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Tacitus: History Book 1 [80]

80. Meanwhile, from a trifling cause, whence nothing was apprehended, there arose a tumult, which had nearly proved fatal to the capital. Otho had ordered the 7th cohort to be brought up to Rome from Ostia, and the charge of arming it was entrusted to Varius Crispinus, one of the tribunes of the Praetorian Guard. This officer, thinking that he could carry out the order more at his leisure, when the camp was quiet, opened the armoury, and ordered the wagons of the cohort to be laden at night-fall. The time provoked suspicion, the motive challenged accusation, the elaborate attempt at quiet ended in a disturbance, and the sight of arms among a drunken crowd excited the desire to use them. The soldiers murmured, and charged the tribunes and centurions with treachery, alleging that the households of the Senators were being armed to destroy Otho; many acted in ignorance and were stupefied by wine, the worst among them were seeking an opportunity for plunder, the mass was as usual ready for any new movement, and the military obedience of the better disposed was neutralised by the darkness. The tribune, who sought to check the movement, and the strictest disciplinarians among the centurions, were cut down. The soldiers seized their arms, bared their swords, and, mounted on their horses, made for the city and the palace.

80. Parvo interim initio, unde nihil timebatur, orta seditio prope urbi excidio fuit. septimam decimam cohortem e colonia Ostiensi in urbem acciri Otho iusserat; armandae eius cura Vario Crispino tribuno e praetorianis data. is quo magis vacuus quietis castris iussa exequeretur, vehicula cohortis incipiente nocte onerari aperto armamentario iubet. tempus in suspicionem, causa in crimen, adfectatio quietis in tumultum evaluit, et visa inter temulentos arma cupidinem sui movere. fremit miles et tribunos centurionesque proditionis arguit, tamquam familiae senatorum ad perniciem Othonis armarentur, pars ignari et vino graves, pessimus quisque in occasionem praedarum, vulgus, ut mos est, cuiuscumque motus novi cupidum; et obsequia meliorum nox abstulerat. resistentem seditioni tribunum et severissimos centurionum obtruncant; rapta arma, nudari gladii; insidentes equis urbem ac Palatium petunt.

81. Otho was giving a crowded entertainment to the most distinguished men and women of Rome. In their alarm they doubted whether this was a casual outbreak of the soldiers, or an act of treachery in the Emperor, and whether to remain and be arrested was a more perilous alternative than to disperse and fly. At one time making a show of courage, at another betrayed by their terror, they still watched the countenance of Otho. And, as it happened, so ready were all to suspect, Otho felt as much alarm as he inspired. Terrified no less by the Senate's critical position than by his own, he had forthwith despatched the prefects of the Praetorian Guard to allay the fury of the soldiery, and he now ordered all to leave the banquet without delay. Then on all sides officers of state cast aside the insignia of office, and shunned the retinues of their friends and domestics; aged men and women wandered in the darkness of night about the various streets of the city; few went to their homes, most sought the houses of friends, or some obscure hiding-place in the dwelling of their humblest dependents.

81. Erat Othoni celebre convivium primoribus feminis virisque; qui trepidi, fortuitusne militum furor an dolus imperatoris, manere ac deprehendi an fugere et dispergi periculosius foret, modo constantiam simulare, modo formidine detegi, simul Othonis vultum intueri; utque evenit inclinatis ad suspicionem mentibus, cum timeret Otho, timebatur. sed haud secus discrimine senatus quam suo territus et praefectos praetorii ad mitigandas militum iras statim miserat et abire propere omnis e convivio, iussit. tum vero passim magistratus proiectis insignibus, vitata comitum et servorum frequentia, senes feminaeque per tenebras diversa urbis itinera, rari domos, plurimi amicorum tecta et ut cuique humillimus cliens, incertas latebras petivere.

