Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Annals


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!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. V) Tacitus

Book XIV (end)

 p173  40 1 In the same year, two remarkable crimes, one due to a senator, one to the audacity of a slave, were perpetrated at Rome. There was an ex-praetor, Domitius Balbus, who, alike by his great age and by his childlessness and wealth, was exposed to conspiracy. Valerius Fabianus, a relative of his, who was destined for the official career, drew up a false will in his name, in concert with the Roman knights, Vinicius Rufinus and Terentius Lentinus. These, again, had taken Antonius Primus​1 and Asinius Marcellus into the confederacy. Antonius was a ready and daring spirit: Marcellus had the distinction of being the great-grandson of Asinius Pollio, and passed for a man of tolerable character, except for the fact that he regarded poverty as the supreme evil. Fabianus, then, sealed the document, attested by the accomplices I have mentioned and by some others of less note. The fraud was brought home to them in the senate, and Fabianus and Antonius, with Rufinus and Terentius, were sentenced under the Cornelian Law.​2 Marcellus was redeemed from punishment rather than from infamy by the memory of his ancestors and the intercession of the Caesar.

41 1 The same day brought also the fall of a youthful ex-quaestor, Pompeius Aelianus, charged with complicity in the villainies of Fabianus: he was outlawed from Italy and also from Spain, the country of his origin. The same humiliation was inflicted on Valerius Ponticus, because, to save the accused  p175 from prosecution before the city prefect,​3 with the intention of defeating for the moment by a legal subterfuge, and in the long run by collusion. A clause was added to the senatorial decree,​4 providing that any person buying or selling this form of connivance was to be liable to the same penalty as if convicted of calumny​5 in a criminal trial.

42 1 Shortly afterwards, the city prefect, Pedanius Secundus, was murdered by one of his own slaves; either because he had been refused emancipation after Pedanius had agreed to the price, or because he had contracted a passion for a catamite, and declined to tolerate the rivalry of his owner. Be that as it may, when the whole of the domestics who had been resident under the same roof ought, in accordance with the old custom,​6 to have been led to execution, the rapid assembly of the populace, bent on protecting so many innocent lives, brought matters to the point of sedition, and the senate house was besieged. Even within its walls there was a party which protested against excessive harshness, though most members held that no change was advisable. Gaius Cassius,​7 one of the majority, when his turn to speak arrived, argued in the following strain:—

43 1 "I have frequently, Conscript Fathers, made one of this body, when demands were being presented for new senatorial decrees in contravention of the principles and the legislation of our fathers. And from me there came no opposition — not because I doubted that, whatever the issue, the provision made for it in the past was the better conceived and the more correct, and that, where revision took  p177 place, the alteration was for the worse; but because I had no wish to seem to be exalting my own branch of study by an overstrained affection for ancient usage. At the same time, I considered that what little influence I may possess ought not to be frittered away in perpetual expressions of dissent: I preferred it to remain intact for an hour when the state had need of advice. And that hour is come to‑day, when an ex-consul has been done to death in his own home by the treason of a slave — treason which none hindered or revealed, though as yet no attacks had shaken the senatorial decree​8 which threatened the entire household with execution. By all means vote impunity! But whom shall his rank defend, when rank has not availed the prefect of Rome? Whom shall the number of his slaves protect, when four hundred could not shield Pedanius Secundus? Who shall find help in his domestics, when even fear for themselves cannot make them note our dangers? Or — as some can feign without a blush — did the killer avenge his personal wrongs because the contract touched his patrimony, or because he was losing a slave from his family establishment?​9 Let us go the full way and pronounce the owner justly slain!10

44 1 "Is it your pleasure to muster arguments upon a point which has been considered by wiser minds than ours? But even if we had now for the first time to frame a decision, do you believe that a slave took the resolution of killing his master without  p179 an ominous phrase escaping him, without one word uttered in rashness? Assume, however, that he kept his counsel, that he procured his weapon in an unsuspecting household. Could he pass the watch, carry in his light, and perpetrate his murder without the knowledge of a soul? A crime has many antecedent symptoms. So long as our slaves disclose them, we may live solitary amid their numbers, secure amid their anxieties, and finally — if die we must — certain of our vengeance amid the guilty crowd. To our ancestors the temper of their slaves was always suspect, even when they were born on the same estate or under the same roof, and drew in affection for their owners with their earliest breath. But now that our households comprise nations — with customs the reverse of our own, with foreign cults or with none, you will never coerce such a medley of humanity except by terror. — 'But some innocent lives will be lost!' — Even so; for when every tenth man of the routed army drops beneath the club,​11 the lot falls on the brave as well. All great examples carry with them something of injustice — injustice compensated, as against individual suffering, by the advantage of the community."

