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Tacitus: History Book 3 [30]

30. Difficulties of another kind presented themselves in the lofty walls of the town, its stone towers, its iron-barred gates, in the garrison who stood brandishing their weapons, in its numerous population devoted to the interests of Vitellius, and in the vast conflux from all parts of Italy which had assembled at the fair regularly held at that time. The besieged found a source of strength in these large numbers; the assailants an incentive in the prospect of booty. Antonius gave orders that fire should instantly be set to the finest buildings without the city, to see whether the inhabitants of Cremona might not be induced by the loss of their property to transfer their allegiance. Some houses near the walls, which overtopped the fortifications, he filled with the bravest of his soldiers, who, by hurling beams, tiles, and flaming missiles, dislodged the defenders from the ramparts.

30. Ac rursus nova laborum facies: ardua urbis moenia, saxeae turres, ferrati portarum obices, vibrans tela miles, frequens obstrictusque Vitellianis partibus Cremonensis populus, magna pars Italiae stato in eosdem dies mercatu congregata, quod defensoribus auxilium ob multitudinem, obpugnantibus incitamentum ob praedam erat. rapi ignis Antonius inferrique amoenissimis extra urbem aedificiis iubet, si damno rerum suarum Cremonenses ad mutandam fidem traherentur. propinqua muris tecta et altitudinem moenium egressa fortissimo quoque militum complet; illi trabibus tegulisque et facibus propugnatores deturbant.

31. The legions now began to form themselves into a "testudo," and the other troops to discharge volleys of stones and darts, when the courage of the Vitellianists began to flag. The higher their rank, the more readily they succumbed to fortune, fearing that when Cremona had fallen quarter could no longer be expected, and that all the fury of the conqueror would be turned, not on the penniless crowd, but on the tribunes and centurions, by whose slaughter something was to be gained. The common soldiers, careless of the future and safer in their obscurity, still held out. Roaming through the streets or concealed in the houses, they would not sue for peace even when they had abandoned the contest. The principal officers of the camp removed the name and images of Vitellius; Caecina, who was still in confinement, they released from his chains, imploring him to plead their cause. When he haughtily rejected their suit, they entreated him with tears; and it was indeed the last aggravation of misery, that many valiant men should invoke the aid of a traitor. Then they displayed from the walls the olive branches and chaplets of suppliants, and when Antonius had ordered that the discharge of missiles should cease, they brought out the eagles and standards. Then followed, with eyes bent on the ground, a dismal array of unarmed men. The conquerors had gathered round; at first they heaped reproaches on them and pointed at them their weapons; then seeing how they offered their cheeks to insulting blows, how, with all their high spirit departed, they submitted, as vanquished men, to every indignity, it suddenly occurred to their recollection, that these were the very soldiers who but shortly before had used with moderation their victory at Bedriacum. Yet, when Caecina the consul, conspicuous in his robes of state and with his train of lictors, came forward thrusting aside the crowd, the victors were fired with indignation, and reproached him with his tyranny, his cruelty, and, so hateful are such crimes, even with his treason. Antonius checked them, gave him an escort, and sent him to Vespasian.

31. Iam legiones in testudinem glomerabantur, et alii tela saxaque incutiebant, cum languescere paulatim Vitellianorum animi. ut quis ordine anteibat, cedere fortunae, ne Cremona quoque excisa nulla ultra venia omnisque ira victoris non in vulgus inops, sed in tribunos centurionesque, ubi pretium caedis erat, reverteretur. gregarius miles futuri socors et ignobilitate tutior perstabat: vagi per vias, in domibus abditi pacem ne tum quidem orabant, cum bellum posuissent. primores castrorum nomen atque imagines Vitellii amoliuntur; catenas Caecinae (nam etiam tunc vinctus erat) exolvunt orantque ut causae suae deprecator adsistat. aspernantem tumentemque lacrimis fatigant, extremum malorum, tot fortissimi viri proditoris opem invocantes; mox velamenta et infulas pro muris ostentant. cum Antonius inhiberi tela iussisset, signa aquilasque extulere; maestum inermium agmen deiectis in terram oculis sequebatur. circumstiterant victores et primo ingerebant probra, intentabant ictus: mox, ut praeberi ora contumeliis et posita omni ferocia cuncta victi patiebantur, subit recordatio illos esse qui nuper Bedriaci victoriae temperassent. sed ubi Caecina praetexta lictoribusque insignis, dimota turba, consul incessit, exarsere victores: superbiam saevitiamque (adeo invisa scelera sunt), etiam perfidiam obiectabant. obstitit Antonius datisque defensoribus ad Vespasianum dimisit.

