Commentary: Several comments have been posted about The Histories.
Download: A text-only version is available for download.
Written 109 A.C.E.
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Table of Contents
March - August, A.D. 69
In A distant part of the world fortune was now preparing the origin and rise of a new dynasty, whose varied destinies brought happiness or misery on the State, prosperity or destruction on the Princes of its line. Titus Vespasian had been sent from Judaea by his father while Galba still lived, and alleged as a reason for his journey the homage due to the Emperor, and his age, which now qualified him to compete for office. But the vulgar, ever eager to invent, had spread the report that he was sent for to be adopted. The advanced years and childless condition of the Emperor furnished matter for such gossip, and the country never can refrain from naming many persons until one be chosen. The report gained the more credit from the genius of Titus himself, equal as it was to the most exalted fortune, from the mingled beauty and majesty of his countenance, from the prosperous fortunes of Vespasian, from the prophetic responses of oracles, and even from accidental occurrences which, in the general disposition to belief, were accepted as omens. At Corinth, the capital of Achaia, he received positive information of the death of Galba, and found men who spoke confidently of the revolt of Vitellius and of the fact of war. In the anxiety of his mind, he sent a few of his friends, and carefully surveyed his position from both points of view. He considered that if he should proceed to Rome, he should get no thanks for a civility intended for another, while his person would be a hostage in the hands either of Vitellius or of Otho; that should he turn back, the conqueror would certainly be offended, but with the issue of the struggle still doubtful, and the father joining the party, the son would be excused; on the other hand, if Vespasian should assume the direction of the state, men who had to think of war would have to forget such causes of offence.
These and like thoughts made him waver between hope and fear; but hope triumphed. Some supposed that he retraced his steps for love of Queen Berenice, nor was his young heart averse to her charms, but this affection occasioned no hindrance to action. He passed, it is true, a youth enlivened by pleasure, and practised more self-restraint in his own than in his father's reign. So, after coasting Achaia and Asia, leaving the land on his left, he made for the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus, and then by a bolder course for Syria. Here he conceived a desire to visit and inspect the temple of the Paphian Venus, place of celebrity both among natives and foreigners. It will not be a tedious digression to record briefly the origin of the worship, the ceremonial of the temple, and the form under which the goddess is adored, a form found in no other place.
The founder of the temple, according to old tradition, was king Aerias, though some represent this as the name of the goddess herself. Later accounts tell us that the temple was consecrated by Cinyras, and that the goddess herself after her birth from the sea was wafted to this spot, but that the wisdom and craft of the diviners was a foreign importation introduced by Tamiras of Cilicia; and that it was agreed that the descendants of both families should preside over the worship. Afterwards, that the royal family might not be without some superiority over the foreign stock, the strangers relinquished the craft which they had themselves introduced. The priest of the line of Cinyras is alone consulted. The victims are such as each worshipper has vowed, but males are selected; the surest prognostics are seen in the entrails of kids. It is forbidden to pour blood on the altar; the place of sacrifice is served only with prayers and pure flame, and though it stands in the open air, it is never wet with rain. The image of the goddess does not bear the human shape; it is a rounded mass rising like a cone from a broad base to a small circumference. The meaning of this is doubtful.
Titus, after surveying the treasures, the royal presents, and the other objects which the antiquarian tendencies of the Greek arbitrarily connect with some uncertain past, first consulted the oracle about his voyage. Receiving an answer that the way was open and the sea propitious, he then, after sacrificing a number of victims, asked some questions in ambiguous phrase concerning himself. Sostratus (that was the name of the priest) seeing that the entrails presented an uniformly favourable appearance, and that the goddess signified her favour to some great enterprise, returned at the moment a brief and ordinary answer, but afterwards soliciting a private interview, disclosed the future. His spirits raised, Titus rejoined his father, and was received as a mighty pledge of success by the wavering minds of the provincials and the troops. Vespasian had all but completed the Jewish war, and only the siege of Jerusalem now remained, an operation, the difficulty and arduousness of which was due, rather to the character of its mountain citadel and the perverse obstinacy of the national superstition, than to any sufficient means of enduring extremities left to the besieged. As we have mentioned above, Vespasian himself had three legions inured to war. Mucianus had four under his command in his peaceful province. Emulation, however, and the glory won by the neighbouring army had banished all tendency to sloth, and unbroken rest and exemption from the hardships of war had given them a vigour equivalent to the hardihood which the others had gained by their perils and their toils. Each had auxiliary forces of infantry and cavalry, each had fleets and tributary kings, and each, though their renown was of a different kind, had a celebrated name.
Vespasian was an energetic soldier; he could march at the head of his army, choose the place for his camp, and bring by night and day his skill, or, if the occasion required, his personal courage to oppose the foe. His food was such as chance offered; his dress and appearance hardly distinguished him from the common soldier; in short, but for his avarice, he was equal to the generals of old. Mucianus, on the contrary, was eminent for his magnificence, for his wealth, and for a greatness that transcended in all respects the condition of a subject; readier of speech than the other, he thoroughly understood the arrangement and direction of civil business. It would have been a rare combination of princely qualities, if, with their respective faults removed, their virtues only could have been united in one man. Mucianus was governor of Syria, Vespasian of Judaea. In the administration of these neighbouring provinces jealousy had produced discord between them, but on Nero's fall they had dropped their animosities and associated their counsels. At first they communicated through friends, till Titus, who was the great bond of union between them, by representing their common interests had terminated their mischievous feud. He was indeed a man formed both by nature and by education to attract even such a character as that of Mucianus. The tribunes, the centurions, and the common soldiers, were brought over to the cause by appeals to their energy or their love of license, to their virtues or to their vices, according to their different dispositions.
Long before the arrival of Titus, both armies had taken the oath of allegiance to Otho. The news had come, as is usual, with great speed, while there was much to delay the gigantic undertaking of a civil war, for which the East after a long period of repose was then for the first time preparing. In former times the mightiest civil conflicts had been begun in Gaul or Italy with the resources of the West. Pompey, Brutus, Cassius, and Antony, all of whom had been followed across the sea by civil war, had met with a disastrous end, and the Emperors had been oftener heard of than seen in Syria and Judaea. There had been no mutiny among the legions, nothing indeed but some demonstrations against the Parthians, attended with various success. In the last civil war, though other provinces had been disturbed, peace had been here unshaken. Then had followed a loyal adherence to Galba. But when it became notorious that Otho and Vitellius, opposed in impious strife, were ready to make a spoil of the Empire, the thought that others would engross the rewards of power, while they would have nothing left for themselves but a compulsory submission, made the soldiers murmur and take a survey of their own strength. There were close at hand seven legions; there were Syria and Judaea, with a vast number of auxiliaries. Then, without any interval of separation, there was Egypt and its two legions, and on the other side Cappadocia, Pontus, and all the garrisons along the frontier of Armenia. There was Asia Minor; there were the other provinces, not without a military population, and well furnished with money. There were all the islands of the Mediterranean. And there was the sea itself, which during the interval of preparation for war would be both a convenience and a protection.
The ardour of the troops was not unknown to their generals; but it was judged advisable to wait for the issue of the struggle which others were carrying on. The conquerors and the conquered, it was said, never unite with a genuine good faith. It matters not whether fortune make Otho or Vitellius to be the victor. Even great generals grow insolent in prosperity; these men are quarrelsome, indolent, and profligate, and their own faults will make war fatal to the one, and success to the other. They therefore postponed the war until a more fitting opportunity, and though Vespasian and Mucianus had but lately resolved on concerted action, the others had done so long before. The worthiest among them were moved by patriotism; many were wrought upon by the attractions of plunder; some by their private embarrassments. And so, good and bad, from different motives, but with equal zeal, were all eager for war.
