Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Spurinna, learning the enemy’s route, informed Annius Gallus[261] 23 by letter of all that had happened, the defence of Placentia and Caecina’s plans.  Gallus was leading the First legion to the relief of Placentia, for he doubted the ability of the weak force of Guards to resist a long siege and the full strength of the German army.  Hearing that Caecina was defeated and making for Cremona, he halted at Bedriacum, though he found it hard to restrain the ardour of his troops, whose zeal for battle nearly broke into mutiny.  The village of Bedriacum lies between Verona and Cremona,[262] and two Roman disasters have now given it a sinister notoriety.

In the same week Martius Macer[263] gained a victory in the neighbourhood of Cremona.  With great enterprise he had transported his gladiators across the Po, and suddenly flung them on to the opposite bank.  There they routed the Vitellian auxiliaries and killed all who offered resistance, the rest taking flight to Cremona.  But Macer checked their victorious ardour, for fear that the enemy might be reinforced and reverse the fortune of the battle.  This aroused suspicion among the Othonians, who put a bad construction on all that their generals did.  All the least courageous and most impudent of the troops vied incessantly with each other in bringing various charges against Annius Gallus, Suetonius Paulinus, and Marius Celsus, for the two latter had also been placed in command by Otho.[264] The most energetic in promoting mutiny and dissension were Galba’s murderers, who, maddened by their feelings of fear and of guilt, created endless disorder, sometimes talking open sedition, sometimes sending anonymous letters to Otho.  As he always believed men of the meaner sort and distrusted patriots, he now wavered nervously, being always irresolute in success and firmer in the face of danger.  He therefore sent for his brother Titianus[265] and gave him the chief command.

Meanwhile success attended the generalship of Paulinus and 24 Celsus.[266] Caecina was tortured by his constant failure and the waning reputation of his army.  Repulsed from Placentia, he had lately seen his auxiliaries defeated, and his patrols constantly worsted in skirmishes more frequent than memorable.  Now that Fabius Valens was close at hand, he determined not to let all the glory of the war fall to him, and hastened with more zeal than prudence to retrieve his reputation.  About twelve miles[267] distant from Cremona, at a place called Twin Brethren,[268] he carefully concealed the bravest of his auxiliaries in a wood overlooking the road.  The cavalry were ordered to ride forward down the road and provoke an engagement.  They were then to feign flight and lure the pursuers on in hot haste until they fell into the ambush.  This plan was betrayed to Otho’s generals.  Paulinus took charge of the infantry, Celsus of the horse.  A detachment of the Thirteenth legion,[269] four auxiliary cohorts of foot, and five hundred cavalry were stationed on the left flank.  Three cohorts of the Guards in column occupied the raised high-road.[270] On the right flank marched the First legion, two auxiliary cohorts of foot, and five hundred cavalry.  Besides these they moved out a thousand cavalry—­Guards and auxiliaries—­as a reserve to crown their success, or assist them in difficulties.

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