Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

The task of restoring the Capitol[377] was entrusted to Lucius 53 Vestinus, who, though only a knight, yet in reputation and influence could rank with the highest.  He summoned all the soothsayers,[378] and they recommended that the ruins of the former temple should be carried away to the marshes[379] and a new temple erected on the same site:  the gods were unwilling, they said, that the original form of the building should be changed.  On the 21st of June, a day of bright sunshine, the whole consecrated area of the temple was decorated with chaplets and garlands.  In marched soldiers, all men with names of good omen, carrying branches of lucky trees:[380] then came the Vestal Virgins accompanied by boys and girls, each of whom had father and mother alive,[381] and they cleansed it all by sprinkling fresh water from a spring or river.[382] Next, while the high priest, Plautius Aelianus, dictated the proper formulae, Helvidius Priscus, the praetor, first consecrated the site by a solemn sacrifice[383] of a pig, a sheep and an ox, and then duly offering the entrails on an altar of turf, he prayed to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, as the guardian deities of the empire, to prosper the enterprise, and by divine grace to bring to completion this house of theirs which human piety had here begun.  He then took hold of the chaplets to which the ropes holding the foundation-stone were attached.  At the same moment the other magistrates and the priests and senators and knights and large numbers of the populace in joyous excitement with one great effort dragged the huge stone into its place.  On every side gifts of gold and silver were flung into the foundations, and blocks of virgin ore unscathed by any furnace, just as they had come from the womb of the earth.  For the soothsayers had given out that the building must not be desecrated by the use of stone or gold that had been put to any other purpose.  The height of the roof was raised.  This was the only change that religious scruples would allow, and it was felt to be the only point in which the former temple lacked grandeur.


    [331] We now reach the year A.D. 70.  Vespasian had already
          been consul under Claudius in 51.

    [332] In the absence of both consuls.

    [333] i.e.  Sohaemus, Antiochus, and Agrippa (cp. ii. 81).

    [334] Cp. ii. 85.

    [335] Cp. iii. 52.

    [336] Vespasian’s freedman (cp. iii. 12, 28.)

    [337] The elder brother of Galba’s adopted son Piso.

    [338] See ii. 65.  He must by now have ceased to be absentee

    [339] It was to the command of this legion that Galba promoted
          Antonius (see ii. 86).

    [340] Varus had served under Corbulo in Syria.

    [341] In his life of Agricola Tacitus speaks of Domitian’s
          red face as ‘his natural bulwark against shame’.

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