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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Histories


published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition of Tacitus, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. II) Tacitus

 p3  Book I (beginning)

1 1 I begin my work with the second consulship of Servius Galba, when Titus Vinius was his colleague.1 Many historians have treated of the earlier period of eight hundred and twenty years from the founding of Rome, and while dealing with the Republic they have written with equal eloquence and freedom.2 But after the battle of Actium, when the interests of peace required that all power should be concentrated in the hands of one man,3 writers of like ability disappeared; and at the same time historical truth was impaired in many ways: first, because men were ignorant of politics as being not any concern of theirs; later, because of their passionate desire to flatter; or again, because of their hatred of their masters. So between the hostility of the one class and the servility of the other, posterity was disregarded. But while men quickly turn from a historian who curries favour, they listen with ready ears to calumny and spite; for flattery is subject to the shameful charge of servility, but malignity makes a false show of independence. In my own case I had no acquaintance with Galba, Otho, or Vitellius, through either kindness or injury at their hands. I  p5 cannot deny that my political career owed its beginning to Vespasian; that Titus advanced it; and that Domitian carried it further;4 but those who profess inviolable fidelity to truth must write of no man with affection or with hatred. Yet if my life but last, I have reserved for my old age the history of the deified Nerva's reign and of Trajan's rule, a richer and less perilous subject, because of the rare good fortune of an age in which we may feel what we wish and may say what we feel.5

2 1 The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword;6 there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time. There was success in the East, misfortune in the West. Illyricum was disturbed, the Gallic provinces wavering, Britain subdued and immediately let go.7 The Sarmatae and Suebi rose against us; the Dacians won fame by defeats inflicted and suffered; even the Parthians were almost roused to arms through the trickery of a pretended Nero.8 Moreover, Italy was distressed by disasters unknown before or returning after the lapse of ages. Cities  p7 on the rich fertile shores of Campania were swallowed up or overwhelmed;9 Rome was devastated by conflagrations, in which her most ancient shrines were consumed and the very Capitol fired by citizens' hands.10 Sacred rites were defiled; there were adulteries in high places. The sea was filled with exiles, its cliffs made foul with the bodies of the dead. In Rome there was more awful cruelty. High birth, wealth, the refusal or acceptance of office — all gave ground for accusations, and virtues caused the surest ruin. The rewards of the informers were no less hateful than their crimes; for some, gaining priesthoods and consulships as spoils, others, obtaining positions as imperial agents and secret influence at court, made havoc and turmoil everywhere, inspiring hatred and terror. Slaves were corrupted against their masters, freedmen against their patrons; and those who had no enemy were crushed by their friends.

3 1 Yet this age was not so barren of virtue that it did not display noble examples. Mothers accompanied their children in flight; wives followed their husbands into exile; relatives displayed courage, sons-in‑law firmness, slaves a fidelity which defied even torture. Eminent men met the last necessity with fortitude, rivalling in their end the glorious deaths of antiquity. Besides the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind, there were prodigies in the sky and on the earth, warnings given by thunderbolts, and prophecies of the future, both joyful and gloomy, uncertain and clear. For never was it more fully proved by awful disasters of the Roman people or by indubitable signs that the gods care not for our safety, but for our punishment.

 p9  4 1 Before, however, I begin the work that I have planned, I think that we should turn back and consider the condition of the city, the temper of the armies, the attitude of the provinces, the elements of strength and weakness in the entire world, that we may understand not only the incidents and the issues of events, which for the most part are due to chance, but also their reasons and causes. Although Nero's death had at first been welcomed with outbursts of joy, it roused varying emotions, not only in the city among the senators and people and the city soldiery, but also among all the legions and generals; for the secret of empire was now revealed, that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome.11 The senators rejoiced and immediately made full use of their liberty, as was natural, for they had to do with a new emperor who was still absent. The leading members of the equestrian class were nearly as elated as the senators. The respectable part of the common people and those attached to the great houses, the clients and freedmen of those who had been condemned and driven into exile, were all roused to hope. The lowest classes, addicted to the circus and theatre, and with them the basest slaves, as well as those men who had wasted their property and, to their shame, were wont to depend on Nero's bounty, were cast down and grasped at every rumour.

5 1 The city soldiery had long been accustomed to swear allegiance to the Caesars, and had been brought to desert Nero by clever pressure rather than by their own inclination. Now when they saw that the donative, which had been promised in  p11 Galba's name, was not given them,12 that there were not the same opportunities for great services and rewards in peace as in war, and that the legions had already secured the favour of the emperor whom they had made, inclined as they were to support a revolution, they were further roused by the criminal action of Nymphidius Sabinus, the prefect, who was trying to secure the empire for himself.13 It is true that Nymphidius was crushed in his very attempt, but, though the head of the mutiny was thus removed, the majority of the soldiers were still conscious of their guilt, and there were plenty of men to comment unfavorably on Galba's age and greed. His strictness, which had once been esteemed and had won the soldiers' praise, now vexed them, for they rebelled against the old discipline; through fourteen years they had been trained by Nero to love the faults of the emperors not less than once they respected their virtues. Besides, there was the saying of Galba's to the effect that he was wont to select, not buy, his soldiers — an honourable utterance in the interests of the state, but dangerous to himself; for everything else was at variance with such a standard.

6 1 Galba was weak and old. Titus Vinius and Cornelius Laco, the former the worst of men, the latter the laziest, proved his ruin, for he had to bear the burden of the hatred felt for the crimes of Titus and of men's scorn for the lethargy of Cornelius.14 Galba's approach to Rome had been slow and  p13 bloody: the consul-elect, Cingonius Varro, and Petronius Turpilianus, an ex-consul, had been put to death, Cingonius because he had been an accomplice of Nymphidius, Petronius as one of Nero's generals:15 they were killed unheard and undefended, so that men believed them innocent. Galba's entrance into Rome was ill-omened, because so many thousands of unarmed soldiers had been massacred, and this inspired fear in the very men who had been their murderers. A Spanish legion had been brought to Rome; the one that Nero had enrolled from the fleet was still there, so that the city was filled with an unusual force. In addition there were many detachments from Germany, Britain, and Illyricum, which Nero had likewise selected and sent to the Caspian Gates16 to take part in the campaign which he was preparing against the Albani; but he had recalled them to crush the attempt of Vindex. Here was abundant fuel for a revolution; while the soldiers' favour did not incline to any individual, they were ready for the use of anyone who had the courage.

7 1 It happened too that the executions of Clodius Macer and Fonteius Capito were reported at this same time.17 Macer, who had unquestionably been making trouble in Africa, had been executed by Trebonius Garutianus, the imperial agent, at Galba's orders. Capito, who was making similar attempts, had been executed in Germany by Cornelius Aquinus and Fabius Valens, the commanders of the legions, before they received orders to take such action. There were some who believed that, although Capito's character was defiled and  p15 stained by greed and lust, he had still refrained from any thought of a revolution, but that the commanders who urged him to begin war had purposely invented the charge of treason against him when they found that they were unable to persuade him; and that Galba, either by his natural lack of decision, or to avoid a closer examination of the case, had approved what was done, regardless of the manner of it, simply because it could not be undone. But both executions were unfavourably received, and now that the emperor was once hated, his good and evil deeds alike brought him unpopularity. Everything was for sale; his freedmen were extremely powerful, his slaves clutched greedily after sudden gains with the impatience natural under so old a master. There were the same evils in the new court as in the old: they were equally burdensome, but they did not have an equal excuse. Galba's very years aroused ridicule and scorn among those who were accustomed to Nero's youth, and who, after the fashion of the vulgar, compared emperors by the beauty of their persons.

