A.D. 1891

F. W. Farrar

The Early Days of Christianity

Book I

The World

Chapter II


“Hic hostis Deum Hominumque templis expulit superos suis, Civesque patria; spiritum fratri abstulit Hausit cruorem matris; - et lucem videt.” Sen. Octav. 239 “Praestare Neronem Securem valet haec aetas.” Juv. Sat. viii. 173


All the vice, all the splendour, all the degradation of Pagan Rome seemed to be gathered up in the person of that Emperor who first placed himself in a relation of direct antagonism against Christianity.  Long before death ended the astute comedy in which Augustus had so gravely borne his part,[1] he had experienced the Nemesis of Absolutism, and foreseen the awful possibilities which it involved.  But neither he, nor any one else, could have divined that four such rulers as Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, and Nero – the first a sanguinary tyrant, the second a furious madman, the third an uxorious imbecile, the fourth a heartless buffoon – would in succession afflict and horrify the world.  Yet these rulers say upon the breast of Rome with the paralyzing spell of a nightmare.  The concentration of the old prerogatives of may offices in the person of one who was at once Consul. Censor, Tribune, Pontifex Maximus, and perpetual Imperator, fortified their power with the semblance of legality, and that power was rendered terrible by the sword of the Praetorians, and the deadly whisper of the informers.  No wonder that Christians saw the true type of the Anitchrist in that omnipotence of evil, that apotheosis of self, that disdain for humanity, that hatred against all mankind besides, that gigantic aspiration after the impossible, that frantic blasphemy and unlimited indulgence, which marked the despotism of a Gauis or a Nero.  The very fact that their power was precarious as well as gigantic – that the lord of the world might at any moment be cut off by the indignation of the canaille of Rome, nay, more, by the revenge of a single tribune, or the dagger-thrust of a single slave[2] - did but make more striking the resemblance which they displayed ot the gilded monster of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  Their autocracy, like that visionary idol, was an image of gold on feet of clay.  Of that colossus many a Christian would doubtless be reminded when he aw the huge statue of Nero, with the radiated head and the attributes of the sun-god, which once towered 120 feet high on the shattered pediment still visible beside the ruins of the Flavian Amphitheartre.[3] 

The sketch which I am now presenting to the reader is the necessary introduction to the annals of that closing epoch of the first century, which witnessed the early struggle of Christianity with the Pagan power In the thirteen years of Nero’s reign all the worst elements of life which had long mingled with the sap of ancient civilization seem to have rushed at once into their scarlet flower.  To the Christians of that epoch the dominance of such an Emperor presented itself in the aspect of wickedness raised to superhuman exaltation, and engaged in an impious struggle against the Lord and against His saints. 

Till the days of Nero, the Christians had never been brought into collision with the Imperial Government.  We may set aside as a worthless fiction the story that Tiberius had been so much interested in the account of the Crucifixion forwarded to him by Pontius Pilate, as to consult the Senate on the advisability of admitting Jesus among the gods of the Pantheon.[4] It is very unlikely that Tiberius ever heard of the existence of the Christians.  In its early days the Faith was too humble to excite any notice out 0of the limits of Palestine.  Gauis, absorbed in his mad attempt to set up in the Holy of Holies “a desolating abomination,” in the form of a huge image of himself, entertained a savage hatred of the Jews, but had not learned to discriminate between them and Christians.  Claudius, disturbed by tumults in the Ghetto of Jewish freedmen across the Tiber, had been taught to look with alarm and suspicion on the name of Christus distorted into “Chrestus;” but his decree for the expulsion of the Jews from Rome, which had been a dead letter from the first, only affected Christianity by causing the providential migration of Prisca and Acquila, to become at Corinth and Ephesus the hosts, the partners, and the protectors of St. Paul.[5]  Nero was destined to enter into far deadlier and closer relations with the nascent Faith, and to fill so vast a space in the horrified imaginations of the early Christians as to become by his cruelties, his blasphemies, his enormous crimes, the nearest approach which the world has yet seen to the “Man of Sin.”  He was the ideal of depravity and wickedness, standing over against the ideal of all that is sinless and Divine.  Against the Christ was now to be ranged the Antichrist, - the man-god of Pagan adulations, in whom was manifested the consummated outcome of Heathen crime and Heathen power. 

