Puslapio vaizdai

task of again making operative in the state ium regno pararetur (She sought to enrich those traditional ideas of the nobility in the family under the pretext of providing which Livia had educated first Tiberius for the needs of the empire). What Taciand Drusus, then Germanicus, and then tus calls a “pretext” was, on the contrary, Agrippina herself. In this descendant of the ancient aristocratic conception of hers the spirit of the great-grandmother wealth, which in the eyes of the great finally reappeared, for it had been eclipsed families was destined to be a means of by the fatal and terrible struggle between government and an instrument of power: Tiberius and Agrippina, by the madness the family possessed it in order to use it of Caligula, and the comic scandals of the for the benefit of the state. first part of the reign of Claudius. All In short, Agrippina attempted to revive this served to bring back into the state a the aristocratic traditions of government little of that authoritative vigor which the which had inspired the policies of Augusnobility in the time of its splendor had tus and Tiberius. Not only did she atconsidered the highest ideal of government. tempt to do this, but, strange as it may Tacitus says of her rule that it was as seem, she succeeded almost without a rigid as if a man's (adductum et quasi struggle. The government of Agrippina virile). This signifies that under the in- was from the first a great success. From fluence of Agrippina the laxity and dis- the moment when she became empress order of the first years of Claudius's reign there is discernible in the entire adminisgave place to a certain order and disci- tration, a greater firmness and consistency pline. Severity there was, and more often of policy. Claudius no longer seems, as haughtiness (palam severitas ac saepius formerly, to be at the mercy of his freedsuperbia). The freedmen who had for- men and the fleeting impulses of the momerly been so powerful and aggressive, ment, and even the dark shadows of the now stepped aside, which is an evident time are lighted up for some years. A sign that their petulance had now found a certain concord and tranquillity returned check in the energy of Agrippina. The to the imperial house, to the aristocracy, state finances and the fortune of the im- to the senate, and to the state. Although perial house were reorganized, for Agrip- Tacitus accuses Agrippina of having made pina, like_Livia and like all the ladies of Claudius commit all sorts of cruelties, it the great Roman nobility, was an excellent is certain that trials, scandals, and suicide administrator, frugal, and ever watchful became much less frequent under her rule. of her slaves and freedmen, and careful of During the six years that Claudius lived all items of income and expense. The after his marriage with Agrippina, scandaRoman aristocracy, like all other aristoc- lous tragedies became so rare that Tacitus, racies, hated the parvenus, the men of sud- being deprived of his favorite materials, den riches, traffickers who had too quickly set down the story of these six years in become wealthy, and all persons whose a single book. In other words, Agriponly aim was to amass money. We know pina encountered virtually no opposition, that Agrippina sought to prevent as far as while Tiberius and even Augustus, when possible the malversations of public funds they wished to govern according to the by which the powerful freedmen of Clau- traditions of the ancient nobility, had to dius had been enriching themselves. After combat the party of the new aristocracy, she became empress we hear accounts of with its modern and Oriental tendencies. numerous suits instituted against person- This party no longer seemed to exist when ages who had been guilty of wasting pub- Agrippina urged Claudius to continue lic treasure, while under Messalina no resolutely in the policy of his ancestors, such cases were brought forward. We for one party only, that of the old nobility, know, furthermore, that she reëstablished seemed with Agrippina to control the state. the fortune of the imperial family, which This must have been the result partly of in all probability had been seriously com- the disgust for the scandals of the previous promised by the reckless expenditures of decade, which had made every one realize Messalina. This is what Tacitus refers the need of restoring more serious discito in one of his sentences, which, as usual, pline in the government, and partly of the is colored by his malignity: Cupido auri exhaustion which had come upon both parimmensa obtentum habebat quasi subsid- ties as the result of so many struggles, reprisals, suits, and scandals. The force of first husband, and at the time of her marthe opposition in the two factions gradu- riage with Claudius this youth was about ally diminished. A greater gentleness in- eleven years old. It is in connection with duced all to accept the direction of the her plans for this son that Tacitus brings government without resistance, and the his most serious charges against Agrippina. authority of the emperor and his counsel- According to his story, from the first day ors acquired greater importance in propor- of her marriage Agrippina attempted to tion as the strength of the opposition in make of her son, the future Nero, the

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the aristocracy and the senate became successor of Claudius, thereby excluding gradually weaker.

Britannicus, the son of Messalina, from In any case, the empire was no longer the throne. To obtain this end, she spared, to have forced upon it the ridiculous and so he says, neither intrigues, fraud, nor descandalous spectacle of such weaknesses ceit; she had Seneca recalled from exile and incongruities as had seriously compro- and appointed tutor of her child. She remised the prestige of the highest authority moved from office the two commanders of in the first period of the reign of Claudius. the pretorian guard, who were creatures But Agrippina was not content with of Messalina, and in their stead she had merely making provision as best she could elected one of her own, a certain Afranius for the present; she also looked forward Burrhus. She laid pitfalls for Britannicus to the future. She had had a son by her and surrounded him with spies, and in the year 50, by dint of much intrigue and to adopt her son does not mean, therefore, many caresses, she finally succeeded in that she wished to set Britannicus aside having Claudius adopt her son. But this and give the advantage to Nero. It merely whole story is merely a complicated and proves that she did not wish the family of fantastic romance, embroidered about a Augustus to lose the supreme power, and truth which in itself is comparatively sim- for this reason she intended to prepare not ple. Tacitus himself tells us that Agrip- only one successor, but two possible sucpina was a most exacting mother; that is cessors, to Claudius, just as Augustus had a mother of the older Roman type, in his for a long time trained both Drusus and own words, trux et minax. She did not Tiberius. In order to understand how follow the gentle methods of the newer wise and reasonable the conduct of Agripeducation, which

pina really was, we were gradually be

must also rememing introduced into

ber that Nero was the great fami

four years older lies, and she had

than Britannicus, brought up her son

and that, therefore, in the ancient man

in the year 50, ner with the great


Nero was est simplicity. It

adopted, Britanniis well to keep in

cus was a mere lad mind, furthermore,

of nine. As Clauthat neither Bri

dius was already tannicus nor Nero

sixty, it

it would had any right to

have been most imthe throne of Clau

prudent to desigdius. The heredi

nate a nine-yeartary principle did

old lad as his only not yet exist in

possible successor, the imperial gov

when Nero, who ernment: the sen

was four years his ate was free to

senior, would have choose whomsoever

been better preit wished. To be

pared than Britansure, up to that

“nicus to take up time the choice had

the reign. There always fallen upon

is a further proof a member of the From the bust in the Vatican Museum

that Agrippina had Augustan family;

no thought of debut it had only THE EMPEROR CLAUDIUS

stroying the race of been because it was

Claudius and Meseasier to find there persons who were salina, for before his adoption she had marknown and respected, who commanded ried Nero to Octavia, the daughter of the the admiration of the soldiers in distant imperial pair. Octavia was a woman posregions, and who had received a certain sessed of all the virtues which the ancient preparation for the diverse and often diffi- Roman nobility had cherished. She was cult duties of their office. And it was chaste, modest, patient, gentle, and unprecisely for this reason that Augustus and selfish, and she would be able to assist in Tiberius had always sought to prepare strengthening the power of her house. more than one youth for the highest office, Agrippina had therefore, in the ancient both in order that the senate might have a manner, affianced the young pair at an certain freedom of choice, and also that early age, and hoped that she might make there might be some one in reserve, in case a couple which would serve as an example one of these young men should disappoint to the families of the aristocracy. the hopes of the empire or should die pre- In short, Agrippina, far from seeking maturely, as so many others had died. to weaken the imperial house by destroyThat she should have persuaded Claudius ing the descendants of Messalina, was at

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tempting to bring her son into the family of human adulation upon their potentates,
precisely for the purpose of giving it it was not often that they bestowed honors
strength. And sensible woman that she of so sacred a character.
was, she could hardly have acted other- The unforeseen death of Claudius sud-
wise. She had seen the family of Augus- denly cut short the work which Agrippina
tus, once so prosperous, reduced to a state had well under way. Claudius was sixty-
of exhaustion and virtually destroyed by four years old, and one night in the month
the fatal discord between her mother and of October of the year 54 he succumbed
Tiberius and the

to some mysterious

malady after a supher brothers. The

per of which, as state had suffered

usual, he had pargreatly through the

taken inordinately. madness of Calig

Tacitus pretends ula and the reck

to know that Agripless hatred of the

pina had secretly first Agrippina,

administered poison and the present

to Claudius in a empress, her daugh

plateof mushrooms. ter, who was not

During the night, merely fond of her

however, fearing son, but endowed

lest Claudius would in addition with

survive, she had the gift of reflec

called Claudius's tion, sought as far

physician, Xenoas possible to make

phon, who was a amends for the

friend of hers. The evils which had

latter, while preunconsciously been

tending to induce wrought. The

vomiting, had hopes of the future

painted his throat were henceforth to

with feather abide in Britanni

dipped in a deadly cus and in Nero.

poison, and had In Agrippina there

killed him. This reappeared the wis

version is so strange dom of her greatest

and improbable predecessors, and

that Tacitus himthe people were so

self does not dare well satisfied that

affirm it, but says they conferred upon

that "many beher the very highFrom the statue in the Museo Nazionale, Naples

lieve" that it was est honor, such as

in this manner that in her time even THE EMPEROR CALIGULA

Claudius met his Livia herself had

death. But if there not received. She was given the title are still people credulous enough to beAugusta; she was allowed to ride into the lieve that the head of a great state can precincts of the Capitol in a gilded coach be poisoned in the twinkling of an eye (carpentum), though this was an honor by a doctor who brushes his throat with a which in old time had been conceded only feather, it is more difficult to understand to priests and to the images of the gods. what grounds Agrippina could have had This last descendant of Livia and Drusus, for poisoning her husband. According to in whom the virtues of a venerated past Tacitus, it was because she was disturbed seemed to reappear, was surrounded by a by the fact that Claudius had for some semi-religious adoration. This is an evi- time shown that he preferred Britannicus dence of sincere and profound respect, for to Nero; but even if the fact were true, as though the Romans often showered marks a motive it would be ridiculous. Augus



tus was much fonder of Germanicus than striplings commander of the armies and he was of Tiberius; and yet at his death emperor, even though they were the only the senate chose Tiberius, and not Ger- survivors of the race of Augustus. So manicus, because at that moment the situ- true is this that Tacitus tells us that ation clearly called for the former as head Agrippina kept the death of Claudius seof the empire. When Claudius died, cret for many hours and pretended that Britannicus was thirteen and Nero seven- the physicians were still struggling to save teen years old. They were both, therefore, him, when in reality he was already dead, mere lads, and it was most probable that dum res firmando Neronis imperio comif the imperial seat fell vacant, the senate ponuntur (while matters were being arwould choose neither, since they were both ranged to assure the empire to Nero). too young and inexperienced. This is so Consequently, if everything had to be hurtrue that other his

ried through in torians have sup

confusion at the posed, on the con

last moment, it is trary, that Agrip

plain that Agrippina had fallen out

pina herself must with some one of

have been taken the more powerful

by surprise by the freedmen of Clau

illness and death dius, and seeing

of Claudius. She Claudius waver,

therefore cannot be had despatched

held responsible for him in order that

having caused it. she herself should

It is not, hownot end like lles

ever, difficult to resalina. But this

construct the course hypothesis also is

of events. On the absurd.. An em

nights of the twelfth press was virtually

and thirteenth of invulnerable. Mes

October, soon after salina had proved

Claudius had been this, for she had

suddenly stricken committed every

down by his violent excess and abuse

malady, the doctors with impunity.

informed AgripAgrippina, pro

pina that the emtected as she was

From a photograph by Alinari of the bust in the
l'ffizi Gallery, Florence


lost. by the respect of

Agrippina immeail. invested with THE EMPEROR NERO

diately understood honors that gave

that since the family her person a virtually sacred character, had of Augustus could at that moment present nothing to fear either from the weak Clau- no full-grown man as candidate for the imdius or from his powerful freedmen. perial office, there was grave danger that

This accusation of poisoning, therefore, the senate might refuse to confer the suseems to be of precisely the same sort as, preme power either upon Nero or Britanand not a whit more serious than, all those nicus. The only means of avoiding this other similar accusations which danger was to bring pressure to bear upon brought against the members of the Au- the senate through the pretorian cohorts, gustan family.

Claudius, who was al- which were as friendly to the family of ready sixty-four, in all probability died a Augustus as the senate was hostile. She sudden but natural death, and from the must present one of the two youths to the point of view of the interests of the house guards and have him acclaimed not head of Augustus, which Agrippina had strongly of the empire, but head of the armies. at heart, he died much too soon.

The senate would thereby be constrained a dangerous and difficult matter to ask the to proclaim him head of the empire, as Roman senate to appoint one of these they had done in the case of Claudius.




It was


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