8 1 Such were the varied sentiments at Rome, natural in a city with so vast a population. Of the provinces, Spain was governed by Cluvius Rufus, a man of ready eloquence, expert in the arts of peace but untrained in war.18 The Gallic provinces were held to their allegiance, not only by their memory of the failure of Vindex, but also by the recent gift of Roman citizenship, and by the reduction of their taxes for the future;19 yet the Gallic tribes nearest the armies of Germany had not been treated with the same honour as the rest; some had actually had their lands taken from them, so that they felt equal  p17 irritation whether they reckoned up their neighbours' gains or counted their own wrongs.20 The armies in Germany were vexed and angry, a condition most dangerous when large forces are involved.21 They were moved by pride in their recent victory and also by fear, because they had favoured the losing side. They had been slow to abandon Nero; and Verginius, their commander, had not pronounced for Galba immediately; men were inclined to think that he would not have been unwilling to be emperor himself; and its believed that the soldiers offered him the imperial power. Even those who could not complain of the execution of Fonteius Capito were none the less indignant. But they had no leader, for Verginius had been taken away under the cloak of friendship. The fact that he was not sent back, but was actually brought to trial, the soldiers regarded as an accusation against themselves.

9 1 The army in Upper Germany despised their commander, Hordeonius Flaccus. Incapacitated by age and lameness, he had neither courage nor authority. Even when the soldiers were quiet he had no control; once exasperated, the feebleness of his restraint only inflamed them further. The soldiers of Lower Germany were a considerable time without a general of consular rank, until Galba sent out Aulus Vitellius, the son of that Vitellius who had been censor and three times consul: his father's honours seemed to give him enough prestige.22 In  p19 the army stationed in Britain there were no hostile feelings; and indeed no other legions through all the confusion caused by the civil wars made less trouble, either because they were farther away and separated by the ocean, or else they had learned in many campaigns to hate the enemy by preference. There was quiet in Illyricum also, though the legions which Nero had called from that province, while they delayed in Italy, had made overtures to Verginius through their representatives;23 but the various armies, separated by long distances — which is the most effective means of maintaining the fidelity of troops — did not succeed in combining either their vices or their strength.

10 1 The East was as yet undisturbed. Syria and its four legions were held by Licinius Mucianus, a man notorious in prosperity and adversity alike.24 When a young man he had cultivated friendships with the nobility for his own ends; later, when his wealth was exhausted, his position insecure, and he also suspected that Claudius was angry with him, he withdrew to retirement in Asia and was as near to exile then as afterwards he was to the throne. He displayed a mixture of luxury and industry, of affability and insolence, of good and wicked arts. His pleasures were extravagant if he was at leisure; whenever he took the field, he showed great virtues. You would have praised his public life; but his private life bore ill repute. Yet by diverse attractions he gained power with his subordinates, with those close to him, and with his associates in office; and he was a man who found it easier to bestow the imperial power than to hold it himself. The war against the Jews was being directed with three legions  p21 by Flavius Vespasianus,25 whom Nero had selected as general. Neither Vespasian's desires nor sentiments were opposed to Galba, for he sent his son, Titus, to pay his respects and to show his allegiance to him, as we shall tell at the proper time. The secrets of Fate, and the signs and oracles which predestined Vespasian and his sons for power, we believed only after his success was secured.

11 1 Egypt, with the troops to keep it in order, has been managed from the time of the deified Augustus by Roman knights in place of their former kings.26 It had seemed wise to keep thus under the direct control of the imperial house a province which is difficult of access, productive of great harvests, but given to civil strife and sudden disturbances because of the fanaticism and superstition of its inhabitants, ignorant as they are of laws and unacquainted with civil magistrates. At this time the governor was Tiberius Alexander, himself an Egyptian. Africa and its legions, now that Clodius Macer had been killed, were satisfied with any emperor after their experience of a petty tyrant. The two provinces of Mauritania, Raetia, Noricum, Thrace and the other districts which were in charge of imperial agents, were moved to favour or hostility by contact with forces more powerful than themselves, according to the army near which each was. The provinces without an army, and especially Italy itself, were exposed to slavery under any master and destined to become the rewards of war.

This was the condition of the Roman state when  p23 Servius Galba, chosen consul for the second time, and his colleague Titus Vinius entered upon the year that was to be for Galba his last and for the state almost the end.

12 1 A few days after the first of January a despatch was brought from Pompeius Propinquus, imperial agent in Belgic Gaul, saying that the legions of Upper Germany had thrown off all regard for their oath of allegiance and were demanding another emperor, but that they left the choice to the senate and to the Roman people, that their disloyalty might be less seriously regarded. This news hastened Galba's determination. He had already been considering with himself and his intimates the question of adopting a successor; indeed during the last few months nothing had been more frequently discussed throughout the state, first of all because of the licence and the passion which men now had for such talk, and secondly because Galba was already old and feeble. Few were guided by sound judgment or real patriotism; the majority, prompted by foolish hope, named in their selfish gossip this man or that whose clients or friends they were; they were also moved by hatred for Titus Vinius, whose unpopularity increased daily in proportion to his power. Moreover, Galba's very amiability increased the cupidity of his friends, grown greedy in their high good fortune; since they were dealing with an infirm and confiding man, they had less to fear and more to hope from their wrong-doings.

13 1 The actual power of the principate was divided between Titus Vinius the consul and Cornelius Laco the praetorian prefect, nor was the influence of Icelus, Galba's freedman, less than  p25 theirs. He had been presented with the ring of a knight, and people called him Marcianus, an equestrian name.27 This three quarrelled with one another, and in small matters each one worked for himself; but in the question of choosing a successor they were divided into two parties. Vinius favoured Marcus Otho; Laco and Icelus agreed not so much in favouring any particular person as in supporting someone other than Otho. Galba was not ignorant of the friendship between Otho and Titus Vinius; and the common gossip of the people, who let nothing pass in silence, was already naming Otho the son-in‑law and Vinius the father-in‑law, because the former was a bachelor and Vinius had an unmarried daughter. I can believe that Galba cherished also some thought for the state, which had been wrested from Nero in vain if it were to be left in the hands of an Otho. For Otho had spent his boyhood in heedlessness, his early manhood under no restraint. He had found favour in Nero's eyes by imitating his extravagance; therefore Nero had left with him, privy as he was to his debaucheries, Poppaea Sabina, the imperial mistress, until he could get rid of his wife Octavia. Later the emperor suspected him in relation to this same Poppaea and removed him to the province of Lusitania, ostensibly as governor. He administered the province acceptably, but he was the first to join Galba's party and he was not an inactive partisan. So long as war lasted he was the most brilliant of all Galba's immediate supporters, and now, as soon as he had once conceived the hope of being adopted by Galba, he desired it more keenly every day that passed. The majority of the soldiers favoured him, and Nero's  p27 court was inclined to him because he was like Nero.28

14 1 But after Galba received word of the disloyal movement in Germany, though he had as yet no certain news with regard to Vitellius, he was distressed as to the possible outcome of the army's violence, and had no confidence even in the soldiers within the city. So he held a kind of imperial comitia, which he regarded as his only remedy.29 Besides Vinius and Laco, he called Marius Celsus, the consul-elect, and Ducenius Geminus, the city prefect. He first spoke briefly of his own advanced years, then directed that Licinianus Piso should be called in, either because he was his own choice, or, as some believed, owing to the insistence of Laco, who had formed an intimate friendship with Piso at the house of Rubellius Plautus. But Laco cleverly supported Piso as if he were a stranger, and Piso's good reputation added weight to Laco's advice. Piso was the son of Marcus Crassus and Scribonia, thus being noble on both sides;30 his look and manner were those of a man of the ancient school, and he had justly been called stern; those who took a harsher view regarded him as morose, but this element in his character, which caused the anxious to suspect him, recommended him to Galba for adoption.

