Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

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

On the next day Vitellius granted an audience to the deputation of 69 the senate, which he had told to await him at Ticinum.  He then entered the camp and spontaneously complimented the troops on their devotion to him.[382] This made the auxiliaries grumble at the growing licence and impunity allowed to the legions.  So the Batavians, for fear of some desperate outbreak, were sent back to Germany, where Fortune was contriving for us a war that was at once both civil and foreign.[383] The Gallic auxiliaries were also sent home.  Their numbers were very large, and had been used at the first outbreak of the rebellion for an empty parade of force.  Indeed, the imperial finances were already embarrassed by the distribution of largess, to meet the expenses of which Vitellius gave orders for depleting the strength of the legions and auxiliaries.  Recruiting was forbidden, and discharges offered without restriction.  This policy was disastrous for the country and unpopular among the soldiers, who found that their turn for work and danger came round all the more frequently, now that there were so few to share the duties.  Besides, their efficiency was demoralized by luxury.  Nothing was left of the old-fashioned discipline and the good rules of our ancestors, who preferred to base the security of Rome on character and not on money.

Leaving Ticinum Vitellius turned off to Cremona.  There he 70 witnessed Caecina’s games and conceived a wish to stand upon the field of Bedriacum, and to see the traces of the recent victory with his own eyes.  Within six weeks of the battle, it was a disgusting and horrible sight; mangled bodies, mutilated limbs, rotting carcasses of men and horses, the ground foul with clotted blood.  Trees and crops all trampled down:  the country-side a miserable waste.  No less revolting to all human feeling was the stretch of road which the people of Cremona had strewn with laurel-leaves and roses, erecting altars and sacrificing victims as if in honour of an Oriental despot.[384] The rejoicings of the moment soon turned to their destruction.[385] Valens and Caecina were in attendance and showed Vitellius over the battle-field:  this was where their legions had charged:  the cavalry took the field from here:  this was where the auxiliaries were outflanked.  The various officers[386] each praised their own exploits, adding a few false or, at any rate, exaggerated touches.  The common soldiers, too, turned gaily shouting from the high road to inspect the scene of their great struggle, gazing with wonder at the huge pile of arms and heaps of bodies.[387] There were a few who reflected with tears of pity on the shifting chances of life.  But Vitellius never took his eyes off the field:  never shuddered at the sight of all these thousands of Roman citizens lying unburied.[388] On the contrary, he was very well pleased, and, unconscious of his own impending doom, he offered a sacrifice to the local deities.

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