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Plutarch's Lives

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so great a danger, nor to believe it when there was little or no
proof of it. Thus then he did: he charged the eunuch constantly
to attend and accompany the conspirators wherever they were; in
the meanwhile, he broke down the party-wall of the chamber
behind his bed, and placed a door in it to open and shut, which
covered up with tapestry; so the hour approaching, and the
eunuch having told him the precise time in which the traitors
designed to assassinate him, he waited for them in his bed, and
rose not up till he had seen the faces of his assailants and
recognized every man of them. But as soon as he saw them with
their swords drawn and coming up to him, throwing up the
hanging, he made his retreat into the inner chamber, and,
bolting to the door, raised a cry. Thus when the murderers had
been seen by him, and had attempted him in vain, they with speed
went back through the same doors they came in by, enjoining
Teribazus and his friends to fly, as their plot had been
certainly detected. They, therefore, made their escape
different ways; but Teribazus was seized by the king's guards,
and after slaying many, while they were laying hold on him, at
length being struck through with a dart at a distance, fell. As
for Darius, who was brought to trial with his children, the king
appointed the royal judges to sit over him, and because he was
not himself present, but accused Darius by proxy, he commanded
his scribes to write down the opinion of every one of the
judges, and show it to him. And after they had given their
sentences, all as one man, and condemned Darius to death, the
officers seized on him and hurried him to a chamber not far off.
To which place the executioner, when summoned, came with a razor
in his hand, with which men of his employment cut off' the heads
of offenders. But when he saw that Darius was the person thus
to be punished, he was appalled and started back, offering to go
out, as one that had neither power nor courage enough to behead
a king; yet at the threats and commands of the judges, who stood
at the prison door, he returned, and grasping the hair of his
head and bringing his face to the ground with one hand, he cut
through his neck with the razor he had in the other. Some
affirm that sentence was passed in the presence of Artaxerxes;
that Darius, after he had been convicted by clear evidence,
falling prostrate before him, did humbly beg his pardon; that
instead of giving it, he, rising up in rage and drawing his
scimitar, smote him till he had killed him; that then, going
forth into the court, he worshipped the sun, and said, "Depart
in peace, ye Persians, and declare to your fellow-subjects how
the mighty Oromasdes hath dealt out vengeance to the contrivers
of unjust and unlawful things."

Such, then, was the issue of this conspiracy. And now Ochus was
high in his hopes, being confident in the influence of Atossa;
but yet was afraid of Ariaspes, the only male surviving, besides
himself, of the legitimate off-spring of his father, and of
Arsames, one of his natural sons. For indeed Ariaspes was
already claimed as their prince by the wishes of the Persians,
not because he was the elder brother, but because he excelled
Ochus in gentleness, plain-dealing, and good-nature; and on the
other hand Arsames appeared, by his wisdom, fitted for the
throne, and that he was dear to his father, Ochus well knew. So
he laid snares for them both, and being no less treacherous than
bloody, he made use of the cruelty of his nature against
Arsames, and of his craft and wiliness against Ariaspes. For he
suborned the king's eunuchs and favorites to convey to him
menacing and harsh expressions from his father, as though he had
decreed to put him to a cruel and ignominious death. When they
daily communicated these things as secrets, and told him at one
time that the king would do so to him ere long, and at another,
that the blow was actually close impending, they so alarmed the
young man, struck; such a terror into him, and cast such a
confusion and anxiety upon his thoughts, that, having prepared
some poisonous drugs, he drank them, that he might be delivered
from his life. The king, on hearing what kind of death he died,
heartily lamented him, and was not without a suspicion of the
cause of it. But being disabled by his age to search into and
prove it, he was, after the loss of this son, more affectionate
than before to Arsames, did manifestly place his greatest
confidence in him, and made him privy to his counsels.
Whereupon Ochus had no longer patience to defer the execution of
his purpose, but having procured Arpates, Teribazus's son, for
the undertaking, he killed Arsames by his hand. Artaxerxes at
that time had but a little hold on life, by reason of his
extreme age, and so, when he heard of the fate of Arsames, he
could not sustain it at all, but sinking at once under the
weight of his grief and distress, expired, after a life of
ninety-four years, and a reign of sixty-two. And then he seemed
a moderate and gracious governor, more especially as compared to
his son Ochus, who outdid all his predecessors in
blood-thirstiness and cruelty.


Iphicrates the Athenian used to say that it is best to have a
mercenary soldier fond of money and of pleasures, for thus he
will fight the more boldly, to procure the means to gratify his
desires. But most have been of opinion, that the body of an
army, as well as the natural one, when in its healthy condition,
should make no efforts apart, but in compliance with its head.
Wherefore they tell us that Paulus Aemilius, on taking command
of the forces in Macedonia, and finding them talkative and
impertinently busy, as though they were all commanders, issued
out his orders that they should have only ready hands and keen
swords, and leave the rest to him. And Plato, who can discern
no use of a good ruler or general, if his men are not on their
part obedient and conformable (the virtue of obeying, as of
ruling, being in his opinion one that does not exist without
first a noble nature, and then a philosophic education, where
the eager and active powers are allayed with the gentler and
humaner sentiments), may claim in confirmation of his doctrines
sundry mournful instances elsewhere, and, in particular, the
events that followed among the Romans upon the death of Nero, in
which plain proofs were given that nothing is more terrible than
a military force moving about in an empire upon uninstructed and
unreasoning impulses. Demades, after the death of Alexander,
compared the Macedonian army to the Cyclops after his eye was
out, seeing their many disorderly and unsteady motions. But the
calamities of the Roman government might be likened to the
motions of the giants that assailed heaven, convulsed as it was,
and distracted, and from every side recoiling, as it were, upon
itself, not so much by the ambition of those who were proclaimed
emperors, as by the covetousness and license of the soldiery,
who drove commander after commander out, like nails one upon

Dionysius, in raillery, said of the Pheraean who enjoyed the
government of Thessaly only ten months, that he had been a
tragedy-king, but the Caesars' house in Rome, the Palatium,
received in a shorter space of time no less than four emperors,
passing, as it were, across the stage, and one making room for
another to enter.

This was the only satisfaction of the distressed, that they
needed not require any other justice on their oppressors, seeing
them thus murder each other, and first of all, and that most
justly, the one that ensnared them first, and taught them to
expect such happy results from a change of emperors, sullying a
good work by the pay he gave for its being done, and turning
revolt against Nero into nothing better than treason.

For, as already related, Nymphidius Sabinus, captain of the
guards, together with Tigellinus, after Nero's circumstances
were now desperate, and it was perceived that he designed to fly
into Egypt, persuaded the troops to declare Galba emperor, as if
Nero had been already gone, promising to all the court and
praetorian soldiers, as they are called, seven thousand five
hundred drachmas apiece, and to those in service abroad twelve
hundred and fifty drachmas each; so vast a sum for a largess as
it was impossible anyone could raise, but he must be infinitely
more exacting and oppressive than ever Nero was. This quickly
brought Nero to his grave, and soon after Galba too; they
murdered the first in expectation of the promised gift, and not
long after the other because they did not obtain it from him;
and then, seeking about to find someone who would purchase at
such a rate, they consumed themselves in a succession of
treacheries and rebellions before they obtained their demands.
But to give a particular relation of all that passed would
require a history in full form; I have only to notice what is
properly to my purpose, namely, what the Caesars did and

Sulpicius Galba is owned by all to have been the richest private
person that ever came to the imperial seat. And besides the
additional honor of being of the family of the Servii, he valued
himself more especially for his relationship to Catulus, the
most eminent citizen of his time both for virtue and renown,
however he may have voluntarily yielded to others as regards
power and authority. Galba was also akin to Livia, the wife of
Augustus, by whose interest he was preferred to the consulship
by the emperor. It is said of him that he commanded the troops
well in Germany, and, being made proconsul in Libya, gained a
reputation that few ever had. But his quiet manner of living
and his sparingness in expenses and his disregard of appearance
gave him, when he became emperor, an ill-name for meanness,
being, in fact, his worn-out credit for regularity and
moderation. He was entrusted by Nero with the government of
Spain, before Nero had yet learned to be apprehensive of men of
great repute. To the opinion, moreover, entertained of his mild
natural temper, his old age added a belief that he would never
act incautiously.

