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Written 109 A.C.E.
Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
Table of Contents
January - November, A.D. 70
When Vitellius was dead, the war had indeed come to an end, but peace had yet to begin. Sword in hand, throughout the capital, the conquerors hunted down the conquered with merciless hatred. The streets were choked with carnage, the squares and temples reeked with blood, for men were massacred everywhere as chance threw them in the way. Soon, as their license increased, they began to search for and drag forth hidden foes. Whenever they saw a man tall and young they cut him down, making no distinction between soldiers and civilians. But the ferocity, which in the first impulse of hatred could be gratified only by blood, soon passed into the greed of gain. They let nothing be kept secret, nothing be closed; Vitellianists, they pretended, might be thus concealed. Here was the first step to breaking open private houses; here, if resistance were made, a pretext for slaughter. The most needy of the populace and the most worthless of the slaves did not fail to come forward and betray their wealthy masters; others were denounced by friends. Everywhere were lamentations, and wailings, and all the miseries of a captured city, till the license of the Vitellianist and Othonianist soldiery, once so odious, was remembered with regret. The leaders of the party, so energetic in kindling civil strife, were incapable of checking the abuse of victory. In stirring up tumult and strife the worst men can do the most, but peace and quiet cannot be established without virtue.
Domitian had entered into possession of the title and residence of Caesar, but not yet applying himself to business, was playing the part of a son of the throne with debauchery and intrigue. The office of prefect of the Praetorian Guard was held by Arrius Varus, but the supreme power was in the hands of Primus Antonius, who carried off money and slaves from the establishment of the Emperor, as if they were the spoils of Cremona. The other generals, whose moderation or insignificance had shut them out from distinction in the war, had accordingly no share in its prizes. The country, terror-stricken and ready to acquiesce in servitude, urgently demanded that Lucius Vitellius with his cohorts should be intercepted on his way from Tarracina, and that the last sparks of war should be trodden out. The cavalry were sent on to Aricia, the main body of the legions halted on this side of Bovillae. Without hesitation Vitellius surrendered himself and his cohorts to the discretion of the conqueror, and the soldiers threw down their ill-starred arms in rage quite as much as in alarm. The long train of prisoners, closely guarded by armed men, passed through the capital. Not one of them wore the look of a suppliant; sullen and savage, they were unmoved by the shouts and jests of the insulting rabble. A few, who ventured to break away, were overpowered by the force that hemmed them in; the rest were thrown into prison. Not one of them uttered an unworthy word; even in disaster the honour of the soldier was preserved. After this Lucius Vitellius was executed. Equally vicious with his brother, he had yet shewn greater vigilance during that brother's reign, and may be said, not so much to have shared his elevation, as to have been dragged down by his fall.
About the same time Lucilius Bassus was sent with some light cavalry to establish order in Campania, where the towns were still disturbed, but by mutual animosities rather than by any spirit of opposition to the new Emperor. The sight of the soldiery restored quiet, and the smaller colonies escaped unpunished. At Capua, however, the third legion was stationed to pass the winter, and the noble families suffered severely. Tarracina, on the other hand, received no relief; so much more inclined are we to requite an injury than an obligation. Gratitude is a burden, while there seems to be a profit in revenge. They were consoled by seeing the slave of Verginius Capito, whom I have mentioned as the betrayer of Tarracina, gibbeted in the very rings of knighthood, the gift of Vitellius, which they had seen him wear. At Rome the Senate, delighted and full of confident hope, decreed to Vespasian all the honours customarily bestowed on the Emperors. And indeed the civil war, which, beginning in Gaul and Spain, and afterwards drawing into the struggle first Germany and then Illyricum, had traversed Aegypt, Judaea, and Syria, every province, and every army, this war, now that the whole earth was, as it were, purged from guilt, seemed to have reached its close. Their alacrity was increased by a letter from Vespasian, written during the continuance of the war. Such indeed was its character at first sight; the writer, however, expressed himself as an Emperor, speaking modestly about himself, in admirable language about the State. There was no want of deference on the part of the Senate. On the Emperor and his son Titus the consulship was bestowed by decree; on Domitian the office of praetor with consular authority.
Mucianus had also forwarded to the Senate certain letters which furnished matter for talk. It was said, "Why, if he is a private citizen, does he speak like a public man? In a few days' time he might have said the very same words in his place as a Senator. And even the invective against Vitellius comes too late, and is ungenerous; while certainly it is arrogance to the State and an insult to the Emperor to boast that he had the Imperial power in his hands, and made a present of it to Vespasian." Their dislike, however, was concealed; their adulation was open enough. In most flattering language they voted a triumph to Mucianus, a triumph for a civil war, though the expedition against the Sarmatae was the pretext. On Antonius Primus were bestowed the insignia of consular rank, on Arrius Varus and Cornelius Fuscus praetorian honours. Then they remembered the Gods. It was determined that the Capitol should be restored. All these motions Valerius Asiaticus, consul elect, proposed. Most of the Senators signified their assent by their looks, or by raising the hand; but a few, who either held a distinguished rank, or had a practised talent for flattery, declared their acquiescence in studied speeches. When it came to the turn of Helvidius Priscus, praetor elect, to vote, he delivered an opinion, full of respect indeed to a worthy Emperor, and yet wholly free from insincerity; and he was strongly supported by the sympathies of the Senate. To Priscus indeed this day was in an especial manner the beginning of a great quarrel and a great renown.
As I have again happened to mention a man of whom I shall often have to speak, the subject seems to demand that I should give a brief account of his life and pursuits, and of his fortunes. Helvidius Priscus was a native of the town of Carecina in Italy, and was the son of one Cluvius, who had been a centurion of the first rank. In early youth he devoted his distinguished talents to the loftiest pursuits, not wishing, as do many, to cloak under an imposing name a life of indolence, but to be able to enter upon public life with a spirit fortified against the chances of fortune. He followed those teachers of philosophy who hold nothing to be good but what is honourable, nothing evil but what is base, and who refuse to count either among things good or evil, power, rank, or indeed any thing not belonging to the mind. While still holding the quaestorship, he was selected by Paetus Thrasea to be his son-in-law, and from the example of his father-in-law imbibed with peculiar eagerness a love of liberty. As a citizen and as a Senator, as a husband, as a son-in-law, as a friend, and in all the relations of life, he was ever the same, despising wealth, steadily tenacious of right, and undaunted by danger.
There were some who thought him too eager for fame, and indeed the desire of glory is the last infirmity cast off even by the wise. The fall of his father-in-law drove him into exile, but he returned when Galba mounted the throne, and proceeded to impeach Marcellus Eprius, who had been the informer against Thrasea. This retribution, as great as it was just, had divided the Senate into two parties; for, if Marcellus fell, a whole army of fellow culprits was struck down. At first there was a fierce struggle, as is proved by the great speeches delivered by both men. But afterwards, as the feelings of Galba were doubtful, and many Senators interceded, Priscus dropped the charge, amidst comments varying with the tempers of men, some praising his moderation, and others deploring a lack of courage. On the day, however, that the Senate was voting about the Imperial dignities of Vespasian, it had been resolved that envoys should be sent to the new Emperor. Hence arose a sharp altercation between Helvidius and Eprius. Priscus proposed that they should be chosen by name by the magistrates on oath, Marcellus demanded the ballot; and this had been the opinion expressed by the Consul elect.
