1 1 Meanwhile,1 the Parthian king Vologeses — apprized of Corbulo’s feats and the elevation of the alien Tigranes to the throne of Armenia, and anxious furthermore to take steps to avenge the slur cast upon the majesty of the Arsacian line by the expulsion of his brother Tiridates — was drawn, on the other hand, to different lines of thought by considerations of Roman power and by respect for a long-standing treaty.2 For he was by nature prone to temporize, and he was hampered by a revolt of the powerful Hyrcanian tribe and by the numerous campaigns which it involved. He was still in doubt, when news of a fresh indignity stung him into action: for Tigranes, emerging from Armenia, had ravaged the bordering country of Adiabene too widely and too long for a plundering foray, and the grandees of the nations were becoming restive; complaining that they had sunk to a point of humiliation where they could be harried, not even by a Roman general, but by the temerity of a hostage whom for years the enemy had counted among his chattels. Their resentment was inflamed by Monobazus, the ruling prince of Adiabene:— “What protection,” he kept demanding, “was he to seek? or from what quarter? Armenia had already been ceded; the adjacent country was following; and, if Parthia refused protection, then the Roman yoke pressed more lightly upon a surrendered than upon a conquered nation!” Tiridates too, dethroned and exiled, carried a weight increased by his silence or his restrained protests:— “Great empires were not conserved by inaction — they needed the conflict of men and arms. With princes might was the only right. To retain its own possessions was the virtue of a private family: in contending for those of others lay the glory of a king.”
2 1 Vologeses, accordingly, moved by all this, convened a council, installed Tiridates next to himself, and opened thus:— “This prince, the issue of the same father as myself, having renounced to me the supreme title upon grounds of age, I placed him in possession of Armenia, the recognized third degree of power; for Media had already fallen to Pacorus.3 And it seemed to me that, in contrast with the old brotherly hatreds and jealousies, I had by fair means brought order to our domestic hearth. The Romans forbid; and the peace, which they have never themselves challenged with success, they are now again breaking to their destruction. I shall not deny it: equity and not bloodshed, reason and not arms, were the means by which I should have preferred to retain the acquisitions of my fathers. If I have erred by hesitancy, I shall make amends by valour. In any event, your power and fame are intact; and you have added to them that character for moderation which is not to be scorned by the most exalted of mankind and is taken into account by Heaven.” — Therewith he bound the diadem on the brows of Tiridates. A body of cavalry, regularly in attendance on the king, was at hand: he transferred it to a noble named Monaeses, adding a number of Adiabenian auxiliaries, and commissioned him to eject Tigranes from Armenia; while he himself laid aside his quarrel with Hyrcania and called up his internal forces, with the full machinery of war, as a threat to the Roman provinces.
3 1 So soon as Corbulo had the news by sure messengers, he sent two legions under Verulanus Severus4 and Vettius Bolanus5 to reinforce Tigranes; with private instructions, however, that all their actions were to be circumspect rather than rapid; for in truth, he was more desirous to have war upon his hands than to wage it. Also he had written to Nero that a separate commander was required for the defence of Armenia: Syria, he observed, stood in the graver danger, if Vologeses attacked. In the interval, he stationed his remaining legion on the Euphrates bank, armed an improvised force of provincials, and closed the hostile avenues of approach by garrison-posts. Further, as the region is deficient in water, forts were thrown up to command the springs: a few brooks he buried under piles of sand.
4 1 While Corbulo was thus preparing for the defence of Syria, Monaeses, who had marched at full speed in order to outstrip the rumour of his coming, failed none the less to catch Tigranes unawares or off his guard. He had occupied Tigranocerta, a town formidable by the number of its defenders and the scale of its fortifications. In addition, a part of the walls is encircled by the Nicephorius,6 a river of respectable width; and a huge fosse had been drawn at points where the stream was not to be relied upon. Within lay Roman troops, and supplies to which attention had been given beforehand: that, in bringing them up, a few men had advanced too eagerly and been cut off by the sudden appearance of the enemy, had excited more anger than alarm in the remainder. But the Parthian lacks the boldness at close quarters demanded for the prosecution of a siege: he resorts to occasional flights of arrows, which both fail to terrify the garrison and delude himself. The Adiabeni,º on beginning to push forward their ladders and machines, were easily thrown back, then cut to pieces by a sally of our men.
5 1 Corbulo, however, favourably though matters were turning, decided not to press fortune too hard, and forwarded a protest to Vologeses:— “Violence had been offered to his province: siege was being laid to an allied and friendly monarch and to Roman cohorts. It would be better to raise the blockade, or he also would pitch his camp in hostile territory.”7 The centurion Casperius, who had been selected for the mission, approached the king at Nisibis,8 a town thirty-seven miles distant from Tigranocerta, and delivered his message with spirit. With Vologeses it was an old and deep-seated principle to avoid the Roman arms; nor at the moment was the current of events too smooth. The siege had been fruitless; Tigranes was safe with his garrison and supplies; the force which had undertaken to storm the position had been routed; legions had been sent into Armenia, and more stood ready on the Syrian frontier to take the offensive by an invasion. His own cavalry, he reflected, was incapacitated by lack of fodder; for a swarm of locusts9 had made its appearance and destroyed every trace of grass or foliage. Hence, while keeping his fears in the background, he adopted a milder tone, and replied that he would send ambassadors to the Roman emperor to discuss his application for Armenia and the establishment of peace on a firm footing. Monaeses he ordered to abandon Tigranocerta, while he himself began his retirement.
6 1 By the majority of men these results were being acclaimed as a triumph due to the fears of the king and to Corbulo’s threats. Others found the explanation in a private compact stipulating that, if hostilities were suspended on both sides and Vologeses withdrew, Tigranes would also make his exit from Armenia. “For why,” it was asked, “should the Roman army have been withdrawn from Tigranocerta? Why abandon in peace what they had defended in war? Was it an advantage to have wintered10upon the verge of Cappadocia in hastily erected hovels rather than in the capital of a kingdom which they had but lately saved? The fact was, the clash had been deferred, so that Vologeses might be pitted against another antagonist than Corbulo, and Corbulo risk no further the laurels earned in the course of so many years!” For, as I have related, he had demanded a separate general for the defence of Armenia, and it was heard that Caesennius Paetus11 was at hand. Before long he was on the spot, the forces being so divided that the fourth and twelfth legions, reinforced by the fifth, which had recently been called up from Moesia, and the auxiliaries of Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia, were placed at the orders of Paetus; the third, sixth, and tenth legions, and the old troops in Syria, remaining with Corbulo, while the rest were to be employed in conjunction or separately as the course of events should require. However, not only was Corbulo impatient of rivals, but Paetus, for whom it might have been glory enough to rank second to such a leader, treated his achievements with high disdain. “Bloodshed and booty,” he kept repeating, “there had been none; to speak of the storming of cities was nothing but a form of words it remained for himself to impose on the conquered tributes, laws, and Roman jurisdiction in place of a phantom king.”
7 1 Almost at the same time, the deputies of Vologeses, whose mission to the emperor I have already noticed, returned without result, and Parthia embarked upon undisguised war. Paetus did not evade the challenge, but with two legions — the fourth, at that time commanded by Funisulanus Vettonianus,12 and the twelfth, under Calavius Sabinus — entered Armenia under sinister auspices. For at the passage of the Euphrates,13 which the troops were crossing by a bridge, the horse carrying the consular insignia took fright for no obvious reason and escaped to the rear. A victim standing by in the winter camp,14 while it was being fortified, broke away, dashed through the half-completed works, and made its way of the entrenchments. Fire, too, played on the javelins of the troops — a prodigy the more striking that the Parthian is an enemy whose battles are decided by missiles.
8 1 Paetus, however, ignoring the portents, with his winter quarters still inadequately protected, and no provision made for his supply of grain, hurried the army across the Taurus range, with the avowed intention of recovering Tigranocerta and devastating the districts which Corbulo had left untouched. He took, in fact, a few fortified places, and gained a certain amount of glory and plunder, had he but accepted his glory with moderation or kept his plunder with vigilance. But, while he was overrunning in protracted marches districts impossible of retention, the grain he had captured was ruined, and winter began to threaten: he therefore led back the army, and, to give the impression that the war was now closed, indited a letter to the Caesar, as grandiloquently phrased as it was void of content.
9 1 In the meantime, Corbulo occupied the bank of the Euphrates,15 which he had never neglected, with a still closer line of posts; while, to ensure that the task of laying a pontoon should not be impeded by the mounted squadrons of the enemy — already an imposing spectacle, as they manoeuvred in the adjacent plains — he threw across the stream a number of large-sized vessels connected with planking and surmounted by turrets, and, using his catapults and ballistae, forced back the barbarians, the stones and spears being effective at a range with which the counter-discharge of arrows was unable to compete. The bridge was now complete, and the hills in front were occupied, first by the allied cohorts, then by a legionary camp, with a speed and a display of strength which induced the Parthians to drop their preparations for invading Syria and to stake their whole hopes upon Armenia; where Paetus, unconscious of the impending storm, was keeping the fifth legion sequestered in Pontus, and had weakened the rest16 by indiscriminate grants of furlough, till news came that Vologeses was on the march with a formidable and threatening array.
