The Twelve Caesars translated by Robert Graves
28. Not satisfied with seducing free-born boys and married women, Nero raped the Vestal Virgin Rubria. He nearly contrived to marry the freedwoman Acte, by persuading some friends of consular rank to swear falsely that she came of royal stock. Having tried to turn the boy Sporus into a girl by castration, he went through a wedding ceremony with him - dowry, bridal veil and all - took him to his palace with a great crowd in attendance, and treated him as a wife. A rather amusing joke is still going the rounds: the world would have been a happier place had Nero's father Domitius married that sort of wife. He dressed Sporus in the fine clothes normally worn by an Empress and took him in his own litter not only to every Greek assize and fair, but actually through the Street of the Sigillaria at Rome, kissing him amorously now and then.
The lecherous passion he felt for his mother, Agrippina, was notorious; but her enemies would not let him consummate it, fearing that, if he did, she would become even more powerful and ruthless than hitherto. So he found a new mistress who was said to be her spiting image; some say that he did, in fact, commit incest with Agrippina every time they rode in the same litter - the stains on his clothes when he emerged proved it.
29. Nero practiced every kind of obscenity, and after defiling almost every part of his body finally invented a novel game: he was released from a cage dressed in the skins of wild animals, and attacked the private parts of men and women who stood bound to stakes. After working up sufficient excitement by this means, he was dispatched - shall we say? - by his freedman Doryphorus. Doryphorus now married him - just as he himself had married Sporus - and on the wedding night he imitated the screams and moans of a girl being deflowered. According to my informants he was convinced that nobody could remain chaste or pure in any part of his body, but that most people concealed their secret vices; hence, if anyone confessed to obscene practices, Nero forgave him all his other crimes.
35. Besides Octavia, he took two more wives - first Poppaea Sabina, a quaestor's daughter, at that time married to a knight, and Statilia Messalina, great-great-great-daughter of Taurus who had twice been Consul and won a triumph. To marry Statilia he was obliged to murder her husband Atticus Vestinus, a consul. Life with Octavia had soon bored him, and when his friends criticized his treatment of her, he retorted: Just being an emperor's wife ought surely to be enough to make her happy? He tried unsuccessfully to strangle her on several occasions, but finally pronounced that she was barren, and divorced her. This act made him so unpopular and caused so great a scandal that he banished Octavia and later had her executed on a charge of adultery. Her innocence was maintained by the witnesses called by him to testify against her even under torture; so he bribed his old tutor Anicetus to confess (falsely) that he had tricked her into infidelity. Though he doted on Poppaea, whom he married twelve days after this divorce, he kicked her to death while she was pregnant and ill, because she complained that he came home late from the races. Poppaea had bore him a daughter, Claudia Augusta, who died in infancy.