About this time Achaia and Asia Minor were terrified by a false report that Nero was at hand. Various rumours were current about his death; and so there were many who pretended and believed that he was still alive. The adventures and enterprises of the other pretenders I shall relate in the regular course of my work. The pretender in this case was a slave from Pontus, or, according to some accounts, a freedman from Italy, a skilful harp-player and singer, accomplishments, which, added to a resemblance in the face, gave a very deceptive plausibility to his pretensions. After attaching to himself some deserters, needy vagrants whom he bribed with great offers, he put to sea. Driven by stress of weather to the island of Cythnus, he induced certain soldiers, who were on their way from the East, to join him, and ordered others, who refused, to be executed. He also robbed the traders and armed all the most able bodied of the slaves. The centurion Sisenna, who was the bearer of the clasped right hands, the usual emblems of friendship, from the armies of Syria to the Praetorians, was assailed by him with various artifices, till he left the island secretly, and, fearing actual violence, made his escape with all haste. Thence the alarm spread far and wide, and many roused themselves at the well-known name, eager for change, and detesting the present state of things. The report was daily gaining credit when an accident put an end to it.
Galba had entrusted the government of Galatia and Pamphylia to Calpurnius Asprenas. Two triremes from the fleet of Misenum were given him to pursue the adventurer: with these he reached the island of Cythnus. Persons were found to summon the captains in the name of Nero. The pretender himself, assuming a studied appearance of sorrow, and appealing to their fidelity as old soldiers of his own, besought them to land him in Egypt or Syria. The captains, perhaps wavering, perhaps intending to deceive, declared that they must address their soldiers, and that they would return when the minds of all had been prepared. Everything, however, was faithfully reported to Asprenas, and at his bidding the ship was boarded and taken, and the man, whoever he was, killed. The body, in which the eyes, the hair, and the savage countenance, were remarkable features, was conveyed to Asia, and thence to Rome.
In a state that was distracted by strife, and that from frequent changes in its rulers trembled on the verge between liberty and licence, even little matters were attended with great excitement. Vibius Crispus, whose wealth, power, and ability, made him rank among men of distinction, rather than among men of worth, demanded that Annius Faustus, of the Equestrian order, who in the days of Nero had practised the trade of the informer, should be brought to trial before the Senate. The Senators indeed had recently, during the reign of Galba, passed a resolution, that cognizance should be taken of the cases of the informers. This decree was variously carried out, and, while retained as law, was powerless or effectual, according as the person, who happened to be accused, was influential or helpless. Besides the terror of the law, Crispus had exerted his own power to the utmost to destroy the man who had informed against his brother. He had prevailed upon a great part of the Senate to demand that he should be consigned to destruction, undefended and unheard. But, on the other hand, there were some with whom nothing helped the accused person so much as the excessive power of the accuser. They gave it as their opinion, that time ought to be allowed, that the charges ought to be specified, that, odious and guilty as the man might be, he yet ought to be heard, as precedent required. At first they carried their point, and the trial was postponed for a few days, but before long Faustus was condemned, but by no means with that unanimity on the part of the people which his detestable character had deserved. Men remembered that Crispus had followed the same profession with profit; nor was it the penalty but the prosecutor that they disliked.
Meanwhile the campaign had opened favourably for Otho, at whose bidding the armies of Dalmatia and Pannonia had begun to move. These comprised four legions, from each of which two thousand troops were sent on in advance. The 7th had been raised by Galba, the 11th, 13th, and 14th were veteran soldiers, the 14th having particularly distinguished itself by quelling the revolt in Britain. Nero had added to their reputation by selecting them as his most effective troops. This had made them long faithful to Nero, and kindled their zeal for Otho. But their self-confidence induced a tardiness of movement proportionate to their strength and solidity. The auxiliary infantry and cavalry moved in advance of the main body of the legions. The capital itself contributed no contemptible force, namely five Praetorian cohorts, some troops of cavalry, and the first legion, and together with these, 2000 gladiators, a disreputable kind of auxiliaries, but employed throughout the civil wars even by strict disciplinarians. Annius Gallus was put at the head of this force, and was sent on with Vestricius Spurinna to occupy the banks of the Padus, the original plan of the campaign having fallen to the ground, now that Caecina, who they had hoped might have been kept within the limits of Gaul, had crossed the Alps. Otho himself was accompanied by some picked men of the body-guard, with whom were the rest of the Praetorian cohorts, the veteran troops from the Praetorian camp, and a vast number of the levies raised from the fleet. No indolence or riot disgraced his march. He wore a cuirass of iron, and was to be seen in front of the standards, on foot, rough and negligent in dress, and utterly unlike what common report had pictured him.
Fortune seemed to smile on his efforts. Through his fleets, which commanded the sea, he held the greater part of Italy, even as far as where the chain of the Maritime Alps begins. The task of attempting the passage of this chain, and of advancing into the Provincia Narbonensis, he had entrusted to three generals, Suedius Clemens, Antonius Novellus, and Aemilius Pacensis. Pacensis, however, was put in irons by his insubordinate troops, Antonius possessed no kind of authority, and Clemens commanded only for popularity, and was as reckless in transgressing the good order of military discipline as he was eager to fight. One would not have thought that it was Italy, the fields, and the habitations of their native country, that they were passing through. They burnt, spoiled, and plundered, as if they were among the lands of the foreigner and the cities of a hostile people, and all with the more frightful effect as nowhere had there been made any provision against the danger. The fields were full of rural wealth, the houses stood with open doors; and the owners, as with their wives and children they came forth to meet the army, found themselves surrounded, in the midst of the security of peace, with all the horrors of war. Marius Maturus was then governing as procurator the province of the Maritime Alps. Raising the population, in which is no lack of able-bodied men, he resolved to drive back the Othonianists from the borders of his province; but the mountaineers were cut down and broken by the first charge, as might be expected of men who had been hastily collected, who were not familiar with camps or with regular command, who saw no glory in victory, no infamy in flight.
Exasperated by this conflict, the troops of Otho vented their rage on the town of Albintemilium. In the field indeed they had secured no plunder; their rustic adversaries were poor, and their arms worthless; nor could they be taken prisoners, for they were swift of foot, and knew the country well. But the rapacity of the troops glutted itself in the ruin of an innocent population. The horror of these acts was aggravated by a noble display of fortitude in a Ligurian woman; she had concealed her son, and when the soldiers, who believed that some money had been hidden with him, questioned her with torture as to where she was hiding him, she pointed to her bosom, and replied, "It is here that he is concealed"; nor could any subsequent threats or even death itself make her falter in this courageous and noble answer.
