Cassio Dio Roman History Book 62

Cassio Dio Roman History Book 62 is in Cassio Dio Roman History.

1. While this sort of child's play was going on in Rome, a terrible disaster occurred in Britain. Two cities were sacked, eighty thousand of the Romans and of their allies perished, and the island was lost to Rome. Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame. Indeed, Heaven gave them indications of the catastrophe beforehand. For at night there was heard to issue from the senate-house foreign jargon mingled with laughter, and from the theatre outcries and lamentations, though no mortal man had uttered the words or the groans; houses were seen under the water in the river Thames, and the ocean between the island and Gaul once grew blood-red at flood tide.

2. An excuse for the war was found in the confiscation of the sums of money that Claudius had given to the foremost Britons; for these sums, as Decianus Catus, the procurator of the island, maintained, were to be paid back. This was one reason for the uprising; another was found in the fact that Seneca, in the hope of receiving a good rate of interest, had lent to the islanders 40,000,000 sesterces that they did not want,​7 and had afterwards called in this loan all at once and had resorted to severe measures in exacting it. But the person who was chiefly instrumental in rousing the natives and persuading them to fight the Romans, the person who was thought worthy to be their leader and who directed the conduct of the entire war, was Buduica,​8 a Briton woman of the royal family and possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women. This woman assembled her army, to the number of some 120,000, and then ascended a tribunal which had been constructed of earth in the Roman fashion. In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace; and she wore a tunic of divers colours over which a thick mantle was fastened with a brooch. This was her invariable attire. She now grasped a spear to aid her in terrifying all beholders and spoke as follows:

Note 7. The text, ἄκουσιν, does not give a very satisfactory meaning; Naber would read αἰτοῦσιν, "at their request."

Note 8. Commonly known as Boadicea.

3. "You have learned by actual experience how different freedom is from slavery. Hence, although some among you may previously, through ignorance of which was better, have been deceived by the alluring promises of the Romans, yet now that you have tried both, you have learned how great a mistake you made in preferring an imported despotism to your ancestral mode of life, and you have come to realize how much better is poverty with no master than wealth with slavery. For what treatment is there of the most shameful or grievous sort that we have not suffered ever since these men made their appearance in Britain? Have we not been robbed entirely of most of our possessions, and those the greatest, while for those that remain we pay taxes? Besides pasturing and tilling for them all our other possessions, do we not pay a yearly tribute for our very bodies? How much better it would be to have been sold to masters once for all than, possessing empty titles of freedom, to have to ransom ourselves every year! How much better to have been slain and to have perished than to go about with a tax on our heads! Yet why do I mention death? For even dying is not free of cost with them; nay, you know what fees we deposit even for our dead. Among the rest of mankind death frees even those who are in slavery to others; only in the case of the Romans do the very dead remain alive for their profit. Why is it that, though none of us has any money (how, indeed, could we, or where would we get it?), we are stripped and despoiled like a murderer's victims? And why should the Romans be expected to display moderation as time goes on, when they have behaved toward us in this fashion at the very outset, when all men show consideration even for the beasts they have newly captured?

4. But, to speak the plain truth, it is we who have made ourselves responsible for all these evils, in that we allowed them to set foot on the island in the first place instead of expelling them at once as we did their famous Julius Caesar, — yes, and in that we did not deal with them while they were still far away as we dealt with Augustus and with Gaius Caligula and make even the attempt to sail hither a formidable thing. As a consequence, although we inhabit so large an island, or rather a continent, one might say, that is encircled by the sea, and although we possess a veritable world of our own and are so separated by the ocean from all the rest of mankind that we have been believed to dwell on a different earth and under a different sky, and that some of the outside world, aye, even their wisest men, have not hitherto known for a certainty even by what name we are called, we have, notwithstanding all this, been despised and trampled underfoot by men who know nothing else than how to secure gain.However, even at this late day, though we have not done so before, let us, my countrymen and friends and kinsmen, — for I consider you all kinsmen, seeing that you inhabit a single island and are called by one common name, — let us, I say, do our duty while we still remember what freedom is, that we may leave to our children not only its appellation but also its reality. For, if we utterly forget the happy state in which we were born and bred, what, pray, will they do, reared in bondage?

