Seneca replied that Natalis had been sent to him and had complained
to him in Piso’s name because of his refusal to see Piso, upon which
he excused himself on the ground of failing health and the desire
of rest. “He had no reason,” he said, for “preferring the interest
of any private citizen to his own safety, and he had no natural aptitude
for flattery. No one knew this better than Nero, who had oftener experienced
Seneca’s freespokenness than his servility.” When the tribune reported
this answer in the presence of Poppaea and Tigellinus, the emperor’s
most confidential advisers in his moments of rage, he asked whether
Seneca was meditating suicide. Upon this the tribune asserted that
he saw no signs of fear, and perceived no sadness in his words or
in his looks. He was accordingly ordered to go back and to announce
sentence of death. Fabius Rusticus tells us that he did not return
the way he came, but went out of his course to Faenius, the commander
of the guard, and having explained to him the emperor’s orders, and
asked whether he was to obey them, was by him admonished to carry
them out, for a fatal spell of cowardice was on them all. For this
very Silvanus was one of the conspirators, and he was now abetting
the crimes which he had united with them to avenge. But he spared
himself the anguish of a word or of a look, and merely sent in to
Seneca one of his centurions, who was to announce to him his last

Seneca, quite unmoved, asked for tablets on which to inscribe his
will, and, on the centurion’s refusal, turned to his friends, protesting
that as he was forbidden to requite them, he bequeathed to them the
only, but still the noblest possession yet remaining to him, the pattern
of his life, which, if they remembered, they would win a name for
moral worth and steadfast friendship. At the same time he called them
back from their tears to manly resolution, now with friendly talk,
and now with the sterner language of rebuke. “Where,” he asked again
and again, “are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so
many years’ study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero’s cruelty?
After a mother’s and a brother’s murder, nothing remains but to add
the destruction of a guardian and a tutor.”

Having spoken these and like words, meant, so to say, for all, he
embraced his wife; then softening awhile from the stern resolution
of the hour, he begged and implored her to spare herself the burden
of perpetual sorrow, and, in the contemplation of a life virtuously
spent, to endure a husband’s loss with honourable consolations. She
declared, in answer, that she too had decided to die, and claimed
for herself the blow of the executioner. There upon Seneca, not to
thwart her noble ambition, from an affection too which would not leave
behind him for insult one whom he dearly loved, replied: “I have shown
you ways of smoothing life; you prefer the glory of dying. I will
not grudge you such a noble example. Let the fortitude of so courageous
an end be alike in both of us, but let there be more in your decease
to win fame.”

Then by one and the same stroke they sundered with a dagger the arteries
of their arms. Seneca, as his aged frame, attenuated by frugal diet,
allowed the blood to escape but slowly, severed also the veins of
his legs and knees. Worn out by cruel anguish, afraid too that his
sufferings might break his wife’s spirit, and that, as he looked on
her tortures, he might himself sink into irresolution, he persuaded
her to retire into another chamber. Even at the last moment his eloquence
failed him not; he summoned his secretaries, and dictated much to
them which, as it has been published for all readers in his own words,
I forbear to paraphrase.

Nero meanwhile, having no personal hatred against Paulina and not
wishing to heighten the odium of his cruelty, forbade her death. At
the soldiers’ prompting, her slaves and freedmen bound up her arms,
and stanched the bleeding, whether with her knowledge is doubtful.
For as the vulgar are ever ready to think the worst, there were persons
who believed that, as long as she dreaded Nero’s relentlessness, she
sought the glory of sharing her husband’s death, but that after a
time, when a more soothing prospect presented itself, she yielded
to the charms of life. To this she added a few subsequent years, with
a most praise worthy remembrance of her husband, and with a countenance
and frame white to a degree of pallor which denoted a loss of much
vital energy.

Seneca meantime, as the tedious process of death still lingered on,
begged Statius Annaeus, whom he had long esteemed for his faithful
friendship and medical skill, to produce a poison with which he had
some time before provided himself, same drug which extinguished the
life of those who were condemned by a public sentence of the people
of Athens. It was brought to him and he drank it in vain, chilled
as he was throughout his limbs, and his frame closed against the efficacy
of the poison. At last he entered a pool of heated water, from which
he sprinkled the nearest of his slaves, adding the exclamation, “I
offer this liquid as a libation to Jupiter the Deliverer.” He was
then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated,
and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had
directed in a codicil of his will, when even in the height of his
wealth and power he was thinking of his life’s close.
The Annals by Tacitus