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Tacitus: History Book 2 [80]

80. While they were seeking a suitable time and place, and for that which in such an affair is the great difficulty, the first man to speak, while hope, fear, the chances of success or of disaster, were present to their minds, one day, on Vespasian quitting his chamber, a few soldiers who stood near, in the usual form in which they would salute their legate, suddenly saluted him as Emperor. Then all the rest hurried up, called him Caesar and Augustus, and heaped on him all the titles of Imperial rank. Their minds had passed from apprehension to confidence of success. In Vespasian there appeared no sign of elation or arrogance, or of any change arising from his changed fortunes. As soon as he had dispelled the mist with which so astonishing a vicissitude had clouded his vision, he addressed the troops in a soldier-like style, and listened to the joyful intelligence that came pouring in from all quarters. This was the very opportunity for which Mucianus had been waiting. He now at once administered to the eager soldiers the oath of allegiance to Vespasian. Then he entered the theatre at Antioch, where it is customary for the citizens to hold their public deliberations, and as they crowded together with profuse expressions of flattery, he addressed them. He could speak Greek with considerable grace, and in all that he did and said he had the art of displaying himself to advantage. Nothing excited the provincials and the army so much as the assertion of Mucianus that Vitellius had determined to remove the legions of Germany to Syria, to an easy and lucrative service, while the armies of Syria were to have given them in exchange the encampments of Germany with their inclement climate and their harassing toils. On the one hand, the provincials from long use felt a pleasure in the companionship of the soldiers, with whom many of them were connected by friendship or relationship; on the other, the soldiers from the long duration of their service loved the well-known and familiar camp as a home.

80. Dum quaeritur tempus locus quodque in re tali difficillimum est, prima vox, dum animo spes timor, ratio casus obversantur, egressum cubiculo Vespasianum pauci milites, solito adsistentes ordine ut legatum salutaturi, imperatorem salutavere: tum ceteri adcurrere, Caesarem et Augustum et omnia principatus vocabula cumulare. mens a metu ad fortunam transierat: in ipso nihil tumidum, adrogans aut in rebus novis novum fuit. ut primum tantae altitudinis obfusam oculis caliginem disiecit, militariter locutus laeta omnia et affluentia excepit; namque id ipsum opperiens Mucianus alacrem militem in verba Vespasiani adegit. tum Antiochensium theatrum ingressus, ubi illis consultare mos est, concurrentis et in adulationem effusos adloquitur, satis decorus etiam Graeca facundia, omniumque quae diceret atque ageret arte quadam ostentator. nihil aeque provinciam exercitumque accendit quam quod adseverabat Mucianus statuisse Vitellium ut Germanicas legiones in Syriam ad militiam opulentam quietamque transferret, contra Syriacis legionibus Germanica hiberna caelo ac laboribus dura mutarentur; quippe et provinciales sueto militum contubernio gaudebant, plerique necessitudinibus et propinquitatibus mixti, et militibus vetustate stipendiorum nota et familiaria castra in modum penatium diligebantur.

81. Before the 15th of July the whole of Syria had adopted the same alliance. There joined him, each with his entire kingdom, Sohemus, who had no contemptible army, and Antiochus, who possessed vast ancestral wealth, and was the richest of all the subject-kings. Before long Agrippa, who had been summoned from the capital by secret despatches from his friends, while as yet Vitellius knew nothing, was crossing the sea with all speed. Queen Berenice too, who was then in the prime of youth and beauty, and who had charmed even the old Vespasian by the splendour of her presents, promoted his cause with equal zeal. All the provinces washed by the sea, as far as Asia and Achaia, and the whole expanse of country inland towards Pontus and Armenia, took the oath of allegiance. The legates, however, of these provinces were without troops, Cappadocia as yet having had no legions assigned to it. A council was held at Berytus to deliberate on the general conduct of the war. Thither came Mucianus with the legates and tribunes and all the most distinguished centurions and soldiers, and thither also the picked troops of the army of Judaea. Such a vast assemblage of cavalry and infantry, and the pomp of the kings that strove to rival each other in magnificence, presented an appearance of Imperial splendour.

