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II.1‑25

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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III.63‑86

(Vol. II) Tacitus
Histories

Book III (continued)

p373 26 1 When they reached Cremona they found a new task of enormous difficulty before them. In the war against Otho1 the troops from Germany had pitched their camp around the walls of Cremona and then had built a rampart around their camp; these defences they had later strengthened. At the sight of the fortifications the victorious troops hesitated, p375for their leaders were in doubt what orders to give. To begin an attack on the town with troops that were exhausted by fighting an entire day and night was a difficult undertaking and one of doubtful issue, when there were no reserves at hand; but if they returned to Bedriacum, their victory shrank to nothing, not to speak of the intolerable burden of such a long march. To fortify a camp even, with the enemy close at hand, involved the danger that the foe might by a sudden sortie cause them serious difficulty while their troops were scattered and busy with the work. But beyond all these things the Flavian leaders feared their own soldiers, who were more ready to face danger than delay; the troops detested safe measures and put all their hope in rash action. Every disaster, all wounds and blood, were outweighed by their greed for booty.

27 1 Antonius inclined to meet his troops' desires and ordered the investment of the enemy's camp. At first they fought at a distance with arrows and stones; but in this context the Flavians suffered the greater loss, for their opponent shot down upon them. Then Antonius assigned to each legion a gate or a part of the wall, that the division of labour might show who was brave and who cowardly, and thus fire the enthusiasm of his troops by making them rivals for glory. The sections next the road to Bedriacum the Third and Seventh legions took, the fortification farther to the right the Eighth and the Seventh Claudiana; the Thirteenth assailed the gate toward Brixia. Then there followed a brief delay while some of the soldiers gathered from the neighbouring fields mattocks and picks and others brought hooks and ladders. Then the soldiers, p377raising their shields above their heads, advanced under the wall in a close "tortoise" formation.2 Both sides used the familiar artifices of Roman warfare: the Vitellians rolled down heavy stones, and when they had separated and loosened the cover of compact shields, they searched its joints with lances and pikes until they broke up the close structure of the "tortoise," and hurled their dead and mangled foes to the ground with great slaughter. The soldiers would have slackened their assault, for they were weary and ready to reject exhortations as idle, had not the leaders pointed to Cremona.

28 1 Whether this was the inspiration of Hormus, as Messala says, or whether Gaius Pliny, who blames Antonius, is the better authority, I cannot easily decide; all I can say is that whether it was Antonius or Hormus, this most monstrous crime was not unworthy of the life and reputation of either. Blood and wounds no longer delayed the soldiers in their attempts to undermine the wall and shatter the gates; they renewed the "tortoise," and climbing on their comrades' shoulders, they mounted on it and seized their foes' weapons and arms. The unharmed and the wounded, the half-dead and the dying all rolled in one mass; men perished in many ways and death took every form.3

29 1 The Third and Seventh legions made the most violent assault; and their general, Antonius, attacked at the same point with picked auxiliaries. When the Vitellian troops could no longer sustain this combined and persistent attack, finding that their shots slipped off the "tortoise" without doing harm, they finally pushed over their ballista itself on the heads of their assailants beneath. This for the p379moment scattered and crushed those on whom it fell, but in its fall it dragged down the parapet and the upper part of the rampart; at the same time a neighbouring tower gave way before the volleys of stones. While men of the Seventh legion pressed forward in wedge formation, the Third broke down a gate with axes and swords. All authorities agree that the first man to rush in was Gaius Volusius, a private of the Third legion. He mounted the rampart, flung down those who resisted, and before the eyes of all, with uplifted hand and voice, cried that the camp had been captured; thereupon the rest burst in, while the Vitellians, already in a panic, threw themselves from the rampart. All the open space between the camp and the walls of Cremona were covered with the dead.

30 1 Now a new difficulty again confronted the Flavian troops in the city's high walls, its towers of masonry, its iron-barred gates, and the soldiers who were brandishing their weapons. Furthermore the civil population of Cremona was large and attached to the party of Vitellius, while a great part of Italy had gathered there to attend a market which fell at this time. This great number strengthened the defenders, but the possible booty encouraged the assailants. Antonius ordered his troops quickly to set fire to the finest buildings outside the town, in the hope that the people of Cremona might be moved by the loss of their property to change their allegiance. The roofs of the houses near the walls, and particularly those which rose above the city ramparts, he filled with his bravest troops; these dislodged the defenders with beams, tiles, and firebrands.

p381 31 1 The legions were already forming a "tortoise," while others were beginning to hurl spears and stones, when the spirit of the Vitellians gradually slackened. The higher a man's rank, the readier he was to yield to fortune for fear that if Cremona also were captured by assault, there would be no more pardon, but that the whole rage of the victors would fall not on the penniless mob, but on the tribunes and centurions, whose murder meant gain. The common soldiers, however, having no thought for the future and being better protected by their humble position, continued their resistance. They wandered through the streets or concealed themselves in houses, but did not beg for peace even when they had given up fighting. The chief officers removed the name and statues of Vitellius from headquarters; they took off Caecina's fetters — for even at that time he was kept a prisoner — and begged him to plead their cause. When he haughtily refused they besought him with tears; all these brave men, and this was the uttermost of their ills, invoked the aid of a traitor. Presently they displayed hangings and fillets on the walls as signs of their submission.4 After Antonius had ordered his men to cease firing, they brought out their standards and eagles; a sad line of unarmed men followed, their eyes cast upon the ground. The victorious troops stood about, heaping insults upon them and threatening them with blows; later when the defeated troops offered their faces to every indignity, and without a spark of courage left in them were ready to suffer anything, the victors began to remember that these were the troops who had recently shown moderation after they had won p383at Bedriacum. Yet when Caecina appeared, in the rôle of consul, dressed in the toga praetexta5 and escorted by his lictors who put aside the crowd before him, the victors' rage blazed forth: they taunted him with arrogance, cruelty, and — so hateful are crimes — even with perfidy. Antonius interposed, gave him a guard, and sent him to Vespasian.

