Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK III. - The Works of Tacitus, vol. 4 - History (Books 3-5), Germany, Agricola
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BOOK III. - Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Tacitus, vol. 4 - History (Books 3-5), Germany, Agricola [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. 4.
Part of: The Works of Tacitus, 4 vols.
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THE Forces of Vespasian, at the instigation of Antonius Primus and under his leading, arrive in Italy. Military transactions in several places, and some light encounters. The Fleet at Ravenna revolts to Vespasian. Cæcina discovers his treasonable purposes, but is seized and imprisoned by his own soldiers. The battle at Bedriacum; the army of Vitellius overthrown, yet, strengthened by the accession of fresh Legions, renew the battle, even in the night, but are again overcome. The Camp at Cremona assaulted, at last taken by storm. The great slaughter there. Cremona itself sacked and burnt down. Vitellius the while drowned in luxury; his feats of cruelty: he orders Publius Sabinus to be put in bonds, Junius Blæsus to be slain. Fabius Valens advances against Antonius, but learns the late overthrow, and flies attended only by a few: he is taken at sea. Commotions in Britain, in Germany, in Dacia. Vespasian’s Generals march towards Rome. Vitellius orders the passes of the Appennine to be guarded, but anon, weary of the war, makes a treaty of pacification with Sabinus, Vespasian’s brother. The treaty broken by the violence of the German soldiers: They force Sabinus to seek refuge in the Capitol, besiege him there, storm the Capitol, and burn it to ashes. The exploits of Lucius Vitellius, the Emperor’s brother, in Campania. The whole Forces of Vespasian arrive at Rome; which, after much resistance and many encounters, they enter: The terrible havock and licentiousness which ensue. The tragical death of Vitellius. These transactions all of the same Year.
WITH fortune more propitious and greater fidelity did the Leaders of Vespasian’s party pursue their measures for war. At Petovio, the winter quarters of the thirteenth Legion, they met for consultation, and there deliberated, “Whether to content themselves with only guarding the passes of the Pannonian Alps, till their forces from all quarters behind them had advanced in a body to join them; or, by a resolution more daring, march forward and venture a struggle for Italy.” They who held it adviseable to await the arrival of succours, and to protract the war, magnified “the might and renown of the German Legions. Moreover there had since arrived with Vitellius the chief strength of the army in Britain. With themselves they had a smaller number of Legions; these Legions were lately routed, and though in words they were undaunted and terrible, yet still in men once vanquished less bravery was found. But by securing the Alps, they should have leisure to expect Mucianus advancing with the bands of the East. To Vespasian there would still remain the command of the Sea, of Fleets, and of the Provinces, all affectionate to his cause; a fource whence he might raise materials ample enough even for another and a fresh war. Thus, by a prudent and salutary delay, new forces would certainly accrue, and of the former none would be lost.”
In answer to these reasonings, Antonius Primus (who in truth from the beginning, had with infinite ardour incited the war) argued, “That to themselves dispatch was altogether advantageous, and only pernicious to Vitellius. A greater share of sloth and indolence had possessed the conquerors, than of valour and ferocity; as men no longer inured to the regularity of a camp and prepared for feats of war, but separated over all the great Towns of Italy, resigned to idleness and ease, and dreadful to none but their hosts. Nay, the more furious and stern they formerly had been, with the more greediness they swallowed pleasures so ravishing and new. Moreover, by haunting the Theatres and the Circus, and following the delightful pastimes at Rome, they were utterly softened and debauched, or by diseases utterly wasted. But, were time allowed them, their ancient vigour would still return, by their application to the cares and pursuits of war. Not far from them lay Germany, from whence a sure recruit of forces; beyond the Channel, Britain; just by, France; as also both Spains; from all a ready supply of men, and horses, and contributions; Italy too itself in their possession, with the immense treasures of Rome. And should they resolve, for prevention, to recur to offensive arms, they were furnished with two fleets, and the Illyrian sea was open. What would then avail the streights and defence of the mountains? what the protracting of the war till another summer? Where, in the interval, was money to be had, where provisions? Doubtless, much better it were to improve the occasion presented by the soldiery; for that the Pannonian Legions, who had been deceived rather than vanquished, were impatient to signalize their vengeance; and with them the armies of Mœsia had brought forces diminished by no defeat. If upon the number of men stress were to be laid, rather than upon the number of Legions, in this host was to be found superior strength, nothing dissolute, and, from a sense of disgrace, discipline amended. The horse, in truth, were not even then defeated, but, though the issue proved unfortunate, had routed the cavalry of Vitellius. Yes, two Squadrons from Pannonia and Mœsia, in that fight, pierced quite through the ranks of the enemy. At present were united the banners of sixteen Squadrons; a body, who, with the shock and thunder of the onset, nay, with the very cloud raised by them, will not fail to overwhelm and cover yonder troops of horsemen and their horses, both become unacquainted with feats of war. The same measures which I advise, if I am not restrained, I will pursue. You who are yet free to follow fortune on either side, stay and with you detain the Legions. To me a few Cohorts lightly equipt will be sufficient. Anon you will hear that I have opened my way into Italy, and shaken the power of Vitellius. You will then be glad to follow, and travel in the track of one who had conquered for you.”
These and the like strains he uttered with eyes darting fire, with a voice fierce and vehement, to be thence further heard, (for into the Council the Centurions and several soldiers had conveyed themselves) and with such effect, that he moved and influenced even such as were most cautious and provident. The crowd and the rest loaded him with praises, and scorning the resolutions of the others as cold and spiritless, extolled him as the only brave man, the only vigorous leader. This renown of his he first acquired in the late military assembly, where the letters from Vespasian were publicly recited. For, there he reasoned not, like most others, in a stile equivocal and obscure, with intent to wrest the interpretation hither and thither, as interest should require: He appeared to have fallen into the subject of debate with openness of expression, free from all disguise, and hence became more acceptable to the soldiers, since he thus offered himself as a sharer in their lot, whether of guilt or of glory.
The second to him, in authority, was, Cornelius Fuscus the Procurator. He too was wont to treat Vitellius with implacable invectives, and therefore had left himself no room for hope upon ill success. Titus Ampius Flavianus, a man both by nature and old age slow and irresolute, provoked the suspicion of the soldiers, as if he too well remembered his affinity with Vitellius; as likewise, for that having upon the first uproar of the Legions betaken himself to flight, and then of his own mere motion returned, he was believed to watch an occasion for executing some traiterous purpose. For, Flavianus, after deserting Pannonia, and arriving in Italy at a distance from hazard, gave way to a passion for public innovations; whence he was prompted to resume the command of Lieutenant General, and to imbroil himself in the strife of civil arms. He was excited by the persuasions of Cornelius Fuscus, out of no need that he had of any vigour which was in Flavianus, but only for the lustre of a Consular name, as an honourable pretence to recommend a party, just labouring to rise.
Now to render the march into Italy secure and successful, letters were sent to Aponius Saturninus, to follow in haste, with his army from Mœsia. And that the Provinces thus bereft of their armies might not lye exposed to the inroads of the barbarous nations adjoining, the Chiefs of the people Jazyges (a nation of the Sarmatæans) that is, those amongst them who sway their Community, were taken into a fellowship in the war, and retained in pay. They also offered their populace to the service, and their power of horse, in which only their whole force lies. This civility was rejected, lest whilst we were engaged in struggles at home, they should undertake to assail us from without, or perhaps upon larger reward from the opposite side, renounce all regard to trust and obligation. Into the party were drawn Sido and Italicus, Kings of the Suevians, noted for their long reverence and constant duty to the Romans; as their people too were more observant of their plighted faith. On the side towards Rhætia guards of Auxiliaries were posted, as a country breathing great hostility to the cause, and under the Government of Portius Septiminus the Procurator, a man in his fidelity to Vitellius stedfast and incorruptible. Sextilius Felix was therefore sent away with the Squadron of horse stiled Auriana, eight Cohorts, and the youth of Noricum under arms, to possess himself of the bank of the Oenus, a river flowing between Rhætia and Noricum. But, while neither side would venture an engagement, the grand competition was determined elsewhere.
Whilst Antonius, with great dispatch, conducted a body of Vexillaries taken from the Cohorts, and part of the horse, to invade Italy, he was accompanied by Arius Varus, an officer signal for bravery in war; which renowned character, he derived from having served under Corbulo, and been engaged in the successful atchievements of that great Captain in Armenia. The same man was said, in secret conferences with Nero to have accused Corbulo, and blackened his merit and great qualities. Hence by favour infamously gained, he rose to the rank of a principal Centurion; a promotion which for the present proved matter of joy, but, as it was wickedly obtained, turned afterwards to his overthrow. Now Antonius and Varus, when once they had taken possession of Aquileia, were admitted into all the neighbouring Towns, and particularly received at Opitergium and Altinum, with many demonstrations of joy. In Altinum a garrison was left to oppose the Fleet at Ravenna; for of its revolt news were not yet arrived. Then they strengthened their party with the addition of Padua and Ateste. There they learnt that three Cohorts of Vitellius, with the Squadron of horse called Scriboniana, had erected a bridge at Forum Alienum, and were posted there. To assail this band, lying void of circumspection (for this too was reported) the opportunity was gladly taken. At the dawn of day they suddenly encountered and subdued them, most of them unarmed. Previous orders had been given to the assailants, to content themselves with the slaughter of a few, and by terror to constrain the rest to exchange their allegiance. There were indeed some who instantly surrendered: The greater part, by flying and breaking the bridge, escaped the violence of the foe.
After the victory was grown public, and as to the party of Vespasian the first actions of the war had proved prosperous, there arrived at Padua two Legions, both zealous for that cause, the seventh sirnamed Galbiana, with the thirteenth named Gemina, and Vedius Aquila its Commander. There a few days were allowed for repose: The while, Minucius Justus, Camp Marshal of the seventh Legion, was sent away to Vespasian, and thus snatched from the fury of the soldiers, for that he exerted an authority over them more rigorous than suited with a civil war. Antonius at this time accomplished a thing, which having been long wished, was through popular construction heightened into a feat of high glory, by causeing the Statues of Galba, which by the violence and vicissitude of the times had been thrown down, to be restored to their wonted place and reverence in all the municipal Cities. For, he judged that by appearing to approve the reign of Galba, and to countenance the revival of his party, credit would be derived upon his own.
It was then examined, which was the most proper place for the seat of war; and Verona was preferred, as it was situated amongst spacious plains, fit for encounters of horse, in which their prime force lay: Besides it was deemed an exploit of notable advantage and renown, to deprive Vitellius of a Colony so powerful and opulent. In their march they became masters of Vicetia; an acquisition which, though small in itself, (for it is a City of mean force) passed for one of mighty moment, when it was considered that in it Cæcina was born, and from the General of the enemy the place of his nativity was snatched. The possession of Verona was a valuable prize, and by its wealth and example strengthened the party. Moreover, by this situation, the army having hemmed in Rhætia and the Julian Alps, had precluded all accession of forces from Germany: Measures which to Vespasian were either not known, or by him forbidden; for he ordered, that beyond Aquileia, no efforts of war should be made, but there the coming of Mucianus be expected. To his authority he added reasoning, “That since Egypt, since the magazines for supplying Italy with provision, since the revenues of the most opulent Provinces, were all under his power; the army of Vitellius, through want of grain and pay, might be constrained to come over.” Mucianus in repeated letters urged the same counsels, contending for “a victory void of slaughter, and exempt from tears and sorrow;” with the like false colourings, but in reality from a passion for gaining all the glory, and studying to reserve for himself the intire honour of the war. But, from quarters of the world so remote, these counsels arrived after the affairs were determined.
Antonius therefore making an excursion extremely sudden, assaulted the quarters of the enemy; where having in a light encounter tried their vigour, they parted on both sides upon equal terms. In a short space, Cæcina pitched his camp between Hostilia, a village in the territory of Verona, and the marshes of the river Tartarus; secure in his situation, as behind he was defended by the river, on each side by the marsh. What he wanted was fidelity; else it was in his power, with the whole forces of Vitellius under his command, either to have utterly overwhelmed such a small band as two Legions, or driven them back again, and forced them to abandon Italy by a shameful flight. But Cæcina framing manifold delays, traiterously sacrificed to the enemy the first season and opportunities of fighting; continuing by letters to reprimand them, when by arms it was easy to have routed them; till by the intercourse of messengers he had settled the stipulations of his disloyalty. In the mean time arrived Aponius Saturninus, with the seventh Legion, named Claudiana. Over the Legion there commanded Vipstanus Messalla, in quality of Tribune, a man sprung from a race signally noble, in his own person illustrious, and the only one who upon worthy designs engaged in that war. To these forces, no-wise equal to those of Vitellius, (for as yet they were no more than three Legions) Cæcina sent letters. In them he condemned their rashness, that men just vanquished should again venture upon arms. The bravery of the German army he displayed in high flights of praise. His expressions of Vitellius were scanty and no other than common; and against Vespasian not a contumelious word was dropt. In conclusion, nothing was said tending either to tempt the enemy, or to terrify them. In answer, the Leaders of Vespasian’s forces, without excusing their past conduct and fortune, mentioned Vespasian in strains very high and swelling, expressed mighty assurance in their cause, declared themselves secure of the issue, and treated Vitellius in the stile of enemies avowed. To the Tribunes and Centurions they gave room to hope, that whatever favours they had received from Vitellius, they should still retain; and, in terms sufficiently plain, exhorted Cæcina to desert. In a public assembly of the soldiers both letters were recited, and served to heighten their confidence, since Cæcina had written in language so submissive, like one under awe of Vespasian; and their own Generals in a stile of scorn, with bold and open insults upon Vitellius.
Upon the arrival, thereafter, of two Legions, the third led by Dillius Aponianus, the eighth by Numisius Lupus, it was judged proper to make a display of their forces, and to draw an entrenchment round Verona. As it fell to the Legion named Galbiana to work upon the quarter fronting the opposite camp, the sight of some horse of their own, mistaken at a distance for the enemy, filled them with pannic fear. In an instant they grasped their arms, and particularly against Titus Ampius Flavianus, whom they now charged as a traitor, the wrath of the soldiers raged, from no indication of guilt; but, as they had long since borne him mortal rancour, his bloody doom was demanded with an uproar, like that of a tempest. In vehement and repeated clamours they accused him, “as the kinsman of Vitellius, a traitor to Otho, and guilty of appropriating to himself the donative intended for them.” Liberty for defence there was none, though in the posture of a supplicant he implored it, with his hands humbly extended, prostrating himself again and again, his garments rent, his face convulsed, and his bosom heaving with the emotions of anguish. To men thus enraged, even this his woe proved a fresh incentive, as if by dread so excessive he bewrayed his guilt. Aponius, as he attempted to speak, was silenced by the cries of the soldiers. In clamours too, and fierce noise they refused to hear the rest. To Antonius only their ears were found open: For, besides the talent of eloquence, and his arts in soothing a multitude, he was withal of great weight and estimation amongst them. He, when the sedition was growing extreme and tragical, and from bitter words and revilings they proceeded to deeds of violence and the sword, ordered Flavianus to be cast into irons. The soldiers perceived the evasion, and forceing away such as guarded the Tribunal, were about to perpetrate the murder. Antonius opposed them with his sword drawn, with protestations that he himself would first perish by their hands or his own; and where-ever he espied any particular men known to him, or distinguished by the ornaments of their station in the army, all such he called by name to assist him. Then turning towards the Ensigns and military Deities, he besought them, “That upon the armies of their enemies they would rather pour that blind fury, and that spirit of dissention.” By this means the sedition came to subside, and the day now closing, they all dropped off to their several tents. That very night Flavianus departed, and, on his way to Vespasian, met letters from him, such as left him no longer any cause of fear.