15 1 Then Galba, according to report, took Piso's hand and spoke to this effect: "If as a private citizen I were adopting you according to curiate  p29 law before the pontifices, as is customary,31 it were both an honour to me to bring into my house a descendant of Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Crassus, and a distinction for you to add the glories of the Sulpician and Lutatian houses to your own high rank. But as it is, called to the imperial office, as I have been, by the consent of gods and men, I have been moved by your high character and patriotism to offer you in peace the principate for which our forefathers fought, and which I obtained in war. Herein I follow the example of the deified Augustus, who placed in high station next his own, first his sister's son Marcellus, then his son-in‑law Agrippa, afterwards his grandsons, and finally Tiberius Nero, his step-son. But Augustus looked for a successor within his own house, I in the whole state. I do this not because I have not relatives or associates in arms; but I did not myself gain this power by self-seeking, and I would have the character of my decision shown by the fact that I have passed over for you not only my own relatives, but yours also. You have a brother as noble as yourself and older, worthy indeed of this fortune, if you were not the better man. You have reached an age which has already escaped from the passions of youth; your life is such that you have to offer no excuses for the past. Thus far you have known only adversity; prosperity tests the spirit with sharper goads, because we simply endure misfortune, but are corrupted by success. Honour, liberty, friendship, the chief blessings of the human mind, you will guard with the same constancy as before; but others will seek to weaken them by their servility. Flattery, adulation, and that worst poison  p31 of an honest heart, self-interest, will force themselves in. Even though you and I speak to each other with perfect frankness to‑day, all other men will prefer to deal with our great fortune rather than ourselves. For to persuade a prince of his duty is a great task, but to agree with him, whatever sort of prince he is, is a thing accomplished without real feeling.

16 1 "If the mighty structure of the empire could stand in even poise without a ruler, it were proper that a republic should begin with me. But as it is, we have long reached such a pass that my old age cannot give more to the Roman people than a good successor, or your youth more than a good emperor. Under Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius we Romans were the heritage, so to speak, of one family; the fact that we emperors are now beginning to be chosen will be for all a kind of liberty; and since the houses of the Julii and the Claudii are ended, adoption will select only the best; for to be begotten and born of princes is mere chance, and is not reckoned higher, but the judgment displayed in adoption is unhampered; and, if one wishes to make a choice, common consent points out the individual. Keep Nero before your eyes. Swelling as he was with pride over the long line of Caesars, it was not Vindex with an unarmed province, nor I with a single legion, but his own monstrous character, his own extravagance, that flung him from the necks of the people; yet never before had there been a precedent for condemning an emperor. We, who have been called to power by war and men's judgment of our worth, shall be subject to envy, no matter how honourable we may prove. Yet do not be  p33 frightened if there are still two legions not yet reduced to quiet in a world that has been shaken to its foundations. I myself did not come to the throne in security, and when men hear that I have adopted you, I shall cease to seem an old man — the one charge that is now laid against me. Nero will always be missed by the worst citizens; you and I must take care that he be not missed also by the good. To give you further advice were untimely, and, besides, all the advice I would give is fulfilled if you prove a wise choice. The distinction between good and evil is at once most useful and quickest made. Think only what you might wish or would oppose if another were emperor. For with us there is not, as among peoples where there are kings, a fixed house of rulers while all the rest are slaves, but you are going to rule over men who can endure neither complete slavery nor complete liberty."

Galba spoke further to the same effect, as if he were making an emperor, but everyone else conversed with Piso as if had been already made one.

17 1 People report that Piso gave no sign of anxiety or exaltation, either before those who were looking on at the time or afterward when the eyes of all were upon him. He answered with the reverence due to a father and an emperor; he spoke modestly about himself. There was no change in his look or dress; he seemed like one who had the ability rather than the desire to be emperor. The question was then discussed whether his adoption should be proclaimed from the rostra or in the senate or in the praetorian camp. It was decided to go to the camp, for this act, they thought, would be a mark of honour toward the soldiers, whose support,  p35 when gained through good arts, was not to be despised, however base it was to seek it by bribery and canvassing. In the meantime an expectant crowd had gathered around the palace, impatient to learn the great secret, while the unsuccessful efforts of those who wished to check the rumour only increased it.

18 1 The tenth of January, a day of heavy rain, was made dreadful by thunder, lightning, and unusual threats from heaven. In earlier times notice of these things would have broken up an election, but they did not deter Galba from going to the praetorian camp, for he despised these things as mere chance; or else the truth is that we cannot avoid the fixed decrees of fate, by whatever signs revealed. Before a crowded gathering of the soldiers, with the brevity that became an emperor, he announced that he was adopting Piso after the precedent set by the deified Augustus, and following the military custom by which one man chose another.32 And to prevent an exaggerated idea of the revolt by attempting to conceal it, he went on to say that the Fourth and Twenty-second legions had been led astray by a few seditious leaders, but their errors had not passed beyond words and cries, and presently they would be under discipline. He added no flattery of the soldiers, nor made mention of a gift. Yet the tribunes, centurions, and soldiers nearest him answered in a satisfactory manner; but among all the rest of the soldiers there was a gloomy silence, for they felt that they had lost through war the right to a gift which had been theirs even in times of peace. There is no question that their loyalty could have been won by the slightest generosity on the part of this stingy old man. He  p37 was ruined by his old-fashioned strictness and excessive severity — qualities which we can no longer bear.

19 1 Galba's speech to the senate was as bald and brief as his address to the soldiers. Piso spoke with grace; and the senators showed their approval. Many did this from good-will, those who had opposed the adoption with more effusion, the indifferent — and they were the most numerous — with ready servility, for they had their private hopes in mind and cared nothing for the state. During the four days that followed between his adoption and murder Piso said and did nothing further in public. More frequent reports of the revolt in Germany arrived every day, and since the citizens were ready to accept and believe anything strange and bad, the senate voted to send a delegation to the army in Germany. There was a secret discussion as to whether Piso also should go, that so the mission might be more imposing: the other members would take with them the authority of the senate, Piso the dignity of a Caesar. They voted to send Laco also, the prefect of the praetorian cohort; but he vetoed their plan. The senate had left the choice of members to Galba. With disgraceful lack of firmness he named men, excused them, made substitutions, as they pleaded with him to stay or go, according to their fears or hopes.

20 1 The next anxiety was with regard to finances. After full consideration it seemed fairest to look for money from the sources where the cause of the poverty lay. Twenty-two hundred million sesterces had been squandered by Nero in gifts.33 It was  p39 voted that individuals should be summoned, and that a tenth part of the gifts which Nero had made them should be left with each. But Nero's favourites had hardly one-tenth left, for they had wasted the money of others on the same extravagances as they had their own; the most greedy and depraved had neither lands nor principal, but only what would minister to their vices. Thirty Roman knights were appointed to collect the money. This was a new office, and a burden because of the number and intrigue of its members. Everywhere there were auctions and speculators, and the city was disturbed by lawsuits. And yet there was great joy that those who had received gifts from Nero were going to be as poor as those from whom he had taken the money. During these same days four tribunes were dismissed, Antonius Taurus and Antonius Naso from the praetorian cohorts, from the city cohorts Aemilius Pacensis, and Julius Fronto from the police. This action was no assistance against the rest, but it did arouse their fears: individuals, they thought, were being driven from office craftily and cautiously one by one, because all were suspected.