45 1 While no one member ventured to controvert the opinion of Cassius, he was answered by a din of voices, expressing pity for the numbers, the age, or the sex of the victims, and for the undoubted innocence of the majority. In spite of all, the party advocating execution prevailed; but the decision could not be complied with, as a dense crowd gathered and threatened to resort to stones and firebrands. The Caesar then reprimanded the populace by edict, and lined the whole length of  p181 road, by which the condemned were being marched to punishment, with detachments of soldiers. Cingonius Varro​12 had moved that even the freedmen, who had been present under the same roof, should be deported from Italy. The measure was vetoed by the emperor, lest gratuitous cruelty should aggravate a primitive custom which mercy had failed to temper.

46 1 Under the same consulate, Tarquitius Priscus was found guilty of extortion, at the suit of the Bithynians, much to the joy of the senate, which remembered his accusation of Statilius Taurus,​13 his own proconsul. In the Gallic provinces, an assessment​14 was held by Quintus Volusius, Sextius Africanus, and Trebellius Maximus. Between Volusius and Africanus there subsisted a rivalry due to their rank: for Trebellius they entertained a common contempt, which enabled him to surpass them both.15

47 1 The year saw the end of Memmius Regulus,​16 whose authority, firmness, and character had earned him the maximum of glory possible in the shadows cast by imperial greatness. So true was this that Nero, indisposed and surrounded by sycophants predicting the dissolution of the empire, should he go the way of fate, answered that the nation had a resource. To the further inquiry, where that resource was specially to be found, he subjoined: "In Memmius Regulus." Yet Regulus survived: he was shielded by his quietude of life; he sprang from a recently ennobled family; and his modest fortune aroused no envy. — In the course of the year, Nero consecrated a gymnasium,​17 oil being supplied to the equestrian and senatorial orders — a Greek form of liberality.

 p183  48 1 In the consulate of Publius Marius and Lucius Afinius, the praetor Antistius, whose licence of conduct in his plebeian tribune­ship I have already mentioned,​18 composed a number of scandalous verses on the sovereign, and gave them to the public at the crowded table of Ostorius Scapula,​19 with whom he was dining. He was thereupon accused of treason by Cossutianus Capito,​20 who, by the intercession of his father-in‑law Tigellinus,​21 had lately recovered his senatorial rank. This was the first revival of the statute;​22 and it was believed that the object sought was not so much the destruction of Antistius as the glorification of the emperor, whose tribunician veto was to snatch him from death when already condemned by the senate. Although Ostorius had stated in evidence that he had heard nothing, the witnesses on the other side were credited; and the consul designate, Junius Marullus, moved for the accused to be stripped of his praetor­ship and executed in the primitive manner.​23 The other members were expressing assent, when Thrasea Paetus, after a large encomium upon the Caesar and a most vigorous attack on Antistius, took up the argument:— "It did not follow that the full penalty which a guilty prisoner deserved to undergo was the one that ought to be decided upon, under an excellent emperor and by a senate not fettered by any sort of compulsion. The executioner and the noose were forgotten things;​24 and there were punishments established by various laws under which it was possible to inflict a sentence branding neither the judges with  p185 brutality nor the age with infamy. In fact, on an island, with his property confiscated, the longer he dragged out his criminal existence, the deeper would be his personal misery, and he would also furnish a number example of public clemency."

49 1 The independence of Thrasea broke through the servility of others, and, on the consul authorizing a division, he was followed in the voting by all but a few dissentients — the most active sycophant in their number being Aulus Vitellius,​25 who levelled his abuse at all men of decency, and, as is the wont of cowardly natures, lapsed into silence when the reply came. The consuls, however, not venturing to complete the senatorial decree in form, wrote to the emperor and stated the opinion of the meeting. He, after some vacillation between shame and anger, finally wrote back that "Antistius, unprovoked by any injury, had given utterance to the most intolerable insults upon the sovereign. For those insults retribution had been demanded from the Fathers; and it would have been reasonable to fix a penalty proportioned to the gravity of the offence. Still, as he had proposed to check undue severity in their sentence, he would not interfere with their moderation; they must decide as they pleased — they had been given liberty even to acquit." These observations, and the like, were read aloud, and the imperial displeasure was evident. The consuls, however, did not change the motion on that account; Thrasea did not waive his proposal; nor did the remaining members desert the cause they had approved; one section, lest it should seem to have placed the emperor in an invidious position; a majority, because there was safety in their numbers;  p187 Thrasea, through his usual firmness of temper, and a desire not to let slip the credit he had earned.

