Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK XIII. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 2 - Annals (Books 4-6, 11-16)
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BOOK XIII. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 2 - Annals (Books 4-6, 11-16) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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Silanus, Proconsul of Asia, poisoned at the instigation of Agrippina. Narcissus, freedman to the late Emperor, doomed to die. The funeral of Claudius. Nero’s Panegyric upon him. Nero’s reign begins well. The Senate left to act independently. The Parthians aim at the possession of Armenia. Corbulo employed against them. Nero his passion for Acte. Agrippina provoked by it, and thence loses credit with her son. Pallas removed from the administration. Britannicus poisoned Agrippina grows obnoxious to Nero; is accused before him, and acquitted. Nero’s wild revellings during the night. Debate about recalling insolent freedmen to their former bondage. Some eminent men condemned. Natural deaths. New broils with the Parthians about Armenia. Corbulo inures his men to severe and primitive discipline; invades Armenia, storms several strong holds, takes the city of Artaxata, and burns it. Tiridates flies before him. P. Suilius condemned. Octavius Sagitta, in the age of love, stabs Pontia, his former mistress, upon her refusing to marry him. His freedman takes the fact upon himself. Nero conceives a passion for Poppæa Sabina: Her history, character, and arts. Cornelius, through the Emperor’s jealousy, banished to Marseilles The exorbitance of the publicans restrained. The Frisians endeavour to settle near the Rhine, but are driven thence by the Roman horse, and routed. The Ansibarians make the same attempt, with the same ill fortune. Fierce war between the Hermondurians and Cattians; the latter almost utterly cut off in a great battle. Strange eruption of fire in the territory of the Juhones.
THE first victim under the new Prince was Junius Silanus, Proconsul of Asia, dispatched unknown to Nero, by the fraud of Agrippina; not that he had provoked his fate by any turbulence of spirit, having lived in such sloth and even such scorn, during the late reigns, that Caligula was wont to call him the golden sheep. But Agrippina feared that he might prove the avenger of the murder of his brother Lucius Silanus, by her formerly procured. For, it was now the current rumour amongst the populace, that, “as Nero was scarce past his childhood, and by iniquity had acquired the Empire; such a man was to be preferred to him, one of composed age, spotless integrity, noble, and (which was then highly prized) descended from the Cæsars.” For, he too was the great grandson of Augustus. Such was the cause of his doom; the instruments were Publius Celer a Roman Knight, and Helius the freedman, both employed to manage the Emperor’s domestic revenue in Asia. By them the Proconsul had poison given him at a banquet, so openly, as if they meant not to disavow it. Nor was less haste used to dispatch Narcissus, the late Emperor’s freedman, whose bold invectives against Agrippina I have mentioned. In a rigorous prison, and through the miserable extremity of want, he was constrained to die, sore against the mind of Nero, who, however he hitherto smothered his vices, bore a wonderful conformity to the temper of Narcissus, profuse and rapacious like his own.
A torrent of slaughters was about to have followed, had not Afranius Burrhus and Annæus Seneca prevented it. These were the governors of the Emperor’s youth, and though engaged in partnership of power, yet, by a rare example, well united, men different in their accomplishments, but of equal weight and authority. Burrhus his instructor in lessons of arms, and the gravity of manners, Seneca in the precepts of eloquence, and polite address. In this office they helped and supported each other, the easier to manage between them the dangerous age of the Prince; or, if he rejected the pursuits of virtue, to restrain him at least within the bounds of guiltless pleasures. One constant struggle they both had against the tempestuous spirit of Agrippina, who was transported with every lust of lawless dominion, and, in her designs, upheld by Pallas, the same who had led Claudius into that incestuous match, then into the fatal adoption, and by both, into his own destruction. But Nero’s temper was not such as to be controuled by slaves; and Pallas too having exceeded the liberties of a slave manumised, had by his horrid arrogance provoked Nero’s disgust. Upon Agrippina however, in public, he accumulated all kinds of honours, nay, to a Tribune once, who, according to the discipline of the soldiery, desired the word, gave that of excellent mother; by the Senate too were decreed her two Lictors, with the character of Priestess to Claudius. To him at the same time was ordained a censorial funeral, and afterwards deification.
The day of burial, his funeral praises were pronounced by Nero, who, whilst he carefully recounted the antiquity of his lineage, the many Consulships, the many triumphs of his ancestors, others as carefully listened. The display too of his acquirements in Letters, was heard with attention and pleasure, as also the observation, that during his reign no calamity from foreigners had befallen the state. But when he fell into a commemoration of the wisdom and providence of Claudius, not a soul could refrain from laughter, though the speech was of Seneca’s composing, and discovered much accuracy and fineness, as he had, in truth, a beautiful genius, and stile well suited to the taste of that time. Old men, who make it their recreation to draw parallels between things present and past, took notice, that Nero was the first Roman Emperor who needed the aid of another man’s eloquence. For, Cæsar the Dictator was ranked with the most distinguished Orators. Augustus too had an easy and flowing elocution, such as became a Prince. Tiberius also possessed the art of marshalling words; his sentiments were likewise strong, and it was from policy that sometimes his expressions were obscure. Even the disordered spirit of Caligula impaired not his address and energy in speaking. Nor was Claudius wanting in elegance of discourse, when his discourse was the effect of study. Nero, even from his childhood, had abandoned his lively imagination to other occupations and diversions, to graving, painting, singing, and managing the horse, at times too in composing poems, whence some grounds of science appeared to have been in him.
Having finished this mimicry of mourning, he repaired to the Senate, where, after an introduction concerning his establishment in the Empire by the authority of the fathers, and the common concurrence of the soldiery, he declared with what worthy purposes, and upon what good examples he assumed the Sovereignty; that his youth being never ruffled nor engaged in any of the animosities of civil wars, or any domestic dissensions, he brought with him no spirit of hatred, no sense of injuries, nor appetite of revenge. He then proposed the scheme of his future rule, and in it avoided carefully all those late measures of reigning which were still fresh and odious; “for that he claimed not the judgment and decision of affairs, nor would allow the shutting up those who were accused in the same house with their accusers, and by it sustained the impotent tyranny of a few. Nothing should be saleable within his walls, nor any access there to intrigues of ambition. Between his family and the republic a just distinction should be maintained; the Senate should uphold her ancient jurisdiction; Italy and all those provinces, which depended upon the People and Senate, should apply only to the tribunal of the Consuls, and by them procure access to the Fathers. To himself he reserved what was especially committed to his trust, the direction of the armies.”
This declaration wanted no sincerity, and by the Senate many regulations were made, agreeable to their own good liking, particularly that no advocate should defend a cause for gift or payment, and that those who were designed Quæstors, should be no longer obliged to exhibit public shews of Gladiators. All this was opposed by Agrippina, as what rescinded the acts of Claudius; but the Fathers prevailed, though by her contrivance they were purposely assembled in the palace, that there posted by a door behind a curtain, secure from sight, she might yet easily overhear. Nay, at a time when the Embassadors from Armenia were pleading before Nero a cause of their nation, she was advancing to ascend the Imperial Tribunal, and to sit in joint judgment with the Emperor, if Seneca, seeing all the rest mute through fear, had not remembered him “to descend and meet his mother.” Thus, under the guise of filial reverence, that public disgrace was prevented.
At the end of the year, tidings were brought by the flying alarms of rumour, “that the Parthians having broke out into fresh hostilities, had seized Armenia, and exterminated Rhadamistus,” who, often Sovereign of that Kingdom, and as often a fugitive, had now too abandoned the war. At Rome therefore, a city fond of descanting upon the public, they began to inquire, “how a Prince, scarce passed his seventeenth year, could undertake so mighty a charge, how repulse such a potent foe? what protection to the State from a youth governed by a woman? would he, upon this occasion also, act by the ministry of his tutors? would his tutors fight battles, storm towns, and execute the other functions of war?” Others, on the contrary, alledged, “that it had thus better happened, than if the weight and care of that war had fallen upon Claudius, under all the defects of old age and stupidity, one who would have blindly obeyed the dictates of his slaves. Burrhus and Seneca were known for men of long and various experience in affairs, and to the Emperor himself how little was wanting of mature age? when Pompey, in his eighteenth year, Octavius Cæsar in his nineteenth, each sustained the weight of a civil war? Under public rulers, more was accomplished by counsels and influence, than by arms and force. Nero besides would soon exhibit a manifest proof, whether he employed worthy or unworthy Counsellors, if his choice of a General fell, without pique or partiality, upon a man of signal reputation, rather than upon one that was only wealthy, and trusted to favour and intrigues.”
Whilst these and the like discourses employed the public, Nero, to supply the Legions in the East, ordered recruits to be raised through the neighbouring provinces, and the Legions themselves to be posted near to Armenia; as also that the ancient Kings, Agrippa and Antiochus should make ready their forces, such as might enable them to invade the territories of the Parthians; and that bridges should be forthwith made upon the Euphrates. To Aristobulus he moreover committed the lesser Armenia, and the region of Sophenes to Sohemus, with the ensigns of Royalty and title of Kings. There arose likewise to Vologeses a competitor for his Crown, even his own son Vardanes. Hence the Parthians withdrew from Armenia, yet so as if they meant to return, and only postponed the war.