32 1 In the meantime the people of Cremona were buffeted about among the troops, and there came near being a massacre, when the commanders by their appeals succeeded in calming the soldiers. Then Antonius called them together and spoke in warmest eulogy of the victors; the conquered he addressed in kindly terms; but he said nothing for or against Cremona. The troops, prompted not only by their ingrained desire for plunder, but also by their old hatred, were bent on destroying the people of the town. They believed that they had helped the party of Vitellius in the war with Otho as well; and later the common people of the town (for the mob always has an insolent nature) had insulted and taunted the soldiers of the Thirteenth legion who had been left behind to finish the amphitheatre.6 The troops' anger was increased by other causes as well: Caecina had given an exhibition of gladiators there; the town had twice been the seat of war; the townspeople had provided food for the Vitellians when they were actually in battle-line; and some women had been killed who had been carried by their zeal for Vitellius's side into the very battle; besides this the market season had filled the colony, always rich, with a greater show of wealth. Now the other commanders were little noticed; but fame and fortune had made Antonius conspicuous to p385the eyes of all. He hurried to some baths to wash away the blood with which he was covered. When he complained of the temperature, a voice was heard saying that they would soon be hot enough. This answer of some slave turned all the odium of what followed on Antonius, as if he had given the signal to burn Cremona, which was indeed at that moment in flames.

33 1 Forty thousand armed men burst into the town; the number of camp-followers and servants was even greater; and they were more ready to indulge in lust and cruelty. Neither rank nor years protected anyone; their assailants debauched and killed without distinction. Aged men and women near the end of life, though despised as booty, were dragged off to be the soldiers' sport. Whenever a young woman or a handsome youth fell into their hands, they were torn to pieces by the violent struggles of those who tried to secure them, and this in the end drove the despoilers to kill one another. Individuals tried to carry off for themselves money or the masses of gold dedicated in the temples, but they were assailed and slain by others stronger than themselves. Some, scorning the booty before their eyes, flogged and tortured the owners to discover hidden wealth and dug up buried treasure. They carried firebrands in their hands, and when they had secured their loot, in utter wantonness they threw these into the vacant houses and empty temples. In this army there were many passions corresponding to the variety of speech and customs, for it was made up of citizens, allies, and foreigners; no two held the same thing sacred and there was no crime which was held unlawful. For four days did Cremona p387supply food for destruction. When everything sacred and profane sank into the flames, there stood solitary outside the walls the temple of Mefitis,7 protected by either its position or its deity.

34 1 Such was the fate of Cremona in the two hundred and eighty-sixth year after its foundation. It was established in the consulship of Tiberius Sempronius and Publius Cornelius,8 at the time when Hannibal was threatening Italy, to be a bulwark of defence against the Transpadane Gauls and to prevent any possible invasion over the Alps. The large number of colonists sent there, the advantages given by its navigable streams, the fertility of its land, as well as the connections established with other peoples by intermarriage and alliance, all combined to make the colony increase and prosper; untouched in foreign wars, it found misfortune in civil strife. Antonius, ashamed of his atrocious crime, as public indignation grew, issued a proclamation forbidding anyone to keep a citizen of Cremona captive. In fact, the common feeling of all Italy had already made the soldiers' booty valueless, for all Italians loathed the idea of buying slaves like these. The soldiers then began to kill their captives; when this became known, they were secretly ransomed by their relatives and kin. Later the remnant of the people returned to Cremona; the fora and the temples were restored by the munificence of its citizens; and Vespasian encouraged such action.

35 1 However, the infection that pervaded the bloodstained ground did not allow the army to encamp long by the ruins of this dead city. The Flavian forces moved to the third milestone; the straggling and terrified Vitellians were reorganized, p389each man under his own colours; and the defeated legions were distributed through Illyricum to keep them from any doubtful action, for civil war was not yet over. The Flavian leaders then despatched messengers to carry the news to Britain and to Spain; to Gaul they sent Julius Calenus, a tribune, and to Germany Alpiniusº Montanus, a prefect of a cohort. The latter being a Trevir and Calenus an Aeduan, but both Vitellians, they were despatched to advertise the Flavians' victory. At the same time the Flavian forces occupied the passes of the Alps, for they suspected Germany of preparing to help Vitellius.

36 1 A few days after Caecina had left Rome,9 Vitellius, having succeeded in driving Fabius Valens to the war, began to conceal his anxieties by giving himself up to pleasures. He took no steps to provide weapons, he did not try to inspire his troops by addressing them or by having them drilled, nor did he appear before the people. He kept hidden in the shade of his gardens, like those lazy animals that lie inactive and never move so long as you give them abundant food.a The past, the present, and the future alike he had dismissed completely from his mind. He was actually lounging in indolence in the woods at Aricia when he was startled by the report of the treachery of Lucilius Bassus and of the revolt of the fleet at Ravenna. Shortly afterwards the report that Caecina had gone over to Vespasian but had been arrested by his troops caused Vitellius both delight and sorrow. It was the joy rather than the anxiety that had the greater influence on his sluggish spirit. In high exultation he rode back to the city, and in a crowded assembly extolled to the p391skies the devoted loyalty of his soldiers; then he ordered the arrest of Publilius Sabinus, prefect of the Praetorian guard, because he was Caecina's friend, appointing Alfenus Varus10 in his place.