The Legions, as if they had run mad with some infectious frenzy, next assailed Aponius Saturninus, General of the forces from Mœsia, with outrage the more implacable, for that they began not as before, when fatigued with the toil and duty of the day, but burst into this insurrection at noon, provoked by certain letters dispersed abroad, which Saturninus was believed to have written to Vitellius. As amongst the soldiers of old, to surpass each other in modesty and feats of valour was their only contention, they at this time vied in impudence and mutinies: Hence they resolved that they would demand the execution of Aponius with no less boldness and violence, than they had that of Flavianus. For, as the Mœsian Legions urged that in procuring vengeance to the Pannonian, they themselves had assisted; and, as the Pannonian Legions appeared to think that by the sedition of others their own was obliterated; both rejoiced in repeating their guilt. To the gardens where Saturninus was retired, they straight proceed: Nor to Antonius, nor to Aponianus nor to Messalla, though they used every effort, did he so much owe his deliverance as to a hiding place singularly obscure, by having conveyed himself into the furnaces of some baths by chance not then used. Anon having dismissed his Lictors, he retired to Padua. When the Leaders of Consular name were withdrawn, to Antonius alone remained the power and sway over both armies, by the concession of his equals, the other Commanders of Legions, and by the bent and partiality of the soldiers. Neither were there wanting those who believed both these seditions to have been moved by the intrigues of Antonius, that upon himself alone might devolve the glory and emoluments of the war.
Neither in the party of Vitellius were their spirits found more pacific and composed; nay, amongst them prevailed convulsions more fatal, as their disorders arose not from suspicions harboured by the crowd, but from the infidelity of their Leaders. The Marines at Ravenna, already wavering in their inclinations, as the greater part were natives of Dalmatia and Pannonia, (Provinces engaged to Vespasian) were gained over to his party by the influence of Lucilius Bassus, Commander of the Fleet at that City. For the execution of the treason the night was chosen, that the authors of the revolt only, might, unknown to the rest, assemble in the quarter of arms. Bassus, whether he were ashamed, or whether he feared what the issue might prove, awaited the success privately at home. The Captains of the Gallies fell upon the Images of Vitellius, demolishing them with terrible uproar, and after some few who resisted were slaughtered, the rest of the crowd, from fondness for public changes, espoused the cause of Vespasian. Then went forth Lucilius, and publicly owned that from his counsels and orders the defection had sprung. The Fleet for their Commander chose Cornelius Fuscus, who made quick dispatch thither. Bassus, under custody, but honourably treated, was conveyed by some light vessels to Hadria, and by Mennius Rufinus, who commanded a Squadron in garison there, thrown into bonds, but presently released upon the arrival of Hormus Freedman to Vespasian: For, he too was considered in the rank of General Officers.
Cæcina, when he found that the revolt of the Navy was divulged, assembled in the quarter of arms all the principal Centurions and a small number of common soldiers, whilst the rest were dispersed upon the several duties of the service; for, he warily chose the season of most solitude in the camp. He there extolled “the magnanimity of Vespasian, and the power of his party. The Fleet, the magazine of provisions, was revolted; both Spains, and all the Gauls, were enemies declared; upon Rome, where nothing was found, there could be no reliance:” with the like representations concerning Vitellius, all in the worst colours. He then forthwith gave them the oath to Vespasian, and they who were his accomplices setting an example, the rest, astonished and disconcerted by an event so sudden and strange, took it after them. At the same instant the Images of Vitellius were pulled down and defaced, and messengers dispatched to acquaint Antonius with the whole. But as soon as through the whole camp news of the defeat were spread, the soldiers flocked to the quarter of arms; and, as they beheld the name of Vespasian set up, the effigies of Vitellius flung down, the first effect of their surprize was a silence altogether profound and universal; then, in a moment, there burst out, as from one mouth, a torrent of resentment and expostulations. “Was the glory of the German Army fallen thus low, that without fighting a battle, without receiving a wound, they should yield their hands to be bound, like men vanquished, or surrender their arms like captives? For, in truth, what Legions had they to dread? were they not the Legions already routed? and even from these were wanting the first and the fourteenth, who constituted the only strength of Otho’s army, yet whom, in the same field, they had routed and overthrown; that thence they themselves, yea, so many thousand men so brave and armed, might now be presented to Antonius a fugitive and exile, like a drove of slaves exposed to sale in a market: As if eight Legions were to accrue as succours, to a single Fleet. Such was the good pleasure of Bassus, such that of Cæcina; that after they had divested the Emperor of his houses, of his gardens, of his treasures, they would also divest him of his soldiers, though in their force not impaired, in their persons no-wise maimed, but in full vigour; thus to to be rendered despicable even in the eyes of Vespasian’s party. To such as should thereafter ask them either concerning their exploits and success, or their losses and disasters, what answers should they be able to make?” These were the cries of each, these the cries of the whole, all fiercely uttered, suitably to the indignation felt by each particular: And with the fifth Legion who began, the rest readily concurred, in replacing the images of Vitellius, and putting Cæcina in irons. For their Leaders they chose Fabius Fabullus, Commander of the fifth Legion, and Cassius Longus, Camp Marshal. Certain Marines belonging to the three light Gallies, they butchered; men unapprized of what had passed, free from guilt or design, and only through hazard falling in their way. They relinquished their camp, and breaking the bridge, marched back again to Hostilia, from thence to Cremona, there to rejoin the first Legion named Italica, and the one and twentieth sirnamed Rapax, which Cæcina had sent forward with part of the cavalry to take possession of Cremona.
When these transactions were known to Antonius, he resolved forthwith to attack the enemy thus raging with animosities, and divided in their sorces, ere the Leaders had recovered authority, the soldiers their discipline and obedience, or the Legions spirit and boldness by uniting. For he imagined that Fabius Valens must ere now have left Rome, and would upon learning the desertion of Cæcina, travel with great celerity. Moreover Fabius bore firm faith to Vitellius, and was no novice in war. Besides, it was seared that a huge host of Germans were advancing through Rhætia; and Vitellius had ordered succours to repair out of Britain, and Gaul, and Spain; the whole a source of war terrible and consuming, had not Antonius, in dread of this very thing, by hastening to engage, anticipated the victory. With his whole army he marched from Verona, and the next evening encamped at Bedriacum. The day following, he sent abroad his auxiliary Cohorts into the territories of Cremona, that under colour of supplying the army with provisions, they might become hardened in the practice of civil plunder. The Legions were detained the while, to fortify the camp. He himself at the head of sout thousand horse, travelled eight miles from Bedriacum, thence to afford the Cohorts greater security and latitude in their ravages. The scouts, according to custom, were at a greater distance, intent upon discoveries.
It was now about the fifth hour of the day, when there arrived one upon a fleet horse with tidings, “that the enemy approached; before the rest a small band advanced; and, on every side was heard the agitation and tumult of their march.” Whilst Antonius was concerting what measures to take, Arrius Varus forward to acquit himself a notable champion, rushed out with a party of the most resolute horse, and routed the front of the enemy, yet with small slaughter; since, as there flew many to support their fellows, the fortune of the encouter changed, and whoever had been keenest in pursuing, proved only the last in flying. Nor indeed was this hasty step taken by the approbation of Antonius, who judged that the issue would be such as it happened. He now exhorted those about him, to prepare with undaunted spirit for battle, and posting his troops upon each hand, left a passage between for the reception of Varus and his horsemen. To the Legions orders were dispatched to arm: Over the country notice to the Cohorts was every where given, to quit their pillage, and hasten the several nearest ways to the combat. Varus in the mean time, in terrible affright, had conveyed himself into the thickest of his band, and upon them brought general dread. Thus they who were routed, not the wounded only, but such as had received no hurt, were all miserably struggling under their own fears, and with ways strait and obstructed.
No part belonging to the duty of an undaunted commander or to that of a most courageous soldier, did Antonius omit during this consternation. Such as were dismayed he animated, such as had recoiled he stayed. Where-ever the greatest efforts were required, where-ever any hope was presented, he readily assisted, here with counsel and orders, there with his sword; to the enemy remarkable by his voice, to his own soldiers manifest in person. At last to such a degree of fervour he was transported, that with his javelin he transfixed a standard-bearer who was flying, and seizing the standard, with it instantly confronted the foe. An hundred, and no more, struck with shame to desert their General, returned to the fight. From the place where they fought they drew their advantage and relief; for the way was but narrow, and the river too running behind (now that the bridge was broken) by its high banks and uncertain depth, interrupted the flight. This necessity, or perhaps fortune, restored the forces of Vespasian just sinking under a defeat. Firmly compacted together, they sustained, with ranks close and impenetrable, the assaults of Vitellius his men, who pouring in, like a rash and disorderly multitude, were instantly repulsed and dismayed. Antonius urged their disorder, pursued the discomfited, broke and overthrew such as stood. The rest, the while, betook themselves to plunder, to make captives, or to seize horses and arms, just as their several inclinations prompted them. Such too were the shouts of joy as to reach those whom fear and flight had just before scattered over the country; and they now returned to share in the victory.
Four miles from Cremona were descried the refulgent Eagles of two Legions, Rapax, and Italica. Thus far they had come, encouraged by the success of their cavalry, who, in the first encounter, had proved victorious. But when fortune changed, they would not open their ranks, would not afford reception to their unfortunate friends, beaten, and flying; would not advance towards the enemy, nor take the opportunity of falling upon forces spent with fighting and long pursuit; an opportunity which probably might have rendered them victorious. In truth, during prosperity they perceived not so sensibly the use of a General, as in adversity that they wanted him. Upon this body already fluctuating and irresolute, the conquering cavalry made an onset, supported by Vipstanus Messalla with the Auxiliaries from Mœsia, who, however suddenly they had been levied, were in feats of war deemed equal to the soldiers of the Legions. Moreover the neighbouring walls of Cremona, the surer hopes of refuge they yielded them, left them so much the less spirit to maintain the conflict.
Neither did Antonius further urge his victory: He was mindful of the condition of his men and horses, wasted with heavy fatigue and afflicted with many wounds, in a battle which, however successful in the issue, had proved so doubtful and perillous. In the close of the evening arrived the whole power of Vespasian’s army. As they marched over hills of slain, and through the monuments and traces of a carnage so recent, they concluded the war to be completely finished, and insisted to be led directly to Cremona, either to bring these vanquished forces to surrender, or to force the place. This was the plausible language which they used openly: But privately every particular reasoned with himself in the terms following; “That the City, as it was situated in a plain, might be taken by storm. In forcing an entrance in the dark, they should be prompted with the same resolution, and have greater latitude for spoiling. Now if they awaited the return of day, presently supplications would be offered, presently peace would be accepted; and for their toils and wounds they should only reap renown and the praise of clemency, barren gratifications; but to the Commanders of Legions and principal Officers would accrue the wealth of Cremona: Since to the soldiers belonged the plunder of a town taken by the sword, as to the Leaders, when gained by surrender.” The authority of their Tribunes and Centurions they utterly slighted; and to drown the voice of any one who offered to reason with them, they thundered with their arms, ready to renounce all command unless they were forthwith led on.
Antonius having now conveyed himself into the crowd, after he had by his presence and authority procured silence, declared, “That of no part of their glory, of no part of their recompence sought he to deprive men so well deserving: but between an army and its Leaders the duties were shared and distinct. To the soldiers it appertained to dare danger, to long for the combat. The Generals shewed their excellence in providing against exigencies, in concerting judicious measures; nay, oftener by patience and procrastination, than by haste and hazard, their success was obtained. As he had, at the peril of his life, and by the dint of his sword, promoted the late victory with all his might, he was ready to contribute the assistance of his counsels and opinion; parts essential to a General. In truth, the difficulties to be encountered, admitted no question or doubt; namely, the night, the unknown situation of the city, the enemy masters of it, on all hands opportunities for circumvention and ambush. Enter, in truth, they ought not, even though the gates were thrown open, even though it were full day, till after sure search and intelligence. Would they indeed begin the assault, while yet berest of light to discover where lay the most easy and accessible places, or what was the height of the walls? Or before it was determined whether the city were to be attacked by missive engines and flights of darts, or by works and machines for battery?” Then turning round to particulars, he enquired of each, “If with him he had brought a hatchet, a pick-ax, and other utensils for besieging towns?” As they owned that they had not; he cried, “With swords and spears alone can any hands possibly break through and overthrow City-walls? Should we be constrained to throw up a rampart; should it prove necessary to shelter ourselves under pent-houses of boards, and sheds of hurdles; must we not, in such distress, remain like the vulgar herd, ever thoughtless and improvident, impotently staring at the lofty towers and strong bulwarks of our enemies? Better it is to delay for one night; and, when our warlike engines and machines are brought, carry with us power and victory.”
At the same instant he dispatched to Bedriacum the attendants and followers of the camp, accompanied by the freshest of the cavalry, to bring a supply of provisions, with whatever else the present exigency required. As the soldiers could not bear this but with impatience and regret, an insurrection was just beginning, when some horsemen, who had advanced close to the walls of Cremona, seized certain stragglers from thence. By them a discovery was made, “That six Legions belonging to Vitellius, and the whole host which had quartered at Hostilia, having learnt the defeat of their fellows, had that same day marched thirty miles, and were just approaching arrayed for battle.” The minds of the men, otherwise stubborn and ungovernable, upon this terrible alarm, became pliant and open to the counsel of their Commander. The third Legion he ordered to post themselves upon the Posthumian highway. Adjoining to it, upon the left, stood the seventh, called Galbiana, in the plain; next to this the seventh, named Claudiana, to which a common ditch, such as the country presented, served for an entrenchment. Upon the right was placed the eighth, in fields open to the great road; then the thirteenth, interspersed in a close copse. Such was the disposition of the several Eagles and Ensigns of the Legions. The soldiers were intermixed in the dark, at the allotment of chance. Next to the third Legion stood the banner of the Prætorians; the auxiliary Cohorts upon the wings; and the Cavalry covered the flanks and the rear. Sido and Italicus from Suevia, at the head of a choice band of their nation, served in the foremost ranks.