21 1 In the meantime Otho, who had nothing to hope from a peaceful arrangement, and whose purpose depended wholly on disorder, was spurred on by many considerations. His extravagance was such as would have burdened an emperor, his poverty a private citizen could hardly have borne. He was angry toward Galba and jealous of Piso. He invented fears also to give his greed greater scope. He said that he had been formidable to Nero, and that he could not look again for Lusitania and the honour of a second exile; that tyrants always suspected and  p41 hated the man who was marked out as their successor; this had already injured him with the aged emperor, and was going to injure him still more with the young one, who was cruel by nature and embittered by long exile. An Otho could be murdered; therefore he must be bold and act while Galba's authority was still weak and Piso's not yet established; this time of transition was opportune for great attempts, and a man must not delay when inactivity is more ruinous than rash action. Death nature ordains for all alike; but it differs as it brings either oblivion or glory in after ages; and if the same end awaits the guilty and the innocent, it is the duty of a man of superior vigour to deserve his death.

22 1 Otho's mind was not effeminate like his body. His intimate freedmen and slaves, who had more licence than prevails in private houses, constantly held before his eager eyes Nero's luxurious court, his adulteries, his many marriages, and other royal vices, exhibiting them as his own if he only dared to take them, but taunting him with them as the privilege of others if he did not act. The astrologers also — a tribe of men most untrustworthy for the powerful, deceitful towards the ambitious, a tribe which in our state will always be both forbidden and retained — they also urged him on, declaring from their observation of the stars that there were new movements on foot, and that the year would be a glorious one for Otho. Many of these astrologers, the worst possible tools for an imperial consort, had shared Poppaea's secret plans, and one them, Ptolemy, who had been with Otho in Spain, had promised him that he should survive Nero. Having  p43 won credit by the event, he had then, employing his own conjectures and the gossip of those who compared Galba's old age and Otho's youth, persuaded Otho that he would be called to the imperial office. But Otho accepted his prophecies as if they were genuine warnings of fate disclosed by Ptolemy's skill, for human nature is especially eager to believe the mysterious. And Ptolemy did not fail to do his part; he was already urging Otho even to crime, to which from such aspirations the transition is most easily made.

23 1 Yet it is uncertain whether the idea of committing crime came suddenly to Otho; he had long been trying to win popularity with the soldiers because he hoped for the succession or was preparing some bold step. On the march, at review, or in camp he addressed all the oldest soldiers by name, and, reminding them that they had attended Nero together, he called them messmates. Others he recognized, some he asked after and helped with money or influence; oftentimes he let drop words of complaint and remarks of a double meaning concerning Galba, and did other things that tended to disturb the common soldiery. For they were grumbling seriously over the toilsome marches, the lack of supplies, and the hard discipline. The men who had been in the habit of going by ship to the lakes of Campania and the cities of Achaia found it hard to climb the Pyrenees and the Alps under arms and to cover endless marches along the high roads.

24 1 When the minds of the soldiers were already inflamed, Maevius Pudens, one of Tigellinus's nearest friends,34 added fuel to the fire. Winning  p45 over all who were of a restless temper or who needed money and were hot-headed for a revolution, he gradually came to the point, whenever Galba dined at Otho's house, of using the dinner as an excuse for distributing one hundred sesterces to each member of the cohort that stood on guard. This was a kind of gift from the state, but Otho added to its significance by secret gifts to individuals; and he grew so bold in his acts of corruption that when Cocceius Proculus, one of the bodyguard,35 had a quarrel with his neighbour with regard to boundaries, Otho bought up the neighbour's whole farm with his own money and gave it to Proculus. This was possible through the dullness of the prefect Laco, who equally failed to see what was notorious and what was secret.

25 1 Then Otho put one of his freedmen, Onomastus, in charge of the crime he planned. When Onomastus had won over Barbius Proculus, the officer of the password for the bodyguard, and Veturius, a subaltern of the same, and had learned through various conversations that they were clever and bold, he loaded them with rewards and promises, and gave them money to tamper with the loyalty of a larger number. Two common soldiers thus undertook to transfer the imperial power, and they transferred it. Few were admitted to share the plot. By various devices they worked on the anxieties of the rest — on the soldiers of higher rank by treating them as if they were suspected because of the favours Nymphidius had shown them, on the mass of the common soldiers by stimulating their anger and disappointment that the donative had been so often deferred. There were some who were  p47 kindled by their memory of Nero and a longing for their former licence: but all had one common fear of some change in their conditions of service.

26 1 This infection touched the loyalty of the legions also and of the auxiliaries, who were already unsettled, now that it was a matter of common knowledge that the army in Germany was disaffected. And so ready were the ill-disposed for revolt and even the loyal to wink at wrong-doing, that on the fourteenth of January they planned to carry off Otho as he was returning from dinner, and would have done so if they had not been deterred by the uncertainty of night, by the dispersion of the soldiers in detachments scattered through the whole city, and by the difficulties of common action when men are in their cups. They were not influenced by any anxiety for the state, for in their sober senses they were preparing to pollute it with the blood of their emperor; but they feared that in the darkness any man who fell in the way of the soldiers from Pannonia or Germany might be proclaimed as Otho, for the majority did not know him. There were many signs of the outbreak of the revolt, but these were repressed by the plotters. Some things reached Galba's ears, but the prefect Laco made light of them; he was unacquainted with the soldiers' spirit, and he was opposed to any plan, however excellent, which he did not himself propose, and obstinate against those who knew better than himself.

27 1 On the fifteenth of January, when Galba was sacrificing in front of the temple of Apollo, the seer Umbricius declared that the omens were unfavourable, that a plot was imminent, and that an enemy was in his house. Otho heard this, for he  p49 stood next to Galba, and interpreted it by contraries as favourable to himself and auguring well for his purposes. Presently his freedman, Onomastus, announced to him that his architect and the contractors were waiting for him, this having been agreed upon as a sign that the soldiers were already gathering and that the conspiracy was ripe. When some asked Otho why he was leaving, he gave as an excuse that he was buying some properties of whose value he was doubtful because of their age, and therefore he wished to examine them first. Taking the arm of his freedman he walked through the palace of Tiberius to the Velabrum, and then to the golden milestone36 hard by the temple of Saturn. There twenty-three of the bodyguard hailed him as emperor; when he was frightened because there were so few to greet him, they put him quickly into a chair and with drawn swords hurried him away. About the same number of soldiers joined them as they went, some through knowledge, more through wonder, a part with shouts and drawn swords, a part in silence, ready to take their cue from the result.

28 1 Julius Martialis the tribune was the officer of the day in the camp. Terrified by the enormity of the sudden crime, ignorant of the extent to which the camp was disloyal, and fearing death if he opposed, he made the majority suspect him of complicity. All the rest of the tribunes also and the centurions preferred present safety to a doubtful but honourable course. And such was the attitude of their minds that the foulest of crimes was dared by a few, desired by more, and acquiesced in by all.

