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Tacitus: History Book 1 [30]

30. "I will lay no claim to nobleness, or moderation, for indeed, to count up virtues in comparing oneself with Otho is needless. The vices, of which alone he boasts, overthrew the Empire, even when he was but the Emperor's friend. Shall he earn that Empire now by his manner and his gait, or by those womanish adornments? They are deceived, on whom luxury imposes by its false show of liberality; he will know how to squander, he will not know how to give. Already he is thinking of debaucheries, of revels, of tribes of mistresses. These things he holds to be the prizes of princely power, things, in which the wanton enjoyment will be for him alone, the shame and the disgrace for all. Never yet has any one exercised for good ends the power obtained by crime. The unanimous will of mankind gave to Galba the title of Caesar, and you consented when he gave it to me. Were the Senate, the Country, the People, but empty names, yet, comrades, it is your interest that the most worthless of men should not create an Emperor. We have occasionally heard of legions mutinying against their generals, but your loyalty, your character, stand unimpeached up to this time. Even with Nero, it was he that deserted you, not you that deserted him. Shall less than thirty runaways and deserters whom no one would allow to choose a tribune or centurion for themselves, assign the Empire at their pleasure? Do you tolerate the precedent? Do you by your inaction make the crime your own? This lawless spirit will pass into the provinces, and though we shall suffer from this treason, you will suffer from the wars that will follow. Again, no more is offered you for murdering your Prince, than you will have if you shun such guilt. We shall give you a donative for your loyalty, as surely as others can give it for your treason."

30. "Nihil adrogabo mihi nobilitatis aut modestiae; neque enim relatu virtutum in comparatione Othonis opus est. vitia, quibus solis gloriatur, evertere imperium, etiam cum amicum imperatoris ageret. habitune et incessu an illo muliebri ornatu mereretur imperium? falluntur quibus luxuria specie liberalitatis imponit: perdere iste sciet, donare nesciet. stupra nunc et comissationes et feminarum coetus volvit animo: haec principatus praemia putat, quorum libido ac voluptas penes ipsum sit, rubor ac dedecus penes omnis; nemo enim umquam imperium flagitio quaesitum bonis artibus exercuit. Galbam consensus generis humani, me Galba consentientibus vobis Caesarem dixit. si res publica et senatus et populus vacua nomina sunt, vestra, commilitones, interest ne imperatorem pessimi faciant. legionum seditio adversus duces suos audita est aliquando: vestra fides famaque inlaesa ad hunc diem mansit. et Nero quoque vos destituit, non vos Neronem. minus triginta transfugae et desertores, quos centurionem aut tribunum sibi eligentis nemo ferret, imperium adsignabunt? admittitis exemplum et quiescendo commune crimen facitis? transcendet haec licentia in provincias, et ad nos scelerum exitus, bellorum ad vos pertinebunt. nec est plus quod pro caede principis quam quod innocentibus datur, sed proinde a nobis donativum ob fidem quam ab aliis pro facinore accipietis."

31. The soldiers of the body-guard dispersed, but the rest of the cohort, who shewed no disrespect to the speaker, displayed their standards, acting, as often happens in a disturbance, on mere impulse and without any settled plan, rather than, as was afterwards believed, with treachery and an intention to deceive. Celsus Marius was sent to the picked troops from the army of Illyricum, then encamped in the Portico of Vipsanius. Instructions were also given to Amulius Serenus and Quintius Sabinus, centurions of the first rank, to bring up the German soldiers from the Hall of Liberty. No confidence was placed in the legion levied from the fleet, which had been enraged by the massacre of their comrades, whom Galba had slaughtered immediately on his entry into the capital. Meanwhile Cetrius Severus, Subrius Dexter, and Pompeius Longinus, all three military tribunes, proceeded to the Praetorian camp, in the hope that a sedition, which was but just commencing, and not yet fully matured, might be swayed by better counsels. Two of these tribunes, Subrius and Cetrius, the soldiers assailed with menaces; Longinus they seized and disarmed; it was not his rank as an officer, but his friendship with Galba, that bound him to that Prince, and roused a stronger suspicion in the mutineers. The legion levied from the fleet joined the Praetorians without any hesitation. The Illyrian detachments drove Celsus away with a shower of javelins. The German veterans wavered long. Their frames were still enfeebled by sickness, and their minds were favourably disposed towards Galba, who, finding them exhausted by their long return voyage from Alexandria, whither they had been sent on by Nero, had supplied their wants with a most unsparing attention.

