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Tacitus: History Book 2 [10]

10. In a state that was distracted by strife, and that from frequent changes in its rulers trembled on the verge between liberty and licence, even little matters were attended with great excitement. Vibius Crispus, whose wealth, power, and ability, made him rank among men of distinction, rather than among men of worth, demanded that Annius Faustus, of the Equestrian order, who in the days of Nero had practised the trade of the informer, should be brought to trial before the Senate. The Senators indeed had recently, during the reign of Galba, passed a resolution, that cognizance should be taken of the cases of the informers. This decree was variously carried out, and, while retained as law, was powerless or effectual, according as the person, who happened to be accused, was influential or helpless. Besides the terror of the law, Crispus had exerted his own power to the utmost to destroy the man who had informed against his brother. He had prevailed upon a great part of the Senate to demand that he should be consigned to destruction, undefended and unheard. But, on the other hand, there were some with whom nothing helped the accused person so much as the excessive power of the accuser. They gave it as their opinion, that time ought to be allowed, that the charges ought to be specified, that, odious and guilty as the man might be, he yet ought to be heard, as precedent required. At first they carried their point, and the trial was postponed for a few days, but before long Faustus was condemned, but by no means with that unanimity on the part of the people which his detestable character had deserved. Men remembered that Crispus had followed the same profession with profit; nor was it the penalty but the prosecutor that they disliked.

10. In civitate discordi et ob crebras principum mutationes inter libertatem ac licentiam incerta parvae quoque res magnis motibus agebantur. Vibius Crispus, pecunia potentia ingenio inter claros magis quam inter bonos, Annium Faustum equestris ordinis, qui temporibus Neronis delationes factitaverat, ad cognitionem senatus vocabat; nam recens Galbae principatu censuerant patres, ut accusatorum causae noscerentur. id senatus consultum varie iactatum et, prout potens vel inops reus inciderat, infirmum aut validum, retinebat adhuc [aliquid] terroris. et propria vi Crispus incubuerat delatorem fratris sui pervertere, traxeratque magnam senatus partem, ut indefensum et inauditum dedi ad exitium postularent. contra apud alios nihil aeque reo proderat quam nimia potentia accusatoris: dari tempus, edi crimina, quamvis invisum ac nocentem more tamen audiendum censebant. et valuere primo dilataque in paucos dies cognitio: mox damnatus est Faustus, nequaquam eo adsensu civitatis quem pessimis moribus meruerat: quippe ipsum Crispum easdem accusationes cum praemio exercuisse meminerant, nec poena criminis sed ultor displicebat.

11. Meanwhile the campaign had opened favourably for Otho, at whose bidding the armies of Dalmatia and Pannonia had begun to move. These comprised four legions, from each of which two thousand troops were sent on in advance. The 7th had been raised by Galba, the 11th, 13th, and 14th were veteran soldiers, the 14th having particularly distinguished itself by quelling the revolt in Britain. Nero had added to their reputation by selecting them as his most effective troops. This had made them long faithful to Nero, and kindled their zeal for Otho. But their self-confidence induced a tardiness of movement proportionate to their strength and solidity. The auxiliary infantry and cavalry moved in advance of the main body of the legions. The capital itself contributed no contemptible force, namely five Praetorian cohorts, some troops of cavalry, and the first legion, and together with these, 2000 gladiators, a disreputable kind of auxiliaries, but employed throughout the civil wars even by strict disciplinarians. Annius Gallus was put at the head of this force, and was sent on with Vestricius Spurinna to occupy the banks of the Padus, the original plan of the campaign having fallen to the ground, now that Caecina, who they had hoped might have been kept within the limits of Gaul, had crossed the Alps. Otho himself was accompanied by some picked men of the body-guard, with whom were the rest of the Praetorian cohorts, the veteran troops from the Praetorian camp, and a vast number of the levies raised from the fleet. No indolence or riot disgraced his march. He wore a cuirass of iron, and was to be seen in front of the standards, on foot, rough and negligent in dress, and utterly unlike what common report had pictured him.

