Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Nero's mother
 The assassination of Caligula
 The accession of Claudius
 The fate of Messalina
 The childhood of Nero
 Nero an emperor
 The fate of Agrippina
 Extreme depravity
 Piso's conspiracy
 The fate of the conspirators
 The expedition into Greece
 Nero's end

Title: History of Nero
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00057156/00001
 Material Information
Title: History of Nero
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Abbott, Jacob,
Publisher: Thomas Allman,
Publication Date: 1853
Copyright Date: 1853
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00057156
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: amf1242 - LTUF
002445999 - AlephBibNum

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
    Nero's mother
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
    The assassination of Caligula
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
    The accession of Claudius
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    The fate of Messalina
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
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        Page 62
        Page 63
    The childhood of Nero
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
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    Nero an emperor
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
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        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
    The fate of Agrippina
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
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        Page 139
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        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
    Extreme depravity
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
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        Page 156
        Page 157
    Piso's conspiracy
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
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    The fate of the conspirators
        Page 175
        Page 176
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    The expedition into Greece
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
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        Page 193
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    Nero's end
        Page 203
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Full Text







I' ouNHa:

W. J. ANM J. SLAll, PRINTlll.r, 1I1 LANE, ST. tAUL'S.


I. Nero's Mother ................ 1
II. Assassination of Caligula ...... 7
III. The Accession of Claudius ...... 25
IV. The Fate of Messalina.......... 41
V. The Childhood of Nero ........ 64
VI. Nero an Emperor............. 76
VII. Britannicus .................. 97
VIII. The Fate of Agrippina ........ 117
IX. Extreme Depravity ............ 146
X. Piso's Conspiracy .............. 158
XI. Fate of the Conspirators ........ 175
XII. The Expedition into Greece...... 189
XIIl. Nero's End................... 203


IN ancient times, when the city of Rome
was at the height of its power and splendour,
it was the custom, as it is in fact now with
the inhabitants of wealthy capitals, for the
principal families to possess, in addition to
their city residences, rural villas for summer
retreats, which they built in picturesque
situations, at a little distance from the city,
sometimes in the interior of the country,
and sometimes upon the sea-shore. There
were many attractive places of resort of this
nature in the neighbourhood of Rome.
Among them was Antium.
Antium was situated on the sea-coast
about thirty miles south of the Tiber.
The beauty and the salubrity of Antium
made it a very attractive place of summer
resort for the people of Rome; and in pro-
cess of time, when the city attained to an

advanced stage of opulence and luxury, the
Roman noblemen built villas there, choosing
situations, in some instances, which looked
off over the sea, and in others cool and se-
eluded retreats in the valleys, on the land.
It was in one of these villas that Nero was
Nero's father belonged to a family which
had enjoyed for several generations a con-
siderable degree of distinction among the
Roman nobility, though known by a some-
what whimsical name. The family name
was Brazenbeard, or, to speak more exactly
it was Ahenobarbus, which is the Latin
equivalent for that word. It is a question
somewhat difficult to decide, whether in
speaking of Nero's father at the present
time, and in the English tongue, we should
make use of the actual Latin name, or
translate the word and employ the English
representative of it; that is, whether we
shall call him Ahenobarbus or Brazenbeard.
The former seems to be more in harmony
with our ideas of the dignity of Roman
history; while the latter, though les
elegant, conveys probably to our minds a
more exact idea of the import and expression
of the name as it sounded in the ears of the
Roman community. The name certainly
was not an attractive one, though the family

had contrived to dignify it in some degree by
assigning to it a preternatural origin. There
was a tradition that in ancient times a pro-
phet appeared to one of the ancestors of the
line, and after foretelling certain extraordi-
nary events which were to occur at some
future period, stroked down the beard of
his auditor with his hand, and changed it to
the colour of brass, in miraculous attestation
of the divine authority of the message.
The man received the name of Brazenbeard
in consequence, and he and his descendants
ever afterward retained it.
The family of the Brazenbeards was one
of high rank and distinction, though at the
time of Nero's birth it was, like most of the
other prominent Roman families, extremely
profligate and corrupt. Nero's father, es-
pecially, was a very bad man. He was
accused of the very worst of crimes, and he
led a life of constant remorse and terror.
His wife, Agrippina, Nero's mother, was as
wicked as he: and it is said that when the
messenger came to him to announce the
birth of his child, the hero of this narrative,
he uttered some exclamation of ill-humour
and contempt, and said that whatever came
from him and Agrippina could not but be
fraught with ruin to Rome.
The rank and station of Agrippina in

Roman society was even higher than that of
her husband. She was the sister of the
emperor. The name of the emperor, her
brother, was Caligula. He was the third in
the series of Roman emperors, Augustus
Caesar, the successor of Julius Caesar, having
been the first.
Caligula, the brother of Agrippina, and
the reigning emperor at the time of Nero's
birth, was a man wholly unfit to exercise any
high command. He was elevated to the
post by the influence of the army. simply
because he was the most prominent man
among those who had hereditary claims to
the succession, and was the man whom the
army could most easily place in the office of
chieftain, and retain most securely there.
His life, however, in the lofty station to
which accident thus raised him, was one of
continual folly, vice and crime. He lived
generally at Rome, where he expended the
immense revenues that were at his command
in the most wanton and senseless extrava-
gance. In the earlier part of his career the
object of much of his extravagance was the
gratification of the people; but after a time
he began to seek only gratifications for him-
self, and at length he evinced the most
wanton spirit of malignity and cruelty
towards others. He seemed at last actually

to hate the whole human species, and to
take pleasure in teasing and tormenting men,
whenever an occasion of any kind occurred
to afford him the opportunity. They were
accustomed in those days to have spectacles
and shows in vast amphitheatres which were
covered, when the sun was hot, with awn-
ings. Sometimes when an amphitheatre
was crowded with spectators, and the heat
of the iun was unusually powerful, Caligula
would order the awnings to be removed and
the doors to be kept closed so as to prevent
the egress of the people; and then he would
amuse himself with the indications of dis-
comfort and suffering which so crowded a
concourse in such an exposure would neces-
sarily exhibit. He kept wild animals for
the combats which took place in these
amphitheatres, and when it was difficult to
procure the flesh of sheep and oxen for them,
he would feed them with men, throwing into
their dens for this purpose criminals and
captives. Some persons who offended him,
he ordered to be branded in the face with
hot irons, by which means they were not only
subjected to cruel torture at the time, but
were frightfully disfigured for life. Some-
times when the sons of nobleor distinguished
men displeased him, or when under the
influence of his caprice or malignity he con-

ceived some feeling of hatred towards them,
he would order them to be publicly executed,
and he would require their parents to be pre-
sent and witness the scene. At one time after
such an execution he required the wretched
father of his victim to come and sup with
him at his palace; and while at supper he
talked with his guest all the time, in a light,
and jocular, and mirthful manner, in order
to trifle with and insult the mental anguish
of the sufferer. At another time when he
had commanded a distinguished senator to
be present at the execution of his son, the
senator said he would go, in obedience to
the emperor's orders, but humbly asked per-
mission to shut his eyes at the moment of
the execution, that he might be spared the
dreadful anguish of witnessing the dying
struggles of his son. The emperor in reply
immediately condemned the father to death
for daring to make so audacious a proposal.
Of course the connection of Agrippina, the
mother of Nero, with such a sovereign as
this, while it gave her a very high social
position in the Roman community, could
not contribute much to her happiness. In
fact, all who were connected with Caligula in
any way, lived in continual terror, for so
wanton and capricious was his cruelty, that
all who were liable to come under his notice

at all were in constant danger. Agrippina
herself at one time incurred her brother's
displeasure, though she was fortunate
enough to escape with her life. Caligula
discovered, or pretended to discover, a
conspiracy against him, and he accused
Agrippina and another of his sisters named
Livilla of being implicated in it. Caligula
sent a soldier to the leader of the conspiracy
to cut off his head, and then he banished his
sisters from Rome and shut them up in the
island of Pontia, telling them when they
went away, to beware, for he had swords for
them as well as islands, in case of need.
At length Caligula's terrible tyranny was
brought to a sudden end by his assassination;
and Agrippina, in consequence of this event
was not only released from her thraldom, but
raised to a still higher eminence than she
had enjoyed before. The circumstances con-
nected with these events will be related in the
next chapter.

Tua emperor Caligula came to his death
in the following manner:
Of course his wanton and remorseless

8 NBnO.
tyranny often awakened very deep feelings
of resentment, and very earnest desires for
revenge in the hearts of those who suffered
by it; but yet so absolute and terrible was
his power, that none dared to murmur or
complain. The resentment, however, which
the cruelty of the emperor awakened, burned
the more fiercely'for being thus restrained
and suppressed, and many covert threats
were made, and many secret plots were form-
ed, from time to time, against the tyrant's life.
Among others who cherished such designs,
there was a man named Cassius Chaerea, an
officer of the army, who, though not of high
rank, was nevertheless a man of considerable
distinction. lie was a captain, or, as it was
styled in those days, a centurion. His
command, therefore, was small, but it was in
the pi torian cohort, as it was called, a sort
of bcdy-guaid of the commander-in-chief,
and consequently a very honourable corps.
Charea was thus a man of considerable dis-
tinction on account of the post which he
occupied, and his duties, as captain in the
life guards, brought him very frequently into
communication with the emperor. He was
a man of great personal bravery, too, and
was on this account held in high considera-
tion by the army. He had performed an
exploit at one time, some years before, in

Germany, which had gained him great fame.
It was at the time of the death of Augustus,
the first emperor. Some of the German
legions, and among them one in which Chae-
rea was serving, had seized upon the
occasion to revolt. They alleged many and
grievous acts of oppression as the grounds
of their revolt, and demanded redress for
what they had suffered, and security for the
future. One of the first measures which
they resorted to in the frenzy of the first
outbreak of the rebellion, was to seize all
the centurions in the camp, and to beat
them almost to death. They gave them
sixty blows each, one for each of their num-
ber, and then turned them, bruised, wounded,
and dying, out of the camp. Some they
threw into the Rhine. They revenged them-
selves thus on all the centurions but one.
That one was Chaerea. Chaerea would not
suffer himself to be taken by them, but seizing
his sword he fought his way through the
midst of them, slaying some and driving
others before him, and thus made his escape
from the camp. This feat gained him great
One might imagine from this account
that Chserea was a man of great personal
superiority in respect to size and strength,
inasmuch as extraordinary muscular power,

10 NiLO.
a well as undaunted courage, would seem
to be required to enable a man to make his
way against so many enemies. But this
was not the fact. Cherea was of small
stature and of a slender and delicate form.
He was modest and unassuming in his
manners, too, and of a very kind and
gentle spirit. He was thus not only
honoured and admired for his courage, but
he was generally beloved for the amiable
and excellent qualities of his heart.
The possession of such qualities, how-
ever, could not be expected to recommend
him particularly to the favour of the
emperor. In fact, in one instance it had
the contrary effect. Caligula assigned to
the centurions of his guard, at one period,
some duties connected with the collection of
taxes. Cherea, instead of practising the
extortion and cruelty common on such occa-
sions, was merciful and considerate, and
governed himself strictly by the rules of
law and of justice in his collections. The
consequence necessarily was that the amount
of money received was somewhat diminished,
and the emperor was displeased. The occa-
sion was, however, not one of sufficient im-
portance to awaken in the monarch's mind
any very serious anger, and so, instead of
inflicting any heavy punishment upon the

offender, he contented himself with attempt-
ing to tease and torment him with sundry
vexatious indignities and annoyances.
If there was any dreadful punishment to
be inflicted, or cruel deed of any kind to
be performed, Caligula took great pleasure
in assigning the duty to Chaerea, knowing
how abhorrent to his nature it must be. At
one time a senator of great distinction
named Propedius, was accused of treason
by one of his enemies. His treason con-
sisted, as the accuser alleged, of having
spoken injurious words against the emperor.
Propedius denied that he had ever spoken
such words. The accuser, whose name was
Timidius, cited a certain Quintilia, an actress,
as his witness. Propedius was accordingly
brought to trial, and Quintilia was called
upon before the judges to give her testimony.
She denied that she had ever heard Prope-
dius utter any such sentiment as Timidius
attributed to him. Timidius then said that
Quintilia was testifying falsely: he declared
that she had heard Propedius utter such
words, and demanded that she should be
put to the torture to compel her to acknow-
ledge it. The emperor acceded to this
demand, and commanded Chseiea to put
the actress to the torture.
It is, of course, always difficult to ascer-