Up to the tenth year of Nero’s reign the Christians had many reasons to be grateful to the power of the Roman EmpireSt. Paul, when he wrote from Corinth to the Thessalonians, had indeed seen in the fabric of Roman polity, and in Claudius, its reigning representative, the “check” and the “checker” which must be removed before the coming of the Lord.[6]  Yet during his stormy life the Apostle had been shielded by the laws of Rome in more than one provincial tumult.  The Roman politarchs of Thessalonica had treated him with humanity.  He had been protected from the infuriated Jews in Corinth by the disdainful justice of Gallio.  In Jerusalem the prompt interference of Lysias and of Festus had sheltered him form the plots of the Sanhedrin.  At Caesarea he had appealed to Caesar as his best security from the persistent hatred of Ananias and the Sadducees.  If we have taken a correct view of the latter part of his career, his appeal had not been in vain, and he owed the last two years of his missionary activity to the impartiality of Roman Law.  Hence, apart from the general principle of submission to recognized authority, he had special reason to urge the Roman Christians “to be subject to the higher powers,” and to recognize in them the ordinance of God.[7]  With the private wickedness of rulers the Christians were not directly concerned.  Rumours, indeed, they must have heard of the poisoning of Claudius and of Britannicus; of Nero’s intrigues with Acte; of his friendship with the bad Otho; of the divorce and legal assassination of Octavia; of the murders of Agrippina and Poppaea, of Burrus and Seneca.  Other rumours must have reached them of nameless orgies, of which it was a shame eve to speak.  But knowing how the whole air of the bad society around them reeked with lies, they may have shown the charity that hopeth all things, and imputeth no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, by tacitly setting aside these stories as incredible or false.  It was not till A.D. 64, when Nero had been nearly ten years on the throne, that the slow light of History fully revealed to the Church of Christ what this more than monster was. 

A dark spirit was walking in the house of the Caesars – a spirit of lust and blood which destroyed every family in succession with which they were allied.  The Octavii, the Claudii, the Domitii, the Silani, were all hurled into ruin or disgrace in their attempt to scale, by intermarriage with the deified race of Julius, “the dread summits of Caesarean power.”  It has been well said that no page even of Tacitus has so somber and tragic an eloquence as the mere Stemma Caesarum. The great Julius, robbed by death of his two daughters, was succeeded by his nephew Augustus,[8] who, in ordering the assassination of Caesarion, the natural son of Julius by Cleopatra, extinguished the direct line of the greatest of the Caesears. Augustus by his three marriages was the father of but one daughter, and that daughter disgraced his family and embittered his life.  He saw his two elder grandsons die under circumstances of the deepest suspicion; and being induced to disinherit the third for the asserted stupidity and ferocity of his disposition, was succeeded by Tiberius, who was only his stepson, and had not a drop of the Julian blood in his veins. Tiberius had but one son, who was poisoned by his favourite, Sejanus, before his own death.  This son, Drusus, left but one son, who was compelled to commit suicide by his cousin, Gaius; and one daughter, whose son, Rubellius Plautus, was put to death by order of Nero.  The marriage of Germanicus, the nephew of Tiberius, and the elder Agrippina, the granddaughter of Augustus, seemed to open new hopes to the Roman people and the imperial house.  Germanicus was a prince of courage, virtue, and ability, and the elder Agrippinia was one of the purest and noblest women of her day.  Of the nine children of this virtuous union six alone survived.  On the parents, and the three sons in succession, the hopes of Rome were fixed.  But Germanicus was poisoned by order of Tiberius, and Agrippina was murdered in banishment after the endurance of the most terrible anguish.  Their two elder sons, Nero and Drusus, lived only long enough to disgrace themselves, and to be force to die of starvation. [9] The third was the monster Gaius.  Of the three daughters, the youngest, Julia Livia was put to death by the orders of Messalina, the wife of her uncle Claudius.  Drusilla died of prosperous infamy, and Agrippina the younger, after a life of crime so abnormal and so detestable that it throws into the shade even the monstrous crimes of many of her contemporaries, murdered her husband, and was murdered by the orders of the son for whose sake he had waded through seas of blood. 

