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I.50‑90

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Histories

of
Tacitus

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,
please let me know!


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II.52‑101

(Vol. II) Tacitus
Histories

p161 Book II (beginning)

1 1 Fortune was already, in an opposite quarter of the world, founding and making ready for a new dynasty, which from its varying destinies brought to the state joy or misery, to the emperors themselves success or doom.1 Titus Vespasianus had been dispatched by his father from Judea while Galba was still alive. The reason given out for his journey was a desire to pay his respects to the emperor, and the fact that Titus was now old enough to begin his political career.2 But the common people, who are always ready to invent, had spread the report that he had been summoned to Rome to be adopted. This gossip was based on the emperor's age and childlessness, and was due also to the popular passion for designating many successors until one is chosen. The report gained a readier hearing from the nature of Titus himself, which was equal to the highest fortune, from his personal beauty and a certain majesty which he possessed, as well as from Vespasian's good fortune, from prophetic oracles, and even from chance occurrences which, amid the general credulity, were regarded as omens. When Titus received certain information with regard to Galba's death he was at Corinth, a city of Achaia, and met men there who positively declared that Vitellius had taken up arms and begun war; in his anxiety he called a few of his friends and reviewed fully the two possible courses of action: if he should go on p163to Rome, he would enjoy no gratitude for an act of courtesy intended for another emperor, and he would be a hostage in the hands of either Vitellius or Otho; on the other hand, if he returned to his father, the victor would undoubtedly feel offence; yet, if his father joined the victor's party, while victory was still uncertain, the son would be excused; but if Vespasian should assume the imperial office, his rivals would be concerned with war and have to forget offences.

2 1 These considerations and others like them made him waver between hope and fear; but hope finally won. Some believed that he turned back because of his passionate longing to see again Queen Berenice; and the young man's heart was not insensible to Berenice, but his feelings towards her proved no obstacle to action.3 He spent his youth in the delights of self-indulgence, but he showed more restraint in his own reign than in that of his father. So at this time he coasted along the shores of Achaia and Asia, leaving the land on the left, and made for the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus; from Cyprus he struck out boldly for Syria. While he was in Cyprus, he was overtaken by a desire to visit and examine the temple of Paphian Venus, which was famous both among natives and strangers. It may not prove a wearisome digression to discuss briefly the origin of this cult, the temple ritual, and the form under which the goddess is worshipped, for she is not so represented elsewhere.

3 1 The founder of the temple, according to ancient tradition, was King Aerias. Some, however, say that this was the name of the goddess herself. A more recent tradition reports that the temple was p165consecrated by Cinyras,4 and that the goddess herself after she sprang from the sea, was wafted hither; but that the science and method of divination were imported from abroad by the Cilician Tamiras, and so it was agreed that the descendants of both Tamiras and Cinyras should preside over the sacred rites. It is also said that in a later time the foreigners gave up the craft that they had introduced, that the royal family might have some prerogative over foreign stock. Only a descendant of Cinyras is now consulted as priest. Such victims are accepted as the individual vows, but male ones are preferred. The greatest confidence is put in the entrails of kids. Blood may not be shed upon the altar, but offering is made only with prayers and pure fire. The altar is never wet by any rain, although it is in the open air. The representation of the goddess is not in human form, but it is a circular mass that is broader at the base and rises like a turning-post to a small circumference at the top.5 The reason for this is obscure.

4 1 After Titus had examined the treasures, the gifts made by kings, and all those other things which the Greeks from their delight in ancient tales attribute to a dim antiquity, he asked the oracle first with regard to his voyage. On learning that his path was open and the sea favourable, he slew many victims and then questioned indirectly about himself. When Sostratus, for such was the priest's name, saw that the entrails were uniformly favourable and that the goddess favoured great undertakings, he made at the moment a brief reply in the usual fashion, but asked for a private interview in which he disclosed the future. Greatly encouraged, p167Titus sailed on to his father; his arrival brought a great accession of confidence to the provincials and to the troops, who were in a state of anxious uncertainty.

Vespasian had almost put an end to the war with the Jews. The siege of Jerusalem, however, remained, a task rendered difficult and arduous by the character of the mountain-citadel and the obstinate superstition of the Jews rather than by any adequate resources which the besieged possessed to withstand the inevitable hardships of a siege. As we have stated above,6 Vespasian himself had three legions experienced in war. Mucianus was in command of four in a peaceful province,7 but a spirit of emulation and the glory won by the neighbouring army had banished from his troops all inclination to idleness, and just as dangers and toils had given Vespasian's troops power of resistance, so those of Mucianus had gained vigour from unbroken repose and that love of war which springs from inexperience. Both generals had auxiliary infantry and cavalry, as well as fleets and allied kings;8 while each possessed a famous name, though a different reputation.

5 1 Vespasian was energetic in war. He used to march at the head of his troops, select a place for camp, oppose the enemy night and day with wise strategy and, if occasion demanded, with his own hands. His food was whatever chance offered; in his dress and bearing he hardly differed from the common soldier. He would have been quite equal to the generals of old if he had not been avaricious. Mucianus, on the other hand, was eminent for his magnificence and wealth and by the complete p169superiority of his scale of life to that of a private citizen. He was the readier speaker, experienced in civil administration and in statesmanship. It would have been a rare combination for an emperor if the faults of the two could have been done away with and their virtues only combined in one man. But Mucianus was governor of Syria, Vespasian of Judea. They had quarrelled through jealousy because they governed neighbouring provinces. Finally at Nero's death they had laid aside their hostilities and consulted together, at first through friends as go-betweens; and then Titus, the chief bond of their concord, had ended their dangerous feud by pointing out their common interests; both by his nature and skill he was well calculated to win over even a person of the character of Mucianus. Tribunes, centurions, and the common soldiers were secured for the cause by industry or by licence, by virtues or by pleasures, according to the individual's character.

6 1 Before Titus arrived, both armies had taken the oath of allegiance to Otho, for news came quickly as usual, while it was a slow and laborious task to set in motion civil war, for which the Orient, after its long period of quiet and peace, was then for the first time preparing. For in former times the most violent civil struggles had been begun in Italy or Gaul with the resources of the West, and Pompey, Cassius, Brutus, and Anthony, all of whom had been followed over-sea by civil strife, had come to no happy ends; and in Syria and Judea the Caesars had been oftener heard of than seen. There was no mutiny on the part of the legions, only some threatening demonstrations against the Parthians which met with varied success. In the last civil p171struggle, while other provinces had been shaken, in the East peace was undisturbed, and then adhesion to Galba followed. Presently, now the news spread abroad that Otho and Vitellius were proceeding with their impious arms to make spoil of the imperial power, the soldiers began to murmur and examine their own resources, that the rewards of empire might not fall to the rest, to them only the necessity of servitude. They could count at once on seven legions, and they had besides Syria and Judea with the great auxiliary forces that they could furnish; immediately on the one side there was Egypt with two legions, on the other Cappadocia and Pontus and all the garrisons stationed along the Armenian border. Asia and the rest of the provinces were not poor in men of military age and were rich in money. Besides there were all the islands of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean itself, which was convenient and a source of safety to them in the interval while they were preparing for war.

7 1 The generals did not fail to notice the ardour of the soldiers, but they decided, while others fought, to await the issue. They knew that the victors and the vanquished in civil war never united in any complete good faith, and that it made no difference whether it was Vitellius or Otho whom Fortune allowed to survive. In prosperity, they reflected, even great generals degenerate; here one of the contestants would perish in the field from the mutiny, sloth, and luxury of the soldiers, as well as from his own faults; the other contestant would meet his doom through success. Therefore Vespasian and Mucianus postponed the war until a more favourable opportunity, having recently agreed to act in concert, p173while the others had come to an agreement long since: the best were moved by love for the state, many by the attractions of spoil, others by their private embarrassments. So all, both good and bad, were eager for war with equal zeal but for different reasons.

