Dio's Rome, Volume V., Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211)
by Cassius Dio
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FIFTH VOLUME: Extant Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211).


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Book Sixty-one

Book Sixty-two

Book Sixty-three

Book Sixty-four

Book Sixty-five

Book Sixty-six

Book Sixty-seven

Book Sixty-eight

Book Sixty-nine

Book Seventy

Book Seventy-one

Book Seventy-two

Book Seventy-three

Book Seventy-four

Book Seventy-five

Book Seventy-six

Book Seventy-seven


Nero seizes the sovereignty (chapters 1, 2).

At the beginning he is accustomed to yield to the influence of his mother, whom Seneca and Burrus thrust aside from control of affairs (chapter 3).

Nero's exhibitions of wantonness and his extravagance: the death of Silanus (chapters 4-6).

Love for Acte: Britannicus slain: discord with Agrippina (chapters 7, 8).

How Nero's mind began to give way (chapter 9).

About the faults and immoralities of the philosopher Seneca (chapter 10).

Sabina an object of love: Agrippina murdered (chapters 11-16).

Domitia put to death: festivities: Nero sings to the accompaniment of his lyre (chapters 17-21).


M. Asinius Marcellus, Manius Acilius Aviola. (A.D. 54 = a.u. 807 = First of Nero, from Oct. 13th).

Nero Caesar Aug., L. Antistius Vetus. (A.D. 55 = a.u. 808 = Second of Nero).

Q. Volusius Saturninus, P. Cornelius Scipio. (A.D. 56 = a.u. 809 = Third of Nero).

Nero Caesar Aug. (II), L. Calpurnius Piso. (A.D. 57 = a.u. 810 = Fourth of Nero).

Nero Caesar Aug. (III), M. Valerius Messala. (A.D. 58 = a.u. 811 = Fifth of Nero).

C. Vipsanius Apronianus, L. Fonteius Capito. (A.D. 59 = a.u. 812 = Sixth of Nero).

Nero Caesar Aug. (IV), Cornelius Lentulus Cossus. (A.D. 60 = a.u. 813 = Seventh of Nero).

[Sidenote: A.D. 54 (a.u. 807)] [Sidenote:—1—] At the death of Claudius the leadership on most just principles belonged to Britannicus, who had been born a legitimate son of Claudius and in physical development was beyond what would have been expected of his years. Yet by law the power passed to Nero on account of his adoption. No claim, indeed, is stronger than that of arms. Every one who possesses superior force has always the appearance of both saying and doing what is more just. So Nero, having first disposed of Claudius's will and having succeeded him as master of the whole empire, put Britannicus and his sisters out of the way. Why, then, should one stop to lament the misfortunes of other victims?

[Sidenote:—2—] The following signs of dominion had been observed in his career. At his birth just before dawn rays not cast by any beam of sunlight yet visible surrounded his form. And a certain astrologer from this and from the motion of the stars at that time and their relation to one another divined two things in regard to him,—that he would rule and that he would murder his mother. Agrippina on hearing this became for the moment so beside herself as actually to cry out: "Let him kill me, if only he shall rule." Later she was destined to repent bitterly of her prayer. Some people become so steeped in folly that if they expect to obtain some blessing mingled with evil, they at once through their anxiety for the advantage pay no heed to the detriment. When the time for the latter also comes, they are cast down and would choose not to have secured even the greatest good thing. Yet Domitius, the father of Nero, had a sufficient previous intimation of his son's coming baseness and licentiousness, not by any oracle but through the nature of his own and Agrippina's characters. And he declared: "It is impossible for any good man to be born from me and from her." As time went on, the finding of a serpent skin around Nero's neck when he was but a boy caused the seers to say: "He shall acquire great power from the aged man." Serpents are thought to slough off their old age with their old skin, and so get power.

[Sidenote:—3—] Nero was seventeen years of age when he began to rule. He first entered the camp, and, after reading to the soldiers all that Seneca had written, he promised them as much as Claudius had been accustomed to give. Before the senate he read such a considerable document,—this, too, written by Seneca,—that it was voted the statements should be inscribed on a silver tablet and should be read every time the new consuls took up the duties of their office. Consequently those who heard him made themselves ready to enjoy a good reign according to the letter of the compilation. At first Agrippina [in company with Pallas, a vulgar and tiresome man,] managed all affairs pertaining to the empire, and she and her son went about together, often reclining in the same litter; usually, however, she would be carried and he would follow alongside. It was she who transacted business with embassies and sent letters to peoples and governors and kings. When this had gone on for a considerable time, it aroused the displeasure of Seneca and Burrus, who were both the most sensible and the most influential of the advisers of Nero. The one was his teacher and the other was prefect of the Pretorians. They took the following occasion to stop this method of procedure. An embassy of Armenians had arrived and Agrippina wished to ascend the platform from which Nero was talking with them. The two men, seeing her approach, persuaded the young man to go down before she could reach there and meet his mother, pretending some form of greeting. After that was done they did not return again, making some excuse to prevent the foreigners from seeing the flaw in the empire. Subsequently they labored to keep any public business from being again committed to her hands.

[Sidenote:—4—] When they had accomplished this, they themselves took charge of the entire empire and gave it the very best and fairest management that they could. Nero was not in general fond of affairs and was glad to live at leisure. [The reason, indeed, that he had previously distrusted his mother and now was fond of her lay in the fact that now he was free to enjoy himself, and the government was being carried on no less well. And his advisers after consultation made many changes in existing customs, abolishing some things altogether and passing a number of new laws.] They let Nero sow his wild oats with the intention of bringing about in him through the satisfaction of all his desires a changed attitude of mind, while in the meantime no great damage should be done to public interests. Surely they must have known that a young and self-willed spirit, when reared in unreproved license and in absolute authority, so far from becoming satiated by the indulgence of its passions is ruined more and more by these very agencies. Indeed, Nero at first gave but simple dinners; his revels, his drunkenness, his amours were moderate. Afterward, as no one reproved him for them and public business was carried forward none the worse for all of it, he began to believe that what he did was right and that he could carry his practices to even greater lengths. [Consequently he began to indulge in each of these pursuits in a more open and precipitate fashion. And in case his guardians gave him any warning or his mother any rebuke, he would appear abashed while they were present and 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 dragging him in the other direction,—a straight course down hill.] Next he came to despise instruction, inasmuch as he was always hearing from his associates, "Do you submit to this?" or "Do you fear these people?", "Don't you know that you are Caesar?", "Have not you the authority over them rather than they over you?" He was also animated by obstinacy, not wishing to acknowledge his mother as superior and himself as inferior, nor to admit the greater good sense of Seneca and Burrus.

[Sidenote:—5—] Finally he passed the possibility of being shamed, dashed to the ground and trampled under foot all their suggestions, and began to follow in the steps of Gaius. When he had once felt a desire to emulate him, he quite outdid him, for he believed that the imperial power must manifest itself among other ways by allowing no one to surpass it even in the vilest deeds. [As he was praised for this by the crowds, and received many pleasant compliments from them, he gave himself no rest. His doings were at first confined to his home and associates, but were later on carried abroad. Thus he attached a mighty disgrace to the whole Roman race and committed many outrages upon the individuals composing it. Innumerable acts of violence and insult, of rape and murder, were committed both 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 practices], great sums of money naturally were spent, great sums unjustly procured, and great sums seized by force. For under no circumstances was Nero niggardly. Here is an illustration. He had ordered no less than two hundred and fifty myriads at one time to be given to Doryphorus, who attended to the state documents of his empire. Agrippina had it all piled in a heap, hoping by showing him the money all together to make him change his mind. Instead, he asked how much the mass before him amounted to, and when he was informed he doubled it, saying: "I was not aware that I had allowed him so little." It can clearly be seen, then, that as a result of the magnitude of his expenditures he would quickly exhaust the treasures in the royal vaults and quickly need new revenues. Hence unusual taxes were imposed and the property of the well-to-do was not left intact. Some lost their possessions to spite him and others destroyed themselves with their livelihoods. Similarly he hated and made away with some others who had no considerable wealth; for, if they possessed any excellent trait or were of a good family, he became suspicious that they disliked him.