10 1 The twelfth legion was called to the scene,17 and the measure by which he had hoped to advertise the increase in his forces revealed their inadequacy. Even so, he might still have held the camp and foiled the Parthian by a strategy of delay, had he possessed the strength of mind to stand either by his own decisions or by the decisions of another. As it was, no sooner had the professional soldiers given him courage to face an urgent crisis than he changed front, and, reluctant to seem dependent on outside advice, passed over to the opposite and more disadvantageous course. So now, leaving his winter quarters and clamouring that not moat or rampart but men and arms were the means assigned him for dealing with a foe, he led on his legions as if to contest a pitched field; then, after the loss of one centurion and a few soldiers whom he had sent ahead to inspect the enemy’s force, he retraced his steps in trepidation. And as Vologeses had pressed the pursuit less keenly than he might, his inane self-confidence returned, and he posted three thousand picked infantry on the neighbouring heights of the Taurus, where they were to bar the passage of the king: the Pannonian squadrons, also, composing the flower of his cavalry, were stationed in a part of the plain. His wife and son found concealment in a fortress known as Arsamosata, to which he allowed a cohort by way of garrison; thus dispersing a force which, if concentrated, might have coped more effectively with its shifting adversary. Only with a struggle, it is said, could he be brought to admit the hostile pressure to Corbulo. Nor was there any haste on the part of Corbulo himself, who hoped that, if the dangers came to a head, the glory of a rescue would also be heightened. Still, he ordered a thousand men from each of the three legions, with eight hundred auxiliary horse, and a body of similar strength from the cohorts, to prepare themselves for the road.
11 1 Vologeses, on the other hand, though he had information that Paetus had beset the routes with infantry here and cavalry there, made no change in his plan, but by force and threats struck panic into the mounted squadrons and crushed the legionaries; of whom a solitary centurion, Tarquitius Crescens, had courage to defend the tower which he was garrisoning, repeating his sorties and cutting down the barbarians who ventured too close up, until he succumbed to showers of firebrands. The few infantrymen unhurt took their way to the distant wilds: the wounded made back for the camp, exulting in their fear the prowess of the king, the fierceness and numbers of the tribes, in one word everything, and finding easy belief among listeners agitated by the same alarms. Even the commander offered no resistance to adversity, but had abdicated all his military functions after sending a second petition to Corbulo:— “He must come quickly and save the eagles and standards, and the name which was all that was left of an unhappy army; they, meanwhile, would preserve their loyalty while life held out.”
12 1 Corbulo, undismayed, left part of his forces in Syria to hold the forts erected on the Euphrates, and made his way by the shortest route not destitute of supplies to the district of Commagene,18 then to Cappadocia, and from Cappadocia to Armenia. Over and above the usual appurtenances of war, the army was accompanied by a large train of camels loaded with corn,º so that he had means of defence as well against hunger as the enemy. The first of the beaten army whom he met was the leading centurion Paccius,19 soon followed by a crowd of private soldiers, whose contradictory excuses for their flight he answered by advising them to return to their standards and test the mercy of Paetus:— “For his own part, he was implacable, except to conquerors.” At the same time, he went up to his own legionaries, encouraged them, reminded them of their past, and pointed to fresh glory:— “Their goal was not the Armenian villages or towns, but a Roman camp and in it two legions as the reward of their labour. If the glorious wreath20 which commemorated the saving of a Roman life was conferred on the individual soldier by the hand of his emperor, how inestimable the meed of honour, when the rescued were seen to be in equal numbers with the rescuers!” Animated with a common alacrity by this appeal and others similar, the troops — some of whom, with brothers or relatives in danger, had incentives of their own to fire them — marched day and night at their best speed without a break.
13 1 With all the more vigour did Vologeses press the besieged, at one time threatening the legionary encampment, at another the fort which sheltered the non-combatants; venturing closer in than is usual with the Parthians, on the chance of luring the enemy to an engagement by his rashness. His opponents, however, could with difficulty be drawn from their quarters and confined themselves to defending the fortifications; some by command of the general, others from cowardice or a desire to wait for Corbulo, coupled with the reflection that, if the attack were pressed home, there were the precedents of the Caudine and Numantine disasters.21 “Nor, indeed,” they argued, “had the Samnites, a tribe of provincial Italy, the strength of the Parthians who rivalled imperial Rome. Even the stout and lauded ancients, whenever fortune registered an adverse verdict, had taken thought for their lives!” Beaten though he was by the despondency in the ranks, the general’s first letter to Vologeses was couched less in the terms of a petition than of a protest against his armed action on behalf of the Armenians, always under Roman suzerainty or subject to a king selected by the emperor. “Peace was an interest of both parties alike: the king must not look solely to the present — he had come up against a couple of legions with the full forces of his realm. Rome had the world in reserve, with which to support the war.”
14 1 Vologeses wrote an evasive reply, to the effect that he must wait for his brothers, Pacorus and Tiridates:— “This was the date and place they had arranged for considering what was to be their decision with regard to Armenia: Heaven had added a task worthy of the Arsacian house — that of settling at the same time the fate of Roman legions.” Messengers were then sent by Paetus, asking for an interview with the king, who ordered his cavalry-commander Vasaces to go. At the meeting, Paetus recalled the names of Lucullus and Pompey, and the various acts by which the Caesars had kept or given away the crown of Armenia; Vasaces, the fact that only a phantom power of retention or disposal rested with us — the reality was with Parthia. After much parleying on both sides, Monobazus of Adiabene was called in for the following day as witness to the arrangement concluded. The agreement was that the blockade of the legions should be raised, the whole of the troops withdrawn from Armenian territory, and the forts and supplies handed over to the Parthians. When all this had been consummated, Vologeses was to be accorded leave to send an embassy to Nero.
15 1 In the interval, Paetus threw a bridge over the river Arsanias (which ran hard past the camp), ostensibly to prepare himself a line of retreat in that direction, though the work had, in fact, been ordered by the Parthians as evidence of their victory: for it was they who utilized it — our men leaving by the opposite route. Rumour added that the legions had been •passed under the yoke; and other particulars were given, harmonizing well enough with our unfortunate position, and indeed paralleled by the behaviour of the Armenians. For not only did they enter the fortifications before the Roman column left, but they lined the roads, identifying and dragging off slaves or sumpter-animals which had been captured long before: even clothing was snatched and weapons detained, our terrified troops offering no resistance, lest some pretext for hostilities should emerge. Vologeses, after piling up the arms and corpses of the slain to serve as evidence of our disaster, abstained from viewing the flight of the legions: he was laying up a character for moderation, now that his arrogance had been satisfied. Mounted on an elephant, he charged through the stream of the Arsanias, while his immediate attendants followed with an effort on horseback; for a rumour had gained currency that the bridge, by a ruse of the constructors, would succumb beneath its burden. Those, however, who ventured upon it found it substantial and trustworthy.
16 1 For the rest, it is established that the beleaguered forces were so well supplied with corn that they set fire to their granaries; while, on the other hand, Corbulo has put it on record22 that the Parthians were on the point of raising the siege through the scarcity of supplies and the dwindling of the forage, and that he himself was not more than three days’ march distant. He adds that a sworn guarantee was given by Paetus, in face of the standards and in presence of witnesses deputed by the king, that not a Roman would enter Armenia until Nero’s despatch came to hand intimating whether he assented to the peace. This version was doubtless composed to darken the disgrace, but to the rest of the tale no obscurity attaches:— that in one day Paetus covered a distance of forty miles,23 abandoning his wounded everywhere; and that the panic-stricken rush of fugitives was not less ugly than if they had turned their backs on a field of battle. Corbulo, who met them with his own force on the bank of the Euphrates, made no such display of ensigns and arms as to turn the contrast into a reproach: the rank and file, gloomy and affected by the lot of their brother-soldiers, could not so much as restrain their tears; the military salute could hardly be exchanged for weeping. All rivalry in valour and all competition for glory, emotions confined to the fortunate, had taken their leave: pity alone held sway — more particularly among the inferior ranks.
17 1 Between the leaders followed a brief conversation, Corbulo complaining that his labour had been wasted — “the campaign might have been settled by a Parthian flight.” Paetus replied that with each of them the position was quite uncompromised; they had only to turn the eagles round, join forces, and invade Armenia, now enfeebled by the withdrawal of Vologeses. Corbulo “had no orders to that effect from the emperor: only because he was moved by the danger of the legions had he left his province; and, as the Parthian designs were quite uncertain, he would make his way back to Syria. Even so, he must pray for fortune to be at her kindest, if his infantry, outworn by their long marches, were to come up with active cavalry, almost sure to outstrip him along level and easy ground.” Paetus then took up his winter quarters in Cappadocia:24 Vologeses sent emissaries to Corbulo, proposing that he should withdraw his posts across the Euphrates and make the river as formerly a line of delimitation. The Roman demanded that Armenia should be similarly cleared of the various scattered garrisons. In the long run, the king gave way: Corbulo demolished his defensive works beyond the Euphrates, and the Armenians were left to their own devices.
