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Tacitus: History Book 1 [10]

10. In the East there was as yet no movement. Syria and its four legions were under the command of Licinius Mucianus, a man whose good and bad fortune were equally famous. In his youth he had cultivated with many intrigues the friendship of the great. His resources soon failed, and his position became precarious, and as he also suspected that Claudius had taken some offence, he withdrew into a retired part of Asia, and was as like an exile, as he was afterwards like an emperor. He was a compound of dissipation and energy, of arrogance and courtesy, of good and bad qualities. His self-indulgence was excessive, when he had leisure, yet whenever he had served, he had shown great qualities. In his public capacity he might be praised; his private life was in bad repute. Yet over subjects, friends, and colleagues, he exercised the influence of many fascinations. He was a man who would find it easier to transfer the imperial power to another, than to hold it for himself. Flavius Vespasian, a general of Nero's appointment, was carrying on the war in Judaea with three legions, and he had no wish or feeling adverse to Galba. He had in fact sent his son Titus to acknowledge his authority and bespeak his favour, as in its proper place I shall relate. As for the hidden decrees of fate, the omens and the oracles that marked out Vespasian and his sons for imperial power, we believed in them only after his success.

10. Oriens adhuc immotus. Syriam et quattuor legiones obtinebat Licinius Mucianus, vir secundis adversisque iuxta famosus. insignis amicitias iuvenis ambitiose coluerat; mox attritis opibus, lubrico statu, suspecta etiam Claudii iracundia, in secretum Asiae sepositus tam prope ab exule fuit quam postea a principe. luxuria industria, comitate adrogantia, malis bonisque artibus mixtus: nimiae voluptates, cum vacaret; quotiens expedierat, magnae virtutes: palam laudares, secreta male audiebant: sed apud subiectos, apud proximos, apud collegas variis inlecebris potens, et cui expeditius fuerit tradere imperium quam obtinere. bellum Iudaicum Flavius Vespasianus (ducem eum Nero delegerat) tribus legionibus administrabat. nec Vespasiano adversus Galbam votum aut animus: quippe Titum filium ad venerationem cultumque eius miserat, ut suo loco memorabimus. occulta fati et ostentis ac responsis destinatum Vespasiano liberisque eius imperium post fortunam credidimus.

11. Ever since the time of the Divine Augustus Roman Knights have ruled Egypt as kings, and the forces by which it has to be kept in subjection. It has been thought expedient thus to keep under home control a province so difficult of access, so productive of corn, ever distracted, excitable, and restless through the superstition and licentiousness of its inhabitants, knowing nothing of laws, and unused to civil rule. Its governor was at this time Tiberius Alexander, a native of the country. Africa and its legions, now that Clodius Macer was dead, were disposed to be content with any emperor, after having experienced the rule of a smaller tyrant. The two divisions of Mauritania, Rhaetia, Noricum and Thrace and the other provinces governed by procurators, as they were near this or that army, were driven by the presence of such powerful neighbours into friendship or hostility. The unarmed provinces with Italy at their head were exposed to any kind of slavery, and were ready to become the prize of victory. Such was the state of the Roman world, when Servius Galba, consul for the second time, with T. Vinius for his colleague, entered upon a year, which was to be the last of their lives, and which well nigh brought the commonwealth to an end.

11. Aegyptum copiasque, quibus coerceretur, iam inde a divo Augusto equites Romani obtinent loco regum: ita visum expedire, provinciam aditu difficilem, annonae fecundam, superstitione ac lascivia discordem et mobilem, insciam legum, ignaram magistratuum, domi retinere. regebat tum Tiberius Alexander, eiusdem nationis. Africa ac legiones in ea interfecto Clodio Macro contenta qualicumque principe post experimentum domini minoris. duae Mauretaniae, Raetia, Noricum, Thraecia et quae aliae procuratoribus cohibentur, ut cuique exercitui vicinae, ita in favorem aut odium contactu valentiorum agebantur. inermes provinciae atque ipsa in primis Italia, cuicumque servitio exposita, in pretium belli cessurae erant. hic fuit rerum Romanarum status, cum Servius Galba iterum Titus Vinius consules inchoavere annum sibi ultimum, rei publicae prope supremum.

