He even revived the charges of a period long past, how she had aimed
at a share of empire, and at inducing the praetorian cohorts to swear
obedience to a woman, to the disgrace of the Senate and people; how,
when she was disappointed, in her fury with the soldiers, the Senate,
and the populace, she opposed the usual donative and largess, and
organised perilous prosecutions against distinguished citizens. What
efforts had it cost him to hinder her from bursting into the Senate-house
and giving answers to foreign nations! He glanced too with indirect
censure at the days of Claudius, and ascribed all the abominations
of that reign to his mother, thus seeking to show that it was the
State’s good fortune which had destroyed her. For he actually told
the story of the shipwreck; but who could be so stupid as to believe
that it was accidental, or that a shipwrecked woman had sent one man
with a weapon to break through an emperor’s guards and fleets? So
now it was not Nero, whose brutality was far beyond any remonstrance,
but Seneca who was in ill repute, for having written a confession
in such a style.

Still there was a marvellous rivalry among the nobles in decreeing
thanksgivings at all the shrines, and the celebration with annual
games of Minerva’s festival, as the day on which the plot had been
discovered; also, that a golden image of Minerva with a statue of
the emperor by its side should be set up in the Senate-house, and
that Agrippina’s birthday should be classed among the inauspicious
days. Thrasea Paetus, who had been used to pass over previous flatteries
in silence or with brief assent, then walked out of the Senate, thereby
imperilling himself, without communicating to the other senators any
impulse towards freedom.

There occurred too a thick succession of portents, which meant nothing.
A woman gave birth to a snake, and another was killed by a thunderbolt
in her husband’s embrace. Then the sun was suddenly darkened and the
fourteen districts of the city were struck by lightning. All this
happened quite without any providential design; so much so, that for
many subsequent years Nero prolonged his reign and his crimes. Still,
to deepen the popular hatred towards his mother, and prove that since
her removal, his clemency had increased, he restored to their ancestral
homes two distinguished ladies, Junia and Calpurnia, with two ex-praetors,
Valerius Capito and Licinius Gabolus, whom Agrippina had formerly
banished. He also allowed the ashes of Lollia Paulina to be brought
back and a tomb to be built over them. Iturius and Calvisius, whom
he had himself temporarily exiled, he now released from their penalty.
Silana indeed had died a natural death at Tarentum, whither she had
returned from her distant exile, when the power of Agrippina, to whose
enmity she owed her fall, began to totter, or her wrath was at last

While Nero was lingering in the towns of Campania, doubting how he
should enter Rome, whether he would find the Senate submissive and
the populace enthusiastic, all the vilest courtiers, and of these
never had a court a more abundant crop, argued against his hesitation
by assuring him that Agrippina’s name was hated and that her death
had heightened his popularity. “He might go without a fear,” they
said, “and experience in his person men’s veneration for him.” They
insisted at the same time on preceding him. They found greater enthusiasm
than they had promised, the tribes coming forth to meet him, the Senate
in holiday attire, troops of their children and wives arranged according
to sex and age, tiers of seats raised for the spectacle, where he
was to pass, as a triumph is witnessed. Thus elated and exulting over
his people’s slavery, he proceeded to the Capitol, performed the thanksgiving,
and then plunged into all the excesses, which, though ill-restrained,
some sort of respect for his mother had for a while delayed.

He had long had a fancy for driving a four-horse chariot, and a no
less degrading taste for singing to the harp, in a theatrical fashion,
when he was at dinner. This he would remind people was a royal custom,
and had been the practice of ancient chiefs; it was celebrated too
in the praises of poets and was meant to show honour to the gods.
Songs indeed, he said, were sacred to Apollo, and it was in the dress
of a singer that that great and prophetic deity was seen in Roman
temples as well as in Greek cities. He could no longer be restrained,
when Seneca and Burrus thought it best to concede one point that he
might not persist in both. A space was enclosed in the Vatican valley
where he might manage his horses, without the spectacle being public.
Soon he actually invited all the people of Rome, who extolled him
in their praises, like a mob which craves for amusements and rejoices
when a prince draws them the same way. However, the public exposure
of his shame acted on him as an incentive instead of sickening him,
as men expected. Imagining that he mitigated the scandal by disgracing
many others, he brought on the stage descendants of noble families,
who sold themselves because they were paupers. As they have ended
their days, I think it due to their ancestors not to hand down their
names. And indeed the infamy is his who gave them wealth to reward
their degradation rather than to deter them from degrading themselves.
He prevailed too on some well-known Roman knights, by immense presents,
to offer their services in the amphitheatre; only pay from one who
is able to command, carries with it the force of compulsion.

Still, not yet wishing to disgrace himself on a public stage, he instituted
some games under the title of “juvenile sports,” for which people
of every class gave in their names. Neither rank nor age nor previous
high promotion hindered any one from practising the art of a Greek
or Latin actor and even stooping to gestures and songs unfit for a
man. Noble ladies too actually played disgusting parts, and in the
grove, with which Augustus had surrounded the lake for the naval fight,
there were erected places for meeting and refreshment, and every incentive
to excess was offered for sale. Money too was distributed, which the
respectable had to spend under sheer compulsion and which the profligate
gloried in squandering. Hence a rank growth of abominations and of
all infamy. Never did a more filthy rabble add a worse licentiousness
to our long corrupted morals. Even, with virtuous training, purity
is not easily upheld; far less amid rivalries in vice could modesty
or propriety or any trace of good manners be preserved. Last of all,
the emperor himself came on the stage, tuning his lute with elaborate
care and trying his voice with his attendants. There were also present,
to complete the show, a guard of soldiers with centurions and tribunes,
and Burrus, who grieved and yet applauded. Then it was that Roman
knights were first enrolled under the title of Augustani, men in their
prime and remarkable for their strength, some, from a natural frivolity,
others from the hope of promotion. Day and night they kept up a thunder
of applause, and applied to the emperor’s person and voice the epithets
of deities. Thus they lived in fame and honour, as if on the strength
of their merits.
The Annals by Tacitus