29 1 Galba in the meantime was in ignorance.  p51 Intent upon his sacrifices, he was importuning the gods of an empire which was already another's, when a report was brought to him that some senator or other was being hurried to the camp. Afterwards rumour said that it was Otho; and at the same time people came from the whole city — some, who had happened to meet the procession, exaggerating the facts through terror, some making light of them, for they did not even then forget to flatter. On consultation it was decided to try the temper of the cohort that was on guard at the palace, but not through Galba himself, whose authority was kept unimpaired for more serious measures. Piso, standing on the steps of the palace, called the soldiers together and spoke as follows: "It is now five days, my comrades, since, in ignorance of the future, I was adopted as Caesar, not knowing whether this name was one to be desired or feared. The fate of our house and the State depends on you. I say this not because I fear misfortune on my own account, for I have known adversity, and at the present moment I am learning that prosperity brings no less danger. But I grieve for the fate of my father, the senate, and the very empire, if we must either ourselves die to‑day or kill others — an act which brings equal sorrow to the good. In the last uprising we were solaced by the fact that the city was unstained by blood and the government transferred without dissension: adoption seemed to provide against any occasion for war even after Galba's death.

30 1 "I make no claim of high birth or character for myself, and I need not catalogue virtues when the comparison is with Otho. His faults, which are  p53 the only things in which he glories, were undermining the empire even when he pretended to be the friend of the emperor. Was it by his bearing and gait or by his womanish dress that he deserved the throne? They are deceived who are imposed upon by extravagance under the garb of generosity. He will know how to ruin, he will not know how to give. Adulteries and revelries and gatherings of women fill his thoughts: these he considers the prerogatives of imperial power. The lust and pleasure of them will be his, the shame and disgrace of them will fall on every Roman; for imperial power gained by wicked means no man has ever used honourably. The consent of all mankind made Galba Caesar, and Galba made me so with your consent. If the State and the Senate and People are but empty names, it is your concern, comrades, that the emperor should not be made by the worst citizens. A revolt of the legions against their generals has sometimes been heard of; your loyalty and good name have remained unimpaired down to the present day. It was Nero, too, who deserted you, not you Nero. Shall less than thirty renegades and deserters, men whom no one would allow to choose a centurion or tribune, bestow the empire? Will you allow this precedent, and by inaction make their crime yours? Such licence will spread to the provinces, and the consequence of their crimes will fall on us, the resulting wars on you. The reward given the assassins for the murder of the emperor will not be greater than that which will be bestowed on those who refrain from crime; nay, you will receive no less a gift from us for loyalty than you will from others for treason."

 p55  31 1 The members of the bodyguard slunk away, but the rest of the cohort did not refuse to hear his speech and, as frequently happens in times of excitement, they seized their standards haphazard, without any plan as yet, rather than, as was afterwards believed, to conceal their treachery. Celsus Marius was sent to the picked troops from Illyria, who were encamped in the Vipsanian Colonnade;37 Amullius Serenus and Domitius Sabinus, centurions of the first rank, were ordered to summon the German troops from the Hall of Liberty.38 The legion of marines was not trusted, for they were still hostile to Galba, because he had immediately massacred their comrades when he first entered the city.39 The tribunes, Cetrius Severus, Subrius Dexter, and Pompeius Longinus, went even into the praetorian camp to see if the mutiny were still incipient and not yet come to a head, so that it could be averted by wiser counsels. Subrius and Cetrius the soldiers attacked and threatened, Longinus they forcibly restrained and disarmed; this action was prompted by his fidelity to his emperor, which was due not to his military position, but to his friendship for Galba; therefore the mutineers regarded him with the greater suspicion. The legion of marines without hesitation joined the praetorians. The picked troops from Illyria drove Celsus away at the point of their spears. The German detachments hesitated for a long time; they were still weak physically and were kindly  p57 disposed towards Galba, for Nero had sent them back to Alexandria, and then on their return, when sick from their long voyage, Galba had taken great pains to care for them.

32 1 The whole mass of the people, with slaves among them, filled the palace. There were discordant cries demanding Otho's death and the execution of the conspirators, exactly as if the people were calling for some show in the circus or the theatre; there was neither sense nor honesty in their demands, for on this very same day they would have clamoured for the opposite with equal enthusiasm;40 but they acted according to the traditional custom of flattering the emperor, whoever he might be, with fulsome acclamations and senseless zeal.

In the meantime Galba was torn between two proposals; Titus Vinius urged the necessity of staying in the palace, arming the slaves for defence, blocking the entrances, and not going to the infuriated troops. Let Galba, he said, give time for the disloyal to repel, for the loyal to come to a common agreement; crimes gained strength by impulsive action, wise counsels through delay; and, after all, he would later have the same opportunity to go on his own motion if it should seem wise, but if he went now and regretted it, his return would depend on others.

33 1 All the rest thought that he should act immediately, before the conspiracy, as yet weak and confined to a few, should gain strength. They declared that Otho would lose heart. He had slipped away by stealth, had presented himself to people who did not know him, and now, because  p59 of the hesitancy and inactivity of those who were wasting their time, he was having an opportunity to learn to play the emperor. There must be no waiting for Otho to settle matters in the camp, invade the forum, and go to the Capitol under the very eyes of Galba, while that most noble emperor with his valiant friends barred his house and did not cross his threshold, being ready, no doubt, to endure a siege! It was a brilliant backing, too, that they would find in slaves, if the united sentiment of the whole people and their first indignation, which is the strongest, should be allowed to cool! The dishonourable, therefore, was the dangerous resolve; even if they must fall, they should go forth to meet danger; that would bring more disrepute on Otho and honour to themselves. When Vinius opposed this view Laco attacked him with threats, goaded on by Icelus, who persisted in his personal enmity towards Vinius to the ruin of the state.

34 1 Galba did not delay any longer, but favoured those who offered the more specious advice.41 Yet Piso was sent first to the camp, for he was young, had a great name, and enjoyed fresh popularity; he was also an enemy of Titus Vinius; either that was a fact, or else in their anger the opponents of Vinius wished to have it so: and it is so much easier to believe in hatred. Piso had hardly left the palace when a report was brought, vague and uncertain at first, that Otho had been killed in the camp. Presently, as is natural in falsehoods of great importance, some appeared who declared that they had been present and had seen the murder. Between those who rejoiced in the news and those who were indifferent  p61 to it, the story was believed. Many thought this rumour had been invented and exaggerated by Otho's partisans who were already in the crowd and spread abroad the pleasant falsehood in order to lure Galba from his palace.

35 1 Then indeed it was not the people only and the ignorant mob that burst into applaud and unrestrained enthusiasm, but many of the knights and senators as well. They laid aside all fear and became incautious, broke down the doors of the palace and burst in, presenting themselves to Galba, and complaining that they had been robbed of vengeance. They were all rank cowards, and, as the event proved, men who would show no courage in time of danger, but who now were exceedingly bold with words and savage of tongue. No one knew; everyone affirmed. Finally, overcome by the dearth of truth and by the common error, Galba put on his breastplate; then since his years and strength were unequal to resisting the inrushing crowds, he was raised aloft in a chair. Julius Atticus, one of the bodyguard, met him in the palace, and exhibiting his bloody sword cried out that he had killed Otho. "Who gave you orders, comrade?" said Galba; for Galba showed a remarkable spirit in checking licence on the part of the soldiers; before threats he was unterrified, and incorruptible against flattery.

