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By Plutarch

(legendary, died 69 A.C.E.)

Translated by John Dryden

IPHICRATES the Athenian used to say that it is best to have a mercenary
soldier fond of money and of pleasures, for thus he will fight the
more boldly, to procure the means to gratify his desires. But most
have been of opinion, that the body of an army, as well as the natural
one, when in its healthy condition, should make no efforts apart,
but in compliance with its head. Wherefore they tell us that Paulus
Aemilius, on taking command of the forces in Macedonia, and finding
them talkative and impertinently busy, as though they were all commanders,
issued out his orders that they should have only ready hands and keen
swords, and leave the rest to him. And Plato, who can discern use
of a good ruler or general if his men are not on their part obedient
and conformable (the virtue of obeying, as of ruling, being, in his
opinion, one that does not exist without first a noble nature, and
then a philosophic education, where the eager and active powers are
allayed with the gentler and humaner sentiments), may claim in confirmation
of his doctrine sundry mournful instances elsewhere, and, in particular,
the events that followed among the Romans upon the death of Nero,
in which plain proofs were given that nothing is more terrible than
a military force moving about in an empire upon uninstructed and unreasoning
impulses. Demades, after the death of Alexander, compared the Macedonian
army to the Cyclops after his eye was out, seeing their many disorderly
and unsteady motions. But the calamities of the Roman government might
be likened to the motions of the giants that assailed heaven, convulsed
as it was, and distracted, and from every side recoiling, as it were,
upon itself, not so much by the ambition of those who were proclaimed
emperors, as by the covetousness and licence of the soldiery, who
drove commander after commander out, like nails one upon another.

Dionysius, in raillery, said of the Pheraean who enjoyed the government
of Thessaly only ten months, that he had been a tragedy-king, but
the Caesars' house in Rome, the Palatium, received in a shorter space
of time no less than four emperors, passing, as it were, across the
stage, and one making room for another to enter. 

This was the only satisfaction of the distressed, that they need not
require any other justice on their oppressors, seeing them thus murder
each other, and first of all, and that most justly, the one that ensnared
them first, and taught them to expect such happy results from a change
of emperors, sullying a good word by the pay he gave for its being
done and turning revolt against Nero into nothing better than treason.

For, as already related, Nymphidius Sabinus, captain of the guards,
together with Tigellinus, after Nero's circumstances were now desperate,
and it was perceived that he designed to fly into Egypt, persuaded
the troops to declare Galba emperor, as if Nero had been already gone,
promising to all the court and praetorian soldiers, as they are called,
seven thousand five hundred drachmas apiece, and to those in service
abroad twelve hundred and fifty drachmas each; so vast a sum for a
largess as it was impossible any one could raise, but he must be infinitely
more exacting and oppressive than ever Nero was. This quickly brought
Nero to his grave, and soon after Galba too; they murdered the first
in expectation of the promised gift, and not long after the other
because they did not obtain it from him; and then, seeking about to
find some one who would purchase at such a rate, they consumed themselves
in a succession of treacheries and rebellions before they obtained
their demands. But to give a particular relation of all that passed
would require a history in full form; I have only to notice what is
properly to my purpose, namely, what the Caesars did and suffered.

Sulpicius Galba is owned by all to have been the richest private person
that ever came to the imperial seat. And besides the additional honour
of being of the Servii, he valued himself more especially for his
relationship to Catulus, the most eminent citizen of his time both
for virtue and renown, however he may have voluntarily yielded to
others as regards power and authority. Galba was also akin to Livia,
the wife of Augustus, by whose interest he was preferred to the consulship
by the emperor. It is said of him that he commanded the troops well
in Germany, and, being made proconsul in Libya, gained a reputation
that few ever had. But his quiet manner of living and his sparingness
in expenses and his disregard of appearances gave him, when he became
emperor, an ill-name for meanness, being, in fact, his worn-out credit
for regularity and moderation. He was entrusted by Nero with the government
of Spain, before Nero had yet learned to be apprehensive of men of
great repute. To the opinion, moreover, entertained of his mild natural
temper, his old age added a belief that he would never act incautiously.
There while Nero's iniquitous agents savagely and cruelly harassed
the provinces under Nero's authority, he could afford no succour,
but merely offer this only ease and consolation, that he seemed plainly
to sympathize, as a fellow-sufferer, with those who were condemned
upon suits and sold. And when lampoons were made upon Nero and circulated
and sung everywhere about, he neither prohibited them, nor showed
any indignation on behalf of the emperor's agents, and for this was
the more beloved; as also that he was now well acquainted with them,
having been in chief power there eight years at the time when Junius
Vindex, general of the forces in Gaul, began his insurrection against
Nero. And it is reported that letters came to Galba before it fully
broke out into an open rebellion, which he neither seemed to give
credit to, nor on the other hand to take means to let Nero know; as
other officers did, sending to him the letters which came to them,
and so spoiled the design, as much as in them lay, who yet afterwards
shared in the conspiracy, and confessed they had been treacherous
to themselves as well as him. At last Vindex, plainly declaring war,
wrote to Galba, encouraging him to take the government upon him, and
give a head to this strong body, the Gaulish provinces, which could
already count a hundred thousand men in arms, and were able to arm
a yet greater number if occasion were. Galba laid the matter before
his friends, some of whom thought it fit to wait, and see what movement
there might be and what inclinations displayed at Rome for the revolution.
But Titus Vinius, captain of his praetorian guard, spoke thus: "Galba,
what means this inquiry? To question whether we shall continue faithful
to Nero is, in itself, to cease to be faithful. Nero is our enemy,
and we must by no means decline the help of Vindex: or else we must
at once denounce him, and march to attack him, because he wishes you
to be the governor of the Romans, rather than Nero their tyrant."
Thereupon Galba, by an edict, appointed a day when he would receive
manumissions, and general rumour and talk beforehand about his purpose
brought together a great crowd of men so ready for a change, that
he scarcely appeared, stepping up to the tribunal, but they with one
consent saluted him emperor. That title he refused at present to take
upon him; but after he had a while inveighed against Nero and bemoaned
the loss of the more conspicuous of those that had been destroyed
by him, he offered himself and service to his country, not by the
titles of Caesar or emperor, but as the lieutenant of the Roman senate
and people. 

