Suilius then sheltered himself under Messalina’s orders, and the defence
began to collapse. “Why,” it was asked, “was no one else chosen to
put his tongue at the service of that savage harlot? We must punish
the instruments of atrocious acts, when, having gained the rewards
of wickedness, they impute the wickedness to others.”

And so, with the loss of half his property, his son and granddaughter
being allowed to retain the other half, and what they had inherited
under their mother’s or grandmother’s will being also exempted from
confiscation, Suilius was banished to the Balearic isles. Neither
in the crisis of his peril nor after his condemnation did he quail
in spirit. Rumour said that he supported that lonely exile by a life
of ease and plenty. When the accusers attacked his son Nerullinus
on the strength of men’s hatred of the father and of some charges
of extortion, the emperor interposed, as if implying that vengeange
was fully satisfied.

About the same time Octavius Sagitta, a tribune of the people, who
was enamoured to frenzy of Pontia, a married woman, bribed her by
most costly presents into an intrigue and then into abandoning her
husband. He had offered her marriage and had won her consent. But
as soon as she was free, she devised delays, pretended that her father’s
wishes were against it, and having secured the prospect of a richer
husband, she repudiated her promises. Octavius, on the other hand,
now remonstrated, now threatened; his good name, he protested, was
lost, his means exhausted, and as for his life, which was all that
was left to him, he surrendered it to her mercy. When she spurned
him, he asked the solace of one night, with which to soothe his passion,
that he might set bounds to it for the future. A night was fixed,
and Pontia intrusted the charge of her chamber to a female slave acquainted
with her secret. Octavius attended by one freedman entered with a
dagger concealed under his dress. Then, as usual in lovers’ quarrels,
there were chidings, entreaties, reproaches, excuses, and some period
of the darkness was given up to passion; then, when seemingly about
to go, and she was fearing nothing, he stabbed her with the steel,
and having wounded and scared away the slave girl who was hurrying
to her, rushed out of the chamber. Next day the murder was notorious,
and there was no question as to the murderer, for it was proved that
he had passed some time with her. The freedman, however, declared
the deed was his, that he had, in fact, avenged his patron’s wrongs.
He had made some impression by the nobleness of his example, when
the slave girl recovered and revealed the truth. Octavius, when he
ceased to be tribune, was prosecuted before the consuls by the father
of the murdered woman, and was condemned by the sentence of the Senate
under “the law concerning assassins.”

A profligacy equally notorious in that same year proved the beginning
of great evils to the State. There was at Rome one Sabina Poppaea;
her father was Titus Ollius, but she had assumed the name of her maternal
grandfather Poppaeus Sabinus, a man of illustrious memory and pre-eminently
distinguished by the honours of a consulship and a triumph. As for
Ollius, before he attained promotion, the friendship of Sejanus was
his ruin. This Poppaea had everything but a right mind. Her mother,
who surpassed in personal attractions all the ladies of her day, had
bequeathed to her alike fame and beauty. Her fortune adequately corresponded
to the nobility of her descent. Her conversation was charming and
her wit anything but dull. She professed virtue, while she practised
laxity. Seldom did she appear in public, and it was always with her
face partly veiled, either to disappoint men’s gaze or to set off
her beauty. Her character she never spared, making no distinction
between a husband and a paramour, while she was never a slave to her
own passion or to that of her lover. Wherever there was a prospect
of advantage, there she transferred her favours. And so while she
was living as the wife of Rufius Crispinus, a Roman knight, by whom
she had a son, she was attracted by the youth and fashionable elegance
of Otho, and by the fact too that he was reputed to have Nero’s most
ardent friendship. Without any delay the intrigue was followed by

Otho now began to praise his wife’s beauty and accomplishments to
the emperor, either from a lover’s thoughtlessness or to inflame Nero’s
passion, in the hope of adding to his own influence by the further
tie which would arise out of possession of the same woman. Often,
as he rose from the emperor’s table, was he heard repeatedly to say
that he was going to her, to the high birth and beauty which had fallen
to his lot, to that which all men pray for, the joy of the fortunate.
These and like incitements allowed but of brief delay. Once having
gained admission, Poppaea won her way by artful blandishments, pretending
that she could not resist her passion and that she was captivated
by Nero’s person. Soon, as the emperor’s love grew ardent, she would
change and be supercilious, and, if she were detained more than one
or two nights, would say again and again that she was a married woman
and could not give up her husband attached as she was to Otho by a
manner of life, which no one equalled. “His ideas and his style were
grand; at his house everything worthy of the highest fortune was ever
before her eyes. Nero, on the contrary, with his slave girl mistress,
tied down by his attachment to Acte, had derived nothing from his
slavish associations but what was low and degrading.”

Otho was now cut off from Nero’s usual familiar intercourse, and then
even from interviews and from the royal suite, and at last was appointed
governor of the province of Lusitania, that he might not be the emperor’s
rival at Rome. There he lived up to the time of the civil wars, not
in the fashion of his disgraceful past, but uprightly and virtuously,
a pleasure-loving man when idle, and self-restrained when in power.
The Annals by Tacitus