Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Otho then put Onomastus, one of his freedmen, in charge of the 25 projected crime, and Onomastus took into his confidence Barbius Proculus, an aide-de-camp, and a subaltern named Veturius, both in the Body Guard.[54] Having assured himself by many interviews that they were both bold and cunning, Otho proceeded to load them with bribes and promises, providing them with funds to enable them to test the feelings of the others.  And so a couple of common soldiers took it upon them to transfer the Roman Empire:  and they did it.  A very few were admitted as accomplices.  These, by various devices, worked on the indecision of the others.  The non-commissioned officers who had been promoted by Nymphidius felt themselves under suspicion; the private soldiers were indignant and in despair at the constant postponement of Galba’s largess; some few were fired by the recollection of Nero’s regime and longed for the days of licence; all in common shared the fear of being drafted out of the Praetorian Guards.

The infection of treason soon spread to the legions and 26 auxiliaries, whose excitement had been aroused as soon as they heard that the armies of Germany were wavering in their allegiance.  So, as the disloyal were ready for treason and the loyal shut their eyes, they at first determined to acclaim Otho as he was returning from dinner on the night of the fourteenth.  However, they hesitated:  the darkness spelt uncertainty, the troops were scattered all over the town, and unanimity could scarcely be expected from drunken men.  They were not deterred by any affection for their country’s honour, which they were deliberately preparing to stain with its emperor’s blood, but they were afraid that, as Otho was unknown to the majority, some one else might by mistake be offered to the Pannonian or German legions and proclaimed emperor.  Some evidence of the brewing plot leaked out, but it was suppressed by the conspirators.  Rumours even reached Galba’s ears, but Laco made light of them, being totally ignorant of soldiers’ characters, hostile to any suggestion, however wise, that was not his own, and extremely obstinate with men who knew more than he did.

On January 15, as Galba was sacrificing in front of the temple of 27 Apollo, the priest Umbricius declared the omens unfavourable:  treason was impending, and an enemy within the walls.  Otho, who was standing beside Galba, overheard and construed the omen as being from his own point of view a good one, favourable to his plans.  In a few moments his freedman, Onomastus, announced that the architect and contractors were waiting to see him.  This had been agreed upon as the signal that the troops were assembling and the conspiracy was ripe.  On being asked where he was going, Otho pretended that he was buying an old property, but suspected its condition and so had to inspect it first.  Thus, leaning on his freedman’s shoulder, he passed through Tiberius’ house into the Velabrum and thence

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