Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Galba spoke these words and more to the same effect in the tone of one creating an emperor:  the rest addressed Piso as though he were emperor already.  He is said to have betrayed no sign of amazement or 17 elation either before those who were then present, or later when everybody’s eyes centred upon him.  His language to his emperor and adoptive father was deeply respectful and he spoke modestly of himself.  He made no change in his expression or bearing, showing himself more able than anxious to rule.  A discussion then took place whether the adoption should be announced before the people or in the senate, or in the guards’ camp.  They decided in favour of the camp, on the ground that it would be a compliment to the troops, whose goodwill was hard to win by flattery or bribes, but was by no means to be despised, if it could be won by good means.  Meanwhile the curiosity of the populace, impatient of any important secret, had brought together crowds all round the Palace, and when once the rumour began to leak out an attempt at suppression only resulted in spreading it.

The tenth of January was a dreary wet day, and an extraordinary 18 storm of thunder and lightning showed the displeasure of Providence.  Such phenomena were regarded in old days as a sign for the suspension of public business, but they did not deter Galba from proceeding to the camp.  Either he disregarded such things as the result of pure chance or else he felt that the blows of fate may be foretold but not forestalled.  He addressed a crowded assembly of the soldiers with true imperial brevity, stating simply that in adopting Piso he was following the example of the sainted Augustus, and the old military custom whereby each man chose another.[44] He was afraid that by suppressing the news of the German rebellion he might only seem to exaggerate the danger, so he voluntarily declared that the Fourth and Twenty-second legions had been led by a few traitors into seditious murmurings but no further, and would soon return to their allegiance.  He made no attempt to enhance his words either by eloquence or largess.  However, the tribunes and centurions and those of the soldiers who stood nearest to him gave well-sounding answers.  The rest were sorry and silent, for the war seemed to have lost them the largess that had always been usual even in peace.  Everybody agrees that they could have been won over had the parsimonious old emperor made the least display of generosity.  He was ruined by his strict old-fashioned inflexibility, which seems too rigorous for these degenerate days.

From the camp they proceeded to the senate, and Galba’s speech to 19 its members was no fuller or finer than to the soldiers.  Piso spoke graciously, and there was no lack of support in the senate.  Many wished him well.  Those who did not were the more effusive.  The majority were indifferent, but displayed a ready affability, intent on their private speculations without thought of the country’s good.  No other public action is reported of Piso during the four days which intervened between his adoption and assassination.

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