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Tacitus: History Book 1 [60]

60. Of that province Trebellius Maximus was governor, a man whose sordid avarice made him an object of contempt and hatred to the army. His unpopularity was heightened by the efforts of Roscius Caelius, the legate of the 20th legion, who had long been on bad terms with him, and who now seized the opportunity of a civil war to break out into greater violence. Trebellius charged him with mutinous designs, and with disturbing the regularity of military discipline; Caelius retorted on Trebellius the accusation of having plundered and impoverished the legions. Meanwhile all obedience in the army was destroyed by these disgraceful quarrels between its commanders, and the feud rose to such a height that Trebellius was insulted even by the auxiliaries, and finding himself altogether isolated, as the infantry and cavalry sided with Caelius, he fled for safety to Vitellius. Yet the province still enjoyed tranquility, though its consular governor had been driven from it. It was now ruled by the legates of the legions, who were equal as to lawful authority, though the audacity of Caelius made him the more powerful.

60. Praeerat Trebellius Maximus, per avaritiam ac sordis contemptus exercitui invisusque. accendebat odium eius Roscius Coelius legatus vicensimae legionis, olim discors, sed occasione civilium armorum atrocius proruperant. Trebellius seditionem et confusum ordinem disciplinae Coelio, spoliatas et inopes legiones Coelius Trebellio obiectabat, cum interim foedis legatorum certaminibus modestia exercitus corrupta eoque discordiae ventum ut auxiliarium quoque militum conviciis proturbatus et adgregantibus se Coelio cohortibus alisque desertus Trebellius ad Vitellium perfugerit. quies provinciae quamquam remoto consulari mansit: rexere legati legionum, pares iure, Coelius audendo potentior.

61. After the army of Britain had joined him, Vitellius, who had now a prodigious force and vast resources, determined that there should be two generals and two lines of march for the contemplated war. Fabius Valens was ordered to win over, if possible, or, if they refused his overtures, to ravage the provinces of Gaul and to invade Italy by way of the Cottian Alps; Caecina to take the nearer route, and to march down from the Penine range. To Valens were entrusted the picked troops of the army of Lower Germany with the eagle of the 5th legion and the auxiliary infantry and cavalry, to the number of 40,000 armed men; Caecina commanded 30,000 from Upper Germany, the strength of his force being one legion, the 21st. Both had also some German auxiliaries, and from this source Vitellius, who was to follow with his whole military strength, completed his own forces.

61. Adiuncto Britannico exercitu ingens viribus opibusque Vitellius duos duces, duo itinera bello destinavit: Fabius Valens adlicere vel, si abnuerent, vastare Gallias et Cottianis Alpibus Italiam inrumpere, Caecina propiore transitu Poeninis iugis degredi iussus. Valenti inferioris exercitus electi cum aquila quintae legionis et cohortibus alisque, ad quadraginta milia armatorum data; triginta milia Caecina e superiore Germania ducebat, quorum robur legio unaetvicensima fuit. addita utrique Germanorum auxilia, et quibus Vitellius suas quoque copias supplevit, tota mole belli secuturus.

62. Wonderful was the contrast between the army and the Emperor. The army was all eagerness; they cried out war, while Gaul yet wavered, and Spain hesitated. "The winter," they said, "the delays of a cowardly inaction must not stop us. We must invade Italy, we must seize the capital; in civil strife, where action is more needed than deliberation, nothing is safer than haste." Vitellius, on the contrary, was sunk in sloth, and anticipated the enjoyment of supreme power in indolent luxury and prodigal festivities. By midday he was half-intoxicated, and heavy with food; yet the ardour and vigour of the soldiers themselves discharged all the duties of a general as well as if the Emperor had been present to stimulate the energetic by hope and the indolent by fear. Ready to march and eager for action, they loudly demanded the signal for starting; the title of Germanicus was at once bestowed on Vitellius, that of Caesar he refused to accept, even after his victory. It was observed as a happy omen for Fabius Valens and the forces which he was conducting to the campaign, that on the very day on which they set out an eagle moved with a gentle flight before the army as it advanced, as if to guide it on its way. And for a long distance so loudly did the soldiers shout in their joy, so calm and unterrified was the bird, that it was taken as no doubtful omen of great and successful achievements.

62. Mira inter exercitum imperatoremque diversitas: instare miles, arma poscere, dum Galliae trepident, dum Hispaniae cunctentur: non obstare hiemem neque ignavae pacis moras: invadendam Italiam, occupandam urbem; nihil in discordiis civilibus festinatione tutius, ubi facto magis quam consulto opus esset. torpebat Vitellius et fortunam principatus inerti luxu ac prodigis epulis praesumebat, medio diei temulentus et sagina gravis, cum tamen ardor et vis militum ultro ducis munia implebat, ut si adesset imperator et strenuis vel ignavis spem metumve adderet. instructi intentique signum profectionis exposcunt. nomen Germanici Vitellio statim additum: Caesarem se appellari etiam victor prohibuit. laetum augurium Fabio Valenti exercituique, quem in bellum agebat, ipso profectionis die aquila leni meatu, prout agmen incederet, velut dux viae praevolavit, longumque per spatium is gaudentium militum clamor, ea quies interritae alitis fuit ut haud dubium magnae et prosperae rei omen acciperetur.

