Caius Cornelius Tacitus.

Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II online

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instigating Verginius. However, he alleged other reasons. They all had
to observe the servile custom of the time, and offer their thanks to
Vitellius.

An imposture, received at first with great excitement, failed to 72
last more than a few days. A man had appeared who gave out that he was
Scribonianus Camerinus,[390] and that during Nero's reign he had taken
refuge in Histria, where the Crassi still had their old connexions and
estates, and their name was much respected. He accordingly took all
the rascals he could find and cast them for parts. The credulous mob
and some of the soldiers, who were either victims of the imposture or
anxious for a riot, eagerly flocked to join him. However, he was taken
before Vitellius and his identity examined. When it was found that
there was no truth in his pretensions, and that his master recognized
him as a runaway called Geta, he suffered the execution of a
slave.[391]

FOOTNOTES:

[329] i.e. the gladiators (cp. chap. 36).

[330] Modena.

[331] A famous orator and informer, who from small beginnings
acquired great wealth and influence under Nero. Best known as
the prosecutor of Thrasea (cp. iv. 6, &c.). He eventually
conspired against Vespasian and was forced to commit suicide.

[332] Bologna.

[333] They would entitle him to the use of post-horses, &c.,
as for public business.

[334] April 12-19.

[335] From this phrase it is not clear whether the actual news
of his suicide had arrived. It took place on April 17.

[336] Vespasian's brother (see i. 46).

[337] See note 70.

[338] Cp. i. 47.

[339] By this time no one except the emperor was expected to
address official letters referring to the general political
situation to the consuls or the senate. Valens' action was
therefore presumptuous (cp. iv. 4).

[340] The meaning seems to be that Caecina indulged the men in
order to win popularity, Valens in order to obtain licence for
his own dishonesty.

[341] He had depleted them by sending detachments forward with
Valens and Caecina (see i. 61).

[342] One of the vilest and most hated of imperial menials
(see chap. 95, and iv. 11). The gold ring was a token of
equestrian rank (cp. i. 13).

[343] Caesariensis (Fez) and Tingitana (Morocco). They had
been imperial provinces since A.D. 40.

[344] See i. 8.

[345] Gemina.

[346] The military titles here used have a technical meaning
which translation cannot convey. A senior centurion (cp. note
57) could rise to the command of an auxiliary cohort, like the
Festus and Scipio here mentioned (_praefecti cohortium_). The
next step would be to _tribunus legionis_, and from that again
to _praefectus alae_. This was Pollio's position, the highest
open to any but soldiers of senatorial rank.

[347] Saône.

[348] He was so poor, says Suetonius, that he had no money to
take him out to Germany, when appointed to that province. He
had to let his house and hire a garret for his wife and
family, and to pawn one of his mother's pearl ear-rings.

[349] Aged 6.

[350] Cp. i. 62.

[351] He was executed by Mucianus (iv. 80).

[352] He postponed the hearing of their case, and thus, as
accused persons, they had by custom to wear mourning.

[353] Cp. i. 77.

[354] Cp. i. 90. As Trachalus' gentile name was Galerius, she
was presumably a relative.

[355] Between the Loire and the Allier.

[356] Mariccus being a provincial 'of no family', Tacitus
hardly likes to mention him.

[357] The word _trahebat_ may here mean 'began to plunder',
but this seems less likely.

[358] This punishment seems to have been reserved,
appropriately enough, for those who stirred up popular
sedition.

[359] From Vitellius' point of view the Othonians were rebels,
since he had been declared emperor before Otho: or else as
rebels against Galba.

[360] Cp. i. 22.

[361] i.e. as gladiators. Juvenal says this is what the
spendthrifts come to: and also that they would do it for
money, without any Nero to compel them. On the whole the
bankrupt rich preferred 'knock-about comedy' to the very real
dangers of a combat.

[362] i. 88.

[363] Cp. i. 80.

[364] Terni.

[365] Cp. i. 62.

[366] See chap. 58.

[367] i.e. the property, not of Vitellius personally, but of
the imperial household.

[368] He would entertain some natural doubt as to who _was_
emperor. The incriminating suggestion is that he meant to
insert his own name.

