The Ancient Library

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tation. He who consents to be the tutor of a vicious youth of high station, whom he cannot control, must be content to take the advantages of his post, with the risk of being blamed for his pupil's vices.

Claudius was poisoned by his niece and wife Agrippina a. d. 54, and Nero succeeded to the Imperial power. Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 2, &c.) states that both Burrus and Seneca attempted to check the young emperor's vicious propensities ; and both combined to resist his mother's arrogant pre­tensions. A woman assuming the direct exercise of political power was a thing that the Romans had not yet seen, and it was inconsistent with all their notions. The opposition of Burrus and Seneca to the emperor's mother was the duty of good citizens.

Nero pronounced the funeral oration in memory of Claudius. The panegyric on the deceased emperor was listened to with decency and patience till Nero came to that part of his discourse in which he spoke of the foresight and wisdom of Claudius, when there was a general laugh. The speech, which Nero delivered, was written by Seneca in a florid style, suited to the taste of the age, with little regard to truth, and none for his own character, for he afterwards wrote a satire (Apocolocyntosis) to ridicule the Apotheosis of the man whom he had despised and praised'.

In the first year of his reign Nero affected mildness and clemency, and such was the tone of his orationes to the senate ; but these professions were the words of Seneca, uttered by the mouth of Nero ; the object of Seneca was, as Tacitus says, either to give public evidence of the integrity of his counsels to the emperor, or to display his abilities. There might be something of both in his motives ; but it is consistent with a fair judg­ment and the character of Seneca's writings to believe that he did attempt to keep Nero within the limits of decency and humanity. A somewhat ambiguous passage of Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 13), seems to affirm that he endeavoured to veil Nero's amour with Acte under a decent covering ; and Cluvius (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 2) states that the amour with Acte was encouraged to prevent a detestable crime. " What a part for a Stoic to play," says one of Seneca's biographers, * whose duty it was to recall his disciple to the arms of his wife, the virtuous Octavia." The Stoic probably did the best that he could under the circumstances.

The murder of Britannieus a. d. 55 was followed by large gifts from Nero to his friends ; and " there were not wanting persons to affirm, that men who claimed a character for sober seriousness, divided among themselves houses and villae at that time, 'as if it were so much booty." (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 18.) The allusion is supposed to be to Seneca and Burrus ; but the passage of Tacitus contains no distinct charge against either of them. It was unlucky for Seneca's reputation that he was rich ; for a man in power cannot grow rich, even by honest means, without having dishonesty imputed to him.

The struggle for dominion between Nero and his mother could only be decided by the ruin of one of them ; and if Seneca wished to enjoy credit with Nero, it was necessary that he should get rid of this imperious woman. Fabius Rusticus says that Seneca maintained Burrus in his post of Praefectus Praetorio, when Nero intended to re-



move him on the ground of his supposed adherence to the cause of Agrippina (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 20). But Plinius and Cluvius Rufus said that Nero never doubted the fidelity of Burrus, and that in his alarm and his impatience to get rid of his mother, he could not be pacified till Burrus promised that she should be put to death, if she should be con­victed of the designs which were imputed to her. Burrus and Seneca paid Agrippina a visit, with some freedmen, to be witnesses of what took place. Burrus charged her with treasonable designs, to which Agrippina replied with indignant eloquence. A reconciliation with Nero followed, her accusers were punished, and her friends rewarded ; neither Burrus nor Seneca was under any imputation of having prejudiced Nero against her.

The affair of P. Suilius (a. d. 58) brought some discredit on Seneca. Suilius had been a formidable instrument of tyranny under Claudius, and was justly hated. He was .charged under a Senatus-consultum, which had amended the Lex Cincia, with receiving money for pleading causes ; a feeble pretext for crushing an odious man. The defence of Suilius was an attack on Seneca: he charged him with debauching Julia, the daughter of Ger-manicus, and hinted at his commerce with women of the imperial family, probably meaning Agrippina ; and he asked by what wisdom, by what precepts of philosophy he had, during a four-years' intimacy with an emperor, amassed a fortune of three hun­dred million sestertii: at Rome he was a hunter after testamentary gifts, an ensnarer of those who were childless ; Italy and the provinces were drained by his exorbitant usury. His own profits, Suilius said, were moderate, and earned with toil ; and he would endure any thing rather than humble himself before an upstart favourite. We must assume that Suilius supposed that Seneca had moved against him in this matter: his words were reported to Seneca, and perhaps aggravated. A charge was got up against him, it is not said by whom, as to his infamous delations under Claudius, and he was banished to the Balearic Islands. The words of such a man are no proof of Seneca's guilt; but the enormous wealth of Seneca gave a colour of truth to any thing that was said against him. (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 42.)

Nero's passion for Poppaea brought the contest between him and his mother to a crisis (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 1. A. d. 59). Poppaea burned to become the wife of Nero, but she saw that it was im­possible while Agrippina lived. She plied Nero with her blandishments, her tears, and even her sarcasms ; and at last he resolved to kill his mother, and the only question was as to the way of doing it. After an unsuccessful attempt to drown her, Nero, terrified at the failure of his plan, sent for Burrus and Seneca. Whether they were pre­viously acquainted with the design against Agrip-pina's life is uncertain (Tacit. Ann. xiv. V ), Dion Cassius (Ixi. 12), with his usual malignity, accuses Seneca of instigating Nero to the crime. Burrus and Seneca- were long silent in the presence of Nero ; either they thought that it would be useless to dissuade the emperor from his purpose, or, what is more probable, they saw that either the mother or the son must perish. Seneca broke the silence by asking Burrus if orders should be given to the soldiers to put Agrippina to death. Burrus replied that the soldiers were devoted to the family of Germanicus, and would not shed the blood of his

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