But, in the Senate, all this was extolled above measure, by such as voted, “that days of public supplications should be decreed to the Gods, that on those public days the Prince should wear the triumphal robe; that he should enter the city in the pomp of Ovation, that to him a statue should be erected, of the same bulk with that of Mars the Avenger, and in the same temple.” Besides their habitual proneness to flattery, they sincerely rejoiced that, for the reconquest of Armenia, he had preferred Domitius Corbulo, whence a door seemed to be opened for the reward of virtue and merit. The forces in the East were so divided, that part of the auxiliaries, with two Legions, were to remain in Syria, under the command of Numidius Quadratus governor of the province; an equal number of Romans and allies were assigned to Corbulo, with an addition of the cohorts, and other troops, which wintered in Cappadocia. The confederate Kings were ordered to obey either, according to the exigencies of the war; but their affections were much more devoted to Corbulo, who, in order to take advantage of fame, which in all new enterprises has ever most powerful influence, marched with expedition, and at Ægeas, a city of Cilicia, was met by Quadratus, who advanced purposely thus far, lest Corbulo, if he had entered Syria to receive his forces there, should draw upon himself the eyes of all men, large as he was in his person, a magnificent speaker, and, besides the esteem of his wisdom and great experience, even things empty in themselves, his air and fashion served powerfully to recommend him.
Both, however, warned Vologeses by messages, “to prefer peace to war, and by delivering hostages to preserve towards the Roman people that reverence which was wont to be paid by his ancestors.” Vologeses too, in order to make the more effectual preparations for war, or perhaps to remove under the name of hostages, such as he suspected of aiming at the Diadem, yielded the most illustrious of the family of Arsacides. They were received by Histeius the Centurion, who had been for this very end dispatched to the King by Numidius. When this became known to Corbulo, he ordered Arrius Varus, Prefect of a Cohort, to go and take them; hence a quarrel arose between the Centurion and the Prefect, but, to prevent the same from becoming the sport of foreign nations, to the hostages themselves and deputies who conducted them, the decision of the difference was committed, and they preferred the pretensions of Corbulo, in regard of his late exaltation, and even from a certain biass towards him in the hearts of our enemies. Hence a source of discord between the Cenerals. Numidius complained that he was bereft of what he had by his own counsels atchieved; Corbulo, on the contrary, maintained that the King had not inclined to yield hostages, till he himself being appointed to conduct the war, had changed his hopes into fear. Nero, to compose their jarrings, ordered public declarations to be made, “that for the successful conduct of Quadratus and Corbulo, the laurel should be annexed to their fasces.” These transactions, though they reached into the year of the succeeding Consuls, I have thus laid together.
The same year, Nero applied to the Senate for a statue to his father Domitius, and for the Consular ornaments to Asconius Labeo, who had been his Tutor. Statues to himself of solid silver and gold, he refused, and opposed such who proposed them; and, notwithstanding an ordinance of Senate, that the year for the future should begin on December, the month in which Nero was born, he preserved the ancient solemnity of beginning the year with the first of January. Neither would he admit a criminal prosecution against Carinas Celer the Senator, upon the accusation of a slave; nor against Julius Densus of the Equestrian Order, charged as a delinquent for his devotion to Britannicus.
In the Consulship of Nero and Lucius Antistius, as the Magistrates were swearing upon the acts of the Emperors, he withheld Antistius his collegue from swearing upon his; an action copiously extolled by the Fathers, with design that his youthful spirit, first animated by the glory resulting from light things, might proceed to court the same in things which were greater. There followed an instance of his mercy towards Plautius Lateranus, formerly degraded from the order of Senator, for adultery with Messalina, but now by Nero restored. He chose to make many professions of clemency in the frequent speeches with Seneca, either to manifest what worthy counsels he gave, or in ostentation of his own wit, uttered in public by the mouth of the Emperor.
In the mean while, the authority of his mother became by little and little slighted and impaired; for Nero having fallen into a passion for a franchised damsel, her name Acte, at the same time assumed as confidents in his amour Otho and Claudius Senecio, the first of a Consular family, the other a son of one of the Emperor’s freedmen, both youths of graceful persons, who first, unknown to his mother, then in spight of her, had by fellowship in luxury and secret pleasures crept into an unbounded intimacy with him. Nor did even his severest ministers thwart this intrigue, when with a woman of low condition, to the injury of no man, the Prince satisfied his youthful inclinations and pleasures. For, Octavia his wife, however illustrious in her birth, however celebrated for her virtue, he intirely nauseated, whether from blind fatality, or that forbidden pursuits are more prevalent and attractive. Besides, it was dreaded that, had he been withheld from that gallantry, he would have daringly polluted Ladies of high quality.
Now Agrippina stormed, “that a manumised slave was become her competitress, a handmaid her daughter-in-law,” with other the like angry invectives of an incensed woman. Nor would she practise the least patience, till her son were reclaimed by being ashamed or surfeited; though the fouler her reproaches were, the more vehemently she fired his passion. So that, overcome at last by its superior force, he shook off all reverence for his mother, and surrendered himself intirely to Seneca, who had a friend named Annæus Serenus, that had hitherto cloaked the Prince’s passion for Acte, by feigning one of his own, and furnished his name, that in it he might openly present to her whatever Nero in secret bestowed upon her. And now Agrippina, changing her arts and address, assailed his youthful spirit with softness and blandishments, she offered him “her own chamber, that there, and even within her own arms, he might more covertly accomplish whatever the warmth of his youth and sovereign fortune prompted him to.” She even acknowledged her unseasonable rigour, and tendered him the disposal of all her wealth, not far short of the Imperial treasures. For, as she had lately been over strict in checking her son, so now she was become beyond measure submissive and condescending. This sudden change deceived not Nero; and his closest friends dreading it, besought him, “to beware of snares from a woman always implacable, and then both implacable and dissembling.” It happened about that time, that as Nero was surveying the precious ornaments, in which the wives and mothers of the Emperors were wont to shine, he chose out certain rich raiment with many jewels, and sent them as presents to his mother; nor were the same any wise stinted, since the choicest things, and such as others passionately covet, were by him, unasked, presented to her. But Agrippina waxed violent, and said, “that by these gifts, the adorning of her person was not intended, but rather her exclusion from all besides; and her son would thus divide with her what he had wholly received from her.” Nor were there wanting those who related these her words with aggravations.
Nero therefore, provoked with those who managed and upheld the imperious spirit of Agrippina, dismissed Pallas from the employment which he had received from Claudius, and in it had acted like the sovereign director of the Empire. It is reported that, as he departed the palace, attended by a mighty throng of followers, Nero said, not unpleasantly, “Pallas is going to abdicate his sovereignty.” Pallas had, in truth, stipulated, “That he should be questioned for no part of his past behaviour; and, for his accounts, the public should have no more demands upon him, than he upon the public.” After this Agrippina quite abandoned herself to a stile of threats and terrors, not spared she to utter them in the Emperor’s hearing, but declared, “that Britannicus was now grown up, the natural descendent from Claudius, and worthy to assume the Empire of his father; an Empire which one, who was a son only by adoption and ingraftment, swayed by trampling upon his own mother. She freely consented that all the crying calamities brought upon that unhappy house, should be laid open to the world, and first in the list her own incestuous marriage with her uncle, then her own guilt in poisoning her husband. One only consolation, by the providence of the Gods and her own, remained to her, that her step-son was still left alive; with him she would repair to the camp, where, on one side, would be heard the daughter of Germanicus, on the other, Burrhus and Seneca, the first with his maimed hand, the second wlth the stile of a pedagogue, both engaged in a contest with her about the sovereign rule of human kind.” At the same time she tossed her menacing hands, accumulated reproaches, invoked the deified Claudius, with the manes of the Silani, and of so many others whose murders she had in vain perpetrated!
All this alarmed Nero, and as the following day was that of the nativity of Britannicus, who on it accomplished his fourteenth year, he revolved, within himself, now upon the violent spirit of his mother, then upon the promising genius of that youth, of which, during the late Festival of the Saturnalia, he had given a remarkable specimen, and by it acquired universal esteem. Besides other sports, on that occasion, amongst them and others of the like age and condition, as they drew lots who should be King of the play, the lot fell upon Nero. He therefore, in that quality, gave to all the rest distinct commands, yet such as exposed them to no ridicule; but that to Britannicus was, to stand forth in the center of the company, and there begin some song. From attempting this task he hoped the boy would become an object of laughter, untrained as he was even in the parts of sober conversation, much more in the rants of drunkards. Britannicus, however, with an address steady and undisturbed, raised his voice to some verses which imported, how he “was berest of his natural inheritance and the Imperial power.” Hence he drew compassion from those who heard him, which was the more unrestrained, for that their gaity and the night had banished hypocrisy. Nero was struck with the invidious application, and grew into still more mortal hate; but, however urged to dispatch by the menaces of Agrippina, yet as his brother was without crime, and openly he dared not command his execution, he set about a secret machination. He ordered poison to be prepared, and as his agent in it employed Julius Pollio Tribune of a Prætorian Cohort, in whose custody was kept a woman under condemnation for poisoning, Locusta, famous for many black iniquities in that art. For, as to any obstacle from those who were nearest about the person of Britannicus, care had been long since taken that they should be such as were to have no sense of common honesty, or conscience of their faith and duty. The first poison he took was even administered by the hands of his governors, but without effect, being voided in a looseness; whether in itself it wanted energy, or, to prevent a discovery by its sudden rage, had been qualified. Nero, who was impatient of slow progress in his cruelty, threatened terribly the Tribune, and was dooming the Sorceress to execution, “for that, whilst they only apprehended the out-cries of the people, and were meditating ways to acquit themselves, they postponed the security of the Prince.” Hence they undertook to prepare a dose which, sudden as a dagger, should dispatch him, and in a chamber next to the Emperor’s, the deadly potion was seethed, compounded of several poisons, all of experienced rapidity.
