Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
and either receive its submission or take it by storm.  This sounded well for public utterance, but each man in his heart was thinking, ’We could easily rush a city on the plain.  In a night-assault men are just as brave and have a better chance of plunder.  If we wait for day it will be all peace and petitions, and what shall we get for our wounds and our labours?  A reputation for mercy!  There’s no money in that.  All the wealth of Cremona will find its way into the officers’ pockets.  Storm a city, and the plunder goes to the soldiers:  if it surrenders, the generals get it.’  They refused to listen to their centurions and tribunes and drowned their voices in a rattle of arms, swearing they would break their orders unless they were led out.  Antonius then 20 went round among the companies, where his authoritative bearing obtained silence.  He assured them that he had no wish to rob them of the glory and the reward they so well deserved.  ‘But,’ he said, ’an army and a general have different functions.  It is right that soldiers should be greedy for battle, but the general often does more good not by temerity but by foresight, deliberation and delay.  I have done all I could to aid your victory with my sword:  now I will serve you by the general’s proper arts of calculation and strategy.  The risks that face us are obvious.  It is night; we know nothing of the lie of the city; the enemy are behind the walls; everything favours an ambush.  Even if the gates were open, we cannot safely enter except by day and after due reconnoitring.  Are you going to begin storming the town when you cannot possibly see where the ground is level and how high the walls are?  How do you know whether to assault it with engines and showers of missiles, or with penthouses and shelters?’[59] Then he turned to individuals, asking one after another whether they had brought hatchets and pick-axes and other implements for storming a town.  When they answered no, ‘Well,’ he said, ’could any troops possibly break through walls or undermine them with nothing but swords and javelins?  Suppose it proves necessary to construct a mound and to shelter ourselves with mantlets and fascines,[59] are we going to stand idle like a lot of helpless idiots, gaping at the height of the enemy’s towers and ramparts?  Why not rather wait one night till our siege-train arrives and then carry the victory by force?’ So saying, he sent the camp-followers and servants with the freshest of the troopers back to Bedriacum to bring up supplies and whatever else was wanted.

The soldiers indeed chafed at this and mutiny seemed imminent, 21 when some of the mounted scouts, who had ridden right up to the walls, captured a few stragglers from Cremona, and learnt from them that six Vitellian legions and the whole Hostilia army had that very day covered thirty miles, and, hearing of their comrades’ defeat, were already arming for battle and would be on them immediately.  This alarming news cured their obstinate deafness to the

Project Gutenberg
Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook