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Latin Text, Study Aids with Vocabulary, and Commentary, by Mathew Owen and Ingo Gildenhard

(i) 33.1–34.1: Nero’s coming-out party as stage performer

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Chapter 33

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 33.1 C. Laecanio M. Licinio consulibus acriore in dies cupidine adigebatur Nero promiscas scaenas frequentandi. nam adhuc per domum aut hortos cecinerat Iuvenalibus ludis, quos ut parum celebres et tantae voci angustos spernebat.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 As John Henderson points out to us, this paragraph initiates a narrative stretch in which a rhythmic pattern of ‘ins-and-outs’ (or ‘es and ads’) bursts out all over through the to-and-fro of the storytelling, dancing attendance round Nero: [33] adigebatur – adeptus – eliceret – e proximis coloniis – acciverat – [34] – evenit – egresso – adfuerat – edebatur – adsumptus…[36] edicto – adiit – aditurus – egressus – adversum – evenerat – acquireret – e terris – adstabant – …

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 C. Laecanio M. Licinio consulibus: As we have seen, this is the annalistic formula that indicates the beginning of the consular year (our AD 64). Gaius Laecanius Bassus outlived Nero and died during the reign of Vespasian (Pliny, Natural Histories 26.5). Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi, however, was indicted for treason by the delator M. Aquilius Regulus and executed by Nero.[1] He thus followed in the footsteps of his parents, who died under Claudius.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 acriore in dies cupidine adigebatur Nero promiscas scaenas frequentandi: The sentence is beautifully balanced: acriore in-dies cupidine [= 3 words] + adigebatur Nero [main verb and subject] + promiscas scaenas frequentandi [3 words]. At the same time, further syntactical aspects and relations generate the impression that Nero is carried away by disgraceful desire:

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 the minor hyperbaton acriore … cupidine, with the intervening phrase in dies generates the impression of an unstoppable escalation.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 the major hyperbaton cupidine … promiscas scaenas frequentandi (the genitive of the gerund depends on cupidine and takes promiscas scaenas as accusative object) enmeshes and overpowers the emperor, who is caught in the middle.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 the passive verb adigebatur and the inversion of normal word order (verb – subject, rather than subject – verb) again suggests that Nero’s rational agency is compromised: he is pushed along by his desires.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 the placement of verb and subject in the middle produces a powerful climax: we first get the ever-increasing desire, then the disconcerting intelligence that it has been overpowering the emperor, and, finally, the clarification of what the desire consists in: repeated (cf. frequentandi) appearances on stage in performances open to the public (cf. promiscas).

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 promiscas scaenas: promiscas refers to the fact that Nero’s stage performances were now open to the public. He needed now to have indiscriminate access to the stage, no-holds-barred (cf. immodicus above).

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 nam adhuc per domum aut hortos cecinerat Iuvenalibus ludis, quos ut parum celebres et tantae voci angustos spernebat: Tacitus frequently supplies background information in a main clause in the pluperfect, set up by an adverb such as adhuc or iam, and followed by a subordinate clause situated in the narrative present. In terms of syntax, the sentence here recalls 23.2: iam senatus uterum Poppaeae commendaverat dis votaque publice susceperat, quae multiplicata exolutaque: (i) adverb (iam; adhuc); (ii) a main clause in the pluperfect (commendaverat, susceperat; cecinerat) providing background information; (iii) a relative clause that details actions in the narrative present (quae … exsolutaque; quos … spernebat). Both sentences are perfect illustrations of Tacitus’ habit of distributing information in surprising ways across main and subordinate clauses.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Iuvenalibus ludis: The reference is to the Juvenile Games that Nero celebrated in AD 59, at the occasion of his first shave as a 21-year-old. These games took place in Nero’s palace and his gardens, i.e. were not open to the general public. Special festivities at this rite of passage were unremarkable. See Cassius Dio 48.34.3 on how Caesar Octavianus celebrated the occasion: ‘For example, when Caesar now for the first time shaved off his beard, he held a magnificent entertainment himself besides granting all the other citizens a festival at public expense. He also kept his chin smooth afterwards, like the rest; for he was already beginning to be enamoured of Livia also, and for this reason divorced Scribonia the very day she bore him a daughter.’ The future emperor Augustus, of course, did not contribute to the entertainment himself.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 quos ut parum celebres et tantae voci angustos spernebat: The antecedent of quos is hortos, i.e. the gardens of the imperial estate. There is irony in Tacitus’ voice as he says Nero felt these private performances did not attract the attendance figures (cf. ut parum celebres) he desired. Nero’s talents as a singer and lyre-player are often derided in our sources, and the advanced position of tantae (such a great [voice]) has a sarcastic ring to it, especially since the appraisal of his vox as tanta is focalized for us through Nero himself. The vivid adjective angustos (literally, ‘narrow’, a ludicrous descriptor of the imperial gardens) suggests Nero feels restricted by his current opportunities to perform and wants ‘more space.’ Compare the account in Suetonius, Nero 20:

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Inter ceteras disciplinas pueritiae tempore imbutus et musica, statim ut imperium adeptus est, Terpnum citharoedum vigentem tunc praeter alios arcessiit diebusque continuis post cenam canenti in multam noctem assidens paulatim et ipse meditari exercerique coepit neque eorum quicquam omittere, quae generis eius artifices vel conservandae vocis causa vel augendae factitarent; sed et plumbeam chartam supinus pectore sustinere et clystere vomituque purgari et abstinere pomis cibisque officientibus; donec blandiente profectu, quamquam exiguae vocis et fuscae, prodire in scaenam concupiit, subinde inter familiares Graecum proverbium iactans occultae musicae nullum esse respectum.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 [Having gained some knowledge of music in addition to the rest of his early education, as soon as he became emperor he sent for Terpnus, the greatest master of the lyre in those days, and after listening to him sing after dinner for many successive days until late at night, he little by little began to practise himself, neglecting none of the exercises which artists of that kind are in the habit of following, to preserve or strengthen their voices. For he used to lie upon his back and hold a leaden plate on his chest, purge himself by the syringe and by vomiting, and deny himself fruits and all foods injurious to the voice. Finally encouraged by his progress, although his voice was weak and husky, he began to long to appear on the stage, and every now and then in the presence of his intimate friends he would quote a Greek proverb meaning ‘Hidden music counts for nothing.’]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 33.2 non tamen Romae incipere ausus Neapolim quasi Graecam urbem delegit: inde initium fore, ut transgressus in Achaiam insignesque et antiquitus sacras coronas adeptus maiore fama studia civium eliceret.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Tacitus here takes a step back. Nero’s desire to appear on stage may have been driving him on, but even he has not entirely lost a sense of decorum. He does not dare to inaugurate his career as a public performer in Rome but chooses a Greek city famous for its Greek entertainment culture instead. Tacitus presents this choice both as an avoidance of Rome and as an anticipation of Nero’s trip to Greece, which would happen several years later (AD 66–67).

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Romae: A locative: ‘in Rome’.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Neapolim quasi Graecam urbem: Neapolis, modern Naples, was, as its Greek name (nea = new; polis = city, hence: ‘New City’) implies, originally a Greek foundation. The quasi here thus has causal force. Although it had long been part of Roman Italy, Neapolis seems to have retained much of its Greek character. Aristocratic norms were more flexible there, making it a more suitable place for Nero to inaugurate his career as a public performer. The antithesis between Greek and Roman is significant. Traditional Roman thinkers saw themselves as the guardians of great civilised Roman values (mores maiorum). They may have enjoyed and respected Greek art and literature, but Greek behaviour, morals and practices came with a stigma: Greekness was often tied up in Roman thought with luxury and immorality. Nero’s desires are such that he has to leave Rome and find the nearest ‘Greek city’ to allow an outlet for his foreign, un-Roman, or, indeed, ‘novel/ weird/ revolutionary’, urges.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 inde initium fore, ut transgressus in Achaiam insignesque et antiquitus sacras coronas adeptus maiore fama studia civium eliceret: inde initium fore is an indirect statement dependent on an implied verb of thinking. Tacitus slyly lets us partake of what he assumes were Nero’s thoughts/ motivations at the time. According to him, the emperor already in AD 63 harboured grandiose plans of ‘conquering’ the Greek world with his showbiz talents, anticipating a triumphant return to Rome and an enthusiastic welcome from his fellow-citizens, not unlike those accorded to the military conquerors of old.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 inde initium: The alliteration stresses that Nero envisages this performance as just a debut: an ominous sign! Both initium and antiquitus chime with/against the ‘newness’ of Naples.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 transgressus in Achaiam insignesque et antiquitus sacras coronas adeptus: The –que after insignes links transgressus and adeptus. The two participles (transgressus; adeptus) and the phrases they govern (in Achaiam; insignesque et antiquitus sacras coronas) are arranged chiastically.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 transgressus in Achaiam: The Roman province of Achaea essentially covered mainland Greece. The participle transgressus carries an aggressive note, in a double sense: Nero is transgressing against Roman cultural norms; and he is invading Greece, reversing the cultural conquest of Italy famously noted by Horace at Epistle 2.1.156–57: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artis | intulit agresti Latio (‘Conquered Greece conquered/ captivated her wild vanquisher and brought her arts to rustic Latium’).