12 IERO.
tain the precise truth in respect to such
transactions as those that are connected with
plots and conspiracies against tyrants, since
every possible precaution is, of course, taken
by all concerned to conceal what is done.
It is probable, however, in this case, that
Propedius had cherished some hostile de-
signs against Caligula, if he had not uttered
injurious words, and that Quintilia was in
some measure in his confidence. It is even
possible that Charea may have been con-
nected with them in some secret design, for
it is said that when he received the orders
of Caligula to put Quintilia to the torture
he was greatly agitated and alarmed. If
he should apply the torture severely, he
feared that the unhappy sufferer might be
induced to make confessions or statements
at least, which would bring destruction on
the men whom he most relied upon for the
overthrow of Caligula. On the other hand,
if he should attempt to spare her, the effect
would be only to provoke the anger of
Caligula against himself, without at all
shielding or saving her. As, however, he
was proceeding to the place of torture, in
charge of his victim, with his mind in this
state of anxiety and indecision, his fears
were somewhat relieved by a private signal
given to him by Quintilia, by which she

intimated to him that he need feel no con-
cern,-that she would be faithful and true,
and would reveal nothing, whatever might
be done to her.
This assurance, while it allayed in some
degree Chaerea's anxieties and fears* must
have greatly increased the mental distress
which he endured at the idea of leading
such a woman to the awful suffering which
awaited her. He could not, however, do
otherwise than to proceed. Having arrived
at the place of execution, the wretched
Quintilia was put to the rack. She bore
the agony which she endured while her
limbs were stretched on the torturing
engine, and her bones broken, with patient
submission, to the end. She was then
carried, fainting, helpless, and almost dead,
to Caligula, who seemed now satisfied. He
ordered the unhappy victim of the torture
to be taken away, and directed that Prope-
dius should be acquitted and discharged.
Of course while passing through this
scene the mind of Chaerea was in a tumult
of agitation and excitement,-the anguish
of mind which he must have felt in his
compassion for the sufferer, mingling and
contending with the desperate indignation
which burned in his bosom against the
author of all these miseries. He was

14 NBRo.
wrought up, in fact, to such a state of
frenzy by this transaction, that as soon as it
was over he determined immediately to take
measures to put Caligula to death. This
was a very bold and desperate resolution.
Caligula was the greatest and most powerful
potentate on earth. Chaerea was only a
captain of his guard, without any political
influence or power, and with no means
whatever of screening himself from the
terrible consequences which might be ex-
pected to follow from his attempt, whether
it should succeed or fail.
So thoroughly, however, was he now
aroused, that he determined to brave every
danger in the attainment of his end. He
immediately began to seek out among the
officers of the army such men as be sup-
posed would be most likely to join him,-
men of courage, resolution, and faithfulness,
and those who, from their general character,
or from the wrongs which they had indi-
vidually endured from the government,
were to be supposed specially hostile to
Caligula's dominion. From among these
men he selected a few, and to them he
cautiously unfolded his designs. All ap-
proved of them. Some, it is true, declined
taking any active part in the conspiracy, but

they assured Charea of their good wishes,
and promised solemnly not to betray him.
The number of the conspirators daily in-
creased. There was, however, at their
meetings for consultations, some difference
of opinion in respect to the course to be
pursued. Some were in favour of acting
promptly and at once. The greatest danger
which was to be apprehended, they thought,
was in delay. As the conspiracy became
extended, some one would at length come
to the knowledge of it, they said, who
would betray them. Others, on the other
hand, were for proceeding cautiously and
slowly. What they most feared was rash
and inconsiderate action. It would be
ruinous to the enterprise, as they main-
tained, for them to attempt to act before
their plans were fully matured.
Chaerea was of the former opinion. He
was very impatient to have the deed per-
formed. He was ready himself, he said, to
perform it, at any time; his personal duties
as an officer of the guard, gave him fre-
quent occasions of access to the emperor,
and he was ready to avail himself of any
of them to kill the monster. The emperor
went often, he said, to the capitol, to offer
sacrifices, and he could easily killhim there.
Or, if they thought that that was too public

10 NERO.
an occasion, he could have an opportunity
in the palace, at certain religious ceremonies
which the emperor was accustomed to per-
form there, and at which Chaerea himself
was usually present. Or, he was ready to
throw him down from a tower where he was
accustomed to go sometimes for the purpose
of scattering money among the populace
below. Chaerea said he could easily come
up behind him on such an occasion, and
hurl him suddenly over the parapet down
to the pavement below. All these plans,
however, seemed to the conspirators too
uncertain and dangerous, and Chaerea's pro-
posals were accordingly not agreed to.
At length, the time drew near when
Caligula was to leave Rome to proceed to
Alexandria in Egypt, and the conspirators
perceived that they must prepare to act, or
else abandon their design altogether. It
had been arranged that there was to be a
grand celebration at Rome previous to the
emperor's departure. This celebration,
which was to consist of games, and sports,
and dramatic performances of various kinds,
was to continue for three days, and the con-
spirators determined, after much consulta-
tion and debate, that Caligula should be
assassinated on one of those days.
After coming to this conclusion, how-

ever, in general, their hearts seemed to fail
them in fixing the precise time for the per-
petration of the deed, and two of the three
days passed away accordingly without any
attempt being made. At length, on the
morning of the third day, Chaerea called
the chief conspirators together, and urged
them very earnestly not to let the present
opportunity pass away. He represented to
them how greatly they increased the danger
of their attempts by such delays, and he
seemed himself so full of determination
and courage, and addressed them with so
much eloquence and power, that he inspired
them with his own resolution, and they
decided unanimously to proceed.
The emperor came to the theatre that
day at an unusually early hour, and seemed
to be in excellent spirits and in an excellent
humour. He was very complaisant to all
around him, and very lively, affable, and
gay. After performing certain ceremonies,
by which it devolved upon him to open the
festivities of the day, he proceeded to his
place, with his friends and favourites about
him, and Chaerea, with the other officers
that day on guard, at a little distance be-
hind him.
The performances were commenced, and

15 NERO.
every thing went on as usual until toward
noon. The conspirators kept their plans
profoundly secret, except that one of them,
when he had taken his seat by the side of a
distinguished senator, asked him whether
he had heard anything new. The senator
replied that he bad not. can then tell
you something," said he, "which perhaps
you have not heard, and that is, that in the
piece which is to be acted to-day, there is to
be represented the death of a tyrant."
" Hush I" said the senator, and he quoted a
verse from Homer, which meant, "Be
silent, lest some Greek should overhear."
It had been the usual custom of the
emperor, at such entertainments, to take a
little recess about noon, for rest and refresh-
ments. It devolved upon Chaerea to wait
upon him at this time, and to conduct him
from his place in the theatre to an adjoining
apartment in his palace which was connected
with the theatre, where there was provided
a bath and various refreshments. When
the time arrived, and Chaerea perceived, as
he thought, that the emperor was about to
go, he himself went out, and stationed
himself in a passage-way leading to the
bath, intending to intercept and assassinate
the emperor when he should come along.
The emperor, however, delayed his depar-

ture, having fallen into conversation with
his courtiers and friends, and finally he said
that, on the whole, as it was the last day of
the festival, he would not go out to the
bath, but would remain in the theatre; and
then ordering refreshments to be brought
to him there, he proceeded to distribute
them with great urbanity to the officers
around him.
In the mean time Charea was patiently
waiting in the passage-way, with his sword
by his side, all ready for striking the blow
the moment that his victim should appear.
Of course the conspirators who remained
behind were in a state of great suspense and
anxiety, and one of them, named Minucia-
nus, determined to go out and inform
Chaerea of the change in Caligula's plans.
He accordingly attempted to rise, but
Caligula put his hand upon his robe,
saying, Sit still, my friend. You shall go
with me presently.' Minucianus accord-
ingly dissembled his anxiety and agitation
of mind still a little longer, but presently,
watching an opportunity when the emperor's
attention was otherwise engaged, he rose, and,
assuming an unconcerned and careless air,
he walked out of the theatre.
He found Cherea in his ambuscade in
the passage-way, and he immediately in-

20 NEzo.
formed him that the emperor had concluded
not to come out. Chaerea and Minucianus
were then greatly at a loss what to do.
Some of the other conspirators, who had
followed Minucianus out, now joined them,
and a brief but very earnest and solemn
consultation ensued. After a moment's
hesitation, Chaerea declared that they must
now go through with their work at all
hazards, and he professed himself ready, if
his comrades would sustain him in it, to go
back to the theatre, and stab the tyrant in
his seat, in the midst of his friends. Minu-
cianus and the others concurred in this
design, and it was resolved immediately to
execute it.
The execution of the plan, however, in
the precise form in which it had been re-
solved upon was prevented by a new turn
which affairs had taken in the theatre. For
while Minucianus and the two or three
conspirators who had accompanied him were
debating in the passage-way, the others who
remained, knowing that Chaerea was expect-
ing Caligula to go out, conceived the idea
of attempting to persuade him to go, and
thus to lead him into the snare which had
been set for him. They accordingly
gathered around, and without any appear-
ance of concert or of eagerness, began to

recommend him to go and take his bath as
usual. He seemed at length disposed to
yield to these persuasions, and rose from his
seat; and then, the whole company attend-
ing and following him, he proceeded toward
the doors which conducted to the palace.
The conspirators went before him, and
under pretence of clearing the way for him,
they contrived to remove to a little distance
all whom they thought would be most dis-
posed to render him assistance. The con-
sultations of Chaerea and those who were
with him in the inner passage-way were
interrupted by the coming of this company.
Among those who walked with the em-
peror at this time were his uncle Claudius
and other distinguished relatives. Caligula
advanced along the passage, walking in
company with these friends, and wholly
unconscious of the fate that awaited him,
but instead of going immediately toward
the bath he turned aside first into a gallery
or corridor which led into another apart-
ment, where there were assembled a com-
pany of boys and girls, that had been sent
to him from Asia to act and dance upon the
stage, and who had just arrived. The em-
peror took great interest in looking at these
performers, and seemed desirous of having
them go immediately into the theatre and

let him see them perform. While talking
on this subject Chierea and the other con-
spirators came into the apartment, deter-
mined now to strike the blow.
Chmerea advanced to the emperor, and
asked him in the usual manner what should
be the parole for that night. The emperor
gave him in reply such an one as he had
often chosen before, to insult and degrade
him. Cheerea instead of receiving the
insult meekly and patiently in his usual
manner, uttered words of anger and defiance
in reply; and drawing his sword at the
same instant he struck the emperor across
the neck and felled him to the floor. Caligula
filled the apartment with his cries of pain
and terror; the other conspirators rushed
in and attacked him on all sides; his friends,
-so far as the adherents of such a man
can be called friends,-fled in dismay. As
for Caligula's uncle Claudius, it was not to
have been expected that he would have
rendered his nephew any aid, for he was a
man of such extraordinary mental imbecility
that he was usually considered as not
possessed even of common sense; and all
the others who might have been expected
to defend him, either fled from the scene,
or stood by in consternation and amaze-
ment, leaving the conspirators to wrear

their vengeance on their wretched victim,
to the full.
The multitudes in and around the theatre
and the palace, who had an hour before
trembled before this mighty potentate, and
seemed to live only to do his bidding, were
filled with joy to see him brought to the
dust. The conspirators, when the success
of their plans and the death of their
oppressor was once certain, abandoned
them elves to the most extravagant joy.
They cut and stabbed the fallen body again
and again, as if they could never enough
wreak their vengeance upon it. They ePA
off pieces of the body and bit them with
their teeth in their savage exultation and
triumph. At length they left the body
where it lay, and went forth into the city
where all was now of course tumult and
The body remained where it had fallen
until late at night. Then some attendants
of the palace came and conveyed it away.
They were sent, it was said, by Cesonia,
the wife of the murdered man. Caesonia
had an infant daughter at this time, and she
remained herself with the child, in a retired
apartment of the palace, while these things
were transpiring. Distracted with grief
and terror at the tidings that she heard, she

