Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. XV.: Of Public Spirit, its use and efficacy. How little promoted by public Teachers. Some Considerations upon the importance and character of Public Spirit. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
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Sect. XV.: Of Public Spirit, its use and efficacy. How little promoted by public Teachers. Some Considerations upon the importance and character of Public Spirit. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon’s Discourses II, History (Books 1-2) [120 AD]
The Works of Tacitus. In Four Volumes. To which are prefixed, Political Discourses upon that Author by Thomas Gordon. The Second Edition, corrected. (London: T. Woodward and J. Peele, 1737). Vol. 3.
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Of Public Spirit, its use and efficacy. How little promoted by public Teachers. Some Considerations upon the importance and character of Public Spirit.
WHILST the public Teachers were so much attached to party and interest, it was no wonder that in their teaching there were many material omissions. One thing of great importance they seem to have almost intirely neglected, I mean the raising and recommending of Public Spirit, so necessary to the prosperity of every Country, and even to the preservation of all. It was this which animated the Roman State, and set the Romans above all other men. But they who instructed the youth of Rome had no by-ends, no detached interests of their own. They inspired such as they taught, with the love of their Country, and of Virtue, and of Honour. The public good, the glory of the State, was the end of all, and to promote it they had learned chearfully to forego every private advantage, nay, life it self. This was a fine spirit, early and constantly infused, and produced men who were a credit and ornament to human nature, and are patterns still for the whole race. Such was the glorious effect of a noble and rational education.
The Romans began to know the value of Liberty, and to feel a passion for the Public Weal, at an age when others since are conning over words, and know little else but to fear the rod, and, without once thinking of their Country, only learn to reverence a particular set of men and names, and heartily to hate all the rest. They are for a course of many years employed about words, and notions, and subtleties; and when they are thus sufficiently disciplined into narrowness of mind, when their heads are well filled with absurd maxims, and unmeaning distinctions, they may be safely trusted abroad in the world, as secure against all free and rational sentiments, and possessed with false ideas of reverence and of aversion, to the end of their lives. When, like the young Romans, they might be shining in assemblies or armies, they are engaged in Logic, and combating in Metaphysics.
Mr. Locke says, “It is matter of astonishment, that men of quality and parts should suffer themselves to be so far misled by custom, and implicit faith. Reason, if consulted, would advise, that their children’s time should be spent in acquiring what might be useful to them when they come to be men, rather than to have their heads stuffed with a deal of trash, a great part whereof they usually never do (it is certain they never need to) think on again as long as they live; and so much as does stick by them, they are only the worse for. This is so well known, that I appeal to parents themselves, who have been at cost to have their young heirs taught it, whether it be not ridiculous for their sons to have any tincture of that sort of learning, when they come abroad into the world; whether any appearance of it would not lessen and disgrace them in company. And that certainly must be an admirable acquisition, and deserves well to make a part in education, which men are ashamed of where they are most concerned to shew their parts and breeding.”
In latter ages the cause of public Liberty has been little beholden to the public Teachers, who, instead of instilling and cherishing Public Spirit, without which Liberty can hardly subsist, have too often exerted all their endeavours to extinguish both. Where-ever Slavery is settled, they help too assiduously to confirm it, and where it is not, many of them have appeared diligent agents to introduce it. Was it thus they merited the profound reverence which they claimed from mankind, thus that they earned the mighty revenues which they enjoyed, for bringing upon men the highest evil which men can suffer, an evil big with every other evil, the dreadful calamity of public Servitude?
For the following part of this Section upon Public Spirit, I am obliged to a noblea Lord of great knowledge, observation and parts, with all which he himself seems to be much less acquainted, than they are who have the happiness of knowing him; and such is the private manner in which he passes most of his time, that his acquaintance are far from numerous: So natural it is for fine qualifications to be accompanied with great modesty.
“It is a remark of Thucydides, that bad Laws well executed are better than good Laws not duly observed. It is not enough for a Nation to have a good Constitution, unless both the Governors and People concur in adhering to it with strictness. Abuses once suffered to creep in, so naturally gain ground, so quickly spread, that it requires constant vigilance to prevent their entrance and growth. A jealousy for the Public is a commendable jealousy, and if ever the excess of any passion were justifiable, it would surely be so here. That temper of mind to which we give the name of Public Spirit, is so necessary to all societies, that it is next to impossible they should long subsist without it. Indeed, whatever difficulties particular men may find in the exercise of it, all men agree to commend it. Nor can there be better proof of the excellency of any character, than to see the very men who resolve never to deserve it, taking great pains to make the world believe that they have a right to it.
“In times of the greatest corruption, we do not find, that ever a corrupt man of any sense durst openly avow his principles, or declare that he made his own interest the measure of his public conduct. Quite otherwise: Such men are apt to start at their own picture, and will not forgive those who discover their views, and represent them in proper colours. Such tenderness is prudential; since the discovery of ill designs, is a step towards defeating them. Besides, men are generally more ashamed of vices which shew the weakness of their understanding, than of those which unfold the corruption of their hearts. It is a confession of the meanness of a selfish disposition, that men are thus loth to be thought governed by it. Though they would be glad to reap benefit from their low pursuits, they are ashamed to be detected in contriving them.
“It therefore looks as if it were equally renouncing the rules of good sense, and every impulse of good nature, to be destitute of regard for the welfare of the Community, or to imagine that any private advantage can stand in competition with the prosperity of the whole. For one nation to grow rich by the spoils of others, is very unjust, yet not always impolitic. But to weaken and impoverish our own Country, is as foolish as it is wicked; since private property must be very insecure, when once that of the public is in danger; nor can it be ever more so than when it comes to be deserted by those whose interest it is to preserve it.
“I believe that scarce any Constitution has been overturned by mere accidents or misfortunes. Errors at home may have immediately contributed to national ruin, and foreign invasion brought it on. But a long course of mismanagements, of ambition and rapine, and of evil and loose administration, has generally preceded all great Revolutions; when the leading men made it their only study to supplant, decry, and oppress each other; when the people were on both sides perverted to serve the narrow and corrupt purposes of particular and opposite Leaders, and were animated not by zeal for their Country, but for hostile factions debauching and rending their Country. Whenever cabals, and licentiousness, whenever corruption, and contempt of authority, are the measures of acquiring, and afterwards of supporting power, the consequences must be oppression and injustice, which will naturally introduce disorder and confusion. A Government thus sapped in the foundations, like a tree loosened at the roots, will infallibly be overturned by the first unruly blast, and would in time be overset even by its own weight.
“Societies can never subsist but through the same means by which they were first instituted. Impartiality and justice, zeal for the Public, and a steady adherence to its interest, are the only national securities. When these are wanting, large Territories, and great Fleets and Armies, will prove but feeble supports; and, in spite of all such splendid appearances, destruction will follow. The several changes of Government in the Grecian Commonwealths, are proofs of this observation. Abuses of power made corruption necessary; corruption produced baseness, luxury, and the extinction of all virtue, and these seldom ended but in some kind of Usurpation and Tyranny. Nor were they brought to a sense of their follies until they had thus suffered for them; and, before they thought of returning to their old principles of honesty and Public Spirit, they must be first awakened by the severe lash of some arbitrary power.
“It was for this integrity of Manners, for this Public Spirit, and inviolable attachment to their Constitution, that the Lacedemonians were so remarkable, as were also the Romans for many ages, and it was through the decay of Public Spirit and national Integrity, that Athens was so near being destroyed in the course of the Peloponnesian War. Alcibiades, who had boundless ambition, employed his great wealth in debauching the people, that by their assistance he might raise himself upon the ruin of his antagonist. Hence also the peace concluded between the two nations by Nicias, was broken a few years after it was made; a breach which brought on all those losses abroad, all those distractions at home, which had like to have ended in the utter subjection of the Republic.
“Many examples of this kind are found in the Roman Historians; but remarkable above all is the story and conduct of Cæsar, who by debauching the people enslaved the State. Whoever reads Tully’s Epistles, which are a curious secret History of those times, must be struck with the prodigious dissolution of manners in that once honest and powerful people. Indeed so astonishing was the change, that they were become even past reclaiming. All the smart of their long and heavy misfortunes was not sufficient to bring them back to a sense of their duty to their Country. Insomuch that when by the death of their Dictator, Liberty was once more, as it were, presented to them, they wanted the courage, or rather they had not the honesty to accept it.
“If we inquire into the accounts of latter days, we still find the same causes regularly producing the same effects. What was it that occasioned those long and desperate civil wars which afflicted and almost destroyed the great and powerful Kingdom of France? Was it not private ambition, private interest carried on under public pretences? The preservation of the old Religion, and the modest request of a toleration to the new, were the outward appearances, and very plausible they were. But the injustifiable ambition of the Princes, and the selfish attachment of their dependents, were the secret springs that produced and prolonged those pernicious disturbances, pernicious not only in weakening and impoverishing the State for the present, but in debauching the principles of all orders of men, and making each side look upon the irregular views of their own party as the only objects of attention and zeal, and thus sacrifice the interest, nay, almost the very being of the Community, to the low and narrow pursuits of furious factions. And when after the short calm of Henry the fourth’s reign, the public disorders began to revive in the minority of his Successor, and it was found necessary for the support of the Royal Power, to curb and break that of the Grandees, an opportunity was furnished to two succeeding Ministers, for their own security as well as their Master’s, totally to destroy all possibility of opposition. So that putting an end to the old establishment, in its room they set up a new, which, probably, the French Nation will never be able to remove or alter.
“It is impossible to forget, on this occasion, the great Revolution in a neighbouring Kingdom, not much above half a century ago. Whilst the Nobility and Commons were wisely quarrelling about the manner of raising the money requisite for disbanding the army, two or three Parricides snatched the opportunity, and sold the Liberties of their Country for two hundred and fifty thousand crowns, and changed an elective and limited Monarchy into one hereditary and absolute.
“Who can reflect on the folly of such conduct, without surprize, when he considers it as sometimes passing upon the world for mighty artifice and cunning? To barter away substances for shadows, to part with a birthright for a mess of pottage, is an absurdity so glaring, that one might as well believe those who do it to be possessed with real honesty, as with any share of wisdom. Contemptible, and poor, and foolish are any terms, even the highest terms, for betraying one’s Country. They who do it, do but teach and encourage others to play the same game upon themselves, where they find by their example it may be done with impunity. What is general dishonesty, but general insecurity? To practise villainy ourselves, is to authorize it in others against us; and it is as natural to lose by it as to gain by it. They who for some profit of their own would defraud mankind of their liberties or fortunes, are like sharpers who intoxicate company with liquor before they play with them. They may succeed in robbing their dupes of their money, but have cause to fear their rage; since by the unjust loss of their money, men are likewise apt to lose all temper.
“Without peace of mind there can be no such thing as happiness; nor can there be any peace of mind where there is a sense of guilt, which is naturally accompanied with apprehension of danger. Can such as know that they are not to be trusted themselves, ever frankly trust others? They will be apt to think others like themselves, true only to self-interest, and so will try to deceive them, as well as despise them for being deceived. Thus endless dishonesty, whether in private or public life, will be attended with endless anxieties, when such as practise it remember that by all their unrighteous acquisitions, all their guilty success, they can only set themselves up as marks to be shot at, and will have the less chance of escaping by being so much exposed.
“Greatness acquired by great abilities and Public Spirit, is a noble acquisition, and will be enjoyed with satisfaction, though it cannot always escape obloquy and clamour. But power and pomp purchased by the misery and groans of the people, as it is always detestable, so it is always unsafe. Grandeur, in order to be respected by the Public, must be supported with merit towards the Public. They who love the people, they who consult their interest, and pursue it, are worthy to shine amongst them, nay, worthy to rule them. But greatness without dignity, which arises as well from public benevolence as from capacity, is like Laws without penalties: The weak and simple may perhaps submit to them; but they are despised by those whom they are most wanted to restrain. To be exalted upon the ruins of Liberty and Laws, to rise by force and iniquity, and to assert superiority over men by hurting and oppressing them, is strange infatuation, a dangerous province. It is like being mounted on an unruly horse without bit or bridle; a situation which no wise man would chuse to be in. When Solon was advised to make use of his interest with his countrymen to seize the supreme rule, he answered wisely, that Tyranny indeed was a fair spot; but there was no way to come out of it.
“Such as are known not to love their Country, cannot reasonably expect to be safe in it, or that enmity to the Public will not meet with public hate, which is the next step to public revenge: and they who are indifferent to every interest but their own, though they may purchase flatterers who have minds as bad as theirs, can never be exempt from one miserable reflection, that most men, and all the best men abhor them, whilst only a few of the worst applaud them; nor can they find much delight from the hollow praises of a tribe of Fawners, when they remember that injured multitudes are at the same time perhaps cursing them.
“The desire of applause is implanted in human nature, and without doubt intended by the Author of nature as an incitement to virtue and benevolent actions; since by such means only we can be sure of obtaining so pleasing a gratification. We may indeed personate Public Spirit for a while, yet have none, and for a while pass for virtuous without having Virtue: But the fraud will soon be discovered. No disguises can long hide the false Patriot; and his hypocrisy will but add to his condemnation, when it is no longer able to cover his guilt.
“There seems to be one never-failing test whence to distinguish a public spirited Man; even an honest and disinterested heart. This is a sort of constitutional Virtue, and whoever has it is secure against many of the most dangerous temptations. The love of money and of power are violent passions, and few who are strongly possessed with them can safely trust themselves. How naturally does the avaricious man listen to any scheme for filling his coffers? How eagerly does the ambitious man enter into measures for inlargeing his figure and power? How apt are both to flatter themselves that they deserve all that they can possibly possess, that whatever they can grasp is but their due, and that therefore they can never grasp too much? Blinded by these favourite inclinations, they can bear nothing that thwarts them; and, as they thus state the account on one side only, the balance must be eternally one way.
“The true Patriot is content to take the approbation of his own conduct, at least for one part of his reward; neither would he exchange his quiet of mind, or the good wishes of his countrymen, for all the benefit which he could possibly make by justly forfeiting either. He has a general benevolence to the rest of the world, and cannot taste that unnatural happiness of being alone easy amongst the many that are miserable, especially were they to be miserable by his means. Though he may not set up for any romantic pitch of Patriotism, though he do not undertake to devote himself for his Country, like Curtius, and may be diffident of the weakness of human nature when put upon such awful trials; yet of one Virtue he is at all times sure, never to sacrifice the Public to his passions or interest, or risque the tranquillity of the State for any views or emoluments of his own.
The END of the Discourses.
THE HISTORY OF TACITUS.
THE decay of good Historians, whence: the partiality of Writers, why. What copious matter for the following History. The condition of the City, Armies and Provinces, upon the death of Nero. Galba disliked: the wickedness of his Ministers: the Soldiery discontented. Of Vespasian, Mucianus, and the Forces in the East. Those in Germany revolt. Galba adopts Piso: Otho conspires against both, corrupts the Prætorian guards, and is by them saluted Emperor. Galba and Piso murdered: their Characters. What terror prevails in the City. Vitellius proclaimed Emperor, by whom and how. The march of his Army and Generals into Italy: he himself follows, His luxury and stupidity. The cruelty and rapine of his Generals, Cæcina and Valens. The behaviour of Otho; he and Vitellius strive to over-reach one another. Combustions in Mœsia, but repressed. The terrible spirit of the soldiers in the City, their disorders and insurrection: they require to have the whole Senate murdered: are with difficulty appeased by Otho. The melancholy state of Rome: Otho leaves it, and proceeds to war.—All these the transactions of a few months.
WITH the second Consulship of Servius Galba, who had Titus Vinius for his Collegue, I shall begin this Work. For, the preceding history, eight hundred and twenty years backwards to the foundation of Rome, has been by divers authors compiled, who, in recounting the transactions of the Roman people, have acquitted themselves with an eloquence equal to their freedom of spirit altogether unconfined. But when after the battle of Actium public peace could be no otherwise obtained, than by throwing the whole power into the hands of one, all such noble writers disappeared. Moreover, towards the impairing and corrupting of truth, many other causes concurred: As first, the Republic being but one man’s property, Rome was become to her own Citizens like another State, foreign and unknown. Then ensued a servile proneness to idolize the Emperors, or an equal detestation of their persons and power. So that, between the complaisance of some, and the resentment of others, the care of informing posterity was lost. It is true that against a fawning writer we are easily upon our guard; but greedily swallowed are calumnies and bitterness; since, while in sycophancy there appears the detestable blot of servitude and debasement, detraction and invective come covered under the disguise of boldness and free speech. To me neither Galba, nor Otho, nor Vitellius was known by any act of favour or injustice. That my promotion in the State was begun by Vespasian, augmented by Titus, and by Domitian advanced yet higher, I would by no means disown. But by those who profess to deliver truth, naked and uncorrupt, nor personal affection nor personal hate must be admitted in their Characters of men. If life remain, I have reserved, for the employment of my old age, the reign of the deified Nerva, with that of the Emperor Trajan; a work more copious, as well as more safe: Such is the rare felicity of these times, when you are at full liberty to entertain what sentiments you please, and to declare what sentiments you entertain.
My present attempt is to describe a time abounding in surprizing events; tragical in battles and slaughter; full of fury and faction; a time horrible and bloody even in the intervals of peace: Four Emperors were slain by the sword; three fierce civil wars, foreign wars still more; generally a sad mixture of both: Our affairs indeed successful in the East, but in the West melancholy and disastrous: Commotions begun in Illyricum, and beginning in both the Gauls; Britain reduced, and just after lost: The Suevian people, and those of Sarmatia, confederated against us; the name of the Dacians, for the many bloody defeats, sometimes sustained by us, sometimes returned upon them, become great and renowned: The Parthians ready to arm upon the appearance of a counterfeit Nero: Italy in the mean time afflicted with fresh calamities altogether tragical, or with old, after a long intermission, revived: The fairest cities of Campania swallowed up or overthrown, and that fine territory, fruitful above all others, covered with desolation: Rome itself, by frequent conflagrations, laid waste; her temples, the most venerable and ancient, utterly consumed; nay the capitol burnt down by the hands of Romans: Religion profaned; mighty and daring adulteries: The Isles peopled with Exiles; the rocks contaminated with murder and blood. But more hideous still were the ravages of cruelty at Rome: It was treasonable to be noble, or to be rich, or to have borne honours, or to have declined them; and the reward of worth and virtue was inevitable destruction. Nor were the baneful villanies of the Informers more shocking than their mighty and distinguishing rewards; whilst upon some were bestowed, as the spoils of the State, the Pontifical dignities and those of the Consulship: Others were sent with Procuratorial authority into the Provinces: Some were made prime confidents and ministers at home; and in every station, exerting all their terrors, and pursuing their hate, they controuled and confounded all things. Slaves were suborned against their Masters, Freedmen against their Patrons; and such as had no enemies, were betrayed and undone by their friends.
The age however was not so utterly forsaken of all virtue, but that it likewise afforded laudable examples of friendship and magnanimity. There were mothers who accompanied their banished sons; wives who followed their husbands into exile; in kindred were found resolution and succour; in sons-in-law constancy and duty; in slaves such fidelity as mocked all the menaces and horror of the torture: Illustrious men struggling under keen distress, supporting it nobly, and their fortitude in death equal to that of the most celebrated ancients. Besides the endless emergencies and rotations which were purely human; there appeared, in the earth and the air, such signs as were more than natural, the tumult and menaces of thunder, and other prophetic warnings; but all strangely varying, joyful, terrible, doubtful, apparent. In truth, as never had more tragical calamities befallen the Roman people, never was it proved by more evident indications, that not for our protection, but for their own vengeance, is the providence of the Gods over us.
But before I begin the thread of my story, it seems necessary to represent the condition of the City, the spirit of the several Armies, the state and disposition of the Provinces, with our political advantages and weaknesses in the whole Roman world; that hence may be learnt not only the last result of things, which for the most part seems fortuitous, but their causes too and first movements. As the death of Nero pass’d for a public blessing, especially in the first sally of joy; so it awakened different passions in the minds of men, not only at Rome, in the Senate, People, and City-troops, but in all the Legions every where, and in the Leaders of the Legions; as then first was disclosed a secret of government which affected all these interests; “that elsewhere than at Rome an Emperor could be created.” The Senators rejoicing in their ancient liberty just resumed, exercised it with the greater boldness, as Galba was a new Prince, not yet established, and absent. The principal Roman Knights were, next to the Senators, inspired with the same pleasing passion. Such of the people as remained uncorrupt, and were attached to the interest of the great families, with the followers and freedmen of persons condemned to death or exile, became revived with vigorous hopes. The Vulgar, sunk in sordidness and debauchery, and inured to the idle amusements of the Theatre and the Circus; with them the viler sort of bondmen, or others who having wasted their fortunes, subsisted by the infamous Vices of Nero; were all struck with sadness, all greedy of rumours and innovations.
The Soldiery of Rome, possessed with a long and sworn fealty to the family of the Cæsars, and from no biass in themselves, but rather by artifice and instigation, urged to desert Nero; after they found that the promise of a donative in Galba’s name was unfulfilled; that there was not in peace, as in war, equal scope for mighty merit and mighty recompences; and that the favour of a Prince created by the Legions, would be engrossed by the Legions; became abandoned to novel designs, in which they were further animated by the treasonable practices of Nymphidius their Captain, who had embarked in measures to seize the Sovereignty. It is true, that in the very attempt Nymphidius perished. But, though the head of the conspiracy was cut off, most of the soldiers had been engaged in it, and their disaffection remained. Nor did they refrain from seditious invectives, vilifying Galba for his old age and avarice. That severity of his, a quality so admired of old, and by the ancient armies ever distinguished with applause, was very grievous to a slothful soldiery scorning the primitive discipline, and for fourteen years to habituated to the base reign of Nero, that at this time they no less admired the vileness and vices of their Princes, than of old they had adored their virtues. The disaffection was heightened by a saying of Galba’s, worthy indeed of virtue and the Commonwealth, but perilous to himself; that he chose his soldiers, and did not buy them. Neither did the rest of his conduct correspond with this good rule.
Titus Vinius and Cornelius Laco, his ministers, the one of all men the most pestilently wicked, the other the most worthless and abject, deriving upon him the weight and infamy of their own numberless iniquities, and scorn upon the impotency of the administration, involved the Prince, already enfeebled with age, in utter ruin. Slow and bloody was his march to Rome, as in it had been slain Cingonius Varro, Consul elect, and Petronius Turpilianus, who had been Consul; the former as an accomplice in the Conspiracy of Nymphidius, Petronius for having commanded as General under Nero; both thought to have perished as Innocents, as they died without being heard in their own defence. His publick entry into the City, after the massacre of so many thousand soldiers destitute of arms, was of boding aspect, and terrible even to those by whose swords they had fallen. A Spanish Legion was by him brought into the City, where likewise remained another, one enrolled by Nero out of the Marines. So that Rome was filled with an army altogether new and extraordinary there. For, besides all these forces, there were many more from Germany, Britain, and Illyricum; such as had been thence detached by Nero, and sent forwards to the Caspian streights, for the war which he meditated against the Albanians, but recalled to suppress the revolt of Vindex in Gaul. These were mighty and abundant materials for public combustions and changes; in truth not all directly combining in favour of any particular, yet all prepared for the next daring spirit.
At the same juncture it fortuned, that the assassination of Clodius Macer, and that of Fonteius Capito, were divulged. Macer, whilst he raised manifest commotion in Africa, was by Trebonius Garucianus, the Imperial Procurator there, at the command of Galba, slain; and Capito in Germany for the same crime, by Cornelius Aquinus and Fabius Valens, Commanders of the Legions, without staying for the Emperor’s command. There were who believed that Capito, however abominable he were, stained with avarice, and immersed in impurities, had yet declined to engage in any turbulent counsels; that having rejected the solicitations of Aquinus and Valens to rebel with them, he was by them charged with their own ill faith and treason; and that Galba, whether from unsteadiness of spirit, or afraid of making deeper scrutiny, and seeming to approve their conduct, whatever it were, seeing whatever it were, it could not be recalled; ratified the execution. However it were, both these executions, that of Macer as well as that of Capito, were sadly received; the usual fate of every Prince under public hate; since every action of his, whether good or evil, is invidiously construed, and contributes to undo him. Already too his Freedmen, indulged in immoderate power, were exposing to common sale all the honours and emoluments of the State. His Bondmen also were greedy to profit by their sudden sunshine, and eager to convert into hasty gains the short reign of an ancient Master. So that in the Court of Galba appeared all the evils and excesses lately seen in that of Nero, and were equally grievous, but not equally excused. To those who were accustomed to behold the youth and gay person of Nero, even the age of Galba was matter of derision and hate; agreeably to the genius of the Vulgar, in their comparing of Princes, always to prefer figure and personal grace.
Such was the temper of men at Rome, suitable to that of a multitude so mighty and various. For the Provinces; Spain was governed by Cluvius Rufus an eloquent man, qualified for affairs in time of peace, but void of experience in war. Both the Gauls, besides that they still reverenced the memory of Vindex, were retained by recent obligations, the privilege of Roman Citizens, and the reduction of their Tribute. Those Gallic Cities however, which lay contiguous to the German armies, as they were not distinguished with the like honours, but some of them even shortened of their territory, felt the same measure of indignation from the advantages reaped by others, as from the indignities done to themselves. Amongst the German armies appeared a spirit altogether threatening in forces so mighty. From the pride of their late victory, they were become exulting and furious; and, from fear of being charged with espousing an opposite cause, anxious and distrustful. Late and slow had been their revolt from Nero; neither had Verginius their General declared immediately for Galba. Whether he studied to make himself Emperor, is uncertain, but universally agreed, that the soldiery, had tendered him the Empire. By the slaying of Capito, even such as could not complain that it was undeserved, were yet piqued and enraged. What they wanted was a leader; Verginius having been, under the shew of friendship, removed from them; and in his Person, as he was not restored, but his conduct even arraigned, they conceived themselves to be charged as delinquents.
The Army in upper Germany contemned their Commander, Hordeonius Flaccus, one from his lameness and the infirmities of age, unweildy and decrepit, void of firmness, void of authority; unequal, in truth, to the direction of a soldiery the most orderly and peaceable, so that, under their present frenzy, they were even further inflamed by his impotent endeavours to restrain them. The Legions in lower Germany had been a good while without a Commander of Consular name; till now by Galba, Vitellius was sent, the son of that Vitellius who had been Censor and thrice Consul. This to the Emperor seemed sufficient. The Army in Britain was free from all disorder and the rage of parties. None, in truth, of all our Legions lived more inoffensively than they, during all the heat and uproar of the civil wars; perhaps because they were remote, and separated by the sea; or perhaps by frequent action in the field, they had been inured, upon a foreign foe rather to spend their hate. Illyricum remained in tranquillity; though the Legions called from thence by Nero, had, while they tarried idle in Italy, applied by ambassadors and solicitations, to Verginius. But as by long tracts of countries the two armies were disjoined, (the most wholsome expedient to secure the faith of soldiers) they neither united their forces, nor communicated their infection and crimes.
The East continued hitherto free from all commotion. Licinius Mucianus, at the head of four Legions, governed Syria, a man equally signal for the favours and for the frowns of fortune. In his youth he had, by all arts and address, courted the favour of men in power. His estate being then wasted, his condition desperate, the indignation too of Claudius threatening him, he crept into a retirement in Asia, and there lived as near to the state of an exile, as he was afterwards to that of a sovereign. In him centered a strange combination of qualities good and bad, luxury and vigilance; haughtiness and complaisance; during recess, excessively voluptuous; of infinite abilities, when business urged him. Hence his equal shares of praise and reproach, as a public minister admired, as a private voluptuary condemned. But being a great master in all the several arts of engaging, he was mighty in credit with those who were under him, or about him, or in equal authority with him; such a man, finally, as could easier make an Emperor than be one. The war against the Jews was conducted by Flavius Vespasianus, at the head of three Legions; a command to which he had been preferred by Nero. Nor against Galba did Vespasian harbour any unkind wish or distaste; nay he had dispatched away his son Titus to perform fealty and homage; as in its place we shall remember. That the Empire was by the invisible laws of fate, by prodigies divinely sent, and by the responses of Oracles, foretold and ordained to Vespasian and his sons; was what we believed after we had seen them Emperors.
The government of Egypt with the command of the troops which bridled it, had, from the times of Augustus, been vested in the Roman Knights with the Authority of its ancient Kings. Such precaution he thought necessary, to retain under his own inspection the government of a kingdom surrounded with seas and deserts, abounding in grain, intoxicated with superstition, addicted to riot, and thence prone to feuds and sedition; unacquainted with the restraints of law, and insensible of duty to magistrates. Tiberius Alexander ruled at this time there, himself a native of Egypt. Africa and the Legions in it, were disposed to submit to any Emperor whatsoever, now Clodius Macer was slain; having in him proved the government of an humbler master. The two Mauritanias, Rætia, Noricum, Thrace, and the other countries administered by Procurators, adopted the temper of the several armies lying next them, and were instigated by love or hate to the different factions, according to the neighbourhood and influence of the stronger. The Provinces which were unarmed, and Italy itself principally, lay open to be enslaved by the next invader, whoever he were, and to become the prize of war and conquest. In this situation stood the Roman affairs, when Servius Galba in his second Consulship, with Titus Vinius for his Collegue, began the year, which to them proved the last, and upon the Commonwealth well nigh brought her final doom.
Early in January arrived advices from Pompeius Propinquus Procurator of Belgic Gaul, that the Legions in higher Germany, in open violation of their oaths and allegiance, demanded imperiously to have another Emperor, and to the pleasure of the Senate and People of Rome referred the free election of one; as from such complaisance they hoped to merit a slighter censure of this their revolt. It was this intelligence that ripened the design about which Galba had for some time been deliberating within himself, as well as in concert with his confidents, concerning the adoption of a successor. Nor in truth had any subject, during the few months of his reign, so much filled all mouths throughout the City; not from the licentious freedom only and fondness of canvassing public counsels and events, but in consideration of the crazy age of Galba. Few indeed possessed any affection for the Public, or capacity to judge of it; but numbers, out of secret and selfish views, awarded the adoption to this patron, or to that friend, spreading his fame in cabals. They even found motives equally strong from their hate of Titus Vinius, who growing daily more potent, grew thence daily more detested. For such was the weakness and acquiescence of Galba, that by it the avarice of his friends, already insatiable, and ravening according to the measure of his sovereign fortune, was further heightned and excited; whilst under a Prince thus feeble and credulous, their iniquities were attended with the smaller peril, and with gains the more mighty.
The whole power of the Sovereignty was shared between Titus Vinius the Consul, and Cornelius Laco Captain of the Prætorian Guards. Nor inferior to either in grace and authority was Icelus his Freedman, now vested by the Gold ring with the order of Knighthood, and every where called by an equestrian name, Martianus. These favourites, already at variance, and in smaller instances pursuing each his own separate views, were in their sentiments about chusing a successor, divided into two factions. Vinius was for Otho: Laco and Icelus were combined together, not so much to favour the interest of any particular, as that of any particular but him. Neither was the friendship between Otho and Titus Vinius unknown to Galba, who had learnt it from the bruitings of such as are wont to comment upon all things. For, as Vinius had a daughter who was a widow, and Otho was not married, it was taken for granted that an alliance between them was intended. It is my own opinion, that Galba was moreover moved by a concern for the Commonwealth, which was in vain rescued from Nero, were it to devolve upon Otho. For, in a manner loose and idle had Otho wasted his tender years, in scandalous debaucheries his youth, and grew acceptable to Nero purely by imitating his profligate life. To him therefore, as to the chief confident in his impure pleasures, had Nero committed the keeping of his beloved mistress, Poppæa Sabina, till he could accomplish the removal of Octavia his wife; but soon suspecting him for a rival, he sent him to Lusitania, where the administration of that province furnished a pretence for keeping him from Rome. In Lusitania he governed with gentleness and popularity; was the foremost to espouse the cause of Galba, nor failed to promote it with vigour; and while the war continued, made the noblest figure of all who attended it; and the hopes which, from such recommendations, he had instantly conceived of the adoption, continued daily to transport him more and more, as he was favoured by most of the soldiery, and as all the courtiers and creatures of Nero were passionate for a Prince so resembling the late one.
Galba the while, who after tidings of the sedition in Germany (though of Vitellius he hitherto knew nothing certain) was beset with anxieties; full of fears whither the fury of the armies might tend, nor in truth trusting to the faith of the troops in Rome; applied what to him seemed the only remedy, and held a council for declaring a successor. To it, besides Vinius and Laco, having summoned Marius Celsus, Consul elect, and Ducennius Geminus, Governor of Rome; he, after a short speech concerning his own great age, ordered Piso Licinianus to be sent for; it is uncertain whether of his own motion and choice, or, as some believed, by the persuasions of Laco; as between him and Piso there had passed an intercourse of friendship at the house of Rubellius Plautus. But he artfully recommended Piso as one to himself unknown; and to this his counsel had accrued the character of sincerity from the reputation of the recommended, altogether eminent and unblemished. Piso was the son of Marcus Crassus and Scribonia, and both by father and mother nobly born; his aspect and demeanour resembling those of the ancient Romans; and such as, in candid estimation, passed for grave; but by those who judged censoriously, accounted melancholy and austere. That part of his temper, which alarmed the discontented, pleased the person adopting.
Galba therefore, taking Piso by the hand, is said to have spoke in the following strain. “Were I, as a private man, to adopt you for my son, by vertue of the law Curiata, in presence of the Pontiffs, according to the ordinary usage; glorious even then would be the adoption to us both; as with the blood of the great Pompey and Marcus Crassus, my family would be enriched; and the nobility of your house derive fresh splendor from the signal lustre and renown of the Sulpitian and Lutatian race. I am now a public person, by the united consent of Gods and men called to the Empire; and of this very Sovereignty, for which our Ancestors contended with arms, I, who by war have obtained it, do offer you the possession, while you are neither seeking nor pursuing it: A gift to which I am urged only by the love of my Country, and your own excellent qualifications. In this I follow the example of the deified Augustus, who assumed successively, for his partners in power, first his sister’s son Marcellus, next his son-in-law Agrippa, afterwards his grandsons; lastly, his wife’s son Tiberius. But Augustus who would entail the Empire upon his own house, in his own house sought a successor: I chuse out of the Commonwealth an heir to the Commonwealth. Not that I am reduced to this choice by any want of relations to my blood, or of fellow commanders in war. But neither did I, no more than you, arrive at supreme power by any efforts of ambition; and my thus overlooking your relations, as well as my own, is a proof with what sincerity of intention I prefer you to all men. You have a brother, in nobility your equal, in age your superior; a man worthy of this fortune; did I not in you find one still more worthy. Such is your age as to be past the giddiness and impetuosity of youth; such has been your course of life, that nothing in your conduct thus far is subject to blame. But hitherto you have only had an adverse fortune to contend with. More dangerous and keen are the stimulations of prosperity, to try the temper of the soul, and call forth its weaknesses. For the strokes of calamity we struggle under and bear: By a flow of felicity we are utterly subdued and corrupted.