11. Laeta interim Othoni principia belli, motis ad imperium eius e Dalmatia Pannoniaque exercitibus. fuere quattuor legiones, e quibus bina milia praemissa; ipsae modicis intervallis sequebantur, septima a Galba conscripta, veteranae undecima ac tertia decima et praecipui fama quartadecumani, rebellione Britanniae compressa. addiderat gloriam Nero eligendo ut potissimos, unde longa illis erga Neronem fides et erecta in Othonem studia. sed quo plus virium ac roboris e fiducia tarditas inerat. agmen legionum alae cohortesque praeveniebant; et ex ipsa urbe haud spernenda manus, quinque praetoriae cohortes et equitum vexilla cum legione prima, ac deforme insuper auxilium, duo milia gladiatorum, sed per civilia arma etiam severis ducibus usurpatum. his copiis rector additus Annius Gallus, cum Vestricio Spurinna ad occupandas Padi ripas praemissus, quoniam prima consiliorum frustra ceciderant, transgresso iam Alpis Caecina, quem sisti intra Gallias posse speraverat. ipsum Othonem comitabantur speculatorum lecta corpora cum ceteris praetoriis cohortibus, veterani e praetorio, classicorum ingens numerus. nec illi segne aut corruptum luxu iter, sed lorica ferrea usus est et ante signa pedes ire, horridus, incomptus famaeque dissimilis.

12. Fortune seemed to smile on his efforts. Through his fleets, which commanded the sea, he held the greater part of Italy, even as far as where the chain of the Maritime Alps begins. The task of attempting the passage of this chain, and of advancing into the Provincia Narbonensis, he had entrusted to three generals, Suedius Clemens, Antonius Novellus, and Aemilius Pacensis. Pacensis, however, was put in irons by his insubordinate troops, Antonius possessed no kind of authority, and Clemens commanded only for popularity, and was as reckless in transgressing the good order of military discipline as he was eager to fight. One would not have thought that it was Italy, the fields, and the habitations of their native country, that they were passing through. They burnt, spoiled, and plundered, as if they were among the lands of the foreigner and the cities of a hostile people, and all with the more frightful effect as nowhere had there been made any provision against the danger. The fields were full of rural wealth, the houses stood with open doors; and the owners, as with their wives and children they came forth to meet the army, found themselves surrounded, in the midst of the security of peace, with all the horrors of war. Marius Maturus was then governing as procurator the province of the Maritime Alps. Raising the population, in which is no lack of able-bodied men, he resolved to drive back the Othonianists from the borders of his province; but the mountaineers were cut down and broken by the first charge, as might be expected of men who had been hastily collected, who were not familiar with camps or with regular command, who saw no glory in victory, no infamy in flight.

12. Blandiebatur coeptis fortuna, possessa per mare et navis maiore Italiae parte penitus usque ad initium maritimarum Alpium, quibus temptandis adgrediendaeque provinciae Narbonensi Suedium Clementem, Antonium Novellum, Aemilium Pacensem duces dederat. sed Pacensis per licentiam militum vinctus, Antonio Novello nulla auctoritas: Suedius Clemens ambitioso imperio regebat, ut adversus modestiam disciplinae corruptus, ita proeliorum avidus. non Italia adiri nec loca sedesque patriae videbantur: tamquam externa litora et urbes hostium urere, vastare, rapere eo atrocius quod nihil usquam provisum adversum metus. pleni agri, apertae domus; occursantes domini iuxta coniuges et liberos securitate pacis et belli malo circumveniebantur. maritimas tum Alpis tenebat procurator Marius Maturus. is concita gente (nec deest iuventus) arcere provinciae finibus Othonianos intendit: sed primo impetu caesi disiectique montani, ut quibus temere collectis, non castra, non ducem noscitantibus, neque in victoria decus esset neque in fuga flagitium.

13. Exasperated by this conflict, the troops of Otho vented their rage on the town of Albintemilium. In the field indeed they had secured no plunder; their rustic adversaries were poor, and their arms worthless; nor could they be taken prisoners, for they were swift of foot, and knew the country well. But the rapacity of the troops glutted itself in the ruin of an innocent population. The horror of these acts was aggravated by a noble display of fortitude in a Ligurian woman; she had concealed her son, and when the soldiers, who believed that some money had been hidden with him, questioned her with torture as to where she was hiding him, she pointed to her bosom, and replied, "It is here that he is concealed"; nor could any subsequent threats or even death itself make her falter in this courageous and noble answer.