50 1 Fabricius Veiento​26 succumbed to the not dissimilar charge of composing a series of libels on the senate and priests in the books to which he had given the title of his Will.​27 The accuser, Tullius Geminus, also maintained that he had consistently sold the imperial bounty and the right to official promotion. This last count decided Nero to take the case into his own hands. He convicted Veiento, relegated him from Italy, and ordered his books to be burned. These, while they were only to be procured at a risk were anxiously sought and widely read: oblivion came when it was permissible to own them.

51 1 But, while the evils of the state were growing daily more serious, the resources of the state were dwindling, and Burrus took his leave of life; whether by sickness or by poison may be doubted. Sickness was conjectured from the fact that he ceased to breathe as the result of a gradual swelling of the interior of the throat, and the consequent obstruction of the windpipe. It was more generally asserted that, by Nero's instructions, his palate was smeared with a poisonous drug, ostensibly as a remedial measure, and that Burrus, who had penetrated the crime, on receiving a visit from the emperor, averted his eyes from him, and answered his inquiries with the bare words: "I am well."​28 He was regretted deeply and permanently by a country mindful of his virtue, and of his successors — one of them tamely  p189 innocent, the other flagrantly criminal. For the Caesar had appointed two commanders to the praetorian cohorts: Faenius Rufus, commended by the favour of the crowd, as he superintended the provisioning of the capital​29 without profit to himself; and Sofonius Tigellinus, in whose case the attractions were the licentiousness of his past and his infamy. Neither belied his known habits: Tigellinus took the firmer hold over the mind of the prince and was made free of his most intimate debauches; Rufus enjoyed an excellent character with the people and the troops, and laboured under that disadvantage in his relations with Nero.

52 1 The death of Burrus shook the position of Seneca: for not only had the cause of decency lost in power by the removal of one of its two champions, but Nero was inclining to worse counsellors. These brought a variety of charges to the assault on Seneca, "who was still augmenting that enormous wealth which had transcended the limits of a private fortune; who was perverting the affection of his countrymen to himself; who even in the charm of his pleasure-grounds and the splendour of his villas appeared bent on surpassing the sovereign. The honours of eloquence," so the count proceeded, "he arrogated to himself alone; and he was writing verse more frequently, now that Nero had developed an affection for the art. For of the emperor's amusements in general he was an openly captious critic, disparaging his powers when he drove his horses and deriding his notes when he sang! How long was nothing to be counted brilliant in Rome, unless it was believed the invention of Seneca? Beyond a doubt, Nero's boyhood was finished, and the full vigour of youth  p191 had arrived: let him discharge his pedagogue — he had a sufficiently distinguished staff of teachers in his own ancestors."

53 1 Seneca was aware of his maligners: they were revealed from the quarters where there was some little regard for honour, and the Caesar's avoidance of his intimacy was becoming marked. He therefore asked to have a time fixed for an interview; it was granted, and he began as follows:— "It is the fourteenth year, Caesar, since I was associated with your hopeful youth, the eighth that you have held the empire: in the time between, you have heaped upon me so much of honour and of wealth that all that is lacking to complete my happiness is discretion in its use. I shall appeal to great precedents, and I shall draw them not from my rank but from yours. Augustus, the grandfather of your grandfather, conceded to Marcus Agrippa the privacy of Mytilene, and to Gaius Maecenas, within the capital itself, something tantamount to retirement abroad.​30 One had been the partner of his wars, the other had been harassed by more numerous labours at Rome, and each had received his reward — a magnificent reward, it is true, but proportioned to immense deserts. For myself, what incentive to your generosity have I been able to apply except some bookish acquirements, cultivated, I might say, in the shadows of the cloister? Acquirements to which fame has come because I am thought to have lent a helping hand in your own first youthful efforts — a wage that overpays the service! But you have invested me with measureless influence, with countless riches; so that often I put the question to myself:— 'Is it I, born in the station  p193 of a simple knight and a provincial,​31 who am numbered with the magnates of the realm? Among these nobles, wearing their long-descended glories, has my novel name swum into ken? Where is that spirit which found contentment in mediocrity? Building these terraced gardens? — Pacing these suburban mansions? — Luxuriating in these broad acres, these world-wide investments?' — A single defence suggests itself — that I had not the right to obstruct your bounty.