5. "All this I say, not with the purpose of inspiring you with a hatred of present conditions, — that hatred you already have, — nor with fear for the future, — that fear you already have, — but of commending you because you now of our own accord choose the requisite course of action, and of thanking you for so readily co-operating with me and with each other. Have no fear whatever of the Romans; for they are superior to us neither in numbers nor in bravery. And here is the proof: they have protected themselves with helmets and breastplates and greaves and yet further provided themselves with palisades and walls and trenches to make sure of suffering no harm by an incursion of their enemies. For they are influenced by their fears when they adopt this kind of fighting in preference to the plan we follow of rough and ready action. Indeed, we enjoy such a surplus of bravery, that we regard our tents as safer than their walls and our shields as affording greater protection than their whole suits of mail. As a consequence, we when victorious capture them, and when overpowered elude them; and if we ever choose to retreat anywhere, we conceal ourselves in swamps and mountains so inaccessible that we can be neither discovered or taken. Our opponents, however, can neither pursue anybody, by reason of their heavy armour, nor yet flee; and if they ever do slip away from us, they take refuge in certain appointed spots, where they shut themselves up as in a trap. But these are not the only respects in which they are vastly inferior to us: there is also the fact that they cannot bear up under hunger, thirst, cold, or heat, as we can. They require shade and covering, they require kneaded bread and wine and oil, and if any of these things fails them, they perish; for us, on the other hand, any grass or root serves as bread, the juice of any plant as oil, any water as wine, any tree as a house. Furthermore, this region is familiar to us and is our ally, but to them it is unknown and hostile. As for the rivers, we swim them naked, whereas they do not across them easily even with boats. Let us, therefore, go against them trusting boldly to good fortune. Let us show them that they are hares and foxes trying to rule over dogs and wolves."

6. When she had finished speaking, she employed a species of divination, letting a hare escape from the fold of her dress; and since it ran on what they considered the auspicious side, the whole multitude shouted with pleasure, and Buduica, raising her hand toward heaven, said: "I thank thee, Andraste9,​ and call upon thee as woman speaking to woman; for I rule over no burden-bearing Egyptians as did Nitocris, nor over trafficking Assyrians as did Semiramis (for we have by now gained thus much learning from the Romans!), much less over the Romans themselves as did Messalina once and afterwards Agrippina and now Nero (who, though in name a man, is in fact a woman, as is proved by his singing, lyre-playing and beautification of his person); nay, those over whom I rule are Britons, men that know not how to till the soil or ply a trade, but are thoroughly versed in the art of war and hold all things in common, even children and wives, so that the latter possess the same valour as the men. As the queen, then, of such men and of such women, I supplicate and pray thee for victory, preservation of life, and liberty against men insolent, unjust, insatiable, impious, — if, indeed, we ought to term those people men who bathe in warm water, eat artificial dainties, drink unmixed wine, anoint themselves with myrrh, sleep on soft couches with boys for bedfellows, — boys past their prime at that, — and are slaves to a lyre-player and a poor one too. Wherefore may this Mistress Domitia-Nero reign no longer over me or over you men; let the wench sing and lord it over Romans, for they surely deserve to be the slaves of such a woman after having submitted to her so long. But for us, Mistress, be thou alone ever our leader."

Note 9. A goddess of the Britons.

7. Having finished an appeal to her people of this general tenor, Buduica led her army against the Romans; for these chanced to be without a leader, inasmuch as Paulinus, their commander, had gone on an expedition to Mona, an island near Britain. This enabled her to sack and plunder two Roman cities, and, as I have said, to wreak indescribable slaughter. Those who were taken captive by the Britons were subjected to every known form of outrage. The worst and most bestial atrocity committed by their captors was the following. They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. All this they did to the accompaniment of sacrifices, banquets, and wanton behaviour, not only in all their other sacred places, but particularly in the grove of Andate. This was their name for Victory, and they regarded her with most exceptional reverence.