18 1 But at Rome trophies over the Parthians and arches were being erected in the middle of the Capitoline Hill: they had been voted by the senate while the issue of the war was still open, and now they were not abandoned — appearances being consulted, though known truth had to be ignored. Moreover, to cloak his uneasiness as to the situation abroad, Nero had the grain for the populace — which had been spoilt by age — thrown into the Tiber, as proof that the corn-supply was not a matter for anxiety. The price was not raised, though some two hundred vessels actually in port25 had been destroyed by a raging tempest, and a hundred more, which had made their way up the Tiber, by a chance outbreak of fire. He proceeded to appoint three consulars, Lucius Piso, Ducenius Geminus, and Pompeius Paulinus, to supervise the contributions to the national treasury,26 adding a stricture on the previous emperors, “who with their ruinous expenditure had forestalled the legal revenue: personally, he was making the state a yearly present of sixty million sesterces.”27
19 1 There was a perverse custom in vogue at that period for childless candidates, shortly before an election or an allotment of provinces, to procure themselves sons by fictitious acts of adoption,28 then, after obtaining in their quality of fathers a praetorship or governorship, to emancipate immediately the adopted persons. The consequence was that the authentic heads of families made an embittered appeal to the senate. They dwelt on the rights of nature — the anxieties entailed by rearing children — as against the calculated frauds and ephemeral character of adoption. “It was ample compensation for the childless that, almost without a care and quite without responsibilities, they should have influence, honours, anything and everything, ready to their hand. In their own case, the promises of the law, for which they had waited so long, were converted into a mockery, when some person who had known parenthood without anxiety and childlessness without bereavement could overtake in a moment the long-cherished hopes of genuine fathers.” A senatorial decree was thereupon passed, ruling that a feigned adoption should not be a qualification for public office in any form, nor even a valid title for the acquiry of an inheritance.29
20 1 Now came the trial of the Cretan, Claudius Timarchus. The rest of the charges were those usual in the case of provincial magnates, whose excessive wealth prompts them to oppress their inferiors; but one remark of his had gone far enough to constitute an insult to the senate, as he was reported to have said more than once that it rested within his competency to determine whether the proconsuls who had been administering Crete should receive the thanks of the province. Turning the occasion to the profit of the state, Thrasea Paetus, after giving his opinion that the defendant should be exiled from Crete, proceeded:— “It has been proved by experience, Conscript Fathers, that in a community of honourable men excellent laws and salutary precedents may have their rise in the delinquencies of others. So, the licence of the advocates bore fruit in the Cincian rogation; the corruption of candidates, in the Julian laws; and the cupidity of officials, in the Calpurnian plebiscites;30 for, in the order of time, the fault must precede the chastisement, the reform follow the abuse. Let us, then, meet this new development of provincial arrogance by framing a decision consonant with Roman honour and firmness: a decision which, without detriment to the protection we owe to our allies, shall disabuse us of the idea that the reputation of a Roman may be settled elsewhere than in the judgement of his countrymen.
21 1 “There was a day, indeed, when we sent not merely a praetor or a consul, but private citizens, to visit the provinces and report upon the loyalty of each; and nations awaited in trepidation the verdict of an individual. But now we court foreigners; we flatter them; and, as at the nod of one or other among them, there is decreed a vote of thanks, so — with more alacrity — is decreed an impeachment. And let it be decreed! Leave the provincials the right to advertise their power in that fashion; but see that these hollow compliments, elicited by the entreaties of the receiver, are repressed as sternly as knavery or cruelty. Often we go further astray while we oblige than while we offend.31 In fact, certain virtues are a ground for hatred — unbending strictness and a breast impregnable to favouritism. Hence, the early days of our officials are usually the best; the falling off is at the end, when we begin, like candidates, to cast about for votes; and if that practice is vetoed, the provinces will be governed with more steadiness and consistency. For as rapacity has been tamed by fear of a trial for extortion, so will canvassing for popularity be curbed by the prohibition of votes of thanks.”
22 1 The proposal was greeted with loud assent: it proved impossible, however, to complete a decree, as the consuls declined to admit that there was a motion on the subject. Later, at the suggestion of the emperor, a rule was passed that no person should at a provincial diet propose the presentation in the senate of an address of thanks to a Caesarian or senatorial governor, and that no one should undertake the duties of such a deputation.
In the same consulate, the Gymnasium32 was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, a statue of Nero, which it contained, being melted into a shapeless piece of bronze. An earthquake also demolished to a large extent the populous Campanian town of Pompeii;33 and the debt of nature was paid by the Vestal Virgin Laelia, whose place was filled by the appointment of Cornelia, from the family of the Cossi.
23 1 In the consulate of Memmius Regulus34 and Verginius Rufus,35 Nero greeted a daughter, presented to him by Poppaea, with more than human joy, named the child Augusta, and bestowed the same title on Poppaea. The scene of her delivery was the colony of Antium, where the sovereign himself had seen the light. The senate had already commended the travail of Poppaea to the care of Heaven and formulated vows in the name of the state: they were now multiplied and paid. Public thanksgivings were added, and a Temple of Fertility was decreed, together with a contest on the model of the Actian festival;36 while golden effigies of the Two Fortunes37 were to be placed on the throne of Capitoline Jove, and, as the Julian race had its Circus Games at Bovillae,38 so at Antium should the Claudian and Domitian houses. But all was transitory, as the infant died in less than four months. Then fresh forms of adulation made their appearance, and she was voted the honour of deification, a place in the pulvinar,39 a temple, and a priest. The emperor, too, showed himself as incontinent in sorrow as in joy. It was noted that when the entire senate streamed towards Antium shortly after the birth, Thrasea, who was forbidden to attend, received the affront, prophetic of his impending slaughter, without emotion. Shortly afterwards, they say, came a remark of the Caesar, in which he boasted to Seneca that he was reconciled to Thrasea; and Seneca congratulated the Caesar: an incident which increased the fame, and the dangers, of those eminent men.
24 1 Meanwhile, at the beginning of spring, a Parthian legation brought a message from King Vologeses and a letter to the same purport:— “He was now dropping his earlier and often-vented claims to the possession of Armenia, since the gods, arbiters of the fate of nations however powerful, had transferred the ownership to Parthia, not without some humiliation to Rome. Only recently he had besieged Tigranes: a little later, when he might have crushed them, he had released Paetus and the legions with their lives. He had sufficiently demonstrated his power; he had also given an example of his clemency. Nor would Tiridates have declined to come to Rome and receive his diadem, were he not detained by the scruples attaching to his priesthood;40 he would visit the standards and the effigies of the emperor, there to inaugurate his reign in the presence of the legions.”41
25 1 As this missive from Vologeses could not be reconciled with Paetus’ report, which spoke of the situation as still uncompromised, the centurion who had arrived with the deputies was examined on the condition of Armenia, and replied that all Romans had left the country. The irony of the barbarians in asking for what had been taken was now obvious, and Nero held a council of state to decide the choice between a hazardous war and an ignominious peace. There was no hesitation about the verdict for war. Corbulo, familiar for years with his troops and his enemy, was put at the head of operations, lest there should be a fresh blunder from the incompetence of another substitute, seeing that Paetus had inspired complete disgust. The deputation was therefore sent back with its purpose unachieved, but with presents leaving room for hope that Tiridates would not make the same requests in vain, if he brought his suit in person. The administration of Syria was entrusted to Gaius Cestius, the military forces to Corbulo, with the addition of the fifteenth legion from Pannonia under the command of Marius Celsus.42 Instructions in writing were given to the tetrarchs43 and kings, the prefects and procurators, and the praetors in charge of the neighbouring provinces, to take their orders from Corbulo, whose powers were raised to nearly the same level as that allowed by the Roman nation to Pompey for the conduct of the Pirate War.44 When Paetus returned, with apprehensions of a graver cast, the Caesar contented himself with a jocular reprimand, the wording of which was roughly, that “he was pardoning him on the spot, lest a person with such a tendency to panic might fall ill if his suspense were protracted.”
26 1 Meanwhile Corbulo, who regarded the fourth and twelfth legions as incapacitated for active service by the loss of their bravest men and the demoralization of the rest, transferred them to Syria; whence he took the sixth and third legions, fresh troops, seasoned by numerous and successful labours, and led them into Armenia. He reinforced them with the fifth, which through being stationed in Pontus had escaped the disaster; also with the men of the fifteenth, recently brought up, and picked detachments from Illyricum and Egypt; with the whole of the allied horse and foot; and with auxiliaries of the tributary princes, concentrated at Melitene, where he was making ready for the passage of the Euphrates. Then, after the usual lustration, he convoked the army for an address, and opened with a florid reference to the auspices of the emperor and his own exploits, the reverses being attributed to the incompetence of Paetus: all with a weight which in a professional soldier was a fair substitute for eloquence.
27 1 Soon, he took the road along which Lucius Lucullus had once penetrated,45 first clearing the parts which time had obstructed. On the arrival of envoys from Vologeses and Tiridates to discuss a peace, instead of rejecting their overtures, he sent back in their company a few centurions with instructions not unconciliatory in tone:— “For matters had not yet come to a pass where war to the bitter end was necessary. Rome had been favoured with many successes, Parthia with a few, so that both had received a lesson against arrogance. Not only, therefore, was it to the advantage of Tiridates to accept the free gift of a realm untouched by the ravager, but Vologeses would better consult the interest of the Parthian nation by an alliance with Rome than by a policy of reciprocal injury. He knew how many were the internal discords of his kingdom — how intractable and fierce the peoples over whom he ruled. In contrast, his own emperor enjoyed unshaken peace everywhere, and this was his solitary war.” At the same time, he reinforced persuasion by terror, expelled from their homes the Armenian grandees who had been the first to rebel against us, and razed their strongholds, filling plain and mountain, strong and weak, with equal consternation.
28 1 The name of Corbulo was regarded by the barbarians themselves without bitterness and with no rancour of hostility: consequently they believed his advice to be trustworthy. Hence Vologeses, without showing himself inexorable on the main question, asked for a truce for certain prefectures:46 Tiber demanded a place and day for an interview. The date was to be early; for the place, the scene of the recent investment of Paetus and the legions was chosen by the barbarians in memory of their success there; and it was not avoided by Corbulo, who wished the contrast in fortune to enhance his fame. The slur upon Paetus gave him no qualms, as was very clearly shown by the fact that he ordered the defeated general’s son, a tribune, to put himself at the head of a few maniples and bury the relics of the disastrous field. On the day fixed upon, Tiberius Alexander,47 a Roman knight of the first rank, who had been appointed a commissioner for the campaign, and Annius Vinicianus,48 a son-in‑law of Corbulo, still under senatorial age,49 and acting legate in command of the fifth legion, entered the camp of Tiridates, partly out of compliment to him, but also, by such a pledge, to remove all fear of treachery. On each side twenty mounted men were then taken into attendance. On descrying Corbulo, the king was the first to leap from his horse; Corbulo was not slow to follow, and the pair clasped hands on foot.