12. A few days after the 1st of January, there arrived from Belgica despatches of Pompeius Propinquus, the Procurator, to this effect; that the legions of Upper Germany had broken through the obligation of their military oath, and were demanding another emperor, but conceded the power of choice to the Senate and people of Rome, in the hope that a more lenient view might be taken of their revolt. These tidings hastened the plans of Galba, who had been long debating the subject of adoption with himself and with his intimate friends. There was indeed no more frequent subject of conversation during these months, at first because men had liberty and inclination to talk of such matters, afterwards because the feebleness of Galba was notorious. Few had any discrimination or patriotism, many had foolish hopes for themselves, and spread interested reports, in which they named this or that person to whom they might be related as friend or dependant. They were also moved by hatred of T. Vinius, who grew daily more powerful, and in the same proportion more unpopular. The very easiness of Galba's temper stimulated the greedy cupidity which great advancement had excited in his friends, because with one so weak and so credulous wrong might be done with less risk and greater gain.

12. Paucis post kalendas Ianuarias diebus Pompei Propinqui procuratoris e Belgica litterae adferuntur, supeioris Germaniae legiones rupta sacramenti reverentia imperatorem alium flagitare et senatui ac populo Romano arbitrium eligendi permittere quo seditio mollius acciperetur. maturavit ea res consilium Galbae iam pridem de adoptione secum et cum proximis agitantis. non sane crebrior tota civitate sermo per illos mensis fuerat, primum licentia ac libidine talia loquendi, dein fessa iam aetate Galbae. paucis iudicium aut rei publicae amor: multi stulta spe, prout quis amicus vel cliens, hunc vel illum ambitiosis rumoribus destinabant, etiam in Titi Vinii odium, qui in dies quanto potentior eodem actu invisior erat. quippe hiantis in magna fortuna amicorum cupiditates ipsa Galbae facilitas intendebat, cum apud infirmum et credulum minore metu et maiore praemio peccaretur.

13. The real power of the Empire was divided between T. Vinius, the consul, and Cornelius Laco, prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Icelus, a freedman of Galba, was in equal favour; he had been presented with the rings of knighthood, and bore the Equestrian name of Martianus. These men, being at variance, and in smaller matters pursuing their own aims, were divided in the affair of choosing a successor, into two opposing factions. T. Vinius was for Marcus Otho, Laco and Icelus agreed, not indeed in supporting any particular individual, but in striving for some one else. Galba indeed was aware of the friendship between Vinius and Otho; the gossip of those who allow nothing to pass in silence had named them as father-in-law and son-in-law, for Vinius had a widowed daughter, and Otho was unmarried. I believe that he had also at heart some care for the commonwealth, in vain, he would think, rescued from Nero, if it was to be left with Otho. For Otho's had been a neglected boyhood and a riotous youth, and he had made himself agreeable to Nero by emulating his profligacy. For this reason the Emperor had entrusted to him, as being the confidant of his amours, Poppaea Sabina, the imperial favourite, until he could rid himself of his wife Octavia. Soon suspecting him with regard to this same Poppaea, he sent him out of the way to the province of Lusitania, ostensibly to be its governor. Otho ruled the province with mildness, and, as he was the first to join Galba's party, was not without energy, and, while the war lasted, was the most conspicuous of the Emperor's followers, he was led to cherish more and more passionately every day those hopes of adoption which he had entertained from the first. Many of the soldiers favoured him, and the court was biassed in his favour, because he resembled Nero.

