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Tacitus: History Book 2 [60]

60. Then the bravest centurions among the Othonianists were put to death. This, more than anything else, alienated from Vitellius the armies of Illyricum. At the same time the other legions, influenced by the contagion of example, and by their dislike of the German troops, were meditating war. Vitellius detained Suetonius Paullinus and Licinus Proculus in all the wretchedness of an odious imprisonment; when they were heard, they resorted to a defence, necessary rather than honourable. They actually claimed the merit of having been traitors, attributing to their own dishonest counsels the long march before the battle, the fatigue of Otho's troops, the entanglement of the line with the baggage-wagons, and many circumstances which were really accidental. Vitellius gave them credit for perfidy, and acquitted them of the crime of loyalty. Salvius Titianus, the brother of Otho, was never in any peril, for his brotherly affection and his apathetic character screened him from danger. Marius Celsus had his consulship confirmed to him. It was commonly believed, however, and was afterwards made a matter of accusation in the Senate against Caecilius Simplex, that he had sought to purchase this honour, and with it the destruction of Celsus. Vitellius refused, and afterwards bestowed on Simplex a consulship that had not to be bought with crime or with money. Trachalus was protected against his accusers by Galeria the wife of Vitellius.

60. Tum interfecti centuriones promptissimi Othonianorum, unde praecipua in Vitellium alienatio per Illyricos exercitus; simul ceterae legiones contactu et adversus Germanicos milites invidia bellum meditabantur. Suetonium Paulinum ac Licinium Proculum tristi mora squalidos tenuit, donec auditi necessariis magis defensionibus quam honestis uterentur. proditionem ultro imputabant, spatium longi ante proelium itineris, fatigationem Othonianorum, permixtum vehiculis agmen ac pleraque fortuita fraudi suae adsignantes. et Vitellius credidit de perfidia et fidem absolvit. Salvius Titianus Othonis frater nullum discrimen adiit, pietate et ignavia excusatus. Mario Celso consulatus servatur: sed creditum fama obiectumque mox in senatu Caecilio Simplici, quod eum honorem pecunia mercari, nec sine exitio Celsi, voluisset: restitit Vitellius deditque postea consulatum Simplici innoxium et inemptum. Trachalum adversus criminantis Galeria uxor Vitellii protexit.

61. Amid the adventures of these illustrious men, one is ashamed to relate how a certain Mariccus, a Boian of the lowest origin, pretending to divine inspiration, ventured to thrust himself into fortune's game, and to challenge the arms of Rome. Calling himself the champion of Gaul, and a God (for he had assumed this title), he had now collected 8000 men, and was taking possession of the neighbouring villages of the Aedui, when that most formidable state attacked him with a picked force of its native youth, to which Vitellius attached some cohorts, and dispersed the crowd of fanatics. Mariccus was captured in the engagement, and was soon after exposed to wild beasts, but not having been torn by them was believed by the senseless multitude to be invulnerable, till he was put to death in the presence of Vitellius.

61. Inter magnorum virorum discrimina, pudendum dictu, Mariccus quidam, e plebe Boiorum, inserere sese fortunae et provocare arma Romana simulatione numinum ausus est. iamque adsertor Galliarum et deus (nam id sibi indiderat) concitis octo milibus hominum proximos Aeduorum pagos trahebat, cum gravissima civitas electa iuventute, adiectis a Vitellio cohortibus, fanaticam multitudinem disiecit. captus in eo proelio Mariccus; ac mox feris obiectus quia non laniabatur, stolidum vulgus inviolabilem credebat, donec spectante Vitellio interfectus est.

62. No further severities were exercised on the persons of the opposite faction, or with property in any case; the wills of those who had fallen fighting for Otho were held to be valid, and with those who died intestate, the law was carried out. Assuredly, could Vitellius have bridled his luxurious tastes, no one need have dreaded his rapacity. He had a scandalous and insatiable passion for feasts; the provocatives of gluttony were conveyed to him from the capital and from Italy, till the roads from both seas resounded with traffic; the leading men of the various states were ruined by having to furnish his entertainments, and the states themselves reduced to beggary; the soldiers fast degenerated from their old activity and valour, through habitual indulgence and contempt of their leader. He sent on before him to the capital an edict, by which he postponed his acceptance of the title of Augustus and refused that of Caesar, though he relinquished nothing of his actual power. The astrologers were banished from Italy. The Roman Knights were forbidden, under severe penalties, to degrade themselves by appearing in public entertainments, or in the arena. Former Emperors had encouraged the practice by bribes, or more frequently enforced it by compulsion; and many of the towns and colonies had vied with each other in attracting by large pay the most profligate of the youth.

