a desire to have many husbands, that is, men really bearing that title. 2 And she would have been married by a legal contract to all those who enjoyed her favours, had she not been detected and destroyed in her very first attempt. For a time, indeed, all the imperial freedmen had been hand in glove with her and would do nothing except in agreement with her; but when she falsely accused Polybius and caused his death, even while she was maintaining improper relations with him, they no longer trusted her; and thus, having lost their good-will, she perished. 3 It came about on this wise. She caused Gaius Silius, son of the Silius slain by Tiberius, to be registered as her husband, celebrated the marriage in costly fashion, bestowed a royal residence upon him, in which she had already brought together the most valuable of Claudius' heirlooms; and finally she appointed him consul. 4 Now all these doings, though for some time they had been either heard about or witnessed by everybody else, continued to escape the notice of Claudius. But finally, when he went down to Ostia to inspect the grain supply and she was left behind in Rome on the pretext of being ill, she got up a banquet of no little renown and carried on a most licentious revel. Then Narcissus, having got Claudius by himself, informed him through his concubines of all that was  p13 taking place. 5 And by frightening him with the idea that Messalina was going to kill him and set up Silius as ruler in his stead, he persuaded him to arrest and torture a number of persons. While this was going on, the emperor himself hastened back to the city; and immediately upon his arrival he put to death Mnester together with many others, and then slew Messalina herself after she had retreated into the gardens of Asiaticus, which more than anything else were the cause of her ruin.

5a After her Claudius destroyed also his own slave for insulting one of the prominent men.

6 After a little he married his niece Agrippina, the mother of Domitius, who was surnamed Nero. For she was beauti­ful and was in the habit of consulting him constantly; and she was much in his company unattended, seeing that he was her uncle, and in fact she was rather more familiar in her conduct toward him than became a niece.

7 Silanus was regarded as an upright man and was honoured by Claudius to the extent of receiving the triumphal honours while still a boy, of being betrothed to the emperor's daughter Octavia, and of becoming praetor long before the customary age. He was, furthermore, allowed to give, at the expense of Claudius, the festival that fell to his lot, and during it the emperor asked some favours of him as if he were himself the mere head of one of the factions, and uttered any shouts that he saw other people wished him to utter.

 p15  8 Claudius had become such a slave to his wives that on their account he killed both his sons-in‑law.

When she had thus been put out of the way, Claudius married Agrippina, his niece. The freedmen zealously aided in bringing about this marriage, since Agrippina had a son, Domitius, who was already nearing man's estate, and they wished to bring him up as Claudius' successor in the imperial office so that they might suffer no harm at the hands of Britannicus for having caused the death of his mother, Messalina. When, how, the marriage had been decided upon, they feared Silanus, who was honoured as an upright man by Claudius, and at the same time they wished to secure Octavia, the emperor's daughter, already betrothed to Silanus, as wife for Agrippina's son, Domitius. So they persuaded Claudius to put Silanus to death, claiming that he was plotting against him. When this had been accomplished, Vitellius made a speech in the senate, declaring that the good of the State required that Claudius should marry; and he kept indicating Agrippina as a suitable woman for this purpose and advised them to force him into this marriage. Thus prompted, the senators came to Claudius and made a show of compelling him to marry. They also passed a decree permitting Romans to wed their nieces, a union previously prohibited.

32 As soon as Agrippina had come to live in the palace she gained complete control over Claudius. Indeed, she was very clever in making the most of opportunities, and, partly by fear and partly by favours, she won the devotion of all those who were  p17 at all friendly toward him. At length she caused his son Britannicus to be brought up as if he were a mere nobody. (The other son, who had betrothed the daughter of Sejanus, was dead.) 2 She made Domitius the son-in‑law of Claudius at this time and later brought about his adoption also. She accomplished these ends partly by getting the freedmen to persuade Claudius and partly by arranging beforehand that the senate, the populace, and the soldiers would join together in shouting their approval of her demands on every occasion.

