By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Translation of Octavia, a Latin Tragedy, with Notes and Introduction
Author: Hall, Elizabeth Twining
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Translation of Octavia, a Latin Tragedy, with Notes and Introduction" ***

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive.)

Transcriber’s Notes:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at the end.

       *       *       *       *       *






       *       *       *       *       *


_May 29_ 190_1_


_Elizabeth Hall_

ENTITLED _Translation of Octavia, a Latin Tragedy with Notes and


  _Herbert J Barton_


Octavia is the only extant tragedy in fabula praetexta or historical
Roman tragedy in Roman scene and setting. It is remarkably true to
fact, and almost every statement may be verified by reference to the
ancient historians.

It deals with the sad story of Octavia, the daughter of Claudius and
Messalina. Married against her will when only twelve years old to Nero,
a lad of sixteen, she was after five years divorced by her husband on
a charge of barrenness in favor of Poppaea Sabina, and in 62 A.D. was
banished to a desert island there to be executed.

The play is a well rounded whole, all the parts are well worked out,
and the characters are vivid and lifelike. There is a force and majesty
in the tragedy which carries the reader through without pause. The sad
story of Octavia forms the plot, but the poet has interwoven political
motives and represents the people as taking Octavia’s part. This only
serves to hasten her death, for Nero eagerly seizes upon this as a
pretext to condemn her.

There are five acts in the play, and each is closed by chants from
the chorus which serve to explain the action further. There are many
references to history and mythology, but the atmosphere is distinctly
Roman. At no time do three actors appear on the stage in the same
scene. The characters are exactly as one would expect from a close
study of history and are delineated with marvelous skill and fidelity.

The versification is confined to iambic meters in the dialogues, while
the choruses, though they form a very prominent feature, are restricted
to anapestic systems somewhat loosely constructed.

The play is really a bitter impeachment of Nero and was composed
shortly after his death in 68 A.D. The tragedy of Octavia for a long
time was supposed to be written by Seneca and was handed down to
posterity with his genuine dramas, but later authorities ascribe its
authorship possibly to Curiatius Maternus. There is unmistakable
evidence in the words of the play that it was composed after Nero’s
death, and this would render the authorship of Seneca entirely out of
the question since he died three years before Nero.

There is perceptible the strong influence of Greek tragedy, but
the plot and setting are distinctly original. Octavia has the
characteristics of tragedy as laid down by Aristotle, that the aim is
to purify the passions by means of action exciting pity for the actors
and fear for the hearers, and that the leading characters must partly
occasion their own misfortunes. Octavia conforms to the old Greek idea
of the unities of time, place, and action. The place of action is
confined to the palace of Nero; the action may be considered as taking
place in one day and night; and the action forms a whole of which
each part has its proper place and the parts follow one another in
logical order.




_OCTAVIA_: Already glorious Aurora[1] chases the wandering stars from
the sky. Titan,[2] with radiant hair, rises and returns a clear day to
the world. Come, thou[3] who art burdened by so many great misfortunes,
utter once more thy sad lamentations. Surpass the kingfishers[4] and
the swift nightingales, for thy fate is more grievous than theirs.
O, mother, for whom I have always mourned, the first cause of my
misfortunes, (if any consciousness exists in the shades) hear the
sad lamentations of thy daughter. Would that Clotho[5] had broken my
threads with her own aged hand before I saw thy features sprinkled with
loathsome blood.[6] O, day always fatal to me, from that time thou
hast been to me more hateful than the lower regions. I have endured
commands, hostility, and fierce glances from my cruel stepmother.[7]
That gloomy Erinys[8] has brought to my bridal room Stygian[9] fires
and has destroyed thee, wretched father,[10] whom recently the
whole world beyond the Ocean obeyed, before whom retreated the
Britains,[11] ignorant of our leaders and their own rights. Woe to me,
father, that I am overwhelmed by the treachery of thy wife, and that
thou liest prostrate, and that thy conquered home and daughter obey the

_NURSE_: If anyone is captivated, astonished, and stupefied by
the first gleam of deceptive royalty, he will see, overthrown by a
sudden attack of concealed Fortune, a recently powerful home and the
progeny of Claudius who ruled the world and commanded the ocean which
reluctantly received his fleets.[12] Behold, he who first placed the
yoke upon the Britains[13] and covered unknown seas with such great
fleets, and was safe among barbarous tribes and savage seas, perished by
his wife’s crime.[14] Soon she died by the hand of her own son whose
brother met death by poison. The unhappy sister and wife sorrows;
restrained indignation cannot conceal the grievous affliction of a
cruel husband whom she in her innocence always escapes, while the
passionate husband burns with a mutual hatred. In vain my fidelity and
loyalty to soothe her sorrowing mind. Pitiless grief frustrates my
plans; the mind’s generous ardor cannot be subdued but gathers strength
for evils. Alas, what an infamous crime our terror foresees. O, may the
gods avert it.

_OCTAVIA_: My fortunes are comparable to no evils,[15] even if I
should recall thy sorrows, Electra.[16] Thou wast permitted to mourn
thy father and to avenge the crime by the vengeance of a brother whom
thy loyalty rescued and thy fidelity protected.[17] Fear prevents me
from lamenting my parents removed by a cruel destiny, and forbids me to
weep for the death of a brother who had been my only hope and the brief
solace for so many misfortunes. Now I remain in my sorrow the shadow of
a great name.[18]

_NURSE_: Listen, I hear the voice of my sad foster daughter. Does
slow old age hesitate to go to the wedding chamber?

_OCTAVIA_: O, nurse, thou faithful witness of my grief, see my tears.

_NURSE_: What day, wretched daughter, will free thee from such sorrow?

_OCTAVIA_: The day which will send me to the Stygian shades.

_NURSE_: I hope that these forebodings of thine may be long in

_OCTAVIA_: Not thy prayers but the fates rule my destiny.

_NURSE_: A pitying god will give better opportunities to thee in thy
sorrow. Soon thou wilt quietly win over thy husband with caressing

_OCTAVIA_: I could conquer the savage lion and the fierce tiger sooner
than the merciless heart of a barbarous tyrant. He hates men of noble
descent, he scorns both gods and men, and not yet does he meet the
fate which his infamous mother by a dreadful crime bestowed upon him.
Although he may be ashamed to have gained this unacknowledged empire by
the kindness of his ill-omened mother, yet she will bear this title of
honor[19] after death for endless generations.

_NURSE_: Restrain the thoughts of thy raging mind; repress those rashly
spoken words.

