Tacitus, Annales 15.60-64

 

[60] Proximam necem Plautii Laterani consulis designati Nero adiungit, adeo propere, ut non complect liberos, non illud breve mortis arbitrium permitteret. raptus in locum servilibus poenis sepositum manu Statii tribuni trucidatur, plenus constantis silentii nec tribuno obiciens eandem conscientiam.
    Sequitur caedes Annaei Senecae, laetissima principi, non quia coniurationis manifestum compererat, sed ut ferro grassaretur, quando venenum non processerat. solus quippe Natalis et hactenus prompsit, missum se ad aegrotum Senecam, uti viseret conquerereturque, cur Pisonem aditu arceret: melius fore, si amicitiam familiari congressu exercuissent. et respondisse Senecam sermone mutuos et crebra conloquia neutri conducere; ceterum salutem suam incolumitate Pisonis inniti. haec ferre Gavius Silvanus tribunus praetoriae cohortis, et an dicta Natalis suaque responsa nosceret percunctari Senecam iubetur. is forte an prudens ad eum diem ex Campania remeaverat quartumque apud lapidem suburbano rure substiterat. illo propinqua vespera tribunus venit et villam globis militum saepsit; tum ipsi cum Pompeia Paulina uxore et amicis duobus epulanti mandata imperatoris edidit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[61] Seneca missum ad se Natalem conquestumque nomine Pisonis, quod a visendo eo prohiberetur, seque rationem valetudinis et amorem quietis excusavisse respondit. cur salutem privati hominis incolumitati suae anteferret, causam non habuisse; nec sibi promptum in adulationes ingenium. idque nulli magis gnarum quam Neroni, qui saepius libertatem Senecae quam servitium expertus esset. ubi haec a tribuno relata sunt Poppaea et Tigellino coram, quod erat saevienti principi intimum consiliorum, interrogat an Seneca voluntariam mortem pararet. tum tribunus nulla pavoris signa, nihil triste in verbis eius aut vultu deprensum confirmavit. ergo regredi et indicere mortem iubetur. tradit Fabius Rusticus non eo quo venerat intinere redi[sse] t[ribun]um, sed flexisse ad Faenium praefectum et expositis Caesaris iussis an obtemperaret interrogavisse, monitumque ab eo ut exsequeretur, fatali omnium ignavia. nam et Silvanus inter coniuratos erat augebatque scelera, in quorum ultionem consenserat. voci tamen et adspectui pepercit intromisitque ad Senecam unum ex centurionibus, qui necessitatem ultimam denuntiaret.

 

 

 

 

 

[62] Ille interritus poscit testamenti tabulas; ac denegante centurione conversus ad amicos, quando meritis eorum referre gratiam prohoberetur, quod unum iam et tamen pulcherrimum habeat, imaginem vitae suae relinquere testatur, cuius si memores essent, bonarum artium famam tam constantis amicitiae [pretium] laturos. simul lacrimas eorum modo sermone, modo intentior in modum coercentis ad firmitudinem revocat, rogitans ubi praecepta sapientiae, ubi tot per annos meditata ratio adversum imminentia? cui enim ignaram fuisse saevitiam Neronis? neque aliud superesse post matrem fratremque interfectos, quam ut educatoris praeceptorisque necem adiceret.

 

 

[63] Ubi haec atque talia velut in commune disseruit, complectitur uxorem, et paululum adversus praesentem fortitudinem mollitus rogat oratque temperaret dolori [neu] aeternum susciperet, sed in contemplatione vitae per virtutem actae desiderium mariti solaciis honestis toleraret. illa contra sibi quoque destinatam mortem adseverat manumque percussoris exposcit. tum Seneca gloriae eius non adversus, simul amore, ne sibi unice dilectam ad iniurias relinqueret, "vitae" inquit "delenimenta monstraveram tibi, tu mortis decus mavis: non invidebo exemplo. sit huius tam fortis exitus constantia penes utrosque par, claritudinis plus in tuo fine." post quae eodem ictu brachia ferro exsolvunt. Seneca, quoniam senile corpus et parco victu tenuatum lenta effugia sanguini praebebat, crurum quoque et poplitum venas abrumpit; saevisque cruciatibus defessus, ne dolore suo animum uxoris infringeret atque ipse visendo eius tormenta ad impatientiam delaberetur, suadet in aliud cubiculum abscedere. et novissimo quoque momento suppeditante eloquentia advocatis scriptoribus pleraque tradidit, quae in vulgus edita eius verbis invertere supersedeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[64] At Nero nullo in Paulinam proprio odio, ac ne glisceret invidia crudelitas, [iubet] inhiberi mortem. hortantibus militibus servi libertique obligant brachia, premunt sanguinem, incertum an ignarae. nam, ut est vulgus ad deteriora promptum, non defuere qui crederent, donec implacabilem Neronem timuerit, famam sociatae cum marito mortis petivisse, deinde oblata mitiore spe blandimentis vitae evictam; cui addidit paucos postea annos, laudabili in maritum memoria et ore ac membris in eum pallorem albentibus, ut ostentui esset multum vitalis spiritus egestum.
    Seneca interim, durante tractu et lentitudine mortis, Statium Annaeum, diu sibi amicitiae fide et arte medicinae probatum, orat provisum pridem venenum, quo d[am]nati publico Atheniensium iudicio exstinguerentur, promeret; adlatumque hausit frustra, frigidus iam artus et cluso corpore adversum vim veneni. postremo stagnum calidae aquae introiit, respergens proximos servorum addita voce libare se liquorem illum Iovi liberatori. exim balneo inlatus et vapore eius exanimatus, sine ullo funeris sollemni crematur. ita codicillis praescripserat, cum etiam tum praedives et praepotens supremis suis consuleret.