82. The rush of the soldiers was not even checked by the doors of the palace. They burst in upon the banquet with loud demands that Otho should shew himself. They wounded the tribune, Julius Martialis, and the prefect, Vitellius Saturninus, who sought to stem the torrent. On every they brandished their swords, and menaced the centurions and tribunes at one moment, the whole Senate at another. Their minds were maddened by a blind panic, and, unable to single out any one object for their fury, they sought for indiscriminate vengeance. At last Otho, regardless of his imperial dignity, stood up on a couch, and by dint of prayers and tears contrived to restrain them. Reluctant and guilty, they returned to the camp. The next day the houses were closed as they might be in a captured city. Few of the citizens could be seen in the streets, the populace were dejected, the soldiers walked with downcast looks, and seemed gloomy rather than penitent. Licinius Proculus and Plotius Firmus, the prefects, addressed the companies in the gentler or harsher terms that suited their respective characters. The end of these harangues was that 5000 sesterces were paid to each soldier. Then did Otho venture to enter the camp; the tribunes and centurions surrounded him. They had thrown aside the insignia of their rank, and they demanded release from the toils and perils of service. The soldiers felt the reproach; returning to their duty, they even demanded the execution of the ringleaders in the riot.

82. Militum impetus ne foribus quidem Palatii coercitus quo minus convivium inrumperent, ostendi sibi Othonem expostulantes, vulnerato Iulio Martiale tribuno et Vitellio Saturnino praefecto legionis, dum ruentibus obsistunt. undique arma et minae, modo in centuriones tribunosque, modo in senatum universum, lymphatis caeco pavore animis, et quia neminem unum destinare irae poterant, licentiam in omnis poscentibus, donec Otho contra decus imperii toro insistens precibus et lacrimis aegre cohibuit, redieruntque in castra inviti neque innocentes. postera die velut capta urbe clausae domus, rarus per vias populus, maesta plebs; deiecti in terram militum vultus ac plus tristitiae quam paenitentiae. manipulatim adlocuti sunt Licinius Proculus et Plotius Firmus praefecti, ex suo quisque ingenio mitius aut horridius. finis sermonis in eo ut quina milia nummum singulis militibus numerarentur: tum Otho ingredi castra ausus. atque illum tribuni centurionesque circumsistunt, abiectis militiae insignibus otium et salutem flagitantes. sensit invidiam miles et compositus in obsequium auctores seditionis ad supplicium ultro postulabat.

83. Otho was aware how disturbed was the country, and how conflicting the feelings of the soldiery, the most respectable of whom cried out for some remedy for the existing licence, while the great mass delighted in riot and in an empire resting on popularity, and could be most easily urged to civil war by indulgence in tumult and rapine. At the same time he reflected that power acquired by crime could not be retained by a sudden assumption of the moderation and of the dignity of former times, yet he was alarmed by the critical position of the capital and by the perils of the Senate. Finally, he addressed the troops in these terms: "Comrades, I am not come that I may move your hearts to love me, or that I may rouse your courage; love and courage you have in superfluous abundance. I am come to pray you to put some restraint on your valour, some check on your affection for me. The origin of the late tumult is to be traced not to rapacity or disaffection, feelings which have driven many armies into civil strife, much less to any shrinking from, or fear of danger. It was your excessive affection for me that roused you to act with more zeal than discretion. For even honourable motives of action, unless directed by judgment, are followed by disastrous results. We are now starting for a campaign. Does the nature of things, does the rapid flight of opportunities, admit of all intelligence being publicly announced, of every plan being discussed in the presence of all? It is as needful that the soldiers should be ignorant of some things as that they should know others. The general's authority, the stern laws of discipline, require that in many matters even the centurions and tribunes shall only receive orders. If, whenever orders are given, individuals may ask questions, obedience ceases, and all command is at an end. Will you in the field too snatch up your arms in the dead of night? Shall one or two worthless and drunken fellows, for I cannot believe that more were carried away by the frenzy of the late outbreak, imbrue their hands in the blood of centurions and tribunes, and burst into the tent of their Emperor?