That son was Nero!  Truly the Palace of the Caesars must have been haunted by many a restless ghost, and amid its vast and solitary chambers the guilty lords of its splendour must have feared lest they should come upon some spectre weeping tears of blood.  In yonder corridor the floor was still stained with the life-blood of the murdered Gaius;[10] in that subterranean prison the miserable Drusus, cursing the name of his great-uncle Tiberius, tried to assuage the pangs of hunger by chewing the stuffing of his mattress;[11] in that gilded saloon Nero had his private interviews with the poison-mixer, Locusta, whom he salaried among “the instruments of his government;”[12] in that splendid hall Britannicus fell into convulsions after tasting his brother’s poisoned draught; that chamber, bright with the immoral frescoes of Arellius, witnessed the brutal kick which caused the death of the beautiful Poppaea.  Fit palace for the Antichrist – fit temple for the wicked human god! – a temple which reeked with the memory of infamies  - a palace which echoed with the ghostly footfall of murdered men! 

Agrippian the Second, mother of Nero, was the Lady Macbeth of that scene of murder, but a Lady Macbeth with a life of worse stains and a heart of harder steel.   Born at Cologne in the fourteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, she lost her father, Germanicus, by poison when she was three yers old, and her mother, Agrippina, first by exile when she was twelve years old, and finally by murder when she was seventeen.  She grew up with her wicked sisters and her wicked brother Gaius in the house of her grandmother Antonia, the widow of the elder Drusus.  She was little more than fourteen years old when Tiberius married her to Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus.   The Domitii were one of the noblest and most ancient families of Rome, but from the time that they first emerged into the light of history they had been badly pre-eminent for the ferocity of their dispositions.  They derived the surname of Ahenobarbus, or brazen-beard, from a legend of their race intended to account for their physical peculiarity.[13]  Six generations earlier, the orator Crassus had said of the Domitius Ahenobarbus of that day, “that it was no wonder his beard was of brass, since his mouth was of iron and his heat of lead.”  But though the traditions of cruelty and treachery had been carried on from generation to generation,[14] they seemed to have culminated in the father of Nero, who added a tinge of meanness and vulgarity to the brutal manners of his race.  His loose morals had been shocking to a loose age, and men told each other in disgust how he had cheated in his praetorship; how he had killed one of his freedmen only because he had refused to drink as much as he was bidden; how he had purposely driven over a poor boy on the Appian Road; how in a squabble in the Forum he had struck out the eye of a Roman knight; how he had been finally banished for crimes still more shameful.  It was a current anecdote of this man, who was ‘detestable through every period o his life,” that when, nine years after his marriage, the birth of his son Nero was announced to him, he answered the congratulations of his friends with the remark, that from himself and Agrippina nothing could have been born but what was hateful, and for public ruin.   

Agrippina was twenty-one when her brother Gaius succeeded to the throne.  Towards the close of his re3ign she was involved in the conspiracy of Lepidus, and was banished to the dreary island of Pontia.  Gaius seized the entire property both of Domitius and of Agrippina.  Nero, their little child, then three years old, was handed over as penniless orphan to the charge of his aunt Domitia, the mother of Messalina.  This land entrusted the education of the child to two slaves, whose influence is perhaps traceable for many subsequent years.  One of them was a barber, the other a dancer. 

On the accession of Claudius, Agrippina was restored to her rank and fortune, and once more undertook the management of her child.  He was, as we see from his early busts, a child of exquisite beauty.  His beauty made him an object of special pride to his mother.  From this time forward it seems to have been her one desire to elevate the body to the rank of Emperor.  In vain did the astrologers warn her that his elevation involved her murder.  To such dark hints of the future she had but one reply – Occidat dum imperet!  “Let him slay me, so he do but reign!” 

By her second marriage, with Crispus Passienus, she further increased her already enormous wealth.  She bided her time.  Claudius was under the control of his freedmen, Narcissus and Pallus, and of the Empress Messalina, who had borne him tow children, Britannicus and Octavia.  The fierce and watchful jealously of Messalina was soon successful in securing the banishment and subsequent murder of Julia, the younger sister of Agrippina, and in spite of the retirement in which the latter strove to withdraw herself from the furious suspicion of the Empress, she felt that her own life and that of her son were in perpetual danger.  A story prevailed that when Britannicus, then about seven years old, and Nero, who was little more than three years older,[15] had ridden side by side in the Trojan equestrian game, the favour of the populace towards the latter had been so openly manifested that Messalina had dispatched emissaries to strangle him in bed, and that they had been frightened from doing so by seeing a snake glide from under the pillow.[16]  Meanwhile, Messalina was diverted from her purpose by the criminal pursuits which were notorious to every Roman with the single exception of her husband.  She was falling deeper and deeper into that dementation preceding doom which at last enabled her enemy Narcissus to head a palace conspiracy and to strike her to the dust.  Agrippina owed her escape from a fate similar to that of her younger sister solely to the infatuated passion of the rival whose name through all succeeding ages has been a by word of guild and shame. 