8 1 About this time Achaia and Asia were terrified by a false rumour of Nero's arrival. The reports with regard to his death had been varied, and therefore many people imagined and believed that he was alive. The forces and attempts of other pretenders we shall tell as we proceed;9 but at this time, a slave from Pontus or, as others have reported, a freedman from Italy, who was skilled in playing on the cithara and in singing, gained the readier belief in his deceit through these accomplishments and his resemblance to Nero. He recruited some deserters, poor tramps whom he had bribed by great promises, and put to sea. A violent storm drove him to the island of Cythnus, where he called to his standard some soldiers who were returning from the East on leave, or ordered them to be killed if they refused. Then he robbed the merchants, and armed all the ablest-bodied of their slaves. A centurion, Sisenna, who was carrying clasped right hands,10 the symbol of friendship, to the praetorians in the name of the army in Syria, the pretender approached with various artifices, until Sisenna in alarm and fearing violence secretly left the island and made his escape. Then the alarm spread far and wide. Many came eagerly forward at the famous name, prompted by their desire for a change and their hatred of the present situation. The fame of the pretender was increasing from day to day when a chance shattered it.

p175 9 1 The provinces of Galatia and Pamphylia11 had been entrusted by Galba to Calpurnius Asprenas, who had been given as escort two triremes from the fleet at Misenum. With these Calpurnius reached the island of Cythnus, where there were many who tried to win over the captains in Nero's name. The pretender, assuming a look of sorrow and calling on the soldiers, once his own, for protection, begged them to land him in Syria or Egypt. The captains, either hesitating or acting with craft, declared that they must address their soldiers and that they would return after they had prepared the minds of all. But they faithfully reported everything to Asprenas, at whose bidding they captured the pretender's ship and killed him, whoever he was. His body, which was remarkable for its eyes, hair, and grim face, was carried to Asia and from there to Rome.

10 1 In a state distracted by civil strife and wavering between liberty and licence because of the frequent changes of emperors, even smaller matters caused excitement. Vibius Crispus, whose money, power, and ability caused him to be ranked with the prominent rather than among the good, summoned for trial before the senate Annius Faustus, a knight, who had been an informer under Nero; for the senate had voted recently in the reign of Galba that informers might be brought to trial. This vote of the senate had had various fortunes and had been weak or effective according to the power or poverty of the defendant; yet it still retained some of its terror. Moreover, Crispus had used his own power to the uttermost to ruin the man who had informed against his brother,12 and had p177prevailed upon a large part of the senate to demand that Annius should be given over for execution without defence and unheard. But, on the other hand, nothing helped the defendant with other senators so much as the excessive power of his accuser. They voted that time be allowed, the charges published, and that no matter how odious and guilty the defendant might be, yet he must be heard according to precedent. They prevailed at first and the case was put off for a few days. Later Faustus was condemned, but by no means with that unanimity of feeling on the part of the citizens which he had deserved by his infamous character; for they remembered that Crispus had likewise been an informer to his own profit, and they felt displeasure not at the penalty but at the would‑be avenger.

11 1 In the meantime the war had begun favourably for Otho. At his command the armies had moved from Dalmatia and Pannonia. There were four legions in all; two thousand of each were sent in advance of the main body. The legions proper followed at no long interval. The Seventh had been enrolled by Galba,13 but the Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth were veterans; the last enjoyed great reputation for crushing the revolt in Britain.14 Nero had added to their fame by selecting them as his best soldiers, so that they had long been loyal towards him and were enthusiastic for Otho. But their power and strength were matched by a self-confidence that made their advance slow. The main line of the legion was preceded by allied cavalry and infantry. There was also a force drawn from Rome itself which was not to be despised, five p179praetorian cohorts and detachments of cavalry with the First legion. Besides these, there was a disreputable kind of auxiliary force — two thousand gladiators — but it was a means resorted to even by strict generals in civil war. Over these troops Annius Gallus was put in command. He had been sent on with Vestricius Spurinna to seize the banks of the Po, since Otho's first plans had come to naught, for Caecina had already crossed the Alps, whereas Otho had hoped he could be stopped in Gaul. Otho himself was accompanied by a selected bodyguard together with the rest of the praetorian cohorts, as well as by veteran praetorians and a great number of marines. He did not march slowly or disgrace his advance by luxury, but wearing an iron breastplate he preceded the standards on foot, rough, negligent of his person, and the opposite of his reputation.

12 1 At first fortune smiled upon his undertaking. Since his fleets, which controlled the sea, made him master of the greater part of Italy up to the point where the maritime Alps begin, he had allotted the task of forcing the Alps and attacking the province of Narbonensis to the generals Suedius Clemens, Antonius Novellus, and Aemilius Pacensis.15 But Pacensis was put in chains by his mutinous soldiers; Antonius Novellus had no authority; and Suedius Clemens used his office to secure popularity, being as reckless toward maintaining discipline as he was eager to fight. It did not seem as if it were Italy and the haunts and homes of their native land that Otho's troops were approaching. They burned, devastated, and looted, as if they were on foreign shores and in an enemy's cities; p181and their action was the more horrible, for no provision had been made anywhere to oppose their terrifying advance. The fields were filled with workers, the houses open. The owners of estates who hurried to meet them with their wives and children, in the security which peace warrants, were overwhelmed by the horrors of war. At this time the Maritime Alps were governed by the procurator Marius Maturus. Summoning to arms the people, among whom there is no lack of vigorous men, he proposed to keep Otho's troops from entering his province; but the mountaineers were cut to pieces and scattered at the first onset, as was natural with men who had been hastily collected and were not accustomed to a military camp or a regular leader, and so saw no glory in victory and no disgrace in flight.

13 1 Provoked by this battle, Otho's troops vented their rage on the town of Albintimilium,16 for on the field of battle they had gained no booty, since the rustics were poor and their arms of no value; nor had they been able to make captives, since the people were fleet of foot and familiar with the locality. But the invaders satisfied their greed with the misfortunes of the innocent. The horror of their action was aggravated by the glorious example of a woman of Liguria, who had hidden her son. Since the soldiers believed that she had concealed her son; she pointed to her womb, answering, "Here is his hiding-place." Thereafter neither terrors nor death itself made her falter or change her noble reply.

p183 14 1 Meanwhile panic-stricken messengers brought news to Fabius Valens that Otho's fleet was threatening the province of Gallia Narbonensis, which had sworn allegiance to Vitellius; envoys from the colonies also came, asking help. He therefore despatched two cohorts of Tungrian infantry, four squadrons of cavalry, and the whole detachment of the cavalry of the Treviri with Julius Classicus as commander. A part of these troops were kept in the colony of Forum Julii17 to prevent Otho's fleet from making a hasty descent on an unprotected coast, as it might do if all their forces were sent by an inland road. Twelve squadrons of cavalry and picked infantry advanced to meet the enemy. Their numbers were reinforced by a cohort of Ligurians, a local auxiliary force long existing, and by five hundred Pannonians not yet formally enrolled. The battle was begun without delay. But Otho's line was so drawn up that part of the marines with peasants in their ranks stood on the higher ground of the hills near the sea. The praetorians filled all the level ground between the hills and the shore, while on the sea itself, the fleet moved close to the shore; cleared for action, facing the land, it offered a threatening front. The Vitellians, who were less powerful in infantry but strong in cavalry, placed their Alpine troops18 on the neighbouring heights, and ranged their infantry in close ranks behind the cavalry. The squadrons of the Treviri charged the enemy without due caution, for they were received in front by veteran troops and at the same time were hard pressed on the flank by showers of stones thrown by a company of peasants who were skilled in hurling. These peasants, being distributed among p185the regular soldiers, showed, whether brave or cowardly, the same daring when victorious. The consternation of the Vitellians was increased by the alarm caused by the fleet which attacked their rear while they were in action. So they were shut in on all sides, and their entire force would have been wiped out if the obscurity of night had not checked the victorious army and given protection to the fugitives.