24 IfERo.
clung to her babe, and made the arrange-
ments for the interment of the body of her
husband without leaving its cradle. She
imagined, perhaps, that there was no reason
for supposing that she or the child were in
any immediate danger, and accordingly she
took no measures toward effecting an escape.
If so, she did not understand the terrible
frenzy to which the conspirators had been
aroused, and for which the long series of
cruelties and indignities which they had
endured from her husband had prepared
them. For at midnight one of them broke
into her apartment, stabbed the mother in
her chair, and taking the innocent infant
from its cradle, killed it, by beating its
head against the wall.
Atrocious as this deed may seem, it was
not altogether wanton and malignant cruelty
which prompted it. The conspirators in-
tended by the assassination of Caligula not
merely to wreak their vengeance on a single
man, but to bring to an end a hated race of
tyrants; and they justified the murder of
the wife and child, by the plea, that stern
political necessity required them to extermi-
nate the line, in order that no successor
might subsequently arise to re-establish the
power, and renew the tyranny, which they
had brought to ah end. The history of

monarchies is continually presenting us with
instances of innocent and helpless children
sacrificed to such a supposed necessity as


IN the assassination of Caligula, the con-
spirators who combined to perpetrate the
deed, had a much deeper design than that
of merely gratifying their personal resent-
ment and rage against an individual tyrant.
They wished to effect a permanent change
in the government, by putting down the
army from the position of supreme and des-
potic authority which it had assumed, and
restoring the dominion to the Roman
Senate, and to the other civil authorities of
the city, as it had been exercised by them
in former years. Of course, the death of
Caligula was the commencement, not the
end, of the great struggle. The whole
country was immediately divided into two
parties. There was the party of the Senate,
and the party of the army; and a long and
bitter conflict ensued. It was for some
time doubtful which would win the day.

S6 wzo.
In fact, immediately after Caligula was
killed, and the tidings of his death began to
spread about the palace, and into the streets
of the city, a considerable tumult arose, the
precursor and earnest of the dissensions that
were to follow. Upon the first alarm, a
body of the emperor's guards that had been
accustomed to attend upon his person, and
whom he had strongly attached to himself
by his lavish generosity in bestowing pre-
sents and rewards upon them, rushed for-
ward to defend him, or if it should prove
too late to defend him, to avenge his death.
These soldiers ran toward the palace, and
when they found that the emperor had been
killed, they were furious with rage, and fell
upon all whom they met, and actually slew
several men. Tidings came to the theatre,
and the word was spread from rank to rank
among the people, that the emperor was
slain. The people did not, however, at
first, believe the story. They supposed
that the report was a cunning contrivance
of the emperor himself, intended to entrap
them into some expression of pleasure and
gratification, on their part, at his death, in
order to give him an excuse for inflicting
some cruel punishment upon them. The
noise and tumult in the streets soon con-
vinced them, however, that something ex-

trordinary had occurred; they learned
that the news of the emperor's death was
really true, and almost immediately after-
ward, they found, to their consternation,
that the furious guards were thundering at
the gates of the theatre, and endeavouring to
force their way in, in order to wreak their
vengeance on the assembly, as if the spec-
tators at the show were accomplices of the
In the mean time, Chserea and the other
chief conspirators had fled to a secret place
of retreat, where they now lay concealed.
As soon'as they had found that the object
of their vengeance was really dead, and
when they had satisfied themselves with the
pleasure of cutting and stabbing the lifeless
body, they stole away to the house of one of
their friends in the neighbourhood, where
they could lie for a time secreted in safety.
The life-guards sought for them every where,
but could not find them. The streets were
filled with tumult and confusion. Rumours
of every kind, false and true, spread in all
directions, and increased the excitement.
At length, however, the consuls, who were
the chief magistrates of the republic, suc-
ceeded in organizing a force, and in re-
storing order. They took possession of the
forum, and of the capitol, and posted sen-

28 1R1o.
tinels and guards along the streets. They
compelled the emperor's guards to desist
from their violence, and retire. They sent
a herald clothed in mourning, into the
theatre, to announce officially to the people
the event which had occurred, and to direct
them to repair quietly to their homes.
Having taken these preliminary measures,
they immediately called the Senate together,
to deliberate on the emergency which had
occurred, and to decide what should next
be done. In the mean time, the emperor's
guards, having withdrawn from the streets of
the city, retired to their camp, and joined
their comrades. Thus there were two vast
powers organized-that of the army in the
camp, and that of the Senate in the city-
each jealous of the other, and resolute in its
determination not to yield, in the approach-
ing conflict.
In times of sudden and violent revolution,
like that which attended the death of Cali-
gula, the course which public affairs are to
take, and the question who is to rise, and
who is to fall, seem often to be decided by
utter accident. It was strikingly so in this
instance, in respect to the selection, on the
part of the army, of the man who was to
take the post of supreme command, in the
place of the murdered emperor. The choice

fell on Claudius, Agrippina's uncle. It fell
upon him, too, as it would seem, by the
merest chance, in the following very ex-
traordinary manner:-
Claudius, as has already been said, was
Caligula's uncle; and as Caligula and
Agrippina were brother and sister, he was,
of course, Agrippina's uncle too. He was
at this time about fifty years of age, and he
was universally ridiculed and contemned on
account of his great mental and personal
inferiority. He was weak, and ill-formed
at his birth, so that even his mother despised
him. She called him an unfinished little
monster," and whenever she wished to ex-
press her contempt for any one in respect to
his understanding, she used to say, "You
are as stupid as my son Claudius." In a
word, Claudius was extremely unfortunate
in every respect, so far as natural endow-
ments are concerned. His countenance
was very repulsive; his figure was ungainly;
his manners were awkward; his voice was
disagreeable; and he had an impediment in
his speech. In fact, he was considered in
his youth as almost an idiot. He was not
allowed to associate with the other Roman
boys of his age, but was kept apart, in some
secluded portion of the palace, with women
and slaves, where he was treated with so

30 XNXo.
much cruelty and neglect, that what little
spirit nature had given him was crushed and
destroyed. In fact, by common consent,
all seemed to take pleasure in teasing and
tormenting him. Sometimes, when he was
coming to the table at an entertainment,
the other guests would combine to exclude
him from the seats, in order to enjoy his
distress as he ran about from one part of
the table to another, endeavouring to find a
place. If they found him asleep, they
would pelt him with olives and dates, or
awaken him with the blow of a rod or a
whip ; and sometimes they would stealthily
put his sandals upon his hands while he was
asleep, in order that when he awoke sud-
denly they might amuse themselves with
seeing him rub his face and eyes with them.
After all, however, the inferiority of Clau-
dius was not really so great as it seemed.
He was awkward and ungainly, no doubt,
to the last degree; but he possessed some
considerable capacity for intellectual pur-
suits and attainments, and as he was pretty
effectually driven away from society by the
jests and ridicule to which he was subjected,
he devoted a great deal of time in his retire-
ment to study, and to other useful pursuits.
He made considerable progress in the efforts
which he thus made to cultivate his mind.

He, however, failed to acquire the respect
of those around him; and as he grew up
he seemed to be considered utterly incapable
of performing any useful function; and
during the time when his nephew Caligula
was emperor, he remained at court, among
the other nobles, but still neglected and
despised by all of them. It is said, that he
probably owed the preservation of his life to
his insignificance, as Caligula would pro-
bably have found some pretext for destroy-
ing him, if he had not thought him too
spiritless and imbecile to form any ambitious
plans. In fact, Claudius said himself after-
ward, when be became emperor, that a great
part of his apparent simplicity was feigned,
as a measure of prudence, to protect him-
self from injury. When Claudius grew up,
he was married several times. The wife
who was living with him at the time of Cali-
gula's death, was his third wife; her name
was Valeria Messalina. She was his cousin.
Claudius and Messalina had one child-a
daughter, named Octavia. Claudius had
been extremely unhappy with the wives pre-
ceding Messalina. He had quarrelled with
them, and been divorced from them both.
He had a daughter by one of these wives,
and a son by the other. The son was sud-
denly killed, by getting choked with a small

9O NaRO.
pear. He had been throwing it into the
air, and attempting to catch it in his mouth
as it came down, when at last it slipped
down into his throat and strangled him.
As for the daughter, Claudius was so ex-
asperated with her mother at the time of
his divorce from her, that he determined to
disown and reject the child; so he ordered
the terrified girl to be stripped naked, and
to be sent and laid down, in that condition,
at her wretched mother's door.
Claudius, as has already been stated, was
present with Caligula at the theatre, on the
last day of the spectacle, and followed him
into the palace when he went to look at the
Asiatic captives; so that he was present,
or at least very near, at the time of his
nephew's assassination. As might have
been expected from what has been said of
his character, he was overwhelmed with
consternation and terror at the scene, and
was utterly incapacitated from taking any
part, either for or against the conspirators.
He stole away in great fright, and hid him-
self behind the hangings in a dark recess in
the palace. Here he remained for some time,
listening in agony of anxiety and suspense
to the sounds which he heard around him.
He could hear the cries and the tumult in
the streets, and in the passages of the palace.

Parties of the guards, in going to and fro,
passed by the place of his retreat from time
to time, alarming him with the clangour of
their weapons, and their furious exclama-
tions and outcries. At one time, peeping
stealthily out, he saw a group of soldiers
hurrying along with a bleeding head on the
point of a pike. It was the head of a pro-
minent citizen of Rome, whom the guards
had intercepted and killed, supposing him
to be one of the conspirators. This spec.
tacle greatly increased Claudius's terror.
He was wholly in the dark in respect to the
motives and the designs of the men who
had thus revolted against his nephew, and
it was, of course, impossible for him to know
how he himself would be regarded by either
party. He did not dare, therefore, to sur-
render himself to either, but remained in
his concealment, suffering great anxiety, and
utterly unable to decide what to do.
At length, while he was in this situation
of uncertainty and terror, a common soldier
of the guard, named Epirius, who happened
to pass that way, accidentally saw his feet
beneath the hangings, and immediately,
pulling the hangings aside, dragged him out
to view. Claudius supposed now, of course,
that his hour was come. He fell on his

34 NXa
knees in an agony of terror, and begged the
soldier to spare his life. The soldier, when
be found that his prisoner was Claudius, the
uncle of Caligula, raised him from the
ground, and saluted him emperor. As
Caligula left no son, Epirius considered
Claudius as his nearest relative, and, con-
sequently, as the heir. Epirius imme-
diately summoned others of the guard to the
place, saying, that he had found the new
emperor, and calling upon them to assist
in conveying him to the camp. The soldiers
thus summoned, procured a chair, and hav-
ing placed the astonished Claudius in it,
they raised the chair upon their shoulders,
and began to convey it away. As they bore
him thus along the streets, the people who
saw them, supposed that they were taking
him to execution, and they lamented his
unhappy fate. Claudius himself knew not
what to believe. He could not but hope
that his life was to be saved, but then he
could not wholly dispel his fears.
In the mean time, the soldiers went
steadily forward with their burden. When
one set of bearers became fatigued, they set
down the chair, and others relieved them.
No one molested them, or attempted to
intercept them in their progress; and at
length they reached the camp. Claudius

was well received by the whole body of the
army. The officers held a consultation that
night, and determined to make him emperor.
At first he was extremely unwilling to accept
the proffered honour, but they urged it
upon him, and he was at length induced to
accept it. Thus the army was once more
provided with a head, and prepared to en-
gage anew in its conflict with the civil
authorities of the city.
The particulars of the conflict that ensued
we cannot here describe. It is sufficient
to say that the army prevailed, and that
Claudius soon found himself in full posses-
sion of the power from which his nephew
had been so suddenly deposed.
One of the first measures which the new
emperor adopted, was to recall Agrippina
from her banishment at Pontia, where Cali-
gula had confined her, and restore her to
her former position in Rome. Her husband,
Brazenbeard, died about this time, and
young Brazenbeard, her son, afterward
called Nero, the subject of this history, was
three years old. Octavia, the daughter of
Claudius and Messalina, was a little
Messalina, the wife of Claudius, hated
Agrippina, considering her, as she did, her
rival and enemy. The favour which

