Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.
a quarter of each company could go off on leave or lounge idly about the barracks, so long as they paid the centurion his fee, nor was there any one to control either the amount of this impost or the means by which the soldiers raised the money:  highway robbery or menial service was the usual resort whereby they purchased leisure.  Then, again, a soldier who had money was savagely burdened with work until he should buy exemption.  Thus he soon became impoverished and enervated by idleness, and returned to his company no longer a man of means and energy but penniless and lazy.  So the process went on.  One after another they became deteriorated by poverty and lax discipline, rushing blindly into quarrels and mutiny, and, as a last resource, into civil war.  Otho was afraid of alienating the centurions by his concessions to the rank and file, and promised to pay the annual furlough-fees out of his private purse.  This was indubitably a sound reform, which good emperors have since established as a regular custom in the army.  The prefect Laco he pretended to banish to an island, but on his arrival he was stabbed by a reservist[76] whom Otho had previously dispatched for that purpose.  Marcianus Icelus, as being one of his own freedmen,[77] he sentenced to public execution.

Thus the day was spent in crimes, and worst of all was the joy 47 they caused.  The senate was summoned by the urban praetor.[78] The other magistrates all vied in flattery.  The senators arrived post-haste.  They decreed to Otho the powers of the tribunate, the title of Augustus, and all the imperial prerogatives.  Their unanimous object was to blot out all recollection of former insults; but, as these had been hurled equally from all sides, they did not, as far as any one could see, stick in his memory.  Whether he had forgotten them or only postponed punishment, his reign was too short to show.  He was then carried through the still reeking Forum among the piles of dead bodies to the Capitol, and thence to the palace.  He granted permission to burn and bury the bodies of his victims.  Piso’s wife Verania and his brother Scribonianus laid out his body, and this was done for Vinius by his daughter Crispina.  They had to search for the heads and buy them back from the murderers, who had preserved them for sale.


[72] According to Plutarch, when they brought Otho Galba’s
head, he said, ‘That’s nothing:  show me Piso’s.’

[73] i.e. the legion of marines—­Prima Adiutrix.  Cp. chap. 6, &c.

[74] i.e. in command of the cohortes vigilum.  Cp. chap. 5,
note 10.

[75] Vespasian’s elder brother.  He continued to hold the
office under Vitellius (ii. 63).

[76] See chap. 42, note 71.

[77] As a libertus Caesaris he passed into Otho’s hands with
the rest of the palace furniture.

[78] The consuls Galba and Vinius (chap. 1), were both dead.

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