[369] In the _Annals_ Tacitus mentions Tiberius' habit of
appointing provincial governors without any intention of
allowing them to leave Rome. See _Ann._ i. 80, vi. 27.

[370] See i. 60.

[371] See chap. 43.

[372] See i. 59, 64, ii. 27.

[373] _Augusta Taurinorum_.

[374] Little St. Bernard.

[375] See i. 65. The legions there might make common cause
with them.

[376] They had suffered once already (see i. 65, 66).

[377] This meant about £200 to every man who had done sixteen
years' service.

[378] i.e. the Eleventh to Dalmatia, the Seventh to Pannonia.

[379] Literally, enjoy dinner-parties beginning at an early
hour, i.e. before two o'clock. This was considered 'fast'.

[380] The word here used by Tacitus, _pervigilia_, properly
denotes all-night religious festivals. But - like Irish
wakes - such festivals tended to deteriorate, and the word
acquired a sinister sense.

[381] See i. 6 and 8.

[382] Because they had seized one of Verginius' slaves, as
described in the last chapter.

[383] The revolt of Civilis described in Book IV. His force
included Roman legionaries as well as Batavians, Gauls, and
Germans.

[384] The word 'rex' had still an 'unroman' sound.

[385] Cremona was sacked and burnt in the following October
(cp. iii. 32 f.).

[386] Literally, the tribunes of the legions and the prefects
of the auxiliaries.

[387] A friend told Plutarch that he had seen on this
battle-field a pile of corpses so high that they reached the
pediment of an ancient temple which stood there.

[388] Suetonius attributes to him the remark, 'A dead enemy
smells good, a dead Roman better.'

[389] Their names are given i. 77.

[390] Dio tells us that he and his father were murdered by
Nero's slave Helios. He was probably related to M. Licinius
Crassus Frugi, who was convicted of treason against Nero (see
note 79), and to Piso, Galba's adopted successor.


THE REVOLT OF VESPASIAN

When once his couriers brought news from Syria and Judaea that the 73
East had sworn allegiance to him, Vitellius' vanity and indolence
reached a pitch which is almost incredible. For already, though the
rumours were still vague and unreliable, Vespasian's name was in
everybody's mouth, and the mention of him often roused Vitellius to
alarm. Still, he and his army seemed to reck of no rival: they at once
broke out into the unbridled cruelty, debauchery and oppression of
some outlandish court.

Vespasian, on the other hand, was meditating war and reckoning all 74
his forces both distant and near at hand. He had so much attached his
troops to himself, that when he dictated to them the oath of
allegiance and prayed that 'all might be well' with Vitellius, they
listened in silence. Mucianus' feelings were not hostile to him, and
were strongly sympathetic to Titus. Tiberius Alexander,[392] the
Governor of Egypt, had made common cause with him. The Third
legion,[393] since it had crossed from Syria into Moesia, he could
reckon as his own, and there was good hope that the other legions of
Illyria would follow its lead.[394] The whole army, indeed, was
incensed at the arrogance of Vitellius' soldiers: truculent in
appearance and rough of tongue, they scoffed at all the other troops
as their inferiors. But a war of such magnitude demands delay. High as
were his hopes, Vespasian often calculated his risks. He realized that
it would be a critical day for him when he committed his sixty summers
and his two young sons to the chances of war. In his private ambitions
a man may feel his way and take less or more from fortune's hands
according as he feels inclined, but when one covets a throne there is
no alternative between the zenith of success and headlong ruin.
Moreover, he always kept in view the strength of the German army, 75
which, as a soldier, he realized. His own legions, he knew, had no
experience of civil war, while Vitellius' troops were fresh from
victory: and the defeated party were richer in grievances than in
troops. Civil strife had undermined the loyalty of the troops: there
was danger in each single man. What would be the good of all his horse
and foot, if one or two traitors should seek the reward the enemy
offered and assassinate him then and there? It was thus that
Scribonianus[395] had been killed in Claudius' reign, and his
murderer, Volaginius, raised from a common soldier to the highest
rank. It is easier to move men in the mass than to take precautions
against them singly.

