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 and full
command of the Illyrian Sea. 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. 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
makes for good discipline. And even then our cavalry
was not beaten. For though we lost the day, they
shattered the enemy’s line. 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. 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
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. 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 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