“You, doubtless, will still retain, with your usual firmness, the same honour, faith in friendship, candour and freedom of spirit; endowments which above all others adorn the mind of man. But the false complaisance of others will slacken your fortitude. Flattery will force its way to your heart; deceitful soothings, the most pestilent poison to every honest affection, will inchant you; and to his own sordid gain will every particular be wresting your honour, and good inclinations. You and I upon this occasion converse together with hearts perfectly open and sincere: Others will chuse to make their addresses to our Fortune rather than to us. Indeed, to deal faithfully with Princes, to reason them into their duty, is a mighty task, and with infinite difficulty performed. But easy is the art of cajoling any Prince whatsoever, and in doing it the heart has no share. Could this immense Empire subsist and be swayed without a single Ruler, I should glory in being the first Emperor who resigned the power of the Republic into her own hands. But such, long since, has been the fatal situation of the State, that all the good which my old age enables me to do to the Roman people, is to leave them a good Successor; nor can you, with all your youth, do more for them than afford them in yourself a benevolent Prince. Under Tiberius, and Caligula, and Claudius, we were all of us no more, the Roman world was no more, than as the inherirance of one family. That the Empire has in me begun to be elective, is a sign of our ancient liberty revived, and some equivalent for it. Now the Julian and Claudian families being extinct, the best men are likely, in this way of adoption, to become the highest. To be sprung from a sovereign race, is the effect of chance, and further than this, requires no deliberation or regard. But in the work of adoption, the judgment is exercised, free from biass and restraint; and whenever you want to chuse, you are by the general consent directed to the person worthy to be chosen.
“Have always before your eyes the example of Nero, who, secure as he was, and swelling with the pride of his race, a long genealogy of the Cæsars his ancestors, was not in reality dethroned by Julius Vindex, the Governor of a province unprovided with forces, nor by me assisted by one Legion: No, it was his own brutal tyranny, his own beastly debaucheries, that flung down the Tyrant from riding on the necks of mankind. Nor was there till then any instance of an Emperor by public sentence condemned and deposed. We who succeed him by a different title, by war, and by public choice, shall thence reap public glory, however the malignity of particulars may pursue us. Nor must you be alarmed, if, while the world itself continues in this general uproar, there are two Legions which yet remain unreclaimed to obedience. It was my own lot to be called to an unsettled state; and as to my old age, the only objection to my government, it is no longer one, since, when it is known that I have adopted you, I shall seem young in my Successor. The loss of Nero will ever be regretted by all the most profligate and bad. To us it belongs, to you and to me, so to govern, that he may not also be regretted by the good.
“To say more in this way of instruction, the present conjuncture suffers not; nor is it necessary; since if I have in you made a worthy choice, I have answered every purpose. One certain rule you have to observe, exceeding wholsome, as well as exceeding short; so to comport yourself towards your subjects, as, were you a subject, you would wish your Prince to comport towards you. By this rule you will best distinguish the boundaries of justice and iniquity, best comprehend the art of reigning. For you must remember that it is not with us as with other nations, such as are barbarous and tyrannized, where a particular lordly house is established, and where all besides are slaves without reserve. But you are about to govern the Romans; a people of too little virtue to support complete liberty, of too much spirit to bear absolute bondage.”
Galba in these and the like reasonings to Piso, used him like one whom he was but yet creating a Prince. The Council treated him in a stile of high reverence, as a Prince already created. Of Piso it is said, that neither in the observation of the Council, nor afterwards of the Public, where presently all eyes were fixt upon him, did he betray any symptoms of a mind either troubled or exalted. To Galba, now both his Father and Emperor, his discourse was full of reverence, and where he mentioned himself, full of modesty; no change in his countenance, none in his demeanour: indications that he was more capable of reigning, than desirous to reign. Where to declare the adoption was next debated; whether to the People assembled, or to the Senate, or to the Army. The result was to do it in the Camp; a preference which would highly redound to the glory of the soldiery; since their affections, though when gained by abject court and the force of bribes, they were ill gained, yet were never to be neglected, when by honourable means they could be purchased. The palace in the mean time was beset with the multitude, big with expectation, and impatient for the mighty secret. So ungovernable too is the spirit of popular rumour, that such as then strove to stifle and divert it, did thence render it the more vehement and loud.
The tenth of January, a day black with heavy rains, was, moreover, by the frequent roaring of thunder, by incessant lightning, and by the tumult and anger of the elements, rendered unusually terrible; a matter of religious observation in ancient times, and constant ground for dissolving public assemblies. But it deterred not Galba from repairing to the camp. Whether it were that he contemned such things as fortuitous and unmeaning, or perhaps because the decrees of fate, however foreshewn, are yet inevitable. To a full assembly of the soldiers, with the brevity becoming an Emperor, he declared, “That he adopted Piso, after the precedent of the deified Augustus, and according to the custom of an army, where every man chuses his man.” And lest the revolt in Germany might, by hiding or disowning it, be thence thought more formidable; he frankly told them, “That the fourth Legion and the eighteenth, by the instigation of some few incendiaries, had departed from their duty; but further than words and discourse had not offended, and would soon return to their allegiance.” To his speech he added neither gift nor courtship. By the Tribunes however, by the Centurions, and by those of the soldiers who stood next him, he was answered in such expressions as carried in them the sound of submission and alacrity. Through all the rest was perceived a sullen sadness and silence; as having thus lost, during war, the donative which custom and their own insolent claims had made necessary even in time of peace. Certain it is, that with any liberality, however small, from the parsimonious old man, their affections might have been gained. He suffered by his severity overstrained, and by practising, out of season, the rigorous purity of ancient times; a task to which we are now no longer equal.
From the Camp Galba proceeded to the Senate, where he spoke with the same unaffecting brevity, as to the soldiery. The speech made by Piso was civil and gracious, and by the Fathers complaisantly received. Many of them there were who loved him, and made professions altogether sincere. More courtly and loud were they who were averse to him; while the indifferent and the major part, under the officious homage which they openly paid him, were fostering secret and selfish hopes, destitute of any zeal for the Public. Nor did Piso after this, during the four succeeding days, the short interval between his adoption and his murder, either act or speak in public. Now, as advices from Germany of the revolt there, were daily arriving, and daily confirmed, and as the City was ever greedy to receive, ever forward to believe all kinds of news, especially such as are alarming and sad; it was by the Fathers ordained, that deputies should be dispatched to the German armies. It was even matter of secret consultation, whether Piso himself should not go; and for his going the plea seemed still stronger. “They, in truth, would carry with them the authority of the Senate; but he in his own person, the Imperial dignity of Cæsar.” It seemed moreover expedient, that with the rest, Laco, Captain of the Prætorian guards, should be sent; a design which Laco himself defeated. The chusing of the deputies too (for to Galba the Senate had permitted the choice) was accompanied with a scandalous inconstancy; and they were named, and excused, and changed, according to the several machinations of particulars, to procure or to decline that employment; just as each found himself prompted by personal hopes or personal fears.
How to find money was the next concern; and while every expedient was examined, it seemed of all others the most just, to supply the Public at the expence of those, whom the Public had been impoverished to enrich. Above seventeen millions had Nero consumed in profuse pensions and donations. All the partakers in this extravagance were called to account by Galba, who, leaving them a tenth of that wild liberality, ordered that the rest should be restored. But of all that wild liberality they had scarce a tenth left unwasted; having lavished the plunder of the Public, and that of their fellow Citizens, in the same riot and prodigality, in which they had confounded their own private fortunes. And to these men, of all others the most rapacious, of all others the most abandoned to profusion and excesses, there remained neither lands, nor pecuniary revenues, nor any thing, save the implements and garniture of voluptuousness and debauchery. In this Court of resumption presided thirty Roman Knights; a Court new in its institution, and from the Number of officers, from the numerous suits and intrigues, heavy and vexatious. On all hands were beheld open sales, and the common crier; and with public seizures, with public confiscations, the whole City was in anguish and a ferment. Yet infinite matter of joy it proved, to find the vile objects of Nero’s extravagance as poor as those whom he had robbed. About the same time were discharged from their command Antonius Taurus, and Antonius Naso, Tribunes of the Prætorian guards, Emilius Pacensis Tribune of the City-bands, and Julius Fronto of the Nightwatch. This removal however proved no remedy against the infidelity of the rest, but an alarm to their fears; since to policy and dread they ascribed it, that particulars only were dismissed, and concluded themselves all equally suspected.
During these transactions, Otho, who in the quiet and establishment of the State saw nothing but despair, and only upon public confusion founded his hopes, was in his civil pursuits excited by many concurring stimulations. He lived in a course of riot and expence, which, even to the fortune of a sovereign Prince, would have proved burdensome and uneasy; under necessities such as to any private man would have appeared scarce supportable; burning with rage against Galba, with envy towards Piso. A fiction too of fear for his own life, furnished a colour for his inordinate ambition. “He had been obnoxious to Nero; but could not hope to escape a second time by the trust of a province, or another honourable exile. Ever suspected and ever hated by all reigning princes was he, who by the public voice was destined to the Succession. To himself this consideration only had proved a prejudice with Galba, however old he were; a greater prejudice it would still prove with Piso, a young Prince, in his own nature rough and stern, and, by a long course of exile, rendered perfectly savage. Since therefore Otho might be slain, whether he submitted or resisted; it behoved him to exert his might, and make a resolute effort, while the authority of Galba was daily decaying, that of Piso not yet confirmed. Natural and opportune for enterprises mighty and daring, was the season of revolutions in a State. Nor was there cause or room for lingering at a juncture when resignation and acquiescence were more threatning and pernicious than boldness and temerity. Death was, by the laws of nature, the equal lot of all men; and with posterity the deaths of particulars were only diversified by glory or oblivion. Now since the innocent must die, and the guilty could do no more, it became a brave man to provoke his fall, nor to perish without deserving it.”
Otho had a soul not of the same soft temper and effeminacy with his person. Moreover his favourite Freedmen and Slaves, themselves inured to a licentiousness and riot inconsistent with the œconomy of a private family, were continually displaying to their Lord the allurements of Nero’s Court, the delicacies and revelling, the choice of wives, the choice of women, with all the unbridled wantonness and excesses of a Crown; and, as he was of himself passionate for all such imperial luxury, they represented the same as his own, if he roused himself and made it so; but reproached him if he acquiesced, for leaving the possession to another. The Astrologers at the same time urged him by their predictions, while they were confidently averring, that the stars presaged approaching revolutions, and a year of signal glory to Otho: A generation of men by princes never to be trusted, constant deceivers of such as foster new hopes and designs, and a generation which from this our City will ever be excluded by law, and against law ever entertained in it. Many of these Fortune-tellers were by Poppæa employed in her secret intrigues, and some of the detestable instruments which she used for accomplishing her marriage with the Emperor. Of this tribe Ptolemy was one, who had accompanied Otho into Spain, and having foretold him that he should survive Nero, gained credit afterwards from the event. And now, from a public rumour and opinion current amongst all such as weighed and compared the old age of Galba, with the vigour and youth of Otho, Ptolemy conjectured himself, and persuaded Otho, that his assumption into the Sovereignty would surely happen. But with Otho these wretched predictions passed as uttered by a prophetic spirit, and as the propitious warnings of the Fates. Such is the visionary genius of human nature, ever most zealous to believe things dark and unsearchable. Neither did Ptolemy confine himself to predictions only; having first flattered the ambition of Otho, he was now prompting him to the last bloody act of treason. As indeed from the harbouring such aspiring wishes to the forming of such black purposes, the mind is led with wonderful facility.
Yet whether this treason was just then conceived, is altogether uncertain. The affections of the soldiers he had long and assiduously courted, either in view of the Succession, which he hoped, or to prepare them for the Conspiracy which he meditated. This court he was upon all occasions paying them, in their progress from place to place, or as they marched in order of battle, or lay in garison, or were posted upon guard; calling every old soldier familiarly by his name, and in memory of their common service under Nero, stiling them Comrades. With others, as he saw them, he would be reviving acquaintance; many, whom he saw not, he would inquire after, and with his money or his interest assist them. Nor in this his commerce with them, failed he frequently to drop several moving complaints, with insinuations concerning Galba, full of darkness and ambiguity, and every other hint and expression proper to infuse discontent and alarms into minds like theirs ignorant and vulgar. They already resented bitterly, as matters of mighty grief, their laborious marches, scarcity of provisions, and the severity of discipline and warfare in this reign revived; that they, who had only been accustomed to pleasant tours by sea, to visit the delightful bays of Campania, and the fine cities of Achaia, were now obliged to traverse long ranges of countries, and to climb laboriously over the high Alps and Pyrenees, struggling under a load of arms.
To this flame, which had already seized the spirits of the soldiers, fresh fuel and firebrands were ministered by Pudens Mevius, an intimate of Tigellinus. This incendiary, having first set himself to cajole and seduce particulars, namely every one naturally addicted to wavering and giddiness, or pinched with necessity, or abandoned to novel pursuits, and the lust of change, had by gradual advances carried this practice so high, that whenever Galba was entertained at the house of Otho, he thence took opportunity to distribute to the Cohort attending upon guard, the sum of more than three crowns a man, under the name of liberality natural at a time of banqueting. This bounty of Otho’s, given in truth as a public donative, was further heightened with gifts and recompences conferred more privately upon particulars. Nay, so ardent and bold he was in his measures to corrupt them, that Cocceius Proculus, a lifeguardman, having a contest with a neighbour concerning their boundaries, Otho, at his own expence, purchased the neighbour’s whole ground, though the dispute was only about a part, and bestowed it upon Proculus. For, such blind stupidity possessed the Captain of the guards, that by him transactions the most apparent passed equally unobserved as intrigues the most hidden.
Now Otho at this time committed the direction of the treason premeditated to one of his freedmen, Onomastus; who introduced to his Lord two men as proper instruments in it, Barbius Proculus,* a Serjeant of the lifeguard, and Veturius an Adjutant of the same band. Otho, when, by a conversation long and various, he had well tried their temper and capacity, and found them to be fellows crafty and resolute, loaded them with great rewards, as well as with promises mighty and many, and furnished them with money to bribe and debauch the inclinations of as many of the rest as they were able. Thus two common soldiers undertook to transfer the Empire of the Romans from one Prince to another, and transferred it effectually. Into the secret of the tragical feat intended they admitted very few. The minds of the rest, already uneasy and wavering, they urged and alarmed by various artifices and infusions; represented the soldiers of chief note as under present disgrace and distrust, for having been by Nymphidius distinguished with favours. The crowd and the rest they inflamed, by filling them with utter despair of the donative now so often procrastinated. Amongst them too there were some transported with a fondness for the memory of Nero, and a passion for recalling the licentiousness which under him they had enjoyed; and to a man they were struck with dread of a change and reformation to be introduced amongst the soldiery.
This pestilent humour in the Prætorian bands, seized also and infected the spirits of the Legions and Auxiliaries, men already rouzed and animated, ever since it had been divulged, that the Army in Germany had renounced their faith and obedience. And so ripe were the evil-disposed and seditious to perpetrate the treason; nay, even amongst those who were free from any participation in it, there prevailed such silence and disguises, that on the fourteenth of January, the conspirators were prepared, as Otho returned home from supping abroad, to have hurried him away, and declared him Emperor; only that they apprehended the uncertain perils of the night, and that, as widely all over the City the quarters of the soldiers were disjoined, amongst men dispersed and intoxicated with liquor no certain concurrence could be ensured. This was a consideration inspired by no tenderness for the State, which, even in their sober hours, they had combined to stain with the blood of their Prince, but by caution, left, during the dark, whoever chanced to be presented to the soldiers of the German or the Pannonian Army, might by them, most of them unacquainted with the person of Otho, be instead of him saluted their Sovereign. The revolt was now beginning to operate, and to manifest itself by manifold indications; but such indications were carefully stifled and covered by the conspirators; nay, such of them as even had reached the ears of Galba, were ridiculed and explained away by Laco, Captain of his guards, who was a stranger to the spirit and discontents of the soldiery, a certain enemy to every counsel, however excellent, if he himself gave it not, and headstrong in opposing every man eminent for ability and discernment.
On the fifteenth of January Galba, then sacrificing at the Temple of Apollo, was by Umbricius the Soothsayer warned of dismal presages from the entrails, of treasonable plots just impending, and a domestic foe; all in the hearing of Otho, who stood next him, and by a different construction understood it all as propitious to himself, and a successful issue foretold of his own machination and views. Nor was it long after this ere Onomastus his Freedman arrived with notice, that the Surveyor and Builders waited his coming. This was the signal before settled amongst them, to intimate that the soldiers were assembling, and the conspiracy ripe for execution. To those who asked Otho the cause of his departure, he feigned for answer, that he was about purchasing certain houses, which being old, and thence suspected to be decayed, it was therefore necessary first to examine them. Then leaning on his Freedman, he proceeded through the house of Tiberius into the place Velabrum, and from thence to the gilded pillar by the Temple of Saturn. There three and twenty lifeguardmen saluted him Emperor; and, as he stood full of affright, that from so few such salutation should come, they placed him in vehement haste upon a chair, and hurried him away with their swords drawn. To these, in their progress to the camp, much the like number of soldiers joined themselves; some as privy to the treason, more as struck with the wonderful event; part of them uttering shouts, and displaying their arms; part remaining in utter silence, resolved by the issue to form their affections.
In the Camp, Julius Martialis, the Tribune, at that Juncture commanded the main guard. This officer, whether he were really overcome with surprize at the mighty treason, so daring and sudden, or whether he feared the camp to have been more generaly infected, and that, if he resisted, he must be doomed to perish; behaved so as to admininister ground of suspicion to many, that he himself was engaged in the conspiracy. The other Tribunes too, and the Centurions, preferred an interest present and prevailing, to the defence of a cause honourable indeed, but uncertain and perilous. Such, moreover, was the biass and turn found in the minds of the whole, that an iniquity, of all others the most heinous, was by a handful of men attempted, by many desired, and borne with acquiescence by all.
Galba, the while, utterly unacquainted with all this revolution, and still bent upon the work of sacrifices, was importuning with supplications, the guardian Gods of an Empire now under the sway of another, when the rumour reached him, that some particular Senator, it was uncertain which, was by a party just then hurried away to the camp, there to be presented to the soldiery; and straight it followed, that Otho was the Senator thus hurried thither. Instantly from every part of the city there crowded people with the same tidings to Galba, each, as soon as he met him, recounting it his own way; some heightened the terrible story beyond measure; others there were who soothed him with relations far short of the facts. For they had not, even at a conjuncture so desperate, unlearnt their wonted stile of prostitute flattery. Now after consultation holden, it was resolved, that the temper of the Cohort, then upon duty in the palace, should be sounded, yet not by the mouth of Galba in person, whose authority was reserved in full vigour, to be applied as the last remedy upon the highest exigency. Piso therefore having caused them to be assembled at the foot of the stairs of the palace, accosted them on this wise:
“This is the sixth day, my fellow soldiers, since I was adopted Cæsar, altogether ignorant of the lot to ensue from it, whether I ought to have coveted, or dreaded that name. What fate this adoption is to derive upon my family, and what upon the Commonwealth, lies wholly in your power to determine. Not that, in my own person, I fear any of the storms of fortune, however boisterous or tragical, as having long tried the weight and strokes of adversity, and now thoroughly learnt, that no less perils attend upon prosperity and exaltation. What I lament, is the lot of my Imperial Father, with that of the Senate, and that of this our common Empire; if we are this day reduced to the sad necessity, either of perishing ourselves, or, which to worthy minds is a choice equally doleful, of causing others to perish. In the public convulsion lately felt we had this consolation, that this our City remained free from any stain or guilt of blood; and that, without popular tumults, the revolution was accomplished. Nay that, even after the demise of Galba, no place or pretence might be left for war, ample provision seemed to have been made by his adopting me.
“To myself personally I assume no glory; I boast not of my house, however noble, nor of my deportment, however modest. For verily, in a competition for merit with Otho, the display of virtues is intirely superfluous. The vices of Otho, for in vices only he glories, confounded the Empire even at a time when he was a professed friend to the Emperor. Is it by the merit of his voluptuous life, by the pomp and dignity of his gait, or is it by his gorgeous dress, altogether soft and effeminate, that he would claim a right to Empire? Blind dupes are they, with whom his profusion and extravagances pass under the guise of generosity. The man may know how to waste and confound; but to genuine liberality, he must be an utter stranger. At this instant his soul is devising future feats of lusts, rendevouses in gluttony, and wanton revellings with bands of prostitute women. Excesses like these he esteems to be the wages and prerogatives of princely rule; excesses, of which the fruition and charms are to redound to him alone, but to all men the infamy and shame. For never yet was there an instance of a man, who, by righteous measures, administered a State, which, by wickedness and iniquity, he had acquired. The voice and consent of human-kind raised Galba to Imperial dignity; into the Imperial dignity Galba, with your consent, ingrafted me.
“If the Commonweal, if the Roman Senate, and the People of Rome, be all no more than empty and imaginary names; yet still it is your concern, my fellow soldiers, that by fellows of all others the most loose and abandoned, your Emperor be not chosen. That our Legions have mutinied against their Commanders, is what we have heard now and then. But your faith and duty and character, have subsisted unto this day, without blemish or imputation. Nay Nero himself you forsook not; you were forsaken by Nero. Shall a few common men, in number less than thirty, fugitives from their duty, traitors to their country, award the Empire as they list; they from whom no man would bear the choice of one of their own Tribunes or Centurions? Do you approve the wicked precedent? Do you, by acquiescing, adopt the guilt, and render it common to you all? To the provinces next this pernicious licence will pass: And upon us indeed, upon Galba and me, will devolve the issue of these desperate treasons, but upon you that of such ruinous wars. Neither do greater earnings await such as involve themselves in the guilt of murdering their Prince, than such as preserve themselves guiltless. But from us you shall receive, for your fidelity preserved, a donative as large and sure as from others for parricide committed.”
Those of the lifeguard-men, who bear the title of Speculatores, having dropped away, the rest of the Cohort manifested towards his person and reasoning no sort of distaste, or insolence, such as tumultuous conjunctures usually produce. On the contrary, they prepared their ensigns, in conformity rather to discipline, and with minds, as yet untainted with treason, than, as afterwards was believed, from counterfeit duty, and the hypocrisy of traitors. Celsus Marius was, moreover, sent to the body of men who had been detached from the Army in Illyrium, and were then lodged in the cloysters of Vipsanius. To Amulius Serenus and Domitius Sabinus, Centurions of the first rank, orders were given, to bring away from the court of the Temple of Liberty, the band of German soldiers there. Of the Legion formed from the Marines, great distrust was entertained, as of men full of vengeance for the blood of their brethren, whom Galba, even during his first entry as Emperor into Rome, had doomed to instant massacre. To the camp also of the Prætorian guards there repaired the Tribunes Cerius Severus, Subrius Dexter, and Pompeius Longinus, to try whether by reasons and exhortations more wholesome and righteous, the mutiny then but in its infancy, and not yet arrived at its full inveteracy, might not be quelled, and obedience restored. Two of these Tribunes, Subrius and Cerius, the soldiers encountered and terrified by threats. Upon Longinus they laid violent hands, and stripped him of his arms, for that he came not as an officer by course of service, but as a confident of Galba, one faithful to his Prince, and thence obnoxious to these traitors. The Legion of Marines, without hesitating a moment, associated themselves with the Prætorian bands. The band detached from the Illyrian army drove Celsus from amongst them, with flights of darts. The German troops continued a great while wavering and irresolute; men, who were in their bodies still feeble, but in their minds intirely peaceable and reconciled. For as they, who had been by Nero sent before him to Alexandria, while he meditated a journey thither, were now returned sickly and fatigued with a course of sailing so long and uneasy, Galba was bestowing constant and affectionate care to cherish and restore them.
The whole body of the populace, mixt with a host of bondmen, were now filling the palace; all clamouring with confused din, to have Otho doomed to instant execution, and the rest of the conspirators to confiscation and exile; just as if they had been craving for some public representation and sports in the Circus or Amphitheatre. Nor in truth, were they actuated by any discernment, by any sincerity or affection: For the same mouths were ready before the close of the day, to have urged the doom of Galba and his adherents, with equal contention and noise; but they blindly followed a custom transmitted from reign to reign, of soothing any Emperor whomsoever, by applauses usual and extravagant, and by a display of zeal utterly vain and hollow. Galba, the while, was holden in suspense between two different counsels. It was proposed by Vinius, “That the Emperor should abide within the palace, arm his slaves in his defence, fortify the avenues, and by no means issue forth amongst men mad with rage. To the mutinous he must allow time for remorse; to the well affected leisure for intercourse and concurrence. Desperate iniquities derive force from precipitation and rapidity. Sound counsels are ripened and corroborated by slowness and deliberation. In conclusion, were his going found necessary some time hence, it would be still even then in his power to go. But if once he ventured abroad, it would be too late to wish himself at home, since upon the good pleasure of others his return must then depend.”
All the rest alledged “the necessity of dispatch and instant measures before the conspiracy of a few, as yet impotent and unsupported, had gathered strength and numbers. By such conduct even Otho would be struck with dread, he who, having withdrawn himself by stealth, and been introduced amongst men no wise apprized of the design, was now by the heaviness of Galba and his party, their spiritless procrastinations and consumption of time, taught to mimic the Sovereign. Far be it from them to linger on, to await till he had established in his interest the whole Camp, then marched into Rome, seized the Forum, and under full view of Galba, ascended the Capitol; when at the same time the Emperor, like a chief of signal prowess, shuts himself up with his valiant friends in the palace, and there, secure as bolted gates and doors can make him, prepares forsooth to endure a siege! Mighty and notable, truly, was the aid to be expected from an array of their slaves, if the union and alacrity of numbers so vast already, attached to his cause, were neglected, and the first sally of their resentment, a thing of infinite prevalence, were left to cool. Whatever is dishonourable, is therefore unsafe: Or, if to fall were inevitable, it was just to brave danger by meeting it: An event from which more public odium and distaste would accrue to Otho, and to themselves certain renown.” Vinius opposed this advice, and was therefore by Laco encountered with great vehemence and menaces; all at the instigation of Icelus, who was thus pursuing his personal and inveterate spite, to the calamity and overthrow of the State.
Neither did Galba deliberate longer, but yielded to those whose counsels were more plausible. Piso however was sent away before to the camp, as a young man mighty in name and reputation, distinguished with recent marks of public favour, and one possessed too with enmity to Titus Vinius. Whether he really hated the man, or whether the same were only wished by such as did: in truth the more invidious opinion, that of his hate, was the most readily believed. Scarce had Piso left the palace, before a story spread, that Otho was slain in the camp; a story founded at first only upon a rumour, such as flew at random, and could not be traced. But forthwith, as usual in momentous lies, there appeared persons who averred, that they themselves had been upon the spot when it was done, and beheld it done: News swallowed with credulity by men who rejoiced in it, and troubled not themselves with inquiries about it. It was by many conjectured, that by some partizans of Otho, who by this time had mingled themselves with the rest, the rumour was first framed, and afterwards heightened; and that, purely to intice Galba from his retirement, they had forged and published tidings so acceptable.
Now upon this occasion, it was not the people only, with the thoughtless vulgar, who broke out into shouts and applaudings, and demonstrations of zeal altogether extravagant; but the major part of the Senators and Roman Knights now divested of their fears, and therefore void of caution and reserve, forced the gates of the palace, and rushing in, presented themselves with ostentation before Galba, uttering sore complaints, that the vengeance by them meditated in his behalf, was now snatched out of their hands. Every the most spiritless coward, such who would be sure to face no sort of danger, as the event well proved, was at this juncture profuse of words and boasts, in tongue at least magnanimous and daring. No man knew the fact, and all averred it. So that Galba, deprived of true information, and overcome with the concurring voices of men misled themselves and misleading him, put on a breast-plate; and, finding himself unable, through age and bodily weakness, to sustain the pressing crowd, was hoisted up in a chair. While he was yet within the palace, Julius Atticus, one of the lifeguard, approached, and displaying a sword all over bloody, declared with a loud voice, that by his hand Otho had been slain. Nor other other answer gave Galba, than, Brother soldier, whose orders hadst thou? Such was the signal firmness of his spirit in restraining the licentious insolence of the soldiery, a spirit by no menaces to be dismayed, and against the insinuations of flattery firm and uncorrupt.
In the camp the while they had to a man shaken off all doubts and hesitation. Nay such was the ardour they expressed, that to secure Otho with their persons and several bands sufficed them not; they even placed him amidst the ensigns, upon that very Tribunal, where a little before stood the golden Statue of Galba, and there encompassed him round with banners displayed. Room for access to his person the Tribunes and Centurions found none; the common soldiers had even given round a general caution “to beware of all who were in command or authority amongst them.” With fierce shouts, with the wild voice of uproar, and with the cries of exhortation by all given and returned, the whole place resounded: A spirit no wise equalled by that of the people, and the vulgar, when on public occasions they utter, in inconstant starts of acclamations, their lifeless flattery. Here, as fast as they beheld any particular soldier approach, (for in crowds they were all approaching) they seized him by the hand, in all their armour embraced him, placed him fast by their side, led him word by word in the oath of fidelity to Otho; this moment recommended their Emperor to the affections of the soldiers; the next the soldier to the favour of their Emperor. Neither was Otho wanting or slow in his part; his hand was continually presented to the salute; he worshipped the rabble, was profuse of his kisses, and in order to be a Sovereign, descended to all the meannesses of a Slave. After the Legion of Marines had unanimously sworn to him, he grew to confide in his strength, and judged that, as he had hitherto only incited them to disaffection man by man, it was now seasonable to inflame them in a body. From the rampart therefore of the camp, he began in this strain:
“Under what denomination I come forth to present myself to you, my fellow soldiers, I can by no means declare. To entitle myself a private person, is what I can no more endure, since by you I have been entitled your Prince; than to call myself Sovereign whilst another bears rule. Nay, by what appellation you yourselves are to be distinguished, must also continue a riddle, as long as it remains a controversy, whether you entertain within your trenches a Roman Emperor, or an enemy to the people of Rome. Hear you not, that with the same breath and importunity is demanded a bloody doom for me, and terrible vengeance upon you? So apparent it is, that your lot and mine is the same, either to be secure together, or together to perish. And so merciful is the spirit of Galba, that ere now perhaps he has granted that cruel demand; he who, without solicitation from any mortal man, could doom to general massacre so many thousand soldiers void of all guilt and offence. Cold horror possesseth my soul, as often as I recal the day of his public entry, a day so mournful and tragical; when I recal the only victory by Galba won, that of his consigning to execution, under the eyes of Rome, every tenth man of those wretches who had already submitted, wretches whom he had received, as supplicants, into his faith and protection.
“Such were the unhallowed omens attending his entry; and, after it, what instance of glory brought he to adorn his sovereignty, other than the blood of Obultronius Sabinus and of Cornelius Marcellus, both slaughtered in Spain, that of Betuus Chilo spilt in Gaul, that of Fonteius Capito in Germany, that of Clodius Macer in Africa, that of Cingonius in his march, of Turpilianus in the City, and of Nymphidius in the Camp? Through the whole extent of the Empire, what Province is there, what quarter or encampment, which is not contaminated with slaughters, and dyed in blood, or, as he himself boasts, chastened and reformed? For, upon deeds, which, with all but himself, pass for barbarities, he bestows the title of remedies and cures; whilst by confounding the names of things, to cruelty he gives that of severity, to sordid avarice that of parcimony, and, under the term of discipline, comprizes all the insults and vengeance poured upon your heads. It is now five months since the exit of Nero; and in that short space, Icelus alone has, by spoil and rapine, amassed more wealth than all that Polycletus, and Vatinius, and Elius, and the like tribe of spoilers, had accumulated during all that reign. And surely with less avidity, with less licentiousness had TitusVinius ravaged, had he himself, and not Galba, reigned. In his present situation he hath at once treated us, as if we were his Subjects, with oppression; and, as if we were strangers, with scorn. This man’s house alone contains wealth sufficient to furnish the donative, a debt never offered to be paid you, yet a pretence daily to upbraid and revile you.
“Nay, to obviate every hope, which from the successor at least of Galba, we might have conceived, he has called one even from exile; such a one as, in abandoned avarice, and in a spirit gloomy and horrid, he apprehended to bear, beyond all others, the nearest resemblance of himself You perceived, my fellow soldiers, by the late memorable tempest, how awfully the angry Deities withstood the sad and ill-boding adoption. In the Senate the same angry spirit prevails; the same in the people of Rome. Upon your bravery and vigour it is that we next depend; as it is from you that every worthy design must derive its force, and as without you all designs, however excellent, are impotent and abortive. I call you not to the perils of war, nor, in truth, to any peril. On our side already are all the soldiery, I mean all that are armed. The single Cohort now with Galba, are not covered with armour, but with the long vestment of Citizens; nor does that single Cohort any longer guard him as their Prince, but only hold him as their prisoner. As soon as ever they shall have espied you, as soon as ever they shall have received the signal from me, the only remaining struggle will be, who shall in this my cause manifest the highest merit. Neither have we the smallest room left for delay in pursuing such a counsel as ours, which can never meet with applause, till it has been first accomplished with success.”
He then ordered the common armory to be thrown open. From it instantly were arms snatched at random, without regard had to the custom of war, and the different orders of men, whence the soldiers of the Prætorian Cohorts and those of the Legions should be severally ranged and distinguished by their peculiar badges and habiliments. At present both sort were with their shields and helmets, scattered and intermixed amongst the auxiliaries. Not a Tribune, nor Centurion directed or incited them. Every man was his own Captain and Prompter; and to all the most mischievous it proved a principal cause of alacrity, to behold the innocent sorrowing.