62. Nec ultra in defectores aut bona cuiusquam saevitum: rata fuere eorum qui acie Othoniana ceciderant, testamenta aut lex intestatis: prorsus, si luxuriae temperaret, avaritiam non timeres. epularum foeda et inexplebilis libido: ex urbe atque Italia inritamenta gulae gestabantur, strepentibus ab utroque mari itineribus; exhausti conviviorum apparatibus principes civitatum; vastabantur ipsae civitates; degenerabat a labore ac virtute miles adsuetudine voluptatum et contemptu ducis. praemisit in urbem edictum quo vocabulum Augusti differret, Caesaris non reciperet, cum de potestate nihil detraheret. pulsi Italia mathematici; cautum severe ne equites Romani ludo et harena polluerentur. priores id principes pecunia et saepius vi perpulerant, ac pleraque municipia et coloniae aemulabantur corruptissimum quemque adulescentium pretio inlicere.

63. Vitellius, however, when his brother joined him, and when those who are skilled in the arts of despotism began to creep into his confidence, grew more arrogant and cruel. He ordered the execution of Dolabella, whose banishment by Otho to the Colonia Aquinas I have before mentioned. Dolabella, on hearing of the death of Otho, had entered the capital. Plancius Varus, who had filled the office of praetor, and had been one of Dolabella's intimate friends, founded on this a charge, which he laid before Flavius Sabinus, prefect of the city, implying that Dolabella had escaped from custody, and had offered to put himself at the head of the vanquished party; and he also alleged that the cohort stationed at Ostia had been tampered with. Of these grave accusations he brought no proof whatever, and then repenting, sought, when the crime had been consummated, a pardon which could be of no avail. Flavius Sabinus hesitating to act in a matter of such importance, Triaria, the wife of Lucius Vitellius, with unfeminine ferocity, warned him not to seek a reputation for clemency by imperilling the Emperor. Sabinus was naturally of a mild disposition, but under the pressure of fear was easily swayed; here, the danger of another made him tremble for himself, and, lest he might seem to have helped the accused, he precipitated his fall.

63. Sed Vitellius adventu fratris et inrepentibus dominationis magistris superbior et atrocior occidi Dolabellam iussit, quem in coloniam Aquinatem sepositum ab Othone rettulimus. Dolabella audita morte Othonis urbem introierat: id ei Plancius Varus praetura functus, ex intimis Dolabellae amicis, apud Flavium Sabinum praefectum urbis obiecit, tamquam rupta custodia ducem se victis partibus ostentasset; addidit temptatam cohortem quae Ostiae ageret; nec ullis tantorum criminum probationibus in paenitentiam versus seram veniam post scelus quaerebat. cunctantem super tanta re Flavium Sabinum Triaria L. Vitellii uxor, ultra feminam ferox, terruit ne periculo principis famam clementiae adfectaret. Sabinus suopte ingenio mitis, ubi formido incessisset, facilis mutatu et in alieno discrimine sibi pavens, ne adlevasse videretur, impulit ruentem.

64. Upon this, Vitellius, who, besides fearing Dolabella, hated him, because he had married Petronia, his former wife, summoned him by letter, and at the same time gave orders that, without passing along the much frequented thoroughfare of the Flaminian road, he should turn aside to Interamna, and there be put to death. This seemed too tedious to the executioner, who in a road-side tavern struck down his prisoner, and cut his throat. The act brought great odium upon the new reign, and was noted as the first indication of its character. Triaria's recklessness was rendered more intolerable by an immediate contrast with the exemplary virtue of Galeria, the Emperor's wife, who took no part in these horrors, and with Sextilia, the mother of the two Vitellii, a woman equally blameless, and of the old type of character. She indeed is said to have exclaimed on receiving the first letter from her son, "I am the mother, not of Germanicus, but of Vitellius." And in after days no seductions of fortune, no flattery from the State, could move her to exultation; it was only the misfortunes of her family that she felt.

64. Igitur Vitellius metu et odio quod Petroniam uxorem eius mox Dolabella in matrimonium accepisset, vocatum per epistulas vitata Flaminiae viae celebritate devertere Interamnium atque ibi interfici iussit. longum interfectori visum: in itinere ac taberna proiectum humi iugulavit, magna cum invidia novi principatus, cuius hoc primum specimen noscebatur. et Triariae licentiam modestum e proximo exemplum onerabat, Galeria imperatoris uxor non immixta tristibus; et pari probitate mater Vitelliorum Sextilia, antiqui moris: dixisse quin etiam ad primas filii sui epistulas ferebatur, non Germanicum a se sed Vitellium genitum. nec ullis postea fortunae inlecebris aut ambitu civitatis in gaudium evicta domus suae tantum adversa sensit.

65. M. Cluvius Rufus, who had left his government in Spain, came up with Vitellius after his departure from Lugdunum. He wore a look of joy and congratulation, but he was anxious at heart, for he knew that he was the object of accusations. Hilarius, the Emperor's freedman, had indeed brought this charge against him, that on hearing of the contest for the throne between Vitellius and Otho, he had made an attempt to secure power for himself, and to obtain possession of Spain, and that with this view he had not headed his passports with the name of any Emperor. Some extracts from the speeches of Rufus he represented as insulting to Vitellius, and intended to win popularity for himself. So strong, however, was the influence of Cluvius, that Vitellius actually ordered the freedman to be punished. Cluvius was attached to the Emperor's retinue; Spain however was not taken from him; he still governed the province though not resident, as L. Arruntius had done before him, whom Tiberius Caesar detained at home, because he feared him; it was not from any apprehension that Vitellius kept Cluvius with him. The same compliment was not paid to Trebellius Maximus. He had fled from Britain because of the exasperation of the soldiery. Vettius Bolanus, who was then accompanying the Emperor, was sent to succeed him.

65. Digressum a Luguduno Vitellium Cluvius Rufus adsequitur omissa Hispania, laetitiam et gratulationem vultu ferens, animo anxius et petitum se criminationibus gnarus. Hilarus Caesaris libertus detulerat tamquam audito Vitellii et Othonis principatu propriam ipse potentiam et possessionem Hispaniarum temptasset, eoque diplomatibus nullum principem praescripsisset; [et] interpretabatur quaedam ex orationibus eius contumeliosa in Vitellium et pro se ipso popularia. auctoritas Cluvii praevaluit ut puniri ultro libertum suum Vitellius iuberet. Cluvius comitatui principis adiectus, non adempta Hispania, quam rexit absens exemplo L. [Arrunti. sed] Arruntium Tiberius Caesar ob metum, Vitellius Cluvium nulla formidine retinebat. non idem Trebellio Maximo honos: profugerat Britannia ob iracundiam militum; missus est in locum eius Vettius Bolanus e praesentibus.

66. Vitellius was troubled by the spirit of the vanquished legions, which was anything but broken. Scattered through all parts of Italy, and mingled with the conquerors, they spoke the language of enemies. The soldiers of the 14th legion were peculiarly furious. They said that they had not been vanquished; that at the battle of Bedriacum only the veterans had been beaten, and that the strength of the legion had been absent. It was resolved that these troops should be sent back to Britain, from which province Nero had summoned them, and that the Batavian cohorts should in the meantime be quartered with them, because there was an old feud between them and the 14th. In the presence of such animosities between these armed masses, harmony did not last long. At Augusta of the Taurini it happened that a Batavian soldier fiercely charged some artisan with having cheated him, and that a soldier of the legion took the part of his host. Each man's comrades gathered round him; from words they came to blows, and a fierce battle would have broken out, had not two Praetorian cohorts taken the side of the 14th, and given confidence to them, while they intimidated the Batavians. Vitellius then ordered that these latter troops should be attached to his own force, in consideration of their loyalty, and that the legion should pass over the Graian Alps, and then take that line of road, by which they would avoid passing Vienna, for the inhabitants of that place were also suspected. On the night of the departure of the legion, a part of the Colonia Taurina was destroyed by the fires which were left in every direction. This loss, like many of the evils of war, was forgotten in the greater disasters which happened to other cities. When the 14th had made the descent on the other side of the Alps, the most mutinous among them were for carrying the standards to Vienna. They were checked, however, by the united efforts of the better disposed, and the legion was transported into Britain.