[Sidenote:—6—] Such were the general characteristics of Nero. I shall now proceed to details.

In the matter of horse-races Nero grew so enthusiastic that he adorned famous race-horses that had passed their prime with the regular street costume for men and honored them with money for their fodder. The horsebreeders and charioteers, elated at this enthusiasm of his, proceeded to abuse unjustifiably even the praetors and consuls. But Aulus Fabricius, when praetor, finding that they refused to hold contests on fair terms, dispensed with them entirely. He trained dogs to draw chariots and introduced them in place of horses. When this was done, the wearers of the white and of the red immediately entered their chariots: but, as the Greens and the Blues would not even then participate, Nero at his own cost gave the prizes to the horses, and the regular program of the circus was carried out.

Agrippina showed readiness to attack the greatest undertakings, as is evidenced by her causing the death of Marcus Julius Silanus, to whom she sent some of the poison with which she had treacherously murdered her husband.

Silanus was governor of Asia, and was in no respect inferior to the general character of his family. It was for this, more than for anything else, she said, that she killed him, not wishing to have him preferred before Nero, by reason of the latter's manner of life. Moreover, she turned everything into trade and gathered money from the most insignificant and basest sources.

Laelianus, who was despatched to Armenia in place of Pollio, had been assigned to the command of the night watch. And he was no better than Pollio, for, while surpassing him in reputation, he was all the more insatiable in respect to gain.

[Sidenote: A.D. 55 (a.u. 808)] [Sidenote:—7—] Agrippina found a grievance in the fact that she was no longer supreme in affairs of the palace. It was chiefly because of Acte. Acte had been brought as a slave from Asia. She caught the fancy of Nero, was adopted into the family of Attalus, and was cherished much more carefully than was Nero's wife Octavia. Agrippina, indignant at this and at other matters, first attempted to rebuke him, and set herself to humiliating his associates, some by beatings and by getting rid of others. But when she accomplished nothing, she took it greatly to heart and remarked to him: "It was I who made you emperor," just as if she had the power to take away the authority from him again. She did not comprehend that every form of independent power given to any one by a private citizen immediately ceases to be the property of the giver and belongs to the one who receives it to use against his benefactor.

Britannicus Nero murdered treacherously by poison, and then, as the skin was turned livid by the action of the drug, he smeared the body with gypsum. But as it was being carried through the Forum a heavy rain falling while the gypsum was still damp washed it all away, so that the horror was exposed not only to comment but to view. [After Britannicus was dead Seneca and Burrus ceased to give careful attention to public interests and were satisfied if they might manage them conservatively and still preserve their lives. Consequently Nero now made himself conspicuous by giving free rein to all his desires without fear of retribution. His behavior began to be absolutely insensate, as is shown, for instance, by his punishing a certain knight, Antonius, as a seller of poisons and by further burning the poisons publicly. He took great credit for this action as well as for prosecuting some persons who had tampered with wills; but other people only laughed to see him punishing his own acts in the persons of others.]

[Sidenote:—8—] His secret acts of licentiousness were many, both at home and throughout the City, by night and by day. He used to frequent the taverns and wandered about everywhere like a private person. Any number of beatings and insults took place in this connection and the evil spread to the theatres, so that those who worked as dancers and who had charge of the horses paid no attention either to praetors or to consuls. They were disorderly themselves and led others to be the same, while Nero not only did not restrain them even by words, but stirred them up all the more. He delighted in their actions and used to be secretly conveyed in a litter into the theatres, where unseen by the rest he watched the proceedings. Indeed, he forbade the soldiers who had usually been in attendance at all public gatherings to appear there any longer. The reason he assigned was that they ought not to superintend anything but strictly military affairs, but his true purpose was to afford those who wished to raise a disturbance the amplest scope. He made use of the same excuse in reference to his not allowing any soldier to attend his mother, saying that no one except the emperor ought to be guarded by them. In this way he displayed his enmity toward the masses, and as for his mother he was already openly at variance with her. Everything that they said to each other, or that the imperial pair did each day, was reported outside the palace, yet it did not all reach the public and hence conjectures were made to supply missing details and different versions arose. What was conceivable as happening, in view of the baseness and lewdness of the pair, was noised abroad as having already taken place, and reports possessing some credibility were believed as true. The populace, seeing Agrippina now for the first time without Pretorians, 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.

[Sidenote:—9—] At one spectacle men on horseback overcame bulls while riding along beside them, and the knights who served as Nero's personal guard brought down with their javelins four hundred bears and three hundred lions. On the same occasion thirty knights belonging to the military fought in the arena. The emperor sanctioned such proceedings openly. Secretly, however, he carried on nocturnal revels throughout the length and breadth of the city, insulting the women, practicing lewdness on boys, stripping those whom he encountered, striking, wounding, murdering. He had an idea that his incognito was impenetrable, for he used all sorts of different costumes and false hair at different times: but he would be recognized by his retinue and by his deeds. No one else would have dared to commit so many and such gross outrages so recklessly. [Sidenote: A.D. 56 (a.u. 809)] It was becoming unsafe even for a person to stay at home, since he would break into shops and houses. It came about that a certain Julius Montanus, [Footnote: C. Iulius Montanus C.F. (Cp. Suetonius, Life of Nero, chapter 60).] a senator, enraged on his wife's account, fell upon this reveler and inflicted many blows upon him, so that he had to remain several days in concealment by reason of the black eyes he had received. Montanus did not suffer for it, since Nero thought the violence had been all an accident and was for showing no anger at the occurrence, had not the other sent him a letter begging his pardon. Nero on reading the epistle remarked: "So he knew that he was striking Nero." The suicide of Montanus followed hard after.

[Sidenote: A.D. 57 (a.u. 810)] In the course of producing a spectacle at one of the theatres, he suddenly filled the place with sea-water so that the fishes and sea-monsters [Footnote: [Greek: ktaenae] of the MSS. was changed to [Greek: kaetae] on the conjecture of Sylburgius, who was followed by Bekker, Dindorf, and Boissevain. (Compare also Suetonius, Life of Nero, chapter 12).] swam in it, and had a naval battle between "Persians" and "Athenians." At the close of it he suddenly withdrew the water, dried the subsoil, and continued land contests, not only between two men at a time but with crowds pitted against other crowds.

[Sidenote: A.D. 58 (a.u. 811)] [Sidenote:—10—] Subsequent to this, oratorical contests took place, and as a result even of these numbers were exiled and put to death.—Seneca also was held to account, one of the charges against him being that he was intimate with Agrippina. [It had not been enough for him to debauch Julia, nor had he become better as a result of exile, but he went on to make advances to such a woman as Agrippina, with such a son.] Not only in this instance but in others he was convicted of doing precisely the opposite of what he taught in his philosophical doctrines. He brought accusations against tyranny, yet he made himself a teacher of tyrants: he denounced such of his associates as were powerful, yet he did not hold aloof from the palace himself: he had nothing good to say of flatterers, yet he had so fawned upon Messalina and Claudius's freedmen [that he had sent them from the island a book containing eulogies upon them; this latter caused him such mortification that he erased the passage.] While finding fault with the rich, he himself possessed a property of seven thousand five hundred myriads; and though he censured the extravagances of others, he kept five hundred three-legged tables of cedar wood, every one of them with identical ivory feet, and he gave banquets on them. In mentioning these details I have at least given a hint of their inevitable adjuncts,—the licentiousness in which he indulged at the very time that he made a most brilliant marriage, and the delight that he took in boys past their prime (a practice which he also taught Nero to follow). Nevertheless, his austerity of life had earlier been so severe that he had asked his pupil neither to kiss him nor to eat at the same table with him. [For the latter request he had a good reason, namely, that Nero's absence would enable him to conduct his philosophical studies at leisure without being hindered by the young man's dinners. But as for the kiss, I can not conceive how that tradition came about. The only explanation which one could imagine, namely, his unwillingness to kiss that sort of mouth, is proved to be false by the facts concerning his favorites. For this and for his adultery some complaints were lodged against him, but at this time he was himself released without formal accusations and succeeded in begging off Pallas and Burrus. Later on he did not come out so well.]