Piso, who was utterly scared from proceeding to the camp, by the growing uproar of the insurrection there, and with the cries of rebellion resounding quite to the City, had already overtaken Galba, who having in the mean time left the palace, was now approaching the Forum; and already Celsus Marius was returned with a melancholy account. In this conjuncture it was by some proposed, to retire back to the palace; by others to proceed and seize the Capitol; by several to take possession of the place of assembling and haranguing the people. Many there were who only thwarted the opinions of the rest; and, according to the fate of all designs where the issue is unhappy, such counsels only were accounted best, as came too late, when the season for executing them was now elapsed. It is said that Laco was now, but without the privity of Galba, meditating the murder of Titus Vinius; whether by the doom of this man he meant to mollify the angry minds of the soldiery, or suspected him as an accomplice with Otho, or, to guess no more, perhaps to satiate his own private hate. By the circumstances of the time and the place, this his purpose was first retarded; since to a slaughter once begun, difficult it would have been to set any certain bounds. Then, what utterly disconcerted his scheme, was the incessant arrival of news sad and alarming, with the hasty flight of friends and late adherents. For in one and all, their affections were growing cold, and all their zeal expiring: Such were the men, who had at first, with eminent alacrity, made boast of their magnanimity and faith inviolable.
For Galba, he was tossed hither and thither, according to every different movement and fluctuation of the unsteady multitude, while on every side, the Temples and great Halls were filled with crowds beholding the doleful spectacle. Nor by the people, nor even by the common herd, was one word uttered, or one popular cry. Full of astonishment were their looks, and their ears bent to attention, catching at every sound. There was no tumult, no composure; but such an awful stillness, as always indicates mighty dread, and mighty fury. To Otho however it was reported, that at Rome the populace were arming. Hence he gave orders, to march with rapidity, and anticipate the terrors which threatened. This sufficed the soldiers; and even the Roman soldiers advance against Rome, and, having in their way violently scattered and overthrown the populace their fellow Citizens, and trodden under foot the Fathers of the Senate, rush furiously into the Forum, their horses foaming, themselves, for hostility and arms, terrible to behold; all with such impetuosity as if they had been advancing to drive Vologeses or Pacorus from the paternal throne of their ancestors and our enemies, the Arsacides; and not to butcher their own Emperor, unarmed as he was, and an ancient man. Nor did the view of the Capitol before them, nor the awe of the several Temples surrounding them, nor reverence to princes past, nor dread of those to come, deter these men of blood, but perpetrate they would the horrible parricide, though such a parricide, that for it the succeeding Emperor, whoever he happen to be, is always sure to repay due vengeance.
He who was standard-bearer to the Cohort which had remained with Galba, no sooner perceived the body of men from the camp to approach under arms, but he (who according to tradition was Atilius Vergilio) rent from his standard the effigies of Galba, and dashed it against the ground. Upon such a signal, the affections of the whole soldiery for Otho became apparent; the people took to immediate flight, and forsook the Forum, and against such particulars as yet lingered and hesitated, the soldiers turned their lances. Near the Lake of Curtius, Galba, by the dread and trembling which possessed those who carried him, was flung from his chair, and tumbled prostrate upon the earth. Of his last words various are the accounts published, just as this man hated him, or that man admired him. By some it is reported, that he asked, in the stile of a supplicant, what evil he had merited, and besought time, only for a few days, to discharge their donative. Many more there are who relate, that, of his own accord, he readily presented his throat to the assassins, bidding them “proceed and strike resolutely, if the interest of the commonwealth so required.” To his murderers it was of no moment or avail, whatever he said. Of the very person who gave him the mortal blow, we have no account sufficiently clear. Some hold it to have been Terentius, a resumed Veteran; Others, one Lecanius. The more current tradition is, that Camurius, a common soldier of the fifteenth Legion, smote him with a sword in the neck, and with it cut his throat. The rest horridly hacked and mangled his legs and arms; for his breast was covered with armour. Nay, a spirit so brutal and inhuman transported them, that his body now reduced to a trunk, lifeless and without a head, was yet disfigured by wounds without number. Upon Titus Vinius they next discharged their rage; and concerning him too it remains undecided, whether, through deadly and impending terror, he were not quite berest of speech; or whether he cried not, with a loud voice, that from Otho they had no orders to slay him. Were what he averred really a fiction inspired by fear; or were it, that he thus avowed his part in the conspiracy; certain it is, that, from the baseness of his life and fame, the presumption is more rational, that he himself had embarked in that treason, for which he had administered cause. Before the Temple of the deified Julius he lay, maimed in the joint of the knee; for there he received his first wound, and presently after was by Julius Carus, a legionary soldier, pierced quite through the body.
A man signal for faith and bravery did our age that day behold in the person of Sempronius Densus, Centurion of a Prætorian Cohort, and by Galba appointed to guard the person of Piso. This Officer, with his poynard drawn, singly encountered so many bloody men all armed, and boldly upbraided them as detestable parricides; insomuch that, partly by his blows, partly by his reproaches, upon his own head he drew the swords of the assassins and thence to Piso procured, though he too were already wounded, opportunity to retire. Piso escaped to the temple of Vesta, and was there, by a Bondman of the State, received through compassion, and concealed in his chamber. By thus lurking in obscurity it was, and by no protection from the sacredness of the place, or from the reverence due to rites divine, that he a while suspended his impending tragedy, when there arrived two men, who, beside their immediate orders from Otho, were of themselves inflamed with avowed thirst after his blood. These were Sulpitius Florus, belonging to the British Bands, a man but just before by Galba presented with the privilege of a Roman Citizen, and Statius Murcus, one of his lifeguard. By them Piso was dragged forth and butchered in the portal of the Temple.
Of Otho it is said, that never did he receive the news of any man’s blood spilt, with higher marks of delight; that never did he gaze upon any bloody head with eyes so curious and insatiable. Whether his spirit were, upon this occasion, first relieved from all solicitude, and thenceforth presumed upon a season of rejoicing without check or allay; or whether, from recalling to mind the Imperial Majesty vested in the person of Galba, and his own intimacy with Titus Vinius; his soul, however filled with vengeance, became struck with horror upon the sad representation of their fate. For the murder of Piso he believed it just and commendable to express his joy, as for that of his enemy and competitor. Upon long poles their bleeding heads were exalted, and thus carried along amidst the banners of the military bands, close by the Eagle of a Legion; while particulars were in boasts displaying their hands all imbrued with the blood; namely all they who had committed the murder, all who assisted at it, and all who truly or falsly claimed share in a parricide, which all magnified as a glorious feat, worthy of eternal renown. Above an hundred and twenty distinct memorials at this time presented, all claiming rewards for some notable exploit by the several claimers performed on that tragical day, fell afterwards into the hands of the Emperor Vitellius, who commanded search to be made for the Authors, and all of them to be put to the sword; from no tenderness or regard for Galba, but out of policy common and traditional amongst princes, as a security against such traitors, during their own reigns, at least a precedent of vengeance by them left to their successors.
You would have now thought that you had seen in Rome another Senate, and another People. To a man they earnestly crowded to the camp, each striving to outrun his fellows, each to overtake and pass by such as were before him: They condemned the conduct of Galba, magnified the judgment of the soldiers, kissed the hands of Otho; and the more hollow and counterfeit all their indications of zeal were, the more loud and numerous were the indications which they strove to shew. Neither did Otho neglect the persons of individuals, while, by persuasions and the motions of his countenance, he at the same time endeavoured to pacify the spirit of the soldiers breathing menaces and ravage. Already they were urging for a bloody doom to be instantly inflicted upon Marius Celsus, Consul elect, and to Galba a faithful and constant friend, even in his last distress and to the sad close of his life: They were in truth enraged at the man for his integrity and vigour of spirit, virtues which with them passed for dangerous crimes. What they aimed at was apparent, to have their hands let loose to general pillage and massacre, and to bring to destruction every worthy and every able man in the Roman State. But in Otho authority sufficient was not found to prohibit acts of violence; it was hitherto only in his power to ordain them to be done. So that personating great wrath towards Celsus, he ordered him to be put under bonds and durance, with strong protestations, that for other and higher punishment he reserved him; and in this manner redeemed him from a violent death just impending.
From this moment all things were transacted by the mere will and option of the soldiers. By them were chosen the Captains of the Prætorian guards; namely, Plotius Firmus, once a common soldier, then preferred to command the watch, and, even during the life and reign of Galba, embarked in the faction of Otho; with Plotius they joined Licinius Proculus, one in high confidence with Otho, and thought to have promoted his interest and intrigues. To the government of Rome they advanced Flavius Sabinus, in deference to the judgment of Nero, in whose reign he had administered the same office; the major part being influenced in this choice by their regard to his brother Vespasian. They then insisted importunately, that the fees wont to be by them paid to their Centurions, for exemption from certain military burdens, should be utterly abolished; for, under this name, every poor soldier paid as it were, an annual tribute. Hence the fourth part of a Company at once used to be absent and dispersed, either in progresses upon licence, or roaming like vagrants through the camp itself; and provided they could but discharge their bribe to the Centurion, none of them were solicitous about the measure of that heavy imposition, or about the nature of the earnings which enabled them to bear it. So that by betaking themselves to robbing and plundering, or by submitting to vile offices, such as were peculiar to slaves, they purchased a dispensation from the toils of soldiers. It was moreover a practice to persecute every soldier noted for wealth, by subjecting him continually to hard labour and merciless stripes, till he were forced to buy a dispensation at a price: Then, when by these exactions he was quite exhausted and impoverished; nay, when by long exemption from duty, he was also become enslaved to laziness and sloth, he returned home to his Company a different man, reduced from plenty to miserable indigence, and now as listless and inactive, as before he was vigorous and hardy. And as there were many who had successively undergone the like change, been debauched by such wild immunity, and excited by such pinching necessity; they were always ready to run headlong into sedition, dissention, and at last into civil wars. But Otho, that he might not estrange from him the affections of the Centurions, by such remission and bounty conferred upon the common soldiers, undertook, out of his own revenue, yearly to pay the fees of such exemptions; a regulation doubtless of notable benefit, and by such good princes as came after, perpetuated as part of the military establishment. Laco, Captain of the guards to Galba, as if no more than his banishment were intended, was condemned to an island, but murdered by a resumed Veteran, whom Otho had sent before him, with orders for his assassination. Upon Icelus, as he was only a slave manumised, public execution was formally done.
When in a series of iniquities so tragical the whole day was spent, the concluding evil was that of public rejoicing. The City Prætor assembles the Senate. The other Magistrates contend to surpass each other in flights of flattery. The Fathers run with rapidity to assemble. To Otho is decreed the authority Tribunitial, the name of Augustus, and every other honour enjoyed by preceding Emperors. For they now jointly laboured to obliterate the many invectives and contumelies which they had in common poured forth against him; indignities, which no man could perceive to have made any angry impressions upon his spirit. Whether he had quite dropt all resentment, or only postponed his vengeance, such was the shortness of his reign, that no certain judgment could be formed. When over the Forum, still flowing with blood, and through heaps of the slain, Otho had been carried to the Capitol, and thence to the palace, he granted leave to burn and bury the coarses. The remains of Piso were, by his wife Verania and his brother Scribonianus, committed to the quiet of the grave; as were those of Titus Vinius by his daughter Crispina; after they had found out and redeemed their heads, which their murderers had retained for sale.
Piso had entered into the thirty first year of his age, much happier in his fame than in his fortune. His brother Magnus had fallen by the cruelty of Claudius, his brother Crassus by that of Nero. He himself had lived a long time in the state of exile, but four days in that of a prince; and, by the late adoption, so suddenly made, gained no other advantage over his elder brother than that of being first slain. Titus Vinius had passed fifty-seven years in a course of manners unequal and diversified. His father was of a Prætorian family; his mother’s father one of those proscribed by the Triumvirate. In his very first campaign, under Calvisius Sabinus, he was branded with infamy. For the wife of that General, moved with a preposterous fondness to view the situation of the camp, entered the same in the night under the habit of a soldier; and having there, with the like wanton curiosity, adventured to pry into the manner of the guard, and of the other functions military, at last confidently perpetrated the act of adultery in the very quarter sacred to the Roman Eagles and Banners; and Titus Vinius was arraigned as her partner in this crime. By order therefore of the Emperor Caligula, he was put in irons and confinement, but by the change of times soon enlarged, and thenceforth passed through a succession of public employments, with a character free from reproach. At the close of his Prætorship, he was preferred to the command of a Legion, and in it acquitted himself with applause. He was afterwards stained with an imputation altogether infamous, and worthy only of a slave, to have purloined a goblet of gold while he was entertained, with other company, at the table of Claudius; insomuch that on the day following, Claudius distinguished him from all the rest of his guests, by ordering that Vinius only should be served in an earthen cup. Yet the same Vinius ruled the province of Narbon Gaul, in quality of Proconsul, with justice unbiassed and eminent integrity. Soon after, his intimacy with Galba having led him to a precipice where his fall overtook him, he proved daring, subtle, prompt, and, according as he chose to apply his spirit, was with equal ardour vicious and depraved, or vigilant and active. The Testament made by Vinius was, through the mightiness of his wealth, of none effect. The last Will of Piso, his poverty rendered valid.
The corpse of Galba, after it had lain long neglected in the streets, and, during the licentiousness of the night, suffered insults and indecencies without number or measure, was by Argius, one of his principal Bondmen, bearing the office of Steward, reposited in a mean grave, within his own gardens. His head, miserably mangled and stuck upon a pole by a rabble of the vile scullions and attendants of the camp, was by them erected before the tomb of Patrobius, a manumised slave of Nero’s, and by the authority of Galba executed. Here it was at length found on the day following, and laid with the remains of his body which had been already burnt. Such was the end of Galba, in the seventy-third year of his life; after having passed through the reigns of five Princes, in a course of fortune abundantly prosperous, and under the Sovereignty of others happier than in his own. Signally ancient was the nobility of his house, mighty the wealth. In himself were found talents no other than moderate, and he was rather free from vices, than endowed with many virtues. Fame was what he no wise despised, yet never studied to blazon his own. No man’s money did he covet, was sparing of his own; of the public money greedy and tenacious. Towards his Friends and Freedmen, when chance directed him to such as were good, he was ever passive and resigned, without all check and contradiction; and to all their iniquities where they proved to be bad, blind even to his own scandal and disgrace. But such was the splendor of his race, and such the terrible spirit of those times, that, by his escaping them, a colour was ministered for bestowing the name of real wisdom upon that which in him was real heaviness. During the vigour of his years he commanded with signal renown in the German wars. He afterwards governed Africa, as Proconsul, with moderation and gentleness; as now, in the latter part of his life, he had ruled the nethermost Spain, with the like measure of justice. For greater than a Subject he seemed, while he was yet no more than a Subject; and, in the opinion of all men, had passed as capable of Empire, had he never been Emperor.
To the City already full of consternation, at once struck with the horror of the recent parricide, and dreading the spirit and known vices of Otho, there accrued fresh cause of affright from the tidings concerning Vitellius; tidings which, before the murder of Galba, were suppressed, with design to have it believed, that only the army in higher Germany had revolted. Upon this occasion, it became matter of open lamentation, not to the Senate alone and Equestrian Order, men who had some share in the administration, and some concern for the public Weal, but even to the mean People; that two men of all others the most infamous for pollution, effeminacy and profusion, were thus fatally chosen, as it were on purpose, to rend and destroy the Empire. Nor did they now any longer recount the instances of cruelty, still recent, perpetrated during the late times of peace and tyranny: But reviving the memory and terrors of the civil wars, they represented “Rome so often taken by her own hostile armies, the desolation of Italy, the Provinces ravaged, the battles of Pharsalia and Philippi, with the sieges of Perusia and Modena;” Names signal for public calamities and slaughter. “In a struggle for the Sovereignty even among men of renown, it was urged that the whole earth was well nigh turned upside down. Yet under the prevailing fortune of Julius Cæsar the Empire subsisted; it subsisted under that of Augustus: Under Pompey too and Brutus the Republic would have subsisted. Would they, at this time, repair to the Temples for Otho, or for Vitellius? Alike impious would be the supplications for either, alike detestable the vows; since such men they both were, that by the issue of the war between them, nothing else was to be learnt, than that whichsoever of the two proved the Conqueror, would thence prove the worst.” There were those who formed prognostications concerning Vespasian, and the forces in the East; and, as Vespasian excelled them both, another war was dreaded, and additional calamities. Moreover, with the Public, Vespasian stood but in dubious estimation, and, of all those who had been Emperors, was in truth the only one by power changed for the better.
I now proceed to a display of the rise and causes of the commotion and revolt begun by Vitellius. When Julius Vindex was, with all his forces, slain, the conquering army, grown unruly and imperious upon such an acquisition of glory and spoil; as to their share the victory had fallen, without pains or peril, in a war extremely lucrative; became eager for action, and feats of war, and fonder of rapine than of their usual stipend. They had besides long endured a service void of gain, and full of rigour, as well from the bleakness of the country, and keenness of the air, as from the severe exercise of discipline; which, though it be preserved during peace with a strictness ever so unrelenting, never fails to be dissolved by intestine wars; since on both sides are always found busy instruments of corruption, and the violation of faith and duty escapes all correction. Of men, and arms, and horses they had abundant store, both for service, and for shew. But before the beginning of the war, they knew only their own particular companies, and their own troops of horse; for the armies were separated from each other by the boundaries of the several Provinces. It was to make head against Vindex that the Legions were drawn together; and having then tried their own strength, and that of the Gauls, they sought earnestly to revive once more the tumult of war, and to create fresh quarrels. Nor did they treat them as formerly with the title of Allies, but with that of Enemies, and of a people subdued by the sword. Nay, they were abetted by those of the Gauls who dwell along the Banks of the Rhine, and having adhered to the fortune and party of the Army, were now vehemently inciting them against the Galbians; for upon their countrymen they had bestowed this name, disdaining to mention that of Vindex. Filled therefore with rage towards the Sequanians, and the Eduans, and towards other Cities, according to the measure of their wealth, they grasped in imagination future booty, from towns sacked, from the devastation of countries, and the plunder of private dwellings. Besides their being prompted by notable rapaciousness and arrogance, the two leading vices of such as are strongest, they were provoked by the pride and defiance found in the behaviour of the Gauls, who boasted, that in contempt of the army, they were by Galba released from a fourth of their Tribute, and distinguished with the rights and privileges of Roman Citizens. To all this there accrued a current report, maliciously raised, and rashly believed, that the Legions were doomed to decimation, and every Centurion noted for being brave and daring, to be cashiered. From every quarter were arriving news tragical and alarming. Sad and discouraging were the tidings from Rome. The Colony too of Lyons, who were sorely disaffected to Galba, and immoveable in their adherence to Nero, proved a continual source of wild and flying rumours. But within the camp itself was found most ample matter for fiction and credulity, from the bitterness and hate of the soldiery, from their consciousness and dread, and even from the security which, upon a review of their own forces, they conceived.
About the very first of December in the preceding year, Aulus Vitellius had entered the lower Germany, and with great accuracy visited the winter quarters of the Legions there. To their ranks he restored numbers who had been degraded; many he redeemed from ignominious punishments, and cancelled the marks of infamy inflicted upon others. Some regulations he made through judgment; but most with a corrupt view to popularity. Among the former must be reckoned his abolishing with so much integrity, what Fonteius Capito had done, in preferring and degrading particulars from the motives of avarice, and sordid gain. Neither were these his proceedings estimated barely according to the measure of his office, that of a General of Consular quality; but whatever he did, passed under a higher consideration. And for Vitellius himself, as by such who judged severely, he was accounted but a mean person; his friends and adherents, on the contrary, while he was giving away his own fortune, and lavishing in bounties that of others, without measure, without discernment, bestowed upon this extravagance and spoil the title of complaisance and good nature. Add that, from a violent thirst of bearing rule, into virtues they construed the most manifest vices. In both armies, as there were many peaceable and modest, so were there many wicked and resolute. But abandoned to licentious pursuits, and signal in precipitancy were two Commanders of Legions, Alienus Cæcina and Fabius Valens. The latter particularly was highly disgusted with Galba, alledging that his services in detecting the reserves and hesitation of Verginius, and in stifling the machinations of Capito, had been by Galba passed over with ingratitude. Hence he instigated Vitellius, and magnified to him “the ardour and ready zeal of the soldiery; that his own name was every-where mentioned with renown. From Hordeonius Flaccus no obstruction would be found. Britain would accede to his party. The auxiliary forces of the Germans would join. Ill assured was the faith of the Provinces. Tottering and precarious was the Sovereignty of the Old-man, and would quickly pass from him. Let Vitellius only open his arms, and advance to receive his approaching fortune. With reason had Verginius hesitated to accept the Empire, a man descended only from an Equestrian family, from a father never known by any office. Had he accepted it, he would have proved unequal to it; and might live in safety after he had refused it. Vitellius sprung from a father who had sustained three Consulships, with the awful office of Censor, and had been Collegue in the Consulship with Claudius. Such paternal dignities had long since raised him to the elevation of an Emperor, and deprived him of all security in the station of a Subject.”
His spirit, naturally heavy and slow, was so far agitated by such representations, as to covet the Diadem rather than to hope for it. In the higher Germany, Cæcina had intirely captivated the affections of the soldiers, as he was graceful and young, large in his person, of a soul which fostered designs without bounds, his gait noble and stately, and himself a prompt and lively speaker. This young man, exercising the office of Quæstor in that province of Spain called Bætica, had revolted immediately to Galba, who thence preferred him to the command of a Legion; but soon after having discovered that he had embezzled the common treasure, ordered him to be prosecuted as one guilty of robbing the Public. Cæcina resenting this heniously, determined to excite a spirit of universal confusion and revolt, and with the miseries of the State to cover his own private wounds. Neither in the army itself were there wanting seeds of tumult and discord. For in the war against Vindex they had been all to a man engaged; nor, till after Nero was slain, could they be induced to transfer their allegiance to Galba. The troops too of lower Germany had the merit of having taken the oath of fidelity before them. Moreover contiguous and intermixed with the winter quarters of the Legions lay the territories of the Treverians and the Lingones, and such other Communities as had been by Galba aggrieved with severe edicts, or deprived of their wonted bounds. Hence arose seditious communications between them; as also the corruption of the soldiery, increased by their intercourse with these townsmen and peasants; and hence too that devotion of theirs to Verginius was now at the service of any other Candidate.
The Community of the Lingones had, in observance of ancient custom, sent gifts to the Legions, and the compliment of their right hands presented, in token of affection and hospitality. Now their Deputies, who in their persons and countenances bore the studied marks of miserable distress and anguish, took all occasions, both in the tents of the soldiers, and in the quarters assigned for the Eagles and arms of every particular Legion, to bewail by turns their own hardships and oppressions, and the favour and advantages conferred upon the other neighbouring Communities. And as soon as they found that these their infusions were swallowed with attention and eagerness, they proceeded to bemoan the lot of the Army itself, the perils which surrounded them, with their opprobrious usage; and thus inflamed the minds of the men. They were in truth just ripe for a present insurrection, when Hordeonius Flaccus ordered the Deputies to depart, and, that their departure might be the more secret, to leave the camp by night. Hence a furious rumour ensued, that they were murdered. This was what the most part affirmed, and added, that unless they took sure measures for their own defence and preservation, the certain consequence would be, that all the bravest and most vigilant soldiers, and such as had dared to complain of the present evils, would be massacred in the dark, apart from the sight and observation of their brethren. Presently the Legions bind themselves in a mutual and secret confederacy, and in it the auxiliary soldiers are comprized; men whom at first they suspected of preparing to fall upon the Legions themselves thus revolting, after having surrounded them with the body of their cohorts, and their wings of horse. But anon these auxiliaries appeared more clamorous and vehement than the rest. So much more easily procured, amongst men of evil minds, is a concurrence in rage and war, than in quietness and unanimity during peace.
In lower Germany, the Legions on the first of January performed the solemnity of swearing allegiance to Galba, drawn to it indeed by compulsion; and with infinite backwardness and hesitation they did it. Faint and few were the cries of loyalty and applause, and these only uttered by some in the foremost ranks. The rest continued mute, every particular expecting with impatience from him who stood nearest, some daring effort of disaffection and treason; agreeably to the natural bent of men, to follow greedily in such pursuits as they are greatly averse to begin. The Legions too were animated by different humours. The first and the fifth were so turbulent and outrageous, that amongst them some were found who assaulted the images of Galba with stones. The fifteenth and sixteenth had not yet ventured beyond menaces and the uproar of words, but were watching with special attention for a beginning and precedent of mutiny and violence. But, in the higher Army the fourth Legion, and the eighteenth, both abiding in the same winter quarters, did, even on the first of January, break in pieces the images of Galba: An outrage in which the fourth manifested the greater fury. The eighteenth shewed some hesitation, but presently joined with the former. And lest, by this act, they might seem to have renounced all reverence for the Empire, they recalled and took the oath of fidelity to the antiquated names of the Senate and People of Rome. Nor was there one Tribune or one Commander of the Legions found to exert himself in behalf of Galba. Nay, some of these officers practised what is usual during such madness and confusion, and added notably to the uproar. No man however appeared to harangue the multitude, or took upon him the authority of applying to them from a Tribunal. For as yet no particular person could be singled out to bear the name and weight of the commotion.
It is true Hordeonius Flaccus was upon the spot; a General of Consular authority was a beholder of this detestable treason and revolt, yet durst neither restrain such as were already rushing into rebellion, nor recover such as were only wavering, nor rouse and animate those who still persevered in their integrity; but remained spiritless, terrified, and only through stupidity innocent. There were four Centurions who would have protected the images of Galba, but were by the furious soldiers seized and confined in chains. These were Nonius Receptus, Donatius Valens, Romilius Marcellus and Calpurnius Repentinus; all belonging to the eighteenth Legion. Further than this in none of them was found or faith, or duty, or the memory of their former oaths. But it happened in this as in other insurrections; whither the many led, all the rest blindly followed. On the night which followed the same day, the Eagle-bearer of the fourth Legion, arriveing at Cologn, acquainted Vitellius, whilst he was banquetting, that the fourth Legion and the eighteenth had thrown down the images of Galba, and plighted their fidelity to the Senate and People of Rome: An oath which to him and his friends appeared void and invalid. It was therefore determined to fix and ascertain Fortune while she was thus shifting, and to make these Legions the Tender of an Emperor. Forthwith messengers were dispatched from Vitellius, to acquaint the Legions of the lower Province, and their Commanders, “That the higher Army had revolted from Galba; insomuch that they must either make war upon the revolters; or if they rather preferred peace and coalition, must create an Emperor. Indeed with much less peril they might presently elect a Prince, than continue in search of one.”
The winter quarters of the first Legion lay nearest, and with it Fabius Valens the Commander, more keen and zealous than all the rest. This officer entering into Cologn the very next day, accompanied with the cavalry of his Legion, and those of the auxiliaries, openly saluted VitelliusEmperor. His example was followed by the Legions of the same province with mighty haste and competition; and the upper Army, having already relinquished the plausible names of the Senate and People of Rome, acceded so early as the third of January to the party of Vitellius: It was now apparent, that to the free Roman State they were no-wise devoted during the two preceding days. Equal to the ardour and zeal of the armies was that of the Treverians, of the Lingones, and of the inhabitants of Cologn; all making offer of supplies of men, of horses, of treasure, each according to the measure of his power and sufficiency, either in person, or wealth, or of capacity and address. Neither was such liberality confined to the leading men of these Colonies, or to those of the Camp, men who enjoyed present abundance, and who from victory once gained conceived hopes of ample earnings: The common men too, the poor soldiers, they who were destitute of money, instead of it surrendered their travelling subsistence, their girdles, the trappings of their horses, and the silver ornaments upon their armour; all led by impulse, by headlong passion, and even by avarice.
Vitellius therefore, after he had extolled the zeal and alacrity of the soldiers, disposed of the several charges depending on the Sovereignty; charges which were wont to be administered by the Imperial Freedmen, but now by him conferred upon Roman Knights. The fees exacted from the soldiers by the Centurions for exemptions from duty, he ordered to be paid out of his own Treasure as Emperor. The cruel vengeance of the soldiers, in craving the doom and execution of particulars, he in many instances humoured; and in some instances defeated, under colour of committing the obnoxious persons to prison. Pompeius Propinquus, Governor of the Province of Belgica, was put to present death. By an artifice he redeemed from their rage the person of Julius Burdo, Commander of the Naval Forces in Germany. Against him the fury of the army raged, as they believed that through his mischievous devices Fonteius Capito had been brought first to rebel, and then to perish. Dear to them was the memory of Capito; and such besides was their thirst of vengeance and blood, that to slay and execute in the face of the day, was with them matter of licence; but to protect and shew mercy there was no way other than that of deceiving them. Thus was Burdo secured in prison, and, afterwards upon the victory obtained by Vitellius, discharged, when the malice of the soldiers was dissipated. In the mean while, Crispinus the Centurion was presented to their fury, as a proper victim for expiation; he who had stained himself with the blood of Capito. For this cause, as he was, to the soldiers who required his execution, a criminal the more signally notorious; so he was to Vitellius who awarded it, an object the more vile and despicable. The next threatened was Julius Civilis, but delivered from all peril, as, amongst his countrymen the Batavians, he was a man of prevailing credit and popularity; and lest by his doom that nation so wild and fierce might have been provoked to enmity. In truth there then lay in the country of the Lingones eight Cohorts of Batavians, appertaining, as auxiliaries, to the fourteenth Legion, but through the commotion and distractions of the times, retired from it; a body of men of infinite weight and availment, either as enemies or confederates. To execution Vitellius doomed Nonius, Donatius, Romilius and Calpurnius, the four Centurions lately mentioned, all condemned for adhering to their faith and duty; a crime ever thought most heinous by such as have renounced both. To this party there joined themselves Valerius Asiaticus, the Emperor’s Lieutenant in the Province of Belgica, he upon whom Vitellius afterwards bestowed his daughter; and Junius Blæsus, Governor of that part of Gaul which derives its name from the City of Lyons; together with the Italic Legion, and the band of horse intitled Taurina, both encamped at Lyons. Neither did the forces in Rhætia procrastinate, but forthwith went over to his side; nor even from those in Britain was there any hesitation found.
Over Britain Trebellius Maximus then bore rule, a man for his avarice and infamous corruption despised and detested by the army. This hate of theirs was daily heightened and inflamed by Roscius Cælius, Commander of the twentieth Legion; one who towards him had long lived in a state of strife and opposition. But now by the eruption of the civil War, their mutual enmity broke forth more implacably. Upon Cælius, the General charged the raising of sedition, and that he had utterly broken all discipline in the army. Against the General, Cælius urged that he had plundered and impoverished the Legions. And, in the mean while, through the scandalous disputes and competition between the Chiefs, the behaviour of the army, otherwise modest, became quite depraved; and to such a tumult the contest arose, that Trebellius, finding himself assaulted by many reproaches from the auxiliary soldiers also, and perceiving all the Cohorts and Bands of horse to associate themselves with Cælius, fled, in this forlorn state, to Vitellius. Yet the tranquillity of the Provinces subsisted, though the Governor vested with Consular dignity was gone. The administration was performed by the Commanders of the Legions, by their office all equal in authority; but Cælius by superior boldness gained superior sway.
Vitellius, upon the accession of the army in Britain to his party, become mighty in forces and treasure, appointed two Generals to conduct the war, and to each General assigned a different route. To Fabius Valens he gave orders to sooth and draw over the Gauls, or, if he could not persuade them, then to over-run them by spoil and devastation, and by that part of the Alps which bears the name of Cottian, make an irruption into Italy. Cæcina was ordered to advance thither by a nearer way, and to pass over the mountains called Penini. To Valens was committed the flower of the lower Army with the Eagle of the fifth Legion, and the Cohorts and Bands of horse, to the number of forty-thousand fighting men. From the higher Germany Cæcina led thirty-thousand, of which the principal strength consisted in one Legion, namely the twenty-first. Upon both Generals were bestowed bodies of auxiliary Germans. From these too it was that Vitellius drew reinforcements for his own troops, with whom he was to follow and support the whole weight of the war.
Wonderful was found the difference between the spirit of the army, and that of the Emperor. The soldiers were urgent for action, and required to be put under arms, “whilst dread still possessed the Gauls, whilst Spain remained in hesitation and suspence. The winter season was no obstruction; nor was there any to be admitted from the stupid deliberations about peace. They must invade Italy; they must seize Rome. In civil commotions nothing was so secure as dispatch, since then less necessary was counsel than execution.” Vitellius continued lifeless and stupified, only in voluptuous sloth, and consuming banquets, personating a Prince; as if in luxury and profusion the measure and functions of Sovereignty had lain. By the middle of the day he was always intoxicated with wine, gorged with feasting, unwieldy, and unmoveable. But such was the zeal and vigour of the soldiers, that of themselves they supplied all the duties of the Leader, as effectually as if he had attended himself, and in person animated the brave by hopes, the dastardly by fear. As soon as they were drawn out and armed, they demanded with earnestness, that the signal might be given for marching; styling him by the name of Germanicus, to which they subjoined his own of Vitellius. For even after he was victorious, he forbad giving him the appellation of Cæsar. To Fabius Valens, and the army which he was thus leading forth to the war, on the very day they commenced their march, there appeared a joyful presage, that of an Eagle, which measuring his motion by that of the Host, glided gently along, and flew just before, as if he purposely guided the way. Such too, for a large space of time, were the joyful shouts uttered by the soldiers, such the steady motion of the undismayed bird, that thence was inferred a manifest omen of an issue grand and successful.
And in truth they advanced with assurance to the territories of Treves, as to those of a friendly State. But at Divodurum, a city of the Mediomatricians, though they were there received with every degree of frankness and complaisance, a sudden pannic seized them, and in an instant they grasped their arms, with design to massacre the unoffending city; not for the sake of pillage, or from the lust of spoil, but from fury and madness, and causes unknown, and thence the more difficult to be remedied and removed; till assuaged at last by the intreaties of their General, they forbore pursuing the utter destruction of the city. There were slaughtered however, to the number of four thousand men: An example of terror, which alarmed all the rest of Gaul; insomuch that thenceforward intire cities, when the army approached them, went forth to meet it, accompanied with their magistrates, and tendering the petitions of supplicants. Along the ways, in humble postures, were strewed their children and wives: and every other art, every persuasive, proper to soften the rage of a foe, was offered; not that they were really engaged in a war, but purely to be allowed the privilege of peace.