_OCTAVIA_: However much I may endure the inevitable, never can
my misfortunes be ended except by sorrowful death. With a mother
murdered and a father removed through crime, deprived of a brother,
overwhelmed by my woes and grief, distasteful to my husband, and
submissive to my slaves, I do not enjoy a pleasant life. My heart is
always trembling, not from fear of death--to die would be a joy--but
from dread of crime[20] of which I hope I may never be accused. For
it is a punishment worse than death for me in my misery to see those
swollen features and to endure the fierce glances of a tyrant[21] and
the kisses of an enemy, not even whose courteous nod I cannot endure
after the murder of my brother[22] whose empire the wicked assassin
rules and over which he rejoices. How often the sorrowful apparition of
my brother appears to my vision when quiet relaxes my limbs and sleep
weighs down my eyes wearied by weeping. Now he arms his feeble hands
with smoky torches and with hostile intent seeks the presence of his
own brother;[23] now in fear and trembling he flees into my apartment;
his enemy follows and violently pierces us with his sword as we cling

Then tremulous dread drives away sleep and renews my wretched sorrow
and fear. Besides all these woes, there is the haughty mistress[24]
resplendent with the spoils of our home--the mistress whose son
rewarded her by placing her upon that fatal bark.[25] More cruel than
the waves of the sea, he destroyed[26] her by his sword after the
failure of the shipwreck in the peaceful waters. After such a great
crime, how can I hope to escape? A victorious and unfriendly woman[27]
threatens my marriage couch. Burning with hatred toward me, she
demands, as a reward for her dishonor, the head of the lawful wife.
Come forth from the shades and aid thy appealing daughter, father,[28]
or open the Stygian depths to the sundered earth whither I may be borne

_NURSE_: In vain, wretched daughter, dost thou invoke the spirit of
thy father who in the lower world has no thought for his child. He
could prefer the progeny of foreign blood[29] to his own son and he
married in disgraceful nuptials the daughter of his own brother.[30]
From thence is begun a long series of crime, murder, treachery, desire
for dominion, and thirst for royal blood. The noble son-in-law[31] was
betrayed by his wife’s father and perished in the bridal chamber lest
he become powerful by his union with thee. Alas, that such a crime
should be! Silanus, given as a reward to Agrippina who falsely accused
him, has taken his own life. Then there entered the conquered home the
hostile son-in-law[32] and yet an own son, a youth of infamous genius,
capable of any crime, and influenced by the wily stepmother who gave
him to thee in marriage although thou wast timid and reluctant.

This fierce and victorious woman, carried away by her great success,
has dared to menace the sacred empire of the world. Who can recall the
many crimes, and infamous desires, and beguiling treachery of a woman
who seeks power through the steps of every crime? Then sacred Loyalty
fled with trembling step; cruel Erinys with deadly tread entered
the deserted halls, polluted with baneful fires the sacred Penates,
violated Justice, and broke every law of Nature. The unnatural wife
mixed poison for her husband; he perished; then soon, she, too, fell by
the hand of her own son. Thou, too, art fallen, Britannicus, unhappy
youth whom we forever mourn, recently the star of the universe and the
protector of a mighty home; now, woe to me, thou art only light ashes
and a sorrowful shade. Even the cruel stepmother shed tears when I
placed thy body upon the funeral pyre and when the cruel flame played
round thy godlike limbs and features.[33]

_OCTAVIA_: Let it destroy me too lest this tyrant perish by my hand.

_NURSE_: Nature has not given such strength to thee.

_OCTAVIA_: Grief, sadness, misery, anguish, and mourning will give it.

_NURSE_: Thou hadst better conquer pitiless Nero by obedience.

_OCTAVIA_: For what purpose? That he may restore to me my brother whom
he has murdered?

_NURSE_: That thou, thyself, mayst be safe; that thou by thy progeny,
mayst keep from ruin the former home of thy father.

_OCTAVIA_: The home of the emperor desires another offspring. The
dreadful death of my brother distracts me.

_NURSE_: Such great favor of the citizens toward him should soothe thy

_OCTAVIA_: It alleviates my sorrows but does not free me from them.

_NURSE_: The power of the people is great.

_OCTAVIA_: But the power of the ruler is greater.

_NURSE_: He will have regard for his wife.

_OCTAVIA_: His mistress forbids this.[35]

_NURSE_: But as everyone knows, she is hated by all.

_OCTAVIA_: But dear to my husband.

_NURSE_: Not yet his wife, however.

_OCTAVIA_: Soon she will be a wife and at the same time a mother.

_NURSE_: Youthful ardor rages at first but easily languishes just as
the warmth of a little flame; not long does it continue in disgraceful
love, but unceasing love for a chaste wife remains. The first slave[36]
who dared to dishonor thy couch long swayed the emperor’s mind, but now
she fears--

_OCTAVIA_: Undoubtedly someone preferred to herself.

_NURSE_: Humble, submissive, and confessing her fault, she heaps up
votive offerings by which she shows her own fear. Cupid, the fickle god
of love, will abandon her, and although beautiful in form and haughty
in her resources she will enjoy but brief happiness. Juno, the queen
of the gods, endured sorrows similar to thine when Jupiter, the lord
of the heavens and father of the gods, changed himself into every
form; now he took the wings of the swan;[37] now, the horns of the
Sidonian bull;[38] now he flowed in golden showers.[39] The stars of
Leda shine in the sky; Bacchus[40] resides on paternal Olympus; the
god Alcides[41] is the husband of Hebe,[42] nor fears the wrath of
Juno although she has been his lifelong enemy. Yet the wise compliance
and suppressed rage of the proud wife conquered. Great Juno alone now
retains the Thunderer securely on the heavenly couch, nor allured by
mortal beauty does Jupiter leave the lofty halls. Thou, too, a second
Juno on earth, sister[43] and wife of Augustus, mayst thus vanquish thy
heavy sorrows.

_OCTAVIA_: The cruel seas will be united with the stars; fire with
water; the heavens with the gloomy under world; genial light with
darkness; day with dewy night, before my spirit, always mindful of my
murdered brother, will be united with the abandoned soul of my infamous

May the ruler of the heaven dwellers who often shakes the world
with his deadly thunderbolts and terrifies our mind with sacred
lightning,--may he prepare to overwhelm the head of the impious chief
with flames.[44] We have seen in the sky, where Bootes[45] stiff with
cold slowly draws his wagons in the eternal change of night, the
glowing splendor of the comet expand its baneful light.[46] Behold,
even the very atmosphere is contaminated by the ominous breath of the
savage chief;[47] the stars foretell new calamities to the nations
which the impious leader rules.

When long ago Tellus, furious at Jove, was a mother,[48] she did
not produce a monster as fierce as this infamous Nero. This curse,
more dreadful than Typhon, this enemy of gods and man, has driven
the celestial deities from their temples and the citizens from their
fatherland; he has deprived my brother of life; he has shed the blood
of his own mother; yet he sees the light, he enjoys life, and continues
to draw his deadly breath.[49] Alas, Jupiter, thou noble father of the
world, why dost thou vainly hurl with thine own royal hand so many
times at random? Why dost thou hesitate to act against such a baneful
monster? May Nero, the pretender, the true descendant of Domitius[50]
pay the penalty for his crimes--Nero, the tyrant of the world which he
burdens with a disgraceful yoke--Nero, who defiles the very name of
Augustus with his blemished character.

_NURSE_: I acknowledge that he is unworthy of thee but submit to fate
and fortune, daughter, and do not, I implore thee, arouse the wrath of
thy angry husband. Perhaps some avenging god will appear and a joyful
day will dawn.

