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Tacitus: History Book 2 [1]

1. IN A distant part of the world fortune was now preparing the origin and rise of a new dynasty, whose varied destinies brought happiness or misery on the State, prosperity or destruction on the Princes of its line. Titus Vespasian had been sent from Judaea by his father while Galba still lived, and alleged as a reason for his journey the homage due to the Emperor, and his age, which now qualified him to compete for office. But the vulgar, ever eager to invent, had spread the report that he was sent for to be adopted. The advanced years and childless condition of the Emperor furnished matter for such gossip, and the country never can refrain from naming many persons until one be chosen. The report gained the more credit from the genius of Titus himself, equal as it was to the most exalted fortune, from the mingled beauty and majesty of his countenance, from the prosperous fortunes of Vespasian, from the prophetic responses of oracles, and even from accidental occurrences which, in the general disposition to belief, were accepted as omens. At Corinth, the capital of Achaia, he received positive information of the death of Galba, and found men who spoke confidently of the revolt of Vitellius and of the fact of war. In the anxiety of his mind, he sent a few of his friends, and carefully surveyed his position from both points of view. He considered that if he should proceed to Rome, he should get no thanks for a civility intended for another, while his person would be a hostage in the hands either of Vitellius or of Otho; that should he turn back, the conqueror would certainly be offended, but with the issue of the struggle still doubtful, and the father joining the party, the son would be excused; on the other hand, if Vespasian should assume the direction of the state, men who had to think of war would have to forget such causes of offence.

1. Struebat iam fortuna in diversa parte terrarum initia causasque imperio, quod varia sorte laetum rei publicae aut atrox, ipsis principibus prosperum vel exitio fuit. Titus Vespasianus, e Iudaea incolumi adhuc Galba missus a patre, causam profectionis officium erga principem et maturam petendis honoribus iuventam ferebat, sed vulgus fingendi avidum disperserat accitum in adoptionem. materia sermonibus senium et orbitas principis et intemperantia civitatis, donec unus eligatur, multos destinandi. augebat famam ipsius Titi ingenium quantaecumque fortunae capax, decor oris cum quadam maiestate, prosperae Vespasiani res, praesaga responsa, et inclinatis ad credendum animis loco ominum etiam fortuita. ubi Corinthi, Achaiae urbe, certos nuntios accepit de interitu Galbae et aderant qui arma Vitellii bellumque adfirmarent, anxius animo paucis amicorum adhibitis cuncta utrimque perlustrat: si pergeret in urbem, nullam officii gratiam in alterius honorem suscepti, ac se Vitellio sive Othoni obsidem fore: sin rediret, offensam haud dubiam victoris, set incerta adhuc victoria et concedente in partis patre filium excusatum. sin Vespasianus rem publicam susciperet, obliviscendum offensarum de bello agitantibus.

2. These and like thoughts made him waver between hope and fear; but hope triumphed. Some supposed that he retraced his steps for love of Queen Berenice, nor was his young heart averse to her charms, but this affection occasioned no hindrance to action. He passed, it is true, a youth enlivened by pleasure, and practised more self-restraint in his own than in his father's reign. So, after coasting Achaia and Asia, leaving the land on his left, he made for the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus, and then by a bolder course for Syria. Here he conceived a desire to visit and inspect the temple of the Paphian Venus, place of celebrity both among natives and foreigners. It will not be a tedious digression to record briefly the origin of the worship, the ceremonial of the temple, and the form under which the goddess is adored, a form found in no other place.

2. His ac talibus inter spem metumque iactatum spes vicit. fuerunt qui accensum desiderio Berenices reginae vertisse iter crederent; neque abhorrebat a Berenice iuvenilis animus, sed gerendis rebus nullum ex eo impedimentum. laetam voluptatibus adulescentiam egit, suo quam patris imperio moderatior. igitur oram Achaiae et Asiae ac laeva maris praevectus, Rhodum et Cyprum insulas, inde Syriam audentioribus spatiis petebat. atque illum cupido incessit adeundi visendique templum Paphiae Veneris, inclitum per indigenas advenasque. haud fuerit longum initia religionis, templi ritum, formam deae (neque enim alibi sic habetur) paucis disserere.

