Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Age had enfeebled Sabinus, and he showed no alacrity to listen to 65 such talk as this.  Some people covertly insinuated that he was jealous of his brother’s success and was trying to delay its realization.  Flavius Sabinus was the elder brother and, while they were both private persons, he had been the richer and more influential.  It was also believed that he had been chary in helping Vespasian to recover his financial position, and had taken a mortgage on his house and estates.  Consequently, though they remained openly friendly, there were suspicions of a secret enmity between them.  The more charitable explanation is that Sabinus’s gentle nature shrank from the idea of bloodshed and massacre, and that this was his reason for so constantly discussing with Vitellius the prospects of peace and a capitulation on terms.  After several interviews at his house they finally came to a settlement—­so the report went—­at the Temple of Apollo.[172] To the actual conversation there were only two witnesses, Cluvius Rufus[173] and Silius Italicus,[174] but the expression of their faces was watched from a distance.  Vitellius was said to look abject and demoralized:  Sabinus showed less sign of pride than of pity.

Had Vitellius found it no harder to persuade his friends than to 66 make his own renunciation, Vespasian’s army might have marched into Rome without bloodshed.  But as it was, each of his friends in proportion to his loyalty persisted in refusing terms of peace.  They pointed to the danger and disgrace.  Would their conqueror keep his promises any longer than he liked?  However great Vespasian’s self-confidence, he could not allow Vitellius to live in private.  Nor would the losers acquiesce:  their very pity would be a menace.[175] ‘Of course,’ they said, ’you are an old man.  You have done with fortune, good or bad.  But what sort of repute or position would your son Germanicus[176] enjoy?  At present they are promising you money and a household, and the pleasant shores of Campania.  But when once Vespasian has seized the throne, neither he nor his friends nor even his army will feel their safety assured until the rival claimant is dead.  They imprisoned Fabius Valens and meant to make use of him if a crisis occurred, but they found him too great an incubus.  You may be sure that Antonius and Fuscus and that typical representative of the party, Mucianus, will have no choice but to kill you.  Julius Caesar did not let Pompey live unmolested, nor Augustus Antony.[177] Do you suppose that Vespasian’s is a loftier disposition?  Why, he was one of your father’s dependants,[178] when your father was Claudius’s colleague.[179] No, think of your father’s censorship, his three consulships,[179] and all the honour your great house has won.  You must not disgrace them.  Despair, at least, should nerve your courage.  The troops are steadfast; you still enjoy the people’s favour.  Indeed, nothing worse can happen to you than what we are eager to face of our own free will.  If we are defeated, we must die; if we surrender, we must die.  All that matters is whether we breathe our last amid mockery and insult or bravely and with honour.’

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