In the fifth consulship of Tiberius Claudius with Sextius Cornelius
Orfitus for his colleague, Nero was prematurely invested with the
dress of manhood, that he might be thought qualified for political
life. The emperor willingly complied with the flatteries of the Senate
who wished Nero to enter on the consulship in his twentieth year,
and meanwhile, as consul-elect, to have pro-consular authority beyond
the limits of the capital with the title of “prince of the youth of
Rome.” A donative was also given to the soldiery in Nero’s name, and
presents to the city populace. At the games too of the circus which
were then being celebrated to win for him popular favour, Britannicus
wore the dress of boyhood, Nero the triumphal robe, as they rode in
the procession. The people would thus behold the one with the decorations
of a general, the other in a boy’s habit, and would accordingly anticipate
their respective destinies. At the same time those of the centurions
and tribunes who pitied the lot of Britannicus were removed, some
on false pretexts, others by way of a seeming compliment. Even of
the freedmen, all who were of incorruptible fidelity were discarded
on the following provocation. Once when they met, Nero greeted Britannicus
by that name and was greeted in return as Domitius. Agrippina reported
this to her husband, with bitter complaint, as the beginning of a
quarrel, as implying, in fact, contempt of Nero’s adoption and a cancelling
at home of the Senate’s decree and the people’s vote. She said, too,
that, if the perversity of such malignant suggestions were not checked,
it would issue in the ruin of the State. Claudius, enraged by what
he took as a grave charge, punished with banishment or death all his
son’s best instructors, and set persons appointed by his stepmother
to have the care of him.

Still Agrippina did not yet dare to attempt her greatest scheme, unless
Lusius Geta and Rufius Crispinus were removed from the command of
the praetorian cohorts; for she thought that they cherished Messalina’s
memory and were devoted to her children. Accordingly, as the emperor’s
wife persistently affirmed that faction was rife among these cohorts
through the rivalry of the two officers, and that there would be stricter
discipline under one commander, the appointment was transferred to
Burrus Afranius, who had a brilliant reputation as a soldier, but
knew well to whose wish he owed his promotion. Agrippina, too, continued
to exalt her own dignity; she would enter the Capitol in a chariot,
a practice, which being allowed of old only to the priests and sacred
images, increased the popular reverence for a woman who up to this
time was the only recorded instance of one who, an emperor’s daughter,
was sister, wife, and mother of a sovereign. Meanwhile her foremost
champion, Vitellius, in the full tide of his power and in extreme
age (so uncertain are the fortunes of the great) was attacked by an
accusation of which Junius Lupus, a senator, was the author. He was
charged with treason and designs on the throne. The emperor would
have lent a ready ear, had not Agrippina, by threats rather than entreaties,
induced him to sentence the accuser to outlawry. This was all that
Vitellius desired.

Several prodigies occurred in that year. Birds of evil omen perched
on the Capitol; houses were thrown down by frequent shocks of earthquake,
and as the panic spread, all the weak were trodden down in the hurry
and confusion of the crowd. Scanty crops too, and consequent famine
were regarded as a token of calamity. Nor were there merely whispered
complaints; while Claudius was administering justice, the populace
crowded round him with a boisterous clamour and drove him to a corner
of the forum, where they violently pressed on him till he broke through
the furious mob with a body of soldiers. It was ascertained that Rome
had provisions for no more than fifteen days, and it was through the
signal bounty of heaven and the mildness of the winter that its desperate
plight was relieved. And yet in past days Italy used to send supplies
for the legions into distant provinces, and even now it is not a barren
soil which causes distress. But we prefer to cultivate Africa and
Egypt, and trust the life of the Roman people to ships and all their

In the same year war broke out between the Armenians and Iberians,
and was the cause of very serious disturbances between Parthia and
Rome. Vologeses was king of the Parthians; on the mother’s side, he
was the offspring of a Greek concubine, and he obtained the throne
by the retirement of his brothers. Pharasmanes had been long in possession
of Iberia, and his brother, Mithridates, ruled Armenia with our powerful
support. There was a son of Pharasmanes named Rhadamistus, tall and
handsome, of singular bodily strength, trained in all the accomplishments
of his countrymen and highly renowned among his neighbours. He boasted
so arrogantly and persistently that his father’s prolonged old age
kept back from him the little kingdom of Iberia as to make no concealment
of his ambition. Pharasmanes accordingly seeing the young prince had
power in his grasp and was strong in the attachment of his people,
fearing too his own declining years, tempted him with other prospects
and pointed to Armenia, which, as he reminded him, he had given to
Mithridates after driving out the Parthians. But open violence, he
said, must be deferred; artful measures, which might crush him unawares,
were better. So Rhadamistus pretended to be at feud with his father
as though his stepmother’s hatred was too strong for him, and went
to his uncle. While he was treated by him like a son, with excessive
kindness, he lured the nobles of Armenia into revolutionary schemes,
without the knowledge of Mithridates, who was actually loading him
with honours.

He then assumed a show of reconciliation with his father, to whom
he returned, telling him all that could be accomplished by treachery
was now ready and that he must complete the affair by the sword. Meanwhile
Pharasmanes invented pretexts for war; when he was fighting with the
king of the Albanians and appealing to the Romans for aid, his brother,
he said, had opposed him, and he would now avenge that wrong by his
destruction. At the same time he gave a large army to his son, who
by a sudden invasion drove Mithridates in terror from the open country
and forced him into the fortress of Gorneas, which was strongly situated
and garrisoned by some soldiers under the command of Caelius Pollio,
a camp-prefect, and Casperius, a centurion.

There is nothing of which barbarians are so ignorant as military engines
and the skilful management of sieges, while that is a branch of military
science which we especially understand. And so Rhadamistus having
attempted the fortified walls in vain or with loss, began a blockade,
and, finding that his assaults were despised, tried to bribe the rapacity
of the camp-prefect. Casperius protested earnestly against the overthrow
of an allied king and of Armenia, the gift of the Roman people, through
iniquity and greed of gain. At last, as Pollio pleaded the overpowering
numbers of the enemy and Rhadamistus the orders of his father, the
centurion stipulated for a truce and retired, intending, if he could
not deter Pharasmanes from further hostilities, to inform Ummidius
Quadratus, the governor of Syria, of the state of Armenia.
The Annals by Tacitus