Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 352 pages of information about Tacitus.

’Fellow soldiers, it is now five days since I was made a Caesar.  I knew nothing of the future nor whether the name was more to be desired or feared.  It now lies with you to decide whether or no my adoption is to prove a calamity for my house and for my country.  In saying this, I do not dread disaster on my own account.  I have known misfortune, and I am now discovering to the full that prosperity is just as dangerous.  But for the sake of my adoptive father, of the senate, and of the whole empire, I deplore the thought that we may have to-day either to die or—­what for good men is as wretched—­to kill.  In the recent revolution our comfort was that Rome was spared the sight of blood, and the transfer was effected without disturbance.  We thought that my adoption would be a safeguard against an outbreak of civil war even after Galba’s death.

’I will make no claims to rank or respectability.  To compare 30 myself with Otho, I need not recite my virtues.  His vices are all he has to be proud of.  They ruined the empire, even when he was only playing the part of an emperor’s friend.  Why should he deserve to be emperor?  For his swaggering demeanour?  For his effeminate costume?  Extravagance imposes on some people.  They take it for liberality.  They are wrong.  He will know how to squander money, but not how to give it away.  His mind is full of lechery and debauchery and intrigues with women.  These are in his eyes the prerogatives of the throne.  And the pleasure of his vices would be all his, the blushes of shame would be ours.  No man has ever ruled well who won the throne by bad means.

’The whole Roman world agreed to give Galba the title of Caesar.  Galba with your approval gave that title to me.  Even if the “country”, the “senate”, the “people”, are empty terms, it is to your interest, my fellow soldiers, to see that it is not the rascals who create an emperor.  From time to time one hears of the legionaries being in mutiny against their generals.  But your good faith and your good name have stood to this day unimpaired.  It was not you who deserted Nero:  he deserted you.  Are you going to allow less than thirty deserters and renegades to bestow the crown?  Why! no one would tolerate their choosing so much as a centurion or a tribune for themselves.  Are you going to allow this precedent, and by your acquiescence make their crime your own?  You will soon see this lawless spirit spreading to the troops abroad, and in time the treason will recoil on us and the war on you.  Besides, innocence wins you as much as the murder of your emperor:  you will get from us as large a bounty for your loyalty as you would from others for your crime.’

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