First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Caius, surnamed Caligula, son of Drusus Augustus, stepson of the emperor and grandson of Tiberius, was the fourth Roman emperor. At the age of twenty he was sent to Capri in Cantania, where he was invested with the robe of peace by Tiberius for several days. He served in the senate four times, completed the half-finished buildings begun under Tiberius, namely the Temple of Augustus and the Market of Pompey. He also started the aqueducts of Tiburti, and built many cities in his name. He was tall, pale of complexion, ungainly in body, had thin legs and neck, hollow eyes and temples, broad forehead, little hair, and none at all where the hair parts. His look was dark and terrifying, an appearance he deliberately maintained. He wore neither the dress nor the footwear of his ancestors, nor that of the citizenry, but dressed in clothes embroidered with pearls and gems. His bitter, cruel words resulted in tragedies, and he was considered a most outrageous man. He did nothing praiseworthy or chivalrous at home or abroad, but destroyed all things in a spirit of avarice. He was so sexually debased that he took advantage of his own sisters, and so gruesome that he is often said to have remarked, "I wish that the Roman people had but one neck." He was so envious of persons of renown that he caused their writings and images to be removed from the libraries. He appointed Agrippa king of Judea and exiled Herod to Lyons. Caligula was slain by his own people in the tenth month of the third year of his reign, at the age of 29 years. His body was secretly carried off, burned, and buried.[Caligula, Roman emperor, 37-41 CE, was the son of Germanicus and Agrippina. He was born in 12 CE and brought up among the legions in Germany. His real name was Caius Caesar, and he was always called Caius, Caligula being a nickname given him by the soldiers because as a small boy he wore little caligae, or soldiers’ boots. He gained the favor of Tiberius, who raised him to offices of honor and held out hopes to him of his succession. On the death of Tiberius he succeeded to the throne. His first acts promised a just and beneficent rule. He pardoned those who had appeared against his family, released state prisoners, restored the power of the magistrates and promised to govern according to law. He behaved with generosity toward foreign princes and restored them to their thrones. But after a serious illness that probably weakened his mental powers, he appears in the literary record as a madman. He put to death Tiberius, grandson of his predecessor, compelled his grandmother and other members of his family to do away with themselves, often causing persons of both sexes and of all ages to be tortured to death for his amusement at meals. On one occasion he ordered a great number of spectators at the circus to be thrown to the wild beasts. Suetonius relates his famous wish that the Roman people had but one head, that he might cut it off at one blow. His marriages were disgracefully contracted and speedily dissolved. He considered himself a god, built a temple for himself, and appointed priests to attend to his worship. Sometimes he officiated as his own priest, making his horse, Incitatus, which he afterward raised to the consulship, his colleague. He exhausted the state treasury with fantastic projects. He built a bridge on which he gave a splendid banquet, concluding the entertainment by throwing a number of guests into the sea. The Roman world at length grew tired of this madman, and four months after his return to the city he was murdered.]

Claudius, cousin of Caius Caligula, was the fifth Roman emperor, receiving the office (as Josephus states) through the help and zeal of Agrippa, king of Judea, Claudius was born at Lyons on the day that a temple was there dedicated to the emperor Augustus; and he was called Tiberius Claudius Drusus. From early age until he became fifty he was zealously devoted to the liberal arts. In perception and judgment, he showed an uncertain disposition. He subjugated Britain, a feat that no one had attempted either before or after Julius Caesar. He also subjugated the Orkneys to the Roman emperor. He constructed buildings larger than necessary. Through a mountain he built a canal three thousand feet in length; and in the course of eleven years, by the employment of thirty thousand men without interruption, built the port of Ostia on either side of the inlet as a protection to Rome. He espoused Aelia Paetina (Eliam Petinam), but divorced her on trivial grounds. Later he married Messalina, who had been previously engaged to another. For this and other misdeeds he caused her to be executed. Then he married Agrippina who enticed him by her studied affections. Claudius was well formed in body, long but not thin, and his hair was white. He was thick-necked, and a glutton for food and wine. He was finally poisoned by Agrippina at the age of sixty-four, in the 14th year of his reign. A comet foretold his death.[Claudius I, Roman emperor 41-54 CE, (whose full name was Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus) was the younger son of Drusus, the brother of the emperor Tiberius and Antonia, and was born 10 BCE at Lyons in Gaul. In youth he was weak and sickly, and was neglected and despised by his relatives. When he grew up he devoted the greater part of his time to literary pursuits, but was not allowed to take any part in public affairs. He had reached the age of fifty when he was suddenly raised by the soldiers to the imperial throne after the murder of Caligula. He was married four times. At the time of his accession he was married to his third wife, the notorious Messalina, who governed him for some years, together with the freedmen Narcissus, Pallus, and others. After the execution of Messalina in the year 48, Claudius was still more unfortunate in choosing for his wife his niece, Agrippina. She prevailed upon him to set aside his own son, Britannicus, and to adopt her son Nero, that she might secure the succession for the latter. He soon after regretted this step, and was in consequence most likely poisoned by Agrippina in the year 54.]