13. Potentia principatus divisa in Titum Vinium consulem Cornelium Laconem praetorii praefectum; nec minor gratia Icelo Galbae liberto, quem anulis donatum equestri nomine Marcianum vocitabant. hi discordes et rebus minoribus sibi quisque tendentes, circa consilium eligendi successoris in duas factiones scindebantur. Vinius pro M. Othone, Laco atque Icelus consensu non tam unum aliquem fovebant quam alium. neque erat Galbae ignota Othonis ac Titi Vinii amicitia; et rumoribus nihil silentio transmittentium, quia Vinio vidua filia, caelebs Otho, gener ac socer destinabantur. credo et rei publicae curam subisse, frustra a Nerone translatae si apud Othonem relinqueretur. namque Otho pueritiam incuriose, adulescentiam petulanter egerat, gratus Neroni aemulatione luxus. eoque Poppaeam Sabinam, principale scortum, ut apud conscium libidinum deposuerat, donec Octaviam uxorem amoliretur. mox suspectum in eadem Poppaea in provinciam Lusitaniam specie legationis seposuit. Otho comiter administrata provincia primus in partis transgressus nec segnis et, donec bellum fuit, inter praesentis splendidissimus, spem adoptionis statim conceptam acrius in dies rapiebat, faventibus plerisque militum, prona in eum aula Neronis ut similem.

14. When Galba heard of the mutiny in Germany, though nothing was as yet known about Vitellius, he felt anxious as to the direction which the violence of the legions might take, while he could not trust even the soldiery of the capital. He therefore resorted to what he supposed to be the only remedy, and held a council for the election of an emperor. To this he summoned, besides Vinius and Laco, Marius Celsus, consul elect, and Ducennius Geminus, prefect of the city. Having first said a few words about his advanced years, he ordered Piso Licinianus to be summoned. It is uncertain whether he acted on his own free choice, or, as believed by some, under the influence of Laco, who through Rubellius Plautus had cultivated the friendship of Piso. But, cunningly enough, it was as a stranger that Laco supported him, and the high character of Piso gave weight to his advice. Piso, who was the son of M. Crassus and Scribonia, and thus of noble descent on both sides, was in look and manner a man of the old type. Rightly judged, he seemed a stern man, morose to those who estimated him less favourably. This point in his character pleased his adopted father in proportion as it raised the anxious suspicions of others.

14. Sed Galba post nuntios Germanicae seditionis, quamquam nihil adhuc de Vitellio certum, anxius quonam exercituum vis erumperet, ne urbano quidem militi confisus, quod remedium unicum rebatur, comitia imperii transigit; adhibitoque super Vinium ac Laconem Mario Celso consule designato ac Ducenio Gemino praefecto urbis, pauca praefatus de sua senectute, Pisonem Licinianum accersiri iubet, seu propria electione sive, ut quidam crediderunt, Lacone instante, cui apud Rubellium Plautum exercita cum Pisone amicitia; sed callide ut ignotum fovebat, et prospera de Pisone fama consilio eius fidem addiderat. Piso M. Crasso et Scribonia genitus, nobilis utrimque, vultu habituque moris antiqui et aestimatione recta severus, deterius interpretantibus tristior habebatur: ea pars morum eius quo suspectior sollicitis adoptanti placebat.

15. We are told that Galba, taking hold of Piso's hand, spoke to this effect: "If I were a private man, and were now adopting you by the Act of the Curiae before the Pontiffs, as our custom is, it would be a high honour to me to introduce into my family a descendant of Cn. Pompeius and M. Crassus; it would be a distinction to you to add to the nobility of your race the honours of the Sulpician and Lutatian houses. As it is, I, who have been called to the throne by the unanimous consent of gods and men, am moved by your splendid endowments and by my own patriotism to offer to you, a man of peace, that power, for which our ancestors fought, and which I myself obtained by war. I am following the precedent of the Divine Augustus, who placed on an eminence next to his own, first his nephew Marcellus, then his son-in-law Agrippa, afterwards his grandsons, and finally Tiberius Nero, his stepson. But Augustus looked for a successor in his own family, I look for one in the state, not because I have no relatives or companions of my campaigns, but because it was not by any private favour that I myself received the imperial power. Let the principle of my choice be shown not only by my connections which I have set aside for you, but by your own. You have a brother, noble as yourself, and older, who would be well worthy of this dignity, were you not worthier. Your age is such as to be now free from the passions of youth, and such your life that in the past you have nothing to excuse. Hitherto, you have only borne adversity; prosperity tries the heart with keener temptations; for hardships may be endured, whereas we are spoiled by success. You indeed will cling with the same constancy to honor, freedom, friendship, the best possessions of the human spirit, but others will seek to weaken them with their servility. You will be fiercely assailed by adulation, by flattery, that worst poison of the true heart, and by the selfish interests of individuals. You and I speak together to-day with perfect frankness, but others will be more ready to address us as emperors than as men. For to urge his duty upon a prince is indeed a hard matter; to flatter him, whatever his character, is a mere routine gone through without any heart.