81. Ante idus Iulias Syria omnis in eodem sacramento fuit. accessere cum regno Sohaemus haud spernendis viribus, Antiochus vetustis opibus ingens et servientium regum ditissimus. mox per occultos suorum nuntios excitus ab urbe Agrippa, ignaro adhuc Vitellio, celeri navigatione properaverat. nec minore animo regina Berenice partis iuvabat, florens aetate formaque et seni quoque Vespasiano magnificentia munerum grata. quidquid provinciarum adluitur mari Asia atque Achaia tenus, quantumque introrsus in Pontum et Armenios patescit, iuravere; sed inermes legati regebant, nondum additis Cappadociae legionibus. consilium de summa rerum Beryti habitum. illuc Mucianus cum legatis tribunisque et splendidissimo quoque centurionum ac militum venit, et e Iudaico exercitu lecta decora: tantum simul peditum equitumque et aemulantium inter se regum paratus speciem fortunae principalis effecerant.

82. The first business of the campaign was to levy troops and recall the veterans to service. The strong cities were set apart for the manufacture of arms; at Antioch gold and silver money was coined, everything being vigorously carried on in its appointed place by properly qualified agents. Vespasian himself went everywhere, urged to exertion, encouraged the industrious by praise, and with the indolent used the stimulus of example rather than of compulsion, and chose to be blind to the faults rather than to the merits of his friends. Many among them he distinguished with prefectures and governments, and several with the honours of senatorial rank; all these were men of eminence who soon reached the highest positions. In some cases good fortune served instead of merit. Of a donative to the troops Mucianus in his first speech had held out only moderate hopes, and even Vespasian offered no more in the civil war than others had done in times of peace, thus making a noble stand against all bribery of the soldiery, and possessing in consequence a better army. Envoys were sent to Parthia and Armenia, and precautions were taken that, when the legions were engaged in the civil war, the country in their rear might not be exposed to attack. It was arranged that Titus should pursue the war in Judaea, while Vespasian should secure the passes into Egypt. To cope with Vitellius, a portion of the army, the generalship of Mucianus, the prestige of Vespasian's name, and the destiny before which all difficulties vanish, seemed sufficient. To all the armies and legates letters were despatched, and instructions were given to them that they were to attach the Praetorians, who hated Vitellius, by the inducement of renewed military service.

82. Prima belli cura agere dilectus, revocare veteranos; destinantur validae civitates exercendis armorum officinis; apud Antiochensis aurum argentumque signatur, eaque cuncta per idoneos ministros suis quaeque locis festinabantur. ipse Vespasianus adire, hortari, bonos laude, segnis exemplo incitare saepius quam coercere, vitia magis amicorum quam virtutes dissimulans. multos praefecturis et procurationibus, plerosque senatorii ordinis honore percoluit, egregios viros et mox summa adeptos; quibusdam fortuna pro virtutibus fuit. donativum militi neque Mucianus prima contione nisi modice ostenderat, ne Vespasianus quidem plus civili bello obtulit quam alii in pace, egregie firmus adversus militarem largitionem eoque exercitu meliore. missi ad Parthum Armeniumque legati, provisumque ne versis ad civile bellum legionibus terga nudarentur. Titum instare Iudaeae, Vespasianum obtinere claustra Aegypti placuit: sufficere videbantur adversus Vitellium pars copiarum et dux Mucianus et Vespasiani nomen ac nihil arduum fatis. ad omnis exercitus legatosque scriptae epistulae praeceptumque ut praetorianos Vitellio infensos reciperandae militiae praemio invitarent.