3 Agrippina was training her son for the throne and was entrusting his education to Seneca. She was amassing untold wealth for him, over­looking no possible source of revenue, not even the most humble or despised, but paying court to everyone who was in the least degree well-to‑do and murdering many for this very reason. 4 Indeed, she even destroyed some of the foremost women out of jealousy; thus she slew Lollia Paulina because she had been the wife of Gaius and had cherished some hope of becoming Claudius' wife. As she did not recognize the woman's head when it was brought to her, she opened the mouth with her own hand and inspected the teeth, which had certain peculiarities.

4a Mithridates, king of the Iberians, having been defeated in a conflict with a Roman army and despairing of his life, begged that a hearing should be granted him in order that he might not  p19 be summarily executed or led in the triumphal procession. When his request had been granted, Claudius received him in Rome, seated on a tribunal, and addressed threatening words to him. But the king answered boldly, and ended by saying: "I was not brought to you; I came. If you doubt it, release me and try to find me."

33 21 She [Agrippina] quickly became a second Messalina, the more so as she obtained from the senate the right to use the carpentum at festivals, as well as other honours.

2a After that Claudius gave Agrippina the title of Augusta.

22 When Claudius had adopted her son Nero and had made him his son-in‑law, after having first caused his daughter to be adopted into another family, in order to avoid the appearance of uniting in marriage brother and sister, a mighty portent occurred. The sky seemed to be on fire that day.

2b Agrippina also banished Calpurnia, one of the most prominent women, — or even put her to death, according to one report, — because Claudius had admired and commended her beauty.

2c When Nero (to use the one of his names that has  p21 prevailed) assumed the toga virilis, the Divine Power shook the earth for a long time on the very day of the ceremony and by night struck terror to the hearts of all alike.

32 5 While Nero was being advanced, Britannicus received neither honour nor care. On the contrary, Agrippina removed or even put to death those who were devoted to him; Sosibius, who had been entrusted with his rearing and education, she slew on the pretext that he was plotting against Nero. 6 After that she handed Britannicus over to those who suited her purpose and did him all the harm she could. She would allow him neither to be with his father nor to appear in public, but kept him in a kind of imprisonment, though without bonds.

6a Dio, Book LXI: "When the prefects Crispinus and Lusius Geta would not yield to her in everything, she removed them from office."

33 1 No one attempted in any way to check Agrippina; indeed, she had more power than Claudius himself and used to greet in public all who desired it, a fact that was entered in the records.

3a She possessed all power, since she dominated Claudius and had won over Narcissus and Pallas. (Callistus had died, after rising to a position of great influence.)

3b The astrologers were banished from all Italy and their associates were punished.

 p23  3c Caratacus, a barbarian chieftain who was captured and brought to Rome and later pardoned by Claudius, wandered about the city after his liberation; and after beholding its splendour and its magnitude he exclaimed: "And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?"

3 Claudius conceived the desire to exhibit a naval battle on a certain lake; so, after building a wooden wall around it and erecting stands, he assembled an enormous multitude. Claudius and Nero were arrayed in military garb, while Agrippina wore a beauti­ful chlamys woven with threads of gold, and the rest of the spectators whatever pleased their fancy. Those who were to take part in the sea-fight were condemned criminals, and each side had fifty ships, one part being styled "Rhodians" and the other "Sicilians." 4 First they assembled in a single body and all together addressed Claudius in this fashion: "Hail, Emperor! We who are about to die salute thee."​b And when this in no wise availed to save them and they were ordered to fight just the same, they simply sailed through their opponents' lines, injuring each other as little as possible. This continued until they were forced to destroy one another.

 p25  5 When the Fucine Lake caved in, Narcissus was severely blamed for it. For he had been in charge of the undertaking, and it was thought that after spending a good deal less than he had received he had then purposely contrived the collapse, in order that his wrong-doing might not be detected.

6 Narcissus used to make sport openly of Claudius. Indeed, the report has it that on a certain occasion when Claudius was holding court and the Bithynians raised a great outcry against Junius Cilo, who had been their governor, claiming that he had taken enormous bribes, and the emperor, not understanding by reason of the noise they made, asked the bystanders what they were saying, Narcissus, instead of telling him the truth, said that they were expressing their gratitude to Junius. And Claudius, believing him, said: "Well, then, he should be procurator two years longer."

