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Nor did he proceed with less cruelty against those who were not of his family. A blazing star, which is vulgarly supposed to portend destruction to kings and princes, appeared above the horizon several nights successively. 1 He felt great anxiety on account of this phenomenon, as being informed by one Babilus, an astrologer, that princes were used to expiate such omens by the sacrifice of illustrious persons, and so avert the danger foreboded to their own persons, by bringing it on the heads of their chief men, he resolved on the destruction of the principal nobility in Rome. He was the more encouraged to this, because he had some plausible pretence for carrying it into execution, from the discovery of two conspiracies against him; the former and more dangerous of which was that formed by Piso2 and discovered at Rome; the other was that of Vinicius,3 at Beneventum. The conspirators were brought to their trials loaded with triple fetters. Some ingenuously confessed the charge; others avowed that they thought the design against his life an act of favour for which he was obliged to them, as it was impossible in any other way than by death to relieve a person rendered infamous by crimes of the greatest enormity. The children of those who had been condemned, were banished the city, and afterwards either poisoned or starved to death. It is asserted that some of them, with their tutors, and the slaves who carried their satchels, were all poisoned together at one dinner; and others not suffered to seek their daily bread.

1 This comet, as well as one which appeared the year in which Claudius died, is described by Seneca, Natural. Quast. VII. c. xvii. and xix. and by Pliny, II. c. xxxv.

2 See Tacitus, Annal. xv. 48-55.

3 The sixteenth book of Tacitus, which would probably have given an account of the Vinician conspiracy, is lost. It is shortly noticed by Plutarch.

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