_OCTAVIA_: For a long time our home has been beset with the heavy wrath
of the gods. Pitiless Venus first exacted punishment for the madness of
my wretched mother who was united in incestuous marriage, regardless
of me, of her husband, and forgetful of the laws.[51] With her hair
flowing and entwined with serpents, that avenging Erinys came to the
fatal marriage couch and quenched in blood the torches snatched from
the marriage chamber. Anger aroused the heart of the fierce leader
to disgraceful murder. Our unhappy mother perished by the sword, and
her death continually saddens me. She has led forth to death her own
husband and son; she has betrayed and destroyed our home.

_NURSE_: Cease renewing filial sorrows by thy weeping. Do not disturb
the spirit of thy mother who has paid heavy penalties for her own

_CHORUS_: What rumor do we now hear? Falsely believed and repeated in
vain so many times, may it lose credence; may the new wife not enter
the bridal apartments; may the former wife, the child of Claudius,
retain her own Penates; may she give birth to pledges of love in which
a peaceful universe may rejoice and Rome preserve an eternal glory.

Great Juno, chosen by lot, occupies the bridal apartment of her
brother. Why is the wife and sister of Augustus driven from her
ancestral halls? What does sacred pity avail her? What, a divine
father? What, chastity and virtuous modesty? We, too, are forgetful
of ourselves after the death of a leader whose son we betrayed since
his life caused fear.[52] Once there was genuine Roman valor of the
ancestors and the true race and blood of Mars in these men. They drove
the haughty kings from Rome, and well did they avenge thy wrongs,
Lucretia, thou, dishonored by the cruel tyrant and killed by thy own
wretched hand.[53] Tullia, the wife of Tarquinius, paid the penalty
for her dreadful crimes.--Tullia who wickedly drove the cruel chariot
over the body of her murdered father and refused a funeral pyre to the
mangled old man.[54]

This generation has seen the infamous crime of a son who sent
into the Tuscan seas his mother enticed into the fatal boat by
treachery.[55] The sailors are ordered to leave the peaceful port; the
waves resound with the measured beat of the oars. The ship is borne
along upon the deep seas; sinking slowly, it suddenly divides and sucks
in the waters. A great clamor mingled with women’s wailing is raised to
the stars; a dreadful death threatens them; each one seeks for himself
escape from death; some cling to the planks of the shattered stern;
their naked bodies cleave the waves; others swim for the shore; the
fates plunge many to the depths of the sea. Augusta rends her clothing;
she tears her hair and weeps. After she has given up hope of escape,
burning with wrath and overcome by her misfortune, she exclaims, “Dost
thou reward me, thus, for my great services, my son? I confess that I
am worthy of this ship since I gave birth to thee, and in my madness
gave thee life, dominion, and the royal name of Caesar.

“Lift thy face from the lower world, husband, and feast upon my
punishment. The cause of thy death, Claudius, and the instigator of thy
son’s funeral pyre, I shall be borne to Tartarus, deservedly unburied
and overwhelmed by the savage waters of the sea.” As she spoke, the
waves beat her face, she rises again from the waters; in terror, she
beats the billows with her palms but finally exhausted she yields to
the struggle. Loyalty still remained in silent hearts though scorned
even in the hour of bitter death. Many hasten to aid their mistress
whose strength is broken by the force of the sea. With shouts they
encourage her as she slowly but persistently waves her arms. Eagerly
they lift her into their boat. What did it profit thee to escape the
waters of the cruel sea? Thou art destined to die by the sword of
thy son whose infamous crime posterity will scarcely believe and to
which succeeding generations will always be slow to give credence. The
unnatural son is furious at his mother’s escape, he grieves that she
is saved from the sea, and he commits a greater crime by hastening her
death. The servant sent to commit the murder lays open the breast of
the mother with his sword. The unhappy woman, while dying, commands
the slave to bury the fierce sword in her womb. “Here, here is the
place. The sword must pierce the womb which bore such a monster.” Then,
passionately weeping, she breathed her last.

_SENECA_: O, thou powerful Fortune with beguiling but treacherous
countenance! Why didst thou elevate me when I was content with my lot?
Didst thou hope that, received into a lofty citadel, I might see afar
so many causes for anxiety and therefore fall most heavily?[56]

Rather would I, removed far away from envious misfortunes, lie
concealed among the rocks of the Corsican sea where my mind had freedom
and leisure to pursue its studies.[57] O how delightful it was to watch
the sky which is as great as anything Mother Nature, the builder of the
universe, has produced, to gaze upon the alternating changes of the sun
and moon surrounded by wandering stars, the far shining glory of the
lofty firmament. If this world wanes, if, although so great, it returns
again to gloomy chaos, be thou present to the world, that last day
which overwhelmed the wicked race of the world with ruin so that rising
again, it produced a new and better generation. Such a people[58]
Jupiter brought forth when Saturn held the dominion of the universe.[59]

The maiden Justice, the goddess of divine majesty, sent with sacred
Piety from heaven, mercifully ruled the human race. The nations had not
known wars, nor the fierce blasts of the trumpets, nor arms; they did
not surround their cities with walls; everything was held in common.
Mother Earth herself, blessed and happy in her devout foster sons,
voluntarily opened her fruitful bosom. But a second race less skilled
and gentle appeared; then a third, practised in new arts but not wicked
yet.[60] Soon this age was restless. It dared to follow the swift wild
beasts in their course, to draw out with heavy net the fish concealed
in the depths, to catch the birds in lime twig snares, to hold a
trap-X-X-X,[61] make the fierce bulls submissive to the yoke, to plow
the earth before untouched by a plowshare,--the land which concealed its
fruits far within its sacred bosom. But a worse age pierced the vitals
of its own parent.

It dug up heavy iron and gold and soon armed its cruel hands. The
land was divided; kingdoms were established; new cities were built; it
defended its own walls or, intent upon pillage, sought the property of
a stranger. Astraea, now the great glory of the stars, fled from the
earth and the cruel customs of men defiled with bloody carnage.[62]
Desire for war and thirst for gold increased throughout the entire
world. The greatest misfortunes had their origin in luxury, that
beguiling evil, which gained strength from time and serious error.
Vices acquired during so many long ages abound in us. We are oppressed
by an infamous age in which crime rules, raging impiety grows furious,
and passionate lust and disgraceful love conquer. With avaricious
hands, victorious Luxury grasps the immense resources of the world
to destroy them. But, lo, with frenzied step and fierce glance Nero
enters.[63] I fear what he brings.

_NERO_: Fulfil my commands! Send a man who can bring back to me the
severed heads of Plautus and Sulla.[64]

_PREFECT_: I shall not delay your commands. I will seek the camp

_SENECA_: It is best to decide nothing rashly against relatives.

_NERO_: It is easy for him to be just whose heart is free from fear.

_SENECA_: Clemency is a great cure for fear.

_NERO_: To destroy an enemy is the greatest virtue of a leader.

_SENECA_: It is a greater virtue to preserve the citizens for the
father of the fatherland.[65]

_NERO_: It is right for a merciful old man to admonish youth.

_SENECA_: Glowing young manhood must be guided more.

_NERO_: I think there is enough advice for this period of life.

_SENECA_: May the gods always sanction thy policy.

_NERO_: I should be foolish to fear the gods for what I myself have

_SENECA_: Thou shouldst fear them all the more since they have given so
much power to thee.

_NERO_: Fortune bestows all upon me.