7 Agrippina often attended the emperor in public, when he was transacting ordinary business or when he was giving an audience to ambassadors, though she sat upon a separate tribunal. This, too, was one of the most remarkable sights of the time.

8 On one occasion, when a certain orator, Julius Gallicus, was pleading a case, Claudius became vexed and ordered him to be cast into the Tiber, near which he chanced to be holding court. This incident gave occasion for a very neat jest on the part of Domitius Afer, the most able advocate of his day. When a man who had been left in the  p27 lurch by Gallicus came to Domitius for assistance, he said to him: "And who told you that I am a better swimmer than he?"

9 Later, when Claudius fell sick, Nero entered the senate and promised a horse-race in case the emperor should recover. For Agrippina was leaving no stone unturned in order to make Nero popular with the masses and to cause him to be regarded as the only successor to the imperial power. Hence it was that she selected the equestrian contest, to which the Romans were especially devoted, for Nero to promise in the event of Claudius' recovery — which she earnestly prayed might not come to pass. 10 Again, after instigating a riot over the sale of bread, she persuaded Claudius to make known to the populace by proclamation and to the senate by letter that, if he should die, Nero was already capable of administering the business of the State. In consequence of this he became a person of importance and his name was on everybody's lips, whereas in the case of Britannicus many did not know even whether he was living, and the rest regarded him as insane and an epileptic; for this was the report that Agrippina gave out. 11 When, now, Claudius recovered, Nero conducted the horse-race in a magnificent manner; and he married Octavia at this time — another circumstance that caused him to be regarded as having at length come to manhood.

12 Nothing seemed to satisfy Agrippina, though all the privileges that Livia had enjoyed had been bestowed upon her also, and a number of additional honours had been voted. But, although she exercised the same power as Claudius, she desired to  p29 have his title outright; and once, when a great conflagration was consuming the city, she accompanied as he lent his assistance.

34 Claudius was angered by Agrippina's actions, of which he was now becoming aware, and sought for his son Britannicus, who had purposely been kept out of his sight by her most of the time (for she was doing everything she could to secure the throne for Nero, inasmuch as he was her own son by her former husband Domitius); and he displayed his affection whenever he met the boy. He would not endure her behaviour, but was preparing to put an end to her power, to cause his son to assume the toga virilis, and to declare him heir to the throne. 2 Agrippina, learning of this, became alarmed and made haste to forestall anything of the sort by poisoning Claudius. But since, owing to the great quantity of wine he was forever drinking and his general habits of life, such as all emperors as a rule adopt for their protection, he could not easily be harmed, she sent for a famous dealer in poisons, a woman named Lucusta, who had recently been convicted on this very charge; and preparing with her aid a poison whose effect was sure, she put it in one of the vegetables called mushrooms. 3 Then she herself ate of the others, but made her husband eat of the one which contained the poison; for it was the  p31 largest and finest of them. And so the victim of the plot was carried from the banquet apparently quite overcome by strong drink, a thing that had happened many times before; but during the night the poison took effect and he passed away, without having been able to say or hear a word. It was the thirteenth of October, and he had lived sixty-three years, two months, and thirteen days, having been emperor thirteen years, eight months and twenty days.

4 Agrippina was able to do this deed owing to the fact that she had previously sent Narcissus off to Campania, feigning that he needed to take the waters there for his gout. For had he been present, she would never have accomplished it, so carefully did he guard his master. As it was, however, his death followed hard upon that of Claudius. He had wielded the greatest power of any man of his time, for he had possessed more than 400,000,000 sesterces, and cities and kings had paid court to him. 5 Indeed, even at this time, when he was on the point of being slain, he managed to perform a brilliant deed. Being in charge of the correspondence of Claudius, he had in his possession letters containing secret information against Agrippina and others; all of these he burned before his death.

6 He was slain besides the tomb of Messalina, a circumstance due to mere chance, though it seemed to be in fulfilment of her vengeance.