Messengers now came in haste and alarm to inform Fabius Valens, how Otho's fleet was threatening the province of Gallia Narbonensis, which had sworn allegiance to Vitellius. Envoys from the colonies were already on the spot praying for aid. He despatched two cohorts of Tungrian infantry, four squadrons of horse, and all the cavalry of the Treviri under the command of Julius Classicus. Part of these troops were retained for the defence of the colony of Forum Julii, for it was feared, that if the whole army were sent by the route through the interior, the enemy's fleet might make a rapid movement on the unprotected coast. Twelve squadrons of cavalry and some picked infantry advanced against the enemy; they were reinforced by a cohort of Ligurians, an auxiliary local force of long standing, and five hundred Pannonians, not yet regularly enrolled. The conflict commenced without delay, the enemy's line of battle being so arranged, that part of the levies from the fleet, who had a number of rustics among their ranks, were posted on the slope of the hills which border on the coast, the Praetorians fully occupying the level ground between the hills and the shore, while on the sea was the fleet, moored to the land and ready for action, drawn up in line so as to present a formidable front. The Vitellianists whose infantry was inferior, but who were strong in cavalry, stationed the mountaineers on the neighbouring heights, and their infantry in close ranks behind the cavalry. The squadrons of the Treveri charged the enemy incautiously, and found themselves encountered in front by the veteran troops, while on the flanks they were also annoyed by showers of stones from the rustic band, who were skilful throwers, and who, mixed up as they were among the regular soldiers, whether cowardly or brave, were all equally bold in the moment of victory. The general consternation of the Vitellianists was increased by a new alarm as the fleet attacked the rear of the combatants. By this movement they were hemmed in on all sides, and the whole force would have perished, had not the shades of night checked the advance of the victorious army, and covered the retreat of the vanquished.
The Vitellianists, however, though beaten, did not remain inactive. They brought up reinforcements and attacked the enemy, who felt themselves secure, and whose vigilance was relaxed by success. The sentinels were cut down, the camp stormed, and the panic reached the ships, till, as the alarm gradually subsided, they again assumed the offensive under the protection of some neighbouring heights which they had occupied. A terrible slaughter ensued, and the prefects of the Tungrian cohorts, after having long maintained their line unbroken, fell beneath a shower of missiles. The Othonianists, however, did not achieve a bloodless victory, as the enemy's cavalry wheeled round, and cut off some who had imprudently prolonged the pursuit. And then, as if a sort of armistice had been concluded to provide against any sudden panic that the cavalry of the one party or the fleet of the other might cause, the Vitellianists retreated to Antipolis, a town of Gallia Narbonensis, the Othonianists to Albigaunum, in Upper Liguria.
Corsica, Sardinia, and the other islands of the neighbouring seas, were retained in the interests of Otho by the fame of these naval successes. Corsica, however, all but suffered fatal injury from the rash proceedings of Decumus Pacarius, the procurator, proceedings which in so gigantic a war could contribute nothing to the general result, and which only brought destruction upon their author. In his hatred of Otho he resolved to support Vitellius with the whole strength of Corsica, an insignificant assistance even had the design succeeded. He collected the chief men of the island, and explained his plans. Claudius Pyrrhicus, captain of the Liburnian ships stationed in the place, and Quintius Certus, a Roman knight, who ventured to offer opposition, he ordered to execution. All who were present were terrified at their death, and, with the ignorant populace, which ever blindly shares in the fears of others, took the oath of allegiance to Vitellius. But when Pacarius began to enlist troops, and to weary with military duties an undisciplined population, disgusted with the unusual toil, they began to reflect upon their own weakness. "The country which we inhabit," they said to themselves, "is an island: Germany and its mighty legions are far from us, and we know that even countries protected by infantry and cavalry have been plundered and ravaged by the fleet." Their feelings underwent a sudden change; they did not, however, resort to open violence, but chose an opportunity for a treacherous attack. When the persons who usually surrounded Pacarius had left him, and he was naked and helpless in the bath, they slew him. His associates were slaughtered with him. The perpetrators of the deed carried the heads of the slain to Otho, as being the heads of public enemies; but, lost among the crowd of greater criminals, in the vast confusion of events, they were neither rewarded by Otho nor punished by Vitellius.
Silius' Horse had now, as I have already related, opened the way into Italy, and transferred the war across the borders. No one entertained any attachment to Otho, yet it was not because they preferred Vitellius: long years of peace had subdued them to any kind of servitude, had made them ready to submit to the first comer and careless about the better cause. The wealthiest district of Italy, the broad plains and cities which lie between the Padus and the Alps, was now held by the troops of Vitellius; for by this time the infantry sent on in advance by Caecina had also arrived. A cohort of Pannonians had been taken prisoners at Cremona, a hundred cavalry, and a thousand of the levies from the fleet intercepted between Placentia and Ticinum. Elated by these successes the troops of Vitellius would no longer be restrained by the boundaries of the river's bank. The very sight of the Padus excited the men from Batavia and the Transrhenane provinces. Crossing the stream by a sudden movement, they advanced on Placentia, and seizing some reconnoiterers so terrified the rest, that, deceived by their alarm, they announced that the whole army of Caecina was at hand.
Spurinna, who now held Placentia, was sure that Caecina had not yet arrived, and that, even were he approaching, he ought to keep his men within their fortifications, and not confront a veteran army with three Praetorian cohorts, a thousand veterans, and a handful of cavalry. But the undisciplined and inexperienced soldiery seized their standards and colours, and rushed to the attack, brandishing their weapons in the face of their general when he sought to restrain them, and spurning from them the tribunes and centurions, and even crying out that Otho was betrayed and that Caecina had come by invitation. Spurinna associated himself with the rash movement which others had originated, at first acting under compulsion, but afterwards pretending to consent, in the hope that his counsels might have more influence should the mutinous spirit abate.
When the Padus was in sight and night began to fall they judged it expedient to entrench a camp. The labour, new as it was to the soldiery of the capital, broke their spirits. All the oldest among them began to inveigh against their own credulity, and to point out the difficulty and danger of their position, if on those open plains Caecina and his army were to surround their scanty forces. By this time more temperate language was heard throughout the camp, and the tribunes and centurions, mixing with the troops, suggested commendations of the prudence of their general in selecting for the rallying point and basis of his operations a colony rich in military strength and resources. Finally, Spurinna himself, not so much reproaching them with their error as exposing it by his arguments, conducted them all back to Placentia, except some scouts whom he left, in a less turbulent temper and more amenable to command. The walls were strengthened, battlements were added, and the towers were raised in height. It was not only of the implements of war that provision and preparation were made, but of the spirit of subordination and the love of obedience. This was all that was wanting to the party, for they had no reason to be dissatisfied with their courage.
Caecina, who seemed to have left his cruelty and profligacy on the other side of the Alps, advanced through Italy with his army under excellent discipline. The towns and colonies, however, found indications of a haughty spirit in the general's dress, when they saw the cloak of various colours, and the trews, a garment of foreign fashion, clothed in which he was wont to speak to their toga-clad citizens. And they resented, as if with a sense of personal wrong, the conduct of his wife Salonina, though it injured no one that she presented a conspicuous figure as she rode through their towns on horseback in a purple habit. They were acting on the instincts of human nature, which prompt men to scrutinize with keen eyes the recent elevation of their fellows, and to demand a temperate use of prosperity from none more rigorously than from those whom they have seen on a level with themselves. Caecina, after crossing the Padus, sought to tamper with the loyalty of the Othonianists at a conference in which he held out hopes of reward, and he was himself assailed with the same arts. After the specious but meaningless names of peace and concord had been thus bandied to and fro, Caecina turned all his thoughts and plans on the capture of Placentia, making a formidable show of preparation, as he knew that according to the success of his opening operations would be the subsequent prestige of his arms.
