Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

After some such speech as this he urged them courteously to hurry 48 away and not to exasperate the victor by their hesitation.  To each man’s age and position he paid due regard, using his authority with the young and persuasion with his elders, while his quiet looks and firm speech helped to control their ill-timed tears.  He gave orders for boats and carriages to be provided for their departure.  All petitions and letters containing any compliments to himself, or marked insults to Vitellius, he destroyed, and distributed his money carefully, not like a man at the point of death.  He then actually tried to comfort the sorrowful fears of his nephew, Salvius Cocceianus,[319] by praising his attachment and chiding his alarm.  ’Do you imagine,’ he said, ’that Vitellius will be so hard-hearted as not to show me some gratitude for saving his whole household?  By promptly putting an end to myself, I deserve to earn some mercy for my family.  For it is not in blank despair, but with my army clamouring for battle, that I determine to save my country from the last calamities.  I have won enough fame for myself and ennoblement for my posterity; for, after the line of the Julians, Claudians, Servians,[320] I have been the first to bring the principate into a new family.  So rouse yourself and go on with your life.  Never forget that Otho was your uncle, yet keep your remembrance within bounds.’

After this he made them all retire and rested for a while.  But his 49 last reflections were interrupted by a sudden disturbance and the news of a mutinous outbreak among the troops.  They were threatening to kill all those who were leaving, and turned with especial violence against Verginius,[321] whose house was in a state of siege.  Otho rebuked the ringleaders and returned, consenting to receive the adieux of those who were going, until it was time for them to depart in safety.  As the day deepened into evening he quenched his thirst with a drink of iced water.  Two daggers were brought to him and, after trying them both, he put one under his pillow.  Being assured on inquiry that his friends had started, he spent a peaceful night, not, it is said, without sleep.  At break of day[322] he fell upon his dagger.  Hearing his dying groan, his slaves and freedmen entered with Plotius Firmus, the Prefect of the Guards, and found a single wound in his breast.  The funeral was hurried forward out of respect for his own earnest entreaties, for he had been afraid his head might be cut off and subjected to outrage.  The Guard carried the body, sounding his praises with tears in their eyes, and covering his hands and wounded breast with kisses.  Some of the soldiers killed themselves beside the pyre, not because they had harmed Vitellius or feared reprisals, but from love of their emperor, and to follow his noble example.  Similar suicides became common afterwards at Bedriacum and Placentia, and in other encampments.[323] An inconspicuous tomb was built for Otho, as being less likely to be disturbed:  and thus he ended his life in his thirty-seventh year.

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