But now that Claudius was a widower, the fact that he was her uncle, and that unions between uncle and niece were regarded as incestuous, did not prevent Agrippina from plunging into the intrigues by which she hoped to secure the Emperor for her third husband.  Aided by the freedman Pallas, brother of Felix, the Procurator of Judaea, and by the blandishments which her near relationship to Claudius enabled her to exercise, she succeeded in achieving the second great object of her ambition.  The twice-widowed matron became the sixth wife of the imbecile Emperor within three months of the execution of her predecessor.  She had now but one further design to accomplish, and that was to gain the purple for the son whom she loved with all the tigress affection of her evil nature.  She had been the sister and the wife, she wished also to be the mother of an Emperor. 

The story of her daring schemes, her reckless cruelty, her incessant intrigues, is recorded in the stern pages of Tacitus.  During the five years of her married life,[17] it is probable that no day passed without her thoughts brooding upon the guilty end which she had dept steadily in view during so many vicissitudes.  Her first plan was to secure for Nero the hand of Octavia, the only daughter of Claudius.  Lucius Junius Silanus, a great-great-grandson of August, who might well be dreaded as a strong protector of the rights of his young brother-in-law, Britannicus.  As a favourite of the Emperor, and the betrothed of the Emperor’s daughter, Silanus had already received splendid honours at the hands of the Senate, but at one blow Agrippian hurled him into the depths of shame and misery.  The infamous Vitellius – Vitellius who had cone begged as a favour a slipper of Messalina, and carried it in his bosom and kissed it with profound reverence – Vitellius who had placed a gilded image of the freedman Pallas among his household gods – trumped up a false charge against Silanus, and, as Censor, struck his name off the list of the Senate.  His betrothal annulled, his praetorship abrogated, the high-spirited young man, recognizing whose hand it was that had aimed this poisoned arrow at his happiness, waited till Agrippina’s wedding-day, and on that day committed suicide on the altar of his own Penates.  The  next step of the Empress was to have her rival Lollia Paulina charged with magic, to secure her banishment, to send a tribune to kill her, and ot identify, by personal inspection, her decapitated head.  Then Calpunia was driven from Rome because Claudius, with perfect innocence, had praised her beauty.  On the other hand, Seneca was recalled from his Corsican exile, in order to increase Aprippina’s popularity by an act of ostensible mercy, which restored to Rome its favourite writer, while it secured a powerful adherent for her cause and an eminent tutor for her son.  The next step was to effect the betrothal of Octavia to Nero, who was twelve years old.  A still more difficult and important measure was to secure his adoption. Claudius was attached to his son Britannicus, an , in spite of his extraordinary fatuity, he could hardly fail to see that his son’s rights would be injured by the adoption of an elder boy of most noble birth, who reckoned amongst his supporters all those who might have natural cause to dr4ead the vengeance of a son of Messalina.  Claudius was an antiquary, and he knew that for  800 years, from the days of Attus Clausus downwards, there had never been an adoption among the patrician Claudii.  In vain did Agrippina and her adherents endeavour to poison his mind by whispered insinuation about the parentage of Britannicus.  But he was at last overborne, rather than convinced, by the persistence with which Agrippina had taken care that the adoption should be pressed upon him in the Senate, by the multitude, and even in the privacy of his own garden.  Pallas, too, helped to decide his wavering determination by quoting the precedents of the adoption of Tiberius by Augustus, and of Gaius by Tiberius.  Had he but well weighed the fatal significance of those precedents, he would have hesitated still longer ere he sacrificed to an intriguing alien the birthright, the happiness, and ultimately the lives of the young son and daughter whom he so dearly loved. 

