In that year died Memmius Regulus, who from his solid worth and consistency
was as distinguished as it is possible to be under the shadow of an
emperor’s grandeur, so much so, in fact, that Nero when he was ill,
with flatterers round him, who said that if aught befell him in the
course of destiny, there must be an end of the empire, replied that
the State had a resource, and on their asking where it was specially
to be found, he added, “in Memmius Regulus.” Yet Regulus lived after
this, protected by his retiring habits, and by the fact that he was
a man of newly-risen family and of wealth which did not provoke envy.
Nero, the same year, established a gymnasium, where oil was furnished
to knights and senators after the lax fashion of the Greeks.

In the consulship of Publius Marius and Lucius Asinius, Antistius,
the praetor, whose lawless behaviour as tribune of the people I have
mentioned, composed some libellous verses on the emperor, which he
openly recited at a large gathering, when he was dining at the house
of Ostorius Scapula. He was upon this impeached of high treason by
Cossutianus Capito, who had lately been restored to a senator’s rank
on the intercession of his father-in-law, Tigellinus. This was the
first occasion on which the law of treason was revived, and men thought
that it was not so much the ruin of Antistius which was aimed at,
as the glory of the emperor, whose veto as tribune might save from
death one whom the Senate had condemned. Though Ostorius had stated
that he had heard nothing as evidence, the adverse witnesses were
believed, and Junius Marullus, consul-elect, proposed that the accused
should be deprived of his praetorship, and be put to death in the
ancient manner. The rest assented, and then Paetus Thrasea, after
much eulogy of Caesar, and most bitter censure of Antistius, argued
that it was not what a guilty prisoner might deserve to suffer, which
ought to be decreed against him, under so excellent a prince, and
by a Senate bound by no compulsion. “The executioner and the halter,”
he said, “we have long ago abolished; still, there are punishments
ordained by the laws, which prescribe penalties, without judicial
cruelty and disgrace to our age. Rather send him to some island, after
confiscating his property; there, the longer he drags on his guilty
life, the more wretched will he be personally, and the more conspicuous
as an example of public clemency.”

Thrasea’s freespokenness broke through the servility of the other
senators. As soon as the consul allowed a division, they voted with
him, with but few exceptions. Among these, the most enthusiastic in
his flattery was Aulus Vitellius, who attacked all the best men with
abuse, and was silent when they replied, the usual way of a cowardly
temper. The consuls, however, did not dare to ratify the Senate’s
vote, and simply communicated their unanimous resolution to the emperor.
Hesitating for a while between shame and rage, he at last wrote to
them in reply “that Antistius, without having been provoked by any
wrong, had uttered outrageous insults against the sovereign; that
a demand for punishment had been submitted to the Senate, and that
it was right that a penalty should be decreed proportioned to the
offence; that for himself, inasmuch as he would have opposed severity
in the sentence, he would not be an obstacle to leniency. They might
determine as they pleased, and they had free liberty to acquit.”

This and more to the same effect having been read out, clearly showing
his displeasure, the consuls did not for that reason alter the terms
of the motion, nor did Thrasea withdraw his proposal, or the Senate
reject what it had once approved. Some were afraid of seeming to expose
the emperor to odium; the majority felt safe in numbers, while Thrasea
was supported by his usual firmness of spirit, and a determination
not to let his fame perish.

A similar accusation caused the downfall of Fabricius Veiento. He
had composed many libels on senators and pontiffs in a work to which
he gave the title of “Codicils.” Talius Geminus, the prosecutor, further
stated that he had habitually trafficked in the emperor’s favours
and in the right of promotion. This was Nero’s reason for himself
undertaking the trial, and having convicted Veiento, he banished him
from Italy, and ordered the burning of his books, which, while it
was dangerous to procure them, were anxiously sought and much read.
Soon full freedom for their possession caused their oblivion.

But while the miseries of the State were daily growing worse, its
supports were becoming weaker. Burrus died, whether from illness or
from poison was a question. It was supposed to be illness from the
fact that from the gradual swelling of his throat inwardly and the
closing up of the passage he ceased to breathe. Many positively asserted
that by Nero’s order his throat was smeared with some poisonous drug
under the pretence of the application of a remedy, and that Burrus,
who saw through the crime, when the emperor paid him a visit, recoiled
with horror from his gaze, and merely replied to his question, “I
indeed am well.” Rome felt for him a deep and lasting regret, because
of the remembrance of his worth, because too of the merely passive
virtue of one of his successors and the very flagrant iniquities of
the other. For the emperor had appointed two men to the command of
the praetorian cohorts, Faenius Rufus, for a vulgar popularity, which
he owed to his administration of the corn-supplies without profit
to himself; and Sofonius Tigellinus, whose inveterate shamelessness
and infamy were an attraction to him. As might have been expected
from their known characters, Tigellinus had the greater influence
with the prince, and was the associate of his most secret profligacy,
while Rufus enjoyed the favour of the people and of the soldiers,
and this, he found, prejudiced him with Nero.
The Annals by Tacitus