The first day, however, was spent in a furious onset rather than in the skilful approaches of a veteran army. Exposed and reckless, the troops came close under the walls, stupefied by excess in food and wine. In this struggle the amphitheatre, a most beautiful building, situated outside the walls, was burnt to the ground, possibly set on fire by the assailants, while they showered brands, fireballs, and ignited missiles, on the besieged, possibly by the besieged themselves, while they discharged incessant volleys in return. The populace of the town, always inclined to be suspicious, believed that combustibles had been purposely introduced into the building by certain persons from the neighbouring colonies, who viewed it with envious and jealous eyes, because there was not in Italy another building so capacious. Whatever the cause of the accident, it was thought of but little moment as long as more terrible disasters were apprehended; but as soon as they again felt secure, they lamented it as though they could not have endured a heavier calamity. In the end Caecina was repulsed with great slaughter among his troops, and the night was spent in the preparation of siege-works. The Vitellianists constructed mantlets, hurdles, and sheds, for undermining the walls and screening the assailants; the Othonianists busied themselves in preparing stakes and huge masses of stone and of lead and brass, with which to break and overwhelm the hostile ranks. The shame of failure, the hope of renown, wrought on both armies; both were appealed to by different arguments; on the one side they extolled the strength of the legions and of the army of Germany; on the other, the distinctions of the soldiery of the capital and the Praetorian cohorts; the one reviled their foes as slothful and indolent soldiers, demoralized by the circus and the theatres; the others retorted with the names of foreigner and barbarian. At the same time they lauded or vituperated Otho and Vitellius, but found indeed a more fruitful source of mutual provocation in invective than in praise.
Almost before dawn of day the walls were crowded with combatants, and the plains glittered with masses of armed men. The close array of the legions, and the skirmishing parties of auxiliaries assailed with showers of arrows and stones the loftier parts of the walls, attacking them at close quarters where they were undefended, or old and decayed. The Othonianists, who could take a more deliberate and certain aim, poured down their javelins on the German cohorts as they recklessly advanced to the attack with fierce war-cries, brandishing their shields above their shoulders after the manner of their country, and leaving their bodies unprotected. The soldiers of the legions, working under cover of mantlets and hurdles, undermined the walls, threw up earth-works, and endeavoured to burst open the gates. The Praetorians opposed them by rolling down with a tremendous crash ponderous masses of rock, placed for the purpose. Beneath these many of the assailants were buried, and many, as the slaughter increased with the confusion, and the attack from the walls became fiercer, retreated wounded, fainting, and mangled, with serious damage to the prestige of the party. Caecina, ashamed of the assault on which he had so rashly ventured, and unwilling, ridiculed and baffled as he was, to remain in the same position, again crossed the Padus, and resolved on marching to Cremona. As he was going, Turullius Cerialis with a great number of the levies from the fleet, and Julius Briganticus with a few troopers, gave themselves up to him. Julius commanded a squadron of horse; he was a Batavian. Turullius was a centurion of the first rank, not unfriendly to Caecina, as he had commanded a company in Germany.
Spurinna, on discovering the enemy's route, informed Annius Gallus by letter of the successful defence of Placentia, of what had happened, and of what Caecina intended to do. Gallus was then bringing up the first legion to the relief of Placentia; he hardly dared trust so few cohorts, fearing that they could not sustain a prolonged siege or the formidable attack of the German army. On hearing that Caecina had been repulsed, and was making his way to Cremona, though the legion could hardly be restrained, and in its eagerness for action, even went to the length of open mutiny, he halted at Bedriacum. This is a village situated between Verona and Cremona, and has now acquired an ill-omened celebrity by two great days of disaster to Rome. About the same time Martius Macer fought a successful battle not far from Cremona. Martius, who was a man of energy, conveyed his gladiators in boats across the Padus, and suddenly threw them upon the opposite bank. The Vitellianist auxiliaries on the spot were routed; those who made a stand were cut to pieces, the rest directing their flight to Cremona. But the impetuosity of the victors was checked; for it was feared that the enemy might be strengthened by reinforcements, and change the fortune of the day. This policy excited the suspicions of the Othonianists, who put a sinister construction on all the acts of their generals. Vying with each other in an insolence of language proportioned to their cowardice of heart, they assailed with various accusations Annius Gallus, Suetonius Paullinus, and Marius Celsus. The murderers of Galba were the most ardent promoters of mutiny and discord. Frenzied with fear and guilt, they sought to plunge everything into confusion, resorting, now to openly seditious language, now to secret letters to Otho; and he, ever ready to believe the meanest of men and suspicious of the good, irresolute in prosperity, but rising higher under reverses, was in perpetual alarm. The end of it was that he sent for his brother Titianus, and intrusted him with the direction of the campaign.
Meanwhile, brilliant successes were gained under the command of Celsus and Paullinus. Caecina was greatly annoyed by the fruitlessness of all his undertakings, and by the waning reputation of his army. He had been repulsed from Placentia; his auxiliaries had been recently cut up, and even when the skirmishers had met in a series of actions, frequent indeed, but not worth relating, he had been worsted; and now that Valens was coming up, fearful that all the distinctions of the campaign would centre in that general, he made a hasty attempt to retrieve his credit, but with more impetuosity than prudence. Twelve miles from Cremona (at a place called the Castors) he posted some of the bravest of his auxiliaries, concealed in the woods that there overhang the road. The cavalry were ordered to move forward, and, after provoking a battle, voluntarily to retreat, and draw on the enemy in hasty pursuit, till the ambuscade could make a simultaneous attack. The scheme was betrayed to the Othonianist generals, and Paullinus assumed the command of the infantry, Celsus of the cavalry. The veterans of the 13th legion, four cohorts of auxiliaries, and 500 cavalry, were drawn up on the left side of the road; the raised causeway was occupied by three Praetorian cohorts, ranged in deep columns; on the right front stood the first legion with two cohorts of auxiliaries and 500 cavalry. Besides these, a thousand cavalry, belonging to the Praetorian guard and to the auxiliaries, were brought up to complete a victory or to retrieve a repulse.
Before the hostile lines engaged, the Vitellianists began to retreat, but Celsus, aware of the stratagem, kept his men back. The Vitellianists rashly left their position, and seeing Celsus gradually give way, followed too far in pursuit, and themselves fell into an ambuscade. The auxiliaries assailed them on either flank, the legions were opposed to them in front, and the cavalry, by a sudden movement, had surrounded their rear. Suetonius Paullinus did not at once give the infantry the signal to engage. He was a man naturally tardy in action, and one who preferred a cautious and scientific plan of operations to any success which was the result of accident. He ordered the trenches to be filled up, the plain to be cleared, and the line to be extended, holding that it would be time enough to begin his victory when he had provided against being vanquished. This delay gave the Vitellianists time to retreat into some vineyards, which were obstructed by the interlacing layers of the vines, and close to which was a small wood. From this place they again ventured to emerge, slaughtering the foremost of the Praetorian cavalry. King Epiphanes was wounded, while he was zealously cheering on the troops for Otho.
Then the Othonianist infantry charged. The enemy's line was completely crushed, and the reinforcements who were coming up to their aid were also put to flight. Caecina indeed had not brought up his cohorts in a body, but one by one; as this was done during the battle, it increased the general confusion, because the troops who were thus divided, not being strong at any one point, were borne away by the panic of the fugitives. Besides this, a mutiny broke out in the camp because the whole army was not led into action. Julius Gratus, prefect of the camp, was put in irons, on a suspicion of a treacherous understanding with his brother who was serving with Otho's army, at the very time that the Othonianists had done the same thing and on the same grounds to that brother Julius Fronto, a tribune. In fact such was the panic everywhere, among the fugitives and among the troops coming up, in the lines and in front of the entrenchments, that it was very commonly said on both sides, that Caecina and his whole army might have been destroyed, had not Suetonius Paullinus given the signal of recall. Paullinus alleged that he feared the effects of so much additional toil and so long a march, apprehending that the Vitellianists might issue fresh from their camp, and attack his wearied troops, who, once thrown into confusion, would have no reserves to fall back upon. A few approved the general's policy, but it was unfavourably canvassed by the army at large.
