The emperor accordingly sent for Anicetus, and reminded him of his
former service. “He alone,” he said, “had come to the rescue of the
prince’s life against a plotting mother. Close at hand was a chance
of winning no less gratitude by ridding him of a malignant wife. No
violence or weapons were needed; only let him confess to an intrigue
with Octavia.” Nero then promised him a secret but ample immediate
recompense, and some delightful retreat, while he threatened him with
death in case of refusal. Anicetus, with the moral insensibility of
his nature and a promptness inspired by previous atrocities, invented
even more than was required of him, and confessed before friends whom
the prince had called in, as a sort of judicial council. He was then
banished to Sardinia, where he endured exile without poverty, and
died a natural death.

Nero meanwhile declared by edict that the prefect had been corrupted
into a design of gaining over the fleet, and added, in forgetfulness
of his late charge of barrenness against Octavia, that, conscious
of her profligacies, she had procured abortion, a fact he had himself
ascertained. Then he confined her in the island of Pandataria. No
exile ever filled the eyes of beholders with tears of greater compassion.
Some still remembered Agrippina, banished by Tiberius, and the yet
fresher memory of Julia, whom Claudius exiled, was present to men’s
thoughts. But they had life’s prime for their stay; they had seen
some happiness, and the horror of the moment was alleviated by recollections
of a better lot in the past. For Octavia, from the first, her marriage-day
was a kind of funeral, brought, as she was, into a house where she
had nothing but scenes of mourning, her father and, an instant afterwards,
her brother, having been snatched from her by poison; then, a slave-girl
raised above the mistress; Poppaea married only to insure a wife’s
ruin, and, to end all, an accusation more horrible than any death.

And now the girl, in her twentieth year, with centurions and soldiers
around her, already removed from among the living by the forecast
of doom, still could not reconcile herself to death. After an interval
of a few days, she received an order that she was to die, although
she protested that she was now a widow and only a sister, and appealed
to their common ancestors, the Germanici, and finally to the name
of Agrippina, during whose life she had endured a marriage, which
was miserable enough indeed, but not fatal. She was then tightly bound
with cords, and the veins of every limb were opened; but as her blood
was congealed by terror and flowed too slowly, she was killed outright
by the steam of an intensely hot bath. To this was added the yet more
appalling horror of Poppaea beholding the severed head which was conveyed
to Rome.

And for all this offerings were voted to the temples. I record the
fact with a special object. Whoever would study the calamities of
that period in my pages or those of other authors, is to take it for
granted that as often as the emperor directed banishments or executions,
so often was there a thanksgiving to the gods, and what formerly commemorated
some prosperous event, was then a token of public disaster. Still,
if any decree of the Senate was marked by some new flattery, or by
the lowest servility, I shall not pass it over in silence.

That same year Nero was believed to have destroyed by poison two of
his most powerful freedmen, Doryphorus, on the pretext of his having
opposed the marriage with Poppaea, Pallas for still keeping his boundless
wealth by a prolonged old age. Romanus had accused Seneca in stealthy
calumnies, of having been an accomplice of Caius Piso, but he was
himself crushed more effectually by Seneca on the same charge. This
alarmed Piso, and gave rise to a huge fabric of unsuccessful conspiracies
against Nero.