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 insignesque et antiquitus sacras coronas adeptus: Winners in prestigious Greek competitions received wreaths (coronae) as prizes. Nero’s thoughts here are designed to put across his devotion to and love of all things Greek: these wreaths are longingly described with the very positive adjectives insignes and antiquitus sacras (lit. ‘anciently sacred’). Moreover, there is the arrogance and mindset of a tyrant here in the participle adeptus (‘having won’): Nero does not doubt for one moment that he will be victorious – and why would he as emperor of the known world! This is Tacitus subtly showing us Nero’s perversion of these competitions.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 maiore fama: The word fama (fame) is an ambiguous word in Latin: it can mean ‘fame’ in the positive sense or, in a negative sense, ‘disgrace’, ‘notoriety.’ We are of course in Nero’s thoughts, so ‘he’ means that he will win glory among the citizens; at the same time, we can hear Tacitus’ cynicism and wonder whether the actual result will be Nero achieving disgrace and notoriety.[2]

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 studia civium eliceret: Nero imagines that his feats on stage will hit the spot, coax enthusiasm from the citizens.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 33.3 ergo contractum oppidanorum vulgus, et quos e proximis coloniis et municipiis eius rei fama acciverat, quique Caesarem per honorem aut varios usus sectantur, etiam militum manipuli, theatrum Neapolitanorum complent.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 The sentence features a series of subjects: (i) vulgus, which governs the perfect participle contractum; (ii) the implied antecedent of quos, i.e. ei; (iii) the implied antecedent of qui, i.e. ei; (iv) manipuli. They all go with the main verb at the end: complent. The et links vulgus and the first implied ei; the –que after qui links the two implied ei; Tacitus then continues, climactically, with etiam (‘even’). The pronounced polysyndeton magnifies the list of those co-opted to swell the emperor’s enormous retinue. Tacitus revels in the idea of so many men from so many different groups flooding into the theatre of Neapolis.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 oppidanorum vulgus: The oppidani are the townsfolk of Neapolis, in contrast to the Roman citizens (cives) mentioned in the previous sentence. The word vulgus (‘crowd’, ‘mob’) suggests that Nero’s local audience is made up of the lowest elements of society.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 coloniis et municipiis: Although originally distinct forms of settlement (a colonia being a settlement of Roman citizens, a municipium an independent Italian town), by this period the distinction had lost some of its significance. Tacitus uses both to exaggerate Nero’s recruitment to his fan-club, drawing from anywhere he could all over the country.[3]