8. Now it chanced that Paulinus had already brought Mona to terms, and so on learning of the disaster in Britain he at once set sail thither from Mona. However, he was not willing to risk a conflict with the barbarians immediately, as he feared their numbers and their desperation, but was inclined to postpone battle to a more convenient season. But as he grew short of food and the barbarians pressed relentlessly upon him, he was compelled, contrary to his judgment, to engage them. Buduica, at the head of an army of about 230,000 men, rode in a chariot herself and assigned the others to their several stations. Paulinus could not extend his line the whole length of hers, for, even if the men had been drawn up only one deep, they would not have reached far enough, so inferior were they in numbers; nor, on the other hand, did he dare join battle in a single compact force, for fear of being surrounded and cut to pieces. He therefore separated his army into three divisions, in order to fight at several points at one and the same time, and he made each of the divisions so strong that it could not easily be broken through.

9. While ordering and arranging his men he also exhorted them, saying: "Up, fellow-soldiers! Up, Romans! Show these accursed wretches how far we surpass them even in the midst of evil fortune. It would be shameful, indeed, for you to lose ingloriously now what but a short time ago you won by your valour. Many a time, assuredly, have both we ourselves and our fathers, with far fewer numbers than we have at present, conquered far more numerous antagonists. Fear not, then, their numbers or their spirit of rebellion; for their boldness rests on nothing more than headlong rashness unaided by arms or training. Neither fear them because they have burned a couple of cities; for they did not capture them by force nor after a battle, but one was betrayed and the other abandoned to them. Exact from them now, therefore, the proper penalty for these deeds, and let them learn by actual experience the difference between us, whom they have wronged, and themselves."

10. After addressing these words to one division he came to another and said: "Now is the time, fellow-soldiers, for zeal, now is the time for daring. For if you show yourselves brave men to‑day, you will recover all that you have lost; if you overcome these foes, no one else will any longer withstand us. By one such battle you will both make your present possessions secure and subdue whatever remains; for everywhere our soldiers, even though they are in other lands, will emulate you and foes will be terror-stricken. Therefore, since you have it within your power either to rule all mankind without a fear, both the nations that your fathers left to you and those that you yourselves have gained in addition, or else to be deprived of them altogether, choose to be free, to rule, to live in wealth, and to enjoy prosperity, rather than, by avoiding the effort, to suffer the opposite of all this."

11. After making an address of this sort to these men, he went on to the third division, and to them he said: "You have heard what outrages these damnable men have committed against us, nay more, you have even witnessed some of them. Choose, then, whether you wish to suffer the same treatment yourselves as our comrades have suffered and to be driven out of Britain entirely, besides, or else by conquering to avenge those that have perished and at the same time furnish to the rest of mankind an example, not only of benevolent clemency toward the obedient, but also of inevitable severity toward the rebellious. For my part, I hope, above all, that victory will be ours; first, because the gods are our allies (for they almost always side with those who have been wronged); second, because of the courage that is our heritage, since we are Romans and have triumphed over all mankind by our valour; next, because of our experience (for we have defeated and subdued these very men who are now arrayed against us); and lastly, because of our prestige (for those with whom we are about to engage are not antagonists, but our slaves, whom we conquered even when they were free and independent). Yet if the outcome should prove contrary to our hope, — for I will not shrink from mentioning even this possibility, — it would be better for us to fall fighting bravely than to be captured and impaled, to look upon our own entrails cut from our bodies, to be spitted on red-hot skewers, to perish by being melted in boiling water — in a word, to suffer as though we had been thrown to lawless and impious wild beasts. Let us, therefore, either conquer them or die on the spot. Britain will be a noble monument for us, even though all the other Romans here should be driven out; for in any case our bodies shall for ever possess this land."

12. After addressing these and like words to them he raised the signal for battle. Thereupon the armies approached each other, the barbarians with much shouting mingled with menacing battle-songs, but the Romans silently and in order until they came within a javelin's throw of the enemy. Then, while their foes were still advancing against them at a walk, the Romans rushed forward at a signal and charged them at full speed, and when the clash came, easily broke through the opposing ranks; but, as they were surrounded by the great numbers of the enemy, they had to be fighting everywhere at once. Their struggle took many forms. Light-armed troops exchanged missiles with light-armed, heavy-armed were opposed to heavy-armed, cavalry clashed with cavalry, and against the chariots of the barbarians the Roman archers contended. The barbarians would assail the Romans with a rush of their chariots, knocking them helter-skelter, but, since they fought with breastplates, would themselves be repulsed by the arrows. Horseman would overthrow foot-soldiers and foot-soldiers strike down horseman; a group of Romans, forming in close order, would advance to meet the chariots, and others would be scattered by them; a band of Britons would come to close quarters with the archers and rout them, while others were content to dodge their shafts at a distance; and all this was going on not at one spot only, but in all three divisions at once. They contended for a long time, both parties being animated by the same zeal and daring. But finally, late in the day, the Romans prevailed; and they slew many in battle beside the wagons and the forest, and captured many alike. Nevertheless, not a few made their escape and were preparing to fight again. In the meantime, however, Buduica fell sick and died. The Britons mourned her deeply and gave her a costly burial; but, feeling that now at last they were really defeated, they scattered to their homes. So much for affairs in Britain.

