Heathen Gods  Index  Previous  Next 

Tacitus: History Book 3 [1]

1. UNDER happier auspices and in a more loyal spirit the Flavianist leaders were discussing the plans of the campaign. They had assembled at Petovio, the winter-quarters of the 13th legion. There they debated, whether they should blockade the passes of the Pannonian Alps till the whole strength of their party should be gathered in their rear, or whether it would be the more vigorous policy to close with the enemy, and to contend for the possession of Italy. Those who thought it advisable to wait for reinforcements, and to protract the campaign, dwelt on the strength and reputation of the German legions. "Vitellius," they said, "has now joined them with the flower of the British army. Our numbers are not even equal to those of the legions whom they lately defeated; and the conquered, let them talk as fiercely as they will, lose something of their courage. But, if we occupy meanwhile the passes of the Alps, Mucianus will come up with the forces of the East. Vespasian has in addition the command of the sea, his fleets, and provinces loyal to his cause, in which he may collect the vast materials for what may be called another war. A salutary delay will bring us new forces, while we shall lose nothing of what we have."   1. Meliore fato fideque partium Flavianarum duces consilia belli tractabant. Poetovionem in hiberna tertiae decimae legionis convenerant. illic agitavere placeretne obstrui Pannoniae Alpes, donec a tergo vires universae consurgerent, an ire comminus et certare pro Italia constantius foret. quibus opperiri auxilia et trahere bellum videbatur, Germanicarum legionum vim famamque extollebant, et advenisse mox cum Vitellio Britannici exercitus robora: ipsis nec numerum parem pulsarum nuper legionum, et quamquam atrociter loquerentur, minorem esse apud victos animum. sed insessis interim Alpibus venturum cum copiis Orientis Mucianum; superesse Vespasiano mare, classis, studia provinciarum, per quas velut alterius belli molem cieret. ita salubri mora novas viris adfore, ex praesentibus nihil periturum.
2. In answer to this, Antonius Primus, who was the most energetic promoter of the war, declared that prompt action would be advantageous to themselves, and fatal to Vitellius. "Supineness," he said, "rather than confidence has grown upon the conquerors. They are not even kept under arms or within camps. In every town of Italy, sunk in sloth, formidable only to their entertainers, they have drunk of unaccustomed pleasures with an eagerness equal to the rudeness of their former life. They have been emasculated by the circus, the theatre, and the allurements of the capital, or they are worn out with sickness. Yet even to these men, if you give them time, their old vigour will return with the preparation for war. Germany, whence their strength is drawn, is faraway; Britain is separated only by a strait; the provinces of Gaul and Spain are near; on either side they can find troops, horses, tribute; they have Italy itself, and the resources of the capital, and, should they choose themselves to take the offensive, they have two fleets, and the Illyrian sea open to them. What good then will our mountain-passes do us? What will be the use of having protracted the war into another summer? Where are we to find in the meanwhile money and supplies? Why not rather avail ourselves of the fact that the legions of Pannonia, which were cheated rather than vanquished, are hastening to rise again for vengeance, and that the armies of Moesia have brought us their unimpaired strength? If you reckon the number of soldiers, rather than that of legions, we have greater strength, and no vices, for our very humiliation has been most helpful to our discipline. As for the cavalry, they were not vanquished even on that day; though the fortune of war was against them, they penetrated the Vitellianist lines. Two squadrons of Moesian and Pannonian cavalry then broke through the enemy; now the united standards of sixteen squadrons will bury and overwhelm with the crash and din and storm of their onset these horses and horsemen that have forgotten how to fight. Unless any one hinders me, I who suggest will execute the plan. You, whose fortune never suffered a reverse, may keep back the legions; the light cohorts will be enough for me. Before long you will hear that Italy has been opened, and the power of Vitellius shaken. You will be delighted to follow, and to tread in the footsteps of victory."   