13. Inritatus eo proelio Othonis miles vertit iras in municipium Albintimilium. quippe in acie nihil praedae, inopes agrestes et vilia arma; nec capi poterant, pernix genus et gnari locorum: sed calamitatibus insontium expleta avaritia. auxit invidiam praeclaro exemplo femina Ligus, quae filio abdito, cum simul pecuniam occultari milites credidissent eoque per cruciatus interrogarent ubi filium occuleret, uterum ostendens latere respondit, nec ullis deinde terroribus aut morte constantiam vocis egregiae mutavit.

14. Messengers now came in haste and alarm to inform Fabius Valens, how Otho's fleet was threatening the province of Gallia Narbonensis, which had sworn allegiance to Vitellius. Envoys from the colonies were already on the spot praying for aid. He despatched two cohorts of Tungrian infantry, four squadrons of horse, and all the cavalry of the Treviri under the command of Julius Classicus. Part of these troops were retained for the defence of the colony of Forum Julii, for it was feared, that if the whole army were sent by the route through the interior, the enemy's fleet might make a rapid movement on the unprotected coast. Twelve squadrons of cavalry and some picked infantry advanced against the enemy; they were reinforced by a cohort of Ligurians, an auxiliary local force of long standing, and five hundred Pannonians, not yet regularly enrolled. The conflict commenced without delay, the enemy's line of battle being so arranged, that part of the levies from the fleet, who had a number of rustics among their ranks, were posted on the slope of the hills which border on the coast, the Praetorians fully occupying the level ground between the hills and the shore, while on the sea was the fleet, moored to the land and ready for action, drawn up in line so as to present a formidable front. The Vitellianists whose infantry was inferior, but who were strong in cavalry, stationed the mountaineers on the neighbouring heights, and their infantry in close ranks behind the cavalry. The squadrons of the Treveri charged the enemy incautiously, and found themselves encountered in front by the veteran troops, while on the flanks they were also annoyed by showers of stones from the rustic band, who were skilful throwers, and who, mixed up as they were among the regular soldiers, whether cowardly or brave, were all equally bold in the moment of victory. The general consternation of the Vitellianists was increased by a new alarm as the fleet attacked the rear of the combatants. By this movement they were hemmed in on all sides, and the whole force would have perished, had not the shades of night checked the advance of the victorious army, and covered the retreat of the vanquished.

14. Imminere provinciae Narbonensi, in verba Vitellii adactae, classem Othonis trepidi nuntii Fabio Valenti attulere; aderant legati coloniarum auxilium orantes. duas Tungrorum cohortis, quattuor equitum turmas, universam Trevirorum alam cum Iulio Classico praefecto misit, e quibus pars in colonia Foroiuliensi retenta, ne omnibus copiis in terrestre iter versis vacuo mari classis adceleraret. duodecim equitum turmae et lecti e cohortibus adversus hostem iere, quibus adiuncta Ligurum cohors, vetus loci auxilium, et quingenti Pannonii, nondum sub signis. nec mora proelio: sed acies ita instructa ut pars classicorum mixtis paganis in collis mari propinquos exurgeret, quantum inter collis ac litus aequi loci praetorianus miles expleret, in ipso mari ut adnexa classis et pugnae parata conversa et minaci fronte praetenderetur: Vitelliani, quibus minor peditum vis, in equite robur, Alpinos proximis iugis, cohortis densis ordinibus post equitem locant. Trevirorum turmae obtulere se hosti incaute, cum exciperet contra veteranus miles, simul a latere saxis urgeret apta ad iaciendum etiam paganorum manus, qui sparsi inter milites, strenui ignavique, in victoria idem audebant. additus perculsis terror invecta in terga pugnantium classe: ita undique clausi, deletaeque omnes copiae forent ni victorem exercitum attinuisset obscurum noctis, obtentui fugientibus.

15. The Vitellianists, however, though beaten, did not remain inactive. They brought up reinforcements and attacked the enemy, who felt themselves secure, and whose vigilance was relaxed by success. The sentinels were cut down, the camp stormed, and the panic reached the ships, till, as the alarm gradually subsided, they again assumed the offensive under the protection of some neighbouring heights which they had occupied. A terrible slaughter ensued, and the prefects of the Tungrian cohorts, after having long maintained their line unbroken, fell beneath a shower of missiles. The Othonianists, however, did not achieve a bloodless victory, as the enemy's cavalry wheeled round, and cut off some who had imprudently prolonged the pursuit. And then, as if a sort of armistice had been concluded to provide against any sudden panic that the cavalry of the one party or the fleet of the other might cause, the Vitellianists retreated to Antipolis, a town of Gallia Narbonensis, the Othonianists to Albigaunum, in Upper Liguria.