37 1 Later he addressed the senate in a grandiloquent speech, and was himself extolled by the senate with most elaborate flattery. Lucius Vitellius took the lead in proposing severe measures directed against Caecina; then the rest with feigned indignation, because, "as consul he had betrayed the State, as general his emperor, as a friend the one who had loaded him wealth and honours," under the form of complaints in behalf of Vitellius expressed their own resentment. But in no speech was there any attack on the Flavian leaders. While the senators blamed the troops for their errors and lack of wisdom, they carefully and cautiously avoided mentioning Vespasian's name; and indeed there was one senator found to wheedle from Vitellius the one day of Caecina's consulship that was left11 — a thing which brought many a sneer on both giver and receiver. On the thirty-first of October Rosius Regulus entered and gave up his office. The learned noted that never before had one consul succeeded another unless the office had first been declared vacant or a law duly passed. There had indeed been a consul for a single day once before: that was the case of Caninius Rebilus in the dictatorship of Gaius Caesar, when Caesar was in haste to pay the rewards of civil war.12

38 1 The death of Junius Blaesus, becoming p393known at the time, caused much gossip.13 The story, as we learn it, is this. When Vitellius was seriously ill in the gardens of Servilius, he noticed that a tower near by was brilliantly lighted at night. On asking the reason he was told that Caecina Tuscus was giving a large dinner at which Junius Blaesus was the guest of honour; and his informants went on to exaggerate the elaborate preparations made for this dinner and to speak of the guests' extravagant enjoyment. There was no lack of men ready to accuse Tuscus and others; but they blamed Blaesus most severely because he spent his days in pleasure while his emperor was sick. When the people, who have a keen eye for the angry moods of princes, saw that Vitellius was exasperated and that Blaesus could be destroyed, Lucius Vitellius was assigned the rôle of informant. His hatred for Blaesus sprang from base jealousy, for, stained as he was by every infamy, Blaesus surpassed him by his eminent reputation. So now, bursting into the emperor's bedroom, Lucius embraced the son of Vitellius and fell on his knees. When Vitellius asked the reason for his trepidation, Lucius replied that he had no personal fear and was not anxious for himself, but that it was on behalf of his brother and his brother's children that he brought his prayers and tears. "There is no point," he said, "in fearing Vespasian, whose approach is blocked by all the German legions, by all the brave and loyal provinces, and in short by boundless stretches of sea and land. The enemy against whom you must be on your guard is in the city, in your own bosom: he boasts that the Junii and Antonii are his ancestors; and, claiming imperial descent, he parades before the p395soldiers his courtesy and magnificence. Everyone's thoughts are attracted to him, while you, failing to distinguish between friend and foe, cherish a rival who watches his emperor's distress from a dinner-table. To pay him for his unseasonable joy, he should suffer a night of sorrow and doom, that he may know and feel that Vitellius is alive and emperor, and furthermore that, if any misfortune happens to him, he still has a son."

39 1 Anxiously hesitating between crime and the fear that, if delayed, the death of Blaesus might bring prompt ruin or, if openly ordered, a storm of hate, Vitellius decided to resort to poison. He gave the public reason to believe in his guilt by his evident joy when he went to see Blaesus. Moreover, he was heard to make a brutal remark, boasting — and I shall quote his very words — that he had "feasted his eyes on the sight of his enemy's death-bed." Blaesus was a man not only of distinguished family and of refinement, but also of resolute loyalty. Even while the position of Vitellius was still unshaken, he had been solicited by Caecina and the party leaders who already despised the emperor, but he persisted in rejecting their advances. Honourable, opposed to revolution, moved by no desire for sudden honours, least of all for the principate, he could not escape being regarded as worthy of it.

40 1 Fabius Valens in the meantime, with his long effeminate train of concubines and eunuchs, moved on too slowly for a general going out to war. On his way he heard from messengers who came in haste, that Lucius Bassus had betrayed the fleet at Ravenna to the Flavians. Yet if he had hurried, he p397might have stopped Caecina, who was still wavering; or at least he could have reached the legions before the decisive battle. Some advised him to take his most trusty men and, avoiding Ravenna, to push on by secret roads to Hostilia or Cremona; others favoured summoning the praetorian cohorts from Rome and then breaking through with a strong force. But Valens by useless delay wasted in discussion the time for action; later he rejected both the plans proposed, and in following a middle course — the worst of all policies in times of doubt — he showed neither adequate courage nor foresight.

41 1 He wrote to Vitellius asking for help. Three cohorts and a squadron of cavalry from Britain came in response, a force whose size was ill-suited either to escape observation or to force a passage. But even in such a crisis Valens did not avoid the infamy of snatching illicit pleasures and polluting with adulteries and debaucheries the homes of those who entertained him: he had power, money, and, as fortune failed, the lust of the last hour. When the foot and horse finally arrived, the folly of his plan became evident, because he could not make his way through the enemy's lines with so small a band, no matter how faithful, and, in fact, they did not bring a loyalty that was wholly unshaken. Still shame and awe in the presence of their commander held them back; but these are weak restraints over men who are fearful of danger and regardless of disgrace. Accordingly, in his alarm, he sent the cohorts on to Ariminum,14 and ordered the squadron of cavalry to protect his rear. He himself turned aside into Umbria with a few companions whose loyalty had not been changed by p399adversity, and from Umbria he moved into Etruria. There, hearing the result of the battle at Cremona, he formed a plan which was not cowardly and which would have been formidable if it had only succeeded: he proposed to seize some ships, land somewhere on the coast of the province of Narbonne, and then rouse the Gallic provinces, the armies, and the tribes of Germany — in fact to begin a new war.

42 1 Valens' departure made the troops at Ariminum anxious and timid. Cornelius Fuscus15 brought up his land forces and sent light men-of‑war along the neighbouring coast and thereby cut the garrison off by land and sea. The Flavians now held the plains of Umbria and that part of Picenum that is washed by the Adriatic; in fact, all Italy was divided between Vespasian and Vitellius by the range of the Apennines. Fabius Valens sailed from the harbour of Pisa, but was forced by calm or by head winds to put in at the port of Hercules Monoecus.16 Marius Maturus, procurator of the Maritime Alps, was not far from here; he was still faithful to Vitellius, not having yet abandoned his oath of allegiance to him although all the districts round about were hostile. He received Valens kindly, and persuaded him by his advice not to risk entering Narbonese Gaul. At the same time the fidelity of the rest was shaken by their fears.