There while Nero's iniquitous agents savagely and cruelly
harassed the provinces under Nero's authority, he could afford
no succor, but merely offer this only ease and consolation, that
he seemed plainly to sympathize, as a fellow-sufferer, with
those who were condemned upon suits and sold. And when lampoons
were made upon Nero and circulated and sung everywhere about, he
neither prohibited them, nor showed any indignation on behalf of
the emperor's agents, and for this was the more beloved; as also
that he was now well acquainted with them, having been in chief
power there eight years at the time when Junius Vindex, general
of the forces in Gaul, began his insurrection against Nero. And
it is reported that letters came to Galba before it fully broke
out into an open rebellion, which he neither seemed to give
credit to, nor on the other hand to take means to let Nero know,
as other officers did, sending to him the letters which came to
them, and so spoiled the design, as much as in them lay, who yet
afterwards shared in the conspiracy, and confessed they had been
treacherous to themselves as well as him. At last Vindex,
plainly declaring war, wrote to Galba, encouraging him to take
the government upon him, and give a head to this strong body,
the Gaulish provinces, which could already count a hundred
thousand men in arms, and were able to arm a yet greater number
if occasion were. Galba laid the matter before his friends,
some of whom thought it fit to wait, and see what movement there
might be and what inclinations displayed at Rome for the
revolution. But Titus Vinius, captain of his praetorian guard,
spoke thus: "Galba, what means this inquiry? To question
whether we shall continue faithful to Nero is, in itself, to
cease to be faithful. Nero is our enemy, and we must by no
means decline the help of Vindex: or else we must at once
denounce him, and march to attack him, because he wishes you to
be the governor of the Romans, rather than Nero their tyrant."
Thereupon Galba, by an edict, appointed a day when he would
receive manumissions, and general rumor and talk beforehand
about his purpose brought together a great crowd of men so ready
for a change, that he scarcely appeared, stepping up to the
tribunal, but they with one consent saluted him emperor. That
title he refused at present to take upon him; but after he had a
while inveighed against Nero, and bemoaned the loss of the more
conspicuous of those that had been destroyed by him, he offered
himself and service to his country, not by the titles of Caesar
or emperor, but as the lieutenant of the Roman senate and

Now that Vindex did wisely in inviting Galba to the empire, Nero
himself bore testimony; who, though he seemed to despise Vindex
and altogether to slight the Gauls and their concerns, yet when
he heard of Galba (as by chance he had just bathed and sat down
to his morning meal), at this news he overturned the table. But
the senate having voted Galba an enemy, presently, to make his
jest, and likewise to personate a confidence among his friends,
"This is a very happy opportunity," he said, "for me, who sadly
want such a booty as that of the Gauls, which must all fall in
as lawful prize; and Galba's estate I can use or sell at once,
he being now an open enemy." And accordingly he had Galba's
property exposed to sale, which when Galba heard of; he
sequestered all that was Nero's in Spain, and found far readier

Many now began to revolt from Nero, and pretty nearly all
adhered to Galba; only Clodius Macer in Africa, and Virginius
Rufus, commander of the German forces in Gaul, followed counsel
of their own; yet these two were not of one and the same advice,
for Clodius, being sensible of the rapines and murders to which
he had been led by cruelty and covetousness, was in perplexity,
and felt it was not safe for him either to retain or quit his
command. But Virginius, who had the command of the strongest
legions, by whom he was many repeated times saluted emperor and
pressed to take the title upon him, declared that he neither
would assume that honor himself, nor see it given to any other
than whom the senate should elect.

These things at first did not a little disturb Galba, but when
presently Virginius and Vindex were in a manner forced by their
armies, having got the reins, as it were, out of their hands, to
a great encounter and battle, in which Vindex, having seen
twenty thousand of the Gauls destroyed, died by his own hand,
and when the report straight spread abroad, that all desired
Virginius, after this great victory, to take the empire upon
him, or else they would return to Nero again, Galba, in great
alarm at this, wrote to Virginius, exhorting him to join with
him for the preservation of the empire and the liberty of the
Romans, and so retiring with his friends into Clunia, a town in
Spain, he passed away his time, rather repenting his former
rashness, and wishing for his wonted ease and privacy, than
setting about what was fit to be done.

It was now summer, when on a sudden, a little before dusk, comes
a freedman, Icelus by name, having arrived in seven days from
Rome; and being informed where Galba was reposing himself in
private, he went straight on, and pushing by the servants of the
chamber, opened the door and entered the room, and told him,
that Nero being yet alive but not appearing, first the army, and
then the people and senate, declared Galba emperor; not long
after, it was reported that Nero was dead; "but I," said he,
"not giving credit to common fame, went myself to the body and
saw him lying dead, and only then set out to bring you word."
This news at once made Galba great again, and a crowd of people
came hastening to the door, all very confident of the truth of
his tidings, though the speed of the man was almost incredible.
Two days after came Titus Vinius with sundry others from the
camp, who gave an account in detail of the orders of the senate,
and for this service was considerably advanced. On the
freedman, Galba conferred the honor of the gold ring, and
Icelus, as he had been before, now taking the name of Marcianus,
held the first place of the freedmen.

But at Rome, Nymphidius Sabinus, not gently and little by
little, but at once, and without exception, engrossed all power
to himself; Galba, being an old man (seventy-three years of
age), would scarcely, he thought, live long enough to be carried
in a litter to Rome; and the troops in the city were from old
time attached to him, and now bound by the vastness of the
promised gift, for which they regarded him as their benefactor,
and Galba as their debtor. Thus presuming on his interest, he
straightway commanded Tigellinus, who was in joint commission
with himself, to lay down his sword; and giving entertainments,
he invited the former consuls and commanders, making use of
Galba's name for the invitation; but at the same time prepared
many in the camp to propose that a request should be sent to
Galba that he should appoint Nymphidius sole prefect for life
without a colleague. And the modes which the senate took to
show him honor and increase his power, styling him their
benefactor, and attending daily at his gates, and giving him the
compliment of heading with his own name and confirming all their
acts, carried him on to a yet greater degree of arrogance, so
that in a short time he became an object, not only of dislike,
but of terror, to those that sought his favor. When the consuls
themselves had dispatched their couriers with the decrees of the
senate to the emperor, together with the sealed diplomas, which
the authorities in all the towns where horses or carriages are
changed, look at and on that certificate hasten the couriers
forward with all their means, he was highly displeased that his
seal had not been used, and none of his soldiers employed on the
errand. Nay, he even deliberated what course to take with the
consuls themselves, but upon their submission and apology he was
at last pacified. To gratify the people, he did not interfere
with their beating to death any that fell into their hands of
Nero's party. Amongst others, Spiclus, the gladiator, was
killed in the forum by being thrown under Nero's statues, which
they dragged about the place over his body. Aponius, one of
those who had been concerned in accusations, they knocked to the
ground, and drove carts loaded with stones over him. And many
others they tore in pieces, some of them no way guilty, insomuch
that Mauriscus, a person of great account and character, told
the senate that he feared, in a short time, they might wish for
Nero again.

Nymphidius, now advancing towards the consummation of his hopes,
did not refuse to let it be said that he was the son of Caius
Caesar, Tiberius's successor; who, it is told, was well
acquainted with his mother in his early youth, a woman indeed
handsome enough, the off-spring of Callistus, one of Caesar's
freedmen, and a certain seamstress. But it is plain that
Caius's familiarity with his mother was of too late date to give
him any pretensions, and it was suspected he might, if he
pleased, claim a father in Martianus, the gladiator, whom his
mother, Nymphidia, took a passion for, being a famous man in his
way, whom also he much more resembled. However, though he
certainly owned Nymphidia for his mother, he ascribed meantime
the downfall of Nero to himself alone, and thought he was not
sufficiently rewarded with the honors and riches he enjoyed,
(nay, though to all was added the company of Sporus, whom he
immediately sent for while Nero's body was yet burning on the
pile, and treated as his consort, with the name of Poppaea,) but
he must also aspire to the empire. And at Rome he had friends
who took measures for him secretly, as well as some women and
some members of the senate also, who worked underhand to assist
him. And into Spain he dispatched one of his friends, named
Gellianus, to view the posture of affairs.

But all things succeeded well with Galba after Nero's death;
only Virginius Rufus, still standing doubtful, gave him some
anxiety, lest he should listen to the suggestions of some who
encouraged him to take the government upon him, having, at
present, besides the command of a large and warlike army, the
new honors of the defeat of Vindex and the subjugation of one
considerable part of the Roman empire, namely, the entire Gaul,
which had seemed shaking about upon the verge of open revolt.
Nor had any man indeed a greater name and reputation than
Virginius, who had taken a part of so much consequence in the
deliverance of the empire at once from a cruel tyranny and a
Gallic war. But he, standing to his first resolves, reserved to
the senate the power of electing an emperor. Yet when it was
now manifest that Nero was dead, the soldiers pressed him hard
to it, and one of the tribunes, entering his tent with his drawn
sword, bade him either take the government or that. But after
Fabius Valens, having the command of one legion, had first sworn
fealty to Galba, and letters from Rome came with tidings of the
resolves of the senate, at last with much ado he persuaded the
army to declare Galba emperor. And when Flaccus Hordeonius came
by Galba's commission as his successor, he handed over to him
his forces, and went himself to meet Galba on his way, and
having met him, turned back to attend him; in all which no
apparent displeasure nor yet honor was shown him. Galba's
feelings of respect for him prevented the former; the latter was
checked by the envy of his friends, and particularly of Titus
Vinius, who, acting in the desire of hindering Virginius's
promotion, unwittingly aided his happy genius in rescuing him
from those hazards and hardships which other commanders were
involved in, and securing him the safe enjoyment of a quiet life
and peaceable old age.