_SENECA_: Trust not too much to her compliance. The goddess is fickle.

_NERO_: He is incompetent who does not know what he may do.

_SENECA_: It is commendable for a ruler to do what is right, not what
he may.

_NERO_: The crowd tramples upon the humble.

_SENECA_: But it crushes the object of its hatred.

_NERO_: The sword guards the emperor.

_SENECA_: But loyalty better.

_NERO_: It is imperative that they fear--

_SENECA_: Compulsion is dangerous.

_NERO_: And that they obey my commands.

_SENECA_: Grant privileges.

_NERO_: I will be master.

_SENECA_: This procedure may breed conspiracies.

_NERO_: That the sword may destroy this object of contempt?

_SENECA_: May this crime never happen!

_NERO_: Shall I suffer my life, besides, to be sought so that,
unavenged and despised, I may suddenly be overwhelmed. Even far distant
exile did not subdue Plautus or Sulla whose persistent wrath arms the
servants of crime for my death, since there exists in our city great
partiality for these absent men and many foster the hopes of the
exiles. May all my possible enemies be put to the sword! May my hated
wife perish and follow her beloved brother! May whatever is noble cease
to be!

_SENECA_: It is glorious for a man to be eminent among illustrious men,
to plan for the fatherland, to spare affliction, to refrain from fierce
carnage, to control wrath, to give quiet to the world and peace to his
own generation. This is the greatest virtue; by this path Heaven is
gained. Augustus, the first father of the fatherland, thus attained the
stars and is worshiped as a god in the temples.[66] Yet Fortune long
tossed him about on land and sea, through all the vicissitudes of war
until he crushed the enemy of his father. He bequeathed to thee his own
divinity without bloodshed; he held the reins of empire with skillful
hand; he made submissive to thy will the land and sea. Bitter envy
disappears conquered by blessed harmony. The applause of the equestrian
order and of the senate is aroused. Thou, the author of peace and the
arbiter of the human race, chosen by the plebeians’ entreaties and the
judgment of the senate,[67] now by a sacred resemblance art ruling the
world as father of the fatherland.

Rome implores thee to guard this appellation and entrusts to thee her
own citizens.

_NERO_: It is the gift of the gods since Rome herself and the senate
are devoted to me and since fear of me has wrested prayers and
submissive words from reluctant citizens. For a ruler to save men
hostile to him and to the fatherland and proud of their royal race
is madness, when with a word he can command his enemies to die.
Brutus armed his bands to kill a leader from whom he had received
prosperity.[68] Unconquerable in battle, father of nations and equal
to Jove, Caesar crowned with honors fell by the wicked crime of the
citizens. How many murders of her own citizens has Rome seen? How
many noble men have been killed by divine Augustus who deserved
Heaven by his sacred virtue? How many youths and old men has he
scattered over the world and destined to bitter death when from
fear of death they fled from their own homes and the sword of the
triumvirate?[69] Sorrowing fathers saw their sons’ heads exposed on the
Rostra, but they could neither weep nor groan for their own children,
even when the forum was defiled by dreadful corruption and the thick
blood dripped over the putrid countenances. There was no end to
bloodshed and murder.

Gloomy Philippi long frightened the birds and savage wild beasts.
The Sicilian Sea engulfed the fleets and men often abandoning their
fellow countrymen, and the world was shaken by the mighty power of the
triumvirate. Conquered, with his ships prepared for flight, and soon
to die, Antony sought the Nile.[70] The Egyptian Cleopatra a second
time drained the blood of a Roman leader.[71] Now he has reached the
lower world. Yonder is buried civil war which long and wickedly has
been carried on. Finally the wearied victor sheathed his sword dulled
by fierce wounds, and fear held the empire. By the arms and fidelity of
the soldiery he was safe; he was pronounced a god by the noble piety of
the son, deified after death, and worshipped in the temples. Stars will
be destined for me, too, if I shall be the first to attack with a cruel
sword whatever is hostile to me and shall establish a home for a noble

_SENECA_: The glory of the Claudian house, the daughter of a god, and
chosen like Juno for the bridal couch of a brother, will fill thy home
with divine progeny.

_NERO_: The vile mother withheld confidence from her daughter’s
husband, and never has the soul of Octavia been united with mine.[72]

_SENECA_: Love is scarcely intelligible in youthful years; overcome
with shame it conceals its passion.

_NERO_: I, too, long made this same mistake, but the unmistakable
signs of her lonely heart and features revealed her hatred for me.
Yet burning indignation has determined to avenge this. I have found
a wife worthy of my couch--a woman of noble family and magnificent
bearing.[73] She is more beautiful than Venus, or the wife of Jove, or
the stately goddess of war.

_SENECA_: Let the goodness, fidelity, modesty, and character of the
wife please the husband. The good alone continue to be second to
none in mind and spirit. The days, one by one, rob the flower of its

_NERO_: The gods have bestowed every gift upon one woman, and the
fates have decreed her for me.

_SENECA_: Love will abandon thee. Do not trust rashly.

_NERO_: Can Jove himself keep away this tyrant of the heavens who
penetrates the savage waves of Neptune and the kingdoms of Pluto and
draws the celestial deities from their home above?

_SENECA_: The mind of man assumes that swift Love is a pitiless god.
It arms his divine hands with bow and arrow; it gives him a cruel
torch and believes him to be the son of Venus and Vulcan. Love is the
powerful force of the mind and the caressing warmth of the spirit. It
is fostered in youth and nourished in extravagance and idleness, among
the joyful blessings of Fortune. If thou shalt cease to nourish and
to cherish this Love, it falls in a short time and destroys its own

_NERO_: I consider Love to be the greatest reason for existence;
through it, passions spring up. Love is harmless; the human race is
always refreshed by pleasing love which soothes the fierce wild beasts.
May Cupid bring to me nuptial torches, and may he join Poppaea to me in

_SENECA_: The grief of the people can hardly endure these nuptials, nor
can sacred loyalty consent.[75]

_NERO_: Shall I alone be forbidden what is permitted to all?

_SENECA_: The people always exact greater deeds from the emperor.[76]

_NERO_: It pleases me to test whether good will rashly harbored in
their minds dies overpowered by my strength.

_SENECA_: Thou hadst better calmly gratify thy subjects.

_NERO_: It is bad government when the common people rule the leader.

_SENECA_: When the people can obtain no redress, they justly mourn.

_NERO_: It is right to extort by force what entreaties can not

_SENECA_: It is difficult to refuse.

_NERO_: It is a crime for an emperor to be forced.

_SENECA_: Let him yield.

_NERO_: Rumor will report him conquered.

_SENECA_: Rumor is light and airy.

_NERO_: Although that may be, it brands many people.

_SENECA_: It fears men in lofty positions.

_NERO_: Yet not less does it censure.

_SENECA_: Rumor can easily be suppressed. Let the favors of divine
Claudius, and the youth, fidelity, and modesty of Octavia appease thee.

_NERO_: Yet cease to urge me. Already thou hast threatened me too much.
I have power to do even what SENECA condemns. Too long have I delayed
my solemn vows to Poppaea since she is soon to become the mother of my
child. Why do I not appoint tomorrow for our nuptials?

