But the days of Caius drew rapidly to an end. His gross and unheard-of insults to Valerius Asiaticus and Cassius Chaereas brought on him condign vengeance. It is an additional proof, if proof were wanting, of the degradation of Imperial Rome, that the deed of retribution was due, not to the people whom he taxed; not to the soldiers, whole regiments of whom he had threatened to decimate; not to the knights, of whom scores had been put to death by his orders; not to the nobles, multitudes of whom had been treated by him with conspicuous infamy; not even to the Senate, which illustrious body he had on all occasions deliberately treated with contumely and hatred,—but to the private revenge of an insulted soldier. The weak thin voice of Cassius Chaereas, tribune of the praetorian cohort, had marked him out for the coarse and calumnious banter of the imperial buffoon; and he determined to avenge himself, and at the same time rid the world of a monster. He engaged several accomplices in the conspiracy, which was nearly frustrated by their want of resolution. For four whole days they hesitated, while day after day, Caius presided in person at the bloody games of the amphitheatre. On the fifth day (Jan. 24, A.D. 41), feeling unwell after one of his gluttonous suppers, he was indisposed to return to the shows, but at last rose to do so at the solicitation of his attendants. A vaulted corridor led from the palace to the circus, and in that corridor Caius met a body of noble Asiatic boys, who were to dance a Pyrrhic dance and sing a laudatory ode upon the stage. Caius wished them at once to practice a rehearsal in his presence, but their leader excused himself on the grounds of hoarseness. At this moment Chaereas asked him for the watchword of the night. He gave the watchword, “Jupiter.” “Receive him in his wrath!” exclaimed Chaereas, striking him on the throat, while almost at the same moment the blow of Sabinus cleft the tyrant’s jaw, and brought him to his knee. He crouched his limbs together to screen himself from further blows, screaming aloud, “I live! I live!” The bearers of his litter rushed to his assistance, and fought with their poles, but Caius fell pierced with thirty wounds; and, leaving the body weltering in its blood, the conspirators rushed out of the palace, and took measures to concert with the Senate a restoration of the old Republic. On the very night after the murder the consuls gave to Chaereas the long-forgotten watchword of “Liberty.” But this little gleam of hope proved delusive to the last degree. It was believed that the unquiet ghost of the murdered madman haunted the palace, and long before it had been laid to rest by the forms of decent sepulchre, a new emperor of the great Julian family was securely seated upon the throne.
THE REIGN OF CLAUDIUS, AND THE BANISHMENT OF SENECA.
While the senators were deliberating, the soldiers were acting. They felt a true, though degraded, instinct that to restore the ancient forms of democratic freedom would be alike impossible and useless, and with them the only question lay between the rival claimants for the vacant power. Strange to say that, among these claimants, no one seems ever to have thought of mentioning the prince who became the actual successor.