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April 12.

St. Sabas, A.D. 372. St. Zeno, Bp. A. D. 380. St. Julius, Pope, A.D. 352. St. Victor, of Braga.


65. Seneca, the philosopher, a native of Corduba in Spain, died at Rome, in the fifty-third year of his age. His moral writings have secured lasting celebrity to his name. He was preceptor to Nero, who, in the wantonness of power when emperor, sent an order to Seneca to destroy himself. The philosopher complied by opening his veins and taking poison. During these operations he conversed calmly with his friends, and his blood flowing languidly he caused himself to be placed in a hot bath, till Nero's soldiers becoming clamorous for quicker extinction of his life, it was necessary to carry him into a stove and suffocated him by steam.* [1] A distinguished French writer † [2] quotes a passage from Seneca remarkable for its christian spirit; but this passage is cited at greater length by a living English author,‡ [3] in order to show that Seneca was acquainted with christian principles, and in reality a christian.

We may almost be sure that it was impossible for Paul to have preached "in his own hired house," at Rome, without Seneca having been attracted thither as an auditor, and entered into personal communication with the apostle. There exists a written correspondence said to have passed between Paul and Seneca, which, so far as regards Seneca's epistles, many learned men have supposed genuine.


While Nero followed Seneca's advice, Rome enjoyed tranquillity. This emperor, who was tyrannical to a proverb, commenced his reign by acts of clemency, his sole object seemed to be the good of his people. When required to sign a list of malefactors, authorizing their execution, he exclaimed, "I wish to heaven I could not write." He rejected flatterers; and when the senate commended the justice of his government, he desired them to keep their praises till he deserved them. Such conduct and sentiments were worthy the pupil of Seneca, and the Romans imagined their happiness secure. But Nero's sensual and tyrannical disposition, which had been repressed only for a time, soon broke forth in acts of monstrous cruelty. He caused his mother Agrippa to be assassinated, and divorced his wife Octavia, whom he banished to Campania. The people, enraged at his injustice toward the empress, so openly expressed their indignation that he was compelled to recall her, and she returned to the capital amidst shouts of exultation.

The Empress Octavia's return from Exile

The Empress Octavia's return from Exile.

The popular triumph was of short duration. Scarcely had Octavia resumed her rank, when Nero, under colour of a false and infamous charge, again banished her. Never exile filled the hearts of the beholders with more affecting compassion. The first day of Octavia's nuptials was commencement of her funeral. She was brought under a sad and dismal roof, from whence here father and brother had been carried off by poison. Though a wife, she was treated as a slave, and now she suffered the imputation of a crime more piercing than death itself. Add to this, she was a tender girl in the twentieth year of her age, surrounded by officers and soldiery devoted to her husband's will, and whom she viewed as sad presages of his ferocious purposes. Almost bereft of life by her fears, and yet unwilling to surrender herself to the rest of the grave, she passed the interval of a few days in unspeakable terror. At length it was announced to her that she must die; but while she implored that at least her life might be spared, and conjured Nero to remember the relationship which before marriage they had borne to each other, by descent from a revered ancestor, she only exemplified the utter inefficacy of crouching to a truculent tyrant. Her appeals were answered by the seizure of her person, and the binding of her limbs; her veins were opened, but her blood, stagnant through fear, issued slowly, and she was stifled in the steam of a boiling bath. "For this execution the senate decreed gifts and oblations to the temples; a circumstance," says Tacitus, "which I insert with design, that whoever shall, from me or any other writer, learn the events of those calamitous times, he may hold it for granted, that as often as sentences of murder and banishment were pronounced by the prince, so often were thanksgivings by the fathers paid to the deities." Every decree of the senate was either a new flight of flattery, or the dregs of excessive tameness and servitude.

Nero and the Roman Senate.

Nero and the Roman Senate.

