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Nero’s secret police believe they have come on the first hints of a plot against the emperor’s life. Once promising and gifted—friend of poets, pupil of the great Seneca—Nero has now bloodied himself and grown fat on power, and he has turned his back on the men of intellect who used to be his chosen circle. He has driven Seneca into retirement. He has proscribed the writings of Lucan, Rome’s foremost poet. Crass, mediocre men—the military and the secret police—now have his ear and favor. While he and his court give themselves to dreamlike pleasures and fetes, the obsessed secret police close in on (or do they foment, or imagine?) the conspiracy of the men of letters.