29 1 The Roman then praised the young monarch, who had rejected adventure and was choosing the safe and salutary course: the other, after a long preface on the nobility of his family, proceeded temperately:— “He would go,” he said, “to Rome and carry the Caesar a new distinction — an Arsacid in the guise of a suppliant, though the fortunes of Parthia were unclouded.” It was then arranged that Tiridates should lay the emblem of his royalty before the statue of the emperor, to resume it only from the hand of Nero; and the dialogue was closed by a kiss. Then, after a few days’ interval, came in impressive pageant on both sides: on the one hand, cavalry ranged in squadrons and carrying their national decorations; on the other, columns of legionaries standing amid a glitter of eagles and standards and effigies of gods which gave the scene some resemblance to a temple: in the centre, the tribunal sustained a curule chair, and the chair a statue of Nero. To this Tiridates advanced, and, after the usual sacrifice of victims, lifted the diadem from his head and placed it at the feet of the image; arousing among all present a deep emotion increased by the picture of the slaughter or siege of Roman armies which was still imprinted on their eyes:— “But now the tide had turned: Tiridates was about to depart (how little less than a captive!) to be a gazing-stock to the nations!”
30 1 To his glories Corbulo added courtesy and a banquet; and upon the inquiries of the king, whenever he observed some novelty — the announcement, for instance, by a centurion of the beginning of the watches; the dismissal of the company by bugle-note; the application of a torch to fire the altar raised in front of the general’s pavilion — he so far exaggerated each point as to inspire him with admiration for our ancient customs. On the next day, Tiridates applied for a respite in which to visit his brothers and his mother before embarking on so long a journey: in the interval, he handed over his daughter as a hostage, together with a letter of petition to Nero.
31 1 On his departure, he found Pacorus in Media50 and Vologeses at Ecbatana51 — the latter not inattentive to his brother; for he had even requested Corbulo by special couriers that Tiridates should be exposed to none of the outward signs of vassalage, should not give up his sword,52 should not be debarred from embracing the provincial governors or be left to stand and wait at their doors, and in Rome should receive equal distinction with the consuls. Evidently, accustomed as he was to foreign pride, he lacked all knowledge of ourselves who prize the essentials of sovereignty and ignore his vanities.
32 1 In the same year, the Caesar placed the tribes of the Maritime Alps53 in possession of Latin privileges.54 To the Roman knights he assigned a place in the Circus in front of the popular seats — up to that date, the orders entered indiscriminately55 as the provisions of the Roscian law applied only to the “fourteen rows.” The same year witnessed a number of gladiatorial shows, equal in magnificence to their predecessors, though more women of rank and senators disgraced themselves in the arena.
33 1 In the consulate of Gaius Laecanius and Marcus Licinius, a desire that grew every day sharper impelled Nero to appear regularly on the public stage — hitherto he had sung in his palace or his gardens at the Juvenile Games,1 which now he began to scorn as thinly attended functions, too circumscribed for so ample a voice.2 Not daring, however, to take the first step at Rome, he fixed upon Naples as a Greek city:3 after so much preface, he reflected, he might cross into Achaia, win the glorious and time-hallowed crowns of song, and then, with heightened reputation, elicit the plaudits of his countrymen. Accordingly, a mob which had been collected from the town, together with spectators drawn by rumours of the event from the neighbouring colonies and municipalities, the suite which attends the emperor whether in compliment or upon various duties, and, in addition, a few maniples of soldiers, filled the Neapolitan theatre.
34 1 There an incident took place, sinister in the eyes of many, providential and a mark of divine favour in those of the sovereign; for, after the audience had left, the theatre, now empty, collapsed without injury to anyone. Therefore, celebrating in a set of verses his gratitude to Heaven, Nero — now bent on crossing the Adriatic — came to rest for the moment at Beneventum;4where a largely attended gladiatorial spectacle was being exhibited by Vatinius. Vatinius ranked among the foulest prodigies of that court; the product of a shoemaker’s shop, endowed with a misshapen body and a scurrile wit, he had been adopted at the outset as a target for buffoonery; then, by calumniating every man of decency, he acquired a power which made him in influence, in wealth, and in capacity for harm, pre-eminent even among villains.5
35 1 But though Nero might attend his show, even in the midst of the diversions there was no armistice from crime; for in those very days Torquatus Silanus6 was driven to die, because, not content with the nobility of the Junian house, he could point to the deified Augustus as his grandsire’s grandsire. The accusers had orders to charge him with a prodigal munificence which left him no hope but in revolution, and to insist, further, that he had officials among his freedmen whom he styled his Masters of Letters, Petitions, and Accounts7 — titles and rehearsals of the business of empire. Next, his confidential freedmen were arrested and removed; and Torquatus, finding his condemnation imminent, severed the arteries in his arms. There followed the usual speech from Nero, stating that, however guilty the defendant, however well founded his misgivings as to his defence, he should none the less have lived, if he had awaited the clemency of his judge.
36 1 Before long, giving up for the moment the idea of Greece (his reasons were a matter of doubt), he revisited the capital, his secret imaginations being now occupied with the eastern provinces, Egypt in particular. Then after asseverating by edict that his absence would not be for long, and that all departments of the state would remain as stable and prosperous as ever, he repaired to the Capitol in connection with his departure. There he performed his devotions; but, when he entered the temple of Vesta also, he began to quake in every limb, possibly from terror inspired by the deity, or possibly because the memory of his crimes never left him devoid of fear. He abandoned his project, therefore, with the excuse that all his interests weighed lighter with him than the love of his fatherland:— “He had seen the dejected looks of his countrymen: he could hear their whispered complaints against the long journey soon to be undertaken by one whose most limited excursions were insupportable to a people in the habit of drawing comfort under misfortune from the sight of their emperor. Consequently, as in private relationships the nearest pledges of affection were the dearest, so in public affairs the Roman people had the first call, and he must yield if it wished him to stay.” These and similar professions were much to the taste of the populace with its passion for amusements and its dread of a shortage of cornº (always the chief preoccupation) in the event of his absence. The senate and high aristocracy were in doubt whether his cruelty was more formidable at a distance or at close quarters: in the upshot, as is inevitable in all great terrors, they believed the worse possibility to be the one which had become a fact.
37 1 He himself, to create the impression that no place gave him equal pleasure with Rome, began to serve banquets in the public places and to treat the entire city as his palace. In point of extravagance and notoriety, the most celebrated of the feasts was that arranged by Tigellinus; which I shall describe as a type, instead of narrating time and again the monotonous tale of prodigality. He constructed, then, a raft on the Pool of Agrippa,8 and superimposed a banquet, to be set in motion by other craft acting as tugs. The vessels were gay with gold and ivory, and the oarsmen were catamites marshalled according to their ages and their libidinous attainments. He had collected birds and wild beasts from the ends of the earth, and marine animals from the ocean itself. On the quays of the lake stood brothels, filled with women of high rank; and, opposite, naked harlots met the view. First came obscene gestures and dances; then, as darkness advanced, the whole of the neighbouring grove, together with the dwelling-houses around, began to echo with song and to glitter with lights. Nero himself, defiled by every natural and unnatural lust had left no abomination in reserve with which to crown his vicious existence; except that, a few days later, he became, with the full rites of legitimate marriage, the wife of one of that herd of degenerates,9 who bore the name of Pythagoras. The veil was drawn over the imperial head, witnesses were despatched to the scene; the dowry, the couch of wedded love, the nuptial torches, were there: everything, in fine, which night enshrouds even if a woman is the bride, was left open to the view.
38 1 There followed a disaster, whether due to chance or to the malice of the sovereign is uncertain — for each version has its sponsors10 — but graver and more terrible than any other which has befallen this city by the ravages of fire. It took its rise in the part of the Circus touching the Palatine and Caelian Hills; where, among the shops packed with inflammable goods, the conflagration broke out, gathered strength in the same moment, and, impelled by the wind, swept the full length of the Circus: for there were neither mansions screened by boundary walls, nor temples surrounded by stone enclosures, nor obstructions of any description, to bar its progress. The flames, which in full career overran the level districts first, then shot up to the heights, and sank again to harry the lower parts, kept ahead of all remedial measures, the mischief travelling fast, and the town being an easy prey owing to the narrow, twisting lanes and formless streets typical of old Rome.11 In addition, shrieking and terrified women; fugitives stricken or immature in years; men consulting their own safety or the safety of others, as they dragged the infirm along or paused to wait for them, combined by their dilatoriness or their haste to impede everything. Often, while they glanced back to the rear, they were attacked on the flanks or in front; or, if they had made their escape into a neighbouring quarter, that also was involved in the flames, and even districts which they had believed remote from danger were found to be in the same plight. At last, irresolute what to avoid or what to seek, they crowded into the roads or threw themselves down in the fields: some who had lost the whole of their means — their daily bread included — chose to die, though the way of escape was open, and were followed by others, through love for the relatives whom they had proved unable to rescue. None ventured to combat the fire, as there were reiterated threats from a large number of persons who forbade extinction, and others were openly throwing firebrands12 and shouting that “they had their authority” — possibly in order to have a freer hand in looting, possibly from orders received.
