Caius Cornelius Tacitus.

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dishonest way in which Fonteius Capito had issued promotions and
reductions. The soldiers did not judge Vitellius' actions as those of
a mere ex-consul: they took him for something more, and, while serious
critics found him undignified,[95] his supporters spoke of his
affability and beneficence, because he showed neither moderation nor
judgement in making presents out of his own money and squandering
other people's. Besides, they were so greedy for power that they took
even his vices for virtues. In both armies there were plenty of quiet,
law-abiding men as well as many who were unprincipled and disorderly.
But for sheer reckless cupidity none could match two of the legionary
legates, Alienus Caecina and Fabius Valens.[96] Valens was hostile to
Galba, because, after unmasking Verginius's hesitation[97] and
thwarting Capito's designs, he considered that he had been treated
with ingratitude: so he incited Vitellius by pointing out to him the
enthusiasm of the troops. 'You,' he would say to him, 'are famous
everywhere, and you need find no obstacle in Hordeonius Flaccus.[98]
Britain will join and the German auxiliaries will flock to your
standard. Galba cannot trust the provinces; the poor old man holds the
empire on sufferance; the transfer can be soon effected, if only you
will clap on full sail and meet your good fortune half-way. Verginius
was quite right to hesitate. He came of a family of knights, and his
father was a nobody. He would have failed, had he accepted the empire:
his refusal saved him. Your father was thrice consul, and he was
censor with an emperor for his colleague.[99] That gives you imperial
dignity to start with, and makes it unsafe for you to remain a private

These promptings stirred Vitellius' sluggish nature to form desires,
but hardly hopes.

Caecina, on the other hand, in Upper Germany, was a handsome 53
youth, whose big build, imperious spirit, clever tongue, and upright
carriage had completely won the hearts of the soldiers. While quaestor
in Baetica[100] he had promptly joined Galba's party, and in spite of
his youth had been given command of a legion. Later he was convicted
of misappropriating public funds, and, on Galba's orders, prosecuted
for peculation. Highly indignant, Caecina determined to embroil the
world and bury his own disgrace in the ruins of his country. Nor were
the seeds of dissension lacking in the army. The entire force had
taken part in the war against Vindex, nor was it until after Nero's
death that they joined Galba's side, and even then they had been
forestalled in swearing allegiance by the detachments of Lower
Germany. Then again the Treviri and Lingones[101] and the other
communities which Galba had punished by issuing harsh edicts and
confiscating part of their territory, were in close communication with
the winter quarters of the legions. They began to talk treason: the
soldiers degenerated in civilian society: it only wanted some one to
avail himself of the offer they had made to Verginius.

Following an ancient custom, the tribe of the Lingones had made a 54
present of a pair of silver hands[102] to the legions as a symbol of
hospitality. Assuming an appearance of squalid misery, their envoys
made the round of the officers' quarters and the soldiers' tents
complaining of their own wrongs and of the rewards lavished on
neighbouring tribes. Finding the soldiers ready to listen, they made
inflammatory allusions to the army itself, its dangers and
humiliation. Mutiny was almost ripe, when Hordeonius Flaccus ordered
the envoys to withdraw, and, in order to secure the secrecy of their
departure, gave instructions to them to leave the camp by night. This
gave rise to an alarming rumour. Many declared that the envoys had
been killed, and that, if they did not look out for themselves, the
leading spirits among the soldiers, who had complained of the present
state of things, would be murdered in the dark, while their comrades
knew nothing about it. So the legions formed a secret compact. The
auxiliaries were also taken into the plot, although at first they had
been distrusted, because their infantry and cavalry had been posted in
camp all round the legion's quarters as though an attack on them were
meditated. However, they soon showed themselves the keener
conspirators. Disloyalty is a better bond for war than it ever proves
in peace.