31. Dilapsis speculatoribus cetera cohors non aspernata contionantem, ut turbidis rebus evenit, forte magis et nullo adhuc consilio rapit signa [quam], quod postea creditum est, insidiis et simulatione. missus et Celsus Marius ad electos Illyrici exercitus, Vipsania in porticu tendentis; praeceptum Amullio Sereno et Domitio Sabino primipilaribus, ut Germanicos milites e Libertatis atrio accerserent. legioni classicae diffidebatur, infestae ob caedem commilitonum, quos primo statim introitu trucidaverat Galba. pergunt etiam in castra praetorianorum tribuni Cetrius Severus, Subrius Dexter, Pompeius Longinus, si incipiens adhuc et necdum adulta seditio melioribus consiliis flecteretur. tribunorum Subrium et Cetrium adorti milites minis, Longinum manibus coercent exarmantque, quia non ordine militiae, sed e Galbae amicis, fidus principi suo et desciscentibus suspectior erat. legio classica nihil cunctata praetorianis adiungitur; Illyrici exercitus electi Celsum infestis pilis proturbant. Germanica vexilla diu nutavere, invalidis adhuc corporibus et placatis animis, quod eos a Nerone Alexandriam praemissos atque inde rursus longa navigatione aegros impensiore cura Galba refovebat.

32. The whole populace and the slaves with them were now crowding the palace, clamouring with discordant shouts for the death of Otho and the destruction of the conspirators, just as if they were demanding some spectacle in the circus or amphitheatre. They had not indeed any discrimination or sincerity, for on that same day they would raise with equal zeal a wholly different cry. It was their traditional custom to flatter any ruler with reckless applause and meaningless zeal. Meanwhile two suggestions were keeping Galba in doubt. T. Vinius thought that he should remain within the palace, array the slaves against the foe, secure the approaches, and not go out to the enraged soldiers. "You should," he said, "give the disaffected time to repent, the loyal time to unite. Crimes gain by hasty action, better counsels by delay. At all events, you will still have the same facilities of going out, if need be, whereas, your retreat, should you repent of having gone, will be in the power of another."

32. Vniversa iam plebs Palatium implebat, mixtis servitiis et dissono clamore caedem Othonis et coniuratorum exitium poscentium ut si in circo aut theatro ludicrum aliquod postularent: neque illis iudicium aut veritas, quippe eodem die diversa pari certamine postulaturis, sed tradito more quemcumque principem adulandi licentia adclamationum et studiis inanibus. Interim Galbam duae sententiae distinebat: Titus Vinius manendum intra domum, opponenda servitia, firmandos aditus, non eundum ad iratos censebat: daret malorum paenitentiae, daret bonorum consensui spatium: scelera impetu, bona consilia mora valescere, denique eundi ultro, si ratio sit, eandem mox facultatem, regressum, si paeniteat, inaliena potestate.

33. The rest were for speedy action, "before," they said, "the yet feeble treason of this handful of men can gather strength. Otho himself will be alarmed, Otho, who stole away to be introduced to a few strangers, but who now, thanks to the hesitation and inaction in which we waste our time, is learning how to play the Prince. We must not wait till, having arranged matters in the camp, he bursts into the Forum, and under Galba's very eyes makes his way to the Capitol, while our noble Emperor with his brave friends barricades the doors of his palace. We are to stand a siege forsooth, and truly we shall have an admirable resource in the slaves, if the unanimous feeling of this vast multitude, and that which can do so much, the first burst of indignation, be suffered to subside. Moreover that cannot be safe which is not honourable. If we must fall, let us go to meet the danger. This will bring more odium upon Otho, and will be more becoming to ourselves." Vinius opposing this advice, Laco assailed him with threats, encouraged by Icelus, who persisted in his private animosities to the public ruin.