Near Narbo, a city in Gaul, the deputation of the senate met
Galba, and, after they had delivered their compliments, begged
him to make what haste he could to appear to the people, that
impatiently expected him. He discoursed with them courteously
and unassumingly, and in his entertainment, though Nymphidius
had sent him royal furniture and attendance of Nero's, he put
all aside, and made use of nothing but his own, for which he
was well spoken of, as one who had a great mind, and was
superior to little vanities. But in a short time, Vinius, by
declaring to him that these noble, unpompous, citizen-like ways
were a mere affectation of popularity and a petty bashfulness at
assuming his proper greatness, induced him to make use of Nero's
supplies, and in his entertainments not to be afraid of a regal
sumptuosity. And in more than one way the old man let it
gradually appear that he had put himself under Vinius's

Vinius was a person of an excessive covetousness, and not quite
free from blame in respect to women. For being a young man,
newly entered into the service under Calvisius Sabinus, upon his
first campaign, he brought his commander's wife, a licentious
woman, in a soldier's dress, by night into the camp, and was
found with her in the very general's quarters, the principia, as
the Romans call them. For which insolence Caius Caesar cast him
into prison, from whence he was fortunately delivered by Caius's
death. Afterwards, being invited by Claudius Caesar to supper,
he privily conveyed away a silver cup, which Caesar hearing of,
invited him again the next day, and gave order to his servants
to set before him no silver plate, but only earthen ware. And
this offense, through the comic mildness of Caesar's reprimand,
was treated rather as a subject of jest than as a crime. But
the acts to which now, when Galba was in his hands and his power
was so extensive, his covetous temper led him were the causes,
in part, and in part the provocation, of tragical and fatal

Nymphidius became very uneasy upon the return out of Spain of
Gellianus, whom he had sent to pry into Galba's actions,
understanding that Cornelius Laco was appointed commander of the
court guards, and that Vinius was the great favorite, and that
Gellianus had not been able so much as to come nigh, much less
have any opportunity to offer any words in private, so narrowly
had he been watched and observed. Nymphidius, therefore, called
together the officers of the troops, and declared to them that
Galba of himself was a good, well-meaning old man, but did not
act by his own counsel, and was ill-guided by Vinius and Laco;
and lest, before they were aware, they should engross the
authority Tigellinus had with the troops, he proposed to them to
send deputies from the camp, acquainting him that if he pleased
to remove only these two from his counsel and presence, he would
be much more welcome to all at his arrival. Wherein when he saw
he did not prevail (it seeming absurd and unmannerly to give
rules to an old commander what friends to retain or displace, as
if he had been a youth newly taking the reins of authority into
his hands), adopting another course, he wrote himself to Galba
letters in alarming terms, one while as if the city were
unsettled, and had not yet recovered its tranquillity; then that
Clodius Macer withheld the corn-ships from Africa; that the
legions in Germany began to be mutinous, and that he heard the
like of those in Syria and Judaea. But Galba not minding him
much nor giving credit to his stories, he resolved to make his
attempt beforehand, though Clodius Celsus, a native of Antioch,
a person of sense, and friendly and faithful to Nymphidius, told
him he was wrong, saying he did not believe one single street in
Rome would ever give him the title of Caesar. Nevertheless many
also derided Galba, amongst the rest Mithridates of Pontus,
saying, that as soon as this wrinkled, bald-headed man should be
seen publicly at Rome, they would think it an utter disgrace
ever to have had such a Caesar.

At last it was resolved, about midnight, to bring Nymphidius
into the camp, and declare him emperor. But Antonius Honoratus,
who was first among the tribunes, summoning together in the
evening those under his command, charged himself and them
severely with their many and unreasonable turns and alterations,
made without any purpose or regard to merit, simply as if some
evil genius hurried them from one treason to another. "What
though Nero's miscarriages," said he, "gave some color to your
former acts, can you say you have any plea for betraying Galba
in the death of a mother, the blood of a wife, or the
degradation of the imperial power upon the stage and amongst
players? Neither did we desert Nero for all this, until
Nymphidius had persuaded us that he had first left us and fled
into Egypt. Shall we, therefore, send Galba after, to appease
Nero's shade, and, for the sake of making the son of Nymphidia
emperor, take off one of Livia's family, as we have already the
son of Agrippina? Rather, doing justice on him, let us revenge
Nero's death, and show ourselves true and faithful by preserving

The tribune having ended his harangue, the soldiers assented,
and encouraged all they met with to persist in their fidelity to
the emperor, and, indeed, brought over the greatest part. But
presently hearing a great shout, Nymphidius, imagining, as some
say, that the soldiers called for him, or hastening to be in
time to check any opposition and gain the doubtful, came on with
many lights, carrying in his hand a speech in writing, made by
Cingonius Varro, which he had got by heart, to deliver to the
soldiers. But seeing the gates of the camp shut up, and large
numbers standing armed about the walls, he began to be afraid.
Yet drawing nearer, he demanded what they meant, and by whose
orders they were then in arms; but hearing a general
acclamation, all with one consent crying out that Galba was
their emperor, advancing towards them, he joined in the cry, and
likewise commanded those that followed him to do the same. The
guard notwithstanding permitted him to enter the camp only with
a few, where he was presently struck with a dart, which
Septimius, being before him, received on his shield; others,
however, assaulted him with their naked swords, and on his
flying, pursued him into a soldier's cabin, where they slew him.
And dragging his body thence, they placed a railing about it,
and exposed it next day to public view. When Galba heard of
the end which Nymphidius had thus come to, he commanded that all
his confederates who had not at once killed themselves should
immediately be dispatched; amongst whom were Cingonius, who made
his oration, and Mithridates, formerly mentioned. It was,
however, regarded as arbitrary and illegal, and though it might
be just, yet by no means popular, to take off men of their rank
and quality without a hearing. For everyone expected another
scheme of government, being deceived, as is usual, by the first
plausible pretenses; and the death of Petronius Turpilianus, who
was of consular dignity, and had remained faithful to Nero, was
yet more keenly resented. Indeed, the taking off of Macer in
Africa by Trebonius, and Fonteius by Valens in Germany, had a
fair pretense, they being dreaded as armed commanders, having
their soldiers at their bidding; but why refuse Turpilianus, an
old man and unarmed, permission to try to clear himself, if any
part of the moderation and equity at first promised were really
to come to a performance? Such were the comments to which these
actions exposed him. When he came within five and twenty
furlongs or thereabouts of the city, he happened to light on a
disorderly rabble of the seamen, who beset him as he passed.
These were they whom Nero made soldiers, forming them into a
legion. They so rudely crowded to have their commission
confirmed, that they did not let Galba either be seen or heard
by those that had come out to meet their new emperor; but
tumultuously pressed on with loud shouts to have colors to their
legion, and quarters assigned them. Galba put them off until
another time, which they interpreting as a denial, grew more
insolent and mutinous, following and crying out, some of them
with their drawn swords in their hands. Upon seeing which,
Galba commanded the horse to ride over them, when they were soon
routed, not a man standing his ground, and many of them were
slain, both there and in the pursuit; an ill omen, that Galba
should make his first entry through so much blood and among dead
bodies. And now he was looked upon with terror and alarm by any
who had entertained contempt of him at the sight of his age and
apparent infirmities.

But when he desired presently to let it appear what change would
be made from Nero's profuseness and sumptuosity in giving
presents, he much missed his aim, and fell so short of
magnificence, that he scarcely came within the limits of
decency. When Canus, who was a famous musician, played at
supper for him, he expressed his approbation, and bade the bag
be brought to him; and taking a few gold pieces, put them in
with this remark, that it was out of his own purse, and not on
the public account. He ordered the largesses which Nero had
made to actors and wrestlers and such like to be strictly
required again, allowing only the tenth part to be retained;
though it turned to very small account, most of those persons
expending their daily income as fast as they received it, being
rude, improvident livers; upon which he had further inquiry made
as to those who had bought or received from them, and called
upon these people to refund. The trouble was infinite, the
exactions being prosecuted far, touching a great number of
persons, bringing disrepute on Galba, and general hatred on
Vinius, who made the emperor appear base-minded and mean to the
world, whilst he himself was spending profusely, taking whatever
he could get, and selling to any buyer. Hesiod tells us to
drink without stinting of

The end and the beginning of the cask.

And Vinius, seeing his patron old and decaying, made the most of
what he considered to be at once the first of his fortune and
the last of it.

Thus the aged man suffered in two ways: first, through the evil
deeds which Vinius did himself, and, next, by his preventing or
bringing into disgrace those just acts which he himself
designed. Such was the punishing Nero's adherents. When he
destroyed the bad, amongst whom were Helius, Polycletus,
Petinus, and Patrobius, the people mightily applauded the act,
crying out, as they were dragged through the forum, that it was
a goodly sight, grateful to the gods themselves, adding,
however, that the gods and men alike demanded justice on
Tigellinus, the very tutor and prompter of all the tyranny.
This good man, however, had taken his measures beforehand, in
the shape of a present and a promise to Vinius. Turpilianus
could not be allowed to escape with life, though his one and
only crime had been that he had not betrayed or shown hatred to
such a ruler as Nero. But he who had made Nero what he became,
and afterwards deserted and betrayed him whom he had so
corrupted, was allowed to survive as an instance that Vinius
could do anything, and an advertisement that those that had
money to give him need despair of nothing. The people, however,
were so possessed with the desire of seeing Tigellinus dragged
to execution, that they never ceased to require it at the
theater and in the race-course, till they were checked by an
edict from the emperor himself, announcing that Tigellinus could
not live long, being wasted with a consumption, and requesting
them not to seek to make his government appear cruel and
tyrannical. So the dissatisfied populace were laughed at, and
Tigellinus made a splendid feast, and sacrificed in thanksgiving
for his deliverance: and after supper, Vinius, rising from the
emperor's table, went to revel with Tigellinus, taking his
daughter, a widow, with him; to whom Tigellinus presented his
compliments, with a gift of twenty-five myriads of money, and
bade the superintendent of his concubines take off a rich
necklace from her own neck and tie it about hers, the value of
it being estimated at fifteen myriads.