It was the dread of personal humiliation that made Marcellus so earnest, for he feared that, if others were chosen, he should himself appear slighted. From an angry conversation they passed by degrees to long and bitter speeches. Helvidius asked, "Why should Marcellus be so afraid of the judgment of the magistrates? He has wealth and eloquence, which might make him superior to many, were he not oppressed by the consciousness of guilt. The chances of the ballot do not discriminate men's characters; the voting and the judgment of the Senate were devised to reach the lives and reputations of individuals. It concerns the interests of the Commonwealth, it concerns the honour due to Vespasian, that he should be met by those whom the Senate counts to be peculiarly blameless, and who may fill the Emperor's ear with honourable counsels. Vespasian was the friend of Thrasea, Soranus, and Sextius; and the accusers of these men, though it may not be expedient to punish them, ought not to be paraded before him. By this selection on the part of the Senate the Emperor will, so to speak, be advised whom he should mark with approval, and from whom he should shrink. There can be no more effectual instrument of good government than good friends. Let Marcellus be satisfied with having urged Nero to destroy so many innocent victims; let him enjoy the wages of his crimes and his impunity, but let him leave Vespasian to worthier advisers."
Marcellus declared, "It is not my opinion that is assailed; the Consul elect has made a motion in accordance with old precedents, which directed the use of the ballot in the appointment of envoys, in order that there might be no room for intrigue or private animosities. Nothing has happened why customs of long standing should fall into disuse, or why the honour due to the Emperor should be turned into an insult to any man. All Senators are competent to pay their homage. What we have rather to avoid is this, that a mind unsettled by the novelty of power, and which will keenly watch the very looks and language of all, should be irritated by the obstinacy of certain persons. I do not forget the times in which I have been born, or the form of government which our fathers and grandfathers established. I may regard with admiration an earlier period, but I acquiesce in the present, and, while I pray for good Emperors, I can endure whomsoever we may have. It was not through my speech any more than it was through the judgment of the Senate that Thrasea fell. The savage temper of Nero amused itself under these forms, and I found the friendship of such a Prince as harassing as others found their exile. Finally, Helvidius may rival the Catos and the Bruti of old in constancy and courage; I am but one of the Senate which bows to the same yoke. Besides, I would advise Priscus not to climb higher than the throne, or to impose his counsels on Vespasian, an old man, who has won the honours of a triumph, and has two sons grown to manhood. For as the worst Emperors love an unlimited despotism, so the noblest like some check on liberty." These speeches, which were delivered with much vehemence on both sides, were heard with much diversity of feeling. That party prevailed which preferred that the envoys should be taken by lot, as even the neutral section in the Senate exerted themselves to retain the old practice, while the more conspicuous members inclined to the same view, dreading jealousy, should the choice fall on themselves.
Another struggle ensued. The praetors of the Treasury (the Treasury was at this time managed by praetors) complained of the poverty of the State, and demanded a retrenchment of expenditure. The Consul elect, considering how great was the evil and how difficult the remedy, was for reserving the matter for the Emperor. Helvidius gave it as his opinion that measures should be taken at the discretion of the Senate. When the Consuls came to take the votes, Vulcatius Tertullinus, tribune of the people, put his veto on any resolution being adopted in so important a matter in the absence of the Emperor. Helvidius had moved that the Capitol should be restored at the public expense, and that Vespasian should give his aid. All the more moderate of the Senators let this opinion pass in silence, and in time forgot it; but there were some who remembered it.
Musonius Rufus then made a violent attack on Publius Celer, accusing him of having brought about the destruction of Barea Soranus by perjury. By this impeachment all the hatreds of the days of the informers seemed to be revived; but the accused person was so worthless and so guilty that he could not be protected. For indeed the memory of Soranus was held in reverence; Celer had been a professor of philosophy, and had then given evidence against Barea, thus betraying and profaning the friendship of which he claimed to be a teacher. The next day was fixed for the trial. But it was not of Musonius or Publius, it was of Priscus, of Marcellus, and his brother informers, that men were thinking, now that their hearts were once roused to vengeance.
While things were in this state, while there was division in the Senate, resentment among the conquered, no real authority in the conquerors, and in the country at large no laws and no Emperor, Mucianus entered the capital, and at once drew all power into his own hands. The influence of Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius was destroyed; for the irritation of Mucianus against them, though not revealed in his looks, was but ill-concealed, and the country, keen to discover such dislikes, had changed its tone and transferred its homage. He alone was canvassed and courted, and he, surrounding himself with armed men, and bargaining for palaces and gardens, ceased not, what with his magnificence, his proud bearing, and his guards, to grasp at the power, while he waived the titles of Empire. The murder of Calpurnius Galerianus caused the utmost consternation. He was a son of Caius Piso, and had done nothing, but a noble name and his own youthful beauty made him the theme of common talk; and while the country was still unquiet and delighted in novel topics, there were persons who associated him with idle rumours of Imperial honours. By order of Mucianus he was surrounded with a guard of soldiers. Lest his execution in the capital should excite too much notice, they conducted him to the fortieth milestone from Rome on the Appian Road, and there put him to death by opening his veins. Julius Priscus, who had been prefect of the Praetorian Guard under Vitellius, killed himself rather out of shame than by compulsion. Alfenius Varus survived the disgrace of his cowardice. Asiaticus, who was only a freedman, expiated by the death of a slave his evil exercise of power.
At this time the country was hearing with anything but sorrow rumours that daily gained strength of disasters in Germany. Men began to speak of slaughtered armies, of captured encampments, of Gaul in revolt, as if such things were not calamities. Beginning at an earlier period I will discuss the causes in which this war had its origin, and the extent of the movements which it kindled among independent and allied nations.
The Batavians, while they dwelt on the other side of the Rhine, formed a part of the tribe of the Chatti. Driven out by a domestic revolution, they took possession of an uninhabited district on the extremity of the coast of Gaul, and also of a neighbouring island, surrounded by the ocean in front, and by the river Rhine in the rear and on either side. Not weakened by the power of Rome or by alliance with a people stronger than themselves, they furnished to the Empire nothing but men and arms. They had had a long training in the German wars, and they had gained further renown in Britain, to which country their cohorts had been transferred, commanded, according to ancient custom, by the noblest men in the nation. They had also at home a select body of cavalry, who practised with special devotion the art of swimming, so that they could stem the stream of the Rhine with their arms and horses, without breaking the order of their squadrons.
Julius Paullus and Claudius Civilis, scions of the royal family, ranked very high above the rest of their nation. Paullus was executed by Fonteius Capito on a false charge of rebellion. Civilis was put in chains and sent to Nero, and, though acquitted by Galba, again stood in peril of his life in the time of Vitellius, when the army clamoured for his execution. Here were causes of deep offence; hence arose hopes built on our disasters. Civilis, however, was naturally politic to a degree rarely found among barbarians. He was wont to represent himself as Sertorius or Hannibal, on the strength of a similar disfigurement of his countenance. To avoid the opposition which he would encounter as a public enemy, were he openly to revolt from Rome, he affected a friendship for Vespasian and a zealous attachment to his party; and indeed a letter had been despatched to him by Primus Antonius, in which he was directed to divert the reinforcements which Vitellius had called up, and to keep the legions where they were by the feint of an outbreak in Germany. The same policy was suggested by Hordeonius in person; he had a bias towards Vespasian, and feared for the Empire, the utter ruin of which would be very near, were a fresh war with so many thousands of armed men to burst upon Italy.