15. Igitur Galba, adprehensa Pisonis manu, in hunc modum locutus fertur: "si te privatus lege curiata apud pontifices, ut moris est, adoptarem, et mihi egregium erat Cn. Pompei et M. Crassi subolem in penatis meos adsciscere, et tibi insigne Sulpiciae ac Lutatiae decora nobilitati tuae adiecisse: nunc me deorum hominumque consensu ad imperium vocatum praeclara indoles tua et amor patriae impulit ut principatum, de quo maiores nostri armis certabant, bello adeptus quiescenti offeram, exemplo divi Augusti qui sororis filium Marcellum, dein generum Agrippam, mox nepotes sus, postremo Tiberium Neronem privignum in proximo sibi fastigio conlocavit. sed Augustus in domo successorem quaesivit, ego in re publica, non quia propinquos aut socios belli non habeam, sed neque ipse imperium ambitione accepi, et iudicii mei documentum sit non meae tantum necessitudines, quas tibi postposui, sed et tuae. est tibi frater pari nobilitate, natu maior, dignus hac fortuna nisi tu potior esses. ea aetas tua quae cupiditates adulescentiae iam effugerit, ea vita in qua nihil praeteritum excusandum habeas. fortunam adhuc tantum adversam tulisti: secundae res acrioribus stimulis animos explorant, quia miseriae tolerantur, felicitate corrumpimur. fidem, libertatem, amicitiam, praecipua humani animi bona, tu quidem eadem constantia retinebis, sed alii per obsequium imminuent: inrumpet adulatio, blanditiae [et] pessimum veri adfectus venenum, sua cuique utilitas. etiam [si] ego ac tu simplicissime inter nos hodie loquimur, ceteri libentius cum fortuna nostra quam nobiscum; nam suadere principi quod oporteat multi laboris, adsentatio erga quemcumque principem sine adfectu peragitur."

16. "Could the vast frame of this empire have stood and preserved its balance without a directing spirit, I was not unworthy of inaugurating a republic. As it is, we have been long reduced to a position, in which my age confer no greater boon on the Roman people than a good successor, your youth no greater than a good emperor. Under Tuberous, Chairs, and Claudius, we were, so to speak, the inheritance of a single family. The choice which begins with us will be a substitute for freedom. Now that the family of the Julii and the Claudii has come to an end, adoption will discover the worthiest successor. To be begotten and born of a princely race is a mere accident, and is only valued as such. In adoption there is nothing that need bias the judgment, and if you wish to make a choice, an unanimous opinion points out the man. Let Nero be ever before your eyes, swollen with the pride of a long line of Caesars; it was not Vindex with his unarmed province, it was not myself with my single legion, that shook his yoke from our necks. It was his own profligacy, his own brutality, and that, though there had been before no precedent of an emperor condemned by his own people. We, who have been called to power by the issues of war, and by the deliberate judgment of others, shall incur unpopularity, however illustrious our character. Do not however be alarmed, if, after a movement which has shaken the world, two legions are not yet quiet. I did not myself succeed to a throne without anxiety; and when men shall hear of your adoption I shall no longer be thought old, and this is the only objection which is now made against me. Nero will always be regretted by the thoroughly depraved; it is for you and me to take care, that he be not regretted also by the good. To prolong such advice, suits not this occasion, and all my purpose is fulfilled if I have made a good choice in you. The most practical and the shortest method of distinguishing between good and bad measures, is to think what you yourself would or would not like under another emperor. It is not here, as it is among nations despotically ruled, that there is a distinct governing family, while all the rest are slaves. You have to reign over men who cannot bear either absolute slavery or absolute freedom." This, with more to the same effect, was said by Galba; he spoke to Piso as if he were creating an emperor; the others addressed him as if he were an emperor already.

