Puslapio vaizdai




the son of Messalina, who was now be- fluence, or, rather, after he had turned coming a young man and who seemed to against her, her prestige and her power be more seriously minded than Nero. It rapidly diminished, and her party lost was even muttered that she thought of greatly in size and in influence. Although giving her own son's place to the son of personally the emperor was youthful and Messalina, when suddenly, in 55, Britan- weak, the dignity of his office made him nicus died at a dinner at which Nero was more powerful than all the members of present. Was he poisoned by Nero, as his family, however energetic and intelliTacitus says ? Although there is no lack gent they might be. At this period, furof obscurities and improbabilities in the thermore, Nero was supported by an enaccount of Tacitus, this time the accusa- tire party which was daily increasing in tion, if it is not

strength and in true, is at least

numbers, for, as much more prob

always happens in able than the other

eras of prosperity accusations of the

and peace, the temsame kind. It is

per of the time certain that the

was tending toward report that Britan

a milder, gentler nicus had been poi

more liberal govsoned was soon

ernment, and consecurrent at Rome,

quently one which and that it was

would be less aubelieved; and the

thoritative and sedeath of Britanniwas likewise

Agrippina, howfatal blow to

ever, was an enerAgrippina and her

getic woman, not party. Tacitus tells

easily discouraged, us that the death

and she continued of Britannicus

the struggle. Concaused Agrippina

sequently for two great terror and

years longer, even unspeakable

in the midst of sternation, and it

strife, intrigues, is not difficult to

and suspicions, she divine the reasons.

preserved a considNero now remained

erable influence, the last and only From the bust in the Campidoglio

and was able to survivor of the AGRIPPINA THE YOUNGER

check the progress family of Augus

of the government tus, and it was therefore no longer pos- in its new direction. This was either sible to bring any effective opposition to because Nero, though no longer exactly bear upon him by setting up some other obedient to his mother's will, was still too member of the family who would be capa- weak, too undecided, and too deeply inble of governing. The new nobility, with volved in the ideas of his earlier educaits modern tendencies, now rapidly gained tion, to attempt an open revolt against her, strength, and the influence of Agrippina or it was because Seneca and Burrhus declined proportionately.

wisely sought to conciliate the ultra-conAs a result of the lofty qualities of servative ideas of the mother with the genius and character with which she had newer tendencies of the son. been endowed, Agrippina had been able to The definitive break with his mother hold the balance of power in the state as and with her political ideas, - that is, with long as she had succeeded in keeping the the ideas which had been professed by her emperor under her influence. This had

ancestors, - came in 58, when Nero forgot been true in the cases of both Claudius and Acte for Poppæa Sabina. The latter beNero. After Nero escaped from her in- longed to one of those great Roman fami



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lies into which the new spirit and the new summarily decide all suits against the taxcustoms had most deeply penetrated. farmers and that the soldiers should be Rich, beautiful, avaricious of luxuries and exempt from these same vectigalia. pleasures, possessed of an unbridled per- Though some of these reforms were sonal ambition, she had attracted Nero to just, this new policy was also the cause of herself, and, in order to become empress, the final rupture with his mother. Agripgave the uncertain youth the decisive im- pina and Nero, to all intents and purposes, pulse which was to transform the disciple no longer saw each other, and Nero, on of Agrippina and the grandson of Ger- the few visits which he was obliged to pay manicus into the prodigal and dissolute her in order to save appearances, always emperor of history. She encouraged in arranged it so as never to be left alone in him his desire to please the populace, and her presence. In this manner the influcertainly never checked his love for Greece ence of Agrippina continued to decline, and the Orient, which resulted finally in while the popularity of Nero steadily inhis mania of everywhere imitating the ex- creased as the result of his youth, of these ample of Asia and of taking up again, first reforms, and of the hopes to which though to be sure less wildly, the policies his prodigality had given rise. The pubof Caligula. Tacitus tells us that she con- lic, whose memory is always brief, forgot tinually reproved Nero for his simple cus- what Agrippina had done and how she toms, his inelegant manners, and his rude had brought back peace to the state, and tastes. She held up to him, both as an began to expect all sorts of new benefits example and as a reproach, the elegance from Nero. Poppæa, encouraged by the and luxury of her husband, who was in- increasing popularity of the emperor, indeed one of the most refined and pompous sisted more boldly that Nero, in order to members of the degenerate Roman nobil- make her his wife, should divorce Octavia. ity. Poppæa, in short, gave herself up to But Agrippina was not the woman to the task of reshaping the education of yield thus easily, and she continued the Nero and of destroying the results of struggle against her son, against his paraAgrippina's patient labor. Nor was this mour, and against the growing coterie all. She even became, with her restricted which was gathering about the emperor. intelligence, his adviser in politics. She She opposed particularly the repudiation persuaded him that the policy of authority of Octavia, which, being merely the result and economy which his mother had de- of a pure caprice, would have caused serisired was rendering him unpopular, and ous scandal in Rome. But Nero was even she suggested the idea of a policy of lib- now hesitating and uncertain. He still erality toward the people which would had too clearly before him the memory of win him the affection of the masses. After the long authority of his mother; he feared he had fallen in love with Poppæa Sabina, her too much to dare step forth in open Nero, who up to that time had shown no and complete revolt. At last Poppæa considerable initiative in affairs of state, understood that she could not become emelaborated and proposed to the senate press so long as the mother lived, and from many revolutionary projects for favoring that moment the doom of Agrippina was the populace. He finally proposed that sealed. Poppæa was goaded on by all the they abolish all the vectigalia of the em- new friends of Nero, who wished to depire; that is, all indirect taxes, all tolls stroy forever the influence of Agrippina, and duties of whatever sort. The measure and by her words and deeds she finally would certainly have been most popular, brought him to the point where he decided and there was much discussion about it in to kill his mother. the senate; but the conservatives showed But to murder his mother was both an that the finances of the empire would be abominable and dangerous undertaking, ruined and persuaded Nero not to insist. for it meant killing the daughter of GerNero, however, wished to bring about manicus-killing that woman whom the some reform which would help the masses, people regarded with a semi-religious veneand he gave orders in an edict that the ration as a portent of fortune; for she was rates of all the vectigalia be published; the daughter of a man whom only a prethat at Rome the pretor, and in the prov- mature death had prevented from becominces the propretor and proconsul, should ing the head of the empire, and she had


been the sister, the wife, and the mother panied her to the fatal vessel and tenderly of emperors. For this reason the manner embraced her. It was a calm, starry night. of her taking-off had been long debated in Agrippina stood talking with one of her order that it might remain secret; nor would freedwomen about the repentance of her Nero make his decision until a seemingly son and the reconciliation which had taken safe means had been discovered for bring- place, when, after the vessel had drawn ing about the disappearance of Agrippina. some distance away from the shore, the

It was the freedman Anicetus, the com- plotters tried to carry out their infernal mander of the feet, who, in the spring of plan. What happened is not very clear. The 59, made the proposal when Nero was seemingly picturesque description of Taciwith his court at Baiæ, on the Bay of tus is in reality vague and confusing. It Naples. They were to construct a vessel appears that the ship did not sink so rapwhich, as Tacitus says, should open art- idly as the plotters had hoped, and in the fully on one side. If Nero could induce confusion which resulted on board, the his mother to embark upon that vessel, emperor's mother, ready and resolute, sucAnicetus would see to it that she and the ceeded in making her escape by casting secret of her murder would be buried in herself into the sea and swimming away, the depths of the sea. Nero gave his con- while the hired assassins on the ship killed sent to this abominable plan. He pre- her freedwoman, mistaking her for Agriptended that he was anxious to become pina. reconciled with his mother, and invited In any case, it is certain that Agrippina her to come from Antium, where she then arrived safely at one of her villas along was, to Baiæ. He showed her all regard the coast, with the help, it seems, of a vesand every courtesy, and when Agrippina, sel which she had encountered as she swam, reassured by the kindness of her son, set and that she immediately sent one of her out on her return to Antium, Nero accom- freedmen to apprise Nero of the danger

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from which she had escaped through the to give, or rather seeing only a single way kindness of the gods and his good fortune! out, which was, however, too serious and Agrippina had guessed the truth, but for horrible, they held their peace while Nero this one time she gave up the struggle and begged them to save him. At last Seneca, sent her messenger, that it might be under- the humanitarian philosopher, turned to stood, without her saying so, that she for- Burrhus and asked him what would hapgot and pardoned. Indeed, what means pen if the pretorians should be ordered to were left her, a lonely woman, of coping kill Agrippina. Burrhus understood that with an emperor who dared raise his hand Seneca, though he was the first to give the against his own mother?

terrible advice, yet wished to leave to him However, fear prevented Nero from the more serious responsibility of carrying understanding. No sooner had he learned it into execution; for Burrhus, as comthat Agrippina had escaped than he lost mander of the guards, would have had to his head. In his imagination he saw her give the order for the murder. He therehastening to Rome and denouncing the fore hastened to say that the pretorians horrible matricide to the soldiers and the would never kill the daughter of Germanisenate; and beside himself with terror, he cus, and then added that if they really sent for Seneca and Burrhus in order to wished to do away with Agrippina, the take counsel with them. It is easy to im- best plan would be for Anicetus to carry agine what the feelings of the two teachers out the work which he had begun. His of the youth must have been as they lis- advice was the same as Seneca's, but he tened to the terrible story. Even they turned over to a third person the very failed to understand that Agrippina recog- grave responsibility for its execution. He nized and declared herself conquered. had, however, chosen this third person They, too, feared that she would provoke more wisely than Seneca, for Anicetus the most frightful scandal which Rome could not refuse. If Agrippina lived, it had yet seen, and not knowing what advice was he who ran the risk of becoming the

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