63. The territory of the Treveri they entered with all the security naturally felt among allies. But at Divodurum, a town of the Mediomatrici, though they had been received with the most courteous hospitality, a sudden panic mastered them. In a moment they took up arms to massacre an innocent people, not for the sake of plunder, or fired by the lust of spoil, but in a wild frenzy arising from causes so vague that it was very difficult to apply a remedy. Soothed at length by the entreaties of their general, they refrained from utterly destroying the town; yet as many as four thousand human beings were slaughtered. Such an alarm was spread through Gaul, that as the army advanced, whole states, headed by their magistrates and with prayers on their lips, came forth to meet it, while the women and children lay prostrate along the roads, and all else that might appease an enemy's fury was offered, though war there was none, to secure the boon of peace.

63. Et Treviros quidem ut socios securi adiere: Divoduri (Mediomatricorum id oppidum est) quamquam omni comitate exceptos subitus pavor terruit, raptis repente armis ad caedem innoxiae civitatis, non ob praedam aut spoliandi cupidine, sed furore et rabie et causis incertis eoque difficilioribus remediis, donec precibus ducis mitigati ab excidio civitatis temperavere; caesa tamen ad quattuor milia hominum. isque terror Gallias invasit ut venienti mox agmini universae civitates cum magistratibus et precibus occurrerent, stratis per vias feminis puerisque: quaeque alia placamenta hostilis irae, non quidem in bello sed pro pace tendebantur.

64. Valens received the tidings of the murder of Galba and the accession of Otho while he was in the country of the Leuci. The feelings of the soldiers were not seriously affected either with joy or alarm; they were intent on war. Gaul however ceased to hesitate: Otho and Vitellius it hated equally, Vitellius it also feared. The next territory was that of the Lingones who were loyal to Vitellius. The troops were kindly received, and they vied with each other in good behaviour. This happy state of things, however, was of short duration owing to the violence of the auxiliary infantry, which had detached itself, as before related, from the 14th legion, and had been incorporated by Valens with his army. First came angry words, then a brawl between the Batavi and the legionaries, which as the partialities of the soldiers espoused one or another of the parties was almost kindled into a battle, and would have been so, had not Valens by punishing a few, reminded Batavi of the authority which they had now forgotten. Against the Aedui a pretext for war was sought in vain. That people, when ordered to furnish arms and money, voluntarily added a supply of provisions. What the Aedui did from fear, the people of Lugdunum did with delight. Yet the Italian legion and the Taurine Horse were withdrawn. It was resolved that the 18th cohort should be left there, as it was their usual winter quarters. Manlius Valens, legate of the Italian legion, though he had served the party well, was held in no honour by Vitellius. Fabius Valens had defamed him by secret charges of which he knew nothing, publicly praising him all the while, that he might the less suspect the treachery.

64. Nuntium de caede Galbae et imperio Othonis Fabius Valens in civitate Leucorum accepit. nec militum animus in gaudium aut formidine permotus: bellum volvebat. Gallis cunctatio exempta est: in Othonem ac Vitellium odium par, ex Vitellio et metus. proxima Lingonum civitas erat, fida partibus. benigne excepti modestia certavere, sed brevis laetitia fuit cohortium intemperie, quas a legione quarta decima, ut supra memoravimus, digressas exercitui suo Fabius Valens adiunxerat. iurgia primum, mox rixa inter Batavos et legionarios, dum his aut illis studia militum adgregantur, prope in proelium exarsere, ni Valens animadversione paucorum oblitos iam Batavos imperii admonuisset. frustra adversus Aeduos quaesita belli causa: iussi pecuniam atque arma deferre gratuitos insuper commeatus praebuere. quod Aedui formidine Lugdunenses gaudio fecere. sed legio Italica et ala Tauriana abductae: cohortem duodevicensimam Lugduni, solitis sibi hibernis, relinqui placuit. Manlius Valens legatus Italicae legionis, quamquam bene de partibus meritus, nullo apud Vitellium honore fuit: secretis eum criminationibus infamaverat Fabius ignarum et, quo incautior deciperetur, palam laudatum.

