Suetonius, Nero 1-8

1.1 From the Domitian gens arose to prominence two families, the Calvini and the Ahenobarbi. The Ahenobarbi have as the founder of their name and of their clan L. Domitius, to whom, returning from the firld, twin youths with more-than-mortal appearance are said to have shown themselves on the path, that he might return message to the senate and people of a victory, of which it was yet unknown. And as proof of their divinity, they stroked his cheeks, that they might turn his hair from black to red similar to rust. This sign remains in his progeny, and a great part of them have red beards. 2 After they achieved seven consulships, a triumph, two censorships, and were placed among the patricians, they persisted in that one cognomen. And neither did they use any praenomen other than Gnaeus and Lucius; and these they used with noteworthy variation: first, they used each for three successive persons, then alternating among the individuals. For the first, second, and third of the Ahenobarbi were called Lucius, those three following in the order were called Gnaeus, and the remainder were then called in turn first Lucius and then Gnaeus. Of the rest of the family, I deem it necessary to give account, that more readily Nero might make it shown that he had degenerated from their virtues, that he retained only their faults, and bore them from birth.

2.1 I’m not fond of this paragraph; it will be translated later. Watch out for it–it has elephants. Pretty awesome stuff.

3.1 He left a son, undoubtedly better-off than the rest of the family. He was sentenced to death among those implicated in Caesar’s death, and bore himself to Cassius and Brutus who were near to his family. After the death of both, he retained his given fleet, augmented it, and not before the fleet was overcome all about did he freely give it over to M. Antony, for which he merited greatly. 2 He alone, of all those who were found guilty under that same law, was restored to his homeland and pursued highest offices; and whence civil strife again broke out, he was made legate to Antony, declined for himself highest office, offered by those who were shamed of Cleopatra, having neither dared to accept nor refuse it because of a sudden onset of illness, but went to Augustus’ side and in a few days died, though not without unblemished reputation, for Antony declared that he had fled for desire of his mistress, Servilia Naidis.

4.1 From him Domitius is born, who was presently known by the people to be the buyer of the familial estate in the will of Augustus nor was he less known in his youth for his skill in chariot racing than he was later for his triumphant spoils from the Germanic war. Truly, he was arrogant, excessive, cruel: as an aedile he compelled the censor L. Plancus to make way for him in the street; as praetor and consule, he brought forth the Roman equites and matrons to put on a mime on stage. He gave hunts in the circus and in all parts of the city, shows of gladiators, but so savage that it was necessary for Augustus to restrain him with an edict, his private warning having gone unheeded.

5.1 From the elder Antonia he fathered the father of Nero, detestable in all part of life, for when as a compatriot of the young C. Caesar to the east, he had killed his freedman, because he had refused to drink such an amount as he was ordered, and, dismissed from his group of friends, did not live any the more modestly; but, in a street along the Via Appia he, not unknowing, unexpectedly ran over a youth, with his horses having been spurred on, and he gouged out the eyes of a Roman equite in the midst of the Roman forum who was too free in his criticisms. 5.2 Such was his treachery that not only did he defraud bankers of funds for purchased goods, but also victorious charioteers of their reward in money, and because this was known and because of his sister’s joking, and the complaints of the leaders of the race teams, he decreed that rewards be given up-front. Also, before the death of Tiberius, he was accused of adultery and of incest with his sister Lepida, and with the change of regime he evaded this, and died in Pyrgi of dropsy, with Nero having been acknowledged the son of Agrippina, daughter of Germanicus.

6.1 Nero was born at Antium nine months after Tiberius dies, eighteen days before the Kalends of January with the sun’s rising, that he was almost touched by the earth before the rays of the sun. […] Among the congratulations of friends, he said that nothing which is not detestable and an I’ll to the public could be born of Agrippina and himself. 6.2 Another sign of future unhappiness occurred on his day of lustrification, for C. Caesar, having been asked by his sister that he might give to the infant what name he would, looking to his uncle, Claudus, by whom—soon to be emperor—Nero had been adopted, said to give the child Claudius’ name, nor seriously, but in joke, with Agrippina giving rebuke, for then Claudius was an ass among the courts.

6.3 At three he lost his father, to one third of whose estate he was heir, nor did he take this in whole, for through his fellow heir Gaius all the land was taken. And thereafter, too, with his mother banished, almost poor and needing, he was raised at the house of his aunt Lepida under two tutors: a dancer and a barber. Then, with Claudius haven taken the position of emperor, he recovered not only his father’s wealth, but also was enriched by the inheritance of his stepfather, Crispus Passienus. 6.4 He flourished so through the grace and influence of his recalled and reinstated mother that it was known to the people that individuals had been sent from Messalina, wife of Claudius, that they might strangle him, napping midday, a possible rival of Britannicus. Additional to this story is that they, frightened, fled with snake having darted our from his pillow. As the story goes, in his bed was found the skin of a serpent, which, from the urging of his mother, was enclosed in a gold bracelet which he wore on his right arm for a long time. But, in weariness of the memory of his mother, he cast it away, and later, at the end of his reign, he sought it again in vain.

7.1 When not yet a mature youth, he played a Trojan in the games at the circus successfully and most self-assuredly. In the eleventh year of his youth, he was adopted by Claudius and given to Annaeus Seneca, already then a senator, for tutoring. They say Seneca on the next night dreamed that he was teaching Caligula, and Nero, as soon as he was able, showed the truth of the dream by the cruelty of his nature. For he tried to convince his father that his brother Brittanicus, because he, as he was familiar to do, addressed Nero as Ahenobarbus even after Nero was adopted, was not a blood heir. Also, his aunt Lepida accused, he, gratifying his mother, by whom she was accused, furnished testimony against her. 7.2 Led into the forum, a newcomer to public life, he proposed a gift to the soldiers and, a drill of praetorians decreed, carried his shield in his own hand. Thence he returned thanks to his father in the senate. In his consulship he gave a Latin speech to the Bononians and one Greek to the Rhodians and the Ilians.

8.1 As the death of Claudius had been made public, Nero, seventeen years old, went forth to the guards between the sixth and seventh hour, for no other time seemed accommodating because of bad omen throughout the whole of the day. Hailed emperor upon the steps of the Palatine, he was taken to their camp in a litter, and, with brief address to the soldiers, was carried to the curia and left in the evening, of the immense honors, with which he was heaped, having refused only the title pater patriae because of his age.


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