The effect of this disaster on the Vitellianists was not so much to drive them to fear as to draw them to obedience. Nor was this the case only among the troops of Caecina, who indeed laid all the blame upon his soldiers, more ready, as he said, for mutiny than for battle. The forces also of Fabius Valens, who had now reached Ticinum, laid aside their contempt for the enemy, and anxious to retrieve their credit began to yield a more respectful and uniform obedience to their general. A serious mutiny, however, had raged among them, of which, as it was not convenient to interrupt the orderly narrative of Caecina's operations, I shall take up the history at an earlier period. I have already described how the Batavian cohorts who separated from the 14th legion during the Neronian war, hearing on their way to Britain of the rising of Vitellius, joined Fabius Valens in the country of the Lingones. They behaved themselves insolently, boasting, as they visited the quarters of the several legions, that they had mastered the men of the 14th, that they had taken Italy from Nero, that the whole destiny of the war lay in their hands. Such language was insulting to the soldiers, and offensive to the general. The discipline of the army was relaxed by the brawls and quarrels which ensued. At last Valens began to suspect that insolence would end in actual treachery.
When, therefore, intelligence reached him that the cavalry of the Treveri and the Tungrian infantry had been defeated by Otho's fleet, and that Gallia Narbonensis was blockaded, anxious at once to protect a friendly population, and, like a skilful soldier, to separate cohorts so turbulent and, while they remained united, so inconveniently strong, he directed a detachment of the Batavians to proceed to the relief of the province. This having been heard and become generally known, the allies were discontented and the legions murmured. "We are being deprived," they said, "of the help of our bravest men. Those veteran troops victorious in so many campaigns, now that the enemy is in sight, are withdrawn, so to speak, from the very field of battle. If indeed a province be of more importance than the capital and the safety of the Empire, let us all follow them thither, but if the reality, the support, the mainstay of success, centre in Italy, you must not tear, as it were, from a body its very strongest limbs."
In the midst of these fierce exclamations, Valens, sending his lictors into the crowd, attempted to quell the mutiny. On this they attacked the general himself, hurled stones at him, and, when he fled, pursued him. Crying out that he was concealing the spoil of Gaul, the gold of the men of Vienna, the hire of their own toils, they ransacked his baggage, and probed with javelins and lances the walls of the general's tent and the very ground beneath. Valens, disguised in the garb of a slave, found concealment with a subaltern officer of cavalry. After this, Alfenius Varus, prefect of the camp, seeing that the mutiny was gradually subsiding, promoted the reaction by the following device. He forbade the centurions to visit the sentinels, and discontinued the trumpet calls by which the troops are summoned to their usual military duties. Thereupon all stood paralysed, and gazed at each other in amazement, panic-stricken by the very fact that there was no one to direct them. By their silence, by their submission, finally by their tears and entreaties, they craved forgiveness. But when Valens, thus unexpectedly preserved, came forward in sad plight, shedding tears, they were moved to joy, to pity, even to affection. Their revulsion to delight was just that of a mob, always extreme in either emotion. They greeted him with praises and congratulations, and surrounding him with the eagles and standards, carried him to the tribunal. With a politic prudence he refrained from demanding capital punishment in any case; yet, fearing that he might lay himself more open to suspicion by concealment of his feelings, he censured a few persons, well aware that in civil wars the soldiers have more license than the generals.
While they were fortifying a camp at Ticinum, the news of Caecina's defeat reached them, and the mutiny nearly broke out afresh from an impression that underhand dealing and delay on the part of Valens had kept them away from the battle. They refused all rest; they would not wait for their general; they advanced in front of the standards, and hurried on the standard-bearers. After a rapid march they joined Caecina. The character of Valens did not stand well with Caecina's army. They complained that, though so much weaker in numbers, they had been exposed to the whole force of the enemy, thus at once excusing themselves, and extolling, in the implied flattery, the strength of the new arrivals, who might, they feared, despise them as beaten and spiritless soldiers. Though Valens had the stronger army, nearly double the number of legions and auxiliaries, yet the partialities of the soldiers inclined to Caecina, not only from the geniality of heart, which he was thought more ready to display, but even from his vigorous age, his commanding person, and a certain superficial attractiveness which he possessed. The result was a jealousy between the two generals. Caecina ridiculed his colleague as a man of foul and infamous character; Valens retorted with charges of emptiness and vanity. But concealing their enmity, they devoted themselves to their common interest, and in frequent letters, without any thought of pardon, heaped all manner of charges upon Otho, while the Othonianist generals, though they had the most abundant materials for invective against Vitellius, refrained from employing them.
In fact, before the death of these two men (and it was by his death that Otho gained high renown, as Vitellius incurred by his the foulest infamy), Vitellius with his indolent luxury was less dreaded than Otho with his ardent passions. The murder of Galba had made the one terrible and odious, while no one reckoned against the other the guilt of having begun the war. Vitellius with his sensuality and gluttony was his own enemy; Otho, with his profligacy, his cruelty, and his recklessness, was held to be more dangerous to the Commonwealth. When Caecina and Valens had united their forces, the Vitellianists had no longer any reason to delay giving battle with their whole strength. Otho deliberated as to whether protracting the war or risking an engagement were the better course. Then Suetonius Paullinus, thinking that it befitted his reputation, which was such that no one at that period was looked upon as a more skilful soldier, to give an opinion on the whole conduct of the war, contended that impatience would benefit the enemy, while delay would serve their own cause.
"The entire army of Vitellius," he said, "has already arrived. Nor have they much strength in their rear, since Gaul is ready to rise, and to abandon the banks of the Rhine, when such hostile tribes are ready to burst in, would not answer his purpose. A hostile people and an intervening sea keep from him the army of Britain; Spain is not over full of troops; Gallia Narbonensis has been cowed by the attack of our ships and by a defeat; Italy beyond the Padus is shut in by the Alps, cannot be relieved from the sea, and has been exhausted by the passage of his army. For that army there is no where any corn, and without supplies an army cannot be kept together. Then the Germans, the most formidable part of the enemy's forces, should the war be protracted into the summer, will sink with enfeebled frames under the change of country and climate. Many a war, formidable in its first impetuosity, has passed into nothing through the weariness of delay. We, on the other hand, have on all sides abundant resources and loyal adherents. We have Pannonia, Moesia, Dalmatia, the East with its armies yet intact, we have Italy and Rome, the capital of the Empire, the Senate, and the people, names that never lose their splendour, though they may sometimes be eclipsed. We have the wealth of the State and of private individuals. We have a vast supply of money, which in a civil war is a mightier weapon than the sword. Our soldiers are inured to the climate of Italy or to yet greater heat. We have the river Padus on our front, and cities strongly garrisoned and fortified, none of which will surrender to the enemy, as the defence of Placentia has proved. Let Otho therefore protract the war. In a few days the 14th legion, itself highly renowned, will arrive with the troops from Moesia. He may then again consider the question, and should a battle be resolved on, we shall fight with increased strength."