39 1 Nero, who at the time was staying in Antium, did not return to the capital until the fire was nearing the house by which he had connected the Palatine with the Gardens of Maecenas.13 It proved impossible, however, to stop it from engulfing both the Palatine and the house and all their surroundings. Still, as a relief to the homeless and fugitive populace, he opened the Campus Martius, the buildings14 of Agrippa, even his own Gardens, and threw up a number of extemporized shelters to accommodate the helpless multitude. The necessities of life were brought up from Ostia and the neighbouring municipalities, and the price of grain was lowered to three sesterces. Yet his measures, popular as their character might be, failed of their effect; for the report had spread that, at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had mounted his private stage,15 and typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, had sung the destruction of Troy.
40 1 Only on the sixth day, was the conflagration brought to an end at the foot of the Esquiline, by demolishing the buildings over a vast area and opposing to the unabated fury of the flames a clear tract of ground and an open horizon. But fear had not yet been laid aside, nor had hope yet returned to the people, when the fire resumed its ravages; in the less congested parts of the city, however; so that, while the toll of human life was not so great, the destruction of temples and of porticoes dedicated to pleasure was on a wider scale. The second fire produced the greater scandal of the two, as it had broken out on Aemilian property16 of Tigellinus and appearances suggested that Nero was seeking the glory of founding a new capital and endowing it with his own name.17 Rome, in fact, is divided into fourteen regions, of which four remained intact, while three were laid level with the ground: in the other seven nothing survived but a few dilapidated and half-burned relics of houses.18
41 1 It would not be easy to attempt an estimate of the private dwellings, tenement-blocks, and temples, which were lost; but the flames consumed, in their old-world sanctity, the great altar and chapel of the Arcadian Evander to the Present Hercules, the shrine of Jupiter Stator vowed by Romulus, the Palace of Numa, and the holy place of Vesta with the Penates of the Roman people.19 To these must be added the precious trophies won upon so many fields, the glories of Greek art, and yet again the primitive and uncorrupted memorials of literary genius;20 so that, despite the striking beauty of the rearisen city, the older generation recollects much that it proved impossible to replace. There were those who noted that the first outbreak of the fire took place on the nineteenth of July, the anniversary of the capture and burning of Rome by the Senones: others have pushed their researches so far as to resolve the interval between the two fires into equal numbers of years, of months, and of days.21
42 1 However, Nero turned to account the ruins of his fatherland by building a palace,22 the marvels of which were to consist not so much in gems and gold, materials long familiar and vulgarized by luxury, as in fields and lakes and the air of solitude given by wooded ground alternating with clear tracts and open landscapes. The architects and engineers were Severus and Celer, who had the ingenuity and the courage to try the force of art even against the veto of nature and to fritter away the resources of a Caesar. They had undertaken to sink a navigable canal23 running from Lake Avernus to the mouths of the Tiber along a desolate shore or through intervening hills; for the one district along the route moist enough to yield a supply of water is the Pomptine Marsh;24 the rest being cliff and sand, which could be cut through, if at all, only by intolerable exertions for which no sufficient motive existed.25 None the less, Nero, with his passion for the incredible, made an effort to tunnel the height nearest the Avernus, and some evidences of that futile ambition survive.
43 1 In the capital, however, the districts spared by the palace were rebuilt, not, as after the Gallic fire, indiscriminately and piecemeal, but in measured lines of streets, with broad thoroughfares, buildings of restricted height, and open spaces, while colonnades were added as a protection to the front of the tenement-blocks. These colonnades Nero offered to erect at his own expense, and also to hand over the building-sites, clear of rubbish, to the owners. He made a further offer of rewards, proportioned to the rank and resources of the various claimants, and fixed a term within which houses or blocks of tenement must be completed, if the bounty was to be secured. As the receptacle of the refuse he settled upon the Ostian Marshes, and gave orders that vessels which had carried grain up the Tiber must run down-stream laden with débris. The buildings themselves, to an extent definitely specified, were to be solid, untimbered structures of Gabine or Alban stone,26 that particular stone being proof against fire. Again, there was to be a guard to ensure that the water-supply — intercepted by private lawlessnessa — should be available for public purposes in greater quantities and at more points; appliances for checking fire were to be kept by everyone in the open; there were to be no joint partitions between buildings, but each was to be surrounded by its own walls. These reforms, welcomed for their utility, were also beneficial to the appearance of the new capital. Still, there were those who held that the old form had been the more salubrious, as the narrow streets and high-built houses were not so easily penetrated by the rays of the sun; while now the broad expanses, with no protecting shadows, glowed under a more oppressive heat.
44 1 So far, the precautions taken were suggested by human prudence: now means were sought for appeasing deity, and application was made to the Sibylline books; at the injunction of which public prayers were offered to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpine, while Juno was propitiated by the matrons, first in the Capitol, then at the nearest point of the sea-shore, where water was drawn for sprinkling the temple and image of the goddess. Ritual banquets and all-night vigils were celebrated by women in the married state. But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices,27 whom the crowd styled Christians.28Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus,29 and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers30 were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race.31 And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his Gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.
45 1 Meanwhile, Italy had been laid waste for contributions of money; the provinces, the federate communities, and the so‑called free states, were ruined. The gods themselves formed part of the plunder, as the ravaged temples of the capital were drained of the gold dedicated in the triumphs or the vows, the prosperity or the fears, of the Roman nation at every epoch. But in Asia and Achaia, not offerings alone but the images of deity were being swept away, since Acratus and Carrinas Secundus had been despatched into the two provinces. The former was a freedman prepared for any enormity; the latter, as far as words went, was a master of Greek philosophy, but his character remained untinctured by the virtues. Seneca, it was rumoured, to divert the odium of sacrilege from himself, had asked leave to retire to a distant estate in the country, and, when it was not accorded, had feigned illness — a neuralgic affection, he said — and declined to leave his bedroom. Some have put it on record that, by the orders of Nero, poison had been prepared for him by one of his freedmen, Cleonicus by name; and that, owing either to the man’s revelations or to his own alarms, it was avoided by Seneca, who supported life upon an extremely simple diet of field fruits and, if thirst was insistent, spring water.
46 1 About the same time, an attempted outbreak of the gladiators at the town of Praeneste32 was quelled by the company of soldiers stationed as a guard upon the spot; not before the populace, allured and terrified as always by revolution, had turned its conversation to Spartacus33 and the calamities of the past. Not long afterwards, news was received of a naval disaster. War was not the cause (for at no other time had peace been so completely undisturbed), but Nero had ordered the fleet to return to Campania34 by a given date, no allowance being made for hazards of the sea. The helmsmen, therefore, in spite of a raging storm, stood out from Formiae; and, while attempting to round the promontory of Misenum, were driven by a south-west gale on to the beach at Cumae, losing a considerable number of triremes and smaller vessels in crowds.
47 1 At the close of the year, report was busy with portents heralding disaster to come — lightning-flashes in numbers never exceeded, a comet (a phenomenon to which Nero always made atonement in noble blood); two-headed embryos, human or of the other animals, thrown out in public or discovered in the sacrifices where it is the rule to kill pregnant victims. Again, in the territory of Placentia,35 a calf was born close to the road with the head grown to a leg; and there followed an interpretation of the soothsayers, stating that another head was being prepared for the world; but it would be neither strong nor secret, as it had been repressed in the womb, and had been brought forth at the wayside.
48 1 Silius Nerva and Vestinus Atticus then entered upon their consulate — the year of a conspiracy, no sooner hatched than full-grown,1 for which senators, knights, soldiers, and women themselves had vied in giving their names, not simply through hatred of Nero, but also through partiality for Gaius Piso.2 Piso, sprung from the Calpurnian house, and, by his father’s high descent, uniting in his own person many families of distinction, enjoyed with the multitude a shining reputation for virtue, or for spectacular qualities resembling virtues.3 For he exercised his eloquence in the defence of his fellow-citizens, his liberality in the service of his friends; and even with strangers his conversation and intercourse were marked by courtesy. He was favoured also with those gifts of chance, a tall figure and handsome features. But weight of character and continence in pleasure were absent: he gave full scope to frivolity, to ostentation, and at times to debauchery — a trait which was approved by that majority of men, who, in view of the manifold allurements of vice, desire no strictness or marked audacity in the head of the state.
49 1 The beginning of the conspiracy did not come from his own wish. At the same time, it is not easy for me to say who was its original author, whose the initiative that called into being a project which so many embraced. That its most resolute adherents had been found in Subrius Flavus, the tribune of a praetorian cohort, and the centurion Sulpicius Asper, was proved by the firmness of their end; while Annaeus Lucanus and Plautius Lateranus4 contributed the vivacity of their hatreds. Lucan had private motives to inflame him, since Nero was stifling the reputation of his poems and had ordered him not to seek publicity — for he had the vanity to count himself his peer. Lateranus, a consul designate, was brought to the cause, not by an injury, but by affection for the commonwealth. On the other hand, Flavius Scaevinus and Afranius Quintianus, both of senatorial rank, belied their repute when they took the lead in so desperate an enterprise. For the mental powers of Scaevinus had been wrecked by debauchery, and his life was one of corresponding languor and somnolence; Quintianus, a notorious degenerate, had been attacked by Nero in a scurrilous poem, and was now intent upon avenging the affront.
