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to the augural priesthood. Thus far his career had been one of unbroken success: but it was soon his misfortune to offend the emperorl in some way or other. Nero seems to have shewn a rival's jealousya of the poetic reputation of Lucan, and the latter retaliated by making a scoff of the imperial verses, and even by composing libellous epigrams on them and their author. The Pharsalia, on which he had lately been engaged, and which he had begun with extravagant praise of Nero, seems to have now changed its tone: denunciations of tyranny are inserted here and there, and lines that seem to convey dark hints of coming change. We learn from Tacitus that the Emperor had forbidden him to recite in publice: this was more than the spirit of the haughty young Stoic could brook, and being a man of considerable wealth 4 he withdrew to his beautiful gardens there to brood over his wrong.
In the latter part of the year 64 a conspiracy5 was formed against Nero, the leading spirits in which were one of the consuls for the following year and some officers of the imperial guard. At its head was placed C. Calpurnius Pisoo, a man of illustrious birth and good abilities, in fact the most eminent of the Roman nobles. But whatever strength the conspirators may have gained from the traditional rivalry of the Pisos with the imperial house was more than neutralized by the easy weakness of their leader's character. Such was the plot to which Lucan and other men of note became parties. The assassination of Nero was to have been effected early in the year 65, but the plan taken up in haste was not carried through with energy8; the existence of a conspiracy was soon betrayed 9 to the agents of the emperor: and an accident presently revealed the names of some of its members 10. These when arrested made disclosure of the names of the others, and thus the whole scheme col
i Sueton. fragm. 10. * Tac. Ann. XV. 49. Sueton. fragm. 10. 3 Tac. Ann. XV. 49. 4 Ib. xvi. 17. Juv. VII. 79, with Prof. Mayor's notes. 5 Tac. Ann. XV. 48, 49.
6 Ib. xv. 48. 7 1b. xv. 49. Sueton. fragm. 10.
8 Tac. Ann. XV. 50, 52, 53. 10 Ib. xv. 54, 55.
11 Ib. xv. 56.
9 1b. xv. 51.
lapsed. Among the first taken was Lucan, and to him as to others false offers of forgiveness were addressed in order to extort from him the names of accomplices. Here the young poet failed to act up to his Stoic training?: under the fear of death his constancy gave way, and after holding out for a while he charged his own mother Acilia with a share in the plot. But neither this nor a string of confessions? which followed could save him : he was soon like the rest condemned to die, the mode of death being left to his own choice. Accordingly he nerved himself for his end, went into a hot bath and had his veins opened3 : there he calmly bled to death in the same way as many other Romans of mark did in those days of tyranny when suicide was the only refuge from despair. While the life-blood ran from him he is said to have repeated aloud some appropriate lines from his own great poem (ix. 811—814):
sanguis erant lacrimae : quaecunque foramina novit
membra fluunt venis: totum est pro vulnere corpus. Thus died Lucan; and his uncle Seneca and his father Melas were involved in the same ruin. His wife, the beautiful and virtuous Polla Argentarias to whom he had been tenderly attached, survived him many years : and to her were addressed in memory of her husband some short epigrams of Martial, and the long and over-drawn panegyric of Statius.
Viewing the events of Lucan's life as a whole we may fairly point to the life of Naevius as in many respects parallel. The earlier poet sang of the first Punic war, in which he had when a youth taken part; the young enthusiast of the decadence tells of the great civil struggle just past, the effects of which were still felt and seen: bold in the choice of a main subject, both handled it with a vigour for which they likewise found vent in scurrilous invective: and as the great houses of the commonwealth, lashed by the Saturpians of Naevius, worked the ruin of their assailant, so an imperial tyrant, stung by jealousy and incensed at the freedom of Lucan, destroyed him through his own rashness. Indeed, looking at the long-lived popularity of the poems of Naevius, one is almost tempted to ask, May not our poet have caught some of his reckless frankness from an early study of and admiration for the writings of his great forerunner?
1 Ib. xv. 56. Sueton. fragm. 10.
2 Tac. Ann. XV. 57. 3 Ib. xv. 70. Sueton. fragm. 10. 4 Tac.
nn. xv. 60–64, XVI. 17. 5 Statius Silv, II. vii. 81–88, 120–131. Mart. VII. 31, 23.
A. Spirit of the Poem.
In the composition of the Pharsalia, Lucan was subject to two powerful influences : the one his devotion to the Senate as the representative of the wealthy and cultivated class to which he himself belonged; the other his attachment to the principles of the Stoic philosophy, in which he had been brought up. Wishing then to see the Senate more fully recognized as the source of the imperial power, and drawing boldness of speech from his Stoic training, he takes the Senatel for his hero. By a skilful manipulation of history he manages to make Pompeius stand out in the character of its championand leader; while Cato was ready to his hand as a type of the ideal Stoic. On them accordingly are lavished all the poet's praises and lamentations: no pains are spared to represent thein as men great in their public, good in their private life: the fidelity and tender love of husband and wife is in either case pourtrayed by Lucan with a pathos to which, but for these passages), we should have deemed him a stranger. Caesar, on the contrary, is the unscrupulous demagogue and soldier of fortune, hating the nobles, courting the mob, reckless of bloodshed, boundless in his ambition. As his supporter, Curio plays the second part4, an unprincipled traitor who sells his country for the gold of Caesar. Fate—and here we see the 1 See 11. 532, 566, iv. 801, v. 7–49, VII. 578—585.
3 See II. 338-349, V. 739–790. 4 See iv. 798—824, V. 40, 1. 269–291.
2 See V. 14:
Stoic-is with them, and they overthrow the party of law and
maius ab hac acie, quam quod sua saecula ferrent,
in regnum nasci ? pavidi num gessimus arma,