Now that Vindex did wisely in inviting Galba to the empire, Nero himself
bore testimony; who, though he seemed to despise Vindex and altogether
to slight the Gauls and their concerns, yet when he heard of Galba
(as by chance he had just bathed and sat down to his morning meal),
at this news he overturned the table. But the senate having voted
Galba an enemy, presently, to make his jest, and likewise to personate
a confidence among his friends, "This is a very happy opportunity,"
he said, "for me, who sadly want such a booty as that of the Gauls,
which must all fall in as lawful prize; and Galba's estate I can use
or sell at once, he being now an open enemy." And accordingly he had
Galba's property exposed to sale, which when Galba heard of, he sequestered
all that was Nero's in Spain, and found far readier bidders.

Many now began to revolt from Nero, and pretty nearly all adhered
to Galba; only Clodius Macer in Africa, and Virginius Rufus, commander
of the German forces in Gaul, followed counsel of their own; yet these
two were not of one and the same advice, for Clodius, being sensible
of the rapines and murders to which he had been led by cruelty and
covetousness, was in perplexity, and felt it was not safe for him
either to retain or quit his command. But Virginius, who had the command
of the strongest legions, by whom he was many repeated times saluted
emperor and pressed to take the title upon him, declared that he neither
would assume that honour himself, nor see it given to any other than
whom the senate should elect. 

These things at first did not a little disturb Galba, but when presently
Virginius and Vindex were in a manner forced by their armies, having
got the reins, as it were, out of their hands, to a great encounter
and battle, in which Vindex, having seen twenty thousand of the Gauls
destroyed, died by his own hand, and when the report straight spread
abroad, that all desired Virginius, after this great victory, to take
the empire upon him, or else they would return to Nero again, Galba,
in great alarm at this, wrote to Virginius, exhorting him to join
with him for the preservation of the empire and the liberty of the
Romans, and so retiring with his friends into Clunia, a town in Spain,
he passed away his time, rather repenting his former rashness, and
wishing for his wonted ease and privacy, than setting about what was
fit to be done. 

It was now summer, when on a sudden, a little before dusk, comes a
freedman Icelus by name, having arrived in seven days from Rome; and
being informed where Galba was reposing himself in private, he went
straight on, and pushing by the servants of the chamber, opened the
door and entered the room, and told him, that Nero being yet alive
but not appearing, first the army, and then the people and senate,
declared Galba emperor; not long after, it was reported that Nero
was dead; "but I," said he, "not giving credit to common fame, went
myself to the body and saw him lying dead, and only then set out to
bring you word." This news at once made Galba great again, and a crowd
of people came hastening to the door, all very confident of the truth
of his tidings, though the speed of the man was almost incredible.
Two days after came Titus Vinius with sundry others from the camp,
who gave an account in detail of the orders of the senate, and for
this service was considerably advanced. On the freedman, Galba conferred
the honour of the gold ring, and Icelus, as he had been before, now
taking the name of Marcianus, held the first place of the freedmen.

But at Rome, Nymphidius Sabinus, not gently, and little by little,
but at once, and without exception, engrossed all power to himself;
Galba, being an old man (seventy-three years of age), would scarcely,
he thought, live long enough to be carried in a litter to Rome; and
the troops in the city were from old time attached to him, and now
bound by the vastness of the promised gift, for which they regarded
him as their benefactor, and Galba as their debtor. Thus presuming
on his interest, he straightway commanded Tigellinus, who was in joint
commission with himself, to lay down his sword; and giving entertainments,
he invited the former consuls and commanders, making use of Galba's
name for the invitation; but at the same time prepared many in the
camp to propose that a request should be sent to Galba that he should
appoint Nymphidius sole prefect for life without a colleague. And
the modes which the senate took to show him honour and increase his
power, styling him their benefactor, and attending daily at his gates,
and giving him the compliment of heading with his own name and confirming
all their acts, carried him on to a yet greater degree of arrogance,
so that in a short time he became an object, not only of dislike,
but of terror, to those that sought his favour. When the consuls themselves
had despatched their couriers with the decrees of the senate to the
emperor, together with the sealed diplomas, which the authorities
in all the towns where horses or carriages are changed look at, and
on that certificate hasten the courtiers forward with all their means,
he was highly displeased that his seal had not been used, and none
of his soldiers employed on the errand. Nay, he even deliberated what
course to take with the consuls themselves, but upon their submission
and apology he was at last pacified. To gratify the people, he did
not interfere with their beating to death any that fell into their
hands of Nero's party. Amongst others, Spiclus, the gladiator, was
killed in the forum by being thrown under Nero's statues, which they
dragged about the place over his body. Aponius, one of those who had
been concerned in accusations, they knocked to the ground, and drove
carts loaded with stones over him. And many others they tore in pieces,
some of them no way guilty, insomuch that Mauriscus, a person of great
account and character, told the senate that he feared, in a short
time, they might wish for Nero again. 