Now the army of Vitellius, who in all discretion ought to have rested at Cremona, and, having by meat and sleep recovered their vigour, beset the enemy next day, and pnshed them to an overthrow, while spent and disabled with cold and fasting; yet, wanting a ruler, and destitute of counsel, about the third hour of the night, rushed precipitately upon the forces of Vespasian already prepared and even embattled. Under what form they came on to the assault, I dare not undertake to explain, disordered as it was by darkness and their own rage; though others have recounted, that the fourth Legion, named Macedonica, occupied the right wing; that the fifth and fifteenth, strengthened with the Vexillaries of the ninth, the second, and the twentieth, (all three British Legions) constituted the main battle, and, that the sixteenth, the two and twentieth, and the first, furnished the left wing. The soldiers of those called Rapax and Italica, had mingled themselves throughout all the companies. The cavalry and auxiliary bands chose their own station. During the whole night the combat held uncertain, shifting, and tragical; now destructive to these, anon to those. Nothing availed bravery, nothing strength, nor, in truth, the eyes, now deprived of discernment. In both hosts the arms were alike, and the watch word of each, by being frequently asked and repeated, became known to the other. Intermingled without distinction were the standards, just as opposite parties could seize them from their enemies, and pull them hither and thither. Most sorely beset was the seventh Legion, one lately enrolled by Galba. Out of it six Centurions of principal rank were slain, and some of the ensigns were taken. The Eagle itself Atilius Verus had preserved; he was chief Centurion, who in its defence slew heaps of the enemy, and at last perished himself.
To his sinking battalions Antonius administered support, by calling to their assistance the body of Prætorians. They at the first encounter repulsed the foe, and anon suffered a repulse. For, the soldiers of Vitellius had now removed their missive engines, and planted them upon the ridge of the Posthumian way, that thence with more room and over the clear fields they might discharge their deadly contents, which before flew at random, and, without annoying the foe, smote the bushes. One of amazing bulk, of the sort called Balistæ, belonging to the fifteenth Legion, overthrew the enemy’s ranks, by pouring upon them massy stones; and destruction more extensive had followed, but for two common soldiers, who adventured upon an exploit of signal renown. From amongst the slain they furnished themselves with shields, and passing undiscovered, cut the ligatures and springs of the engines. They were indeed presently slaughtered, and thence their names have perished: Of the action itself, no doubt is made. To neither side was fortune yet leaning, when the night being well nigh spent, the moon rising presented the contending armies to sight, but deceived the eye. More favourable however she proved to that of Vespasian, as she shone upon their backs; for, against the shadows of the men and horses, thus magnified, as against their real bodies, the darts and arrows of the enemy were deceitfully directed, and fell ere they reached their aim. The bands of Vitellius, who from the reflection in front stood clear in view, were exposed, quite defenceless and surprized, to be galled by men who thus annoyed them as it were from a hiding place.
Antonius, therefore, now that he could distinguish his own men, and be by them distinguished, set himself to animate them severally by different instigations, some by shame and reproof, many by applause and exhortation, all by hopes and promises. The Legions from Pannonia he asked, “From what motive they had again betaken themselves to arms? This was the field in which they might obliterate the stain of their former disgrace; here they might recover their glory.” Then turning to those from Mœsia, he roused them, “As the men who began the revolt, and were the first movers of the war. In vain they had defied the powers of Vitellius with big words and menaces, if they could not bear their looks and blows.” In this manner he reasoned with such as he happened to accost. To the third Legion he discoursed more copiously, and to their memory recalled their feats of renown ancient and late; “How under Anthony they had overthrown the Parthians, under Corbulo the Armenians; and not long since discomfited the Sarmatians.” He next applied, with great wrath, to the Prætorians. “For you; said he, if you conquer not now, what other General will ever receive you, what other camp will admit you, who are no longer soldiers, but degraded? Yonder amongst the foes are your banners and your arms, and yonder, if you are vanquished, death abides you; for, of your shame you have already seen the end.” There ensued from every quarter cries and shoutings; and just then the third Legion, according to the Custom in Syria, paid their adoration to the rising sun.
From this incident a rumour flew, whether fortuitous or contrived by the General, “That Mucianus was arrived, and between the armies mutual salutations had passed.” Instantly they pressed to a closer charge, as if really reinforced by fresh succours. In truth, Vitellius his host were already become looser and disjoined; as men who, without a Leader to controul them, closed or opened just as particulars were moved by the impulse of their own fury or fear. When Antonius perceived them disordered and plying, he pushed them vehemently with a strong and condensed band; and their ranks yielding, were utterly broken: nor was it possible to restore them, as they were embarrassed and obstructed by their own carriages and engines. The conquerors too, eager to pursue, covered in parties the whole way. The more signal was this slaughter, for that in it a son slew his father. I shall here recount the fact and the names of the men, as the same are recorded by Vipstanus Messalla. Julius Mansuetus, a native of Spain, listing in the Legion called Rapax, left behind him at home a son, then a boy, who afterwards growing up, and having been under Galba enrolled in the seventh Legion, happened here to confront his father, and wounded him so that he fell. Whilst he rifled this his parent just expiring, he was by him known, and knew him again. He then embraced his pale coarse, and with a voice doleful and sad, supplicated the manes of his father “to be atoned, nor to hold him in horrour as a parricide; upon the public only the crime was to be charged; and, in a general tumult of civil arms, poor and small was the part of a single soldier.” He at the same time lifted up the body, digged a grave, and towards his parent discharged the last duty. Such who were nearest observed what passed, as did then many more. Hence through the whole host the wonderful accident flew, with many wailings, and with bitter execration upon a war thus unnatural and barbarous. Yet with never the more reluctance they proceeded first to butcher, then to spoil their kinsmen, their relations, nay, their brethren. They tell what a crying iniquity has been done, and do it.
Upon their approach to Cremona, there presented itself a task altogether new and immense. In the war against Otho, the soldiers from Germany had pitched their camp quite round the walls, and quite round their camp had drawn a great trench; and to this too had since added fresh bulwarks. At sight of all these the conquerors were checked, and hesitated, as in truth their Leaders were unresolved what directions to give. To proceed to the assault with an army already wasted and weary with the continued toils of a day and a night, were an enterprize full of difficulty; and, as no succour or refuge was nigh, it were full of danger. If they should return to Bedriacum, intolerable were the fatigue from a journey so long, and vain and abortive would then prove their victory gained. Should they here stay and encamp, this too was a course to be dreaded so near the enemy; for that by a sudden sally he might attack and distress the men when dispersed and employed in their works. Above all their apprehensions was that administered by their own soldiers, men apter to tempt perils than to bear delays. To them all measures that were safe were distasteful, and in feats of temerity they placed their hopes; so that for all the slaughter which they suffered, for all their gorings, and their blood spilt, they found full compensation in the lust and fruition of spoil.
To this humour Antonius yielded, and ordered the soldiers, in the form of a ring, to invest the entrenchment for an equal assault. At first the conflict was maintained by distant vollies of stones and arrows; whence the forest havock fell upon the forces of Vespasian, as against them blows were dealt with force superior from above. Anon he assigned different stations to the several Legions, round the ramparts and against the several gates; that by thus dividing the task into lots, the coward might be distinguished from the brave, and a competition for glory animate all. To the third Legion and the seventh belonged the quarter facing the road to Bedriacum; as did that upon the right hand to the eighth and the seventh, named Claudiana. The ardour of the thirteenth Legion carried them directly to the Port towards Brixia. There ensued a short respite, till from the neighbouring fields were brought spades and pickaxes by some, by others hooks and ladders. Then raising their shields over their heads, and thence forming a continued shell, under its shelter they advanced to the foot of the bulwarks. On both sides was possessed the military prowess of Romans: The bands of Vitellius hurled down quantities of mighty stones; and as the shell, thus battered, became loose and tottering, with spears and long poles they pierced and rent it, till they had thus quite dissolved the contexture of the shields; then beat to the ground the men beneath, and slaughtered or maimed them with huge havock.
The onset began to slacken and discontinue, till the Leaders who found the soldiers exhausted, and unmoved by exhortations barren of profit, pointed to Cremona and offered it as their spoil. Whether by Hormus this device was started, as Messalla recounts, or whether more credit be due to the authority of Caius Plinius, who charges it upon Antonius; is a doubt which I cannot easily clear. I shall only say that, even in this proceeding, horrible as it was, neither did Antonius, nor did Hormus, in the least vary from the course of their past lives and infamy. Thus encouraged, nothing could scare or retard the men; regardless of wounds and blood, they laboured to demolish the rampart, pressed and battered the gates, stood upon the shoulders of one another, climbed upon the shell of shields now restored, and seized the weapons in the hands of the enemy, nay, the hands too which held them. Together headlong tumbled the hale and the maimed, such as were half dead with such as were just dying, and together perished under various forms: So that here in all its ghastly views, the horrors of death were displayed.
By the seventh Legion and the third, the fiercest conflict was maintained. The General too, Antonius, with a select detachment of Auxiliaries, exerted himself in the same quarter. When the party of Vitellius were no longer able to sustain the shock of men all obstinately combined to succeed or die, and as their discharges from above were all dissipated by the shell of shields below; they at last hurled down upon the assailants the missive engine itself, huge and ponderous as it was. As this failed not to crush and overwhelm those upon whom it fell, so in its own overthrow it involved that of the pinnacles and ridge of the ramparts. At the same instant the tower adjoining yielded to the continual vollies of stones, and fell. Whilst here the seventh Legion, formed into a band sharp in front, strove to enter, the third with their swords and axes broke the gate. That Caius Volusius, a soldier of the third Legion, was the first who forced an entrance, is apparent from the concurrence of all historians. He having mounted the rampart, pushed down all who resisted, and by his hand and his voice manifesting himself to his fellows, cried aloud that the camp was taken. The rest then burst in: for Vitellius his men, now reduced to utter dismay, were already leaping with great hurry from the battlements. With the bodies of the slain was filled the whole space between the camp and Cremona.
Here again was presented a new scene of difficulties and fatigues, the walls of the City mighty and high, strong towers of stone, the gate secured with vast bars of iron, the soldiers already brandishing their instruments of destruction, the inhabitants numerous and devoted to the party of Vitellius, in the town a great part of Italy assembled at the Fair now holden there upon stated days: An incident which to those who defended it yielded matter of succour, because of the multitude; and, to those who attacked it, matter of stimulation, because of the prey. Antonius ordered fire to be immediately set to all the most sumptuous and beautiful buildings in the neighbourhood of the City; if peradventure the people of Cremona might, by seeing their possessions destroyed, be induced to change their allegiance. Into such houses as stood near the walls and in height exceeded the battlements, he conveyed all his bravest men, enow to fill the upper stories; from whence with rafters, tiles and flaming torches, they drove away all who made opposition.
Already the Legions had compacted and formed themselves into a shell, whilst others were now pouring volleys of stones and darts, when the bravery of the Vitellian bands began by little and little to droop. Each, in proportion as he excelled in rank, was forward to yield to fortune: They feared that, were Cremona too once stormed, there would be no longer room for pardon left, and all the fury of the conquerors would recoil, not upon the rabble of soldiers, bare and indigent, but upon the Tribunes and Centurions, men whose blood promised booty. The common men, who beyond the present think not, and from the lowness of their lot derive the greater safety, persisted in their opposition. They roved through the streets, or lay retired in the houses, and sought not peace even at a time when they had dropped all efforts of war. The chief officers abolished the name and images of Vitellius: From Cæcina too they removed his bonds (for even then he was under them) and besought him to plead in their behalf for mercy. As he denied their suit and swelled with haughtiness and scorn, they persevered to importune him with many tears: The last instance surely, and the highest of affliction and abasement, when so many brave men were reduced to supplicate the succour of a traitor. Next they hung from the walls the sacred hoods and veils from the temples; and, when Antonius had ordered all violence to be stayed, they bore forth their Eagles and Banners. After followed the sorrowful host without their arms, and with their eyes fastened to the ground. Around them gathered the conquerors, and at first insulted them with revileings, nay, were near chastising them with blows: Yet, as it was perceived how tamely the vanquished presented their persons and faces to all indignities, how they had relinquished all pride and fierceness, and bore with signal patience all their calamities, it began to be remembered, that these were the same men, who having gained the late victory at Bedriacum, had tempered their success with lenity. But as soon as Cæcina approached, arrayed and attended with Lictors and the Robe of State, and passed in the pomp of Consul through a lane purposely made in the throng, rage seized the conquering host. They bitterly upbraided him for his pride, and for his cruelty; nay, such is the abhorrence naturally annexed to deeds of villainy, that they even upbraided him for his revolt. Antonius checked their violence, and furnishing him with a guard, sent him away towards Vespasian.
The populace of Cremona, the while, were sorely oppressed among such a multitude of armed men. They were in truth threatened with a present massacre, till, by the intreaties of the Leaders, the raging soldiers became asswaged. Antonius moreover calling an assembly, made a speech, full of high applauses upon the conquerors, full of gentleness towards the vanquished. To Cremona his expressions boded neither mercy nor wrath. The army besides their inherent lust of plunder, were stimulated by an old rancour to seek the overthrow of that Colony. The inhabitants were believed, even in the war against Otho, to have supported the cause of Vitellius: Soon after too, when the thirteenth Legion had been left to rear an Amphitheatre there, as the lower Citizens every where have spirits pert and scornful, they of Cremona had with biting and petulant jests constantly provoked and derided the men. To heighten this ill humour and despight there concurred the late combat of Gladiators presented there by Cæcina, and that the same place had been now twice the seat of the war, that it had furnished the army of Vitellius with provisions, that even some of the women were slain in the fight, carried thither by their passionate zeal for the cause. Moreover by means of the Fair, the City, though in itself very rich, was filled with a display of wealth still more abundant. The other Leaders were all eclipsed by Antonius. Upon him his signal fortune and fame drew all eyes. He, to wash himself from the stains of blood, had present recourse to a bath, where a word which he happened to drop, was quickly remarked and divulged. As he complained of the imperfect warmth, he added, that “it would suddenly prove abundantly hot:” A saying which, though pleasantly uttered to his slaves, turned upon him the whole odium and indignation of the Public, as if by this he had given the watch-word for setting fire to Cremona, which was already in a blaze.