36 NERO.
Claudius showed to Agrippina, in recalling
her from her banishment, and treating her
with consideration and favour at Rome, only
inflamed still more Messalina's hatred. She
could not, however, succeed in inducing
Claudius to withdraw his protection from
his niece; for Claudius, though almost en-
tirely subject to the influence and control of
his wife in most things, seemed fully deter-
mined not to yield to her wishes in this.
Agrippina continued, therefore, to live at
Rome, in high favour with the court, for
several years,-her little son advancing all
the time in age and in maturity, until at
length he became twelve years old. At this
time, another great change took place in his
own and in his mother's condition. Mes-
salina became herself, by her wickedness
and infatuation, the means of raising her
rival into her own place, as wife of the em-
Messalina had long been a very dissolute
and wicked woman, having been accustomed
to give herself up to pleasures of every kind,
in company with favourites whom she se-
lected from time to time among the courtiers
around her.
It was about seven years after the acces-
sion of Claudius that the event occurred.
The favourite of Messalina at this time was,

a young Roman senator, named Caius ilius.
Silius wa a very distinguished young noble-
man, and a man of handsome person, and
of very graceful and accomplished manners
and address. He was, in fact, a very gene-
ral favourite, and Messalina, when she first
saw him, conceived a very strong affection
for him. He was, however, already mar-
ried to a beautiful Roman lady, named
Junia Silana. Silana had been, and was
still at this time, an intimate friend of Agrip-
pina, Nero's mother; though in subsequent
times, they became bitter enemies. Mes-
salina made no secret of her love for Silius.
She visited him freely at his house, and
received his visits in return; she accom-
panied him to public places, evincing every
where her strong regard for him in the
most undisguised and open manner. At
length, she proposed to him to divorce his
wife, in order that she herself might enjoy
his society without any limitation or restraint.
Silius hesitated for a time about complying
with these proposals. He was well aware
that he must necessarily incur great danger,
either by complying or by refusing to com-
ply with them. To accede to the empress's
proposals, would be, of course, to place him-
self in a position of extreme peril; and the
fate of others who had incurred her wrath

an MNRO.
was a warning to him of what he had to fear
in case of a refusal. He concluded that the
former danger was the least to be appre-
hended, and he accordingly divorced his
wife, and gave himself up wholly to Messa-
lina's will.
This arrangement being made, all things
for a time went on smoothly and well. Clau-
dius himself lived a very secluded life, and
paid very little attention to his wife's pur-
suits or pleasures. He lived sometimes in
retirement in his palace, devoting his time
to his studies, or to the plans and measures
of government. He seems to have honestly
desired to promote the welfare and pros-
perity of the republic; and he made many
useful regulations and laws which promised
to be conducive to this end. Sometimes he
was absent for a season from the city,-visit-
ing fortresses and encampments, or inspec-
ting the public works, such as aqueducts
and canals, which were in progress of con-
struction. He was particularly interested
in certain operations which he planned and
conducted at the mouths of the Tiber for
forming a harbour there. The place was
called Ostia, that word in the Latin tongue
denoting mouths. To form a port there, he
built two long piers, extending them in a
curvilinear form into the sea, so as to inclose

a large area of water between them, where
ships could lie at anchor in safety. Light-
houses were built at the extremities of these
piers. It is a curious circumstance, that in
forming the foundation of one of these piers,
the engineers whom Claudius employed,
sunk an immense ship which Caligula had
formerly caused to be built for the purpose
of transporting an obelisk from Egypt to
Rome,-the obelisk which now stands in
front of St. Peter's Church, and is the admi-
ration and wonder of all visitors to Rome.
As the obelisk was formed of a single stone,
a vessel of a very large size, and of an
unusual construction, was necessary for the
conveyance of it; and when this ship had
once delivered its monstrous burden, it had
no longer any useful function to perform on
the surface of the sea, and the engineers,
accordingly filled it with stones and gravel,
and sunk it at the mouth of the Tiber, to
form part of the foundation of one of Clau-
dius's piers. As it is found that there is no
perceptible decay, even for centuries, in
timber that is kept constantly submerged in
the water of the sea, it is not impossible that
the vast hulk, unless marine insects have
devoured it and carried it away, lies imbed-
ded where Claudius placed it, still.
While the emperor was engaged in these

40 NiXo.
and similar pursuits and occupations, Mes-
salina went on in her career of dissipation
and indulgence, from bad to worse, growing
more and more bold and open every day.
She lived in a constant round of entertain-
ments and of gaiety--sometimes receiving
companies of guests at her own palace, and
sometimes making visits with a large retinue
of attendants and friends, at the house of
Silius. Of course, every one paid court to
Silius, and assumed, in their intercourse with
him, every appearance that they entertained
for him the most friendly regard. It is
always so with the favourites of the great.
While in heart they are hated and despised,
in form and appearance they are caressed
and applauded. Silius was intoxicated with
the emotions that the giddy elevation to
which he had arrived so naturally inspired.
He wac not, however, wholly at his ease.
He could not but be aware, that lofty as his
position was, it was the brink of a precipice
that he stood upon. Still he shut his eyes,
in a great measure, to his danger, and went
blindly on. The catastrophe, which came
very suddenly at last, will form the subject
of the next chapter.


As might naturally have been expected,
there were two very different emotions
awakened in the mind of Silius by the
situation in which he found hmsielf placed
with Messalina,--one was ambition, and the
other was fear. Finding himself suddenly
raised to the possession of so high a degree
of consideration and influence, it was natu-
ral that he should look still higher, and
begin to wish for actual and official power.
And then, on the other hand, his uneasiness
at the dangers that he was exposed to by
remaining as he was, increased every day.
At length a plan occurred to him which
both these considerations urged him to
adopt. The plan was to murder Claudius,
and then to marry Messalina, and make
himself emperor in Claudius's place. By
the accomplishment of this design he would
effect, he thought, a double object. He
would at once raise himself to a post of
real and substantial power, and also, at the
same time place himself in a position of
security. He resolved to propose this
scheme to Messalina.

42 NERO.
Accordingly, on the first favourable oppor-
tunity, he addressed the empress on the
subject, and cautiously made known his
design. "I wish to have you wholly mine,"
said he, "and although the emperor is
growing old, we cannot safely wait for his
death. We are, in fact, continually exposed
to danger. We have quite gone too far to be
safe where we are, and by taking the
remaining steps necessary to accomplish
fully our ends we shall only be completing
what we have begun, and by so doing, far
from incurring any new penalties, we shall
be taking the only effectual method to pro-
tect ourselves from the dangers which im-
pend over us and threaten us now. Let us,
therefore, devise some means to remove
the emperor out of our way. I will then
be proclaimed emperor in his place, and be
married to you. The power which you
now enjoy will then come back to you
again, undiminished, and under such cir-
cumstances as will render it perfectly secure
to you. To accomplish this will be very
easy ; for the emperor, superannuated, in-
firm, and stupid as he is, cannot protect
himself against any well-planned and vigor-
ous attempt which we may make to remove
him; though, if we remain as we are, and
any accidental cause should arouse him

from his lethargy, we may expect to find
him vindictive and furious against us to the
last degree."
Messalina listened to this proposal with
great attention and interest, but so far as
related to the proposed assassination of the
emperor she did not seem inclined to assent
to it. Her historian says that she was not
influenced in this decision by any remaining
sentiments of conjugal affection, or by con-
scientious principle of any kind, but by her
distrust of Silius, and her unwillingness to
commit herself so entirely into his power.
She preferred to keep him dependent upon
her, rather than to make herself dependent
upon him. She liked the plan, however, of
being married to him, she said, and would
consent to that, even while the emperor
remained alive. And so if Silius would
agree to it, she was ready, she added, the
next time that the emperor went to Ostia,
to have the ceremony performed.
That a wife and a mother, however un-
principled and corrupt, should make, under
such circumstances, a proposal like this of
Messalina's, is certainly very extraordinary;
and to those who do not know to what
extremes of recklessness and infatuation,
the irresponsible despots that have arisen
from time to time to rule mankind, have

44 laIo.
often pushed their wickedness and crime,
it must seem wholly incredible. The Roman
historian who has recorded this narrative,
assures us, that it was the very audacity of
this guilt, that constituted its charm in
Messalina's eyes.
The proposed marriage was finally deter-
mined upon, and the mock ceremony, for
such a ceremony could, of course, have no
legal force, was duly performed at a time
when Claudius was absent at Ostia, inspect-
ing the works which were in progress there.
How far the pretended marriage was open
and public in the actual celebration of it, is
not very certain; but the historians say
that it was conducted with all the usual
ceremonies, and was attended by the usual
witnesses. The service was performed by
the augur, a sort of sacerdotal officer, on
whom the duty of conducting such solemni-
ties properly devolved. Messalina and
Silius, each in their turn, repeated the
words pertaining respectively to the bride-
groom and the bride. All things in a word
were conducted, from the beginning to the
end, as in a real and honest wedding, and
whether the scene thus enacted was per-
formed in public as a serious transaction, or
at some private entertainment as a species
of sport, it created a strong sensation among

all who witnessed it, and the news of it
soon spread abroad and became very gene-
rally known.
The more immediate friends of Claudius
were very indignant at such a proceeding.
They conferred together, uttering to each
other many murmuring and complaints,
and anticipating the worst results and con-
sequences from what had occurred. Silius,
they said, was an ambitious and dangerous
man, and the audacious deed which he had
performed was the prelude, they believed, to
some deep ulterior design. They feared for
the safety of Claudius; and as they knew
very well that the downfall of the emperor
would involve them too in ruin, they were
naturally much alarmed. It was, however,
very difficult for them to decide what to do.
If they were to inform the emperor of
Messalina's proceedings, they considered it
wholly uncertain what effect the commu-
nication would have upon him. Like
almost all weak-minded men, he was impul-
sive and capricious in the extreme; and
whether, on a communication being made
to him, he would receive it with indifference
and unconcern, or, in case his anger should
be aroused, whether it would expend itself
upon Messalina or upon those who informed

46 NaIo.
him against her, it was wholly impossible to
At length, after various consultations and
debates, a small number of the courtiers
who were most determined in their detesta-
tion of Messalina and her practices, league
themselves together, and resolved upon a
course of procedure by which they hoped,
if possible, to effect her destruction. The
leader of this company was Callistus, one
of the officers of Claudius's household. He
was one of the men who had been engaged
with Chaerea in the assassination of Caligula.
Narcissus was another. Pallas was the
name of a third conspirator. He was a
confidential friend and favourite of Claudius,
and was very jealous, like the rest, of the
influence which Silius through Messalina,
exercised over his master. These were the
principal confederates, though there were
some others joined with them.
The great object of the hostility of these
men, seems to have been Silius, rather than
Messalina. This, in fact, would naturally
be supposed to be the case, since it was
Silius rather than Messalina who was their
rival. Some of them appear to have hated
Messalina on her own account, but with the
others there was apparently no wish to harm
the empress, if any other way could be

found of reaching Silius. In fact, in the
consultations which were held, one plan
which was proposed was to go to Messalina,
and without evincing any feelings of un-
kindness or hostility toward her, to endea-
vour to persuade her to break off her con-
nection with her favourite. This plan was,
however, soon overruled. The plotters
thought that it would be extremely im-
probable that Messalina would listen to any
such proposition, and in case of her rejection
of it, if it were made, her anger would be
aroused strongly against them for making
it: and then, even if she should not attempt
to take vengeance upon them for their pre-
sumption, she would at any rate put herself
effectually upon her guard against any thing
else which they should attempt to do. The
plan of separating Messalina and Silius was,
therefore, abandoned, and the determination
resolved upon to take measures for destroy-
ing them both together.
The course which the confederates deci-
ded to pursue in order to effect their object,
was to proceed to Ostia, where Claudius
still remained, and there make known to
him what Messalina and silius had done,
and endeavour to convince him that this
audacious conduct on their part was only
the prelude to open violence against the life