15 1 Yet the Vitellians, though defeated, did not rest. They brought up auxiliary forces and attacked the enemy, who thought themselves secure and were less on their guard because of their success. The Vitellians cut down their opponents' pickets, broke into their camp, and caused alarm on the ships, until Otho's troops, as their fear gradually subsided, found defence on a neighbouring hill which they seized, and from which they presently assailed the Vitellians. Then there was terrible slaughter, and the prefects of the Tungrian infantry were overwhelmed by a shower of weapons after maintaining their line unbroken for a long time. Even Otho's troops did not find their victory a bloodless one, for when some of their number followed their enemy without due caution the Vitellian cavalry wheeled and surrounded them. Finally, as if they had completed an armistice to the effect that neither the fleet on the one side nor the cavalry on the other should cause any sudden panic, the Vitellians withdrew to Antipolis,19 a town of Narbonese Gaul, while Otho's troops retired to Albingaunum20 in the interior of Liguria.

16 1 Corsica, Sardinia, and the other islands in the neighbouring sea were kept faithful to Otho's p187side by the report that his fleet was victorious. But Corsica was almost brought to disaster by the rash action of Decumus Pacarius, the procurator, an action which would have contributed nothing to the sum total in so great a war, and which was fatal to Decumus himself. For, hating Otho, he decided to use the strength of Corsica to help Vitellius — an assistance of no value even if he had succeeded. Accordingly he summoned the leading men of the island and disclosed his pupil when Claudius Pyrrichus, commander of the Liburnian ships21 there, and Quintius Certus, a Roman knight, dared to oppose him, he ordered them to be killed. This execution terrified those who were present; and along with them the uninstructed populace, sharing in its ignorance the fears of others, swore allegiance to Vitellius. But when Pacarius began to raise a levy and put the exhausting burdens of military service on undisciplined men, disgusted with their unfamiliar labour, they thought of their own weakness; they realized that their land was an island and that Germany and the strength of its legions were far away, while even those who were protected by auxiliary infantry and cavalry had suffered rapine and robbery from the fleet. They suddenly repented their action, but yet did not resort to open violence; they selected a fitting time for treachery. When the attendants of Pacarius had left him, they killed him in his bath, naked and helpless. They slaughtered his attendants also. The murderers themselves carried the heads of the slain to Otho, as if they were the heads of enemies. Yet Otho did not reward them or Vitellius punish them, lost as they were in such a medley of foul acts and greater crimes.

p189 17 1 The road into Italy had already been opened and the war transferred there by Silius's cavalry, as we have said above.22 Although no one favoured Otho there, this success was not due to the preference of the people for Vitellius; but long peace had broken their spirits, so that they were ready for any kind of servitude, an easy prey to the first comer and careless as to who had the better cause. The richest district of Italy, all the plains and cities between the Po and the Alps, were now in the possession of the forces of Vitellius; for the auxiliary infantry which Caecina had sent on in advance had already arrived. A company of Pannonian infantry was captured at Cremona; a hundred horsemen and a thousand marines were intercepted between Placentia and Ticinum.23 Encouraged by this success, the troops of Vitellius were no longer checked by the banks of a river. On the contrary the Po itself roused to fury the Batavians and those from beyond the Rhine; they suddenly crossed the stream by Placentia, captured some scouts, and so terrified the rest that, in their alarm, they spread the false report that Caecina's whole army was close at hand.

18 1 Spurinna (for he was the commander at Placentia) was sure that Caecina had not yet come and had decided, in case he were approaching, to keep his soldiers within the fortifications and not to oppose to a veteran army three praetorian cohorts, a thousand reservists and a few cavalry. But the soldiers were not to be restrained, and in their ignorance of war they seized the standards and colours and rushed out. When their commander tried to restrain them, they threatened him with their p191weapons and scorned the centurions and tribunes. More than that, they kept shouting that Otho was being betrayed and that Caecina had been sent for. Spurinna joined the folly that others started, at first under compulsion, later pretending that it was his wish, for he desired to have his advice possess greater weight in case the mutiny subsided.

19 1 After the Po was in sight and night was at hand, Spurinna decided to entrench camp. The work involved was strange to the town troops and broke their spirit. Then all the older soldiers began to blame their own credulity and to point out their dangerous and critical situation if Caecina with his army should surround so few cohorts in the open country. Presently throughout the camp more temperate speech was heard, while the centurions and tribunes made their way among the common soldiers and praised the foresight of their general for selecting as a strong base of operations a colony which possessed great natural strength and resources. In the end Caecina himself, not so much reproving their faults as showing the reasons for his action, left some scouts and led the rest back to Placentia. They were now less mutinous and more ready to accept orders. The walls of the town were strengthened, battlements added, towers built higher, arms were provided and prepared, and steps were taken to secure good discipline and a ready obedience, which were the only things that side lacked, for there was no reason to be dissatisfied with the soldiers' bravery.

20 1 But Caecina seemed to have left behind the Alps his cruelty and licence, and now advanced through Italy in well-disciplined order. His manner p193of dress the towns and colonies interpreted as a mark of haughtiness, because he addressed civilians wearing a parti-coloured cloak and breeches.24 They seemed to feel offence and annoyance over the fact that his wife Salonina also rode a fine horse with purple trappings, though it did no one any harm. But they were prompted by that inveterate trait of human nature, which makes men look with unfavourable eyes upon the recent good fortune of others and to demand moderation from none more than from those whom they have recently seen their equals. Caecina, having crossed to Po, tried to break down the loyalty of Otho's followers by a conference and promises, and was himself assailed by the same devices. Finally, when in vain and empty phrases they had bandied back and forth the words "peace and concord," he turned his purpose and thoughts to storming Placentia with terrific force, well aware that the success he made in the beginning of the war would determine his reputation thereafter.

21 1 The first day was spent in a furious onslaught rather than in skilful attacks appropriate to a veteran army. The troops, heavy with food and wine, came under the walls without protection and without caution. During the struggle the handsome amphitheatre, which was situated outside the walls, was burned, being set on fire either by the besiegers as they threw firebrands, hot bullets, and burning missiles against the besieged, or by the besieged themselves as they directed their return fire. The common people of the town, being given to suspicion, believed that inflammable material had been treacherously brought into the amphitheatre by some p195persons from the neighbouring colonies, who looked on it with envy and jealousy, since no other building in Italy was so large. However it happened, the loss was regarded as slight, so long as they feared more awful disasters; but when a sense of security returned, they grieved as if they could have suffered nothing worse. Nevertheless Caecina was repulsed with great loss to his troops, and the night was spent in the preparation of siege-works. The Vitellians made ready mantlets, fascines, and sheds to undermine the walls and protect the assailants. Otho's followers prepared stakes and huge masses of stones and lead and bronze to break through and overwhelm the enemy. On both sides was a feeling of shame; on both an ambition for glory. Different exhortations were heard: one side exalted the strength of the legions and the army from Germany, while the other praised the high renown of the town soldiery and the praetorian cohorts. The Vitellians assailed their opponents as lazy and indolent, soldiers corrupted by the circus and the theatre; those within the town accounted the Vitellians as foreigners and barbarians. At the same time, while they thus lauded or blamed Otho and Vitellius, their mutual insults were more productive of enthusiasm than their praise.