13. In Rome Nero first divorced Octavia Augusta, on account of his concubine Sabina, and later he put her to death.​10 He did this in spite of the opposition out of Burrus, who endeavoured to prevent him from divorcing her, and once said to him, "Well, then, give her back her dowry," by which he meant the sovereignty. Indeed, frankness of speech was characteristic of Burrus and he employed it with such boldness that once, for example, when he was asked by the emperor a second time for his opinion on matters regarding which he had already declared himself, he answered bluntly: "When I have once spoken about anything, don't ask me again."

So Nero disposed of him [Burrus] by poison; and he appointed as one of two men to command the Praetorians a certain Sophronius​11 Tigellinus, who had outstripped all his contemporaries in licentiousness and bloodthirstiness.

Tigellinus, who had outstripped all his contemporaries in licentiousness and bloodthirstiness, succeeded Burrus. He won Nero away from the others and made light of his colleague Rufus.

It was to him that the famous retort is said to have been made by Pythias. When all the other attendants of Octavia, with the exception of Pythias, had taken sides with Sabina in her attack upon the empress, despising Octavia because she was in misfortune and toadying to Sabina because she had great influence, Pythias alone had refused, though cruelly tortured, to utter lies against her mistress, and finally, as Tigellinus continued to urge her, she spat in his face, saying: "My mistress's privy parts are cleaner, Tigellinus, than your mouth."

Note 10. Cf. Zonaras: And he divorced his wife, Octavia Augusta, the daughter of Claudius; for being enamoured of Sabina, he wished to live with her as his wife. And Sabina, fearing that Octavia might be recalled some day, suborned persons to accuse her falsely of adultery and witchcraft; she thus brought about her exile at first and later her murder.

Joann. Antioch.: He first divorced and afterwards put to death his wife Octavia, the daughter of Claudius, who had been of no slight assistance to him in gaining the throne.

Note 11. A mistake for Ofonius.

14. Nero made the misfortunes of his relatives a subject for laughter and jests. For example, after killing Plautus he took a look at his head when it was brought to him and remarked: "I didn't know he had such a big nose" — as much as to say that he would have spared him, had he been aware of this fact beforehand! And though he spent practically his whole existence amid tavern life, he forbade others to sell in taverns anything boiled save vegetables and pea-soup. He put Pallas out of the way because he had amassed a great fortune that was estimated at 400,000,000 sesterces. He would often give way to peevishness; for instance, he would refuse to talk with his servants of freedmen, but instead would jot down all his wishes and commands on tablets.

15. When many of those who had assembled at Antium perished,​12 Nero made this an occasion for a festival.

A certain Thrasea expressed the opinion that for a senator the extreme penalty should be exile.

To such lengths did Nero's licence go that he actually drove chariots in public. And on one occasion after exhibiting a wild-beast hunt he immediately piped water into the theatre and produced a sea-fight; then he let the water out again and arranged a gladiatorial combat. Last of all, he flooded the place once more and gave a costly public banquet. Tigellinus had been appointed director of the banquet and everything had been provided on a lavish scale. The arrangements were made as follows. In the centre of the lake there had first been lowered the great wooden casks used for holding wine, and on top of these, planks had been fastened, while round about this platform taverns and booths had been erected. Thus Nero and Tigellinus and their fellow-banqueters occupied the centre, where they held their feast on purple rugs and soft cushions, while all the rest made merry in the taverns. They would also enter the brothels and without let or hindrance have intercourse with any of the women who were seated there, among whom were the most beautiful and distinguished in the city, both slaves and free, courtesans and virgins and married women; and these were not merely of the common people but also of the very noblest families, both girls and grown women. Every man had the privilege of enjoying whichever one he wished, as the women were not allowed to refuse anyone. Consequently, indiscriminate rabble as the throng was, they not only drank greedily but also wantoned riotously; and now a slave would debauch his mistress in the presence of his master, and now a gladiator would debauch a girl of noble family before the eyes of her father. The pushing and fighting and general uproar that took place, both on the part of those who were actually going in and on the part of those who were standing around outside, were disgraceful. Many men met their death in these encounters, and many women, too, some of the latter being suffocated and some being seized and carried off.

Note 12. On the occasion of the birth of Nero's daughter at Antium, the entire senate hastened thither to congratulate him (Tac. Ann. XV.23); and many others no doubt did the same. In what manner so many perished we can only conjecture.

16. After this Nero set his heart on accomplishing what had doubtless always been his desire, namely to make an end of the whole city and realm during his lifetime. At all events, he, like others before him,​13 used to call Priam wonderfully fortunate in that he had seen his country and his throne destroyed together. Accordingly he secretly sent out men who pretended to be drunk or engaged in other kinds of mischief, and caused them at first to set fire to one or two or even several buildings in different parts of the city, so that people were at their wits' end, not being able to find any beginning of the trouble nor to put an end to it, though they constantly were aware of many strange sights and sounds. For there was naught to be seen but many fires, as in a camp, and naught to be heard from the talk of the people except such exclamations as "This or that is afire," "Where?" "How did it happen?" "Who kindled it?" "Help?" Extraordinary excitement laid hold on all the citizens in all parts of the city, and they ran about, some in one direction and some in another, as if distracted. Here men while assisting their neighbours would learn that their own premises were afire; there others, before 20 reached them that their own houses had caught fire, would be told that they were destroyed. Those who were inside their houses would run out into the narrow streets thinking that they could save them from the outside, while people in the streets would rush into the dwellings in the hope of accomplishing something inside. There was shouting and wailing without end, of children, women, men, and the aged all together, so that no one could see thing or understand what was said by reason of the smoke and the shouting; and for this reason some might be seen standing speechless, as if they were dumb. Meanwhile many who were carrying out their goods and many, too, who were stealing the property of others, kept running into one another and falling over their burdens. It was not possible to go forward nor yet to stand still, but people pushed and were pushed in turn, upset others and were themselves upset. Many were suffocated, many were trampled underfoot; in a word, no evil that can possibly happen to people in such a crisis failed to befall to them. They could not even escape anywhere easily; and if anybody did save himself from the immediate danger, he would fall into another and perish.

Note 13. The text is probably corrupt; see critical note. The critical note to the text's τὸν γοῦν Πρίαμον καὶ αὐτὸς θαυμαστῶς ἐμακάριζεν reads: καὶ αὐτὸς VC, probably corrupt; κατ' αὐτὸ τοῦτο Polak.

17. Now this did not all take place on a single day, but it lasted for several days and nights alike. Many houses were destroyed for want of anyone to help save them, and many others were set on fire by the same men who came to lend assistance; for the soldiers, including the night watch, having an eye to plunder, instead of putting out fires, kindled new ones. While such scenes were occurring at various points, a wind caught up the flames and carried them indiscriminately against all the buildings that were left. Consequently no one concerned himself any longer about goods or houses, but all the survivors, standing where they thought they were safe, gazed upon what appeared to be a number of scattered islands on fire or many cities all burning at the same time. There was no longer any grieving over personal losses, but they lamented the public calamity, recalling how once before most of the city had been thus laid waste by the Gauls.

18. While the whole population was in this state of mind and many, crazed by the disaster, were leaping into the very flames, Nero ascended to the roof of the palace, from which there was the best general view of the greater part of the conflagration, and assuming the lyre-player's garb, he sang the "Capture of Troy," as he styled the song himself, though to the enemies of the spectators it was the Capture of Rome.

The calamity which the city then experienced has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the city were burned, and countless persons perished. There was no curse that the populace did not invoke upon Nero, though they did not mention his name, but simply cursed in general terms those who had set the city on fire. And they were disturbed above all by recalling the oracle which once in the time of Tiberius had been on everybody's lips.​14 It ran thus:

"Thrice three hundred years having run their course of fulfilment, Rome by the strife of her people shall perish."

