Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
The more unruly and ferocious they showed themselves before, the greater the greed with which they now indulge in unwonted draughts of pleasure.  The circus, the theatre, and the charms of the capital have ruined their hardness and their health.  But if we give them time to train for war they will regain their energy.  It is not far to Germany, whence they draw their main strength.  Britain is only separated by a narrow channel.  Close at hand they have Gaul and Spain, from the provinces of which they can get men, horses, and subsidies.  Then again, they can rely on Italy itself and all the resources of the capital, while, if they want to take the offensive, they have two fleets[6] and full command of the Illyrian Sea.[7] Besides, what good to us are the ramparts of the mountains?  Why should we drag on the war into another summer?  Where can we get funds and supplies in the meanwhile?  No, let us seize our opportunity.  The Pannonian legions are burning to rise in revenge.  They were not defeated but deceived.[8] The Moesian army has not yet lost a man.  If you count not legions but men, our forces are superior both in numbers and in character.  The very shame of our defeat[9] makes for good discipline.  And even then our cavalry was not beaten.  For though we lost the day, they shattered the enemy’s line.[10] And what was the force that broke through the Vitellians?  Two regiments of cavalry from Pannonia and Moesia.  What have we now?  Sixteen regiments.  Will not their combined forces, as they roar and thunder down upon the enemy, burying them in clouds of dust, overwhelm these horses and horsemen that have forgotten how to fight?  I have given you my plan, and, unless I am stopped, I will put it in operation.  Some of you have not yet burnt your boats.[11] Well, you can keep back the legions.  Give me the auxiliaries in light marching order.  They will be enough for me.  You will soon hear that the door of Italy is open and the power of Vitellius shaken.  You will be glad enough to follow in the footsteps of my victory.’

All this and much else of the same tenor Antonius poured out with 3 flashing eyes, raising his voice so as to reach the centurions and some of the soldiers, who had gathered round to share in their deliberations.[12] His truculent tone carried away even the more cautious and far-seeing, while the rest of the crowd were filled with contempt for the cowardice of the other generals, and cheered their one and only leader to the echo.  He had already established his reputation at the original meeting, when Vespasian’s letter[13] was read.  Most of the generals had then taken an ambiguous line, intending to interpret their language in the light of subsequent events.  But Antonius seemed to have taken the field without any disguise, and this carried more weight with the men, who saw that he must share their disgrace or their glory.

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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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