Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

’Now I know you did it to protect me, but the riot and the 84 darkness and the general confusion might easily have provided an opportunity to kill me.  Suppose Vitellius and his satellites had their choice of the state of mind they would pray to find us in; what more could they desire than mutiny and dissension, the men insubordinate to the centurions, and the centurions to their superior officers, and the whole force, horse and foot alike, rushing in headlong confusion to their ruin?  Good soldiering, my comrades, consists in obedience, not in scrutinizing the general’s orders; and the army which is most orderly in peace is most courageous on the field of battle.  Yours are the swords and the courage; you must leave it to me to plan the campaign, and to direct your valour.  The culprits were but few, and only two are to be punished; the rest of you must blot out all memory of that discreditable night.  No army must ever hear again such words spoken against the senate.  It is the brain of the empire and the glory of all the provinces.  Why, in Heaven’s name, the very Germans themselves, whom Vitellius is stirring up with all his might against us, would not dare to call its members into question!  Shall it be said that Italy’s own sons, the real soldiery of Rome, are clamouring to murder and massacre the very senators whose lustre it is that throws into the shade the obscure and vulgar adherents of Vitellius?  Vitellius has seized a few provinces and raised a sort of shadow of an army; but the senate is on our side.  Therefore, Rome is for us; they are against her.  Do you imagine that the stability of this beautiful city consists in houses and edifices built of stone upon stone?  Nay, they are dumb inanimate things that may fall to pieces and be rebuilt at pleasure.  The eternity of our empire, the peace of the world, your welfare and mine, all depend upon the safety of the senate.  Instituted with solemn ceremony by the father and founder of Rome, the senate has come down in undying continuity from the kings to the emperors; and as we have received it from our ancestors, so let us hand it on to our posterity.  From your ranks come the senators, and from the senate come the emperors of Rome.’

This speech, as being well calculated to provide a reprimand and a 85 sedative for the soldiers, and Otho’s moderation—­for he only ordered the punishment of two men—­were well received.  He had calmed for a moment the troops he could not control.  Yet peace and quiet were not restored in Rome.  One could still detect the clash of arms and the lurid face of war.  Refraining from organized riot, the soldiers now dispersed to private houses and lived in disguise, giving vent to their bad feeling by maligning all whom nobility of birth or wealth or any other distinction made a mark for scandal.  Many, besides, believed that some of Vitellius’ soldiers had come to Rome to study the state of party feeling.  Everywhere suspicion was rife, and terror invaded even the privacy

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