Group 2: Tacitus Histories 1


Histories I

27–36, 39–44, 49

Tacitus

A Level Latin Group 1 text 2020-2022

Translation by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

27

Latin

English

On the fifteenth of January, when Galba was sacrificing in front of the temple of Apollo, the seer Umbricius declared that the omens were unfavourable, that a plot was imminent, and that an enemy was in his house. Otho heard this, for he stood next to Galba, and interpreted it by contraries as favourable to himself and auguring well for his purposes. Presently his freedman, Onomastus, announced to him that his architect and the contractors were waiting for him, this having been agreed upon as a sign that the soldiers were already gathering and that the conspiracy was ripe. When some asked Otho why he was leaving, he gave as an excuse that he was buying some properties of whose value he was doubtful because of their age, and therefore he wished to examine them first. Taking the arm of his freedman he walked through the palace of Tiberius to the Velabrum, and then to the golden milestone hard by the temple of Saturn. There twenty-three of the bodyguard hailed him as emperor; when he was frightened because there were so few to greet him, they put him quickly into a chair and with drawn swords hurried him away. About the same number of soldiers joined them as they went, some through knowledge, more through wonder, a part with shouts and drawn swords, a part in silence, ready to take their cue from the result.

28

Latin

English

Julius Martialis the tribune was the officer of the day in the camp. Terrified by the enormity of the sudden crime, ignorant of the extent to which the camp was disloyal, and fearing death if he opposed, he made the majority suspect him of complicity. All the rest of the tribunes also and the centurions preferred present safety to a doubtful but honourable course. And such was the attitude of their minds that the foulest of crimes was dared by a few, desired by more, and acquiesced in by all.

29

Latin

English

Galba in the meantime was in ignorance. Intent upon his sacrifices, he was importuning the gods of an empire which was already another’s, when a report was brought to him that some senator or other was being hurried to the camp. Afterwards rumour said that it was Otho; and at the same time people came from the whole city — some, who had happened to meet the procession, exaggerating the facts through terror, some making light of them, for they did not even then forget to flatter. On consultation it was decided to try the temper of the cohort that was on guard at the palace, but not through Galba himself, whose authority was kept unimpaired for more serious measures. Piso, standing on the steps of the palace, called the soldiers together and spoke as follows: “It is now five days, my comrades, since, in ignorance of the future, I was adopted as Caesar, not knowing whether this name was one to be desired or feared. The fate of our house and the State depends on you. I say this not because I fear misfortune on my own account, for I have known adversity, and at the present moment I am learning that prosperity brings no less danger. But I grieve for the fate of my father, the senate, and the very empire, if we must either ourselves die to‑day or kill others — an act which brings equal sorrow to the good. In the last uprising we were solaced by the fact that the city was unstained by blood and the government transferred without dissension: adoption seemed to provide against any occasion for war even after Galba’s death.

30

Latin

English

“I make no claim of high birth or character for myself, and I need not catalogue virtues when the comparison is with Otho. His faults, which are the only things in which he glories, were undermining the empire even when he pretended to be the friend of the emperor. Was it by his bearing and gait or by his womanish dress that he deserved the throne? They are deceived who are imposed upon by extravagance under the garb of generosity. He will know how to ruin, he will not know how to give. Adulteries and revelries and gatherings of women fill his thoughts: these he considers the prerogatives of imperial power. The lust and pleasure of them will be his, the shame and disgrace of them will fall on every Roman; for imperial power gained by wicked means no man has ever used honourably. The consent of all mankind made Galba Caesar, and Galba made me so with your consent. If the State and the Senate and People are but empty names, it is your concern, comrades, that the emperor should not be made by the worst citizens. A revolt of the legions against their generals has sometimes been heard of; your loyalty and good name have remained unimpaired down to the present day. It was Nero, too, who deserted you, not you Nero. Shall less than thirty renegades and deserters, men whom no one would allow to choose a centurion or tribune, bestow the empire? Will you allow this precedent, and by inaction make their crime yours? Such licence will spread to the provinces, and the consequence of their crimes will fall on us, the resulting wars on you. The reward given the assassins for the murder of the emperor will not be greater than that which will be bestowed on those who refrain from crime; nay, you will receive no less a gift from us for loyalty than you will from others for treason.”