48 NEao.
of the emperor. It would seem, however,
that no one of them was quite willing to
take upon himself the office of making
such a communication as this, in the first
instance, to such a man. They did not
know how he would receive it,-or against
whom the first weight of his resentment
and rage would fall. Finally, after much
hesitation and debate, they concluded to
employ a certain female for the purpose,
named Calpurnia. Calpurnia was a favourite
and companion of Claudius, and as such
they thought she might perhaps have an
opportunity to approach him with the sub-
ject under such circumstances as to diminish
the danger. And among other inducements
held out to her by the conspirators, they re-
presented the influence and ascendancy she
would obtain over the emperor's mind.
Calpurnia was very easily led to undertake
the commission. There was another woman
named Cleopatra, who, it was arranged,
should be at hand when Calpurnia made
her communication, to confirm the truth of
it, should any confirmation seem to be re-
quired. The other conspirators, also, were
to be near, ready to be called in and to act
as occasion might require, in case Calpurnia
and Cleopatra should find that their statement
was making the right impression. Things

being all thus arranged the party proceeded
to Ostia to carry their plans into execution.
In the mean time Messalina and Silius,
wholly unconscious of the danger, gave them-
selves up with greater and greater boldness
and unconcern to their guilty pleasures. On
the day when Callistus and his party went to
Ostia she was celebrating a festival at her
palace with great gaiety and splendour. It
was in the autumn of the year, and the fes-
tival was in honour of the season. In the
countries on the Mediterranean the gathering
of grapes and the pressing of the juice for
wine, is the great subject of autumnal rejoic-
ings; and Messalina had arranged a festival
in accordance with the usual customs, in the
gardens of the palace. A wine-press had
been erected, and grapes were gathered and
brought to it. The guests whom Messalina
had invited were assembled around; some
were dancing about the wine-press, some
were walking in the alleys and some were
seated in the neighboring bowers. They
were dressed in fancy costumes; their heads
wereadorned with garlands of flowers. There
was a group of dancing girls who were en-
gaged as performers on the occasion, to dance
for the amusement of the company, in honour
of Bacchus, the god of wine. These girls
were dressed, so far as they were clothed at

o0 NIIo.
all, in robes made of the skins of tigers, and
their heads were crowned with flowers.
Messalina herself, however, was the most
conspicuous object among the gay throng.
She was robed in a manner to display most
fully the graces of her person; her long
hair waving loosely in the wind. She had
in her hand a symbol or badge, called the
thyrsus, which was an ornamented staff, or
pole, surmounted with a carved representa-
tion of a bunch of grapes, and with other
ornaments and emblems. The thyrsus was
always used in the rites and festivities cele-
brated in honour of Bacchus. Silius him-
self, dressed like the rest in a fantastic'
and theatrical costume, danced by the
side of Messalina, in the centre of a ring of
dancing girls which was formed around them.
In the mean time, while this gay party
were thus enjoying themselves in the palace
gardens at Rome, a very different scene was
enacting at Ostia. Calpurnia, in her secret
interview with Claudius, seizing upon a mo-
ment which seemed to her favourable for her
purpose, kneeled down before him and made
the communication with which she had been
charged. She told him of Messalina's con-
duct, and informed him particularly how she
had at last crowned the dishonourof her hus-
band by openly marrying Silius, or at least

pretending to do so. Your friends believe,"
she added, that she and Silius entertain still
more criminal designs, and that your life will
be sacrificed unless you immediately adopt
vigorous and decided measures to avert the
Claudius was very much amazed, and
was also exceedingly terrified at this com-
munication. He trembled and turned pale,
then looked wild and excited, and began to
make inquiries in an incoherent and distract-
ed manner. Calpurnia called in Cleopatra to
confirm her story. Cleopatra did confirm it,
of course, in the fullest and most unqualified
manner. The effect which was produced
upon the mind of the emperor seemed to be
exactly what the conspirators had desired.
He evinced no disposition to justify or to
defend Messalina, or to be angry with Cal-
purnia and Cleopatra for making such charges
against her. His mind seemed to be wholly
absorbed with a sense of the dangers of his
situation, and Narcissus was accordingly sent
for to come in.
Narcissus, when appealed to, acknow-
ledged with well-feigned reluctance and he-
sitation, the truth of what Calpurnia had
declared, and he immediately began to apo-
logise for his own remissness in not having
before made the case known. He spoke with

52 1a3O.
great moderation of Messalina, and also of
Silius, as if his object were to appease rather
than to inflame the anger of the emperor.
He however admitted, he said, that it was
absolutely necessary that something decisive
should be done. "Your wife is taken from
you," said he, and Silius is master of her.
The next thing will be that he will be master
of the republic. He may even already have
gained the Praetorian guards over to his side,
in which case all is lost. It is absolutely ne-
cessary that some immediate and decisive ac-
tion should be taken."
Claudius, in great trepidation,immediately
called together such of his prominent council-
lors and friends as were at hand at Ostia, to
consult on what was to be done. Of course,
it was principally the conspirators themselves
that appeared at this council. They crowded
around the emperor and urged him immedi-
ately to take the most decisive measures to
save himself from the impending danger, and
they succeeded so well in working upon his
fears that he stood before them in stupid
amazement, wholly incapable of deciding
what to say or do. The conspirators urged
upon the emperor the necessity of first secur-
ing the guard. This body was commanded
by an officer named Geta, on whom Narcissus
said no reliance could be placed, and he

begged that Claudius would immediately au-
thorize him, Narcissus, to take the command.
The object of the confederates in thus wishing
to get command of the guard was, perhaps, to
make sure of the prompt and immediate exe-
cution of any sentence which they might suc-
ceed in inducing the emperor to pronounce
upon Silius or Messalina, before he should
have the opportunity of changing his mind.
The emperor turned from one adviser to an-
other, listening to their various suggestions
and plans, but he seemed bewildered and un-
decided, as if he knew not what to do. It
was, however, at length, determined to pro-
ceed immediately to Rome. The whole party
accordingly mounted into their carriages,
Narcissus taking his seat by the side of the
emperor in the imperial chariot, in order that
he might keep up the excitement and agita-
tion in his master's mind by his conversation
on the way.
In the mean time there were among those
who witnessed these proceedings at Ostia,
some who were disposed to take sides with
Messalina and Silius, in the approaching
struggle; and they immediately dispatched a
special messenger to Rome to warn the em-
press of the impending danger. This messen-
ger rode up along the banks of the Tiber with
all speed, and in advance of the emperor's

04 NRO..
party. On his arrival in the city he immedi-
ately repaired to the palace gardens and com-
municated his errand to Messalina and her
company in the midst of their festivities.
Claudius had been informed, he said, against
her and Silius, and was almost beside him-
self with resentment and anger. He was al-
ready on his way to Rome, the messenger
added, coming to wreak vengeance upon
them, and he warned them to escape for their
lives. This communication was made, of
course, in the first instance, somewhat pri-
vately to the parties principally concerned.
It, however, put a sudden stop to all the hilar-
ity and joy, and the tidings were rapidly cir-
culated around the gardens. One man
climbed into a tree and looked off in the di-
rection of Ostia. The others asked him what
he saw. I see a great storm arising from the
sea at Ostia," said he, "and coming hither,
and it is time for us to save ourselves." In a
word the bacchanalian games and sports were
all soon broken up in confusion, and the com-
pany made their escape from the scene, each
by a different way.
Silius immediately resumed his ordinary
dress, and went forth into the city, where,
under an assumed appearance of indiffer-
ence and unconcern, he walked about in the
forum, as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Messalina herself fled to the house of a
friend, named Lucullus, and, passing imme-
diately through the house, sought a hiding-
place in the gardens. Here her mind began
to be overwhelmed with anguish, remorse,
and terror. Her sins, now that a terrible
retribution for them seemed to be impend-
ing, rose before her in all their enormity,
and she knew not what to do. She soon
reflected that there could be no permanent
safety for her where she was, for the
advanced guards of Claudius, which were
even then entering the city and commencing
their arrests, would be sure soon to discover
the place of her retreat, and bring her before
her exasperated husband. She concluded
that, rather than wait for this, it would be
better for her to go before him herself volun-
tarily; and, by throwing herself upon his
mercy, endeavour to soften and appease him.
She accordingly, in her distraction, deter-
mined to pursue this course. She came
forth from her hiding-place in Lucullus's
gardens, and went to seek her children,
intending to take them with her, that
the sight of them might help to move the
heart of their father. Her children were
two in number. Octavia was the eldest,
being now about ten or twelve years of age.

60 NERO.
The other was a boy several years younger;
his name was Britannicus.
In the mean time, the city was thrown
quite into a state of commotion, by the
approach of Claudius, and by the tidings
which had spread rapidly through the streets,
of what had occurred. The soldiers whom
Claudius had sent forward, were making
arrests in the streets, and searching the
houses. In the midst of this excitement,
Messalina, with her children, attended by
one of the vestal virgins, named Vibidia,
whom she had prevailed upon to accompany
her and plead her cause, came forth from
her palace on foot, and proceeded through
the streets, her hair dishevelled, her dress in
disorder, and her whole appearance marked
by every characteristic of humiliation, abase-
ment, and woe. When she reached the
gate of the city, she mounted into a common
cart which she found there, and in that
manner proceeded to meet her angry hus-
band, leaving her children with Vibidia, the
vestal, to follow behind.
She had not proceeded very far, before
she met the emperor's train approaching.
As soon as she came near enough to the
carriage of Claudius to be heard, she began
to utter loud entreaties and lamentations,
begging her husband to hear before he con-

ned her. Hear your unhappy wife,"
d he, "hear the mother of Britannicus
d Octavia." Narcissus and the others
who were near, interposed to prevent her
from being heard. They talked continually
to the emperor, and produced a written
memorial and other papers for him to read,
which contained, they said, a full account
of the whole transaction. Claudius, taking
very little notice of his wife, pursued his
way toward the city. She followed in his
train. When they drew near to the gates,
they met Vibidia and the children. Vibidia
attempted to speak, but Claudius would not
listen. She complained, in a mournful tone,
that for him to condemn his wife unheard,
would be unjust and cruel; but Claudius
was unmoved. He told Vibidia that Mes-
salina would in due time have a suitable
opportunity to make her defence, and that,
in the mean time, the proper duty of a vestal
virgin was to confine herself to the func-
tions of her sacred office. Thus he sent
both her and the children away.
As soon as the party arrived in the city
Narcissus conducted the emperor to the
house of Silius, and entering it he showed
to the emperor there a great number of
proofs of the guilty favouritism which the
owner of it had enjoyed with Messalina.

