With the close of the year came disquieting rumours that the Parthians
had again broken their bounds and were ravaging Armenia, from which
they had driven Rhadamistus, who, having often possessed himself of
the kingdom and as often been thrust out of it, had now relinquished
hostilities. Rome with its love of talking began to ask how a prince
of scarce seventeen was to encounter and avert this tremendous peril,
how they could fall back on one who was ruled by a woman; or whether
battles and sieges and the other operations of war could be directed
by tutors. “Some, on the contrary, argued that this was better than
it would have been, had Claudius in his feeble and spiritless old
age, when he would certainly have yielded to the bidding of slaves,
been summoned to the hardships of a campaign. Burrus, at least, and
Seneca were known to be men of very varied experience, and, as for
the emperor himself, how far was he really short of mature age, when
Cneius Pompeius and Caesar Octavianus, in their eighteenth and nineteenth
years respectively, bore the brunt of civil wars? The highest rank
chiefly worked through its prestige and its counsels more than by
the sword and hand. The emperor would give a plain proof whether he
was advised by good or bad friends by putting aside all jealousy and
selecting some eminent general, rather than by promoting out of favouritism,
a rich man backed up by interest.”

Amidst this and like popular talk, Nero ordered the young recruits
levied in the adjacent provinces to be brought up for the supply of
the legions of the East, and the legions themselves to take up a position
on the Armenian frontier while two princes of old standing, Agrippa
and Antiochus, were to prepare a force for the invasion of the Parthian
territories. The Euphrates too was to be spanned by bridges; Lesser
Armenia was intrusted to Aristobulus, Sophene to Sohaemus, each with
the ensigns of royalty. There rose up at this crisis a rival to Vologeses
in his son Vardanes, and the Parthians quitted Armenia, apparently
intending to defer hostilities.

All this however was described with exaggeration to the Senate, in
the speeches of those members who proposed a public thanksgiving,
and that on the days of the thanksgiving the prince should wear the
triumphal robe and enter Rome in ovation, lastly, that he should have
statues on the same scale as those of Mars the Avenger, and in the
same temple. To their habitual flattery was added a real joy at his
having appointed Domitius Corbulo to secure Armenia, thus opening,
as it seemed, a field to merit. The armies of the East were so divided
that half the auxiliaries and two legions were to remain in the province
of Syria under its governor, Quadratus Ummidius; while Corbulo was
to have an equal number of citizen and allied troops, together with
the auxiliary infantry and cavalry which were in winter quarters in
Cappadocia. The confederate kings were instructed to obey orders,
just as the war might require. But they had a specially strong liking
for Corbulo. That general, with a view to the prestige which in a
new enterprise is supremely powerful, speedily accomplished his march,
and at Aegeae, a city of Cilicia, met Quadratus who had advanced to
the place under an apprehension that, should Corbulo once enter Armenia
to take command of the army, he would draw all eyes on himself, by
his noble stature, his imposing eloquence, and the impression he would
make, not only by his wisdom and experience, but also by the mere
display of showy attributes.

Meantime both sent messages to king Vologeses, advising him to choose
peace rather than war, and to give hostages and so continue the habitual
reverence of his ancestors towards the people of Rome. Vologeses,
wishing to prepare for war at an advantage, or to rid himself of suspected
rivals under the name of hostages, delivered up some of the noblest
of the Arsacids. A centurion, Insteius, sent perhaps by Ummidius on
some previous occasion, received them after an interview with the
king. Corbulo, on knowing this, ordered Arrius Varus, commander of
a cohort, to go and take the hostages. Hence arose a quarrel between
the commander and the centurion, and to stop such a scene before foreigners,
the decision of the matter was left to the hostages and to the envoys
who conducted them. They preferred Corbulo, for his recent renown,
and from a liking which even enemies felt for him. Then there was
a feud between the two generals; Ummidius complained that he was robbed
of what his prudence had achieved, while Corbulo on the other hand
appealed to the fact that Vologeses had not brought himself to offer
hostages till his own appointment to the conduct of the war turned
the king’s hopes into fears. Nero, to compose their differences, directed
the issue of a proclamation that for the successes of Quadratus and
Corbulo the laurel was to be added to the imperial “fasces.” I have
closely connected these events, though they extend into another consulship.

The emperor in the same year asked the Senate for a statue to his
father Domitius, and also that the consular decorations might be conferred
on Asconius Labeo, who had been his guardian. Statues to himself of
solid gold and silver he forbade, in opposition to offers made, and
although the Senate passed a vote that the year should begin with
the month of December, in which he was born, he retained for its commencement,
the old sacred associations of the first of January. Nor would he
allow the prosecution of Carinas Celer, a senator, whom a slave accused,
or of Julius Densus, a knight, whose partiality for Britannicus was
construed into a crime.

In the year of his consulship with Lucius Antistius, when the magistrates
were swearing obedience to imperial legislation, he forbade his colleague
to extend the oath to his own enactments, for which he was warmly
praised by the senators, in the hope that his youthful spirit, elated
with the glory won by trifles, would follow on to nobler aspirations.
Then came an act of mercy to Plautius Lateranus, who had been degraded
from his rank for adultery with Messalina, and whom he now restored,
assuring them of his clemency in a number of speeches which Seneca,
to show the purity of his teaching or to display his genius, published
to the world by the emperor’s mouth.

Meanwhile the mother’s influence was gradually weakened, as Nero fell
in love with a freedwoman, Acte by name, and took into his confidence
Otho and Claudius Senecio, two young men of fashion, the first of
whom was descended from a family of consular rank, while Senecio’s
father was one of the emperor’s freedmen. Without the mother’s knowledge,
then in spite of her opposition, they had crept into his favour by
debaucheries and equivocal secrets, and even the prince’s older friends
did not thwart him, for here was a girl who without harm to any one
gratified his desires, when he loathed his wife Octavia, high born
as she was, and of approved virtue, either from some fatality, or
because vice is overpoweringly attractive. It was feared too that
he might rush into outrages on noble ladies, were he debarred from
this indulgence.
The Annals by Tacitus