83. Mucianus, who acted more as a colleague than as a servant of the Emperor, moved on with some light-armed troops, not indeed at a tardy pace so as to give the appearance of delay, yet not with extraordinary speed. Thus he allowed rumour to gather fresh strength by distance, well aware that his force was but small, and that exaggerated notions are formed about what is not seen. Behind him, however, came in a vast body the 6th legion and 13,000 veterans. He had given directions that the fleet from the Pontus should be brought up to Byzantium, not having yet made up his mind, whether, avoiding Moesia, he should move on Dyrrachium with his infantry and cavalry, and at the same time blockade the sea on the side of Italy with his ships of war, thus leaving Asia and Achaia safe in his rear, which, being bare of troops, would be left at the mercy of Vitellius, unless they were occupied with proper garrisons. And thus too Vitellius himself, finding Brundisium, Tarentum, and the shores of Calabria and Lucania menaced by hostile fleets, would be in utter perplexity as to which part of Italy he should protect.

83. Mucianus cum expedita manu, socium magis imperii quam ministrum agens, non lento itinere, ne cunctari videretur, neque tamen properans, gliscere famam ipso spatio sinebat, gnarus modicas viris sibi et maiora credi de absentibus; sed legio sexta et tredecim vexillariorum milia ingenti agmine sequebantur. classem e Ponto Byzantium adigi iusserat, ambiguus consilii num omissa Moesia Dyrrachium pedite atque equite, simul longis navibus versum in Italiam mare clauderet, tuta pone tergum Achaia Asiaque, quas inermis exponi Vitellio, ni praesidiis firmarentur; atque ipsum Vitellium in incerto fore quam partem Italiae protegeret, si sibi Brundisium Tarentumque et Calabriae Lucaniaeque litora infestis classibus peterentur.

84. Thus the provinces echoed with the bustle of preparing fleets, armies, and the implements of war. Nothing, however, was so vexatious as the raising of money. Mucianus, with the perpetual assertion that money was the sinews of war, looked in all questions, not to right or truth, but only to the extent of a man's fortune. Informations abounded, and all the richest men were fastened on for plunder. These intolerable oppressions, which yet found some excuse in the necessities of war, were continued even in peace. Vespasian himself indeed at the beginning of his reign was not so bent on enforcing these iniquitous measures, till, spoilt by prosperity and evil counsellors, he learnt this policy and ventured to use it. Mucianus contributed to the war even from his own purse, liberal with his private means because he helped himself without scruple from the wealth of the State. The rest followed his example in contributing their money; very few enjoyed the same licence in reimbursing themselves.

84. Igitur navium militum armorum paratu strepere provinciae, sed nihil aeque fatigabat quam pecuniarum conquisitio: eos esse belli civilis nervos dictitans Mucianus non ius aut verum in cognitionibus, sed solam magnitudinem opum spectabat. passim delationes, et locupletissimus quisque in praedam correpti. quae gravia atque intoleranda, sed necessitate armorum excusata etiam in pace mansere, ipso Vespasiano inter initia imperii ad obtinendas iniquitates haud perinde obstinante, donec indulgentia fortunae et pravis magistris didicit aususque est. propriis quoque opibus Mucianus bellum iuvit, largus privatim, quod avidius de re publica sumeret. ceteri conferendarum pecuniarum exemplum secuti, rarissimus quisque eandem in reciperando licentiam habuerunt.

85. Meanwhile the operations of Vespasian were hastened by the zeal of the army of Illyricum, which had come over to his side. The third legion set the example to the other legions of Moesia. These were the eighth and seventh (Claudius'), who were possessed with a strong liking for Otho, though they had not been present at the battle of Bedriacum. They had advanced to Aquileia, and by roughly repulsing the messengers who brought the tidings of Otho's defeat, by tearing the colours which displayed the name of Vitellius, by finally seizing on the military chest and dividing it among themselves, had assumed a hostile attitude. Then they began to fear; fear suggested a new thought, that acts might be made a merit of with Vespasian, which would have to be excused to Vitellius. Accordingly, the three legions of Moesia sought by letter to win over the army of Pannonia, and prepared to use force if they refused. During this commotion, Aponius Saturnius, governor of Moesia, ventured on a most atrocious act. He despatched a centurion to murder Tettius Julianus, the legate of the 7th legion, to gratify a private pique, which he concealed beneath the appearance of party zeal. Julianus, having discovered his danger, and procured some guides, who were acquainted with the country, fled through the pathless wastes of Moesia beyond Mount Haemus, nor did he afterwards take any part in the civil war. He set out to join Vespasian, but contrived to protract his journey by various pretexts, lingering or hastening on his way, according to the intelligence he received.