54 1 "But we have both filled up the measure: you, of what a prince may give to his friend; and I, of what a friend may take from his prince. All beyond breeds envy! True, envy, like everything mortal, lies far beneath your greatness; but by me the burden is felt — to me a relief is necessary. As I should pray for support in warfare, or when wearied by the road, so in this journey of life, an old man and unequal to the lightest of cares, I ask for succour: for I can bear my riches no further. Order my estates to be administered by your procurators, to be embodied in your fortune. Not that by my own action I shall reduce myself to poverty: rather, I shall resign the glitter of wealth which dazzles me, and recall to the service of the mind those hours which are now set apart to the care of my gardens or my villas. You have vigour to spare; you have watched for years the methods by which supreme power is wielded: we, your older friends, may demand our rest. This, too, shall redound to your glory — that you raised to the highest places men who could also accept the lowly."

55 1 Nero's reply, in effect, was this:— "If I am able to meet your studied eloquence with an immediate  p195 answer, that is the first part of my debt to you, who have taught me how to express my thought not merely after premeditation but on the spur of the moment. Augustus, the grandfather of my grandfather, allowed Agrippa and Maecenas to rest after their labours, but had himself reached an age, the authority of which could justify whatever boon, and of whatever character, he had bestowed upon them. And even so he stripped neither of the rewards conferred by himself. It was in battle and jeopardy they had earned them, for such were the scenes in which the youth of Augustus moved; and, had my own days been spent in arms, your weapons and your hand would not have failed me; but you did what the actual case demanded, and fostered first my boyhood, then my youth, with reason, advice, and precept. And your gifts to me will be imperishable, so long as life may last; but mine to you — gardens, capital, and villas — are vulnerable to accident. They may appear many; but numbers of men, not comparable to you in character have held more. Shame forbids me to mention the freedmen who flaunt a wealth greater than yours! And hence I even blush that you, who have the first place in my love, do not as yet excel all in fortune. Or is it, by chance, the case that you deem either Seneca lower than Vitellius,​32 who held his three consulates, or Nero lower than Claudius, and that the wealth which years of parsimony won for Volusius​33 is incapable of being attained by my own generosity to you?

56 1 "On the contrary, not only is yours a vigorous age, adequate to affairs and to their rewards, but I myself am but entering the first stages of my sovereignty. Why not recall the uncertain steps of  p197 my youth, if here and there they slip, and even more zealously guide and support the manhood which owes its pride to you. Not your moderation, if you give back your riches; not your retirement, if you abandon your prince; by my avarice, and the terrors of my cruelty, will be upon all men's lips. And, however much your abnegation may be praised, it will still be unworthy of a sage to derive credit from an act which sullies the fair fame of a friend." He followed his words with an embrace and kisses — nature had fashioned him and use had trained him to veil his hatred under insidious caresses. Seneca — such is the end of all dialogues with an autocrat — expressed his gratitude:​34 but he changed the established routine of his former power, banished the crowds from his antechambers, shunned his attendants, and appeared in the city with a rareness ascribed to his detention at home by adverse health or philosophic studies.

57 1 With Seneca brought low, it was a simple matter to undermine Faenius Rufus, the charge in his case being friendship with Agrippina. Tigellinus, too, growing stronger with every day, and convinced that the mischievous arts, which were his one source of power, would be all the more acceptable, could he bind the emperor to himself by a partner­ship in crime, probed his fears, and, discovering the main objects of his alarm to be Plautus and Sulla — both lately removed, the former to Asia, the latter to Narbonese Gaul — began to draw attention to their distinguished lineage and their nearness, respectively, to the armies of the East and of Germany. "Unlike Burrus," he said, "he had not in view two irreconcilable hopes, but purely the safety of Nero. In the capital, where  p199 he could work on the spot, the imperial security was more or less provided for; but how were outbreaks at a distance to be stifled? Gaul was alert at the sound of the Dictator's name; and equally the peoples of Asia were unbalanced by the glory of such a grandsire as Drusus.​35 Sulla was indigent, therefore greatly daring, and wore the mask of lethargy only till he could find an occasion for temerity. Plautus, with his great fortune, did not even affect a desire for peace, but, not content to parade his mimicries of the ancient Romans, had taken upon himself the Stoic arrogance and the mantle of a sect which inculcated sedition and an appetite for politics."​36 There was no further delay. On the sixth day following, the slayers had made the crossing to Massilia, and Sulla, who had taken his place at the dinner-table, was despatched before a whisper of alarm had reached him. The head was carried back to Rome, where the premature grey hairs disfiguring it provoked the merriment of Nero.