In Lower Germany, however, the legions on the first of January 55
swore the usual oath of allegiance to Galba, though with much
hesitation. Few voices were heard even in the front ranks; the rest
were silent, each waiting for his neighbour to take some bold step.
Human nature is always ready to follow where it hates to lead.
However, the feelings of the legions varied. The First and Fifth[103]
were already mutinous enough to throw a few stones at Galba's statue.
The Fifteenth and Sixteenth[104] dared not venture beyond muttered
threats, but they were watching to see the outbreak begin. In Upper
Germany, on the other hand, on the very same day, the Fourth and the
Twenty-second legions, who were quartered together,[105] smashed their
statues of Galba to atoms. The Fourth took the lead, the
Twenty-second at first holding back, but eventually making common
cause with them. They did not want it to be thought that they were
shaking off their allegiance to the empire, so in taking the oath they
invoked the long obsolete names of the Senate and People of Rome. None
of the officers made any movement for Galba, and indeed some of them,
as happens in such outbreaks, headed the rebellion. However, nobody
made any kind of set speech or mounted the platform, for there was no
one as yet with whom to curry favour.

The ex-consul Hordeonius Flaccus stood by and watched their 56
treachery. He had not the courage to check the storm or even to rally
the waverers and encourage the faithful. Sluggish and cowardly, it was
mere indolence that kept him loyal. Four centurions of the
Twenty-second legion, Nonius Receptus, Donatius Valens, Romilius
Marcellus, and Calpurnius Repentinus, who tried to protect Galba's
statues, were swept away by the rush of the soldiers and put under
arrest. No one retained any respect for their former oath of
allegiance, or even remembered it; and, as happens in mutinies, they
were all on the side of the majority.

On the night of the first of January a standard-bearer of the Fourth
legion came to Cologne,[106] and brought the news to Vitellius at his
dinner that the Fourth and Twenty-second legions had broken down
Galba's statues and sworn allegiance to the Senate and People of Rome.
As this oath was meaningless, it seemed best to seize the critical
moment and offer them an emperor. Vitellius dispatched messengers to
inform his own troops and generals that the army of the Upper Province
had revolted from Galba; so they must either make war on the rebels
immediately, or, if they preferred peace and unity, make an emperor
for themselves; and there was less danger, he reminded them, in
choosing an emperor than in looking for one.

The quarters of the First legion were nearest at hand, and Fabius 57
Valens was the most enterprising of the generals. On the following day
he entered Cologne with the cavalry of his legion and auxiliaries, and
saluted Vitellius as emperor. The other legions of the province
followed suit, vying with each other in enthusiasm; and the army of
the Upper Province, dropping the fine-sounding titles of the Senate
and People of Rome, joined Vitellius on the third of January, which
clearly showed that on the two previous days they were not really at
the disposal of a republican government. The inhabitants of Cologne
and the Treviri and Lingones, rivalling the zeal of the troops, made
offers of assistance, or of horses or arms or money, each according to
the measure of their strength, wealth, or enterprise. And these
offers came not only from the civil and military authorities, men who
had plenty of money to spare and much to hope from victory, but whole
companies or individual soldiers handed over their savings, or,
instead of money, their belts, or the silver ornaments[107] on their
uniforms, some carried away by a wave of enthusiasm, some acting from
motives of self-interest.

Vitellius accordingly commended the zeal of the troops. He 58
distributed among Roman knights the court-offices which had been
usually held by freedmen,[108] paid the centurions their furlough-fees
out of the imperial purse,[109] and for the most part conceded the
soldiers' savage demands for one execution after another, though he
occasionally cheated them by pretending to imprison their victims.
Thus Pompeius Propinquus,[110] the imperial agent in Belgica, was
promptly executed, while Julius Burdo, who commanded the fleet on the
Rhine, was adroitly rescued. The indignation of the army had broken
out against him, because he was supposed to have intrigued against
Fonteius Capito, and to have accused him falsely.[111] Capito's memory
was dear to the army, and when violence reigns murder may show its
face, but pardon must be stealthy. So Burdo was kept in confinement
and only released after victory had allayed the soldiers' rancour.
Meanwhile a centurion, named Crispinus, was offered as a scape-goat.
He had actually stained his hands with Capito's blood, so his guilt
seemed more obvious to those who clamoured for his punishment, and
Vitellius felt he was a cheaper sacrifice.