And when Nero, by way of encouraging them, reported that these verses could not be found anywhere, they dropped them and proceeded to repeat another oracle, which they averred to be a genuine Sibylline prophecy, namely: "Last of the sons of Aeneas, a mother-slayer shall govern."

And so it proved, whether this verse was actually spoken beforehand by some divine prophecy, or the populace was now for the first time inspired, in view of the present situation, to utter it. For Nero was indeed the last emperor of the Julian line, the line descended from Aeneas. He now began to collect vast sums from private citizens as well as from whole communities, sometimes using compulsion, taking the conflagration as his pretext, and sometimes obtaining it by voluntary contributions, as they were made to appear. As for the Romans themselves, he deprived them of the free dole of grain.

Note 14. Cf. LVII.18.

19. While he was thus engaged he received tidings from Armenia accompanied by a laurel crown in honour of another victory there. For Corbulo, after uniting the bodies of soldiers that had been scattered and training them after a period of neglect, had then by the very report of his approach terrified both Vologaesus, the king of Parthia, and Tiridates, the Armenian leader. He resembled the early Romans in that, besides coming of a brilliant family possessing great strength of body, he was still further gifted with a shrewd intelligence; and he displayed great bravery and great fairness and good faith towards all, both friends and enemies. For these reasons Nero had sent him to the war in his own stead and had entrusted to him a larger force than to anybody else, feeling equal confidence that this leader would subdue the barbarians and would not revolt against him. And Corbulo belied neither of these expectations, though he grieved everybody else in this one particular, that he kept faith with Nero; for people were so anxious to secure him as emperor in place of Nero that his conduct in this respect seemed to them his only defect.

Corbulo, accordingly, had taken Artaxata without a struggle and had razed the city to the ground.

20. This exploit finished, he marched in the direction of Tigranocerta, sparing all the districts that yielded but devastating the lands of all such as resisted him. Tigranocerta submitted to him voluntarily. He also performed other brilliant and glorious deeds, crowning them all by inducing the formidable Vologaesus to accept terms that accorded with the dignity of the Romans.

Vologaesus, on hearing that Nero had assigned Armenia to others and that Adiabene was being ravaged by Tigranes, made preparations to take the field himself against Corbulo, in Syria, and sent into Armenia Monobazus, king of Adiabene, and Monaeses, a Parthian. These two shut up Tigranes in Tigranocerta. But since they found that they could not harm at all by their siege, but, on the contrary, as often as they tried conclusions with him, were repulsed by both the native troops and the Romans that were in his army, and since Corbulo guarded Syria with extreme care, Vologaesus swallowed his pride and abandoned the expedition. Then he sent to Corbulo and obtained a truce on condition that he should send a new embassy to Nero, raise the siege, and withdraw his soldiers from Armenia. Nero did not give him even then either a speedy or a definite reply, but despatched Lucius Caesennius Paetus to Cappadocia to see to it that there should be no uprising in the region of Armenia.

21. Vologaesus attacked Tigranocerta and drove back Paetus, who had come to his aid. When the latter fled, he pursued him, cut down the garrison left by Paetus at the Taurus, and shut him up in Rhandea, near the river Arsanias. Then he was on the point of retiring without accomplishing anything; for, destitute as he was of heavy-armed soldiers, he could not approach close to the wall, and he had no large stock of provisions, particularly as he had come at the head of a vast host without making arrangements for his food supply. But Paetus stood in fear of his archery, which took et in the very camp itself, as well as of his cavalry, which kept appearing at all points, and accordingly sent to him proposals for a truce, accepted his terms, and took an oath that he would himself abandon the whole of Armenia and that Nero should give it to Tiridates. The Parthian was glad enough to make this agreement, seeing that he was to obtain control of the country without a contest and would be making the Romans his debtors for a very considerable kindness. And, as he also learned that Corbulo (whom Paetus had repeatedly sent for before he was surrounded) was drawing near, he dismissed the beleaguered Romans, having first made them agree to build a bridge over the river Arsanias for him. He did not really need a bridge, for he had crossed on foot, but he wished to show them that he was their superior. At any rate, he did not retire by way of the bridge even on this occasion, but rode across on an elephant, while the rest got over as before.

