Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
headlong to forestall the danger.  Off went the Roman soldiers as if they were going to drag Vologaesus or Pacorus from the ancestral throne of the Arsacids[67]—­and not to butcher their own emperor, a helpless old man.  Armed to the teeth, they broke at a full gallop into the Forum, scattering the populace and trampling senators under foot.  Neither the sight of the Capitol nor the sanctity of the temples towering above them, nor the thought of Roman emperors past and to come, could avail to deter them from committing that crime which the next successor always avenges.

Seeing the armed ranks now close at hand, the standard-bearer of 41 the cohort on guard over Galba[68]—­tradition says his name was Atilius Vergilio—­tore off the medallion of Galba[69] and flung it to the ground.  This signal clearly showed that all the troops were for Otho:  the people fled from the deserted Forum and swords were drawn against any who lingered.  Near ’Lake Curtius’[70] Galba was precipitated from his chair by the panic-stricken haste of the bearers and flung to the ground.  The accounts of his last words vary according as they are prompted by hatred or admiration.  Some say that he whined and asked what harm he had deserved, begging for a few days’ respite to pay the troops their largess.  The majority say that he offered his neck to the blow and bade them, ’Come, strike, if it serves the country’s need.’  Whatever he said mattered little to his assassins.  As to the actual murderer there is a difference of opinion.  Some say it was Terentius, a reservist,[71] others that his name was Laecanius.  The most common account is that a soldier of the Fifteenth legion, by name Camurius, pierced his throat with a sword-thrust.  The others foully mangled his arms and legs (his breast was covered) and with bestial savagery continued to stab the headless corpse.  Then they made for Titus Vinius.  Here, too, there is a doubt whether the fear of 42 imminent death strangled his voice, or whether he called out that they had no mandate from Otho to kill him.  He may have invented this in his terror, or it may have been a confession of his complicity in the plot.  His whole life and reputation give reason to suppose that he was an accomplice in the crime of which he was the cause.  He was brought to the ground in front of the temple of Julius by a blow on the knee, and afterwards a common soldier named Julius Carus ran him through with a sword.

However, Rome found one hero that day.  This was Sempronius Densus, 43 a centurion of the Guards, who had been told off by Galba to protect Piso.  Drawing his dagger he faced the armed assassins, flinging their treason in their teeth, and by his shouts and gestures turned their attention upon himself, thus enabling Piso to escape despite his wounds.  Piso, reaching the temple of Vesta, was mercifully sheltered by the verger, who hid him in his lodging.  There, no reverence for this sanctuary but merely his concealment postponed his immediate death.  Eventually, Otho, who was burning to have him killed,[72] dispatched as special agents, Sulpicius Florus of the British cohorts, a man whom Galba had recently enfranchised, and Statius Murcus of the Body Guard.  They dragged Piso forth and butchered him on the threshold of the temple.

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