58 1 That the murder of Plautus was being arranged was a secret less excellently kept; for the number of persons interested in his safety was larger; while the length of the journey by land and sea, and the interval of time, had set report at work. It was a general story that he had made his way to Corbulo, then at the head of large armies, and should there be a killing of the famous and the innocent, especially exposed to danger.º More than this, Asia had taken arms in sympathy with the youth, and the soldiers sent on the criminal errand, not too strong in numbers and not too enthusiastic at heart, after proving unable to carry out their orders, had passed over to the cause of revolution. These figments, in the  p201 manner of all rumours, were amplified by indolent credulity; in reality, a freedman of Plautus, with the hope of quick winds, outstripped the centurion, and carried his patron instructions from his father-in‑law, Lucius Antistius:​37 — "He was to escape a coward's death, while a refuge was still open. Compassion for his great name would win him the support of the good, the alliance of the bold; in the meantime, no resource should be disdained. If he repelled sixty soldiers" (the number arriving), "then in the interval — while the news was travelling back to Nero — while another force was moving to the scene — there would be a train of events which might develop into war. In fine, either he saved his life by this course or hardihood would cost him no dearer than timidity."

59 1 All this, however, left Plautus unmoved. Either, exiled and unarmed, he foresaw no help; or he had wearied of hope and its incertitudes; or possibly the cause was affection for his wife and children, to whom he supposed the emperor would prove more placable if no alarms had disturbed his equanimity. There are those who state that fresh couriers had arrived from his father-in‑law with news that no drastic measures were pending, while his teachers of philosophy — Coeranus​38 and Musonius,​39 Greek and Tuscan respectively by origin — had advised him to have the courage to await death, in preference to an uncertain and harassed life. At all events, he was found in the early afternoon, stripped for bodily exercise. In that condition he was cut down by the centurion, under the eyes of the eunuch  p203 Pelago, placed by Nero in charge of the centurion and his detachment like a king's minion over his satellites. The head of the victim was carried back to Rome; and at sight of it the prince exclaimed (I shall give the imperial words exactly):— "Nero, <why did you fear a man with such a nose?>"​40 And laying aside his anxieties, he prepared to accelerate the marriage with Poppaea — till then postponed through suchlike terrors — and also to remove his wife Octavia; who, unassuming as her behaviour might be, was intolerable as the daughter of her father and the favourite of the people. Yet he sent a letter to the Senate, not confessing the execution of Sulla and Plautus, but observing that both were turbulent spirits and that he was watching with extreme care over the safety of the commonwealth. On that grand, a national thanksgiving was voted, together with the expulsion of Sulla and Plautus from the senate — an insulting mockery now more deadly than the evils inflicted on them.

60 1 On the reception, therefore, of the senatorial decree, since it was evident that his crimes each and all passed muster as eminent virtues, he ejected Octavia on the pretext of sterility, then consummated his union with Poppaea. Long the paramour of Nero, and dominating him first as an adulterer, then as a husband, she incited one of the domestics of Octavia to accuse her of a love affair with a slave: the part of defendant was assigned to a person named Eucaerus; a native of Alexandria,​41 and an expert performer on the flute. Her waiting-maids, in pursuance of the scheme, were examined under torture; and, although a few were forced by their agony into making groundless admissions, the  p205 greater number steadfastly maintained the honour of their mistress, one of them retorting under pressure from Tigellinus that Octavia's body was chaster than his own mouth. She was removed, however, first under colour of a civil divorce, and received — two ominous gifts — the mansion of Burrus and the estates of Plautus. A little later, she was banished to Campania and put under military supervision. The measure led to general and undisguised protests from the common people, endowed with less discretion than their superiors, and — thanks to their humble station — faced by fewer perils. Then came a rumour that Nero had repented of his outrage and recalled Octavia to his side.