At meals, it was the manner of the children of Princes, accompanied with other young nobles, to be served in a sitting posture, in the sight of their nearest kindred, at a separate table, and more sparingly covered. While Britannicus was thus at meat, the opportunity was taken; but, forasmuch as whatever he eat or drank, was first tried by a special officer of his, a taster, to the end therefore that neither this usage might be omitted, nor by the death of both, the iniquity be detected, the guile was thus concerted. To Britannicus drink was presented, such as was yet free from all infection, and tried by the taster, but scalding hot, and for that reason returned by Britannicus; hence it was qualified with cold water, in which the poison was poured, which seized all his organs with such sudden efficacy, that he was at once berest of speech and life. Fear and trembling possessed his companions; such too as comprehended not the mystery, instantly retired, but those of deeper discernment remained, with their eyes fixed stedfastly upon Nero, who, as he lay in a reclining posture, declared, with the air of one utterly ignorant, “That it was a usual fit of the falling-sickness, with which Britannicus from his early childhood had been afflicted, and by degrees his sight and understanding would return.” But in Agrippina such tokens of dread and consternation of spirit broke out, though by disguised looks she laboured to smother the same, that it was manifest she was as much a stranger to the doom of Britannicus as was his own sister Octavia; for, by his death she was sensible, that her last refuge was snatched from her, and saw an awakening example of patricide before her. Even Octavia, however raw in years, had learnt to hide under dissimulation her grief and tenderness, and every other affection of her soul. So, after a short silence, the pleasantry of the entertainment was resumed.
Upon one and the same night were seen the untimely fate of Britannicus and his funeral pile; for beforehand had been prepared all the appointments for his burial, which itself proved but moderate and stinted. In the Field of Mars, however, his remains were reposited, during such tempestuous rains as the populace believed to be denunciations of the wrath of the Deities against the crying deed; a deed which yet was in the judgment of many men, entituled to pardon, whilst they considered the wonted dissensions eternally happening between rival brothers, and the incommunicable genius of sovereignty. It is related by most of the writers of those times, that, for some time before the murder, Nero had defiled the youth by frequent constupration; so that this his death, however suddenly procured during the inviolable hospitality of the table, and so precipitately that to his sister not a moment was allowed for a last embrace, and under the eye of his capital enemy, yet could not appear too early incurred, nor even cruelly inflicted, though by it the last branch of the Claudian race was extirpated, since it was a branch vitiated by unnatural pollution before it perished by poison. Nero, by an edict, justified the hasty dispatch of the obsequies; the same, he said, was the institution of our ancestors, “presently to withdraw from the eyes of the public the coarses of such as fell before their prime, nor to stay to lengthen the solemnity by pomp and funeral orations. He too in Britannicus had lost the support of a brother; hence all his surviving hopes tested solely in the Commonwealth, and hence with the greater tenderness ought the Senate and people to cherish a Prince, who alone survived of a family born to sustain sovereignty.”
He then distinguished his most noted friends with great donations; nor were there wanting such as severely censured some, who, notwithstanding their avowed gravity, were yet parting amongst themselves, like spoils taken in war, the possessions of Britannicus, his palaces in Rome, and his manors and villas throughout Italy. Others believed, that they were constrained to accept them, by the authority of the Emperor, who, stung with the guilt of his own conscience, hoped that his crimes would be overlooked, if by largesses he could engage in his interest the most powerful men in the state. But his mother’s wrath, no liberalities could asswage; she was still caressing Octavia, still holding secret cabals with her confidents; and, besides the usual cravings of her inherent avarice, she was on all hands exacting and amassing treasure, as if by it she had some great design to support. The Tribunes and Centurions she received with great court and affability, and to the quality and merit of such of the virtuous nobility as even then remained, she paid distinguished honour; as if she were thus studying to create a party, and find a leader. These her measures were known to Nero; and therefore the guards which attended at her gate (a pre-eminence which she held as consort to the late Emperor, and had continued to her, as mother to this) were by his order withdrawn, together with the band of Germans which, as an additional honour, had been joined to the former. Moreover, to prevent her being followed by such a throng of courtiers, he separated her habitation from his, and conveyed her into the house which had belonged to Antonia. There, as often as he visited her, he went always surrounded with a crowd of officers, and after the short ceremony of returning her salute, immediately departed.
Of all mortal things there is nought so unstable and transitory, as the name of power which stands not upon its own native vigour and basis. Instantly the house of Agrippina was deserted; none appeared to give her consolation, none to visit her, except some few Ladies, and whether from affection or hate they did it, is uncertain. Amongst these was Junia Silana, she who was by Messalina divorced from Caius Silius, as above I have recounted, a Lady signal in her quality, beauty, and lewdness, and one, for a long while, very dear to Agrippina; but, between them afterwards secret heart burnings and resentments arose, for that Sextius Africanus, a noble youth, purposing to espouse Silana, was diverted by Agrippina, who urged, “that she was lewd, and past her prime:” not that she meant to reserve Africanus for herself, but left by marrying Silana, he should, as she had no children, with her possess all her wealth. Silana, who thought she saw a prospect of vengeance, instructed two of her own creatures, Iturius and Calvisius, to accuse her; neither did she attack her with stale charges often before alledged, such “as her bewailing the fate of Britannicus, and publishing the wrongs done to Octavia, but with designs to stir up Rubellius Plautus to make a revolution in the state, a nobleman who, by his mother, was in blood as nigh as Nero to the deified Augustus; that by espousing him and investing him with Empire, she meant once more to seize the Commonwealth.” All this was by Iturius and Calvisius imparted to Atimetus freedman to Domitia, Nero’s aunt. Atimetus, overjoyed at the discovery, (for between Agrippina and Domitia a passionate competition was maintained) instigated Paris the player, who was also Domitia’s freedman, to proceed with all haste to the Emperor, “and there, in tragical colours, to announce the crime.”
It was far in night, and Nero was wasting the remainder in carousing, when Paris entered, who else was wont at such seasons to heighten the voluptuous gayeties of the Prince; but now, with a face carefully framed into sadness, he laid before Nero a minute and orderly detail of the conspiracy, and by it so thoroughly affrighted him, that he not only determined the death of his mother and of Plautus, but also to remove Burrhus the captain of his guards, as one who owed his promotion to the favour of Agrippina, and would be ready to return her the like good office. We have it upon the authority of Fabius Rusticus, “That to Cæcina Tuscus a codicil was already dispatched, entrusting him with the command of the Prætorian bands, but that, through the credit and mediation of Seneca, Burrhus retained his dignity.” According to the account of Cluvius and Pliny, no jealousy was entertained concerning the fidelity of the Præfect. But, it must be owned that Fabius manifests a constant zeal to extoll Seneca, by whose friendship his own fortune flourished. As my own purpose is to follow the general consent of authors, so I shall insert under the name of each whatever they diversly publish. Nero, possessed with dread, and with a blind passion to slay his mother, could not be brought to defer his cruel purposes, till Burrhus undertook for her execution, in case she were convicted of the imputed crimes; “but, to every one, whoever it were, a liberty of defence, he said, must be granted, how much more to a mother? Nor, in truth, against her did any accusers appear, but only the hearsay of one man, and by him brought from the house of her enemy, a hearsay too which the circumstances and unseasonable hour contributed to refute; it was during the dead darkness and solitude of the night, and during a night spent in the festivity of banquetting, when all things conspired to produce only rash judgment and uncertainty.”
The Emperor’s fears being thus in some measure asswaged and day returned, recourse was had to Agrippina herself, that having notified to her the several charges against her, she might invalidate the same, or bear the punishment. These orders were performed by Burrhus, in the presence of Seneca; there attended likewise some of the Emperor’s freedmen, to watch his discourse. Burrhus, after he had to her explained her crimes, and given her the names of those who alledged them, proceeded to high words and menaces. Agrippina retained still the wonted fierceness of her spirit; “I wonder not, said she, that to Silana who never bore a child, the tender affections of a mother are thus unknown; for children are not so easily changed by their parents, as by a harlot are her adulterers; nor, because Iturius and Calvisius, after having riotously devoured their whole fortunes, prostitute themselves, for their last resource, to gratify the vengeance of an old woman, by turning my accusers, does it therefore follow that I am to undergo the foul infamy of parricide, or that any apprehensions should thence alarm the mind of Cæsar. As to Domitia, I would thank her even for all the efforts of her enmity to me, if in instances of tenderness towards my child Nero, she would strive to exceed me. At present, by the ministration of Atimetus her minion, and of Paris the player, she is framing a plot, like one for the stage; but she was occupied in trimming the canals of her villa at Baiæ, at a time when by my councils and management, he was adopted into the Claudian name, invested with the Proconsular authority, designed to the Consulship, and all other measures taken proper for acquiring him the Empire. In short, produce the person, who can charge me, either with attempting the faith of the guards at Rome, or with shaking the allegiance of the provinces, or with suborning the Prince’s slaves and freedmen to treason against his person. Under the reign of Britannicus, indeed, had he possessed the sovereignty, I could have preserved my life; but, were Plautus or any other to gain the supreme rule, and thence a power of pronouncing judgment upon any process against me, is it likely that I should want accusers, when, even under Nero, there are those who stand up to accuse me, not of words, sometimes by me incautiously uttered in the heat of affection and pity, but of treason so flagrant, that only through the bowels of a son for his mother, can I be acquitted by mine?” Compunction seized all who attended her; they voluntarily strove to allay the swellings of her heart, and she demanded an interview with her son. During it, she alledged not a syllable in behalf of her innocence, like one who mistrusted herself, nor of his engagements to gratitude, like one who could reproach him for want of it, but insisted that vengeance should be done upon her accusers, recompences be conferred on her friends, and obtained both. To Fenius Rufus was granted the superintendance of provisions, to Arruntius Stella the direction of the public shews, which the Emperor was preparing to exhibit, and to Caius Balbillus the government of Ægypt; that of Syria was assigned to Publius Anteius, but by various feints and stratagems he was, from time to time, eluded of the possession, and at last detained for good and all at Rome. Silana was sent into exile. Calvisius too and Iturius were banished. Upon Atimetus capital pains were inflicted; but Paris was of too prevailing consequence to the Emperor in his debauches, to be subjected to punishment. Plautus was for the present passed over in silence.
