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Tacitus: History Book 3 [40]

40. Meanwhile Fabius Valens, who was moving along with a vast and luxurious train of concubines and eunuchs too tardily for a general about to take the field, received speedy intelligence of the betrayal of the Ravenna fleet by Lucilius Bassus. Had he hastened the march which he had then begun, he might have come up with Caecina while still undecided, or have reached the legions previous to the decisive action. Some advised him to take a few of his most devoted soldiers, and, avoiding Ravenna, to hurry on by unfrequented paths to Hostilia or Cremona. Others thought that he should summon the Praetorian cohorts from Rome, and then force his way with a strong body of troops. But with a ruinous delay he wasted in deliberation the opportunities of action. Eventually he rejected both plans, and did what is the very worst thing in circumstances of peril, attempted a middle course, and was neither bold enough on the one hand, nor cautious enough on the other.

40. Fabius interim Valens multo ac molli concubinarum spadonumque agmine segnius quam ad bellum incedens, proditam a Lucilio Basso Ravennatem classem pernicibus nuntiis accepit. et si coeptum iter properasset, nutantem Caecinam praevenire aut ante discrimen pugnae adsequi legiones potuisset; nec deerant qui monerent ut cum fidissimis per occultos tramites vitata Ravenna Hostiliam Cremonamve pergeret. aliis placebat accitis ex urbe praetoriis cohortibus valida manu perrumpere: ipse inutili cunctatione agendi tempora consultando consumpsit; mox utrumque consilium aspernatus, quod inter ancipitia deterrimum est, dum media sequitur, nec ausus est satis nec providit.

41. He wrote to Vitellius asking for aid. Three cohorts with some British cavalry arrived, a force too numerous to elude observation, too small to force its way. Even amidst such perils Valens could not keep himself clear of the infamous reputation of grasping at unlawful gratifications and polluting the houses of his hosts with intrigue and violation. He had power, he had money, and he indulged the lusts that are the last solace of desperate fortunes. At length on the arrival of the infantry and cavalry the folly of his plans became evident. With so small a force, even had it been thoroughly loyal, he could not have made his way through the enemy, and the loyalty they had brought with them was not beyond suspicion. Yet shame and respect for the presence of their general held them in check, no lasting restraint with men who loved danger and were careless of disgrace. Moved by this apprehension, Valens, while he retained a few attendants whom adversity had not changed, sent on the infantry to Ariminum and ordered the cavalry to cover his rear. He then himself made his way to Umbria, and thence to Etruria, where, having learnt the issue of the battle of Cremona, he conceived a plan not wanting in vigour, and which, had it succeeded, would have had terrible results. This was to seize some ships, to land on some part of Gallia Narbonensis, to rouse Gaul with its armies as well as the tribes of Germany, and so to kindle a fresh war.

41. Missis ad Vitellium litteris auxilium postulat. venere tres cohortes cum ala Britannica, neque ad fallendum aptus numerus neque ad penetrandum. sed Valens ne in tanto quidem discrimine infamia caruit, quo minus rapere inlicitas voluptates adulteriisque ac stupris polluere hospitum domus crederetur: aderant vis et pecunia et ruentis fortunae novissima libido. adventu demum peditum equitumque pravitas consilii patuit, quia nec vadere per hostis tam parva manu poterat, etiam si fidissima foret, nec integram fidem attulerant; pudor tamen et praesentis ducis reverentia morabatur, haud diuturna vincla apud pavidos periculorum et dedecoris securos. eo metu cohortis Ariminum praemittit, alam tueri terga iubet: ipse paucis, quos adversa non mutaverant, comitantibus flexit in Vmbriam atque inde Etruriam, ubi cognito pugnae Cremonensis eventu non ignavum et, si provenisset, atrox consilium iniit, ut arreptis navibus in quamcumque partem Narbonensis provinciae egressus Gallias et exercitus et Germaniae gentis novumque bellum cieret.