85. Adcelerata interim Vespasiani coepta Illyrici exercitus studio transgressi in partis: tertia legio exemplum ceteris Moesiae legionibus praebuit; octava erat ac septima Claudiana, imbutae favore Othonis, quamvis proelio non interfuissent. Aquileiam progressae, proturbatis qui de Othone nuntiabant laceratisque vexillis nomen Vitellii praeferentibus, rapta postremo pecunia et inter se divisa, hostiliter egerant. unde metus et ex metu consilium, posse imputari Vespasiano quae apud Vitellium excusanda erant. ita tres Moesicae legiones per epistulas adliciebant Pannonicum exercitum aut abnuenti vim parabant. in eo motu Aponius Saturninus Moesiae rector pessimum facinus audet, misso centurione ad interficiendum Tettium Iulianum septimae legionis legatum ob simultates, quibus causam partium praetendebat. Iulianus comperto discrimine et gnaris locorum adscitis per avia Moesiae ultra montem Haemum profugit; nec deinde civili bello interfuit, per varias moras susceptum ad Vespasianum iter trahens et ex nuntiis cunctabundus aut properans.

86. In Pannonia, however, the 13th legion and the 7th (Galba's), which still retained their vexation and rage at the defeat of Bedriacum, joined Vespasian without hesitation, mainly under the influence of Primus Antonius. This man, though an offender against the law, and convicted of fraud in the reign of Nero, had, among the other calamities of war, recovered his rank as a Senator. Having been appointed by Galba to command the 7th legion, he was commonly believed to have often written to Otho, offering the party his services as a general. Being slighted, however, by that Prince, he found no employment during the war. When the fortunes of Vitellius began to totter, he attached himself to Vespasian, and brought a vast accession of strength to his party. He was brave in battle, ready of speech, dexterous in bringing odium upon other men, powerful amidst civil strife and rebellion, rapacious, prodigal, the worst of citizens in peace, but in war no contemptible ally. United by these means, the armies of Moesia and Pannonia drew with them the soldiery of Dalmatia, though the consular legates took no part in the movement. Titus Ampius Flavianus was the governor of Pannonia, Poppaeus Silvanus of Dalmatia. They were both rich and advanced in years. The Imperial procurator, however, was Cornelius Fuscus, a man in the prime of life and of illustrious birth. Though in early youth the desire of repose had led him to resign his senatorial rank, he afterwards put himself at the head of his colony in fighting for Galba, and by this service he obtained his procuratorship. Subsequently embracing the cause of Vespasian, he lent the movement the stimulus of a fiery zeal. Finding his pleasure not so much in the rewards of peril as in peril itself, to assured and long acquired possession he preferred novelty, uncertainty, and risk. Accordingly, both he and Antonius strove to agitate and disturb wherever there was any weak point. Despatches were sent to the 14th legion in Britain and to the 1st in Spain, for both these legions had been on the side of Otho against Vitellius. Letters too were scattered through every part of Gaul, and in a moment a mighty war burst into flame, for the armies of Illyricum were already in open revolt, and the rest were waiting only the signal of success.