2. Ad ea Antonius Primus (is acerrimus belli concitator) festinationem ipsis utilem, Vitellio exitiosam disseruit. plus socordiae quam fiduciae accessisse victoribus; neque enim in procinctu et castris habitos: per omnia Italiae municipia desides, tantum hospitibus metuendos, quanto ferocius ante se egerint, tanto cupidius insolitas voluptates hausisse. circo quoque ac theatris et amoenitate urbis emollitos aut valetudinibus fessos: sed addito spatio rediturum et his robur meditatione belli; nec procul Germaniam, unde vires; Britanniam freto dirimi, iuxta Gallias Hispaniasque, utrimque viros equos tributa, ipsamque Italiam et opes urbis; ac si inferre arma ultro velint, duas classis vacuumque Illyricum mare. quid tum claustra montium profutura? quid tractum in aestatem aliam bellum? unde interim pecuniam et commeatus? quin potius eo ipso uterentur quod Pannonicae legiones deceptae magis quam victae resurgere in ultionem properent, Moesici exercitus integras viris attulerint. si numerus militum potius quam legionum putetur, plus hinc roboris, nihil libidinum; et profuisse disciplinae ipsum pudorem: equites vero ne tum quidem victos, sed quamquam rebus adversis disiectam Vitellii aciem. 'duae tunc Pannonicae ac Moesicae alae perrupere hostem: nunc sedecim alarum coniuncta signa pulsu sonituque et nube ipsa operient ac superfundent oblitos proeliorum equites equosque. nisi quis retinet, idem suasor auctorque consilii ero. vos, quibus fortuna in integro est, legiones continete: mihi expeditae cohortes sufficient. iam reseratam Italiam, impulsas Vitellii res audietis. iuvabit sequi et vestigiis vincentis insistere.'
3. With flashing eyes, and in the fierce tones that might be most widely heard (for the centurions and some of the common soldiers had intruded themselves into the deliberations), he poured out such a torrent of these and similar words, that he carried away even the cautious and prudent, while the general voice of the multitude extolled him as the one man, the one general in the army, and spurned the inaction of the others. He had raised this reputation for himself at the very first assembly, when, after Vespasian's letters had been read, he had not, like many, used ambiguous language, on which he might put this or that construction as might serve his purpose. It was seen that he openly committed himself to the cause, and he had therefore greater weight with the soldiers, as being associated with them in what was either their crime or their glory.   3. Haec ac talia flagrans oculis, truci voce, quo latius audiretur (etenim se centuriones et quidam militum consilio miscuerant), ita effudit ut cautos quoque ac providos permoveret, vulgus et ceteri unum virum ducemque, spreta aliorum segnitia, laudibus ferrent. hanc sui famam ea statim contione commoverat, qua recitatis Vespasiani epistulis non ut plerique incerta disseruit, huc illuc tracturus interpretatione, prout conduxisset: aperte descendisse in causam videbatur, eoque gravior militibus erat culpae vel gloriae socius.
4. Next to Primus in influence was Cornelius Fuscus, the procurator. He also had been accustomed to inveigh mercilessly against Vitellius, and had thus left himself no hope in the event of defeat. T. Ampius Flavianus, disposed to caution by natural temperament and advanced years, excited in the soldiers a suspicion that he still remembered his relationship to Vitellius; and as he had fled when the movement in the legions began, and had then voluntarily returned, it was believed that he had sought an opportunity for treachery. Flavianus indeed had left Pannonia, and had entered Italy, and was out of the way of danger, when his desire for revolution urged him to resume the title of Legate, and to take part in the civil strife. Cornelius Fuscus had advised him to this course, not that he needed the talents of Flavianus, but wishing that a consular name might clothe with its high prestige the very first movements of the party.   4. Proxima Cornelii Fusci procuratoris auctoritas. is quoque inclementer in Vitellium invehi solitus nihil spei sibi inter adversa reliquerat. Tampius Flavianus, natura ac senecta cunctator, suspiciones militum inritabat, tamquam adfinitatis cum Vitellio meminisset; idemque, quod coeptante legionum motu profugus, dein sponte remeaverat, perfidiae locum quaesisse credebatur. nam Flavianum, omissa Pannonia ingressum Italiam et discrimini exemptum, rerum novarum cupido legati nomen resumere et misceri civilibus armis impulerat, suadente Cornelio Fusco, non quia industria Flaviani egebat, sed ut consulare nomen surgentibus cum maxime partibus honesta specie praetenderetur.