42. The garrison of Ariminum were discouraged by the departure of Valens, and Cornelius Fuscus, bringing up his army and disposing his Liburnian ships at the nearest points of the shore, invested the place by sea and land. His troops occupied the plains of Umbria and that portion of the Picentine territory that is washed by the Adriatic, and now the whole of Italy was divided by the range of the Apennines between Vespasian and Vitellius. Valens, having started from the bay of Pisa, was compelled, either by a calm or a contrary wind, to put in at the port of Hercules Monoecus. Near this place was stationed Marius Maturus, procurator of the Maritime Alps, who was loyal to Vitellius, and who, though everything around him was hostile, had not yet thrown off his allegiance. While courteously receiving Valens, he deterred him by his advice from rashly invading Gallia Narbonensis. And now the fidelity of the rest of the party was weakened by their fears. In fact the procurator Valerius Paullinus, an enterprising officer, who had been a friend of Vespasian before his elevation to the throne, had made the neighbouring States swear allegiance to that Prince.

42. Digresso Valente trepidos, qui Ariminum tenebant, Cornelius Fuscus, admoto exercitu et missis per proxima litorum Liburnicis, terra marique circumvenit: occupantur plana Vmbriae et qua Picenus ager Hadria adluitur, omnisque Italia inter Vespasianum ac Vitellium Appennini iugis dividebatur. Fabius Valens e sinu Pisano segnitia maris aut adversante vento portum Herculis Monoeci depellitur. haud procul inde agebat Marius Maturus Alpium maritimarum procurator, fidus Vitellio, cuius sacramentum cunctis circa hostilibus nondum exuerat. is Valentem comiter exceptum, ne Galliam Narbonensem temere ingrederetur, monendo terruit; simul ceterorum fides metu infracta.

43. Paullinus had collected all the troops who, having been disbanded by Vitellius, were now spontaneously taking up arms, and was holding with this force the colony of Forum Julii, which commanded the sea. His influence was all the greater, because Forum Julii was his native place, and because he was respected by the Praetorians, in which force he had once been a tribune. The inhabitants themselves, favouring a fellow-townsman, and anticipating his future greatness, did their best to promote the cause. When these preparations, which were really formidable and were exaggerated by report, became known among the now distracted Vitellianists, Fabius Valens returned to his ships with four soldiers of the body-guard, three personal friends, and as many centurions, while Maturus and the rest chose to remain behind and swear allegiance to Vespasian. For Valens indeed the open sea was safer than the coast or the towns, yet, all uncertain about the future, and knowing rather what he must avoid than what he could trust, he was thrown by adverse weather on the Stoechades, islands off Massilia. There he was captured by some Liburnian ships, dispatched by Paullinus.

43. Namque circumiectas civitates procurator Valerius Paulinus, strenuus militiae et Vespasiano ante fortunam amicus, in verba eius adegerat; concitisque omnibus, qui exauctorati a Vitellio bellum sponte sumebant, Foroiuliensem coloniam, claustra maris, praesidio tuebatur, eo gravior auctor, quod Paulino patria Forum Iulii et honos apud praetorianos, quorum quondam tribunus fuerat, ipsique pagani favore municipali et futurae potentiae spe iuvare partis adnitebantur. quae ut paratu firma et aucta rumore apud varios Vitellianorum animos increbruere, Fabius Valens cum quattuor speculatoribus et tribus amicis, totidem centurionibus, ad navis regreditur; Maturo ceterisque remanere et in verba Vespasiani adigi volentibus fuit. ceterum ut mare tutius Valenti quam litora aut urbes, ita futuri ambiguus et magis quid vitaret quam cui fideret certus, adversa tempestate Stoechadas Massiliensium insulas adfertur. ibi eum missae a Paulino Liburnicae oppressere.

