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Becoming by these means universally feared and odious, he was at last taken off by a conspiracy of his friends and favourite freedmen, in concert with his wife. 1 He had long entertained a suspicion of the year and day when he should die, and even of the very hour and manner of his death: all which he had learned from the Chaldaeans, when he was a very young man. His father once at supper laughed at him for refusing to eat some mushrooms, saying, that if he knew his fate, he would rather be afraid of the sword. Being, therefore, in perpetual apprehension and anxiety, he was kernly alive to the slightest suspicions, insomuch that he is thought to have withdrawn the edict ordering the destruction of the vines, chiefly because the copies of it which were dispersed had the following lines written upon them: “κἤν με φάγης ἐπί ῥίζαν ὅμως ἔτι καρποφορήσω,
ὄσσον ἐπισπεῖσαι Καίσαρι Θυομένῳ.2
” “Gnaw thou my root, yet shall my juice suffice
To pour on Caesar's head in sacrifice.
” It was from the same principle of fear, that he refused a new honour, devised and offered him by the senate, though he was greedy of all such compliments. It was this: "that as often as he held the consulship, Roman knights, chosen by lot, should walk before him, clad in the Trabea, with lances in their hands, amongst his lictors and apparitors." As the time of the danger which he apprehended drew near, he became daily more and more disturbed in mind; insomuch that he lined the walls of the porticos in which he used to walk, with the stone called Phengites,3 by the reflection of which he could see every object behind him. He seldom gave an audience to persons in custody, unless in private, being alone, and he himself holding their chains in his hand. To convince his domestics that the life of a master was not to be attempted upon any pretext, however plausible, he condemned to death Epaphroditus his secretary, because it was believed that he had assisted Nero, in his extremity, to kill himself.
1 Domitia, who had been repudiated for an intrigue with Paris, the actor, and afterwards taken back.
2 The lines, with a slight accommodation, are borrowed from the poet Evenus, Anthol. i. vl. i., who applies them to a goat, the great enemy of vineyards. Ovid, Fasti, i. 357, thus paraphrases them:
“Rode caper vitem, tamen hinc, cum staris ad aram,
In tua quod spargi cornua possit erit.
3 Pliny describes this stone as being brought from Cappadocia, and says that it was as hard as marble, white and translucent, cxxiv. c. 22.
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