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 eius fama: Here we meet that wonderfully ambiguous word fama again. Once again Tacitus uses it to imply (without explicitly saying) that these men were attracted by the infamy of what Nero was up to: in other words, he not only blackens Nero’s character, but also suggests that the men who flocked to him were lowlifes, attracted to Nero’s outrageous designs like flies round the proverbial canine ordure.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 quique Caesarem per honorem aut varios usus sectantur: In the midst of this unseemly rabble the words Caesarem and honorem seem incongruous. They help to give a sense of noble, devoted servants of the emperor caught up in this group. The impression is undone by the vague and promiscuous aut varios usus that follows it. Tacitus may have had in mind the so-called Augustiani – a special group of young men formed by Nero some years previously, to follow him, flatter him and applaud his performances: ‘All great performers had their own claques (fautores histrionum) to cheer them on and to whip up the audience with elaborate rhythmic chants and hand-clapping. It was at his private Juvenile Games, celebrated in 59, that Nero first introduced his Augustiani, Roman knights in their prime who made both day and night ring with applause and praise of Nero’s godlike beauty and voice. … By the time Nero first appeared in public in Naples, in 64, these Roman knights were backed by some 5,000 hardy plebeian youths. They were divided into groups, factiones, to learn the different elaborate forms of clapping (imported from Alexandria) – “the buzzings,” “the tiles,” “the bricks” – by which Nero had been captivated and which they performed vigorously when he sang.’[4] (What, do you think, did ‘the buzzings’, ‘the tiles’, and ‘the bricks’ sound like?) They would have been amongst this group, and the frequentative verb sectantur (‘keep following around’, ‘follow in the train of’) suggests their fawning attendance on the emperor.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 per honorem aut varios usus: The preposition per has a causal sense here. honestum (‘the honourable’) and utile (‘the advantageous’) are two key concepts in (philosophical) ethics, extensively discussed in (for instance) Cicero’s de Officiis.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 etiam militum manipuli: etiam (‘even’) and the delay of this group to the end of the long list, makes clear that the soldiers’ presence was the most shocking: Nero has enlisted soldiers (most likely members of the Praetorian guard) to join his fan-club in the theatre and to cheer him on. The maniple was a company in the Roman army, numbering two centuries (i.e. about 120 men in total). Here it is plural (manipuli), indicating that Nero took a very sizeable number of soldiers with him. Their presence, stressed by the alliteration, the etiam and their final position in the list, seems highly incongruous: these fighting men of Rome are there, not to invade, but to watch their emperor disgrace himself like a Greek on the stage.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 theatrum Neapolitanorum complent: The object and verb come along at last after a long list of subjects, piling into the theatre. The verb complent makes abundantly clear the number of Nero’s assembled supporters – they pack the house out.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Chapter 34

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 34.1 Illic, plerique ut arbitrabantur, triste, ut ipse, providum potius et secundis numinibus evenit: nam egresso qui adfuerat populo vacuum et sine ullius noxa theatrum collapsum est. ergo per compositos cantus grates dis atque ipsam recentis casus fortunam celebrans petiturusque maris Hadriae traiectus apud Beneventum interim consedit, ubi gladiatorium munus a Vatinio celebre edebatur.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 illic, plerique ut arbitrabantur, triste, ut ipse, providum potius et secundis numinibus evenit: One could rephrase the sentence as follows, to bring out Tacitus’ syntactic contortions: illic res evenit tristis, ut plerique arbitrabantur, sed provida et secundis numinibus, ut ipse arbitrabatur. In other words, we have:

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 a hysteron proteron: Tacitus first gives us the evaluation, then the fact that is being evaluated (indeed, we have to wait until the next sentence to find out what actually happened – but the effect is already noticeable here with arbitrabantur preceding evenit);

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 the use of adjectives (triste, providum) in the place of nouns; triste stands in antithetical contrast to providum potius et secundis numinibus;

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 a parallelisms with twists: plerique ut arbitrabantur corresponds to ut ipse, but the subject plerique is pulled out of the first ut-clause for emphasis and in the second ut-clause the verb is elided.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 The parallel structure and anaphora of ut renders the disparity between most people’s judgment and Nero’s apparent. A majority of right-thinking observers saw this event as triste, in contrast to the one man, Nero himself, who thought otherwise. Nero’s opinion is not just different but the exact opposite. In addition the pleonastic providum … et secundis numinibus, a prolix phrase designed to drown out the word triste with great, yet hollow triumphalist fanfare, suggests the bizarre amount of positive meaning Nero tried to read into the destruction of a theatre. The alliteration providum potius helps to stress the contrast.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 illic: in Neapolis.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 et secundis numinibus: An ablative absolute (with the verb – the non-existent present participle of esse – missing), awkwardly linked to providum with et.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 nam egresso qui adfuerat populo vacuum et sine ullius noxa theatrum collapsum est: Tacitus now explains why Nero viewed the event as favourable – because the theatre was not destroyed while in use. Nevertheless, a theatre collapsing is not generally viewed as providential, and one can appreciate the challenge Nero faced in endowing it with positive meaning. Or, as John Henderson puts it: ‘A failed building was a literal ruina – and everywhere outside Nero’s nutcase spelled “ruination” (of social fabric, the universe, etc).’