[Sidenote: A.D. 59 (a.u. 811)] [Sidenote:—11—] There was a certain Marcus Salvius Otho, who through similarity of character and sharing in wrongdoing had become so intimate with Nero that he was not even punished for saying one day to the latter: "Then I hope you may see me Caesar." All that came of it was the response: "I sha'n't see you even consul." It was to him that the emperor gave Sabina, of patrician family, after separating her from her husband, and they both enjoyed her together. Agrippina, therefore, fearing that Nero would marry the woman (for he was now beginning to entertain a mad passion for her), ventured upon a most unholy course. As if it were not enough for her story that she had attracted her uncle Claudius into love for her by her blandishments and uncontrolled looks and kisses, she undertook to enslave Nero also in similar fashion. However, I am not sure whether this actually occurred, or whether it was invented to fit their characters: but I state here what is admitted by all, that Nero had a mistress resembling Agrippina of whom he was especially fond because of this very resemblance. And when he toyed with the girl herself or threw out hints about it to others, he would say that he was having intercourse with his mother.

[Sidenote: A.D. 59 (a.u. 812)] Sabina on hearing about this began to persuade Nero to get rid of his mother in order to forestall her alleged plots against him. He was likewise incited,—so many trustworthy men have stated,—by Seneca, whether it was to obscure the complaint against his own name that the latter was anxious or to lead Nero on to a career of unholy bloodguiltiness that should bring about most speedily his destruction by gods and men. But they shrank from doing the deed openly and were not able to put her out of the way secretly by means of poison, for she took extreme precautions against all such things. One day they saw in the theatre a ship that automatically separated in two, let out some beasts, and came together again so as to be once more seaworthy; and they at once had another one built like it. By the time the ship was finished Agrippina had been quite won over by Nero's attentions, for he exhibited devotion to her in every way to make sure that she should suspect nothing and be off her guard. He dared, however, do nothing in Rome for fear the crime should become widely known. Hence he went some distance into Campania accompanied by his mother, and took a sail on the fatal ship itself, which was adorned in the most brilliant fashion to the end that she might feel a desire to use the vessel continually.

[Sidenote:—13—] When they reached Bauli, he gave for several days most costly dinners at which he showed great solicitude in entertaining his mother. If she were absent he feigned to miss her sorely, and if she were present he was lavish of caresses. He bade her ask whatever she desired and bestowed many gifts without her asking. When he had shaped the situation to this extent [Footnote: Adopting Reiske's conjecture, nv.], then rising from dinner about midnight he embraced her, and straining her to his breast kissed her eyes and hands, exclaiming: "Mother, farewell, and happiness attend you! For you I live and because of you I rule." He then gave her in charge of Anicetus, a freedman, supposedly to convey her home on the ship that he had prepared.

But the sea would not endure the tragedy about to be enacted on it nor would it submit to assume responsibility for the deception wrought by the monstrous contrivance: therefore, though the ship parted asunder and Agrippina fell into the water, she did not perish. In spite of the fact that it was dark and she was full of strong drink and that the sailors used their oar blades on her, so much so that they killed Acerronia Polla, her fellow voyager, she nevertheless saved her life and reached home. Thereupon she affected not to realize that it was a plot and let not a word of it be known, but sent speedily to her son an account of the occurrence with the implication that it had happened by accident, and conveyed to him the good news (as she assumed it to be) that she was safe. Nero hearing this could not endure the unexpected outcome but punished the messenger as savagely as if he had come to assassinate him, and at once despatched Anicetus with the sailors to make an end of his mother. He would not entrust the killing of her to the Pretorians. When she saw them, she knew for what they had come, and leaping from her bed tore open her clothing; exposing her abdomen, and cried out: "Strike here, Anicetus, strike here, for this bore Nero!"

[Sidenote:—14—] Thus was Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus, grandchild of Agrippa, descendant of Augustus, slain by the very son to whom she had given the sovereignty and for whose sake she had killed her uncle and others. Nero when informed that she was dead would not believe it, for the monstrousness of his bold deed plunged him in doubts; therefore he desired to behold the victim with his own eyes. So he laid bare her body, looked her all over and inspected her wounds, finally uttering a remark far more abominable even than the crime. What he said was: "I did not know I had so beautiful a mother."

To the Pretorians he gave money evidently to secure their prayers for many such occurrences, and he sent to the senate a message in which he enumerated the offences of which he knew she was guilty, stating also that she had plotted against him and on being detected had committed suicide. Yet for all this calm explanation to the governing body he was frequently subject to agitation at night, so that he would even leap suddenly from his bed. And by day terror seized him at the sound of trumpets that seemed to blare forth some horrid din of war from the spot where lay Agrippina's bones. Therefore he went elsewhere. And when in his new abode he had again the same experience, he distractedly transferred his residence to some other place.

Nero, not having a word of truth from any one and seeing that all approved what he had been doing, thought that either his actions had escaped notice or that he had conducted himself correctly. Hence he became much worse also in other respects. He came to think that all that it was in his power to do was right and gave heed to those whose speech was prompted by fear or flattery as if they told absolute truth. For a time he was subject to fears and questionings, but, after the ambassadors had made him a number of pleasing speeches, he regained courage.

[Sidenote:—15—] The population of Rome, on hearing the report, though horrified were nevertheless joyful, because they thought that now he would surely come to ruin. Nearly all of the senators pretended to rejoice at what had taken place, participated in Nero's pleasure, and voted many measures of which they thought he would be glad. Publius Thrasea Paetus had also come to the senate-house and listened to the letter. When, however, the reading was done, he at once rose without making any comment and went out. Thus what he would have said he could not, and what he could have said he would not. He behaved in the same way under all other conditions. For he used to say: "If it were a matter of Nero's putting only me to death, I could easily pardon the rest who load him with flatteries. But since among those even who praise him so excessively he has gotten rid of some and will yet destroy others, why should one stoop to indecent behavior and perish like a slave, when like a freeman one may pay the debt to nature? There shall be talk of me hereafter, but of these men not a word save for the single fact that they were killed." Such was the kind of man Thrasea showed himself, and he would always encourage himself by saying: "Nero can kill me, but he can not harm me."

[Sidenote:—16—] When Nero after his mother's murder reentered Rome, people paid him reverence in public, but in private so long as any one could speak frankly with safety they tore his character to very tatters. And first they hung by night a piece of hide on one of his statues to signify that he himself ought to have a hiding. Second, they threw down in the Forum a baby to which was fastened a board, saying: "I will not take you up for fear you may slay your mother."

At Nero's entrance into Rome they took down the statues of Agrippina. But there was one which they did not cut loose soon enough, and so they threw over it a cloth which gave it the appearance of being veiled. Thereupon somebody at once affixed to the statue the following inscription: "I am abashed and thou art unashamed."

In many quarters at once, also, might be read the inscription:

"Nero, Orestes, Alemeon, matricides."

Persons could actually be heard saying in so many words: "Nero put his mother out of the way." Not a few lodged information that certain persons had spoken in this way, their object being not so much to destroy those whom they accused as to bring reproach, on Nero. Hence he would admit no suit of that kind, either not wishing that the rumor should become more widespread by such means, or out of utter contempt for what was said. However, in the midst of the sacrifices offered in memory of Agrippina according to decree, the sun suffered a total eclipse and the stars could be seen. Also, the elephants drawing the chariot of Augustus entered the hippodrome and went as far as the senators' seats, but at that point they stopped and refused to proceed farther. And the event which one might most readily conjecture to have taken place through divine means was that a thunderbolt descended upon his dinner and consumed it all as it was being brought to him, like some tremendous harpy snatching away his food.