Into it there had rushed forty-thousand men, all in their arms; of the base retainers to the camp, still a greater number, and more abandoned to feats of licentiousness and barbarity. No security accrued from the age of persons, none from dignity of place, and neither proved a restraint from joining acts of constupration to those of murder, and acts of murder to those of constupration. Men stooping under a load of years, and matrons past their age, as they would yield no price, were dragged along in mockery and mirth. When in their way there fell any virgin grown, or lovely boy; after all the limbs of the tender prey were rent asunder by the struggles and competition of these sons of cruelty; then, in the rage of disappointment, with their bloody hands they butchered each other. Whilst from the several Temples they were carrying loads of treasure, or the sacred gifts and ornaments of massy gold, every one under a burden of his own, they were themselves spoiled and slaughtered by others who were stronger. Some despising the booty which was present and obvious, by merciless tortures and stripes forced the proprietors to search out whatever they had concealed, to dig up whatever they had buried. In their hands they bore flaming torches: These they threw, as notable sport, into empty houses, such as they had just stripped, and into Temples which they had first made desolate. And, as in an army different in language and customs, an army variously composed, of Roman Citizens, of confederates, and of strangers; various too and different were their passions and pursuits; and to every one some or other act of violence seemed right; nor was any act whatsoever forborn as unjust. During four whole days did Cremona bear depredations and the flames. When under the fury of the fire all things, whether sacred or profane, had subsided, the Temple of Mephitis, standing without the walls, remained intire, whether, by its situation, not exposed, or preserved by the interposition of the Goddess.
Such was the end of Cremona, two hundred and eighty-six years after its rise. It was founded under the Consulship of Tiberius Sempronius and Publius Cornelius, when Hannibal was ready to fall into Italy, as a barrier against the Gauls on the other side the Po, or any other power meditating an irruption from beyond the Alps. Thus it grew and flourished in number of people, convenience of rivers, richness of territory, and affinities with other nations of Italy; a Colony in all our foreign wars never hurt, but in our civil dissentions signally unhappy. Antonius, struck with shame for the barbarity committed, which upon him was continually drawing fresh abhorrence, issued a public order, “That no one should presume to hold captive any citizen of Cremona.” Vain too and unprofitable to the soldiers had such prey been rendered by the unanimous combination of Italy, to refuse the purchase of such for their slaves. Thus they who had them began to murder them. When this inhumanity became known, their kindred and relations made haste to redeem them. Shortly after the remainder of the people returned to Cremona. The places of public resort, and the Temples were restored by the liberality and contribution of the Colony. They had moreover, to encourage them, special countenance and exhortation from Vespasian.
Now as through putrefaction and carcasses the ground was polluted and noisome, the vanquishers could not long lodge upon the ruins in which the city was buried. They therefore retired three miles from thence, and finding the soldiers of Vitellius scattered and dismayed, replaced them again, each under his former banner. Over Illyricum too they dispersed the conquered Legions; lest, as the civil War still subsisted, they might form dangerous designs. They thereafter sent messengers into Britain and into both Spains, there to blazon their victory; as into Gaul they also dispatched Julius Calenus a Tribune, and into Germany Alpinus Montanus Commander of a Cohort, two officers chosen for ostentation and parade, as the latter was of Treves, the former an Eduan, both partizans of Vitellius. At the same time, guards were posted upon the passes of the Alps from a jealousy entertained of Germany, as if for the succour of Vitellius that country were arming.
Now Vitellius, when Cæcina was departed, having in a few days after caused Fabius Valens to take the field, abandoning the functions of an Emperor, smothered all his cares in voluptuousness and excess, made no warlike preparations, by no military exercises preserved the vigour of the soldiers, by no pathetic harangues inspired them with confidence and zeal, shewed himself not in public, nor courted the affection of the people, but buried in the bowers and alleys of his gardens, had in oblivion equally drowned all thoughts of things past, present, and future; like certain beasts so listless and heavy, that if you throw them but provender, lye still for ever, resigned to stupidity and slumbering. Under this course of sloth and gluttony, in the grove at Aricinum, he was alarmed with tidings of the desertion of Lucilius Bassus, and the defection of the Fleet at Ravenna. Soon after came another melancholy account, yet blended with joy, that Cæcina had revolted, but by the army was cast into bonds. In his spirit undiscerning and stupid, joy overcame anxiety. Back he returned to Rome with mighty alacrity and exultation, and in a full assembly accumulated many praises upon the duty and devotion of the soldiers. Upon Publius Sabinus, Captain of the Prætorian Guards, because of his intimacy with Cæcina, he ordered chains to be put, and in his place substituted Alphenus Varus.
He presently after met the Senate, and to them addressed himself in a speech purposely framed, with strains very high and boasting. To these the Senators replied in many flights of elaborate flattery. The first who proposed judgment to pass against Cæcina, a judgment deadly and terrible, was Lucius Vitellius. Immediately all the rest, in a stile of indignation well studied, declared their abhorrence, “That he who was Consul should thus betray the Commonweal, he who was General, his Emperor; he, upon whom had been poured riches so vast, public honours so many, betray his friend and benefactor.” Thus they appeared to complain in behalf of Vitellius, but in reality uttered their own just grief and resentment. In all their speeches not a man dropped the least invective against the opposite Leaders. They only blamed “the mistake and indiscretion of the armies,” and with great circumspection avoided all mention of Vespasian. One too was found who by servile court obtained the Consulship for one day, (as so much remained of Cæcina’s term) with infinite derision upon him who bestowed, as well as upon him who accepted. Upon the last day of October, Roscius Regulus began this his Magistracy, and with the day his Magistracy ended. It was by wise men observed, that never till then had one Consul been substituted to another, till the office were first abrogated, or a law solemnly published. For there had been before a Consul for one day, Caninius Rebilus, during the Dictatorship of Julius Cæsar, at a juncture when offices were shortened to gratify such as had merited in the civil War.
During these days was publicly known the death of Junius Blæsus, and employed the tongues of all men. Concerning it I have learnt the following account. Vitellius, whilst he laboured under a grievous malady in the gardens of Servilius, perceived, during the night, a tower in the neighbourhood illuminated with a multitude of lights. As he expressed curiosity to know the occasion, he was informed, “That Cæcina Tuscus celebratee at his house a great banquet for many guests, but the foremost in dignity was Junius Blæsus.” In recounting particulars, terrible aggravations were made and every thing misrepresented, “What pompous preparations and parade, to what flights of gayity and mad revellings they had let loose their minds.” Nor were there wanting some to arraign Tuscus himself and others: But they charged Blæsus as more criminal than all, “That whilst the Emperor languished under sickness, he thus kept days of festivity and rejoicing.” When to such as eagerly watch the passions and disgusts of Princes, it appeared manifest that the Emperor was exasperated, and that the doom of Blæsus might be accomplished, upon Lucius Vitellius was presently devolved the task of maintaining the accusation. He, from a spirit of malignity and envy, bearing special enmity to Blæsus, for that in a reputation glorious and popular, he so far surpassed himself, contaminated with every sort of infamy, went directly and opening the Emperor’s chamber, catched in his arms the Emperor’s son, and before him fell upon his knees. To the other, who inquired into the cause of such his confusion, he answered, “That from no dread of his own, from no anxiety for himself, he came thus to pour out his prayers and tears: No; it was for his brother, it was for the children of his brother, that these prayers were uttered and these tears flowed. In vain was Vespasian feared, he whom so many German Legions, whom so many Provinces all faithful and brave, whom finally tracks so immense of land and sea, concurred to repell and confine to regions far remote. It behoved him rather to guard against an enemy within the walls of Rome, nay, an enemy in his own bosom; one who for his ancestors boasted the Junian House, and that of Mark Anthony; one sprung from the race of the Cæsars, and officiously presenting himself to the soldiers, to win their affections by his complaisance, to raise their admiration of his magnificence. Upon this object centered the minds of all men, whilst Vitellius, regardless of friends and enemies, cherished his supplanter, who from amidst the frolicks and wantonness of banqueting, beheld the pains and agonies of the Prince. Upon the Emperor it was incumbent for this night’s insolent and ill timed mirth, to repay him with a night doleful and deadly; whence he might be convinced that Vitellius still lived, that he still reigned, and, should fate happen to remove him, had a son to succeed him.”
Whilst between the iniquity proposed and fear for himself, Vitellius wavered under perplexity and dismay, lest by deferring the doom of Blæsus he should hasten his own, and from openly ordering the execution much public hate and horror might ensue, he sound it the best expedient to dispatch him by poison. To the guilt of this black exploit he added credit and proof, by visiting Blæsus in his last moments, with glaring marks of joy. He was also heard to drop an expression full of barbarity, by declaring (for I shall repeat the very words) “That he had glutted his eyes by beholding the death of his enemy.” In Blæsus, besides the signal splendor of his race, and the elegance of his life and accomplishments, there had been found faith and allegiance not to be changed. He had been before courted by Cæcina and other Grandees of the party, to join with them against Vitellius, whom even then they were casting off whilst his cause yet prospered without check; but, with constancy unshaken, he rejected their suit, and ever shewed himself a man void of all stain, free from all faction, fond of no sudden elevation whatsoever, and so much less fond of sovereignty, that he narrowly missed being deemed worthy of it.
Fabius Valens, in the mean time, at the head of a huge and effeminate host of eunuchs and harlots, advancing with a pace too slack and indolent for one who proceeded to war, received tidings sent express, that Lucilius Bassus had betrayed to the enemy the Fleet at Ravenna: and, had he quickened his march, he might have prevented the defection of Cæcina, then halting, or at least have overtaken the Legions ere the battle had been risqued. Nor were there wanting some to advise him, “That with a few faithful attendants, chuseing private ways, and avoiding Ravenna, he should travel directly to Hostilia or Cremona.” To others it seemed more eligible, “to send to Rome for the Prætorian Guards, and then with a powerful band force their way.” He himself, yielding to fruitless procrastinations, wasted, in consulting, the opportunities for acting. Anon, slighting both these counsels, and shewing neither sufficient resolution nor sufficient foresight, he chose a part which in desperate exigencies is ever the worst, by following a middle course: He wrote to Vitellius, and desired succours.
From Vitellius came three Cohorts with the Squadron of horse from Britain; a number ill concerted, too great to be led by stealth, not great enough to break through the enemy. Valens, even under all the distress and peril that encompassed him, forbore not to earn fresh infamy, but was branded for rioting in wicked and impure pleasures, and for defiling the houses of his several hosts with feats of adultery and constupration. He was invested with power, furnished with treasure, and now exerting the last efforts of debauchery during the overthrow of his fortune. At last, upon the coming of the foot and horse, appeared the unhappy absurdity of the measures taken; since a band so small, however faithful in their adherence they had been, were neither able to march through an enemy’s country, nor had brought with them perfect steadiness and fidelity. They were, however, checked by shame, and by reverence for the presence of their General; restraints which were not likely to last amongst men thirsting after dangers, hardened against all sense of reproach and dishonour. Moved with this apprehension, and retaining with himself a few, such as had not changed their affections upon the change of fortune, he sent forward the Cohorts to Ariminum: The Cavalry he ordered to guard their rear. He himself turning aside, bent his course to Umbria, and from thence to Etruria. Having here learnt the issue of the battle at Cremona, he conceived a design no-wise dastardly, which, had it been accomplished, would have produced very terrible events: He proposed to embark for Narbon Gaul, and landing upon any part of that coast, to rouse all the Provinces of Gaul, and all the Roman forces there, as also the several nations of Germany, and thence a new war.
Against the garrison of Ariminum, dismayed upon the departure of Valens, Cornelius Fuscus advanced with an army, and sending small gallies round the neighbouring shore, beset them by land and sea. He also possessed himself of the plains of Umbria, and of the territories of Picenum all along the Adriatic Gulph. Thus between Vespasian and Vitellius all Italy was shared, and the ridges of the Apennine were the common boundary. Fabius Valens having embarked in the Port of Pisa, was by a contrary wind, or a calm, forced to land at Monaco. Not far from thence abode Marius Maturus, Procurator of the Maritime Alps, a faithful adherent to Vitellius, one who, though all the country round espoused the opposite party, had never swerved from his allegiance. From him Valens found a kind reception, but was deterred by him from venturing rashly into Narbon Gaul. His followers at the same time began to warp, their faith yielding to the force of fear. For into the oath to Vespasian, Valerius Paulinus the Procurator had drawn all the States round about; an Officer of known bravery, and Vespasian’s friend before his elevation. In the Colony of Forojulium too, as a city which commanded all access from the sea, he held a garrison, consisting of men discharged by Vitellius, now again all invited to take arms, and all frankly resuming them. So much the greater also was his sway, for that Forojulium was his native city; and amongst the Prætorians he possessed much personal reverence, as having been once their Tribune. Moreover the inhabitants, through partiality to their fellow-citizen, and in prospect of aggrandizing themselves, exerted all their might to support the party. When all these terrible dispositions with such care settled, and by the voice of rumour amply heightened, were currently related amongst the adherents of Vitellius, already anxious and perplexed, Fabius Valens returned directly to his vessels with four of the Emperor’s body-guard, three friends, and as many Centurions. To Maturus and the rest, if they listed to stay, and swear to Vespasian, full liberty was left. For what remains; to Valens the sea doubtless yielded greater security than any abode in cities or upon the shore; but, whilst he remained under painful doubt about his future fortune, and rather certain what to avoid than upon what to rely, he was by the violence of contrary winds driven upon the Stechades, Islands near Marseilles. There some gallies, purposely sent by Paulinus, took him prisoner.
When Valens was taken, all places followed the fortune of the conqueror; as in Spain the example began from the first Legion named Adjutrix, which, in tenderness to the memory of Otho, bearing despight to Vitellius, drew at this time along with it the tenth also and the sixth. Nor, in the Provinces of Gaul, was there any hesitation. And, as in Britain signal was the affection found for Vespasian, who had, in the reign of Claudius, commanded the second Legion there, and acquitted himself with great glory, and martial prowess; that country too acceded to his party; yet not without struggle and opposition from the other Legions, in which many Centurions and many soldiers had been promoted by Vitellius, and were brought with regret to change a prince whom they had already experienced.
From this animosity and contest in the army, and from the rumours of our intestine war, continually flying, the Britons resumed their ancient defiance and hostilities, led by the sway of Venusius, who, besides his inherent ferocity, and settled hate to the Roman name, was inflamed by personal enmity and rage towards Queen Cartismandua. This Lady ruled over the Brigantes, mighty in the lustre of her race. Her puissance too had been largely augmented, since her taking of King Caractacus, whom by guile she had seized, and delivering him to the Romans had thence the merit of having embellished the triumph of the Emperor Claudius. Hence her great opulence, and hence the wild riot following prosperity. Rejecting Venusius, who was her husband, she espoused Vellocatus his armour-bearer, and upon him with her person conferred her crown. By this act of reproach she wrought the present dissolution of her house. With her husband remained the zeal and inclinations of the State; for the adulterer was engaged the lewdness of the Queen, and all her cruelty exerted. Venusius having called in succours, and gained the Brigantes themselves to revolt, reduced Cartismandua to extreme peril and distress. From the Romans she then implored a reinforcement; and indeed our Cohorts and Squadrons of horse, after several encounters with variable success, rescued the Queen herself from impending peril. The Kingdom continued to Venusius, and upon us the war.