32. Meanwhile the population of Cremona was roughly handled by the soldiers, who were just beginning a massacre, when their fury was mitigated by the entreaties of the generals. Antonius summoned them to an assembly, extolled the conquerors, spoke kindly to the conquered, but said nothing either way of Cremona. Over and above the innate love of plunder, there was an old feud which made the army bent on the destruction of the inhabitants. It was generally believed that in the war with Otho, as well as in the present, they had supported the cause of Vitellius. Afterwards, when the 13th legion had been left to build an amphitheatre, with the characteristic insolence of a city population, they had wantonly provoked and insulted them. The ill-feeling had been aggravated by the gladiatorial show exhibited there by Caecina, by the circumstance that their city was now for the second time the seat of war, and by the fact that they had supplied the Vitellianists with provisions in the field, and that some of their women, taken by party-zeal into the battle, had there been slain. The occurrence of the fair filled the colony, rich as it always was, with an appearance of still greater wealth. The other generals were unnoticed; Antonius from his success and high reputation was observed of all. He had hastened to the baths to wash off the blood; and when he found fault with the temperature of the water, an answer was heard, "that it would soon be warm enough. Thus the words of a slave brought on him the whole odium of having given the signal for firing the town, which was indeed already in flames.

32. Plebs interim Cremonensium inter armatos conflictabatur; nec procul caede aberant, cum precibus ducum mitigatus est miles. et vocatos ad contionem Antonius adloquitur, magnifice victores, victos clementer, de Cremona in neutrum. exercitus praeter insitam praedandi cupidinem vetere odio ad excidium Cremonensium incubuit. iuvisse partis Vitellianas Othonis quoque bello credebantur; mox tertiadecimanos ad extruendum amphitheatrum relictos, ut sunt procacia urbanae plebis ingenia, petulantibus iurgiis inluserant. auxit invidiam editum illic a Caecina gladiatorum spectaculum eademque rursus belli sedes et praebiti in acie Vitellianis cibi, caesae quaedam feminae studio partium ad proelium progressae; tempus quoque mercatus ditem alioqui coloniam maiore opum specie complebat. ceteri duces in obscuro: Antonium fortuna famaque omnium oculis exposuerat. is balineas abluendo cruori propere petit. excepta vox est, cum teporem incusaret, statim futurum ut incalescerent: vernile dictum omnem invidiam in eum vertit, tamquam signum incendendae Cremonae dedisset, quae iam flagrabat.

33. Forty thousand armed men burst into Cremona, and with them a body of sutlers and camp-followers, yet more numerous and yet more abandoned to lust and cruelty. Neither age nor rank were any protection from indiscriminate slaughter and violation. Aged men and women past their prime, worthless as booty, were dragged about in wanton insult. Did a grown up maiden or youth of marked beauty fall in their way, they were torn in pieces by the violent hands of ravishers; and in the end the destroyers themselves were provoked into mutual slaughter. Men, as they carried off for themselves coin or temple-offerings of massive gold, were cut down by others of superior strength. Some, scorning what met the eye, searched for hidden wealth, and dug up buried treasures, applying the scourge and the torture to the owners. In their hands were flaming torches, which, as soon as they had carried out the spoil, they wantonly hurled into the gutted houses and plundered temples. In an army which included such varieties of language and character, an army comprising Roman citizens, allies, and foreigners, there was every kind of lust, each had a law of his own, and nothing was forbidden. For four days Cremona satisfied the plunderers. When all things else, sacred and profane, were settling down into the flames, the temple of Mephitis outside the walls alone remained standing, saved by its situation or by divine interposition.