_AGRIPPINA_: I have come from the lower world to this wicked bridal,
carrying the Stygian torch in my blood-stained hand. Poppaea as a
bride veils herself with these fires of passion which my vengeance
and anguish will turn to bitter destruction. Even among the shades,
the memory of my unnatural murder haunts me, and I am oppressed by my
unavenged spirit. Deservedly I recall the deadly reward of the ship,
the recompense for my ambition, and the night when I deplored my
shipwreck. I had vowed to lament the violent death of my companions and
my son’s cruel crime--he gave me no opportunity to weep but repeated
his wicked crime. Saved from a watery grave, slain by the sword,
defiled by wounds, among my own household gods, I breathed my last, nor
did I quench with my blood my son’s hatred. The fierce tyrant rages at
the very name of mother. He desires to forget benefits; he destroys
his mother’s statues and titles of honor throughout the entire empire
which her ill-fated love gave to him to control for her punishment. My
murdered husband disturbs and threatens me even after my death, and
with flames seeks my hated features. He approaches and menaces me; he
imputes to me his son’s death and cenotaph; he demands the assassin’s
punishment. Cease thy entreaties. Expiation will soon be made.
Avenging Erinys prepare for the impious tyrant the lash, disgraceful
flight, a worthy death, and punishments which surpass the thirst
of Tantalus,[77] the dreadful labor of Sisyphus,[78] the bird of
Tityos,[79] and the wheel that whirls the body of Ixion.[80] Although
the haughty tyrant may fill the hall with marble statues and cover it
with gold,[81] although an exhausted world may send riches, although
the suppliant Parthians may bow before his blood-stained hands,[82]
although empires may bestow their treasures, yet the day will come when
abandoned, ruined, and deprived of everything, he will turn his wicked
thoughts to his own crimes and surrender his life to his enemies.[83]

Alas, how have my vows resulted? Whither have fury and the fates
led thee, my son, that the wrath of thy mother who perished by thy
crime may yield to such great misfortunes? Would that the savage wild
beasts had torn my vitals before I brought thee, a little child,
into the world and nourished thee. Would that guiltless and without
consciousness, my son, thou hadst perished. Would that with me thou
hadst seen the peaceful home of the lower world, thy father, and thy
ancestors, men of great renown. Now disgrace and unending grief await
them from thee, wicked son, and from me who gave birth to such a
monster. Why do I hesitate to hide my face in Tartarus, stepmother,
wife and parent who have brought misfortune to all my kinsfolk and

_OCTAVIA_: Cease thy weeping on such a joyful holiday[84] of the city
lest thy great love for me excite the fierce wrath of the emperor and
be a source of misfortune to thee. This is not the first wound my heart
has known. I have felt deeper sorrows. Today will end my anguish by
death. I shall not be forced to see the face of my cruel husband nor to
enter the hated bridal chamber of a slave. Sister of Augustus I shall
be but not his wife. Let only bitter punishment and fear of death be
far from me. When thou dost remember the crimes of this wicked man,
canst thou in thy misery hope for mercy? Long saved for these nuptials,
an unfortunate victim at last thou wilt fall. But why dost thou with
tear-stained cheeks look so often in terror at thy father’s palace?
Hasten to the city walls. Leave the blood-stained hall of the chief.

_CHORUS_: See, a day, long foretold by any rumor, dawns. Claudia is
forced to leave dread Nero’s bridal room which now victorious Poppaea
occupies. Our loyalty and indignation are oppressed by foreboding fear.
Where now is the power of the Roman people which often destroyed noble
leaders, which once gave laws to an invincible fatherland and fasces to
worthy citizens, which commanded war and peace, which conquered fierce
tribes and imprisoned royal captives? Behold the images of Poppaea and
Nero gleam every where before our sight.[85] May the angry people dash
to the ground the exquisitely carved statues of the mistress, and may
it drag her from the royal couch.[86] May it soon seek the palace of
the emperor with hostile flames and fierce weapons.

_NURSE OF POPPAEA_: Where art thou going from thy husband’s bridal
chamber, trembling daughter? Why in terror dost thou seek concealment?
Why dost thou weep? Surely the day dawns for which we have sought
by prayers and vows. Thou art married to Caesar whom thy beauty
captivated. Although thou art despised by Seneca,[87] Venus, the mother
of Love and greatest of all divinities, has charmed the emperor and
given him over to thee.

Thou hast sat in lofty halls; thou hast rested upon royal couches.
The astonished senate saw thee with thy head adorned with the red
bridal veil, offering incense to the gods and sprinkling the sacred
altars with fragrant wine.[88] Close by thy side, honored among the
many happy omens of the citizens, showing joy in his haughty bearing,
the chief advanced. Thus did Peleus receive his wife Thetis from the
foaming waves. They say the heaven dwellers and every divinity of the
sea united to celebrate their nuptials.[89] What has changed thee so
suddenly? Tell me why thou dost grow pale and weep?

_POPPAEA_: O, nurse, confused by the sad and fearful sights of the past
night, disturbed in mind, and deprived of feeling, I am borne along.
When joyful day gave place to gloomy stars and heaven to night, clasped
in the embrace of Nero, I could not sleep nor rest for a long time. For
a sad throng seemed to celebrate my nuptials.[90] Roman matrons with
flowing hair made doleful lamentations. Often amid the terrible blasts
of trumpets, my husband’s cruel mother shook the blood-stained torch.
When resistless fear compelled me to follow her, the sundered earth
opened before me in a vast chasm.

Borne headlong, I see the marriage couches and I marvel at mine in
which, wearied, I reclined. I see my former husband and son coming with
a crowd of attendants. Crispinus[91] hastens to embrace and kiss me.
Just as he entered my dwelling, trembling Nero buried the savage sword
in his throat. Then overwhelming terror seized me. Horrible fear shakes
my body and brings anguish to my heart. Anxiety has kept me speechless,
but now thy faithful loyalty induces me to speak. Alas, why do these
departed spirits come from the lower world to threaten me? Why have I
witnessed the death of my husband?

_NURSE_: Whatever the restless activity of the mind considers, divine
consciousness silently and swiftly recalls in sleep.[92] Dost thou
wonder that, clasped in the embrace of a new husband, thou hast dreamed
of thy former one, of the bridal room, and nuptial couch? But on such
a happy day, does it disturb thee that matrons with flowing hair beat
their breasts? They mourn the divorce of Octavia among the sacred
Penates of her brother and in the home of her own ancestors. That torch
which thou didst follow, borne aloft by the hand of Augusta, predicts
to thee a royal and envied name. It foretells that the temples of the
lower world will be thy eternal couches.

It does not predict war that thy chief buried the sword in his
throat, but it meant that he sheathed his sword in peace. Collect thy
thoughts, accept thy good fortune, I implore thee, and casting aside
all fear return to thy bridal apartments.

_POPPAEA_: I have determined to seek the shrines and sacred altars, to
propitiate the gods with sacrifices that terror and astonishment may
return upon my enemies. Offer up vows for me and honor the god with
devout prayers that the present state of affair may continue.