66. Angebat Vitellium victarum legionum haudquaquam fractus animus. sparsae per Italiam et victoribus permixtae hostilia loquebantur, praecipua quartadecimanorum ferocia, qui se victos abnuebant: quippe Bedriacensi acie vexillariis tantum pulsis viris legionis non adfuisse. remitti eos in Britanniam, unde a Nerone exciti erant, placuit atque interim Batavorum cohortis una tendere ob veterem adversus quartadecimanos discordiam. nec diu in tantis armatorum odiis quies fuit: Augustae Taurinorum, dum opificem quendam Batavus ut fraudatorem insectatur, legionarius ut hospitem tuetur, sui cuique commilitones adgregati a conviciis ad caedem transiere. et proelium atrox arsisset, ni duae praetoriae cohortes causam quartadecimanorum secutae his fiduciam et metum Batavis fecissent: quos Vitellius agmini suo iungi ut fidos, legionem Grais Alpibus traductam eo flexu itineris ire iubet quo Viennam vitarent; namque et Viennenses timebantur. nocte, qua proficiscebatur legio, relictis passim ignibus pars Taurinae coloniae ambusta, quod damnum, ut pleraque belli mala, maioribus aliarum urbium cladibus oblitteratum. quartadecimani postquam Alpibus degressi sunt, seditiosissimus quisque signa Viennam ferebant: consensu meliorum conpressi et legio in Britanniam transvecta.

67. Vitellius found his next cause of apprehension in the Praetorian cohorts. They were first divided, and then ordered, though with the gratifying compliment of an honourable discharge, to give up their arms to their tribunes. But as the arms Vespasian gathered strength, they returned to their old service, and constituted the mainstay of the Flavianist party. The first legion from the fleet was sent into Spain, that in the peaceful repose of that province their excitement might subside; the 7th and 11th were sent back to their winter quarters; the, 13th were ordered to erect amphitheatres, for both Caecina at Cremona, and Valens at Bononia, were preparing to exhibit shows of gladiators. Vitellius indeed was never so intent on the cares of Empire as to forget his pleasures.

67. Proximus Vitellio e praetoriis cohortibus metus erat. separati primum, deinde addito honestae missionis lenimento, arma ad tribunos suos deferebant, donec motum a Vespasiano bellum crebresceret: tum resumpta militia robur Flavianarum partium fuere. prima classicorum legio in Hispaniam missa ut pace et otio mitesceret, undecima ac septima suis hibernis redditae, tertiadecimani struere amphitheatra iussi; nam Caecina Cremonae, Valens Bononiae spectaculum gladiatorum edere parabant, numquam ita ad curas intento Vitellio ut voluptatum oblivisceretur.

68. Though he had thus quietly divided the conquered party, there arose a disturbance among the conquerors. It began in sport, but the number of those who fell aggravated the horrors of the war. Vitellius had sat down to a banquet at Ticinum, and had invited Verginius to be his guest. The legates and tribunes always follow the character of the Emperor, and either imitate his strictness, or indulge in early conviviality. And the soldiers in like manner are either diligent or lax in their duty. About Vitellius all was disorder and drunkenness, more like a nocturnal feast and revel than a properly disciplined camp. Thus it happened that two soldiers, one of whom belonged to the 5th legion, while the other was one of the Gallic auxiliaries, challenged each other in sport to a wrestling match. The legionary was thrown, and the Gaul taunted him. The soldiers who had assembled to witness the contest took different sides, till the legionaries made a sudden and murderous attack on the auxiliary troops, and destroyed two cohorts. The first disturbance was checked only by a second. A cloud of dust and the glitter of arms were seen at a distance. A sudden cry was raised that the 14th legion had retraced its steps, and was advancing to the attack. It was in fact the rearguard of the army, and their recognition removed the cause of alarm. Meanwhile a slave of Verginius happened to come in their way. He was charged with having designed the assassination of Vitellius. The soldiers rushed to the scene of the banquet, and loudly demanded the death of Verginius. Even Vitellius, tremblingly alive as he was to all suspicions, had no doubt of his innocence. Yet he could hardly check the troops when they clamoured for the death of a man of consular rank, formerly their own general. Indeed there was no one who was more frequently the object of all kinds of outbreaks than Verginius; the man still was admired, still retained his high reputation, but they hated him with the hatred of those who are despised.