Nymphidius, now advancing towards the consummation of his hopes, did
not refuse to let it be said that he was the son of Caius Caesar,
Tiberius's successor; who, it is told, was well acquainted with his
mother in his early youth, a woman indeed handsome enough, the offspring
of Callistus, one of Caesar's freedmen, and a certain sempstress.
But it is plain that Caius's familiarity with his mother was of too
late date to give him any pretensions, and it was suspected he might,
if he pleased, claim a father in Martianus, the gladiator, whom his
mother, Nymphidia, took a passion for, being a famous man in his way,
whom also he much more resembled. However, though he certainly owned
Nymphidia for his mother, he ascribed meantime the downfall of Nero
to himself alone, and thought he was not sufficiently rewarded with
the honours and riches he enjoyed (nay, though to all was added the
company of Sporus, whom he immediately sent for while Nero's body
was yet burning on the pile, and treated as his consort with the name
of Poppaea), but he must also aspire to the empire. And at Rome he
had friends who took measures for him secretly, as well as some women
and some members of the senate also, who worked underhand to assist
him. And into Spain he despatched one of his friends, named Gellianus,
to view the posture of affairs. 

But all things succeeded well with Galba after Nero's death; only
Virginius Rufus, still standing doubtful, gave him some anxiety, lest
he should listen to the suggestions of some who encouraged him to
take the government upon him, having, at present, besides the command
of a large and warlike army, the new honours of the defeat of Vindex
and the subjugation of one considerable part of the Roman empire,
namely, the entire Gaul, which had seemed shaking about upon the verge
of open revolt. Nor had any man indeed a greater name and reputation
than Virginius, who had taken a part of so much consequence in the
deliverance of the empire at once from a cruel tyranny and a Gallic
war. But he, standing to his first resolves, reserved to the senate
the power of electing an emperor. Yet when it was now manifest that
Nero was dead, the soldiers pressed him hard to it, and one of the
tribunes, entering his tent with his drawn sword, bade him either
take the government or that. But after Fabius Valens, having the command
of one legion, had first sworn fealty to Galba, and letters from Rome
came with tidings of the resolves of the senate, at last with much
ado he persuaded the army to declare Galba emperor. And when Flaccus
Hordeonius came by Galba's commission as Galba successor, he handed
over to him his forces, and went himself to meet Galba on his way,
and having met him turned back to attend him; in all which no apparent
displeasure nor yet honour was shown him. Galba's feelings of respect
for him prevented the former; the latter was checked by the envy of
his friends, and particularly of Titus Vinius, who, acting in the
desire of hindering Virginius's promotion, unwittingly aided his happy
genius in rescuing him from those hazards and hardships which other
commanders were involved in, and securing him the safe enjoyment of
a quiet life and peaceable old age. 

Near Narbo, a city in Gaul, the deputation of the senate met Galba,
and after they had delivered their compliments, begged him to make
what haste he could to appear to the people that impatiently expected
him. He discoursed with them courteously and unassumingly, and in
his entertainment, though Nymphidius had sent him royal furniture
and attendance of Nero's, he put all aside, and made use of nothing
but his own, for which he was well spoken of, as one who had a great
mind, and was superior to little vanities. But in a short time, Vinius,
by declaring to him that these noble, unpompous, citizen-like ways
were a mere affectation of popularity and a petty bashfulness at assuming
his proper greatness, induced him to make use of Nero's supplies,
and in his entertainments not to be afraid of a regal sumptuosity.
And in more than one way the old man let it gradually appear that
he had put himself under Vinius's disposal. 

Vinius was a person of an excessive covetousness, and not quite free
from blame in respect to women. For being a young man, newly entered
into the service under Calvisius Sabinus, upon his first campaign,
he brought his commander's wife, a licentious woman, in a soldier's
dress, by night into the camp, and was found with her in the very
general's quarters, the principia, as the Romans call them. For which
insolence Caius Caesar cast him into prison, from whence he was fortunately
delivered by Caius's death. Afterwards, being invited by Claudius
Caesar to supper, he privily conveyed away a silver cup, which Caesar
hearing of, invited him again the next day, and gave order to his
servants to set before him no silver plate, but only earthenware.
And this offence, through the comic mildness of Caesar's reprimand,
was treated rather as a subject of jest than as a crime. But the acts
to which now, when Galba was in his hands and his power was so extensive,
his covetous temper led him were the causes, in part, and in part
the provocation, of tragical and fatal mischiefs. 

