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This at all events was the beginning of an unmitigated and grinding despotism. As long indeed as Augusta lived, there yet remained a refuge, for with Tiberius obedience to his mother was the habit of a life, and Sejanus did not dare to set himself above a parent's authority. Now, so to say, they threw off the reins and let loose their fury. A letter was sent, directed against Agrippina and Nero, which was popularly believed to have been long before forwarded and to have been kept back by Augusta, as it was publicly read soon after her death. It contained expressions of studied harshness, yet it was not armed rebellion or a longing for revolution, but unnatural passions and profligacy which the emperor imputed to his grandson. Against his daughter-in-law he did not dare to invent this much; he merely censured her insolent tongue and defiant spirit, amid the panic-stricken silence of the Senate, till a few who had no hope from merit (and public calamities are ever used by individuals for interested purposes) demanded that the question should be debated. The most eager was Cotta Messalinus, who made a savage speech. Still, the other principal senators, and especially the magistrates, were perplexed, for Tiberius, notwithstanding his furious invective, had left everything else in doubt.

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