After this, even reasonable acts were censured; as, for example,
the treatment of the Gauls who had been in the conspiracy with
Vindex. For people looked upon their abatement of tribute and
admission to citizenship as a piece, not of clemency on the part
of Galba, but of money-making on that of Vinius. And thus the
mass of the people began to look with dislike upon the
government. The soldiers were kept on a while in expectation of
the promised donative, supposing that if they did not receive
the full, yet they should have at least as much as Nero gave
them. But when Galba, on hearing they began to complain,
declared greatly, and like a general, that he was used to enlist
and not to buy his soldiers, when they heard of this, they
conceived an implacable hatred against him; for he did not seem
to defraud them merely himself in their present expectations,
but to give an ill precedent, and instruct his successors to do
the like. This heart-burning, however, was as yet at Rome a
thing undeclared, and a certain respect for Galba's personal
presence somewhat retarded their motions, and took off their
edge, and their having no obvious occasion for beginning a
revolution curbed and kept under, more or less, their
resentments. But those forces that had been formerly under
Virginius, and now were under Flaccus in Germany, valuing
themselves much upon the battle they had fought with Vindex, and
finding now no advantage of it, grew very refractory and
intractable towards their officers: and Flaccus they wholly
disregarded, being incapacitated in body by unintermitted gout,
and, besides, a man of little experience in affairs. So at one
of their festivals, when it was customary for the officers of
the army to wish all health and happiness to the emperor, the
common soldiers began to murmur loudly, and on their officers
persisting in the ceremony, responded with the words, "If he
deserves it."

When some similar insolence was committed by the legions under
Vitellius, frequent letters with the information came to Galba
from his agents; and taking alarm at this, and fearing that he
might be despised not only for his old age, but also for want of
issue, he determined to adopt some young man of distinction, and
declare him his successor. There was at this time in the city
Marcus Otho, a person of fair extraction, but from his childhood
one of the few most debauched, voluptuous, and luxurious livers
in Rome. And as Homer gives Paris in several places the title
of "fair Helen's love," making a woman's name the glory and
addition to his, as if he had nothing else to distinguish him,
so Otho was renowned in Rome for nothing more than his marriage
with Poppaea, whom Nero had a passion for when she was
Crispinus's wife. But being as yet respectful to his own wife,
and standing in awe of his mother, he engaged Otho underhand to
solicit her. For Nero lived familiarly with Otho, whose
prodigality won his favor, and he was well pleased when he took
the freedom to jest upon him as mean and penurious. Thus when
Nero one day perfumed himself with some rich essence and favored
Otho with a sprinkle of it, he, entertaining Nero next day,
ordered gold and silver pipes to disperse the like on a sudden
freely, like water, throughout the room. As to Poppaea, he was
beforehand with Nero, and first seducing her himself, then, with
the hope of Nero's favor, he prevailed with her to part with her
husband, and brought her to his own house as his wife, and was
not content afterwards to have a share in her, but grudged to
have Nero for a claimant, Poppaea herself, they say, being
rather pleased than otherwise with this jealousy; she sometimes
excluded Nero, even when Otho was not present, either to prevent
his getting tired with her, or, as some say, not liking the
prospect of an imperial marriage, though willing enough to have
the emperor as her lover. So that Otho ran the risk of his
life, and strange it was he escaped, when Nero, for this very
marriage, killed his wife and sister. But he was beholden to
Seneca's friendship, by whose persuasions and entreaty Nero was
prevailed with to dispatch him as praetor into Lusitania, on the
shores of the Ocean; where he behaved himself very agreeably and
indulgently to those he had to govern, well knowing this command
was but to color and disguise his banishment.

When Galba revolted from Nero, Otho was the first governor of
any of the provinces that came over to him, bringing all the
gold and silver he possessed in the shape of cups and tables, to
be coined into money, and also what servants he had fitly
qualified to wait upon a prince. In all other points, too, he
was faithful to him, and gave him sufficient proof that he was
inferior to none in managing public business. And he so far
ingratiated himself, that he rode in the same carriage with him
during the whole journey, several days together. And in this
journey and familiar companionship, he won over Vinius also,
both by his conversation and presents, but especially by
conceding to him the first place, securing the second, by his
interest, for himself. And he had the advantage of him in
avoiding all odium and jealousy, assisting all petitioners,
without asking for any reward, and appearing courteous and of
easy access towards all, especially to the military men, for
many of whom he obtained commands, some immediately from the
emperor, others by Vinius's means, and by the assistance of the
two favorite freedmen, Icelus and Asiaticus, these being the
men in chief power in the court. As often as he entertained
Galba, he gave the cohort on duty, in addition to their pay, a
piece of gold for every man there, upon pretense of respect to
the emperor, while really he undermined him, and stole away his
popularity with the soldiers.

So Galba consulting about a successor, Vinius introduced Otho,
yet not even this gratis, but upon promise that he would marry
his daughter, if Galba should make him his adopted son and
successor to the empire. But Galba, in all his actions, showed
clearly that he preferred the public good before his own private
interest, not aiming so much to pleasure himself as to advantage
the Romans by his selection. Indeed he does not seem to have
been so much as inclined to make choice of Otho, had it been but
to inherit his own private fortune, knowing his extravagant and
luxurious character, and that he was already plunged in debt
five thousand myriads deep. So he listened to Vinius, and made
no reply, but mildly suspended his determination. Only he
appointed himself consul, and Vinius his colleague, and it was
the general expectation that he would declare his successor at
the beginning of the new year. And the soldiers desired nothing
more than that Otho should be the person.

But the forces in Germany broke out into their mutiny whilst he
was yet deliberating, and anticipated his design. All the
soldiers in general felt much resentment against Galba for not
having given them their expected largess but these troops made a
pretense of a more particular concern, that Virginius Rufus was
cast off dishonorably, and that the Gauls who had fought with
them were well rewarded, while those who had refused to take
part with Vindex were punished; and Galba's thanks seemed all to
be for him, to whose memory he had done honor after his death
with public solemnities as though he had been made emperor by
his means only. Whilst these discourses passed openly
throughout the army, on the first day of the first month of the
year, the Calends, as they call it, of January, Flaccus
summoning them to take the usual anniversary oath of fealty to
the emperor, they overturned and pulled down Galba's statues,
and having sworn in the name of the senate and people of Rome,
departed. But the officers now feared anarchy and confusion, as
much as rebellion; and one of them came forward and said: "What
will become of us, my fellow-soldiers, if we neither set up
another general, nor retain the present one? This will be not
so much to desert from Galba as to decline all subjection and
command. It is useless to try and maintain Flaccus Hordeonius,
who is but a mere shadow and image of Galba. But Vitellius,
commander of the other Germany, is but one day's march distant,
whose father was censor and thrice consul, and in a manner
co-emperor with Claudius Caesar; and he himself has the best
proof to show of his bounty and largeness of mind, in the
poverty with which some reproach him. Him let us make choice
of, that all may see we know how to choose an emperor better
than either Spaniards or Lusitanians." Which motion whilst some
assented to, and others gainsaid, a certain standard-bearer
slipped out and carried the news to Vitellius, who was
entertaining much company by night. This, taking air, soon
passed through the troops, and Fabius Valens, who commanded one
legion, riding up next day with a large body of horse, saluted
Vitellius emperor. He had hitherto seemed to decline it,
professing a dread he had to undertake the weight of the
government; but on this day, being fortified, they say, by wine
and a plentiful noonday repast, he began to yield, and submitted
to take on him the title of Germanicus they gave him, but
desired to be excused as to that of Caesar. And immediately the
army under Flaccus also, putting away their fine and popular
oaths in the name of the senate, swore obedience to Vitellius as
emperor, to observe whatever he commanded.

Thus Vitellius was publicly proclaimed emperor in Germany; which
news coming to Galba's ear, he no longer deferred his adoption;
yet knowing that some of his friends were using their interest
for Dolabella, and the greatest number of them for Otho, neither
of whom he approved of, on a sudden, without anyone's privity,
he sent for Piso, the son of Crassus and Scribonia, whom Nero
slew, a young man in general of excellent dispositions for
virtue, but his most eminent qualities those of steadiness and
austere gravity. And so he set out to go to the camp to declare
him Caesar and successor to the empire. But at his very first
going forth, many signs appeared in the heavens, and when he
began to make a speech to the soldiers, partly extempore, and
partly reading it, the frequent claps of thunder and flashes of
lightning and the violent storm of rain that burst on both the
camp and the city were plain discoveries that the divine powers
did not look with favor or satisfaction on this act of adoption,
that would come to no good result. The soldiers, also, showed
symptoms of hidden discontent, and wore sullen looks, no
distribution of money being even now made to them. However,
those that were present and observed Piso's countenance and
voice could not but feel admiration to see him so little
overcome by so great a favor, of the magnitude of which at the
same time he seemed not at all insensible. Otho's aspect, on
the other hand, did not fail to let many marks appear of his
bitterness and anger at his disappointment; since to have been
the first man thought of for it, and to have come to the very
point of being chosen, and now to be put by, was in his feelings
a sign of the displeasure and ill-will of Galba towards him.
This filled him with fears and apprehensions, and sent him home
with a mind full of various passions, whilst he dreaded Piso,
hated Galba, and was full of wrath and indignation against
Vinius. And the Chaldeans and soothsayers about him would not
permit him to lay aside his hopes or quit his design, chiefly
Ptolemaeus, insisting much on a prediction he had made, that
Nero should not murder Otho, but he himself should die first,
and Otho succeed as emperor; for the first proving true, he
thought he could not distrust the rest. But none perhaps
stimulated him more than those that professed privately to pity
his hard fate and compassionate him for being thus ungratefully
dealt with by Galba; especially Nymphidius's and Tigellinus's
creatures, who, being now cast off and reduced to low estate,
were eager to put themselves upon him, exclaiming at the
indignity he had suffered, and provoking him to revenge himself.