Civilis, who was resolved on rebellion, and intended, while concealing his ulterior designs, to reveal his other plans as occasion presented itself, set about the work of revolution in this way. By command of Vitellius all the Batavian youth was then being summoned to the conscription, a thing naturally vexatious, and which the officials made yet more burdensome by their rapacity and profligacy, while they selected aged and infirm persons, whom they might discharge for a consideration, and mere striplings, but of distinguished beauty (and many attained even in boyhood to a noble stature), whom they dragged off for infamous purposes. This caused indignation, and the ringleaders of the concerted rebellion prevailed upon the people to refuse the conscription. Civilis collected at one of the sacred groves, ostensibly for a banquet, the chiefs of the nation and the boldest spirits of the lower class. When he saw them warmed with the festivities of the night, he began by speaking of the renown and glory of their race, and then counted the wrongs and the oppressions which they endured, and all the other evils of slavery. "There is," he said, "no alliance, as once there was; we are treated as slaves. When does even a legate come among us, though he come only with a burdensome retinue and in all the haughtiness of power? We are handed over to prefects and centurions, and when they are glutted with our spoils and our blood, then they are changed, and new receptacles for plunder, new terms for spoliation, are discovered. Now the conscription is at hand, tearing, we may say, for ever children from parents, and brothers from brothers. Never has the power of Rome been more depressed. In the winter quarters of the legions there is nothing but property to plunder and a few old men. Only dare to look up, and cease to tremble at the empty names of legions. For we have a vast force of horse and foot; we have the Germans our kinsmen; we have Gaul bent on the same objects. Even to the Roman people this war will not be displeasing; if defeated, we shall still reckon it a service to Vespasian, and for success no account need be rendered."
Having been listened to with great approval, he bound the whole assembly with barbarous rites and the national forms of oath. Envoys were sent to the Canninefates to urge a common policy. This is a tribe which inhabits part of the island, and closely resembles the Batavians in their origin, their language, and their courageous character, but is inferior in numbers. After this he sent messengers to tamper with the British auxiliaries and with the Batavian cohorts, who, as I have before related, had been sent into Germany, and were then stationed at Mogontiacum. Among the Canninefates there was a certain Brinno, a man of a certain stolid bravery and of distinguished birth. His father, after venturing on many acts of hostility, had scorned with impunity the ridiculous expedition of Caligula. His very name, the name of a family of rebels, made him popular. Raised aloft on a shield after the national fashion, and balanced on the shoulders of the bearers, he was chosen general. Immediately summoning to arms the Frisii, a tribe of the farther bank of the Rhine, he assailed by sea the winter quarters of two cohorts, which was the nearest point to attack. The soldiers had not anticipated the assault of the enemy; even had they done so, they had not strength to repulse it. Thus the camp was taken and plundered. Then the enemy fell upon the sutlers and Roman traders, who were wandering about in every direction, as they would in a time of peace. At the same time they were on the point of destroying the forts, but the prefects of the cohorts, seeing that they could not hold them, set them on fire. The standards, the colours, and what soldiers there were, concentrated themselves in the upper part of the island under the command of Aquilius, a centurion of the first rank, an army in name rather than in strength. Vitellius in fact, after withdrawing the effective troops from the cohorts, had loaded with arms a crowd of idlers from the neighbouring villages of the Nervii and the Germans.
Civilis, thinking that he must proceed by craft, actually blamed the prefects for having deserted the forts, saying that he would himself, with the cohort under his command, quell the disturbance among the Canninefates, and that they had better return to their respective winter quarters. It was evident, however, that there was some treacherous design beneath this advice, that the cohorts would be dispersed only to be more easily crushed, and that the guiding hand in the war was not Brinno but Civilis; for indications of the truth, which the Germans, a people who delight in war, could not long conceal, were gradually coming to light. When stratagem proved ineffectual, he resorted to force, arranging in distinct columns the Canninefates, the Batavians, and the Frisii. The Roman army was drawn up to meet them not far from the river Rhine, and the ships, which, after burning the forts, they had stranded at that point, were arranged so as to front the enemy. Before the struggle had lasted long, a cohort of Tungrians carried over their standards to Civilis. The other troops, paralysed by the unexpected desertion, were cut down alike by friends and foes. In the fleet there was the same treachery. Some of the rowers were Batavians, and they hindered the operations of the sailors and combatants by an apparent want of skill; then they began to back water, and to run the sterns on to the hostile shore. At last they killed the pilots and centurions, unless these were willing to join them. The end was that the whole fleet of four and twenty vessels either deserted or was taken.
For the moment this was a brilliant success, and it had its use for the future. They possessed themselves of some arms and some vessels, both of which they wanted, while they became very famous throughout Germany as the champions of liberty. The tribes of Germany immediately sent envoys with offers of troops. The co-operation of Gaul Civilis endeavoured to secure by politic liberality, sending back to their respective states the captured prefects of cohorts, and giving permission to their men to go or stay as they preferred. He offered to those who stayed service on honourable terms, to those who departed the spoils of the Roman army. At the same time he reminded them in confidential conversations of the wrongs which they had endured for so many years, while they falsely gave to a wretched slavery the name of peace. "The Batavians," he said, "though free of tribute, have yet taken up arms against our common masters. In the first conflict the soldiers of Rome have been routed and vanquished. What will be the result if Gaul throws off the yoke? What strength is there yet left in Italy? It is by the blood of the provinces that the provinces are conquered. Think not of how it fared with the armies of Vindex. It was by Batavian cavalry that the Aedui and the Arverni were trampled down, and among the auxiliaries of Verginius there were found Belgian troops. To those who will estimate the matter aright it is evident that Gaul fell by her own strength. But now all are on the same side, and we have whatever remnant of military vigour still flourished in the camps of Rome. With us too are the veteran cohorts to which the legions of Otho lately succumbed. Let Syria, Asia Minor, and the East, habituated as it is to despotism, submit to slavery; there are many yet alive in Gaul who were born before the days of tribute. It was only lately indeed that Quintilius Varus was slain, and slavery driven out of Germany. And the Emperor who was challenged by that war was not a Vitellius, but a Caesar Augustus. Freedom is a gift bestowed by nature even on the dumb animals. Courage is the peculiar excellence of man, and the Gods help the braver side. Let us then, who are free to act and vigorous, fall on a distracted and exhausted enemy. While some are supporting Vespasian, and others Vitellius, opportunities are opening up for acting against both."
Civilis, bent on winning Gaul and Germany if his purposes should prosper, was on the point of securing supremacy over the most powerful and most wealthy of the states. His first attempts Hordeonius Flaccus had encouraged by affecting ignorance. But when messengers came hurrying in with intelligence that a camp had been stormed, that cohorts had been cut to pieces, and that the Roman power had been expelled from the island of the Batavians, the general ordered the legate, Munius Lupercus, who was in command of the winter quarters of two legions, to advance against the enemy. Lupercus in great haste threw across the Rhine such legionaries as were on the spot, some Ubian troops who were close at hand, and some cavalry of the Treveri, who were stationed at no great distance; these were accompanied by some Batavian horse, who, though they had been long disaffected, yet still simulated loyalty in order that by betraying the Romans in the moment of actual conflict they might receive a higher price for their desertion. Civilis, surrounding himself with the standards of the captured cohorts, to keep their recent honours before the eyes of his own men, and to terrify the enemy by the remembrance of defeat, now directed his own mother and sisters, and the wives and children of all his men, to stand in the rear, where they might encourage to victory, or shame defeat. The war-song of the men, and the shrill cries of the women, rose from the whole line, and an answering but far less vigorous cheer, came from the legions and auxiliaries. The Batavians had exposed the left wing by their desertion, and they immediately turned against our men. Still the legionaries, though their position was alarming, kept their arms and their ranks. The auxiliaries of the Ubii and the Treveri broke at once in shameful flight, and dispersed over the whole country. On that side the Germans threw the weight of their attack. Meanwhile the legions had an opportunity of retreating into what was called the Old Camp. Claudius Labeo, prefect of the Batavian horse, who had been the rival of Civilis in some local contest, was sent away into the country of the Frisii; to kill him might be to give offence to his countrymen, while to keep him with the army might be to sow the seeds of discord.