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 egresso qui adfuerat populo: An ablative absolute that contains a relative clause within. The antecedent of qui is populo.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 vacuum et sine ullius noxa: As in providum potius et secundis numinibus, Tacitus uses et very creatively here: ‘the theatre collapsed [when it was] empty and [hence] without harm to anyone.’

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 theatrum collapsum est: After much delay Tacitus finally tells us what all the fuss is about. Suetontius, Nero 20.2, identifies an earthquake as the reason for the collapse, which, he claims, set in during one of Nero’s performances: Et prodit Neapoli primum ac ne concusso quidem repente motu terrae theatro ante cantare destitit, quam incohatum absolveret nomon (‘And he made his début at Naples, where he did not cease singing until he had finished the number which he had begun, even though the theatre was shaken by a sudden earthquake shock’).

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 To understand Nero’s reaction better, it is worth recalling Tacitus’ account of a similar disaster at Annals 4.62, where he details the collapse of a full amphitheatre in the year AD 27 (i.e. in the reign of Tiberius):

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [62] M. Licinio L. Calpurnio consulibus ingentium bellorum cladem aequavit malum improvisum: eius initium simul et finis exstitit. nam coepto apud Fidenam amphitheatro Atilius quidam libertini generis, quo spectaculum gladiatorum celebraret, neque fundamenta per solidum subdidit neque firmis nexibus ligneam compagem superstruxit, ut qui non abundantia pecuniae nec municipali ambitione, sed in sordidam mercedem id negotium quaesivisset. adfluxere avidi talium, imperitante Tiberio procul voluptatibus habiti, virile ac muliebre secus, omnis aetas, ob propinquitatem loci effusius; unde gravior pestis fuit, conferta mole, dein convulsa, dum ruit intus aut in exteriora effunditur immensamque vim mortalium, spectaculo intentos aut qui circum adstabant, praeceps trahit atque operit. et illi quidem, quos principium stragis in mortem adflixerat, ut tali sorte, cruciatum effugere: miserandi magis quos abrupta parte corporis nondum vita deseruerat; qui per diem visu, per noctem ululatibus et gemitu coniuges aut liberos noscebant. iam ceteri fama exciti, hic fratrem, propinquum ille, alius parentes lamentari. etiam quorum diversa de causa amici aut necessarii aberant, pavere tamen; nequedum comperto, quos illa vis perculisset, latior ex incerto metus.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [In the consulate of Marcus Licinius and Lucius Calpurnius, the casualties of some great wars were equalled by an unexpected disaster. It began and ended in a moment. A certain Atilius, of the freedman class, who had begun an amphitheatre at Fidena, in order to give a gladiatorial show, failed both to lay the foundation in solid ground and to secure the fastenings of the wooden structure above; the reason being that he had embarked on the enterprise, not from a superabundance of wealth nor to court the favours of his townsmen, but with an eye to sordid gain. Greedy for such amusements, since they had been debarred from their pleasures under the reign of Tiberius, people poured to the place, men and women, old and young, the stream swollen because the town lay near. This increased the gravity of the catastrophe, as the unwieldy fabric was packed when it collapsed, breaking inward or sagging outward, and precipitating and burying a vast crowd of human beings, intent on the spectacle or standing around. Those, indeed, whom the first moment of havoc had dashed to death, escaped torture, so far as was possible in such a fate: more to be pitied were those whose mutilated bodies life had not yet abandoned, who by day recognized their wives or their children by sight, and at night by their shrieks and moans. The news brought the absent to the scene – one lamenting a brother, one a kinsman, another his parents. Even those whose friends or relatives had left home for a different reason still felt the alarm, and, as it was not yet known whom the catastrophe had destroyed, the uncertainty gave wider range for fear.]