43 1 There was reason for this, since the imperial agent, Valerius Paulinus, a vigorous soldier and a friend of Vespasian even before his great fortune befell him, had bound the neighbouring communities by an oath of allegiance to him. Paulinus had also called out all the veterans who had been discharged by Vitellius, but now freely took up p401arms again;17 and he kept a garrison in Forum Julii,18 which controls the sea here, while his authority was increased by the fact that Forum Julii was his native city and that he was esteemed by the praetorians, whose tribune he had once been. Also the people of the district, moved by zeal for a fellow-townsman and by hope of his future power, did their best to help his party. When these preparations, which were effective and were exaggerated by rumour, were reported again and again to the Vitellians, whose minds were already in doubt, Fabius Valens returned to his ships with four soldiers of the bodyguard, three friends, and three centurions; Maturus and the rest chose to remain and take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian. But while the sea seemed to Valens safer than shores or cities, he was still doubtful of the future and saw more clearly what to avoid than what to trust. An adverse storm drove him to the Stoechadae islands belonging to the Massilians,19 where he was captured by some light galleys which Paulinus sent after him.

44 1 Now that Valens was captured everything turned to the victor's advantage. The movement in Spain was begun by the First legion Adjutrix, which was devoted to the memory of Otho and so hostile to Vitellius. This legion drew the Tenth and Sixth after it. The Gallic provinces did not hesitate. In Britain a favourable sentiment inclined toward Vespasian, because he had been put in command of the Second legion there by Claudius and had distinguished himself in the field. This secured the island for him, but only after some resistance on the part of the other legions, in which there were many centurions and soldiers who owed their promotions to p403Vitellius, and so hesitated to change from an emperor of whom they had already had some experience.

45 1 Inspired by these differences between the Roman forces and by the many rumours of civil war that reached them, the Britons plucked up courage under the leadership of Venutius, who, in addition to his natural spirit and hatred of the Roman name, was fired by his personal resentment toward Queen Cartimandua. She was ruler over the Brigantes, having the influence that belongs to high birth, and she had later strengthened her power when she was credited with having captured King Caratacus by treachery and so furnished an adornment for the triumph of Claudius Caesar.20 From this came her wealth and the wanton spirit which success breeds. She grew to despise her husband Venutius, and took as her consort his squire Vellocatus, whom she admitted to share the throne with her. Her house was at once shaken by this scandalous act. Her husband was favoured by the sentiments of all the citizens; the adulterer was supported by the queen's passion for him and by her savage spirit. So Venutius, calling in aid from outside and at the same time assisted by a revolt of the Brigantes themselves, put Cartimandua into an extremely dangerous position. Then she asked the Romans for protection, and in fact some companies of our foot and horse, after meeting with indifferent success in a number of engagements, finally succeeded in rescuing the queen from danger. The throne was left to Venutius; the war to us.

46 1 At the same time there was trouble in Germany. Indeed the Roman cause almost suffered disaster because of the negligence of the generals, p405the mutinous spirit of the legions, the assaults from without the empire, and the treachery of our allies. The history of this war with its causes and results we shall give later, for the struggle was a long one.21 The Dacians22 also, never trustworthy, became uneasy and now had no fear, for our army had been withdrawn from Moesia. They watched the first events without stirring; but when they heard that Italy was aflame with war and that the whole empire was divided into hostile camps, they stormed the winter quarters of our auxiliary foot and horse23 and put themselves in possession of both banks of the Danube. They were already preparing to destroy the camps of the legions, and would have succeeded in their purpose if Mucianus had not placed the Sixth legion across their path. He took this step because he had learned of the victory at Cremona, and he also feared that two hordes of foreigners might come down upon the empire, if the Dacians and the Germans should succeeded in breaking in at different points. As so often before, the fortune of the Roman people attended them, bringing, as it had, Mucianus and the forces of the East to that point and securing meantime the success at Cremona. Fonteius Agrippa was transferred from Asia, where, as proconsul, he had governed the province for a year, and put in charge of Moesia; there he was given additional troops from the army of Vitellius, which it was wise from the point of view of both policy and peace to distribute in the provinces and to involve in war with a foreign foe.

47 1 Nor were the other nations quiet. There was a sudden armed uprising in Pontus led by a barbarian slave who had once been prefect of the p407royal fleet. This was a certain Anicetus, a freedman of Polemo,24 who, having been once very powerful, was impatient of the change after the kingdom was transformed into a province. So he stirred up the people of Pontus in the name of Vitellius, bribing the poorest among them with hope of plunder. Then at the head of a band, which was far from being negligible, he suddenly attacked Trapezus,25 a city of ancient fame, founded by Greeks at the extreme end of the coast of Pontus. There he massacred a cohort, which originally consisted of auxiliaries furnished by the king; later its members had been granted Roman citizenship and had adopted Roman standards and arms, but retained the indolence and licence of the Greeks. He also set fire to the fleet and escaped by sea, which was unpatrolled since Mucianus had concentrated the best light galleys and all the marines at Byzantium. Moreover, the barbarians had hastily built vessels and now roamed the sea at will, despising the power of Rome. Their boats they call camarae; they have a low freeboard but are broad of beam, and are fastened together without spikes of bronze or iron. When the sea is rough the sailors build up the bulwarks with planks to match the height of the waves, until they close in the hull like the roof of a house. Thus protected these vessels roll about amid the waves. They have a prow at both ends and their arrangement of oars may be shifted, so that they can be safely propelled in either direction at will.

48 1 These events attracted Vespasian's attention, so that he sent detachments from his legions under the command of Virdius Geminus, whose military skill had been well tested. He attacked p409the enemy's troops when they were off their guard and were scattered in their greed for booty, and forced them to their boats; afterwards he quickly built some light galleys and caught up with Anicetus at the mouth of the river Chobus,26 where he had sought shelter under the protection of the king of the Sedochezi, whose alliance he had secured by bribes and gifts. At first the king sheltered his suppliant with the aid of threats and arms; but after the reward for treachery and the alternative of war were set before him, with the unstable loyalty of a barbarian he bargained away the life of Anicetus, gave up the refugees, and so an end was put to this servile war.