68. Et [victas] quidem partis modeste distraxerat: apud victores orta seditio, ludicro initio ni numerus caesorum invidiam Vitellio auxisset. discubuerat Vitellius Ticini adhibito ad epulas Verginio. legati tribunique ex moribus imperatorum severitatem aemulantur vel tempestivis conviviis gaudent; proinde miles intentus aut licenter agit. apud Vitellium omnia indisposita, temulenta, pervigiliis ac bacchanalibus quam disciplinae et castris propiora. igitur duobus militibus, altero legionis quintae, altero e Galli auxiliaribus, per lasciviam ad certamen luctandi accensis, postquam legionarius prociderat, insultante Gallo et iis qui ad spectandum convenerant in studia diductis, erupere legionarii in perniciem auxiliorum ac duae cohortes interfectae. remedium tumultus fuit alius tumultus. pulvis procul et arma aspiciebantur: conclamatum repente quartam decimam legionem verso itinere ad proelium venire; sed erant agminis coactores: agniti dempsere sollicitudinem. interim Verginii servus forte obvius ut percussor Vitellii insimulatur: et ruebat ad convivium miles, mortem Verginii exposcens. ne Vitellius quidem, quamquam ad omnis suspiciones pavidus, de innocentia eius dubitavit: aegre tamen cohibiti qui exitium consularis et quondam ducis sui flagitabant. nec quemquam saepius quam Verginium omnis seditio infestavit: manebat admiratio viri et fama, set oderant ut fastiditi.

69. The next day Vitellius, after giving audience to the envoys from the Senate whom he had ordered to wait for him there, proceeded to the camp, and actually bestowed high praise on the loyalty of the soldiers. The auxiliary troops loudly complained that such complete impunity, such privileged arrogance, was accorded to the legions. The Batavian cohorts were sent back to Germany, lest they should venture on further violence. Destiny was thus simultaneously preparing the occasions of civil and of foreign war. The Gallic auxiliaries were sent back to their respective states, a vast body of men, which in the very earliest stage of the revolt had been employed to make an idle show of strength. Besides this, in order to eke out the Imperial resources, which had been impaired by a series of bounties, directions were given that the battalions of the legions and the auxiliary forces should be reduced, all recruiting being forbidden. Discharges were offered without distinction. This measure was disastrous to the State, and distasteful to the soldier, who found that the same duty was distributed among a smaller number, and that his toils and risks came round in a more frequent succession. Their vigour too was undermined by luxury, a luxury that transgressed our ancient discipline and the customs of our ancestors, in whose days the power of Rome found a surer foundation in valour than in wealth.

69. Postero die Vitellius senatus legatione, quam ibi opperiri iusserat, audita transgressus in castra ultro pietatem militum conlaudavit, frementibus auxiliis tantum impunitatis atque adrogantiae legionariis accessisse. Batavorum cohortes, ne quid truculentius auderent, in Germaniam remissae, principium interno simul externoque bello parantibus fatis. reddita civitatibus Gallorum auxilia, ingens numerus et prima statim defectione inter inania belli adsumptus. ceterum ut largitionibus adfectae iam imperii opes sufficerent, amputari legionum auxiliorumque numeros iubet vetitis supplementis; et promiscae missiones offerebantur. exitiabile id rei publicae, ingratum militi, cui eadem munia inter paucos periculaque ac labor crebrius redibant: et vires luxu corrumpebantur, contra veterem disciplinam et instituta maiorum apud quos virtute quam pecunia res Romana melius stetit.

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