Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

I must now explain the origin and causes of the rising of 51 Vitellius.  After the slaughter of Julius Vindex[88] and his whole force, the troops were in high spirits at the fame and booty they had acquired.  Without toil or danger they had won a most profitable victory.  So they were all for marching against the enemy:  plunder seemed better than pay.  They had endured a long and unprofitable service, rendered the more irksome by the country and climate and by the strict discipline observed.  But discipline, however stern in time of peace, is always relaxed in civil wars, when temptation stands on either hand and treachery goes unpunished.  Men, armour, and horses they had in abundance for use and for show.  But, whereas before the war the soldiers only knew the men of their own company or troop, and the provincial frontier[89] separated the armies, now, having once joined forces against Vindex, they had gained a knowledge of their own strength and the state of the province, and were looking for more fighting and fresh quarrels, calling the Gauls no longer allies, as before, but ‘our enemies’ or ‘the vanquished’.  They had also the support of the Gallic tribes on the banks of the Rhine, who had espoused their cause and were now the most eager to rouse them against ’the Galbians’[90] as they now called them, despising the name of Vindex.  So, cherishing hostility against the Sequani and Aedui,[91] and against all the other communities in proportion to their wealth, they drank in dreams of sacking towns and pillaging fields and looting houses, inspired partly by the peculiar failings of the strong, greed and vanity, and partly also by a feeling of irritation at the insolence of the Gauls, who boasted, to the chagrin of the army, that Galba had remitted a quarter of their tribute and given the franchise and grants of land to their community.[92] Further fuel was added by a rumour, cunningly circulated and rashly credited, that there was a project on foot to decimate the legions and discharge all the most enterprising centurions.  From every side came alarming news and sinister reports from the city.  The colony of Lugdunum[93] was up in arms, and its stubborn attachment to Nero made it a hotbed of rumour.  But in the camp itself the passions and fears of the soldiers, and, when once they had realized their strength, their feeling of security, furnished the richest material for lies and won them easy credence.

In the preceding year,[94] shortly after the beginning of 52 December, Aulus Vitellius had entered the province of Lower Germany and held a careful inspection of the winter quarters of the legions.  He restored many to their rank, remitted degrading penalties, and relieved those who had suffered disgrace, acting mainly from ambitious motives, but partly also upon sound judgement.  Amongst other things he showed impartiality in remedying the injustices due to the mean and dishonest way in which Fonteius Capito

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