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But this furious impulse subsiding, he wished for some place of privacy, where he might collect his thoughts; and his freedman Phaon offering him his country-house, between the Salarian 1 and Nomentan 2 roads, about four miles from the city, he mounted a horse, barefoot as he was, and, in his tunic, only slipping over it an old soiled cloak; with his head muffled up, and an handkerchief before his face, and four persons only to attend him, of whom Sporus was one. He was suddenly struck with horror at an earthquake, and by a flash of lightning which darted full in his face, and heard from the neighbouring camp 3 the shouts of the soldiers, wishing his destruction, and prosperity to Galba. He also heard a traveller they met on the road say, "They are in pursuit of Nero:" and another ask, "Is there any news in the city about Nero?" Uncovering his face when his horse was started by the scent of a carcase which lay in the road, he was recognized and saluted by an old soldier who had been discharged from the guards. When they came to the lane which turned up to the house, they quitted their horses, and with much difficulty he wound among bushes and briars, and along a track through a bed of rushes, over which they spread their cloaks for him to walk on. Having reached a wall at the back of the villa, .Phaon advised him to hide himself awhile in a sand-pit; when he replied, "I will not go under-ground alive." Staying there some little time, while preparations were made for bringing him privately into the villa, he took some water out of a neighbouring tank in his hand, to drink, saying, "This is Nero's distilled water."4 Then his cloak having been torn by the brambles, he pulled out the thorns which stuck in it. At last, being admitted, creeping upon his hands and knees, through a hole made for him in the wall, he lay down in the first closet he came to, upon a miserable pallet, with an old coverlet thrown over it; and being both hungry and thirsty, though he refused some coarse bread that was brought him, he drank a little warm water.
1 The Via Salaria was so called from the Sabines using it to fetch salt from the coast. It led from Rome to the northward, near the gardens' of Sallust, by a gate of the same name, called also Quirinalis, Agonalis, and Collina. It was here that Alaric entered.
2 The Via Nomentana, so named because it led to the Sabine town of Nomentum, joined the Via Salara at Heretum on the Tiber. It was also called Ficulnensis. It entered Rome by the Porta Viminalis, now called Porta Pia. It was by this road that Hannibal approached the walls of Rome. The country-house of Nero's freedman, where he ended his days, stood near the Anio, beyond the present church of St. Agnese, where there was a villa of the Spada family, belonging now, we believe, to Torlonia.
3 This description is no less exact than vivid. It was easy for Nero to gain the nearest gate, the Nomentan, from the Esquiline quarter of the palace, without much observation; and on issuing from it (after midnight, it appears), the fugitives would have the pretorian camp so close on their right hand, that they might well hear the shouts of the soldiers.
4 Decocta. Pliny informs us that Nero had the water he drank, boiled, to clear it from impurities, and then cooled with ice.
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