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NERO


753


NERO


emperor that, ascending the rostrum in the Forum Romanum, he himself placed the crown on the head of Tividates. At the same time a dangerous war broke out in Britain. Strong camps and forts had been built there in the first years of Nero's reign, and the pro- consul, Suetonius Paulinus, had undertaken here, as had Corbulo in the past, to extend the frontiers of the Roman conquests. With the native population com- plaining of excessive taxation, conscription, the ava- rice of Roman officials, came suddenly the summons of the heroic Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea, bidding her tribes to free themselves from Roman tyranny (a. d. 61). The procurator, Decianus Catus, had driven this noble woman to despair by his odious and cruel greed; and when this oppression and the shame of her own and her daughter's violation became known to her people and the neighbouring tribes, their wrath and holies for revenge alone beset them. The Roman camps were destroyed, the troops surprised and slain, and more than 70,000 colonists paid the penalty of their oppression by the loss of home and life. London was burned to the ground, and the proconsul, Sue- tonius Paulinus, came but slowly to the help of the re- maining colonists from his incursion upon the island of Mona. On his arrival was fought the battle of Deva (Dee), in which Britain succumbed to Roman disci- pline, and was again subjugated with the aid of fresh troops from Germany.

After the death of Claudius, Agrippina had caused to be poisoned her old enemy Narcissus, the protector of Britannicus, and Junius Silanus, because of his Julian kinship. Pallas, the powerful finance minister, and her most valiant adherent, was deprived of his office, and her personal influence in the government con- stantly lessened. That she might regain her power, she courted the neglected Octavia, and sought to make the impotent Britannicus a rival of her son ; this induced Nero to order the murder of Britannicus, who was poisoned at a banquet amidst his own family and friends, Burrus and Seneca both consenting to the crime. When Nero had seduced Poppaea Sabina, the wife of his friend Salvius Otho, she resented playing the role of concubine and aspired to that of empress. This brought about a crisis between son and mother, for with all her vices Agrippina had never lacked a certain external dignity, and had expressed in her con- duct the sentiment of imperial power. Now when through hatred of Poppiiea she undertook to protect the interests of Octavia, to whom indeed Nero owed his throne, the son determined to rid himself of his mother. He invited her to a pleasure party at Baiie, and the ship which was to convey her out to sea was so constructed as to sink at a given order. This at- tempt having miscarried, he ordered that she should be clubbed to death in her country house, by his freed- men {a. d. 59). The report was then spread abroad that Agrippina had sought the life of her son, and Seneca so dishonoured his pen as to write to the senate a brief condemning the mother. One man alone of all the Senate had the courage to leave his seat when this letter was read, Thrasea Paetus the philosopher. Burrus dying in a. d. 62, left Seneca no longer able to withstand the influence of Poppiea and of Sophonius Tigellinus, Prefect of the Praetorian guards. He re- tired into private life, and new crimes were conceived and effected.

Sulla and Plautus, great-nephews of .Augustus, be- ing in exile, were beheaded by Nero's command, and his marriage with Octavia being annulled, she was banished to Campania. The populace resented deeply the maltreatment of Octavia, and the tumults which occurred in consequence served only to increase the fear and hatred of Popp^a. Octavia Wius sent to the island of Pandataria, and there beheaded. Poppaja now assumed the title of Augusta, her image was stamped upon the coin of the Roman State, and her opponents were murdered by dagger or poison. Nero X.— 48



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with his mates rioted by night through the city, at- tacking men, assaulting women, and filled the vacant positions at the imperial Court from the dregs of the city. In the civic administration extravagance was unbounded, in the court luxury unbridled. Financial deficits grew over night; the fortunes of those who had been condemned at law, of freedmen, of all pre- tenders by birth filled the depleted exchequer, and the coin was deliberately debased. All efforts to stem these disasters were vain, and the general misery had reached its highest, when in a. d. 64 occurred the terrible conflagration which burnt entirely three, and partly seven, of the fourteen districts into which Rome was divided. The older authors, Tacitus and Sueto- nius, say clearly, and the testimony of all later heathen and Christian writ- ers concurs with them, that Nero himself gave the order to set the capital on fire, and that the people at large believed this report.. Nero was in Antium when he heard that Rome was in fiames, he hast- ened thither, and is said to have as- cended the tower of Mwcenas, and looking upon the sea of flame in „ . Kmpehor Nero

which Rome lay \ at, can Museum, Rome

engulfed, to have sung on his lyre the song of the ruin of Ilium.

In place of the old city with its narrow and crooked streets, Nero planned a new residential city, to be called Neronia. For six days the fire ravaged the closely built quarters, and many thousands perished in the flames; countless great works of art were lost in the ruins. Informers, bribed for the purpose, de- clared that the Christians had set Rome on fire. Their doctrine of the nothingness of earthly joys in comparison with the delights of immortal souls in heaven was an enduring reproof to the dissolute em- peror. There began a fierce persecution throughout the empire, and through robbery and confiscation the Christians were forced to pay in great part for the building of the new Rome. In this persecution Saints Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome in a. d. 67. Broad streets and plazas were planned by the imperial architects; houses of stone arose where before stood those of lime and wood; the Domus aurea, enclosed in wonderful gardens and parks, in extent greater than a whole former town-quarter astonished men by its splendour and beauty. In order to compass" the colossal expenditures for these vast undertakings, the temples were stripped of their works of art, of their gold and silver votive offerings, and justly or unjustly the fortunes of the great families confiscated. The universal discontent thus aroused resulted in the con- spiracy of Calpurnius Piso. The plot was discovered, and the conspirators and their families and friends condemned to death. Amongst the most noted of them wen- Seneca, Lucan, Petronius, and the Stoic Thni.sca Pu'tus, of whom Tacitus said that he was vir- tue incarnate, and one of the few whose courage and justice had never been concealed in presence of the murderous Caisar. Poppa^a too, who had been bru- tally kicked by her tusband, died, with her unborn child soon after. Finally the emperor started on a