And now Agrippina’s prosperous wickedness was bearing her along full sail to the fatal haven of her ambition.  She obtained the title of Augusta, which even the stately wife of Augustus had never borne during her husband’s lifetime.  Seated on a lofty throne by her husband’s side, she received foreign embassies and senatorial deputations.  She gained permission to antedate the majority of her son, and secured for him a promise of the Consulship, admission to various priesthoods, a procunsular imperium, and the title of “Prince of the Youth.”  She made these honours the pretext for obtaining a largess to the soldiery, and Circensian games for the populace, and at these games Nero appeared in the manly toga and triumphal insignia, while Britannicus, utterly eclipsed, stood humbly by his side in the boyish preatexta – the embroidered robe which marked his youth.  And while step after step was taken to bring Nero into splendid prominence, Britannicus was kept in such deep seclusion, and watched with such jealous eyes, that the people hardly knew whether he was alive or dead.  In vain did Agrippina lavish upon the unhappy lad her false caresses.  Being a boy of exceptional intelligence, he saw through her hypocrisy, and did not try to conceal the contemptuous disgust which her arts inspired.  Meanwhile he was a prisoner in all but name: every expedient was invented to keep him at the greatest distance from his father; every friend who loved him, every freedman who was faithful to him, every soldier who seemed likely to embrace his cause, was either secretly undermined, or removed under pretext of honourable promotion.  Tutored as he was by adversity to conceal his feelings, he one day through accident or boyish passion returned the salutation of his adoptive brother by the name of Ahenobarbus, instead of calling him by the name Nero, which was the mark of his new rank as the adopted son of Claudius.  Thereupon the rage of Agrippina and Nero knew no bounds; and such insolence - for in this light the momentary act of c carelessness or venial outburst of tempter was represented to Claudius – made the boy a still more defenceless victim to the machinations of his stepmother.  Month and month she wove around him the web of her intrigues.  The Praetorians were won over by flattery, gifts, and promises.  The double prefecture of Lucius Geta and Rufius Crispinus was superceded by the appointment of Afranius Burrus, and honest soldier, but a partisan of the Empress, to whom he thus owed his promotion to the most coveted position in the Roman army.  From the all-powerful freedman of Claudius, Agrippina had little to fear.  Callistus was dead, and she played off against each other the rival influences of Pallas and Narcissus was afraid to move in opposition to her, because the accession of Britanicus would have been his o0wn certain death-warrant, since he had been the chief against in the overthrown of Messalina. 

As for the phenomena on which the populace looked with terror – the fact that the skies had seemed to blaze with fire on the day of Nero’s adoption, and violent shocks of earthquake had shaken Rome on the day that he assumed the many toga – Agrippina cared nothing for them.  She would recognize no omen which did not promise success to her determination.  Nothing could now divert her from her purpose.  When Domitia, the aunt under whose roof the young Nero had been trained, began to win his smiles by the contrast between her flatteries and presents and the domineering threats of his mo0ther, Agrippina at once brought against her a charge of magic, and, in spite of the opposition of Narcissus, Domitian was condemned to death.  The Empress hesitated at on crime which helped to pave the way of her son to power, but at the same time her ambition was so far selfish that she intended to keep that son under her own exclusively influence. 

Many warnings now showed her that the time was ripe for her supreme endeavour.  Her quarrel with Narcissus had broken out into threats and recriminations in the very presence of the Emperor.  The Senate showed signs of indignant recalcitrance against her attacks on those whose power she feared, or whose wealth she envied.  Her designs were now so transparent, that Narcissus began openly to show his compassion for the hapless and almost deserted Britannicus. But, worst of all, it was clear that t Claudius was growing weary both of her and of her son.  He had changed his former wife for worse.  If Messelina had been unfaithful to him, so he began to suspect was Agrippina, and he could not but feel that she had changed her old fawning caresses for a threatening insolence.  He was sick of her ambition, of her intrigues, of the hatred she always displayed to his oldest and most faithful servants, of her pushing eagerness for her Nero, of her treacherous cruelty towards his own children.  He was heard to drop ominous expressions.  He began to display towards Britannicus a yearning affection, full of the passionate hope that when he was a little older his wrongs would be avenged.  All this Agrippina learnt from her spies.  Not a day was to be lost.  Narcissus, whose presence was the chief security for his master’s life, had gone to the baths of Sinuessa to find relief from a fit of the gout.  There lay at this time in prison, on a charge of poisoning, a woman named Locusta, whose career recalls the Mrs. Turner of the reign of James I., and the Marchioness de Brinvilliers of the court of Louis XIV.  To this woman Agrippina repaired with the promise of freedom and reward, if she would provide a poison which would disturb the brain without too rapidly destroying the life.  Halotus, the Emperor’s praegustor, or taster, and Xenophon, his physician, had been already won over to share in the deed.  The poison was infused into a fine and delicious mushroom of a kind of which Claudius was known to be particularly fond, and Agrippina gave this mushroom to her husband with her own hand.  After tasting it he became very quiet, and then called for wine.  He was carried off to bed senseless, but the quantity of wine which he had drunk weakened the effects of the poison, and at a assign from Agrippina the faithless physician finished the murder by tickling the throat of the sufferer with a poisoned feather.  Before the morning of Cot 13, A.D. 54, Claudius was dead. 