In the Capital of the Leucians Fabius Valens received tidings of the murder of Galba, and that the Sovereignty was devolved upon Otho. Nor did the news move the spirit of the soldiers either to grief or joy, as they were only intent upon war. From the Gauls all cause of hesitation in favour of Galba, was now taken away. Towards Otho and Vitellius they bore equal hate; and were moreover possessed with dread of Vitellius. The next State was that of the Lingones, a people attached to the party of Vitellius. There the army was kindly received, and strove to return the civility by equal complaisance. But this chearful harmony proved short, through the turbulent behaviour of those Cohorts which, having withdrawn themselves from the fourteenth Legion, as above I have remembered, had been by Fabius Valens incorporated with his own forces. Between these Cohorts, who were Batavians, and the Legionary soldiers, at first reproachful words arose; words were presently followed by a tumult. And while the other soldiers, according to their different partialities, espoused opposite sides, the contention waxed so hot, that a battle must have immediately ensued, had not Valens, by punishing a few particulars, recalled the Batavians, who had forgot all authority, to a sense of their duty. In vain was cause of war sought against the Æduans: for being commanded to furnish a supply of money and arms, they, of their own accord, added one of provisions without price. What the Æduans had done out of fear, the inhabitants of Lyons did through joy. From thence however was withdrawn the Italic Legion, and the Squadron of horse entitled Taurina. But at Lyons it was judged proper to leave the eighteenth Cohort; as in quarters where they had been used to winter. Manlius Valens, commander of the Italic Legion, though he had truly served the cause, yet remained without favour or distinction from Vitellius. Fabius had blasted him with secret defamations, ignorant as he was of such devices; and, to render Manlius the more secure and unguarded, whilst he thus circumvented him, always applauded him openly.
The animosities so long subsisting between the people of Lyons and those of Vienne, had been by the late war inflamed. Hence many bloody routs and calamities on both sides, more frequent and furious than if they had fought only for the interests of Nero and Galba. In truth, Galba, moved by his displeasure, had converted to his own Exchequer the revenues of the Lyonese; and, on the contrary, had treated those of Vienne with signal marks of favour: This became the Root of emulation and envy between two people linked together in mutual hatred, and only separated by a river. They of Lyons therefore set themselves to animate the soldiers man by man, and to incite them to exterminate those of Vienne. They urged that this their Colony had been by them besieged; that they had aided the conspiracy and attempts of Vindex, and lately levied Legions for the support of Galba. And when they had displayed these plausible motives for hate and hostility, they shewed and extolled to the soldiers the mighty and extensive spoil which awaited them. Nor did they any longer confine themselves to secret exhortations to particular soldiers, but publicly besought them in a body, “That they would march in pursuit of just vengeance, that they would raze and extinguish the seat and nursery of the war in Gaul; a nursery which contained none but foreigners and foes. For themselves, they were a Roman Colony, and part of the army, and their inseparable confederates in all events prosperous or disastrous. Now if Fortune should chance to prove froward, they begged that they might not be left exposed to the rage of their implacable enemies.”*
By these instigations, and many more in the same strain, they incensed the men so effectually, that even the Commanders of the Legions and their other Leaders, judged it impossible to quell the wrath of the army; when the inhabitants of Vienne, well apprized of their impending peril, covered their heads with doleful and religious veils, and accosting the army as they marched, in the mournful guise of supplicants, embraced their armour, their knees, their feet, and thus mollified the animosity of the soldiers. Besides the force of these supplications, Valens added a donative of three hundred sesterces (a) a man. Then it was that reverence for the dignity of the Colony, and its ancient establishment, prevailed; and then was the discourse of Fabius, who to the army recommended the security and preservation of the Viennese, received with favour and attention. They were sentenced, however, to surrender the arms belonging to their State; and to assist the soldiers with provisions, every man contributed his share, according to what he had. But the prevailing rumour was, “That the people of Vienne had bought over Valens with an immense sum of money.” This man, one long sordidly poor, then on a sudden become rich, did but ill disguise the hasty change of his fortune. As his appetites had been whetted and inflamed by a long course of penury, his riot and excesses were boundless; and having spent his younger years in eminent indigence, he abandoned himself to notorious prodigality in his old age. From thence in a slow progress, the army was led through the territories of the Allobrogians and Vocontians; while upon every march which he made, upon every shifting of his camp, the General constantly set a price; and with the proprietors of the several lands, with the magistrates of the several cities, struck infamous bargains for favour and exemption. This he did with such open confidence and menaces, that he ordered Lucus, a municipal town of the Vocontians, to be set on fire, till by money he was appeased. As often as money failed, he was softened by a present of women, and by sacrifices to his lust. Marching in this manner, he arrived at the Alps.
Cæcina rioted in greater spoil, and in more blood. His spirit, naturally tempestuous and fierce, was exasperated by the Helvetians, a nation of the Gauls; one renowned of old for men and arms, and afterwards only signal for reputation past. The Helvetians were not apprized of the tragical end of Galba, and refused to own the Sovereignty of Vitellius. But the commencement of the war proceeded from the eagerness and rapacity of the twenty-first Legion, who had violently seized as plunder the money which the Helvetians were sending to pay the garison of a fort, which for a long time past they had maintained with their own men and money. The Helvetians, who bore this heinously, caused to be intercepted the letters, which in the name of the German Army, were carrying to the Legions in Pannonia, and made prisoners of a Centurion and some soldiers. Cæcina, who longed passionately for war, proceeded always to take vengeance for every offence, within his reach, as fast as it was committed, before the offender could have time to claim the merit of remorse and submission. In an instant he decamped and marched, laid the whole country waste, and sacked a fine place, magnificently built during a long peace, in imitation of a large municipal city, and greatly frequented for the sake of its charming and salubrious Baths. He likewise dispatched expresses into Rhætia, with orders to the auxiliaries of that country, to fall upon the Helvetians in the rear, while they made head against the forces of the Legion.
The Helvetians, so fierce and daring while danger was at a distance, were struck and terrified when it arrived. Upon the first alarm, indeed, they had chosen a Leader, Claudius Severus. But they knew not the use of their arms, knew not how to keep their ranks, nor how to pursue any united counsel for the benefit of the whole. Pernicious they thought must be the trial of a battle against troops so regular and experienced; and it was utterly unsafe to abide a siege within walls that were ruinous and old. Here they stood exposed to Cæcina with a powerful army; there to the Cohorts and Squadrons of horse from Rhætia. The Rhætian Youth too were inured to arms, and diligently trained in the discipline of war. On every side they were beset with devastation and slaughter. In the midst of all this distress and terror, running hither and thither, and casting away their arms, they fled at last to the mountain Vocetius, the most part of them wounded, or in utter disarray. From thence too they were instantly driven by a band of Thracians purposely sent; and, as the Germans also and Rhætians pursued them, they were all slaughtered amongst the woods, and even in their own lurking holes. Many thousands were cut off, and many thousands sold to bondage. As the Army, after having committed universal ravage and spoil, were now marching in order of battle towards Aventicum, the metropolis of the country, deputies from thence were dispatched to offer a surrender of the city, and the surrender was accepted. Upon Julius Alpinus, Cæcina caused capital punishment to be inflicted, as upon one who had stirred up the war. To the judgment of Vitellius, whether the same proved cruelty or mercy, he remitted all the rest.
Easy it is not to assert, which of the two, the Emperor or the soldiers, the Helvetian Embassadors found most implacable and unrelenting. The soldiers insisted that the city should be utterly demolished, and, with menacing hands and weapons, insulted the embassadors in the face. Nor did Vitellius refrain from threats and reproaches; till Claudius Cossus, one of the embassadors, a man of noted eloquence, but now concealing his faculty of persuading under an assumed and artful tremor, and thence persuading the more powerfully, calmed and assuaged the animosity of the soldiers. Such is the genius of the vulgar, ever subject to sudden shiftings of their passions; this moment, cruel without measure, and the next, equally addicted to compassion and mercy. At last, by a torrent of tears, and by imploring, with a steady perseverance, a milder determination, they obtained to their city pardon and security.
Cæcina, while he tarried some few days in the country of the Helvetians, till he had learned the pleasure of Vitellius, and preparing at the same time to pass the Alps, received glad tidings from Italy, that the Squadron of horse named Silana, and then quartering about the Po, had sworn fealty to Vitellius. That Squadron had served under Vitellius in Africa, when he was Proconsul there. They were afterwards recalled from thence by Nero, in order to be sent forward into Egypt, but, upon the insurrection of Vindex, detained from going. They at this time sojourned in Italy; and, at the instigation of their officers, men unacquainted with Otho, men engaged by obligations to Vitellius, and always magnifying to them the mighty strength of the approaching Legions, with the signal renown of the German Army, they went over to the same party. And as a present to their new Prince, with themselves they brought into his interest the strongest municipal cities in the territories beyond the Po, those of Milan, Novara, Eporedia and Vercelles. Cæcina had this information directly from themselves. And because the most extensive region in Italy could not be guarded by a single band of cavalry, he dispatched thither before him the several Cohorts of Gauls, Lusitanians and Britons, with the body of German troops, and the squadron of horse called Taurina. He himself remained in some short suspence, whether it were not advisable to bend his march over the mountains of Rhætia, towards Noricum, against Petronius, Governor of that province, who, having on all hands raised and assembled forces, and broken down the bridges over the rivers, was supposed to act from an attachment to Otho. But dreading the reinforcements of foot and horse, sent already forward; reflecting too, that from securing Italy more glory would accrue; and that where-ever the decisive battle were fought, Noricum would certainly prove one of the acquisitions following a general victory, he ordered his soldiers lightly armed to take their route over the Appennine, and led the heavy body of Legionary forces over the Alps, still covered with the bleak horrors of winter.
Otho, in the mean time, contrary to the expectation of all men, languished not in sloth, nor was lulled asleep by any of his pleasures. All his voluptuous sallies were suspended and postponed, his passion for luxury was artfully dissembled, and all things conducted suitably to the dignity of the Empire. Hence was administered the greater cause of public fear, as these virtues were known to be hollow and assumed, and a certain return was apprehended of his vices, which were natural and tried. Before himself; in the Capitol, he caused to be produced Marius Celsus, Consul elect, the same whom, under colour of commiting him to durance, he had already rescued from the cruelty of the soldiers. He aimed to obtain the character of tenderness and clemency by mercy shewn to a man so illustrious, and so odious to all the partizans of Otho’s cause. Celsus, when he appeared, confessed resolutely the imputed crime, of having persevered in his faith and duty to Galba: he even appealed to Otho, whether he ought not to approve such an example of fidelity. Nor did Otho treat him as a criminal pardoned; but to manifest that he feared none of his enemies, to whom he had once declared himself reconciled, forthwith admitted him amongst his most intimate friends, and presently after chose him one of his Generals for conducting the war. In Celsus too, by a kind of fatality, there remained for Otho also a fidelity unshaken and unhappy. From the saving of Celsus there ensued much joy amongst all men of rank in Rome, many acclamations amongst the populace, and no sort of distaste even amongst the soldiers, who in him admired the very same virtue, against which they had been so much incensed.
This flight of public joy was followed by another equally great, though upon a consideration widely different, namely, the deadly doom of Tigellinus, obtained by the cry of the Public. Sophronius Tigellinus sprang from parents altogether obscure; his younger years were defiled with unnatural prostitution, and his old age abandoned to chambering and lubricity. When, by a course of vices, as the quickest means of preferment, he had gained the command of the Watch, then of the Prætorian Bands, and other rewards due to virtue, he began to exercise cruelty, rapacity, and the like masculine villainies. Nero he had corrupted to every iniquity, and had the boldness to perpetrate many unknown to Nero. At last he forsook and betrayed him. Hence the execution of no man was more vehemently urged, by such as hated and by such as lamented Nero, both concurring, from opposite passions, in the same antipathy and request. While Galba reigned, he was protected by the mighty authority of Titus Vinius, on pretence that his daughter had been saved by Tigellinus; and it is without doubt that he had saved her, yet from no clemency of his (after such numbers murdered by him) but purely to purchase means of shelter and escape in time to come. For this is the policy of every desperate offender; from distrust of present fortune, and dread of change, to arm himself betimes with private favour against the public hate. Hence it comes that for the protection of innocence no regard is shewn; but the guilty combine for mutual exemption from punishment. The people were the more inflamed, for that with their old detestation of Tigellinus there concurred their recent bitterness towards Titus Vinius: And from every quarter of the City they now flocked to the palace, and the Forums, and especially with their multitudes they filled the Circus and several Theatres, places where the populace are wont to exert their highest acts of licentiousness. There they clamoured with bold and seditious words, till the fatal injunction to die was dispatched to Tigellinus then at the Baths of Sinuessa. There it reached him; and, amidst a herd of harlots, after many passionate embraces, after many base and unmanly delays, he at last cut his throat with a razor, and brought a fresh stain upon his life, infamous as it was, even by his manner of dying, altogether vile, and meanly slow.
At the same time, against Galvia Crispinilla capital punishment was demanded: But, by eluding the prosecution several artful ways, and by the connivance of the Prince, who by acting a double part incurred public censure, she escaped her doom. She had been to Nero the directress of his lusts, and afterwards passing over to Africa to instigate Clodius Macer to a revolt, avowedly laboured to famish the people of Rome; yet after this, becoming exalted and secured by her marriage with a Consul, she acquired the good graces of the whole City, and lived in perfect impunity during the reigns of Galba, Otho and Vitellius. Thenceforward she continued mighty in credit, by being opulent and childless; two considerations equally prevalent in good times and in bad.
Frequent the while were the letters which passed from Otho to Vitellius, all contaminated with soothings and blandishments only proper to be used to women. In these he offered him treasure and favour, and such a place of retirement as he himself should chuse to live in, suitable to his profuse life and taste. With the very same offers Vitellius tempted Otho, and in the same soft terms. For at first they both treated in a way of dissimulation, full of nonsense and absurdity. Then, as it were, proceeding to plain scolding, they upbraided each other with their whoredoms, and profligate doings. Nor in this did either bring a false charge against the other. Otho, having recalled the Embassadors sent by Galba, dispatched others in their room, in the plausible name of the Senate, to both the Armies in Germany, to the Italic Legion, and to the Forces quartering at Lyons. These Embassadors continued with Vitellius, with such frankness as seemed no proof that they were detained by force. But the party of the Prætorian guards, who by the appointment of Otho accompanied them, under the appearance of respect and attendance, were obliged to return back, without being suffered to mix amongst the soldiers of the Legions. Moreover Fabius Valens transmitted letters to the Prætorian Bands, and City Cohorts, in the name of the German Army, magnifying the mighty forces attached to that interest, and offering friendship and association. He there likewise upbraided them for transferring the Sovereignty to Otho, when it had been so long before legally conferred upon Vitellius. Thus were they at once assailed by promises and menaces, as men utterly unequal to sustain the war, but in no danger of losing by accepting terms of peace. Nor for all this, did the Prætorian Bands vary their plighted faith.
Now, as both Chiefs were employing snares and ministers of death against each other, there were instruments of this sort dispatched by Otho into Germany, others by Vitellius to Rome; and the attempts on both sides were defeated. But their agents fared differently. Those of Vitellius escaped undistinguished in the mighty and promiscuous crowd at Rome, where the persons and concerns of men are to each other unknown; whereas they who came from Otho were quickly remarked as new faces, in the quarters of Vitellius, where all men were mutually known to each other, and thence their design was betrayed. Vitellius too wrote to Titianus, brother to Otho, threatening to put him and his son to death, in case his mother and children were not protected in perfect security at Rome. In truth the Families of both were preserved unhurt, under both Princes successively. But whether the mercy and forbearance of Otho were not founded in fear, remains an uncertainty. For Vitellius, who proved to be the Conqueror, acquired thence the glory of clemency unforced.
The first tidings from abroad that raised the assurance of Otho, were from Illyricum; namely, that the Legions in Dalmatia, in Pannonia, and in Mœsia; had declared for him, and sworn allegiance. The like good news arrived from Spain, and Cluvius Rufus the Governor was applauded in a public Edict for such acceptable service: whereas it became presently known, that Spain had revolted to Vitellius. Nor in truth did Aquitaine persist long in obedience, though they of that Province had, by the influence of Julius Cordus, sworn fealty to Otho. There prevailed no-where any sincere affections in the hearts, nor any true faith in the actions of men; and only by the impressions of terror and necessity they were transported and changed hither and thither. From the same dread, the Province of Narbon Gaul acceded to the party that was nearest and strongest. The Provinces far remote, and all the forces beyond the seas, continued subject to Otho; from no partiality or zeal to his title or interest: But in the name of Rome, and in the authority of the Senate, infinite weight was found. Besides their minds were pre-occupied in his behalf, as the first that they had heard nominated. The Army in Judea were by Vespasian sworn to Otho, as were the Legions in Syria by Mucianus. Egypt too, and all the Provinces extending to the East, were governed in his name. The like submission was paid him in Africa, according to the example begun by Carthage. Indeed, without waiting for the authority of Vipstanus Apronianus the Proconsul, Crescens a freed-man of Nero’s, (for these sort of creatures too in calamitous times, thrust themselves into the administration of the State) had presented a feast to the people there, in order to celebrate with rejoiceings the accession of a new Emperor: and upon this occasion, the impatient populace ran into many extravagances, without regard had to any rule or restraint. The precedent set by Carthage was followed by the other African Cities. Whilst the Armies and the Provinces were thus rent and attached to opposite interests, it, in truth, behoved Vitellius, if he would gain the Sovereignty, to gain it by war.
Otho, in the mean time, as if full peace had reigned, was applying himself to the civil administration of the Empire, with a conduct, in some instances, becoming the dignity of the State, but for the most part unsuitable to the public honour, through haste and impatience to find present expedients for daily exigencies. Himself and Titianus his brother he named Consuls, to continue till the Calends of March. For the two following months in that office he appointed Verginius; a matter of favour, by which he meant to soften and court the German Army. To Verginius he joined, for a Collegue, Pompeius Vopiscus, under colour of ancient friendship, but, in the opinion of most men, as a real compliment of honour paid to the people of Vienne. The other designations to the Consulship remained just as they had been settled by Nero or Galba. Hence, Cælius and Flavius, each sirnamed Sabinus, were the succeeding Consuls till July; as were Arius Antonius and Marius Celsus till September. Nor was this dignity of theirs abolished or questioned even by Vitellius after he proved Conqueror. Moreover, upon such ancient Senators as had already sustained illustrious functions in the State, Otho, for the last completion of their public honours, conferred the pontifical or augural dignities; and for a consolation to young Noblemen, lately under exile, but now recalled, he invested them with such sacerdotal offices as had been enjoyed by their fathers or forefathers. To Cadius Rufus, Pedius Blæsus, and Sevinus Promptinus, Senators degraded in the reigns of Claudius and Nero, and condemned for robbing the Public, their dignity was now restored. In repealing their sentence, it was thought fit to new name their crime, that what was real rapine might now seem to have been only a charge of treason; a charge become so odious, that, in detestation of it, other laws, however salutary, were disused and lost.
By the like methods of benevolence, he also attempted to gain the affections of whole Cities and Provinces. He supplied the Colonies of Hispalis and Emerita with a fresh recruit of families. He made the whole people of the Lingones free Citizens of Rome. To the Province of Bætica he made a present of all the Cities of the Moors. He established new privileges in Cappadocia, new privileges in Africa, more in truth for ostentation and renown, than that they were likely to continue. During these transactions, which, from the necessity of the conjuncture, and the cares which urged him on every side, passed for excusable, he forgot not to recall fondnesses past; and while his Sovereignty was yet at stake, procured a decree of Senate for replacing the several statues of Poppæa. He is even believed to have had under frequent deliberation the celebrateing of Nero’s memory with public Honours, with a view to win the hearts of the populace. Nay, some there were who in public places erected the images of Nero; and during certain days, the people and soldiers uttered their acclamations to Otho, by the name of Nero Otho; as if by this title they intended him additional nobility and lustre; while he himself remained silent and undetermined, perhaps ashamed to accept their compliment, perhaps afraid to forbid it.
Whilst the minds of men were intent upon the progress and issue of the civil war, foreign transactions passed unregarded. Hence it was that the Roxolanians a people of Sarmatia, who had the preceding winter cut off two of our Cohorts, made an irruption the more daringly into Mœsia, with mighty expectation. They were nine thousand horse, animated by past success with notable assurance and disdain, and more possessed with the thoughts of spoil than of fighting. As therefore they roved about, dispersed and regardless of an enemy, they were suddenly beset by the third Legion accompanied by its auxiliaries. Amongst the Roman forces all things were aptly disposed for an encounter. Those of Sarmatia, on the contrary, were either scattered abroad in eager quest of prey or loaded with it, and through the slipperiness of the ways deprived of all aid from the fleetness of their horses: so that they were slaughtered like men bound and helpless. For wonderful it is to be observed, that all the bravery of the Sarmatians, is as it were, external and disjoined from the men. In combats on foot, nothing is so spiritless and unmanly as they: when they advance as a body of horse, scarce can any army whatsoever withstand them. But upon this occasion, the day being wet, and the frost dissolving, they were neither able to weild their mighty spears, nor their huge sabres, sabres so long that with both their hands they manage them: for under them now their horses slipt and fell, and left them encumbered with their ponderous coats of mail; such as by all their Princes and Nobles are worn. It is an armour framed of plates of iron, or of leather infinitely hard; and though it be impenetrable by any weapon, yet to such as are by the force of an enemy cast down, it is also a sure obstacle to rising again. They were moreover involved in the snow, at once deep and melting. The Roman soldiers the while, in weildy armour, assail the Sarmatians, now by a shower of darts, anon with the points of their javelins, then, when opportunity invited, in close combat, with their light and manageable swords goring the defenceless foe, (for, to secure themselves with a shield, is not their custom) till a few of them who survived the battle, betook themselves to coverts in the marshes, where, through the rigour of winter, and the extremity of their wounds, they all perished. As this became known at Rome, Marcus Aponius, appointed Governor of Mœsia, was distinguished with a triumphal Statue; as were Fulvius Aurelius, Julianus Titius, and Numisius Lupus, Commanders of the Legions there, with the consular Ornaments. And great was the joy manifested upon this occasion by Otho, who to himself assumed the glory, as if he too were blest with felicity in war, and by the interposition of his Captains and Armies the Empire were thus aggrandized.
In the mean time, from a contemptible source, whence nothing was dreaded, there arose a sedition, which well nigh involved the City in destruction. Otho had ordered the seventeenth Cohort to be removed from Ostia to Rome; and the care of supplying them with arms was committed to Varius Crispinus, a Tribune of the Prætorian guards. He, chusing for the execution of his orders the hour of most leisure, in the close of the evening, when all the camp was composed, directed the Armory to be opened, and the carriages belonging to the Cohort to be loaded. The lateness of the hour administered jealousy, the action itself passed for highly criminal, the study of privacy and quiet ended in an uproar, and the drunken soldiery, upon the sight of these arms, found themselves instigated to use their arms. The body raged and clamoured, and charged their Tribunes and Centurions with ill faith and traiterous designs, as if “the whole tribe of domestics belonging to the several Senators were to have been armed against the person and cause of Otho.” Part of them were intoxicated with wine, and knew not the cause of the alarm; all the worst and most profligate sought an occasion to plunder. The herd and generality, according to custom, were delighted with every new tumult and commotion whatsoever; and such as were better disposed, were not able to manifest their duty in the dark. Crispinus the Tribune, who laboured to repress their seditious fury, they murdered, with such Centurions who were remarkable for severity of discipline. Then instantly they put themselves under arms, and mounting upon horses, with their swords drawn, advanced directly to Rome, then to the Imperial Palace.
Otho was then entertaining at a grand banquet the principal Lords and Ladies of the City. Terror seized these his guests, and doubt, whether their danger proceeded from the casual rage of the soldiery, or the premeditated treachery of the Emperor. Unresolved too they were, which was the more perillous choice, to stay together and be taken, or to fly and disperse. This moment they counterfeited notable courage; the next they betrayed their dread; and constantly watched the countenance of Otho. So that, as it usually happens to minds bent to suspicion, they feared Otho, when he himself was under fear. In truth, as he was equally terrified with the danger threatening the Senate as with his own, he not ony dispatched forthwith the Captains of the guards to mollify the rage of the soldiers, but ordered the company to retire with all speed. Then it was that all fled for safety: Roman Magistrates cast away the ensigns of their authority and state, and deserted their usual train of followers and slaves. Tender Ladies, antient Nobles, rambled in the dark, hither and thither, few to their own home, most to the houses of their friends; and chiefly they sought lurking holes amongst the basest of their dependents, where search and pursuit was least apprehended.
The violence of the soldiers was such, that the gates of the palace proved no check to them from forcing their way into the banqueting chamber, where with one mouth they demanded to have a sight of Otho; having in their passage wounded Julius Martialis, a Tribune, and Vitellius Saturninus, Colonel of a Legion, two officers who strove to oppose their tumultuous entrance. On every hand arms were brandished, and terrible menaces were uttered, now against the Tribunes and Centurions, and in the next breath against the whole body of the Senate. For with a pannic fear, blind and causeless, their minds were bewitched and inflamed: So that, as they could assign no particular victim to their own fury, they claimed a latitude for general slaughter; till Otho, standing upon his banqueting couch, had by supplications and tears, to the abasement of Imperial Dignity, prevailed upon them, with great difficulty, to desist. They then returned to their camp, but with much regret and ill-will, and not exempt from the foul stain of blood and guilt. The next day, as if the City had been taken by an enemy, the houses continued close shut up; scarce a soul was to be seen in the streets; the people were abandoned to mourning and sadness; and the soldiers, with down-cast looks, shewed rather a shocking gloominess than any tokens of remorse. Their Captains Licinius Proculus, and Plotius Firmus, harangued them in companies apart, with a stile of softness or asperity suitable to the different spirits of the speakers. However they spoke, the result of the discourse was no other, than that to the soldiers should be distributed five-thousand Sesterces* a man. Then, and not before, Otho adventured to enter the camp: There the Tribunes and Centurions gathered round him, in the guise of private men, having quitted the badges denoting their ranks, and implored him with earnestness to dismiss them from the service, and to protect them in their lives. Well the soldiery saw what an heavy odium was derived upon themselves by this request of their Officers, and with a behaviour formed to duty and obedience, required, of their own mere motion, “That upon the authors of the insurrection the pains of death should be inflicted.”
Otho not only found himself beset with great combustions and civil disorders, but the inclinations of the soldiery jarring and divided. All the innocent and best amongst them insisted upon a remedy to the present licentiousness and outrage: The croud and majority delighted in frequent seditions, in a government conducted by largesses and corruption; and hence by being indulged in tumults and feats of rapine, were the more easily instigated to the prosecution of the civil war. He reflected too that a Sovereignty, like his, acquired by flagrant iniquity, could never be preserved by righteous orders suddenly established, and by reviving the rigid virtue and purity of the ancient Romans. However, as he was anxious about the danger of the City, and the doom which threatened the Senate, he at last spoke to them in this fashion.
“I come not hither with design either of kindling your affections to me ward, my fellow soldiers, or to animate you to bravery against the foe: for both your bravery and your affections signally overflow. But I come to entreat you, to qualify the heat of your magnanimity with an allay, and confine within some bounds your zeal and tenderness for me. The beginning of the late tumult arose from no thirst of prey, from no hate to the persons of men (motives which have excited many armies to strife and uproar) nor from any dread of peril, or desire to shun it; but your devotion to me, over-passionate and fond, roused you to it with more acrimony than reflection. For, many an honest cause and counsel, when not conducted by sound judgment, is followed by pernicious events. We are proceeding to war. Now, does the reason of things permit, does the nature of times and occasions permit (things which are presented and lost with equal and infinite velocity) that every express, every article of intelligence be publicly communicated, and in the presence of the whole army every difficulty be discussed, and all our counsels holden? To be ignorant of some things equally behoves a soldier as to be well acquainted with others. Such is the authority of a General, such the quality and rigour of discipline, that for the preservation of both, it is often inevitably necessary, that even to the Tribunes and Centurions many positive commands be given without any reasons annexed. Were it allowed to every particular, when he receives orders, to ask why, all obedience being thus lost, the loss of Sovereign Empire would immediately follow. And yet shall soldiers, of their own heads, fly to their arms in the dead of night? Shall one or two single men, desperate and drunken, (for that more than two run thus mad in the late distraction, I am loth to believe) shall they dare to embrue their hands in the blood of their Tribunes and Centurions? shall they be allowed to burst into their Emperor’s Pavilion?
It must be owned indeed, it was on my behalf that these excesses were committed. But during the sallies of this insurrection, which was conducted at random in the dark, and in the universal confusion following it, an occasion for forming attempts too against me, might have been easily administered. What else could Vitellius, and the creatures of Vitellius, make the burden of their imprecations against us? And if in their breasts the option lay, what other bent of spirit, what other understanding could they wish us? Would they not naturally wish for tumult and discord amongst us; that the soldier should refuse to obey the centurion, the centurion to obey the tribune; and that, in a general confusion of horse and foot, we might all in a body run precipitately to destruction? Rather by due obedience, my fellow soldiers, than by sedulously examining the commands of superiors, is government preserved amongst military men: And always most brave in a day of danger does that army prove, which before danger appeared, had remained most quiet and dutiful. To be armed and valorous, be your part; to me leave the prerogative of counsel, and the direction of your magnanimity. Of the late transgression there were but few guilty; of those few two only shall bear the punishment. Labour, all the rest of you, to obliterate the memory of that abominable and infamous night; nor let those horrible expressions uttered against the Senate be ever heard by any other army. To demand to execution that venerable body of men, who together constitute the head of the Empire, and are the glory and ornaments of the Provinces, is a thing so atrocious, that even the fell Germans, they whom Vitellius is animating with all his might against us, would not dare to attempt. And is it yet possible, that any of the native sons of Italy, that the genuine progeny of Romans, should cruelly require the blood and lives of that glorious Order, by whose lustre and renown derived upon us, we bring apparent contempt and obscurity upon the sordid party of Vitellius. Vitellius has seized some countries; he has too the appearance of an army; but with us is the Senate. Hence it comes to pass that the Commonwealth stands on our side; on his the enemies of the Commonwealth. How! Do you indeed believe, that the essence of this City, of all others the fairest, consists in walls and roofs and piles of slone? These are things dumb and inanimate, and subject indifferently to ruine or repair: But upon the security and well-being of the Senate is established the eternity of the State, the peace of nations, with your welfare and mine. By the Father and Founder of our City this venerable Order was instituted, with the interposition of Auspices solemnly observed: from the time of our kings to that of the Cæsars, it continually subsisted. As we received it from our ancestors, let us deliver it down, immortal, to posterity. For, as from amongst you Senators spring; so Princes arise from amongst Senators.
This speech, contrived both to rebuke and to mollify the spirit of the soldiery, was favourably received, as was the moderate measure of punishment inflicted; for he ordered no more than two to suffer. Thus was some composure wrought amongst these men, whom no violent correction could have quelled. The tranquillity however of the City was not yet restored. There still was heard the uproar of arms; and a face of war subsisted. It is true the soldiery committed no public insults, nor rioted in a body; but dispersed every where up and down, they crept into houses in disguised habits, as spies watching with virulent minds and curiosity, for matter of mischief and destruction against all, who by their nobility, or wealth, or any other notable pre-eminence, were signal enough to be subject to popular and flying rumour. Some too believed, that certain soldiers from the army of Vitellius were arrived at Rome, purposely to sound the spirit of the parties there. Hence all places were filled with suspicion and distrust; nay, scarce were men exempt from caution and fear in their most secret recesses at home. But abroad, under the eye of the public, this sort of dread most of all prevailed. There, people were careful to shift their passions and faces, according to the quality of the news which were said to be brought; that when affairs bore an ambiguous aspect, they might seem to manifest no diffidence of success, nor be slow in rejoicing, when prosperous. But upon the several Senators assembled in Council, the most perilous task lay, how to preserve in all points a conduct safe and unexceptionable; lest their silence might be construed haughtiness and contumacy, lest by liberty of speech his jealousy should be roused: and were they to utter flights of flattery, these Otho would readily see through, he who having been lately a subject, had then used the same stile. They therefore dealt in repetitions, dwelt upon the motions which they made, and varied and wrested them to every sense according as it appeared most acceptable; but always sure to bestow upon Vitellius the names of Public Enemy and Parricide. They who were most artful and wary, confined themselves to such invectives as being common and vulgar, were not remarkable: some assailed him with bold reproaches and well grounded, but took care to utter them under the dinn of a general clamour, and when many were speaking at once, or to confound them amongst a tumultuous tide of words purposely poured out by themselves.
Moreover from divers prodigies, attested by several authorities, much public terror arose. From the hands of the Statue of Victory, standing upon her chariot in the porch of the Capitol, the reins dropped. Out of the Chapel appertaining to Juno, there suddenly arose an apparition of a size more than human. The Statue of the deified Julius, erected in an island in the Tiber, was found turned quite round from the west to the east, upon a day utterly free from rain and tempests. In Etrutria an ox spoke. There were animals that produced unusual births; with many other wonders, which, during the ignorant ages, proved matter of observation even in times of peace, but now are only heard when public terror prevails. But there intervened a dread still more affecting, one not only of calamities future, but accompanied by present desolation, and caused by a precipitate inundation from the Tiber, whose waters swelling to an immense heighth, overthrew the Sublician bridge, and, having their course obstructed by the heap of ruins, besides overflowing the adjacent quarters which were level, covered places which were reckoned secure against any such disaster. Many were swept away in the streets; and more drowned in their shops and beds. Amongst the populace famine ensued, both through scarcity of provision, and want of employment to earn it. Moreover such buildings as for standing by themselves are called Isles, having their foundations sapped and weakened by the flood surrounding them, sunk into ruines when the waters returned. No sooner were the minds of men free from this peril which had so much awakened them, but they found another matter of prodigy, big with direful and impending calamities, though it proceeded from causes evidently fortuitous or natural; namely, that the field of Mars and the causeway of Flaminius, were both so obstructed, that Otho, when ready to march, could not that way take his route to the war.
Otho having performed the solemnity of lustration, by purifying the city with sacrifices, weighed carefully all the methods of conducting the war; and, seeing the passages over the Apennine mountains with those of the Cottian Alps, and all the other approaches to Gaul, beset and shut up by the armies of Vitellius, resolved to invade the province of Narbon Gaul with a powerful force by sea, all faithfully attached to his party: For, amongst the soldiers of the Legions he had engrasted all those who had survived the slaughter of their brethren at the Milvian bridge, and had been by Galba cruelly doomed to a prison. To the others too hopes were given of rising in good time to more honourable ranks in the service. The navy he enforced with the City Cohorts, and with a detachment from the Prætorian Bands; a reinforcement intended as the prime force and bulwark of the army, and to assist the commanders with counsel, as well as to serve them for guards. To Antonius Novellus, to Suedius Clemens, both lately Centurions of principal rank, and to Æmilius Pacensis, a Tribune dismissed by Galba, and now by Otho re-established, the direction in chief of the expedition was committed. But the care and controul of all the ships was reserved to Oscus his Freedman, who was employed to inspect the fidelity and behaviour of men more honourable than himself. The command of the foot and horse was assigned to Suetonius Paulinus, Marius Celsus, and Annius Gallus; but in Licinius Proculus, Captain of the Prætorian guards, the chief confidence was placed. This man, who was a prompt officer amongst the troops at Rome, but in war unexperienced, made it his business to arraign and blacken the eminent name and authority of Paulinus, the spirit and vivacity of Celsus, the gravity and coolness of Annius, and to blast with some calumny of his every excellence of theirs; and thus came, by being mischievous and crafty, to surpass in credit such as were virtuous and unassuming; a task exceeding easy to be accomplished.
During those days Cornelius Dolabella was doomed to confinement in the town of Aquine, though under ward no-wise strict or solitary; for no crime of his, but only as he was obnoxious and marked out for the ancient lustre of his name, and kindred to Galba. Many of the Magistrates, and a great part of such as had been Consuls, were by Otho ordered to prepare for the field; with no design of allowing them any share or charge in the war, but only under colour of accompanying him. Amongst these was included Lucius Vitellius, distinguished neither as the brother of an Emperor, nor of an enemy. Great was the anxiety and consternation, which upon this occasion possessed the City; nor was any rank of men exempt from the impulse of danger and fear. The chief Senators were by age disabled, or through long peace become listless and unwieldy. The nobles were sunk in sloth, and had quite forgot the wars. The Roman knights were unacquainted with all military functions, and the duties of a camp. And all these degrees of men, at this time governed by dread, the more they strove to conceal and smother it, did but the more apparently discover how greatly they dreaded. Nor, on the contrary, were there wanting some, who, from an ambition altogether stupid and ridiculous, purchased themselves gay and glaring armour, with fine and stately steeds; or others who provided materials and preparatives for riot and feasting, with all the implements and incentives to feats of voluptuousness, as so many instruments of war. Every wise man felt an affecting zeal for public tranquillity, and the welfare of the State: The giddy and thoughtless, such as are unable to judge of things future, were puffed up with extravagant hopes. Many there were, who finding their fortunes and credit desperate during peace, became elevated upon the public commotions, and in the general distraction found most security to themselves in particular.
Now the body of the people, who are by their numbers so infinite and mighty, debarred from a participation of public counsels and cares, began to feel by degrees the heavy evil and pressures of war; as to the use of the soldiery all the money was applied, and the price of provisions augmented; misfortunes which upon the insurrection of Vindex, had no-wise oppressed the Commonalty. For the City then enjoyed peace and security, and the seat of the war being in one of the provinces, it seemed no other than a foreign war maintained between our Legions and the people of Gaul. For, ever since the deified Augustus established the sovereignty of the Cæsars, the Roman People had warred always amongst nations far remote, and to one man alone the glory or anxiety belonged. Under Tiberius and Caligula, men had only to dread the cruelties of pacific tyranny. The attempts of Scribonianus against Claudius were at once divulged and suppressed. Nero was overturned and deprived rather by evil tidings, and the terrors of rumour, than by force of arms. But, at this time, the Fleets and Legions, and, what is rarely practised, the Prætorian Guards and City Cohorts, were all led forth to fight. The east and west were engaged on the opposite sides, as were all the other forces remaining in the several countries which each competitor left behind him: Ample materials for a war long and fierce, had there been other Chiefs than these to have conducted it. As Otho was upon marching, there were some who started a cause of delay, taken from the omission of a religious ceremony, that of repositing the sacred shields Ancilia. But he rejected all arguments for procrastination, as what had proved fatal to Nero: besides he was urged by the approach of Cæcina, who had already passed the Alps.
On the fourteenth of March, having assembled the Senate, to their care he recommended the Commonwealth. And, as the wild grants and bounties of Nero had been resumed, Otho bestowed upon the exiles lately restored all such remainders of these resumptions as were not yet come into his Exchequer: A liberality altogether just, and in sound magnificent, but in effect empty, and frustrated by the eagerness of the Officers, who had a good while before exacted payment of the whole. Anon he assembled the people, and to them boasted, that with his interest and title there concurred the majesty of the City, and joint consent of the People and Senate. Against the adherents of Vitellius he discoursed with great gentleness and restraint, and taxed the Legions rather with ignorance, than with insolence and revolt. Of Vitellius himself he made no mention; whether from any moderation of his own, or whether he who composed the speech, in due fear and caution for himself, declined to assail Vitellius with opprobrious words. For as Otho, in all military deliberations, consulted Suetonius Paulinus and Marius Celsus; so, in his civil administration, he was believed to use the talents of Galerius Trachalus. Nay, some would needs discover, in this speech, his peculiar flow of eloquence, long celebrated at the public Tribunals, and known to be sounding and diffuse, formed so as to fill the ears of the people. There followed much shouting and many acclamations from the Populace, in their old road of sycophancy; but all extravagant and hollow. They indeed strove to surpass each other in such strains of zeal, and in vows so ardent, as if to Cæsar the Dictator, or to the Emperor Augustus they had been directing them; not from any motives of fear, or any of affection, but from a wanton propensity to abjectness and servitude; and just as it were in a tribe of houshold slaves, every man was acted by narrow views of his own, and public honour was now regarded by none. Otho, upon leaving Rome, committed to his brother, Salvius Titianus, the charge of maintaining its tranquillity, and of managing the other affairs of the Empire.
TITUS sent by his father Vespasian to congratulate Galba, hears of his murder, and stops in Greece; proceeds to Syria, visits the Temple of the Paphian Venus, consults her, has an auspicious answer, returns to his father, who meditates war, but waits an occasion. A counterfeit Nero detected and seized. An account of Otho’s forces, generals, and fleet. Commotions in Corsica. Cæcina enters Italy, besieges Placentia, but is repulsed with loss and disgrace; lays an ambush for the army of Otho, but is himself surprized by one of theirs. Valens advances to Ticinum, where his men mutiny against him, but are appeased, yet run headlong to join Cæcina. Otho, upon intelligence of their conjunction, consulted about pushing or prolonging the war; prefers the measures which were boldest and worst. The combat near Bedriacum. The forces of Otho routed, yet not daunted. Otho, weary of the civil War, dies by his own hand: his steady spirit, calmness, and reasonings. A mutiny of his soldiers; the danger threatened by it to Verginius. A lying report of Otho as living and victorious; how perillous this to the Senators. Albinus overthrown in Africa; the Provinces there brought to espouse the cause of Vitellius. The proceedings of Vitellius in Italy: how he disposes of the vanquished forces. A tumult of the soldiers at Ticinum. The deliberations of Vespasian and Mucianus in the East about declaring war: The fine speech of the latter. Vespasian is determined, and assumes the Sovereignty: The Legions there swear to him. The forces in Mœsia and Pannonia revolt to his party. Vitellius enters Rome with a huge host; his conduct there. His enemies gather strength: he orders Cæcina and Valens to take the field. Cæcina’s Treason. The transactions these of the same year.
FORTUNE at this juncture was rangeing materials, in a distant part of the world, for raising an imperial house, which, by a lot extremely diversified, proved to the Commonwealth both refreshing and calamitous, as well as to the race of Princes themselves fortunate and tragical. Titus Vespasian was by his father sent from Judæa towards Galba, while Galba yet reigned; and, for the motives of his journey, assigned “the homage to be paid to the Emperor, and the maturity of his own age for courting and sustaining public dignities.” But by the populace, who are ever addicted to conjecture and fiction, it was rumoured abroad, that Galba had sent for him in order to adopt him. Ground for this report was administered by the condition of the Emperor, ancient and childless, and the restless spirit of the City, who would never fail multiplying successors, till the true one were once declared. To heighten the rumour, there concurred the fine spirit of Titus himself, capable of any degree of fortune however elevated, the loveliness of his countenance blended with a certain air of majesty, the reputation and celebrated exploits of his father, propitious oracles, nay, events altogether fortuitous, which now passed, upon minds thus bent to believe, for so many supernatural presages. At Corinth, a city of Achaia, he received certain advices of the murder of Galba: he found some too who averred, that Vitellius had taken up arms, and meant to make war. Hence anxious and unresolved, he called together a few of his friends, and with them examined all the difficulties which on each side beset him. “Should he proceed to Rome, no sort of favour could he hope to reap from the present Emperor, for a tender of duty, which at first he was bringing to the late one: There, moreover, he must expect to remain as an hostage to Vitellius or to Otho. Should he, on the contrary, return to Judæa, the resentment of the Conqueror would be inevitable. But as it was yet uncertain on what side the victory would fall, and as his father would engage in one of the parties, the son would be easily excused. Or should Vespasian resolve to assume the Government; then no-wise to be considered was the giving a particular offence, by such as resolved upon a general war.” When by these and the like conflicts between hope and fear he had been agitated a while, hope at last prevailed.
There were some who believed that only from a fond impatience to revisit Queen Berenice, he was moved to return: and it is true, that his soul, youthful and amorous, was not indifferent to Berenice. But from hence arose no neglect in his conducting affairs of duty and trust. During his youth he indulged himself in festivity and pleasures, and proved much more strict and reserved in his own reign than in that of his father. Now after he had sailed along the shores of Achaia and Asia, holding upon his left hand the coasts of the Mediterranean, he proceeded to the Isle of Rhodes, to that of Cyprus, and thence held a bolder course through the main sea into Syria. At Cyprus his curiosity prompted him to visit the temple of Venus at Paphos, so much renowned amongst the natives as well as foreigners. Nor will it be tedious here to recount, in few words, the original of that superstition, the antiquity of the Temple, and the form of the Goddess; for no-where else is she thus represented.
For the founder of the Temple, ancient tradition assigns King Aerias, while some assert this to be the name of the Goddess. By later fame King Cinyras is delivered down, as the person who hallowed and dedicated the Temple. It is added, “That upon this spot the Goddess herself landed, carried thither by the sea, from whence she had been just generated; but that the mystery and discipline of divination were derived from abroad, and introduced by Tamyras of Cilicia; and hence between him and Cinyras it was stipulated that to the descendents of both the administration of the sacred rites should equally belong.” Thereafter, in condescension to the Royal Race, that the same might not remain without any preeminence over a foreign line, the strange Diviners resigned these very mysteries which they themselves had introduced. Nor is any priest now consulted, but one descended from Cinyras. Beasts for sacrifice are left to the choice of every votary; yet none but the males are allowed. Most faith is placed in the entrails of kids. The pouring of blood upon the altar is prohibited. Supplications only and pure fire are offered upon the altars; which though they stand exposed to the sky, yet feel no wet from falling rain. The image of the Goddess, without any resemblance of human shape, is a figure round and unequal, which, from a bottom rather broad, rises with continual diminution till it terminates in a point, like a spire. For the reason of this we are left in the dark.
When Titus had surveyed the signal wealth of the Temple, the donations of Princes, and other curiosities which the Greeks, who have a genius strangely fond of matters of antiquity, feigned to be derived from ancient times, now dark and fabulous; he began to consult the Oracle, and first inquired concerning the security of his remaining voyage. Being told that a free passage and a favourable sea awaited him; he slew a number of victims, then proposed questions, but in terms dark and wary, concerning himself. Sostratus (so the priest was called) perceiving the several entrails to be propitious, and all to agree, and the Goddess to approve all the vast designs of the querist; satisfied himself for the present with returning an answer short and usual; but desired a secret interview, and there disclosed to him his future destiny. Titus, with a spirit notably elated and assured, proceeded to his father; and, to the minds of the provinces and armies in the east, yet wavering and unresolved, brought a mighty accession of confidence and firmness. Vespasian had utterly discomfited the revolted Jews, and nothing remained to end the war, but the siege of Jerusalem: a work rendered difficult and stubborn rather through the steepness of situation, and invincible spirit of superstition, than from any remaining strength or forces equal to the power and distresses which threatened it. Three Legions, as above I have remembered, were under the command of Vespasian, men thoroughly exercised in war. Mucianus commanded four, in full peace; but, awakened by emulation, and the glory of the neighbouring army, they had rejected all unwieldiness and sloth; and whatever robustness and activity the former might gather from a life of hardships and perils, no less vigour accrued to the latter from a state of repose, and from the daily exercises of war without being in it. Both Generals had their auxiliary forces, Cohorts of foot, and Squadrons of horse, with naval armaments and confederate Kings; and both were Commanders signal and renowned, but signal from different causes and characters.
In every duty of war Vespasian was indefatigable; it was he who always led the march, he who always chose the ground for encamping. Upon consultations and dispatches he bestowed nights and days, and was ever ready, upon an exigency, to grapple with the enemy hand to hand. His diet was such as chance presented. In his garb and general dress he little varied from a common soldier. Upon the whole, a Commander he was, who, had he been exempt from avarice, would have equalled the famous Chiefs of ancient times. Mucianus, on the contrary, was raised to great eminence and splendor by his abundant wealth and magnificence; as in these and in all things he surpassed the figure of a subject. He was the abler Orator, and, being a great master of civil affairs, more prompt in foreseeeing events, and more dexterous at concerting of schemes. Between them, in truth, was found a rare assortment of talents for forming an Emperor, if, by a separation of the vices of each, only the virtues of both could have been blended. For the rest; as one ruled over Syria, the other over Judæa, from the governing of two bordering provinces, between them there had subsisted a humour of envy and contention; till at length, upon the fall of Nero, they dropped their animosities, and acted in concert for their mutual security and interest: a union first begun by the interposition of friends, afterwards accomplished by Titus, who proved the surest pledge of their reconciliation. It was he who eradicated their dangerous and illboding strife, by motives of unanimity salutary to both; as he was well qualified by nature, and every accomplishment, to captivate also the taste and affections of Mucianus. The Tribunes, the Centurions, and common body of the soldiery were all gained into the confederacy, by different applications to their several virtues or pleasures, according to the genius of particulars; some by complimenting their industry, others by indulging their riot.
Before the arrival of Titus both armies had already sworn fidelity to Otho. With such velocity, according to custom, had flown their intelligence from Rome, and so heavy and slow was their movement towards the mighty work of a civil war; a work which the east, undisturbed through a long course of years by intestine feuds, was now for the first time preparing to undertake. For, in former times, all the most powerful conflicts amongst the Romans were begun in Italy or Gaul, and supported by the forces of the west. Moreover, the arms of Pompey, of Cassius, and Brutus, and Anthony, who were all followed by the civil war beyond the seas, ended fatally: and in Syria and Judæa the Cæsars were much oftner mentioned than beheld. No tumult or insurrection was ever known amongst the Legions there. Their attacks upon the Parthians were no more than alarms, given with various success. In the very last civil war, whilst elsewhere the rage of dissention was felt, peace remained unshaken here. When afterwards it was divulged, that Otho and Vitellius were with impious arms hastening to seize as a prey the Roman State; the soldiers, provoked, that whilst others enjoyed wages and rewards for bestowing the Empire, they themselves were only doomed slaves to every Emperor, began to rage, and to survey their own strength and numbers. Instantly they counted seven Legions of themselves, with mighty auxiliaries, and the two Provinces of Syria and Judæa in their possession. To these lay contiguous that of Egypt, and two Legions there. On the other hand they beheld Cappadocia and Pontus, with the several forces quartered upon the frontiers of Armenia; Asia too, and the other Provinces, abounding in money, and not destitute of men; with all the isles of the sea, and the sea itself ready to afford them encouragement and safety, whilst they prepared for the war.
The ardour of the soldiery was no secret to the Generals. But they judged proper to await the issue of the war in Europe. “Between the conqueror and the conquered, they concluded, no sincere peace, no solid coalition could be established. Neither availed it whether to Otho or to Vitellius fortune awarded the superiority. To wax insolent and wanton upon prosperity, was the lot even of Captains renowned for prowess. Upon these two at all times lay the bane of discord, of sloth, and impotence of spirit, of voluptuousness and prodigality; and by their own vices both would doubtless perish, one through War, the other after Victory.” Vespasian therefore and Mucianus postponed the taking up of arms openly, till occasion called them. For of late they had united in their counsels, by the means and mediation of Titus, as did every worthy man with both, from affection to the Commonwealth. Many were excited by the allurements of plunder, others by the desperate situation of their domestic affairs. Thus the good and the bad, from different instigations, but with equal passion, all thirsted vehemently for war.
About the same time Achaia and Asia were alarmed with a false apprehension, that Nero was certainly approaching. For, as concerning the manner of his death, several contradictory reports had been published, it was by many confidently feigned that he was still alive, and by many readily believed. In the sequel of this History I shall recount the attempts of other such counterfeits, and their fate. The present impostor was a slave from Pontus, or, according to other authors, the son of a freedman out of Italy, well skilled in the harp and in song; marks which, added to a similitude of features, procured him the quicker credit and assent. With mighty promises he had gained a number of vagabonds, obliged by their wants to wander, and, accompanied by them, betook himself to sea, but by the violence of tempests was cast upon the isle of Cythnus. He there drew over certain soldiers, who were on their voyage from the east; such as refused he ordered to be slain, and plundering the merchants, armed all the most robust of their bondmen. He likewise tried by various artifices to corrupt the faith of Sisenna the Centurion, who was then proceeding with a compliment from the army in Syria to the soldiers of the Prætorian Guard, namely, that of their right hands presented in testimony of peace and concord: Insomuch that Sisenna, in great affright, and apprehending violence, secretly departed from the island, and fled. Hence the terror flew and spread, as there were many struck and pleased with the revival of a name of such renown, from their constant lust after public changes, and their constant distaste of the present situation.
This mighty rumour, while it grew daily louder and spread, was by a stroke of chance utterly dissipated. The government of the Provinces of Galatia and Pamphilia had been by Galba conferred upon Calpurnius Asprenas, and to convey him thither two gallies from the Fleet at Misenum were assigned. With these he was now arrived at the isle of Cythnus: Nor were there instruments wanting there to call the Captains of the gallies to attend Nero; for in his name they called them. When they came into his presence, he assumed a sad air of affliction, and imploreing their faith and aid, as of men who had been once his own, besought them to land him in Syria or Egypt. The Captains, who began to waver, or perhaps meant to deceive him, declared that they would discourse with their soldiers, and having brought the minds of all to his devotion, would return to him. To Asprenas, however, the whole transaction was faithfully recounted. By his persuasion the ship was assailed and taken, and that person, whoever he were, slain. His corps, remarkable for the singularity of the eyes and hair, and for features grim and terrible, was carried to Asia, and thence to Rome.
In Rome, a City so rent by the feuds of parties, and, from the frequent change of Princes, become unstable between liberty and licentiousness, the transacting even of small affairs was attended with mighty heat and commotion. Vibius Crispus, who in wealth, in great talents, and in great authority, was to be numbered rather amongst men eminent than good, cited Annius Faustus to his trial at the Tribunal of the Senate: This was a Roman Knight, who in the reign of Nero had followed the profession of an accuser. Indeed, very lately, under the government of Galba, the Senate had ordained that the cause of the accusers should be examined; an ordinance which was turned and explained into divers and contradictory meanings, and, just according to the condition of the person arraigned, proved impotent or valid, as he proved powerful or weak. Besides the dread of the decree, Crispus exerted all his might and influence to overwhelm the man who had been the accuser of his brorher; and had already prevailed with a great part of the Senate to insist, that, without hearing him, and without admitting any defence to be made for him, he should be doomed to execution. With others, on the contrary, nothing argued so strongly for the person impleaded as the over-great sway of the impleader. These therefore proposed, that time should be allowed, his crimes specified, and he, however odious and guilty, allowed the common privilege of Romans, that of being heard. This proposition forthwith prevailed, and the trial was for a few days deferred. In the conclusion Faustus suffered condemnation, yet not with such unanimous acquiescence of the City as by his pestilent course of life he had deserved; because they remembered to have seen Crispus himself engaged in the work of accusations, as a pleader of price. Nor were they disgusted with the vengeance inflicted upon the crime, but with the avenger.
In the mean time the first motions of the war were propitious to Otho; for, in obedience to him as their Emperor, the armies in Dalmatia and Pannonia marched from thence. They consisted of four Legions. Of these two-thousand men were dispatched forward: The body followed with moderate marches; namely, the seventh Legion, which was enrolled by Galba; with the other three, all of ancient standing, namely, the eleventh, the thirteenth, and the fourteenth; the last of signal reputation for their suppressing the revolt in Britain. Nero too had added notably to their glory in chusing them out as a body of men preferable to all others. Hence their persevering so long in faith and adherence to Nero, and hence their ardent zeal for the cause and person of Otho. But the more numerous and strong they were, with the more confidence they were filled, and from such confidence advanced very slowly. The detachment of horse and foot arrived sooner than the main body of the Legions. From Rome itself there went a band of men no-wise despicable, namely five Cohorts of the Prætorian Guards, certain troops of Cavalry, and the first Legion. Add to these two thousand Gladiators, a reinforcement indeed sordid and dishonourable, yet used in times of civil War, even by Leaders who were severe in discipline. For Leader of these forces he appointed Annius Gallus, who, in conjunction with Vestricius Spurinna, was sent before to secure both the banks of the Po. For his first design had been frustrated; since Cæcina, whom he hoped to have shut up within the confines of Gaul, had already passed the Alps. There attended the person of Otho some chosen companies of the bodyguard, the remainder of the Prætorian Cohorts, with such of the Prætorian Bands as were under the privilege and standard of Veterans, and a vast number of Marines. Neither made he a lazy and effeminate march, or one deformed by any feats of voluptuousness, but wearing a corslet of iron, marched before the Ensigns, on foot, undressed, rough, and utterly unlike his picture drawn by common fame.
Fortune smiled upon these his attempts; since, from the advantage of the Sea, and the power of his Fleet, he was master of the greater part of Italy quite to the borders of the maritime Alps. To force a passage over these, and to conquer the Province of Narbon Gaul, was an enterprize which he committed to the conduct of Suedius Clemens, Antonius Novellus, and Æmilius Pacensis. But Pacensis was baffled and restrained by the licentiousness of a dissolute soldiery. Antonius Novellus held no credit or authority amongst them. Suedius Clemens governed loosely, humouring and courting the men from private views of his own, and though, in discipline and military restrictions, negligent and corrupt, yet greedy of encounters and combating. They seemed not to have arrived in any part of Italy, their native soil, or to be marching through the dwellings and families of their countrymen and nation. For, as if they had just landed upon a strange and hostile coast, and had been sacking the cities of mortal and declared foes, they burnt, plundered, and laid waste, without distinction; the more tragically, for that against barbarities no-wise dreaded, no sort of means for defence were provided. Covered with grain and cattle were the fields, open and unguarded the houses; while the proprietors, accompanied with their wives and children, went every-where forth officiously to meet the host, and, from trusting to the security of peace, found themselves involved in all the horrors and calamities of war. Marius Maturus then governed the maritime Alps, in quality of Procurator. He having arrayed the power of the country, which wants not store of youth, attempted to repulse the forces of Otho from entering his province. But, upon the first shock, the inhabitants of the mountains were dissipated or slain; like men who being precipitately assembled, and unacquainted with the duties of encampment or of command, were insensible of any honour from victory, or of any infamy from flying.
These forces of Otho’s, furiously incensed by this opposition and combat, turned their rage upon Albium Intemelium, a municipal town. For in the late battle they found no prey to satiate them: The peasants were poor, and their arms wretched and mean; neither was it possible to take them prisoners, as they are naturally swift of foot, and acquainted with all places of refuge. But at last, by bringing ruine and desolation upon these guiltless townsmen who had never provoked them, they glutted their avarice. The hate and horror of this their violence was greatly heightened by the glorious example and behaviour of a Ligurian woman. She had hid her son, and being by the soldiers suspected to have with him hid her money, while they questioned her upon the rack, where she had concealed him, she pointed to her belly, and replied, “he lay there.” Neither could she, with all their cruelties successively tried, nor even by the agonies of death, be brought to vary from that answer of hers, so undaunted and praiseworthy.
To Fabius Valens news were sent in great hurry and alarm, that Otho’s Fleet were upon the coast of Narbon Gaul, a Province which had sworn fidelity to Vitellius, and were just upon the point of making a descent. He was likewise beset with Deputies from the Colonies, imploring succours. Thither he therefore sent two Cohorts of Tungrians, four troops of horse, with the intire Squadron of the Treverians, under the command of Julius Classicus. Of these forces a detachment was retained in the Colony of Forojulium, lest, had the whole marched into the country, the Fleet taking advantage of an unguarded Sea, should have been tempted to an immediate descent. Against the enemy there went twelve troops of horse, and a band of chosen men from the Cohorts. To these was joined a Cohort of Ligurians (the ancient auxiliaries belonging to the place) and five hundred Pannonians not yet enrolled into companies. Nor was there any lingering in coming to battle; and in this manner they were formed. A detachment of marines with a number of peasants intermixed, were ranged upon the hills adjoining to the sea. Whatever level space remained between the hills and the shore, was covered with the soldiers of the Prætorian Guards. To support them in the sea itself, close by, the Fleet was ranged, with a front terrible and menacing, turned full upon the foe, and ready to engage. The Commanders of the Army of Vitellius, which was inferiour in foot, and chiefly relied upon its strength of cavalry, placed their confederates of the Alps upon the ridges of the neighbouring mountains, and the Cohorts in thick ranks behind their front, which consisted of horse. From this disposition, the troops of Treverians advancing, charged the enemy with notable rashness, since they were encountered by the veteran soldiers, and sorely annoyed in the flank by volleys of stones from the hands of the peasants, a people dexterous at throwing; and being now interspersed amongst disciplined men, the coward and the brave proved equally daring in an hour of victory. To the discomfited there accrued fresh terror and peril from the Fleet, which had advanced and assailed them in the rear. They were thus surrounded every way, and doubtless the whole Army had been slaughtered, had not the darkness of the night restrained the conquerors, and covered the flight of the vanquished.
The forces of Vitellius, though overcome, would not acquiesce. Having called in succours, they attacked the enemy while yet elated and secure, and abated in their vigilance by success. In this assault, the guards were already slain, the camp forced, and the consternation carried as far as the ships: when the sudden dread subsiding gradually, the disordered troops betook themselves to an adjoining hill, and having secured themselves by the advantage of the ascent, rushed resolutely down upon the assailants. Here ensued a mighty and terrible slaughter. The Captains of the Tungrian Cohorts, after they had for a great while sustained the battle, were at last overwhelmed by a shower of darts. Nor in truth to the Army of Otho did the victory prove otherwise than bloody: indeed many of them, while they incautiously pursued, were cut off by the horse, suddenly wheeling upon the pursuers. And now both Armies returned back, that of Vitellius to Antipolis, a municipal city in Narbon Gaul; that of Otho to Albingaunum, another municipal city in the inland country of Liguria; as if between both a truce had been settled by consent, that neither the Fleet on one hand, nor the Cavalry on the other, should henceforth surprize each other by sudden enterprizes and the tumult of war.
Corsica and Sardinia, with the other islands in these seas, were by the renown of the victorious Fleet preserved under obedience to Otho. But upon Corsica destruction was well nigh brought by an attempt of Decimus Pacarius, who governed as Procurator there: an attempt altogether rash, such a one as in a war conducted by forces so mighty and many, could never avail towards casting the ballance, yet to himself proved fatal and sanguinary. For, from antipathy to Otho, he purposed with the arms of that people to assist Vitellius; an assistance impotent and fruitless, had he even succeeded. He called together the chief men of the island, and to them opened his scheme; nay, Claudius Phirricus Commander of the Gallies there, and Quinctius Certus a Roman Knight, were, for daring to oppose him, by his order slain. By the execution of these two all the rest of the assembly were sufficiently terrified: so that they first, and afterwards the unthinking multitude, governed by their ignorance, or by adopting the fears of others, all swore allegiance to Vitellius. But as soon as Pacarius set himself to array them for war, and to vex with military duties men naturally wild and impatient of regularity or restraint, they conceived implacable aversion to fatigues never before felt, and began to recollect and discover the weakness of their country; “That the place inhabited by them was an island, and far remote from them lay Germany and the forces of the Legions. Other nations too there were, who even while under the protection of Vitellius’s arms, his bodies of foot and squadrons of horse, were yet invaded, plundered and laid waste by the navy of Otho.” And, in an instant they meditated vengeance and a revolt, yet by no efforts of open violence, but by a silent conspiracy; and, for accomplishing it, watched a proper opportunity. At a juncture therefore when the crowd, who, upon business or compliment, had attended Pacarius, were withdrawn, and he himself retired to his bath, they there slew him, naked and destitute of help or defence. They even butchered such acquaintance of his as they found about him. Their heads were, like those of public enemies, by the murderers themselves, carried to Otho. Yet neither were they by Otho distinguished with any recompence, nor by Vitellius doomed to any punishment; as, in the universal uproar of tumultuous times, they remained blended and undiscerned amongst many other instruments of iniquity still more heinous and crying.
The squadron of horse entitled Silana, had opened a way into Italy, and thither translated the war, as above I have recounted. Not that one soul there had any partiality to Otho, nor indeed that to the cause of Otho they preferred the cause of Vitellius: but by long peace and ease they were quite debased, seasoned for any bondage from any quarter, become the easy acquisition of the first possessor, and stupidly indifferent to a worthier choice. That Region of Italy (of all others the most opulent and flourishing) which extends from the Po to the Alps, with all its cities and territories, was holden by the forces of Vitellius; for there too had already arrived the Cohorts which Cæcina had sent thither before him. At Cremona a Cohort of Pannonians were made captives, and between Placentia and Ticinum an hundred horse were intercepted, as were also a thousand Marines. After so much success these soldiers of Vitellius were no longer to be daunted and repulsed by such obstacles as rivers and their banks. The Batavians, in truth, and such as came from beyond the Rhine, found themselves but the more animated by beholding the Po, which they passed with great suddenness over against Placentia, and surprizing certain scouts, filled all the rest with such dread, that under the impulse of tremor and deception, they carried tidings, that Cæcina approached with his whole army.
Spurinna (for he commanded in Placentia) was certain that Cæcina was not yet come, and if he really were advancing, was determined to confine his own men within the fortifications, nor to an army of Veterans expose three Prætorian Cohorts, a thousand vexillaries, and a few horse. But his men, who were headstrong, unmanageable, and unacquainted with matters of war, snatching up the ensigns and standards, sallied out tumultuously, and against their own Commander, while he strove to restrain them, turned with menaces the points of their weapons. For they had with indignation rejected the exhortations of the Tribunes and Centurions, who extolled to them the wisdom and foresight of their Commander. Nay, they even asserted with fierce clamours, that a plot was intended, and Cæcina traiterously called in. In this mad proceeding of his soldiers Spurinna was made a partaker, at first indeed constrained to it by violence, anon feigning to chuse and approve it, in hopes thence to derive the more weight and authority to his counsels, whenever the sedition should abate.
When they had advanced within view of the Po, and night approached, it was judged necessary to pitch and fortify their camp; a toil which was utterly new to the City-soldiers, and quite abashed all their ferocity. Then it was that all they who were most grown in years, condemned their own credulity, and displayed to others what matter of dread and danger must have befallen them, had Cæcina, with the power of a whole Army, surrounded a few Cohorts in a country on all sides open. Presently, all over the Camp, dutiful and submissive language was heard; and, as the Tribunes and Centurions had every where mixed themselves amongst the men, they all with one voice applauded the prudent care of their Commander, that for the seat and bulwark of the war he had chosen a Colony so strong and opulent. At last Spurinna himself accosted them, rather by reason reclaiming them, than upbraiding them with their rashness and error; and having left certain scouts behind him, led back all the rest to Placentia, in a humour much less turbulent, and now submitting to receive orders. There the walls were forthwith strengthened, new bulwarks added, towers raised, and not only stores of arms secured, but duty found with alacrity to obey, the only thing wanting to that party, where in truth there was no defect of resolution and bravery.
Now Cæcina, as if beyond the Alps he had left all his cruelty, licentiousness and rapine, preserved in the march of his Army through Italy great modesty and restriction. The gayety of his own apparel indeed passed with the Colonies and Free Cities as a mark of arrogance; for that, dressed in a military mantle of divers colours, with a pair of drawers on, (a vestment peculiar to Barbarians) he was wont to entertain such as wore the Roman gown. They were, moreover, offended to see Salonina, his wife, mounted upon a beautiful horse, adorned with purple; as a mighty grievance to all, though by it no man was injured. Such is the spirit by nature ingrasted in men, to behold with curious and malignant eyes the recent good fortune of others, and from none to exact a more severe degree of moderation in prosperity, than from such as they have seen no higher than themselves. Cæcina having passed the Po, and by many secret conferences and mighty promises laboured to corrupt the fidelity of the forces of Otho, found himself assailed by the same arts. So that, after many overtures made and returned about peace and concord, names exceeding specious in sound, but void of persuasion and effect, he applied all his devices and care to the siege of Placentia, which he meant to pursue with terrible efforts; for he was aware, that by the success attending the first attempts of the war, common fame would estimate all that were to follow.
The first day, however, passed rather in unguarded feats of violence, than in the wary motions and approaches of a veteran Army. Headlong they advanced and assailed the walls, void of art or precaution, unprovided of shelter, and just gorged with victuals and wine. In this conflict the Amphitheatre, a building exceeding grand and fair, standing without the walls, was burnt down; perhaps set on a flame by the besiegers, while against the besieged they hurled torches, shells, and the like discharges of missive fire; perhaps by the besieged themselves whilst upon their enemies they poured the same destructive element. In Placentia the populace, ever addicted to suspicion, believed that the fire was fed with fuel treacherously administered by emissaries from the neighbouring Colonies, instigated by a spirit of malignity and emulation, since in all the rest of Italy was not found an edifice so stately and capacious. From whatever cause the conflagration came, it was for the present lightly esteemed, while evils more terrible were impending. As soon as they found their danger over, and their former security returned, they then bewailed the loss of their Amphitheatre, as a calamity equally afflicting as any that they could possibly have suffered. For the rest; Cæcina and his forces were repulsed, with much blood and many lives lost; and all the night following was bestowed in preparations for the assault and for the defence. On the part of the besiegers were provided moving penthouses, with other machines and instruments at once fit for battering the walls, and for protecting the assailants. They within the city furnished themselves with vast rafts of timber, quantities of huge stones, as also of massy brass and lead, to overwhelm the enemy, and crush all their works to pieces. On each side there prevailed a like fear of shame, on each a like passion for glory; and both were animated by different exhortations becoming different men. Here was extolled “the invincible strength of the Legions and German Army;” there, “the dignity of the Cohorts from Rome, and that of the Prætorian Bands.” The Army without reproached the others, as “slothful and spiritless, corrupted and debased by the licentious amusements of the Theatre and Circus;” and were themselves by these reproached, as “aliens and strangers.” And at the same time, while upon Otho and Vitellius they were heaping applause or contumely, they found more copious matter of infamy to animate them in the contest than matter of praise.