86. At in Pannonia tertia decima legio ac septima Galbiana, dolorem iramque Bedriacensis pugnae retinentes, haud cunctanter Vespasiano accessere, vi praecipua Primi Antonii. is legibus nocens et tempore Neronis falsi damnatus inter alia belli mala senatorium ordinem reciperaverat. praepositus a Galba septimae legioni scriptitasse Othoni credebatur, ducem se partibus offerens; a quo neglectus in nullo Othoniani belli usu fuit. labantibus Vitellii rebus Vespasianum secutus grande momentum addidit, strenuus manu, sermone promptus, serendae in alios invidiae artifex, discordiis et seditionibus potens, raptor, largitor, pace pessimus, bello non spernendus. iuncti inde Moesici ac Pannonici exercitus Dalmaticum militem traxere, quamquam consularibus legatis nihil turbantibus. Tampius Flavianus Pannoniam, Pompeius Silvanus Dalmatiam tenebant, divites senes; sed procurator aderat Cornelius Fuscus, vigens aetate, claris natalibus. prima iuventa quietis cupidine senatorium ordinem exuerat; idem pro Galba dux coloniae suae, eaque opera procurationem adeptus, susceptis Vespasiani partibus acerrimam bello facem praetulit: non tam praemiis periculorum quam ipsis periculis laetus pro certis et olim partis nova ambigua ancipitia malebat. igitur movere et quatere, quidquid usquam aegrum foret, adgrediuntur. scriptae in Britanniam ad quartadecimanos, in Hispaniam ad primanos epistulae, quod utraque legio pro Othone, adversa Vitellio fuerat; sparguntur per Gallias litterae; momentoque temporis flagrabat ingens bellum, Illyricis exercitibus palam desciscentibus, ceteris fortunam secuturis.

87. While Vespasian and the generals of his party were thus occupied in the provinces, Vitellius was daily becoming more contemptible and indolent, halting to enjoy the pleasures of every town and villa in his way, as with his cumbrous host he advanced towards the capital. He was followed by 60,000 armed soldiers demoralized by licence. Still larger was the number of camp-followers; and of all slaves, the slaves of soldiers are the most unruly. So numerous a retinue of officers and personal friends would have been difficult to keep under restraint, even if controlled by the strictest discipline. The crowd was made more unwieldy by Senators and Knights who came to meet him from the capital, some moved by fear, many by a spirit of adulation, others, and by degrees all, that they might not be left behind while the rest were going. From the dregs of the people there thronged buffoons, players, and charioteers, known to Vitellius from their infamous compliance with his vices; for in such disgraceful friendships he felt a strange pleasure. And now not only were the colonies and towns exhausted by having to furnish supplies, but the very cultivator of the soil and his lands, on which the harvests were now ripe, were plundered like an enemy's territory.

87. Dum haec per provincias a Vespasiano ducibusque partium geruntur, Vitellius contemptior in dies segniorque, ad omnis municipiorum villarumque amoenitates resistens, gravi urbem agmine petebat. sexaginta milia armatorum sequebantur, licentia corrupta; calonum numerus amplior, procacissimis etiam inter servos lixarum ingeniis; tot legatorum amicorumque comitatus inhabilis ad parendum, etiam si summa modestia regeretur. onerabant multitudinem obvii ex urbe senatores equitesque, quidam metu, multi per adulationem, ceteri ac paulatim omnes ne aliis proficiscentibus ipsi remanerent. adgregabantur e plebe flagitiosa per obsequia Vitellio cogniti, scurrae, histriones, aurigae, quibus ille amicitiarum dehonestamentis mire gaudebat. nec coloniae modo aut municipia congestu copiarum, sed ipsi cultores arvaque maturis iam frugibus ut hostile solum vastabantur.