[Sidenote:—17—] [In spite of this he killed by poison also his aunt Domitia, whom likewise he used to say he revered like a mother. He would not even wait a few days for her to die a natural death of old age, but was eager to destroy her also. His haste to do this was inspired by her possessions at Baiae and Ravenna, which included magnificent amusement pavilions that she had erected and] are in fine condition even now. In honor of his mother he celebrated a very great and costly festival, events taking place for several days in five or six theatres at once. It was then that an elephant was led to the very top of the vault of the theatre and walked down from that point on ropes, carrying a rider. There was another exhibition at once most disgraceful and shocking. Men and women not only of equestrian but even of senatorial rank appeared in the orchestra, the hippodrome, and even the hunting-theatre, like the veriest outcasts. Some of them played the flute and danced or acted tragedies and comedies or sang to the lyre. They drove horses, killed beasts, fought as gladiators, some willingly, others with a very bad grace. Men of that day beheld the great families,—the Furii, the Horatii, the Fabii, Poreii, Valerii, and all the rest whose trophies, whose temples were to be seen,—standing down below the level of the spectators and doing some things to which no common citizen even would stoop. So they would point them out to one another and make remarks, Macedonians saying: "That is the descendant of Paulus"; Greeks, "Yonder the offspring of Mummius"; Sicilians, "Look at Claudius"; the Epirots, "Look at Appius"; Asiatics, "There's Lucius"; Iberians, "There's Publius"; Carthaginians, "There's Africanus"; Romans, "There they all are". Such was the expiation that the emperor chose to offer for his own indecency.

[Sidenote:—18—] All who had sense, likewise, bewailed the multitude of expenditures. Every costliest viand that men eat, everything else, indeed, of the highest value,—horses, slaves, teams, gold, silver, raiment of varied hues,—was given away by tickets. Nero would throw tiny balls, each one appropriately inscribed, among the populace and that article represented by the token received would be presented to the person who had seized it. The sensible, I say, reflected that, when he spent so much to prevent molestation in his disgraceful course, he would not be restrained from any most outrageous proceedings through mere hope of profit.

Some portents had taken place about this time, which the seers declared imported destruction to him, and they advised him to divert the danger upon others. So he would have immediately put numbers of men out of the way, had not Seneca said to him: "No matter how many you may slay, you can not kill your successor."

It was now that he celebrated a corresponding number of "Preservation Sacrifices," as he called them, and dedicated the forum for the sale of dainties, called Macellum. [Sidenote:—19—] Somewhat later he instituted a different kind of feast (called Juvenalia, a word that showed it belonged in some way to "youth"). The occasion was the shaving of his beard for the first time. The hairs he cast into a small golden globe and offered to Jupiter Capitolinus. To furnish amusement members of the noblest families as well as others did not fail to give exhibitions. For instance, Aelia Catella danced: he was first of all a man prominent for family and wealth and also advanced in years,—he was eighty years of age. Others who on account of old age or disease could not do anything on their own account sang as chorus. All devoted themselves to practicing as much as and by whatever way they were able. Regularly appointed "schools" were frequented by the most distinguished men, women, girls, lads, old women, old men. In case any one was unable to appear in any other fashion, he would enter the choruses. And whereas some of them out of shame had put on masks to avoid being recognized, Nero at the request of the populace had them taken off and showed these people to those by whom they had once been ruled. Now most of all it was that these amateur performers and others deemed the dead happy; for many of the foremost men this year had been slain. Some of them, charged with conspiracy against Nero, were surrounded by the soldiers and stoned to death.

[Sidenote:—20—] And, as there needed to be a fitting climax to these deeds, Nero himself appeared as an actor and Gallio [Footnote: L. Iunius Gallio.] proclaimed him by name. There stood Caesar on the stage wearing the garb of a singing zither-player. Spoke the emperor: "My lords, of your kindness give me ear." Then did the Augustus sing to the zither a thing called "Attis or the Bacchantes," [Footnote: The title of one of Nero's poems.] whilst many soldiers stood by and all the people that the seats would hold sat watching. Yet had he (according to the tradition) but a slight voice and an indistinct, so that he moved all present to laughter and tears at once. Beside him stood Burrus and Seneca like teachers prompting a pupil: they would wave their hands and togas at every utterance and draw others on to do the same. Indeed, Nero had ready a peculiar corps of about five thousand soldiers, called Augustans; these would begin the applause, and all the rest, however loath, were obliged to shout aloud with them,—except Thrasea. He would never stoop to such conduct. But the rest, and especially the prominent men, gathered with alacrity even when in grief and joined as if glad in all the shouts of the Augustans. One could hear them saying: "Excellent Caesar! Apollo! Augustus! One like unto the Pythian! By thine own self, O Caesar, no one can surpass thee!" After this performance he entertained the people at a feast on boats on the site of the naval battle given by Augustus: thence at midnight he sailed through a canal into the Tiber.

[Sidenote: A.D. 60 (a.u. 813)] [Sidenote:—21—] This, then, he did to celebrate the shaving of his chin. In behalf of his preservation and the continuance of his authority,—thus he gave notice,—he instituted quinquennial games, naming them Neronia. In honor of the event he also constructed the gymnasium at the dedication of which he made a free distribution of olive oil to the senators and knights. The crown for singing to the zither, moreover, he took without a contest, for all others were debarred on the assumption that they were unworthy of victory. [And immediately in their garb he was enrolled on the very lists of the gymnasium.] Thenceforward all other crowns for zither playing at all the contests were sent to him as the only person competent to win victories of that sort.


About the disaster to the Romans in Britain, brought upon them by Buduica (chapters 1-7).

Paulinus, returning from subduing the island of Mona, conquers in battle (chapters 8-12).

Octavia Augusta and Burrus, likewise Plautus and Pallas, are put to death by Nero (chapters 13, 14).

Most swinish reveling at the games of Tigillinus (chapter 15).

How Nero set the city on fire (chapters 16-18).

The uprightness of Corbulo: proceedings against Vologaesus and Tiridates (chapters 19, 20).

Misfortune attends the endeavors of Paetus: Vologaesus forms a compact with Corbulo (chapters 21-23).

Seneca, Soranus, Thrasea, Sabina are put to death: Musonius and Cornutus are banished (chapters 24-29).


Nero Aug. (IV), Cornelius Cossus Cossi F. Lentulus. (A.D. 60 = a.u. 813 = Seventh of Nero, from Oct. 13th).

Caesonius Paetus, P. Petronius Turpilianus. (A.D. 61 = a.u. 814 = Eighth of Nero).

P. Marius Celsus, L. Asinius Gallus. (A.D. 62 = a.u. 815 = Ninth of Nero).

C. Memmius Regulus, L. Verginius Rufus. (A.D. 63 = a.u. 816 = Tenth of Nero).

C. Lecanius Bassus, M. Licinius Crassus Frugi. (A.D. 64 = a.u. 817 = Eleventh of Nero).

A. Licinius Nerva Silanus, M. Vestinus Atticus. (A.D. 65 = a.u. 818 = Twelfth of Nero).

[Sidenote: A.D. 61 (a.u. 814)] [Sidenote:—1—] While this sport was going on at Rome, a terrible disaster had taken place in Britain. Two cities had been sacked, eight myriads of Romans and of their allies had perished, and the island had been lost. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon them by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame. Heaven evidently gave them in advance an indication of the catastrophe. At night there was heard to issue from the senate-house foreign jargon mingled with laughter and from the theatre outcries with wailing: yet no mortal man had uttered the speeches or the groans. Houses under water came to view in the river Thames, [Footnote: Compare Tacitus, Annals, XIV, 32 ("visamque speciem in aestuario Tamesae subversae Coloniae").] and the ocean between the island and Gaul sometimes grew bloody at flood-tide.