33. Festinandum ceteris videbatur antequam cresceret invalida adhuc coniuratio paucorum: trepidaturum etiam Othonem, qui furtim digressus, ad ignaros inlatus, cunctatione nunc et segnitia terentium tempus imitari principem discat. non expectandum ut compositis castris forum invadat et prospectante Galba Capitolium adeat, dum egregius imperator cum fortibus amicis ianua ac limine tenus domum cludit, obsidionem nimirum toleraturus. et praeclarum in servis auxilium si consensus tantae multitudinis et, quae plurimum valet, prima indignatio elanguescat. proinde intuta quae indecora; vel si cadere necesse sit, occurrendum discrimini: id Othoni invidiosius et ipsis honestum. repugnantem huic sententiae Vinium Laco minaciter invasit, stimulante Icelo privati odii pertinacia in publicum exitium.

34. Without further delay Galba sided with these more plausible advisers. Piso was sent on into the camp, as being a young man of noble name, whose popularity was of recent date, and who was a bitter enemy to T. Vinius, that is, either he was so in reality, or these angry partisans would have it so, and belief in hatred is but too ready. Piso had hardly gone forth when there came a rumour, at first vague and wanting confirmation, that Otho had been slain in the camp; soon, as happens with these great fictions, men asserted that they had been present, and had seen the deed; and, between the delight of some and the indifference of others, the report was easily believed. Many thought the rumour had been invented and circulated by the Othonianists, who were now mingling with the crowd, and who disseminated these false tidings of success to draw Galba out of the palace.

34. Nec diutius Galba cunctatus speciosiora suadentibus accessit. praemissus tamen in castra Piso, ut iuvenis magno nomine, recenti favore et infensus Tito Vinio, seu quia erat seu quia irati ita volebant: et facilius de odio creditur. vixdum egresso Pisone occisum in castris Othonem vagus primum et incertus rumor: mox, ut in magnis mendaciis, interfuisse se quidam et vidisse adfirmabant, credula fama inter gaudentis et incuriosos. multi arbitrabantur compositum auctumque rumorem mixtis iam Othonianis, qui ad evocandum Galbam laeta falso vulgaverint.

35. Upon this not only did the people and the ignorant rabble break out into applause and vehement expressions of zeal, but many of the Knights and Senators, losing their caution as they laid aside their fear, burst open the doors of the palace, rushed in, and displayed themselves to Galba, complaining that their revenge had been snatched from them. The most arrant coward, the man, who, as the event proved, would dare nothing in the moment of danger, was the most voluble and fierce of speech. No one knew anything, yet all were confident in assertion, till at length Galba in the dearth of all true intelligence, and overborne by the universal delusion, assumed his cuirass, and as, from age and bodily weakness, he could not stand up against the crowd that was still rushing in, he was elevated on a chair. He was met in the palace by Julius Atticus, a soldier of the body-guard, who, displaying a bloody sword, cried "I have slain Otho." "Comrade," replied Galba, "who gave the order?" So singularly resolute was his spirit in curbing the license of the soldiery; threats did not dismay him, nor flatteries seduce.

35. Tum vero non populus tantum et imperita plebs in plausus et immodica studia sed equitum plerique ac senatorum, posito metu incauti, refractis Palatii foribus ruere intus ac se Galbae ostentare, praereptam sibi ultionem querentes, ignavissimus quisque et, ut res docuit, in periculo non ausurus, nimii verbis, linguae feroces; nemo scire et omnes adfirmare, donec inopia veri et consensu errantium victus sumpto thorace Galba inruenti turbae neque aetate neque corpore [re]sistens sella levaretur. obvius in Palatio Iulius Atticus speculator, cruentum gladium ostentans, occisum a se Othonem exclamavit; et Galba "commilito", inquit, "quis iussit?" insigni animo ad coercendam militarem licentiam, minantibus intrepidus, adversus blandientis incorruptus.

36. There was now no doubt about the feeling of all the troops in the camp. So great was their zeal, that, not content with surrounding Otho with their persons in close array, they elevated him to the pedestal, on which a short time before had stood the gilt statue of Galba, and there, amid the standards, encircled him with their colours. Neither tribunes nor centurions could approach. The common soldiers even insisted that all the officers should be watched. Everything was in an uproar with their tumultuous cries and their appeals to each other, which were not, like those of a popular assembly or a mob, the discordant expressions of an idle flattery; on the contrary, as soon as they caught sight of any of the soldiers who were flocking in, they seized him, gave him the military embrace, placed him close to Otho, dictated to him the oath of allegiance, commending sometimes the Emperor to his soldiers, sometimes the soldiers to their Emperor. Otho did not fail to play his part; he stretched out his arms, and bowed to the crowd, and kissed his hands, and altogether acted the slave, to make himself the master. It was when the whole legion from the fleet had taken the oath to him, that feeling confidence in his strength, and thinking that the men, on whose individual feeling he had been working, should be roused by a general appeal, he stood before the rampart of the camp, and spoke as follows:

36. Haud dubiae iam in castris omnium mentes tantusque ardor ut non contenti agmine et corporibus in suggestu, in quo paulo ante aurea Galbae statua fuerat, medium inter signa Othonem vexillis circumdarent. nec tribunis aut centurionibus adeundi locus: gregarius miles caveri insuper praepositos iubebat. strepere cuncta clamoribus et tumultu et exhortatione mutua, non tamquam in populo ac plebe, variis segni adulatione vocibus, sed ut quemque adfluentium militum aspexerant, prensare manibus, complecti armis, conlocare iuxta, praeire sacramentum, modo imperatorem militibus, modo milites imperatori commendare, nec deerat Otho protendens manus adorare vulgum, iacere oscula et omnia serviliter pro dominatione. postquam universa classicorum legio sacramentum eius accepit, fidens viribus, et quos adhuc singulos extimulaverat, accendendos in commune ratus pro vallo castorum ita coepit.

37. "Comrades, I cannot say in what character I have presented myself to you; I refuse to call myself a subject, now that you have named me Prince, or Prince, while another reigns. Your title also will be equally uncertain, so long as it shall be a question, whether it is the Emperor of the Roman people, or a public enemy, whom you have in your camp. Mark you, how in one breath they cry for my punishment and for your execution. So evident it is, that we can neither perish, nor be saved, except together. Perhaps, with his usual clemency, Galba has already promised that we should die, like the man, who, though no one demanded it, massacred so many thousands of perfectly guiltless soldiers. A shudder comes over my soul, whenever I call to mind that ghastly entry, Galba's solitary victory, when, before the eyes of the capital he gave orders to decimate the prisoners, the suppliants, whom he had admitted to surrender. These were the auspices with which he entered the city. What is the glory that he has brought to the throne? None but that he has murdered Obultronius Sabinus and Cornelius Marcellus in Spain, Betuus Chilo in Gaul, Fonteius Capito in Germany, Clodius Macer in Africa, Cingonius on the high road, Turpilianus in the city, Nymphidius in the camp. What province, what camp in the world, but is stained with blood and foul with crime, or, as he expresses it himself, purified and chastened? For what others call crimes he calls reforms, and, by similar misnomers, he speaks of strictness instead of barbarity, of economy instead of avarice, while the cruelties and affronts inflicted upon you he calls discipline. Seven months only have passed since Nero fell, and already Icelus has seized more than the Polycleti, the Vatinii, and the Elii amassed. Vinius would not have gone so far with his rapacity and lawlessness had he been Emperor himself; as it is, he has lorded it over us as if we had been his own subjects, has held us as cheap as if we had been another's. That one house would furnish the donative, which is never given you, but with which you are daily upbraided.

37. "Quis ad vos processerim commilitones, dicere non possum, quia nec privatum me vocare sustineo princeps a vobis nominatus, nec principem alio imperante. vestrum quoque nomen in incerto erit donec dubitabitur imperatorem populi Romani in castris an hostem habeatis. auditisne ut poena mea et supplicium vestrum simul postulentur? adeo manifestum est neque perire nos neque salvos esse nisi una posse; et cuius lenitatis est Galba, iam fortasse promisit, ut qui nullo exposcente tot milia innocentissimorum militum trucidaverit. horror animum subit quotiens recordor feralem introitum et hanc solam Galbae victoriam, cum in oculis urbis decimari deditos iuberet, quos deprecantis in fidem acceperat. his auspiciis urbem ingressus, quam gloriam ad principatum attulit nisi occisi Obultronii Sabini et Cornelii Marcelli in Hispania, Betui Cilonis in Gallia, Fontei Capitonis in Germania, Clodii Macri in Africa, Cingonii in via, Turpiliani in urbe, Nymphidii in castris? quae usquam provincia, quae castra sunt nisi cruenta et maculata aut, ut ipse praedicat, emendata et correcta? nam quae alii scelera, hic remedia vocat, dum falsis nominibus severitatem pro saevitia, parsimoniam pro avaritia, supplicia et contumelias vestras disciplinam appellat. septem a Neronis fine menses sunt, et iam plus rapuit Icelus quam quod Polycliti et Vatinii et Aegiali perdiderunt. minore avaritia ac licentia grassatus esset T. Vinius si ipse imperasset: nunc et subiectos nos habuit tamquam suos et vilis ut alienos. una illa domus sufficit donativo quod vobis numquam datur et cotidie exprobratur."

