Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
to the Golden Milestone at the foot of the Temple of Saturn.[55] There thirty-three soldiers of the Body Guard saluted him as emperor.  When he showed alarm at the smallness of their number they put him hastily into a litter, and, drawing their swords, hurried him away.  About the same number of soldiers joined them on the way, some accomplices, others merely curious.  Some marched along shouting and flourishing swords; others kept silent, intending to take their cue from subsequent events.

Julius Martialis was the tribune on duty in the camp.  He was so 28 overcome by the magnitude of this unexpected crime and so afraid that the treason was widespread in the camp, and that he might be killed if he offered any opposition, that he led most people to suppose he was in the plot.  So, too, the other tribunes and centurions all preferred present safety to a risky loyalty.  In fact the general attitude was this:  few dared to undertake so foul a crime, many wished to see it done, and everybody was ready to condone it.


[47] Cp. chap. 13.

[48] Decrees excluding astrologers from Italy had been passed
in B.C. 33, A.D. 16, and again in A.D. 52.  Vitellius passed
another.  See ii. 62.

[49] Nero’s wife.  Cp. chap. 13.

[50] i.e. to Lusitania.  See chap. 13.

[51] They were ‘Guards’ who had escorted Nero on his singing
tours through Greece.  Perhaps some of them came to meet Galba
on his way from Spain.  Otherwise they could not have shared
the toils of this march.

[52] See chap. 72.

[53] The public dinner given in older days by patrons to their
clients had long ago been commuted for a ‘tip’ (sportula). 
Pudens, instead of providing dinner for Galba’s guard, sought
their favour by giving them about 17_s._ apiece.

[54] The English terms do not of course represent the exact
position of these soldiers.  The former was one of the
emperor’s personal body-guard (speculatores), who received the
watchword (tessera) and passed it round:  the latter was one to
whom a centurion had delegated some part of his work.

[55] Plutarch explains this.  ‘He passed through Tiberius’
house, as it is called, and walked down to the Forum, where
stands the golden pillar to which all the high-roads of Italy
lead.’  The Velabrum lies between the Forum, the Tiber, and the


Meanwhile Galba in total ignorance and intent upon his sacrifices 29 continued to importune the gods of an empire that had already ceased to be his.  First there came a rumour that some one or other of the senators was being hurried to the camp, then that it was Otho.  Immediately people who had met Otho came flocking in from all quarters of Rome; some in their terror exaggerated the truth, some minimized it, remembering even then to flatter.  After discussion it was decided that the temper of the cohort on guard in the palace should be tested, but not by Galba himself.  His authority was held in reserve for more heroic remedies.  The troops were summoned.  Piso, standing out on the steps of the palace, addressed them as follows: 

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