22. The capitulation had scarcely been made when Corbulo with inconceivable swiftness reached the Euphrates and there waited for the retreating force. When the two forces met, the vast difference between the troops and their generals would have struck the attention of anybody: the former were rejoicing and exulting in their speed, the latter were grieved and ashamed of the compact that had been made. Vologaesus sent Monaeses to Corbulo with the demand that he abandon the fort in Mesopotamia. So these two held a prolonged conference together on the very bridge over the Euphrates, after first destroying the centre of the structure. Corbulo agreed to quit the country if the Parthian would also abandon Armenia, and both of these stipulations were carried out provisionally, until Nero could learn of the engagements made and receive the second embassy that Vologaesus sent. The answer given them by the emperor was that he would bestow Armenia upon Tiridates if that prince would come to Rome. Paetus was deposed from his command and the soldiers that had been with him were sent elsewhere, but Corbulo was again assigned to the war against the same foes. Nero had intended to accompany the expedition in person, but he fell while performing a sacrifice, so that he did not venture to set out, but remained at home.

23. Corbulo, therefore, was officially preparing for war upon Vologaesus and sent a centurion bidding him depart from the country; but privately he was advising the king to send his brother to Rome, a suggestion that the other followed, since Corbulo seemed to have the stronger force. Accordingly, Corbulo and Tiridates held a conference at Rhandea, a place satisfactory to both — to the king because his troops had there cut off the Romans and had sent them away under a capitulation, a visible proof of the favour that had been done them, and to Corbulo because he expected his men to wipe out the ill repute that had attached to them there before. Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of crowds of Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them. Monobazus and Vologaesus also came to Corbulo and gave him hostages. In honour of this event Nero was saluted as imperator a number of times and held a triumph, contrary to precedent.

Corbulo, then, though he had a large force under him and enjoyed no small reputation, so that he might easily have been made emperor (since men thoroughly detested Nero, but all admired him in every way), neither headed any rebellion nor was accused of doing so. In fact, he now conducted himself more prudently than ever. For example, he voluntarily sent to Rome his son-in‑law Annius, who was acting as his lieutenant; this was done with the ostensible purpose that Annius might escort Tiridates thither, but actually in order to put a hostage in Nero's hands. To be sure, the emperor had been so firmly persuaded that his general would not revolt, that Corbulo had obtained his son-in‑law, even before he had been praetor, as lieutenant.

27. Junius Torquatus, a descendant of Augustus, was handed over for punishment on a remarkable charge. He had squandered his property rather prodigally, whether following his native bent or with the deliberate intention of not being very rich. Nero therefore declared that, as he lacked many things, he must be covetous of the goods of others, and consequently caused a fictitious charge to be brought against him of aspiring to the imperial power.

24. Seneca, however, and Rufus, the prefect, and some other prominent men formed a plot against Nero; for they could no longer endure his disgraceful behaviour, his licentiousness, and his cruelty. They desired, therefore, to rid themselves of these evils and at the same time to free Nero from them — as indeed, Sulpicius Asper, a centurion, and Subrius Flavius, a military tribune, both belonging to the body-guards, admitted outright to Nero himself. Asper, when asked by the emperor the reason for his attempt, replied: "I could help you in no other way." And the response of Flavius was: "I have both loved and hated you above all men. I loved you, hoping that you would prove a good emperor; I have hated you because you do so-and‑so. I can not be a slave to a charioteer or lyre-player." Information was lodged against these men, then, and they were punished, and many others likewise on their account. For everything in the nature of a complaint that could be entertained against anyone for excessive joy or grief, for words or gestures, was brought forward and was believed; and not one of these complaints, even if fictitious, could be refused credence in view of Nero's actual deeds. Hence faithless friends and house servants of some men flourished exceedingly; for, whereas persons were naturally on their guard against strangers and foes, by reason of their suspicions, they were bound to lay bare their thoughts to their associates whether they would or not.

25. It would be no small task to speak of all the others that perished, but the fate of Seneca calls for a few words. It was his wish to end the life of his wife Paulina at the same time with his own, for he declared that he had taught her both to despise death and to desire to leave the world in company with him. So he opened her veins as well as his own. But as he died hard, his end was hastened by the soldiers; and she was still alive when he passed away, and thus survived. He did not lay hands upon himself, however, until he had revised the book which he was writing​15 and had deposited his other books with some friends, fearing that they would otherwise fall into Nero's hands and be destroyed. Thus died Seneca, notwithstanding that he had on the pretext of illness abandoned the society of the emperor and had bestowed upon him his entire property, ostensibly to help to pay for the buildings he was constructing. His brothers, too, perished after him.

