Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.


Piso was in his thirty-first year.  His reputation was better than 48 his fortune.  His brothers had been executed, Magnus by Claudius, Crassus by Nero.[79] He himself after being long in exile was a Caesar for four days.  Hastily adopted in preference to his elder brother,[80] the only advantage he reaped was to be killed first.

Titus Vinius in his fifty-seven years had displayed strange contrasts of character.  His father belonged to a family of praetorian rank; his mother’s father was one of the proscribed.[81] A scandal marked his first military service under the general Calvisius Sabinus.[82] The general’s wife suffered from a suspicious desire to inspect the arrangements of the camp, which she entered by night disguised in soldier’s uniform.  There she brazenly interfered with the guard and the soldiers on duty, and eventually had the effrontery to commit adultery in the general’s own quarters.  The man convicted of implication in this scandal was Titus Vinius.  He was therefore put in irons by order of Caligula.[83] However, the fortunes of the time soon changed and he was set at liberty.  After mounting the ladder of office without check, he was as an ex-praetor given the command of a legion, and proved successful.  But soon again he soiled his reputation, and laid himself under the charge of having been mean enough to steal a gold cup from Claudius’ dinner-table.  Claudius gave orders that on the next day Vinius alone of all his guests should be served on earthenware.  However, as pro-consul, Vinius’ government of Narbonese Gaul was strict and honest.  Subsequently his friendship with Galba brought him into danger.  He was bold, cunning, and efficient, with great power for good or for evil, according to his mood.  Vinius’ will was annulled because of his great wealth.  Piso was poor, so his last wishes were respected.

Galba’s body lay long neglected, and under cover of darkness was 49 subjected to various insults.  Eventually his steward Argius, one of his former slaves, gave it a humble burial in his private garden.  His head, which the camp-followers and servants had mangled and carried on a pole, was found next day in front of the tomb of Patrobius (one of Nero’s freedmen whom Galba had executed) and buried with the body which had already been cremated.  Such was the end of Servius Galba, who for seventy-three years had enjoyed prosperity under five different emperors, happier in their reign than his own.  He came of an old and noble family and possessed great wealth.  His own character was mediocre, rather free from vices than rich in virtues.  Though not indifferent to fame, he did not court it by advertisement.  Not greedy of other people’s money, he was careful of his own, and a miser with public funds.  His attitude towards friends and freedmen, if they were honest, was one of kindly complaisance; when they were not, he was culpably blind.  But his distinguished origin and the peculiar perils of the time disguised his apathy, which passed as prudence.[84] In the flower of his youth he served with distinction in Germany.  As pro-consul he governed Africa wisely, and in later years showed the same equity in Nearer Spain.[85] When he was a commoner he seemed too big for his station, and had he never been emperor, no one would have doubted his ability to reign.

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