[Sidenote:—2—] The casus belli lay in the confiscation of the money which Claudius had given to the foremost Britons,—Decianus Catus, governor of the island, announcing that this must now be sent back. This was one reason [Lacuna] [Footnote: It would seem natural to supply "for the uprising," as does Reiske.] and another was that Seneca had lent them on excellent terms as regards interest a thousand myriads that they did not want, [Footnote: The meaning of this phrase ( [Greek: achousin]) is not wholly clear. Naber purposes to substitute [Greek: aitousin] ("that they were asking for").] and had afterward called in this loan all at once and levied on them for it with severity. But the person who most stirred their spirits and persuaded them to fight the Romans, who was deemed worthy to stand at their head and to have the conduct of the entire war, was a British woman, Buduica, [Footnote: Known commonly as Boadicea.] of the royal family and possessed of greater judgment than often belongs to women. It was she who gathered the army to the number of nearly twelve myriads and ascended a tribunal of marshy soil made after the Roman fashion. In person she was very tall, with a most sturdy figure and a piercing glance; her voice was harsh; a great mass of yellow hair fell below her waist and a large golden necklace clasped her throat; wound about her was a tunic of every conceivable color and over it a thick chlamys had been fastened with a brooch. This was her constant attire. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:—

[Sidenote:—3—] "You have had actual experience of the difference between freedom and slavery. Hence, though some of you previously through ignorance of which was better may have been deceived by the alluring announcements of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both you have learned how great a mistake you made by preferring a self-imposed despotism to your ancestral mode of life. You have come to recognize how far superior is the poverty of independence to wealth in servitude. What treatment have we met with that is not most outrageous, that is not most grievous, ever since these men insinuated themselves into Britain? Have we not been deprived of our most numerous and our greatest possessions entire, while for what remains we must pay taxes? Besides pasturing and tilling all the various regions for them do we not contribute a yearly sum for our very bodies? How much better it would have been to be sold to masters once and for all than to ransom ourselves annually and possess empty names of freedom! How much better to have been slain and perish rather than go about with subservient heads! Yet what have I said? Even dying is not free from expense among them, and you know what fees we deposit on behalf of the dead. Throughout the rest of mankind death frees even those who are in slavery; only in the case of the Romans do the very dead live for their profit. Why is it that though none of us has any money,—and how or whence should we get it?,—we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer's victims? How should the Romans grow milder in process of time, when they have conducted themselves so toward us at the very start,—a period when all men show consideration for even newly captured beasts?

[Sidenote:—4—] "But, to tell the truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils in allowing them so much as to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them at once as we did their famous Julius Caesar,—yes, in not making the idea of attempting the voyage formidable to them, while they were as yet far off, as it was to Augustus and to Gaius Caligula. So great an island, or rather in one sense a continent encircled by water, do we inhabit, a veritable world of our own, and so far are we separated by the ocean from all the rest of mankind that we have been believed to dwell on a different earth and under a different sky and some of their wisest men were not previously sure of even our exact name. Yet for all this we have been scorned and trampled under foot by men who know naught else than how to secure gain. Still, let us even at this late day, if not before, fellow-citizens, friends and relatives,—for I deem you all relatives, in that you inhabit a single island and are called by [Footnote: Reading [Greek: chechlaemenous](van Herwerden).] one common name,—let us do our duty while the memory of freedom still abides within us, that we may leave both the name and the fact of it to our children. For if we utterly lose sight of the happy conditions amid which we were born and bred, what pray will they do, reared in bondage?

[Sidenote:—5—] "This I say not to inspire you with a hatred of present circumstances,—that hatred is already apparent,—nor with a fear of the future,—that fear you already have,—but to commend you because of your own accord you choose to do just what you ought, and to thank you for cooperating so readily with me and your own selves at once. Be nowise afraid of the Romans. They are not more numerous than are we nor yet braver. And the proof is that they have protected themselves with helmets and breastplates and greaves and furthermore have equipped their camps with palisades and walls and ditches to make sure that they shall suffer no harm by any hostile assault. [Footnote: Corruptions in the text emended by Reiske.] Their fears impel them to choose this method rather than engage in any active work like us. We enjoy such a superabundance of bravery that we regard tents as safer than walls and our shields as affording greater protection than their whole suits of mail. As a consequence, we when victorious can capture them and when overcome by force can elude them. And should we ever choose to retreat, we can conceal ourselves in swamps and mountains so inaccessible that we can be neither found nor taken. The enemy, however, can neither pursue any one by reason of their heavy armor nor yet flee. And if they ever should slip away from us, taking refuge in certain designated spots, there, too, they are sure to be enclosed as in a trap. These are some of the respects in which they are vastly inferior to us, and others are their inability to bear up under hunger, thirst, cold, or heat, as we can; for they require shade and protection, they require kneaded bread and wine and oil, and if the supply of any of these things fails them they simply perish. For us, on the other hand, any root or grass serves as bread, any plant juice as olive oil, any water as wine, any tree as a house. Indeed, this very region is to us an acquaintance and ally, but to them unknown and hostile. As for the rivers, we swim them naked, but they even with boats can not cross easily. Let us therefore go against them trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule dogs and wolves."

[Sidenote:—6—] At these words, employing a species of divination, she let a hare escape from her bosom, and as it ran in what they considered a lucky direction, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica raising her hand to heaven, spoke: "I thank thee, Andraste, [Footnote: Not much information is preserved regarding this indigenous goddess of Britain. Reimar asserts that she is practically identical with Boccharte, Astarte, or Venus.] and call upon thee, who are a woman, being myself also a woman that rules not burden-bearing Egyptians like Nitocris, nor merchant Assyrians like Semiramis (of these things we have heard from the Romans), nor even the Romans themselves, as did Messalina first and later Agrippina;—at present their chief is Nero, in name a man, in fact a woman, as is shown by his singing, his playing the cithara, his adorning himself:—but ruling as I do men of Britain that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade yet are thoroughly versed in the arts of war and hold all things common, even children and wives; wherefore the latter possess the same valor as the males: being therefore queen of such men and such women I supplicate and pray thee for victory and salvation and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious,—if, indeed we ought to term those creatures men who wash in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows (and past their prime at that), are slaves to a zither-player, yes, an inferior zither-player. Wherefore may this Domitia-Nero woman reign no more over you or over me: let the wench sing and play the despot over the Romans. They surely deserve to be in slavery to such a being whose tyranny they have patiently borne already this long time. But may we, mistress, ever look to thee alone as our head."

[Sidenote:—7—] After an harangue of this general nature Buduica led her army against the Romans. The latter chanced to be without a leader for the reason that Paulinus their commander had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I said, she wrought indescribable slaughter. Persons captured by the Britons underwent every form of most frightful treatment. The conquerors committed the most atrocious and bestial outrages. For instance, they hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women, cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, to make the victims appear to be eating them. After that they impaled them on sharp skewers run perpendicularly the whole length of the body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and exhibitions of insolence in all of their sacred places, but chiefly in the grove of Andate,—that being the name of their personification of Victory, to whom they paid the most excessive reverence.

[Sidenote:—8—] It happened that Paulinus had already brought Mona to terms; hence on learning of the disaster in Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. He was unwilling to risk a conflict with the barbarians immediately, for he feared their numbers and their frenzy; therefore he was for postponing the battle to a more convenient season. But as he grew short of food and the barbarians did not desist from pressing him hard, he was compelled, though contrary to his plan, to enter into an engagement with them. Buduica herself, heading an army of about twenty-three myriads of men, rode on a chariot and assigned the rest to their several stations. Now Paulinus could not extend his phalanx the width of her whole line, for, even if the men had been drawn up only one deep, they would not have stretched far enough, so inferior were they in numbers: nor did he dare to join battle with one compact force, for fear he should be surrounded and cut down. Accordingly, he separated his army into three divisions in order to fight at several points at once, and he made each of the divisions so strong that it could not easily be broken through. While ordering and arranging his men he likewise exhorted them, saying:

[Sidenote:—9—] "Up, fellow-soldiers! Up, men of Rome! Show these pests how much even in misfortune we surpass them. It is a shame for you now to lose ingloriously what but a short while ago you gained by your valor. Often have we ourselves and also our fathers with far fewer numbers than we have at the present conquered far more numerous antagonists. Fear not the host of them or their rebellion: their boldness rests on nothing better than headlong rashness unaided by arms and exercise. Fear not because they have set on fire a few cities: they took these not by force nor after a battle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned. Do you now exact from them the proper penalty for these deeds, that so they may learn by actual experience what they undertook when they wronged such men as us."

[Sidenote:—10—] After speaking these words to some he came to a second group and said: "Now is the occasion, now, fellow-soldiers, for zeal, for daring. If to-day you prove yourselves brave men, you will recover what has slipped from your grasp. If you overcome this enemy, no one else will any longer withstand us. By one such battle you will both make sure of your present possessions and subdue whatever is left. All soldiers stationed anywhere else will emulate you and foes will be terror-stricken. Therefore, since it is in your own hands either to rule fearlessly all mankind, both the nations that your fathers left under your control and those which you yourselves have gained in addition, or else to be bereft of them utterly, choose rather to be free, to rule, to live in wealth, to enjoy prosperity, than through indolence to suffer the reverse of these conditions."

