The origin of the conspiracy was not in Piso’s personal ambition.
But I could not easily narrate who first planned it, or whose prompting
inspired a scheme into which so many entered. That the leading spirits
were Subrius Flavus, tribune of a praetorian cohort, and Sulpicius
Asper, a centurion, was proved by the fearlessness of their death.
Lucanus Annaeus, too, and Plautius Lateranus, imported into it an
intensely keen resentment. Lucanus had the stimulus of personal motives,
for Nero tried to disparage the fame of his poems and, with the foolish
vanity of a rival, had forbidden him to publish them. As for Lateranus,
a consul-elect, it was no wrong, but love of the State which linked
him with the others. Flavius Scaevinus and Afranius Quintianus, on
the other hand, both of senatorian rank, contrary to what was expected
of them, undertook the beginning of this daring crime. Scaevinus,
indeed, had enfeebled his mind by excess, and his life, accordingly,
was one of sleepy languor. Quintianus, infamous for his effeminate
vice, had been satirised by Nero in a lampoon, and was bent on avenging
the insult.

So, while they dropped hints among themselves or among their friends
about the emperor’s crimes, the approaching end of empire, and the
importance of choosing some one to rescue the State in its distress,
they associated with them Tullius Senecio, Cervarius Proculus, Vulcatius
Araricus, Julius Augurinus, Munatius Gratus, Antonius Natalis, and
Marcius Festus, all Roman knights. Of these Senecio, one of those
who was specially intimate with Nero, still kept up a show of friendship,
and had consequently to struggle with all the more dangers. Natalis
shared with Piso all his secret plans. The rest built their hopes
on revolution. Besides Subrius and Sulpicius, whom I have already
mentioned, they invited the aid of military strength, of Gavius Silvanus
and Statius Proximus, tribunes of praetorian cohorts, and of two centurions,
Maximus Scaurus and Venetus Paulus. But their mainstay, it was thought,
was Faenius Rufus, the commander of the guard, a man of esteemed life
and character, to whom Tigellinus with his brutality and shamelessness
was superior in the emperor’s regard. He harassed him with calumnies,
and had often put him in terror by hinting that he had been Agrippina’s
paramour, and from sorrow at her loss was intent on vengeance. And
so, when the conspirators were assured by his own repeated language
that the commander of the praetorian guard had come over to their
side, they once more eagerly discussed the time and place of the fatal
deed. It was said that Subrius Flavus had formed a sudden resolution
to attack Nero when singing on the stage, or when his house was in
flames and he was running hither and thither, unattended, in the darkness.
In the one case was the opportunity of solitude; in the other, the
very crowd which would witness so glorious a deed, had roused a singularly
noble soul; it was only the desire of escape, that foe to all great
enterprises, which held him back.

Meanwhile, as they hesitated in prolonged suspense between hope and
fear, a certain Epicharis (how she informed herself is uncertain,
as she had never before had a thought of anything noble) began to
stir and upbraid the conspirators. Wearied at last of their long delay,
she endeavoured, when staying in Campania, to shake the loyalty of
the officers of the fleet at Misenum, and to entangle them in a guilty
complicity. She began thus. There was a captain in the fleet, Volusius
Proculus, who had been one of Nero’s instruments in his mother’s murder,
and had not, as he thought, been promoted in proportion to the greatness
of his crime. Either, as an old acquaintance of the woman, or on the
strength of a recent intimacy, he divulged to her his services to
Nero and their barren result to himself, adding complaints, and his
determination to have vengeance, should the chance arise. He thus
inspired the hope that he could be persuaded, and could secure many
others. No small help was to be found in the fleet, and there would
be numerous opportunities, as Nero delighted in frequent enjoyment
of the sea off Puteoli and Misenum.

Epicharis accordingly said more, and began the history of all the
emperor’s crimes. “The Senate,” she affirmed, “had no power left it;
yet means had been provided whereby he might pay the penalty of having
destroyed the State. Only let Proculus gird himself to do his part
and bring over to their side his bravest soldiers, and then look for
an adequate recompense.” The conspirators’ names, however, she withheld.
Consequently the information of Proculus was useless, even though
he reported what he had heard to Nero. For Epicharis being summoned
and confronted with the informer easily silenced him, unsupported
as he was by a single witness. But she was herself detained in custody,
for Nero suspected that even what was not proved to be true, was not
wholly false.

The conspirators, however, alarmed by the fear of disclosure, resolved
to hurry on the assassination at Baiae, in Piso’s villa, whither the
emperor, charmed by its loveliness, often went, and where, unguarded
and without the cumbrous grandeur of his rank, he would enjoy the
bath and the banquet. But Piso refused, alleging the odium of an act
which would stain with an emperor’s blood, however bad he might be,
the sanctity of the hospitable board and the deities who preside over
it. “Better,” he said, “in the capital, in that hateful mansion which
was piled up with the plunder of the citizens, or in public, to accomplish
what on the State’s behalf they had undertaken.”

So he said openly, with however a secret apprehension that Lucius
Silanus might, on the strength of his distinguished rank and the teachings
of Caius Cassius, under whom he had been trained, aspire to any greatness
and seize an empire, which would be promptly offered him by all who
had no part in the conspiracy, and who would pity Nero as the victim
of a crime. Many thought that Piso shunned also the enterprising spirit
of Vestinus, the consul, who might, he feared, rise up in the cause
of freedom, or, by choosing another emperor, make the State his own
gift. Vestinus, indeed, had no share in the conspiracy, though Nero
on that charge gratified an old resentment against an innocent man.
The Annals by Tacitus