These anxieties made Vespasian hesitate. Meanwhile the other 76
generals and his friends continued to encourage him. At last Mucianus
after several private interviews went so far as to address him in
public. 'Everybody,' he said, 'who plans some great exploit is bound
to consider whether his enterprise serves both the public interest and
his own reputation, and whether it is easily practicable or, at any
rate, not impossible. He must also weigh the advice which he gets. Are
those who offer it ready to run the risk themselves? And, if fortune
favours, who gains the glory? I myself, Vespasian, call you to the
throne. How much that may benefit the country and make you famous it
lies with you - under Providence - to decide. You need not be afraid
that I may seem to flatter you. It is more of an insult than a
compliment to be chosen to succeed Vitellius. It is not against the
powerful intellect of the sainted Augustus that we are in revolt; not
against the cautious prudence of the old Tiberius; nor even against a
long-established imperial family like that of Caligula, Claudius or
Nero. You even gave way to Galba's ancient lineage. To remain inactive
any longer, to leave your country to ruin and disgrace, that would be
sheer sloth and cowardice, even if such slavery were as safe for you
as it would be dishonourable. The time is long past when you could be
merely _suspected_ of ambition: the throne is now your only refuge.
Have you forgotten Corbulo's murder?[396] He was a man of better
family than we, I admit, but so was Nero more nobly born than
Vitellius. A man who is feared always seems illustrious enough to
those who fear him. That an army can make an emperor Vitellius himself
has proved. He had neither experience nor military reputation, but
merely rose on Galba's unpopularity. Even Otho fell not by the
strategy or strength of his opponent, but by his own precipitate
despair. And to-day he seems a great and desirable emperor, when
Vitellius is disbanding his legions, disarming his Guards, and daily
sowing fresh seeds of civil war. Why, any spirit or enthusiasm which
his army had is being dissipated in drunken debauches: for they
imitate their master. But you, in Judaea, in Syria, in Egypt, you have
nine fresh legions. War has not weakened nor mutiny demoralized them.
The men are trained to discipline and have already won a foreign
war.[397] Besides these, you can rely on the strength of your
fleet,[398] and of your auxiliaries both horse and foot, on the
faithful allegiance of foreign princes,[399] and on your own
unparalleled experience.

'For ourselves I make but one claim. Let us not rank below Valens 77
and Caecina. Nor must you despise my help because you do not encounter
my rivalry. I prefer myself to Vitellius and you to myself. Your house
has received the insignia of a triumph.[400] You have two young sons,
one of whom is already old enough to fill the throne, and in his first
years of service made a name for himself in the German army.[401] It
would be absurd for me not to give way to one whose son I should
adopt, were I emperor myself. Apart from this, we shall stand on a
different footing in success and in failure, for if we succeed I shall
have such honour as you grant me: of the risk and the dangers we shall
share the burden equally. Or rather, do what is better still. Dispose
your armies yourself and leave me the conduct of the war, and the
uncertainties of battle.

'At this moment the defeated are far more strictly disciplined than
their conquerors. Indignation, hatred, the passion for revenge, all
serve to steel our courage. Theirs is dulled by pride and mutiny. The
course of the war will soon bring to light the hidden weakness of
their party, and reopen all its festering sores. I rely on your
vigilance, your economy, your wisdom, and still more on the indolence,
ignorance, and cruelty of Vitellius. Above all, our cause is far safer
in war than in peace, for those who plan rebellion have rebelled
already.'

At the end of Mucianus' speech the others all pressed round with 78
new confidence, offering their encouragement and quoting the answers
of soothsayers and the movements of the stars. Nor was Vespasian
uninfluenced by superstition. In later days, when he was master of
the world, he made no secret of keeping a soothsayer called Seleucus
to help him by his advice and prophecy. Early omens began to recur to
his memory. A tall and conspicuous cypress on his estate had once
suddenly collapsed: on the next day it had risen again on the same
spot to grow taller and broader than ever. The soothsayers had agreed
that this was an omen of great success, and augured the height of fame
for the still youthful Vespasian. At first his triumphal honours, his
consulship, and the name he won by his Jewish victory seemed to have
fulfilled the promise of this omen. But having achieved all this, he
began to believe that it portended his rise to the throne.