35 In such a manner did Claudius meet his end. It  p33 seemed as if this event had been indicated by the comet, which was seen for a very long time, by the shower of blood, by the thunder-bolt that fell upon the standards of the Praetorians, by the opening of its own accord of the temple of Jupiter Victor, by the swarming of bees in the camp, and by the fact that one incumbent of each political office died. 2 The emperor received the state burial and all the other honours that had been accorded to Augustus. Agrippina and Nero pretended to grieve for the man whom they had killed, and elevated to heaven him whom they had carried out on a litter from the banquet. On this point Lucius Junius Gallius, the brother of Seneca, was the author of a very witty remark. 3 Seneca himself had composed a work that he called "Pumpkinification" — a word formed on the analogy of "deification"; and his brother is credited with saying a great deal in one short sentence. 4 Inasmuch as the public executioners were accustomed to drag the bodies of those executed in the prison to the Forum with large hooks, and from there hauled them to the river, he remarked that Claudius had been raised to heaven with a hook.

Nero, too, has left us a remark not unworthy of record. He declared mushrooms to be the food of the gods, since Claudius by means of the mushroom had become a god.

 p35  LXI

1 1  1 At the death of Claudius the rule in strict justice belonged to Britannicus, who was a legitimate son of Claudius and in physical development was in advance of his years; yet by law the power fell also to Nero because of his adoption. But no claim is stronger than that of arms; 2 for everyone who possesses superior force always appears to have the greater right on his side, whatever he says or does. And thus Nero, having first destroyed the will of Claudius and having succeeded him as master of the whole empire, put Britannicus and his sisters out of the way. Why, then, should one lament the misfortunes of the other victims?

2 1 The following signs had occurred indicating that Nero should one day be sovereign. At his birth just before dawn rays not cast by any visible beam enveloped him. And a certain astrologer, from this fact and from the motion of the stars at that time and their relation to one another, prophesied two things at once concerning him — that he should rule and that he should murder his mother. 2 Agrippina, on hearing this, became so bereft of sense as actually to cry out: "Let him kill me, only let him rule!" but later she was destined to repent bitterly of her prayer. For some people carry their folly to such a length that, if they expect to obtain some good thing mingled with evil, they are heedless for the moment of the drawback, in their eagerness for the advantage; but when the time for the evil comes, they are vexed and would prefer never to have secured even  p37 the greatest good on such terms. 3 Yet Domitius, the father of Nero, foresaw clearly enough his son's future depravity and licentiousness, and this not as the result of any oracle but by his knowledge of his own and Agrippina's character; for he declared: "It is impossible for any good man to be sprung from me and this woman." 4 As time went one, the finding of a serpent's skin around Nero's neck while he was still a child caused the seers to declare that he should receive great power from an old man; for serpents are supposed to slough off their old age by discarding their old skin.

3 1 He was seventeen years of age when he began to rule. He first entered the camp, and after reading to the soldiers the speech that Seneca had written for him he promised them all that Claudius had given them. Before the senate, too, he read a similar speech, — this one also written by Seneca, — with the result that it was voted that his address should be inscribed on a silver tablet and should be read every time the new consuls entered upon their office. The senators, accordingly, were getting ready to enjoy a good reign as much as if they had a written guarantee of it. 2 At first Agrippina managed for him all the business of the empire; and she and her son went forth together, often reclining in the same litter, though more commonly she will be carried and he would walk besides her. She also  p39 received the various embassies and sent letters to peoples and governors and kings.

Pallas in his association with Agrippina was altogether vulgar and objectionable.

3 When this had been going on for a consider time, it aroused the displeasure of Seneca and Burrus, who were at once the most sensible and the most influential of the men at Nero's court (the former was his teacher and the latter was prefect of Praetorian Guard), and they seized the following occasion to put a stop to it. An embassy of the Armenians had arrived and Agrippina wished to mount the tribunal from which Nero was talking with them. 4 The two men, seeing her approach, persuaded the young man to descend and meet his mother before she could get there, as if to extend some special greeting to her. Then, having brought this about, they did not re-ascend the tribunal, but made some excuse, so that the weakness in the empire should not become apparent to the foreigners; and thereafter they laboured to prevent any public business from being again committed to her hands.

