Tacitus, Annals

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Death of Petronius


With regard to Gaius Petronius, I ought to dwell a little on his character. His days he passed in sleep, his nights in the business and pleasures of life. Indolence had raised him to fame, as energy raises others, and he was reckoned not a debauchee and spendthrift, like most of those who squandered their substance, but a man of refined luxury. . . .

It happened at the time that the emperor was on his way to Campania and that Petronius, after going as far as Cumæ, was there detained. He bore no longer the suspense of fear or of hope. Yet he did not fling away life with precipitate haste, but having made an incision in his veins and then, according to his humor, bound them up, he again opened them, while he conversed with his friends, not in a serious strain or on topics that might win for him the glory of courage. And he listened to them as they repeated, not thoughts on the immortality of the soul or on the theories of philosophers, but light poetry and playful verses. To some of his slaves he gave liberal presents, a flogging to others. He dined, indulged himself in sleep, that death, though forced on him, might have a natural appearance. Even in his will he did not, as did many in their last moments, flatter Nero or Tigellinus or any other of the men in power. On the contrary, he described fully the prince’s shameful excesses . . . and sent the account under seal to Nero. Then he broke his signet-ring, that it might not be subsequently available for imperiling others.

2 , xvi, 18–19.

1Iliad, x, 535.

2 Suetonius, Nero, 49.

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Chicago: Tacitus, Annals in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 239–238. Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6XEXXP95BEMIJGC.

MLA: . Tacitus, Annals, Vol. xvi, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 239–238. Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6XEXXP95BEMIJGC.

Harvard: , Tacitus, Annals. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.239–238. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=6XEXXP95BEMIJGC.