44. Valens once captured, everything turned to swell the resources of the conqueror; the lead was taken in Spain by the 1st legion (the "Adjutrix"), whose recollections of Otho made them hate Vitellius; they drew with them the 6th and 10th. Gaul did not hesitate to follow. A partiality long felt in Britain for Vespasian, who had there commanded the 2nd legion by the appointment of Claudius, and had served with distinction, attached that province to his cause, though not without some commotion among the other legions, in which were many centurions and soldiers promoted by Vitellius, who felt uneasy in exchanging for another ruler one whom they knew already.

44. Capto Valente cuncta ad victoris opes conversa, initio per Hispaniam a prima Adiutrice legione orto, quae memoria Othonis infensa Vitellio decimam quoque ac sextam traxit. nec Galliae cunctabantur. et Britanniam inditus erga Vespasianum favor, quod illic secundae legioni a Claudio praepositus et bello clarus egerat, non sine motu adiunxit ceterarum, in quibus plerique centuriones ac milites a Vitellio provecti expertum iam principem anxii mutabant.

45. These dissensions, and the continual rumours of civil war, raised the courage of the Britons. They were led by one Venutius, who, besides being naturally high spirited, and hating the name of Rome, was fired by his private animosity against Queen Cartismandua. Cartismandua ruled the Brigantes in virtue of her illustrious birth; and she strengthened her throne, when, by the treacherous capture of king Caractacus, she was regarded as having given its chief distinction to the triumph of Claudius Caesar. Then followed wealth and the self-indulgence of prosperity. Spurning her husband Venutius, she made Vellocatus, his armour-bearer, the partner of her bed and throne. By this enormity the power of her house was at once shaken to its base. On the side of the husband were the affections of the people, on that of the adulterer, the lust and savage temper of the Queen. Accordingly Venutius collected some auxiliaries, and, aided at the same time by a revolt of the Brigantes, brought Cartismandua into the utmost peril. She asked for some Roman troops, and our auxiliary infantry and cavalry, after fighting with various success, contrived to rescue the Queen from her peril. Venutius retained the kingdom, and we had the war on our hands.

45. Ea discordia et crebris belli civilis rumoribus Britanni sustulere animos auctore Venutio, qui super insitam ferociam et Romani nominis odium propriis in Cartimanduam reginam stimulis accendebatur. Cartimandua Brigantibus imperitabat, pollens nobilitate; et auxerat potentiam, postquam capto per dolum rege Carataco instruxisse triumphum Claudii Caesaris videbatur. inde opes et rerum secundarum luxus: spreto Venutio (is fuit maritus) armigerum eius Vellocatum in matrimonium regnumque accepit. concussa statim flagitio domus: pro marito studia civitatis, pro adultero libido reginae et saevitia. igitur Venutius accitis auxiliis, simul ipsorum Brigantum defectione in extremum discrimen Cartimanduam adduxit. tum petita a Romanis praesidia. et cohortes alaeque nostrae variis proeliis, exemere tamen periculo reginam; regnum Venutio, bellum nobis relictum.

46. About the same time, Germany suffered from the supineness of our generals and the mutinous conduct of our legions; the assaults of enemies and the perfidy of allies all but overthrew the power of Rome. Of this war, its origin and its issue, for it lasted long, I shall hereafter speak. The Dacians also were in motion, a people which never can be trusted, and which, now that our legions were withdrawn from Moesia, had nothing to fear. They quietly watched the opening of the campaign, but when they heard that Italy was in a blaze of war, and that the whole Empire was divided against itself, they stormed the winter quarters of the auxiliary infantry and cavalry, and occupied both banks of the Danube. They were then preparing to destroy the camp of the legions, but Mucianus sent the 6th legion against them, for he knew of the victory of Cremona, and he feared this double pressure of barbarian power with Dacians and Germans invading Italy from opposite sides. We were helped, as often before, by the good fortune of the Roman people, which brought to the spot Mucianus with the armies of the East, and by the decisive settlement which in the meantime was effected at Cremona. Fonteius Agrippa was removed from Asia (which province he had governed as proconsul for a year) to Moesia, and had some troops given him from the army of Vitellius. That this army should be dispersed through the provinces and closely occupied with foreign wars, was sound policy and essential to peace.