31

Latin

English

The members of the bodyguard slunk away, but the rest of the cohort did not refuse to hear his speech and, as frequently happens in times of excitement, they seized their standards haphazard, without any plan as yet, rather than, as was afterwards believed, to conceal their treachery. Celsus Marius was sent to the picked troops from Illyria, who were encamped in the Vipsanian Colonnade; Amullius Serenus and Domitius Sabinus, centurions of the first rank, were ordered to summon the German troops from the Hall of Liberty. The legion of marines was not trusted, for they were still hostile to Galba, because he had immediately massacred their comrades when he first entered the city. The tribunes, Cetrius Severus, Subrius Dexter, and Pompeius Longinus, went even into the praetorian camp to see if the mutiny were still incipient and not yet come to a head, so that it could be averted by wiser counsels. Subrius and Cetrius the soldiers attacked and threatened, Longinus they forcibly restrained and disarmed; this action was prompted by his fidelity to his emperor, which was due not to his military position, but to his friendship for Galba; therefore the mutineers regarded him with the greater suspicion. The legion of marines without hesitation joined the praetorians. The picked troops from Illyria drove Celsus away at the point of their spears. The German detachments hesitated for a long time; they were still weak physically and were kindly disposed towards Galba, for Nero had sent them back to Alexandria, and then on their return, when sick from their long voyage, Galba had taken great pains to care for them.

32

Latin

English

The whole mass of the people, with slaves among them, filled the palace. There were discordant cries demanding Otho’s death and the execution of the conspirators, exactly as if the people were calling for some show in the circus or the theatre; there was neither sense nor honesty in their demands, for on this very same day they would have clamoured for the opposite with equal enthusiasm; but they acted according to the traditional custom of flattering the emperor, whoever he might be, with fulsome acclamations and senseless zeal.

In the meantime Galba was torn between two proposals; Titus Vinius urged the necessity of staying in the palace, arming the slaves for defence, blocking the entrances, and not going to the infuriated troops. Let Galba, he said, give time for the disloyal to repel, for the loyal to come to a common agreement; crimes gained strength by impulsive action, wise counsels through delay; and, after all, he would later have the same opportunity to go on his own motion if it should seem wise, but if he went now and regretted it, his return would depend on others.

33

Latin

English

All the rest thought that he should act immediately, before the conspiracy, as yet weak and confined to a few, should gain strength. They declared that Otho would lose heart. He had slipped away by stealth, had presented himself to people who did not know him, and now, because of the hesitancy and inactivity of those who were wasting their time, he was having an opportunity to learn to play the emperor. There must be no waiting for Otho to settle matters in the camp, invade the forum, and go to the Capitol under the very eyes of Galba, while that most noble emperor with his valiant friends barred his house and did not cross his threshold, being ready, no doubt, to endure a siege! It was a brilliant backing, too, that they would find in slaves, if the united sentiment of the whole people and their first indignation, which is the strongest, should be allowed to cool! The dishonourable, therefore, was the dangerous resolve; even if they must fall, they should go forth to meet danger; that would bring more disrepute on Otho and honour to themselves. When Vinius opposed this view Laco attacked him with threats, goaded on by Icelus, who persisted in his personal enmity towards Vinius to the ruin of the state.

34

Latin

English

Galba did not delay any longer, but favoured those who offered the more specious advice. Yet Piso was sent first to the camp, for he was young, had a great name, and enjoyed fresh popularity; he was also an enemy of Titus Vinius; either that was a fact, or else in their anger the opponents of Vinius wished to have it so: and it is so much easier to believe in hatred. Piso had hardly left the palace when a report was brought, vague and uncertain at first, that Otho had been killed in the camp. Presently, as is natural in falsehoods of great importance, some appeared who declared that they had been present and had seen the murder. Between those who rejoiced in the news and those who were indifferent to it, the story was believed. Many thought this rumour had been invented and exaggerated by Otho’s partisans who were already in the crowd and spread abroad the pleasant falsehood in order to lure Galba from his palace.

35

Latin

English

Then indeed it was not the people only and the ignorant mob that burst into applaud and unrestrained enthusiasm, but many of the knights and senators as well. They laid aside all fear and became incautious, broke down the doors of the palace and burst in, presenting themselves to Galba, and complaining that they had been robbed of vengeance. They were all rank cowards, and, as the event proved, men who would show no courage in time of danger, but who now were exceedingly bold with words and savage of tongue. No one knew; everyone affirmed. Finally, overcome by the dearth of truth and by the common error, Galba put on his breastplate; then since his years and strength were unequal to resisting the inrushing crowds, he was raised aloft in a chair. Julius Atticus, one of the bodyguard, met him in the palace, and exhibiting his bloody sword cried out that he had killed Otho. “Who gave you orders, comrade?” said Galba; for Galba showed a remarkable spirit in checking licence on the part of the soldiers; before threats he was unterrified, and incorruptible against flattery.

36

Latin

English

There was no longer any doubt as to the sentiments of all the soldiers in the camp. Their enthusiasm was so great that they were not satisfied with carrying Otho on their shoulders as they advanced, but they placed him on a platform where shortly before the gilded statue of Galba had stood, and surrounded him with the standards and ensigns. Neither tribune nor centurion was allowed to approach him: the common soldiery kept calling out that they must beware of their commanders above all. There was utter confusion, with shouts and tumult and mutual exhortation — not such as one sees in a gathering of the people and populace, when there are various cries and half-hearted flattery, but they seized everyone they saw coming over to them, embraced them with their arms, placed them next to them, repeated the oath of allegiance, now recommending the emperor to the soldiers, now the soldiers to the emperor. Otho did not fail in his part: he stretched out his hands and did obeisance to the common soldiers, threw kisses, and played in every way the slave to secure the master’s place. After the entire legion of marines had sworn fidelity to him, enthusiasm in his strength and thinking that he must now encourage in a body those whom he had hitherto incited as individuals, he began to speak from the wall of the camp as follows:

39

Latin

English

Piso, already terrified by the roar that arose from the growing revolt and by the shouts whose echoes reached even the city, had now caught up with Galba, who had meanwhile left the palace and was approaching the forum. Already Marius Celsus had brought a discouraging report. Thereupon some proposed that Galba return to the palace, others that he try to reach the Capitol, while many urged the necessity of seizing the rostra. But the majority simply opposed the advice of others; and as usually happens in the case of such unfortunate proposals, those plans for which the opportunity was past, now seemed the best. Men say that Laco, without Galba’s knowledge, considered killing Titus Vinius, either to appease the angry spirits of the soldiers by his punishment or because he believed him privy to Otho’s plans, or finally simply because he hated him. Time and place, however, made him hesitate, because when once a massacre has been started, it is hard to check it; moreover his plan was upset by disturbing reports and by the defection of his closest adherents, since the enthusiasm of all who at first had been eager to exhibit their loyalty and spirit was now weakening.

40

Latin

English

Galba was swept to and fro by the various movements of the surging mob; crowds everywhere filled the public halls and temples, contemplating the grim spectacle. Neither the common people nor the rabble uttered a word, but their faces showed their terror and they turned their ears to catch every sound; there was no uproar, no quiet, but such a silence as accompanies great fear and great anger. Yet Otho received a report that the rabble was being armed; he ordered his adherents to go with all haste and anticipate the danger. So Roman soldiers rushed on as if they were going to drive a Vologaesus or a Pacorus from the ancestral throne of the Arsacidae and were not hurrying to slay their own emperor — an old man all unarmed. They thrust aside the rabble, trampled down senators; terrifying men by their arms, they burst into the forum at full gallop. Neither the sight of the Capitol nor the sanctity of the temples which towered above them, nor the thought of emperors past and to come, could deter them from committing a crime which any successor to the imperial power must punish.

41

Latin

English

When he saw the armed force close upon him, the standard-bearer of the cohort escorting Galba — it is said that his name was Atilius Vergilio — tore Galba’s portrait from the standard and threw it on the ground. This signal made the feeling of all the soldiers for Otho evident; the people fled and deserted the forum; if any hesitated, the troops threatened them with their weapons. It was near the Lacus Curtius that Galba was thrown from his chair and rolled on the ground by his panic-stricken carriers. His last words have been variously reported according to the hatred or admiration of individuals; some say that he asked in an appealing tone what harm he had done and begged for a few days to pay the donative; many report that he voluntarily offered his throat to the assassins, telling them to strike quickly, if such actions were for the state’s interest. His murderers cared nothing for what he said. About the actual assassin nothing certain is known: some say that he was one Terentius of the reserve forces, others that his name was Laecanius; a more common story is that a soldier of the Fifteenth legion, Camurius by name, pierced his throat with a thrust of his sword. The rest shamefully mutilated his legs and arms, for his breast was protected, and in their cruel savagery they continued to inflict many wounds on his body even after his head had been cut off.