15. Nec Vitelliani quamquam victi quievere: accitis auxiliis securum hostem ac successu rerum socordius agentem invadunt. caesi vigiles, perrupta castra, trepidatum apud navis, donec sidente paulatim metu, occupato iuxta colle defensi, mox inrupere. atrox ibi caedes, et Tungrarum cohortium praefecti sustentata diu acie telis obruuntur. ne Othonianis quidem incruenta victoria fuit, quorum improvide secutos conversi equites circumvenerunt. ac velut pactis indutiis, ne hinc classis inde eques subitam formidinem inferrent, Vitelliani retro Antipolim Narbonensis Galliae municipium, Othoniani Albingaunum interioris Liguriae revertere.

16. Corsica, Sardinia, and the other islands of the neighbouring seas, were retained in the interests of Otho by the fame of these naval successes. Corsica, however, all but suffered fatal injury from the rash proceedings of Decumus Pacarius, the procurator, proceedings which in so gigantic a war could contribute nothing to the general result, and which only brought destruction upon their author. In his hatred of Otho he resolved to support Vitellius with the whole strength of Corsica, an insignificant assistance even had the design succeeded. He collected the chief men of the island, and explained his plans. Claudius Pyrrhicus, captain of the Liburnian ships stationed in the place, and Quintius Certus, a Roman knight, who ventured to offer opposition, he ordered to execution. All who were present were terrified at their death, and, with the ignorant populace, which ever blindly shares in the fears of others, took the oath of allegiance to Vitellius. But when Pacarius began to enlist troops, and to weary with military duties an undisciplined population, disgusted with the unusual toil, they began to reflect upon their own weakness. "The country which we inhabit," they said to themselves, "is an island: Germany and its mighty legions are far from us, and we know that even countries protected by infantry and cavalry have been plundered and ravaged by the fleet." Their feelings underwent a sudden change; they did not, however, resort to open violence, but chose an opportunity for a treacherous attack. When the persons who usually surrounded Pacarius had left him, and he was naked and helpless in the bath, they slew him. His associates were slaughtered with him. The perpetrators of the deed carried the heads of the slain to Otho, as being the heads of public enemies; but, lost among the crowd of greater criminals, in the vast confusion of events, they were neither rewarded by Otho nor punished by Vitellius.

16. Corsicam ac Sardiniam ceterasque proximi maris insulas fama victricis classis in partibus Othonis tenuit. sed Corsicam prope adflixit Decumi Pacarii procuratoris temeritas, tanta mole belli nihil in summam profutura, ipsi exitiosa. namque Othonis odio iuvare Vitellium Corsorum viribus statuit, inani auxilio etiam si provenisset. vocatis principibus insulae consilium aperit, et contra dicere ausos, Claudium Pyrrichum trierarchum Liburnicarum ibi navium, Quintium Certum equitem Romanum, interfici iubet: quorum morte exterriti qui aderant, simul ignara et alieni metus socia imperitorum turba in verba Vitellii iuravere. sed ubi dilectum agere Pacarius et inconditos homines fatigare militiae muneribus occepit, laborem insolitum perosi infirmitatem suam reputabant: insulam esse quam incolerent, et longe Germaniam virisque legionum; direptos vastatosque classe etiam quos cohortes alaeque protegerent. et aversi repente animi, nec tamen aperta vi: aptum tempus insidiis legere. digressis qui Pacarium frequentabant, nudus et auxilii inops balineis interficitur; trucidati et comites. capita ut hostium ipsi interfectores ad Othonem tulere; neque eos aut Otho praemio adfecit aut puniit Vitellius, in multa conluvie rerum maioribus flagitiis permixtos.

17. Silius' Horse had now, as I have already related, opened the way into Italy, and transferred the war across the borders. No one entertained any attachment to Otho, yet it was not because they preferred Vitellius: long years of peace had subdued them to any kind of servitude, had made them ready to submit to the first comer and careless about the better cause. The wealthiest district of Italy, the broad plains and cities which lie between the Padus and the Alps, was now held by the troops of Vitellius; for by this time the infantry sent on in advance by Caecina had also arrived. A cohort of Pannonians had been taken prisoners at Cremona, a hundred cavalry, and a thousand of the levies from the fleet intercepted between Placentia and Ticinum. Elated by these successes the troops of Vitellius would no longer be restrained by the boundaries of the river's bank. The very sight of the Padus excited the men from Batavia and the Transrhenane provinces. Crossing the stream by a sudden movement, they advanced on Placentia, and seizing some reconnoiterers so terrified the rest, that, deceived by their alarm, they announced that the whole army of Caecina was at hand.