A charge was thereafter brought against Pallas and Burrhus, “for having engaged in a design of advancing to the Empire Cornelius Sylla, in regard of his splendid descent and alliance with Claudius,” whose son-in-law he was, having espoused his daughter Antonia. This accusation was supported by one Pætus, a fellow infamous for busily promoting confiscations in the exchequer, and purchasing the effects of such as were condemned. Equally notorious too, upon this occasion, was the vanity and falshood of his allegations; yet, the apparent innocence of Pallas proved not so well pleasing, as his arrogance proved shocking; for upon naming to him those of his freedmen who were said to have been his accomplices, he answered, “That at home he never used any other way of signifying his pleasure than sometimes by a nod, sometimes by a motion of his hand; or, if his commands consisted of many particulars, he then committed the same to writing; so that, at all adventures, he ever avoided to mix in discourse with his domestics.” Burrhus, notwithstanding he was arraigned, sate and voted with the other judges, and upon the accuser the doom of banishment was inflicted. His duplicates too were burnt, the instruments by which he was wont to exact fresh payment to the cancelled claims of the exchequer.
Towards the close of the year, was removed the band of men which, as a guard, was wont to attend at the celebration of the public plays, thence to exhibit a more plausible appearance of popular liberty, as also to preserve the soldiery from tainting their discipline by the dissolute licentiousness of the theatre, and moreover “to prove, whether the populace would still retain the same modesty of behaviour, now the guards were removed.” At the admonitions of the soothsayers, the Emperor purified the city by lustration, for that the temples of Jupiter and Minerva had been struck with lightning.
In the Consulship of Quintus Volusius and Publius Scipio, while profound quiet reigned all over the Empire abroad, abominable revellings prevailed at Rome, under the leading of Nero, who, disguised in the habit of a slave, went roaming about the streets, and scoured the public inns and stews, followed by a set of companions, who seized as prey whatever stood exposed to sale, and assaulted whomsoever they met; and all these violences were committed upon people so unapprized of the author, that he himself was once wounded, and bore the scar in his face. When afterwards it came to be divulged, that it was the Emperor who rioted thus, and as fresh outrages were daily done to men and ladies of illustrious quality, the name of Nero being once used to warrant licentiousness, was falsly assumed as a cloak by others, and many with their own separate gangs boldly practised the same excesses. So that such were the nightly combustions at Rome, as if the city had been stormed and the inhabitants taken captive. Julius Montanus, one in the rank of Senators, but hitherto invested with no Magislracy, having casually encountered the Prince in the dark, resolutely repulsed his assaults, and afterwards discovering him, implored his forgiveness; but, as if he had reproached the Emperor, by owning that he knew him, he was compelled to die. Thenceforward, however, Nero became more fearful, and in these his rambles fortified himself with a party of soldiers and a great train of Gladiarors. These interposed not in the beginning of a fray, nor while the same continued but moderately high, as if it were only a quarrel between particulars, and they were unconcerned; but, if such as were insulted, resisted with vigour, instantly the men of arms fell on. Nay, at the diversions of the theatre, the several parties that favoured particular players, were by him turned into hostile factions, encountering as it were in battle, animated, indeed, by the influence of impunity and rewards. Besides, he greedily attended those broils, sometimes concealed, and often as an avowed spectator. These tumults went on, till the people being heated and rent into dissensions, and commotions still more terrible apprehended, no other remedy was found but that of driving the players out of Italy, and of recalling the soldiers to guard the theatre.
About the same time the Senate had under consideration the insolence and base dealings of the Freedmen towards their Lords; and it was demanded with great eagerness, “That to patrons a privilege should be granted of revoking the liberty of such as ungratefully used it.” For this many were ready to vote; but the Consuls were afraid to propose the question, without apprizing the Prince: they, however, acquainted him by writing, with the concurrence and biass of the Senate, and consulted him whether he would be declared the author of this decree, which was opposed by so few. They laid before him the reasonings on both sides, as some urged with great vehemence and resentment, “That, since their investiture with liberty, to such an excess of insolence they had soared, that they scarce allowed their patrons the common treatment of equals, but assailed them with insults and violence, spurned at their motions in the Senate, lifted up their hands against them, threatened them with blows; and, with outrageous impudence, warned their patrons from prosecuting the delinquencies of these their former slaves. And, in truth, what higher satisfaction or amends was permitted to the abused patron, than to banish his criminal freedmen an hundred miles off, into the pleasant confines of Campania? In every other circumstance the privileges of the freedman were the same with those of his patron. It was therefore expedient to arm the patron with some prerogative not to be despised; nor could it be deemed any grievance upon slaves manumised, to preserve their liberty by the same dutiful observances by which they attained it. And, for those already notoriously guilty, it was but just to remand them to the yoke of servitude, that through their example, fear might curb such as benefits could not amend.”
On the other side it was argued, “That the transgression of a few ought to prove pernicious only to themselves, and nothing be derogated from the established rights of all; they were a body widely diffused; from thence in a good measure the tribes were supplied, and the colleges of scribes often filled. From the same source arose the several officers attending the Magistrates and Pontiffs; from thence too the city cohorts were enrolled, nor from any other original did a multitude of Knights and many Senators derive their pedigree. Now if from the several ranks the descendents of freedmen were separated, there would quickly be discovered a manifest scarcity of such as were originally free. Not without good ground had our ancestors, when they ascertained the distinction and privileges of the three orders, awarded undistinguished liberty to all men. Besides, there were two kinds of manumission appointed, on purpose to reserve a latitude for revoking liberty, where the grant was repented, or for the exercise of fresh generosity, by rendering the favour irrevocable. Those who had not been by their patron regularly freed before the Prætor, remained still bound to him by a certain tye of servitude. Every patron must examine carefully the merit of such as he meant to discharge, and grant with deliberation an immunity, which once granted he could never annull.” This opinion prevailed; and Nero wrote to the Senate, that they should try the offences of freedmen singly, whenever they were prosecuted by their patrons, but in nothing retrench from the rights of the body. Not long after Nero bereft Domitia, his aunt, of Paris her freedman, an act done by pretended law, to the great infamy of the Prince, since by his special authority was obtained the judgment which asserted him free born.
There, however, subsisted still some resemblance of the ancient Republic: for, in the contest which arose between Vibullius the Prætor and Antistius Tribune of the people, about some turbulent partizans of the players, by the Prætor cast into irons, and by order of the Tribune released; the Senate affirmed the judgment of Vibullius, and reprimanded the arbitrary conduct of Antistius. The Tribunes were moreover prohibited from entrenching upon the jurisdiction of the Prætors and Consuls, as also from summoning before them out of any quarters of Italy such as might be tried at tribunals of their own. It was added by Lucius Piso Consul elect, “That in their own houses they should not be allowed to exert any act of power, nor that under four months the Quæstors of the Exchequer should register the mulcts by them laid; that in the interval there should be privilege to controvert their sentence, and that by one of the Consuls the contest should be determined.” The jurisdiction too of the Ædiles was further straitened, and it was settled how high the Patrician Ædiles, how high the Plobeian, might exact sureties, and to what value impose penalties. These proceedings encouraged Helvidius Priscus to gratify his own personal pique against Obultronius Sabinus Quæstor of the Exchequer, by charging him, “that by his prerogative of confiscating goods for taxes, he unmercifully extorted upon the poor and insolvent.” After this, the management of the Exchequer was by the Prince removed from the Quæstors, and committed to the Præfects.
Various had been the regulations of this office, and its form often altered; for, Augustus had left to the Senate the power of chusing the Præfects. Thereafter, as the suffrages were suspected to have been gained by caballing, out of the list of Prætors were drawn by lot such as were to preside there. Neither held this expedient long; for that the blind lot often strayed, and fell upon those who were little qualified. Claudius therefore once more restored the Quæstors; and, that the fear of raising enemies might not slacken their activity and inspection, he promised them, by special dispensation, an immediate designation to the greater Magistracies; but, as this was the first which they sustained, ripeness of age was found wanting in them; hence Nero chose into their places such as had exercised the Prætorship, and were of tried abilities.
Under the same Consuls was condemned Vipsanius Lenas, for his rapacious administration in Sardinia. Cestius Proculus charged with extortion (his accusers acquiescing) was acquitted. Clodius Quirinalis, Admiral of the galleys which rode at Ravenna, as he stood convicted, “for having by his profligate manners and acts of cruelty, infested Italy, and treated it as the most abject of all nations,” prevented by poison his impending condemnation. Caninius Rebilus, one of the first rank in Rome, for his abilities in the law, and his abundant treasures, chose a quick release from the torments of an old age broken with infirmities, by opening his veins, a man never before esteemed of magnanimity sufficient to encounter a voluntary death, infamous as he was for a life of lasciviousness and effeminacy. But, illustrious and amiable in fame, departed Lucius Volusius, after a long life of ninety three years, and the upright acquisition of signal opulence, with the singular felicity of having never roused the cruel spirit of so many Emperors.
