Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

Otho came originally from the borough of Ferentium.[324] His 50 father had been consul and his grandfather praetor.  His mother’s family was inferior, but not without distinction.[325] His boyhood and youth were such as we have seen.  By his two great acts,[326] one most criminal and the other heroic, he earned in equal measure the praise and the reprobation of posterity.  It would certainly be beneath the dignity of my task to collect fabulous rumours for the amusement of my readers, but there are certain popular traditions which I cannot venture to contradict.  On the day of the battle of Bedriacum, according to the account of the local peasants, a strange bird appeared in a much-frequented grove near Regium Lepidum.[327] There it sat, unterrified and unmoved, either by the crowds of people or by the birds which fluttered round it, until the moment at which Otho killed himself.  Then it vanished.  A calculation of the time showed that the prodigy’s appearance and disappearance coincided with the beginning of the battle[328] and Otho’s death.

At his funeral the rage and grief of the soldiers broke out into 51 another mutiny.  This time there was no one to control them.  They turned to Verginius and begged him with threats now to accept the principate, now to head a deputation to Caecina and Valens.  However, Verginius escaped them, slipping out by the back door of his house just as they broke in at the front.  Rubrius Gallus carried a petition from the Guards at Brixellum, and obtained immediate pardon.  Simultaneously Flavius Sabinus surrendered to the victor the troops under his command.[329]


    [273] Pavia.

    [274] i. 66.

    [275] i. 59 and 64.

    [276] See chap. 14.

    [277] It is Tacitus who has mixed the metaphors.

    [278] See i. 66.

    [279] i.e. he pretended that not all but only a few were to
          blame (cp. i. 84).

    [280] Valens had by now Legion V, I Italica, detachments from
          I, XV, XVI, and Taurus’ Horse:  Caecina had Legion XXI and
          detachments from IV and VII.

    [281] Cp. i. 53.

    [282] Cp. i. 66.

    [283] He had made his name in a Moorish war (A.D. 42), when he
          had penetrated as far as Mount Atlas, and increased his
          reputation by suppressing the rebellion of Boadicea when he
          was governor of Britain (A.D. 59).

    [284] Otho held the fleets.

    [285] He means that they would be, if they took his advice and
          retired across the Po to the south bank.

    [286] According to the rumours quoted in chap. 46 they were
          already at Aquileia, near Venice, but Suetonius, whose father
          was at this time a tribune in the Thirteenth, says that they
          heard of Otho’s death before arriving at Aquileia.

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