22 1 Almost before dawn the walls were filled with defenders, the plains all agleam with armed men. The legionary forces in close array, auxiliaries in open order, assailed the higher parts of the walls with arrows or stones and attacked at close quarters the parts of the walls that were neglected or weak from age. Otho's soldiers poured a shower of javelins from above with more deliberate p197and certain aim upon the German infantry who approached with little caution, singing their wild songs and brandishing their shields above their shoulders, while their bodies, according to a native custom, were unprotected. The legionary soldiers, defended by mantlets and fascines, undermined the walls, built an earthwork, and assailed the gates, while the praetorians on their side rolled down upon them millstones of great weight, arranged for the purpose, which fell with a mighty crash. Many of the assailants under the walls were thus crushed, many were pierced and bleeding or mangled; since their panic increased their demoralization, and the weapons rained upon them more fiercely from the walls, they began to withdraw, thus injuring the prestige of their side. Caecina, however, prompted by shame at his rash attempt to carry the town by storm and desiring to avoid appearing ridiculous and useless by remaining in the same camp, crossed the Po again and hurried to attack Cremona. As he was leaving, Turullius Cerialis, with a large number of marines, and Julius Briganticus, with a few horsemen, surrendered to him. Briganticus, a Batavian by birth, was commander of a squadron of cavalry; Cerialis was a centurion of first rank and no stranger to Caecina, for he had served in Germany.

23 1 When Spurinna learned of the enemy's route, he informed Annius Gallus25 of everything that had happened, of the defence of Placentia, and of Caecina's purpose. Gallus was at the time bringing the First legion to help Placentia, for he feared that the few cohorts there might not be able to withstand a long siege and the force of the German army. p199When the news came that Caecina had been repulsed and was marching on Cremona, he had difficulty in restraining his legion which, in its enthusiasm for battle, had reached the point of mutiny, but he succeeded in stopping them at Bedriacum.26 This is a village which lies between Verona and Cremona, and two Roman disasters have given it an unhappy celebrity.27

During these same days, Martius Macer had had a successful engagement not far from Cremona; for by a prompt decision he had transferred gladiators to the opposite bank of the Po, and suddenly hurled them at the enemy. This had thrown the auxiliaries of Vitellius into confusion and, while most fled to Cremona, those who resisted were cut down. But Macer checked the enthusiastic advance of his victorious troops, prompted by fear that the enemy might be reinforced and change the fortune of battle. This roused suspicion in minds of Otho's troops, who put a bad construction upon every act of their leaders. Blustering in speech to match their cowardice at heart, they vied with one another in bringing various charges against Annius Gallus and Suetonius Paulinus and Marius Celsus, for Otho had appointed the latter two also as generals. The murderers of Galba were the most ardent promoters of mutiny and discord, for, driven mad by guilt and fear, they sought to cause utter confusion, now by openly seditious expressions, now by secret letters to Otho, who, between his readiness to trust the meanest and his fear of honest men, was in a state of p201trepidation, hesitating in prosperity and yet showing himself the better man in adversity. Therefore he sent for his brother Titianus and appointed him to the chief command.

24 1 In the meantime the generals Paulinus and Celsus had met with brilliant success. Caecina was distressed by the failure of all his efforts and by the waning reputation of his army. Driven from Placentia, he had lately had his auxiliaries cut to pieces, and, even when his scouts engaged in skirmishes which were frequent but not worth recording, he was worsted. Therefore, as Fabius Valens was approaching, he feared that all the honour in the campaign would fall to him, and hurried to recover his reputation with more impetuosity than wisdom. Twelve miles from Cremona, at a place called "The Castors," he concealed the bravest of his auxiliary troops in some woods which overhung the road. His cavalry he ordered to advance and provoke battle, then to feign fright and draw the enemy into a hasty pursuit until the troops in ambuscade could assail them. This plan was betrayed to Otho's generals, and Paulinus took command of the foot, Celsus of the horse; they stationed a detachment of the Thirteenth legion, four auxiliary cohorts of infantry, and five hundred auxiliary cavalry on the left flank; the causeway three praetorian cohorts occupied in deep formation; on the right front the First legion advanced with two cohorts of auxiliary infantry and five hundred cavalry. In addition to these they were accompanied by a thousand praetorian and auxiliary horse to give them additional weight if victorious, or to act as a reserve if they were in difficulties.

p203 25 1 Before the lines engaged the Vitellians fled; but Celsus, aware of the tricky stratagem, held his men back. The Vitellians rashly left their ambuscade, while Celsus gradually withdrew. They pursued too far and themselves fell into a trap; for the auxiliary infantry hemmed them in on the flanks, the legions opposed them in front, and their rear the cavalry cut off by a sudden manoeuvre. Suetonius Paulinus did not at once give his infantry the signal to engage, for he was naturally inclined to delay, and a man who preferred cautious and well-reasoned plans to chance success. So he kept issuing orders to fill up the ditches, clear the fields, and extend the line, thinking that it was soon enough to begin to conquer when they had made provision against defeat. This delay gave the Vitellians time to retreat into some vineyards which were obstructed by the intertwining vines. There was a small wood also near at hand, from which they dared to issue again and killed the boldest of the praetorian horse. Prince Epiphanes28 was wounded as he was enthusiastically cheering the soldiers on for Otho.

26 1 Then Otho's soldiers charged; they crushed the enemy's line and routed also those who were coming to their assistance. For Caecina had not brought up his cohorts of auxiliary infantry all at once, but one by one, an action which increased the confusion while they were engaged, inasmuch as the bodies of troops which were thus scattered and nowhere strong were swept away by the panic of the fugitives. Even in the camp the soldiers mutinied because they were not all taken out together. They threw into chains Julius Gratus, the prefect of the camp, on the charge that he was having p205treacherous dealings with his brother who was serving under Otho, while Otho's troops had put that same brother, the tribune Julius Fronto, into fetters on the same charge. But there was universal panic both among the troops who were fleeing and those who were advancing, in the lines and in front of the camp, so that on both sides it was commonly said that Caecina could have been annihilated with his whole force if Suetonius Paulinus had not given the signal to retire. Paulinus offered as excuse that he had been afraid of the effect of such great additional effort and the long march,29 lest the soldiers of Vitellius, fresh from camp, should attack his weary forces, and then, when they were demoralized, they should have no place of retreat. A few approved of the general's plan, but it caused adverse comment among the mass of the soldiers.

27 1 Their disaster did not so much drive the Vitellians into a panic as bring them back to a state of obedience. This was true both among the troops with Caecina, who blamed the soldiers, saying that they were readier for mutiny than for battle; and likewise among the forces under Fabius Valens, who had now reached Ticinum. They gave up their scorn of their opponents, and, prompted by a desire to recover their former reputation, began to obey their commander with more respect and regularity. A serious mutiny had broken out among them on another occasion, the history of which I shall now trace from an early point, since before I could not properly interrupt my account of Caecina's operations. I have already related30 how the Batavian cohorts that had withdrawn from the Fourteenth legion in the uprising against Nero, on hearing of p207the revolt of Vitellius while they were on their way to Britain, had joined Fabius Valens in the country of the Lingones. These cohorts then began to be insolent, going up to the quarters of each legion and boasting that it was they who had checked the regulars of the Fourteenth legion, they who had taken Italy away from Nero, and that in their hands lay the whole fortune of the war. Such action was insulting to the legionaries, bitterly offensive to the commander; discipline was ruined by quarrels and brawls; finally their insolence began to make Valens suspect even their loyalty.

28 1 So when news came that the squadron of Treviran cavalry and the Tungrian foot had been defeated by Otho's fleet,31 and that the province of Gallia Narbonensis was blockaded, Valens, prompted by his desire to protect the allies and, like a wise commander, to scatter the auxiliary cohorts which were now mutinous and which, if united, would prove too strong, ordered a part of the Batavians to march to the aid of the province. When the report of this action became common knowledge, the allied troops were dissatisfied, the legionaries angry. They declared that they were losing the help of their bravest troops; that it looked as if the Batavians, veterans in so many victorious campaigns, were being withdrawn from the line after the enemy was in sight. If the province was of more account than Rome and the safety of the empire, then all ought to follow thither; but if the main support of victory depended on Italy, the strongest limbs must not be torn, as it were, from the body of the army.