During the second Consulship of Nero, and that of Lucius Piso his collegue, few events occurred worthy commemoration, unless any writer liked to fill pages in magnifying the vast foundations and wooden structure of the new Amphitheatre, an immense pile then erected by the Emperor in the Field of Mars. But, to the dignity of the Roman people it belongs, that in their History should be inserted illustrious events only, and in the City-Journals such descriptions as those. The Colonies however of Capua and Nuceria were strengthened by a supply of Veterans; to the populace was distributed a largess of four hundred small sesterces * a man; and into the Exchequer was conveyed the sum of four hundred thousand great sesterces† ; as a fund to support the credit of the Roman people. Moreover, the duty of four in the hundred upon the sale of slaves, was remitted, an act rather specious in appearance than of any efficacy; for, as the seller was obliged to pay it, he thence raised the price upon the buyer. The Emperor too issued an edict, “that no Procurator, or any other Magistrate, who had obtained a charge in any province, should exhibit a spectacle of Gladiators, or of wild beasts, nor any other popular entertainment whatsoever.” For, before this, they had by such acts of munificence no less afflicted those under their jurisdiction, than by plundering them of their money, whilst, under the influence of such court to the multitude, they sheltered their arbitrary delinquencies and rapine.
A decree of Senate also passed equally tending to the avenging of crimes, and providing for domestic security, “that if any one was killed by his slaves, those too, whom by his last will he had made free, if they still continued under the same roof, should amongst his other slaves suffer execution.” Lucius Varius, one who had been Consul, but for the crimes of rapine formerly branded with degradation, was now restored to his primitive dignity, and Pomponia Græcina a Lady of signal quality, arraigned of having embraced an extraneous superstition, was preferred to the inquisition of her husband; for she was married to Plautius, the same who upon his return from Britain, entered the city in the pomp of Ovation.Plautius assembled her kindred, and, in observance of primitive institution, having in their presence taken cognizance of the behaviour and reputation of his wife, adjudged her innocent. To a great age this Lady lived, and under incessant sorrow; for ever after the untimely fate of Julia, (the daughter of Drusus) procured by the perfidious snares of Messalina, she wore for the space of forty years, no habit but that of mourning, entertained no sentiments but those of grief, a temper which during the reign of Claudius escaped with impunity, and redounded thereafter to her glory.
The same year produced many arraignments, and amongst them one against Publius Celer, prosecuted by the province of Asia, with such incontestable evidence, that the Emperor, finding no pretence to discharge him, lengthened out the process till he died of old age. For, Celer having, as is above remembered, dispatched by poison the Proconsul Silanus, skreened under that mighty iniquity all his other enormities. Cossutianus Capito was impleaded by the Cilicians, “as a man utterly abominable and infamous, one who claimed authority to commit in his province the same bold exorbitancies which in Rome he had committed.” And he found himself so sorely beset with the vigour of the accusation, that at last he wholly abandoned his defence, and was condemned by the law against extortion. But, for Eprius Marcellus, who was charged by those of Lycia with the violation of that very law, a faction so powerful was formed, that some of his accusers were punished with exile, “as if they had conspired the ruin of an innocent man.”
With Nero, now in his third Consulship, Valerius Messala commenced collegue, he whose great grandfather Corvinus the Orator, was by some old men (very few) remembered to have been collegue in the same Magistracy with the deified Augustus, who, by one degree more remote, was ancestor to Nero. But, as an additional honour to that illustrious family, a yearly pension was presented to Messala, of about twelve thousand crowns, that by it he might relieve his honest poverty, and still support his integrity. To Aurelius Cotta also, and Haterius Antoninus, annual appointments were assigned by the Prince, though they had wasted in voluptuousness their paternal wealth. In the beginning of this year the war between the Parthians and Romans, for the mastery of Armenia, though it had commenced with faint efforts, and hitherro lingered, was prosecuted with vigour; for, Vologeses would neither suffer his brother Tiridates to be bereft of the monarchy by himself conferred upon him, nor to hold the same as a gift from any other power; and Corbulo, esteemed it becoming the grandeur of the Roman people, to re-establish the conquests formerly made by Lucullus and Pompey. Moreover the Armenians, a people of double and faithless minds, invited the arms and protection of both, though, from the situation of their country and similitude of manners, they stood in nearer conformity to the Parthians, being besides commonly linked with them in conjugal alliances; and, being destitute of all experience or sense of liberty, they were thence rather addicted to Parthian slavery.
But, to Corbulo it proved greater labour to struggle with the degenerate sloth of his soldiers, than against the perfidious dealings of his enemies. For, the Legions brought out of Syria, and enervated by long peace, bore with much impatience the laborious occupations of war. It fully appeared that in that army there were those who had served to the age of Veterans, and yet had never kept guard, never stood sentry, men who beheld entrenchments and pallisades as sights new and wonderful, and who, in spruce apparel and pursuit of gain, without ever wearing helmet or bodyarmour, had amongst the delicacies of cities fulfilled the term of their service. Having therefore discharged such as were enfecbled by sickness or age, he sent to demand recruits. Hence levies were made through Cappadocia and Galatia, and to these was added a Legion from Germany, with some wings of horse and a detachment of infantry from the Cohorts. The whole army too was incamped; though such was the rigour of the winter, and so stubbornly had the frost bound the earth, that without digging they could not pierce it in order to pitch their tents. Many had their limbs utterly scorched up by the raging cold, and some, as they stood sentry, were frozen to death. More remarkable still was the fate of one particular soldier, whose hands, as he carried in them a bundle of wood, stiffened and mortified so suddenly, that still clasping their burden they dropped from his arms. The General himself, in a thin habit and his head bare, whether they marched or worked, was hourly amongst them, commending the magnanimous, heartening the weak, and exhibiting an example to all. Next, as many refused to bear the asperity of the weather and service, and began to depart, he had recourse to severity for a cure; for, he proceeded not as in the other armies, where the first or second offence was forgiven, but whoever deserted his colours, was instantly put to death; a course which was by experience proved to be wholesome, and preferable to that of clemency, since from his camp there were fewer desertions, than from those in which acts of mercy were wont to prevail.
Corbulo, the while, holding his Legions encamped, waited the advancement of the spring, and, having quartered the auxiliary Cohorts in convenient places, expresly forewarned them that they should not venture to engage first in a battle. The superintendance of these garrisons he conferred upon Pactius Orphitus, one who had served as Lieutenant Colonel of a Legion. This officer, although he acquainted the General by letter, that the Barbarians acted negligently, and thence an opportunity presented of assailing them with success, was ordered to abide within his entrenchments, and wait for greater forces; but, he broke through his orders, for, upon the arrival of some few troops of horse, who, assembling from the neighbouring castles, rashly demanded battle, he encountered the enemy, and was routed. Those too, who ought to have reinforced him, being themselves terrified with his disaster, betook themselves to a cowardly and tumultuous flight, and returned to their several fortifications; an event which grievously affected Corbulo. Hence, after he had bitterly reproached Pactius himself and the captains and common soldiers, he expelled them all from the camp, doomed them to lie on the other side its enclosure, without tents or defence; and under this contumelious punishment they were held, till, at the universal supplications of the whole army, they were released.
NowTiridates, who over and above the forces which he drew from his own vassals, was supported by the might of his brother Vologeses, proceeded no longer against Armenia by disguised efforts, but attacked it with open war, and, upon all such as he suspected of attachment to us, committed depredations, but, where troops were drawn out against him, eluded the encounter, scouring to and fro, and affecting greater matters by the fame and terror of his incursions, than by any exploits in fight. Corbulo therefore, having long laboured to come to an engagement, and being still frustrated, found himself obliged to follow the method of the enemy, and make a circulatory war. Hence he distributed his forces so that his several Lieutenants might at once attack diverse quarters; he at the same directed King Antiochus to fall into the Armenian districts which lay contiguous to his own. For, as to Pharasmanes King of Hiberia, having for the imputation of treason slain his son Rhadamistus, he was already, in order to display his fidelity towards us, renewing with the more acrimony against the Armenians the exercise of his inveterate hate. The Insechians too, a people since singularly attached to the Roman interest, were then first engaged in our alliance, and over-run the wilds of Armenia. Thus all the measures of Tiridates proved abortive and contradictory, so that he dispatched Embassadors to expostulate, in his own name and that of the Parthians; “upon what score it was that, after he had so lately delivered hostages to the Romans, and with them renewed his former amity, which might reasonably have proved to him a source of new friendship, he must yet be chased out of Armenia, a Kingdom so long in the possession of his ancestors? Hence it was, that Vologeses had not hitherto taken arms in person, because they both desired to commit the justice of their cause to the way of accommodation rather than to that of violence. But, if war were still to be obstinately pursued, the Arsacides would not find themselves forsaken of that victorious bravery so often tried by the Romans, in many bloody overthrows.” Corbulo was well informed, that what engaged Vologeses was the revolt of Hyrcania. He therefore, in answer to Tiridates, persuaded him to apply to the Emperor with supplications; “hence he might enjoy his Kingdom in security, and an establishment without the expence of blood, if rejecting his remote and tedious hopes, he would close with sounder measures already concerted.”
