Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 352 pages of information about Tacitus.

Alarmed at the repute of this augmented army, Vitellius’ Guards 61 began to waver.  There was no one to encourage them to fight, while many urged them to desert, being eager to hand over their companies or squadrons to the enemy and by such a gift to secure the victor’s gratitude for the future.  These also let the Flavians know that the next camp at Interamna[166] had a garrison of four hundred cavalry.  Varus was promptly sent off with a light marching force, and the few who offered resistance were killed.  The majority threw away their arms and begged for quarter.  Some escaped to the main camp[167] and spread universal panic by exaggerating the strength and prowess of the enemy, in order to mitigate the disgrace of losing the fort.  In the Vitellian camp all offences went unpunished:  desertion met with sure reward.  Their loyalty soon gave way and a competition in treachery began.  Tribunes and centurions deserted daily, but not the common soldiers, who had grown stubbornly faithful to Vitellius.  At last, however, Priscus and Alfenus[168] abandoned the camp and returned to Vitellius, thus finally releasing all the others from any obligation to blush for their treachery.

About the same time Fabius Valens[169] was executed in his prison 62 at Urbinum, and his head was exhibited to Vitellius’ Guards to show them that further hope was vain.  For they cherished a belief that Valens had made his way into Germany, and was there mustering his old force and fresh troops as well.  This evidence of his death threw them into despair.  The Flavian army was vastly inspirited by it and regarded Valens’ death as the end of the war.

Valens had been born at Anagnia of an equestrian family.  He was a man of loose morality, not without intellectual gifts, who by indulging in frivolity posed as a wit.  In Nero’s time he had acted in a harlequinade at the Juvenalian Games.[170] At first he pleaded compulsion, but afterwards he acted voluntarily, and his performances were rather clever than respectable.  Rising to the command of a legion, he supported Verginius[171] and then defamed his character.  He murdered Fonteius Capito,[171] whose loyalty he had undermined—­or perhaps because he had failed to do so.  He betrayed Galba and remained faithful to Vitellius, a merit to which the treachery of others served as a foil.

Now that their hopes were crushed on all sides, the Vitellians 63 prepared to go over to the enemy.  But even at this crisis they saved their honour by marching down with their standards and colours to the plains below Narnia, where the Flavian army was drawn up in full armour ready for battle in two deep lines on either side of the road.  The Vitellians marched in between and were surrounded.  Antonius then spoke to them kindly and told them to remain, some at Narnia and some at Interamna.  He also left behind some of the victorious legions, which were strong enough to quell any outbreak but would not molest them so long as they remained quiet.

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