During the same conjuncture, commotions prevailed in Germany, as well through the spiritless conduct of our Generals, as through the turbulent behaviour of the Legions. Insomuch that by assaults from foreign nations, and by the perfidiousness and defection of nations allied, the Roman interest there had well nigh been abolished. I shall hereafter recount the story of this war, with its causes and events; for it continued long. The people of Dacia too were up in arms, a nation never well affected, and then by no awe restrained, since the army was withdrawn out of Mœsia. The first movements of affairs they had watched with attention, but in quiet: Anon, when they had learnt that all Italy was in a blaze of war, and on both sides hostile minds and hostile doings, they stormed the winter lodgments of the auxiliary Cohorts and Cavalry, and became masters of both banks of the Danube. They were already proceeding to demolish the entrenchments of the Legions, had not Mucianus sent the sixth Legion to oppose them: For he was apprized of the victory at Cremona, and apprehended what a terrible storm of foreign violence must from each quarter ensue, should the Dacians and Germans once break in through different limits. Present and assisting, as often else, so then surely was the good fortune of the Roman People, which thither just at that instant drew Mucianus, and the forces of the East; besides that, ere he came, we had finished the contest at Cremona. Fonteius Agrippa, just arrived from Asia, where he had governed for a year with Proconsular authority, was appointed Governor of Mœsia, with a supply of forces taken out of the late army of Vitellius; since, to disperse them through the Provinces, and hold them entangled in a war against foreigners, was a measure concerted to preserve domestic peace.
Nor in other nations was there composure found. Throughout Pontus, one who was a barbarian and a slave, and once Commander of the navy royal there, had with notable suddenness excited an uproar of arms. It was Anicetus, Freedman to King Polemon, and under him in times past mighty in power, now full of bitterness and regret, ever since the Kingdom had been changed into a Roman Province. Arraying therefore, in the name of Vitellius, the several nations that dwell in Pontus, and, with the prospect of spoil, seducing all such as were extremely indigent, he saw himself Leader of no inconsiderable band, and with great rapidity assailed and entered Trapesund, a City of Asia exceeding ancient, founded by the Grecians upon the utmost confines of Pontus. There a Cohort was slaughtered, the same formerly retained in the service of the King: They had thereafter been presented with the privilege of Roman Citizens, and thence in their arms and banners adhered to the usage of the Romans, yet still followed the idle life and licentious spirit of Greeks. He likewise burned the Fleet, and with scorn and insults scoured the sea then unguarded, as from thence Mucianus had called the choice Gallies and all the Marines to Byzantium. Nay, the neighbouring Barbarians, casting off all reverence and fear, roved about for spoil in vessels hastily built, such as they call sheds, shallow in the sides, wide at bottom, and framed without bandage of iron or brass. When the sea rages, in proportion to the swelling of the waves they heighten the shell of their boats with additional planks, till by degrees they close above like a roof. Thus they roll amongst the surges, with both ends sharp, and formed to row indifferently hither or thither, with ease and safety.
This affair merited the attention of Vespasian, who, to end it, chose out a body of Vexillaries from the Legions, and for their Leader, Verdius Geminus, an Officer distinguished in war. He, assailing the enemy whilst they were disconcerted, and roaming asunder in pursuit of prey, drove them into their vessels; then in some gallies made with dispatch, chased Anicetus into the mouth of the river Chobus; where he relied for safety upon the protection of Sedochus King of the Lazians, an ally whom he had purchased by money and presents. And at first the King, in defence of his supplicant, betook himself to menaces and arms; but, as soon as a recompence for his treachery was proposed, and a war threatened, if he refused, his fidelity vanished like that of other Barbarians: He struck a bargain for the life of Anicetus, and surrendered all the fugitives. Thus ended that servile war. Whilst Vespasian was yet rejoicing over this victory, to see that upon all his measures there attended a torrent of success surpassing his own wishes, tidings of the battle at Cremona overtook him in Egypt. Hence he speeded the faster to Alexandria, that, since the army of Vitellius was utterly broken, he might now also distress Rome itself by famine, a City ever needing supplies from abroad. For he was moreover preparing to invade Africa by land and sea, a country situated upon the same coast, and by intercepting the sources of bread, to bring upon the enemy the calamity of hunger, and with it that of dissension.
Whilst by such changes as these over the face of the whole earth, the fortune of the Empire was passing from one head to another, Antonius Primus proceeded by no means in the same measure of innocence after his success at Cremona; as he judged that what war could do he had amply done, and whatever was to follow would be easily accomplished; or whether it were that, in a spirit like his, a flow of felicity only laid open the avarice, pride, and other vices hitherto smothered and lurking in it. He oppressed Italy as a country by conquest doomed to spoil; he soothed and courted the Legions as his own; in all his sayings, in all his doings, he sought to fortify himself, sought to lay a mighty foundation of power; and that he might inure the soldiers to wantonness, and wild freedom, he frankly committed to the discretion of the Legions the choice of Centurions in the room of such as were slain. By these popular suffrages, every the most factious and turbulent spirit came to be chosen; nor were the soldiers any longer under the controulment of their Leaders, but the Leaders forced headlong by the fury of the soldiers: Proceedings apparently seditious, and contrived to debauch the army. Anon he betook himself to feats of rapine, without the least awe of Mucianus who was approaching; a neglect of more terrible consequence than if he had contemned Vespasian in person.
Now, as winter advanced, and the plains were flooded by the overflowing of the Po, the army marched forward, lightly equipped, free from incumbrance and baggage. At Verona were left the Banners and Eagles of the victorious Legions, with all that were aged, and all that were maimed, as also many who were hale and unhurt. As the rage of the war was already extinguished, it seemed sufficient to lead on the auxiliary Cohorts and Cavalry, with a chosen band from the Legions. The eleventh Legion joined the host; a Legion which at first had halted, but now, seeing the issue prosperous, grieved that in it they had had no share. There accompanied these, six thousand Dalmatians lately levied. Of all these additional forces Poppæus Silvanus, a man of Consular quality, was Leader; but in Annius Bassus, Commander of that Legion, the whole controul and management lay. He, under the guise of submitting and obeying, ruled Silvanus, as one of himself impotent in war, and ever wasting in talk the seasons of action: nor did Annius fail to assist at whatever required dispatch, with constant industry void of ostentation. To these forces were added all the select Marines from Ravenna, men who made suit to be employed in the Legions. Their places in the fleet were supplied by the Dalmatians. The army and its Leaders halted at the Temple of Fortune, under doubt and hesitation about the pursuit of their main design; for they had heard that the Prætorian Cohorts were led out of Rome. They judged too that upon the Apennine they should find guards posted to oppose their passage. Besides, they were terrified with want, in a country utterly desolated by war, terrified with the seditious clamours of the soldiers now importunate for the donative which they call Clavarium. In truth neither of money nor of grain had they made any provision. What disconcerted them, and prevented it, was the temper of the soldiers, so rapacious and eager, since what they should have received as allowance, they ravished away and wasted as prey.
By writers greatly celebrated I find it recorded, that amongst the conquering army such barbarous indifference was found to all feats whatsoever, natural or against nature, that a common soldier in the cavalry having averred, that in the late combat he had killed his brother, demanded a recompence from the Commanders for the exploit. Nor were they at liberty, either by the laws of humanity, to distinguish such murder with an honourable reward, or, by the policy of the war to punish it. They postponed the man, as if to his service and merit higher obligations were due than could presently be discharged. Any further account about it I find not in the historians. Yet in our civil wars past there happened the like unnatural stroke; for, in the conflict against Cinna at Janiculum, a soldier of Pompey’s slew his brother, and anon himself, upon discovering his sad mishap, as the story is related by Sisenna. So much more prompt in the days of our ancestors, as was glory to crown acts of virtue, so was remorse to follow evil deeds. Such incidents as these, revived from ancient story, it will not prove foreign to recount, whenever the passage or place requires the same, either as examples of worthy actions, or solacements for those which are wicked.
By Antonius, and the other Leaders of the party, it was after deliberation agreed, to send forward the horse, in order to make special search through all Umbria for a tolerable passage over the ridges of the Apennine, to bring up the Banners and Eagles, and all the soldiers left at Verona, and by sea and the Po to have abundant provisions brought. Some amongst the Leaders there were, who studied to frame obstacles and delays: For Antonius was already grown too mighty and assuming, and from Mucianus they hoped a treatment more equal and friendly. The truth is, Mucianus fretted at so quick a victory, and judged that were he not present at the entry into Rome, he should be deprived of all share in the war, and in the glory of the war. Hence to Primus and Varus he sent frequent letters, full of doublings and uncertainty, now urging them to pursue their designs with vigour, anon recommending the advantages of procrastination and coolness, in a style so contrived, that conformably to the issue, whatever it were, he might easily disown all miscarriages, or easily challenge all success. With much more openness did he transmit his meaning and aims to Plotius Griphus, one lately dignified by Vespasian with the rank of Senator, and Commander of a Legion, and to other officers such as he trusted. They too all returned answers such as censured the overhasty motions of Primus and Varus, and such as complimented Mucianus, who, by conveying these letters to Vespasian, had effectually caused all the proceedings and counsels of Antonius to be prized far beneath his hopes. This was what Antonius could brook with no patience, and upon Mucianus he cast all the blame, as one by whose calumnies all his own exploits and perils were rendered of no estimation. Nor spared he bitter words, in his speech ever violent, and a stranger to submission. To Vespasian he wrote letters, in strains more pompous and assuming than towards an Emperor are allowed, and not without severe reproaches tacitly aimed at Mucianus. He said, “It was he himself who had urged the Pannonian Legions to action and arms; by his instigation and address the Leaders in Mœsia had been influenced and roused; by his vigour and perseverance the mighty Alps had been attempted and passed, Italy possessed, all succours from Rhætia and Germany precluded. That the Legions of Vitellius, when found to be at variance and even disjoined, had been broken by a furious onset from the horse, then utterly discomfited by the infantry continuing the conflict and slaughter for a whole day and night, was an action of consummate lustre, and by himself accomplished. To the fortune of war only must be ascribed the fall of Cremona: in truth, with public damage much greater, nay, to the destruction of many noble Cities, had our civil dissensions of old been carried on. He was not one who fought for his Emperor with letters and messengers, but for him exposed his person, and wielded his arms. Yet he meant not to lessen the glory of such as had attended the while to the establishment of Asia. The tranquillity of Mœsia had been their study; it had been his to preserve and secure Italy. By his persuasions and authority had the Provinces of Gaul and Spain, the most powerful quarters of the Roman world, been brought to espouse the cause of Vespasian. But vainly bestowed had been all his efforts and fatigues, if the recompences of so many perils were to be reaped by such only as had risqued none.” Neither did these things escape the knowledge of Mucianus. Hence between them ensued deadly enmities, in the exercise of which Antonius acted with an openness unguarded, Mucianus with closeness and craft, and thence with rancour more implacable.
For Vitellius; as, after the sore reverse of his fortune at Cremona, he smothered the news of the calamity, by such stupid dissimulation he postponed not his distresses themselves, but the remedies of his distresses. For, had he declared the disaster, and had recourse to advice, a resource would have been found still remaining of hopes and of forces. Whilst, on the contrary, he feigned that all his proceedings prospered, he by such false representations left his condition desperate. About his own person was observed a wonderful silence concerning the war; through the City all discourses about it were prohibited, and for this very cause the discourses grew more common. Nay, such as, had they been left to their liberty, would have recounted events truly, finding themselves restrained, published them now with tragical aggravations. Nor were the Leaders of the enemy’s host wanting to blazon the fame of their victory: With this view whatever spies of Vitellius they seized they carried all over the camp, that they might behold the mighty force of the conquering army, and then sent them back to Rome. All these Vitellius, when he had secretly examined them, caused to be murdered. Signal was the firmness of spirit at this time manifested by Julius Agrestis the Centurion; who, after many conferences with Vitellius, in which he had in vain laboured to awaken him to magnanimity and manhood at last prevailed with him, that he himself might be sent to survey the forces of the foe, and to learn the late transactions at Cremona. Neither attempted he to assume the lurking behaviour of a spy, and escape the notice of Antonius, but declaring to him the instructions from the Emperor and his own design, demanded to view the whole in person. With him certain persons were readily sent, who shewed him all the scene of the fight, the desolation and remains of Cremona, and the Legions taken prisoners. Agrestis returned to Vitellius, and finding him to reject as so many falsifications all the accounts which he brought, nay, hearing himself accused of corruption and infidelity; “Since then, said he, some remarkable confirmation is necessary, and since neither my life nor my death can henceforth avail thee, I will furnish thee with an evidence which thou mayst credit.” Having so said, he left his presence, and with a voluntary death confirmed to be true what he had declared. Some authors relate that by orders from Vitellius he was murdered, but of his faith and fortitude give the same testimony.
Vitellius, as it were, roused out of a deep sleep, ordered Julius Priscus and Alphenus Varus, with fourteen Prætorian Cohorts and all the several Squadrons of horse to beset the passes of the Apennine. After them marched a Legion drawn from the Marines. So many thousand forces, composed of select men and select horses, had a different General commanded them, were abundantly able to have made even an offensive war. The other companies of the guards he committed to Lucius Vitellius his brother, for the defence of the City. For himself; without departing in the least from his wonted course of debauchery, and full of impatience because full of distrust, he accelerated the election of Magistrates, and then settled a succession of Consuls for many years. Our confederates he complimented with new leagues and concessions, foreigners with the privileges of Latium. Some nations he discharged from all tribute, upon others conferred fresh advantages and immunities; and in sum, without all regard to futurity, rent and exhausted the Empire. But the common herd were struck with these his acts of benevolence, so conspicuous and mighty: Such as were extremely foolish procured them at a price: With men of sense they passed for void, like all bounties which can neither be granted nor accepted without impairing the Public. At length moved by the incessant suit of the army, which now lay at Mevania, and accompanied by a mighty band of Senators, several following to make their court, many more to comply with his desire and fears, he arrived in the camp, in himself undetermined, and open to any traiterous counsel.