About the same time the messenger despatched by Civilis came up with the cohorts of the Batavians and the Canninefates, while by the orders of Vitellius they were advancing towards Rome. At once, inflated with pride and haughtiness, they demanded, by way of remuneration for their march, a donative, double pay, and an increase in the number of cavalry, things indeed which Vitellius had promised, but which they now asked, not with the thought of obtaining them, but as a pretext for mutiny. Flaccus, by his many concessions, had produced no other effect but to make them insist with more energy on what they knew he must refuse. Treating him with contempt, they made their way towards Lower Germany, to join Civilis. Hordeonius, assembling the tribunes and centurions, asked their opinion as to whether he should use coercion with those who refused obedience. Soon, yielding to his natural timidity and to the alarm of his officers, who were troubled by the suspicious temper of the auxiliaries and by the fact that the ranks of the legions had been recruited by a hurried conscription, he resolved to confine his troops to the camp. Then, repenting of his resolve, and finding that the very men who had advised it now disapproved it, he seemed bent on pursuing the enemy, and wrote to Herennius Gallus, legate of the first legion, who was then holding Bonna, that he was to prevent the Batavians from crossing the Rhine, and that he would himself hang on their rear with his army. They might have been crushed, if Hordeonius, moving from one side, and Gallus from the other, had enclosed them between their armies. But Flaccus abandoned his purpose, and, in other despatches to Gallus, recommended him not to threaten the departing foe. Thence arose a suspicion that the war was being kindled with the consent of the legates, and that everything which had happened, or was apprehended, was due, not to the cowardice of the troops, or to the strength of the enemy, but to the treachery of the generals.
When the Batavians were near the camp at Bonna, they sent on before them delegates, commissioned to deliver to Herennius Gallus a message from the cohorts. It was to this effect: "We have no quarrel with the Romans, for whom we have so often fought. Wearied with a protracted and fruitless service, we long for our native land and for rest. If no one oppose us, our march will be harmless, but if an armed force encounter us, we will make a way with the sword." The soldiers prevailed upon the hesitating legate to risk the chances of a battle. Three thousand legionaries, some raw Belgian cohorts, and with them a mob of rustics and camp-followers, cowardly, but bold of speech before the moment of danger, rushed out of all the gates, thinking to surround the Batavians, who were inferior in number. But the enemy, being veteran troops, formed in columns, presenting on every side a dense array, with front, flanks, and rear secure. Thus they were able to break the thin line of our soldiers. The Belgians giving way, the legion was driven back, retreating in confusion on the entrenchments and the gates. It was there that the greatest slaughter took place. The trenches were heaped up with corpses. Nor was it only from the deadly blows of the enemy that they suffered; many perished in the crush and by their own weapons. The victorious army, who avoided the Colonia Agrippinensis, did not venture on any other hostile act during the remainder of their march, and excused the conflict at Bonna, alleging that they had asked for peace, and that when it was refused they had but looked to their own safety.
Civilis, who now on the arrival of these veteran cohorts was at the head of a complete army, but who was undecided in his plans, and still reflected on the power of Rome, made all who were with him swear allegiance to Vespasian, and sent envoys to the two legions which after their defeat in the previous engagement had retreated into the Old Camp, advising them to accept the same allegiance. Their reply was: "We do not follow the advice of traitors or enemies. Vitellius is our Emperor; to him we will retain our fealty and devote our swords till our last breath. Then let not a Batavian refugee affect to decide the destinies of Rome; let him rather await the merited penalty of his guilt." When this reply was delivered to Civilis, he was furious with anger, and hurried the whole Batavian nation into open war. The Bructeri and the Tencteri joined him, and messengers summoned all Germany to share in his plunder and his glory.
To meet the threatened dangers of the gathering war, the legates of the legions, Munius Lupercus and Numisius Rufus, strengthened their entrenchments and walls. The buildings, which during a long period of peace had grown up like a town near the camp, were destroyed, lest they might be useful to the enemy. Little care, however, was taken about the conveyance of supplies into the camp. These the generals allowed to be plundered; and so, what might long have sufficed for their necessities, was wantonly wasted in a few days. Civilis, who occupied the centre of the army with the elite of the Batavian troops, wishing to add a new terror to his demonstration, covered both banks of the Rhine with columns of his German allies, while his cavalry galloped about the plains. At the same time the fleet was moved up the stream. Here were the standards of the veteran cohorts; there the images of wild beasts, brought out of the woods and sacred groves, under the various forms which each tribe is used to follow into battle, and these mingled emblems of civil and of foreign warfare utterly confounded the besieged. The extent of the entrenchment raised the hopes of the besiegers. Constructed for two legions, it was now held by not more than five thousand Roman soldiers. But there was with them a great number of camp-followers, who had assembled there on the disturbance of peace, and who could be employed in the contest.
Part of the camp occupied the gentle slope of a hill; to part was a level approach. By this encampment Augustus had thought the German tribes might be watched and checked; never had he contemplated such a pitch of disaster, as that these tribes should themselves advance to attack our legions. Hence no labour was bestowed on the ground or on the defences. Our valour and our arms seemed defence enough. The Batavians and the Transrhenane tribes took up their position, each tribe by itself, to distinguish and so the better to display the valour of each; first annoying us by a distant volley; then, as they found that very many of their missiles fixed themselves harmlessly in the turrets and battlements of the walls, and they themselves suffered from the stones showered down on them, they fell on the entrenchment with a shout and furious rush, many placing their scaling-ladders against the ramparts, and others mounting on a testudo formed by their comrades. Some were in the act of climbing over when they were thrust down by the swords of the enemy, and fell overwhelmed by a storm of javelins and stakes. Always very daring at first and excessively elated by success, they now in their eagerness for plunder bore up against reverse. They also ventured to use what to them was a novelty, engines of war; they had themselves no skill in handling them, but the prisoners and deserters taught them to pile up timber in the shape of a bridge, under which they put wheels, and so propelled it, some standing on the top, and fighting as they would from an earth-work, others concealing themselves within and undermining the walls. But the stones thrown by the catapults prostrated the ill-constructed fabric, and when they set themselves to prepare hurdles and mantlets, burning spears were thrown on them by the engines, fire being thus actually used against the assailants. At last, despairing of success by force, they changed their plans, and resolved to wait, for they were well aware that only a few days' provisions were in the camp, and that there was a great crowd on non-combatants; and they counted at the same time on the treachery that might follow on scarcity, on the wavering fidelity of the slaves, and on the chances of war.
