Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

None of his murders pleased Otho so much as this.  On Piso’s head, 44 as on no other, they say, he gazed with insatiable eyes.  This was possibly the first moment at which he felt relieved of all anxiety, and free to indulge his glee; or perhaps, in the case of Galba and of Vinius, the recollection of his treason to the one and of his former friendship with the other troubled even his unfeeling heart with gloomy thoughts, whereas, Piso being an enemy and a rival, he considered it a pious duty to gloat over his murder.  Their heads were fixed on poles and carried along with the standards of the cohorts side by side with the eagle of the legion.[73] Those who had done the deed and those who had witnessed it vied with each other in displaying their bloody hands, all boasting of their share—­some falsely, some truly—­as if it were a fine and memorable exploit.  Vitellius subsequently discovered more than 120 petitions demanding rewards for distinguished services rendered on that day.  He gave orders to search out all the petitioners and put them to death.  This was from no respect for Galba:  he merely followed the traditional custom by which princes secure their present safety and posthumous vengeance.

The senate and people seemed different men.  There was a general 45 rush for the camp, every one shouldering his neighbour and trying to overtake those in front.  They heaped insults on Galba, praised the prudence of the troops, and covered Otho’s hand with kisses, their extravagance varying inversely with their sincerity.  Otho rebuffed no one, and succeeded by his words and looks in moderating the menace of the soldiers’ greed for vengeance.  They loudly demanded the execution of Marius Celsus, the consul-elect, who had remained Galba’s faithful friend to the last.  They were as much offended at his efficiency and honesty as if these had been criminal qualities.  What they wanted was obviously to find a first excuse for plunder and murder and the destruction of all decent citizens.  But Otho had as yet no influence to prevent crimes:  he could only order them.  So he simulated anger, giving instructions for Celsus’ arrest, and by promising that he should meet with a worse penalty, thus rescued him from immediate death.

The will of the soldiers was now henceforward supreme.  The 46 Praetorian Guards chose their own prefects, Plotius Firmus, a man who had risen from the ranks to the post of Chief of Police,[74] and joined Otho’s side before Galba’s fall, and Licinius Proculus, an intimate friend of Otho, and therefore suspected of furthering his plans.  They made Flavius Sabinus[75] prefect of the city, therein following Nero’s choice, under whom Sabinus had held that post; besides, most of them had an eye to the fact that he was Vespasian’s brother.  An urgent demand arose that the customary fees to centurions for granting furlough should be abolished, for they constituted a sort of annual tax upon the common soldier.  The result had been that

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