36 1 There was no longer any doubt as to the sentiments of all the soldiers in the camp. Their enthusiasm was so great that they were not satisfied with carrying Otho on their shoulders as they advanced, but they placed him on a platform where shortly before the gilded statue of Galba had stood, and surrounded him with the standards and  p63 ensigns. Neither tribune nor centurion was allowed to approach him: the common soldiery kept calling out that they must beware of their commanders above all. There was utter confusion, with shouts and tumult and mutual exhortation — not such as one sees in a gathering of the people and populace, when there are various cries and half-hearted flattery, but they seized everyone they saw coming over to them, embraced them with their arms, placed them next to them, repeated the oath of allegiance, now recommending the emperor to the soldiers, now the soldiers to the emperor. Otho did not fail in his part: he stretched out his hands and did obeisance to the common soldiers, threw kisses, and played in every way the slave to secure the master's place. After the entire legion of marines had sworn fidelity to him, enthusiasm in his strength and thinking that he must now encourage in a body those whom he had hitherto incited as individuals, he began to speak from the wall of the camp as follows:

37 1 "Comrades, I cannot tell who I am who come before you, because I may not call myself a private citizen after you have named me emperor, nor emperor while another holds the imperial power. Your name, also, will be uncertain so long as there is any doubt whether you have an emperor or an enemy of the Roman people in your camp. Do you hear how men demand my execution and your punishment in the same breath? So clear it is that we can neither die nor be safe except together: and so merciful is Galba that perhaps he has already made promises such as befit the man who massacred all those thousands of innocent soldiers when no man demanded it. Horror comes over me whenever I recall  p65 his fateful entrance, and the single victory that he won, when he gave orders that those who surrendered should be decimated in the sight of the whole city; they were the very men whom he had received under his protection in answer to their appeals. Such were the auspices under which he entered the city. Now what glory has he brought to the principate, except the murder of Obultronius Sabinus and Cornelius Marcellus in Spain, of Betuus Cilo in Gaul, of Fonteius Capito in Germany, of Clodius Macer in Africa, of Cingonius on the way to Rome, of Turpilianus in the city, of Nymphidius in the camp? What province is there anywhere, what camp, that is not bloodstained and defiled, or, as Galba would say, purged and disciplined? For what other men call crimes he calls 'remedies,' falsely naming cruelty 'strictness,' avarice 'frugality,' the punishment and insults you suffer 'discipline.' It is seven months since Nero met his end, and already Icelus has stolen more than all that a Polyclitus and a Vatinius and an Aegialus squandered.42 Titus Vinius would have proceeded with less greed and lawlessness if he had been emperor himself; now he keeps us under his heel as if we were his slaves, and regards us as cheap because we belong to another. Galba's house alone is equal to paying the donative which is never given to you, but daily thrown in your teeth.

38 1 "Furthermore, to prevent your having any hope even in his successor, Galba summoned from exile the man whose gloom and greed he reckoned made him most like himself. Comrades, you saw how even the gods by a wonderful storm expressed their disapproval of this ill-starred adoption.  p67 The senate, the Roman people, have the same feelings: they look to brave action on your part, for in you is all strength for honourable plans, and without you purposes, however noble, are of no avail. It is not to war or to danger that I am calling you; all the armed forces are on our side. And that one cohort in civil dress is not now defending Galba, but detaining him; when it has once seen you, has once accepted my watchword, the only rivalry between you will be to see who can put me most in his debt. There is no time for delay in a plan which is not praiseworthy unless put into effect." Then he ordered the armoury to be opened. The soldiers immediately seized arms without regard to military custom or rank, with no desire to distinguish praetorian or legionary by their proper insignia; they wore the helmets and shields of auxiliaries without distinction; there was no tribune or centurion to direct them; each guided and spurred himself on; and the chief incentive of the rascals was the grief of loyal men.

39 1 Piso, already terrified by the roar that arose from the growing revolt and by the shouts whose echoes reached even the city, had now caught up with Galba, who had meanwhile left the palace and was approaching the forum. Already Marius Celsus had brought a discouraging report. Thereupon some proposed that Galba return to the palace, others that he try to reach the Capitol, while many urged the necessity of seizing the rostra. But the majority simply opposed the advice of others; and as usually happens in the case of such unfortunate proposals, those plans for which the opportunity was past, now seemed the best. Men say that Laco,  p69 without Galba's knowledge, considered killing Titus Vinius, either to appease the angry spirits of the soldiers by his punishment or because he believed him privy to Otho's plans, or finally simply because he hated him. Time and place, however, made him hesitate, because when once a massacre has been started, it is hard to check it; moreover his plan was upset by disturbing reports and by the defection of his closest adherents, since the enthusiasm of all who at first had been eager to exhibit their loyalty and spirit was now weakening.

40 1 Galba was swept to and fro by the various movements of the surging mob; crowds everywhere filled the public halls and temples, contemplating the grim spectacle. Neither the common people nor the rabble uttered a word, but their faces showed their terror and they turned their ears to catch every sound; there was no uproar, no quiet, but such a silence as accompanies great fear and great anger. Yet Otho received a report that the rabble was being armed; he ordered his adherents to go with all haste and anticipate the danger. So Roman soldiers rushed on as if they were going to drive a Vologaesus or a Pacorus from the ancestral throne of the Arsacidae43 and were not hurrying to slay their own emperor — an old man all unarmed. They thrust aside the rabble, trampled down senators; terrifying men by their arms, they burst into the forum at full gallop. Neither the sight of the Capitol nor the sanctity of the temples which towered above them, nor the thought of emperors past and to come, could deter them from committing a crime which any successor to the imperial power must punish.

 p71  41 1 When he saw the armed force close upon him, the standard-bearer of the cohort escorting Galba — it is said that his name was Atilius Vergilio — tore Galba's portrait from the standard and threw it on the ground. This signal made the feeling of all the soldiers for Otho evident; the people fled and deserted the forum; if any hesitated, the troops threatened them with their weapons. It was near the Lacus Curtius44 that Galba was thrown from his chair and rolled on the ground by his panic-stricken carriers. His last words have been variously reported according to the hatred or admiration of individuals; some say that he asked in an appealing tone what harm he had done and begged for a few days to pay the donative; many report that he voluntarily offered his throat to the assassins, telling them to strike quickly, if such actions were for the state's interest. His murderers cared nothing for what he said. About the actual assassin nothing certain is known: some say that he was one Terentius of the reserve forces, others that his name was Laecanius; a more common story is that a soldier of the Fifteenth legion, Camurius by name, pierced his throat with a thrust of his sword. The rest shamefully mutilated his legs and arms, for his breast was protected, and in their cruel savagery they continued to inflict many wounds on his body even after his head had been cut off.

42 1 Then they attacked Titus Vinius. In his case also there is a question whether his terror of instant death deprived him of speech or whether he cried out that Otho had not given orders for his death. He may have invented this statement in his fear, or he may have thus confessed his complicity  p73 in the plot; but his life and reputation incline us rather to believe that he was privy to the crime of which he was the cause. He fell in front of the temple of the deified Julius at the first blow, which struck him in the back of the knee; afterwards he was run clean through the body by a legionary, Julius Carus.

43 1 A noble hero on that day our own age beheld in the person of Sempronius Densus. He was a centurion of a praetorian cohort whom Galba had assigned to protect Piso; he drew his dagger, rushed to meet the armed men, upbraided them for their crime, and drawing the attention of the assassins to himself by act and word, gave Piso a chance to escape, although he was wounded. Piso fled into the temple of Vesta, where he was received through the pity of one of the public slaves who hid him in his chamber. It was the obscurity of his hiding-place and not some scruple about the sacred spot or its rites that delayed for a time the end that threatened him; but presently, despatched by Otho who was consumed with a desire for Piso's death above all others, there arrived Sulpicius Florus of the British auxiliaries, recently enfranchised by Galba, and Statius Murcus of the bodyguard; these dragged Piso out and slew him at the door of the temple.

