Ἄκουε δὴ λόγου ἀτόπου μέν, ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖς δὲ Ἑλλήνων πεπραγμένου. Ἰσθμοῖ γὰρ νόμου κειμένου μήτε κωμῳδίαν ἀγωνίζεσθαι μήτε τραγῳδίαν, ἐδόκει Νέρωνι τραγῳδοὺς νικᾶν. καὶ παρῆλθον εἰς τὴν ἀγωνίαν ταύτην πλείους μέν, ὁ δ’ Ἠπειρώτης ἄριστα φωνῆς ἔχων, εὐδοκιμῶν δ’ ἐπ’ αὐτῇ καὶ θαυμαζόμενος λαμπρότερα τοῦ εἰωθότος ἐπλάττετο καὶ τοῦ στεφάνου ἐρᾶν καὶ μηδ’ ἀνήσειν τῆς νίκης. ὁ δ’ ἠγρίαινέ τε καὶ μανικῶς εἶχε· καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ ἠκροᾶτο ὑπὸ τῇ σκηνῇ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ δὴ τἀγῶνι. βοώντων δὲ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἐπὶ τῷ Ἠπειρώτῃ, πέμπει τὸν γραμματέα κελεύων ὑφεῖναι αὐτῷ τοῦτον. αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑπεραίροντος τὸ φθέγμα καὶ δημοτικῶς ἐρίζοντος εἰσπέμπει Νέρων ἐπ’ ὀκριβάντων τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ ὑποκριτὰς οἷον προσήκοντάς τι τῷ πράγματι· καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ δέλτους ἐλεφαντίνους καὶ διθύρους προβεβλημένοι αὐτὰς ὥσπερ ἐγχειρίδια καὶ τὸν Ἠπειρώτην ἀναστήσαντες πρὸς τὸν ἀγχοῦ κίονα κατέαξαν αὐτοῦ τὴν φάρυγγα παίοντες ὀρθαῖς ταῖς δέλτοις.
(Philostratus (?), Nero 8-9)

Listen then to a tale that may be extraordinary but yet took place before the eyes of Greeks. Although custom ordains that there should be no comic or tragic contests at the Isthmus, Nero resolved to win a tragic victory. This contest was entered by several including the man from Epirus*, who, having an excellent voice which had won him fame and admiration, was unusually ostentatious in pretending that he had set his heart on the crown of victory and wouldn’t give it up before Nero gave him ten talents as the price of victory. Nero was mad with rage; for he had been listening under the stage during the actual contest. When the Greeks shouted in applause of the Epirote, Nero sent his secretary to bid him yield to him. But he raised his voice and went on competing as if they were all free and equal, till Nero sent his own actors on to the platform as though they belonged to the act. For they held writing tablets of ivory and double ones indeed poised before them like daggers and, forcing the Epirote against the pillar near-by, they smashed his throat in with the edge of their tablets.

* Alternatively Epirotes may be the man’s name.

(tr. Matthew D. MacLeod, with his note)

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