Nymphidius became very uneasy upon the return out of Spain of Gellianus
whom he had sent to pry into Galba's actions, understanding that Cornelius
Laco was appointed commander of the court guards, and that Vinius
was the great favourite, and that Gellianus had not been able so much
as to come nigh, much less have any opportunity to offer any words
in private, so narrowly had he been watched and observed. Nymphidius,
therefore, called together the officers of the troops, and declared
to them that Galba of himself was a good, well-meaning old man, but
did not act by his own counsel, and was ill-guided by Vinius and Laco;
and lest, before they were aware, they should engross the authority
Tigellinus had with the troops, he proposed to them to send deputies
from the camp acquainting him that if he pleased to remove only these
two from his counsel and presence, he would be much more welcome to
all at his arrival. Wherein, when he saw he did not prevail (it seeming
absurd and unmannerly to give rules to an old commander what friends
to retain or displace, as if he had been a youth newly taking the
reins of authority into his hands), adopting another course, he wrote
himself to Galba letters in alarming terms, one while as if the city
were unsettled, and had not yet recovered its tranquillity; then that
Clodius Macer withheld the corn-ships from Africa; that the legions
in Germany began to be mutinous, and that he heard the like of those
in Syria and Judaea. But Galba not minding him much or giving credit
to his stories, he resolved to make his attempt beforehand, though
Clodius Celsus, a native of Antioch, a person of sense, and friendly
and faithful to Nymphidius, told him he was wrong, saying he did not
believe one single street in Rome would ever give him the title of
Caesar. Nevertheless many also derided Galba, amongst the rest Mithridates
of Pontus, saying, that as soon as this wrinkled, baldheaded man should
be seen publicly at Rome, they would think it an utter disgrace even
to have had such a Caesar. 

At last it was resolved, about midnight, to bring Nymphidius into
the camp, and declare him emperor. But Antonius Honoratus, who was
first among the tribunes, summoning together in the evening those
under his command, charged himself and them severely with their many
and unreasonable turns and alterations, made without any purpose or
regard to merit, simply as if some evil genius hurried them from one
reason to another. "What though Nero's miscarriages," said he, "gave
some colour to your former acts, can you say you have any plea for
betraying Galba in the death of a mother, the blood of a wife, or
the degradation of the imperial power upon the stage and amongst players?
Neither did we desert Nero for all this, until Nymphidius had persuaded
us that he had first left us and fled into Egypt. Shall we, therefore,
send Galba after, to appease Nero's shade, and, for the sake of making
the son of Nymphidia emperor, take off one of Livia's family, as we
have already the son of Agrippina? Rather, doing justice on him, let
us revenge Nero's death, and show ourselves true and faithful by preserving

The tribune having ended his harangue, the soldiers assented, and
encouraged all they met with to persist in their fidelity to the emperor,
and, indeed, brought over the greatest part. But presently hearing
a great shout, Nymphidius, imagining, as some say, that the soldiers
called for him, or hastening to be in time to check any opposition
and gain the doubtful, came on with many lights, carrying in his hand
a speech in writing, made by Cingonius Varro, which he had got by
heart, to deliver to the soldiers. But seeing the gates of the camp
shut up, and large numbers standing armed about the walls, he began
to be afraid. Yet drawing nearer he demanded what they meant, and
by whose orders they were then in arms; but hearing a general acclamation,
all with one consent crying out that Galba was their emperor, advancing
towards them, he joined in the cry, and likewise commanded those that
followed him to do the same. The guard notwithstanding permitted him
to enter the camp only with a few, where he was presently struck with
a dart, which Septimius, being before him, received on his shield;
others, however, assaulted him with their naked swords, and on his
flying, pursued him into a soldier's cabin, where they slew him. And
dragging his body thence, they placed a railing about it, and exposed
it next day to public view. When Galba heard of the end which Nymphidius
had thus come to, he commanded that all his confederates who had not
at once killed themselves should immediately be despatched; amongst
whom were Cingonius, who made his oration, and Mithridates, formerly
mentioned. It was, however, regarded as arbitrary and illegal, and
though it might be just, yet by no means popular, to take off men
of their rank and equality without a hearing. For every one expected
another scheme of government, being deceived, as is usual, by the
first plausible pretences; and the death of Petronius Turpilianus,
who was of consular dignity, and had remained faithful to Nero, was
yet more keenly resented. Indeed, the taking off of Macer in Africa
by Trebonius, and Fonteius by Valens in Germany, had a fair pretence,
they being dreaded as armed commanders, having their soldiers at their
bidding; but why refuse Turpilianus, an old man and unarmed, permission
to try to clear himself, if any part of the moderation and equity
at first promised were really to come to a performance? Such were
the comments to which these actions exposed him. When he came within
five-and-twenty furlongs or thereabouts of the city, he happened to
light on a disorderly rabble of the seamen, who beset him as he passed.
These were they whom Nero made soldiers, forming them into a legion.
They so rudely crowded to have their commission confirmed that they
did not let Galba either be seen or heard by those that had come out
to meet their new emperor; but tumultuously pressed on with loud shouts
to have colours to their legion, and quarters assigned them. Galba
put them off until another time, which they interpreted as a denial,
grew more insolent and mutinous, following and crying out, some with
their drawn swords in their hands. Upon seeing which, Galba commanded
the horse to ride over them, when they were soon routed, not a man
standing his ground, and many of them were slain, both there and in
the pursuit; an ill-omen, that Galba should make his first entry through
so much blood and among dead bodies. And now he was looked upon with
terror and alarm by any one who had entertained contempt of him at
the sight of his age and apparent infirmities. 