While Vespasian was rejoicing over this victory, for everything was succeeding beyond his hopes and prayers, the news of the battle at Cremona reached him in Egypt. He moved with all the more speed to Alexandria, that he might impose the burden of famine on the broken armies of Vitellius and on Rome, which always needs help from outside. For he was now preparing to invade Africa also by land and sea, situated as it is in the same quarter of the world, his purpose being to shut off Italy's supplies of grain and so cause need and discord among his foes.

49 1 While the imperial power was shifting with these world-wide convulsions,27 Primus Antonius did not behave so blamelessly after the battle of Cremona as before, whether it was that he thought that he had done enough for the war and that everything else would easily follow, or whether success in the case of a nature like his brought to the surface the avarice, arrogance, and other evils that had remained hidden hitherto. He stalked p411through Italy as it were captured territory; he courted the legions as if they were his own; he used his every word and act to pave his way to power. To inspire the soldiers with a spirit of licence, he offered to the rank and file the places of the centurions who had fallen. The soldiers chose the most turbulent of their number. The ranks were no longer directed by the will of their leaders, but the leaders were at the mercy of the common soldiers' whims. These acts, which made for mutinies and the ruin of discipline, Antonius presently turned to his own profit.28 He had no fear of the arrival of Mucianus, although in the event this was more fatal for him than the fact that he had treated Vespasian with little respect.

50 1 Meantime, since winter was approaching and the plains were inundated by the Po,29 the Flavian troops moved without their heavy baggage. They left at Verona the eagles and standards of the victorious legions, such soldiers as were incapacitated by wounds or years, and also a number who were in good condition; the auxiliary foot and horse with selected legionaries seemed sufficient now that the worst of the war was over. The Eleventh legion30 had joined them; at first it had hesitated, but, now that the Flavians were succeeding, it became apprehensive because it had not joined them before. Six thousand Dalmatians, a new levy, accompanied them, led by Pompeius Silvanus, an ex-consul. The actual guiding spirit was Annius Bassus, the legionary legate. Silvanus displayed no energy in war, but wasted in mere talk the days for action. Bassus directed him by pretending to defer to him, and continually attended to all necessary operations p413with unobtrusive activity. The marines at Ravenna now demanded service with the legions, and the best of them were enrolled among them; Dalmatians replaced them in the fleet. The troops and commanders halted at Fanum Fortunae,31 being uncertain as to the proper course of action, for they had received a report that six praetorian cohorts had left Rome, and they supposed that the passes in the Apennines were guarded. The commanders, too, were alarmed by the lack of supplies, being now in a district completely devastated by the war, as well as by the mutinous demands of the soldiers for the clavarium,32 as they call the donative. They had provided neither money nor provisions; moreover, their haste and greed in seizing as private booty what might have been stores to draw upon now proved embarrassing.

51 1 I have it from the best authorities that the victors had come to disregard the difference between right and wrong so completely that a common soldier declared that he had killed his brother in the last battle and actually asked the generals for a reward. The common dictates of humanity did not permit them to honour such a murder or military policy to punish it. They put off the soldier on the ground that he deserved a reward greater than could be repaid at once; nor is anything further told concerning the case. And yet a similar crime had happened in civil war before. In the struggle against Cinna on the Janiculum,33 as Sisenna relates, one of Pompey's soldiers killed his own brother and then, on realizing his crime, committed suicide. So much livelier among our ancestors was repentance for guilt as well as glory in virtuous action. Such p415deeds as this and others like them, drawn from our earlier history, I shall not improperly insert in my work whenever the theme or situation demands examples of the right or solace for the wrong.

52 1 Antonius and the other Flavian commanders decided to send their cavalry on ahead and to reconnoitre throughout Umbria, to see if they could approach the Apennines at any point without danger; they proposed also to bring up the eagles and standards with all the soldiers then at Verona, and to fill the Po and the sea with convoys of provisions. There were some among the commanders who devised reasons for delay; they felt that Antonius was becoming too pretentious, and they hoped to get more certain advantages from Mucianus. For Mucianus, disturbed by the speed with which the victory had been won, and believing that he would have no share in the glory to be gained by the war unless he took Rome in person, kept writing to Primus and Varus in ambiguous terms, saying in one letter that they must follow up their successes and in another dwelling on the advantages of proceeding slowly, so trimming his course that according to the event he might at will repudiate all responsibility for failure or take the credit for success. To Plotius Grypus, whom Vespasian had lately elevated to senatorial rank and put in command of a legion, and to all other officers who were loyal, he wrote admonishing them more frankly; and they all replied, putting the haste of Primus and Varus in an unfavourable light and saying what was likely to please Mucianus. By sending these letters to Vespasian, Mucianus succeeded in preventing the plans and acts of Antonius from being estimated so highly as the latter had hoped.

p417 53 1 At this Antonius was indignant, and put the blame on Mucianus, whose base insinuations, as he maintained, had made the dangers that he had run seem trifling; nor did he pick and choose his words, being as he was immoderate in speech and unaccustomed to defer to another. He drew up a letter to Vespasian in a strain too boastful to use to an emperor; and he did not fail to attack Mucianus covertly: "It was I who armed the Pannonian legions. It was I who roused the commanders in Moesia and spurred them on. It was my bold action that broke through the Alps, seized Italy, and blocked the road against any assistance to Vitellius from Germany and Raetia." As for the disaster inflicted on the discordant and scattered legions of Vitellius by a whirlwind of cavalry and the rout of those troops by a great force of infantry which pursued them for a day and a night, Antonius claimed that these were glorious achievements of which he deserved all the credit. The fate of Cremona he charged up to the chances of war; and pointed out that civil discord in earlier days had caused greater loss and had destroyed more cities. He declared that he did not fight for his emperor with despatches and letters, but with deeds and arms; he made no attempt to dim the glory of those who meantime had quieted Dacia; their desire had been to give Moesia peace, his to give Italy safety and security. It was due to his exhortations that the Gauls and Spains, the strongest part of the world, had turned to Vespasian's side. "But," he added, "my efforts will come to nothing if the rewards for dangers run are to be gained only by those who did not face the dangers." Of all this p419Mucianus was fully aware, and the result was bitter enmity, fostered more openly by Antonius, with cunning and therefore the more implacably by Mucianus.