Amongst these were Veturius and Barbius, the one an optio, the
other a tesserarius (these are men who have the duties of
messengers and scouts), with whom Onomastus, one of Otho's
freedmen, went to the camp, to tamper with the army, and brought
over some with money, others with fair promises, which was no
hard matter, they being already corrupted, and only wanting a
fair pretense. It had been otherwise more than the work of four
days (which elapsed between the adoption and murder) so
completely to infect them as to cause a general revolt. On the
sixth day ensuing, the eighteenth, as the Romans call it,
before the Calends of February, the murder was done. On that
day, in the morning, Galba sacrificed in the Palatium, in the
presence of his friends, when Umbricius, the priest, taking up
the entrails, and speaking not ambiguously, but in plain words,
said that there were signs of great troubles ensuing, and
dangerous snares laid for the life of the emperor. Thus Otho
had even been discovered by the finger of the god; being there
just behind Galba, hearing all that was said, and seeing what
was pointed out to them by Umbricius. His countenance changed
to every color in his fear, and he was betraying no small
discomposure, when Onomastus, his freedman, came up and
acquainted him that the master-builders had come, and were
waiting for him at home. Now that was the signal for Otho to
meet the soldiers. Pretending then that he had purchased an old
house, and was going to show the defects to those that had sold
it to him, he departed; and passing through what is called
Tiberius's house, he went on into the forum, near the spot
where a golden pillar stands, at which all the several roads
through Italy terminate.

Here, it is related, no more than twenty-three received and
saluted him emperor; so that, although he was not in mind as in
body enervated with soft living and effeminacy, being in his
nature bold and fearless enough in danger, nevertheless, he was
afraid to go on. But the soldiers that were present would not
suffer him to recede, but came with their drawn swords about his
chair, commanding the bearers to take him up, whom he hastened
on, saying several times over to himself, "I am a lost man."
Several persons overheard the words, who stood by wondering,
rather than alarmed, because of the small number that attempted
such an enterprise. But as they marched on through the forum,
about as many more met him, and here and there three or four at
a time joined in. Thus returning towards the camp, with their
bare swords in their hands, they saluted him as Caesar;
whereupon Martialis, the tribune in charge of the watch, who
was, they say, noways privy to it, but was simply surprised at
the unexpectedness of the thing, and afraid to refuse, permitted
him entrance. And after this, no man made any resistance; for
they that knew nothing of the design, being purposely
encompassed by the conspirators, as they were straggling here
and there, first submitted for fear, and afterwards were
persuaded into compliance. Tidings came immediately to Galba in
the Palatium, whilst the priest was still present and the
sacrifices at hand, so that persons who were most entirely
incredulous about such things, and most positive in their
neglect of them, were astonished, and began to marvel at the
divine event. A multitude of all sorts of people now began to
run together out of the forum; Vinius and Laco and some of
Galba's freedmen drew their swords and placed themselves beside
him; Piso went forth and addressed himself to the guards on duty
in the court; and Marius Celsus, a brave man, was dispatched to
the Illyrian legion, stationed in what is called the Vipsanian
chamber, to secure them.

Galba now consulting whether he should go out, Vinius dissuaded
him, but Celsus and Laco encouraged him by all means to do so,
and sharply reprimanded Vinius. But on a sudden a rumor came
hot that Otho was slain in the camp; and presently appeared one
Julius Atticus, a man of some distinction in the guards, running
up with his drawn sword, crying out that he had slain Caesar's
enemy; and pressing through the crowd that stood in his way, he
presented himself before Galba with his bloody weapon, who,
looking on him, demanded, "Who gave you your orders?" And on
his answering that it had been his duty and the obligation of
the oath he had taken, the people applauded, giving loud
acclamations, and Galba got into his chair and was carried out
to sacrifice to Jupiter, and so to show himself publicly. But
coming into the forum, there met him there, like a turn of wind,
the opposite story, that Otho had made himself master of the
camp. And as usual in a crowd of such a size, some called to
him to return back, others to move forward; some encouraged him
to be bold and fear nothing, others bade him be cautious and
distrust. And thus whilst his chair was tossed to and fro, as
it were on the waves, often tottering, there appeared first
horse, and straightaway heavy-armed foot, coming through
Paulus's court, and all with one accord crying out, "Down with
this private man." Upon this, the crowd of people set off
running, not to fly and disperse, but to possess themselves of
the colonnades and elevated places of the forum, as it might be
to get places to see a spectacle. And as soon as Atillius
Vergilio knocked down one of Galba's statues, this was taken as
the declaration of war, and they sent a discharge of darts upon
Galba's litter, and, missing their aim, came up and attacked him
nearer hand with their naked swords. No man resisted or offered
to stand up in his defense, save one only, a centurion,
Sempronius Densus, the single man among so many thousands that
the sun beheld that day act worthily of the Roman empire, who,
though he had never received any favor from Galba, yet out of
bravery and allegiance endeavored to defend the litter. First,
lifting up his switch of vine, with which the centurions correct
the soldiers when disorderly, he called aloud to the aggressors,
charging them not to touch their emperor. And when they came
upon him hand to hand, he drew his sword, and made a defense for
a long time, until at last he was cut under the knees and
brought to the ground.

Galba's chair was upset at the spot called the Lacus Curtius,
where they ran up and struck at him as he lay in his corslet.
He, however, offered his throat, bidding them "Strike, if it be
for the Romans' good." He received several wounds on his legs
and arms, and at last was struck in the throat, as most say, by
one Camurius, a soldier of the fifteenth legion. Some name
Terentius, others Lecanius; and there are others that say it was
Fabius Falulus, who, it is reported, cut off the head and
carried it away in the skirt of his coat, the baldness making it
a difficult thing to take hold of. But those that were with him
would not allow him to keep it covered up, but bade him let
everyone see the brave deed he had done; so that after a while
he stuck upon the lance the head of the aged man that had been
their grave and temperate ruler, their supreme priest and
consul, and, tossing it up in the air, ran like a bacchanal,
twirling and flourishing with it, while the blood ran down the
spear. But when they brought the head to Otho,
"Fellow-soldiers," he cried out, "this is nothing, unless you
show me Piso's too," which was presented him not long after.
The young man, retreating upon a wound received, was pursued by
one Murcus, and slain at the temple of Vesta. Titus Vinius was
also dispatched, avowing himself to have been privy to the
conspiracy against Galba by calling out that they were killing
him contrary to Otho's pleasure. However, they cut off his
head, and Laco's too, and brought them to Otho, requesting a

And as Archilochus says --

When six or seven lie breathless on the ground,
'Twas I, 'twas I, say thousands, gave the wound.

Thus many that had no share in the murder wetted their hands and
swords in blood, and came and showed them to Otho, presenting
memorials suing for a gratuity. Not less than one hundred and
twenty were identified afterwards from their written petitions;
all of whom Vitellius sought out and put to death. There came
also into the camp Marius Celsus, and was accused by many voices
of encouraging the soldiers to assist Galba, and was demanded to
death by the multitude. Otho had no desire for this, yet,
fearing an absolute denial, he professed that he did not wish to
take him off so soon, having many matters yet to learn from him;
and so committed him safe to the custody of those he most
confided in.

Forthwith a senate was convened, and as if they were not the
same men, or had other gods to swear by, they took that oath in
Otho's name which he himself had taken in Galba's and had
broken; and withal conferred on him the titles of Caesar and
Augustus; whilst the dead carcasses of the slain lay yet in
their consular robes in the marketplace. As for their heads,
when they could make no other use of them, Vinius's they sold to
his daughter for two thousand five hundred drachmas; Piso's was
begged by his wife Verania; Galba's they gave to Patrobius's
servants; who when they had it, after all sorts of abuse and
indignities, tumbled it into the place where those that suffer
death by the emperor's orders are usually cast, called
Sessorium. Galba's body was conveyed away by Priscus Helvidius
by Otho's permission, and buried in the night by Argius, his

Thus you have the history of Galba, a person inferior to few
Romans, either for birth or riches, rather exceeding all of his
time in both, having lived in great honor and reputation in the
reigns of five emperors, insomuch that he overthrew Nero rather
by his fame and repute in the world than by actual force and
power. Of all the others that joined in Nero's deposition, some
were by general consent regarded as unworthy, others had only
themselves to vote them deserving of the empire. To him the
title was offered, and by him it was accepted; and simply
lending his name to Vindex's attempt, he gave to what had been
called rebellion before, the name of a civil war, by the
presence of one that was accounted fit to govern. And,
therefore, as he considered that he had not so much sought the
position as the position had sought him, he proposed to command
those whom Nymphidius and Tigellinus had wheedled into
obedience, no otherwise than Scipio formerly and Fabricius and
Camillus had commanded the Romans of their times. But being now
overcome with age, he was indeed among the troops and legions an
upright ruler upon the antique model; but for the rest, giving
himself up to Vinius, Laco, and his freedmen, who made their
gain of all things, no otherwise than Nero had done to his
insatiate favorites, he left none behind him to wish him still
in power, though many to compassionate his death.