50 1 Scattering allusions, therefore, among themselves or their friends to the crimes of the sovereign, the approaching dissolution of the empire, the need of choosing the saviour of an outworn society, they gathered to their number Claudius Senecio, Cervarius Proculus, Vulcacius Araricus, Julius Augurinus, Munatius Gratus, Antonius Natalis, and Marcius Festus, all Roman knights. Of these, Senecio, one of Nero’s chief familiars,5 maintained even then a semblance of friendship, and was exposed in consequence to a larger variety of dangers: Natalis was the partner of Piso in all his secret counsels; the rest were seeking hope from revolution. In addition to Subrius and Sulpicius, who have been noticed already, Gavius Silanus and Statius Proxumus, tribunes of the praetorian cohorts, together with the centurions Maximus Scaurus and Venetus Paulus, were called in as men of the sword. Their main strength, however, was considered to lie in Faenius Rufus,6 the prefect, whose estimable life and character were, in the prince’s favour, outweighed by the ferocity and lust of Tigellinus; who persecuted him with calumnies and had repeatedly awakened his alarm by describing him as the paramour of Agrippina, still mourning her, and determined upon vengeance. Hence, when his own reiterated statements had convinced the plotters that the commander of the Praetorian Guard had himself entered the lists, they began to show more alacrity in debating the time and place of the assassination. It was asserted that Subrius Flavus had conceived an impulse to attack Nero while he was singing on the stage, or while, during the burning of the palace, he was rushing unguarded from place to place in the night. In one case, there were the opportunities of solitude: in the other, the very presence of a crowd, to be the fairest witness of such an exploit, had fired his imagination; only the desire of escape, that eternal enemy of high emprises, gave him pause.
51 1 In the meantime, while they were still hesitating, reluctant to abridge the period of hope and fear, a certain Epicharis, who had gained her information by means unknown — she had never previously shown interest in anything honourable — began to animate and upbraid the conspirators. Finally, wearied of their slowness and happening to be in Campania, she made an effort to undermine the loyalty of the fleet officers at Misenum and to implicate them in the plot. The beginning of the intrigue was this. In the squadron was a ship-captain, Volusius Proculus, one of Nero’s agents in the assassination of his mother, but not (he considered) promoted as the importance of the crime deserved. This person, as a former acquaintance of the woman (or possibly the friendship may have been of recent growth), disclosed what his services to Nero had been, and how thankless they had proved, then proceeded to complaints and to a declared intention of settling the account, should occasion offer. He thus gave hope that he might be influenced and win fresh adherents. The help of the fleet, it was reflected, was no slight matter; and opportunities must be plentiful, as Nero delighted in frequent excursions by sea in the neighbourhood of Puteoli and Misenum. Epicharis therefore went further, and entered upon a catalogue of the emperor’s crimes:— “Nothing was left either for the senate <or for the people>! But a way had been provided by which he might pay the penalty for the ruin of his country. Proculus had only to gird himself to do his part, bring over his most resolute men to the cause, and look forward to a worthy reward.” On the names of the conspirators, however, she observed silence; with the result that Proculus though he reported what he had heard to Nero, made his disclosure in vain. For Epicharis was summoned, confronted with the informer, and in the absence of corresponding evidence silenced him with ease. Still, she was herself detained in custody, Nero having a suspicion that the statements, even if not demonstrated to be true, were not therefore false.
52 1 The plotters, however, moved by the fear of betrayal, decided to hasten on the murder at Baiae in a villa belonging to Piso — its charms had a fascination for the Caesar, who came frequently and indulged in the bath or the banquet, dispensing with his guards and the tedious magnificence of his rank. But Piso refused, his pretext being the odium which must be faced, “if they stained with the blood of an emperor, however contemptible, the sanctities of the guest-table and the gods of hospitality. Better in the capital, in that hated palace reared from the spoils of his countrymen, or under the public gaze, to do the deed they had undertaken for the public good.” This was for the general ear; actually he had an unconfessed misgiving that Lucius Silanus7 — who, thanks to his exalted lineage and to the training of Gaius Cassius, with whom he had been educated, stood high enough for any dignity — might grasp at the empire; which would be promptly offered to him by the persons who had held aloof from the plot or who pitied Nero as the victim of a murder. It was commonly believed that Piso had intended at the same time to evade the energy of the consul Vestinus, lest he should arise as the champion of liberty, or, by selecting another as emperor, convert the state into a gift of his own bestowing. For in the conspiracy he had no part, though conspiracy was the charge on which Nero satisfied his old hatred of an innocent man.
53 1 At last they resolved to execute their purpose on the day of the Circensian Games when the celebration is in honour of Ceres;8 as the emperor who rarely left home and secluded himself in his palace or gardens, went regularly to the exhibitions in the Circus and could be approached with comparative ease owing to the gaiety of the spectacle. They had arranged a set programme for the plot. Lateranus, as though asking financial help, would fall in an attitude of entreaty at the emperor’s feet, overturn him while off his guard, and hold him down, being as he was a man of intrepid character and a giant physically. Then, as the victim lay prostrate and pinned, the tribunes, the centurions, and any of the rest who had daring enough, were to run up and do him to death; the part of protagonist being claimed by Scaevinus, who had taken down a dagger from the temple of Safety — of Fortune, according to other accounts — in the town of Ferentinum,9 and wore it regularly as the instrument sanctified to a great work. In the interval, Piso was to wait in the temple of Ceres; from which he would be summoned by the prefect Faenius and the others and carried to the camp: he would be accompanied by Claudius’ daughter10 Antonia, with a view to eliciting the approval of the crowd. This is the statement of Pliny. For my own part, whatever his assertion may be worth, I was not inclined to suppress it, absurd as it may seem that either Antonia should have staked her name and safety on an empty expectation, or Piso, notoriously devoted to his wife, should have pledged himself to another marriage — unless, indeed, the lust of power burns more fiercely than all emotions combined.
54 1 It is surprising, none the less, how in this mixture of ranks and classes, ages and sexes, rich and poor, the whole affair was kept in secrecy, till the betrayal came from the house of Scaevinus.11 On the day before the attempt, he had a long conversation with Antonius Natalis, after which he returned home, sealed his will, and taking the dagger, mentioned above, from the sheath, complained that it was to be rubbed on a whetstone till the edge glittered: this task he entrusted to his freedman Milichus. At the same time, he began a more elaborate dinner than usual, and presented his favourite slaves with their liberty, or, in some cases, with money. He himself was moody, and obviously deep in thought, though he kept up a disconnected conversation which affected cheerfulness. At last, he gave the word that bandages for wounds and appliances for stopping haemorrhage were to be made ready. The instructions were again addressed to Milichus: possibly he was aware of the conspiracy, and had so far kept faith; possibly, as the general account goes, he knew nothing, and caught his first suspicions at that moment. About the sequel there is unanimity. For when his slavish brain considered the wages of treason, and unbounded wealth and power floated in the same instant before his eyes, conscience, the safety of his patron, the memory of the liberty he had received, withdrew into the background. For he had also taken his wife’s counsel. It was feminine and baser; for she held before him the further motive of fear, and pointed out that numbers of freedmen and slaves had been standing by, who had witnessed the same incidents as himself:— “One man’s silence would profit nothing; but one man would handle the rewards — he who won the race to give information.”
55 1 At the break of day, then, Milichus went straight to the Servilian Gardens.12 He was turned from the door; but, on insisting that he was the bearer of great and terrible news, was escorted by the porters to Nero’s freedman Epaphroditus,13 and by him in due course to Nero, whom he informed of the urgency of the danger, of the desperate character of the conspirators, and of all else that he had heard or conjectured. He also showed the weapon prepared for the assassination, and demanded that the accused should be summoned. Scaevinus was hurried to the spot by soldiers, and opened his defence by replying that “the weapon charged against him had long been regarded with veneration by his family, had been kept in his bedroom, and had been purloined by the knavery of his freedman. The tablets of his will he had quite often sealed, and without taking any particular notice of the days. He had previously made grants of money or freedom to his slaves; but this time more liberally, for the simple reason that his means were now slender, and, with his creditors pressing, he had misgivings about his will. As to his table, it had always been generously provided: his life had been on pleasant lines, and hardly to the taste of austere critics. There had been no bandages for wounds of his ordering, but the accuser — whose other allegations had been patently futile — was adding a charge in which he could play informer and witness alike.” He followed up his words with a display of spirit, and attacked the freedman as an unspeakable villain, with so much assurance of look and tone that the informer’s tale was on the point of collapse, had not his wife reminded Milichus that Antonius Navalis had had a long and secret interview with Scaevinus, and that both were on intimate terms with Gaius Piso.
56 1 Natalis accordingly was summoned, and the two were separately questioned as to the nature and the subject of the conversation. Suspicion was now awakened, as their answers failed to tally, and they were thrown into irons. At the sight and threat of torture they broke down. Natalis, however, took the lead. Better acquainted with the conspiracy as a whole, and at the same time more adroit as an accuser, he first admitted the case against Piso, then went on to name Annaeus Seneca, perhaps because he had acted as intermediate between him and Piso, or perhaps to win the good graces of Nero; who, in his hatred of Seneca, grasped at all methods of suppressing him. Then, when Natalis’ disclosure became known, Scaevinus himself, with similar weakness, — or else in the belief that all had been told and there was no profit in silence, — divulged the rest of the confederates. Of these, Lucan, Quintianus, and Senecio, long denied the charge: at last, bribed by a promise of impunity, and by way of excuse for their slowness, they gave the names, Lucan of his mother Acilia; Quintianus and Senecio, of their principal friends — Glitius Gallus and Annius Pollio respectively.