But when he desired presently to let it appear what a change would
be made from Nero's profuseness and sumptuosity in giving presents,
he much missed his aim, and fell so short of magnificence, that he
scarcely came within the limits of decency. When Canus, who was a
famous musician, played at supper for him, he expressed his approbation,
and bade the bag he brought to him; and taking a few gold pieces,
put them in with this remark, that it was out of his own purse, and
not on the public account. He ordered the largess which Nero had made
to actors and wrestlers and such like to be strictly required again,
allowing only the tenth part to be retained; though it turned to very
small account, most of those persons expending their daily income
as fast as they received it, being rude, improvident livers; upon
which he had further inquiry made as to those who had bought or received
from them, and called upon these people to refund. The trouble was
infinite, the exactions being prosecuted far, touching a great number
of persons, bringing disrepute on Galba, and general hatred on Vinius,
who made the emperor appear base-hearted and mean to the world, whilst
he himself was spending profusely, taking whatever he could get, and
selling to any buyer. Hesiod tells us to drink without stinting of-

"The end and the beginning of the cask." And Vinius, seeing his patron
old and decaying, made the most of what he considered to be at once
the first of his fortune and the last of it. 

Thus the aged man suffered in two ways, first, through the evil deeds
which Vinius did himself, and, next, by his preventing or bringing
into disgrace those just acts which he himself designed. Such was
the punishing Nero's adherents. When he destroyed the bad, amongst
whom were Helius, Polycletus, Petinus, and Patrobius, the people mightily
applauded the act, crying out, as they were dragged through the forum,
that it was a goodly sight, grateful to the gods themselves, adding,
however, that the gods and men alike demanded justice on Tigellinus,
the very tutor and prompter of all the tyranny. This good man, however,
had taken his measures beforehand, in the shape of a present and a
promise to Vinius. Turpilianus could not be allowed to escape with
life, though his one and only crime had been that he had not betrayed
or shown hatred to such a ruler as Nero. But he who had made Nero
what he became, and afterwards deserted and betrayed him whom he had
so corrupted, was allowed to survive as an instance that Vinius could
do anything, and an advertisement that those that had money to give
him need despair of nothing. The people, however, were so possessed
with the desire of seeing Tigellinus dragged to execution, that they
never ceased to require it at the theatre, and in the race-course,
till they were checked by an edict from the emperor himself, announcing
that Tigellinus could not live long, being wasted with a consumption,
and requesting them not to seek to make his government appear cruel
and tyrannical. So the dissatisfied populace were laughed at, and
Tigellinus made a splendid feast, and sacrificed in thanksgiving for
his deliverance; and after supper, Vinius, rising from the emperor's
table, went to revel with Tigellinus, taking his daughter, a widow,
with him; to whom Tigellinus presented his compliments, with a gift
of twenty-five myriads of money, and bade the superintendent of his
concubines take off a rich necklace from her own neck and tie it about
hers, the value of it being estimated at fifteen myriads.

After this, even reasonable acts were censured; as, for example, the
treatment of the Gauls who had been in the conspiracy with Vindex.
For people looked upon their abatement of tribute and admission to
citizenship as a piece, not of clemency on the part of Galba, but
of money-making on that of Vinius. And thus the mass of the people
began to look with dislike upon the government. The soldiers were
kept on a while in expectation of the promised donative, supposing
that if they did not receive the full, yet they should have at least
as much as Nero gave them. But when Galba, on hearing they began to
complain, declared greatly, and like a general, that he was used to
enlist and not to buy his soldiers, when they heard of this, they
conceived an implacable hatred against him; for he did not seem to
defraud them merely himself in their present expectations, but to
give an ill precedent, and instruct his successors to do the like.
This heart-burning, however, was as yet at Rome a thing undeclared,
and a certain respect for Galba's personal presence somewhat retarded
their motions, and took off their edge, and their having no obvious
occasion for beginning a revolution curbed and kept under, more or
less, their resentments. But those forces that had been formerly under
Virginius, and now were under Flaccus in Germany, valuing themselves
much upon the battle they had fought with Vindex, and finding now
no advantage of it, grew very refractory and intractable towards their
officers; and Flaccus they wholly disregarded, being incapacitated
in body by unintermitted gout, and, besides, a man of little experience
in affairs. So at one of their festivals, when it was customary for
the officers of the army to wish all health and happiness to the emperor,
the common soldiers began to murmur loudly, and on their officers
persisting in the ceremony, responded with the words, "If he deserves

When some similar insolence was committed by the legions under Vitellius,
frequent letters with the information came to Galba from his agents;
and taking alarm at this, and fearing that he might be despised not
only for his old age, but also for want of issue, he determined to
adopt some young man of distinction, and declare him his successor.
There was at this time in the city Marcus Otho, a person of fair extraction,
but from his childhood one of the few most debauched, voluptuous,
and luxurious livers in Rome. And as Homer gives Paris in several
places the title of "fair Helen's love," making a woman's name the
glory and addition to his, as if he had nothing else to distinguish
him, so Otho was renowned in Rome for nothing more than his marriage
with Poppaea, whom Nero had a passion for when she was Crispinus's
wife. But being as yet respectful to his own wife, and standing in
awe of his mother, he engaged Otho underhand to solicit her. For Nero
lived familiarly with Otho, whose prodigality won his favour, and
he was well pleased when he took the freedom to jest upon him as mean
and penurious. Thus when Nero one day perfumed himself with some rich
essence and favoured Otho with a sprinkle of it, he, entertaining
Nero next day, ordered gold and silver pipes to disperse the like
on a sudden freely, like water, throughout the room. As to Poppaea,
he was beforehand with Nero, and first seducing her himself, then,
with the hope of Nero's favour, he prevailed with her to part with
her husband, and brought her to his own house as his wife, and was
not content afterwards to have a share in her, but grudged to have
Nero for a claimant, Poppaea herself, they say, being rather pleased
than otherwise with this jealousy; she sometimes excluded Nero, even
when Otho was not present, either to prevent his getting tired with
her, or, as some say, not liking the prospect of an imperial marriage,
though willing enough to have the emperor as her lover. So that Otho
ran the risk of his life, and strange it was he escaped, when Nero,
for this very marriage, killed his wife and sister. But he was beholden
to Seneca's friendship, by whose persuasions and entreaty Nero was
prevailed with to despatch him as praetor into Lusitania, on the shores
of the Ocean; where he behaved himself very agreeably and indulgently
to those he had to govern, well knowing this command was but to colour
and disguise his banishment. 