44 1 No other murder, according to report, gave Otho greater joy; on no other head did he gaze with such insatiable eyes. The reason may have been that now his mind was first free from anxiety and so open to joy, or else that in the case of Galba the memory of his treason, and in the case of Titus Vinius the recollection of his friendship,  p75 distressed with gloomy visions even his cruel mind; but over the murder of Piso, his enemy and rival, he thought it lawful and right to rejoice. The victims' heads were displayed on poles among the standards of the cohorts side by side with the eagle of the legion, while those who had committed the murders, those who had been present, and those who, whether truly or falsely, boasted of their share in what they regarded as a splendid and memorable act, vied in exhibiting their bloody hands. More than one hundred and twenty petitions demanding rewards for some notable deed done that day were afterwards found by Vitellius; their authors he ordered to be hunted out and killed without exception, not that he wished to honour Galba, but he acted according to the traditional custom of emperors in thus securing protection for the time being and vengeance for the future.

45 1 The senate and the people seemed wholly changed: all rushed to the camp, striving to pass those next them and to overtake those before; they inveighed against Galba, praised the soldiers' decision, covered Otho's hand with kisses, the extravagance of their acts being in direct proportion to their falsity. Otho did not rebuff individuals, while he sought to check the eager and threatening temper of the soldiers by his words and look. They demanded for punishment Marius Celsus, consul elect, who had been Galba's faithful friend even to the very end; for they hated his energy and upright character as if they were vicious qualities. It was clear that they wished to begin murder, plunder, and the destruction of every honest citizen, but Otho had not yet the influence to forbid crimes: he could, however, already order  p77 them. Therefore, pretending to be angry, he ordered the arrest of Celsus, and by declaring that he was to suffer punishment, saved him from immediate death.

46 1 The soldiers' will was henceforth supreme. The praetorians chose their own prefects, — Plotius Firmus, formerly a common soldier, but later chief of the city police, and a partisan of Otho even while Galba lived; as his associate they gave him Licinius Proculus, whose intimacy with Otho made men suspect that he had favoured his plans. As Prefect of the City they selected Flavius Sabinus, thus following Nero's choice, for Sabinus had held the same office under Nero, while many in doing so had an eye on his brother Vespasian. The troops also demanded that the payments usually made to centurions to secure furloughs should be abolished, since they amounted to an annual tax on the common soldiers. A quarter of each company would be away on furlough or loafing about the camp itself, provided the soldiers paid the centurion his price, and no one cared how the burden pressed on the soldiers or how they got their money; in reality it was through highway robbery, petty thieving, and by menial occupations that the soldiers purchased rest from military service. Moreover the richest soldiers would be cruelly assigned to the most fatiguing labour until they bought relief. Then, impoverished and demoralized by idleness, the soldier would return to his company poor instead of well-to‑do and lazy instead of energetic; so ruined one after another by the same poverty and lack of discipline, they were ready to rush into mutiny and dissension, and finally into civil war. But Otho wished to avoid alienating the centurions  p79 by generosity to the rank and file, and so he promised that the imperial treasury should pay for the annual furloughs, a procedure which was undoubtedly useful and which later was established by good emperors as a fixed rule of the service. The prefect Laco, who had been ostensibly banished to an island, was assassinated by a retired soldier whom Otho had despatched to kill him. Marcianus Icelus, being only a freedman, was publicly executed.

47 1 The day was spent in crimes, and the worst evil was the joy felt over the crimes. The senate was called together by the city praetor;45 the other magistrates vied in flattery; the senators hurried to their places, and voted Otho the tribunitian power, the title Augustus, and all the honours granted the other emperors; for all did their best to blot out the memory of their former abuse and insults, nor did anyone discover to his sorrow that these random utterances had found lodgment in Otho's mind; whether he had forgotten them or put off his vengeance his reign was to short to show. He was then carried through the heaps of dead bodies, first to the Capitol and then to the Palatine; after that he allowed the bodies to be given up for burial and burning. Piso was laid to rest by his wife Verania and his brother Scribonianus, Titus Vinius by his daughter Crispina, after they had discovered and redeemed their heads, which the assassins had kept for profit.

48 1 Piso was near the end of his thirty-first year; his reputation had been better than his fortune. His brother Magnus had been put to death by Claudius, his brother Crassus by Nero.46 He himself, long an exile, was Caesar for four days; the  p81 only advantage he gained over his elder brother by his hasty adoption was that he was killed before him. Titus Vinius lived fifty-seven years; his character varied at different times. His father was of a praetorian family, his maternal grandfather one of the proscribed.47 He had disgraced himself in his first military service under the legate Calvisius Sabinus, whose wife, prompted by a shameful desire to see the camp, entered it at night disguised as a soldier. After she had interfered with the guard and the other soldiers on duty with unfailing effrontery, she had the hardihood to commit adultery in the general's headquarters. Titus Vinius was charged with complicity in this crime and therefore was ordered by Caligula to be heavily loaded with chains. Later, when times changed, he was released; and then, advancing in office without interruption, he was appointed to the command of a legion after he had been praetor; and though he won success in this position, he later smirched his reputation by an act worthy of a slave; for he was charged with stealing a golden cup at a dinner given by Claudius, so that the next day Claudius ordered Vinius alone to be served with earthenware. But as proconsul of Gallia Narbonensis, Vinius ruled his province with strictness and honesty. Later, through friendship with Galba he was carried to a dangerous height. He was bold, cunning, efficient, wicked or virtuous, according to his inclination at the time; but he always showed the same vigour. His great riches made his will void,48 but Piso's poverty secured the fulfilment of his last wishes.

49 1 Galba's body was long neglected and abused with a thousand insults under the licence of  p83 darkness. Finally Argius, his steward, one of his former slaves, gave it humble burial in his master's private garden. Galba's head, which had been fixed on a pole and maltreated by camp-followers and servants, was finally found the next day before the tomb of Petrobius — he was one of Nero's freedmen whom Galba had punished — and was placed with the body which had already been burned.49 This was the end of Servius Galba. He had lived seventy-three years, through the reigns of five emperors, with good fortune, and he was happier under the rule of others than in his own. His family was of the ancient nobility and possessed great wealth. Galba himself was of mediocre genius, being rather free from faults than possessing virtues. He was neither careless of reputation nor one who cared to boast of it. He was not greedy for another's property; he was frugal with his own, stingy with the state's. Kindly and complacent toward friends and freedmen, if he found them honest; if they were dishonest, he was blind even to a fault. But his high birth and the terror which the times inspired masked the truth, so that men called wisdom what was really indolence. While he was vigorous physically, he enjoyed a reputation for his military service in the German provinces. As proconsul he governed Africa with moderation and, when he was already an old man, ruled Hither Spain with the same uprightness. He seemed too great to be a subject so long as he was subject, and all would have agreed that he was equal to the imperial office if he had never held it.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Jan. 1, 69 A.D.

2 To be meticulously exact, the period was 822 years, according to the Varronian date of the founding of Rome, 753 B.C., which was generally accepted in Tacitus's day.

3 Tacitus thus dates the beginning of the Empire at 31 B.C.; yet the position of Augustus was not made wholly constitutional until January, 27 B.C.

4 Tacitus must have been quaestor under Vespasian or Titus, for he was praetor in 88, and consul in 97 A.D.

5 So far as we know, Tacitus never carried out his plan. After finishing his Histories, which covered the years 69‑96 A.D., he turned back and wrote the Annals, embracing the years 14‑68 A.D.

6 Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Domitian.

7 Two of the three civil wars were those of Otho against Vitellius and of Vitellius against Vespasian; the third was probably that of Domitian against the revolting governor of Upper Germany, L. Antonius Saturninus, in 89 A.D. Suet. Dom. 6 f.; Dio Cassius, LXVII.11.