83. Otho, quamquam turbidis rebus et diversis militum animis, cum optimus quisque remedium praesentis licentiae posceret, vulgus et plures seditionibus et ambitioso imperio laeti per turbas et raptus facilius ad civile bellum impellerentur, simul reputans non posse principatum scelere quaesitum subita modestia et prisca gravitate retineri, sed discrimine urbis et periculo senatus anxius, postremo ita disseruit: "neque ut adfectus vestros in amorem mei accenderem, commilitones, neque ut animum ad virtutem cohortarer (utraque enim egregie supersunt), sed veni postulaturus a vobis temperamentum vestrae fortitudinis et erga me modum caritatis. tumultus proximi initium non cupiditate vel odio, quae multos exercitus in discordiam egere, ac ne detrectatione quidem aut formidine periculorum: nimia pietas vestra acrius quam considerate excitavit; nam saepe honestas rerum causas, ni iudicium adhibeas, perniciosi exitus consequuntur. imus ad bellum. num omnis nuntios palam audiri, omnia consilia cunctis praesentibus tractari ratio rerum aut occasionum velocitas patitur? tam nescire quaedam milites quam scire oportet: ita se ducum auctoritas, sic rigor disciplinae habet, ut multa etiam centuriones tribunosque tantum iuberi expediat. si cur iubeantur quaerere singulis liceat, pereunte obsequio etiam imperium intercidit. an et illic nocte intempesta rapientur arma? unus alterve perditus ac temulentus (neque enim pluris consternatione proxima insanisse crediderim) centurionis ac tribuni sanguine manus imbuet, imperatoris sui tentorium inrumpet?"

84. "You indeed did this to serve me, but in the tumult, the darkness, and the general confusion, an opportunity may well occur that may be used against me. If Vitellius and his satellites were allowed to choose, what would be the temper and what the thoughts with which they would curse us? What would they wish for us but mutiny and strife, that the private should not obey the centurion, nor the centurion the tribune, that thus we should rush, horse and foot together, on our own destruction? Comrades, it is by obeying, not by questioning the orders of commanders, that military power is kept together. And that army is the most courageous in the moment of peril, which is the most orderly before the peril comes. Keep you your arms and your courage, leave it to me to plan, and to guide your valour. A few were in fault, two will be punished. Let all the rest blot out the remembrance of that night of infamy. Never let any army hear those cries against the Senate. To clamour for the destruction of what is the head of the Empire, and contains all that is distinguished in the provinces, good God! it is a thing which not even those Germans, whom Vitellius at this very moment is rousing against us, would dare to do. Shall any sons of Italy, the true youth of Rome, cry out for the massacre of an order, by whose splendid distinctions we throw into the shade the mean and obscure faction of Vitellius? Vitellius is the master of a few tribes, and has some semblance of an army. We have the Senate. The country is with us; with them, the country's enemies. What! do you imagine that this fairest of cities is made up of dwellings and edifices and piles of stones? These dumb and inanimate things may be indifferently destroyed and rebuilt. The eternal duration of empire, the peace of nations, my safety and yours, rest on the security of the Senate. This order which was instituted under due auspices by the Father and Founder of the city, and which has lasted without interruption and without decay from the Kings down to the Emperors, we will bequeath to our descendants, as we have inherited it from our ancestors. For you give the state its Senators, and the Senate gives it its Princes."

84. "Vos quidem istud pro me: sed in discursu ac tenebris et rerum omnium confusione patefieri occasio etiam adversus me potest. si Vitellio et satellitibus eius eligendi facultas detur, quem nobis animum, quas mentis imprecentur, quid aliud quam seditionem et discordiam optabunt? ne miles centurioni, ne centurio tribuno obsequatur, ut confusi pedites equitesque in exitium ruamus. parendo potius, commilitones, quam imperia ducum sciscitando res militares continentur, et fortissimus in ipso discrimine exercitus est qui ante discrimen quietissimus. vobis arma et animus sit: mihi consilium et virtutis vestrae regimen relinquite. paucorum culpa fuit, duorum poena erit: ceteri abolete memoriam foedissimae noctis. nec illas adversus senatum voces ullus usquam exercitus audiat. caput imperii et decora omnium provinciarum ad poenam vocare non hercule illi, quos cum maxime Vitellius in nos ciet, Germani audeant. ulline Italiae alumni et Romana vere iuventus ad sanguinem et caedem depoposcerit ordinem, cuius splendore et gloria sordis et obscuritatem Vitellianarum partium praestringimus? nationes aliquas occupavit Vitellius, imaginem quandam exercitus habet, senatus nobiscum est: sic fit ut hinc res publica, inde hostes rei publicae constiterint. quid? vos pulcherrimam hanc urbem domibus et tectis et congestu lapidum stare creditis? muta ista et inanima intercidere ac reparari promisca sunt: aeternitas rerum et pax gentium et mea cum vestra salus incolumitate senatus firmatur. hunc auspicato a parente et conditore urbis nostrae institutum et a regibus usque ad principes continuum et immortalem, sicut a maioribus accepimus, sic posteris tradamus; nam ut ex vobis senatores, ita ex senatoribus principes nascuntur."