On the frontier of Judaea and Syria[402] lies a hill called Carmel. A
god of the same name is there worshipped according to ancient ritual.
There is no image or temple: only an altar where they reverently
worship. Once when Vespasian was sacrificing on this altar, brooding
on his secret ambition, the priest, Basilides, after a minute
inspection of the omens said to him: 'Whatever it is which you have in
mind, Vespasian, whether it is to build a house or to enlarge your
estate, or to increase the number of your slaves, there is granted to
you a great habitation, vast acres, and a multitude of men.' Rumour
had immediately seized on this riddle and now began to solve it.
Nothing was more talked of, especially in Vespasian's presence: such
conversation is the food of hope.

Having come to a definite decision they departed, Mucianus to Antioch,
Vespasian to Caesarea. The former is the capital of Syria, the latter
of Judaea.[403]

The first offer of the throne to Vespasian was made at Alexandria, 79
where Tiberius Alexander with great promptitude administered the oath
of allegiance to his troops on the first of July. This was usually
celebrated as his day of accession, although it was not until the
third that the Jewish army took the oath in his presence. So eager was
their enthusiasm that they would not even wait for the arrival of
Titus, who was on his way back from Syria, where he had been
conducting the negotiations between his father and Mucianus.

What happened was all due to the impulse of the soldiers: there was no
set speech, no formal assembly of the troops. They were still 80
discussing the time and the place, and trying to decide the hardest
point of all, who should speak first, and while their minds were still
busy with hopes and fears, reasons and chances, Vespasian happened to
come out of his quarters. A few of the soldiers, forming up in the
usual way to salute their general, saluted him as emperor. The others
promptly rushed up calling him Caesar and Augustus, and heaping on him
all the imperial titles. Their fears at once gave way to confidence.
Vespasian himself, unchanged by the change of fortune, showed no sign
of vanity or arrogance. As soon as he had recovered from the dazzling
shock of his sudden elevation, he addressed them in simple soldier
fashion, and received a shower of congratulations from every quarter.
Mucianus, who had been waiting for this, administered the oath of
allegiance to his eager troops, and then entered the theatre at
Antioch, where the Greeks ordinarily hold their debates. There, as the
fawning crowd came flocking in, he addressed them in their own tongue.
For he could speak elegant Greek, and had the art of making the most
of all he said or did. What most served to inflame the excitement of
the province and of the army, was his statement that Vitellius had
determined to transfer the German legions to peaceful service in the
rich province of Syria, and to send the Syrian legions to endure the
toil and rigours of a winter in Germany. The provincials were
accustomed to the soldiers' company and liked to have them quartered
there, and many were bound to them by ties of intimacy and kinship,
while the soldiers in their long term of service had come to know and
love their old camp like a home.

Before the 15th of July the whole of Syria had sworn allegiance. 81
The party also gained the support of Sohaemus,[404] with all the
resources of his kingdom and a considerable force, and of
Antiochus,[404] the richest of the subject princes, who owed his
importance to his ancestral treasures. Before long Agrippa, too,
received a secret summons from his friends at home, and leaving
Rome[405] without the knowledge of Vitellius, sailed as fast as he
could to join Vespasian. His sister Berenice[406] showed equal
enthusiasm for the cause. She was then in the flower of her youth and
beauty, and her munificent gifts to Vespasian quite won the old man's
heart. Indeed, every province on the seaboard as far as Asia and
Achaia, and inland to Pontus and Armenia swore allegiance to
Vespasian, but their governors were without troops, for as yet no
legions had been assigned to Cappadocia.[407]

A meeting was held at Berytus[408] to discuss the general situation.
To this came Mucianus with all his officers and the most distinguished
of his centurions and soldiers, besides the elite of the Jewish army
in full uniform. All these cavalry and infantry, and the pageant of
the subject princes, vying with each other in splendour, gave the
meeting an air of imperial grandeur.

