Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.

In all the confusion of the rout Antonius never for a moment 17 forgot what befitted a determined general and a brave soldier.  Staying the panic-stricken, checking the fugitives, wherever the fight was thickest, wherever he saw a gleam of hope, he schemed, he fought, he shouted, always conspicuous to his own men and a mark for the enemy.  At last, in the heat of his impatience, he thrust through with a lance a standard-bearer, who was in full flight, then seized the standard and turned it against the enemy.  Whereupon for very shame a few of his troopers, not more than a hundred, made a stand.  The nature of the ground helped them.  The road there was narrower; a stream barred their way, and the bridge was broken; its depth was uncertain and the steep banks checked their flight.  Thus necessity or chance restored their fallen fortunes.  Forming in close order, they received the Vitellians’ reckless and disordered charge, and at once flung them into confusion.  Antonius pressed hard on the fugitives and cut down all who blocked his path.  The others followed each his inclination, rifling the dead, capturing prisoners, seizing arms and horses.  Meanwhile, summoned by their shouts of triumph, those who had just now been in full flight across the fields came hurrying back to share the victory.

Four miles from Cremona they saw the standards of the Rapax and 18 Italian legions gleaming in the sun.  They had marched out thus far under cover of their cavalry’s original success.  When fortune turned against them, they neither opened their ranks to receive the routed troops nor marched out to attack the enemy, who were wearied with fighting and their long pursuit.  While all went well the Vitellians did not miss their general, but in the hour of danger they realized their loss.  The victorious cavalry came charging into their wavering line, and at the same time Vipstanus Messala arrived with the Moesian auxiliaries and a good number of men from the legions, who had kept up with the pace of their forced march.[58] These combined forces broke the opposing column, and the proximity of Cremona’s sheltering walls gave the Vitellians more hope of refuge and less stomach for resistance.


     [56] About thirty-three miles.

     [57] October 27.

     [58] They would be more heavily laden than the Moesian


Antonius did not follow up his advantage.  He realized that, although the issue had been successful, the battle had long been doubtful, and had cost the troopers and their horses many wounds and much hard fighting.  As evening fell, the whole strength of the Flavian army 19 arrived.  They had marched among heaps of corpses, and the still reeking traces of slaughter, and now, feeling that the war was over, they clamoured to advance at once on Cremona

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