29 1 While the soldiers were thus savagely p209criticizing his action, Valens sent his lictors among them and tried to check the mutiny. Thereupon the troops attacked Valens himself, stoned him, and pursued him when he fled. Declaring that he was concealing the spoils of the Gallic provinces and the gold taken from the people of Vienne, the rewards of their own toil,32 they began to ransack his baggage and explore the walls of his quarters and even the ground with their spears and javelins. Valens, disguised in a slave's clothes, hid in the quarters of a cavalry officer. Then, as the mutiny began gradually to lose its force, Alfenus Varus, prefect of the camp, helped the situation by the device of forbidding the centurions to make the rounds of the pickets and of omitting the usual trumpet call to summon the soldiers to their military duties. The result was that all were amazed, they began to look at one another in perplexity, frightened by the simple fact that no one issued orders. In silence and submission, finally with prayers and tears, they begged forgiveness. When Valens appeared in sorry plight and weeping, but unexpectedly safe, there came joy, pity, and even popularity. In their revulsion from anxiety to delight — mobs are always extravagant in both directions — they praised and congratulated him, surrounded him with the eagles and colours,33 and carried him to the tribunal. Valens showed a wise moderation: he did not demand the punishment of any man; at the same time, that an assumption of ignorance might not arouse suspicion, he blamed a few severely. He was well aware that in civil wars the soldiers have more liberty than the leaders.

p211 30 1 While the soldiers were fortifying their camp at Ticinum, word of Caecina's defeat arrived; the troops almost mutinied again, for they suspected that their absence from the battle was due to treachery and delay on the part of Valens. They refused to rest; they would not wait for their general; they advanced before the standards, and spurred on the standard-bearers; and they quickly marched and joined Caecina. Valens did not enjoy a good reputation with Caecina's troops; they complained that in spite of their great inferiority in numbers Valens had exposed them to an enemy whose strength was unimpaired, and at the same time, to excuse themselves, they praised and flattered the strength of the troops that joined them, for they did not wish these to despise them as defeated and cowardly soldiers. Moreover, although Valens had the larger army, in fact almost twice as many legionaries and auxiliaries, the troops were inclined to favour Caecina, not only for his kindness of heart, which he was thought to display more readily than Valens, but also because of his vigorous youth, his tall person, and a certain unwarranted popularity. This caused rivalry between the generals. Caecina made sport of Valens as a shameful and disgraceful character; Valens ridiculed Caecina as a conceited and vain person. Yet they laid aside their hatred and devoted themselves to the common interest; in many communications, sacrificing all hope of pardon, they heaped insults on Otho, while the generals of Otho's party refrained from using the abundant material they had at hand for attacking Vitellius.

31 1 In fact, before these two met their deaths, in which Otho won a glorious reputation while p213Vitellius gained infamy, the indolent pleasures of Vitellius were less feared than the fiery passions of Otho. Moreover the murder of Galba had made men stand in terror of Otho and hate him; but no one blamed Vitellius for beginning the war. The sensuality and gluttony of Vitellius were regarded as disgracing him alone; Otho's luxury, cruelty and daring seemed more dangerous to the state.

After Caecina and Valens had joined forces, the Vitellians no longer hesitated to engage with all their forces. Otho, however, took counsel as to whether it was better to protract the war or to try his fortune now.

32 1 Then Suetonius Paulinus, who was regarded as the most skilful general of the time,34 thought it consonant with his reputation to express his views with regard to the whole conduct of the war, maintaining that the enemy's advantage lay in haste, their own in delay. He spoke to this effect; "The whole army of Vitellius has now arrived, and there are no strong reserves behind them, for the Gallic provinces are growing reckless, and it would be unwise to abandon the bank of the Rhine when so many hostile tribes are ready to rush across it. The troops in Britain are kept away by their enemies' assaults and by the sea; the Spanish provinces have no forces to spare; Gallia Narbonensis has been badly frightened by the attacks of our fleet and by defeat; Italy north of the Po, shut in by the Alps, can look to no relief by sea, and in fact has been devastated by the mere passage of an army. Our opponents have no supplies anywhere for their troops, and they cannot maintain their forces without supplies; then the Germans, who are the fiercest p215warriors in their army, if the war be protracted into summer, will soon lose their strength and be unable to endure the change of country and climate. Many wars, formidable in their first onset, have shrunk to nothing through the tedium caused by inaction. On the other hand, our own resources are rich and certain: Pannonia, Moesia, Dalmatia and the East are with us; their armies are undiminished; we have also Italy and Rome, the capital of the empire, the Senate and the People — names never insignificant, even if they be sometimes obscured. We have also on our side public and private resources and an enormous amount of money, which in time of civil strife is more powerful than the sword. Physically our soldiers are inured to Italy, or, at least, to heat. The Po is our defence;35 our cities are well protected by their garrisons and walls, and we have learned from the defence of Placentia that none will surrender to the foe. Your policy therefore is to prolong the war. In a few days the Fourteenth legion itself, a force of great renown, will be here with troops from Moesia besides;36 then you may again consider the question, and if we decide to fight we shall engage with increased strength."

33 1 Marius Celsus supported the opinion of Paulinus. Annius Gallus did likewise; he had been incapacitated a few days before by a fall from his horse, but a delegation which had been sent to consult him reported back his views. Otho was inclined to fight. His brother Titianus and the praetorian prefect, Proculus, impatient as they were through inexperience, declared that fortune, the gods, and Otho's good genius favoured his policy and would favour its execution; in fact they had p217taken refuge in flattery to prevent anyone from daring to oppose their views. When they had decided on an engagement, they debated whether it was better for the emperor to take part in the battle in person or to withdraw. Paulinus and Celsus now offered no opposition for fear that they might seem to expose the emperor to danger; so the same councillors urged on him the baser course and persuaded him to withdraw to Brixellum37 and there, safe from the risks of battle, to reserve himself for the supreme control of the empire. This day first brought doom to Otho's side, for with him went a strong force of praetorians, of his bodyguard, and of horse, and the spirit of those who remained was broken; they suspected their generals; and Otho, in whom alone the troops had confidence, while he trusted no one but his soldiers, had left the authority of his generals in doubt.38

34 1 None of these facts escaped the knowledge of the Vitellians, for there were many desertions, as is always the case in civil wars; and spies, in their anxiety to inquire into the purposes of the other side, failed to conceal their own. Caecina and Valens quietly watched for their enemy's imprudence to end in ruin, and, employing a common substitute for wisdom, waited to profit by their opponents' folly. They began a bridge and made a feint of crossing the Po in the face of a band of gladiators; they also wished to keep their own men from spending their time in idleness. They arranged some boats at equal intervals, heading upstream, and fastened them together with strong beams at prow and stern. They also cast out anchors to make the bridges more secure; the p219cables they did not draw taut, but let them hang loose, so that when the river rose the line of boats was lifted without being disturbed. At the end of the bridge a tower was built and raised aloft on the last boat, that they might repulse the enemy by artillery and machines. Otho's troops had built a tower on the opposite bank and kept shooting stones and firebrands at the Vitellians.

35 1 In the middle of the river was an island, which the gladiators were trying to reach in boats, but the Germans swam across and anticipated them. When a considerable number of Germans had crossed, Macer filled some light Liburnian vessels39 and attacked them with the bravest of his gladiators. But gladiators have not the same steadfast courage in battle as regular soldiers, and now in their unsteady boats they could not shoot so accurately as the Germans, who had firm footing on the shore; and when the gladiators in their fright began to move about in confusion so that rowers and fighters were commingled and got in another's way, the Germans actually jumped into the shallow water, held back the boats, and boarded them, or sank them with their hands. All this went on under the eyes of both armies, and the keener the delight it gave the Vitellians, the greater the indignation which Otho's followers felt toward Macer, who was the cause and author of their defeat.