42

Latin

English

Then they attacked Titus Vinius. In his case also there is a question whether his terror of instant death deprived him of speech or whether he cried out that Otho had not given orders for his death. He may have invented this statement in his fear, or he may have thus confessed his complicity in the plot; but his life and reputation incline us rather to believe that he was privy to the crime of which he was the cause. He fell in front of the temple of the deified Julius at the first blow, which struck him in the back of the knee; afterwards he was run clean through the body by a legionary, Julius Carus.

43

Latin

English

A noble hero on that day our own age beheld in the person of Sempronius Densus. He was a centurion of a praetorian cohort whom Galba had assigned to protect Piso; he drew his dagger, rushed to meet the armed men, upbraided them for their crime, and drawing the attention of the assassins to himself by act and word, gave Piso a chance to escape, although he was wounded. Piso fled into the temple of Vesta, where he was received through the pity of one of the public slaves who hid him in his chamber. It was the obscurity of his hiding-place and not some scruple about the sacred spot or its rites that delayed for a time the end that threatened him; but presently, dispatched by Otho who was consumed with a desire for Piso’s death above all others, there arrived Sulpicius Florus of the British auxiliaries, recently enfranchised by Galba, and Statius Murcus of the bodyguard; these dragged Piso out and slew him at the door of the temple.

44

Latin

English

No other murder, according to report, gave Otho greater joy; on no other head did he gaze with such insatiable eyes. The reason may have been that now his mind was first free from anxiety and so open to joy, or else that in the case of Galba the memory of his treason, and in the case of Titus Vinius the recollection of his friendship, distressed with gloomy visions even his cruel mind; but over the murder of Piso, his enemy and rival, he thought it lawful and right to rejoice. The victims’ heads were displayed on poles among the standards of the cohorts side by side with the eagle of the legion, while those who had committed the murders, those who had been present, and those who, whether truly or falsely, boasted of their share in what they regarded as a splendid and memorable act, vied in exhibiting their bloody hands. More than one hundred and twenty petitions demanding rewards for some notable deed done that day were afterwards found by Vitellius; their authors he ordered to be hunted out and killed without exception, not that he wished to honour Galba, but he acted according to the traditional custom of emperors in thus securing protection for the time being and vengeance for the future.

46

Latin

English

The soldiers’ will was henceforth supreme. The praetorians chose their own prefects, — Plotius Firmus, formerly a common soldier, but later chief of the city police, and a partisan of Otho even while Galba lived; as his associate they gave him Licinius Proculus, whose intimacy with Otho made men suspect that he had favoured his plans. As Prefect of the City they selected Flavius Sabinus, thus following Nero’s choice, for Sabinus had held the same office under Nero, while many in doing so had an eye on his brother Vespasian. The troops also demanded that the payments usually made to centurions to secure furloughs should be abolished, since they amounted to an annual tax on the common soldiers. A quarter of each company would be away on furlough or loafing about the camp itself, provided the soldiers paid the centurion his price, and no one cared how the burden pressed on the soldiers or how they got their money; in reality it was through highway robbery, petty thieving, and by menial occupations that the soldiers purchased rest from military service. Moreover the richest soldiers would be cruelly assigned to the most fatiguing labour until they bought relief. Then, impoverished and demoralised by idleness, the soldier would return to his company poor instead of well-to‑do and lazy instead of energetic; so ruined one after another by the same poverty and lack of discipline, they were ready to rush into mutiny and dissension, and finally into civil war. But Otho wished to avoid alienating the centurions by generosity to the rank and file, and so he promised that the imperial treasury should pay for the annual furloughs, a procedure which was undoubtedly useful and which later was established by good emperors as a fixed rule of the service. The prefect Laco, who had been ostensibly banished to an island, was assassinated by a retired soldier whom Otho had dispatched to kill him. Marcianus Icelus, being only a freedman, was publicly executed.