4 1 When they had accomplished this, they took the rule entirely into their own hands and administered affairs in the very best and fairest manner they could, with the result that they won the approval of everybody alike. As for Nero, he was not fond of business in any case, and was glad to live in idleness; indeed, it was for this reason that he had previously yielded the upper hand to his mother, and was now quite content to be indulging in  p41 pleasures while the government was carried on as well as before. 2 His two advisers, then, after coming to a common understanding, made many changes in existing regulations, abolished some altogether, and enacted many new laws, meanwhile allowing Nero to indulge himself, in the expectation that when he had sated his desires without any great injury to the public interests at large, as though they did not realize that a young and self-willed spirit, when reared in unrebuked licence and absolute authority, so far from becoming sated by the indulgence of its passions, is ruined more and more by these very agencies. 3 At all events, whereas at first Nero was comparatively moderate in the dinners he gave, in the revels he conducted, and in his drinking and his amours, yet later, as no one reproved him for this conduct and the public business was handled none the worse for it, he came to believe that such conduct was really not bad and that he could carry it even farther. 4 Consequently he began to indulge in each of these pursuits in a more open and precipitate fashion. And in case his guardians ever said anything to him by way of advice or his mother by way of admonition, he would appear abashed while they were present, and would promise to reform; but as soon as they were gone, he would again become the slave of his desire and yield to those who were leading him in the other direction, since they were dragging him downhill. 5 Next, he came to despise the good advice, since he was always hearing from his associates: "And do you submit to them?" "Do you fear them?" "Do you not know that you are Caesar, and that you have  p43 authority over them rather than they over you?" and he was resolved not to acknowledge that his mother was superior to him or to submit to Seneca and Burrus as wiser. 5 1 Finally he lost all shame, dashed to the ground and trampled underfoot all their precepts, and began to follow in the footsteps of Gaius. And when he had once concerned a desire to emulate him, he quite surpassed him; for he held it to be one of the obligations of the imperial power not to fall behind anybody else even in the basest deeds. 2 And as he was applauded for this by the crowd and received many pleasant compliments from them, he devoted himself to this course unsparingly. At first he practised his vices at home and among his associates, but afterwards even indulged them publicly. Thus he brought great disgrace upon the whole Roman race and committed many outrages against the Romans themselves. 3 Innumerable acts of violence and outrage, of robbery and murder, were committed by the emperor himself and by those who at one time or another had influence with him. And, as certainly and inevitably follows in all such cases, great sums of money natural were spent, great sums unjustly procured, and great sums seized by force. For Nero never was niggardly, as the following incident will show. 4 He once ordered 10,000,000 sesterces to be given at one time to Doryphorus, who was in charge of Petitions during his reign, and when Agrippina caused the money to be piled in a heap, hoping that when he should see it all together he would change his mind, he asked how much the mass before him  p45 amounted to, and upon being informed, doubled it, saying: "I did not realize that I had given him so little." 5 It can clearly be seen, then, that as a result of the magnitude of his expenditures he soon exhausted the funds in the imperial treasury, and soon found himself in need of new revenues. Hence unusual taxes were imposed, and the estates of those who possessed property were pried into; some of the owners lost their possessions by violence and others lost their lives as well. 6 In like manner he hated and brought about the ruin of others who had no great wealth but possessed some special distinction or were of good family; for he suspected them of disliking him.

6 1 Such was Nero's general character. I shall now proceed to details. He had such enthusiasm for the horse-races that he actually decorated the famous race-horses that had passed their prime with the regular street costume for men and honoured them with gifts of money for their feed. 2 Thereupon the horsebreeders and charioteers, encouraged by this enthusiasm on his part, proceeded to treat both the praetors and the consuls with great insolence; and Aulus Fabricius, with praetor, finding them unwilling to take part in the contests on reasonable terms, dispensed with their services, and training dogs to draw chariots, introduced them in place of horses. 3 At this, the wearers of the White and of the Red immediately entered their chariots for the races; but as the Greens and the Blues would not participate  p47 even then, Nero himself furnished the prizes for the horses and the horse-race took place.