When Galba revolted from Nero, Otho was the first governor of any
of the provinces that came over to him, bringing all the gold and
silver he possessed in the shape of cups and tables, to be coined
into money, and also what servants he had fitly qualified to wait
upon a prince. In all other points, too, he was faithful to him, and
gave him sufficient proof that he was inferior to none in managing
public business. And he so far ingratiated himself, that he rode in
the same carriage with him during the whole journey, several days
together. And in this journey and familiar companionship he won over
Vinius also, both by his conversation and presents, but especially
by conceding to him the first place securing the second, by his interest,
for himself. And he had the advantage of him in avoiding all odium
and jealousy, assisting all petitioners, without asking for any reward,
and appearing courteous and of easy access towards all especially
to the military men, for many of whom he obtained commands, some immediately
from the emperor, others by Vinius's means, and by the assistance
of the two favourite freedmen, Icelus and Asiaticus, these being the
men in chief power in the court. As often as he entertained Galba,
he gave the cohort on duty, in addition to their pay, a piece of gold
for every man there, upon pretence of respect to the emperor, while
really he undermined him, and stole away his popularity with the soldiers.

So Galba consulting about a successor, Vinius introduced Otho, yet
not even this gratis, but upon promise that he would marry his daughter
if Galba should make him his adopted son and successor to the empire.
But Galba, in all his actions, showed clearly that he preferred the
public good before his own private interest, not aiming so much to
pleasure himself as to advantage the Romans by his selection. Indeed
he does not seem to have been so much as inclined to make choice of
Otho had it been but to inherit his own private fortune, knowing his
extravagant and luxurious character, and that he was already plunged
in debt five thousand myriads deep. So he listened to Vinius, and
made no reply, but mildly suspended his determination. Only he appointed
himself consul, and Vinius his colleague, and it was the general expectation
that he would declare his successor at the beginning of the new year.
And the soldiers desired nothing more than that Otho should be the

But the forces in Germany broke out into their mutiny whilst he was
yet deliberating, and anticipated his design. All the soldiers in
general felt much resentment against Galba for not having given them
their expected largess, but these troops made a pretence of a more
particular concern, that Virginius Rufus was cast off dishonourably,
and that the bad who had fought with them were well rewarded, while
those who had refused to take part with Vindex were punished; and
Galba's thanks seemed all to be for him, to whose memory he had done
honour after his death with public solemnities as though he had been
made emperor by his means only. Whilst these discourses passed openly
throughout the army, on the first day of the first month of the year,
the Calends, as they call it, of January, Flaccus summoning them to
take the usual anniversary oath of fealty to the emperor, they overturned
and pulled down Galba's statues, and having sworn in the name of the
senate and people of Rome, departed. But the officers now feared anarchy
and confusion, as much as rebellion; and one of them came forward
and said: "What will become of us, my fellow-soldiers, if we neither
set up another general, nor retain the present one? This will be not
so much to desert from Galba as to decline all subjection and command.
It is useless to try and maintain Flaccus Hordeonius, who is but a
mere shadow and image of Galba. But Vitellius, commander of the other
Germany, is but one day's march distant, whose father was censor and
thrice consul, and in a manner co-emperor with Claudius Caesar; and
he himself has the best proof to show of his bounty and largeness
of mind, in the poverty with which some reproach him. Him let us make
choice of, that all may see we know how to choose an emperor better
than either Spaniards or Lusitanians." Which motion whilst some assented
to, and others gainsaid, a certain standard-bearer slipped out and
carried the news to Vitellius, who was entertaining much company by
night. This taking air, soon passed through the troops, and Fabius
Valens, who commanded one legion, riding up next day with a large
body of horse, saluted Vitellius emperor. He had hitherto seemed to
decline it, professing a dread he had to undertake the weight of the
government; but on this day, being fortified, they say, by wine and
a plentiful noon-day repast, he began to yield, and submitted to take
on him the title of Germanicus they gave him, but desired to be excused
as to that of Caesar. And immediately the army under Flaccus also,
putting away their fine and popular oaths in the name of the senate,
swore obedience to Vitellius as emperor, to observe whatever he commanded.