Marius Celsus acquiesced in the opinion of Paullinus; and Annius Gallus, who a few days before had been seriously injured by the fall of his horse, was reported to agree by those who had been sent to ascertain his opinion. Otho was inclined to risk a decisive battle. His brother Titianus, and Proculus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, ignorant and therefore impatient, declared that fortune, the Gods, and the genius of Otho, were with their counsels, and would be with their enterprises. That no one might dare to oppose their views, they had taken refuge in flattery. It having been resolved to give battle, it became a question whether it would be better for the Emperor to be present in person, or to withdraw. Paullinus and Celsus no longer opposed, for they would not seem to put the Emperor in the way of peril, and these same men who suggested the baser policy prevailed on him to retire to Brixellum, and thus secure from the hazards of the field, to reserve himself for the administration of empire. That day first gave the death-blow to the party of Otho. Not only did a strong detachment of the Praetorian cohorts, of the bodyguard, and of the cavalry, depart with him, but the spirit of those who remained was broken, for the men suspected their generals, and Otho, who alone had the confidence of the soldiers, while he himself trusted in none but them, had left the generals' authority on a doubtful footing.
Nothing of this escaped the Vitellianists, for, as is usual in civil wars, there were many deserters, and the spies, while busy in inquiring into the plans of the enemy, failed to conceal their own. Meanwhile Caecina and Valens remained quiet, and watched intently for the moment when the enemy in his blindness should rush upon destruction, and found the usual substitute for wisdom in waiting for the folly of others. They began to form a bridge, making a feint of crossing the Padus, in the face of an opposing force of gladiators; they wished also to keep their own soldiers from passing their unoccupied time in idleness. Boats were ranged at equal distances from each other, connected at both ends by strong beams, and with their heads turned against the current, while anchors were thrown out above to keep the bridge firm. The cables, however, instead of being taut, hung loose in the water, in order that as the stream rose the vessels might rise without their arrangement being disturbed. On the end of the bridge was placed a turret; it was built out on the last boat, and from it engines and machines might be worked to repel the enemy. The soldiers of Otho also raised a turret on the opposite bank, and hurled from it stones and flaming missiles.
In the middle of the river was an island. While the gladiators were making their way to it in boats, the Germans swam and outstripped them. A considerable number, as it chanced, had effected the passage, when Macer, having manned some light gallies, attacked them with the most active of his gladiators. But the gladiator has not in battle the firmness of the regular soldier, and now, as they stood on rocking vessels, they could not direct their blows like men who had a sure footing on land. As the men in their alarm made confused movements, rowers and combatants were mingled together in disorder; upon this, the Germans themselves leapt into the shallows, laid hold of the boats, climbed over the gunwales, or sank them with their hands. All this passed in the sight of both armies, and the more it delighted the Vitellianists, the more vehemently did the Othonianists curse the cause and author of the disaster.
The conflict was terminated by the flight of the vanquished, who carried off what boats were left. Then they cried out for the execution of Macer. He had been wounded by a javelin thrown from a distance, and the soldiers had made a rush upon him with drawn swords, when he was saved by the interference of the tribunes and centurions. Soon after Vestricius Spurinna, having received orders to that effect from Otho, joined with his cohorts, leaving but a moderate force in garrison at Placentia. After this Otho sent Flavius Sabinus, consul elect, to take the command of the troops which had been under Macer; the soldiers were delighted by this change of generals, while the generals were led by these continual outbreaks to regard with disgust so hateful a service.
I find it stated by some authors that either the dread of or the disgust felt for both Emperors, whose wickedness and infamy were coming out every day into more open notoriety, made the two armies hesitate whether they should not cease their strife, and either themselves consult together, or allow the Senate to choose an Emperor; and that, for this reason, Otho's generals recommended a certain measure of delay, Paullinus especially entertaining hopes for himself, on the ground that he was the senior among the men of consular rank, that he was well known as a soldier, and had attained great distinction and fame by his campaigns in Britain. Though I would allow that there were some few who in their secret wishes prayed for peace in the stead of disorder, for a worthy and blameless Emperor in the room of men utterly worthless and wicked, yet I cannot suppose that Paullinus, wise as he was, could have hoped in an age thoroughly depraved to find such moderation in the common herd, as that men, who in their passion for war had trampled peace under foot, should now in their affection for peace renounce the charms of war; nor can I think that armies differing in language and in character, could have united in such an agreement; or that lieutenants and generals, who were for the most part burdened by the consciousness of profligacy, of poverty, and of crime, could have endured any Emperor who was not himself stained by vice, as well as bound by obligation to themselves.
That old passion for power which has been ever innate in man increased and broke out as the Empire grew in greatness. In a state of moderate dimensions equality was easily preserved; but when the world had been subdued, when all rival kings and cities had been destroyed, and men had leisure to covet wealth which they might enjoy in security, the early conflicts between the patricians and the people were kindled into flame. At one time the tribunes were factious, at another the consuls had unconstitutional power; it was in the capital and the forum that we first essayed civil wars. Then rose C. Marius, sprung from the very dregs of the populace, and L. Sulla, the most ruthless of the patricians, who perverted into absolute dominion the liberty which had yielded to their arms. After them came Cn. Pompeius, with a character more disguised but no way better. Henceforth men's sole object was supreme power. Legions formed of Roman citizens did not lay down their arms at Pharsalia and Philippi, much less were the armies of Otho and Vitellius likely of their own accord to abandon their strife. They were driven into civil war by the same wrath from heaven, the same madness among men, the same incentives to crime. That these wars were terminated by what we may call single blows, was owing to want of energy in the chiefs. But these reflections on the character of ancient and modern times have carried me too far from my subject. I now return to the course of events.
Otho having started for Brixellum, the honours of supreme command devolved on his brother Titianus, while the real power and control were in the hands of the prefect Proculus. Celsus and Paullinus, as no one made any use of their skill, did but screen with their idle title of general the blunders of others. The tribunes and centurions were perplexed to see that better men were despised, and that the most worthless carried the day. The common soldiers were full of eagerness, but liked to criticise rather than to obey the orders of their officers. It was resolved to move the camp forward to the fourth milestone from Bedriacum, but it was done so unskilfully, that though it was spring, and there were so many rivers in the neighbourhood, the troops were distressed for want of water. Then the subject of giving battle was discussed, Otho in his despatches ever urging them to make haste, and the soldiers demanding that the Emperor should be present at the conflict; many begged that the troops quartered beyond the Padus should be brought up. It is not so easy to determine what was best to be done, as it is to be sure that what was done was the very worst.
They started for a campaign rather than for a battle, making for the confluence of the Padus and Addua, a distance of sixteen miles from their position. Celsus and Paullinus remonstrated against exposing troops wearied with a march and encumbered with baggage to any enemy, who, being himself ready for action and having marched barely four miles, would not fail to attack them, either when they were in the confusion of an advance, or when they were dispersed and busy with the work of entrenchment. Titianus and Proculus, overcome in argument, fell back on the Imperial authority. It was true that a Numidian had arrived at full gallop with an angry message from Otho, in which the Emperor, sick of delay and impatient of suspense, sharply rebuked the inactivity of the generals, and commanded that matters should be brought to an issue.
