Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

In a country so divided and tossed by frequent change of rulers 10 between liberty and licence even small events caused serious disturbance.  It happened that Vibius Crispus,[224] a man whose wealth, influence, and ability had won him a reputation that was great rather than good, had impeached before the senate a man of equestrian rank, called Annius Faustus, who had been a professional informer under Nero.  The senate had recently in Galba’s principate passed a resolution authorizing the prosecution of informers.  This resolution had been variously applied from time to time, and interpreted rigorously or leniently according as the defendant was helpless or influential.  But it still retained some terrors.  Crispus, moreover, had exerted all his powers to secure the conviction of the man who had informed against his brother.[225] He had, in fact, induced a large proportion of the senate to demand that Faustus should be sent to execution undefended and unheard.  However, with others, the defendant gained a great advantage from his prosecutor’s undue influence.  ’We must give him time,’ they argued, ’the charges must be published:  however hateful the criminal his case must be properly heard.’  At first this advice prevailed.  The trial was postponed for a few days.  At length came the conviction of Faustus, which aroused in the country less satisfaction than his vile character warranted.  People recalled the fact that Crispus himself had turned informer with pecuniary profit.  It was not the penalty but the prosecutor that was unpopular.


    [224] A close friend of Vespasian, who was supposed to ply the
          trade of informer (cp. iv. 41 and 43).

    [225] Vibius Secundus, banished for extortion in Mauretania.


Meanwhile the war opened successfully for Otho.  At his order the 11 armies of Dalmatia and Pannonia started from their base.  They comprised four legions,[226] each of which had sent forward detachments two thousand strong.  The rest followed at a short interval:  the Seventh legion raised by Galba,[227] the Eleventh and Thirteenth, both composed of veteran troops, and the Fourteenth, which had won great distinction by crushing the rebellion in Britain.[228] Nero had further increased their glory by choosing them for special service,[229] which accounts for their lasting loyalty to Nero and their keen support of Otho.  But the stronger their numbers the greater their self-confidence and the slower their march.  The cavalry and auxiliaries preceded the main body of the legions.  From Rome itself came no mean force, five regiments of Guards with some detachments of cavalry and the First legion.[230] To these were added an irregular force of 2,000 gladiators,[231] a shameful assistance of which during the civil wars even strict generals availed themselves.  Annius Gallus was placed in command of these forces with

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