54 1 Vitellius, however, after the loss of his cause at Cremona, concealed the news of the disaster, and by foolish dissimulation delayed the remedies for his misfortunes rather than the misfortunes themselves. For if he had only acknowledged the truth and sought counsel, he had still some hope and resources left; but when, on the contrary, he pretended that all was well, he made his situation worse by his falsehoods. A strange silence concerning the war was observed in his presence; discussion in the city was forbidden, with the result that more people talked. If they had been allowed to speak, they would have told only the truth; but as they were forbidden, they spread abroad more frightful reports. The generals of the Flavian forces did not fail to increase the rumours by escorting round their camp the Vitellian spies whom they had captured, showing them the strength of the victorious army and then sending them back to Rome. All these Vitellius questioned in secret and promptly had them put to death. Julius Agrestis, a centurion, exhibited notable courage. After many conversations, in which he tried in vain to rouse Vitellius to bold action, he persuaded the emperor to send him to see in person the enemy's forces and to observe what had happened at Cremona. He did not try to deceive Antonius by any secret investigation, but frankly made known his emperor's orders and his own purpose, and demanded to see everything. Men were despatched to show him the battle-ground, the ruins of Cremona, and the captive legions. Agrestis p421returned to Vitellius; and when the emperor denied the truth of his report, and even went so far as to charge him with having been bribed, he said, "Since I must give you a convincing proof of my statements, and you can have no other advantage from my life or death, I will give you evidence that will make you believe." With these words he left the emperor's presence, and made good his words by suicide. Some have reported that he was put to death by the orders of Vitellius, but all agree as to his fidelity and courage.

55 1 Vitellius was like a man wakened from a deep sleep. He ordered Julius Priscus and Alfenus Avarus to block the passes of the Apennines with fourteen praetorian cohorts and all the cavalry. A legion of marines followed them later. These thousands of armed forces, consisting too of picked men and horses, were equal to taking the offensive if they had had another leader. The rest of the cohorts Vitellius gave to his brother Lucius for the defence of Rome, while he, abating in no degree his usual life of pleasure and urged on by his lack of confidence in the future, held the comitia before the usual time, and designated the consuls for many years to come. He granted special treaties to allies and bestowed Latin rights on foreigners with a generous hand; he reduced the tribute for some provincials, he relieved others from all obligations — in short, with no regard for the future he crippled the empire. But the mob attended in delight on the great indulgences that he bestowed;34 the most foolish citizens bought them, while the wise regarded as worthless privileges which could neither be granted nor accepted if the state was to stand. Finally Vitellius listened to the p423demands of his army which had stopped at Mevania,35 and left Rome, accompanied by a long line of senators, many of whom were drawn in his train by their desire to secure his favour, most however by fear. So he came to camp with no clear purpose in mind, an easy prey to treacherous advice.

56 1 While Vitellius was addressing the troops an incredible prodigy appeared — such a flock of birds of ill omen flew above him that they obscured the sky with a black cloud. Another dire omen was given by a bull which overthrew the preparations for sacrifice, escaped from the altar, and was then despatched some distance away and in an unusual fashion. But the most outstanding portent was Vitellius himself; unskilled in war, without foresight, unacquainted with the proper order of march, the use of scouts, the limits within which a general should hurry on a campaign or delay it, he was constantly questioning others; at the arrival of every messenger his face and gait betrayed his anxiety; and then he would drink heavily. Finally, weary of the camp and hearing of the defection of the fleet at Misenum, he returned to Rome, panic-stricken as ever by the latest blow and with no thought for the supreme issue. For when the way was open to him to cross the Apennines while the strength of his forces was unimpaired, and to attack his foes who were still exhausted by the winter and lack of supply, by scattering his forces he delivered over to death and captivity his best troops, who were loyal to the last extremity, although his most experienced centurions disapproved, and if consulted, would have told him the truth. But the most intimate friends of Vitellius kept p425them away from him, and so inclined the emperor's ears that useful counsel sounded harsh, and he would hear nothing but what flattered and was to be fatal.

57 1 The action of the fleet at Misenum is an illustration of the weight that a bold stroke on the part of a single individual may have in time of civil strife. It was Claudius Faventinus,º a centurion dishonourably discharged by Galba, who brought the fleet to revolt by forging letters from Vespasian in which he held out to the men a reward for their treason. The fleet was commanded by Claudius Apollinaris,36 who was neither strong in loyalty nor determined in treachery; and Apinius Tiro, an ex-praetor who at that time happened to be at Minturnae,37 offered himself to lead the rebels. These moved the municipal towns and colonies to action. The people of Puteoli38 became ardent supporters of Vespasian; Capua, on the other hand, was faithful to Vitellius; and so rivalry between communities became a part of the civil war. Vitellius selected Claudius Julianus to reconcile the troops, for when Julianus shortly before had commanded the fleet at Misenum, he had exercised his authority in a mild fashion. The emperor gave him to support his efforts one of the city cohorts and the gladiators that Julianus then commanded. When the two forces were encamped over against each other, Julianus did not long hesitate to join Vespasian's party; then the combined forces occupied Tarracina,39 a town which was better defended by its walls and situation than by any ability on the part of the soldiers.