68 KBno.
The house was filled with valuable presents,
the tokens of Messalina's love, consisting,
many of them, of costly household treasures
which had descended to Claudius in the
imperial line, and which were of such a
character that the alienation of them by
Messalina, in such a way, was calculated to
fill the heart of Claudius with indignation
and anger. The emperor then proceeded
to the camp. Silius and several of his lead-
ing friends were arrested and brought
together before a sort of military tribunal
summoned on the spot to try them. The
trial was of course very brief and very sum-
mary. They were all condemned to death,
and were led out to instant execution.
This being done the emperor returned
with his friends to the city, and repaired to
his palace. His mind seemed greatly
relieved. He felt that the crisis of danger
was past. He ordered supper to be pre-
pared, and when it was ready he seated
himself at table. He congratulated himself
and his friends on the escape from the perils
that had surrounded them, which they had
so happily accomplished. Narcissus and
the others began to tremble lest after all
Messalina should be spared; and they knew
full well that if she should be allowed to
live, she would soon, by her artful manage-

ment, regain her ascendancy over the
emperor's mind, and that in that case she
would give herself no rest until she had
destroyed all those who had taken any part
in effecting the destruction of Silius. They
began to be greatly alarmed therefore for
their own safety. In the mean time mes-
sages came in from Messalina, who, when
the emperor entered the city, had returned
to her former place of refuge in the gardens
of Lucullus. At length a letter, or memo-
rial came. On reading what was written, it
was found that Messalina was assuming a
bolder tone. Her letter was a remonstrance
rather than a petition, as if she were design-
ing to try the effect of bravery and assu-
rance, and to see if she could not openly
re-assume the ascendancy and control which
she had long exercised over the mind of her
husband. Claudius seemed inclined to
hesitate and waver. His anger appeared to
be subsiding with his fears, and the wine
which he drank freely at the table seemed
to conspire with the other influences of the
occasion to restore his wonted good-humour.
He ordered, that in reply to Messalina's
letter a messenger should go and inform her
that she should be admitted the next day to
see him, and to make her defence.
Narcissus and his confederates were

60 NaIO.
greatly alarmed, and determined imme.
diately that this must not be. Narcissus
had been placed, it would seem, according
to the wish of the conspirators at the outset,
in command of the guard; and he accord-
ingly had power to prevent the emperor's
determination from being carried into effect,
provided that he should dare to take the
responsibility of' acting. It was a moment
of great anxiety and suspense. He soon,
however, came strongly to the conclusion
that though it would be very dangerous for
him to act, yet that not to act would be
certain destruction; since if Messalina were
allowed to live it would be absolutely certain
that they all must die. Accordingly, sum-
moning all his resolution, he hurried out of
the banqueting room, and gave orders to
the officers on duty there, in the emperor's
name, to proceed to the gardens of Lucullus
and execute sentence of death on Messalina
without any delay.
Messalina was with her mother Lepida,
in the gardens, awaiting her answer from
the emperor, when the band of soldiers
came. Messalina and her mother had never
been agreed, and now for a long time had
had no intercourse with each other. The
daughter's danger had, however, re- awakened
the instinct of maternal love in the mother's

heart, and Lepida had come to see her child
in this the hour of her extremity. She
came, however, not to console or comfort
her child, or to aid her in her efforts to save
her life, but to provide her with the means
of putting an end to her own existence, as
the only way now left to her, of escape from
the greater disgrace of public execution.
She accordingly offered a poniard to Mes-
salina in the gardens, and urged her to take
it. Death by your own hand," said she,
" is now your only refuge. You must die;
it is impossible that this tragedy can have
any other termination; and to wait quietly
here for the stroke of the executioner is base
and ignoble. You must die;-and all that
now remains to you is the power to close
the scene with dignity and with becoming
Messalina manifested the greatest agita-
tion and distress, but she could not summon
resolution to receive the poniard. In the
midst of this scene the band of soldiers
appeared, entering the garden. The mother
pressed the poniard upon her daughter,
saying, "Now is the time." Messalina took
the weapon, and pointed it toward her
breast, but had not firmness enough to strike
it home. The officer approached her at the
head of his men, with his sword drawn in

62 Nwao.
his hand. Messalina, still irresolute, made
a feeble and ineffectual effort to give herself
a wound, but failed of inflicting it; and then
the officer, who had by this time advanced
to the spot where she was standing, put an
end to her dreadful mental struggles by
cutting her down and killing her at a single
When tidings were brought back to Nar-
cissus that his commands had been obeyed,
he went again to the presence of Claudius,
and reported to him simply that Messalina
was no more. He made no explanations,
and the emperor asked for none; but went
on with his supper as if nothing had oc-
curred, and never afterward expressed any
curiosity or interest in respect to Messalina's
As soon as the excitement produced by
these transactions had in some degree sub-
sided, various plans and intrigues were com-
menced for providing the emperor with
another wife. There were many compe-
titors for the station, all of whom were eager
to occupy it; for, though Claudius was old,
imbecile, and ugly, still he was the emperor;
and all those ladies of his court who thought
that they had any prospect of success, aspired
to the possession of his hand, as the summit
of earthly ambition. Among the rest,

Agrippina appeared. She was Claudiuss
niece. This relationship was, in one respect,
a bar to her success, since the laws prohi-
bited marriage within that degree of con-
sanguinity. In another respect, however,
the relationship was greatly in Agrippina's
favour; for under the plea of it, she had
constant access to the emperor, and was ex-
tremely assiduous in her attentions to him.
She succeeded, at length, in inspiring him
with some sentiment of love, and he deter-
mined to make her his wife. The Senate
were easily induced to alter the laws, in
order to enable him to do this; and Clau-
dius and Agrippina were married.
Claudius not only thus made the mother
of our hero his wife, but he adopted her son
as his son and heir-changing, at the same
time, the name of the boy. In place of his
former plebeian appellation of Ahenobarbus,
he gave him now the imposing title of Nero
Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus. He
has since generally been known in history,
however, by the simple prenomen, Nero.


DuaINo the time that Agrippina had
been passing through the strange and event-
ful vicissitudes of her history, described in
the preceding chapters, young Nero himself,
as we shall henceforth call him, had been
growing up an active and intelligent, but
an indulged and ungoverned boy. His own
father died when he was about three years
old. This, however, was an advantage
probably, rather than a loss to the boy, as
Brazenbeard was an extremely coarse,
cruel, and unprincipled man. He once
killed one of his slaves for not drinking as
much as he ordered him. Riding one day
in his chariot through a village, he drove
wantonly and purposely over a boy, and
killed him on the spot. He defrauded all
who dealt with him, and was repeatedly
prosecuted for the worst of crimes. He
treated his wife with great brutality. As
has already been said, he received the
announcement of the birth of his son with
derision, saying that nothing but what was
detestable could come from him and Agrip-
pina; and when they asked him what name

they should give the child, he recommended
to them to name him Claudius. This was
said in contempt, for Claudius was at that
time despised by every one, as a deformed
and stupid idiot, though he was subsequently
made emperor in the manner that has been
already explained. The manifestation of
such a spirit, at such a time, on the part of
her husband, pained Agrippina exceedingly;
but the more it pained her, the more Bra-
zenbeard was gratified and amused. The
death of such a father could, of course, be
no calamity.
When Agrippina, Nero's mother, was
banished from Rome, by the order of Cali-
gula, Nero himself did not accompany her,
but remained behind, under the care of his
aunt Lepida, with whom he lived for a time
in comparative neglect and obscurity.
Though he belonged to one of the most
aristocratic families of Rome, his mother
being a descendant and heir of the Casars,
he spent some years in a situation of poverty
and disgrace. His education was neglected,
as he received no instruction at this time, ex-
cept from a dancing-master and a barber, who
were his only tutors. Of course, the for-
mation of his moral character was wholly
neglected; nor, in fact, considering the

o00 NILO.
character of those by whom he was sur-
rounded, would it have been possible that
any favourable influence should have been
exerted upon him, if the attempt had been
At length, when Caligula died, and Agrip-
pina was recalled from her banishment, by
Claudius, and reinstated in her former posi-
tion at Rome, Nero emerged from his
obscurity, and thenceforth lived with his
mother in luxury and splendour in the capi-
tal. Nero was a handsome boy, and he
soon became an object of great popular
favour and regard. He often appeared in
public at entertainments and celebrations,
and when he did so he was always specially
noticed and caressed. His companion, and
in some respects, his rival and competitor,
at such times, was Britannicus, the son of
Claudius and Messalina. Britannicus was
two or three years younger than Nero, and
being the son of the emperor, was, of course,
a very prominent and conspicuous object of
attention, whenever he appeared. But the
rank of Nero was scarcely less high, since
his mother was descended directly from the
imperial family, while in age and personal
appearance and bearing, he was superior to
his cousin.

One instance is specially noticed by the
historians of those days, in which young
Nero was honoured with an extraordinary
degree of public attention and regard. It
was on the occasion of celebrating what
might be called the centennial games.
These games were generally supposed to be
celebrated at each recurrence of a certain
astronomical period, of about one hundred
years' duration, called an age; but, in
reality, it was at irregular, though very dis-
tant intervals, that they were observed.
Claudius instituted a celebration of them
early in his reign. There had been a cele-
bration of them in the reign of Augustus,
not many years before; but Claudius, wish-
ing to signalise his own reign by some great
entertainment and display, pretended that
Augustus had made a miscalculation, and
had observed the festival at the wrong time;
and he ordained, accordingly, that the cele-
bration should take place again.
The games and shows connected with this
festival extended through three successive
days. They consisted of sacrifices, and
other religious rites, dramatic spectacles,
athletic games, and military and gladiatorial
shows. In the course of these diversions,
there was celebrated on one of the days,
what was called the Trojan game, in which

68 NzRO.
young boys of leading and distinguished
families appeared on horseback, in a circus
or ring, where they performed certain evo-
lutions, and feats of horsemanship, and
mock conflicts, in the midst of the tens of
thousands of spectators, who thronged the
seats around. Of course, Britannicus and
Nero were the most prominent and conspi-
cuous of the boys on this occasion. Nero,
however, in the estimation of the populace,
bore off the palm. He was received with the
loudest acclamations by the whole assembly,
while Britannicus attracted far less attention.
This triumph filled Agrippina's heart with
pride and pleasure, while it occasioned to
Messalina the greatest vexation and chagrin.
It made Agrippina more than ever before the
object of Messalina's hatred and hostility,
and the empress would, very probably
before long, have found some means of de-
stroying her rival, had she not soon after
this becomeinvolved herself in the difficulties
arising out of her connection with Silius,
which resulted so soon in her own destruc-
The people, however, were filled with
admiration of Nero, and they applauded his
performance with the utmost enthusiasm.
He was, for a time, a subject of conversation
in every circle throughout the city, and

many tales were told of his history and his
doings. Among other things which were
related of him, the story was circulated that
Messalina became so excited against him in
her jealousy and envy, that she sent two
assassins to murder him in his sleep; and
that the assassins, coming to him in a gar-
den where he was lying asleep upon a
pillow, were just putting their cruel orders
into execution, when they were driven away
by a serpent that appeared miraculously at
the moment to defend the child-darting out
at the assassins from beneath the pillow.
Others said that is was in his infancy that
this occurrence took place, and that there
were two serpents, instead of one, and that
they guarded the life of their charge, lying
with him in his cradle. One of the histo-
rians of the time states, that neither of these
stories was really true, but that they both
originated in the fact, that Nero was accus-
tomed to wear, when a boy, a bracelet made
of a serpent's skin, small and of beautiful
colours, and fastened, as they said, around
the wearer's wrist with a clasp of gold.
However the fact may be in respect to
Messalina's allowing her jealousy of Agrip-
pina to carry her so far as to make direct
attempts upon his life, there is no doubt that
she lived in continual fear of the influence

70 Nso).
both of Nero and of his mother, on the mind
of the emperor; and Agrippina was con.
sequently compelled to submit to many
indignities which the position and the power
of Messalina enabled her to impose upon
her enemies and rivals. At length, how-
ever, the fall of Messalina, and the entire
revolution in the situation and prospects of
Agrippina which was consequent upon it,
changed altogether the position of Nero.
It might have been expected, it is true,
even after the marriage of Claudius with
Agrippina, that Britannicus would have still
maintained altogether the highest place in
the emperor's regard, since Britannicus was
his own son, while Nero was only the son of
his wife. But Agrippina was artful enough
to manage her indolent and stupid husband
just as she pleased; and she soon found
means to displace Britannicus, and to raise
Nero in his stead, to the highest place, in
precedence and honour. She persuaded
Claudius to adopt Nero as his own son, as
was stated in the last chapter. She obtained
a decree of the Senate, approving and con-
firming this act. She then removed Bri-
tannicus from the court and shut him up in
seclusion, in a nursery, under pretence of
tender regard for his health and safety. In
a word, she treated Britannicus in all respects

like a little child, and kept him wholly in
the back-ground; while she brought her
own son, though he was but little older than
the other, very prominently forward, as a
young man.
In those ancient days as now, there was
an appropriate dress for youth, which was
changed for that of a man when the subject
arrived at maturity. The garment which
was most distinctively characteristic of adult
age among the Romans was called the toga;
and it was assumed by the Roman youth,
not as the dress of a man is by young persons
now, in a private and informal manner,
according as the convenience or fancy of the
individual may dictate,-but publicly and
with such ceremony, and always at the time
when the party arrived at the period of legal
majority; so that assuming the toga marked
always a very important era of life. This
distinction Agrippina caused to be conferred
upon Nero by a special edict when he was
only fourteen years of age, which was at a
very much earlier period than usual. On
the occasion of thus advancing him to the
dress and to the legal capabilities of man-
hood, Agrippina brought him out in a special
manner before the people of Rome at a great
public celebration, and the more effectually
to call public attention to him as a young