85. This speech, which was meant to touch and to calm the feelings of the soldiers, and the moderate amount of severity exercised (for Otho had ordered two and no more to be punished), met with a grateful acceptance, and for the moment reduced to order men who could not be coerced. Yet tranquillity was not restored to the capital; there was still the din of arms and all the sights of war, and the soldiers, though they made no concerted disturbance, had dispersed themselves in disguise about private houses, and exercised a malignant surveillance over all whom exalted rank, or distinction of any kind, exposed to injurious reports. Many too believed that some of the soldiers of Vitellius had come to the capital to learn the feelings of the different parties. Hence everything was rife with suspicion, and even the privacy of the family was hardly exempt from fear. It was however in public that most alarm was felt; with every piece of intelligence that rumour brought, men changed their looks and spirits, anxious not to appear discouraged by unfavourable omens, or too little delighted by success. When the Senate was summoned to the Chamber, it was hard for them to maintain in all things a safe moderation. Silence might seem contumacious, and frankness might provoke suspicion, and Otho, who had lately been a subject, and had used the same language, was familiar with flattery. Accordingly, they discussed various motions on which they had put many constructions. Vitellius they called a public enemy and a traitor to his country, the more prudent contenting themselves with hackneyed terms of abuse, though some threw out reproaches founded in truth, yet only did so in the midst of clamour, and when many voices were heard at once, drowning their own speech in a tumult of words.

85. Et oratio ad perstringendos mulcendosque militum animos et severitatis modus (neque enim in pluris quam in duos animadverti iusserat) grate accepta compositique ad praesens qui coerceri non poterant. non tamen quies urbi redierat: strepitus telorum et facies belli, [et] militibus ut nihil in commune turbantibus, ita sparsis per domos occulto habitu, et maligna cura in omnis, quos nobilitas aut opes aut aliqua insignis claritudo rumoribus obiecerat: Vitellianos quoque milites venisse in urbem ad studia partium noscenda plerique credebant: unde plena omnia suspicionum et vix secreta domuum sine formidine. sed plurimum trepidationis in publico, ut quemque nuntium fama attulisset, animum vultumque conversis, ne diffidere dubiis ac parum gaudere prosperis viderentur. coacto vero in curiam senatu arduus rerum omnium modus, ne contumax silentium, ne suspecta libertas; et privato Othoni nuper atque eadem dicenti nota adulatio. igitur versare sententias et huc atque illuc torquere, hostem et parricidam Vitellium vocantes, providentissimus quisque vulgaribus conviciis, quidam vera probra iacere, in clamore tamen et ubi plurimae voces, aut tumultu verborum sibi ipsi obstrepentes.

86. Prodigies which were now noised abroad from various sources increased men's terror. It was said that in the porch of the Capitol the reins of the chariot, on which stood the goddess of Victory, had dropped from her hand, that from the chapel of Juno there had rushed forth a form greater than the form of man, that the statue of the Divine Julius, which stands on the island in the Tiber, had turned from the West to the East on a calm and tranquil day, that an ox had spoken aloud in Etruria, that strange births of animals had taken place, besides many other things, such as in barbarous ages are observed even during seasons of peace, but are now heard of only in times of terror. But an alarm greater than all, because it connected immediate loss with fears for the future, arose from a sudden inundation of the Tiber. The river became vastly swollen, broke down the wooden bridge, was checked by the heap of ruins across the current, and overflowed not only the low and level districts of the capital, but also much that had been thought safe from such casualties. Many were swept away in the streets, many more were cut off in their shops and chambers. The want of employment and the scarcity of provisions caused a famine among the populace. The poorer class of houses had their foundations sapped by the stagnant waters, and fell when the river returned to its channel. When men's minds were no longer occupied by their fears, the fact, that while Otho was preparing for his campaign, the Campus Martius and the Via Flaminia, his route to the war, were obstructed by causes either fortuitous or natural, was regarded as a prodigy and an omen of impending disasters.