Julius Civilis[112] was the next to be rescued from danger. He was 59
all-powerful among the Batavi,[113] and Vitellius did not want to
alienate so spirited a people by punishing him. Besides, eight cohorts
of Batavian troops were stationed among the Lingones. They had been an
auxiliary force attached to the Fourteenth, and in the general
disturbance had deserted the legion. Their decision for one side or
the other would be of the first importance. Nonius, Donatius,
Romilius, and Calpurnius, the centurions mentioned above,[114] were
executed by order of Vitellius. They had been convicted of loyalty, a
heinous offence among deserters. His party soon gained the accession
of Valerius Asiaticus, governor of Belgica, who subsequently married
Vitellius' daughter, and of Junius Blaesus,[115] governor of the Lyons
division of Gaul, who brought with him the Italian legion[116] and a
regiment of cavalry known as 'Taurus' Horse',[117] which had been
quartered at Lugdunum. The forces in Raetia lost no time in joining
his standard, and even the troops in Britain showed no hesitation.
Trebellius Maximus, the governor of Britain, had earned by his 60
meanness and cupidity the contempt and hatred of the army,[118] which
was further inflamed by the action of his old enemy Roscius Coelius,
who commanded the Twentieth legion, and they now seized the
opportunity of the civil war to break out into a fierce quarrel.
Trebellius blamed Coelius for the mutinous temper and insubordination
of the army: Coelius complained that Trebellius had robbed his men and
impaired their efficiency. Meanwhile their unseemly quarrel ruined the
discipline of the forces, whose insubordination soon came to a head.
The auxiliary horse and foot joined in the attacks on the governor,
and rallied round Coelius. Trebellius, thus hunted out and abandoned,
took refuge with Vitellius. The province remained quiet, despite the
removal of the ex-consul. The government was carried on by the
commanding officers of the legions, who were equal in authority,
though Coelius' audacity gave him an advantage over the rest.

Thus reinforced by the army from Britain,[119] Vitellius, who now 61
had an immense force and vast resources at his disposal, decided on an
invasion by two routes under two separate generals. Fabius Valens was
to lure the Gauls to his standard, or, if they refused, to devastate
their country, and then invade Italy by way of the Cottian Alps.[120]
Caecina was to follow the shorter route and descend into Italy over
the Pennine Pass.[121] Valens' column comprised the Fifth legion with
its 'eagle',[122] and some picked detachments from the army of Lower
Germany, together with auxiliary horse and foot, amounting in all to
40,000 men. Caecina's troops from Upper Germany numbered 30,000, their
main strength consisting in the Twenty-first legion.[123] Both columns
were reinforced by German auxiliaries, whom Vitellius also recruited
to fill up his own army, intending to follow with the main force of
the attack.

Strange was the contrast between Vitellius and his army. The 62
soldiers were all eagerness, clamouring for battle at once, while Gaul
was still frightened and Spain still undecided. Winter was no obstacle
to them; peace and delay were for cowards: they must invade Italy and
seize Rome: haste was the safest course in civil war, where action is
better than deliberation. Vitellius was dully apathetic, anticipating
his high station by indulging in idle luxury and lavish
entertainments. At midday he would be drunk and drowsy with
over-eating. However, such was the zeal of the soldiers that they even
did the general's duties, and behaved exactly as if he had been
present to encourage the alert and threaten the laggards. They
promptly fell in and began to clamour for the signal to start. The
title of Germanicus was then and there conferred on Vitellius: Caesar
he would never be called, even after his victory.


[86] Cp. chap. 14.

[87] At Pharsalia Caesar defeated Pompey, 48 B.C.; at Mutina
the consul Hirtius defeated Antony, 43 B.C.; at Philippi
Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, 42 B.C.; at Perusia
Octavian defeated Antony's brother Lucius, 40 B.C.

[88] See note 15.

[89] Between the provinces of Upper and Lower Germany.

[90] In the Gallic tongue this signified 'pot-belly'.

[91] The Sequani had their capital at Vesontio (Besançon), the
Aedui at Augustodunum (Autun).

[92] Cp. chap. 8. The land was that taken from the Treviri
(chap. 53).

[93] Lyons.

[94] A.D. 68.

[95] According to Suetonius he used to kiss the soldiers he
met in the road; make friends with ostlers and travellers at
wayside inns; and go about in the morning asking everybody
'Have you had breakfast yet?' demonstrating by his hiccoughs
that he had done so himself.

[96] Cp. chap. 7. Caecina was in Upper Germany, Valens in Lower.

[97] Cp. chap. 8.

[98] He commanded the army of the Upper Province (chap. 9).

[99] He was Claudius' colleague twice in the consulship, and
once in the censorship.

[100] Andalusia and Granada.