His death was concealed from the public and from his children, whom Agrippina with hypocritical caresses and false tears kept by her side in her own chamber, until everything was ready for the proclamation of Nero.  At noon, which the Chaldaeans had declared would be the only lucky hour of an unlucky day, the gates of the palace were thrown open, and Nero walked forth with Afranius Burrus by his side.  The Praetorian Praefect informed the guard that Claudius had appointed Nero his successor.  But as no one answered, and the young prince was not forthcoming, they accepted what seemed to be an accomplished fact.  Nero went to the Praetorian camp, promised a donation of 15,000 sesterces (more than L 130) to each soldier, and was proclai9med Emperor. The Senate accepted the initiative of the Praetorians, and by sunset Nero was securely seated on the throne of the Roman world.  The dream of Agrippina’s life was accomplished.  She was now the mother, as she had been the sister and the wife of an Emperor; and that young Emperor, when the tribune came to ask him the watchword for the might, answered in the words – Optimae Matri! “To the Best of Mothers!”

[1] On his death-bed he asked his friends “whether he had fitly gone through the play of life,” and, if so, begged for their applause like an actor on the point of leaving the stage (Suet. Octav. 99).

[2] Out of 43 person in Lipsius’s Stemma Caesarum, 32 died violent deaths, i.e., nearly 75 per cent.

[3]     Suet. Ner. 31; Mart. Spect. Ep. 2.

[4]    Ps. Clem. Hom i. 6; Tert. Apol. 5; Euseb. H.E. ii. 2; Jer. Chron. Pasch. i. 430. Braun (De Tiberii Chritum in Deorum numerum referendi consilio, Bonn, 1834) vainly tried to support this fable.  Tiberius, more than any Emperor, was “circa Deos et religiones negligentior” (Seut. Tib. 69).

[5]    See Tert. Apol. 3; ad Natt. i. 3; my Life and Works of St. Paul, i. 559.  I cannot accept the view of Herzog (Real-Encykl., s.v. Claudius) that Chrestus was some seditions Roman Jew.

[6]    Life and Works of St. Paul, i. 584, fg.

[7]    Rom. Xiii. 1-7.

[8]    It is characteristic of the manners of the age that Julius Caesar had married four times, Augustus thrice, Tiberius twice, Gauis thrice, Claudius six times, and Nero thrice.  Yet Nero was the last of the Caesars, even of the adoptive line.  No descendants had survived of the offspring of so many unions, and, as Merivale says, “a large proportion, which it would be tedious to calculate, were the victims of domestic jealously and politic assassination” (Hist. vi. 366).


[9]   Tac. Ann. v.3, vi. 24.

[10] “The Verres of a single province sank before the majesty of the law, and the righteous eloquence of his accuser; against the Verres of the world there was no defense except in the dagger of the assassin” (Freeman, Essays, ii. 330).

[11]      Tac. Ann. vii. 23.

[12]    Tac. Ann. xii. 66, xiii. 5.  


[13]    Suet. Ner. I; Plut. Aemil. 25.

[14]      “The grandfather of Nero had been checked by Augustus from the bloodshed of his gladiatorial shows…his great-grandfather, ‘the best of his race, had changed sides three times, not without disgrace, in the civil wars…his great-great-grandfather had rendered Roman infamous by cruelty and treachery at Pharsalia, and was also charged with most unRoman pusillanimity” (see Suet. Ner. 1-5; Merivale, vi. 62, seq.).


[15]   Tacitus says two years; but see Merivale, v. 517, vi. 88.

[16]    Suetonius thinks that the story rose from a snake’s skin which his mother gave him as an amulet, and which for some time he wore in a bracelet (Ner. 6).


[17]    She was married in A.D. 49, and poisoned her husband in October, A.D. 54.

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