Scarce had the day dawned, ere the walls appeared covered with men for their defence. With arms and armed men the adjoining plains blazed. The Legions marched in battalions close and thick: the Auxiliaries advanced in separate bands, and with flights of arrows and stones aimed at the combatants upon the tops of the bulwarks. Where the fortifications were decayed or not guarded, they attempted to force their way over them. From above, the opponents, with an aim more sure than that of their adversaries below, poured down showers of darts upon the German Cohorts, as they were adventuring rashly to the foot of the wall with shouts and chantings horrible to hear, their bodies naked after the custom of the country, and their bucklers brandished above their shoulders. The legionary soldiers, under the shelter of their machines, demolished the walls, raised a mound, and pressed vehemently against the gates. They, on the contrary, of the Prætorian Bands, haveing purposely disposed a number of great milstones, from place to place along the edge of the walls, now rolled them down, with dreadful force, rumbling and destruction. So that of the assailants, part that were scaling the wall, were crushed to death, part were pierced with darts; and thus with many slain outright, with many miserably gored, they retreated with the greater loss, for that the slaughter was heightened by their hurry and confusion, and thence their wounds redoubled from the battlements. Upon the honour of their party they brought by this defeat notable discredit and diminution. Moreover Cæcina, struck with vexation and shame for having so precipitately attempted the siege, and resolved to abide no longer in the same camp, where only derision was to be reaped, and no advantage gained, repassed the Po and bent his march towards Cremona. Upon his removal there revolted to him Turullius Cerialis with a great number of Marines, and Julius Briganticus with a few horse; the latter a Batavian by nation, and Commander of a squadron of horse; the other a Centurion of principal rank, who having served in that character amongst the forces in Germany, was thence well affected to Cæcina.
Spurinna having learnt the removal and march of the enemy, transmitted an instant account to Annius Gallus, that Placentia was saved, with the particulars of the siege, and whither tended the present motions of Cæcina. Gallus was then conducting the first Legion to succour Placentia, from his distrust of the ability of the few Cohorts there to sustain a siege of any length, and his apprehension of the great force of the German Army. As soon as he received information, that Cæcina was repulsed, and proceeding to Cremona, such an ardor to encounter him seized the Legion, as drove them even to mutiny; so that Gallus had much difficulty to quell them, and to bring them to rest at Bedriacum, a village situated between Verona and Cremona, and become now unhappily renowned by two signal slaughters suffered by the Romans there. About that time, a battle was successfully fought by Martius Macer not far from Cremona. For Macer, who possessed a spirit vigorous and bold, having embarked the Gladiators upon the Po, landed them with great suddenness, on the opposite shore, where surprizing and routing the auxiliary troops, which belonged to the forces of Vitellius, the rest fled to Cremona, and all who resisted were put to the sword. But the heat of the Conquerors, earnest to pursue the slaughter, was repressed, lest the enemy strengthened by an accession of fresh succours, might have changed the fortune of the combat. From this restraint great distrust arose amongst the suspicious soldiers of Otho, men who upon all the proceedings of their leaders, without distinction, put a malevolent construction. In proportion, as each particular was remarkable for baseness and cowardice of heart, and for petulance and sauciness of tongue, they set themselves to urge criminal imputations, various and many, against Annius Gallus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Marius Celsus: for upon these likewise Otho had conferred command. But the incendiaries who proved the most fierce and implacable, were they who had murdered Galba. Restless and mad with guilt and dread, they strove to throw all things into combustion and uproar, sometimes by seditious speeches openly uttered, sometimes by letters conveyed secretly to Otho, who, lending a credulous ear to every the most abject instrument, and fearing all men of uprightness and honour, was thus held in distraction and alarms, always unsteady and wavering, when his affairs flourished, and ever mended by strokes of adversity. He therefore sent for Titianus his brother, and to him committed the rule and direction of the war.
Under the conduct of Paulinus and Celsus, the while, signal exploits were done. It afflicted the spirit of Cæcina to see all his enterprizes abortive, and the great renown of his army waining so fast. From Placentia he had been lately repulsed in person; his auxiliaries were more lately cut to pieces; even in the encounters between parties of scouts, a sort of fighting rather frequent than important, he found himself overmatched and inferior. And lest upon Fabius Valens, who was now advancing, the whole glory of the war should rest, he hurried, with more impatience than circumspection, to retrieve his honour. Twelve miles distant from Cremona, at a place named Castores, he secretly conveyed all the bravest of his auxiliaries into the woods which lie just above the great road. The horse were commanded to march further on, and after having engaged the enemy in a warm fray, then to betake themselves to a voluntary flight, and to humour the pursuit till the hasty pursuers might be opportunely beset by the forces in ambush rising upon them at once. This scheme was betrayed to the Generals of Otho’s army, where Paulinus took the command of the foot, Celsus that of the horse. On the left were ranged the detached troops of the thirteenth Legion, four Cohorts of auxiliaries, and five hundred horse. The great road was held by three Cohorts, in close ranks. Upon the right front marched the first Legion, with two auxiliary Cohorts, and five hundred horse. Besides all these, there were led a thousand horse detached from the auxiliaries and Prætorian Guards; a body indeed superfluous, if the rest proved victorious, or a body of succours, if distressed.
Before the two armies had joined in close combat, that of Vitellius turned their backs; but Celsus who was aware of the artifice, withheld his men from pursuing. The forces of Vitellius concealed in the wood, issuing thence overhastily, were by the management of Celsus, who retired insensibly before them, decoyed so far in pursuing him, till they themselves were at once plunged into snares on every side. For, on both their flanks they were attacked by the Cohorts of the Legions, and the horse, suddenly wheeling, begirt them in the rear. yet Suetonius Paulinus gave not instantly the signal of battle to the infantry; as he was a man by nature wary and slow, better pleased with deliberate counsels supported by reason, than with prosperous adventures resulting from chance. He ordered the ditches to be filled, the grounds to be cleared, and his front to be extended; since he judged that the time to conquer would then follow abundantly soon, when sufficient precautions were first taken against all danger of being conquered. By this delay, leisure was given to the forces of Vitellius to shelter themselves amongst vineyards, places intricate and hard of entrance through the interweaving and obstruction of the branches. To the vineyards there adjoined a small wood, from which they ventured to sally, and slew the most forward and resolute of the Prætorian horse. Here King Epiphanes was wounded, while for the cause of Otho he by his own example animated the fight with great bravery.
Now, Otho’s Infantry advanced to the attack. The gross of the enemy’s army was utterly routed, and all the parties who moved to their assistance, were forced to fly. For Cæcina had not called in the Cohorts to sustain him in a body, but one after another: a circumstance which greatly heightened their consternation in the battle; since supplies which approached thus piece-meal, and never competently strong, were struck and hurried away by the affright of such as fled. In their camp too they made an insurrection, for that they had not been all led forth against the foe. Forthwith they committed to bonds Julius Gratus, the Camp Marshal, upon a charge, “as if he betrayed them by secret intelligence with his brother, who bore arms for Otho;” when at the same time the soldiers of Otho’s army had already imprisoned that brother of his, Julius Fronto, under an imputation of that very crime. For the rest, the distraction and dread which every where possessed the vanquished, not only those who fled, but those who met them in their flight, not only in the field of battle, but in the camp, were then so apparent and prevailing, as to create a report current amongst both parties, “That had not Paulinus sounded a retreat, Cæcina and his whole army might have been destroyed.” For himself Paulinus alledged, “That he feared the great fatigue further to have been undergone, with so much more way necessary to have been passed, and the advantage given to the forces of Vitellius, fresh as they were from their camp, to have fallen upon his, just tired with marching, and destitute of succour or refuge, had they suffered a defeat.” Some few there were who approved this reasoning of the General. With the commonalty it passed under severer censures.
This loss and disgrace sustained by the army of Vitellius, served rather to reform them into duty and moderation, than to inspire them with dismay. Not only in the camp of Cæcina, who throwed the whole fault upon the men, “as more prone to mutiny than to fight;” but also among the forces of Fabius Valens, who was already arrived at Ticinum, it was found, that the soldiers having quitted their late contempt for the enemy, and conceived a passion for retrieving their late fame, were now come to obey their General with much greater reverence and submission. For in the army led by Valens some time before there had raged a furious insurrection, which I shall now deduce from the beginning farther back, since it behoved me not to interrupt the detail of the transactions of Cæcina. The Batavian Cohorts, the same who, in the war between Nero and Vindex, were withdrawn from the fourteenth Legion to return to Britain, upon hearing in the capital of the Gauls called Lingones, that Vitellius was in arms, had there joined themselves to Fabius Valens, as above I have related. They thence grew haughty and turbulent, and, as often as they passed through the quarter of any of the Legions whatsoever, they boasted in the tents of the soldiery, “That by themselves those of the fourteenth had been forced into the Party, by themselves Italy had been rent from Nero, and that in their own hands they held the issue and fortune of the war:” A heavy reproach to the soldiers, a bitter insult upon the General, a sore blow to discipline, thus corrupted and relaxed, by daily strife and debates. Valens at last, from such insolent speeches, grew to apprehend treasonable purposes. He had news brought him, “That the maritime forces of Otho had defeated the squadron of Treverian horse with the body of Tungrians, and beset the coasts of Narbon Gaul.” He therefore, as well through a concern for protecting his confederates, as by a military device to separate these Cohorts so very mutinous, and, when united together, so very powerful, ordered one part of the Batavians to march, fot the succour of the Province. As soon as this order was divulged, the auxiliaries began to lament, the Legions to storm, that “they were bereft of the aid of men so signally valiant. If to the city of Rome, if to the welfare and existence of the Empire, that one Province were preferable, they ought all to follow thither. But, if in Italy only could be obtained a victory perfectly decisive and salutary; if there alone were to be sought the grand pillar and stay of the whole; then from Italy these Batavians were by no means to be thus rent, like the most vigorous limbs from the body.” During these strains of sedition, vented in great wrath and defiance, when Valens attempted to quell the uproar by sending in his Lictors amongst them, upon Valens himself they fell, assailed him with stones, and pursued him as he fled. “The spoils, they fiercely cried; the spoils of all the Gauls, the gold of the Viennese with the price and acquisitions of all their own fatigues, were by him treasured up in secret;” then plundered his coffers, searched his pavilion, (the pavilion of their General!) and, with their lances and pointed poles, probed and examined the very ground where it stood. For Valens himself lay concealed under the habit of a slave in the tents of a Captain of horse. By this time Alphenus Varus, Camp Marshal, perceiving that the rage of the tumult was gradually cooling, to extinguish it quite had recourse to a stratagem, by forbidding the Centurions to set the watch or to visit the guard, and by forbearing all sound of trumpet, such as calls the men to the duties of the army and of war. Hence they were to a man struck with astonishment, like men insensible: They gazed round upon each other with wild wonder and dismay, and dreading this very thing that no one appeared to direct and rule them, they betook themselves to humble silence, to patience and resignation, and in the end to open supplications and tears for mercy and pardon. But as soon as Valens came forth, his eyes full of tears, his person miserably apparelled, and, beyond all hope, alive and unhurt, there broke out a torrent of joy, of commiseration, and of fondness. What followed was a universal change into gladness and transport, (as in all their passions, however opposite, the multitude know no bounds) and with shouts of applause and congratulations, in the midst of the Eagles and Standards displayed, they bore him to the Tribunal. He there manifested a moderation altogether wholsome and serviceable, nor required the execution of any particular whomsoever. Yet, lest by dissembling all knowledge of the guilty, his sincerity might be but more suspected, he rebuked a few by name, as he was well apprized, that during all civil wars, much greater power may be assumed by the soldiers than by their Leaders.
Whilst they were yet fortifying their camp at Ticinum, news arrived of Cæcina’s disastrous engagement, and thence the sedition was well nigh revived, for that Valens, they alledged, had, through premeditated treachery and feigned delays, detained them from assisting at that battle. Forthwith they declared against all further repose, refused to stay for their General, hurried away even before the Standards, pressed forward such as bore them, and continued their march with rapidity till they had joined Cæcina. With the army of Cæcina, Valens bore but an ungracious character. They complained, that they who in numbers were so much inferior had been exposed to the united host of the enemy; a complaint which implied an excuse for their own ill success, and at the same time served to flatter the new-comers by extolling their mighty strength; with design, that by the new-comers they might not be scorned as a body cowardly and routed. In truth, although to Valens there appertained much greater forces, nay, almost double the number of Legions and Auxiliaries, yet the affections of the soldiers leaned to Cæcina. Besides his benignity of spirit, in which he was reckoned to excel the other, they were attracted by the bloom and vigour of his age, by his person graceful and tall, and even by other motives to favour, altogether unmeaning and vain. Hence an emulation between the two Chiefs. Cæcina derided Valens as one immersed in crimes and black with infamy, and Valens him as a man vain and pompous. Yet smothering their hate, they concurred in consulting the utility of the same cause, and in frequent letters of theirs boldly upbraided Otho with his guilt and vileness, without all reserve or view of pardon. Whereas the Commanders in Otho’s party forbore treating Vitellius with any invectives and bitter words, though for such treatment abundant matter was administered.
The truth is, before they came to suffer their last fate, a fate which to Otho gained immortal fame, to Vitellius most glaring infamy, much less dreaded were the gross appetites and stupidity of Vitellius, than the abandoned spirit and flaming passions of Otho. The latter was by the murder of Galba rendered still more terrible and detested; the former, on the contrary, was by no man charged with having begun the war. In gluttony and banquetting Vitellius was an enemy to himself. In profusion, cruelty, and daring iniquities, Otho was accounted more threatening and pernicious to the Commonwealth. Upon the conjunction of the forces of Valens with those of Cæcina, from the partizans of Vitellius no longer delay or obstruction remained against proceeding to a decisive battle. Otho had recourse to a consultation, whether it were deemed adviseable to protract the war, or to risque the fortune of a battle. Upon this occasion, Suetonius Paulinus judged that a discourse concerning the whole state of the war, would become his own great name for military prowess, in which no General of those times was thought to surpass him. He therefore argued, “That to the enemy haste and present action were advantageous; but to themselves procrastination and delay. The entire army of Vitellius was now arrived; nor were there any considerable remaining forces to follow after, since the countries of Gaul were still angry and disaffected; and it would be ill policy to divest the bank of the Rhine of its guards, and expose it to nations so implacable, and just ready for an irruption. The soldiers in Britain were with-holden by enemies and seas. Spain was far from abounding in armed men. The province of Narbon Gaul was sufficiently terrified by their defeat, and by the insults and hostilities from the fleet. The region of Italy beyond the Po was enclosed by the Alps, destitute of help from the sea, and even by the passing of the army exhausted and spoiled. No where to be found was any grain for the army; nor without plentiful supplies could an army be maintained. Moreover, were the war protracted till the summer, the Germans, of all the enemy’s forces the most formidable, would never endure an exchange so extreme of country and climate, with bodies like theirs loose and languid. Many were the instances of enemies, who in a sudden effort proved potent and prevailing; yet were so wearied and wasted with delays, as utterly to vanish with all their terrors. To themselves, on the contrary, there continued all things in abundance, and countries faithfully attached, Pannonia, Mœsia, Dalmatia, the East, with their several armies still intire; Italy, and Rome itself, the head and centre of the Empire; the Senate and Roman people, names at no time obscure, though sometimes overcast with clouds; public and private abundance, and infinite treasure, more prevalent than the sword in all civil dissentions; the bodies of the soldiers either inured to the clime of Italy, or to climes signally hot. In their front lay the river Po; their cities were secure in the strength of men and walls; and that none of them would yield to the attacks of the enemy, was sufficiently learnt from the brave defence of Piacentia. Upon these considerations he would do well to protract the war. In a few days would arrive the fourteenth Legion, mighty in renown, and with it the forces of Mœsia. He might then resume the present deliberation, and if fighting were preferred, they should engage with numbers augmented.”
With the counsel of Paulinus, Marius Celsus concurred; and that Annius Gallus entertained the same sentiments, was reported by those who had been purposely sent to learn his advice: for, his horse having fallen with him a few days before, he was still ill of the hurt. Otho was bent upon engaging. Titianus his brother, and Proculus, Captain of the Prætorian guards, hurried headlong by rashness and inexperience, were always averring, “That Fortune, and the Gods, and the Deity of Otho, all attending upon his counsels, would also upon his enterprizes.” To such sycophancy they had purposely betaken themselves, that no man might dare to thwart their opinion. After it was determined to fight, a doubt occurred, whether it were more advisable that the Emperor should be present in the encounter, or remove elsewhere. Paulinus and Celsus, that they might not seem to advise exposing the person of the Prince to perils, had now dropped all opposition. So that those same men from whom the worse counsel had come, obliged him to retire to Brixellum, where, secure from the uncertain accidents of battles, he should reserve himself, they said, for the direction of the whole and the great ends of Sovereignty. This was the first day that a fatal blow was given to the party of Otho. For, besides his own departure, with him there not only departed a very brave and powerful band, consisting of Prætorian Cohorts, of troops of horse, and of the body guard; but the forces remaining lost all courage, since they suspected the fidelity of their Leaders; and Otho, upon whom only the soldiers placed all their faith, as, in truth, in none else but soldiers did he himself repose any trust, had left the command of the Generals uncertain and precarious.
Of all these transactions not one was a secret to the army of Vitellius, as deserters were perpetually passing to and fro, a thing usual in a civil war: And the spies, from a keenness to learn the measures of the opposite side, did not well conceal those of their own. Cæcina and Valens, without moving themselves, were intent upon the disastrous motions of the enemy, so precipitate and void of foresight, and coolly awaited their own advantage from the folly of others; a course supplying the place of contrivance. So that feigning a design to pass the Po, in order to attack the band of Gladiators on the opposite shore, they began to make a bridge, an undertaking which also served to keep their own men the while from a habit of idleness and sloth. Upon the river a row of boats was placed, at equal distances, connected by large beams, and by their anchors steadily secured against the weight of the stream, but with cables unstretched and floating, that when the flood swelled, the whole rank of boats might be lifted up without violence to their order. A tower purposely reared, and beginning from the furthermost boat, closed and guarded the bridge, that from thence with their warlike machines they might batter and repulse the foe.
The soldiers of Otho too had erected a tower, from whence they were pouring volleys of stones and fire. Moreover in the middle of the river stood an island, into which the Gladiators strove to convey themselves in pinnaces, but were prevented by the Germans who reached it first by swimming. As of these a large number had already passed over, Macer, who had now filled the pinnaces with the bravest Gladiators, sailed thither to attack them. But neither in the Gladiators was there found bravery or perseverance equal to those of the soldiers; nor could they in a reeling posture from their vessels strike with such certainty and force as did the others from their firm footing on the shore. And when by the many different motions and shiftings of men actuated by consternation and dread, they who fought became mingled with those who rowed, and all were disordered, the Germans leaping into the water boldly seized the vessels, and by climbing boarded them, or by strength sunk them. All which transactions passed under the eye of both armies. Hence the more joy they administered to the partizans of Vitellius, with the more bitterness and detestation they inspired the followers of Otho against the author and cause of their sore disaster.
The truth is, the fray was parted by flight, the remaining boats having been in great haste dragged back again. Macer was required to the slaughter: nay, he was already wounded with a lance darted at him, and already they had assaulted him with their swords drawn, when by the sudden interposition and succour of the Tribunes and Centurions, he was rescued. Ere long, Vestricius Spurinna, by the command of Otho, leaving a small garison in Placentia, arrived with a supply of Cohorts: and soon after Flavius Sabinus, Consul elect, was by Otho sent to take charge of the forces which had been under the command of Macer, to the great joy of the soldiers, pleased with the change of Leaders; whilst the Leaders, scared by their perpetual mutinies, abhorred the charge of a soldiery so mischievous and unruly.
In some authors I find, “that through the shocking apprehensions of war, or from an aversion and disgust to both Princes, two men whose infamy and detestable crimes were by the voice of common fame grown daily more public and glaring, the armies had deliberated about dropping their enmity and strife, and whether amongst themselves they should agree to set up a proper Emperor, or refer the choice to the Senate. That hence the Generals of Otho’s forces had declared for delays and procrastination, Paulinus particularly, who considered himself as the most ancient Consular, as one signally renowned in war, and one who, by his exploits in Britain, had acquired much glory and a great name.” For myself; as I would allow, that there were a few, in whose breasts cordial wishes, but wishes smothered in silence, were entertained for public tranquillity, instead of civil uproar and dissention, and for a Prince worthy and innocent in the place of two, of all men the worst and most bloated with vileness and iniquities; so neither can I conceive that Paulinus, a man governed by such prudence, could have hoped, in an age abandoned to corruption, to have found so mighty a degree of moderation in the common herd, that the very same men, who from a passion for war had violated public peace, would out of tenderness for peace relinquish the war. Nor can I conceive that armies, in languages and manners so dissonant, could ever have been brought to concur in this act of unanimity; or that the Lieutenant Generals and Leaders, men for the most part wallowing in prodigality, pressed by indigence, and under the guilt and horrors of enormities black and manifold, would have suffered any Prince over them other than one contaminated with crimes, and engaged to them for their wicked services done him.
The lust of dominion, so ancient and now long since rooted in the hearts of men, increased with the growth of the State, and when the Empire was full grown, burst forth with violence. For whilst the condition of our city was but low, an equality amongst her citizens was easily maintained. But when once the world was subdued, when all competitors for power, whether the same were great Cities or great Kings, had been vanquished and overthrown, and leisure was given to pursue riches with security; then first between the Senate and People fierce broils were kindled. Sometimes seditious Tribunes insulted; anon the power of the Consuls prevailed; and within the city, nay, in the forum, were seen the preludes and approaches to a civil war. In a short space, Caius Marius, sprung from the lees of the Populace, and Lucius Sylla, a man the most cruel of all the nobility, having oppressed public liberty by the violence of arms, changed it into lawless domination. Then followed Pompey, more close and disguised, not more innocent or upright. From thence-forward the only public struggle was for sovereign rule. In Pharsalia and Philippi the Legions, though composed of Roman citizens, departed not from their violence and arms: Much less likelihood was there, that the armies of Otho and Vitellius would of their own accord have abandoned the war. These armies too were by the same wrath of the Deities, by the same rage amongst men, by the same motives of wickedness and outrage, driven into discord and war. That the wars were each of them brought to a conclusion as it were by so many single strokes, proceeded from the genius of the Princes, impotent and spiritless. But in recollecting the disposition of different times, ancient and new, I have digressed rather too far. I now resume the order of transactions.
After the departure of Otho to Brixellum, the name and honour of Generalship remained with his brother Titianus, the essence and authority with Proculus. For Celsus and Paulinus; as no one had recourse to their counsel and capacity, they bore the empty title of Commanders, and thence served as cloaks for the faults and mistakes of other men. The Tribunes and Centurions were agitated by perplexity and fear, to see men of sufficiency and superior worth neglected, and the very worst men bear sway. The common soldiers were chearful and elated, yet disposed rather to canvass and interpret, than to obey and execute the orders of their Commanders. It was now determined to move their quarters, and to encamp within four miles of Bedriacum; a march so unskilfully conducted, that in it they were extremely distressed for want of water, though it was then in the spring of the year, and there were rivers on all hands. Here was debated the question about proceeding to battle, as Otho was by importunate letters pressing them to a speedy decision, whilst the soldiers insisted to have their Emperor in person at the engagement. Several urged for calling over the forces quartered beyond the Po. Neither can it be so readily decided what was the best course which they could have taken, as that it was certainly the worst which they took. For,
In no sort like men going directly to the encounter, but like men only proceeding to war, they advanced towards the confluence of the rivers Po and Addua; a journey of sixteen miles, and utterly disapproved by Celsus and Paulinus, who declared against “exposing the soldiers, fatigued with travelling, and loaded with baggage, to an unequal enemy, who being himself light and unincumbered, and having moved scarce four miles, would never lose the advantage of attacking them, either as they marched with their ranks broken, or afterwards while they were separated and entrenching their camp.” Titianus and Proculus whenever they were vanquished in counsel and reasoning, had always, as now, recourse to the prerogative of power. It must be owned there had arrived a Numidian, dispatched by Otho upon a swift horse, with orders conceived in a strain very terrible and bitter: In these, having first reprimanded the Generals for their faint proceedings and want of spirit, he gave command, to commit the cause to immediate trial by the sword; for he was sick with anguish, from delay, and impatient of uncertain hopes.
To Cæcina, the same day, as he was still intent upon the structure of the bridge, there came two Tribunes of the Prætorian guards, and desired a conference. He was already setting himself to receive their overtures, and to return answers, when the scouts in vehement haste, apprized him that the enemy was at hand. The discourse with the Tribunes was thus interrupted, and hence it remained uncertain what they meant to have attempted, whether to betray their party, or to contrive a plot against the enemy, or whether they had some design truly worthy and honest. Cæcina having dismissed the Tribunes and returned to the camp, found the signal of battle already given by Valens and the soldiers under arms.
Whilst the Legions were by the casting of lots ascertaining the order of their proceeding to battle, the cavalry sallied forth by themselves, and, which is wonderful to relate, were by a party of Otho’s forces, in number much inferior, repulsed, nay, flying for shelter to their ramparts, till by the vigour and menaces of the Italic Legion they were stopped. That brave Legion opposed them with drawn swords, and forced them back to the encounter. The Legions of Vitellius were embattled without any consternation or alarm; for, all sight of an armed host was prevented by a thick coppice, though the enemy was close by. In the army of Otho, fearful and disconcerted were the Generals; against the Generals the soldiers were incensed; mixt and crowded amongst the ranks were the carriages and retainers to the camp, and from a deep ditch on each hand the way was too streight even for an army marching safe from an enemy. Some stood round their standards, others enquired where to find their own. On every side was heard the uncertain clamour of men running and roaming different and uncertain ways. Some thrust themselves into the front, some retired to the rear, just as each found himself prompted by bravery or by dread.
Their minds, yet struck and astonished with sudden terror, were quite cooled and enfeebled by an accession of false joy; as amongst them there were some found who divulged a fiction, that the army had revolted from Vitellius. Whether this report was spread by the spies of Vitellius, or came from the partizans of Otho, and sprung from chance or fraud, remains undiscovered. By it the forces of Otho were bereft of all ardour for battle, nay, accosted the enemy with the salutation of friends: And as they were received with a hostile and threatening murmur, hence many of their own army, unapprized of the cause of such greeting, were seized with apprehensions that they were betrayed. At the same time, the enemy’s host fell on and pressed them hard, with ranks unbroken, and in strength and numbers superior. That of Otho, though disjoined, though fewer and fatigued, yet sustained the fight with notable vigour; and various was the face of the combat, like that of the place, which was embarrassed with trees and vineyards. Here they encountered hand to hand, there at a distance by weapons missive; in this place with their lines extended; in that by battalions sharp in the front. Upon the raised road they closed fiercely, battered each other with their bodies and bucklers, and, rejecting the use of darts, with swords and axes hewed and broke helmets and breast-plates. To each other the combatants were well known, their efforts were conspicuous to all the rest, and on both sides they exerted all their might to determine the last fortune of the war.
In an open plain between the Po and the highway, two Legions chanced to encounter; the one and twentieth intitled Rapax, signal for feats of renown anciently atchieved, in behalf of Vitellius. For Otho engaged the first called Adjutrix, one never till then led into the field, but fierce and resolute, eager for the first earnings of glory. The soldiers of the first having routed the foremost ranks of the one and twentieth, carried off their Eagle; a disgrace which so enraged this Legion, that they too in their turn repulsed and broke those of the first, and having killed Orphidius Benignus their Commander, despoiled them of many ensigns and banners. In another quarter, those of the thirteenth Legion were defeated, by an onset from the fifth; those of the fourteenth were quite invironed by a numerous host of foes. And Cæcina and Valens were still strengthening their battle with continual reinforcements, when Otho’s Generals were long since fled. To the former a fresh recruit had arrived of the Batavians led by Alphenus Varus, after he had utterly routed the body of Gladiators, who, whilst they passed over in boats, were by the Cohorts posted to oppose them slaughtered in the very river. So that these troops, already victorious, assailed the enemy in the flank; and their centre being thus utterly broken, the forces of Otho betook themselves every where to flight, bending their course towards Bedriacum; A mighty space to run: The ways too were filled and obstructed by the carcasses of the slain, and hence occasion administered for increasing the slaughter: for in civil wars captives are not converted into sale and gain.
Suetonius Paulinus, and Licinius Proculus took different routs, both shunning that to the camp. Vedius Aquila Commander of the thirteenth Legion, whilst he was animated by dread void of discretion, became exposed to the fury of the soldiery. While it was yet broad day he entered the camp, and was instantly beset and outraged by the insults and clamours of all such as were prompt to mutiny against their officers, and to run away from their enemies. Towards him they spared no violent invectives, nor even violent hands. They charged him as a traitor to his cause, and as a fugitive from battle; not that he had really committed any crime; but such is the custom of the crowd, for every man to cast upon others his own guilt and disgrace. Titianus and Celsus drew their security from the night, since ere they came, the guards were already posted, and the tumults of the soldiery repressed. Annius Gallus had softened and reclaimed them by his intreaties, by his authority and wholesome reasoning, “That they would not add to the heavy disaster of a battle lost, by intestine rage and the slaughter of one another. That the only remaining consolation and remedy after their defeat, was that of concord and unanimity amongst themselves, whether the war were now at an end, or whether they rather chose to try again the fortune of the field.” Of the generality the courage was utterly sunk; only those of the Prætorian Guards swaggered, “That they had been no otherwise overcome than by acts of treachery, and by no superior bravery of the enemy. Nor could the army of Vitellius, in truth, boast of an unbloody victory, since their cavalry had been routed, and the Eagle of a Legion bravely forced from them. Their own forces beyond the Po still remained intire, and with them Otho in person. The Legions from Mœsia were advancing; and a great part of the army had continued at Bedriacum. These, surely, were not yet vanquished; or if that must be their lot, more to their glory it would prove to die fighting.” Struggling with such considerations as these, they were variously transported, now to fury, anon to dread: Yet from their present plight, altogether desperate and forlorn, they found themselves more frequently excited to rage than to fear.
Within five miles of Bedriacum the army of Vitellius rested, for the Generals durst not, upon the same day, venture to force the enemy’s camp. They moreover entertained hopes of a voluntary surrender. For themselves; as they had only gone forth accoutred for battle, and unincumbered with baggage, they had no other bulwarks than their arms and victory. On the day following it was apparent what a pacific disposition reigned in Otho’s army, where even they who had been most fierce and untractable, were lapsing into acquiescence and remorse. From their camp therefore deputies were dispatched: Nor from the Generals of Vitellius was the least hesitation found against the overtures of peace. But as the deputies were for some short time detained with them, from thence arose matter of doubt and deliberation amongst those who sent them, as yet unapprized whether their proposals were accepted. But anon, upon the return of the deputies, the gates of the camp were thrown open. Then it was that both armies meeting; the conquerors as well as the conquered burst into tears, and at once pleased and sorrowing, uttered their detestations of the sad lot of intestine wars. Assembling now without distinction in the same tents, they tenderly tended and dressed the wounds one of another, some those of their brethren, some those of their friends. Doubtful were the hopes of all, uncertain their recompences, their only sure perquisites were death and woe. Nor was any particular so exempt from affliction as not to have some dead friend to bewail. For the body of Orphidius the Legate, search was made, and it was burned with the accustomed solemnity. A few were buried by their relations. The rest of the common men were buried above the ground.
Otho the while waited for an account of the battle, altogether undismayed, and fixt in his purposes. The first rumours were melancholy but uncertain, till the fugitives from the combat made known the utter defeat. Such now was the zeal and ardour of the soldiers about him, that they staid not for what their Emperor would say: They pressed him, “to preserve his spirit undaunted. There remained still fresh forces; and for themselves, they were ready to dare all dangers, to suffer all extremities.” Neither was there flattery or deceit in what they said. Like men enchanted with supernatural impulse and fury, they burned with passion to proceed to battle, to awaken and animate the fortune of their party. They who stood at a distance signified their ardour by extending their hands; they who were nearest embraced his knees; and keenest of all was Plotius Firmus. This was Captain of his guards, and by repeated instances besought him, “not to abandon an army so faithful and zealous, soldiers so singularly affectionate and deserving. In bearing the blows of calamity, more greatness of spirit was shewn than in flying from them. To support themselves with hope even in spight of fortune, was ever the part of the magnanimous and brave; as it was that of the timorous and spiritless to be drawn headlong by cowardice into despair.” As during these expressions the countenance of Otho happened to unbend or contract, in token of assent or refusal, there followed shouts of joy, or heavy groans. Nor was this spirit restrained to the Prætorian soldiers only, who, as his guards, were attached to the person of Otho; but those who had been sent before the rest out of Mœsia, declared, that in the approaching army the same steady and invincible perseverance in his cause was to be found; and that the Legions had already entered Aquileia. Hence none can doubt but that a war might have been renewed, terrible and tragical, and its issue altogether uncertain to the conquerors and the conquered. He himself had quite renounced all purposes of war, and said,
“To expose wantonly to fresh perils such virtue and so much fortitude, is a price which I deem too high for the redeeming of my own life. The higher the hopes are with which you present me, were it my choice to live and enjoy them, the more amiable and esteemed will be my voluntary death. I have made trial of Fortune, as has Fortune of me; nor does it avail to compute how short a space such trial has lasted, since the greater is the difficulty to possess with moderation that felicity which you do not expect to possess long. Vitellius began the civil war, and thence sprang the source of our struggling for the empire by arms. To me will be owing the example of struggling for it no more than once. By this rule let posterity judge of Otho. Vitellius shall again possess in safety his brother, his children, and his wife. By me no revenge is sought, neither do I need solacements. Others have held the sovereignty longer; in a manner so magnanimous none ever yet relinquished it. Shall I ever bear that such a number of Roman youth, that so many noble armies be again cut off and ravished for ever from the Commonwealth? With me let me carry this sentiment and assurance, that on my behalf you were all ready to perish. But be content to survive me: Nor let us long retard one another. Let not me delay your care of your own preservation, nor you me in the pursuit of a design never to be shaken or changed. To multiply words about the subject of dying, is the part of a dastardly spirit. How much I am undaunted in this my purpose, I desire you to take this signal proof, that I complain of no man: Since to be arraigning the Gods or men, upon the approach of death, belongs only to one who wishes for life.”
