Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

    [149] The Arlberg.

    [150] Great St. Bernard.

    [151] Early in March.


Meanwhile, contrary to all expectation, Otho was no prey to idle 71 luxury.  He postponed his pleasures and disguised his extravagance, suiting all his behaviour to the dignity of his position.  But people knew they had not seen the last of his vices, and his virtuous hypocrisy only increased their alarm.  He gave orders to summon Marius Celsus to the Capitol.  This was the consul-elect whom he had rescued from the savage clutches of the soldiers by pretending to put him in prison.[152] Otho now wanted to earn a name for clemency by pardoning a well-known man, who had fought against his party.  Celsus was firm.  Pleading guilty to the charge of fidelity to Galba, he went on to show that he had set an example which was all to Otho’s advantage.  Otho treated him as if there was nothing to pardon.  Calling on heaven to witness their reconciliation, he then and there admitted him to the circle of his intimate friends, and subsequently gave him an appointment as one of his generals.  Celsus remained faithful to Otho too, doomed apparently to the losing side.  His acquittal, which delighted the upper classes and was popular with the mass of the people, even earned the approval of the soldiers, who now admired the qualities which had previously aroused their indignation.

Equal rejoicing, though for different reasons, followed the 72 long-looked-for downfall of Ofonius Tigellinus.  Born of obscure parentage, he had grown from an immoral youth into a vicious old man.  He rose to the command first of the Police,[153] and then of the Praetorian Guards, finding that vice was a short cut to such rewards of virtue.  In these and other high offices he developed the vices of maturity, first cruelty, then greed.  He corrupted Nero and introduced him to every kind of depravity; then ventured on some villainies behind his back, and finally deserted and betrayed him.  Thus in his case, as in no other, those who hated Nero and those who wished him back agreed, though from different motives, in calling loudly for his execution.  During Galba’s reign he had been protected by the influence of Titus Vinius, on the plea that he had saved his daughter.  Saved her he had, not from any feelings of pity (he had killed too many for that), but to secure a refuge for the future.  For all such rascals, distrusting the present and fearing a change of fortune, always prepare for themselves a shelter against public indignation by obtaining the favour of private persons.  So they rely to escape punishment not on their innocence but on a system of mutual insurance.  People were all the more incensed against Tigellinus, since the recent feeling against Vinius was added to their old hatred for him.  From all quarters of Rome they flocked to the palace and the squares; and above all, in the circus and the theatre, where the mob enjoys complete licence, they assembled in crowds and broke out into riotous uproar.  Eventually Tigellinus at Sinuessa Spa[154] received the news that his last hour was inevitably come.  There after a cowardly delay in the foul embraces of his prostitutes he cut his throat with a razor, and blackened the infamy of his life by a hesitating and shameful death.

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