A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

or BURRHUS, AFRANIUS, a distinguished Roman general under Claudius and Nero, who was appointed by Claudius sole praefectus praetorio, A. D. 52, upon the recommendation of Agrippina, the wife of the emperor, as she hoped to obtain more influence over the praetorian cohorts by one man being their praefect instead of two, especially as Burrus was made to feel that he owed his elevation to her. Burrus and Seneca conducted the education of Nero, and although they were men of very different pursuits, yet they agreed in their endeavours to bring up the young prince in virtuous habits. When Claudius died in A. D. 55, Burrus accompanied Nero from the palace to the praetorians, who, at the command of their praefect, received Nero with loud acclamations. It appears, indeed, that Nero owed his elevation to the throne chiefly to the influence of Burrus. The executions which Agrippina ordered in the beginning of Nero's reign were strenuously opposed by Burrus and Seneca. When Nero had given orders in A. D. 60 to put his mother Agrippina to death, and was informed that she had escaped with a slight wound, he consulted Burrus and Seneca, hoping that they would assist him in carrying his

plan into effect; but Burrus refused to take any part in it, and declared that the praetorians were bound to afford their protection to the whole house of the Caesars. In the same manner Burrus opposed Nero's design of murdering his wife Octavia. At length, however, Nero, who had already threatened to deprive Burrus of his post, resolved to get rid of his stern and virtuous officer, and accordingly had him killed by poison, A. D. 63. Tacitus, indeed, states, that it was uncertain whether he died of illness or in consequence of poison, but the authority of other writers leaves no doubt that he was poisoned by the emperor. The death of Burrus was lamented by all who had felt the beneficial influence he had exercised, and the power which Seneca had hitherto possessed lost in Burrus its last supporter. (Tac. Ann. 12.42, 69, 13.2, 20, &c., 14.7, 51, 52; D. C. 52.13; Suet. Nero 35.)