_CHORUS_: If gossiping rumor which now rules and again abandons the
stars, should tell of the true stratagems of Jove and his pleasing
loves--Jove who disguised as a swan had slept upon the breast of Leda,
and who, as a fierce bull, had carried the stolen Europa through the
waves--he will seek thy embraces, Poppaea, whom he prefers to Leda and
to Danae to whom he once descended in a golden shower. Although Sparta
may boast of Helen’s beauty and Paris, the shepherd of Phrygia, may
tell of his reward, Poppaea is more beautiful than the Spartan Helen
who caused such fierce wars and overthrew the kingdom of Priam. But
who rushes in with astonished step, and what news does he bring with
gasping breath?

_MESSENGER_: May the soldiers who guard the palace of the emperor
defend the hall which the furious people threaten. Behold, the anxious
cohorts bear aid to the city. The anger of the people rashly aroused
does not yield to fear but gathers strength and force.

_CHORUS_: What madness and terror distract his mind?

_MESSENGER_: The crowds of people are strongly attached to Octavia, and
frenzied by her great wrongs and persecutions they surge in turmoil

_CHORUS_: Tell what they have dared to do and by what counsel?

_MESSENGER_: The gods prepare to return to Claudia her brother’s
penates and couch, the empire which was her dowry.

_CHORUS_: Whom does Poppaea now hold in allegiance?

_MESSENGER_: This rash favor inflames the mind of the people and drives
them headlong into raging madness. All the costly marble and shining
bronze images of Poppaea are broken and lie prostrate overthrown by
their savage swords. They drag her dismembered statues along and after
trampling them in the filthy mire, finally destroy them entirely.
My fears conceal their plans and fierce deeds. They prepare to burn
the palace of the emperor unless he surrenders the new wife to their
wrath and submissively returns to Claudia her own penates. I shall not
delay to carry out the commands of the prefect, that Nero may know the
movements of his citizens.

_CHORUS_: Cupid carries invincible weapons with which thou dost vainly
excite fierce wars. He will overwhelm thee with the fires of passion
with which he has often destroyed thunderbolts and has drawn captive
Jove from the sky. Thou wilt pay the penalty with thy life. Glowing
with passion, he is not patient nor easily controlled. He commanded
fierce Achilles to play the lyre; he shattered the Greeks and Menelaus;
he overturned the kingdom of Priam; he destroyed royal cities. Now the
mind fears what the relentless power of the pitiless god brings.

_NERO_: O, too lenient is the band of my soldiers and my anger
after such a great wrong, since civilian blood has not quenched the
torches burning for us and since Rome which produced such a monster
does not reek with the blood of the people. The wicked crime of the
common people deserves more severe punishment. But let that woman who
has stirred up rebellion among the citizens and whom I have always
suspected though she was wife and sister, too--let her die by my wrath
and let her extinguish my anger in her own blood. Let the walls of the
city perish in my flames. Let disgraceful poverty, hunger, and cruel
sorrow destroy a hated nation. Great crowds corrupted by the prosperity
of the times run riot; moderation does not please it, nor can it endure
a peaceful reign, but it is borne hither by restless audacity, and
is hurled thither by its own temerity. Misfortune must govern it; a
heavy yoke must always crush it down lest it should dare to compare me
with former rulers and to conspire against my wife. Crushed by fear of
punishment, the people will learn to obey the will of its own leader.
But I see a man coming whose singular loyalty and remarkable fidelity
have placed him in command of my legions.

_PREFECT_: I announce that the uprising of the people is checked by the
death of a few who long rashly resisted.

_NERO_: And is this all? Dost thou, a soldier, thus obey thy leader’s
commands? Why dost thou cease thy endeavors? Is this the vengeance due

_PREFECT_: The leaders of the rebellion have fallen.

_NERO_: Why have not all perished who dared to seek my palace with
torches, to lay down the law to the emperor, to remove such a wife from
my couch, and to dishonor her in every way? Shall they escape richly
deserved punishment?

_PREFECT_: Will thy indignation prepare punishment for thy own citizens?

_NERO_: It will prepare a punishment which will never be forgotten.

_PREFECT_: Let thy wrath, not our fear, restrain us.

_NERO_: The first age which has deserved my wrath shall expiate it.

_PREFECT_: Disclose what thy anger demands so that we may punish the

_NERO_: It demands my sister’s death and her severed head.

_PREFECT_: Chilling horror holds me spellbound.

_NERO_: Dost thou hesitate to obey?

_PREFECT_: Why dost thou doubt my loyalty?

_NERO_: Because thou art merciful to an enemy.

_PREFECT_: Should a woman receive this name?

_NERO_: She incites crime.

_PREFECT_: Who is it who accuses her?

_NERO_: The wrath of the people against me.

_PREFECT_: Who can rule the frenzied crowd?

_NERO_: She who influenced it.

_PREFECT_: I do not think anyone could.

_NERO_: A woman whose mind is naturally inclined to evil has inflamed
their hearts with evil plans to injure me.

_PREFECT_: But she refused their aid.

_NERO_: But only that she might not be accused and that fear of
punishment might not overcome her weak strength. Retribution will
finally overtake the long condemned criminal. Hear my plans and carry
out my commands.[94] Order Octavia to be placed on a ship and carried
far away to a desert isle. There let her be killed that the fear in my
heart may subside.

_CHORUS_: Indignation at the present instance forbids mention of many
examples of fickle fortune. The woman upon whom the citizens wished
to bestow the empire of the world, now they see led weeping to bitter
punishment and death. Well does contented poverty conceal itself
in humble dwellings. Often tempests shake those homes or fortune
overwhelms them.

_OCTAVIA_: Where dost thou lead me? What exile does the tyrannical
queen command for me, if, touched by my many misfortunes, she grants
me life? But if she intends to end my sorrow by death, why does she
begrudge me the pleasure of dying in my own native land? But now I
cannot hope to escape. In my misery, I see my brother’s boat prepared
for me.[95] Borne along in this vessel, once a wife, now only a sister,
driven from my own palace, sorrowfully I shall drift away. Loyalty now
has no divinity, nor are there gods above. Gloomy Erinys rules in the
world! What nightingale can return soft plaintive notes to my weeping?
I would like to escape my sorrows on the uplifted pinions of a bird and
borne aloft and far away flee from the gloomy crowds of men and fierce
carnage. Alone in a deserted forest and suspended on a slender bough, I
would utter sad and mournful murmurs.

_CHORUS_: Mortals are ruled by fate, and no one can depend upon
the certainty of human life. A single portentous day brings forth
varying fortunes. May the many misfortunes which thy home has endured
strengthen thy mind. What is more cruel to thee than destiny,
Octavia? Thou, a mother worthy of many sons, daughter of Agrippa,
daughter-in-law of Augustus, and wife of Caesar[96] whose royal name
is illustrious in the entire world, soon a barren wife, thou wilt
endure exile, the scourge, cruel fetters, gloomy sights, sorrows,
long continued torture, and finally death itself. Livia, blessed
in the couch and sons of Drusus, committed a great sin and received
punishment.[97] Julia followed her mother’s fortunes.[98] Yet after a
time, although innocent, she falls by the sword. Why was not thy former
mother victorious who dear to her husband and rich in children ruled
the palace of the emperor? She was submissive to her own servant and
fell by the sword of a rough soldier.[99] Why was such a mother of Nero
permitted to hope for divinity? Injured by the blows of the oarsmen
but not fatally, mangled by the sword, she perished, the victim of her
cruel son.

