Epicharis (Pisonian conspirator)

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Epicharis (d. 65) was an Ancient Roman freedwoman and a leading member of the Pisonian conspiracy against the emperor Nero.

According to Polyaenus[1] she was the mistress of a brother of Seneca, and it may be that through this connection she became acquainted with the plot of the conspirators, though Tacitus says that it was unknown by what means she had acquired her knowledge of it.

She endeavored by all means to stimulate the conspirators to carry their plan into effect. But as they acted slowly and with great hesitation, she at length grew tired, and resolved upon trying to win over the sailors of the fleet of Misenum in Campania, where she was staying. One Volusius Proculus, a chiliarch of the fleet, appears to have been the first that was initiated by her in the secret, but no names were mentioned to him. Proculus had no sooner obtained the information than he betrayed the whole plot to Nero.

Epicharis was summoned before the emperor, but as no names had been mentioned, and as no witnesses had been present at the communication, Epicharis easily refuted the accusation. She was, however, kept in custody. Subsequently, when the conspiracy was discovered, Nero ordered her to be tortured on the rack because she refused naming any of the accomplices; but neither blows, nor fire, nor the increased fury of her tormentors, could extort any confession from her. When on the second or third day after she was carried in a sedan chair – for her limbs were already broken – to be tortured a second time, she strangled herself on her way by her girdle, which she fastened to the chair. She thus acted, as Tacitus says, more nobly than many a noble eques or senator, who without being tortured betrayed their nearest relatives.[2]



  1. ^ viii. 62 (cited by Schmitz)
  2. ^ Tac. Ann. xv. 51, 57; Dion Cass. lxii. 27. (cited by Schmitz)