58 1 On hearing this, Vitellius left part of his p427troops at Narnia40 with the prefects of the praetorian guard; his brother Lucius Vitellius he sent with six cohorts and five hundred horse to oppose the threatened outbreak in Campania. He himself was sick at heart, but the enthusiasm of the soldiers and the shouts of the people demanding arms gave him fresh spirit, while he addressed the cowardly rabble, whose courage would not extend beyond words, under the unreal and pretentious names of an army and legions. On the advice of his freedmen (for the more distinguished his friends were, the less he trusted them), he ordered the people to assemble in tribes, and administered the oath to the members as they enrolled. Since the numbers were too great, he divided between the consuls the selection of the recruits. On the senators he imposed a contribution of slaves and cash. The knights offered assistance and money, while even the freedmen demanded to be allowed the same privilege. This pretended devotion, which was in reality prompted by fear, resulted in enthusiasm for the emperor; yet most men felt sorry not so much for Vitellius as for the unfortunate position to which the principate had fallen. Nor did he fail personally to appeal to their pity by look, voice, and tears; he was generous and even prodigal in his promises, after the manner of the timid. Nay, he even went so far as to wish to be called Caesar, a title which he had rejected before, but now accepted from a superstitious feeling with regard to the name,41 and because in time of fear the counsels of the wise and the words of the crowd obtain a like hearing. However, since all movements that arise from thoughtless impulses are strong at first but p429slacken with time, the senators and knights gradually began to fall away, at first with hesitation and when Vitellius was not present, later in open scorn and indifference, until in shame at the failure of his attempts he excused them from the services which they would not render.

59 1 While the occupation of Mevania had terrified Italy and had seemed to start a new war, it was also true that the timid retreat of Vitellius42 had increased the favourable feeling toward the Flavian party. The Samnites, Paelignians, and Marsians were jealous because Campania had anticipated them, and eagerly undertook all services required by war with the enthusiasm that attaches to every new devotion. Nevertheless, the army had been greatly exhausted by a severe winter storm while crossing the Apennines, and when the troops, though undisturbed by any enemy, found difficulty in struggling through the snow, the leaders realized what risks they would have run, had not that fortune which often served the Flavian commanders quite as much as wisdom turned Vitellius back. In the mountains they met Petilius Cerialis, who had escaped the pickets of Vitellius by disguising himself as a peasant and using his knowledge of the district. Cerialis was closely connected with Vespasian, and being himself not without reputation in war, was made one of the commanders.43 Many have reported that Flavius Sabinus44 also and Domitian had an opportunity to escape opened to them. Emissaries of Antonius by various cunning arts made their way to them and showed them the place to which to flee and the protection that they would have. Sabinus offered the excuse that his health p431was not fitted to stand fatigue or to engage in a bold enterprise; Domitian had the courage, but, in spite of the fact that the guards Vitellius set over him promised to join him in flight, he feared that they were planning treachery. And yet Vitellius himself out of regard for his own relatives, cherished no cruel purpose against Domitian.

60 1 On arriving at Carsulae,45 the leaders of the Flavian party rested a few days and waited for the eagles and standards of the legions to come up.46 They also regarded with favour the actual situation of their camp, which had a wide outlook, and secured their supply of stores, because of the prosperous towns behind them; and at the same time, as the troops of Vitellius were only ten miles away,47 they hoped to have conferences with them and to bring them over. The soldiers objected to this policy and preferred a victory to peace; they were opposed to waiting even for their own legions, which would share in the booty as well as the dangers. Antonius assembled his troops and pointed out that Vitellius still had an army whose allegiance to him would be doubtful if the soldiers were given a chance to deliberate, but which would be dangerous if driven to despair. "The beginning of civil war," he said, "is necessarily left to fortune; but victory is always secured by strategy and wise counsel. The fleet at Misenum and the lovely district of Campania have already deserted Vitellius, and he now has nothing left out of the whole world but the land that lies between Tarracina and Narnia. We gained a full measure of glory in the battle of Cremona, but by the destruction of Cremona won greater unpopularity than we could wish. Therefore we should p433not long to capture Rome so much as to save it. You will have greater rewards and the greatest possible fame if you aim to secure without bloodshed the safety of the senate and the Roman people." These arguments and others to the same effect quieted the soldiers' impatience.

61 1 Not much later the legions arrived at Carsulae. The terrifying report that the Flavian army had been reinforced caused the cohorts of Vitellius to waver: no officer urged them to fight, but many to desert, rivalling one another in handing over their centuries and squadrons as a gift to the victors and as a security for their own reward later. From them the Flavians learned that Interamna in the neighbouring plain was defended by four hundred horse. Varus was despatched at once with a force in light marching order. He killed a few of the garrison when they resisted; the majority threw down their arms and begged for pardon. Some, escaping to the main camp, caused utter consternation there by exaggerated accounts of the bravery and the numbers of their enemies, which they gave to mitigate their own disgrace for having failed to hold their post. With the Vitellians there was no punishment for cowardice; those who went over to the Flavians received the rewards of their treachery; the only rivalry left was in perfidy. Among the tribunes and centurions desertions were frequent; for the common soldiers had remained steadfastly loyal to Vitellius until now; Priscus and Alfenus48 by abandoning the camp and returning to Vitellius set them all free from any shame of treachery.

62 1 During these same days Fabius Valens49 was killed at Urbinum,50 where he was under guard. p435His head was exhibited to the cohorts of Vitellius to keep them from cherishing any further hope, for hitherto they had believed that Valens had made his way to the German provinces, where he was setting in motion the old forces and enrolling new. The sight of his head turned them to despair; and it was extraordinary with what an enormous increase of courage the execution of Valens inspired the Flavian troops, who regarded it as the end of the war. Valens was born at Anagnia51 of an equestrian family. He was a man of loose morals but not without natural ability, save that he sought a reputation for wit by buffoonery. At the Festival of Youth52 under Nero he appeared in mimes, at first apparently under compulsion, but later of his own free will, acting in a manner more clever than decent. As a legate of a legion he courted Verginius and then defamed him.53 He put Fonteius Capito54 to death after corrupting him — or it may have been because he could not corrupt him. A traitor to Galba, he was faithful to Vitellius and gained glory from the perfidy of others.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 In April of this year, at the time of the first battle of Bedriacum.