Whilst he was discoursing to an assembly of the soldiers, over his head there flew (a thing prodigious to be told) a flock of ravenous birds, so numerous, that, like a black cloud, they darkened the day. With this concurred an omen of direful portent; a bull escaped from the Altar, and overturning all the equipage of the Sacrifice, was at last slain at a distance from thence, not in the place where it is customary to fell the Victims. But the chief prodigy was, Vitellius himself, an Imperial Commander unacquainted with warfare, a head void of counsel and foresight. To others he was continually applying for information, how to put the army in array, what foresight was required in gaining intelligence, and by what measures was the war to be pushed or prolonged? Nay, upon whatever tidings arrived, he was sure to betray much dread and trembling, even in his countenance and gait: Then he never failed to be drunk. In the end, surfeited with the camp, and learning the revolt of the Fleet at Misenum, he returned to Rome, still most terrified with the stroke that fell latest, and not attending to the ultimate danger and contest. For when an occasion was presented so open and inviting for passing the Apennine with an army in prime vigour, and falling upon an enemy pinched with want and the rigour of winter, he, by dispersing his forces, resigned to certain slaughter and captivity a body of men so undaunted, such as, rather than abandon him, were determined to perish for him: A proceeding directly against the judgment of all the ablest Centurions, who, had their advice been required, would have advised what was righteous and true. Far from Vitellius his minions kept such men, and so disposed and trained were the Emperor’s ears, that whatever was wholsom he found to be harsh, nor would admit other counsels than such as proved pleasing and pernicious.
The Fleet at Misenum Claudius Faventinus drew to revolt, by forging letters from Vespasian, and in his name tempting them with offers of reward for this their disloyalty. Of such prevalence during civil dissentions is any impudent attempt even of individuals; since this Faventinus was no other than a Centurion who had been by Galba degraded with marks of ignominy. Over the Fleet there commanded Claudius Apollinaris, who proved neither firm to his faith, nor resolute in his infidelity: So that Apinius Tiro, once Prætor, and then accidentally at Minturnæ, presented himself as a Leader to the revolters. By these the neighbouring Colonies and municipal Cities were vehemently pressed to concur; and, as the people of Puteoli were especially zealous for Vespasian, whereas they of Capua adhered faithfully to Vitellius, with the rage of the civil War they blended the ancient competition of jealous and angry neighbours. To soften and reclaim the minds of the soldiers Vitellius made choice of Julianus, who had lately ruled the fleet at Misenum with a very gentle hand: For succours he had allotted him one of the City Cohorts and the band of Gladiators which were already under his authority. When this body and that of the revolters came to encamp near each other, Julianus without pausing long, went over to the party of Vespasian, and together they mastered Tarracina, a City deriving its security rather from the situation and walls, than from the spirit and steadiness of the inhabitants.
When to Vitellius these transactions were known, he caused part of his forces to remain at Narnia under the Captains of the Prætorian Guards, and sent his brother Lucius with six Cohorts and five hundred horse, to make head against the insurrections begun in Campania. He himself, under great anguish of spirit, was yet revived by the testimonies of affection from the soldiers, and by the cries of the populace, requiring to be put under arms; and thus deluded by empty shew, to the impotent crowd, ever dastardly, and in words only daring, he gave the awful names of Legions and Army. in pursuance of the advice urged by his Freedmen (for as to his friends, the higher their rank the more faithless the men) he ordered the people to be assembled by their Tribes, and to all such as gave in their names the oath of fidelity was administered. As the multitude of Volunteers was over-abundant, between the two Consuls he parted the care of continuing the levy. Upon the Senators he laid an injunction to furnish a certain number of slaves, and a certain weight of silver. The Roman Knights proffered their money and their persons: nay, the descendents of Freedmen, of their own frank motion, pressed for leave to contribute the like assistance: Offers which though at first hollow, and inspired only by officious fear, came at last to be sincerely intended, and the effect of pure good-will. In truth the major part were touched with pity, not so much for Vitellius, as for the melancholy fate and situation of the Sovereignty. Yet neither did he himself fail to move commiseration by his sad countenance, his doleful expressions, and many tears, in his promises very liberal, nay, extravagant, suitably to the nature of men under the agonies of fear. Now too he would needs assume the title of Cæsar, a title which till then he had rejected: but at this juncture he was struck with the superstitious efficacy of the name; besides that under the operations of dismay, equal attention is given to the bablings of the crowd as to the counsels of the wise. For the rest; as all measures rising from fits of ardour sudden and unadvised, are in their first motions vehement, but by space and continuance wax faint, the Senators by degrees dropped away, as did also the Roman Knights, at first indeed leisurely and with caution, and where he was not present to see them. Anon they avowed their contempt, and retired without distinction or reserve: So that Vitellius, ashamed of an attempt thus baffled and abortive, remitted all such concessions as he found were not to be granted.
As upon Italy it brought great terror, to see Mevania occupied by an army, and thence a fresh war as it were reviving in full vigour; so doubtless to the interest of Vespasian an increase of public zeal and partiality accrued from the departure of Vitellius, who in it betrayed such huge affright. Already prompt and even elated were the Samnites, and the Pelignians, and the Marsians: Nay, in competition and jealousy towards the people of Campania, who had the merit of an earlier desertion, they were indefatigable in all the toils and exigencies of war; as it is usual in a cause newly espoused to be very officious and forward. But so turbulent and severe was the winter, that, in passing over the Apennine, the army was sorely annoyed; and as they were thus struggling with difficulty out of the deep snows, even when no enemy disturbed their march, it was abundantly manifest what terrible peril they must have undergone, had not Fortune disposed Vitellius to return back, that Fortune from which Vespasian’s Leaders derived assistance and relief, at least as often as from their own dexterity and counsel. In the mountains they were met by Petilius Cerialis, who, under the habit of a poor peasant, and through his skill in the situation, had escaped the guards belonging to Vitellius. With Vespasian, Cerialis was nearly allied, in himself too no mean warriour, and hence taken into equal command with the other Chiefs. That to Flavius Sabinus also and to Domitian there was room to have escaped, many writers agree. In truth several messengers had by various wiles and disguises made shift to reach them from Antonius, and shewed them from what place they might fly, and upon what guard and security depend. Sabinus pleaded his infirmities, unable to bear fatigue, unfit for daring exploits. In Domitian was found no want of spirit or will; but, of the guards placed about him by Vitellius, though they offered themselves for companions of his flight, he entertained apprehensions, lest thence they meant against him some pernicious snare. Moreover Vitellius, himself, in tenderness to his own family and kindred, meditated nothing barbarous against Domitian.
When the Generals were arrived at Carsulæ, there, for repose, they spent a few days, till the Eagles and Banners of the Legions had overtaken them. The place too where they encamped pleased them, affording a prospect extensive and noble, with secure conveyance for all provisions, as behind them lay so many large Cities full of opulence. They had likewise a view to draw the forces of Vitellius, only ten miles distant, into some intercourse, and thence into infidelity and desertion: A project bitterly resented by the soldiers: What they sought was conquest rather than pacification. They were indeed against awaiting the arrival of their own Legions, whom they more apprehended as sharers in the prey, than considered as partakers in the peril. Antonius addressing himself to them for this purpose assembled, informed them, “That Vitellius was still master of forces, such as would faulter, were they let alone to deliberate, but rouse all their vigour if once made desperate. To the direction of Fortune were to be left the first motions of a civil war, but the work of completing the conquest must be conducted by counsel and prudence. Already had the Fleet at Misenum revolted, with all the rich and charming region of Campania; nor of the whole globe remained there more to Vitellius than what lay between Tarracina and Narnia. Abundant glory had been acquired by the battle of Cremona, and by the destruction of that City, abhorrence overmuch. Far be it from them to covet the taking of Rome like enemies, rather than to preserve it like Citizens. Much higher rewards would they reap, and honour in most ample measure, if to the Senate and People of Rome they procured security and protection without the effusion of blood.”
By these and the like reasonings their spirits were calmed, nor was it long ere the Legions arrived. From the fame and dread of the army thus augmented, the Vitellian Cohorts began to fluctuate; since none appeared to encourage them to opposition and war, as did many to desert and surrender: Nay, they were striving to outgo one another in delivering over their several companies of foot and troops of horse, each intending it as a present gratification to the conqueror, and a ground of future favour to himself. From these men it was learnt, that four hundred horse kept garrison at Interamna, a place in the neighbourhood. Thither Varus was forthwith dispatched with a light band: The few who resisted he put to the sword; the major part threw down their arms and craved mercy. Some escaped, and flying quite back to the camp at Narnia, filled it with universal affright, as they magnified above measure the forces and bravery of the enemy, thence to lessen their own infamy in losing their garrison. Neither amongst the forces of Vitellius was there any punishment inflicted for any crime; whilst from the other party sure rewards attended their desertion. Nor henceforth was any other struggle seen save for precedence in perfidiousness and treason, and incessantly were the Tribunes and Centurions flying over to the stronger. For the common soldiers persisted inflexibly in their adherence to Vitellius, till Priscus and Alphenus having abandoned the camp and returned to Vitellius, had left them all free and amply absolved from any stain of infidelity in shifting thenceforth for themselves.
During those days Fabius Valens was slain in prison at Urbin, and to the view of the Vitellian Cohorts his head displayed, to prevent their cherishing any farther hopes: For, they believed he had escaped into Germany, and was there assembling a mighty army of old forces and new. Perceiving that he was slain, they sunk into utter despair. The army of Vespasian also inferred immense effects from the doom of Valens, no less than the end of the war. Valens was born at Anagnia, of an Equestrian house, in his morals a libertine, who by licentious gayeties aimed at the character of condescension and pleasantry, neither wanted he suitable quickness of parts. In the Interludes called Juvenalia exhibited by Nero, he usually acted a Pantomime, a part to which he at first would seem to be forced, but anon, made it his choice, and acquitted himself with more art than modesty and honour. Bearing the command of a Legion in the army of Verginius, he prompted that General to assume the Empire, and then blackened and defamed him as aiming at it. Fonteius Capito he assassinated, having first corrupted his loyalty, or because he found it incorruptible. To Galba he proved a traitor, faithful to Vitellius, and from the prevailing perfidiousness of others his fidelity received its lustre.
The soldiers of Vitellius, now utterly bereft of hope on every side, proceeded to pass over to the party of Vespasian, and in this step too acted with no small ignominy, as, under their banners and ensigns all displayed, they descended into the plain below Narnia, there to surrender. Upon the side of the highway was ranged the army of Vespasian in close files, arrayed as if for battle and just ready to engage. Into their centre they received the Vitellians, and having encompassed them round, Antonius Primus spoke to them in a stile of much meekness and humanity, ordering part of them to remain at Narnia, part at Interamna. With them he also left some of the victorious Legions, such as, if they were peaceable would not annoy them, yet if they proved turbulent were able to master them. During all this time Antonius and Varus neglected not, by repeated messages, to make offers to Vitellius, of safety to his person, of revenues, and of any private retirement in Campania, if, laying arms aside, he would submit himself and his children to Vespasian. Mucianus likewise sent him letters in the same tendency and strain. Nay, in these offers Vitellius for the most part reposed trust and reliance, and was wont to discourse what number of domestics he was to retain, and what pleasant recess near the sea he must chuse. Such absolute stupidity had seized his spirit, that if others would not remember he had been Emperor, he himself was ready to forget, and venture to live a private man.
Now the Grandees of Rome were by secret discourses rousing Flavius Sabinus Governor of the City, “to think of winning a share in victory and in fame. Upon him immediately depended the soldiers of the Cohorts there, nor would those of the night-watch fail to espouse him, their own slaves should form bands and join him, the successful fortune of the party was with him, and all things disposed to serve a conquering cause. Nor ought he thus lazily to leave to Antonius and Varus precedence in glory. Few were the Cohorts remaining with Vitellius, these few by dismal tidings from all quarters quite dismayed. Fleeting and unstable was the spirit of the populace, and from them, if he once presented himself as their head, he would find the same torrent of flattery and zeal turned instantly upon Vespasian. For the person of Vitellius; he was unequal to support even a course of prosperity, and now utterly stunned and heart-broken by a terrible train of calamities. Upon him who made himself master of Rome, whoever he were, would devolve the praise and acknowledgement of having finished the war. In Sabinus it was becoming to secure and reserve the Sovereignty for his brother, in Vespasian to postpone all men to Sabinus.
With no warmth or alacrity were these reasonings received by a man through years disabled in his person and his parts. Some there were who harboured against him private suspicions and censure, as if through malignity and emulation he studied to mar the grandeur of his brother’s fortune. For Flavius Sabinus, besides his seniority, whilst they were both private men greatly surpassed Vespasian in wealth and estimation. He was even believed to have propped his brother’s credit, otherwise sinking, and for the money lent to have received in pledge his house and possessions. Hence though between them a face of unanimity subsisted, dark grudges and heart-burnings were apprehended to remain. The juster construction is, “That the man, naturally merciful and gentle, had in abhorrence all slaughter and the spilling of blood, and therefore frequently conferred with Vitellius about the means of restoring public peace, and laying down arms by mutual concessions and treaty.” Many meetings they had at home; at last in the Temple of Apollo, as fame reported, they ratified the pacification. To their words and mutual declarations they had two witnesses, Cluvius Rufus and Silius Italicus. Their countenances were carefully observed by those at a distance, that of Vitellius unmanly and abject, whilst Sabinus, far from insulting, looked rather like a man filled with compassion.
The truth is, if Vitellius could have brought the minds of his followers to have been as easy in complying as he had been in yielding, the army of Vespasian had entered Rome without blood. But every one of those, in proportion to his fidelity to Vitellius, rejected peace and the terms of peace. They represented, “How insecure, how ignominious they were, and that only upon the wanton humour of the conqueror the faith of performing them rested. Nor would Vespasian manifest such high contempt for Vitellius as to suffer him to live even a private man: Neither indeed would the party vanquished ever bear it. So that from this commiseration of theirs would arise his certain danger. He himself, in truth, was an ancient man, and already satiated with the various courses of fortune, both pleasing and disastrous: but to Germanicus his son, what name and character, what place and situation would remain? At present he had large promises of treasure, of domestics, and of seats upon the delightful coasts and bays of Campania. But from the moment Vespasian had mastered the State, nor he, nor his friends, nor even his armies, would find themselves in perfect security till with the life of the competitor all competition were extinguished. Even Fabius Valens, though their captive, nay, though reserved for use against a day of exigency, proved too alarming and grievous to these men to be any longer borne. Far less did Antonius and Fuscus, far less did the luminary of the party, Mucianus, intend any terms for Vitellius save that of killing him. Nor by Cæsar was the enjoyment of life left to Pompey, nor by Augustus to Anthony: Unless Vespasian peradventure possessed superior greatness of soul, he who was no more than a creature of Vitellius, when Vitellius was Collegue in the Consulship with the Emperor Claudius. A nobler choice Vitellius still had, to be roused even by despair to some attempt daring and brave, such as became the high honours sustained by his father, even that of Censor, and of three Consulships, such as became the lustre of his venerable house, distinguished with so many grand dignities in the State. The soldiers persevered inflexibly in their allegiance; in the people the same zeal still remained. At worst, nothing more tragical could ensue, than what they were already rushing wilfully into. They must die if they fought and were vanquished, they must die if they submitted and surrendered. This only consideration imported them, whether to resign their spirits tamely under scorn and reproach, or bravely, like men worthy to live.”