61 1 At once exulting crowds scaled the Capitol, and Heaven at last found itself blessed. They hurled down the effigies of Poppaea, they carried the statues of Octavia shoulder-high, strewed them with flowers, upraised them in the forum and the temples. Even the emperor's praises were essayed with vociferous loyalty. Already they were filling the Palace itself with their numbers and their cheers, when bands of soldiers emerged and scattered them in disorder with whipcuts and levelled weapons. All the changes effected by the outbreak were rectified, and the honours of Poppaea were reinstated. She herself, always cruel in her hatreds, and now rendered more so by her fear that either the violence of the multitude might break out in a fiercer storm or Nero follow the trend of popular feeling, threw herself at his knees:— "Her affairs," she said, "were not in a position in which she could fight for her marriage, though it was dearer to her than life: that life itself had been brought to the  p207 verge of destruction by those retainers and slaves of Octavia who had conferred on themselves the name of the people and dared in peace what would scarcely happen in war. Those arms had been lifted against the sovereign; only a leader had been lacking, and, once the movement had begun, a leader was easily come by, — the one thing necessary was an excursion from Campania, a personal visit to the capital by her whose distant nod evoked the storm! And apart from this, what was Poppaea's transgression? in what had she offended anyone? Or was the reason that she was on the point of giving an authentic heir to the hearth of the Caesars? Did the Roman nation prefer the progeny of an Egyptian flute-player to be introduced to the imperial throne? — In brief, if policy so demanded, then as an act of grace, but not of compulsion, let him send for the lady who owned him — or else take thought for his security! A deserved castigation and lenient remedies had allayed the first commotion; but let the mob once lose hope of seeing Octavia Nero's wife and they would soon provide her with a husband!"

62 1 Her varied arguments, with their calculated appeal to fear and to anger, at once terrified and incensed the listener. But suspicion resting on a slave had little force; and it had been nullified by the examinations of the waiting-women. It was therefore decided to procure a confession from some person to whom there could also be imputed a false charge of contemplated revolution. Anicetus, perpetrator of the matricide, was thought suitable. Prefect, as I have mentioned,​42 of the squadron at Misenum, he had, after the commission of his murder, experienced some trivial favour, afterwards  p209 replaced by a more serious dislike, since the instruments of crime are counted a visible reproach. He was summoned accordingly, and the Caesar reminded him of his earlier service:— "Singly he had ensured the emperor's safety in opposition to a treacherous mother. The opportunity for a not less grateful action was at hand, if he could remove a malignant wife. Not even force or cold steel was necessary: he had simply to commit adultery with Octavia." He promised him a reward, secret, it might be, at the outset, but large; also, a pleasant place of retirement: should he refuse he held out the threat of death. Anicetus, with inbred perversity and an ease communicated by former crimes, invented and confessed more than had been ordered, in the presence of friends convened by the emperor to play the part of a privy council. He was then banished to Sardinia,​43 where he supported a not impecunious exile, and died by a natural death.

63 1 Nero, for his part, announced by edict that Octavia had seduced the prefect in the hope of gaining the co-operation of his squadron; that, conscious of her infidelities, she had procured abortion, — he failed to remember his recent charge of sterility! — and that these were facts ascertained by himself. He then confined her in the island of Pandateria.​44 No woman in exile ever presented a more pitiful spectacle to the eye of the beholder. There were yet some who recollected the banishment of Agrippina​45 by Tiberius; the more recent memory of Julia's​46 expulsion by Claudius still dwelt in the minds of men. But to these the maturity of life had come;​47 they had seen some little happiness, and could soften the cruelty of the present by recalling  p211 the brighter fortunes of the past. To Octavia, first of all, her day of marriage had been tantamount to a day of burial, entering as she did a house where mourning alone awaited her — where her father was snatched away by poison, to be followed at once by her brother. Then had come the maid, more potent than her mistress, and Poppaea turning bride only to destroy a wife; last of all, an accusation more bitter than any doom.

