Moody Teenaged Nero Listening to Seneca, his Tutor
When I was reading Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I often wondered what it would be like to have a leader of state who was a child, like Nero who assumed the purple at the age of 17 after the death of Claudius. Seneca, the philosopher, became a tutor to Nero when the future emperor was 12. When Nero became emperor, Seneca became his advisor.
In the year 59, Nero arranged the murder of his mother, Agrippina, and Seneca as imperial advisor was involved in the matricide. Seneca wrote to the Senate exculpating Nero for this crime.
I speak of the Seneca as adopted by Christianity, the Seneca as Stoic Philosopher, attempting to teach Nero moderation. How ghastly it must have been to watch his charge go from crime to even greater crime!
To have a totally out-of-control emperor leading the empire! And to have tutored him for years, only to see his teachings ignored!
Young Nero Being Tutored
In actuality, I think Seneca was a hypocritical scoundrel, who wrote of Philosophy merely as an exercise in rhetoric. Seneca was an obsequious flatterer of an egomaniac, an amoral philanderer, and a man who used his position of power to cheat and steal from those less powerful.
Still he was able to watch his charge, Nero, degenerate and even to partake in his crimes, powerless to even lift a hand in protest. No wonder he as a Stoic, for it made a virtue of his wretched morality.
An unbalanced child-emperor surrounded by scoundrels... I could never think the reality of such a thing in the the grimoire of imagination!