65. The old feud between Lugdunum and Vienna had been kindled afresh by the late war. They had inflicted many losses on each other so continuously and so savagely that they could not have been fighting only for Nero or Galba. Galba had made his displeasure the occasion for diverting into the Imperial treasury the revenues of Lugdunum, while he had treated Vienna with marked respect. Thence came rivalry and dislike, and the two states, separated only by a river, were linked together by perpetual feud. Accordingly the people of Lugdunum began to work on the passions of individual soldiers, and to goad them into destroying Vienna, by reminding them, how that people had besieged their colony, had abetted the attempts of Vindex, and had recently raised legions for Galba. After parading these pretexts for quarrel, they pointed out how vast would be the plunder. From secret encouragement they passed to open entreaty. "Go," they said, "to avenge us and utterly destroy this home of Gallic rebellion. There all are foreigners and enemies; we are a Roman colony, a part of the Roman army, sharers in your successes and reverses. Fortune may declare against us. Do not abandon us to an angry foe."

65. Veterem inter Lugdunensis [et Viennensis] discordiam proximum bellum accenderat. multae in vicem clades, crebrius infestiusque quam ut tantum propter Neronem Galbamque pugnaretur. et Galba reditus Lugdunensium occasione irae in fiscum verterat; multus contra in Viennensis honor: unde aemulatio et invidia et uno amne discretis conexum odium. igitur Lugdunenses extimulare singulos militum et in eversionem Viennensium impellere, obsessam ab illis coloniam suam, adiutos Vindicis conatus, conscriptas nuper legiones in praesidium Galbae referendo. et ubi causas odiorum praetenderant, magnitudinem praedae ostendebant, nec iam secreta exhortatio, sed publicae preces: irent ultores, excinderent sedem Gallici belli: cuncta illic externa et hostilia: se, coloniam Romanam et partem exercitus et prosperarum adversarumque rerum socios, si fortuna contra daret, iratis ne relinquerent.

66. By these and many similar arguments they so wrought upon the troops, that even the legates and the leaders of the party did not think it possible to check their fury; but the people of Vienna, aware of their danger, assumed the veils and chaplets of suppliants, and, as the army approached, clasped the weapons, knees and feet of the soldiers, and so turned them from their purpose. Valens also made each soldier a present of 300 sesterces. After that the antiquity and rank of the colony prevailed, and the intercession of Valens, who charged them to respect the life and welfare of the inhabitants, received a favourable hearing. They were however publicly mulcted of their arms, and furnished the soldiers with all kinds of supplies from their private means. Report, however, has uniformly asserted, that Valens himself was bought with a vast sum. Poor for many years and suddenly growing rich, he could but ill conceal the change in his fortunes, indulging without moderation the appetites which a protracted poverty had inflamed, and, after a youth of indigence, becoming prodigal in old age. The army then proceeded by slow marches through the territory of the Allobroges and Vocontii, the very length of each day's march and the changes of encampment being made a matter of traffic by the general, who concluded disgraceful bargains to the injury of the holders of land and the magistrates of the different states, and used such menaces, that at Lucus, a municipal town of the Vocontii, he was on the point of setting fire to the place, when a present of money soothed his rage. When money was not forthcoming he was bought off by sacrifices to his lust. Thus he made his way to the Alps.

66. His et pluribus in eundem modum perpulerant ut ne legati quidem ac duces partium restingui posse iracundiam exercitus arbitrarentur, cum haud ignari discriminis sui Viennenses, velamenta et infulas praeferentes, ubi agmen incesserat, arma genua vestigia prensando flexere militum animos; addidit Valens trecenos singulis militibus sestertios. tum vetustas dignitasque coloniae valuit et verba Fabi salutem incolumitatemque Viennensium commendantis aequis auribus accepta; publice tamen armis multati, privatis et promiscis copiis iuvere militem. sed fama constans fuit ipsum Valentem magna pecunia emptum. is diu sordidus, repente dives mutationem fortunae male tegebat, accensis egestate longa cupidinibus immoderatus et inopi iuventa senex prodigus. lento deinde agmine per finis Allobrogum ac Vocontiorum ductus exercitus, ipsa itinerum spatia et stativorum mutationes venditante duce, foedis pactionibus adversus possessores agrorum et magistratus civitatum, adeo minaciter ut Luco (municipium id Vocontiorum est) faces admoverit, donec pecunia mitigaretur. quotiens pecuniae materia deesset, stupris et adulteriis exorabatur. sic ad Alpis perventum.

67. Caecina revelled more freely in plunder and bloodshed. His restless spirit had been provoked by the Helvetii, a Gallic race famous once for its warlike population, afterwards for the associations of its name. Of the murder of Galba they knew nothing, and they rejected the authority of Vitellius. The war originated in the rapacity and impatience of the 21st legion, who had seized some money sent to pay the garrison of a fortress, which the Helvetii had long held with their own troops and at their own expense. The Helvetii in their indignation intercepted some letters written in the name of the army of Germany, which were on their way to the legions of Pannonia, and detained the centurion and some of his soldiers in custody. Caecina, eager for war, hastened to punish every delinquency, as it occurred, before the offender could repent. Suddenly moving his camp he ravaged a place, which during a long period of peace had grown up into something like a town, and which was much resorted to as an agreeable watering place. Despatches were sent to the Rhaetian auxiliaries, instructing them to attack the Helvetii in the rear while the legion was engaging them in front.