The same day, while Caecina was engaged on the construction of a bridge, two tribunes of the Praetorian Guard came to him and begged an interview. He was on the point of hearing their proposals and sending back his own, when the scouts arrived at headlong speed with the news that the enemy were close at hand. The address of the tribunes was thus abruptly terminated. Thus it remained uncertain whether deception, or treason, or some honourable arrangement, had been in their thoughts. Caecina dismissed the tribunes and rode back to the camp. There he found that Fabius Valens had given the signal for battle, and that the troops were under arms. While the legions were casting lots for the order of march, the cavalry charged, and, strange to say, were kept only by the courage of the Italian legion from being driven back on the entrenchments by an inferior force of Othonianists. These men, at the sword's point, compelled the beaten squadron to wheel round and resume the conflict. The line of the Vitellianists was formed without hurry, for, though the enemy was close at hand, the sight of their arms was intercepted by the thick brushwood. In Otho's army the generals were full of fear, and the soldiers hated their officers; the baggage-wagons and the camp-followers were mingled with the troops; and as there were steep ditches on both sides the road, it would have been found too narrow even for an undisturbed advance. Some were gathering round their standards; others were seeking them; everywhere was heard the confused shouting of men who were joining the ranks, or calling to their comrades, and each, as he was prompted by courage or by cowardice, rushed on to the front, or slunk back to the rear.
From the consternation of panic their feelings passed under the influence of a groundless joy into languid indifference, some persons spreading the lie that Vitellius' army had revolted. Whether this rumour was circulated by the spies of Vitellius, or originated in treachery or in accident among the partisans of Otho, has never been clearly ascertained. Forgetting their warlike ardour, the Othonianists at once greeted the foe; as they were answered by an angry murmur, they caused apprehensions of treachery in many of their own side, who did not know what the greeting meant. Then the enemy's line charged with its ranks unbroken, in strength and in numbers superior; the Othonianists, scattered and weary as they were, met the attack with spirit. The ground was so entangled with trees and vineyards that the battle assumed many forms. They met in close and in distant conflict, in line and in column. On the raised road they stood foot to foot, they pushed with their bodies and their shields, and ceasing to throw their javelins, they struck through helmets and breastplates with swords and battle-axes. Recognising each other and distinctly seen by the rest of the combatants, they were fighting to decide the whole issue of the war.
In an open plain between the Padus and the road, two legions happened to meet. On the side of Vitellius was the 21st, called the Rapax, a corps of old and distinguished renown. On that of Otho was the 1st, called Adjutrix, which had never before been brought into the field, but was high-spirited, and eager to gain its first triumph. The men of the 1st, overthrowing the foremost ranks of the 21st, carried off the eagle. The 21st, infuriated by this loss, not only repulsed the 1st, and slew the legate, Orfidius Benignus, but captured many colours and standards from the enemy. In another quarter the 13th legion was put to flight by a charge of the 5th. The 14th was surrounded by a superior force. Otho's generals had long since fled and Caecina and Valens strengthened their army with the reserves. New reinforcements were supplied by Varus Alfenius with his Batavians. They had routed the band of gladiators, which had been ferried across the river, and which had been cut to pieces by the opposing cohorts while they were actually in the water. Thus flushed with victory, they charged the flank of the enemy.
The centre of their line had been penetrated, and the Othonianists fled on all sides in the direction of Bedriacum. The distance was very great, and the roads were blocked up with heaps of corpses; thus the slaughter was the greater, for captives taken in civil war can be turned to no profit. Suetonius Paullinus and Licinius Proculus, taking different roads, avoided the camp. Vedius Aquila, legate of the 13th legion, in the blindness of fear, fell in the way of the furious soldiery. Late in the day he entered the entrenchments, and found himself the centre of a mob of clamorous and mutinous fugitives. They did not refrain from abuse or actual violence; they reviled him as a deserter and traitor, not having any specific charge against him, but all, after the fashion of the mob, imputing to him their own crimes. Titianus and Celsus were favoured by the darkness. By that time the sentries had been posted, and the soldiers reduced to order. Annius Gallus had prevailed upon them by his prayers, his advice, and his personal influence, not to aggravate the disaster of their defeat by mutual slaughter. Whether the war was at an end, or whether they might choose to resume the conflict, the vanquished would find in union the sole mitigation of their lot. The spirit of the rest of the army was broken, but the Praetorians angrily complained that they had been vanquished, not by valour, but by treachery. "The Vitellianists indeed," they said, "gained no bloodless victory; their cavalry was defeated, a legion lost its eagle. We have still the troops beyond the Padus, and Otho himself. The legions of Moesia are coming; a great part of the army remained at Bedriacum; these certainly were never vanquished; and if it must be so, it is on the battlefield that we shall fall with most honour." Amid all the exasperation or terror of these thoughts, the extremity of despair yet roused them to fury rather than to fear.
The army of Vitellius bivouacked at the fifth milestone from Bedriacum. The generals did not venture an assault on the enemy's camp that same day; besides, a capitulation was expected. Though they were without baggage, and had marched out only to fight, it was sufficient protection to them that they had arms, and were victorious. On the following day, as the feeling of Otho's army was evident, and those who had been most furious were inclined to repent, envoys were sent, nor did the generals of Vitellius hesitate to grant conditions of peace. The envoys indeed were detained for some little time, and this circumstance caused some doubt, as it was not known whether they had obtained their object; before long, however, they returned, and the camp was thrown open. Both victors and vanquished melted into tears, and cursed the fatality of civil strife with a melancholy joy. There in the same tents did they dress the wounds of brothers or of kinsmen. Their hopes, their rewards, were all uncertain; death and sorrow were sure. And no one had so escaped misfortune as to have no bereavement to lament. Search was made for the body of the legate Orfidius, and it was burnt with the customary honours. A few were buried by their friends; the multitude that remained were left above ground.
Otho was awaiting news of the battle free from alarm and resolved in purpose. First came gloomy tidings, and then fugitives from the field, making known that all was lost. The zeal of the soldiers did not wait for the Emperor to speak. They bade him be of good cheer, telling him that he had still fresh forces, and that they would themselves endure and dare to the last. This was no flattery; they were fired by a furious impulse to seek the battle-field, and raise again the fallen fortunes of their party. Those who stood at a distance stretched out their arms, those who were near clasped the Emperor's knees, and Plotius Firmus was the most zealous of them all. This man, who was prefect of the Praetorian Guard, repeatedly besought Otho not to desert an army so loyal and soldiers so deserving; "there was more courage in bearing trouble," he said, "than in escaping from it; the brave and the energetic cling to hope, even in spite of fortune; the cowardly and the indolent are hurried into despair by their fears." While he was thus speaking, as Otho assumed a relenting or a stern expression, the soldiers cheered or groaned. Nor was it only the Praetorians, who were peculiarly Otho's troops, that thus acted; those who had been sent on from Moesia declared that the approaching army was as firmly resolved, and that the legions had entered Aquileia. No one therefore can doubt that the war might have been renewed with its terrible disasters, and its uncertainties both for victors and vanquished.
Otho himself was opposed to all thoughts of war. He said, "I hold that to expose such a spirit, such a courage as yours, to any further risk is to put too high a value on my life. The more hope you hold out to me, should I choose to live, the more glorious will be my death. Fortune and I now know each other; you need not reckon for how long, for it is peculiarly difficult to be moderate with that prosperity which you think you will not long enjoy. The civil war began with Vitellius; he was the first cause of our contending in arms for the throne; the example of not contending more than once shall belong to me. By this let posterity judge of Otho. Vitellius is welcome to his brother, his wife, his children. I need neither revenge nor consolation. Others may have held the throne for a longer time, but no one can have left it with such fortitude. Shall I suffer so large a portion of the youth of Rome and so many noble armies to be again laid low and to be lost to the State? Let this thought go with me, that you were willing to die for me. But live, and let us no longer delay, lest I interfere with your safety, you with my firmness. To say too much about one's end is a mark of cowardice. Take as the strongest proof of my determination the fact that I complain of no one. To accuse either gods or men is only for him who wishes to live."