3. The founder of the temple, according to old tradition, was king Aerias, though some represent this as the name of the goddess herself. Later accounts tell us that the temple was consecrated by Cinyras, and that the goddess herself after her birth from the sea was wafted to this spot, but that the wisdom and craft of the diviners was a foreign importation introduced by Tamiras of Cilicia; and that it was agreed that the descendants of both families should preside over the worship. Afterwards, that the royal family might not be without some superiority over the foreign stock, the strangers relinquished the craft which they had themselves introduced. The priest of the line of Cinyras is alone consulted. The victims are such as each worshipper has vowed, but males are selected; the surest prognostics are seen in the entrails of kids. It is forbidden to pour blood on the altar; the place of sacrifice is served only with prayers and pure flame, and though it stands in the open air, it is never wet with rain. The image of the goddess does not bear the human shape; it is a rounded mass rising like a cone from a broad base to a small circumference. The meaning of this is doubtful.

3. Conditorem templi regem Aeriam vetus memoria, quidam ipsius deae nomen id perhibent. fama recentior tradit a Cinyra sacratum templum deamque ipsam conceptam mari huc adpulsam; sed scientiam artemque haruspicum accitam et Cilicem Tamiram intulisse, atque ita pactum ut familiae utriusque posteri caerimoniis praesiderent. mox, ne honore nullo regium genus peregrinam stirpem antecelleret, ipsa quam intulerant scientia hospites cessere: tantum Cinyrades sacerdos consulitur. hostiae, ut quisque vovit, sed mares deliguntur: certissima fides haedorum fibris. sanguinem arae obfundere vetitum: precibus et igne puro altaria adolentur, nec ullis imbribus quamquam in aperto madescunt. simulacrum deae non effigie humana, continuus orbis latiore initio tenuem in ambitum metae modo exurgens, set ratio in obscuro.

4. Titus, after surveying the treasures, the royal presents, and the other objects which the antiquarian tendencies of the Greek arbitrarily connect with some uncertain past, first consulted the oracle about his voyage. Receiving an answer that the way was open and the sea propitious, he then, after sacrificing a number of victims, asked some questions in ambiguous phrase concerning himself. Sostratus (that was the name of the priest) seeing that the entrails presented an uniformly favourable appearance, and that the goddess signified her favour to some great enterprise, returned at the moment a brief and ordinary answer, but afterwards soliciting a private interview, disclosed the future. His spirits raised, Titus rejoined his father, and was received as a mighty pledge of success by the wavering minds of the provincials and the troops. Vespasian had all but completed the Jewish war, and only the siege of Jerusalem now remained, an operation, the difficulty and arduousness of which was due, rather to the character of its mountain citadel and the perverse obstinacy of the national superstition, than to any sufficient means of enduring extremities left to the besieged. As we have mentioned above, Vespasian himself had three legions inured to war. Mucianus had four under his command in his peaceful province. Emulation, however, and the glory won by the neighbouring army had banished all tendency to sloth, and unbroken rest and exemption from the hardships of war had given them a vigour equivalent to the hardihood which the others had gained by their perils and their toils. Each had auxiliary forces of infantry and cavalry, each had fleets and tributary kings, and each, though their renown was of a different kind, had a celebrated name.

4. Titus spectata opulentia donisque regum quaeque alia laetum antiquitatibus Graecorum genus incertae vetustati adfingit, de navigatione primum consuluit. postquam pandi viam et mare prosperum accepit, de se per ambages interrogat caesis compluribus hostiis. Sostratus (sacerdotis id nomen erat) ubi laeta et congruentia exta magnisque consultis adnuere deam videt, pauca in praesens et solita respondens, petito secreto futura aperit. Titus aucto animo ad patrem pervectus suspensis provinciarum et exercituum mentibus ingens rerum fiducia accessit. Profligaverat bellum Iudaicum Vespasianus, obpugnatione Hierosolymorum reliqua, duro magis et arduo opere ob ingenium montis et pervicaciam superstitionis quam quo satis virium obsessis ad tolerandas necessitates superesset. tres, ut supra memoravimus, ipsi Vespasiano legiones erant, exercitae bello: quattuor Mucianus obtinebat in pace, sed aemulatio et proximi exercitus gloria depulerat segnitiam, quantumque illis roboris discrimina et labor, tantum his vigoris addiderat integra quies et inexperti belli
labor. auxilia utrique cohortium alarumque et classes regesque ac nomen dispari fama celebre.

5. Vespasian was an energetic soldier; he could march at the head of his army, choose the place for his camp, and bring by night and day his skill, or, if the occasion required, his personal courage to oppose the foe. His food was such as chance offered; his dress and appearance hardly distinguished him from the common soldier; in short, but for his avarice, he was equal to the generals of old. Mucianus, on the contrary, was eminent for his magnificence, for his wealth, and for a greatness that transcended in all respects the condition of a subject; readier of speech than the other, he thoroughly understood the arrangement and direction of civil business. It would have been a rare combination of princely qualities, if, with their respective faults removed, their virtues only could have been united in one man. Mucianus was governor of Syria, Vespasian of Judaea. In the administration of these neighbouring provinces jealousy had produced discord between them, but on Nero's fall they had dropped their animosities and associated their counsels. At first they communicated through friends, till Titus, who was the great bond of union between them, by representing their common interests had terminated their mischievous feud. He was indeed a man formed both by nature and by education to attract even such a character as that of Mucianus. The tribunes, the centurions, and the common soldiers, were brought over to the cause by appeals to their energy or their love of license, to their virtues or to their vices, according to their different dispositions.