33. Quadraginta armatorum milia inrupere, calonum lixarumque amplior numerus et in libidinem ac saevitiam corruptior. non dignitas, non aetas protegebat quo minus stupra caedibus, caedes stupris miscerentur. grandaevos senes, exacta aetate feminas, vilis ad praedam, in ludibrium trahebant: ubi adulta virgo aut quis forma conspicuus incidisset, vi manibusque rapientium divulsus ipsos postremo direptores in mutuam perniciem agebat. dum pecuniam vel gravia auro templorum dona sibi quisque trahunt, maiore aliorum vi truncabantur. quidam obvia aspernati verberibus tormentisque dominorum abdita scrutari, defossa eruere: faces in manibus, quas, ubi praedam egesserant, in vacuas domos et inania templa per lasciviam iaculabantur; utque exercitu vario linguis moribus, cui cives socii externi interessent, diversae cupidines et aliud cuique fas nec quicquam inlicitum. per quadriduum Cremona suffecit. cum omnia sacra profanaque in igne considerent, solum Mefitis templum stetit ante moenia, loco seu numine defensum.

34. Such was the end of Cremona, 286 years after its foundation. It was built in the consulship of Tiberius Sempronius and Cornelius Scipio, when Hannibal was threatening Italy, as a protection against the Gauls from beyond the Padus, or against any other sudden invader from the Alps. From the number of settlers, the conveniences afforded by the rivers, the fertility of the soil, and the many connexions and intermarriages formed with neighbouring nations, it grew and flourished, unharmed by foreign enemies, though most unfortunate in civil wars. Ashamed of the atrocious deed, and aware of the detestation which it was inspiring, Antonius issued a proclamation, that no one should detain in captivity a citizen of Cremona. The spoil indeed had been rendered valueless to the soldiers by a general agreement throughout Italy, which rejected with loathing the purchase of such slaves. A massacre then began; when this was known, the prisoners were secretly ransomed by their friends and relatives. The remaining inhabitants soon returned to Cremona; the temples and squares were restored by the munificence of the burghers, and Vespasian gave his exhortations.

34. Hic exitus Cremonae anno ducentesimo octogesimo sexto a primordio sui. condita erat Ti. Sempronio P. Cornelio consulibus, ingruente in Italiam Annibale, propugnaculum adversus Gallos trans Padum agentis et si qua alia vis per Alpis rueret. igitur numero colonorum, opportunitate fluminum, ubere agri, adnexu conubiisque gentium adolevit floruitque, bellis externis intacta, civilibus infelix. Antonius pudore flagitii, crebrescente invidia, edixit ne quis Cremonensem captivum detineret. inritamque praedam militibus effecerat consensus Italiae, emptionem talium mancipiorum aspernantis: occidi coepere; quod ubi enotuit, a propinquis adfinibusque occulte redemptabantur. mox rediit Cremonam reliquus populus: reposita fora templaque magnificentia municipum; et Vespasianus hortabatur.

35. The soil poisoned with blood forbade the enemy to remain long by the ruins of the buried city. They advanced to the third milestone, and gathered the dispersed and panic-stricken Vitellianists round their proper standards. The vanquished legions were then scattered throughout Illyricum; for civil war was not over, and they might play a doubtful part. Messengers carrying news of the victory were then despatched to Britain and to Spain. Julius Calenus, a tribune, was sent to Gaul, and Alpinius Montanus, prefect of a cohort, to Germany; as the one was an Aeduan, the other a Trever, and both were Vitellianists, they would be a proof of the success. At the same time the passes of the Alps were occupied with troops, for it was suspected that Germany was arming itself to support Vitellius.

35. Ceterum adsidere sepultae urbis ruinis noxia tabo humus haud diu permisit. ad tertium lapidem progressi vagos paventisque Vitellianos, sua quemque apud signa, componunt; et victae legiones, ne manente adhuc civili bello ambigue agerent, per Illyricum dispersae. in Britanniam inde et Hispanias nuntios famamque, in Galliam Iulium Calenum tribunum, in Germaniam Alpinium Montanum praefectum cohortis, quod hic Trevir, Calenus Aeduus, uterque Vitelliani fuerant, ostentui misere. simul transitus Alpium praesidiis occupati, suspecta Germania, tamquam in auxilium Vitellii accingeretur.