16. "Si immensum imperii corpus stare ac librari sine rectore posset, dignus eram a quo res publica inciperet: nunc eo necessitatis iam pridem ventum est ut nec mea senectus conferre plus populo Romano possit quam bonum successorem, nec tua plus iuventa quam bonum principem. sub Tiberio et Gaio et Claudio unius familiae quasi hereditas fuimus: loco libertatis erit quod eligi coepimus; et finita Iuliorum Claudiorumque domo optimum quemque adoptio inveniet. nam generari et nasci a principibus fortuitum, nec ultra aestimatur: adoptandi iudicium integrum et, si velis eligere, consensu monstratur. sit ante oculos Nero quem longa Caesarum serie tumentem non Vindex cum inermi provincia aut ego cum una legione, sed sua immanitas, sua luxuria cervicibus publicis depulerunt; neque erat adhuc damnati principis exemplum. nos bello et ab aestimantibus adsciti cum invidia quamvis egregii erimus. ne tamen territus fueris si duae legiones in hoc concussi orbis motu nondum quiescunt: ne ipse quidem ad securas res accessi, et audita adoptione desinam videri senex, quod nunc mihi unum obicitur. Nero a pessimo quoque semper desiderabitur: mihi ac tibi providendum est ne etiam a bonis desideretur. monere diutius neque temporis huius, et impletum est omne consilium si te bene elegi. utilissimus idem ac brevissimus bonarum malarumque rerum dilectus est, cogitare quid aut volueris sub alio principe aut nolueris; neque enim hic, ut gentibus quae regnantur, certa dominorum domus et ceteri servi, sed imperaturus es hominibus qui, nec totam servitutem pati possunt nec totam libertatem." et Galba quidem haec ac talia, tamquam principem faceret, ceteri tamquam cum facto loquebantur.

17. It is said of Piso that he betrayed no discomposure or excessive joy, either to the gaze to which he was immediately subjected, or afterwards when all eyes were turned upon him. His language to the Emperor, his father, was reverential; his language about himself was modest. He shewed no change in look or manner; he seemed like one who had the power rather than the wish to rule. It was next discussed whether the adoption should be publicly pronounced in front of the Rostra, in the Senate, or in the camp. It was thought best to go to the camp. This would be a compliment to the soldiery, and their favour, base as it was to purchase it by bribery or intrigue, was not to be despised if it could be obtained by honourable means. Meanwhile the expectant people had surrounded the palace, impatient to learn the great secret, and those who sought to stifle the ill-concealed rumour did but spread it the more.

17. Pisonem ferunt statim intuentibus et mox coniectis in eum omnium oculis nullum turbati aut exultantis animi motum prodidisse. sermo erga patrem imperatoremque reverens, de se moderatus; nihil in vultu habituque mutatum, quasi imperare posset magis quam vellet. consultatum inde, pro rostris an in senatu an in castris adoptio nuncuparetur. iri in castra placuit: honorificum id militibus fore, quorum favorem ut largitione et ambitu male adquiri, ita per bonas artis haud spernendum. circumsteterat interim Palatium publica expectatio, magni secreti impatiens; et male coercitam famam supprimentes augebant.