Deaf and impenetrable to all magnanimous counsels were the ears of Vitellius. His soul was overwhelmed with tenderness and anxiety, lest, by persisting in opposition and arms, he should render the conqueror less relenting towards his wife and children. He had also lately a mother, a lady spent with age, and fortunate enough, by dying opportunely a few days before, to escape beholding the cruel downfall of her house; nor by her son’s advancement to the Empire obtained she aught save sorrow, and an excellent name. On the eighteenth of December having learnt the defection of the Legion and Cohorts which had submitted to the enemy at Narnia, he went forth from the palace, in mourning apparel amidst his domestics all wailing and sad. With them was carried his little son, a helpless infant, in a small litter, as it were in a funeral solemnity accompanying him to his grave. The people attended with loud shouts, very complaisant and very preposterous. The soldiers with dreadful looks lowred in silence.
Nor was any one found now so unthoughtful of the variable lot of all things human, as not to be sensibly affected with this doleful scene; the Emperor of the Romans, lately Lord of human kind, relinquishing the seat of Imperial Fortune, and, through the midst of the people, through the streets of the City, parting from the Empire! no such sight had they ever seen, no such event had they ever heard. By an instant stroke of violence Cæsar the Dictator fell, Caligula by secret combination. Under the shades of night, and in a country place solitary and unknown, the flight of Nero was hid. Galba and Piso perished as it were in battle. Vitellius in the face of the people, upon his own account assembled, encompassed by his own soldiers, nay, under the eyes even of the women beholding him from their houses, declared his own fall in few words, such as suited his sorrowful situation, “That he voluntarily withdrew for the sake of public peace and of the Commonweal. Of them he asked no more than only to be holden in remembrance by them, and that to his brother, to his wife, and to his tender and innocent children, they would shew compassion and mercy.” At the same time extending his arms with his little son in them, he commended him now to one, now to another, then to all. At last, his speech being interrupted through abundant weeping, he ungirt his sword from his side, and presented it to the Consul (this was Cæcilius Simplex who stood just by him) as thus resigning up the authority of life and death over the citizens. As the Consul refused to receive it, and the assembly with clamours opposed it, he departed with intention to divest himself of all the garniture of Sovereignty in the Temple of Concord, and thence to seek a private retirement in his brother’s house. Hence ensued clamours yet more vehement, all declaring against his withdrawing to a private dwelling, all calling him back to the Palace. They even shut up every other way, and only left open that which leads through the street called Sacred. He then, unfurnished with counsel or resource, returned to the Palace. Already had the rumour flown that he had abdicated the Empire, and already Flavius Sabinus had written to the Tribunes of the Prætorian Guards, to keep the soldiers under obedience and restraint.
Thus, as if the Commonwealth were falling intire into the hands of Vespasian, all the principal Senators, numbers of the Equestrian Order, with the whole City-soldiery, and those of the Night-watch, crowded to the house of Flavius Sabinus. Thither was brought them an account of the ardent zeal found in the populace for Vitellius, and of the terrible menaces from the bands of Germans. Sabinus had now advanced further than consisted with a possibility of retreating. Besides every particular there consulting his own personal peril, and all apprehending lest, whilst they were separated, and thence unequal to stand an attack, the Vitellian Cohorts should beset them, they excited him to take arms, of himself hesitating and backward. But, as in exigencies like these it happens, the counsel was given by all, but to face the danger few would adventure. About the Fundane Lake some of the boldest of Vitellius’s men assailed those who were come forth in arms with Sabinus. As the encounter there was sudden and tumultuous, the skirmish was short, but the success remained with the Vitellians. Sabinus, under this distress and affright, recurred to the securest expedient that offered, and shut himself up in the Fort of the Capitol with his miscellaneous soldiery, as also with certain Senators and Roman Knights; men whose names it were not easy to recount, for that when Vespasian had conquered all opposition, many there were who pretended to this proof of their merit towards his party. Even women chose to enter and abide the siege: Amongst these the most signal of all was Verulana Gracilia, a Lady who followed thither neither her children, nor kindred, nor relations, but only followed the war. The soldiers of Vitellius invested the Capitol, but with stations altogether loose and ill-guarded; insomuch that during the dead of the night Sabinus caused to be brought to him thither his own children, and Domitian his brother’s son. Moreover, after he had by means of places not secured, sent an express to Vespasian’s Generals to acquaint him that himself and his friends were besieged, and, unless relieved, could hardly escape, he passed the night so free from any annoyance or alarm, that it was apparent he might have departed away without any hazard incurred. For the soldiers of Vitellius, who in facing dangers were so fierce and brave, shewed small list or application to continued toils, and the fatigues of constant watchings. Besides, a sudden storm of rain, keen and vehement suitably to the winter season, bereft them of sight and hearing.
As soon as day dawned, before reciprocal hostilities began, he sent Cornelius Martialis, a Centurion of principal rank, to Vitellius with instructions and expostulations, “about his violating solemn stipulations. That his offer to abdicate the Empire had been a pure device and phantasy, contrived to delude so many illustrious men. Why else, upon retiring from the assembly, did he rather chuse his brother’s house, overlooking the great Forum, and fitly placed to attract the eyes of all men, than Mount Aventine, and his wife’s house there? This was a recess which would have become him, had he sought a station truly private, and studied to fly all shew and display of Sovereignty. Quite contrary had been the conduct of Vitellius; he had again betaken himself to the Palace, betaken himself to the very centre and citadel of Empire. Thence by his order an armed host had sallied, scattering destruction. Strewed and defiled with the blood and carcasses of innocents was the noblest part of the city. Even the Capitol was not exempt from profaning violence. For himself; like other Senators, he only wore the pacific robe, whilst between Vespasian and Vitellius the contest for Empire was deciding by combating Legions, by the capture of Cities, and by the desertion and surrender of Cohorts. Already to Vespasian had revolted both Spains, Germany the higher and the lower, and all Britain; yet still he, the brother of Vespasian, persisted in faith and duty to Vitellius, till even by Vitellius he was invited to treat of an accommodation. In concord and peace the vanquished found self-preservation, the conquerors only matter of glory. If he were sorry for the treaty made, let him not draw his sword against Sabinus, the man whom he had perfidiously circumvented, nor against the son of Vespasian, one not arrived at manhood. From the blood of a single old man, from that of a single youth, what mighty advantage would be gained? No, let him go forth and confront the Legions, and there bravely contend for the enjoyment of power supreme.” In answer to all this, Vitellius, under great agonies and affright, offered a few words to clear his innocence, throwing the whole fault upon “the soldiers; since their impetuosity was beyond bounds, such as his gentle rule was unable to restrain.” He even warned Martialis, “to retire secretly through an obscure part of the house, that he might not be assassinated by the soldiers; as the mediator of a peace, which was what they abhorred.” To himself no power remained either to command or to prohibit, nor was he any longer Emperor, but only the cause of war.
Hardly had Martialis returned to the Capitol ere the soldiers approached, full of fury, under no leader, every man his own master. The rapid host passing by the Forum, and the Temples which overlook the Forum, mounted the opposite ascent in battle array, and advanced even to the outermost gates of the Fort in the Capitol. Of old, upon the side of the declivity, to the right-hand as you ascend, there stood certain portico’s: from the roofs of these the besieged casting stones and tiles, overwhelmed the assailants; nor had the latter other weapons to wield than their swords only; and as too tedious it seemed to have their engines drawn up with materials for throwing, into that portico which hung just over them, they hurled flaming torches, and pursued their attack by fire. The gates of the Capitol were already on a flame, and the enemy must have entered, had not Sabinus pulled down the Statues on all hands, and with these the glorious monuments of our Forefathers, raised in the very entrance a new wall. They then strove to force a passage from the opposite avenues of the Capitol, that by the grove of the Sanctuary, and that where the Tarpeian Rock is ascended by a hundred stairs. Both assaults were alarming and unforeseen; but closer and fiercer was that at the grove. Nor was it possible to stay their progress, as they climbed over the contiguous buildings, which, in a long course of domestic peace, had been suffered to be raised upon the side of the hill, so high that they reached the foundation of the Capitol. It here remains undecided, whether to the adjoining roofs fire was set by the assailants, or, which is more currently reported, by the besieged, whilst they strove to repulse such as were yet mounting up, and such as had already gained ground. From thence the fire spread to the portico’s of the Capitol adjoining to the houses, and the eagles which supported the roof, as the timber was very old, instantly catched the flames, and nourished them. Thus burned the Capitol, and burned to ashes, with its gates shut, without being defended, and without being forced or plundered.
This outrage was the most deplorable that had happened since the founding of the City, and to the Roman Commonweal the most horrid and reproachful. At a time when no foreign enemy annoyed us, whilst towards us the Gods, as far as our evil demeanour would suffer them, were shewing themselves propitious, the residence of Jove all-good, all-great, by our ancestors reared with solemn benedictions and auspices, as the pledge and centre of future Empire, that sacred Seat which had escaped profanation even from Porsena, upon the surrender of Rome to him, escaped it even from the Gauls, when they had taken the City, suffered desolation from the rage of our own Princes, who accomplished a calamity which our public enemies could never accomplish! Once before too the Capitol was destroyed by fire during a civil war, but then through private malignity. It was now publicly besieged, publicly burned, alas, from what causes of mutual arms? What prize to compensate a destruction so mighty? Did we thus fight for our Country? The elder Tarquin during his war with the Sabines made a vow to build it, and even laid the foundations, such as rather corresponded with his own hopes of its rising to grandeur in times to come, than suited to the then low condition of the Roman people. Thereafter Servius Tullius carried it on with the friendly concurrence of our confederates; and to finish it, Tarquin the proud, having taken Suessa Pometia, applied all the spoils of the enemy. But, to the times and establishment of public liberty, the glory of the work was reserved. Upon the expulsion of the Kings, Horatius Pulvillus in his second Consulship dedicated it, having improved and increased it to such signal grandeur, that all the ensuing wealth of the Romans, however immense, though it might serve to give new embellishments, could add no new magnificence. Upon the same foundation it rose again, when burnt; after an interval of four hundred and twenty-five years, in the Consulship of Lucius Scipio and Caius Norbanus. The care of rebuilding it then Sylla undertook, having now mastered all opposition; yet he dedicated it not: This was the only thing withholden from him to complete his felicity. Upon it the name of Catulus, amongst so many great works and monuments of the Emperors remained all along till the days of Vitellius: Then was this edifice laid in ashes.
But from the fire much more dread accrued to the besieged than to the assailants: For the soldiers of Vitellius, in doubtful emergencies, wanted no address or resolution. On the opposite side, the men were dismayed, and spiritless the Leader; nay, as if berest of his faculties, he exercised not the natural offices of speech, or of hearing, neither swayed by the counsels of others, nor furnished with any of his own, but by the several cries of the enemies driven headlong hither and thither. What he had commanded he again forbad, what he had forbidden he again commanded. Anon, what usually happens in forlorn circumstances, all directed, none obeyed. At length, casting away their arms, they only meditated how to lurk or where to fly. Then burst in the bands of Vitellius, and with fire, and sword, and carnage, made universal havock. A few military men who ventured to encounter them, were slaughtered: Of these the most signal were Cornelius Martialis, Æmilius Pacensis, Casperius Niger, and Didius Scæva. They encompassed Flavius Sabinus, destitute of arms, nor offering to fly; as they did Quinctius Atticus the Consul, a man sufficiently remarkable by the ornaments of his office, as well as for his own vainglorious conduct, as he had wantonly addressed to the people certain edicts very pompous in behalf of Vespasian, very bitter and opprobrious towards Vitellius. The rest, through divers chances and stratagems, escaped, some disguised under the habit of slaves, others concealed by their trusty adherents, and even buried amongst bundles. There were several who having learnt the word whence the Vitellians were distinguished by one another, and venturing to use it, by asking it boldly and answering readily, from such confidence drew the same security as from a hiding-place.
Upon the first irruption of the foe, Domitian was by the device of his Freedman conveyed secretly into the house of the Warden, and under the disguise of a linnen robe, thrust amongst the Tribe of Sacrificers, where passing undiscovered, he continued lurking at the house of Cornelius Primus, a dependent of his father’s, near the place called Velabrum. He afterwards, in the reign of his father, having demolished the Warden’s apartment, reared upon the place a small Chapel dedicated to Jove the Protector, with an Altar, and the story of this adventure graved upon marble. Not long thence, when he arrived at the Sovereignty, he erected a vast Temple sacred to Jove the Guardian, with himself held in the arms of the God. Sabinus and Atticus, loaded with irons, and carried to Vitellius, were by him received with no bitter words, with no hostile countenance. Hence the rage of those who claimed privilege to butcher them, as also high rewards for the late exploit by them deemed a decisive victory. Thus clamours ensued, which being first begun by such as stood nearest, the vile and debauched sort of the populace called aloud for the present execution of Sabinus, and with this their demand intermixt many threatnings as well as much flattery. Nay, they forced Vitellius to forbear interposing, as he stood upon the stairs of the Palace preparing to soften them by intreaties. Instantly they thrust Sabinus through, and mangled him, then cutting off his head, dragged his trunk to the charnel of malefactors.
This was the fate of a man by no means to be contemned. Five and thirty years had he carried arms for the Commonweal, and, both in peace and war, bore a very signal reputation. As to the innocence of his life, and justice of his actions, he was unspotted: In his discourse he was over-copious: This was the only failing which even busy rumour could object to him during all the seven years that he ruled Mœsia, during all the twelve that he was Governor of Rome. In the end of his life he was by some judged to have been slow and spiritless, by many to have been prudent and moderate, and desirous to spare the blood of his fellow-citizens. In one thing all men consent, that before Vespasian became Emperor, the dignity of the family centred in the person of Sabinus. I have been informed, that his fall was well pleasing to Mucianus. Indeed most men alledged, that by it peace and unanimity in the State were secured; as all emulation was now for ever removed between these two, who would always have been considering themselves, the one as the Emperor’s brother, the other as his companion in power. But when the people required the doom of the Consul, Vitellius persevered in opposing them, being himself now pacified, and as it were repaying him a courtesy; since to such as had asked him who it was that set fire to the Capitol, he made free confession of being the person guilty. By this acknowledgment, or be it a fiction only framed to temporize, in assuming the crime, and the odium of the crime, he seemed to have acquitted as innocent the party of Vitellius.