[Sidenote:—11—] After making an address of this sort to the group in question, he came up to the third division and said also to them: "You have heard what sort of acts these wretches have committed against us, nay more, you have even seen some of them. Therefore choose either yourselves to suffer the same treatment as previous victims and furthermore to be driven entirely out of Britain, or else through victory to avenge those that perished and also to give to the rest of mankind an example of mild clemency toward the obedient, of necessary severity toward the rebellious. I entertain the highest hopes of victory for our side, counting on the following factors: first, the assistance of the gods; they usually cooperate with the party that has been wronged: second, our inherited bravery; we are Romans and have shown ourselves superior to all mankind in various instances of valor: next, our experience; we have defeated and subdued these very men that are now arrayed against us: last, our good name; it is not worthy opponents but our slaves with whom we are coming in conflict, persons who enjoyed freedom and self-government only so far as we allowed it. Yet even should the outcome prove contrary to our hope,—and I will not shrink from mentioning even this contingency,—it is better for us to fall fighting bravely than to be captured and impaled, to see our own entrails cut out, to be spitted on red hot skewers, to perish dissolved in boiling water, when we have fallen into the power of creatures that are very beasts, savage, lawless, godless. Let us therefore either beat them or die on the spot. Britain shall be a noble memorial to us, even though all subsequent Romans should be driven from it; for in any case our bodies shall forever possess the land."

[Sidenote:—12—] At the conclusion of exhortations of this sort and others like them he raised the signal for battle. Thereupon they approached each other, the barbarians making a great outcry intermingled with menacing incantations, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. Then, while the foe were advancing against them at a walk, the Romans started at a given word and charged them at full speed, and when the clash came easily broke through the opposing ranks; but, as they were surrounded by the great numbers, they had to be fighting everywhere at once. Their struggle took many forms. In the first place, light-armed troops might be in conflict with light-armed, heavy-armed be arrayed against heavy-armed, cavalry join issue with cavalry; and against the chariots of the barbarians the Roman archers would be contending. Again, the barbarians would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots, knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought without breastplates, would be themselves repulsed by the arrows. Horseman would upset foot-soldier, and foot-soldier strike down horseman; some, forming in close order, would go to meet the chariots, and others would be scattered by them; some would come to close quarters with the archers and rout them, whereas others were content to dodge their shafts at a distance: and all these things went on not at one spot, but in the three divisions at once. They contended for a long time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and daring. Finally, though late in the day, the Romans prevailed, having slain numbers in the battle, beside the wagons, or in the wood: they also captured many alive. Still, not a few made their escape and went on to prepare to fight a second time. Meanwhile, however, Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, as they themselves were this time really defeated, they scattered to their homes.—So far the history of affairs in Britain.

[Sidenote: A.D. 62 (a.u. 815)] [Sidenote:—13—] In Rome Nero had before this sent away Octavia Augusta, on account of his concubine Sabina, and subsequently he put her to death. This he did in spite of the opposition of Burrus, who tried to prevent his sending her away, and once said to him: "Well, then, give her back her dowry" (by which he meant the sovereignty). Indeed, Burrus used such unmitigated frankness that on one occasion, when he was asked by the emperor a second time for an opinion on matters regarding which he had already made clear his attitude, he answered bluntly: "When I have once had my say about anything, don't ask me again." So Nero disposed of him by poison. He also appointed to command the Pretorians a certain Ofonius Tigillinus, who outstripped all his contemporaries in licentiousness and bloodiness. [It was he who won Nero away from them and made light of his colleague Rufus.] [Footnote: Foenius Rufus.] To him the famous sentence of Pythias is said to have been directed. She had proved the only exception when all the other attendants of Octavia had joined Sabina in attacking their mistress, despising the one because she was in misfortune and toadying to the other because her influence was strong. Pythias alone had refused though cruelly tortured to utter lies against Octavia, and finally, as Tigillinus continued to urge her, she spat in his face, saying:

"My mistress's privy parts are cleaner, Tigillinus, than your mouth."

[Sidenote:—14—] The troubles of his relatives Nero turned into laughter and jest. For instance, after killing Plautus [Footnote: Rubellirs Plautus.] he took a look at his head when it was brought to him and remarked: "I didn't know he had such a big nose," as much as to say that he would have spared him, had he been aware of this fact beforehand. And though he spent practically his whole existence in tavern life, he forbade others to sell in taverns anything boiled save vegetables and pea-soup. He put Pallas out of the way because the latter had accumulated great wealth that could be counted by the ten thousand myriads. Likewise he was very liable to peevishness that showed in his behavior, and at such times he would not speak a word to his servants or freedmen but write on tablets whatever he wanted as well as any orders that he had to give them.

[Sidenote: A.D. 63 (a.u. 816)] [Sidenote:—15—] Indeed, when many of those who had gathered at Antium perished, Nero made that, too, an occasion for a festival.

A certain Thrasea gave his opinion to the effect that for a senator the extreme penalty should be exile.

[Sidenote: A.D. 64 (a.u. 817)] To such lengths did Nero's self-indulgence go that he actually drove chariots in public. Again, one time after the slaughter of beasts he straightway brought water into the theatre by means of pipes and produced a sea-fight: then he let the water out again and arranged a gladiatorial combat. Last of all he flooded the place once more and gave a costly public banquet. The person who had been appointed director of the banquet was Tigillinus, and a large and complete equipment had been furnished. The arrangements made were as follows. In the center and resting on the water were placed the great wooden wine vessels, over which boards had been fastened. Round about it had been built taverns and booths. Thus Nero and Tigillinus and their fellow-banqueters, being in the center, held their feast on purple carpets and soft mattresses, while all the other people caroused in the taverns. These also entered the brothels, where unrestrictedly they might enjoy absolutely any woman to be found there. Now the latter were some of the most beautiful and distinguished in the city, both slaves and free, some hetaerae, some virgins, some wives,—not merely, that is to say, public wenches, but both girls and women of the very noblest families. Every man was given authority to have whichever one he wished, for the women were not allowed to refuse any one. Consequently, the multitude being a regular rabble, they drank greedily and reveled in wanton conduct. So a slave debauched his mistress in the presence of his master and a gladiator ravished a girl of noble family while her father looked on. The shoving and striking and uproar that went on, first on the part of those who were going in and second on the part of those who stood around outside, was disgraceful. Many men met their death in these encounters, and of the women some were strangled and some were seized and carried off.

[Sidenote:—16—] After this Nero had the wish (or rather it had always been a fixed purpose of his) to make an end of the whole city and sovereignty during his lifetime. Priam he deemed wonderfully happy in that he had seen his country perish at the same moment as his authority. Accordingly he sent in different directions men feigning to be drunk or engaged in some indifferent species of rascality and at first had one or two or more blazes quietly kindled in different quarters: people, of course, fell into the utmost confusion, not being able to find any beginning of the trouble nor to put any end to it, and meanwhile they became aware of many strange sights and sounds. For soon there was nothing to be observed but many fires as in a camp, and no other phrases fell from men's lips but "This or that is burning "; "Where?"; "How?"; "Who set it?"; "To the rescue!" An extraordinary perturbation laid hold on all wherever they might be, and they ran about as if distracted, some in one direction and some in another. Some men in the midst of assisting their neighbors would learn that their own premises were on fire. Others received the first intimation of their own possessions being aflame when informed that they were destroyed. Persons would run from their houses into the lanes with some idea of being of assistance from the outside, or again they would dash into the dwellings from the streets, appearing to think they could accomplish something inside. The shouting and screaming of children, women, men, and graybeards all together were incessant, so that one could have no consciousness nor comprehension of anything by reason of the smoke and shouting combined. On this account some might be seen standing speechless, as if dumb. All this time many who were carrying out their goods and many more who were stealing what belonged to others kept encountering one another and falling over the merchandise. It was not possible to get anywhere, nor yet to stand still; but people pushed and were pushed back, they upset others and were themselves upset, many were suffocated, many were crushed: in fine, no evil that can possibly happen to men at such a crisis failed to befall them. They could not with ease find even any avenue of escape, and, if any one did save himself from some immediate danger, he usually fell into another one and was lost.

