The Annals of Imperial Rome

By Cornelius Tacitus; Michael Grant | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
The Fall of Agrippina

THE first casualty of the new reign was the governor of Asia, Marcus Junius Silanus (II). His death was treacherously contrived by Agrippina, without Nero's knowledge. It was not provoked by any ferocity of temper. Silanus was lazy, and previous rulers had despised him -- Gaius used to call him 'the Golden Sheep'. But Agrippina was afraid he would avenge her murder of his brother.1 Popular gossip, too, widely suggested that Nero, still almost a boy and emperor only by a crime, was less eligible for the throne than a mature, blameless aristocrat who was, like himself, descended from the Caesars. For Silanus was a great-great-grandson of the divine Augustus -- and this still counted. So he was murdered. The act was done by a gentleman (outside the senate) and an ex-slave,2 the emperor's agents in Asia. Without the precautions necessary to maintain secrecy, they administered poison to the governor at dinner.

Equally hurried was the death of Claudius' ex-slave Narcissus. I have described his feud with Agrippina. Imprisoned and harshly treated, the threat of imminent execution drove him to suicide. The emperor, however, was sorry: Narcissus' greed and extravagance harmonized admirably with his own still latent vices.

Other murders were meant to follow. But the emperor's tutors, Sextus Afranius Burrus and Lucius Annaeus Seneca, prevented them. These two men, with a unanimity rare among partners in power, were, by different methods, equally influential. Burrus' influence lay in soldierly efficiency and seriousness of character, Seneca's in amiable high principles and his tuition of Nero in public speaking. They collaborated in controlling the emperor's perilous adolescence; their policy was to direct his deviations from virtue into licensed indulgences. Against Agrippina's violence inflamed by all the passions of ill-gotten tyranny, they united.

____________________
1
Lucius Junius Silanus Torquatus (I).
2
Publius Celer and Helius.

-274-

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The Annals of Imperial Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • The Annals Of Imperial Rome 27
  • Chapter 1 - From Augustus to Tiberius 29
  • Chapter 2 - Mutiny on the Frontiers 41
  • Chapter 3 - War with the Germans 59
  • Chapter 4 - The First Treason Trials 88
  • Chapter 5 - The Death of Germanicus 102
  • Chapter 6 - Tiberius and the Senate 126
  • Chapter 7 - 'Partner of My Labours' 153
  • Chapter 8 - The Reign of Terror 193
  • Part Two - Claudius and Nero 223
  • Chapter 9 - The Fall of Messalina 225
  • Chapter 10 - The Mother of Nero 244
  • Chapter II - The Fall of Agrippina 274
  • Chapter 12 - Nero and His Helpers 310
  • Chapter 13 - Eastern Settlement 334
  • Chapter 14 - The Burning of Rome 349
  • Chapter 15 - The Plot 356
  • Chapter 16 - Innocent Victims 370
  • Notes 385
  • List of Roman Emperors 399
  • Lists of Some Eastern Monarchs 400
  • Key to Technical Terms 402
  • Key to Place-Names 410
  • Genealogical Tables 433
  • Index of Personal Names 439
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