Such are the brief but deeply pathetic particulars which have come down to us respecting the first great persecution of the Christians, and such must have been the horrid events of which Seneca was a contemporary, and probably an actual eye-witness, in the very last year of his life. Profoundly as in all likelihood he must have despised the very name of Christian, a heart so naturally mild and humane as his must have shuddered at the monstrous cruelties devised against the unhappy votaries of this new religion. But to the relations of Christianity with the Pagan world we shall return in a subsequent chapter and we must now hasten to the end of our biography.
THE DEATH OF SENECA.
The false charge which had been brought against Seneca, and in which the name of Piso had been involved, tended to urge that nobleman and his friends into a real and formidable conspiracy. Many men of influence and distinction joined in it, and among others Annaeus Lucanus, the celebrated poet-nephew of Seneca, and Fenius Rufus the colleague of Tigellinus in the command of the imperial guards. The plot was long discussed, and many were admitted into the secret, which was nevertheless marvellously well kept. One of the most eager conspirators was Subrius Flavus, an officer of the guards, who suggested the plan of stabbing Nero as he sang upon the stage, or of attacking him as he went about without guards at night in the galleries of his burning palace. Flavus is even said to have cherished the design of subsequently murdering Piso likewise, and of offering the imperial power to Seneca, with the full cognisance of the philosopher himself. However this may have been—and the story has no probability—many schemes were discussed and rejected, from the difficulty of finding a man sufficiently bold and sufficiently in earnest to put his own life to such imminent risk. While things were still under discussion, the plot was nearly ruined by the information of Volusius Proculus, an admiral of the fleet, to whom it had been mentioned by a freedwoman of the name of Ephicharis. Although no sufficient evidence could be adduced against her, the conspirators thought it advisable to hasten matters, and one of them, a senator named Scaevinus, undertook the dangerous task of assassination. Plautius Lateranus, the cousul-elect, was to pretend to offer a petition, in which he was to embrace the Emperor’s knees and throw him to the ground, and then Scaevinus was to deal the fatal blow. The theatrical conduct of Scaevinus—who took an antique dagger from the Temple of Safety, made his will, ordered the dagger to be sharpened, sat down to an unusually luxurious banquet, manumitted or made presents to his slaves, showed great agitation, and finally ordered ligaments for wounds to be prepared,—awoke the suspicions of one of his freedmen named Milichus, who hastened to claim a reward for revealing his suspicions.