67. Plus praedae ac sanguinis Caecina hausit. inritaverant turbidum ingenium Helvetii, Gallica gens olim armis virisque, mox memoria nominis clara, de caede Galbae ignari et Vitellii imperium abnuentes. initium bello fuit avaritia ac festinatio unaetvicensimae legionis; rapuerant pecuniam missam in stipendium castelli quod olim Helvetii suis militibus ac stipendiis tuebantur. aegre id passi Helvetii, interceptis epistulis, quae nomine Germanici exercitus ad Pannonicas legiones ferebantur, centurionem et quosdam militum in custodia retinebant. Caecina belli avidus proximam quamque culpam, antequam paeniteret, ultum ibat: mota propere castra, vastati agri, direptus longa pace in modum municipii extructus locus, amoeno salubrium aquarum usu frequens; missi ad Raetica auxilia nuntii ut versos in legionem Helvetios a tergo adgrederentur.

68. Bold before the danger came and timid in the moment of peril, the Helvetii, though at the commencement of the movement they had chosen Claudius Severus for their leader, knew not how to use their arms, to keep their ranks, or to act in concert. A pitched battle with veteran troops would be destruction, a siege would be perilous with fortifications old and ruinous. On the one side was Caecina at the head of a powerful army, on the other were the auxiliary infantry and cavalry of Rhaetia and the youth of that province, inured to arms and exercised in habits of warfare. All around were slaughter and devastation. Wandering to and fro between the two armies, the Helvetii threw aside their arms, and with a large proportion of wounded and stragglers fled for refuge to Mount Vocetius. They were immediately dislodged by the attack of some Thracian infantry. Closely pursued by the Germans and Rhaetians they were cut down in their forests and even in their hiding places. Thousands were put to the sword, thousands more were sold into slavery. Every place having been completely destroyed, the army was marching in regular order on Aventicum, the capital town, when a deputation was sent to surrender the city. This surrender was accepted. Julius Alpinus, one of the principal men, was executed by Caecina, as having been the promoter of the war. All the rest he left to the mercy or severity of Vitellius.

68. Illi ante discrimen feroces, in periculo pavidi, quamquam primo tumultu Claudium Severum ducem legerant, non arma noscere, non ordines sequi, non in unum consulere. exitiosum adversus veteranos proelium, intuta obsidio dilapsis vetustate moenibus; hinc Caecina cum valido exercitu, inde Raeticae alae cohortesque et ipsorum Raetorum iuventus, sueta armis et more militiae exercita. undique populatio et caedes: ipsi medio vagi, abiectis armis, magna pars saucii aut palantes, in montem Vocetium perfugere. ac statim immissa cohorte Thraecum depulsi et consectantibus Germanis Raetisque per silvas atque in ipsis latebris trucidati. multa hominum milia caesa, multa sub corona venundata. cumque dirutis omnibus Aventicum gentis caput infesto agmine peteretur, missi qui dederent civitatem, et deditio accepta. in Iulium Alpinum e principibus ut concitorem belli Caecina animadvertit: ceteros veniae vel saevitiae Vitellii reliquit.

69. It is hard to say whether the envoys from Helvetia found the Emperor or his army less merciful. "Exterminate the race," was the cry of the soldiers as they brandished their weapons, or shook their fists in the faces of the envoys. Even Vitellius himself did not refrain from threatening words and gestures, till at length Claudius Cossus, one of the Helvetian envoys, a man of well-known eloquence, but who then concealed the art of the orator under an assumption of alarm, and was therefore more effective, soothed the rage of the soldiers, who, like all multitudes, were liable to sudden impulses, and were now as inclined to pity as they had been extravagant in fury. Bursting into tears and praying with increasing earnestness for a milder sentence, they procured pardon and protection for the state.

69. Haud facile dictu est, legati Helvetiorum minus placabilem imperatorem an militem invenerint. civitatis excidium poscunt, tela ac manus in ora legatorum intentant. ne Vitellius quidem verbis et minis temperabat, cum Claudius Cossus, unus ex legatis, notae facundiae sed dicendi artem apta trepidatione occultans atque eo validior, militis animum mitigavit. ut est mos, vulgus mutabile subitis et tam pronum in misericordiam quam immodicum saevitia fuerat: effusis lacrimis et meliora constantius postulando impunitatem salutemque civitati impetravere.

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