5. Still, that the passage into Italy might be safe and advantageous, directions were sent to Aponius Saturninus to hasten up with the armies of Moesia. That the provinces might not be exposed without defence to the barbarian tribes, the princes of the Sarmatae Iazyges, who had in their hands the government of that nation, were enrolled in the army. These chiefs also offered the service of their people, and its force of cavalry, their only effective troops; but the offer was declined, lest in the midst of civil strife they should attempt some hostile enterprise, or, influenced by higher offers from other quarters, should cast off all sense of right and duty. Sido and Italicus, kings of the Suevi, were brought over to the cause. Their loyalty to the Roman people was of long standing, and their nation was more faithful than the other to any trust reposed in them. On the flank of the army were posted some auxiliaries, for Rhaetia was hostile, Portius Septimius, the procurator, remaining incorruptibly faithful to Vitellius. Accordingly, Sextilius Felix with Aurius' Horse, eight cohorts, and the native levies of Noricum, was sent to occupy the bank of the river Aenus, which flows between Rhaetia and Noricum. Neither hazarded an engagement, and the fate of the two parties was decided elsewhere.   5. Ceterum ut transmittere in Italiam impune et usui foret, scriptum Aponio Saturnino, cum exercitu Moesico celeraret. ac ne inermes provinciae barbaris nationibus exponerentur, principes Sarmatarum Iazugum, penes quos civitatis regimen, in commilitium adsciti. plebem quoque et vim equitum, qua sola valent, offerebant: remissum id munus, ne inter discordias externa molirentur aut maiore ex diverso mercede ius fasque exuerent. trahuntur in partis Sido atque Italicus reges Sueborum, quis vetus obsequium erga Romanos et gens fidei
patientior. posita in latus auxilia, infesta Raetia, cui Porcius Septiminus procurator erat, incorruptae erga Vitellium fidei. igitur Sextilius Felix cum ala Auriana et octo cohortibus ac Noricorum iuventute ad occupandam ripam Aeni fluminis, quod Raetos Noricosque interfluit, missus. nec his aut illis proelium temptantibus, fortuna partium alibi transacta.
6. Antonius, as he hurried with the veteran soldiers of the cohorts and part of the cavalry to invade Italy, was accompanied by Arrius Varus, an energetic soldier. Service under Corbulo, and successes in Armenia, had gained for him this reputation; yet it was generally said, that in secret conversations with Nero he had calumniated Corbulo's high qualities. The favour thus infamously acquired made him a centurion of the first rank, yet the ill-gotten prosperity of the moment afterwards turned to his destruction. Primus and Varus, having occupied Aquileia, were joyfully welcomed in the neighbourhood, and in the towns of Opitergium and Altinum. At Altinum a force was left to oppose the Ravenna fleet, the defection of which from Vitellius was not yet known. They next attached to their party Patavium and Ateste. There they learnt that three cohorts, belonging to Vitellius, and the Sebonian Horse had taken up a position at the Forum Alieni, where they had thrown a bridge across the river. It was determined to seize the opportunity of attacking this force, unprepared as it was; for this fact had likewise been communicated. Coming upon them at dawn, they killed many before they could arm. Orders had been given to slay but few, and to constrain the rest by fear to transfer their allegiance. Some indeed at once surrendered, but the greater part broke down the bridge, and thus cut off the advance of the pursuing enemy.   6. Antonio vexillarios e cohortibus et partem equitum ad invadendam Italiam rapienti comes fuit Arrius Varus, strenuus bello, quam gloriam et dux Corbulo et prosperae in Armenia res addiderant. idem secretis apud Neronem sermonibus ferebatur Corbulonis virtutes criminatus; unde infami gratia primum pilum adepto laeta ad praesens male parta mox in perniciem vertere. sed Primus ac Varus occupata Aquileia <per> proxima quaeque et Opitergii et Altini laetis animis accipiuntur. relictum Altini praesidium adversus classis Ravennatis <conatus>, nondum defectione eius audita. inde Patavium et Ateste partibus adiunxere. illic cognitum tris Vitellianas cohortis et alam, cui Sebosianae nomen, ad Forum Alieni ponte iuncto consedisse. placuit occasio invadendi incuriosos; nam id quoque nuntiabatur. luce prima inermos plerosque oppressere. praedictum ut paucis interfectis ceteros pavore ad mutandam fidem cogerent. et fuere qui se statim dederent: plures abrupto ponte instanti hosti viam abstulerunt. principia belli secundum Flavianos data.