But, as the business of peace was nothing advanced by an intercourse of messengers, it was at last judged proper to ascertain a time and place for an interview between the two chiefs. Tiridates declared, “that he would come attended only by a guard of a thousand horse, but would not restrain Corbulo to any number of troops of any kind, provided they came without armour, as a proof of their disposition to peace.” This perfidious wile of the Barbarian must have appeared manifest to every man breathing, especially to an old and cautious Captain, since, by limiting the number of men on one side, and leaving liberty for a greater number on the other, nothing but a snare could be intended. For, against a body of Parthian horsemen constantly trained in the use of the bow, any numbers whatever, when naked of armour, would avail nothing. Corbulo, however, disguised all his apprehensions of guile, and returned answer, “that matters which concerned the interest of both their states, would be more properly discussed in presence of both armies.” Hence he chose a station consisting partly of hills rising with a gentle slope, fit for embattling his infantry, partly of a large plain, affording scope for ranging the squadrons of horse. On the day appointed, Corbulo advanced first, on the wings he posted the social troops and the auxiliary forces sent by the confederate Kings, in the center the sixth Legion, which he had strengthened with three thousand men of the third, led by night from another camp, all mixed together under one Eagle, to preserve still the appearance of a single Legion. Tiridates at last appeared, but late in the day, and afar off, from whence he could be easier seen than heard. So that the Roman General, having obtained no conference, ordered his men to retire to their several camps.
The King too retreated in haste, whether it were that he apprehended a design to surprize him, for that the Romans filed off in different routs, or, that he meant to intercept their provisions which were coming from Trebizond and the Euxine sea. But, as the provisions passed over the mountains, which were secured by several bands of our men, he found no means to attack them; and Corbulo the while, that the war might not thus linger without action, and in order to force the Armenians to defend their own dwellings, set himself to raze their strong holds. The attack of the strongest of all those in that quarter, the fort named Volandum, he reserved to himself; and to Cornelius Flaccus his Lieutenant, and Insteius Capito Camp Marshal, committed those of smaller note. Having therefore viewed the fortifications and prepared all things requisite for storming the place, he exhorted his men, “to exterminate that base and vagabond foe, never prepared for war, yet never disposed to peace, but still by flight confessing faithlessness and cowardice; do this, said he, and at once pursue a harvest of spoil and glory.” He then distributed his forces into four divisions; one he formed close under their shields into the military shell, in order to overthrow the pallisade and undermine the rampart; others were ordered, by ladders to mount the walls, and a party to manage the engines, and thence annoy the fortress with showers of darts and artificial fire. To the archers too and slingers a quarter was assigned whence they might from afar discharge volleys of stones and bullets. So that every part of the fortress being assailed, and the consternation every where equal, no one quarter of the besieged might be at leisure to relieve another. All this was executed by the besiegers with such spirit and vigour, that in a few hours the defendants were entirely driven from the walls, the gates were forced, the bulwarks scaled, and all that were arrived to full age, put to the edge of the sword, without the loss of one of our men, and very few were wounded. The weak and mixt multitude were sold by the public cryer, and to the conquerors remained all the rest of the spoil. Equal success attended the Lieutenant General and Camp Marshal; in one day they took three castles by storm, insomuch that all the others, some from dread, others from the inclination of the inhabitants, surrendered. Such a series of good fortune inspired a resolution, to attempt the siege of Artaxata, the capital of Armenia. The Legions were not however conducted thither the shortest road; for that, in passing the bridge over the Araxes, which washes the walls of the city, they would have been exposed to be galled by the enemy. Fetching therefore a long circuit, they forded over upon the large shallows.
As to Tiridates, he struggled between shame and fear; if he gave way to the siege, it would appear that there was no reliance upon any relief or force from him; if he attempted to prevent it, he must be hemmed in with his cavalry in close and intricate places. At last, he determined to shew himself in order of battle, and at break of day begin the onset, or by a feigned flight try to draw the Romans into a snare. With great suddenness therefore he beset them, but without any surprize to our General, who had formed his army as well for a fight as a march. On the right marched the third Legion, on the left the sixth, and in the center a chosen detachment from the tenth; the baggage was secured between the ranks, and a thousand horse guarded the rear. These last were ordered “to repulse the foe, if they made any close attack, but, not to pursue them when they fled.” The foot archers and remainder of the horse were placed on the wings, but the left was the most extended, and reached to the roots of the hills, that, if the enemy attempted an onset there, he might be encountered at once by our front, and by the heart of the army. Tiridates, on his side, pickecred about, yet never approached within the throw of a dart, but, now braving us with the countenance of an assailant, then assuming an air of dismay, provoked us to loosen our ranks, that he might fall upon us when we were disjoyned. When he saw no unwary relaxation in our order, and that only one captain of horse, who had adventured too rashly, was by a volley of arrows slain, and by his fate had confirmed all the rest in submission to discipline, he marched off at the close of the evening.
Corbulo encamped upon the place, and, supposing that Tiridates had retired to Artaxata, was unresolved whether he should march thither the same night with his Legions unincumbered by baggage, and immediately invest it; but, upon tidings brought him by his spies, that the King had undertaken a long rout; though it was uncertain whether towards the regions of Media or Albania, he waited for the morning, and dispatched his troops lightly armed to beset the city, and begin the storm of the place by a distant attack. But the citizens voluntarily opening their gates, made an unreserved surrender to the Romans; by this their persons were secured. The city was fired, and laid level with the ground, for such was the wide circuit of its walls, that, without a powerful garrison, they could not be defended, nor were our forces sufficiently large to fill the garrison, and yet to prosecute the war; or, had it been left untouched and destitute of a guard, there had been no profit nor glory in having taken it. To this relation of the fall of the city is added a Phænomenon, which was deemed miraculous, as a signal sent immediately from heaven, for that, while all the region round the walls and close to them, was gloriously irradiated by the sun, the whole space incompassed by them, was so suddenly darkened by a thick cloud, spangled with lightening and roaring with thunder, that it was believed the angry Gods, to satiate their vengeance, had consigned that city to utter destruction.
For these prosperous exploits Nero was proclaimed Imperator, and, by decree of Senate, days of public devotion were appointed, with statues of victory to the Prince, triumphal arches, and perpetuity of the Consulship. It was moreover decreed, that the day when the city was won, the day when the news arrived at Rome, and the day that produced this decree, should all be enrolled amongst the annual festivals, with several other particulars of the same stamp, so much beyond all measure, that Caius Cassius, though he had agreed to the former, yet argued here, “That were every instance of public prosperity to be attended with public thanksgiving, the whole year would not afford days enough for days of devotion; a just distribution ought therefore to be made between days of devotion and days of business, in such sort that the worship of the Gods might be solemnized, without interfering with the secular business of men.”
Thereafter was impleaded a man, who had passed through various revolutions of life, and justly incurred much hatred, and many enmities; yet obnoxious as he was, his condemnation drew an imputation and blemish upon Seneca. It was Publius Suilius, he who, during the reign of Claudius, had borne such terrible sway, and exercised such a venal spirit, and though now by the change of times, considerably sunk, yet not so low as his enemies wished. Besides, he was one, who chose rather to bear the character of a criminal, than descend to that of a supplicant. Hence the decree of Senate made at this time for the revival of the Cincian law, which subjected to penalties all those who had pleaded for pay, was thought to have passed on purpose to ruine him. Nor did Suilius, on his part, spare to retort complaints and recriminations, but, vehement as he ever was in his temper, now too, extremely old, and thence indulging avowed freedom, upbraided Seneca, “as an inveterate foe to all the friends of Claudius, during whose reign he had been justly doomed to exile; as one who, being himself conversant in stupid and insignificant studies, and in teaching scholars, was actuated by envy towards all such, who in defending the rights of their fellow citizens, exercised vigorous eloquence, free from pedantry and corruption. For himself; he had been Quæstor to Germanicus, but Seneca the adulterer of Germanicus’s daughter. Now, was it to be judged a more heinous offence, to pursue the advantages of a worthy vocation, by accepting a reward from a suitor, who freely gives it, than to contaminate the beds of Princesses? By what precepts of wisdom, by what principles of philosophy, had he, during four years of imperial favour, amassed a treasure of more than seven millions? Through Rome he hunted after testaments and inheritances, the rich and childish were catched, as it were, in his net, and all Italy and the Provinces were, by his mighty and excessive usury, exhausted. But small is my own wealth, and with industry acquired; and upon the whole, I am determined rather to undergo the heaviest prosecution, the severest sentence and doom, and every degree of hardship and suffering, than debase a distinguished reputation, the acquisition of a long life, and bend to this sudden son of felicity.”
There were some too, who failed not to relate to Seneca all these reproaches, in the same angry strain, or in one still more embittered. Accusers, moreover, were found, who arraigned him, “for his excesses in Asia, when he ruled as Quæstor there, for plundering the inhabitants, and robbing from the public revenue.” But, as a whole year was granted them for preparing their evidence, it was deemed a quicker expedient to proceed upon his enormities at Rome, of all which there were in store ready witnesses. By these it was urged, “That by a virulent accusation, he had driven Quintus Pomponius upon the necessity of raising a civil war; by him was procured the violent death of Poppæa Sabina, and of Julia the daughter of Drusus; of his framing was the doom of Valerius Asiaticus, of Lusius Saturninus, and of Cornelius Lupus. Add to these, whole bands of Roman Knights, at his instigation condemned; with all the long train of cruelties during the reign of Claudius.” For upon Suilius they charged the whole. In his defence he began to alledge, “That of all these accumulated prosecutions, he had of his own inclination engaged in none, but purely in obedience to the Prince.” But Nero checked this plea, and testified that, from the Memoirs of Claudius, he had found, that no accusation whatsoever had ever been undertaken by compulsion from him. The accused then pleaded the uncontroulable orders of Messalina; an impotent defence! “for why had no other advocates but only Suilius, been singled out, to have lent their eloquence for accomplishing the purposes of that bloody prostitute? In truth, the ministers and promoters of such black deeds must be punished, they who, having received the wages of their iniquities, would upon others father the iniquities themselves.” A part of his estate was therefore confiscated; for to his son and grand-daughter the other part was granted, besides that from the sentence were also exempted the fortunes left them by the will of their mother, and that of their grand-father. He himself was banished to the isles Baleares; but, neither during the heat and peril of the prosecution, nor after his condemnation, was his spirit in the least sunk or dismayed. He was even said to have passed his solitary exile in a life of voluptuousness and pleasure. In hatred to him, Nerulinus his son was also arraigned, upon the crimes of public rapine; but Nero interposed, and alledged, that by the doom of the father, public vengeance was sufficiently satiated.
