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On this page: Briso – Britannicus – Britomaris – Britomartis



BRISO, M. A'NTIUS, tribune of the plebs, B.C. 137, opposed the tabellaria lex of his colleague L. Cassius Longinus, but was induced by Scipio Africanus the Younger to withdraw his opposition. (Cic. Brut. 25.)

BRITANNICUS, son of Claudius and Messa-. lina, appears to have been born in the early part of the year a. d. 42, during the second consulship of his father, and was originally named Claudius Tibe­rius Germanicus. In consequence of victories, or pretended victories, in Britain, the senate bestowed on the emperor the title of Britannicus, which was shared by the infant prince and retained by him during the remainder of his life as his proper and distinguishing appellation. He was cherished as the heir apparent to the throne until the disgraceful termination of his mother's scandalous career (a. d. 48); but Claudius, soon after his marriage with the ambitious and unscrupulous Agrippina, was prevailed upon by her wiles and the intrigues of the freedman Pallas, her paramour, to adopt L. Do-mitius, her son by a former husband, to grant him Octavia, sister of Britannicus, in marriage, and to give him precedence over his own offspring. This preference was publicly manifested the year fol­lowing (51), for young Nero was prematurely in­vested with the manly gown, and received various marks of favour, while Britannicus still wore the simple dress of a boy. Indications of jealousy were upon this occasion openly displayed by Brit­annicus towards his adopted brother, and Agrip-pina seized upon his conduct as a pretext for re­moving by banishment or death the most worthy of his preceptors, and substituting creatures of her own in their place. Claudius is said before his death to have given tokens of remorse for his con­duct, and to have hastened his own fate by incau­tiously dropping some expressions which seemed to denote a change of purpose. After the accession of Nero, Britannicus might perhaps have been per­mitted to live on in harmless insignificance, had he not been employed as an instrument by Agrip-pina for working upon the fears of her rebellious son. For, when she found her wishes and com­mands alike disregarded, she threatened to bring the claims of the lawful heir before the soldiery and publicly to assert his rights. Nero, alarmed by these menaces, resolved at once to remove a rival who might prove so dangerous : poison was procured from Locusta—the same apparently whose infamy has been immortalized by Juvenal—and administered, but without success. A second dose of more potent efficacy was mixed with a draught of wine, and presented at a banquet, where, in ac­cordance with the usage of those times, the chil­dren of the imperial family, together with other noble youths, were seated at a more frugal board apart from the other guests. Scarcely had the cup touched the lips of the ill-fated prince, when he fell back speechless and breathless. While some fled, and others remained gazing in dismay at the horrid spectacle, Nero calmly ordered him to be removed, remarking that he had from infancy been subject to fits, and would soon revive. The obse­quies were hurried over the same night; historians concur in reporting, that a terrible storm burst forth as the funeral procession defiled through the forum towards the Campus .Martius, and Dion adds, that the rain, descending in torrents, washed away from the face of the murdered boy the white paint with which it had been smeared, and re-


vealed to the gaze of the populace the features swollen and blackened by the force of the deadly potion.

There is some doubt and confusion with regard to the date of the birth of Britannicus. The state­ment of Suetonius (Claud. 27), that he was born in the second consulship of Claudius and on the twen­tieth day of his reign, is inconsistent with itself; for Claudius became emperor on the 24th of Janu­ary, a. d. 41, and did not enter upon his second consulship until the 1st of January, a. d. 42. Ta­citus also has committed a blunder upon the point, for he tells us, in one place (Ann. xii. 25), that Britannicus was two years younger than Nero; and we learn from another (Ann. xiii. 15), that he was murdered at the beginning of a. D. 55, a few days before he had completed his fourteenth year. But we can prove, from Tacitus himself (Ann. xii. 58, xiii. 6), that Nero was born A. d. 37, and from Suetonius that the event took place upon the 15th of December; therefore, according to this last as­sertion, Britannicus must have been born in the year 39 or at the beginning of 40 at latest; but this would bring him to the completion of his fifteenth year in 55. If Britannicus was born on the twentieth day after his father's accession, then he would be on the eve of completing his fourteenth year in January, 55 ; if he was born in the second consulship of Claudius, and this seems to be the opinion of Dion Cassius (Ix. 12), he was only about to enter upon his fourteenth year. Under the first supposition, he was somewhat more than three years younger than Nero ; under the second, some­what more than four. (Tacit. Ann. xi. 4, 26, 32 ? xii. 2, 25, 41, xiii. 15, 16 ; Suet. Claud. 27, 43, Nero, 6, 7, 33 j Dion Cass. Ix. 12, 22, 34, Ixi. 7.)

[W. R.]


BRITOMARIS, a leader of the Senonian Gauls, who induced his countrymen to murder the Roman ambassadors who had been sent to com­plain of the assistance which the Senones had rendered to the Etruscans, then at war with Rome. The corpses of the Roman ambassadors were man­gled with every possible indignity ; and as soon as the R,oman consul, P. Cornelius Dolabella, heard of this outrage, he marched straight into the coun­try of the Senones, which he reduced to a desert, and murdered all the males, with the exception of Britomaris, whose death he reserved for his tri­umph. (Appian, Samn. v. 1, 2, p. 55, ed. Schw., Gall. xi. p, 83; comp. Polyb. ii. 19; Liv. Epit. 12.)

BRITOMARTIS (Bpirofj-apris), appears to have originally been a Cretan divinity of hunters and fishermen. Her name is usually derived from fipiTvs, sweet or blessing, and juap-m, i. e. /mpz/a, a maiden, so that the name would mean, the sweet or blessing maiden. (Paus. iii. 14. § 2 ; Solin. 11.) After the introduction of the worship of Artemis into Crete, Britomartis, between whom and Artemis there were several points of resemblance, was

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