7. When this success became known, two legions, the seventh (Galba's) and the eighteenth (the Gemina), finding the campaign opening in favour of the Flavianists, repaired with alacrity to Patavium under the command of Vedius Aquila the legate. A few days were there taken for rest, and Minucius Justus, prefect of the camp in the 7th legion, who ruled with more strictness than a civil war will permit, was withdrawn from the exasperated soldiery, and sent to Vespasian. An act that had been long desired was taken by a flattering construction for more than it was worth, when Antonius gave orders that the statues of Galba, which had been thrown down during the troubles of the times, should be restored in all the towns. It would, he supposed, reflect honour on the cause, if it were thought that they had been friendly to Galba's rule, and that his party was again rising into strength.   7. Vulgata victoria legiones septima Galbiana, tertia decima Gemina cum Vedio Aquila legato Patavium alacres veniunt. ibi pauci dies ad requiem sumpti, et Minicius Iustus praefectus castrorum legionis septimae, quia adductius quam civili bello imperitabat, subtractus militum irae ad Vespasianum missus est. desiderata diu res interpretatione gloriaque in maius accipitur, postquam Galbae imagines discordia temporum subversas in omnibus municipiis recoli iussit Antonius, decorum pro causa ratus, si placere Galbae principatus et partes revirescere crederentur.
8. The next question was, what place should be selected as the seat of war. Verona seemed the most eligible, surrounded as it was with open plains, suitable for the action of cavalry, in which they were very strong. At the same time it was thought that in wresting from Vitellius a colony so rich in resources there would be both profit and glory. They secured Vicetia by simply passing through it. Though in itself a small gain, for the town is but of moderate strength, it was considered an important advantage when they reflected that in this town Caecina was born, and that the general of the enemy had lost his native place. The people of Verona were a valuable aid; they served the cause by the example of their zeal and by their wealth, and the army thus occupied a position between Rhaetia and the Julian Alps. It was to cut off all passage at this point from the armies of Germany that they had barred this route. All this was done either without the knowledge, or against the commands of Vespasian. He gave orders that the army should halt at Aquileia and there await Mucianus; and these orders he supported by the argument, that as Aegypt, which commanded the corn supplies, and the revenues of the wealthiest provinces were in his hands, the army of Vitellius would be compelled to capitulate from the want of pay and provisions. Mucianus in frequent letters advised the same policy; a victory that should cost neither blood nor tears, and other objects of the kind, were his pretexts; but in truth he was greedy of glory, and anxious to keep the whole credit of the war to himself. Owing, however, to the vast distances, the advice came only after the matter was decided.   8. Quaesitum inde quae sedes bello legeretur. Verona potior visa, patentibus circum campis ad pugnam equestrem, qua praevalebant: simul coloniam copiis validam auferre Vitellio in rem famamque videbatur. possessa ipso transitu Vicetia; quod per se parvum (etenim modicae municipio vires) magni momenti locum obtinuit reputantibus illic Caecinam genitum et patriam hostium duci ereptam. in Veronensibus pretium fuit: exemplo opibusque partis iuvere; et interiectus exercitus Raetiam Iuliasque Alpis, [ac] ne pervium illa Germanicis exercitibus foret, obsaepserat. quae ignara Vespasiano aut vetita: quippe Aquileiae sisti bellum expectarique Mucianum iubebat, adiciebatque imperio consilium, quando Aegyptus, claustra annonae, vectigalia opulentissimarum provinciarum obtinerentur, posse Vitellii exercitum egestate stipendii frumentique ad deditionem subigi. eadem Mucianus crebris epistulis monebat, incruentam et sine luctu victoriam et alia huiusce modi praetexendo, sed gloriae avidus atque omne belli decus sibi retinens. ceterum ex distantibus terrarum spatiis consilia post res adferebantur.