46. Turbata per eosdem dies Germania, et socordia ducum, seditione legionum, externa vi, perfidia sociali prope adflicta Romana res. id bellum cum causis et eventibus (etenim longius provectum est) mox memorabimus. mota et Dacorum gens numquam fida, tunc sine metu, abducto e Moesia exercitu. sed prima rerum quieti speculabantur: ubi flagrare Italiam bello, cuncta in vicem hostilia accepere, expugnatis cohortium alarumque hibernis utraque Danuvii ripa potiebantur. iamque castra legionum excindere parabant, ni Mucianus sextam legionem opposuisset, Cremonensis victoriae gnarus, ac ne externa moles utrimque ingrueret, si Dacus Germanusque diversi inrupissent. adfuit, ut saepe alias, fortuna populi Romani, quae Mucianum virisque Orientis illuc tulit, et quod Cremonae interim transegimus. Fonteius Agrippa ex Asia (pro consule eam provinciam annuo imperio tenuerat) Moesiae praepositus est, additis copiis e Vitelliano exercitu, quem spargi per provincias et externo bello inligari pars consilii pacisque erat.

47. All other nations were equally restless. A sudden outbreak had been excited in Pontus by a barbarian slave, who had before commanded the royal fleet. This was Anicetus, a freedman of Polemon, once a very powerful personage, who, when the kingdom was converted into a Roman province, ill brooked the change. Accordingly he raised in the name of Vitellius the tribes that border on Pontus, bribed a number of very needy adventurers by the hope of plunder, and, at the head of a force by no means contemptible, made a sudden attack on the old and famous city of Trapezus, founded by the Greeks on the farthest shore of the Pontus. There he destroyed a cohort, once a part of the royal contingent. They had afterwards received the privileges of citizenship, and while they carried their arms and banners in Roman fashion, they still retained the indolence and licence of the Greek. Anicetus also set fire to the fleet, and, as the sea was not guarded, escaped, for Mucianus had brought up to Byzantium the best of the Liburnian ships and all the troops. The barbarians even insolently scoured the sea in hastily constructed vessels of their own called "camarae," built with narrow sides and broad bottoms, and joined together without fastenings of brass or iron. Whenever the water is rough they raise the bulwarks with additional planks according to the increasing height of the waves, till the vessel is covered in like a house. Thus they roll about amid the billows, and, as they have a prow at both extremities alike and a convertible arrangement of oars, they may be paddled in one direction or another indifferently and without risk.

47. Nec ceterae nationes silebant. subita per Pontum arma barbarum mancipium, regiae quondam classis praefectus, moverat. is fuit Anicetus Polemonis libertus, praepotens olim, et postquam regnum in formam provinciae verterat, mutationis impatiens. igitur Vitellii nomine adscitis gentibus, quae Pontum accolunt, corrupto in spem rapinarum egentissimo quoque, haud temnendae manus ductor, Trapezuntem vetusta fama civitatem, a Graecis in extremo Ponticae orae conditam, subitus inrupit. caesa ibi cohors, regium auxilium olim; mox donati civitate Romana signa armaque in nostrum modum, desidiam licentiamque Graecorum retinebant. classi quoque faces intulit, vacuo mari eludens, quia lectissimas Liburnicarum omnemque militem Mucianus Byzantium adegerat: quin et barbari contemptim vagabantur, fabricatis repente navibus. camaras vocant, artis lateribus latam alvum sine vinculo aeris aut ferri conexam; et tumido mari, prout fluctus attollitur, summa navium tabulis augent, donec in modum tecti claudantur. sic inter undas volvuntur, pari utrimque prora et mutabili remigio, quando hinc vel illinc adpellere indiscretum et innoxium est.