The new emperor went early in the morning to the capitol, and
sacrificed; and, having commanded Marius Celsus to be brought,
he saluted him, and with obliging language desired him rather to
forget his accusation than remember his acquittal; to which
Celsus answered neither meanly nor ungratefully, that his very
crime ought to recommend his integrity, since his guilt had been
his fidelity to Galba, from whom he had never received any
personal obligations. Upon which they were both of them admired
by those that were present, and applauded by the soldiers.

In the senate, Otho said much in a gentle and popular strain.
He was to have been consul for part of that year himself, but he
gave the office to Virginius Rufus, and displaced none that had
been named for the consulship by either Nero or Galba. Those
that were remarkable for their age and dignity he promoted to
the priest-hoods; and restored the remains of their fortunes,
that had not yet been sold, to all those senators that were
banished by Nero and recalled by Galba. So that the nobility
and chief of the people, who were at first apprehensive that no
human creature, but some supernatural penal, or vindictive power
had seized the empire, began now to flatter themselves with
hopes of a government that smiled upon them thus early.

Besides, nothing gratified or gained the whole Roman people more
than his justice in relation to Tigellinus. It was not seen how
he was in fact already suffering punishment, not only by the
very terror of retribution which he saw the whole city requiring
as a just debt, but with several incurable diseases also; not to
mention those unhallowed frightful excesses among impure and
prostituted women, to which, at the very close of life, his lewd
nature clung, and in them gasped out, as it were, its last;
these, in the opinion of all reasonable men, being themselves
the extremest punishment, and equal to many deaths. But it was
felt like a grievance by people in general that he continued yet
to see the light of day, who had been the occasion of the loss
of it to so many persons, and such persons, as had died by his
means. Wherefore Otho ordered him to be sent for, just as he
was contriving his escape by means of some vessels that lay
ready for him on the coast near where he lived, in the
neighborhood of Sinuessa. At first he endeavored to corrupt the
messenger, by a large sum of money, to favor his design; but
when he found this was to no purpose, he made him as
considerable a present, as if he had really connived at it, only
entreating him to stay till he had shaved; and so took that
opportunity, and with his razor dispatched himself.

And while giving the people this most righteous satisfaction of
their desires, for himself he seemed to have no sort of regard
for any private injuries of his own. And at first, to please
the populace, he did not refuse to be called Nero in the
theater, and did not interfere when some persons displayed
Nero's statues to public view. And Cluvius Rufus says,
imperial letters, such as are sent with couriers, went into
Spain with the name of Nero affixed adoptively to that of Otho;
but as soon as he perceived this gave offense to the chief and
most distinguished citizens, it was omitted.

After he had begun to model the government in this manner, the
paid soldiers began to murmur, and endeavored to make him
suspect and chastise the nobility, either really out of a
concern for his safety, or wishing, upon this pretense, to stir
up trouble and warfare. Thus, whilst Crispinus, whom he had
ordered to bring him the seventeenth cohort from Ostia, began to
collect what he wanted after it was dark, and was putting the
arms upon the wagons, some of the most turbulent cried out that
Crispinus was disaffected, that the senate was practicing
something against the emperor, and that those arms were to be
employed against Caesar, and not for him. When this report was
once set afoot, it got the belief and excited the passions of
many; they broke out into violence; some seized the wagons, and
others slew Crispinus and two centurions that opposed them; and
the whole number of them, arraying themselves in their arms, and
encouraging one another to stand by Caesar, marched to Rome.
And hearing there that eighty of the senators were at supper
with Otho, they flew to the palace, and declared it was a fair
opportunity to take off Caesar's enemies at one stroke. A
general alarm ensued of an immediate coming sack of the city.
All were in confusion about the palace, and Otho himself in no
small consternation, being not only concerned for the senators
(some of whom had brought their wives to supper thither), but
also feeling himself to be an object of alarm and suspicion to
them, whose eyes he saw fixed on him in silence and terror.
Therefore he gave orders to the prefects to address the soldiers
and do their best to pacify them, while he bade the guests rise,
and leave by another door. They had only just made their way
out, when the soldiers rushed into the room, and called out,
"Where are Caesar's enemies?" Then Otho, standing up on his
couch, made use both of arguments and entreaties, and by actual
tears at last, with great difficulty, persuaded them to desist.
The next day he went to the camp, and distributed a bounty of
twelve hundred and fifty drachmas a man amongst them; then
commended them for the regard and zeal they had for his safety,
but told them, that there were some who were intriguing among
them, who not only accused his own clemency, but had also
misrepresented their loyalty; and, therefore, he desired their
assistance in doing justice upon them. To which when they all
consented, he was satisfied with the execution of two only,
whose deaths he knew would be regretted by no one man in the
whole army.

Such conduct, so little expected from him, was rewarded by some
with gratitude and confidence; others looked upon his behavior
as a course to which necessity drove him, to gain the people to
the support of the war. For now there were certain tidings that
Vitellius had assumed the sovereign title and authority, and
frequent expresses brought accounts of new accessions to him;
others, however, came, announcing that the Pannonian, Dalmatian,
and Moesian legions, with their officers, adhered to Otho.
Erelong also came favorable letters from Mucianus and Vespasian,
generals of two formidable armies, the one in Syria, the other
in Judaea, to assure him of their firmness to his interest: in
confidence whereof he was so exalted, that he wrote to Vitellius
not to attempt anything beyond his post; and offered him large
sums of money and a city, where he might live his time out in
pleasure and ease. These overtures at first were responded to
by Vitellius with equivocating civilities; which soon, however,
turned into an interchange of angry words; and letters passed
between the two, conveying bitter and shameful terms of
reproach, which were not false indeed, for that matter, only it
was senseless and ridiculous for each to assail the other with
accusations to which both alike must plead guilty. For it were
hard to determine which of the two had been most profuse, most
effeminate, which was most a novice in military affairs, and
most involved in debt through previous want of means.

As to the prodigies and apparitions that happened about this
time, there were many reported which none could answer for, or
which were told in different ways, but one which everybody
actually saw with their eyes was the statue in the capitol, of
Victory carried in a chariot, with the reins dropped out of her
hands, as if she were grown too weak to hold them any longer;
and a second, that Caius Caesar's statue in the island of
Tiber, without any earthquake or wind to account for it, turned
round from west to east; and this they say, happened about the
time when Vespasian and his party first openly began to put
themselves forward. Another incident, which the people in
general thought an evil sign, was the inundation of the Tiber;
for though it happened at a time when rivers are usually at
their fullest, yet such height of water and so tremendous a
flood had never been known before, nor such a destruction of
property, great part of the city being under water, and
especially the corn market, so that it occasioned a great dearth
for several days.

But when news was now brought that Caecina and Valens,
commanding for Vitellius, had possessed themselves of the Alps,
Otho sent Dolabella (a patrician, who was suspected by the
soldiery of some ill design), for whatever reason, whether it
were fear of him or of anyone else, to the town of Aquinum, to
give encouragement there; and proceeding then to choose which of
the magistrates should go with him to the war, he named amongst
the rest Lucius, Vitellius's brother, without distinguishing him
by any new marks either of his favor or displeasure. He also
took the greatest precautions for Vitellius's wife and mother,
that they might be safe, and free from all apprehension for
themselves. He made Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian's brother,
governor of Rome, either in honor to the memory of Nero, who had
advanced him formerly to that command, which Galba had taken
away, or else to show his confidence in Vespasian by his favor
to his brother.

After he came to Brixillum, a town of Italy near the Po, he
stayed behind himself, and ordered the army to march under the
conduct of Marius Celsus, Suetonius Paulinus, Gallus, and
Spurina, all men of experience and reputation, but unable to
carry their own plans and purposes into effect, by reason of the
ungovernable temper of the army, which would take orders from
none but the emperor whom they themselves had made their master.
Nor was the enemy under much better discipline, the soldiers
there also being haughty and disobedient upon the same account,
but they were more experienced and used to hard work; whereas
Otho's men were soft from their long easy living and lack of
service, having spent most of their time in theaters and at
state-shows and on the stage; while moreover they tried to cover
their deficiencies by arrogance and vain display, pretending to
decline their duty not because they were unable to do the thing
commanded but because they thought themselves above it. So that
Spurina had like to have been cut in pieces for attempting to
force them to their work; they assailed him with insolent
language, accusing him of a design to betray and ruin Caesar's
interest; nay, some of them that were in drink forced his tent
in the night, and demanded money for the expenses of their
journey, which they must at once take, they said, to the
emperor, to complain of him.

However, the contemptuous treatment they met with at Placentia
did for the present good service to Spurina, and to the cause of
Otho. For Vitellius's men marched up to the walls, and
upbraided Otho's upon the ramparts, calling them players,
dancers, idle spectators of Pythian and Olympic games, but
novices in the art of war, who never so much as looked on at a
battle; mean souls, that triumphed in the beheading of Galba, an
old man unarmed, but had no desire to look real enemies in the
face. Which reproaches so inflamed them, that they kneeled at
Spurina's feet, entreated him to give his orders, and assured
him no danger or toil should be too great or too difficult for
them. Whereupon when Vitellius's forces made a vigorous attack
on the town, and brought up numerous engines against the walls,
the besieged bravely repulsed them, and, repelling the enemy
with great slaughter, secured the safety of a noble city, one of
the most flourishing places in Italy.