36. A few days after the departure of Caecina, Vitellius had hurried Fabius Valens to the seat of war, and was now seeking to hide his apprehensions from himself by indulgence. He made no military preparation; he did not seek to invigorate the soldiers by encouraging speeches or warlike exercises; he did not keep himself before the eyes of the people. Buried in the shades of his gardens, like those sluggish animals which, if you supply them with food, lie motionless and torpid, he had dismissed with the same forgetfulness the past, the present, and the future. While he thus lay wasting his powers in sloth among the woods of Aricia, he was startled by the treachery of Lucilius Bassus and the defection of the fleet at Ravenna. Then came the news about Caecina, and he heard with a satisfaction mingled with distress, first, that he had revolted, and then, that he had been put in irons by the army. In that dull soul joy was more powerful than apprehension. In great exultation he returned to Rome, and before a crowded assembly of the people heaped praises on the dutiful obedience of the soldiers. He ordered Publius Sabinus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, to be thrown into prison, because of his friendship with Caecina, and substituted in his place Alfenius Varus.

36. At Vitellius profecto Caecina, cum Fabium Valentem paucis post diebus ad bellum impulisset, curis luxum obtendebat: non parare arma, non adloquio exercitioque militem firmare, non in ore vulgi agere, sed umbraculis hortorum abditus, ut ignava animalia, quibus si cibum suggeras, iacent torpentque, praeterita instantia futura pari oblivione dimiserat. atque illum in nemore Aricino desidem et marcentem proditio Lucilii Bassi ac defectio classis Ravennatis perculit; nec multo post de Caecina adfertur mixtus gaudio dolor et descivisse et ab exercitu vinctum. plus apud socordem animum laetitia quam cura valuit. multa cum exultatione in urbem revectus frequenti contione pietatem militum laudibus cumulat; Publilium Sabinum praetorii praefectum ob amicitiam Caecinae vinciri iubet, substituto in locum eius Alfeno Varo.

37. He then addressed the Senate in a speech of studied grandiloquence, and was extolled by the Senators with elaborate adulation. A savage resolution against Caecina was moved by Lucius Vitellius; the rest affected indignation at the idea that a consul had betrayed the State, a general his Emperor, a man loaded with wealth so vast and honours so numerous his benefactor, and seemed to deplore the wrongs of Vitellius, while they uttered their private griefs. Not a word from any one of them disparaged the Flavianist leaders; they censured the delusion and recklessness of the armies, and with a prudent circumlocution avoided the name of Vespasian. A man was found, who, while all regarded with great contempt both giver and receiver, wormed himself by flattery into the one day of office which remained to complete the consulate of Caecina. On the last day of October Rosius Regulus both assumed and resigned the office. The learned remarked that never before had a new consul been elected without a formal act of deprivation and the passing of a law. Before this indeed Caninius Rebilus had been consul for a single day during the dictatorship of Caius Caesar, when the prizes of the civil war had to be enjoyed in haste.

37. Mox senatum composita in magnificentiam oratione adlocutus, exquisitis patrum adulationibus attollitur. initium atrocis in Caecinam sententiae a L. Vitellio factum; dein ceteri composita indignatione, quod consul rem publicam, dux imperatorem, tantis opibus tot honoribus cumulatus amicum prodidisset, velut pro Vitellio conquerentes, suum dolorem proferebant. nulla in oratione cuiusquam erga Flavianos duces obtrectatio: errorem imprudentiamque exercituum culpantes, Vespasiani nomen suspensi et vitabundi circumibant, nec defuit qui unum consulatus diem (is enim in locum Caecinae supererat) magno cum inrisu tribuentis accipientisque eblandiretur. pridie kalendas Novembris Rosius Regulus iniit eiuravitque. adnotabant periti numquam antea non abrogato magistratu neque lege lata alium suffectum; nam consul uno die et ante fuerat Caninius Rebilus C. Caesare dictatore, cum belli civilis praemia festinarentur.

