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Freedmen Tacitus

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11.29 Narcissus, Pallas and Callistus conspired to bring down Messalina, though only Narcissus took action.

11.33 During the Messalina plot, Narcissus was given command of the Praetorian Guard for the day and he organised the suppression.

11.36 ‘Claudius leaned to mercy; but the freedmen decided him, after so many executions of the great, not to spare anyone.’

11.37 When he saw Claudius’s resolve weakening, Narcissus ordered the murder of Messalina; Evodus, one of the freedmen, was commissioned to guard against escape and to see that the deed was done. Finding her dead, Narcissus upbraided her mother ‘with a stream of slavish insults’.

11.38 Narcissus was made quaestor.

12.1 There was conflict between the freedmen over who should select a consort for Claudius. Narcissus supported Aelia Paetina; Callistes supported Lollia Paulina; and Pallas supported Agrippina.

12.25 Pallas wrote Claudius’s speech to the Senate seeking Nero’s early elevation to the toga.

12.53 Pallas designed a law whereby any free woman (femina) marrying a slave would be reduced in status to a freedwoman or (if she married without the consent of the slave’s master) a slave.

Barea Soranus, consul designate, proposed that Pallas be given the praetorian insignia, awarded 15m sesterces and given the national thanks – he refused the honours.

12.65 Pallas committed adultery with Agrippina.

13 Claudius’s freedmen and slaves conspired in the rebellion of ad42.

24 He created a freedman as a senator, although he insisted that he be first adopted by an eques, declaring that his family-founder had done so in the past.

25 He confiscated the property of freedmen pretending to be eques, and reduced them back to slaves if they complained.

‘These and other acts, and in fact almost the whole conduct of his reign, were dictated not so much by his own judgment as that of his wives and freedmen, since he nearly always acted in accordance with their interests and desires.’

28 Of his freedmen:

  • He had special regard for the eunuch Posides, whom he even presented with the headless spear at his British triumph, along with those who had served as soldiers.

  • He was equally fond of Felix, giving him the command of cohorts and of troops of horse, as well as of the province of Judaea.

  • Also of Harpocras, to whom he granted the privilege of riding through the city in a litter and of giving public entertainments.

  • Still higher was his regard for Polybius, his literary adviser, who often walked between the two consuls.

  • But most of all he was devoted to his secretary Narcissus and his treasurer Pallas, and he gladly allowed them to be honoured in addition by a decree of the senate, not only with immense gifts, but even with the insignia of quaestors and praetors.

29 ‘Wholly enslaved to freedmen and his wives, he acted, not as a princeps, but as a servant, lavishing honours, the command of armies, pardons or punishments, according to their wish or whim; and that too for the most part in ignorance and blindly.’

  • When soldiers killed an ex-consul without orders, he nevertheless approved the act, since his freedmen declared that the soldiers had done their duty in hastening to avenge their emperor without instructions.

37 Narcissus watched over Claudius’s safety whilst he slept.

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