36 1 In fact the battle ended in flight, after the gladiators had succeeded in dragging off the boats that were left. Then they began to clamour for Macer's life. Wounded as he was by a lance thrown from a distance, they had already attacked him with drawn swords, when he was saved by the p221intervention of the tribunes and centurions. Shortly after, at Otho's orders, Vestricius Spurinna left a small garrison at Placentia and came with his cohorts of auxiliaries, Then Otho sent Flavius Sabinus,40 consul designate, to take command of Macer's forces. The soldiers were delighted at the change of generals, but the numerous mutinies had made the generals dislike so troublesome a command.

37 1 In certain authorities I find it stated that, prompted by their fear of war or by their disgust with both emperors, whose shameful wickedness was becoming better known and more notorious every day, the armies debated whether they should not give up fighting and either consult together themselves or allow the senate to choose an emperor. This, it is urged, was the reason why the generals on Otho's side advised delay, and it is said that Paulinus had great hope of being chosen, since he was the senior ex-consul and by his distinguished service had won fame and reputation in his British campaigns. Now while I can grant that there were a few who silently prayed for peace instead of civil strife, and who wished a good and upright emperor instead of the worst rascals alive, still I do not believe that Paulinus, with his practical good sense, ever hoped for such moderation on the part of the people in that most corrupt age that the very men whose passion for war had destroyed peace would now abandon war from love of peace. Nor can I think that the two armies, whose habits and speech were so different, could ever have come to such an agreement or that the lieutenants and generals, most of whom were well aware of their own extravagance, poverty, and crimes, would ever have endured an p223emperor unless he was foul with vice and under obligations to them.

38 1 The old greed for power, long ingrained in mankind, came to full growth and broke bounds as the empire became great. When resources were moderate, equality was easily maintained; but when the world had been subjugated and rival states or kings destroyed, so that men were free to covet wealth without anxiety, then the first quarrels between patricians and plebeians broke out. Now the tribunes made trouble, again the consuls usurped too much power;41 in the city and forum the first essays at civil war were made. Later Gaius Marius, who had sprung from the dregs of the people, and that most cruel of nobles, Lucius Sulla, defeated liberty with arms and turned it into tyranny. After them came Gnaeus Pompey, no better man than they, but one who concealed his purpose more cleverly; and thenceforth there was never any aim but supreme power. The legions made up of Roman citizens did not lay down their arms at Pharsalia or Philippi; much less were the armies of Otho and Vitellius likely to abandon war voluntarily. The same divine wrath, the same human madness, the same motives to crime drove them on to strife. The fact that these wars were ended by a single blow, so to speak, was due to the worthlessness of the emperors. However, my reflections on the character of antiquity and of modern times have taken me too far afield; now I return to my narrative.

39 1 When Otho left for Brixellum the nominal command fell to his brother Titianus, but the real authority was in the hands of the prefect p225Proculus. As for Celsus and Paulinus, none made any use of their practical knowledge; with the empty title of generals they only served to cloak the faults of others. The tribunes and centurions knew not what to do, because the better men were thrust aside and the worst held the power; the soldiers were enthusiastic, but they preferred to criticize their generals' orders rather than to execute them. It was decided to move camp to the fourth milestone from Bedriacum, but the advance was made in such ignorance that, in spite of the fact that it was spring and there were many rivers all about them, the troops were distressed by lack of water. There they discussed the question of a battle, for Otho kept sending dispatches urging them to hurry, while the soldiers kept demanding that the emperor take part in the engagement; many insisted that the troops operating across the Po be called in. It is not so easy to decide what they should have done as it is to be sure that the action they took was the worst possible.

40 1 Setting out as if they were starting on a campaign and not going into battle, they aimed to reach the confluence of the Po and the Adua,42 sixteen miles away. Celsus and Paulinus refused to expose their soldiers, weary as they were with their march and weighed down with baggage, to the enemy, who, unencumbered with baggage, after marching hardly four miles, would not lose the opportunity to attack them either while in disorder on the march or while scattered and engaged in fortifying camp. Thereupon Titianus and Proculus, being defeated in council, sought refuge in the imperial authority. And it is true that a Numidian arrived p227post-haste with imperative commands from Otho, who, sick of delay and too impatient to rest on hope, rebuked his generals for their inaction and ordered them to bring matters to an issue.

41 1 On the same day, while Caecina was busy with the construction of his bridge,43 two tribunes of the praetorian cohorts came to him and asked for an interview. Caecina was preparing to hear their proposals and to make counter propositions when suddenly scouts reported that the enemy was upon them. The conversation with the tribunes was broken off, and so it remained uncertain whether they were attempting some plot or treachery, or rather had in mind some honest purpose. Caecina, dismissing the tribunes, rode back into camp, where he found that Fabius Valens had ordered the signal for battle to be given and that the troops were under arms. While the legions were casting lot for positions in the line, the cavalry charged, but, strange to relate, they were kept from being driven back within their entrenchments by an inferior force of Otho's troops only through the courageous action of the Italian legion. This at the point of the sword compelled the beaten cavalry to wheel about and renew the battle. The legions of Vitellius formed in line without disorder,º for although the enemy were close by, dense thickets made it impossible to see their arms. On Otho's side the generals were nervous, the soldiers disaffected towards the generals, wagons and camp-followers were mixed in confusion with the troops; moreover, the road, with deep ditches on either side, was narrow even for an army which was advancing quietly. Some of the troops were gathered about their proper p229standards, others were hunting to find theirs. From every side rose confused shouts of those running to their places or calling their comrades; soldiers rushed to the front or slunk to the rear as courage or fear prompted in each case.

42 1 The sudden consternation and fright of Otho's men were changed to indifference by an unwarranted joy, for some men were found who spread the false report that the army of Vitellius had deserted him. It was never discovered whether this rumour was spread by Vitellian scouts or whether it started on Otho's side through treachery or by chance. In any case Otho's men lost all enthusiasm for battle and actually cheered their foes; but the Vitellians received their cheers with hostile murmurings, and this made Otho's men fear treachery, for most of them did not know the reason for the cheering. Then the Vitellians charged: their lines were intact; they were superior in strength and in numbers. However, Otho's troops put up a brave resistance in spite of their disordered ranks, their inferior numbers, and their fatigue. The fact that in places the ground was encumbered by trees and vineyards gave the battle many aspects: the troops fought now hand to hand, again at a distance; they charged now in detachments, again in column. On the raised road44 they struggled at close quarters, pressing with the weight of their bodies behind their shields; they threw no spears, but crashed swords and axes thor helmets and breastplates. They could recognize one another, they could be seen by all the rest, and they were fighting to decide the issue of the whole war.

43 1 In the open plain between the Po and p231the road two legions happened to engage. On the side of Vitellius was the Twenty-first, also called the Rapax,45 a legion long renowned; on Otho's was the First Adjutrix46 which had never been in an engagement before, but which was enthusiastic and eager to win its first success. The First cut down the front ranks of the Twenty-first and captured their eagle; thereupon shame at this loss so fired the Twenty-first that they drove back the First, killed their commander, Orfidius Benignus, and captured many colours and standards. In another part of the field the Fifth47 charged and routed the Thirteenth48 legion; the Fourteenth was surrounded by a superior force which attacked it. Otho's generals had long before fled. Caecina and Valens began to strengthen their forces by bringing up reserves; and a new reinforcement came when Varus Alfenus arrived with the Batavians. They had routed the gladiators who had crossed the river in boats, by meeting them with cohorts which cut them down while still in the water. So in the full flush of victory they assailed the enemy's flank.