Meanwhile Flaccus, who had heard of the siege of the camp, and had sent into all parts of Gaul to collect auxiliaries, put under command of Dillius Vocula, legate of the 18th legion, some troops picked from the legions with orders to hasten by forced marches along the banks of the Rhine. Flaccus himself, who was weak in health and disliked by his troops, travelled with the fleet. The troops indeed complained in unmistakable language that their general had despatched the Batavian cohorts from Mogontiacum, had feigned ignorance of the plans of Civilis, and was inviting the German tribes to join the league. "This," they said, "has strengthened Vespasian no less than the exertions of Primus Antonius and Mucianus. Declared enmity and hostility may be openly repulsed, but treachery and fraud work in darkness, and so cannot be avoided. Civilis stands in arms against us, and arranges the order of his battle; Hordeonius from his chamber or his litter gives such orders as may best serve the enemy. The swords of thousands of brave men are directed by one old man's sick caprice. How much better by slaying the traitor, to set free our valour and our fortune from these evil auspices!" The passions already kindled by the language which they thus held among themselves were yet more inflamed by a despatch from Vespasian, which Flaccus, finding that it could not be concealed, read before an assembly of the troops, sending the persons who had brought it in chains to Vitellius.
With feelings somewhat appeased, they arrived at Bonna, the winter-camp of the first legion. The troops there were even more enraged against Hordeonius, and laid on him the blame of the late disaster. They said that it was by his orders that they had offered battle to the Batavians, supposing that the legions from Mogontiacum were following them; that it was through his treachery that they had been slaughtered, no reinforcements coming up; that all these events were unknown to the other legions, and were not told to their Emperor, though the sudden outburst of treason might have been crushed by the prompt action of so many provinces. Hordeonius read to the army copies of all the letters which he had sent about Gaul, begging for reinforcements, and established as a precedent a most disgraceful practice, namely, the handing over the despatches to the standard-bearers of the legions, through whose means they were read by the soldiers sooner than by the generals. He then ordered one of the mutineers to be put in irons, more for the sake of asserting his authority than because any one man was in fault. The army was then moved from Bonna to the Colonia Agrippinensis, while auxiliaries from Gaul continued to flow in; for at first that nation zealously supported the cause of Rome. Soon indeed as the Germans increased in power, many of the states took up arms against us, moved by the hope of freedom and, could they once shake off the yoke, even by the lust of empire. The irritation of the legions still increased, nor had the imprisonment of a single soldier struck them with terror. This fellow indeed actually charged the general with complicity; he had, he said, acted as a messenger between Civilis and Flaccus, and because he might tell the truth he was now being crushed under a false charge. With wonderful firmness Vocula ascended the tribunal, and ordered the man, who had been seized by the lictors, and was loudly remonstrating, to be led off to execution. All the best men acquiesced in the order, while the ill-affected were struck with terror. Then, as all with common consent demanded that Vocula should be their general, Hordeonius handed over to him the supreme command.
But there were many things to exasperate the already divided feelings of the soldiery. Pay and provisions were scanty, Gaul was rebelling against conscription and taxes, while the Rhine, owing to a drought unexampled in that climate, would hardly admit of navigation, and thus supplies were straitened at the same time that outposts had to be established along the entire bank to keep the Germans from fording the stream; the self-same cause thus bringing about a smaller supply of grain and a greater number of consumers. Among ignorant persons the very failure of the stream was regarded as a prodigy, as if the very rivers, the old defences of the Empire, were deserting us. What, in peace, would have seemed chance or nature, was now spoken of as destiny and the anger of heaven. As the army entered Novesium the sixteenth legion joined it; Herennius Gallus, its legate, was associated with Vocula in the responsibilities of command. As they did not venture to advance upon the enemy, they constructed a camp at a place called Gelduba. Here the generals sought to give steadiness to the troops by such exercises as forming in order of battle, constructing fortifications, making entrenchments, and whatever else might train them for war. In the hope that they might be fired to courage by the delights of plunder, Vocula led the army against the nearest villages of the Gugerni, who had accepted the alliance of Civilis. Some of the troops remained permanently with Herennius Gallus.
One day it happened that at no great distance from the camp the Germans were endeavouring to drag off to their own bank a vessel laden with corn, which had run aground in the shallows. Gallus could not endure this, and sent a cohort to help. The numbers of the Germans also increased; as fresh troops continued to join both sides, a regular battle ensued. The Germans, besides inflicting great loss on our men, carried off the vessel. The vanquished troops, following what had become a regular practice, laid the blame not on their own cowardice, but on supposed treachery in the legate. Dragged out of his tent, his garments torn, and his person severely beaten, he was commanded to declare for what bribe and with what accomplices he had betrayed the army. Their old hatred of Hordeonius reappeared. He, they declared, was the instigator of the crime, Gallus his tool. At last, utterly terrified by their threats of instant death, the legate himself charged Hordeonius with treachery. He was then put in irons, and only released on the arrival of Vocula, who the next day inflicted capital punishment on the ringleaders of the mutiny; such wide extremes of license and of subordination were to be found in that army. The common soldiers were undoubtedly loyal to Vitellius, but all the most distinguished men were in favour of Vespasian. The result was an alternation of outbreaks and executions, and a strange mixture of obedience and frenzy, which made it impossible to restrain the men whom it was yet possible to punish.
Meanwhile all Germany was raising the power of Civilis by vast additions of strength, and the alliance was secured by hostages of the noblest rank. He directed that the territories of the Ubii and the Treveri should be ravaged by the several tribes on which they bordered, and that another detachment should cross the river Mosa, to threaten the Menapii and the Morini and the frontiers of Gaul. In both quarters plunder was collected; with peculiar hostility in the case of the Ubii, because, this nation, being of German origin, had forsworn its native country, and assumed the Roman name of the Agrippinenses. Their cohorts were cut up at the village of Marcodurum, where they lay in careless security, presuming on their distance from the river-bank. The Ubii did not remain quiet, but made predatory excursions into Germany, escaping at first with impunity, though they were afterwards cut off. Throughout the whole of this war, they were more loyal than fortunate. Civilis, grown more formidable now that the Ubii had been crushed, and elated by the success of his operations, pressed on the siege of the legions, keeping a strict watch to prevent any secret intelligence of advancing succours from reaching them. He entrusted to the Batavians the care of the machines and the vast siege-works, and when the Transrhenane tribes clamoured for battle, he bade them go and cut through the ramparts, and, if repulsed, renew the struggle; their numbers were superfluously large, and their loss was not felt. Even darkness did not terminate the struggle.
Piling up logs of wood round the walls and lighting them, they sat feasting, and rushed to the conflict, as each grew heated with wine, with a useless daring. Their missiles were discharged without effect in the darkness, but to the Romans the ranks of the barbarians were plainly discernible, and they singled out with deliberate aim anyone whose boldness or whose decorations made him conspicuous. Civilis saw this, and, extinguishing the fires, threw the confusion of darkness over the attack. Then ensued a scene of discordant clamour, of accident, and uncertainty, where no one could see how to aim or to avoid a blow. Wherever a shout was heard, they wheeled round and strained hand and foot. Valour was of no avail, accident disturbed every plan, and the bravest frequently were struck down by the missiles of the coward. The Germans fought with inconsiderate fury; our men, more alive to the danger, threw, but not at random, stakes shod with iron and heavy stones. Where the noise of the assailants was heard, or where the ladders placed against the walls brought the enemy within reach of their hands, they pushed them back with their shields, and followed them with their javelins. Many, who had struggled on to the walls, they stabbed with their short swords. After a night thus spent, day revealed a new method of attack.