[15.60] In quick succession Nero added the murder of Plautius Lateranus, consul-elect, so promptly that he did not allow him to embrace his children or to have the brief choice of his own death. He was dragged off to a place set apart for the execution of slaves, and butchered by the hand of the tribune Statius, maintaining a resolute silence, and not reproaching the tribune with complicity in the plot. Then followed the destruction of Annaeus Seneca, a special joy to the emperor, not because he had convicted him of the conspiracy, but anxious to accomplish with the sword what poison had failed to do. It was, in fact, Natalis alone who divulged Seneca's name, to this extent, that he had been sent to Seneca when ailing, to see him and remonstrate with him for excluding Piso from his presence, when it would have been better to have kept up their friendship by familiar intercourse; that Seneca's reply was that mutual conversations and frequent interviews were to the advantage of neither, but still that his own life depended on Piso's safety. Gavius Silvanus, tribune of a praetorian cohort, was ordered to report this to Seneca and to ask him whether he acknowledged what Natalis said and his own answer. Either by chance or purposely Seneca had returned on that day from Campania, and had stopped at a countryhouse four miles from Rome. Thither the tribune came next evening, surrounded the house with troops of soldiers, and then made known the emperor's message to Seneca as he was at dinner with his wife, Pompeia Paulina, and two friends.

[15.61] Seneca replied that Natalis had been sent to him and had complained to him in Piso's name because of his refusal to see Piso, upon which he excused himself on the ground of failing health and the desire of rest. "He had no reason," he said, for "preferring the interest of any private citizen to his own safety, and he had no natural aptitude for flattery. No one knew this better than Nero, who had oftener experienced Seneca's freespokenness than his servility." When the tribune reported this answer in the presence of Poppaea and Tigellinus, the emperor's most confidential advisers in his moments of rage, he asked whether Seneca was meditating suicide. Upon this the tribune asserted that he saw no signs of fear, and perceived no sadness in his words or in his looks. He was accordingly ordered to go back and to announce sentence of death. Fabius Rusticus tells us that he did not return the way he came, but went out of his course to Faenius, the commander of the guard, and having explained to him the emperor's orders, and asked whether he was to obey them, was by him admonished to carry them out, for a fatal spell of cowardice was on them all. For this very Silvanus was one of the conspirators, and he was now abetting the crimes which he had united with them to avenge. But he spared himself the anguish of a word or of a look, and merely sent in to Seneca one of his centurions, who was to announce to him his last doom.

[15.62] Seneca, quite unmoved, asked for tablets on which to inscribe his will, and, on the centurion's refusal, turned to his friends, protesting that as he was forbidden to requite them, he bequeathed to them the only, but still the noblest possession yet remaining to him, the pattern of his life, which, if they remembered, they would win a name for moral worth and steadfast friendship. At the same time he called them back from their tears to manly resolution, now with friendly talk, and now with the sterner language of rebuke. "Where," he asked again and again, "are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so many years' study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero's cruelty? After a mother's and a brother's murder, nothing remains but to add the destruction of a guardian and a tutor."

[15.63] Having spoken these and like words, meant, so to say, for all, he embraced his wife; then softening awhile from the stern resolution of the hour, he begged and implored her to spare herself the burden of perpetual sorrow, and, in the contemplation of a life virtuously spent, to endure a husband's loss with honourable consolations. She declared, in answer, that she too had decided to die, and claimed for herself the blow of the executioner. There upon Seneca, not to thwart her noble ambition, from an affection too which would not leave behind him for insult one whom he dearly loved, replied: "I have shown you ways of smoothing life; you prefer the glory of dying. I will not grudge you such a noble example. Let the fortitude of so courageous an end be alike in both of us, but let there be more in your decease to win fame." Then by one and the same stroke they sundered with a dagger the arteries of their arms. Seneca, as his aged frame, attenuated by frugal diet, allowed the blood to escape but slowly, severed also the veins of his legs and knees. Worn out by cruel anguish, afraid too that his sufferings might break his wife's spirit, and that, as he looked on her tortures, he might himself sink into irresolution, he persuaded her to retire into another chamber. Even at the last moment his eloquence failed him not; he summoned his secretaries, and dictated much to them which, as it has been published for all readers in his own words, I forbear to paraphrase.

[15.64] Nero meanwhile, having no personal hatred against Paulina and not wishing to heighten the odium of his cruelty, forbade her death. At the soldiers' prompting, her slaves and freedmen bound up her arms, and stanched the bleeding, whether with her knowledge is doubtful. For as the vulgar are ever ready to think the worst, there were persons who believed that, as long as she dreaded Nero's relentlessness, she sought the glory of sharing her husband's death, but that after a time, when a more soothing prospect presented itself, she yielded to the charms of life. To this she added a few subsequent years, with a most praise worthy remembrance of her husband, and with a countenance and frame white to a degree of pallor which denoted a loss of much vital energy. Seneca meantime, as the tedious process of death still lingered on, begged Statius Annaeus, whom he had long esteemed for his faithful friendship and medical skill, to produce a poison with which he had some time before provided himself, same drug which extinguished the life of those who were condemned by a public sentence of the people of Athens. It was brought to him and he drank it in vain, chilled as he was throughout his limbs, and his frame closed against the efficacy of the poison. At last he entered a pool of heated water, from which he sprinkled the nearest of his slaves, adding the exclamation, "I offer this liquid as a libation to Jupiter the Deliverer." He was then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated, and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had directed in a codicil of his will, when even in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of his life's close.

 

 

Powered by liveSite Get your free site!