86. Prodigia insuper terrebant diversis auctoribus vulgata: investibulo Capitolii omissas habenas bigae, cui Victoria institerat, erupisse cella Iunonis maiorem humana speciem, statuam divi Iulii in insula Tiberini amnis sereno et immoto die ab occidente in orientem conversam, prolocutum in Etruria bovem, insolitos animalium partus, et plura alia rudibus saeculis etiam in pace observata, quae nunc tantum in metu audiuntur. sed praecipuus et cum praesenti exitio etiam futuri pavor subita inundatione Tiberis, qui immenso auctu proruto ponte sublicio ac strage obstantis molis refusus, non modo iacentia et plana urbis loca, sed secura eius modi casuum implevit: rapti e publico plerique, plures in tabernis et cubilibus intercepti. fames in vulgus inopia quaestus et penuria alimentorum. corrupta stagnantibus aquis insularum fundamenta, dein remeante flumine dilapsa. utque primum vacuus a periculo animus fuit, id ipsum quod paranti expeditionem Othoni campus Martius et via Flaminia iter belli esset obstructum fortuitis vel naturalibus causis in prodigium et omen imminentium cladium vertebatur.

87. Otho, after publicly purifying the city and weighing various plans for the campaign, determined to march upon Gallia Narbonensis, as the passes of the Penine and Cottian Alps and all the other approaches to Gaul were held by the armies of Vitellius. His fleet was strong and loyal to his cause, for he had enrolled in the ranks of the legion the survivors of the slaughter at the Milvian bridge, whom the stern policy of Galba had retained in custody, while to the rest he had held out hopes of a more honourable service for the future. To the fleet he had added some city cohorts, and many of the Praetorians, the stay and strength of his army, who might at once advise and watch the generals. The command of the expedition was entrusted to Antonius Novellus and Suedius Clemens, centurions of the first rank, and Aemilius Pacensis, to whom Otho had restored the rank of tribune, taken from him by Galba. Oscus, a freedman, retained the charge of the fleet, and went to watch the fidelity of men more honourable than himself. Suetonius Paullinus, Marius Celsus, and Annius Gallus, were appointed to command the infantry and cavalry. The Emperor, however, placed most confidence in Licinius Proculus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard; an active officer at home, without experience in war, he founded perpetual accusations on the high influence of Paullinus, on the energy of Celsus, on the mature judgment of Gallus, in fact, on each man's special excellence, a thing most easy to do; and thus the unscrupulous and the cunning were preferred before the modest and the good.

87. Otho lustrata urbe et expensis bello consiliis, quando Poeninae Cottiaeque Alpes et ceteri Galliarum aditus Vitellianis exercitibus claudebantur, Narbonensem Galliam adgredi statuit classe valida et partibus fida, quod reliquos caesorum ad pontem Mulvium et saevitia Galbae in custodia habitos in numeros legionis composuerat, facta et ceteris spe honoratae in posterum militiae. addidit classi urbanas cohortis et plerosque e praetorianis, viris et robur exercitus atque ipsis ducibus consilium et custodes. summa expeditionis Antonio Novello, Suedio Clementi primipilaribus, Aemilio Pacensi, cui ademptum a Galba tribunatum reddiderat, permissa. curam navium Moschus libertus retinebat ad observandam honestiorum fidem immutatus. peditum equitumque copiis Suetonius Paulinus, Marius Celsus, Annius Gallus rectores destinati, sed plurima fides Licinio Proculo praetorii praefecto. is urbanae militiae impiger, bellorum insolens, auctoritatem Paulini, vigorem Celsi, maturitatem Galli, ut cuique erat, criminando, quod facillimum factu est, pravus et callidus bonos et modestos anteibat.