The first step was to levy new troops and to recall the veterans 82
to the standards. Some of the strongest towns were told off to
manufacture arms. New gold and silver were coined at Antioch. All
these works were promptly carried out, each in the proper place, by
competent officials. Vespasian came and inspected them himself,
encouraging good work by his praises and rousing the inefficient
rather by example than compulsion, always more ready to see the merits
than the faults of his friends. Many were rewarded by receiving
commands in the auxiliary forces or posts as imperial agents.[409]
Still more were raised to senatorial rank. They were mostly men of
distinction who soon rose high, and with others success atoned for any
lack of merit. A donation for the troops had been mentioned by
Mucianus in his first speech, but in very guarded terms. Even
Vespasian offered for the civil war a lower figure than others gave in
time of peace, for he had set his face with admirable firmness against
largess to the soldiers, and his army was none the worse for it.
Envoys were dispatched to Parthia and Armenia to secure that the
legions, while engaged in the civil war, should not be exposed to
attack in the rear.[410] It was arranged that Titus should carry on
the war in Judaea, while Vespasian held the keys of Egypt.[411]
Against Vitellius it seemed sufficient to send a part of their forces
under the command of Mucianus. He would have Vespasian's name behind
him and the irresistible force of destiny. Letters were written to
all the armies and their generals with instructions that they should
try to win over those of the Guards who were hostile to Vitellius by
promising them renewal of service.

Meanwhile, Mucianus, who acted the part more of a partner than a 83
subordinate, moved forward without the encumbrance of baggage, neither
marching so slowly as to look like holding back, nor so rapidly as not
to allow time for rumours to spread. He realized that his force was
small, and that the less people saw the more they would believe of it.
However, he had a solid column following in support, composed of the
Sixth legion and some picked detachments numbering 13,000 men.[412] He
had ordered the fleet to move from Pontus to Byzantium, for he was
half-minded to leave Moesia and with his whole force to hold
Dyrrachium, at the same time using his fleet to dominate the Italian
sea. He would thus secure Greece and Asia in his rear, which would
otherwise be at the mercy of Vitellius, unless furnished with troops.
Vitellius also would himself be in doubt what points of the Italian
coast to defend, if Mucianus with his ships threatened both Brundisium
and Tarentum and the whole coastline of Calabria and Lucania.

Thus the provinces rang from end to end with the preparations for 84
ships, soldiers and arms. But the heaviest burden was the raising of
money. 'Funds,' said Mucianus, 'are the sinews of war,'[413] and in
his investigations he cared for neither justice nor equity, but solely
for the amount of the sum. Informers abounded, and pounced on every
rich man as their prey. This intolerable oppression, excused by the
necessities of war, was allowed to continue even in peace. It was not
so much that Vespasian at the beginning of his reign had made up his
mind to maintain unjust decisions, but fortune spoilt him; he had
learnt in a bad school and made a bold use of his lessons. Mucianus
also contributed from his private means, of which he was generous, as
he hoped to get a high rate of interest out of the country. Others
followed his example, but very few had his opportunity of recovering
their money.

In the meantime Vespasian's progress was accelerated by the 85
enthusiasm with which the Illyrian army[414] espoused his cause. The
Third set the example to the other legions of Moesia, the Eighth and
the Seventh Claudian, both strongly attached to Otho, although they
had not been present at the battle. On their arrival at Aquileia[415]
they had mobbed the couriers who brought the news of Otho's fall, and
torn to pieces the standards bearing Vitellius' name, finally looting
the camp-chest and dividing the money among themselves. These were
hostile acts. Alarmed at what they had done they began to reflect
that, while their conduct needed excuse before Vitellius, they could
make a merit of it with Vespasian. Accordingly, the three Moesian
legions addressed letters to the Pannonian army,[416] inviting their
co-operation, and meanwhile prepared to meet refusal with force.

Aponius Saturninus, the Governor of Moesia, took this opportunity to
attempt an abominable crime. He sent a centurion to murder Tettius
Julianus,[417] who commanded the Seventh legion, alleging the
interests of his party as a cloak for a personal quarrel. Julianus
heard of his danger and, taking some guides who knew the country,
escaped into the wilds of Moesia and got as far as Mount Haemus.[418]
After that he meddled no more in civil war. Starting to join
Vespasian, he prolonged his journey by various expedients, retarding
or hastening his pace according to the nature of the news he received.

In Pannonia the Thirteenth legion and the Seventh Galbian had not 86
forgotten their feelings after the battle of Bedriacum. They lost no
time in joining Vespasian's cause, being chiefly instigated by



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