After having thus spoken, he courteously entreated all in terms befitting their age and rank to go at once, and not exasperate the anger of the conqueror by staying. With the young he used his authority, with the old his prayers, and still his look was calm, his speech collected, as he checked the unseasonable tears of his friends. He gave orders that those who were departing should be furnished with boats and carriages; he destroyed all memorials and letters remarkable for their expressions of zeal for himself or their abuse of Vitellius. He distributed some gratuities, but sparingly, and not like a man who was soon to die. Then he even administered consolation to Salvius Cocceianus, his brother's son, a very young man, who was anxious and sorrowful, praising his affection while he rebuked his fear. "Do you think," he said, "that Vitellius will shew so ruthless a temper that he will not make even this return for the preservation of his whole family? By hastening my end I earn the clemency of the conqueror. It is not in the extremity of despair, but while my army yet cries for battle, that I have sacrificed to the State my last chance. I have obtained enough reputation for myself, enough nobility for my family. Successor to the Julii, the Claudii, the Servii, have been the first to bring the Imperial dignity into a new family. Enter then on life with a brave heart, and never entirely forget, or remember too vividly, that Otho was your uncle."
After this he dismissed every one, and took some repose. He was now pondering in his heart the last cares of life, when his attention was distracted by a sudden tumult and he was told of the confusion and outrageous conduct of the soldiers. They were threatening with death all who attempted to depart, and were extreme in their violence against Verginius, whose house they had blockaded and were besieging. After rebuking the ringleaders of the tumult, he returned and employed himself in granting interviews to those who were departing, till all had left in safety. Towards evening he quenched his thirst with a draught of cold water. Two daggers were brought to him; he tried the edge of each, and then put one under his head. After satisfying himself that his friends had set out, he passed a tranquil night, and it is even said that he slept. At dawn he fell with his breast upon the steel. Hearing a groan from the dying man, his freedmen and slaves, and Plotius Firmus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard, came in. They found but one wound. His funeral was hastily performed. He had made this the subject of earnest entreaties, anxious that his head might not be cut off and subjected to indignities. The Praetorian cohorts carried his body with praises and tears, covering his wound and his hands with kisses. Some of the soldiers killed themselves near the funeral pile, not moved by remorse or by fear, but by the desire to emulate his glory, and by love of their Prince. Afterwards this kind of death became a common practice among all ranks at Bedriacum, at Placentia, and in the other camps. Over Otho was built a tomb unpretending and therefore likely to stand.
Thus Otho ended his life in the 37th year of his age. He came from the municipal town of Ferentinum. His father was of consular, his grandfather of praetorian rank. His family on the mother's side was of less distinction, but yet respectable. What his boyhood and his youth had been, we have already shewn. By two daring acts, one most atrocious, the other singularly noble, he earned in the eyes of posterity about an equal share of infamy and of glory. I should think it unbecoming the dignity of the task which I have undertaken, to collect fabulous marvels, and to amuse with fiction the tastes of my readers; at the same time I would not venture to impugn the credit of common report and tradition. The natives of these parts relate that on the day when the battle was being fought at Bedriacum, a bird of unfamiliar appearance settled in a much frequented grove near Regium Lepidum, and was not frightened or driven away by the concourse of people, or by the multitude of birds that flocked round it, until Otho killed himself; then it vanished. When they came to compute the time, it was found that the commencement and the end of this strange occurrence tallied with the last scenes of Otho's life.
At the funeral the mutinous spirit of the soldiers was kindled afresh by their sorrow and regret, and there was no one to check them. They turned to Verginius, and in threatening language, at one time besought him to accept the Imperial dignity, at another, to act as envoy to Caecina and Valens. Verginius secretly departed by a back way from his house, and thus managed to elude them when they burst in. Rubrius Gallus was charged with the petition of the cohorts which had been quartered at Brixellum. An amnesty was immediately granted to them, while at the same time the forces which had been commanded by Flavius Sabinus signified through him their submission to the conqueror.
Hostilities had ceased everywhere, but a considerable number of the Senate, who had accompanied Otho from Rome, and had been afterwards left at Mutina, encountered the utmost peril. News of the defeat was brought to this place. The soldiers, however, rejected it as a false report; and judging the Senate to be hostile to Otho, watched their language, and put an unfavourable construction on their looks and manner. Proceeding at last to abuse and insults, they sought a pretext for beginning a massacre, while a different anxiety also weighed upon the Senators, who, knowing that the party of Vitellius was in the ascendant, feared that they might seem to have been tardy in welcoming the conqueror. Thus they met in great alarm and distracted by a twofold apprehension; no one was ready with any advice of his own, but looked for safety in sharing any mistake with many others. The anxieties of the terrified assembly were aggravated when the Senate of Mutina made them an offer of arms and money, and, with an ill-timed compliment, styled them "Conscript Fathers."
There then ensued a notable quarrel, Licinius Caecina inveighing against Marcellus Eprius, for using ambiguous language. The rest indeed did not express their opinions, but the name of Marcellus, exposed as it was to odium from the hateful recollection of his career as an informer, had roused in Caecina, who was an unknown man, and had lately been made a Senator, the hope of distinguishing himself by making great enemies. The moderation of wiser men put an end to the dispute. They all returned to Bononia, intending there to deliberate again, and also expecting further news in the meantime. At Bononia they posted men on the different roads to make enquiries of every newcomer; one of Otho's freedmen, on being questioned as to the cause of his departure, replied that he was entrusted with his master's last commands; Otho was still alive, he said, when he left him, but his only thoughts were for posterity, and he had torn himself from all the fascinations of life. They were struck with admiration, and were ashamed to put any more questions, and then the hearts of all turned to Vitellius.
Lucius Vitellius, the brother of the Emperor, was present at their deliberations, and was preparing to receive their flatteries, when of a sudden Coenus, a freedman of Nero, threw them all into consternation by an outrageous falsehood. He asserted that, by the arrival of the 14th legion, joined to the forces from Brixellum, the victorious army had been routed and the fortunes of the party changed. The object of this fabrication was that the passports of Otho, which were beginning to be disregarded, might through more favourable news recover their validity. Coenus was conveyed with rapidity to the capital, but a few days after suffered the penalty of his crime by the order of Vitellius. The peril of the Senators was increased by the soldiers of Otho's army believing that the intelligence thus brought was authentic. Their alarm was heightened by the fact that their departure from Mutina and their desertion of the party had the appearance of a public resolution. They did not meet again for general deliberation, but every man consulted his own safety, till letters arrived from Fabius Valens which removed their fear. Besides, the very glory of Otho's death made the news travel more quickly.
At Rome, however, there was no alarm; the games of Ceres were attended as usual. When trustworthy messengers brought into the theatre the news that Otho was dead, and that all the troops in the capital had taken the oath to Vitellius under the direction of Flavius Sabinus, prefect of the city, the spectators greeted the name of Vitellius with applause. The people carried round the temples images of Galba, ornamented with laurel leaves and flowers, and piled chaplets in the form of a sepulchral mound near the lake of Curtius, on the