4 Agrippina was ever ready to attempt the most daring undertakings; for example, she caused the death of Marcus Junius Silanus, sending him some of the poison with which she had treacherously murdered her husband.

5 Silanus was governor of Asia, and was in no respect inferior in character to the rest of his family. It was for this reason more than any other, she said, that she killed him, as she did not wish him to be preferred to Nero because of her son's manner of life. Moreover, she made traffic of everything and raised money from the most trivial and the bases sources.

6 Laelianus, who was sent to Armenia in place of Pollio, had formerly been in command of the night-watch. And he was no better than Pollio, for although surpassing him in rank, he was all the more insatiate of gain.

7 1 Agrippina was distressed because she was no longer the mistress of affairs in the palace, chiefly because of Acte. This Acte had been bought as a slave in Asia, but winning the affections of Nero, was adopted into the family of Attalus and was loved by the emperor much more than was his wife Octavia. 2 Agrippina, indignant at this and other things, first attempted to admonish him, and administered a beating to some of his associates and got rid of others. 3 But when she found herself accomplishing nothing, she took it  p49 greatly to heart and said to him, "It was I who made you emperor" — just as if she had the power to take away the sovereignty from him again. She did not realize that any absolute power given to anybody by a private citizen immediately ceases to be the property of the giver and becomes an additional weapon in the hands of the recipient for war against the giver.

4 Nero now treacherously murdered Britannicus by means of poison and then, as the skin became livid through the action of the poison, he smeared the body with gypsum. But as it was being carried through the Forum, a heavy rain that fell while the gypsum was still moist washed it all off, so that the crime was known not only by what people heard but also by what they saw.

5 After the death of Britannicus, Seneca and Burrus no longer gave any careful attention to the public business, but were satisfied if they might managed it with moderation and still preserve their lives. Consequently Nero now openly and without fear of  p51 punishment proceeded to gratify all his desires. 6 His behaviour began to be absolutely insensate, as was shown by his punishing immediately a certain knight, Antonius, as a dealer in poisons, and furthermore by his burning the poisons publicly. He took great credit to himself for this action as well as for prosecuting some persons who had tampered with wills; but people in general were vastly amused to see him punishing his own deeds in the persons of others.

8 1 He indulged in many licentious deeds both at home and throughout the city, by night and by day alike, though he made some attempt at concealment. He used to frequent the taverns and wandered about everywhere like a private citizen. In consequence, frequent blows and violence occurred, and the evil even spread to the theatres, 2 so that the people connected with the stage and the horse-races paid no heed either to the praetors or to the consuls, but were both disorderly themselves and led others to act likewise. And Nero not only failed to restrain, even by words, but actually incited them the more; for he delighted in their behaviour and used to be secretly conveyed in a litter into the theatre, where, unseen by the rest, he could watch what was going on. 3 Indeed he forbade the soldiers who hitherto had always been present at all public gathering to attend them any longer. The reason he assigned was that they ought not to perform any but military duties; but his real purpose was to afford those who  p53 wished to create a disturbance the fullest scope. 4 He also used the same excuse in the case of his mother; for he would not allow any soldier to attend her, declaring that no one except the emperor ought to be guarded by them. This revealed even to the masses his hatred of her. 5 Nearly everything, to be sure, that he and his mother said to each other or that they did each day was reported outside the palace, yet it did not all reach the public, and hence various conjectures were made and various stories circulated. For, in view of the depravity and lewdness of the pair, everything that could conceivably happen was noised abroad as having actually taken place, and reports possessing any credibility were believed as true. 6 But when the people now saw Agrippina unaccompanied for the first time by the Praetorians, most of them took care not to fall in with her even by accident; and if any one did chance to meet her, he would hastily get out of the way without saying a word.