17. Aperuerat iam Italiam bellumque transmiserat, ut supra memoravimus, ala Siliana, nullo apud quemquam Othonis favore, nec quia Vitellium mallent, sed longa pax ad omne servitium fregerat facilis occupantibus et melioribus incuriosos. florentissimum Italiae latus, quantum inter Padum Alpisque camporum et urbium, armis Vitellii (namque et praemissae a Caecina cohortes advenerant) tenebatur. capta Pannoniorum cohors apud Cremonam; intercepti centum equites ac mille classici inter Placentiam Ticinumque. quo successu Vitellianus miles non iam flumine aut ripis arcebatur; inritabat quin etiam Batavos transrhenanosque Padus ipse, quem repente contra Placentiam transgressi raptis quibusdam exploratoribus ita ceteros terruere ut adesse omnem Caecinae exercitum trepidi ac falsi nuntiarent.

18. Spurinna, who now held Placentia, was sure that Caecina had not yet arrived, and that, even were he approaching, he ought to keep his men within their fortifications, and not confront a veteran army with three Praetorian cohorts, a thousand veterans, and a handful of cavalry. But the undisciplined and inexperienced soldiery seized their standards and colours, and rushed to the attack, brandishing their weapons in the face of their general when he sought to restrain them, and spurning from them the tribunes and centurions, and even crying out that Otho was betrayed and that Caecina had come by invitation. Spurinna associated himself with the rash movement which others had originated, at first acting under compulsion, but afterwards pretending to consent, in the hope that his counsels might have more influence should the mutinous spirit abate.

18. Certum erat Spurinnae (is enim Placentiam optinebat) necdum venisse Caecinam et, si propinquaret, coercere intra munimenta militem nec tris praetorias cohortis et mille vexillarios cum paucis equitibus veterano exercitui obicere: sed indomitus miles et belli ignarus correptis signis vexillisque ruere et retinenti duci tela intentare, spretis centurionibus tribunisque: quin prodi Othonem et accitum Caecinam clamitabant. fit temeritatis alienae comes Spurinna, primo coactus, mox velle simulans, quo plus auctoritatis inesset consiliis si seditio mitesceret.

19. When the Padus was in sight and night began to fall they judged it expedient to entrench a camp. The labour, new as it was to the soldiery of the capital, broke their spirits. All the oldest among them began to inveigh against their own credulity, and to point out the difficulty and danger of their position, if on those open plains Caecina and his army were to surround their scanty forces. By this time more temperate language was heard throughout the camp, and the tribunes and centurions, mixing with the troops, suggested commendations of the prudence of their general in selecting for the rallying point and basis of his operations a colony rich in military strength and resources. Finally, Spurinna himself, not so much reproaching them with their error as exposing it by his arguments, conducted them all back to Placentia, except some scouts whom he left, in a less turbulent temper and more amenable to command. The walls were strengthened, battlements were added, and the towers were raised in height. It was not only of the implements of war that provision and preparation were made, but of the spirit of subordination and the love of obedience. This was all that was wanting to the party, for they had no reason to be dissatisfied with their courage.

19. Postquam in conspectu Padus et nox adpetebat vallari castra placuit. is labor urbano militi insolitus contundit animos. tum vetustissimus quisque castigare credulitatem suam, metum ac discrimen ostendere si cum exercitu Caecina patentibus campis tam paucas cohortis circumfudisset. iamque totis castris modesti sermones, et inserentibus se centurionibus tribunisque laudari providentia ducis quod coloniam virium et opum validam robur ac sedem bello legisset. ipse postremo Spurinna, non tam culpam exprobrans quam rationem ostendens, relictis exploratoribus ceteros Placentiam reduxit minus turbidos et imperia accipientis. solidati muri, propugnacula addita, auctae turres, provisa parataque non arma modo sed obsequium et parendi amor, quod solum illis partibus defuit, cum virtutis haud paeniteret.

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