“Yours too is a still vigorous manhood, quite equal to the labours
of business and to the fruit of those labours; and, as for myself,
I am but treading the threshold of empire. But perhaps you count yourself
inferior to Vitellius, thrice a consul, and me to Claudius. Such wealth
as long thrift has procured for Volusius, my bounty, you think, cannot
fully make up to you. Why not rather, if the frailty of my youth goes
in any respect astray, call me back and guide yet more zealously with
your help the manhood which you have instructed? It will not be your
moderation, if you restore me your wealth, not your love of quiet,
if you forsake your emperor, but my avarice, the fear of my cruelty,
which will be in all men’s mouths. Even if your self-control were
praised to the utmost, still it would not be seemly in a wise man
to get glory for himself in the very act of bringing disgrace on his

To these words the emperor added embraces and kisses; for he was formed
by nature and trained by habit to veil his hatred under delusive flattery.
Seneca thanked him, the usual end of an interview with a despot. But
he entirely altered the practices of his former greatness; he kept
the crowds of his visitors at a distance, avoided trains of followers,
seldom appeared in Rome, as though weak health or philosophical studies
detained him at home.

When Seneca had fallen, it was easy to shake the position of Faenius
Rufus by making Agrippina’s friendship a charge against him. Tigellinus,
who was daily becoming more powerful and who thought that the wicked
schemings which alone gave him strength, would be better liked if
he could secure the emperor’s complicity in guilt, dived into Nero’s
most secret apprehensions, and, as soon as he had ascertained that
Plautus and Sulla were the men he most dreaded, Plautus having been
lately sent away to Asia, Sulla to Gallia Narbonensis, he spoke much
of their noble rank and of their respective proximity to the armies
of the East and of Germany. “I have no eye,” he said, “like Burrus,
to two conflicting aims, but only to Nero’s safety, which is at least
secured against treachery in Rome by my presence. As for distant commotions,
how can they be checked? Gaul is roused at the name of the great dictator,
and I distrust no less the nations of Asia, because of the renown
of such a grandfather as Drusus. Sulla is poor, and hence comes his
surpassing audacity; he shams apathy, while he is seeking an opening
for his reckless ambition. Plautus again, with his great wealth, does
not so much as affect a love of repose, but he flaunts before us his
imitations of the old Romans, and assumes the self-consciousness of
the Stoics along with a philosophy, which makes men restless, and
eager for a busy life.”

There was not a moment’s delay. Sulla, six days afterwards, was murdered
by assassins brought over to Massilia, while he was reclining at the
dinner-table, before he feared or heard of his danger. The head was
taken to Rome, and Nero scoffed at its premature grey hairs as if
they were a disfigurement.

It was less of a secret that there was a design to murder Plautus,
as his life was dear to many. The distance too by land and sea, and
the interval of time, had given rise to rumours, and the popular story
was that he had tampered with Corbulo, who was then at the head of
great armies, and would be a special mark for danger, if illustrious
and innocent men were to be destroyed. Again Asia, it was said, from
its partiality for the young man, had taken up arms, and the soldiers
sent to do the crime, not being sufficient in number or decided in
purpose, and, finding themselves unable to execute their orders, had
gone over to the new cause. These absurdities, like all popular gossip,
gathered strength from the idle leisure of a credulous society.
The Annals by Tacitus