_OCTAVIA_: Alas, the cruel tyrant sends me to the sorrowing shades
in the lower world. Why do I in my misery vainly hesitate? Hasten to
the death which fate has bestowed upon thee. I call to witness the
immortal gods--What art thy doing in thy madness? Cease to supplicate
the gods who hate thee--I call to witness Tartarus, the avenging
goddesses of Erebus, and thee, father, who art worthy of such a death
and punishment. This dreadful death was not unforeseen by me.
Equip and launch the ship. Let the pilot set sail for the shores of

_CHORUS_: Gentle breezes and light zephyrs which bore away Iphigenia
from the cruel altars of the Virgin and covered her with a heavenly
cloud, we beseech thee, waft this maiden far away from bitter
punishment to the temples of Trivia.[101] The harbor of Aulis[102] and
the barbarian land of the Tauri are more merciful than our city. The
gods above are propitiated by the sacrifice of a stranger, but Rome
rejoices in the murder of her own citizen.

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] Goddess of the dawn.

[2] The sun.

[3] Messalina, third wife of Claudius and mother of Octavia and
Britannicus. She acquired the most infamous celebrity of all the Roman

[4] Alcyone threw herself into the sea when Ceyx, her husband,
was shipwrecked, and the gods in compassion changed the two into
kingfishers. Ovid Book XI l. 583-748.

[5] The spinner among the Parcae.

[6] Murder of Messalina.

[7] Agrippina.

[8] One of the Furies.

[9] Styx, river in the lower world.

[10] Claudius, fifth Caesar, reigned 41-54 A.D. He was distinguished
among the Roman emperors by his politic munificence in founding empires.

[11] Claudius determined to carry into effect the plan which Augustus
had prematurely announced of an invasion of the great island of
Britain. He conquered magnificently and was accorded a triumph at Rome.

[12] Referring probably to the construction of Portus Romanus and the
extension of maritime power.

[13] Claudius was the first emperor who really conquered the Britains.

[14] Tiberius Claudius Drusus who succeeded Caligula obtained with
his infant son the name of Britannicus in honor of his British
victories. After the death of his third wife Messalina, he married
his own niece Agrippina 49 A.D. She influenced him to set aside his
own son Britannicus and to adopt her son Domitius Ahenobarbus giving
him the name of Nero. Having afterward shown a disposition to return
the succession to Britannicus, Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina 54.
Britannicus was poisoned in 55 and Agrippina murdered in 59 by order of

[15] To Octavia her marriage was a funeral in a house where her father
and soon afterward her brother had been poisoned, where a maid had
become more powerful than her mistress, where a paramour had supplanted
the lawful wife, and where she had been branded with a crime more
hateful to her than the worst of deaths.

[16] Electra, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and sister of
Orestes. Her sad story has formed the basis of three extant plays, the
Choephori of Aeschylus and the Electra of Sophocles and Euripides.

[17] Orestes.

[18] Lucan Bk I. 135.

[19] Sarcasm.

[20] Evidently the fear of suicide.

[21] Nero.

[22] Britannicus.

[23] Nero.

[24] Agrippina.

[25] The attempt by Nero to dispose of his mother by shipwreck.

[26] Murder of Agrippina.

[27] Poppaea.

[28] Claudius.

[29] The adoption of Nero and Octavia’s forced betrothal to him.

[30] Agrippina was the niece of Claudius and their marriage was
contrary to law. The senate gave permission.

[31] Appius Silanus to whom Octavia was affianced. Agrippina by a
pretended charge of immorality caused him to be disgraced and the
betrothal to be rescinded. At the marriage of Agrippina and Claudius,
Silanus put an end to his own life.

[32] Nero.

[33] Agrippina was innocent of the death of Britannicus. The simple
pyre had been prepared before and the corpse was consumed that very
night in the midst of a sudden tempest.

[34] The sympathy of the people was with Britannicus. The superiority
of natural over legal descent seems to have been generally acknowledged.

[35] Poppaea who became Nero’s wife in 62 A.D.

[36] Acte, the favorite concubine of Nero. Originally a slave from Asia
Minor, after Nero’s infatuation she was claimed to be a descendant of
King Attalus and at one time he even thought of marrying her. See Quo

[37] Leda bore by Jupiter, who visited her in the form of a swan, two
eggs from one of which came Pollux and Helen and from the other Castor
and Clytemnestra.

[38] Europa was carried off to Crete by Jupiter in the form of a bull.

[39] Danae was mother of Perseus by Jupiter who visited her in the form
of a shower of gold.

[40] Bacchus, god of wine, son of Jupiter and Semele.

[41] Hercules, son of Jupiter and Alcmena, was pursued by Juno’s hatred.

[42] Hebe was daughter of Juno, cupbearer to the gods, and wife of
Hercules after his deification.

[43] After Nero’s adoption by Claudius, he became Octavia’s brother.

[44] Whole passage similar to Vergil.

[45] The Great Bear Constellation.

[46] The appearance of a comet was considered a herald of misfortune. A
comet appeared at this time and was generally supposed to portend the
fall of the reigning prince.

[47] In 63, a comet, great tempests, pestilence, the partial
destruction of Pompei by an earthquake, and the news of the evacuation
of Armenia by the Roman legions seemed to confirm the belief that the
blessing of the gods was no longer with the emperor.

[48] Typhon was the youngest son of Tartarus and Tellus who was angry
at Jupiter’s giving birth to Minerva. Typhon was a monster with one
hundred heads, fearful eyes, and terrible voices, who wished to obtain
dominion over gods and men but was subdued by Jupiter.

[49] Life of Nero by Suetonius.

[50] The Domitian gens was noted for its cruelty.

[51] Tacitus affirms that Messalina was actually married with the most
formal ceremonies to her lover, Caius Silius, during the lifetime of
Claudius, her lawful husband.

[52] Britannicus.

[53] Sextus, son of Tarquinius committed an outrage upon Lucretia who,
after informing her husband Collatinus and father Lucretius, stabbed
herself. The people then arose and drove out the Tarquins.

[54] Tullia, wife of Tarquinius, urged her husband to the murder of her
father. She drove her chariot over the mangled body and her father’s
blood spurted over her and her carriage.

[55] Nero attempted to shipwreck his mother on her return from Baiae
to Bauli, but the empress was picked up by boats from the shore and
carried to Lucrine villa. Nero immediately sent Amicetus with a band of
soldiers to complete the crime. As she lay dying from her many wounds,
she exclaimed, “Strike the womb which bore a monster.”

[56] L. Annaeus Seneca was a senator and philosopher in the reign
of Caligula. Incurring the displeasure of Messalina, the wife of
Claudius, he was banished in 41 A.D. to Corsica. He was recalled in 48
by Agrippina to be the tutor of Nero. After the accession of his pupil
to the throne, Seneca was for a long time the ruling power, but being
implicated in the Pisonian conspiracy, he was driven to suicide 65 A.D.