The foreign wars were against the Rhoxolani (I.79) and the Jews (V.1). The successes in the East were won in the latter war, while the disasters in the West were caused by the revolt of Civilis and his Batavians, as is narrated below, especially IV.12‑37, 54‑79; V.14‑26.

The subjugation of Britain was accomplished by Agricola, the father-in‑law of Tacitus, in 77‑84 A.D.; in the later years of Domitian's reign some parts of the province apparently were lost.

8 See Suet. Dom. 6; Ner. 57.

9 The reference is to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Pliny, Epist. VI.16 and 20.

10 By the fire of 69 (III.71), and by the conflagration under Titus, 80 A.D. Dio Cassius, LXVI.24.

11 Galba was the first to be proclaimed emperor outside Rome.

12 Nymphidius had promised the praetorians 7,500 drachmas ($1500) each, and 1,250 drachmas ($250) to each legionary, the former sum being the largest gift ever promised the soldiers. Plut. Galba 2.

13 Nymphidius had soon come to feel that his services were not duly appreciated by Galba and that Titus Vinius and Cornelius Laco had supplanted him in Galba's regard. He next gave out that he was the son of Caligula (Tac. Ann. XV.72; Plut. Galba, 9) and wished to persuade the praetorians to proclaim his emperor in Galba's place; but they refused, and when he tried to force himself into the praetorian camp, they killed him. Plut. Galba, 14; Suet. Galba, 11.

14 On Titus Vinius, see I.48, below; Laco, who had been appointed prefect of the praetorian guard in place of Nymphidius, played a prominent part in Galba's brief reign, and was killed by Otho at the same time as his imperial master. See I.46; Plut. Galba, 27.

15 Cingonius Varro had actually composed the speech with which Nymphidius addressed the praetorians. Plut. Galba, 14. Petronius Turpilianus, consul in 61A.D., had been governor of Britain 61‑63 (Tac. Ann. XIV.39; Agri. 16); he was selected by Nero as general against Vindex and Galba, but had come to an agreement with the latter. Zonaras,º XI.13, p. 570D.

16 The Claustra Caspiarum seem to be the pass which was also called Portae Caucasiae (Plin. N.H. VI.XIII.40); it is that which leads to‑day to Tiflis.

17 Clodius Macer was governor of Africa. Cf. below, I.73; Suet. Galba, 11; Plut. Galba6, 13. Fonteius Capito, consul in 67 A.D., was governor of Lower Germany. I.58; III.62.

18 Cluvius Rufus, now governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, wrote an account of the reigns of Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. He is one of the few authorities whom Tacitus mentions by name.

19 In 48 A.D. Claudius had granted full citizenship to the Gallic nobility of Gallia Comata (Ann. XI.23 f.). This privilege Galba extended to all citizens in the Gallic tribes and communities that had favoured Vindex and himself; and at the same time he reduced the tribute 25 per cent. I.51; Plut. Galba, 18.

20 The Lingones and Treveri, who had supported Verginius, are meant. I.53 f.

21 The district along the Rhine was divided for administrative and military purposes into Upper Germany and Lower Germany. Upper Germany extended on both sides of the Rhine from Vindonissa (Windisch, near Lake Constance) to Mogontiacum (Mainz); Lower Germany from Mogontiacum to the North Sea, but included little territory on the east bank of the Rhine. Usually there were four legions in each district; but at this time there were only three in Upper Germany.

22 Aulus Vitellius had enjoyed the favour of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero in turn. In 48 A.D. he had been consul ordinarius with L. Vipstanus Poblicola; he had been proconsul of Africa, apparently in 60‑61, and in the following year he served in the same province as legatus of his brother, who was then governor. He was a member of most of the important priesthoods, and also held the office of commissioner of public works at Rome. Tacitus characterizes him below, II.86.

23 The legions here referred to had been withdrawn on account of Vindex's revolt.

24 Licinius Mucianus had been consul under Nero, and in 67 was appointed governor of Syria. After Vespasian claimed the imperial power Mucianus became his strongest supporter; the details are given below, Books II‑IV.

25 Titus Flavius Vespasianus was born at Reate in 9 A.D. Up to the present he had spent his life as a soldier and administrator in Thrace, Crete, Germany, and Britain; he had been aedile in 38, praetor in 40, and consul in 51 A.D.; and in 66 he was appointed general by Nero to conduct the war against the Jews.

26 On the position and importance of Egypt, see Ann. II.59: "For Augustus had made it one of the secret principles of his power to keep Egypt to himself and not to allow senators or eminent knights to enter it without his permission. His purpose was to save Italy from the danger of being starved; indeed Italy was at the mercy of any man who once got control of Egypt, for the province is the key to both sea and land; and a small force there could resist large armies."

27 Icelus had hurried from Rome to Galba in Spain with the news of Nero's death, and had been rewarded the gold ring and the privilege of wearing the narrow purple stripe (angustus clavus) on his tunic, that were prerogatives of the equestrian order. He then became one of Galba's chief advisers; he was later executed by Otho. Plut. Galba, 7, Suet. Galba, 1422.

28 M. Salvius Otho, born 32 A.D., had governed Lusitania well for ten years (59‑68 A.D.) under Nero, but had promptly joined Galba's cause and had accompanied him to Rome. For a somewhat different account of his relation to Poppaea, see Ann. XIII.45.

29 The expression "imperial comitia" is ironical, in imitation of "consular comitia," etc., which described the ordinary elections. The date of the adoption was January 10.

30 Piso, born 38 A.D., was long an exile under Nero (I.48), and therefore had held no civil offices in the State. His father, mother, and one brother had been put to death by Claudius, a second brother killed by Nero.

31 To give validity to the adoption of a mature person the approval of the curiae and of the pontifices was necessary. The curiate assembly had lost its political power in 286 B.C., but it was still represented by thirty lictors, assembled by the pontifices. Galba, as pontifex maximus, dispensed with the usual forms.

32 According to the primitive method of raising levies.

33 A sum roughly equivalent to $100,000,000 of our money, but the vastly greater value of money in antiquity must be taken into account to arrive at a just comparison.

34 On Tigellinus, see I.72 below.

35 The speculatores were picked men, chosen from the praetorians, who formed the bodyguard of the emperor.

36 The miliarium aureum was a column, covered with gilt-bronze, erected by Augustus, on which were engraved the names of the chief cities of the empire and their distances from Rome.

37 This was on the west side of the Campus Agrippae, a piazza laid out by Agrippa on the Campus Martius, and finished and dedicated by Augustus in 7 B.C.

38 This building, which held the archives and offices of the censors, had been restored by Asinius Pollio, who in 39 B.C. established in it the first public library at Rome. It was apparently on or near the site on which Trajan later built his forum.

39 Cf. chap. 6 above.

40 Cf. Juvenal X.54‑77.

41 Cf.  Suet. Galba, 19, for a different account.

42 Favourite freedmen of Nero, whose inclination indulged their greed.

43 Vologaesus became king of the Parthians in the reign of Claudius; Pacorus was king of Media, now apparently subject to the Parthians. Cf. Annals XII and XV.

44 At this time an enclosed spot in the forum.

45 Both the consuls, Galba and Vinius, were now dead.

46 Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus had married the emperor Claudius's daughter Antonia in 41, but within six years he was put to death. Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi was charged with treason by the notorious Marcus Aquilius Regulus and executed between 66 and 68. Cf. IV.42.

47 Under the second triumvirate in 43 B.C. Cf. Dio C. XLVII.7.

48 That is, the emperor's cupidity disregarded the provisions of the will.

49 According to Plutarch, Galba 28, this office was performed by the famous Helvidius Priscus.

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