[101] The Treviri have given their name to Trier (Trèves), the
Lingones to Langres.

[102] i.e. two right hands locked in friendship.

[103] At Bonn and at Vetera.

[104] At Vetera and at Neuss.

[105] At Mainz.

[106] The Ubii had been allowed by Agrippa to move their chief
town from the right to the left bank of the Rhine. Ten or
twelve years later (A.D. 50) a colony of Roman veterans was
planted there and called _Colonia Claudia Augusta
Agrippinensium_, because Agrippina, the mother of Nero, had
been born there.

[107] These were thin bosses of silver, gold, or bronze,
chased in relief, and worn as medals are.

[108] This important innovation was established as the rule by
Hadrian. These officials - nominally the private servants of
the emperor, and hitherto imperial freedmen - formed an
important branch of the civil service. (Cp. note 165.)

[109] Cp. chap. 46.

[110] Cp. chap. 12.

[111] Cp. chap. 7.

[112] The leader of the great revolt on the Rhine, described
in Book IV.

[113] The ancestors of the Dutch who lived on the island
formed by the Lek and the Waal between Arnhem and Rotterdam;
its eastern part is still called Betuwe.

[114] Chap. 56.

[115] His supposed murder by Vitellius is described, iii. 38, 39.

[116] Legio Prima Italica, formed by Nero.

[117] Called after Statilius Taurus, who first enlisted it. He
was Pro-consul of Africa under Nero. Cp. note 146.

[118] Their mutiny in A.D. 69 is described by Tacitus, _Agr._ 16.

[119] i.e. by detachments from it.

[120] Mt. Cenis.

[121] Great St. Bernard.

[122] i.e. he had the main body of the Legion V, known as 'The
Larks', and only detachments from the other legions.

[123] Known as 'Rapax', and stationed at Windisch
(Vindonissa), east of the point where the Rhine turns to flow


On the very day of departure a happy omen greeted Fabius Valens and
the army under his command. As the column advanced, an eagle flew
steadily ahead and seemed to lead the way. Loudly though the soldiers
cheered, hour after hour the bird flew undismayed, and was taken for a
sure omen of success.

They passed peaceably through the country of the Treviri, who were 63
allies. At Divodurum,[124] the chief town of the Mediomatrici,
although they were welcomed with all courtesy, the troops fell into a
sudden panic. Hastily seizing their arms, they began to massacre the
innocent citizens. Their object was not plunder. They were seized by a
mad frenzy, which was the harder to allay as its cause was a mystery.
Eventually the general's entreaties prevailed, and they refrained from
destroying the town. However, nearly 4,000 men had already been
killed. This spread such alarm throughout Gaul, that, as the army
approached, whole towns flocked out with their magistrates at their
head and prayers for mercy in their mouths. Women and boys prostrated
themselves along the roads, and they resorted to every possible means
by which an enemy's anger may be appeased,[125] petitioning for peace,
though war there was none.

It was in the country of the Leuci[126] that Valens heard the news 64
of Galba's murder and Otho's elevation. The soldiers showed no
emotion, neither joy nor fear: their thoughts were all for war. The
Gauls' doubts were now decided. They hated Otho and Vitellius equally,
but Vitellius they also feared. They next reached the Lingones,
faithful adherents of their party. There the courtesy of the citizens
was only equalled by the good behaviour of the troops. But this did
not last for long, thanks to the disorderly conduct of the Batavian
auxiliaries, who, as narrated above,[127] had detached themselves from
the Fourteenth legion and been drafted into Valens' column. A quarrel
between some Batavians and legionaries led to blows: the other
soldiers quickly took sides, and a fierce battle would have ensued,
had not Valens punished a few of the Batavians to remind them of the
discipline they seemed to have forgotten.

Coming to the Aedui,[128] they in vain sought an excuse for fighting.
For when the natives were ordered to contribute money and arms, they
brought a gratuitous present of provisions as well. Lugdunum did
gladly what the Aedui had done from fear. But the town was deprived of
the Italian legion and Taurus' Horse.[129] Valens decided to leave the
Eighteenth cohort[130] there in its old winter quarters as a garrison.
Manlius Valens, who was in command of the Italian legion, never
received any distinction from Vitellius, although he deserved well of
the party, the reason being that Fabius slandered him behind his back,
while to avert his suspicions he praised him to his face.

