Dio's Rome, Volume 5, Books 61-76 (A.D. 54-211) An Historical Narrative Originally Composed in Greek During The Reigns of Septimius Severus, Geta and Caracalla, Macrinus, Elagabalus and Alexander Severus: and Now Presented in English Form By Herbert Baldwin Foster
DURATION OF TIME
(A.D. 54 = a.u. 807 = First of Nero, from Oct. 13th).
Nero Caesar Aug., L. Antistius Vetus.
(A.D. 55 = a.u. 808 = Second of Nero).
Q. Volusius Saturninus, P. Cornelius Scipio.
(A.D. 56 = a.u. 809 = Third of Nero).
Nero Caesar Aug. (II), L. Calpurnius Piso.
(A.D. 57 = a.u. 810 = Fourth of Nero).
Nero Caesar Aug. (III), M. Valerius Messala.
(A.D. 58 = a.u. 811 = Fifth of Nero).
C. Vipsanius Apronianus, L. Fonteius Capito.
(A.D. 59 = a.u. 812 = Sixth of Nero).
Nero Caesar Aug. (IV), Cornelius Lentulus Cossus.
(A.D. 60 = a.u. 813 = Seventh of Nero).
At the death of Claudius the leadership on most just principles belonged to Britannicus, who had been born a legitimate son of Claudius and in physical development was beyond what would have been expected of his years. Yet by law the power passed to Nero on account of his adoption. No claim, indeed, is stronger than that of arms. Every one who possesses superior force has always the appearance of both saying and doing what is more just. So Nero, having first disposed of Claudius's will and having succeeded him as master of the whole empire, put Britannicus and his sisters out of the way. Why, then, should one stop to lament the misfortunes of other victims?
The following signs of dominion had been observed in his career. At his birth just before dawn rays not cast by any beam of sunlight yet visible surrounded his form. And a certain astrologer from this and from the motion of the stars at that time and their relation to one another divined two things in regard to him,--that he would rule and that he would murder his mother. Agrippina on hearing this became for the moment so beside herself as actually to cry out: "Let him kill me, if only he shall rule." Later she was destined to repent bitterly of her prayer. Some people become so steeped in folly that if they expect to obtain some blessing mingled with evil, they at once through their anxiety for the advantage pay no heed to the detriment. When the time for the latter also comes, they are cast down and would choose not to have secured even the greatest good thing. Yet Domitius, the father of Nero, had a sufficient previous intimation of his son's coming baseness and licentiousness, not by any oracle but through the nature of his own and Agrippina's characters. And he declared: "It is impossible for any good man to be born from me and from her." As time went on, the finding of a serpent skin around Nero's neck when he was but a boy caused the seers to say: "He shall acquire great power from the aged man." Serpents are thought to slough off their old age with their old skin, and so get power.
Nero was seventeen years of age when he began to rule. He first entered the camp, and, after reading to the soldiers all that Seneca had written, he promised them as much as Claudius had been accustomed to give. Before the senate he read such a considerable document,--this, too, written by Seneca,--that it was voted the statements should be inscribed on a silver tablet and should be read every time the new consuls took up the duties of their office....