72 PEao.
prince of the highest distinction in the
imperial family, she induced Claudius to
bestow a largess upon the people, and a
donative upon the army, that is a public
distribution of money, to the citizens and
to the soldiers, in Nero's name.
All this time Britannicus was kept shut up
in the private apartments of the palace with
nurses and children. The tutors and attend-
ants whom Messalina his mother provided
for him were one by one removed, and their
places supplied by others whom Agrippina
selected for the purpose, and whom she
could rely upon to second her views. When
inquired of in respect to Britannicus by those
who had known him before, during his
mother's lifetime, she replied that he was a
weak and feeble child, subject to fits, and
thus necessarily kept secluded from society.
Sometimes, indeed, on great public occa-
sions, both Nero and Britannicus appeared
together, but even in these cases the arrange-
ments were so made as to impress the public
mind more forcibly than ever with an idea
of the vast superiority of Nero, in respect to
rank and position. On one such occasion,
while Britannicus was carried about clothed
in the dress of a child, and with attendants
characteristic of the nursery, Nero rode on
horseback, richly apparelled in the trium-

phal robes of a general returning from a
foreign campaign.
Agrippina was one day made very angry
with Britannicus, for what might seem a
very trifling cause. It seems that Britan-
nicus, though young, was a very intelligent
boy, and that he understood perfectly the
policy which his step-mother was pursuing
toward him, and was very unwilling to
submit to be thus supplanted. One day,
when he and Nero were both abroad, attend-
ing some public spectacle or celebration,
they met, and Nero accosted his cousin,
calling him Britannicus. Britannicus, in
returning the salutation, addressed Nero
familiarly by the name Domitius;-Domi-
tius Ahenobarbus having been his name
before he was adopted by Claudius. Agrip-
pina was very indignant when she heard of
this. She considered the using of this name
by Britannicus, as denoting, on his part, a
refusal to acknowledge his cousin as the
adopted son of his father. She immediately
went to Claudius with earnest and angry
complaining. "Your own edict," said she,
"sanctioned and confirmed by the Senate,
is disavowed and annulled, and my son is
subjected to public insult by the imperti-
pence of this child." Agrippina farther
represented to Claudius, that Britannicus

74 NIIO.
never would have thought of addressing her
. on in such a manner of his own accord.
His doing it must have arisen from the influ-
ence of some of the persons around him who
were hostile to her; and she made use of
the occasion to induce Claudius to give her
authority to remove all that remained of the
child's instructors and governors, who could
be suspected of a friendly interest in his
cause, and to subject him to new and more
rigorous restrictions than ever.
Besides Britannicus, it will be recollected
that Messalina had left another child,--a
daughter named Octavia, who was two or
three years younger than her brother, and
of course about five years younger than
Nero. Agrippina did not pursue the same
course of opposition and hostility toward her
which she had adopted in regard to Britan-
nicus. She determined, at the outset, upon
a very different plan. Britannicus was
necessarily a rival and competitor for Nero;
and every step in advance which he should
make, could not operate otherwise than as an
impediment and obstacle to Nero's success.
But Octavia, as Agrippina thought, might
be employed to further and aid her designs,
by being betrothed, and in due time married,
to her son.
The advantages of such a scheme were

very obvriu,-.o obvious in fact that the
design was formed by Agrippina at the very.
beginning,-even before her own marriage
with the emperor was'fully effected. There
was one serious obstacle in the way, and that
was that Octavia was already betrothed to a
very distinguished young nobleman named
Lucius Silanus. Agrippina, after having,
by various skilful manoeuvres, succeeded in
enlisting the public officers who would act
as judges in his case, caused Silanus to be
accused of infamous crimes. The historians
say that the evidence which was adduced
against him was of the most trivial character.
Still he was condemned. He seems to have
understood the nature and cause of the hos-
tility which had suddenly developed itself
against him, and to have felt at once all the
hopelessness of his condition. He killed
himself in his despair on the very night of
the marriage of Claudius with Agrippina.
The empress found afterward no serious
difficulty in accomplishing her design. She
obtained the emperor's consent to a betrothal
of Nero to Octavia; but as they were yet
too young to be married, the ceremony was
postponed for a short time. At length in
about five years after the marriage of Agrip-
pina herself, Nero and Octavia were mar-




ABOUT one year after Nero's marriage to
Octavia the emperor Claudius was suddenly
taken sick. On learning this, Agrippina
was very much excited and very much
pleased. If the sickness should result in
the emperor's death, her son she thought
would immediately succeed him. Every
thing had been long since fully arranged for
such a result, and all was now ready, she
imagined, for the change.
It is true that Nero was still very young,
but then he was uncommonly mature both
in mind and in person, for one of his years;
and the people had been accustomed for some
time to look upon him as a man. Among
other means which Agrippina had resorted
to for giving an appearance of manliness and
maturity to the character of her son, she
had brought him forward in the Roman
Forum as a public advocate, and he had
made orations there in several instances,
with great success. He had been well

instructed in those studies connected with
the art of oratory, and as his person and
manners were agreeable, and his counte-
nance intelligent and prepossessing, and
especially as the confidence which he felt in
his powers gave him an air of great self-
possession and composure, the impression
which he made was very favourable. The
people were in fact predisposed to be pleased
with and to applaud the efforts of a young
orator so illustrious in rank and station-
and the ability which he displayed, although
he was so young, was such as to justify,
unquestionably, in some degree, the honours
that they paid him.
Agrippina, therefore, supposing that her
son was now far enough advanced in public
consideration to make it in some degree cer-
tain that he would be the emperor's successor,
was ready at any time for her husband to die.
His sickness therefore filled her mind with
excitement and hope. There was another
motive too, besides her ambitious desires for
the advancement of her son, that made her
desirous that Claudius should not live. She
had been now for several months somewhat
solicitous and anxious about her own safety.
Her influence over Claudius, which was at
first so absolute and supreme, had afterwards
greatly declined, and within a few months she

78 NBaO.
had begun to fear that she might be losing it
entirely. In fact she had some reason for be.
living that Claudius regarded her with con-
cealed hostility and hate, and was secretly
revolving plans for deposing both her and her
son from the high ascendancy to which they
had raised themselves, and for bringing back
his own son to his proper prominence, in
Nero's place. Agrippina, too, in the midst
of her ambitious projects and plans, led a life
of secret vice and crime, and feeling guilty
and self-condemned, every trivial indication
of danger excited her fears. Some one in-
formed her that Claudius one day when
speaking of a woman who had been convicted
of crime, said that it had always been his
misfortune to have profligate wives, but that
he always brought them in the end to the
punishment that they deserved. Agrippina
was greatly terrified at this report. She con-
sidered it a warning that Claudius was medi-
tating some fatal proceedings in respect to
Agrippina observed, too, as she thought,
various indications that Claudius was begin-
ning to repent of having adopted Nero and
thus displaced his own son from the line of
inheritance; and that he was secretly intend-
ing to restore Britannicus to his true position.
He treated the boy with greater and greater

attention every day, and at one time, after
having been conversing with him and express-
ing an unusual interest in his health and
welfare, he ended by saying, Go on improv-
ing, my son, and grow up as fast as you can
to be a man. I shall be able to give a good
account of all that I have done in regard to
you in due time. Trust to me, and you will
find that all will come out right in the end."
At another time he told Britannicus that
pretty soon he should give him the toga,
and bring him forward before the people
as a man,-" and then at last," said he,
"the Romans will have a prince that is
Agrippinawas not present, it is true, when
these things were said and done, but every
thing was minutely reported to her, and she
was filled with anxiety and alarm. She be-
gan to be afraid that unless something should
speedily occur to enable her to realize her
hopes and expectations, they would end in
nothing but bitter and cruel disappointment
after all.
Such being the state of things, Agrippina
was greatly pleased at the news, when she
heard that her husband was sick. She most
earnestly hoped that he would die, and im-
mediately began to consider what she could
do to insure or to hasten such a result. She

80 N RO.
thought of poison, and began to debate the
question in her mind whether she should dare
to administer it. Then if she were to decide
to give her husband poison, it was a very
serious question what kind of poison she
should employ. If she were to administer one
that was sudden and violent in its operation,
the effect which it would produce might
attract attention, and her crime be discovered.
On the other hand, if she were to choose one
that was more moderate and gradual in its
power, so as to produce a slow and lingering
death, time would be allowed for Claudius to
carry into effect any secret designs that he
might be forming for disavowing Nero as his
son, and fixing the succession upon Britan-
nicus; and Agrippina well knew that if Clau-
dius were to die, leaving things in such a state
that Britannicus should succeed him, the
downfall and ruin both of herself and her
son would immediately and inevitably
There was at that time in Rome a celebra-
ted mistress of the art of poisoning, named
Locusta. She was in prison, having been con-
demned to death for her crimes. Though
condemned she had been kept back from
execution by the influence of Agrippina, on
account of the skill which she possessed in her
art, and which Agrippina thought it possible

that she might have occasion at some time to
make use of. This Aocusta she now deter-
mined to consult. She accordingly went to
her, and asked her if she did not know of any
poison which would immediately take effect
upon thebrain and mind, so as toincapacitate
the patient at once from all mental action,
while yet it should be gradual and slow in its
operations on the vital functions of the body.
Locusta answered in the affirmative. Such
characters were always prepared to furnish
any species of mendicaments that their
customers might call for. She compounded
a potion which she said possessed the
properties which Agrippina required, and
Agrippina receiving it from her hands, went
Agrippina then went to Halotus, the
servant who waited upon the emperor and
gave him his food,-and contrived some
means to induce him to administer the dose.
Halotus was the emperor's "taster," as it
was termed :-that is, it was his duty to
taste first, himself, every article of food or
drink which he offered to his master, for the
express purpose of making it sure that
nothing was poisoned. It is obvious, how-
ever, that many ways might be devised for
evading such a precaution as this, and,
Halotus and Agrippina arranged it, that the
G i

82 NERO.
poison, in this case, should be put upon a '
dish of mushrooms, and served to the em-
peror at his supper. The taster was to
avoid, by means of some dexterous manage-
ment, the taking of any portion of the fatal
ingredients himself. The plan thus arranged
was put into execution. The emperor ate
the mushrooms, and Agrippina tremblingly
awaited the result.
She was, however, disappointed'in the
effect that was produced. Whether the
mixture that Locusta had prepared was
not sufficiently powerful, or whether Ha-
lotus in his extreme anxiety not to get
any of the poisonous ingredients him*
self failed to administer them effectually
to his intended victim, the emperor
seemed to continue afterward much as he
had been before,--still sick, but with-
out any new or more dangerous symptoms.
Of course, Agrippina was in a state of great
solicitude and apprehension. Having in-
curred the terrible guilt and danger neces-
sarily involved in an attempt to poison her
husband, she could not draw back. The
work tl'at was begun must be carried
through now, she thought, at all hazards, to
its termination; and she immediately set
herself at work to devise some means of
reaching her victim with poison, which

NEnO AN KXPXalo. 53
would avoid the taster altogether, and thus
not be liable to any interference on his part,
dictated either by his fidelity to his master
or his fears for himself. She went, ac-
cordingly, to the emperor's physician and
found means to enlist him in her cause; and
a plan was formed between them which
proved effectual in accomplishing her de-
signs. The manner in which they contrived
it was this. The physician, at a time when
the emperor was lying sick and in distress
upon his couch, came to him and proposed
that he should open his mouth and allow the
physician to touch his throat with the tip of
a feather, to promote vomiting, which he
mid he thought would relieve him. The
emperor yielded to this treatment, and the
feather was applied. It had previously
been dipped in a very virulent and fatal
poison. The poison thus administered took
effect, and Claudius, after passing the night
in agony, died early in the morning.
Of course, Agrippina, when her husband's
dying struggles were over, and she was
satisfied that life was extinct, experienced
for the moment a feeling of gratification
and relief. It might have been expected,
however, that the pangs of remorse, after
the deed was perpetrated, would have fol-
lowed very hard upon the termination of