9 1 At one spectacle men on horseback overcame bulls while riding along beside them, and the knights who served as Nero's bodyguard brought down with their javelins four hundred bears and three hundred lions. On the same occasion thirty members of the equestrian order fought as gladiators. Such were the proceedings which the emperor sanctioned openly; 2 secretly, however, he carried on nocturnal revels throughout the entire city, insulting women, practising lewdness on boys, stripping the people whom he encountered, beating, wounding, and murdering. He had an idea that his identity  p55 was not known, for he used various costumes and different wigs at different times; but he would be recognized both by his retinue and by his deeds, since no one else would have dared commit so many and so serious outrages in such a reckless manner. 3 Indeed, it was becoming unsafe even for a person to remain at home, since Nero would break into shops and houses. Now a certain Julius Montanus, a senator, enraged on his wife's account, fell upon him and inflicted many blows upon him, so that he had to remain in concealment several days by reason of the black eyes he had received. 4 And yet Montanus would have suffered no harm for this, since Nero thought the violence had been all an accident and so was not disposed to be angry at the occurrence, had not the other sent him a note begging his pardon. Nero on reading the letter remarked: "So he knew that he was striking Nero." Thereupon Montanus committed suicide.

5 In the course of producing a spectacle at one of the theatres he suddenly filled the place with sea water so that fishes and sea monsters swam about in it, and he exhibited a naval battle between men representing Persians and Athenians. After this he immediately drew off the water, dried the ground, and once more exhibited contests between land forces, who fought not only in single combat but also in large groups equally matched. 10 1 On a later occasion some judicial contests were held, and even these brought exile or death to many.

Seneca now found himself under accusation, one of the charges against him being that he was intimate with Agrippina. It had not been enough for him,  p57 it seems, to commit adultery with Julia, nor had he become wiser as a result of his banishment, but he must establish improper relations with Agrippina, in spite of the kind of woman she was and the kind of son she had. 2 Nor was this the only instance in which his conduct was seen to be diametrically opposed to the teachings of his philosophy. For while denouncing tyranny, he was making himself the teacher of a tyrant; while inveighing against the associates of the power­ful, he did not hold aloof from the palace itself; and though he had nothing good to say of flatterers, he himself had constantly fawned upon Messalina and the freedmen of Claudius, to such an extent, in fact, as actually to send them from the island of his exile a book containing their praises — a book that he afterwards suppressed out of shame. 3 Though finding fault with the rich, he himself acquired a fortune of 300,000,000 sesterces; and though he censured the extravagances of others, he had five hundred tables of citrus wood with legs of ivory, all identically alike, and he served banquets on them. In stating thus much I have also made clear what naturally went with it — the licentiousness in which he indulged at the very time that he contracted a most brilliant marriage, and the delight that he took in boys past their prime, 4 a practice which he also taught Nero to follow. And yet earlier he had been of such austere habits that he had asked his pupil to excuse him from kissing  p59 him or eating at the same table with him. 5 For the latter request he had a fairly good excuse, namely, that he wished to carry on his philosophical studies at leisure without being interrupted by the young man's dinners. As for the kiss, however, I cannot conceive how he came to decline it; for the only explanation that one could think of, namely, his unwillingness to kiss that sort of lips, is shown to be false by the facts concerning his favourites. 6 Because of this and because of his adultery some complaints were lodged against him; but at the time in question he not only got off himself without even being formally accused, but succeeded in begging off Pallas and Burrus besides. Later on however, he did not fare so well.

Thayer's Notes:

a Not really my note at all, but Jona Lendering alerts me that (although Cary is transliterating a Greek text that reads Καύχους) this should really be Chauci, for whom see his page on Germania Inferior; their name "has been reconstructed as *Hauhae, 'those with high homes' — a fitting name for people living on artificial mounds near the sea."

b This, and Suetonius' Life of Claudius, 21.6, referring to the same episode, are the only two passages in all of ancient literature to quote this salute. Despite popular novels and movies, there is no indication anywhere that gladiators regularly shouted this. A more detailed discussion is found in "Morituri te Salutamus" (TAPA 70:46‑50).

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Page updated: 14 Aug 16