Nero, stepson of Claudius, and a legitimate son of Agrippina and Gnaeus Domitius, her husband, was the sixth emperor of the Romans, and was born nine months before Tiberius died. His own name was Domitius, as was that of his father. But when the emperor Claudius gave him his own daughter Octavia in marriage, he called him Nero. From youth he loved horses. From time to time he secretly indulged in youthful errors, wantonness, selfishness, and cruelty; but as his vices increased in course of time, he openly committed great evils. He indulged in gluttony from noon to midnight, and in all things became more evil and wanton than the above named Caligula. He caused a great number of the senators to be slain, and proved a wreckless squanderer of wealth. He caused himself to be anointed with cold creams, and went fishing with golden nets with purple cords. These vices he concealed at the beginning of his reign, thus making all men hopeful as to his future conduct. He was a man of medium stature, bodily odors, yellow hair, a beautiful countenance, but more devoted to his body than to customs and manners. His eyes were dark, his neck thick; he had a protruding belly and thin legs, and his body was probably in good health. In his time a fire occurred at Rome which lasted for six days, and for which he was blamed. However, to avoid responsibility, he suborned witnesses to say that the Christians were the cause. And so a great number of Christians were made prisoners and were slain. Some say that Nero burned the city in order to see a fire like that which destroyed Troy. He employed his raging cruelties against Seneca, Lucan, his own mother, his wife, and all persons who were held in esteem at Rome. At last he succumbed to the hatred of the Roman people, and being sought for punishment, he fled and killed himself at the age of 30, in the fourteenth year of his reign.

Nero (Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus), emperor of Rome from 54 to 68 CE, was the son of Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and Agrippina the younger, and his name was originally L. Domitius Ahenobarbus. His father died when he was scarcely three, and in the previous year his mother had been banished by order of her brother Caligula. Nero early found shelter in the house of his aunt Domitia. The emperor Claudius recalled Agrippina, who spent the next thirteen years in a struggle to obtain the succession of the throne for Nero. She married Claudius in 49, and in 50 he adopted Nero as his son, recalling Seneca from exile to be his tutor. On his fourteenth birthday he assumed the toga virilis (A plain white toga worn on formal occasions by most Roman men of legal age, generally about 14 to 18 years) and was introduced to the Senate by Claudius with the title of princeps iuventutis (‘leader of the youth’). This made his succession almost certain, Britannicus, the son of Claudius by Messalina notwithstanding. In 54 Claudius died, most likely poisoned by Agrippina’s orders, and Nero took the throne, only a few voices being raised for Brittanicus, whom Agrippina, by playing on Nero’s fears, induced him to poison at a banquet. It is this Britannicus who is the subject of a tragedy by Racine.

Agrippina’s maneuvering was a complete success, and Rome welcomed the new emperor with enthusiasm, as his prestige and good qualities, carefully fostered by Seneca, had made him popular, while his darker passions were as yet unsuspected. But Seneca saw from the first that the real danger with Nero lay in his savage temper and passions, which he made it his chief aim to stave off by every means in his power. During the first five years little occurred to dampen the popular enthusiasm. Nero’s promises were fulfilled and the Senate found itself free to discuss and decide important administrative questions. Even the murder of Britannicus was accepted as a measure of self-defense.

In 58 Nero was enslaved by Poppaea Sabina, a woman of a very different stamp from her predecessor. By rousing Nero’s jealousy she induced him to seek the death of Agrippina. Accordingly, she was invited to Baiae, where, after an affectionate reception, she was but on a vessel constructed to fall apart at a given signal. Agrippina saved herself by swimming, but later her villa was surrounded by soldiers who murdered her in her own chamber. The public was made to believe the murder justified because of treacherous designs on the part of the victim. On Agrippina’s death Nero’s advisers Burrus and Seneca were replaced by Poppaea and the infamous Tigellinus. Her triumph now complete, Poppaea became the wife of Nero.

A number of disasters occurred in Nero’s reign, but none produced a greater impression than the burning of Rome in 64. After six days it was finally quenched, but only a few sections of the city remained untouched. Nero is (probably unjustly) blamed for having deliberately caused it, and this undoubtedly told against him. The disaster was widely regarded as evidence of the wrath of the gods. The cost of reconstruction was enormous and the tax burden in consequence extremely oppressive. Poppaea died in 65, and the general gloom of the times was increased by a pestilence that followed the fire. Revolts occurred in Spain and Germany. When the palace guards finally left their post Nero fled for shelter to a freedman’s villa some four miles out of Rome. There he heard the senate’s proclamation of Galba as emperor, and of the death sentence passed on himself. On the approach of his executioners he mustered up sufficient courage to commit suicide. He died in the year 68 CE, at the age of 31, and in the 14th year of his reign.