88. About this time Cornelius Dolabella was banished to the Colonia Aquinas, but he was not kept in strict or secret custody; it was not for any crime that he suffered; he was marked out for suspicion by his ancient name and by his relationship to Galba. Many of the officers of state and a large proportion of the men of consular rank Otho ordered to accompany him to the field, not indeed to share or serve in the campaign, but to form a retinue. Among them was Lucius Vitellius, whom Otho treated as he treated the rest, and not as though he were the brother either of an Emperor, or of an enemy. This roused the anxieties of the capital; no rank was free from apprehension or peril. The leading men of the Senate either suffered from the infirmities of age, or were enervated by a prolonged peace; the nobility were indolent and had forgotten how to fight; the Equestrian order knew nothing of service; and the more they endeavoured to hide and repress their alarm the more evident was their terror. On the other hand, there were some who with senseless ostentation purchased splendid arms and magnificent horses, and some who procured by way of equipments for the war the luxurious furniture of the banquet and other incentives to profligacy. The wise looked to the interests of peace and of the Commonwealth, while the giddy and those who were thoughtless of the future were inflated with idle hopes. Many whose credit had been shaken in the years of peace regained their spirits amidst the confusions of the time, and found their best safety in revolution.

88. Sepositus per eos dies Cornelius Dolabella in coloniam Aquinatem, neque arta custodia neque obscura, nullum ob crimen, sed vetusto nomine et propinquitate Galbae monstratus. multos e magistratibus, magnam consularium partem Otho non participes aut ministros bello, sed comitum specie secum expedire iubet, in quis et Lucium Vitellium, eodem quo ceteros cultu, nec ut imperatoris fratrem nec ut hostis. igitur motae urbis curae; nullus ordo metu aut periculo vacuus. primores senatus aetate invalidi et longa pace desides, segnis et oblita bellorum nobilitas, ignarus militiae eques, quanto magis occultare et abdere pavorem nitebantur, manifestius pavidi. nec deerant e contrario qui amibitione stolida conspicua arma, insignis equos, quidam luxuriosos apparatus conviviorum et inritamenta libidinum ut instrumentum belli mercarentur. sapientibus quietis et rei publicae cura; levissimus quisque et futuri improvidus spe vana tumens; multi adflicta fide in pace anxii, turbatis rebus alacres et per incerta tutissimi.

89. The mob and the people generally, whose vast numbers cut them off from all interest in the state, began by degrees to feel the evils of war, now that all the currency had been diverted to the purposes of the army, and the prices of provisions were raised. These evils had not equally distressed the common people during the insurrection of Vindex; the capital was safe, and the war was in the provinces, and, fought as it was between the legions and Gaul, it seemed but a foreign campaign. Indeed from the time that the Divine Augustus consolidated the power of the Caesars, the wars of the Roman people had been in remote places, and had caused anxiety or brought honour to but one man. Under Tiberius and Caius men dreaded for the Commonwealth only the miseries of peace. The rising of Scribonianus against Claudius was crushed as soon as heard of. Nero was driven from power by evil tidings and rumours rather than by the sword. Now the legions and the fleets were brought into action, and with them a force used but on few other occasions, the Praetorian and city soldiery. In their rear were the provinces of the East and of the West with all their forces; had they fought under other generals there was all the material for a protracted war. Many suggested to Otho, as he was setting out, a religious obstacle in the fact that the sacred shields had not been restored to their place. He spurned all delay, as having been Nero's fatal mistake; and the fact that Caecina had now crossed the Alps urged him to action.

89. Sed vulgus et magnitudine nimia communium curarum expers populus sentire paulatim belli mala, conversa in militum usum omni pecunia, intentis alimentorum pretiis, quae motu Vindicis haud perinde plebem attriverant, secura tum urbe et provinciali bello, quod inter legiones Galliasque velut externum fuit. nam ex quo divus Augustus res Caesarum composuit, procul et in unius sollicitudinem aut decus populus Romanus bellaverat; sub Tiberio et Gaio tantum pacis adversa [ad] rem publicam pertinuere; Scriboniani contra Claudium incepta simul audita et coercita; Nero nuntiis magis et rumoribus quam armis depulsus: tum legiones classesque et, quod raro alias, praetorianus urbanusque miles in aciem deducti, Oriens Occidensque et quicquid utrimque virium est a tergo, si ducibus aliis bellatum foret, longo bello materia. fuere qui proficiscenti Othoni moras religionemque nondum conditorum ancilium adferrent: aspernatus est omnem cunctationem ut Neroni quoque exitiosam; et Caecina iam Alpes transgressus extimulabat.

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