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The Emperor is Dead

Contributed by David Verne

Early in the fall, Agrippina sends Narcissus south to Campania to recover from a bad case of gout, and while he did have gout, this was really an excuse to get him out of the way. She planned to poison Claudius but wasn't sure how to go about it. If she used a fast acting poison, people would suspect something, but if she used a slower poison, Claudius might learn what had happened and declare Brittanicus his heir instead of Nero. Agrippina hires a specialist in poisons, a woman named Locusta, who had been convicted for murder by poison but was kept by the Imperial court as a possible agent. She concocted a poison that would work slowly but would also degrade Claudius' mental state. The story diverges, and it's not certain what happened next. The most common story is that the poison was smeared on some mushrooms during Claudius' dinner. The poison failed to kill him and only brought about severe pains, after which his doctor administered a different poison, killing him instantly. Agrippina holds Brittanicus under house arrest and presents Nero to the Praetorian Guard, and after promising large donatives, they hail him as Emperor without too much trouble. [1] [2]

My Take by David Verne
Politicians from any period are almost always dishonest and only out for power, with few exceptions. In modern day, this doesn't include assassinations and brewing poisons, but politicians still use everything to undermine their political opponents. Most of the time this involves dragging to light questionable things that their opponents did years ago, and in today's digital society, everything they have done online can be found.

Corbulo prepares for an Armenian Campaign

Contributed by David Verne

Nero has ordered Corbulo, an experienced general, to lead the eastern legions in a campaign to depose the Parthian appointed king of Armenia and reinstall a Roman puppet. When he arrived in Syria, he found that the four legions stationed there were in a horrible state after serving garrison duty for too long. There were soldiers who had never stood sentry duty, sold their helmets and shields, and were better traders than soldiers. Corbulo set about turning them into proper legions. He discharged those who were to old or sick and levied reinforcements to bring them up to full strength. During the winter, Corbulo marched them into the mountains and had them camp in tents even though the ground was so covered with ice, they had to dig places for the tents. Many men died on watch and one soldier had his hands freeze to a load of firewood and fall off. Many men were deserting and Corbulo ordered that first offenders would be executed, unlike other armies were first and second offenders received leniency. It will take four years until Corbulo is satisfied with the legions enough to begin the campaign. [3]

My Take by David Verne
Corbulo was renowned as a harsh disciplinarian. One account talks about a soldier who was digging a trench without wearing his sword. Corbulo had him dragged out and put to death for being on duty without a weapon The next day another soldier went on trench duty naked wearing only his sword and sword belt, and Corbulo put him to death too. The reason that his entire army didn't mutiny was because Corbulo was a good officer. When his men were camping in the freezing mountains, he slept in a tent in the same camp. When his men were working, he was out in the work parties encouraging them and caring for the sick. He wasn't his soldiers' friend; he was their leader, and everyone knew it.

See Also


  1. Tacitus, Cornelius. The Annals. 
  2. Duncan, Mike (July 26, 2009). A Farewell to Claudius.
  3. Tacitus, Cornelius. The Annals. 

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