About the same time Octavius Sagitta, Tribune of the people, intoxicated with a passion for Pontia, a married woman, gained her by vast presents, first to consent to the adultery, afterwards to quit her husband, engaging himself and her in a promise of marriage after the divorce. But the woman, when she found herself single, framed delays from time to time, pleaded the opposition of her father, and then, having discovered some hopes of a wealthier husband, quite renounced her engagement. Octavius failed not to combat this resolution; one moment broke into complaints, the next into menaces; he adjured her by the reputation which for her he had shipwrecked, by the wealth which upon her he had totally consumed; lastly, he told her, that his life and person was the only fortune left him, and of that too the disposal lay wholly in her breast. At length, perceiving her deaf to all his reasonings, he requested the consolation of one parting night; for that thus calmed and gratified, he would thenceforth be able to govern his passion. The night was granted and named, and Pontia appointed a maid, her confident to secure the chamber. Sagitta brought with him one freedman, and a dagger concealed under his robe. The interview began, as usual in combinations of love and anger, with a medley of chiding and beseeching, of reproaches and submissions; and part too of the night was devoted to joy and embraces. At last, he became enraged with expostulations and despair, and suddenly plunged his dagger into her heart, (free as she was of all dread) beat down and wounded the maid, who was flying to her assistance, and burst out of the chamber. Next day the murder was divulged; and, by what hand, was apparent, for it was proved they had lodged together; but the freedman adopted the guilt. He averred, that the assassination was of his own committing, to procure just vengeance to an injured master; and, by the exemplary greatness of such behaviour, many were induced to believe him, till the maid, when she was healed of her wound, fully disclosed the author, and all the particulars; so that the Tribune was arraigned before the Consuls by the father of the deceased, and, at the expiration of his office, condemned by the Senate to the penalties of the Cornelian Law.
An instance of lewdness no less notorious, proved this year the source of heavy calamities to the Roman state. In the city lived a daughter of Titus Ollius, but, as Poppæus Sabinus her mother’s father, had shone in the Commonwealth, and from the Consular dignity and glory of a triumph, acquired an illustrious name, from his she took her own, that of Sabina Poppæa; for, Ollius, ere yet he had overtaken any public dignity, was swallowed up by the fatal friendship of Sejanus. This Lady possessed every ornament but that of a virtuous soul; for, from her mother, who in beauty had excelled all the women of her time, she derived her loveliness, as well as the glory of descent; the lustre of her birth was supported by proportionable wealth; her speech was soft and engaging, her wit pertinent, modesty the part she personated, lewdness that she practised. It was rare that she appeared abroad, then too part of her face hid under her veil, the more to stimulate the curious beholders, or, perhaps, because thus she was still more charming. By the awe of fame she was never controuled; between husband and adulterer, she made no distinction; by no man’s passion was she ever biassed, nor even by her own; whereever her interest appeared, thither she transferred her lewd pleasures. Hence, though she was married to Rufius Crispinus, a Roman Knight, and by him had brought forth a son, she was carried away by the gay youth and profuseness of Otho, especially for that he was esteemed to reign, beyond all others, in the affection of Nero, nor was it long ere this commerce of adultery was followed by their intermarriage.
It became now the ordinary language of Otho, to extol to the Prince the beauty and delicate charms of his wife, either, as he was prompted by the indiscreet warmth of a lover, or designed to enflame Nero with the like passion, and from their common enjoyment of the same woman, hoped to find an additional support to his present authority. It was usual to hear him boast, as he rose from the Emperor’s table, “That he now retired to the sum of all nobleness and loveliness, her who was the centre of every joy and felicity, the desire of all men, but happily his own peculiar lot.” After these and the like incitements, Nero deferred not long his own gratification; an interview was appointed, where Poppæa, at first, employed all her soft arts and caresses, and by them intirely subdued him; she seigned herself smitten with his fine person, and wholly overcome by her passion for him. But, when she had worked up the Prince’s affection to a pitch of impatience, she changed her former behaviour into haughtiness and despite. If she were detained above a night or two, “she was a married woman, she cried, nor could she relinquish her husband, as to him she was engaged by a way of living, which no other man could equal. Otho was magnificent in his person, generous in his spirit; in him she beheld every thing worthy the most exalted fortune. Nero was attached to Acte, thence inured to the embraces of a slave, and could from a fellowship so wretched and servile, derive nothing but sordidness and servility.” Upon this, Otho became degraded from his usual intimacy with the Emperor, then debarred of all intercourse, and even access; and, at last, to prevent all his rival practices in Rome, was preferred to the government of Lusitania, a government which he administered, till the beginning of the civil wars, with eminent uprightness and honour, and wide of all the courses of his former dissolute life; a proof of his various character, that of an unbridled voluptuary in a private station, in authority observing gravity, and just restraints.
Nero as yet endeavoured to find disguises for his vilenesses and crimes. He, whom of all others he apprehended most, was Cornelius Sylla, mistaking the heavy spirit of the man for deep artifice and dissimulation. These apprehensions were inflamed by Graptus, a freedman of his, an ancient domestic of the court, ever since the reign of Tiberius, and being well practised in the dark devices of the Emperors, he, upon this occasion, framed the following forgery. The Milvian Bridge was then the famous scene of nocturnal revellings, and thither Nero frequently resorted, that there he might more licentiously riot without the city. Graptus therefore feigned, “That a plot had been laid for him, as he should return from thence by the Flaminian Way, but, by the benignity of fate, he had escaped it in coming home through the Gardens of Sallust, and of this treason Sylla was the author.” The fact was, that as some of the Emperor’s attendants were repairing back to the palace, certain young companions, indulging a sort of licentiousness then universally practised, had filled them with causeless fears. But, amongst these companions not a slave of Sylla’s was observed, nor one of his dependents; and for himself, his courage was so utterly despicable, and so unequal to any enterprize, that his very nature was repugnant to every attempt of treason. Nevertheless, as if he had been a traitor fully convicted, he was banished his country, and confined within the walls of Marseilles.
During the same Consuls were heard the deputies from Puzzoli, some dispatched by their Senate, others by the populace, the former inveighing against the violence of the multitude, the latter against the oppression and avarice of the Magistrates and Nobles; and, as the sedition was so violent, that the factious had already combated with stones, threatened the firing of houses, and were betaking themselves to arms and massacre; Caius Cassius was appointed to apply a remedy; but, they could not bear the severity of his proceedings; so that, at his own request, that charge was transferred to the two brothers Scribonii, assisted by a Prætorian Cohort, by the terror of which and the execution of some few incendiaries, concord was restored amongst the inhabitants.
The decree of Senate now made, for permitting the Syracusians, in their shews of Gladiators, to exceed the number formerly limited, is a matter so common, that I should not insert it here, had not Pætus Thrasea opposed it, and thence administered to his revilers matter of invective. “For, if he believed that the condition of the Commonwealth called upon the Senators to exert liberty of speech, why were his censures and pursuits confined to things of such trivial moment? How came it, that he stood not forth to advise or controul measures of war and peace, the administration of the revenue, that of the laws, and whatever else concerned the support and governance of the Roman state? To every Senator, as soon as invested with the privilege of voting, full freedom was allowed of propounding whatever he would, and of claiming that what he propounded might be put to the vote. Now, did nothing else in the state want check or amendment, but only, that the spectacles at Syracuse should be exhibited with no enlargements? Was, in truth, all the rest of the administration throughout the Empire, so excellent, as if by Thrasea himself, and not by Nero, it were swayed? But, if all these were passed over in profound dissimulation, how much more reasonably to be forborne were things utterly void of all use and significancy?” To his friends, who asked him the meaning of his conduct, Thrasea answered, “That he had, from no ignorance in the situation of the public, interposed against a decree of that sort, but in it consulted the honour of the Senate, by making it appear, that an inspection into the greatest affairs was not like to be disavowed by those, who thus applied their thoughts to the most insignificant.”
In the same year, so importunate were the cries of the people against the exactions of the Tax-gatherers, that Nero was deliberating about the intire suppression of all taxes and duties, as the most illustrious bounty he could bestow upon human kind. But the Senate, after many high praises upon his greatness of soul, restrained his rash resolution, by apprizing him, “That the dissolution of the Empire must ensue a reduction of the revenues which sustained it; and were the public duties once annulled, it would be a precedent for labouring the discharge of all the public tributes. The companies for administering the taxes, were for the most part established by the Consuls and Tribunes, even then when popular liberty was in its prime at Rome, and the regulations which followed, were so concerted, that the public impositions might just ballance the public exigencies. But the ravenous extortions of the publicans did, in truth, require to be stopped, that so the rates borne by the people for so many years without murmuring, might not be embittered by new grievances.”