38. At this time the murder of Junius Blaesus obtained an infamous notoriety. Of this act I have heard the following account. Vitellius, who was suffering from severe illness, observed from the Servilian gardens a neighbouring turret brilliantly illuminated throughout the night. Inquiring the cause, he was told that Caecina Tuscus was entertaining a large party, of whom Junius Blaesus was the most distinguished. Other particulars were given with much exaggeration about the splendour of the banquet and the unrestrained gaiety of the guests. There were persons who charged Tuscus and his guests, and Blaesus more vindictively than any, with passing their days in merriment while the Emperor was sick. As soon as it was sufficiently clear to those who keenly watch the angry moods of princes, that Vitellius was exasperated, and that Blaesus might be destroyed, the part of the informer was intrusted to Lucius Vitellius. An unworthy jealousy made him the enemy of Blaesus, whose illustrious character raised him far above one who was stained with every infamy; he burst into the Imperial chamber, and clasping to his bosom the Emperor's son, fell at his knees. On Vitellius enquiring the cause of his emotion: "It is not," he replied, "from any private apprehension, or because I am anxious for myself; it is for a brother and for a brother's children that I have come hither with my prayers and tears. It is idle to fear Vespasian, when there are so many legions of Germany, so many provinces with their valour and their loyalty, and lastly, so vast an extent of sea and land with enormous distances, to keep him from us. In the capital, in the very bosom of the empire, there is the foe of whom we must beware, a foe who boasts of Junii and Antonii among his ancestors, who, claiming an Imperial descent, displays to soldiers his condescension and his magnificence. On him all thoughts are fixed, while Vitellius, regardless alike of friends and foes, is cherishing a rival, who from his banqueting table gazes at the sufferings of his sovereign. For such ill-timed mirth let him be recompensed with a night of sorrow and of death, that he may know and feel that Vitellius still lives and reigns, and has a son, if in the course of destiny anything should happen to himself."

38. Nota per eos dies Iunii Blaesi mors et famosa fuit, de qua sic accepimus. gravi corporis morbo aeger Vitellius Servilianis hortis turrim vicino sitam conlucere per noctem crebris luminibus animadvertit. sciscitanti causam apud Caecinam Tuscum epulari multos, praecipuum honore Iunium Blaesum nuntiatur; cetera in maius, de apparatu et solutis in lasciviam animis. nec defuere qui ipsum Tuscum et alios, sed criminosius Blaesum incusarent, quod aegro principe laetos dies ageret. ubi asperatum Vitellium et posse Blaesum perverti satis patuit iis qui principum offensas acriter speculantur, datae L. Vitellio delationis partes. ille infensus Blaeso aemulatione prava, quod eum omni dedecore maculosum egregia fama anteibat, cubiculum imperatoris reserat, filium eius sinu complexus et genibus accidens. causam confusionis quaerenti, non se proprio metu nec sui anxium, sed pro fratre, pro liberis fratris preces lacrimasque attulisse. frustra Vespasianum timeri, quem tot Germanicae legiones, tot provinciae virtute ac fide, tantum denique terrarum ac maris immensis spatiis arceat: in urbe ac sinu cavendum hostem, Iunios Antoniosque avos iactantem, qui se stirpe imperatoria comem ac magnificum militibus ostentet. versas illuc omnium mentis, dum Vitellius amicorum inimicorumque neglegens fovet aemulum principis labores e convivio prospectantem. reddendam pro intempestiva laetitia maestam et funebrem noctem, qua sciat et sentiat vivere Vitellium et imperare et, si quid fato accidat, filium habere.

39. Vitellius, after wavering between his guilty purpose and his fears, dreading lest to postpone the murder of Blaesus might hasten his own ruin, while openly to order it might provoke terrible odium, determined to destroy him by poison. He gave a proof of his guilt by his marked joy when he visited Blaesus. He was even heard to utter a most brutal speech, in which (I will relate the very words) he boasted that he had feasted his eyes on the spectacle of his enemy's death. Besides his noble birth and refinement of character, Blaesus was a man of resolute loyalty. In the flourishing days of the party, when canvassed by Caecina and the leading men, who were beginning to despise Vitellius, he persevered in rejecting their solicitations. A righteous man and a lover of peace, who coveted no sudden elevation, much less the throne, he could not escape being thought to deserve it.

39. Trepidanti inter scelus metumque, ne dilata Blaesi mors maturam perniciem, palam iussa atrocem invidiam ferret, placuit veneno grassari; addidit facinori fidem notabili gaudio, Blaesum visendo. quin et audita est saevissima Vitellii vox qua se (ipsa enim verba referam) pavisse oculos spectata inimici morte iactavit. Blaeso super claritatem natalium et elegantiam morum fidei obstinatio fuit. integris quoque rebus a Caecina et primoribus partium iam Vitellium aspernantibus ambitus abnuere perseveravit. sanctus, inturbidus, nullius repentini honoris, adeo non principatus adpetens, parum effugerat ne dignus crederetur.

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