[Sidenote:—17—] This did not all take place on one day, but lasted for several days and nights together. Many houses were destroyed through lack of some one to defend them and many were set on fire in still more places by persons who presumably came to the rescue. For the soldiers (including the night watch), having an eye upon plunder, instead of extinguishing any blaze kindled greater conflagrations. While similar scenes were being enacted at various points a sudden wind caught the fire and swept it over whatever remained. Consequently no one concerned himself any longer about goods or houses, but all the survivors, standing in a place of safety, gazed upon what seemed to be many islands and cities burning. There was no longer any grief over individual losses, for it was swallowed up in the public lamentation, as men reminded one another how once before most of their city had been similarly laid waste by the Gauls. [Sidenote:—18—] While the whole population was in this state of mind and many crazed by the disaster were leaping into the blaze itself, Nero mounted to the roof of the palace, where nearly the whole conflagration could be taken in by a sweeping glance, and having assumed the lyrist's garb he sang the Taking (as he said) of Ilium, which, to the ordinary vision, however, appeared to be the Taking of Rome.

The calamity which the city at this time experienced has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the city were burned and countless human beings perished. The populace invoked curses upon Nero without intermission, not uttering his name but simply cursing those who had set the city on fire: and this was especially the case because they were disturbed by the memory of the oracle chanted in Tiberius's day. These were the words:—

"Thrice three hundred cycles of tireless years being ended, Civil strife shall the Romans destroy." [Footnote: Compare Book Fifty-seven, chapter 18.]

And when Nero by way of encouraging them reported that these verses were nowhere to be found, they changed and went to repeating another oracle, which they averred to be a genuine Sibylline production, namely:—

"Last of the sons of Aeneas a matricide shall govern."

And so it proved, whether this was actually revealed beforehand by some divination or whether the populace now for the first time gave it the form of a divine saying adapted to existing circumstances. For Nero was indeed the last emperor of the Julian line descended from Aeneas.

He now began to collect vast sums from both individuals and nations, sometimes using compulsion, with the conflagration for his excuse, and sometimes obtaining it by "voluntary" offers; and the mass of the Romans had the food supply fund withdrawn.

[Sidenote:—19—] While he was so engaged, he received news from Armenia and soon after a laurel wreath in honor of victory. The scattered bodies of soldiery in that region had been united by Corbulo, who trained them sedulously after a period of neglect, and then by the very report of his coming had terrified both Vologaesus, king of Parthia, and Tiridates, chief of Armenia. He resembled the primitive Romans in that besides coming of a brilliant family and besides possessing much strength of body he was still further gifted with a shrewd intelligence: and he behaved with great bravery, with great fairness, and with great good faith toward all, both friends and enemies. For these reasons Nero had despatched him to the scene of war in his own stead and had entrusted to him a larger force than to anybody else, being equally assured that the man would subdue the barbarians and would not revolt against him. And Corbulo proved neither of these assumptions false.

All other men, however, had it as a particular grievance against him that he kept faith with Nero. They were very anxious to get him as emperor in place of the actual despot, and this conduct of his seemed to them his only defect.

[Sidenote:—20—] Corbulo, accordingly, had taken Artaxata without a struggle and had razed the city to the ground. This exploit finished, he marched in the direction of Tigranocerta, sparing all the districts that yielded themselves but devastating the lands of all such as resisted him. Tigranocerta submitted to him voluntarily, and he performed other brilliant and glorious deeds, as a result of which he induced the formidable Vologaesus to accept terms that accorded with the Roman reputation. [For Vologaesus, on hearing that Nero had assigned Armenia to others and that Adiabene was being ravaged by Tigranes, made preparations himself to go on a campaign into Syria against Corbulo, but sent into Armenia Monobazus, king of Adiabene, and Monaeses, a Parthian. These two had shut up Tigranes in Tigranocerta. But since they did not succeed in harming him at all by their siege and as often as they tried conclusions with him were repulsed by both the native troops and the Romans that were in his army, and since Corbulo guarded Syria with extreme care, Vologaesus recognized the hopelessness of his attempt and disbanded his forces. Then he sent to Corbulo and obtained peace on condition that he send a new embassy to Nero, raise the siege, and withdraw his soldiers from Armenia. Nero made him no immediate nor speedy nor definite reply, but despatched Lucius Caesennius Paetus to Cappadocia to see to it that there should be no Armenian uprising.]

[Sidenote:—21—] [So Vologaesus attacked Tigranocerta and drove back Paetus, who had come to its aid. When the latter fled he pursued him, beat back the garrison left by Paetus at the Taurus, and shut him up in Rhandea, near the river Arsanias. Then he was on the point of retiring without accomplishing anything; for destitute as he was of heavy-armed soldiers he could not approach close to the wall, and he had no large stock of provender, particularly as he had come at the head of a vast host without making arrangements for food supplies. Paetus, however, stood in terror of his archery, which took effect in the very camp itself, as well as of the cavalry, which kept appearing at all points. Hence he made peace proposals to his antagonist, accepted his terms, and took an oath that he would himself abandon all of Armenia and that Nero should give it to Tiridates. The Parthian was satisfied enough with this agreement, seeing that he was to obtain control of the country without a contest and would be making the Romans his debtors for a very considerable kindness. And, as he learned that Corbulo (whom Paetus several times sent for before he was surrounded) was drawing near, he dismissed the beleaguered soldiers, having first made them agree to build a bridge over the river Arsanias for him. He was not really in need of a bridge, for he had crossed on foot, but he wished to give them a practical example of the fact that he was stronger than they. Indeed, he did not retire by way of the bridge even on this occasion, but rode across on an elephant, while the rest got over as before.

[Sidenote:—22—] The capitulation had scarcely been made when Corbulo with inconceivable swiftness reached the Euphrates and there waited for the retreating force. When the two armies approached each other you would have been struck with the difference between them and between their generals: one set were fairly aglow with delight at their rapidity; the others were grieved and ashamed of their compact. Vologaesus sent Monaeses to Corbulo with the demand that the newcomer should give up the fort in Mesopotamia. So they held a prolonged conference together right at the bridge crossing the Euphrates, after first destroying the center of the structure. Corbulo having promised to leave the country if the Parthian would also abandon Armenia, both of these things were done temporarily until Nero could learn the outcome of the engagements and begin negotiations with the envoys of Vologaesus, whom the latter had sent a second time. The answer given them by the emperor was that he would bestow Armenia upon Tiridates if this aspirant would come to Rome. Paetus was deposed from his command and the soldiers that had been with him were sent somewhere else. Corbulo was again assigned to the war against the same foes. Nero had intended to accompany the expedition in person, but after falling down during the ceremony of sacrificing he would not venture to go abroad but remained where he was.]

[Sidenote:—23—] [Corbulo therefore officially prepared for war upon Vologaesus and sent a centurion bidding him depart from the country. Privately, however, he suggested to the king that he send his brother to Rome, and this advice met with acceptance, since Corbulo seemed to have the stronger force. Thus it came about that they both, Corbulo and Tiridates, met at no other place than Rhandea, which suited them both. It appealed to the Parthian because there his people had cut off the Romans and had sent them away under a capitulation, a visible proof of the favor that had been done them. To the Roman it appealed because his men were going to wipe out the ill repute that had attached to them there before. For the meeting of the two was not limited merely to conversation; a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of crowds of Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and did them reverence; after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them. Monobazus and Vologaesus also came to Corbulo and gave him hostages. In honor of this event Nero was a number of times saluted as imperator and held a triumph, contrary to precedent.] But Corbulo in spite of the large force that he had and the very considerable reputation that he enjoyed did not rebel and was never accused of rebellion. He might easily have been made emperor, since men thoroughly detested Nero but all admired him in every way. [In addition to the more striking features of his submissive behavior he voluntarily sent to Rome his son-in-law Annius, who served as his lieutenant; this was done professedly that Annius might escort Tiridates back, but in fact this relative stood in the position of a hostage to Nero. The latter was so firmly persuaded that his general would not revolt that Corbulo obtained his son-in-law as lieutenant [Footnote: Reading [Greek: hyparchon] (Boissevain) for [Greek: hypaton].] before he had been praetor.]