2 In this formation — the testudo — the soldiers held their shields over their heads with the edges overlapping, and they were so skilful in this that the roof thus formed was not easily broken through.

Thayer's Note: For comprehensive details and sources, see the illustrated article Testudo in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, and the further illustrations linked in the notes.

3 Cf. Verg. Aen. II.369, plurima mortis imago.

4 Cf. I.66.

5 That is, in his robes of office.

6 Cf. II.67.

7 The goddess of malaria, whose ravages in the valley of the Po must have been serious in antiquity.

Thayer's Note: Exactly what Mefitis was the goddess of is a matter of interpretation, although malaria seems the most reasonable choice to me. For a relatively thorough discussion presenting a different view, see Notes on the Development of Early Roman Religion (CW 11:13:97‑102).

8 218 B.C.

9 Tacitus resumes his narrative from II.101.

10 Varus had been hitherto prefect of the camp. Cf. II.29.

11 Caecina had been appointed consul for September and October, and evidently the news of his defection reached Rome about October 29 or 30. He was not removed from office, but his treacherous act was apparently regarded as vacating the office.

12 When Caninius Rebilus was made consul on the afternoon of the last day of 45 B.C. See Cicero, ad Fam. VII.30.1.

13 Cf. II.59.

14 Rimini.

15 Now in command of the fleet at Ravenna. Cf. III.12.

16 Monaco.

17 Cf. II.67.

18 Fréjus.

19 Les îles d'Hyères, near Toulon.

20 Celebrated in 51 A.D. See Tac. Ann. XII.33‑37; CIL VI.920.

21 Tacitus fulfils his promise in IV.12‑37, 54‑79, and in V.14‑26.

22 Living in what is now Rumania.

23 The legionaries having been withdrawn from the bank of the Danube, it was now defended by the auxiliaries alone.

24 Polemo II, who at his death in 63 A.D. left the kingdom of Pontus to the Romans.

25 Trebizond.

26 The Khopi.

27 Tacitus here returns to the matter of III.35.

28 That is, by extorting or accepting money from soldiers in return for his support.

29 It was now November.

30 From Dalmatia. Cf. II.67.

31 Fano.

32 A piece of soldiers' slang; literally, "hob-nail (clavus) money."

33 In 87 B.C.

34 The Latin is obscure, but it apparently means what the English version attempts to say, i.e. that the unthinking part of the populace were delighted and dazzled by his apparent liberality. J. F. Gronovius read hiabat ("gaped with wonder at") for aderat, but with no manuscript warrant.

35 Bevagna.

36 The successor of Bassus. Cf. III.12.

37 At the mouth of the Liris, on the border between Latium and Campania.

38 Pozzuoli, on the bay of Naples.

39 Terracina, on the coast south of the Pontine marshes.

40 Terni.

Thayer's Note: No. Narni. I would merely have corrected this with one of my little bullets, were it not that the Loeb editor repeats his mistake more explicitly below (note 47); and that the error is made all the more inexplicable that in Book II, p263, the same editor correctly identifies Interamna as Terni.

At any rate, the inhabitants of Narni and Terni (qq.v.), both today and in Roman times when they were known respectively as Narnia and Interamn(i)a or, when distinguishing it from other similarly named towns, Interamna Nahars — would be puzzled to see themselves conflated: though both towns are on the Via Flaminia, not far apart, as well as on the same River Nera (in Antiquity, the Nar), they are very different places. Terni is larger, in the plain, with a Roman amphitheatre; Narni of greater strategic importance, high on its hill guarding the pass between Umbria and Latium with its famous Roman bridge, the largest known today, and nicely visible [a map marker] in this map if you zoom in four levels and more:

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

41 Vitellius had hitherto declined to be called Caesar or Augustus (I.62; II.55‑62), possibly prompted by a desire to appear modest; but now the imperial name seemed to him a support in his misfortunes.

42 His return to Rome, described in chapter 56.

43 Later he crushed the uprising led by the Batavian Civilis (books IV and V).

44 Vespasian's brother, who was city-prefect at this time. Cf. below, chapters 64‑75.

45 Casigliano, ten Roman miles north of Terni.

Thayer's Note: This isn't right, but like many things, has acquired dubious credence with the unwary by being repeated from book to book. As perfectly pointed out by Mika Kajava in a review of Birley's Onomasticon to the Younger Pliny (BMCR 2001.07.13), Casigliano (8 Roman miles NW of Terni) is the frazione of Acquasparta, some ten kilometers distant. Carsulae is in fact in the neighbouring comune of Sangemini, and used to be called San Damiano, properly the name of a 6c church that sits among the ruins; the town is about 4 Roman miles NW of downtown Interamnia. The map here shows the main ruins of Carsulae, with the rest lying mostly to the north. The marker is in the middle of the Via Flaminia right in front of the little square church of S. Damiano on the E side of the road; zooming out seven levels will make [a map marker]Casigliano appear near the N edge of the map. For some further details, see my pages on Carsulae.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

46 From Verona. Cf. chapter 52.

47 At Narnia (Terni).

Thayer's Note: Definitely not; see above.

48 The prefects of the praetorian guards. Cf. chap. 58.

49 Cf. chap. 43.

50 Urbino.

Thayer's Note: That's the easy solution, but unfortunately there were at least two places called Urbinum in central Italy (Pliny, N.H. III.114); that one of them (Urbinum Metaurense) is the town made famous in the Renaissance is no evidence for favoring it over the other one (Urbinum Hortense). Vitellius's army has been making its way to Rome on the Via Flaminia: neither Urbinum is actually on the road, but both places mentioned by Pliny are close, at least if the latter is the place it is commonly said to be these days. See my pages on 'Urbinum Hortense'.

51 Anagni.

52 Cf. Ann. XIV.15. A festival established by Nero, in which the youth of the Equestrian order took part.

53 Cf. I.7 f.

54 Cf. I.8.


Thayer's Note:

a Surely Tacitus has dormice in mind, that gourmet's delight of ancient Rome.


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