5. Vespasianus acer militiae anteire agmen, locum castris capere, noctu diuque consilio ac, si res posceret, manu hostibus obniti, cibo fortuito, veste habituque vix a gregario milite discrepans; prorsus, si avaritia abesset, antiquis ducibus par. Mucianum e contrario magnificentia et opes et cuncta privatum modum supergressa extollebant; aptior sermone, dispositu provisuque civilium rerum peritus: egregium principatus temperamentum, si demptis utriusque vitiis solae virtutes miscerentur. ceterum hic Syriae, ille Iudaeae praepositus, vicinis provinciarum administrationibus invidia discordes, exitu demum Neronis positis odiis in medium consuluere, primum per amicos, dein praecipua concordiae fides Titus prava certamina communi utilitate aboleverat, natura atque arte compositus adliciendis etiam Muciani moribus. tribuni centurionesque et vulgus militum industria licentia, per virtutes per voluptates, ut cuique ingenium, adsciscebantur.

6. Long before the arrival of Titus, both armies had taken the oath of allegiance to Otho. The news had come, as is usual, with great speed, while there was much to delay the gigantic undertaking of a civil war, for which the East after a long period of repose was then for the first time preparing. In former times the mightiest civil conflicts had been begun in Gaul or Italy with the resources of the West. Pompey, Brutus, Cassius, and Antony, all of whom had been followed across the sea by civil war, had met with a disastrous end, and the Emperors had been oftener heard of than seen in Syria and Judaea. There had been no mutiny among the legions, nothing indeed but some demonstrations against the Parthians, attended with various success. In the last civil war, though other provinces had been disturbed, peace had been here unshaken. Then had followed a loyal adherence to Galba. But when it became notorious that Otho and Vitellius, opposed in impious strife, were ready to make a spoil of the Empire, the thought that others would engross the rewards of power, while they would have nothing left for themselves but a compulsory submission, made the soldiers murmur and take a survey of their own strength. There were close at hand seven legions; there were Syria and Judaea, with a vast number of auxiliaries. Then, without any interval of separation, there was Egypt and its two legions, and on the other side Cappadocia, Pontus, and all the garrisons along the frontier of Armenia. There was Asia Minor; there were the other provinces, not without a military population, and well furnished with money. There were all the islands of the Mediterranean. And there was the sea itself, which during the interval of preparation for war would be both a convenience and a protection.

6. Antequam Titus adventaret sacramentum Othonis acceperat uterque exercitus, praecipitibus, ut adsolet, nuntiis et tarda mole civilis belli, quod longa concordia quietus Oriens tunc primum parabat. namque olim validissima inter se civium arma in Italia Galliave viribus Occidentis coepta; et Pompeio, Cassio, Bruto, Antonio, quos omnis trans mare secutum est civile bellum, haud prosperi exitus fuerant; auditique saepius in Syria Iudaeaque Caesares quam inspecti. nulla seditio legionum, tantum adversus Parthos minae, vario eventu; et proximo civili bello turbatis aliis inconcussa ibi pax, dein fides erga Galbam. mox, ut Othonem ac Vitellium scelestis armis res Romanas raptum ire vulgatum est, ne penes ceteros imperii praemia, penes ipsos tantum servitii necessitas esset, fremere miles et viris suas circumspicere. septem legiones statim et cum ingentibus auxiliis Syria Iudaeaque; inde continua Aegyptus duaeque legiones, hinc Cappadocia Pontusque et quicquid castrorum Armeniis praetenditur. Asia et ceterae provinciae nec virorum inopes et pecunia opulentae. quantum insularum mari cingitur, et parando interim bello secundum tutumque ipsum mare.

7. The ardour of the troops was not unknown to their generals; but it was judged advisable to wait for the issue of the struggle which others were carrying on. The conquerors and the conquered, it was said, never unite with a genuine good faith. It matters not whether fortune make Otho or Vitellius to be the victor. Even great generals grow insolent in prosperity; these men are quarrelsome, indolent, and profligate, and their own faults will make war fatal to the one, and success to the other. They therefore postponed the war until a more fitting opportunity, and though Vespasian and Mucianus had but lately resolved on concerted action, the others had done so long before. The worthiest among them were moved by patriotism; many were wrought upon by the attractions of plunder; some by their private embarrassments. And so, good and bad, from different motives, but with equal zeal, were all eager for war.

