1. A freedman of the emperor Claudius, over whom he possessed unbounded influence.
He had charge of the emperor's letters. Reimar (ad Dion. Cass.
60.34) quotes an old inseription (apud Fabrtettum,
p. 543) which runs thus : NARCISSUS AUG. L. AB. EPISTULIS. (Comp. Suet. Cl. 28
; Zonar. p. 563d.) When Messallina wished to compass the death of C. Appius Silanus, Narcissus, between whom and herself there existed at that time a good understanding, pretended to the emperor that in a dream he had seen him fall by the hand of Silanus.
The preconcerted entrance of Silanus immediately afterwards was alleged as a confirmation of the vision, and the unfortunate youth was immediately put to death.
The emperor thanked his freedman in the senate, A. D. 42. (Suet. Cl. 37
; D. C. 60.14
.) Narcissus soon afterwards seized the opportunity afforded by the conspiracy of Furius Camillus Scribonianus to get the emperor to order the death of a number of innocent persons. Messallina and Narcissus even went so far as to put to the torture many knights and senators. (D. C. 9.15
.) Several of those most involved in the conspiracy, who could propitiate Narcissus and Messallina by money, escaped. In A. D. 43 we find Vespasianus sent as legatus of a legion into Germany through the influence of Narcissus. (Suet. Vesp.
4.) When the soldiers under A. Plautius in Britain mutinied, Narcissus was sent by the emperor to restore order; but on his attempting to address the soldiers he was received with shouts of indignation, and not suffered to speak. His mission, however, accomplished its purpose, for the soldiers, under the influence of this revulsion of feeling, suffered Plautius to take the command of them. (D. C. 9.19
When Messallina, having lost the confidence of the freedmen of the palace, in consequence of her having caused the death of Polybius, proceeded in her mad extravagance to marry C. Silius, information was given to the emperor, who at the time was at Ostia, by Narcissus, through some women. Narcissus persuaded the emperor that his only chance of safety lay in entrusting to him the command of the praetorian soldiers; and to prevent any one else from having access to the ear of Claudius, he asked and obtained permission to ride back to Rome in the same carriage with him.
As they approached the city he diverted the attention of the emperor from the appeals of Messallina, who had come out to meet them, and prevented her children from being brought to their father. Finding Claudius not so prompt in ordering the death of Messallina as he wished, and fearing the effects of her habitual influence over him, Narcissus himself gave orders for putting her to death.
The emperor was told that she had perished, and made no further inquiries. Narcissus shortly after received the insignia of a praetor. (Tac. Ann. 11.30
; Suet. Cltad.
In the discussions which ensued as to whom Claudius should marry, Narcissus supported the claims of Aelia Petina. (Tac. Ann. 12.1
.) Dio Cassius (60.34) relates an anecdote which shows that Narcissus thoroughly appreciated the stupidity of the emperor.
He however got into considerable disgrace on account of the insufficient manner in which the canal for draining the lake Fucinus, the construction of which he had superintended, had been made. Agrippina charged him with the fraudulent appropriation of great part of the money apportioned for the work. Narcissus, in return, did not leave unnoticed her imperious temper and ambitious designs, and threw his influence into the scale in favour of Britannicns. (Tac. Ann. 12.57
; Dio Cass 9.34.) Agrippina, to make sure of the succession for her son, resolved to poison the emperor.
She accordingly sent away Narcissus to Campania, on the pretext of his making use of the warm baths for the gout, with which he seems to have been affected. Here he was put to death almost immediately on the accession of the emperor Nero, A. D. 54. (Tac. Ann. 13.1
; D. C. 9.34
Before his death he burnt all the letters of Claudius which were in his possession.
He amassed an enormous fortune, amounting, according to Dio Cassius, to 400,000,000 sesterces, equivalent to 3,125,000l. of our money. (Comp. Juvenal, 14.329.) If the following inscription refers to him, he had a wife named Claudia Dicaeosyna: D. M. || CLAVDIAE || DICAEOSYNAE || TI. CLAVDIVS NARCISSUS LIB. EID. COIV. || PIENTISSIMAE || ET FRVGALISSI || B. M. (Orell. Inscript. Lat. Select.
vol. i. p. 177.)
In another inscription we have: NARCISI. TI. CLAVDI || BRITANIC || I. || SVPRA || INSVLAS. (Orell. l.c.
and No. 2927, p. 505.) His name also occurs in Inscript. No. 4902, vol. ii. p. 414.