Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK I. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 3 - Gordon's Discourses II, History (Books 1-2)
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BOOK I. - 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.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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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.
[* ]Tesserarius, one who carried the watchword.
[* ]Betwixt 9 and 10 Crowns.
[* ]Thirty-nine pounds, five shillings.