9. Then Antonius by a sudden movement fell upon the outposts of the enemy, and made trial of their courage in a slight skirmish, the combatants separating on equal terms. Soon afterwards, Caecina strongly fortified a camp between Hostilia, a village belonging to Verona, and the marshes of the river Tartarus, where his position was secure, as his rear was covered by the river, and his flank by intervening marshes. Had he only been loyal, those two legions, which had not been joined by the army of Moesia, might have been crushed by the united strength of the Vitellianists, or driven back and compelled to evacuate Italy in a disgraceful retreat. Caecina, however, by various delays betrayed to the enemy the early opportunities of the campaign, assailing by letters those whom it was easy to drive out by force of arms, until by his envoys he settled the conditions of his treachery. In this interval Aponius Saturninus came up with the 7th legion (Claudius'). This legion was commanded by the tribune Vipstanus Messalla, a man of illustrious family, himself highly distinguished, the only man who had brought into that conflict an honest purpose. To this army, which was far from equalling the forces of Vitellius (it in fact consisted of three legions), Caecina despatched a letter reproaching them with rashness in again drawing the sword in a vanquished cause. At the same time he extolled the valour of the German army; of Vitellius he made but some slight and common-place mention without any abuse of Vespasian. Certainly he said nothing which could either seduce or terrify the enemy. The leaders of the Flavianist party, omitting all apology for their former fortune, at once took up a tone of high praise of Vespasian, of confidence in their cause, of security as to their army, and of hostility to Vitellius, while hopes were held out to the tribunes and centurions of retaining the privileges which Vitellius had granted them, and Caecina was himself encouraged in no ambiguous terms to change sides. These letters read to the assembled army increased their confidence; for Caecina had written in a humble strain, as if he feared to offend Vespasian, while their own generals had used contemptuous language, meant, it would seem, to insult Vitellius.   9. Igitur repentino incursu Antonius stationes hostium inrupit; temptatisque levi proelio animis ex aequo discessum. mox Caecina inter Hostiliam, vicum Veronensium, et paludes Tartari fluminis castra permuniit, tutus loco, cum terga flumine, latera obiectu paludis tegerentur. quod si adfuisset fides, aut opprimi universis Vitellianorum viribus duae legiones, nondum coniuncto Moesico exercitu, potuere, aut retro actae deserta Italia turpem fugam conscivissent. sed Caecina per varias moras prima hostibus prodidit tempora belli, dum quos armis pellere promptum erat, epistulis increpat, donec per nuntios pacta perfidiae firmaret. interim Aponius Saturninus cum legione septima Claudiana advenit. legioni tribunus Vipstanus Messala praeerat, claris maioribus, egregius ipse et qui solus ad id bellum artis bonas attulisset. has ad copias nequaquam Vitellianis paris (quippe tres adhuc legiones erant) misit epistulas Caecina, temeritatem victa arma tractantium incusans. simul virtus Germanici exercitus laudibus attollebatur, Vitellii modica et vulgari mentione, nulla in Vespasianum contumelia: nihil prorsus quod aut corrumperet hostem aut terreret. Flavianarum partium duces omissa prioris fortunae defensione pro Vespasiano magnifice, pro causa fidenter, de exercitu securi, in Vitellium ut inimici praesumpsere, facta tribunis centurionibusque retinendi quae Vitellius indulsisset spe; atque ipsum Caecinam non obscure ad transitionem hortabantur. recitatae pro contione epistulae addidere fiduciam, quod submisse Caecina, velut offendere Vespasianum timens, ipsorum duces contemptim tamquam insultantes Vitellio scripsissent.

Next: Book 3 [10]