The Batavians had raised a tower two stories high, which they brought up to the Praetorian gate of the camp, where the ground was most level. But our men, pushing forward strong poles, and battering it with beams, broke it down, causing great destruction among the combatants on the top. The enemy were attacked in their confusion by a sudden and successful sally. All this time many engines were constructed by the legionaries, who were superior to the enemy in experience and skill. Peculiar consternation was caused by a machine, which, being poised in the air over the heads of the enemy, suddenly descended, and carried up one or more of them past the faces of their friends, and then, by a shifting of the weights, projected them within the limits of the camp. Civilis, giving up all hope of a successful assault, again sat down to blockade the camp at his leisure, and undermined the fidelity of the legions by the promises of his emissaries.
All these events in Germany took place before the battle of Cremona, the result of which was announced in a despatch from Antonius, accompanied by Caecina's proclamation. Alpinius Montanus, prefect of a cohort in the vanquished army, was on the spot, and acknowledged the fate of his party. Various were the emotions thus excited; the Gallic auxiliaries, who felt neither affection nor hatred towards either party, and who served without attachment, at once, at the instance of their prefects, deserted Vitellius. The veteran soldiers hesitated. Nevertheless, when Hordeonius administered the oath, under a strong pressure from their tribunes, they pronounced the words, which their looks and their temper belied, and while they adopted every other expression, they hesitated at the name of Vespasian, passing it over with a slight murmur, and not unfrequently in absolute silence.
After this, certain letters from Antonius to Civilis were read in full assembly, and provoked the suspicions of the soldiery, as they seemed to be addressed to a partisan of the cause and to be unfriendly to the army of Germany. Soon the news reached the camp at Gelduba, and the same language and the same acts were repeated. Montanus was sent with a message to Civilis, bidding him desist from hostilities, and not seek to conceal the designs of an enemy by fighting under false colours, and telling him that, if he had been attempting to assist Vespasian, his purpose had been fully accomplished. Civilis at first replied in artful language, but soon perceiving that Montanus was a man of singularly high spirit and was himself disposed for change, he began with lamenting the perils through which he had struggled for five-and-twenty years in the camps of Rome. "It is," he said, "a noble reward that I have received for my toils; my brother murdered, myself imprisoned, and the savage clamour of this army, a clamour which demanded my execution, and for which by the law of nations I demand vengeance. You, Treveri, and other enslaved creatures, what reward do you expect for the blood which you have shed so often? What but a hateful service, perpetual tribute, the rod, the axe, and the passions of a ruling race? See how I, the prefect of a single cohort, with the Batavians and the Canninefates, a mere fraction of Gaul, have destroyed their vast but useless camps, or are pressing them with the close blockade of famine and the sword. In a word, either freedom will follow on our efforts, or, if we are vanquished, we shall but be what we were before." Having thus fired the man's ambition, Civilis dismissed him, but bade him carry back a milder answer. He returned, pretending to have failed in his mission, but not revealing the other facts; these indeed soon came to light.
Civilis, retaining a part of his forces, sent the veteran cohorts and the bravest of his German troops against Vocula and his army, under the command of Julius Maximus and Claudius Victor, his sister's son. On their march they plundered the winter camp of a body of horse stationed at Ascibergium, and they fell on Vocula's camp so unexpectedly that he could neither harangue his army, nor even get it into line. All that he could do in the confusion was to order the veteran troops to strengthen the centre. The auxiliaries were dispersed in every part of the field. The cavalry charged, but, received by the orderly array of the enemy, fled to their own lines. What ensued was a massacre rather than a battle. The Nervian infantry, from panic or from treachery, exposed the flank of our army. Thus the attack fell upon the legions, who had lost their standards and were being cut down within the entrenchments, when the fortune of the day was suddenly changed by a reinforcement of fresh troops. Some Vascon infantry, levied by Galba, which had by this time been sent for, heard the noise of the combatants as they approached the camp, attacked the rear of the preoccupied enemy, and spread a panic more than proportionate to their numbers, some believing that all the troops from Novesium, others that all from Mogontiacum, had come up. This delusion restored the courage of the Romans, and in relying on the strength of others they recovered their own. All the bravest of the Batavians, of the infantry at least, fell, but the cavalry escaped with the standards and with the prisoners whom they had secured in the early part of the engagement. Of the slain on that day the greater number belonged to our army, but to its less effective part. The Germans lost the flower of their force.
The two generals were equally blameworthy; they deserved defeat, they did not make the most of success. Had Civilis given battle in greater force, he could not have been outflanked by so small a number of cohorts, and he might have destroyed the camp after once forcing an entrance. As for Vocula, he did not reconnoitre the advancing enemy, and consequently he was vanquished as soon as be left the camp; and then, mistrusting his victory, he fruitlessly wasted several days before marching against the enemy, though, had he at once resolved to drive them back, and to follow up his success, he might, by one and the same movement, have raised the siege of the legions. Meanwhile Civilis had tried to work on the feelings of the besieged by representing that with the Romans all was lost, and that victory had declared for his own troops. The standards and colours were carried round the ramparts, and the prisoners also were displayed. One of them, with noble daring, declared the real truth in a loud voice, and, as he was cut down on the spot by the Germans, all the more confidence was felt in his information. At the same time it was becoming evident, from the devastation of the country and from the flames of burning houses, that the victorious army was approaching. Vocula issued orders that the standards should be planted within sight of the camp, and should be surrounded with a ditch and rampart, where his men might deposit their knapsacks, and so fight without encumbrance. On this, the General was assailed by a clamorous demand for instant battle. They had now grown used to threaten. Without even taking time to form into line, disordered and weary as they were, they commenced the action. Civilis was on the field, trusting quite as much to the faults of his adversaries as to the valour of his own troops. With the Romans the fortune of the day varied, and the most violently mutinous shewed themselves cowards. But some, remembering their recent victory, stood their ground and struck fiercely at the foe, now encouraging each other and their neighbours, and now, while they re-formed their lines, imploring the besieged not to lose the opportunity. These latter, who saw everything from the walls, sallied out from every gate. It so happened that Civilis was thrown to the ground by the fall of his horse. A report that he had been either wounded or slain gained belief throughout both armies, and spread incredible panic among his own troops, and gave as great encouragement to their opponents. But Vocula, leaving the flying foe, began to strengthen the rampart and the towers of the camp, as if another siege were imminent. He had misused success so often that he was rightly suspected of a preference for war.
Nothing distressed our troops so much as the scarcity of supplies. The baggage of the legions was therefore sent to Novesium with a crowd of non-combatants to fetch corn from that place overland, for the enemy commanded the river. The march of the first body was accomplished in security, as Civilis had not yet recovered. But when he heard that officers of the commissariat had been again sent to Novesium, and that the infantry detached as an escort were advancing just as if it were a time of profound peace, with but few soldiers round the standards, the arms stowed away in the wagons, and all wandering about at their pleasure, he attacked them in regular form, having first sent on troops to occupy the bridges and the defiles in the road. The battle extended over a long line of march, lasting with varying success till night parted the combatants. The infantry pushed on to Gelduba, while the camp remained in the same state as before, garrisoned by such troops as had been left in it. There could be no doubt what peril a convoy, heavily laden and panic-stricken, would have to encounter in attempting to return. Vocula added to his force a thousand picked men from the fifth and fifteenth legions besieged in the Old Camp, a body of troops undisciplined and ill-affected to their officers. But more than the number specified came forward, and openly protested, as they marched, that they would not endure any longer the hardships of famine and the treachery of the legates. On the other hand, those who had stayed behind complained that they were, being left to their fate by this withdrawal of a part of the legions. A twofold mutiny was the result, some calling upon Vocula to come back, while the others refused to return to the camp.