After this discourse, he desired them to speed away, nor by delaying enrage the conqueror. The young men he pressed with authority, the old by entreaties, addressing himself to all with singular sweetness and courtesy, in language suitable to their different years or dignity. Calm and easy were his looks, his speech flowing and assured, and he even applied himself to chide, as ill judged and unreasonable, the tears and wailings of his friends. To such as were about to depart, he ordered boats and carriages to be given. All such memorials and letters as were signal for strains of zeal towards himself, or for bitterness and invectives against Vitellius, he committed to the flames. He distributed money, yet with discretion and a sparing hand, no wise like one about to relinquish life. Anon perceiving his brother’s son Salvius Cocceianus, one just in the bloom of youth, under the agonies of dread and sorrow, he set about relieving him by consolatory expressions, exrolled his tenderness, but rebuked his care. “Could Vitellius, he said, prove of a spirit so implacable and unrelenting, as in recompence for his whole house preserved in safety, to refuse a return of mercy in this single instance? The clemency of the Conqueror was, in truth, no more than what he had purchased by thus hastening to die: since, pressed by no desperate distress, but at a juncture when his army were craving to be led to battle, he had, only for the sake of the Commonwealth, forgone the trial of a last effort. To himself he had acquired abundant name, to his posterity abundant lustre. It was he who first had translated the sovereignty into a house newly raised, after the same had been vested in families so illustrious, even the Julian, the Claudian, and the Servian. Cocceianus should therefore with a spirit undaunted resolve to live. That Otho had been his uncle he must never forget, neither overmuch remember.”
After this, causing all who were about him to retire, he reposed himself a while. As he was thus exercising his thoughts about his last moments, a sudden tumult interrupted him; for notice was carried him of the uproar and violence amongst the soldiery, who threatened with present slaughter all who were about to depart, but against Verginius particularly aimed their fiercest vengeance, and even besieged his house, which for his security he had shut up. Otho, having reprimanded the authors of the insurrection, gave time for audience to such as were departing, and continued thus employed till they were all gone in perfect security. Towards the close of the day he allayed his thirst with a draught of cold water. Then calling for two poynards, and having carefully examined the points of both, he placed one under his head. He next took care to be fully assured that all his friends were already on their way, afterwards passed the night in perfect repose, and, as is affirmed, not without sleep. At the first dawn he fell with his breast upon the point of the steel. Upon hearing his dying groans, his freedmen entered, as did his slaves, with Plotius Firmus Captain of his guards; and found no more than one wound. His funeral was dispatched with great expedition: Such had been his own desire, often repeated with earnest suit, to prevent his head from being cut off and exposed to public derision. The Prætorian cohorts bore his corps with many praises and many tears, kissing his wound, and kissing his hands. At his funeral pile some of the soldiers slew themselves, for no guilt which they had incurred, nor for any dread which they entertained, but purely to emulate the glory of his end, and from their fondness to the person of their Prince. Amongst them afterwards, at Bedriacum at Placentia, and in other their quarters, this kind of death became frequent. For Otho a sepulchre was raised, of mean structure, and thence like to remain.
Such was the issue of his life, in the thirty. seventh year of his age. From the municipal city of Terentium he derived his original His father had sustained the dignity of Consul, his grandfather that of Prætor. His mother’s line was not of equal lustre, yet far from sordid. How he passed his tender years and how his youth, we have before shewn. By two signal feats of his, one crying and horrid, the other exemplary and noble, he has merited from posterity a mighty portion of evil fame, nor less of good. As unworthy the gravity of this my subject I should hold it, to collect fabulous stories, and to amuse with fictions the minds of my readers; so neither would I boldly divest of all credit such traditions as have publicly spread and been handed down as matter of history. The people of Regium Lepidum recount “That on the day of the battle at Bedriacum, a certain bird, such as was never before seen there, perched upon a neighbouring grove much frequented, and that neither by the great concourse of persons, nor by the flock of other birds flying about her, was she terrified or driven thence, till the moment Otho put an end to his life: She then instantly disappeared; and by such as compared the conjuncture with the events, the beginning and end of the marvellous appearance were found to coincide with the death of Otho.”
The grief and wailings of the soldiers at his funeral, drove them into a fresh mutiny: nor was there any one to restrain them. To Verginius they applied, and with many entreaties, with many menaces, pressed him, now to accept the sovereignty, anon to go as their Embassador to Cæcina and Valens. Already they were breaking into the house, when Verginius, by a back way, stole out and escaped them. Of the Cohorts which lay at Brixellum, the petition was presented by Rubrius Gallus, and for them pardon forthwith obtained; while at the same time by the influence of Flavius Sabinus the forces under his command went over to the Conqueror.
When war had now every where ceased, a great part of the Senate found themselves exposed to extreme and capital danger, even all they who had accompanied Otho from Rome, and where by him afterwards left at Mutina. Thither had word come of the defeat: but the soldiers slighted it as a rumour void of truth; and as they guessed the Senate to be disaffected to Otho, they watched the words of particulars, and wrested to a malignant sense even their countenances and demeanour. At last they proceeded to insult them with invectives and revilings, thence seeking a pretence and introduction to carnage and murder. By another terror too the Senators were at the same time pressed, lest while the party of Vitellius thus prevailed and prospered, they might be suspected to have been slow and cool in taking part in the victory. Together therefore they met full of tremor, perplexed between the two perils, and full of anxiety. Nor had any one concerted a scheme or counsel of his own; since each reckoned himself the safer for that the offence was common to many. To the Senators, labouring under such difficulty and dread, a new weight of distress accrued from the magistracy of Mutina, who made them an offer of money and arms, nay, treated them with the high title of Conscript Fathers; an honour altogether ill-timed.
In the assembly there ensued a signal debate and contest, as Licinius Cæcina arraigned Eprius Marcellus; for that “he reasoned in a strain equivocal and suspicious.” In truth none of the rest declared their sentiments frcely. But the name of Marcellus, one abhorred from the memory of the accusations by him exercised, and one still exposed to public hate, was what prompted Cæcina, that he who was only a new man, and lately assumed into the Senate, might by thus declaring enmity against men of great name, signalize his own. They were appeased by the moderation of men more worthy than either. And now they all returned as far as Bononia, with design there again to assemble upon counsel. In the interval it was presumed other advices more copious would arrive. At Bononia several men were posted upon the several roads about it, purposely to examine every the latest comer; and by these a freedman of Otho’s being questioned upon the cause of his departure from his Lord, answered, that “he had about him his Lord’s last will and commands: alive indeed he left him, but divested of every care save such as regarded posterity, having utterly renounced all the enjoyments of life and every inducement to continue it.” Hence their admiration of the man, and shame to make further enquiry. And thus at once upon Vitellius were turned the thoughts and obedience of all the Senators.
At their deliberations was present his brother Lucius Vitellius, who now presented himself to be flattered, as did they all to flatter, when on a sudden Coenus a freedman of Nero’s, by an impudent and pernicious lie, astonied the whole assembly. He affirmed, “that by the arrival of the fourteenth Legion, in conjunction with the forces from Brixellum, the army which had lately conquered was intirely routed, and the fortune of the other party retrieved and changed.” What prompted him to such forgery was, that Otho’s warrants for post-horses, now growing neglected, might by tidings so joyful be restored to force. Coenus, in truth, by such carriage was borne in great speed to Rome, and there, a few days after, by order from Vitellius suffered the pains of death. This fiction of his heightened the peril of the Senators, since by the soldiers of Otho the relation was believed to be true. It added notably to their dread, that, upon the appearance of public council solemnly holden, they had departed from Mutina, and relinquished the party. Nor thereafter did they meet or consult in a body, but every one for himself, till letters from Fabius Valens removed their affright. Moreover the death of Otho, the higher praise it claimed, with the more velocity it flew.
But at Rome the while was felt no sort of terror or alarm. The interludes sacred to Ceres were in their annual course of celebration; and when into the Theatre were brought news credibly attested, “That Otho had ended his days, and that by Flavius Sabinus, Governor of the city, all the soldiers in it were drawn to swear allegiance to Vitellius,” forthwith upon the name of Vitellius the spectators bestowed their shouts and applaudings. Around the Temples the people bore the images of Galba, crowned with laurel, and bedecked with flowers, and piled up heaps of coronets into the fashion of a sepulchre close by the lake of Curtius, a place contaminated by the blood of Galba when he perished. In the Senate all the many honours devised for former Princes, at intervals and during a long course of reigning, were at once decreed to Vitellius. To these were subjoined commendations upon the German armies, with public thanks, and an embassy sent to carry them greetings and congratulations. The letters addressed by Fabius Valens to the Consuls were recited, and found to be conceived in terms no wise arrogant or assuming; but more acceptable was the modesty of Cæcina, for that he had not presumed to send any.
For the rest, Italy was afflicted with calamities more oppressive and barbarous than during the war she had suffered. The soldiers of Vitellius, distributed amongst the colonies and municipal cities, let themselves loose to spoil and ravage, by feats of cruelty and pollution filling and contaminating all places; and, abandoned to universal rapine, or compounding for rapine at a price, without any regard had to right or wrong, spared neither things sacred or prophane. There were those too who, under the guise of soldiers, killed their particular enemies. And the soldiers themselves, as they well knew the country, were every where marking out all the well replenished farms, with all the opulent possessors, and devoting both to plunder; or to fire and sword without mercy, if any resistance were offered. Nor dared their Generals to restrain them; they who were themselves guilty, and awed by their men. Of the two Cæcina was less addicted to avarice, but more to court the favour of the soldiery. Valens was infamous for pillage and feats of rapine, and thence blind to the faults and excesses of others. For a good while past Italy had been exhausted and languishing; so that at present, so mighty a force of foot and horse, with such heavy acts of violence, so many depredations and insults, were borne with great difficulty and grievous regret.
Vitellius in the mean time, unacquainted with the success of his own arms, was marching with the residue of the German army, as to a war still in its vigour. In the winter quarters very few of the old soldiers were left; and by fresh levies hastily made amongst the Gauls, was supplied the just number of men in the Legions remaining behind. To Hordeonius Flaccus he committed the defence of the Rhine; and to his own army added eight thousand men drawn from Britain. Having marched a few days, he had intelligence of the victory at Bedriacum, and that by the death of Otho the war was concluded. He then assembled his men, and from the Tribunal accumulated many praises upon the bravery of the soldiers. As the army now made him a general request, that he would raise to the Equestrian Dignity his freedman Asiaticus, he checked a strain of flattery so disgraceful: Anon, through unsteadiness of spirit, what in the face of the public he had refused, he at a banquet privately conferred, and with the gold ring (the badge of Knighthood) dignified Asiaticus, a slave very infamous and vile, and grasping at power by all wicked ways.
About the same time came messengers with tidings, that to his party had acceded both the Mauritanias, Albinus, who in quality of Procurator governed there, being slain. Luceius Albinus had been by Nero preferred to the government of Mauritania stiled Cæsariensis; that of Tingitana he received afterwards from Galba; and thus came to be leader of no mean force, that of nineteen Cohorts, five Squadrons of horse, and of Moors a mighty host, a body from their daily exploits in robbing and ravaging, fit for those of war. After the murder of Galba, he became devoted to Otho, and not content with Africa, was meditating a descent upon Spain, severed from thence only by a narrow channel: A matter of terror to Cluvius Rufus, and he ordered the tenth Legion to march down to the shore, as if he had been just about to transport them. Before hand were sent over certain Centurions, to conciliate to Vitellius the affections of the Moors; nor proved it a hard task, so mighty and prevalent through all the Provinces was the renown of the German army. A rumour moreover was spread, that Albinus, scorning the title of Procurator, had usurped the ensigns of Majesty and the royal name of Juba.
As from hence an utter change was wrought in the minds of the people there, they fell upon Asinius Pollio, who commanded a Squadron of horse, and slew him, a man who was one of the most assured friends of Albinus. Festus too, and Scipio were slain, both Captains of Cohorts. Albinus himself, as he passed by sea from the Province Tingitana, to that named Cæsariensis, was murdered upon landing: his wife, who indeed purposely presented herself to the assassins, was butchered with him. Nor into any part of these transactions, or of any other, did Vitellius make any inquiry. In truth, a hasty hearing was all that he afforded to any affair however momentous, unequal, as he intirely was, to every important deliberation. His army he commanded to pursue their progress by land; he himself sailed down the river Arar, utterly devoid of the lustre and appointments of an Emperor, but only conspicuous in the display of his late and ancient indigence, till Junius Blæsus, Governor of the Lyonese Gaul, a man nobly born, of a soul great and liberal, and of opulence proportionable, furnished him with a princely train, and accompanied him in person, with great state and magnificence. But by this very behaviour he administered distaste, though Vitellius disguised his hate under many courteous expressions, all servile and hollow. To Lyons were come to attend him the Generals of both parties, the victorious and the vanquished. The praises of Valens and Cæcina he celebrated in public, and placed them on each side his chair of state. Anon he ordered the whole army to march out and meet his son, yet an infant. He was brought covered with an imperial coat of armour; his father holding him thus dressed in his arms, bestowed upon him the sirname of Germanicus, and bedecked him with all the ensigns and decorations peculiar to sovereign fortune: honours which were conferred upon him in the transports of prosperity, and altogether excessive, yet served him for consolation in his ensuing distress and calamity.
Next, all the Centurions signal for their faith and bravery in the cause of Otho, were by order slain. Hence the principal disgust amongst the forces from Illyricum, and their estrangement from Vitellius. Moreover the rest of the Legions, smitten by their intercourse with the others, and urged by malice towards the German soldiery, were already meditating fury and war. He had long postponed to admit Suetonius Paulinus and Licinius Proculus, and held them like wretches in miserable expectance. When at length they were heard, the defence which they made was rather what necessity forced, than what honour allowed. Upon themselves they freely took the shame of treason, and to a fraud deliberately concerted between them, ascribed “the long and wearisome march before the battle, the great fatigue of Otho’s soldiers, the intermixing the carriages amongst the embattled bands;” with many other incidents purely fortuitous, by them imputed to contrivance. In effect, Vitellius gave credit to the confession of their treachery, and accquitted them as men of sound faith and allegiance. Salvius Titianus, Otho’s brother, incurred no sort of peril, as there pleaded for him the instinct and tenderness of nature, and his own impotent spirit. To Marius Celsus was reserved the Consulship to which he had been formerly designed. That Cæcilius Simplex brigued for that preferment by the means of money, and thence sought the destruction of Celsus, was a rumour currently believed, and anon charged upon him in the Senate. Vitellius opposed this intrigue, and thereafter conferred the Consulship upon Simplex, without the intervention of guilt or price. Trachalus was by Galeria, the wife of Vitellius, protected from the pursuits of his accusers.
Amidst these instances of illustrious men under arraignment and terrors, it is shameful to relate that of one Mariccus by birth a Boian, and one of the meanest; who, under the lying pretence of a mission and authority divine, adventured to throw himself upon the favour of fortune during the public struggles, and to provoke the Roman arms. Already, as deliverer of the Gauls, and as a God (for this was the title which he assumed) he had drawn together eight thousand men, and invaded the adjoining villages of the Eduans; when that State, exerting her wonted providence, by arraying the flower of her young men, aided by some Cohorts detatched from Vitellius, routed the mad and visionary multitude. In the fray Mariccus was taken, and soon after thrown amongst the wild beasts; but because they rent him not, the Commonalty, ever gross and stupid, believed him not subject to any effort of violence, till in the presence of Vitellius he was put to death.
Neither against the Rebels was further vengeance shewn, and to a man they escaped confiscation of effects. The last Wills of such as died fighting for Otho continued in force, or the law in behalf of those who died intestate. In truth, had the Prince set bounds to his luxury, he was no-wise to be dreaded for avarice. To banqueting and voraciousness he was continually borne by an appetite quite beastly and boundless. From Rome and all Italy was brought him whatever tends to stimulate the palate, with every incentive to gluttony; while with the dinn of carriers loaded with viands, the roads from both seas were continually filled. By the expence of magnificent feasting, the Grandees of the municipal Cities were beggared and consumed, nay, the Cities themselves reduced to desolation. The soldiers, by being inured to voluptuousness, and a thorough contempt of their Leader, became debauched from all inclination to military fatigues, from all sense of virtue and bravery. Before him he sent an edict to Rome, to signify that he deferred receiving the name of Augustus, and would not accept that of Cæsar; when at the same time, from the prerogative of Imperial Power he receded nothing. He likewise banished the Astrologers out of Italy, and enjoined, under a rigorous penalty, that henceforth no Roman Knight should debase himself to the exercises of fencing and of the Theatre: A practice to which by former Emperors they had been obliged, sometimes by the force of money, oftener by the violence of power. The Colonies too and municipal Cities, from a spirit of emulation, studied by the allurements of price, to engage in such prostitution every young man signal for vicious manners.
Vitellius, upon the arrival of his brother, and the influence of the many prompters of lawless power, men officiously winding themselves into favour, was now grown more lofty and tyrannical, and thence commanded Dolabella to be slain, the same whom I have already related to have been by order of Otho confined in the Colony of Aquine. Dolabella, upon tidings of the death of Otho, had returned to Rome. This was the charge alledged against him before Flavius Sabinus Governor of the City, by Plautius Varus, a man of Prætorian dignity, and one of Dolabella’s intimate friends. The crimes specified were, “That he had broken out of prison, and presented himself as a new Leader to the party vanquished.” The accuser added, “That he had attempted to corrupt the Cohort quartered at Ostia.” But all proof of crimes so sounding and mighty, utterly failing, Plautius fell into remorse, and besought forgiveness too late for an iniquity already fatal. Whilst about a matter so momentous Flavius Sabinus wavered; he was driven from his suspence by a terrible warning from Triaria, wife to Lucius Vitellius, a woman outrageous and merciless beyond her sex, “to take heed, that he exposed not the Prince to eminent danger, by courting for himself the same of clemency.” Sabinus, in his own temper gentle, yet when seized by dread, easy to change, and in the peril of another fearful to involve himself, that he might not seem now to have succoured and upheld the accused, lent his hand to push down a man already falling.
Vitellius, therefore, struck with present fear, and indeed with former rancour, for that Petronia his divorced wife, had been by Dolabella forthwith espoused, sent for him, by letters, from Rome, with directions to avoid the Flaminian road, so great and frequented, and to come round by Terni: there he ordered him to be murdered. To the assassin this course seemed too tedious: at an inn upon the way, as Dolabella lay stretched at length upon the ground, he cut his throat. Mighty was the hate and abhorrence by his blood derived upon the new reign, a sample of which was now first exhibited in this tragedy. The arbitrary insolence too of Triaria became more glaring by a singular instance of meekness in the same family, that of Galeria the Emperor’s wife, who never insulted the afflicted. Moreover of the like character, benevolent and good, was Sextilia his mother, a lady ever conforming to the virtuous model of primitive times: She is even reported, upon the first letters from her son, to have said, “That no Germanicus was born of her but Vitellius.” Neither was her mind afterwards elated to joy by any of the charms and inticements of Imperial fortune, or by the general caresses and assiduity of the City; nor in the different fortunes of her house felt she any emotion save for its adversity and fall.
Vitellius having departed from Lyons, was overtaken by Marcus Cluvius Rufus. He, forsaking Spain, where he held the administration, came with many congratulations, much assumed gladness in his countenance, much real anguish in his soul, and well apprized that he was assaulted by imputations various and highly criminal. Against him Hilarius the Emperor’s Freedman had urged, “That upon advice of the contest of empire between Vitellius and Otho, he had attempted to establish an independent principality, and to appropriate to himself both the Provinces of Spain: And with this view, in the warrants which he had issued, the name of no Emperor whomsoever was inserted.” Out of his public harangues the accuser presented certain passages, which he construed to have been so many malignant invectives against Vitellius, and so many artful baits for popular favour to himself. The credit of Cluvius prevailed, insomuch that Vitellius frankly doomed even his freedman to punishment. Cluvius was taken into the class of the Emperor’s companions and favourites, yet not deprived of the government of Spain, which he still administered though absent, after the example of Lucius Arruntius, whom Tiberius Cæsar had detained from his Province through jealousy and fear. In detaining of Cluvius, Vitellius was moved by no apprehension at all. To Trebellius Maximus the like honour was not shewn. He had fled out of Britain, scared by the fury and menaces of the soldiers; and in his place was sent Vettius Bolanus, then attending in the court.
A sore torment it proved to Vitellius, that the spirit of the vanquished Legions continued still fierce and utterly unsubdued. As these Legions were dispersed over Italy and mixed with the vanquishers, they were continually breathing the language of disaffection and war. Foremost in ferocity and sternness were they of the fourteenth Legion, who denied confidently, “that ever they had been vanquished; for that, in the fight at Bedriacum, only the vexillary bands were repulsed; nor were the forces of the Legion in the field.” It was therefore resolved to remand them back to Britain, from whence they had been called over by Nero, and that with them in the mean time the Batavian Cohorts should always quarter, in consideration of their old quarrel with that Legion. Nor did tranquillity long hold amongst men thus furnished with arms, and thus mutually enflamed by mortal hate. At Turin, whilst a Batavian arraigned and insulted an Artificer as having defrauded him, and a soldier of the Legion protected the Artificer as his host, the soldiers of each side flocked together to support their companion. After much railing they were proceeding to slaughter, and a tragical battle had ensued, but that two Prætorian Cohorts, by espousing the party of the Legionaries, assured them of mastery, and intimidated the Batavians as the weaker. The latter Vitellius ordered, as his faithful adherents, to be incorporated with his own army, and the Legion to be led over the Graian Alps, bending their rout so as to avoid Vienne; for of the Viennese too fears were entertained. The night when the Legion marched away, by the fires which in several quarters they left unextinguished behind them, part of the Colony of Turin was burnt down: A disaster which was obliterated, as were many other evils of the war, by the calamities more mighty and consuming which befel other cities. The fourteenth Legion no sooner descended from the Alps, but all the most prone to mutiny turned their ensigns towards Vienne, and were marching thither, till by the union of the better disposed they became restrained, and thus were transported in a body to Britain.
The Prætorian Cohorts proved the next object of fear to Vitellius. First therefore they were separated, then discharged, but sweetened with the compliments of an honourable dismission, and of surrendering their arms to the tribunes, like men who had fully served their term of warfare. But as soon as the war raised by Vespasian waxed hot, they again betook themselves to the exercise of arms, and proved the bulwark of the Flavian party. The first Legion, entitled that of the Marines, was sent into Spain, there to become tame by a course of tranquillity and repose. The eleventh and the seventh were remanded to their old quarters. The thirteenth was ordered to erect two amphitheatres, since Cæcina and Valens were preparing each a public combat of Gladiators, the former at Cremona, the other at Bononia. For upon no counsel or affair was Vitellius ever so intent as to forego his diversions and pleasures.
He had now in truth with competent discretion separated the forces of the disaffected. Amongst the vanquishing party arose an insurrection which derived its beginning from matter of pastime, yet such was the number of the slain in it as brought fresh hate and horror upon the war. It happened when Vitellius had sat down to a banquet in company with Verginius. Now the Commanders of Legions and Tribunes usually adopting the humour and demeanour of the Emperors, practise, like them, rigour and abstinence, or delight in voluptuousness and banqueting; and the common men thence become vigilant and regular, or prone to acts of licentiousness. About Vitellius was only seen universal disorder, universal drunkenness, and all things resembling rather nocturnal revellings and the debauches of Bacchanals, than an army quartered and the discipline of war. In this situation two soldiers, the one of the fifth Legion, the other from amongst the auxiliary Gauls, having while they sported together provoked each other to wrestle, the legionary soldier was thrown, and over him the Gaul triumphed with great scorn: hence they who had assembled only as beholders, divided strait into two parties very interested and angry, and the soldiers of the Legions falling with fury upon the auxiliaries, put two Cohorts to the sword. To this tumult another tumult proved a remedy. Dust at a distance and the lustre of arms were discerned; and instantly a general cry ran that the fourteenth Legion had turned back, and was approaching purposely to fight. But it proved only the rear of their own army, a discovery which banished their concern. They chanced in the mean time to meet a slave belonging to Verginius: him they charge as one employed to assassinate Vitellius, and rush at once into the banqueting room, where they insist that Verginius should be put to death. In truth, Vitellius, even he who was subject to all suspicions, and open to every alarm, entertained not the least doubt about the innocence of Verginius. Yet much difficulty he found in restraining the vengeance of men so outrageous, as to demand with vehemence the bloody doom of one who had borne the supreme dignity of Consul, and been once their own General. In all seditions Verginius found himself threatened and assaulted; nor was any one so often as he. Amongst them their admiration of the man still remained, as did his signal fame; but for their offer of Empire rejected, they hated him as having despised them.
On the following day Vitellius heard the embassadors from the Senate, having ordered them to await him there; then entered the camp, and upon the affectionate zeal of the soldiers heaped much applause. But the Auxiliaries stormed that the soldiers of the Legions should dare to commit so much outrage, yet find so much impunity. The Batavian Cohorts therefore, to divert them from venturing upon any tragical exploit, were sent back to Germany: for the Fates were already concerting the rise of war at once intestine and foreign. To their several territories were dismissed all the auxiliary Gauls, in number immense, and levied at the beginning of the revolt, as proper to swell the pomp and terror of the war. For the rest; that the revenues of the empire, already impaired and exhausted, might be able to supply his extravagant largesses, he ordered the number of men in the Legions and auxiliary troops to be retrenched; all recruits were forbid; nay, discharges without distinction were proffered: A deadly blow to the Commonweal, and to the soldiers matter of great disgust; since upon them, now reduced to a few, rested all the military duties before shared amongst many, and they were exposed to returns more frequent of perils and fatigue. Moreover their vigour was daily broken and corrupted by their luxurious living, so opposite to the ancient discipline and institutions of our ancestors, in whose days, for the support of the Roman State, virtue was found to excel money.
Vitellius from thence bent his course to Cremona, and having there beheld the public sports exhibited by Cæcina, conceived a longing to visit the field of Bedriacum, and, with his own eyes to survey the scene and traces of the recent victory: A spectacle horrible and tragical, not quite forty days since the battle; bodies all rent and deformed; limbs and joints torn from their several trunks; the carcases of horses and of men, putrid and dissolving; the ground dyed and drenched with corruption and gore; all the trees felled, all the corn trodden under foot; the whole a scene of destruction shocking and sad. Nor fewer were the ghastly remains of cruelty and slaughter still to be seen upon part of the road itself, even that part which the people of Cremona had now bestrewed with roses and laurel, having reared many altars, and slain many victims, according to the servile behaviour of foreign nations to their Royal Tyrants: Flights of festivity by which, however gladsome at present, they anon brought desolation and the sword of vengeance upon their own heads. Valens and Cæcina accompanied him, and pointed out the several quarters of the combat; “Here the embattled Legions rushed to the onset; here the horse in a body began the assault; from thence the bands of Auxiliaries encompassed the foe.” Then the several Tribunes and Captains recounted and magnified their own feats of bravery; a wild medley of facts and of falshood, at least of truths heightened by boasts and invention. The common soldiers likewise, in a transport of joy and shouts, turned aside from the road, to review the field. From space to space they called to mind every piece of ground where the several conflicts passed; they fixed their eyes upon the high heaps of arms; they beheld the bodies of the slain piled up in hills; beheld, and marvelled. Some too there were sensibly touched with concern for the variable lot of all things human, and overcome with commiseration and tears. But from the sad scene Vitellius turned not once his eyes, and at the sight of so many thousand Roman Citizens slain and unburied, felt no horror. Nay, hence he even found cause for much joy, and presented a pompous sacrifice to the tutelar Deities of the place: so little was he aware of his own doleful fate so near at hand.
There followed the combat of Gladiators, by Fabius Valens exhibited at Bononia, whither all the decorations of the entertainment had been brought from Rome. The nearer Vitellius advanced to Bononia, the more debauched and loose proved his march. Amongst his military bands were blended bands of comedians, and herds of eunuchs, with all the other ludicrous pageantry answerable to the genius of the Court in Nero’s reign: for of Nero himself too, Vitellius always spoke with admiration and praise. In truth, as often as the former went about singing, the other had never failed to follow him from place to place, by no necessity constrained, as was every man most conspicuous for worth, but purely as the sold slave of voluptuousness, and purchased by the price and allurements of gorging. That he might procure to Valens and Cæcina some vacant months for exercising the Consulship, the term appointed for others was abridged. Of the appointment of Martius Macer to that office, no notice was taken; for that he had been a General in the party of Otho. Valerius Marinus, one designed Consul by Galba, he postponed to a further time; for no offence given, but as a man gentle and patient, and apt to acquiesce under any injury. Pedanius Costa was passed over; one distastful to the Prince, as having engaged in the design against Nero, and urged Verginius to arms. But for depriving Costa other causes than these were assigned. Nay, to Vitellius, for such instances of partiality, solemn thanks were besides returned, suitable to the habit of tameness and servitude long since established.
Not beyond a few days lasted a cheat and delusion then prevailing, though its first rise and efforts were vigorous and popular. A certain person had started up, alledging “himself to be Scribonianus Camerinus, and that during the days of Nero he had, through dread of the Tyrant, lived concealed in Histria; for that, there, still were found the followers and possessions of the ancient Crassi, and, there, yet remained partiality and fondness for the name.” As he had therefore assumed a number of associates, fellows the most abandoned, to assist him in conducting his plot, the populace, ever prone to credulity, were already flocking to him with contending zeal; as were some of the soldiers, whether unapprized of the truth, or from a passion for public commotions; when he himself was haled away, as a prisoner, before Vitellius, and questioned, what manner of man he was? When to his words no credit was given, and as his Lord knew him to be Geta his fugitive slave, (such was his name and condition of life) he was doomed to die after the manner of slaves.
Scarce credible it is to recount, to what an amazing degree of pride and senselessness Vitellius swelled, when by his intelligencers from Syria and Judæa, he was informed that the Provinces in the East had taken the oath of fidelity to him. For, the Name of Vespasian, however fleeting the rumours about him were, and no-wise to be traced to any certain authors, yet employed popular fame, and the mouths of men; and upon the mention of him Vitellius would frequently start. Upon the arrival of this tidings, both Emperor and Army, as having now no rival power to dread, assuming the hostile demeanour of aliens and barbarians, became abandoned to all the excesses of cruelty, lust, and rapine.
Now Vespasian, the while, was carefully weighing the business of war and arms, and estimating the several forces, those at a distance, and those at hand. To himself his soldiers were so devoted, that when before them he took the oath to Vitellius (as a precedent for them to follow) and wished him a prosperous reign, they heard him with disgust and silence. The spirit of Mucianus was no-wise indifferent to Vespasian, and even fond of Titus. Alexander, Governor of Egypt, had already engaged in the design. For his own he accounted the third Legion then in Mœsia, since out of Syria it had been translated thither. Hopes too were entertained, that the other Legions in Illyricum would espouse the same interest. For all the armies, wheresoever, had been incensed by the insults and arrogance of the soldiers who were, daily arriving from Vitellius; for that these men, in their persons fierce and turbulent, in speech hideous and savage, scorned all the rest as men despicable and inferior. In concerting, however, the scheme of the war, one so arduous and mighty, there intervened frequent hesitation and doubt; and Vespasian, though sometimes confirmed in hope, yet often revolved upon the dangers incurred, and a disastrous issue. “What an awful and important day to him must that prove, when he cast himself upon the fate and caprice of war at the age of sixty, and his two sons in the prime of their years? In private pursuits, room was always left for retreat, and for making more or less use of fortune, at the pleasure of the pursuers. To those who strive for sovereignty no middle lot remains; but reign they must, or perish.”
Before his eyes he set the great strength of the German Army, a thing perfectly known to him who was a military man. “In the struggles of the civil War, his own Legions had no part or trial, when those of Vitellius had been the conquerors; and amongst the conquered, complaints were found more abounding than force. Slippery and frail had public combustions and the strife of parties rendered the faith of the soldiers, and from every individual amongst them danger was to be apprehended. For, in truth, what security could accrue from battalions of foot and squadrons of horse, if one particular man or two were resolved, by a bold murder, to earn a ready reward from the opposite party? It was thus Scribonianus was slain under Claudius; it was thus Volaginius his assassin, from a common soldier, came to be promoted to the highest posts in the army. A much easier task it were to excite them in a body to any design, than to escape the wicked designs of particulars.”
Whilst under apprehensions like these he continued wavering, not only the rest of the Commanders and all his personal friends strove to invigorate his hopes, but Mucianus too, after many reasonings with him in secret, applied to him openly in the following stile. “To all who deliberate about attempts great and important, it is expedient, that they estimate whether what they undertake be profitable to the State, and to themselves honourable; whether to be readily accomplished, at least not attended with glaring difficulties. Of him too who proposes the counsel a judgment is to be made, whether to support his counsel he freely ventures his person; as also, if fortune prosper the enterprize, upon whom it is that the glory of the whole devolves. It is I who call thee, Vespasian, to Imperial Power; a proposal equally salutary to the Commonweal, as to thyself illustrious and grand: And, with the concurrence of the Deities, in thy own hands the issue rests. Nor needest thou in this proposal fear any shadow of flattery. Nearer it borders upon matter of ignominy than upon matter of praise, to be chosen Emperor after Vitellius. It is not against the lively spirit of the deified Augustus that we have a revolt to maintain, nor against the old age of Tiberius, crafty and cautious; nor, in truth, against the family of Caligula, Claudius, or Nero, a family so long established in the possession of Sovereignty. Nay, to Galba too, in honour of the ancient splendor of his lineage, thou didst yield place. Further to linger in acquiescence and sloth, and abandon the Commonwealth to this miserable lot of debasement and perdition, would argue a soul quite cowardly and benummed, were it even possible that from such a state of servitude thou couldst reap, as of infamy an inevitable stock, so an equal share of security. Already elapsed and vanished is the time when thou mightest have been thought to have entertained a passion for the pleasure of reigning. At present, it behoves thee to fly to the possession of Sovereignty, as to a shelter for thy life. Canst thou forget the doom of Corbulo, how that great General was murdered? A man for blood and descent more renowned, I confess, than we are: but Nero too in the splendor of his race surpassed Vitellius. Ever sufficiently illustrious, in the eyes of him who dreads, is the man who causes his dread. And, that a provincial army may create an Emperor, Vitellius himself is a living example; he who had never been bred a soldier, he who had no reputation in war, he who was thus promoted only because Galba was hated. Even Otho, who in truth was overcome by no conduct in the opposite Leader, nor by any superior force of arms, but by his own overhasty renouncing of life, is, by the behaviour of Vitellius, rendered a Prince great in name, and highly regretted. Yet even now he is dispersing the Legions, disarming the Cohorts, and daily furnishing fresh materials for war. Whatever ardour and bravery might have been heretofore found in his soldiers, is wasted and enfeebled by chambering and riotous living, and by emulating the excesses of their Emperor. At your command you have nine Legions, intire, from Judæa, and Syria, and Egypt; forces by no wars exhausted, by no mutinies debauched, but men assured by long regularity and trial, and accustomed to victory over foreign foes. From your shipping and fleets, from auxiliary battalions of foot, and squadrons of horse, you have powerful succours and reserves. You have confederate Kings for your faithful adherents; and, what surpasses the assistance of all men, you have your own ability and experience.
“To myself I arrogate nothing, further than that I be not ranked behind Valens and Cæcina. Yet do not therefore scorn Mucianus for an associate, because you find that he pretends not to be your rival. I prefer myself to Vitellius, and to myself you. Your house was distinguished with triumphal honours, and you are the father of two sons both in the bloom of life; one of them already capable of sustaining the weight of Empire, one who in his first essays in war, amongst the German Armies, acquired with them too a name of renown. Absurd it were in me not to yield the Empire to him whose son I should presently adopt, if I myself were Emperor. For the rest; of the good and evil of fortune an equal measure will by no means accrue to us both; since if we conquer, the honour which you shall chuse to bestow, I shall enjoy. Risques and dangers we shall bear alike: or, which is more eligible, do you command these armies here; and upon me confer the direction of the war, and the ambiguous events of battle. More rigidly at this very time are rules and discipline practised by the conquered than by the conquerors; as the former are, through indignation, through despite and thirst of vengeance, awakened and prompted to magnanimity; while the others, from a spirit of conceit and loftiness, and disdain of duty, are lapsing fast into effeminacy and languor. Amongst the victorious party there are grievous wounds now covered and inflamed, such as the war itself will not fail to discover and lay open. Nor do I place higher confidence in your known vigilance, parsimony and wisdom, than in the stupidity, folly and cruelty of Vitellius. Add, that safer is our lot in war than in peace: for, they who consult about revolting, have already revolted.”
After this discourse from Mucianus, the rest grew more confident. They surrounded him, exhorted him, and laid before him the propitious responses of Oracles, and position of the Stars. Neither was he exempt from such superstition; he, who coming soon after to be Emperor, retained openly about him one Seleucus a fortune-teller, to guide his counsels, and prognosticate events. In his mind he revolved certain presages past. In his grounds a cypress tree signally tall had suddenly fallen, and on the day following, rising again upon the same foundation, resumed fresh growth and verdure, with more heighth and a thicker trunk: A mighty omen and big with felicity, according to the concurring testimony of the Soothsayers; and hence to Vespasian, then in his early bloom, assurance was given of signal grandeur in the State. Yet at first, by his investiture with the decorations of triumph, by bearing the dignity of the Consulship, and his renown in vanquishing the Jews, the whole presage seemed to have been literally accomplished. When he had passed through these honours, he grew to believe that the Empire was verily the thing presaged. Between Judæa and Syria stands mount Carmel, the place and the Deity of the place bearing the same name. Nor is the God distinguished by any statue or any temple, but only by an altar reared, and worship offered. Such is the primitive institution by tradition preserved. To Vespasian, as he offered sacrifice there, and while his soul was labouring under the agitations of his own occult hopes and views, Basilides the priest, having diligently surveyed the entrails, declared, “Whatever design it is that thou dost meditate, O Vespasian, whether to build a house, or to extend thy domains, or to enlarge thy train of slaves; to thee is granted a settlement large and mighty, infinite bounds, and multitudes of men:” Mysterious words which popular fame failed not then presently to disperse, nor at this juncture to explain and apply. Neither did aught more commonly employ the tongues of the populace, or furnish more frequent matter of discourse in his own hearing; as to those who rely upon hope, such soothing speeches are more abundantly used.
Having now ascertained their common pursuit, they parted, Mucianus to Antioch, Vespasian to Cæsarea; this the Metropolis of Judea, the former that of Syria. At Alexandria first was begun the example of transferring the Empire to Vespasian, through the haste and zeal of Tiberius Alexander, who brought the Legions there to swear allegiance to him on the first of July. And this was the day kept and solemnized ever afterwards, as the first of his reign; though the army in Judæa took to himself in person the same oath on the third of July, with such signal ardour, that they would not wait the arrival of Titus, who was then on his journey back from Syria: For by him were all the measures taken between his father and Mucianus negotiated. By the mere vehemence and passion of the soldiers the whole affair was transacted, without any assembly called, without drawing the Legions together.
Whilst a proper time and place were awaited for beginning the revolt, and it was yet uncertain who should declare first, a circumstance of eminent difficulty in transactions of this moment; whilst his mind was still exercised with the impulses of hope and of fear, with the call and dictates of prudence, with the force and operation of casualties; once when he came forth from his chamber, certain soldiers, in number very few, posted in their usual order and station, as if they had been ready to salute him by the wonted name of General, saluted him by that of Emperor. Thither then instantly thronged all the rest, and upon him accumulated the titles of Cæsar and Augustus, and every one else peculiar to Sovereignty. His spirit now relinquished fear to follow fortune. In his aspect nothing of loftiness appeared, nothing arrogant, nor any new behaviour under his new character. As soon as he had recovered the full use of his sight, dazzled at first by the glare of a change so sudden and so mighty, he spoke to them in the language and spirit of a soldier, and received returns of wishes and acclamations altogether affectionate and manifold. Mucianus, who only waited for these glad tidings, administered to his soldiers, who were themselves in truth chearfully disposed, the oath to Vespasian. He then went into the Theatre at Antioch, the place where that people are wont to assemble upon all matters of deliberation; and there, to the crowd flocking to attend him, and abandoned to humour him with all servile sycophancy, made an harangue: For, even in the Greek eloquence he could acquit himself with abundant grace, and possessed a particular talent, of heightning with notable pomp whatever he spoke, and whatever he acted. Nothing so effectually enflamed the province and the army as what Mucianus affirmed, “That it was the fixt purpose of Vitellius to transplant the German Legions into Syria, there to enjoy a service full of gain and full of tranquillity; and, in exchange, to convey the Legions in Syria to cold encampments in Germany, a horrid climate, and a sad scene of fatigues.” The truth is, not only were the inhabitants of Syria well pleased with the soldiers their accustomed guests, and in many instances were linked with them in blood and alliances; but to the soldiers too, from their ancient settlement there, their quarters were become natural and familiar, and dear as their own native dwellings.
Before the fifteenth of July the whole Province of Syria had taken the same oath. To the party too there acceded King Sohemus with the forces of his kingdom, a power very considerable; as did Antiochus, mighty in wealth long since acquired, and of all the Kings who were vassals to Rome, the most opulent. Presently after Agrippa, roused by expresses secretly dispatched from his friends in the East urging him to leave Rome, departed ere Vitellius was aware of his design, and returned with great expedition by sea. Nor with less vigour did Queen Berenice support the same interest, then in her full bloom of youth and beauty, and even to Vespasian, old as he was, very agreeable for her liberality and magnificent gifts. Allegiance was likewise sworn by all the maritime Provinces extending to Asia and Achaia, and by all the midland regions bordering upon Pontus and both Armenias; countries however where the Lieutenant Generals their Governors, ruled without armies: for, hitherto there were no Legions quartered in Cappadocia. At Berytus a council was established for the direction of all momentous affairs. Hither repaired Mucianus with a train of General Officers and Tribunes, and of all such Centurions and private men as made a splendid appearance. From the army too in Judæa came a number of those who were accounted the principal ornaments and glory of the camp. A multitude so mighty of foot and horse, with the pomp and parade of Kings, striving to surpass each other, furnished the appearance of the court and grandeur of an Emperor.
The first step taken for prosecuting the war, was to enlist men, and to recall to the service the dismissed veterans. For the forging of arms fortified Cities were allotted. At Antioch money was coined, gold and silver. And all these undertakings were, in their several quarters, diligently dispatched by careful and capable inspectors. Vespasian himself was continually applying to all, continually pressing and encouraging them: The deserving he animated by commendations, the lazy and slow by his example more frequently than by correction; ever more forward to be blind to the vices of his friends and followers than to their virtues. Many of them he preferred to the rule of particular districts, many to be Comptrollers for the Emperor in the Provinces, several to the dignity of Senators; men who proved of signal merit, and thereafter acquired the highest honours in the State. Some there were whose defect of virtue was supplied by fortune. Of any donative to the soldiery, neither did Mucianus, in his first speech, present them with any other than very narrow hopes, nor in truth did Vespasian, in the heat of civil war, propose one higher than others had been wont to propose during full peace; as he was a Leader of exemplary firmness against courting the soldiers by largesses, and thence followed by an army better and more uncorrupt. To the Parthians and Armenians Embassadors were sent, and provision made, that when the Legions were withdrawn to prosecute the civil war, the countries behind should not be left naked and defenceless. It was resolved that Titus should push the war in Judæa, and Vespasian seize the straits leading into Egypt. To encounter Vitellius part of the forces were judged sufficient, with Mucianus for their Leader, and the name of Vespasian, and propitious fate, which scorns all terror and every obstacle. To all the Armies and Generals letters were sent, with orders, “That the Prætorian soldiers, who bore enmity to Vitellius for discharging them, should be invited to arms by the offer of a reward, even that of restoring them to their former station.”
Mucianus at the head of an expedite band, and acting like a collegue rather of the Empire than a minister of the Emperor, proceeded on his march, neither with a lingering pace, lest he should be thought to pause and procrastinate, nor with notable haste, since he would allow space for fame to swell the terror of his approach; as he was well aware, how few his forces were, and that of things remote and unseen much higher are the apprehensions than the reality. After him however there marched a huge body, the sixth Legion and thirteen thousand Vexillaries. The Fleet he commanded to be removed from Pontus to Byzantium; wavering in opinion, whether he should not let alone Mœsia, and leading his forces foot and horse strait to Dyrrhachium, beset at the same time with his Gallies the sea towards Italy; since by this course he should leave Achaia and Asia in perfect security behind him, countries which, were they left without the protection of forces, would be exposed, void of arms and defence, to those of Vitellius. Thus too Vitellius himself would be perplexed what quarter of Italy to guard, when he found Brundisium and Tarentum, as also the coasts of Calabria and Lucania, at once assaulted by hostile fleets.
Throughout the Provinces, therefore, there prevailed the mighty uproar of warlike preparations, those of ships, and of men, and of arms. But nothing proved so great an embarassment as where to procure funds of money. This Mucianus urged to be the sinews of civil War, and therefore, in all processes and trials, regarded neither law nor right, but only mighty treasure. On all hands accusations and delinquencies were framed; and every man noted for wealth was ensnared and consigned to spoil: Afflicting grievances, and indeed intolerable; for which, however, the craving necessities of war furnished then an excuse. Yet afterwards too they were continued, even during peace. Vespasian himself, it is true, in the beginning of his reign, was not wont to be rigorous in authorizing acts of injustice and oppression; but afterwards, encouraged through the continual caresses of Fortune, and by wicked counsellors mistaught, he learnt the art, and pursued it confidently. Out of his own treasure too Mucianus helped to support the war; thus liberal of a private sum, which he was sure to repay, with large amplifications, out of the public. The rest contributed money after his example; but it was rare to find any favoured with the like latitude in recovering their share.
In the mean time, the undertakings of Vespasian were notably quickened by the zeal found in the Illyrian army. In Mœsia, the third Legion revolting to his party afforded thence an example to the others there, namely, the eighth and the seventh, entitled Claudiana, both personally devoted to Otho, though they had not been in the last fight. They had indeed advanced as far as Aquilcia, and there meeting melancholy tidings of Otho, used them who brought the same with outrage, rent to pieces the standards bearing the name of Vitellius, nay, at last, making spoil of the public money, and sharing it amongst themselves, acted with open hostility. Hence consciousness and dread possessed them, and from their dread proceeded their counsel and contrivance, “That to Vespasian they might urge as matter of service and merit these deeds of violence, for which else they must plead submission and excuses to Vitellius.” Insomuch that these three Legions in Mœsia sent letters to solicit the army in Pannonia into the confederacy, and, if they refused, were preparing to have recourse to force and the sword. During this combustion, Aponius Saturninus Commander in Mœsia attempted to perpetrate a crying enormity, by dispatching a Centurion to murder Tertius Julianus, Colonel of the seventh Legion, purely to satiate his own particular pique and vengeance, which he now disguised under other names, and for his motives alledged the cause and interest of the party. Julianus, who had learnt his peril, furnishing himself with guides acquainted with the situation of the country, fled through the desarts of Mœsia quite beyond the mountain Hæmus. Nor thenceforward was he engaged in any transaction of the war; for though he undertook a journey to Vespasian, he prolonged it by divers pretences and delays, and, according to the quality of the tidings bronght him, speeded or lingered.
Now in Pannonia the thirteenth Legion, and the seventh called after the name of Galba, acceded without hesitation to the cause of Vespasian; as, for the defeat at Bedriacum they yet retained much grief and wrath, and yielded to the instigations of Antonius Primus, foremost of all in spirit and vigour. This man, subject to the sentence of the law, and under Nero condemned for falsification, amongst the other evils of war, had recovered his rank as a Senator. Being by Galba preferred to the command of the seventh Legion, he was believed to have made frequent applications to Otho by letters, offering to serve him in capacity of a General: But, neglected by Otho, he remained without part in that war. Then, when the fortune of Vitellius appeared to be falling, he betook himself to that of Vespasian, and to the cause proved an addition mighty and momentous, as he was brave in his person, a prompt speaker, a rare artist in bringing other men under hate and disgust, a powerful man in popular tumults and uproar, rapacious, profuse, one during peace altogether wicked and corrupt, in war too considerable to be slighted. The Mœsian army and that of Pannonia having thus joined, drew after them the soldiers in Dalmatia, though in this movement the Consular Commanders had no participation. In Pannonia Titus Ampius Flavianus, bore rule, in Dalmatia Poppeius Silvanus; two men very wealthy and very old. But in those quarters was then found Cornelius Fuscus the Procurator, one in the vigour of his age, and his descent illustrious. He had in his early youth, from a passion for solitude and repose, divested himself of the dignity of a Senator. He afterwards defended his own Colony, as Leader in behalf of Galba, and having for that service gained the employment of Procurator, at this time embraced the party of Vespasian, and to the flame of war added most furious fuel. In the rewards of perils he delighted not so much as in the perils themselves, and to acquirements long since attained and safely possessed, preferred new pursuits, however doubtful and dangerous. Whereever therefore they discovered minds easy and distempered, there they exerted all their might to blow up disaffection and rage. Into Britain dispatches were sent, to the fourteenth Legion, others into Spain, to the first; for that both had engaged for Otho and Vitellius. Over all the territories of the Gauls too letters were dispersed. And thus in a moment blazed forth a war extensive and terrible, as the armies in Illyricum were openly revolting, and all the rest watching the tendency of fortune, and ready to follow it.
Whilst these things were transacted in the Provinces by Vespasian and the Leaders of his party, Vitellius waxed daily more contemptible, daily more stupid and resigned to sloth. In all the Villas and great Towns through which he passed, every pleasure and every diversion proved a bait to stop him: and thus he proceeded to Rome with an host vast and cumbersom. There accompanied him threescore-thousand armed men, a body utterly dissolute and licentious; of underlings and attendants of the camp a larger number, with a swarm of settlers; a crew known to be, by the bent of nature, even of all slaves the most disorderly and impudent. Add the train of so many principal officers, that of so many of the Emperor’s friends; a multitude untractable to the rules of obedience, even though with a strict hand the reins of authority had been holden. The crowd, great in itself, was further surcharged by the arrival of the Senators and Roman Knights, who came from Rome to meet the Emperor; a compliment which some paid from fear, many from flattery, others, and by degrees all, because they would not be singular and remain behind when the rest were going. Of the rabble there flocked thither all who through the merit of former services, however low and infamous, were known to Vitellius, Buffoons, Mimics, and Charioteers; as in familiarities thus disgraceful he felt marvellous pleasure. Neither were the Colonies alone and municipal Cities consumed by furnishing such vast supplies of provision, but, as the grain was then ripe, the husbandmen themselves and their lands were stripped and laid waste, like a hostile soil.
Many and barbarous were the murders by the soldiers committed amongst themselves, ever since the insurrection at Ticinum; as towards one another the Legions and the Auxiliaries still harboured mutual rancour, though in contesting with the Peasants they were always unanimous. But the heaviest slaughter was perpetrated seven miles from Rome. Here Vitellius caused to be distributed amongst his soldiers a quantity of meat ready dressed, to every man his portion, as if he had been fattening a number of Gladiators; and the populace coming in droves to the camp, were scattered all over it. Some of these aiming at a feat of archness in vogue with them, while the soldiers heeded them not, cut and conveyed away their belts without being perceived, and then asked them merrily, why they were not begirt with their swords? The soldiers, not wont to be scorned, could not bear such mockery, and with their swords drawn fell upon the people, destitute of arms and defence. Amongst others was slain the father of one of the soldiers whilst he was accompanying his son: he was soon after known, and upon his death being divulged, they ceased slaughtering innocent men. In Rome however great dread prevailed, for that the soldiers running thither before the host, were perpetually arriving and roving about. The Forum was the quarter to which they most eagerly repaired, from an earnest curiosity to behold the place where Galba fell. Nor less horrible was the spectacle which in their own persons they afforded, their bodies covered with the skins of wild beasts, and carrying javelins huge and massy, both in their coverings and their weapons savage and grim, in behaviour too equally hideous: For, whenever they were pressed by the throng of people, which they wanted discretion to shun, or whenever they tumbled through the slipperiness of the streets, or were thrown down by the jolt of any one who was passing, they betook themselves to threats and clamour, and then instantly to violence and their arms. Already too the Tribunes and Captains of horse, followed by bands of armed men, were bounding to and fro with great terror and parade.
Vitellius himself mounted upon a stately steed, and in his coat of armour, with his sword girt on, was advancing from the Milvian bridge, making the Senate and People to pass on before him: but being restrained by the advice of his friends from entering the City in his warlike dress, as if the same had been taken by the sword, he put on the robe of a Senator and made an entry altogether orderly and pacific. In the front were borne the Eagles of four Legions, round about them an equal number of Standards belonging to other Legions, next twelve Ensigns of so many squadrons of horse, then the files of infantry and behind them the cavalry: There came after thirty-four Cohorts distinguished suitably to the diversity of their nations or of their arms. Before their several Eagles marched the Camp Marshals, the Tribunes and principal Centurions, all apparelled in white rayments. At the head of their several companies the other Centurions appeared, glittering with arms, and their military gifts displayed. The chains also of the common soldiers, and the trappings of their horses yielded a resplendent shew. The whole a glorious sight, and an army worthy of any Emperor not resembling Vitellius. In this state he entered the Capitol, and there embracing his mother, dignified her with the title of Augusta.
The next day he made a public speech, and in it, as if he had had for his audience the Senate and People of another City, uttered very high and pompous things of himself. Upon his activity and temperance particularly he bestowed many lofty praises, even in the presence of such as had beheld his vile doings and excesses; as indeed had all Italy, through which he had marched in a course most infamous, continually intoxicated and drowned in voluptuousness. The crowd, however, ever void of thought and care, and, without discerning truth from falshood, only skilled in the flights of flattery become long since habitual, broke out into an uproar of wishes and acclamations; and, as he refused the name of Augustus, they pressed him so that he accepted it, but to as little purpose as before he had denied it.
In a City like Rome, prone to pass censure upon every transaction whatsoever, it passed for an omen of evil portent, that Vitellius, who was created chief Pontif, had on the eighteenth of July published his edict concerning the celebration of solemnities divine; a day holden inauspicious from antiquity downward, for that on it happened the tragical overthrows at Cremera and Allia. So unattentive he was, and unknowing in ordinances human and religious: And, as amongst his freedmen and friends equal stupidity was found, he behaved as if he had none about him but men infatuated and drunken. Yet in holding the assembly for creating Consuls, he assisted with apparent moderation, and towards the candidates as no other than their equal: Nay, studying to gain the good graces and applause of the rabble, he courted them by frequenting the Theatre as a spectator amongst them, and the Circus as a partizan; actions, when proceeding from principles of virtue, truly engaging and popular, but in him accounted unseemly and vile, upon remembrance of his former life. Into the Senate he often came, even when the deliberations there were about things of small moment; and as Helvidius Priscus, Prætor elect, chanced to offer his sentiments against those of the Emperor, he at first waxed angry, yet no further than to call upon the Tribunes of the people to support his authority thus brought under contempt. Anon, upon the interposition of friends, who dreading deeper resentment, accosted him with mitigations, he made answer, “Nothing new had happened, that in the Commonwealth two Senators should be of different opinions: he himself too had been wont to oppose Thrasea.” Many ridiculed the impudence of the comparison. To others it proved well pleasing, that, in representing an example of true glory, he had mentioned Thrasea, and none of the minions of power.
For Captains of the Prætorian Guards he appointed Publius Sabinus, raised from the command of a Cohort, and Julius Priscus then only a Centurion. Priscus held his authority from the interest of Valens, Sabinus from that of Cæcina. Between these two favourites, always at variance with one another, no portion of power remained to Vitellius. All the functions of Sovereignty were administered by Cæcina and Valens, men long since imbittered by mutual hate, which, even during war, and amidst armies, had been ill-disguised, and was now highly enflamed by the malignity of their several friends, and indeed by the genius of the City, ever fertile in producing seeds of enmity; whist they strove to excell each other in credit and sway, in greatness of train, in numerous levees and dependents, and whilst by others, comparisons were made of their influence and grandeur. Various too and wavering were the inclinations of Vitellius, now partial to one, anon to another. Nor, in truth, can ever any certain assurance be placed in the possession of authority which knows no measure. Add that they despised Vitellius and dreaded him, as a man by every gust of passion, or by any wild strain of flattery, apt to be suddenly changed. Yet this rendered them not the more slack or remiss in seizing for themselves fine houses and gardens, and the wealth of the Empire, whilst to all the many nobles by Galba recalled with their children from exile, a multitude very indigent and deplorable, no sort of support was administered by the Prince, no acts of compassion shewn. That he had restored to such as were returned from banishment their jurisdiction over their Freedmen, was a concession well pleasing to the Grandees of the City, and what even the populace approved. Though this kindness was rendered intirely abortive by the fraud of these servile spirits, who conveyed their money into hiding-places, or lodged it for security in the hands of men powerful at Court. Nay, some of them having entered into the family of the Emperor, became more mighty than their Lords and Patrons.
Now the multitude of soldiers being such as the camp could not contain, the residue, when that was full, quartered in the public Portico’s or in the Temples, and were continually roaming all over the City. They grew unacquainted with their stations and places of arms, kept no watch, nor by any exercise or fatigue preserved their vigour. Surrendring themselves to the voluptuous inticements of the City, and to practices too abominable to be named, they impaired their bodies by idleness, their courage by feats of lewdness and riot. At last, renouncing all regard even to health, great part of them betook themselves to the malignant quarters of the Vatican. Hence followed great mortality amongst the common men. The Germans too and Gauls, who have bodies very subject to diseases, as they now lay upon the banks of the Tiber, were become quite baned through the extreme heat, which they could not bear, and through an intemperate delight in cooling themselves in the stream. Moreover the state and order of the soldiery, either by the efforts of malice or the drifts and intrigues of ambition, was quite vitiated and broken. A body was formed of sixteen Prætorian, and four City Cohorts, each containing a thousand men. In this enrolment Valens assumed the larger share and superior direction; for that he claimed the merit of having redeemed Cæcina himself out of impending peril. It is indeed certain, that to his arrival the party owed its vigour and revival, and by a successful battle he had stayed the severe rumour and impressions occasioned through the slowness of his march. Add that all the soldiers of the lower Germany were wholly attached to the person of Valens. Hence, it was believed, the fidelity of Cæcina first began to fluctuate.
For the rest, Vitellius gave not such absolute scope to the Generals, but that to the humours of the soldiers he allowed a latitude much larger. Every particular changed his place in the service, as he listed: One desired to be enlisted into the City Troops, and however unworthy, was admitted because he himself preferred it: Others again, deserving of that service, were suffered to continue in the Legions or auxiliary Squadrons, if such was their own choice. Nor were there wanting some who chose it, as they were afflicted with diseases, and full of complaints against the intemperate heat of the climate. Yet from the Legions and auxiliary Squadrons their principal strength was withdrawn, and the uniformity and beauty of the camp at Rome abolished; since these twenty thousand men drawn from the whole army, were rather mingled at random than chosen with discretion. As Vitellius was making a speech to the soldiers, they demanded the execution of Asiaticus, Flavius, and Rufinus, Leaders amongst the Gauls; for that they had raised war in behalf of Vindex. Neither did Vitellius repress such daring clamours: for, besides that he had a spirit naturally impotent and stupid, he was sensible that the day for the donative approached, and as the money still was wanting, he copiously granted the soldiers every other concession. Upon all the Freedmen of the former Emperors a tribute was imposed in proportion to the number of their slaves. He himself, who was only solicitous to dissipate and confound, erected stables for the use of Charioteers, filled the Circus with spectacles and combats, those of Gladiators, those of wild beasts; and, as in the most flowing plenty, wantonly scattered treasure.
Moreover, Cæcina and Valens, in celebrating the birth-day of Vitellius, exhibited public entertainments of Gladiators in every street, with transcendent pomp and parade, and till that day unknown. A notable matter of joy it proved to all the profligate and debauched, as to the virtuous it gave sore disgust and regret, that in the field of Mars upon altars purposely reared, Vitellius solemnized the obsequies of Nero. Victims were publicly slain and burnt, the torch for kindling the sacrifice was even administered by the Augustal Priests, an order consecrated to the Julian Family by Tiberius, like that to King Tatius by Romulus. Four months were not yet elapsed since the victory for Vitellius was gained, and already his manumised slave Asiaticus was come to equal the Polycleti, the Patrobii, and all former Imperial Freedmen by whatever other names long since known and abhorred. In that Court no man strove to rise by virtue or ability. One only road there was to power, namely by the means of consuming banquets, by extravagant expences and efforts in beastly luxury, thus, to gorge the appetites of Vitellius, ever craving and never satiated. He, who judged it sufficient to enjoy present pleasures, and troubled himself with no deliberations about concernments future, is believed, in so very few months, to have scattered in prodigality near thirty millions of crowns. The City, so mighty and so miserable, in the space of one year bore the burden of Otho and of Vitellius; and, between such sons of wickedness as Vinius, Fabius, Icelus, and Asiaticus, subsisted under a lot disgraceful and various, till to them succeeded Mucianus and Marcellus, and in truth rather different men than different measures.
The first revolt declared to Vitellius, was that of the third Legion, by letters from Aponius Saturninus, dispatched before he too had joined the party of Vespasian. Yet neither had Aponius transmitted all and the worst, as he himself was struck with dismay upon a turn so violent and sudden; and the Emperor’s friends soothing him with flattery, softened the ill-tidings with constructions overstrained and favourable, “That it was no more than an insurrection of a single Legion; in all the rest of the armies firm faith was found.” Vitellius too in his speech to the soldiers reasoned in the same strain, and inveighed against the Prætorians lately discharged; “As by them, he asserted, lying rumours were published, and that there was no ground to fear a civil war.” The name of Vespasian he took care to suppress; and all over the City soldiers were roaming, with directions to silence the bruitings amongst the populace: A precaution which proved the chief incentive to augment the public rumour.
From Germany, however, from Britain and both Spains, he sent for succours; but in a manner negligent and slow, as he studied to conceal the necessity which pressed him. Neither in the Provinces, and Commanders of the Provinces was there found less remissness and lingering. In Germany Hordeonius Flaccus, who already suspected that by the Batavians rebellious designs were entertained, was thence solicitous about a war which threatened himself; as was Vettius Bolanus about the posture of Britain, a country never settled in perfect composure: and in truth both Flaccus and Bolanus were wavering in their views. Nor in Spain was any forwardness or expedition shewn. Over it there then presided no ruler of Consular dignity. The Commanders of the three Legions there, men equal in authority, and such as during the prosperity of Vitellius would have contended for priority in acts of submission and observance, equally concurred to desert his falling fortune. In Africa the Legion and Cohorts levied by Clodius Macer, and anon by Galba discharged, upon orders from Vitellius returned to the service: The youth too of the Province offered themselves to be enlisted, with signal alacrity. For, with great uprightness and popular favour had Vitellius ruled as Proconsul there; as had Vespasian in the same quality with ignominy and pubblic hate. From hence our allies drew their conjectures concerning the reign of each; but the same were falsified by trial.
Moreover Valerius Festus, Governor of the Province, promoted the zeal and inclinations of the people, with exemplary fidelity at the beginning: In a short space he began to halt, and whilst to the eye of the public, he, in letters and edicts, asserted the cause of Vitellius, he by secret intelligence encouraged Vespasian; like a man who, whether this or that side prevailed, was resolved to maintain the justice of the stronger. Certain soldiers and centurions as they passed through Rhætia and the Regions of Gaul, with letters and edicts from Vespasian, were seized and carried to Vitellius, who doomed them to execution: A greater number, concealed by faithful friends, or by artifices of their own, escaped detection. Thus all the measures and dispositions of Vitellius came to be daily known, whilst the counsels and schemes of Vespasian remained, for the most part, undiscovered, at first through the sloth and improvidence of Vitellius, and afterwards the guards posted upon the Pannonian Alps obstructed the arrival of intelligence. The sea too, by the constant blowing of the Etesian wind, afforded a favourable passage to the East, but denied one from thence.
At last, upon the irruption of the enemy into the boundaries of Italy, dismal advices on all hands arriving, thoroughly alarmed him, and he ordered Cæcina and Valens to prepare for taking the field. As Valens, who had just then arisen from a severe sickness, was staid by weakness, Cæcina was sent forward. The appearance of the German army, so awful upon its late entry, proved far different upon this its departure: No robustness in their bodies, no vigour in their souls, their march lazy and slow, their ranks open and thin, their arms untrimmed and loosely borne, their horses foggy and lifeless; the men grown too delicate to bear the sun, or dust, or weather, and the more listless to labour they were, the greater propensity they had to disobedience and mutiny. To the rest must be added the qualities of Cæcina their Commander, the arts by him long since practised to court and humour the soldiery, with his indolence lately acquired, like one by the overflowing benignity of fortune quite unbent to excess and riot. Or perhaps having already conceived designs of treason and desertion, it was an effort of his policy to break the spirit and bravery of the army. Very many believed that, through the address and intrigues of Flavius Sabinus, and by the interagency of Rubrius Gallus, the mind of Cæcina came to be shaken, under assurances that, whatever stipulations were made previous to his changing of sides, Vespasian should confirm. He was likewise reminded of his old jealousy and hate towards Fabius Valens, that being unequal to him in favour with Vitellius, it behoved him to think of earning betimes countenance and authority from the new Prince.
Cæcina, after Vitellius had embraced and dismissed him with high marks of honour, departing from Rome, sent forward part of the Cavalry to possess themselves of Cremona. Anon followed the Vexillaries of the* fourteenth and sixteenth Legions; next the fifth and the twenty second Legions. The rear of the host was composed of the one and twentieth, surnamed Rapax, and of the first, called Italica, accompanied by the Vexillaries of the three British Legions, and a chosen band of Auxiliaries. After the departure of Cæcina, Fabius Valens wrote to those forces which he had been wont to lead, “To stay their march and await his coming; for that thus it had been settled between him and Cæcina.” The latter, who was present amongst them, and thence his words of more weight with them, feigned to them, “That this counsel had been since changed, on design that with the whole might of all their forces, they might be ready to sustain a terrible war just impending.” He therefore ordered the Legions to advance with dispatch to Cremona, and some part to repair to Hostilia. He himself turned away to Ravenna, under colour of conferring with the Fleet. Anon he proceeded to Pavia, as a secret scene proper for concerting the measures of treason. For, Lucilius Bassus, who from the command of a squadron of horse had been by Vitellius preferred at once to that of two Fleets, one at Ravenna, the other at Misenum, because he was not presently appointed Captain of the Prætorian Guards, revenged his unreasonable animosity by detestable treachery. Nor can any certainty be had, whether he drew Cæcina into his own guilt, or whether the same pravity of spirit prompted both; an event usual amongst wicked men, who being wicked, are alike. In accounting for this their revolt, the historians of the time have assigned motives apparently devised to flatter the Flavian Family, under whom they composed the relation of this war; namely, “That Bassus and Cæcina were guided by a sincere concern for public peace, and affection for the Commonwealth.” It is my own opinion, that, besides the temper of the men, naturally light and unsteady, besides their utter contempt of faith and conscience, after they had once betrayed their trust to Galba, they were likewise instigated by jealousy and despight, and that, rather than others should surpass them in interest with Vitellius, they would overthrow Vitellius himself.
Cæcina having rejoined the Legions, employed many and various devices to seduce and alienate the affections of the Centurions and common soldiers, of themselves strongly devoted to Vitellius. By Bassus, who was engaged in the same task, smaller difficulty was found; as the Fleet, who remembered how lately they had served under Otho, were very supple to abandon their faith to Vitellius.
The End of Vol. III.
[a ]Lord Pagett.
[* ]Tesserarius, one who carried the watchword.
[* ]Betwixt 9 and 10 Crowns.
[* ]Thirty-nine pounds, five shillings.
[* ]Here seems to be a mistake which the Commentators have not with any certainty removed.