18. The 10th of January was a gloomy, stormy day, unusually disturbed by thunder, lightning, and all bad omens from heaven. Though this had from ancient time been made a reason for dissolving an assembly, it did not deter Galba from proceeding to the camp; either because he despised such things as being mere matters of chance, or because the decrees of fate, though they be foreshewn, are not escaped. Addressing a crowded assembly of the soldiers he announced, with imperial brevity, that he adopted Piso, following the precedent of the Divine Augustus, and the military custom by which a soldier chooses his comrade. Fearing that to conceal the mutiny would be to make them think it greater than it really was, he spontaneously declared that the 4th and 18th legions, led by a few factious persons, had been insubordinate, but had not gone beyond certain words and cries, and that they would soon return to their duty. To this speech he added no word of flattery, no hint of a bribe. Yet the tribunes, the centurions, and such of the soldiers as stood near, made an encouraging response. A gloomy silence prevailed among the rest, who seemed to think that they had lost by war that right to a donative which they had made good even in peace. It is certain that their feelings might have been conciliated by the very smallest liberality on the part of the parsimonious old man. He was ruined by his old-fashioned inflexibility, and by an excessive sternness which we are no longer able to endure.

18. Quartum idus Ianuarias, foedum imbribus diem, tonitrua et fulgura et caelestes minae ultra solitum turbaverunt. observatum id antiquitus comitiis dirimendis non terruit Galbam quo minus in castra pergeret, contemptorem talium ut fortuitorum; seu quae fato manent, quamvis significata, non vitantur. apud frequentem militum contionem imperatoria brevitate adoptari a se Pisonem exemplo divi Augusti et more militari, quo vir virum legeret, pronuntiat. ac ne dissimulata seditio in maius crederetur, ultro adseverat quartam et duoetvicensimam legiones, paucis seditionis auctoribus, non ultra verba ac voces errasse et brevi in officio fore. nec ullum orationi aut lenocinium addit aut pretium. tribuni tamen centurionesque et proximi militum grata auditu respondent: per ceteros maestitia ac silentium, tamquam usurpatam etiam in pace donativi necessitatem bello perdidissent. constat potuisse conciliari animos quantulacumque parci senis liberalitate: nocuit antiquus rigor et nimia severitas, cui iam pares non sumus.

19. Then followed Galba's speech in the Senate, which was as plain and brief as his speech to the soldiery. Piso delivered a graceful oration and was supported by the feeling of the Senate. Many who wished him well, spoke with enthusiasm; those who had opposed him, in moderate terms; the majority met him with an officious homage, having aims of their own and no thought for the state. Piso neither said nor did anything else in public in the following four days which intervened between his adoption and his death. As tidings of the mutiny in Germany were arriving with daily increasing frequency, while the country was ready to receive and to credit all intelligence that had an unfavourable character, the Senate came to a resolution to send deputies to the German armies. It was privately discussed whether Piso should go with them to give them a more imposing appearance; they, it was said, would bring with them the authority of the Senate, he the majesty of the Caesar. It was thought expedient to send with them Cornelius Laco, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, but he thwarted the design. In nominating, excusing, and changing the deputies, the Senate having entrusted the selection to Galba, the Emperor shewed a disgraceful want of firmness, yielding to individuals, who made interest to stay or to go, as their fears or their hopes prompted.

19. Inde apud senatum non comptior Galbae, non longior quam apud militem sermo: Pisonis comis oratio. et patrum favor aderat: multi voluntate, effusius qui noluerant, medii ac plurimi obvio obsequio, privatas spes agitantes sine publica cura. nec aliud sequenti quadriduo, quod medium inter adoptionem et caedem fuit, dictum a Pisone in publico factumve. crebrioribus in dies Germanicae defectionis nuntiis et facili civitate ad accipienda credendaque omnia nova cum tristia sunt, censuerant patres mittendos ad Germanicum exercitum legatos. agitatum secreto num et Piso proficisceretur, maiore praetextu, illi auctoritatem senatus, hic dignationem Caesaris laturus. placebat et Laconem praetorii praefectum simul mitti: is consilio intercessit. legati quoque (nam senatus electionem Galbae permiserat) foeda inconstantia nominati, excusati, substituti, ambitu remanendi aut eundi, ut quemque metus vel spes impulerat.

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