During these days, Lucius Vitellius having encamped at Feronia, threatened to storm and sack Terracina. Within it were shut up the Gladiators and Marines, a garrison who dared not venture without their walls, nor face the enemy in the field. Over the Gladiators (as above I have recounted) there commanded Julianus, over the Marines Apollinaris, two men in slothfulness and debauchery resembling rather common Gladiators than principal Commanders. No watch they kept; none of the weak parts of the walls did they strengthen or secure; by night and by day they wallowed in voluptuousness, and with their gay revellings upon those delicious shores, the whole coast resounded. Their soldiers were dispersed abroad to procure supplies for their luxury; and only whilst they were feasting, did they talk of war. Apinius Tiro was gone from thence a few days before, and, by exacting from the municipal Cities money and presents with notable rigour, gained to the party much more malevolence than strength. In the mean time a slave of Virgilius Capito fled over to Lucius Vitellius, and undertook, if he were furnished with a band of men, to deliver up the castle secretly, destitute as it was of guards. Thus in the dead of night, he lodged some Cohorts lightly armed upon the ridge of the hills just over the head of the enemy. From thence the soldiers rushed down, indeed rather to a massacre than an encounter. Some void of arms, others endeavouring to arm, several just frighted out of their sleep, were all easily vanquished and overthrown, as with the profound darkness, with the sudden alarm and dismay, trumpets sounding, and enemies shouting, they were all disconcerted and astonished. A few of the Gladiators resisted stoutly, nor died without first revenging their deaths. The rest fled with all their speed to the ships, where all were equally embarassed by the same distress and affright; for with the soldiers were intermixt the inhabitants of Terracina, and these two the Vitellians slaughtered, without making any distinction. Six small gallies, just as the uproar and consternation began, escaped away, and in one of them Apollinaris Commander of the Fleet. All the other vessels were seized by the shore, or, surcharged by the thronging crowd, sunk to the bottom. Julianus was haled away to Lucius Vitellius, and being first scourged, till he was all covered with gore, executed in his sight. There were some who charged Triaria the wife of Lucius, as if with a military sabre girt to her side, she had manifested dreadful insolence and barbarity of spirit, even amidst the doleful wailings, and sad desolation of Terracina under the calamitous lot of spoil and massacre. He himself, as an indication of his prosperous atchievement, sent to his brother a crown of laurel, and desired his orders whether to return forthwith to Rome, or to persist in the reduction of Campania. This pause was of salutary consequence not to Vespasian’s party only, but to the whole Commonwealth. In truth, had the soldiers, naturally headstrong, now elated with success, proceeded to Rome just hot from their victory, a struggle not a little terrible must have ensued, nor could it have been decided without the destruction of the City. For in Lucius Vitellius, however infamous he were, no want of vigour was found; not that from any virtue he derived his importance and power, as all worthy men do theirs, but, like every other wicked man, from his villainy and vices.
Whilst by the party of Vitellius these things were transacted, Vespasian’s army, having departed from Narnia, diverted themselves at Ocriculum in celebrating the annual Feast of Saturn, a festival of many days; as if no other employment had awaited them. The cause of a delay so preposterous was, to stay for the coming of Mucianus. Nor were there wanting some who entertained suspicions of Antonius, and charged him, “As if through treachery he thus lingered, in consequence of the letters secretly sent him from Vitellius, with offers of the Consulship, and of his daughter then marriageable, and, with her a mighty fortune, as the rewards of revolting from Vespasian.” Others alledged, “That all this charge was no more than a fiction, framed purely in court to Mucianus.” Several argued, “That it was a resolution concerted amongst all the Leaders, rather to present the city with a terrible display of war, than to carry the war thither; since the chief strength of the Prætorian Bands had already deserted Vitellius, who was likewise precluded from any reinforcement on every hand: So that it was presumed he would quietly yield up the Empire; but that all was marred and disconcerted, first by the rashness, then by the pusillanimity of Sabinus, who having inconsiderately taken up arms, had not been able to maintain the invincible Fort of the Capitol against three Cohorts, a place strong enough to defy the assaults of mighty armies.” The truth is, one cannot easily upbraid any particular Commander with a fault committed by all. For besides that Mucianus, by his dark and equivocal letters, retarded the motion of the conquering army, Antonius too incurred great guilt by his overlate and pernicious complaisance, though perhaps he thence studied to transfer upon the other all public resentment and hate. For the rest of the Chiefs; by judging the war to be completed, they rendered the end of it the more signal and glaring. Nor indeed had Petilius Cerialis made sufficient dispatch, he who was purposely sent forward with a thousand horse, by an indirect march over the Sabine territories, to enter Rome through the Salarian highway. At last, the news that the Capitol was besieged, roused them all.
Antonius advanced along the great Flaminian road, and far in the night arrived at the red rocks: But the aid which he intended came too late. He there met many tidings all very mournful, “Sabinus murdered, the Capitol reduced to ashes, the City under dreadful consternation, nay, the populace and slaves all under arms for Vitellius.” Petilius Cerialis also was unfortunate in the combat attempted by his horse, who, rushing incautiously upon the foe, as upon men already defeated, were received by the Vitellians steadily, with their foot interlined amongst their horse. Not far from the City the conflict happened, amongst buildings and gardens, and winding lanes; a situation familiar to the Vitellians, but strange to their enemies, and thence the cause of their perplexity and fear. Neither was the body of horse unanimously affected, as amongst them were incorporated some who had lately surrendered at Narnia, and now warily watched for what side fortune would ultimately declare. Tullius Flavianus Commander of a Squadron was taken. The rest suffered a scandalous rout, flying in unmanly dismay. The vanquishers pursued not beyond Fidenæ.
By this success the former zeal and partiality of the people became heightened. The commonalty of Rome betook themselves to arms; some few were furnished with regular shields, but the most part snatched up and turned into weapons whatever fell first in their way, and then craved the signal for battle. Vitellius presented them his thanks, and ordered them to sally forth and defend the City from insults and attacks. Anon the Senate was assembled, and Ambassadors nominated for repairing to the armies, such as under the stile and guise of the Commonweal, were to exhort them to peace and union. Very different proved the lot and reception of the Ambassadors: They who went to Petilius Cerialis encountered perils almost fatal, as the soldiers sternly rejected all terms of peace. Nay, the Prætor Arulenus Rusticus was wounded; a barbarity which, beside the violation of a character altogether sacred, that of an Ambassador and of a Prætor, derived fresh abhorrence from the dignity and estimation of the man. His followers dispersed and fled: His principal Lictor was slain for daring to open a passage through the crowd: and had it not been for the protection of a guard appointed by the chief officer, such was the brutal rage inspired by our civil dissentions, that the Law and Privilege of Ambassadors, esteemed inviolable even amongst foreign and barbarous Nations, had been profaned, even to the massacring of their persons, in the midst of their native country and under the very walls of Rome. With more temper were they received who had gone to Antonius: Not that the soldiers had greater moderation, but the General greater authority.
With the Ambassadors had joined himself, Musonius Rufus, by rank a Roman Knight, one who attended to the study of Philosophy and adhered to the doctrine of the Stoics. He mingling amongst the bands, and reasoning about the blessings of peace and the dangers attending war, laboured thus to tutor men in arms. To many this was matter of derision; to more it proved annoying and tiresome: Nor were there wanting some to thrust him thence violently and to push him with their hands and feet, till through the persuasions of all the more moderate, and the menaces of others, he forbore his lessons of wisdom so ill-timed. Thither too had repaired the Vestal Virgins with letters from Vitellius to Antonius: In these he desired, “That the battle, which was to be the last, might be suspended for one day; during that interval, all things would be more easily accommodated.” The Virgins were dismissed with all demonstrations of honour. To Vitellius an answer was returned, “That by the murder of Sabinus, and the burning of the Capitol, all means of ending the war by treaty were cut off.”
Antonius, however, by a speech to the Legions purposely assembled, tried to reconcile them to a temper, that “of encamping by the Milvian bridge, and of entring the City not before next day.” His motive for such procrastination was, lest the soldiery just after the heat of a battle, might be so transported as to shew no mercy either to People, or Senate, or even to the Temples and Domes of the Deities. But they dreaded all delay, as the means to bereave them of victory. At the same time some Standards seen shining upon the hills, though only followed by the weak and unwarlike populace, exhibited the appearance of the enemy’s army. Presently they advanced to Rome, divided into a triple host: one passed along where it already was, upon the great Flaminian road; another coasted the Tiber; the third through the Salarian way moved towards the gate Collina. The multitude of Plebeians was forthwith routed by an onset of the horse. The soldiers of Vitellius moved to the attack, formed likewise into a threefold band. Many were the conflicts before the City, various the success, but to Vespasian’s men chiefly favourable, as superiour in the abilities of their Leaders. Sorely harrassed were they only who had wheeled to the left hand towards the Sallustian gardens, through lanes very narrow and slippery, where over them stood the Vitellians upon the walls of the gardens, and as they strove to climb, beat them down with stones and spears, almost to the close of the day, till by the horse who had burst in at the gate Collina, they were themselves beset in the rear. In the field of Mars too the parties joined in fierce encounters. For that of Vespasian appeared the concurrence of fortune, and of victory so often gained. The Vitellians were fired and driven headlong by pure despair, and though vanquished and routed, assembled again within the City and renewed the battle.
About the combatants the people were gathered as spectators; and, as if they had been only attending the representation of a fight exhibited for public amusement and sport, they favoured and espoused now these, anon those, with theatrical shouts and clappings: Nay, as often as either side recoiled, and particulars had fled into houses, or lay hid in shops, they insisted upon their being dragged out and slain, and thus came to enjoy themselves the largest part of the prey. For, whilst the soldiers were only pursuing blood and slaughter, the spoil fell to the possession of the commonalty. Tragical and ghastly was the face of the whole City; in one place deadly conflicts, and bleeding wounds; in another luxurious bathings and feats of riot; every where blood in streams, and carcasses in piles, and just at hand wanton harlots, or such as resembled harlots; acts of debauchery and voluptuousness, as extravagant as ever were practised during a season of luxury and repose, with all the barbarities attending the most merciless captivity. Insomuch, that you would have thought the same City at once transported with brutal outrage, and abandoned to sensual revellings. Rome had before seen contending armies in her streets, where Sylla twice remained conqueror, and once Cinna; nor was there then less cruelty exercised. But now, amongst men there prevailed an unconcern and security perfectly inhuman, nor for a single moment were their pursuits of pleasure postponed. Nay, as if this confusion and carnage had seasonably intervened to heighten the gayety of their festival days, they exulted, they pampered and indulged, to both parties indifferent, and triumphing in public miseries.
In storming the intrenchments of the camp the hardest task was found, as they were defended by all the most determined amongst the enemy, such who considered the same as their last hope and resource. Hence the more ardour manifested by the conquerors, as amongst them foremost in zeal were the old Prætorian Cohorts. All the inventions used in attacking the strongest Cities, they now applied, the military Shell, missive Engines, Mounds and flaming Torches. “In this single undertaking, they all cried, would be completed whatever hardships, whatever perils they had in so many battles undergone. To the Senate and People of Rome their City was restored, to the Deities their Temples. It was in the camp that the peculiar lot and glory of the soldiery resided: This was their Country, here was their houshold and their houshold Gods. These they were now instantly to regain, or to pass the night under arms.” The Vitellians, on the contrary, though in number inferior, though unequal in their destiny, perplexed the victory, and retarded the pacification. With blood they contaminated the houses, with blood they profaned the altars, pursuing such feats as prove the last solacements to men desperate and vanquished. Upon the turrets and bulwarks many lay breathing their last, many already breathless. They who remained, when their gates were burst open, uniting together, presented themselves confidently to the swords of the vanquishers. In truth they all fell facing the enemy, and wounded only before. Such, even in dying, was their concern to die honourably.
Vitellius, seeing the City taken, was carried in a chair through the back part of the palace to his wife’s house upon Mount Aventine, with a purpose, if he could by lurking there escape discovery during the day, to fly by night to his brother’s Cohorts at Tarracina. But from unsteadiness of spirit, such too being the nature of dread, that to one who fears all things, present things are ever most irksome, he came back to the palace now desolate and wild: For all his slaves, even the lowest, had slipped away, or else carefully avoided to meet him. Terrifying to him proved the dismal solitude, and every part still and silent: He tried apartments that were shut: He shrunk with horror to behold all void and desart. Weary at last with such miserable and solitary wandering to and fro, he thrust himself into a hiding place sordid and disgraceful, and by Julius Placidus, Tribune of a Prætorian Band, was dragged from it. Behind him forthwith his hands were tied: Thus with his apparel all rent, he was haled along, a spectacle foul and sad, many reviling him, no one bewailing him. Indeed such was the abasement and indecency of his end, as to have banished all pity. There met him one of the German soldiers, and with his sword drawn made a violent blow, whether out of fury and vengeance, or the sooner to release him from insults and derision, or whether aiming at the life of the Tribune, is matter of uncertainty. The Tribune’s ear he actually cut off, and was himself instantly slain. Vitellius they forced, with their swords pointed at his throat, now to hold up his head, and present his face to a deluge of indignities, anon to behold his own Statues tumbled down, and particularly to view the place of assemblies, and that where Galba suffered his bloody doom. In this manner they pushed him forward, and at last into the charnel of Malefactors, where the corps of Flavius Sabinus had lain exposed. One saying there was which fell from him, savouring of no baseness of spirit; when to the Tribune treating him with roughness and insults, he answered, “That nevertheless he had been his Emperor.” Then, under many wounds given him, he fell and expired. The common herd inveighed against him, after he was slain, with the same depravity of heart with which they had caressed him while he yet lived.
His father was Lucius Vitellius, his age that of seven and fifty years complete. He had acquired the Consulship, acquired Pontifical dignities, with a name and rank amongst the Grandees of the State, by no parts or vigour of his, but all through the lustre and elevation of his father. The gift of Empire he received from such as never knew the man. In the hearts of the soldiers rarely had any man ever obtained such interest by worthy methods, as he by impotence and sloth. In him however was inherent a simplicity of spirit and liberality; qualities which, unless kept under restriction, grow inevitably pernicious. His friends he thought to secure, not by a conduct steady and unblameable, but only by mighty bounty, and thence rather deserved such, than had them. For the interest of the Commonwealth without doubt it was that Vitellius was vanquished and fallen: Yet they who betrayed to Vespasian the power and cause of Vitellius, can from their perfidiousness claim no public merit, since they had before revolted from Galba. The day now hastening to close, the Senate could not be assembled; for such was the affright of the Magistrates and Senators, that they had privately dropped away from the City, or concealed themselves here and there in the houses of their followers. Domitian, after all apprehensions of hostility had ceased, proceeded to the Leaders of the party, where the soldiers thronging about him saluted him Cæsar, and all in arms conducted him to his father’s house.