Besides, it was observed that Otho's officers were much more
inoffensive, both towards the public and to private men, than
those of Vitellius; among whom was Caecina, who used neither the
language nor the apparel of a citizen; an overbearing,
foreign-seeming man, of gigantic stature and always dressed in
trews and sleeves, after the manner of the Gauls, whilst he
conversed with Roman officials and magistrates. His wife, too,
traveled along with him, riding in splendid attire on horseback,
with a chosen body of cavalry to escort her. And Fabius Valens,
the other general, was so rapacious, that neither what he
plundered from enemies nor what he stole or got as gifts and
bribes from his friends and allies could satisfy his wishes.
And it was said that it was in order to have time to raise money
that he had marched so slowly that he was not present at the
former attack. But some lay the blame on Caecina, saying, that
out of a desire to gain the victory by himself before Fabius
joined him, he committed sundry other errors of lesser
consequence, and by engaging unseasonably and when he could not
do so thoroughly, he very nearly brought all to ruin.

When he found himself beat off at Placentia, he set off to
attack Cremona, another large and rich city. In the meantime,
Annius Gallus marched to join Spurina at Placentia; but having
intelligence that the siege was raised, and that Cremona was in
danger, he turned to its relief, and encamped just by the enemy,
where he was daily reinforced by other officers. Caecina placed
a strong ambush of heavy infantry in some rough and woody
country, and gave orders to his horse to advance, and if the
enemy should charge them, then to make a slow retreat, and draw
them into the snare. But his stratagem was discovered by some
deserters to Celsus, who attacked with a good body of horse, but
followed the pursuit cautiously, and succeeded in surrounding
and routing the troops in the ambuscade; and if the infantry
which he ordered up from the camp had come soon enough to
sustain the horse, Caecina's whole army, in all appearance, had
been totally routed. But Paulinus, moving too slowly, was
accused of acting with a degree of needless caution not to have
been expected from one of his reputation. So that the soldiers
incensed Otho against him, accused him of treachery, and boasted
loudly that the victory had been in their power, and that if it
was not complete, it was owing to the mismanagement of their
generals; all which Otho did not so much believe as he was
willing to appear not to disbelieve. He therefore sent his
brother Titianus, with Proculus, the prefect of the guards, to
the army, where the latter was general in reality, and the
former in appearance. Celsus and Paulinus had the title of
friends and counselors, but not the least authority or power.
At the same time, there was nothing but quarrel and disturbance
amongst the enemy, especially where Valens commanded; for the
soldiers here, being informed of what had happened at the
ambuscade, were enraged because they had not been permitted to
be present to strike a blow in defense of the lives of so many
men that had died in that action. Valens, with much difficulty,
quieted their fury, after they had now begun to throw missiles
at him, and quitting his camp, joined Caecina.

About this time, Otho came to Bedriacum, a little town near
Cremona, to the camp, and called a council of war; where
Proculus and Titianus declared for giving battle, while the
soldiers were flushed with their late success, saying they ought
not to lose their time and opportunity and present height of
strength, and wait for Vitellius to arrive out of Gaul. But
Paulinus told them that the enemy's whole force was present, and
that there was no body of reserve behind; but that Otho, if he
would not be too precipitate, and choose the enemy's time,
instead of his own, for the battle, might expect reinforcements
out of Moesia and Pannonia, not inferior in numbers to the
troops that were already present. He thought it probable, too,
that the soldiers, who were then in heart before they were
joined, would not be less so when the forces were all come up.
Besides, the deferring battle could not be inconvenient to them
that were sufficiently provided with all necessaries; but the
others, being in an enemy's country, must needs be exceedingly
straitened in a little time. Marius Celsus was of Paulinus's
opinion; Annius Gallus, being absent and under the surgeon's
hands through a fall from his horse, was consulted by letter,
and advised Otho to stay for those legions that were marching
from Moesia. But after all he did not follow the advice; and
the opinion of those that declared for a battle prevailed.

There are several reasons given for this determination, but the
most apparent is this; that the praetorian soldiers, as they are
called, who serve as guards, not relishing the military
discipline which they now had begun a little more to experience,
and longing for their amusements and unwarlike life among the
shows of Rome, would not be commanded, but were eager for a
battle, imagining that upon the first onset they should carry
all before them. Otho also himself seems not to have shown the
proper fortitude in bearing up against the uncertainty, and, out
of effeminacy and want of use, had not patience for the
calculations of danger, and was so uneasy at the apprehension of
it, that he shut his eyes, and like one going to leap from a
precipice, left everything to fortune. This is the account
Secundus the rhetorician, who was his secretary, gave of the
matter. But others would tell you that there were many
movements in both armies for acting in concert; and if it were
possible for them to agree, then they should proceed to choose
one of their most experienced officers that were present; if
not, they should convene the senate, and invest it with the
power of election. And it is not improbable that, neither of
the emperors then bearing the title having really any
reputation, such purposes were really entertained among the
genuine, serviceable, and sober-minded part of the soldiers.
For what could be more odious and unreasonable than that the
evils which the Roman citizens had formerly thought it so
lamentable to inflict upon each other for the sake of a Sylla or
a Marius, a Caesar or a Pompey, should now be undergone anew,
for the object of letting the empire pay the expenses of the
gluttony and intemperance of Vitellius, or the looseness and
effeminacy of Otho? It is thought that Celsus, upon such
reflections, protracted the time in order to a possible
accommodation; and that Otho pushed on things to an extremity to
prevent it.

He himself returned to Brixillum, which was another false step,
both because he withdrew from the combatants all the motives of
respect and desire to gain his favor, which his presence would
have supplied, and because he weakened the army by detaching
some of his best and most faithful troops for his horse and foot

About the same time also happened a skirmish on the Po. As
Caecina was laying a bridge over it, Otho's men attacked him,
and tried to prevent it. And when they did not succeed, on
their putting into their boats torchwood with a quantity of
sulphur and pitch, the wind on the river suddenly caught their
material that they had prepared against the enemy, and blew it
into a light. First came smoke, and then a clear flame, and the
men, getting into great confusion and jumping overboard, upset
the boats, and put themselves ludicrously at the mercy of their
enemies. Also the Germans attacked Otho's gladiators upon a
small island in the river, routed them, and killed a good many.

All which made the soldiers at Bedriacum full of anger, and
eagerness to be led to battle. So Proculus led them out of
Bedriacum to a place fifty furlongs off, where he pitched his
camp so ignorantly and with such a ridiculous want of foresight,
that the soldiers suffered extremely for want of water, though
it was the spring time, and the plains all around were full of
running streams and rivers that never dried up. The next day he
proposed to attack the enemy, first making a march of not less
than a hundred furlongs; but to this Paulinus objected, saying
they ought to wait, and not immediately after a journey engage
men who would have been standing in their arms and arranging
themselves for battle at their leisure, whilst they were making
a long march with all their beasts of burden and their camp
followers to encumber them. As the generals were arguing about
this matter, a Numidian courier came from Otho with orders to
lose no time, but give battle. Accordingly they consented, and
moved. As soon as Caecina had notice, he was much surprised,
and quitted his post on the river to hasten to the camp. In the
meantime, the men had armed themselves mostly, and were
receiving the word from Valens; so while the legions took up
their position, they sent out the best of their horse in

Otho's foremost troops, upon some groundless rumor, took up the
notion that the commanders on the other side would come over;
and accordingly, upon their first approach, they saluted them
with the friendly title of fellow-soldiers. But the others
returned the compliment with anger and disdainful words; which
not only disheartened those that had given the salutation, but
excited suspicions of their fidelity amongst the others on their
side, who had not. This caused a confusion at the very first
onset. And nothing else that followed was done upon any plan;
the baggage-carriers, mingling up with the fighting men, created
great disorder and division, as well as the nature of the
ground; the ditches and pits in which were so many, that they
were forced to break their ranks to avoid and go round them, and
so to fight without order and in small parties. There were but
two legions, one of Vitellius's, called The Ravenous, and
another of Otho's, called The Assistant, that got out into the
open outspread level and engaged in proper form, fighting, one
main body against the other, for some length of time. Otho's
men were strong and bold, but had never been in battle before;
Vitellius's had seen many wars, but were old and past their
strength. So Otho's legion charged boldly, drove back their
opponents, and took the eagle, killing pretty nearly every man
in the first rank, till the others, full of rage and shame,
returned the charge, slew Orfidius, the commander of the legion,
and took several standards. Varus Alfenus, with his Batavians,
who are the natives of an island of the Rhine, and are esteemed
the best of the German horse, fell upon the gladiators, who had
a reputation both for valor and skill in fighting. Some few of
these did their duty, but the greatest part of them made towards
the river, and, falling in with some cohorts stationed there,
were cut off. But none behaved so ill as the praetorians, who,
without ever so much as meeting the enemy, ran away, broke
through their own body that stood, and put them into disorder.
Notwithstanding this, many of Otho's men routed those that were
opposed to them, broke right into them, and forced their way to
the camp through the very middle of their conquerors.