64 1 And so this girl, in the twentieth year of her age,​48 surrounded by centurions and soldiers, cut off already from life by foreknowledge of her fate, still lacked the peace of death. There followed an interval of a few days; then she was ordered to die — though she protested she was husbandless now, a sister​49 and nothing more, evoking the Germanici​50 whose blood they shared, and, in the last resort, the name of Agrippina, in whose lifetime she had supported a wifehood, unhappy enough but still not fatal. She was tied fast with cords, and the veins were opened in each limb: then, as the blood, arrested by terror, ebbed too slowly, she was suffocated in the bath heated to an extreme temperature. As a further and more hideous cruelty, the head was amputated and carried to Rome, where it was viewed by Poppaea. For all these things offerings were decreed to the temples — how often must those words be said? Let all who make their acquaintance with the history of that period in my narrative or that of others take so much for granted: as often as the emperor ordered an exile or a murder, so often was a thanksgiving addressed to Heaven; and what formerly betokened prosperity was now a symbol of public  p213 calamity. Nevertheless, where a senatorial decree achieved a novelty in adulation or a last word in self-abasement, I shall not pass it by in silence.

65 1 In the same year, he was credited with the poisoning of two of his principal freedmen: Doryphorus,​51 as an opponent of the marriage with Poppaea; Pallas, because he kept his vast riches to himself by a too protracted old age. — Romanus​52 had attacked Seneca, in private informations, as the associate of Gnaeus Piso, but was himself more surely struck down by Seneca on the same charge. The result was the alarm of Piso and the birth of an elaborate and luckless conspiracy against Nero.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 M. Antonius Primus, of Toulouse: a name writ large in the Histories (II.86; III‑IV passim). Restored to the senate — inter alia belli mala — in 68 A.D., he received the command of the seventh legion from Galba; was believed to have offered his services to Otho; then bent the whole of his unscrupulous energies to the task of seating Vespasian on the throne.

2 Of Sulla (81 B.C.). It was directed against the various forms of fraudulence in connection with wills.

3 For the office, see VI.10 n. What was the exact scope of the prefect's jurisdiction at this period is not clear, but evidently it was more summary than that of the praetor.

4 That condemning Ponticus — known later as the senatus consultum Turpilianum, after this year'sº consul ordinarius.

5 Calumniari est falsa crimina intendere, praevaricari vera crimina abscondere, tergiversari in universum ab accusatione desistere (Marcianus in Dig. XLVIII.16). The penalty for the first was, in criminal cases, relegation, exile, or loss of rank, according to circumstances.

6 Compare XIII.32 and, for the republican period, Cic. ad Fam. IV.12.

7 The jurist (XII.11 n.).

8 See XIII.32.

9 The sarcasm is, of course, levelled at the motives suggested at the outset of chap. 42. A slave, needless to say, had neither rights nor wrongs.

10 The standing formula for a verdict of justifiable homicide, and therefore, in the eyes of Cassius, a crowning absurdity in such a case: compare Sen. N. Q. I.16, hunc divitem avarum . . . divus Augustus indignum vindicta iudicavit, cum a servis occisus esset, et tantum non pronuntiavit iure caesum videri.

11 An allusion to the practice of decimation: see III.21 n.

12 Hist. I.637; Plut. Galb. 14 sq.

13 The incident was mentioned at XII.59.

14 I.31 n.

15 By ignoring him as a competitor they left him free to rise. He failed completely, however, as governor of Britain in succession to Turpilianus: see Hist. I.60; II.65; Agr. 16.

16 V.11 n.

17 Built for the Neronia, in the Campus Martius, adjoining the Thermae Neronianae. — The oil, of course, was applied to the body before taking part in an athletic contest. In Athens, it would have been gratuitously supplied by the γυμνασίαρχοι as part of their duties.

18 See XIII.28.

19 The courageous son of the former governor of Britain (XII.31). For his subsequent destruction by Antistius, see XVI.14 sq.

20 XI.6 n.

21 The infamous favourite of Nero. The authority for the vicissitudes of his early days is a well informed scholium on Juv. I.155. The salient facts of his public career may be gleaned from the rest of the Annals: for his suicide under Otho, and a highly coloured character-sketch, see Hist. I.72.

22 See I.73 etc. The law had been abolished in name by Caligula (D. Cass. LIX.4); in effect, by Claudius (LX.3).

23 IV.30 n.

24 Garrotingº was, in theory, the regular method of execution (cf. III.50; V.9); in practice, it was replaced by suicide of the condemned person.

25 The future emperor.

26 A prominent informer under Domitian (grande et conspicuum nostro quoque tempore monstrum, Juv. IV.115), and a favourite even with Nerva (Plin. Ep. IV.22).

