Otho’s character was by no means so effeminate as his person. His 22 intimate freedmen and slaves, who were allowed a licence unusual in private households, dangled before him the baits for which he was greedy: the luxuries of Nero’s Court, the marriages he could make, the adulteries he could commit, and all the other imperial pleasures. They were his, they pointed out, if he would bestir himself; it was shameful to lie quiet and leave them to others. He was also incited by the astrologers, who declared that their study of the stars pointed to great changes and a year of glory for Otho. Creatures of this class always deceive the ambitious, though those in power distrust them. Probably we shall go on for ever proscribing them and keeping them by us. Poppaea had always had her boudoir full of these astrologers, the worst kind of outfit for a royal menage. One of them, called Ptolemy, had gone with Otho to Spain and foretold that he would outlive Nero. This came true and Otho believed in him. He now based his vague conjectures on the computations of Galba’s age and Otho’s youth, and persuaded him that he would ascend the throne. But, though the man had no real skill, Otho accepted the prophecy as if it was the finger of fate. Human nature always likes to believe what it cannot understand.
Nor was Ptolemy himself slow to incite his master to crime, to 23 which it is only a short step from such ambitions. But whether his criminal designs were deliberate or suddenly conceived, it is impossible to say. He had long been courting the goodwill of the soldiers either in the hope of being adopted by Galba or to prepare the way for treason. On the road from Spain, while the men were marching or on outpost duty, he would address the veterans by name, reminding them how he and they had served together under Nero, and calling them his comrades. He renewed acquaintance with some, asked after others and helped them with money or influence, frequently letting fall complaints and ambiguous remarks about Galba, using all the arts which work upon uneducated minds. The soldiers grumbled bitterly at the exertions of the march, the shortage of provisions, and the strict discipline. What they were used to was a journey to the Campanian Lakes or Greek seaports on board ship; they found it hard to struggle over the Pyrenees and Alps, and march immense distances under arms.
While the soldiers were thus already fired with discontent, 24 Maevius Pudens, one of Tigellinus’ intimates, added fuel to their feelings by luring on all who were naturally unstable or in need of money, or rashly eager for a change. Eventually, whenever Galba dined with him, Otho went the length of presenting a hundred sesterces to each of the soldiers on guard, on the pretext that this was instead of entertaining them. This system of public largess Otho extended by making presents in confidence to individuals, and such spirit did he show in bribery that when a member of the Body Guard, Cocceius Proculus, brought an action to claim part of his neighbour’s farm, Otho bought the whole property out of his own pocket and gave it to him. He was enabled to do this by the inefficiency of the Prefect Laco, who was no less blind to notorious than to secret scandals.