Fortune smiled on his first efforts. By sea his fleet held most of 12 the Italian coast right up to the foot of the Maritime Alps. To secure these mountains and attack the province of Narbonese Gaul he had placed in command Suedius Clemens, Antonius Novellus, and Aemilius Pacensis. Pacensis, however, was made a prisoner by his mutinous troops: Novellus had no authority: Clemens’ command rested on popularity, and he was as greedy of battle as he was criminally blind to insubordination. No one could have imagined they were in Italy, on the soil of their native land. As though on foreign shores and among an enemy’s towns, they burnt, ravaged, plundered, with results all the more horrible since no precautions had been taken against danger. The fields were full, the houses open. The inhabitants came to meet them with their wives and children, and were lured by the security of peace into all the horrors of war. The Governor of the Maritime Alps at that time was Marius Maturus. He summoned the inhabitants, whose fighting strength was ample, and proposed to resist at the frontier the Othonians’ invasion of the province. But at the first engagement the mountaineers were cut down and dispersed. They had assembled in random haste; they knew nothing of military service or discipline, nothing of the glory of victory or the disgrace of flight.
Enraged by this engagement, Otho’s troops visited their 13 indignation on the town of Albintimilium. The battle had brought them no booty, for the peasants were poor and their armour worthless, and being swift of foot, with a good knowledge of the country, they had escaped capture. However, the soldiers sated their greed at the expense of the innocent town. A Ligurian woman afforded a fine example of courage which made their conduct the more odious. She had concealed her son, and when the soldiers, who believed that she had hidden some money as well, demanded from her under torture where she was keeping him concealed, she pointed to her belly and replied, ’He is in hiding.’ No subsequent tortures nor even death itself could bring her to change that brave and noble answer.