27 His libels were embodied in an imaginary will. For as candour, under the empire, was safest when posthumous, this was a favourite vehicle for attacks upon the great: cf. Luc. Nigr. 30, προστιθεὶς ὅτι μίαν φωνὴν Ῥωμαίων παῖδες ἀληθῆ παρ’ ὅλον τὸν βίον προΐενται, τὴν ἐν ταῖς διαθήκαις λέγων. See the cases of Fulcinius Trio and Petronius (VI.38; XVI.19).

28 Gronovius cited the anecdote related by Seneca (Ep. 24) of Pompey's father-in‑law:— Cum teneri navem suam vidisset ab hostibus, ferro se transverberavit et quaerentibus ubi imperator esset, 'Imperator,' inquit, 'se bene habet.'

29 XIII.22.

30 Desideravit enim (Augustus) nonnunquam . . . et M. Agrippae patientiam et Maecenatis taciturnitatem, cum ille ex levi rigoris suspicione, et quod Marcellus sibi anteferretur, Mytilenas se, relictis omnibus, contulisset (23 B.C.); hic secretum de comperta Murenae coniuratione (23 or 22 B.C.) uxori Terentiae (sister of Murena) prodidisset (Suet. Aug. 66).

31 The family came from Cordova.

32 XI.2 n., etc.

33 XIII.30 fin.

34 A reminiscence of Sen. De ira, II.33 (for the famous odisse quem laeseris of Agr. 42 is from the same source):— Notissima vox eius qui in cultu regum consenuerat: cum illum quidam interrogaret quomodo rarissimam rem in aula consecutus esset, senectutem, 'Iniurias,' inquit, 'accipiendo et gratias agendo.'

35 Plautus (XIII.19 n.) was a son of Drusus' daughter Julia; Sulla (XII.52 n.), a descendant of the dictator.

36 Throughout the period from Nero to Domitian, Roman stoicism was, on the whole, definitely hostile to the empire. Other prominent members of the school to perish in this reign were Seneca, Lucan, Barea Soranus, and Thrasea Paetus.

37 XIII.11; XVI.10.

38 Only known otherwise from a couple of words in the elder Pliny's index auctorum to his second book.

39 C. Musonius Rufus, one of the great names of Stoicism; born at Vulsinii in Etruria of an equestrian family; teacher of Epictetus while he was still a slave (Diss. I.9.28); banished to Gyara as privy to the Pisonian conspiracy (XV.71; Philostr. V. A. VII.16): returned after the death of Nero (Hist. III.81; IV.1040); specially exempted in the banishment of philosophers under Vespasian (D. Cass. LXVI.13). Extensive fragments of his works survive, principally in Stobaeus.

40 Halm's supplement is suggested by Dio (LXII.14):— "Οὐκ ᾔδειν, ἔφη, ὅτι μεγάλην ῥῖνα εῖχεν," ὥσπερ φεισάμενος ἂν αὐτοῦ εἰ τοῦτο προηπίστατο.

41 They had the reputation of being περὶ αὐλοὺς μουσικώτατοιº (Ath. 176F init.).

42 Chap. 3.

43 Selected, it is to be feared, as a notoriously unhealthy island (cf. II.85 fin.).

44 I.53 n.

45 The wife of Germanicus. Book V breaks short just before her banishment to Pandateria (29 A.D.).

46 Julia Livilla, youngest child of Germanicus and Agrippina, born in 18 A.D.; exiled by her brother Caligula in 37 A.D.; recalled by Claudius at the outset of his reign, then, at the instigation of Messalina, banished again on a charge of adultery with Seneca, and shortly afterwards put to death (D. Cass. LX.4.8).

Thayer's Note: I've been unable to find any passage by that numbering in the (exceedingly disordered) text of Dio. The historian does, however, mention Claudius putting her to death: LVIII.11.7.

47 The words are applicable only to Agrippina.

48 As a matter of fact, she was older than Britannicus; who was born on Feb. 13, 41 A.D.

49 Through the adoption of Nero by Claudius.

50 The surname was conferred by the senate of Tiberius' brother Drusus and his descendants. His grandson Claudius was father of Octavia; his granddaughter Agrippina, mother of Nero.

51 Libertus a libellis in succession to Callistus.

52 Possibly another Caesarian freedman, unless there is a gap in the text.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 2 Mar 18