48. The matter attracted the attention of Vespasian, and induced him to dispatch some veterans from the legions under Virdius Geminus, a tried soldier. Finding the enemy in disorder and dispersed in the eager pursuit of plunder, he attacked them, and drove them to their ships. Hastily fitting out a fleet of Liburnian ships he pursued Anicetus, and overtook him at the mouth of the river Cohibus, where he was protected by the king of the Sedochezi, whose alliance he had secured by a sum of money and other presents. This prince at first endeavoured to protect the suppliant by a threat of hostilities; when, however, the choice was presented to him between war and the profit to be derived from treachery, he consented, with the characteristic perfidy of barbarians, to the destruction of Anicetus, and delivered up the refugees. So ended this servile war. Amidst the joy of this success, while everything was prosperous beyond his hopes, tidings of the victory of Cremona reached Vespasian in Aegypt. This made him hasten his advance to Alexandria, for, now that the army of Vitellius was shattered, he sought to apply the pressure of famine to the capital, which is always dependent on foreign supplies. He was indeed also preparing to invade by sea and land the province of Africa, which lies on the same line of coast, intending by thus closing the supplies of corn to cause famine and dissension among the enemy.

48. Advertit ea res Vespasiani animum ut vexillarios e legionibus ducemque Virdium Geminum spectatae militiae deligeret. ille incompositum et praedae cupidine vagum hostem adortus coegit in navis; effectisque raptim Liburnicis adsequitur Anicetum in ostio fluminis Chobi, tutum sub Sedochezorum regis auxilio, quem pecunia donisque ad societatem perpulerat. ac primo rex minis armisque supplicem tueri: postquam merces proditionis aut bellum ostendebatur, fluxa, ut est barbaris, fide pactus Aniceti exitium perfugas tradidit, belloque servili finis impositus. Laetum ea victoria Vespasianum, cunctis super vota fluentibus, Cremonensis proelii nuntius in Aegypto adsequitur. eo properantius Alexandriam pergit, ut fractos Vitellii exercitus urbemque externae opis indigam fame urgeret. namque et Africam, eodem latere sitam, terra marique invadere parabat, clausis annonae subsidiis inopiam ac discordiam hosti facturus.

49. While with this world-wide convulsion the Imperial power was changing hands, the conduct of Primus Antonius, after the fall of Cremona, was by no means as blameless as before. Either he believed that the necessities of the war had been satisfied, and that all else would follow easily, or, perhaps, success, working on such a temperament, developed his latent pride, rapacity and other vices. He swept through Italy as if it were a conquered country and caressed the legions as if they were his own; by all his words and acts he sought to pave for himself the way to power. To imbue the army with a spirit of licence, he offered to the legions the commissions of the centurions killed in the war. By their vote the most turbulent men were elected. The soldiers in fact were not under the control of the generals, but the generals were themselves constrained to follow the furious impulses of the soldiers. These mutinous proceedings, so ruinous to discipline, Antonius soon turned to his own profit, regardless of the near approach of Mucianus, a neglect more fatal than any contempt for Vespasian.

49. Dum hac totius orbis nutatione fortuna imperii transit, Primus Antonius nequaquam pari innocentia post Cremonam agebat, satis factum bello ratus et cetera ex facili, seu felicitas in tali ingenio avaritiam superbiam ceteraque occulta mala patefecit. ut captam Italiam persultare, ut suas legiones colere; omnibus dictis factisque viam sibi ad potentiam struere. utque licentia militem imbueret interfectorum centurionum ordines legionibus offerebat. eo suffragio turbidissimus quisque delecti; nec miles in arbitrio ducum, sed duces militari violentia trahebantur. quae seditiosa et corrumpendae disciplinae mox in praedam vertebat, nihil adventantem Mucianum veritus, quod exitiosius erat quam Vespasianum sprevisse.

Next: Book 3 [50]