Meanwhile Civilis blockaded the Old Camp. Vocula retired first to Gelduba, after, wards to Novesium; Civilis took possession of Gelduba, and not long after was victorious in a cavalry engagement near Novesium. But reverses and successes seemed equally to kindle in the troops the one desire of murdering their officers. The legions, increased in number by the arrival of the men from the fifth and fifteenth, demanded a donative, for they had discovered that some money had been sent by Vitellius. After a short delay Hordeonius gave the donative in the name of Vespasian. This, more than anything else, fostered the mutinous spirit. The men, abandoning themselves to debauchery and revelry and all the license of nightly gatherings, revived their old grudge against Hordeonius. Without a single legate or tribune venturing to check them, for the darkness seems to have taken from them all sense of shame, they dragged him out of his bed and killed him. The same fate was intended for Vocula, but he assumed the dress of a slave, and escaped unrecognized in the darkness. When their fury had subsided and their alarm returned, they sent centurions with despatches to the various states of Gaul, imploring help in money and troops.
These men, headstrong, cowardly, and spiritless, as a mob without a leader always is, on the approach of Civilis hastily took up arms, and, as hastily abandoning them, betook themselves to flight. Disaster produced disunion, the troops from the Upper army dissociating their cause from that of their comrades. Nevertheless the statues of Vitellius were again set up in the camp and in the neighbouring Belgian towns, and this at a time when Vitellius himself had fallen. Then the men of the 1st, the 4th, and the 18th legions, repenting of their conduct, followed Vocula, and again taking in his presence the oath of allegiance to Vespasian, were marched by him to the relief of Mogontiacum. The besieging army, an heterogeneous mass of Chatti, Usipii, and Mattiaci, had raised the siege, glutted with spoils, but not without suffering loss. Our troops attacked them on the way, dispersed and unprepared. Moreover the Treveri had constructed a breastwork and rampart across their territory, and they and the Germans continued to contend with great losses on both sides up to the time when they tarnished by rebellion their distinguished services to the Roman people.
Meanwhile Vespasian (now consul for the second time) and Titus entered upon their office, both being absent from Rome. People were gloomy and anxious under the pressure of manifold fears, for, over and above immediate perils, they had taken groundless alarm under the impression that Africa was in rebellion through the revolutionary movements of Lucius Piso. He was governor of that province, and was far from being a man of turbulent disposition. The fact was that the wheat-ships were detained by the severity of the weather, and the lower orders, who were accustomed to buy their provisions from day to day, and to whom cheap corn was the sole subject of public interest, feared and believed that the ports had been closed and the supplies stopped, the Vitellianists, who had not yet given up their party feelings, helping to spread the report, which was not displeasing even to the conquerors. Their ambition, which even foreign campaigns could not fill to the full, was not satisfied by any triumphs that civil war could furnish.
On the 1st of January, at a meeting of the Senate, convoked for the purpose by Julius Frontinus, praetor of the city, votes of thanks were passed to the legates, to the armies, and to the allied kings. The office of praetor was taken away from Tettius Julianus, as having deserted his legion when it passed over to the party of Vespasian, with a view to its being transferred to Plotius Griphus. Equestrian rank was conferred on Hormus. Then, on the resignation of Frontinus, Caesar Domitian assumed the office of praetor of the city. His name was put at the head of despatches and edicts, but the real authority was in the hands of Mucianus, with this exception, that Domitian ventured on several acts of power, at the instigation of his friends, or at his own caprice. But Mucianus found his principal cause of apprehension in Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius, who, in the freshness of their fame, while distinguished by great achievements and by the attachment of the soldiery, were also supported by the people, because in no case had they extended their severities beyond the battle-field. It was also reported that Antonius had urged Scribonianus Crassus, whom an illustrious descent added to the honours of his brother made a conspicuous person, to assume the supreme power; and it was understood that a number of accomplices would not have failed to support him, had not the proposal been rejected by Scribonianus, who was a man not easily to be tempted even by a certainty, and was proportionately apprehensive of risk. Mucianus, seeing that Antonius could not be openly crushed, heaped many praises upon him in the Senate, and loaded him with promises in secret, holding out as a prize the government of Eastern Spain, then vacant in consequence of the departure of Cluvius Rufus. At the same time he lavished on his friends tribuneships and prefectures; and then, when he had filled the vain heart of the man with hope and ambition, he destroyed his power by sending into winter quarters the 7th legion, whose affection for Antonius was particularly vehement. The 3rd legion, old troops of Varus Arrius, were sent back to Syria. Part of the army was on its way to Germany. Thus all elements of disturbance being removed, the usual appearance of the capital, the laws, and the jurisdiction of the magistrates, were once more restored.
Domitian, on the day of his taking his seat in the Senate, made a brief and measured speech in reference to the absence of his father and brother, and to his own youth. He was graceful in his bearing, and, his real character being yet unknown, the frequent blush on his countenance passed for modesty. On his proposing the restoration of the Imperial honours of Galba, Curtius Montanus moved that respect should also be paid to the memory of Piso. The Senate passed both motions, but that which referred to Piso was not carried out. Certain commissioners were then appointed by lot, who were to see to the restitution of property plundered during the war, to examine and restore to their place the brazen tables of the laws, which had fallen down through age, to free the Calendar from the additions with which the adulatory spirit of the time had disfigured it, and to put a check on the public expenditure. The office of praetor was restored to Tettius Julianus, as soon as it was known that he had fled for refuge to Vespasian. Griphus still retained his rank. It was then determined that the cause of Musonius Rufus against Publius Celer should be again brought on. Publius was condemned, and thus expiation was made to the shade of Soranus. The day thus marked by an example of public justice was not barren of distinction to individuals. Musonius was thought to have fulfilled the righteous duty of an accuser, but men spoke very differently of Demetrius, a disciple of the Cynical school of philosophy, who pleaded the cause of a notorious criminal by appeals to corrupt influences rather than by fair argument. Publius himself, in his peril, had neither spirit nor power of speech left. The signal for vengeance on the informers having been thus given, Junius Mauricus asked Caesar to give the Senate access to the Imperial registers, from which they might learn what impeachments the several informers had proposed. Caesar answered, that in a matter of such importance the Emperor must be consulted.
The Senate, led by its principal members, then framed a form of oath, which was eagerly taken by all the magistrates and by the other Senators in the order in which they voted. They called the Gods to witness, that nothing had been done by their instrumentality to prejudice the safety of any person, and that they had gained no distinction or advantage by the ruin of Roman citizens. Great was the alarm, and various the devices for altering the words of the oath, among those who felt the consciousness of guilt. The Senate appreciated the scruple, but denounced the perjury. This public censure, as it might be called, fell with especial severity on three men, Sariolenus Vocula, Nonnius Attianus, and Cestius Severus, all of them infamous for having practised the trade of the informer in the days of Nero. Sariolenus indeed laboured under an imputation of recent date. It was said that he had attempted the same practices during the reign of Vitellius. The Senators did not desist from threatening gestures, till he quitted the chamber; then passing to Paccius Africanus, they assailed him in the same way. It was he, they said, who had singled out as victims for Nero the brothers Scribonius, renowned for their mutual affection and for their wealth. Africanus dared not confess his guilt, and could not deny it; but he himself turned on Vibius Crispus, who was pressing him with questions, and complicating a charge which he could not rebut, shifted the blame from himself by associating another with his guilt.