7. Non fallebat duces impetus militum, sed bellantibus aliis placuit expectari. bello civili victores victosque numquam solida fide coalescere, nec referre Vitellium an Othonem superstitem fortuna faceret. rebus secundis etiam egregios duces insolescere: discordia militis ignavia luxurie et suismet vitiis alterum bello, alterum victoria periturum. igitur arma in occasionem distulere, Vespasianus Mucianusque nuper, ceteri olim mixtis consiliis; optimus quisque amore rei publicae, multos dulcedo praedarum stimulabat, alios ambiguae domi res: ita boni malique causis diversis, studio pari, bellum omnes cupiebant.

8. About this time Achaia and Asia Minor were terrified by a false report that Nero was at hand. Various rumours were current about his death; and so there were many who pretended and believed that he was still alive. The adventures and enterprises of the other pretenders I shall relate in the regular course of my work. The pretender in this case was a slave from Pontus, or, according to some accounts, a freedman from Italy, a skilful harp-player and singer, accomplishments, which, added to a resemblance in the face, gave a very deceptive plausibility to his pretensions. After attaching to himself some deserters, needy vagrants whom he bribed with great offers, he put to sea. Driven by stress of weather to the island of Cythnus, he induced certain soldiers, who were on their way from the East, to join him, and ordered others, who refused, to be executed. He also robbed the traders and armed all the most able bodied of the slaves. The centurion Sisenna, who was the bearer of the clasped right hands, the usual emblems of friendship, from the armies of Syria to the Praetorians, was assailed by him with various artifices, till he left the island secretly, and, fearing actual violence, made his escape with all haste. Thence the alarm spread far and wide, and many roused themselves at the well-known name, eager for change, and detesting the present state of things. The report was daily gaining credit when an accident put an end to it.

8. Sub idem tempus Achaia atque Asia falso exterritae velut Nero adventaret, vario super exitu eius rumore eoque pluribus vivere eum fingentibus credentibusque. ceterorum casus conatusque in contextu operis dicemus: tunc servus e Ponto sive, ut alii tradidere, libertinus ex Italia, citharae et cantus peritus, unde illi super similitudinem oris propior ad fallendum fides, adiunctis desertoribus, quos inopia vagos ingentibus promissis corruperat, mare ingreditur; ac vi tempestatum Cythnum insulam detrusus et militum quosdam ex Oriente commeantium adscivit vel abnuentis interfici iussit, et spoliatis negotiatoribus mancipiorum valentissimum quemque armavit. centurionemque Sisennam dextras, concordiae insignia, Syriaci exercitus nomine ad praetorianos ferentem variis artibus adgressus est, donec Sisenna clam relicta insula trepidus et vim metuens aufugeret. inde late terror: multi ad celebritatem nominis erecti rerum novarum cupidine et odio praesentium. gliscentem in dies famam fors discussit.

9. Galba had entrusted the government of Galatia and Pamphylia to Calpurnius Asprenas. Two triremes from the fleet of Misenum were given him to pursue the adventurer: with these he reached the island of Cythnus. Persons were found to summon the captains in the name of Nero. The pretender himself, assuming a studied appearance of sorrow, and appealing to their fidelity as old soldiers of his own, besought them to land him in Egypt or Syria. The captains, perhaps wavering, perhaps intending to deceive, declared that they must address their soldiers, and that they would return when the minds of all had been prepared. Everything, however, was faithfully reported to Asprenas, and at his bidding the ship was boarded and taken, and the man, whoever he was, killed. The body, in which the eyes, the hair, and the savage countenance, were remarkable features, was conveyed to Asia, and thence to Rome.

9. Galatiam ac Pamphyliam provincias Calpurnio Asprenati regendas Galba permiserat. datae e classe Misenensi duae triremes ad prosequendum, cum quibus Cythnum insulam tenuit: nec defuere qui trierarchos nomine Neronis accirent. is in maestitiam compositus et fidem suorum quondam militum invocans, ut eum in Syria aut Aegypto sisterent orabat. trierarchi, nutantes seu dolo, adloquendos sibi milites et paratis omnium animis reversuros firmaverunt. sed Asprenati cuncta ex fide nuntiata, cuius cohortatione expugnata navis et interfectus quisquis ille erat. corpus, insigne oculis comaque et torvitate vultus, in Asiam atque inde Romam pervectum est.

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