From this moment Nero butchered without distinction all he pleased, upon any idle pretence, and after an indiscriminate slaughter of men signal in name and quality, he became possessed with a passion to hew down virtue itself. His crimes would be incredible if they were not so enormous that it is scarcely possible imagination could invent atrocities of so foul a nature. He had attained to such indulgence in bloodshed, that the dagger itself was dedicated by him in the capitol, and inscribed to Jupiter Vindex, Jove the Avenger. Yet to this monster one of the consuls elect proposed that a temple should be raised at the charge of the state, and consecrated to the deified Nero as to one who soared above mortality, and was therefore entitled to celestial worship. This, though designed as a compliment to the tyrant, was construed into an omen of his fate, "since to princes," says Tacitus, "divine honours are never paid till they have finally forsaken all commerce with men," or, in other words, have ceased to be useful to them. Suetonius relates, that somebody in conversation saying, "When I am dead let fire devour the world"— "Nay," rejoined Nero, "let it be whilst I am living;" and then he set Rome on fire, in so barefaced a manner, that many of the consular dignitaries detected the incendiaries with torches and tow in their own houses, and dared not touch them because they were officers of Nero's bedchamber. The fire, during six days and seven nights, consumed a prodigious number of stately buildings, the public temples, and every thing of antiquity that was remarkable and worthy of preservation. The common people were driven by this conflagration to the tombs and monuments for shelter; and Nero himself beheld the flames from a tower on the top of Mæcenas's house, and sung a ditty on the destruction of Troy, in the dress which he used to perform in on the public stage. This atrocious want of feeling occasioned the saying— "Nero fiddled while Rome was burning." To divert the hideousness of this crime from himself, he transferred the guilt to the Christians. To their death and torture were added cruel derision and sport; "for," says Tacitus, "either they were disguised in the skins of savage beasts, and exposed to expire by the teeth of devouring dogs; or they were hoisted up alive and nailed to crosses; or wrapt in combustible vestments, and set up as torches, that when the day set, they might be kindled to illuminate the night." For this tragical spectacle Nero lent his own gardens, and exhibited at the same time the public diversions of the circus, sometimes driving a chariot in person, and at intervals standing as a spectator amongst the vulgar in the habit of a charioteer; and hence towards the miserable sufferers popular commiseration arose, as for people who were doomed to perish to gratify the bloody spirit of one man. At length, while plotting new and uncommon barbarities, an insurrection broke out amongst the troops, and the senate, who had truckled to his wishes, and made him a tyrant by submitting to be slaves, took heart and issued a decree against him. He committed suicide, under circumstances of such mental imbecility, that his death was as ludicrous as his life was horrible.

1765. Dr. Edward Young, author of the "Night Thoughts," died.

1782. Admiral Rodney defeated the French fleet under count de Grasse, in the West Indies.

1814. A general illumination in London, on three successive nights, for the termination of the war with France.


Great Saxifrage. Saxifraga crassifolia.
Dedicated to St. Zeno.

An Epitaph.

(Written on a chimney-board.)

Here lie entombed
of a
in his youth it is confessed
discovered some sparks
of a light and volatile nature,
but was in maturity
of a steady and a grateful disposition
and diffusive benevolence.
Though naturally of a warm temper,
and easily stirred up,
yet was he a shining example
of fervent and unreserved benignity.
For though he might have been
the most dangerous and dreadful
of enemies,
yet was he the best and warmest of
Nor did he ever look cool
even on his worst foes,
though his friends too often,
and shamefully indeed,
turned their backs upon him.
Oh! undeserving and licentious times,
when such illustrious examples
are wantonly made light of!
Such resplendent virtue
basely blown upon!
Though rather a promoter of a cheerful glass
in others,
and somewhat given to smoking,
yet was he himself never seen
in liquor,
which was his utter abhorrence.
which ruins most constitutions,
was far from spoiling his,
though it often threw him
into inflammatory disorders.
His days, which were short,
were ended by a gentle decay,
his strength wasted,
and his substance spent.
A temporal period
was put to his finite existence,
which was more immediately effected
by his being seized
with a severe cold,
and no help administered,
in some of the warm days
of the fatal month of
His loss and cheerful influence
are often and feelingly regretted
by his sincere admirers,
who erected this monument
in memory
of his endearing virtue,
till that grateful and appointed day,
the dormant powers
of his more illustrious nature
shall be again called forth:
inflamed with ardour,
and with resplendence crowned,
he shall again rise
songs of joy and triumph
o'er the grave.


Notes [All notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated.]:

1. Lempriere. [return]

2. Bayle, Art. Pericles. [return]

3. Dr. John Jones, "On the Truth of the Christian eligion." [sic] [return]