Note 15. Tacitus (Ann. XV.63) describes Seneca as dictating in his very last moments words that were later published, but he does not identify them.

26. Like Thrasea and Soranus, who were among the foremost in family, wealth, and every virtue, met their death, not because they were accused of conspiracy, but because they were what they were. Against Soranus, Publius Egnatius Celer, a philosopher, gave false evidence. The accused had had two associates, Cassius Asclepiodotus of Nicaea and this Egnatius of Berytus. Now Asclepiodotus, so far from speaking against Soranus, actually bore witness to his noble qualities; and for this he was exiled at the time, though later restored under Galba. Publius, in return for his false charges, received money and honours, as did others of the same profession; but subsequently he was banished. Soranus, then, was slain on the charge of having practised a kind of magic through the agency of his daughter, the foundation for this story being that when Soranus fell sick they had offered a certain sacrifice. Thrasea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate, — thus showing that he did not like the measures passed, — and because he never would listen to the emperor's singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero's Divine Voice as did the rest, nor give any public exhibitions; yet it was remarked that at Patavium, his native place, he had acted in a tragedy held in pursuance of some old custom at a festival held every thirty years. As he made the incision in his artery, he raised his hand, exclaiming: "To thee, Jupiter, Patron of Freedom, I pour this libation of blood."

27. And why should one be surprised that such complaints were brought against them, seeing that one man​16 was brought to trial and slain for living near the Forum, and letting of the some shops for receiving a few friends in them; and another​17 because he possessed an image of Cassius, the slayer of Caesar?

The conduct of a woman named Epicharis also deserves mention. She had been included in the conspiracy and all its details had been entrusted to her without reserve; yet she revealed none of them, though often tortured in all the ways that the skill of Tigellinus could devise. And why should one enumerate the sums given to the Praetorians on the occasion of this conspiracy or the excessive honours voted to Nero and his friends? Suffice it to say that Rufus Musonius, the philosopher, was banished for his connexion with these events.

Sabina also perished at this time through an act of Nero's; either accidentally or intentionally he had leaped upon her with his feet while she was pregnant.

Note 17. C. Cassius Longinus (ibid.).

28. The extremes of luxury indulged in by this Sabina I will indicate in the briefest terms. She caused gilded shoes to be put on the mules that drew her and caused five hundred asses that had recently foaled to be milked daily that she might bathe in their milk. For she bestowed the greatest pains on the beauty and brilliancy of her person, and this is why, when she noticed in a mirror one day that her appearance was not comely, she prayed that she might die before she passed her prime. Nero missed her so greatly after her death that on learning of a woman who resembled her he at first sent for her and kept her; but later he caused a boy of the freedmen, whom he used to call Sporus, to be castrated, since he, too, resembled Sabina, and he used him in every way like a wife. In due time, though already "married" to Pythagoras, a freedman, he formally "married" Sporus, and assigned the boy a regular dowry according to contract; and the Romans as well as others publicly celebrated their wedding.

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

This, however, was later. At the time with which we are concerned many, as I have stated, were put to death, and many others, purchasing their lives from Tigellinus for a great price, were released.

Note 16. Salvidienus Orfitus (according to Suetonius, Nero, 37).

29. Nero continued to do many ridiculous things. Thus, on the occasion of a certain popular festival, he descended to the orchestra of the theatre, where he read some Trojan lays of himself; and in honour of these, numerous sacrifices were offered, as was the case with everything else that he did. He was now making preparations to write an epic narrating all the achievements of the Romans; and even before composing a line of it he began to consider the proper number of books, consulting among others Annaeus Cornutus, who at this time was famed for his learning. This man he came very near putting to death and did deport to an island, because, while some were urging him to write four hundred books, Cornutus said that this was too many and nobody would read them. And when someone objected, "Yet Chrysippus, whom you praise and imitate, composed many more," the other retorted: "But they are a help to the conduct of men's lives." So Cornutus incurred banishment for this. Lucan, on the other hand, was debarred from writing poetry because he was receiving high praise for his work.