20 August 2006

NERO's end

The third tyrant, Gaius Caligula, was slain by his attendants. Tiberius Claudius, fifth in line from Julius, although he avoided tyranny, came to his end, like the other Tiberius, with unmistakable signs of poison. Nero, the sixth from Julius and
the most monstrous and disgusting of all, had the following end.

After he had been offended by the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrowness and crookedness of the streets, and therefore burned down the city, as has been told above, all the people turned from him, as Suetonius Tranquillus relates, and when on entering his chamber he looked about for an assassin and found none, for everyone had departed, "Well then," he said, "have I neither a friend nor an enemy?" Later, shortly before he stabbed himself, he bade a grave to be dug in his presence to fit the size of his body, and that there should be placed in it such bits of marble as could be found and that water and wood should be collected for embalming his corpse, and at each step in the preparations he wept and repeated again and again, "In my death what an artist perishes!" When he heard that he had been condemned by the Senate to torture, he asked what the nature of it was. And when he had learned that he was to be stripped naked and his neck inserted into a fork and his body beaten with rods until he was dead, he seized in terror two daggers which he had brought away with him, and trying the edge of each, hid them again, pleading that it was not yet the fatal hour. And at one moment he urged Sporus to begin a lament, and at the next begged that some one would give him courage to die by dying with him as an example. And meanwhile from time to time he upbraided his own cowardice in these words, "I live foully, I die shamefully." And now the horsemen were already drawing near who were commanded to bring him away alive. When he perceived this, he drove the steel into his throat, and in him there thus came to an end the whole House of the C├Žsars. But that none may suppose that the law which permits such action against tyrants applies only to that family, Vitellius, the ninth in line from Julius (Galba and Otho having intervened between Nero and Vitellius), was shamefully dragged forth from the cubbyhole in which he had hid himself, and after being led naked along the Via Sacra with

the crowd everywhere throwing dung at his face, was torn into minute fragments by the Roman People at the Gemonian stairs, and then dragged by a hook into the Tiber.

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