The recent war[131] had served to inflame the long-standing 65
quarrel between Lugdunum and Vienne.[132] Much damage was done on both
sides, and the frequency and animosity of their conflicts proved that
they were not merely fighting for Nero and Galba. Galba had made his
displeasure an excuse for confiscating to the Treasury the revenues of
Lugdunum, while on Vienne he had conferred various distinctions. The
result was a bitter rivalry between the towns, and the Rhone between
them only formed a bond of hatred. Consequently the inhabitants of
Lugdunum began to work on the feelings of individual Roman soldiers,
and to urge them to crush Vienne. They reminded them how the Viennese
had laid siege to Lugdunum, a Roman colony, had assisted the efforts
of Vindex, and had lately raised troops to defend Galba. Having
supplied a pretext for bad feeling, they went on to point out the rich
opportunity for plunder. Not content with private persuasion, they
presented a formal petition that the army would march to avenge them,
and destroy the head-quarters of the Gallic war. Vienne, they urged,
was thoroughly un-Roman and hostile, while Lugdunum was a Roman
colony,[133] contributing men to the army and sharing in its victories
and reverses. They besought them in the event of adverse fortune not
to leave their city to the fury of its enemies.

By these arguments and others of the same nature they brought 66
matters to such a pass, that even the generals and party leaders
despaired of cooling the army's indignation. However, the Viennese
realized their danger. Arrayed in veils and fillets,[134] they met the
approaching column and, seizing their hands and knees and the soles of
their feet in supplication, succeeded in appeasing the troops. Valens
made each of the soldiers a present of three hundred sesterces.[135]
They were thus persuaded to respect the antiquity and high standing of
the colony, and to listen with patience to their general's speech, in
which he commended to them the lives and property of the Viennese.
However, the town was disarmed, and private individuals had to assist
the army with various kinds of provisions. There was, however, a
persistent rumour that Valens himself had been bought with a heavy
bribe. He had long been in mean circumstances and ill concealed his
sudden accession of wealth. Prolonged poverty had whetted his
inordinate desires, and the needy youth grew into an extravagant old

He next led the army by slow stages through the country of the
Allobroges and Vocontii,[136] bribes to the general determining the
length of each day's march and the choice of a camp. For Valens struck
disgraceful bargains with the landowners and municipal authorities,
often applying violent threats, as, for instance, at Lucus,[137] a
township of the Vocontii, which he threatened to burn, until he was
appeased with money. Where it was impossible to get money, he was
mollified by appeals to his lust. And so it went on until the Alps
were reached.


[124] Metz.

[125] They would wear veils and fillets, as suppliants. Cp.
chap. 66 and iii. 31.

[126] Living round Toul between the Marne and the Moselle.

[127] Chap. 59.

[128] Cp. chap. 51.

[129] Cp. chap. 59.

[130] This was probably one of the _cohortes civium
Romanorum_, volunteer corps raised in Italy on lighter terms
of service than prevailed in the legions.

[131] With Vindex.

[132] The chief town of the Allobroges, and the capital of
Narbonese Gaul.

[133] So was Vienne; but the status had been conferred on the
Gauls of this town as lately as Caligula's reign, whereas
Lugdunum had been colonized in B.C. 43 by Roman citizens
expelled from Vienne.

[134] Cf. iii. 31.

[135] Nearly fifty shillings.

[136] Part of Dauphiné and Provence, with a capital town at

[137] Luc-en-Diois.


There was even more looting and bloodshed on Caecina's march. The 67
Helvetii, a Gallic tribe[138] once famous as fighting men and still
distinguished by the memory of their past, having heard nothing of
Galba's murder, refused to acknowledge the authority of Vitellius.
This exasperated Caecina's headstrong nature. Hostilities broke out
owing to the greed and impatience of the Twenty-first legion, who had
seized a sum of money which was being sent to pay the garrison of a
fort in which the Helvetii used to keep native troops at their own
expense.[139] The Helvetii, highly indignant at this, intercepted a
dispatch from the German army to the Pannonian legions, and kept a
centurion and some men in custody. Greedy for battle, Caecina hastened
to take immediate vengeance without giving them time for second
thoughts. Promptly breaking up his camp, he proceeded to harry the

Online LibraryCaius Cornelius TacitusTacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II → online text (page 5 of 29)