[Sidenote: A.D. 65 (a.u. 818)] [Sidenote:—24—] Seneca, however, and Rufus the prefect and some other prominent men formed a plot against Nero. They could no longer endure his ignoble behavior, his licentiousness, and his cruelty. They desired at one and the same time to be rid of these evils and to give Nero his release from them. Indeed, Sulpicius Asper, a centurion, and Subrius Flavius, a military tribune, both belonging to the body-guards, admitted this to him point blank. Asper, when interrogated by the emperor as to the reason for his attempt, replied: "I could help you in no other way." And the response of Flavins was: "I both loved you and hated you above all men. I loved you, hoping that you would prove a good emperor: I have hated you because you do so-and-so. I can not be slave to charioteer or lyre-player."—Information was lodged and these men were punished, besides many others indirectly associated with them. Everything in the nature of a complaint that could be entertained against any one for excessive joy or grief, for words or gestures, was brought forward and was believed. Not one of these complaints, even if fictitious, could be refused credence in view of Nero's actual deeds. Hence conscienceless friends and house servants of some men flourished greatly. Persons guarded against strangers and foes,—for of these they were suspicious,—but were bound to expose themselves whether they would or no to their associates.

[Sidenote:—25—] It would be no small task to record details about most of those that perished, but the fate of Seneca needs a few words by itself. It was his wish to end the life of his wife Paulina at the same time with his own, for he declared that he had taught her to despise death and that she desired to leave the world in company with him. So he opened her veins as well as his own. As he failed, however, to yield readily to death, his end was hastened by the soldiers; and his dying so speedily enabled Paulina to survive. He did not lay hands upon himself, however, until he had revised the book which he had composed and had deposited with various persons certain other valued possessions which he feared might come into Nero's hands and be destroyed. Thus was Seneca forced to part with life in spite of the fact that he had on the pretext of illness abandoned the society of the emperor and had bestowed upon him his entire property, supposedly to help defray the expense of necessary building operations. His brothers, too, perished after him.

[Sidenote:—26—] Likewise Thrasea and Soranus, who had no superiors in family, wealth, and every excellence, met their death not because they were accused of conspiracy but because they were what they were. Against Soranus Publius Egnatius Celer, a philosopher, gave false evidence. The victim had had two associates,—Cassius Asclepiodotus of Nicaea and this Publius of Berytus. Now Asclepiodotus so far from speaking against Soranus bore witness to his noble qualities; he was at the time exiled for his pains, but later, under Galba, was restored. Publius in return for his services as blackmailer received money and honors (as did others of the same profession), but subsequently he was banished. Soranus was slain on the charge of having caused his daughter to employ a species of magic, the foundation for this story being that when he was sick his family had offered some sacrifices. Thrasea was executed for not appearing regularly at the senate-house, thus showing that he did not like the measures passed, for not listening to the emperor's singing and zither-playing, for not sacrificing to Nero's Divine Voice as did the rest, and for not giving any public exhibitions: for it was remarked that at Patavium, his native place, he had acted in a tragedy given in pursuance of some old custom at a festival held every thirty years. As he made the incision in his artery, he raised his hand, exclaiming: "To thee, Jupiter, patron of freedom, I pour this libation of blood."

[Sidenote:—27—] [And Junius Torquatus, a descendant of Augustus, made himself liable to a most strange indictment. He had squandered his property in a rather lavish way, whether following his native bent or with the intention of not being very rich. Nero therefore declared that, as he lacked many things, he must be covetous of the goods of others, and consequently caused a fictitious charge to be brought against him of aspiring to imperial power.]

And why should one be surprised that such complaints were fastened upon them, [Footnote: A slight gap in the MS. exists here, filled by a doubtful conjecture of Boissevain's.] seeing that one man [Footnote: Salvidienus Orfitus (according to Suetonius, Life of Nero, chap. 37).] was brought to trial and slain for living near the Forum, for letting out some shops, or for receiving a few friends in them; and another [Footnote: C. Cassius Longinus (ibid)..] because he possessed a likeness of Cassius, the murderer of Caesar?

The conduct of a woman named Epicharis also deserves mention. She had been included in the conspiracy and all its details had been trusted to her without reserve; yet she revealed none of these though often tortured in all the ways that the skill of Tigillinus could devise. And why should one enumerate the sums given to the Pretorians on the occasion of this conspiracy or the excessive honors voted to Nero and his friends? Let me say only that it led to the banishment of Rufus Musonius, the philosopher. Sabina also perished at this time through an act of Nero's. Either accidentally or intentionally he had given her a violent kick while she was pregnant.

[Sidenote:—28—] The extremes of luxury indulged in by this Sabina I will indicate in the briefest possible terms. She had gilded girths put upon the mules that carried her and caused five hundred asses that had recently foaled to be milked each day that she might bathe in their milk. She devoted great thought to making her person appear youthful and lustrously beautiful,—and with brilliant results; and this is why, not fancying her appearance in a mirror one day, she prayed that she might die before she passed her prime. Nero missed her so that [after her death, at first, on learning that there was a woman resembling her he sent for and kept this female: later] because a boy of the liberti class, named Sporus, resembled Sabina, he had him castrated and used him in every way like a woman; and in due time he formally married him though he [Nero] was already married to a freedman Pythagoras. He assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract, and Romans as well as others held a public celebration of their wedding.

While Nero had Sporus the eunuch as a wife, one of his associates in Rome, who had made a specialty of philosophy, on being asked whether the marriage and cohabitation in question met with his approval replied: "You do well, Caesar, to seek the company of such wives. If only your father had had the same ambition and had dwelt with a similar consort!"—indicating that if this had been the case, Nero would not have been born, and the government would have been relieved of great evils.

This was, however, later. At the time with which we are immediately concerned many, as I stated, were put to death and many who purchased their preservation with Tigillinus with a great price were released.

[Sidenote:—29—] Nero continued to commit many ridiculous acts, among which may be cited his descending at a kind of popular festival to the orchestra of the theatre, where he read some Trojan lays of his own: and in honor of these there were offered numerous sacrifices, as there were over everything else that he did. He was now making preparations to compile in verse a narration of all the achievements of the Romans: before composing any of it, however, he began to consider the proper number of books, and took as his adviser Annaeus Cornutus, who at this time was famed for his learning. This man he came very near putting to death and did deport to an island, because, while some were urging him to write four hundred books, Cornutus said that was too many and nobody would read them. And when some one objected: "Yet Chrysippus, whom you praise and imitate, has composed many more," the savant retorted: "But they are a help to the conduct of men's lives." So Cornutus was punished with exile for this. And Lucanus was enjoined from writing poetry because he was securing great praise for his work.


Nero, receiving Tiridates with imposing state, places a crown upon his head (chapters 1-7).

He journeys to Greece in order to become Periodonikes (chapters 8-10).

With the help of Tigillinus and Crispinilla he lays Greece waste: Helius and Polycletus perform the same office for Rome and Italy (chapters 11, 12).

Nero's marriages and abominations with Sporus and Pythagoras (chapter 13).

His victories and proclamation: frenzy against Apollo: hatred toward the senators (chapters 14, 15).

Digging a canal through the Isthmus (chapter 16).

Demise of the Scribonii, of Corbulo, of Paris, of the Sulpicii (chapters 17, 18).

At the solicitation of Helius, Nero returning conducts an Iselasticum triumph (chapters 19-21).

Vindex's conspiracy against Nero, and his extinction (chapters 22-24).

Rufus, saluted as Caesar and Augustus, refuses the sovereignty (chapter 25).

Nero's flight and demise (chapters 26-29).


C. Lucius Telesinus, C. Suetonius Paulinus. (A.D. 66 = a.u. 819 = Thirteenth of Nero, from Oct. 13th).

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