57 1 In the meantime, Nero recollected that Epicharis was in custody on the information of Volusius Proculus; and, assuming that female flesh and blood must be unequal to the pain, he ordered her to be racked. But neither the lash nor fire, nor yet the anger of the torturers, who redoubled their efforts rather than be braved by a woman, broke down her denial of the allegations. Thus the first day of torment had been defied. On the next, as she was being dragged back in a chair to a repetition of the agony — her dislocated limbs were unable to support her — she fastened the breast-band (which she had stripped from her bosom) in a sort of noose to the canopy of the chair, thrust her neck into it, and, throwing the weight of her body into the effort, squeezed out such feeble breath as remained to her. An emancipated slave and a woman, by shielding, under this dire coercion, men unconnected with her and all but unknown, she had set an example which shone the brighter at a time when persons freeborn and male, Roman knights and senators, untouched by the torture, were betraying each his nearest and his dearest. For Lucan himself, and Senecio and Quintianus, did not omit to disclose their confederates wholesale; while Nero’s terror grew from more to more, though he had multiplied the strength of the guards surrounding his person.
58 1 He went further, and laid the very capital under a species of arrest: maniples held the walls; the sea and the river themselves were occupied. And through squares and houses, even through the country districts and nearest towns, flitted footmen and horsemen, interspersed with Germans,14 trusted by the emperor because they were foreign. Then followed continuous columns of manacled men, dragged and deposited at the garden doors.15 And when they entered to plead their cause, cheerfulness towards a plotter, a chance conversation, an unforeseen meeting, an appearance at a banquet or spectacle in his company, were taken as crimes; while, over and above the pitiless cross-questioning of Nero and Tigellinus, there were the truculent attacks of Faenius Rufus, not yet named by the informers, and struggling to demonstrate his ignorance by browbeating his allies. It was the same Rufus who, when Subrius Flavus at his side inquired by a motion if he should draw his sword and do the bloody deed during the actual inquiry, shook his head and checked the impulse which was already carrying his hand to his hilt.
59 1 There were those who, after the betrayal of the plot, while Milichus was still in audience, Scaevinus still wavering, urged Piso to make his way to the camp or mount the Rostra, and sound the dispositions of the troops and the people:— “If his confederates rallied to his attempt, outsiders too would follow; and the movement so started would be trumpeted abroad — a point of prime importance in planning revolutions. Nero had taken no precautions against a step of this kind. Even brave men could lose their nerve in emergencies: what likelihood that his play-actor, accompanied no doubt by Tigellinus and his lemans, would answer force with force? Many things which to the timid looked arduous were accomplished on attempt. It was idle to look for silence and good faith in the minds and persons of many accomplices: torture or gold would find a way through anything! The men would come who would bind him also and put him at last to an unworthy death. How much more honourably would he perish in the act of taking his country to his heart — of invoking help for liberty! Sooner let the soldiers hold aloof and the commons forsake him, provided that he himself, were his life to be cut short, justified his death in the sight of his ancestors and of his descendants.” Piso, unmoved by all this, spent a short time in public, then secluded himself at home, and steeled his spirit against the end, until a body of troops arrived, recruits or men new to the service, and chosen as such by Nero, the veterans being distrusted as tainted by partisanship. His mode of death was to sever the arteries of each arm. His will, marked by disgusting flatteries of Nero, was a concession to his love for his wife, whom, low-born as she was and recommended only by physical beauty, he had stolen from the bed of one of his friends. The woman was named Satria Galla, her former husband Domitius Silius; and by the complaisance of the latter and the profligacy of the former Piso’s infamy was kept alive.16
60 1 The next killing, that of the consul designate Plautius Lateranus, was added by Nero to the list with such speed that he allowed him neither to embrace his children nor the usual moment’s respite in which to choose his death. Dragged to the place reserved for the execution of slaves,17 he was slaughtered by the hand of the tribune Statius, resolutely silent and disdaining to reproach the tribune with his complicity in the same affair.
There followed the murder of Annaeus Seneca, a joyful event to the sovereign: not that he had established his connection with the plot, but, as poison had not worked, he was anxious to proceed by the sword. Only Natalis, in fact, mentioned Seneca; nor did his statement go further than that he had been sent to visit him when sick and to make a complaint:— “Why did he close his door on Piso? It would be better if they cultivated their friendship by meeting on intimate terms.” Seneca’s answer had been that “spoken exchanges and frequent interviews were to the advantage of neither; still, his own existence depended on the safety of Piso.” Gavius Silvanus, tribune of a praetorian cohort, was instructed to take this report and ask Seneca if he admitted Natalis’ words and his own reply. By accident or design, Seneca that day had returned from Campania and broke his journey at one of his country-houses four miles out of Rome. Evening was near when the tribune arrived and surrounded the villa with pickets of soldiers: then he delivered the imperial message to the owner, who was dining with his wife Pompeia Paulina and two friends.
61 1 Seneca rejoined that “Natalis had been sent to him, and had remonstrated in Piso’s name against his refusal to receive his visits. By way of excuse, he had pleaded considerations of health and love of quiet. He had had no reason for ranking the security of a private person higher than his own safety, and his temper was not one which was quick to flattery: no one was better aware of that than Nero, who had more often experienced the frankness of Seneca than his servility.”18 When the tribune made his report in the presence of Poppaea and Tigellinus — the emperor’s privy council in his ferocious moods — Nero demanded if Seneca was preparing for a voluntary death. The officer then assured him that there were no evidences of alarm, and that he had not detected any sadness in his words or looks. He was therefore directed to go back and pronounce the death-sentence. Fabius Rusticus19 states that, instead of returning by the road he had come, the tribune went out of his way to the prefect Faenius, and, after recapitulating the Caesar’s orders, asked if he should obey them; only to be advised by Faenius to carry them out. Fate had made cowards of them all. For Silvanus, too, was numbered with the plotters; and now he was engaged in adding to the crimes he had conspired to avenge. However, he was so far considerate of his voice and his eyes as to send one of his centurions in to Seneca, to announce the last necessity.
62 1 Seneca, nothing daunted, asked for the tablets containing his will. The centurion refusing, he turned to his friends, and called them to witness that “as he was prevented from showing his gratitude for their services, he left them his sole but fairest possession — the image of his life. If they bore it in mind, they would reap the reward of their loyal friendship in the credit accorded to virtuous accomplishments.” At the same time, he recalled them from tears to fortitude, sometimes conversationally, sometimes in sterner, almost coercive tones. “Where,” he asked, “were the maxims of your philosophy? Where that reasoned attitude towards impending evils which they had studied through so many years? For to whom had Nero’s cruelty been unknown? Nor was anything left him, after the killing of his mother and his brother, but to add the murder of his guardian and preceptor.”
63 1 After these and some similar remarks, which might have been meant for a wider audience, he embraced his wife, and, softening momentarily in view of the terrors at present threatening her, begged her, conjured her, to moderate her grief — not to take it upon her for ever, but in contemplating the life he had spent in virtue to find legitimate solace for the loss of her husband. Paulina replied by assuring him that she too had made death her choice, and she demanded her part in the executioner’s stroke. Seneca, not wishing to stand in the way of her glory, and influenced also by his affection, that he might not leave the woman who enjoyed his whole-hearted love exposed to outrage, now said: “I had shown you the mitigations of life, you prefer the distinction of death: I shall not grudge your setting that example. May the courage of this brave ending be divided equally between us both, but may more of fame attend your own departure!” Aforesaid, they made the incision in their arms with a single cut. Seneca, since his aged body, emaciated further by frugal living, gave slow escape to the blood, severed as well the arteries in the leg and behind the knee.20 Exhausted by the racking pains, and anxious lest his sufferings might break down the spirit of his wife, and he himself lapse into weakness at the sight of her agony, he persuaded her to withdraw into another bedroom. And since, even at the last moment his eloquence remained at command, he called his secretaries, and dictated a long discourse, which has been given to the public in his own words, and which I therefore refrain from modifying.
64 1 Nero, however, who had no private animosity against Paulina, and did not wish to increase the odium of his cruelty, ordered her suicide to be arrested. Under instructions from the military, her slaves and freedmen bandaged her arms and checked the bleeding — whether without her knowledge is uncertain. For, with the usual readiness of the multitude to think the worst, there were those who believed that, so long as she feared an implacable Nero, she had sought the credit of sharing her husband’s fate, and then, when a milder prospect offered itself, had succumbed to the blandishments of life. To that life she added a few more years — laudably faithful to her husband’s memory and blanched in face and limb to a pallor which showed how great had been the drain upon her vital powers. Seneca, in the meantime, as death continued to be protracted and slow, asked Statius Annaeus, who had long held his confidence as a loyal friend and a skilful doctor, to produce the poison — it had been provided much earlier — which was used for despatching prisoners condemned by the public tribunal of Athens.21 It was brought, and he swallowed it, but to no purpose; his limbs were already cold, and his system closed to the action of the drug. In the last resort, he entered a vessel of heated water, sprinkling some on the slaves nearest, with the remark that he offered the liquid as a drink-offering to Jove the Liberator.22 He was then lifted into a bath, suffocated by the vapour, and cremated without ceremony. It was the order he had given in his will, at a time when, still at the zenith of his wealth and power, he was already taking thought for his latter end.
