Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

His advance, however, continued.  As winter was at hand[131] and 50 the Po had inundated the meadows, his column marched unencumbered by heavy baggage.  The main body of the victorious legions was left behind at Verona, together with such of the soldiers as were incapacitated by wounds or old age, and many besides who were still in good condition.  Having already broken the back of the campaign, Antonius felt strong enough with his auxiliary horse and foot and some picked detachments from the legions.  The Eleventh[132] had voluntarily joined the advance.  They had held back at first, but, seeing Antonius’ success, were distressed to think they had had no share in it.  The column was also accompanied by a force of six thousand Dalmatian troops, which had been recently raised.  The ex-consul, Pompeius Silvanus,[133] commanded the column, but the actual control was in the hands of a general named Annius Bassus.  Silvanus was quite ineffective as a general, and wasted every chance of action in talking about it.  Bassus, while showing all due respect, managed him completely, and was always ready with quiet efficiency to do anything that had to be done.  Their force was further increased by enlisting the best of the marines from the Ravenna fleet, who were clamouring for service in the legions.  The vacancies in the fleet were filled by Dalmatians.  The army and its generals halted at Fanum Fortunae,[134] still hesitating what policy to adopt, for they had heard that the Guards were on the move from Rome, and supposed that the Apennines were held by troops.  And they had fears of their own.  Supplies were scarce in a district devastated by war.  The men were mutinous and demanded ’shoe-money’,[135] as they called the donative, with alarming insistence.  No provision had been made either for money or for stores.  The precipitate greed of the soldiers made further difficulties, for they each looted what might have served for them all.

I find among the best authorities evidence which shows how 51 wickedly careless were the victorious army of all considerations of right and wrong.  They tell how a trooper professed that he had killed his brother in the last battle, and demanded a reward from his generals.  The dictates of humanity forbade them to remunerate such a murder, but in the interests of civil war they dared not punish it.  They had put him off with the plea that they could not at the moment reward his service adequately.  And there the story stops.  However, a similar crime had occurred in earlier civil wars.  In the battle which Pompeius Strabo fought against Cinna at the Janiculum,[136] one of his soldiers killed his own brother and then, realizing what he had done, committed suicide.  This is recorded by Sisenna.[137] Our ancestors, it seems, had a livelier sense than we have both of the glory of good deeds and the shame of bad.[138] These and other such instances from past history may be appropriately cited, whenever the subject seems to demand either an example of good conduct or some consolation for a crime.

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