44 1 The Othonians' centre was now broken and they fled in disorder, making for Bedriacum. The distance to be covered was vast;49 the roads were blocked with dead, and so the carnage was greater: for in civil wars captives are not turned to profit.50 Suetonius Paulinus and Licinius Proculus took different roads and avoided the camp. Vedius Aquila, commander of the Thirteenth legion, was so terrified that he thoughtlessly exposed himself to the angry troops. It was still broad day when he entered camp and was surrounded by a shouting mob of mutinous fugitives. They spared no insult or p233violence; they greeted him with cries of "deserter" and "traitor," not because of any crime of his own, but, after the habit of mobs, every man imputed to him his own shame. Night assisted Titianus and Celsus, for Annius Gallus51 had already placed sentinels and got the soldiers under control. By advice, appeals, and commands he had induced the men not to add to the cruelty of their defeat by massacring their own leaders; he urged that whether the end of the war had come or whether they preferred to resume hostilities, their sole resource in defeat lay in concord. The spirit of the rest was broken; but the praetorians angrily declared that they had been defeated by treachery, not by the valour of their foes. "The troops of Vitellius," they maintained, "have not won a bloodless victory; we routed their cavalry, and captured the legion's eagle. Otho and the force with him on the other side of the Po are still left us; the legions from Moesia are on their way hither; a large part of the army is still at Bedriacum. These surely have not been defeated, and, if occasion require, they will consider it more honourable to die in open battle." Such reflections now roused them to exasperation, or again depressed them; in their utter despair they were more often goaded to fury than to fear.

45 1 But the army of Vitellius halted at the fifth milestone from Bedriacum, for the commanders did not dare to try to carry their opponents' camp by storm on the same day; and at the same time they hoped that Otho's troops would surrender voluntarily; but, although they had set out without their heavy equipment,52 and with no other purpose than to give battle, their arms and their victory served p235them as a rampart. The next day the wishes of Otho's troops were clear beyond doubt; even those who had been most determined were inclined to change their views. Accordingly they sent a deputation, and the generals of Vitellius did not long hesitate to grant terms. But the deputation was detained for a time, and this action disturbed those who did not know whether they had secured terms or not; presently, however, the delegates were let go and the gates of the camp were opened. Then vanquished and victors alike burst into tears, cursing, amid their melancholy joy, the fate of civil war. In the same tents some nursed the wounds of brothers, others of relatives. Their hopes of reward were doubtful; but they knew for certainties the bereavements and sorrows that they suffered, and none of them was so free from misfortune as not to mourn some loss. The body of the legate Orfidius was discovered and burned with the usual honours, a few others were buried by their relatives, but the majority of the fallen were left lying on the ground.

46 1 Otho was waiting53 for a report of the battle without anxiety and with determined purpose. First there came a distressing rumour; then fugitives from the field showed clearly that the day was lost. But the troops in their zeal did not wait for the emperor to speak; they urged him to keep up his courage, for there were fresh troops left; and they declared that they were ready themselves to dare and suffer anything. Nor was this flattery: they were fired by an almost passionate desire to go into action and raise again the fortunes of their party. The soldiers who were not near him stretched out their hands to him appealingly, those near him p237clasped his knees. The most zealous of all was Plotius Firmus, the prefect of the praetorian guard, who constantly begged him not to fail an army which was absolutely loyal, and soldiers who had served him so well. He reminded Otho that it called for greater courage to endure adversity than to yield to it; that brave and courageous men press on even against ill fortune to attain their hopes; the timid and cowardly are quickly moved to despair by fear. During these appeals the soldiers cheered or broke into groans as Otho's face showed signs of giving way to their appeals or grew hard. The praetorians, Otho's personal force, were not the only ones who encouraged him. The advance detachments from Moesia declared that the troops which were on their way were just as determined, and they reported that the legions had entered Aquileia, so that no one can doubt that it would have been quite possible to renew this cruel and awful war, with uncertain results for both the victors and the vanquished.

47 1 Otho himself was opposed to the plan of continuing the war. "To expose such courageous and brave men as you to further dangers," he said, "I reckon too great a price for my life. The greater the hope you offer me, if it were my wish to live, so much the more glorious will be my death. Fortune and I know each other well. Do not reckon up the short duration of my rule; it is all the harder to make a moderate use of a good fortune which you do not expect to enjoy long. Vitellius began civil war; it was he who initiated the armed contest between us for the imperial power; but we shall not contend more than once, for it is in my power to set a precedent for that. I would have posterity thus p239judge Otho. Vitellius shall enjoy his brother, his wife, and his children; I require neither vengeance nor solace. Others may hold the power longer than I; none shall give it up more bravely. Would you have me suffer so many of Rome's young men, such noble armies, to be again cut down and lost to the state? Let me carry with me the thought of your willingness to die for me; but you must live. Now there must be no more delay; let me not interfere with your safety, or you with my determination. To talk at length about the end is cowardice. Regard as the chief proof of my resolve the fact that I complain of no man. It is for him to blame gods or men who has the wish to live."

48 1 After Otho had spoken thus, he addressed all courteously as befitted the age or rank of the individual, and urged them to go quickly and not to incite the victor's wrath by remaining. The young men he persuaded by his authority, the older by his appeals; his face was calm, his words showed no fear; but he checked the unseasonable tears of his friends. He gave orders that boats and carriages should be furnished those who were leaving. Every document or letter which was marked by loyalty towards him or by abuse of Vitellius he destroyed. He distributed money, but sparingly and not as if he were about to die. Then he took pains to console his nephew, Salvius Cocceianus,54 who was very young, frightened, and sad, praising his dutiful affection, but reproving his fear. He asked him if he thought Vitellius would prove so cruel as not to grant him even such a return as this for saving the whole house.55 "By my quick end," said he, "I can earn the clemency of the victor. For it is not p241in the extremity of despair, but while my army is still demanding battle that I have saved the state this last misfortune. I have won enough fame for myself, enough high rank for my descendants. After the Julii, the Claudii, and the Servii, I have been the first to confer the imperial rank on a new family. Therefore face life with a brave heart; never forget or too constantly remember that Otho was your uncle."

49 1 After this he sent all away and rested for a time. As he was already pondering in his heart the last cares of life, he was interrupted by a sudden uproar and received word that the soldiers in their dismay had become mutinous and were out of control. In fact they were threatening with death all who wished to depart; they were most violent against Verginius,56 whom they had shut up in his house and were now besieging. Otho reproved the ringleaders and then returned to his quarters, where he gave himself up to interviews with those who were departing, until all had left unharmed. As evening approached he slaked his thirst with a draught of cold water. Then two daggers were brought him; he tried the points of both and placed one beneath his head. After learning that his friends had gone, he passed a quiet night, and indeed, as is affirmed, he even slept somewhat. At dawn he fell on the steel.57 At the sound of his dying groans his freedmen and slaves entered, and with them Plotius Firmus, the prefect of the praetorian guard; they found but a single wound. His funeral was hurriedly accomplished. He had earnestly begged that this be done, that his head might not be cut off to be an object of insult. Praetorians bore his body to the p243pyre, praising him amid their tears and kissing his wound and his hands. Some soldiers slew themselves near his pyre, not because of any fault or from fear, but prompted by a desire to imitate his glorious example and moved by affection for their emperor. Afterwards many of every rank chose this form of death at Bedriacum, Placentia, and in other camps as well. The tomb erected for Otho was modest and therefore likely to endure. So he ended his life in the thirty-seventh year of his age.

50 1 Otho was born in the municipal town of Ferentum;a58 his father had held the consulship, his grandfather had been praetor. His mother's family was not the equal of his father's, but still it was respectable.59 His boyhood and youth were such as we have already described. By two bold deeds, the one most outrageous, the other glorious,60 he gained with posterity as much fame as evil reputation. While I must hold it inconsistent with the dignity of the work I have undertaken to collect fabulous tales and to delight my readers with fictitious stories, I cannot, however, dare to deny the truth of common tradition. On the day of the battle at Bedriacum, according to the account given by the people of that district, a bird of unusual appearance settled in a much-frequented grove near Regium Lepidum,61 neither the concourse of people nor the other birds which flew about it frightened it or drove it away, until Otho had committed suicide; then it disappeared from view. And they add that when people reckoned up the time, they found that the beginning and end of this marvel coincided with Otho's death.

51 1 At his funeral the soldiers' grief and sorrow p245caused the mutiny to break out afresh, and there was none to check it. The soldiers turned to Verginius and threateningly besought him, now to accept the imperial office, again to act as their envoy to Caecina and Valens. Verginius slipped away by stealth through the rear of his house and so escaped them when they burst in the doors. Rubrius Gallus brought the appeals of the cohorts who had been quartered at Brixellum. They were at once forgiven, and the troops that Flavius Sabinus had commanded made known through him their adhesion to the victor.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Vespasian and Titus were good emperors; but Domitian was a second Nero. He was assassinated at the instigation of the Empress Domitia.

2 Titus was now twenty-nine years of age.

3 Berenice, daughter of Herodes Agrippa I and sister of Herodes Agrippa II, had been married first to her uncle Herodes, king of Chalcis, later to King Polemo of Pontus, whom she left. She supported the Flavian cause and later followed Titus to Rome. Cf. Acts 25. 13, 23; Suet. Tit. 7.

4 A mythical king, father of Adonis and Myrrha.

Thayer's Note: For Cinyras, and probably more than you ever wanted to know about him, see James Eason's entertaining footnote to Plutarch on the Delphic Oracle.

5 i.e. the symbol of the goddess was a conical stone, not unlike the turning-posts (metae) in the circus. Cf. Servius on the Aen. I.724 and Maxim. Tyr. VIII.8.

6 Cf. I.10 and 76.

7 That is, Syria.

8 The fleets of Egypt, Syria, and Pontus were at their disposal, while they could count on the active support of Antiochus of Commagene, Herodes Agrippa II of Peraea, and Sohaemus of Sophene.

9 The portions of the Histories referred to here are now lost.

10 Cf. I.54.

11 Galatia, Pamphylia, and Lycia now formed one province.

12 Vibius Secundus, who had been banished under Nero for extortion in Mauretania.

13 Brought by Galba with him from Spain. Cf. I.6.

14 The revolt of 61 A.D., led by Boudicca. Cf. Ann. XIV.29 ff., and Agricola 15 ff.

15 Cf. I.87.

16 Ventimiglia.

17 Fréjus.

18 The Ligurians just mentioned.

19 Antibes.

20 Albenga.

Thayer's Note: Something is wrong here. Albingaunum is indeed the modern Albenga — but Albenga is on the coast, and "in the interior of Liguria" is not right. My first guess is that the translation is off, and that Othoniani Albingaunum interioris Liguriae revertere should be translated as "Otho's troops retired to Albingaunum, in inner Liguria", but it's a timid guess because "inner Liguria", an expression not otherwise known, just pushes back the question, and Albenga is still on the shore. A better suggestion may finally be to emend and read citerioris Liguriae — not that there was a province formally known as Liguria Citerior, but that we should translate "Albingaunum, closer in [i.e., to Rome], in Liguria". No one ever said Tacitus was easy.

21 Light vessels modelled after those of the Liburni, an Illyrian people. Augustus made them an important part of his navy. Cf.  Horace Ep. I.1.

22 I.70.

23 Piacenza and Pavia.

24 Gallic dress, considered inappropriate for a Roman.

25 Cf. I.87.

26 At the juncture of the highroads leading from Hostilia and Mantua toward Cremona, near the present Calvatone.

Thayer's Note: For links to good information on the modern remains, see my note to Plut. Otho, 8.

27 Because here Vitellius defeated Otho (II.41 ff.), and Vespasian Vitellius (III.15 ff.).

28 Son of King Antiochus, king of Commagene.

29 That is, Paulinus, if successful here against Caecina, would then have to lead his troops some twelve miles to Cremona where Caecina's camp was situated.

30 Tacitus here resumes his narrative from I.66.

31 Cf. II.14 f.

32 Cf. I.63‑66.

33 The eagles of the First and Fifth legions and the colours of auxiliary cohorts.

34 Paulinus had proved himself an able general in Africa as early as 42 A.D. (Dio Cass. LX.4; Plin. N.H. V.14), and in Britain during the years 59‑61 (Tac. Agric. 14‑16; Ann. XIV.29‑39; LXII.7‑12). He was apparently consul in 42, and now was the senior among the ex-consuls (cf. II.37).

35 This implies the withdrawal of Otho's troops to the south of the Po.

36 For the reputation of the Fourteenth legion, see above, chap. 11; the troops from Moesia reached Aquileiaº at the time of the battle of Cremona. See below, chap. 46.

37 Brescello.

38 See below, chap. 39. Otho's brother, Titianus, was apparently in nominal command, while Proculus possessed the real authority.

39 Cf. II.16.

40 Cf. I.77.

41 The tribunes Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, Saturninus, and Drusus, the consuls Appius Claudius and Lucius Opimius are probably meant.

42 The Adda to‑day. Since the march as here described would have exposed Otho's troops to a flank attack, Mommsen and others have doubted the accuracy of this account.

43 Cf. II.34 f.

44 That is, on the raised causeway of the Via Postumia, the high road on the left bank of the Po. Cf. II.24.

45 "The Invincibles," from Upper Germany.

Thayer's Note: Rapax actually means "Predator". For the history of the legion, see the article at Livius.

46 "The Helpers," made up of the marines. Cf. I.6.

Thayer's Note: For the history of the legion, see the article at Livius.

47 From Lower Germany. Cf. I.61.

48 From Pannonia. Cf. II.24.

49 Somewhere between twelve and sixteen Roman miles.

50 Plutarch, Otho xiv, makes a similar remark. Dio Cassius (LXIV.10) says that a total of over 40,000 fell in this battle.

51 Gallus had remained in camp (II.33), and therefore was not blamed by the soldiers.

52 That is, without their trenching tools and stakes for building a rampart.

53 At Brixellum. Cf. II.33, 39.

54 Cocceianus was Titianus's son. He was later put to death by Domitian for celebrating Otho's birthday.

55 Otho had left unharmed the mother and children of Vitellius. Cf. I.75.

56 Consul Suffectus at this time (cf. I.77); he was later victorious over Vindex.

57 The date was April 16.

58 In southern Etruria; Ferento to‑day.

Thayer's Note: See my note, below, to the corrected text.

59 His mother, Albia Ferentia, sprang from an equestrian family.

60 The murder of Galba and his own suicide.

61 Reggio, between Modena and Parma.


Thayer's Note:

a The English translation in the Loeb edition actually reads Ferentinum, a mistake induced by the adjectival form in the Latin text (municipio Ferentino), itself an emendation from ferentio.

There were two notable towns of very similar names, Ferentum in Etruria (now the uninhabited ruin of Ferento not far from Viterbo: see the chapter in Dennis) and Ferentinum of the Hernici, SE of Rome (now the largish town of Ferentino): Suetonius (Otho, 1.1) makes it clear that the Etruscan town is meant. The translator of Tacitus had the place right in his head, so his explanatory note is correct, but went too fast in the translation — whence the mismatch, before I made the correction, between text and note. For the hornet's nest of places named Ferentum or something similar, see my page on the subject.


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