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 In the wake of the disaster, Tacitus goes on to report, the senate passed a decree that no one with a fortune of less than 400,000 sesterces should organize gladiatorial games and that amphitheatres had to be built on ground of tried solidity.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 34.2 ergo per compositos cantus grates dis atque ipsam recentis casus fortunam celebrans petiturusque maris Hadriae traiectus apud Beneventum interim consedit, ubi gladiatorium munus a Vatinio celebre edebatur.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 per compositos cantus: compositos implies that Nero wrote the songs himself.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 grates dis atque ipsam recentis casus fortunam celebrans: One can either supply agens with grates dis or take both grates and ipsam fortunam as accusative objects of celebrans in what would be a zeugma. The zeugma gives the sentence a slightly strained feel, helping to convey the oddity of Nero’s actions. ipsam recentis casus (= mis-fortune) fortunam (= luck, good fortune) celebrans amounts to a paradox.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 grates: See above on 20.1.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 celebrans petiturusque: The –que links celebrans and petiturus. Note the variatio here, this time in terms of word order: the present participle celebrans comes at the end of its phrase, whereas the future petiturus… comes at the beginning. The juxtaposition of a present participle and future participle is striking: Nero has hardly finished dealing with one calamity before his mind is already set on the next outrage.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 petiturusque maris Hadriae traiectus: Tacitus uses the poetic phrase maris Hadriae (lit. ‘of the Sea of Hadria’, i.e. the town of Adria, rather than plain adjectival ‘of the Adriatic Sea’). traiectus is accusative plural. One wonders what evidence Tacitus can have had for the claim that already in AD 64 Nero had plans to go straight from his first public appearance on stage at Neapolis on a tour through Greece – two years before he actually did. At 36.1, at any rate, Tacitus reports that Nero had dropped the plan for unknown reasons and returned from Beneventum to Rome: nec multo post omissa in praesens Achaia (causae in incerto fuere) urbem revisit (see below). Now it is true that Beneventum, though situated to the north of Neapolis, would be a good stop on the way to Brundisium, especially if Nero wanted to honour Vatinius with his presence at the games: it was situated at the Via Appia (see Map of Italy); but for the same reasons, Nero might have gone there on his way back to Rome. Given that a tour of Greece by the emperor was a logistical challenge of the first order, it is rather unlikely that Nero opted for and against going at the spur of the moment. Possibly, Tacitus simply made this up, thereby anticipating Nero’s actual trip to Greece two years later and illustrating the fickleness of the emperor on top. Support for this assumption comes from the etymology of Beneventum, which makes it an ideal place to ponder a sea voyage. As John Henderson points out, the story is that the auspicious Latin name ‘Bene-ventum’, ‘Fair wind’ (mildly in tension with consedit: see below), replaced the Latin rendering of the original nice Greek name, Maloeis, ‘Appley’ – ‘Male-ventum’, for portending a bad outcome for heedless voyagers.[5]

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 apud Beneventum interim consedit: Beneventum, a city located on the Via Appia, was the hometown of Vatinius, whom Tacitus introduces in the following clause. See previous note for its etymology. There is a mild pun in consedit as Nero, rather than setting sail, ‘settled’– ‘into his seat’ to watch the gladiator show.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 ubi gladiatorium munus a Vatinio celebre edebatur: For Vatinius, see Miller’s colourful note: ‘he was a native of Beneventum (Juvenal 5.46 [and therefore unrelated to the powerful foe of Cicero, whose family came from Sabine Reate]) and a new type of court character – the licensed buffoon. But such men, in Roman as in medieval times, could be powerful and dangerous. Tacitus recognises his importance, and his colour-value in the narrative.’[6] Gladiatorial games were a very Roman form of entertainment, unlike stage-plays, lyre-playing or athletics.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 celebre: Tacitus delays the attribute that indicates the popularity of this form of entertainment – perhaps implying a contrast with the ‘hired enthusiasts’ that crowded Nero’s performances? (Recall that at 33.1 Nero is presented as deeming his gardens parum celebresfor his talents.)


60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 [1]
See Tacitus, Histories 4.42. Also: Pliny, Letters 1.5.3. For the practice of delation – a new development under the principate – see Introduction Section 2 and 6. Further literature includes Lintott (2001–2003) (including discussion of the republican background) and Rutledge (2001).

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 [2]
On fama see now the magisterial treatment by Hardie (2012), with a discussion of rumour in Tacitus’ historiographical works at 288–313. Flaig (2010a) offers an analysis of rumour in Roman politics from a sociological perspective, with specific reference to the reign of Nero.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [3]
For the varying status of the cities in the Roman Empire see Edmundson (2006) 256–58.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 [4]
Champlin (2003) 59–60. See Suetonius, Nero 20.3 and Annals 14.15.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 [5]
See Maltby (1991) 78.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [6]
Miller (1975) 83.

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Source: https://annals15.theclassicslibrary.com/commentary/section-2-annals-15-33-45/i-33-1-34-1-neros-coming-out-party-as-stage-performer/