88. There were many sanguinary encounters between the soldiers; for ever since the mutiny which broke out at Ticinum there had lingered a spirit of dissension between the legions and the auxiliary troops, though they could unite whenever they had to fight with the rustic population. The most terrible massacre took place at the 7th milestone from Rome. Vitellius was distributing to each soldier provisions ready dressed on the same abundant scale as the gladiators' rations, and the populace had poured forth, and spread themselves throughout the entire camp. Some with the frolicsome humour of slaves robbed the careless soldiers by slily cutting their belts, and then asked them whether they were armed. Unused to insult, the spirit of the soldiers resented the jest. Sword in hand they fell upon the unarmed people. Among the slain was the father of a soldier, who was with his son. He was afterwards recognised, and his murder becoming generally known, they spared the innocent crowd. Yet there was a panic at Rome, as the soldiers pressed on in all directions. It was to the forum that they chiefly directed their steps, anxious to behold the spot where Galba had fallen. Nor were the men themselves a less frightful spectacle, bristling as they were with the skins of wild beasts, and armed with huge lances, while in their strangeness to the place they were embarrassed by the crowds of people, or tumbling down in the slippery streets or from the shock of some casual encounter, they fell to quarrelling, and then had recourse to blows and the use of their swords. Besides, the tribunes and prefects were hurrying to and fro with formidable bodies of armed men.

88. Multae et atroces inter se militum caedes, post seditionem Ticini coeptam manente legionum auxiliorumque discordia; ubi adversus paganos certandum foret, consensu. sed plurima strages ad septimum ab urbe lapidem. singulis ibi militibus Vitellius paratos cibos ut gladiatoriam saginam dividebat; et effusa plebes totis se castris miscuerat. incuriosos milites--vernacula utebantur urbanitate--quidam spoliavere, abscisis furtim balteis an accincti forent rogitantes. non tulit ludibrium insolens contumeliarum animus: inermem populum gladiis invasere. caesus inter alios pater militis, cum filium comitaretur; deinde agnitus et vulgata caede temperatum ab innoxiis. in urbe tamen trepidatum praecurrentibus passim militibus; forum maxime petebant, cupidine visendi locum in quo Galba iacuisset. nec minus saevum spectaculum erant ipsi, tergis ferarum et ingentibus telis horrentes, cum turbam populi per inscitiam parum vitarent, aut ubi lubrico viae vel occursu alicuius procidissent, ad iurgium, mox ad manus et ferrum transirent. quin et tribuni praefectique cum terrore et armatorum catervis volitabant.

89. Vitellius himself, mounted on a splendid charger, with military cloak and sword, advanced from the Mulvian bridge, driving the Senate and people before him; but deterred by the advice of his friends from marching into Rome as if it were a captured city, he assumed a civil garb, and proceeded with his army in orderly array. The eagles of four legions were borne in front, and an equal number of colours from other legions on either side, then came the standards of twelve auxiliary squadrons, and the cavalry behind the ranks of the infantry. Next came thirty-four auxiliary cohorts, distinguished according to the names or various equipments of the nations. Before each eagle were the prefects of the camp, the tribunes, and the centurions of highest rank, in white robes, and the other officers by the side of their respective companies, glittering with arms and decorations. The ornaments and chains of the soldiers presented a brilliant appearance. It was a glorious sight, and the army was worthy of a better Emperor than Vitellius. Thus he entered the capital, and he there embraced his mother and honoured her with the title of Augusta.

89. Ipse Vitellius a ponte Mulvio insigni equo, paludatus accinctusque, senatum et populum ante se agens, quo minus ut captam urbem ingrederetur, amicorum consilio deterritus, sumpta praetexta et composito agmine incessit. quattuor legionum aquilae per frontem totidemque circa e legionibus aliis vexilla, mox duodecim alarum signa et post peditum ordines eques; dein quattuor et triginta cohortes, ut nomina gentium aut species armorum forent, discretae. ante aquilas praefecti castrorum tribunique et primi centurionum candida veste, ceteri iuxta suam quisque centuriam, armis donisque fulgentes; et militum phalerae torquesque splendebant: decora facies et non Vitellio principe dignus exercitus. sic Capitolium ingressus atque ibi matrem complexus Augustae nomine honoravit.

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