To the death of Poppaea, which, though a public grief, was a delight
to those who recalling the past thought of her shamelessness and cruelty,
Nero added fresh and greater odium by forbidding Caius Cassius to
attend the funeral. This was the first token of mischief. Nor was
it long delayed. Silanus was coupled with Cassius, no crime being
alleged, but that Cassius was eminent for his ancestral wealth and
dignity of character, Silanus for the nobility of his birth and the
quiet demeanour of his youth. The emperor accordingly sent the Senate
a speech in which he argued that both ought to be removed from the
State, and made it a reproach against Cassius that among his ancestors’
busts he had specially revered that of Caius Cassius, which bore the
inscription “to the Party-Leader.” In fact, he had thereby sought
to sow the seeds of civil war and revolt from the House of the Caesars.
And that he might not merely avail himself of the memory of a hated
name to stir up strife, he had associated with him Lucius Silanus,
a youth of noble birth and reckless spirit, to whom he might point
as an instrument of revolution.

Nero next denounced Silanus himself in the same terms as he had his
uncle Torquatus, implying that he was already arranging the details
of imperial business, and setting freedmen to manage his accounts,
papers, and correspondence, imputations utterly groundless and false.
Silanus, in truth, was intensely apprehensive, and had been frightened
into caution by his uncle’s destruction. Nero then procured persons,
under the name of informers, to invent against Lepida, the wife of
Cassius and aunt of Silanus, a charge of incest with her brother’s
son, and of some ghastly religious ceremonial. Volcatius Tullinus,
and Marcellus Cornelius, senators, and Fabatus, a Roman knight, were
drawn in as accomplices. By an appeal to the emperor these men eluded
an impending doom and subsequently, as being too insignificant, escaped
from Nero, who was busy with crimes on a far greater scale.

The Senate was then consulted and sentences of exile were passed on
Cassius and Silanus. As to Lepida, the emperor was to decide. Cassius
was transported to the island of Sardinia, and he was quietly left
to old age. Silanus was removed to Ostia, whence, it was pretended,
he was to be conveyed to Naxos. He was afterwards confined in a town
of Apulia named Barium. There, as he was wisely enduring a most undeserved
calamity, he was suddenly seized by a centurion sent to slay him.
When the man advised him to sever his veins, he replied that, though
he had resolved in his heart to die, he would not let a cutthroat
have the glory of the service. The centurion seeing that, unarmed
as he was, he was very powerful, and more an enraged than a frightened
man, ordered his soldiers to overpower him. And Silanus failed not
to resist and to strike blows, as well as he could with his bare hands,
till he was cut down by the centurion, as though in battle, with wounds
in his breast.

With equal courage Lucius Vetus, his mother-in-law Sextia, and his
daughter Pollutia submitted to death. They were hated by the emperor
because they seemed a living reproach to him for the murder of Rubellius
Plautus, son-in-law of Lucius Vetus. But the first opportunity of
unmasking his savage wrath was furnished by Fortunatus, a freedman,
who having embezzled his patron’s property, deserted him to become
his accuser. He had as his accomplice Claudius Demianus, whom Vetus,
when proconsul of Asia, had imprisoned for his gross misdeeds, and
whom Nero now released as a recompense for the accusation.

When the accused knew this and saw that he and his freedman were pitted
against each other on an equal footing, he retired to his estate at
Formiae. There he was put under the secret surveillance of soldiers.
With him was his daughter, who, to say nothing of the now imminent
peril, had all the fury of a long grief ever since she had seen the
murderers of her husband Plautus. She had clasped his bleeding neck,
and still kept by her the blood-stained apparel, clinging in her widowhood
to perpetual sorrow, and using only such nourishment as might suffice
to avert starvation. Then at her father’s bidding she went to Neapolis.
And as she was forbidden to approach Nero, she would haunt his doors;
and implore him to hear an innocent man, and not surrender to a freedman
one who had once been his colleague in the consulship, now pleading
with the cries of a woman, now again forgetting her sex and lifting
up her voice in a tone of menace, till the emperor showed himself
unmoved alike by entreaty and reproach.

She therefore told her father by message that she cast hope aside
and yielded to necessity. He was at the same time informed that judicial
proceedings in the Senate and a dreadful sentence were hanging over
him. Some there were who advised him to name the emperor as his chief
heir, and so secure the remainder for his grandchildren. But he spurned
the notion, and unwilling to disgrace a life which had clung to freedom
by a final act of servility, he bestowed on his slaves all his ready
money, and ordered each to convey away for himself whatever he could
carry, leaving only three couches for the last scene. Then in the
same chamber, with the same weapon, they sundered their veins, and
speedily hurried into a bath, covered each, as delicacy required,
with a single garment, the father gazing intently on his daughter,
the grandmother on her grandchild, she again on both, while with rival
earnestness they prayed that the ebbing life might have a quick departure,
each wishing to leave a relative still surviving, but just on the
verge of death. Fortune preserved the due order; the oldest died first,
then the others according to priority of age. They were prosecuted
after their burial, and the sentence was that “they should be punished
in ancient fashion.” Nero interposed his veto, allowing them to die
without his interference. Such were the mockeries added to murders
already perpetrated.
The Annals by Tacitus