Thus Vitellius was publicly proclaimed emperor in Germany; which news
coming to Galba's ear, he no longer deferred his adoption; yet knowing
that some of his friends were using their interest for Dolabella,
and the greatest number of them for Otho, neither of whom he approved
of, on a sudden, without any one's privity, he sent for Piso, the
son of Crassus and Scribonia, whom Nero slew, a young man in general
of excellent disposition for virtue, but his most eminent qualities
those of steadiness and austere gravity. And so he set out to go to
the camp to declare him Caesar and successor to the empire. But at
his very first going forth many signs appeared in the heavens, and
when he began to make a speech to the soldiers, partly extempore,
and partly reading it, the frequent claps of thunder and flashes of
lightning, and the violent storm of rain that burst on both the camp
and the city, were plain discoveries that the divine powers did not
look with favour or satisfaction on this act of adoption that would
come to no good result. The soldiers, also, showed symptoms of hidden
discontent, and wore sullen looks, no distribution of money being
even now made to them. However, those that were present and observed
Piso's countenance and voice could not but feel admiration to see
him so little overcome by so great a favour, of the magnitude of which
at the same time he seemed not at all insensible. Otho's aspect, on
the other hand, did not fail to let many marks appear of his bitterness
and anger at his disappointment; since to have been the first man
thought of for it, and to have come to the very point of being chosen,
and now to be put by, was in his feelings a sign of the displeasure
and ill-will of Galba towards him. This filled him with fears and
apprehensions, and sent him home with a mind full of various passions,
whilst he dreaded Piso, hated Galba, and was full of wrath and indignation
against Vinius. And the Chaldeans and soothsayers about him would
not permit him to lay aside his hopes or quit his design, chiefly
Ptolemaeus, insisting much on a prediction he had made, that Nero
should not murder Otho, but he himself should die first, and Otho
succeed as emperor; for the first proving true, he thought he could
not distrust the rest. But none perhaps stimulated him more than those
that professed privately to pity his hard fate and compassionate him
for being thus ungratefully dealt with by Galba; especially Nymphidius's
and Tigellinus's creatures, who, being now cast off and reduced to
low estate, were eager to put themselves upon him, exclaiming at the
indignity he had suffered, and provoking him to revenge himself.

Amongst these were Viturius and Barbius, the one an optio, the other
a tesserarius (these are men who have the duties of messengers and
scouts), with whom Onomastus, one of Otho's freedmen, went to the
camp, to tamper with the army, and brought over some with money, others
with fair promises, which was no hard matter, they being already corrupted,
and only wanting a fair pretence. It had been otherwise more than
the work of four days (which elapsed between the adoption and murder),
so completely to infect them as to cause a general revolt. On the
sixth day ensuing, the eighteenth, as the Romans call it, before the
Calends of February, the murder was done. On that day, in the morning,
Galba sacrificed in the Palatium in the presence of his friends, when
Umbricius, the priest, taking up the entrails, and speaking not ambiguously,
but in plain words, said that there were signs of great troubles ensuing,
and dangerous snares laid for the life of the emperor. Thus Otho had
even been discovered by the finger of the god; being there just behind
Galba, bearing all that was said, and seeing what was pointed out
to them by Umbricius. His countenance changed to every colour in his
fear, and he was betraying no small discomposure, when Onomastus,
his freedman, came up and acquainted him that the master builders
had come, and were waiting for him at home. Now that was the signal
for Otho to meet the soldiers. Pretending then that he had purchased
an old house, and was going to show the defects to those that had
sold it to him, he departed; and passing through what is called Tiberius's
house, he went on into the forum, near the spot where a golden pillar
stands, at which all the several roads through Italy terminate.

Here, it is related, no more than twenty-three received and saluted
him emperor; so that, although he was not in mind as in body enervated
with soft living and effeminacy, being in his nature bold and fearless
enough in danger, nevertheless, he was afraid to go on. But the soldiers
that were present would not suffer him to recede, but came with their
swords drawn around his chair, commanding the bearers to take him
up, whom he hastened on, saying several times over to himself, "I
am a lost man." Several persons overheard the words, who stood by
wondering, rather than alarmed, because of the small number that attempted
such an enterprise. But as they marched on through the forum, about
as many more met him, and here and there three or four at a time joined
in. Thus returning towards the camp, with their bare swords in their
hands, they saluted him as Caesar; whereupon Martialis, the tribune
in charge of the watch, who was, they say, noways privy to it, but
was simply surprised at the unexpectedness of the thing, and afraid
to refuse, permitted him entrance. And after this, no man made any
resistance; for they that knew nothing of the design, being purposely
encompassed by the conspirators, as they were straggling here and
there, first submitted for fear, and afterwards were persuaded into
compliance. Tidings came immediately to Galba in the Palatium, whilst
the priests were still present and the sacrifices at hand, so that
persons who were most entirely incredulous about such things, and
most positive in their neglect of them, were astonished, and began
to marvel at the divine event. A multitude of all sorts of people
now began to run together out of the forum; Vinius and Laco and some
of Galba's freedmen drew their swords and placed themselves beside
him; Piso went forth and addressed himself to the guards on duty in
the court; and Marius Celsus, a brave man, was despatched to the Illyrian
legion, stationed in what is called the Vipsanian chamber, to secure

