Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

The troops in the city[10] had long been inured to the allegiance 5 of the Caesars, and it was more by the pressure of intrigue than of their own inclination that they came to desert Nero.  They soon realized that the donation promised in Galba’s name was not to be paid to them, and that peace would not, like war, offer opportunity for great services and rich rewards.  Since they also saw that the new emperor’s favour had been forestalled by the army which proclaimed him, they were ripe for revolution and were further instigated by their rascally Praefect Nymphidius Sabinus, who was plotting to be emperor himself.  His design was as a matter of fact detected and quashed, but, though the ringleader was removed, many of the troops still felt conscious of their treason and could be heard commenting on Galba’s senility and avarice.  His austerity—­a quality once admired and set high in soldiers’ estimation—­only annoyed troops whose contempt for the old methods of discipline had been fostered by fourteen years of service under Nero.  They had come to love the emperors’ vices as much as they once reverenced their virtues in older days.  Moreover Galba had let fall a remark, which augured well for Rome, though it spelt danger to himself.  ‘I do not buy my soldiers,’ he said, ‘I select them.’  And indeed, as things then stood, his words sounded incongruous.


[9] Probably those who owned one million sesterces, the
property qualification for admission to the senate.

[10] This includes ‘The Guards’ (cohortes praetoriae) and
‘The City Garrison’ (cohortes urbanae), and possibly also
the cohortes vigilum, who were a sort of police corps and
fire brigade.


Galba was old and ill.  Of his two lieutenants Titus Vinius was the 6 vilest of men and Cornelius Laco the laziest.  Hated as he was for Vinius’ crimes and despised for Laco’s inefficiency, between them Galba soon came to ruin.  His march from Spain was slow and stained with bloodshed.  He executed Cingonius Varro, the consul-elect, and Petronius Turpilianus, an ex-consul, the former as an accomplice of Nymphidius, the latter as one of Nero’s generals.  They were both denied any opportunity of a hearing or defence—­and might as well have been innocent.  On his arrival at Rome the butchery of thousands of unarmed soldiers[11] gave an ill omen to his entry, and alarmed even the men who did the slaughter.  The city was filled with strange troops.  A legion had been brought from Spain,[12] and the regiment of marines enrolled by Nero still remained.[11] Moreover there were several detachments from Germany, Britain, and Illyricum,[13] which had been selected by Nero, dispatched to the Caspian Pass[14] for the projected war against the Albanians, and subsequently recalled to aid in crushing the revolt of Vindex.[15] These were all fine fuel for a revolution, and, although their favour centred on nobody in particular, there they were at the disposal of any one who had enterprise.

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