38. "Again, that we might have nothing to hope even from his successor, Galba fetches out of exile the man in whose ill-humour and avarice he considers that he has found the best resemblance to himself. You witnessed, comrades, how by a remarkable storm even the Gods discountenanced that ill-starred adoption; and the feeling of the Senate, of the people of Rome, is the same. It is to your valour that they look, in you these better counsels find all their support, without you, noble as they may be, they are powerless. It is not to war or to danger that I invite you; the swords of all Roman soldiers are with us. At this moment Galba has but one half-armed cohort, which is detaining, not defending him. Let it once behold you, let it receive my signal, and the only strife will be, who shall oblige me most. There is no room for delay in a business which can only be approved when it is done." He then ordered the armoury to be opened. The soldiers immediately seized the arms without regard to rule or military order, no distinction being observed between Praetorians and legionaries, both of whom again indiscriminately assumed the shields and helmets of the auxiliary troops. No tribune or centurion encouraged them, every man acted on his own impulse and guidance, and the vilest found their chief incitement in the dejection of the good.

38. "Ac ne qua saltem in successore Galbae spes esset accersit ab exilio quem tristitia et avaritia sui simillimum iudicabat. vidistis, commilitones, notabili tempestate etiam deos infaustam adoptionem aversantis. idem senatus, idem populi Romani animus est: vestra virtus expectatur, apud quos omne honestis consiliis robur et sine quibus quamvis egregia invalida sunt. non ad bellum vos nec ad periculum voco: omnium militum arma nobiscum sunt. nec una cohors togata defendit nunc Galbam sed detinet: cum vos aspexerit, cum signum meum accceperit, hoc solum erit certamen, quis mihi plurimum imputet. nullus cunctationis locus est in eo consilio quod non potest laudari nisi peractum." aperire deinde armamentarium iussit. rapta statim arma, sine more et ordine militiae, ut praetorianus aut legionarius insignibus suis distingueretur: miscentur auxiliaribus galeis scutisque, nullo tribunorum centurionumve adhortante, sibi quisque dux et instigator; et praecipuum pessimorum incitamentum quod boni maerebant.

39. Meanwhile, appalled by the roar of the increasing sedition and by the shouts which reached the city, Piso had overtaken Galba, who in the interval had quitted the palace, and was approaching the Forum. Already Marius Celsus had brought back discouraging tidings. And now some advised that the Emperor should return to the palace, others that he should make for the Capitol, many again that he should occupy the Rostra, though most did but oppose the opinions of others, while, as ever happens in these ill-starred counsels, plans for which the opportunity had slipped away seemed the best. It is said that Laco, without Galba's knowledge, meditated the death of Vinius, either hoping by this execution to appease the fury of the soldiers, or believing him to be an accomplice of Otho, or, it may be, out of mere hatred. The time and the place however made him hesitate; he knew that a massacre once begun is not easily checked. His plan too was disconcerted by a succession of alarming tidings, and the desertion of immediate adherents. So languid was now the zeal of those who had at first been eager to display their fidelity and courage.

39. Iam exterritus Piso fremitu crebrescentis seditionis et vocibus in urbem usque resonantibus, egressum interim Galbam et foro adpropinquantem adsecutus erat; iam Marius Celsus haud laeta rettulerat, cum alii in Palatium redire, alii Capitolium petere, plerique rostra occupanda censerent, plures tantum sententiis aliorum contra dicerent, utque evenit in consiliis infelicibus, optima viderentur quorum tempus effugerat. agitasse Laco ignaro Galba de occidendo Tito Vinio dicitur, sive ut poena eius animos militum mulceret, seu conscium Othonis credebat, ad postremum vel odio. haesitationem attulit tempus ac locus, quia initio caedis orto difficilis modus; et turbavere consilium trepidi nuntii ac proximorum diffugia, languentibus omnium studiis qui primo alacres fidem atque animum ostentaverant.

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