Great was the reputation for brotherly affection, as well as for eloquence, which Vipstanus Messalla earned for himself on that day, by venturing, though not yet of Senatorial age, to plead for his brother Aquilius Regulus. The fall of the families of the Crassi and Orfitus had brought Regulus into the utmost odium. Of his own free will, as it seemed, and while still a mere youth, he had undertaken the prosecution, not to ward off any peril from himself, but in the hope of gaining power. The wife of Crassus, Sulpicia Praetextata, and her four children were ready, should the Senate take cognizance of the cause, to demand vengeance. Accordingly, Messalla, without attempting to defend the case or the person accused, had simply thrown himself in the way of the perils that threatened his brother, and had thus wrought upon the feelings of several Senators. On this Curtius Montanus met him with a fierce speech, in which he went to the length of asserting, that after the death of Galba, money had been given by Regulus to the murderer of Piso, and that he had even fastened his teeth in the murdered man's head. "Certainly," he said, "Nero did not compel this act; you did not secure by this piece of barbarity either your rank or your life. We may bear with the defence put forward by men who thought it better to destroy others than to come into peril themselves. As for you, the exile of your father, and the division of his property among his creditors, had left you perfectly safe, besides that your youth incapacitated you for office; there was nothing in you which Nero could either covet or dread. It was from sheer lust of slaughter and greed of gain that you, unknown as you were, you, who had never pleaded in any man's defence, steeped your soul in noble blood, when, though you had snatched from the very grave of your Country the spoils of a man of consular rank, had been fed to the full with seven million sesterces, and shone with all sacerdotal honours, you yet overwhelmed in one common ruin innocent boys, old men of illustrious name, and noble ladies, when you actually blamed the tardy movements of Nero in wearying himself and his informers with the overthrow of single families, and declared that the whole Senate might be destroyed by one word. Keep, Conscript Fathers, preserve a man of such ready counsels, that every age may be furnished with its teacher, and that our young men may imitate Regulus, just as our old men imitate Marcellus and Crispus. Even unsuccessful villany finds some to emulate it: what will happen, if it flourish and be strong? And the man, whom we dare not offend when he holds only quaestor's rank, are we to see him rise to the dignities of praetor and consul? Do you suppose that Nero will be the last of the tyrants? Those who survived Tiberius, those who survived Caligula, thought the same; and yet after each there arose another ruler yet more detestable and more cruel. We are not afraid of Vespasian; the age and moderation of the new Emperor reassure us. But the influence of an example outlives the individual character. We have lost our vigour, Conscript Fathers; we are no longer that Senate, which, when Nero had fallen, demanded that the informers and ministers of the tyrant should be punished according to ancient custom. The first day after the downfall of a wicked Emperor is the best of opportunities."
Montanus was heard with such approval on the part of the Senate, that Helvidius conceived a hope that Marcellus also might be overthrown. He therefore began with a panegyric on Cluvius Rufus, who, though not less rich nor less renowned for eloquence, had never imperilled a single life in the days of Nero. By this comparison, as well as by direct accusations, he pressed Eprius hard, and stirred the indignation of the Senators. When Marcellus perceived this, he made as if he would leave the House, exclaiming, "We go, Priscus, and leave you your Senate; act the king, though Caesar himself be present." Crispus followed. Both were enraged, but their looks were different; Marcellus cast furious glances about him, while Crispus smiled. They were drawn back, however, into the Senate by the hasty interference of friends. The contest grew fiercer, while the well-disposed majority on the one side, and a powerful minority on the other, fought out their obstinate quarrel, and thus the day was spent in altercation.
At the next meeting of the Senate Caesar began by recommending that the wrongs, the resentments, and the terrible necessities of former times, should be forgotten, and Mucianus spoke at great length in favour of the informers. At the same time he admonished in gentle terms and in a tone of entreaty those who were reviving indictments, which they had before commenced and afterwards dropped. The Senators, when they found themselves opposed, relinquished the liberty which they had begun to exercise. That it might not be thought that the opinion of the Senate was disregarded, or that impunity was accorded to all acts done in the days of Nero, Mucianus sent back to their islands two men of Senatorial rank, Octavius Sagitta and Antistius Sosianus, who had quitted their places of banishment. Octavius had seduced one Pontia Postumia, and, on her refusing to marry him, in the frenzy of passion had murdered her. Sosianus by his depravity had brought many to ruin. Both had been condemned and banished by a solemn decision of the Senate, and, though others were permitted to return, were kept under the same penalty. But this did not mitigate the hatred felt against Mucianus. Sosianus and Sagitta were utterly insignificant, even if they did return; but men dreaded the abilities of the informers, their wealth, and the power which they exercised in many sinister ways.
A trial, conducted in the Senate according to ancient precedents, brought into harmony for a time the feelings of its members. Manlius Patruitus, a Senator, laid a complaint, that he had been beaten by a mob in the colony of Sena, and that by order of the magistrates; that the wrong had not stopped here, but that lamentations and wailings, in fact a representation of funeral obsequies, had been enacted in his presence, accompanied with contemptuous and insulting expressions levelled against the whole Senate. The persons accused were summoned to appear, and after the case had been investigated, punishment was inflicted on those who were found guilty. A resolution of the Senate was also passed, recommending more orderly behaviour to the people of Sena. About the same time Antonius Flamma was condemned under the law against extortion, at the suit of the people of Cyrene, and was banished for cruel practices.
Amidst all this a mutiny in the army all but broke out. The troops who, having been disbanded by Vitellius, had flocked to support Vespasian, asked leave to serve again in the Praetorian Guard, and the soldiers who had been selected from the legions with the same prospect now clamoured for their promised pay. Even the Vitellianists could not be got rid of without much bloodshed. But the money required for retaining in the service so vast a body of men was immensely large. Mucianus entered the camp to examine more accurately the individual claims. The victorious army, wearing their proper decorations and arms, he drew up with moderate intervals of space between the divisions; then the Vitellianists, whose capitulation at Bovillae I have already related, and the other troops of the party, who had been collected from the capital and its neighbourhood, were brought forth almost naked. Mucianus ordered these men to be drawn up apart, making the British, the German, and any other troops that there were belonging to other armies, take up separate positions. The very first view of their situation paralyzed them. They saw opposed to them what seemed a hostile array, threatening them with javelin and sword. They saw themselves hemmed in, without arms, filthy and squalid. And when they began to be separated, some to be marched to one spot, and some to another, a thrill of terror ran through them all. Among the troops from Germany the panic was particularly great; for they believed that this separation marked them out for slaughter. They embraced their fellow soldiers, clung to their necks, begged for parting kisses, and entreated that they might not be deserted, or doomed in a common cause to suffer a different lot. They invoked now Mucianus, now the absent Emperor, and, as a last resource, heaven and the Gods, till Mucianus came forward, and calling them "soldiers bound by the same oath and servants of the same Emperor," stopped the groundless panic. And indeed the victorious army seconded the tears of the vanquished with their approving shouts. This terminated the proceedings for that day. But when Domitian harangued them a few days afterwards, they received him with increased confidence. The land that was offered them they contemptuously rejected, and begged for regular service and pay. Theirs were prayers indeed, but such as it was impossible to reject. They were therefore received into the Praetorian camp. Then such as had reached the prescribed age, or had served the proper number of campaigns, received an honourable discharge; others were dismissed for misconduct; but this was done by degrees and in detail, always the safest mode of reducing the united strength of a multitude.
It is a fact that, whether suggested by real poverty or by a wish to give the appearance of it, a proposition passed the Senate to the effect that a loan of sixty million sesterces from private persons should be accepted.