Nero however, that he might not be known only for his accomplishments
as an actor, also affected a taste for poetry, and drew round him
persons who had some skill in such compositions, but not yet generally
recognised. They used to sit with him, stringing together verses prepared
at home, or extemporised on the spot, and fill up his own expressions,
such as they were, just as he threw them off. This is plainly shown
by the very character of the poems, which have no vigour or inspiration,
or unity in their flow.

He would also bestow some leisure after his banquets on the teachers
of philosophy, for he enjoyed the wrangles of opposing dogmatists.
And some there were who liked to exhibit their gloomy faces and looks,
as one of the amusements of the court.

About the same time a trifling beginning led to frightful bloodshed
between the inhabitants of Nuceria and Pompeii, at a gladiatorial
show exhibited by Livineius Regulus, who had been, as I have related,
expelled from the Senate. With the unruly spirit of townsfolk, they
began with abusive language of each other; then they took up stones
and at last weapons, the advantage resting with the populace of Pompeii,
where the show was being exhibited. And so there were brought to Rome
a number of the people of Nuceria, with their bodies mutilated by
wounds, and many lamented the deaths of children or of parents. The
emperor entrusted the trial of the case to the Senate, and the Senate
to the consuls, and then again the matter being referred back to the
Senators, the inhabitants of Pompeii were forbidden to have any such
public gathering for ten years, and all associations they had formed
in defiance of the laws were dissolved. Livineius and the others who
had excited the disturbance, were punished with exile.

Pedius Blaesus was also expelled from the Senate on the accusation
of the people of Cyrene, that he had violated the treasury of Aesculapius
and had tampered with a military levy by bribery and corruption. This
same people prosecuted Acilius Strabo who had held the office of praetor,
and had been sent by Claudius to adjudicate on some lands which were
bequeathed by king Apion, their former possessor, together with his
kingdom to the Roman people, and which had since been seized by the
neighbouring proprietors, who trusted to a long continued licence
in wrong, as if it constituted right and justice. Consequently, when
the adjudication was against them, there arose a bitter feeling towards
the judge, but the Senate replied that they knew nothing of the instructions
given by Claudius, and that the emperor must be consulted. Nero, though
he approved Strabo’s decision, wrote word that nevertheless he was
for relieving the allies, and that he waived all claim to what had
been taken into possession.

Then followed the deaths of two illustrious men, Domitius Afer and
Marcus Servilius, who had flourished through a career of the highest
honours and great eloquence. The first was a pleader; Servilius, after
long practice in the courts, distinguished himself by his history
of Rome and by the refinement of his life, which the contrast of his
character to that of Afer, whom he equalled in genius, rendered the
more conspicuous.

In Nero’s fourth consulship with Cornelius Cossus for his colleague,
a theatrical entertainment to be repeated every five years was established
at Rome in imitation of the Greek festival. Like all novelties, it
was variously canvassed. There were some who declared that even Cnius
Pompeius was censured by the older men of the day for having set up
a fixed and permanent theatre. “Formerly,” they said, “the games were
usually exhibited with hastily erected tiers of benches and a temporary
stage, and the people stood to witness them, that they might not,
by having the chance of sitting down, spend a succession of entire
days in idleness. Let the ancient character of these shows be retained,
whenever the praetors exhibited them, and let no citizen be under
the necessity of competing. As it was, the morality of their fathers,
which had by degrees been forgotten, was utterly subverted by the
introduction of a lax tone, so that all which could suffer or produce
corruption was to be seen at Rome, and a degeneracy bred by foreign
tastes was infecting the youth who devoted themselves to athletic
sports, to idle loungings and low intrigues, with the encouragement
of the emperor and Senate, who not only granted licence to vice, but
even applied a compulsion to drive Roman nobles into disgracing themselves
on the stage, under the pretence of being orators and poets. What
remained for them but to strip themselves naked, put on the boxing-glove,
and practise such battles instead of the arms of legitimate warfare?
Would justice be promoted, or would they serve on the knights’ commissions
for the honourable office of a judge, because they had listened with
critical sagacity to effeminate strains of music and sweet voices?
Night too was given up to infamy, so that virtue had not a moment
left to her, but all the vilest of that promiscuous throng dared to
do in the darkness anything they had lusted for in the day.”
The Annals by Tacitus