65 1 It was rumoured that Subrius Flavus and the centurions had decided in private conference, though not without Seneca’s knowledge, that, once Nero had been struck down by the agency of Piso, Piso should be disposed of in his turn, and the empire made over to Seneca; who would thus appear to have been chosen for the supreme power by innocent men, as a consequence of his distinguished virtues. More than this, there was a saying of Flavus in circulation, that “so far as disgrace went, it was immaterial if a harper was removed, and a tragic actor took his place”; for Nero singing to his instrument was matched by Piso singing in his stage costume.23
66 1 But the military conspiracy itself no longer evaded detection; for the informers were stung into denouncing Faenius Rufus, whom they could not tolerate in the double part of accomplice and inquisitor. Accordingly, in the midst of Faenius’ browbeating and threats, Scaevinus observed with a civil sneer that no one knew more than himself, and presented him with the advice to show his gratitude to so kindly a prince. Faenius was unable to retort either by speech or by silence. Tripping over his words, and patently terrified, while the rest — and notably the Roman knight Cervarius Proculus — strained every nerve for his conviction, he was seized and bound, at the emperor’s order, by the private soldier Cassius, who was standing near in consideration of his remarkable bodily strength.
67 1 Before long, the evidence of the same group destroyed the tribune Subrius Flavus. At first he sought to make unlikeness of character a ground of defence: a man of the sword, like himself, would never have shared so desperate an enterprise with unarmed effeminates. Then, as he was pressed more closely, he embraced the glory of confession. Questioned by Nero as to the motives which had led him so far as to forget his military oath:— “I hated you,” he answered, “and yet there was not a man in the army truer to you, as long as you deserved to be loved. I began to hate you when you turned into the murderer of your mother and wife — a chariot-driver, an actor, a fire-raiser.” I have reported his exact words; for, unlike those of Seneca, they were given no publicity; and the plain, strong sentiments of the soldier were not the less worth knowing. It was notorious that nothing in this conspiracy fell more harshly on the ears of Nero, who was equally ready to commit crimes and unaccustomed to be informed of what he was committing. The execution of Flavus was entrusted to the tribune Veianius Niger. Niger gave orders for a grave to be dug in a neighbouring field; where it was criticized by Flavus as neither deep nor broad enough:— “Faulty discipline even here,” he observed to the soldiers around. When admonished to hold his neck out firmly:— “I only hope,” he said, “that you will strike as firmly!” Shaking violently, the tribune severed the head with some difficulty at two blows, and boasted of his brutality to Nero by saying that he had killed with a stroke and a half.
68 1 The next example of intrepidity was furnished by Sulpicius Asper; who to Nero’s question, why he had conspired to murder him, rejoined curtly that it was the only service that could be rendered to his many infamies. He then underwent the ordained penalty. The other centurions, as well, met their fate without declining from their traditions; but such resolution was not for Faenius Rufus, who imported his lamentations even into his will.
Nero was waiting for the consul Vestinus to be also incriminated, regarding him as a violent character and an enemy. But the conspirators had not shared their plans with Vestinus — some through old animosities, the majority because they considered him headstrong and impossible as a partner. Nero’s hatred of him had grown out of intimate companionship — Vestinus understanding perfectly, and despising, the pusillanimity of the sovereign; the sovereign afraid of the masterful friend who so often mocked him with that rough humour which, if it draws too largely on truth, leaves pungent memories behind. An additional, and recent, motive was that Vestinus had contracted a marriage with Statilia Messalina,24 though well aware that the Caesar also was among her paramours.
69 1 Accordingly, with neither a charge nor an accuser forthcoming, Nero, precluded from assuming the character of judge, turned to plain despotic force, and sent out the tribune Gerellanus with a cohort of soldiers, under orders to “forestall the attempts of the consul, seize what might be termed his citadel, and suppress his chosen corps of youths”: Vestinus maintained a house overlooking the forum, and a retinue of handsome slaves of uniform age. On that day, he had fulfilled the whole of his consular functions, and was holding a dinner-party, either apprehending nothing or anxious to dissemble whatever he apprehended, when soldiers entered and said the tribune was asking for him. He rose without delay, and all was hurried through in a moment. He shut himself in his bedroom, the doctor was at hand, the arteries were cut: still vigorous, he was carried into the bath and plunged in hot water, without letting fall a word of self-pity. In the meantime, the guests who had been at table with him were surrounded by guards; nor were they released till a late hour of the night, when Nero, laughing at the dismay, which he had been picturing in his mind’s eye, of the diners who were awaiting destruction after the feast, observed that they had paid dearly enough for their consular banquet.
70 1 He next ordained the despatch of Lucan. When his blood was flowing, and he felt his feet and hands chilling and the life receding little by little from the extremities, though the heart retained warmth and sentience, Lucan recalled a passage in his own poem, where he had described a wounded soldier dying a similar form of death, and he recited the very verses.25 Those were his last words. Then Senecio and Quintianus and Scaevinus, belying their old effeminacy of life, and then the rest of the conspirators, met their end, doing and saying nothing that calls for remembrance.
71 1 Meanwhile, however, the city was filled with funerals, and the Capitol with burnt offerings. Here, for the killing of a son; there, for that of a brother, a kinsman, or a friend; men were addressing their thanks to Heaven, bedecking their mansions with bays, falling at the knees of the sovereign, and persecuting his hand with kisses. And he, imagining that this was joy, recompensed the hurried informations of Antonius Navalis and Cervarius Proculus by a grant of immunity. Milichus, grown rich on rewards, assumed in its Greek form the title of Saviour. Of the tribunes,26 Gavius Silanus, though acquitted, fell by his own hand; Statius Proxumus stultified the pardon he had received from the emperor by the folly of his end.27 Then . . . Pompeius, Cornelius Martialis, Flavius Nepos, and Statius Domitius, were deprived of their rank, on the ground that, without hating the Caesar, they had yet the reputation of doing so. Novius Priscus, as a friend of Seneca, Glitius Gallus and Annius Pollio as discredited if hardly convicted, were favoured with sentences of exile. Priscus was accompanied by his wife Artoria Flaccilla, Gallus by Egnatia Maximilla,28 the mistress of a great fortune, at first left intact but afterwards confiscated — two circumstances which redounded equally to her fame. Rufrius Crispinus was also banished: the conspiracy supplied the occasion, but he was detested by Nero as a former husband of Poppaea. To Verginius Flavus29 and Musonius Rufus expulsion was brought by the lustre of their names; for Verginius fostered the studies of youth by his eloquence, Musonius by the precepts of philosophy. As though to complete the troop and a round number, Cluvidienus Quietus, Julius Agrippa, Blitius Catulinus, Petronius Priscus, and Julius Altinus were allowed the Aegean islands. But Scaevinus’ wife Caedicia and Caesennius Maximus30 were debarred from Italy, and by their punishment — and that alone — discovered that they had been on trial. Lucan’s mother Acilia was ignored, without acquittal and without penalty.
72º Now that all was over, Nero held a meeting of the troops,31 and made a distribution of two thousand sesterces a man, remitting in addition the price of the grain ration previously supplied to them at the current market rate. Then, as if to recount the achievements of a war, he convoked the senate and bestowed triumphal distinctions on the consular Petronius Turpilianus,32the praetor designate Cocceius Nerva, and the praetorian prefect Tigellinus: Nerva and Tigellinus he exalted so far that, not content with triumphal statues in the Forum, he placed their effigies in the palace itself. Consular insignia were decreed to Nymphidius <Sabinus33 . . .>. As Nymphidius now presents himself for the first time, I notice him briefly; for he too will be part of the tragedies of Rome. The son, then, of a freedwoman34 who had prostituted her handsome person among the slaves and freedmen of emperors, he described himself as the issue of Gaius Caesar: for some freak of chance had given him a tall figure and a lowering brow; or, possibly, Gaius, whose appetite extended even to harlots, had abused this man’s mother with the rest . . .
73 1 However, after he had spoken in the senate, Nero followed by publishing an edict to the people and a collection, in writing, of the informations laid and the avowals of the condemned; for in the gossip of the multitude he was being commonly attacked for procuring the destruction of great and guiltless citizens from motives of jealousy or of fear. Still, that a conspiracy was initiated, matured, brought home to its authors, was neither doubted at the period by those who were at pains to ascertain the facts, nor is denied by the exiles who have returned to the capital since the death of Nero. But in the senate, whilst all members, especially those with most to mourn, were stooping to sycophancy, Junius Gallio,35 dismayed by the death of his brother Seneca, and petitioning for his own existence, was attacked by Salienus Clemens, who styled him the enemy and parricide of his country; until he was deterred by the unanimous request of the Fathers that he would avoid the appearance of abusing a national sorrow for the purposes of a private hatred, and would not reawaken cruelty by recurring to matters either settled or cancelled by the clemency of the sovereign.
74 1 Offerings and thanks were then voted to Heaven, the Sun, who had an old temple in the Circus, where the crime was to be staged, receiving special honour for revealing by his divine power the secrets of the conspiracy. The Circensian Games of Ceres were to be celebrated with an increased number of horse-races; the month of April was to take the name of Nero;36 a temple of Safety was to be erected on the site . . .37 from which Scaevinus had taken his dagger. That weapon the emperor himself consecrated in the Capitol, and inscribed it:— To Jove the Avenger. At the time, the incident passed unnoticed: after the armed rising of the other “avenger,” Julius Vindex,38 it was read as a token and a presage of coming retribution. I find in the records of the senate that Anicius Cerialis, consul designate, gave it as his opinion that a temple should be built to Nero the Divine, as early as possible and out of public funds. His motion, it is true, merely implied that the prince had transcended mortal eminence and earned the worship of mankind; but it was vetoed by that prince, because by other interpreters it might be wrested into an omen of, and aspiration for, his decease; for the honour of divine is not paid to the emperor until he has ceased to live and move among men.39