As for their commanders, neither Proculus nor Paulinus ventured
to reenter with the troops; they turned aside, and avoided the
soldiers, who had already charged the miscarriage upon their
officers. Annius Gallus received into the town and rallied the
scattered parties, and encouraged them with an assurance that
the battle was a drawn one and the victory had in many parts
been theirs. Marius Celsus, collecting the officers, urged the
public interest; Otho himself, if he were a brave man, would
not, after such an expense of Roman blood, attempt anything
further; especially since even Cato and Scipio, though the
liberty of Rome was then at stake, had been accused of being too
prodigal of so many brave men's lives as were lost in Africa,
rather than submit to Caesar after the battle of Pharsalia had
gone against them. For though all persons are equally subject
to the caprice of fortune, yet all good men have one advantage
she cannot deny, which is this, to act reasonably under

This language was well accepted amongst the officers, who
sounded the private soldiers, and found them desirous of peace;
and Titianus also gave directions that envoys should be sent in
order to a treaty. And accordingly it was agreed that the
conference should be between Celsus and Gallus on one part, and
Valens with Caecina on the other. As the two first were upon
their journey, they met some centurions, who told them the
troops were already in motion, marching for Bedriacum, but that
they themselves were deputed by their generals to carry
proposals for an accommodation. Celsus and Gallus expressed
their approval, and requested them to turn back and carry them
to Caecina. However, Celsus, upon his approach, was in danger
from the vanguard, who happened to be some of the horse that had
suffered at the ambush. For as soon as they saw him, they
hallooed, and were coming down upon him; but the centurions came
forward to protect him, and the other officers crying out and
bidding them desist, Caecina came up to inform himself of the
tumult, which he quieted, and, giving a friendly greeting to
Celsus, took him in his company and proceeded towards Bedriacum.
Titianus, meantime, had repented of having sent the messengers;
and placed those of the soldiers who were more confident upon
the walls once again, bidding the others also go and support
them. But when Caecina rode up on his horse and held out his
hand, no one did or said to the contrary; those on the walls
greeted his men with salutations, others opened the gates and
went out, and mingled freely with those they met; and instead of
acts of hostility, there was nothing but mutual shaking of hands
and congratulations, everyone taking the oaths and submitting
to Vitellius.

This is the account which the most of those that were present at
the battle give of it, yet own that the disorder they were in,
and the absence of any unity of action would not give them leave
to be certain as to particulars. And when I myself traveled
afterwards over the field of battle, Mestrius Florus, a man of
consular degree, one of those who had been, not willingly, but
by command, in attendance on Otho at the time, pointed out to me
an ancient temple, and told me, that as he went that way after
the battle, he observed a heap of bodies piled up there to such
a height, that those on the top of it touched the pinnacles of
the roof. How it came to be so, he could neither discover
himself nor learn from any other person; as indeed, he said, in
civil wars it generally happens that greater numbers are killed
when an army is routed, quarter not being given, because
captives are of no advantage to the conquerors; but why the
carcasses should be heaped up after that manner is not easy to

Otho, at first, as it frequently happens, received some
uncertain rumors of the issue of the battle. But when some of
the wounded that returned from the field informed him rightly of
it, it is not, indeed, so much to be wondered at that his
friends should bid him not give all up as lost or let his
courage sink; but the feeling shown by the soldiers is something
that exceeds all belief. There was not one of them would either
go over to the conqueror or show any disposition to make terms
for himself, as if their leader's cause was desperate; on the
contrary, they crowded his gates, called out to him with the
title of emperor, and as soon as he appeared, cried out and
entreated him, catching hold of his hand, and throwing
themselves upon the ground, and with all the moving language of
tears and persuasion, besought him to stand by them, not abandon
them to their enemies, but employ in his service their lives and
persons, which would not cease to be his so long as they had
breath; so urgent was their zealous and universal importunity.
And one obscure and private soldier, after he had drawn his
sword, addressed himself to Otho: "By this, Caesar, judge our
fidelity; there is not a man amongst us but would strike thus to
serve you;" and so stabbed himself. Notwithstanding this, Otho
stood serene and unshaken, and, with a face full of constancy
and composure, turned himself about and looked at them, replying
thus: "This day, my fellow-soldiers, which gives me such proofs
of your affection, is preferable even to that on which you
saluted me emperor; deny me not, therefore, the yet higher
satisfaction of laying down my life for the preservation of so
many brave men; in this, at least, let me be worthy of the
empire, that is, to die for it. I am of opinion the enemy has
neither gained an entire nor a decisive victory; I have advice
that the Moesian army is not many days' journey distant, on its
march to the Adriatic; Asia, Syria, and Egypt, and the legions
that are serving against the Jews, declare for us; the senate is
also with us, and the wives and children of our opponents are in
our power; but alas, it is not in defense of Italy against
Hannibal or Pyrrhus or the Cimbri that we fight; Romans combat
here against Romans, and, whether we conquer or are defeated,
our country suffers and we commit a crime: victory, to whichever
it fall, is gained at her expense. Believe it many times over,
I can die with more honor than I can reign. For I cannot see at
all, how I should do any such great good to my country by
gaining the victory, as I shall by dying to establish peace and
unanimity and to save Italy from such another unhappy day."

As soon as he had done, he was resolute against all manner of
argument or persuasion, and taking leave of his friends and the
senators that were present, he bade them depart, and wrote to
those that were absent, and sent letters to the towns, that they
might have every honor and facility in their journey. Then he
sent for Cocceius, his brother's son, who was yet a boy, and
bade him be in no apprehension of Vitellius, whose mother and
wife and family he had treated with the same tenderness as his
own; and also told him that this had been his reason for
delaying to adopt him, which he had meant to do, as his son; he
had desired that he might share his power, if he conquered, but
not be involved in his ruin, if he failed. "Take notice," he
added, "my boy, of these my last words, that you neither too
negligently forget, nor too zealously remember, that Caesar was
your uncle." By and by he heard a tumult amongst the soldiers
at the door, who were treating the senators with menaces for
preparing to withdraw; upon which, out of regard to their
safety, he showed himself once more in public, but not with a
gentle aspect and in a persuading manner as before; on the
contrary, with a countenance that discovered indignation and
authority, he commanded such as were disorderly to leave the
place, and was not disobeyed.

It was now evening, and feeling thirsty, he drank some water,
and then took two daggers that belonged to him, and when he had
carefully examined their edges, he laid one of them down, and
put the other in his robe, under his arm, then called his
servants, and distributed some money amongst them, but not
inconsiderately, nor like one too lavish of what was not his
own; for to some he gave more, to others less, all strictly in
moderation, and distinguishing every one's particular merit.
When this was done, he dismissed them, and passed the rest of
the night in so sound a sleep, that the officers of his
bedchamber heard him snore. In the morning, he called for one
of his freedmen, who had assisted him in arranging about the
senators, and bade him bring him an account if they were safe.
Being informed they were all well and wanted nothing, "Go then,"
said he, "and show yourself to the soldiers, lest they should
cut you to pieces for being accessory to my death." As soon as
he was gone, he held his sword upright under him with both his
hands, and falling upon it, expired with no more than one single
groan, to express his sense of the pang, or to inform those that
waited without. When his servants therefore raised their
exclamations of grief, the whole camp and city were at once
filled with lamentation; the soldiers immediately broke in at
the doors with a loud cry, in passionate distress, and accusing
themselves that they had been so negligent in looking after that
life which was laid down to preserve theirs. Nor would a man of
them quit the body to secure his own safety with the approaching
enemy; but having raised a funeral pile, and attired the body,
they bore it thither, arrayed in their arms, those among them
greatly exulting, who succeeded in getting first under the bier
and becoming its bearers. Of the others, some threw themselves
down before the body and kissed his wound, others grasped his
hand, and others that were at a distance knelt down to do him
obeisance. There were some who, after putting their torches to
the pile, slew themselves, though they had not, so far as
appeared, either any particular obligations to the dead, or
reason to apprehend ill usage from the victor. Simply it would
seem, no king, legal or illegal, had ever been possessed with so
extreme and vehement a passion to command others, as was that
of these men to obey Otho. Nor did their love of him cease with
his death; it survived and changed erelong into a mortal hatred
to his successor, as will be shown in its proper place.

They placed the remains of Otho in the earth, and raised over
them a monument which neither by its size nor the pomp of its
inscription might excite hostility. I myself have seen it, at
Brixillum; a plain structure, and the epitaph only this: To the
memory of Marcus Otho. He died in his thirty-eighth year, after
a short reign of about three months, his death being as much
applauded as his life was censured; for if he lived not better
than Nero, he died more nobly. The soldiers were displeased
with Pollio, one of their two prefects, who bade them
immediately swear allegiance to Vitellius; and when they
understood that some of the senators were still upon the spot,
they made no opposition to the departure of the rest, but only
disturbed the tranquillity of Virginius Rufus with an offer of
the government, and moving in one body to his house in arms,
they first entreated him, and then demanded of him to accept of
the empire, or at least to be their mediator. But he, that
refused to command them when conquerors, thought it ridiculous
to pretend to it now they were beat, and was unwilling to go as
their envoy to the Germans, whom in past time he had compelled
to do various things that they had not liked; and for these
reasons he slipped away through a private door. As soon as the
soldiers perceived this, they owned Vitellius, and so got their
pardon, and served under Caecina.

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