[57] Eight weary years of waiting were relieved by study and
authorship. He is said to have written his extant tragedies during his

[58] When Jupiter ordered the flood to come, Deucalion and his wife
Pyrrha alone found refuge on Mt. Parnassus. They were ordered by
the oracle to cast behind them the bones of their mother which they
interpreted to be the stones of the earth. As they threw the stones,
those thrown by Deucalion became men and those by Pyrrha became women.

[59] Saturn was the father of all the gods. His reign was the Golden
age, the age of innocence and happiness.

[60] Second was the Silver Age when good Saturn was banished from above
and Jove reigned.

  “To this came next in course the Brazen Age;
  A warlike offering prompt to bloody rage;
  Not impious yet!
  Hard steel succeeded then;
  And stubborn as the metal were the men.”

  Ovid’s Metam--Book I Dryden’s Translation.

[61] Evidently something omitted.

[62] Astraea was goddess of purity and innocence and daughter of
Justice. After she was driven from earth, she was placed among the
stars where she became the constellation Virgo.

[63] Nero Claudius Caesar, the sixth of the Roman emperors, born 37
A.D. was the son of Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina, the daughter of
Germanicus. He was originally named Lucius Domitius. After the death
of Ahenobarbus and a second husband, Crispus Passienus, Agrippina
married Claudius who gave his daughter Octavia to Nero in marriage and
subsequently adopted him with the formal sanction of the senate.

[64] Cornelius Sulla who had been banished to Massilia in 58 was put to
death on the grounds that his residence in Gaul was likely to arouse
disaffection in that province, and a similar charge proved fatal to
Rubellius Plautus who had for two years been living in retirement in

[65] Formal title of the emperor.

[66] Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, originally Gaius
Octavius. After his adoption by his great uncle, C. Julius Caesar, he
was called Augustus by the senate. He defeated Brutus and Cassius, his
adopted father’s murderers, at Philippi B.C. 42.

[67] In Nero’s first speech, he placed the authority of the senate on
the same footing with the consent of the soldiers.

[68] Brutus murdered Caesar, his patron.

[69] Augustus, Antony, and Lepidus formed a triumvirate and made a
proscription of all their enemies. More than two thousand knights
and three hundred senators were thus put to death and their property

[70] Marcus Antonius, the triumvir, received Asia as his share and
there met Cleopatra. He followed her to Egypt, a victim of her charms.
At the battle of Actium, her flight and Antony’s subsequent pursuit
changed the destiny of the Roman empire.

[71] Pompeius had fallen victim to the charms of the beautiful Egyptian.

[72] Agrippina embraced the cause of the wretched Octavia and declared
herself to be the protectress of her injured innocence.

[73] Poppaea Sabina, a very beautiful but licentious woman. She was the
daughter of T. Ollius but assumed the name of her maternal grandfather,
Poppaeus Sabinus. She was first married to Rufrius Crispinus and
afterward to Otho from whom she was divorced in order to marry Nero.
She persuaded Nero to murder his mother who was opposed to the
marriage. She was killed by a kick from Nero.

[74] Similar to Catullus and Vergil.

[75] The Romans were very indignant at this marriage.

[76] Noblesse oblige.

[77] Tantalus was admitted to the feasts of the gods, but having
disclosed their secrets he was sent for punishment to the lower world
where he stood up to his chin in water under an overhanging fruit tree,
both of which retreated whenever he attempted to satisfy the hunger and
thirst which tormented him.

[78] Sisyphus’ task in the lower world was to roll up hill a huge stone
which constantly rolled back again.

[79] A vulture was constantly feeding upon Tityos’ liver which as
constantly grew again.

[80] Ixion was bound to an ever-revolving wheel.

[81] Life of Nero by Suetonius.

[82] In 66 occurred the visit of the Parthian prince, Tiridates to
Italy to receive his crown from the hands of the Roman emperor.

[83] Compare with curse of Dido in Vergil when Aeneas went below.

[84] Wedding day of Poppaea and Nero.

[85] Poppaea’s head appeared on the coins side by side with Nero, and
her statues were erected in the public places of Rome.

[86] Sejanus. Juvenal’s Satires.

[87] Seneca and Burrhus were both opposed to the marriage.

[88] Similar to Catullus.

[89] The wedding of Peleus and Thetis was honored by the presence of all
the gods with the exception of Discord who was not invited and who took
revenge by throwing among the assembled gods the golden apple which was
the source of so much misery.

[90] Poppaea’s dream.

[91] Poppaea’s first husband was Rufrius Crispinus.

[92] Attempt of the nurse to explain the dream.

[93] Twelve days after Nero divorced Octavia, he married Poppaea who
brought a false accusation against the former wife, and Octavia was
imprisoned in Campania. When the citizens murmured against such an
unjust decree and Nero recalled her, they rushed tumultuously to the
capital to offer sacrifice. They overthrew all the statues of Poppaea
within reach and crowned Octavia’s. They surged around the palace until
the emperor dispersed them with an armed force.

[94] Rebellion against Nero.

[95] Octavia was banished to the island of Pandataria where she was
murdered by order of Nero. Her head was severed from her body and
carried to the cruel Poppaea. Vows and sacrifices were offered to the
gods by order of the senate.

[96] Nero.

[97] Livilla, the wife of the younger Drusus son of the emperor
Tiberius, was persuaded by her lover, Sejanus, to poison her husband.

[98] Julia, daughter of Caligula and Milonia Caesaria, suffered death
with her mother after the assassination of her father.

[99] Messalina.

[100] Now Ventotene; a small island off the coast of Campania to which
political offenders were sometimes banished.

[101] Iphigenia was daughter of Agamemnon who offered her up to appease
the gods. She was rescued by Diana and carried off in a cloud to the
land of the Tauri where it fell to her lot to offer up as victims all
strangers who were shipwrecked on the coast.

[102] Aulis, a harbor in Beotia where Iphigenia was offered in

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

The original text is typewritten with hand corrections by the author.

Some text on the certification page following the title page in the
original text is handwritten, and this text is shown in italics.

Character names are underlined in the original script, and these are
shown in italics.

Footnotes, which appear on the page where they are anchored in the
original text, have been moved to the end of the text and relabeled
consecutively through the document.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original text, except that obvious typographical errors have been

The following changes were made:

p. 3: Materneus changed to Maternus (Curiatius Maternus. There)

p. 11: A footnote anchor is missing on this page in the original text.
The anchor for the footnote 17 in the original text was reassigned
to footnote 18, and an anchor for footnote 17 was inserted based on

p. 11: to added (go to the)

p. 14: The last footnote on this page in the original text has no
anchor. It is a duplicate of footnote 29 on the next page, and it was

p. 19: Footnotes 40 and 41 were reversed to agree with hand corrections
made by the author on this page.

p. 23: Tarquinus changed to Tarquinius on this page and also in
footnotes 53 and 54.

p. 50: Footnote 96 does not have a label or anchor in the original
text, and an anchor was inserted based on context.

p. 51: Footnotes 99, 100, and 101 are mislabeled in the original text,
and the labels were changed.

p. 51: Aulus changed to Aulis on this page and also in footnote 102.

p. 51, footnote 100: Vendutene changed to Ventotene (Now Ventotene; a)

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Translation of Octavia, a Latin Tragedy, with Notes and Introduction" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.