The Emperor therefore by an edict ordained, “That the laws of the revenue, which had till then been kept secret, should now be committed to the public Tables; the publicans should exact no claims for above a year backward; in all suits against them, the Prætor at Rome, and in the Provinces, the Proprætor or Proconsul for the time being, should proceed to discretionary judgment; but to the soldiers should be reserved the usual exemption, in all instances save those of traffic;” with other the like injunctions, which, being intirely equitable, were for some short time obeyed, but soon grew neglected and obsolete. The suppression, however, of the Quadragesima (fortieth penny) and of the Quinquagesima (fiftieth) continues still in force, as also that of other impositions with the like titles, invented by the publicans to cover their lawless exactions. Moreover, a regulation was made about the importation of grain from the provinces beyond sea, and it was ordained that the ships of traders should not be rated with the commodities which they carried, nor any duty be paid for the same.
Two men accused of male-administration in Africa, where they had both ruled as Proconsuls, were acquitted by the Emperor, Sulpicius Camerinus, and Pomponius Silvanus. Against the former there appeared only a few private prosecutors, who charged him rather with particular acts of rage than those of general rapine. But Silvanus was beset with a mighty train of impleaders, who required time to procure their witnesses, as did he to be instantly admitted to his defence; and, by being wealthy, ancient, and childless, prevailed, yet out-lived and disappointed those who saved his life to merit his estate.
Till this time Germany had continued in a state of tranquillity, secured by the temper of our commanders there, who, at a time when the honours of the triumph were so miserably prostituted, judged that higher glory was to be reaped by preserving peace. These commanders were Paullinus Pompeius, and Lucius Vetus. To keep, however, the soldiers employed, the former now perfected the damm which had been begun by Drusus threescore and three years before, to restrain the overflowing of the Rhine, while Vetus was digging a canal of communication between the Arar and Moselle, that the armies from Italy, having sailed by sea into the Rhone, and thence into the Arar, might fall through this canal into the Moselle, thence through the Rhine into the Ocean. So that, all impediments of the passage being thus removed, a naval intercourse might be opened from West to North, between the two seas. But this great work was marred through the envy of Ælius Gracilis Lieutenant of Belgic Gaul, who warned Vetus against bringing his Legions into another man’s province, and courting the affections of the Gauls, for that such conduct would alarm the Emperor; an apprehension which frequently serves to frustrate many worthy enterprizes.
But, from the continued inaction of both armies, a report spread, that their Generals were enjoyned not to lead them against the enemy. In confidence of this, the Frisians possessed the forests and morasses with their youth, and carrying over the lakes all such as were weak through sex or age, placed them along the banks of the Rhine, then proceeded to settle themselves upon those tracts of land which being void of inhabitants, were appropriated to the uses of our soldiers. In this enterprize they were counselled and conducted by Verritus and Malorigis, who were sovereigns over this nation, as far as the Germans are wont to submit to sovereignty. They had already founded their dwellings, sown the fields, and were cultivating the lands, as if the same had been their native soil, when Dubius Avitus, who succeeded Paullinus in the province, threatened them with the vengeance of the Roman sword, unless they retired to their ancient territories, or obtained from the Emperor a new settlement. By these menaces he forced Verritus and Malorigis to the ways of supplication. On this negotiation therefore they proceeded to Rome, where, while they waited for access to Nero, who was engaged in other affairs, amongst the sights which are usually shewn to Barbarians, they were conducted into Pompey’s Theatre, that they might there survey the multitude of the Roman people. Here, gazing round them, (no wise interrupted by the diversions of the stage, which they understood not) while they were intent upon the arrangement of the audience, and informing themselves about the distribution of ranks, “which were the Roman Knights, and where sat the fathers of the Senate?” they spied certain persons in a foreign habit, sitting upon the benches of the Senators, and asked who were these? When they had learnt that this was a distinction conferred upon the Ambassadors of such nations as signalized themselves by their merit and friendship towards the Romans; “There is not amongst men, they cried, that nation which, in good faith, and feats of arms, surpasses the Germans;” and thus, leaving their seats, placed themselves among the Senators; a proceeding courteously taken by the spectators, as a flight of ancient liberty, and the effect of an honest emulation. Nero bestowed upon both the privileges of Roman citizens, but ordered that the Frisians should abandon their new possessions; and, as they refused to obey, they were forced, by a sudden irruption of the auxiliary horse, who put in bonds, or to the sword, all who obstinately resisted.
The Ansibarians too took possession of the same lands, a more potent people, not in their own multitudes only, but also from the sympathy of the neighbouring nations; for that they had been exterminated by the Chaucians, were destitute of all settlement, and, like exiles, besought only a quiet shelter and retreat. They were likewise led by a man of signal renown amongst these nations, and even of approved fidelity towards the Romans, his name Boiocalus, who, in behalf of himself and his people, upon this occasion, alledged, “That, upon the revolt of the Cheruscans, he had been thrown into bonds by order of Arminius, afterwards carried arms under Tiberius, then under Germanicus, and, to the merit of fifty years service and adherence to the Romans, he was still ready to add that of submitting his people to their Empire. Was not the territory in dispute large and waste? or reserved for any other use than that of occasional pasture for the soldiers cattle, and how small a portion sufficed for this? yet the Romans might still, if they pleased, retain wide exclusive tracts, only for their beasts to range in, although by feeding their beasts they even famished men; provided they did not wilfully devote all the rest to desarts and solitude, rather than allow it for an habitation to a people disposed to their friendship and alliance. The possessing of this territory was no new thing; formerly it was held by the Chamavians, next by the Tubantes, afterwards by the Usipians. As the heavens were appropriated to the Gods, so was the earth to the children of men, and such portions of it as none possessed, were free and common to all.” Here he Iifted up his eyes to the sun, and invoking, as if they had been present, that and the other cœlestial luminaries, he asked them, “Could they bear to survey a desolate soil? or, would they not more justly let loose the sea to swallow up usurpers, who thus engrossed the earth?”
This language warmed Avitus, who replied, “that to the orders of the most powerful, submission must always be paid, even the Gods to whom they now appealed, had so appointed, that to the Romans should appertain the sovereign judgment, what to bestow and what to take away, and other judges than themselves they would suffer none.” This was his public answer to the Ansibarians; but, to Boiocalus he privately promised, that in acknowledgment of his long attachment to the Romans, he should have lands for himself assigned him, an offer which he considered as a price proposed for betraying his people, and rejecting it with indignation, added, “A place to live in we may want, but a place to die in we cannot.” Thus they parted with animosity on both sides. The Ansibarians, to prepare for the impending war, invited into a confederacy the Bructerians, Tencterians, and even other nations more remote. Avitus too, after he had written to Curtilius Mancia, who commanded the upper army, to pass the Rhine, and to appear with his forces upon their rear, marched himself with his Legions into the territories of the Tencterians, and threatened them with desolation and slaughter, unless they departed from the league. Hence they were forced to acquiesce; and, as the like terrors awed the Bructerians, the rest too relinquished a hopeless cause, whence ruine to themselves was threatened from their attachment to others. So that the forlorn Ansibarians retreated back to the Usipians and Tubantes, but by them also were exterminated. They then withdrew for reception first to the Cattians, afterwards to the Cheruscans, and, in these long and various wanderings from nation to nation, thus vagabond, indigent, and treated as enemies and intruders, all their youth fell by the sword, and the promiscuous multitude were utterly dispersed according to the various lot of captivity.
Between the Hermundurians and the Cattians, during the same summer, a mighty battle was fought, about the propriety of a river, which divided their territories, and which yielding abundant store of salt, each people was labouring by force to appropriate to themselves. To this quarrel, besides their passion for committing all disputes to the decision of the sword, they were further animated by an inherent superstition, “that these places were doubtless in the neighbourhood of heaven, and no where quicker than there did the supplications of men reach the ears of the Gods. Hence, through a special indulgence of the Deities, in this river and in these groves, salt was produced, not, as with other nations, from the foam of the sea crusted upon the shore, but by pouring the water of this river upon flaming piles of wood, and thus condensed by a combination of opposite elements.” The issue of the war was prosperous to the Hermundurians, and to the Cattians the more bloody and destructive, for that, presuming upon victory, they had devoted the adverse host to Mars and Mercury, a vow, by which men and horses, with whatever else appertains to the vanquished, are doomed to be burnt or slain. Thus upon their own heads returned their cruel menaces against their foes.
The people Juhones, a state in alliance with us, were at this time afflicted with a calamity altogether sudden and alarming, by the eruption of a subterraneous fire, which caught and consumed, on every side, their towns, farms, and particular dwellings, and was advancing with fury to the late-built walls of Cologn. Neither could it be extinguished even by the salling of rain, nor by the throwing of water, or by any other usual expedient, till certain boors, despairing of remedy, and enraged at the devouriug conflagration, vented their wrath in attacking it at a distance with vollies of stones; as the flames came thus to abate, they proceeded to a closer approach, and, by dint of clubs and blows, as in an encounter with fierce beasts, quite repulsed it. At length, utterly to smother it, they stripped themselves of their cloaths, which the more soiled and worn they were, the more effectual they proved.
During the same year, the tree Ruminalis, standing in the place assigned for the election of Magistrates, the same which after the birth of Romulus and Remus, had yielded shelter to these exposed babes, eight hundred and forty years ago, began to decay with withered branches and a deadened trunk; a change which passed for an omen of evil portent, till it revived again into fresh blossoms and verdure.
[* ]Betwixt twelve and thirteen Crowns.
[† ]Three Millions one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds.