Puslapio vaizdai

But which one of the two youths was mense empire. He was ignorant of the it best to choose, Claudius's son by blood luxury, pleasure, and elegance which were or his son by adoption? Nero was chosen becoming general in the great families; as the result of the unrighteous ambition outside of a lively disposition and docility of Agrippina, so Tacitus says. It is very toward his mother, he had up to this point probable that Agrippina was more eager shown no special quality and no particular to see her own son at the head of the vice. Only one peculiarity had been noempire than to see Britannicus there; but ticed in him: he had studied with great this does not seem to have been the real zest music, painting, sculpture, and poetry, reason of her choice, for it could not have and had made himself proficient in these been otherwise, even if Agrippina had de- arts, which were considered frivolous and tested Nero and had cherished Britannicus useless for a Roman noble. On the conwith a maternal affection. Nero was four trary, he had neglected oratory, which was years older than Britannicus, and therefore held a necessary art by an aristocracy like he had to be given the preference over the the Roman, whose duty it was to use latter. It was a very bold move to pro- speech at councils, in the tribunals, and in

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pose that the senate make a youth of seven- the senate, just as it used the sword on teen emperor; it would have been nothing the fields of battle. But the majority beless than folly to ask that they accept a

lieved that this was merely a passing cathirteen-year-old lad as commander-in- price of youth. chief of the imperial armies of Rome.

Through the help of Seneca and Bur- AGRIPPINA, then, with the assistance of rhus, the plan developed by Agrippina was Seneca and Burrhus, had kept the highest carried out with rapidity and success. On office in the state in the family of Augusthe thirteenth of October, after matters tus, and she had done so by a bold move had been arranged with the troops, the which had not been without its dangers. doors of the imperial palace were thrown She was too intelligent not to foresee that open at noon; Nero, accompanied by a seventeen-year-old emperor could have Burrhus, advanced to the cohort which no authority, and that his position would was on guard. He was received with joy- expose him to all sorts of envy and inous welcome, placed in a litter, borne to trigue, and to open as well as secret oppothe quarters of the pretorians, and ac- sition. She succeeded in mitigating this claimed head of the army. The senate evil and in parrying this danger by another grudgingly confirmed his election. There very happy suggestion—the virtually comresulted in Rome a most extraordinary plete restoration of the old republican consituation: a youth of seventeen, educated stitution. After the funeral of Claudius, in the antique manner, and, though al- Nero introduced himself to the senate, and ready married, still entirely under the in a polished and modest discourse seemtutelage of a strict mother, had been ele- ingly intended to excuse his youth, he devated to the highest position in the im- clared that of all the powers exercised by his predecessors he wished to keep only the under the government of Nero. Most command of the armies. All other civil, historians, hallucinated by Tacitus, have judicial, and administrative functions he not noticed this, and they have conseturned over to the senate, as in the times quently not recognized that in carrying of the republic. an

out this plan Agrippina is neither more This “restoration of the republic" was nor less than the last continuator of the

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senate forget, in the presence of a seven- seemed to be progressing wonderfully, teen-year-old emperor, the pressure which and in the eyes of the senators the entire had been brought to bear upon it by the government was in a better way than it cohorts, and to wipe out the rancor against ever yet had been. the imperial power which was still dor- But the situation soon changed. Agripmant in the aristocracy. This restoration pina, to be sure, had given her son a was not, therefore, a sheer renunciation of strictly Roman education, and had brought privileges and powers inherent in the sov- him up with a simplicity and rigor long ereign authority,

since out of fashbut act

ion; and though political sagacity

she had early given planned by a wo

him a wife, she man whose know

continued to keep ledge of the art

him subject to maof government had


authority been received in the

But, with all this. school of Augustus.

it is doubtful if The move

there ever was a entirely successful.

temperament which The illusion that

rebelled against the imperial au

this species of eduthority was only a

cation as strongly transitory expedi

as did Nero's. His ent made necessary

taste for the arts by the civil wars,

of drawing and and that it might

singing, the indifone day be entirely

ference which he abolished, was still

had shown for the deeply grounded in

study of oratory the Roman aristoc

from his childhood, racy. Every relax

these were the ation of authority

seeds from which was specially pleas

as time went on his ing to the senatorial

raging exoticism circles. The gov

was to be develernment of Nero

oped through the therefore began un

use and abuse of der the most fa


His was vorable auspices,

one of those riotwith joyous hope in

ing, contrary, and the general prom

undisciplined temFrom a photograph by D. Alessandri of the statue ise of concord. The

peraments which disaffection which AGRIPPINA THE YOUNGER, SISTER OF feel that they must had been felt in the CALIGULA AND MOTHER OF NERO do precisely the oplast six years of

posite of what traClaudius's government was changed into dition, education, and the general opinion a general and confident optimism, which of the society in which they live have prethe first acts of the new government and scribed as necessary and recognized as lawthe signs of the future seemed to justify. ful. In the case of Nero the defects and Agrippina continued to keep Nero subject the dangers in the ancient Roman educato her authority, as she had done before tion were to become apparent. the election : together with his two mas- The first of these dangers declared itself ters, Seneca and Burrhus, she suggested when Nero entered upon one of those to him every word and deed. The senate early marriages of which we have spoken resumed its ancient functions; and gov- in the first of these studies. Agrippina erned by Seneca, Burrhus, and Agrippina had early arranged an alliance with a in conjunction with the senate, the empire young lady who, because of her virtues,


in the Lateran Museum

nobility of ancestry, and Roman educa- thority, which up to that time he had tion, might have become his worthy com- accepted with docility. panion; but a year after his elevation to This, however, was a crisis which was the imperial dignity, the eighteen-year-old sooner or later inevitable. Agrippina had youth made the acquaintance of a woman certainly made the mistake of attempting whose beauty inflamed his senses and im- to treat Nero the emperor too much as she agination to the point of making him en- had treated Nero the child; but that the tirely forget Octavia, whom he had mar- crisis should have been reached in this ried from a sense of duty and not for love. manner as the result of a love-affair, and This person was Acte, a beautiful Asiatic that it should have provoked a misunderfreedwoman, and

standing between the inexperienced,

the mother and son ardent youth, al

that was soon to ready given up to

degenerate into haexotic fancies, be

tred, was most uncame so enamoured

fortunate. Agripthat he one day

pina, though she proposed to repu

enjoyed great presdiate Octavia and

tige, had also many to marry Acte. But

hidden enemies. a marriage between

Everybody knew Nero and Acte was

that she represented not possible. The

in the government lex de maritandis

the old aristocratic, ordinibus prohib

conservative, and ited marriages be

economical tentween senators and

dency of the Claufreedwomen. It was

dii,- of Tiberius therefore natural

and of Drusus, that Agrippina

that she looked should have op

askance upon the posed it with all

development of her strength. She,

luxurious habits, the great-grand

the relaxation of daughter of Livia,

morals, and the inthe granddaughter

crease of public and of Drusus, the

private expendidaughter of Ger

tures. They unmanicus, educated

derstood that she in the strictest ideas

exerted all her inof the old Roman

Auence to prevent THE EMPEROR NERO aristocracy, could

wastefulness, the not permit her son

malversation to compromise the prestige of the entire public moneys, and in general all outnobility in the eyes of the lower orders by lays for pleasures either in the state or so scandalous a mésalliance. But on this the imperial family. Her virtues and her occasion the youth, carried away by his stand against Messalina had given her passion, resisted. If he did not actually a great prestige, and the reverence which repudiate Octavia, he disregarded her, and the emperor had shown for her had for a began to live with Acte as if she had been long time obliged her enemies to keep his wife. Agrippina insisted that he give themselves hidden and to hold their peace. up this scandalous relationship; but in But this ceased to be the case after the vain. The mother and son disagreed, and incipient discord between her and Nero very shortly after having resisted his had allowed many to foresee the possibilmother in the case of Acte, Nero began to ity of using Nero against her. In proporresist her on other occasions. With in- tion as Nero became attached to Acte he creasing energy he shook off maternal au- drew away from his mother, and in pro


From the bust in Rome


portion as he withdrew from his mother and the party of the modernizing nob his capricious, fantastic, and rebellious which was gathering about the em temper was encouraged to show itself in and trying to claim him as its own. its true light. The party of the new no- tus clearly tells us that the older and bility, with its modern and Oriental ten- respectable families of the Roman no dencies, had for ten years been held in were with Agrippina; and even if he check by the preponderating influence of neglected to tell us so, we might e Agrippina. But gradually, as the exotic have guessed it. For a moment the and anti-Roman inclinations of the em- old struggle which had been the cau:

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peror declared themselves, this party again so many tragedies in the upper classe became bolder. The memories of the Rome seemed once more ready to b scandals of Caligula and Messalina were forth. But even though Agrippina becoming effaced by time, the rather se

the soul of the party of the old nob vere and economical government of Agrip- the party needed a man whom it pina was showing signs of weakening, and

oppose to Nero as a possible and b all minds were beginning to entertain a candidate for the imperial dignity. vague desire for something new.

Agrippina, like a true Roman ma The two parties which in the times of of the old type, looked upon the ta Augustus had rent Rome asunder were merely as

instrument of poli now being realined in the imperial house

power, and therefore subjected her and in the senate, the party of the old sonal affections to the public interest. nobility, which had Agrippina at its head, began to cast her eyes upon Britan


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