Galba now consulting whether he should go out, Vinius dissuaded him,
but Celsus and Laco encouraged him by all means to do so, and sharply
reprimanded Vinius. But on a sudden a rumour came hot that Otho was
slain in the camp; and presently appeared one Julius Atticus, a man
of some distinction in the guards, running up with his drawn sword,
crying out that he had slain Caesar's enemy; and pressing through
the crowd that stood in his way, he presented himself before Galba
with his bloody weapon, who, looking on him, demanded, "Who gave you
your orders?" And on his answering that it had been his duty and the
obligation of the oath he had taken the people applauded, giving loud
acclamations, and Galba got into his chair and was carried out to
sacrifice to Jupiter, and so to show himself publicly. But coming
into the forum, there met him there, like a turn of wind, the opposite
story, that Otho had made himself master of the camp. And as usual
in a crowd of such a size, some called to him to return back, others
to move forwards; some encouraged him to be bold and fear nothing,
others bade him to be cautious and distrust. And thus whilst his chair
was tossed to and fro, as it were on the waves, often tottering, there
appeared first horse, and straightway heavy-armed foot coming through
Paulus's court, and all with one accord crying out, "Down with this
private man." Upon this, the crowd of people set off running, not
to fly and disperse, but to possess themselves of the colonnades and
elevated places of the forum, as it might be to get places to see
a spectacle. And as soon as Atillius Vergilio knocked down one of
Galba's statues, this was taken as the declaration of war, and they
sent a discharge of darts upon Galba's litter, and missing their aim,
came up and attacked him nearer hand with their naked swords. No man
resisted or offered to stand up in his defence, save one only, a centurion,
Sempronius Densus, the single man among so many thousands that the
sun beheld that day act worthily of the Roman empire, who, though
he had never received any favour from Galba, yet out of bravery and
allegiance endeavoured to defend the litter. First, lifting up his
switch of vine, with which the centurions correct the soldiers when
disorderly, he called aloud to the aggressors, charging them not to
touch their emperor. And when they came upon him hand-to-hand, he
drew his sword, and made a defence for a long time, until at last
he was cut under the knees and brought to the ground. 

Galba's chair was upset at the spot called the Lacus Curtius, where
they ran up and struck at him as he lay in his corselet. He, however,
offered his throat, bidding them "Strike, if it be for the Romans'
good." He received several wounds on his legs and arms, and at last
was struck in the throat, as most say, by one Camurius, a soldier
of the fifteenth legion. Some name Terentius, others Lecanius; and
there are others that say it was Fabius Fabulus, who it is reported
cut off the head and carried it away in the skirt of his coat, the
baldness making it a difficult thing to take hold of. But those that
were with him would not allow him to keep it covered up, but bade
him let every one see the brave deed he had done; so that after a
while he stuck upon the lance the head of the aged man that had been
their grave and temperate ruler, their supreme priest and consul,
and, tossing it up in the air, ran like a bacchanal, twirling and
flourishing with it, while the blood ran down the spear. But when
they brought the head to Otho, "Fellow-soldiers," he cried out, "this
is nothing, unless you show me Piso's too," which was presented him
not long after. The young man, retreating upon a wound received, was
pursued by one Murcus, and slain at the temple of Vesta. Titus Vinius
was also despatched, avowing himself to have been privy to the conspiracy
against Galba by calling out that they were killing him contrary to
Otho's pleasure. However, they cut off his head, and Laco's too, and
brought them to Otho, requesting a boon. 

And as Archilochus says- 

"When six or seven lie breathless on the ground, 
'Twas I, 'twas I, say thousands, gave the wound." Thus many that had
no share in the murder wetted their hands and swords in blood, and
came and showed them to Otho, presenting memorials suing for a gratuity.
Not less than one hundred and twenty were identified afterwards from
their written petitions; all of whom Vitellius sought out and put
to death. There came also into the camp Marius Celsus, and was accused
by many voices of encouraging the soldiers to assist Galba, and was
demanded to death by the multitude. Otho had no desire for this, yet,
fearing an absolute denial, he professed that he did not wish to take
him off so soon, having many matters yet to learn from him; and so
committed him safe to the custody of those he most confided in.

Forthwith a senate was convened, and as if they were not the same
men, or had other gods to swear by, they took that oath in Otho's
name which he himself had taken in Galba's and had broken; and withal
conferred on him the titles of Caesar and Augustus; whilst the dead
carcasses of the slain lay yet in their consular robes in the market-place.
As for their heads, when they could make no other use of them, Vinius's
they sold to his daughter for two thousand five hundred drachmas;
Piso's was begged by his wife, Verania; Galba's they gave to Patrobius's
servants; who when they had it, after all sorts of abuse and indignities,
tumbled it into the place where those that suffer death by the emperor's
orders are usually cast, called Sessorium. Galba's body was conveyed
away by Priscus Helvidius by Otho's permission, and buried in the
night by Argius, his freedman. 

Thus you have the history of Galba, a person inferior to few Romans,
either for birth or riches, rather exceeding all of his time in both,
having lived in great honour and reputation in the reigns of five
emperors, insomuch that he overthrew Nero rather by his fame and repute
in the world than by actual force and power. Of all the others that
joined in Nero's deposition, some were by general consent regarded
as unworthy, others had only themselves to vote them deserving of
the empire. To him the title was offered, and by him it was accepted;
and simply lending his name to Vindex's attempt, he gave to what had
been called rebellion before, the name of a civil war, by the presence
of one that was accounted fit to govern. And therefore, as he considered
that he had not so much sought the position as the position had sought
him, he proposed to command those whom Nymphidius and Tigellinus had
wheedled into obedience no otherwise than Scipio formerly and Fabricius
and Camillus had commanded the Romans of their times. But being now
overcome with age, he was indeed among the troops and legions an upright
ruler upon the antique model; but for the rest, giving himself up
to Vinius, Laco, and his freedmen, who make their gain of all things,
no otherwise than Nero had done to his insatiate favourites, he left
none behind him to wish him still in power, though many to compassionate
his death. 



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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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