84 Muao.
her suspense and anxiety. But it was not
so. Much still remained to be done, and
Agrippina was fully prepared to meet all
the responsibilities of the crisis. The death
of her husband took place very early in the
morning, the poisoning operations having
been performed in the night, and having
accomplished their final effect about the
break of day. Agrippina immediately
perceived that the most effectual means of
accomplishing the end which she had in
view, was not to allow of any interval to
elapse between the announcement of the
emperor's death and the bringing forward of
her son for induction into office as his suc-
cessor; since during such an interval, if one
were allowed, the Roman people would, of
course, discuss the question, whether Britan-
nicus or Nero should succeed to power, and
a strong party might possibly organize itself
to enforce the claims of the former. She
determined, therefore, to conceal the death
of her husband until noon, the hour most
favourable for publicly proclaiming any great
event, and then to announce the death of the
father and the accession of the adopted son
She accordingly took prompt and decisive
measures to prevent its being known that
the emperor was dead. The immediate

attendants at his bedside could not indeed
be easily deceived, but they were required
to be silent in respect to what had occurred,
and to go on with all their services and
ministrations just as if their patient were
still alive. Visitors were excluded from the
room, and messengers were kept coming to
and fro with baths, mendicaments, and other
appliances, such as a desperate crisis in a
sick chamber might be supposed to require.
The Senate was convened, too, in the course
of the morning, and Agrippina, as if in great
distress, sent a message to them, informing
them of her husband's dangerous condition,
and entreating them to join with the chief
civil and religious functionaries of the city,
in offering vows, supplications, and sacrifices
for his recovery. She herself, in the mean-
time, went from room to room about the
palace, overwhelmed to all appearance, with
anxiety and grief. She kept Britannicus
and his sisters all the time with her, folding
the boy in her arms with an appearance of
the fondest affection, and telling him how
heart-broken she was at the dangerous con-
dition of his father. She kept Britannicus
thus constantly near to her, in order to
prevent the possibility of his being seized
and carried away to the camp by any party
that might be disposed to make him em..

o Na31o.
peror rather than Nero, when it should be
known that Claudius had ceased to reign.
As an additional defence against this danger,
Agrippina brought up a cohort of the life-
guards around the palace, and caused them
to be stationed in such a manner that every
avenue of approach to the edifice was com-
pletely secured. The cohort which she
selected was one that she thought she could
most safely rely upon, not only for guarding
the palace while she remained within it, but
for proclaiming Nero as emperor when she
should at last be ready to come forth and
announce the death of her husband.
At length, about noon, she deemed that
the hour had arrived, and after placing
Britannicus and his sisters in some safe
custody within the palace, she ordered the
gates to be thrown open, and prepared to
come forth to announce the death of Clau-
dius, and to present Nero to the army and
to the people of Rome, as his rightful suc-
cessor. She was aided and supported in
these preparations by a number of officers
and attendants, among whom were the two
whom she had determined upon as the two
principal ministers of hbr son's government.
These were Seneca and Burrus. Seneca
was to be minister of state, and Burrus the
chief military commander.

:Both these men had long been in the
service of Agrippina and of Nero. Seneca
was now over fifty years of age. He was
very highly distinguished as a scholar and
rhetorician while he lived, and his numerous
writings have given him great celebrity
since, in every age. He commenced his
career in Rome as a public advocate in the
Forum, during the reign of Caligula. After
Caligula's death he incurred the displeasure
of Claudius in the, first year of that empe-
ror's reign, and he was banished to' the
island of Corsica, where he remained in
neglect and obscurity for about eight years.
When at length Messalina was put to death,
and the emperor married Agrippina, Seneca
was pardoned and recalled through Agrip-
pina's influence, and after that he devoted
himself very faithfully to the service of the
empress and of her son. Agrippina appointed
him Nero's preceptor, and gave him ,he
direction of all the studies which her p9n
pursued in qualifying himself for the duties
of a public' orator; and now that she was
about attempting to advance her son to the
supreme command, she intended to make
the philosopher his principal secretary and
minister of state.
Burrus was the commander of the li(e-
guards, or as the office was called in those

0o NERO.
days, prefect of the prsetorium. The life.
guards, or body guards, whose duty con-
sisted exclusively in attending upon, escorting
and protecting the emperor, consisted of
ten cohorts, each containing about a thousand
men. The soldiers designated for this
service were of course selected from the
whole army, and as no expense was spared
in providing them with arms, accoutrements
and other appointments, they formed the
finest body of troops in the world. They
received double pay, and enjoyed special
privileges; and every arrangement was
made to secure their entire subserviency to
the will, and attachment to the person, of
the reigning emperor. Of course such a
corps would be regarded by all the other
divisions of the army as entirely superior in
rank and consideration, to the ordinary
service; and the general who commanded
them would take precedence of every other
military commander, being second only to
the emperor himself. Agrippina had con-
trived to raise Burrus to this post through
her influence with Claudius. He was a
friend to her interests before, and he became
still more devoted to her after receiving such
an appointment. Agrippina now depended
upon Burrus to carry the Praetorian cohorts
in favour of her son.

Accordingly at noon of the day on which
Claudius died, when all things were ready,
the palace gates were thrown open and
Agrippina came forth with her son, accom-
panied by Burrus and by other attendants.
The cohort on dity was drawn up under
arms at the palace gates. Burrus presented
Nero to them as the successor of Claudius,
and at a signal from him they all responded
with shouts and acclamations. Some few of
the soldiers did not join in this cheering,
but looked on in silence, and then inquired
of one another what had become of Britan-
nicus. But there were none to answer this
question, and as no one appeared to proclaim
Britannicus, or to speak in his name, the
whole cohort finally acquiesced in the
decision to which the majority, at the insti-
gation of Burrus, seemed inclined. A sort
of chair or open palanquin was provided,
and Nero was mounted upon it. He was
borne in this way by the soldiers through
the streets of the city, escorted by the cohort
on the way, till he reached the camp. As
the procession moved along, the air was
filled with the shouts and acclamations of the
soldiers and of the people.
When the party arrived at the camp Nero
was presented to the army, and the officers
and soldiers being drawn up before him he

90 MIIO.
delivered a brief speech which Seneca had
prepared for the occasion. The principal
point in this speech, and the one on which
its effect was expected to depend, was a
promise of a large distribution of money.
The soldiers always expected such a dona.
tire on the accession of any new emperor,-
but Nero, in order to suppress any latent
opposition which might be felt against his
claims, made his proposed distribution un-
usually large. The soldiers readily yielded
to the influence of this promise, and with
one accord proclaimed Nero emperor. The
Senate was soon afterward convened, and
partly through the influence of certain
prominent members whom Agrippina had
taken measures to secure in her interest, mnd
partly through the general conviction that
as things were, the claims of Britannicus
could not be successfully maintained, the
choice of the army was confirmed. And as
the tidings of what had taken place at the
capital gradually spread through Italy and
to the remoter portions of the empire, the
provinces, and the various legions, at their
encampments, one after another acquiesced
in the result, both because on the one hand
they had no strong motive for dissenting,
and on the other, they had individually no
power to make any effectual resistance.

Thus Nero, at the age of seventeen became
emperor of Rome, and as such the almost
absolute monarch of nearly half the world.
It was, however, by no means, ite design
of Agrippina that her son should actually
wield, himself, all this power. Her motive,
in all her manoeuvres for bringing Nero to
this lofty position, was a personal, not a
maternal ambition. She was herself to
reign, not he; and she had brought him
forward as the nominal sovereign only, in
order that she might herself exercise the
power by acting in his name. Her plan
was to secure her own ascendancy, by so
arranging and directing the course of affairs
that the young emperor himself should have
as little as possible to do with the duties of
his office; and that instead of direct action
on his part, all the functions of the govern-
ment should be fulfilled by officers of various
grades, whom she was herself to appoint and
sustain, and who, since they would know
that they were dependent on Agrippina's
influence for their elevation, would naturally
be subservient to her will. Nero being so
young, she thought that he could easily be
led to acquiesce in such management as this,
especially if he were indulged in the full
enjoyment of the luxuries and pleasures,
innocent or otherwise, which his high station

92 NERO.
would enable him to command, and which
are usually so tempting to one of his cha-
racter and years.
The first of Agrippina's measures was to
make arrangements for a most imposing and
magnificent funeral, as the testimonial of the
deep conjugal affection which she entertained
for her husband, and the profound grief with
which she was affected by his death! The
most extensive preparations were made for
this funeral; and the pomp and parade
which were displayed in Rome on the day of
the ceremony, had never been surpassed, it
was said, by any similar spectacle on any
former occasion. In the course of the ser-
vices that were performed, a funeral oration
was delivered by Nero to the immense con-
course of people that were convened. The
oration was written by Seneca. It was a
high panegyric upon the virtues and the
renown of the deceased, and it represented
in the brightest colours, and with great
magnificence of diction, his illustrious birth,
the high offices to which he had attained,
his taste for the liberal arts, and the peace
and tranquillity which had prevailed through-
out the empire during his reign. To write
a panegyric upon such a man as Claudius
had been, must surely have proved a some-
what difficult task; but Seneca accomplished

it very adroitly, and the people, aided by the
solemnity of the occasion, listened with
proper gravity, until at length the orator
began to speak of the judgment and political
wisdom of Claudius, and then the listeners
found that they could preserve their decorum
no longer. The audience looked at each
other, and there was a general laugh. The
young orator, though for the moment some-
what disconcerted at this interruption, soon
recovered himself, and went on to the end
of his discourse.
After these funeral ceremonies had been
performed, the Senate was convened, and
Nero appeared before them to make his
inaugural address. This address also, was
of course prepared for him by Seneca, under
directions from Agrippina, who, after revolv-
ing the subject fully in her mind, had deter-
mined what it would be most politic to say.
She knew very well that until the power of
her son became consolidated and settled, it
became him to be modest in his pretensions
and claims, and to profess great deference
and respect for the powers and prerogatives
of the Senate. In the speech, therefore,
which Nero delivered in the senate-chamber,
he said that in assuming the imperial dignity,
which he had consented to do in obedience
to the will of his father the late emperor, to

V* NInO.
the general voice of the army, and the uni;
versal suffrages of the people, he did not
intend to usurp the civil powers of the state,
but to leave to the Senate, and to the various
civil functionaries of the city, their rightful
and proper jurisdiction. He considered
himself as merely the commander-in-chief
of the armies of the commonwealth, and as
such, his duty would be simply to execute
the national will. He promised, moreover,
a great variety of reforms in the administra-
tion, all tending to diminish the authority
of the prince, and to protect the people from
danger of oppression by military power. In
a word, it was his settled purpose, he said,
to restore the government to its pristine
simplicity and purity, and to administer it
in strict accordance with the true principles
of the Roman Constitution, as originally
established by the founders of the common-
wealth. The professions and promises
which Nero thus made to the Senate, or
rather which he recited to them at the dic-
tation of his mother and of Seneca, gave
great satisfaction to all who heard them.
All opposition to the claims which he
advanced, disappeared, and the heart of
Agrippina was filled with gladness*and joy
at finding that all her plans had been so fully
and successfully realized.

The official authority of Nero being thus
generally acknowledged, Agrippina began
immediately to pursue a system of policy
designed to secure the possession of all real
power for herself, leaving only the name
and semblance of it to her son. She appeared
in all public places with him, sharing with
him the pomp, and parade, and insignia of
office, as if she were associated with him in
official power. She received and opened
the dispatches and sent answers to them.
She considered and decided questions of
state, and issued her orders. She caused
several influential persons whom she sup-
posed likely to take part with Britannicus,
or at least secretly to favour his claims, to
be put to death, either by violence or by
poison; and she would have caused the
death of many others in this way, if Burrus
and Seneca had not interposed their influ-
ence to prevent it. She did all these things
in a somewhat covert and cautious manner,
acting generally in Nero's name, so as not
to attract too much attention at first to her
measures. There was danger, she knew,
of awakening resistance and opposition, as
public sentiment among the Romans had
always been entirely averse to the idea of
the submission of men, in any form, to the
government-of women. Agrippina accord-

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